Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So long, and thanks for all the fish

It has been a while since I started this blog. My first post was on June 26th last year, and I originally imagined that it would be a series of book reports written as I tried to mine a little happiness from each book that I ready. It started out like that, but quickly became a place for me to let out a bit more of myself, as much as I felt comfortable in posting.

It helped. Writing a weekly blog helped me to focus a little, gave me an outlet for my writing, and enabled me to vent. It let me feel that people were hearing me, and it also let me contact a lot of other bloggers going through similar issues. In no particular order, I enjoyed reading the blogs of and interacting with, in no particular order, CID, Susan, Jen, 4-Lorn, Lil, Stephi, Nick, In The Pink, Snowbrush, Up The Mountain, Anonymous, Wendy, and many others who have dropped by my blog over the months to post, or simply to read. It has been nice knowing that people were out there, people going through comparable experiences, or at least prepared to lend an ear or a shoulder to someone going through a rough time.

When I was first starting this blog I read a number of different blogs about depression, and I was frustrated by the way many of them seemed to only last for a post or two, or gradually trail off, or change topics to something less focused on depression or mental illness. I was in the grips of one of my worst bouts of depression, and I wanted to read about others who were in that state also.

But in the last few months I have come to understand why that happens with so many blogs. There is only so much to say. There is only so much it is beneficial to go over. And there is only so much that is safe to say online. As Stephi noted before, the internet can be a wolf in sheep's clothing, and it can be easy to let too much out.

But aside from the internet and related issues, the more I think about this blog and its focus of fighting depression, the less productive it seems to me at this point. The focus on fighting depression seems to me now like a man drowning in quicksand focusing on thrashing around and hitting the sand that traps him. It doesn't help him get out, and can drag him in deeper. Instead, it is better to focus on whatever lifeline is available. Dealing with depression is a part of my life, and I suspect that it always will be. But it can't be the focus of my life. That seems counter-productive, and my heart isn't in this blog anymore.

So I think I've said all I have to say on this blog. Thanks again to all of you who have spent time reading it, and my best wishes to you all. I think I'll close with a couple of words from Henry Rollins that have helped me.

Give your self a break from self-rejection,
Try some introspection,
And you just might find,
Its not so bad and anyway,
At the end of the day, all you have is yourself and your mind.
--Henry Rollins, Low Self Opinion

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Japan by Night

In my last post I was complaining about trouble getting to sleep. I am still having that trouble, but I am learning to manage it. A few weeks ago I was going to bed a bit after midnight and then tossing and turning, turning the light on, reading for a while, trying to sleep, failing, reading again.. then finally getting to sleep around 2 or 3 after hours of frustration. Once I am asleep I am okay, but getting to sleep is tough.

In the last few days I've been changing things up a little. It is August, which means that here in Japan it is very hot. This may have something to do with my sleeping problems, but I don't recall having this problem in previous years. In any case, it also means that the heat is pretty oppressive during the day and it feels a little like the sunlight is punching you, especially if you've decided to go running around in the midday sun, as I have been doing for the last few weeks. It means I do sweat a lot, which is good, but running is a struggle.

Anyway, in the last few days I've decided that it might be good to kill two birds with one stone, and started night running. It is not that much cooler than during the day, but the lack of glaring sunlight does help. In addition, there are not too many people about, and a lot less traffic on the roads. The feeling is a little bit different too, and while there are always some other joggers and random pedestrians running around, the city feels very different at night, particularly on weekend nights.

Japan is famous for being a safe place, and I've never felt in danger running around at night. The public toilets nearby are open and lit. Back home I would steer clear of them at night, but I have no hesitation about using them here. Last night I went out and ran for around 90 minutes by myself in a hilly area I hadn't been to before, which was nice. To some the near-empty streets might seem lonely, and they probably would to me if I were walking. But while running they feel okay, much more manageable that the crowded, yet incredibly isolating place that the streets of Japan usually are for me.

Then after the run I get home, eat something, shower and relax. I'm watching the first season of The Tudors and an hour of the machinations of Henry VIII and his courtiers is about enough to let the tiredness from the run and the day that has passed seep into my bones, and by the time the episode finishes I am almost tired enough to sleep.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A quiet evening

Sunday evening has rolled around again. It is almost midnight as I write this. Today has been humid and rainy, and the city is quiet, the usual calm before the week starts again tomorrow morning. I went for a short run earlier, and while it was a bit painful it was good to get out there and do it.

I've run three times in the last week, short runs. Constantly having aches and pains related to running is an irritation, but it is better than the alternative, that being the state I find myself in if I don't run. Exercise is one of those things where you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

Over the last month I have been having a lot of trouble getting to sleep. I don't feel especially bad at night, but my body simply does not want to turn in for the night. It may be partly the warmer weather, and partly doing a bit less exercise than I was before. But it feels like more than that somehow. I hope that it passes quickly - I am getting tired of feeling fatigued during the day due to lack of sleep, then being unable to sleep properly at night despite being tired. Sleep is a simple thing, but it makes a huge difference.

I've been using some of my extra, unwanted waking time to read Game of Thrones, the first novel in George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. It is the first fantasy novel I have read in years, and it is very enjoyable. I really liked the first season of HBO's show based on Martin's story, and as I work my way through the book I find that the show is very faithful to the book. The people at HBO did a great job of realizing the world that Martin created in his book. Byzantine political machinations, a world with a history, a place similar enough to the history of our own world to be familiar, but different enough to be fascinating on its own terms.

As I work my way through the book, I find myself with a problem that faces all of us who find ourselves confronted with a good book or show - making it last. Some people sit down and read a book from cover to cover, or have a DVD marathon and watch all of a great series in one go. I always remember the case of an old university friend who, even after I warned him to ration it, insisted on going off and watching all of Band of Brothers in a single sitting. Unsurprisingly, he was pretty shell-shocked after that.

But for the most part, it isn't fear of bad effects that causes me to ration the good stories. It is wanting to extend the moment, to be able to spend longer in the various fantasy worlds, whether that is the Winterfell of Game of Thrones, the 1960s Madison Avenue of Mad Men, or the Baltimore corners of The Wire. Perhaps this is sad, that I need to depend on my time in fantasy-land to keep myself going. But sad or not, it is a necessity, and I'll keep rationing out the chapters as long as I can.

It is after midnight now, so i think I will turn in, read a final chapter, and then try to sleep. Hopefully this evenings short run will have convinced my body that it is time to sleep.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Night / Zombies

Well, Monday morning, to be precise. But I thought I should probably try to get back into my habit of Sunday night posting. This week has been a long one, filled with confusion, weariness, and not enough sleep. But I got through it, and am ready to face the next one.

I haven't really exercised in the last week, after pushing myself a bit too much in previous weeks. Apart from the walking involved in my daily life I haven't really done anything, no riding or running. My legs feel a bit better, but I don't think it has been very good for my state of mind. If it isn't one part of my body letting me down it is another!

Anyway, aside from that I did manage to get a lot of things done this week. I'm still struggling with duller wits than usual, plus a memory that seems increasingly unreliable. So I've been using lists to try and get things done, and I've managed to knock off a few things that I've been procrastinating about for months. There are still more things to be done, always more things. But it is nice to have gotten a few things out of the way.

I also wandered down to the bookshop and poked around. I went looking for the Game of Thrones books by RR Martin, which I found, but instead I was diverted by the site of The New Dead, a zombie anthology featuring a story by Max Brooks of World War Z fame. I've just finished reading it, and while it had some good stories in it, it was definitely a mixed bag. Max Brooks' story "Closure, Limited" was actually not so great. "Lazarus" by John Connolly featuring as the first zombie didn't really work for me, and "What Maisie Knew" by David Liss, the story about sex with zombies was a bit much for me. I suppose I am a bit churlish being grossed out by a book about zombies, but still..

That said, there were some good entries. "The Wind Cries Mary" by Brian Keene was a very short but surprisingly touching lament for lost love, and "Twittering from the Circus of the Dead" by Joe Hill, written entirely in tweets, worked surprisingly well. "Shooting Pool" by Joe R Lansdale was noteworthy for not having any zombies of any kind in it. Probably the best story in the book was "Family Business" by Jonathan Maberry, a story of a bratty teenager living in a post-apocalyptic town, job-hunting while resenting his older brother the zombie slayer. It is the longest story in the collection, and probably the most enjoyable.

On other zombie-related topics, the movie of Brooks' WWZ is apparently filming now, and is due to be released next year. Brad Pitt is involved, and while his movies are definitely hit and miss for me, here's hoping he'll do another bang-up job like Fight Club or Snatch. The source material is great, and it sounds like the studio is throwing lots of money at it, so here's hoping it works out.

Finally, there is a teaser trailer out for season two of AMC's The Walking Dead. It looks like the second season will be just as awesome as the first one. There is a longer, five minute trailer out too, but I haven't watched it. I don't want to spoil any of the story for myself. I'm really looking forward to that, and can't wait to see what Rick Grimes and his motley group of survivors get up to in the next season.

Well, that's about all for now. Time to turn in and get rested up ready for another week. My best wishes to all of you out there.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hitting a wall

I've been feeling low recently. I feel like I'm in a fog. My memory feels worse than usual, and I have a bunch of things I want to do, but I can't seem to motivate myself to get things done. On a deeper level, there are things I know I need to do to try and deal with the root causes of why I have been slipping back and forth into states of depression, but I don't seem to have the guts to do them. And in addition to that, I am taking a break from running due to pushing myself too much over the last few weeks.

I haven't even been keeping up with blogging as much as I did before, in the past I put up a post as regular as clockwork every Sunday night, but the last month or so I haven't been so regular, nor so motivated to write anything.

Part of the reason is that unlike most bloggers, and perhaps missing the point of blogging, I don't want to put up much detail about myself. I never post about my family, my work, people I know or the specifics of my life. Nor do I really go into the details of my treatment, or many of the root causes of what has led me to this state. And as much as I'd like to be able to discuss these things with others who have similar experiences, I am wary about putting things online for anyone to read, knowing that it could come back to bite me later.

I seem to have hit a wall with the blog. I have things to write about, but don't feel comfortable in putting them out for the world to see. I've also hit a wall in my real life too, where I am starting to see what I need to do to maybe feel better, but I'm stuck. I feel like I need someone to help me reach the next level, but there is no one to do so. So I am stuck. It is a very bad feeling, and I know if I can't break through somehow things will continue to deteriorate.

Something's got to give, something's got to change. But I can't see how to do it by myself, and there doesn't seem to be anyone who is really willing and able to lend the helping hand that I need. So I'm stuck, writhing in frustration, unable to break free of this deep funk I am stuck in.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Graveyard Post

I was introduced to Neil Gaiman by a university friend back in the 90s, and really enjoyed his Sandman series of graphic novels. While most of the details of the plot have slipped from my mind, the feeling of being transported away to a world of magic, wonder, and adventure has stayed with me.

I hadn't read anything by Gaiman for a few years, but the other day I came across a copy of his children's novel The Graveyard Book in the local library, and thought it was about time to pay a visit to one of Gaiman's intricately crafted worlds. I am glad that I did.

It tells the story of Nobody Owens, a young boy who finds himself in a cemetery being raised by a community of ghosts, who all have something to teach him. It was a good read, written in classic Gaiman style. Much of what Gaiman writes follows a similar pattern, he uses elements of magic and the supernatural, a main character thrust into a world they do not really understand, plus a large amount of historical real-world research to give realism. It is a good mix, and even though the book is quite similar in general ways to Neverwhere and American Gods, it is such a pleasure to spend time in Gaiman's worlds that I don't really mind.

While some people find graveyards creepy, I grew up right next to one, and could look out the front window to see the rows upon rows of graves. Unlike the graveyard in Gaiman's book, which is no longer being used for new burials, the one across from my childhood home was, and is, still growing, so as the years passed gradually the number of graves grew. I didn't really think much about it at the time, but it was a good reminder that death is always on the march.

From time to time I've wandered among graveyards elsewhere, in Australia and in Japan. Gaiman made a good choice setting his story in an old graveyard, as they always seem to have more character. I remember wandering among a hilltop cemetery in an abandoned mining town, and visiting the grave of some of the first members of my family to come to Australia in the mid-19th century.

I've visited the Yokohama foreigner's cemetery too, which holds the remains of people from all over the world, who came to these shores and never left. After just finishing The Graveyard Book, I can't help but wonder what type of community might exist among the ghosts of those people, visitors, teachers, sailors, prisoners of war, and others who found themselves interred on that quiet hill in Yokohama. I can imagine the mixture of languages and views, those who came to love the land they made their home, and those who were bought here as slaves and never found their way home again.

I've been to Japanese cemeteries too. Cemeteries are almost always quiet, peaceful places, and I don't think that the dead really mind people coming by. In Japan cemeteries are generally located near Buddhist temples, and last year when I was in a bad way I was working nearby an old temple. I would often go there on breaks, and the quietness helped me to get through another day.

It has been a little while since I've visited a cemetery, and perhaps it would do me good to visit one again. It has been years since my visit to the Yokohama foreigners' cemetery, perhaps I should drop by again, and see if the residents have anything to teach me.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Another Dawn

A year ago I thought this was a sight I would never see again, that I had seen my last Fuji sunrise. But it was not. I managed to get my depression and anxiety somewhat under control, and so didn't leave Japan. Fuji is still here, and so am I.

I'm tempted to go over all the things, mostly about myself, that I am unhappy with. But after reading a superb post by Jen I've decided to look on the bright side of life instead.

In the last twelve months since I started this blog I have been through a lot, and I have pushed myself as much as possible to try and shake, or at least partially domesticate, this black dog. I haven't really made amazing progress, but I have made some. I've tried to be healthier in general, eating better, exercising more, trying to sleep well. Physically, I feel better after Mt Fuji this time than I ever have before.

I've rediscovered some hobbies, and tried to reach out socially. I will never be a social butterfly, but I have been really trying, and it has helped a little. It is hard trying to keep my depression under wraps as much as possible, as my first instinct is to just blurt everything out. But I know from past experience that this is not really a good idea. I'm trying to come out of my shell a little bit, but not too much.

Living in a place where I don't speak the language well no doubt contributes to my depression, but while I am often unhappy, I am in a situation that lets me meet interesting people from all over the world, from all walks of life. Most people I know on a very basic level, but sometimes it is deeper. And when we get past the skin color, the language, the country of origin, we are all basically the same.

We are all struggling with life. Everyone has issues, whether they be with family, work, alcohol, money, or whatever. For some of us the issues get to the level of making us dysfunctional, but everyone struggles with them to some degree.

While I never quite identified it as such, in the past I loathed myself, the ways I lack, the life I have led. And I felt that I needed forgiveness and acceptance from others to make me whole. But it doesn't seem that things work that way. I'm not sure that anyone else can make us whole, I think that it is up to us to do it.

And whether or not we are on Mt Fuji, each day brings a new dawn. The sun rises, the clouds part. Light fills the world, and we have a whole new day to try.