Everyone’s going through something, and in that respect, I’m not special. I feel a sense of shame in writing this because there are people on this planet who struggle to find food and water, and don’t have the luxury of taking time out to worry about their mental or emotional state.
My hope is that if someone (perhaps you, dear blog reader) reads this and finds some similarities with their own life, they might see they’re not alone in how they think and feel, which means they’re not a freak or a weirdo.
I certainly don’t want your sympathy. Or a hug. Or comments like “buck up” or “keep smiling” or “STFU and get on with your life you whiny turd.” You keep that shit to yourself.
I’ve thought long about how to word this, even lying in bed at night trying to arrange words in the right order to best express how I feel without boring a reader, or myself. I even considered whether I should write this at all. Indecision, it seems, is a painful and irritating ailment.
It could be argued that this is just another rant. Dave having a whinge or a moan about life, instead of putting on a brave face and thanking my lucky stars for all the good things.
Except it doesn’t feel like a rant. I’m not pissed off at something specific. I want to share my deep-rooted sensation of being at odds with everyone and everything else, or perhaps a dawning realisation that something within me has changed and the new thing is somehow wrong.
Honestly, I don’t have a fucking clue. And that is certainly an honest badge to wear.
Midlife Crisis or Depression?
We’ll get to alien probing later. I feel that. . .
Okay, at this point in writing this post I’m whether to use “I feel” or “I am” and whether which is correct.
“I feel” gives me some wiggle room to then change my mind. Right now I feel dark and introverted. In an hour I may have emerged from that dark place.
Using “I am” forces me into a corner with no room to negotiate for change. It’s a label that comes with more permanence.
I’m pretty sure there’s no midlife crisis going on. Isn’t that a bit like not knowing you’re crazy because the crazy hides itself? I don’t have a burning desire for any clichéd stuff – buy a sports car, trying to relive my youth, or do anything out of the ordinary or bonkers, other than a dreamlike notion of selling everything I own and running away to a far away country to live in peace in a shack by the sea. A plan likely to remain in the pre-alpha stage.
Am I depressed?
It’s a possibility, if I choose to believe any number of online surveys, and a certainty if I believe those who encourage me to enter my credit card details to buy some new organic wonder drug that will cure every single problem and have me singing Praise Jesus! Hallelujah! from my butthole by the end of the day.
The internet can be a shady place, especially if you step off the well-lit credible path and wander dark alleyways of half-truths, pseudoscience and bullshit scare tactic statistics.
Using credible, trustworthy sources, I have been alarmed to find many of my symptoms did indeed fit with the description of depression. That’s where the internet is a dangerous place – you go searching for the smallest of issues and are told you have 7 minutes to live. I’m aware that it’s easy to diagnose yourself with pretty much anything these days. Even after exercising caution, I know there’s something wrong.
Though I am a writer, I’m finding it difficult to put into words my thoughts/feelings or mental/emotion state. I can’t put my finger on any one thing that is the root cause of my…whatever it is…
I know I’m lucky because I can write about this. I can visualise and explore my thoughts and issues by watching these words unfold across the screen, and to some degree, that’s helpful, though it’s not an answer.
The only thing untouched by any of this is my imagination.
The Swell & The Flat.
The Flat describes the sensation I have inside my head and heart. It’s a nothing state that exists 99% of the time. Where I was once enthusiastic about things, I am now on the fence, unable or unwilling to give an opinion or get into any conversation or debate. I just don’t see the point.
To help me understand what has happened, I prefer to visualise things.
Inside of me are two forces – emotion and mental. They exist as separate entities that work in harmony for the most part. I imagine them as immense biomes – stretching out to the horizon. They used to be filled with wondrous sights – lush trees of endless questions, beautiful lakes that were fed by waterfalls of ideas, a forest of possibilities and adventures, enough to outlast many lifetimes.
Now, when I close my eyes to picture them, I see a flat barren desert.
Everything has gone.
And I don’t know why.
Did I do this? Have I done something to create such a dismal emotional and mental state? Has some trauma killed my spirit? What was that? When did it happen? Could I have prevented it? Was this going to happen regardless of any attempt at intervention? Are my genes to answer? Is this the sum of my life – nature & nurture meeting in a single clash to determine the path of the remainder of my life?
When I search for answers, and find none, The Swell rises from my stomach into my chest. My throat tightens. I cannot fathom where everything good has gone. The Swell is concentrated despair, loneliness, insecurity, disgust, fear, failure and self-loathing. It is growing all the time.
That fucking evil sensation balloons up inside me.
It’s a living thing that wants to choke me. I can honestly feel fingers close around my throat, my eyes, my brain, trying to drain the last shred of joy from my once beautiful land.
Then I have to move.
I have to go.
If I don’t look it then it’s not happening. I occupy my time with something else. Anything else.
It’s not a panic attack. Having witnessed these, and read plenty on the subject, I’m sure it’s not that. I know what anxiety is, and what panic feels like and I’m not feeling either of those when The Swell comes to play.
At the same time, I’m horribly aware my interactions with everyone around have been reduced to such minimal output that all I want to do is run. Just run. I cannot bring myself to speak, to say sorry, to say what’s in my head and heart, to explain The Flat because The Swell will burst and kill me.
I can write about it, but I can’t vocalise. I hate that I can’t do both. I hate myself for not being able to do such a fucking stupid thing like talk about how I feel.
At the moment I’m able to force myself to smile, to participate in a conversation, to look normal, happy, alert and interested. That requires effort. Can you believe that? Why should it take an effort to interact with people, with friends and family? That’s never been a thing before, what the fuck is it doing in my life now?
I’m not sure how I’d deal with a situation where someone tried to talk to me about this stuff.
Probably smile and say it’s all okay. Sincerely. Everything’s fine. It’s much better now.
The Build Up
I’m very worried that at my current rate of withdrawal I’ll soon spend most of my time inside my own head, sat stationary, with zero interaction with anyone or anything. Maybe that’s not a bad way to go. Safer. Easier.
This hasn’t happened overnight. Looking back I’d say the first subtle changes started to emerge in 2016. It’s like a tiny switch inside flicked from CARE to DON’T CARE. Before The Flat, I was a chatty, passionate social person. Now I avoid being drawn into conversations if I don’t see a point to them.
If I can predict where they’re likely to end up I switch off at the start. I won’t benefit from joining in, and other people won’t benefit either.
I find that when I do talk, people talk over me. I don’t know why. Maybe my tone of voice isn’t important, or lively. Maybe what I’m saying is dull. Maybe I have nothing to contribute. Maybe subconsciously other people consider me or my opinion to be unimportant, or pointless, and they don’t even realise they’re talking over the top of me.
I used to call people on that: “Hey, I was talking, if you don’t mind” or something similar. Now I just stop talking, do something else, move away, whatever. I cannot be bothered to carry on. And when someone does notice and asks what I was saying, I usually just shrug and say it wasn’t important.
So now I barely bother to contribute at all. It’s better that way.
At least I avoid being part of an argument.
I found a wonderful meme:
I found I was wasting too much energy getting interesting or involved in other people’s issues, with no benefit to myself, or being worse off at the end for getting involved. I employ this mantra whenever I’m intrigued by someone’s conversation or argument. Why bother? This isn’t going to end well for me, so don’t get involved.
Despite The Flat, I’m not devoid of humour. Sometimes I start talking and trail off because I lose the will to follow the topic, get bored with my own voice or realise the point I was going to make was dull as shit. Come on, that’s pretty funny, right?
In April & May 2017, I took time off work with a really gross foot injury. I wrote a post about it – Diabetes, Look After Your Feet – and after that I resigned from my job, not only because of my injury, which is all cleared up now, there were a bunch of factors involved that helped make that decision – pay v responsibility, work-life balance, and a very poor relationship with my manager where I felt unsupported and belittled.
Over the summer I’ve done some temp work, office/admin/data analysis/HR based, and did some freelance editing work also.
The Flat has taken my fire too.
I apply for jobs I know I can do. But I don’t care about them. And I don’t know why.
I can speculate. Maybe I’m not happy with myself, therefore I can’t focus and find happiness or fulfilment or challenge anywhere. Maybe working in an office isn’t what my soul craves. I want to do something that has an impact, that makes a difference to someone’s life in a positive way. Shuffling and filing bits of paper all day is fruitless, devoid of positive visual results. Job satisfaction is important to me, I need to know (and see proof of) my work bearing good quality fruit that other people can benefit from.
Maybe it feels that too many problems have come at once, and my mental fortitude isn’t as robust as it once was, so I’m not able to cope as well as I used to. Shit. That’s awful. That means age has impacted on my mental and emotional flexibility. I hate that.
Why Don’t I Care?
I hate that this issue, this Flat, is having such a huge unexpected impact on my life. Too often I’m choosing not to say or do anything because it simply doesn’t matter. I feel I have nothing left to contribute. There’s no purpose. I honestly consider myself to be a drain. Mostly worthless, a negative issue to be dealt with, suffered or ignored.
I would never consider suicide because it’s not an answer, it’s a nothing. You’re not around to enjoy the benefit of not being around.
Running away, however, has merit. The result of which means your problems remain at point A and you are far away at point B. For a lot of people, if you leave a job, you can be replaced with relative ease and little disruption to your place of work. Your colleagues will cope, and in time your presence will fade away and vanish completely.
It’s horrifying to consider how little you matter in a place of work. I mean YOU, not your ROLE. Your role may be important and can be occupied by someone else.
Isn’t that the same everywhere else?
If I wasn’t here, would it really matter? I don’t mean dead, I just mean elsewhere.
People may be upset by my absence, but they’d cope, they’d move on. Life would continue.
I find that train of thought deeply unsettling, especially since it adds weight to the issue of why I don’t care. I know I should. I hate myself for not doing so. If I’ve had a change in attitude – mental, emotional, even spiritual, that has brought me to this point, where The Flat has invaded my life, then why can’t I have another change and go back to the way it was before?
Out of Energy
A couple of weeks ago I drove to the local Tesco, not for any real reason, it was just something to do. I poked around, bought some bread and milk, then returned to my car. The sun was setting, darkness coming on. I sat and listened to the radio. I didn’t start the engine. I just sat. I stared straight ahead. Not really thinking about anything.
The orange glow turned black. Those tall car park lights came on. I still hadn’t moved. I was there for about 2 hours. The Swell had risen. I had nothing. I couldn’t move. I didn’t actually want to. It didn’t matter if I drove home or not. I had nothing to offer there. Someone else would get bread and milk. I had nothing to gain by moving.
The sensation of despair and emptiness bordered on unbearable.
We’ll pick that feeling up in a moment.
Our lovely soft ninja dog, Tilly, had chemotherapy cancer treatment which added an extra 12 months to her life. A recent trip to the vets saw cancer making a return. We knew it was possible. Further treatment would only add a possible 6 months, maybe less.
This news really fucking sucks. She’s a wonderful dog. Full of life. Happy. Loving. Sneaky. Upside down smiler with her legs in the air.
In the morning she crawls up the bed, panting, sniffing, licking my face, before rolling on her back, pressed against me, begging for belly rubs.
She sleeps beside me at night. I miss her when she rolls off and stretches out on the floor.
I have trouble sleeping. Diabetes medication makes me pee a lot, so sugar leaves the body quicker, and that means getting up in the night, sometimes as often as 5 or 6 times. That issue alone pisses me off. I’m very much at odds with the medication I take. I hate my body and my body hates me.
My left shoulder, once frozen, now treated, with less pain than before, except at night when it wakes me up with searing pain. Fun times.
Not wanting to be left out, my right shoulder is now going through the same shit. Aching all the time, evil pain when it flares up, and total agony at night. A consequence of medication, 2 evil shoulders (oh, and Tilly’s medication makes her need to pee, so she wakes me up during the night!) results in little sleep.
I get 2-4 hours per night. Sometimes 5 or 6, but that’s rare.
So, picking up on the despair bubble from earlier – sometimes I’ll wake in agony, with both shoulders screaming, and I’ll sit on the edge of the bed.
And do nothing.
I try not to move to avoid further jolts of pain.
It could be the 4th time I’ve been to the loo, maybe 2nd letting Tilly outside. I’m tired, but can’t sleep. I’m frightened to lie down in case more pain comes. I look at Tilly, dozing, and try not to imagine life when she’s no longer there keeping me company. I consider firing up my computer and doing a job search, but I can barely raise my arms so typing is out of the question.
I run through the last thing I wrote on The Holt, and feel guilty for not moving on with it fast enough. I want to finish the book, the desire is there, but finding the motivation is so hard. And right now I’m surprised I’ve managed to get this much written today. It has crossed my mind to delete this entire post.
Through a gap in the curtains, I watch the sky lighten.
I run through the day ahead, wondering how many jobs I’ll apply for, if anyone will call me for an interview, what chores I can do around the house to distract me from The Flat, and which chores I can do without needing help. My shoulders ache all the time, but when they’re bad it’s like I’ve got 2 red-hot balls of glass covered in razor wire embedded in my shoulders, spinning around, slicing nerves, cutting muscle and sinew.
Inside it’s just despair, fatigue, loneliness, and that ever-present grey nothing of The Flat.
Those are low, low points.
That’s when I hate everything about myself.
There’s this weird monotone stream on consciousness going round and round in my head.
Here’s a tiny snippet.
Overweight, diabetic, no money, no job, no joy, Tilly will die soon, no drive or ambition, no real skills, I used to pride myself on being laid back and patient but now I can’t even bring that positive bullet point to an interview and sound honest, I get asked if I want help when trying to reach something on a shelf, I now need distance glasses, I hate that I don’t care, will I ever finished writing my book, will I ever finished the trilogy, my toes tingle due to neuropathy and sensation is failing, I never studied when I was younger so I’m left with GCSE’s and nothing to show for my life, and now even if I could achieve good qualifications I can’t afford them, I feel my prospects are grim at best, I don’t want Tilly to die, I hate the fact that I can barely get shampoo on my head and wash my hair because my fucking arms don’t work properly, why is everyone always on their mobile phones, why are they so fucking important, look at me when we’re talking not your goddamn fucking mobile phone, how easy is it to run away, could I live in a tent somewhere, near the sea, I used to love video games but now I don’t give a shit, I question what I’ve been doing for forty years, how I’m going to pay my bills and how much I can get it if I sell my car – it’s not a solution, but a stopgap, but if I’m going to do that then why not sell everything and disappear into the night, where did my happy go, how am I going to afford the trip to China to walk the Great Wall next May, will I be fit enough, where do I get motivation for that, why am I not on the running machine every day, how did I become so cynical, why was I such a massive dick when I was a teenager… WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?????
I try to focus on the good stuff.
I keep it basic to avoid making my life a farce by including every stupid good thing, like “I can have Heinz Baked Beans to eat for lunch. Yippee.”
- I have a bed to sleep in.
- Tilly always greets me with happiness.
- I like writing.
- Hopefully I won’t always feel like this.
In the morning it’s unbelievably difficult to shake off those negative feelings and put on a happy face.
Where Does This Lead?
I’m worried that I can’t stop this from getting worse. That it will lead to serious upheaval and alienate those around me. I don’t know what I’m doing. And I don’t know how to stop any of it. I’m an adult. 42 years old. When I was young, and I saw and spoke to people who were in their forties, it was so obvious they knew what they were doing, but I don’t have a fucking clue.
I see doctors and nurses, architects and politicians, astronauts and monks, plumbers, cooks, carpenters, teachers, even hopefuls on X-Factor, they all have something in common – they’re driven. From birth, perhaps, or so it seems. They have something inside that drives them in a single direction.
Why don’t I have that drive?
I could ask my doctor for some happy pills. I do in fact have an appointment this week. But pills aren’t the answer, are they? I already hate how many pills I’m on now, I don’t really want any more. What if I share all this crazy bullshit with the doctor and it gets me nowhere?
What if I’m simply screwed? Maybe there’s something very wrong with me and this is just the start.
What if I never find happy again?
Will I die with nothing but despair, fatigue and fear as companions?
No Fucking Clue. No apologies.
I don’t have any answers. Life is weird as hell.
I wonder if anyone reading this can relate. And how many people will just see this as a whinge? A bit of a moan. Nothing special. Everyone’s got shit to deal with, so what?
I recent times I’ve curbed my language and opinions in my posts because I thought I might offend someone. When I first started my blog I said what was on my mind, raw and undiluted. If people didn’t like it they could fuck off. The internet is a big place, go find somewhere warm and fuzzy to have your ego stroked.
I don’t care if people don’t like what I’ve written.
I have to be me, and that means telling it like it is.
If you can relate to any of this shit, then I’ll take that as a small win.
Yeah, that’s not a thing. Aliens aren’t visiting me. They’re not visiting anyone on this planet. Aliens, as depicted by the media or popular culture, are, like God, nothing but a myth.
Now, do I hit Publish or delete post?
Publish means sharing a great deal of personal stuff. Delete keeps things safe and tidy.