Category Archives: Depression

Compassion therapy in action – an Eggs Benedict Cumberbatch meditation 

I feel sorry for people called Benedict because, when someone offers them eggs – followed by their moniker – they may not know if they’re being offered the specific dish or a more generic yolk/albumen-based delicacy. 

‘Eggs, Benedict?’

‘Eggs Benedict?’

One way to avoid confusion would be to repeat the word Benedict – if the person is offering the specific dish. 

‘Eggs Benedict, Benedict?’

Anyway. 

This is part of my compassion therapy. 

It’s as far as I can take compassion for now. 

It’s a start isn’t it? 

Only I don’t actually know anyone called Benedict. 

Except Benedict Cumberbatch – whose full name has a smaller than expected six syllables! 

And I’ve never actually eaten Eggs Benedict.

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Why February is the best month

As part of my therapy, I have to do a ‘glass half full’ exercise.

So here are eight reasons why February is my favourite month – despite it officially being the worst month of the year. 

1. You’ve given up on all your New Year’s Resolutions by now. So you can drink, smoke, take drugs, eat fatty foods, swear, get into fights, sit around doing no exercise, etc without feeling like a complete failure. 

2. The weather is quite shit so there’s a chance of getting off work or school without lying. 

3. You can be really pissed off and you’re allowed to blame it on the month – and no-one criticises you for being a maungy* twat.

4. It has a silent ‘r’ that some people pronounce, allowing you to silently despise them. 

5. Lots of people die in February so you can get free food and drink at wakes. 

6. You can wear long johns without being called a freak. 

7. Jehovah’s Witnesses get really cold – either door to door or at their city centre stalls. 

8. If you find yourself saying: ‘I can’t wait until this month is over’, it will be soon because it’s so short – like this excuse for a blog post. 

* West Yorkshire dialect for bad-tempered, sulky, generally jacked off with life, feeling like a right skank, etc. 

Write your own epitaph – and don’t be so grave 

There’s a psychological technique that gets you to write your own epitaph. 

The idea is that you think about what’s written on your gravestone – to encourage you to think about the person you’d like to be.

Then when you realise the massive distance between who you are now and the person described on the gravestone, you’re supposed to make huge changes in your life. 

Like stopping being an arsehole, devoting your life to discovering a new cheese or finally getting divorced. 
A Californian life coach would say this technique may help you ‘to live your best life’. Writing that phrase just literally made me gag. 

Another problem with the epitaph technique is that my family don’t do gravestones.

We’ve always been burnt. Sometimes at the stake. Other times at the crem. 

But we’ve always suffered from insufficient funds for a gravestone when we snuff it.

Still let’s not give up just yet. 

Here’s some inspiration:

‘I told you I was ill’ on Spike Milligan’a grave is really good. 

I also like these three:

Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) in St. Paul’s Cathedral:
‘Si monumentum requiris circumspice.’
‘If you require a monument, look around.’

Mrs Aphra Behn (1640-89):
‘Here lies a proof that wit can never be, defence enough against mortality.’

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967):
‘Excuse my dust.’

Actually this exercise has really got me thinking. So here goes with some I’ve just thought up:

‘He spent his life either nervous, angry or off his tits on hardcore painkillers and/or benzodiazepines.’

‘His haircuts never really suited him.’

‘Didn’t work out as well as we hoped – but not as badly as we feared. B+?-‘

‘He tried. He failed. He conked out.’

‘A transvestite until the age of four. Then things went downhill.’

‘Cats will miss him. (Actually, no they won’t.)’

‘Feared by no-one. Loved by a few. Ignored by many.’

‘He gave up the drink. He gave up the fags. And now he’s given up the ghost.’

Why not have a go at writing your own epitaph? 

If nothing else, you can marvel at your own mediocrity. 

7 ways to survive Trump and May’s transatlantic disaster

There’s no doubt that the UK and the US have entered a new era of arrogant stupidity. 

Of course we’ve been here before. Our countries have been responsible for genocide and imperialism on a truly horrific scale. We’ve invaded countries, killed native peoples at will, destroyed cultures, enslaved populations. You name a crime against humanity  our countries are guilty of it. 

And yet we still have this idea that we safeguard basic human rights and dignity.

We can’t even make sure all our own citizens have a roof over their heads, we can’t even treat our all citizens with dignity when they’re ill and we can’t even make our trains run on time.

But these are other stories. 

Here’s your guide to surviving the next few years – until this brand of moronic conservatism blows itself out, hopefully not taking the rest of humankind with it. Choose the ones that make sense for you. 

1. If you don’t have one already, get a cat and/or a dog. They don’t give a shit about politics. And they let you stroke them. They also have nicer breath than either Trump or May. 

2. Don’t start writing angry tweets about politics – you’ll just get angrier and angrier until your head explodes. And if that happens you won’t have survived the Trump-May years when they thankfully come to an end.

3. Do lots of small acts of kindness – both to yourself and to others. This could include masturbating when you would normally be cleaning the oven, or checking if old Mrs Smith at number 15 needs any shopping. Note: don’t get these mixed up and offer to get the shopping for your oven or …

4. Learn some relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, smoking vast quantities of weed and taking benzodiazepines regularly. 

5. Take up a new hobby like gardening (so you can grow your own weed), chemistry (so you can create your own synthetic drugs) or tightrope walking (as a metaphor for your mental health).

6. Get addicted to heroin and/or crack so you spend less time worrying about the future of the world, homelessness, public health catastrophes, etc – and more energy wondering where your next hit is coming from. 

7. Inherit lots of money. Give most of it away to people who are much worse off than you are. And spend the rest emigrating to somewhere more sane, like Canada or Iceland. 

Good luck!

10 new year’s resolutions for an anxious depressive

Here are 10 new year’s resolutions I think I can keep – these are mainly reminders not to be a dick. 

Feel free to borrow any or all of them – not that I’m calling any of you potential dicks. 

I’ll stop digging and start the list. 

1. Keep not drinking alcohol. 

2. Keep not smoking cigarettes.

3. Keep swearing profusely – swearing is big and clever. Sweating less so – despite autocorrect. 

4. Keep walking at least six miles a day. This aids sanity.

5. Keep meditating every day. This also aids sanity and makes me seem wise. 

6. Don’t lose hope. The world will always contain bell ends. It’s a matter of not letting them piss all over you.

7. Keep not reading the news. It really is designed to make everyone anxious.

8. Keep taking the tablets. 

9. Keep being as nice as I can be to other people – being generous and kind really is good for everyone. 

10. Don’t eat snow – it contains more pollution than expected. 

Happy new year!

Improving your mental health one good memory at a time

2016 could have been better in so many ways. 

You’ll have your own personal, emotional, musical, political and environmental low points. 

Which reminds me of the Tim Vine pun: ‘Crime in multi-storey car parks is wrong on so many different levels.’

Anyway, there’s little point bitching now the year’s nearly over and the lunatics really are taking over the asylum. 

We’ve all made mistakes this year. My major howlers included having seconds of rhubarb crumble one dinner time in March when I was already pretty full. To make matters worse, all the custard had gone, so it ended up being a bit on the dry side despite the rhubarb juice and – to me at least – rhubarb without custard is like a fart without the smell: weird and slightly creepy. 

Bad simile. Second major mistake of the year. 

But no matter how angry, despairing and sad 2016 has made you, it’s good to remember things could get worse in 2017. They really could! 

But let’s park that, as chauffeurs often say. 

And instead of thinking about how shit 2016 has been or how much shitter 2017 could be, we could try a psychological trick that encourages you to concentrate on the good stuff that has happened to you. 

There is some evidence that by directing your thoughts to the happy, uplifting, bright part of the spectrum of your experience and away from the dark, dispiriting, draining part, you can make a positive impact on your mood. 

Get into the habit of doing this and you could make a permanent change to your default level of mental health. 

To start with, it’s harder than you think – especially if you have a tendency to think the world is populated by morons, that we’re all doomed and what’s the fucking point anyway. But it is possible to improve your default.

One technique is to imagine you’re the absolute opposite of the Daily Mail’s editor. Hopefully, this doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination. If it does, you may need professional help for anger issues, paranoia and cuntishness.

Now the next thing to do is to think of some good things that have happened to you or that you saw or heard or read about. 

Write them down if you can be arsed or just think about each memory for as long as you can. What were the colours like, the smells, how did you feel during the experience?

Do this lots and see if your mood improves – surely it can’t do any harm. Unless you start daydreaming while you’re chopping a turnip or flying a light aircraft.

To get you started, here are some things I liked this year and which I think about to make me happier than I otherwise would be. 

Growing a moustache – and people’s kindness, sponsoring the poor little ginger bastard. Also killing the little ginger bastard at the end of Movember was like taking off a pair of shoes that are a size too small after wearing them for 31 days. 

Giving blood – each time I felt a bit more connected to my fellow humans. A really good part of giving blood (as well as the salty and sweet snack selection after you’ve donated) is the text you receive a few days later telling you the hospital where your blood has been used.

Discovering Belgian chocolate options drink – at only 40 calories a cup it is a true taste sensation. I received no remuneration for this blatant plug. However if anyone from Options is reading this, I am open to receiving free samples in return for apparently natural mentions of the product in my writing. 

Voting – I absolutely love voting. I feel like crying my eyes out whenever I go to a polling station,  thinking about the sacrifices people have made on the long march to universal suffrage. And recently I’ve felt like crying my eyes out when the results have come in. But that’s going off-subject. 

Seeing three deer in a frosty field this very morning – totally unexpectedly. You can’t go wrong with deer in my view. 

Seeing any videos of any baby pandas. 

A squirrel starting to climb my leg presumably thinking it was a tree (I was wearing brown geography teacher cords) before realising its mistake and jumping off just after it had reached my knee. 

Throwing a scrumpled-up piece of paper at a bin that was quite far away – and getting it in first time. 

Eating a particularly good fried egg when I was particularly hungry. 

I could go on. They all bring a smile to my face. 

Write your own positive 2016, think about things that have gone right, then remember some more. 

Let’s see if we can look back on this year as not being that shite after all! 

Seven tips to improve your mental health that don’t involve mindfulness 

Here are some of the things I do to improve my mental health. My mentalness waxes and wanes – but not in time to the moon. So it’s not predictable and can take a dive at any point – a bit like … [fill in the name of a centre forward who plays for a football team you don’t like.]

If you’re living with things like depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress, I hope my experience may help you or someone you know. 
Having said that, if you’re feeling utterly crap right now, you possibly can’t even be arsed reading this. 

But if a part of you can be bothered, maybe there’s something in here that may help a bit. And if it helps you, it’ll help me (see ‘Giving is better than receiving’ below).

Of course, you have to take some of this with a pinch or even cellar full of salt – it would really help to have a ‘control’ me so we could test these things in a more scientific way. But I’m told having one me is quite enough. 

So here’s the advice. 

Take a walk on the wild side – or at least to the end of the cul-de-sac and back

I’m fairly sure there’s a direct relationship between the number of miles I walk and my mental health. This means I have a massive incentive to get off my arse and walk. 

Granted, I take this to extremes by regularly walking 26 miles in the Yorkshire Dales. But I take everything to extremes. 

Including making generalisations. 

But even a half-hour walk round the block or a park can have big benefits for the mind. Change of scene. Fresh air. Seeing some nature. Stretching your legs. Releasing some positive hormones. 

Only watch out for dog shit – walking in dog shit is guaranteed to adversely affect your mood. 

Make yourself smile or laugh 

I can guarantee that five minutes of Les Dawson videos will improve my mood – often from utterly shite to fairly shite. But I’ll take fairly shite any day if the alternative is utterly shite. 

I asked the doctor if he had something for persistent wind. 

He gave me a kite. 

I’m pretty sure you have things that make you laugh. Even if it’s just a pair of wind-up chattering false teeth or Michael Macintyre – whatever your secret comedy shame, have it ready in reserve and make sure you use it when you need it most – when you’re in the mental gutter. 

When I was a child, I had wax in my ears. 

Dad didn’t take me to the doctor, he used me as a night light.

Lol. 

Accept how you’re feeling

There are good reasons for the way you’re feeling. And it doesn’t help if you think it’s something to be ashamed of, or that it’s somehow not acceptable to feel this way. 

Realising this and not blaming, or getting cross with, yourself can reduce the suffering.

If this sounds a bit like mindfulness, it’s not meant to. All I’m saying is you don’t have to be horrible to yourself. There are plenty of bastards out there without you joining them. Just try to be nice to yourself – even if that only means treating yourself to a KitKat. 

Reduce the amount of news you consume 

People who work in ‘the news’ will tell you they always try to create an emotional reaction with every story. Otherwise they risk losing their audience. The news is designed to create emotional responses like horror, shock and disgust to keep you glued – and anxiety, depression and anger can easily result. 

The next American president and the Brexit bastards produce all these reactions in me. They also produce feelings of powerlessness against their post-truth bollocks and smug white power bigotry. 

So – despite an academic background in history and politics and a professional background in journalism – I’m having a sabbatical from the news. 

And it’s such a relief. Reading and listening to brilliant books and music instead of dystopian drivel is a massive bonus. 

Giving is better than receiving 

There’s a book called 59 Seconds by a psychologist – Professor Richard Wiseman (a nice bit of nominative determinism) – which provides quick techniques to improve your life. 

One of these shows that being nice to other people makes you feel better – and if you do a lot of nice things in a short space of time, you feel better than just doing the odd nice thing. 

During one lunchtime as I walked through town, I opened a door for someone going into M&S, feigned fear at a little lad in a scary costume, gave a beggar a couple of pounds, smiled at an old lady and bought someone a Christmas present. 

As I said before, there’s no control me to test this sort of thing. But I felt pretty good after this amazing run of niceness. 

Note to self: Carry on trying to be nice even when other people are being annoying scrota. 

The professionals 

I’ve had mixed experience when it comes to professional help. 

A shrink once fell asleep while I was baring my soul to him. 

A self-obsessed psychoanalyst re-trained as a clown almost immediately after he’d ‘treated’ me. At least 75% of our sessions were about his issues – mainly about wanting to be a clown, not having a sex life and how much it would cost to retrain as a clown. 

Meanwhile, a psychotherapist repeated the phrase: ‘So … how’ve you been?’ at the start of all 14 of our sessions together. It started grating at session three. 

Strangely, though, I think the EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) this last professional did on me had a positive effect. 

Of course, the placebo effect is really powerful. So just by doing something kind for yourself may have a significantly positive effect. (See KitKat technique above.)

I don’t know if the acupuncture (during which the man said I had two hearts), the emotional freedom technique (tapping ‘end points of the energy meridians’ while reciting mantras) or the many weird self help books I’ve read have been a waste of time and money. 

I suspect I would have been better advised going out for a posh meal or getting a nice pair of shoes. In fact, the amount I’ve spent on this shite would have paid for several meals and pairs of shoes and trousers. And possibly a couple of nights in a decent hotel. And a coat and a car. And a horse. 

Medication 

This can help in some cases. I’ve found it’s best to get the NHS to look after this side of things rather than the off licence or the pub. 

I also think their customers’ mental health is probably not the chief concern of drug dealers.

So if you’re feeling like shit and nothing is shifting the turds swimming round your brain, I suggest getting to your GP asap – and start being nice to yourself. You don’t have to suffer on your tod. 

And remember there are loads of things you can do to help improve your mental health. 

I’m off for a walk now. Ta ta.
More of my stuff about happiness