Saturday, January 30, 2016


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.

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.

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...

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.

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.

Monday, January 25, 2016

It's Complicated.

In about two weeks will come the date when, two years ago, I started walking. Prior to that I lost interest in reading, writing, TV and film … okay, let’s round that up: I lost interest in my life. I walked in desperation to keep depression at bay while I got over the death of my wife. Yes, I kept depression from crippling me by walking, but I wasn’t achieving much more than a holding action. When I stop walking it comes back, when there are extra stressors in my life it comes back. But is it depression? Is it really? Because I have now been reading about ‘complicated grief.

In psychiatry, complicated grief disorder (CGD) is a proposed disorder for those who are significantly and functionally impaired by prolonged grief symptoms for at least one month after six months of bereavement.

I thought I grieved and grieved enough. However, because of the circumstances of Caroline’s death I spent an awful lot of time suppressing the images, just shoving them out of my mind. I walked and exercised to the point of exhaustion. I cleared the house of items related to her – just retaining some keepsakes in a wardrobe, out of sight. I can hardly bear to look at pictures prior to 2014. Now, in just some brief exchanges with some therapists, I learn that maybe, despite all the crying, I have not processed my grief and it keeps coming back to bite me.

The symptoms are, apparently:

Intense sorrow and pain at the thought of your loved one
Focus on little else but your loved one's death
Extreme focus on reminders of the loved one or excessive avoidance of reminders
Intense and persistent longing or pining for the deceased
Problems accepting the death
Numbness or detachment
Bitterness about your loss
Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
Irritability or agitation
Lack of trust in others
Inability to enjoy life or think back on positive experiences with your loved one

A lot of these apply to me. However I don’t get intense sorrow at the thought of Caroline because I have quite effectively shut such thoughts down in my mind. Nor do I focus on the death or have intense longing, for the same reason. I shut it all down, zilch, nada, not going there. So is the reality with me ‘Complicated grief’, that all the stuff I locked away in rooms in my mind is festering? Is it the case that it is not depression as such, but time to house clean my mind?

I’m forever searching for answers. I’ve tried hypnosis, meditation, am learning mindfulness, positive thinking, forced laughter and smiles, processing my positives, positive visualisations … though the one thing I still don’t want to try again is the one provided by our pharmaceutical companies. Despite all this, last week I lost 5 - 6 days to ‘depression’. I was fighting it hard but then it fought back even harder. I crashed, completely. Nothing was any good, nothing would work, everything was shit. My weight dropped by 9lbs, I started smoking again (but with the ecig I am easily stopping again), I spent most of my time sitting in a chair staring into space, feeling like Hell. I started taking Citalopram, but I only took 2. This ‘depression’ came again these last two days. Despite my resolution not to I took a Citalopram – I felt it was my only option.

Time I think to try something else, as well. I’m now booked in for CBT, but that might take some time. I’ve contacted some local therapists and await their response. But I’m also going to try something else. I’m going to make myself remember. And that starts with the photographs you see here.

Wish me luck. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Two Years Today

Caroline Asher 
10/7/59 - 24/1/14

Having read many articles about grief I see that experts tell us two years is the average time it takes for one to get over the death of a loved one. These same experts will soon weigh a rainbow and tell us the length in metres of anger, or love, or will accurately measure the volume of creativity. Yes, memories might not hurt so much, but damage was done and though scar tissue forms, how well do things work underneath that?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

When Did The Dreams Stop?

I have read various self-help books, psychology books and articles online. From these I've learned that most problems between the ears, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia etc stem from, quite simply, thinking negatively. Here's highly relevant section from the book 'Conquering Your Critical Inner Voice'.

Yes, pills will help, meditation will help (and meditation might be the whole solution), but the problem may come back if your habit is to doom, gloom and catastrophize. If you're perpetually hypervigilant for disaster because you have little faith in your ability to cope. You need to break the habit; you need to think positively. But you can get setbacks. I was pushing myself in that direction but, with the perpetual anxiety I was getting, and the panic attacks that had now decided to move into my meditation sessions, I couldn’t help but sometimes think I was fighting a losing battle. However, a recent low point pushed me back to reading and looking for answers, and, in the same book as above, I found this.

This gave me encouragement because rather than a sign of failure the anxiety and panic attacks are a sign that I am progressing … no, that I am winning! This pushed me back to reading Rob Kelly's Thrive. There I learned that a good technique is to go somewhere quiet, a few times a day, and make yourself have, effectively, positive fantasies about the future.

So at 10 o'clock on Sunday I spent 10 minutes doing just that. I then set my alarm clock for 11 and thereafter for every hour on the hour for 14 hours. The result of this was that Subcunt (my name for that critical inner voice), the horrible little devil I have felt sitting in my mind like an abscess, shrank. He no longer had something to say to my every thought or hope. I felt good. I did the same on Monday for a total of 170 minutes, and I am doing the same today.

There have been some crappy periods when I’ve gone down for a couple of hours. And when I go to bed at night I don’t pleasurably contemplate the day or the future, but seek oblivion. I use a hypnotic recording to shut up my mind. I don’t expect miracles. However, I do expect results. I have felt some immediate ones and see that this is definitely a positive step. In Thrive Kelly cites two weeks as the time to undergo a complete change. I'm aiming to do it quicker!

Anyway, while I’ve been doing the above, other thoughts occurred to me. The fantasies I have been running through in my mind are of the kind I used to have when going to sleep at night. And yeah, including the dirty ones, but overall about happy future scenarios. Sometimes I see myself at my desk banging out the next book, energized and positive and happy about what I’m doing. I’m laughing often. Things are going the way I want them to go. I’m strong and getting stuff done. I’m enjoying my life. This is the kind of stuff I used to dream about in the past, so when did it stop?

I think I know. Prior to 2000 I used to dream about a big publisher taking my books, about seeing them in bookshops, about succeeding at my writing. Beside the hand-on-cock fantasies, these ones about writing were my main ones. They were fantasies I had for over 20 years. But after 2000 they (not at once) ceased to be fantasies but the reality. In a brief spell during that period I can remember allowing myself to feel depressed and empty and, back then, I identified the reason why. I no longer had that aim to fantasize about and it left a hole in me. The dreams stopped for a time when they came true. Later I filled the hole with ongoing success, buying a house in Crete, enjoying life. Of course recently they have stopped again through all the negative shit I've been allowing to occupy my head.

I want the dreams back!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Getting Angry.

I just put a couple of posts to Facebooks, and since someone sent me a message thanking me for them, I thought it would be an idea to expand on them here...

I can see now a disparity between the aim and the final target of meditating, or taking pills, or using anything else outside of yourself in the fight against depression, anxiety and panic attacks. To hit the final target of being without them, using measures outside of yourself, requires an acceptance of something being wrong. It is accepting that you are weak, ill, needy, crying for help, being a baby. I see now that maybe the real route out is to grow a pair. You must start out by telling yourself no, nothing wrong with me. I am damned fine! It is to look at a malady that is simply in the mind and tell it to fuck off.

It's about the internal or external sense of control (as I have been reading). External and you think your problems come from outside you, and think they require something external to fix them. Internal, and you believe that it is you that has the power over your problems, not something or someone extraneous. Internal and you work at it, external and you cry for someone to fix you.

I will, however, continue with my 8 week mindfulness course because maybe it, as well as some other recent events, has helped me to gain this clarity. Maybe for others it takes the pills to lift them far enough out of the pit that they can start fighting for themselves. But in the end the battle is their own, and internal. 
My changed attitude to depression, anxiety and panic attacks stems from a lot of sources. I started out by accepting that it was chemical imbalances in the brain and tried to correct that with pills. I didn't like the side effects of the pills and tried meditation. I then discovered that meditation has been proven to be as effective as the pills which, in essence, proves it is NOT about chemical imbalances. My reading of various self-help books has brought home to me that your thoughts are no more you than the turd you put out of your body each day. You can control and alter your mind using methods similar to those you use to change your body. You exercise it, you stop the unhelpful stuff, you emphasize the positive and you stop letting your mind butt fuck you.

The sources I mentioned above in order... The meditations started with Headspace, led on to various apps I downloaded to my Ipad and a free one from Paul McKenna, this last led me on to his various self-help books along with their hypnotic meditation CDs. By this time I had heard of mindfulness and bought a book on that containing an eight-week course. A hypnotherapist I went to see put me onto the 'Thrive' program by Rob Kelly – a book you work through doing various exercises, some of which produce painful revelations.

In Thrive I learned that it is not even about your past. It is about the you now: unhelpful thinking styles leading to catastrophising, hypervigilance, low self-esteem and other crap. I started by blaming my problems on the death of my wife. Yes, this put me on that road, but it was me that kept walking. I have also blamed pressures of a new relationship, inability to assimilate a different culture, stopping smoking, drinking, also stopping drinking ... but do you see the pattern: all external shit. If you have a problem with the way you think then it is the way you think that you must change. It's difficult, but it is not rocket science.

It has to be corrected at its roots. And this brings me back round to the start of this post. You have to do it yourself. You don’t say ‘I’m depressed’ and wait for pills, you say ‘I am allowing myself to have depression today, but I will stop it’. Like I said, at the roots of the very way you think. ‘I’m depressed’ are the words of a victim.

And that too is a point. I now believe one has to decide, firmly and finally: fuck off, I am not going to be this person any more. No more being weak, no more whimpering and telling myself I'm not well. It can all get the fucking hell out of my head. In the end getting angry helps, too.

Stop being a victim.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Neal Asher Video Clip

Okay, I've just spent a fruitless half an hour looking for a post I put on Facebook some weeks back. I asked for questions from my readers to be answered on a video clip. Now I'm asking again. Please put your questions in the comments here. I'll answer them on another clip like this one below from a couple of years back...

Friday, January 01, 2016


So, on the 30th December I hopped in my car and paid a visit to my ex editor in his new abode in Hove (Brighton). I was there to deliver a chair I had repaired for him and I took my drill down to bang a few holes in his walls to secure a bookcase and a mirror. The plan was then to head over to Hastings and meet up with someone there for a drink, then go to a party on New year’s day.
(Pictures here from Hastings)

On the 30th I drank red wine, maybe a bottle or more – as had been my custom in the past when visiting down there. I didn’t feel great drinking it and then the next morning I woke with panic attacks and anxiety. I persevered and the next day in Hastings I just stuck to a couple of beers. Almost from the first sip the anxiety kicked in. I felt sick with it. Returning to the flat early I just stayed in my room. Mediation brought me out of that but I felt incredibly tired and went to bed at 10.

This morning, waking with panic attacks again, I packed up early and said my goodbyes – I simply could not face that party.

Back here a meditation raised me out of it a bit and I went shopping. Next, after eating something, a second meditation left me incredibly weary and miserable, but I have since shoved myself up out of that.

I begin to wonder now if my years of heavy drinking are the biggest problem, while the grief and accompanying shitstorm just knocked the scab off that wound. If you drink a lot you lose your natural mechanisms for coping with stress. Without alcohol you cannot cope and along comes the depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I of course ended up in a cleft stick because the alcohol also had the effect of making me more depressed, so I couldn’t use it as an out.

Anyway, after this wake-up call I have my New Year’s resolutions. No more alcohol. Frankly I’m getting frightened of what it does to me now. I’m also starting – today – an eight week mindfulness course. These resolutions sit on top of my ones for exercise, learning Greek and writing. I’m tired of this shit and will work every waking moment to beat it.

Happy-fucking-New Year.