Saturday, 22 October 2011

Cotton Wool Head

Tough one.  Haven’t written for a little while, so don’t know how this is going to turn out.  Plus, I’m feeling as if I’m permanently fighting off a cold, so here goes – more whingeing.

As some of you may know I was meeting with a psychologist a little while back.  It was supposed to be a weekly thing, but it was very seldom that I could bring myself to make two weeks in a row.  I’m not sure why, although this crushing sense of inaction and ennui could have something to do with it.  He was a very nice man (shades of Harry Enfield’s two old ladies there) who proceeded to put me in touch with various agencies to help me get better, which I thought was great.  As much as anything, in these times where anyone daring to be ill and claim off the state is vilified by the big business-owned tabloids, and whose words are echoed by the general public (or at least, those with rocks in their heads), it was wonderfully uplifting to hear words of encouragement.  It helped lots, too, that I felt that I was being taken seriously for a change.  Depression is not like a broken arm; when your arm is in a sling everyone can see that something is up.  They can also work out what it is.  When your happiness and well-being is broken then there is a general feeling among – well… pretty much everyone outside of a surgery, as far as I can work out – that, as they cannot see what is wrong then nothing is wrong.  Want to see a magic trick?  Tell most people that the reason you’re not working is due to depression and watch their compassion vanish on the spot.  Sooner or later – and, believe you me, this hurts much harder when they call themselves your friends – they will judge/bully you about it.  It’s as if Sigmund Freud had never been born.  Anyway, to get back to the point, I was referred to two agencies by him; one was a fitness, gym-based thing and the other was a CBT course.  For those of you who don’t know (and indeed, why should you?) CBT is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  From what I can gather, the idea is not to hit the depression head-on, but to treat the “symptoms”, as it were.  For instance, if I were to sit indoors in the dark watching Jeremy Kyle’s chav-baiting for hours on end whilst eating an industrial-size bag of Wotsits, the CBT team would look at this then ask me if I feel it’s bringing me down.  The thinking behind it is that I will look at my behaviour, say “Gosh, yes, it’s dragging me down very quickly indeed” and open the curtains, turn off the telly and go for a brisk walk around the park, stopping at the organic health food boutique on the way.  Repeat this often enough and the activity, the generation of endorphins and (presumably) some loss of weight from all that veg will make one feel marvellous enough to cease claiming Incapacity Benefit and jog to the Job Centre Plus and sign on to enthusiastically look for jobs that aren’t there.  I digress, and I’m being too cruel.  The staff themselves are caring individuals who are doing their best to help to cure, or at least alleviate, a crippling, debilitating condition that can reach into your life and twist it inside-out.  It would just make me feel more cheerful if there were a buoyant labour market in this country instead of the ‘let’s make stuff in China’ syndrome that our ‘business’ men and women currently have, leaving a small trail of Mcjobs in their trail, like the crumbs that they are.

The other key to wellness and freedom is the gym.  Guess what?  I haven’t been!  There’s a surprise.  Strangely enough, I was looking forward to it, but there was a bit of a snag; the first one coincided with my lovely fiancée having a hospital appointment.  She’s had some incredibly unfortunate incidents with hospitals before, so she likes me to come along for moral support.  The first gym appointment was on this day, along with my first CBT that evening.  There was also the fact that the gym cost £3.40 to attend (not a princely sum, I grant you, but I didn’t have it at the time) and I had to pay fares to get from one end of Wandsworth borough to the other, as the other rendezvous(es?) were in very different directions.  There was also the water on my feet issue.  This can be indicative of many things.  It is linked to being overweight, inactivity, too much salt in the diet, anti-depressant and blood-pressure medication.  Guess which box I tick?  Full marks to you if you said ‘all of them’.  My feet swell up, my boots don’t fit properly and walking anywhere – even to the local shop, normally four minutes’ stroll away – becomes agony as my feet, my hips and my back all join in the complaining.  Still, having said that, I’ve realised that if I start a journey by walking very, very slowly then I can normally get from A to B on foot – or as far as the bus stop, at least.  I actually managed two miles in one go on Wednesday, which I didn’t think was too shabby.

Ah, well.  All good things must come to an end – and so must this blog.  It’s all a work in progress, as you can see – my condition as well as the writing.  I want at least some of this to work, as I’m going through what is quite a low patch even for me.  What did Douglas Adams call it – “the long dark teatime of the soul”?  Well, teatime’s gone on for over a fortnight here.  Still, the very fact that I haven’t got my ‘cotton wool head’ today is something.  For those who don’t understand ‘cotton wool head’ is when my head feels as if it is full up with the aforementioned substance, and not a bizarre sexual practice.

I leave you all feeling a little more alert than I have been for a while.  Thank you for putting aside your precious time to read this, and I hope that you feel the need to pop out and enjoy the sunshine that is currently beaming down over the UK.  Blessed be.

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