Categories
Mental Illness

DEPRESSION AND HOPE (or rather the lack of it)

It is with some trepidation that I write about my long term relationship with depression.

Recently, I have been drawn to people who talk of happiness as a matter of attitude.  People who have had their fair share of struggle, but have looked that struggle square in the face and said “Fuck you!”  Their souls, whilst changed, have not been broken. It is a matter of attitude they say.

I read these blogs, books and articles in magazines and my heart breaks a little bit more.

I think, perhaps, I am beyond help.

My head hurts.

My heart is broken.

I stumble through my day wondering why we exist at all?

It hardly seems fair to be created with sentient awareness, but to have no true purpose.

I have been told that my purpose is to write.  And it is true, I do feel it in my bones.

But I am ruled by fear.  People afflicted with this hideous disease are ruled by fear.

That is the truth of depression.

Some hard wiring has gone astray and we live in a perpetual state of fear.

The voices in our head, that nasty little creature that revels in our misery, tells us, constantly, how it is all going to go wrong, how we will make a laughing stock of ourselves, how we are arrogant to believe that we could be talented in anything, how our lives, really, are just a waste of the space we inhabit, how we just need to die.

And so we sit.  We wait.  To die.

We don’t really want to die, of course.  We just feel incapacitated.  We feel isolated and we feel hopeless.  And hopelessness is the killer.

I once watched an episode of Bones where the serial killer would brick women up into a room with no food nor water.  He would stream video footage of their families to them and then he would watch them as they would scream.  But no-one would come.  And eventually they would lie down and wait for death, all hope lost.  At the end of the episode, when he had been captured, he said that it was this hopelessness, so all encompassing that they would willingly lie down and wait to die, that he could induce in these women that gave him the thrill.  Pretty awful really, but a very good mirror on the human condition.

We need hope to survive.

Survival is dependent on hope.  Hope for a better future, hope that tomorrow will be better, hope that life will be okay in the end.

People who end their lives no longer have hope.

To have no hope is to be empty, to have nothing left.

To have no hope is to die.

I fight for hope.  Every day I wake up and pray for hope.  Depression and hope are interdependent.

It is not self pity.  Many people think it is.  Many people think it is a case of wallowing in our own misery.  Which is why mental illness is still so badly stigmatised, why it is underfunded and why it is now touted that not 1 in 5 but 1 in 2 people will be afflicted with a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime, and only a fraction of those will seek help, and only a fraction of those again will receive the help that will set them on the path to recovery.  That is to say, on a path that will enable them to see hope.

At this point in time I see no hope.

It’s horrible.  Shocking even.  I am a middle aged housewife living in a beautiful home with a beautiful family.  I have no right to feel depressed.  Or so they say.

But the reality is that I do have a right.  I have a right, because it is my reality.  It is a reality I wish didn’t exist.  It is a reality that I suspect will be a part of who I am for the rest of my life.  I will always struggle with finding the joy in a simple day, finding the happiness in a bird’s song.  I will always struggle to ignore the voices in my head that tell me I am not good enough, a waste of space, not worthy of love.

It is reconciling that reality, marrying it to a life of less pain, more vitality, less anguish, more evenness, that is the key.

Today, I am losing the battle.  But as of this day, I am winning the war, for I am alive.

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/andrew_solomon_depression_the_secret_we_share.html

 

Much love,

SHW Signature

Categories
Mental Illness

ARE YOU FEEDING THE WOLF OF DEPRESSION?

My word for this year is HEALTH.  Whilst I intended this primarily to mean physical health, due to the fact that I had an awful physical time of it last year, I realise that health means good mental wellbeing too.

I have clinical depression.  I try to ignore it, but like most things detrimental to our health, unless you deal with it, the black dog will not be silenced.

This past week has seen it rear its ugly head good and proper.

Partly, it’s hormonal.  My PMS is shocking.  I become suicidal and demented and I want to rip my eyes out.  It is a type of manic darkness that is frightening, nay terrifying, and one I wouldn’t want to wish upon my worst enemy.

Partly, it is because I am tired.  It was a long year last year, and whilst delightful, the long school holiday break has not been all that restful.

Mostly, though, it is because I haven’t really dealt with it.  Not really.  Not at the level I need to if I am to see any sustained recovery.

And so with my word HEALTH in hand, I decided to sign up for Rick Hanson’s The Foundation of Wellbeing course*.  Rick Hanson for the uninitiated is a neuropsychologist who has written a number of books on happiness and wellbeing.  The course itself consists of 12 pillars and it is recommended that each pillar be taken over  a period of a month in order to assimilate and practice the skills learned.

The start of the program, January for me, is about self caring – the foundation upon which all else comes.  It is about befriending yourself, being your own advocate, being your own cheer buddy, being there for yourself when times get tough.

I am so bad at this.  I advocate for other people all the time, yet judge myself so harshly.  Mr C will often lament that I take the best parts of everybody I meet, mash them together and try to be an amalgamation of all of the best bits of all of the people I ever meet.  An impossibility of course.

The result is that I fail, time and again.  It feeds my lack of self worth like a self perpetuating downward spiral.  And because I am constantly scanning other people for their “good bits” and trying to apply them to my own life, I have lost my own sense of self.  And that is a terrible thing to live with.

Have you seen those things that say “find your purpose”, and in it they say “what is your passion, for that is your purpose,” or “what is the one thing you would do if money was no object?”  Do you have an answer ready?  I don’t.  I don’t have a bloody clue.  I just stare blankly at the page, because I don’t seem to have a passion, a burning desire, or one thing that I would rather be doing.  I’m too busy trying to assimilate traits that I feel would make me a better person, a more valued person, a less judged person, a person worthy of life and living.

And it is tiring.  Oh my word, it is so tiring.  Judging oneself so harshly takes effort.  Enormous effort.  And of course, because they are other peoples’ traits, it is almost impossible to make them my own.  They are counterintuitive to who I am, yet I no longer have a clue as to “who I am” is anymore.

And so I become demented.  Crazed.  An internal inferno burning my mind, like a fuse lit at one end of my brain that rages through every neurone that exists until I feel an imminent explosion.   It is at this point I can sympathise with those people who self harm, because it is in those moments that I feel the very same urge, though have never gone through with it.

Have you heard the story of the two wolves?  I have heard a number of versions of the story, and forgive me if you have heard it, but it goes something like this.  A boy asks his grandfather how he came to be so wise and so contented in life, how he always manages to see the good and lets the bad just pass on through.  The grandfather looks at his grandson and says “My boy, there are with us at all times two wolves.  One is full of hate and anger, one is full of love and peace.  I just give the one full of love and peace more attention.”

At this point in time, I am aware that I am giving the wolf of depression, as I like to call him, way more attention.  It consumes me, baring its teeth at me, orange eyes flashing wickedly at my soul.  I love wolves, but I know too that they represent a shadow side to me that feels like it has control.

This is my year to wrestle back that control, to give the wolf of love and peace the attention it deserves and to find some respite for my mind that is so weary, so beaten, so broken.

Depression is such a horrible thing, so debilitating, more debilitating than most people imagine.  But I can’t give up.  I have to realise my quest of what peace of mind actually feels like, of what a life of meaning and purpose feels like, and until I find it, until I achieve it, I will not give up.

I hope you don’t give up either.

I have hope for the Rick Hanson programme.  I like him and I certainly enjoyed my first session.  It makes total sense to me.  First be a friend to yourself.  I can do that.  Surely, I can do that.

Until next time,

SHW Signature

 

 

* This is not a sponsored post at all.

 

Categories
Mental Illness To You

A love note to myself {and I encourage you to do the same}

Below is a love letter to myself.  It is Day 12 of the #reverb14 and this was the task for today.  I found it incredibly difficult to write.  It felt narcissistic and wrong.  And yet, by doing so I was able to acknowledge the value of myself as a person.  As a person with depression I find this almost impossible to do.

It ended up being reflective, encouraging and extremely cathartic and, dear friend, I truly encourage you to do the same.  It will feel strange.  We are taught from the very outset that any self love is really vanity which is wrong.  It isn’t vanity or wrong.  It is something we don’t do often enough.  We don’t visit ourselves and acknowledge our strengths and gifts.  Perhaps if we did, the world we live in might be a little nicer and kinder place to be.

 

Dearest Sarah,

Today is Friday, 12th of December 2014.  This time a couple of years ago there was much hype about the impending end of the world due to someone in the Mayan culture not continuing their calendar, silly person.  It worried you though.  You were only 44 years old and there was so much you felt you had not done and it scared the crap out of you to think you may never get to do them.  What frightened you most though was the fact that you knew you had all this unrealised potential inside of you and you didn’t want to die without getting some chance  to put it out into the world.

It would take you another two years to start to work towards realising your full potential.  And you are still very much a work in progress.  That is okay.

It was a fortuitous day in January that you met with that art therapist who urged you to start your blog.  Even as you felt you didn’t know what you wanted to blog about, or what you wanted to say, or what niche you should have, or if indeed you had anything to say at all, you knew deep down inside that all you had to do was show up and start writing.

I want to thank you for doing that.  For just showing up, week after week, and just writing.

So often you would have no idea what to say, but somehow as your fingers danced across the keyboard, the words would tumble out.  Sometimes your life seemed so dark that all you could write about was that darkness that inhabited your soul on that day.  

What you didn’t know is that by answering the call to write, by spilling your guts out onto the page and into the cyber/universe, you were healing the toxicity that had inhabited your soul for so very long.  That writing was allowing the light to shine through those cracks of that damaged heart of yours and it was beautiful.

You had no idea the people you would touch, or the people you would meet, and your instinct was to withdraw.  History had taught you not to trust.  But you didn’t withdraw, you ignored your head, you listened to your heart and you took a deep breath, mustered your courage and went to those gatherings, and online meetups, you made your contributions and with it amazing connections.  

I know you still struggle to see what goodness people see in you, how surprised you feel when someone says how kind you are or what an amazing writer you are.  This is because us creatives never believe our own self worth.  Which is why we have to look at our craft as an act of service, to put some goodness out into the world, expecting nothing in return.  That way, we safeguard ourselves from disappointment and anguish.  The irony is that once we start to do that, as you have started to do this year, the universe responds.  It starts to give back in ways you never imagined, as you now have begun to see.

Please do continue with your kindness bombs.  The world needs them.  I know you doubt yourself and wonder if the words are just frivolous noise in a sea of online noise.  I know you wonder if they mean anything.  Let me say this:  Anything that is positive and kind and nurturing is worth putting out into the world.  There is so much negativity out there that anything that counters that is a good thing.  People let you know that they love them, so please do continue with them.

I want to thank you too for your resilience.  I know you don’t feel that you are resilient, but you are.  I know how hard it is for you sometimes when the black dog comes to call, how you want to slink away, how you convince yourself that no one cares, how sometimes just drawing breath seems more effort than it is worth.  But you do, you draw that breath, you get out of bed, you meet with your friends, you go online, you write.  You show up every single day and my dear dear Sarah, that is worth celebrating.

You are just beginning to realise that life is something that is for living.  You are just finding out that you are a good person who has something to offer the world and believe me when I say that 2015 is going to take that momentum and catapult you even further to find more joy, more happiness, more peace and contentment than you ever imagined would be possible.  So much so that when the world is in fear of ending again, you will be able to hold your head up high and say “That’s okay, I’ve lived a good life, I’ve given the world all I can”.

Look back at this year, Sarah, and see how far you have come.  Know how proud I am of you, how proud your family is of you.  Know that you are well loved and valued for what you bring to this world.  Know that you have so much more to give.  As you head into 2015, continue with your courage and your tenacity, your kindness and your love.  The world truly does need it.  And do not stop writing.

In closing, I want you to know that I love you.  You probably don’t know that, but deep down inside I value you and I cannot wait to travel with you as you realise that full potential you have burning inside of you, and to live a life of self worth and inner contentment.  Let’s walk those 500 miles together and then 500 more.

Lots of love,

Sarah x

Categories
Ramblings

Out with black and white, in with shades of grey

 

The world is not black and white.  It is in fact full of shades of grey, with a good heap of colour, definitely not black and white.

Yet, as humans, we are committed to this notion that life has to be exactly that – black and white, right or wrong, yes or no.

It is this notion that feeds our own critical natures – we are either good at something or bad at something.  It also feeds our opinion of each other – a person, or group is either right or wrong.  It feeds our tolerance levels – if they are in, we forgive the person or group a multitude of sins, but if they are out, even when we actually agree with their behaviour, we don’t want to admit it.

On a day to day basis I am extremely critical of myself.  I am too fat, too lazy, not active enough, not a good mother, not a good housewife, not educated enough. I reinforce the idea that I am a “bad” person and it is this opinion of myself that drives my depression.  My brain tells me I am not good enough, and to drive the point home, it points out all the things that I am bad at.

Yet, when I analyse it, a life lived is a journey and the skills we acquire are on a  spectrum.  Here is what I mean:

I am overweight yes, but certainly not to the point where my life is impeded except for circumstances where I choose to it do so.

I am not lazy – I do not enjoy housework and certain other tasks and I do put them off until I have to do them, but indeed that doesn’t make me lazy, it makes me human.  Some people are born for domesticity and good luck to them, I am not one of them.

On balance, whilst I do not run, swim, or partake in any formal activity, I can shop up a storm like nobody else and quite often my pedometer will tell me that I did over the required 10,000 steps just by moving from shop to shop.  I am active, just not in the conventional sense perhaps.

Being a mother is probably one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.  Being a mother of a child on the spectrum even more so.  Your sanity comes under fire almost daily.  Your confidence as a person capable of making sound decisions is questioned.  This is because you are acutely aware that you are bringing up another human being and that your responsibility to ensure that human is good, kind, respectful and happy to boot is enormous.  I find I question my ability to fulfil this task all the time.  However, despite my lack of confidence, I have never given up.  My own daughter now has a child of her own and my son, who is on the spectrum, has managed to make it through mainstream school and only has two years to complete his schooling.  He has dreams and aspirations of becoming a video game designer.  He has aspirations.  That comes from being a tenacious parent who may make mistakes a long the way (plenty of them), but who also is prepared to do battle on a daily basis for her children.  I may not be the stereotypical domesticated mother, but my children know I would do anything for them.  That makes me at the very least an okay mother (spectrum, remember?).

I am an okay housewife.  I hadn’t intended on becoming a housewife at all.  I intended on working in the corporate world.  Then Master J was born and his needs superseded my own need to earn money.  I do not clean house very often.  I, in fact, have a wonderful cleaner called Tom, who is my life saver.  I tell myself, as I have mentioned in another post, that I am boosting the economy by providing employment for him.  My house is neat and tidy and my friends tell me that they love coming over as it is a relaxed place to be where I am always with them, not rushing around cleaning up after everyone.  It is true, I don’t even try to do the dishes until everyone has left.  Largely because I hate doing dishes.  It isn’t uncommon for them to be sitting there a couple of days later.  But they do get done, eventually.

My feeling of being uneducated has dogged me for years.  At school I was considered very clever.  The problem is that I hated learning things that I didn’t like.  I loved English and Drama, and other Arts subjects, but as for the other required learning, that really grated me.  The upshot is that whilst everyone expected me to do really well, my school life ended with a mediocre result.  I then went to university to become a biology teacher, because that seemed like a good and noble profession at the time, not because I loved biology which I didn’t.  I hadn’t thought it through as I clearly had no idea how much science was involved.  Who knew biology was a science?  This “failure” set me on a path that would dog me for years.  I could not consider myself educated unless I had a degree – black and white, see?  Life experience and my wealth of knowledge garnered through extensive reading didn’t count in my book.

I am nearing 50.  I have learned that what we thought was absolute 25 years ago does not hold true today.  I have learned that there is no black and white, only greys and that life is smattered with colour along the way.  I have learned that life is a journey.  I have learned that as a species we evolve, that what the media tells us is true today is almost certainly not true tomorrow.  We make decisions in the absolute, but life is not static, it is dynamic and those people that “go with the flow” are the ones that are the most happy, the most well adjusted, the most able to adjust their sails for stormy seas.  I am learning to be that person.  I am learning to be the person that just bobs along on the ocean, not trying to control the direction, but allowing life to take her wherever it sees fit for her to go.  Yes, it feels counterintuitive at times, a lot of the time, but with practice, I am getting better.

How about you?  Is it time to let the black and white go and to finally love your shade of grey?

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

This post was written as part of #reverb14 – a blogging initiative hosted by Kat McNally.  The month of December is a good time to reflect on the year that was and for us to contemplate the reverberations that we send out into the world.  Please do hop on over to Kat’s blog and if you feel moved to do so, please join in.  Today is Day 9 of the initiative.
Categories
To Others To You

Piece of mind vs Peace of mind

If you had the opportunity, would you go back to that one person who hurt you so badly and let them have it?  All that visceral anger that you have been harbouring, unleashed.

One of the traits of someone living with depression is that we tend to ruminate, especially on those people or incidents that left us feeling unvalued, hurt, humiliated.  We tend to play over and over in our minds the details of the offending event, imagining what it would have been like if only we had been braver, more succinct, able to think better on our feet.

Oh my how that person would suffer at the hand of our witty, but cutting, repartee.  The look of abject horror in their eyes, knowing full well that they had been non-violently beaten into submission.  We would turn on our heals and leave, their dropped jaw gleefully seared into our brains, and we would know that, finally, we had won.  Vindication would be ours.

But it never quite happens that way.  Victory is rarely won by any form of confrontation.

In humanity, there are people who delight in causing mayhem and harm to others.  They are ignorant, unaware, pigheaded.  There is no reasoning with them and whenever you are in their company they always leave you feeling less than, never valued.  Often they create drama wherever they go and they always seem to pull you into their web.  You don’t want to be there, but somehow you are powerless to avoid it.  More often than not if you were to ask them what type of person they were, they would reply that they are good, kind people who only want to bring goodness into the world, completely unaware of how their bombastic ways leave people feeling.  This is part of the human condition.  It is unavoidable.  We cannot change this.

It can all feel so disempowering.  And it is that feeling of disempowerment that leaves us with residue anger that can live with us for years.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

It doesn’t seem right, I know, but the single most liberating thing you can do is to let them go, to let the incident go, to move forward, to live free.  Free yourself of the weight of the anger, frustration, injustice.

It isn’t easy.  The brain tends to replay incidents in our minds.  It is a biological response, you see, to replay that incident that caused us harm.  It is a way of protecting ourselves, preparing ourselves if the incident should ever happen again.  And our body can’t differentiate between what is real or imagined.  When we ruminate, it is as if we are living in the moment of that incident.  We feel wretched, angry, hurt all over again.  We are stuck.

The only way to stop the cycle is to let it go.

In recent years I have had a couple of incidents that have left me reeling.  And I carried them with me like medals of a battle I should have won.

I was torturing myself.  Every time I was alone, it seemed, with nothing but my own thoughts to keep me company, I would replay those incidents over and over again.  A stuck record, searing a scar so deep into my brain it felt like I would never be free of the misery.

But then I realised that I am master of my own destiny.  I do have control over my thoughts.  I do have control over how they dance across my mind.

I consciously chose to sublimate those thoughts.  It isn’t easy and it can be a good few minutes of ruminating, self talking, imagining my responses before I become aware of them.  But then I close my eyes.  I breathe in and breath out.  I say the words “breathe in, breathe out.”  You see, it takes conscious effort to speak.  It diverts your mind from those ruminating negative thoughts to your voice.  “breathe in, breathe out.

Before I know it, my heart rate has lowered, my breathing has slowed and a calmness has settled over my mind.

It takes practice.  A lot of it.  Sometimes, it is a real struggle.  My mind fights with me.  It wants to be heard.  It wants to warn me of the impending danger, remind me of the pain and hurt I felt so that I can be better prepared next time.

But I have learned.  It isn’t real.  The hurt and anger is futile.  The event has passed.  Retribution isn’t coming, and it is pointless to hold onto it.  And so I consciously let the person go.  I say the words, “You can no longer hurt me, and I let you go.  Breathe in, breath out.  I let you go. Breathe in, breathe out.

I also choose never to have anything to do with them.

This seems harsh, and it wasn’t a decision taken lightly.  But I believe in my right to choose whom I have in my life.  After a lifetime of allowing people to dictate my worth, I have taken ownership of it.  And so I choose to let them go.  Not with hatred.  For they acted in response to their own demons.  And I take ownership of my part, for there are always two sides to any story, good or bad.

Still, I choose not to dance with them any longer, to not engage in their little game that seems to drive them, thrill them, control them.  That is their internal fight, not mine.  I choose to walk away.

And I feel so much better for it.

Do I wish I could yell and shout, and give them a piece of my mind?  Sometimes.  But mostly, I choose peace of mind and that makes all the difference.

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

This post was written as part of #reverb14 – a blogging initiative hosted by Kat McNally.  The month of December is a good time to reflect on the year that was and for us to contemplate the reverberations that we send out into the world.  Please do hop on over to Kat’s blog and if you feel moved to do so, please join in.  
Categories
To You

Time to let go, time to release

 

Frantic is the only word to describe my life at the moment.

The silly season is upon us and I am the proverbial chicken without a head, trying desperately to get it all done before the big day.

It isn’t going to happen.  I have to let some things go.

I have lost my christmas mojo.

I don’t like to admit it, but I have.

Partly, it is the seasonal grief that the loss of my mom brings.  Grief is a funny beast and the silly season is one of those times when, for me, it manages to find me and cling to me like sand brought home from the beach.

But I also think it is the notion that I have to have a perfect christmas, full of feast and festivities.  And because I suffer from depression, with my list ever growing, I find that my motivation is ever waning.

I am tired.

It has been a difficult year.  A year of growth, yes, but we only grow when we are prepared to confront those painful aspects of our lives and let them go.  I have done an awful lot of letting go.

Writing has been therapy for me.  Toxic, ugly therapy.  Therapy is not meant to be rainbows and unicorns.  And I’ve grown.  But with any growth there has to be a period of rest.  To recharge, to gain strength.  I am finding my body desperately wanting to rest, my mind begging me to stop.

But I can’t, I tell myself.  I have so much to do.

What is it that drives us to do so much?  To aim for perfection?  A perfection that is a moving target since it means different things to so many different people.  For each of the 12 people that will sit at my christmas table, perfection will mean something different.  I am chasing an illusion.

I have to release this notion of perfection.  I have release this notion that unless I can achieve perfection, I will be viewed as not good enough.

I am enough.

Done is better than perfect.

Done is better than perfect.

Be kind to yourself.

Let some of it go.

The greatest gift we can give to ourselves is the permission to let stuff go, to put things out into the wider world that show imperfections, that are less than, but more than enough.

My to-do list is enormous.

If I don’t get it all done by the time Santa arrives, that is okay.

The world will not come to end.

Life will not stop.

Deep breaths.  In. Out.  In.  Out.

Let.  It.  All.  Go.

Dear Universe, I really wanted to get this shit load of stuff done by the 25th, but I am simply not going to manage it.  I am releasing those less important things to you.  Chances are no-one will notice.  I will notice, but that is okay, I am handing them over to you.  I am a fallible human, and at this time, in this moment, I just simply cannot do it all.  I am choosing my mental health over home made christmas bon bons, hand crafted gift bags and a number of other homestead-y type things.  I know you will  understand.

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

 This post was written as part of #reverb14 – a blogging initiative hosted by Kat McNally.  The month of December is a good time to reflect on the year that was and for us to contemplate the reverberations that we send out into the world.  Please do hop on over to Kat’s blog and if you feel moved to do so, please join in.  
Categories
Mental Illness

We need to talk about mental illness, depression and suicide NOW!

 

I went to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 today.  It was awesome.  I loved the book and I loved the movie.

But throughout the movie I could not help but feel sad.  As Philip Seymour Hoffman graced the screen in the effortless way that was his acting style, I couldn’t help but wonder where it had all gone wrong.

Just before the main feature began, an advert for another movie, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, was shown.  In it, glimpses of Robin Williams were to be seen, reprising his role of Theodore Roosevelt.

As I watched The Hunger Games, I kept thinking of Philip and Robin and what a great loss they were.  How they were so brilliant at their craft, so revered, so loved, and yet how inadequate they both must have felt to be pushed to the fatal end they both endured.  As a recovering alcoholic, I know only too well that addiction is born out of a feeling of not being good enough.  I have felt the pain that comes with inadequacy and the lure of suicide, knowing only too well the pain this will cause to family and friends.  In that moment, the pain of living is worse than the pain of knowing the devastation your loss will cause.  The promise of release from that pain all too seductive.

This week the internet has been all agog at the comments made by Mark Latham about Lisa Pryor’s comments on how she copes with motherhood.  In his Financial Review article, he likens the stress of tending of his garden to the work pressures that she felt as a mother and full time medical student.  He trivialises the pressure that women feel in this day and age, and goes so far as to disparage the choice of a woman to work for reasons other than financial gain.

Additionally this week was this post by Sarah Wilson in which she poses the question of whether or not her autoimmune disease can be caused, or at least exacerbated by stress.  The headline was unfortunate – Is Self Hatred Making Us Sick.  The backlash to this post, which was reposted on News Ltd’s website was enormous.  Whist I questioned what she wrote and didn’t agree with some of it, I admired her ability to stand back and take a look at what was and wasn’t working for her.  I certainly didn’t feel she was being prescriptive about what was causing my own autoimmune disease or how I should manage it.

What shocked me, though, was the unabashed vitriol that was espoused in reaction to this post.  Blog posts popped up all over the place denigrating what she had said as quackery and attacking her personally.  They questioned her qualification to dish out medical advice (which she was not doing) and called her credentials into question.  If stress does exacerbate Sarah’s condition, the venom spat her way must have caused her great discomfort in the autoimmune department.  It is this kind of cyber bullying that causes journalists to take their own lives.

And what is all the point of all this?  What do the deaths of actors, the challenging of women’s coping mechanisms and a post about autoimmune disease management have in common?

At the heart of all these things is mental illness.  And we don’t talk about it nearly enough.

Depression as an illness, is still a major cause of morbidity and death, and we need to understand it better, and we need to prevent people from killing themselves because they are depressed. – Changing Minds, ABC

When I got home from the movies, I decided to watch the the ABC series Changing Minds.  I had taped it weeks ago, but for some reason could not bring myself to watch it.  Maybe it is because I suffer from terrible clinical depression and I did not want to face the fine line that keeps me on this side of a psychiatric ward. Maybe it is because mental health is stigmatised so much that I try to lock my illness inside a cave somewhere deep inside my head, pretending that it isn’t there at all.  I advocate for mental illness, yet I myself still feel stigmatised by it.

I watched the series and it shocked me.  It shocked me because we simply do not talk about it enough and because of that people are not getting the help they need, especially in the wider community.  People try to ignore it, they do, but it cannot be ignored.

Actors are buckling at an alarming rate because of it, Sarah was trying to connect the dots between anxiety (read mental health) and physical well being, and Mark Latham was stigmatising mental health in women in the way only he (and many others like him) can in a publication largely read by men.

Men are three times as likely to commit suicide than women.  This is because the stigma is so rife, that men, in a world largely controlled by men, do not feel that they can talk about their mental illness.  And if they do, they are often turned away.  So they choose to leave behind loved ones and take their own lives.  Does Mark Latham think he is helping the cause of those men?  Never mind the women he is berating, how about the men?

Those people who chose to call Sarah a quack for her beliefs about her own condition, who chose to insult her as a person, as a journalist and as a personal blogger, did they think they were encouraging dialogue for those people who suffer from mental illness and feel that they cannot seek help?  Upon reading her article, I did not see as her attacking them personally.  I saw it as her seeking answers to her own condition and citing things that made sense to her, recognising that during times when she feels better mentally, she also feels better physically.  She was, in fact, talking about mental health.

All of this is about mental health, about when we feel better mentally, we can operate better on a physical level too – we are better human beings.  Without mental health we have nothing.  Our physical systems seem harder to cope with, our demanding jobs are harder to cope with, life itself is harder to cope with.

We live in a world where pressures increase exponentially and yet the discussion of mental illness is just not happening.

The dialogue of how to address the increasing mental illness and suicide issue needs to begin in earnest.  It needs to happen and it needs to happen now.

If you are experiencing any depression, suicidal thoughts or extreme mental anguish, please talk to someone you can trust, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Until next time,

SHW Signature

 

 

Categories
Mental Illness

Don’t judge the depressive person – be their seratonin buddy

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day.

We were talking about depression.  She hates that I can reach such deep lows.  She hates that I can even have a dalliance with the idea of suicide.  She sees the beauty in me as a person, the value in what I am and what I bring to the table of the world and cannot understand how I can’t see it myself.

In reality, most days I do see glimpses of it.

I know that I am very much loved by my family and the increasing amount of friends I am making.  I know that my craziness, as evidenced by my bald lip-syncing decision, is brave and courageous and that every day I try to live my truth as best as I can.  I know that my daughter adores my creativity, that my husband cannot possibly imagine a life without me in it, that my son does love me even if he can’t express it,  that my grandchild adores sitting with me on my settee whilst we chomp our way through a mountain of grapes.  I have much to love, to be grateful for, to be positive about.

But the dark days exist.  Despite knowing how devastated my family would be at losing me to suicide, those thoughts do cross my mind.

I wish they didn’t, but they do.

And the most awful thing anyone can say to a person in those times is to tell them to buck up, to think positively, to be grateful for what they have.  It is terrible because, for the depressed person, it is an impossible thing to do.

And let me tell you why.

A person who is depressed has a fundamental chemical imbalance {at its most basic, a lack of seratonin}.  This chemical imbalance causes negative thoughts to predominate in the brain.   Asking a depressed person to “think positively” and to “buck up” or “chin up” is like asking a blind man to see.

Of course, depression is {largely} treatable.  There are a few things that have been proven to address the chemical imbalance.  By embarking on these things, seratonin levels rise and it is this that helps treat the depression, not just “thinking positively”.

In a nutshell they are eating correctly, exercising, sleeping well, doing something for someone else being altruistic and feeling connected (yes, this actually raises seratonin levels in the brain), getting outside into the sunshine (low vitamin D levels cause a decrease in seratonin), meditation and putting all of this into ACTION.

The problem with the depressive is that to actually act, especially when you are in the grip of a crippling episode, is really difficult.

Facing life on life’s terms is really challenging.  Us depressives tend to get caught in a loop of self talk, driven by that pesky low seratonin level, that immobilises us.  Rather than face a world we have convinced ourselves don’t want us, we remain indoors, we stay online (as this give us the illusion of being connected) and we get caught in a feedback loop of what alcoholics anonymous calls “stinking thinking”.  And so the cycle continues.  To the point where it can become so severe that the pain of that existence, the pain of living a life in so much pain becomes unbearable and suicide can feel like the only option.

Of course, we are all responsible for our own destinies.  We have choice.  But we need to be very careful about how we bandy that concept about.  As I mentioned, a biological chemical imbalance is at play here and those around the depressive must remember that.

A more helpful strategy would be to help the depressive address those things outlined above.  Phone them and offer to take them outside, to go for a walk, to ask them to come along to something you are doing.  Work with them to help them set up a routine with them that will get them exercising and sleeping well.  Become their “seratonin buddy“.

They will baulk at the idea, but gentle perseverance is the key here.  Choose moments where they are having a better day, and just sit with them when they are having a bad one.  Eventually better days will shine through.

Whatever you do, please please please don’t tell them to “just think positively”, to “stop with the pity party”, to “stop being a victim”, to “buck up”, to “put their best step forward”, to “just cheer up”.  I can tell you from personal experience that these comments do not help at all.  They are judgemental and end up making the depressive feel even worse than they did before.  They victimise the victim, assuming that being so depressed that they consider taking their own life is a choice.  Because that is what we do as humans, we wilfully choose to devastate those around us, we wilfully choose to end our life and with it all of our possible potential.

When Robin Williams committed suicide, a number of articles emerged as a counter measure to the amount of empathy he received for the tortured life he seemed to have lived.  These articles placed the blame for his suicide firmly at his feet.  “He had a choice,” they said.  They were ill informed.  They were judgements written by the authors, not one of which mentioned any of the research that proves that low seratonin levels (and others) drives negative thinking.

And there is another problem too.  Chemically dealing with this chemical imbalance is tenuous at best.  I have tried, believe me.  I have been on prozac, cymbalta as well as others, all of which represent different ways to deal with the same problem.  There are a myriad of drugs available, all attempting to increase seratonin uptake.  For some, they find the drug that works for them.  For a lot of people, however, they really struggle to find that chemically induced sweet spot.  I fell into the latter ground and eventually the side effects far outweighed any small benefit I might have been getting.  So I stopped taking them.

That decision brought with it issues of its own kind.  Some people saw it as an act of finally taking control of my own mind (because to them that is a choice I have), some saw it as being irresponsible.  None, it seemed, saw it as me making a conscious decision for the quality of my own life.  It is difficult I know for people to understand.  I live day by day without knowing from one day to the next how my seratonin levels are going to impact my thinking.

In this day and age of ra-ra positive thinking it is easy to assume that is all we need to get over the depressive hump.  It isn’t.  This movement has been the death knoll for many a depressive.  It has sparked a litany of guilt, which drives even further the stinking thinking I spoke of earlier.  Despite all the positive-talk rhetoric, suicide rates are on the increase.  Positive thinking on its own just does not work.

I urge you to please be that “seratonin buddy”.  Just be with your depressive friend/family member.  That alone will help them feel more connected, which we know helps raise seratonin levels, which we know helps to drive more positive thoughts.  You see, just being with them can have such an amazing impact.

Here at Sarah’s Heart Writes, I encourage you to come and just be.  Us depressives need to stick together, we need to know we are not alone, and more information needs to be disseminated about the ins and outs of depression and I can promise you, you will never ever be urged to think more positively, to stop playing the victim card or to stop being a martyr.

Much love from your fellow depressive,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

If you are feeling suicidal, please please talk to someone.

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 

Black Dog Institute

 

 

Categories
Mental Illness

Introducing my entry to #Edenland – the International Lip Syncing Awards

Before I started blogging, I didn’t really follow blogs.  I would read them, but not really follow them as such.

When I started my blogging journey that changed.

I now follow a number of blogs – That Summer Feeling, Zinc Moon, Rare Pear Studio, Make Plus Do to name a few.

But one I follow avidly is Edenland.  I first came across Eden earlier this year.  Her blog is dark, melancholic, with flashes of hope and light.  Just what I need to read in my moments of extreme depression.

She has been struggling of late.  Her brother took his own life in October last year. It has been an unequivocal year of hell for her.

To honour his memory, Eden decided to launch the International Lip Syncing Awards.  You can read about that here.

I saw the post late last night.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

Her journey has touched me so much.  I have felt a lot less alone and in those times when sometimes I have wanted to die, when life has seemed so hard, I have read something she has written and the thought leaves me for another day.  Thankfully, those times are not frequent and I am finding through my blogging journey that they are becoming even less.

And so I wanted to honour her.  I wanted to honour Cameron, her brother.  I wanted to honour all of those people who think that life isn’t worth continuing, who find life such a struggle, for whom life has let them down.  And I also wanted to honour those who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

And so I did this:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjhYYethoOs]

I chose this song because it was our anthem growing up.  My mom and her sister would sing this song and us girls would sing along with them.  It became our mantra and it is now the anthem for our daughter.  I pray she passes it on.

I chose to lip sync the song without hair because my baldness does not define me.  I am bald.  This is a fact.  I am also a woman and I am strong.  I own that.  Very much.

Eden, sweetheart, this one is for you.  I hope my mom gets to meet Cameron wherever souls may go and I hope they are looking down at us saying “There’s our girls, living their shit, making their mark.”

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

Categories
Mental Illness

How to organise your laundry

 

I don’t usually do how-to posts.

I’m all about the emotion of living life, not necessarily organising it.  There are far more better qualified people that talk about organising than I ever could.  For one, I can’t be bothered with the relentless photo staging and taking.  Who has time for that?

However, you will recall that a while ago, I spoke about how decluttering my life is really helping me to get on top of my depression.  Shortly after that post, I signed up for The Organised Housewife’s 20 Days to Organise and Clean Your House challenge.  I admit.  I was a bit dubious.  I really don’t like being told what to do.  But, as I have also mentioned, I am a course-collector/hoarder.

To say that I have been inspired is a complete understatement.  I have no idea how long it will last, but this past week, I have found a new found purpose to my existence.  Cleaning and organising is as boring as crap, but not if you couple it with a bit of creativity and this is where I have become inspired.

I have shown you my pantry, so this week, I decided to tackle to my laundry.

That puppy was a mess.  We have lived in this house for three years now and to be honest, I have never really sorted it out from the day we moved in.  It was the most uninspiring place to be.  I would literally gather up all the laundry dotted around the house, chuck it unceremoniously into the basket, do the washing,  pop it in the baskets, where it would sit for days before I finally got around to putting it away.

Before the big makeover!  What a mess!
Before the big makeover! What a mess!

Of course, that just made for a mind full of jobs that were not getting done.  This is not good for clinical depression.

So when the laundry came up as a task to be done in the 20 day challenge, I did not need any convincing.

First of all, I took everything out of the cupboards, and I ditched everything I had never used or not used in the past year, nor was ever likely to use.  I want to be able to tell you that I sorted through it, donated what I could, recycled and the like.  I didn’t.  Everything just went into a big black bag.

Before you write to tell me how irresponsible that is, please bear in mind that I have clinical depression.  Just taking this step of decluttering my life is a massive step in the right direction.  Once all the decluttering is done though, I promise you that going forward I will be heaps more “green” responsible.  I just needed to get this done.

I knew that I wanted my organisation to be creative, but I was struggling to come up with ideas.  I looked through some posts on The Organised Housewife and came across this guest post by Jess from Forever Organised.  It was perfect.

Admittedly, I didn’t so much as feel inspired as just copy what she did {why try to improve perfection}.

And here is the result.

This is the laundry after the cleanup
This is the laundry after the cleanup

The first thing I did was to get new hampers for the laundry.  These are just $15 ones from Kmart.  I could have opted for more expensive ones but didn’t have time to shop around.  I’m pretty pleased with the result.

These are the laundry baskets, labelled Linen, Lights and Darks. These are just cheap $15 baskets bought from Kmart.
These are the laundry baskets, labelled Linen, Lights and Darks.

Then I started tackling the cupboards.  What I did was sort everything into groups and then labelled the baskets according to that.  My groupings may be a little weird.

This is the top right hand cupboard.
This is the top right hand cupboard.

Inspired by some people who have made their own washing powder, I decided to make mine with my Thermomix.  I used Thermofun’s recipe which you can find here.

I love these jars and the labels make them look so pretty!
I love these jars and the labels make them look so pretty!

Finally, we have a fair whack of medicines.  This year hasn’t been a particularly good one for us in terms of health and I was really struggling to keep them all organised.  This $15 drawer set from the Reject Shop was just perfect.

Here is the new medicine chest.  So easy and organised now!
Here is the new medicine chest. So easy and organised now!

And there you have it.  I have to say a massive shout out to Kat who runs The Organised Housewife.  The program is amazing.  It is hard work, but she very much encourages you to do what you can, to keep the lists and go back to those tasks that you couldn’t quite manage at a later date.  The Facebook group is amazing too (very private so you aren’t airing your “laundry” to all and sundry).

Have you done some decluttering lately?  Has it helped your frame of mind, even if you don’t suffer from depression?

Until next time,

SHW Signature