6 Months Later…

That's a lot of anxiety

Okay, so I burned out.

I’ve started and stopped writing this update for months.  Initially I thought it was likely I’d end up skipping May and doing a catch up at the end of June/beginning of July, then it got pushed back to August, September, until we are now finally… here. This is the third draft that I have managed to write and the first I have managed to get to the publishing phase.

Depression is like a background app that drains your battery

A lot has happened since I got back to Britain. I got a job over summer, my Mum got seriously ill (she fainted in my arms in hospital), my Dad reminded me of everything I hated about him and why I wanted to move to begin with, and I moved back to uni and fell into a major depressive episode that has so far lasted for the better part of 3 months.

I’m not really sure just where to begin or how to break these all down, so this could end up quite ramblish.

Donald Duck or Donald Trump

It is definitely going to be lengthy.

Coming home was great initially – having been away from family and friends for so long, having lacked a strong social circle, it was good to be back in somewhat comfortable surroundings. The funny thing is though, it kinda turns out the person I missed the most wasn’t actually a person, but a cat! Lord knows why I missed her so much, but just look at that cute face! How could anyone not miss that?

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Before I even had a chance to unpack, I had a call from a close friend of mine who needed someone to cover a coworker at work for a few weeks who needed to go for surgery. Considering one of my goals for returning home over the summer was to find employment to help with my last year at university, I jumped at the opportunity. It was a fairly typical customer service type role, something that I’ve done for most of my professional life, but this was based in an office and telephone orientated. Working in an office was a new experience to me. The last time I held an office job was well over 10 years ago and was only for a few weeks and it was working for a friend of the family. This was my first experience of working in a relatively fully staffed office environment. The positive is that it was all mostly inbound calls – customers would call us. It was kind of perfect. I didn’t have to think too much, I just needed to understand what it was that we were providing customers with… That was until around the end of my tenure when another colleague was fired for gross misconduct, and then a few weeks later another colleague left in order to move continents unexpectedly. My role thus became slightly more permanent and I was asked if I could remain for the remainder of the summer. At one point we were so incredibly short-staffed that my brother – a young man with no professional working experience – came in to help relieve some of the stress in the office.

(He is likely going to be reading this, but it must be said that the amount of stress he found himself under in a situation that was wholly new and unfamiliar was incredible, and he put up a tremendous fight. He was happy to be told “thanks for helping, but we don’t need you to stay past Friday.”)

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If you can’t tell, things were becoming more stressful in a job that I had enjoyed up until this point for being not all that stressful. I found myself taking on more and more responsibilities in order to help relieve stresses elsewhere for my co-workers. That’s the funny thing with me – lately (see the last 5 years) I tend to distance myself from people (in a work environment moreso), but people still somehow manage to break through for me to let down my guard, and make me care more about them and not about myself. I think I was putting the needs of everyone else in the office above my own, and it showed. This is a trait that has slipped in and out of prominence since I was 16.

I ended up falling out of keto, the diet I had been on for 6 months and had lost 50lbs on. Initially I wrote this off as being down to recently quitting smoking about a week after returning home – oh, yeah! I quit smoking! – and so I allowed myself to slip so I could quit and have an outlet for stresses during the quitting process. I tried returning to keto on and off all through May and June until the stress at work finally made me more or less give up entirely around the end of July. “I’ll restart tomorrow.” I kept saying to myself, “I’ll restart on Monday”, was another, “okay, okay! I’ll restart on Friday, that way I have the weekend to get into the routine and not be stressed by work.” I would last a few days, sometimes the majority of the week, but then I’d fall to stress and get “something yummy”. As of writing, there is likely good odds that I have piled this weight back on through a diet of takeout, pastries, sweets, and other baked sugary goods.

For this, I hate myself. I hate my lack of self-discipline. I hate my lack of determination to overcome. I hate that I’ve put back on most of what I lost. I’m so angry at myself as this has set me back in my weightloss goals tremendously.

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I’m also angry at my father, who, during this period when my Mum got seriously ill, became typically narcissistic and wanted the world to spin around him. I was still working 9.00 – 5.30 and having to come home to care for a petulant child. This was on top of trying to look after my Mum, who took several weeks to recover.

These combined stresses left me feeling frustrated and struggling to find a release – the easiest solution was food, the other was video games. Funny really. I’m a film & TV nerd, but it’s video games that I turned to. This was perhaps the first major signal that I was on the verge of a major depressive episode. No, no. Not that I was playing video games, that’s always been there to a lesser degree, but that it became the go-to for escape and completely took over all entertainment for me — I had lost interest in things I was passionate about.

Which is where we find me today. That loneliness and isolation I’ve been feeling for the past few years had only compounded in to the existential crisis I was about to have — “What am I doing this for?”

How's your week going Ben Affleck

3 months in, I still don’t have an answer. I want it to be “I’m doing it for myself”, but apparently I’m struggling to muster the passion or any self-love I have. I feel as though I am doing this all for nothing, that this is ultimately going to go nowhere and that I’ll end up living back at home under the same roof as my father and having no future for myself…. Well shit, this is why I need to write more often. This is what we call “an epiphany”, which is pretty rare to experience in the moment of writing. At least… I think it is? I don’t think I had quite verbalised that before in regards to this depressive episode, but I think this is what I’m feeling— I’m scared that I am going to be a failure in the future when I have graduated and try to get a job, but also that I will fail at university. Therefore, by being to tired and burnt out and scared of this failure I am turning that into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So to catch you up on the education side of things, uni has not been going well. I have missed a significant number of classes (for me at least) this term. I have nearly missed one deadline (I ended up submitting a half-assed essay that somehow scraped a decent grade), I have missed 2 soft deadlines, and I am now facing down the deadline for 3 editing projects that are due in 11 days (I have barely started one) along with a crucial essay that is due after Christmas. On top of that, I need to shop for Christmas presents, I figure out how I am going to get home for Christmas, and work out how I’m going to pay for rent and food next month. These are some of my current anxious thoughts that are being compounded by my depression which I think is currently fixated on the loneliness.

Everything on fire - this is fine

But let’s talk depression.

Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time

I think the loneliness was the tipping point of everything to be honest. I was going to fall off a cliff into depression one way or another before the year was out, and the loneliness was the weight dangling off that cliff for a long while. You see, around the time the depressive episode begun, it was my birthday. I was facing up to a 2nd year in a row alone, my 3rd spent alone in 4 years. I felt like no one here would celebrate with me and that it was up to friends/family back home to celebrate it. And whilst I received some gifts and messages, I did spend it alone. What made it worse (or perhaps the correct term is “really pathetic”?) is I didn’t receive a “Happy Birthday” message or call from any of my closest friends. It is funny that I actually know why they didn’t message (one friend is actually oblivious, another just doesn’t like to celebrate birthdays due to his own issues, and another left to go on holiday that day), but it still upset me because it made me feel unimportant or insignificant to their lives. So I can rationalise it, I can understand it, but it doesn’t take away from how sad it made me feel and how I decided to not even bother leaving my apartment on my birthday and deciding not to go to a university society meeting.

Fuck me, I am sounding really pathetic!

This is the problem with mental health… for me anyway. It’s the little things that affect me. They build up over time. I question everything. I re-evaluate every minuscule interaction. Intrusive thoughts replay and replay over and over. So much had built up over the course of the past few years that I finally cracked and slumped. I mean, if no one cared about me and my successes or failures, and certainly I certainly stopped caring about myself, then why should I bother?

Dwelling on negative memories

And that’s the story of how I lost my mojo.

 

 

“But, dude! You’re writing again! Surely that must mean you have your mojo back?!”

That’s an interesting question, random internal thought process of mine.

The thing is, yes it has taken me months to get to this (and I’m about to minimise the effort it has taken me to write this), but it has been a big fucking deal to write. This is the most I’ve written in one sitting since the end of October, and that was to spit out an essay for a deadline. It was garbage and god knows how I got a good grade out of it. But this I take pride in. I try to craft something that’s meaningful and insightful, even if it seems like the crazed ramblings of a mad man. I want to write something that is funny and engaging. I try to hit things that I would want to read without it being overly dark and depressing despite the obvious subject matter.

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I’ve been trying to work this into a post for years.

 

I don’t know if I have my mojo back, and I still feel unenthused about the idea of editing 3 projects in 10 days, but I guess I have to give credit where credit is due and realise that this may have taken a lot of effort and concentration, but it has been somewhat cathartic and I feel as though I am not writing this for an audience (sorry readers), but more for myself. I guess what I needed to do was to write down somewhere all of this just to process all of what I have been feeling. So I guess somewhere inside this fickle brain of mine I do still care about myself and I want to get better.

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The good news is that I have been trying to fix this for about 6 weeks or so. I finally started seeing a therapist, I have been in regular contact with my school’s student support office, and I also did a mindfulness course again as a refresher.

Oh!

And drugs!

I got my medication upped from 100mg sertraline to 150mg, which apparently is the highest dose available in the U.K..

So it isn’t like I’ve done nothing. I have been kind of proactive about pulling out of this, it has just taken a much longer time than maybe I would have liked. But these feelings still persist. I feel like they are becoming more manageable, and I now have spates of motivation, followed by lengthy periods of exhaustion.

(Editor’s note: As the fog lifts and I can see the forest through the trees, I think this may be the longest episode of depression I have had in 6 years or perhaps even longer. I find it incredible that in instances of sustained episodes I have felt suicidal, but to be frank about it, whilst I have felt like human garbage and a waste of space at times, I haven’t once thought about ending things. Not. Fucking. Once. Perhaps that is the truest victory I have had over depression this time. Anyway, let’s wrap this up…)

Least I Could Do - None of it Exists

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know how to wrap this up. A few weeks ago I thought I was getting better, but here we are now, in December, and I still feel pretty shitty. Granted, I feel less shitty than I did yesterday, but shitty regardless. I don’t know if I’m going to recover enough to complete all my work by next week. I don’t know if I’m going to post on here again. I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner tonight (I’m actually trying to decide what will make me feel happiest without making me feel like a completely fat piece of shit). The point is, I want to get better, and I’m trying.

It’s just so fucking hard right now, but I’m going to get there.

Until next time…

Cookie Monster Delete Cookies

… Much love ❤

Mental Health Foundation's 10 tips on how to look after your mental health

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April 2017: Changes

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The end is not near, it is here!

I am coming to the end of my current stay in the United States. I have only a few days left before I fly back home to the UK and I couldn’t be more relieved. After a year of hardcore studying just to be able to ensure I pass the year I feel burned the fuck out. I’ve experienced so many headaches, late nights, early mornings, sleep deprivations… I’m so ready to go home. School life here is just astoundingly hard, and I have no idea how Americans manage to cope, keeping up good grades, socialising, and not burning out. Hell, I’ve barely had time to myself these past 6 weeks or so. All I’ve wanted to do is sleep, and as I approach my departure I just want to decompress from it all.

With schoolwork all but complete, I’m trying to look back on my time here to figure out what I have learned, what experiences I’ve had that I’ll be able to take forward, and if this has all been worthwhile.

In response to the latter, I believe all the “pain and suffering” I’ve endured has been worthwhile. Coming to California to study film has taught me more than I have ever learned back home. The level of professionalism in the students here are miles above anything I’ve seen in British kids: myself included. Coming to California has pushed me to become better at what I do – or rather what I want to do for a profession. It has made me a better filmmaker. It has made me question everything about why I’m trying to break into the media industry whilst also reaffirming my commitment to the creative process. This has been the most sustained traumatic experience of my life in the most positive of ways.

United Airlines with Negan and Glenn from Walking Dead

Moving back home I’m hoping to bring the skills and expertise I’ve picked up to pass on to other students and to influence my own work in the future.

On the mental health side of things I think I have learned a lot about what I need going forward. I have probably been saying this for over a year now, but I really need therapy. I am a social wreck. Everyday I wake up needing social interaction, but not wanting to face it. I am scared to open up and get close to people because of learned behaviour. I’m living in this bubble of self-imposed containment and it is destroying my soul. It feels incredibly frustrating. The priority when returning home will be to get myself a therapist and look into evaluating the efficacy of my current medication; because as it stands I am not entirely convinced that sertraline is working for me anymore. I am still taking the medication, and I haven’t missed a dose for more than a year or perhaps longer,  but I am growing concerned that I may have become resistant to it.

Awkward Yeti - How the body helps the brain with anxiety

Thinking back over my time at university at home in the U.K. and here in the U.S. I think there has been a marked and increased level of anxiety presenting in my personality that I initially chalked up to being new stresses of moving away from home, living in unfamiliar territory, and studying hard. The reality is this is something, that while likely related to this external stressors, is also the anxiety side of anxiety & depression. Any time a social situation presents itself I start to clam up, my chest tightens, and I have the urge to remove myself from any and all speaking scenarios. I have been feeling this since before I began education again… (EDIT: I deleted a long diatribe here, but realised something else in the process) … thinking back on it, I think I have felt this way through most of my life. I remember a lot of experiences in my life where I felt this anxiety in the pit of my stomach when encountering a social scenario. It is something I have never directly resolved and is something I need help with; because whilst this may currently be causing me social problems now, if it is left unchecked, it will cause me professional problems in the future. I need to be able to communicate with other human beings face-to-face, despite how much I’d rather do all my communication in the form of written language.

Right now, I may be feeling burned out and exhausted, but in the weeks and months to come I hope to see a reinvigoration as I build on this year abroad and go on to my final year at university.

Until next time…

Seat belt on plane to tether mangled corpse to seat for identification purposes

Much love ❤

March 2017: Cat People (Putting Out Fire)

Depression brain says you are forgetting to you should be suffering

Well, I may have spoken too soon.

This month I’ve been mostly battling with low mood. It’s made me question the efficacy of my medication, my coping strategies, and possibly worst of all – what I’m doing with my life.

Perhaps it’s just March, which has been notoriously a terrible time of year for me. Perhaps it is a form of seasonal anxiety. I don’t really know. I know most of it is in my head, my way of thinking, that has been dwelling on negative thoughts/memories. I was also struck with a cold during this period, so that might have had an effect. Regardless, I’ve just tried to keep on keeping on despite how miserable I have been feeling. I’ve done my school work, I’ve kept to routines as best I can, but nothing stops the flood of anxiety and shit-kicking my mind gives me as I try to go to sleep.

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What I’ve realised is that I need an outlet for this angst, a way to channel it. My studies currently are not exactly the most fertile ground for this, which has led to a lot of internalisation that has begun to manifest in semi self-harm. It’s been a while since I covered this, but my method of self-harm is not to cut myself, but to punch solid objects. Around 10 years ago I punched a signpost so hard after a night of drinking and feeling low, I suffered a “boxer’s fracture” in my right hand. I now no longer have a knuckle in my pinky. I have scuffed my knuckles on other occasions since, but no serious damage, as I somehow consciously reign back the strength of those punches. This is likely a sub-conscious reaction to having broken my hand all those years ago and not wanting to permanently damage myself.

I give all this background because I find myself more frequently positioning myself near a wall in my apartment attempting to punch it without breaking it – stupid hollow, plaster walls. Which is probably a good thing; I’m not exactly punching it full strength to break the wall or my hand. What it has done is to make me understand how much I need an outlet for this aggression, because what is depression if it’s not anger turned inwards?

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I have known for over a year that I need 1-to-1 therapy, but I think I may need to supplement that with a physical outlet. Like a punchbag. Something safe and controlled, maybe even a martial arts class. Something to channel and express the inexpressible. I’m not an aggressive person, I often go out of my way to avoid conflict, which wherein lies the problem – I internalise the conflict and don’t express it.

Right now, I don’t have a short term solution to this. I have around 6 weeks left in the U.S.. Starting therapy when I’m about to leave seems like a waste of money. Similarly with beginning a martial art. I wouldn’t even know where to begin there. I also don’t want to waste money on a punchbag that I wouldn’t be able to bring home. So I feel stuck.

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This is a reoccurring theme in depression: feeling stuck. Feeling a lack of control. And this is something I have been feeling a lot this month. Trying to find a place to live next semester with little to no luck. Unable to afford to spend Spring Break away from campus and instead doing nothing. Being buried in school work. I feel stuck with my own anger and unable to release it. It’s a pressure cooker that has been building to explode.

And I feel powerless to stop it.

All I can do is keep on keeping on. I’m trying to set goals; I’m almost counting down the days to returning home. I’m trying to look forward to seeing friends and family again. I’m trying to remain optimistic about my housing for next year. I’m hoping that I can find a therapist relatively quickly when I get back to help work through my problems before I start back at uni in Sept/Oct. I don’t really know what I’m going to do with the rest of my summer. I have other hopes and ambitions, but in this moment I just want to use it to fix myself.

Until next time…

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Much love ❤

February 2017: It Ain’t Easy

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Hello again.

There have been some interesting developments this month. From studies to mental health, it has been quite a time.

This is a mental health dairy so let’s start with the mental health first.

My medication began to run out last month, and so I was required to visit the Doctor for essentially a check up. Part of this involved the standard survey I have become familiar with over the past 10 years or so. The official nomenclature for it escapes me, but if you’ve ever been a patient of a mental health disorder I can guarantee you know the exact quiz I am talking about. It basically gives the medical practitioner an idea of how your mood has been for the previous 2 weeks. It’s a good indicator to assess where your mind is.

For the first time, I think, since my initial diagnosis I circled a lot of zeroes. It genuinely surprised me by how well I was feeling and had been feeling for several weeks. In a way it worried me, because I didn’t realise I was for all intents and purposes a relatively fine individual. I still don’t even truly know how that content was found. But found it was, and I accept that perhaps my mental state is in the best frame than it has been for some time.

Well, perhaps until recent weeks.

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That’s kind of glib, and it shouldn’t really be taken as literal truth. What I’m talking about is my studies. There’s a lot to digest with this, but I’m going to begin with where this segue comes from, which is a screenwriting class that I am taking.

In the past few weeks the screenwriting class has begun to focus more tightly on our own independent script ideas. For over 5 years I’ve been sitting on an idea that draws on a lot of my experience of living with anxiety & depression. I’ve had trouble returning to the idea in that time, even though it is something that I am deeply passionate about. I feel like the story needs to be told, and I hope a large enough audience would want to see it to spread the message that I want it to convey. The trouble I have with writing the story is that because of the subject matter I have to put myself in the mindset of someone who is suicidal. And while I am no longer that person, it drags up a lot of memories and feelings that are associated with my past.

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For a while last month I was okay with feelings of loneliness. I was able to remedy the issue by engaging with the world around me – from going to the local supermarket, to even the mall. Just being out in public. With the school workload increasing it is becoming more and more difficult to self-medicate in that regard and I tend to stay in places that are quieter for studying – including my own apartment. With that pilling on top of the writing, in which I am determined to write the best story I possibly can, it’s causing me some minor distress. I’m not even entirely of the belief that what I am feeling is symptoms of actual depression, but more like symptoms of sympathy and empathy. I feel sorrow for what I experienced only a few short years ago, but greater sorrow for the fictional character(s) that I am putting through the trauma.

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How I’ve been coping so far is by distancing myself from the material when I can, and I’ve tried meditating a lot more on the issue to think about it in objective terms. The good news is that at time of writing I seem to have a decent layout for the story’s structure, and it should hopefully begin to flow on the page better as the class progresses. I am able to give myself a bit more of a break from that world and live in the present.

I think I am also having difficultly reconciling my time left here as it slowly dwindles away and I feel as though all I have done is work. There’s so much of the country I would still like to explore, but whether I’ll have the time or money is becoming a concern the more time passes.

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In less melancholic news; my appointment with the doctor last month also yielded some positive information that I wanted to collect since beginning Keto at the end of December. At my last appointment in November a nurse took a bunch of my vitals, including weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and so on.

I took the opportunity in my appointment to ask for a copy of those to compare with recent results. It has been several weeks since this appointment, but what the vitals helped to set is the baseline of my progress, as I didn’t take any stats prior to starting the diet. I am proud to say that the comparative results are extremely uplifting in that my heart rate is in a much healthier place than it was a year ago. I also found my weight recorded from last year, which appears to show me at my heaviest of all time. With that, I am down 40lbs in a 12 month period, and since beginning in December I am down, as of today, just over 20lbs!

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I’ve been taking progress pictures weekly to ensure that the changes are documented. In the past month I’ve noticed that most of my clothes no long fit. I had to put a new notch in my belt to keep my jeans up, which are essentially now 2001- era rock/goth baggy jeans! This has all been a huge boost to my self-esteem. It has also been nearly a full month since I was last tempted by the devil that is pizza. I’m feeling really good about all of this. I’m seeing changes in my face, my neck, my hips… even my wrists are shrinking as shown by how much tighter I’m having to strap my watch to it.

I’m not saying I’m in the best shape of my life, I still have about 100lbs+ before I’m really there, but this is something unique for me. I have never experienced weight loss like this. To see the hard work and dedication  paying off, even in the most subtle ways, is extremely rewarding for a fat guy who up until last year had never seen scales retreat in his entire life.

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Overall I am feeling very positive. I’m already thinking ahead to how I can continue the diet when I return home for the summer, but also if I choose to go travelling for a week over the Spring Break. This diet is literally changing my life and I couldn’t be happier. As I said, I still have a long ways to go, but I know that I never want to be that fat again. And I’m not pinning my hopes that this cures my anxiety or depression, but I know it has and is going to go a long way to helping restore my confidence and self-esteem.

So until next time…

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Much love ❤

January 2017: Five Years

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Welcome to year 6 and the 5th anniversary since I began writing this blog!

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The tone of Diary of a Depressed… since year 1 has somewhat shifted to where it is now. I used to take myself a little too seriously, I probably still do, but I hope the darkness of some of the posts is balanced out a more with humour.  I certainly hope the way I express myself has drastically improved over time! I know this space can get extremely reflexive and self-centred, but that is kinda the nature of this beast. A massive thank you to those who have stuck with and continue to read my ramblings.

Now on with the show.

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Things this month have actually been pretty good. No real mood swings, no massive downers. It’s been a month where I got stuff done. I finished editing a short film I’d been working on since December. I also doubled down on this Keto diet… thingy. I am currently around 5 weeks into the diet, having 100% committed to it maybe 2 or 3 weeks ago. Currently I am down around 13lbs… maybe. There’s a good chance I could be down around 24lbs. Why I am uncertain is because I didn’t actually weigh myself when I started before Christmas. So I’m going by a rough weight guesstimation from my last weigh-in, which could be more. It could be less, but HAHAHA no. It’ll definitely be more. Also, 13lbs is categorically the definite amount that I have lost thus far since I began weighing in 3 weeks ago. I’ve also been on the diet now longer than when I became ill last year, which a part of me was worried that I had become ill somehow because of this. I think it proves to me that the illness last year was entirely unrelated to keto.

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What has been great about this process is seeing the minor transformations. I keep photographic records week to week, although I’ve not really noticed the changes I can see those changes when I compare the oldest to the newest. I’m keeping track of my dietary intake, which helps a lot. What has been the most satisfying is finding clothes becoming loose. My belt is currently on it’s tightest notch and barely holds my jeans up, which will likely mean I’ll have to start adding my own notches very soon. My go to casual shirt is also fairly baggy now too. It’s a strange place for me to be in, as someone who has never lost weight, and certainly not this much weight in such a relatively short period of time.

It feels good to be making this transformation, and it feels great to be finally doing something about my weight after 25+ years of feeling and being overweight. A huge part of my depression originates from my own self-loathing of my appearance. I’ve never been the athletic type, I would get bullied in school, I’ve had confidence issues all my life because I didn’t feel secure with my appearance. Now that is changing, I hope to feel more confident and have more self-esteem as the weight continues to go.

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Besides this, not a lot else has really been going on. I’ve been stuck inside for most of the holidays into mid-January thanks to weeks of torrential rain. I’ve also been mostly broke so going out and doing indoor activities, like going to the cinema, has been off the cards. But, I’ve had a pretty good month regardless. I caught up on a bunch of films and TV that I’d been meaning to do. I started catching up on reading. I started playing chess with a friend back home via a website, which is something I haven’t played since I was a kid. I still suck at it (he’s currently beating me 10-3), but it’s a great challenge.

Classes for my 2nd and final semester in the U.S. began last week, in which I was able to secure a seat in all the classes I requested. There’s no production classes this semester, so my schedule shouldn’t be as hectic as last year, but I’m already anticipating some challenges, specifically from an acting class. As mentioned above, I don’t have very much confidence/self-esteem. I took this class purposefully to help overcome that. I’ve had two classes so far and I’m already feeling out of my comfort zone. Partially I feel silly and terrible, and embarrassed about it; on the other hand, it feels good to get out of the comfort zone.

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I feel somewhat confident in my academic skills in that I don’t really feel like university/college is all that challenging — outside of the production classes that is. So when I saw this class was available I knew I had to take it to push my boundaries. Whilst other classes are going to pose their own set of relatively minor challenges, this is the one class that will probably tax me the most in terms of dealing with a subject that I have only ever witnessed from the outside. But it should be fun. It should be engaging, and it should be great for my self-esteem.

Otherwise, this month has pretty much been maintenance. I’ve enjoyed the downtime despite the disappointment of not getting out much. I got caught up on a bunch o’ stuff. And there are things coming up that I am looking forward to (and this is all despite the dumpster fire that has been Donald Trump’s first week as president! Oy, vey!!).

So I guess that’s it for this month. Until next time…

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Much love ❤

November/December 2016: Four Sticks

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Things are going pretty well this month.

These past few months might have been my busiest yet between studies, film projects, and travelling. In the U.S. it was Thanksgiving break, so I took the opportunity and planned to take the time off as most students I knew would be away from school for the majority of it. My friend (who shall henceforth be referred to as “Garth”) came to visit in that time too and we took a road trip to Arizona/Utah for 5 days. In that time we visited Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, which was just stunning. I’ll post some pictures below that I took on my iPhone 6S.

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Monument Valley from John Wayne’s allegedly favourite spot
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The view from Mather Point, South Rim, Grand Canyon
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South Rim, Grand Canyon

It was a great break away from all of the university related stuff I’d been experiencing, albeit exhausting at times, having driven 12 hours to reach Flagstaff from San Diego and visa versa, plus journey times elsewhere. It was overall a great experience in which Garth and I rekindled our friendship after not seeing each other for many years, even though we still kept in touch. His visit was exactly what I needed at the right time.

On a materialistic front; for a while I’ve been thinking about getting a DSLR camera. As a film student it would come in handy, giving me hands on experience that is more beneficial than any class will teach, but also as a film student it’s just stupid not to have a camera. My knowledge of lenses and focal lengths is still basically theoretical and I’ve been thinking for over a year now about getting a starter camera. Coming back with iPhone pictures of these incredible landscapes at Monument Valley and The Grand Canyon were great, but I really wished I could have taken better pictures. Basically, the trip gave me a kick in the arse to actually buy a DSLR camera.

The reason why I’m discussing this at length is that it is a pretty big deal to me. I try not to spend much money on myself for “things”, more so with moving around frequently, but also because I don’t especially have much in the way of money. I don’t really write about it any more, probably not since the days of 2012, but money has never been my friend and tends to trickle through my fingers like sand.

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In recent years it has become a lot better, or perhaps I should say I have become better with money. Meh, it’s a little of column A, a little of column B. I’m lucky enough to not only be funded for my education by the government, but also through university scholarships, and even some financial support from time to time from my family. Even so, typically, it can be difficult to make ends meet, even more so now I’m studying abroad. So spending a three-figure sum on myself was a tough decision and one that I had to talk myself into, because this is not a luxury item. This is not just for fun. This is something that will help me academically and professionally.

I mention all of this because of the anxiety money gives me.

It makes me feel extremely uncomfortable, and spending big sums makes me feel like I’d be making a huge mistake in doing so.

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I didn’t even want to tell my father I’d spent money on it, but I didn’t want to lie when I spoke to him on the phone when I expressed slight disappointment in the photos I took, he said, and I quote;

“You have a good eye for film and taking pictures.”the-flash-i-may-have-skullfucked-it

This gave me the courage to tell him I’d spent money on a camera (even though I don’t have to justify anything to him). Instead of an anticipated put down or derogatory remark he was actually supportive of my choice. He completely agreed with every rationale I had made and even suggested that I probably should have made the leap sooner.

It was validation I didn’t know I needed, something I never seek openly from my father because of our tumultuous history. Our relationship seems to be have repaired to a more standard familial dynamic, which is something that I’m not sure how comfortable I am with. This did however make me feel better about my choice, again, something that I wasn’t sure I was seeking from him.

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On the social front, the past few weeks have seen a marked improvement.

Seeing Garth and participating in so many film shoots over the past month, interacting with people, has helped improve my confidence and allowed me to become more extrovert – something I haven’t seen of myself probably since before I began this blog. In days of old I viewed myself as someone who, whilst introverted, had a large circle of friends with whom I could be extroverted with. This recent feeling of confidence has been a huge boost to my self-esteem.

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But having been so busy with film shoots and being an editor for most of them has left me with limited time. In fact, several weeks have passed since I began writing this post, which means it’s going up later than initially anticipated and is now encompassing December as well as November.

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This is what studying abroad has taught me; that studying at university level in the U.S. is much more hard work than anywhere else. Many European students that I’ve spoken to have also expressed a similar sentiment. Honestly, I have no idea how any student here finds free time to have a social life with the workload – and this is coming from someone who’s a borderline workaholic!screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-57-12So yeah, this workload has been intense. There have been sleepless nights, there have been all-nighters, and there has been an incredible amount of stress to get the work done.

I got to a point where I rationalised dropping the ball on some papers in order to get other projects finished, whether or not this will come back and bite me in the arse remains to be seen, but as I wrote above, I have no idea how anyone gets through their workload in the U.S. and no wonder it takes 4 years or more to graduate for a lot of students.

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But that’s all over with now. At least for 2016. In 2017 the pain begins all over again. (I’m only half joking).

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For now though, I want to look towards the future.

Last year ended downbeat. Okay, to be completely honest, most of the past year or more my reflections month-to-month have been fairly downbeat. However, I don’t really feel like things are all that bad. Sure, my mental state is constantly in flux and that probably reflects in the negative posts. I’ve still not secured a therapist to work through my longstanding issues, but I think now I am a lot more aware of where my thoughts, and my ‘rules for living’, come from. I’m acutely aware now that these rules, or at least some of them, are the the reason why I make myself isolated as opposed to isolation happening to me. It’s something internal that needs work.

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I’m spending Christmas and New Year alone for the most part. From what I can work out I think 2 of my roommates will be around at different times, but mostly I’ll be alone – and I’m kinda okay with it. Sure, I miss my family, and I wish I could be home to spend it with them, but I also don’t feel so much like it’s going to be soul destroying. I’ll be able to FaceTime home and sort of spend some of Christmas with them in a long-distance way. It’s not ideal, but I think it will service both my emotional needs, and my family’s emotional needs. What I’m trying to say is that it is going to be hard, but it won’t be as hard as what some people would believe. I’m not likely to be found staring out of a window at the rain whilst wallowing in self-pity… despite San Diego being scheduled for (and even as I write this) rain most of the holiday weekend.

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My plans for the holidays were going to involve going to the beach, but the state of the weather will likely wash away any hope of getting out that way at least until after Christmas Day. Mostly the reason why I wanted to get down to the beach was because it’s somewhere I’ve not been in San Diego/California yet, but I also want to get some use of the DSLR. I was also thinking about using the beach as a place to sit and catch up on my reading… Well, comics. See, I have a digital pile of comics that have stacked up for the past year or more than I haven’t read. In my mind I’m trying to work out if there’s a reason why I’ve let it stack up. Have I grown out of comics or have I just legitimately not made time to allow reading of any nature in my life? I kinda want to find out this holiday. Aside from that I’ve a bunch of films/TV shows to catch up on. There are also still a few films out at the cinema that I’d like to get to see (I actually saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story today as a treat to myself).

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I also got back on Keto this past Monday.

Readers will be aware that I stopped Keto after I was hospitalised earlier in the year and went home to recover. Keto was something that I had researched plenty into and prepared for to help drop the vast amount of weight I physically carry. I know a lot of people have had success with it, and for the 3 weeks or whatever it was that I was on it had me feeling a lot better about my physical appearance and even in my mental state I felt better.

Now that I have some free time and I’ve got an opportunity to prepare food for myself away from the university’s meal plan I’m getting back on the horse. Hopefully I won’t be hospitalised 3 weeks from now.

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But in all seriousness, I’m back in the mindset. Perhaps not as strongly as when I started it earlier this year, but at least strong enough to know what I need to do to enable the diet and keep to it. I now have cooking instruments and food storage containers. I let it slip a little today as I went to the cinema (like I said, it was an absolute treat for all I endured this past month or so for uni). I’m currently resisting the urge to take this cheat day to the next level and order pizza whilst watching Die Hard (because, Christmas!), which is taking all my willpower to convince myself that it will undo any of the progress in the past few days… But then again, I won’t be doing Christmas dinner this year… 🤔

So then the last thing I’ll be doing this break is getting the 2 short films I made edited to a more professional standard. I think both the stories are great and they (for the most part) look great, but they need more TLC in post-production. I’m picking up some new skills in sound and special FX that will hopefully remedy the issues with the shorts. I think if I apply the knowledge well they’ll turn out much more professional looking and would be something I’d be proud to show off to not just friends & family, but also to others at film festivals.

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This post has rambled on way too long, and I’m going to have to go back over it to see what could be trimmed down, or wether there is an appropriate GIF or meme that could be inserted to help pace this out. Regardless, I know the holiday season is not the best time for everyone. If you’re one of those out there that struggles, keep on struggling. If you feel like you need to reach out to someone at this time, you can reach out to me or please contact professional support from The Samaritans or similar organisations:

The Samaritans (UK & Ireland): http://www.samaritans.org

(The Samaritans also have a hotline to call: 08457 90 90 90 (UK), 1850 60 90 90 (Republic of Ireland))

The Samaritans (USA): http://www.samaritansusa.org

For the most part, however, I want to wish you all a Happy Holiday. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, or don’t celebrate this season at all, I hope the New Year finds you in good health – both physically and mentally.

Until 2017 and the beginning of year 6 of this site….

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Much love  ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

October/Early November 2016: In The Evening

Currently I am a little torn as to how to approach this month’s post. One one hand things are the same old, same old. On the other hand, things are actually going pretty well. I guess emotionally and practically I’ve been all over the place for the past 6 weeks (and beyond). Also, as this post has been long over due I have a lot to talk about, but I’ll try and keep it condensed.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first.

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The stress/anxiety/pressure/loneliness of uni life still hasn’t passed. Things are slowly improving, and I’m making moves to make those changes, but it is still something that has persisted. As previously discussed I have been looking into therapy whilst studying here. This has led me down a rabbit hole of making phone calls (which I’ve hated doing ever since the dark days of 2010-2012) and confirming medical insurance coverage. At the time of writing I have a tentative appointment tomorrow afternoon with a therapist, but there is a good chance the insurance isn’t going to cover that. Additionally, this therapist requires an upfront fee upwards of $100.00, which is not something I have readily available and I’m not willing to wait for a reimbursement from the insurance agency.

I have alternative options though. Earlier this month I visited the on campus health… centre?… center?… y’know, I’m just going to stick with British English, so screw it, it’s “centre”.

Anyway, I visited the health centre on campus as I was beginning to run low on my anxiety & depression medication, Sertraline (which I learnt in the USA is called “Zoloft” or something similar). My visit was nothing more than to get a refill, but I kinda figured that they’d need to do some due diligence to ensure that I wasn’t some drug fiend looking for some weird hook up. They ended up running a variety of tests that I guess are typical to American clinics; blood pressure, temperature, questionnaires on health history, and the standard mental health form – you all know the one.

When I finally met with the doctor we discussed my mental health history quite openly and candidly; and honestly, of all the GPs I’ve met and discussed my battle with mental health, he has probably been the best doctor so far. He was understanding, sympathetic (but not the fake or overly serious kind), he listened, and actually gave me some additional information about local therapists if nothing else works out. The funny thing is, with the way the search for therapy has been, I’m likely to try that number next as it might be the right fit.

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While we’re still on the medical front, it should be worth mentioning that I had a minor medical scare last week with what I thought could be another perianal abscess. I had noticed a lump “in that region” again and steadily it got more and more painful. The timing of which actually coincided with my going to the doctor, but I was hesitant to bring it up when I just wanted to get my prescription done. Luckily, 2 days later, it turned out to be just a regular abscess as I woke up in the middle of the night covered “down there” in blood and pus. It was lovely.

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I was in two minds about visiting the doctor anyway, but have ultimately opted to not go as it’s just embarrassing having to go through the examination and I’m almost 99% certain that I’ve healed with no chance of it reoccurring. If it comes back, yes, Mum, I will go to the doctor.

Segueing off of that, I think I need to mention that things are going well with the family. Even though I am still acutely aware that a lot of my mental health issues likely began with my relationship with my Dad growing up, I’m finding that our relationship has improved. I think I’ve written about this before that I think leaving home has helped that a lot, and that’s great, but I don’t know how I feel about dragging up a bunch of stuff in therapy that I know needs resolving, but that is likely to bring stuff up that could affect our improved relationship.

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I should also probably mention how my birthday went, and to a lesser degree, Halloween. Both events were spent with the MeetUp group I found online, which was great. I really enjoyed the company and had a good time, but I think I’ve been overcompensating on my social anxiety having previously struggled with interacting with people over the last few years. My way to overcompensate is to drink… and drink to excess. I’m not saying that I made a fool of myself, but after each event I felt like I had. That’s alcohol mixing with depression.

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However (in the good news section of this post), I have been attempting to be more social with my classmates. As I type this I am currently sitting on set of a production for a grad student who is making a short film. I’ve spent more time with other students that I’ve met in class, and I’m not going to say these are friendships forming, but they are social interactions where I am coming out of myself and raising my own self-esteem.

I also have something to look forward to in the coming weeks as Thanksgiving approaches in that a friend of mine whose relationship I had let deteriorate over the years to where we hardly ever saw each other is coming over to spend a break in the city. I’m currently attempting to plan a trip to Monument Valley with him, which will likely mean we’ll have to rent a car. It’s exciting, and I’m looking forward to a potential road trip with my old friend.

I, of course, still have many fears and anxieties about many things to come over the next few months, from minor things like financial standing to more emotional things like spending the long Christmas/New Year Break alone in a foreign land. I am hoping to get away for a few weeks during this period, but as I say I have my concerns and worries.

However, that’s not to say I am not optimistic about my immediate future. I’m doing a lot of film production work that I can put towards a CV/portfolio, but which is also teaching me a lot and putting me in more social situations to interact with human beings. I’ve got a friend coming to see me, and I have trips over the breaks being planned. Also, although I may be far from home, the internet will still allow me to at least be with my family visually during the holidays.

Until next time…

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Much love ❤