Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Guilt of Happiness

Perhaps the strangest thing about depression is how it makes you feel guilty for being happy. Escape the clutches of depression for any length of time and its spectre will stand in the corner of your eye, tapping its foot and tutting disapprovingly.

Depression is the wife/girlfriend character from any Adam Sandler film.

I’m currently having a good spell following a lengthy funk. A bunch of good stuff has happened and it promises to continue into the summer. And I realised that I was embarrassed to talk or write about it. It feels as if so much of my character is predicated on being miserable that I’m ashamed to be anything but.

Depression makes me feel like I don’t deserve to be happy. Arguably its most dangerous weapon is how it convinces me that any morsel of happiness I achieve will undoubtedly slip through my fingers like so much sand. As soon as good things happen I anticipate their demise.

My book is getting published! (It will fail).

My friends are back from the other side of the world! (Soon they won’t need you anymore).

A girl wasn’t repulsed by me! (She’ll come to her senses soon enough).

Eating that cake was a great idea! (Don't look in the mirror).

Looking back, I can see how this attitude has caused me to sabotage good things. If it’s going to crumble anyway, I might as well make it happen sooner rather than later, right? All too often on this blog I play the victim, but for every perceived injustice against me there is a failure for which I alone am responsible.

I’m scared that if I continue along this road I will eventually put up a shield from which happiness will bounce like the cheque I wrote to buy that helicopter. I’m scared that I will never allow myself to be happy.

I can't let this be my fate.

So here I am, on my blog commonly dedicated to romantic failure, narcissistically miserable diatribes, cringe-worthy social awkwardness, and pictures of ugly cats, to tell you that, for now at least, I am quite happy. Maybe it won’t last. But right now it is a good thing.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

My Book Has A Cover

You can file this one under 'shameless plug.' PANTHER, my debut novel, now has a cover. Here it is!


The cover is designed by Jon Gray, who is a veteran of designing amazing covers for many venerable books. My book is almost certainly the least venerable of them. But I don't care, because look at the cover! It's lovely! And beautifully evocative of what the book is about.

While I'm in plugging mode, I might as well say that the book might be of interest to some of you who read this blog - it deals with depression and the stigmas that surround it in a way that I hope is genuine and poignant, as well as funny. It's sad but not sentimental, and I've packed in as many jokes as I reasonably can. Here is a shameless blurb:

Panther tells the story of Derrick, whose family is being torn apart by his sister’s depression and her recent suicide attempt. When rumours start to circulate that a panther is roaming wild in his south London suburb, Derrick decides to try and capture it. Surely if he can just find a way to tame the panther, he’ll be able to put his life back together too?

Panther is a funny, touching, and occasionally unsettling coming-of-age story, which deals candidly with the stigmas and misunderstandings surrounding depression.

It's not out for a little while: May 21st, 2015. I may start banging on about it quite a bit before then. I may also start screaming 'BUY IT' at people in the street. I'll let you know as this develops.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Job Hunting Demotivators

I have been unemployed now for what science refers to as 'quite some time.' During this extended period of mid-afternoon nudity and naps I have applied for many hundreds of jobs (I stopped keeping track when the official tally became too lengthy to manage). This mostly involves sending email. In the process of sending applications, enquiries, etc. I often require something from my old computer. The easiest way to get them is to email myself with an attachment.


It began as a few words to simply occupy the body of the email. But anyone who has ever been engaged in a prolonged job hunt knows it is rarely a happy process.



One of the worst parts of job hunting is having to spend a great deal of time on an application that you know will come to nothing. You have to try - there are only so many days you can wile away singing the Game of Thrones theme to the cat - but the certainty of failure looms large.


Soon I was writing emails to myself that didn't even contain attachments. They served only to break up the inexorable tedium of bullshitting cover letters, and made the dearth of replies seem slightly less absolute. For a while, they were even vaguely positive.



It wasn't long before this soupcon of optimism became a trickle of bile, a leaky catheter staining the trousers of hope and decency.


Job hunting cuts the Achilles tendon of your self-esteem, writes your every regret large across your mind, and forces you to panic about every penny you spend, despite your propensity to hypocritically spunk everything you own on ice cream because you're miserable and at least diabetes will give you something to do. 


People will tell you to keep trying. I don't disagree with that advice. But in the festering abyss of the job market, nothing is more exasperating than the false cheer and vacuous enthusiasm of the gainfully employed. 

So I give you unemployment demotivators instead. Give up! Eat ice cream! Watch pornography in the morning! After all, it's a lot more fun than applying for jobs.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Rubicon

This morning I thought very seriously about jumping in front of a train.

I was on my way into London for the incredibly crappy temp job I'm currently working. While I was waiting for the train I found myself working out the best place to jump to ensure I would be smeared emphatically into hairy pate. The ideal spot on the platform where I wouldn't arouse suspicion in the interim.

Then I went and stood there.

I didn't intend to actually do it. I have often idly contemplated suicide, but generally lack the constitution for it. This time, as the rails hissed and the train rounded the corner, I felt in my body the momentum that would pitch me over and take everything else out of my control. It was alarmingly vivid. I could practically feel myself going.

Needless to say I stood my ground, boarded the train, and went about my day as usual. But I've been unable to forget the sensation that gripped me on the platform. I have not been able to stop my hands from shaking.

Where did it all go wrong?

As the beleaguered regular readers of this blog will know, I'm hardly one to bang on about my current mire of depression and my blighted lot in life. So here is a swift summary: 26 years old, jobless (basically), sexless (my current dry spell is coming up on 2 years), riddled with depression, living with my mum, and the owner of a preposterously over-sized head. As a youngster I never had terribly high hopes for the future, but I never thought I would find myself watching the oncoming front of a train quite so greedily.

I often wonder if I could pinpoint a single moment of my past where it all went pear-shaped. Was it during the late '90s when I ate the equivalent of Guatemala's GDP in junk food? Could it have been one of the many squandered romantic opportunities of university? Maybe it happened when I decided to grow my hair and wear tie-dye. Should I not have built this blog on an ancient Indian burial ground?

I can't help but wonder if I am still paying off the ransom of past mistakes. I have tried what feels incredibly hard in the last year or so to improve my situation. Nothing has worked, and a profound sense of hopelessness has set in. Maybe my current failures are easier to take if I believe myself to be doomed by history. Or maybe it is simply my self-hatred going ever deeper.

Tomorrow it will all begin again. I will wake up and force myself to get dressed for this crappy temp job. I will walk to the station and I will wait for the train. As it approaches I will try to believe that there must be a better way for me to escape this mire.



Thursday, 1 May 2014

Big Bush

For as long as I can remember (and therefore forever) there has been a big bush at the front of my house. Whenever I have had to give people directions to my house, I have instructed them to look out for the big bush and its ever-changing collection of dog faeces.

It started life as a rosemary bush. A single touch would make you smell indelibly of a potpourri pot. Unfortunately time allowed ivy, ever the Amazon.com of nature, to stage an aggressive takeover that sapped it of all that made it great. In recent years it has been little more than an untameable afro of ivy and fox urine.

This week we are having our drive done. The big bush is dead. Long live the big bush.


Here are some largely uninteresting memories of the big bush:

As a child I took great pride in being the weirdest kid in school. It was an affectation I worked hard to maintain. I went so far as to give my neighbourhood friends ‘mental lessons.’ These invariably culminated in an offensive approximation of disability and a headlong dive into the big bush. Mental.

If I couldn’t be bothered to go inside I would stand on the street and urinate into the bush. I thought of it as marking my territory. The big bush would return the favour: the merest contact made my penis smell of rosemary for numerous hours afterward.

A common theme of my childhood was being hopeless at everything. I trailed even the most basic of my peers’ accomplishments by several years. This included learning to ride a bike. While my friends were zipping about on BMXs I was still safely coddled by stabilisers. One evening I came home to find that my mother had removed and disposed of them. It was an ultimatum. I went straight outside to prove everybody wrong. Many hours and six painful falls into the big bush later, my skin torn to ribbons and covered in dog piss, I had learned to ride a bike.

Over the course of my life the big bush has been the hiding place of vodka, wine, orange squash, eggs, brownies, Doritos, assorted sweets, broken plates, newspapers, pornography, money, myself, and my fragile sense of self-esteem.

Godspeed, big bush.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Nose Problems

My nose is rubbish.

It bleeds like a plague of Egypt, chokes off my breathing if I ever dare lie on my back, and once brought a premature end to guaranteed sex.

My nose is rubbish.

This is why Voldemort got rid of his.

It used to bleed so profusely that it would fill a cereal bowl to the brim (with the cereal still in it), an unsavoury alternative to milk. The blood clots that would squeeze themselves out were like engorged ticks. In hot weather my face was like a game of Buckaroo; the slightest touch or sudden movement would set it off. My sister quickly picked up on this and took gleeful advantage: on a coach to France, in church, in the two-hour line for a rollercoaster, prompting tourists to wrench my head in whatever direction they believed would stem the tide.

When it became too much I was taken to a doctor. He donned inch-thick safety goggles and murmured ruminatively as he gingerly inserted an apothecary’s-worth of creams and ointments into my nostrils.

Actual picture.

It worked, a little. These days my nose has a weekly menstruation cycle, with daily spotting to remind me of its potential for devastation. More of a problem now is the tides of snot it produces if I dare step outside, and how it bungs up like a Russian road blockade whenever I lie down. The nasal spray I use to alleviate the issue insists it not be used for more than 4 weeks straight. I’ve been squirting it up there for 14 years.

What's the worst that can happen?

My nose’s most nefarious crime was its jealous destruction of a promising relationship. I had stayed the night with a girl I was seeing, too tired after a late cinema trip to attempt anything too vigorous that evening. There would be plenty of time in the morning.

When I woke up I felt instantly that tendrils of illness had claimed me overnight. My head was pounding, my chest felt heavy, and my nose had battened down the hatches. But because I am an irresistible specimen of the male species she was not to be deterred.

Who could resist someone who looks this good in the morning?

The problem was that, with my nose having closed its borders, kissing made it terribly hard to breathe. I had to pause every few seconds to take a lungful of air, giving the impression that I possessed the stamina of an asthmatic discus thrower.

‘Give me a second,’ I said, rolling away and plucking a tissue from the bedside table.

I blew my nose as hard as I could. It spewed gouts of thick orange slime like viscous Fanta. It was to be the only ejaculation I achieved that morning.

I arranged the tissue into a hobo’s bindle of luminous sputum and flung it at the bin. It missed, and fell open on the carpet.

I ignored the look of disgust on her face and tried to resume where we had left off. As I leaned in towards her I took a breath, and my nose made a noise like a micro-pig caught in a lawnmower. She caught me by the shoulders and pushed me forcibly away.

‘I’ve just remembered I need to meet someone,’ she said, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed.

It was almost certainly a lie. But soon afterwards she met another guy.

My nose is rubbish.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Saudade

I was recently introduced to the Portuguese word saudade (I am reliably informed that the ‘de’ at the end is pronounced more like ‘je’). It doesn’t have a direct translation in English. To butcher the elegant translation given to me (and to pilfer from Wikipedia), saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or melancholic longing for things or people that have been loved and lost.

Although the word is new to me, it’s a feeling with which I am intimately familiar. I am a slave to melancholic nostalgia.

I miss going to my Grandma’s house. I would spend an entire summer kicking an air floater football against the garage, smashing Hot Wheels cars against each other on Grandma’s footrest (which she unfortunately called her ‘poof’), accidentally mashing orange silly putty into the carpet, eating Special K for breakfast every morning. I miss creeping out of bed to sit on the landing in the dark and listen to the TV downstairs, sneaking into Grandma’s room with its lurid pink carpet. Those summers were so solitary, but I was so content.

I miss falling hopelessly in love with women who didn’t reciprocate, the intensity of that pain and longing. I miss gripping my phone and begging it to ring, reading more in every text message than was ever present, thinking of her as soon as I woke up every morning. I miss being the kind of person who would get up at 5am just to walk with her to catch her bus, pretending that I had been awake anyway. I miss writing poorly conceived love poetry.

I miss the sense of possibility.

I miss my friends. I long for the time before they moved off around the country, around the world, got married, had kids. I hate that I am becoming less important in their lives. I miss playing Guitar Hero before it was cool, meeting for impromptu evening walks, competing at ping pong in a cramped garage, writing 15-minute songs about Arnold Schwarzenegger, putting our pictures on Hot or Not (my highest ever average was a 5.5/10). It feels like they have left me behind.

Saudade is beautiful, but it is also painful and irrational. I know that I can’t have that time again. It has slipped through my fingers like grains of sand.

For all my best attempts to foster new memories in the present, it feels like my life has fatally stalled. Nostalgia rules me because now feels so much worse than then. In those memories there is joy, and hurt, and curiosity. These days I am empty; an ambulatory chalice for things past.

I miss hope. I miss excitement. I miss love. Saudade is a lifeline to all of those feelings of which I used to have in abundance, and have since lost.


Saudade is a bitch.