Tag Archives: depression

The Break Up

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This year, once again I found myself beach bound with too much luggage and an incapacity to resolve in my mind the fact that I had not achieved what I set out for myself at the start of the year: to never go through a fat summer again. Imagine an overweight woman, sitting by the window, watching her family and friends outside in the Australian sun. Now watch her look down at herself, her stomach, and then back outside. She turns side on to look at her reflection in the mirror, checking no one is coming, then back outside. Looking square on in the mirror, she fluffs up her curls a little. “Right, you did this, so off you go”.

Every slim young thing that walked passed my camping site and it must be said, all those sitting at my very own table only highlighted to me how much I was still a physical disappointment, and my preoccupation with it only highlighted to me I’m a mental lightweight. I was unable to put aside the feelings of inadequacy and enjoy myself, falling further and further into a rather low state.

I must admit that for the past few months, and possibly a contributing factor accounting for my blog silence, I felt a creeping feeling of failure sneak up on me. There’s been something in the background, something I just couldn’t quite see clearly, shaking its finger at me and daring me to respond. Silencing that little voice inside*, I’ve tried to move quickly into action, keeping as busy as possible to avoid inviting over the black dog to bark at my backdoor.

As someone very talented in the art of emotional diversion, I convinced myself that the problem lay within the domain of my marriage. Namely, that I have never done anything to make my husband proud of me and therefore respect me. Such was my delusion, when watching a Grand Slam hosted in my home town, I actually wondered whether I could transform myself into a tennis-superstar-come-lately simply to impress the toolman.

Feminists put the gun down, you don’t want to waste that one bullet just yet.

On arriving home from my camping trip, I successfully humoured my gloomy disposition and opened and closed every cupboard in the house until I found a card I received from my family ten years ago before I left for Italy on a year long study trip. Along with the “Ciao Bellas” and the “Good Lucks” were more than a few messages that indicated that “the Italian boys will just love you” and one message from my mother’s dear friend that actually said, “Good Luck Darling. They’re going to love your shape”. My shape? Tucked inside the card was a photo taken of me before I left. I stared at it for a long time, wiping the tears from my eyes.

That was who was in the back of my mind. The old me, holding me hostage and incapacitating the me that lives in 2011. For the past two years, I’ve been holding up a ten year old image of myself as the picture perfect unattainable range of who I should be. And in every corner of my house was a relic that told the narrative of my disappointment and my endless consumption to compensate.

The next day, I called, booked and paid for a commercial skip to be delivered to my house. For the past week I have emptied, cleaned and purged all the things that have been terrorising me. I walked up and down the incline of my drive, sweating and puffing. After watching me all week, the two men who live next door (and who I might add have not spoken to me in five years) caught me, cottage cheese bum in the air, fishing out a pair of tiny olive pants during a bout of post-throw-dissonance.

“Are you moving?” they yelled.

My sweaty, frizz haloed head popped out from the depths of the bin. “Huh? Oh, no. I’m a Buddhist now. I don’t need stuff”. Ok, yes. I admit I’m odd but seeing as I’m quite partial to oversharing, it was the easiest way to escape unscathed.

When the skip drove off on the back of a truck, I thought my work was done. But as I watched it turn the corner, I realised I was broken, that I’m not who I was born to be. So I sat down (and here’s the bit where you’ll have to reserve judgement about my sanity) and had a little talk with myself. The me I’m supposed to be has the innocence of a child, without fancy things and shiny hair, nor is she a heavily committed working woman (you want that bullet now?). She’s a fit mother, able to live her life. Able to jump in a river without hiding anything, run a little without collapsing and sit with her family without shame. And you know what else; I really don’t need any stuff to get that.

It was time to Break Up with myself!

So I did what any good woman does after a break up; I cleaned my fingers red raw. Up on ladders, down on knees, climbing on top of baths, toilets and sinks. And each day as I’ve said goodbye to another little piece of me, I’ve put less and less into my body to quieten that doubting voice. No doubt we’ll have conversations in the future, discuss some misery over some bread and cheese, but I don’t think we’ll fight.

Perhaps I’m a getting just a little bit too abstract on you here? I did a spot of cleaning, so what? A better illustration of my state of mind may be in the response I gave to a cleaning shop owner a few days ago. On my third visit during a single week his curiosity finally got the better of him and he asked,

“Let me guess. You’re a caterer? A chef? A cleaner?”

I paused ever so slightly and then responded, “Umm, I’m not too sure. I think I’m a nurse”. And with that I left, realising that I had spoken the truth; that I’m not sure where I’m going or who I’ll be at the end of this year. It could all go wrong, or bad, or right. And perhaps I am not of sound mind right now…

But give a girl a break, I have been through a break up after all.

* Note: There is no actual foreign voice inside my head. Call off the Doc’s Ma.

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A Digression of Confession

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I haven’t hit the keys recently as I haven’t felt tempered enough to restrict the “ranty” monologues going on in my mind that I’m susceptible to experience at any moment. Most people who know me understand that if you ask “what do you think about ____”, you’re going to get an honest answer and a rant that may have been lying dormant for days. Most recently, as I was lying on the couch feeling unwell, the toolman only knew it was serious when he realized I wasn’t yelling at the television. Sadly, I like to watch poorly produced current affair programs and do just that. 

Unfortunately, this negative energy can result in many of us being exceptionally good at telling ourselves what we do badly instead of what we do well. I have no problem accepting that I’m great at this little habit! But sometimes, we have to step back, take a breath and give a well rounded high five into the mirror (of course whilst alone and out of ear shot of anyone with a heartbeat).

But first, let me digress…and confess.

A year ago, I walked out of an in-patient psychiatric facility with only a mere hope that I might not be going back in but with the expectation that I would. Eighteen months before that time, I walked into my bedroom, woke up my husband and completely out of the blue started sobbing. For the first half an hour he asked me what was wrong. When I started wailing, actually wailing, he went quiet, climbed into bed and wrapped me up in his arms for the next hour until I stopped. When that ended, all I could say to him was,

“I’m not going back there. I’m not going to do this”.

He had no idea what that meant and in truth, at the time, I had no idea what that meant but had a suspicion I was unraveling. Whether “there” was a past I was referring to; whether it was an uncanny foresight that my life was going to completely change, I’m still not sure.

A month after this little voyage into the dark recesses of my mind, and after a little detour to examine any possibility that my problems were physiological; I packed a bag and was admitted into a psych unit.

Just five months after I married, when I thought I would be starting a family, I was getting my bag searched and my nail file taken from me. Over 18 months, I had six admissions, staying up to three months at a time; searching for the right medication, searching for the right plan, searching for something that would make it all better.

Our minds are curious and private places. Without doubt they can do strange things to us- make us wish we were no longer, force us to look for an out. The absolute black anguish one feels in the depth of depression is insufferable. Wanting this to end is the reason people who suffer from it are self destructive.

Unfortunately such an illness is difficult to understand, I understand this. But it’s an illness of mood and no amount of “rest” can fix the problem. Questions that ask “what do you have to be depressed about?”, or “just think of all the other people that have it worse that you”, do not help. Those that live on the margins of life already carry enough guilt about what their illness does to those around them.

When someone in your life is sick, in a way you have already lost them. But when someone in your life has a mental illness, the issue is still so taboo that the person who suffers, loses people in their lives too. Over the eighteen months I was in and out of the facility, people came and went. Some called, some came, some didn’t. But when people have a “normal” illness, there are a few guidebooks: flowers, cards, phone calls.

Many friendships were made in hospital, some hilarious situations experienced, and a week of death threats by knife from a co-patient. I’m sure it will write a great story one day. But more than anything, what those that I have met in my situation also feel is that we are now walking around with a little scar on our underbellies that no one can see, and if they can, they never mention.

My husband, like many of those with ill wives, anticipated the death of his wife at her hands. He felt helpless, out of control and has admitted to me since, “I didn’t think you would make it”.

For the first three months of my first admission, the toolman travelled an hour in traffic into the hospital, ate with me and played cards, and retuned home. As the months passed and he saw me getting worse and not better, without any other way to cope and with fear rising, he became quiet as my illness became louder.

I did have the support of family while I was in there and I don’t doubt the love they have for me. They saw me laugh, cry and fall silent. But my man was subject to a changed wife and lost his best friend. And now, with him, that scarred underbelly is seen and for that I am indebted.

As I transformed inside, the changes on the outside were vast. Gaining 40 kilos during this time was the least of my problems. But as I got better, the effects of my waist became worse and I found myself here, creating this blog.

Having said all that, I walked out of that place this time last August and whilst it has remained a bit of a slog at times, I’m over 20 kilos down now, a qualification nearly obtained and as if it couldn’t have come at a more momentous time, next weekend, the toolman and I are off to a-wimoweh our way around South Africa on holiday.

Moods need to be controlled, thoughts need to be monitored, a watchful eye kept out for the black dog, sheep or whatever it is. But Life can change and strangely, in a way, I’m a very lucky girl!

So for the next few weeks, let the good times flow baby. Lets spot the big five, dine on whatever it is there is to taste and get so snap-happy we’re dizzy from it.

Doesn’t seem I can help myself can I? When I open my mouth, a rant inevitably comes out…

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.