Putting myself back together

sisyphusI’ve already spoken in this blog about the time I lost the will to live in December 2011, and the time I almost lost everything in January 2012; well, between that and the start of this blog (nearly a year ago) was a period in which I tried to go on living from one day to the next, but felt, at least in the beginning, like I’d gone mad.  I write of this because I’m feeling a little of that again, thanks to the summer having abruptly ended and the nights drawing in — and since it’s only September, and thus far worse horrors must await me before the spring, I want to reflect on how I got through that twisted time of my life.

So, as you know (ahem), in early February 2012 I moved in to my current place, having endured the worst period of my life.  Unfortunately every day seemed to be a struggle, beginning with the Friday night I moved in: no-one was going to be in the house once the leaderene had gone to work in her lab for the evening, so I had to rush there from work to get my key!  And then I saw my new room for the first time without the other guy’s stuff in it, and realised with mounting horror that there was mould on the exterior walls under the window, and a big greasy patch on the wall where the guy (or a previous housemate) had leaned against it while in bed.  And the fireplace, which couldn’t be filled in because this is a “listed building”, the filth under the bed (and two manky mattresses on top, one with a certain stain that suggests a woman slept there at least once a month), and a corner shelf unit wedged into an alcove which turned out to have a defunct laptop underneath it (apparently belonging to the landlord’s son)… and then there was the fact that I couldn’t get a Freeview signal in my room unless I put my old computer monitor (which I’d been using as a TV), my digibox and a portable TV aerial in a very specific configuration, and didn’t move, and then I could only pick up the BBC channels anyway!

Needless to say, I had pizza for dinner that evening (Pizza Hut across Ballards Avenue, though I seldom use it, preferring Domino’s), and one of the first acts in moving my stuff upstairs from the living room was to assemble my computer desk and computer, and spend an hour or two playing L.A. Noire.  Apart from having to shut my bedroom door after the leaderene complained about the loudness of the dialogue in the game, it was an experience which calmed me down significantly and helped me forget my problems.

(Yeah, you may think it’s an “interactive movie” or a “facial animation tech demo”, but I actually like it as a game… maybe because it got me through this difficult time, but hey, whatever!)

Things didn’t get much easier, as I decided I needed to clean and repaint the manky walls — which I did over the course of two weekends (hey, I still had to work!), despite the leaderene telling me that the landlord was going to sell the house within the year, and that it thus wasn’t worth me doing it unless it was “for fun”.  This, needless to say, made me anxious again: I’d barely survived this horrible move, how could I possibly face another in so short a space of time?

But I repainted my walls anyway, and once I’d moved (with help) all my remaining furniture and boxes of books etc. upstairs, my room finally began to feel like home.  I also sorted out a couple of other things: a previous tenant had had Sky Digital fitted, and I was able to buy a Freesat digibox to use with the dish, and I bought a new, small widescreen TV to watch it on, selling my old computer monitor on a difficult weekend when I discovered just how difficult it is to travel when my exact bit of the Northern Line is closed.  It felt so bizarre, carrying a 24″ widescreen monitor on the bus to Golders Green and then on the train down to Goodge Street, and because my room had been in such disarray at the time, I’d forgotten to bring the power cable as well, so they couldn’t even test it!  And, as for “good housemate’s” pool table, which really didn’t fit in here with everything else, I was luckily able to give it away to a friend of “female best friend’s” boyfriend (later fiancé, now husband) for use in a youth club, so it’s a good job I didn’t let him throw it out.

Still, it felt so weird to be in here every evening, the light on but my room somehow shrouded in sinister darkness, watching a strange array of TV channels and feeling like I was in a strange place… I still remember having the Japanese channel NHK World HD on, and thinking to myself that I’d gone mad, but it was all right.  Work was no better, as somehow, without intending to, I kept thinking of the potential residences I’d seen during that chaotic week in January, and wondered whether my counterpart in another universe was living there now — or perhaps not living

Gradually I managed to restore myself to a sense of normalcy (yes, okay, this is me we’re talking about, but indulge me here), but I really was taking things one day at a time, making no long-term plans other than to not die.  It occurred to me that every time I buy a Doctor Who DVD that’s well ahead of the period I’m watching (when I moved I was mid-Troughton, reaching Pertwee’s time in July), it’s like a pledge to go on living so I can watch the entire series in order.

One thing that kept me going was buying a smartphone, for the first time ever, thanks to the store credit from selling that monitor!  A cheap second-hand Nokia N97, and it failed after a couple of weeks, but it was still a remarkable experience, even if I never connected it to 2G or 3G or whatever.  Since it failed so quickly, I was able to trade up to a superior HTC Desire Z, which I still use to this day (and which came to America with me).  Using this to play Angry Birds on the Tube every morning and evening distracted me from my uncomfortably-crowded surroundings, and later, when I felt better, I started reading books instead (though for a while I was reading an e-book version of Lovecraft’s works on the phone!).

Another thing to keep me from falling apart was, ironically, my job.  I’ve complained about it in the past (yes, mainly the annoying woman, I know, I’m a horrible person, but she’s annoying!), but due to not one, but two senior women at work going on maternity leave at about the same time, I was able to “act up” into a more senior position, with the commensurate pay rise, which meant I was able to save up more.  Not to the level of a deposit, of course, but I’ve had enough to be able to go on a mega-holiday in America and pay for an expensive IT course, and still have plenty left over for a rainy day.  Along with having found this place to live, it’s a reason that I feel I’m helping the homeless in a strange way: I’m not at risk of increasing their number by one.  Money doesn’t buy happiness, but enough money buys a feeling of security.  I also pay less rent here than I did on Caledonian Road, though that’s to some extent countered by the cost (and stress!) of travelling on the Northern Line.

One other thing I did here, in the early days, was to study for the Windows 7 exam (70-680), on the advice of an IT person at work.  It didn’t come to pass, alas, and my failure in that exam robbed me of my confidence for a good long while, and I ended up sinking into decadence, just playing games in the evenings.  At least when I discovered climbing, I began to actually go out once in a while, instead of moping at home, but my love life remained dead and buried, and one of my worst nights ever involved going to a mingling event run by Lovestruck… which I’ll never do again.  (Judging from a Wikipedia article, I suffer from something called love-shyness, but that’s a blog entry for another day…)

In summary, I got through that weird, post-move period by taking things slowly, sorting out one problem at a time, and by virtue of the fact that the winter came to an end and gave way to spring and, eventually, summer.  I don’t always find rainy days depressing, but it’s nonetheless very possible that I have SAD, and perhaps that explains why I’ve not been so well lately — it really did feel like we jumped directly into winter without even a day of autumn!

I think what brought it all back recently was that, without warning (at least not to me), the landlord’s office sent someone around to strip down and rebuild the downstairs shower from scratch; I’d been hoping this might happen while I was away, but in fact it started just after I came back from Worthing.  (My housemate’s fault for inconsiderately cutting us off the Internet a week early!)  Feeling out of control as to what’s happening in my house, and having to take baths in the upstairs bathroom (or very unsatisfying showers, since the showerhead can’t be attached to the wall) is a new experience that’s messed with my head a bit.  Of course, Gwar has helped turn a strange experience into a relaxing one (Bluetooth headphones, if you must know), and it’s only a few more days before our downstairs shower is back, better than ever.

So what’s different about this time I’m in now, aside from the fact that it’s the lead-up to winter rather than the escape therefrom?  Well, I actually have friends outside my household and workplace now, and indeed am getting back into attending Meetup.com groups; I’m healthier than ever, and still impressing my personal trainer torturer; I’m working towards a better job thanks to my online studies (but still need to organise some A+ exams — yes, I’m retaking them at 801/802 level so I can stay current); I’m more familiar with the area where I live, and less likely to get the wrong bus; I’m closer to my mother and grandmother, and can draw on them for strength; and, most of all, I’ve gazed into the abyss and pulled back once, so I feel confident I can do it again.

I’m going to continue making changes: in particular, I want to get rid of my big corner computer desk and replace it with something easier to transport.  I also want to replace my books with e-books for similar reasons; in the meantime, I’m reading them all again so that at least I’ll have gotten some mileage out of them (having finished the Dune novels, I’m now working my way through Asimov, and I read Pratchett every night, though I might keep those).

Finally, I hope that, while 2012 was the year I clung on tenaciously, and 2013 was the year I adventured and felt hope, 2014 will be the year it all finally comes together…

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