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.


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


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'.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!


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...