For the record

My chest feels tight.  I think I’m anxious about my mood. I’ve noticed small changes in behaviour, withdrawing, hiding, not communicating. I’m being impulsive, spending money I haven’t got because it’s easier than thinking. My sleep patterns are all over the place. Bed at 2am. Bed at 4am. 4 hours sleep or 12 hours sleep, it never feels enough. I’m losing a sense of the fragile daily rhythms I’d created.  I feel like I’m beginning to have to swim against the tide; everything’s taking more energy and more concentration to hold on. But I am holding on.  I can’t lose it again. Not now.  Some help would be good right now, but that’s not going to happen.  So, I’m just holding on.  Tight.

S x

 

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Milestones

Still here, but long coastal walking has had to take a bit of a back seat for a good number of weeks now – my son’s exams, the usual round of heavy colds and tummy bugs and for the past 7 weeks I’ve been attending a business course. I’m getting very excited by the possibilities and it feels good to be well enough to be thinking ahead for a change. I have a ‘big’ birthday looming and I’ve decided that this is the year good things will begin to happen and it’s a good time to make positive changes.  A milestone in more significant ways than the marking off of another passing decade.

Things may be a little quiet around here for a few more weeks yet (I’m half way through my course), but I will be back. I love it here, this little place of mine tucked away in a quiet corner of the internet. And there’s so much I want to share.

Stephie x

 

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On one

I’m on one at the moment. As in right now, this very moment. I could talk shit for England. An hour ago I could have cut my arms in despairing loneliness and hopelessness. An hour before that I was on a massive high after a short trail run. Then it just hit me, a punch in the stomach to remind me and bring me down to the floor where I belong.  I feel a painful absence, a strong sense of someone missing, like I’ve been cut loose but I don’t know why. I ask myself what I did, or do wrong and I can’t find the answer.

I can’t sleep, even though I know I should try. What’s the point, I’ll just lie here fidgeting, sighing, face wet with tears staring at the ceiling. Actually, fidgeting doesn’t really describe it. Throwing myself around in deep frustration is more like it.  So here I am, thinking about crap and letting it flow through my fingertips. I’m trying to ‘censor’ myself, tidy up my thoughts by writing; but there’s a lot of shit in my head tonight that no-one wants to hear about – forgive me if I don’t make sense. I’m sure I don’t. I hardly know myself what I’m on about. I’ll change the subject.

***

I’m reading books about walking at the moment. Well they’re not really about walking in the usual sense, more like walking as a vehicle for something else. Long distance walking. They thread stories of who we are through the landscape, connect us with the past through geology and archaeology. With each step the walker seems to find a connection, a root growing from the past to the present. It’s interesting to see where that root comes up to the surface. Every one comes up somewhere different. I’m not just enjoying these books, I’m learning. I think that’s the interesting part.  I know so little about the archaeological features that shape the landscape I feel like I’m missing out. I look at rock formations and I think about how I could use them as metaphor – but I don’t know anything about the geology that caused them. I look around me with the eyes of an artist, and not a landscape artist at that. My work has always been about relationships at the root: I look at the landscape as a way to understand relationships. Sounds weird, and like something that needs some unravelling. Or investigation. Or is one the same as the other?

I have a new project brewing, but I want to write something rather than make something visual. Well at the moment. And there, I’ve said it, it’s out in the open. I want to write. And not crap like this.

The wind’s getting up. I feel a little calmer. Sleepy. Maybe I’ll fidget less if I try to sleep now. I’ve got to be awake again in 5 hours. I wonder what it would feel like to sleep with someone curled round me for 5 hours. I used to love that feeling of security, touch, warmth. I just listen to the wind now. Goodnight.

I think of my footsteps in yours
sinking in the sands
one becoming another

 

Stephie x
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Night

Imagining what it would be like for someone’s warm hands to cup my face. Smile as they look into my eyes. I can’t remember any more. I can’t remember what it’s like to be touched by love. Imagine that.

I can tell you what tears feel like though. And longing.

Night.
Stephie x
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Move over Citalopram

I’ve got nothing to say, but I need to scream or something. I hate this new medication I’m on and the sooner I get off it the better. My head feels thick and tangled, so many thoughts and not one of them clear. I feel as though I can barely string a sentence together.  Everything is chaotic, I feel impulsive and I can’t sit still, but I can’t concentrate or focus. Nothing I do is constructive and there’s a trail of mess and good intentions behind me.  I’m living surrounded by half finished things; half the washing up done, half the ceiling painted, half the clothes washed, half the shopping done because I’ve gone out, with a list, and still managed to forget half of it. How can you forget if you have a list?  Well you have to remember to put it on the list in the first place and you have to remember to look at it as you’re going up and down the aisles. Three times I went out to get toilet paper and came back without it. I came back with things I couldn’t afford instead, like printer ink or walking trousers. I’ve spent a fortune getting myself out of endless scrapes. Even my chickens died because of it; I’m living in some sort of farce.

Six weeks it’s been like this and I can’t take it any more. Yes, my mood has lifted a bit and I’m more motivated, but the side effects seem to be outweighing the good at the moment. What’s the point in being motivated if everything you do goes wrong and you can’t concentrate on what you want to achieve, if you can even remember what that was. The only thing I seem to accomplish is exercise, but there’s no great plan, nothing I’m aiming for. All I want to do is run, and I can’t. Needless to say my mood is dropping off again, constantly frustrated, irritated and confused: if my mind were an engine it would be permanently mis-firing.

When I saw my cpn last week there was talk of increasing the dose again, but I think not. Move over Citalopram, your days are seriously numbered. At next week’s appointment you are gone. After all, it’s not as though I’m on the usual 6 month course; I’m going to be on this for years.

Stephie x

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Increasing fitness. Not.

I feel disappointed and flat at the end of this week’s fitness goals, such as they are. I set myself a 5th week goal of cycling 50 miles and missed it by 6 miles, simply because I forgot about it, and by the time I remembered on Sunday night I wouldn’t have made it before midnight (and therefore the start of the next week) if I’d tried. Disappointed is one way of putting it, pissed off is another more accurate way of describing how I feel.

Week Date Bike Walk Yoga Run Pulse Rate
5 02.02.14 44 miles 16.8 miles 1 hour 55
4 26.01.14 52 miles 4.4 miles 1 hour 49
3 19.01.14 54 miles 9.5 miles 2.25 hours 3.5 miles 60
2 12.01.14 51 miles 7 miles
1 05.01.14 40 miles 8 miles

In fact I don’t feel like I’ve achieved much at all this week. I’d planned to test my ankle again with a mile or so’s run and guess what, forgot about it. The only area I’ve exceeded my expectations this week is with the amount of walking I’ve done, one of them being a ‘big’ walk, the first of the Cornish Coast Path walks I’m doing with my partner in crime Katie. As much as I adore the walking and as tired as it makes me feel, it doesn’t give me the adrenaline rush I crave (not yet anyway). And without that rush I don’t feel like I’ve done anything (I probably need to be cut off by the tide or fall down a cliff face…).

I think my feelings of flatness are exacerbated by the fact that loads of friends from my running club were running in a popular local 10k race today, and there’s all the post race Facebook talk of PB’s and how great everyone feels. I also seem to have discovered a major side effect of the new drug I’m taking: sleeping too much. 12 hours at a time too much. I frequently then need to add to that with another couple of hours after a visit to town or a bike ride, or even just washing up. I just feel like I’m sleeping the entire time or permanently yawning. It’s driving me nuts.

It seems wrong to be feeling so down about it all after just a month; I don’t feel like my levels of fitness have increased much and I’m craving a big goal, something mad to aim for. I know I’m planning on walking 300 miles of coastline over the next few months, some of it pretty challenging, buuuut, it doesn’t feel enough!!! In some ways it feels like training for something else, but what?

Yesterday I picked up a book by the poet Simon Armitage called Walking Home. He describes walking 256 miles along The Pennine Way, the so called backbone of Britain, in about 19 days, paying his way with poetry readings en route. And I’ve just discovered that last year he did the very same thing around the very same coastline I’m planning to walk with Katie this year. As I sit here typing this and feeling miserable he’s probably writing the sequel to the first book that he promised, remembering the good times with a big fat smile on his face. Bastard.

I’m half way through the book already and I love it, barely able to put it down between bouts of sleeping, but it’s really not helping my craving for adventure or desire (need?) to do something more physically demanding, something I feel like I’d have to grit my teeth to get through to the other side of. Maybe it’s an age thing, a belated mid-life crisis? Whatever. I just know I’m restless. Big time.

Will tell you more about the book next time, when I’ve finished it.  Back soon (and hopefully less grumpy with it).

Stephie x
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On the pulse

Lying in bed trying not to move too much (not too difficult I promise you!), I fumble for the pulse in my wrist. 1, 2, 3, 4… I feel the regular throb of the blood flowing. A minute passes and I stop. That can’t be right. I do it again. 4 times. And each time it’s about 49 beats per minute. This must be wrong; it can’t have fallen that much in a week or so. The simple explanation is that I can’t count, so I do it again. Same result.  Well I know my goal was to get my pulse rate down, but I really wasn’t expecting this, and I don’t think a week’s worth of exercise can be the cause.

I wrack my brain – am I dying?! What the hell can cause such a sudden change in heart rate? Then it dawns on me: I’ve started a new medication and I’ve recently doubled the dose. Can Citalopram cause this? Having a quick check on-line it seems it’s possible, but I hate self-diagnosis by dubious articles written about stuff I know nothing about, so I guess I need to make an appointment with the GP for a check up.

Late last week I had a letter from them asking me to make an appointment to discuss a referral for steroid injections for the achilles tendonitis, so I guess I can kill two birds with one stone!  Can’t say I’m looking forward to it though (but the prospect of regular running again might be too difficult to ignore).

As for exercise this week, I feel like I haven’t done anything. It’s not true though: I’m glad to say I achieved my 50 mile cycling goal and my hour’s yoga planned for this week – I just walked a little less than I’d hoped.  I think the biggest difference was that I did all this exercise over three days rather than the usual 4-6. If the weather had been better yesterday I was going to walk for 7 miles or so, but as it turned out we had the usual weekend gales and torrential rain! Overall though I’m a happy bunny 🙂

Week Date Bike Walk Yoga Run Pulse Rate
4 26.01.14 52 miles 4.4 miles 1 hour 49
3 19.01.14 54 miles 9.5 miles 2.25 hours 3.5 miles 60
2 12.01.14 51 miles 7 miles
1 05.01.14 40 miles 8 miles

How was your weekend, did you manage to get out and about?

Stephie x

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Setting a general fitness goal

I’m an explorer. Ideas. Places. Meanings. Details… I’m a searcher looking for stimulation, creative fulfilment, release from the prison of my mind. I want a physical rush, where my mind just dissolves and ‘is’, where it can’t think any more; it’s just a muscle that I can notice in the same the way I notice my heart beat or the cold sweat on my back. Sex. Running. They give me that rush. But I’m on a restricted diet! (Offers to improve the diet of the former will be enthusiastically considered, depending on the condition of biceps offered 😉 )  For now though, I’m turning to mountain biking to fill the void. It’s probably a wiser option than cocaine or heroine. (If you’ve not read this blog before, I should just say that I’m currently a runner that can’t run, suffer from chronic depression and I’m also single!) But at the moment I know I’m not fit enough to get the rush that I crave through mountain biking.

Start small, that’s what they say isn’t it?  But when your body’s been hibernating for months and any minuscule effort requires a two hour sleep to overcome the exhaustion, small probably equates to no more than getting your bike out of the shed and admiring it. But that’s not really going to cut it for an adrenaline rush is it? No! First off you need to improve your base fitness level so that you can confidently take on more challenging rides. And that means you’re actually going to have to get your leg over that bloody bar, somehow, and move.

Like you and everybody else at this time of year I’ve decided the way to do this is to write a few goals. Trouble is (there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?), I find it hard to plan much more than a few days ahead at the moment, just living day by day: can I get up?, can I stay awake?, make it through the day? I sit here on the sofa, bare feet up on the coffee table pondering the best way to go about it, because at the moment getting my fitness back up to speed seems necessary, not just desirable: if I’m going to claw my way out of this depressive black hole at all I’m going to need some physical strength to do it.

SMART goals

Maybe you’re in the same situation as me and setting goals isn’t easy, for whatever reason. So, let me show you how I’m going to work out a goal to improve my base level of fitness; maybe you’ll find it helpful and will have a go too.

You’ve heard of ‘smart‘ goals I’m sure –  a really trite mnemonic businesses often use to help define goals, but you can use it for anything you want to achieve: personal, big or small. The idea is that your goal should be:

  • S: specific
  • m: measurable
  • a: attainable
  • r: relevant
  • t: time-based

I usually hate these things with a vengeance, but I admit that sometimes I find this one really useful – generally because I have problems with setting a goal that is actually ‘attainable’! Or even ‘relevant’. When I start to have feelings that I might be able or want to achieve something I get a little over zealous and believe I can achieve anything and it’s just a matter of putting my mind to it.  I ignore or underestimate the impact that things like illness or finances might have – and then get low again when I feel a complete failure because  I’ve failed to take them into account and basically haven’t achieved what I thought I should.

Take a recent rash, unthought out goal to cycle 1200m in 13 weeks. I knew it was mad and random, but that’s why I liked it! But it was completely unattainable considering the heavy weight of lethargy and lack of motivation that comes with depression; I guess I hoped it would be motivation in and of itself, but essentially it was completely irrelevant. I mean why?!  Simply, because I thought I could. And I failed, abysmally. So obviously I couldn’t, but probably not because I’m a failure (it isn’t unachievable – if I’m well), but because at the time I decided to do it, it wasn’t relevant and within the constraints and unpredictability of illness it really wasn’t attainable.

So, how do you go about setting yourself a fitness goal if, through no fault of your own, your motivation to do anything is low?  I guess I’m finally realising that at the moment I have to look at what I know I can do, stretch myself a little beyond that and hope that with a bit of time, my motivation to do more will improve along with my physical fitness.

Specific

First off I look at what I can do regularly and what’s appealing or not:

Activity Appeal Limitations
Running very high ankle injury
Cycling high – very high mountain bike only
Swimming low cost, ability
Walking medium ankle injury
Hiking high ankle injury
Yoga high cost
Gym low cost
Other (classes, etc) low cost, ability

Ability makes no difference, the aim is to get better after all, but the desire to swim or take classes is lower than the desire to do yoga, so I guess I can cross those off the list!  I don’t dislike the gym but the high cost is really limiting for me at the moment, so I guess I’ll cross that off too. And I can’t run regularly at the moment either, as it really exacerbates the tendonitis, so with a great big pouty bottom lip and a sinking heart I cross that off too. And I’m left with cycling, walking, hiking and yoga. But can I afford a regular yoga class? Just about, which is great! (I’m desperately trying to focus on what I can do here and not what I can’t, haha!). And how much does the tendonitis affect walking? Well, not as much as it does running and I’m sure I can do some regular walking; at the moment I know I can do about 8 miles before my ankle starts to really ache and if I stop there I don’t have much stiffness the morning after. Maybe I can try and push it a bit further, gradually, and see how it goes.

So far then I’ve narrowed down my goal to improving my base level of fitness with cycling, yoga and walking. But what the hell do I mean by ‘base level’. I guess for me it means that if an opportunity came up to train for something specific, like a race (assuming I was injury free), I know I could follow a training plan and be ready in 8 – 12 weeks, depending on what it might be. Perhaps your goal is to lose or gain a specific amount of weight, or distance you can run, or weight that you can lift.

Measurable

It’s essential that you can measure how far along you are to achieving your goal. Maybe you’ve lost a few pounds so you know you’re on the right track, or maybe you can now run half a mile further than when you started.  For my goal I want to see my resting pulse rate become lower because I think that’s a good measure of general fitness.

Attainable

Oh dear this is a difficult one for me! This is going to be ‘make or break’. This is going to determine whether I feel like Superman or a failure!  How realistic is it to think that I can drop 10 heart beats per minute within a week?! As much as I’d like to say “very realistic”, I’m pretty sure that something in the back of my mind is telling me “noooooo”!!!!  Two weeks? No! Ummm, well what is realistic then?  I’m not sure!  I guess I can give myself a four week trial and see what I can do without killing myself with over exercise, and use that as a guide. Seem sensible? (That’s a serious question, if you have any opinions I’d love to hear them because I feel like I’m groping in the dark here!). I also have to take into account this illness/motivation thing. It is completely unrealistic to expect massive improvements over a short period of time (I’m saying this firmly so that it might actually sink in!): I might get so ill I can’t get out of bed for days again. But, if I keep my ambitions realistic over a longer period of time, then yes I think it’s attainable!

Relevant

Without a doubt it is relevant to want to improve my physical fitness. I know with certainty that it helps maintain my mental well-being, which at this stage is why I want to do it. Later on, hopefully my ankle injury will improve and being fitter will help me train for whatever goal I give myself  then.

Time-based

This relates directly back to being ‘attainable’ for me, so I have to be realistic here. I’d like to say that in 3 months time I will see an improvement in my base fitness level, but I can’t be too specific about what that will be because I can’t factor in the ‘unknown effects of illness’.  So in three months time, if I can see any improvement in my resting pulse rate (which is what I will use to measure it), I hereby promise to be happy and not whine that it’s not good enough!  Within this three month time period I plan to work in blocks of a month, looking for any improvements and adjusting my way forward where necessary. I know I can’t think too far ahead at the moment, so it seems a realistic and sensible approach. I’ll also work out fitness ‘work outs’ on a weekly basis, taking into account what I managed to achieve the week before – i.e. not look too far ahead.

So, with that lot taken into account I declare my next fitness goal:

Goal

Over a three month period I will improve my base level of fitness by cycling, walking and yoga. I will measure this in terms of resting heart rate, which I anticipate will fall between my current level of 60 bpm and 52 bpm (which is what it was in May 2012 after training for a coastal marathon in late February that year).

One final note on setting goals: it’s said that the more public you make them the more likely you are to achieve them. With that in mind I plan to bore you  publish regular updates on my progress. Any feedback much appreciated.

What are your fitness goals for this year, and how did you go about setting them; have you ever used this method?  I’d love to hear how you do it and how you get on. Maybe we can motivate and inspire each other?  God knows I need it! Until next time.

Stephie x

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Afterimage

Just thinking . . .

Afterimage. Butterfly behind a muslin curtain. © Stephanie Boon, November 2013. www.narrativeself.com
Uncertain

Shroud

Ghost

Imperceptible

Melding

Gloaming

Afterimage

 

I suffuse these words with meaning, my meaning. They sit quietly on my desk and I let their sounds and images gently swirl around my mind, where they already begin to form pictures.  I can feel them rising.

Stephie x

 

 

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Every Grain of Sand

Sweat was dripping from my forehead onto the sickly pink yoga mat below me. Heels pressing back into the floor, palms sinking into the mat as I push my shoulder blades down and my pelvis back. The downward facing dog reminds me nothing is easy, even if it looks it. At the end of the session we’re lying in the corpse pose and I’m waiting for the comfort of a blanket to be tenderly laid over me, but it never came. I cool down too quickly and the flickering fluorescent light in the low ceiling above distracts and irritates even through closed eyes.

Driving home I feel drained, heavy and empty. The inside of my chest feels like it’s dragging along the floor behind me. I wanted to feel energised and alive, instead my mood slumped and my body followed suit. My mind is just numb.

As the night moves on I become agitated, so restless I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m filled with visceral screams that push hard against my bones, but I can’t release them. I don’t know where they’ve suddenly come from, or why. These unfathomable swings in mood that I’ve suffered since childhood, are debilitating, unpredictable. Unbearable. In the early hours I pace around the bedroom. I sit on the floor in the dark pushing my back flat against the cold wall. I feel utter despair. Panic. It’s such an acute pain that rings on forever like a tuning fork, cold and hard.

© Stephanie Boon, 2013 'Grey Cloud, Chapel Porth' www.narrativeself.com
Grey Cloud

Surely, if this life is about anything it’s about intimacy? An intense and reciprocal ‘knowing’ between two people. As everything around me, inside me, is stripped away by all but me I question who has known me, who I have known, who will ever know me.  My despair rises to such an intense pitch that I feel I’m imploding. I have to make Art. Capital A. Have to. Imperative, not a desire. Drive, instinct. I have to find someone to connect with. Now. There is no other way. No other way to keep safe.

© Stephanie Boon, 2013  'Valley, Chapel Porth' www.narrativeself.com
Valley

I’m walking down the valley now, in the harsh afternoon light, to the beach. My eyes barely lift from the path. My body feels like lead and my muscles ache from last night’s yoga. Amongst the fallen leaves I notice wind fallen hawthorn berries, scattered like polished jewels. And rabbit droppings. There’s still the odd cornflower lining the path, fading to brown, and the bracken is a crackling, deep, rich Sienna colour.

My legs are red cold. I deliberately wore sheer tights, so fine that I’d feel the cold bite through me. To feel something. I want to collect some sand, just a handful, and I’ve brought a zip lock bag to carry it home in. I feel the bag in my pocket, smooth and unnatural. The tide’s low, way out, and my footprints stay amongst those of the dogs’ and the scudding marks of balls their owners have thrown them. I wander down to the sea, aimless. My feet are wet, but I’m oblivious to any discomfort and watch, disconnected, as the wind blows spume over them.

© Stephanie Boon, 2013 'Spume, Chapel Porth' www.narrativeself.com
Spume, Chapel Porth

Sand collected, I rub the bag between my fingers as I head back up the valley, feeling its grittiness. I have ephemeral thoughts about the grains being blown thousands of miles from here, that they’re so imperceptible no one would know they were gone or where they’d blown to. Someone else might pick them up in a new handful of sand and rub them, dry and hot, between their fingers. Knowing.

'Inside' Mixed media. © Stephanie Boon, November 2013. www.narrativeself.com
Inside

 Stephie x 

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