Sunday, 21 September 2014

I don't know which side of breaking point I'm on

I met an old friend today, and I mentioned I was having trouble.  He said an interesting thing, along the lines of "As long as I've known you, you've always been on the edge, but you've always been able to hold it together."  This is a very good description and I have recognised what it describes in myself before as what you might call "high-functioning depression". But I'm not holding it together now.

Straight away I'll tell you I don't feel suicidal in any way.  Don't want you to worry.

But otherwise I'm not coping at all.

Last night I stood in my bedroom in floods of tears.  My wife held me tight.  My children came in and also held me.  My daughter stroked my left cheek,  to my wife's disgust (not really) since she had previously stroked it to no effect.

Earlier in the day I had a wonderful experience that made me really happy. I wanted to come straight home (about 6pm) have supper and write about it.  But it was now 9 or 10 and I hadn't started. I was upset with myself, and also wound up.

What was I wound up about?  The Scottish Independence referendum, as I've blogged about here. Not only was the referendum over 2 days ago, but my side won. I thought it would get calmer then, but somehow it didn't.  I guess the problem is that my obsession didn't know it was meant to be over: why should it?  I mean normally it's something timeless (like chess problems) so it can just go on as long as it wants.

In fact it's got a lot worse.  I think there are various reasons for that. The election night (the night before last) had me going to bed at 4.30 or 5 and up again at 7.30, so obviously mild sleep deprivation doesn't help. Annoying because I hadn't meant to do that.  With bad timing my pills ran out a few days ago and I only just got them back again. My fault for not refreshing the prescription because I was doing so well!    What's been happening after the result has been very different to a normal election, where one side celebrates and the other side is miserable.  So I've still been winding up, plus of course there is a lot of postmortem stuff my mind can obsess over.

Anyway, what happened over the last couple of days is that the obsession took over from something that happened to me when I wasn't doing something else, and on a good day I could beat with website blockers, to something which was full on all the time.

I still file like I'm just on the right side of the breaking point. But I don't think I can stay there much longer if things go on as they are.

Ok, don't be stupid Ian. What the bleep are you thinking?  You know you are way past the breaking point.  But I did write those sentences in all seriousness.  Same with the post title. Kind of interesting the way your mind plays tricks on you, huh.

It's obvious I can't do my job at the minute.  Not to anything like a sensible standard.  I could probably hold it together enough to go into work and to come home, but to nobody's benefit.

So what I'm going to try to do is this.

By a lucky coincidence my sister and brother in law are visiting this week, so I think that time with them will be a great help and take my mind off things.

1.  Tell my head of department and school welfare officer this fact
2.  Turn off twitter and facebook completely for a week
3.  Greatly reduce and possibly stop email completely ditto.
4.  This all has some problems because of "forgot your password" and the like.  I'm sure I can sort something out with my wife.
5.  Do things I enjoy like cooking, reading.
6.  Do more running because I have found it really hard to get enough done over the last year or so and I enjoy it - though I wouldn't say for sure it helps my depression.
7.  Keep taking the tablets
8.  Go to see a doctor
9.  Have naps
10. Hug my family
11. Drink a bit more.  Sounds crazy but I've been cutting down for a few weeks and I feel that has worked well, but it just seems like something extra to worry about. Obviously take this back on doctor's orders but that's the plan right now. My drinking is not out of control, because fortunately I don't like to get drunk.  But I do like to drink a moderate amount all evening which takes me over the advised weekly allowance.
12. Ditto eating. Comfort food.
13. Avoid coverage of the referendum, but that's a bit tricky... but certainly I can't let the
14.  Talk to the university occupational health officer - probably via school welfare officer.
15. You know, whatever, I'm not really very functional right now so I think I'm going to stop worrying about this list.
16. Ask my sister to read this post. I've never been very open face to face, while very open online as you can probably see from Depressed Academics.

This seems like quite a long list to me.... but ... umm... well ok I guess we just see what happens. In my family we tend to make long lists and then get upset that they are not done.

It might be that a week turning off and on again will get me back to normal.  That would be cute.  Because there's important work I want to do and was getting into the flow of when my brain wasn't stopping me. But I have no idea how long this could be.

I suspect that I've been this bad or nearly so before. But certainly those other times I didn't decide I couldn't do my job. Now I look back from here I probably should have done.

Honestly, since I started Depressed Academics 21 months ago I have always had imposter syndrome here because my depression has been under control.  I don't feel like an imposter at the minute.

There's one last thing I'm going to do, which is to tell everybody. I mean, I think that is pretty clear by now.  But also I'm going to mail the staff in the department to tell them. I don't think people should do that in general, because their health is for themselves alone, unless it affects their work. If it does, there is a VERY limited group of people who need to know.  Other people might just need to know that somebody is away or not available, or signed off for unspecified reasons.


  1. Hi Ian, get better soon! And let me know if there is anything that I can do to help.

    1. Thanks Miguel too. However I'm going to stop thanking people individually since that might mean I just keep coming back to check!


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