Why did I feel depressed?

Sun 23 – Sat 29 Nov

Oh yes, that classic question that I sometimes find I am asking myself. My depression these days creeps up on me unexpectedly and hits like a brick. I just want to cry – it is so unmasculine, crazy but I wish it showed itself in a more manly way like getting angry.

The strange thing is that last week had not been at all bad. The dark patch came on Tuesday night. I had gone into work early to ensure I could get everything done to meet deadlines as I went off later in the morning to chair a lunchtime meeting of funders to talk about issues around data. This Tech Innovation group is one I convene and I quite enjoy doing this though there is always the tension with every group of who will turn up, the dynamics of the meeting, etc. Our guest was Tom Steinberg who is Director of mysociety – see WotW. Afterwards I got the train up to Preston to stay over for a breakfast meeting the next day. The train journey was fine (no delays) and, no jokes about Preston, a perfectly decent place plus nice to be out of London. Hotel was fine as well. The depression came on as I was out looking for somewhere to eat – I settled on pizza eventually. I think irrational fear underpins it, the feeling that everything at the moment which is OK could all disappear as pretty much happened in Brighton when the relationship with my ex finished.

How did I deal with the low? Well I went back to the hotel bar and had a drink whilst trying to lose myself in my latest reading book. I could have happily stayed there and got completely pissed but that would have been disastrous for my meeting the next day. Instead I went back to my room and phoned Dave my partner who had been tied up till then. I explained how I felt and there was nothing he could do to change it. He was worried, which worries me, but realised I just needed to untangle myself. I deliberately didn’t switch the TV on (that could have made things worse) but instead got a cup of tea, read my book, and went to sleep. Indeed I was asleep by 10pm. Sleep is for me one of my ways to deal with feeling down and I had some interesting dreams going back to my school days and the mate I had a crush on – I actually really enjoyed secondary school, I think that was one of my best times ever. I awoke early as usual (6.30) but felt OK to face the day ahead.

One of my key ways of trying to avoid getting down, and to dig myself out when I am in one, is through reading particularly fiction. Last week I concentrated on two books. The first was Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Vile Bodies’. I have only discovered Waugh recently but I like him and look forward to reading his writings. Vile Bodies was his second successful novel. It is very much about the beautiful young things in the Mayfair set in the late twenties. It is dripping with satirical comment but at the same time is quite surreal. There are moments of comedy but it is also quite dark especially the ending when a new war has started. The second book I read last week was Patrick O’Brian’s ‘The Surgeon’s Mate’. O’Brian is a wonderfully ‘old school’ writer. He was working in the seventies and eighties. He has written a series of books I am gradually working my way through them. They are based on the nautical adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin. Though both romantically involved with women, this is classic historical / military bromance.

Exercise and the gym also stops me getting low. I actively look forward to going to the gym. Last week I managed three gym sessions. The first was on the previous Sunday followed by workouts on Thursday and Friday. I am still doing my routine of 4 sets of 10 reps of each exercise and it takes time but it really feels like my body is working hard. The Sunday routine was based on exercising all my main body parts. And because of the two consecutive days, on Thursday I concentrated on legs and core then on Friday it was the turn of upper body. Saturday saw my weekly jog-run. My achilles had been feeling not painful but still delicate all week. So I deliberately did not go crazy, doing a jog for 25 minutes and then stopping. This is about 13 minutes less than I normally do but hopefully it puts less pressure on the achilles and I can gradually increase the jog time each week. Healthwise, I am pretty much OK – on and off depression is something I live with. However, I did see my GP last week to get non-HIV meds renewed and ask about headaches I was getting on one side of my head. I though it might be sinusitis, she thinks it is more likely to be migraines (which I have never suffered in the past).

My regular work days got mixed up last week. I ended up doing Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday consecutively (as I am doing the coming week). I worked Monday so that I could attend a conference. It was the national one of the agency MindTech and was all about exploring how digital can be used to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing. We were at the Royal College of Physicians’ building by Regent’s Park, a great example of sixties modernism. The conference was very good with a theme to clearly identify how digital can be best used for this purpose. The previous year it had all been about exploring possibilities, this year was more self confident and about using proof to influence others. Then on Tuesday it was as described above – into the office early to meet a deadline then up to Kings Cross to chair a meeting with an excellent presentation on data followed by the journey up to Preston and my overnight stay. On Wednesday, I attended an innovation breakfast hosted by Lancashire NHS Foundation Trust. I presented about the learning from the Innovation Labs where we funded digital projects to improve mental health and one of the successful projects presented itself – the InHand app. Then I travelled back to London and went into the office to get more documentation sorted before a deadline ran out. It also turned out that I did a bit of work on both Thursday and Friday. On Thursday I went with some colleagues to the new Fab Lab in the City of London because we are planning to open up a similar digital exploration centre in another location particularly aimed at young people. It was very impressive (see WotW). And on Friday I was part of a follow-up telephone conference call about this initiative.

Other key events last week were around ‘social’ events. We had the annual gas servicing booked in again on Thursday and this time (the fifth time) they turned up. However, they said mum’s gas fire in the front room was now unsafe because of a blockage in the chimneys for our block of flats and so they capped it off. She was really upset about it but eventually calmed down.  I have spent time with Dave particularly Sunday lunch at the Union Jack Club where we were told we can’t book a table in the restaurant this year for Christmas Day (me, Dave and the two mums) – it is first come, first served. Seems crazy to stop a system that has always worked and leaves unpredictability for everybody. I saw Dave again on Wednesday night though he had suffered one of his migraine attacks but thankfully avoiding throwing up this time. And then I was with him again the weekend just gone including accompanying him to look for new glasses after his eye test – I do fancy men who wear glasses. And on Thursday night I went to see ‘A Fright at the Opera’ performed for the first time at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden. It is the first play written by my mate Jamie and was very good – like a modern, gay ‘Abigail’s Party’.

Finally, a couple of sessions on DuoLingo and some messing about with my website but really limited progress on language and digital skills. I did watched two classic Doctor Who ‘The War Machines’ and ‘The Gunfighters’. Both 1966 William Hartnell adventures. The former marked the introduction of the classic companions duo, sexy cockney sailor Ben and ‘duchess’ Polly. The theme of computers becoming intelligent and eradicating humanity is a very sixties theme that also dominated the first Star Trek series. Though the BBC ‘special effects’ were pretty poor especially the war machines themselves. Similarly ‘The Gunfighters’ really was let down by incredibly basic sets.  Two other minor things last week. First, my beloved QPR beat Leicester to move off the bottom of the Premiership (but it was a touch and go match). Second, Movember has finished and so I had to shave off my moustache – clean shaven again.

Wonkers of the week: It’s a transport theme. Last week I travelled to and from Preston on a Virgin train. The journey itself was OK but what really annoyed me was the wi-fi connection. I paid £8 for 24 hour access and it was dreadful – not fit for purpose. During the journey back to London I entered into a twitter ding dong with Virgin Trains (four wasted hours when I could have been doing work) and I have sent an e-mail to their customer relations demanding a refund – we shall see what happens. It seems amazing that we concentrate on things like Crossrail and the HS2 but without decent internet connection it is all a waste of time. And then the awful news that the East Coast franchise has been given to a Virgin and Stagecoach consortium. East Coast has been publicly run for several years and is absolutely fine. Seems pretty clear that the government was ideologically determined to make sure it went to any private operator despite their reputations.

Websites of the Week: http://www.mysociety.org.uk

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