And these few precepts in thy memory

And these few precepts in thy memory

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About 415 years ago the great writer William Shakespeare wrote the following passage in his famous play Hamlet. Ever since I first read them these words have stuck in my memory. I wish I could say that I listened to them but I never had, maybe life would have been so much different had I done so.

Hamlet – Act 1, Scene 3

Polonius: Yet here, Laertes? 
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar:
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that th’ opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are most select and generous, chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all- to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee

People tell me that history is the past and has no bearing on life today. Maybe if people were to follow the example above, we would live in a much nicer world. History is full of such wonderful pieces of insight, for hundreds of years people have tried to extoll the virtues of good human nature.

Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.

How simple can this opening be, and yet carry with it such a brilliant message. Sometimes it is better if we keep what we are thinking to ourselves, especially when we have not yet thought it through. For me, this is often hard. I have a lot of thoughts I like to share, but sometimes what I am thinking does not always make sense. Impulsive action is also another trait I try to hold back from now, it is so easy to just do things without thinking them through. I think this is true of my anxiety and depression, so many thoughts that must not be acted upon, so many things you sometimes want to say but if you did they would be regretted.

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar

I really do love this line, in essence it is “treat people how you would like to be treated”. I do lapse into the vulgar on occasion, I used to be much worse. I do not just mean the use of foul language but also in what I said. For me life has always been about blending with my surroundings, trouble is I would often over compensate and “cross the line”. I never really developed my own standards, I just borrowed those of who I was with. This becomes awkward in mixed company, like a cartoon camellion on a paisley background. Being vulgar, in thought, speech or action is not pretty. It does make you stand out from the crowd, but only as an idiot. I was an idiot for too long, and changing that perspective in people’s minds takes more time than it did to create it.

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade.

Friendship, the hardest part of my illness and reconciling my past, has to be my shame at how I have treated people in the past. People who were there for me, who offered me the bond of friendship and I turned my back on them. Looking back I think that my problem was one of geography, I grew up next to a major RAF base. In school kids would come and go, you kind of got used to your friends leaving one day never to return. Quickly you learn to disassociate yourself from the feeling of loss. You then never give yourself to the friendship completely, you find it easy to break the bond. Soon you become accustomed to being alone, people are transient, nothing is consistent. Without friends you soon become at home with isolation, you no longer want to be a “part of the gang”. People consider you unfeeling, aloof, not a team player. If they only knew how much you really craved to be a part of something.

Beware of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that th’ opposed may beware of thee.

I don’t know where it comes from, maybe a film or book, I don’t know. But in my head when I read this I think “A gentleman never loses an argument, because a true gentleman never argues”. I however, am not a gentleman, I do not have the restraint. How many arguments have I started, how many times have I used a “quarrel” as grounds for venting my frustration. Angry words, even now come too quickly to the lips, you live with self-frustration, and you have to vent. Turn it inwards and you hurt yourself, outwards and you hurt someone else. Nobody sticks around people like me long, I am working hard on this point, but all to often the words are out before the brain has even registered the emotion.

Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Listen, don’t talk. Simple enough, but I like the sound of my own voice, I enjoy talking to people, I enjoy hearing their stories and the more I do, the more I find myself holding my own words. In the past I have told more lies than truths, I lived the lies so much that they almost became the truth. For every word spoken to me, I had more of my own. The blend of hating who I was, trying to fit in, be accepted, just led to me always having something to say, even if it was complete rubbish. As for taking criticism, as you will have gathered by now, criticism equalled a personal attack. Anyone who was to criticise me would be, tried, convicted and dually judged accordingly. The trouble with being a mental mess, is that self-preservation becomes limitless, every single emotion was guarded. Once hurt, rejected, dismissed, the pain would feed the fire of self-hate. One more hammer blow to the foundations of self-confidence, the damage done requiring an age to repair.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are most select and generous, chief in that.

Nothing a depressive likes more than a bit of retail therapy, preferably online. Oh how rich I would be now if only I could control myself. Simple material gratification, instantly. It is as if money is poisoned and must be converted into material possessions instantly. Yet, most of it I do not even need, however I still buy it. Then comes the time when money is required, and the money is all gone. I sit here writing this and wonder why, why chose a piece of literature that so highlights all my imperfections. I guess, for me it is about showing who I want to leave behind. Show why I am desperate to change my life, not only so that I can learn to handle my illness better, but also become a better person.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Almost a continuation of the above, when the money is gone, you borrow. Having to borrow money from people becomes second nature, but each one is yet another hammer blow. Every penny borrowed just chips away at your self-worth. Before you know it, you would sell anything, just so you do not have to borrow. All those lovely material possessions so eagerly bought, soon are sold for less than they are worth. A poor man may still have pride, unless he is poor due to his own negligence. Flashing the cash may impress, but those impressed soon lose interest when the cash is gone. Similarly being quick to lend money, only works if it is done as a gift not a loan. Nothing causes a loss of faith better than the false promises on an unpaid debt. Trust me, I have done both many times.

This above all- to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

You could say that this last piece is the true inspiration for writing. As you will have gathered from the above, I do not consider myself a nice person. I have lead a life that was a lie, I have broken all the rules, I have come to hate myself. Or rather I did. You see I no longer want to live a lie, I want to be true to myself. Am I delusional? Is it possible to “reinvent” yourself? I hope I can, I no longer want to be the person I associate with Dave. I always hated my name, maybe it is time I learned to like it, and with it myself. I have accepted who I was, but he is no longer. He died on the 18th May 2015, David was born, fragile then and still so but striving each day to make Mr Shakespeare proud, knowing his words were not written in vain.

Maybe one more post

Maybe one more post

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I remember once being asked by a paramedic what it is like to suffer from anxiety and depression, I thought it a bit odd. However it is very easy to forget that just because medical personnel are trained to deal with mental health issues, they mostly concentrate on physical illness. I have often been asked the same question since and always tried to find a fitting example for how it feels. You can describe the symptoms, but we all tend to suffer in different ways. So just by giving my story, I do not feel that I am giving people a good idea of what it is like.

The answer came when I tried to explain it to my daughter, being only nine this was a challenge. Obviously telling her that Daddy had thoughts about killing himself was out, as was mentioning self-harming. So I had to come up with some kind of explanation that did not involve the details but captured the essence of mental illness.

I will explain to you as I explained it to her;

Take a deep breath and hold it (no cheating),

Keep holding your breath, easy isn’t it?

How about after a minute, still feeling okay?

Not so good now are you, chest starting to hurt, nose, throat? Body starting to rebel?

Okay now you are fighting, your body is really hurting now,

Still going, but I bet you are no longer in control, feel like you could burst?

The longer you hold your breath the more you will hurt, and you will breath, even if you pass out your body will breath. It is impossible to fight it.

Now imagine that those few short minutes are days, weeks or even hours. Welcome to mental illness. Sometimes you only have to hold your breath for a short time and get to breath, other times you get a quick gasp in between long periods of not breathing. That feeling you felt when you finally could breath, felt good didn’t it?

Okay now imagine that you had very little control over when it happened, imagine that someone else had the control; nervous? Imagine letting someone stop you from breathing whenever they chose. Not so pleasant a thought is it? The problem with mental illness is that whilst we do not physically have someone stopping us breathing, we do have ourselves. We allow ourselves to ignore things, bottle up emotions that we just can not deal with.

So in one instance I can feel totally fine, I can be fully aware of my problems and “accept” them. Then along will come a trigger, and this could be anything, some small random thing that alters my perception of all the other worries and doubts. It has two possible outcomes; the more common one is an anxiety attack. These can happen quite quick and despite myself, I miss the warning signs more often than not. They are generally short, about half and hour but they are intense. On the outside all can appear normal but inside I am crippled, I can still function but it takes a tremendous amount of effort just to do simple things.

The other outcome is a depression relapse, these are more significant, possibly lasting several days. Often these will be the result of a “self-hate” trigger, and are much harder than the anxiety to control. My mind will basically give me a mental “kickin'”. Every aspect of my life will be turned into a negative and as most things in life are linked, it grows. If you have ever been hit in the face with a snowball, you will know it hurts, and yet we all know snowballs are just lots of tiny little pretty snow flakes.

Logical thought becomes difficult; you can function, you can even operate perfectly “normal”, but inside you are consumed. If you are lucky you are just numb; unlucky, you are desperate for some form of release. Different people have different ways of handling the release, but very few do so in a non-destructive way. Drink, drugs, self-harm, starvation, over-eating and many other ways in which people try to escape their own minds. Sometimes they do not even know they are doing it to themselves, until it is too late.

I hear a lot of talk about “self-help”, CBT, mindfulness, meditation and various other ways to beat these problems. The trouble with “self-help” is that when you have an anxiety attack, it is on you before you have a chance. Yes, you can use these techniques to help you recover, but the damage is done. Go back to the holding your breath exercise, that point you reach, when you’re burning inside, that is the attack, the deep breath you take after is the recovery. It is kind of worse with the depression because you know that you can do these things, but you don’t. Depression saps your will to live, it drains you of emotion and feeling. You are not just sad, you are numb. In my case depression stems mainly from self-hate, when you do not even like yourself, why ever would you do anything to make things better. The vicious circle goes around and around, you can relive every “mistake” in your life in vivid detail. It does not even matter if you were truly at fault, with depression, everything is your fault. It’s raining, your fault, can’t find something, your fault and on and on it goes until you are bursting…….

So I guess when I see people advocating the “it’s all in your mind, you can do it” motivational bullshit, I really want to explain the holding your breath thing to them. People who are driven and expect others to hit their high standards and frown upon those that don’t need to remember, no one is the same as them. Pouring scorn onto a friend because they have found help in a bottle, telling them that they need to take a leaf out of your high achievers book. That will not work, in fact, the last thing anxiety and depression sufferers need is to have their noses rubbed in it.

How do I get out of it? Well for starters I use medication, without my meds I would be a complete mess, I know that for sure. Secondly I am open and honest with my family regarding how I feel, I do not hide (much) from them. Thirdly I have built around myself a good support network of people who know and understand me and what I am going through. Finally I accept that I will have bad periods, not every day will be brilliant, or even good. Some days will absolutely suck, some days there will be thoughts in my head that I would not wish on my worst enemy (if I had one).

I also find writing helps, the day before yesterday I was ready to tear this blog down. The very though consumed me and hurt me deeply, this blog is me. From just after I left hospital this blog has been my diary, my release. I have been accused of having an ego complex for wanting to share all the gory details, but in reality all I want is for people to see. I want people to understand that while yes, I am not well, I am not a psychotic maniac. Just because I have some dark stuff going on in my head, it does not make me incapable of living. In fact, if it came to an emergency situation for someone else, I would have no problem coping. I have to care more now about others, because them needing me is what keeps me going. I can offset my self-hate by doing good, I am not the best, but I will get better. One day I will have nothing left within me to hate.

The ticking of the clock

The ticking of the clock

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A silent room with the ticking of a clock, the click of the keys and only the voice in my head. As always at this point my mind is a swirl of thoughts, some joining others and finding there way to this page. Most times when I write I actually have no real concept of where the post will go, I just write. Sometimes I am inspired, others just rambling, my blog is my voice in the wind.

The more I look at myself, inside, the less I know. The line between reality and fantasy is now very blurred. I can function but only as an automaton, I have to be very careful about allowing emotion to guide me right now. This is a problem for me though as I have always relied upon gut instinct but I don’t know if I can trust it anymore. My emotional state is very fragile right now, a whisper away from darkness, just a step ahead. I have come to embrace the numbness, only letting a tint of emotion to allow me to appear in control.

The ticking of the clock soothes me, its regularity reminding me each moment that whilst I may be its slave, I can also be its master. My world right now has slowed, I have made it so. I need to feel that I can control my time, to make the world around me march to my beat. My life is all about control, being able to set my pace, being able to judge where I tread. It is the only way to keep the emotions regulated, to keep me numb whilst I process.

I know that I have to move forward but as yet I do not know where to go. Important decisions still need to be made but am I ready to make them? The fear of the unknown grows each day. I find myself doubting myself, my confidence has gone. I am in limbo, the sun still warms me, the rain makes me wet but neither affect me. I have faced my demons, I know them and I know that I can master them and banish them one day. My problem is that whilst I have faced the demons of the past, the experience has been exhausting, I am drained.

So I allow the ticking of the clock to sooth me, to guide me. I close my eyes and try to regulate by body to its rhythm, to set my thoughts to its pace. You soon come to realise that a second is a very long time in your head, you can cover a lot of mental ground in just a few tick, tick ticks. Trying to sort the tangled mess of life whilst remaining impassive is a difficult task. To those that think me lazy for spending hours just lying down without moving, trust me I would willingly swap. There is no dummies guide to my mind, if only there was. Chapter 4 Dealing with raw emotions that would be so nice.

I often wonder if it is just me, am I just using all this as an excuse not to conform? Should I just “get a grip”, “get on with it and man up”? Stop feeling sorry for yourself David, anyone would think you are dying. Sorry to say I do see the world looking at me and thinking, “what a waster, he just can’t be arsed to help himself” and I often think they are right. In the back of my mind though is the voice who seems to talk reason, though so quiet it is often hard to hear over the chaos. It is the voice that say “you are damaged my friend, wounded and broken”. It reminds me that if I had broken my leg nobody would be expecting me to run a marathon, So even though injury is unseen, I still need to recover.

While I allow the ticking of the clock to sooth me, time itself does not. How long until I wake with a smile, how long until I can make it though the day without having an anxiety attack. How much longer must I rely on tablets to make me sleep? It all seems so crazy. Should I look at it as a days healing for every year I have lived with the darkness? day, week, year? What timescale is normal, though I suppose that depends on the damage. Where are all these genius doctors who specialise in mental illness, to busy writing about it to actually help.

I am bitter about the lack of care I have received, when I feel more empathy and understanding from my GP there must be something wrong. Where is the guidance? A scrap of paper with some websites is great but I am much more capable of finding information thank you. What I want is a person who is supposed to listen and guide me, to fill in the blanks. Why have I been left to find my own, Why have I had to become so well-informed about my illness by myself. Every one of us is unique and yet we seem to be labelled and treated on mass like a flock of sheep.

I no longer want the ticking of the clock to sooth me, I want it to stop. I want the ticking to stop and only silence to remain. I want that silence to pass into my soul and allow me to have one moment of clarity. Just one glimpse of direction, one moment to hear the voice of reason clearly. Then the ticking of the clock can resume, it can take its place as the rhythm of my life. I will not give up and as each day passes my desire to shun the system that has failed me will grow. If the system will not help me then I will become my own system, I will work it out on my own. Then when I have I will spread this far and wide, freeing all the others like me, caged in a system without hope.