Sunday, April 26, 2009

No news...

...which I guess is good news. I went to the inaugural fortnightly "men's group" meeting, chaired by Andy, on Tuesday night. Being the corporate zombie that I currently am, I only come into contact with a very small subset of society, but on Tuesday night the whole gamut of male Kiwi society was on show. I could write a blog post on that meeting alone - there's more than enough material for that - but I won't. On Thursday I met up with Andy again, this time for my one-on-one (though I was joined by a psychologist for some of the time - I thought she was very good).

Apart from that, it's been a very nondescript week. My exam is on 4th May and I'll be glad when it's over.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The mind gets dirty as you get closer to thirty

The above line is from Blur's End of a Century; who knows whether it's true, but I'll hit the big three-oh in just a year and a day. A bit scary really. Yesterday I got a cheque in the post from my mum for my birthday - after this weekend's finale to the tennis season, I could probably do with spending the money on some lessons. I played four matches all up and didn't win any of them. In two of those matches there was only ever going to be one outcome and I thought I played fine, but the other two were a real disappointment for me. We did enough to win our doubles competition (woohoo!) - I have the honour of being the winning captain, though going by my recent performances I feel we were victorious in spite of my presence on the team.

On Wednesday I went with Julie (who's already been to thirty and back) to see The Reader at the Bridgeway, the first time I'd been to the cinema since Christmas when I saw the latest Bond film (which I thought was total dross by the way) with Mum and Dad in Geraldine. The Reader wouldn't have been my first choice but I'm very glad I went. It was a great film I thought, and there was a slight irony in Julie and I watching a film involving a bloke having an affair with a much older woman, which wasn't lost on us. The various eats and drinks made it a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I don't know why, but I often find people easier to get on with the further their age is (up or down) from my own.

The following day I saw the psychiatrist, a shorter meeting this time, so it wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg but just a leg. I told him there had been a marked improvement (I think I've been extremely lucky) so I won't have to consume any substances beyond what I'm already taking.

Work is still, well, total dross. I spent a good deal of one of my work days (probably Friday) calculating probabilities for this newfangled poker game called badugi. In fact it's not really poker at all, but instead what could be described as four-card "anti-poker". The object of badugi is to make a badugi, which is a four-card hand with no pairs or cards of the same suit. You get three attempts to draw cards in order to achieve this. The probability that you'll be dealt a badugi from the start, known as a "pat badugi", is 6.3%, about the same as the probability that you'll one day meet somebody called Pat Badugi.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Much better

I'm a lot better right now. Whether it's the new drugs, a boost I got from my mum being here or just a random upswing, I don't know, but this is as good as I've been for some time. I feel like a changed man with all this extra (albeit normal) energy. I'm halfway through the feature-length Easter weekend and I've managed to get some study done, though I fear it might be too little, too late. Easter in the past has been a major depression black spot for me, second only to Christmas, but so far I've done fine even though I've hardly spoken to anyone.

Work is just as awful as ever. I'm trying not to let it affect my mood - that's easier said than done. On Wednesday morning I was asked a tough question about a particular acronym that I knew nothing about, but it was a measure of my improvement that I was able to bluff my way out of that tricky situation. I felt uncomfortable at work all day Thursday - everyone else seemed "full-on" with their work while I was the complete opposite, which I guess would be "empty-off". And I had to listen to one member of my team reciting the bands he'd seen at the Vector Arena - I can see the Vector Arena from my flat but I've never been there.

I've started playing poker online at though only for play money. I'm currently sitting on about three times what I started with, though I'm totally aware that play-money poker bears little resemblance to the real thing. You get used to the mechanics of the game and the online software but that's about it. For a start, I'm normally the only player at my table who doesn't play almost any hand, and you'll always get one or two players who'll raise the bajeezus out of just about anything. That said, I've got a good mathematical brain and I reckon I could succeed at the real-money game if it wasn't for the rake which looks prohibitive to me. I might struggle when it comes to reading my opponents, just like I have a hard time second-guessing people in real life, but then again maybe I'd be better at figuring out whether someone has ace-queen suited, say, than working out something far more abstract such as whether they like me.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On edge

Mum left yesterday. I was really sad to see her go. She's been so good to me. I just hope that she isn't so alarmed by my situation that she spends sleepless nights from now on worrying about me. I also hope she didn't get too bored up here. She did catch the ferry into town on one of my work days, but unless you're into Gucci watches and Louis Vuitton handbags, there isn't much there. At least she can have no complaints about the weather - we've had glorious autumn sunshine up here the last ten days.

I got a written diagnosis back from the psychiatrist on Thursday. There wasn't much in the report I didn't already know (social isolation - check; avoidant personality traits - check), but as I always try to hide my past, seeing it there in black and white was a bit scary. My father was described as being "a very ordered man" - I found that pretty funny as he's about as disorganised as me.

On Friday I had a tension throughout my body that felt almost paralysing. Even finishing work for the week (albeit a short one for me) made no difference - I was just totally unable to relax. Mum and I had our celebratory dinner at Buona Sera in Devonport. The place was humming. My plate of pasta was colourful, spicy and yummy. We shared a bottle of white wine and a large plate of garlic bread, and each had what I guess you'd call a chocolate brownie cake for dessert. But even though I thoroughly enjoyed my meal (the fact that it was free helped), I was still on edge and not in the mood for celebrating anything. A shame because it was the first time I'd eaten out in ages.

More tennis yesterday. If you're a regular follower of this blog (there must be thousands of you out there, you're just too shy to tell me), you'll be glad to know that the tennis season is almost over and you'll be spared my inane ramblings about hitting a fuzzy yellow ball over a net (or not as the case may be) for the next few months. I played with Bazza in the first match; I felt terrible and didn't want to be out there at all. The yellow ball seemed even fuzzier than normal. I'd calmed down a bit by the second set, but my head was still in my hands between points, I never won a service game, and we slumped to a 6-3 6-4 loss. I must have been visibly distressed as I walked off the court. I was asked "what's wrong?" and told not to emulate one poor bloke who recently jumped off a motorway overbridge. After all that, for some odd reason I was confident we'd win the mixed, which we eventually did thanks to the occasional slice of luck along the way. Facing break point on my serve at 5-all in the first set, I attempted a high smash which doinked off the frame and somehow just cleared the net, landing inches inside the sideline. We hung on to that game and broke for the set at the sixth time of asking. The second set was even closer; it went all the way to the tie-break where at 5-all their bloke, who had been ultra-consistent on serve all day, chucked in a double fault and my partner put away a smash on the next point (slightly more authoritatively than my earlier effort) to take out the match.

Our team won 5-3 which might mean we've won the competition with a match to spare, but that was only part of the story. During our mixed match I saw Bazza lying on the court, his face as white as a sheet. He got up and carried on for two more games before retiring, but still looked terrible. The colour gradually returned to his cheeks and I took him home where he lives with his brother; he pleaded with me not to tell his brother anything had happened. It was the first time I'd stepped inside their house which they've just sold following their mother's death last year. He showed me his bedroom which was even more untidy than mine and stank of, well, Bazza. I noticed on their fridge was a printed emergency checklist of what to do in the event of a heart attack, with the key points emphasised by Bazza's trademark red underlining. He definitely needs a serious lifestyle change or else he'll keel over one of these days - he's got to lose at least two stone, or quite a few kay gees, for a start - but I don't think he's capable of making those changes by himself. I feel I need to do something, but what I'm not sure.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Keep taking the tablets

On Sunday Mum and I went to the beach, then I spent much of the next two days pretending to study. The singles interclub competition came to an end on Monday night. In the doubles I played with Superman again, which meant I never really relaxed from the first point to the last. Thankfully, unlike last time, we didn't both self-destruct in our own separate ways, and we won 6-3 6-3 in less than an hour. Then came the singles. I've been involved in all manner of bizarre singles matches this season so it was fitting to end on one. To cut a long story short, I was in all kinds of poo but managed to dig myself out of it, probably due to the youth and exuberance of my opponent. In the first set I was 5-2 down but reeled off five straight games; in the second I was even deeper in the mire at 5-1, but this time I won six games in a row, facing a couple of set points in the process. I struggle sometimes in winning positions because I go into my shell; he did the opposite. In some ways I felt he lost the match rather than me winning it, but after previous experiences this season, in which the boot was firmly on the other foot, I'll take it.

Yesterday I saw the psychiatrist. I was a bit apprehensive, especially as I started off by sitting in the wrong chair. I was dreading the Rorschach Inkblot Test but luckily I was spared that. The upshot of my hour in the chair (once I'd found the right one) was that I need to increase my dose of Efexor and maybe start on lithium. Apparently it turns out I've got some form of bipolar disorder à la Spike Milligan and Stephen Fry. That diagnosis came as some surprise because as far as I'm aware, I don't swing from the south pole to the north, but rather from the south pole to somewhere near the equator. Seeing a shrink is an expensive business, so I tried to get as much bang as I could for my buck by talking incessantly. I felt down for the rest of the day, perhaps because I had to go to work today. I started to lose the plot as Mum helped me sort out my bank statements. I went into fits of hysterics, and for some reason found the ASB statements utterly hilarious.

Today at work could have been a lot worse. I was nervous; it was almost like my first day again. I tried to turn over a new leaf by cleaning my desk which had become a bomb site. I also proudly displayed my "you've-now-passed-a-few-exams-so-you-must-know-something" certificate, which I'd been embarrassed about because I don't know anything. The highlight of my day was a letter I received congratulating me on reaching my fifth anniversary with the company. For my loyalty I get $100 to spend at a restaurant of my choice; Mum and I will have a slap-up meal on Friday night, just before she hops on the plane to go home. I was still agonisingly slow today; I was probably functioning at about 40% of capacity. But I'm hopeful I can turn things around. I just have to keep taking the tablets.