Balancing the Meds, the everyday stresses and strains, a new year and trying to make your World work better for you.

Well here we are in 2022, and what a strange messed up year 2021 was, it started with the same high hopes we have now for the upcoming year, the hope that Covid is reducing in strength and severity, and that we will soon be able to get back to a more normal or familiar way of living.

Once again we all have had to continue to embrace a lot of changes with more Lockdowns here in Ireland and many other countries, Working From Home becoming more the norm than the exception, everyones schedules being thrown off track, whether you are an adult or a child. schools reopening and closing again, and of course the newer variants affecting kids more for the first time. So a lot to cope with for everyone. Keeping life balance along with mental health has been even more difficult over the course of 2021. One thing is for sure I am not the only person to get to a stage where it all became too difficult to deal with. Glad that I didn’t continue to dig don deeper into the hole this time and bury my head, In August 2021 I took a big and important step and decided to seek some professional help rather then just try and fix it myself, and that was a wise move. Life’s stresses and strains, the loss of my mother (which if being perfectly honest I probably haven’t grieved properly for ye) and all of the stuff that comes with that, depression takes it’s grip, so I went to a Doctor and started working on it.

After trying some different things we decided to try medication, and personally it seems to be the path that makes sense for me, everyone is different and how it affects you and the type of person you are will have a lot to do with what is best for you. So now I’m taking two slow release medications, one for the Epilepsy and the other for Depression, the one good thing is that having taken medication for many years and adding to that with the heart meds, nothing is a surprise, just like the Epilepsy meds it’s all about finding the balance that works for you with regards the amount of mediation needed to help and make sure it works without causing any issues. Still working through that but there is no doubt that it has helped me significantly, I’m not there yet, but on a new dosage the last couple of weeks and it should be taking affect now. All I would say is listen to the experts, take the time out of work or whatever that you need to, don’t rush it or you will end up back to square one and that won’t help at all. Besides it does take time to find the right dosage for you, so keep working at it with the doctor/s and keep talking about it. Other things you may need to thing about are changing things in life that are not helping you to keep ahead of things, of course some changes will be more difficult, the younger you are and depending on circumstances , it may not be possible to change working, reduce hours etc, but if it would mean helping your mental health, you need to check out all the options, it’s of no benefit to anyone for you to be out for months anyway.

But the most important thing, if it’s all getting too much for you, go talk to someone, a friend, family, a GP or more specialised Professional, talking about these things isn’t as difficult as it seems when you go and do it.

So balancing everything out is very important, of course things can be a little more difficult when people can’t do their hobbies/pastimes that help people to relax. Personally I’m looking forward to 2022, admittedly with some trepidation as it didn’t work out so well in 2021, but hoping that we will get back to living our lives, or whatever the new norm is this coming year. The Music Industry has been hit so had over the last couple of years,, for everyone that works in it, fingers well and truly crossed that I get to see and shoot some shows this year, it’s a much needed outlet for a lot of people and has been sorely missed. One manage to get to one event in 2021, the This Is Not An Uprising weekend, and it was brilliant to see a couple of friends and safely attend a show, but it’s not happening over here at the moment and more Tours are being rescheduled every week (have never had/seen so many Gig Clashes before, caused generally by everything being rescheduled multiple times and ending up on the same nights) if things get back on track quickly this coming year will be crazy for Gigs everywhere.

Shrapnel – This Is Not An Uprising 2021

Getting out for walks is still very important, so need to get back to walking properly now, has been a bit sporadic the last couple of months while trying to sort things out, but walking is good for the mind, listening to audio books, spending time in parks or gardens for some nice nature to change things up a bit, nice to have a different bit of scenery to the same Roads I’ve been pounding for the last couple of years. Still I managed to walk over 2,000 KM in 2021, which isn’t bad, will see how we get on this time around. Planning some more trips to the Botanic Gardens and further afield and will bring the camera along too.

Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin

Travel wise, well I’m already resigning myself to missing the first few trips of the year, but hey what can you do, when stuff gets cancelled, postponed or simply travel becomes so difficult it’s not worth taking the risk, there will be future Gigs, fingers crossed.

So wishing you all a Very Happy New Year and hoping 2022 brings us all more good stuff than 2021 did, stay safe and communicate, like the old add said, It’s Good To Talk……….

Here are some resources for Mental Health Services in Ireland, they are easy to find online these days in many countries and since Covid there are more online resources available like video course etc……..

Aware. – https://www.aware.ie/programmes/online-self-directed/

HSE – https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/lho/northdublin/mentalhealth/mentalhealthsucidesupportdublinnorth.html

How do you know when the fog is lifting……

It’s been a very difficult and often confusing last few months on a personal level, that Fog of Depression fell heavily and it can have some very odd effects on a person, time can just drift without you getting anything done, even the most basic tasks can be started and then disappear into space. But hey, it is what it is and with some help and trying to get the right balance of medication we will get there. with a bit of luck and continuing to try and get something done each day we will get out of the mire.

Yesterday got out for a walk with the family to a wonderful calming place that I’ve mentioned before and National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin is that place for me, always has been, and alongside getting out for a lovely walk I managed to bring along the camera and take some photos, so a productive day, and with nature providing us with some beautiful colour at this time of year it’s a nice time to get out there.

My son bumped into some squirrel friends and a few ducks along the way and I don’t think we’ve ever managed to get so close to Heron’s and a Moorhen that hangs around in one of the Ponds, these are all things out in the fresh air that manage to clear the head a little and help you to feel a little more like yourself, I think I’ll get up early one morning next week and get down for a few hours. The little guy doesn’t normally take much notice of the wildlife around the Gardens, but he had a good laugh with one of the squirrels yesterday which was nice to see, and then he decided he wanted to get in a Mini Digger that the workers were using to clear out and area, can’t bring him anywhere 🙂

There is something though about being out in nature that changes the mind frame in a positive way. The quiet is generally only interrupted by the running of water cascading around, or birds rustling in the trees and scrabbling with ducks for some visitors scraps..

Really need to get the walking and diet back on track and alongside it the some of the other things will start to fix themselves. Sleep alongside exercise and diet make a huge difference, but when you are down in a hole it’s just so easy to fall off the rails a bit, or a lot, and not as easy to get back on track again when you do it. Wellbeing is a work in progress now, there is no doubt in my mind that the pandemic and issues that came along with it piled onto already strained mental capacity. What I would advise to anyone though is don’t just try and deal with it on your own, when you reach a point where you are no longer picking yourself up and feeling better by yourself, go talk to people, family, friends or professional, just do it, sometimes talking won’t be enough and medication will be needed to help you back up on the ladder, it’s a process and it can take some time, there’s not defining it to say you will be better in two weeks.

Currently, like many places in Europe Ireland is once again suffering from rising Covid cases, to an extent where our hospitals are again at full capacity and going forward it’s an unsustainable situation. Staff are overstretched and there’s clearly not enough of them to cover surges, illness cover for themselves or God forbid any sort of major incident that required a number of ICU beds, they simply aren’t available. So for the moment entertainment is back open, but for how long, I’m still missing gigs terribly, had to skip a couple last week, but fingers crossed will get to a small show this weekend, I know already that getting to live music helps me mentally, so if some form of events are still on I’ll try and get to them, but would definitely think again about Sold Out shows at busy venues, catching Covid isn’t something that would help at all right now. From tomorrow Thursday 18th November in Ireland Pubs/Nightclubs will have to close by Midnight, which will more than likely have a knock on effect on gigs planned for venues with Nightclubs, if a decision is made to not open the venues for Nightclubs they may also decide to stay closed, showing it’s still a very difficult time for Venues and Promoters, and of course for bands and workers in the industry. We can just hope that some sort of stability comes back soon, even though gigs are back in the UK and other countries they are far from stable, far from the way things should be and a lot of the time you don’t really know who’s on a lineup until you are there.

So far the new medication seems to be having no bad effects with the other medications I’m on, so that’s definitely a positive, the increase in strength is a balancing act much like my Epilepsy medication, so nothing I’m not used to and once it’s correct things should start to feel a lot better, fingers crossed. All we can do is keep working on these thing and look after our mental health as much as possible, it seems to be much more difficult in this day and age when it should in many ways be much easier, what a strange time we live in. But this week I’m not feeling quite so lost, let’s see if we can keep track of the days, as that’s definitely something that has fallen to the wayside recently, hours disappear into days, days into weeks and all of a sudden it’s nearly the end of 2021. Won’t be sad to see the end of another year which hasn’t brought much good to us all, but even mid November I look forward to 2022 and what it may bring, more gigs, better health and hopefully a World with a better way of dealing with the Covid crisis.

Musically, I have been to a sum total of one weekend of Live Music so far this year, with some luck 2021 will finish with me being at a few more and maybe even getting to shoot some of them, starting this weekend.

Shrapnel at This Is Not An Uprising in Firebug, Leicester.

Stay safe out there, even when you have been vaccinated you can still catch Covid, still end up in Hospital or very sick, so hand washing, wearing a facemask, whatever is in place, let’s keep on helping each other by doing it. In 2022 I’ld like to be able to travel to Gigs and Festivals again, in Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and Europe if I can, it may not be easy. but lets be honest, life often isn’t that easy, but we get through it, so a bit more positive thinking may be in order to help us get there.At the end of the day it’s a lot more involved than just being able to travel to a venue, the festivals this year have been ravaged by losing so many US and European acts that had either made the decision not to travel this year, were unable to do so anyway, or the sheer logistics could not be figured out to make things work. Here’s hoping to an improved time for the industry as a whole, I’m looking forward to catching bands, but most importantly to catching up with friends that I’ve not been able to see in person for 2 years now. Even if that turns into 3 years, it will happen again and that will be some feeling.

Well that’s nearly 2021 done and dusted…. and is this normality, for now I guess so….

Looking back to this time last year there was still a lot of talk of things opening back up then, of gigs not being too far away, general life getting back to the normality as we had known it, but in reality we know nothing was happening until early 2021 at that stage. But for it to still be in a less restrictive but state of limbo nonetheless another year on all we can do is hope people listen to the guidance, and 2022 will be a better landscape for us all.

For Ireland well gigs have started again since last weekend, which is great, but venues are still facing difficulties and with Covid case numbers and hospital admissions rising again there could be further problems ahead. We all hope not, especially heading in towards the Christmas season. People are looking forward to spending more time with family and friends and kids playing , nobody wants another lockdown. That aside there’s enough worries around about the lack of supply of goods with shipping delays and shortages Worldwide. It pays to do Children’s toy shopping early, reduces stress and painful trips to shops closer to the date when so many people are in panic mode. With a bit of luck I’ll be able to get out to a gig next week, this one has been in my calendar for not too long short of 2 years, so hoping I fee up to it, but won’t really know until the day. Have been lucky enough to see Geoff Tate a number of times over the last few years (pre-pandemic) and the shows have been brilliant, with this one marking the 30th (or now 31st) Anniversary of the Queensryche album Empire, should be a cracker at the Button Factory, Dublin.

For me, well aside from being in the pit of depression these last few months, which has definitely taken it’s toll, I’ve somehow managed to pick up a bad cold/chest infection, it’s more than frustrating, but what can you do. The important thing for me is that it’s not Covid, negative antigen and PCR tests certainly bring a lot of relief with them, especially when you are someone that’s immunocompromised with the Heart condition etc…….. but the weirdest thing really is that I haven’t, fas as I can remember, had a cold or infection for 2 years, which brings with it a certain level of anxiety, and the whole thing feeling very strange. The cough seems to have stopped, for now at least, which is great, but not being able to take any decongestants means it’s not as easy to feel better quickly, but we will get there. On the downside, looks like I’ll have to miss the mighty Crow Black Chicken tonight, and probably Holly Humberstone tomorrow, but them’s the breaks sometimes, back in June I thought we’d be back up and running gig wise by the end of August, but now the hope is that things between now and the end of the year can go without a hitch and 2022 is going to be just so busy. Trying to lift my spirits, and do something each day, but find 24hrs can drift very quickly when you aren’t quite with it mentally.

Continue to try and write, and finish last months review from This Is Not An Uprising weekend, managed to get the Photos edited, which was something, and posting them can help with the process of doing something or completing something, but there are still times when I can just sit there and nothing comes out. I started writing this post for example a few days ago, and nothing, so this morning I just tried again and something is coming out, so when I’ve posted this I can try and finish some reviews, fingers crossed. This year, with being at home and then being ill there should have been plenty of time to work on things and keep the mind ticking over in a positive way, but it just hasn’t happened. Lets see if I can finish the year strong 🙂

Will hopefully finish Day 2 of This Is Not An Uprising today and get it online. it really was a terrific weekend with not a bad performance in sight, and always great to catch bands you’ve been trying to see for ages or new bands that you then look forward to catching again. At great Festivals like Uprising that’s always the case.

Blood Oath at This Is Not An Uprising Sept 2021 – Firebug, Leicester.

This time of year always brings back awesome memories of two sadly now defunct AOR Festivals in the UK, that I would head off to in a heartbeat, would always trust the organisers to put on an awesome lineup and would pick up tickets as soon as they were released, Firefest that took place in Nottingham and ran for 10 years of amazing weekends with an atmosphere I’ve never felt at any other gig, truly special and Rockingham that tried to take on the baton and run with it, and they did a great job for 4 years. The banner photo at the top of this post is of Jean Beauvoir at the Festival back in 2016. It last ran in 2018 and I miss both Festivals dearly.

Feeling happy, and I guess a bit lucky that none of my medication (Epilepsy, Heart, Depression) have had any bad interactions with each other, it’s a great relief, I know the balance of medication in the body and any changes to that can have side effects or different problems and so far all has gone well, nothing out of the ordinary, and most importantly everything is still doing it’s job (well we will have to see with the Depression meds) and have had no issues at all with Epilepsy for a long time now, my last fit was I think 7 years ago, a couple of small blips since, but nothing major, which is great, and once it’s all working there’s no reason to change the balance unless my Doctors decide otherwise.

This weekend is Halloween and the little guy hasn’t got too much interest in it yet, but he will enjoy the treats, and he had a great time with a Tractor during the week, we’ll see how things go next year, maybe everything will be different, but hope you all have a fun time and enjoy more treats than tricks.

Why BT were right – it’s good to talk……

Should really start with the reference in the title, as it probably only means something to people of a certain age group and older from the UK/Ireland, in the days when Telephone Landlines were the big thing, BT ran television adverts with the phrase “it’s good to talk” and it really is true………

Well it took 20 months, and just so much stuff, the Heart Attack, a Pandemic, almost losing a parent to Covid during Lockdown with some relatives and friends also being seriously ill with Covid, the difficulties of numerous lockdowns, working from home for so long, eventually losing my mother struggling with work and general life, and then on top of that all of the mess that sorting out an estate can be when your Health Service falls apart after a Ransomware attack……. so eventually I took a step and went to the Doctors to talk about Depression and it turned out they wouldn’t have been surprised were it only the Heart Attack I’d to deal with or the Pandemic that would have brought on Depression or perhaps just accelerated or increased the levels and made it more difficult to deal with ….

So at least that’s a positive step forward to check it out, see what a professional thinks and try and move forwards from there. That was a month ago, and I have found it difficult to go and talk to other professionals, or to follow through with some of the online stuff or discussions I had planned to, but I’ve made some progress I think. Have dropped in and out of periods of depression in life as a lot of us do and to be honest have always had that old male way of dealing with it, stick the head in the sand until you bounce back, but this time just couldn’t bounce back.

On Top of that I managed to get away for a weekend, which I do believe was much needed, if a little stressful in itself, but just to be away on my own and go to a different environment for a couple of days, with a massive added bonus for me of being able to take in some music and bring along the camera, combining two of my biggest passions. I’ve talked before about how much I think music is good for the Mental Health of of an avid fan, especially being in a Live environment where there is an atmosphere. Luckily travelling alone has never been an issue for me and even in my current situation that remains the same glad I did it, spending some time out walking and chilling out in the Hotel Room around the gigs, all of which had already been booked anyway, so on a normal time I’d have been going over anyway. Added bonus was being able to catch up with some friends, talk through some stuff in person for a change and just see what we’ve been up to over the last couple of years. You can definitely see where the merit’s of the Hybrid work setup can be more beneficial to people than 100% working from home, just taking some time out and having a chat face to face with someone really can so some good and help to lift you, where you don’t get the same thing from a video call.

So my first Live Music in 20 months, took a while, was a bit nervous travelling, and had done my research before travelling, always wakes things a bit easier and when you know your route to and from a venue to a hotel, quiet route, and a venue that’s not crazily packed it eases things a little. Writing up the review and editing photos will of course be a little more challenging / slower than it should be, but all part of the process.

Keeping an open mind about it all, and part of the problems have most likely been part of the reason why I haven’t gotten further with starting programs or talking to professionals about it, trying to think back to what happened last week and in reality 4 days just disappeared without anything happening that I can remember, and that’s how it goes, you can be staring at a blank page trying to write something and nothing comes out, worse still have a final sentence or paragraph to complete something and sit there and the flow of words is now just like tumbleweed in an old western movie, or have phone calls to make and at the end of the day not know why you haven’t made them. Whatever it is somehow or somewhere in your mind loses all relevance, not necessarily to be replaced by something else taking over importance it just drifts.

But we will get there, today I have already managed to finish off this page, so that’s getting somewhere, have to take the minor victories along with the major ones. Most important thing though, especially as a man hitting middle age, don’t just ignore it, bury your head in the sand and hope it fixes itself, if it’s not, go talk to someone, it’s easy to bury your head in the sand and even more easily if you have come out of these things before, when that’s not happening, things aren’t fixing themselves go talk to someone, reach out to a friend or family member, but really don’t be afraid to go and talk to your GP or your local Mental Health Services, they can help, they will try and find the best course of action for you and look at why things are where they are.

Don’t be afraid to talk………. it’s good to talk…