Monthly Archives: April 2015

In the pit of my stomach

Sorry it’s been such a long time since I posted here; it’s very possible that I’m running out of things to say that aren’t just Facebook-esque status updates… but not just yet.

To summarise recent events, my contract at work has been extended another three months, and I’m just about breaking even each month in financial terms.  Despite this, though, I’ve still felt troubled at times — I won’t say suicidal (I don’t want to go through that again!), but I’ve felt a lot less happy than I should, and I think it might go some way to explain why people with nice lives feel so bad.  It’s not new science or anything, but if something I say helps someone out there, this blog entry will have justified its existence…

As you know, in January 2012 I had that horrified moment when I saw what a studio flat looks like, and the next day I felt nauseous and had to cry off work.  My upset stomach stayed with me through the following ordeal, as my anxiety levels remained high, and only when I found a place to live (where I am still) was I able to begin my recovery.  As I said before, it was a lot like the Ludovico treatment from A Clockwork Orange, as I ended up feeling helpless horror whenever I saw certain types of houses, especially in unfamiliar streets on cold winter nights, and that’s something that still haunted me in 2014.

However, I think the Ludovico treatment works the other way as well: if I get similar stomach feelings, e.g. from eating wrongly or catching the lurgy (which went around my new office once or twice), it can bring back the feelings of helplessness, even if my actual situation is perfectly fine!  This is recognised by scientists and well-documented — the symptoms of anxiety can trick you into thinking you must be feeling anxious simply because you had these symptoms when you really were anxious due to real life problems, and you end up over-analysing your situation and brooding, just like you did when you had those problems.

If this isn’t a reason to ensure you have good digestive health, I don’t know what is!  I’ve certainly been having (ahem) problems lately in that department, perhaps the tail end of the anxiety I had earlier in the year, or perhaps due to my desk being at the same level as my stomach (which would explain why I feel worse at work than at home).  Thus, on my personal trainer’s advice, I’ve tried psyllium husks; this is a particularly unpleasant self-medication, involving powder that gels up in water being put in water and then drunk before it finishes gelling up.

It seems I got it wrong the first couple of days: I was taking it just before breakfast, when you’re actually supposed to take it a couple of hours after food (especially if you take vitamins, which I do with breakfast).  Perhaps this is why I felt kind of miserable on Monday and Tuesday last week: my stomach doing strange things, and my weight not decreasing at all, leading to a constant pressure in my gut that brought back all the anxiety I’ve had in the past, and made me look at my life situation critically — still doing the same things, with no girlfriend (or harem), and not even earning as much as I was at Camden, so I can’t even go on holiday.  Of course, when I found out at the end of work on Tuesday that they were keeping me on another three months, I felt remarkably better in psychological terms, and thus my stomach problems became just that: stomach problems!

There is a weird side effect of taking psyllium husks at night, though: since you need to drink so much water to wash them down and keep everything (ahem) moving, you end up needing to get up in the middle of the night, not for no.2, but for no.1 — a painful compulsion I’d not felt since coming back from America in 2013 and dozing until a visit by the landlady woke me up, and I had only a moment to speak to her before I had to rush to the john!

Mind you, on Monday just gone, I’d had psyllium husks the night before, as I’m supposed to, and I still felt a bit broody walking to work from the station; a mark of this can be divined by the fact that I somehow didn’t feel like rocking out when the classic Gwar track “Death Pod” came on (this was probably the first one I listened to on YouTube in 2013, after reading Beavis and Butt-head’s air guitar guide to it in This Book Sucks!).  Such a tragic situation can, of course, not be tolerated — so here you go…

(And isn’t it nice that the YouTube poster’s screen name is a reference to Eminem, my other favourite artist?)

Moving out, moving in

beavbuttYes, don’t worry, I’m back at long last — and although I’m not a Christian (despite backing away from outright atheism during my recent crisis), I can safely say today was a Good Friday, especially for “best mate”, who now has a much better room than the one he’s lived in since January 2014.  How do I know?  Because it’s the identically-sized room directly underneath mine, formerly occupied by a bloke who was hardly ever in (the guy who cut us off the Internet in 2013), who has finished his PhD and is now moving on.  I helped him load his stuff into a van and unload it here, remembering how awful that process had been for me in January 2012.

It’s going to be weird seeing my buddy every day, instead of hearing him on the phone now and then (especially after personal training on Fridays, when he usually wants to go to Nando’s), but at least it’ll mean he doesn’t have to drive home after dropping me off, as he’ll be living in the same damn house as me!  And since his last room was tiny, overheated and stuffy, with a skylight he had to cover up so he could sleep, situated in a crowded house with three couples (and all from the same European country) where he couldn’t cook or use the washing machine, this counts as an improvement in his life.  Persuading my drummer housemate to let him have this room was the least I could do after he stuck with me during the horrible time I had being unemployed around Christmas, and it made sense to have my best friend living in my house.

(Please be aware that the first person to use the word “brohabitation” will be SHOT!)

New housemates have hitherto been a crapshoot for me — the good, the bad and the ugly.  I won’t go into excruciating detail about the people I shared houses or flats with at university, as such decisions were generally inflicted upon me from on high, and apart from a seldom-present Chinese guy replacing the cheerful Iranian guy during my MSc course in 2003-4 (my first year in London), they would always live in that place for the same length of time as me.

No, my first “new housemate” search began in early 2005, when I was living in Wood Green with three of my former Astrophysics coursemates, and “other female best friend” decided she had to move out to be with her boyfriend in Nottingham (and with whom she broke up three years later).  Interviewing new housemates was a hell of a process, and led to at least one argument when “female best friend” thought we’d approved someone she hadn’t met, but eventually we settled on an Irish guy, who by an astonishing coincidence was born on the same day of the same year as me!  It’s a pity we had so many arguments, usually over petty things, and these only increased when he got a long-term girlfriend and moved her in (it almost felt like Mummy and Daddy were fighting), because he was a good guy overall, as well as being a fan of video games, astronomy and Beavis and Butt-head.

In 2006 I moved with two of my Astrophysics housemates, “female best friend” and the crazy guy I’ve referred to in this blog as “good housemate”, to that flat on Caledonian Road where I spent over five years of my life.  Unfortunately “female best friend” moved out in early 2007 because she hadn’t “settled in” like us guys; it was sad seeing her leave, but at least she remained in London for another year or so, and thus I could show her anime (such as my favourite, Space Battleship Yamato), before she moved up north to study.  For the rest of our time in that flat, “good housemate” and I had to find a new housemate not once, but FIVE TIMES:

  • An Australian girl who lasted a few months before her visa expired, and she had to return home unexpectedly;
  • A young Northern bloke on a year’s work placement in London during his university course, who was pretty cool, though he spent most of his time playing Halo 3;
  • Another Australian girl who moved her boyfriend in (which reduced our bills a bit), but who left us after a year when they broke up (only for them to get back together and move fairly nearby);
  • A young lady from Belgium who kept herself to herself for a year, and didn’t even use the same bathroom as me (okay, it was getting pretty gross by that point);
  • And finally, “bad housemate”, who seemed like a loveable geek when he first came on our radar, but turned out to be a deeply annoying person, who apparently thought his failings were somehow adorable in an Odd Couple kind of way, and who didn’t have the decency to move out after a year (or less) like everyone else before him.

But enough of Cally Road; I myself became a new housemate here in Finchley in 2012, and hopefully didn’t step on too many toes, though our household leaderene and landlord’s proxy kept telling me off for allowing my TV, video games or DVDs to make noise audible in the corridor when she was trying to sleep early in the evening (she had a hell of a commute that started in the small hours, so fair enough).  She was the second of my housemates in this place to move out, being replaced by a pleasant Northern lass; the first, a creepy little Italian guy who lived in the small room at the back of the house, left in Autumn 2012 (in what I described at the time as an early birthday present), to be replaced by a nice but angry Turkish girl (who once had a stand-up row with the drummer housemate over washing and respect, which took me back to Wood Green).

“Best mate” has never been happy in any of the other places he’s had to live in London (including sleeping on his brother’s couch); he nearly moved into a place near here back in January 2014, but not having cash at the exact moment he needed it (or phone charge to call me to ask for help) meant he lost out to someone else, and had to take the place in Manor House instead.  I’d long wanted to get him moved in here, and save him from the horror of searching for a spare room in someone else’s house; ironically, the Turkish housemate has said many times (over the past two years!) that she wants to move out, and I thought it would be her room that he would move into.  The room underneath mine definitely works out better for him, however, as he has more space for all his stuff (the only difference from my level of clutter is that he didn’t bring any bookcases).

If the worst comes to the worst — I have to move out, or he and I somehow stop being friends — the fact that I’ve got him a good place to live right now makes me happy, not to mention relieved on his behalf.  I finally have four housemates that I actually like and get on with (yes, even the drummer), but I’m not going to worry that my luck’s running out, that I’ll have to leave suddenly and go back to live with my folks in Worthing.  I did enough of that before, didn’t I?  For now, I’m going to enjoy the moment… but not with my pal, he’s gone out for the evening.

Hey, even married couples need time apart, right…?