I'm pleased to say I'm through the worst of the bout of depression I've recently experienced. Unfortunately, it came too late to prevent my worst assignment score ever, which leaves me with a real challenge on my hands.
It's been a while since I've written a proper life update in my journals, probably a good three months or so. My writing efforts have been focused on the conclusion to the FPL Nightmare trilogy, as well as the eulogy I wrote for Grandma and getting back up to speed on my university work, so I feel a bit rusty at more general writing. A life update seems a good way to get back into the swing of things.
The first thing I want to say is that I'm back at work, at the post-Covid depression I wrote about last week seems to have vanished. I'm still struggling a little for energy and my breathing is more laboured than usual, but the invasion from the bastard illness has been fought off, and my mindset is now as good as it was prior to contracting the virus, if not even better. Returning to work was a scary prospect - I work 24-hour shifts, so it wasn't like I could just do a half-day at the office or something, it was all or nothing - but my first shift back was probably my best shift in a few months, which was a relief. Part of that was undoubtedly my FPL team outperforming my rivals and putting me into a position where I may somehow earn the fairytale finish to the trilogy, but also it was just nice to be back doing what I would normally be doing. Routine and predictability is such an important aspect of maintaining my mental health, and having that taken away was very troublesome for me.
It's funny, because when I was younger, I used to think I loved spontaneity and chaos, but I really don't. I like having a plan, and when things veer from the plan I do find it difficult, and acknowledging that about myself has been one of the biggest factors in turning my life from one of great difficulty into an environment where I can thrive over the last half-decade or so. The short-term return to being mentally ill was quite devastating for me, but it serves as a reminder that maintaining my mental health will be a lifelong challenge, and that I cannot control every aspect of keeping myself mentally well. All I can do is keep doing the things I know give me the best chance of avoiding succumbing to the bastard illness, and if it does worm its way back somehow, I must keep faith that it will pass. What really helped with that was the glut of messages I received from people who had also suffered from depression and anxiety following a bout of Covid, each telling me a similar timescale - two weeks - which reflected my own experience. Once those two weeks were up, the fog lifted and now already seems like a faded memory. I can only thank those people that took the time to reach out to me, and hope they know that their messages made such a difference in what was a scary and confusing time.
Not all the outcomes were positive, however. As luck would have it, that two-week stretch fell over the period of time I had to complete my latest university assignment. I got the score back on Monday and it was my lowest score for an assignment ever, a score of 62, which is eight below the average required for a 2:1 degree. Now, the mitigating circumstances of having a dysfunctional brain at the time of writing mean it perhaps isn't the disaster it feels like - I'm still above the 70 average needed for my target - but it adds an awful lot of pressure to the next assignment and then the end-of-year assessment. I have no margin for error now, and the final assessment for this module is an exam, rather than an assignment, which is a situation I'd rather not be in.
The beauty of the Open University is that, for almost all of the assessments, you have a month to six weeks to complete the work and then write the assignment. This is perfect for me, as I am very much a person who has ebbs and flows of motivation, and I can get it done during one of my hot periods whenever they strike. Having to get it right 'on the day' is a daunting prospect, even more so now my margin for error has gone. This module, which I always thought would be the most difficult because of the exam, has now turned into a real war of attrition. Moving house halfway through the module and needing an extension for my third assignment meant I had far less time on this last one, and now that poor result means the pressure is amped up yet further for an assignment which demands a skill - thematic coding of an interview - which I've not done before. When you factor in the tedious statistical analysis programme that dominated the first half of the module, it all amounts to a year of study which I have not enjoyed at all, and I cannot wait for it to be over.
I think what is frustrating me the most about it is that my passion to become a psychotherapist has decreased over the last couple of years, directly in proportion to publishing the first FPL Nightmare book and increasing exponentially since the release of Dancing With Disorder. All I want to do is write; to tell stories through books, to share opinions through my website and to hopefully elevate the incredible people in my life along the way. Once the FPL Nightmare trilogy concludes next month - whether in glory or heartbreak, only time will tell - I want to throw myself into writing and really make a go of that. My studies were always intended to make a difference, to other people through making their lives a little better and to myself and my family by giving us a better life. The issues are that I feel like I'm living the life I always dreamt of, by and large, and that I now feel I can make more of a difference through my creative endeavours. My partner rightly points out that my book sales are nowhere near enough to call a halt to my studies, and I know that completing them will mean I have way more options in the future, so failing to finish the course would be stupid. In two years, I can throw myself into writing fully, with a degree (hopefully) to my name. The problem is, I am impatient, and I worry that if I don't give it my all now, then the chances of earning a living creatively will wane.
Those chances are already slim, and I know that my original plan was a good one and that sticking to plans benefits me greatly, so I imagine I'll finish this module and then resume my studies in October. It's the sensible thing to do. I am toying with taking a year out, given I will still have eleven years to complete two modules, but I also think that if I do that, then resuming my studies will prove more difficult than beginning them in the first place. I also know that I want to drop out of my course whenever I have an assignment due, and the disappointment of the bad score is exacerbating those feelings. I'm the sort of person that never really enjoys things until afterwards. When I worked away with my brother laying resin floors, I had to ban myself from thinking how I felt about the work until I was sat in the van after, because during the day I found it frustrating but once in the van I was so pleased to have done it. This degree is proving very similar, and if I can just gut it out until it's done, I imagine I'll feel very proud of myself - at least for five minutes, before I get mad at myself for not doing better.
So it has been a challenging few weeks, with the stress of moving house and the heartbreak of losing my Grandma preceding it. And yet, here I am, still generally positive and still grateful. I've been broken by less challenging circumstances in the past, and though I imagine the next two months will bring a lot of stress with regards university and finishing the FPL Nightmare trilogy, hopefully I will finish both with a flourish. I was going to write a bit about how Denzel is getting on, but I've rambled for long enough for one entry, so I'll do that next time. One nice thing that happened the other day was receiving a great review of Dancing With Disorder, which I'll include below. Reading the synopsis of the story in the first paragraph makes me want to improve the blurb and information page on Amazon, because it summarises the book far better than I've been able to. I haven't got many reviews, and it's always so exciting when I do get one, so thank you Peter McKenna for making my day.
If you haven't read Dancing With Disorder yet, please consider giving it a chance. Ig you have, please consider writing a review on Amazon, even just a short one, because it helps so much with the algorithms and stuff. Also, if you are willing to write a review but can't afford the book, just get in touch through the Contact page and I can sort you an eBook copy for free.
I hope life is treating you good. Thank you for your ongoing support.
Song of the Chapter:
'Nightcall' by Kavinsky
Quote of the Chapter:
"And once the storm is over, you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what the storm is all about."
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"One of the most insightful works I've read on mental health problems in men ... very well-written and a real page-turner. I would recommend it to anyone.
Dancing With Disorder
"It communicates a deep understanding of troubled individuals who suffer from the challenges of mental disorders ... Courageous, wise, humorous and thought-provoking ... an easy-to-read, surprising and subtly moving chronicle.
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