Monday, August 03, 2009

Gloomy Sunday

I’m rather worried. On the past two Sundays I’m been a grumpy, grouchy, tetchy so-and-so.

As a long-time depression sufferer I’ve become analytical about my moods and thoughts and feelings. I KNOW when I’m not doing too well, even though I seem powerless to do anything about it. In November last year I took the decision to come off anti-depressants for good. I’d like to say that I weaned myself off them in the approved manner, following extensive consultation with my doctor, but in truth I just took them less and less and in a somewhat haphazard fashion. Maybe that wasn’t the cleverest thing I’ve ever done but I HAD to do something.

Over 13 years of medication and probably suffering before that, I seemed to have tried everything. Recently, however, the tablets, or to be more precise the side effects, were becoming intolerable. Persistent gastric problems were taking its toll and I resolved to end the situation.

Gradually, over the 8 months since coming off medication, I’ve managed to steady the good ship Paul. There were a couple of blips when my daughter kindly passed on chicken pox and then a throat infection and also a dodgy King Prawn curry which saw me floored for three days when I should have been on holiday. A lesser person might have crumbled under the strain but I managed to keep it together. I’ve only had two depression-related days off sick in 2009.

One of those days off triggered my employer’s Absence Management Policy as I’d taken so many days off over a certain period (I forget their trigger points). A trip to the Well-Being Unit for what seemed like a pointless going-through-the-motions exercise turned out to be anything but. After assessing rather quickly that there was no underlining issue with my recent absences, I pointed out that I was a bit down about my weight. My workload comes in peaks and troughs and when I’m bored I eat too much. It’s something to do, to fill the time, even if it’s only for 30 seconds (a biscuit here, a cake there). The doctor referred me to the Unit’s Exercise Specialist. He would be in touch.

He e-mailed me a form, which enquired on my health and habits. I was to meet him in the gym for an assessment of my “condition”. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that I was unfit. I resembled a stunt double for Barbapapa. Having had no regular exercise regime of any note since Nelson was a lad this first assessment would be interesting. It was. I had very poor upper body strength and no stamina. That’s why I can’t do a press-up to save myself. When I was in the Navy I was forced to do them in front of the rest of the class. When it came to the fitness test I cheated…one, two, miss a few, nineteen, twenty

I was given two routines to alternate between; one Cardiovascular and one Resistance, involving weights. We agreed to meet up back at the gym in three weeks to see how I was progressing. That first week, for one reason or another, I never made in to the gym. On the second week I was persuaded to come of out of “retirement” and play 5-a-side football. I hadn’t played in five years and it showed. Before playing I nipped into the work gym and did a warm-up, including 10 minutes on the bike, just to get the legs going.

I figured that as one of that maniacal tribe who enjoys playing ‘between the sticks’ I would have an easy introduction back into the beautiful game. It wasn’t. Within ten minutes one of my teammates wanted to go in goal “for a rest”. Now, as a goalkeeper of not considerable skill, I find the notion that goalkeepers have an easy life as insulting. A rest? As mad as it sounds, I love being in goals (or I used to). The shouting at defenders, the glory of the round-the-post fingertip save and the inevitable howler are part and parcel of a keeper’s lot. Even when I appear to be doing nothing, I’m assessing the options in front of me and directing defenders. A rest? What a cheek!

The next morning I was stiff and not in a “good” way. The following Monday I played again, once more after a “warm-up” in the gym, and damaged my right quad. So much so that I gave the next game a miss. I was to be on holiday (all round the Neuk of Fife) over the next week and when I returned to the gym for my second assessment I confessed that I’d only been to the gym twice in three weeks.

That week I managed two trips to the gym (no excuses) and the next week another couple – one sick day, one ½ day for Flick’s sports day and a day “acting” at the Risk Factory were my justifiable reasons for non-attendance.

Monday 6 July was to be another assessment day but a ‘suspect device’ at work meant the gym meeting would be re-scheduled for the afternoon. I also returned to the football. Big mistake! While taking care to ensure my quads were stretched I forgot the hamstrings and sure enough, during a lung-bursting midfield charge, I pulled up suddenly with a muscle pull tighter than two coats of paint. Ironically, I myself had to go in goals “for a rest” but it only seemed to aggravate it. I decided there and then to return to the comfort of retirement. I spoke to someone at work who I would politely term a “fitness freak” and he said that guys over 35, unless professional, really shouldn’t be playing football. I couldn’t agree more*.

Gradually I’ve managed to increase my visits to the gym and my boss has kindly agreed that I can take an early lunch and go to the gym at 11am, to beat the rush. This has made a big difference and the change is very noticeable. On a couple of days when I’ve had the car, instead of enduring two buses to work, I’ve got in so early I’ve been able to get to the gym BEFORE work. When I told my wife this I expected her to continue her praise of my attempts to boost my endorphin levels, mood and fitness. “That’s so Eighties!” were her thoughtful words of encouragement.

Over the last three weeks I’ve been at the gym every single working day and I wondered if my Sunday grumpiness is down to me coming down off an endorphin-fuelled high. Maybe I’ve becoming, dare I say it, addicted to exercise. (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write).

This bad mood was only the start of a bad day yesterday. Firstly, I dropped my John Leyton Anthology double CD. While CDs are apparently indestructible, the jewel cases that host them aren’t and it shattered. That set my nerves on edge for the rest of the day and I even worried that it might bring on a panic attack. Yes, that sounds daft but anyone who has ever had such an attack will know exactly what I mean.

I got into the car and resolved to cheer myself with a good show. I got a hundred yards away from my house when someone coming round a blind bend decided he wasn’t going to stop for the obstruction on his side of the road. I had to slam on my brakes and I opened my window as he passed. I pointed out, in a straightforward and polite fashion, that he should’ve pulled in and, if he’d been doing the correct speed for the road (20mph), he would’ve seen me coming. Then he could’ve easily pulled in before the poorly parked vehicle straddling the kerb on the bend, allowing me to pass. He made some bizarre statement about having to be “supernatural” (I think he meant “psychic”) before calling me a “prick” and cowardly driving off. What a sad old man.

I did think about giving chase but I figured I’d probably do something stupid and he really wasn’t worth it. I could only remember the first part of his registration number (SH04) but that’s enough for me to keep an eye for him in future. Maybe when he sees how big I am I might get an apology out of him but I doubt it. Cock!

That encounter set the tone for the rest of the day. More driving knobheads on route to Kirkcaldy meant my nerves were frazzled by the time I got to the station. If I thought the calming influence of my own rather excellent taste in music would ease my mood I was to be sadly mistaken. Both studios have new double CD players and the one in Studio B is very temperamental. I might expect it with “burned” CDs but it shouldn’t happen with brand new “normal” ones. I had to abort a couple of tracks and improvise replacements. Two tracks started halfway though!

To make matters worse I could see on the studio TV, linked to the outside camera, that kids were trying to climb on to the roof of the station. I called Security and they chased them away. I’ve never been gladder to get away from the studio. Even a trip to Tesco on the way home raised my hackles, as I couldn’t find the porridge oats. It’s undergoing refurbishment but that’s no excuse. I left empty-handed.

Only the site of my daughter getting her bedtime story brought a smile to my face after a draining day. I kissed her goodnight and went downstairs to heat up my tea. The Good Lady Wife joined me for “Top Gear” and a double helping of “House”. By the end of the programmes, I was physically and mentally knackered.

Roll on Monday’s gym session and a chance to “cheer” up again. I hate being such a misery guts, despite the name of the blog!

Talking of misery guts and this blog, I’ll finish with this comment I received to one of my previous blogs ( I received these words of wisdom from “sfw”: Why did you pinch my blog name? I guess it does not matter much, you post less frequently than me and you are not even half as interesting.”

This comment made me laugh for a number of reasons. Firstly, I certainly didn’t pinch his blog name – why would I? I’ve been using the nom-de-plume “Misery Guts” since the early 1980s and without going into details I can prove it. (In fact, there’s a very interesting current story connected to my pseudonym but I can’t spill the beans).

If it “does not matter much”, why post? I may only post once a week, usually with my radio show playlist, due to commitments elsewhere but I don’t need to make my blog more ‘interesting’ by regularly posting pictures of scantily-clad young women, like “swf”. Perhaps there’s nothing much else to do in Victoria, Australia than ogle pictures of women and perform unnatural acts on farm machinery and animals. Who knows?

Misery Guts

* I’ve started reading a book called “Simple Goalkeeping Made Spectacular” by Graham Joyce. Graham is a writer and ex-goalkeeper of sorts who, at the age of 52, is called up to the England Writers’ XI. I’m enjoying it immensely and feeling his pain.

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