Surround Yourself With Positivity

As I sit on a train in Newcastle, waiting to return to Northampton to pack my bags and head back to Australia, I ponder the benefit of the Captain Krankypants talks. Personally they make no money for me, in fact they cost me money to do – what with travel, accommodation, food, etc. It is only with the support of friends and supporters that I am able to do this. It is their positivity that keeps me going and encourages me to get out and do what I do.

It is also the looks on the faces of audience members as they recognise symptoms I am describing – then the enthusiasm they have to come and speak with me at half time or at the end – to tell me how much they could recognise themselves in things I said during the talk. And then to hear comments later saying how I have changed people’s lives, how someone has suddenly started opening up and talking about how they feel and how family and friends now see what their loved ones are experiencing and understand why they behave the way they do.

The positivity, love and appreciation that has flooded me during this UK tour has overwhelmed me a bit. I never saw myself in such a role – maybe a role model for some, a guiding light perhaps, or even a beacon in the distance at which to aim. I feel enthused to continue and to help others find their way out of their depression and to manage the PTSD – I want to encourage people to accept their situation and move forward positively into a planned and organised future… and I want to continue on my road to recovery by talking about this stuff and helping to remove the stigma that still exists in society.

How it will evolve – well I have some plans for the future that will see the introduction of a bigger show focussed on stigma removal while still continuing with the talks to maintain connection with those with the conditions and keeping me real. The expanded show is already written and planned, I just need to spend time putting together all the media and AV components. I am positive it will work but, once again, it comes down to funding. Maybe it is finally time for me to try this crowd funding thing and see what we can drum up…

So, while we are talking about positivity, I need to thank all those people around me who have helped with getting these talks happening – it doesn’t happen on its own. Each of these people has helped me with their positive attitude, their desire to help others and their desire to support me in my quest. Once again I will not name them individually because if I forget one person, it would be unfair and, even if unintentional, will upset that person. Believe me, I know what it is like to be forgotten when thanks are given out. So thank you all, every one of you, here in the UK and in Australia (where I will be again on Thursday). And there is some very exciting news coming up on that front as well – I just need to be certain I can release it.

Even in this, though, there is a lesson for people with these conditions… surrounding yourself with positivity. We all know someone who seems to be an ‘enthusiasm drain’ or an ’emotional leach’ – the person who can stop a party just by walking in the room. Hopefully it is someone else so you can avoid them but if it is you then you might need to adjust your image in front of people.

We all want to be accepted and loved by our friends and families. We want to be popular and appreciated but sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work. No matter what we try, we always seem to stuff it up or cause a negative reaction – which then either makes us retreat back into our shells or try even harder to be accepted. So what is the trick…

There isn’t one, all you have to do is be yourself. Sometimes you might want to look at how you interact with others and adjust the approach a little, other times it might be worth walking away and finding acceptance elsewhere. I see four reasons why an individual can be not accepted by a group.

  1. Trying too hard – sometimes we try so hard to be accepted by the ‘in crowd’ that we annoy them. Like a young enthusiastic puppy we prance around, nothing is too hard and we are keen, oh so keen, to be seen as a valuable asset. My Tip – stop trying to be accepted, be yourself and let others see you fro the real person you are. You can still be enthusiastic and keen to help but temper it a little. Stop chasing the popularity and let it come to you – if the ‘in crowd’ aren’t accepting you then maybe move away and allow your doors to open to others who might want you in their group or their circle of friends.
  2. Constantly negative – we are seen as constantly whining about something. The news is all bad, the food is cold, I don’t like the game anymore, there’s so many adverts on TV, the weather is too hot/cold, I wish it would rain, I wish the rain would stop… and so it goes on. My Tip – stop looking at the negativity in everything, try to see the positive elements. Bring happiness and positivity to the group and you will generally receive it back. If need be ignore any discussion involving negativity or avoid becoming involved in, and being seen as, whining about things all the time.
  3. Seen as untrustworthy and disloyal – in order to try to gain acceptance you belittle others, gossip, blame others or just make others look bad to the group. My Tip – do not ever talk about other people or what they may have (or may not have) done – especially if they are not there to defend themselves. While it can be exciting to see the faces on members of the group as you tell them the news that so and so did such and such, this behaviour is remembered and the group members subconsciously realise that you cannot be trusted with secrets or to be a confidante of individuals within the group. Also, if it is information about other group members or family you can be pretty sure that it will get back to the person concerned, which will have additional ramifications.
  4. Poor personal hygiene – if you don’t wash or keep yourself relatively tidy, if you exude bodily smells or if you burp and fart loudly and constantly, generally people will find this offensive – unless you are trying to join a group where these things are required. My Tip – have a wash, comb your hair, brush your teeth and stop eating beans and cabbage.

Well this has been a bit of a novel, I apologise for that – in summary: think positive, speak positively, surround yourself with positive people and be positive about your future.

We Are Not Worthy – Hang On A Sec… Yes I Am

Over the years I have never felt that I was worthy of many of the good things that happened to me. I always felt that I never worked hard enough nor provided suitable input into work – I never thought I understood what I was doing and that 90% of the time I was just winging it. Other people saw the confident positive and forward thinking me – I saw the timid, unconfident and frightened me – frightened of being found out as a charlatan or making a mistake.

I was always scared of making a mistake or getting things wrong because that would cause people to criticise or ridicule me. That was my biggest fear; looking like a failure. So I drove myself hard, I quickly learned about what I needed to know so I would be able to do it right and then – sometimes this meant sitting up to all hours the night before studying or thinking about how it needed to be done. I would then look confident and knowledgable the next day when doing what needed to be done.

I was confident though in my ability to see the eventual outcome of a proposal and know if it would work or not. I could also see the best way to do it and could readily estimate the resources needed. I still do not know how I was able to do this, it just came naturally. This was a skill that really let me appear confident and capable. Once again being able to back my judgement and build my internal confidence.

Then with the depression came the self doubt – a few minor errors saw my confidence plummet and develop into a situation where I no longer trusted my abilities. Without these abilities I then began to feel as if I was no longer worthy of any accolades, salary or other benefits generally given to relatively high performing workers. This then aded another level of stress onto my already stressful life , which then fuelled the depression which then fuelled the self doubt, which fuelled the stress levels, which fuelled the depression, which fuelled….. and so it went on until I eventually had a heart attack that stopped me in my tracks.

Suddenly different things became important to me. Working for other people lost its priority, it was time to do things for myself and be able to chose what I did and when I did it. The company I was working for at the time, looked after me for about 12 months after returning from hospital and I appreciate all those individuals who covered for me, kept me positive and removed a lot of the high pressure tasks I had beforehand. But, eventually, I knew I wasn’t pulling my weight in the team and decided it was time to move on.

For a year and a half I floated around with different projects and activities which gave me a role in life. Things I enjoyed doing but, once again were focussed around other people – and were still providing a high level of stress. Eventually that came to an end and I was left alone in business to work out what to do and where to go in life. I also had my melt-down which finally gave me the opportunity to do something different with my life but to harness many of the skills I had spent my life acquiring.

…And so emerged Captain Krankypants – the name given to me by my kids when I was struggling in life and constantly appearing angry about everything and anything. The name quickly caught on and many family and friends started referring to me by the name.

While the original Captain Krankypants was who I was at the time – and, yes, the website was originally for whining and complaining people to share their bleating – I now decided to keep the name as a memory to the person I was and to move forward in a positive manner and look to improve my sense of self worth while trying to help other people cope with what might be their own personal issues.

I decided that I would journal my experiences as I moved from the depressed condition to become the new person I am now. As soon as I started I found that people responded favourably to my story and to the journey I was on so I started going out and talking to groups and to media about it. I knew there was till a stigma associated with depression, anxiety and PTSD but I couldn’t care – I have nothing more to prove in life, I probably don’t have a lot of it left to be honest… so I could voice my experiences and risk the ridicule of others… but it never came.

My true friends and my family have been so supportive and new people I meet, when I explain what I do, think it is wonderful and very brave… I still don’t see why it is brave, I am just me doing what I do but I understand their support and positivity for it. Even people I never thought would say anything, have told me how proud they are of what I am doing… it is lovely to have so much support and love from people close to me.

So here I sit on a train in the UK travelling between cities where I am giving my talks. So far to groups as diverse as life sentenced ex military prisoners, drug and alcohol self support groups, mental health support groups and paying audiences across the country. I think of the individuals I have met so far and I see the look in their eyes when they recognise me as someone who has experienced what they are experiencing and they see me as someone who has got through the worst of it. I see them deep in thought, I see them crying with relief, I see them looking relieved and I see them taking notes and listening intently to me.

During the Q and A session I hear people looking for guidance, seeking comfort, asking for advice and my heart breaks for every one of them, knowing what they are going through. I tell them I am not a mental health expert nor a doctor, I am just a normal person who is a little further down the road to recovery than them. I go back to my accommodation after the show and sit quietly on my bed and think back through my life, I think about my life now, I think about all the people who come to see me and I think about all those who poor souls who are suffering so badly they can’t get out and I finally think… Yes I am worthy of being on this planet.

Criticism – Everyone Is An Expert

One thing I have always had difficulty with is handling criticism – to me criticism is an attack on my abilities, my knowledge or my integrity. I never handled it well and, while I have now made inroads into accepting that criticism is part of life and that some criticism is positive, I still have trouble accepting it.

As far as I see it, there are three types of criticism:
1. Positive. This is well meaning criticism provided by friends and allies in an attempt to make things better or easier for the recipient. A comment from a friend such as, “Hey, I saw your show last night and thought it was great. You know I think if you were to do (something or the other) then it might be a touch easier for the audience to understand what you are getting at.”

Such a comment can then be considered and accepted or rejected on its merits. It is delivered in a nonthreatening and noncombative manner and with good intentions. I can accept this type of criticism and like to discuss the suggestions with the provider and see if the suggestion can be included or if there is a valid reason why not to accept it.

2. Negative. A clear attack on me or the subject matter at hand and designed to damage or hurt in its delivery. “That bit in the show about (such and such) is really crap and you shouldn’t include it anymore.” With no justification for the comment nor any suggestion for improvement. It is designed to hurt or throw doubt into the delivery of the subject matter and is usually done because of jealousy or ignorance. People do not realise just how damaging these comments are – I have been involved in shows where 99 out of 100 audience members leave happy and contented because they have been highly entertained by a quality entertainer but if just one person is heard to complain about something he or she didn’t like from the show, it is that comment that is remembered. The other 99% of satisfied customers are forgotten and this 1% is taken to heart and ruins the feeling completely. It is the power of negativity over positivity.

3. Ill-informed. Some people provide advice and criticism with the best of intentions but do not understand the reasoning behind why something is done in a particular way. For example an audience member coming up to me after a show might say something like, “I loved the show but thought the lighting was not very good as I couldn’t see the band members faces very well – you need to get some extra lighting to show them”. What they don’t realise is that the band is not really a part of the show – they are included to provide the backing music for the main singer and are deliberately kept “under toned” to ensure the audience is focussed on the main performer. In other cases the band may need to be lit the way they are so they can see the charts to read the music. Comments made by people to try to improve a show like this are good in that they get the audience members to engage with production staff or cast with what they see as positive criticism but they don’t understand that this has already been considered and dismissed.

This then leads on to everybody believing they are an expert on your subject or project. They have a little bit of knowledge and a rudimentary understanding of things but do not know the intricacies or detailed information that has been the reason behind decisions. This is particularly of interest in the field of anxiety, depression and PTSD – everybody seems to think they are an expert in the field and are able to provide advice to anybody suffering the conditions. I know before I was diagnosed I had an “expert” opinion of it and was happy to provide armchair advice to anyone I saw as being soft and weak – “They just need to toughen up and get over it” I would say out of ignorance. But this was because I knew what was going on in my head and I thought I was surviving okay, therefore, they can do it as well. In fact before being diagnosed, I didn’t know there was anything wrong with me, I thought all the crap gong on in my head was what went on in everybody’s heads – I thought it was normal. Evidently it isn’t.

So the lesson here is that many people are armchair experts – they think they know what is best without really understanding what is going on. They are happy to provide unsolicited advice in an attempt to help the person in trouble. Sadly, while meant in the best possible way, the advice generally doesn’t help the individual because it is either a) from a family member or close friend whose advice will be ignored or b) from someone whose opinion is not valued and once again ignored. In some cases the advice might be taken on board and cause more problems than it actually solves.

The key point is that friends, family and even enemies will provide advice about how you need to behave – in most cases it will be meant in the best possible way but it is not always provided from an educated and understanding point of view. That is why it is important to seek advice from experts in the field – I know this is not an easy thing to do but, from my experience, the moment I first contacted a help line to seek support, my life changed for the better – they understood what was going on in my head and they provided positive and valuable advice that put me firmly on the road to recovery.

So do not be afraid to call a help line and seek support – or go to your GP and ask to be referred to an expert. I know it is a really difficult thing to do in the first instance but it is the best thing you can do.

Thanks to klc32 for this image

Sometimes You Just Know

It’s weird thing the brain – it works on so many levels and seems to be able to do so many things at the same time. In reality it doesn’t, it just switches between things very quickly so it seems like you are multi-tasking – so I am told by the experts. I never cease to be amazed at what it can do though.

So many times I have gone into a situation and known what the outcome would be before I even got started. Friends have told me I have an ability to see the future but I don’t agree with them – I believe I just think things through so much I can determine the most logical outcome and know where things will go. Also, as part of my life’s experiences, I always tend to expect the worst so when it happens I am not surprised – if it doesn’t work out that way then it is a bonus. “Always expect to be disappointed, then you are never disappointed” is what I used to say – yes, it’s a negative way of looking at the world but I would guess it is my way of scoping with events that don’t go how I would like.

Instead of that way of thinking, I now try to be more positive and look at things working out then hopefully the positive vibe not just keeps me upbeat but also helps to facilitate a good outcome – not quite sure how that could possibly work in reality but it seems to be a better way of thinking. It is not an easy task when you have had so many things go wrong in your life and, when other people are involved, nothing seems to go to plan.

I spent many years following my gut feel and found that things generally went as I expected them to go – either positive or negative. I could look at a proposal or an idea and instantly know if it work or not – most of the time I couldn’t explain to others why or how I knew, I just did. I can’t even explain it to myself. Then I started listening to other people and tried to take their thoughts and impressions into consideration. In doing this I found things tended to now go how we expected – things that should have worked didn’t and things that shouldn’t work did – I can’t explain it but with this happening so often I started to doubt my judgement and lost confidence in my ability to make the correct decisions in business and in life. As a result my self opinion started to decline and my self confidence started to waver.

I see self opinion as how you see yourself and self confidence is how you let others see you and how you feel when doing a task. I have always had a high level of self confidence but a low level of self opinion. While others saw me as successful and confident in everything I did, inside me I was just backing my own judgement, confident that things would work out as expected. Over the past ten years I found my own belief in myself deteriorated so much that I could no longer trust myself to make big decisions – so I didn”t and I found myself stressing, getting depressed and distancing myself from people. I was no longer the confident winner I gave the impression I was.

More recently I have started to get out of that spiral, away from the rut and back on the road to confidence and positivity – even when I feel negatively about a possible outcome I am getting back to trusting my judgement and trusting that my expected outcome will occur. Sometimes it’s not a good thing knowing things wont work out as preferred but at least I can once again be confident in my ability to foresee it.

So on I tread, into the great unknown, albeit sometimes expected, and try to maintain a positive and chirpy outlook on life as I move into the twilight years… with my seniors card.

Note: Not actually my seniors card but wish that was my number (apart from the last”4″)

It Ain’t All Beer And Skittles

One recurring comment keeps arising from my blog posts over the past few months and that is it seems that everything is going positively and there are no negatives in my life anymore. It isn’t true, there are still negatives and a few post have shown some of the times where I start to return to depression. I have always wanted these posts to be honest so you all can see the truth and how you are not alone in your feelings – to hide the downs would be unfair and inaccurate in my recording of the journey.

For example the past few days have not been positive for me – no reason for it, just biorhythms or life’s cycles, or moon phases or something. Two days ago was one of those days when you just think you should have stayed in bed – everytime you do something it seems difficult or doesn’t work out properly… every decision made by others comes back as a negative… I used to have those days when working in the corporate world and knew then not to go for any big deals or force any decisions because the world was negative and any decision would no be good for me.

The good thing about my situation now is I know these days are intermittent, they will pass and things will improve. So I tend to keep my head down an let it flow over me – stop working, read a book, go for a walk, listen to a podcast – just generally don’t do anything that might get damaged by any negative forces. I know if you are working for someone else that this isn’t always possible but if you can find a way not to make big decisions take it.

So here I am, at the dawn of a new day, putting the negativity behind me and feeling that today is going to be positive – I have already had seven or eight spam emails come in so somebody loves me… It appears one of my email addresses has found itself on a list somewhere and it is getting hammered everyday with emails on how to increase my sexual performance (just click here), how my invoice is ready for payment (just click here), my account will be blocked (click here to prevent it) and how a lovely lady in Bumsplatistan wants to marry me. And despite high end spam filters set to the highest setting on my account at the server level, the crap keeps coming. I would just dump the email account but it is my main one – the one I use for all the real bills and business account stuff – getting rid of it would just be a nightmare activity.

I now also get spam emails from the response form below – for some reason “CharlieheDGL CharlieheD”, or some adaption of that name, using hacked email addresses, thinks I might be interested in “Sexy Girls fur die Nacht in deiner Stadt: (web link deleted)”. Just another of those annoyances in life that really don’t help those of us who tend to get depressed or used to get angry.

So anyway – the birds are chirping, kookaburras laughing and the sun is shining. Plenty to be done today but also some time for relaxation and socialising. And looking forward to tomorrow when and old friend is visiting and we are going to go and do something neither of us has done for a long time – we are going snorkelling. Just another of those things I used to like to do and will also give me the chance to get close to nature a little more – just hope it’s not the type of nature that likes to eat people…

So, this is a warning that any rising sea levels tomorrow will have absolutely nothing to do with global warming, it will just be us two fat old guys getting in the ocean off the coast of Australia. But they key thing here, is doing something I enjoy, re-engaging with friends, getting some exercise and doing something different. So get out there guys and do something different…

New Friends Don’t Know The Old Me

One of the interesting things about changing yourself away from the grumpy old git is presenting yourself to old friends with what basically equates to a different personality. They sit and talk to you and you see there is a touch of oddness about how they look at you as you speak – somewhat quizzical, sometimes confused.

The person they know is different, not quite sure how but just different. Is it good? Is it bad? They really cant put their finger on it to start with. In fact in many cases they just seem to not be able to work it out but they carry on as if things are normal. It usually seems that its not until after they leave and they are able to process the discussion that they realise what the change in me has been.

A number of times I have had old friends message me after a meeting and say that they can see a clear change in how I am and how I behave. I am no longer the negative, grumpy guy with an opinion on everything, I now listen more intently to others and their opinions and I seem more relaxed and at ease with everything. Not quite at the “don’t give a shit” position but really no longer concerned with things that don’t directly affect me or my loved ones.

I also have dropped much of the protection and the facade I used to portray – I am more open and more honest with my opinions and my attitude – also more respectful of others. I care more and enjoy the world for what it is naturally rather than the false stresses and behaviours forced upon us by those who are supposed to be running the place and providing us leadership. Maybe I am becoming an old hippie… Well I do love Billy Connolly.

On the other hand, it is interesting to see new friends and how they react to me. While there have been many considerable changes in my behaviours and attitudes, I still have symptoms of the conditions that are evident – emotional numbness, hyper-vigilance and avoidance all still exist in me but in a reduced capacity. I still find it hard to express emotions at the appropriate time – the military programming still forces me to file emotional reactions away for processing and response at a later time. Although there is a much decreased fear of anger outbursts because I no longer let it build up inside me. I keep busy and tell people when something annoys me now. I still get frustrated with things but no longer seem to get angry.

I still feel most comfortable when I am out and can see exits and any potential danger but I am forcing myself to sit in different positions in restaurants and other places I go, to try to desensitise myself. Although, as I write this while eating breakfast at McDonalds I am in clear view of the door and can see all the comings and goings.

I also now tend to step outside my comfort zone more often – to experience new things, or to just do something different to get me out of any rut I might be falling into – listening to different styles of music (even classical), going to the beach, walking in the scrub, watching TV shows I would never have watched previously and a heap of other stuff as well.

So, while my symptoms have reduced or are being managed to make me a different person, new friends have no idea what the old me was like. When they see me behave in certain ways they don’t like they don’t realise they are seeing the new, revised and lower key me. They have no idea how angry a person I was or how detached I kept myself from friends and family. Sometimes the new friends don’t like the behaviours but other times they do – it’s not something I can control so I don’t get perturbed when they decide to move away from me.

All in all, my new approach to life seems to be working out positively and I am more relaxed and at peace with myself and those close to me. I thank them for their understanding and for sticking by me – onwards and upwards…

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Change FFS

Continuing on from my last post “Art for Art’s Sake” comes this discussion on Change FFS and how I have perceived change during the period since having the PTSD and depressive conditions.

It seems our lives nowadays are made up of change after change after change – I guess nothing stays the same forever but it seems that the whole concept of evolution and development of things has been replaced by a desire for change to be made just for the sake of change or for someone just to leave their mark on something, somewhere.

I don’t know about other people but, despite a life of forcing change onto others I don’t really like change that affects me without there being any real need for that change. And, as iI get older I seem to see so much change happening for change’s sake rather than for any logical reason.

It’s obvious that technology has caused significant change in the world and it was this that gave me my success really. I was an early adopter of technology and seemed to understand much of it. I was one of the first computer systems managers in the Australian Army and ended up managing the entire Army national computer and admin communications network in 1998. Here it was my job to implement change and make sure technology was managed and kept operational.

This was great fun but I never lost focus of the effect this technology would have on the people who use it or were replaced by it – then with any administrative changes, upgrades or introduction of new applications I again considered the users and how they would be affected. Sadly this no longer seems to be the case with technology change.

So every time a new update to an App comes out, I immediately wonder what they are doing to make it more difficult to use. Then I wonder, with Apps like Facebook – why change something that is working perfectly well for most of the world’s population… a bit like Coke changing their formula/taste in 1978 – they had 78% of the cola market but saw Pepsi increase there sales by a fraction so reacted by making the flavour of Coke more like that of Pepsi.

Then you see road rules being changed because something is seen as possibly dangerous – it has worked perfectly well for 100 years but because some idiot thinks something good go wrong, they change it. In Australia for example we have a rule where you cannot cross an unbroken double line in the centre of the road. This is because it is unsafe to do so in that area. Now they have added a rule to say that any motor vehicle passing a cyclist on the road has to leave a gap of at least 1 metre. If there is an unbroken double line your are allowed to cross it to keep clear of the cyclist if it is safe to do so…. the bloody line says it isn’t safe to do so otherwise it wouldn’t be there. So why add confusion to the rules.

I could go on for pages with examples of change made for no apparent reason that just cause stress in many people but that will just rekindle the angry man I used to be. I don’t want him around anymore, he is too stressful. Suffice to say, where you find stress with change, you are not alone – despite us always being told that change is a good thing and we should accept it, that is not always the case and there are many, many people who do not like it.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Art For Art’s Sake

One of the interesting symptoms of the conditions I am experiencing is being annoyed at things that change or affect my small circle of existence for no reason. The gold old 10cc song Art for Art’s Sake waxes lyrical about while society is focussed on making money, there is still a need for some things to be done for the love of them – such as love and art.

I was working through the corporate and entertainment world suffering with my conditions under the surface – while still presenting the happy go lucky face of a confident and secure person – I found myself focussed on the materialistic side of things. I needed to make money, I needed a new car, I needed a new gadget. Goods and chattels were most important because they showed how successful I was and, if I was successful, then I couldn’t have anything wrong with me, could I?

There was little time for enjoyment of the more abstract parts of life – those things that affect emotions rather than the physical parts of life. All that stuff was just a waste of time and energy – so it was ignored. I could never just sit and enjoy a painting, or poetry. Lyrics of songs weren’t important, it was all about the beat. Sitting quietly in nature was a waste of time that could be better spent making money to buy stuff. Even books I read needed to be non-fiction or based around factual events – I wanted to learn from other people’s experiences to help me do what I did better.

Very occasionally could I sit and read a fictional book and let my imagination control the images – I wanted to be told how, where, when, why and whom; not make it up in my head. Which I now see as a strange situation – I was always told that I had a vivid imagination and was a very creative person, which I now understand, but at the time my mind couldn’t comprehend the need to do something just for the sake of doing it; for enjoyment.

I even had one of the people I admired most as a performer, who was always surrounded by creative people, introduce me to an audience at the end of a show as the most creative person she knew. Maybe an off the cuff comment at the time but it opened a door in my mind and made me start to think that maybe I should be doing creative, not physical or financially focussed stuff.

I now understand the gnawing that I always had in my gut – yes I was successful in business, I made a lot of money, I had status, I had a reputation for quality work but I always felt that something was missing in my life, an emptiness deep inside eating away. I now see that it was the real me, the creative, imaginative, curious and emotional me. It was there hidden away underneath the emotional numbness that had been imposed upon me by external forces – military indoctrination along with my perceived need to be professionally successful in my career path.

The need to “keep up with the Jones’s” was there unconsciously while the creative me was being held in side not allowed to escape. Since being diagnosed with my conditions, my life has changed and I now see the beauty in the world and in people. I am no longer dictated to by social norms and the need to be seen as a winner – true, I no longer have a set income and I watch the savings erode daily but I now have a life where I focus on the more abstract things, the emotional parts of life – nature and art, being kind and compassionate – and being creative and emotional.

My life has changed and, as a result, my world has changed – I focus on me, still with a desire to help people and I have a love for the real world, not the artificial bullshit world of “the economy”, government, corporations and financials. I go and sit on a beach and write stage shows, sit in a forest and draw up stage plans, go to the mountains and write poetry or get up at 4:00 in the morning and write a blog post as I see a new day dawn out my office window.

And I am happy……… ish*.

*I know there is still a long way to go on the road to recovery.

When you get down, down to the root 
Don’t give a damn don’t give a hoot 
Still gotta keep makin’ the loot 
Chauffeur driven 
Gotta make her quick as you can 
Give her lovin’ make you a man 
Get her in the palm of your hand 
Bread from Heaven 
Gimme a country 
Where I can be free 
Don’t need the unions 
Strangling me 
Keep me in exile the rest of my days 
Burn me in hell but as long as it pays 
Art for arts sake 
Money for Gods sake 

Eric Stewart / Graham Gouldman
Art for Art’s Sake © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Schubert Music Publishing Inc


Focus On You

An interesting but not easy to write subject this one. A bit self centred to start with but has a strong message.

I have found that my last ten years (since becoming depressed) has been focussed on other people and making them happy – I now am starting to believe that this is because I was so unhappy in myself. It was pleasing to see others happy because of me and this behaviour took many forms; from telling jokes, to witty quips at important meetings, to being that ‘ratbag’ in the office, to producing theatre shows that toured internationally.

I was that guy who was ‘out there’ a little (or maybe a bit more than little) and refused to succumb to the expectations of the circles in which I mingled. In the Army, I was too rock and roll – in the entertainment industry I was to ‘Army’ – in the corporate world I was too relaxed and unfocussed – in the public service I was too focussed and driven. I guess I was the true rebel without a cause. But as long as I provided some entertainment or happiness to others, it gave me pleasure.

I enjoyed pushing the boundaries, testing the system and always having that little bit of ‘me’ inserted into the system or process. Yes as a sales executive I conformed to the need to wear the right type of clothes – although the business suit (fashionable name brand of course) hardly ever came out of the cupboard – Slacks and bright coloured shirt (usually striped) was my standard attire with a sports jacket that usually was a little quirky and pushed the boundaries. In fact one day at the corporate office they had a Tracy Dann day where everyone in the office wore stripes – and it just happened that on that day I wore a plain shirt. It was hilarious.

The rebellion gave me interest in my life – it was the corporate world and was highly stressful, I saw it as my role to try to lighten the atmosphere and provide a little bit of interest in what was otherwise a mundane existence that required us to make a lot of money for a large corporation – sometimes at the price of personal anguish. People never knew what to expect – What will he wear today? What will he say today? What is he going to do to make us laugh? How does he get away with it? Yes it was fun and kept me sane – well not really, it was my bit on insanity that I would inflict on others in an effort to release some of the pressure from the turmoil going on in my head.

People only got to see the facade – they never saw the crap that was going on in my head. Sometimes it would surface as this angry guy in the corner – the guy with little patience, was pissed off with the world, hated disorganisation, was a stickler for being on time, couldn’t understand why people couldn’t follow his logic and wondered why people got stressed about small and insignificant things.

Eventually though, the inner turmoil surfaced and while standing at my desk working. One morning I had a dull ache in my left shoulder – much like that when you sleep with your arm in an awkward position. I rubbed it and moved my arm around but the ache stayed and started to spread to my chest. A tight feeling, like a pulled muscle. It started to worry me that I must have picked something up wrongly and hurt myself at some stage that morning. Then the left side of my jaw started to go numb – now I thought there was something serious going on so I said to my work colleagues that I was going out for awhile. I jumped in my car and started to drive to the hospital to be checked out – as I pulled out of the car park, an ambulance drove by so I followed it to the emergency service headquarters around the corner.

As the ambulance pulled over I came alongside and asked the driver if there were any paramedics around as I was having some odd pains in my chest… before I knew it there were paramedics, ambulances and all sorts of things going on and I found myself in the cardiac ward of the local hospital attached to all sorts of devices being treated for a heart attack – a mild one but this was an eye opener.

But even here I was stilled focused on others – not ringing to tell family or friends what had happened until I was sure that I was going to be alright – I didn’t need those close to me to worry about what might or might not happen. It appears this was not the right thing to do.

This was the start of opening my eyes to worry more about myself than others. Suddenly I was mortal, I realised I could die at any time. At the time of the incident I was eating healthily, had given up sugar, low salt intake, low fat food, lots of fruit and vegetables, a bit of exercise (including standing at my desk rather than sitting), no alcohol, no smoking, no family history of heart disease – there was no medical reason for it just an artery in the heart got blocked.

So anyway – what is the point of this??? The point is that it doesn’t matter what you do in life to be healthy, one day your body is going to decide it is time to go and something will fail. It is, therefore, important to do what you need to do in life, enjoy yourself, find a way to do the things you like to do and, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, do whatever you bloody well want to. There is no time for sitting around feeling sorry for yourself, nor being anxious about what might or might not happen. If it doesn’t affect you or the ones you care for then it isn’t important – get off your backside and get out and enjoy the beauty of the world, see the concerts or movies you like, sit on a beach for a day, start to write a book or paint, write poetry, appreciate nature and all it has to offer – just get up and away from the routine that you let rule your life… even if it just walking outside to the garden, or the local park/common and looking at the trees, the texture of the trunk, the leaves, any animals or birds living there.

The world is a beautiful place when you remove all the crap imposed upon us -specifically by the media – get out and enjoy it in whatever way you can.

Fallback

Well it is all nice and lovely when things are going well but sometimes the forward progression and sense of stability stops and you find yourself falling backward. You know things aren’t too flash because you ache again, can’t sleep and start to feel angry with yourself, friends and the world.

The only difference now is that there is no evidence of spiralling down into the pit of despair… it is just a drop into a state of shitty moodedness (a word I made up) where you sit for awhile and hope to come out of it as the day progresses. But once again the shutters come down and barriers go up as you position yourself for a period of being pissed off with everything.

It is time to be away from people you don’t want to hurt; time to be alone and doing something you love to do – if I could only work out what that is today…

It’s also time to close down Facebook and other social media and stop looking at idiot posts that you know are going to rile you further. Maybe an hour out in the sun – oh wait, nope, it’s cloudy today. Maybe a bit of creative work on show design – nah, I’m not very creative in this state of mind. The only option is to return to the comfy arm chair where I spent all those weeks when I was badly depressed – no,that is probably not the thing to do…

Maybe a trip to the garden centre to buy some living things that I can give a better life to in my garden; as much as a tree or shrub can have a better life. That will also involve some physical activity to dig holes and plant things – yes that seems like a good idea. More expense of course and with no real income anymore it will need to be a frugal purchase but I think I have a few gift vouchers somewhere on the fridge.

So only a short post this time but even this was a struggle in the state of mind I am in – I just thought it important to show that it is not all positivity on the road to recovery – some days just don’t shape up the way you want them to…

Anyway, here’s a cat post for you…