Category Archives: Just thinking

Resolutions & Stepping Stones

The leap year of 2016 is also the year of the Fire Monkey on the Chinese calendar. Mercury makes a rare transit between the sun and the earth, and many have already sailed through the first week of their New Year resolutions.

Many of the New Year resolutions we pledge each year can be a little on the ambitious side. Nevertheless, we press ahead with sword and shield, eager to prove they can survive beyond the average four-week lifespan. It’s not long before our Christmas inspiration encounters the cold, procrastinating winter months, and we begin to question just how realistic our goals were.

I sound like the New Year Scrooge, casting a shadow of doubt over the resolution party. But, as with the festive alcohol, naughty nibbles, and gut-busting meals, we need to apply equal amounts of moderation to our plans for improvement.

Many countries across the globe have conducted research into the success of New Year resolutions. Some of the more optimistic findings come from a University in Pennsylvania, where 77% of their participants made it through the first week. 55% stuck with it for one month, and 40% squeezed their way through six months.

Introducing healthy changes is hard enough, but breaking bad habits can be extraordinarily difficult, sometimes impossible. An old Therapist used to say, “Change is a process, not an event, and each stage of that process is preparation for the next.” Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at self-discipline. Add depression to the challenge and it’s not long before the mix becomes toxic with failure and self-doubt.

Battling with mental health problems can be a destructive journey for anyone. My own self-esteem tumbles to an all-time low and faith in any prospect of change becomes distant and weakened with time. Even though I plan and exercise different steps to recovery, it’s hard to maintain motivation, when depression zaps every ounce of strength to function on the bad days.

The advice offered by millions of google articles on how to stick to New Year resolutions, sound similar to the strategies I learned during the therapy programme. Be realistic. Be specific and be prepared to divide each target into smaller goals.

I used to make the same annual resolution of enrolling on a full-time Diploma or Degree course. Somehow, studying became a gauge to recovery. But, I would lose a little more faith at the start of each term time, when my name failed to appear on a college register.

The ‘college’ word hasn’t come up on this year’s ‘to–do’ list, although the smaller goals aspire to the same objective. Weekly support groups, trauma therapy, and short vocational courses, comprise a set of sub-goals that feel more solid and doable. This doesn’t mean the process won’t escape the usual apathy, or the prospect of failure. It doesn’t seem to matter how small the goal, most of us fear any kind of failure, even though we should be embracing it the most.

Failure forms a necessary part of the human experience. They encompass a wide array of wonders, from the miracle of a child’s conception, to every invention witnessed by humankind. Yet, despite witnessing a solid record of success, we still regard failure as the enemy.

Whenever plans take an unexpected nose-dive, I’m soon berating my good-for-nothing-abilities and interpret the minor setback as major defeat. I’m guilty of one-track thinking and fail to see that there are other options, sub-goals… stepping stones.
Sometimes it’s better to hold off on some of our aspirations, until we acquire a better position. This doesn’t necessarily signify procrastination. We’re still moving forward, advancing on the same objective, only from a different angle. One of the group Therapists once said, “We need to step back and ask ourselves what can be done differently… what will help to conquer the hurdles?”

One of the most intriguing articles on New Year resolutions appeared in last week’s Independent newspaper in the UK. Scientists behind a study claim that people were more likely to stick to their goals if they discard the statements and present them as questions instead. Apparently, a question creates a psychological response beneficial to willpower and self-discipline.

Wishing everyone a very Happy and Healthy New Year and many answered Questions!

A Tale of Remarkable Coincidence

I am one of eight million people living in London and there must be a few million landline telephones beginning with the city’s 020 code. What are the odds of a complete stranger mistakenly phoning my number from 500 miles away, and then revealing information that ends my search for a long lost friend?

As I arrived home on Wednesday afternoon, my home telephone was ringing. I’ve been struggling with a little anxiety over unknown numbers, so answering can often be a challenge.

To my relief, I realised the caller had the wrong number, although the woman was very friendly and explained how she is elderly and partially sighted.

I’m from Scotland and my caller had a very soft Scottish accent, so in no time we were conversing like old acquaintances. Neither of us could guess the remarkable turn our conversation was about to take.

“Where in Scotland are you from?” I asked.

“I’m from Montrose.”

“Oh that’s a real coincidence…”

It was as if a dam exploded inside my brain and all the memories came flooding back at once. Anne is a very special person and there was a time when it was hard to imagine our lives apart. But, my sexuality became the elephant in the room and our intended marriage was slowly squeezed out.

While friends shunned my sexuality and the Church stood in judgement, Anne remained by my side. Perhaps she secretly feared her selfless love would ultimately spell our demise, but she continued to help me understand that I was still the same worthy person, regardless of sexual preference.

“I used to visit Montrose with a friend back in the 1980’s… at the time, we lived in Perth.” I told the caller.

“Oh, I was born just outside Perth.”

“Wow, this is amazing. You might know the college I attended in Perth, St Paul’s?”

“Yes, of course I know St Paul’s.”

There are over 60 million people in the UK and it almost felt scary to consider if this random caller knew Anne. We had remained close friends for another 19 years, but then she married in 1995 and we both relocated to opposite ends of the country. Anne had been on my mind a lot lately, but internet searches had proven fruitless.

It was highly unlikely this random caller knew her, but it was worth a shot. “Did you ever meet the woman who took charge of St Paul’s in the early 90’s, her name’s Anne G.?” I held my breath.

“Oh my goodness, this is very strange indeed, I used to meet Anne in Perth Theatre.”

I quickly went into overdrive with a barrage of questions spilling from my mouth, but something about the caller’s hesitancy sank to the pit of my stomach.

“Um… Oh… I am so sorry, but Anne died… and it’s only within the last year.”

I felt utterly devastated. She must be mistaken. “Are you sure?”

“Oh yes, I am certain because Anne’s stepdaughter is married to our minister.”

It took me a couple of hours to come to terms with the news and the synchronicity of the call is extraordinary and quite difficult to grasp. After all this time, I finally found a direct link to Anne, albeit through her stepdaughter, Julie, who confirmed Anne passed away in February 2014.

For whatever unexplained reasons, I was destined to hear this very sad news. My mind is awash with memories of a time when life was the opposite of what it became, but that is another post entirely.

Only the names and location of this story are changed.

Dreams & Dr Foreskin

The Daily Post prompt for the today is to write about sleep. As it’s one of my favourite pastimes, I thought it would be nice to indulge in some.

I try not to talk about how well I sleep because I don’t want to tempt fate by bragging. It can be a life-changing problem for many who struggle with mental health. When my own depression was in a chronic state, I slept soundly for 16 hours every day, 13 through the night and a further 3hr “coma” in the afternoon.

Around the same time, my GP prescribed the antidepressant, Sertraline, and one of the side effects caused the most vivid dreams imaginable. Different dreams unfolded each night, but all were within the same beautiful seaside village. The familiarity of its layout felt as though it was a second home.

When the GP changed my antidepressants, I was disappointed when the village dreams came to an abrupt halt. Today’s dreams are more like dramatic versions of whatever happens in real life, usually replaying difficult situations. This past week is a perfect example.

I woke up laughing a couple of nights ago… Jack (the dog) didn’t look too pleased, but an embarrassing moment that happened at hospital seemed to be tickling my fancy.

Whenever I’m uptight in busy areas, I don’t listen fully to what people are saying and seldom think before opening my big fat mouth.

I was sitting in the Gastroenterology department feeling on edge for a few short moments before this smartly dressed but rather grumpy Doctor entered the room. ‘Lovely’, I thought, ‘Just what I need, Dr Death shoving tubes down my throat.’

“Good morning, Mr Cat,” he says in an official manner, “My name is Doctor Foreskin.”

I almost choked. It didn’t even cross my mind that I might have just misheard him. With raised eyebrows, I blurted out with a childish little giggle, “Doctor F.o.r.e.s.k.i.n?” Then I beamed bright red for revealing my immaturity.

Doctor Foreskin glanced up from his paperwork solemnly with a look that said, ‘is he taking the piss.’ He cleared his throat and simply said, “Uh-huh.”

Before I left the department, curiosity got the better so I quietly asked the nurse if she could clarify the Doctors name. Turns out, his name’s actually Dr Forsyn, pronounced Fore’sin… you have to admit that they do sound quite similar.

As you may have noticed, I usually post images to match my posts, but I’ll pass this time, I don’t want to look like a dick.