I’ve concluded that it’s the relative stability in my life that is keeping the Black Dog of depression on the leash. I’m working broadly the same hours and days every week – a critical component of my well-being – and I am getting out a bit more. In the last few months I have:

  • Been on a golfing weekend (my first ever)
  • Been away for a weekend with friends in Yorkshire
  • Been to a gig with the same friends we went to Yorkshire with

This represents real progress. At the same time, I have, I promise not ungratefully, passed up on several social functions, including a number of parties and just about everything connected with Christmas. I am functioning at a decent level but I am not yet ready to get involved with stuff that’s well outside my comfort zone. It is hard to explain why this is is good for me, but it is.

I have rarely enjoyed work functions and for decades I did not need to attend any. The places in which I worked were rarely places where people socialised outside office hours. It was, is, not that I didn’t/don’t like the people I work(ed) with – on the contrary, in some cases the opposite was true – but that comfort zone is one hell of a place to stay when you’re feeling a little vulnerable.

I don’t particularly like large crowds, which probably explains why I supported Bristol Rovers for so many years (I’ll say it before you do), and I don’t like the unexpected. My ultimate nightmare, one of the worst things that could ever happen to me, would be a big surprise party in a big, vibrant room. If it’s loud, I hate it even more.

As an atheist, I love Christmas, at least the family and friends stuff. And the sitting around and drinking and eating far too much. Parties, no way. I never went to them when I was a young lad at work. This dressing up malarkey, lots of noise, dancing to terrible music and being miles away from home was way too much for this boy. I’d rather have a pint in the Beaufort or at home.

It’s all going all right at the moment. I’m writing a lot and, generally, I’m writing reasonably well, though not (yet) up to 2016 and 2017s levels. I’m confident of a return to form, though.

So, if you think I’m being anti-social when turning down party invites, not going to Christmas meals and dances, not going to crowded places, not going to carol services and so on, it’s not your fault, it’s just me doing what I think is right for me.

My steady return to good mental health in 2018 can be attributed to a wide variety of sources and people and one of the main ones is avoiding things that might cause me discomfort and stress. I’m in my safety zone and I am starting, very slowly, to stretch out.

I said the other day that I could still see and feel that depression lurking just below the surface, running parallel with my lighter thoughts. I want to keep things on track over Christmas and into the New Year. Things might change in 2019 – who knows? – but it will be evolution not revolution. I need to manage me better in the future and that’s what I aim to do.