Monthly Archives: February 2015

Contribute to society – Pay off your sleep debt…

Getting back in to work.  Simples.

Getting back in to work. Simples.

I have only managed two quite pitiful gym sessions this week, life kept happening to me and giving me things to do instead – some of which were good, some not so much.   Not enough sleep over the last few days has had me a bit wobbly so I’m pleased I talked myself into going (Ok, so it’s only down a flight of stairs if I go after work but there are days I have to change into my horrible gym-wear before I make that little trip to stop me swerving it last minute.  Even I can’t justify putting my trainers on just to leave the building).

The sleep-deprivation wobbles finally sideswiped me at about noon on Thursday when I could have wept a little weep, like an over-tired child, then curled up under my desk and stayed there.  But I didn’t do that.  I took a several deep breaths, made some (more) coffee, and managed to survive everything I needed to do – including a quick burst of gym-ing, an hour of tutoring and a hare-like dash to my daughter’s parents evening (when your mum turns up carrying a Spiderman bag ‘…’ ).    I do still resent the fact that it can feel so hard to do reaa-aally normal stuff, but I wouldn’t have been able to face that combination of activities down a few weeks ago so make me a badge and get me a framed certificate of improvement please.  Thanks.  If you can find something for the bags under my eyes too that would be super-nice.

So what does one do when sleepless?  Well this week my dad pointed me in the direction of  Radio 4’s Saturday Live after listening to a programme featuring Ruby Wax talking about mindfulness CBT – which she studied for her recent book – so I spent an hour or so tuning in to that in the early hours of Tuesday.  It’s worth a listen, especially since it also included a report from the London-based Dragon Cafe set up by Mental Fight Club.

The Dragon Cafe provides a simple, affordable, healthy menu each week, and a wide range of creative and well-being activities, all of which are free and open to all.

And being mentally-interesting is not a prerequisite for joining in.  I want a Dragon Cafe. In my living room.

Another thing which caught my interest (sometime between late Wednesday and early Thursday) was Mind’s campaign for changes to ‘Back to Work’ support for those with mental health problems.  This includes related reform to the current welfare system which is, I would suggest, driven by an ideology that is almost opposed to its’ actual purpose: to support the most vulnerable (no bias here).  Millionaire PM David Cameron (again, no bias here ) last week gave an overview of the Conservative party’s election manifesto for welfare, and, well, it’s what you’d expect from a party who dismissed a report linking  food banks and benefits cuts and has members such as Lord Freud telling us that food banks wouldn’t be used so much…if…they…didn’t…exist huh?

 “It is difficult to know which came first – supply or demand.”

and the delightful Michael Gove suggesting that poor financial management rather than poverty is at the heart of food bank usage.

So yes, stop going to get free food because you overspent on Lobster frittata, truffle and gold pizza and Cristal at the start of the month everyone..  And you’d better cut down on these too.

It’s much easier to despise those who claim ‘taxpayers’ money’ for things like food and rent  because they’re poor isn’t it? Anyway, anyway, I’ll stop there.   I’m so glad I can talk about politics without bias.  What can I say? It’s skill I’ve honed. For a leftie perspective on this stuff  you’d be better off watching Russell Brand’s trews.  He’s more eloquent than me, and funnier.  And richer – as The Daily Mail might like to remind you. And if that’s not for you at least check out what Mind has to say about the matter.

Anyway, anyway enough of all this …I shall do my best and worst of February’s challenge tomorrow and commit myself to the* slightly different challenge I have in mind for March…probably…if I don’t bottle it before then.  In the meantime I am going to try to pay off my sleep debt.

‘Til then x

*It’s nothing to with politics . Promise.


‘Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care’ That’s Shakespeare that is. Must have been an insomniac…

After a few days spent creaking & ouch-ing I will be heading back to the gym tomorrow, I’m hoping to find a zumba class this week (which I recall being hilariously poor at) and am looking forward to returning to yoga.   I would say so far that my exercise experiment is proving to be a good thing, I feel like I have achieved something at the end of each session – cramp usually.

My sleep pattern is still a bit messy though and since I have a hard time getting any sleep meds out of my GP I have had to go herbal on my insomnia.  Valerian seems to be the key ingredient for herbally-induced sleep and the best stuff I ever tried was an uber-cheap Wilkinson’s own brand remedy.  However, due to ready availability (thanks chemist down the road) and a special offer, Sominex is currently occupying my bedside table. I can’t say whether it works because I think it will work or whether it works because it…well, works.  *And frankly I don’t care.  If I end up asleep it’s all good.

In a two-pronged attack I’ve also  gone all January-retro and tried to meditate before bed-time, as well as listening to a bit of sleep-hypnosis from this disembodied voice and zoning out to the sound of gentle rain.

Not sleeping well really messes with my mind so I’m keen not to get into the 4am-pacing zone.

In other news there’s been quite a lot said about MH and related topics  in the media over the last week or so that I kind of want to mention, but I don’t want to end up writing ALL IN CAPS about it due to being all outraged n’ stuff so I’ll sleep on it for now.  Hopefully.

Peace x

*I did read all the labels though just in case my other drugs don’t like herbs; it all seems to be ok but if I turn green and grow claws/horns  overnight ( a common drug-interaction reaction 🙂 )  I’ll know it probably isn’t.

Tired body, lively mind…

I went to the gym yesterday in the hope that more activity would soothe my aching muscles after Wednesday night’s double exercise whammy…  possibly a backwards idea.  All I can say is that I don’t ache any more than I did on Thursday.  Feel free to get celebratory on my behalf.

Now you’d think expending more energy would mean I’ve been sleeping like a baby (actually scratch that, babies aren’t renowned for being excellent sleepers, sleeping like a cat is probably more appropriate)  but I seem to wake up at least once a night despite all of the meditation tricks I’ve learned.  In fact that’s why I’m writing this now – my body clock thinks I’m an owl.  My current theory is that my brain is making up for all the time it spent imitating a rock last year; it’s good to feel motivated & hopeful again.  A bit more sleep would be nice though.

You’d also think that more exercise + a massively reduced rate of ice-cream consumption would have made me feel a bit less squishy, but not so far..I suppose that could be because I’ve somehow replaced Ben & Jerry with chocolate muffins .  I always  have some little food fad going on but never seem to have one that involves a craving for salad.  I’m definitely going to need to maintain this gym-ing thing long term if I can’t kick cake.

Anyway, I’m going to try some sleep-meditation-wizardry.  And if that doesn’t work maybe read the TV instruction manual or the rules of Scrabble  in the hope of boring myself to sleep.

Happy weekend 🙂

How Not To Do Group Exercise.

Last night I managed to attend not one exercise class but two.  More on that in a moment, first I feel that it is important to share what I learned.

Group exercise for beginners: What not to do

  1. Go to a class with ‘power’ in the name.
  2. Remember on the way there that (somehow) you haven’t eaten since breakfast.
  3. Get the shakes (see above)
  4. Stop for five minutes to drink sugary stuff so you don’t end up in an ungainly sprawl on the floor.
  5. Assume that ‘harder’ ‘lower’ ‘faster’ instructions are directed specifically at you.
  6. Number 1.
  7. Arrive 2 minutes late to yoga class all sweaty  a little breathless immediately after an intense whole-body-torture-with-weights  aerobics session.
  8. Ensure that fluff from your socks is stuck all over your feet when you remove your trainers.
  9. Try to disown your feet by ignoring them/pretending you don’t really know them you just met them outside a minute ago.
  10. Number 1. Did I already mention that?

Thanks to my new found wisdom I shall be avoiding the first class for the time being on the basis that I would like to survive the winter.  However I really enjoyed yoga (I know, all those yoga people were right. Shhh) so I’ll be going back to that in an on-time-and-fresh-as-a-daisy sort of fashion.  I was pretty glad to get home to a big stodgy meal though.  Cooking it seemed to take forever … I considered just scoffing everything raw so I had to eat a chocolate muffin in the interim, purely in the interests of health & safety.

And now I must dig out some Tiger Balm.  It’s all about the burn.

*On an unrelated topic, but in-keeping with the spirit of how not to do things  I feel I should share another helpful lesson I have just  learned, namely how not to save a spider.  To successfully not-save a little spider you should spend ages coaxing it out of the sink with a bottle top, pop it next to a tap so it can recover then return a few minutes later to wash your hands and watch in disbelief as the soap slips out of your grasp and squashes the aforementioned little spider flat.

This is what you get when you tinker with nature –  a monstrous soap/spider hybrid.


*A spider was harmed during the making of this blog.  Sorry about that.

Making tea is not a form of exercise. Sadly.

It's better when I don't hand-write these.

It’s better when I don’t hand-write these.

I tidied up an old doodle whilst procrastinating about going to the gym.  I’m currently holding a cup of tea so I’m safely in the green zone.

Anyway, I’m leaving for the treadmill right now (well, once I finish my cuppa).  There’s a yoga class on in a bit too but I’m not promising anything…

How well is too well… how can I tell? (and when will I be able to resist pointless rhymes and rhetorical questions?)

Of course my writing's straight - you're just looking at it from the wrong angle...

Of course my writing’s straight – you’re just looking at it from the wrong angle…

Today I walked five miles.  I did this because I was too full to go to the gym after a roast potato- heavy carvery lunch.  I also needed to collect a parcel from the local royal mail delivery office (Rock n’ roll times)  which isn’t that local when you’re drunk on food and wearing inappropriate footwear.

It was nice to be out in the sunshine though, with my brain ticking over other rock n’ roll stuff like Did I remember  put the washing on? Do I need to buy milk? When did I get a hole in my boot?  That sort of thing.  Delightfully and boringly normal.  I say delightfully because sometimes a dark spell can flip right over into an upswing that just keeps on going…well, up, which is nice…but only to begin with.

Anyway, thinking about feeling normal reminded me of an old doodle, so I thought I’d share it with you.  I stole the general idea from somewhere but I can’t remember where.  Oops. It also reminded me that I should probably make more effort to record my moods.  I used to use but there’s a whole range of apps out there which the more technologically minded will already have downloaded and discarded for something newer.   Calling a mood tracker ‘Happiness’ is probably a bit presumptuous though.  Just sayin’.

Comfort zone? What comfort zone?

I’ll begin with a confession – I only managed two gym sessions last week.  But I have reasons which are in-keeping with the spirit of this breaking B.A.D endevour…I have been chipping away at the old routine.  Wild eh.

My trip to London last weekend may have been a lazy one, but it still involved getting to stations and travelling on trains and even negotiating the underground (erk).  Now my friend in the big smoke is one of my favourite people in the world, but sometimes I just can’t do all of the above.  During periods of intense gloom I expend all my energy on the must-be-done stuff and then get stuck in a working/sleeping rut that is hard to shake off, even when the gloom begins to clear.   So not only was it brilliant to see her, my trip also felt like confirmation that the depression has really & truly lifted.

I was quite tired on my return, but surprised myself anyway by venturing out on a school night (another train!) to deliver my partner-in-crime some TLC and his suit; abandoned in my wardrobe since a wedding last year and required for his nan’s funeral (he scrubs up well, she’d have been proud).  This was hardly a mountain-climb of a mission…but staying out on a school-night means smashing the work/sleep routine which has only just begun to be cracked with interludes at the gym, writing this stuff here and having cups of tea at the dining table with my daughter.

Following this crazy diversion from the usual, at the end of the week I joined some lovely work-people on a dinner n’ karaoke night out.  I haven’t been to a work thing for a couple of years, so y’know, it was new.  Plus I’m scared of karaoke.  I love singing, I used to teach it, I’ve been in the quietest band ever (last gig, 2013 🙂  ) for years – despite all this I’m still scared of karaoke.  But I’d forgotten how much I love a good sing.  I’d forgotten how easy it is to care less about sounding like an angry cat with access to reverb once you’ve got hold of a microphone.  Ha! And I’d forgotten how nice it is to just hang out and be silly.   I have to psyche myself up for such things you see, I get a bit be-stranged when I’ve been hibernating for too long but it’s likely I think I’m more odd than I actually am.  Most of the time mildly eccentric probably covers it.  Most of the time.

The Platypus, one of nature's little oddities.

Darwin The Platypus, one of nature’s little oddities.

Anyway, I enjoyed myself.  Hopefully not at the expense of anybody’s hearing.

Finally, to round off the week, I managed to get involved with St Valentine’s day in a candles and dinner sort of way ( although if saints were my thing I’d be much more about St Jude…).  Even though I hate the generic tat attached to Februsary 14th it can only be good for a rubbish romantic like me to get a bit of a nudge from the calender as a reminder to do something nice…Aw  *vomits sparkly heart decorations*

So.  Yes. These are the things I did last week which didn’t involves being at the gym.  And they’re all to the good.  Hooray.  But I am going to meet my 3 sessions this week.  Even though Ben & Jerry’s is no longer on special offer, thus quashing my appetite for ice-cream, I still really need the exercise.  Just as soon as my gym socks dry.  Once I’ve washed them.  They’re all the way upstairs.  I’ll probably need a cup of tea before I bring them down.

Peace x

Challenge 2 Depression Hacks: From going outside to getting some exercise (Easy does it)

It's quite bright out here isn't it?

It’s quite bright out here isn’t it?

According to research, aerobic exercise encourages your amygdalae to get their groove on, helps your hippocampus get happy & lays some love on your limbic system ( *all accurate scientific descriptions). Which is good to know.  What is not so good is that, for some of us, at the very time these brain-parts most need this boost we are using up most of our energy doing necessary activities such as moving between the sofa and bathroom, and conserving the rest for visits to the kitchen and back.  Sweet irony of ironies.

*Ok, this is a lie, you can find the proper science-y stuff here.

I’ve been thinking about this as I fight the good fight for fitness, so when I spotted an article on Facebook, hailing exercise as a good way to tackle depression I wondered why they had paired it with a picture of a well-kitted-out glossy haired sprinter.  Come on now I thought know your audience.  It’s one step at a time people.  Being outside and running and looking all sprightly?  They’re  massive things when you’re dogged by the black dog. Let’s break it all down a bit…

Hmm...definitely more trees out here than in the kitchen.

Hmm…definitely more trees out here than in the kitchen.

FIRST STEPS:   A reasonably achievable aim is a short walk around a park, or  a short shuffle down a street with some nice trees if you don’t happen to live next to a park.  If this is a step too far then you could aim for a slow walk to the shop looking forwards instead of at the pavement.  You don’t even have to go into the shop…but you could take your hood down.  And if you’ve yet to crack simply going outside (never mind moving around out there)  & you’re really lucky like me you might have a lovely friend who will assure you that you don’t have to stay outside for more than 10 minutes, then drive you to a large pub garden, sit with you at a table away from other human life forms and let you look at trees and ducks and stuff in silence for as long as you’re able.  Then take you home. Usually well after your 10 minutes has elapsed.

NEXT STEPS:  Unless you were an athlete before the black dog bit, you are as likely to hit a sprint during the throes of depression as you are to find a unicorn in the cupboard when you go to find your trainers.  There are exceptions of course and if you can work up a run, go for it.  If you’re like me that’s not going to happen until you’ve managed to shrug off your dressing gown for a good day or two, in which case you could get active indoors to start with.  I’ve looked up a few sites where you can follow an instructor without worrying that you will have the added worry of an audience if you flake/panic/need a nap after 2 minutes.

You could try this not- so- glossy but calm and gentle yoga-for-beginners   or this low-impact vid  which is quite sweet and involves some clapping – a cheery kind of activity I suppose.

If you feel a bit more lively a chap called Jared has put together this selection of zumba videos  which I’m struggling to watch more than a few seconds of because my laptop is being temperamental (eg. s***) but I thought I’d leave them here anyway because there’s links to a few other workouts on the site if these don’t float your boat.

Personally I managed to get moving now and again with the very-smiley Davina’s High Energy Five Workout DVD, mainly because it was the only workout DVD I owned.  It’s brutal in parts but the 5 different sessions are 15 mins each. I did one session of a day. Sometimes.  Mainly I just did the warm-up 🙂

MOVING ON:  You might be able to skip straight ahead to this or you might need time on the above to help you work up to it.  Communicating effectively with other humans is a necessary part of overcoming or recovering from depression, so any activity that brings you into contact with your fellow life forms is good.  Start with something short and gentle, but try a class, you’ll only encounter small talk, nobody’s going to start asking probing questions – unless you turn up in your dressing gown, which I would advise you not to.

Obviously I am only an expert in my own breed of black dog so this is all based on my experiences, the key is to be kind to yourself and do just enough to feel a sense of achievement.  The ten minute rule’s a good one though…

And just so you know, I’m not trying to distract from my own fitness antics.  I’ve managed two gym sessions so far this week.  I’m trying to build up the time I can spend running rather than simply wiggling uphill on the treadmill.  It would be lovely to tell you that I am a glowing picture of health, but in truth my bones hurt and I look knackered.  Mood’s pretty chipper still though.

I’ve been checking out and I think I’m going to give it a go starting from tomorrow, wish me luck.

That is all.


Big city…big pizza

I managed three gym sessions this week so it made perfect sense to travel a hundred miles on Saturday to spend the weekend eating too much and watching box sets with a friend.  Perfect…Except now I’ll have to work out extra hard this week to make up for it.  My plan is to mix things up by going to a class.   Being unable to tell my left from right should make that pretty interesting.  And possibly painful.

Or I could just forget that idea & walk home from London instead.

Tough call.

Lest ye be judged. Crumbs it’s gone all serious. Sort of.

“I'm afraid I can't explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?”  ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I don’t know much about ex-footballer Clarke Carlisle or actor Ralf Little but both came to my attention this week after a tweet by Mr Little caused  tw-outrage, coming as it did off the back of Mr Carlisle’s release from hospital following a suicide attempt.


A reference, I imagine, to Carlisle’s impending court date for failing to provide a sample when stopped on suspicion of drink driving. The two have some history having once been housemates, which at least gives context to Little’s position.  But the whole uncomfortable saga resonated with me, and I am going to burble a bit about it now.  You have been warned

One of my closest friends described knowing me in my teens and twenties as like watching a train derail over and over again.  This friend’s  reaction to the breakdown which saw me begin to seek help was less than compassionate.  I was in poor shape and bewildered to be, frankly, kicked when I was the down-est I have ever been. I understood the lack of empathy in part – being a bystander to perpetual disaster had finally proved too much.  Fair enough.  The part that hurt though was the insinuation that they felt they were expected to, and would therefore absolutely not, excuse my bizarre behaviour, a kind of  So you’re ill now are you?  And that means we have to forgive all of your f*** ups  and feel sorry for you?  

As if I’d been in touch saying come and have a beer to celebrate my mental illness – it’s a moral Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card!  Everyone’s memories will be wiped and my sins forgiven! Woohoo!  rather than to apologise for being a rubbish friend.

To me it was simple – illness explained my behaviour, but it didn’t make it all ok.  

And so, reading Ralf Little’s snipe at Clarke Carlisle,  I recognised the tone Woah!  You feel sorry for this guy?  I could tell you a thing or two….


The trouble is, you have to be aware what depression and other mental illness do to a person to afford them a level of understanding.

Depression makes you not care.  About anything.  Not in an I’ll do what I want and damn the consequences kind of way  because consequences are things that happen in the future.  Depression takes the future away.  You can’t see beyond the moment you’re trapped in.

I think that throwing yourself in front of a lorry is probably one of the purest examples of that.

It’s hard for some people to understand that there’s illness at play.  What other illnesses have deliberately stepping into moving traffic as a symptom?   Never mind the whole mess of self-medication and co-morbidity (or rather, dual diagnosis) which seems to be a factor in Carlisle’s case.

The way I see it, the best you can hope for is that people will understand that there is a difference between your choices & behaviour during an episode of illness and your choices & behaviour when you are well.  If they understand that then they can at least accept that you are not quite yourself when they arrive home to find you have not moved in 10 hours or, flipside, have thrown away all the living room furniture because…reasons.

Because when you wander downstairs of a morning and wonder what sort of f***wit could have binned all the chairs … and then remember it was you, well you want people to know that you, yourself, normally, are not a furniture- hating- monster.  Y’know.

Of course that’s easier when you 1) know people really well 2) don’t have the type of disorder which has you in a chronically, or even permanently, altered state.  And if you’ve only ever met me when I was in bouncing around like Tigger or monosyllabic & Eeyore-miserable then I’d like you to know that I’m one of the good guys really.  Well mostly.  I try.

Anyway, I forgave my former close-friend a long time back.  I think that she has forgiven me some stuff too.   We’re in touch a little, because neither of us is the same person we were ten years ago.  Which brings me round to Clarke Carlisle’s response to Ralf Little.

Explaining the reason for your behaviour does not automatically equate to making excuses for it. Speaking out about what you did because you were depressed is not the same as saying I was depressed so what I did is ok and Clarke Carlisle has been speaking out for some time, proving that mental illness can affect anyone.

So yeah.  All that.

Anyway I will try to keep the monologues to a minimum, it’s just that I would really have struggled to write this many words about my gym visit yesterday.

I went.

It was sticky.

I listened to Eminem.

I am not an olympian yet.

Peace x