Burn out

Warning: This post doesn’t seem make a lot of sense but it’s the best I can do right now. Feel free to ignore it. Hopefully the next post will make more sense.

This post is two days late. I’m finding it increasingly hard to blog. I want to say that I can’t find anything to blog about but that’s not true. I have ideas I’m just reluctant to use them because I don’t feel like I deserve to use them.

Is this a kind of burn out? Am I experiencing a slow mental health crash? Have I reached the end of my positivity?

That’s a weird thought. I wasn’t aware that i had any positivity and yet I appear to have used it all up. Perhaps I’ve been underestimating how much positivity is required in order to create anything.

I’ve always thought that creativity can be optimistic but it can also be pessimistic. It’s an act of optimism to make anything but the attempt to create something that will live on after you is surely the act of someone who is pessimistic about the possibility of an afterlife.

Much of my creativity is neither optimistic or pessimistic. It’s compulsive. I write because I can’t not write. I crochet and draw and do calligraphy because if I don’t have something to do with my hands then I’ll go spare. But perhaps this compulsion stems from a desire to prove myself worthy of life. If I’m making stuff then I’m justifying my existence.

So when I’m finding it hard to make stuff is that because I don’t feel the need to justify anything or is it because I feel like that justification is impossible.


Adventures in medicinal hosiery

On Saturday my compression tights finally arrived so I can finally begin to manage my lipoedema. I read the instructions carefully but I didn’t put them on because I was already dressed and frankly, the instructions scared me.

On Sunday I tried them on. It was torture. The fabric is so rough and requires so much force to pull into position that I developed a blister on one knuckle and tore the skin red raw on all the others.

My arms were shaking. The tights weren’t pulled on properly. My legs were on fire and I was filled with an irrational rage caused by a combination of exertion and body dysmorphia. I felt useless and weak. I decided that maybe I was doing something wrong, even though I had read the instructions and done my best to follow them. I was only able to wear the tights for an hour and a half because I couldn’t get them back on after using the toilet.

I asked for advice in one of the Facebook support groups for lipoedema. It turns out you’re supposed to use gloves. There are even special donning gloves made for the job (though most of the members use either disposable latex gloves, rubber washing up gloves, or gardening gloves). How is it that I didn’t know that? If it’s well known that this kind of compression garment will tear your skin off and there are gloves made for the job why didn’t anyone tell me that?

Today I tried to put them on again with mixed success. I used some disposable vinyl gloves that we had in the house and I tried lying down to get them above the knees. As I result I’m typing this while wearing the tights (though they’re still not on properly) but I’m also wearing a lot of plasters because I tore the blister right off and added four new blisters and that was with the gloves on. I think I might have blisters coming up on two of my fingertips. I’ve ordered better gloves and finger tape.

You know how I often complain that my life is unreasonably difficult, that there are always more steps between me and where I want to be than there should be? This is that. This is just another example of the endless multiplication of obstacles between me and any goal.

Error 404: Brain not found

Sometimes my brain just doesn’t want to cooperate. Which is kind of a problem for a writer. You might assume that I mean writer’s block but I am a firm believer that there is no such thing. Nothing is stopping you from writing. It’s just that the writing isn’t fun, or it isn’t good, or it isn’t relevant to the thing you wanted to work on. The only way to deal with that is to keep writing and fix it in the edit.

The edit. Now that’s my problem. Editing is almost all brain work. Editing is “when we make the words not suck.” I think that’s a Chuck Wendig quote but I can’t find it so I might be wrong. Editing is not just tidying up the prose it’s also working out what’s missing and what’s extraneous. It means knowing roughly what shape the story should be.

At the moment my brain isn’t talking to itself. The normal chatter of thoughts is quieted. It’s eerie. Normally I’m thinking about eight million things simultaneously. Normally my biggest problem is getting enough of those thoughts to be about the thing that I’m working on. Normally the problem isn’t the silence it’s the deafening background noise.

My mind feels tight. Like a balloon, like a drum, like a pressure vessel. It feels like there are no moving parts in there. Maybe it’s just a migraine coming on. Or maybe it’s just stress. I am usually stressed enough for any two people.

Or maybe I’m just temporarily flattened by the crushing weight of the pointlessness of me attempting to do anything. I expend a lot of effort attempting to do things and most of it is wasted. I can reliably finish a computer game. I can read all of a book (but not every book I start). I can usually finish crocheting something shawl sized or smaller. Pretty much anything else just seems to end in failure.

I mean I’m not going to stop trying. You’ve got to fill your time somehow. But maybe it’s time that I stopped expecting to actually get anywhere? Surely I’m the arbiter of when a novel is finished. If I’m the only one reading it then I’m the only one that has to be happy with it. If only have to please myself then it doesn’t matter if the story is the wrong shape or has plot holes or doesn’t make sense.

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 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.

Diet Update 5

This week I lost half a kilo (about a pound) and I am already underwhelmed with weight loss after only 4 weigh-ins.

I find the entire process of dieting deeply unsatisfying. It’s expensive, it takes ages, it requires constant vigilance, and it leads to me obsessing about my appearance.

I’d really rather not think about my appearance. I’ve tried very hard to either like how I look or not care that I don’t like how I look. Dieting invariably seems to involve more thinking about how I can’t fix the problems with how I look and I’ve so far failed to fix how I feel about that.

Dieting also means not using food as a painkiller or an antidepressant. It means having to deal with pain, both physical and psychological, that I could avoid if I wasn’t on a fucking diet. And I have to expand precious mental resources working out what to eat rather than say, just having some toast. I find myself just having a cup of coffee to suppress my appetite because then I don’t have to think.

Context is everything. I’m a fat middle aged woman so me deciding to drink coffee rather than eat seems like a neat diet hack. But it’s just as dysfunctional as a skinny teenaged girl doing the same thing. It’s neither healthy nor moderate and it may not be sustainable but who cares because the number on the scale is headed in the right direction.

For more information see Update 4 or the Diet Page.

Playlist: Track 1

This is the sound of my opening scene. The last moment in the story where my characters still think that order still holds sway. This is the music that’s playing when the person who’s going to be the leader of my little group of sleuths finds out that something bad has happened to someone that she cares about.

This is a great song to have on any writing playlist because it’s like musical prozac.

When i’ve been down at my lowest ebb – and that is pretty fucking low – I have found myself self medicating with this song using the 24 hour version. That’s not a typo. That’s a link to a 24 hour long version of the video though the page is a bit buggy at the moment so here’s a link to a YouTube playlist of it.

For more information about what’s happening in here see this post and this page.


There are times when I want to do a thing and I know I should do it but I don’t seem to be doing it.

Days pass and I continue not to do it.

I miss out on opportunities. I piss people off. Sometimes it costs me money. I know I should do the thing. I want to do the thing but I continue not doing the thing.

It makes no sense. I get angry at myself. Sometimes other people get angry at me. They demand an explanation. They expect some kind of excuse or justification. There is none. I wanted to do the thing. I was capable of doing the thing. I intended to do the thing but somehow I did not do the thing.

I forgot to do the thing. I just didn’t get round to it. I didn’t really want to do it. I was scared of doing it. I thought it wasn’t really important. None of these are true. I was acutely aware of the thing. I had every intention of doing it but somehow it did not get done.

Over the years I have developed some coping mechanisms. Whenever possible I do the thing immediately. I know that if I put it off I just won’t do it. I try to avoid volunteering to do stuff because I know that there’s a chance that I won’t do it and not volunteering is a lot less painful than volunteering and not following through. If I can’t avoid it and it can’t be done right away I try to delegate it to someone who is actually good at getting things done.

There was a time when this problem applied to everything. Over the years I’ve found ways to actually get some things done but it’s patchy. At the moment I have 3 overdue library books, a conversation I need to have with someone that I’ve been putting off for a week and a list of literary agents that I haven’t contacted. On the other hand I have meals planned for the next 3 days, 9 novels in various stages of completeness and I’ve been posting 3 times a week on this blog for 12 weeks in a row.

It still doesn’t feel like progress. No matter how many things I get round to doing it’s never enough. There are still those things that don’t get done or get done too late and every single one irks. I feel like an idiot. A weak and foolish idiot that can’t follow through on anything. Except, of course, for displacement activity. I can displace like a boss.

My problem with body positivity

I don’t have a problem with the Body Positivity movement as long as it’s your body we’re talking about. You look fabulous, by the way.

I just can’t be positive about my body because there’s nothing positive about it. My problem is not that I’m fat. Fat is not a problem. My problem is that my body is a worthless piece of toxic trash that has been torturing me almost from birth.

I hate my body. Everything I’ve achieved I have achieved in spite of it. All it does is slow me down. I can’t rely on it. It turns the food I eat into dysfunctional fat cells that lock the energy away. I can’t access that energy and the cells just build up on my legs looking fucking hideous, hurting and stopping my joints from working.

I’m trapped in this fucking cage. It doesn’t work. I can’t fix it. It’s made my life a living hell. There’s nothing I could ever have done to fix it. I’ve been struggling my whole life, blaming myself, thinking that I was a failure and the whole time it’s been beyond my control. I was doomed from the start.

If there was any justice in the world I’d be offered a do-over of some kind. But there isn’t so I’m just stuck here until this body stops working completely. I feel like my entire life has been wasted. Not just because this body sucks but because I’ve wasted so much time blaming myself for something that was outside my control and trying to fix something that was never going to work.

No more. Fuck this body. I’m done putting up with its bullshit.

Well I say that… but even as I type this it’s making a spirited attempt to get me to stop. My back is cramping up. The pain is all I can think about. My body is demanding that I stop typing and go back to bed or something. Realistically there isn’t much I can do about it.

Polishing the dark side.

I’m terrified of dying. I don’t just fear the pain associated with death I fear the very idea of it. If I had some genuine religious faith then perhaps I would fear it less but I can’t bring myself to believe that there’s an after-life waiting for me. Other people? Yes. Me? No.

Maybe it’s a good thing. My fear of death is probably the only thing that kept me going through my teen years. That fear kept me from serious thoughts of suicide until I was well into adulthood. By the times things had got bad enough that I hated the thought of living more than the thought of dying I couldn’t do anything about it because by then I had responsibilities.

These days I often wish I was dead but I’m not going to act on that wish because it would hurt too many people too much. For years I felt lonely and unloved and I was sure that no-one cared if I lived or died. I didn’t know when I was well off.

I’m fond of saying that you should always look on the bright side and if you can’t find it you should polish the dark side. The bright side of my fear of death was that it kept me alive in difficult times. If I polish the dark side of how bloody awful my life is right now then at least it’s cured my fear of death. Death comes to us all and when it comes for me it’s going to be a relief.