Friday 7 December 2018

Charlton Carper 'The Cell'

"In this blog I'd like to step away from fishing and cover a subject that many may feel uncomfortable talking about. I have no problem with putting this out in the public domain, and in doing so I hope it will help others.

So here we are in December 2018, I've been stupidly busy with my work so my fishing has been on the back burner since September. I've managed to squeeze a few short trips in here and there but I've found myself scratching for bites. I'm not necessarily helping myself with the waters I'm choosing to fish but, I'd rather sit it out for one good bite than cater to my ego fishing a runs water. Looking back now, I can't help but think the prime Autumn 'bite time' has past me by and with the temperatures starting to fall, it's looking like I'm going to be struggling as the year comes to an end. Having said that, my last few fish have been pretty special, topped off with a mythical 33IB common, so I can't really complain. In regards to my blog writing, it turns out I'm about a year and a half behind, it's crazy looking back that far, I'm a very different person now compared to who I was back in 2016. I have stacks of note pads and sketch books full of session notes, it's going to be interesting knocking them all in to shape. This post isn't a session blog, instead I've chosen to cover something that I feel is very important. I've said many times before that I write with honesty about my own reality. In this synthetic, edited and filter world we're now forced to participate in, I'm finding these two elements hard to come by. - so please try to bare with me on this post.

Into The Bleak
Time seems to be accelerating at such a pace that I'm finding it hard to process. To be totally honest, I feel so down that I can barely find the energy to type these words. However, that within itself is reason enough to take the time to write about how I feel. I seem to have hit a wall which finds me questioning everything, mainly the world around me and where I actually fit in. I've always had this underlying feeling, but since vacating my drums as my lifeline and survival, there's no real outlet to beat all the unwanted thoughts into oblivion. I'm finding the simple task of 'existing' so bloody exhausting, I feel like the system we're forced to live in is reminiscent of a 'hamster wheel'. We're kept in a perpetual state of confusion and our senses are being constantly bombarded from all directions. There's mindless junk on the TV screens, continuous propaganda and misery projected in all forms of media, and it appears, both technology and social media is erasing basic human interaction. There's a huge shift occurring that's changing the way the human race is conducting itself. Vast amounts of the worlds population are now relocating their consciousness on to a collective hard drive. Two realities have been created, a life both on and off line, I personally don't believe this is progress, if anything, parts of our psyche are regressing. If you're the type of person that's very sensitive to both their environment and the world around them, you're going to find yourself having a hard time.     

I look upon myself very fortunate, being self employed I have a lot more control over my life, I'm in a very unique position which I both respect and appreciate very much. Unfortunately, and this is hard for some people to understand, when you struggle with a mental 'dis-ease', all the good things in your life can become insignificant, almost meaningless. They can't break you out of the 'cell' that comes slamming down around you, the worst thing about this 'cell', you're the only one that can see it, it can come at any time and you don't know how long your sentence is going to be. The creation of this 'cell' is not your fault. Some people are born with a happy brain and others aren't, our brains are a universe of connections, pathways and chemicals. It's all very delicate, it's common sense that things can and will go wrong in some of us. One of the biggest misconceptions about mental illness is that you're doing it to yourself, that it's your fault. I can tell you now that it isn't and you have nothing to feel ashamed about, unfortunately both shame and self loathing walk hand in hand when you find yourself trapped in a psychological prison that you can't get out of.

"I know there's millions of people out there suffering with mental illness, I understand the isolation you are feeling. I understand the fear and confusion that you are going through. I know what it feels like to see no way out. I understand how desperate you feel, that you will literally do anything to feel better. I know there are many voices out there that claim to offer help and a solution to your problems - when in fact they're just preying on the desperate and vulnerable. I realize that you may have anxieties about antidepressant medication, I also understand that some of you, who thought they had lots of friends, have came to realize that they actually don't have any - because the first time you really needed them, they were nowhere to be seen, I know you feel totally alone - I could go on, I think you get my point". 

I Want To Describe Part Of A Journey.  

As we proceed to exist in our own personal 'cell', it all starts to become very real, its foundations strengthen, the darkness starts to get really dense, the outside world proceeds to shrink and become smaller until it disappears into nothing. The walls of your cell now act as an 'echo chamber', an amplifier for the sticky thoughts that are looping round and round and round inside your head. Your train of thought disintegrates to the point where rational thinking disappears. These limited thoughts won't stop, they're like a song on an old vinyl record that's stuck on repeat. The longer it rotates the deeper the needle sinks, there isn't an off switch and the mechanism that lifts the needle up is broken. You get to the point where your 'mental stylus' is stuck so deeply in a 'groove' that it has no way of getting out. It has no other choice than to keep playing the same song/thought process over and over and over again, you can't stop what is happening to you. It turns into self-hypnosis, you're now living in a trance, the longer this goes on, the deeper you fall, you are not in control of the situation, it's in control of you. The longer you're on this mental carousel, the harder it is to get off, you start to become an expert, a master craftsman, you're perfecting the art of complete isolation, you're making all these poisonous thoughts as solid as concrete. Your prison cell is now complete and this will start to effect the way you participate and translate the world around you.

Sticky Thoughts That Won't Stop

You're now regressing further and further inside your head, you're physically present in the world but you're not taking any of it in, it's meaningless to you. The days and nights are now morphing into one, you may have been awake for days, maybe even weeks. You have no defenses left, you don't know what day it is, more importantly, you don't care, you're scared, frightened and confused. Depending on how you are functioning, if at all, you need to get help. You should of looked for help long before it got this bad but if you haven't experienced anything like this before, you have absolutely no idea what to do or where to go. The term used when you've arrived at a point where everything has completely fallen apart is called crisis. You can't function, you can't control your emotions and your 'fight or flight' system is attacking you on all levels. You desperately want someone to help you but the people around you don't have a clue what to do either. They've probably never dealt with a situation like this before. Do you go to your local GP? What happens if they want to put me on that evil medication everyone talks about?.

You decide to give the doctors a miss and try to continue to deal with it yourself, you start to try and think your way out of it, but that isn't going to work. It was thinking that got you in this mess in the first place, but you don't see it that way, so you continue to think, trying to find the key that will unlock your perfectly constructed 'cell'. It's around this point where you might feel the urge to stop talking and communicating with everyone. You don't need to talk, you've got way too much to think about, not only are you completely locked inside yourself, you've become mute, talking is just way too much effort. It's at this stage of this god awful journey that people might start telling you to "snap out of it" or "pull yourself together". These are literally the worst things anyone could say to you in this particular situation. Firstly, you can't do either of those two things, secondly those two statements alone make you feel responsible for the position you've found yourself in. I'll repeat this again - you are not responsible for what is happening to you.    

There Is A Stigma - There Always Will Be
Weeks have now passed, you're dragging yourself out of bed after another sleepless night. Your days now consist of sitting on the couch staring at the wall, desperately trying to break out of your 'cell'. Through severe desperation you finally decide it's about time to go and see your doctor, surly they can help you. Once you've actually managed to get an appointment, you do your best to try and explain how you're feeling. After a short 'robotic' conversation you're presented with two leaflets, one with "Time To Talk" written on it, the other listing all the side effects and problems that antidepressant medication can cause - no benefits are listed. You leave the appointment no clearer on anything. One things for sure though, you're giving the medication a miss because all the information you've been given has put the fear of god up you. The only option you're left with is to call the number on the "Time To Talk" leaflet. After another soulless conversation with someone on the end of the phone, you discover,'ironically', that you can't 'talk to anyone' for at least 6 to 8 weeks. Not only that, when you can, you only get 20 minutes a week for about a month, so what the hell are you going to do with yourself whilst you wait to talk to someone?. I'll tell you what you do, you get worse, you get so bad that you start to lose the will to live.     


The days continue to pass, you now haven't slept for about 6 weeks, your 'cell' is shrinking at an alarming rate, not only that but the one window you had has been bricked up. You yearn for peace, preying to god for a second of rest. It's clear you're finally going to have to take the plunge, medical intervention is needed. "Before I continue I would like to state that medication should only be considered if you are barely functioning, I believe it's a last resort and you should think very carefully before taking the plunge, there's a big difference between 'mental illness' and just "feeling fed up". So, you go back up to the doctors and commit to taking some form of drug, you're prescribed an anti-depressant along with some sleeping pills. You're told it takes at least 6 weeks for the anti-depressant meds to start working. So in theory I should feel the benefit around the same time I get to talk to someone for my 20 minutes a week - perfect 'sarcasm'. The one thing that you aren't told is that your local GP has very limited knowledge regarding both anti-depressants and mental illness. They have a choice of about 5 pills and there's a very high chance that none of them will actually suit you. The 'default' prescription they hand out is usually a drug called 'Citalopram'. This specific drug can actually make your symptoms worse before they get better, so if you're struggling with acute anxiety I would recommend an antidepressant with a 'sedative' in it - like 'Mirtazapine'.


It turns out that 'Citalopram' and sleeping pills react really badly with each other and you end up in a bigger mess than you were in before you went to see your GP. You return to the doctors to explain the situation and he simply asks for the tablets back. There were no suggestions or talk of any alternative so you're sent home empty handed. You find yourself back at square one but now you've been awake for around 8 weeks and you're genuinely starting to lose your mind. The brain hasn't had any rest for so long, it starts to have indescribable effects on your bodily functions. What you're experiencing now adds a whole new level of fear and panic to a situation that you thought couldn't get any worse. What you're feeling is 100% real but when you try to explain it to anyone, you get looked at like you're a madman - this is when the word 'delusional' starts to appear. When the 20 minutes of CBT a week finally comes around, you find it's a complete waste of time. When you're trapped so perfectly inside your cell, this kind of talking therapy achieves nothing. I believe CBT maybe of some help to those who are stuck in unhealthy thinking habits but for severe mental illness I see no point in it at all. I'll explain my viewpoint in the paragraph below.

The Abyss

For any talking therapy to be effective you have to be at a certain level of thinking to be able to adopt and take onboard what you're being told. You can't rationally take any information in when you are incarcerated inside your mental 'cell'. The standard practice at this point is .... once you've been prescribed the correct medication for you. You'll find the walls to your 'cell' will, very slowly, start to crumble. Your sticky thoughts will eventually loosen and you'll find that your mind will start to let the outside world in once again. In regards to the correct medication, you need to be diagnosed by a proper psychiatrist not a GP. If you're at a point where you really feel that you are on the verge of fracturing, don't wait. Go and see your GP quickly and ask to be referred to a psychiatrist straight away, don't take 'no' for an answer and don't be convinced to go through the NHS, it might cost you more going private but you will get the help you need quicker, I can't stress this enough. I ended up at the Priory. What I went through with the NHS is beyond words and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, if I was to even begin to describe my journey, this blog would turn into a book. Just the idea of writing about it actually gives me anxiety, it was pure hell. Once you have a diagnosis by a proper psychiatrist, if they see it necessary, they'll put you on a combination of medication that helps your situation. They have a far greater understanding of what meds work well in accordance with each other, compared to any local GP.

Finding The Balance

Going back to the subject of 'sticky thoughts', these are the cement that helps to build and strengthen your mental 'cell'. I would say that these are the first elements in its construction. So it's common sense that these need to be the first thing stopped to encourage the walls of your 'cell' to topple. To loosen sticky thoughts an 'anti-psychotic' drug maybe prescribed. I know that the word 'anti-psychotic' sounds scary, I can assure you that there is nothing to be afraid of. The purpose of these drugs is to slow your thought process down, they help to break the mental trance you've been trapped in. Antidepressant medication has a different job to do, this lifts your mood, they stop you from remaining in a bottomless pit of despair, they help you to rebuild your foundations. They will allow you to gain control of your emotions and genuinely help to make you feel better, but this takes time. You mustn't rely on the pill to do all the work, 'you have to work with them'. What I mean by this is, don't take them and wait to feel better, it doesn't work like that, it's down to YOU, you have to work towards feeling better. The pills act like a 'walking stick', they'll accompany you and support you to get back to a level of normality. It was during this critical stage that I dreamt up the idea of the 'Charlton Carper blog', writing about my carp fishing helped me to break down the 'cell' walls and project my thoughts out of my head. 

I know you may have some anxieties about medication - for instance.

1. What are the side effects?
2. What will people think? 
3. How will I come off of them? 
4. Are they addictive?
5. Will they dumb me down?

I can only answer the above questions by my own experience.

What are the side effects? - there are bound to be side effects when anything unnatural is introduced into your system. I believe we all respond differently, I do find myself feeling dopey and lethargic, some days it's worse than others, but I don't entertain any of these feelings. If you're going to spend the whole time monitoring yourself and clocking the way you feel it's only going to make things feel 10x worse. The key to living on medication is to accept your situation and get on with your life, don't give it a second thought - this can be hard at first but you have to work at it. If you are experiencing an acute reaction, go back to your psychiatrist ASAP, sometimes it can take a while to work out what is best suited for you.
What will people think? -  this can be a common thought, who cares what anyone thinks, you have to understand that people who have never experienced severe mental health problems don't have a clue about what you're going through - or what they're talking about. You'll find everyone will have an expert opinion if you let them, it's easy to give 'great advice' when you don't have a problem. Never let anyone make you feel like you're doing the wrong thing by taking any form of medication. You've made the decision yourself, you have been brave enough to do everything you can to help yourself, that makes you a strong person.

How will I come off them? - you don't need to worry yourself about this, the priority is to feel better and get yourself back to a level where you can start living again. Don't concern yourself with the future, live in the now and deal with things as and when they arise. 

Are they addictive? - this is hard to say, as mentioned before, anything going into your system on a regular basis will need to be phased out correctly if and when the time is right. I do believe that there is a risk of becoming psychologically addicted/reliant on them. If you have a naturally addictive personality you could find yourself having problems. This question falls into the one above, cross the bridges as you come to them, don't create problems that don't exist.

Will they dumb me down? - yes they will but you have to be brave and work through it, if you keep both mentally and physically active then you shouldn't feel too bad. As mentioned before, if you're going to pay complete attention to how well you're feeling 24/7, then you're only going to feel worse, you're spending too much time inside your head, your aim is to get as far out of your head as possible. Be defiant and be strong, deal with your situation and get on with living your life. The more you live, the less mental space you'll have for any possible side effects and/or negative thoughts & feelings.

So now we've finally started to take the right steps to help our recovery, this can be a long and hard road, you have to stay resilient and determined. At this stage, there are two major points that I feel are very important to touch on. Number one, don't spend your time on the internet researching any medication you've been prescribed, this is utterly pointless, you're always going to find horror stories about everything online, most of it is utter rubbish. Number two, I would advise against joining online groups and forums associated with mental health problems. I don't believe these places help you in any way, by participating in them, you are continually focusing on, and validating your condition. You don't want to be doing this, you want to be living your life and getting on with what you have to do, you shouldn't be giving your condition any acknowledgement at all. I can't help but feel that some people wear their illness as a badge of honour and use online forums and social media to acquire some kind of attention and sympathy. **CK attention and **CK sympathy, live your life and work towards carving a healthy existence for yourself.


As the days go by you'll start to feel yourself aligning with the world around you. I found myself seeing the simplest of things in a completely different way. It was such a relief to be functioning again, for the first few months I was severely medicated, it was actually a miracle that I managed to get out of bed. This was where my fishing played a vital role, I fished a lot, traveling all over the place to different waters. During this time I started to blog and account for the sessions I was doing, if you go back to my early blog entries you'll notice my pupils are the size of bowling balls. This was caused by the amount of pills I was on, mainly 'Diazepam', my blog was now my life line and inspiration. Carp angling had always been a big part of my life but now it took on a greater role, it was saving my life. Now with my thoughts flowing again, it was time to find 'the right' therapist. I can't stress how important it is to find someone that understands you, you don't want some 'robotic' clock watcher that provides you with a load of generic 'by the book' antidotes.

I was given a contact through a friend, I ended up seeing an amazing lady that helped me stitch both my thoughts and my life back together again - it took at least two years. For therapy to work you have to commit to what you're being told and apply it to your life. Just like the medication, it's up to you to work with it and help yourself. There's no rush with any of this, move at your own pace, there's no need to put any unnecessary pressure on yourself. It takes a long time to change the way you think about things, the mind is a muscle, when it has been operating in a certain way for so long. It's common sense that it's going to take a fair amount of time to change the way it functions. Without realizing it, we've all mastered our own 'default' responses and reactions, perfecting our own way of thinking that's been fine tuned over our lifetime. These 'defaults' and 'ways of thinking' might actually be major contributors regarding the construction of our prison 'cell'. If you can change the way you think, along with your 'default' 'responses' and 'reactions', you can work towards creating a mental environment that makes the construction of the 'cell' much harder.

Master New Ways Of Thinking

Where Do We Go From Here.

There's no specific time frame when it comes to recovery, there's so many factors involved. I think it has a lot to do with just how far you fell in the first place. Everyone's journey is different, my situation is a little more complicated because some very odd things happened to me due to the extreme sleep deprivation. I'm now at a point where "this is as good as it gets". If I knew what I know now things wouldn't have got so out of control, that's the reason why I've decided to write a blog on this subject. If what I've written helps others and gives them an understanding of what they need to do if they find themselves in a similar situation, then the purpose of this post has been achieved. Continuing on the subject of recovery, even with both medication and therapy on the go, there will be periods of time where you will find yourself struggling. Don't worry about this, it's just a natural response to everything you've been/going through. There's nothing wrong with feeling down, just don't let it get to the point where it's overwhelming you. If you want to feel pissed off, sad or angry, you're within your right to do so. Emotions are like waves, let them break and wash over you but don't let them pull you under. "Imagine if a wave was kept from breaking, it would build in size to such a degree that when it eventually does break, it would wipe out half the planet". This sentence describes our emotions perfectly, "If you ignore the way you feel, eventually those feelings and emotions will be unstoppable and the effect they could end up having on you when they eventually come to the surface, could be irreparable".

I'd like to end this post with one last point

This can effect you at any point in your life if you've had a breakdown or something similar. I still have a terrible time with it 6 years on, it's called "the mental scar". This is something that can be tricky to understand, when you get injured physically, depending on the wound, you can be left with a scar. This can act as a constant reminded of the event, every time you look at it you find yourself revisiting the injury. This works in the exact same way with mental illness but you don't have a physical scar, you have a mental one. The more traumatic the experience the deeper the wound, anything can reopen it. It can be as simple as a thought or a feeling, a location, a memory, a specific time of the year, or maybe even anxiety about a relapse occurring. For me it comes in the form of anxiety and extreme sadness. I find these bouts can last up to 48 hours, dealing with them can be tricky, they seem to come at any time. I can literally feel my 'cell' slam down around me and I have to apply everything that I've learnt and been taught through my experiences to shatter its foundations before its had a chance to lock me in. I understand that this is just the minds natural response to a traumatic situation. However, this doesn't make it any easier to live with. 

Fear Of Relapse

I believe many many people that have suffered an 'episode' in their life can go on to make a full recovery. However I also understand that many will have to manage their condition for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately I fall into the second category, things were left for far too long with me, I had no idea what to do and the system that was supposed to help me actually contributed to nearly killing me. If my human spirit and personal resilience was weak, I wouldn't be here now, I wouldn't be writing these words. "Life Is As Life Does" - what I mean by this is simple, in this life you can't predict what's going to happen to you or the people you love. The most important element within it all is your ability to deal with whatever comes your way. Everyone can be a decent person when life is going smoothly, the real test is when the shit hits the fan, how you handle it is the measure of the man. If you've made it this far I'd like to genuinely thank you for taking the time to read what I've had to say. I hope that this post reaches far and wide and it might just help a few people to make the right moves at the right time. "Believe me when I tell you that you have the strength to break the walls of any 'cell', believe me when I tell you that you can and will get well".