The world’s a whirlpool

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With all the bad news and shocking stories we are living with at the moment you feel overwhelmed. There’s a sense of being dragged towards a sink hole with little chance of escape. All around us the news reports are bleak, miserable and unforgiving.

In the last month alone we’ve had all the stories about the floods across the North-East of Scotland devastating people’s lives, deaths of famous singers and actors who were part of our consciousness, political instability across the globe, the gun issues and “Black lives matter” in the US, the continued rise of Donald Trump (and the subsequent reappearance of Sarah Palin), ongoing questions surrounding the Jimmy Saville inquiry, job losses, food banks and ongoing government cuts. It doesn’t make great reading or viewing for a time of year during which we all struggle anyway.

You can fully understand the escapism of shopping for holidays and watching sci-fi box sets on Netflix. There’s a need for us to remove ourselves from this dark reality – a way out that means we don’t get pulled down beneath the surface. With my current dip in mood you look for every life buoy you can grab on to – a way to float up the way. Not being a winter weather sports type (or a summer one if I’m honest) going out in this miserable weather doesn’t appeal so you find yourself confined to the house which can make you worse.

I know that spending a weekend in the house doing nothing sounds great but it does nothing to lift you out of the depressive funk. Artificial lights on as you shut the blinds on the outside deprives you of anything but your front room or bedroom. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of misery. And it’s not that I’m not aware of the issue – I really am – but inside is warm, dry and comfy. The get-up-and-go has f*cked-off-and-disappeared so getting the motivation to go out for a long walk is not there just now. Roll on lighter and warmer nights for those long walks along the beach, around forest walks.They say that depression can be helped by exercise, but finding the will to get up and go is really difficult.

So you are trapped inside trying to avoid the news only for the misery to pop up on your news feeds telling you of explosions, death and Putin. January wraps you up in cold damp towel as the media pelts you with darkness. It’s not their fault, it’s just the news – it’s tough to polish a turd. Depression is very much a place that thrives on the darker elements of life by enlarging the negative news and makes you worry about things that have no real direct impact on you. It’s not my job to police or care for the world but sometimes depression makes you feel a responsibility for the woes of the world.

Is there an answer? A solution? Not an easy one – you need to fight yourself and your preconceived perceptions. you have to force yourself to do things, be active, and get out of the house. I find planning ahead can help – even by a couple of days. Today it’s Friday and I have already put the idea in my head I’m going to the shops on Sunday and will visit my folks on the way back. Not a major expedition but planting the seed today means that my brain is preprogrammed to mean I’ll resist it when Sunday comes round. It really is the little things that help you get through.

I could stop watching the news or unsubscribe from certain feeds online, but I think it’s important to be informed about the world around you and remember that all these stories are important but their importance is not linked to my life or my actions. Like the depression I know there is a better day around the corner and things will sort themselves out eventually. They always do.

JD

Hello. It’s me.

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Hi. It’s me. I just need to talk and for you to listen, I know it’s selfish and I’m sorry. Selfish is the only thing you could say is a constant for someone who is bipolar like me. I’m stuck down here, miles from the surface, I can barely see the edge of the hole that I’m stuck in and there is little light making it through either. I know you are living your life up there and I’m out of sight, out of mind to a certain degree – I understand because I’m blind to you and your issues just now too. I want to listen to you and what you have to say but right now I can’t.

I know I’m not pulling my weight in this partnership, I can’t do what you need me to – unfortunately I can’t do what I need me to do either. Sorry. I want to be useful, helpful, reliable and you have sacrificed so much by being there for me and battling through any of your own problems. I’m trapped in a place where the darkness is enveloping me and I can’t see anything clearly. The journey down here is fast, like a zip wire, but the return leg is by my fingertips – holding on tight with each grasp of the ground in front of me but it will take time.

You are the reason I’m putting one hand in front of the other. You and the family are the light at the top of this vertical tunnel and offer me the opportunity for normality and reality in a life where I don’t know from one day to the next what shade that world will be. I fly from light to dark, Infra Red to Ultra Violet and back in the same breath some days and I know you will find it as tough as I do. I struggle to tell you what I’m going through because I don’t want to burden you with my mood swings – instead I write those words down and broadcast to the world.

I don’t do it to avoid you or the conversation, instead it forces me to acknowledge my situation and state publicly that I need you. You provide the support when I don’t deserve it; the sanity when I’m mad; the hope when it’s dark. You are the beacon that I work my way to and shows me that my hope, aspiration and determination need to match your bravery, love and honesty. Without you this hole would be deeper with steeper sides. I don’t need you to say anything to help me – the fact that you are still there each time I resurface or climb down is enough.

I don’t say it enough and maybe you won’t hear me from all the way down here but I love you. I appreciate you. I need you. Everything you do for us as a couple and a family is appreciated. Your strength of character makes me proud of you and if I ever need to repay this open-ended debt to you I will try my best to match your generosity and love. We know that there will always be light and shade but you have lived with more brighter and blacker moments than you should have.

When we met, you were not to know that you were going to have this variety of voices to live with. We were never on the straight and easy path – obstacles have been repeatedly thrown in our direction – but each time you have led me through and found the path again when we looked to be lost. People wonder how you cope living with me. I’m one of them. You surprise and amaze me in ways I’ll never be able to put into words.

We both know it won’t get easier, but as long as you are there to grab my hand as I reach the top again I will always climb.

JD

Depression – January’s Gift

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I think everyone finds January tough – the dark mornings, the dark evenings; cold outside, comfort eating. Before we had kids I used to love going away on a holiday in the first week of the year to the Canaries to get some sunshine just to get an injection of sun and warmth. Now coldness is creeping in – in every sense with what I assume is the Black Dog making its latest visit to me.

It’s tough to distinguish between the normal dip everyone suffers at this time of year and a bout of depression but I think this is the latter. There’s a sense of being lost, unsettled at the moment that I know is not my “normal” state of mind. It doesn’t help that I can’t eat my way out of this dip as both me and the wife are trying to lose weight. Since starting the tablets to help me sleep I’ve really put on the weight – a couple of stone at least – and when I struggle to maintain a steady waistline as it is, any additional problem is far from welcome.

The other reason I know that I’m struggling just now is that even little issues are being magnetized. Things that would normally be niggles are being blown out of all proportion and they prey on your mind all day. I’m not sleeping well either – quite restless even on the tablets. I’ve changed recently from the slow release ones that left me groggy and lethargic during the day to ones I feel better on – the downside being that while they help you get off to sleep they don’t keep you sleeping. You have to weigh up what’s best and I’d rather be alert during the day.

Little things – like all the celebrities who have passed this year all feel like a personal loss: Bowie, Rickman, Frey. It’s like part of you vanishes with them, things you love like their songs and films now have an added melancholy. It feels like that scene in “Inside out” where Sadness touches the memories and they start to turn blue. That film nailed exactly what it is like to be an adult – and as you get older you become more and more aware that happy memories are tarnished by the passage of time. If life is what happens when you are making plans, then sadness is what happens to old memories when you are making new ones.

As I get older there is more to consider, more to worry about, more to impact on my mood. There’s no reset button, or off switch for the brain so when the gremlins come to visit with their usual regularity, the system scrambles and darkens. I’ve often used the analogy of a set of book shelves which have books missing, on the floor or out of order for my depressed mind. you haven’t got the capacity to rearrange, order or sort the problem you just enter the room in despair wondering how you will sort the mess. And it does get more difficult each time as there is more to try to find structure for.

How do we/I get through it each time is a mystery. I know that there is a day when those books are back in order, a day when the sun shines, a day when everything is back in its proportion and maybe it’s that which keeps me going. The knowledge that there is another sunrise, another opportunity, another positive memory ahead means you battle through the toughest of hours, days and weeks. To say that those who are depressed are pessimists is wrong – we’re optimists. We have to be, otherwise there wouldn’t be any reason to keep going.

So when you want to stop; when you want to give up; want to take the exit you need to stop and look ahead beyond the sadness – somewhere out there is the next smile, belly laugh, hope, dream, ambition, possibility, opportunity and chance to shine again. While it’s not easy, it is worth fighting for.

JD

Oscar Snubs? Dry you eyes!

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Leonardo Dicaprio is the latest voice to come out complaining about the Oscars. He feels that the Academy has snubbed him in the past over his roles. Add to that the ongoing row about the complete lack of ethnic diversity in the nominations this year and many are starting to question the integrity and relevance of these awards. Good, finally people are realising that handing a golden statuette to a multi millionaire is maybe taking the piss.

Every year another round of awards are handed out to musicians, actors, producers and directors as everyone wears expensive clothes and borrowed jewellery worth tens of thousands of pounds just to congratulate each other. In a world where the divide between rich and poor it is more obvious than ever that this public self-flagellation is getting embarrassing.

While there is an argument to be had about the lack of ethnic diversity, there are much bigger discussions about African-Americans that need to happen before we worry about nominating Will Smith or Idris Elba for a shiny bauble. With the poverty levels, gun crime and apparent freedom for white police to shoot young black men with impunity being real issues, playing dress up and pretending to be someone else is not really a priority is it?

Poor Leo feels unloved – poor baby. What a horrible position to be in: multi-millionaire who is in constant demand for work, lots of young women throwing themselves at him and international travel and free stuff on tap. Aye Leo it’s a hard life isn’t it. He and so many others need to get their perspectives sharpened and realise that as nice as it is to be recognised for the work you do, there are hundreds of millions of people who never get even a thank you for the efforts they put in day-to-day.

This isn’t a jealous rant – I don’t grudge these stars having a knees up and some mutual backslapping – but Ricky Gervais’s attitude towards the whole thing is much healthier. It’s not a serious thing in reality. It’s new doorstop, a thing to pop on a shelf somewhere, not something that should be elevated beyond it’s true value.

Too often awards of any kind – not just those for showbiz – are politically charged, decided by a clique, involve payments or even are based on enough people making a loud enough noise. We have nurses, paramedics, teachers, firefighters, carers, charity workers and other everyday workers who work on low wages to ensure the society they live and work in gets better. The only recognition they ever get is at the end of their working life, when they are handed the result of a whip-round in the office to mark their contribution and friendship.

So as much as I like to see good work rewarded regardless of the field in which it happens, let’s not pretend that Oscar Snubs, NTA Awards or Brit nominees is really that important. In all honesty it’s the technical crew, hair & make up, set designers, writers, editors and others in the background that should be highly praised more than the “talent”. Many run themselves ragged for a tiny fraction of the fees of the headline names.

Let’s celebrate achievement in life – but let’s not mistake celebrity for talent or money for respect.

JD