Dazed, Fazed, Hazed

So yesterday was apparently the Most Depressing Day of the Year (yay! They finally named a day after me!).  That day that is far enough into January for Christmas to be forgotten about; but not far enough into the new year for summer holidays to be a reality. Nobody has any money and payday is still the best part of two weeks away (if you’re like me).  

Anyway, I’m not joking when I say they named a day after me.  Sometimes I really do feel like the Most Depressed Person in the World. 

But not yesterday.   Yesterday I felt…good.  I felt positive.  I wasn’t fazed by the whole “Most Depressing Day of the Year” thing.  In fact, it was more like the most depressing day of the year.  I knew it was there, but it wasn’t screaming at me the way it is usually would have done.  And I wasn’t indulging in it the way I would normally have taken great delight to.

But that feeling did not last.  It got me through to about 5pm, which was a most valiant effort on my insides to keep this horror at bay.  But then the MDDY penetrated my armour, and I started to feel its attack.

One of my bosses called me out on something I may or may not have done wrong at work.  Despite investigations, I haven’t found out whether it’s my fault or not yet, but it’s looking likely. So I took the blame.  That made me feel pants, and those old feelings of how shit I am at my job reared their ugly heads.

As I headed home, I started looking for jobs, not feeling inspired by anything I saw, and in the back of my mind all I could hear was you haven’t been shortlisted for anything in three months, so what’s the point.  There was no question mark, it was a statement of fact, like that current ad on the tube which should really have a question mark at the end, but they obviously feel so confident in themselves they don’t need question marks.  If only I was like that.

So then I got home, saw I only had 23p of electricity on the meter, and nipped to the Co-op, or the Co-oper-ative as my beloved Nana used to call it. But as I stood in the queue with a marked-down Piri-Piri pizza, I realised I had left my purse at home.  Uuuugggggghhhhhh.  

So back home, grabbed my purse and back to the Co-op.  On the plus side I did get a “fresh” chicken roast – two chicken fillets, cocktail sausages, some stuffing and gravy – for 99p.

So home I went, putting the chicken meal in the freezer and the pizza in the fridge for the following night, when I will get home late from book club. 

I cooked spaghetti bolognese, making the sauce from scratch out of my Usborne First Cookbook, the one I’ve had since I was little.  The one with illustrations of little people showing you how to make the recipe (which never has more than about four ingredients), just in case you’re too little to read the instructions.  

The spag bol was a success in my opinion, though that may have been more to do with the Malbec I added, not as per Usborne, but as per the Beeb website that I’d checked while in Sainsbury’s buying my ingredients. The Zinfandel I was drinking might have helped too. 

By the time I’d cooked, eaten and washed up, it was gone half nine and the last thing I wanted to do was apply for jobs I didn’t have a hope in hell getting.  So I read for a while, in a bid to get my mind to stop whirring, and cease the downward spiral I felt myself on.  

Then I read about the passing of one of my favourite musicians, Glenn Frey, one of the founding members of the Eagles.  And the tears came.  

I did not cry for Rickman – I was too busy laughing at all the wonderful one-liners he gave us in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (“I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon, Locksley!” being my personal favourite). Nor did I cry for Bowie, and all I can hear him say is “Well, laugh” before he continues laughing along with the goblins.  But for Glenn, a man I had seen perform three times with the Eagles, I cried. And could not stop. 

At almost 1am, I went to sleep, waking this morning, still feeling unsettled.  It is no longer the Most Depressing Day of the Year, but I still feel the after-effects.  Maybe I am just particularly hormone right now. If so, that will pass.  As all things come to pass.

RIP Glenn Frey (1948-2016)

Tequila Sunrise – The Eagles (1973)

Get Back On It

Monday morning.  The least fun of them all (if you don’t count Tuesdays).  I made the early bus today, unable to continue with my new year’s resolution of doing the twelve-minute fast walk to the train station, the one I used to do until I favoured the bus in the later months of last year.  No I couldn’t face the walk today, and you know why?  I have a bad back.  

Did you hear me? I HAVE A BAD BACK!!! SYMPATHY PLEASE!!!

Since I was a child, I have been a bit of a hypochondriac.  And it is easier to get sympathy for physical ailments than it is for hidden diseases such as depression.  Even a papercut will draw more sympathy than being perceived as a miserable bitch. 

But mental illness effects you in a way most physical ailments do not.  Today I walked along platform 6 at Clapham Junction and I’m sure everyone thought I had either shat myself or was the great-great granddaughter of the hunchback of Notre Dame.  Thank God I wasn’t wearing my beret today.  If I am feeling particularly depressed, they will think how miserable she looks, or poor cow, her mascara is running and it’s not even 9am yet.  But not only that, I  will think what a miserable cow I am, how worthless I am, how I can’t even carry my coffee without spelling it.  What a stupid bitch. 

There is much more acceptance of depression nowadays, thanks to people speaking out.  Not just celebrities but ordinary people who suffer.  While I don’t know if there will ever be a cure for depression, at least I don’t live in a world where it must be kept hidden at all costs. 

This blog is dedicated to David Bowie, who sadly died earlier today after a secret 18-month battle with cancer.  David suffered with anxiety and depression, and proved it is possible to fight back in a truly spectacular way.  RIP David (1947 – 2016)

Heroes – David Bowie (1977)

Picking Up The Pieces

As this new year starts, I am very conscious of the person I want to become.  Having explored this arena for the last ten years, I feel I am finally getting closer, day by day.  

Having read an online excerpt of Matt Haig’s new book, Reasons To Stay Alive, I headed down to Waterstones one lunch break to buy it.  I have it in my bag this morning, but haven’t started reading yet.  I’m still floored by having finished Disclaimer, by Renée Knight, a recent debut chart topper.  With reviews comparing it to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynnn, another book that had a profound effect on me, I know I can write something like it, something clever.  My mind fails me with logic sometimes (I am, however, plentiful in Jodie Logic) but I can knit together the perfect tale in my mind.  

As I wait for the train to leave Gunnersbury, I think back to the reason for writing this post.   I think back to being in the car during the Christmas break, and hearing Jess Glynne’s Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself on the radio, and vowing that I would not be so hard on myself this year.  I am my own worst critic; I don’t publish blogs because I don’t believe they are good enough to read.  I start but quickly abandon any form of fictional writing because I just don’t believe I can get it out of my head and onto paper without it sounding stupid.  The minuscule amounts of creativity that bubble to my surface are quashed because I  just don’t believe in myself.  So when I say I can write like some of the current bestselling authors, I do believe I can; but there is that other part of me, the one that says no you can’t, don’t be so stupid!

Buying my soya latte this morning (a recent experiment to see if I was lactose intolerant which has really become a morning ritual), I decided to buy a gingerbread man (I do realise the epic faildom of screwing up my gluten-avoidance with this action by the way).  Anyway, the first gingerbread man I picked up and put down again, because I could see that his leg was broken off.  As I put the packet back and selected the perfect one behind it which was intact, I had second thoughts, and instead picked up the broken man I’d originally had in my hand.  

Don’t be so hard on yourself, I thought.  And don’t be so hard on broken gingerbread men.  They’ve done nothing wrong.  

  
Happy New Year everyone. 

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself – Jess Glynne (2015)

Weekend in the Wilderness

Weekends are great, aren’t they?  You spend all week working, looking forward to Friday when you can clock off and forget about work for a few days.  Especially when your job is stressful and you’re already thinking about the upcoming weekend on a Monday, and you need that break away more than ever. 

I always looked forward to my weekends.  So when was it that I started dreading them?  

Since I moved to London, I find this to be the case with most of my weekends and the majority of the bank holidays.  Bank holidays, the most sacred of weekends, have become especially concerning to me.  I feel sort of relieved that there will be no more bank holidays now until Christmas, and then I won’t have to worry, because I will make sure I’m not alone.  Because it’s being alone that scares me most; having no plans in this great city where I should be making the most of my life.   

This weekend I had no plans.  I thankfully had been so busy in the week that I had no time to contemplate this until the weekend actually arrived.  

But when it came, it sapped the life from me.  Friday night I got home from work late and as I watched a film and made dinner I could feel myself getting down.  Saturday I spent without motivation to do anything, and it is a miracle that I actually managed to hang my washing out on the line to dry in the sunshine.  I ventured into the garden a few times but not for long; the overgrown lawn, flower beds and spiders hanging from every conceivable bush and the washing line sent me retreating into the safety of my dark and tiny studio flat, far from the reaches of the spiders and of course the beautiful sunshine.  Back into the dark main room, back under the covers of my bed, my head at best filled with a lack of capacity to do anything other than play bejewelled on my phone and at worst full of self-doubt and tearful realisation that this is my life.  The tears come and go; my tear-stained pillow soaks and dries.  

As Saturday night comes and goes, dissolving into Sunday morning, I am plagued by stupid dreams about work.  I wake early, around 8ish, before going back to sleep and more dreams until around 11.  The sun is shining again and I open the blind to let what little light there is seep through.  Today is another long day ahead of me, but there is some salvation in the fact that this is the final day of this horrible weekend.  I don’t look forward to going back to work.  I only welcome the relief it brings from loneliness and self-deprecation.  

As I heat the final leftovers of Friday’s chinese takeaway, having woken too late for breakfast and going straight into lunch, I hear my phone beep.  I leave the kitchen to look at my phone which is on the bed.  My friend is texting me.  I ignore it and return to the kitchen to finish washing up.  My phone beeps again. Eventually I go back to my phone.  One missed called.  She wants to meet, for coffee, to write. I am glad to have her text and an excuse to leave the flat.  So I reply and agree to meet.  But not in my usual style, and she suspects something is wrong.  I admit I am not ok.  We arrange to meet a few hours later.  

I feel more positive to have a reason to go out, but the motivation monster still has me tight in its grips.  I procrastinate getting ready and even after getting out of the shower, I sit there, on the bed, no desire to run a brush through my damp hair or to apply any make-up. Eventually I must text my friend to say I will be running late, perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to watch Die Hard 3 when I’m supposed to be going out.  But I think even without the film I would have struggled.  She calls me, and I fall apart on the phone.  I can’t find the motivation to leave the flat, despite spending the weekend wishing I had a reason to go out.  She talks me round, and I apply make-up and even straighten my hair before taking my laptop to catch the bus from the end of the road.  

It was, of course, worth going out.  I didn’t do any creative writing (except starting this blog on the way home) but I did apply for two jobs.  And of course I spent time with a friend, away from the confinement of my flat and more importantly from the ruination of my own mind.  

It is now officially Monday, and as I look back over the weekend I see what a waste it has been.  Not completely of course, since I applied for two more jobs than I had before. In the words of the Eagles, “I could have done so many things, baby, if I could only stop my mind.”  There will be many more weekends like this, I’m sure.  But with every job application, every blog post, there is hope that life can change.  That one day the weekends will become sacred once more.  Something to live for, and not something to fear.

Come Back to What You Know

My first blog back at 33andlostinlife sees me borrowing a blog title from an old song by West Yorkshire band, Embrace.  I’ve had my ex-husband’s Cigarettes and Alcohol, a mostly 90s Indie compilation on repeat album mode for the last month, and this song is one of the eight that I lately squeezed onto a playlist of favourites.  

On 15th January 2015, I made a bold statement on this blog that I was going to set up a new blog and write much more positive blog posts.  That was a great idea, and still is, but have you seen any new, more positive blog posts?  No, me neither.  

Almost seven months later, I find myself even more lost in life than ever before.  A stressful week at work last week has left that boat rocking, and I’m feeling the need to abandon ship more than ever.  Of course, it’s something I should have done a long time ago, so perhaps it’s a good thing, but actually finding something else freaks me out.  

The problem is, I want to be a writer.  So I want a writing job.  Ideally I’d be writing a column in a magazine like Lucy Mangan but I’m nowhere near ready for that yet, and not quite as ‘outspoken’ as the girl born to Northern parents who lived in the South (the total opposite to me) who writes for The Guardian newspaper and Stylist magazine. 

My dilemma is whether to get a writing job of any sort, or just go for a normal admin job, but one that pays a lot more.  London has horrendously expensive living costs and while I’ve found sanctuary in my small studio flat and garden (Update: Bish is very happy and spends all his time outside with the exception of when this horrible August rain pours, which keeps him housebound and sees him taking over my pillow), I still have very little money (if any) left at the end of the month.  Whichever option I choose for my next job, the one thing I’ve struggled with is confidence in myself, and that stands like the Berlin Wall as a blocker to any future moves.  

Confidence to gain some work experience as a writer.  Confidence that yes of course I can do that £34k a year data role (and bag a £12k pay rise).  Confidence that I must summon from somewhere if I am going to get myself out of this rut I face and move forward with my life.  

I’ve been inspired lately by two people.  One is Aussie Natalie Imbruglia, former lovely Neighbour and 90s pop songstress famous for telling us it’s ok to be cold and ashamed and lying naked on the floor when the love of your life turns out to be a bit of a knob.  A recent article in the Evening Standard magazine tells how Natalie suffered with depression even during her most successful period, becoming reclusive.  18 years later, she says “Food as medicine.  And I feel great.”  I will second that, although I have a feeling she’s not talking about scoffing a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk or Double Decker when she gets stressed.  Divorcée Natalie certainly looks fab at forty, and just as gorgeous now as she did back in 1997 singing Torn in those combats.  Her new album, Male, is out on 21st August.  Read her full interview here.

The other person to inspire me is fellow Northerner Danny McNamara, co-writer of 90s hit Come Back to What You know and lead singer of Embrace.  Writing his own blog in 2014, he tells how the inspiration for his songs comes from PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Suffering a traumatic childhood incident that “was traumatic, terrifying, and…almost killed me,” Danny reveals how “it’s literally coloured everything I’ve done since.”  Suffering PTSD between the ages of 19 and 22, he suffered multiple panic attacks a day, wasn’t eating, sleeping and went down to ten stone (63kg) – not much for someone who stands at 6 foot 2 (187cm).  

He used songwriting to get himself out of the dark place he was in, and aged 44 he says he’s better now, not just well.  More importantly he’s still writing and recording with Embrace.  He spoke out about his mental health issues last year because he was inspired by others speaking out about their experiences.  You can read his full blog here

I can agree with that.  And I’m reminded that the reason I started this blog was to get some cathartic therapy from writing about my own experiences with depression.  But more than that: so that other people could read about them and perhaps not feel so alone and sinking in their own negative thoughts.

I was told my blog was depressing.  Well, yeah, it’s a blog about living with depression, dur.  And while I’d love to be writing shiny, happy blogs, I’d rather be writing depressing blogs than nothing at all.  I have done some writing during the time since my last blog post; I started a novel which got to about 20 pages before I shied away from it.  But I haven’t looked at it for months, although I keep thinking about picking it up again, and that’s a start.  

One of my uni lecturers gave me what really was the most simple piece of advice: you want to be a writer, then write!  Since discovering my ability to write in 2011, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I know it is my destiny (not my density…although it does weigh me down at times).    But writing with depression is hard.  Although not impossible, as many creative people, including Natalie and Danny, will tell you.  

So for now, I’m coming back to what I know.  I was the most prolific  in my writing than I’d ever been last year, until my living situation ground that to a holt.  I’m well out of that now, and the person that told me my blogs were depressing is no longer in my life (thank God).  I’m going to continue this journey as [insert age] andlostinlife, because it’s my journey, and my stats tell me there are still people out there reading it, almost daily.  That amazes me, considering there’ve been no new posts for over half a year.  But maybe those people passing through will stop by for a bit longer next time, and those of you who followed me before will continue to do so.  I had gained a good following, and not just my friends and family, who of course I appreciate their support, but fellow bloggers from across the world.  

I can’t promise what type of blogs will follow.  But if you don’t like what’s contained within them you are free to leave any time.  This isn’t Hotel California.  If you do, then come back to what you know.  Because I am.  

Come Back to What You Know – Embrace (1998)

The Power of 15,000 Views

Today I hit a milestone with my blog: 15,000 views. I have published, since January 2012, 234 blog posts (this one, assuming it makes it into the “published posts section” will be 235). I know that I haven’t written anything for a while. I’m not going to make excuses for myself, other than the fact there’s been a lot going on; mostly in my head, which has resulted in more sleepless nights than I care to admit.

235 blog posts and I still feel lost in life. I feel the frustration of having spent four years at university only to end up doing the same job as I did for 12 years before that. Except now I’m not making sure cancer patients get their diagnostic tests and treatments on time. Now I make sure the relatively wealthy get their Michael Kors handbag or their Jimmy Choos without too much of a delay. Maybe this is the reason I can’t take my job too seriously.

But it’s not all bad. Last Friday I attended a free journalism workshop, a taster session for a journalism Diploma I’m considering doing in the new year.

I feel the sadness at spending another Christmas alone, or rather, without that special person in my life. Christmas adverts, like the latest offering from department store John Lewis, make it clear that love is the ultimate goal at Christmas time. Like Frankie Goes to Hollywood sang in December 1984 and earning its place on all good future Christmas compilation albums, “love is the light scaring darkness away”. I have to admit I could do with some light in my life right now.

But it’s not all bad. This year, I won’t be physically alone. I’m making sure I spend Christmas Day with people who care about me.

I feel the pressure of being overweight, of having a balloon-sized stomach caused by food intolerances, of having bad acne at the age of 36, of stress causing my scalp to flake and scab.

But it’s not all bad. My skin is clearing up, albeit slowly, and I had a hair cut at the weekend which saw three inches of my beloved locks on the salon floor. But I look in the mirror and I see a new me, and I see at least a physical change where I struggle to make those mental ones.

2014 has been a tough year. I’m still struggling to find my place in this city, in this life. Right now I have so many physical afflictions that I can barely look at myself in the mirror. But it’s not all bad. Because tonight I wrote another blog post, and as long as I can write, I know that I’m on the right path. I may not have had much inspiration lately, but tonight I was motivated by the 15,000 views on my blog, because it means that people are out there reading what I have to say. I could lie and tell you I write for myself, which is partly true, but like most bloggers, I write because I want people to read it. I want to inspire, to amuse, to entertain, to sadden. I want people to know they are not alone in what they may be going through. The Thirty-Something Crisis, or The Mid-Life Crisis, or The Quarter-Life Crisis, at whatever age it occurs, is not kind. It treats everyone differently, and knows no mercy. This is my journey through it, and I thank you for keeping me company during these dark nights and not-so-bright days.

The Power of Love – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984)

John Lewis Christmas Advert (2014)

Them Clothes Are Staying On!

You know when you hear a song and when you see the singer for the first time they completely surprise you? That happened to me today with Jermaine Stewart.

We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off to have a good time, uh-huh, it seems was sung by a man, as evidenced by his Movember contribution in the music video.

I always thought it was a female who sung it, which leads me to a very interesting conclusion. That there are men out there who do not want to get you naked on the first date.

While a quick Google search shows me that I would not have been Jermaine’s type, mainly due to the lack of a certain body part, it is still refreshing to hear any kind of man insisting that there is no need for clothing removal in order to have fun.

As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, I’ve jumped into bed far too quickly too often, which usually kills any chance there may be of a relationship blossoming. Next time I meet someone, I’ll bring Jermaine’s song out as Exhibit A, and if they don’t like it, We Don’t Have to Care, to Move On.

We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off – Jermaine Stewart (1986)

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