Tag Archives: The Black Dog

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

One photo challenge, one man, no camera…


 There has been a silhouette in front of me for the past few days.

It wasn’t a shadow, because a shadow has a cause, a definable something which casts it, gives it shape and determines its very existence. Take that cause away and the shadow vanishes, it has no life of its own.

A silhouette is real. It exists, but its features are invisible. You don’t know what it is, or why the sight of it troubles you, causing a ball in the pit of your stomach of unspoken, indefinable and frankly unwarranted dread.

It could be the shape of your life as you feel it is now, full of petty, oh so petty stresses and hassles. This life has a face that turns toward sunshine, that fills with joy at the sight of your children and that laughs in the company of your friends, but you can’t see that face right now.

It could be the shape of your future whan all the joyful possibilities that you and that future may face are in shade.

It’s most likely to be simply you, when you’ve lost faith in yourself, when the wall behind which you keep your insecurities and self-judgements – stern, merciless self-judgements – crumbles and allows them into your mind, heart and stomach, where they sit heavily and painfully.

There is a face there. It is the face of a person who is good at heart, who tries their best and who deserves to be treated more kindly by themselves. This face is in darkness, though, and all you see is the forbidding mass of the silhouette.

Silhouettes have light behind them and it is important, when one confronts you and fills you with fear, to remember that. Find a way around the shape, find your way back into daylight where all the wonders of the world and of your life become visible again, and all will be well. Turn and look back and the figure is now just you, bathed in light.

I’ve gone around silhouettes before, many of them far bigger than the one that blocked my path this last week. I’ve got past this one too.

I just needed a good run at it.

A Chink In Your Armour

It’s Monday evening and you are on the bus home. You’ve had a good time at work, you’ve laughed with your friends, dealt competently with your job and have walked to the bus stop in glorious, about-time-July’s-nearly-over-sunshine.

You have a post written (it’s not that good, forget about that part) and are going to transfer it from Word onto your blog as soon as you get home.

It’s been a good day.

Then something, just one thing, one tiny insignificant moment of your day creeps under the tent of your content like a wasp under the tent of, well, a camper. It stings.

The tiny incident – a look, a word, even a silence, becomes less tiny. It becomes a slight, or a threat, a problem. You are now in trouble.

You invent scenarios that will never happen, could never happen. In your head you carry on full conversations in which you are angered, or disappointed, or just plain hurt. Or you provoke these in the other person.

You know this is all rubbish. You try to think positively, to use common sense, you tell yourself to stop being a horrendous gobshite, but it’s too late. A black cloud now covers the sunshine of the real world.

It’s no longer a good day.

You reach home. You don’t bother with the blog-post, you don’t bother with your dinner, you go to bed. It is six-thirty in the evening.

It’s Tuesday evening now, and I am on the bus home. Today there was no slight, threat or problem. There was no rabidly offensive conversation. There was another day like Monday was, remarkably unremarkable.

You, my friends who come here, sometimes wonder at my imagination. It does indeed take me to the most amazing, fun-filled places, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

But sometimes it’s a real pain in the arse.

Doing What You Do

I’ve posted this post after the one before it in the hope that you will read the one before it after it.

No, my medication is fine, thank you, I just reckon that most people will start reading a blog from the top post downwards, so I’d like say this about the post that will come later, or did come sooner (look, if George Lucas can do it with the Star Wars series then so can I).

I made a mistake over the last couple of days. I believed that I was too depressed and unhappy to write, which is what I most love doing.

Then I realised that doing what I most loved doing would leave me too happy to be depressed.

So this morning on the bus I took out my netbook and started on a story for Sidey’s weekend theme. I had no idea where it would go and I didn’t care. It ended up surprising me, as many of my stories do, but that wasn’t what mattered. It took my mind of my (needless) stress and it made me happy.

This is what is important. This is me.

Back Again

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how overwork was getting to me, and about how the long days and lack of sleep were causing me to slip back towards depression. I wrote that I was going to fight the problem head on, was going to take the following week off and all would be well. You all wrote words of comfort and encouragement and agreed that a break was just what I needed.

Things got better, I got better and once again I wrote posts of shining wit, or at least a Spoonerised version of that.

The problem, which I was embarrassed to admit here at the time, was that I never took that week off. Because I had too much work to do I felt I couldn’t take the break that I needed because I had too much work to do.

From all over the world I can hear all of you you saying “Jesus, Tinman, you big gobshite” (though in a far more lady-like way, of course). And you are all correct, because of course the problem is back.

I got home at a quarter to eight on Friday evening (a time at which I get home far too often these days) and was in bed at half-past, not the way in which anybody should spend a Friday night. I slept until half-past eleven yesterday morning, got up for four hours (just long enough to see my team get knocked out of the FA Cup) and was back in bed by half-past three. I slept again until about 2.30 this morning and lay there until six (on a Sunday, a time that I previously thought existed only for people who are employed to shout “six o’clock and all’s well” (a profession which I believe is dying out, like thatching, building giant rock-catapults and walking in front of cars carrying a red flag) and for mad people like my dad and brother, who think that it’s the ideal time to get up for golf.

So I got up and started writing this, since I have given myself jet-lag.

There are four people arriving at the office at 8am tomorrow to get answers to a list of questions which they sent on Friday, and which already prove to me that (a) they are totally up themselves and (b) haven’t a clue what they are doing. I will not offer these opinions in their presence because we need to keep them happy (I must stress that the company is not in any trouble, we need their report for various expansion plans that we have for the coming year). They will be here for a week.

Adding this information to the fact that I already face my busiest week of the month has had the same effect as the kid at the other end of your see-saw suddenly deciding to get off.

The blindingly obvious answer, of course, is to get another job, to accept finally that the one I have is no longer fun, it’s hell on earth. But I don’t know if there are other jobs out there, and leaving would mean leaving the girl who is the other half of my work-team, and also frankly my best friend, at a time when she herself is suffering. The neck-and-shoulder pains which kept her out for the month of December have turned out to be Degenerative Disc Disorder and arthritis of the neck. She is thirty-three years old.

And it’s a job and a company that I’ve liked for a long time and would like to like again, for all its flaws, its petty unfairnesses, its constant pressure and its debasing Performance Management regime (I got the highest score that it is possible to get for the last quarter and still believe that the system is intrinsically evil). So I’ll stick it out for a while longer, hope that things improve (we are supposed to be getting a third person, that’s all we ever needed, the acceptance that we needed help) and just come here when I need to blow off steam (I’ve found this quite therapeutic, though I doubt it’s been much fun to read).

My attempt at Sidey’s Weekend Challenge will follow later in the week, as will my Weekly Drawing Challenge (I’ve just looked up WorkPress’s suggestion, ironically it’s “Hope”) and I’m making you all a solemn promise.

The next time I book time off I’m going to take it.

Loving and Giving

They say that Friday’s Child is loving and giving. I’m a Friday’s Child, but strangely Friday is normally the only day of the week when I’m not lovingly giving the world a post.

Perhaps it doesn’t apply if you’re a Friday the 13th’s Child, as I am (just for a second you thought “oh, it must be his birthday today so”, didn’t you?).

But I just had to come here today, to say thank you to all of you for your kind words and thoughts over the last few days. I’m feeling a lot better now and I cannot tell you how big a part you all played in that.

Last month I wrote a post about the fact that there are currently seven billion people on the planet and that on the day before just 21 of them had visited my blog. Patti commented  “But just think of how amazing it is that of all those billions, people from around the world found you!

And it is amazing that people all over the world, most of whom you will never meet, care about you and help you through the bad days. People who think that blogging is a lonely hobby (they’re wrong about it being a hobby, it’s an obsession) never seem to understand that.

Thank you all again. I’m the Friday’s Child, but it is all of you who did the loving and giving.


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.

Bad Publicity

Last summer, just before we were off on our 25th wedding anniversary trip to New York, I started watching CSI:NY. I did it to remind myself of the places we were about to visit, and when we came back I started watching it again so I that I could bore the Tinkids rigid by pausing it, calling them and saying, “see that park/alley/dumpster? We walked past that.”

And I’ve stuck with watching it, even though the dialogue is as clichéd as a crooked politician and the acting is so wooden that it could carry two animals of every type upon it. I still watch it because the plots are often quite clever and the denouement can be quite surprising.

Last night I watched an episode that I taped about a week ago. In it the vic (the word “victim” apparently takes too long for a busy CSI cop to say) was found stabbed in his apartment (slayed in Manhattan, as the film almost says) and the team got to work.

Part of this work involves a tox screen (the word “toxicology” etc, etc) and this revealed that our dead friend had Clonazepam in his system. This sounded familiar so I went to the kitchen shelf where I keep what we refer to as “my stash”, the four different drugs that fight (possibly with each other) to keep me less loopy than I would otherwise be. Sure enough, there my Clonazepams sat proudly in their little bottle, complete with the label warning me to avoid alcohol, drowsiness and heavy machinery. I went back to the TV.

“What’s Clonazepam?” Gary Sinise was asking. “It’s used as an anti-depressant and an anti-anxiety drug,” said his know-it-all new partner. “Amen to that,” I said to the TV.

Imagine the joy of the makers of Clonazepam at all this free advertising on one of the US’s top programs. It was the equivalent of Bart Simpson saying “eat my shorts, and also these delicious Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.” I was happy that they were getting the publicity they deserved as I sat waiting to see the CSI crew avenge my fellow depression sufferer, a brother Clonazeponian with whom I was feeling a deep special bond. I was keenly looking forward to them catching his dastardly killer.

I’m reluctant to spoil the ending for those of you who might one day see the episode, but my story will be a little pointless if I don’t, so here goes.

There was no killer. The vic wasn’t murdered at all. He made it look like he had been, to spare his mother’s feelings, but in fact he had stabbed himself.

Because of his depression.

This sudden twist must have been like the twist of a knife in the hearts of the makers of Clonazepam. It certainly didn’t improve my mood either.

I would have taken my anti-depressants, except it appears that they don’t work.

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.

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.