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.

Worried about…

For the first time in my living memory, today I could not help but feel my isolation. I built this castle and moat with my bare hands, but when there is a bit of a health scare unfolding, people tend to need family and friends around them. All of a sudden, it feels as though I am very much alone.

When I wrote the other day about my scheduled colonoscopy this week and the possible health concern(s), it’s fair to say I was fairly upbeat and unconcerned, but this week things are taking on a slightly different shape.

When I realised the weight was dropping, I immediately put it down to a reduction of Quetiapine. In retrospect, that theory is rather ridiculous because the reduction of medication was a miniscule amount. I stopped the reduction four weeks ago, but it had no impact on the weight loss.

If you’ve ever been overweight, which I was by just over 50lbs, you will understand how great it is to watch the numbers on your digital scales reduce by 2lbs every week, with absolutely no effort on your part. Perhaps you would be worried, but for some odd reason, I didn’t seem to grasp the extent of the calculations.

The Doc explained yesterday that 1-2lbs is actually a healthy weight loss, but only if you’re working hard to achieve it with an exercise regime and diet plan. I’m afraid my slow strolls through the park with a walking stick, nightly ice cream, large chocolate egg, or that box of chocolates over Easter, is not their idea of rigorous exercise or a strict diet.

I suddenly realised yesterday that, of course, there is something not quite right. It’s impossible not to allow the scenarios to play out in my mind. I’m not so much worried about myself, only about my little Jack Russell… go figure! I don’t mean I’m expecting to kick the bucket (die), but any hospital stay would be disastrous for him.

The one good thing about Thursday’s colonoscopy is that they tell me the results afterwards. Nevertheless, no matter what way I look at this, there are a number of hospital visits ahead, as we try to discover the reasons behind the mysterious weight loss.

I’m only beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel in relation to my mental health, but it seems I have something physical to contend with during the next few weeks or months. I am not too good at dealing with the unknown.

Tomorrow is the day that fills me with dread. I cannot eat or drink anything other than water after breakfast. Between 4.30 and 6pm, I need to take the first rocket powered laxative sachet and apparently I’ll erupt out my rear end like there is no tomorrow. That should be fun.

Please accept my apologies for not being on top of my usual blogs. I hope I’ll get the chance tomorrow to catch up, in between therapy and trotting back and forth to the loo. Fingers and toes crossed

Just thinking – The ‘P’ word & Medical Triggers

We all do it, some more than others, but few are comfortable discussing “it.” Thereth92J6TV3B must be near one hundred words to describe our embarrassment – We ‘poo’, ‘dump’, ‘shit, and even go for a ‘hell’s candy,’ there’s a ‘cow’s fart’, a ‘number two’ or an ‘Easter bunny present’. Here in the UK, the stiff-upper-lip Brits like to say, ‘sit on the throne’, plus many more here.

When things start to go wrong ‘down below’, it can feel a real pain in the ass, quite literally. If you’ve experienced sexual abuse as a child and then need a health professional to poke around the rear end, even years later, the trauma revisited on your adult mind can be baffling and devastating.

It all started six to eight months ago when I embarked on a reduction of a mental health medication, called Quetiapine (Seroquel). I’ve been on this drug for around three years and realised very early on that there are issue’s with weight gain. I had never experienced any problem maintaining an ideal weight of 154lbs, but I steadily ballooned to 203lbs and the inevitable clothes-bursting expansion.

thBAVWXNBPTwo of the side effects from reducing this medication are weight loss and possible issues with inflammatory bowel. Of course, prone to the “spurts,” my bowel went straight into meltdown, but the drop in weight made up for all the mornings sitting “on the throne” for longer than Her Majesty the Queen.

When I eventually went to my family Doctor nine-days ago with a sore rump from all the “Easter bunny presents,” rather than praise the loss of 49lbs in 6-8mths, he said, “You need to attend the hospital for further tests.”

I was gobsmacked, “But, I only wanted some haemorrhoid suppositories.”

I duly attended hospital yesterday, eager to convince the Senior Consultant of the Doctor’s error. When his finger was inserted where the sun doesn’t shine, I mentioned the Quetiapine for the third time, but the Consultant dismissed the theory and said, “But, Mr Cat, you’ve lost too much weight.”

“Really?” I said, “That is not what I read on the internet…OUCH.” Okay, questioning athP5UOZCZK senior Consultant, with his finger up while in the foetus position, might not be a bright idea, and my finger indentations on the examination table will bear witness to this moment for years to come.

When I arrived home yesterday, I felt completely drained and utterly depressed. Naturally, I was worrying over their concerns, but this was more about having to lie in the position to have things done to me that are similar to the childhood memories.  The sensations were a stark reminder of the violation.

thUREPAM3EMy dilemma is that I don’t know how I will be able to undergo a colonoscopy. Sedation is not an option due to the drive home afterwards, but even if it were possible, the dosage would never be enough to support me through this.

Rather than tell the Consultant why this might be a problem, I dissociated.  How can anyone just come out and say abuse?

I wonder if any of you have gone through similar and how you managed to cope with such a seriously triggering event.

Just thinking – Memory

Common sense tells me that we remember visually. If someone asks us to think of athK8MQTTZ9 happy moment in childhood, we immediately see the image inside our mind, which helps make a connection with the story and then the feelings. I’m sure this is the same for everyone.

When I started therapy, I remember having a conversation with my sister about psychotherapy unlocking things in our unconscious and how, as far as I knew, I had no hidden memories, or false ones, for that matter. How very wrong I was.

I remember childhood with average consistency, but not so much on a daily basis, rather a collection of different images, with either traumatic or happy connotations, and these somehow make up the bigger picture. I am aware that the bad somehow overwhelms any good and I wonder if part of my therapy is also about remembering the good and trying to bring some things into balance.

I have a consistent recollection from around 3-4yrs old up until just before my 9th birthday. They were the worst years at home. Not only was I living within an abusive environment, I also endured years of sexual abuse by our neighbour. You might think this would be a good time to dissociate, but dissociation doesn’t appear to have happened until the abuse ended. That seems a little odd.

One day I found mum wrapping ornaments in newspaper. She said we were moving, “to have a fresh start in a new home.” I said, “Will you and dad stop smacking us now?” I can still see the look of shame on her face. Maybe the penny dropped, I don’t know, but that was the last time they ever used physical violence to any humiliating extreme.

The first weeks in our new home are quite clear, but in my mind, I never did get to my 9th birthday. The next time I am able to recall anything solid, is a few weeks before my 12th birthday, exactly two-years. When I try to think about this period, the visual in my mind is blackness.

th43ZJN5J0What troubles me the most is, prior to this two-year black out, I remember something dreadful happening. You could say it is a ‘hidden memory’, but rather than it being a memory of one single experience, it is a collection of little events that I remember spanning the few weeks leading up to our move.

This “memory” is so bad that if it were true, it’s hardly surprising I blacked out for two years. If it’s a “false memory,” it’s been causing anxiety, unnecessarily.

I read a post today by our blogging-chum, Amber, who made me wonder if we can really trust some of our early memories. You can read about it here