Monthly Archives: May 2010

Collateral Kilos

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I’m full of revelations. It seems that any time I do anything slightly positive for my physical wellbeing, I claim the behaviour as a revelation. Slightly frustrating for the toolman I would imagine,

“Baby, I went for a walk tonight. I had an epiphany…if I go for more walks the weight will come off faster!” He always smiles politely but even I want to shut me up with a quick blow to the head with a shovel when I hear it come out of my mouth.

But the truth is, I have been working hard at being active. By increasing my physical activity I have found that it quiets my mind. Having a mind that drags and being unable to soothe myself with drugs or alcohol, I sometimes find the burdensome weight of self awareness overwhelming. I have to be constantly prepared to fight the battle of self-depreciation and in doing so have realised that being active is a great help.

So, the past week I have been busy puffing around the block, cleaning out the veggie patch and living off home made whole foods. And even if I battle with the idea that “simple living” might actually be the thing that keeps me living longer, for now it doesn’t really matter. Because the weight came off this week.

And for once, it was a pleasant form of collateral damage.

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Onwards and Downwards

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I had an interesting conversation with a dear friend of mine the other day. A slightly morbid train of thought or at the very least a scene from a strange black comedy. We were comparing notes on mental illness and trying to decide what body parts we would give up to be free from the burden of our diseases. After some lengthy contemplation, I decided I would be happy to give away my middle, ring and small fingers from my right hand. My friend, who suffers from a more severe disease than I do, and consequently is unable to trust the reality of her thoughts for much of the time, decided she would be happy to trade her whole hand. Obviously (or obvious to us anyway), the toes lovingly referred to as our “pinkies” which are null and void anyway would be happily given away to sweeten the deal.

I have felt broken for some time now as my body has become increasingly tired and noncompliant. My ovaries are on strike, I have developed the rarest type of psoriasis on my hands and feet causing them to crack and bleed, my big toe nail is hanging on by the slightest of attachments (soon to be removed by a professional) and my mind is at times, a parasite, enslaving its inhabitant (me) to wreak havoc on my life.

Despite this, little gems still manage to crop up in front of me. The Toolman and I travelled to a small Australian town, on the border of two states last weekend, in celebration of the Toolman’s birthday. We opted for some cheap accommodation in the main street of the town (our favourite way to travel) and instead of frequenting the surrounding wine region, full of city folk trying to “look country”, decided to make ourselves familiar with the locals.

When travelling, the Toolman and I manage to enter into the strangest situations that only being away from your home town can produce. It has become quite the habit for us to stay in substandard accommodation and prop somewhere, confident that inevitably an interesting local will befriend us. This town did not disappoint.

We sat quietly in an empty bar on Saturday night, after a day that had been spent much in silence. When I am “not well”, I struggle to communicate because of the energy it requires and therefore abuse the intimacy I have with my husband that allows me to stay mainly mute. But within an hour, we had befriended “Rod and Shirles” who wanted us to stay at their place, Geoff the local sheep farmer and Stan the book man. Not only were we acquainted but I had successfully obtained individual stories from each which included a drug affected daughter, a deep disappointment that a son had chosen an academic career instead of a life on the land, and a deeply shameful liaison with a married woman. The next day, people were waving to us in the street and introducing me to the woman at the centre of said affair to “see what I thought of her”. But in all this an interesting this happened. A man unknown to both the Toolman and I said to me, almost completely out of the blue,

I think sometimes we can underestimate the illusionary nature of pain”. And that was it. I was so shocked that I didn’t respond, instead chose to contemplate how this idea had so randomly been presented to me by a total stranger.

And so in contemplating, I wondered whether pain was in fact just an illusion or perhaps even, an hallucination. If an hallucination is the perception of “something” in the “complete absence of anything”, and an illusion is the “incorrect perception” of something that is actually “there”, perhaps my pain is in fact an illusion after all.

You see, I could have it all wrong. And just maybe all those religious types have something to offer. Because what if my mental illness, my psoriasis and even my toe nail are not sources of pain at all? What if I have incorrectly perceived them? Could they be little gifts, little ways of learning and becoming stronger and (shudder)….happier?

Don’t worry, I haven’t lost it, OF COURSE THEY’RE NOT! They’re just crappy and make me feel crappy and unhappy and overwhelmed. But as my Grandpa said to me the other day which resulted in a few tears springing to the corners of my eyes,

“You’re a great jumper. You jump over everything thrown at you. In fact, you should go down to the track and show those horses a thing or two”. I felt something for him when he said that, which I have never felt before. Maybe he has gotten me all along after all?

The next day, I tried something new. I got out my “Thailand-Special” converse runners and an old pair of trackies, threw my long out-of-control curls on top of my head and went for walk because I will not let this get away from me. I want to lose weight, shed the flab and move on, toe nail or no toe nail. And just maybe, I can walk myself out of all this malaise.

So enough of all “that”, it’s do or die and how true that is. Onwards and upwards peeps, back to calorie counting and weighing and all those other clichés synonymous with getting back on track, yoo-hooing, and fighting the good fight!

Maybe with a bit of extra effort, I can delay the inevitable slide down for at least a few months, maybe even years.

But by the way, just so you know, my friend and I drew the line at losing an eye.

Malaise of Mind

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I have exercised this blog at times with the same assurance a bowed cane gives to an old man. No doubt the flow of my life and more specifically, states of mind have been present here. Having been well versed in the ways of keeping on keeping on, it is more important than ever for me to take the time to mention the following. I trust you’ll excuse the lack of wit and sparkle. Stasis is a true enemy of mine and results in a quick trip down to where doing nothing perpetuates doing nothing ever more.

It takes a very special person to understand what happens inside for someone who has a mental illness.

“Get over it!”

“Put in a bit of effort, would you!”

“You’re not trying”…and my favourite,

“If you had some real problems, you’d realise that things are not that bad”.

I do indeed realise that I am privileged. I do indeed understand that I am free from the need to search for food, potentially risking my life or at least integrity to feed my family. And that is just one of the horrific circumstances that I do not have to take in hand. But I do feel the fear of something bigger than myself coming after me.

We are a strange animal, us human beings. No other living creature has within in it, a secular group capable of self-destruction. Whilst so many living things fight for the right to live, some of us humans are capable of turning against ourselves. The human brain is a magical thing and in its mere concept, inspires me no end. It inspired me straight through a degree in psychology in fact. But unfortunately I am one of the relative few, who during their existence will go behind enemy lines in a battle against themselves.

People like myself, if they are lucky and have the resources, must go about learning how to win these battles. How to motivate a mind that haunts you, how to trick a brain that momentarily wants to keep you down.

Yesterday the toolman commented that I am just “so mean” to him. That I bring him down and make him feel horrible. He also commented that when I am the other person I am “incredibly loving and kind”.

“I agree with you” is all I said before walking away.

Stephen Fry, a British actor, writer and less commonly known as my personal hero was endowed with the courage and strength that led him to “out” himself four years ago. He travelled the world talking to people with mental illness and asked a very poignant question of them all. He asked,

“If I had a red button that could take this away for you right now, would you press it?”

Nobody said yes. He himself admitted that he couldn’t bring himself to do it. However, nearly all of them said that they would like the same offer extended to them during times of deep depression.

You see, when I’m good, I’m great. My life is verbally vibrant and stimulating. I have lots of ideas, love a chat, love to read and love to think, even if much of that occurs in my own mind. But when I am bad and energized (as opposed to bad and mute), I direct every misgiving, every misfortune I have ever encountered directly at the person who has decided to love me unconditionally.

Loving me unconditionally does not mean that the toolman loves me all the time; just that for some reason that I haven’t fully understood, knowing all that he does, he has decided to love me anyway. He has resolved to bear the brunt when I express states of mind so diligently controlled outside the home; or at least I think they’re controlled.

When I care, I care deeply and give a lot of myself. But when something changes me, when I am challenged by the rage that channels me, I am unable to control it.

Someone very dear to me said recently,

“I’m responsible for the first drink. I’m just not responsible for what happens by the second. I cannot be held accountable.” He has a very serious allergy to alcohol.

What an affliction, we chime, and it is true. What is more difficult to understand is the wife, the daughter, the sister, the cousin, me, standing before you looking exactly as I always have but completely transformed from within. There is no slur of speech, no wobble of gait, just me firing misdirected missiles in your direction.

When you hate yourself, as I truly do in those moments, I have no control. Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t hate myself for behaving like that, I hate myself despite of it. Oh no, in the moment, I am being completely reasonable. I am expelling the rage and hatred in my life, screaming…..

“How dare you!”

I know what you are thinking. Free pass to bitch-town. But as you consider this as the most reasonable explanation of behaviour, I assure you that I also have a free pass to experience depression, self hatred, shame, guilt, abandonment, fear, and a ride that teeters on the edge with a clear view down.  

And believe me; they’re all right next to bitch-town.