Sunday Update 03/02

This week I have been mainly dealing with Executive Dysfunction. It’s a thing I’ve mentioned before, somewhere, but I can’t be arsed finding the previous blog posts. Or maybe that’s the Executive Dysfunction talking.

This is a disorder where you want to do a thing and you’re capable of doing the thing and you’ve decided to do the thing but you don’t actually do the thing because the part of your brain that does the deciding (the Executive) can’t properly communicate with the rest of your brain. Humans tend to assume that we have unfettered free will, so we often think it’s procrastination or laziness. We think that the reason we’re not doing the thing is because we’ve decided not to do the thing, even if that’s clearly not true.

Executive Dysfunction is commonly found in people with ADHD, particularly adults who were undiagnosed as children. It’s also found in people with Depression or on the Autism Spectrum. It leads to this horrible feeling of unworthiness. This sense that you’re fundamentally unreliable which itself leads to a fear of committing to anything because you’re so scared that you’re going to let people down.

You might be thinking that my Executive Dysfunction can’t be all that bad because here I am writing a blog post. Well… I’ve got two emails that need replies that I somehow haven’t written even though I’ve had two days. My travel coffee mug got broken and I should be looking online for a replacement but I’m not. I should be working on my spy novel but I’m not. I have a bunch of finished crochet that I need to parcel up to send to people and it’s a month late. I have a pair of crochet mittens that just need to be sewn up to finish and they’ve been sitting around for two months. If I turn my head slightly I can see a bunch of cardboard boxes that should have gone out to the paper recycling bin weeks ago.

Of course part of the problem for me is that, because I have a chronic pain condition, I have an invisible extra step between deciding to do the thing and actually starting to do the thing. The act of will required to disregard how much additional pain doing the thing might cause. It’s a lot harder to just get up and take the cardboard out to the bin if you know that there’s a significant chance that getting up will feel like you’ve been stabbed.

It’s kind of amazing that I ever get anything done at all. Or maybe it’s just amazing that I am somehow still going in spite of being such a disaster.


Things are not going my way

Gentle readers I beg your patience while I rant for a bit. The last few days have not gone well and the next few aren’t looking great either.

I’m having a major Fibromyalgia flare up. For the last three days I’ve had a muscle spasm in my back so bad that the pain has gone through excruciating and into exquisite. I’m taking Tramadol, Paracetamol and vaping CBD and I still can’t bend without screaming. There is no comfortable way for me to sit, stand or lie. Part of the spasm is over my left kidney and if I started pissing blood it would be a relief because a kidney infection can be treated, kidney stones pass, even kidney failure can be managed.

Fortunately that’s distracting me from the sudden appearance of a hole in one of my back teeth. I think a filling might have fallen out. Or maybe a bit of the tooth has cracked off. I already had a dental appointment this week so that’s lucky. I’m trying really hard to believe that it’s lucky but it’s hard to think straight over the screaming pain from my back.

I’m still not back on my usual eating plan because of difficulty getting the shopping sorted. Between trouble with deliveries and the problem with my back and my spouse’s anxiety being too bad to do the shopping for me I’m having difficulty sorting out a coherent meal plan.

I’m having trouble getting anything done. I started this weekend with a book I’m wanted to read, a film I wanted to watch on Netflix, a film I’m trying to see in the cinema before it leaves a podcast I’m trying to catch up with and a novel that I’m trying to finish writing. In all I managed 15 pages of the book, neither of the films, 3 episodes of the podcast and about 2,000 re-written words of my novel. That’s pathetic.

And the worst of it is this feeling that my life is slipping away from me. Time is passing and I’m not doing anything with it. Precious seconds of my life are ticking by and I am variously paralyzed by pain, or depression, or indecision, or just lack of basic organisational skills.

Today’s displacement activity is…

Notebooks, and journals, and organisers.

There’s something so hopeful about ordering a new planner or diary. Particularly if it comes with some sort of promise to sort out your life and help you to ‘get things done’. When the thing arrives there’s all that lovely busy work involved in filling in details and making plans and committing to goals. It all feels so very productive.

And none of it fucking works.

At least none of it works reliably for me personally. Your mileage may vary. Possibly you, dear reader, are not disorganised trash like me.

Putting all my appointments in a Google calendar that is synced to my phone calendar mostly works. It’s at least 90% successful as long as I remember to put the thing on the calendar and set an alarm for a couple of days before. But it only works for appointments.

As a person with ADHD, depression and fibromyalgia I need to be organised. I need to plan ahead. As a person with terrible executive function problems I am shitty at planning ahead. It’s not unusual for me to get up at the crack of 2pm and spend half an hour setting goals and making lists of the stuff I need to work on to achieve those goals and then immediately go and do something else instead.

I am so bad at following through that I could make a todo list that includes reading a book that I’m supposed to be reviewing, catching up with the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comic and eating some chocolate and it would lead to me scrubbing the kitchen sink.

It’s starting to feel like I only ever achieve things by accident. I’m pretty sure that my 9+ first drafts and my one completed novel only exist because I was supposed to be tidying the house. I’m wrapped in a crochet shawl that only exists because I was supposed to be editing. I’m blogging because I just decided to crochet a hat. Earlier today I cleaned the hob rather than blog.

And it wouldn’t be so bad if I was doing any of these things properly. But i’m not. My books aren’t published, my blog is kind of bland, my kitchen is still a mess and my crochet mainly results in me spending too much money on yarn. But I recently backed a kickstarter for a really nice planner and this one has a SYSTEM. Surely this is the one that will finally work.


If you have enjoyed this post then why not buy me a coffee with Ko-Fi?

Is depression a choice?

Yes. But not the way you think.

I’m aware that I’m taking a risk starting like this but so be it. If I want to speak to the people who need to hear this I have to start this way. Some of my readers are going to feel attacked but please bear with me.

Depression is one option on a multiple choice test. For some of us this test is an occasional annoyance. For others it gets delivered every goddam day. The test looks like this:

Pick one option only

  • Denial
  • Substance Abuse
  • Suicide
  • Depression

Everyone starts out ticking the Denial box. Nobody wants to be depressed. Depression sucks. So you tick that Denial box. And then you tick it the next day and you keep on ticking it. But it gets harder. The box goes grey and then black and eventually no matter how hard you press down on the paper your mark won’t show up.

For some people that’s enough to go straight to the Depression box but some people think that’s for quitters. So some people go to option two.

Choose your poison. There are so many ways to pretend you’re not depressed. Alcohol will cover it up and the next day when you feel like shit you’re not depressed you’re just hungover. Hair of the dog will sort you out. If you don’t like booze there are so many drugs out there. Some will take you high enough so you can’t feel the depression. Some will take you down so low that you won’t care. And if you don’t trust drugs there’s always food. Suffocate those damn feelings under handfuls of sweet, sweet food.

But over time the Substance Abuse box keeps getting bigger. It gets easier to tick. Eventually it gets it’s own denial sub heading so that you can deny that the substance abuse is a problem. And then comes the day when you realise that the words ‘Substance Abuse’ are written on a label. They’re covering something up. And when you scrape or peel the label off you find that underneath it is the word Suicide. Because substance abuse is just suicide the long way round.

That Suicide box is always tempting. It’s practically talking to you. Telling you that if you tick it right just once you’ll never have to worry about the damn test ever again. Some days that box is huge.

But if you care about the people around you that option is out of the question. So you move to the bottom of the test and you tick the Depression box. The hardest one. The one that means admitting there’s a problem. The one where you seek help and take pills and talk about your damn feeling. The one where you have to practice self care instead of pretending that you don’t exist. The one where you have to cut the toxic people out of your life. You’ll know the toxic people because they’re the ones telling you that you’re selfish or weak for ‘choosing’ to be depressed.

The truth about depression

The worst thing about depression isn’t that it lies. It’s that it keeps telling you uncomfortable truths until you’re too weak to keep saying “so what”.

When my depression tells me that no-one will miss me or that the people I care about will be better off without me I know that it’s lying. No matter how worthless I am they would miss me because they are good people and my death would hurt them because they’d feel like they failed. Clinging on to that has kept me going. I’m not living for me and I haven’t been for years.

When my depression tells me that none of that matters in the grand scheme of things it’s not exactly lying. My life and the lives of everyone I know are meaningless when placed against the span of human history. All of human history is insignificant in the whole history of life on our planet. And that’s just on a local scale. Our whole solar system is not even a mote in the eye of the universe. Sometimes it’s a comforting thought. I am so insignificant that there’s a real limit to how badly I can fuck up.

When my depression tells me that I don’t matter that’s old news. When it tells me that the Universe is huge and ancient but still young and that it’s impossible to conceive of how brief and tiny my life is by comparison I can agree. But when it starts to say that’s also true about everyone I care about then I have a problem. I’m only living because I don’t want to hurt them. But if their pain is unimportant then there’s no reason for me to keep going.

I’m going to stop writing this now. I have no idea if it’s making any sense. The depression is very bad right now and my brain isn’t communicating with itself very well.

Perspective shift

Last year I was diagnosed with lymphoedema. At the time it just seemed like yet another thing wrong with me. I almost asked the Doctor why he bothered telling me since it’s just another thing that I can’t fix. I did some research and found that it was either genetic or caused by being fat and while I was suspicious that it might be genetic it seemed more likely that it was caused by being fat. So not only did I have a new thing wrong with me that I couldn’t fix but it was probably my fault.

Today I found out that my research was wrong. My lymphoedema would appear to be caused by Lipoedema. It makes sense of a lot of things. It explains the leg pains I’ve had for years, the way my legs were huge but my feet didn’t have any fat on them, and especially the time I lost more than 8 stone (119 lbs or 54 kg to be exact) and saw little change in my legs – my body was 8 dress sizes smaller than my legs.

Now I was only able to lose 8 stone because I did get really fat. But not until after I tried anorexia for a while. I had fat legs when I was anorexic too. I don’t mean imaginary fat legs. I mean the last day I was actively anorexic I was 13 years old and I was wearing a t-shirt sized for a 11-year-old girl and size 10 women’s trousers which only just fitted over my knees and thighs but fell off without a belt.

When I stopped restricting my food intake my disordered eating snapped back in the other direction and I took up binge eating. Which didn’t help my legs or my already fragile self esteem. Every time I tried to change my eating habits I found that I couldn’t keep it up. The anorexia had left me unable to see any positive change in the mirror and the lipoedema meant that I wasn’t getting much positive feedback from my clothes.

I used to describe my teenaged self as fat and depressed. But maybe I was just an average girl with undiagnosed lipoedema and ADHD. I spent my childhood and teen years feeling stupid and worthless and deformed and it’s cast a long shadow over the rest of my life. What would I have been like if we’d known what was wrong?

The thought of it makes me feel queasy. I can’t think properly because of the unfamiliar sound of some part of my mind repeating “It wasn’t your fault. None of it was your fault.” It feels weird. I tend to assume that everything is my fault.

Not a real person.

One of the things I struggle with a lot is the feeling of not being a real person. I think some of it is imposter syndrome and some of it is a throwback to the bullying I grew up with. When everyone tells you that you’re ugly and stupid and worthless you tend to start believing them. If you’re smart enough to know that it’s not true you still can’t help suspecting that you’re not a real person because who would treat a real person like that? Real people have rights. Miss-treating real people has consequences.

But lets not forget that for a lot of people I am not a real person. I am a poor, disabled, depressed, fat, middle-aged woman. You’d be surprised how many people will lose interest in my humanity the moment one of those trigger words is mentioned.

There are a few men for whom no woman is a real person. They might not express it this way but it’s clear that to them personhood is a uniquely male quality. That’s why they think that rape is not a thing. Because they think that only male desires count. If you think of women as objects then of course you don’t care about consent.

There are a larger group of men for whom women are people but with an asterix. They say woman* or female* but that asterix leads to some mental footnote that defines a woman according to some personalised criteria. If you listen to them long enough you find out that woman means a cisgendered, hetrosexual (or bisexual but only for male entertainment), able-bodied woman, between the ages of 17 and 35, with a BMI in the underweight or normal weight range with an attractive face (and if she’s a woman of colour she’d better have a really attractive face) and “good” breasts. The rest of woman-kind doesn’t count as female because we have failed in some aspect of our femininity. Remember that to them the primary purpose of a woman is to be decorative. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do only how we look.

There’s a lot of people for whom poor people aren’t really people. That’s why they don’t care about minimum wages or benefits or social housing. The assumption is that poverty is some kind of moral or intellectual failing rather than a necessary side effect of capitalism.

Some people make similar assumptions about both physical and mental health. There’s an almost superstitious belief that ill-health and injury must be a punishment for something. There’s also a surprising number of people who are happy to declare that depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, OCD and autism are “all in the mind”. Which of course they literally are. They are illnesses of the brain. They cause changes in brain activity, neurochemistry, and sometimes in the physical structures of the brain. No amount of willpower is going to remake the chemistry, activity or gross anatomy of your brain. You can’t just get over it.

I don’t understand why it’s so hard to agree that people are people.

Regardless of skin colour, nationality, religion or lack thereof, political affiliation, age, sexuality, gender identity, nationality, wealth, health, ability or IQ there is only one Homo Sapiens species. We all belong to it and we are all people. Even me. Even when I don’t feel worthy of it. Even when people in power are trampling all over those rights that I have but for some reason can’t use.

Can I tell you a Secret?

Can I tell you about how I’m feeling? Can I tell you what I’m thinking about? Can I relay my deepest, darkest truths? Can I put down the terrible burdens I carry with me every moment of the day, at least for a moment?


No. No I can’t. And that’s a problem.

There are things I can’t write here because it might be read by people who know me and I don’t want to worry them. And this blog is supposed to be entertaining and there are somethings that I just can’t make funny. But I could write them on an anonymous blog.

I could write some of them anonymously but there are things that are so toxic and dangerous that I can’t put them anywhere online in case someone vulnerable read them and was further damaged by them. I could write them down in a pen and paper diary though. Of course eventually other people might read my diaries but by then I’ll be dead and some of the sting will have gone out of the words.

Some of the sting. There are things I can’t write anywhere in case some day my children read them. And even if I could write things down somewhere no one would read them that’s not the same as telling someone.

Maybe you’re wondering why I don’t just see a therapist or a counsellor. I can’t afford to pay one and, though I live in the UK and we have free medical care, the mental health services are badly underfunded. My doctor wont refer me to anyone because I’m not sick enough. The life-long battle with depression hasn’t killed me yet so I must be doing OK. My doctor also wont give me pills because reasons.

There are free counselling services. The local one had an 11 month waiting list last time I checked. With so little coverage I’d feel guilty taking up their time. There are certainly people around who need it more than I do.

So I’m stuck here thinking things I can’t write down or say out loud but I need to talk about. I’m worried that I might get frustrated and say something to the wrong person and then I’ll have hurt someone. If I keep silent the only person I’m hurting is me.

Hello, Darkness, my old friend

The black dog has pounced once more and I am in the pit. Though, to be fair, I’m always in the pit. It’s just that usually I can pretend that I’m not. Or at least pretend that being in the pit is fine.

But now the black dog of depression has jumped on me and stolen my mask and I am forced to be honest about the things that I am never honest about. People talk about depression as if it steals your joy, or your happiness, or your purpose, or the meaning from your life but that doesn’t happen to me. I don’t have any of those things anymore with so I’m really a very poor choice of victim. I’m surprise it bothers. You’d think it would have got the hint by now.

Why do people call depression a black dog? It’s really more like a cat. It likes to play with it’s victims and leave them alive (well, mostly) but crippled.

So here I am, in the bottom of the pit with the depression beast sitting on my chest so that I can barely breathe. I’m playing dead. Eventually it will get bored and climb out of the pit and go and torture someone else. I won’t get my mask back either.The beast has already shredded it. I shall have to make a new mask to help me display socially appropriate emotions.

There was a time when, at the end of a bout with the depression beast, I’d be able to climb out of the pit. Then the pit got deeper and I had to rely on someone dropping a ladder or a line. But then I failed too badly and too many times and the whole floor dropped out from under me. Now the best I can hope for is to convince everyone that I’m OK, that the pit is fine really and not nearly as deep as it looks and that they should go on without me.

I will bide my time and I will make a new mask and before too much longer I shall be back to feeling nothing at all.

Missing the sweet spot

They do say that every writer, every successful artist of any kind, exists in the sweet spot where monstrous ego and crippling self-doubt overlap.

Which might explain why I am not a successful artist.  I keep missing that sweet spot.  I have my moments of ego but they never last long enough to get anything I’ve created out into the world.  I’ve got the crippling self-doubt thing nailed though.

This evening I’ve been pondering why I find it so easy to slip into thoughts of my own worthlessness.  It’s a comfortable pattern of thought for me.  Like a ratty old jumper that’s full of holes, ugly and a bit smelly but that you just keep slipping on whenever no-one else is looking.  It seems odd that I’d be so comfortable thinking of myself as worthless when I don’t think that way about anyone else.

When I look back at my life I’m not sure how I ended up thinking this way about myself.  Is this hard wired?  Is it a feature of my personality?  Did I teach myself to think this way or was it ingrained in me as I was growing up?

I know I’ve been depressed for a very long time.  I first recognized that there was something wrong when I was 4 or 5 years old.  I knew that I was sad far more than I should be.  I hated my body.  I’m not sure how old I was when I first realized that I hated my whole self but I’m sure it was before puberty.

I know I tried to be better. I know I prayed.  I prayed every night that I would wake up in the morning and be thin, and have straight teeth, and graceful hands, and not have such a potato face, and be whatever it was that people wanted me to be.

I was round about 13 years old when I first gave up on the idea of changing.  I realised that I could never change myself into someone that people liked.  I realised that I would never be good enough.

I had been dieting.  Well I thought it was a diet at the time.  I now realise that it was actually a bout of Anorexia. I had lost a lot of weight but people still treated me like shit.  I thought that must mean that I hadn’t lost enough weight so I kept dieting. I kept dieting after my Mum said I had reached target weight and bought me lots of new clothes.  I kept dieting after my new trousers started falling down and had to be held up with a belt.  I somehow convinced myself that they were falling down because the fat was pushing them down. I only stopped dieting when a middle aged man tried to chat me up at the local fair.  I was so horrified at the unwanted attention that I went straight to the cake stall and spent my pocket money there.

At the time I thought that it was  sign that the weight at which you got unwanted attention from men was above the weight at which people started treating you like an actual human being. I had no way of knowing how much more weight I’d have to loose to be a human being but I thought I’d probably have to put up with the unwanted attention even after I got there.  I’d already tried so hard for so long to become a human being and all I’d done was to stick an even bigger target on my back.  I was already being bullied by my family and my peers but by loosing weight I’d somehow added strange adult men to the list.

I thought about it for a long time.  I really wanted to be treated like an actual human being.  They way people treated me made me miserable.  But making myself acceptable to them seemed to be out of reach, or at least to come with unwanted side effects.  I decided that my only route to happiness was to train myself to stop expecting better treatment.  I thought that the thing that was making me miserable was the gap between how people treated me and how I thought I ought to be treated.  If I could just accept that this was how my life was meant to be then I would be ok.

I tried to lower my expectations.  I don’t recommend it as a tactic.  Life seems to take it as a challenge.  No matter how much you lower your expectations life can always undercut it.

I tried to believe that the names they called me were true.  I tried not to care when people hit me.  I tried to believe that I was so unimportant that the pain didn’t really matter.   I tried so hard not to react when I was shouted at or insulted or punished.  I tried to keep my head down.  I tried not to get angry when my father shouted at me for whatever reason he was shouting at me.  I tried not to care that my clothes were ugly and everyone seemed to hate me.  I thought if I could just believe that I was as worthless as everyone seemed to think then I’d stop caring how much it hurt.

It didn’t work. I think it was probably I bad idea. I think that what I did was to destroy my own defenses.  I think.  But what do I know?  I’m an idiot.  Maybe it did help.  After all the world seems to prefer that people on the loosing side shut up about how badly they’re treated.  Making a noise only brings attention to yourself and when you’re a looser the last thing you want is attention.

The real danger with thinking like that is it becomes a feed-back loop. It’s a hole you fall into and every iteration of “I am worthless and I deserve this” makes it harder to climb out. “I am worthless because everything I do fails” very quickly becomes “I am worthless because I do nothing” and every time you think that it becomes harder to do anything.  From there it’s a very short journey to thinking about how your life would be better without you in it.

And now I must stop because I am boring myself.  If anyone else is still reading I apologise for this self indulgent dross.  I agree that it’s really not good enough and I’m sorry that it’s not very entertaining.  Sometimes I just have to get this stuff out.