35719

Do you ever get that thing – I’m sure you do – where you constantly hear a robotic woman’s voice saying the same string of numbers over and over again in your head?

I wonder if there’s a medical name for this phenomenon. Apart from being batshit crazy, that is.

It’s like having an annoying pop song stuck in your head, but much more sinister, like it’s a warning or an instruction or something. It feels like I need to do something with the numbers 35719.

It’s a shame robot lady can’t give me some useful numbers, like the lottery ones.

Takako Konishi

Sometimes, when I’m very bored indeed, I look at the Google Analytics data for this website. Today, I saw this among the most popular URLs visited:

You’ll see it’s only had one view, which makes it one of the more popular pages (lolz). It goes without saying there’s no page called Takako Konishi, and I had no idea what/who that was.

Obviously, Google is my friend. Takako Konishi was a Japanese office worker who lost her job and sank into depression. She travelled to Minneapolis, then to Bismarck, then to Fargo, where she drank two bottles of Champage, lay down in the snow and died.

There’s an urban legend she went to Fargo to try and find the $1m treasure Steve Buscemi’s character hid there in the film of the same name, but this wasn’t the case. She’d gone there because an old American lover hailed from there, and I guess she was lonely.

A very sad story, but one that deserves to be told. There wasn’t a page on this site called ‘Takako Konishi’ before, but there is now.

Delicious Space Eels

So, I’ve been prescribed anti-depressants. A shocker for my millions of readers I’m sure.

I’ve pushed medication right to the very end of the solutions list for my mental health problems, and here we are. No more cards left to play. I’ve dieted, exercised, journaled, meditated, yoga’d, gratituded and ‘taken time for me’ as much as a human could realistically be expected to. Time for the big guns of big pharma.

The 20 minute phone call with a GP I’d never met went well, he said there’ll likely be side effects but as long as they weren’t intolerable I should keep taking the pills (50mg Sertraline for those Prescription Pokemon catchers out there) and should make another appointment in 4 weeks to see how I’m getting on.

Cue a whirlwind of additional and crippling anxiety after reading the instruction leaflet in the box of pills, and another where I worry the GP won’t pick up the phone and leave me hooked on mind bending drugs with no way to get off this crazy ride.

I went for a 14km walk by myself on my last day before starting the pills. Either my last experience of ‘reality’ or my last day without ‘normal’ brain chemistry, whichever way you want to look at it. The drugs will either work, or they won’t. But I have to take them because I don’t have any other options apart from staying how I am, which isn’t an option at all.

But at least there’s delicious space eels.

The Brain is a Funny Old Bastard

The other weekend, my sacred two days off work were entirely ruined by a work email. A work email I read when I logged in on Friday evening. So, let’s pick this apart:

  1. Checking work email out of hours was a stupid thing to do
  2. My reaction to it was entirely my own responsibility

I can work on point 1 by simply not doing it – there’s no expectation for me to check my work inbox after 5:30pm. Point 2 however runs deeper. How do you stop the brain thinking about something you don’t want it to think about? Why did I rage for 48 hours straight, at the exclusion of enjoying time off with my family?

Because I’m a fucking idiot? Most likely.

The Stoics (and Shakespeare) teach us that there is nothing good or bad in life but thinking makes it so. Academically this is easy to accept, but like a lot of Stoic philosophy there’s a danger that it represents an aspiration rather than an action.

I made some headway by comparing the ‘bad thing’ that was the shitogram, with a real ‘bad thing’ like the real-life death or illness of a relative. This helped get it in perspective.

But, ultimately, my brain hates me and the feeling is mutual.

I have a missing tooth

I get up, I work, I go to bed.

A year or two back, a tooth finally gave up after a good 40 years of general neglect and abuse. I think it started off with a filling, that fell out. Then I didn’t go to the dentists for about 15 years because I was too poor/busy/lazy. Then that tooth needed a root canal. Then the side fell off. So I got a crown. That cost be £600. Then that fell off while I was eating a digestive biscuit. I kept it because, you know, it was £600.

I get up, I work, I go to bed.

I used to have hobbies and a social life, once. I used to train martial arts and have an actual gym programme that I followed three times a week and I was in a band, and I had all my teeth.

I get up, I work, I go to bed.

The remainder of the tooth, after the crown fell off, wasn’t salvageable. I hoped I could get away with a flat stump, but that had some kind of issue and it was getting infected, so the dentist pulled the whole thing out. It was a surprise. She said “it’s best to just pull it out.” I said, “Hmm yes, well I’ll make an appointment.” “Oh no, let’s just do it now,” said the dentist. So she just pulled it out without me really having much time to think about it. Probably for the best.

I get up, I work, I go to bed.

Lockdown hasn’t really ended for me. Maybe it never will. Work expanded to fill all the spare time. Nothing has restarted, my life hasn’t got back to normal. My tooth hasn’t grown back.

I get up, I work, I go to bed.

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore

There was a time when I was pissed off about pretty much everything, and wouldn’t hesitate to share my displeasure with the world through vaguely amusing social media ranting.

Then, I came to the cold realisation that apart from invoking unseen smirks or eye-rolls from people unfortunate enough to follow me on Facebook, I was achieving nothing.

(The problem is, if you extend this logic, there’s little point in doing anything).

So my new defaults to a perceived slight or aggravation became:

  1. Resigned ambivalence
  2. Quiet fury
  3. Stoic detachment

I’m thinking of changing it up next year, to get back to clumsily offending people I like by insulting Muse or Funko Pops or Peugeot cars whenever the whim takes me.

Will I feel any better? Probably not, but we must not go gentle into that good night, but rather rage, rage against the dying of the light. Because the light is undoubtedly dying, and I don’t want to run out of time to tell you how much David Walliams creeps me out, or how the Walking Dead has been shit since about Season 2.

A Sunny Day

A captive swan chained to the underground, she lay beneath the underpass. Cars passed above, family-full, sweets stuck to the upholstery. Unaware.

Three days had passed, enough for moss to consider her cheek. Not enough for the insects to have rehomed but soon.

Still, this day had cracked yolk-like and her alabaster shell warmed with it.

How much easier life was now.

You Are Not Your Job

Except, of course, you are.

You’ve acquired some level of skill or experience in doing something, to the point where businesses are prepared to give you money in exchange for your time doing it. It could be mental or physical rent, but you have a commodity to sell on the open market and here we are, capitalism a-go-go.

But really is this such a bad thing? Why, yes. No matter what I do now or have done for a job in the past, you can bet your ass I’d rather be doing something else. It doesn’t matter how much I get paid, or what my ‘career progression’ looks like, if I need to be paid in order to do something – then I probably don’t want to do it.

One of the problems about being a (part time) artist, one that produces art as a side-hustle to a ‘real job’ is that you worry about your art becoming your job. Would you still enjoy it, if you had to do it, in order to eat?

We’re lucky in modern Western society that we’re unlikely to face that particular conundrum in real life. Especially those of us with dependents.

But if someone asks me what I do, I don’t tell them I’m a senior sales rep at a car dealership. I tell them I’m a writer, actor and musician. That gets rid of them pretty quick, let me tell you.

The Double Whammy

I have the exquisite pleasure of suffering from both anxiety and depression. Sometimes, when the Gods smile upon me, I get both at the same time.

For me, anxiety manifests itself as eldritch dread in the core of my soul, where existence itself seems insurmountable, terrible and deadly.

My depression, on the other hand, is like an opaque bubble surrounding me, keeping me solidly disconnected and untouched by reality, enjoyment, happiness. A bit like having no 3G reception on your phone.

So you would think, wouldn’t you, that they would cancel each other out when they arrive at once – perhaps the mundane lead trenchcoat of depression would smother the electric shocks of panic.

But no – rather, I get anxious that my depression will never end until I do. I get depressed that my anxiety precludes me from living a real life full of simple pleasures thought about just enough and not too much.

A frisson I don’t want. A paradox that neither excites nor progresses me.

It’s all rather a bother.

One Like = One Prayer

Let me tell you something about social media – I am no good for it. Not “It’s no good for me,” which I realised years ago. Rather, I’m not one of the people making it better. I have zero respect for it, so I tend to post whatever comes into my head with no filter, which is all a jolly jape.

Until it isn’t.

Very occasionally I’ll post something mindless, then be brought back to reality by actually hurting someone’s feelings or genuinely offending someone, and that doesn’t feel too good, because I do have respect for actual human beings. Believe it or not.

So you see, I’m not quite bright enough to realise that social media is made up of mostly human beings (the rest being advertising bots and Russian democracy fiddling).

A strange game. The only way to win is not to play.