You Don’t Belong…

I’ve written about music a lot on here, about how much it means to me, and how making music really helps with my mental health. Well today, I finished off an EP of harmonica jams that I started on a few weeks back.
When I got to college back in 1987, I was an indie loving Smiths fan, and dressed accordingly, but the crowd I fell in with were all metal heads, lovers of Slayer and Metallica. Well, before you knew it, I was growing my hair long, dressing in skinny jeans and Hi-Tec boots, and listening to a lot of metal. I bought a lot of the same stuff as my friends, but the two bands that stood out for me, and which I discovered for myself were Suicidal Tendencies and The Stupids.

It wasn’t just the music that got me, both bands had strong connections with the skate scene, and I was skating a lot at the time, amongst college work and drinking Newcastle Brown. Both bands seemed like a natural fit to me, so I bought everything I could by them. Fast forward 30 years, and I still love Suicidal Tendencies and The Stupids, and have been buying up their back catalogue on CD. Heck, I’ve even started skating again! 

So, making music… I’ve been slowly returning to playing harmonica again, as my mental health has improved, which has really helped with my recovery, and is really good fun too. I started working on the idea of a new EP a few weeks back, and have been playing the pieces more and more, getting the sounds I wanted. I demoed them in Garage Band first, then got a lovely new Pignose amp and a new Tascam recorder, getting the sound quality just how I like it. 

Today, I played all the pieces again, and did some minimal mastering in Adobe Audition to get the sound just right. These jams are inspired by The Stupids and Suicidal Tendencies from back in the day, and Gurt from more recently. Oh, and the EP title is a Stupids song. I’m really happy with how they’ve come out… quite simple pieces, but played with gusto and energy. I did some artwork, and put them up on Bandcamp this afternoon. 

Getting this EP done and dusted means a lot to me, as it’s a good indicator of where my mind and health is. I really enjoyed putting them together, and hope you enjoy listening to them. Hey, you could even download them if you want, as they’re free!

https://ruke.bandcamp.com/album/you-dont-belong

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(De)Motivation…

I have a pile of things I want to do… canvases to paint, models to build, books to read and so on, but they haven’t been touched. 

Depression sucks the life out of you at times, sapping all of your energy, so that it takes all of your effort and energy just to make it through the day, watching the clock, and wondering when it would be okay to go to bed.

Today has been one of these days. I was up reasonably early to get to the doctors and then the gym for a planning session, but once I got home again, all I could do was curl up on the bed and go back to sleep. 

We had some people round later to do some work on the house, as we are redecorating downstairs (there’s another whole can of worms/blog post…), and all I could do was stay upstairs out of the way. Depression meant I couldn’t handle interacting with others, so I hid. 

I’ve not been hard on myself though, as mental health can make you, as I realised a day of not doing much apart from reading comics and watching cartoons was what I needed to feel better and be able to tackle the rest of the week. Self-care is really important.

Tomorrow we start putting our new front room together, adding some real character to our home, and over the weekend, most of our new furniture should be put out. We are creating a waram and cosy room where we can read, watch TV, draw, whatever. It will make a huge difference to our life and our health.

But today, we rest…

Got my mojo back…

I’ve  always loved music. I was fortunate to grow up with parents who played lots of different music in our family home. Blues, jazz, rock, folk and a lot of other sounds besides. I can remember going to my village newsagent when I was young and buying 7 inch singles with my pocket money at the weekends, and my favourite thing that I spent my birthday money on when I was ten was an album by Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
Over the years I bought lots of albums and singles, most of which I still have stacked up in the attic. I love having music on vinyl, and have started collecting vinyl and cassettes again recently. At present, I’m really enjoying listening to The Stupids from my college days, and new discovery (to me anyway) Mammal Hands. I love all kinds of music.

About 5 years back, I really got into actually making music, as well as listening to it. It was great release, and I felt that I had found a missing piece of myself. Making music was also good for my mental health, as it always lifts my spirits. That all changed a while ago, when I had a breakdown, and the thought of even listening to music, let alone make it, was the last thing on my mind. 

Over the last year, music has starting creeping back into my life, first by going through my collection of vinyl, thanks to the kind gift of a stereo from old friends. This also sparked my buying of music again, on vinyl, and also cassette. I started digging through Bandcamp, finding new sounds to complement my older ones. Then I bought some new harmonicas. Slowly, I started playing music again.

In the last few months, I’ve been working on new sounds, enhanced by GarageBand on the iPad, and in the last week, through a new amp onto a new digital recorder. Some of them are fast punk tunes, some slower jazz pieces, and I’m really happy with how things are coming along. I don’t intend on rushing myself, just taking time and enjoying playing and learning to play better and with more feeling. When I’m really happy with what I play, I may just release them through Bandcamp.

Music is very strongly linked with mental health, and it’s really making a difference to mine. I definitely feel as though I’m coming back to myself.

You can hear my progress here: https://soundcloud.com/ruke-622656462/free-fall

Got it on tape..

I bought a new ‘boombox’ today, as my old tiny one is starting to wear out. You can hear it on tapes, that weird slowing down when a tape is being stretched. As a cassette collector with OCD tendencies, I want to make sure my tapes stay in good condition.

I’ve loved having music on tape since an early age, my favourite Christmas present when I was 12 was a bright blue Sony Walkman. I was into electronica then, with lots of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre. Oh, and hip hop too…

I got through so many Walkmans in my youth, wearing them out on a regular basis. I loved making mix tapes, and taping new albums from vinyl, so they stayed in pristine condition. I carried on making mix tapes up until a few years back, until I had a big clear out and got rid of my tape collection, which I now regret. I loved having music on tape, loving the sound you can only get from cassette.

A couple of years back, I got into a few record labels, namely Riding Easy and Strange Famous, both of whom release amazing music on vinyl and cassette. I bought a tape from Riding Easy, the amazing Red Desert, and then starting buying tapes from Strange Famous, starting with B. Dolan’s ‘House of Bees Volume 3’. I tend to get obsessed with record labels, tending to collect most of their output. Strange Famous are really generous when they send out orders… I have been sent extra tapes, stickers, posters and badges when receiving packages from them. Stuff like that just makes me love a label more.

So coming full circle, I am starting to build up a tape collection again, and have a Sony to play them on, not a Walkman, but a boombox. Here’s to plenty more releases on cassette, and having a decent collection again, keeping my tendencies in check!

Anger is an energy…

Today has been a difficult day in terms of emotions. This morning saw me in deep depression, which only sleep would cure, through to anger this evening. 

I think the anger rose from a feeling of frustration that I cannot solve all of the issues around me, and my temper exploded through kicking cabinets in the kitchen to aggressively making dinner, which I was still too angry to eat.

I had already planned to go fishing in the morning, so all of my gear was packed and ready. It seemed logical to remove myself from the home environment, and to reduce the stress that my anger and frustration was causing. I gathered my kit together, loaded it into the car, and headed for the canal. 

Nature has a calming effect on me, and it didn’t take long for the sights, sounds and smells of the natural environment to dissolve the feelings of anger, and to restore a sense of calm and peace. Firing up the stove for a coffee, and getting stuck into the meal I had made earlier made a world of difference. So did setting up my rods, retying one of them, in the hope that a fish would take the bait.

Calmer later, I headed for home, even though I planned to sleep outdoors. I have supplies for the morning, and plan to be out first thing tomorrow.

I’m calm now.

https://youtu.be/Vq7JSic1DtM

Skateboarding is good for your health…


I’d planned on going skating early this morning, whilst the park was quiet, hoping to have it to myself. Skating solo is good for me whilst I’m learning the basics again, and I didn’t fancy swimming against a tide of scooters. There’s a really nice feeling being on your own at the park, especially early.

Well, I overslept, and wondered if l would actually go skating at all, with the call of artwork and life in general tugging at my sleeve. After a tasty breakfast (my wife and I take turns making breakfast on Sundays), chilling seem  in order, but after a chat, I decided to get up and get to the park after all.

Pleasantly surprised by finding the park empty, I set to learning how to flow more, and relax on the board again. (My biggest issue last week was being too stiff.) Rolling in, I started to carve more naturally almost immediately, and began to loosen up, standing lower, and feeling at home on the board once more. I’ve still not quite managed t flow all the way around the park, but I’m close.

Sitting atop the funbox, I was aware of nothing but my breath and the wind around me. Calm, centred and happy, I picked up my board again, and began to put in more circuits of the park. Still not reaching a full circle, the flow was definitely coming back, and I felt more relaxed than I have for quite some time. Rather than worrying about tricks and speed, the feeling of flowing seems more important to me now. Everything else will come with time.

Keep rolling…

Tripped up…

Mental health is a tricky bugger. One day you can be fine and on top of the world, the next, down in the dumps wondering how you will ever get through the day. 

I am fortunate to know that my depression and anxiety aren’t so bad that I cannot function at all, but my brain will sometimes get caught in a negative spiral, with logic and illogic chasing each other’s tails, making concentration and happiness elusive. On the whole, I am okay most of the time, but small worries can easily mutate interest ever larger ones, and depression and anxiety can take hold.

Take returning to college, for example. On the day my mum died earlier this year, I made a decision to get back to my counselling course, get qualified and become a really good counsellor, working preferably with children. There are certain things that need to be in place before returning to college, BACP membership, insurance, and most importantly, placements. I knew about these things, of course, but this year has been tough, and getting my act together has been hard. So, when my return interview didn’t happen last week, my brain spiralled down into panic overload, and I was sure I wouldn’t be able to get things sorted and return to my studies. 

Stepping back, making a list, and taking some time has allowed me to overcome my anxiety, and I have now got a referee in place; drafted my letter asking for placements; and have applied for my insurance. I also have someone in mind for my sponsor, and feel more positive about my return to college in September. 

As I write this, I am calm, centred and focused. Onwards…

Zen and the art of till jockeying…

Today has been a bit of a rollercoaster, with the morning seeing me slightly out of sorts and snappy with my lovely supportive wife. I wandered off to catch the bus to counselling in a bit of a haze of unsettled feelings…

Clearly tired, I half read and half dozed through the journey, trying to stay focused on what was going on around me. Still, I made it to town and appointed session in good time with a clearer head. Sleep helps sometimes.

Counselling today gave me time and space to explore and examine the feelings I’ve had over the last few days, trying to work out why I’ve been feeling so unsettled and out of sorts. I like the time I have in counselling, as I feel as though I am thinking on a higher level, able to clear my mind and understand my thoughts and feelings.

So after a refreshing coffee and a late lunch, I caught the bus home in a much clearer frame of mind, able to focus on the days ahead and what needs to be done.

Yet, it was while I was putting in my hours at my part time supermarket job that a sense of real calm and awareness came over me. Suddenly, life made sense and I had a real understanding of my place in the world. The feeling has stuck with me now, and everything seems clear.

Om.

Cycling makes me happy!

Today was college day, almost the end of the first year of my Counselling Diploma (man that has gone quick…), and it was really cool to cycle in.

The afternoon saw me plummet into a tailspin of tiredness and depression, and even though I had a good chat with an old friend that helped, cycling home really lifted my spirits and brought me back from the pits of despair.

I bloody love cycling!

elsa
Elsa – my trusty road bike

 

That’s better…

I’ve had a rough day today… not feeling too good about myself and my attitude, I spent the morning at college on my Counselling Diploma. This morning, we were working in groups presenting controversial issues to each other and letting the debates ensue. I dug myself further and further into my cave, withdrawing from the room and the ensuing debates.

I presented our groups issue (enforced euthanasia) with sheer bloody mindedness, stayed for the following group, made my excuses and left, knowing that my mood and mental state would not be conducive to learning that afternoon.

IMG_5139
The Pond in late Autumn

After a long lunch and a cuddle with my wife on my return home, I packed up my fishing rods and backpack and headed back to my favourite fishing spot of the summer, “my pond”. Just walking down the towpath in the late autumn sun made me feel better. The canal was high after heavy rain last week, and the trees were mostly bare, allowing more to be seen in the fields around the canal.

 

 

IMG_5135
Rods are out…

Arriving at the pond, the feelings of the morning faded, and a warm smile spread across my face. It is good to be back at one of my favourite places to relax. The pond seemed a little different, as it is not covered by so much foliage now, but it has lost none of its magic calming effect. Being in nature is such a tonic to me in times of distress and upset.

IMG_5134
The Pond in late Autumn

 

After fishing with my good friend Rolf at the end of last week down in Hampshire (I was after Pike, Rolf was after Carp), I was certain that there is a dirty great big Pike in the pond… I had seen it briefly over the Summer, and the lack of water birds on the pond confirmed it to me and my friends. Rolf has kindly set me up with Pike rigs and a bigger landing net, so Im determined to go after the Pike in the pond, alongside fishing for the larger Roach that are definitely in there too.

Here’s to an exciting Winter at a lovely spot, and catching some big fish. It makes me happy.