THE BLOG

Digging Myself Out of the Black Hole

31/12/2014 16:13 GMT | Updated 02/03/2015 10:59 GMT

"So I've tried to not put pressure on myself and I have just realised I don't know what to live with no pressure IS LIKE. I'm adrift. I've spent my pressured LIFE usually in the name of moving my career up a few notches."

The depression is lifting slowly, slowly like a beast leaving the building. I can tell because I can take a shower after only 10 minutes of pep talk. I've even gone outside without feeling like I'm going to step through the earth's crust. I don't want to get cocky, it could make a U-turn and I could be locked in lead again tomorrow. A side effect of my depression is I've stopped writing the new book that's due in March. The problem is, I can't write at this point primarily because I'm in a state where I hate everything I've written and if I looked at any of it I'd take an overdose (I guess this means I'm still not that well). So, unable to write, I badly need something to fill my head. I'm still on high octane but I have nowhere to drive. Obviously, I write this blog mostly to see (in words) where my mind is week by week; it's the only thing I can still do. Now that the pressure of a deadline is off (I've asked them to postpone it) I've tried to not put any pressure on myself. The problem is I don't know what life without pressure is like. I'm adrift. I'm scared with all this freedom, my mind will grind to a halt, the engine failed. Desperate to find something to do, I've raked through every website for Mexican plant pots, designer shoe sales, international kitchen splash backs and pretty much everything else under the sun as far as household items.

I'm starting to think I'm not alone in this and that we all have this drive to fill our brains with any old thing just to distract ourselves from facing the facts that time keeps moving, nothing is certain and in the end you'll always lose the magic ingredient called life. I'm sure this is what motivates people to become experts on 15th Century French footstools, writing books on Churchill's chilblains or researching the mood swings of earthworms. These various experts fill their little brains to the brim to avoid the unavoidable, why else would you give a crap about those things?

I know I sound nihilistic but I do try to make peace with my pessimism. Even in childhood, my thoughts were never cuddly and warm. They were mostly unforgiving and I know no one is as cruel to me as me. I've always lobbed grenades at myself. If I try and stop, the thoughts get more persistent. The only thing I have to ease the situation is that I practice mindfulness and have done for many years. Every morning I sit in one place and it's agony because my mind is screaming for me to get up, do something; it's Machiavellian, stealing my attention in devious ways; convincing me that hunting the internet for a blue pillow case is crucial or it's an emergency that I have to answer an email. To deal with the siege, I send my focus to my breath and for a few seconds I get some relief from the nagging. When my focus goes to my breath I feel like I'm sitting back and watching a TV of my thoughts and even if the show is awful, the lines awful and the characters (usually just me) are awful my perspective automatically shifts to being 'the watcher' not the slave. It feels like I'm doing mental sit-ups; going from from breath to thought, thought to breath so that the watcher gets easier to access. When I'm the watcher I feel like I'm holding onto a flagpole in a raging storm, or a mast on a sinking ship. Sometimes I notice only one inhale or exhale in the 20 minutes and just as I start to enjoy it, my mind sabotages my attention and I'm back to the usual sound track, "Get up, you need to order a bath mat, right this second."

This watcher in me is ageless, sexless, timeless, non judgmental. We all have a watcher - it's when we suddenly become aware of our thoughts or actions. "Oh, look I'm biting my nails" Or "I'm tasting food rather than gorging on it." Mindfulness is the only thing I know to do (this isn't for everyone -some people find it excruciating) that can dig me out of despair and can give me even a few seconds of a break from my brain.

If you are struggling with depression or other mental health issues, please contact your local Mind Service - www.mind.org.uk. They are there to help.