Tags: depression diary

just me

Writing about writing... recursive much?

I'm going to take a break from the pulp writing today (Black Rat should start tomorrow I think) just to bare my soul about the act of writing itself, how I feel about it and why I have such a hard time believing in my own ability or accepting the praise and compliments of others.

I never wanted to be a writer originally*, I wanted to be an artist. I used to spend all my time drawing and would go through reams and reams of paper. I would copy things out of my comic books, draw the craziness out of my imagination. I got pretty good, I thought, and my friends and family all seemed to appreciate my artwork. I learned a lot, pretty rapidly and there was little I enjoyed more all through primary school. It didn't hurt that my dad had kinda stepped aside from his artistic side to go the mathematic route. I was good at maths and science but that wasn't something I wanted to do. Doing something different was the extra push I needed to commit to being creative. Not that I resent anything about my dad's choices. I am fiercely proud to have had an intelligent educator as a father. That dad had been a teacher was a massive benefit growing up and my mum's no slouch either. Best of all they, and my grandparents, were all massively supportive and encouraging.

That all changed once I got to Secondary School. I finally had an art teacher, something I'd not had before. The problem was that the art teachers at secondary school were extremely traditional, very arts and craftsy and they just did not 'get' me or what I was doing at all. When someone's all still-life and basket weaving, you're in a different world altogether when you're talking about Roger Dean, Tim White, Jim Burns or  Rodney Matthews. I had a struggle even when I was referencing Rene Magritte or Roy Lichtenstein as well.

I didn't do particularly well in art, even though I loved it. Peculiarly though, in 'Design & Communication', in which I was using the same skills and many of the same influences (my final project was inspired by Roger Dean's experiments in architecture) I did amazingly well. Something that surprised the crap out of me.

Despite all the discouragement from secondary school I stuck it out, thanks to the D&C praise and the support of everyone except the teachers and somehow managed to bluff them into letting me take art at A level. That was much better and I was built up all over again. Hippyish, indulgent and non-judgemental tutors who encouraged me again and made me believe in myself. That was just a build up to the knock-down though.

After college it was a Foundation year of art to build up a portfolio, ostensibly to go to university. That was time for a second round of crushing indifference and criticism. These tutors weren't indulgent or interested and didn't give a fuck what you were interested in or what you wanted to do. They wanted you to do what they wanted, precisely, at least when they weren't showing you Maplethorpe pictures of swollen testes in wooden cuffs.

It was grinding and disheartening but I gritted my teeth and I stuck it out, I did what I wanted to do and damn the consequences but that wears you the fuck out when everyone's telling you that you're wrong, your crap, it kills the joy you might have otherwise felt in what you're doing inch by bloody inch.

Then it came time to interview for universities, degrees or HNDs and I travelled all over the country wherever there were illustration or other courses that seemed to fit. Tutor after tutor was an arrogant prick, not the good kind of tutor, not the good kind of tutor. Arrogant, condescending, stuck in their own rut. The couple of places I could bring myself to apply to rejected me and the only course I would have really liked to do was in a terrifying part of Salford. I'll make sacrifices, but that was too much and the tutor there wasn't encouraging, the course and the students were (bless 'em).

That was that, my desire and self-belief to make art died that year and I've barely touched a brush, a pencil or a pen since around 1996.

They ground the love of art, of drawing out of me. Killed it and all because I spent so many years and so much effort trying to better myself at it, to learn, to find places that could help me. They didn't, they stamped any desire to do art out of me entirely.

There's always been something else I've been good at too, spinning yarns. I had better lick with teachers in English though and I always single out Mr Kettle for some special love. He's dead now, but he was the best English teacher, the best teacher full-stop, I ever had. Encouraging, enthusiastic, if you were into something he'd take the time to learn a little about it and would show a genuine interest in what you liked.

I've always told stories, since I was a kid, reading to other kids and naturally that lead into role-playing games which is where most of my writing and energy has gone. The thing about roleplaying is that it's a cooperative story. You can constantly bounce things off each other, the actions and behaviours of the characters all have a genuine, different person behind them. You have instant feedback while you're running a game and when you're writing a game you're creating a context, not actually telling a story. In a lot of ways its a 'cowards' way of telling a story, you don't have to put that much of your own creative energy 'on the line'. Gaming and gaming writing is something I can be confident of for the most part.

Fiction writing, however, isn't something I've done a lot of - at least not professionaly or semi-professionally - until recently.


Because I'm fucking scared to do so. To put something out that's unalloyed me, that's all my creativity, my words, my mind is terrifying. I've got confidence in my writing abilities but because of my experiences with art and having my love of that annihilated I am incredibly hesitant to put my words out there through sheer terror at the prospect of having my love of words similiarly crushed out of me.

It's crippled my ability to take positive comment and feedback and it's made any negative feedback utterly devastating, far out of proportion with how negative those comments might be. My brain simply refuses to process nice things that are said about my work and is all too ready to latch on to an even slightly negative comment.

It's not like I haven't taken knocks. I've been on a promise for full time RPG work several times and it's never materialised. I've come in for some heavy criticism from some rather horrible fanboys on more than one system, had judgement passed on me and my corpus of work when it comes to licensing and these are all setbacks but with RPGs a lot of it is down to the reader's interpretation and what they put into it. That shields you.

With fiction writing, you don't have that mental shield to hide behind. It's all you and there's nowhere for your ego to hide.

I know I'm annoying people who are trying to say nice things and to be encouraging, but I wanted to go some way to explain why. I've had my love for one creative art form stamped out of me with extreme prejudice and I really don't want the same thing to happen with writing.

*I wanted to be a lumberjack...

Health & Stuff Update

So, back from the doc's.

I don't have an ear infection, but both my ears are completely blocked with wax left over from when I was sick and it's not shifting. So I'm stuck dripping oil into my ears until next week when I get an aggressive syringing. The pain in my ears is because the pressure can't equalise quickly, the heat and itching is because of the irritation rather than an infection. The really fun part is that having oil in your ears to clear the wax makes you a bit more deaf until it gets sorted.



I don't seem to react normally to any of these antidepressants, my side effects are peculiar and don't tend to conform to the literature. Essentially I seem to have very weird brain chemistry. There's a couple more different drugs we can try but the SSRIs all work in the same way and my reactions are likely to be similar. We've decided to stick with the Fluoxetine (Prozac) as its a known quantity and the drug that I've probably gotten on best with of the three I've been on. We're going to reduce my dosage from 40mg to 30mg (I was on 20 before). Hopefully that should lessen the side effects while giving me the good effects of the drug, all at a level I can cope with.

I've also been referred to the Community Mental Health team for additional support. I probably won't hear anything for months, they're stretched, but the extra support and expertise should help me cope with the dips more. The downside is that being on the 'radar' of the CMHT isn't always a good thing, it's like putting a flag up over yourself 'I have problems'. Still I feel that the expertise and additional help, especially given my odd reactions to drugs, is probably worth the risk.

So yeah, coping, can't say much more than that at the moment. Going to take at least a week to adjust to the 30mg dose, possibly as much as three weeks.

Thank you everyone for your ongoing support and understanding. It's appreciated more than I know how to show.

How do you stay motivated to do things?

Short answer... I don't.

Long answer... hard slog and forcing oneself often accomplishes as much, if not more, than motivation. Still, I still frequently suffer total motivation failure.

Oddly, when I AM motivated to do something it can become more difficult as I end up setting impossibly high standards for myself that I can't meet and so end up paralysed with the inability to do anything - because it won't be good enough.

Another problem is that I am a person who has at least ten 'cool' ideas a day and my motivation frequently switches from whatever I SHOULD be focussing on to something else from the scattershot concept firing range that is the interior of my skull.

What few little tricks I've found mostly revolve around giving myself little rewards if I manage to do X. It's surprising how effective that can be.

Comfort 'food'

Comfort food: What do you do, watch, read, consume to make things better again?

I suppose that, when I want to relax and unwind and indulge this would mean:

  • Flash Gordon
  • Big Trouble in Little China
  • Strange Days
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Star Wars: Original Trilogy
  • Dune
  • Science Fiction short story collections from the 1970s and 80s.
  • Fantasy Art Books
  • My old 2000ADs

  • Ice cream
  • Bacon
  • Curry
  • Whisky

In an attempt to continue to be open about my illness...

Things I'll be discussing with the doc later today:

Ongoing Symptoms


Most of these have been lessened.

  • Tiredness during the day. (Unchanged).
  • Physical exhaustion without cause. (Lessened).
  • Lack of concentration. (Lessened).
  • Depressed/suicidal thoughts at night/when not occupied. (Lessened but persist for long periods, week/fortnight at a time).
  • Feeling of detachment from surroundings. (New).
  • Increased libido/frustration. (Slightly lessened).
  • Periodic episodes of high energy/focus (1-2 days a month/approximately) – Manifested in extreme work-focus, lots of ideas/enthusiasm for projects, overextension as I want to get a lot done in the time that I feel ‘normal’. Trying to pace myself proves impossible and overextension results in genuine mental and physical exhaustion and a lot of work I’ve made for myself when this passes. (Newish, hard to tell whether this is simply feeling normal).
  • Overreaction to minor setbacks. (Lessened).
  • Social anxiety/avoidance/desire to be alone. (New, social interaction was helping before).
  • Aches and stiffness (hands, back, legs, esp when walking). (Lessened).

I’ve tried taking my medication at different times of day but it seems to make no difference to any of the above.


Well, that's that...

That's that 30 day challenge done.

That was actually quite helpful, giving me things to write every day.

I'd appreciate it if readers could give me more topics to write about, either here or on my business blog. What would you like me to witter on about - if anything?

Give me some topics, top 5's, anything. Really helped me out brain-wise having a little daily task

Not like Spoons

"Some mornings it's just not worth chewing through the straps."
- Emo Phillips

Well-meaning people keep referring me to the spoons analogy but the thing is, that's more about chronic pain and other illnesses and depression isn't really like that. While it's a great analogy in its own right it doesn't really apply to how it feels to have depression. So at the risk of alienating people and going on too much about this I'm going to try and explain what it's like - at least for me. I don't claim this to be a brilliant analogy and I don't claim that it applies to everyone, it's just for me and in trying to express it I'm trying to exorcise it, just a little bit, for me today because I'm having a particularly bad day.

Imagine that you're on the surface of Jupiter. Ignoring the fact that the core if likely metallic hydrogen and that you'd be squished flat and popped by the atmospheric pressure alone. The gravity there is about 2.5 times that on Earth so everything is instantly heavier. You have the same energy and so forth that you might normally have on Earth but the difference is that everything takes a massively increased amount of effort. It's not that you CAN'T do certain things it's that suddenly they don't feel like they're worth the effort. Is it worth getting out of bed if your normal 140lbs or so is suddenly over 300? Wouldn't it be easier just to lay here and not move at all?

Imagine if every single task you did in a day had a threat or an obstacle in the way of it. Wouldn't it be harder to muster up the will to do it? What if in order to get dressed you had to root around in your trousers and dislodge a dozen scorpions first? Wouldn't it make more sense just to stay in your dressing gown all day?

Imagine that you're out of most of your staples of food etc that you like to eat. It's only five minutes down to the corner shop but someone's tied a heavy ball and chain to both your ankles. In order to get down to the shop to get a tin of nice soup and some fresh bread you've got to drag those heavy-arse things down there so... why not settle for crackers and the dry dog-end of some cheese rather than make the effort until you have to?

Want to take a shave? Fine, but you have to beat the arse of that sumo wrestler who's guarding the bathroom. In fact if you didn't HAVE to take a shit you wouldn't even bother going in there.

Tidy up? Fuck it, it'll just get dirty again and besides, there's that cobra living in the hoover. Is it really worth getting venom in your eyes to hoover up some spilled rice you'll just spill again tomorrow?

Things that you absolutely have to do you can just about muster the effort and willpower to overcome the obstacles for, but anything else becomes all the more difficult the more things you've had to do. The constant effort of exerting your will on every single little task takes its toll; It's exhausting and you're already tired before you start.

If it's like anything it's like Sisyphus every time you make all that effort and roll one boulder up the hill, there's another that needs the same thing doing day after day, time after time for every single thing you do.

Today, for example, was pretty bad:
  • I woke up early - before the alarm - which is never a good start.
  • Had to muster the energy to get my wife off to work though I didn't make her lunch today which helped.
  • I had two pieces of paperwork I had to do but in order to do one of them I had to check my bank account. Doing this is normally a chore because I always fret about passwords and things. Recently they changed the way you do things so you have to put your card in a special swipe machine and get a multi-digit code every time you do something. Now the amount of effort to check my account has gone from the jungle temple at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark to the Temple of Elemental Evil. Just thinking about putting in all those codes is making me tired.
  • I've been trying to exercise again, daily, like I used to. I only managed half my normal time by a supreme effort and then fell over.
  • I managed, perhaps, an hour and a half of work on SWING but through tired eyes it looks crap and incomplete.
That's all I've managed today besides this post and it's likely about all I'll be able to manage. Sometimes I manage to do more on weekends but that's because there's less pressure, less things you HAVE to do and I can skip around various things that don't take sustained effort.

I feel like I've run a marathon and just going back to bed or to the couch to lay down and rest feels like it'd be too much effort. If I visualise it I see a great big block of rusted metal that needs to be pushed to either location and I just stare at it and wonder if I can muster the sustained effort to even shift it, scraping noisily, across the ground.

I should be excited and happy. I've got several project irons in the fire, I'm excited for SWING and I was hoping to have it done by the end of this month. I tracked down an old project I want to make happen... but I'm just tired. I guess the effort that's gone into making this post could have gone into something more productive but that's just another source of exhaustion, guilt and second-guessing oneself.

Now I'm rambling and the point's been lost... but OK, if you want to know what it's like, don't think about being sad, just tie a bunch of weights to your limbs and stay up
special bear

30 day challenger Number 5 - A time you thought about ending your own life

Wow, how fucking morbid and given that I suffer from depression it's pretty much a given that I feel like this fairly often, despite the drugs coursing through my system trying to stop me feeling that way.

If I talk about some instances I'm going to upset a former lover who I've forgiven and grown to care about again, albeit at a respectful distance. Dredged up that past enough thanks.
If I talk about other instances I'm going to worry my wife and my family, who are already aware of how I feel.

I have no desire to hurt anyone by my own selfish, fuckbrained actions. The only thing you need to know is that yes, I feel this way, quite often - sometimes nightly - but I recognise it as an irrational result of aberrant brain chemistry rather than a genuine desire to hurt myself or do away with myself and, after a time, it passes.

Aside from fuckbrain issues the only other times I've ever felt like I wanted to die were in times of extreme emotional pain that have coincided with when I haven't felt needed or wanted by those around me.

I have gotten as far as trying to actually top myself three times but have never gone through with it and all the attempts have been half-hearted, amateurish or, frankly, too drunkenly comedic to count.

I thought about skipping this one but, all things considered, I think it's better to have things like this out there and discussed because too few people do it. I'm not mad, not insane and not stupid. There is a chemical imbalance in my brain, suicidal depression is a wound, like a broken leg or a cut. It takes time to rest and heal and you have to wear a cast or a bandage for a while so that can happen.

People always want to know what you can do to make someone who feels this way feel better. It's different to feeling sad, you can't distract me from it and you can't snap me out of it any more than you can tell someone with a broken leg to dance. Desire to feel better, to dance or smile, doesn't heal what's stopping you doing it. About all you can do - because fuckbrain tends to twist anything else into badness - is to let me know that I'm loved, valued, would be missed if I was gone - and not to assume that what's unsaid and obvious is obvious and doesn't need to be said to someone with fuckbrain.

The thing that keeps me around is knowing how my friends who care about me would miss me if I did shuffle off. That might not be true for everyone with depression or suicidal thoughts but it can't hurt.

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Christopher Hitchens Quote

"Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the 'transcendent' and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish.... Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you."
— Christopher Hitchens

The Thinking Atheist over on Facebook planted this quote up on his feed the other day and I cut and pasted it out so I'd have time to think on it past the immediate reaction that I put up on Facebook when it came up. It's an interesting quote and, I think, representative of the deep self-questioning and thinking people do when they have a life threatening condition.

I think everyone's aware I've been suffering on and off with depression this last couple of years but not everyone knows it has -occasionally - reached suicidal proportions and while I'm not sick in the same way Hitchens is - I'm not facing down a likely-deadly disease of the same sort - it does cause a similar amount of introspection when you 'sober up' and take a look at yourself so, this made me think, though I'm afraid the religious are unlikely to score a victory in the introspection of either Hitchens, or myself.

"Beware the irrational, however seductive."
I can agree with this one, 100%, as it applies to real life in any case. Engaging in irrational _fantasies_ is fun, stretches the imagination, gives you new perspectives, lets you ask 'what if'. I'm all for that. When people mistake the irrational for the rational however, that's where you get problems. That's where you get homeopathy or astrology, where you get 'holographic sports wristbands', anti-abortion activists or elaborate conspiracy theories. Many of these things are seductive. We all like to think we've got secret knowledge, that we're special somehow, that we GET something nobody else does, that we're chosen and beloved of the gods or whatever... but this is a hopelessly arrogant mindset and we should learn to be a bit more humble in the face of the universe.

"Shun the 'transcendent' and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself."
Me and The Hitch disagree on political issues and his political side is showing a little bit in this one. Maybe he's spent too long in America and bought into their insane levels of 'rugged individualism', I don't know. The first half I agree with, people talking about something 'outside', 'beyond' and so on are just making excuses for the total lack of objective reality in what they believe. Ignoring the real in favour of the unreal. I also agree that we should not annihilate selfhood or subordinate ourselves to dogma. Hitch would, likely, include socialist thought in that second half where I do not. I don't consider that a subordination or elimination of the self since any society is made up of individuals and it is in our individual interests to collectivise effort, safety and other factors.

"Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others."
Compassion is a valuable thing but often it's used as a cover for something else. I interpret this as advocating a hand up, rather than a handout, which I agree with. Too many groups use the excuse of compassion as a means to dominate, proselytise, control or cause people to become indebted. A perspective of providing/allowing for dignity may ensure a more pragmatic approach to problems.

"Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish..."
Arrogance? Well, sometimes you simply are right and that's not arrogance, it's supportable fact. This can be often mistaken for arrogance though. Selfishness? That bothers me more. Sure, often accusations of selfishness aren't true, but they are bothersome and disrupt some deep level of self-image that most humans seem to share. We should pay attention to such accusations, but examine them rationally.

"Picture all experts as if they were mammals."
Don't presume an argument from authority to be correct in other words. Experts also make mistakes and they breathe, breed, shit and piss, same as the rest of us. Look at what they do, where their information comes from.

"Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity."
Get involved, challenge stupidity and unfairness and in so doing you can educate and make the world a better place by addressing unfairness. I agree, though it's hard bloody going.

"Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence."
I needed something reaffirming on this score lately as between breasts, pronouns and dickwolves, the internet ether has been full of 'teh stupids' and it has gotten very wearing. I normally seek out people of opposing points of view and I love to argue. Keeps me engaged, keeps my mind fresh, challenges my point of view and tests it. I normally relish the opportunity. Butting heads with people who don't share that point of view or who are invested in wilfully misinterpreting you is extremely tiring though and I succumbed to the temptations of the banhammer more than once lately, which always makes me feel dirty for resorting to it. I can't leave an argument alone though and it can be the only way to get some peace. Still, I should re-examine that.

"Suspect your own motives, and all excuses."

Yep, put yourself under the light as much as other people.

"Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you."
I would do a lot for the people I care about so I expect a lot from the people I care about. This can lead to some... unevenness and resentment but does that mean I should rein in how much I care about other people in order to be more realistic? I'm not sure that it does...

Anyway, it was good food for thought for such a short quote and it's nice to see cancer hasn't diminished Hitch's fighting spirit.

Fings and Schtuff

So, how's things?

Pretty good really. The ol' noggin seems to be on track and I've settled into a good, new, tempo of work where I swap between short projects and tasks and longer term ones, mixing things up to keep me interested. The only problem, I think, is that these drugs now seem to be making me a bit... manic. Which is a rarer side effect than pure anxiety, but is, apparently a 'thing' and not me just acting screwy for some other reason. Still, I suppose it's better to have a surfeit of energy rather than a shortfall and I seem to be getting quite a bit done.

Work's going along nicely, though headway on Agents of SWING is a little slower than I'd like, it's still about 1/4 done now. I've got various things commissioned coming up for shorter products, which hopefully should get things going and am just waiting on art and other material for some other things. I'm venturing into getting other people to write for me again too, which is difficult for an 'auteur' and control freak such as myself, but hopefully something good will come of it and I won't go spare.

I seem to have landed some more freelancing bits and bobs too, so juggling all of this is going to be the challenge, more than writing it almost I think!

Otherwise life is OK, I always have preferred autumn and winter. I'm going to try and keep this - and the work blog - better updated and spin out some material and other things that interest me.

What's on my mind lately?
  • Epic careface at royal wedding.
  • Hopeful that the student protest is just the start of something on a Poll Tax protest scale.
  • Really, really hoping for electoral reform but the vested interests and political opportunists seem to be lining up against it, more's the pity.
Anyway, let's see what shakes loose...