One of my infrequent progress reports

It’s Saturday evening. We’re in the Bohemian (very swish, by Wolverhampton standards). We’re basking in the glory of a Wolves victory, albeit it’s only Barnsley, and albeit that we only grabbed it right it at the death. Conversation has somehow turned to my site. Don’t ask me how. I rarely if ever bring it up, I don’t like talking about it at any length. After a while, a good friend of mine says:

What you’ve got to know about Dan is…he doesn’t take praise well”

He’s absolutely right as well. I don’t. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me that my writing is good or whatever platitude they send my way, I can’t take it seriously. It’s not me being ungrateful or anything; quite the opposite. I can’t quite believe that people have actually donated money towards this venture (if I haven’t already thanked you individually, I really am grateful and I will get round to sending you something personal very soon), I don’t quite get that so many people actually want to read it. Unfortunately for all the various improvements I’ve made over the last four and a bit years, my self-esteem hasn’t really followed. It’s still something I badly need to work on and I know that. I don’t have the answer as to how that’s going to happen, but it does need to happen. I can’t go through the rest of my life feeling like I’m useless at everything, can I.

The point is that sadly, despite my best efforts, this hasn’t been a great couple of months since I last updated this section. It might be helpful at this point just to correct a few common misconceptions about what I mean when I say that:

  1. Being depressed or having a bad time doesn’t mean that I walk around 24/7 like Matt Doherty when he’s been asked to chase a ball 30 yards in front of him (sorry Matt. But it’s been a while since I dug you out. And you deserve it after the weekend. Console yourself with your new four year contract). I don’t have a permanent sulk on, I’m not bursting into tears all the time. Even if I were minded to do that, I’d hide it away. Many’s the time when I’ve been having an internal shocker but I’ve bluffed it out publicly. So you can’t really tell from just looking at me how I’m feeling.

  2. There isn’t necessarily any reason why I’m feeling like that. There doesn’t have to be a trigger. Sometimes there is; obviously the more bad things happen, the more likely it is that I’ll get upset, and in turn it’ll trigger my condition. But in general that isn’t how it works. There isn’t any reason – at least not that I can identify – why I can go from operating at 70-80% one day and then it’s 20-30% the next. It’s not an illness that discriminates based on circumstance. Look at the number of top-end athletes who have suffered from depression. They have, on the face of it, everything you could want; riches, doing something they invariably love, stardom, being at the absolute top of their respective game…and yet if it’s not right, it’s not right.

  3. Sometimes there isn’t anything you, I or anyone can do about it. Sure, you can be supportive and I really do appreciate that. But just because you make me laugh, or give me a hug, or remind me of a great time we’ve shared, that isn’t going to make it all go away. Believe me, if I could just snap my fingers and make it end, I would. I don’t wallow in this for effect. It’s fucking horrible. And sometimes we just have to wait for it to pass.

  4. I’m depressed, not suicidal. Not lately anyway. I don’t want to die or disappear. I just want to get better.

  5. Which leads me to this final point; I don’t think there is an immediate end to this, I’m afraid. It’s not something that’s necessarily totally curable. I’ve got a load better since 2013 and I continue down that path. But I don’t currently see it being something that I’ll ever be totally free from. It’s a condition to manage rather than eradicate. This is tough, you know. I don’t want to forever be that guy who’s depressed and a bit flaky. There’s no fun in that. For now though, I just have to accept it.

The upshot of all this – and I’d say it’s probably been about 50:50 in terms of good/bad days since say, July – is that of late I haven’t really felt like writing very much. I’ve tried, but I’m well aware it’s not been my best work and nor have I managed to put out sufficient volumes of it. I’ve definitely put too much pressure on myself to try to match the reach and impact of my piece on Financial Fair Play when realistically, that just isn’t viable when you’re writing reaction pieces to one specific match, for instance. I’ve sat there thinking that I can’t write at all and this has all been a folly of a project, which I know deep down isn’t true, even allowing for the low opinion I have of my own work a lot of the time. I’m trying to put that behind me and get back to it now, as best I can anyway.

The daft thing really is that if my mind allowed me to take feedback on board properly…I should be on top of the world now. As I say, every time I begrudgingly have to talk about what I do, there’s a load of praise. Everyone tells me how far I’ve come in the last few years, from rock bottom (as detailed in my last piece in this section) to now. I’ve got an amazing network of friends and if I were that terrible, then they wouldn’t hang around, would they. I know all this. I’m by instinct quite a logical person. But there’s a part of my mind that just can’t process all of that. When that manifests itself, it doesn’t matter what has been said or what evidence is there that everything is ok, it all turns negative.

One thing I’m conscious that I need to stop doing is to get away from dwelling on past mistakes. First up, there’s nothing I can do to change them. Secondly, they were all pretty much a long time ago, so much so that is may as well be ancient history. Thirdly, anyone who matters recognises that I’ve moved on from there and I’ve done my best to get back to being a decent person (at least, I like to think I am). So there’s no point in beating myself up over bad choices I made that were years and years ago.  I really am going to try to move away from that.

I’m also going to try to have a bit more faith in my own output. It’s not easy – I have a pretty terrible combination of long-standing ultra-low self-esteem to go along with a history where I went through a stage of someone constantly criticising my every walking move – but when people say it’s good, I have to believe them. I sure as shit wouldn’t have any problem taking on board feedback that said it was all a load of rubbish…so if I’m getting kind words, I have to try to take them in the faith in which they’re given. People aren’t just saying nice things to make me feel good. I don’t think so anyway.

One positive thing I have managed to maintain is to get myself out of the house pretty much every day and keep up an exercise regime which has meant I’ve lost a fair amount of weight and no longer resemble the Bluetones in the video for Marblehead Johnson. Now I live on my own and not really especially near any of my friends it would be easy for me to get a bit isolated; I need to keep getting out and about to avoid that.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, I’m doing pretty well. Everything is heading more or less in the right direction and the difference from where I was in the early part of the decade is night and day. It’s just that setbacks hurt me and I’m at a stage now where I’ve got so far and don’t seem to be able to climb that next little bit. Maybe I never will be able to do that. It won’t be for the want of trying though.

I’ll leave it to Liam to close it out. I think he says it more succinctly than I can. Thanks for reading, as always. I’ll get back to wittering on about football later in the week.

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