Under the Eiffel Tower



I understand that it is said that the only place in Paris where you can’t see the Eiffel Tower is under the said Tower.

It’s not true.

You can’t help seeing it even there. I spent two hours nearly waiting below the tower, with a sick student who was unable to ascend, for the rest of the group to get back.

I had a cup of very bad coffee and got chatted up by a very offensive American. I got accosted by beggars.

But I could always see the tower.

Another myth busted.

Me and my shadow in Paris


I had a thought; there’s a new Dan Brown due out in a few weeks time. The Lost Symbol, I believe it’s called.

I went to Paris for work last summer and took the following photo while walking round the outside of the Louvre; time didn’t permit entry. I was trying to capture the inverted pyramid where Dan Brown asserted Mary Magdalene’s remains were buried. I only got a good photo of my shadow.

But that’s the way of it. In trying to capture certain things, we see our shadow more clearly than anything else. 


revisiting self-doubt

I’m there again, in that nasty little space marked self doubt. It doesn’t matter that I can tell myself I’m OK at what I do, or that colleagues tell me I’m great at what I do. There’s still this niggling sense of inadequacy that come back as a roar on some days, the feeling that I’m not good enough and that people are too kind to tell me this. Logic tells me I wouldn’t still be employed in this capacity if I were rubbish at it; I take no notice. Experience tells me that I must be all right at it too, because the students don’t flock to tell their leaders otherwise. But today I had to hand in a feedback form that had open criticism of a colleague on it, and ask that it be kept discreet. I wonder if others have done the same for me, to save my getting angry or upset?

I’m not sure I can blame the Goblins for this one. It’s been there a lot longer than I’ve been a goblin hunter. And I still don’t know why it happens because its in the face of evidence. I know I’m not and am never likely to be the world’s greatest teacher; it doesn’t bother me that much. If I can be the best I can be, that should be enough. But today I even doubt that.

I blame my hormones again.


I had a bit of an aha! moment this morning while slurping over-hot coffee to try and kickstart brain and body to face the day. The coffee didn’t really work and I’ve been dragging myself around all day; I was virtually Neanderthal by the time I walked home.

The aha! moment came when I realised that nothing I ever achieve in this life is ever going to make me happy or cure my depression. Achievements are irrelevant to brain chemistry. I bet most of us have had that secret thought now and again that says, I’d be happy if I could only….. win the Lottery, get a  better job, lose weight, stop smoking or whatever you like. Well, it ain’t going to happen.

My personal dreams and ambitions are utterly irelevant to whether I am happy or not. If I achieve them, great. Wonderful in fact. But they aren’t what is going to make me contented, at peace with myself.

I guess I’ve always known this. But today I felt like I knew it for the first time. It’s a total sea change for me, because I’ve frequently felt that when I achieve certain things I will be magically cured.

This doesn’t mean I stop seeking and trying and striving to get there. But it does mean I don’t have the same agenda and the same scope for disappointment either.

You see, I’ve begun to believe that for some barmy reason my brain uses up the feel-good chemical serotonin far faster than it can replenish it. I have taken SSRIs off and on for years (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors for the uninitiated) and they are a mere band aid to the problem. Something goes wrong in my grey matter. Maybe thinking too hard does it; maybe it’s purely genetic. But the fact remains that at regular intervals I am unable to feel much happiness in anything.

To realise that my goals in life will not have the power to change that makes me feel rather less pressured to achieve them. I’m not a believer in the whole pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps attitude to depression, nor for that matter in the medicate-till-you-ache method either. But it does give me a somewhat Zen stance on the whole thing. It still matters whether I get there (wherever THERE is) but not because of the depression.

It’s a wildly liberating idea for me. I’d felt for so many years an intense pressure to achieve certain almost unobtainable things and every time I had a set back or a knock, it made it worse because I’d unknowingly tied up all my feelings about curing my depression in achieving that goal. I’d beat myself up far worse than any disappointment could, simply because I felt I’d failed (yet again) to find the Holy Grail.

In religious terms I might say I felt my salvation lay in works. But any mystic will tell you this is Bullshit of the worst kind. Salvation is by grace.

So God grant me courage to change the things I can change

May He grant me the grace to accept the things I can’t change

And may He grant me the wisdom to know the difference

Depression and the art of tightropewalking

If you’ve ever suffered from depression I’d be willing to bet that at least one person you told that you were depressed asked, “What about?”

I’ve probably done it myself thouhtlessly but these days I try and ask whether they know the cause, which is a much more sensible question really.

Because in all honesty, we use the term depressed too readily and it’s diluted its true meaning. You can’t be depressed ABOUT anything; fed up, pissed off or whatever but not depressed. Reactive depression, which is the kind of extreme gloom or misery that has an actual identifiable  cause (grief, job loss etc) is quite different from clinical depression. Clinical depression has its root cause in brain chemistry.

I wish they had thought of another word rather than used Depression for this type of disorder, in the way they’ve stopped using the term Manic depression for Bi-polar disorder. It’s too easy to feel that you can cheer someone up who has clinical depression. I know about laughter therapy and so on but hey, stick with me here. I just wish there was another word.

I should be happy now. I should be delighted that work is now much pleasanter. But it doesn’t seem to matter much at core.

I’ve realised that the fairly awful conditions at work were simply masking the fact that I am still suffering from chronic depression. I let myself be fooled that it was the conditions I was fed up with, and that if they improved so would my mood. Well, conditions are way better and I’m not. I’m cross now. I’ve got some fabulous things going on in my life but I don’t seem to be able to feel happy or excited or really anything much. Just blah. Grey. I’d been missing the fact that battling against trouble was simply blinding me to a problem I can’t seem to solve, whatever I do.

And I have ways to get through a period of depression, believe me, I have a dozen and more methods to lift my own mood, boost my endorphins and so on. I use them and they work. But the Black Dog is still there. He’s been there since I was at least six years old.

Why in heaven’s name does this always happen? Why do I reset to my default setting, and so often and for so long?

I can’t feel much; it’s like being numbed with Novacaine all the time. Except for the times when without warning I feel tears welling up and that I dread. I avoid talking or thinking about some things because I know they’re a trigger. But new ones pop up.

And it slows me down as well. It took me two hours to prepare a lesson that will take only three hours (with break  in the middle taking away 15 mins) to teach. I want to write and yet, nothing seems to flow. It’s like wading through treacle.

Maybe it’s the tiredness talking. Maybe I’m sickening for something. Or maybe the Black Dog is back to stay for a while. I simply was so busy fighting Goblins that I didn’t notice him slip in and get all comfy by the fire.

Afternoon dreaming

I had a much needed nap this afternoon but soon drifted into weird dreams. I dreamed I’d been involved in some capacity in some creative scheme that had caught the eye of some bigwig. Most of the team were getting calls and letters asking them to come and work for some important organisation in a creative capacity. The artists who’d done the art work were being called , the people who’d done the music and the sound were being called. But me, who’d done the writing, nothing. I got asked if I could produce music like the music/sounds being played down a phone, I could go (go where I ask now)  . Someone then produced this marvellous crystal that worked as a kind of sat nav system when placed within a gyroscope, and could somehow access the sounds at the heart of this crystal (it was a phantom quartz, banded with layers of growth) without using the rest of the equipment by simply singing a note that activated the crystal, but when I held it, it did nothing.

I woke feeling very confused and a little disappointed. It was as though everyone else who’d done work had been rewarded but there wasn’t anything for me to go on to. No one was telling me how much they’d liked my writing, how that had made the whole project work. I don’t know what to make of it beyond it’s a huge part of my fears that my efforts and hard work go not just unrewarded but also unremarked.

I need tea now to help me wake up and figure it out; whether it means anything of signicance or it’s just a dream that spells out my fears.