Home improvements

I don’t know how long it took me to re-grout the shower. All I know is that it took almost to the second, the length of the extended edition of High Violet, with which I presume you are familiar.

The spare living room paint has shrivelled into a husk of extinction (may or may not have involved some shoddy lid closing) and I am somehow supposed to determine which alternative colour is a suitable replacement. Everything is either too pink, too pale too bright or too blue. I’m not sure which is the lesser evil. Why can’t homebase perpetually sell a shade called truffle that in no way resembles an actual truffle?

It’s largely academic because today encompassed the challenge of bedroom repainting, and that colour choice was stressful enough. What actually was the current shade? Did we want that or one shade lighter? Silk/sheen/matt? Well. I suspect we went with shade 3 because it’s just a better number than 4, and soft sheen because that was a halfway house between silk and matt, and chosing one extreme of the shiny vs matt spectrum was just a bit too dangerous for a Tuesday.

When you choose a finish for your interior paints, you consider how dark the room is, how you want it to feel and how shiny you’d like it to look. What you probably don’t think about (and you really should) are how good your plaster or plasterboard are, and how skillfully you can paint.

I can tell you for free that if you have dodgy plaster or minimal painting and rollering (phone wanted to write toileting there…) skills then for the love of god’s large and small, don’t buy silk. Or soft sheen. Matt is your friend (well he’s SO’s friend actually but I guess by proxy he is mine also) and the paint variety (rather than the wedding planning variety) will cover a multitude of sins, the latter will cover only one night of wine, but I guess that could entail several sins if you really go for it.

I digress. The sheen on the wall shows each paint stroke, magnificently reflecting every speck and weird kink in the plasterboard. I think it’s an improvement on the silk I did last time but I’m not sure that the ends justified the amount of muscle ache that it cost. I should have gambled on the possible oppressive claustrophobia of the matt finish, but we live and learn. At least I can fill out a box for tomorrow’s therapy session saying how I finally achieved something that wasn’t just sitting on my royal arse feeling sorry for myself. But now of course I’m kicking myself for the paint choice and lack of skill. Apparently I’m not supposed to do that, but really, feeling a bit crap about it now aught to remind me the next time that paint buying comes around that I cannot be trusted to gauge the situation. I’m not even sure why I ended up painting the bedroom when the hallway and bathrooms have the greater need.



I have definitely earned an episode of Lucifer after all that. If that means nothing to you, It’s an Amazon series about a character concocted by Neil Gaiman.

Annnyway I will take my painting-induced angina (heartburn? Probably heartburn…right?), and grief and bid you adeiu.

Parrots with bad attitudes and Dragons with razor teeth

I’m going at this new course of CBT (cognative behavioural therapy) all wrong.

I know it.

I don’t like my new therapist much, and I’m increasingly reminded about why I hated CBT before and why it was so unhelpful.

What it boils down to is that I’m not stupid, in fact I have a higher than average intelligence (not my opinion, this is evidence-based) and find it intolerable to be patronised or condescended.

In principle, the theory of CBT aught to work in many cases, but only if the therapist can intuit when the patient wants to punch them in the face, and take the therapy a bit off the beaten track.

This week I was asked if I knew what the diaphragm was. Erm Biology doctorate? Then had diaphragmatic breathing demonstrated. Honestly, I expected more. I can only imagine that my face exhibited the single raised eyebrow of derision.

I can be such a bitch but unfortunately it slips out when my tolerance threshold gets approached. Maybe I should explain.

As an ex-flautist, my natural way of breathing is deeply from the diaphragm, I would like to know breathing exercises, eg how many seconds to breathe in/out/hold, some visualisation or mantra or something but no, I got told to breathe like I do anyway. I’m not convinced she knows anything further than that. I was promised muscle relaxation techniques too but I suspect that involves ‘just relax your muscles and you will feel relaxed’, in the simplistic style of delivery I am coming to expect from CBT.

I was given a handout that came complete with cartoons – perfect for your children who have anxiety problems. Apparently I have a toxic bullying parrot in my head and if I ignore it I will be calm and happy.

Cheers for that. I’m not pissing myself with laughter at this idea at all. Nope. Not one bit.

What she doesn’t realise is I don’t have a parrot, I have a dragon (see blog header for a portrait of the beast), and it doesn’t bully me, it messes my personality about and makes quite compelling and intelligent conversation.

I also don’t think that I like the idea that you have no control over your thoughts. For example, let’s say that you keep thinking about killing yourself. Then magically by the power of CBT you start ignoring that thought… I mean, that seems a bit off-piste to me…aren’t you better off dealing with why you feel like that and changing your thought patterns rather than accepting you will repeatedly have those thoughts forever?

The therapist seems baffled by some of my problematic anxious thoughts because she sees them as relatively realistic – as in – there is  a historical reason why I think those thoughts, so they aren’t disordered. Erm, so…that means I don’t have health anxiety? I’m really not convinced about that. I have stomach pains (from suspected gastritis) so I avoid loads of things (foods / drinks/ medications/travelling/social meals/drinks) to avoid the prospect of stomach pains that will most likely not happen but could and she thinks that’s ok? I’ll wager she doesn’t know enough about these physical conditions (gastritis / ibs) and how they relate to anxiety so just tells me that they might not get any better after therapy. So….what exactly am I doing here if you keep telling me that this doesn’t work for everyone and physical symptoms that perpetuate anxiety will not be improved?

I came out with what I consider to be a highly relevant and important statement. That I suspect that I allow myself to get very anxious because I want an excuse to be imperfect. I have had something ‘wrong’ with me since 15 and it’s been touted as why my exam grades slipped, why I got a 2:1, why I struggled so much during my PhD. Maybe I’m just not the best at stuff after all – and I cannot accept failure. Hence I do not try to control my anxiety as it gives me a nice get-out clause. What about that then Ms therapist lady?

Well. She wasn’t interested in that theory at all. She just thinks I’m too harsh on myself and that self-criticism is bad. The ONLY thing she wrote down this session was when I said that I felt self-criticism could be a good thing. A concept utterly alien to her – that the inability to see and accept one’s own flaws turns one into an arrogant narcissistic douche. The ability to self-criticise is inbuilt in any half decent scientist (or artist, or y’know… human being) – you judge what you have done, your level of ability, your qualities and you think about how it can be improved (or ruminate of how it cannot if you so choose)- that is the instigator of progress and understanding of the shortfalls of others- realisation that things are not perfect. Am I getting through here???

I’m trying to stick with it – but I feel  I am being asked the wrong questions. I’ll fill out the inane homework things I’ve been asked to complete but in addition I will write something about the stuff that I think is relevant.

Chronic anxiety for me is not all about a single thought or situation that happens every week- I may not have a panic attack during the whole course of treatment – but the problem comes from big overwhelming thoughts that rarely specifically get triggered but are always lurking in the wings, hovering and ruminating and  stopping you from living your life. And that is what I will write about.

Does anyone know the trick of getting off one’s high horse and trying to accept that very simplistic and superficial things might be helpful?



Everyone secretly wants to be seduced by a supernatural being and that’s ok


I read a lot of science fiction, horror and fantasy books.
I watch a hell of a lot of trashy sci-fi / horror TV shows and films.
What I have learnt is that deep down, everyone has this base desire to be seduced by a very powerful creature – preferably immortal.
In some cases it is a human, one that seems unattainable and awe-inspiringly strong, brave or skilled, but then those are altogether too relatable as stories go. I don’t really like that in a fantasy story because it makes me think about real feelings and shit like that, I want to be taken somewhere that I can’t possibly go in real life.
So within the pages and vicariously we secretly wish that we could become the object of some mythical creature’s desire. Can you imagine if something so powerful and beautiful chose you over all others….That’s got to boost your self esteem some hasn’t it? Plus we are led to believe that those with supernatural powers are somehow exceptional lovers, so…
I don’t think the feeling of wanting to be the centre of someone elses world is particularly new or weird, it’s central to human nature…but to want that attention from someone or something with a fascinating weirdness, who could choose ANYONE in the world? It’s not something that people are going to freely admit because of the shit tons of pride and parallel fragility that such thoughts stem from. It’s something about proxy to power isn’t it? To be desired by a symbol of strength makes one feel strong, no? All this reminds me of something Tori Amos said about wondering whether Jesus would be a good lover. I think that the desire to be loved by an all-powerful God amounts to pretty much the same thing as wanting to be seduced by a vampire (psychologically speaking). There are ‘spiritual’ nuances that I’m glossing over, but its all the same to me.

So you fantasise about being whisked away by a Witch, by a Mystif, by an Angel or superhero? Hey, that’s ok, as long as it doesn’t come at the cost of real relationships – maybe you need to work a bit on your self-esteem (most of us do) but ultimately everyone else does the same thing in the privacy of their own mind, and I know what you are thinking but, no, the fact that these humanesque creatures in question aren’t quite human doesn’t mean we are talking about beastiality, which is pretty much universally not ok (even in Germany now). Imagination and the unknown are such potent ingredients, who could help but wonder?

Ps. If you have a partner or two in the real world, remember that they have the superpower of putting up with your annoying shit, so don’t take that for granted.

Incidentally the painting at the top is mine (from some ten years ago). It might not be very good but don’t steal it without asking ok?
(c) Accidental Tentacles

Vacant expressions

I’m beginning to think that I took not caring about appearances a step too far today. The security video in the post office showed what looked like a  fucking shifty drug addict collecting their parcel.

This wayward woman was fidgety and tired-looking with her unwashed in face body and hair, wearing an oversized hoodie a pair of corduroy elephant flares and an expression that said someone should just put her out of her misery.

Puffy eyes, dark circles acne marks and patchy facial flakiness that are normally covered up in a mask of high end cosmetics were on show. It was not pretty. I regret few things in life, but leaving the house in that state is probably one of them.

Sorry post office guy, I’ll make more of an effort next time.

Mingling with anxiety


Dear person who I have not yet met,

When I first see you I am intimidated, I see all the traits that you have and I do not. My heart races regardless of who you are.

When you make eye contact with me I want to run away because I believe you are either about to humiliate me, or have mistaken me for someone else.

When you walk towards me, my stomach flips over and I want to vomit because I’m afraid that you are going to do or say something that will make me feel inferior.

When you speak to me, I can’t focus on what you are saying because I’m too busy forcing myself to stand still and not shake.

When you smile at me, I can’t breathe and I feel paranoid that you are actually laughing at me, or smiling at someone else behind me.

When I need to reply to you my mouth fills with the sand that is trickling out of my brain. I’m so scared of saying something stupid that I crack a ridiculously poor joke instead, then replay what I’ve just said over and over, thereby missing what you said next :/ sorry…

When you try to ask me questions about myself I give short answers because I don’t think I’m interesting enough to warrant longer ones. I’m also too busy stopping myself from fidgeting to remember much more than my name and date of birth.

When I ask repetitive questions about you I’m not obsessive, I just need a few seconds to gather my thoughts because my cerebral hamster wheel has got all tangled up.

When you look over my shoulder at someone else I panic that you don’t like me, so I do something weird to grab your attention, like pull a strange face or say something inflammatory that I don’t even mean.

When I look over your shoulder at someone else it probably isn’t because I’m bored it’s because I’m looking out for assassins and trying to get respite from your focus.

When you walk away I can breathe again and recommerce being awkward without an immediate audience.

When you walk away I wish you hadn’t left so soon

I know there are more interesting, intelligent and attractive people out there for you to meet who won’t require so much effort.

Damn, meeting new people is exhausting when you crave social interactions but yet are terrified. It was so much easier when I could drink alcohol. I wonder, does everyone else feel the same?

If you know me already we can hopefully (but not always) skip the foreplay and I can just stand awkwardly and limpet-like beside you while you roll your eyes until such a time as it is almost socially acceptable for me to run away and hide.

Symptoms, hanging tasks and collecting useless bunches of thoughts


Thank-you very much universe for bestowing upon me a migraine of duvet requiring proportions. I had today all planned out but you stole those hours and left me in the dark just hoping and waiting for the pain to ascend. I could have been more productive in my studious efforts to watch all of “the collector” TV show before it gets taken away from Amazon prime, and I could have taken out the rubbish and recycling that’s been glaring at me all week and has therefore spontaneously overflowed into numerous ominous looking bags.

I’ll thank you not to call me lazy.

No horses today as my friend is sick. This makes me sad on many levels.

It’s been a pretty tumultuous week, running the gamut of tears, anxiety, panic, fear, sadness, exhaustion, shoulder acne and night sweats. I gave my talk to 70 people during which I came this (squishes two fingers together) close to using the word “voodoo” to describe how a piece of equipment works. Yay Science!! Nonetheless I’ve made it to the weekend intact aside from the little part of me that was hiding the whole anxiety issue from the boss lady, buuut….I had to tell her what’s up because I’ve reached the top of the list for CBT. Sadly the offered the ONLY time that I could not make, due to weekly meetings. After filling in the blanks and enquiring, my boss was understanding and said I should just take the slot…but…of course the NHS is most efficient when you don’t want it to be and in the time it took me to blink and ring them back, I’d been irreversibly placed back on the waiting list. Thanks. That’s just awesome. I admitted frailty to my boss for nothing….OK…not nothing, I suppose it’s out of the way at least. She knows I’m a bit mental and let’s face it, there was no hiding that meltdown in the meeting that I described before.

I’ve been asked by a company to travel to Poland to give an academic talk (all expenses paid) and I’m umming and arring about it (that phrase looks wrong when you write it down). I want to because it’s good experience, I like the person who invited me and it’s a country I haven’t been to but….what if I make myself (more) ill over it? I mean…how many days of valium does a normal person need for that kind of thing? What if security alleviate them from me!! And is there enough bog roll at the airport to cope with my anxious tummy? What if I sweat so much that I shrivel up to a crooked husk because I’m afraid to ask for some water? These are very real considerations!!! Giving a talk=easy. The week or two building up to it=hellish corporeal rebellion.

I’ve thought about the divergent books a lot, and I’ve decided that I really didn’t like the character Tris very much. She might have been brave and kick-ass but she was actually quite selfish and irritating(especially in books 2 and 3). I’m not annoyed that she died per say, I’m just aggrieved about the way it happened. So there.

I should have completed a task at work this week but I put it off because that would mean interacting with someone who had been off with norovirus. No. Fucking. Way. I therefore have the mystery of the unfathomable blot problems to deal with on Monday. Plus explaining to the boss lady why I chose instead to obsessively reanalyse some old data instead (fucking good job I did because I discovered a fuckup). Mmm, Western blots: my favourite unsatisfactorily borderline artistic and non-reproducible technique

Ps. I have a note stuck on my mac at work saying “fix your moronic mistakes re: algebra” someone should almost certainly revoke my a-level maths…  strike that, I’m not worthy of GCSE.

On finding unexpected pockets of pain, and dreading how the story ends


I’ll start with stories. I love to read stories. I become irrationality and unnecessarily emotionally involved in stories and the encapsulated characters. I just spent the better part of three weeks living in a world conceived by someone else’s mind, learning to love the (at times irritating) characters, and just as the final book is coming to a close, the fucking kick-ass protagonist gets killed off, leaving an intense love dangling limp, lending an unsatisfying and depressing void where a happily ever could have been. I’m looking at you Roth. Why did you have to do it?! It’s like Alice Morgan all over again. Abandoned as I am by the untimely departure of a strong and unique character who I have at times, wished I could be.

Endings suck. I always want the story to keep on going, taking me further into the dream world, letting me live in the intimacy of someone elses fantasy.

Yes, endings are, generally speaking most comprehensively unsatisfactory.

As for the pockets of pain, well. I found one in a hotel. I found a whole hotel brimming with dread and memories and the fear that if I stepped foot inside, I’d break the spell and lose what I had when I was last there. I remember how we had tea together by the window, chatting about how beautiful the city is, how much they loved it here. Smiling and joking about how the restaurant was so dark that they couldn’t see their food! That was the last place I saw them that is not tainted by what came after. It was preserved in my head as a time capsule of memory, Something to revisit in my head, but never in person. Thinking about going there just reminded me of the pain that I’ve been tying down, dampening with anything I can grab a hold of but grief can find some peculiar times to remind you that you are still bearing a gaping hole in your life that no-one else can ever fill. The tears dried up before I set foot inside and it looks and feels like a different place now. I’m not afraid to go back tomorrow, but I’m still trying to stop playing the images over and over and mourning my losses. They would want me to remember, but not to be in pain.

Someone recommend me a damned good book with a happy or at least neutral ending please. I need some literary hope!