Author Archive: Delilah

Things You Might Like

These are things I’ve liked a lot recently:

Novel Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.

Blog post by Brandon Knoll about colouring our own lives.

Illustration of a ‘black cat on black furniture‘ by Felicia Chiao on Tumblr.

Bear illustration by Little Oil on Tumblr.

British sitcom Upstart Crow.

Interview with Dr Judith Curry about climate change.

Is the EU serious about coming to a deal? David Robertson raises some concerns.

Song on a CD bought from a charity shop recently: Why Does It Always Rain on Me? (Travis). Even before I figured out the culprit, it was in my head all the time. 😀

Another song: One Last Chance (James Morrison). I’ve had it a while, but only just started paying it attention.

Last but not least… from personal experience I would say there’s a great deal of truth in this article… I wish I’d read it when I was 16. 🙂

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Surviving Agoraphobia

I’ve been asked how I got over the worst of my agoraphobia. The really bad days are years in my past, thankfully, but I’ll write what I can remember. For me, I suspect it was mostly luck, as I live in a small town and have managed to make most of it my ‘safe zone’.

When it came to getting out of the house… I didn’t want to become house-bound, so when it was starting to happen, I broke out of it by doing something my mother told me later was stupid… I left the house at night, when it was quiet and dark — walked in the local area, round and round. I went out to where the small shops were, and walked there too, among the buildings and narrow paths.

At one point I nearly tripped over a man who appeared to have taken drugs or was drinking or something.

I walked past my own house several times in my trips around, and could see the cats sitting in the porch watching me in a puzzled way… that made me smile, though faintly!

Was it stupid? Yes, maybe it was dangerous and I shouldn’t have done it on my own, even though I live in a quiet town. For people in a bigger town, it’s an even worse idea. Did it make a difference? Maybe, in the sense that I was demonstrating to myself that the local area was mine and I could walk around in it if I chose to. It was as much ‘mine’ as anyone else’s.

Having got out of the house, for me what helped:

(1) It’s not a huge town and I could walk most places rather than get the bus.

(2) Family were in the area, so I wasn’t alone.

(3) It helped if I had something along with me (a steadying influence) so I take my shopping trolley everywhere. It made a huge difference, to the degree I can sometimes go without it now, though it depends on where I am and how long I’ll be there for. The best shopping trolleys have big rubber wheels… plastic wheels rattle and are noisy.

(4) Take small steps. For instance, at the beginning (when recovering from a bad spell) I’d only go to a small shop round the corner for groceries, and just get a basketful at a time — a huge barrowload is too much! Best to pay by cash and not spend long. I’d usually hang around admiring tins of peaches or something if there was a queue, but as soon as the queue disappeared or became much shorter, I’d abandon the peaches and join it.

(5) I’d go really early in the morning if I had to go to the supermarket — it was quiet but they had an annoying habit of only having one checkout open, so sometimes the queue might back up a bit… usually it was OK. I remember a colleague telling me I was masochistic going to the supermarket so early in the morning just for a can of kitten food. 🙂 Trouble was, if I didn’t go early, I felt I couldn’t go at all.

(6) I’d get myself a little gift sometimes to get myself into a shop… for instance, I saw a plush rhino through the chemist’s window that I took a fancy to, so going in and buying it was its own reward.

(7) Distraction is a very good weapon, as is fading memory. The best way I can explain it, is that I’m more likely to get wound up if I’m going out every day or thinking about my anxiety all the time. If I rest a lot and do something fun at home, like artwork, and only go out sometimes, I am much more relaxed… it’s as though I’ve literally forgotten. My mother thinks people should go out every day to keep in the swim of things, and I guess that’s what works for her… but for me it’s a bad idea! Perhaps she proves to herself every day that people are nice and she can get on with them, but as I’m too deaf to really talk to anyone, I just remember every day how busy the roads are, how difficult it is for me to make myself understood, and how impatient people can be. 🙄 When I’ve forgotten all about that, I’m better able to focus on the positive aspects of going out.

(8) When I was working (and going through the worst of it at that time) I remember a couple of psychological tricks I used when walking to the office.

(a) I was too scared to go, but knew I had to. So I would say to myself that getting out of the house didn’t mean I was really going to the office! I could just walk a little while and see how it went. I said to myself “just walk as far as that lamppost, and if you still want to go home, you can go home.” That way I would get all the way to work because I no longer felt pressured into going… it had become a choice.

(b) Another trick would propel me across open ground, which was harder than walking alongside a wall. I’d pick something I could think of as a kind of wall… yellow lines running through the car park or the rooftops of nearby houses… and make those my ‘wall’ while getting across the open space. It was a bit dicey, I admit, as someone suddenly racing towards me (or cutting between me and my ‘wall’) could throw me off balance! 😛

(9) Usually there are workarounds… a quieter shop, a quiet footpath instead of the busy road, a different time when most of the people have gone.

(10) Stay aware of the seasons. Town seems to be more busy at certain times of the year… I noticed my anxiety would start rising in May, when more people appeared on the streets. Perhaps this is the real reason I’ve started to love autumn… the pace slows down.

One thing that kept me going was the thought that it would be easier to deal with it now… things always start feeding on themselves if you leave them too long. If I was going to break through the anxiety and get some of what I wanted out of life, why shouldn’t it be now rather than later?

I used to avoid catching people’s eye when I was going through the worst of it, but one day looked up and looked straight at this guy, who smiled. I smiled back — that’s when I knew the worst was over! It does show… you have no idea how much your kindness can affect someone.

Agoraphobia is a tough thing to deal with and I have learned not to underestimate it. I anthropomorphized mine as a ‘black beast’, and made this poem by Ted Hughes my own… merely because I love Ted Hughes poetry?? The causes of anxiety can be as hard to locate as the beast in the poem! Perhaps thinking of it that way made it easier for me to deal with, as though it was a creature in a book and not part of me.

I hope something in all of this helps someone, though I don’t really recommend wandering around at the dead of night. 🙂

Pulling Up the Drawbridge

tired of your world?
try on another’s skin
read a book

I used to read all the time, but it’s an ability I’ve largely lost. I dip in and out of this book or that, and it can take me a long time to finish anything. Today, though, I found out that books still have their place in the world, even in mine.

I’m upset just now about a lot of different things, some of which won’t be resolved any time soon. There’s nothing I can do but wait. I couldn’t concentrate on anything I was meant to be doing, so curled up on the sofa and read.

I was previously dipping into this book for minutes at a time, worried I wouldn’t finish by its library due date, but today wrapped it round me like a blanket and read all afternoon and evening: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.

It was brilliant and I would recommend it whole-heartedly. It upset me a lot. 😀

I know that doesn’t sound so good, but I don’t regret reading it. It gives me a different understanding of what it must be for people to go through memory loss.

The main character talks about being treated like she’s back in school… I could relate to that, as the same thought flashed through my head during a meeting with a nurse. Being talked to like I was six was a very big reason I rebelled and refused to have anything more to do with her proposed anxiety treatment.

Yet anxiety is a horrible thing… I wonder why it should hit me so hard that I needed to pull up the drawbridge and hide inside a novel. I don’t think anything will change me, and maybe it’s not out of the ordinary… we all get overwhelmed at times. I wonder what life would be like if no one ever felt fear?

Whatever… I was surprised how quickly I went from only being able to concentrate for a few minutes to spending hours reading. People talk about how the internet and ‘information overload’ has changed the way we read, think and engage. Perhaps, but I don’t believe it’s a permanent change. If for any reason you mentally disengage yourself from your internet habit, you can still take up a book as though nothing else exists.

Have now begun Dark Eden by Chris Beckett.

‘Hmmph, hmmph, hmmph, went the trees all around us, pumping and pumping hot sap from under the ground.’

See you when I get back. 🙂

Nothing Stays the Same

There is so much going on, all of the time. For instance, you might be sitting quietly at home, painting a picture. The TV likely isn’t on. Nobody else is in the room except a cat. The trees sway outside, the sun shines, somebody is parking a car outside and walking away.

The dishwasher hums, a pigeon barrels past, and — imitating autumn leaves — a pair of butterflies slip sideways. Less pleasantly, a spider investigates a hoverfly in a corner of the window. When you notice, you’re glad you’re not that hoverfly, and are torn between pity, disinterest, and a desire not to think about such things.

You choose between different but similar shades of pink on your iPad, attempting to paint them in the right places with a rubber-tipped stylus, and think to yourself, “This isn’t very well designed. How can I draw fine lines with a rubber-tipped stylus squeaking across the glass? Would I be better in another app with a higher zoom? Why do I USE this app?”

Instead of acting on these questions in your mind, you continue to paint in that same awkward app with the same squeaky stylus, thinking about all sorts of different things.

For instance, you’d like to read Cadfael again — it would be nice to read it now. Or perhaps Elizabeth Goudge? On the other hand, it would be fun to watch Inspector Montalbano on TV, or the Fiddler on the Roof DVD you got for your birthday.

You won’t do any of these things because you want to get on with your painting.

You should email S… she’ll be wondering if you’ve disappeared on her again. You… leap off the sofa all of a sudden and trap a small spider in the folds of a tissue. “Go sit over there,” you tell it. “I don’t want you running around on me or accidentally getting crushed.”

S saved your life… you got trapped beneath the waves. Does this mean you belong to her?

Notifications pop up.

Facebook is the worst, pounding away inexorably… “you’re ignoring us again.”
Tumblr says there are five things trending. (Only five?)
Tumblr staff reblogged something you’re not interested in.
Pinterest says there are things you’re sure to love and a pinner who’s your long-lost twin.
Your trolls miss their leader, and there’s a new quest with gold to be won.
Mo Farah loses out on gold in his final track race.
Someone has written a WordPress coffee post.
YouTube has recommendations.
Your sister uploaded photos on Flickr.
Flipboard thinks you should read this article about Brexit.
Do you know this person on Facebook? No?
Police are looking for a jogger. Got him. Let him go. Still looking for jogger.

Drat, wrong shade of pink… wrong palette. Switch down two trays to the inner ear pinks… perfect. Imagine a double-decker bearing down on you — aargh. Imagine living in the dust and turmoil of such a busy city.

What might your life have been like if you’d got the other job somewhere else? Would you be a different person?

As for for the recent drama… what did you do wrong? Was there a misunderstanding? You will do this, that, the other thing… no, you don’t know what to do. You’re lost. But nothing matters, really. Life flows on.

You don’t feel like painting this bit… it’s too difficult. But you must, because you really want to finish this picture. Just put a blot of some sort here; you can paint over it later if you have to.

You drew a horse when you were 14 that looks something like this… perhaps this is your natural painting ‘style’, ha ha. You weren’t able to blend with fibre tips, and this app is not a lot better.

If you were one of Cadfael’s ‘monks’… or in a nunnery, really… would you have been allowed to do artwork? Most likely not. You’d be doing everyone’s washing, scrubbing the flagstones, fetching water. Wonder what it was like in those days? Maybe much like now. You worried about other people and other people worried about you. Spiders lurked in the window and entertained flies.

Your thoughts swirl around, and you don’t always know what to think about anything….

You’re good at this… no, you’re awful… no, more like something in between, and it’s changing all the time. It depends if you like this sort of thing. You wouldn’t win awards, but it’s OK.

For years you would hold a belief about somebody else, such as, “She’s terrible at photography”… then one day get a shock and think “actually that’s kind of good.”

As I keep reminding myself… people don’t stand still. They’re not statues. While they experience life, their thoughts fluctuate, and the things they think they know things about imperceptibly develop and change. People and things develop and change around them, even if it seems still and peaceful with nothing going on.

The next time you glance up, the fly has gone from the spider’s parlour, but it has been replaced by a baby snail. Perhaps it was all the ‘think pink’ energy in the room, though black jagged shadows would be more apt…

I can feel the year’s end approaching.

Badly Painted Germ

Evil looking and shapeless creature.Sitting up in the middle of the night with a hot forehead. Must have caught something in town.

 You ask yourself, “What did I touch?!” but of course if could have been anything. Shop doors, clothes-hangers, the edge of the coffee shop table… who knows?

I should email a friend while I have the light on. She sent a photo at 5:30 yesterday morning, so I should return the favour. It’s fortunate that digital photos don’t arrive at the other end with germs on them.

If I were a speed painter, I could paint her a picture. Unfortunately I know I would still be labouring over it by Christmas, so I better not even start.

Have just checked the headlines. “Jeremy Clarkson in hospital with pneumonia”. (Panics slightly)… no, that’s not what I have. Surely.

Looking at other news, I have nothing to complain about, really.

Will send her a badly painted germ… yes, I painted it anyway, despite my doubts. So it can be done.

Perfectionism and Plans are not Perfect Partners

If we were having coffee, conversation would stall because we would be too distracted by TV. I’m not watching, but can’t think about anything else while it’s on.

The ads are not much better — perhaps it’s just my mood. When I really want to, I can drown it out and focus on what I’m writing.

What’s annoying is when you get the feeling there was something else you were supposed to be doing, but you can’t pull your thoughts together enough to remember what it was. Instead, you keep staring at the TV, even though the panellists are cracking jokes you mostly don’t think are funny.

Come to think of it, there were lots of things I should have been doing, such as:

1. Painting a tree that the tree outside my window complains looks more like a tiger.
2. Several other pictures I abandoned, and they weren’t looking all that bad.
3. Writing to Apple (something about a bug report).
4. An online CBT session I should have done on Friday.
5. Keeping up with CBT homework, which includes noting my mood every two hours.

Actually, not doing my CBT homework is the main reason I’m avoiding the next session. I got a nagging email that says we will get the best from it if we complete one session a week. I don’t know why waiting another week should ruin the flow of it, especially if I already ruined the flow of it by not doing my homework.

Mood for 22:00…. rattled.

The TV has been turned off, thankfully, but a cat has come in and is sitting at my feet staring at me… as a result, I’m no less distracted than I was previously.

I asked why people keep mocking Piers Morgan, and Mum said, “Nobody likes him.”
“Why… what did he do?”

You can’t really laugh along with them when you know they’re making digs at someone you know nothing about… that’s just one of the things I wasn’t finding amusing. You look at people on TV who have their own in-jokes, and feel alienated from most of them… does that qualify as a ‘mood’ too?

It’s not surprising, I guess; in-jokes are a bonding mechanism. If you don’t know what people are nudging each other about, it makes you realize you’re not one of them. Perhaps most people watching the show understand these attitudes and inferences, and that thought makes me feel even more ‘out of it’. I suppose I could google Piers Morgan but don’t want to. Live and let live.

Nursing your coffee in the other chair, you are nodding politely, but I can tell you are wondering what rock I’ve been living under! Well, I was not too far from Castle Rock once upon a time. I still love the city of Edinburgh. We visited it a little while ago but I wonder if I will ever see it again? I doubt it. The very name ‘Edinburgh’ feels like home, and that’s enough, really.

The nagging feeling of distraction is persisting. Let me just take care of these cats for a moment…

Samson jumped eagerly into his bed… heart-warming. 🙂 Now that we’re all sorted out for the night, I feel more focused… slightly. More coffee?

I’m still not following the little timetable I made. I got tired and stressed on Friday after being unable to sleep. The next day I was a zombie and nearly got run over twice, so the timetable naturally took a back seat. I had a strong feeling I was going to continue to ignore it, and decided I should simplify it a great deal.

I did that this morning and was suitably smug, feeling I might successfully complete my CBT homework this week. Well guess what… I forgot it again. I forgot such a plan even existed. I’ve only missed one planned activity, which was to back up my iPad and sort though my burgeoning Gmail inbox, but even one black mark makes me feel the entire week has gone down the chute.

I paint like that too. Stroke, erase; stroke, erase… I can spend a few minutes on that, and it’s not surprising I never finish anything. The pictures I do finish have usually taken weeks or months. A few times I’ve tried speed painting tutorials but nothing changes! Before you know it, I’m back to teasing away with a tiny brush, determined that not one single pixel will be out of place, even if I have to repaint it a gazillion times.

Then I wonder why I’ve been pushed into doing this CBT thing!

It’s unsettling when you realize that if your life had a reset button, allowing you to return the start and try all over again, you would push it in a flash. This life wasn’t perfect… maybe I’d do it right next time?

No, I realize I wouldn’t. I would feel exactly the same, know exactly what I knew (no more and no less), and think and say the same things. I’d still be me.

I find myself asking questions, though. If my life had a reset button and I could go back to the very beginning… born a younger daughter living under the Rock, forced to go on fishing holidays in damp cottages; fretting over how people managed to do beautiful drawings on Etcha-Sketches… presumably everybody that I’ve even walked past would have to go all the way back to the beginning as well, just so they could accompany me. All of you out there reading this blog… you’d be whooshed back to square one and made to start all over again. If you even realized what had happened, I expect I’d be surrounded by a blogging lynch platoon right now.

Sorry.

More coffee? I’ll try and get it right this time.

PS: I must have caught something in town as I’m running a temperature and my teeth are aching. Definitely no CBT for a week! It would be interesting to know if ‘distraction’ is a symptom of this kind of bug. I should write to Apple, though — Pages is no fun to write in just now.

T-shirts and Time

Jewelled camel design on khaki T-shirt.No, this has not suddenly turned into a fashion blog. 😋 I bought this T-shirt a few days ago because I couldn’t be bothered to fold it up again.

OK, I was already thinking about buying it, but said to myself, “Delilah, how long do you think that pretty design will last? It will start to fade after the first wash, with bits falling off and cracks appearing, and in the end you will be left with a skimpy khaki T-shirt with an indescribable splodge on the front.”

I was about to fold it back up and replace it on the pile, but others finished buying what they were buying and chivvied me to ‘hurry up’ because they were going now.

It seemed simpler and more ‘valid’ to buy it rather than stand there folding it up neatly… though I suppose there was a flash of something in my mind that said “They’ll go home with something nice in their bag. What about me? Last chance saloon!”

Perhaps the realization I was about to lose the T-shirt was what made me realize I did want it — it was a wake-up call.

Well, my thoughts descended into utter confusion. When you hurry people up and display impatience, they panic and drop the ball. They might forget their keys, leave the door unlocked or suddenly decide to buy a camel T-shirt. At least now I have a pretty photograph to remind myself of how it used to look, though it does currently still look like that.

Maybe I should frame it, then it will — er — fade in the sunlight? Pfft. Just wear it, enjoy it… that’s what everything is for.

“Don’t Change For Anyone”

A couple of years ago, I said something to someone that I later thought a little aggressive, though unintentionally so. I apologized, saying it wasn’t like me to use such phrasing, and he said it was fine… “don’t ever change for anyone.”

I took that as politely expressed agreement that it wasn’t my sort of thing! Whatever he meant, his comment occasionally returns to my mind. Should I change who I am, what I do, how I talk, to suit others?

This isn’t a question to the outside world. Without context, a response would be too black and white… but in the way I mean it, knowing my own good intentions, I realize I shouldn’t.

Tumblr: Strange New World

Framed picture showing reflection of tree looming by the windowI was going to write a blog post, but got interrupted by a cat. When I came back, what I was going to write seemed less appealing. Why should it interest anybody? I’m struck by the demon of doubt.

Looking around for inspiration, I see sun glancing off the tops of shrubs and hedges outside the window — gold light and glossy leaves. That tree gets closer to the house year by year. Four years ago the council was requested to remove it, but it’s still there. Upstairs, it looks as though I could shake hands with it — the two of us stretching across the gap between window and hedge. Well, I would die trying… the gap is close, but not that close.

My original aim was to write about Tumblr, and here I am complaining about a tree that’s near, yet far. Yes, Tumblr, I said. Is this old hat now, or still going strong?

I’ve only just joined, and don’t yet know what I think. There’s something strange about the way its search engines and feeds work. Mine moves sluggishly, occasionally throwing up reblogs by big rebloggers reblogging content most of us couldn’t hope to match. This perfect content gets a little samey… fantasy concepts; gorgeous heroines with oiled thighs; mechanowarriors; impossibly neat Gothic castles; sunset on the ice of faraway worlds. They don’t post warmer, more homely content — and if they do, it’s by accident, and you can almost hear them scream.

I won’t tell you how I know that. (Coughs).

I’ve only been there a few days though. Most likely I haven’t yet discovered the little tips and tricks that make it work. Sponsored ads have started appearing. When I was brand new, they held off, but it seems I’m not to be cosseted any more. Then there was a spammy ‘ask me’ message. Someone wanted votes on something, but I gave that a miss… didn’t think clicking on the Bitly URL was a great idea.

Something I really don’t like is an overt political bias which has been intruding onto my main feed, even though I haven’t followed any political tags. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth, which is not what one goes to Tumblr for… at least, I don’t.

Of my new followers, one appears to be a bot of some sort, another has a vacant blog (no content yet), and a third is selling something. My favourite follower is the bot, because it posts things for me to look at in the slow-moving Tumblr feed, none of it mean or political.

Yes, there’s always the silver lining, and it came up with this painting — beautiful and dreamlike. For such as that, I’ll keep going.

My iPad Has Found a Voice

Anker speaker and birthday cardMy birthday was some time ago, but there was a palaver with computer speakers having to be sent back. This is a little bluetooth one for the iPad that I chose instead. My sister ordered it in a lightning deal… it was 100% claimed in no time at all, but she was able to bag it when someone else let it go (thank you).

Now I’ve made it all blurry and coloured and you can’t even see it properly…

Truth to tell, I’m not sure why I’m telling the blogosphere about this, except that I’ve never heard anything from the iPad clearly… my hearing is too poor, and usually someone else has to tell me it’s playing sounds I wasn’t aware of.

There should be a way of muting it for good so it *never* does anything like that, and this particular lack in the iPad’s design makes me angry.

Now, I didn’t get a speaker for the iPad just so I would know to turn it off… that wouldn’t work anyway if it turns itself off after a spell without audio. No… I got it because I thought it might be nice to hear things on my iPad for a change, especially some of the tracks I bought.

It’s a lovely little speaker but it becomes a nexus of intense vibration when playing. Would you pick it up mid-song? I’m afraid to!

I was very happy when The Pachelbel Canon came on. Soothing, and a lovely birthday present, thank you. 🙂