Take control of your environment!


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When you suffer from any kind of illness it’s hard to muster up the energy to take care of yourself, never mind your surroundings. Things start to slide, dishes pile up, clutter becomes mess becomes disaster areas… This is all normal and it’s not a bad reflection on your worth as a person. If you can’t face cleaning then you can’t. You learn ways of coping, of dealing with the mess, of making less impact in the first place and of managing the damage when the piles get too high. That’s normal too. It’s a problem many people face. When I talk about taking control of your environment I understand that limited spoons are a real issue. But when you do have those spoons…

When you do have spoons it’s still hard to spend them on your environment. By then the piles have gotten high and it seems like you’ll never make a dent in them. By then you’ve forgotten what living in a clean house is even like. By then you don’t know if it really matters. It does matter. I’m not talking about hygiene or what other people, I’m talking about the psychological effect of having a clean and clear habitat. It’s an effect that I all too often forget, and I wonder why I get so stressy and cranky, and why lounging in the living room isn’t as relaxing as it used to be, and when eventually I get up and do a clear I realise that YES! That was it! My brain *likes* being somewhere pretty. It’s as simple as that.

The effect is as simple as that, that is. The actual tidying… not so much. When every waking moment is a fight with your mind you don’t much feel like picking fights with dust and grime too. So what can you do about it without spending too many spoons?

  • Limit your cleaning time.
    I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but if all you associate cleaning with is running out of spoons then that’s yet another black mark against it in your mind. Tell yourself that you’re going to clean the kitchen for 15minutes, then clean for 15 minutes. Don’t push any further, even if you feel you could go on all day. Take a break, reward yourself with a cup of tea, and if you feel like doing another bout of cleaning later then you can do it then.
  • Notice the little things that make big differences.
    You don’t always have to put in a lot of effort to make a room look brighter. Today I realised that I’d piled a blanket beside the washing machine weeks ago with the intention of washing it later and never did. It was just sitting there, being ignored, looking messy. So I grabbed it and shoved it in the washing machine. Instant space and another positive step taken.
  • Do small things in idle moments.
    Try to get in the habit of rinsing out your glasses after you use them, or wiping down a worktop while you’re waiting for the kettle to burn.
  • Do something non-cleaning to make the place look nice.
    Put some flowers on the table, arrange the cushions and blankets in a comfy-looking nest on the sofa, Put an ornament that makes you smile somewhere that it catches your eye. Make your surroundings a place that you like.
  • Don’t stress about it!
    These are all suggestions of what to do if you find yourself with a spare spoon at the end of a day. They’re things that might be nice to do for yourself, to make you smile. Don’t force yourself into a frenzy trying to make them happen. Sometimes you have spoons, sometimes you don’t. That’s okay. Take care of yourself.
  • Remember the grain of salt!
    Today my achievement was washing a blanket. It made me feel happy, and accomplished, and I wanted to remind other people that sometimes it *IS* worth it to spend your spoons on annoying things like housekeeping. That said I still have a pile of dishes 2ft high and a room where you can’t see the floor. I am by no means speaking from the posistion of a cleaning expert 😛

Who am I?


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When you suffer from depression, or any other mental disease, you often say or do things that you don’t really mean. You might snap at your friends, or suffer massive mood swings, or decide that you don’t care about the things that you really do actually care about. This can put a lot of stress on relationships. I generally handle this by being quite clear about why these things happen, and by apologising or explaining afterwards when I’m in a better state to do so. I’ve found that when I’m honest and open about the difficulties I face, and when I let people know that I’m doing my best to cope and to minimise the not-me things I say and do they’re ridiculously understanding. People are awesome like that. And when I’m open and honest about it all they can generally tell the difference between me actually being angry or unfair and the times when it’s “the depression talking”.

Like I said, people are awesome. People (especially my friends) are also remarkably perceptive at times. When I’m suffering from depression, however, I’m not. Perceptive that is, not awesome. Often although they can tell what’s really me… I can’t.

Something that I’ve dealt with a lot, and heard of from a lot of other people, is the feeling of confusion about where the illness stops and where you start:
“I’ve always been prone to tears and breakdowns…it’s just me.”
“I’ve always had a thin temper… it’s just me.”
“I’ve never been able to see the bright side of life… it’s just me.”

And from the more positive side:
“If I’d never had depression I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
“If I’d never suffered from depression I wouldn’t know how to cope with all this stress… and the stress in my life isn’t all from depression.”
“Depression has pushed me to explore how and why people feel the way they do, or has inspired my greatest art, or has taught me the hard-won patience that’s my best asset in life.”

I guess it’s not unusual when you deal with something for so long, and when it takes such a huge part in your life. I guess it’s even less unusual when it’s a part of your own mind and feelings. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s not tough to deal with. And let me tell you, it’s bloody hard to deal with.

Most people I know who have suffered from depression have also found themselves seriously asking this question:
“Who am I?”

I’ve known more than a few people who have avoided or outright refused treatment or medication because they were afraid it would change who they were. Who they are.
That’s pretty scary. Imagine not only living with the blackness of depression, but choosing not to try to get out in case it changes your very being. I mean, that’s heroic sacrifice right there. That’s one of those big dramatic moments where the lone human stands up to the gods and says “Yes, I’m flawed. But I’m human. And I’m proud of it. And I’m going to keep on struggling through this life.”

I have taken medication. I have undergone treatment.
Am I still the same person I once was? No, I’ve changed. But so does everybody, every day. But the medication, or the treatment, or the depression itself haven’t actually changed the core me. I’m still Aoife Brown. I’m still the artistic, caring, thoughtful person that I have always been. I am not my depression. My depression is not me.
But I still understand that worry. And I still worry that the emotional outbursts and the despondency and the tears are so much a part of me that they won’t ever be gone, and perhaps shouldn’t ever be gone. Despite knowing who I am deep down. Despite having friends who know it too, and reassure me of it.

I guess this is the point where I offer some advice. Something to help the other people who feel that way. Something to let them know they’re not alone. That scares me too, because if even I still struggle with it then how can I really advise others. But here goes, for what it’s worth:

-Trust your friends and loved ones. Be honest and open with them. Sometimes you are too close to the problem and can’t see the wood for the trees. When you’re at your worst you won’t believe them when they tell you that there’s a core you that’s not just depression in human form, but on your better days you’ll hear and remember, and sometimes even believe. It’s incremental. It stacks up. Someday that knowledge will stick even in the dark times.

-Pay attention to yourself. Take care of yourself, yes, but also notice what you’re doing. A lot of people act on automatic every day, and don’t really think about those actions. Watch them. Get to know yourself, and see what does and doesn’t change as your moods change. I think you’ll find the things that you care about most in yourself don’t change with your moods or illness or medication. Those things are the core you, and getting rid of an illness can’t take them away from you.

-Finally, if you don’t want to take the risk of medication or treatment, in case they change who you really are… then don’t. Learn your own mind. Ask your own questions. Find your own coping techniques. Don’t give up on a life free of depression, but do it on your own rules, and at your own time. Maybe someday you’ll feel confident enough to move try them after all. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you won’t need to. Take it as it comes. Just don’t give up on trying to be better.

That goes for everybody. Don’t give up on trying to be better.
Depression is shit. No-one deserves it. Everyone deserves to live their life cleanly and fully and without that heavy nothingness hanging around their shoulders dragging them down. YOU deserve a life that isn’t controlled by depression.
The real you. The core you. The you that’s solid and centered. The you that will make it through all this.

Suicide… and not quite suicide


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Again, this post may contain triggers. I’m sorry for anyone who is upset by the title popping up in their feeds, but I felt it would be best to make it clear from the outset what I would be discussing in this blog entry.

So here goes.

I have spoken about suicide before here: https://notaloneinthere.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/thoughts-of-suicide/
It’s a hard feeling when you’re so desperate and so low that killing yourself seems the only way out, and it’s important that that feeling and that desperation is talked about. But that’s not the only feeling that’s out there. There’s another one. A far more subtle one. There’s the longing for not-quite-suicide. And that’s dangerous too, because it’s so much easier to deny its existence.

What am I talking about? What is not-quite-suicide?
It’s where life is a drag and a chore and a long empty corridor of fog and pain. It’s where you don’t think you’re that bad, but you know you’re not that good. It’s where you feel like everything you do is a string of desperate patches on a fraying coat. It’s where you don’t want to kill yourself… but you wouldn’t mind if you died.

Not-quite-suicide is the thought that makes you want to lie down and never wake up again. It’s the bit that makes you wonder if you could just float out to sea and never be seen again. It even dresses itself up all noble as a willingness to die for someone you care about. Because killing yourself is an extreme step (you think to yourself) but if you were to die heroically in some kind of grand gesture… well, that wouldn’t be too bad.

I’ve sometimes been deep enough in depression that killing myself seems a viable solution, and that’s bad. It’s a big bad scary warning sign. It says “this person is in trouble“.

On the other hand, I’m only occasionally well enough that I wouldn’t be tempted by the chance to die heroically for a flimsy cause… and somehow that doesn’t seem to ring as many alarm bells.
Hell, I’ve fantasised about hostage situations where I’ve talked the shooters into killing me instead of the other people in the room. I’ve had Mary-Sue stories in my head where I’ve bravely given my life to save a friend, or a family member, or a complete stranger. And once I copped on that this wasn’t a case of “sacrifice” so much a case of something I wanted to do anyway… well it didn’t change my attitude at all. Hell, these days my tactics in the imaginary hostage situation involve explaining that I suffer from depression and even if I survive this I could fall deeply enough to kill myself at any time, so I’m really the logical choice to die as I have no guarantee of being saved anyway, not really, not ever.

And this doesn’t set off alarm bells.

Now, maybe it’s just me who took so long to see how scary these thoughts are, but I’m willing to bet that’s not the case. I would hazard a guess that I know at least a half dozen people who frequently think that it wouldn’t be so bad to just drop dead right now, or to take the place of someone who desperately wanted to live. And I’d hazard a guess that a lot of those self same people would hum and haw about whether they were “really depressed”. I think there are people out there every day to whom dying (note: “dying” NOT “killing themselves”) seems like a far more pleasant option than living. And I think that hundreds and thousands of them believe that “it’s just the way life is” and they “have to just deal with it” and it’s “just them being weak and not coping” and a whole load of other brain-gremlin nonsense involving the word “just”. Furthermore I think they often don’t feel that they can look for support because there are so many people out there who are worse than them.

Can you imagine that? Especially those readers who don’t know how depression feels like? Can you imagine thousands of people going through their lives thinking that death might actually be kinda easier than going on living… and thinking that THEY’RE NOT REALLY THAT BADLY OFF?!
Can you imagine thousands of people that are so fed up of the struggle of living that they can’t seem to care anymore, and who won’t tell anybody because they don’t want to be a bother, or bring down the mood, or act like a “drama queen”?
Can you imagine thousands of people who think “I could tell my friends that I don’t care about living anymore… but it’s not as important as their problem with their car breaking down and I don’t want to be a drag”?

I can.
It makes me very sad.
It makes me think that even if I don’t want to be a drag to my happy friends who are coping well… perhaps I should tell people how I feel anyway. Because perhaps if enough people do it then it will become normal. And perhaps some day when someone confides that they can’t cope with living anymore the response won’t be shocked silence, or uncomfortable attempts at comfort, or plain not knowing what to do… perhaps it will be “well let’s see what we can do about that”. And perhaps if it’s normal enough then people like me will be able to let themselves be helped without feeling like we’re just a drain on society.
That would be nice.
I’d like that a lot.



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I have spoken before on the topic of brain-gremlins. Brain gremlins are those thoughts in your head that tell you that you’re useless, or ugly, or that nobody likes you. I have a lot of brain gremlins. The strongest of them revolve around the idea that people don’t want me to be around, are talking about me behind my back, or are actively trying to exclude me. It’s a hard idea to shift, even when I know that I have amazing friends who care about me and enjoy my company. I’ve never been quite sure where it came from. It’s just something I have to deal with.

Last weekend I went to an event with friends which involved a 12hr journey back whith increasing sleep deprivation and grouchiness all around. At one point I got on a train and saved a table, only for everyone to go and sit at the far end of the carriage. Tears followed, and I would have sat there eaten up by brain gremlins had one of my friends not stated bluntly “You know, you can join them. And you will be welcome.” (Thank you again for that, by the way, it’s just the kind of simple reminder that I need when I’m in that state!) So I went to join them… and I was welcome… and I got over the brain gremlins… just like so many brain-gremliny moments in the past, and so many more that I will face in the future.

This was a little moment like so many other little moments in my depression-laden life. Except that this time as I went to sit and had my standard fear that they’d make excuses to keep me out I had a flash of an image of other people throughout my life. I had movie-like flashbacks of people turning their backs, of empty chairs being hurriedly filled with bags as I walked into the lunchroom, of excuses being made for why I shouldn’t be on teams, of people running ahead to leave me behind, or simply ignoring me when I was there. It led to a bizzarre realisation that for a lot of my life I was bullied. Not the blatant violent bullying, but the surreptitious social bullying. And it has affected me a lot.

The reason I call it a bizzarre realisation is that, until that moment on the train, I never believed I’d been bullied. It was just the way things were. No big deal. It was just that, well… people didn’t want me around, and were happier when I wasn’t there. Which made it so much easier to believe the brain gremlins. After all, if it was true in primary school, and true in secondary school, then why wouldn’t it be true now? Why wouldn’t it always be true?

At my school re-union some former classmates approached me to apologise for how they had treated me. I smiled and shrugged it off and said we’d all been young, and we’d all been learning how to be good people, and everyone has done things in youth that they wouldn’t do now (only I don’t think I put it so eloquently then 😛 ) and I put it to the back of my mind. After all, even if they *had* been unfair to me, what did it matter now? That was all in the past.

Now that I’ve thought about it, though, I’ve realised why it matters. It doesn’t matter because they owe me anything, or because I needed to know they were sorry, or even because it would somehow fix the past. It matters because back then, when I was excluded, it wasn’t because something was wrong with me. It wasn’t just the way things were, and are, and always will be. It was because there were a load of kids who didn’t know how to act or how they affected others, and people got hurt. And now I’ve learned how to be confident and entertaining in a group, and they’ve learned how to notice when they’re upsetting others, or how to interact with people with different interests, and we’ve all learned how to find friends who are compatible with us without having to exclude those who aren’t, and those brain gremlins that were once so true aren’t relevant any more.

Do you hear that brain gremlins?
You aren’t relevant any more.
You’re outdated.
I know that now, because I’ve figured out where you came from, and where you came from is nothing like where I am now.

So that’s why it’s important to look at your past and learn from it, not just to sweep it under the rug and pretend it wasn’t sometimes shit.
Because things from your past can still affect you in your present if you let them, and to stop them you need to know where they started and confront their lies from the very base. Lies need to hide to thrive, and being honest with yourself can be the light you need to root them out. And without lies, the brain-gremlins will have nothing left. Because you’re not ugly. And you’re not a failure. And you *do* have friends.



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As long as I can remember I’ve had depression. I remember the oppressive feeling and the inability to focus and the desire to just curl up and cry all the way back to primary school, when as a 7 year old I would sit at the back of the bothán and try to keep myself together.

When I finally went to the doctor he diagnosed me with endogenous depression: a hereditary imbalance of brain chemicals. It made a lot of sense to me. I’ve always know that mum suffered from depression, and that others in my family suffered from it.

My mother died over eleven years ago. She hasn’t been here to help me through the worst of my depression, but knowing that at least she’d dealt with it too was a lot of help, because my mother really did things. She co-authored a book on local history, she was a scout leader, she taught craft classes and joined committees and didn’t let herself become a recluse even though she sometimes commented how easy it would be for her to do that. I’d like to be able to do as much as she did. In my mind, though, I always remembered the mum that went out and beat it, and not the mother who sometimes felt beaten by it.

Recently we came across an old diary of hers, one from over twenty years ago, and suddenly there was a side of her that was everything I’ve been dealing with and feeling shit for thinking. It was more than just a help. It was a huge comfort. I wasn’t alone.

She describes her reactions to the meds: “All I’ve got from it is bad skin and a twitch and a yawn. I can’t really think! I am functioning just as well as I did but still the thoughts come and still I find it hard to go to bed at night.”

She describes her dislike of going to the doctors: “Should I go back to him? I don’t know. […] Mornings don’t suit and I am phobic about going round anyway. What should I do?”

She even has a list of pros and cons of the meds, which are so close to mine that I feel like I’m reading my own posts:
“Improvements: I don’t cry so much… I don’t have bad dreams.
Not improved: I still feel panicky. I still don’t want to go anywhere. My temper hasn’t really improved.”

My sister and boyfriend keep hugging me and asking me if I’m coping okay with this, and maybe it’d make sense for me to be upset by it, but all this tells me is that she was where I am, and she kept going. She raised two awesome kids, did a lot of amazing things, had more friends than could fit in the church for her funeral, and when she did die it was from a brain-haemorrhage, nothing to do with depression. Nothing to do with not being able to cope. And if I can be even the smallest bit like her I’ll be happy with my life.

At the end of the diary entry there is a paragraph that hit me harder than I thought anything could:
“He asked me if I was suicidal? Define it? I’ve chosen my spot but it’s against my religion. Children should not predecease their parents. Am I suicidal?”

This didn’t hit me so hard because my mother felt suicidal, but rather because she didn’t seem to realise that YES, she was suicidal. That it wasn’t just normal to feel this way. That she deserved help and sympathy and not to feel so shit.

So yeah, of all the things that have happened it was this that gave me the push to come back to this blog. Because it’s not fair that some of us feel this way, and it *is* a big deal, with a big influence on our lives, and we deserve to get better; because it’s nice to know I’m not alone; and because I want everyone else out there who suffers from mental illness to understand that too.

We are not alone. We are not weird. We are not failures.
We are strong people, dealing with horrible problems.
We are amazing.

“All you need to do is take the first step”


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This is a phrase that I’ve heard often during my depression. It’s a phrase I’ve come to hate and fear. The first time I remember hating it was when I first started actively dealing with my depression. A friend, intending on being kind and hepful, told me that all I had to do was take the first step. In her mind the first step was going out for a walk, instead of sitting moping in my apartment. She had a valid point. Moping in my appartment was doing nothing for me. Fresh air and exercise would have been a lot better for me. I still didn’t like the phrase. Back then that wasn’t a step… that was a mountain.

The first time I remember fearing that phrase was when I realised (not in a bland mental way, but in a ‘sudden gut-wrenching moment of horror’ kind of way) that all my life was going to be first steps. From then on. From always to forever. Because you can’t just keep going once you’ve started. You need to stop sometimes. You need to rest. It’s sometimes as important as the trying was in the first place. And once you stop to rest then you need to take that first step all over again.

I’m writing this now because I’ve had this blog going for years now, but sometimes I need to set it aside for a while and look at my life through my own eyes instead of through the analytical eyes of a writer. And when I do set it aside for a while… well, I’m back to first steps.
‘Cos it’s scary picking something like this up again after a long gap.
It’s scary trying to figure out if I should try to explain why I’ve been missing posts, or if I should just keep going as if nothing happened.
It’s scary poking at things that I’d left lie too long.
It’s scary taking that first step… all over again.

This is partly me trying to explain why I’ve been away, but it’s also (as it always is) me letting people know that they aren’t alone in what they’re feeling. When someone tell you that you just have to take the first step it’s so easy to believe that that’s true for everyone except you. For years I thought that I was just taking the step wrong, or not having enough faith, or just ‘being lazy’. But no. NO. Scary things don’t stop being scary just because you’ve done them once before. That’s not how they work. 
What you DO get, though, is that little store of knowledge that says you’ve done this before, and you’ve faced it, and you’ve come out the other side. You do get to say “I’ve beaten you before, I can beat you again!” It’s not as good as lack of fear would be. It’s not as easy. But it’s there, and it’s not something that’s changed in the world, but something that’s changed in you. And sometimes that’s a lot more important.

A long gap


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I haven’t made a blog entry in a while. Sorry to everyone out there who follows this blog and finds it useful. I had a lot of excuses for why I let it slip (I was busy, I had other things distracting me, etc.) but what it really comes down to is “I was feeling okay”.

When I started writing this blog I thought about what I’d do if I recovered from my depression. Would I still feel okay writing about this topic without living with it every day? Would I feel like a fraud? Would I have enough to talk about? What I didn’t think about, though, is what I’d do if I was still suffering from depression but okay right now. That’s what I’ve been feeling for the past few months.

While feeling okay I’ve still been able to help others who are suffering from similar problems. I haven’t felt like a fraud relating my feelings. I’ve still thought of plenty of topics I could write about… but I haven’t dared write about them. Not because I don’t think they’d make good blog entries, but because I’ve been afraid to poke at depression. “I’m okay right now…” I thought “so why dwell on it?” And then I’ve wandered off to do something else that’s not related to depression.

The thing is, there’s a lot of things in my life that are related to depression, and I can’t afford to avoid all of them. In the past few months I’ve avoided my blog… I think you can all forgive me for that. But I’ve also avoided visiting my doctor (she’ll ask how my depression is going), attending certain events (I’ve felt bad at them before due to depression, so why risk it happening again), being on my own to think about things (why be alone when I’m finally okay with going places and hanging out with people all the time?). Basically, I’ve avoided huge chunks of my life. And although I’ve been feeling okay while doing so I’ve also been building up a lot of potential for not-okay in the future.

Today I made an appointment with my doctor. It was a simple thing, but it left me terrified. After the terror faded, though, it finally clicked how much I’d been avoiding. Now it’s time to stop. Now it’s time to face some fears. Not all of them mind, that’d be a bit too ambitious, but one at a time the walls will fall.

Step 2: write and post up a blog entry… I think I may be on my way 😀

Unreasonable Requests


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This is an entry that I’ve been meaning to write up for some time. It’s spurred by hearing a large number of people complaining about unreasonable requests. These requests have ranged from huge to tiny. Some of them would put the person to a great amount of trouble, while others would barely take them out of their way. So what determines if a request is reasonable or not? To which I would respond: There is no such thing as an unreasonable request.

This stance generally meets with uncertainty, until I point out that a request is, by nature, something that you can either accept or refuse. If you can’t refuse it it’s not a request, it’s a demand.

In other words, “There is no such thing as an unreasonable request, so long as ‘no’ is accepted as a reasonable response.”

Some requests are clearly people chancing their arm. You can say no. Some requests are people asking more than you can give. You can say no. Some requests are things that might seem reasonable but are difficult for you personally. You can say no. And some requests you can happily accede to. You can also say yes. It’s entirely your choice.

Following on from that I started wondering why some people get so worked up about “unreasonable requests”. Looking at what would make me worked up I came up with the following possibilities:

The request isn’t really a request.
Sometimes what’s claimed to be a request is actually emotional manipulation in disguise. It’s totally fair to be annoyed at these, both because it’s not on to emotionally manipulate people and because it’s claimed to be something it’s not.

The request has been repeated, without further clarification.
Someone requested you do something. You said no. They are now persisting, without offering any new evidence or explanation.
This is no longer a request. It’s turned into a demand. It might be reasonable to be annoyed by this, depending on how justified their demands are. Either way it’s moved on from being a request scenario. (Continued claims at this stage that it’s “just a request” would annoy me!)

You feel obliged to agree.
Sometimes someone to whom you owe a lot makes a request of you. Or maybe even you’re just the type who likes to be accomodating. Either way, the request has been made and it’s something you’re in no way happy to do, but you feel you “should” or “must”.
It’s still fair to be annoyed (hell, it’s *always* fair to be annoyed) but make sure your annoyance is directed to the right place. In this situation you’re annoyed at the fact that you feel you can’t say no. If the person making the request is perfectly okay with you saying no then this isn’t in any way their fault. Feel annoyed if you wish, but don’t direct it at them. In this situation they’ve done nothing wrong!

You just don’t want to do it.
Say no. Remember, that’s always an option! Don’t get annoyed about having to do something if you don’t have to do it.

The request was insulting, offensive, or crude.
I don’t think the issue here is the request. insulting, offensive or crude language is out of line. Insulting, offensive or crude actions are out of line. Insulting, offensive or crude requests are out of line. It’s not that the ‘request’ is unreasonable, it’s that the whole situation is unreasonable! Don’t put up with it.

So yeah, that pretty much sums up my attitude on requests, and is why I’m willing to ask big things of people, or even little things of strangers. If I make a request of you then I expect you to exercise your own judgement and say yes or no as you wish. And if you say yes? Well, I’m going to assume you mean yes.

Do you disagree? Let me know!
Can you think of other situations where people might get annoyed about requests? Let me know!
Just want to share an experience? Feel free 😀

Guest post: Carpet Patches


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This is a short story written for my blog by my friend Liss. If you like her work I’d highly advise you to check out her deviantART account at http://everwalker.deviantart.com/

Carpet Patches

There was a hole in the floorboards. She prodded it with her toe, frowning. The rotten edge of the wood parted company with a soft ‘pfft’ and dropped away into darkness. That was irritating. It would need some attention but she just didn’t have the time right now, not with work so busy. She pulled a chair over the hole to hide it and got on with things.

A week later there was another hole. This time she got down on hands and knees to have a look. The darkness seemed to go an awfully long way down and she could feel the cold of it reaching up to freeze her skin. She pulled back, suddenly scared, and put a standing lamp over the hole. She left the light on, even during the day.

Life was busy with work, laundry, cleaning, more work. She did a lot of pacing which meant the pattern in the carpet was soon worn to an indistinct grey, no matter how much she scrubbed it. It also meant that more holes appeared. Soon all her furniture was in slightly odd places to hide them and people began to remark on it when they visited.

In the end she called a builder. He had a look around and poked some of the floorboards with his foot. She winced as they creaked.
“Yeah, you’ve got a problem,” he said. “I can sort it out, if you like, but it’s gonna take some work.”
“What sort of work?” she asked.
“Well, for a start, all these floorboards should come up. We need to see how deep the pit is. That means that the foundations might get a bit wobbly for a while.”
“You want to make it worse before you make it better?”
He shrugged. “It’s how it goes.”

She didn’t like that idea at all. The pit was too big to explore, she knew that instinctively, and the thought of opening up that well of cold dark was repellent. Besides, then everyone would know her house was falling down. She thanked the builder and sent him away.

Over the next few weeks she began shopping for new carpets. At first she couldn’t remember what the old one had looked like, only that she’d liked it, but after comparing bright colours and interesting patterns she began to appreciate the options. She took little samples home and scattered them around over the holes, slowly moving the furniture back into place. The result was a bit patchwork but quite fun. Holes kept appearing but it was okay because she knew where to shop for carpet patches now.

Then someone came to visit. He’d visited before, quite often, but he’d been polite and not mentioned the moving furniture or polka-dot carpet. This time, however, he stopped just inside the doorway and looked around. Then he turned to her.
“It’s okay to not be okay.” And he picked up the nearest patch of hole-covering carpet.

The edges crumbled into dust and the next hole was near enough that they quickly joined up. Then, with a shudder that ran through the entire house, the floor dissolved into a chasm of darkness that went down and down and down without end, vertiginous and chilling, waiting patiently to be noticed and growing all the time it was ignored. She stared at the abscess, watching the pretty patches of carefully selected carpet flutter away into the unforgiving black, and couldn’t move.

“People won’t judge you because your house needs fixing,” he said gently. “They’ll help, if you let them. I know you’re house-proud but people like helping. It makes them feel needed.”
“I don’t want the builder,” she said automatically. “He said he’d have to make it worse first. I can’t cope with worse than this.”
“Fine. You’ve got plenty of friends. Even if they only bring one floorboard each – even if they only bring a nail – that’s more than enough to help rebuild. It might be a bit lumpy in places but it’ll be built with love.”
“They’ll see the hole.” She shuddered. She couldn’t look away from it. It wouldn’t look away from her.
“It just means they’ll tread a bit more gently until the floor’s been fixed. Besides, they’ve all got cellars of their own.”
She drew a deep breath. “Maybe. Let me think about it.”

The hole is still there. She’s putting down floorboards as often as she can. Sometimes they’re stable and sometimes they’re not. When she’s feeling particularly brave or desperate she’ll let a friend come round to help, but that doesn’t happen often. She’s still house-proud. She’s not sure what of but she hopes that one day, maybe, she’ll work it out.



, ,

This one’s a little bit all about me. I hope you’ll forgive my introspection, and maybe even that you’ll find it interesting anyway. At the very least it might show others who feel the same that they’re not alone. Just like I know that I’m not alone. Even when I don’t quite believe it.

The other day I had an enjoyable evening out and two close friends walked me to the bus stop afterwards. We stood at the stop and chatted until my bus came into view, then we hugged and I got ready to leave. When the bus finally pulled up I was all ready to go. Except that I wasn’t ready to go. Not at all. I wanted to go back to my friends and hug them again, or stay with them longer, or maybe not leave at all. I was, in fact, pretty scared of leaving. I didn’t want to be alone again.

I almost didn’t share this little story. Not because I was afraid of sharing it, or because I was embarrassed by the reaction, but simply because this is normal life to me. This is what I feel every time I leave a friend’s house. This is what I feel every time we split up to go our seperate ways after a night out. This is what I feel every time I have to go from being with people to being alone. It scares me. It scares me a lot.

When I am in my deepest depression I often have trouble believing in people. If they’re not right there then I can’t be sure they exist, and I can’t rely on ever seeing them again. This is one of the aspects of my depression that causes me the most trouble. It’s always made sense to me that my fear of leaving people comes from the fact that I spend a not-inconsiderable amount of time not believing they exist, and I’m afraid that once I leave them they’ll stop existing again. (or, at least, stop existing for me). However, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I’m wondering if maybe one or both of the above tendencies are in fact caused by something else.
You see, when I was seventeen I said goodbye to my mother… and it was never meant to be forever.

I’ve never felt comfortable linking my depression to past events. It’s always seemed like a bit of a cop-out somehow, like I’m not willing to look inside myself for the problem so I palm it off on some life event long ago. But the more I think about it the more this particular link makes sense to me. Because there was really nothing special about my last goodbye to my mother. There was no hint or sign that it wasn’t just another routine day. I was working on biology homework (or possibly avoiding working on biology homework, I can’t quite remember), my sister was playing, my father was at work, and my mother went out to the shops quickly to buy something for dinner. She never came back. She suffered a massive brain-haemmorhage in the shops, and the next time I saw her it was clear to me that she was gone, despite the machines that kept her lungs breathing and her heart beating. And I guess I learned, somewhere deep down, that every goodbye could be the last one.

There’s something else I found myself thinking about too, and that’s the fact that it’s seeming to happen a lot more often these days. It’s been over ten years since that day, but I’ve panicked more over goodbyes in the last few years than I ever did before. And here, at least, the conclusion I’ve come to is a positive one. You see, now I have more people that I don’t want to lose. Now it’s not just goodbye to another acquaintance or maybe-friend. Now it’s goodbye to people that really, really matter to me. And while there’s always the assumption that we’ll see each other again soon, there’s also the tiny hidden fear that we might not. And I really want to see you again soon. I really do.