On Escapism: The 2 reasons those drugs won’t work

I should tell you that as I begin writing this I’m considering whether to pop an opiate, a benzo, both, or neither.

“Should I take it/them before writing? Will I be lucid enough if they kick in? They’re not strong doses, but I’m allowed to take three at once… What dose is a strong dose? What can I get away with here?

“Mid-writing? Best of both worlds. Do some sober writing, and then experience a bit of wacky writing, see what happens…”

The other option of course is to take the drugs for the medical condition for which they’ve been prescribed. In a minute. Or now. It doesn’t matter.

They seem like innocent, innocuous questions. But there’s a hell of a lot going on behind those debates. For me – maybe for you too.

This is your brain on(/anticipating) drugs. *frying pan*

***

Walking home from the doctors surgery (still free at the point of use in early 2017) with a bag full of pain-relief, Fleetwood Mac lights up my 2007 3rd gen iPod nano.

(…bought with my first bit of student loan – did ’07’s Apple Inc. team miss the planned obsolescence memo or something? Or did they only officially incorporate it as policy later this decade? I remain gratefully stunned. Hang in there, my square little buddy.)

‘Never Going Back Again’ was one of those songs that came up during a transition period for both my mental/emotional health and my iTunes library, and if I remember rightly it was around Christmas a few years back, when the feels stakes are unavoidably higher. So Me and It have got one of them nostalgia links, formed by my desire not to fall back into old patterns of behaviour; the ones that killed me, for a while.

Now, for the first time, my mind is (arguably) in better shape than my body. I’ve just been told by a number of health professionals (some standing to profit, some not) that my x-rays show ‘spinal decay’ (basically arthritis of the spine, or at least it will be if I don’t do something about it) and muscles full of scar tissue. That explains the decade of back pain, and the current spasming that’s causing the involuntary yelping that’s causing the embarrassment in public.

My first desire was to GET SOME SWEET SWEET DRUGZ to relieve the pain. I even consciously determined, as I staggered to the GP, that if I was given a script it would likely be for valium or codeine – neither of which I’ve taken or been prescribed before. I didn’t realise, but I see now that I felt a bit excited.

I got given both.

My second desire, on the sunny stagger home, became something else. Somehow, it became not the desire to be able to move freely in the absence of muscular pain – how dull, basic. It was to sit outside in the winter/spring sun and while away some hours running free from the anxiety and anger that have recently colonised my brain again. (Yippee.)

It was to experience freedom from weight, anticipation, doubt, fear, connection, recognition, association, need, responsibility, contact, regard, honesty, faculty and understanding.

It was to throw myself into the dive, falling with no fallout, into the luxury that science and society has finally and rightfully allowed me. I’ve had enough anguish again today, thanks. And I have this paper that says I don’t have to. SEE YA.

How many valium is too many valium, really?

Lindsey Buckingham, but particularly Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks’ harmonies at 48s in, pulled me out of that smug, and into tears. Into admitting that tired, angry, frightened me is still strong somewhere, and she keeps forgetting to work with the rest of me, and what I know and need, and it’s kind of dangerous. Frightened me will do frightening things.

***

In giving up the ‘freedoms’ and faculties above, I give up my power. In not being there, attending to anxiety, anger, or anything else – whether that’s SMASHING THEM, or just working out why they’re there, what for, and better understanding them, which is kind of the same – I crush what is a burgeoning, and still fragile power.

You can use drugs to forge connection, sure. “Smoking and drinking are social, though – ” yeah, I get it. Short-term relief can seem nice. I could sit around abusing painkillers and downers with people, and find some things that we already had in common. They’re also incredibly addictive, mentally and physically debilitating, and a short term plug that’s easy to abuse or misunderstand as a ‘cure’ to my problem(s); a way to avoid governing myself or my vicinity.

Don’t pretend the high will last into significance. It’s not going to fix the fact that I could have sorted my back out years ago if I’d just paid attention to it instead of weed, how to fit in with obnoxious people, and whether or not the apocalypse was coming (it was/is.)

Gone are the days for chemical denial. Only recognition of all that’s good and bad. Just maybe not all at once. Whatever you can manage at a time. As long as you’ve got a variety of the two and how they make up the in-between that we live in.

Can’t deny that YouTube tutorials for physio core workouts have been available since I bought my iPod, and it’s high time I sorted my life out by doing that, instead of abusing (rather than properly using) substances.

Getting fucked up isn’t going to change the world around you. Plus not getting fucked up all the time is just a nicer life.

***

Reason 1: all life is suffering, and we live in a relative universe. work with that.

Reason 2: you’d be a complete asshole if you went around pretending everything was roses

Just so we’re clear, please do escape. Frequently. Just do something that doesn’t wreck and stunt you and, you know, maybe even benefits you or other people.

***

FOR FREE. BECAUSE I’M IN NEED. I’m looking at you GOP. We all are.

The Oneness is the Greatest – #SanctumBristol

Every time I have read about spirituality, and usually when I am reading anything vaguely self-help-y, and sometimes when I am trawling through the Internet, there is a message that keeps coming back. That we are one. All of life, all of the Universe is, or is part of, the same organism, essence, energy.

I’m not too interested in debating or justifying this though I’ll happily discuss it, and often do, when someone is willing to engage with the idea. But without any religion, I have always believed that somehow we are all connected. I don’t know why, and I can’t really explain it. I don’t need to.

My best friend believes that we are imbued with the Holy Spirit, the same spirit of her God; my other best friend is an atheist, but does believes that we each have a soul, or spirit of some kind, and that we are connected to each other through mutual dependence and a moral responsibility to each other, simply by being alive and in proximity.

I’m not sure I can describe my experience of ‘oneness’, other than to say that at times I feel a connection, an emotional mirroring, and a rush and pull so visceral that it’s frightening, as though the soul I haven’t yet decided whether or not I have is being clamped and dragged from my body. I often shut that feeling down, especially since this happens most often when I am faced with the pain of others. Pain I’d rather not feel with no power to act on it, that’s not mine to fully grasp anyway, that’s distorted and egged on by my imagination and my adrenal glands.

This oneness, connection, is both physical and mental. My partner believes that those two things are one and the same. Billions of us believe billions of things; and thus, we are all potentially as different, and potentially as similar, as we can be. Our consciousness, and the oneness, are Schroedinger’s Cats.

Last Sunday, I arrived to see my friend Sara perform at #SanctumBristol. For an hour, every single day, throughout the entirety of the installation, she has been singing, in Arabic, a call to prayer. Sara wrote the translation of her prayer on the chalkboard for us, and asked everyone to face the back right-hand corner of the structure; in the direction of Iran, her country of heritage. The chalkboard read:

The Oneness is the Greatest

I testify that there is no God greater than the Oneness

Come to Sanctuary

Come to prayer

The Oneness is the Greatest

There is no God greater than the Oneness.

It was bright and early in the morning. There was cold wintery sunlight eking everywhere and showing us everything it possibly could. I sat in the newest and most beautiful structure in my city, holding a hot cup of tea, sheltered from the damp outside and swaddled in a large scarf, and felt lucky and happy. I listened to Sara’s strong and worn voice, a vocal offering of connection with the Oneness; with anyone who cared to listen; with anyone who happened to turn up that morning; with Iran; with you; with me. As she began and continued to sing I felt a rush, an impact. A connection with so much and so many that overwhelmed me in its torrent – but for a second, an instant. A collision of whatever that fist inside my chest is that punches up and out and forces me to breathe deeper than before and open my eyes with the hope of seeing something. I see nothing out of the ordinary, simply what was there the second before, and the second before that, but I feel so many tiny fingers and roots and cracks of life surging in one single snap through every neuron and each bronchi. Between my consciousness and others’ spirits must be so much recognition, so much obscurity and all at once and altogether and if only we could have it. Hold it. And actually know each other. In all our generosity. In all our violence. In all our carefree and carelessness.

The connections, the Oneness, was, as always, too quick for me to comprehend. As I faced the feelings of fear that gathered from my seat and crowned over my head I breathed and listened to the river of Sara’s voice. So much possibility and so much pain, so much potential for downfall and excitement and creation and admission and revelation, and the only limitation that will exist will be the boundaries that I put up, as healthy as they are, to fend off the onslaught of life. It was terrifying, exhilarating and I felt the luck and the happiness and the nausea and the hatred and the absolute bewilderment and everything else contained in my life so far, to the fullest.

emotional at sanctum bristol during Sara's call to prayer
This is what that looks like. I think it feels better than it looks. Photo by Max McClure, courtesy of Situations.

I’d never felt lucky or happy until recently. As I’ve grown I’ve stood and faced the Oneness whenever I could, but most often it’s thrown me to the ground, and I’ve knelt, head bowed, pleading, tempering myself and waiting sheepishly while it ticks, silently, potentially sinister. But whilst there, with a good view of the foundations beneath me I’ve gathered my blessings, my connections, my feet and my sight and I’ve waited again. And each time stood to face the Oneness. And last Sunday I sat and soaked up Sara’s singing it to me.

In the last week, the week that followed, were several more terrorist attacks that have become so frequent that they only really rock us if just across the way. More people lost their children, the loves of their lives, the people who cared for them, the people who provided them with their lifelines. Sara texted to ask that we be with her as she carried on, for an hour, every day, performing, rejoicing, calling for us to be One. Asking that we connect with her, as she continued her connection, while life once again seems to repudiate, abandon, and rip our fragile togetherness away from us.

Billions of us believe billions of things. We are all potentially as different and potentially as similar as we can be. Be aware of yourself as a perpetrator. Are you responding, or maintaining our global supply of revenge?

I don’t know what the Oneness is. I only know that we are together, and there is no choice other than to be together. What a threat, what an opportunity. I am thankful that on a Sunday morning I no longer hide under soft duvet barricades, and useless chemical clouds, but rise to connect with a friend, to hear a city, to seek the Oneness.

Come to Sanctuary. There is no God greater than the Oneness. The Oneness is the greatest.

———————————————————————————-

I wrote this for my Sanctum performance on Mon 16th November 2015. I managed to get a slot directly after Sara – it was a wonderful experience. Many thanks to Situations for having me, there’s only three days left of Sanctum, get down there while it lasts.

performing at sanctum bristol

Be the food you wish to see in the world.

I’ve never spoken about this publicly before.

After a month of feeling ambivalent towards my health, my work, and whether or not it would actually be preferable for the crash of civilisation to just hurry up and happen so whoever was left could start again, I read something that made me feel a bit better. I wrote the writer a letter because maybe someone else’s writing could make her feel sane, too.

PS: while we’re on food, we really need to sort out the food and agricultural industries. Have you seen them?! They’re completely fucked. If anyone works out how, please email me. No wonder I find it so hard to eat properly, when they make it so difficult. – Ed.

———————-

Caroline –

I just read your article on Adios Barbie. You might have just saved me from a long road back, or at least helped nudge my tunnel vision off track.

I have had various, and almost constant, eating disorders since I was twelve, and they came to a head about three years ago. At that point, I sought therapy and at the same time went to the library to read up – I found a book called ‘When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies‘, which was a mouthful to keep repeating to my Mum when I frequently enthused about it, and which outlined the ideas of both emotional and intuitive eating (which I’d never heard of before.) It helped me to dedicate myself to the beautifully messy art of eating whatever I needed and whenever I wanted, and I even became a sometimes happy and joyful person in the process (which you should be impressed by, because I’m a neurotic, middle-class anxious person by nature, down to having glasses very similar to Woody Allen’s [I was prescribed those, they aren’t natural.])

My weight subsequently levelled out by itself, a few times – in the latest of these level-ings last month, I didn’t even notice. I’ve just fallen quickly into a new relationship with a man I might well love forever, and to discuss all the fear that comes with being happy because someone else temporarily exists, I went to see an old friend I needed to catch up with. She quickly noted my recent weight loss (she is one of the few who I told of my eating disorder when it got really bad, and is often attentive to changes in my appearance [not always helpful – though, of course, well-intentioned]) and almost immediately I was thrown into a hyper-vigilant state of weighing myself ‘just to check’ and ‘out of curiosity’, privately adamant I would not put anything back on because ‘this is how much I weigh now’, accompanied by the physical sensation of sugar coursing through my veins any time I ate anything wheat-based.

The most perverse part of this turn in the last few weeks has been the genuine belief that eating small amounts of very healthy food (the bare minimum I need to stop my heart from palpitating and my mood spiralling, of course) will protect me from freaking out about putting on weight, and having to fully restrict.

I’m dieting to ‘protect’ myself from having to diet.

One half of my brain watches all this pain unravel from the luxury box seats in my psyche, knowing it’s all bullshit, feeling superior, facilitating it all the while; the other really desperately wants to feel ok again, and doesn’t understand why that feeling suddenly left me, and craves sugar, and uses my eyes to stare at the mirror while using my hands to hide remaining body fat to see what I could look like if I ate and exercised ‘properly’, and knows I’m not emotionally exhausted I’m just lazy, and craves sugar, and so bakes loads but then can’t bring itself to allow any eating of the cake. God I crave sugar. Maybe I WILL have a cake or five. And maybe then, in desperation, get rid of the four of them my stomach hasn’t digested yet.

Then I read your article, and remembered some things I’d forgotten.

I’ve just completed my first feature film (zero-budget, quite an achievement), I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been physically and mentally, I’ve just fallen in love, and I’m doing some really important work right now both personally and professionally. All of this potential for massive failure (sorry, I mean, really good things happening to me THAT ARE COMPLETELY OUT OF MY CONTROL, *breathes*) is terrifying, and each day it’s uncertain whether my confidence is going to drive me at speed to exactly where I need to go, or crash around my face in that far-too-real and embarrassingly visible way it does.

I love the Cherokee tale of the two wolves, the lesson being ‘the one that wins will be the one you feed.’ Guess I’m going to have to feed myself if I want to win.

(That sentence looks as though it’s written with resignation. I feel it needs an addendum:)

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Victoria sponge cakeEgg and pastaRoast dinner Thank you. Good luck. Elizabeth

6 Reasons Therapy Should Be Mandatory

therapyI can’t shake the feeling that the Gods somehow fumbled the design of our inner character last thing on the Saturday night, distracted by a lack of sleep, and rushing in anticipation of the awesome horizontalness to come. While life on Earth is globally, chronically, and undeniably insane, it is for the most part dull as fuck. Some people appear to deal with it better than others; perhaps you don’t at all mind daily life’s insistence on enacting the inestimable cut scenes from every film ever, from Meek’s Cutoff to A Serbian Film.

But I mind. Meek’s Cutoff was lame.

In 25 years of research in the field, I have, at times, found sharing (privatised) land, (polluted) air and (what passes for) mutual cognition with you all kinda unbearable. For years, I more-than-welcomed a number of short-term-effective coping mechanisms, but once sober enough to process what I really needed, none was so effective as dosing myself up to the eyeballs with psychotherapy. If we were all forced to have a bit of a think and a chat, creating a big ol’ space in our minds for understanding and reflection, we might not do so much political bickering and hypothesizing about other people’s life choices all over the internet based only on our own experience. We might even have a shot at that world peace thing (joke.) Human beings are naturally narcissistic – it’s not your fault. (It’s not your fault. [It’s not your fault.]) So here’s a few reasons why you should be more like me.

1. More and more of us have worsening mental health.

The effects of the global recession are being fully felt; not only financially, but emotionally. Reports of depression and stress have increased four- or five-fold, as inequality and struggle become ever more banal. Statistics from 2007 (the most recent national review) note that 10% of UK adults are diagnosed depressed, and 9% of the UK population meets the criteria for diagnosis of mixed anxiety and depression. (At this point, the global recession hadn’t even happened. Nor had the Con-Dem coalition’s class war. It would be a couple of years of average misery before these public services would be handed stoically to an already glum, highly-strung population.) Luckily, the UK’s National Health Service website informs us that while there are many different types of psychotherapy, the aim of each and every one is to “make you feel better.” While the NHS’s particular brand of PR may be condescending, it is also 100% correct. (US readers: I’d suggest you try our evil socialist healthcare system while it lasts, but we are as ironically averse to immigration as you are.)

(Statistics update from 2011)

Talking therapies are proven to be as, if not more, effective than medication at treating not only serious psychological conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but also at vastly improving the quality of life of those who are grieving; have experienced abuse; have been made redundant; are experiencing general stress and anxiety; or are not a favoured member of their region’s kyriarchy.

If you don’t consider yourself a member of the 90% of the population described above, then either you’re a human being with few complaints, a master of your emotions who knows instinctively how to take care of yourself and others, or you are the killer/abuser/layer-offer/bully/illuminati emperor and/or member of the narcissistic corporate elite in the dynamic. In which case, GET OFF THE INTERNET AND INTO THERAPY or welcome the death of the Earth you preside over (and/or the uprising of the masses…? Anyone?)

Even though the therapeutic method most often focuses on purging the frightening, frustrating and harmful thoughts and feelings you contain, ejecting this poisonous bile at someone you have to repeatedly give money to starts to feel better and better. It’s a bit like never being able to sneeze or shit, and then learning to expel them one by one, weekly, for approximately an hour at a time, and eventually becoming a wet wipe connoisseur.

2. Most people suck at relationships (including therapists.)

In contrast to many people’s idea of the forced-yet-necessary-stoicism of the therapist, Irvin Yalom, therapist, author and Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford, believes that it is not at all inappropriate for a therapist to acknowledge their feelings and personality within the relationship; it is, in fact, hugely beneficial to the patient:

 

“From comic strips to Hollywood features, the analyst is often portrayed sitting behind a desk or a notebook, literally out of reach and out of sight of the person being analysed. As patients, we perceive that person sitting across from us as a powerful and impenetrable figure, yet we’re expected to reveal ourselves up to their scrutiny.” [Source: psychotherapy.net]

One of the most fundamental difficulties human beings insist upon is creating and sustaining unhealthy relationships. This leads to eventual isolation, the breakdown of families, and at it’s most extreme and macro levels, war and exploitation. There are numerous upon numerous reasons for these dysfunctions; some benign and understandable, some horrific and relentless. The majority involve some kind of abuse, and whether this be serious child abuse or short-lived school bullying, the effects are almost always felt well into adulthood.

Yalom has written extensively, in both fiction and non-fiction formats, about the fundamental relationship dynamic of therapy. He has revolutionized for many the way in which this relationship is viewed, and how it functions for the benefit of the patient. He is “a keen advocate for unmasking the therapist. One of the main reasons that people fall into despair is that they are unable to sustain gratifying relationships. According to Yalom, therapy is their opportunity to establish a healthy give-and-take with an empathetic counselor; one who is not afraid to show his or her vulnerabilities.” As long as ‘vulnerabilities’ is interpreted literally and legally, the therapeutic relationship can be a template on which to measure how, henceforth, one might bounce merrily with ones brethren.

3. You can teach yourself numerous invaluable skills

As noted previously in the shit and sneezes metaphor, talking therapy requires, and develops, persistence. From this painful and seemingly never-ending grind comes an understanding of healthy boundaries, self-expression, reflection, and self-awareness, to name only a few essential personality traits (assuming you consider it essential to be at least bearable.) Further, occupational therapy literally gives people physical skills in order to help them gain the tools needed to participate in society effectively, especially after trauma. It is a lengthy process of progress and slow change to make those who are wounded fully healed, and for them to independently maintain that health. Plus, it would make all losers suck a lot less. (Seriously, stop staring at a screen. Jeez. [I will if you will.])

This ranges from teaching (sometimes re-teaching) people how to dress themselves, to be in public spaces without anxiety and to walk or talk again, to teaching employable skills and tools for expression which allow people to regain enjoyment and pleasure from life. I’m sure each of us could find space in our lives to fill the void that little bit more. (Screw you, void. I’m coming for you with my authoritarian mandatory therapy world domination policy, and you can’t hide from that. Especially once I’ve put it on a banner, and flown it around the sky above you, VOID!)

4. It’s utilizes and transforms your ‘worst’ traits

Therapy basically provides a framework perfect for curing yourself of being a selfish bastard, utilising the methodology of well-focused self-obsession. The key therapist-patient relationship affords you an allotted time and safe space to discuss anything and everything you need to, without judgment. For example, this would prevent people with serious or chronic grievances from over-unloading on friends who likely have as many issues of their own, and time constraints and pressure from elsewhere. Therapists are trained to indirectly provide what a client needs at a particular point and adapt with them (by helping them provide for themselves), bypassing the resentment and frustration that can arise from imbalance in intimate relationships.

If you ever needed an excuse for being “selfish”, it’s improving your own wellbeing. Therapy is completely private, like having a conversation inside your head with someone who understands your thought patterns guiding you away from repeating down destructive pathways. And therapists don’t expect you to be nice to them, or polite about your children, or reasonable about the utter incompetence of people who walk too slowly, and then look at you like that when you righteously barge past them like the glittering hero of pedestrianism that you are, to the raucous applause in your mind. Your superior mind, attached to a body with places to be.

It’s kind of weird – they don’t need anything back! Except money.*

5. It would keep costs low

Vikram Patel of the World Health Organisation says that countries such as Canada, UK and the Scandinavian countries, who have strong welfare systems (!!) and, to an extent, affordable or free mental health care, already offer the best care overall.

In the UK, there is quite a waiting list for free therapy & counselling on the NHS, but it is available to anyone who needs it. We also have a number of nationwide networks which provide free, short term (usually six sessions/weeks) counselling to combat specific problems faced, such as Rape Crisis and Mind. But psychotherapy is generally a long-term, indefinite process with one therapist, aimed at understanding patterns and themes in ones behaviour; thereby unsustainable as a free service.

Private therapy is expensive. Often those who need it most, people who are financially struggling, cannot access it. At best, you’re looking at ~£200 a month. Mandatory therapy would form the basis for it to be made either free or widely affordable, encouraging people to form depression unions and schizophrenic pressure groups. What’s the worst that could realistically happen?

6. Therapy is a microcosm for life.

Therapy prepares us for understanding and making beneficial challenges within and without the boundaries of our societies. We (in the west) live in a culture in which we are increasingly reluctant to fully communicate, or make radical changes to ourselves to facilitate the betterment of society as a whole. This can be seen at both individual and governmental levels.

Unfortunately, when we would welcome change and communication, we don’t necessarily have the time to enact it. In several ways therapy augments and fosters our ability to optimize functioning alongside one another, and maximizes our ability to derive what we need from life and what society needs from us. It is also the starting point (and a relevant allegory) for understanding the boundaries we maintain to keep us from living our lives fully.

In a paper titled Psychotherapy & Politics: Uncomfortable Bedfellows?, The Midlands Psychology Group quotes D. Pilgrim as advocating “the potential for the development of more radical forms of therapy arising from challenges to the reductionism of mainstream therapies.” He “saw psychotherapy as first promising a role in personal and political liberation.” Without being able to commit to radical changes for the better in oneself (however small), it is unlikely that we will be able to radically change anything else.

Christopher Willoughby goes one further, arguing that therapy can shirk its moral responsibility if it doesn’t acknowledge that social determinants are often the source of most patient anguish and disadvantage: “An inability to psychologically tolerate our social circumstances can lead to social alienation through behaviour society finds threatening, embarrassing or uncooperative and inefficient. […] Counselling and psychotherapy are particularly well placed to act as a platform to facilitate social solidarity given that they are faced daily with managing the consequences of social injustice and inequality.”

In the absence of free, mandatory therapy for everyone, understanding therapy as a mutual work that we can work towards together, as a reflective tool for radical change, could be a start.

therapy2

*And boundaries. Also, be nice and reasonable anyway?

Christmas is hollow. What Would Jesus Do about it?

If I say that Christmas makes me sad I’m sure that, unfortunately, most people can understand exactly what I mean without needing to elaborate too much. A time of extremes, even the greater nuances and excitement of reunions and treats is sometimes not enough to offset the Crimbo Troughs. Certain things are mandatory for a Good Christmas; family, friends, money, relaxation, time, etc. Without the full benefits of these things, Christmas can be a gruelling, painful ending to the year.

I have been so fortunate. I have had family, friends and (enough) time every Christmas so far. Thus I can calmly forgo the money (relaxation has been largely absent, but that’s a separate, non-Xmas matter in itself). Yet, something melancholy and hollow about Christmas remains. Toying with a rejection of gross consumerism, I tend to try and focus on food; however, this nervous focus inevitably leads to overeating, and the lethargic guilt that immediately follows remains long into the following year (again, another chronic non-xmas matter). The only saving grace is the time spent with my family; but the surrounding fug of Christmas™ can lead me to fear how I would experience the shopping holiday were something to happen to them….

Ahhh. Another Merry Jolly Christmas.

I stumbled across the documentary What Would Jesus Buy? early this December, just in time to inspire me to evaluate what I needed from and for Christmas this year. I spent the whole month trying to keep in more regular contact with my family (sending letters to Gran, helping my siblings out where possible, dropping my parents a text at least once a week so Mum knows I’m alive [can you say ‘hereditary neuroses’? Just kidding, Ma…]), and working out things I could do for, rather than give to, them.

I feel much more prepared this year for being grateful and giving personally, rather than financially, making the next week or so much more soulfully substantial. But I worry I have years to go before I understand what might make a truly meaningful, fulfilling end to each year.