Daily Check In, 1

How to express the disappointment of being awake, again. It’s crushing. Every night I fall asleep imagining it might be the last time, and the next day I’m torn from that vast, silent oblivion into another span of awareness and endurance. It’s not that life is so terrible, it’s just that its persistence is grinding me to dust.

As my eyes reluctantly open, I can feel the life sucked forward through my eye sockets, attenuated and thin in the struggle to find a way back into consciousness and interaction with the world. Leaves me hollowed, like all that I am has fallen out, is continually drawn out and everything I try to put back in just threads away through those bony orbits. Maybe I’m surrounded by a swirl of who I used to be, who I thought I was, and all I am left is watching it all swirl by – existence defined by absence.

I should want something. I should want to do something. But I don’t. I persist – I wake, I do work, I spend time with my love, and with my beloved cats, I do things. And those all contain joys, but they’re so fleeting, and somehow none of them stick, and I return to this bleak, absent middle ground where I want nothing more than for it all to be over.

I don’t remember the last time I had a dream – not a sleeping dream – a desire, an ambition, a want. The closest I come is wanting to slide out of the world, unremarked and forgotten. If I could simply remove myself from the world without a ripple, I think I would.

I’m acting as I think others think I ought – I work (I work hard, I do good work!), I go to improv, I do a lot of stuff in the background. But I’m serving other people’s dreams and aspirations. I can’t honestly say that they’re mine any more. But it’s enough to enable others to achieve what they want, right? I like feeling useful, I like it when my work is hidden and is unnoticed, but helps. I don’t know if I can wholeheartedly pursue someone else’s dream when I don’t share it. I can support it, and I can help, but how can I lead it? I’d rather build a website than go on stage, and that doesn’t feel like me.

This tram ride to work is taking forever, but it’s time to slip the mask back on. Hide this sunken eyed soulless wanting-corpse from view. No one else needs to deal with this bullshit, and I’m not ready to have to talk about it. Deep breaths, screw the patches over the gaping holes in my face. And on. I persist.

While I realise this reads as potentially quite bad, it’s far better out than in, as they say. It can be hard to separate the despair which seizes and grips my brain from the rest of the time, when it doesn’t and I feel better – loving and loved. The start of the day ain’t great… 

This is self-help writing, don’t freak out. Plainly I am struggling a little, but scribbling about it will help, eventually.


Daily Check In, 1.5

Not a good start to the day this morning. So how are things now? I ask because I know that I’m up and down quite a lot in the course of a single day, but have made no effort to document or analyse this, and get left with an average sense of the day instead.

So… Got my world mask on before arriving at work. I get a couple of minutes frantically spinning my Powerball (trying to rehabilitate my recently broken and now rather lumpy right hand). Sure, some overwhelming feelings of choking claws tried to gouge their way up my throat, but I made it dry eyed and ready to say “howdy”. As usual, getting locked into work and tasks to complete are deeply soothing, distracting me from myself.

I realise that I’m wildly tired. That sucking sense of my eyes being poured out into the world and everything behind them continues. But I’ve done some things, and it’s slowed that drain. Or something.

I stopped taking amitriptyline in January, after many years of use for anxiety and sleep disorder. I’d come to feel that I had no emotions – the stuff chopped off the highs and lows, leaving me in the manageable but thrill-free middle. How could I maintain relationships without a full spectrum of feelings? Each night all worries and thoughts and ideas and plans were largely erased by the amitriptyline, and the glory of unconsciousness would follow.

Coming off it was an inevitable carnage of no sleep and the resurgence of feelings. I think… I experienced no more or less anxiety, making me wonder if anxiety had simply become an emotion. Over the last few months it’s remained fairly constant, but I’ve had no discovery of especial happiness and joy which I’d rather hoped for. It’s possible those feelings are simply being overwhelmed by, well, the feeling of being overwhelmed… I’m not sure what that is. A sense of “too much”, of doing things I don’t find a desire to do, which I do because I’ve always done them. It’s a tricky line between routines that shape and protect and routines which have ceased to produce a joyful or utile end. I don’t know what to do about those things. I have ended up with responsibilities I never sought. I’m not sure what function they should perform or feelings they should engender in my soul. I might have the capacity for feeling more (and I’ve certainly spent some time wanting to cut all my skin off with horror, or doubled up trying to find a way to eject tears from my body) but it’s as if I have no space left to fit them into.

So, I am a little adrift. I’ve replaced amitriptyline with occasional use of zopiclone, to catch up and make up for those nights when I don’t get enough sleep. At times I’ve thought, perhaps, I’ve got this sorted – I’ve give to sleep without sleeping drugs for several days in a row – and then I get a week of shonky, short, waking nights and it saps everything away. I don’t know if I can make it without more control over sleeping.

I believe in a phrase, cheerful despair. It captures quite well how I’ve long interacted with the world – aiming for optimism and warmth despite the ghastliness that permeates it all. And even while writing this, I guess I’m doing the endlessly human cognitive slicing and dicing, because my general state is, I feel, hideous, and yet I’m looking forward to getting home, seeing my other half and kittens – these are indisputable goodness in my life, despite containing their own stresses and fears. I’ll go home and for a time, all this will slide away underneath that top layer of existence. I’m just afraid of when it’s peeled back again.

This is self-help writing, don’t freak out. Plainly I am struggling a little, but scribbling about it will help, eventually.

Daily Check In, 2

‘Nother night, ‘nother morning. Today feels better, or rather, I feel brighter today. It’s the up and down which is exhausting – not knowing how I’ll feel when I wake up. But yeah, this morning I’ve been cheerfully talking to myself in the shower and having a quiet chuckle. So what’s different?

I went to bed at four, so I haven’t had a lot of sleep. Long experience with not sleeping properly unfortunately informs me that this bubbly brightness is most likely the rather manic edge I take on with the resurgence of mild insomnia. That’s OK, but it means there’s a crash coming somewhere down the line. If I keep eating I should be able to stave it off till tomorrow. Course, I haven’t had breakfast yet because the idea of eating when tired is nauseating… There’s some catch-22 bullshit right there. Even if it is a kind of manic vibe, I can make use of it. I’ve got a bunch of fiddly website things to do for work and close focus is easier like this. I also had a bright idea for some promo of our Improvised Star Wars Show, so hopefully I’ll tinker with that at lunchtime. It’s a long day though, with Smash Night this evening… Thankfully I’m not actually performing this month, and equally thankfully, my alternative plans which ruled me out of the show have also not come to fruition, as I doubt I could last 6 hours of car travel and boardgaming tonight!

I suspect another reason I feel a bit more chipper today is that I knew I was going to be tired. Usual bed time, but I didn’t get that falling asleep feeling that I adore. So I got up at 12.30 again (this is good sleep hygiene – don’t stay in bed if you’re not sleeping), just shy of becoming enraged about not being asleep. That’s a weird, familiar sensation: being slowly filled with heated rage at my body forcing me to stay awake. Instead I got up and had a mug of Ovaltine. It didn’t make me sleepy. But it was nice. I settled back on the sofa with my current book (The Crippled God, book 10 of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Steven Erikson) and put a minor dent in the page count while fussing little Pixie (insane black kitten) in her Bagpuss nest. It’s not the worst way to spend the early hours of the morning. By 2am I was down to a maximum of five hours sleep, which is not enough.

I find there’s a weird balance. Getting not quite enough sleep is much worse than getting way too little. I assume that’s got something to do with periods of REM sleep and so on. On three hours I reckon I’m just after completing a cycle, so my brain is tricked into thinking it’s had about enough sleep (the fool, I have surpassed my meatsuit). We’ll check on how that lasts later…

This is self-help writing, don’t freak out. Plainly I am struggling a little, but scribbling about it will help, eventually.

Daily Check In, 2.5

I have done many things today, all of them tiny tweaks of html and css. It has been intense, but rewarding. I do enjoy the laser focus of being in this tired state, even if I forget what I was doing if I look away from the screen for a second… I’m also working double time cos I’ve got a couple of days off coming up so I can spend some give with my other half and take Pixie for walkies in the garden. These are my priorities…

It made me think about the things which help in life. There are many of them but they can be hard to reach for, or even remember they exist when my brain is crumbling (like perfect but non-sentient Cheshire cheese).

Things which have been good in the last day or so:

  • Cats
  • Ravestation on PS1 (even if I’ve had to buy new, better leads so I can connect the PS2 I’m playing it through to our HD TV. Can’t believe 240p is 20 years old… And the dance mats have been folded for too long and don’t really work any more)
  • Impulse buying a new phone
  • Finishing off some artwork
  • Coming to the end of reading an epic ten book series of 800-odd page novels
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Jack Daniels Rye Whisky
  • Thanked in the credits of friends’ podcast (a very bright surprise note while I was bumbling along, thanks guys)
  • Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
  • Discovering I can just about do a press up without my hand screaming
  • This waistcoat
  • Building a sweet-as-fuck website
  • Receiving great artwork I’ve commissioned
  • Seeing a hedgehog

It’s not a bad list. I should probably make them more often.

Tonight I shall try to stay awake for the show.

This is self-help writing, don’t freak out. Plainly I am struggling a little, but scribbling about it will help, eventually.

Daily Check In, 3

MOAR sleep! Scooped a sweet five hours of sleep, having had a couple of pints at the (splendid) Smash Night followed by a neat chaser of bourbon and zopiclone. Certainly knocked me out, but I was waking up from around 4am onwards. It feels better that way round.

The grind of insomnia for me is in the not getting to sleep. The special rage and fear that rise up with every lost minute of slumber annihilate the possibility of sleep. It makes me afraid to even try to go to sleep. That lying there, hot and frustrated is unbearable. Which is why the best sleep advice is to just get up if you aren’t going to sleep after twenty minutes or so. That’s hard to do, because goddamn useless hope kicks in, with its familiar lies and soothing hums of reassurance “you’ll get to sleep soon, just give it another minute”. Fuck you, hope. By the time I finally abandon hope and get up it’s usually way too late to chill for a while and try again with any chance of snagging five hours plus of sleep. I wonder if that’s the effective sleep span for me – less than four, more than five. Less than four I can function for a couple of days (hello, this week) but to stay well needs consistent nights of seven hours plus. That’s really hard to get.

Winding down for sleep requires hours of quiet. My phone disables Facebook, WhatsApp and Slack at 8pm, and disables the rest of the Internet functions at 10pm. At the same time, the TV should go off, the White Noise app goes on, and I’ll be diving into my book or maybe some gentle Lego building (existing set, not something of my own). It’s a good routine, but it’s easily wrecked. I can still use my laptop, I can disable the phone lockouts, I can leave the TV on, I can grab another beer from the pantry (though I’ve recently moved all my beer to the garage as a further disincentive)… But having a plan helps, even if I go off-plan more often than I’d like. My bigger issue is that all the activities I do are evening ones which end after 9.30, all pressing hard against the sleep time counters. Brain whirling from even fun activities makes it harder to wind back down again and achieve sleep time fade-away. I don’t want to miss out on the social time after the improv drop-in on Thursdays – it’s a positive activity and end in its own right which makes a big difference to my overall state. Plus the Malt Cross has some really good beers these days. We skipped out straight after the show ended last night and got home around 10.30. Even after three days of a few hours sleep and being knackered, I was still wide awake, so I did my chaser in hopes of accelerating the wind down. It worked last night, got me in bed by 11.45 and fading out before midnight but it’s likely to be that bourbon chaser that woke me back up at 4am… Swings and roundabouts etc.

I’ve been working on the drug-free routine since mid-January, aiming for zopiclone to be the final resort and a snuggle blanket of reassurance. I’m not sure it’s working. I think if I was getting seven nights good, one night bad, I’d be OK, but once I’ve had one bad night it’s followed by at least two more and that’s a real twatbastard. I don’t really know where to go from here. Inevitably when I’ve been back to the doc’s it’s been when I’ve felt fairly chipper and couldn’t really access or relate how I’d felt on those days that were not so good. In part, this keeping of a diary again will help. It can be as hard to remember the bad stuff when I feel OK as it is to remember that everything isn’t irredeemably fucked when I feel down. Our brains lie to us and are really bad at existing out of our immediate present.

And now, half a day off, popcorn and watching Us at the cinema.

Daily Check In, 4

Ah a day off, opportunity for endless lying in… Or waking up even earlier than intended. Win. In any case I’m off to try to snag cheap tickets for Skellig at Nottingham Playhouse tonight. I’ve fallen out of the habit of eating breakfast this week, so I’m surfing on a weird weightless slipstream of caffeine, my stomach dragging perhaps a foot behind me. Odd.

Success. Two ‘pay what you can’ tickets acquired for t’theatre this evening. This is a good thing. Time to feel it, and feel pleased about a thing we’re doing. I’m going to attempt a short cycle ride today, and am hopeful that won’t hurt my hand too much. Not really having done much exercise since December has not been great. Redundancy and no job till February meant I had no cause to cycle a few miles back and forth each day, plus no mandatory routine all kinda dragged me sideways (plus my fun ‘abandon amitriptyline’ project). Once the slide begins it can be hard to arrest. The worldview shifts and the other world, where everything is fine, recedes, becomes a faint memory, an impossible dimension oft-spoke of in myth and legend.

Update: successfully cycled to the Post Office and my hand mostly does not hurt and I could nearly brake safely and change gears. Win!

I am however exhausted, and staring at the Skellig set is kinda freaking me out…

It’s quite lovely. I have no idea what this is about so I’m intrigued by its Stig of the Dump / Labyrinth vibe. I eagerly await this diversion from feeling like my skin is oscillating. I shall aim for an earlyish night and a bit of a lie in before spending the weekend doing too many things. Where my kittens at?

Also, finally found the flyers I designed for It’s A Trap the Improvised Star Wars Show in the wild. Satisfying.