Monday Night Reflection: Slow Boat or Express Train

I do make a point of writing my Monday Night Reflection as close to real time as possible and today is a case in point. Today I got news that following my twenty minute EEG, which was, of course, a downgrade from the ambulatory EEG originally ordered, I have after an administrative delay, being booked for a three-day ambulatory EEG after all. This suggests that the short EEG was not good enough to show me the door.

This is significant because I have felt that my recovery has been very much more slow boat than express train and that I have significant skills deficits that are not really coming back in the area of motor skills, something showing up in my typing error statistics which are up over 500%, if ever there was a measure that a skill was a bit affected. Although thanks to Grammarly, it would appear my writing vocabulary is largely unaffected, those who know me have noted that I still lisp, slur, stammer and have vocal issues previously not present and that my memory defects are noticeable, especially when I get tired.

So while I am no fan of a reflection heavily medical in focus, it is difficult because I am two people. The person I can talk about and the person I can not talk about too much; and at this present moment the person I can not talk about a lot is driving and in charge, it is a very important week, it is probably the most important week of my year in that life. This upcoming weekend being the most important weekend of the year for that life; without melodrama what happens will determine the rest of my year, where I go, what I do. So, rather unsurprisingly, the combination of my motor skill issues which massively impact that life, my problems writing, which are my other life, and my recovery which is all my life have given me what is, in the day to day, a very quiet life as I have had an extraordinary narrow focus as we as a team, been focussed on this one goal and getting through it.

It is partly frustrating that I have to separate lives, but it is a necessity, after all, I lost the battle for public identity to my abuser and this blog is for all those who like me lost that battle and have to find their voice. Because, I made it back, in that life although I am a long way from where I was, I am still on course to make my year-end goal, and I am still processing that. It is hard to reflect on anything else, it is dominating my physical and mental landscape that I left hospital first week in April will partial paralysis and speech issues not knowing when the next attack would be, the longest I have gone is 6 days without any sort of attack, yet despite all the issues and challenges, I am 6 days from being a competitive athlete again; taking my first step on the road to a World Championships where I am likely to be considered a legitimate contender.

How do you think about anything else, whatever challenges I face today, and I hurt, and I ache and my motor skills are awful, my coordination is woeful, the fact that is a sentence that is possible does not seem like it is real life. Yet, it’s my life, and I could very possibly be writing a Hollywood ending in my own little life.

So apologies, it’s not about Mr Mouse, it’s about Me, but not about me because my abuser is out there and she would ruin everything with her lies, so I don’t want fame or to be famous, so it’s not a big sport that gets into newspapers or internet headlines. The Mouse and I will tell our story together because it is our journey together, from the abuse of childhood and being held back for years by first an abusive parent and then abusive wife who would both sabotage or make me give up my dreams, telling me I was selfish to the wife who did more than just give permission, but who did what it took to put their wrong right.

Success may be a slow boat, it can be an express train, but it is never our own story, it takes people to help us, support us, open doors, believe in us and hold us up; every cliche about teamwork making the dream work is made real every time we come together and help someone even just a little bit.

After this week I am taking some time off everything, and I have been working on some poems to publish, I have to photography trips planned and my car will hopefully be fixed soon so I can make those, so gradually I am getting back to my normal. While hopefully, I can draw my line and Mr Mouse can create again; Mr Mouse is committed to a book called Squeeking At the Top of My Voice sometime late in 2018, I am really excited at what he has planned.

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Monday Night Reflection: Nothing To See Here

It is difficult to reflect on a week, where, to my mind, very little of what happened is Mouse related. Mr Mouse, it would appear has not been busy. Where Mr Mouse was once busy sorting out and tidying around making sense of my world and doing a great job in the background of getting things done for me there is now space. Worse, a slightly sticky space bar is hindering my efforts, which is perhaps the problem.

At the moment all my sense are turned way up, sounds hurt, touches, tastes, they all cause physical pain at very low intensities, on a certain level, I am guessing this is what autism must feel like because input, is generally, not a pleasant thing. And life is all about input, sleep isn’t restful and tired, sick, nausea and generally feeling in pain in some way is what it’s all about. Creatively everything is dry, projects are dry, work is gone, nothing to do, no inclination to do it, and recovery has hit a wall with even physical progress coming and going. It has been another tough week after a tough week. So while the stats people could say the trend on the graph is positive, it is positive trend on trend, its a very slow trend and the negatives are big, the downs are big, the relapses are huge and the experience is anything but what someone would call fun.

It would be accurate to say, at least some, if not some large chunks of the time, I have started to feel more than just a little sorry for myself. Because, I am not going anywhere or getting anything done, and if I am making a little progress, one I can’t share it and two it is only back to a level far below the level I was at anyway before all of this started back in March. Imagine playing in an orchestra and then having to back and start grade levels, that is the equivalent. At the same time, the physical pain is intense and debilitating, my mind is working at a physically tiring level, so writing this is the mental equivalent of a workout when once it was easy to write and introspect. In fact, not only was it easy, it was a fun and helpful, now just writing an email to a friend is taxing and difficult as a task.

It is difficult because, I have to recognise that is, really, very early days. I don’t have a cast to see or a wound to see healing, which is a huge part of the problem, it is all happening in my head and inside where no one can see what is going on, and it is messing with my emotional and coping capacities as well as impacting on my personality. The impact is on how I see and feel about myself, there are suicidal thoughts and my self-talk is very negative, you could say I am depressed, but at the same time, I am not depressed in how I have experienced depression in my life previously. This is a complex awareness that I am two people existing in the same space at the same time failing to cope with the existence of each other. This is the stuff my Mouse used to handle for me, this is what I let my mind sort out in the background my focusing on positive goals and helping others. Those things do not work, I am tired, my concentration has gone and my memory awful, but of course I have not given up. The two, the depths of despair and abandonment alongside hope and optimism are together interwoven bound in single thoughts.

The past is the past, and this has happened, the future I thought I had, it is not the same, and where I had a plan, I do not even have a plan about how to plan anymore. I would say I am fighting, but I am, it feels, more trying to work out who the opponent is, before I start fighting back. So far it seems the opponent is me, or more precisely a me that has started to malfunction and is apparently going to start working again spontaneously. There is no fight, just waiting, which is perhaps, ultimately, why I cannot cope. Previously I have a process, a fight, something to do, and this time, all I can find is, wait and time does the job. Great, if you are on the express train, not so great for those on the slow boat. I think I didn’t get off the harbour here.

The purpose of reflection is to do, and that is where I am coming up blank each and every time, I have no do. So far, it’s do what I can still do, setbacks like getting food poisoning included, and keep looking for new opportunities and avenues to make progress, even if, so far, they have not opened up or become apparent.

Monday Night Reflection: Just Waiting on the Day

It seems like a lifetime ago that I sat down to write a reflection making sure I wasn’t being too focussed on the latest and the loudest, that I was looking for balance and feeling the need to avoid undue triumphalism because things had been positive for a good while and I had things pointing in the right direction.
I was hesitant because I was wary that the good can so quickly come crashing down, and because I did not want to gloss over the challenges of a very ordinary life and that I am not a particularly extraordinary person doing anything particularly unusual in the grand scheme of things. I want to inspire, if I inspire at all not because I am outstanding but because I am just like everyone else and I am trying in the face of the same stuff as everyone to keep on being better at life and being positive and helping others have a happy time and love the life they have, whatever that life is, and not some bullshit entrepreneur, internet guru, beach crap. Which, to me looks like hell anyway.

I guess I was right to be reticent, it crashed down, and I was not even up that high really, but down it came anyway. And I won’t lie, I am low, really low, not quite suicidal low, but I can’t say I haven’t considered it, I have, it wouldn’t solve anything so, pretty pointless as a solution. It isn’t worth the details, because people insist on telling me how far I have come, and yes, this true. What they miss is this not my first set back, or my second, this is 2017 and I have been essentially coming back from something big since June 2011, that includes a heart attack that I was just starting to feel was behind me and getting to feel I had some fitness returning.

I am broken mentally, it’s been 6 years of fighting, not for excellence, but for a shot at normality. I lost everything, and my second chance just got ripped away too. As coach DAmato says, it’s all about the six inches in front of my face, inch by inch, step by step because that is the difference between living and dying, but in the words of Coldplay, Nobody, said it would be easy, but nobody said it would be this hard.

Dear Diary 14th April 2017

I have nothing to say

My voice has gone literally and metaphorically

I am scared to sleep tonight

Scared to say I had a small attack

My mouth is numb and my head is throbbing

I know the signs now, even when they are mild

Staying awake doesn’t change a thing

Sleeping gets it over with

But still I am scared

What if this time is the time I don’t make it back?

Monday Night Reflection: Moving Forward?

This has been a difficult week. I wrote my last reflection sat next to a hospital bed, and here I am back at my desk, that bed does not feel a lifetime ago. Quite the reverse, hospital feels far too close, and I am finding it difficult to impossible to move forward or get away from that medical experience.

I have been blessed by lots of support and genuine concern for my welfare which has really been humbling, and talking to those people and keeping them updated with how I am doing has been a great reminder of the great people I have around me. There was also the complication that I left hospital without a diagnosis or even an explanation of what had been happening, just follow up, which would rule out certain options.

It was frustrating, partly because I had nothing to tell people, partly because I had no treatment and no prospect of treatment, but mostly because Doctors were not listening to me, and not taking what had happened seriously: even to the point I was told “I am not concerned because this is nothing serious”. Now this may be a terrible attempt at being reassuring but when you have been ambulanced in straight to resuscitation twice and your wife was told to prepare herself for you having had a major stroke once, and she has been prepared by the ambulance telephone operator to give you CPR and asked if there is a defibrillator handy it is anything but helpful.

The medical experience has been all of my experience, and even now I have seen a GP and gotten on a treatment for the most likely diagnosis of hemiplegic migraine, and am able to tell people a more positive set of outcomes, it is still difficult to move forward. I still have to be supervised, and my return to a normal life is what an employer would call “a staged return” to normality, which is tremendously difficult.

Everything in life is starting from the beginning, my business project is stopped, my writing projects stopped, everything stopped, my office is a mess, my desk is a mess. More than that my confidence is in pieces, and I am having understandable trouble sleeping, while I am exhausted at very low levels of activity. The road to recovery is a cliché phrase, but it is also a very accurate description of the process. A process I have to take carefully because although we have a great working theory, we have no trigger and no explanation as to why this rare form of migraine has started in my forties rather than the average age of onset of 17. I am rather old for this to have started.

It is really difficult not to over-think and over-analyse every feeling, twinge, and the rather nagging headache that comes and never quite goes. Plus, there is the reality that some symptoms can take a few weeks to wear off, in my case the most obvious one is a stammer that I never used to have. A return to normal is also a little more difficult because at the moment I have a weekly trip to a not local hospital for another issue identified to be treated, and quite a few extra pills that more than likely I will have to take for life now part of my morning routine as a little reminder of my fragility.

I am not taking this as negative, it is great that I have had potentially serious health issues addressed before they got that way, and it is awesome to have a GP who works with me and who steps up when other medical professionals have let me down. I have had lots of scans and test that have revealed I am very healthy internally and have raised things that can be addressed in plenty of time.

None of which has moved me psychologically away from my hospital bed, mentally I am still a patient. Creatively I am literally an empty space, writing about my experience is dull and lifeless, there is nothing there, I cannot create from it, and I feel like my brain isn’t back yet, it’s a lot of locked doors and I have lost the keys. Writing this reflection was a challenge because I only had one subject to write about, and I didn’t want to write about it. The reflective framework suggests that I use the experience to inform future behaviour or practice, and even am able to identify what I could do differently. I cannot see anything I can do differently when I was a passenger taken for a ride by what was happening, sometimes very literally.

As I wrote last week, I cannot bring myself to take the easy route of claiming some epiphany about the wonderful gift of life and how precious I have realised it is after what has happened, the truth is I haven’t had that sort of light-bulb revelation at all. As time as has passed, I have started to see how this three weeks has changed or could change both my wife and me. For her, I see real positives when she realises how awesome she was, not in that terribly overused, found strength she never knew she had way, because I am pretty sure she knew she could be phenomenally strong, a reminder or a revelation of the extent of that strength, I will give you that. No, it’s deeper, she was capable, she made great decisions, and although she was worried beyond my comprehension she managed it, didn’t ignore it suppress it but acted appropriately and constructively through an incredibly difficult and challenging situation. I hope she walks away from this with her confidence in her capabilities raised and her assessment of her abilities and judgement moved up closer to the level where the are and she stops underestimating them a little more.

For me, probably not what people would expect. I realised how close I am to having a perfect life, and that sadly, money is what it is going to take. I have an amazing life, but it is insecure, money will make it secure and add stability and certainty to it. That is not so I can take more risks or necessarily have more material stuff, I have way too much stuff and there really isn’t anything I need, maybe some cool enhancements, but that’s always going to be so. No, it’s a case of making life secure, and so that I can compete and we can have a holiday so that we can go back to having a car each. I’ve realised I need to make my dream less precarious.

What I do not know, where I really do need the epiphany is the how.

Monday Night Reflection: Trying Not To Get Medical

It has been a difficult time; and honestly I am still in a difficult spot. I am sat next to my hospital bed writing on my netbook hoping the rather poor wifi will let me post this. At the same time, I want to reflect in a relevant way about my life, what I have learned, and what is important to me without turning into a rather dull medical saga.

What I am in the middle of is serious. Luckily for me it is not a stroke, and not a TIA either, so my brain hasn’t been damaged by what is happening no less than 4 times a day. Which looks like a stroke, right out the text book. So it scary to be around and its down right terrifying to experience because I am fully conscious and thinking but only able to hear. Before usually slipping unconscious anytime from 5 minutes to an hour after an attack starts.

I am not going to detail the medical stuff, but I’ve been discharged from 2 hospitals being told it’s not a stroke so there is nothing wrong. That is a story that will be told offline in offices with legal people present. Which presents a challenge. Clearly, this has been the majority of my experience coming the day after my Reflection on Logan. 

I could decide to write about an epiphany experience about having my eyes opened to the value and gift of life, but that would be the very worst sort of lie. Deception is not my aim. I already knew that I was a small amount of income away from the perfect dream life, and that that distance was both small and not terribly bothersome. Perfection could wait while I enjoyed the fantastic opportunity I had. My goals have not changed, although I have had some ideas on how to bridge the income gap, they are ideas, and I have made small priority decisions, after all, I have had a lot of time to think. Not being able to move or speak does that. I have evaluated positions I held and decided that there are things I can do differently and opportunities I should not dismiss out of hand.

So I am not radically revamping my blog, I am not changing the direction of my life, in fact, I am more convinced that I am on to a good thing and the goals I have are smart enough to serve me well. My commitment to my craft and project is largely unchanged although I always knew I had to look into my time management as well as being a little more organised so I could get ideas out of my head into a secure parking space quickly and then find them again. Things that I haven’t necessarily made a priority, and I want to use better time management to work on the things I want to be working on, and measure my involvement in fun distractions. 

I will probably get an XBox One too, I always loved Forza and my eldest son plays it as well as other games, so I get a bit of mindless distraction and can get a closer to him (My children from my 1st marriage live with their mother). Which may seem to contradict my commitment to be productive with a weak excuse, but the aim is to do things I enjoy and relax me, and to manage my social media involvement. To date, I have used social media as a distraction and I want to lose that aspect and concentrate on connection and positivity, which is what I love doing.

Which may turn out to the light bulb epiphany moment in my current experience. Making explicit that I love to help others and that having a positive impact is something I find fulfilling and rewarding to the point I chase that drug with all the manic drive of an addict in withdrawal without any conscious acknowledgement that this is the case. And perhaps, even, an element of denial and a desperate maintenance of cynical observation to mask that actually that I care so much that I get hurt and used. 

I don’t want to tell my story just to tell my story, that is pointless. If I tell my story I want it to establish my credentials as someone who was not born extra-ordinary, who has no super-power like talents, and is very much a non-remarkable specimen. If I possess any attributes it would be stubbornness and stupidity. Too stupid to know when I am supposed to be beaten and too stubborn to give up even if I did. A genuinely mixed blessing. However, this is why I want to help others be everything they can be, love life and live a fulfilling life chasing goals, not dreams, goals that make them happy. Growing to be someone they would want to be friends with, want their children to be friends with, and would let their children marry and who they would happily trust to employ and look after all that they hold dear and valuable. 

I am not sure if I am really that person, but the journey to be that person, that’s the stuff of my life and I am convinced is the very best of life. 

As John Connor said, “the future is not set, there is no fate but that we make for ourselves!”

Dear Diary: 20th February 2017

Don’t stroke the Mouse!

Mouse was rushed into hospital last Tuesday with a suspected stroke.

Nearly a week later all we can say for definite is that Thursday night his brain showed no sign of damage.

20 stroke like episodes later Mouse can barely move his left side or speak.

His NHS experience is far from positive but with every reason to be down my brave Mouse is still upbeat and planning new projects for when he finally comes home.

Mrs Mouse

Monday Night Reflection: Logan

Apologies to those who haven’t seen the film, this will no doubt have a spoiler in it. This is not a film review, instead, Logan, like other fictional works became a mirror in which I could see myself more clearly. Great writing, great story telling, whatever the medium talks intimately to its audience, the very best covertly seduces the audience by first entertaining, and by that means lowers their defences so that the piece can speak to those who are willing to listen.

Some films and works are overt in their message, there are self-consciously preaching and reaching for a reaction and response. Usually they achieve their goal of an Oscar nomination or two, or perhaps the equivalent “art-house” recognition that they were born to seek. However, in my mind, the greatest achievement is to talk and embed a thought in something covertly from the Christian allegory of Wall-E to the crushing grief and loss woven into the fabric of Rocky Balboa, such writing is able to stop us dead in our tracks and cut through all our defences precisely because it hides in plain sight while we sought distraction from our lives and struggles.

And so we meet Logan, the once indestructible Logan, the anti-hero for the ages, moody and broody, reluctant but the first into battle for the right cause, driving a Limo at a 4th rate stripper bar. This Logan has a limp, is clearly old and sick. Our Hero has fallen. When we met Logan he was drinking and fighting in a bar for money, running away, this Logan is working to support and care for his old friend Charles Xavier, drinking to hide from the past. The once brilliant mind now dying with dementia, and Caliban literally hiding from the light, like Logan seeking redemption that he cannot find.

The world has changed, Logan and his kind have become  irrelevant and forgotten, their lives passed into mythology and fairy-tales for children and disenchanted youth. Our protagonists are haunted by their failures, hurts and the death of those they loved, they no longer have a place and are simply waiting out their days till death will release them from their suffering. Logan self-medicating, Caliban obsessing and Charles losing his battle with demntia, needing to medicate himself to keep others safe.

If I were twenty, thirty even these would be characters and perhaps little more than back story giving depth to what is to come. I would perhaps focus on the emerging and the new, but I am forty-five. I have lost loved ones, I have made mistakes I cannot change and I carry regrets. Like Logan, I am no longer indestructible, my body has let me down and broken, my place in the world was taken and I am left slightly irrelevant without a place in a world I no longer really want to be part of. Like Logan, I want to pass peacefully, without incident or drama through the days and I am tempted to self-medicate away the pain both physical and emotional. I am not alone, this is the basis of the rather dismissed mid-life crisis, where you realise you have less years left (statistically) than you have lived, where people get sick, they die and you know why people wear sunglasses at winter funerals. And, while many are peaking in their career, many of us never peaked, never had much of a career and see that their time is passing, perhaps past.

It is not all gloomy and black, of course, there are things to celebrate in life, however, those are fragile. Many of us have had those stripped away through no fault of our own, hard work rewarded by being laid off because we were top of a pay grade. We have achieved what we were told was the best thing to achieve and it is nothing at all. The curse of self awareness. The Power-Rangers Movie or Cars 3,  I don’t get to take my children, while other parents will complain and see this a chore, we squander the gifts too easily, and when they are gone we regret we did not cherish them more.

And so Logan is a reflection of us, we see our lives in the characters or we see nothing. If you see nothing then I am slightly envious, because while there are only elements of crossover with these ultimately fictional characters, they are some of the most painful elements of my life. I have tried to hide away and drink, as well as drug my way through life because it hurt to much to face reality. I am keenly aware that as a choice these are on my shelf and while they are not “go-to” so much as they once were, they are preferred ingredients.

Part of me is happy to pass gently and relatively quickly to a state or irrelevance, I have lost faith in a world where I have never felt at home. I have never felt of a place, and the places I feel most connected to I have only visited a handful of times and never lived. I am disconnected completely from any sort of family and have never wanted any connection, when their lives crossed I felt no affinity or desire to foster relationship. Their concerns and focus alien, and their drama’s and big deals seemed irrelevant and trivial compared to what matters. The tie of blood no bond at all. And so it is with the world, I see hate and suspicion growing with an agenda with which I want no part. Not even discussion, because that assumes they are legitimately objects for consideration, and in my world they are not. #notmyworld perhaps?

I have to walk in this world, despite my intense desire to be apart and away. I find myself dragged in and helping others against my better instincts, and I am no hero. I hope simply that what has happened to me can stop someone going where I have gone and feeling what I have felt.

Leave the storehouse of regrets untouched and gathering dust.

Monday Night Reflection: Considering

Considering is a word that has cast a long shadow over me. All of my achievements come with the qualifier “considering”. I know that it is meant well and usually comes from a genuine place. But, this does not make it any the less crushing. I did well at my exams, considering, I did well at University – considering and even last year when I last competed, I did really well, considering.

Somehow, my achievements are unable to stand on their own merit. What considering means is that, although on the absolute scale this isn’t actually any great shakes we are recognising that it was harder for this person to reach a normal standard and we don’t want their effort to go unrecognised. It’s a lovely thought but ultimately I did a bit crap.

If it is not in the realm of achievement per-se, it happens in life where I did really well considering I was sick. Again, it doesn’t feel like there is a true appreciation that in this circumstance, as with others, actually I did well, full stop. The fact I was sick or at a disadvantage does not need to be mentioned unless it is to elevate the achievement, and perhaps this is my own perspective only, using the criteria of considering, does anything but elevate the achievement.

Last week I was crippled in pain, I did well to do anything, as it happens I did a few things and got more done than I would had I done what I should and rocked up at hospital to get the treatment instead of doing it at home myself. It wasn’t I did well considering, it’s I did well because I should have been in a hospital. In the academic realm, I didn’t do well considering my dyslexia, I did well despite it, and because of it, my appearance in the annals of those with a post-graduate education and a degree in the humanities and the sciences (yes 3 in all) is actually phenomenal. It was hard work, long work, rather like finishing top 3 in the 100m when you did 110m. That would not be they did well, considering.

Where I am at it is, I feel like consideration isn’t what I or people who face a challenge really want or need because it feels like it comes from the excuse side of explanations. It feels like you get consideration when you fell short and there was a reason you were below expectation or what was required. Maybe this is an academic thing where you can be upgraded if there are considerations like being ill. I have always wanted to stand or fall compared to my peers, and then for the fact I stood equal or wherever I stood despite the challenges or disadvantages that I faced in my individual journey.

I don’t like excuses, right now my year feels like the shadow of considering is darkening everything I do. I am behind, I am not where I wanted to be, and considering how sick I am and have been this may be a remarkable achievement, but at the end of the day its not enough of an achievement to be doing what it needs to be doing. The project is behind and hasn’t started to realise its income or get launched properly. Considering doesn’t change that opportunities have been lost and things have not happened while I have been ill because its my job and responsibility to get them done. It may be a cant, but I cannot make an excuse, I may have a reason but just as the world of bills and commerce doesn’t let me off, I don’t want to be let off by anyone else. Yes, admire what I have done facing what I have faced, but please, don’t attempt to tell me that what is not okay, is, because the harsh reality is, it really isn’t. In commercial reality, bills need paying, and considering doesn’t pay them.

Perhaps I am being harsh on myself, but this has been my reality till now, where I have been able to be ill and not lose everything. Which is awesome, but which makes me keenly aware that I could be making excuses and I don’t want that. It has been a tough week, mentally it has been impossible knowing what isn’t being done and what is slipping while I am powerless to stem the tide. It’s crushing and no amount of consideration is changing that. It is like school, when I broke my arm the homework still had to be done, growing up, you got ill, your chores were your chores and you did them, as an adult nothing changed, no one picked up what was my job.

I’m not sure where this is going, I started simply a little tired of hearing I am doing well considering, and I am. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t make me feel better, and it doesn’t change things. Where I have arrived is that, considering hasn’t changed anything because it’s been words, consideration has been nothing but a speech given to me. What, has changed is that, while those closest to me have stopped saying considering at all without me saying a word, they have instead picked up whatever slack they can for me, lightened my load to the point I have been able to do something rather than being crushed by overwhelming demands.

And I still don’t want consideration, I am tired, I hurt, I need to rest, I’ve pushed as hard as I can push today, I don’t want sympathy or for you to make excuses, I want you to make a difference, either be inspired by the achievement against the challenges faced or do something to lighten the load of someone you care about so they too can achieve. Lift them up to higher levels, not let them off with mediocre.

Monday Night Reflection: Joyful and Triumphant

This last week, life happened, that pesky real life stuff that gets in the way of things you really want to be doing. The other issue is that I haven’t wanted to be introspective this week. The intrusion of my past has made me emotionally tired, I have wanted to move away from looking at anything requiring emotional engagement. On the physical level, I have a cold, which while being very normal is what I would call drag, it slows life down and makes it more difficult. Add in pain and physiotherapy work and I feel that the last seven days have had a cumulative impact.

Which is why I don’t write Monday Night Reflections in advance and schedule them, writing this on Tuesday would have resulted in a very different outlook. Life didn’t happen till Wednesday, my pain had been much lower, and my cold, if it had arrived had not announced itself. Tuesday morning, I felt emotionally calmer and settled after the reflection and the time I had spent around it. I was upbeat because I felt physically and emotionally peaceful, it was a very temporary situation. Pain wise I had noticed a relaxation over the previous few days and the accompanying symptoms had been much lower. I was really feeling much more like a healthy me than I had in months. By Tuesday afternoon this physical wellness had become me in a ball in bed, full of morphine and hallucinations with the symptoms back at full power. Those few days were kind of nice.

Which puts me, with my keyboard having struggled creatively to do, full of cold and feeling rather sorry for myself. Mostly I want to curl up in bed and sleep till I am better. Truth is, I could, I really could, it would not make much difference, I wouldn’t really be letting anyone down either. Most people would jump at the opportunity because they have the pressure, I used to have the pressure, where I would work long after it was advisable to the detriment of my physical, let alone mental well being. Like many I worked broken because I had no choice, no work, no money, that is the reality for millions that I shared for all my working life from the age of 13, and still do. I don’t work it has an impact, not so bad that we lose our house and starve, but you can tell the difference, its very tight on one wage and what I can cobble together when I am sick.

That is not my reflection. I have a friend, recent friend, still getting to know her, but she let me into her world and her struggles with anxiety and we were able to share and help each other. It is hard not to feel close to someone with so much shared experience and struggle. She is striking out, starting her own business and really pushing her boundaries, which is amazing and awesome. I have admiration and am supporting her a million percent because it is courageous to come from where she feels inside and get outside the house, so this is real achievement. There is a however, the however, is that I cannot share her triumphalism. Like me she has a lifelong battle with anxiety and self esteem, a less than stellar past and a storehouse of unhelpful negative experiences which can be used to beat her down, with the liberal addition of abusive relationships and life failures. I am envious because when things are good I cannot proclaim a victory. I am jealous because when I win over anxiety and am getting life done I never feel like the battle is over. I am always keenly aware of that inner dialogue and battle, the thoughts and emotions that are behind the scenes. The battle will never be over, and I feel like any proclamation of victory is both premature and provocation, like I am asking for an onslaught.

Thing is talking to her, privately, I feel that she too is premature, she still has the battles, right now she is winning and that is awesome, but the truth is the battles continue at various intensities. From the outside it may be inspiration to see anxiety, depression or mental health issues defeated, apparently lying dead on the floor bloodied, beaten and ultimately slain. This victorious cry is something that I long for, but is this reality or is it a fantasy? Is this vision of victory simply a collective delusion to which we have all consented to make ourselves feel like the there is a real light at the end of the tunnel, when in reality the battle is lifelong and to the death. Battles may come and go but the war is forever?

My experience is one of management. Anxiety and depression are managed not beaten. My experience of them will intensify and wane depending life and other things I may or may not control, so what I need is structures in place to help me deal with anxiety and depression as constructively as possible. I accept that there may be times that getting out of bed and eating a meal is the absolute most I can achieve that day. What I have sought to build are ways of making sure that on that day I do get out of bed, I do get dressed and I do eat a meal; in other words each day I give one hundred percent of whatever I have to give. Some days that one hundred percent could be outstanding, other days it will be less than impressive. I have had to learn to accept the massive difference between my very worse symptomatic days and the days where I can look like an extrovert genius who never needs sleep. Riding the waves of productivity and silence without blame or judgement is incredibly difficult. I have high expectations of myself and I have a good store of experiences that tell me that I am capable of achieving a lot at a high standard. The key is not to let success become a stick with which I beat myself down when times are hard.

I am not saying it is easy, in fact at the very height of success it can be struggling. For example, I was in the airport, waiting for the plane to fly to compete in my first ever European Championship, this was the opportunity. My ex had been a situation where this had been beyond a dream, my hobby would never be priority enough for me to spend money to go on a “holiday” on my won while the family did without. I did my hobby for fun, yet within a year of the split, here I was qualified by right and waiting for a plane to my first international competition part of GB team. My now wife was working and I had travelled to the air port on my own. Sat there you would think I was full of thoughts about the competition, riding the crest of a wave. In fact, I was broken, and sitting there having gone through passport control wondering what you had to do to leave. I wanted to go home and curl up and wished the world would leave me alone. I was scared, alone with no one to talk to. To this day I have no idea how I managed to stay in the departure lounge. I could be telling this story to make you feel better, the truth is. The whole way there I was telling myself to just go, just do it, it doesn’t matter. I told myself that last didn’t matter in my first competition, and that I had earned the experience, that it was a holiday to reward the work I had done. It didn’t help because I had struggled in the preparation. I had actually worked too hard. I had gone to train with a former world champion and world record holder; a coach of standing and significant cost was helping me for a couple of hours. It was just about affordable and to me and investment which such a big event coming up. By the end of 2 hours he stepped in and helped me get ready for free because I was so beat up. I had decided that my only chance of success was to outwork the competition, I believed I had no talent, but I did have hard work. I had completely overlooked any requirement to work hard and intelligently. Four weeks later I am in an airport, flying on my own to meet the team, staying in a different hotel because I could only confirm my place due to money at the last minute. I felt like disaster was a matter of time.

The best I could do on the way out was keep a Starbucks down, and not break down crying uncontrollably. I felt locked into a train wreck about to happen. This is my reality, this is my anxiety, and at the time I was not suffering particularly on a day to day basis. But this exceptional event had given anxiety the opening it needed to come on full. I cried the night before, I held back tears on the way to the airport, and I a was biting back the whole journey. On arrival I took a wrong turn in the hire car and was sobbing in a layby for an hour. Unable to even get my thoughts far enough to call my fiancée, when I did manage it, of course she was amazing and already she walked me through my steps to calm down and my solution.

Three days after nearly walking out the airport and sobbing uncontrollably at some toilet stop in the middle of nowhere I was flying home a European Champion. To tell the story as if the trip was a triumph over anxiety and fear feels like a betrayal, a lie I cannot tell to people, who like me, struggle daily. The reality, I believe is more liberating, more empowering, it may be a cheesy book title, but the battle is about feeling scared and like disaster is imminent and doing despite the fact you want to run. Management is about the disaster and realising it changes you if you let it, and only if you let it. This was once an incredibly hard truth to hold on to. I was not loved whether or not I succeeded or failed, in fact, love was portioned out in direct proportion to my success of failure, from a kind word to physical intimacy, it was always earned. Being loved just because I was me was something that other people talked about, it was not something I experienced, it was something I did, I knew that much. In this context failure was a big deal, and so fear was as more about a consequence than it was about something I imagined would happen, consequences were a danger, and they happened when you failed. The problem with anxiety is, it never takes account of context. In this case the situation could never have happened, I was always a hobbyist, I could never compete, never dream of it, too difficult, to much pressure, and it was unfair to ask my family to make that sort of sacrifice. I was a father and husband first and I had to honour those responsibilities. I took happiness in having a hobby, although I kept my pursuit solitary, or online where any interaction could be checked and verified. It was never worth talking to a person, although it happened and people tried to make friends with me, I knew the consequences, the consequences did happen. I knew it would happen but I was longing some sort of contact so I made sure I never said anything but how great she was and how wonderful life was. I since found out no one believed a word.

So I cannot be joyful and triumphant, even when I win a significant battle like that, it feels false. I feel like am betraying anyone who looks at the “victory” and gets inspired by the lie. If anything from my life is motivating or informs someone else in their struggles I could not live with that being based on a fiction. Reality is, that weekend was awful, I never want a weekend like that again. The night before I competed I cried, I cried so much I had a stinking headache, I was chronically lonely, I had been to the competition that day and felt immensely out of my depth watching the first day of competition; a feeling made worse by the procedure of registration of which I had absolutely no experience and no knowledge. The whole weekend was difficult, beyond my experience, boundaries and I was woefully unprepared.

Since then, lessons have been learned, and management of my debilitating anxiety and depression is being adjusted to make things possible and make my life all it can be. But it is a tremendous battle, and it is difficult. Seemingly simple things can be massively difficult. I never go to a new place alone, or if I am travelling to it alone I do everything in my power to make sure I have a familiar and friendly face when I get there. When travelling I will often set up way points with friends in case I need them. I did that last long trip, and I really valued that afternoon chilling with coffee, even tho I had an amazing time connecting with a friend at the event and meeting people I had competed with, it was a challenge and difficult. Even with all the lessons and all my best management techniques, it was difficult and I travelled with constant doubts, from what if it’s a joke and not happening to what if I embarrass myself, even with no possible reason for that to happen or be likely, and multitude of reasons running through my head why it was a bad idea to be there.

Which is my day to day reality, this month we are having people we have met over for tea. We know them a little bit and they are great, but inside I am terrified, scared of everything from the food I do being awful, me saying the wrong thing. I know so much of this fear is because of “feedback” and consequences from my life, parents telling me that I had embarrassed them or let them down, my ex-wife telling me why no one spoke to me, no one liked me, what people said about be to her, and how I was an embarrassment, from how I looked to how I acted, to the car I drove, how I drove, it was all a disgrace. I had always been a disgrace and a let down, I was always a disappointment, so according to my anxiety, why would that be any different now. And that is in spite of the evidence that, it was never true in the past and it is not true now, it still feels real. I hope, it feels less real as time passes.

This is the reality, there are victories and small wins, there are pyrrhic victories and defeats. That is life with anxiety, it may be gone for a while, mine always comes back, it may come back weak, it may come back strong, but it will always be there. At one time I may have thought anxiety a curse, perhaps it is, but anxiety is also essential to our survival, so it has been hard wired into our make up to have a concern that is future orientated. Survival is predicated on the prediction of danger and that involves fear via anxiety. After all if you never worried about starvation it is likely you would not store food, and when it ran out you would starve. Some people live where food is not massively seasonal and they do not have that anxiety and they do not stockpile or develop preservation methods. So it is with life, I don’t think it is possible to rid ourselves of anxiety. Anxiety is the dark-side, it has to be there, without it there then our positive drives have no roots, or perhaps we have nothing to run from. Perhaps that is why creative people are plagued, they are always running, and their creativity rests on a bed of anxiety and fear.

I am sorry I cannot proclaim, victory the war is won, I am sad that I may well walk to my door to get the bin and stumble and pause as I take hold of the handle, I will struggle to walk in public because I feel the stare because I am different, and I will hide in the familiar while seeking to achieve something positive.

What I mean is, sometimes Victory is getting out of bed, getting dressed and eating a meal, success can be simple, it can be words, it can be silence. Learn to accept success however small, learn to love yourself, however, alien that is, anxiety may walk our road for life, but we can, I know we can, make it travel with us and not let it root us to the spot in fear, we can be overwhelmed and still come back. I believe that, and like all rebellions my rebellion against anxiety is built on hope!