Friday, 31 December 2010

The Ghost of Syd Barrett

Of all the things endangered by modern society, silence must be the most at risk. I have noticed it more lately, silence is the space between things like the white paper that surrounds the black lettering, defining it. I love to sit quietly somewhere and just listen. Sound surrounds me - call it what you will, noise, music, speech it is all there like a shell surrounding my silence. Yet as I sit I gradually hear the silent spaces between the sounds, the shell is not as impenetrable as it seems. Silence is not nothing though, it has a sound all of it’s own, a kind of hum that is probably just my ears but I like to think of as the sound of the world, the sound of life underlying everything else. Sometimes it almost has a texture about it, soft like water and if I could learn to immerse myself there I could move through the world unnoticed.

Of course I am one of the worst offenders against silence. In the presence of others I talk incessantly. It is just nervousness of course, my way of coping in the presence of other people. “ I know you are all better than me” I am saying, “proper grown-up people, but please like me” I find it annoying that I do it, so it must be intensly irritating to those around me I know but I am trying to stop, to listen . . .

( ps the best way to hear silence as I do is to listen to the beginning of Shine on you crazy diamond by Pink Floyd, the very beginning note is the sound I hear when there is nothing else there)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Life 101

Do you ever feel that you are missing something? That if you could only see the world as it really is everything would make sense. When I am learning something new I’ll struggle for ages reading and listening and eventually, overnight often, it suddenly sinks in, I understand how it works. Sometimes all it takes is a different explanation or the clarification of one small point and then I get it. But I don’t get life yet. Everybody else seems to be racing ahead and it seems so easy for them, while I am still at the back of the class unable to begin because nobody has told me which end of the pencil to use. I am the small child in the race that runs the wrong way when the pistol goes because he is just reacting without understanding what the race is. In public I am the older child in the choir who is tolerated but asked to mime the words because their voice spoils the song. I am still playing at “houses” and “parents” and “worker”.

Are there others like me I wonder. Has the man I pass on the park bench decided just to sit there and wait until it all becomes clear? (I tried that six months ago - it didn’t work). The woman in the supermarket staring lifelessly into space while her toddlers scream their heads off, is she wondering what the point of it all is?

Are we the undiscovered poets of the world, or just the future inmates of the asylums?

(Life is never dull when you are a complete nutcase)

Sunday, 12 December 2010


When I was little we would occasionally visit one of my grannies. Apart from the stilted conversation and the strange warm sweet smell of old houses, what I remember most is the bed. Usually very tired from travelling I would wearily climb the narrow creaky stairs and turn the corner into the bedroom. There towering above me on spindly iron legs would be the bed. The mattress was firm but not hard, enveloping but not smothering, confidently there under me like a good parent. Capping this would be layer upon layer of sheets, blankets, eiderdowns and finally a candlewick cover, all firmly tucked in around the edges. Nowadays being used to lightweight Summer duvets I would untuck everything and strip the bedcovers down to the bare essentials but in those days I would carefully squeeze myself in under all the covers and just lie there cocooned. As the bed warmed up I would gradually fall deeply asleep with a big smile on my face.

In the morning the sun shining through the curtains would wake me. I would just lie there warmly cocooned like a forest animal safe within it’s burrow, listening to the distant sounds of breakfast conversation.

Even today I look forward to Autumn when we put on the heavier winter duvet and the quilt over that . As soon as I feel the weight pressing down, holding me, I feel safe and protected. It is no wonder perhaps that somedays I just want to stay here . . .

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Ripples on the Sea of Life

Happiness comes and goes. I have been watching myself recently and my mood changes more quickly than Nicola changes her clothes in the morning (yes that often!). I can wake up at six and be happy. By eight for no apparent reason I can be unhappy. If I leave for work early I am happy. When I see the roadworks ahead I start worrying . . . and as they magically clear before me I cheer up again. Once I arrive at work for the day and look at my appointment list for the day I can relax and be happy, until somebody else gets booked in and changes my mood. Or conversely I can see a certain person booked in and my heart sinks until that is they cancel, and life is good again. So it goes, minute by minute, hour by hour throughout the day.

But there is more, there is something deeper. My moods are like the waves on the ocean ever changing, ever rising and falling. Living by the Pacific Ocean as I do I see the waves daily and yet underneath there are deeper much more powerful currents that you can only experience if you immerse your self in the water. And so it is with my moods, underneath lie deeper powerful emotions that in my case seem to be my own particular fusion of melancholy and happiness.

How do you immerse yourself to find these deeper currents you ask? . . . Meditate.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Relapse . . . again

6am. Suddenly it all seems so pointless again.

I wake up and my tummy is slowly writhing, my body cannot settle and my hands shake. In my anxiety my brain works overtime searching for a cause. I am surrounded by bills. They keep coming in and yet I am not earning enough to pay the ones I already have . . . I will lose everything . . . various comments a couple of people have made recently about my working part time come back to me - I am just malingering really aren’t I. They may have been joking but it is true, if they can do it why can’t I ? I’ve always known I am a pretty useless person, so why bother at all?

It would be so easy to give in, to find some excuse to stay in bed and hide. But part of me is still functioning sensibly. It occurs to me that the feelings, the anxiety came first, then I searched around and found a reason for them outside of myself. Holding on to this thought I get up and have a shower. All I have to do is carry on. I do not have to change anything, nothing has to be “better” that can all wait, just carry on. This way things will remain the same, if I hide it will all get worse and the cycle the blackness will begin again.

I get dressed and I write this. It helps . . .

ps if you are in the same position reading this then do what I - keep going, I have have lots of these setbacks recently (you only have to look at the similarity of this post to my last one). It may feel like walking slowly and confidently past a group of hungry lions when inside you just want to run but if you want to recover it is the only way, believe me.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Those pesky kids

I awoke early with a strange feeling. My belly was tight, tensed, surrounding a swirling pool of deep nothingness within.

“That’s strange” I thought “what’s going on here?”

But as I concentrated on the feelings trying to pin them down they moved away and the more I looked the more distant they got. Then they were gone.

So I went back to sleep and as I did so I realised something - what a difference to six months ago. Back then the anxiety and dread, for that’s what the sensations were, would have overwhelmed me absorbing me into the darkness leaving a quivering wreck unable to face the world out there.
But this time without even thinking I had seperated myself off and looked at what was happening from the outside. From this perspective it was clear that the feelings had no foundation. Well no, that is not strictly true they probably arose from my current worries about money. But like the scariest horror stories it is the unknown that is most frightening. As soon as I had exposed my worry to the light of my mind and could see what was really happening they shrunk and like the monster in Scooby Do or the Wizard of Oz were revealed to be a slightly laughable old man.

And that I think is what therapy for depression is all about. Most of what you see and feel during an attack are false, but you cannot see that because you are trapped within and everywhere you look is coloured by the fog of darkness surrounding you. Therapy show you how to understand what is going on, how to step outside and look back and decide what is real and what is not, for what is real can be dealt with. It still will not be easy, problems are problems after all, but the first step is to recognise them for what they are.

Ther are different types of therapy depending on how badly affected you are, your personality, what the cause may be and how deep your pockets are. I am not a professional of course but I can talk about the route I took . . .

Friday, 27 August 2010

Vampire Reflections

Am I the burning in my fingertips as I cradle my early morning cup of tea? Just too hot, sitting on the edge pleasure, while the warmth penetrates my body. Or am I the pale grey light of dawn that creeps into the bedroom, mesmerisingly slowly whilst I sit enveloped in silence, the only one awake?

Sometimes I am no more than a list of things to be done one by one, becoming each one in turn. At work I am the dentist, conforming to a vision I have of what a dentist is and hopefully a pleasant surprise to those with a different view. Once home again I am a father, imaginative and slightly silly but hopefully inspiring and fun to be with. The same with Nicola, the man she fell in love with (and I with her), the man who said things outloud that she only thought silently to herself. Yet at the same time irritatingly unconcerned the the day to day practicalities of life.

At different times and places I am one and all of these things. But when I sit alone, what am I then? If there is anything there beyond a response to what happens around me, I cannot find it. I have looked. If I look at my hand I become my hand, if I step I become my foot pressing against the pavement but beyond thatI have yet to find anything, and the more I look the less there is.

Yet there must be something because I am here . . . but If you held a mirror up in front of me would I see any reflection?

Strange really . . .

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Winter Sunshine

I feel the Sun most in the Wintertime. When the Sun is low in the sky and the shadows are long and cold so that walking through them is like walking through another world. A world of fairies dancing on your grave and years passing by in a day. Coming out of the shadows the Sun welcomes me back wrapping me in it’s warmth like the softest of soft blankets. So soft that I can feel it but when I try to touch it it is not there. The warmth seeps through me comfortingly alive pushing the chill ahead of it and out out with a shiver . . .

Agent Z put his head in his hands, would this man never stop wittering on ? Two days now they had been together on surveillance and not once had he stopped talking rubbish. If it wasn’t that he needed this job he would have put a bullet through his forehead days ago, just to get some peace. Shaking his head at the thought he took few deliberate breaths in an effort to calm himself . . .

What do you think? I say glancing down at my youngest, but he seems to have his head in his hands and is shaking it slowly from side to side.

And what is reality anyway . . .

Monday, 26 July 2010

Happy Pills

If I had a million dollars in the bank I don’t think I would have to take the antidepressants. I don’t. But I do have a wife and family and house that I love and would very much like to keep around me, so I take the tablets. Their purpose is to get me functioning again as quickly as possible in order to maintain those things that are important to me. They help restore my Serotonin levels and maintain them while my brain repairs the damage to my Limbic system.

Depression is difficult. The first thing the doctor says is take a break, get away from what is causing it so you can see the real world again. But how? I reached this point at them end of six months (at least) of gradual worsening which if you are self employed like myself means six months of your income gradually eroding away, bolstered at the time by using any savings as you try to maintain normality, not knowing what is wrong with you . . .

So here I sit, my doctor empathises with my situation but cannot help. Take a break he says. So I do, for a week, thinking in my all knowing way that I can manage.

It is not enough. As soon as I return to work, even part time now I immediately plunge back into the dark depths again. But worse because although my mood has bettered with facing up to what is happening and with taking the tablets, the anxiety that was always in the background takes over and I end up pacing the house at six in the morning, looking for an escape route and making plans to sell the house just to pay the debts. And so I end up back in bed hiding yet again.

When I resurface, reality hits. This is more serious than I would admit to, I am forced to look at my priorities, to pay the bills now or to take time to recover no matter what the consequences. I decide to take a proper break, to rethink things, to plan properly, to begin recovery.

This is the time that you thank God that you have friends and family.

So with the encouragement of my boss and work colleagues I plan to take three weeks off as soon as can be arranged (in a couple of weeks). I take out a loan to finance it, Nicola takes on more work and I borrow from my mum as well.

Now I can start to look within myself for the answer. Now that the tablets have helped me recover a little, I can hear that small voice in the back of my mind telling me this is the way to go, this is the path I should take.

You may have the most wonderfully luxurious penthouse in the most beautiful part of the world, but unless you are happy within all you are going to look for is the nearest window to jump from . . .  

Matthieu Ricard


Monday, 12 July 2010

We can cure you . . .

“You will get better” my doctor kept saying on that first visit, “We will cure you”. I know that he was just being positive to balance my negativity so that hopefully I would not throw myself off the nearest cliff (a possibility not as far from the truth a you may think), but afterwards as I sat in a cafe thinking about it my first thought was no I don’t want to be cured. This was something new, a part of me that had always been there but I had not realised, and I wanted to say hello first, to make friends rather than swat it like the mosquito on your arm that you kill without thinking.

Diagnosis can be a double edged sword. For some like myself it can be a revelation, suddenly everything clicks into place. I now was not a normal person who could not cope as I had always thought, but a depressed person who was doing the best he could, my past made more sense now. The danger comes if you use the diagnosis as a crutch, an excuse for not coping. I have a pregnant friend and it is amazing the things she cannot do now “because she is pregnant”. Like getting up and boiling the kettle to make herself a cup of coffee for instance! This route is to be avoided at all costs because then the diagnosis owns you, it takes control feeding your blackness as you spiral further down. No lets not go there . . .

Instead use this new discovery about yourself make friends with it understand this new part of yourself and use it, like a dog or a horse perhaps. Treat it kindly and it will return the favour helping you go places you could not otherwise get to, it’s intuition may even help you in times of danger but ultimately you remain in charge.

Having discovered all the artists that have suffered from depression, like Van Gogh I now see my depression as the artistic part of my nature pushing through to be noticed. It has made me stop and think . . . a good thing to do do occasionally I reckon.

But talking about stopping and thinking, do not forget the people around you - depression can be very inward looking and isolating but to cope you are going to need your friends, and I am so lucky to have Nicola alongside me . . .

Depression may be dark, but life will never be dull if it is part of you . . .

Thursday, 24 June 2010

What is depression?

If you have ever lost somebody close to you be it person or animal, and been left feeling deeply empty and lost, and that life is pointless or too painful to continue with . . . that is depression. In the case of a loss that grief is a natural process and must be worked through in it’s own time. You will always feel it to some extent afterwards, I remember fondly all the cats I have lived with, but gradually you return and continue with life.

But in some people those feelings of hopelessness arise with no apparent cause. Why? I have no idea it could be genetics, it could be upbringing, I think it is probably a combination of lots of factors with chronic stress in there as well. We are all different physically and mentally and whereas some people may thrive under certain conditions others will not. Under stress some people will fly others will get stomach ulcers and a depressive person will descend into blackness. The limbic system of their brain which deals with emotional response becomes damaged leading to a drop in serotonin levels that causes alertness to reduce. Hence mood turns to hopelessness and you do not have the energy to even get out of bed.

Stress is a factor for me but I imagine it is different for everybody. And actually, having thought about it the stress is there for everybody, it seems to be part of modern life. So it is not the stress itself that is the cause but how I deal with it, how I handle it that is the problem.

And the way to recovery . . .

You know, depression is such an inward looking thing that I have not felt much like writing over the last couple of months, or at least not sharing, some things are just too personal . . . 

But “keep writing” said swallowtail in a comment on my last post, and she was right - it helps, thankyou.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Life in Black and White

Imagine waking up in the dark. Not the usual darkness though this is close and black like there are walls surrounding you, shutting everything else out. Looking up you can see a small circle of daylight way above you and hear everybody else up there. The blackness is pressing in and you need to get out. You could call out but people may just point and laugh at the daft situation you’ve got yourself in, and anyway you pride yourself on your independence and resourcefulness. So you start to climb.

It is not easy, the blackness is cloying and sucking and you have no energy. Just moving takes a tremendous effort but by the end of the day you make it and collapse at the top, exhausted but glad to be back with your family where you belong. It was a strange experience, one that you don’t fully understand so you do not mention it out loud, perhaps it was just some sort of virus you think as very tired to go to bed early that night.

Next morning you wake up at the bottom of the pit again. And the next morning, and the next. Each day you climb out or attempt to, for some days you are so tired that you fall asleep halfway out and just slip back again as you sleep. Eventually the weariness becomes so great that you cannot climb, you decide to rest at the bottom for a day to regain some strength. That helps the next day and for a while things seem to be improving but the effort of constantly climbing day after day with no respite, no sun, no joy, gradually becomes too much again and you sit at the bottom wondering what is wrong with you . . .

“Go to the doctor” said Nicola, “And tell him how you feel, the truth!”

So I did and it seems that I am suffering from depression. It also seems that I have been this way for a long time, most of my life probably and because of that have become very good at hiding it from others.

But it can be treated . . .

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The illusion of freedom and choice

Cattle trucks sadden me. Be it cattle, sheep or chickens, the sight of a truck load of them heading for the slaughterhouse touches upon a deep sorrow that lies within my soul. These creatures, the same as you and I that have hurt no-one and ask for nothing more than to live as they should do spend their last hours before death crammed together in an alien environment cut off from the natural world. And to what purpose? In all likelyhood to be minced up, smothered in tomato sauce and swallowed in seconds without a thought as to what came before.

It is not death that worries me. Death is part of life and will happen when the time is right. It is the inevitability of it all, the fact that it has been decided by someone else and once the process has begun it will run to the end no matter what I think, do or say. You can take your chance and try to escape, you may even get as far as to be able to get a glimpse of the green fields out there beyond the barbed wire, but there is no hope. Whether you struggle or go with quiet resignation it makes no difference - you will be taken back. In the scheme of things your life has already gone and that glimpse of the world outside is just an illusion born out of your desperation to be free.

Today I have briefly escaped. I can feel the anger and annoyance of those around me whose plans I have disrupted, and yes with quiet resignation I will go back, I will face up to things. But just now, just for a few more hours I would like to stay here in this illusion of freedom and pretend that I have a choice . . .

Friday, 19 February 2010


I have been looking at old photographs. I think it is good to look back occasionally to remember where I have been, the people I have met and the things I have done. I am lucky of course that nothing truly tragic has ever happened to me but even if it had I think like Dr Phil that we should still remember, should accept what has happened because it is these things that make us who we are now.

On the odd occasions when I do some digging in the garden I am always fascinated by the roots of all the plants growing down together twisting and mingling. One earth but a million different paths. We each have a taproot of experiences stretching back from now twisting and burrowing in and around everybody elses lives. We all live in the same world yet no two of us, no matter how close, share the same past.

Looking back I have also noticed that Nicola and myself are people that are not afraid of change. At least not afterwards! There are different kinds of people out there. We used to live in a small village and there were people that were happy to spend their whole lives there. Village life is special but it is not for me - I get the urge to break out now and again, to do something different, to go somewhere else. None of these changes would have been posible if I did not have a good root system of experiences stretching back through the past. It is these that have allowed me to grow up and out into the future each time . . .

I built a small shed once. It was painted green and had a roof of wild flowers and herbs. I have left it behind now but one day I’ll build another one.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Van Gogh

All is green and grey today. But so many greens and so many shades of grey.

Wet and wild as well, everything above and around is moving, swirling . . . full of life.

It is on days like these that I feel I see the world as Van Gogh did.

Friday, 15 January 2010


Call me strange (most people do) but I get a small shiver of pleasure everytime I write “colour” as opposed to “color”.

Is there a sense of national pride that I did not realise was in there? . . . Possibly.

Just being awkward? . . .
Much more likely I think.

My favourite colour is green by the way.

Saturday, 2 January 2010


Saturday 6am

6am. The sunlight squeezed between the earth and a thick blanket of cloud just catches the treetops. The whole world is green. There is a wind too, warm and heavy with the promise of showers. Summer showers of big raindrops that briefly drench everything before turning to mist and silently return upwards and move on.

It must be 20 degrees already.

In Scotland it is 2 degrees and snowing. The world there is white.

Just lately, in the books I have read and the movies I have seen a message keeps coming across - it is all in the details but you must take a wider view of them.

There are patterns are forming.

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