About Me

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Passionate mother of two wonderful children. Believe in people using their powers for good and not evil. Advocate for my kids. My eldest child is a talented, intelligent, socially aware, proud, young, androgynous person and my youngest is also talented, clever, loves the outdoors and has excellent problem solving skills, he also happens to have Down syndrome. As a family we love trips to the beach, park, shops and Maccas for the play equipment. I enjoy reading, writing, crochet and cooking.  I believe in equality and inclusion in all aspects of life for all. And I believe in justice. Hope you enjoy my blog :)

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Mental Health - How do I help?

In this world of Organisations like Beyond BlueBlack Dog InstituteSANE AustraliaMental Health Online and such public personal accounts of experiences of Depression as this recent one by Doug Leddin, we realise there is now an awareness of Mental Health being 'a thing' and that is a start.

But is that enough?  The short answer to that is NO.

Simply knowing Mental Health Conditions exist, does nothing to support the people who are living with them, or, struggling with them. We need practical information that can be used to support them.

We now also have 'It's Ok To Say' Campaign', which aims to raise awareness of Depression and Anxiety in the same way the Pink Ribbon has worked for Breast Cancer. And that is a great initiative, but how does that encourage people to act to support those with these conditions?

We have, what is a quite well known Campaign called R U OK?, which I have my feelings about and have blogged about before here. But does this really provide the practical answer to the question, "How do I help?"

I must at this point say, as I usually do when I write these pieces, that this is my opinion only. There are many other opinions on this and many other perspectives. Every person's experience of life, Anxiety, Depression and the World in general is different. That is probably the first point to keep in mind in answering the question ... "How do I help?" 

(I may also at times only use the word Depression here, understand however, it often and usually, goes hand in hand with Anxiety)

I have had my say a few times on this, here for example, as I have a very committed belief that people need connection! ALL people, and so it follows, people who have Mental Health Conditions, need more consideration, because, somewhat ironically, many Mental Health Conditions actually bring about a state of mind where a person withdraws socially or completely from society, when in fact what that person needs is to feel included and valued. This can only come about with connection.

Often this is not just because of the Depression or the Anxiety or, any other condition, it can be because they are sick and tired themselves, of only having their experience of Mental Health to talk about, to live ... and seemingly, nothing else to share or contribute.

I believe in a thing called "An experience of hope" ... I found this expression in a book I once read called The Bear's Embrace. It was offered as support from a Doctor to their Patient who, no matter how they treated their Depression, felt they were not making a substantial progression. Life just kept throwing itself at her.

This idea is like the saying 'building on your achievements', to achieve great things in life, often one just needs to achieve one small thing. Small achievements bring with them some confidence, a sense of ability, a sense of pride and worth, value. Those, are the things that move a person forward to a better place within.

How can a person with Depression improve their situation if their experience is only Depression? How can they heal in the environment which has made them unwell?

When we as humans encounter other humans we build a 'Catalogue of Experiences' (some good, some bad and many in between), we step out of ourselves, we might even physically step out of our homes, we can then have 'other' experiences, which we can then talk about, and so on, this then becomes our 'new experience'. Eventually building a staircase to follow to a better place or building a 'Collage of Hope".

Depression, however, is a vicious downward cycle and requires an upward push to help overcome it.

YOU! As a friend, family member, partner, neighbour, adult child, colleague, volunteer etc., can help to break that cycle, provide an upward push. Help another person have an Experience of Hope.

Many people have those human supports around them, but their supports have become "used to the status quo", they watch their person with Depression and/or Anxiety live with it, they do not check in as frequently, they do not drop in for a cup of tea or coffee, they do not invite them to functions or dinner or BBQs, because that person never comes ... by not inviting them, you might just overlook the one day they might have come.

It can be very difficult to be the person supporting a person with Depression, that is why it is even more important for many people to be involved, share the caring. Instead of committing to two phone calls per week each of an hour, have two people make one call each, have 4 people make a call each per fortnight, aim for half an hour, whatever it takes, if you are concerned, it is worth it! As is said to those enduring life's difficulties, It Will Get Better. For those supporting, It Will Get Easier.

Just turning up with a smile after an extended period of disconnection, isn't enough, it is also a much harder role for the support person to perform. When a person who has a Mental Health Condition, and is continually experiencing Life's struggles, has to recount a month of their experience all in one go, nobody wins! That experience only helps them to relive the experience and depletes the energy of the people who care. It is also considered re-traumatising. This is why regular contact is important. And, the more regular, the less time is needed overall.

So, if I have not made it clear and managed to espouse the importance of consistent Connection ... here is the mantra ... STAY IN TOUCH!

Keep up to date in a personal way. Not on Facebook which by the way is just another means of communication, not a real life experience, or by email, which is so impersonal and originally meant for business communication. Having people you know and people you engage with, are two very different concepts.

The sound of a human voice provides more connection that you can know, seeing the expressions on the face of another helps people to remember and experience emotions they may have forgotten. Human contact provides experiences of Hope. If you are still not convinced, watch the video below by clicking on the link below the image ... The Beauty of Human Connection

And finally, commit half an hour a week to your person who is struggling, or any person you care about. Give them something to look forward to, help them build their 'Collage of Hope'.

It might just do you some good too.

If you or anyone you know is in need of support, use the links at the top of this page to seek support or referral, or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14

This, for your listening pleasure ... fantastic version
Just click on the link below the image.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Depression - A true account

Trigger Warnings: Depression, Anxiety, Suicide, Domestic Violence.

I am posting this today, but I give notice that I wrote this about 12 months ago. I was too vulnerable then to put it out to the world. I'm doing well today, so here goes. Hope it can be of assistance to someone.

I know from time to time, the internet explodes with stories of people living with depression. Usually, this is brought about by a very public disclosure of a celebrity living with depression or having suicided.

My awareness of depression or suicide is simply by being me. I have written this post from my perspective and am not speaking for any other person as everyone's experience is different.

I live with anxiety and depression. It seems, I have lived with them (and suspected PTSD) most of my life due to being a child victim of Domestic Violence, and am now looking at a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD, which explains a lot). I was not diagnosed with Depression formally until I was in my late 40s, despite bouts of Post Natal Depression with both children, and the Anxiety has just been something I have come to understand as being my default because of the Trauma, through much counselling.

Now that I understand and recognise my behaviour when I am anxious or depressed, it makes it easier to see how my life has played out as it has. The contribution that BPD has also made is that I have made bad decisions, life changing ones, in the blink of an eye, because I did not know how to manage my anxiety, mainly because I did not know I had it. I just thought that was me.

I have encountered conflict because I was too anxious to say what I really felt, and being frustrated by this, have displayed anger, I have been walked all over and missed opportunities due to my inability to express my needs or trust in people who might have been able to help me.

Depression and anxiety change who I am, they change the way I live, the way I relate to other people, the way I parent, interact with colleagues, plan my day/week/month, they effect my ability to be punctual and reliable, to make choices about relationships, finances, job opportunities, education. They steal away my chances at a better life if I simply cannot perform at the level I need to in any given situation.

For anyone reading this right now who is thinking I am over dramatising this, or why don't you just take Anti Depressants, practice Mindfulness, learn Yoga and Meditation, get a hobby, cheer up … Firstly, here is a link to Beyond Blue so you can educate yourself as to what Depression actually is, secondly, how Depression is managed is different for every single person and usually involves a combination of many things, including support and understanding from others. Not forgetting my other diagnosis'.

There are thousands of Anti Depressants on the market. Currently, I am trying my 4th type in 12 months because the particular medication I had been on for a number of years, when increased to combat Anxiety brought on by a major life trauma, only made the anxiety worse, so I had to find another medication that would work for me. I am still looking, trying one after the other, experiencing side effects that cannot be lived with such as nose bleeds, blurred vision, insomnia, constipation, dry mouth, increased anxiety/depression, vertigo, exhaustion, high blood pressure etc, and therefore moving on to the next medication to see if it suits me.

The reason I have decided to write about this today is that I know others who also have bouts of or live daily with depression, anxiety and PTSD, and I know of people who, when a disclosure is made, want to help. But don't know how.

The last time I had a really bad day and decided to disclose to a friend who had encouraged me to call her "anytime, day or night" she was so overwhelmed by my emotions, she admitted later to me that she nearly had me scheduled. For those of you who are not aware of what that means, it is being taken to hospital for a period of 72 hours against your will, usually by Police, with no option to leave. What I had needed was for her to listen to me talk and cry (sob really) and possibly share a cup of tea, but I could not express that.

When I am at my darkest with depression, it is due to the negative self talk that I fight every day, having won dominance. I start to doubt my ability to do anything. I question my worth and my value, I believe that the people who have offered to take my calls day or night, are not genuine because they never phone me … I understand why people never phone me, who would want to talk to or spend time with a person who is depressed? And so, I will not phone them.

Catch 22 … Connectedness is a major factor in combating depression, but when people do not phone me or invite me or call in to see me, that is exactly what I lack, connectedness. I have many people say, "Let's have coffee" or lunch or go out or …. But they never follow up, they wait for me to call, but I won't, because I don't want to burden them with me, to interrupt their lives, to use up time they would prefer to be spending with their families.

While R U OK? Day is a great program, very few people truly understand what it is about. It is about starting conversations. It is NOT about phoning a friend once a year to see if they are ok.

If you truly want to help a friend who is living with any Mental Health issue, ask them what they need, have that conversation, keep having that conversation, regularly, then you will know how to help them.