Dear Diary: I have to hang up my keyboard …​

Apologies, I am a fan of the UFC, 4 years ago Welterweight great Giles St Pierre said, “I have to hang up my gloves for a little while ….” on Saturday he returned, won the middleweight title, the weight class heavier than one where he had been the unbeatable champion. He put his legacy on the line and rolled the dice one more time and won.

I may not have won 12 Welterweight UFC title fights, with 9 successive defences, nor have I secured myself a spot in any Hall of Fame, but, in 2017, I am very much my own champion, literally, I have a British Title to my name, and in overcoming the struggles of my medical condition, and being honest and open about my depression and battle with suicidal thoughts – not here I am sorry, but in my real life, where, it was important that while people saw me lift a trophy and some almost Rocky-like comeback they realised there was a very dark side and I was paying a very high price for that success.

I hope the battle was evident here, there have been many days where breathing only happened because it was a reflex, because had it relied on will, I would have stopped. The strain became too much; I withdrew from the Worlds, turning out to be a dodged bullet, and I withdrew into a dark place. The reality of life and future lack of change became far to much to handle, and even now, is not something I entirely want to contemplate. With more potentially bad medical news on the way and even a possible recurrence of cellulitis, I am, in truthfulness, out of fight.

I am therefore a little jealous of Giles, I wish that because of what is happening in my life I too could hang up my gloves or a little while. However, I am hanging up my gloves, competitively I have no plans to compete in 18, and in fact, my return to competition is entirely dependent on my training performance reaching a standard I have set, if I do not reach that standard, I do not return.

Professionally, I am retired from work for the foreseeable future, my medical condition is not under control to the extent that any employer could be expected to handle the amount of time off I would take, nor is it actually fair to expect work colleagues or an employer to deal with what happens during a severe hemiplegic migraine attack, and self-employment is beyond my work capacity at this time. That pressure is off, and I have had to accept that this is just the situation, I may have been working 2 jobs at 13, but that is perhaps why I am working no jobs at 45, who knows. I have to deal with it, and be thankful I am in a position where this is possible however tight and uncomfortable it makes the financial reality.

And I am not without a future, I had moved on, and while one project has to be dropped, I had other things that while I will have to do slowly I can do, and my wife’s career is going well with her working somewhere that values her and wants to invest in her development, so I can support her and do what I can to facilitate her success, this man is most definitely not an island.

So in the style of Giles St Pierre ” I have some thing in my life going on, and I have to hang up my keyboard for a while” …. dont use the R word ….

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Monday Night Reflection: Back to Normal

That is a lie, of course, there is no back to normal. Not in a bad way, but I am not going back. I had decided to move on before any of this dropped on me, I had changed direction, and normal was a fluid state of moving forward towards something new and different.

Normal was not a set routine or structure, I was developing a new business venture, I was practicing my skills, I was growing myself and exploring directions and possibilities to see what and what not plausible or possible, what could be developed for money and what was best left as artistic endeavour for artistic endeavour’s sake. My business was being grown, not pushed, I was learning from past mistakes, and the pace was consciously, in fact very deliberately slow. Each step was small, and consolidated, assessed and embedded, decisions taken carefully, investments very circumspectly undertaken indeed. I was very keen to be in absolutely no rush to spend money, time, or unnecessary effort in a fruitless endeavour. I was keenly aware that every resource I had was very limited and that my project was one I wanted to grow properly, healthily and strong in that organic way of a business finding its rightful place.

None of that has really changed. I have, I have made no secret that my skills and abilities have been affected, and I am relearning things. The timetable has been set back, and along with that, my blog has had to change from what I really wanted to be doing at this point in time and is not really what I wanted to be sharing either. However, my business, my blog, and my personal life are still there, still being developed and I am still working on each of my goals.

I have had a setback, and in the real sense of that, I am working from behind where I was, however, I am still working slowly, and that, ultimately is all that matters.

So while, there may never be, a back to normal, there is a normal service, and that is coming back.

Poetry Corner – The Real Me

Sometimes you forget
Sometimes you believe
Sometimes you don’t pretend
You are not who you are
Not make believe or fantasy

You believe the empty words
The things they say because they should
Because they should be kind
They are the encouraging sort

Some days I forget they expect me to fail
Some days I believe their belief is real
Some days I am not pretending, it’s not an act

But then I see what is real
And I carry on, no big deal

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: 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

Write 

Don’t write for redemption,
Don’t write for regret
Don’t write for the bitterness
Or tears you haven’t wept

Don’t write for emotion
Don’t write for applause
Don’t write for adulation
That you haven’t had yet

Maybe write for mediation
Maybe write for contemplation
Maybe write for the therapist
Imprisoned in your head

Write elegantly the words
Write triumphantly to proclaim
Write for the abyss
That extinguished your flame

Monday Night Reflection: It May Not Even Be Monday

 

I have enjoyed writing Monday Night Reflections, the writing stemmed from what I was doing anyway, gave it a structure and purpose which has made it a sometimes painful and emotional exercise, but, one of great value and constructive purpose. Oftentimes I am planning ahead, making notes and eagerly await the weekend when I can start any work on it. I like to write it wholly on a Monday, but practical considerations meant long before I published my thoughts this was something that could happen over the weekend. What I needed was space and time and a few notes to remind me of what had been coming to mind through the week, as well as, or in spite of the latest and loudest.

And here I am with nothing to say, as I wrote in my Diary the events of the weekend have blown me off course. Today we were having friends over, a massive step out of my comfort zone; which went really well, despite my inevitable anxiety, fears of disaster, imminent doom and embarrassment. However, the invasion of my space, unplanned and unannounced changed everything. My weekend, which I had planned all week, as usual, to make the most of our time as a couple, gone, my Thursday headache had already changed what I had to get done the next two days, but the aim of the time was, as always, maximum time as a couple together. Invaded, changed, suddenly we were not alone; it is not that I am not hospitable, but I need to know, to plan, to have food in, be ready. Having people into my most precious space is a big deal for me, this is my sanctuary from the world here.

I feel I am sounding melodramatic, but that is life with anxiety, the simple invasion of my home by someone I don’t really know changes how I have to be. I have to put my face on, I have to act the person the world needs to see, its my public persona and it wears me out. There are other constraints, considerations, simply put there is no private space while that person is here.

The result is lots of things undone, time spent being sociable, time not spent relaxing, time not spent as a couple, tv not watched, naps not taken. And of course, I have to pretend that its normal and okay to do this, and I don’t think its acceptable at all. My wife agrees, it was inconsiderate and out of order, son, whose friend stayed at the last minute, (as usual), doesn’t get it. He only sees my persona, of course he does, but also, he doesn’t understand he isn’t 12 and this isn’t then. That life has changed and we don’t live that way. Things are on a different calmer, relaxed but also prepared and planned pace. We are calm and relax because we don’t bounce from event, loudest, latest, drama but rather plan, prepare and am able to have choices and flexibility because we are ready. Stress is minimised by organisation, spontaneity exists only because of what we have in place to support it.

This was a spanner in the works of my life. I have come a long way, achieved a lot, but times like this you see the distance between here and really functional. The time, the space I normally carve out, gone. Today the time I wanted to free up, well life has to happen too, and it did, and hard as I worked to free up the time, it wasn’t there. Today wasn’t a disaster, another car problem with our main car not just my runabout that I don’t need, some work behind, some on track, I guess this normal life … firefighting, my nightmare.

Thinking Out Loud: Monsters

The world of films is a misleading one, TV is not much better, even in true stories, we the audience are presented so much with a simple view. It is all neatly black and white, even when it is being presented as blur, we are in on the secret and the monster of the story never really steps out of that mould.

Life is cruel by comparison. When you are finally out of an abusive situation, free of the monster, you will soon come to ask why you did not see it, why you did not leave, and gradually over time you can come to see what imprisoned you, the poor patterns of thought and decision that got you where you were. You can trace conditioned responses, needs and perhaps look through a pattern that made the abuse appear normal and how life was done that extends into childhood. However, what can defy explanation and what can very well haunt you will not be the abuse, the cruelty, the consequences. What haunts me is the kindness, the love, the good times. These are the ones that did not end badly, where the gift was thoughtful, and you got to keep it without consequence or retribution, where they arranged something for you, and it was ace, you enjoyed it, and there was no price to pay for happiness. It can be the small intimate moment that was just that. It is all those memories that were precious, are precious, that you cannot explain, that do not fit neatly into the context and picture of control and abuse. They look like genuine love, and affection like you were important and mattered.

I know that you can see them as the carrot that goes with the stick, they are how they lure you in, but even when the glow and honeymoon are over, there will be something, something that you cannot explain away. Deep in the years of hurt, there looks to be a genuine moment of humanity. You see the monster treating others differently, and they tell you it’ because you earn it, you deserve it, it is you that is broken and faulty and needs to learn, be disciplined, needs the consequence to be a better person. You see the duplicity, you see them nice and loving to others, the very person that attracted you, but they never switch on them. You alone are the object of their ridicule, their anger, you are who they hurt, and that is something you get used to.

I am still baffled, even accepting that the kindness and love could have been manipulation and control, there are still happy times, happy memories, things I don’t know how to store because I don’t want to lose sight of happiness in those years. It feels like so much was lost, so much was broken, so many memories rewritten by time and the cold light of the reality or infidelity, that I am clinging to what happy memories I have and I am not even sure why. I laughed, and I smiled I have great times at the time; she robbed those years, somehow I don’t want to lose anymore. I want to believe that just once or at some time I actually mattered, that they felt something decent towards me; but I am not sure I can be that deluded either.

Poetry Corner: Code

You sit there knowing, a consequence is due

The look, the touch, the phrase, you freeze

Exposed, vulnerable, out in the open

Panic, run, run with your heart pounding

Nowhere to go, no hiding place

Tell someone you would not dare

 

No one would believe you drummed in your head

Everyone knows you have the problems

People already know about you is what they said

So you breathe, an audience is safety

All too soon you will be alone, home alone

Secret shame only yourself to blame