Previously on Black Dog Down...
“A month of R&R. Surely even I can’t fail at that.”
Thought I’d open with that quote as I was fairly sure at the time I wrote it that, yes, even I could fail at a month of R&R. And I did, to some extent.
You see, the truth is, well, I did some work. I wish I could claim I didn’t mean to and it just happened, but I would be deceiving myself. Which isn’t difficult after years of practice pretending to friends and family and casual acquaintances alike that you’re okay or doing fine. But I can’t make a convincing case here.
By the start of May I was still behind schedule on applying the make-up and cosmetic surgery to the latest book in my Evil UnLtd series. And with it being a sci-fi comedy I was keen to see it released in time for Towel Day (25th May). Not imperative – I mean, the world wouldn’t have imploded or been consumed by a mutant star goat if I didn’t make it. But – but I kind of knew the Black Dog would chew away at me if I let that goal pass me by.
So it became a matter of balancing the need for R&R with the – let’s not say need, but – preference for realising this one small-scale ambition. And actually I’m glad to say I managed to achieve that. Most days this month involved a decent quantity of rest and recreation – catching up on some good TV, a trip or two to the cinema, liberal dashes of video gaming, fun day out at a local beer festival (yesterday), availing myself of a few new purchases, treats edible or otherwise – all interspersed with rationed spells of productivity. Not to mention a healthy portion of that productivity qualified as bona fide creativity, aka fun, aka didn’t feel like work at all.
So. Score one for the good guys. Take that, Black Dog. I’ll soon have that bastard performing tricks for me on Britain’s Got Talent.
Well, okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Before we hang out the bunting and start tossing confetti and fireworks all over the place, it’s important to acknowledge that there have been setbacks.
Folks in the UK will recall that we had a General Election here at the beginning of May. It’s all done now, albeit the dust will continue to settle over the course of the next five years.
Now there’s nothing quite like news and politics and global events to depress the shit out of you. So much so, it’s a wonder that constipation is still so common in the modern world. Such worries are like foxes constantly getting in amongst my personal chickens. These are realities that I’m sometimes ashamed to say I have to isolate myself from, retreating into my shell to protect myself. But if I find it a challenge to refrain from work for a month, I find it impossible to not care.
Care often translates into anger and, yes, further depression. There’s a sense of futility too, when you realise how little difference you can make. Obviously, you know you can’t carry that on your shoulders, but that doesn’t prevent it from weighing you down on (too many) occasions.
Anger can be useful. Indeed, prior to the election, it energised me to quite a degree and some stories in the press continue to do so. But at the same time I am conscious of a level of deflation in the wake of the result. Without getting into the political debate, it was an outcome I believe will have disastrous consequences for many of the poor and disadvantaged in this country. Note: not me. People who are far far worse off than me.
Anyway, it affected me and before we get to the longer term damage to society etc, it had an immediate impact on my battle versus depression. Not as major an impact as the word count afforded it here will lead you to believe, but significant, I’d say, and worth taking the time to reflect on and consider how I can better manage my reactions to such things in the future.
(Ultimately, it’s another reason why we need to be more conscious of mental health issues, because while some of us retain some element of control over our own environs, wider society will inevitably have its effects and those are something that, beyond the power of the vote, most of us can do approximately sod all about.)
Speaking of the future, it was nearer to the end of the month that news struck closer to home. News of an impending change of personal circumstances that, although it hasn’t happened yet, is having its impact. The kind of impact that ought to seriously trouble my pet dinosaurs if I had any. Yes, there’s a personal asteroid headed my way and there’s not a Bruce Willis or a Ben Affleck with a space shuttle in sight to divert it off course.
Don’t worry, it’s nothing life-threatening. But it is mental-health threatening.
My preparatory coping strategy in response to this is to try to focus on the practicalities. Finances and the like. At some point there will be emotional fallout to deal with but for the time being I am maintaining a (slightly wobbly, I’ll admit) equilibrium.
So we approach June knowing there are clouds on the horizon and with a high probability that the Black Dog will be pawing at the door.
But I think the (mostly) time off in May has helped me. It’s less a matter of armouring myself, more a case of affording me a little clear headspace, freeing up a bit of room in there to (we hope) deal with things better. We’ll see, time will tell and all that, as usual.
Since May turned out to be a mix of work and recreation, I’ve promised myself an extension of that ‘holiday’, with at least the first week dedicated to more of the same.
Actually, more time off and (aside from some ongoing short story writings, which are just another form of gaming in a way) less work.
And around midway through I’ve plans to start work on a new project which, in theory, should provide some creative excitement and enthusiasm. To say nothing of an added diversion from real life.
And I don’t know that it’s entirely healthy to say this, but diversions from real life are always welcome.