Thursday, June 28, 2012

I could do with a dose of Dunning-Kruger

After a pretty dire first half of the week I'm better again now. Last night only three of us attended the depression meet-up - two new faces and myself. One of the guys looked 25, wore a wedding ring and a thick black Krapmandu jacket, and promptly announced in his Aussie accent that he worked for Telecom. So I clearly had nothing in common with him at all. Except we got chatting and he turned out to be 34 and have rather similar experiences with depression and social anxiety as me. The other bloke was in his early fifties and his battle with depression wasn't too dissimilar to mine either.

I've almost finished Bad Science. It's all fascinating stuff, and it's presented in an entertaining and accessible way for people like me who aren't medical graduates. I find the Dunning-Kruger effect intriguing and very believable: basically it means incompetent people overestimate their abilities because they're too incompetent to recognise their incompetence! Competent people, according to Dunning and Kruger, tend to assess their level of proficiency more accurately. I think the reason why competent people estimate their level of competence more accurately is very simple: by and large people have quite high levels of self-confidence (I never cease to be amazed by just how self-confident some people appear to be). Most people tend to rate themselves as being above average at any given task (80% of people think they're above-average drivers) so those who actually are above average are justified in their assessment. I also reckon an element of "the more you know, the more you know you don't know" plays a part.

By the way, I'm one of the few who don't think their driving skill is above average. There a only a few things that I think I'm any good at, and those tend not to matter very much.

Work is going OK. I rate my level of competence in my job as average at best. I still despair at some of the letters we send out to our customers especially when we ask about medical conditions. Many of the letters are poorly written and show a distinct lack of sensitivity. However it's 2012 so nobody cares how you write as long as you get the message across, and in a large company it's best just to follow the process and not to ask questions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Under attack

Last night I attended the autism group and felt a little uncomfortable there. I missed the bus home and didn't fancy waiting for the next one so I walked - surprisingly it only took me half an hour. But then when I got back I had a panic attack. I'm talking a proper out-of-body what-the-****'s-going-on experience here, the likes of which I haven't had in years. Luckily it didn't last too long.

This week has so far been a struggle. Everything just feels grey and black and hopeless. We've all moved desks in the office. My new position - right next to my boss - has upped the ante a bit. I'll try and get an initial assessment for CBT tomorrow - if I can remember.

This latest depressive spell is probably just a random occurrence but last week's letter from the council generated shock waves that I could have done without.

90, 96, 98, 04, 06, 12, ...

Yesterday morning Italy knocked England out of Euro 2012 on penalties. Giuseppe didn't seem to mind too much. It's the sixth time England have been dumped out of a major tournament in that way.

The 1990 shoot-out loss to the Germans was gut-wrenching for a ten-year-old boy but when '96 rolled around (those Germans again) I was far less bothered.

A pattern looks to be emerging; it points to more heartbreak for England in the World Cup in Brazil. But, according to Bad Science, perhaps I'm seeing a pattern where none exists.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


On Tuesday I got a letter from the council: "Your apartment building has been identified as potentially earthquake prone. The IEP (Initial Evaluation Process) for the building has been assessed with a score of less than 34." In fact it scored just 21, i.e. it only meets 21% of current standards, whatever that actually means. What it means for me is that I could be faced with a massive bill and an unsellable apartment (except at a knock-down price) until the strengthening works are carried out, if they are deemed necessary (I'll find out in December whether the building is an official earthquake risk).

Obviously I wasn't a happy bunny when I got this news. I thought I'd done my homework before I bought this place - the council told me it would be exempt from any assessment because the apartments were built in 1996-97, well after the 1976 cut-off. But now they say that the original building was constructed in about 1960 and was extended, converted into apartments and strengthened (inadequately in their view) in the nineties. The LIM (which I paid for last December) even says: "Year first constructed - 1990-1999". I emailed the chairman of the body corp committee who seemed as shocked as me. He thought I might have a valid claim with the council. To be honest when I bought this flat I was more concerned about the cost of strengthening work, which I might be faced with now, than the actual earthquake. Let's face it, if the fault line that runs through Wellington ruptures and we get a massive quake, heaps of houses and flats here will be toast. If you were really worried about earthquakes you wouldn't live in Wellington.

Tuesday and Wednesday weren't my best days (mental health-wise) but I improved towards the end of the week. Yesterday is a day I'd like to forget however. The atrocious weather made it a good day for online poker but I suffered my worst ever one-day loss (just over US$200). That didn't put me in the best of moods for a night out with Giuseppe at the Southern Cross (an enormous bar only a few minutes walk away, but as I'd never walked past it I never knew it was there). He brought two female friends along, and we listened to some music put on by the Alliance Française (which I used to be a member of); to be honest most of the music washed over me and I was glad we only stayed there two hours which seems to be my limit. Last night I almost wished I was back in Auckland, despite my misgivings about the place. At least I knew people who I felt comfortable around. And I wouldn't have bought an earthquake-prone building had I stayed there: they don't have many earthquakes and I couldn't have afforded a property anyway.

Talking of French music, at the waterfront market today two French blokes (with an accordion and a guitar) were playing this song by La Rue Ketanou (I preferred their version of it to the YouTube one).

Mum and Dad are currently in Turkey, on an organised two-week tour. I didn't think that would be their cup of tea, least of all Dad's, but they're enjoying it even if they're finding it a bit hot. They've emailed me using a Turkish keyboard which (like their alphabet) contains two I's, one with a dot and one without. İ don't thınk they quıte knew whıch İ to use where, so theır emaıl came out lookıng a lıttle weırd.

Monday, June 18, 2012

CBT: Change Begins Tomorrow (I hope)

A couple of times I've been to the depression group, it's just been me and a slightly oily half-Italian guy named Giuseppe. He invited me round to his house for dinner on Saturday. He made good food and he had a nice bunch of friends but still I was glad to get home.

I've been feeling reasonably good about things for the last ten days or so, but today I feel another depressive episode coming on. Maybe just being aware of the tide turning ("catching it early", if you like) might prevent it from going out on me completely. Controlling my breathing definitely helps.

Tomorrow I'm going to contact the Psychology Clinic at Massey University and see about getting some CBT, mainly around my social anxiety and lack of motivation. CBT has received a lot of positive reviews. It's surprising, given that I've had mental health problems since 2000, that I've so far managed to slip through the CBT net.

Did I mention that Andy got married last November? Well yesterday his wife gave birth to a girl. Life-changing stuff.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Last weekend I discovered Amadou & Mariam, the blind musical duo from Mali. Listen to this amazing song; I found it really uplifting. I'd like to get my hands on their latest album but haven't found it in any shops yet.

After work today I popped into Arty Bees, the bookshop on Manners Street that's open till at least nine every day (ten on Fridays and Saturdays). I'm guessing the name "Arty Bees" comes from the letters RTB, but I might be wrong about that. They had what sounded like French sixties music playing - I wanted to know who it was. I thought I'd try and catch some of the lyrics and Google them when I got home, but then I hit on the radical idea of actually asking the woman behind the counter. Talking to a real person to find out information, I know. It turned out it was Jacques Dutronc. Anyway I read the first couple of chapters of Bad Science before going to the depression group, which wasn't much of a group (just two of us) but at least I went, unlike last week when I simply couldn't face all that talk of dating.

The last book I read was Janet Frame's Intensive Care. My own mental state was sometimes fragile as I read the book; the plot didn't help my mood that much. Interestingly (and unexpectedly) the subject of autism was touched upon with the appearance of the likeable (for me) Milly Galbraith.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Momentum shifts

There has been a definite upswing in my mood since I last posted. Tonight we had the autism group: fourteen turned up including some new faces. I felt pretty comfortable for most of the evening (unlike last time). It was especially good to see Tracy (who missed the last meeting) and Danielle.
I'm sure Saturday's tramp helped matters, although I was already feeling better before then. We set off from Oriental Parade, then followed the Southern Walkway up to Mt Victoria (which I'm ashamed to say I hadn't been up before, having lived so close to it), finishing up at Island Bay. On the way we could see the South Island, specifically the Kaikoura ranges which were covered in snow. Nine of us did the trip, which wasn't anything like my experience from two months ago. The weather was surprisingly good - none of the forecast rain eventuated and we had plenty of sun.

After the tramp I went to the Penthouse in Brooklyn to see Margin Call, a movie about the 2008 financial crisis. It was a thriller that followed an investment bank over a very turbulent 24 hours. A jolly good watch it was too. Boy did it show you what an unreal world some of those investment bankers live and work in. From what I could tell (I might be completely wrong, and anyway it was just a story), most of the company's assets were in derivatives whose value depended on the volatility of the stock market being below a certain level. Above that level, everything would unravel. I do remember the stock market being extremely volatile in 2008.

Work is still much the same. I try my best not to make mistakes but still make them (and of course on days like last Tuesday and Wednesday when I'm battling depression, I make even more). It would be nice if such a big deal wasn't made of my errors; I really don't need all that orange highlighter pen. It's funny how certain mistakes don't seem to matter at all though, even though they clearly should. For instance the underwriters produce health-related questionnaires for the clients and sometimes the doctors to fill in. They're often very badly written and make us look unprofessional, but nobody seems to care. Last Thursday my boss took me through my APOs, which stands for "annual performance objectives". I don't work on that sort of time scale; I just try to get through each day.

Last Wednesday we were supposed to see the Transit of Venus (for the last time in our lifetimes) but unfortunately such a phenomenon relies a bit too heavily on being able to see the sun, which was absent all day.

The men's final at the French Open is hanging in the balance as rain halted play yesterday. Nadal seemed to have thwarted Djokovic's attempt to become the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four grand slams at once as he took a two-set lead and a 2-0 lead in the third. But Djokovic stormed back, winning six straight games to wrap up the set and then gaining an early break in the fourth. With such a momentum shift, the rain probably came at a good time for Nadal. The resumption of play is only a few minutes away but I need to sleep and anyway I haven't got Sky. Earlier Sharapova claimed the women's title and with it the world number one ranking.

Update: Nadal broke back immediately and took out the fourth set 7-5 to win his seventh French Open.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


The last two days have been a struggle. Everything just feels so hopeless. My performance at work has taken a hit, and that only makes me feel even more hopeless.

The depression group meets tomorrow night - inevitably they'll be talking about all the women they've been seeing. I'm not sure I can face that.

The weather has suddenly turned very ugly.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Arise Sir JK

I haven't posted for a while due to a distinct lack of news. I've just been chugging along without really knowing where I'm going. On 1st June I reduced my Efexor once more; in the absence of any 37.5 mg pills I've decided to take 150 and 225 on alternate days, meaning I effectively take half the maximum dose I was on earlier in the year.

My grandmother was given a good send-off in the mid-Wales town of Rhayader in which she grew up. A large contingent of family was there. Dad gave a very good speech by all accounts, as I imagine he would in a situation like that. He doesn't like talking in front of people, but in a way that gives a speech from him an extra (such as the one I remember him giving at his father's funeral in 1999). They had good weather - the decision to postpone the service from January worked out well. It's a shame I wasn't able to be there.

On Saturday I helped with Autism NZ's annual collection, standing outside New World for two hours. With the National government cutting funding, they need the money more than ever. I thought I'd feel embarrassed standing there but actually I didn't mind it one bit. The most anyone gave in my stint was $10; a few gave $5. I think if a $5 coin was introduced (probably bimetallic like the £2, €2 and a few others), you would see more people giving larger donations - there's a psychological barrier to giving a note.

This afternoon the six-foot-five bloke came round for a game of squash at the court in my apartment block. Well it wasn't exactly a game. I don't think he'd ever played before. We then had a game of bowling in town, followed by a game of pool. For some reason I felt uncomfortable all afternoon. He's quite into his poker and has played a fair bit live (I've never played live); he suggested we play in a $10 buy-in tournament at the Four Kings on Wednesday.

The Queen's Birthday honours came out today. I missed out again. John Kirwan was knighted, and rightly so for all his work with depression in New Zealand. Last weekend my cousin's husband (who I know has been having a tough time at work of late) borrowed my copy of JK's book, although he didn't say why. I still have one or two misgivings about that book, which on the whole was very positive. He had lots of people around him, plenty of money, and his All Black exploits to fall back on. A lot of sufferers of depression have no such luxuries.

On Wednesday I met up with Brendan for lunch - he was in Wellington for a couple of days. He had just officially changed his name for the second time.

Last week's news centred on the tragic story of the three New Zealand triplets who died in the Qatar mall fire, along with ten other children and six adults.

I've signed up for a tramp at the weekend. I hope it's not quite as arduous as the one I did in April.