Another Hurdle Overcome

It never fails to amaze me – the power of self-limiting beliefs.

When I was at school, my art teacher harshly criticised my (admittedly poor) painting skills in front of the whole class. From that point, I was convinced I was useless at art and I didn’t even attempt it.

But at some point in my mid-twenties, I started accepting that I actually have quite a creative streak in me. It’s just that I’d been telling myself I wasn’t creative for years.

Another (false) thing I believed from a very early age was that I was useless at any practical tasks – anything that required my hands. I gave up trying with woodworking or anything close to it, far preferring to stick to more academic and cerebral subjects like I.T.

As an adult, I’ve gradually overturned those (false) self-limiting beliefs about my practical abilities. It’s taken a long time, but my confidence at tackling DIY jobs has steadily increased.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very much an amateur. And my skill level isn’t very high. But I feel proud of myself for having the courage to tackle jobs which are way out of my comfort zone.

My DIY Accomplishments

In the last decade, I’ve:

  • tiled our kitchen;
  • painted the walls and ceiling in almost every room of the house;
  • oiled our wooden worktops to a beautiful shine;
  • used a circular saw to cut wood;
  • repaired our hole-ridden driveway with fresh concrete;
  • varnished our wooden staircase;
  • replaced the silicone sealant in our shower;
  • become comfortable using builder’s caulk, wood filler and polyfilla;
  • used a big noisy (rented) belt sander on the original floorboards in our lounge.
  • repaired a tricky leaky tap in the kitchen which had rusted solid inside and refused to budge

In the last few weeks, I’ve taught myself how to repair the plaster ceiling in our master bedroom after I accidentally poked my finger through it when our roof was leaking. The repair job isn’t perfect, but the ceiling does look better than ever before (it’s a very old house).

I’ve always been a bit scared of power tools. But recently I bought myself a “random orbital sander” and have been busy sanding every uneven surface in the house.

The Final Fear…

But there was one power tool which I still had an irrational fear of… the drill.

There have been plenty of odd jobs around our house which have been piling up over the years because I was too scared to use a drill. We even got a handyman in once just to mount a key rack in our kitchen, which required a grand total of two drill holes and about 5 minutes work.

Last week, I finally popped my drilling cherry.

I hesitantly drilled into the walls, hoping I didn’t encounter any electrical wires. Then I confidently tapped rawl plugs into the newly-drilled holes and wall-mounted surround sound speakers in our lounge.

They look and sound great, if I do say so myself.

In the last decade I’d say I’ve gone from being completely useless at DIY to actually being a moderately competent amateur.

It makes me feel proud of myself. And my wife is pretty pleased with the home improvements too.

What about you? What fears have you overcome in your own life?

P.S. Big thanks to my Dad – he’s been super supportive and helped me with many DIY tasks. He even bought me my first ever toolbag a few years ago, which is now full to the brim with various DIY tools. Love you, Dad!


Up or Down?

Today feels like another of those pivotal moments… depending on how I handle things in the next few hours, my life could take a turn for the worse…

…Or maybe I’ll be able to use my arsenal of mental health tools’n’techniques to dodge the knockout punch which life is aiming my way.

If today was happening just a year or two ago, I’d say there would be a good chance I’d be heading into another depressive episode.

Fortunately, I have an ever-increasing belief that I (probably) have the inner strength to handle this. I hope I’m right.


So, What’s Going On?

Let’s start with the facts: Physically I don’t feel great: tired & achey. Mentally I’m not so hot either… brain fog, lingering sadness.

My old friend’s suicide is affecting me a little… but to be fair I haven’t seen her in ten years, so I’m less distressed than if she’d been my closest friend and we’d been better at keeping in touch.

12 Steps

I’ve been pulling away from Narcotics Anonymous. I’m coming up against barriers inside my own mind which are making it hard for me to feel close to people within the fellowship. I’m losing the sense of community I felt previously. I’m also intentionally avoiding my sponsor because much of what he tells me I find unhelpful. I haven’t attended a meeting in at least a week – I’m questioning its value for me personally.

On the plus side, I don’t see myself quitting Narcotics Anonymous completely. I still can very much see the value in doing the “stepwork” from the NA Step Working Guide book. It forces you to carefully consider your relationship to the 12 Steps. It helps you become a better person. And yet I’ve been procrastinating getting stuck into it for weeks. I’m at the start of Step 2, but I keep finding way more interesting things to do around the house… mostly DIY, which at least has felt productive. Yeah, I suck at routines and discipline.

As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, there are lots of things I dislike about the 12 Steps. However, overall, I still feel it’s beneficial for me. So I’m going to keep going.

Anti-depressant Withdrawal

It’s a little over 3 weeks since I cold-turkeyed from Fluoxetine. This is precisely the timeframe where I might expect to feel the withdrawal effects on my moods and emotions.

I’m certainly feeling emotions more strongly now. The other day, I nearly cried while listening to some emotive music – that’s not happened to me for years.

Physical Effects

Recently, I’ve been really struggling to establish a good routine with diet, exercise and sleep. Again!

I know those 3 factors are very important for my mental health. When I consume too much sugar, don’t get enough exercise and keep staying up into the early hours of the morning, it’s an almost guaranteed recipe for worsening mental health.

Bad Dream

Last night I had a bad dream which repeated many elements of another disturbing dream I had recently.

I was in London and wanted to get home. “Home” in my dream was Hampshire, where I grew up. It’s westwards from London. But I got on the wrong train and accidentally headed North. I didn’t even realise I was on the wrong train until the train was outside London.

Once I realised, I got off at the next stop and planned how I would get back to Hampshire. It was going to take forever.

I would also need to walk through a place where I knew a lot of old acquaintances would be using drugs. It would be hard for me to resist.

This morning I’ve been trying to work out if the dream holds any significant meaning. What is it trying to tell me?

I find it alarming if my unconscious thinks that going North is/was a mistake. My wife and I moved North 9 years ago. Sure, we’ve had some difficulties, and it’s been tough for me being socially isolated (I’ve not made much effort to make new friends locally).

However, I can’t stress this enough: I have zero regrets about moving to Yorkshire. I love it here. My hometown holds a lot of painful memories for me and I have no inclination to return.

I’m 100% committed to my wife. My intention is that we’re going to be together until we die.

Moving North was very much NOT a mistake. So, what else could the dream mean?

Perhaps it simply means I’ve been heading in the wrong direction recently. Maybe I’ve been spending way too much time being obsessed with DIY when really it would be wiser to get stuck into NA meetings and stepwork.

Or perhaps the dream holds no meaning at all and I’m too eager to read something into it.

Maybe I should just “collapse the house of cards” – remove all sense of meaning and interpretation from these recent events. Maybe I need to get back to my “being mode” – experiencing life as it is, mindfully, without layering on so much meaning, which only exists inside my own head.

Taking Action

Practical steps I can start taking immediately to wrestle control of my life away from any impending depression:

  1. Remember that nothing holds any meaning unless I decide it does. That immediately reduces any emotional valency.
  2. Get busy. Do some DIY or something productive. Be mindful whilst doing this.
  3. Exercise, eat better today, get a good night’s sleep tonight.
  4. Listen to my favourite music.
  5. Be kind to myself.
  6. Reach out to my NA sponsor. I’ll chat with him at 3pm today.
  7. Get stuck in to working Step 2 this weekend.
  8. Cry if I really need to. Don’t bottle up emotion, but equally don’t wallow in it.
  9. Remind myself I’m on the right path, despite what the dream might suggest.
  10. I just felt this list should have 10 items and not 9. LOL.

The Big S

My brain keeps coming up with amusing ways to begin this post. It’s bizarre, the subject I want to talk about isn’t funny at all.

Suicide

There, I’ve said it. I’m sorry if I’ve just ruined your day.

Last week, an old friend took her own life.

She was recently married and had a young baby. But depression and other mental illnesses don’t particularly care about your life circumstances. It doesn’t matter how successful and happy you might seem on social media.

She wasn’t the first person in my social circle to do this. It’s distressing that I’ve actually lost count of the number of friends and family who have died by their own hand.

And even worse, I’m not particularly unusual. By the time most of us reach our forties (like me), we’ll know at least one person who killed themselves.

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. I’m sure the rest of the Western world has similar stats.

Just stop and think about that for a second…

Not cancer, not heart disease, not even car crashes. Suicide.

And yet many of us are still too scared or feel awkward talking about it. And that stigma contributes to the problem.

I feel strongly about this issue – before my blog’s recent redesign, this post aimed at preventing suicide was permanently featured on my home page.

Impotence

I’ve had my fair share of mental health problems: depression which brought me close to suicide several times, panic attacks and addiction in recent years.

I’m incredibly grateful for these difficult experiences. They’ve taught me useful skills, for helping both myself and others. I’m better able to empathise with people going through similar experiences.

Volunteering as a listener for a suicide prevention charity was one of the most fulfilling roles of my life.

And yet, I feel like I should be doing more. More to help others, more to reduce the number of deaths by suicide.

Suicide isn’t inevitable. Severe depression can be treated. Maybe not for 100% of people, but certainly for some, maybe even most.

There’s more I could be doing to help.

Recently I’ve been looking for a clearer purpose for my blog, a tighter focus. Again and again The Universe keeps prompting me to do something about mental health issues and specifically suicide.

I guess it’s about time I did something.


When the World Doesn’t Measure Up to Our Expectations

There’s some truly excellent personal development advice in 12 Steps programs. I feel this advice applies to everyone, not just those in recovery from addiction.

The Very Best…

Here’s a great example of the very best advice in Narcotics Anonymous. As you read this quote, I’d encourage you to see the ways in which it applies to your own life:

“There are days when some of us wallow in self-pity. It’s easy to do. We may have expectations about how our lives should be, expectations that aren’t always met. Maybe we’ve tried unsuccessfully to control someone, or we think our circumstances should be different. Perhaps we’ve compared ourselves with others and found ourselves lacking. The more we try to make our life conform to our expectations, the more uncomfortable we feel. Self-pity can arise from living in our expectations instead of in the world as it actually is.

When the world doesn’t measure up to our expectations, it’s often our expectations that need adjusting, not the world. We can start by comparing our lives today with the way they used to be, developing gratitude for our current circumstances. We can extend this exercise in gratitude by counting the good things in our lives, becoming thankful that the world does not conform to our expectations but exceeds them. And if we further cultivate gratitude and acceptance, what we can expect in the future is more growth, more happiness, and more peace of mind.

We’ve been given much in our lives; improving ourselves has paid off. Acceptance of our lives, just for today, frees us from our self-pity.

Just for today: I will accept my life, gratefully, just as it is.”

Extract from a “Just For Today” email from Narcotics Anonymous. I’ve made some minor edits so this applies to non-addicts too.

Isn’t that quote simply amazing! Such good advice!

… And The Less Good

Unfortunately, there are some NA ideas I disagree strongly with. Here’s an example…

“Our recovery must come first. Job or no job, relationship or no relationship, we have to attend meetings, work the steps, call our sponsor, and be of service to God and others. These simple actions are what make it possible for us to have vacations, families, and bosses to worry about. Recovery is the foundation of our lives, making everything else possible.

Just for today: I will keep my priorities in order. Number One on the list is my recovery.

Extract from a “Just For Today” email from Narcotics Anonymous.

The above may be true for most addicts, but I don’t believe it’s true for me.

This is one of the things I dislike the most about NA – it tries to lump together all addicts without making sufficient room for diversity.

Attending meetings, working the 12 steps, calling my sponsor, being of service to others… I can see the value in each of these activities.

However, I see them as merely useful, not essential.

There are other factors which help people stay clean. The NA way isn’t the only way for people to lead meaningful, productive lives. And yet, it claims that it is, which I find a little unsettling.


I Predicted The Terrorist Attack in London (For Real This Time)

I take no pleasure in writing this post… My heart is heavy… I feel so bad for anyone affected by this tragedy. I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone involved.

However…

In mid August, I predicted there would be a terrorist attack in London. I felt that two dates in particular were significant: 9/11/2019 and 29/11/2019

(N.B. I live in the UK and this is the UK date format, DD/MM/YYYY).

My wife has just told me about the terrorist attack in London yesterday (29/11/2019).

If you don’t believe me, here are some links to my blog posts about this… I promise, hand on heart, that I have not retroactively edited these posts to fit the horrible event which unfolded yesterday. This is 100% genuine.

Long-time readers of my blog will hopefully remember me writing these posts including their predictions on the dates above.

Honestly, right now I’m feeling a little freaked out. I’m half expecting Mulder and Scully from X-Files to knock on my door. Or anti-terrorist police.

Until my wife told me about yesterday’s attack a few minutes ago, I was prepared to write off my predictions as merely symptoms of drug-induced psychosis from mid-August.

Now, I’m really not so sure.


Ten Reasons Why Today is a Good Day

My friend “A” just asked me how I am today.

I replied, “10/10 day so far dude 🙂 “

He asked what’s made it so good. Here’s my non-exhaustive list…

  1. It’s sunny yet freezing outside. The frost looks beautiful in the sunlight.
  2. Cool music. Honestly, my monthly Spotify membership is such a bargain in terms of its cost per hour of enjoyment.
  3. Loads cool free stuff from Amazon Vine recently. I get sent free things in exchange for honest reviews.
  4. Feeling really pleased with all my ongoing DIY projects around the house. Lots of things are looking and functioning better, in lots of small ways.
  5. I had a good shift at work last night (delivering pizza). Very busy, but enjoyable, despite the cold.
  6. Somehow I’m finding myself even more able to laugh at the absurdities in life, even more than usual. Which is just fucking weird considering I’m meant to be in withdrawal from anti-depressants.
  7. My wonderful wife is home. She’s been away with work Mon-Fri for 3 weeks solid. And so I’m loving her company now she’s home.
  8. I’m alive and clean from drugs. That used to be no big deal for me, but now it’s an absolutely huge part of my happiness.
  9. Cute dogs. ‘Nuff said.
  10. I have discovered a method for committing the perfect crime* : superglue. Just “accidentally” get superglue on your fingertips (without sticking them together). It will smooth out your fingerprints so you’ll be able to engage in a crime spree.

* Results not guaranteed.

That's Just Ridiculous

“That’s just ridiculous” – that’s what I’d expect 99.999% of the population to say when being subjected to what you’re about to experience….

To be clear: I love all three of these tracks. They’re dirty, trippy, weird and highly amusing to me.

I mean, just check out the names of the tracks and artists… surely tongue-in-cheek, especially the first one.

  • Koolaid by Deathpact
  • Flying Saucer by Shlump
  • Acid Scratch by K.L.O.

And even if you don’t like the first two, please check out the last one. It’s really something special. Musically, it shouldn’t work… and yet it does.

Go on, hurt your ears and your brain. Try out these tracks, loudly.