Rest In Peace Dad
9th August 1950 – 3rd March 2021
Rest In Peace Dad
9th August 1950 – 3rd March 2021
Fun fact – I’m a gobshite. I banter, do a good line in sarcasm. Its how I deal with stress, make the situation a joke. Mum always said when I was quiet things had become really bad. This last few weeks I’ve been getting quieter and quieter.
Stress has been the ruling factor for the last month. Let’s be honest the last year hasn’t been a joyride for anyone, but personally it seemed more focused this last month. Culminating in a pretty horrible week emotionally and mentally.
A build up of work pressure, working too many hours – including weekends. Not much of a break in a long time. Even during downtime it has been on my mind. I have been obsessing over it, in a very unhealthy way.
Mental exhaustion. Anxiety spikes and depression lows. Lashing out at others, due to frustration. Tiredness.
When your brain is looking for a permanent way out of a situation, thats a sign to stop. Carrying on leads to a potentially life ending decision.
Is that overly dramatic? Not in my experience.
I think in my post Choosing Stress I was trying to rationalise things. Trying to take back some control of the situation. In essence kid myself in to thinking I was in control still.
I finally took control in a different way. I took the day off work yesterday. Not strictly true, I did a couple of hours in the morning.
However, for the rest of the day I did nothing. I chucked my routine out the window – even the good stuff. Woke up naturally at 7.30am and not the usual 4.00am. Turned my phone off for a few hours (not as many as I’d have liked). Kept away from social media.
For one day I chilled out totally. I watched films all day. Listened to podcasts. Watched Minecraft videos.
The result has been like hitting a reset button.
This morning I appreciated the good things I do more. Work isn’t the predominant thought in my mind.
There are a multitude of things I could have done that were better for me than watching tv. But, to be honest, I just needed some escapism.
Exercise, meditation, journaling, eating my greens – all of that is part of the real world routine, that seemed to have become entangled with the real world stress. It all felt like hard work, when combined with all the other stuff. It felt good to put it to one side for a moment, it helped me appreciate it more this morning.
At one point yesterday, I realised that sofa surfing is not something I could do full time.
Firstly, I got a numb bum.
Secondly, why would I want to spend all my time watching fictional people lead fictional lives (I see you Steve and your ability to chop tress down with your hands).
There is a definite natural need to feel like I’m doing something useful.
No matter what I do, no matter what I try, I can’t escape the anxiety and depression.
Alcohol free, anti-depressants, counselling, meditation, exercise.
None of it has worked for more than a few weeks.
More people are worse off than I am.
But here I am.
Scared I’m getting very close to the place I was, mentally, 20 years ago.
Mega stress at work. If it could go wrong, it has. The usual covid stuff too.
Not once have I thought I need a drink.
Being alcohol free has allowed the mental space to explore other ways of dealing with stress. Allowed “extra” time in my day to meditate, exercise, read, sleep etc.
Its also given me the clarity to realise that I’ve been through worse. Also I choose to do this. I choose the pressure and stress.
When I was drinking I’d whinge and moan about it. Not realising the alcohol wasn’t helping and that its all of my own choosing.
I now ask myself if I’m okay with the choice. At the moment I am. There may come a day when I’m not. So grateful to be able to choose. The memories are still fresh from when I wasn’t so fortunate – that stress was so much worse, to the point where I actually believed my only choice was to attempt suicide.
Stress has been sucking up any spare mental capacity to create/write. Thoughts of work have been all consuming. Its a phase.
This morning I tried something different. Something I know others do, but never saw how it helped. Instead of giving it a go, I dismissed it for months.
I did the simple thing of standing in my back garden watching the colour of the sky change as the sun rose. Noticing the shades of blues, pinks, the sound of the birds and the silhouette of the tress in front of the skyline.
It was beautiful.
When I came back inside, after about 10 minutes, I felt more rested and calm than I have in a long time. Not even the meditation I’d done earlier this morning was this calming. Even now, an hour later, I have a small smile on my face and feel relaxed.
It was a pleasant surprise. I could go and run off and do the research of the science behind it, but sometimes I just don’t want to know. It would be like learning how a magic trick, that has amazed, is done.
What I don’t recommend is doing it in your dressing gown, with only socks on your feet, in -3 degrees Celsius temperatures. My feet may defrost by Sunday evening. Even Murphy (my trusted Cockapoo) was stood watching me, from the warmth of the house, with a look of “whats the old fool doing now” on his face.
None of this is relevant to being alcohol free – although there is a book recommendation below.
This is just the random stuff on my mind first thing in the morning, gathered over the last week. This will give you a sneak peak in to how my mind works, most of the time.
I have come to the realisation that I’m not a slipper man. I’ve lost them twice already. Its not even been 5 days.
It has been brought to my attention that they look like orthopaedic shoes, turns out I have no fashion sense either.
I’ve been trying a new meditation practice – The Z Technique. If you’re interested check out Stress Less Accomplish More by Emily Fletcher.
The meditation part works on a mantra. Which, for this exercise, is the word ONE. This morning my brain kept replacing ONE with HAND CREAM.
What is that about? Is it my brain trying to tell me my hands need attention? What do you think – I know its only my left hand, but looks okay to me.
I inherited my Grandads vinyl record collection a while back (he’s been gone 25 years) and found this gem of a boxset in it.
Guess what todays work soundtrack is going to be? Do you think they’ll mind if I doze off during yet another Zoom call.
Oh FFS I’m doing it all wrong again Check out this BBC article: Covid-19: ‘Less exercise and more TV’ than first lockdown.
I personally shut down first lockdown – work, tv, sleep, work, tv, sleep (and lots of food).
Now I’m doing everything I was apparently meant to be doing lockdown 1.0. I just can’t keep up with the human race at times
Working from home again is a trigger for drinking.
The habit of getting up from my desk at the end of the day and just grabbing a beer straight away was one easily dropped when I went back to the office.
drink away the painMobb Deep – Drink Away The Pain
The loneliness of sitting here all day for 10-14 hours with no other human contact (other than work talk) is a part of this too. Drinking numbed the feeling of loneliness. I’ve said before I’m not great at reaching out to people, or being a friend. So I am fully aware I create a lot of this problem. Its on the list to tackle – just got a couple of other things I’m working on right now before I get to it.
Let’s be real here. I have a job, I have a home, I am warm (most the time), I have plenty of food. I know I’m not bad off in the most important aspects of life. But there were reasons I drank – not all of them were logical.
You may recognise yourself in some of the things I am going through, so this may help or you may have ideas that you want to share. Thats the point. This isn’t whoah is me, its more this is whats happening – with no self pity involved.
Luckily I’m in a place mentally where I can easily ride these triggers. I see no benefit in drinking. Those 105 days have toughened my resolve, I am fully out of the habit of drinking.
I just need to ride them long enough where my new routines make them go away permanently.
Having routine is also helping. It breaks the association with how tough mentally last lockdown was.
Last lockdown I wasn’t sleeping well, so I’d get out of bed to watch tv and then fall asleep on the sofa. I’d wake up when it was time for work, walk over to the desk and start the day. Often washing and getting dressed during my lunch break.
Now, I am waking up doing a morning routine (meditate, journal, read), have breakfast, get washed and dressed and start work. Just like I would if I were going in to the office.
Even getting dressed like I’m going out to work helps – it is something different from what I was doing in the last lockdown, so its helping break the non-routine I had. Shirt and trousers are my work uniform, not the shorts and t shirt of last lockdown.
I’m learning too. Podcasts are a great way to stifle the loneliness, its like being part of a conversation if I pick the right one. Just listening in to friends chatting and enjoying it.
I’m thinking of investing in a pair of slippers. What are your recommendations? Socks are cool and all, but they’re too warm in bed at night (yes I am that person). Slippers seems a sensible compromise. I think a pair of baby yoda slippers would be cool – matching my gown (oh yeah, its a gown now – feels grand).
This morning I was reading The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi, I’ve mentioned the book several times recently.
This line really stood out to me:
The idea is to prepare mentally in advance of those hard times. Have a plan in place for when they come.
I did struggle with the temptation to have a few beers on a Friday night after work – something I’d been doing for 28 years. It was a deeply embedded behaviour. My plan in this case was very simple, but effective. Buy alcohol free alternatives.
The plan doesn’t have to be grand or mind blowing.
As the title of the book suggests, its about changing habits in a kinder way.
I’ve spent years trying to change things I thought were wrong with me. Always falling back in to the bad habits or behaviours I was trying to change.
I’ve often found myself thinking “you’re fat, pathetic” and tried to use that as the base for change. Now I am trying to flip that thought to “what caused the weight gain?”. What is the main habit? Now I am looking at the behaviour itself, not beating myself up.
Rather than look at my habits as failings, character flaws, I am looking back at how they formed. They all served a purpose at some point – grabbing sugary foods was comforting, for example. Once I have that in mind, I can ask if they’re still serving their purpose. Is the sugary food still comforting?
Once I have answered that question I can decide what change, if any, I need to make.
What can I lose by trying this approach? The alternative, negative, beat myself up method wasn’t working.
Thats just a small part of the approach suggested in the book. For a better crash course in Shahroo’s approach I recommend Episode 28 of the OYNB podcast she appears on.
Back to work today. I’m very fortunate to get a good amount of time off work during Christmas – sites close, there is no work to do.
I’m oddly excited – who am I? Can’t wait to get back in to a productive routine. Without structure I tend to veg out to the max.
Only a short blog post today – my brain is filling up with the day job to do list, not much capacity left for creative stuff like blogging.
But I will leave you with Kool Moe Dee.
I just want to take a moment to look at that number. Its more than double any previous attempt I’ve made at giving up drinking. 90 days is the next recognised milestone – OYNB do 28, 90 and 265 challenges. But I’m taking a little detour just to admire the number 85.
Right, now I’ve had my moment with 85. On to the blog.
I watched Beatrice Caruso’s new vlog yesterday. If ya know, ya know. But if ya don’t know, she’s currently on a weight loss journey to lose 100 pounds.
I’m a fan, she’s funny. Plus she doesn’t shy away from the actual struggle of trying to achieve something.
The point? The vlog I was watching was the typical new years resolutions vlog. Cut short – she has a very long list of goals for the year.
It made me think, do I have a short circuit? Am I Johnny Five? I never make new years resolutions. Never have. Not because of some mindset of change can happen at any time bs. More, I just don’t see the point.
As a fat person – even when I was five stone lighter I was still considered fat – I hated January in the gym. The personal trainers would be falling over themselves to get to me. Which is part of the reason I started working out before they were out of bed – you want my money, come at 5am.
By February, my fellow fat people were gone and the PT’s were too. The resolutions had fallen by the wayside.
Blah, blah, blah. There are a million and one vlogs and blogs on why resolutions don’t work.
The point of this blog post? I noticed my period of change (thats a clunky set of words) starts in October. I don’t even know why. Do you know?
But it does make life easier.
The gyms are emptier.
I can spend more time looking at different options, making an informed decision. Then wait until the discounted January offers to buy. Assuming the change I want to make involves some form of course.
Its nice to have a head start. I can do all my floundering and initial mess ups out of view. But the time January comes, I sort of know what I’m doing. I’m not looking at gym equipment, for example, with a face full of bewilderment. Or, I’ve already researched the course and can hit the ground running on it – knowing what to expect.
Plus, no one is doing change at that time of year. It sort of takes the pressure off. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to others, but I do. Having no one to compare to, as they’re waiting for January 1st, makes it easier. No one to keep up with.
Maybe I’ll mix things up this year and try some change in July.