Tag Archives: stress

No Post Today

As the readership of my modest blog (it’s the blog that’s modest, not me, I’m brilliant) grows slowly larger, more and more of my friends and my family have discovered and are reading it. This is great, but has one disadvantage. I’m less likely to vent about the mental issues (I typed “metal issues” there by mistake, which if I’d not noticed it would have given the impression that my pacemaker was beginning to rust) that occasionally plague me if I know that it’s going to be read by people who think I’m a calm, cheerful ray of sunshine, a slightly less annoying version of Pollyanna.

I can’t write, for example, about the reasons why my posts are appearing at the moment less frequently than Halley’s Comet. I can’t use the excuse that it’s because I’m depressed again, more so than I have been for a couple of years now. I can’t write that I am massively stressed about work, even though there is nothing going on there to be massively stressed about.

I can’t write that all of this is affecting my sleep again, that I wake at ludicrous times and lie for hours thinking about work, about things that I can’t exactly fix while in bed at three o’clock in the morning and many of which don’t really need fixing anyway.

I can’t write that I woke on Saturday at three am and lay there until five, fell asleep for a while and then got up at seven-thirty. I can’t write that yesterday – Sunday – morning I woke at four and lay there until I eventually got up at six. Yes, six o’clock on a Sunday morning, a time that I had previously believed to be mythical, like the Wonder Years, Sheffield Wednesday and the Age of Aquarius.

I can’t write that I am writing this on the six o’clock train (the buses haven’t even started running yet) because I got up at five this morning.

When it comes to my sleep pattern you could set your clock by me at the moment, if by that you mean that you could get your clock set by me, since I’m always awake to do it for you.

And I can’t write that I am tired, so, so tired, so, so exhausted. I take out my computer each morning and evening on the bus, write about ten words of blather and then put it away again, defeated by the fact that I can’t remember how to spell cat, let alone write about one (the fact that I don’t have a cat is, of course, another drawback in this particular example).

I can’t write about the fact that I can’t write.

So I won’t.

Going Swimmingly

I am not at work today.

Since about last Friday I have had a headache that I just cannot shake off. I have been able to stun it into submission with paracetamol, but it struggles up after about two hours and comes back, nagging me from inside with its dull ache.

Yesterday at work I just got fed up with it, didn’t feel that I should take yet more tablets and so I just came home and lay down in  a dark room. I woke at work time this morning, realised that it was still there and so took today off too.

It seems to be coming from tension in my neck and upper shoulders. I have an exercise where I hold my left hand above my right ear and pull my head over to the right, and then vice versa. For the last few days I’ve only been able to move it a couple of inches.

One fairly obvious answer would be to go for a swim in our local leisure centre, but I am not comfortable exposing my torso to other people. It has three visible  though unattached scars, as though I was attacked by Zorro when he was drunk, and the pacemaker is a visible lump which makes me look like a cartoon character who has swallowed a tennis ball.

I was bemoaning these issues to Mrs Tin when she said “why not swim in the sea”. It turns out that she was only joking, but should have learnt by now not to do that. I sat in the garden in the sunshine, thought about it for a while, then came back into the kitchen and announced that I was going for it.

And I did. I walked down our beach (an uncomforable experience, there is a reason why our town is called Greystones and not Goldensands), left my clothes and towel in a little pile (the disadvantages I mentioned above were advantages here, when you have three scars and a tattoo no-one is going to steal your stuff) and strode manfully in.

It was cold, I can’t deny that, and I am sorry that I premiered the made-up word “Numbits” in yesterday’s post since it has a far more relevant place in today’s, but it was great. I swam for a few strokes, let waves fall over me, went and sat on the beach just at the water-line, so that the water would lap over and under my legs, and then did it all again.

At one stage the pockets of my shorts filled with air and I remembered that the Tinfamily, on holidays in Majorca or Malta long ago, used to refer to these as “side-butts”, thus adding nostalgia to an already fun experience.

I’ve been home about an hour now and have already eaten a bowl of strawberries with custard, three Jaffa cakes and a tomato-filled bagel. I am still starving.

And my neck is slightly better, I can roll it from side-to-side now without getting that sound as if a platoon of soldiers is marching on gravel.

It’s 1.20 now and I have an afternoon stretching in front of me that consists of blogging in the sun, reading in the sun and snoozing in the sun. If you’re going to pick a day to be sick, then try and pick a lovely one.

I’ll be back at work tomorrow, hopefully far browner than when I left there yesterday. I hope they understand.

Revolving Doors

Picture an old, long-closed hotel. Inside it is dreary, desolate and lonely, with deep black shadows and frightening scurrying sounds in the dark.

Imagine that the only things that work are its revolving doors and that sometimes as you pass the hotel you step into the doors and roundabout yourself in them. You catch brief glimpses of the dark as you whizz merrily by, but you always emerge into the bright sunshine.

Sometimes, though, you get it wrong and find yourself stepping out of the spinning doors into the darkness.

Now imagine that all of this is your brain. Or mine, at any rate.

Too many long days, too many work problems, too little sleep (I work up at three yesterday morning, which would sound absolutely dreadful were it not for this morning, when I woke at ten to two) have made me miss my stop, as it were, so I have stepped out of the doors on the wrong side.

Some people get lost in the dark of the hotel. Some even try to book in. I have always found my way out, and will do so again, although the doors are harder to push from that side.

I am taking next week off (yes, this is only my seventh day back at work after a whole ten days off, what’s your point) to rest and recover. 

It is January, so I am unlikely to feel sunshine on my shoulders, but I will yet again feel sunshine in my mind.

Postamostadays

Sorry about yesterday, I went on strike.

I get 24 days holidays a year, with a day added each month if I have to work more than eight hours overtime during the first four days in which GoldenEyes and I are expected to produce a whole load of reports. As this happens most months I have the equivalent of over six weeks holidays a year.

Which I find it hard to get my head around. I was self-employed for 19 years and during that time I took a week off at Christmas. I started taking summer holidays only when we started going on family holidays abroad, 12 years into my self-employment (occasionally the reasons for my nervous breakdown become clearer and clearer). Other than that I would take the odd half-day off if a really close relative or friend was getting married or had a baby.

If they did both on the same day I might take the whole day off so that I could stand by with hot water and towels, which as everyone who has watched The Waltons knows is all you need to deliver children.

As we are not going away this year I made no attempt to book any days off. Thus at the start of June I had 29 days holidays left so GoldenEyes printed out a calendar and dragged me into a meeting room. We crossed out all the days at month-beginning and month-end that I just can’t take off, crossed out all the days she was taking off and she looked at what was left. Then for each of the months she just marked days here and there, saying now, you’re taking those days off.

This means that I have today and Monday off, a four-day break which should be a time of bliss, rest and the delicious pleasure of listening to your kids having to get up when you don’t. Yet all week I’ve found it hard to get excited about it, and even yesterday on the bus home I wasn’t especially looking forward to it. Then I suddenly realised why.

I would have to write a post every day, so I wasn’t really on holiday at all.

I love blogging and want to write as often as possible, but hadn’t realised how the much the pressure of having to write something every day because I’d signed up (mentally) for the Postaday 2011 was getting to me. So I decided that I would not turn on my computer last night. I splodged in front of the telly, watched half a football match (well done, Stoke City), a Yankees baseball game that wasn’t even live and the last two episodes of a series that I recorded weeks ago.

The world did not end (actually maybe it did, I haven’t left the house today), WordPress did not send goons around to beat me, nor did they remotely remove the “I’m Part Of Postaday2011” sign from my blog. I am still devoid of ideas for the rest of the weekend but do not care as much.

I will continue to stick to the Post a Day, but only when I feel like it, like a devout Catholic who takes the pill and eats meat on Fridays.

Grumpy Old Man

Today’s post contains a certain amount of swearing, for which I apologise. It’s not my swearing, I’m just the narrator here, but like secondary smoke it still leaves its own mark.

The subject of my tale is an old bearded guy who is on my bus every morning. He sits reading for most of the journey in the front seat upstairs, and I sit just behind him, writing and listening to my iPod.

As we get about a mile from the city centre he puts away his book and I start to pack up my netbook.

Normally I leave the iPod on until the stop before mine, but one morning about a fortnight ago I took it off a couple of stops early and suddenly clearly heard him grumbling “oh, fuck’s sake, what’s he at“. I listened more closely, as you do, and realised that he was swearing at the driver downstairs.

I’m ashamed to say that I started putting my iPod away each morning as soon as he put his book away so that I could listen along. If he thinks he’s doing it under his breath, trust me he isn’t.

He has set standards that no driver could possibly live up to. The fact that there is other traffic on the road is no excuse for tardiness. After each stop we have to pull back out into the stream of cars, none of whom are happy to let a large bus out and be stuck behind it, so they all pass by leaving the bus sitting indicating patiently. “Fucking Jaysus, come on,” he’ll mutter, quite audibly.

Perhaps he thinks he’s in Kitt from Knight Rider, and we can jump traffic.

It’s not just the driver with whom he’s unhappy. One morning a girl’s mobile rang. Now it was 7.30 am, she did speak very loudly about total shite (sorry, that swearing was mine) for far too long, but that’s what happens on public transport. The rest of us just wrote her off as a twit, but he stared furiously across at her for the entire duration of her call.

We regularly get held up behind delivery vans parked in the bus lane while they, well, deliver. “Ah, get out of the fucking way“, he’ll moan.

He glowers at every passenger as they troop downstairs at any stop, obviously feeling that they should speed up the disembarking process by hurling themselves through a window instead.

As it’s the first bus of the morning, leaving Greystones before seven, it’s never totally packed but yesterday morning it was quite full, so a girl suddenly appeared beside him and motioned at him to move his bag from the seat so she could sit down.

I thought he was going to explode. I was amazed that she was able to sit there. I thought that the aura of sheer hatred emanating from him as he moved his bag onto his lap would act as a force field that she would just bounce off. If she had burst into flames under the glare of his glare I would not have been at all surprised.

When she got off he turned to stare at her departing rear as she made her way down the stairs (I have to admit that I did too, but only because she was quite attractive, and sorry, that‘s what men do). He then turned his fierce gaze onto her as she made her way up the street, not stopping until we had passed her and she was far out of sight.

As he looked sideways out the window I was able to study his face. I described him earlier as an old man, since his straggly beard and sour expression make him at first glance appear so, but having looked more closely at him I doubt now that he’s 60 yet, which makes him not that much older than me.

He obviously has enormous stress issues, and reminds me far too much of the overwound, sleep-deprived, internally-seething me of not too long ago.

I kept my iPod playing this morning, since I don’t find him entertaining anymore. I feel sorry for him, and hope that he gets some sort of help.

I could so easily have been him.

Adversity, In Versity

I haven’t used the WordPress daily prompt for quite a while now, but last night’s was “Write a haiku about something that drives you nuts”.

So here is the story of yesterday, re-told through the medium of bonsai poetry:

HR give us forms –
We rate how well we’re working.
Thought that was their job.
*************************
Watering a cup
Then leaving it in the sink
Does not make it clean.
*************************
Raving about cups
To friends who didn’t do it
Makes lunchtime quite tense.
**************************
Stress can make you dizzy
Which is not good for your heart.
I should know that best.
**************************
Now I’ll say sorry
To my best friend at work
She’ll back me – again.
**************************
The haiku just above
Has six bits in the middle
It’s just a crock of
**************************
All that drove me nuts?
No, that’s just the whole problem.
I’m already nuts.
**************************
You lot really help
When you are so supportive
Hope you all know that.
**************************
Today’s another day
I feel a whole lot better –
Told you I would win.

Man in the Tin Mask

There are two mes.

There is blogging Tinman, the guy you all know from here. He is clever, funny, inventive and relentlessly full of himself. He has more women friends than male and has never quite been sure why that is. He is generally cheerful, though he does occasionally share with you all about the darker side of his mind.

But there is also real-world Tinman, the guy most of you will probably never meet. He is clever, funny, inventive and relentlessly full of himself. He has more women friends than male and has never quite been sure why that is. He is generally cheerful, though he does occasionally share with some of those friends all about the darker side of his mind.

Of course we are identical, how could we not be. We are more than soulmates, we are soulsharers.

Blogging Tinman has committed himself to writing something every day this year. It’s terrifying and terrific. It’s taken my writing in most unexpected directions, it makes the bus journeys fly by, it makes me forget all about work and anything else that might be bothering me. Most evenings I look forward to it.

But today I had a really bad day, starting by letting myself get far too pissed off by the quarterly self-assessing crap that we have to fill out at work. I later stropped angrily in the kitchen about the fact that the sink was, as always, full of cups (people in our office believe that the Cup Fairy carries them the two feet from there to the dishwasher) and then, aware that I’d made a gobshite of myself, sat sullenly and silently at my desk for the afternoon, further darkening the atmosphere not just for me but for people around me who are truly great, supportive friends. I got so stressed at basically nothing that I got dizzy, and it was frightening, because I haven’t made myself like that for a long, long time.

I’m not writing this post looking for sympathy or support, by the way. I behaved like a total tit (I use phrases like that, yet still have more women friends) and don’t deserve any.

I’m just explaining why there is no jolly post today. It would just seem so false.

Tomorrow will be better. I have decided that, so will be better prepared to fight the blackness.

We are Tinman. We always win.

The Child Within You

Jo wrote a lovely post a couple of weeks ago in which she quoted Polly Devlin speaking about your inner child.

I have one too, though I must admit that far too often I keep him in his room, playing quietly away with his crayons, his imagination and the wonderful innocent belief that all children have that every day will be great. As we get older too many of us suppress this belief, and fill the void left with self-doubt, pessimism and endless stress.

Jo says that you should speak to this inner child. Sometimes you don’t have to, he rushes out and yells merrily at you.

Today was a tough, busy day at the end of a tough, busy week at work and I have to admit that I was letting it get to me and was in a thoroughly bad mood. Then I had to find the phrase “Arts Council” in a very, very long spreadsheet. I went to a blank cell, duly typed Control+ F, and then “arts”. Except, of course, that I have all the typing ability of a man wearing boxing gloves, standing on a hammock, so I typed Shift+F and “arts” instead.

Which meant that the cell now contained the word “Farts”.

Grown-up, grumpy me might have smiled to myself for about half a second and started again, but little child me, Tinboy, dropped his crayons, raced out of his room and shouted “honest, Tinman, this is dead funny, giggle like a looner”.

So I did. And I felt better.

Sometimes he’s more sensible than I am.

Stress Test

Perhaps the post setter at Postaday2011 reads what I write. Perhaps he has noticed that in both previous posts I have ignored his suggested topic and when he has jokingly said “maybe that won’t suit you, because your blog is about such-and-such” then I have written about the such-and-such instead.

I’d love to think so, and not just because it means that I’d have one more reader. I’d like to think that he’ll take it as a challenge, that whenever he comes up with a post topic he also think of as difficult as possible an alternative. For example, I’m hoping that he’ll have a topic like “Isn‘t science difficult?”, for instance, then he’ll say “it’s ok if your blog is about what would happen if Pavlov‘s dog met Schrodinger’s cat” and then think “hah, have a go at that one then, Tinman.”

Some days he’d win, some days I would. Certainly he’s set me a challenge today. His topic is “Do you feel stressed?” His outcard, though, is that this might not suit me if my post is about how I have just enjoyed 1000 stress-free days.

If this was a new blog and I had no regular readers I might have a go at the latter one. I might extol the virtues of herbal tea, or of listening to whale song, or of the sense of inner peace that I feel because I was able to help a Nigerian princess move her funds away from a thieving government simply by giving her my bank account details (the money will be through any day now). I could write that I’ve known since childhood that it is perfectly possible to be stress-free, since the Postman Pat song says “Pat feels he’s a really happy man”, though as I grew older I began to suspect in the back of my mind that Postman Pat is happy really because he has a brain the size of a peanut and a job for life.

But you people know me, so my claim of stresslessness would be met with scorn and derision (which would be a source of stress in itself). All my posts about my depression, my derealisation and the fact that I am on more medication than the 1968 Czechoslovakian women’s Olympic shot-put team all are evidence against me. So is the fact that my closest friend at work gave me a book on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Christmas (which is what a close friend does, she doesn’t give you socks, she gives you something she hopes will make you less sad).

And this is the first week of the month, and therefore my very busiest time. We have to produce a series of reports to an extremely tight deadline, so this is a week in which I usually, being full of care, can find no time to stop and stare. But this month we’re so far behind that we have absolutely no chance of making the deadline, and oddly that’s a great stress reliever. We just look at one another, shrug, think “what’s the worst that could happen?” and hump off home early. So although I am normally the essence of stressence, just as this very moment I’d answer the question “do you feel stressed?” with a firm “No.” If it weren’t for one thing.

Earlier this week I pledged to write a post every day for the rest of the year.

No Play

Everyone knows the saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

Well, the last week or so has been all work and no play. The start of each month, I may have mentioned before (see, I am a dull boy), is an extremely busy time for GoldenEyes and I, as we have to have a series of reports prepared by the end of the 4th working day. There are about 56 pages in these reports by now, and to be honest I am doubtful that all of them get read, but my plan to test this theory by sticking a paragraph from a Harry Potter book at random into one of the pages has been vetoed by GoldenEyes.

Our 4th day target is taxing but doable, as long as we do a fair bit of overtime, which we’re allowed take time off for later in the month. Occasionally, especially if we get messed about by people not supplying us with info, we announce that the reports will not be on time. However, each quarter there is a staff briefing, held in a hotel near our office, and the reports we produce form an important part of the management’s presentation. In other words, in months where there is a briefing our reports simply cannot be late, as the thought of our MD standing in front of 200 people saying “well, I’ve got nuthin'”, and the thought of his likely mood in the ensuing days make sure that we get them done on time.

This quarter the hotel was booked out for last Thursday, so the HR director, without considering for one second whether it was possible or not, booked the meeting for Wednesday. This was the 4th working day, so now instead of having our stuff ready by the end of that day (and we count the end of that day as meaning any time before midnight) we had to have it ready that morning, so that the info could be put into those little powerpoint images full of arrows, or pie-charts, or manhattan-like column charts – all those things that management like to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary on the faces of the audience, make their briefing an enthralling, gripping event. In other words, we had to do it in three days.

Well, since the meeting had already been announced and couldn’t be changed, and since we do like the MD and knew it wasn’t his fault, we got it done, though believe me it’s never happening again. We got it done by working all day Saturday, and by getting home at ten every other night. We have a timesheet system and by the end of that 4th day my timesheet had seven days’ work on it.

But of course this all comes at a price. I spent the four days swearing violently at my computer and myself when ever I made a mistake, though in fairness I do this all the time (I do it when I’m blogging, the kids think it’s really funny). But I had this constant pressured feeling inside – not of stress, because I always knew I’d get it done – but of anger. I felt that we were being taken for granted and I was inwardly furious about it, though I didn’t realise quite how furious until Wednesday morning.

About five people have a key to the front door of the office, and one of us is meant to open this door before eight each morning. It’s possible to get in the back door without a key, but this sets off the alarm, so staff are not supposed to come in that way before eight o’clock. You will always find people, however, who believe that the rules do not apply to them, and I have often come in and found people sitting at their desks eating cereal, with the alarm ringing above their heads.

On Wednesday at 7.45 I had just reached the front door when the alarm rang inside the office. I went in, switched it off and met one of the young staff guys walking calmly around the office, turning on the lights. Now, I’m not and never will be part of the management, it’s none of my business, I shouldn’t care if this guy set the alarm off every morning by abseiling down from the building roof and crashing feet-first through the office window. I shouldn’t care, but for one second as he walked casually towards me I felt an overpowering urge to punch him in the face.

That’s when I realised that the saying in the opening sentence is wrong. It should read “All work and no play makes Jack a murderous git”.

So I went to my desk, sat down, took a few breaths and then booked today, Monday and Tuesday off.

This is my first morning. I have tea at my side, music in my background, a post nearly done. I have a newspaper folded on the table nearby, and intend soon to find out has anything happened in the world over the last six days (apparently we’re going to have a tough budget, they call that news?). There will be TV watching, there will be reading, there will be visits to the pub, there will be chats with the kids. There will be blogging.

There will be all play, and no work.