Saturday, October 31, 2015

Black Dog Down - October

When I look back over October, I have to acknowledge a simple truth: I’ve not achieved half my goals for this month.

And then I recognise a subtler, underlying truth: I’m okay with that.

This is significant progress for someone who has spent most of his adult existence measuring self-worth and even the value in life in terms of how much he’s achieved within any given timeframe. All too often, the answer was ‘not a whole lot’ – or so it seemed to me – and if that’s your main gauge on life and yourself, well, the results are always going to be detrimental to your health.

This change is not a seismic shift, but it’s pretty big.

So, what happened?

Well, you’d assume not very much if I didn’t achieve half my goals. And I have to fess up to slacking a little. Certainly my discipline lapsed for a fortnight or more with respect to household chores and maintaining a clutter-free environment. Not sure why I let that slide, but I did and I’m not proud of that because that was going well. Energy levels have been a factor, with insomnia and consequent fatigue at record highs. 

Alcohol consumption is also up, which – although  it has tended to feel pretty good at the time of drinking – is probably not helping. But, hey, at least some of the drinking was social and the evenings can get lonely without a bottle.

(Note: this is not a guide on how to tackle depression. This is only how I’m tackling it and, as often as not, failing. Follow my example at your peril.)

Still, even if alcohol is a poor choice of fuel I’ve been getting decent mileage per gallon. Because while my checklist of goals achieved looks as thin as a Tory promise I have been busy. I just happened to have achieved some things that weren’t on my list of goals at the start of the month.

It’s good to have alternatives and a fair degree of flexibility to go with the discipline.
One of my original October goals I did complete was a short story, which I can’t tell you much about, but while I overran my initial estimated delivery time by a few days the finished story was that much better for those extra days. It was a real treat to work on and simply having that project was a major morale boost. And if I can’t take the credit for the opportunity – it came out of the blue via a social media contact – I can take the credit for the story.

Not one for self-congratulatory pats on the back as a rule, but sometimes you just have to give yourself a thumbs up and say, I did that. Even if it is a relatively small thing, they can be huge in your personal scheme.

This month has also seen some developments and forward movement on two other projects and there’s no denying that a few doses of good news can go a long way. Certainly it’s better fuel than the alcohol. Externally sourced boosts are no cure for depression, but they have their medicinal effects. As important as it is not to depend on them, it’s vital to recognise and appreciate them when they do come your way. More than that – embrace them.

Again, one of these arose serendipitously out of a social media contact and I can’t claim any credit for that, beyond being a sociable and affable and highly approachable individual, natch. The other though, stemmed from me and an approach I ventured some time ago. When the opportunity presents itself you still have to have the courage to say yes. And again, dispense with the modesty for a bit and say, I did that. I made that happen.

On the surface that seems like I’m still measuring the month by what I achieved, but there’s more to the picture than that.

Shit happens, as we know, and October wasn’t like shit’s month off or anything. I got hit with frustrations, annoyances, anxieties and all the usual depression triggers. The sprinklings of good news served as armour and although the slings and arrows of RLC (real-life crap) still stung and still knocked me down, their effects were shorter-lived than usual.

Previously, if a bad thing happened, my brain ruled that it was a bad day. I think, with a little cushioning from the positives, I was able to gain a little distance and a healthier perspective. Not yet ready to rise up against a sea of troubles – what with the insomnia, it’s a miracle I rise up at all in the mornings. But I’m adjusting to the idea that external factors, those outside of my control, need not ruin – or even make (if it’s some good shit coming at me) – my day.

The lesson here is that I can make – or ruin – my day.

So, gradually, as the month has gone on, I’ve worked to apply that lesson.

Trivial little things, such as the social media activity I’ve mentioned before. This month, daily posts about Doctor Who, which have often invited great diversity of opinion and sparked lively fun discussions. Yay for that. Also ensuring there’s a treat or two in the month, treats that aren’t actually dependent on anything I’ve achieved. A reward system is all well and good, but there’s no harm in the occasional reward just because.

The downside, of course, is a looming financial crisis, but hopefully I can stave that off by generating some more work for myself. For example, I’m taking the step of offering my services as an editor for authors. It may not resolve the deficit, but for right now it’s enough that I’m taking that step. A little boldness in that direction may translate to boldness in other areas. Quite a difference from August, say, where I’d sunk to a horrible place of wondering what the fuck was the point of it all. Today, I know that the point is me.

At the risk of going all L’Oreal on yo ass, I’m worth it.

In another bold step, I’ve decided to start phasing out the medication. This will likely be the process of a month or more and I sense a degree of trepidation as I type that, but it’s a case of feel the fear and do it anyway. The idea  is to shift the emphasis from supportive chemicals to what I can do for myself. And I think that’s key and the timing’s right.

My head is full of plans for the months ahead, as well as a few treats in the social/entertainment calendar, and it’s great to have that motivation and focus and, quite simply, ‘stuff to look forward to’ – but one truth I want to hold onto is that my November will not be dependent on any of that. I’m sure a lot of it will help but it should not determine the success or worth of those 30 days.

That will be down to me.


Sure. But it’s Halloween. A bit of scary is good.

Happy Halloween, folks.