Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Choirs, Queasiness and De-Cluttering!

Lately I've been finding myself lethargic, easily queasy after meals, headachy and generally under the weather. Went to the doc's yesterday and turns out I have a pretty high blood pressure, nooooo! Don't know why. Stress. Genetics (both parents have it). Too much salt (namely junk food, namely potato chips). But yeah, the figures were 1xx over 1xx ... don't remember the precise numbers, but considering that they were both three digits, I don't think that's anything to be proud of, argh. So as of yesterday I've been put on hypertension meds. Talk about the joys of getting older, eh?? Le sigh.

We've lately been de-cluttering the house – an exercise that's been a looong time coming – and my goodness, what a lotta junk we have stored up! My mum had old perfume bottles and half-used toiletries from a decade or more ago; plastic containers filled with old shopping bags (not even the stuff that came in those bags, but the bags themselves!); old historical romance novels with half-naked dudes and overly needy blonde women with unrealistically luscious locks covering their near-exposed bosoms on the covers. Dad had souvenir items from his former Public Relations events – pewter trinkets; electronics (including a Thomson audio cassette Walkman-like player that still worked!); old Parker pens and other stationery... all of which he managed to bring down to Cash Converters and got a nice RM100 for his effort, LOL!

Somewhere in the clutter were audio cassette tapes; old CDs and DVDs with titles like Line Dancing Classics and Learn Easy French!; a forgotten carton of ancient Christmas decorations; and so on and so forth and whathaveyou. And I... well, I had about a million books. Maybe not literally, but there sure were a lot of them, and for the past few days I've been sorting them out into little piles and getting rid of them through Facebook 2nd-hand book pages and whatnot. I'm glad to say I, too, have made a few hundred ringgit from this little exercise, and the house is looking much better for it!

Should've thought to take a "before" photo... this is AFTER clearing out
and tidying all the books that used to occupy this space!
The clutter downstairs!
All these books used to live upstairs in the first photo! 
What else is new? On Saturday night, I attended a lovely dinner to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Philharmonic Society of Selangor, a community choral group. It was held at the Corus Hotel in KL, and it was a great night, with me playing the piano to accompany some of the singers as they performed selections from Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, and - the highlight of the evening, if you ask me! - the "unveiling" of a new song I'd written specially for the choir, Music & Laughter, which also happens to be their theme for the year! (Actually, I'd proposed the title first, and then it was decided that it would also make for a fitting theme, arf arf!) We had an eight-course meal, and all in all it was a wonderful night out:

I've said this before and I'll say it again: I really oughta wear ties more often... :)
When I'm allowed to, I'll share a recording of Music & Laughter. Till then, keep checking in for more updates! Bye for now!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Coming Up...!

Decided to put together a concert to help raise some funds for my brother, who has health issues related to his diabetes. So this is happening ina couple of weeks!! More updates to come, but in the meantime, if you're in KL/PJ and would like to support this show – or if you'd just like to contribute financially – please feel free to drop me an email at the addy in the poster below. Thank you, everyone!

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Broadway, Baby! (Not There Yet, But Someday...) ;)

Hey all! So another week's gone by, haha! I'm still enjoying my time at home; I must say this is the most positive I've felt being stuck at home in a while. By "stuck" I mean I don't have a car, so most days are spent in the house or the neighbourhood or (thankfully) the new nearby Starling Mall, arf.

But I'm feeling good about it, and I'm keeping productive. I've spent the last week composing, programming and recording the song for my Malaysian project scheduled for 2019 (still limited on what I can say), but it has a clear New Yawk/Broadway theme, so I'm gonna be a sneaky Nicky and share a minute or so of what I've been working on here! If you've checked this out on Facebook, here's a bonus: there's an extra 20 seconds or so added on to this sneak-peek, so don't gloss over it, haha!

 Tomorrow my brother gets checked into the hospital for his cataract operation, so we're all praying everything goes well. He'll be undergoing surgery on Tuesday and getting discharged on Wednesday. So Mum and Dad are understandably a bit anxious, though they're coping well. I'll come back with more updates on that, and other matters, soon. Until then, enjoy the music. All work by yours truly — music, lyrics, arrangements, programming and dodgy vocals. ;)

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Callbacks, Clouds and Contemplation

Yo, what's been happening? Haha, not much. Although yesterday (Saturday) I got on Skype and was "present" for the callbacks for auditions for my Perth production, which will be happening this May. Still a bit hush-hush, but all will be revealed in good time. Still, I'm glad to say we managed to find most of the cast, which is highly encouraging. Just a few more loose ends to tie up and we'll have our performers! :)

Not much else to report. I'm working hard on another new musical number for an upcoming project (not the same one as above; once again I'm embargoed from saying too much, but all will be revealed), and am running a little behind schedule, but I'm thinking I'll be on course soon enough.

Meanwhile, I've been wanting to upgrade my music-making capabilities for the longest time by getting myself some realistic-sounding, studio-quality sounds (e.g. orchestral instruments that actually sound authentic, kinda like what they'd use for telly or lower-budget movies, haha), and I'm happy to report that as of yesterday I've begun working with EastWest Composer Cloud, which allows you to download their awesome selection of professional-quality sounds for an affordable-ish monthly fee. This is heaps better than having to fork out money by the four and five digits to own the software, let me tell you! I'm excited to finally be able to create better-sounding tracks (hopefully)! More as and when I learn the ropes and get some stuff created.

Well, that's all for now. I leave you with this photo of me and Ashley, which I took the other night. (I've been spending lots of time with little Kerbie too, but Ashley's a slower-moving dog, which makes it easier to take pics of her!) Anyway. This is what happens when you give your doggy a cuddle while she's apparently in the midst of contemplating the meaning of life... :)

Look at that cutie little face! (Ashley's, I mean.) Arf! Till next time!

Friday, 5 January 2018

Oh, Health No!

As posted on FB recently:

Brother's health has not been good for a while now. Today specialists say his kidneys are functioning at 30% capacity due to diabetes-related complications. Doctor advises mum and dad NOT to think about dialysis; that's looking too far ahead. But can't say I blame my parents for wanting to look into it "so we can be prepared", sigh.

Folks nevertheless continuing to stay optimistic but it's hard when mum get sniffly while talking to her friend on the phone about it. :'( Hoping his health will stabilise (kidneys aren't likely to heal themselves, sadly) and parents' worry can be eased.

On a more optimistic note, here's what I shared on FB yesterday:

I'm happy to say that the past few months, since circa November, have been stable; I've been feeling "normal" (whatever that means), mostly happy; still tired due to the side-effect of the Lexapro (which I will only try weaning off/changing to another drug once I'm back in Perth); but otherwise can't complain. :)

As I look back on the past year and beyond, I realise that I've made and lost a few friends due to my mental health and the decisions/actions that I took due to an affected judgment. To those who are still sticking around, I'd like to express my gratitude once again. You peeps are awesome.

I was reading a self-help book, aptly named "F**K Depression!" by Dr Robert Duff, who penned a letter that is intended to help us depressives express ourselves to people we love but who might not understand what we go through. And I thought I'd take a moment to share this letter with all of you. Especially those of you who find it hard to share your depression with those you care about - Dr Duff encourages you to use as much or as little of this letter as you'd like, freely.

So have a read, share, and let's continue to support one another as we commence this New Year:

Dear ___________,

You are getting this letter because you are an important person in my life and I want you to understand more about what I am going through. I know that I can be difficult and I’m sorry for that. I know that I probably don’t need to be sorry, but I am. In fact, I feel guilty for feeling sorry in the first place. Ridiculous, I know. That’s how my brain works because I have depression… and yes, my mind is an exhausting place.

I want to give you this letter to help you understand a little more about what I am going through, ask for some grace as I work this crap out, and to suggest a few ways that you can best support me if you are willing.

The first thing that I want you to know is that I am trying. Or, rather… I am trying to try. You see, 1 and 1 don’t always add up to 2 with depression. There are legitimate biological differences between me and someone that doesn’t live with depression, which makes this a really difficult uphill battle. I am literally fighting against my biology which tries to tell me that none of this is worth it and that I shouldn’t even try.

When people say things like, “Just think positively,” or “It’s all in your head,” it does not help at all. I know that it is in my head, but unfortunately it is not as easy as flipping a switch and suddenly feeling better. I know that probably have 1000 reasons to be happy and sometimes I feel like the worst person ever for being so down all the time despite them.

Fighting off depression is not a simple task. If it was, I would have done it already. Trust me when I say that I am so tired of feeling like crap all of the time. I am actively trying to take steps to better myself and steal some of my life back from this depressive monster that has crept in like a black cloud raining over all of my thoughts and feelings. The process will involve challenging my negative thought patterns, pushing myself to re-engage with things that I used to enjoy, working to forgive myself for letting things get so out of hand, and finding people that I trust to be on my team.

That’s why you are reading this. I want you to be on my team. I know that I have not been the easiest person to be around recently. Maybe my actions or inactions have even hurt you in some way. The thing is, I need support to dig myself out of these patterns. I don’t need a yes or no answer from you right now, but I want to share a few things that do and do not help me in case you are ever willing to lend a hand.

For now, this has to be on my terms. I am feeling more broken and fragile than I would like to admit. Down the line, I might need a bit of a push, but for now, tough love is not what I need. That means that unsolicited advice that worked for you or someone else is probably not helpful. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to depression. It’s a very individualized sort of beast.

Also, being told that what I am going through is not that bad is very hurtful for me. I know that it might not be logical for me to feel this way given my life circumstances. I know it could be worse and that there are many others in the world who have it worse. That’s just how depression works. Intellectually knowing something and feeling it are two very different experiences. I’m working to make them more in sync.

Though my instinct tells me otherwise, it’s probably not the best idea for me to be alone all of the time right now. So, please have a little grace and forgiveness with me if I get irritated or act in off-putting ways. I do want you to be here and I really appreciate you continuing to try. I feel like a lot of people have given up on me. I don’t want you to be one of them.

Probably the most helpful thing that you can do for me is to let me know that you are here. I forget sometimes, so please don’t assume that I already know. Tell me that you are here if I need you. I won’t always know the best ways that you can help me and you don’t have to either. I mostly just need to know that I’m not on this journey alone.

Like I said, a big part of this process of recovery is finding ways to fight back against these unhelpful patterns of thinking that I have fallen into. Sometimes it can be really helpful to have someone that I can rely on as a “logical barometer.” Basically, I can tell you what my train of thought is regarding a situation and you can tell me whether you think it makes sense or not. You can share how you, as a non-depressed person, might interpret it. That helps me to practice reeling in the overgeneralizing, personalizing, and overall amplification of negative thoughts.

My thoughts usually start out rooted in reality, but they get way blown out of proportion and you could definitely help me out by nonjudgmentally letting me know how far off my thinking has gone. You don’t have to be “right” to help me out with this. There are really no right or wrong answers, but I will be much better off if I have a few people that I can get input from when I am doubting my initial interpretation of things.

I am trying to do more. This might mean that I am trying to get back to doing things that I used to enjoy because everything feels very bland right now. It also might mean that I am trying to get off of my butt and be more physically active. It is so incredibly hard to find the motivation inside myself to do these things. One change that can give me more motivation to follow through with plans is when I have a buddy to do them along with me. Maybe you could be that person. I don’t mean that you need to do everything with me, but if there is something that you enjoy that I might benefit from, maybe consider inviting me along.

Speaking of inviting me along, I won’t always say yes. Even if it is something as simple as going to dinner or the movies, sometimes it feels like the weight of my symptoms are literally crushing me and I will pass on almost any invitation. Please keep inviting me. You don’t need to waste all of your time trying to convince me, just don’t give up on me. Keep offering, please.

Finally, I would be so grateful if you would help other people understand what I am going through. Hopefully at this point, you “get it” a little more. Depression is something that we are told to keep a secret and it is really hard for me to share my feelings sometimes. You are reading this letter because I trust you and want you to be on my team. It is exhausting for me to reach out to each person and ask for help, so if you could help other friends and family understand when they ask what is wrong with me, I would really appreciate it.

If you are reading this far that means that I was right about you. You are amazing and a perfect addition to my depression fighting team. Like I said before, I really am trying. This is a tough battle and I don’t know how long it will take, but having allies like you will certainly make the process that much easier. I am not asking for a blank slate. I know that I can sometimes say or do things that make me not so pleasant to be around. That’s the nature of the beast.

You are allowed to be upset, angry, hurt, or annoyed at those things. I just ask that you try to understand that these things are an expression of my depressive symptoms. They may be a part of me, but they are not the whole me. I hope this letter helps you to understand a little more about the other part of me that is dying for a chance to get out into the world.

~Nick (replace with relevant name here)

Monday, 1 January 2018