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Thoughts I write when I should be sleeping


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I'm thinking about what kind of person I used to be, and I get a clear picture of who I was, before that time.
Clearly more open, more extroverted, more emotional, very much more unique with my dress and manner, more creative, more able to put myself out there. Didn't mind standing out, letting people see me, willing to play harmonica for my friends. More socially adjusted, less self conscious, although still lacking in self esteem and confidence, with a certain vulnerability. I may even have been a virgin and a bit of a square and now I'm like a worldly cynic in comparison.
It makes me feel sad, for what I lost, and what I missed out on for forgetting to be that guy. I wonder how he would have faced his 30s. What my current friends, those who never knew him would have made. There's a nostalgia too, a desire to feel that way again.  
But also more optimistic that even though I feel now like I never discovered myself, I actually did. I had it for maybe 6 or 7 years, in my 20s in Liverpool but why not also in my 40s in Carlisle? Not every time I cast my mind back is nostalgia about when this bar was open and that band were new, there is plenty I can learn from. Being the person I want to be seems attainable now I know its a person I used to be

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I'm thinking again. I go for an extended walk into town that diverts through my nearest park if I can, or if I have to go into town and I can get some thinking done while doing that as well as while I'm supposed to be trying to sleep.

I need to recover/rediscover a lot of my old self, a get my mojo back. It's been missing for over a decade... I've just existed for such a long time. In that time I haven't really created or done anything of note. The photos I used to take are much better than the photos I take now and so I need to get that back... I also want to feel a more enpreneurial thing (I can't be bothered thinking of words, I just need to say 'thing' when the word doesn't come so that I can move on and not get distracted by trying to remember the word that has gone from my head, it makes journalling like this a major effort when you can't words).

I tend to start projects and then not finish, and thus I don't create anything. This isn't new, I can remember doing that way back as a teenager... seems worse though now. I either lose interest or lose faith or both. How did I used to manage?

The faith thing is more of an issue in my career, because if you lose interest in something but you know that it is important to complete it then you can press on anyway, but if you lose faith in it then you stop. It's difficult to complete something once you no longer feel that it is a worthwhile thing to do. I can feel overwhelmed by all the things I could or should be doing, and the thing that feels most urgent is always something that I'm not currently doing, so I switch tasks but now the most urgent feeling thing is something else. I get frustrated with myself because I'm never doing the most urgent thing, I'm always procrastinating by doing unimportant jobs.

But how to deal with that when I will always see the thing I'm doing as unimportant. No matter what I choose to do I will always feel like I'm just wasting time. I try to think through it and tell myself which is truly the most important but I can't tell, and then just waste time on that task instead of doing anything. There is little satisfaction of a job completed to be had because when I do complete something instead of feeling like 'good to get that out of the way', I feel ashamed of myself for spending all my time doing something unimportant.

Depression can make it difficult to have faith in what you are doing... but I was always depressed, it was untreated then too... maybe acknowledging and seeking treatment for it has had a negative overall effect, but then I had a traumatic experience in my late twenties so it was always going to morph into something more serious.

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Timeline of my adulthood

2001 (age 18) - As an adolescent I was painfully uncool, too square to fully realise how square I was. I had friends but thought it was normal to rarely see them outside of school. Sixth form had been better though as I was able to join my friends in the pub, just prior to going to university my social life was properly developing, if still a bit unconventional (for example instead of going to trendy bars with all the other kids we would go drink in a labour club, with pints of bitter and snooker tables and all that stereotypical Northern stuff)

2002 (age 19) - I live away from home for the first time, moving to Liverpool to attend university. My first year is mainly spent socialising (drinking heavily) and I fail, although to be fair I was studying a highly intensive subject with a higher bar set than most for passing first year, only about 40% of students are expected to pass and I wasn't happy with the way the course was going so it might not just be the socialising. Despite going out drinking round Liverpool something like 4 or 5 times a week with large groups of friends, I was still a bit of an outsider among them, in that they were typical 18/19 year olds, dressing in 'nice' clothes (everyone has their own definition of nice, but I prioritised comfort, even to the point of feeling awkward, like I was trying too hard on the occasions I did put something a bit more fashion-conscious on) and looking to meet members of the appropriate gender for hookups. I never even considered that I should or could do the same.

2003 (age 20) - I switch degrees and find my new course much more to my taste, my social life takes a bit of a hit though as instead of moving into a house with a group of friends as is the norm in second year, I move into a flat down by the marina, renting from a friend I was in halls with. J is a good friend but also between his dentistry degree and spending time with his girlfriend (they married and still are so a solid couple) I could go days without seeing him, making it seem like I was living on my own in a mostly 'grown up' very non-studenty area of smart flats and yachting clubs. I realise that my social life was never really based on having close bonds with people, but was more just about being 'part of the gang' able to turn up whenever there was something going on, but I can't do that so easily now. I had one close friend, from my course who I hang with on the occasions he's up to doing something, but he doesn't crave large groups of people as much as I do. I actually didn't have most of my friends' numbers and those who I did I rarely texted, feeling that doing so was a bit of an imposition. I do at least start regularly going to the gym in this time. I'd never been to one before but a membership at the university gym was very cheap. I start to go four or five times a week and lose a lot of weight (I still think I'm fat).

2004 (age 21) - Things are now looking up. I live down by the marina for a second year but at J's girlfriend's encouragement I look to join some of the university clubs. I have been in clubs before but it just happened that the ones I joined previously weren't the most sociable of clubs. I have an old friend from first year who I'm sort of in-contact with and he's in the ten-pin bowling club so I join that, and I make some good friends, for the first time since arriving at university, some more close friends who actually enjoy partying. I move out of J's flat and do the proper student thing of moving into a shared house with five other people. Things go back a bit to how they were in first year, except with some really good close friends I feel like less of an outsider. We attend parties, we host parties, life is good.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Dating experiences

I'm not very good at dating, I lack... well, any sort of spark of attraction. I do have some positive qualities but none of them are 'exciting' positive qualities. They're the sort of positive qualities that you might expect someone to have as the bare minimum before dating them but not the sort of qualities that attracts you to them in the first place.




Last week I was due to meet a woman for a coffee date, around a similar age to me. However shortly after arriving at the cafe I recieved a text from her saying she had to cancel our date as her daughter's school had called.

I had a couple of thoughts about the meaning of the text, but none of them warranted any further contact, so I just thanked her for letting me know and then walked home.

1) My first inkling was that this was a classic escape manoeuvre. I'd been standing outside the cafe for a couple of minutes, long enough for her, if she was in the area to get a look at me in person and decide if she actually wanted to go on this date.

2) It could be genuine, thanks to COVID, schools do sent kids home ill more than they used to. It used t only be if the kid was too ill to be in school but now they'll call parents if the kid has a bit of a cough, to be on the safe side.

3) Or maybe it's something more serious with her daughter.

Either way, the best course of action is no course of action as far as I can imagine. If she just didn't want to go on a date then messaging her again to ask to meet again will just irritate her and she'll be forced to tell me she doesn't want to, which will be bad for my own self-esteem. I say nothing, she feels relieved that I took the hint and that she doesn't have to outright reject me.

If it was genuine then I imagined that she would make the first move to reschedule. I think most people would expect that if you're the one who cancels a date then the ball's in your court should you wish to reschedule, and not find it weird if the person who were due to meet doesn't message further.

And of course if it was something more serious then the last thing she wants is the guy she was supposed to meet when it happened messaging her about meeting again.



It's been a few days now, we were due to meet on Thursday and it's now Monday, so I'm fairly confident my first inkling was correct.

I think I should really give in with the whole online dating thing... It seems like a good way to actually get to go on dates (prior to starting online dating I had only ever been on a couple of 'dates' in my life, not include the time I went speed-dating) but then that date isn't too different to a blind date, there's no initial attraction really and you don't know enough about each other so it's also very easy for them to just fall flat, or not even happen. I'd love to be able go just meet women naturally, don't think I can do that though.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Going back to writing about my life. It seems self-indulgent and cringy but I can do it here in the knowledge that while it is publicly visible, very few people, if any, people will actually read it. That's kind of a good mix of public enough for it to feel real, like it's out there and I can't change my story later, and private enough to not feel like I'm being too narcissistic.

So I was 21 (the year was 2004) and I'd made some good friends through ten-pin bowling. The three years that follow are the closest I think I've probably come in my life to feeling 'normal'*. During this period I made some of my best ever friends, was as successful romantically as I've ever been and probably the closest I've ever come to being happy (though I've never in my life, not had depression). I'll probably get a bit nostalgic.

I'm not really introverted, though I can come across that way at times, there's a combination of depression and social anxiety**. I found out at university that when I have a good reason to talk to people, little can stop me, I feel no anxiety at all***. Right from the start of my time with the bowling club I'm one of a few new members (though I have already met a few of the older members through my friend from first year, Mitch) so we all go out, socialise and get to know each other.

*whenever I say 'normal' in my journal and talk about wanting to be 'normal', I mean like non-creepy, socially well-adjusted and neurotypical presenting. There's always an element of peer pressure to fit in but what drives me is just not so much fitting-in as having people treat me like I'm some sort of leper because I seem sketchy and maladjusted. Maybe people acted like that around me too much when I was in high school, and so I still feel even now that it's only becaue of a carefully maintained facade that people don't still treat me that way. Maybe I need to improve my language because that's not what most people thing of as 'being normal'.

**related to what I said above, my main cause of social anxiety is this cautiousness I have, to make absolutely certain that I'm not being a creep and I'm not going to offend or disgust people before I enter into a social situation.

***a lot of people probably discover this when they first attend university. Jumping back a couple of years, in that first month you are thrown in with thousands of other people, all the same age as you and all living away from home for the first time and it just feels like social rules no longer exist. You get on the bus between halls and uni and by the time you get off you've learned three people's life stories and been invited to two parties, you make new friends in the queue to buy your course reading material, you go for lunch in the student union and you're not even thinking of if you can find a spare table, you just sit next to anyone and you hit it off immediately.

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  • 4 months later...

I've been trying to think through the underlying traumas and triggers for some of my behaviour over the last decade or so, especially where it relates to relationships.

I came out of a really bad relationship and I'm always reluctant to talk about it. Mostly because my memories of the things that caused the trauma are pretty sketchy, I don't want to look like I might be lying, I worry enough about that myself without giving anyone else reason to worry about it. This was in 2009-2010, I was 26-27 years old.

The thing with the memory issues is that not only are they are cause of me not properly addressing trauma, but also are relevant to the trauma itself. My ex would undermine my memory, even to the point of convincing me that it cannot be trusted and I shouldn't rely on it when she could remember events much better. She also convinced me that my poor memory was upsetting her as it showed my lack of interest or committment to our relationship. It's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy I suppose, convince someone their memories are worthless and they subconsciously start to reject them. At the most extreme I lost a whole week to amnesia. I didn't just have selective or sketchy memories for that week, I mean I had zero recollection of anything at all for an entire week. None of the nights out with my girlfriend (during which I was told my behaviour was poor bordering on abusive), but also nothing of my work (which worried my colleagues).

This all happened in the UK. Traumas there usually involved the suggestion, whenever we argued that I had been abusive, but also having other people turned against me or being put into tense social situations with someone my girlfriend believed was trying to ruin our relationship was very panic-inducing. I felt like I needed to believe her even though part of me really didn't. It was harder for her to isolate me in a situation where she herself was fairly isolated and I had friends though she did do a lot of damage to my social connections, some of which was never repaired (and to be fair it's not on other people to just forgive and forget when I come to them and say that we've broken up). Another particularly difficult episode saw me frequently ducking out of work and just wanting to be alone. It ended with me deliberately crashing my car into a wall in some sort of half-hearted self-harm attempt.

She eventually had to move back to the US when her visa expired and for a while we were long-distance. This was stressful in its own way as I was required to be constantly there for someone who lived in a timezone 5 hours earlier than my own. I pretty much had to adjust my body clock so that I could stay up until she was ready for bed, which might be 6am my time. I would still often fall asleep while trying to stay awake and this would displease her and she would convince me this was further evidence that I was a terrible abusive boyfriend. She had her friends around her by this point, so whether they implicitly sided with her or because they were being lied to I don't know but by the time I got to move out there with her I was moving to somewhere where I knew nobody and everyone I met already thought of me as an abuser.

The time we spent living together out there was bad on another level. I was expected to pay for everything, as she was out of work, even though I had been out of work myself for three months and she could have got a job whereas I couldn't work in the US. I had no opportunity to ever do anything just for myself, there was no passion in the relationship and I was made to sleep on the floor and act as her personal taxi service whenever she wanted to go out drinking with her friends. That's not the entire story to be honest, just the bad parts, we would also do things together that were very enjoyable but I'll focus more on the negative here. If I was guilty of being a bad boyfriend in any way, which could be as minor a thing as going to do the shopping but coming back without something because the supermarket were out of stock, then I'd be threatened with being kicked out of the house.

We broke up when my visa expired and I had to go back to the UK, and while this was a good thing I didn't feel so at the time. She broke up with me because she had met someone else, and in any case, couldn't just wait another six months or how long it would be before we could see each other again. By this point I had no job and had to move back in with my parents so I could no longer support her. I was very upset for a few months.

Anyway, I didn't expect to write so much about that time in my life, as this is supposed to be about what I've been doing since then, but once the words started to come out I didn't want to stop them. I did get over her, but at the same time, maybe never really did. The desire for her faded but the damage didn't entirely heal.

It was really a bad time to have quit my job and moved out of my flat, economically. Jobs weren't easy to find and I was on the cusp of getting to the end of my twenties with no proper experience post-university. That wasn't entirely down to the relationship, I had quit jobs before, I never really found anywhere that I could excel, I'm not really good at detail-oriented jobs, and office work, and organisation, and then the 2008 recession happened. Finding myself though living in my small home town, where I hadn't lived since the age of 18, no job, no money and struggling to process trauma wasn't ideal in any case.

So I sort of just didn't process it. I accepted the situation for what it was and just passively got on with my life. I did seek therapy and had been on anti-depressants since around the time that relationship started but I was putting out of my head the idea that I had anything to work on, I didn't bring anything up with therapists and the fairly strong medication I was on made me quite passive and just really willing to shrug my shoulders at anything life threw at me. I felt like I was almost 30 and it must be pretty normal by this point in life for all the joy to have been sucked out of it. All there was left to do was focus on getting a job and then moving out of my parents, but I did so slowly, with no real sense of urgency.

After about a year of this, in 2011 I did attend a business course as I wanted to work as a photographer. It was my hobby and I had earned money from it before but the course was free thanks to EU funding and there was a grant to apply for at the end. I'm not a natural though when it comes to selling myself (especially when as depressed as I was) so that would hold me back, and later on that same year I found a job in a call centre so my business was put on the back-burner.

I worked at the call centre for two years. 2011-2013, or ages 28-30 and there were definite positives to it. It was actual money for a start, not a high paid job but I didn't have rent to pay at least. I was quite good at the job, it was dealing with billing enquiries for a utility company, so customer service rather than sales. I was quite happy to do a job where I would just deal with people's issues during the day and then go home and not have anything playing on my mind, and I did make some friends there. Despite this my life was very stagnant. I went on a couple of European road trips with friends in the years before working in the call centre but in the call centre it was difficult to get more than a couple days leave at a time, you certainly couldn't get a whole week or fortnight so road trips were out the window and my social life wasn't really up to much. I would occasionally go and sit on my own in a pub but for the most part, I did nothing. Ultimately it couldn't last beacuse the money would never be enough for me to get my own place, there were liminted opportunities for progression and I still wanted to be a photographer, so when I felt ready to step up with my business, I quit the call centre.

That'll do for now... the cafe I'm typing this in is about to close.

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