Category Archives: life

sunset photo, taken 20th april 2007 in Wales, UK.

Depression & Suicide

I wrote this as a response to an image post trying to guilt-trip people into not commiting suicide using friends and family, on reddit. The reddit OP removed his post due to criticism, so I’ve copied it here.

Here’s the thing most people don’t get about suicide.

Those who choose to kill themselves aren’t (normally) irrational. They’re making a considered option. They’re aware of the pain they’ll leave. They’re aware of the pain of the method.

Someone who chooses to commit suicide is exactly the same response as the person who chooses to jump to death from a burning building. It’s not that the suicide is a good option. It’s that staying is unbearable.

Severe depression, or severe recurrent depression the type I suffer from, is a cruel, evil disease. It eats at your joy of life, it eats at your ability to look after yourself, it eats at your ability to function day-to-day, even simple things like cooking a meal being more akin to climbing mount Everest in a wheelchair, blindfolded, with your hands tied behind your back, than anything else.

You want to help someone like me not decide in the darkest, most painful times not to die?

First, don’t try to guilt-trip them with friends and family. It won’t help, I already know all those things. I’ve already considered them. I’ve discounted them. Sometimes the suffering is just too great.

Second, be there. That friend who you’ve not heard from for a while? Phone. Suggest popping over for a cuppa tea. Suggest they come to you. Push a little. Text. Email. IM. Skype. Reach out.

Third, if you know someone is suffering, offer to listen, anytime, anywhere, anyhow, and mean it. Keep your phone on next to you, and pick it up at 3am if they call.

Forth, if someone is really bad, struggling day to day, offer real help. Not “I’m here for you” but “hey, I’m coming over Friday, we’ll watch a film and order pizza”. Or “Hey, I’m bringing over my pasta bake, and leaving it with you, I’ll pick up the dish tomorrow.”. “Hey, need any help with housework? I’m free Saturday to come help if you want?”

Finally, Accept that, even then, sometimes someone like me will be suffering too much, and it’s not about you. It’s not about your pain, that they were suffering too much, and decided enough was enough. They’re in less pain than they were before.

P.S. Vote. Vote for people who give a shit about mental health support (in the UK, NOT THE CONSERVATIVES FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD). Vote for those who care about basic medical support. Consider donating to research.

p.p.s edit; please don’t say anything along the lines of ‘why don’t you just decide to be happy?’. That doesn’t help.

But seriously, be there for your friends and family, especially if they’re being weirdly distant. You may just save a life.

Office music

isolation with headphones

or Togetherness by synchronised streaming?

​

Apps used: 

  • Logitech media server (aka squeezebox) – running on a  Raspberry Pi
  • Squeezer (Android) for remote control, queuing tracks, playlist management and synchronising the players
  • SB player (Android) to play the 

    Ps, it’s way past my bedtime! Insomnia is a pain. Goodnight all. 

    Childhood home

    My mother is selling the house I grew up in 🙁

    A few years ago, my father left the flat I spent a lot of my teens in.

    It’s interesting, even though I moved out from home more than 10 years ago, I still feel a connection to both places. The flat’s probably knocked down by now, and doesn’t even exist, and I’ve spent so little back at mums recently I’m surprised by changes every time I visit.

    I don’t know what’s making me so nostalgic for my youth, looking back into my past? Strange.

    Greebo (cat) looking out into the garden.

    First Night Effect, a ramble from a while ago

    A very small study was recently released, and covered prominently, which says chiefly;

    “Even when you look at young and healthy people without chronic sleep problems, 99 percent of the time they show this first-night effect [sleeping in a new place] —this weird half-awake, half-asleep state,” says Yuka Sasaki from Brown University.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/04/why-we-sleep-badly-on-our-first-night-in-a-new-place/479091/

    Interestingly, I think I’ve experienced this personally. I’ve bounced around a bit, moved, but my primary example was actually a night on which it was not my first sleeping somewhere.

    I’ve had a few house/flatmates over the years, as has any young adult in the UK. Sharing is basically required for all but the richest, thanks to our current housing crisis. In this case, it was a flat in West Ealing, London, quite a nice one really. We had a good landlord, who basically advertised two rooms separately, and arranging meetings to create a flatshare.

    This flatshare was sold to me as a young lady,  let’s call her Shakespeare, visited periodically by her boyfriend, who’ll we’ll call Casper.. We got on OK, in the brief time we knew each other, and for the first 6 months of our lease, everything was fine. Well, mostly fine; Casper was around almost always, and he broke my xbox, but eh. So, I signed another lease with Shakespeare; 12 months this time.

    This was a mistake.

    Casper and I argued, about some weird odd thing. I was going to have someone sleep on the floor for a few days, just coming into the country, and needed somewhere to crash whilst they got on their feet. This apparently was beyond the pail. Suffice to say, words were had, shouting happened, and I no-longer felt safe there.

    The first night was the worst. I basically setup noise traps next to my (lockless) bedroom door, and slept fitfully, waking at the tinyest noise. I was scared of being attacked by Casper, he was bigger and stronger than me. The following days were unpleasant in the extreme. I spent as much time as possible outside the flat, eating at a Wimpys, spending massive quantities of time in the Office, basically hiding from my flatmates. In the end, I decided to forfeit the lease, and left, moving back in with my parents. I ended up continuing to pay for my part of the lease for another 3 months, an action that combined with the commuting now involved to get to work cost me along the lines of £3,000.

    But those few days, before I decided to forfeit, were some of the worst nights I’ve ever had. I can totally believe First Night Sleep is a thing. I just think it may well not be just about your First Night somewhere.

    Epilogue,

    It turned out, that Casper shouldn’t have been staying in the flat with Shakespeare. Landlord was unhappy about that. Also, they got a dog, whom I had been told was gained with Landlord’s tactic approval via a don’t ask, don’t tell basis.

    During the explanation to the (nice) landlord, I might have let slip about the dog. The tactic approval turned out to be a lie, amongst other things, Landlord was Not Happy, especially due to Shakespeare and Casper’s actions after I left. I was actually offered the room again, with a new flatmate. I refused.

    That is also why I eventually moved out of London at the first opportunity. I had a limited-length houseshare in London with a friend, but just couldn’t bring myself to share with someone random again. Work needed people in a new site, so I requested a transfer, somewhere where I could afford (just about) my own place. I’ve been happily away from London (apart from hotels and day visits) ever since.

    I wonder if writing this is interesting to anyone? Also, I do wonder how narcissistic it is for me to publish it publicly. Maybe for another blogpost, another day.

    Link

    Interesting article about how people handle resilience in the New Yorker. Curious to see how research filters into the mainstream. Sounds a little like CBT , though, focusing on how a person perceives and handles thoughts.

    Werner also discovered that resilience could change over time. Some resilient children were especially unlucky: they experienced multiple strong stressors at vulnerable points and their resilience evaporated. Resilience, she explained, is like a constant calculation: Which side of the equation weighs more, the resilience or the stressors? The stressors can become so intense that resilience is overwhelmed. Most people, in short, have a breaking point. On the flip side, some people who weren’t resilient when they were little somehow learned the skills of resilience. They were able to overcome adversity later in life and went on to flourish as much as those who’d been resilient the whole way through. This, of course, raises the question of how resilience might be learned.

    http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/the-secret-formula-for-resilience

    Cloudy Sky

    I lost my faith and it sucks

    What follows is partially a mind-dump of thoughts and feelings relating to this, partially me telling my (religious) family that I’ve lost my faith, and partly needing to say these things somewhere. There’s a lot of “I’s” here. This is me talking about me.

    So, the sharp eyed would have noticed that the word ‘Christian’ has been slowly vanishing from my profiles, across my social media accounts. This was not unintentional.

    I lost my faith.

    I used to have a church, I went to every Sunday, pretty much without fail. I spoke to the pastor there, told him I was struggling, I was loosing my faith, asked for help. Got pretty much unhelpful platitudes in return. Additionally, around this time, a petition was going around the church, against same-sex marriage in the UK. What we really needed was more hate, distrust, and disgust going around. The well-meaning congregation probably didn’t realise it, but that was the undertones I was hearing from them. I stopped going, “what God of Love would accept that?” I slowly, very slowly, drifted back into depression, with fewer tools to aid me.

    I was shouting into the ether, asking for help from God, asking for guidance. Nothing came, nothing helped. My faith was slipping.

    Eventually, the answer to the question in my head “Is there a God?” started returning the answer ‘No’. In my head, that question had been returning ‘Yes’ since 1998. My faith broke. You’d have thought it would’ve been a quick process, but it took many, many months, slowly, painfully, tearing away. I used to think there was a plan. I used to think someone bigger than myself cared. And slowly, over time, those thoughts, beliefs, started being evaluated ‘untrue‘ in my head.

    The process of loosing my faith itself was hard, painful, and very unpleasant. Mixed into this is Guilt. A lot of Guilt. I feel I’m letting my family down, who’re all actively believing practising Christians, mostly Evangelical or Anglican.

    Slowly, my sense of self has been adjusting, my moral compass set free from what the Bible says, what my interpretation of it said, what Pastors, theologians I trusted said. I still have morals, if anything they’ve become stronger, no longer linked to an external force. Mostly, they’re the same as current liberal evangelical Christian base ethics, but stronger against homophobia. I can certainly rant about people being horrible to one another quite a lot, if you care to listen sometime.

    You might’ve worked out the gap, between my profiles changing, my faith breaking, and today, is not insubstantial. Though it was a painful process over months, it was complete back in 2014.

    Why the gap? My family. I didn’t want to tell them. I’m afraid of the reaction, I’m afraid of getting treated differently, badly. It might be a silly fear, but it’s there nonetheless. In fact, I’m wimping out by writing this here and posting it to my social media instead of contacting them. My Mum knows, I told her a while ago, I was tearing myself into bits, I had to confide in someone, but apart from that, not even the Brother I love to bits knew, though I suspect he worked it out a while back. He’s very very intelligent.

    I’m scared. I’m lonely. I’ve great friends, who have been helping. I’ve great work colleagues, one of whom in particular is the most intelligent person I’ve ever met, and though he can be a pain in the neck (he knows it), his advice has helped me greatly. The friends I’ve made in the IndieStone community as well have helped me greatly.

    I’m currently coming out of this bout of depression, the stormclouds are slowly, achingly slowly, being inched away. I can see the sunshine again, more and more; The dark thoughts about suicide in the night haven’t troubled me at all recently. But, I’m still filled with guilt. Guilt over dropping my faith. Guilt over not being the son, cousin, brother, grandson, nephew, my family expects me to be. Guilt at saying “No, a lot of the moral ‘rules’ of the modern Church are stupid, and I reject them entirely.”

    I’m still left with a void. I knew faith, I knew that assurance and belief, and now it’s gone.

    So. That’s why loosing my faith sucks. I had to say it. And I had to vent.

    If you’re my family reading this, I’m sorry, I couldn’t say this in person, I couldn’t say it via text or phone call. I’m too scared. I’m in too much pain right now. Don’t judge me, please.


     

    At this point, I’m fairly certain my faith loss is permanent. There’s a reason I’ve been describing myself as Agnostic/Don’t Know though. I truly don’t know if there is a loving God, I don’t know if any religion is right, if none are. However, whilst I’m coming out of a really dark place, I’m also not really open to conversion attempts, nor anything other than discussions about faith over a drink somewhere warm and comfortable, and the important bit here *in person*. 🙂

    Saying that, I’m filled with love for my family, my friends, and hell, pretty much everyone on this weird, wonderful, strange, horrible, horrific planet.

    R.A.O.K

    An explanation more beautiful than my words could ever be:
    Giving Is The Best Communication – Thai Mobile Ad…: http://youtu.be/JPOVwKPMG8o

    The World full of horrible injustices, life is cruel and unfair. Survival of the fittest is now survival of the richest.

    And the worst thing?
    It feels like you’re just too powerless, poor or insignificant against the size if it.

    Starvation, Cancer, HIV, Natural disasters whatever.

    Well the truth is there is something you can do to change the world.

    And its cheap, and simple and should make someone smile.

    Its called A Random Act Of Kindness or RAOK.

    Just do one small thing to improve the life of a stranger.
    See that a Girl sobbing? Go give her a tissue.
    Give your elderly neighbour a Christmas card or invite him round for a cup of tea.
    Hold the door open for someone.
    Carry a lighter just in case someone asks for a light.
    Give out free hugs (I did this once. It was hugely fun. I made sure I got all the people with the saddest expressions 😉 ).

    Have a think. Be good to people, even if you don’t know them.

    Simple
    Leave a note that says ‘pass it on’

    Now you may never know the difference that a small random act of kindness makes to that stranger. But this is not about fame or fortune, its about changing the world one small random act of kindness at a time.

    My hot tip? Why just one RAOK?

    Share the love.

    And Dear stranger,
    If you find this, pass it on, and have a brilliant week!
    Sincerely,
    Anon
    (I know my name is on here, but who I am doesn’t matter. Thank me by doing a RAOK and asking them to pass it on 😉 )

    Android budgeting apps

    So I’m trying to find a decent android application to help me budget and figure out where my cash goes.

    Requirements / what I want it to do:
    Receipt scanner / photo of item bought
    At least the ability to enter in the total for each receipt
    Ability to OCR the scanned receipt to scrape information (again, at least the bill)
    Ability to tag / categorise spends

    So far I have Money Owl:

    image

    And also wave receipts
    image

    wave has the ability to scan and OCR read the totals from receipts . it does this via the cloud, so it does require a data connection. At present it is FREE for personal use.

    Id definitely recommend this app. Most 21st century way of capturing where your money is going. Just what I was looking for!

    Apparently, google drive has the ability to ‘scan’ receipts. I have to try this one out!

    My life, part 2, 1995-1999

    This is the second part of my autobiography write-up. If you’ve not read this before, start here.

    For James, mainly, I’ve put way more emotional information in here, and stuff about how the divorce affected me, and continues to affect me, than I planned. So, if you’re a potential (or current) employer reading this, know I’ve gotten past all of this, and I’m working really hard to heal the scars my childhood left me. This isn’t really for you, it’s for him.

    Dad reminded me of something that happened during the divorce. We were playing in the garden with some of my cousins, in fact on this climbing frame dad had got us:

    A couple of my cousins. The one on the far right is the one in the story that follows.

    A couple of my cousins. The one on the far right is the one in the story that follows.

    Let’s call her Terri. We were all playing on the frame, and she was hanging like a monkey, from the very top. However, she got stuck, couldn’t find a purchase, or climb off, and her hand was slipping. I got to the top, and grabbed onto her hand, hard, wouldn’t let it slip, and shouted for the others to go get help. Help came, no-one was hurt, although I might have hurt her hand not letting it slip!

    Terri went on to become an *awesome* climber, and is in fact still the strongest climber of the lot of us, so no harm done.

    baby, children, and dogs

    Baby me, with Nanny’s dogs, and some related family on Dad’s side.

    Moving on! Mum and Dad both changed churches (we’re a christian family), related to the divorce. Mum eventually remarried. Dad’s church had a ‘covie camp’, basically a load of us went off with loads of other kids, and we did fun stuff, like go to a Gladiators TV filming, swimming pools and other really awesome things. It was a christian camp, so every night there’d be a sermon and other things going on. As we didn’t have much money at all, neither mum nor dad, church members paid for us to go, something I’ll always be grateful for.

    I guess, if we go offtopic for a second, this is may be an affect of divorce some people don’t realise. Both mum and dad were spending most of their resources trying to bring us up, and give us a good place to stay whilst we were staying with each other. Divorce splits assets, and everyone has to spend more.

    Throughout this period, mum leaned on me more than she should have, and I had a constant want for my parents to get back together. I knew, in my head, that it was impossible, but in my heart I just wanted it like it was before. Looking back, what I really wanted was what I had thought of as a safe place, a safe and stable time before everything changed. I also had a constant want to help my dad, I knew he was unhappy, and wanted to help, but couldn’t do anything. Also, I felt responsible for Garreth, my little brother, though we fought and argued just like most young children. This responsibility would imprint on me, to the point that to an extent I still feel responsible for him, and try to look out for him, when he’s with me.

    Left to right, Garreth, Mum, myself, and a baby B (cousin). Oh, and you can also see my Uncle C's arm on the left.

    Left to right, Garreth, Mum, myself, and a baby B (cousin). Oh, and you can also see my Uncle C’s arm on the left.

    During this period, I had real trouble handling my emotions, loosing control of them now and again. I was basically bottling everything up inside me, till it exploded. The explosions would be anger, and would blow up physically; it would be rare that I wouldn’t damage something or hurt somebody. After an explosion I’d be wracked with intense and overwhelming guilt and sadness.

    During one of these instances, in Junior school, I remember I got into a fight with someone in the playground, and hurt them. I was called into the head-teachers office, and she basically said that there were other kids who were in worse suituations, I should just deal with it. Looking back, I’m just a little angry at that, all it did was make me internalise it all, and try to bottle it more. Just what I needed.

    These spates continued till I was about 13, I eventually hurt a kid quite badly at school, to the point he was hospitalised and had a few stiches, as I’d trapped his thumb in a door. The secondary school of course reacted, but not how you’d think. I was put on a grade of emotional monitoring, having to meet with my tutor and set goals. The teachers also kept an eye on me to an extent. At that point I basically remapped the ‘fight’ explosion instinct to a ‘flight’ instinct, something that would stick with me, to the point if I have a anxiety attack for any reason now, or get into any sort of conflict suituation, I’ll run.

    One last thing that was left in me during this period, was the following:

    argument == conflict == threat == RUN (== being Equal To)

    The covie camps we went to as kids were really fun, and eventually would go on to have a *massive* impact in my life, again changing me. But, I’ll talk about that in the next part: To Be Continued.