Thursday, November 12, 2015

Be Mindful.

And all change… So, I was suffering from panic attacks, anxiety and depression and started taking an SSRI called Escitalopram. I did notice a rapid change and I did lose the panic attacks and much of the anxiety. However, then there were the side-effects. I’m not going to to detail them here - you can go look them up yourselves - suffice to say they were unacceptable. I read up on the full gamut of these, how long it can take one to get off the drug and the possible withdrawal symptoms. I didn’t like what I was reading at all.

So I quit.

I was taking 10mg a day for 13 days. The next day I took 5mg saving the next quarter pill for the next day, but in the end I threw it down the plug hole. To then counter what I expected to happen to me I started on mindfulness, meditation and relaxation recordings. I didn’t have much hope for these and expected to just have to grit my teeth and get through. However, I was very surprised. My first 10 minutes of ‘Headspace’ removed the feeling of stress from my guts. A free Paul McKenna relaxation recording put me into something near to a trance. And I felt good afterwards.

There are other things I’ve been doing which have probably helped too. I’ve been drinking an awful lot of tea and the caffeine doesn’t help with anxiety etc. I reduced this intake to zero on the first day. I instead drank camomile and peppermint tea - both of which have positive effects on the whole depression fuck up scenario. And I’ve continued, considerably reducing my caffeine intake.

In retrospect I see that the SSRI probably brought me up enough so I could use these techniques. Withdrawal has consisted of night sweats - the opposite of one of the side-effects which was feeling incredibly cold sometimes - and maybe other symptoms I can’t really distinguish from my previous problems. I wake in the morning with panic attacks and anxiety but these have been reducing over the last three days. They go once I get up and get moving. A session with headspace of some other form of meditation usually clears the last of it. 

I’ve also been thinking of the reasons behind my recent fall. Sure, the death of my wife Caroline pushed me right down, but I didn’t realise how far down until I came under pressure to do more than just get through each day, and be more than just a survivor. I realise I’ve been on the edge of a precipice for the best part of two years. 

But also there’s something else that has occurred to me. For a good portion of my life I have been a heavy drinker who sneered at unit limits (I still do really) and would often binge. However, age has given me the two-day hangover, and drinking doesn’t go well with being depressed. I had to stop for months after Caroline’s death because drinking took me down and then I dropped lower still with the hangover. The hangovers and depressive effects have been building in me an aversion to alcohol. I am pretty close now to giving it up completely. But here’s the rub. I’ve lost the crutch that was alcohol and this in itself can be a cause of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. And what about smoking? This was another crutch I used. In the last two years I’ve become a vaper. Sure I get the nicotine but you get more than that from cigarettes…

Anyway. I will continue with the mindfulness/meditation. I’ve realised I do not want to get on the drugs bandwagon. I will control my mind and I will not let it control me.

Go steady out there. It’s dangerous.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Go Drugs!

So, I didn’t wait until I got back to England to start on the antidepressants. I got tired of feeling like shit and decided I must do something about it now. Past experience of depression has led me to believe that my problem is the usual one i.e. lack of serotonin. When I had before I tried everything but going to the doctor. I tried St. John’s Wort, B vitamins and stuff like that, but what really worked was 5-htp (to quote: a metabolic intermediate for the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin and tryptophan)  Anyway, I’ve been reading up on various drugs and their effects and from what I read it struck me that the newer SSRIs were pretty good. Also talking to someone who deals with prescribing them helped me come to a decision.

From this person I was talking to I got the name of an antidepressant she thought best for my problem; escitalopram. I wrote this down on a piece of paper and went to see a doctor in Koutsouras. He checked me over and then sorted out a prescription for me. I even got to use my health card and reduce the cost. I got the drug I suggested and Xanax to deal with the worst of the panics. He also lined me up for some blood tests and a heart check which I haven’t been able to get to yet.

On the first day I took half a Xanax, which very quickly started to work on the tight stressed feeling in my chest. In the evening I took 10mg of escitalopram. Now, subsequently, I have heard from people that it doesn’t work for them, or it takes months to work, or you get worse before you get better. Others told me that it kicked in in a few days or, usually, 10 to 14 days. I felt better immediately on the next day. The stressed feeling was coming down and when I had a sleep on my sofa I woke up for the first time in a while without panic attacks. Whether this was still due to the Xanax, or the other drug working, or due to the fact that I felt good about actually doing something, I don’t know. Don’t care much either.

The next day I felt slightly shaky in the morning, as if from too much caffeine, but that quickly passed. While in the local town of Sitia, waiting in a hairdresser’s for someone, I suddenly realised I felt good. I felt calm, confident, no stress, no anxiety or nerves. Later this transformed into a euphoria. Everything looked brighter and I seemed to be seeing my surroundings more. I in fact felt a little manic, a little high. Later I went down a little but not much.

In subsequent days the panic and anxiety left me. I’ve felt a little low on occasions but I think this is more due to some present circumstances than the chemicals in my brain, or maybe I haven’t been on the drug long enough to lose the depression yet. I don’t know. We will see. In the mornings I feel quite sleepy while in bed and often during the day too. When I get up and have some tea I feel a little shaky too, but briefly. Last night was my first 20mg dose so it’ll be interesting to see what occurs. 

Go drugs!     

Monday, October 26, 2015

Not a Happy Bunny

Updating again in here. As predicted the weather turned nasty from Thursday (it is Monday today). I managed my 2,000 words a day up until that day then on Friday only managed 1,000. At this point I started crashing with panic attacks and depression. The weather doesn’t help since I’m always better when the sun is shining (aren’t we all) but it’s becoming increasingly evident that I’m only keeping this shit at bay with exercise. 

During the last days of last week I felt I needed a rest to give my body time to recover. One of the reasons I felt I needed a rest was because of my arms frequently feeling heavy and numb after a sleep, which I assumed was from the kayaking. Big mistake. I ended up with about a day and a half of panic attacks rolling out one after another. Also, my arms went numb during this, which I now realise has bugger all to do with the kayaking (this numbness can be part of the panic attack thing). Annoyingly these confined me to the house all Saturday and most of Sunday when they were having the kazani next door. 

On Sunday I got dragged out by my neighbour to join in. I was frightened to drink any alcohol at first because I know it contributes to panic attacks. I then thought fuck it and drank raki and ate brisolas. I did feel better until about 8 when I headed inside and slept for a few hours. 

Today I was okay until I felt tired and took a snooze on the sofa. Again I woke up with panic attacks, but not as harsh as before. The rain had stopped today so at midday I headed off into the mountains for a long walk. Yeah, I feel better, better enough to have written a bit more, but things are still not right. I have been fighting this for the best part of two years and I think I’m losing. When I get back to England in the middle of next month it will finally be time to go and see a doctor. Give me drugs or even give me ECT, I don’t care. I just want this to fucking stop.

Sorry about this post being a bit of a downer. Not a happy bunny today. Anyway, 40,000 words done on the new book if that's any consolation!  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

30,000 Words Done

Okay, time for an update here. The weather has turned a bit nicer so it’s been warm enough down in Makrigialos for kayaking, and not yet cold enough up here in the mountains for me to light my stove. Well, I did light it a couple of times but that was due to lack of adaptation on my part, and lack of food inside me to fuel the burners. The house temperature never got below 21, which is what I have my heating set at back in England.

But kayaking, or walking, or trips down to the coast have not been my main aim over the last weeks. I’ve been aiming to write my 2,000 words a day 5 days a week no matter what and that I’ve achieved. This weekend I have 30,000 words of a new book done (first draft obviously) and I’m pretty damned happy about that. Since my books thus far have ranged from 125,000 to 175,000 words that’s a respectable chunk. One more week at this rate and I can say I’m a quarter of the way there. But are they good words? Is this good writing? That’ll be for you to judge.

The ideas are kicking in now. I’ve been teasing readers on Facebook with some mentions of what I’m doing. Thus far I’ve mentioned Old Captains, Dragon, Orlandine, assassin drones, Jain tech, a wormship and a legate… Those of you who have read all of my stuff might get some intimation of where I am with this. I’m starting to see that maybe there’ll be three or more books in this but, for now, I’ll just write and run with the story, and its inevitable twists.

So all is good here in Papagiannades!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Coming Through the Fog

It has again been a while since I’ve written anything in here so time for an update. The weather here is changing and I’m more inclined to walking than heading down to Makrigialos to use my kayak. I’ve also reached the stage where I’m getting a bit bored with the thing — like I’m going down there to use it almost out of a sense of duty.

As the season progresses my chilli plants are producing and I’m making plenty of chilli sauce. I also made some quince jelly. Earlier on I spent time repairing some chairs, renovating a cupboard, plastering a wall … but in the end none of these things are what I am supposed to be doing! None of these things are what most of you who are reading this come here to find out about.

Excuse me if I’m repeating myself … well, fuck that. Suck it up. When Caroline died I was well on top of things on the writing front having written the three books of the Transformation trilogy before I even needed to deliver the first. I’d reached a high point while doing these — banging out the words daily and thoroughly enjoying the process. Then, having my face rubbed in harsh reality, I lost all interest in fiction. I stopped reading books completely. I watched a few daft things on DVD but mostly watching TV was of no interest either. As for writing … I tried it for catharsis in the first year but that just fucked me up even further. Thereafter the thought of doing anything at the keyboard other that the ephemera of Facebook and Twitter just stressed me out.

The reality of my situation is that all the walking and kayaking are to keep depression at bay. All the other things I do, like the chilli sauce, repairing furniture and other items, the gardening and occasional jobs in other people’s houses, are easy tasks that don’t require me engaging my brain. The problem with ‘engaging my brain’ is that it starts thinking, and thought has regularly taken me to places I didn’t want to be over the last couple of years. Seriously, you come out of grief into a stage where you are managing, but never realise just how screwed up you are until either you or some situation puts you under pressure.

But other reality has impinged. I had to go back to my keyboard to go through the editing of War Factory (the second book in the Transformation trilogy). My publisher also asked for a few extras which actually required a bit of creativity from me. I dreaded these but was duty-bound to do them. And when I did them I found the task wasn’t so bad. I could do it. The engine had shut down for a while but when I turned the key it started right up again.

Another thing that has impinged is the steady support of fans — their love of what I had done before and their hope that I’ll do more. I started to feel guilty inside my cloudy little world. Fucking hell. I’m lucky to have been able to take off the time I have to wallow in my own misery. Plenty of people have gone through what I’ve been through and have to head back to work a week or so later because they have a mortgage to pay.

Due to all the above, and some other things that have happened this year, mainly to do with my mind beginning to chew on itself again in way I seriously could not allow, I decided I must reclaim at least one of the things I’d lost. I made the decision that once I’d packed off War Factory to Macmillan it was time for me to just sit down and write. Maybe this is also because I’m reaching the purported average time to get over the death of a loved one, of two years. I don’t know.

My intention was to just let rip; to just write and write and see what started to come together. I didn’t expect much of myself. I started with the idea of writing for one hour every day and steadily increasing. It didn’t work out that way. On the first day I wrote 600 words, but on the next I wrote 1,400 words. This second day was a Monday. On the Tuesday I did 2,000 words then every day thereafter until Friday. I then realised I had just done what was a full working week for me while writing the Transformation trilogy, of 10,000 words a week — I aim to write 2,000 words a day for 5 days a week. The next week I did 10,000 again, with just a catch up 1,000 on the ensuing Saturday.

At one point I did have a moment of panic. Where was I going with this, what was it all about? This lasted about an hour. I told myself to shut up and just keep going. Next, like boulders looming out of the fog, I started to see the shape of something, I started to see where I was going. The landscape now lying before me grows wider and wider as the fog clears. It is strewn with wrecked spaceships and Jain technology, picked through by Old Captains, war drones and Golem. Overhead I think I see a dragon sphere, but it is not clear because of the glare of an accretion disc, the space battles and maybe an exploding world or two.

Next week, another 10,000 words. I’ll maybe get a head start on them today…         

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

War Factory US Edition

Here's the full original artwork for the cover of War Factory published in the USA by Night Shade Books...

Looking good!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Sauce Two.

Right, while planning out the various things I was going to do today, I picked my latest crop of chillies. I then weighed the total and realised I had enough for one batch of chilli sauce (check the recipe 2 posts back).

As a result my planned hour of Greek reading, my aim to write out something, and my intention to head down to Makrigialos all went out the window. Because it was time to make sauce. 

This is one lot made, though I suspect I’ll be boiling it all again and adding cornflour because it’s not quite thick enough.

Meanwhile, for those who come here for news about writing, I dispatched War Factory back to Macmillan. I’m told there’s yet another load of editing then to be done… *sigh*

Chilies chillies chillies…