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Doom loops

Self-indulgent cathartic writing – I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t read this. It’s fine. That’s not reverse psych either.

(A note on today’s choice of article image, despite the seriousness of the subject herein, I can’t help but add stupid things. Apparently it’s hard to find a simple heartbeat pulse line on the usual royalty free image sites, and the AI generator is overthinking it, so I made one in MS Paint using a mouse and using my brain to remote control my hand. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Leave your marks out of 10 in the comments for artistic skills)

A quick note – as I always write from what’s in the old head at the time of writing, unplanned, otherwise it won’t get written and this new habit of regular writing would never happen, like it hasn’t happened in the past 7 years of being self-employed due to beliefs of needing a writing and scheduling strategy AND some kind of actual (laser*) focus, niche etc, BEFORE understanding anything about ADHD and neurodivergency, and why I don’t do strategy and schedules very well if at all… this piece is highly likely to be a selfishly cathartic piece of my own struggles with “mental health”. It might not be ADHD related, it might be a whole host of other things. Sometimes I have no fucking idea.

(* I HATE the idea of “laser focus” and anyone who declares they have it. Having laser focus sounds cool but it’s like tunnel vision with horse blinkers on and it becomes easy to miss threats which may refract your laser. Life happens, lasers get interrupted and then what? Got a contingency plan for that?)

OK.

Where to start?

With a pulse. A heartbeat. A rhythm. Cyclical repetitions. Waves. Forces pushing and pulling, building to a crescendo, energy topping out, cresting and collapsing down a cliff face, unstoppable wall of liquid energy, settling to a calm, gathering energy again, reverberating like ripples of aftershocks before settling down to a moment or two of coasting stability before the next repetition.

I’m here today. I will be here tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that…. And all being well enough, for the next 20 years.

Be it ADHD, (maybe?) shades of Autism, Over Excitability, Emotional Intensity – hell possibly maybe aspects of C-PTSD even (who knows), so many labels – there are gifts and some wonderful benefits to having the types of brains that many do. At the risk of sounding somewhat arrogant here but there are aspects of such brains that allows for vibrant, surreal, creative imaginations and perspectives of the world, of individual truths, maps of individual worlds. We can see levels of beauty in the world where other just see “countryside”, “wasteland” or even “concrete sprawl”, complexity where others see “it’s just a leaf”. We can create stories which may last far beyond our own lifetimes (I wish I was that creative!)

Alongside such appreciation comes an equal and opposing force. If you follow any writing on such brains, you’ll usually see notes on self-loathing, confusion about why the writer can’t just get the things done. I do and will do this myself in my own writing (sorry for endlessly beating that donkey but it is part of this article too).

In the past couple of days I had a bit of a meltdown. It’s happened before. Unfortunately, I know it will happen again. It comes like waves. Fortunately, as time goes by I am getting better at detecting that it’s coming, like a heartbeat, only longer between the crests and cliffs and ripples. Mixing analogies there, sorry. Sometimes it’s just a little wave of sadness and frustration and it passes within a couple of hour or a couple of days.

Sometimes the size of the wave catches me off guard and the downward spiral is rather self-destructive and affects those closest to me as they can’t reach me or understand me before the emotional energy is released (there is much sadness, frustration, loss of hope, tears etc) and ripples back into a sustainable stability of sorts. Luckily I have a small number of extremely understanding people in my life, even though they aren’t physically present, who have learned it will pass but also to give me space at times and to respect the requested boundaries (which is deeply important).

Being told “I understand, but I don’t understand” once over would have been deeply upsetting as I tended to focus and latch onto the negatives – yet another human who doesn’t understand me, yet another time reinforcing that I’m really fucking weird and can’t fit in and am incomprehensibly mad (probably).

These days, I am grateful that I have learned through conversations with the rare people who would say these things who had the patience, intelligence and compassion to stick around to battle through the intensity (and through learned books on matters of “different” minds, and also a couple of great counsellors) to focus on the bit that says, “I understand”.

Learning to latch on to the positive is hard but an obviously key life-changing lesson. Having compassion for the negative bit from the speaker is also hard. It depends on the history with that person I find. In this case, lots of good history = lots of respect, mutual understanding and compassion. And faith.

Those moments are the dots of islands of safety in the ocean. Those rare people who have battled (or continue to battle) through their own intensity and confusion about why the world is the way it appears to be, and the way it makes them feel the way it does.

Mental health awareness

There’s a hypocrisy in the online world about mental health – I’m going to pick on men’s mental health awareness writers, programmes, projects and people who declare themselves to be inclusionary (for their particular chosen group of suppressed people) etc. Every time a guy kills themselves, there will be encouragement and advocacy about how men need to speak openly about the struggles they’re facing.

Yet when we dare to, we are often shut down with lines like, “You need to speak to a professional”, “You need to get help”, or “You’re really fucking weird”.

The lattermost happened to me this week from someone I felt might have been able to develop into an understanding friend (an old acquaintance), who declared themselves to be highly sensitive (as I do) and also is a part time hobbyist gaming streamer with a following of mutually supportive otherwise suppressed folk (I’m not adding the labels as it’s irrelevant), as I tried reaching out to them a little. Pretty much the last person I would have thought would idly label me as really fucking weird.

The building wave

Prior to that a number of other events had happened in the past week or three which added to the oncoming wave of intense frustration and loathing. And Anxiety. And a bit of a panic.

ADHD Testing

Firstly, 6 months ago I had gone to my local GP/Dr to ask for a referral for ADHD testing. This after about 12 months of trying to navigate options in Ireland to work out whether or not I did actually need a GP referral for testing. So, when my new locum GP chap chirpily agreed to refer me to a local ADHD specialist (Psychiatrist, I believe) back in March, I at least had the reassuring feeling that despite knowing that there’s usually a 2 year waiting list for testing availability (even paying for it privately, there’s a significant waiting list, I am led to believe, once I’ve saved €700+ for it…). A dim light of hope of being able to get tested and get some answers, maybe some meds to help with my inability to get stuff done. Patience. It will come.*

*As noted by a friend, yes I have considered the possibility that even after testing it turns out I don’t have ADHD and that I’m just fucked I have challenges in other ways. But it would be a big check box off the list of “what’s ‘wrong’ with me?” to consider even though there is a sense of running out of time too.

In recent days I decided to find the referral Psychiatrist’s email as I know my local Dr would shrug and not be able to follow up on my behalf. Three days later and I kid not, the irony of it:

“My apologies for you not having been contacted before now as it was my intention to have reverted back to your GP when I got the referral, My sincere apologies but it would appear that I don’t seem to have done this. Unfortunately I don’t provide a stand alone ADHD assessment service. Occasionally, I may do a brief screening assessment where someone has been referred for other psychological reasons and the issue of ADHD might suggest itself on the basis of an overall assessment of functioning.”

So, there goes 6 months of waiting for news of being on a waiting list that doesn’t exist. Fuck. 18 months of trying to even get on a radar. 18 months of patiently waiting when I’m not the most patient of people for naught. Snakes and ladders….

Breathing

Secondly, at the same time of seeking the ADHD referral back in March I wanted to get some investigations done as to why I was having difficulty in breathing, exercising or sometimes doing the most basic movement like walking up one flight of stairs or digging a small hole or 5. My exercise recovery rate was shockingly bad for someone in their early 50s with a background in mountain biking, jogging, hiking and a little weightlifting. I was never super fit, and always a bit of a bean pole physique, but never that bad either. I had a period of about 7 years of smoking, and drinking a lot (returning to uni as a mature student – some stereotypes die hard), but gave all that up in 2015ish – developed asthma in 2017, since moving to Ireland in 2021 the breathing seemed to be getting worse despite “upgrades” in asthma inhaler dosage and “brands”.

Also 6 months later and I finally get an appointment for a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT), with chest X-ray, blood pressure check, and blood test plus consultation. X-ray = completely clear, blood pressure “fine”, 3 weeks later still waiting on results on whatever they were checking bloods for. I have a follow up appointment in 6 months (Jan ‘24) so they’re not hugely urgently worried but the consultant did note that the PFT made them feel the 1-10 scale of worry would be about 5 and there was a mumble about me perhaps having Asthma and COPD Overlap – said in a way which sounded like a thing I could research online myself, as we all do (right? RIGHT??) (it is – “ACOS”) so of course I hyperfocused on that and looked up a few (30ish) sources on what that might mean. I have not yet, of course, been officially “diagnosed” as having this but me being me, brain being brain and doing additional “research” on life expectancy (spoiler alert, we’re all going to die sometime), and I work out that my circumstances if I was a healthy person = ~85. IF (assuming) I have ACOS then that’s knocking off about 10 years – I’m saying this very practically – means maybe 75. I’m early 50s now, and I presume the last few years there aren’t going to be the best quality of life, soooooo, yeah, maths means maybe 15-20 years. Currently national retirement age is late 60s, slowly working towards 68-70 I think?

So, there’s a sense of limited time. Time running out to find a way…..

Trying to find a way

A way to do what?

Well, at the moment (still) there’s a reality that I am not earning enough as a self-employed coach.

Enough for what?

Well, creating the life I want of course. It doesn’t involve Lambos (now) but does involve warmth, security, anxiety-free.

In my head on a daily basis: What am I going to do?

I haven’t had enough clients by a long margin – frustrating, as I was starting to get a good momentum and reputation pre-pandemic and now I’m rebooting all of it again. This isn’t a lack of confidence – I have testimonials with irrefutable demonstrable proof (for my inner voice, Vimh, as much as social proof for anyone who might be interested in my coaching services now and in the future) that I am indeed a good coach.

There’s actually very little in my half century life where I believe I am actually consistently good at anything and that’s definitely one thing. But it will never bring in enough money to have the life/things I want (like paying bills without worry) – it probably would if I was great at social media content creation strategy and scheduling, and unfortunately there’s a sense that I would have to cross the boundaries of my own values to create “lead magnets” and scarcity, fear and FOMO etc to attract enough people, or run groups where I excel better in the one to one space. Sorry, spoiler alerts for any budding or wannabee coaches out there especially like me without a Masters in Coaching who doesn’t want to do “corporate coaching”. Or event management. Maybe I will one day find the dream unicorn client that wants to hire me as a personal coach on-call on an annual basis…

Add in to this an increasing sense / belief that I am unemployable for reasons like:

  • “Chaotic” CV with numerous different attempts at differing careers which seemed like a good fit at the time = he doesn’t know what he wants to do therefore won’t stick around (Vimh, says). I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up…. There’s a wealth of experience in this lot, but I suspect most employers are looking at it like “WTF?” even though not all of this below is listed on my current CV….
    • 10 years in public sector (UK) IT tech support, training and network admin, systems implementation, plus starter project management
    • Year out independent travelling round the world, (with stints of a few months in South Korea, Canada, US)
    • Project Management (even self funding PRINCE2 Practitioner at one point)
    • Sales & Account Management (inc self funding a year-long training program in “professional” Sales)
    • 4 years full time degree aged 36-40 doing International Relations with Chinese (with a year IN China) (came out with a 2:1 surprisingly – here’s to hyperfocusing….)
    • 5 years pre-pandemic self-employment in Sales, Business and Life coaching
    • Moved to Ireland and rebooting coaching
    • Min wage customer service (debt collection) type job in a large corporation which lasted 6 months (as a way to pay my own bills) before I lost my patience with the ridiculous Kafka-esque red tape, KPI bureaucracy, toxic leadership and questionable values whilst being gaslighted that it wasn’t questionable at all. Plus utterly ridiculous layers of systems to login to and update every call. I hated that job with a passion – unfortunately I just don’t have a cold, stone encased personality who can listen to people shout and/or weep at the embarrassment of not being able to pay their bills, and deal with being stuck between those customers who are understandably upset in a range of ways and leadership who clearly don’t care about the wellness of their staff despite the warm fluffy stuff on internal intranets. I can’t. I just can’t. I’m clearly not the right sort of person to deal with all that – clearly they are people who are emotionally stronger than me….
    • (Also, can I find a job that doesn’t list “must be able to work in fact paced and/or high pressured job”? Pls?)
  • A natural ability and desire to analyse the fuck out of everything and ask questions like, “But why are we doing things this way? Wouldn’t it be better if we tried this other way?” which never goes down well with leaderships. Well, rarely. Ironically I know full well that if I got hired as a coach or consultant to advise on process and staff improvement, those same “why don’t we” suggestions would be listened to…
  • I’m a stubborn old goat and prefer to be independent and work to my own values, policies etc. I fare better as a self-employed/freelance person – I’m too old to be time-checked and monitored for toilet breaks like a prisoner/child and a raft of other reasons.
  • I still also want and love to learn and trying new things…. So now I’m currently revisiting an old idea of having a side gig to the coaching gig of doing a little webdesign/webdev (as noted in other articles, I am currently investigating the possibility of getting on a funded year long course for it)
    • Despite that there’s also a sense of “Who will hire a 53 yo web freelance web designer with little experience?”
      But it’s an alternative which triggers alternative needs like a desire to do some visually creative and useful work, as a change from the emotional/empath and useful work

Keeping up?

Here’s a cynical picture of a kitten (AI generated!) to refocus you.

AI generated fluffy kitten

LOOK AT THE CUTE kitten

Self-analysis and Doom Loops

I have been told by a number of people over the years I need to let go of my persistent habit of “comparing” myself to others and my “self-berating” ways. I genuinely don’t see it as that but appreciate why it looks that way – maybe it IS that way, but I don’t see it as such.

With all this combined sense of:

  • Time is running out to find a sustainable way to make a reasonably good living being self employed, plus
  • Seemingly an inability (which is huge) to stick to a plan – I can actually create a plan but rarely stick to it – I find that intensely boring and difficult to focus on (see below)
  • But I have the understanding/belief I have to do the things to attract clients to make money and have a rewarding life doing a thing I love and am good at AND some people want, and be able to pay the bills and subscribe to my favourite Substackers (and Twitch streamers) and upgrade the house and save for stuff (repairs, replacements) and maybe one day see about a bit of a social life for the hermit
  • But inability to stick to the daily ideas and goals of doing the things
  • Which leads to frustration and some self-berating of “Why can’t I do this??”
  • Which leads to “Come on. You can do this, it’s not that hard. Be kind to yourself.”
  • Which usually results in “Nope”
  • Which leads to the increasing self-berating “FFS, just sit down, do the thing. Do the thing for 8 hours as if you would if you were employed”
  • “OK”
  • Three hours later….
  • “I’ll just go make lunch and read this article”
  • The next day…..
  • Which leads to self-negotiation of “OK, how about just doing 3-4 hours this morning. That’s easy”
  • “No, seriously, you can do this. I’m definitely going to sit and do work on the website, and start that SEO course, and just update a little bit of the website and then I will definitely apply for some jobs, at least one, because despite knowing it’s highly unlikely to last long which will undoubtedly result in my leaving or being fired which will only reinforce how unemployable I am”
  • Annnnnd overwhelm….
  • The next day…..
  • “Wtf is wrong with me? I have kept jobs in the past, why can’t you just…..”
  • And then Vimh starts up with this “logical” “reasoning” of “OK, so let’s look at all your friends and acquaintances. They’re all doing well enough (on their own terms) and enjoying the fruits of their labours (all self-employed mostly; the ones who have part time jobs, also doing well, being rewarded with wage increases, more clients, leads from word of mouth etc etc).
  • So there’s this “logic” of seeing (and being genuinely happy) my friends are doing well and they’re all smart, reasonable people who don’t suffer fools gladly, and they’re my friends THEREFORE I must also be a reasonable, smart person and if they can do well, than so can I, but I’m not, so WHY can I not find a groove?? WHY can I not just do the things….??

The burden of being cared about

At this point I’m nearing the top of the emotional intensity wave of doom. I know it’s coming, I’ve been hoping it will pass but sometimes, as noted, it won’t.

I try not to say anything to friends as I know it will upset them because I know they care about me, and I know they can’t really do or say anything to help.

So I don’t say anything.

But I know they’ll be upset when the wave comes.

So I don’t say anything until I can’t not say anything out of a desperation to just say “I’m struggling” or “I need a bit of space” or some other hint that all is not good currently. I don’t know at that point what I’m looking for. Unfortunately, try as I might, sometimes they might offer simple solutions like “Stop berating yourself”, or “stop being hard on yourself”, or “find a way”.

Yeah, I’m trying. I have been trying for years. Sometimes it’s fine, sometimes it’s not. Honestly, it feels like it’s been less fine and more not fine for the past couple of years than ever.

Perhaps I am running out of time, energy and ideas on how to make a better life.

Sometimes, I am tired.

Which then sends me over the crest of the wave. Words are said. Frustration is expressed. Friends shut down. Sometimes friends tell me I’m really fucking weird and they recuse themselves from positions of “friend”. I’m surprisingly resilient and used to that as it’s happened a lot over the years. Sometimes, thankfully, the better friends will say “I need some space and you need some space” or similar.

This I know is a sign I need to talk a walk in the fresh air and find a place of beauty to remind myself how wonderful life is and simultaneously let the emotions leak out the eyes a little, then come home and collapse, sleep, rest, let the energy ripple out for a while and to try and find a way to get round all this cyclical waxing and waning of emotional energy to find a way to do the things to get the things (material and non-material but necessary) I want.

“It must be exhausting”

It is.

But what can I do?

Gotta keep trying….

The recent wave has dissipated.

I’ll see if cathartic writing into the void helps at all. The next wave may, I feel, hopefully, be weeks away and I will apologise to my weary friends who I know will still be out there. A public, gushy, note of thanks and love to those who can understand even a bit and who stick around through the waves.

I will try something else to navigate the waves and find a way….

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