I am having a quiet giggle to myself on this Bank Holiday morning, as obviously – because it’s Britain – it’s tipping down with rain. There are lots of planned BBQs, parties, drinks, fireworks… and it’s raining. He he he. (I am staying inside and working today, so I am missing out already – but the ability of the British weather to royally mess up any planned celebration does amuse me.)
Speaking of working, I recently took on some copy-editing for my Ex-Work (which I do occasionally, when I feel like it) and had the very usual situation of a “can we get this turned around pretty fast?” turning into “ok uh you can do it in 24 hours, yes?”
Y’know what? Not my circus, not my monkeys. It felt incredibly freeing to be able to think “well, that’d be nice; but I am one person with this amount of time, so… it’ll be done when it’s done.” And actually the Bank Holiday came to my rescue anyway, so it’s less of a rush, but still. It felt nice.
What else? I’ve been reading again – THERE’S A NEW BOOK FROM VICTORIA GODDARD AND IT IS FANTASTIC. The Redoubtable Pali Avramapul is the next in the Red Company series, following on from The Hands of the Emperor and The Return of Fitzroy Angursell, and it’s so good. As I discussed with someone on Reddit, I want Pea and Kissy, and would cheerfully let Pali stab me and then thank her afterwards. You can absolutely read it as a stand-alone, but it’s definitely better read after The Return of Fitzroy Angursell at least.
I’m part-way through more books; Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Tiger & The Wolf, City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to Dragons by Quenby Olson. I’ve also picked up a few others – The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg, The Black Pages by Nnedi Okorafor, Tom Holland’s Dominion, The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by HG Parry. I’m still struggling to read, even books I want to pick up – the Otter gave me A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland for my birthday, which I’ve wanted for ages, and I just can’t pick it up… but I’m working on it.
In other news; the cat is still Grumpy (as always) but has been practising his solar panel positions for maximum heat-absorption, and filling up on biscuits when not heating his fluff. He’s been enjoying yelling, eating all the biscuits, more yelling, and napping. In short, he is still thoroughly enjoying his retirement!
Aaaaand… we are (hopefully, fingers crossed, pls send us all the luck) moving house! We’re staying in the Oxford area, but have found a larger place that the Otter and I both adore. We have started packing things into storage, as we don’t have anywhere in the one-bedroomed-flat to keep boxes, but we don’t have a date yet. Bobble is both concerned and very happy to have multiple boxes to test out for sitting-spots, and we think he’ll love the new space. More updates as they happen…
In games news, I have just finished Wytchwood on Switch, which is adorable and grumpy and contains lots of snark and collecting things, which I enjoyed. Also if you’re on Steam, Dorfromantik is now out in the full version! It’s a bit like Carcassonne but single-player, and I really enjoy it. I also recently tried Calico, which is adorable and promises a lot, but I have found the controls and visuals a bit funky on Switch – might be better on console or PC, dunno. It’s put me off playing, anyhow.
Beyond that… grey, still. Still on meds, which are helping – I at least have spoons – but it’s all just a bit meh, even with various Things (aka. new house – which all still feels like it could go wrong, so that’s a bit of a mixed blessing.)
One foot in front of the other, anyhow! Have a sunny view of Oxford (from the top of Westgate) to brighten your days.
Welcome to my office! Aka, my brain. Think about having a filing cabinet in your room; a good solid one, that has been kicked around and sat on and opened & closed relentless times. That’s memory, right? Plus stacks of files around that are all the stuff you’re currently dealing and interacting with, and then post-it notes stuck all over the place because they’re the things that are for right now and you won’t need in five minutes. It’s a mess, but an organised one, yes?
But one of the side-effects of long-term depression is memory loss, and over the last 1o-15 years, I have been finding that I can’t recall things. Can’t find the memories. Can’t find the words. I was actually relieved when I learned that memory loss is a side effect, because it felt like my memory was draining much faster than it should have been – and despite everyone else’s “har har, yeah, I get that!” – it felt worse. It’s not bad, not yet, and I work around it, but it is worrying.
And I thought… actually, for someone who doesn’t live with this: can I explain what it feels like to not be able to access a bunch of my office-brain?
The little day-to-day stuff – I just can’t find the post-it note I need. I know that word, but where is that damn bit of bright yellow paper? Ah, here! That’s the word. Previously, I might have had it stuck to my hand, or immediately grabbable – now, it’s somewhere on my desk… and so there’s sometimes a delay as my brain hunts through the words, trying to get the right one! Although I am finding, over the past year, that the post-its are harder to find. That word I want; it used to be on the tip of my tongue, and went from being immediate, to a second or two… and now it’s more often than not failing to come, and I sometimes can’t even recall the shape of it – I substitute a pink post-it for a yellow and I get the word wrong, even if it’s the same vague association. (This is what I mean by “it’s getting worse” – I do have some sort of objective benchmarks, as well as a feeling.)
Some things have a nice, reassuring bulk of memory; friendship with a long-time friend, for example. I know I’ve got all these good memories; a bastion of warmth and tough times and good times and laughter and shared things. But I don’t need to access that; it’s a nice solid filing cabinet that I can sit on, so it doesn’t exactly matter what’s inside it. That’s not too bad; I know the cabinet is there, even if I don’t need to get into it right now.
Some things, I need to get into the cabinet, but I can’t pull the memory out. I had Thornton’s nut toffee recently, completely randomly, and it sparked… something. I know I have a memory associated with that taste, but I can’t find it. I can’t pull it out of the folder. It’s just… not accessible to me right now.
And some things, the memories simply aren’t there. I open the cabinet and it’s a blank; there might be one thing, but nothing else around it. I sometimes have a bright memory linked to a photograph, or a specific moment; but often, the surroundings will be blank. You know the way people often say “oh yes, that trip to X, we did Y and Z” – I don’t have those Y and Z memories. Or I’ll have one or two where other people have ten or twenty. The memory folder that once had a lot in has been whittled down, somehow, and just isn’t as bulky.
And some things are just blank. Gone. I know I should remember… but I don’t. Just grey emptiness. It’s not even that the cabinet is locked; it’s that it’s not even there, or the folder is completely empty. I’ve got a photo somewhere of my family on a trip; I must have taken the photo, as I have it, and I think it’s Florence… but I have no memory of that trip. Zilch. It’s just a photo that I can piece some information together from.(I actually have “Florence 2014” written on it, so that’s something… but can I remember the trip? I mean, I can’t really remember 2014!)
And, honestly, it’s just normal now. I think the terrifying thing with memory loss is that you get used to it; I’ve been learning coping mechanisms for the damn-what’s-that-word, but I can’t do much about the rest. I keep a diary, but don’t keep detailed notes – because what help are notes, if they don’t actually help you recall? And I’m lucky that it’s not yet too bad, and it’s only going slowly – so I am, objectively, fine. I can recall what I need to (mostly), and I know people and places. So I’m just working around a slight issue with wonky filing cabinets and lost post-it notes, and it’s fiiiiine.
(If you catch me pausing when I talk, or if I hesitate, the memory thing is probably why. I know the word, damnit, I just can’t actually find that goddamn bright pink post-it note right now!)
My brain is weird, and wonderful; and also incredibly frustrating at times. But have a small glimpse into what it’s like to have a filing cabinet that you can’t open – and post-it notes stuck everywhere!
Long time no speak! It’s felt harder and harder to update here; partly because I feel like I’ve got nothing happening, partly because a lot of what I want to say is either nebulous or Not A Good Idea or just eh, and partly I’m struggling because it’s a should… and I have enough of those in my life! (Although having said that I have Nothing Happening, this has turned into quite a long post… I should update more often!)
But February has got here, and the snowdrops are coming up, and there’s been a few slivers of sunshine, and the cat has been enjoying his radiator bed. Let’s do some Happy Things!
1.I got Animal Crossing New Horizons: Happy Home Paradise extension, which has been fun! It kept me sane over Christmas and I decorated a bunch of houses, which was great. I have been playing it a little more recently – I’m currently engaged in a war against the ever-expanding tulips, and also a minor war against Tom Nook: I refuse to pay THAT AMOUNT to extend my storage! Which means curating my storage… but then I can sell almost anything at the shop, so that’s been fun. PAY ME FOR MY RUBBISH, RACOONS!
2.Sewing! I have started cross-stitching again; using patterns mostly, but I found some mega-cute ones, so that’s fine. The pic here is from MimsiDesign on Etsy, but there’s been a bunch of cute (and mostly cat-themed…) ones that I’ve found – not sharing as some of them are going to be presents!
3.Planning holidays! My Advent Calendar for the Otter last year was Experiences, and so they’ve got vouchers for trips all over the place, ranging from small day-trips to see sheep or (lots of) otters, to a suggestion of a museum in Antwerp (hopeful for an autumn trip with my family!) and llama-trekking in Dartmoor. It’s been good to look at the year and see what we can do, and at least pencil things in.
4.Work has actually been ok! I feel like I’m settling in more; I still very much dislike Elsevier as a company and frankly it’s infuriating how badly my department is treated (we’re basically forgotten, despite doing a lot of the ‘cleaning’ work) but the work itself is relatively easy, my colleagues are lovely, my editors are lovely, and my boss is frankly amazing. (She has checked in with me every two weeks, and last week we actually discussed whether I wanted to take on more work – WHAT IS THIS CONCEPT?) I’m also currently doing some work to see if I can make myself a career, or at least figure out a learning programme for the hour a week that I’ve made sure I’ve carved out. So there’s progress?
(I didn’t end up learning Ruby, by the way, because the bit that they helpfully forgot to mention was that I needed to learn it in two weeks… with a full-time job and a part-time job? Uh, no. And it’s apparently one of the harder languages to pick up – someone’s suggestion on how to learn it was to go and learn Python first! So that was a firm no from me. Life is far too short to be confused about maths when I have other things I could be doing.)
6.Shall we do some more? MUSIC! I’ve been enjoying the compilations on AlexRainBird’s channel, and they’ve introduced me to a bunch of new artists – some of whom haven’t got much out so I’ve just been buying singles, but some have albums! I had found that listening to the same music as I’d been stressed or depressed to wasn’t helping my recovery, so trying to find new things has been great.
6.Organising! I am broke as fuck this year due to a couple of things I didn’t expect (yay taxes!) but I have a spreadsheet, and Plans, and I actually feel sort of in control? Or at least like I’m in a position to be able to make decisions based on a firm base, and I know how I’m building everything up this year. We also had a couple of house opportunities come up (one of our favourite neighbours is sadly moving) but it felt good to be able to confidently say “No, that’s not right for us” and also know where we stand if something does come up. That said, the Otter found the Best House Ever – it was filled, floor to ceiling, with books. They were a little bit sad when said lovely neighbour (who is the Sensible Person around here) pointed out that the house was unlikely to come with the books.
7. We’ve also been making some household changes – we recently switched from Botley Community Larder to Oxford City, and I am IN LOVE – Botley finished at 5 and always treated me like an unwelcome nuisance for daring to Have A Job and only being able to get there at 4.45 (which also involved a lot of stress and rushing for me), and then never had much food left… and Oxford City are open until 7, had everything plus extras, plus are super nice, and I got our usual bits plus an entire box of not-quite-going-off mushrooms (seriously, they did us for four meals) and three boxes of Coco Pops and a mango and it really is the small things that make me happy! And I’ve been checking out the various subscriptions that we have, what we can get in bulk, what we actually use… I mean, I don’t think it will help much in the crazy year that’s heading for us, but at least it’s a bit of savings that we can spend on cat biscuits. (Look, I know the household priorities.)
(Also if you’re in Oxford, see what your closest larder is! There might be similar schemes in other places – it’s a community larder rather than a food bank, and the aim is to use surplus food: so anything going out of date, weird labels, overstocked, simply can’t be distributed for some reason… we ended up with a bagful of Starbucks iced lattes one week, a huge bottle of Costa chocolate syrup, Waitrose bread, more limes than anyone can do anything with, a fridge full of potatoes (not all the larder’s fault, I admit) and Christmas Pudding flavour chocolate – in amongst normal veg, tins and bread. It’s brilliant.)
8.More Oxford – going out! I’m still being careful, and have been sitting outside/going to quiet places when possible. But over the last few months I’ve been to Shin (fantastic Japanese food), Coffeesmith (best chai latte I’ve ever had), finally got into The Missing Bean (weekday lunchtimes is where that’s at – don’t even try on a Saturday!) and a friend and I have a favourite place for breakfast on Saturday, but I’m not going to tell you in case everyone starts going there. (Ok, ok, it’s the Organic Deli. They do the best pancakes.) Jamona also do great Indian, and I’m still a big fan of Taberu (Japanese – really good sushi!) I feel like I’m starting to get to know the city a bit more, which is nice.
9.I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day, so I’m going to gush: the Otter is just wonderful. Actually being able to talk to someone, and have a conversation about issues/feelings/emotions/what the problem might be/previous history that could be affecting something/how something makes you feel – both good and bad! – is really nice. It’s also really nice to be able to have discussions about anything and actually feel both listened to and responded to. So they’ve been cute, wonderful and generally adorable! (They’re also now working for the OED rather than in computer games, and so much less stressed! That’s been wonderful too.)
10.And a final one: the Grumpiest of Grumpy Cats is, you will be pleased to know, still Grumpy. We also have confirmation that he looks like a walrus (I don’t yet have a comparison pic to confirm that, but I will get one) and is thankfully less chonky than previously (he was approaching 6kg! Now 5.3, much to his disapproval.) He’s absolutely loving his life; 7am sharp is cuddles on the sofa, 9am is morning snoozes on a warm lap when the Human starts work, and then it’s a flexible schedule of radiator naps, yelling breaks, occasional trips to the biscuit-bowl to refuel, back to napping on a lap until dinner, and then a post-dinner snooze in the radiator bed until bedtime in a blanket nest on the sofa. We’re very blessed to have had lockdown with his company, although I’m starting to transition back into a day into the office every now and again, and that is going to require Explanation… (or biscuit bribes when I get home. Both work.)
And a Kate update: As you may be able to tell, I’m feeling… better? Occasionally (ok, frequently) manic, and I definitely have more energy; I spent two hours on Sunday being a whirlwind of chaos and cleaned the entire house, and still had energy after…it was a bit strange. I’m still crashing occasionally, but it’s “I need a nap” rather than a full-day crash, which is good. I’m over six months on Citalipram, and it does seem to be the right base for me; we’re experimenting with doses (I’m currently dropping it a bit, as the manic has got a little too manic) and we’re just going to see how the next few months go. (On which note, my doctor is lovely.)
I’m still grey, though. Nothing really gets through, and I still don’t really know how to feel with anything. I’m struggling with motivation – I can just read Reddit or play Carcassonne and it’s just… existing. Sewing has been good, because at least that’s producing something while existing, and it’s fairly mindless. But I haven’t written, don’t really read, and can’t focus long enough to watch anything – even Ghibli isn’t great. I manage some games, but can’t really get into longer ones; Patchwork and Carcassonne have been my go-tos. I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m really excited about, but I just can’t summon the enthusiasm to tackle the huge pile of obstacles to even figuring out if they’re feasible. (Sorry, Dad. I know you did loads of work on the box and I haven’t looked at anything else for that project yet!)
But then I do also wonder how much of it is the depression, how much is the fact we’re LIVING IN A FUCKING PANDEMIC, and how much is recovering from a three-year severe burnout. So I’m trying not to expect too much, and just appreciate that I’m a lot better than I was a year ago. (And very thankful to be in a better place, too; still dealing with bursts of anger and frustration, still dealing with guilt, still very upset over the whole thing. TL;DR: sucky job did some long-term damage. Quelle surprise.)
Everything is getting better, I think, or at least my energy is on an upward trajectory and I’m definitely not as bad as I was in terms of mental health. But I’m still very much just keeping going, and just putting one foot in front of another. But hey ho, sunshine is on the way! And the cat is cute (and grumpy), so that’s always a win.
Where on earth is time going? And also has anyone seen my brain? I’m sure I had it here a moment ago…
So what’s happening at the moment in the World of Kate?
Sad news first; my grandma, Molly Moody, passed away last week. I know a lot of my friends met her in Salisbury and as we lived with her while growing up, she was a huge presence in my life. But she’d reached 100 (!!) in August and saw my sister get married in October, and last week had lunch, had a nap, and just slipped away – so we don’t think that’s a bad way to go! The funeral is going to be hard for me (various reasons) but I’ve also been taking the time to just reflect and grieve, so it’s as easy as a loved one passing can ever be.
In more random cheerful news, Things:
I’m learning Ruby! Still in the stage of “wait no I’m thinking of CSS, and now I HAVE TO DO MATHS? WHAT EVEN IS THIS?” but I’m sure I’ll get there.
The cat is still cute, stinky and purry.
Our Kiwi neighbour is home, after almost a year away! We had a lovely burn-up with cake, and I made cinnamon rolls that turned out really well – may have to repeat those…
I’ve been ultra-organised and got my Christmas presents mostly sorted (it’s been a very productive coping mechanism) so that feels good!
Been seeing more friends, which has been lovely, and trying to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while.
Got some writing time coming up!! We’re going away in December and I will have a dedicated couple of days… so hoping to do more work on Greensky Book 1o, and get that finished!
I had a bit of a rant about my ex-job (aka. Rebellion) on Facebook the other week, and that felt productive – I think I’m slowly coming to terms with everything, and working my way through the emotions. It still hurts and is still hard to process, but I’m just trying to let it all be, and settle. (And also still staying away from social media and the book world, really, because that makes it all worse.)
I found a new series! Another Victoria Goddard, the Greenwing & Dart series – they are wonderful, ridiculous adventures that start small, and end up chaotic! The next one in the series (book 6, Plum Duff) is out this December, so I’m looking forward to curling up with that over Christmas. I also got my hands on the second Scholomance (wheeeeee) and now NEED THE FINAL ONE because what even was that? (Review to come!)
We went for a lovely sunny walk in Wytham Woods – it was an absolutely glorious day! The leaves have started to turn now, and we need to go back.
Beyond that… still grey. Still struggling. Everything’s still just flat. The new medication (c. 4 months now) is working well, in that I have more consistent energy and I’m able to cope, but definitely still Down. But hey ho, we just keep going! I was able to cope well with the wedding (which was lovely, but weddings are Hard!), and I’m hoping the pills will get me through the funeral and Christmas (both very hard things for different reasons) and then we’ll see.
Have a gorgeous sunset, and be kind to yourselves!
Happy things! Happy things! All of the happy things!
1.Sitting in our neighbour’s garden with a fire globe & wine & fish and chips
We were over near our definitely-not-local fish shop (there is a local one, which isn’t yet open… progress on that is a matter of fierce anticipation for everyone in the area!) and picked up some for our neighbour as well as ourselves – perfect social distancing food, as everyone can just eat out of their own boxes! We had old fence wood to get rid of, too, and so we got to use said neighbour’s fire globe… and the wine, well, you gotta have a glass of something. It was a nice, quiet evening, and was very much a balm to the soul – plus we got some cat company, which is always a pleasure. (The fish may have had something to do with that, I admit!)
2.The weight is lifting…
I’m not doing a whole bunch of stressful admin for an old house (it’s been handed over to a lovely agent, who will definitely be better than me at remembering when to get new certificates for everything, and trying to fix everything that’s gone wrong this month) and it just feels so much better. I’m a bit frustrated at myself that I didn’t ask for help earlier (to be fair, I didn’t realise that I could) but better late than never, I guess.
I also saw some ex-work friends for lunch (which was lovely – I really do miss the people!) and everything’s still generally on fire there, and IT IS NOT MY PROBLEM! It’s such a great feeling. I knew it was all heavy, but didn’t realise quite how much it had dragged me down until it wasn’t any more, and I’m in a job that doesn’t demand my heart&soul and spend every working hour reminding me that however much I do, it will never be enough. I’m still absolutely fucking angry about that whole thing, but I’m also aware that there’s nothing more I can do, and it’ll just drag me down again to be thinking about it – so I’m trying not to. But it is lovely to hear about the rolling chaos and know that I don’t have to give a single fuck any more.
3.Travel? (UK… and further?)
I’ve been booking bits for December – we’re going to Chester – and London in October, and it’s been very satisfying to be able to think about travel again… even if it does get cancelled, which is fine, and we have contingency, but it’s a nice possibility! We’re also thinking about Canada and Antwerp for next year, but that one’s a bit more of a “let’s just see how the next few months go…”
We’re also starting to do more in the local area, too – Otter & I have been trying to find things that are nicely distanced, so we’re going kayaking next week sometime, and hopefully trundling out for some walks that we’ve wanted to try for a bit. Wytham Woods is first on our agenda!
Having spent the last year or so with zero energy and zero spoons and absolutely no desire to go into our garden (our neighbour’s garden has been the saving grace for getting outside, as they are a keen gardener and so if we wanted beautiful flowers, there’s always something there), I finally have more energy and a desire to do something, and we did a Garden!
We’ve taken out the over-enthusiastic goose grass, put in purple wisteria (not in the same quantities…), added two raised beds, cleared the path, encouraged the tomatoes, planted some more veg, got to the gooseberries before the birds (TAKE THAT, YOU THIEVING BASTARDS – we got TWO last year. TWO!) and some raspberries, took a bunch of old wood over to our neighbour for burning, added some trellis for various things, restrained some rather enthusiastic growers, and generally Tidied.
We’ve got a few more plans, too, which feels nice (and like they might actually get done!) – dig in the path, sort the patio, add some plants to the fence (we have some small flexible plant pots, so we want some climbers/smellies/herbs in the pallet holes), tidy the shed, and sort the compost. But it feels like a nicer area to be in, and that’s really satisfying.
The wild meadow in the centre is growing nicely, too – we put yellow rattle in last autumn to fight back against the grass and that’s flowered nicely this summer, plus there’s been a bunch of other odd things popping up from the wildflowers I scattered in October. The bees are definitely enjoying it!
5.WOE (and also WOE, and more WOE, and have some extra WOE)
There has been the standard amount of very vocal woe from a small black furry Woe Machine, but there have also been purrs – so many purrs! I picked him up the other day and he was just rumbling away in my arms. He’s been DEMANDING cuddles in the morning (me) and evening (my partner) and enjoying belly rubs (!!!!!! – only my partner is brave enough for this, I haven’t dared yet.) In short, he’s being absolutely spoiled rotten, and is enjoying it thoroughly – despite the ever-present wailing and claims that he is Starved and Neglected and How Very Dare We. Dare I say, he is actually quite happy (especially when there are biscuits.)
As you can probably hear, I’m doing better; there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not on fire! I’m definitely still grey, and have occasional bad moments, but they’re nothing like as bad as they were. I’m slowly coming out of a pit of no-energy too, but it’s translating at the moment into something that feels almost manic; I’m keeping going and keeping going and somehow it doesn’t really feel like my brain’s involved in that! But if it means I can get out into the garden and not either immediately feel horribly overwhelmed or need to spend a day recovering from the small amount of work I do manage, then I’ll take it.
I have to admit, I’m actually worse with motivation now; I’m able to feel slightly enthusiastic about some things, so it’s making everything that I’m not enthusiastic about that much harder. I’m also still finding people hard; I don’t know what to say! I’m doing my best to keep going and also respond to people who have contacted me, and start to repair some of the missed communication threads, but it’s going to be a slow process. (As one of my ex-colleagues said: you send someone an email, and then they email back – and expect you to reply again?! I already did the email thing!!)
I’m also now having to deal with some Actual Feelings, and that has meant a few breakdowns – the nice thing about not caring is that, y’know, zero fucks, but now… but hey ho, I have coping mechanisms, and I just gotta get the practise in again! It does also mean that I’ve got to actually deal with/work through/get out a bunch of stuff, so that’s going to be fun – especially if this is only the start of everything lifting. But again, if it means I’m actually feeling instead of just being numb, then I’ll take that as progress.
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