Growing Up a Shadow

I have been asked by someone close to me to write about my lifestyle growing up. It was pretty hard to pick a part of my youth that would be interesting enough to put on paper (or the internet) but I have decided to write about my life as a shadow to one of my [former] best friends. Before I get to this, I feel like I need to give you a brief history of my childhood into adolescence.

When I was growing up and going through the earlier years of high school, I didn’t have many friends. My best friend from the age of 3 years old had moved away when we were 10 with his parents quite suddenly and I was left without any close friends for a while. I was quite a solitary kid anyway so this didn’t really bother me at the time (apart from the fact I’d just lost a very close friend). I went to school and worked hard in my classes and as far as I can remember I was quite content with life on my own. My family life was good, as my parents never left me or my brothers wanting for anything and they always made sure we had plenty to do at home. I played video games and (as was very popular at the time I was growing up) read Harry Potter for hours on end. The fact that I managed to read all of these books myself from a very young age meant that I am still a Potterhead even to this day, as sad as it may be. I don’t care; I am who I am and I like what I like.

 

Deathly Hallows

 

Other than Harry Potter (which, surprisingly, wasn’t very popular among my peers), video games and a wee bit of guitar, I didn’t have any common interests. This obviously made it difficult to relate to anybody in my school; however, I didn’t really pay much attention to it at the time. Until, of course, I hit puberty and started becoming that awkward kid who didn’t have any pals. Yeah, that wasn’t fun. It hit me like a tonne of bricks and I all of a sudden became very aware of what people thought of me. I am sure many of you can relate, whether you want to admit it or not. For a while, I was pretty much the stereotypical outcast teenager and I was very aware of it. At one point, some other kids could see what I was going through and they asked me to hang out with them. Well, I had been asked to hang out before but it was usually a trap, in order to make me look like an idiot. I was very cautious when I accepted but it actually turned out to be a great thing for me. They were the “moshers” of the school and welcomed me in with open arms. They always met me before school and asked me to sit with them in classes. Pretty soon, we were hanging out after school, although not at weekends because I usually spent that time with my family. We would go to a youth club on a Wednesday night, where we would take the money given to us by our parents and (you guessed it) bought sugary sweets and energy drinks! Now, I know a lot of you were probably expecting there to be alcohol involved and for a few people at the club this was the case but we didn’t drink at this stage and if any of us ever did it was always away from the group. We would still get up to the usual young kid antics. Daring each other to do stupid stuff, play fighting, pranks, etc. I remember having the best time and I always looked forward to a Wednesday. There was just one thing that I couldn’t shake: I was a quiet kid. I was always there but I would hardly ever contribute to conversations or take part in any of the pranks. I was so quiet that, on a few occasions, I “met” the same people for the first time almost every week, as they could never remember meeting me. I didn’t really care, I just laughed it off with my friends. I mean, I obviously did enough to still be considered a part of the group, otherwise people wouldn’t have kept asking me to come back.

Now that you know a little bit about the direction I was headed in with this crowd and what I was like as a kid, I can introduce you to the person who would be my best friend for a good number of years. For the purposes of the blog and keeping things anonymous, I will refer to him only as Archie. I met Archie during a period of P.E. doing weight training. We started talking about music and bands that we liked. Now, although I had been hanging out with moshers, I hadn’t listened to much in the way of alternative music so I couldn’t name Archie many bands that I would have heard. To be honest, music wasn’t a huge part of my life at this point. That was about to drastically change. Archie introduced me to the heavier side of music with bands like Rammstein, Slipknot and a few others. We very quickly started hanging out outside of school and we would listen to music and even play guitar. I had played on and off since I was 8 years old but this was the first time I took a keen interest in it. As well as the guitar playing, going to gigs was a huge thing that happened almost every month. He actually took me to my first gig, which was Rammstein. Imagine your first live band being Rammstein at the age of 14!

 

Rammstein

 

As it was just the two of us hanging out and we were spending a lot of time together, we quite often had very deep conversations about life and we realised we had a lot in common as human beings. The way we thought and the way we treated people, as well as our taste in food and our interest in video games, particularly Final Fantasy. It was incredible to have a best friend at that teen stage of my life who not only understood me but who also was very similar. The thing is, by this point, Archie had already established something without me even realising: he was the alpha of the two of us. He would always be the one who decided what we were doing on any given day. I didn’t care or even notice at that point, as I was just so happy to have a best friend. I really wish I’d noticed sooner because it turned out this kind of alpha behaviour left unchallenged was going to take over the friendship completely.

 

We continued hanging out right the way through school, with Archie being the centre of attention 100% of the time. If we hung out with other people, Archie was always the one who would act up and make a fool of himself so that everybody else would laugh at him and he would stand out. He was also a fan of “peacocking” which was just to dress as brightly and ridiculously (but also stylishly) as possible so that you attract attention. Of course, the kind of attention he wanted was female, as he was a mad shagger. This became very apparent when we reached the age of 18 and started drinking. He was out every weekend on the pull. With Archie being the centre of attention all the time, you may think that I had a pretty easy time of it. This was unfortunately not the case. Socially, I had a pretty rough time. I mean, I was meeting new people all the time; however, they never paid any attention to who I was, as they were always just smitten with Archie. I would bump into people when I was on my own and they would recognise me but it would always be “oh hey, you’re Archie’s pal!” and they would never remember my name. I usually just brushed it off.

 

 

Shadow

 

 

Well, things were pretty much like that for the majority of my adolescent and young adult life. I felt like I was Archie’s shadow all of the time. When we were at college, at the pub, at house parties. Even when we did karaoke, I never felt like I was good enough to do it on my own and only ever sang a duet with Archie. It was pretty bad, looking back on it. Then came a momentous change that I was not expecting: Archie disappeared. When I say he disappeared, I mean I knew exactly where he was but he just lost contact with everybody. You see, he had gotten into a relationship with the girl he’d come to love. I was happy for the 2 of them, as I could see how smitten they were with each other. Until she took full control over him and he fell off the radar. He wasn’t allowed to see anybody, use any social media, go on any nights out. I felt bad for him, given his situation but at the same time, I felt incredibly hurt that he made no effort to keep in touch with me, his best friend.

 

There was a huge change that happened within myself too: I found myself and began making friends with people for who I was, rather than for who I had as my friends. When I went out to the pub, I started chatting to people who were interested in talking to me. When I went to parties, I was able to hold a conversation with people without Archie being there to suddenly steal the attention of the whole room by being an idiot. I started making friends with people, rather than just becoming acquaintances… and do you know what? I was no longer just Archie’s pal; I was Duncan. People love me for who I was and I finally had a life. I was no longer somebody’s shadow, in fact, I may have been creating my own shadows with the amount of confidence that I had gained in such a short space of time. I started singing on my own at the karaoke and nowadays I’m praised for my vocal talent. I’m still quite humble but it’s nice to hear that people appreciate something you do. I started talking to strangers in social settings, no longer worried that they won’t like me and instead just going in with the right foot forward and being myself.

 

 

Find Yourself

 

 

My advice from all of this: don’t be anybody’s shadow. Always be yourself and people will like you for you who are. If you allow somebody to overshadow you that much, you will lose yourself. Don’t let it happen.

 

Love and Peace.

A Pill a Day Keeps the Demons Away

Well, today I did it. I went to the doctor and spoke about my anxiety and depression.

Well, today I did it. I went to the doctor and spoke about my anxiety and depression.

 

This really wasn’t as scary as I had always expected. In fact, it was rather underwhelming. I had thought that my GP might probe me with lots of questions to make sure I was actually depressed, rather than just sad or even faking it for attention or drugs. Nope. She didn’t question very much and any questions she did ask I was able to answer very honestly. Within 10 minutes she had worked out what I had already done for my own mental health and figured that it was time for some extra help; however, although she was able to come to this conclusion very quickly, I couldn’t but feel the entire time that she was treating me as just another person with depression, rather than an individual. She seemed very bored through the entire appointment and certainly didn’t seem like she cared. Oh well.

 

Now, if you have read One Small Step for a Beard… then you will know my feelings on taking medication and especially antidepressants. I have no problem with other people taking them and I understand that, if it helps them, it is the best thing for them. Of course, when it comes to my own head and my own body, my opinion for some reason differs. I am scared of antidepressants. Terrified…. and by now you’ve probably guessed that this is exactly what my doctor prescribed today. Well, fuck.

 

Yes, I am scared of these tablets. I don’t know how they are going to make me feel. I know that they will more than likely help my depression and anxiety… but will I feel better? Will I feel like myself or a completely different person? Will I keep the things in my head that I actually enjoy about myself or will I lose those too? These are just some of the questions swirling around in my head. I guess there is literally only one way to find out: start taking the damn medication and getting better. Pushing through the fear and actually doing something that will benefit me, rather than sabotaging it like I normally do.

 

Hell, maybe they’ll help my brain remember me… then I can find myself again. Wouldn’t that be the best outcome that I could hope for? Thinking about that actually put a smile on my face as I write this. Here’s to getting better, regardless of how long the journey may be.

 

Love and Peace.

Letter to My Brain

Hi. Remember me? I sometimes wonder if you do as, to me, you seem like a stranger. I don’t recognise you anymore so it would only make sense that you don’t recognise me.

I have seen a few other bloggers do this (most notably RuthinRevolt & BeardedIgor) and I thought I would give it a try. Let’s see how it turns out:

 

“Dear Brain,

 

Hi. Remember me? I sometimes wonder if you do as, to me, you seem like a stranger. I don’t recognise you anymore so it would only make sense that you don’t recognise me.

 

I hope to help you remember with this letter, as I am getting pretty fed up with your attempts to ruin relationships, jobs, finances and my health. It needs to stop and it will benefit both of us, I promise. You will understand when you remember who I am.

 

I am the man who used to be more laid back than The Dude. Well, maybe that’s just, like, my opinion, man. Still, I was so laid back that I never let anything negative bother me. It was all water off a duck’s back. I just continued doing the things I loved and I had fun with life. Anything ringing a bell?

 

I am the man who used be happy with his life and relationships. Who rarely second guessed himself or over-thought about anything. Things were straight-forward and simple. Still nothing?

 

I am the man who used to have ambitions. Who wanted to work with his one true love: music. Who wanted to write and sell music, play on stage to adoring (lol) fans and tour the world. Who wanted to record other people’s music and help other people realise their potential. Who wanted to be a teacher. Anything at all yet?

 

I am the man who used to find the funny side of everything. Who would laugh at himself when he was being ridiculous and start over. Who would pounce on every opportunity to share that laughter and joy with his friends and family. You must be starting to see it now?

 

Maybe this one will jog your memory: I am the man who used to love with all of his heart. Who found joy in every situation. Who did everything he could to help the people he cares about feel better and succeed. Who loved himself and the things for which he stood.

 

The man I am describing is nowhere to be seen right now. Maybe once you remember him, you can help me find him again? Please? I can’t do this without your help.

 

What are we doing today then, Brain? The same thing we do every day: try to sabotage every aspect of my life? I hope not. “Try to take over the world” always had a better ring to it, in my opinion.

 

Let’s try to get along better. I will try to take better care of you but you need to take care of me too. There can’t be a disconnect, otherwise we will just continue to hurt each other.

 

I’m willing to try if you are.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Duncan”

 

brain-cartoon-drawing-57

 

Well, that went a lot better than I expected. Thanks for reading.

 

Love and Peace

 

 

 

 

Finding Fulfilment

I am quite scared of this post coming across as a cliché, as I realised when thinking about the topic that it is pretty cheesy and probably over done, to an extent. Well, especially when it comes to motivational speeches and finding your fulfilment in life.

The truth is, I was never really a fan of motivational speeches, articles or books. I can’t really put my finger on the reason why, looking back on it. There was just something about them that made my brain shut down. I guess we all have those things that we tend to avoid. Although, if I were to hazard a guess as to the reason I wasn’t fond of them, it may be that I never thought I would have any use for them. Here we go: my naivety shining through again. It makes me cringe how naive I used to be, while at the same time thinking I was so right and so down to earth. Just like my naive thoughts that I would never have issues with mental health. I would go back and slap myself if I had a time machine.

I watched a lot of motivational videos whenever I felt lost during spells of depression. They came from a lot of different sources but the majority of the speeches in the videos were by one Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. You may have heard of him, given the controversy that recently surrounded his YouTube videos and TV interviews; however, the videos I am referring to were recorded before all of that and most of them were excerpts from his psychology lectures at the University of Toronto. It makes sense that he should know about mental illness and how to combat it and cope with it psychologically. A lot of the things he said made sense, including “get your life in order“.

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you’ll know that it was bringing order to my life that really helped me to begin to cope with my mental health issues. As part of this process of finding and bringing order to my life, I realised very quickly that my job was not helping me at all. I was and still am completely miserable at my job. I needed to find another one, another career path. Not just any other but one which would bring me fulfilment and make me happy. Well, I’ve known call centre work and customer service all of my adult life; what else was there for me to do? It seemed like such a daunting task, to come up with something that I could do instead of my current job. Most other things that I thought of were in some way linked, be they office jobs or other retail or customer service jobs. No, no, no, that’s not what I wanted. I thought I had hit a brick wall, when it suddenly hit me: I had been training staff a few months prior, in a classroom environment, where I had creative control over how each lesson/module would be taught and I was very happy during this time. Of course, the happiness was short lived, as I was only doing it for 6 weeks and I got barely so much as a thank you when I finished. I think the fact that it ended on such a sudden and negative note is what made me forget about it when considering a new career but there it was. There was the answer: I should become a teacher. It was so obvious that I was practically kicking myself when I figured it out.

Since I found the answer, I have been working my new goal of teaching into my daily routine. I very quickly decided that I didn’t want to be a school teacher, which actually makes my goal a lot easier to reach. To be a college lecturer, I would only need the qualification that I would be teaching and I happen to have an HND. Perfect. My dad is a college lecturer so I made some time so that we could sit together and work on my CV. Everything seemed to be falling together pretty nicely. That pretty much brings us up to the present day and it’s actually getting to be quite scary. I’m almost at a point where I can start applying for lecturing jobs and jobs within colleges. It’s okay, though, as it’s an amazing kind of scary. One which is driving me to do the best that I can for myself. I know that I will be able to handle each step along the way. I have faith in myself and it has been a long time since I’ve been able to say that honestly.

I have found my path. If you haven’t already, you should go out and find yours. You will find your answer somewhere, I promise. But to find it, you need to look for it. Very few people in this world stumble into their dream career so don’t wait for that to happen and hope for the best. Get your life in order and find whatever makes you feel fulfilled and happy. I haven’t finished my journey to getting my dream career but I’ll tell you this: I’m almost there and I already feel happier than I have been in a long time.

Love and Peace.

Order from Chaos

I hope to use this blog not only as a journal or a catalogue of my own experiences but also as a kind of reference for anybody else out there who may be going through similar experiences. Mental health is incredibly important, especially today, when more and more people are being diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. If you can relate to anything in this or future posts, please do get in touch. I would love to hear from you.

When I recently went through another low point in my life (mentally), I got through it with help from my good friends. They lifted me up like nothing else could and I am forever grateful. I realised, however, that I would need to change something in my life so that I could cope with my depression and anxiety a lot better on my own. That’s when I started taking control and bringing order and meaning to my life.

One day, when I hit the lowest point of my depression, I reached out to my friends. They spoke to me and lifted me up, as I explained at the beginning of this entry. Now, I do not believe that there is much else in this world which could be an effective substitute for talking to somebody when it comes to depression; however, what I did next was so simple and yet so effective. It made me feel a million times better; so much so that I’ve kept it going, in one form or another: I brought structure to my life, where there had previously been none. Before, I would just go to work, come home, eat (if I could be bothered) and veg out whilst watching YouTube, before going to sleep and then getting up and doing it all again. I didn’t realise how much worse this way of living was actually making me feel. This chaos. That is until I organised my life and introduced order.

It was my turn, that weekend, to clean the flat. Now, any time I had done this before, I had just arbitrarily started cleaning and stopped whenever I thought I was done. This time, though, it was very different. I got some post it notes and wrote each job on a single post it:

  1. DISHES
  2. KITCHEN
  3. HOOVERING
  4. MOPPING
  5. BATHROOM

I stuck them all on the door frame and stuck some ska music on my Spotify (it was actually someone very special to me who had put me in the mood for ska and I feel that this only added to my positive mood even more). I got to work and each time I finished a job I took the Sharpie and scored it out on the post it. Once I had finished all of the jobs on my list and scored them out, I grabbed each post it, crumpled them all up into a big ball and threw them in the bin. I mean, I could have done it individually, as each task was completed; however, saving it all to the end was far more satisfying and it helped me feel like I had accomplished something greater. I sat down and realised: this was the most content and fulfilled I had felt in a very long time. I was awestruck with how much better I felt and I was so proud of myself. From that moment on, I made a promise to myself that I would do this as often as I could. Organise my life, that is, not clean the flat. I really am not a neat freak…. and so far, I have kept that promise. I have organised my life into things that need to be done by writing myself lists. I have a static list of things that I must do, such as making my bed in the morning and getting out my front door. Then I have a list of extras, which are things that are not as important but it would be nice if I could get them done. The way I see it, if all I can manage on any given day is the “must” list, that’s fine. I’ve taken care of myself and that’s what matters. If I manage a few more things or even just one other thing from the “extras” list, I count that as an achievement and I give myself a pat on the back. This way, I’m organising and prioritising my life but at the same time limiting the risk of over stressing myself and allowing myself to fall into another low point.

I am still fighting my depression and anxiety on a daily basis, such is the nature of chaos; however, now that I have introduced order to my life, I feel that I am far better equipped to cope with it than I ever have been before.

“Life is suffering, but I got this.”

Love and peace.

The Bus Chronicles: The Front of the Bus, He Cannae Look

Well, I’m on my usual bus to work and to be quite honest I initially thought there was nothing about which I could write. Everyone on the bus seems normal and they’re all minding their own business. Except me, of course. People watching like fuck.

People watching. We all do it, even if we tell others that we don’t. It’s natural. It’s part of the human condition. During my people watching on this particular journey, I spotted a gentleman who was doing the very same. Except he was in quite an awkward position. He had chosen to sit at the front of the bus, in one if those seats that face the back. He was facing every other passenger.

Watching him people watch was absolutely fascinating (or maybe it really wasn’t and it was just a case of me needing anything to make this journey less boring). I would catch him looking at other passengers, watching them as they drink a can of juice or as they type on their phone. Then he would evidently feel awkward and his eyes would dart towards the window and his expression would change to one of “oh what a lovely view”. Seeing the awkwardness in his face, combined with an expression that suggested he didn’t know where to look, was priceless. I’m free to look around and not make eye contact with anybody. Yet here he is, eyes darting around the bus because he’s scared he’ll lock eyes with somebody for too long. I feel you, bruh. Wouldn’t want to be in your seat.

Hopefully something funnier will happen on the next journey.

My First Post

Well, here it is. I have decided to start a blog and this is my first post. Exciting, eh?

I suppose the tagline for my page may seem a little pessimistic and negative at first glance so I figured that I would use my first post to go into it in a little more detail and clarify what I mean by it.

Life is suffering. I know a few people who might vehemently disagree with that statement, claiming that I am being far too negative. Most people might think the same. I am, in fact, viewing life in a very positive manner when I use the statement and I know that many of you may find this to be very strange. I’ll tell you what, I found it to be strange when I first stumbled across it, as I had an incredibly positive outlook on life and took everything in my stride. I am pretty sure that I scoffed at the notion of life merely being about suffering and just said to myself “I’m not suffering. I love my life and I want to live it to the fullest.” Oh, how naive was I? As it turns out, very.

Around 2 years ago, I had my first experience with severe depression and anxiety. This was a terrifying experience, as I suddenly went from being a very laid back and positive guy to being a twisted, pessimistic and anxious human being. It was alien to me. At first, I did not know how to deal with it but luckily I had very good friends who supported me and helped me pull myself back up. It has been an ongoing and constant struggle over the last 2 years, fighting my depression and anxiety every single day. Of course, different things have happened in my life, which have contributed to my low moods so these can’t be attributed solely to depression. Such is the chaos of life. These unexpected events, I feel, only contribute to the notion that life is suffering and this is where the lightbulb moment came and changed my perspective. Here is my view on life at this moment:

Life is suffering. Pure and simple. The majority of the things that happen in your life are quite negative; however, this is by no means an implication that you should just accept reality and wallow in your suffering. Well, that wouldn’t be a good life at all, would it? No. It is just a starting point. Once you realise that life is suffering, it is then understanding that finding your own ways of dealing with the suffering that gives life its meaning. If you approach your life with the understanding that negative things will regularly happen and you build on your ability to deal with these negative things, you put yourself in a better poition to appreciate the positive things that will inevitably happen. It will put you in a better position to notice the positive things.

The sentiment that comes along with “life is suffering” is not merely “life’s a bitch and then you die”. It is “life’s a bitch but you got this”.

Love and Peace.