Tag Archives: getting better

Onwards and Upwards

Nothing gets your day off to a bright start better than a 7.30 am visit to your psychiatrist.

I presume mine offers such an early appointment so that people can visit him and still be at work on time (I was in at ten to nine), avoiding explanations that they might have to give if they arrived later. “Sorry I’m late, I’ve been at my shrink” is a sentence which bosses tend to remember when the time comes for handing out promotions. As a career move it has the same effect as writing “I hate my job” on your Facebook page, or making one of the girls in HR cry (a long story, but she is actually a friend of mine and it wasn’t really my fault).

Anyway, we’re still working away, trying different techniques and medicines to see if we can crack the derealisation, the feeling that everything that is happening is slightly unreal, which I’m surprised to realise I’ve been suffering from for four years now (time flies when you don’t notice what’s going on).  It‘s the only real mental issue that I have left. My lying awake from 3.30 am each morning is gone (I wouldn’t say that I sleep like a baby, but since babies wake up every three hours and cry their eyes out that’s just as well), my stress levels are massively reduced, my unfounded fears now lie unfound and, touch wood (my superstition is gone as well), I haven’t had a bad bout of depression for over two years. So the derealisation is the only problem left, and as my shrink has said before it is notoriously hard to shift.

He told me this morning he knows one woman who has had it for 20 years.

Just as well I don’t get easily depressed any more.

Guardian Angel

Back in February I wrote that it’s ten years since my breakdown and first real bout of depression.

I couldn’t remember the exact date that it started, only that it between February 14th and 28th, so I picked a day and used that as the anniversary.

I can’t remember the exact date of the event I’m about to recall now either, but it was on a Saturday night in April, and the 21st was a Saturday in 2001, so today will do.

When it all started I dragged myself to my doctor feeling embarrassed and ashamed, and he assured me that I was far from being the only person who‘d ever fallen into depression like this, gave me tablets and lots of advice.Among other things he told me that the tightness just under my breastbone was the muscles contracting through stress, and that a long walk every evening would help this.

He was right. Each evening I took a long walk the whole away around the town and by the time I got home the tightness would be gone. I was still desperately depressed, still desperately fearful about who-knows-what, still very, very sad.

And one Saturday evening, let’s say ten years ago today, I was out on my usual walk. Part of the walk took me through a narrow lane, and on this particular evening there were a group of teenage lads and girls hanging around the entrance. I could hear their accents as I neared them, they were the kind of kids who were probably all at university and were into rugby, and long evenings chatting about how old people (those over 30) were fecking up the world (God, they’d no idea, we were only starting).

One of them was a slightly chubby, bespectacled guy, slightly taller than me, who looked like a teenage Elton John. I have no idea what came over him, but he suddenly ran at me, thrust his face close to mine and roared a sound that’s almost impossible to spell, but was more or less like “Whoaaaaarrrhhhh!!!!”

I’m not sure what reaction he thought he’d get. I bet he’d never thought he’d get none, but at that stage I was so dead inside that I wouldn’t have recoiled if he’d been carrying a machete. I never broke stride, but did turn my head to look expressionlessly at him as I passed. His eyes met mine, and for a brief second he stared into deep, soul-destroyed blackness.

I’d often heard the phrase “his face dropped”, but for the first time ever I knew what it meant.

His roar petered out, he shuffled backwards back to his mates, I kept walking.

If we do have Guardian Angels I’d rather mine looked like the one on the right. But it seems they come in unexpected shapes and sizes, and I got that kid instead. Because as I continued my walk the look on the his face kept coming back into my mind and eventually, for the first time in over two months, I grinned.

It was the night I began to get better.

Close to My Heart

A birthday wish to part of me,
My pacemaker today is three.
I hate it still, this metal cube
That looks like I’ve a third man-boob.
(At least it means I’ll never flirt,
Because I won’t remove my shirt,
Nor will I hang round singles bars
Coz actually chicks do NOT dig scars).
My dignity I quickly lose
When I get pulled from airport queues
Because I can’t use their x-ray
(Got FIRMLY frisked at JFK).
I will not swim, or use a gym,
Lest others catch a glimpse of him
(And those of you who know me well
Will know I miss the gym – like hell).
And finally, it really smarts
When it turns on…. like nipple-farts.

And yet…

I’m free to cycle, and to drive
I’m even free to deep-sea dive
(I’d never want to, but I can
Coz I can do like any man).
I do not black-out anymore
And smack my face upon the floor.
For if I am about to fall
– Because my heart-rate’s sweet-fuck-all-
My pacemaker will fill the void
Now that I’m a part android.
So though it’s still an ugly lump,
My battery-operated pump,
Today I’ll toast it with a beer –
Without it I might not be here.

Golden Slumbers

Since I have started to sleep a bit better, I have noticed a strange habit that I have developed (normally people will sit up and pay attention when a blogger announces they are about to reveal a strange bedroom habit, but then most bloggers aren’t my age. Remembering to leave out my surgical truss for the morning is about as strange as my bedroom habits get these days (that’s not true, by the way, I’m just trying to be funny (yeah, well, we’ve told you before, don’t try that (shit, how many close-brackets do I need now to get out of this sentence in one grammatical piece?)))), (think that’s right).

When I turn over in my sleep, I always turn to my right.

If I am lying on my left, this is of course quite simple, and indeed blindingly obvious. However, if I am lying on my right, and wish to face the other way, I will still turn to my right, dipping my right shoulder and dragging my sleepy face across the pillow and then finding some way of squeezing my left shoulder under me so I can emerge triumphantly (though too asleep to feel smug) facing in the desired direction.

This would be harmless enough if it weren’t for the fact that turning all night in the one direction causes my body to act like the key on a sardine tin, with the duvet playing the role of the lid. I end up effectively mummifying myself, tightly wrapped in a tog-cocoon, while unfortunately leaving Mrs Tin cold, in every possible meaning of that sentence.

I don’t know how to explain it. Perhaps in a previous life I was a chicken on a rotisserie. Or a pig on a spit (which would account for my dislike of apple-tart).

Anyway (oh God), what strange bedroom habits do you have?

Bono Vox

I’ve just heard my own voice.

With normal people this would be of  “dog bites man” newsworthiness, not quite matching, say, the first moon landing or the fall of the Berlin Wall for its capacity to enthrall and grip. But I am not normal people, and it’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to me for quite a while.

I was in a shop just now buying a pencil (look, I didn’t say everything about this story is exciting) and the assistant and I both had a look at the label below it to see how much it cost. The label was partly torn, however, and I heard my voice say “it doesn’t help much, does it?”

And it was my voice, and when I heard it I realised that it’s been a couple of years since I’ve heard it. Instead I’ve just heard this muffled, far-away, could-be-anyone voice speaking my (admittedly still sparkling) words instead of me, as if I were a paramilitary being voiced by an actor.

Now, my voice is not pretty. Had I been the narrator of Under Milk Wood when it first appeared on radio it would never have become famous. If James Earl Jones retires I am unlikely to pick up his voiceover gigs. I don’t think I’m high on the list of people they ring when they want someone to play the Voice of God. On the other hand, if the person who does Olive Oyl suddenly drops dead they may well give me a call.

But today, just for that one sentence, my slightly nasal voice with its hint of a Dublin accent was back. And I’ve never heard anything so lovely.

It’s one more sign that the real world might be coming back.

Show Us Your Nuts

Any potential suspense attached to how I got on at the loony bin Psychiatrist this morning has largely been dispelled by the very existence of this post. For it’s pretty obvious that, unless I’m typing this with my nose (and God knows I wouldn’t be any slower), I am not presently  in a straitjacket.

The whole experience was, well, an experience, and oddly very enjoyable.

My preparation began subconsciously last night when, while left in the house for a while on my own, I ended up watching an episode of Monk. It was only while he was sitting with his shrink that I realised that this probably wasn’t the best thing to be watching (and also realised, sadly, that he’s one of the TV characters I most identify with). Anyway, this morning I got up (got an extra 90 minutes lie-in too) and set off for a morning of detailed analysis.

By me. Everything that happened was carefully examined to see what clues, if any, could be gleaned. What should I wear? (“Will I try and look casual, professional, frazzled”)? My appointment was in Stillorgan at 8.30, & I’d to get there by car. Since my normal trip is to the city centre at 7, and I get there by train, I’d no idea what the traffic might be like. Imagine if I got there late (“what would that tell him about me?”). To be safe I left at 7.30, and was there at ten to eight (“how anal will he think that is?”).

I went onto the building (known as the Stress Clinic), explained to the large black Security Guard who I was to see, and he escorted me (“why? because I’m dangerous?”) to a seat outside the doctor’s door. Here I suffered the only really uncomfortable experience of the whole morning – there was a girl already in with him, a girl with one of those, “like, you know, D4” accents, and I could hear what she was saying. I thought of listening to my iPod (“what if he catches me? Will he think I’m withdrawing from reality?”) but decided instead to look at the magazines. These consisted of: 3 Hello!s, one OK!, one Look!, one Bazaar (“why doesn’t Bazaar have an exclamation mark? Is their Editor depressed?”), and a copy of the Irish Medical Journal. This told me that either (a) there are far more mad women than mad men or that (b) his secretary buys his magazines.

I flicked through a couple of these (Jennifer Aniston has a new boyfriend – who knew?) and eventually the girl came out. I met my doctor, handed over 250 euro (told you I was mad) and I was welcomed for the first time into a Psychiatrist’s room.

He sat in a chair, and I was directed to a comfy 2-seater sofa (not a couch, which I must admit, being a huge fan of stereotype, that I was slightly disappointed with). There was a five-cent coin on the seat, which had obviously fallen out the the pocket of my predecessor (“or had it? What will it tell him if I pick it up?” By now I was ridiculously paranoid). I left it there – sat on it, in fact – and in a quiet and reassuring voice he asked me to tell my story.

Which I did. He impressed me several times at his perception (when I told him about my blackout/pacemaker/heart problems, he said “ah, did they tell you it was Stokes-Adams Syndrome?”, and when I said no, they never mentioned that, he Google’d it and there it was exactly as if someone had followed me around for eighteen months).

He says I don’t have depersonalisation, I have “derealisation” (and again, Google backs him up), and has started me on tablets to try & calm inner anxieties & to combat the ridiculously small amount of sleep I get each night.

I’ve to see him again in six weeks, but I really am hopeful that he’s putting me on the right track.