RUOK?: It Makes A Difference

Hello Readers,
Just a quick note on this ‘R U OK?’ Day: when I first heard of this initiative it annoyed me – it seemed fake, another opportunity for everyone to post a new hashtag; “Caring for people is popular today #ruok?” People who usually seem to not give a crap about others suddenly asking if everyone was ok…
yeah wasn’t a fan…

But at the end of the day, this day IS important.

RUOK? Day is there to remind people to reach out to others who may need help, to create awareness of mental illness and suicide, to bring to the forefront of our minds the fact that mental illness affects more people than we realise, and that suicide is one of the leading causes of death for those between the ages of 15-44.

Personally, I’ve been through some pretty rough periods of depression, and some pretty awesome times as well so I do consider myself lucky. But during those periods of depression I have not been immune to suicidal thoughts.

The scariest thing about them is how easily they can pop up; ‘I could just step in front of this train.’, ‘What if I drove my car into this wall?’, ‘I could just jump off this bridge.’ They can come into your mind so easily and so frequently.

Every time there have always been multiple reasons why I shouldn’t, my sense of rationality and my desire to live have been too strong, my concern for the feelings of others so correct in realising how my death would hurt them.

But the more pain you’re in the less logical living becomes, the more reasonable these suggestions seem. You get used to seeming ‘ok’ while on the inside you’re suffering extreme mental anguish and exhausted by the constant battle against the darkness of your own mind.

During those times it feels impossible to imagine a better future – all you can see in the pain of now, and now stretches on for eternity. Nothing will ever change, nothing will ever get better, there is no hope, there is no point in hoping. All there is is disappointment, and disappointment hurts. Why try something that will only result in more pain for a mind already in anguish.

At these times it is so very crucial to reach out to people.

But it’s also incredibly hard – because you don’t want to be dismissed, rejected, thought of as crazy or attention-seeking, or you don’t want to scare people.
Sometimes it’s too hard to reach out, but you do desperately want to tell someone, to have someone help you get through this, to have someone ask if you’re ok and to actually want a real answer.

At that point you do need someone to reach out to you, to take the first step and help pull you out of the darkness. To ask if you’re ok and to really mean it.

One of my best friends was helping me through a pretty dark patch recently. We caught up and he got me to talk about how I’ve been feeling. I was full of anger, bitterness, hopelessness and I vented this at him. I thanked him later.
“I’m useless,’ he said, ‘but I’m always here.’
Listening to someone in pain, someone who feels that talking to other will only result in rejection or criticism, listening and actually caring is not useless. It is helping to break the lies that depression tells to those who suffer from it.
Asking if they’re ok and really caring and really wanting to listening can help pull a person away from despair and into hope.

Be that someone who cares.

Asking someone if they’re ok and really want the answer may not solve everyone’s problems, it won’t stop every suicide, but it could be the question that saves a life.
And that’s definitely worth the effort.

RUOK?: https://ruok.org.au/how-to-ask

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I Give Myself Very Good Advice: Wondering Through This Whole Thing

This whole “depression” thing really has its days sometimes… or weeks… or months. Let’s be honest about the whole shabang – it’s like that awkward friend who says they’re gonna visit for a weekend and ends up camped on the lounge hogging the TV for the next six months – not cool bro, not cool.

I’ve been reading over some of my earlier writings and oscillating between wanting to pat myself on the back for having some pretty alright advice (which I really should try taking more often), and wanting to punch myself in the face for previously being happier than I am now. Ahh, Past Me – I could forgive you for the chipper and encouraging writing if you hadn’t eaten all my M&Ms.

The truth of the matter is that I’m in a really bad spot right now. I think I’ve been in a depressive slump for about six months now, I was asked to go back on my medication about 3 months ago, and the persistent pain has returned.

However, there are a few things I am grateful for:

  1. It is not as bad as last time:
    Small comfort but truly, though this is the worst depression I’ve probably had in over a year, it isn’t as bad as it has been previously. Though I am exhausted I do feel and think and believe that I can overcome this depression, I can endure,  I will win!
    I don’t feel horribly, soul-crushingly helpless and hopeless – all the time. I can still function in normal society. I do sometimes burst in tears because I couldn’t figure out what to buy at the shops, or what movie to watch on Netflix, or because I watched a videoclip of a man being reunited with a lion he rescued (I’m slowly becoming my mother). But overall, still as normal as I’ll ever be in society ;P
  2. I can talk about it:
    When depression broke me last time, I broke the wall I had built around communicating with other people. I still find it really hard to do a lot of the time, and end up a sobbing, blubbering mess on the phone to my best-friend, sitting hunched over a roll of toilet paper on my bed and slowly drowning myself in used tissues.
    I’ve become more proactive about reaching out to friends and family, and my doctor. And by ‘proactive’ I mean I only let depression break my fingers before I reach out to others, rather than letting it swing at me with a sledgehammer.
  3.  I can see it now:
    That sounds odd but I mean that I can see (most of the time) what’s depression is apart from me. It isn’t me – the sadness, the feelings of anger, sorrow, hopelessness, being trapped – these feelings are not judgement calls on the type of person that I am. Because I feel bad does not make me a bad person. I am not pathetic, I am not a failure, and life is not hopeless.
    I will beat this depression. It is ok to have these feelings. Everything will be ok.

I actually didn’t mean to write anything helpful or encouraging when I started this blog post. I actually just wanted to rant, because I am exhausted.

I am tired of feeling that I’m starting again every time, of feeling like I’ve failed and I have to keep rebuilding. I’m tired of the cycle – that I will get better and then I will get worse again, and that this is the way it’ll be for the rest of my life.
I’m tired of being afraid – afraid that I’m always only a few steps away from a seemingly endless darkness, an intensely crushing pain – I’m tired of being afraid of myself.
I’m so tired that I have to fight so hard to be happy!

In my petulance and childishness I want to cry that it just isn’t fair. It just isn’t fucking fair! And I could think of all the other millions of people in the world who have got it worse off than me but that doesn’t do a damn thing except show me one more situation I can’t do anything about. It’s not fair that I work so hard to try to get better and seemingly nothing happens.

But that is lie.

Things always happen. I have gotten better – not cured, but better. It’s sometimes really hard to see, but the rope that I’m holding onto during this storm is the one I made myself when the skies were blue.
And when things come round again I will try again, I will improve again, I will rebuild and I will strengthen. In fact, I am doing that all right now.
I’ve got to remember my own damn advice and give myself a break!

It’s ok to have these thoughts and feelings, they don’t mean that I am bad, or weak, or pathetic, but they are not the truth.
It’s ok to feel exhausted and not up to it, because, despite my desire to wear sexy red granny undies, I’m not friggin Wonder Woman!

I am a beautiful, smart, helpful and loving person – and it took me a long time and a long battle to recognise and respect that.

Depression is attacking those victories again but this time I know it’s tricks – it’s old hat and I am going to win.

Sometimes I wake up and I don’t feel like doing life today – it sounds hard and tiring, and I’m not in the mood.

But something pulls me up and out of bed – I think it’s hope and it might be trust.
I believe things will get better, and sometimes I get the chance to really see how true that is.
I believe more strongly than I can prove that things will get better, things are better, and I am worth the damn fight!

Life is worth the damn fight!

Life is fucking worth it!

P.S. If any of you pray, please say a prayer for me 🙂

Talking Too Much

When I was 17 I developed an anxiety disorder. I don’t really know why it started but I became horribly afraid of getting sick, especially getting sick in public. I was afraid that I’d get sick and have to throw up and not know where the nearest bathroom was. I was afraid that my food wasn’t properly cooked, or that I would catch something from someone else and die.
I became afraid that something would happen to me – that I’d get a disease and lose my limbs, or I’d be in a car accident and be burnt alive – and I would be stuck, horribly deformed or immobile and live the rest of my life in some terrible fashion.

I remember how these fears consumed me – how I was afraid to go to sleep, afraid to be alone, afraid to go outside.

But I also remember how I told no one.

My mum, I think, thought I was being finicky with my food, as I’d always been, and my sister’s playfully teased me about my paranoia of getting sick. But I didn’t tell anyone the depths of my fears because I knew that the thoughts I was having, the fears I felt, were crazy and absurd.

Even as a teenager I always prided myself on trying to be logical, on trying to be reasonable and rational about things I learnt and knew, and experiences I had. Logically, I knew that the chances of me actually having one of those accidents were extreme. Emotionally, the imminence of these accidents loomed ever near in my mind, my fear of them grew ever stronger. I made myself sick with fear.

One day my Dad asked me if I’d like to take my little brothers to the movies. I said I would, because it was a nice thing to suggest and he was offering to pay for me to go to the movies. But on the inside I was thrown into a panic – I was deathly afraid of going outside. I was literally afraid that I would fall down the escalator going up to the cinema and would break my neck and become a quadriplegic for the rest of my life.

I walked up and down the hallway restlessly, trying to calm myself of my fears and work up the courage to go outside. My Dad noticed my anxiety and asked me what was wrong.

I broke down and cried and told him what I was afraid of and how silly it was and how I knew it was silly, but that I was afraid, that I didn’t want to get hurt and I didn’t want to die.

My Dad calmed me down and comforted me, and, in the least patronising way possible suggested that it would be good for me to see someone to get the right information and tips to help me combat those feelings and thoughts.

In one moment months of secret anxieties and fears that I would be thought crazy were relieved by the calm and assuring words of my father.
You’d think I would have learned that lesson there. Yet it still took me four years of on again/off again depression and a breakdown to force me to really recognise how much I need to talk about things.

Every now and then, especially when I’m over tired, I sometimes feel those anxieties creeping in. Now I tend to think, “Well, yes I could be horribly crippled in some accident, but I’ll find a way to cope and there are still good things in life to be had. No point worrying about something I can’t do anything about!”

But the fear that still gets at me is that fear of speaking.

I fear telling people how I’m going because I know that my depressive thoughts don’t make sense, I know that they’re illogical and not true. But I also know how much they feel true, how much this seeming truth can burn inside me. And I’m afraid that if I tell people this I will be totally exposed – they will see my fears and weaknesses.

I’m not talking about those socially acceptable fears and weaknesses that you can kind of laugh about, like being a bad morning person or being afraid of spiders.
I mean those fears and weaknesses you’re embarrassed to admit to yourself . These aren’t the sort of fears and weaknesses that you can joke about at the next dinner party:
‘Oh yes, Mabel, dear  – I have such a terrible fear of rejection and abandonment!’
‘I know what you mean, Fanny – I have such a crippling fear of being a burden that it stops me talking to anyone about it – it’s simply outrageous!’
*oh chortle chortle chortle*

Yeah that’s not going to happen…

I fear not so much that my thoughts are absurd – I’m a pretty weird girl and I’m happy to be so – but rather, that in letting people see how much these silly thoughts affect me I will come to be respected less and ultimately pushed aside as a friend who is too pitiful to be truly regarded as an equal.

To avoid the horrible possibility of rejection, in trying to hide from any chance of abandonment, or in being seen as ‘too much’ or ‘burdensome’, I’d rather not talk about how I’m going. I don’t want anyone to see.

But, I believe that living with depression, striving to know yourself and to treat yourself better, also involves knowing that you’re not always going to be strong enough to combat the voices in your head that tell you you’re unlovable, pathetic, weak, unattractive, undesirable and hopeless, by yourself. Sometimes you’re going to need someone’s help to remind yourself that there is hope, that this isn’t it, this isn’t the way things will be for the rest of your life, you will get better, you can do this, you are not alone and you will not be abandoned.

I don’t always acknowledge this fact with calm, logical composure and call up my best friend and debrief with her. Often enough I have to be pulled to my knees before I admit I need a hand up and call out to a friend.

But I do need to keep realising it, because, although it’s the ultimate tax on my pride, I will keep needing people to help me with this fight.

If we think about how much exposing these fears and weaknesses, even to our closest family and friends fill us with fear, we are not being weak or silly in discussing them. To do what is the best thing, even when you are afraid, is bravery.

Not everyone will understand, but there definitely is someone who does want to understand and help you.

Also realise that not everyone is going to be able to be there for you in the same way at the same time, even though they do want to understand and help! Don’t ever take this as a rejection – these people still love you and care for you but may be feeling the weight of their own burdens and sorrows.
I know for myself that there have been times when I have wanted to help a friend who was suffering but have not had the emotional or mental to strength to be truly helpful and have had to entrust that person to other friends more capable. I still loved that friend dearly, and it hurt that I couldn’t help them, but I knew that I would not truly be helping them in my current state.

There will always be someone to talk to, someone who can help.
That is the absolute truth.

I can never be thankful enough for the people that I have. I don’t even really have words for it.

 

When you have depression and you feel like all that is in you and that you are capable of is weakness and fear, the bravest thing you can do, the strongest feat you can achieve, is to reach out and talk to someone.

Please do it – talk to someone today.

Screw You Depression, I’m Writing a Blog!

So it’s been 4 months since my last post. That’s a pretty good indicator of around when this depressive slump started.

As I’ve mentioned, and as the fact that I’m trying to run two blogs attests to, I love writing!
Writing makes me happy, I love the sense of achievement after I’ve finished a piece, and I love reading over my own work and being carried away by the story as if it wasn’t my own. Annoyingly, when I’m depressed I just can’t seem to write.

 

Writing is like cleaning your room: you start sorting through a mess of words and that’s kind of satisfying because, you know, at least you’re doing something. Then comes the part where you actually start trying to organise things into some a semblance of cleanliness, or in this case coherency. It’s often around this time that you make the foolish mistake of looking up and noticing that the room, that once looked like a jumbled of organised mess, now looks like the some horrific hurricane has come spinning through it leaving a trail of death, destruction and bobby pins!
That’s what it’s like with writing – you get halfway through and you look at the jumbled arrangement of words you’ve assembled and get that horrible feeling that you’ve done something very terrible and potentially damaged the cosmos by afflicting a page with your terrible mishmash of sentences.

It is at this point that resilience and a belief in yourself must come through:
I will clean my room! I will conquer this page!
And there is nothing better than getting to the end and looking over your beautifully organised room and your enjoyably coherent story. Success!!
But you have to push through that horrible moment of intense self-doubt.

I’m pretty amazingly crap at that when I’m going through a bout of depression.

I do try writing at first – I type a sentence or two or five or a paragraph, then I look at it and decide to eat some food. Then I try to write the next sentence and it won’t come out, the words won’t form right, the idea sounds stupid, wrong. Then I put my head up and look at the horrendous mess I’ve made on the page, save my draft and go mope in front of the TV.
For the 15 posts this blog currently boasts there are at least another 8 that are half finished and sitting in my drafts section, glaring accusingly at me and probably plotting my demise once the machines rise… Skynet – it’s a thing.

Frustratingly, I don’t have the melancholic poet’s disposition. I can’t seem to go into a Poe-like trance of depression-inspired writing. When I feel like this often my mind is buzzing with a million thoughts, none of which will sit still and most of which aren’t too charitable towards me.
I look at the words I’ve written and I remember how frustrating and upsetting it was last time when I couldn’t properly express myself. And then I don’t even bother trying because the realisation of this failure is too painful. And then I’m unhappy with myself that I can’t snap out of it and just write a damn blog piece!

Then I remember the things I have written – I’ve written some good stuff, learned from good people, hopefully helping other good people. And now helping me.

I remember how there is a cyclical logic to the way depressive thoughts speak to us, and how they may sound right, correct and true, but they’re not. Not in their vehemence, not in their disrespect to the thinker, certainly not in the lies they tell us about our abilities, potential and beauty.

I may not find writing when I’m depressed the easiest thing to do, but that doesn’t mean that I’m pathetic, incapable and untalented. Depression saps the joy from those things we find most joyful doing. That doesn’t mean that they’re not joyful or that we’re not good at them. And it will pass.

Right now it is a struggle to get through this piece. I  am writing it in a hurried rush before I have to drive somewhere this evening because I know that if I put it down I’ll reread it and then I’ll doubt it, then I won’t finish it and it’ll never be posted. It’ll wallow with my other mopey drafts in Blog Purgatory.

So I’m finishing it now – there isn’t really any particular advice in this blog piece, no real words of wisdom. I’m really just doing this for myself. I am finishing this post and I am publishing it.

I’ve been going through a pretty rough, up and down, kinda shit kinda awesome last couple of months, and it’s bothered me to no end that I’ve felt unable to write a damn thing.
Well this may not be the most genteel way of expressing it but:

Screw you depression! This piece is posted, baby!

Don’t Fear the Reaper – Admitting Chronic Depression and Facing the Unknown

Today I said to a friend of mine during a general conversation about depression, ‘To be completely honest, I believe I am down right now.’
Him: Really?
Me: … yes, I think so. Yes, I am depressed.

I found this conversation interesting because, although I feel I have been quite honest with myself over the last year and a half about my depression, although I have learnt how to treat my depression better and I am so far from the terrible state I was in previously, I still find it hard to admit when I am actually in a depressed state.

Even after all this time and all these words, I still find it hard to say to friends – friends who I trust and who already know of my depression – that I am going through a depressive period.

I find it interesting that sometimes hearing the words ‘I’m going through a bit of a depression’ coming out of my mouth still creates a surge of shame. It surprises me to realise that telling those trusted loved ones still sometimes feels almost as hard as the first time.

It is hard, not simply due to any residual fear of rejection or even particularly overwhelming thoughts that my feelings are indicators of my worth, but rather it is more that it confronts me with a reality in my life:

I have chronic depression, it comes and goes, and there are aspects of my feelings and my thinking that are beyond my control.

How do I address this? What should I do with these realisations?

The only two things I can really think of are to treat myself properly and recognise that I cannot have absolute control.

Treating myself properly:

Every time I am down, and every time I do admit it, I inevitably feel a sense of disappointment with myself and am drawn to thinking that I am a failure.
I am not necessarily overwhelmed by these emotions and thoughts anymore. If anything, I find it interesting that, after all of this, those feelings and thoughts still occur at all. I suppose that you don’t just overturn a lifetime of thinking about depression in certain terms in just under two years!

These thoughts and feelings suck. But they are not the truth – they can come if they will but they do not determine my worth or my actual ability as a person.
So maybe I will indulge in an ugly cry about them for a little while, but at the end of the day they will not rule my life.

For what have I failed in?

If depression is the earthquake that shakes my mind, have I failed simply because I have fallen down? No. It is the effect of a context outside of my control and beyond my power to destroy. It is not a judgement on my personal ability or worth! I am trying to stand, and if I cannot stand, at least that I am trying to sit.
Letting go of those judgemental tones when admitting a depressive episode are little acts of treating your mind with fairness and generosity.

It also does well to treat it with the respect it deserves as a part of your body.

I came off medication almost six months ago and every so often when I hit a depressive episode the fear of returning to medication hits me again.
What if I have to go back on meds? Is that an ultimate sign of regression? Have I then totally failed myself and proven myself again incapable of treating my depression?

But going back on medication would never be a failure! The more I think about it the crazier that concept is. It’s like if you get pneumonia and they give you medication so you can get better, then the following year you get pneumonia again and suddenly ‘No, no I shouldn’t take medication for it again – it’ll show that I failed to get better the first time!’

Whaaa???

That makes just about ZERO sense! You did get better the first time! And now you’re sicker again BUT you will get better again!

As we should live and love life for what it is, not what we think it should be, so too should we care for our mental health for what it is, not what we think it should be. If our mental health has the equivalent of pneumonia then provide it with the medication needed to help treat it!

Letting go of control:

Recently I was reading back over my posts for this blog. It was an interesting exercise – almost like my diary, except coherent and with less swearing.

I read the references I made to my really dark times – the severe breakdowns I suffered at the end of the 2012 and especially in 2013. To be entirely honest I had forgotten the pervasive pain, the absolute terror of those times. I forgot the horror of standing on sanity’s precipice and seeing the abyss stretch before me –  endless, consuming, infinitely dark.

I think when I admit to depression visiting my life again I feel the fear of going back to that horrible place at the edge of mind. So I push that away, I push at that fear and I aim to forget. I want the assurance that my future will be ‘breakdown free’, that I will control the extent to which I allow my depression to affect me.
But it is entirely possible that I could end up in a severe depressive episode again. That is a possibility in my future.

The reality of that possibility is that it won’t be like those other times.

I am not the same person and no two events are the same. That is true now and that was true back then. None of those breakdowns were exactly the same. Any possible future one will  be different and I will be a different person handling it differently (and hopefully better) than previously.

What I have utmost confidence in is that I will get through it. It will pass.

As will this depressive episode.

This will pass. I will get through it. It is not a failure of mine.
It does not show that I have failed at taking care of myself.

Taking care of myself doesn’t mean expecting perfection, and it doesn’t mean never feeling sad or low again.

Part of taking care of myself is letting go of that desire to control everything, stepping back and taking command where I can.

Sometimes that means formulating the next battle plan for treating my depression. Other times it just means admitting the truth, huddling up on the lounge with a friend and watching a movie.

I’m not perfect, and I don’t think I’ll ever address my depression fear-free.
Courage does not ask us to be fearless – it asks us to act in the face of fear.
Do not let feelings of fear or inadequacy, or thoughts of failure stop you from admitting that depression may still be a part of life.
Give yourself credit for what you have done to treat your depression and what you can do. Treat your mental health with the respect it deserves and treat it according to the needs it currently has, not according to your expectations of what it should be like.
And let go a little – we cannot control the future, we cannot control everything about now. Lets look at what we can do right now and give it a whirl – even if it’s just movies and munchies with a mate.

It will pass.

It will get better.

Your will get through this.

And life is beautiful.

The Time of My Life

It seems an absurdity that as we get older, as we realise that time is a commodity and a scarcity, it seems to flow too quickly. What happened to that childish perspective on time where ten minutes was an eternity and turning twenty was geriatric?

Frequently I catch myself waiting for the next moment in life, planning the following day, anticipating the next guests’ arrival.

Infrequently I realise this is it. What I’ve got right now, what’s happening right now, who I’m with, who I am myself – this is actually my life. This is a sentence in the paragraph of my book.

You read some stories and you think this or that is a throw away line. Then you read a real novel, a great epic and every line is amazing, every phrase is precious and you think ‘This is what it means to write a book.’

I don’t want my life to be full of throwaway lines. I want to be captured by the story of my life!

I’m sure that sounds stupid and cliche, and sometimes it feels impossible.
Life just slips through the cracks, right?
Some moments are important and some are nothing, some are just filler moments – like lettuce – no one really wants it but you use it to pretend you have an interesting and filling salad.

I refuse to be lettuce in the salad of life!!

But, how can I live an amazing life? I’m not a genius, I don’t do anything amazing, I’m not the typically adventurous sort, I don’t have the desire or the will to drop everything and go travel the world. Those are the people who have books written about them.

I do become bored with life sometimes – this particular event hasn’t happened, I haven’t bought this particular thing, that certain someone hasn’t come along yet.

Sometimes I get bogged down in this boredom where I’m waiting for something to happen, I’m waiting for someone to come along.

But this is what I fear: when that something happens I’ll wait for the next thing to happen, and when that someone comes along, I’ll wait for the next person to come along. First one year is gone and then ten, then twenty, then you’re old and you wonder what happened. Suddenly I’ve waited my whole life away. and never stopped to realise that this was it.

This is the story of my life.

We’ve got to stop and see it. And that’s hard to do, because, unlike movies we don’t have moving music to tell us that now is an important moment.
Pieces of life aren’t supposed to fall between the cracks – we let them slip when we should be holding each piece up to the light, like stained glass, and sighing at that little piece of beauty.

 

I was at a park down the road recently. My friend and I had decided to go for a walk to buy some chocolate and then he suggested we go to the park.
Why not? I had nothing better to do.

And as we were lying in the park I was thinking about all the things I had to do the next day – I was having people over. Would the place be ready in time? Would there be enough food? Would there be enough people? What if people didn’t have fun? I was looking forward to seeing some of them – it would be good to see them. I wondered what would be happening the rest of the night, what was going to happen the rest of the year. Would I still be single by my next birthday? Would I be single forever (don’t laugh at the melodrama – this thought comes 😉 )?

Then I stopped.

My life was disappearing into thoughts of the next day and memories of the past, and I wasn’t seeing that this was a future memory happening right now.

This moment where I lay on the grass in the fading night light of summer, and the grass pricked through the back of my shirt, and the breeze chilled the skin on my arms, and bats flew overhead, away from the crescent moon toward the city. And my friend lay on his stomach beside me playing with his phone and complaining about the grass, and then just being still and silent.

Right now I am thinking about what time I’m getting up tomorrow, and who I will see and the money I don’t have and the pay that’s coming through. The debts that need to be paid and the savings that should be happening but never do. I’m thinking about this article I’m writing and if it’s going to be any good.

But it’s raining out side. The water falls in big splats on the concrete of the driveway and echoes up through the barely open window into my loungeroom.
Cars drive past on the road outside with that strange slooshing sound they make in the wet – a soothing oceanic traffic swell. And the fridge is humming like some organic baseline to the rain and the dripping, and my housemate sighs while he reads.

Appreciate each moment in your life for what it is – don’t see what it isn’t, or wait expectantly for what it should be.

Appreciate each person as they are, not as what you think they should be.

I think with depression we spend so long looking ahead, waiting for that light at the end of the tunnel. And sometimes that’s what we need.
But when we get there, we need to practice living in that moment. Not worrying about the next low, or how you’re going to feel tomorrow or next week.
But that very moment – seeing that it’s good. Perhaps it seems insignificant but there is so much in life that stupidly beautiful in its simplicity. There’s so much good in people that we’ll miss if we’re just waiting for when they’re perfect.

This is your life.

This is my life – right now. I cannot get back the past and I am not guaranteed the next moment.
Living in the moment doesn’t mean having no thought for the future or not learning from the past, but appreciating the moment you have before you for whatever it may be. Some good can always be found in a moment.

I’m always struggling against that feeling that this part of my life is unimportant or boring, but it’s worth the struggle for those glimpses of the sublime that is in this life.

Don’t miss out on life – it’s too beautiful.

Depression: a year in review

Merry Christmas and welcome to 2015.

So another year has passed and overall, for myself, it’s been a pretty good year – not always a joyous year, but life is good, even when I don’t feel it.
I suppose it’s an anniversary for myself: “My first full year of admitting I have depression and attempting to treat it.” I should throw a party – there’d be little cupcakes with ‘Insane but loving it (sometimes)’ written on the icing.
I’ve learnt a fair bit about myself, especially my depression. Not always easily learnt, but I think I get it a bit more now.

I’ve learnt that usually twice a month I’ll go through a brief depressive period, often only 2 or 3 days – sometimes 2 weeks.
I’ve learnt that when I eat crap I really feel crap, and when I have a heavy drinking night out it takes me more time to recover mentally and emotionally than it does physically.
I think I’ve learnt the two downers (thoughts and feelings) that get to me the most: helplessness and loneliness. Loneliness is the one that really eats at me when it hits and makes me feel like I’m a crazy person – because I’m surrounded by people, all the people I love are an hour or less away, and yet it hits me so hard sometimes. The wrong type of logic with emotions can be a weird destructive mix sometimes.

I think what I’ve learnt the most is to accept it, that I have depression, and to acknowledge the fact that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I can’t just live my life ignoring it, not paying attention to the things that affect it and then expect it not to get worse. I think I used to think that way, a childish kind of ‘Well, fuck you depression, I’m gonna stay up late by myself and drink this bottle of wine laced with beer laced with sugar, and live on my couch for a week and there’s nothing you can do about it!’… yeah, that sort of mentality was really winning the war.

Some people think that certain emotions or thoughts are bad, that they make a value judgement on the type of person that you are, that to be affected by these thoughts meant that you were weak – I know I did.
I thought that feeling sad was a bad feeling to have, a feeling I shouldn’t have. I was only allowed to have good feelings – there was nothing really wrong with my life, I had no reason to feel sad, or anxious, or scared, or lonely, and if I was then I was failing, I was weak, I was doing something wrong. I had to be doing something wrong to not be having good feelings.

But thoughts and feelings are just thoughts and feelings. They are neither good or bad in and of themselves. Some might say that is a careless statement, but if you think about it, there are no ‘bad’ feelings. People can feel sad, anxious, lonely, hopeless, confused, angry, distressed, distraught, grieved – but describe to me what ‘bad’ feels like. People don’t like those feelings, they are unpleasant to have, but don’t use the existence of those feelings to judge your self-worth and your absolute value in this world.

Having certain thoughts and feelings doesn’t define who you are. What you do and what you strive do can make all the difference in this world, they’re part of what defines character.

That doesn’t mean ignore those thoughts or feelings, not at all. Understanding my own thoughts and feelings, well understanding them better (I’m no where near understanding my own head completely), helps me see how these things I can’t control are affected by things I can control – actions I take in my everyday life, thoughts I do choose to think!
Trying not to think about purple just makes you think about purple, and trying not to think about your feelings of sadness or loneliness just makes a big, sombre, depressed looking elephant in the room.

Acknowledge them, think about them, but don’t believe them. Sometimes feelings can be based on a reality – Do I feel lonely because I isolate myself from other people? Do I feel unlovable because I close myself off from others and don’t allow myself to be loved out of a fear of getting hurt or rejected?
That is thinking about the feeling. But having those feelings and saying, “I am alone and unloveable” – that’s believing it – and that’s believing a lie.

Remind yourself of your power, your freedom – it exists in the smallest choice, down to the tiniest thought you choose to think. With each seemingly insignificant action that seeks to understand you, respect you and love you, you are winning.
If it feels like you’ve done nothing, write down what you have done – I assure you there will be something there. If you have a goal for getting mentally healthier write it down, break it down into tiny things, say I love you to you, remind yourself that you are worth it. This is how we win the war – by fighting the battles we can fight.

There are many many things about my feelings and my thought processes that I still don’t understand, that I’ve not wanted to address because it’s tiring and it hurts, some of them I’m only realising as I write this.
But I believe this – that I am not hopeless and I am not alone, that there are concrete things I can do in my life that will improve my mental health, one little step at a time. That doesn’t mean that because I eat right, and exercise, and sleep well everyday will be rosy. Sometimes a storm will still come – I can blame myself for the weather and destroy myself on the storm, or I can hunker down and weather it out. A better day will always come and life is always worth holding out for it, even when the night seems very long.

That’s what I’ve learnt in 2014, and that’s what I’ll have to learn more and again in 2015 and 2016 and on and on, but it’s not a wasted effort.
Living life is never a wasted effort.

 

Just Wait….

OK so about three weeks ago I started writing two pieces for the blog, became overwhelmed with both of them death staring me simultaneously for not finishing them quickly, and ran away to hide under my covers from my blog…. because if my childhood taught me anything, its that hiding under the covers solves all life’s problems.

I will be finishing both those pieces, the first one being the third part of my cursed trilogy on Self Love – Oh the irony of growing to hate your own self-love blog…

The second is along the lines of my original ‘depression understanding’ posts.

Thanks for waiting it out while I finish these two looming and yet achievable blog pieces. I have finally emerged from my bed covers and am in the process of poking my blog drafts with a stick to see if they’re still alive.

Hope to post to you all ASAP!

Loving Me: (Part 2) What it is!

True self-love is something that is so misunderstood, something I so frequently don’t understand.

I frequently relegate it to the pile of things that I fail at and therefore don’t want to think about, not realising how much it affects so much of what I do.

This may contribute to why, once again, I struggled to write this post – like a three week struggle despite pretty much knowing what I wanted to write.

Every post I write seems to be accompanied with much the same internal dialogue:
Panic: I have no idea what to write!!!!!!
Logic: You’ve had this idea for ages now – just write it.
Panic: But I don’t know what I’m talking about – oh! I’m a fool!
Logic: Will you please stop freaking out and write the damn blog.
Panic: (whiney voice) “Do a three-parter!” you said. “It’ll be easier!” you said (shakes fist vigorously at Logic).
Logic: Just start writing – you’ll sort it out… besides… no one reads this blog anyway.
Panic:

             okaysadface
Logic: I’m joking – you’ll be fine. Just write.
Panic: Fine! ….But I want you to know that I hate you.

Perhaps not the most constructive internal dialogue.

I’m certainly not the best at self-pep talking, which is probably why I need Part 2 as much as anyone else might!

Part 1 pretty much hashed out what true love isn’t: It isn’t narcissism, selfishness or simply feelings. This sorta ends up indicating what it actually is:

1. Being real with yourself:

I once heard a man say ‘Humility isn’t degrading yourself – it is honesty.’
True love does not lie. To humble yourself does not mean talking yourself down and believing you are worthless.
It means taking stock of who you really are, with all your faults and failings, and then choosing to love that person.
I don’t mean to love ‘despite your failings’, but WITH all your failings and weaknesses.
When we look at the people in our lives who we truly love, do we only choose to love the loveable parts of the person that they are? Everyone has little annoying things that they do – leaving their dirty clothes on the floor, not rinsing their dishes, picking their teeth with a paper coaster – those little things are often things that you can ask a friend not to do and they’ll change to make you happy.

But then everyone has their deep, fortified flaws  – an entrenched lack of self-confidence that comes across as boasting, deep-seated anger from past hurts that comes across as arrogance. For every person in your life that you love, there is some cross to be carried that looks as though it will never fully be conquered. It seems almost a part of them and it is hard to imagine them without it.
To love does not mean loving around that cross, that burden, that struggle that person has. It means entirely loving them with it. Their cross doesn’t stop annoying or upsetting you sometimes, and that person doesn’t stop working on dealing with that flaw, but love is not withheld due to imperfection. It is extended to the whole being, as annoying and insecure and imperfect as they are.
We are no less imperfect, no less insecure, and no less in need of love than all the other people in the world.
We should extend the same generosity to ourselves.

 

2. It is generosity:

True love is being generous to yourself. As mentioned above, so frequently we extend generosity to others that we don’t give to ourselves.

As mentioned in the first point, that doesn’t mean giving yourself everything and anything that you want. That is a weakness and an unwillingness to do what is right if it is hard. It does mean accepting your acknowledged imperfections and allowing yourself to make mistakes.

Too often I am the first, and frequently the only person to jump down my throat when I’ve made a mistake. It is as though I am just waiting for myself to screw up and say, ‘Aha! You failed again! Why can’t you do this better? Why do you keep failing? Why don’t you ever learn?!’

How can I understand what I’ve done, where I’ve gone wrong and how to make it better if I get myself so stuck on that fact that I did the wrong thing in the first place?!

To love yourself means generously giving yourself enough space to learn from your mistakes and move on.

When someone we love comes to us and says ‘Man, I really screwed up. I feel like such a fool.’, we usually tell them to pick themselves up and try again. Extend that simple generosity, that statement of common sense, to yourself.

Try again!

When you feel that urge to berate yourself, when the words ‘failure’ and ‘hopeless’ are on your lips, pause for a moment…

take a breath…

and literally say to yourself

“Try again!”

It might sound a little silly to say this to yourself, but sometimes those self-critical thoughts are so ingrained in the way we think about ourselves we need to fight against them out loud!
Real love of another person does not expect them to be perfect. We should not expect that perfection in ourselves!
And no relationship works properly when a grudge is held for past wrongs – the same holds true for our relationship with ourselves. Choose to let go of past failures, learn, grow, and try again!

 

3. It is a choice:

As I said in Part 1, love is not a feeling. Recognising our weaknesses and failings will help in the long run, but it usually doesn’t make us feel overjoyed. Forgiving yourself for your mistakes and being generous with yourself isn’t always a breeze. Both these things are hard, and hurt sometimes.

Only exercising our ability to freely choose a course of action can help us push through those tough times and that unpleasantness. Understand and accept the negative feelings you may have towards yourself, but do not let them dominate your life, or the way you treat yourself. You deserve better!
Choose to try. Choose to accept the failures that come. Choose to try again.

Don’t think I’m being blasé when I say ‘Choose to love yourself’ – I know how difficult it is, how senseless it can feel, how impossible the idea of having any positive thought or emotion toward yourself can seem.

But it can be done, it is not impossible, and it is entirely worthwhile!
Sometimes I look in the mirror and I start to criticise – oh my hair is frizzy, I have lines under my eyes, and I’ve put on weight around my face – and then I stop and I say to myself:
‘I love you.’

Sure, if people were there I’d probably look crazy (no newsflash there!), but sometimes I just need to remind myself. When I first realised how important self-love was I had to remind myself every day – soon, I didn’t have to remind myself so much because I could see I was choosing to do it.

If an out loud reminder is what you need at the start then do that.
When you wake up, after you’ve turned off that annoying alarm, before you get out of bed, just say to yourself, “I love you.”
When you start to criticise, stop and say, “I love you.”
When you feel like crap and it hurts like hell to keep going on, say, “I love you”.

Say “I love you” even if it FEELS like nothing, even if it FEELS like a lie. Let saying the words to yourself act as a reminder of the choice you are making every day – to see yourself for who you are and to be generous with yourself and your failings.

You are choosing to keep loving you!

Picture from: http://myquoteshome.com

Loving Me: (Part 1) What it isn’t

There are a million and one articles, books, songs, stories and movies about what true love is, with most of them focusing on truly loving another person.

That’s great! Truly loving another person is one of the best things people can do in their lives. However, I think what is often forgotten is that to truly love another person, to the best of your ability, you need to love yourself.

Forgive me if that sounds trite but I mean it in all seriousness, and I want to delve into this subject because the full weight of what this actually means only really hit me recently. Like, last week recently.

It was one of those stupid, insignificant life moments where you’re sitting in your bed late at night, still in your work clothes, writing in a diary or something, caressing that archaic tool called ‘a pen’ and pouring your thoughts onto cheap blue lined paper, and then BAM!

Mini-epiphany!

Self-love is incredibly important!

*Pause in writing…. do that little thing where you cock your head to the side and stare off into the distance (I was in my room so the distance was the bookcase in the corner)….ponder the epiphany….*

“Wohhhh.”

We’ve all heard this before, right? Whether its from the self-help gurus, or our friends, or our church, or those little books with the pictures of cute encouraging animals. Frequently its prattled off in the media or in a movie by some pseudo-inspirational character who gets a haircut and learns to stand up for herself and says that she actually doesn’t like gnocchi  – which is great – but what does it actually mean?

As on all facets of humanity, I certainly will not be able to provide some all-inclusive understanding of what self-love is, but I want to try to hash this out!

First, by outlining what it isn’t:

1. It is not selfishness:

Selfishness is only doing things to better yourself. It is a matter of taking and not giving, of thinking of things and people only in terms of yourself. Most people are taught from a young age that this is a bad thing, and so it has proven to be. Those that are consistently selfish often are unable to develop genuine relationship, because love, at the end of the day, is about sharing. You cannot love if you are only taking from others.

If love is, in part about sharing, and selfishness is about taking, by definition selfishness negates itself as being part of self-love. If we glance at self-love from this basic understanding of what love is, then it is a self-sharing – with others and with ourselves (I’ll try to expand more on that in Part 2).

 

2. It is not narcissism:

Self-love does not mean thinking that we are the best, or that we are always right.
As much as I love media and movies (anyone who has heard me rant on some piece of movie trivia will know how much that is), I believe that is a mistake that is often made in movies and shows. They either portray the smug character who thinks he’s God’s gift to women as the self-loving jerk, or they flip that and instead take us on a whirl wind journey of discovery with some previously down-trodden character who now demonstrates a blind appreciation of herself and ‘go girlfriend!’ etc.
Recognising the amazingness of your being, or the good that you do, is not narcissism – thinking that you are the absolute most amazing and that everything you do is good is narcissism.

Narcissism is a fallacy that we can inflict upon ourselves if we refuse to see the flaws that are in us.

Love does not allow lies.

Self-love is no different.

So it is not self-love to think that everything we do is amazing and good, and we are the best person in the world, and the only person in the world to save the world (I said ‘world’ there a lot).
We are flawed, and we have weakness, and self-love does not lie about that.

 

3. Self-love is not a feeling:

It is too frequently thought today that love is a feeling. But feelings come and go, often unpredictably or without reason – sometimes in seconds. There is also often this mantra that we shouldn’t let negative feelings, like fear or apprehension, dictate our decisions, because feelings are unreliable, sometimes irrational, and we’re better and stronger than that. But then it’s ok to let positive feelings drag us into things? Suddenly, they’re the indicators of irrefutable reality?

Do I always feel pleasantly towards my sister, or my brother, or my housemate? No – definitely not! Sometimes I want to yell and scream at them – to call home more often, to stop fighting with their brother, to stop leaving gross washing up water in the sink (blergh!).
When you live with people or have known them a long time, or even just live amongst people (i.e. society) you tend to get to know all their bad habits, their short temper, the annoying things that they do or say that can sometimes really upset and hurt you.

It’s not a sudden surge of positive emotion that makes this all better or go away. It is not a lack of negative emotions that determine whether or not I love – it is a choice!
To love despite the flaws and the thoughtless hurt. To choose to share, and see the truth despite not getting any emotional rush of fervour, or joy, or ecstasy.

I don’t want to brutalise love for you – it certainly is very frequently accompanied by a wonderful array of feelings, ranging from pleasant to ecstatic.

But true love doesn’t go away when the feelings do, and self-love is the same. It isn’t just feeling fantastic about yourself all the time. That’s impossible!

It is possible to choose though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture sourced from http://cotha.typepad.com/.a/6a017eeb177bfb970d01a5116a06d4970c-pi