The rest of my life – Day 1

I haven’t written for a few weeks, mostly because I have been travelling but also because I have felt empty of words.  We flew to England on 4/21, had my brother’s funeral on 4/24, flew back on 4/28, drove down to CA on 4/30, had Grandpa’s funeral on 5/1 then drove back 5/2.  Phew, just typing it makes me tired.  It has been a physically and emotionally exhausting month, and it had an affect on me.  Yesterday, I had one of the worst depression days I have had in a long while.  I ended up leaving work before noon, coming home and falling into the loving arms of my wife (who is fricking awesome, BTW).  It is only the second time I’ve cried since I got the news about my brother (the first being during the funeral).  I only cried a few tears yesterday, but the emotional outpouring was huge.

I woke this morning feeling somewhat better, with a determined attitude to do everything I can to not have a day like that again.  I have contacted my doctor about reviewing my meds (he is trying an increase for now), scheduled my first counselling session and bought a fitbit flex, as part of my “get off your arse and lose weight” plan.  I am also going to make an appointment to discuss getting a CPAP machine, as I had to stop using the mouth-guard for my sleep apnea, due to the pain it gives me.

I am treating yesterday as day 0, the end of a part of my life where I let things slip and allow myself to be at the mercy of my emotions and the start of a new era.  I am drawing a line and moving on.  Today is day 1 of the rest of my life, and I am only looking forward.  Will I fail from time to time?  Probably, but I have my family and friends and I will get up again.

To be continued…

Bad moon rising…

It has only been 4 days, but it feels like an eternity.  I got a call at work on Tuesday morning from my brother in the UK, which is in itself unusual as he normally calls me on the weekend.  I knew that something was wrong, then when he asked if I was sitting down I expected the worst.  I knew that something bad had happened (I was thinking, maybe one of my parents…?) but I wasn’t prepared for the news.  My eldest brother and my niece (his daughter-in-law) had both been found dead at home.  They were aged 52 and 41.

I (somehow) drove myself home safely and waited for a call back from my brother, who was waiting for the police to visit the house and give more details.  when he called back, he had very few details.  No obvious cause of death, no signs of foul play… no answers.  We will have to wait for a toxicology report to come back to get some more idea of how it happened, but it still won’t tell us why.  Why…such a small word, but such a vast question.  Right now, I feel…numb.  I don’t even know what to feel.  I had been estranged from my eldest brother for a while now, for reasons I won’t go into here.  I tried reaching out to him a year or so ago, but he didn’t respond.  Somehow, none of the reasons seem as important as they did.  Perspective can be a bitter pill when it comes too late…

That night we got another call.  My wife’s grandfather had passed away.  He had been ill for some time (leukemia), so this was not as big of a shock, but it still hit like a knife in the gut.  3 family members in the same day – it was brutal.  As I sat there attempting to comfort my weeping wife, I realized that I hadn’t cried, not a tear.  I know that people grieve differently, but I am normally able to cry.  Right now, I just can’t.  Maybe it is too soon, maybe my system is in survival mode, hanging on until a “safer” time to let go, maybe it is the Prozac.  Who knows.  I am feeling plenty of emotion, just no tears.

I can feel the bad wolf growling inside me, pacing back and forth, snarling and snapping, looking for a way out.  He is caged in, angry and wants out.  I need to stop feeding him, and allow the good wolf to take control.  I will persevere, I will get through, but right now I need to just deal with the internal struggle, and the wolf that wants to devour me.

He is loud.  His name is regret…

Eating crow

I want to start off this blog with an apology.  If I unfriended you from Facebook, I am sorry – it was not personal.  I have already re-friended most of you, and explained to some of you.  I recently had a slight “meltdown” with my depression, not a major one, but enough for me to end up unfriending a bunch of people on Facebook, mostly people from my past.  I have been wrestling with some old issues lately and old wounds got re-opened.  Certain emotional splinters that had buried themselves deeply over the years are starting to push their way out, and it ended with me not handling it well, ultimately cutting myself off from a large portion of my past.

Unfortunately, this is an old pattern of mine, which my wife calls “Turtling” – I pull my neck in and withdraw into my shell, hiding away from the things I don’t want to deal with.  I am learning, with the help of my family, to stand my ground and not retreat, but I am human and I sometimes fail.  This blog has been a helpful tool for me, and I hope to continue posting on a regular basis.  I hope and pray that the people who are my true friends will understand when I fall, and those that can’t handle it, I understand if you need to take a step back – no hard feelings.  I know that I will get through this, it will take time, but I will.  Even though the storm is blowing, and the sea is choppy, I have Jesus in my boat – I know I will get to the shore.

On a lighter note, I found some new podcasts to listen to lately that have been really helping me feed the right wolf.  They are “The BadChristian Podcast” and “The Mental Illness Happy Hour”.  The first one is a group of Christian friends, (mostly members of the rock group Emory) who talk to people from all walks of life and portray a very real, honest portrayal of Christian life by people who recognize that they are not perfect (the name comes from Bad Christian, Good Savior).  The second one is by a very funny comedian called Paul Gilmartin and is about dealing with depression, as well as other mental illnesses that people struggle with.  I am only episode 3 in so far, but I like what I hear.  Both of these podcasts use comedy to address serious issues that we deal with, I recommend both.

From the belly of the wolf…

This post is hard to write, not because of the content, because of the circumstance.  I have decided to not always wait till I am feeling “good” to blog, but to also document those other times.  I am having a very bad depression day today – my brain is dredging up old pain and the bad wolf is lapping it up.  I have been starting to address some shit from my past, and I think I might have worked loose some old emotional splinters, which are working their way out.  For those of you who don’t know the old Cherokee parable about the two wolves, here it is:-

Two Wolves – a Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

This is a story that resonates deeply with me, as I have long felt that internal struggle.  Some days the good wolf is strong and dominating, other times (like today) the bad wolf is ferocious and unrelenting.  Writing this post today is an attempt to feed the right wolf, by not giving into the other one and standing my ground.  I have an almost overwhelming desire right now to curl up in a ball under the covers and not come out till tomorrow.  It feels like I have been swallowed whole by the bad wolf and I am sinking deeper into its inky blackness.

Well… fuck that!  I am NOT going to give into it, I am NOT going to be controlled by my anger and resentment, I am NOT going to just roll over.  The bad wolf is a part of me, sometimes he is a necessary part and can fuel me into positive action, but I WILL TAME HIM.  For each day like today, there are others where I am positive and full of hope.  I need to seize those days with both hands and squeeze every ounce of joy out of them.

Just writing this is making me feel a little better.  To my friends:- I don’t assume that you are reading this (I hope you are), but it still feels like I am somehow connecting to you all.  There is strength in numbers, and I am mentally gathering you around me today.

Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more…

Into the black desert…

It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce that Sir Terry Pratchett, 66, passed away today.  He was my all-time favorite author, writing over 70 books.  He was famous for writing the Discworld series as well as a number of other books, the most recent being a sci-fi trilogy co-authored with Stephen Baxter.  He was the second best-selling British author, beaten only by JK Rowling (with the Harry Potter series).  He had been battling Alzheimer’s since 2007, but it still came as a shock to hear he had passed.  Especially as he completed a novel as late as last year.

I still remember the first time I was introduced to the realm of Discworld.  My best friend bought me one of the books (“The Hogfather”) as a Christmas gift.  I was instantly hooked – the writing was funny, wry and full of social and political observation.  I went back to the first book in the series and started to read through them in order, all x of them.  The stories fill my mind with vivid images of a distant land where magic replaces technology, story-lines than both thrill and entertain, delving into the nature of existence, human nature, belief, psychology and many other topics.  He parallels the world we know with a flourish that I aspire to having.  I cannot overstate how much this series of books means to me, they have been a constant companion with me since the 90s, through highs and lows, migrating to another continent, dealing with loss & depression, and an myriad of other life events in between.

Death was a recurring character in the Discworld books, and his speech was always characterized by ALL CAPS.  I mention this because the announcement about his passing was in a moving series of Tweets:-

AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.

Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

The End.

There is a quote from one of his Discworld books (“Going Postal”) which states “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”  Well, Sir Pratchett, may your name forever be spoken by those whom you brought so much joy.

Quick post…

Just a quick post.  Started the caffeine reduction today, it went well.  I mostly drank Chai Green Tea this afternoon, the sweet, spicy taste helped to alleviate the coffee craving.  I’m watching to make sure that my depression stays in check – the last thing I need is for my system to start crashing.  I’ll keep you all appraised on my progress.

The Marmoset across my Scapulas

Recently, I had been noticing a pattern of fatigue in the afternoon – more than the normal post-lunch slump.  It has been seriously screwing with my state of mind, making it very difficult to get through an afternoon of work.  As a software developer, I need to be able to focus when I am working.  Putting a 1 where a 0 should be (or an INNER JOIN from a to a, instead of a to b – for you developers out there), can be disastrous.  Coding while fatigued has caused me many hours of pointless bug-hunting in the past, so I try to keep a certain level of alertness.

Add to that, the affect that fatigue has on my depression (and vice-versa) I decided to try to figure out how to address it.  One possibility is coffee.  Not the drinking of it, but the effect of crashing down from it afterwards.  I have been a big coffee drinker for years, but lately it has increased when I am at work.  I sat down and worked out how much I was drinking, and concluded that I am averaging 6-8 cups a day.  That’s an average, some days it is a lot more.  I know, I know – I can hear the eye-rolling from here.  It seems like it would be an obvious thing, but when something has been such a big part of your life for so many years, you develop a “blind spot” to it.

So, I made a decision to drastically cut back on my caffeine intake.  I still allow myself my coffee in the morning, while I am getting ready for work, but as soon as I get to work I am limiting myself to tea.  This is a lot harder than it sounds, as the habit of drinking coffee at work is tugging at me psychologically a lot more than physically.  So far, so good.  Of course, that’s easy to say when it has only been a day 🙂  I am trying to avoid caffeine withdrawal by weaning down slowly, but if Georgia starts mentioning that I am chewing the wallpaper and throwing the cat, you will know why.

Part of my tea drinking is also going to be switching from black tea to green tea, both for the lower caffeine and the health benefits.  I have a selection of different green teas chosen, from Pomegranate to Chai, so hopefully I will find a few that I really like.  I am more than open to suggestions if anyone knows of some really good blends…

Oh, and did I mention that I hate daylight-saving time…  fraking time changes…. losing an hour’s sleep… grumble, grumble, grumble…

Welcome….again…

Well, I guess my promise to write every day fell a little short.  By a couple of weeks.  It has been partly down to being so tired lately, and partly down to lack of inspiration.  I really need to learn to follow my own rhetoric and just write something, regardless of what it is.  In that spirit, I am going to write a little about myself today.  So far, the only person reading this blog in my wife, who will already know all this, but I’m going to put it out there anyway.

I am 41 years old, living in Oregon (US) but was born in England.  I am married, no kids (other than the 4-legged variety) and work as a Software Developer.  Most of my blood relatives still live in England, except for an Uncle, Aunt and some cousins that live in Canada.  I moved out here to be with the woman who would become my wife.  We met online, not through a dating site, but a pen-pal site.  We were just chatting as friends, with no romantic intentions at all, specifically choosing to register on the “Just Friends” section of the website (which was epals.com, or something like it).  I proposed 4 days after meeting her in person, I knew straight away.  We have been married now for over 13 years, and I love her more each day.  She is my strength…

Which, in a round-about kinda way, leads me to my next subject.  I have depression.  No, I don’t have “the blues”, I don’t feel sorry for myself and I not being gloomy – I have depression.  Medically diagnosed, clinical depression.  It has been a lot better lately (drugs and lifestyle changes help) but I still have bad patches where my lying son-of-bitch brain tells me that nothing I do matters, which is what has been partly to blame for me not blogging over the last few weeks.  The last few days have been a lot better, more like my old self, in no small part due to the encouragement and understanding of my wife.  As a side-note, “Wind Beneath my Wings” just came on while typing this – how is that for timing 🙂

Why am I telling you this?  I want to be able to be completely open with how I feel and what I am thinking, both in my personal life in general and in this blog.  I am doing well being open and honest with my family, but not always with other people.  If I am going to censor myself while I am typing my blog, I will end up giving up on it because it isn’t what I want.  So, you can expect frank, maybe sometimes overly so, conversation from me here – good and bad.

Still here?  Awesome, I guess there is life out there after all 🙂  I PROMISE to write again soon.  If I don’t you have permission to hunt me down and play table tennis with my testicles.  Unless I am in a terrible accident where I lose my junk, because then it would just be a cruel taunt.

Catch you later 🙂