My Fragile Mind

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I have been fighting with my mind for a long time now. It has been a constant struggle. I feel like I have recently been winning the battle but it is far from over and I still have weak moments, where I feel like giving up. Sometimes, I do give up and I don’t do anything for a whole day. It is a horrible and vicious cycle, which only results in me struggling even harder to just get myself on an even keel.

 

The most frustrating thing for me right now is that the weak moments are far more pronounced now than they ever were. Even though I have progressed and am happier now than I have been in a long time, the weak moments that I have often lead to a darkness and despair that is so real. Yes, I can cope with it a little better because of my medication but the constant feeling of depression is still there. I find myself getting on with my life in a sort of autopilot fashion but I don’t have the drive to do anything else. I don’t have the drive to do something that will make me happy. Is it because nothing is making me happy right now? Well, I don’t think that’s the case, as I have recently expressed that I feel happy and it is a genuine feeling of happiness. Is it because I haven’t given my medication enough time to balance itself out? That seems a little more likely.

 

Whatever is going on in my head, my mind seems to be more fragile now than it ever was before. Although I have far more moments of happiness, it seems like it doesn’t take much to bring me out of that feeling and right back down to the depths. No, I’m not just talking about sadness or being in a bad mood. I am talking about an all encompassing feeling that I am worthless and nothing that I do will matter. Rather than it being something that is making me suicidal or making me feel like I might as well not be on this Earth, it is more like a nihilistic view. I have never been a nihilist. I don’t want to be a nihilist… but whatever is going on in my head seems to be turning me into one. As a result of me feeling like nothing that I do matters, I just feel an emptiness and a sense of apathy towards my life and actions. It causes me to think that I should just do nothing and everything will be fine. I don’t need to eat right now, I can eat something later. I don’t need to get dressed right now, I am comfortable in my dressing gown. I don’t need to make my bed, I’m just going to lay in it all day anyway. I don’t need to clean the dishes, I can do them any time. I don’t need to pay my debts because I don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. This nihilism could very easily become quite self destructive… and do you know the funny thing? Although I know this and although I understand that I need to stop behaving this way and thinking this way, I am not any closer to actually doing anything about it. I just don’t have the motivation to fix it. It is so very frustrating.

 

I want to fix it. I want that more than anything. I know that I am capable of fixing it and I know that I will fix it. I am just tired of putting it off but even though I am fed up, I still am doing nothing. It is just getting worse and worse. Will I need to hit rock bottom before I am able to pull myself up again? Is that it? Will it be the darkness that saves me? As I am writing this, I feel like my only other option is to reach out for help; to ask one or more of my friends to help me keep things in perspective and do what I need to do. The only thing with that option is that I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to annoy anybody, as I know that everybody has their own struggle. Everybody has their own life and I shouldn’t expect anybody to take on the task of basically babying me back to a balanced mental health. Well, do I need to look at it from another perspective? One that shows me that I am worth looking after? One that shows me that my true friends will be there for me no matter what and that they do care about me? I think that might be the answer to my problems right now. Maybe I am looking at this from a perspective that is far too negative and I am blind to my own worth and blind to the friends who want to help me.

 

One of the great things that I have found about writing is that it allows me to get my own thoughts out of my head and organise them. As much as this blog post seems like a mess of thoughts, for me, seeing it all laid out in words has helped me so much. I feel like I have taken steps towards understanding more and more about my mind with every sentence that I have written today. Being able to understand, cope with and overcome my mental health issues was the very reason that I started blogging in the first place and I am very glad that writing is still helping me to do that.

 

I hope that this has been another step towards a healthier mind and a happier me.

 

Love and Peace

Letter to My Brain: Follow-Up

You may have read the previous and first letter that I wrote to my brain. If you haven’t, I would recommend heading over to Letter to My Brain on my blog.

 

This is a follow-up letter, where I talk to my brain about how I am feeling at this moment in time and check in to see if we are any closer to the working partnership, for which I said we should strive.

 

Let’s dive in and see if there have been any changes:

 

“Dear Brain,

 

Hi again. I hope you haven’t forgotten my last letter. I know you can’t write back, being a brain and all but I am quite sure you got the message. I do hope that my feelings on this are correct.

 

Since I last wrote, I have noticed a big difference in the way you have been treating me. In fact, I noticed many differences along the way; not all of these differences were positive but it is the outcome that matters most of all in this situation.

 

The first big change that I noticed came when I had not long started taking my antidepressants. It hit me like a tonne of bricks and shocked me to my very core. It was an anxiety attack like I had never felt before. My initial reaction, once I had overcome the anxiety, was “why are you doing this to me? Why, when I am trying to help you by taking these meds?” I felt helpless, as I thought the meds were not working at all. I began resenting you even more than I had done when I initially wrote to you; however, once I calmed down and realised that the tablets can cause one’s anxiety to get worse before it gets better, I felt quite sheepish. Of course it was the tablets and not you. My GP even told me to expect things to get worse initially. I was just blind to it, like a fool.

 

The next change that I felt, once the rough period was nearing its end, was that you seemed a lot less chaotic. You weren’t making me over think as much as you used to. You weren’t making me panic or stress as much as you tended to do before. Although I was still anxious and I still did think about a lot over time, it was a welcome relief from the constant mess that was my head when you were in control and seemed to be out to get me. It is quite hard to describe, other than to say that I felt calmer and more focused.

 

Probably the best difference to me was that I actually felt happier more often. Things weren’t as dark or cloudy. It was such a relief that you had found it in you to lift the veil for me and to do it as much as you did. I appreciated it to no end. Don’t think that it went unnoticed, as I noticed it every time and I made sure to make the most of it. As I was happier, I had it in me to love the way that I had before. I was able to free up some room in my head in order to help those I love. It was uplifting and it has brought me even closer to people in my life. I knew you still had that loving and caring side somewhere inside you. You were just hiding it from me, as you didn’t want to be too vulnerable.

 

Of course, as a result of all of these things, I am more laid back and closer to my chilled out self than I have been in a long time. Rather than feel guilty for sitting in my dressing gown on my days off, I feel comfortable. All I need is a White Russian and a nice big rug to lay on; it would really tie the room together. I’m taking it easy and you know am. The Dude abides, after all.

 

Brain, we still have a long way to go before we find the man I described in my first letter but the progress we have made together so far only gives me more hope that we will find him. You have given me the space I needed to start looking for him and I am happy to say that traces of him have popped up in so many places. You are starting to remember and this makes me very happy. To me, the only way from here is up…. and I couldn’t have gotten this far without your help.

 

Let’s continue the fight, struggle on and keep searching together. One day, we will be ready to try to take over the world, Brain.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Duncan”

 

I have to say, writing this letter felt very different to writing the first one. I hope you enjoyed it and I can guarantee you that there will be another one in future.

 

Love and Peace

My Holiday So Far: This is the Life

I am sitting with a coffee that was made for me by my mum when I got out of bed. She also offered to make me a bacon roll for breakfast, which is currently on its way. My dad is sitting with the newspaper and my wee niece is walking around, chatting away to everybody, asking to go out and play.

I am sitting with a coffee that was made for me by my mum when I got out of bed. She also offered to make me a bacon roll for breakfast, which is currently on its way. My dad is sitting with the newspaper and my wee niece is walking around, chatting away to everybody, asking to go out and play. My sister-in-law has just told her they are going out to the park. All in all, I am very happy.

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This holiday has been just what the doctor ordered. A nice, relaxing few days away with my family. I haven’t done very much and that is definitely a good thing. The biggest thing I did was play a game of poker on the Friday night, which was a long and drunken night but it was the most fun I’ve had in a while (despite being put out first). The house I am staying in is huge and has everything that we could need, including 4 bathrooms. There is a massive kitchen/dining room, with a huge 8-seater dining table. There is a big conservatory with a corner couch and recliner chair. The conservatory looks out onto a garden that is almost as big as the house, which has plenty of bushes, flowers, some pebble walkways and even a pond.

I was actually due to come home today, as I had booked a doctor’s appointment for tomorrow morning; however, my mum could see how much this holiday was helping me mentally and emotionally and she has convinced me to call the doctor in the morning to ask if we could continue with the appointment over the telephone. I hadn’t even thought of this being an option so I was really happy for my mum to have suggested it. It’s exactly what I’m going to do and I am going to make the most of my time off.

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To give you a little bit of context as to why this holiday has been so incredibly good for me and my mental health, St Andrews is a very special place to me. I have been coming here every year for 20 years. I know the place like the back of my hand and consider it to be a second home. It is a very relaxing and peaceful place, where I feel 100% safe walking around, no matter the time of day. It has several beaches, where you can take in the sea air. There are some beautiful, scenic walks that are just a joy to take. The pubs here are so nice, with some of the friendliest staff around. It is a place that my entire family loves, which means we can all spend time together here and each one of us would enjoy ourselves and be happy.

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Where is your happy place? Is there a regular holiday that you take which makes you feel the happiest? Maybe you just have a place you can visit any time you like which makes you content? I would love it if you would share them with me. Now, I’m off to continue enjoying my holiday while I can.

 

Love and Peace

Today is a Good Day

I woke up today, earlier than I had planned, feeling very different to how I normally feel.

 

Usually, I wake up feeling very anxious and feeling like I am a worthless piece of crap. Today, however, I woke up feeling very calm. I wasn’t worrying about anything and I saw something that I hadn’t seen in a while: I saw the potential to make today whatever I wanted to make it. I am not a piece of crap and the things that I do matter. They matter greatly, to me and to the people who care about me. Today, I can see this very clearly and I think it is time to start taking responsibility again.

 

As I got out my laptop and set out to write a blog post, I had no idea what I wanted to write. Rather than feeling anxious and frustrated about this, I decided just to breathe and write whatever came to mind. I decided to take it back to basics and look at this platform as that which it was originally intended: something I could use to get my thoughts down on paper and clear my head. I shouldn’t worry about writing things which will be meaningful or will attract viewers. I am doing this for myself, first and foremost and if it also helps a few people along the way then that is a bonus.

 

Today will be a good day. I will make today a good day. I will practice some self-care and make sure anything that needs done around the house is done. A few weeks ago, I started doing this. I started taking responsibility for my life; however, my brain didn’t want me to do that and it sabotaged all of my attempts to get things back on track. Well, brain, I hope you haven’t forgotten about that letter I wrote to you. I have taken steps to help you get better so I hope you will be doing the same once the meds kick in. We’ve got this and I won’t stop fighting.

 

Today is a good day. I am feeling happy. I am feeling motivated. I am feeling more myself again than I have in a long time. Let’s not waste this opportunity to move forward. Let’s do this.

 

Love and Peace

My Blogging Journey: Hitting Milestones

Today is a good day. Well, apart from being tired and having to work but ‘c’est la vie!’ I have hit several milestones with my blog and am ecstatic!

 

Earlier in the week, I managed to triple my highest number of views in a single day (which was 33) by reaching 101 views on my blog for that day. This was absolutely incredible and to be quite honest, it was so unexpected. It was on the back of posting my Getting to Know Me post, which was just a short Q&A for a bit of fun in amongst all of the seriousness that my blog normally entails. I hardly expected anybody to read it, never mind getting 101 views as a result… but that’s not all.

 

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I also realised that, by reaching over 100 views in a single day, I had also smashed 500 total views since starting my blog at the beginning of June. Now, I have seen growth which was 10 times as fast, reaching 5000 views in 2 months but this was from somebody who posts on their blog and networks with the community EVERY SINGLE DAY . Hats off to them but for me, reaching 500 views in under 2 months has been such an amazing accomplishment. I never imagined that people would want to read what I had to say about my mental health journey so it has been astonishing to get the exposure that I have had, with very little networking.

 

I’m still not done! As well as reaching 500 total views, I also reached 50 WordPress followers! I think I am probably most proud of this one, as many of my followers have come from people stumbling across my blog by chance, rather than my shares on Twitter and Instagram. Whenever I would put up a new post, before I’d even had a chance to Tweet about it, I would have several views and 1 or 2 new followers.

 

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To top it all off, this morning I hit 500 followers on Twitter! This hasn’t been a massive growth, considering that I started with over 200 followers before I started by blog; however, it is still a milestone nonetheless and it has just been another achievement to add to the list this week. The Twitter blogging community has to be the nicest and most supportive community that I have ever been a part of and if it wasn’t for that then I don’t think I would still be blogging.

 

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Each one of these milestones means so much to me and I couldn’t have done it without every reader, every follower, everybody I’ve interacted with in the Twitter community and every person in my life who told me to just go for it and start a blog. I really do love and appreciate every single one of you and I am so thankful for every view, follow and share.

 

Here’s to the next 2 months!

 

Love and Peace.

A Pill a Day: Has it Kept the Demons Away?

At this point, I am 2 weeks into my 6 week course of antidepressants. Has it helped so far? Let’s take a look and find out.

 

When I started taking the pills, I was very nervous, as you can read in A Pill a Day Keeps the Demons Away. Although I knew that the medication was specifically designed to combat depression and anxiety, I was worried that it might take something away from me; that it might turn me into somebody who I don’t want to be. Having taken the medication for 2 weeks, I am quite pleasantly surprised that it hasn’t done that which I feared.

 

Let’s start with the side effects that I have experienced so far, as although there have only been 2, they have been pretty unexpected. The first side effect that I experienced, around a week into the course, was tiredness. I would never say that I am somebody who regularly has trouble sleeping; however, I have noticed a considerable difference in how much my body needs sleep, specifically at night-time. I have been starting work at 7:30am and finishing at 3:30pm. When I started this shift, I was pretty excited, as I thought I would have plenty of time in the evenings to do things that I enjoy. Well, with these new pills, this turned out not to be the case. I found that I was very tired very early in the evening. The first day on my shifts and just a few days into taking the medication, I fell asleep at 7:00pm. This was very alien to me, as I have always been somebody who stays up until I need to go to sleep. From that day onwards, I have been so sleepy every single night.

 

The second side effect that I experienced was excessive sweating. I have always been a larger guy but I’ve never had an issue with sweating. Sure, during the really hot weather that we’ve had, I was pretty clammy a lot of the time; however, even as it got colder, I realised that I still felt very warm and I was constantly sweating like I’d just ran a long distance race. This has been very unpleasant and it is not something that I hope continues. I am sure that both of these side effects will even out and I will be back to my normal self soon, although I will miss being able to sleep on cue.

 

Now that we have the side effects out of the way, let’s have a look at how I’m feeling. I am feeling much less anxious. I am over thinking less. These two things on their own are hugely positive for me, as you will probably know from reading Over Thinking. I feel like I can get on with my day and do the things I want to do, without being held back by constantly feeling anxious for no damn reason or by over thinking every little decision or situation. It has also helped my relationship with that one person with whom I’ve become very close. Things have been gradually getting better over the last two weeks and I am so happy about this. As well as the lack of anxiety, I feel like I am more prone to happiness. This has been such a welcome return to form, as I used to be a very positive person and would always look on the bright side of any situation. It hasn’t been a full return but it has been a massive step in terms of where I was two weeks ago. I have also found that I am more likely to carry out my self-care routines more often. By more often, I mean I have been doing it every single day since starting the medication. Now, this may be because I made a promise to myself that I would incorporate self care along with the medication, knowing that the pill on its own would not be a fix. It also could just be that the medication has triggered something in my brain that gives me the drive to do the things I need and want to do.

 

I am only two weeks into this course of medication and my GP advised that it can take three to four weeks to settle in and start to work so I have by no means experienced the full benefit of it. At the same time, I could experience something completely different and far more negative over the next 2 weeks. I really don’t know how things are going to pan out… but I am excited to see and I am feeling pretty positive right now.

 

Love and Peace.

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.

 

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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.