Sink or Swim

I have been thinking again about my depression, and since I have been on the tablets for a couple of months and have been attending counselling sessions, I seem to be able to think about it in a more rational way. I have therefore decided to try to examine the way that my depression has affected me.

I have always been prone to depression, although I referred to it a ‘cynicism’ and was terribly proud of it. You see, a cynic (as far as I am concerned) is someone who rejects blind optimism and reacts to the world in a more realistic manner. He (or she, obviously) recognises that the world is in a bad way, and that any change is likely to be for the worse, rather than for the better. I would call my cynicism ‘realism’ and quote the old cliché that ‘a cynic is what an optimist calls a realist’. This mindset served me well – or so I thought – from my mid teen years until my early thirties.

This current cycle of depression probably started about two years ago. I was trying to get work as a supply teacher but I was being messed around by a couple of agencies and not getting any work. I was therefore not getting paid. I was struggling to get my Jobseeker’s Allowance and Housing Benefit sorted (the main reason that I tend to side with benefit fraudsters – if they can get money from that system, they deserve it!) and as a result I was very short of money. Fortunately, I was flat-sharing with a very good friend who was willing to loan me the money to survive. Unfortunately, that situation played host to a horde of other issues that weighed heavily on my mind and caused me to slip further into the depressive cycle. My mood swings – usually from depressed to angry to self-obsessed to manic – were, understandably, placing a heavy burden on my friendships.

When I eventually got a new job (and a new girlfriend – the lovely Lauren who is now my fiancée), my mood began to improve, but it wasn’t long before the depression started impacting on my work life. I have always been terrified of failure, so much so that it often prevents me from trying. My cynicism rises to the fore and tells me that I am so likely to fail, there is no use even attempting things because the feeling of failure will be terrible. It tells me that there is nothing worse than failure, that one failure eradicates the total number of previous successes in my life. If I fail once, I fail completely. Of course, logically I know that this is utter bullshit. I know that failure is part of being human. We all fail occasionally, just like we all need help occasionally, but in my depression I cannot see that. I refuse to ask for help, or admit I need help, or even admit I find something difficult, because that is an admission of failure and I would rather be accused of laziness than incompetence. Even though I got a decent degree (a 2:1 in English and Education) I still feel like a fraud. I feel like I’m waiting for someone to burst into the classroom and denounce me as a fake, an imposter. I feel like I don’t belong, like a kid playing at being a teacher. My subject knowledge is good (it’s the one thing I feel confident in), but I don’t believe I am able to pass that knowledge on to the children in my care. I don’t feel that I deserve to be there. That obviously has an effect on me. When I am observed by a member of management, I automatically assume I’m going to fail, so the standard of my teaching drops. I know that my teaching is far better when there is no observation happening, but obviously that is a subjective view, and therefore useless. Without observation, it cannot be proved.

This turned out to be too much for my mind to cope with. I collapsed at home a couple of times, had panic attacks, constant dizziness and weakness, was exhausted all the time. My joints ached, I had chronic headaches and felt nauseated. I spent several nights sitting in the dark, in tears, holding a knife to my wrists, desperately trying to think of reasons not to end it all. After a whole bunch of tests it was decided that I had suffered what the medical profession no longer refers to as a nervous breakdown (apparently it’s a ‘medically unhelpful’ term). They tend to use the terms ‘stress-related disorders’ or ‘neurasthenia’. So that was it. I was ‘stressed’. My depression had finally broken me.

I was a failure.

Well, not quite. I finally realised that my depression was a thing. It was an illness that I could recognise and accept. It wasn’t just cynicism, or ‘feeling down’, or ‘being a miserable sod’. When I accepted that I had depression, it was a turning point for me. It was surprisingly liberating. I’m still depressed, but I can acknowledge that the depressive thought processes are a symptom, rather than an accurate portrayal of the world and my place in it. However, I still – for the moment – see myself in the black and white terms of ‘success’ and ‘failure’.

This is essentially the whole basis of my depression. I would love to be a writer, but my depression tells me I will fail, that I will be judged harshly, that I don’t deserve to be a writer. Because of this, I never seem able to complete a piece of writing. Whenever I read over what I have written, it fails to live up to my own standards, and therefore it cannot live up to anyone else’s standards either, so it gets buried on my hard drive with every other piece of writing. I am desperately trying to break this vicious cycle, to get writing and keep writing, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to show anyone else. I hope I can get over this hurdle. I enjoy writing and exercising my imagination, and I would love for my writing to bring pleasure to others. We’ll see what happens.

Well, that’s quite enough whining for now!

Toodle-pip!

Advertisements

#writing – or trying to

Ummmmm...

I am currently (or constantly) trying to write. I am aiming to complete a selection of short(ish) stories based around the same world setting. I must have started a hundred stories, if not more, before becoming disillusioned with the plot, characters, or, usually, my level of talent. I am beginning to understand that my depression has had a lot to do with that, but I refuse to allow myself to use that as an excuse any more.
So why do I want to write?
The fame? The groupies? The money?
No. Don’t be daft. I want to write because…well, I want to write. Simple as that. I have always enjoyed writing stories. I used to borrow my mother’s typewriter as a young child and write terrible superhero stories (the one I remember featured Captain Forcefield, who had to overcome a dastardly plan whereby his nemesis stole the ladder to his bunk bed, thus stranding him in bed). I moved on to running impromptu role-play style games for friends at primary school, based on my love of choose-your-own-adventure books, such as the Steve Jackson/Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy books.

You enter a 10X10 room. A goblin is guarding a chest...

Later on, I met someone who was far better at running these games than I ever was, so I generally stuck with creating characters and playing. I enjoyed the way that the story developed as we played, and that we could affect the outcome. It satisfied my creative temperament, as well as forming a solid group of misfits and outcasts. This social interaction was an excellent way to avoid doing the stupid things that many of our peers were involved in (such as sport, drinking in crappy pubs, joyriding and so on) and to make some very good friends in many parts of the country and beyond.
I have always read avidly, often having two or three books on the go at any one time, usually in various locations in the house so I can pick them up and carry on with the story when I find myself there with a few minutes to spare. One of my regrets is the speed at which I consume books, especially new ones, so the pleasure of reading is over far too quickly. I envy the imagination and skill of a huge number of writers, from the obvious to the obscure. In fact, the writing doesn’t have to be of a particularly high standard for me to enjoy, as long as the story itself is engaging. Some of the writers I would not hesitate to recommend include Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, Toby Frost, George Mann, Ben Aaronovitch, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens… and so on (and on, and on…).
I have, over the last few years, stopped playing role-playing games on a regular basis. This has, oddly, left a rather sizeable hole in my life. Sad, I know. Not so much because of the lack of role-playing per se, but rather the lack of creative thought. So I’ve started trying to write again.
However, writer’s block is killing me! I have tried lots of different techniques in my writing. I’ve tried just getting on with it and making it up as I go along. I’ve tried planning out the story in as much detail as I can. I’ve tried creating a general ‘road map’ of where I want the story to go. Nothing seems to be working. I can’t get the story onto the page no matter how hard I try. Part of my depression (and I suspect everyone’s depression) is the feeling of being a failure in everything I do, of feeling that it isn’t worth doing anything because I will be judged harshly by others, or I will be held up as an example to avoid. All this tells me not to write.
Fuck that. Fuck that sideways.
I am a writer, even when I can’t write anything that I want to read back. I have to believe that, or I won’t write anything ever again.
And that thought is too horrific to contemplate.
So, my current project is a series of short Steampunk stories featuring a group of adventurous types led by an inventor/academic who has had a ‘device’ stolen by a group of Prussian mercenaries. The group is going to investigate… and so far, so predictable. I need to develop the idea in new and interesting ways, unfortunately I have no idea which direction to take! I would like to use this blog as a way to bounce ideas off people but I obviously don’t want other people to write it for me! So, any ideas that people feel happy offering would be gratefully received!
More to the point, I would be very interested in writing collaboratively with other people. I am happy to write in a range of genres and styles, although my preferred area would be fantasy/sci-fi (including urban fantasy, steam- or cyberpunk, pulp etc.). If you’re interested, DM me on Twitter (@Bailey_san75) leave me a message here, or email me on bailey_san75@hotmail.com. Also, any helpful advice would be gratefully received.
So, is that needy and desperate enough?

O Brave New World…

So, this is the first time I have ever written a blog. I doubt it will be hugely original or insightful, but it might go some way towards understanding what is happening in my head – more helpful for me than for anyone reading this!

Essentially, I am stressed out with life. I feel as if coping with the simplest, day-to-day minutae of existence is far too much for me to handle. The slightest thing can cause me to break down in tears, or fly off the handle. I live in fear: fear of failure; fear of being wrong; fear of trying anything new; fear of fear.

I hate it. I hate it so much I could spend the rest of my life screaming impotently at the cruel and dark world I find myself in. I know that this is the depression talking. I know the world isn’t that bad a place really, but that doesn’t stop the feelings of anger, of misery, of guilt…

So why write a blog? Just to moan?

Well, no. I want to write. I want to ‘express myself creatively’. I always have. It is only now that the need to write has outweighed my fear of being judged. I still care what people think of me, of my writing, but I no longer care enough to prevent me from trying.

So, expect a series of unconnected, rambling posts on a variety of subjects and a desperate, needy begging for feedback!