Advancing at rest

To my shame, I haven’t read any actual printed books during my time off

I should have posted here over the past week, since I had plenty of spare time, but somehow it’s just so much effort to write something coherent in this blog nowadays… but it’s worth saying that I’ve at least had a nice ten-day rest from my busy and stressful job, and have improved to the point that I am eager to get back to work!

I was originally going to take the Thursday before Easter off, to let British Gas in (just for an annual checkup, nothing else had gone wrong!), but one of my housemates was in that day instead, so I worked right up to the day before Good Friday; it worked out fine, because I was better off having all of the week following Easter Sunday off instead — the Northern Line was all but closed over the Easter weekend, with further organised chaos planned for the Tuesday and Wednesday (and even that went wrong — I wouldn’t have been able to commute on Tuesday morning at all!), and I had to be in on Friday morning to let in someone from Thames Water to examine our pipes (another general checkup, no problems reported).

The bad news is that I’ve had no useful information from the NHS as yet — absolutely no indication of when my surgery will be taking place (the silver lining being that at least they hadn’t arranged one that I’d missed due to lack of communication, so I don’t owe any fines), and just the same ol’ popping pills to keep the static out of my brain — although I may still need to increase my daily dosage, as I still get dizzy spells now and then, albeit seldom as bad as before (though my mother’s looking into CBD oil).

The good news, however, is that, looking back over my diary from the mid-noughties, when I first came to London, I’ve come to realise I was a lot unhealthier back then than I am now — indeed, aside from an uncanny no-colds period in late 2004 to mid-2005, I seemed to be getting sick literally every other week, to say nothing of never getting enough sleep!  Perhaps whatever I have now has been growing in my grey matter since I first came to the Smoke: if this is the case, it’s taken a long time for my symptoms to become this bad, which is a good sign that it’s not a malignant tumour (and thus not cancerous), and that its removal will restore me to good health, once I recuperate from the surgery.

I will not be calling him “Capital P” again, at least not as long as he behaves himself!

There’s been other good and bad news concerning this household: although one of my housemates is moving out, the one who wants to take over her room (which is larger than his) is willing to find a replacement, as he wants to take her room and get a new housemate for his (small) room… and believe it or not, but the man he replaced — the one I’ve called “drummer-trucker” in this blog — is coming back to the Finchley area!  Don’t worry, he’s been restored to his cheerful, amiable old self, with no trace of the drunk, bullying jerk he was being before, especially in 2017.

(Perhaps leaving London for several months fixed his brain?  Do I need to do the same?)

And finally, our landlady might actually be about to do some repairs in our house, at long last: not just the the upstairs bathroom, but the big, gaping hole in the kitchen wall left by British Gas just before Christmas 2016, which oddly seemed to precipitate my (and “drummer-trucker’s” mental issues!  And, joy of joys, she’s willing to let me buy a new mattress for this room, to replace the two thin, uncomfortable mattresses I’ve had to use since moving in here, six years ago (and they weren’t only two years old in February 2012, so I’d say they’re well past the widely-held eight-year usage limit, possibly by a decade or two).

Don’t worry, I’ll try to write more frequently in this blog over the coming weeks: not just the posts I’ve planned regarding “cool things” (like Game of Thrones, and a band I got back into recently), but also, hopefully, good news concerning my health.  Perhaps someone in the NHS will finally be able to arrange my surgery, so I can endure that and get my head together (even if it means having to recuperate in dull old Worthing), and perhaps CBD oil will work better than levetiracetam in terms of repressing my mild epileptic dizzy spells, though I’ll need to check with my neurologist first.

For now, I need to get a good night’s sleep so I’m fully rested and ready to return to work tomorrow morning, and as enthusiastic as ever when it comes to fixing people’s computers!


Evenings off

Let down your hairs, forget all your cares
Kick off your shoes, here is the news
Take off your shirt, here is the dirt
Take off your pants, thanks!
—Opening theme to Lee & Herring’s This Morning With Richard Not Judy

This is not me playing Nidhogg against my mother

You might be surprised to learn that I’m not all that fussed about having to stop climbing, at least for the time being, as it means an extra evening at home each week — and thus the chance to do whatever I want, instead of feeling obliged to get out there and mingle.

Yes, apart from yoga on Mondays (which has replaced salsa, due to being a lot more calming) and personal training on Fridays, and very occasionally going with Shy London to help the homeless, I’m not doing much in the evenings: almost every day I find myself coming straight home from work, making my own dinner, and relaxing as much as I can — maybe playing video games (like the Evil Within series), or listening to newly-acquired music CDs (including Gorillaz, as depicted above), or looking up old and new music videos on YouTube (including Gorillaz, as, er…).

I’ve also been rewatching the works of Lee & Herring (Fist of Fun and TMWRNJ, hence the opening quote), and now I’ve finally begun season 7 of Game of Thrones (which will hopefully lead to a “cool things” blog post here).  However, despite having more evenings to myself and more free time generally, I still don’t binge-watch, instead enjoying an individual episode over dinner (or lunch at the weekend), savouring the experience and making it last as long as possible (much as I did with classic Doctor Who in 2011-2015, and then with the 21st-century series afterwards).

The explanation for my new introvercy is simple: I socialise a great deal at work, and so feel better keeping myself to myself when I get home.  Speaking to people at work takes a lot out of me (the stress, and head vibration, may be part of the cause of my dizzy spells), and public transport is an ordeal at the best of times, so it’s good to get some peace and quiet, and the chance to recover.  The same goes for the weekends (aside from last weekend, when senpai took me to work to help with a major task), with me barely even going to the shops, and this will also apply to the Easter break coming up (partly due to the Northern Line being effectively closed throughout) — I intend to do as little as possible, and chill out.

(Having to be in for British Gas to come and give us our annual checkup also means I get the day off before Good Friday — “boss lady” is good to me, at least for now!)

Don’t worry, I’ll still go see my folks this weekend (the once chance I’ve had in ages) — after all, who else will set the clocks forward in the spring?  Seriously, though, I’ll need them to take care of me after my surgery for a few weeks (if I ever get informed of the date), and I’m grateful that I have them — and that my mother’s pledged to get us a new dog, which my grandmother has finally approved.  I’ll certainly need a sweet little friend to help me recover (assuming I don’t have a major personality change as a result of brain surgery, and lose interest in dogs!

I have a feeling that once I’ve recovered from surgery (assuming there are no complications, including personality changes), I’ll finally be over the biggest hurdle of my life, and things will change for the better.  However, what if I really do lose the ability to rant about subjects that make me angry, like the Conservatives appearing to hold the disabled in contempt, the closeness of WW3 thanks to Trump, or people calling the monster “Frankenstein”?  I’m no less obsessive than I was in 2014, and perhaps even more so; but if this thing in my head is causing it through cerebral pressure, will removing it make me a lazy git who doesn’t do his job properly, feels unenthusiastic about anything, and just lets things slide?

My mother (no offence, Mumsy!) thinks I am indeed obsessive, her evidence being that I’m reading the works of Stephen King in chronological order — but that’s not the result of some nameless compulsion, it’s because I’ve read bits and pieces of his work before, and want to experience all his stories from the beginning, in more or less the order he wrote, so I can see how his “Kingiverse” evolves (especially the “Dark Tower” series).  I did similar with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels in 2011-2014 as well: I’d read many of them, but mostly not in order, and it was good to go through them again and fill in the gaps — especially since the first time I read The Fifth Elephant, I had no idea who the Night Watch were, and had to read an earlier novel (and then an even earlier one) to get their backstory!

The fact is, I like to experience epics from beginning to end (or at least in the order of production, like with the Star Wars films) — that’s not OCD, it’s the same as wanting to read an individual book from the first chapter instead of peeking at the ending (and spoiling the surprise, which is a cardinal sin).  It’s also a way of establishing a mindset: I didn’t enjoy Babylon 5 until I watched the original pilot movie, whereupon it made sense and I was able to get into it — whereas one time I saw the end of an old Doctor Who story on UK Gold, and found it cheap and tacky, despite having greatly enjoyed watching the exact same story (The Hand of Fear, if you must know) from the beginning some years before!

(I should add, I intend to rewatch 24 from beginning to end during my convalescence — though that’s partly because I’ll have a lot of free time… so much that I’ll probably binge-watch it!)

Well, enough digression — the important point I’m trying to convey is, I’m cutting down on socialising these days, but I’m not lonely or regretful, and I’m enjoying my solo activities (ooh, Matron!).  I know I called the recent Christmas holidays “hibernation”, but this part of my life might be that instead, with the surgery and convalescence that lie ahead being my metaphorical emergence from a chrysalis that I’m now forming around myself, after which I’ll be back to cheerfully meeting new people, and hopefully the love of my life.

Of course, it won’t happen unless I chase up the NHS and get them to tell me my appointment date — it’s a sad irony that I’ve had better luck getting British Gas to come and fix our hot water (yet again!), even though they still can’t consistently tell our address apart from that of a flat up the street — but I’m in no hurry, as my medication’s keeping my dizziness under control, at least for now… I’m not exactly obsessive when it comes to arranging to go under the knife!

Rising to the challenge

Ted: Dougal, I love all this!  When everything’s going okay, I keep imagining all the terrible things that could happen — and now that one of those things has actually happened… it’s just a rush!  I feel fearless, like Jeff Bridges in that movie!
Dougal: I haven’t seen that one!
Ted: Not many people have, Dougal, it’s probably a bad reference.
Father Ted (S2E10, “Flight Into Terror”)

This is nothing to do with Father Ted, so don’t bother accusing me of mixing up franchises

I feel the need to write something tonight, as I seem to be overcoming adversity (though not, of course, without the help of people who matter to me) — and indeed, the process itself may be helping me keep my head together… though it could also be an increase in my dosages of levetiracetam (and taking them the proper 12 hours apart, instead of six or seven).

I’m sure you’re aware of the snow blanket that’s smothered the British Isles over the past few days, even if you’re reading this from abroad; well, both challenges I faced down today were directly caused by it — in the first case, by the effect it had on public transport.  Although the Northern Line didn’t give me any problems getting into work at my dream job (it used to be the “Misery Line”, but no longer!), a lot of people in the peasantry my flock chose to work from home today instead.  I was happy to come in, crunching through the snow in the non-leather boots my mother got me last year, and I don’t suffer from a phobia of slipping like she does (not to belittle her, she fell over at work once and was badly hurt), so I made my journey boldly and sure-footedly.

(Is that a valid adverb?  No?  Good, I’ll keep using it!)

We use an online desktop virtualisation system which I’m going to call “Lemonz” (in order to avoid violating a trademark) to allow people to work from home (and in some cases remote onto their office PCs), but we quickly discovered this morning that (a) it wasn’t set up with enough capacity for so many people to use at once, and (b) people had been told they could log in from home without having been set up with “Lemonz” access, under the apparent delusion that everyone gets it by default when they join the company (despite the exact opposite being true — managers don’t want people working from home unless and until they get prior approval, otherwise they’ll doss about!).

Fortunately, my teammates were able to work their mojo and resolve (a), as we run “Lemonz” on virtual servers that are running on much more powerful physical equipment with spare capacity, and I kept a level head and sorted out (b) for a number of individuals, thanks to “boss lady” saying I could accept permission from just managers, rather than directors (who normally are the ones with the authority to let people work from home).  I also pacified those suffering from (a) by encouraging them to wait while we “resolved the issue”, and it seemed to work — by midday, everyone who wanted to log into “Lemonz” had done so successfully!

But something else went wrong when I came home, and made me decide maybe not to work from home tomorrow after all (even though “boss lady” said I and my teammates could): not only was my room 11°C (52°F) when I got in, but it barely crept up all evening until I borrowed an electric fan heater from “best mate” to complement the electric oil heater I bought in 2014 (the one I’d naively thought of giving away to a homeless shelter).  It seems our central heating had failed entirely, and to make matters worse, our hot water wasn’t being replenished either!  Remember the farrago getting British Gas to fix the system in late 2016?  And remember how we needed them to come and fix it again in 2017?

The Baxi boiler had somehow gone wrong and wasn’t coming on at all (the three red flashes of one of the lights apparently indicating it had tried and failed five times to ignite the gas), and my mother reckons something similar has happened at home in Worthing (leading to her own act of heroism: climbing into the loft to have a go at fixing it!).  Apparently this is happening all over the country, due to outdoor pipes freezing up in the unseasonably cold weather (I don’t recall it being this cold in March since, er, 2013, okay then) — but since I at least got home nice and early (unlike an old university friend, who said on Facebook he’d had to wait 75 minutes on a train platform!), and have a roof over my head, I felt I shouldn’t give into despair or drag emergency staff away from people who really need help, and tried to fix it myself.

This was far worse than all those times I stressed trying to get our Internet connection working, back when we had a lousy router that kept crashing, and a wonky cable that was probably installed in the mid-noughties!  I spent much of the evening reaching into the small gap between the fridge and the cavity under the sink counter where the boiler is, repeatedly holding the buttons down to “reset” it, only to be disappointed time after time; I tried researching online (British Gas not answering their phones), and followed a suggestion to pour hot water over what I assume to be the outflow pipe outside in order to unfreeze it, and even had “best mate’s” electric fan heater pointing directly at the unit (an idea my mother endorsed), but still the damn thing didn’t want to ignite, getting my hopes up and then dashing them with the same three red flashes every time.

Eventually, with my housemates unable to assist (one going out to avoid the cold in here, another staying over with her boyfriend instead, and “best mate” trying to find more electric heaters in the shops at night!), I turned the heating off completely at the controls, and hoped that at least the hot water would reheat with less strain on the system.  It didn’t… but in a moment of epiphany, I asked “best mate” to try doing the boiler reset as a demonstration… and this time, it really DID ignite!  So there you go — even though it’ll take ages for the heating to reheat the house, and the hot water to get warm enough for a shower, I’ve managed to sort out a major problem for the second time today.

(What?  No, I was the one dealing with the home-working staff at work, even if someone else actually sorted out the system!  And “best mate” was only following instructions, as well as maybe providing the luck of the Irish — it was ME who had the idea, so I’m the hero, dammit!!!)

Of course, one of the past blog entries I’ve linked back to above happened not long before my bursts of “mind static” began as a regular occurrence — and this makes me wonder whether it was the stress of working too hard at the time (helping fix the website), or the stress of trying to sort out stuff in our house (I do hate British Gas!), that really spiked off the mild epilepsy problem back in December 2016.  If not for that, it might have remained a minor inconvenience indefinitely, only giving me dizzy deja vu spells when I have a cold and suck on too many mentholated lozenges.  However, I think today I’ve fought back the dizziness for the sake of others (on top of everything else, I’m also still sorting out our household bills) — and if I really do have to go through with brain surgery in a month or two, I hope it means I get my life back for real, and thus can devote myself to helping others instead of having them worrying for my sake.

Especially my mother, who as you know has kept me going all these years, and inspired me to better myself.  I wish I could fix her heating, especially for my grandmother’s sake — she needs it more than us — and that I could be the one to support her financially in her autumn years, like a dutiful son.

Sorry, I’ve been watching Lee & Herring again

Most of all, I want to recover from my brain issues — not just for my own sake (now that I’ve finally built a life I enjoy), but for her sake as well, so she no longer has to worry about losing another relative, or her family name dying out (I may, after all, make her a grandmother one day).

My mother really deserves the Moon on a stick, don’t you think…?

Cool things: My Mum

I know I’ve often insulted her in this blog, and acted like she’s an annoyance, but my mother is a wonderful human being, and without her I wouldn’t have made it this far in life — and I want you guys (and her!) to know how grateful I am for her.

Yeah, okay, there have been times she’s done me wrong — the time in (probably) Spring 1986 she told me to go to school in shorts, only for the temperature outside to be much colder than expected; and the time in 2012 she told my grandmother to forward my latest Student Loans letter to me without warning (leading to it being thrown out by accident, as I’d just moved to this house Finchley and didn’t know to pick it up from beside the front door), but just about everything else she’s done for me has been positive.

For example, in 1998, when I went to Michigan for that university student exchange (leading to the one romance in my entire life, and the roommate’s family I’ve visited many times over the years), she acted as my anchor back here in Britain, keeping in e-mail contact, lending moral support, and ensuring I had enough money to get by on — even though the last meant she had to commute between Worthing and her job every day in late 1998, instead of staying in Surrey during the week (she worked near my alma mater, so she’d drive me home at the weekend if I wanted to visit the rest of the family).  It was my grandfather (who we sadly lost a year later) who sorted out the admissions process so I could go in the first place (both universities having blundered), but it was my mother who made sure I was able to go through with it all, and stay the course.

In 1999 she started house-sitting for her friend in Woking, which meant that when I came back from Michigan in May, I could live with her for a few months and work in Surrey instead of Sussex, meaning vaguely decent wages for a change!  She also let me play games on her new PC (most notably Duke Nukem 3D and War of the Worlds), and access the Internet from home (even though this was in the dial-up days… ecch!).  And together we looked after a friendly black cat, which made up for our dog dying during the summer, and gave us plenty to talk and laugh about.  I’m grateful for the time I was able to spend with my mother away from Worthing, even if it was only for a few months!

And even though she’s tired of me playing Gwar and Eminem in the car, I still visit her in Worthing now and then (even if Christmas doesn’t always cheer me up), and sometimes even manage to play games against her (like Wii Sports Resort), though frequently I’m down to set the clocks forward or back, fix her computer, or transfer stuff into the loft — all of which I’m willing to do (despite complaining), as I’m her dutiful son.

Most importantly, she’s pledged to help take care of me later this year: my brain condition has been confirmed to be astrocytoma, which will need surgery to resolve, and while my life apparently isn’t in serious danger, I will need a few weeks of convalescence before I can return to work in London.  On that basis, she and my grandmother will be cooking for me and making sure I regain my strength safely, before I start taking care of myself again.

(Yes, I’m grateful for my grandmother as well — but it’s my mother who takes care of her, and ensures she can live on!)

The best news is that my mum has finally convinced my grandmother to let her get a dog, for the first time since 1999 — only a small one, obviously, since they live in a flat above shops, but nonetheless this is a fantastic development.  She’s going to wait until my recuperation before taking me to meet rescue dogs, to ensure we both get on with the one we choose — but the prospect is a reason for me to go on living through the ordeal I’m facing in a couple of months… though, of course, she and my grandmother are the most important reasons for me to live on, as I’ve said before.  I don’t want to bereave anyone, and I don’t want my folks to outlive me, especially as I’ve not yet become a father!

And there’s always the possibility that, after my health is restored, she and I will be able to go climbing together again, for the first time in four years… but that’d require the climbing centre in Shoreham to reopen!

Dave-ros sniffs!

How nostalgic — or should I say, snot-stalgic: I’ve got a cold, for the first time since last January!  And this one’s lingering a lot more than that one did, which has me wondering…

Has the mental condition I’m enduring at the moment in some way been stopping me from experiencing cold symptoms (doing so in earnest from December 2016), hence I come down with a cough just as I start taking medication to lessen the condition?

Or is it simply a coincidence that I’ve somehow avoided catching any diseases for a year (even when visiting America last June) — much as I didn’t seem to get a cold for about a year starting in late 2004 (even though I wasn’t taking vitamin pills), having been sick almost constantly during my first year in London?

Or is it even worse: a negative form of karma, punishment for my sins, as tomorrow morning I’ve got to submit to a deep MRI scan, and will find it rather difficult to keep still enough if I’m coughing constantly…?

I do know that I’m still getting minor attacks of dizziness these days, even though I did what the brain-quack suggested and increased the levetiracetam dosage to 750mg twice-daily; she recommended cutting back on the clobazam at the same time, but to resume taking that twice-daily if my attacks returned — but even now I’ve done so, I still get dizzy sometimes, and while it’s nowhere near as bad as it was before Christmas 2016 when it started in earnest, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better now in 2018, however much I hike up the dosage — indeed, taking 250mg twice-daily seemed the best time!

It’s perhaps most likely that the cold I’m suffering from is exacerbating the condition — and indeed, that mentholated cold remedies (like Halls and Jakemans) are also responsible.  I certainly remember I was on cold remedies at the end of May 2015, when I had my first definite, unequivocal attack; and before that, in late 2014, I can remember Covonia bringing on anxiety, even though menthol is supposed to have the opposite effect, and actually help humans calm down.

(Then again, back in my university days, the first time I tried drinking Red Bull, I fell asleep between classes — I’d never felt so sleepy!)

I’m trying to avoid actual decongestant remedies entirely, and using instead pungently-fragrant chest rubs like Vicks, and nasal strips to stop me from snoring — as that might be the real reason for my current illness: a sore throat infection, effectively resulting from the medication having enabled me to sleep peacefully for the first time in years!  Nasal strips also helped me sleep a bit better in late 2014 when I was anxious every night, but I’m lucky to have found the same good brand at Superdrug today that I used back then, as the variety I bought at the weekend from my local chemist are awful, and wake me up in the middle of the night peeling off — thus negating their very use!

Even before this cold came on, I’ve found myself to be bunged up for a long time — certainly the whole of 2017 — and at times unable to breathe through my nose if I lie on my side, so I wonder if my cranial condition is in some way related to respiratory mucus, or comes from an infection that’s somehow reached my temporal lobe from my sinuses.  But hey, tomorrow they’ll hopefully get enough evidence to guide my big decision next Thursday… and maybe they can recommend a cough remedy that doesn’t interfere with anti-epilepsy medication!

I’ve booked the whole of Thursday off, so I can return home after my MRI and hopefully recover enough from my cold that I can face personal training in the evening — because even if I have to give up climbing for the time being (hopefully not forever, but certainly for now), and even if I’m avoiding chocolate during the week (because of the mucus it generates), I still need to keep fit, and I don’t want a trifling thing like a cold to get in the way!

Not rocket science

I really wish this Simpsons image hadn’t proven to be so prophetic…

I won’t beat about the bush: it turns out my last diagnosis for the cause of my repeated bouts of “mind static” was way too optimistic, as today I found out I do in fact have an actual tumour nestling within my grey matter, rather than just a cyst on the outside that could be removed with minimal fuss.  I’ll need more analysis, including a detailed “super-MRI” scan, but unless I’m (ahem) lucky enough that I could spend my life on anti-epilepsy drugs as a way of controlling symptoms with no consequences, it looks like I’m going to have to endure full-on brain surgery, to remove the troublesome “space invader” — which, rather than some kind of parasitical growth, seems to be actually part of my brain that’s gone wrong.

Hopefully, cuts to the NHS notwithstanding, I’m in no danger of dying on the operating table (which sadly happened to my grandfather just before the millennium) — but my personal trainer went through similar earlier in his life, and said that it led to changes in his personality (albeit perhaps partly due to the wrong operation being done first), such as being quicker to anger, losing his mathematical knowledge, and needing to rekindle his interest in sport over a long time (which is perhaps why he was a chef in a previous role).  He’s a great guy today, but he’s still somehow a different person to the one who went under the knife.

If I do go through with this operation (and at this stage, it’s strictly hypothetical), I wonder if I’d lose something?  As I keep saying, I’d love to remove anxiety from my mind, since it serves no purpose whatsoever (and is self-reinforcing at times) — and wouldn’t it be convenient if the only reason I’ve been so anxious the past few years is indeed down to that exact lump interfering with my noggin, and so saving my life would go hand-in-hand with finally growing a pair?  The same goes with my quickness to anger, something I’d love to be rid of entirely — if I can squeeze it into that blob, I can bid it goodbye — and there’s also my tendency to rehearse conversations internally, even if I’m never actually going to have them, and overthinking in general.

On the other hand, would surgery be what finally causes me to “put away childish things”, like video games (which would be frustrating when I’ve spent so much time and money building this ubercomputer for games), science fiction, and Japanese anime?  Indeed, since it’s the left temporal lobe, concerned with language and comprehension, would I forget how to speak and understand Japanese… or, indeed, English?

I’ve resolved not to worry about this, and to carry on living (much as I did before — boy, I keep retreating the same ground in this blog, don’t I?), as if all goes well, I get my life back, and all I need to do for now is cut down on intense exercise, or anything where someone else’s life is in my hands, like belaying others while climbing.  It’s not impossible that I’ll never climb again — it got me out of depression in 2012, but maybe it’s served its purpose, and I don’t need to do it any more unless I truly want to.

It should be noted that my personal trainer’s being helpful in this aspect, not making me do “heavy lifting” for the time being, but encouraging me to keep healthy and positive, rather than laze about at home and get into bad habits, and for that I’m grateful.  My “boss lady” at work is also happy for me to take off whatever time I need to get this resolved, while senpai, despite worrying excessively (and urging me to get a “second opinion”), is on my side, and will help take care of me at work if anything goes wrong and I suffer from any symptoms.

I should also be very clear that I’m eternally grateful for my mother’s support in this — I’m planning a blog post about how awesome she is, even if I disagree with her politically (at times it feels like the right-wing consider the left-wing a bunch of babies who need to “grow up”), to make up for all the times I’ve been mean about her and her well-meaning advice (including last time).  I do worry about people worrying about me, and my main reason for wanting to recover from this medical issue is so they don’t need to, as their worry is increasing my worry, in a… worry spiral?

One reason I’m going to be optimistic is that it feels like history repeating itself: a crisis of some kind seems to happen to me every three years, and I’ve always overcome it (I’m sure my yoga teacher would have something mystical to say — and he’s back in town, so I’ll try to see him on Monday instead of dancing).  It’s like this: something goes wrong at the end of one year (leading to a Christmas that I somehow don’t quite enjoy), but is resolved by the following February (when it’s no longer so depressingly dark in the mornings), or at least matters set in place for a longer-term resolution.  Here’s a list:

  • Late 2008: my HR job at Camden was threatened due to yet another council restructuring, but I was sick of it anyway, and in early 2009 I got redeployed to children’s social services, which meant I could continue working and living in London (and learning Japanese).
  • Late 2011: as you know (if you’ve been reading this long enough), I sank into deep depression due to “good housemate” getting his own place, while my own life was going nowhere; by the end of January, I had a new place to move into (and am still here), and even got offered an acting-up allowance on my salary, to help cover at work (later leading to my playboy lifestyle, including mass socialising).
  • Late 2014: after losing that horrible shift-based job, and wondering if I’d ever get into IT, or even work again, in February my agency found me a temporary but sanity-restoring job, and I was able to go back to paying my bills with something other than government handouts; this led on to my current job, in which (despite the occasional setback) I’m now truly happy.

“And this smudge here, that looks like my thumbprint? No, that’s trauma!”

I know my bouts of “mind static” started with a vengeance over a year ago, but it was only in late 2017 that I finally got the quacks to take it seriously and actually give me some kind of examination beyond simply confirming I can feel my fingertips and move my eyes around.  This has now led me towards the truth of the situation (assuming it’s not all a huge photographic cock-up — it took them a long time to process the pictures on the 3rd!), and I’ve got “the big decision” coming up on 8th February.  This date is, perhaps not coincidentally, close to the dates I earned my redeployment position in 2009, moved into my new home in 2012, and started my new temp job in 2015!

And even if I had some bad times in those years following those events (some of which have been chronicled here), my life always bounced back, and I regained the ability to be happy again — so this time around, even if the depression of 2011 and the anxiety of 2014 both threaten a concerted attack (both would be entirely understandable given the circumstances), I’m going to stay cheerful, control symptoms with medication (even if one of the pills means I, ahem, gain weight), and do the things I enjoy.

It’d be just my luck to have a major issue just as I’m finally sorting my life out (aside from girly action, but I remain hopeful) — but somehow, even if it takes every ounce of strength and determination…


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P.S. I note that a number of people with addresses have signed up to my blog since my last post; if any of you are doctors, especially brain surgeons, I’m very sorry for using “quack” as humorous shorthand for your career… don’t take offence, I call dentists “tooth-quacks” as well!  Maybe brain surgery will stop me trying to be funny in such a 1950s American nightclub standup way…?

Belligerent socialising

Maybe it’s the anti-epilepsy medication I’m on, but I’ve found myself to be rather more talkative at work than before — chatty, humorous (without being offensive), and supportive to my “flock”.  However, today I’ve had an experience that makes me feel like I need to tone it down, as I really didn’t enjoy the presence of an extrovert at a social event… though doubtless it’s all my fault somehow, as it usually is.

(Ah, there’s the mood swing my medication warned me about — at least it took over a week!)

My Polish friend (who, considering we haven’t kissed beyond polite cheek pecks, probably isn’t my girlfriend and is more like a “friend who is a girl”) invited me today to an event, at a famous vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the Regent Street area, for a meetup group concerning animal welfare.  I was feeling exhausted after yesterday (my first personal training session in over a month), not to mention lethargic from a combination of the aforementioned medication and January being the most dismal month of the year, but still wanted to go and keep her company (since she was the one who asked), and so set off for the city centre to meet her.  So far, so good.

However, it seems I still don’t like forced socialising, as although I can talk to unfamiliar people in a small group, gradually getting to know them, I still can’t stand it when someone — almost always a bloke with a loud voice — barges into the group, acting like he’s doing us a favour, and droning on and on and on in a manner that suggests he thinks he’s a skilled orator… I felt a little shame for loathing the presence of this guy, but felt like I was trapped: my female friend was staying put (and even joining in the conversation), and I didn’t think I could just walk away from her, and I also worried that simply leaving to talk to someone else would be considered rude.

(I’d already lost my opportunity to go talk to a cute Far Eastern girl with pink hair, who was talking to some other bloke, and is probably engaged by now… yes, that’s the mood swing again!)

Things like this have happened before, including at Japanese meetup events (which is why I can’t bring myself to go to them any more, despite still being interested in the language and the people — plus I hate loud, crowded places).  One time in 2012, I was sitting alone when I suddenly found myself surrounded by white English blokes, with Japanese girlfriends, who were all acting friendly in the sense that there was no possible way I could be uncomfortable with them intruding like that.  I didn’t enjoy their company one bit, and excused myself to buy a drink.  I nearly walked out entirely, but with a cider in hand, I managed to get together with a group of Japanese girls for conversation.  Not with the intention of pulling one of them (well, not the sole intention), but because they were (a) actually Japanese (the whole point of the event), and (b) female (whose company I find much less intimidating than male)!

I suppose I haven’t changed much over the past few years: if anything, I enjoy socialising even less than I did when I worked in that dead-end admin job up to 2014, when at least meetup events (and especially events) meant a change from my dull working environment.  Now, after spending my entire week helping familiar people, and trying to be funny, I find I want nothing more than to relax at home afterwards, even at the weekend.  In fact, I’d love it if I never had to socialise again — but there’s no other way I’m ever likely to find the girl of my dreams, so I feel obliged to keep going to social events, no matter how uncomfortable I am.

Indeed, socialising is considered an obligation for human beings, and even my own mother has told me off for not wanting to enthusiastically shake hands with strangers in social settings, or to let random blokes strike up conversations with me when I’m at singles events.  That’s the thing: I still don’t want to make new male friends just for the sake of it, and new male friends happen more by chance than anything (“best mate”, my personal trainer, my yoga teacher etc.).  It’s simple: although a few blokes turn out, astonishingly, to be worthy of my friendship, most men in the world hold zero interest for me, because I’ve never wanted to be “one of the lads” or have “drinking buddies”, or watch sportsball with other blokes.

To balance, though, there are times guys have approached me and we’ve got talking (like an occasion back in 2013 you may remember, though I never really saw that group again) — it all depends on the energy.  I’m happy to make new acquaintances, for example, when I go climbing at the Castle, and I say hi to blokes I’m familiar with when I see them at the Session (one looks like my old school friend in the 1990s, another resembles the actor Kevin Eldon).  It’s when I’m at a social event and someone with a large, overbearing personality forces me to interact with them that I get up-tight and withdrawn.  Maybe they’re an introvert like me, trying to make a new friend but misjudging their approach, and if they see they’re intimidating and dial it back a bit, fair enough — that’s something I can empathise with.  But it’s the extroverts I want to avoid, because they don’t even have a dial to turn back: they’re incessantly, belligerently sociable, and act like the only reason you’re not fawning over them is that they haven’t been loud and cheerful enough yet.

(Hence the problem I had with a certain work colleague many years ago…)

It’s not just me who has social interaction issues, though: I remember a time a couple of years ago when I was attending a dating guidance event led by (just to name her for once) Hayley Quinn; I was watching other people’s interactions, keeping myself to myself and woolgathering, when suddenly the bloke sitting next to me — who I wasn’t even looking at, and who could only see the back of my head — suddenly all but shouted a “sociable” question, almost right in my ear!  That’s right, he didn’t even tap me on the shoulder (or otherwise attract my attention) and introduce himself, he just blurted it out, and boy, that really ground my gears, making me want to interact with him as little as possible.

Today: everyone in the entire human race!

Back to the incident at today’s event: although she was happy to leave with me when she saw I was uncomfortable, my Polish friend seemed to think I was in the wrong, and that if I didn’t like the loudmouth, I should have just walked away from the group and spoken to someone else — but like I said above, I felt like I had a Hobson’s choice, and would be in the wrong simply for not liking the guy from the get-go (since he wasn’t rude or violent), whether I clammed up, walked away or told him to turn it down.  As though you should like anyone who is polite, no matter how much they grate on your nerves!

However, the fact that I’m talking so much at work at the moment — being political, making smart-alec comments like I’m performing to a crowd and so on — makes me wonder if I need to dial things back as well, and resist becoming an “extroverted introvert”.  I especially worry that the nice female team member who sits opposite me at work (who’s a lot quieter and more demure than the blokes, and thus far more pleasant for me to interact with) is getting fed up with my constant quasi-standup comedy routines, and references to old TV shows, songs etc. that were big before she was even born.

Maybe I need to settle down and be more sensible — or at least more willing to ask people questions (and actually listen to the answers) than drone on about my experiences and opinions like some kind of rambling old-timer.  Despite my introvercy (or maybe because of it?), it’s easy for me to talk a great deal when I’m around familiar people, but I don’t want to annoy them the way extroverts annoy me at social events, as nobody likes a hypocrite.  I may even need to rant my heart out in a blog post here, just to get it out of my system, so I don’t go on and on at people I actually like.

Of course, this could all just be part of the aforementioned mood swing, bordering on outright depression (I’ve certainly felt like having a damn good cry this evening), caused by one of the medications I’ve been prescribed for my medical condition — I’ve certainly felt better after coming home and having dinner (and talking to my housemates).  That’s not the only reason I wish the quacks would let me come off clobazam, though: amongst other things, it makes it harder to… shall we say… shed excess mass?  It’s not just Easter eggs in the shops that are causing me to gain weight…

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P.S. My Polish friend texted me while I was writing this, and she still wants to hang out with me and have me over for vegan pizza (even if she uses “Netflix and chill” in a more literal context than sex maniacs do), so at least I haven’t blown our friendship entirely by being antisocial to strangers…