Survival

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I can’t believe it has almost been a year since I first found out about my mum’s cancer. I couldn’t even bring myself to say the word out loud then because it’s so threatening to even think about. Over the last year she has been through so much, we found out that it was stage 3 and she would need chemotherapy, then surgery and more chemotherapy afterwards. I don’t want to go into all the details because it’s not my place to tell all about her private life, but I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to endure everything that she has had to. It feels selfish to even discuss my own feelings about things but it was so hard to see what it did to her, physically and mentally. She was still working right up until she got sick and never seemed to be “old” for want of a better term. The illness was so hard on her though and she ended up losing so much weight, her arms were so thin it was difficult to see her in such a state. After the surgery she could hardly walk and had to use a frame to get around, it was painful to see how much it takes out of a person. She had other medical complications too which took a long time to deal with, she almost died from an infection and we had to rush her into hospital for that. All this delayed her surgery, and that didn’t happen until June. Because she was so weak, the follow up chemotherapy had to wait because her body couldn’t tolerate it and so it has taken all the way up until a couple of weeks ago for the final session to be done.

She is so much better now, she’s gained enough weight back to be in a healthy range and after months of not being able to eat properly is practically back to normal. Aside from waiting for her hair to grow back again, she tells me that she feels almost back to normal again and it’s such a relief to say that after thinking how bad things were over this past year.

I remember thinking that I wouldn’t be able to cope trying to do things all by myself, but I did try my best to keep things running while she was ill and just about managed it. I don’t want to complain about things too much because it’s nothing compared to what going through cancer is like.

There is one thing that has been on my mind lately that I can’t really talk to anyone about. It’s a kind of guilt that comes from seeing someone so desperate to try and stay alive, battling every day just to get the most basic things done, often times not able to eat or sleep but so determined to make it. It’s like that complete opposite to my own mentality where more and more I am slipping back into feeling as though there is simply no reason for me to be alive, and I’m just marking time until I don’t have anything holding me back. Literally the only reason for me to be alive is because I don’t want to upset my family, but as I’ve said over and over I don’t know how long that can last. I know there’s nothing good to come to me in life, everything from here on will be a downward slope and I never had any life to speak of before that was worthwhile or fun to look back on. I have no real friends, massive debts, no prospect of a decent job, just wasted time. It’s hard to square that feeling with how desperate most people are to preserve their own life.

I constantly feel guilty for being such a useless son, even though my parents never say or make me feel that way, I know it to be true myself. I’ve tried to find meaning in things, but I know that I will always be alone, there’s nothing to like about me and I have nothing to offer anyone.

I went back into therapy for a while but you only get about 8 sessions and that is barely enough time for me to scratch the surface of explaining my situation. I think it helped a little at the time, but I have gone back to where I started again, if not even further back since it ended.

I don’t know how to stop hating myself because I feel fully justified in doing so and I can’t lie to myself because it makes no sense. It’ll be 12 years soon since I first came to terms with the fact that I had a mental illness and the fact that I am still here, still in this same physical location, unable to escape drains me of any possible hope.

All that really holds me back from trying to end things is that I don’t want to upset my mum after all she has been through. I could never really explain what it’s like to despise myself that much and tell her and the rest of my family that they were wrong to care about me. The honest truth is that nobody who doesn’t have some kind of obligation to care even gives me a second thought. There are only so many years you can go through a joyless life like that, with only guilt anchoring you on this earth.

Waiting

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I’m still waiting to find out what will happen with my mum. There has been a lot of back and forth with the hospital but she is seeing the consultant tomorrow (31st) and hopefully we will know more after that. In the past week I managed to fall out with my sister because of everything that’s been going on. My mum was trying to get through to the doctors on the phone but was finding it hard to contact anyone who could tell her anything and even though she said that she wanted to do it herself, my sister said that because I hadn’t been phoning them too that I didn’t care and if she dies it will be because I didn’t do enough. I ended up shouting and swearing at her because even though I know I’m a worthless piece of shit, the one thing you cannot say about me is that I don’t care about my family when they are literally the only reason I haven’t already killed myself.

I know that anyone who reads this will probably think the same thing, that the stress of everything is what made her say that but I don’t think that is the whole reason. For a few months or more now I’ve felt like my sister has started resenting me and doesn’t even really like me any more. It’s so sad to face up to this, I started crying uncontrollably again after this all happened and she hasn’t spoken to me since. I know she has been saying some things about me to my mum (before this cancer stuff) but I can’t get a straight answer out of her about what it is. She was basically my only friend and I feel like I am having everything taken away from me, soon I will have nobody who cares about me left.

If there is bad news tomorrow I’m afraid I will not be able to take it. There’s only so much more shit life can throw at me. I’ve had years and years of depression, loneliness and hopelessness but I always had my family and now they could be ripped away from me too. It sounds selfish to say this but I don’t want to be left alone. I can’t face this pointless existence by myself and I fear that soon I will actually have nothing to live for.

Year of Nothing

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2014 was probably the least productive year I have ever had. I don’t think I accomplished anything of note and it just seems to have flown by. I remember being in this exact same place a year ago, thinking about how I really need to go back to the doctor if I want anything to change for the better. This time last year I wrote something about worrying that birthday would be my last but the truth is I don’t have the energy or drive to feel like killing myself. I haven’t been able to think about things without being overwhelmed by just how pathetic I am. I don’t even know if it would help if I had anyone to talk to because I am at the stage where I am so embarrassed to say out loud how pathetic I am because it hurts so much to contemplate. If I talked about the reality of my life, there is no way anyone could honestly not think I was a complete loser. At best they could pity me.

I did manage to make one tiny step towards changing things. I decided to ask my sister to help me try and resolve the problem I have been having with doctors. I have found myself yet again slipping through the cracks and not being registered with any GP that I can get to. I decided to try and phone my local GP here even though I hate the phone so much and have been putting this off for over a year and of course no-one answered. I tried calling back several more times but could not get through. In the end I asked my sister to come to the reception with me and try to explain the situation to them. I managed to get a form to re-register (even though I don’t know for sure if this is the right way to be going about it) but ran into more problems because they need to know the name of my previous GP who has subsequently left the practice I was registered at before when I was at university. The whole thing is an administrative nightmare, doubly so when you using the phone is such a difficulty.

I am going to try again to phone up and get an appointment if I can face it tomorrow. Why does everything have to be such a struggle? I hate saying things like that because I know I bring a lot of it on myself, but I am getting so tired of my mental problems making everything such a colossal pain to deal with.

I don’t really know why I am bothering to be honest but I have run out of options. I did manage to turn things around at university and I don’t think it is a coincidence that I coped best when I was taking those antidepressants. It also helped that I wasn’t surrounded by negativity that I have at home though. It’s not that anyone is overtly mean to me but just constant comments and things that make me feel worthless. I need to get out of this house but that requires about a hundred other things to be in place first and this cycle means I am stuck here.

I can’t even write coherently now so I am just going to leave it but I will try to update again soon when I am not so strung out.

Time keeps on slipping away

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I’m not sure how long I managed to try and stay in the positive (kind of) mindset I wrote about in my last entry but unfortunately it has long since passed. It is clear to me now that the isolation is no good for me at all. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the only time for probably 2 years where I have felt any semblance of self worth was when I got to spend a few hours with some people who I can almost convince myself liked being with me. Last night I was thinking about how the best time of my life was probably from mid 2011 to mid 2012, my final year of university (it is probably no coincidence that this period was a big downturn in the number of posts I wrote here, I tend to only write when I am feeling bad). It was a strange situation because the sociability of my living arrangements had decreased more and more: I started off in the halls of residence, then shared a house with 2 of my flatmates and ended up living on my own. This let me spend time alone when I needed to though, and I still saw my classmates so I wasn’t totally isolated. Compared to most people I was still practically a hermit, but this was the most comfortable I have been.

My current situation is constantly deteriorating. I have always had a decent relationship with my parents despite their ridiculous situation of being separated but still living in the same house. Things have started to get on top of me lately though. I don’t want to badmouth them because it would seem massively ungrateful since they let me live with them but things have begun to get a bit strained. I can’t stand to listen to my mum going on about things she has read in the Daily Mail (for people outside the UK, a hateful newspaper) and making horrible comments about people she works with (too fat, too thin, too lazy, too obsessive. You can’t win). It makes me depressed to think about what she would say about me if I wasn’t her son. I keep spending more time alone in my tiny room whenever we are all in the house. I remember a time when all I wanted more than anything was to be at home but now I cannot wait to escape this place. Sometimes I feel as though I am going through life 10+ years behind schedule.

To put it simply: there’s no way I can see my life getting any better. I know it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things but my birthday is coming up and I remember this time last year how determined I was that I wasn’t going to let the year just slip away into nothingness but that is exactly what has happened. I have achieved nothing in the past two years, they have been a complete waste of time during the part of my life when I should be getting things done.

One of the very few people I have on facebook from the “before time” prior to when I tried to restart my life in 2007/8 is a girl I went to primary school with and we were friends when I was very young but lost touch after we started secondary school. I can quite vividly remember an early time I felt what I would describe now as social anxiety, was when someone told her that I had a crush on her. Anyway, I saw on facebook the other day that she got married. I didn’t feel jealous, I have not even spoken to her in person for over 10 years, but it did hammer home how much my life has diverged from the people I grew up with. When I occasionally see them they look like adults but virtually nothing has changed for me since I was in school.

It is impossible not to feel like there is something irrevocably broken about myself that I can let things go so wrong. I remember when I first started writing the entries in 2007 on another site that I transferred over to here, that one of the main things I was depressed about was how I had missed out on key development in major parts of my life. I am in pretty much the same situation now, 7 years on. I am still the same loser that I was back then except now I don’t even have time on my side. I thought 23 was too old to change things but I was wrong about that. I wish I was that age again. I don’t know how I would do things differently but at least I had time. Now I don’t have that, I don’t have any hope.

My old therapist used to ask “How would you like your life to be different?” or what I would like to change about my life and it used to leave me stumped. You would think that someone so unhappy would have a huge list of things but I could never give concrete answers and I still can’t. Part of it was that I knew what they would do if I could think of something, they’d try and come up with some way of working towards it so I would always be second guessing about what my answers would lead to. If we restrict it to the realm of things that are actually possible, then I can’t really envisage anything that could make things OK. This is my major problem, I would much rather just not be alive than to try and patch up this ridiculous life that I have made for myself.

I sometimes wonder if anyone could be so far gone as me and still manage to turn things around and not want to die. I know there are people with much, much harder lives than me and that I have things extremely easy but they must have some kind of will to fight on that I don’t have. What is the point? If it came down to being as miserable as I was at my first job in order to survive then I would vastly prefer to be dead. Other people might have the comfort of coming home to someone they love or seeing friends but I know that will never be possible for me.

There is nothing for me that would make the awful parts of being alive worth going through.

I apologise for such another rambling and depressing post. I still have not been able to make a doctors appointment, I still have no job and I haven’t spoken to anyone outside my family in any sort of social situation since when I last posted in September. There is not much else for me to report.

End of an era

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Wow I’ve been out of the loop for a long time. I guess I haven’t been in much of a writing mood for the past couple of months, perhaps because of all the work I had to do on my dissertation kind of burned me out.

Finishing university was a big event for me. It’s taken me much longer than most people, after my first attempt ended in failure it was probably the start of my mental health beginning it’s lasting impact on my life. That was a very difficult time for me, I was pretty much still in the same place mentally as when I was at school/sixth form. Most of the same people were still around me and I didn’t feel like I could express my true self without being open to further ridicule and I felt trapped being around those people. I’ve written about this at length before so I’ll spare you the details.

The university where I completed my degree (starting 4 years after I left the first one) was in a different city and I made a clean break from the poisonous people who previously made me feel terrible. I won’t lie, it has been a difficult process. Moving away from home was a big deal for me and although I struggled, I am very glad that I did it. The entire process of studying was made even more difficult by my anxiety and depression. It’s hard to explain or expect other people to empathise with how hard it can be to deal with even basic things like making sure you have food to eat. There were many occasions when I would go without meals or sneak out and buy a sandwich or something because I daren’t go into the kitchen when other people were around or I was afraid other people might be there.

I constantly felt like I was swimming against the tide to try and stay on top of the workload especially in my final year where I had to keep regular attendance for certain workshop sessions that involved robotics equipment that I couldn’t do at home (which was my usual standby for missing workshops. I didn’t like the demonstrators or anyone nearby to see my work). This was my second attempt at the final year, remember. I already had a very lucky reprieve after I completely messed up in 2010/11 when I should have finished. There was real pressure to get things right this time and fortunately my depression, which was probably my biggest obstacle in previous years, was not as bad this time and I managed to cope reasonably well.

The problem I gave into so many times before was worrying about a workshop session (in the computer labs) and barely sleeping all night, then waking up and finding it easy to justify missing the class to myself. I’m sure this feeling will be familiar to some of you. I fell into the trap so frequently at college that I ended up only attending 2 classes all semester for one particular module as things began to snowball and my poor attendance weighed on my mind. “He’ll want to know why I wasn’t here the past 2/3/4 weeks” I would think and then rationalise missing the class again. Thankfully I managed to keep this largely in check this year and I only missed one robotics workshop and a small number of other sessions. Overall this year was probably my best attendance.

I feel very lucky that I managed to pull this off when it mattered most really. If you aren’t familiar with the British university system, a bachelor’s degree typically takes 3 years, the first year doesn’t count towards your final degree classification and it’s usually all based on how well you do in your final year by using everything you’ve learned to write a dissertation or create a project (this is a very general description). Everything pretty much rode on how well I could do this year. My second year grades were lacklustre, I scraped a lower second (2:2) so I needed to improve this time.

My final grade was an upper second (2:1) which is the 2nd highest you can get, and although it’s not spectacular I was very pleased that I managed to get here at last after all the troubles I’ve had. It’s been a challenging journey and my anxiety & depression has literally threatened my life at times. The period I spent in hospital, or rather the time recovering from what happened – I don’t remember much of when I was actually there which is quite disconcerting, was a constant struggle and mentally exhausting in itself. I worried that I had done irreparable damage not only to my brain but also to my relationship with my family. I still have issues with the latter but it is a relief that I have not destroyed my mind.

So, good news on the academic front. I hope you’ll allow me a long entry as it has been so long, but quite a lot of things have been going through my head since I last updated.

I had barely finished my last exam when I discovered that my dad had been admitted to hospital for heart problems. My mum had known a couple of days earlier but didn’t want to panic me before my exams which I am thankful for now but I was annoyed at the time. It came as a big shock to me because unlike me, my dad has always been very active and still cycled to work and back 6 miles each way into his sixties and he’s not overweight. He ended up needing an angioplasty to widen the arteries but he has recovered very well since. I went to see him in hospital the day I got back from moving all my stuff home and it was quite difficult to see him like that. He is not an emotional man, though he’s not cold either, he just doesn’t give much away but when my sister and I arrived he had tears in his eyes.

Even though it wasn’t life threatening, it is impossible not to think about death when it comes to hearts. Dealing with the realities of mortality is hard to cope with. Being back at the hospital, the smell and suffocating heat, brought back the vague memories I have of being in there, and the trips we took each day made me think about how difficult it must have been for my family to make similar trips to see me. I was hardly coherent for weeks and I dread to think what must have gone through their heads seeing me like that. It was very hard to see my dad in a vulnerable state and this was compounded by the guilt of what I put everyone through with my own actions.

Things have been relatively quiet since he got to go home (he’s been out a while now, I just didn’t want to write about it before I knew he was better) but recently I have started to feel like some of the old depressive feelings are creeping back. If anyone has been reading this blog for a long time, you’ll remember that my sense of purposelessness was one of the main catalysts for my depression back in the days before and just after my diagnosis with clinical depression and social anxiety.

Back in 2007 I was unemployed and had no real prospects. I didn’t have good enough qualifications to do anything in the computing field that wasn’t helpdesk oriented and after my utterly disastrous time doing that at my first job I had no intention of going back to that. It was the absolute worst time of my entire life, I actually felt worse then than I did when I attempted suicide strange as it may seem. Going back to university gave me a goal and arguably more important to either the pressure I put on myself or I mistakenly ascribed to my mum (I haven’t decided which it is, but it’s probably a combination) it meant I wasn’t “unemployed”. I mean, yes technically I was only working in the holidays but the rest of the time I was doing something useful. This is over now of course and I am back to the same situation.

I’m getting quite tired now, it’s gone 3.30am but I will finish this train of thought tomorrow, I promise. Thank you to anyone that’s still reading and thanks for your comments.

Finally, an update.

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Wow I can’t believe it has been all this time since I wrote a post. Incidentally this will be the 200th update so I’d better try and make it a good one…

I’ve started writing posts a couple of times throughout the year but could never really think of anything substantial to say. A lot of the time I haven’t had the mental energy to write anything longer than a few sentences outside of academic work, and sometimes not even then (more on that later). For a while now I have sort of dissociated myself from the mental health “community” both online and in real life. After a few years of it being my entire life, not a day went by when I didn’t think about my depression and where life was leading, I began to get tired of it and perhaps give in to my avoidant tendencies and simply ignore it. Of course it’s impossible to totally ignore the effects it has on your life when you have allowed yourself to become the rather messed up and eccentric (to put it mildly) person I am. It’s not something you can throw out wholesale but I made a concerted effort not to involve myself in the things that reminded me of the bad stuff, even though this was potentially damaging. I stopped talking to the people I know with mental health problems, ceased going to the doctor and I haven’t seen any kind of care coordinator or therapist for well over a year now. I realise this may be counterproductive.

For the most part of the period between my last update and today my time has been involved with desperately trying to keep my head above water with regards to university. The sharper readers among you will have noticed that I should have graduated by now but unfortunately this is not the case. When I first started my 3rd year I should have been in an ideal situation to get down to work; I didn’t have my recent suicide attempt hanging over me like in 2nd year and I also wasn’t living in the house where I felt confined and like I had to avoid my housemate’s boyfriend who seemed to take a disliking to me. I had struggled through that and with a few extensions to assignments managed to pass the year although with a much lower grade than first year (though with the increased difficulty it was partly expected). I don’t want to repeat myself too much but I moved into a flat where I shared a kitchen with 4 new flatmates, who surprisingly I barely saw for the entire year I was there. I still had issues with going to make meals and things though and tried my best to stay out of their way. I’ve almost given up trying to figure out why I have such a powerful desire to do such things.

Despite the improved living conditions, I soon got back into old habits that have plagued me since college in 2004 and began to miss lectures and seminars, telling myself it’d be alright and that on the day in question I wouldn’t be missing anything important. It turns out I am very easily convinced by myself in such matters… Of course the problem with this is that if you miss early sessions, you miss out on important information you might need for later in the year.

For my course, 3rd year involves you doing a large project throughout the year, on which a large portion of your final grade is assessed. I got into the downward spiral of being late to choose a project and putting off meeting with my assigned supervisor, partly because it was a member of staff I have trouble talking to because of his poor English (I know that’s bad of me). The deadline for the project proposal was fast approaching and I hadn’t even spoken to my supervisor once to confirm that I had chosen a project from the pre-approved list. I just went ahead and submitted the proposal which somehow passed but I got in trouble for not clearing it with anyone and was told that another student had picked that one so I had to change. I panicked and had been missing ever more lectures and workshops, my rationale being that because I hadn’t attended some of them at all from the beginning of the year, it would be embarrassing to turn up and have people wonder where I had been all this time. Of course that problem only gets worse and worse the longer it goes on. This had been my downfall at college where I ended up only attending a single lecture for one unit and only just managing to scrape a pass for it but things are much harder at university…

For one of my modules there was going to be a kind of mock job interview, but I did not realise this until too late. I didn’t really speak to anyone in my year about coursework, another reason I was afraid to attend lectures was that I didn’t want to be asked about how my project was going because I had absolutely nothing prepared besides my invalid proposal. This all sounds so stupid when I write it down and I’m sure if I had gone to talk to someone about it at an earlier time I may have been able to work something out but again avoidance won out.

After a few months and being well behind in every module, I realised something had to be done and I managed to get the courage to email one of the staff I had spoken to about problems last year. After some difficult explanation I managed to convince him to try and arrange for me to redo the year. Normally this is impossible, if you fail the third year then that’s it, you are out of the door. Thankfully he helped me to submit and extenuating circumstances request and he personally asked the Dean of faculty if my tuition could be waived because there was no way I could afford the £3600 it costs. I was told that this was highly unusual but amazingly it worked out and my request was approved. I owe that lecturer a great deal for helping me with this and I won’t forget it. The fact that I have another chance does make me feel guilty, I’m sure there are others with much more compelling reasons for not being able to complete the year who did not get another chance.

I apologise for the long winded explanation above but that’s pretty much where I was around summer this year. Over July and August I returned to work at the place I had been the previous couple of years and had to make up some excuses about being ill as to why I hadn’t graduated but overall work went pretty well. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work there as there aren’t any people who made my life a misery unlike at my first job.

Starting back at university last month I promised myself that I would try my very best to attend all lectures and so far I’m doing pretty well. I have missed a couple of workshops that my erratic sleep pattern (although nowhere near as bad as last year) caused me to oversleep for, but it’s no more than the average student who has a hangover would miss. I’m in yet another new place of accommodation this year, every single year I’ve been in a different place! This is the best one by far though, it’s like a studio apartment so I have my own small kitchen area. Lucky for me, my mum helped me out with the rent.

That’s the situation right now. Mood wise, I have been rather stable compared to previous months. I stopped taking sertraline, mainly because my GP left and I don’t really like the new one and I don’t want him to refer me back to the care coordinator who makes me very uncomfortable but I don’t really miss it. The depressive episodes that plagued me before seem to have subsided somewhat. I still have a very bleak outlook on things and find it almost impossible to be excited or feel any passion about things but at least I’m not actively seeking out ways to die any more. I can make it from day to day without spending hours ruminating about suicide. The social anxiety is still there, though I have been avoiding people and situations a lot so it hasn’t had much chance to manifest itself.

This is a thing I have been curious about though; how unusual it is for a person to be so withdrawn as me. On an average week I basically don’t speak to anyone besides to say “thank you” to shop keepers and the like. I still go home at weekends and so talk to my mum, dad and sister when they are there but during the week I am practically mute. In every class I sit alone, even more so than in previous years because there are now only 2 people whose names I know and might possibly speak to me if they saw me, everyone else has graduated. I do feel like it’s extremely unhealthy and I worry intensely what will happen when I eventually have to fully move out on my own and will in all likelihood be permanently isolated.

I might write a bit more tomorrow, this post has rambled on a lot but there was a lot to say since the last post. I hope everyone who reads this (the number of hits I get is still surprisingly high) is ok and I apologise for not staying in touch with you.

Hate

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I gave up on my plan last week, I was too scared to go through with it and be discovered. I need time alone to make it work. Some people tried to talk me out of it and I felt so guilty that they care about such a useless person as me. I don’t know why I should bother hanging around this shitty world, in this shitty life. I’m beginning to think I’m incapable of being happy, the only time the pain relents is for a matter of hours and then it’s back again.

Why should I want to live? Everyone would seriously be better off without me. The same could probably be said of a lot of people, but I don’t want to be here. I wish I could give my opportunities and resources to someone else who deserves them. I’m sick of myself and how weak and pathetic I am. Nothing can change, the damage has been done and I’ve fucked up everything. I threw away a life, I can’t deal with the consequences.