Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A Short Memoir Of Feeling Low

I'm writing this because I think it might help. Or at least I'm told that writing about things like this helps if you suffer from them. I probably won't even post it on Facebook or Twitter, such is its sensitive nature. It's purely an attempt at some kind of catharsis. If you find it then you're the sort of person who actively visits Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard without being prompted to do so on social media. For that I thank you.

It's Wednesday night. I've been off work since Monday afternoon. Partly because I can sense my waterworks starting to play up and I want to nip it in the bud in anticipation of my birthday celebrations next week. But partly, probably mostly, because I've been experiencing some lows. I hesitate to call it depression because I haven't been diagnosed. I just know that I've been feeling really down on myself for over a week. It's probably longer than that. I mean I've felt like I'm not going to achieve very much of anything I really want to in life for as long as I can remember. But over the last week or so my disappointment in myself has grown and grown so that by last Wednesday I had reached a point of very little self worth.

Actually, now I remember it this latest low started with what by my standards was a roaring success. During the Paralympics I wrote several blogs on these pages about the event. One on the opening ceremony in particular caught the attention of a Twitter follower of mine who works for the Mirror. The Mirror. National tabloid and all that. He's from St Helens I think. Definitely a Saints fan. So I got a lucky break there. My Saints musings on are the only Earthly reason why anyone follows me on Twitter, much less anyone so prominent in the industry.

So anyway this inadvertent connection led to me being asked to write another piece on the Paralympics for possible publication on the Mirror's website. With an actual by-line. A by-line in the online version of a national tabloid. Anyone who has ever tried to do anything in journalism will appreciate how big that is for a writer. To put it into perspective, I can't even get a by-line in the St Helens Star for covering Thatto Heath Crusaders games, so precious are the journalists on the staff there about their by-lines. And yet I now have one in the Mirror online. Yes. I wrote the piece, it was deemed good enough for publication, I got my by-line.

Happy days then. Only it's not, not really. Perhaps it's now become human nature to automatically think about the bottom line but I have been dismayed by the number of people whose first question upon finding out about my success was;

"Did you get paid for it?" or "Did you get any money for it?" or some other enquiry as to its potential monetary worth. But worse than the enquiry has been the reaction from people when they find out that I did it for free, just to get my by-line. For free. What kind of cosmic loser works for free they seem to want to ask. They can't hide their disappointment and in that inability they rip away my sense of achievement. And when you rip away my sense of achievement I go back to being that middle aged bloke who hasn't achieved his goals and has no prospect of doing so. I become depressed. Or low, to be accurate.

I can't write too much about work but it isn't helping. It's a tough environment if you're feeling vulnerable. It's indescribably difficult if you have no confidence in yourself. I find myself letting the 'banter' get to me far too much far too often lately. Things that I laughed off before now cause me a blush-inducing mortification or they flat out hurt me and I stew and sulk. I turn up filled with a steely determination not to take anything too seriously, not to analyse everything that is said, but half an hour later I'm breaking my own balls wondering why nobody takes me seriousy. Why I can't get genuine respect from any of them. Or at least the ones I've told myself are inportant to me. But it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more I stew and sulk the more I come across as a childish cunt, and not the sort of man it's possible to take seriously. Disability plays a part in all of this, both in terms of how I am viewed at work and how I view myself. Some of them don't see me at all, which is a whole new problem.

I'm going back in tomorrow (Thursday) and I'd be lying if I said I'm not anxious about it. Will I be able to keep my shit together and just get through a day's work without any drama? Fucking unlikely if my recent form is anything to go by. The most concerning thing about tomorrow for me should be Saints' Super League semi-final against Warrington. When I'm well a sudden death fixture like this is the be all and end all of my day and of my week. But it's hardly registered because I'm so obviously not well. It's obvious to me, anyway. My mind is too busy with all the anxiety and negativity crammed inside it. I have no clue how I managed to write the preview of the game for Redvee. There's probably a degree of being in auto-pilot about my rugby writing which I hope doesn't show too much.

I've looked into counselling but in my experience the effect of that kind of treatment is that I reach a point where I feel embarrassed to be there, as if it is one person or problem that has put me there rather than an accumulation of things. The shame turns to anger and resentment at which point I tend to shake myself out of the slump. But though it works in the short term it's just crack-papering, burying my head in the sand and pretending that since the anger has perked me up then I don't have deeper lying emotional issues.

I think it's fair to say that tomorrow could be interesting.....


Anonymous said...

Well done on getting published, you should be proud.
Good luck for tomorrow, I hope you get through it.

Stephen Orford said...

Thanks very much. It means a lot to me that someone took the time to read this and to get in touch. I hope you keep coming back. Not everything here is as bleak as that. Most, but not everything.....