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.

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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.

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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…

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Much love ❤

March 2017: Cat People (Putting Out Fire)

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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 ❤