Hooked on a feeling

I’ve been waiting two months to write this post.

Actually, that’s a lie. I’ve been waiting more than two years to write this post. But it’s only in the past couple of months that I’ve been in a position where I could write it.

So why has it taken me so long to write this post?



About two months ago my depression hit an all-time low. The personal issues I was dealing with combined to form a “perfect storm”, and on one particular night I was very close to ending it permanently.

The following morning I made appointments to see a counsellor and my GP.

The counselling session went as I expected: Get out of the house, keep active, maintain your social networks, and try to get through the events causing all the pain.

When I saw my GP I asked to switch to another anti-depressant I’d heard good things about. (Effexor XR, in case you’re interested.) She agreed, and set me up to make the transition from Cymbalta.

The good news is I didn’t have to go cold turkey to get the Cymbalta out of my system before taking the new drug. The bad news is the two drugs didn’t play very well together (at least for me).

And so for a week I was not only depressed, but a little bit crazy as well.

Of course, I didn’t realise I was crazy at the time, and my actions seemed perfectly rational. But in that week I said and did things I shouldn’t have, and managed to all but destroy one of my closest friendships.

And then, on the night of the first day I took the new drug on its own, the most amazing feeling came over me. It hit me in an instant, as if someone reached inside my head and flicked a switch.

I was… happy.

And not just happy. Deliriously happy. The happiest I’d been in months, and possibly the happiest I’d been since I was first diagnosed more than two years ago.

Even cutting my finger while slicing up mushrooms for dinner didn’t wipe the smile from my face.

I wrote about it on Facebook, and announced it on Twitter. But I wasn’t ready to write about it. Not yet.

The next morning I woke up, expecting the effect to have worn off overnight. Expecting to be back to where I’d been. Expecting to be disappointed.

But my only disappointment was that I hadn’t made the switch sooner.


So why wait so long to write about it? Because I was scared that making it “official”would be like waving a red rag to a bull. Or, in this case, Fate.

You see, I’ve been here before. Shortly before I was diagnosed I spent two glorious weeks on cloud nine. And I can still remember how bad it felt to not just plummet back down to earth, but to keep on falling.

And I don’t ever want that to happen again.


I’ve been happy for seven weeks now. It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows–I have the occasional bad day just like everyone else. But I’m not sinking anywhere near as low as I used to, and it’s a lot easier to bounce back these days.

Am I cured? Hell no. My brain still has the chemical imbalance, and I’ll probably be taking anti-depressants for the rest of my life.

But that’s just fine with me. Because if taking a tablet can make me happy, then I’m happy to keep taking them.


The memory of a life gone by

Eight years ago today my mother passed away.

I can still remember a lot about that day. The phone call from my father telling me about the second stroke. Telling Lynda. Sending my lecturer an email to say I wouldn’t be in class that evening. The long drive to Ipswich hospital.

Hugging my father when I arrived. And my sister, her eyes red from tears and lack of sleep. Holding my mother’s hand and talking to her while they both went home to rest. Calling them both back to the hospital after being told my mother wasn’t going to make it.

In the final hours, trying to function as normally as we could, knowing full well things would never be normal again. Sensing our mother in pain, asking for more morphine, all the while watching the numbers on the various displays counting down.

And then that horrible drawn-out tone that tells you the fight is over.

The drive home seemed even longer, despite the roads being practically empty at that time of night. Listening to Ultravox’s “Dancing with tears in my eyes” and fighting back my own.

Dancing with tears in my eyes
Weeping for the memory of a life gone by
Dancing with tears in my eyes
Living out a memory of a love that died


Geography sucks

When Angie and I first got together back in November, we knew it would be tough being so far apart.

Unfortunately neither of us realised just how tough it was going to be.

Thanks to the Internet there are now dozens of ways to keep in touch with people—email, Twitter, Skype, etc. And as far as friendships go, that’s pretty much all you need.

But when you’re in a relationship it’s not enough. You want to actually be with each other so you can hold hands, share moments together, and be there when your partner wants to be hugged or even just held. And that’s the one aspect of bringing people closer together the Internet hasn’t solved yet.

As I said in my earlier post, we both have kids and other commitments that stop us from packing up and moving to another country any time soon. And while being together for two or three weeks when we can afford a plane ticket is nice, it’s not enough.

And so, regrettably, we’ve ended the relationship and are no longer together.

Before I flew to the UK we promised each other we’d stay friends no matter what, and we’re keeping that promise. Admittedly it’s taking a bit of time for me to adjust, but I’m getting there.

Yes, it’s sad the relationship ended over something so seemingly trivial as geography. But we still had an incredible time together, and I for one will cherish those moments forever.

As Dr. Seuss wrote, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”.


Six things I don’t miss about the day job

It’s been about eight months now since I quit my day job and became a freelancer. (It sounds so much better than “unemployed”, don’t you think?)

And while I’m a long way from fending off clients with a stick and shopping for another Porsche (or even a first), it’s still the best decision I’ve ever made.

Sure I miss the people (not to mention being paid like clockwork). But believe me, there’s far more about the day job that I don’t miss.

The hours

The term “nine-to-five” obviously came from someone who either slept under his desk or lived just around the corner. They may be the hours you’re actually in the office, but factor in getting ready for work, getting kids ready for school/day care/wherever-the-hell-they-spend-their-time-these-days and getting home again, and it’s more like six-to-six.

Now don’t get me wrong. I probably work longer hours than I ever did at the office. But they’re my hours, and I can choose when I want to work. If’ I’m awake early (note to self: never rent a place near a new housing development), I can get a few hours in while I’m having breakfast. If I want to work late I can do that too, knowing I can always sleep in the next morning (or at least try to). I can even have an afternoon nap without needing to hide under my desk or go to a meeting.

Public transport

Whoever said getting there was half the fun obviously never used public transport during peak hour. There’s nothing quite like running for the train and having the doors close inches from your face to get the adrenalin and homicidal tendencies going. Well, that and having to wait 20 minutes for the next one.

These days getting to the office is just a matter of walking from one part of the house to the other. No delays (unless I step on one of my son’s toys in bare feet), and no cramming myself into a train carriage and hoping my ribs don’t get crushed.

The office environment (aka ‘Cubeville’)

If you’ve ever seen the movie Office Space, you’ll know what I mean. Okay, so maybe our cubicle walls weren’t quite so high (a decision made by people who spent most of their day in private offices), but often it felt just as cold and sterile. We weren’t allowed to bring in our own plants, and music was pretty much restricted to using headphones.

And we were pretty much expected to sit at the same desk every day. Now some people like that–it gives them a place to call ‘home’, and makes them feel secure. But I tried to move every chance I got, and I loved it when the bosses reorganised the teams and shuffled people around.

(Interestingly, research shows that changing your environment is actually better for the brain. Thanks, Kathy!)

Right now I’m sitting in my office, and this is what I can see out of the window. Okay, so it’s not quite the ocean view I’d like, but it’s still much better than I ever had at the day job. And if I decide I really do want that ocean view, I can just jump in the car and head down to the Gold Coast for the day. I can work on the laptop, and get Internet access from my phone. (I even had the option of working when I was visiting Angie in the UK. I didn’t, but I had that option.)

The weather’s not exactly brilliant here in Queensland, and so I’m quite content to just sit at home and work away. But I’ve set up my office pretty much the way I want, and I’ve got some music playing in the background. (I’ll probably never get a plant though, because I’d just end up killing it. I’m happy to stick with my view of the not-so-grassy knoll.)


“Meetings: where you take minutes and waste hours.”

Unfortunately, in a lot of cases that definition wasn’t too far from the truth. I lost count of how many times I sat in an hour-long meeting listening to a discussion that had nothing to do with my work. (There’s no way we could have done it using Mike Monteiro’s meeting tokens.) The worst meetings I ever had was for a development project, which ran for three hours on a Friday afternoon. (You can imagine how much work we got done in that last hour.)

I still have the odd meeting. But because we’re both busy (and it usually is just the two of us, sometimes three), we get straight to the point and wrap it up as quickly as possible so we can get back to Twitter. And if either of us needs to clarify something, a quick email or text chat is usually all it takes.

Internet access

Over the years my desk developed several large head-shaped dents. And I’m sure at least one of them was from not having full Internet access at work.

No, I didn’t think I should be able to look at porn all day (that’s definitely something you save for when you’re bored out of your brain in a meeting). But quite often I’d hit Google with a question, find the site that would give me the answer, and then be told that site wasn’t on the list of approved sites. Usually I just had to put in a request for it to be added, but it usually took a day before it would be available.

(In the end I gave up and just asked my Twitter followers instead, who’d then send me a link to a site I couldn’t access.)

But now I have full access to pretty much anything the governmemt lets me access. Which is why I end up with so many Amazon parcels landing on my doorstep.

Editing by committee

This is probably what caused all the other dents in my desk.

Normally when I get copy to edit, it’s pretty much finished. I just have to polish it, and it’s ready to go. But more often than not I’d finish editing only to be told the content was still being finalised (allow 6-8 weeks).

Sometimes I just needed to add a bit of extra information. But sometimes the new version had changed so much I had to start all over again. (In the end I started telling them to sort it all out first amongst themselves, and then send it to me. Sometimes it even worked.)

But what really made my blood boil is when someone would make “a few changes” before publishing it, such as adding an extra 40 words to the opening sentence. (I guess that’s what caused the dents on everyone else’s desks–reading the first paragraph and slipping into a coma.)

Fortunately I don’t have to deal with any of that any more. I usually work one-on-one with each client, and what they send me is usually pretty damn good. It just needs a bit of a polish before it goes out.

Which is nice, because I really like my new desks.


Okay, I should probably stop there and actually publish this. Yes, I can think of a few other things I don’t miss (performance reviews for one), but I’d sooner just forget about them. The bottom line is I’m a freelancer now, and I couldn’t be happier.

Although I’m happy for anyone to deliver a Porsche to my front door.


The post that shouldn’t be here

I really shouldn’t be writing this post.

It’s just after midnight, and while it’s no longer Valentine’s Day here in Australia, the most romantic day of the year (according to Hallmark) is still going in other parts of the world.

Including Canada.

That’s where I was supposed to be today (or yesterday, depending on your time zone). Angie and I had arranged to meet up in Canada and spend a few weeks together. And we were going to time it so we could be together on Valentine’s Day. That’s why I shouldn’t be writing this post. I should be enjoying my time with her instead.

But Fate, it seems, had other plans.

Due to a series of unfortunate events (but without Lemony Snicket), she’s there and I’m not. And so on the day we’d like to be together more than ever, we’re half a world apart.

I did get to chat to her briefly on Skype before she boarded the plane at Heathrow, but it wasn’t the same. And now I have to wait till she finds a decent Internet connection before I can talk to her again.

Not quite the Valentine’s Day I was hoping for.

I miss her terribly, and I can’t wait to read her words, to hear her voice, and to see her sweet face and that smile that makes everything seem okay.

Here’s hoping I don’t have to wait too long.


It’s complicated

Dear Facebook: You need to offer more options for “Relationship status”.

Honestly, I spent the best part of 15 minutes debating which one I should choose. The closest one there is “It’s complicated”, but in my case that’s like saying the Grand Canyon is “a big hole”. What I really need is something like “You have no freaking idea how complicated it is!”

So how complicated can a new relationship be? Well, let me tell you a story.

Angie and I first “met” on Twitter a few years ago. (She was living in Canada at the time, so I doubt we could have met any other way. The chances of us bumping into each other on the street were highly remote, no matter how much Google Maps screwed up.)

I can’t exactly remember how we met (though I’m guessing it was probably a conversation about some aspect of writing), but she quickly became one of my closest friends. Hardly a day went by when we didn’t chat to each other. And as time went on, we found we were sharing more and more about ourselves.

And there certainly was a lot to share. Things got pretty tough for both of us—failed relationships, work driving us insane (okay, more insane), and life generally dumping its crap on us. But we were always there for each other, offering advice, a much-needed laugh, or just the chance to talk to someone who would listen.

Our friendship became stronger than ever. But that’s all it was—friendship. And that was just fine by us. After all my futile attempts at online dating I’d pretty much given up. And Angie was in the throes of escaping Canada to start her new life in the UK.

But one afternoon while chatting on Skype (okay, it was afternoon where I was. I’m still getting used to the whole time zone thing), we realised that what we had might me more than just a great friendship. The chats became Skype calls (thank goodness for the Internet!), and before long we realised we definitely had feelings for each other.

But as I said, we lived half a world away from each other and had never met in person. So the question remained: could we be just as close in real life as we were online?

And so we decided to meet up to find out—one way or the other. So I arranged flights to the UK, arranged more flights when QANTAS grounded all its planes, and we finally got to meet each other face-to-face.

We were more than ready for it not to work out. We promised each other we’d stay good friends, no matter what. After all, how could it possibly become anything more than friendship when we lived so far apart? We’d meet, have a great time together, I’d fly back to Australia and we’d stay good friends. Easy.

So it kind of took us both by surprise when we realised the chemistry was definitely there.

And now we face a world of problems—literally.

There’s no way I can leave Australia. I want to see my son grow up, and so moving simply isn’t an option right now. And Angie has just established her new life in the UK and enrolled her son in school, so she’s pretty much grounded as well—at least for the time being.

Logically, this is one of the most stupid ideas we could ever come up with. And if it was any other couple we’d probably be telling them they’re mad. But we’ve grown so close since we’ve been together we’ve decided “to hell with logic” and will try and make it work anyway.

So now, my Facebook status reads: “In a relationship”.

And I couldn’t be happier.



Nine months. Hundreds of submissions. Dozens of rejections. Even more non-responses. And in the few times I was accepted, I never made it past the first interview.

So I think it’s time I gave up on Internet dating.

It was fun at first—coming up with a profile that made me seem interesting without lying, adding a photo that wouldn’t scare people away, and deciding which of my interests would seem the least geeky. And when that was all approved by the Internet dating gods, I went searching for potential dates.

The good news is a lot of people out there are still available. The bad news is there’s a very good reason they’re still available.

But it wasn’t all bad, and I soon found some people who looked quite attractive and whose profile didn’t read like the premise of a Stephen King novel. So I made contact (after paying for the appropriate “membership”), let them know I was interested, and waited.

And waited.

After a few days I got sick of waiting, so I found some more people I was interested in, made contact, and waited.

By this time I’d learned about another dating site. So I joined up, paid up, and wrote up… okay, copied and pasted my profile. Saw some new people (and an amazing number of familiar faces from the other site), made contact, and waited again.

And then the rejections started coming in.

I figured this whole Internet dating thing was a bit of a crap shoot. I just didn’t realise I’d be the crap.

The first half dozen rejections weren’t too bad. The rejecters were very attractive (both in looks and on paper), and probably had to reject dozens of people every day just to clear their inboxes. (That’s what I kept telling myself anyway.)

But after a while they all started taking their toll, and I ended up with one very bruised and battered ego. It wasn’t just the numbers, either. I honestly couldn’t understand why some people were saying no, as we seemed to be perfect for each other. And believe me, being the wrong side of 40 when you’re separated and sharing custody of a toddler really limits your options.

(Then again, I was doing my fair share of rejecting as well, so maybe I shouldn’t have taken it quite so hard.)

More searching, more contacts, more waiting, more sites.

I ended up being on six dating sites (three paid, three free), which meant I could now receive dozens of rejections in a single day. Needless to say this really started doing my head in, and so it wasn’t long before I cut back to just the one.

I should point out that despite all these rejections it was anything but a waste of time. I managed to meet some lovely people, and while we never went past the first date I’m now very good friends with some of them.

But as I said earlier, I don’t think it’s for me. So with four months and two precious stamps still to go, I’m about to close my last account and leave the world of Internet dating. I’ll just have to find another way to meet people.

Maybe there’s an “Internet Dating Survivors Group” I can join.


Starting my new career on my backside

My new office chair arrived today.

Now that may not seem like a big deal to you, but it certainly was to me.

It means I can finally put the dining room chair back in the dining room. And even though I doubt I’ll have five people sitting with me at the dinner table any time soon, it’s still nice to have the complete set.

But that’s not the reason.

It also means I can actually sit at my computer for hours without getting a sore back from a chair with about as much give as the tax department.

But that’s not it, either.

And it’s not that my new office chair is a Herman Miller Aeron that I’ve dreamed of owning ever since I heard about them.

So why is this chair such a big deal?

Because when I sit in this chair, I really feel like a writer/editor. And that’s really important because for all intents and purposes that’s what I am now.

I longer have a day job to keep me going so I can pretend to be one. I’m either a freelancer or I’m unemployed. And I really don’t want to be unemployed.

I want to be a freelancer.

(Oh, and if anyone from the tax department is reading this, it was just a bit of friendly banter. You’ll still let me claim the chair, right?)






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Footprints in the text

In the past I’ve talked about the editing process, and how whenever I edit someone else’s work I seem to leave footprints in their text.

Well, I think I’ve finally conquered that problem.

Today I received an advanced copy of “A practical guide to Information Architecture”, the book I spend a month or so editing for my friend Donna Spencer. (It gets officially released on the 8th of June.) And as I started reading it I saw my name in the list of credits. “Editor: Bill Harper”

It was an incredibly satisfying feeling. I worked really hard on the manuscript, and it was great to see my name along with the rest of the production crew. (The publishers have since asked if I’d be interested in working on other projects. Two words: “Hell yeah!”)

But then I read the acknowledgements page, and I was blown away. Here’s what Donna said about me:

“My editor Bill Harper was amazing. I looked at the first chapters he sent back and thought he hadn’t done anything – I couldn’t see any differences. But he had done tons of work – he’d managed to improve my writing out of sight and still keep it sounding just like me. Bill, I hope you can edit for me for every other book I write (and I’m glad you’re my friend).”

Now I’ll admit I was lucky: Donna and I have very similar writing styles, and so it was nowhere near as difficult as it could have been. But still, it was great to see she couldn’t even see where I’d been until she actually compared the two versions. Not a footprint in sight.

If you’re reading this Donna, I can’t thank you enough. For your friendship, for your faith in my abilities, and for your kind words that have done more for me than you can possibly imagine. And I would be honoured to edit every other book you write.


A quick note

It’s been a while since I last blogged (and even that blog was a long time coming), so I thought I’d touch base and let you know what’s happening.

Okay, let me start by telling you I haven’t given up blogging. I realise I’ve dropped the ball in terms of posting every day (though it had to happen eventually—I think was a little too ambitious for my own good), but I still intend on posting whenever I can.

So why has it been so long between posts?

Well, in early April I went on holidays for a week or so to spend time with friends of ours, as well as to clear my mind and give me time to think about a few issues. And while I could have spent a few hours each day writing posts with my iPhone, I had far better things to do—like walking along the beach.

I posted the night I got back to Brisbane, and thought I’d be able to quickly slip back into the routine. But instead of heading to my computer at night, I found I was heading straight to bed.

It seems that while the medication I’m on stops some people from sleeping, it’s having the opposite effect on me. For the past few weeks it’s been a real struggle staying awake past nine o’clock. (Having a contact lens that isn’t quite the right prescription is also making me feel tired pretty quickly.) And considering I don’t usually start writing my blog posts before ten, this is proving to be a real problem.

I’ve been told by a good friend of mine that this will pass, and that I’ll soon be back to my normal self (well, better than my normal self, actually). But for now I’m afraid you’re just going to have to put up a bit of sporadic posting until my body sorts itself out.

In the meantime, thank you all for your support and your kind words of encouragement. I may not have thanked you individually, but believe me it’s very much appreciated.