Monday, October 17, 2016

Story Engine Working

Last week was pretty good with a word count above 5,000 but still, sadly below my target of 10,000. I think I missed recording one day so I can’t be sure of the exact figure. No matter. I’m writing. The book has now reached 107,000 words. This figure would be higher but for the fact that I’ve excised one section and transferred it to file marked Jain2 – the second book. My ending for this book is in sight, though I have to do some careful manipulation of what certain characters do and do not know. Other manipulations too. And one other plot thread that I’ll probably cut out and move to that second book too.


The problem I face here is that I’m writing a story that will extend across three or more books. My job, for you, is to deliver an enjoyable, violent, sensawunda romp that extends across one book with a beginning, middle and an end. However it must also be the beginning of the overall story arc of the ensuing books. Here I have to deliver an ending that satisfies to a degree but leaves hints of that overall arc and leaves the whole open to continue. It’s a bit of a balancing act. Nobody said it was easy, but then my ability to do this is why I’m sitting at home tapping out stuff about an alien AI, the Machiavellian schemes of an entity called Dragon and the arrival of a Jain super-soldier … rather than having to do a proper job.

At present I am just aiming to just get this first draft done. However I need to do some research. Some concerns the Schwarzchild radius of a black hole relative to its mass. But the other thing I really must do is read some of my own books again. I need to read the Cormac series again (please, don’t get excited some of you – Cormac does not make an appearance in the present book). I either need to read all five books or, specifically, read from when Orlandine appears on the scene i.e. Polity Agent and Line War. To be frank, probably many of you reading this know the events that occurred in those books better than I do now.

But it’s all going good. The complications and convolutions that in past months had been worrying me are really no different from those in the previous books. All that was different was me. I mean hell, what made me throw in a character like Orlandine in book 4 of the Cormac series, or earlier decide on introducing Skellor or pulling a certain brass man out of his grave? It is precisely this stuff that makes it!


Okay, back to back to a little venture into Jain pre-history…   

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Moving On.

Okay, that’s the final page proofs of Infinity Engine gone through and sent back to Macmillan. I’ll just say that I haven’t copped out on this – Penny Royal does have an aim…


Now it’s time to get back to the present book. I am past 100,000 words into this (the previous books were 140 -160,000 words) and things are going well. I do have one plot thread and one short section (a prador of the King’s Guard paying a visit to the king) that I may excise, but only to transfer to the next book. ‘The shape of things to come’ is nicely solidifying in my mind and I can promise exploding spaceships, hostile alien life forms, highly advanced technology and ultra-violence. Of course it wouldn’t be a Neal Asher book without them.


On the personal front things are looking good. My numerous visits to the gym are paying off. I don’t feel quite so knackered each day and I’ve now got back to walking too – going off for a 7-miler (thank you Google Earth) four or five times a week. I did get a bit pissed off at one point when my weight started to climb, but then I noticed how my T-shirts are getting a bit tighter and my arms seem to have exploded. Psychologically I seem to have won, with no more depression, anxiety or panic attacks.

Also, because I’m single, not inclined to visit pubs or clubs and because my profession is a lonely introverted one without much in the way of a social aspect, I’m having a crack at this online dating. I guess, because of my profile, this is something I shouldn’t mention. But I’m not inclined to give much of a toss about that.

Anyway, it has been interesting to say the least. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Turn Around

I’ve finally turned it around. The latest book, written intermittently over the last couple of years, was a mess. I’ve said before how I just let myself go with the writing following plot threads that led off into the wilderness and then, on numerous occasions, tore the whole thing apart and put it back together again. This time I’ve again torn it apart, rewritten it and stuck it back together again. And it’s working.

I am now 9 chapters in and can get back to writing new stuff. I did my 2,000 words yesterday but am not yet contemplating going back to doing that five days a week. I don’t want to push too hard and find myself bouncing out again, which has happened before. Anyway, I have some other writing-related work to get on with and I have a life to rebuild beyond slaving at a word processor for you lot!

But on the subject of the new book, I can’t leave this post without a few obligatory teases. I decided to make the character who delivered something nasty to a weapons platform – one of many around a particular accretion disc – an expendable character who does not appear in the rest of the book. An entity I have dubbed ‘the wheel’ might be a Jain AI. I don’t know – I just write this stuff as it comes to me. Anyway, it certainly shows a great deal of interest in a Jain super-soldier. And Orlandine … why is she building two war runcibles?

Heh.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Polity Timelines

Thanks to John Lewis for these. Here are some Polity timelines he put together...






Thanks John!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Body and Mind at Work

Well, the exercise at the gym has been knackering me. I’ve done an hour plus in the morning seven out of the last eight days. I’ve then come back, done some work, eaten at about midday, then fallen asleep for one or two hours. Okay, I’m fifty-five so there’s that, but I am seeing quite rapid change to my physique and, over the last few days my knackerdom is decreasing. With this steady decrease my brain is picking up slack too and I’m working more…

Usually, when writing a book, I can happily record a word-count in my journal five days a week of 2,000 words a day. That is simply not occurring this time for … various reasons. When I started writing this book (this was maybe the year before last) it was while I was depressed, anxious and suffering from panic attacks. I would have periods when I would feel better and maybe do a few thousand words. Also I took the view that just getting words down was the main thing and would pursue any idea that occurred to me. This had always worked before and I could usually sew together plot threads, or excise those that added little, or remove characters I didn’t need or even meld them with others – do the work. It didn’t go that way this time.

The ninety plus thousand words I produced rather reflected the state of my mind. Disparate disconnect threads run through. Characters are subject to radical change, often illogical change and some of the things they have done just don’t fit a story arc, probably because I had no idea of their motivations.

You get the picture.

I have tried a number of times to resolve this, approaching the book with new brio and tearing it apart, making a fresh start, rewriting a lot, but such has been the state of my mind that my energy for this would leak away after a few days. I would gaze at the work in bewilderment and see absolutely no solutions. I was never actually blocked; just incapable of weaving together the complications as I had always done before.

State of mind of course.

However, over the last four months things started to change. Many of you have read here of my perpetual battle with my own mind. I’ve tried many things, some of which definitely helped, some of which might have helped. All I do know is that I started to beat the panic attacks, and that the anxiety and depression started to decline. I also got slapped in the face with a couple of things recently: I’ll simply call them reality wake-up calls. So I came back to England. And now I’m working…

I started on the book again and again felt things were unresolvable. I then, after working on it for most of a morning, just sat and thought about it for four or more hours, hardly making any notes – a level of concentration I have been incapable of for some time. I saw solutions but they were not easy – I had to dig them out of my skull. The next day I copied the book to a new file and started tearing it apart once again, and once again putting it back together again. And it is working; I am seeing my way clear to an ending. This, to go back to what led me into this ramble, is why I cannot record 2,000 words a day: I am rewriting, reordering and deleting. In fact today’s word count would be negative.

Something else happened too. This book is the start of a series of books – maybe a trilogy or maybe more – and I was getting the same feeling of where am I going with this about the overall story. I slept today, again, and when I woke up I started thinking about it all. Immediately I started having ideas about that overall story – they propelled me to my feet and to a notepad. Wow, I just love the way the mind keeps on working even when you’re snoring. The subconscious is like a bull terrier with a bone, it keeps gnawing on it till something snaps.

The way is clear now and I feel good about this.    

Monday, August 22, 2016

Back in England

I’m back in England early this year for a couple or reasons I either cannot or will not talk about here. What I will say, however, is that my anxiety and panic attacks have all but disappeared and I am getting my life back on track. This means that I am working on various projects including the next books. Again I must print out and read again stuff I did before (mostly last year), to get it running in my head again and get writing. Also other things…


While I was out on Crete I kept to a pretty severe exercise regimen. At the start of the year I was walking in the mountains from 8 to 12 kilometres every day. As the temperature rose I turned to kayaking and swimming and most days was kayaking 10K and/or swimming 2K. Back here I decided I needed something to replace that so for the first time in many years joined a gym.

I told the guy who did my induction what I had been doing before which is probably why each of the four circuits I am taking on (one each day) start with 20 minutes on a cross trainer and end with 2000M on a rowing machine, with lots of work with weights between. The induction lasted 2 hours and I felt shell-shocked afterwards. The next day I did my first circuit and found that using the weights rendered me incapable of doing the two sets of 25 standard press-ups and two sets of 25 press-ups with the hands directly under the body. I managed 14 standard press-ups and gave up. Giggling.

After doing this I came back home and felt energised. Amongst other things I wrote 1,000 words – this was all good. The next day I found it difficult to get out of chairs and there were few parts of my body I could touch without them hurting. Today I did my second circuit. This was hard but I managed it all. Afterwards I sorted out some bits and pieces in my local town and returned to a big breakfast. My body then demanded an hour and half of sleep but now, as you see, I’m back to writing.

I should settle into this over the next few weeks … either that or I’ll have a heart attack on the cross-trainer. But now it is time for me to print up the start of a book…

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Late Update

I see that it’s been two months since I last blogged. So, time for an update.


I’ve been doing plenty of walking in the mountains and I’ve been taking my kayak out for runs up and down the coast. It’s not yet been warm enough for swimming and frankly I haven’t had the energy. The weather here has been odd: clouds and sunshine interspersed with periods when we have been swamped by Sahara dust. A few times outdoors it has looked like a sepia photograph. The stuff gets everywhere and with it continuing there seems hardly any point in cleaning my car, though occasionally I wash down my terrace to stop tracking the stuff into the house. Today is windy and cloudy and everything is covered with that dust. Even my Greek neighbours are now saying, ‘Come on, it’s the end of May, where’s the sun?’

Though I have been walking and kayaking my energy has been low. This is due to the panic/anxiety attacks. They now mainly hit me in the morning as I try to catch an extra forty winks. It is almost as if my mind is fleeing from something that occurs while I am asleep. I have noticed I’ve been having more nightmares. Some do involve Caroline but generally they just involve fear. I had a couple that I used to have decades ago – involving a flood I am trying to escape and then seeing a mountainous wave approaching and thinking, ‘Fuck it, I‘m dead.’ Apparently nightmares like these are quite common. Anyway, since I am of a scientific turn of mind, I started to recording my ‘bad moments’ and plotting them on a graph. Thankfully the trend is downwards.

About seven weeks ago I got book III of the Transformation trilogy back from the editor and have, intermittently, been going through that. I would normally bang through this stuff in a week or so but, for perhaps the first time ever for me, I saw a deadline looming. However, I’ve finished with the edits and now there is a just a little wrangling to go through about the title. Hopefully, after I dispatch this back to Macmillan, I’ll be able to get back to some writing.


That’s all for now. I’ll try to update this more regularly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Walking and Mindwork

While I ramble away here, let’s enjoy some pictures...


Anyway, I’ve been back on Crete now for two weeks. To begin with, because of all the shit I’ve been going through, I haven’t had much energy. I’ve done a couple of big walks but mostly small ones, gardening, and some other jobs I needed to sort out.


One of those jobs was getting my car here legal. I neglected it last year and emissions and mechanical tests were out of date as was the road tax which, the system here being fucked and Greek, can only be bought one month in the year. The result of that was that in all three cases I had to pay double.


Paying my road tax was interesting. I saw a guy in Makrigialos who found my details on the internet and printed me something to take to the bank where I could pay my road tax. I couldn’t pay at the bank. Maybe the post office? No, the tax office.


A lady in the post office showed me where this was. There they wrote out a note, which I then had to take back to the bank. The bank issued me a cheque, which I then had to take back to the tax office. By the time I got back they had found I owed taxes on my house, which I then had to traipse back to the bank to pay. By the end of that day I was €1000+ out of pocket.  



Anyway, I’m not unhappy about that because that was a bunch of worries out of the way. Also, if you refer to my previous post, the ‘shit I’ve been going through’ and my lack of energy is changing. It is spring now and some nice days are occurring. And now I’m walking properly...


Just letting my panic attacks happen and, when they happen, actively encouraging them has had an amazing effect. They’re dying away, and they’re dying away fast.


As I write this I have ‘walked to Voila and back’ (about 12 kilometres) eaten a second breakfast and had a snooze on my sofa. Boring? Yes, unless it is the first time in months you have managed to do that without panic attacks and without fearing what state you will wake up in.


It is almost as if letting those attacks happen and pushing them is the same as crying: unpleasant when it occurs but letting out some inner stress, with the result that you feel better afterwards.


Consequently my stress/anxiety levels have been dropping. This has enabled me to apply, thoroughly, some of the stuff in a book by Richard Carlson ‘Stop Thinking, Start Living’, and the mindfulness from the Williams and Penman book.



But enough of that. Now it is time for me to open up a file marked Jain1 and set to work.        

Sunday, March 20, 2016

DO Panic

When I came back to Crete my depression was over but I was still getting anxiety and panic attacks. Over a month it has been standard for me to wake up in the morning, usually very early, lie in bed hoping to snooze again then having a panic attack ensue the moment I started to drift off again. If I stayed in bed these would get worse and worse and when I finally got up I would be in a mess. My technique therefore was to try and get out of bed as quickly as possible. Other times I would get them while going into trance during meditation. Every day I would feel tired and it would take me hours in the morning to get motivated.

Moments of anxiety would also hit me during the day too. I have been fighting this for so long, sometimes thinking I was winning, sometimes sure I would never win.

Three or four days ago I lay down on my sofa and used a Paul McKenna hypnotic recording to relax. I went into trance then into sleep. When I woke up it was to a massive panic/anxiety attack. A whole body one with the skin on my arms feeling hot, my body buzzing, and of course I felt awful. All I could do was lie there and wait for it to pass – until I could get up and start doing things. It later passed but the next morning I had the same routine as above, at 4AM.

Later in the morning I felt so tired I lay on the sofa again, needing to rest but afraid to sleep. I started to doze off and, again, each time I did so, I had a panic attack. But then something happened...
Some days back I did some gardening. I cleared out a couple of composters and started weeding. Just feeling shit and wanting to get the job done. It then occurred to me to be mindful about what I was doing. Instead of letting my mind wander off into worries and negative thinking, which I just let go, I focused completely on what I was doing. Meticulously pulling the weeds, feeling them in my hands, smelling them, really looking at what I was doing – living in the moment. This really started to make me feel better and by the time I left the garden (my fingers cold and stiff) I felt that euphoria of normality.

During this last lot of panic attacks mindfulness kicked in again, and I found myself mentally stepping back from the panic attacks and just observing them with detached interest. The result of this was that I did get some snoozes in and got off the sofa feeling pretty good.

I did some internet research and it seems that all my fighting was the wrong thing to do. The first stage of recovering from panic attacks is ‘acceptance’. Okay, that was right. I then did further research and discovered a seemingly counterintuitive technique. Encourage the attacks. Try to make them worse. Till now I had been trying to stop them. I had some success but just felt more anxious afterwards. Next meditation session, when they came, I really tried to make the attacks worse and what happened was surprising, they withered away.

This morning I woke and did the same thing, and instead of them steadily getting worse as I lay in bed they got weaker and weaker. For the first time in months I actually managed to lie in bed and catch a few extra snoozes, and then get up feeling refreshed. My energy level for the day seemed twice what it has been.

So, win the fight by giving in, by actively helping the perceived enemy. This has never been in my playbook, but it is now.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Back on the Horse

Last week I bought my domain name nealasher.co.uk. It was almost an impulse buy, at the time, though it was something I had been thinking about on and off in the past. This was after a pretty good day on the Friday:



26th Feb
Ahah! 2,000 words again today. Little visit to the King's Ship and the arrival of a Jain super-soldier in a rather dangerous area. Of course I can say no more than this. I want you to actually buy the book, not check through all my FB posts and pick up enough plot information not to bother!

Back into it on Monday. I'll spend the weekend fooling about with website stuff and see if I can get properly sorted on the internet. I know that many have seen my blog because I regularly post links here. Fewer have seen my slightly rusty freespace website. It's also a tad out of date...

Shortly after I bought this name I got people offering to help me move and reconstruct my website. Thanks to all those who offered! The first one to offer, Mark Kendall, got the job and started me off over the weekend:

27th Feb
Okay, neck aching, eyes a bit dry and starey ... I've been sitting at a keyboard doing blog drudge-work for a bit too long. I did have a moment this morning while trying to figure things out when my mind went no, not going there, don't want to play. But thanks to Mark Mark Kendall's patient guidance I finally got a grip. More of the same tomorrow...

Very noticeable when I got into it, how out of date my website is. The last time I went through it and updated most of it was September 2013. At some point I put the last Owner book there but not much else. Today, as well as loading the data on the books to the new site, I've also been transferring articles going back 17 years. Funny to read them now. Quite a few of my opinions have changed!


Then on Monday I put aside website stuff and got back to my proper job…

29th Feb
Frosty but sunny this morning so a wake-up walk is in order before getting some jobs done. No malingering today. I have wasted too much time this Winter. I have a hit-list of things to do and intend to tick the majority of the boxes including, of course, some writing!

Ah well, other jobs got in the way today, along with a long pause for introspection. I thought about ripping apart, rewriting and rearranging all I've done thus far on the book so, only 1,000 words today. I think I'll hold fire on the rewriting for now. I'm sure my exasperation had more to do with my state of mind, not the state of the plot. Heh, writing books is easy Padawan.

Later
Aah, thank you brain. I just needed to chill for a bit to realise that two intertwined plot lines need to be untangled and put one before the other. All perfectly logical. One failed attempt to breach the Defence Sphere with a poisoned chalice of an alien biological variety. This followed by a successful attempt which also unleashes something seriously dangerous, and inherently uncontrollable. Meanwhile the 'biological variety' goes off on a killing spree ... in the prador kingdom. Yes, looking good... Ooh, have I said too little or too much? Heh.

The Monday I did 1,000 words, but it was a useful day because I pondered quite a lot on the plot and where I should go with it. I also realised what was missing and what I needed to do. By Tuesday this was all bedded in and I was ready to go:


Mar 1st
Well, for all those who might have thought they'd figured out where I was going with these next books ... all change! I sat down this morning to write some replies to interview questions then, after a meditate, I started on the book. In a very short time I felt bogged down. Too much high-tech stuff. Too many independent dangerous powers. Not enough human story for contrast or to engage the reader more personally.

I wrote for a bit, then printed out my contents list and sat with that, in an armchair, and pondered. I started to see the required changes: an inhabited world, separatists, betrayal and assassination... I then returned to the keyboard and started ripping stuff apart, writing new sections and rearranging. I may well excise some of the stuff I've mentioned here. In writing you have to learn how to sacrifice your darlings. Anyway, including the interview, over 3,000 words done today.

Later
Now this is how my days should draw to a close. Mentally tired after a good productive time spent writing, and physically tired after completing a weight-training session. Now I just need to add in a walk in the morning (it was pissing down this morning) and an hour of learning Greek...

All going good and I decided to move in other ways too:

Mar 2nd
And I'm a happy bunny this morning. 3,000 words written yesterday so all that seems to be going good. But, most importantly, I've booked a flight to Crete. 6 more days and I will be back here...



Later
Wow, strange how things hit you. When I got up this morning it was sunny so off I went for a little walk, nothing big, just 40 minutes. Upon my return I dived into some writing until going out for lunch at 1.00. This was at a Chinese self-service place called Izumi. I stuffed myself full but of course could eat nowhere near as much as I used to eat in the past. Feeling slightly stressed I meditated when I got back, fell into a strange trance, then afterwards to sleep for an hour. Now, having woken I feel utterly knackered as if I've just had a snooze after a twenty-miler.

But no matter! I did good work this morning - I in fact did my 2,000 words before I went out. So, my main target for the day has been achieved!

Later still

Aah, recovering and waking up at last. I suspect my body just keeps going nope because I'm still in stress-recovery mode.

Anyway, another 2,000 words done today. I had written about 8 chapters. Now I'm back in chapter 2 ripping things apart, rewriting and writing new sections as I go through. Those who now use e-cigs will be glad to know I've included one. However, as well as providing all sorts of tasty, narcotic and interesting vapours, it also plugs into a handle and converts into a haiman-killing ionic handgun!

More tomorrow. I'm past 80,000 words now, which is about half the length of my biggest books. And, with these latest alterations the writing is going easier.

And that’s it thus far this week…

Friday, February 26, 2016

Pistol on the Wall

There’s a saying attributed to various people but mostly to Anton Chekhov: "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." I’m pretty sure I read it as a Chandler quote about putting a gun on the mantelpiece, but the meaning is the same. If you introduce something into a story that is definitely not just set dressing, you should use it.


My problem in this respect is that I have a gun on the mantelpiece and another on the hearth, there’s also a knife tucked into a book shelf, an AK47 resting on top the TV and some grenades hidden behind the sofa cushions. Every time I come up with a bright idea and introduce it to the story, it usually get complicated. Why? Because this is science fiction and the two guns talk, belong to a psychopath, and hate each other. Because the grenades are a conscious, slightly insane hive mind, and also belong to the psychopath, or so he thinks. Because the AK47 is controlled by a genocide surviving conjoined alien entity with plenty of resentments of its own. And the knife? Well it’s just a knife but I’m pretty damned sure one of the nutjobs in the room will use it.


*sigh*


No matter. I am in ‘just write it Neal’ mode and I can maybe use the knife myself later to excise the proliferating plot threads. I’ll then place them in my BitsSF file and at some later date turn each into a short story.

To work.  

Time for Another Video Clip



Here's an old one from 2011. Time now for another one so, if you have questions you would like to see me answering in a video clip please post them below.

One question thus far from FB (I must keep track so I'll put them here):

Jessie Grey Have you ever considered a Polity based work that is more of a survival, exploration epic or disaster based? I love the wars, don't get me wrong

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Flashes of Sunshine

Now moving steadily away from the previous posts, since I’ve become a bit of a bore on the subject. Really REALLY time to start cheering up. I mean, I’m not a great lover of the Winter but I seem to have completely lost this one. Snow drops have been out for a few weeks and now there are daffodils open beside my front door. I can smell the Spring. I can feel the pace of life starting to ramp up; the world thawing out.



So anyway, yesterday I actually managed to sit down and do some writing. I didn’t expect much of myself . In fact I expected to stare at the screen for a while, scratch my balls then wander off and make a cup of tea. But despite everything words started appearing on the screen and ideas started appearing in my skull. For a while there I was actually enjoying myself. This, in essence, is what I have to recapture. I know my job well enough now that I can sit down and bang out the story and write copious amounts. However, if that is a joyless chore it is reflected in the writing.


Recapture joy.

This morning I went for a short walk. My usual route here is a 7-mile circuit and, having checked Google Earth, I know that none of the circuits I can do here are less than that. I’ve had to bite the bullet and do a walk where I retrace my steps. I don’t like doing that but, the long walk leaves me a bit knackered at present, while a short walk of under an hour energizes me. While walking back down Rectory Lane, trying not to fall on my ass (the lane has no ditches and the fields either side are high, so the lane is always wet and with present temperatures is mostly a sheet of ice) my mind wandered to my present obsessions. With mindfulness having made me more aware of what happens between my ears, I stopped that train of thought and concentrated on the present book.


Little flashes of sunshine.



For a while I thought about targets, writing 2,000 words a day, completing the book, how to progress the plot to that end… But you know, all of that is something that takes care of itself if I am enjoying what I am doing. When I wrote The Skinner I wasn’t thinking about targets or endings, I was just having a great time. So once I put aside that shit I started to think on other things: an alien entity in the Prador Kingdom with some seriously dangerous Polity hardware, the king of the prador and his steady transformation into what readers here will have seen in Orbus. Deeper stuff too related to my past – PAST! – obsession. How the maladies of the mind can often be a matter of choice; how maybe Jay Hoop would not have turned into the Skinner if he had not been such a sick puppy beforehand.



So today. Concentration elsewhere. I will shortly make myself enough bacon sandwiches to harden the arteries of the nearest ‘health professional’. I will then just sit here at my computer and write, and think, and write some more. No targets, no endings, just space opera and weird biology. Maybe the prador will be deploying some new super warship to counter the alien threat, maybe the king will see some way of escaping his destiny, maybe Orlandine will take control of some Jain soldiers, maybe a Jain super-soldier will bathe in molten lead…

Have a nice day. I aim to.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Don't Panic!

Okay, the prior post on here was not my last on the subject of grief, depression, anxiety and panic attacks because I really need to deliver a bit of a warning. If you have read the previous posts you will know that I had delayed or complex grief. To process this I began looking at photographs I had not dared to look at in two years. The effect was immediate: crying, real grief, but my depression went and my anxiety dropped.

However, as I continued to look at these photographs my emotions were all over the place. I found my anxiety returning on and off and I was far too raw. Visiting the in-laws which was at first a relief began to leave me anxious again. I would have an overreaction to the stupidest things. I bad comment on FB could put me on the floor. I in fact felt, after the initial relief, that I was getting worse again. I felt tired all the time and often icy cold.

Last Thursday I woke to panic attacks, but I was so tired I stayed in bed. They continued and finally forced me out of bed. I had a crappy morning then began to come up in the afternoon. I decided that next time I had attacks like that while in bed I would get up immediately. On Friday that happened, but thereafter I felt shit most of the day. In the afternoon I got my hands on an Ipod dock. I had read that panic attacks are a result of ‘insufficient mourning’ and in the evening I did some more. I had Caroline’s Ipod with all her music on it and I set it playing. The first record to play was Skyfall, which played at her committal. Thereafter came records I had been hearing for years prior to 2 years ago. They wiped me out. It was as bad as the first time I looked at the photographs – records a year ago I walked out of a bar to avoid hearing. However, after that emotional storm I slept okay. Exhausted. And woke the next day without panics.


Saturday I was so-so. In the evening I listened to the music again and again it screwed me. That night when I went to bed I immediately started having panic attacks. Every time I was on the edge of dozing off I would have one. I slept maybe half an hour. The next morning I felt awful – the attacks continuing into the day. I went to eat at the in-laws and only managed half my dinner before I had to leave. At about 4.30 in the afternoon I was desperate enough to call 111 for help. A scattering of phone calls across 7 hours and thereafter they forgot about me until 2.00 in the morning, by which time I was in no condition to drive to a ‘night surgery’.

However, meanwhile I trolled the Internet and found that codeine phosphate can help. I had some left over from 2 years ago (for Caroline) and started taking about 30mg every 3 hours, along with kava-kava, Kalms and 5-htp. These kept me sane until the morning when I phoned the doctor’s. I got an ‘emergency’ appointment at 2.30PM. He gave me Zopiclone sleeping pills one of which knocked me out on the sofa for 5 hours. Another one at night gave me another 5 hours and only some mild panic in the morning. Today I have been steadily recovering, but how long this will last I don’t know. The doctor only gave me 7 pills.

To sum up: yes, you must process your grief, but I suspect that, as usual, I have been trying to do too much too quickly. I guess it is comparable to exercise – if you don’t take rest days the exercise doesn’t do you much good. With this ‘processing’ I guess that yes you must grieve, but then give it a rest while your brain deals with it. This is confirmed in a CBT booklet I was given – 4-5 days of ‘exposure’ per week. I did notice over this hellish weekend that at every low point I had, alternately, ‘Broken Strings’ or ‘Skyfall’ playing in my head – both were played at the committal.     

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Enough.

This will be my last blog or post to FB about grief, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I know that following my journey through this has been helpful for many, but for reasons I will shortly explain, this has to stop. I thank all those fans and others who have given and offered support. You’re good people! And such good people need to be rewarded with big fat sprawling space operas!

Three years ago I was perfectly happy and satisfied with my life. The evidence for this to others would be the Transformation trilogy. I had written 3 books to first draft before I even needed to deliver the first book. I would wake up in the morning feeling enthusiastic about life, get out of bed ready to DO stuff! Yeah, I would play about on the internet, but still I would do my 2,000 words and then get on and enjoy other things. In Crete I would work, then swim, then drink chilled wine in the sunshine. Everything was rosy.


Two years and eight months ago my wife, lover, friend and support, found she was bleeding where she shouldn’t since she had been through the menopause. Over the ensuing 7 months a worry turned into a nightmare that just got worse and worse. Every step of the way hopes were killed. Fibroids, we thought. No, a mass of tumours in one ovary the size of a baby’s head. We tried the Greek hospital system but after the stress of that came back to England. Here she was operated on, all her female plumbing removed. It was bowel cancer that had spread. Stage Four. She started to recover from that first operation but then began vomiting. Back in hospital they operated again – the bowel cancer had revealed itself at its source blocking her intestine. They did a bowel bypass. It failed. She had a choice then: another operation that would likely result in an ileostomy bag, or death from peritonitis in a couple of weeks. I never realised then that it really was a choice. She ended up with an ileostomy bag but never really recovered. Another blockage resulted in her going back into hospital to be fed through the arm. When it happened again at home she chose to stay at home. District nurses sprang into action and for them I have nothing but praise. Caroline then stopped eating and drinking. Nothing would stay down anyway.

On the evening of the 24th January 2014 she was uncomfortable again. She liked her knees up sometimes, and sometimes her legs down flat. I moved them for her but nothing would work. I could see the mottling in the lower parts of them which I suspected was clotting blood. I suggested she might be more comfortable on her side. She started to move, then said, ‘Oh no!’ and tried to fling herself from something. She collapsed on the bed. Eyes wide open. Nothing in them.

I grieved and I thought that as the crying stopped I was getting over it. I also walked ridiculous amounts – thousands of miles over the ensuing two years. I lost interest in most other things. Food didn’t interest me, TV, film, reading and writing. Alcohol steadily ceased to give me any pleasure – the opposite in fact. I started to become scared of it. Life was just a purposeless march not to feel miserable. What I did not realise until just recently was that it had all been too painful so I had suppressed it. This last year it started to come back at me, most likely instigated by the pressure of a new relationship. I started to get really anxious, to suffer periods of depression, to suffer panic attacks. I could only seem to think negatively and sometimes this was so bad I thought I was going crazy. A couple of times I had what seemed like psychotic breaks. Perhaps they were.


While in Crete I tried SSRIs (antidepressants) but immediately did not like the side effects. Many will understand what I mean when I say they are not great relationship-wise. I then tried meditation and this eased things a little. Back in England I saw a hypnotherapist, which helped a little too. She told me to get Rob Kelly’s book ‘Thrive’, which also helped – positive thinking, positive visualizations, that sort of stuff. I began working my way through an 8-week mindfulness course. All these helped but still I was anxious most of the time, having panic attacks, and then I had a 6-day depression during which I simply did not want to live. I lost 9lbs in weight. I had more or less decided that I had no choice – I would have to take the SSRIs. Then I found out about ‘delayed grief’ and ‘complicated grief’.

Everything fitted, all my symptoms, all the circumstances, all the running away I had done with the ridiculous amounts of exercise, the way I hurriedly rid myself of any reminders of Caroline. The only answer was to grieve. When I started looking at photographs I had been unable to look at for two years I fell apart, crying uncontrollably sometimes. It was awful but, immediately after that the feeling, the tendency like a lurking monster, of depression, was gone, and my anxiety diminished. I have been looking at those photos and crying for 3 weeks now.

But the negative thinking, though it had diminished a lot, was still there. I suspect it is something I established in myself while Caroline was dying and in the ensuing two years. I had realised from all the self-help books that I must tackle it, and I had been, but it’s difficult to do that when you’re at the bottom of a pit. But now, with perfect timing, along comes a book by a guy called Richard Carlson ‘Stop Thinking, Start Living’.


Everything that had been inchoate in my mind about depression and anxiety have solidified on reading it. The answer, as always, is simple but difficult to apply: stop it, because it is your own thinking that generates these conditions. You cannot think your way out of depression and anxiety. In other books they say ‘think positive’. But positive thoughts are no more valid than negative ones. They say you can’t stop thinking negatively but must displace that with the positive – using the old adage ‘don’t think about the elephant’. But it is not true. If you turn that hypervigilance, which previously you had used to always look for the bad, towards your own thoughts, you can see a negative thought cycle starting and simply stop it by thinking of nothing at all. Just shut it down, and eventually something else will come. Sometimes it will be bad and you have to shut it down again, and again and again. Carlson’s contention is that really, at our heart, we are not negative, depressed, unhappy – all of that shit is learned behaviour. It makes sense. Look at a child. Anyway, it’s work. It’s work I am doing and its effect is good. Maybe I would not have succeeded if I had tried this while still carrying a sackload of grief. I don’t know. All I know is that it is working now.

And finally, here’s why this will be my last post on this subject. Carlson has a low opinion of psychoanalysis. You do not solve the problems of depression and anxiety by focusing on them and examining them and their possible causes in more detail. You just strengthen them by doing that. This is why people end up regularly visiting a psychiatrist year after year after year. Stop strengthening those mental pathways. Well I am stopping now. All of this mental shit is no longer going to be the central fact of my life. I am not going to keep writing about it and talking about it.


This ends now.

Pre-final Update on Misery.

Here’s some stuff to date because I am finishing with this. I will explain why in my next blog post…

Feb 11th
Mmm, a problem in dealing with grief, or depression, or anxiety, or any similar malady, is thinking too much about being miserable. Constantly having this on your mind drags you down. Been reading some on this sort of thing. Is it any wonder that some people spend so many years in analysis when they constantly spend time deconstructing their miseries?
I'm on an upswing tonight. I have to focus elsewhere, occupy my mind with other things beside being sad and miserable. This has been difficult for some days because grieving is so energy sapping. I must move. Walk tomorrow, and work. I hope.

Feb 12th
Ahhhh! Woke up without panics and feeling almost as good as I felt last night. I will run with this. Heart radio on. No overthinking. Walk a little later. Just keep moving. Maybe some writing, maybe some reading. Whatever feels good.

Over the last few months I've read through many self-help books. Many of these I've abandoned before finishing. The stuff in them ranged from 'no shit Sherlock' to overcomplicated psychobabble. I've read stuff on the internet too, tried hypnosis, all sorts of techniques for positivity, meditation and on. I've grasped what my problems have been: delayed grief resulting in anxiety, depression and panic attacks, the whole either compounded by or causing negative thinking. And now, as I get a handle on all that, with perfect timing, along comes Richard Carlson's book 'Stop Thinking, Start Living'. I've nearly finished it now and I know I will read it again and again. Seriously recommended.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

We're not computers, Sebastian, we're physical

For 17 days now I’ve been looking at photographs. It has been wiping me out constantly and there has not been a day when I haven’t cried. I’ve tried to keep eating healthily but sometimes that’s difficult. In lieu of that I’ve bought stuff that’s easier to eat, but unhealthy. I need the energy for this. Even so, the physical toll is being paid as you can see below. The second paragraph of the article quoted I read after googling ‘physical effects of grief’ because I did think I was getting the flu.


Feb 10th
It is reassuring, again, to talk to a bereavement counsellor. It's nice to know that everything that has been happening to me is fairly common: the anxiety, panic attacks, depression, lack of interest, lack of trust and the feeling sometimes that you're going crazy. I've had times when I've looked back on how I've been thinking and not recognized myself. And it's not just mental, it's the whole body. It is also the case that it lasts longer than anyone, who has not experienced it, expects. 'Get over it man, smarten up!'

Also reassuring is to know that everything I am doing is right: the photographs, writing about it, talking about it - getting it OUT. Right. More of that 'getting it out' today. After I've checked back through my journal and to search for signs of progress. You know, there's a book in this. I think I might call it 'No Exploding Spaceships Here'.

Comment…
The counsellor was right about it being the whole body. I've felt like I've been developing a cold for a few days, but it's not coming out. After the grief hitting me a couple of times today I feel freezing. The heating thermostat is fine maintaining 21C, it's mine that isn't working properly.

Later…
Yes and yes...
"A common feeling of people dealing with loss, is the feeling of going crazy. The emotions are so strong and intense; those grieving often think they are the only ones to feel that way or that their feelings are wrong. You're not crazy, and you're not alone. By understanding these emotions, we take the first step toward realization and thus our first step on the pathway of healing."

"Perhaps the most commonly reported symptom of grief is utter exhaustion and confusion. In her book, Surviving Grief, Dr. Catherine M. Sanders explains "we become so weak that we actually feel like we have the flu. Because of our lack of experience with energy depletion, this weakness frightens and perplexes us. Before the loss, it happened only when we were sick."

Later Still…
Bloody hell, four Cornish pasties, a packet of hobnobs, a packet of ocean sticks, two packs of pork scratchings and four cups of tea. This is what it has taken to give me enough energy to get my body temperature up, and to not stagger when I get out of the armchair.


One day last year I hiked 12k, kayaked 10k and swam about 2k and I did not feel anywhere near this exhausted. Today, as per an earlier post I felt like I was getting the flu. But then, that I ate so much tonight must mean the stress response eased off a bit.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Waves

Here below is the my last week of posts on FB concerning ‘processing grief’. A couple of people have mentioned that it comes in waves and they are quite right, but to a limited extent. On a good day I feel it building up inside me and, as I noted in the posts below, my body tells me when it is time to go look at photos and bawl. On other days the slightest set-back, upset, or reminder can set it off. While something positive, and it doesn’t have to be much – an enjoyable conversation, getting some job done, a walk – can stave it off. The waves are there, certainly, but when they hit also involves a degree of emotional fragility.

Feb 3rd
Right, I'll try again. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book about the terminally ill. In this she suggested that they go through five stages of 'grief' after being told they will die: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and then acceptance. She later wished people would not take these stages so literally. They were later applied generally by some to all forms of grief. My own experience, the experience of others, and what I have heard from bereavement counsellors and therapists, is that they are a nonsense. Yes, you may experience some of these, but mixed together, in no particular order, and not really in stages. A lot you may not experience. My wife died, where does bargaining come into that? No real anger either. I can't really be angry at cancer since it is just a thing, one might just as well shout at the wind. Denial, no, not really. She was undeniably dead. I ran away from the pain. I didn't deny it. And yeah I got depression because I did not grieve sufficiently. Still hoping for acceptance.

Feb 5th
Mm, getting annoyed now - I must be getting better. I just sent emails to those involved in my purchase of a place in Hastings. If I don't see some action, soon, I'm dropping out. I mean, by the end of this month it will be over three months since I stuck in an offer. All that's appeared is a draft contract. I have the money, the place is empty, so how fucking difficult can it be? Someone, somewhere needs a kick up the arse.

Feb 7th
Week 5 of my mindfulness course. For reasons that are obvious to those who have read my previous posts here, I've been struggling a bit and missed out a lot of the meditations. Now I'm back on track. I've had my doubts about the acceptance and do nothing mental attitude of all this, but my opinion is changing.

The previous 4 weeks just involved getting to grips with meditation itself. 'Exploring difficulty' in week 5 is a step up, and often where people fail. In this meditation you do allow 'difficulties' come up on the 'workbench' of the mind and just let them be there, accept them. You don't try to solve them, you turn your focus towards their physical effects inside you. Why? Because this short-circuits the downward spiral into negative thinking.
The whole ethos is to become a dispassionate observer of your own mind. You don't suppress things or push them away. My first instincts were to do that but, as I have learned with this 'delayed grief', suppressing stuff only allows it to fester and come out in some other way, and often a worse way.

Later…
Time to get moving...
"Mentally tough artists, writers, and employees deliver on a more consistent basis than most. They work on a schedule, not just when they feel motivated. They approach their work like a pro, not an amateur. They do the most important thing first and don’t shirk responsibilities."

 Feb 8th
Ah, the ups an downs of 'processing grief'. Yesterday I went out for a meal with Caroline's parents. I was okay for a while then could feel the fist growing inside me. I did not like lots of people around. On the drive back it hit me seeing a small garden area we used to walk around. I managed a cup of tea at the in-laws house, got back here, determinedly started looking at photographs and fell apart. Then in the evening I came up again and even did some weight training. This is good, thought I.
I went to bed but then woke with nightmares and anxiety at 2.30. An hour and a half later I managed to sleep again but woke to anxiety and panic. I walked to try and quell that but it didn't really work. The rest of the day has been misery. This is processing grief - no one said it would be easy. Sometime in the future things will improve, apparently. It does not feel that way now, though I accept it intellectually.

Later…
What a life it is when a period of feeling calm and just okay feels almost euphoric. If anything that'll give you a mindful appreciation of the 'now'. Good grief how much time and energy anxiety and misery wastes.

Feb 10th
Nope, I decided to give up on buying that place in Hastings. It was an extra stressor I really did not need. So today I've been unpacking all those boxes I packed a couple of weeks ago. On the bright side this did make me decorate the house and bin accumulations of crap.

As I was doing this I told myself I would look at the photos of Caroline when I had dealt with X number of boxes. It didn't work out that way because my body told me when. Was it the framed pictures of us together that initiated it? No, it was a 'Titanic' fridge magnet bought from an exhibition we went to. She liked the story, had a thing about big ship disasters, liked the story of the Hood and the Bismark too. Strange sometimes are the keys to memory.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Subconscious Timings

I have now been looking at photographs of Caroline, and forcing myself to remember, for about two weeks. And I wonder about the workings of the human mind. On the first day I lost my depression and most of my anxiety. Morning panic attacks have been dying. As I have said before, yes, I feel shit – miserable – but the emotions are right back where they should be. My mind is working differently and I am doing things differently. Things that worried me before simply don’t now. I am getting out and seeing people and talking, and that helps.


However, all of this is detailed or implied if you read about ‘complex grief’ or ‘delayed grief’. All the stuff I was suffering before is there. The anxiety, depression and panics, the lack of interest in things, the avoidance behaviour (my walking), the lack of trust in people, the feeling that life has no meaning, the avoidance of people generally, and the times when I thought I was losing my mind. But implied in this stuff is that once you start ‘processing your grief’ these symptoms will start to go away, and so they are. But all this is not what makes me wonder about the workings of the human mind. The timings are.


My problems started worsening from the middle of last year, but only last month did I accept that those problems were due to that death and had been on-going since then. At no point was a really any less than depressed and disinterested. Yet, I start looking for and find this stuff about delayed grief almost two years to the day since that death. Back then I read that it generally takes two years to start getting over the death of a loved one. There are other measures but, for whatever reasons, that time stuck in my mind. Coincidence? Then, I start using pictures of our time together to open up the doors in my mind. I started that on the anniversary of her death. And my worst time with this has been until now, the anniversary of her cremation.


This is not supernatural, of course. It may be coincidence, but I am more inclined to think it is to do with the workings of the subconscious. There is an awful lot more going on deep inside our skulls than we are aware of or prepared to acknowledge.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Tired of Delays...

Here’s an update on the last few days. I want out of this but when I look online and research the subjects of delayed grief and complicated grief there is no quantification. Be gentle with yourself, it will take as long as it takes, is the kind of advice from the counselling side. While from grievers themselves: it can keep coming back, it never goes away. I guess my wish and the wishes of others in my position is what led to all the nonsense about the stages of grief. But I guess the question to ask is, how long can the brain take to rewire itself? And can I force the issue? Fuck this ‘it takes as long as it takes’ and fuck this ‘be gentle with yourself’. This is giving up, opting out, saying don’t expect too much of me henceforth because I am a victim. In a similar respect I’m getting a little … tired of the meditation-speak. All this ‘let things be as they are’ accept and observe the thoughts passing through your brain, relax, do nothing.

Fuck off.    

Jan 30th
I guess one of my problems is that I always viewed emotional displays as self-indulgent. Often, when I would see someone miserable, I would feel that they are 'reveling in their misery'. They would be putting on an attention-seeking display. It's not just my attitude it is also a British attitude. You hear a Sergeant Major's voice, 'Smarten up there, don't be such a wimp, man.' It's different in other cultures where there is a lot of wailing and breast beating, and maybe they've got that right. If you don't let it out you don't heal.

Feeling a bit better today. I've written all I can about the death. Maybe I'll write more as it occurs to me but certainly not 2,000 words a day. The pictures still fuck me up but I'm getting longer periods of calm. I guess if I have any advice for anyone who is going through or who has gone through the same thing it is: don't do what I did. Don't run away. I did it by exercising to exhaustion and just shutting down my mind, for two years. Don't run away into a bottle. Don't run away into a packet of pills. In fact I have gone completely about face. My advice is 'revel in your misery', because you need to and you have to.


Jan 31st
Again today I am ‘processing my grief’ I am ‘dealing with my issues’. Basically looking at photographs and thinking. Whatever. I’m finding that now I’ve opened the box I get periods when I want to close it again. I’ll look at the pictures and find my eye straying away from Caroline or I want to stop thinking about the attached memories. I sometimes find myself trying to transfer the feelings and in that way escape their true source. But I force myself to look at Caroline and remember, and all the shit feelings are right back where they should be. A further result of this is, as I think I mentioned before, the grief, in the right place, is now hitting me outside of looking at the photos or writing about this.

Today I’m going to have dinner with Caroline’s parents. I wonder, now I’ve opened things up, how that will feel? I’ve eaten there before many times since her death but of course was practising avoidance. Now I will see the empty place at the table, the photographs there, the empty living room chair … all of it.

Later…
It has been a week now with the photographs. I will continue this, but I feel I need push myself back into my life. I know this sort of thing should have no time-table, but life must continue too. I have left jobs half-done, I really need to get the vacuum cleaner out and, since someone just collected my old freezer, I seriously need to clean the kitchen floor. And finally, and most importantly, I need to find out if there has been any mental change in my attitude to writing. Tomorrow I will sit down and read through the book I started writing back on Crete and, thereafter, I will see how it goes.

Later still…
First time I've REALLY talked with Caroline's parents about her death since she died. It was very hard sometimes, and it was also a relief. They did not know about the perpetual vomiting. I did not know that she asked her mother to hold her about an hour before she died. Went to pieces when I heard that. But it all has to come out: talked out, cried out, written out.


Feb 1st
I always look for answers to things and try to apply logic. This delayed grief or 'complicated grief', upon reading all the symptoms, seemed like the answer. It seemed like this was my problem. But I also like proof, empirical evidence of any theory. When I started looking at photographs and writing about Caroline my depression left me and my anxiety dropped away. The negative voice in my mind got quieter. Things that made me paranoid and a bit crazy lost their charge as my fucked up emotions returned to their real source. That's empirical evidence.

However, I was disappointed to still be waking up and having panic attacks if I stayed in bed too long. I noted that the more I thought about Caroline the less power they had, but they were still there. Now, this morning, after over a week of grieving and then after a kind of watershed in really talking to her parents about her death yesterday, I've woken up feeling okay. No panic attacks this morning. Now it is a case that I don't 'think' I'm on the right path, I know it.


Feb 2nd
I was very happy about the change in me after talking about Caroline to her parents, and the morning of the day after I was pretty good. However, I then found some old pictures of our first year together, and they hit me like a pile driver. Panic attacks back this morning and a general feeling of misery when I was first out of bed. However, I sat and thought for a while and realised that of course I shouldn’t expect an even and steady climb in mood, or a steady improvement in my state of mind. Inevitably there will be ups and downs. Yes, I was miserable, but that’s grieving, it’s not all about tears. And though I was miserable I wasn’t depressed and incapable and again I did not feel anxious. I pushed myself and got on with some jobs I had neglected and now feel myself coming back up.

One further note: I didn’t have much time yesterday to get on with some writing, just a few hours. Most of that time I spent reading what I had written before, but I did also manage 300 words of fiction. It’s not a lot for me, but it’s one of those positives I should process!

Comment…

I spoke to a counsellor at Cruse Bereavement Care today. She'd heard it all before. People stop grieving and shut down on everything because it it hurts too much. But then the grief comes back and bites them. Depression and anxiety are the top signs, along with lack of interest in things, distrust of people, expectation that life will be shit, purposelessness, moments when you feel like you're going crazy because you can't shut down the negativity in your mind, oh, and panic attacks for good measure. Time to go and look at some more photos...

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Processing...

I’ve been posting a lot on FB about what I’ve been going through, doing to myself, which is covered in this short piece by one Doctor Temes. Thereafter I’ve put the posts I put on FB because I want a more easily accessible record of this…

“The effects of unresolved grief can be serious and will prevent healing from taking place. Unresolved grief will turn into delayed grief. The absence of mourning symptoms is a warning signal. Denial is an unconscious psychological defense and everyone uses some denial during his or her lifetime. Denial acts like an aspirin, the ache is still there, but you do not experience it. When you use denial, danger is not overwhelming and reality is not painful. You cannot escape from your thoughts or your feelings, however, and they will stay with you until you work them through and release them. The effects of delayed grief can manifest into inappropriate grief reactions years later and it is likely that the person will not know what is happening to them. It is at that time that the delayed mourning process can begin.”

"Some individuals think they must always be strong and in control. Should you fall into this category of personality type, understand that in the grief situation it is actually a sign of strength to express your emotions. It is essential that emotions be released. Should your emotions not be released through words and tears, they will find expression in other ways. Sometimes serious illness can occur when the emotions and fears are not expressed."


Jan 24th
Right, it's nearly light enough now so I'm off for a walk shortly as doing that yesterday was the start of me feeling better then. When I get back I'll pummel my mind with some more photos prior to 2014, and I think I'll begin writing about all that happened then.

Jan 26th
Fucking hell, who would have thought making yourself feel so bad can make you feel so much better? I have always had a grimace on my face upon hearing phrases like 'processing your grief' because it sounds like psychobabble to me. My view has always been suck it up and grow a pair. But I am always prepared to learn and, logically, all my mental problems come from two years ago, and it appears likely that is because I locked it all down - I did not deal with things then.

I've been processing my grief. I have been sitting, going through old pictures of Caroline and our life together and trying to remember every detail. It's little things that get me. Seeing a picture of her face and remembering a small patch of thread veins there. Seeing her sitting in an armchair. On the table beside her is a pot of yogurt and two pills - ginger and turmeric. These are my attempt to DO something, because they're good for the guts and claimed to be in some way preventative of cancer. Pathetic really in the face of stage four bowel cancer.

I've smiled and laughed. I've cried and at one point ended up on my knees on the floor doing so. I feel a sad nostalgia, tears still waiting behind my eyes. But what I do not feel is depressed. Also, for now, the anxiety has gone - that tightness in my chest and stomach has gone. My mind seems to be working differently - things are falling into perspective.

On one of my recent posts someone put a little placard 'Unfuck Yourself'. I won't say that this is what I am doing because I've had too many failures thus far. But certainly something is happening and, as with the meditation, it feels like it might be good.

Later…
Okay, that's enough fucking catharsis for me today. With the photographs I took a trip down memory lane. It sometimes made me smile, mostly made me cry. Looking at video clips was a killer. Seeing her smiling at me as I took a picture, well... Feeling wrung out from that I turned to writing. No real structure, just stuff as it came to me about her death, circumstances leading up to it and the aftermath. 2400 words thus far. Maybe when I'm done I'll publish it on Kindle. Maybe it will be too personal.


Jan 27th
Okay, it seems that 'processing your grief' is an exhausting exercise. I slept for 9 hours last night and right now I feel like I've been put through a mangle. But it's cold and windy today so an hour and a half walking in that should clear out the cobwebs.

Today I will do more of the same. I'll look at photographs and I'll write 2,000 words about the lovely subject of watching someone die of bowel cancer. This latter exercise I plan to be my lead-in to getting back to writing fiction, if I don't fall apart first. I want my fucking life back.

Later…
Another 2,000 words done about what began 2 years and 7 months ago, ended for Caroline 2 years ago, but has continued for me since. I realise that with all the walking, kayaking and swimming since her death, and with other things occurring inside my head, this is something I have been running away from. I'm not any more. I'm exhausted now after another day trying to castrate my mental demons. But, again, I am neither depressed nor anxious. So the demons aren't fucking me quite so much.

Jan 28th
Definite changes going on in my mind. The looking at photographs and writing about Caroline's death and its aftermath leaves me exhausted. The last two nights I slept, respectively 9 and 8 hours, which is unusual for me. Last night nightmares woke me at midnight. No images and nothing to relate to, just fear my mind groped around to find reasons for. I was reminded of shortly after she died, when I had nightmares about losing her. I would wake up and dismiss the nightmare because, well, that's all it was, then a moment later would remember the reality. This morning I have the shakes, as if I downed a bottle of whisky yesterday, but I drank nothing but tea.

I believe all this is having a positive result. Still no depression or anxiety. I feel like shit but I think the positive here is that I am feeling like shit about the RIGHT things. My fucked up emotions are now back where they should be - not repressed or transferred.

I keep posting this stuff here because it is cathartic for me and maybe for others in similar situations. This is also a reflection of me not repressing things. I have had messages from people, including doctors and psychologists, saying I am doing a good thing by posting this. If any of you reading this find it uncomfortable - embarrassing - the answer is simple: don't read it. Or maybe take a closer look at what might be going on in your head...

Later…
I'm onto week 5 of my 8 week mindfulness course. The new meditation comes after setting yourself up with 2 previous meditations and is called 'exploring difficulty'. Apparently it is at this point that many give up the course. Anyway, I now know what my 'difficulty' is. However, in the meditation I focused on what I previously thought were my difficulties. They had some emotional weight and caused a physical reaction, which is what is explored in this.

Then bam, out of nowhere, an image of Caroline in my mind. The physical reaction was strong. I had a panic attack. It was as if some part of my mind got irritated by my procrastination and delivered a message: 'Wake up dickhead! This is your problem!'

Message received.


Jan 29th
Again I looked at photos last night and I finally wrote the death scene - Caroline's death. I had to stop halfway through because I could not see the screen. Thereafter I was in pieces for the rest of the evening. Changes are still ongoing. I am now remembering her outside of looking at photographs. Though I haven't felt depressed or anxious I have been having panic attacks in the morning, if I stay in bed too long However, when I remember her the attacks go away. This is a sign of ... something.

This morning I stood by the kitchen window remembering her going to smoke a cigarette there, while she could still walk, the tartan pattern 'comfy trousers' she wore doing nothing to hide her wasted legs. I wonder if she was looking out at the view and saying goodbye to it.

Later…
Guess who I found down at Asda today? It was Neal Asher, cynical and certain and ready to rip someone's head off. Apparently a phone call in the morning had confirmed everything he had thought was happening to him. Then, some straying from the other end of the line into raiki and spiritual healing, had an amazing supernatural effect, because it resurrected his inner bastard. I hope he sticks around.

And Later…

So anyway, I spoke to a grief counsellor and saw a therapist today who both confirmed my problem: too much loss for which I have not sufficiently grieved. There is no easy out, no way round it, no way to ease it - pills, drugs alcohol or whatever just hamper or stop the process. The way to stop suffering, is to suffer. I guess it can be equated to physiotherapy after breaking a leg or something. If you want this to work, mate, then there's a process, and it's gonna hurt. I am overjoyed ... no, really, well I will be when I don't feel so knackered. There have been times this last year when I felt, seriously, like I was going insane. Now I have the answer I have been looking for for months.