Sunday, 31 December 2017

With mere hours left of the dumpster fire that was 2017...

Let's look back on the last week.

I had a great Christmas with the family. I also got my arse kicked twice in 2 sessions of bowling, but you know what? I enjoyed it all. The pre-sertraline me would be pissed off at how shit I was at playing, and would correlate it to my abilities to do literally anything in life- but the new pilled-up me enjoyed being with mates regardless of my scores.

I finished reading The Dirt, Neil Strauss' biography of rock group The Motley Crue, an epic, detailed timeline of the four members' lives, first released in 2002. Rock music and it's image don't particularly appeal to me, but I'm interested in the lives of people who live to excess- who go over the top to stand out and be remembered. Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee certainly did all of that. Every page details the chaotic, drink-and-drug-and-sex-fuelled rise from broke-as-fuck middle-American kids to chart-topping rock legends. Consistently entertaining, and sustains our empathy no matter how bad the protagonists behave (and we all know how bad things got between Tommy and Pamela Anderson), The Dirt is a generous, well-detailed 400-pager with fascinating and frequently bleak tales on each one. I found it reduced to £3 in HMV too, which was a total bargain.

I also finished reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, which was made into an award-winning Jack Nicholson movie in 1975. Delinquent RP McMurphy blags his way into a stay in a mental hospital to avoid a hard labour sentence, and wages war on the establishment- in particular the cold, formal but disturbingly sexy Nurse Ratched. The book differs from the film in that one of the film's final twists is actually revealed from the start of the book. The book is a lot darker and the mental ward takes on a much more of a brooding, haunted-asylum tone on the page, but there's still wads of deep-south comedy provided mostly from McMurphy. A great read.

Next up: Measure for Measure, York Notes Advanced guide to the Shakespeare comedy. I gather the Advanced notes are designed to cater for A-level study of the text, as opposed to GCSE (covered by standard York Notes books), and the detail reflects that. These books are great not just for understanding the text, but learning about storytelling techniques in general. Have you ever seen Martin Scorse's Casino? Sam Ace Rothstien narrates the majority of the story, but other characters like Nicky Santoro and Frankie Marino chip in with their commentary throughout the film. In literary terms, this is called a soliloquy, something the audience can hear but the other characters in the film cannot. It was a popular storytelling technique in Shakespeare's time, allowing more insight on the narrative.

Measure for Measure itself is suppose to be a comedy, but it's a pretty bleak one, with a few deaths and imprisonments.

Finally, with a day to spare of 2017, I bashed through Letts Explore Twelfth Night. I prefer Letts guides, as they seem the clearest and best organised, with succinct guides to characters and themes. It doesn't, however, go into much detail about the history of the play and whether the screwball plot of mistaken identities is actually a comedy (Wikipedia says it is).. The focus of Letts is on the content of the play, and doesn't extend to the context of how it would be received in Shakespeare's time, or today.

Away from literature...

The Official Back to the Future Twitter account liked my tweet about 2Unlimited. (The song was actually Tribal Dance, Not Workaholic.)

And that's about it! Now to prepare for the last party of 2017 in Manchester's Roc & Rye!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

I took Sertraline 5 hours earlier than usual for a week.

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Last week I discussed using Sertraline, an antidepressant, and how the timing had possibly been giving me insomnia. I decided I'd take it at midday, instead of at 5pm.

One week isn't enough to gauge the effects, especially when I'm off work over Christmas and there's no need to get up at 7:30. I don't remember having any particular issue with falling asleep, so perhaps it's benefiting me. I'll come back to this in 4 more weeks to see how it's working, by which time I'll have been back in my work routine for a while and sleeping and eating at regular times.

With it being the holidays, my schedule- like most other people's- is quite different, so I've had to remember to bring my dosette (pill) box with me to family functions, shopping or other events. It's another thing to remember, which, with memory difficulties is a challenge in itself, but one I seemed to have managed.

If you're in a situation like mine- memory difficulties from a head trauma and using medication for depression- a dosette box is one of your tools. Your phone calendar is another. Without the ability to receive reminders from my phone, I couldn't have taken my meds reliably. So, obviously, I'd moved that recurring reminder back 5 hours.

Weight gain is a serious problem / side effect of Sertraline, and Christmas is one of the hardest times to avoid junk food. I wan to enjoy the holiday though, so I'm not dwelling on it. I'll probably have put weight on, but whatever. I have plans for how to lose it.

I'll come back to this in 4 more weeks.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

#tbt Beermats: Week 11

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Kevin Simm from Liberty X Sang at my Staff Party. And I got the Lowest-Rated Comment on a Daily Mail Article.

A quiet week in the run-up to Christmas.

My office Christmas party booked Popstars / The Voice / Liberty X star Kevin Simm as our entertainment. Incredible voice.

Cool guy. Fun night.

Also: I got the lowest-rated comment on a Daily Mail article and made it into the DM Reporter Twitter feed. The DM Reporter are one of the Daily Mail's fiercest (and funniest) critics.

Hope Jemma Lucy herself doesn't mind!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

I've hit a confidence plateau. Should I change my depression medication?

I started taking antidepressant Sertraline at the start of the year. It was a decision I came to gradually after a range of different talking treatments hadn't helped enough. They had helped me to develop and be more capable, making better decisions socially and practically, but I was still hampered by fear and social awkwardness. So I bit the bullet and, in January, went to my GP.

I was prescribed Sertraline and started taking them immediately. That Tuesday, if I remember, I got a girl's number in Taboo. (Sertraline doesn't get into your system that fast, so it seems I was just on a slightly confident night. Maybe it was the placebo effect. Who knows.)

After this, though, it didn't seem to be affecting me. I genuinely felt no different. I went back to my GP after about a month and he told me to stick at it. I did.

The second batch of pills kicked in. I felt a lift, a rush, in the sternum. I started to step forward and talk to people a little more, although still clumsily with quite abrupt openers, but I got the odd phone number (and maybe more) here and there.

Since the spring, though, I feel like I've hit a plateau. I'm not getting any more confident; if anything, I'm getting more impatient and I don't seem to tolerate the places I used to enjoy going to. I'm more narrow-minded than ever about where I'll go on nights out, and I'm still feeling social anxiety. Not to mention, I'm piling on weight, something well-known to be connected to the use of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors).

I talked to support group Andy's Man Club about this. A few members there have used SSRIs and have also reported weight gain. Should I change to some other form of medication?

The short answer: no. There are other drugs like Citalopram and Amitriptyline, but Sertraline is regarded to be the best (even though James Holmes, the who killed all those people at the Batman premiere in Colorado, was prescribed it and was a factor in his decision to carry out the attack. We can overlook this as Holmes had existing conditions that were behind his violent decisions). Sertraline is the most frequently-prescribed in the US and UK, because it's regarded to be the most effective.

AMC members also suggested not making any changes without my GP's advice. Typically, with memory difficulties, I'd forgotten to reorder my prescription until Tuesday night when I had only a couple of pills left. They suggested I tell my doctors that it's an emergency and that I need the pills as soon as possible. Easier said than done when I'm in work during the surgery's opening hours. I managed and got a new batch with a couple still to go.

Another question: Should I change the time at which I take my medication?

I first took Sertraline in the morning. Thankfully, this was on a day off: I had to go to sleep at 3pm for about 4 hours. After this I started taking them at 5pm. Is this a little late? Is it affecting my sleep? I usually struggle with sleep on and off anyway, so it's not easy to tell. Should I move it to 12pm and see if my sleep improves?

Well, let's try that from tomorrow onwards and next Saturday I'll review. Let me know if you have experience of changing the time you take Sertraline.

Friday, 22 December 2017

I skipped breakfast for a month

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In an attempt to lose weight I took up intermittent fasting, a technique used by many in which breakfast- the supposed most important meal of the day- is skipped, and the fast is broken at lunchtime.

This started working at first, and the kilos started to drop. I started at 83.3kg, and hoped to be a whole 10kg down- during advent, when people are throwing food all over the place. I found myself eating quite a lot in the evening, even after a full meal. I came down a little, but never below 81. Suffice to say, I had no luck. My weight went up at one point, dropping to 82.2 at the final hurdle. 1100g is better than nothing.

I have other ideas for dieting that I'll try later, but I'm contradicting my own long-standing belief that to be healthy, you've got to keep it that way and not even consider that you're 'on a diet'- you just don't eat crap as a habit. Sticking with the no-breakfast rule was easier than I thought, though, so I may keep that going.

It also helps if you don't hammer cocktail offers on Sunday afternoons, but hey, better that than Sunday nights.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

#tbt Beermats: Week 10

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A post shared by Matt Tuckey (@matttuckey) on

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Sunday, 17 December 2017

London December '17

Why did the Natural History Museum get evacuated? Why didn't the alarms sound? Why haven't the NHM tweeted about it? I have no idea, but on Friday 8th December everyone walked out of the South Kensington venue. My guess is that a school group were moving on, and that there were so many of them that people thought it was an unannounced evacuation and walked out with them.

Including me. Weird. Shame, really, as the exhibitions were fascinating, and the building itself- huge, Victorian-era sprawling halls large enough to hold whale skeletons and, until recently, a diplodocus cast- are packed with fascinating nature-related finds.

The current temporary exhibition, Wildlife Photographer of the Year, features some of the most stunning depictions of animals from across the globe- beautiful, majestic and occasionally horrifying. The section dedicated to the evils of poaching are enough to upset the most jaded of visitors. It's on until the 28th May. There's a cost for this section, but it's worth it.

Last weekend I dropped into London with the parents to visit my sister and do some sightseeing. I have a list of London activities, so we worked though a few of them, as well as some other plans.

We stayed at Thameside YHA, a clean and tidy hostel. Good stay, with WiFi in reception (but not in the room). Plenty of plug sockets, but no blackout curtains. Fair prices.

Next stop: Food at the Mayflower in Rotherhite, the oldest pub on the Thames river, which was playing some contrastingly-modern trip-hop through the speakers. Cosy establishment with great pub food and plenty of history. A stroll down the Thames led us to King Edward II's Manor House, or the remains of it, The Mayor's Office, Tower Bridge, The Financial District, The Tower of London, HMS Belfast and Haye's Galleria shopping mall.

We gut the tube to bustling, trendy Camden, and wandered around the eclectic and fragrant stalls of food and trinkets. The artwork struck me more than anything: the marrying of unique designs and well-known brand logos make this borough younger-looking and artier than any other I've visited.

Natural History Museum was a few tube stops on from this, and after the aforementioned evacuation, we found ourselves heading towards Kensington Gardens, where the trees were populating with chirping wild parakeets, past the Albert Memorial, the Hyde Park Serpentine, and onto Regent Street and Oxford Street. We past the Scouts headquarters, Baden Powell House, and then had more food in the Plough Way Cafe, a lovely local Italian

The next morning, Saturday, I marshalled at the Southwark Park Run, where my sister is an organiser. Park Run is now an international event taking place in public parks across the world- a 5K dash through a local park, where your time is recorded and stored, meaning you could beat a PB in any Parkrun provided you have your assigned unique barcode. As a volunteer, I stood at a fork in a path, pointed people the right way and shouted encouragements at runners- many of whom were dressed as Santa.

Good fun. More so than running. We then dropped into another pub with the Parkrun team, then said our goodbyes. Before leaving the city, we found another contrast- Surrey Docks Farm, a local petting zoo of sorts, found right at the foot of Canary Wharf. We said hi to the goats, sheep, geese, turkeys, chickens and what I assumed was a ferret. Very therapeutic. There were a few festive stalls to wander around this particular Saturday.

A great few days. I have loads of ideas for sightseeing in London. Will return when it gets warmer!

YHA Thameside

Tower Bridge

Mayor's Office

Tower of London

Hay's Galleria


Camden Lock

Natural History Museum

Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition

Baden Powell House, Scouts HQ, Kesington

Royal Albert Hall

Kensington Gardens

Albert Memorial

Parakeets in Kensington Gardens

Hyde Park Serpentine

Dorchester, Mayfair, Hyde Park

Bentley dealership

Southwark Park Run

Canary Wharf

Surrey Docks Farm

Canary Wharf from the farm