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Making the most of a monkey mind

First blog post – Much uncertainty

This is my very first blog that I have ever written.  Really it is.  So I am not entirely sure where I want to start.  I guess I should explain my motivation for writing this.  Like many of the good ideas I have, it was not mine.  It was my partner’s idea and the minute she suggested it, it just instantly appealed to me.

I used to write a diary and when things became more hectic and muddled, I would at least write messy scribbles on random bits of paper or at the bottom of my academic diary.  However as the last year has passed by, I noticed that I have stopped doing this altogether.  I did not consciously decide to do this but just found my mind becoming ever more busy and any time I did have became dedicated to other things.  These included trying to study Italian in a haphazard way as my partner comes from Italy and her family speak very little English.  It also included reading magazines and messing around with my phone.  Yes, this year I got my first ever smart phone and that was pretty much the end of my reflective thinking on public transport.  It certainly marked the end of the diary entries.

So the idea of this blog is simply that it be a kind of public diary that I won’t lose, cover in jam or accidently throw away. It may also help both myself and other people understand what is going on inside of me.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.

 

Featured post

Comfort in chaos

You get sick trying to live on pure sensation

Avoiding boredom and lows makes for an anxious generation

 

Nothing lasts and cravings pass so throw away that stash

Let it all just crash and smash like glass please don’t get mashed

You must hold on, avoid that bong and find a place you can belong

A space you can breathe deeply in, a strong branch for when the ice gets thin

These chains of debt may cut my skin and the game is rigged so we can never win

Yet fear not and stay alert, you can hold on even when your glass heart gets hurt

Even when devilish thoughts come flashing and the voices in your head start clashing

Stop! The cliff edge is not your home, you are tired and shaky but you are not alone

You are lost in self pity in a sleep deprived city that makes so many of us feel shitty

Leave! Before you inhale those crooked lines and that leave you lost and half blind

That gave you no peace of mind but made you so unkind and kept you away from sunshine

 

Sometimes you can’t leave the ghosts behind, your hyper connection only serves to remind

us that life has become but another open window, from which to jump and leave the ledge

Reclaim that edge that kept you young, fun and so dumb as well as broken and highly strung

Strum those sad chords for all that has gone wrong, sing sad songs for those who don’t belong

Strong is your compulsion for dopamine and weak is your propulsion towards living clean

Stream all this live in a world of hyper connection, new viruses better felt without protection

Rejection is a bitch as is scratching an itch till it bleeds, then spilling your blood over the internet

 

You get sick trying to live on pure sensation

Avoiding boredom and lows makes for an anxious generation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scaring yourself to sleep

This weekend I decided to do something that was probably pretty foolish. I decided to not take my medication for two full days.  I wanted to see what it felt like.  I also wanted to drink a few beers without getting the usual sluggish and nauseous feelings I usually get when any alcohol mixes with this medication.

For the first few hours it felt terribly exciting and fun. I had that Friday feeling and I was meeting a good friend for a long overdue catch up and some live music. I felt alive and was full of energetic anticipation.  This feeling stayed with me all the way through a night of cheesy nighties nostalgia acts and through three pints of warm beer and two of overly sweet cider. In fact I felt remarkably perky all the way until around 3am when I crashed out in front of an intense mystery film full of silence and long scenes with very little movement.  I fell into a deep slumber and woke up only as the final credits rolled up.

I took myself to my bed and fell asleep quite quickly with the light still on and the widow fully open. Now since I started taking these meds, I don’t remember my dreams at all. I wake up with a heavy feeling in my body and head.  Each day feels like a clean slate and yet I rarely ever feel refreshed from the sleep, even when I have had eight or nine hours uninterrupted.  Now this morning was very different. I woke myself up screaming from a powerful nightmare.  I vividly remembered what seemed like quite a few separate dreams that all featured the same three people. I woke up with my arms, hands and jaw shaking. I felt so emotional, something I almost never feel these days.  I felt upset as if something had come along in the middle of the night and disturbed all my bottled up feelings that the meds had been successfully keeping locked away. It was intense and disturbing.

As the day went on I also noticed that my speech was much more hurried and frantic than it has been for a long time. I was repeating certain phrases over and over in my mind and I was rubbing my nose like a nervous physical tick.  I felt unable to sit still and was finding it hard to concentrate on what my friends were saying. When I tried to get up to go to the toilet I lost my balance and momentarily fell into a table. I was hot and sweaty and yet felt chilled as well. Was this just a hangover or something more?

I played football with my usual group of lovely PHD students and made a couple of awful and reckless tackles out of what felt like pure anger. Now I am really not a violent player and have only had a handful of yellow cards in all my years playing.  Yet these were nasty, cynical fouls that actually shocked me and shocked a few of my team mates. What was making me so angry and so emotional?  Yes, that was it I thought. There seemed to be too much emotion bubbling up inside of me. I felt I had no control over it.  I left the game early, eyes full of tears and my heart full of shame.  I apologized and left with my head hanging low. I went home and straight to my bed still wearing my sweaty and muddy football kit.  I screamed into my pillow but did eventually fall into a fitful sort of sleep.

It is now Sunday night and I have been lightly crying since I woke up a few hours ago. I have still not taken my medication but I will before I go to bed. I have tried to be brave and feel things but it has been too much.  I don’t like this person and I don’t trust them at all. Now maybe this is just a conflation of a number of different factors that have let me here. I am not seeing my counsellor just now as they are away foo six weeks. Plus I drank more on Friday than I have since I started this high dose of the meds. I have also been unable to ejaculate for around fourteen weeks now.  It is horrible not being able to come, no matter how hard you try.  All of these things have made me feel angry and frustrated and maybe the meds are the only thing keeping it all caged inside….

I need this chemical help even if it comes with cruel side effects.  I want to function in normal society and maybe I can only do this with medical and professional help.  I don’t want to go back to where I was before and I desperately want to be taken seriously as a fully functioning adult but this feels so fucking hard. I have just taken my meds and I feel a little calmer. I want to sleep tonight but not to dream.  For now I am happy to lock all that emotion back up until I feel stronger.  Thanks for reading.

Observations from the Fringe

So the 2018 Edinburgh Festival is very nearly done and dusted. The last Sunday of the fringe is always an odd one as performers try to end on a high note while also completely shattered and running on empty. It was a really crap day weather wise which did not help most, the street performers in particular.  However I was heartened and impressed by the amount of performers I saw today still smiling and putting enthusiasm into their acts.  There is something stoic about these people still juggling, drawing caricatures, dancing and doing magic card tricks as the rain lashes down and the wind makes everything that bit trickier.  Stoic too are the spectators who sit through a full 20 minute clown performance in their ponchos and umbrellas.  I was one of those people today and it felt good.  Good to be part of a small but hardcore audience.  The bad weather somehow unites you in your enjoyment.  The sun can as well but it is not the same.  It is the having fun despite the weather rather than having fun in large part because of the weather.

Anyhow, I just wanted to put down a few observations I have made from this years festival.  In total I went to see around 30 shows over the past three and half weeks. Not that impressive I know but I did try and see a good mix of things to broaden my horizons and keep things fresh.  This meant seeing lots more contemporary dance than I have ever done before.  It also meant delving into the world of puppeteering shows for adults and cabaret shows that made me blush, squirm and laugh uncontrollably.  I have really enjoyed myself and am pretty bummed that it is now all over.  So to cheer myself up, here are a few things I noticed about this years festival.

1.It was almost impossible to get through any show without at least a casual mention of Brexit. Many had Brexit in the actual title of the show and many of these seemed to be musicals.  I didn’t make it through a single comedy show without hearing the word but did manage to with two dance shows (Xenos and Autobiography) but then both of them were wordless and so this really shouldn’t come as a particular surprise.  Even the puppet shows brought Brexit into the storylines as did every cabaret compere I saw this year.

2.This was the year of #MeToo.  There were so many hard hitting shows talking about this issue and it was fantastic to see in particular so many one women shows tackling these issues so directly and fearlessly. There was also more diversity in terms of shows with LGBTQ content. There was also a huge amount of overlap between these shows with people guesting in and helping out with each other.  It felt like there was a real sense of community and support for one another and it was lovely to see.

3.Playing the guitar on your lap face up is the new THING.  It seems that strumming the guitar like most of us have done for centuries is now a bit passé.  I saw no les than SIX street performers using this technique to varying degrees of success I might add. In it’s favor is that you can amplify the whole guitar and use your fingers to create a lovely beat which makes you a bit like a one man band.  It also looks cool and makes people take notice of what you are doing.  On the flip side it did feel like all the performers (all male) sounded quite similar and all a bit like Ben Howard.  Lovely and chilled but can feel a little bit repetitive after four or five songs. Which is longer than most people ever stand to watch a busker so fair play to them, good thinking.  Loop pedals are still very much in vogue it seems as is beat-boxing using loop pedals. The bagpipes will sadly never go out of fashion and they were heard interfering with all other acts throughout the three and half weeks.  My friend is one of these pipers explained to me that he can make up to £400 a day so why would he ever plan to stop.  Again, fair play I say.

4.Despite the many apps available and all the mailing lists we are all on, flyering is still a crucial part of your work as a Fringe artist.  For while we may be better at planning our Fringe and festival experience, we are still very easily swayed by an enthusiastic pitch with a flyer to accompany it.  Yes, on average around 40% of the people at a PBH free show come to the show after being handed a flyer within an hour of the show starting.  That stat comes via The Skinny so should actually be at least partly true.

5.Nothing can stand in the way of stand up comedy.  While spoken word is fighting to make itself heard and cabaret is also on the increase, comedy is still very much king when it comes to the Fringe.  This is interesting as when the actual festival started all those years ago, there was no comedy acts in it at all.  It was all theatre darling. Now around 65% of the shows being put on fall into the broad comedy genre.  Now this makes sense especially in these strange and worrying times.  People need some relief from all the uncertainty and possible doom that surrounds us.  On top of this, comedy is the cheapest type of show to put on and involves the least amount of work to set up.  So I can’t see this changing any time soon.

So there you have it.  Another mad year has passed.  Now the massive clean up starts to commence and the long suffering full time residents of Edinburgh can breathe a huge sigh of relief.  No more fireworks for at least a few weeks.  A little less bagpiping for sure and the buses can go back to actually following any kind of organized timetable.  The Edinburgh festival oh how I love to hate you but would hate not to have you.  Thanks for reading.

 

Am I enough?

We can all be our own harshest critics and most of the people I know are very good at beating themselves over the head and berating themselves for all their failings. As a nation, we Scots are known for a kind of romantic pessimism and we can seem very comfortable with failure in a way that people from other countries are perhaps not. It will come as little surprise to anyone who has read any other post on this blog that I am very prone to self criticism.  In fact as a highly anxious person, self loathing and doubt account for a large percentage of those anxious feelings.

Now one of the common threads running through all this self criticism is that the person I am is not enough.  Not good enough or smart enough.  Not tall enough or muscular enough.  Not kind enough or patient enough and certainly not rich enough. It is all about the lacking of something. Is this the endless hole I am trying to fill? It sometimes feels like I am empty and I am trying to fill myself up with self help books, medication, therapy and intelligence pills in the hope that at some point I can say ENOUGH! I am full now and don’t need anything else to feel happy.

This day is never going to happen of course until I feel that I am enough just as I am. Flawed and crooked yes, but still enough. Enough to be a decent son and brother to my sisters. Enough to be a sweet uncle to my nephews.  In fact enough to be someone’s big love for the rest of their lives.  Yet this is hard to believe when you also know your behaviour has been harmful and upsetting.  Making things even harder is when you have been diagnosed with at least three major mental illnesses which include bi-polar, ADHD and OCD.  These labels have made it hard to believe I could ever be a functioning adult out and about in the real world. These labels have helped make me feel I am lacking even the basic ingredients to be enough as I am.

However having said this,  I am not suggesting that these labels did not help to an extent.  Of course they helped.  They helped my family, my partner at the time and myself see just how unwell I had become. The fact that three specialists and almost all the delegates at a medical conference on mental illness all diagnosed me with SOMETHING.  Yet almost none of them could agree on what I have exactly.  This makes perfect sense though as the fact remains that we still have an awful lot to discover about mental illnesses and their roots and well as their potential remedies. I am so grateful for medical science and for experts as in previous times I would be in prison or a mental hospital by now.  I am really not kidding about this. Even in the present time in many countries my actions and behaviours would have led to me being put behind bars or worse…

I am so lucky but at the same time these labels have really confused the hell out of me. For each condition I have been diagnosed with I have researched the science extensively.  I have read about case studies and medical trials.  As well as this I have watched people across the world explain how these conditions had affected their lives and in many cases made a ‘normal’ life impossible. I identified with these people and in a way wanted to be part of their tribe.  I signed up to ADHD sites and online self help groups for people with bi-polar and OCD.  With each new diagnosis I would add another layer of ‘research’ into my late night Google searches.  I still get emails from a lot of these sites now although I don’t read them quite so voraciously as I did a few months back.

You can over analyse your own behaviour to the point where you convince yourself you are insane.  My anxious mind mixed with a barrage of information out there on the net had created a perfect storm at times. Times when I have gone to bed convinced that I cannot live alone or have a job ever again. Crippling self doubt has made impossible to trust myself that I turned the gas off before going to bed. I will go back to the kitchen twelve times just to make absolutely sure that it is not on. Now this is a problem and it is a sign of being mentally unwell but this does not mean I am lacking the key ingredients to be a balanced and healthy human being. It just means I need to make changes to find this balance.

Which is what I am currently trying to do. Make little changes to my lifestyle and challenge my inner critic when they try to take control.  Bit by bit I am trying to convince myself that I am enough.  It will take time and for now I will continue to use the crutches of medication to help me get to a more balanced perspective of the world and my place within it. I know I am not alone in my struggles with these issues and all of us can go through periods of being mentally unwell.  If a problem shared is a problem halved then we need to continue to share our fears and anxieties in order to help ourselves heal and grow. Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

How to build a patchwork person

Most of us use the likes of clothes, tattoos, accessories and so forth to help us indicate elements of our personality to the outer world. We feel good when we are complimented on a new haircut or a new pair of shoes. To an extent, it feels like they are an extension of our personality and such compliments can boost our sense of self. Now there is nothing wrong with this or in the least unusual.  However what happens when you take this use of external validation to the extreme? What if your sense of sense was almost completely built around external influences and other peoples opinions?

This idea came to me today after I was reading over an old diary from years ago. It is a diary covering over three years in total with lots of gaps between the weeks and months.  However what keeps reoccurring are the words empty and hollow. Drugs are imbibed to fill my heart with joy. Clothes are borrowed or stolen to make myself more like the person they belonged to. I copy a friends choice of music in order to become “deeper and more mysterious” like him.  All through this diary I come across like a frantic actor trying on different roles. Or like an artist making a collage entirely from other peoples drawings and pictures. It is original and yet contains nothing original in it whatsoever. This seems to be the way in which I have tried to build up my personality.

Since I was young I have collected quotations from famous people and covered my notebooks with them.  I have written songs based entirely on excerpts from other songs I’ve loved. I have taken clever phrases from my dad and mixed up idioms and phrasal verbs just like my mum. Somehow everything has felt like it has been cut and pasted from other places and other people. So what makes me, me? If I am able to go from being a drug happy club kid to a Christian in a matter of weeks and change my favourite football team three times in a month depending on who I am hanging out with then how do I or anyone else for that matter know who the real Jared is? In truth I have not known.  What I have known is that I wanted to be liked by everybody.  Accepted and liked. That would of course mean making constant sacrifices and shape shifting endlessly but that seemed a small price to pay.

A social butterfly is how I would describe myself and it was quite true in many respects. Yet why did I keep flying off from group to group? So that no one got too close to me?  Too close to the darker elements of my personality? Or too near to my vulnerabilities? I liked to see people in small doses and on my own terms. In each group I am part of I try to extract the most attractive elements from the people with whom I consider have the most to offer. I try to make a patchwork coat made up of the best parts of people I know.  It will be the coat I wear when I am out and about and being social. Yet what happens when I am alone and finally take that coat off?

Well this is where it starts to get difficult. One of the reasons I have struggled to enjoy my own company is that being alone made me question who I was exactly? Being alone also meant often feeling very lost and scared.  I felt low and vulnerable which jarred painfully with the outward cloak of personality I had as the life and soul of the party.  Would the real Jared Kropp-Thierry please stand up?

And so back to this sense of emptiness that needs filling. Of course we all have it but you can’t fill up this emptiness with nothing but parts of other people. I believe that in each of us there is something unique, an essence that we have throughout our whole lives. It is just that some of us lose touch with that essence or decide that they don’t like this essence as it was in my case. I have spent years trying to supress my true nature and replace it with a more socially acceptable one.  It hasn’t worked.  In fact, it has failed miserably. At present I don’t feel the authentic me is worth loving. I have tried to stuff other peoples personalities on top and hope that this would do the trick. I am finally starting to see this clearly. I am trying to tell myself that I am enough already and more importantly that I am loveable.  Thanks for reading.

 

Looking in from outside

It is once again the Edinburgh Festival and this year feels even crazier and certainly busier than any other I can recall.  The streets are bustling, lively and truly cosmopolitan in a way that the city really isn’t at any other time. All around you see people of different nationalities and races speaking a whole variety of languages and dialects. It feels like things are really happening here. Careers are being made, boundaries pushed and connections made even if just for a brief moment in time.

I have been going to the festival on and off since I was a small boy. At first with the whole of my family and then in my teens just with my dad. I have always loved it and vividly remember being gob smacked as an adolescent by the sheer array of entertainment in one place.  By the buzz of a crowd entering one show or the look of joy of others coming out of another one. Yet above all, I was fascinated by the performers themselves.  Who were these people and what kind of life was this that they lived? This curiosity was particularly focussed on the street performers.  Could people really make a living from being a frozen statue? Where did they stay and how could they budget for food and shelter when they relied solely on people to contribute into their worn and tattered hats or their battered guitar cases?

These performers seemed alien to me in a similar way that celebrities like Prince and MJ had seemed to me.  They were somehow other and out with the normal spheres of life. Most looked very alternative and funky.  They seemed edgy and street tough yet also sensitive souls on the whole. Exhibitionists who appeared both full of life and world weary at the same time. They intrigued me then as they still do today.

I love people watching and at the festival this pleasant hobby becomes a pure joy. Everywhere I cast my eyes I see artsy and cool people coming and going. People walking with purpose and others seemingly without a care in the world. Performers striding around with an air of mystery and elusive confidence. What is the feelings this people watching brought up in me as a teenager and how much these feelings are still much unchanged.

I have always felt like an outsider looking in on a world I can see but never touch. The world of the artist and performer. Who are these people I have asked myself over these many years? They do not seem like my friends or colleagues.  They are spunky and sexy and somehow coolly aloof from everything. They give the impression of being self contained and untouchable. I want to break into this circle and find out more about these people!  I have wanted to for years and this urge has only increased rather than dissipated.

I have spent the vast majority of my time at the festival since my twenties going to shows and wandering around alone. I love the freedom of being on my own as it means I can stop and watch something if the mood takes me.  I don’t have to wait for anyone or make compromises that leave no one fully satisfied.  Yet it can also be very lonely. The role of the lone watcher can at times feel very akin to voyeurism and in this way a little creepy at times. I sometimes catch myself staring at these street performers. Partly in admiration and partly with envy. I wish I had the balls to up and leave my comfortable existence to make art and tap into my creativity.

More than this, I want these people to see me as a kindrid spirit. To catch me looking at them and give me a look back that says, I see you and we are on the same wavelength.  I want to feel like I am worthy of their attention.  I have spent so many years looking in on these worlds and this is what the festival has come to mean to me. It is a chance for me to peek in on subcultures that appear both risqué and raw. People who live without the weight of things like fancy furniture, mortgages, pensions and security.  People living outside the mainstream system who are brave enough to turn their back on much of what the rest of are frantically chasing down.

I guess I have always seen myself as an artistic type.  A imaginative type without actually being creative with this imagination.  Lots of ideas that just come and go and slowly diminish over time as ‘real’ life eats away at your artistic soul. I feel that in another life I could and possibly should have been a performer of some sort. A beatboxer perhaps or a spoken word slam contender. These people seem more like my people than my actual friends and colleagues.  Yet what stopped me?  It was as with so many other things, a lack of confidence.  A lack of self belief and a fear of living without the security of a pay check. So artists of the Fringe and Festival, I respect you. I respect you and resent you in equal measure. I want to be in your gang and yet am not prepared to give up my comforts to truly join your gang. So I shall be looking in on you from the outside for at least another year. Thanks for reading.

Status anxiety

I would call myself something of a fan of the writer Alain de Botton.  I have read most of his books but the one that stays with me most of all is his 2004 work titled Status Anxiety.  It is a book I like to dip into from time to time in order to remind myself of some of the causes and solutions he writes about.

The book means so much to me as I feel hugely affected by status anxiety on an almost daily basis.  His thesis is that despite there being a sharp decline overall in actual deprivation across the Western world, this may paradoxically have been accompanied by a continuing and perhaps even increased sense of deprivation and a deep fear of it. We find it very difficult to consider ourselves fortunate even though we know in global terms that we are extremely privileged.  Now this is something that I really can relate to.  So many people have told me to think of the starving children in Africa when I am moaning on about how worthless and shitty I feel all the time.

De Botton argues that this is actually perfectly normal and understandable. Most people only feel fortunate when “we have as much, or a little more than, the people we grow up with, work with, have as friends and identify with in the public realm.” Yes, yes!  I scream each time I read this.  This is crucial to understanding how anxiety is so interconnected to our sense of status in relation to the society we live in.

I have written before about how I felt much less status anxiety when I lived abroad.  This was because I was blissfully much less aware of the clues to look for in terms of someone’s status. The language was different as was the societal hierarchy and I was an outsider looking in on it all. It was liberating and in many ways I would love to go back out and do it all again. Yet the problem remains that it will all hit you once more when you return home. So unless I make a life for myself in another country, I had better find ways of finding more peace within myself here in Scotland.

Now of course some of this anxiety is based on real instability in the economies of many countries including Britain.  It is also created by the so-called ‘gig’ economy which many of us from Generation X and Y are experiencing. There are very few jobs for life these days and even a permanent contract is hard to come by.  I was working for almost five years in a public institution before they even thought to offer me one. We are also the first generation since we started keeping statistics who will most likely be less well off than the generation before us.

Yet the levels of expectation to achieve and be a success feel greater than ever. We are constantly presented with examples of YouTube sensations and Instagram celebrities who made it big and became fabulously wealthy and glamorous. With each rise in our expectation also comes a rise in the dangers of humiliation if we don’t achieve them. Linked to this is the crucial point that what we understand to be normal is key to determining our chances of happiness. If we buy into the world portrayed to us through Social Media then we start to see that as normal.  Multiple holidays to exotic places start to become common place in our minds. Fancy artisan food and drink starts to be seen as normal in the public consciousness.  Now these are my own examples but De Botton gives examples of his own and points out that ‘everything added to the self is a burden as well as a pride’.  Now remember please that De Botton was writing this in 2004.  In 2004 there was no Facebook, YouTube and most certainly no Twitter or Instagram. In fact there was wasn’t much social media to speak of at all. So it seems to me that these pressures and the increasing influence of social media has only intensified this status anxiety.

In a age of austerity we are also being constantly tempted and in a way encouraged to push towards indulgence, luxury and materialistic pleasure. We feel pulled all the time in different directions. We want to buy a flat or house but at the same time we don’t want to not go on holiday with our friends. We wish to both live clean and simple lives but also have fancy shoes made in China and go to at least a couple of festivals each summer. So many people I know talk of making sacrifices but most of them are very poor at actually doing so. Oh and swapping from a flat white to an Americano really doesn’t count I am afraid.

For De Botton most of us are actually going a little crazy underneath the surface.  Crazy from all the choices and all the images of successful lifestyles thrown at us.  He feels we are actually dangerously poor at understanding our own needs and that is why we so often buy into unsustainable and unhealthy addictions such as shopping, gambling and pornography. For De Botton one of the best ways to better understand our own needs is through the arts.  He believes that books, films, paintings etc.. can act as vehicles to explain our condition to us. They may even act as “guides to a truer, more judicious, more intelligent understanding of the world.”

The point is that I am so susceptible to the influence of external ‘voices’.  To advertising and social media and other peoples varnished versions of their lives.  These voices can drown out the voice of our own soul. I got lost completely and became totally detached from myself.  I even created another voice within my head. It was the voice and greed and also of insecurity.  This voice told me to take and take and never look back. It was never satisfied and never content.  Now my case is an extreme one but De Botton feels that most of us are at least a little susceptible to these external voices all around us.

All around the world we can see examples of people moving away from their families for work and to make more money.  We see people living away from nature and spending more and more hours looking at screens. De Botton sees this as a worry.  He argues that we have less and less awe towards the beauty of the universe as we march further and further along the road of modern commercial civilisation. He asks us to think about living simpler lives and to remember that even when we reach the summit of our desires and wants we will shortly after be called down again into the fresh lowlands of new anxieties and new desires. This is the loop we can get stuck in for the remainder of our lives. I want to break free of this but I just don’t know how. Thanks for reading.

To my younger self…

It occurs to me now as my life feels in a very bad place that I failed to heed many warning signs along way over the last few years.  I cannot remember ever feeling as hopeless and lost as I do now and with a mixture of medication and time to reflect I can see how the writing was on the wall long before I got to this painful place.

To my younger self, I would ask you to take time out when you feel overwhelmed and reckless rather than diving head long even deeper into that chaos.  Don’t get confused between being adventurous and being self destructive.  Your use of YOLO is really dangerous and unhelpful and frankly unsustainable.  Think long and hard about not working at all for over two years as all this ‘free’ time actually allowed you time to obsess and start compulsive thinking that may not have occurred had you kept yourself occupied.

Ask yourself why did I refuse and resist drugs for so long and what was it that made me start taking them at the age of 20. Jumping headlong into reckless behaviours when you are at a low and feeling lost rarely works out well. You can’t get back all those burned out brain cells.  When you are sniffing gasoline and you felt like your brain was burning and memories were being erased in that very second.  Well guess what, your brain really was being damaged in those moments. Seventeen years of smoking weed everyday will actually cause real damage to your short term memory.  Oh and yes, you will really miss those memories and that ability to retain information when you are in your thirties and trying to study for an exam to you need to pass in order to keep your job.

I would never say don’t do drugs but really understand that they are a mixed blessing. You may get startling insights that blow your mind but you will also have to learn how to operate with a blown mind. Reality will seem grey and drab and you will be tempted to keep going back into the magical world inside of your head. Girls will seem sexier and you will feel more beautiful while under their influence but come a couple of days later you may well feel utterly worthless and suicidal.

For goodness sake, please warm up before you start doing vigorous exercise. I am still in my thirties and already my joints creak as I walk up any stairway.  If you are going to go vegetarian then remember you have to eat vegetables.  Living off corn flakes and baked beans is really not enough.  Oh and the vast majority of vitamin supplements are a total waste of money.  If you eat well, you really don’t need to be taking ten different tablets each day.  Use that money to buy good fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season.  A little meat is fine but that bag of 99p bag of 20 frozen sausages from Farmfoods does not count!  That is just processed rubbish that will come back at you at some point in middle age.

Please wear a condom at all times when having sex with someone for the first time.  Oh and not that condom you have had in your wallet for over 3 years.  Condoms do age and age badly.  Condoms for gay sex are fine but you will probably not be able to feel your dick at all during intercourse.  If you are okay with that, fire ahead!

Cherish the people who really look out for you.  I took so many people for granted and now I miss them so much.  Some of those people are now dead and I will never get a chance to say sorry or tell them that now I see all that they did for me. Try to be kind and remember that you are not the only one with troubles and heartaches.  Try to find the things that connect you rather than always focussing on the things other people don’t get about you and your perspective.

I wish you could see how loved you are by your parents. Okay so they don’t have a trust fund for you to dip into but they love you and treasure you for who you are.  You will learn as the years go by that this is actually quite rare and you are incredibly lucky. Try not to worry them all the time.  Call them when things are going well as when they feel hopeless and awful. By showing them a more balanced picture of your life it may actually help you to fell more balanced.

Money and sex do matter but they are not as important as you think they are.  Jealousy and resentment are much less useful emotions than awe and compassion. Enjoy your freedoms and the ease in which you are able to meet new like minded people.  It will never feel this easy again.  Bask in the energy you have to dance and converse all night as this level of stamina only lasts for a limited time!

This has turned out to be some horrible Sunscreen type advice as voiced by Baz Luhrman in the late nineties.  I did not mean this at all but yes, do wear sunscreen.  He really was right about that one. I want you to have a blast but I just want you to do it in a more sustainable way that I chose. Thanks for reading.

 

Training myself not to care

After so many years of living in a web of lies and deceit, I am no longer sure what being in a relationship means for me. In all of my past relationships prior to my meltdown and prior to taking any medication, I kept so many secrets from the people I loved so dearly. I lived in constant fear of being caught and with a consistent shame from the things I was secretly doing.

Now many of these people admit that they knew what I was doing much of the time.  Most decided to not bring it up for fear of opening Pandora’s box.  Others did challenge me directly and that only made me pull down the shutters completely.  I went into denial and took strong offence at their accusations while knowing all the while that they were only stating blatant facts. In short, I have loved but perhaps I have never loved with an open heart. I was always waiting for my reckless and upsetting behaviour to cause these relationships to crumble and ultimately fail.

Now I am single and I am completely lost.  The next relationship could potentially be the first one in my life where I am open and honest about my past problems.  It could also be the first relationship in which I manage to be open and honest about all my comings and goings.  Now this sounds great but it is also so utterly terrifying.  I am in unchartered waters.  I only know one way of being and I am trying to upend years of self destructive behaviour.  Years of feeling that I needed secrets.  That I needed to listen to the voices in my head even when I hated everything they were telling me to do.

Over the past few months I have found the strength to accept that the voices in my head are of my own making. I have to power to ignore them and I know that they always go away eventually. I have techniques to calm myself down and to give breathing space before I take any action.  I am willing and prepared to tell the next person I date that I have to battle these issues on a daily basis.  I am not ashamed of my struggles. However I do not know how this information will be taken.  Will it make the person go running for the hills. Or will it help that person perhaps open up to me about their struggles.  We all struggle in some ways. Life is fucking hard to navigate and I don’t want to pretend anymore that I am fine. I want to find someone who accepts me with these struggles and in return I want to accept them for theirs. I hope that someone is out there…..Thanks for reading.

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