Saturday, 5 April 2014

Push the button

My hand shook slightly as I sat at the computer, the mouse pointer hovering over the Send button. My heart raced and my body felt electrified as a torrent of conflicting emotions fought for my attention.

I sat for a while and let them linger, savouring the delicious uncertainty.




It was a simple e-mail, and my boss was expecting it. I'd been working towards being able to send it with single-minded determination for so long, yet now that the moment had arrived it was terrifying. Sending it would be a step beyond the point of no return.

Sending it meant I was starting a 4 week notice period.

Sending it meant it was 4 weeks until I would officially become an unemployed climbing bum.







I hit send.

A few moments later, my boss looked over his shoulder and gave me a smile and a thumbs up... it was done.

The doubt gave way and a wave of euphoria washed through me. I was free. I felt giddy.

At some point I got an e-mail from HR outlining the exit procedures, and a few congratulations came in, but most of the afternoon was a blur.

After a decade in the city of London, I've called time. Time to try a new life at the opposite end of the spectrum - from my small part in greasing the path for large amounts of money to flow around the beating heart of the capitalist machine, to no fixed job and no fixed abode - an itinerant climber.

I've no doubt there will be moments over the next few weeks when I'll wonder if I've done the right thing, but when those moments come, I'll just have to remind myself of this simple truth:






See you all in the next life!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Rehab Psych

The last six months or so have been frustrated by injuries - shoulder, knee, hand, elbow... then just when I thought I was back on the road to fitness, another slipped disk. To use an old Scots phrase, I was fair scunnered.

I went to see a new physio who had some new ideas to compliment advice I'd had before, and initial progress was really good. However after a few weeks I got to a bit of a plateau of my own making.

I'm no stranger to injury, and I'm usually pretty good at taking a positive mental attitude to my rehab; but physio sucks at the best of times, and when nerve pain is involved it's excruciating. This is the third time my L5/S1 disk has gone in the space of a couple of years, and I've been finding it hard to push through the pain barrier.

I started casting around the web for inspiration, but UKC and /r/climbing didn't seem to be cutting it; fortunately help was at hand from sources closer to home.

First came the news that Tom "Slab Master" Le Fanu had climbed his first 8a. Next up were grainy pictures of a head-torch 8a+ ascent from rock athlete Jerome Mowat. Then along came the news that Adam "Beast" Brown had also ticked his first 8a.

Wow.
Le Fanu clearly had nothing left to even raise a celebratory smile after La Crema (8a) - photo by Adam Brown

Jerome making his outrageous head-torch ascent of  Brot de Fonol (8a+) - photo by Adam Brown

News of some incredible feat by a top climber is really just that; news. But hearing of friends achievements is something else - you know the work they've put in, the highs and the lows, because you've been there with them.

You can feel the buzz they felt when they first thought "this can go". You can feel the deflation they felt when for the next few attempts it didn't. And you can feel the elation they felt when they clipped the chains.

And as great as those vicarious feelings are, you want it all back for real.

Next morning, two insightful blog posts appeared with some excellent photographs and a bit of an old-school vibe. Ramon "discovering Suirana" with the afore-mentioned team of UK based crankers, and Nicola going back to the world of multi-pitch slabs in Italy. It was particularly useful to see new pictures of Finale... I'm going to be there in a few months time, and it reminded me I want to be fit.

A couple of days later, Jerome also put up a great account of his end to the trip.

Thanks to these guys, I've been back in the basement shower room before work, during lunchtimes and after hours for the last two weeks doing back bends till I think I'm going to vomit and poking around in my lower back and glutes with tennis balls, golf balls and rollers till I feel close to passing out.

And it's working.

I *will* make it back to full fitness before our departure date, with a bit of hard work, gritted teeth, and a little help from my friends.

I'll leave you with a great reply and picture I got from Adam when I mailed him for the lowdown:

The one attached is of us just after we each ticked our projects in a very crazy 2 hour window on the last night of the trip. It was honestly the craziest couple of hours of my life. We'd gone back down to the crag (after a 4 hour siesta!) all feeling weak and lazy and unable even to do the easy bits of our project to get warmed up - I think objectively I gave Tom a 30% chance of getting the tick; me 10% and Jerome (on a different proj) also 10%. Then suddenly it all happened - 30 mins later Tom had ticked his second 8a; then I had done my first; but the fact that we'd both succeeded meant Jerome had to crank in the dark. Instead of being down on his chances (esp since he hadn't even managed the crux move in isolation at that point) he just tied on and did the thing. I think we were all in a state of shock (Fatima and Rachel saw us and I think they thought we were mad!). Psyche like that is definitely contagious...!

Indeed it is, Mr Brown. Indeed it is.

Team Psych after a their night of glory


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

London

Tower Bridge


Coming into London at 7:30 on a sunny morning, you see a city at peace.

Early risers stroll to the office across London Bridge while behind them the sun rises over Tower Bridge, creating a spectacular silhouette of another time.

Joggers pad along the Thames embankment to the sound of water pushing past concrete. Seagulls cry out as they circle the river looking for food. A boat goes past, creating a wash that swooshes through rotting timbers, perhaps depositing another old clay pipe on the stony bank.

For a time, it's almost enough to make me forget the madness I'm so keen to escape...

A peaceful Thames

... almost.

It's hard to relax in this city - quiet moments are snatched but you always know that chaos is just around the corner.

The traffic will swell and in an hour London Bridge will once more become a teeming mass of suits, streaming out from the station like ants leaving the nest. Desperate to reach their financial factories on time, they probably won't notice the beauty of tower bridge or the contrasting steel and glass buildings shining in the sun. London does that - it blinkers you.

Some will escape the confines of the office for a lunchtime stroll or a run by the river, but most won't - they'll have lunchtime meetings and sandwiches at desks; wasting away lives in the pursuit of a better postcode, a faster car, a bigger bonus, and perhaps a trophy wife... or maybe just - as I did for so long - to blow it all on going out in the evenings.

I arrive at the gym for my physio appointment - many who like a physical challenge are here before work, pumping iron or pounding away on stationary bikes and treadmills under LED lighting, while the sun shines on a beautiful day outside.

It reminds me of myself over the last few years.

The climbing gym was my second home. Pulling on plastic till my fingers blistered, my elbows inflamed and my body ached in pursuit of strength and stamina... yet seldom did I touch rock.

Endless laps of the pool, following the black line, trying to improve speed and endurance... but rarely tasting salt in place of chlorine.

Even on the bike, I spent more time circling Richmond park to see if I was getting faster than I did exploring new places.

Everything became results driven - training for sport climbing grades and triathlon race times. Constantly living for that next great experience, not the good one I could be having today.


The Walkie Talkie building


Looking back, I don't really understand how I fell into this world. I remember the choices that got me here, I just don't know why I took them. It was never an ambition to work in the city - I grew up fishing, mountain biking and hill walking, getting stoned, taking mushrooms and dancing the night away shit-faced on amphetamines and alcohol. Life was about the now, never about the future, and I thought it would always be like that.

I remember laughing at a high school classmate who told me of his plan to come down here, work hard, make his fortune and retire early. To me, back then, it sounded like a lot of effort into something you wouldn't enjoy. As it does now. Somehow, somewhere in between, I lost sight of that.

Yes, on reflection there just aren't enough of the beautiful moments here to justify putting up with the hectic pace. I've made a lot of good friends in this city - and those I will miss dearly - but the rat race? I don't think so.

It's time to go back to being true to myself, living life for the kicks and the creation of memories; spending my energy on having fun... except perhaps this time with less of the drink and drugs.

I'll leave you with one of the best little life philosophy videos I've come across in some time. If I ever question the wisdom of what I'm doing between now quitting my job to get on the road, I'll just have to play this one again.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Facing the voice

Crippling self-doubt is an insidious enemy. A whispering voice, so persistent and pervasive it becomes invisible - like the tip of your nose, always in your field of vision but never seen.

But like your nose, if you choose to look there it is. A voice that puts a negative spin on everything.

you can't do this....you'll embarrass yourself.... what are you doing?... what if this goes wrong?

Over the past six months of counselling I've become much more aware of that voice in my daily life. I knew negative self-image was a problem, but it took a while to see this mechanism controlling my behaviour.

As I progressed, it became apparent that although I'd broken the mold for new activities, I'd yet to improve an established negative pattern. I decided I wanted to challenge this, but I wanted to start with something fairly unimportant - something that wouldn't push me back into my shell if I failed.

My pool game seemed to fit the bill. I played for most of my life but gave away my cue a couple of years ago, telling people who asked that I'd become bored of the game. In truth I'd grown frustrated at my inability to progress.

So a couple of months ago I began popping into my old local a couple of evenings a week. I was rusty so to begin with I avoided the urge to take things seriously; concentrating on having fun and getting my cue arm into working order.

After a few weeks I started to pay attention to the internal monologue and sure enough there was a strong correlation between the quality of my shots and my state of mind - negative thoughts resulting in cueing across the white, snatching at shots, standing up before I'd finished the stroke... all the classic mistakes.

As I started to get a bit more into the flow, it was interesting to see the difference between my self-image and others perceptions; I was still getting frustrated at my lack of consistency while Paul was joking about looking forward to me leaving the country so he wouldn't have to play me.

Last week however, I felt I was cueing nicely from my first game. Chris got on the black first and tried a trick shot - normal etiquette would require I do the same, but I was only thinking of testing my striking so I set up a long straight pot and hit it hard.

Much to my satisfaction it went straight down the middle of the bag, but it riled Chris a bit and the banter he took as I won the next two didn't help. When I asked if the hat-trick meant I could take him home and put him on the mantle piece he issued a challenge: play for a drink, first to four, you get to keep your three frame head start.

Sounds easy, but Chris is a good player and very strong tactically, which makes him a hard man to beat when he's taking things seriously.

The next game was a tight, tactical battle and although Chris came out on top, I was pleased with the way I'd played it.

3-1

Another tactical affair followed and this time I engineered a good chance to clean up, but couldn't close it out.

3-2

See? You're no good under pressure, never were.... not even a friendly bet with a mate.... always bottling it when you get near the finish line... he's going to humiliate you from 3-0 up...

Game six I was first to a decent chance - easy starter pot, all my reds available, just the black tied up. I put together a solid break, potting cleanly up to the last red. I looked at the black - it was nestled between two yellows on the top cushion.

I didn't have the intended angle to disturb it off the pot, and I could see only one possibility to finish - play it off the cushion and catch the yellow to stun two feet along the rail. The balls were so close together that the margins were ridiculous.

You'll never make that, and you'll look a fool for trying... lay the red over the bag and see if Chris makes a mess of it... there's no shame if he closes out, you gave it your best shot... don't risk making an arse of yourself...

I decided to knock the red in and screw back a couple of inches to have a go at the black.

I addressed the table.

You'll never make it now, you've put yourself under pressure with that daft black idea, you won't even pot the red... how stupid are you going to look lining up an outrageous black and not even making the red...

I stood up off the shot.

Now you've done it... don't get up once you're lining the shot... if you go down again and miss you look foolish for not going through with the first attempt...

Time to interrupt.

The red is well within your repertoire. Ignore the black. Relax, pot the red, and put the white right there. That's your crux move for now, so focus on it. Nothing else. Do you know you can pot this? Good. Are you relaxed? Good. Now get down to the shot. Line it up. Relax your cue hand. Keep your head still. Push through the shot. Perfect.

Have a good look at the angles, take your time, nothing else matters. Don't be distracted by the other people in the room. Happy? Good. Repeat the drill.


The black cannoned almost perfectly and rolled down the rail. It jawed in the pocket... and stayed up.

With a wry grin on my face I stamped a foot in mock frustration as I turned away, but in truth I was happy. Whether I got back to the table or not, I'd won my first small victory in the war against that voice, and that was a lot more important that proving a point to an old friend.

Back in the pub last night the nagging was still there but it was much easier to keep it down, and I found myself taking on pots with great confidence. In one game alone I pulled three straight out of the top drawer - the last dead weight up and down the length of the full table to get out of a snooker, pot my last ball, flick the black and land perfectly on it to the same pocket. I'd have been absolutely stoked with that shot when I was playing regularly.

It's a shame I won't be hanging around long enough to have a crack at getting back in the team, and there is of course a huge difference between silencing the voice in a friendly environment and doing it under genuine pressure, but I've proven a valuable point to myself: breaking established patterns can be done.

I know that turning around a lifetime of negative thinking will be a long, hard road, but it's good to know I've taken those first baby steps.

Thanks Chris, your timing was impeccable.

Chris sinking a confident long pot.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The perfect day

Sitting in the dark, scooping beans from the tin with a spoon fashioned from the top of the empty milk carton that will later become my breakfast bowl, I feel happy. A deeply relaxed happiness I haven't felt for some time. I'm content just to be. Just to sit. Just to listen to the sea.

I drift off to sleep to the sound of a guitar from the camp in the trees behind the beach. Some time later I wake feeling cold and climb into my sleeping bag. The moon is unusually bright now, lighting up the beach like a weak, white sun. I fall asleep again easily, and sleep soundly until the real daylight arrives - waking in time to wander across the beach and sit on the rocks, watching the sun come up over the sea.

A man in a loin cloth and sandals appears and walks to the water's edge, stripping naked and swimming out towards the rising sun. The dog that had been sleeping outside a tent further up the beach wanders over to say hello. The naked swimmer returns to the beach and stands facing the sun, eyes closed, meditating. His partner arrives and joins him. Two more people come down onto the sand with rugs to do morning yoga.

I take my sleeping mat and walk out to face the sun too. 


Normally I'm distracted while I practice - it's hard not to think about getting finished and the day that is to come. Today is not like that. I'm not counting breaths till the next pose, I'm listening to my body as it awakens. Relaxing into the stretches with each outward breath until I reach my limit, then holding for a while. Waiting. My mind is with my body in the asana today.

After resting a while, I strip too and go for a swim, feeling the warm Mediterranean lapping against my skin, then come out to lie in the sun.

This feels like how life should be.


The previous morning I was in a hurry. I'd arrived in the airport at Palma with the intention of climbing non-stop for 9 days, super-psyched for the Deep Water Soloing. I was rather unprepared - I'd packed in a last-minute scramble and couldn't find my guidebook. I was planning on bivying, but I'd come with hand luggage only so I couldn't bring a knife. I'd left my plate, cup, fork and spoon sitting on the bed in the van.

I'd driven straight across the island, hooked up with Jerome at Cala Barques and got stuck into the climbing. I warmed up on Hercules (6c) with surprising ease and then tried to repeat Metrosexual (7a+), taking a lot of falls on the high crux. Despite my lack of recent sport climbing, I felt in decent form.

I almost changed my mind on bivying when Delphine said they had a spare bed, but I'm glad I didn't. Waking up on the beach I realised I had a lot more to gain from kicking back and getting in tune with myself on this holiday than I would from obsessing about cranking out projects.

I decided to leave my climbing shoes in my bag and sit on the beach watching the day go past.

The guys in the camp made their way down to the beach as the morning progressed and spent the day there - some doing DWS, some having a swim, some having a beer. They had a sea kayak and every so often someone would take it for a paddle along the coast. One girl had a little stall selling earrings to the tourists. They sang a lot. They laughed a lot. They give the impression that life is rather good when you stop taking it seriously.

The guitar player, with a rough but tuneful voice - ideally suited to the reggae beats he favoured - played with boundless enthusiasm. He started in the morning as everyone else was stretching and making coffee. He had a blast in the afternoon while the tourists covered the beach. And round the campfire at night, off he went again. Another guitar joined in sometimes, and a couple of djembe drums, but at the heart of it was always his voice.

The beach swelled with tourists in the afternoon, boats appeared and moored up in the bay. Large catamarans teeming with sight-seers swung past - stopping to take pictures of the caves, before heading to the next attraction.

I sat on the beach. When I got tired I snoozed. When I got hungry I ate. When I got thirsty I drank. When I got hot, I swam. And in between I did nothing more than sit and think.

The boats left. The sun started to disappear over the hill. The sunbathers began to pack up, the beach slowly emptying until all that was left was that group sitting round a guitar.

The light faded out and they too made their way back into the trees.

I lay on my back watching the stars come out. The moon rose casting it's cold light across the beach once more. I climbed into my sleeping bag and drifted off to sleep. I'd spoken to nobody and distracted myself with no books, no games, no internet. I'd spent the day with the company of my own head and felt neither restless nor concerned.

Content. Happy to just be. The perfect day.

Sunrise at Cala Barques

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Orco proper

First full day in Orco, we woke up to blue skies and drying rock. The rain was supposed to return around 5pm, so we decided to try for one multi-pitch before it did. After a long breakfast waiting for the sun and wind to do their magic, we headed to Torre de Aimonin. Me and Adam jumped on a nice easy line called Spigolo (6a+). After the head fuck the day before I was happy for something that wasn't going to be too much of a stretch.

It started to rain with two pitches to go, but we managed to finish and rap down before it got too heavy.

Up high and a bit soggy on the first day. Photo by Adam Brown

We figured we'd squeezed what we could out of the day... however after dinner, a couple of beers, and a few glasses of vino, Nic had other ideas. He decided we should have a go at the Kosterlitz crack - an F6b hand crack up the middle of a large boulder, with the crux at the start making it a reasonable highball. In the dark. After pouring rain.

We were never going to manage it, but we had a good laugh trying.

We did go back to it in better conditions later in the trip, Adam and Nic sending it in short order, whilst I struggled manfully... I gave it a good go, and got within one move of the better jams on several occasions, but it wasn't to be for this trip.

Adam crushing the Kosterlitz, spotted by a crazy Italian... probably the most psyched guy you ever met.

Next morning we went back to Aimonin - Nic and Ramon to redpoint the heinous slabs of Unna Notte A Thaiti (6c) (which had given them some trouble in the rain the day before), while me and Adam got on a 6c multi-pitch called La Casa Degli Specchi. The first pitch was a fierce 6b+, reminiscent of Test Case at Pembroke, but harder. I let Adam have the lead, and he had a really good go for someone pulling straight on without a warmup, taking one fall going for it with total commitment, before finishing the pitch.

After dogging my way up that I got an amazing traverse under a roof, with wild moves, but which turned out to match the guidebook description "more psychological than technical".

Adam got a really nice flake, then I got an "easy" 4c.

After traversing up a crack line, I was faced with a 15m rising slab traverse, that looked totally devoid of gear. "more psychological than technical" popped into my mind again. As it turned out, after about 10m there was a hidden peg that cheered me up immensely, only to be given cause for thought again by a section of fairly loose rock above.

I'd ran two pitches together, giving Adam the highlight of the route - a 6c crack climb way above the valley floor. He did kindly offer to let me to block lead, but I figured he deserved it for his patience in the first couple of days.

In the end, it was probably a good thing anyway - I doubt I'd have done the first 8m of unprotected climbing from a cam just above the belay. It was desperate on second - I had to dyno to a flatty that looked good from below but turned out to be just about usable. Adam has balls, there's no doubt about that.

I flashed the pitch on second, and was absolutely stoked with that... top rope or not, flashing 6c crack climbs would have been beyond my wildest dreams a few weeks ago - seems I learned a lot in those couple of weekends in Millstone.

Tuesday morning dawned bright and blue. Rob and Lee, a couple of English lads we'd met earlier in the week had size 5 and 6 camalots they weren't using, so they kindly let myself and Adam take them on La Fessura della Disperazione (6a+) - an aptly named 3 pitch off-width crack.

I went for the first pitch - a rising traverse along the rather well defined fissure. After a few meters outside the crack I arranged some gear, dropped my leg in, and started udging along. Shuffling the size 5 along in front of me I edged my way forwards.

It's a strange feeling, relying on one piece of gear to keep you off the ground - and I really had to give myself a good talking to - but eventually made it to a peg half way along and was able to relax and move a bit more freely to the belay.

Adam started pitch two, and immediately found himself in some difficulties... this crack was much harder. It was a pretty tense belay for a while, until he left the number 5 behind and started with the number 6. Knowing he had two bits of gear between him and a factor two onto the belay made life happier for me, and I'm sure for him too.

I started out along the crack on second, and found the number 5 overcammed and totally wedged. It was not a good place to be stopped fiddling around, and by the time I got it out I was already gasping for air... and the pitch was hardly started.

What followed was one of the biggest fights of my life, and by the time I reached the belay I was retching, and thought I was going to vomit.

Facing me now was a 10m vertical chicken-wing off width, which then widened out into a full-body crack. I really had to psych myself to get started, but eventually the nausea subsided and felt ready to go.

I placed a few small cams on a crack out to the left to protect the belay, then started up the crack. It was size 6 camelot all the way. Just below the top of the vertical section, about a meter from the first rest, I reached a widening where the cam would not fit. I was boxed. My fingers were opening, my right foot was slipping, and my brain was red-lining.

Instead of leaving the cam and pulling out to go for the rest, I desperately fought to get the cam up higher where it narrowed again. I almost fell out of the crack with the cam in my hand. I just managed to get it back down in position as my hand and foot gave way, and I sagged onto my protection. So near, yet so far. I was completely spent.

I took a few minutes resting on the cam but didn't recover much, so I lowered down and let Adam lead the pitch. He put on a brilliant show to nail the flash - laybacking the crack and making it easy where I'd blown myself out trying to udge up inside.

Sitting on the belay, I wondered had I tried hard enough... had I given everything I had? It felt pretty close, maybe just too many wrong choices finished me off. I guess it was a hard route to pick for my first off-width.

It beat me up and spat me out, but it truly is an amazing experience - not to be missed.

We finished the day on a beautiful thin hands crack called Incastromania (6a). Adam onsighting it, and I cleaded it on second.

Adam on Incastromania

We decided Ramon and Nic should not know how broken we felt, so we did all we could to look fit walking off. In truth, I was a broken man.

Our sandbag worked... the guys got on it the next day. Nic seemed to quite enjoy himself, although Ramon ended up as beaten as I was.

Nic running it out on the third pitch of La Fessura della Disperazione

Ramon gurning his way up the crack


Karma had the last laugh though - I had tweaked my groin on that attempt, and after laughing at Ramon, as I walked over to the next sector I slipped off the path and pulled it properly.

On the last day, I tried to have a go at a classic 6c multipitch called The Rattlesnake, and although I only made it up two pitches before I had to retire, climbing the Orrechio de Pachiderma flake made it  worth having the go, for sure.

Nicola on the Orrechio... an amazing pitch
Rattlesnake finishes up the overhanging offwidth in the middle of the picture... I must go back and try this line again.


Injuries aside, a great time was had, and I will no doubt be back again. In fact, I think the year long Tour De Mediterranean with Clare may just have found a new starting place... she loves the peak so Orco should blow her away - it's like gritstone on steroids.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Driving to Orco

Sitting in the van driving down to the alps my head is in a total mess. Dark, confusing thoughts come in sickening waves. Fuck no... not now... not this week. I'm supposed to be heading down to Orco for a break. It's not going to be much of a break if I'm feeling like this.

Luckily getting on Adam's insurance was too expensive, so I'm able to sit and ride it out while him and Ramon take turns behind the wheel. I sleep restlessly in spells, and try to detach myself from my thoughts - observing the stream but attempting not to judge. It's not an easy thing to do, but it does help figure things out.


Publishing my last blog post was a pretty big thing.

Not the writing bit - that was easy. Sitting at work the morning after, the story was burning inside waiting to get out. I had to take lunch early, I put pen to paper, and it just came out in one stream. I barely registered what I was writing, and the process felt very therapeutic.

But publishing it was different. Publishing fed right into my insecurities. I barely slept a wink for the next couple of nights... what would people think... are they laughing at me? or worse, are they pitying me?

I got a good response though, and I knew that as uncomfortable as it was, facing those insecurities in public was a good thing. Like standing on a ledge arranging protection, getting ready for a difficult and run-out crux. You can back down and learn nothing, or commit and find out what you're made of.

I was glad I had committed, and so those thoughts had already started to die down by the time I left work on Friday evening, and raced across London to catch my lift. Something else was going on, something unsettling lurking in the back of my mind.

It took me a while, but eventually I realised - the last time I came to the alps it was a pretty difficult time in my personal life. Someone very important to me was very unwell, and I had found myself lost for a while. Desperate to help but unable to do so, I felt helpless. It's horrible to be in such a beautiful place but unable to let go and enjoy the moment for fear of what might be.

There were clearly some bad associations left over, and my subconscious needed some time to wrestle with them and cast them out. I hadn't quite done that by the time we got here - arriving on Saturday afternoon we headed straight to the crag and I really struggled. On simple warm up routes I was petrified. I didn't trust the rock, I didn't trust the gear I was placing, I didn't trust my feet and I didn't trust myself to make the right decisions. My self confidence was just shot to pieces, in the one place where felt I should have it.

I let Adam know what was going on, and he was very understanding - offering encouragement but no pressure to get on with things. That, a good curry, and a good nights sleep, and I woke up feeling like a different person.

Thank fuck, the holiday could start.

The counselling has been a confusing process - some days the sessions feel hard but the after-effects are easy. Other times the sessions seem innocuous, but touch a nerve deep inside and all hell breaks loose in my head at a later point. Sometimes it lasts moments, sometimes hours, sometimes days. I think that randomness is the hard bit.

But like everything in life, the hard work is required if you want to get somewhere - and I really do feel like I'm getting somewhere now. The bad days are getting less severe, and the gaps between them getting longer. I know now that there will be no quick fix, I'm on a journey of self-improvement that will take the rest of my life.

It's a journey that's worth being on.