Underneath It All

If you, like me, have battled, are still living and expect to keep dealing with depression, and if you, like me, have children who also have anxiety and depression as a constant illness, then you, like me, should not listen to “Dear Evan Hansen” music alone in an office at the end of a long week.

If you don’t know the story of Evan Hansen, you can find the full run down on the Wikipedia page. Warning: I’m likely to give away at least some of the story here.

Until recently, I didn’t know of it either, but my daughter started to share the music and I noticed a theme running through the lyrics. Although the story is not scene for scene the story of my family, too many of the lyrics ring true. Here’s the parts of the first song, sung by two very different mothers, both trying to negotiate normal families, social anxieties and, unknown as yet, suicide attempts.

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Can we try to have an optimistic outlook, huh?

Can we buck up just enough to see the world won’t fall apart?
Maybe this year, we decide
We’re not giving up before we’ve tried
This year, we make a new start
Another stellar conversation for the scrapbook
Another stumble as I’m reaching for the right thing to say
I’m kinda coming up empty
Can’t find my way to you
Does anybody have a map?
Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
‘Cause the scary truth is
I’m flying blind
And I’m making this up as I go
Another masterful attempt ends with disaster
Pour another cup of coffee
And watch it all crash and burn
It’s a puzzle, it’s a maze
I tried to steer through it a million ways
But each day’s another wrong turn
-happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
‘Cause the scary truth is
I’m flying blind
And I’m making this up as I go
As I go

****

Now I am aware of the normalities, anxieties and ideations of my family, I think, and I am flattened once again, knowing that I have still not been successful in ‘fixing’ those. So, alone in the office, I cry. And sing along.

Were this anyone else’s post, I would be hitting the comments button and assuring them that no one’s mental health difficulties are my responsibility, but parents and significant others in my situation will testify that it isn’t as easy as telling yourself that. That’s my baby, despite the age; that’s my responsibility.

I used to be able to kiss it all better and now I cannot even slightly improve your outlook with a million hugs and kisses; ongoing psychiatric or psychologist appointments or 20 iterations of medical prescriptions. I hear you. I see you. I love you. And yet, that isn’t enough. God formed you, I carried you; and I would carry you in my arms again if that would mend your broken heart/soul/feelings/brain/self-worth/mental health…….but it doesn’t and I can’t.

I feel responsible because of the statistics that I have seen. Approximately 1 in 7 young people experience an affective depressive disorder (beyondblue.org.au) in Australia. Children whose parents have experienced the same are 4 times more likely, and children who have one or more grandparent who have experienced mental health issues are apparently 20 times more likely to experience some sort of mental health concern than others. How could I not feel responsible? This has been my story. And now it’s an inheritance.

Mostly, mostly, I don’t get stuck in this state. I don’t know why today is different. Perhaps because I feel alone when I’m surrounded. Perhaps because I am tired and need a good sleep (for a few weeks). Perhaps it is musically induced melancholia. Perhaps, and not so surprisingly, perhaps it is my depression coming to the fore in response to all of the above. Whatever.

Mostly, mostly, I live a Nike slogan and JUST DO IT. Whatever it is on the agenda for that day and planning for the next few. Just the same as people everywhere ad infinitum. I’m not alone in it, for which I am grateful and neither are you, for which I am exceptionally grateful.

So, what now?

Now I pack up my today; pick up another child and go home. Now I buy bread and milk and ice cream, because they are the essentials tonight. Now I wipe my face, put on different music (duh) and then cry by myself in the car, wipe my face again and smile hello as I greet my family. I’m going to be ok and, God help me, they will, too.

So despite ‘evidence’ seen from outside, we will keep doing what we think is right. We won’t push for employment and we will ignore or face down detractors who believe we are enabling millennial entitlement. We will smile, a little stiffly perhaps, at those who believe, “If you just….(insert your values here)” it’ll all be ok.

And maybe every now and then I will cry with and for my family and make all the plans, suggestions and appointments (even with bloody Centrelink) that I think will help in any small way. And I will write my fears and feelings – and lyrics that I think 5 Seconds of Summer should record. And despite my best efforts to the contrary, I will listen to musical soundtracks like “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Be More Chill” (don’t ask, the trend is actually alarming me). And I will keep going. And I will be ok. And that’s what it is to be honest, and live and love. And that’s good.

**An hour later**

I have travelled the gamut of emotions in the past 60 minutes.

I picked up the recently employed child who offered to buy me dinner – win! We had a wonderful time and I felt a bit better, which was nice tonight. However, as I have explained, I am exposed to new music via my children, and tonight was no exception.

“Mum, I really like this song and I don’t really know why. Can I play it to you?”

“Sure.”

I’ve linked the song he played below. Your job now is to decide whether my reaction was:

A) understand immediately why he liked the song and proceed to have discussion on the merits of music genres followed by singing along to John Denver and The Proclaimers (separately, ’cause that’d be weird). This interspersed with buying previously mentioned milk, bread and ice cream.

B) crying silently with my face tilted slightly away from the passenger seat because the song describes and repeats what my eldest has tried to describe and repeat, underlined by minor chords. This interspersed with buying previously mentioned milk, bread and ice cream.

C) both A and B and wanting to vomit and gripping the steering wheel tightly in an attempt to distract one pain with another.

THE SONG

The ice cream was mediocre btw.

Where is the boy I kissed?

Where is the boy I kissed?

I thought to look for him on Facebook, but I didn’t want to spoil his 14 year old beauty. The deep brown eyes and hair; the baby face he hated but we girls sighed over. Never quite as tough as the black-jeaned, long haired big brother and the wannabe metal band boys my parents nicknamed “The blackshirts.” He was beautiful and silent. Probably with fear, but to my 15 year old self, he was mystery personified. We stopped a game of spin-the-bottle once, this beautiful boy and I, simply by playing. Turn for turn, the bottle spun and lips met. Darkness, excess sugar and a tiny bit of Southern Comfort set the mood and he spun and it turned to me. Game over, baby. And we were both babies, really, but for that next 45 minutes I knew nothing but his kiss. Actually, I did know. I knew we’d stopped the game, but I was more proud than concerned. He was gorgeous; he was sexy; and he was safe. And that was all.

Where is the boy I kissed?
Same house. Same friends, almost. Same silly 15 year old me. An older, less safe, less sexy, similarly bedecked young man – for man he was, barely. Not the same sweetness and more driven by lust than wanting to play the game. I was innocent, confident in myself and in romance. Would I like to listen to a new guitar riff in the caravan? Ok. Kiss me. Ok. Where is the boy I kissed? As far as I know, still on his back on a cramped fold down caravan bunk. Just where I left him when I realised I was skin to skin shirtless on his chest as he offered, no, demanded, more. Just two words. Four letters and two letters and, this time, not kiss me. I’d never been so shocked, hurt and angry in my life. And I left, fast. And that was all.

Where is the boy I kissed?

This one is trapped inside a green exercise book in a future my 16 year old self created for him. With me by his side, of course. But he didn’t know about the life I had planned for us. He didn’t know that we were supposed to be looking after 6 children by now. He didn’t know how close I was to saying yes to the same question asked by the manboy before. This one asked more sweetly, more softly, more subtly. But he still asked. He didn’t know how nervous he made me. I guess he didn’t know why I said no. And I didn’t know then, that later, after he stopped asking me, another man asked him. And he said yes. And that was all.

Where is the boy I kissed?

The one who took six months of my none too subtle flirting to realise I liked him. The one who bought me red roses and a pendant to go with my 17 year old birthday outfit to show me he’d realised and reciprocated. Who held my hand through ‘Aladdin’; walked me to his home with our friends who we proceeded to ignore as we kissed on the couch. A lot. The one who patted my back as I cried for no reason. A lot. The one who kissed me despite gross chicken pox. Mine. A lot of them. The one with whom I scrimped – a lot; saved-hardly; screamed; psycho’d and loved. Where is the boy I kissed? He’s here. And that is NOT all.

Where is the boy I kissed?

There are three. Faces in sequence squishy, soft and scratchy from shaving. I have kissed all of those quickly changing, growing boys for the past 18+ years and I will continue doing it. My boys. My sons.

And that is all.

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And now, as I go to press POST, the nerves rise below my sternum just as they did for the boys I kissed. Not the butterflies in anticipation of sweet lips, but the charging elephants that stir anxious thoughts of your judgement, my friends.

But as always,

Veritas,

Eski

Not my story, obviously.

I can see why some people aren’t sure if Sam’s story is real or not. I mean, I’m a 41 year old woman, not a 16 year old boy. I don’t have the requisite parts to have testicular cancer. This is true. And so is Sam’s story.

“Nuts, A Ball and other 4-letter Words.”

He’s a real person. Not his real name for the sake of privacy. This is his journey for a short/horrifically long period of his life so far. This is the story, too, of anyone who has been dealt the punch to the face (knee to the groin?) that cancer is. It’s also the story of winning. Of not spelling cancer with a capital C. Of making it. Of living life anyway, of growth and regrowth. Of sharing instead of hiding. Of kissing and sex. Of separation and belonging. Just Life. It’s the story of family and yet it isn’t.

I spoke to most of Sam’s family while his personal story bubbled in my head and came flowing out in words both his and mine.

I spoke to his big brother who, although uncomfortable in some ways talking to a relative stranger, made his love love for his family, even an annoying younger brother, very clear.

I spoke with his little sister, who thought I was a little crazy and made a rude comment about my shoe choices….fair call, though. The two of us forged a friendship that was close, for a while, and sang the real lyrics to Mumford and Sons’ ‘Little Lion Man’ really, really loudly, just because we could. Now she’s not a ‘little’ sister any more, but a beautiful, engaged young woman with whom a coffee date seems elusive. And I spoke with Mum.

I wondered if she thought I was odd, a teacher and mother of children of my own, befriending her kids. Apparently not, thankfully. And I loved them. Hearing their stories; getting a little into their lives.

Weird, isn’t it, how quickly that depth of feeling can come? And go. Not the feeling, just the actual spending time. It just drifts off sometimes. I don’t really know why. Happens far more often than I’d like, that sort of fading. Anyway, I’m getting morose.

So Mum let me hang out. And talk to her kids. And to her. She told me all of her experiences of Sam’s diagnosis, treatment, surgery and eventual recovery. I think I expected more tears, more drama. But you’ve already read that’s not her style. So it was fact and explanation of both circumstances and emotions.

I always meant to write the whole story. The whole truth for the whole family, but I couldn’t write Mum’s perspective. When I voiced her, my pen stopped. I, who had children of my own and knew how mums felt when their children hurt. I, who could scrawl out the story of a teenager’s masturbation and fantasy, couldn’t find the words to share this mother’s battle for her boy.

Why?

I’m sorry that I couldn’t find your voice with my pen. I’m sorry that I couldn’t express your fear, or the knowledge that you just had to do what you had to do. I’m sorry ’cause I wanted to tell of your courage, your love. I wanted to write more. I don’t think I could go there, you know, because it would have been bloody hard. I haven’t looked at my notes in years, but I have one thing that I’ve always remembered.

When mums hug their children, we often put our hands on their heads, ruffle their hair up a bit. And it’s a sign of affection, of casual ‘love ya, mate’ warmth. But for you it became more. Discreetly, under the guise of casual, you’d check your not-so-little boy’s scalp and neck for the telltale heat of fever and bumps of possible infection. I already knew how I felt when I held my ‘babies’ and I think I couldn’t find your voice cause I didn’t want to even imagine having to watch them so closely, so scared. I knew I didn’t know, couldn’t even guess and I didn’t want to do you or your feelings injustice.

So there it is. Honesty. I’ve finally made myself look at it as more than just writer’s block.

If you haven’t read Sam’s story yet, you could start here.

Love,

Mandy. 🐛<<
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No fear of flying!

There is nothing like the feeling of flying – even if it is down a concrete path in a wheelchair!  A boy I don’t know very well, from year 11, who makes me laugh and teases along with the best of them, offered to push me back down to the next class I was helping with.  Actually, he first asked if he could sit on my knee and I could take him down to the ITD building.  I’m not sure who was more surprised when I compromised and said I would only take him as far as the concrete path went cause I didn’t do “off road” real well.  I think I would have had my bluff called if he had agreed, but I’d like to think that we would have given it a good go.  So I think that taking me to my next class was the trade off.  I certainly could have done that bit on my own, but I think there is a certain buzz from pushing people in wheelchairs, maybe it’s the control, so who am I to say no?  Sam is not careful.  Well, that’s what I reckon it looked like as we whizzed down the hill.  The three of us flying.  Me in the chair, Sam running behind me, holding the handles carefully as he pushed, and Josh trying to run and laugh at the same time beside his best mate.  I think I was more worried for the innocents who might inadvertently get in our path; there is no such thing as power steering on my wheelchair.  Although I did promise (some might say threaten) as we flew, that I would hunt him down on crutches if he let me go, I actually felt amazing.  Yes, I like being the centre of attention.  Yes, it’s exhilarating and a bit of adrenalin on a Monday afternoon can be a good thing.  But it’s more than that.  Sam’s been sick.  I haven’t asked him about it and I don’t know many details, but it’s been a long haul for him this year.  Cancer and chemo don’t make for a party sort of feeling.  Tears started for me when, at a staff meeting, he was given special uniform dispensation, cause apparently his formal one just “felt too heavy.”  There are the highlights though.  He’s back in his formal uniform now, as scruffy as they seem to be able to make it look, and having your best friend have his head shaved at the same time as you in solidarity and support must feel pretty good.  I’m going to have to ask, maybe.  Maybe it’s not important that I know.  But my guess is that if I felt like I was flying, I’m pretty sure that being able to run like that, laughing, in control of a teacher’s transport and scattering juniors as you go must have felt pretty good too.  Maybe I’m trying to make it into something it’s not. All of us were breathless as they stopped me at the door and wandered off – there was no ‘moment’ – but it was great!

Anxiety and depression – My son’s story

Some of you know and have supported Logan and I recently so I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that someone else will be helped.

Depression doesn’t always make sense and many people don’t understand it. I’m sharing because of that too. Thank you for your support whether you’ve understood or not. I’m happy to chat anytime.

Please share with anyone you think will benefit from knowing.

I’ve copied and pasted an email I wrote to some people who knew more of this earlier, in the middle of 2014, so it may not all be relevant to you, but the info and sentiments are.

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Because we’ve spoken about this before and you are aware of what’s been happening for Logan, I want to keep you updated on Logan’s situation. I’d appreciate it if you could continue to keep your eye on him, like you’ve already been doing, and let us know if you see any changes.

I took Logan to a psychiatrist on Wednesday and she agreed with my ‘mum diagnosis’ of chemical depression within 10 minutes of us all talking. After a thorough discussion, she’s prescribed him a 12 month course of daily Zoloft, which she will monitor closely with us. She believes that we will see, and Logan will experience, positive change within 3 weeks. All going as expected, he should be functioning normally within three months and in six be back to where he ‘should’ be. This is wonderful, prayed for news, which is exactly the outcome I had hoped for from yesterday’s appointment. Thank you for praying with me.

As with any medication, there MAY be some side effects and although these are mostly minor, we want to be onto them. Especially these next two to three weeks, Logan might be more tired (not sure that’s possible); have slight headaches; have more ‘body irritability’ like jumpy legs, unable to sit still and tightness or clenching of jaw or grinding teeth. None of these presents a problem, it’s just a settling in period. As I said, she’ll be monitoring him every few weeks in person to make sure that’s all. After the initial few weeks, most people have only positive change and because we often don’t see small changes from so close, you may see these more than Logan does at first. I’ll be noticing every tiny thing, I’m sure, which will be a nice change to noticing the decline, but I’d love your feedback too. Logan knows that you are aware of the continuing story and is, even now, willing to talk to you about it all. He has briefly mentioned his anxiety to his friends, but has trouble knowing what to say. As you can understand, some people have negative perceptions in relation to psych-anything, so he’s nervous about judgmental reactions.

This next is probably the most important part of my explanation today and what I hope will help others. It’s only due to my first hand knowledge of chemical depression that I’ve seen beyond what often presents as grumpy, ’emo’ teenager,Neanderthal behaviour and really known he wasn’t ok. It took a close friend’s amazing transformation recently from severe, self harming depression to normal, functional, and finally happy person, for me to seek a psychiatric referral. The psychiatrist had worked with my friend’s medication over months to achieve this and it’s been a miracle. It’s the best discovery I’ve made. I’ve been diagnosed, and improperly treated for, various types of depression for the past twenty years. I’ve been to multiple GPs and referred to counsellors and psychologists and have attended each session feeling like a fraud and a ‘mental case.’ I rarely had anything to discuss and my catch cry has been, “There’s nothing wrong with me; why is there so much wrong with me?” Why did I still feel so hopeless, helpless and lacking in any energy or motivation?

I have tried a number of anti-depressants with varying degrees of un-success, prescribed by GPs who have tried. When one suggested post natal depression when Toby was 4 years old, I wondered if I really was in the ‘too hard’ basket. My latest GP, just prior to finding out about Theo, was the first and only person to use the words, ‘chemical depression’ and she told me it wasn’t psychological, but my body’s inability to manufacture Seratonin, among other things. She said I’d likely have to be on anti-depressant medication for life and likened it to some diabetics having to inject insulin. I felt such relief at that, finally having an answer that wasn’t a mental issue. She’s been amazing, guiding and supporting me through what’s been a rough few years with pregnancy hormones and true postnatal symptoms. I’ve taken my medication as prescribed and have been ok; but only ok. Theo’s nearly two and I’m still only ok. I am so used to being flat that I’ve only really recently realise that I’m probably operating at 75% of what’s normal for me. My head’s above water, but it’s easy to go under. With the change I saw in my friend, I’ve self-referred to this same psychiatrist Logan saw. I’ll see her next week but through the tiny bit of my information I gave her today as background for Logan, she’s already determined my medication is wrong for what I have and that I have been improperly diagnosed and treated for 20 years. She has said that most people can be treated for chemical depression like this in a relatively short, finite period, easily with the right prescription; which is a psychiatrist’s specialist area. I’ve never felt such relief and frustration and anger at the same time!

Although I knew psychiatrists could prescribe medication, I had the mistaken, but disturbingly common, view that psychiatrists were the top of the mental health hierarchy: the more crazy you were, the further up you went. The thing that’s perpetuated this myth and given me what I feel are wasted decades is that no one, not GPs, counsellors or psychologist – NO ONE has ever suggested I seek a psychiatrist’s help – and they SHOULD HAVE. If they had, I’d have done so. If they’d suggested amputation, I would have gone there too in an attempt to feel ‘normal.’ I tell you this because I know I’m not the only one in my situation and although I’m finally going to get this all sorted starting next week, I’m angry at such wasted decades. The only thing I can see that makes it ok is that God has a plan for this knowledge and experience. Because of it, I’ve been able to get help for Logan early and not shrugged it off as grumpy teen. Because of this, I may (and hope to) direct others to seek the right help. And you’re some of the first I’ve told. Maybe you can pass this on to help someone else.

I so appreciate that I’ve been able to honestly share this and my experiences with you all individually over the past few years. It seems trite, but isn’t, to say thank you so much for your support and observation and care of both me and Logan. It was so good to know others saw what I did in him and cared enough to tell me. Thank you for continuing to pray for us. Please ask about and share my journey with anyone who needs it and WATCH THIS SPACE! for new and improved Ross’. Bit scary, hey?

Veritas, Eski

Depression – The roller coaster that doesn’t stop.

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I’m afraid to tell people about my struggle with depression because of the stigma that is often attached to it. Think of the vocabulary associated with depression. Depression, the very name itself means ‘down, hollow, flat, lower’. Mental health. Psych. Psychologist, psychiatrist, psychiatric – it’s not a big leap.  Medication.  Issue. “issue” We laugh, but it’s true. Maybe I’m seeing it through eyes of fear, and that is probably the case.  I was nervous and even a bit scared of telling you all of this today. Scared of the way you might respond.  I wanted to think of some eye opening beginning that would share with you just how hard sharing this is going to be for me.  One glorious 2am last week some time (don’t you get the best ideas at 2am?) I thought that a photo in here of me naked might most accurately represent how I feel about sharing. But almost as soon as I thought it, it was followed by, Argh! I can’t do that! I’m not comfortable enough to let go of the ‘supports’ that I have in clothes.  What about in underwear? That’s pretty vulnerable. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about did I have knickers that matched my bra? And that idea was pushed aside too.  I figured I’d tell you about it though because even though it’s funny, it’s a very, VERY accurate analogy of how exposed I feel right now.
When I tell people that I have depression I usually get one of four responses: a blank look and an uncomfortable silence which can lead to withdrawal; a ‘fix it phrase’ (more about that later); agreement – either they, or someone they know, have depression and we share our experiences or mostly; disagreement – “you’re too happy and funny to have depression!”  And although I’m telling you about other people’s responses to me, these are the very thoughts I’ve had about myself.  I want to share some of that with you today.

I’m sometimes struck by the day and night metaphors for depression. Depression is Beyond Blue or The Black Dog. Night times are often harder; that getting up in the morning, however lovely, has sometimes been a huge trial for me and how many times I’ve felt brought into the light despite depression.  I’d rocked up to an event that I was looking forward to and next thing I was feeling all teary and that’s on the days I could manage to go at all. And that’s the story of my depression through the years.
When I look back, with that 20/20 vision hindsight gives us, I believe that my depression started when I was around 17 or 18.  Yes, I’ve always been the happy, slightly flippant person that you all know and love 😜 but I was visiting a friend and for no apparent reason ended up crying for about a day and a half.  I didn’t know why and I’ve got to say I didn’t really think much about it til late last year.  At various times during my life since then, I’ve had similar experiences. After Markeri was born, we moved to Brisbane from Cairns and away from most of our family and support.  When I went to the doctor saying I was tired and teary all the time, it’s not that surprising that postnatal depression was diagnosed.  With a 3 year old and a 1 year old, what else could I expect?  It was some months after that first diagnosis that I admitted defeat and started taking anti-depressants.  I went to see a psychologist and felt particularly irritated by the whole experience; the fact was, I didn’t have anything to discuss with her – what was wrong with me? It felt like everything and nothing at the same time.  Did you hear the words I just used? Admitted defeat; irritated; what was wrong? Everything; nothing.  These are common feelings for those with depression.  They are some of the major signs.
Around the same time, the kids and I found the playgroup and the Wesleyan church at Logan, where we still go today.  At first I went to church for the children’s sake, I wanted them to have a good grounding, like I’d had.  I called myself a Christian because I’d grown up going to church, but it was not until a number of months later that I realized the truth. Logan, my eldest, was about 3 ½ and we were driving home from church after a group of puppeteers had performed.  Their theme was having a clean heart when Jesus was in it.  I can still remember the barbershop quartet of wide-eyed puppets singing “When Jesus Came Into My Heart.”  As we drove home, Logan asked me a question about the black heart and the white heart and I explained it to him.  It still amazes me that I could explain the way to accept Christ and still completely miss my own lack in doing so!  Logan got it though and I led him through a prayer to ask Jesus into his heart and even Markeri, at about 18 months of age, piped up with “Jesus my heart too.” And I still missed it.  I don’t remember the day, but I do remember being in the car at night, waiting to go to a choir practice – following the psychologist’s advice and doing something for myself – and having to lay my chair back so no one would see the sobbing mess that I was.  I’m glad that God understands because it wasn’t until then, when I felt that this was the lowest point I could possibly reach, that I prayed for myself for Jesus to come into my heart. I admitted my complete inability to do this on my own and that I needed Him.  I’ve never been sorry for that step, but it’s made me feel like a fake at times.
For years I didn’t want to tell anyone how useless I felt or about my irritability with the kids.  For someone who is usually pleasant, relaxed and competent – I was a screaming fishwife, tense and feeling like a failure.  I didn’t even admit it to Neal – hence the sobbing in the car while he was at home with kids.  On the outside I was doing well – I was helping to organize playgroup and running a number of the activities. I was worship leading at church. I was completing my degree by correspondence.  I was working part time. Neal and I were managing to make one and a bit very small incomes work and even pay for private school. I had two lovely children and I was pregnant again – watch this space! I can see some of you smiling and nodding already, you know where this is going, don’t you? And down we go again.
So many times I’ve stood at the front of the church to lead worship feeling like a complete fraud.  I was praising God that day, but it seemed that the depression meant I wasn’t happy enough with what He’d given me. If I were, I wouldn’t be feeling this way, would I? I was thinking to myself and apologising to God – if they could just see how useless I really am underneath this smile…who am I to be leading anyone else to worship?  If I could just work a little harder, trust more, have more devotional time and have more faith, I could get God to fix me.
Having convinced myself that I could and would work through this, I took on everything.  Being busy helped to squash out some of those feelings of uselessness.  And being tired from doing everything gave me some excuse to feel the way I did, even as I felt that there was no reason to cry and sleep (or not) so much.  I told myself that if I could make it through being pregnant with Toby without falling apart – and I did, as I wasn’t prepared to run the risk of taking medication with unknown effects while I was carrying him – then I could ‘fix’ myself.  Every now and then I’d again admit defeat, cry to whichever doctor I was seeing at the time and try medication and counseling again. Again, I’d feel like a failure and try to believe that the stressors of the moment – financial stress, postnatal hormones, relationship difficulties etc etc were the cause of this and if I could just work hard enough, I’d be able to fix it.  For years, and even now on occasion, I have set myself up as a bit of a “super-woman” (hands up if you are in this category too). I feel I SHOULD be able to do everything and when that isn’t the case, I feel like I’ve failed.  Repeat this pattern ad nauseum for the next decade.
Please don’t get me wrong, my life hasn’t been this massive pit of despair.  Most of the time I really do feel the way I behave. I really do feel good, happy, a little bit silly at times and I don’t want anyone here thinking that it was always a down in the dumps life. It’s just that’s what I’m sharing today, so that’s the bit you get to hear about most.  God has been wonderful to me and blessed me enormously.  He’s also made and helped me face parts of my behavior and personality that I’d just as soon have left alone, thanks very much!
It’s taken some considerable time and pain, but God is finally getting through to me and I hope He will use me to get through to others, maybe even today.  The 12 months of 201-2012 were a very weird mix of fabulous and frightful. Fabulous because I managed to lose 20 kilograms without it feeling like an effort. Frightful because I’ve got at least another 20 to go. (And have now put back on both!) Fabulous because I’ve found some answers. Frightful because of what those answers mean. Fabulous because of the very small package – young Theo – that has been God’s big surprise for us and frightful because of the horrible 9 months he cooked for.  Let me run through those last four for you – the bits about the kilograms are pretty self-explanatory.
For many, many days that year I got up out of bed with minutes to spare, honestly, only minutes, before I had to leave to take kids to school and myself to work. I became a master at showering and dressing in seconds flat and eating toast or fruit on the way. I got a few odd looks as I brushed my teeth at traffic lights and put my shoes on in the carpark.  I became more and more guilty and angry at myself because the kids were being the parent I should have been. When your 12 year old daughter wakes you up cause it’s time to go; your uniform is ironed by a 14 year old son who doesn’t iron his own and you eat a butter sandwich and apple for lunch cause that’s what your 8 year old has made for both himself and you, you know that if this isn’t rock bottom then it’s as close as you want to get.
They don’t say much about it now, even when asked, but as a mum I worry about it. I asked them to write down what they thought and felt about it, cause Neal and I did try our best to explain and I thought that I’d share that with you too.  The boys dictated theirs to me and then gave me a hug and went on playing.  Markeri wrote hers in her room and then apologised cause she wasn’t sure it was the right thing – don’t I feel great now!
Toby – when Mum had depression, I noticed that she was angrier, didn’t really spend a lot of time with people – mostly spent time by herself in her room. I felt upset and annoyed cause I didn’t really like it as it meant that I didn’t have much time with her.
Logan – Mum was often snappier with us and got angry more easily. I was often annoyed cause I was often in trouble that I didn’t think I deserved and it was hard cause I do like spending time around Mum, but when everything I did was wrong, it made that a bit hard.
In late November that year, I had a day off work for the third week in a row.  I love my job and it’s usually a case of ‘wild horses couldn’t drag me away’ but Neal stepped in a told me I wasn’t going on this day because it was the third time in as many weeks that I’d woken up crying, unable to do the simplest things without sobbing and becoming an absolute wreck.  Although there was honestly no reason for me to feel the way I did – no postnatal depression, no financial stress, Neal’s and my relationship was better than ever and I love my job – no reason at all – it kept happening. I went to the doctors’ clinic and asked to see someone as soon as possible.  A new doctor was available and when I cried and snorted through why I was there, she said something I’d never heard before.  She told me that depression like mine isn’t psychological, although, like everyone else I react to stressors, but my depression is chemical.  Like a person with diabetes who needs to top up their own insulin with injections of a created insulin, I need to top up the chemicals in my brain that keep me healthy, happy and functioning with created chemicals – hence the anti-depressants.  She’s since told me that this is likely to be a lifelong medication need for me; that my body just doesn’t make enough and when it’s gone, life as we know it is like trying to run a car on an empty fuel tank.  I felt such a weight off my shoulders just having that much of an answer.  So, I went back on my medication.

A week later, and ten days late for my period, I was back to the doctor again…surprise! We’re having another baby.  I’d have a 15, 13 and 10 year old and a new born baby – who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?  As exciting as the idea of a new baby was, I had to make to the really tough decision not to continue with my medication for at least the first few months of my pregnancy.  The doctor was certain that the medication she’d prescribed was safe, but I knew that I’d rather struggle with my ability cope than have the worry of the baby not being ok hanging over me. I knew I’d manage that more than trying not to blame myself if anything were to go wrong.  Of course, it wasn’t just me that had to deal with the symptoms that come with the combination of baby hormones and un-medicated depression.  Neal and the kids got me through it and I’m grateful more than I can explain.

I can’t fully do justice to what tha tyear waslike, even with all the talking and writing I do.  I can best describe it as one of the worst seasons of my life.  I’ve never been as tired. I gagged and threw up so much that Toby asked me honestly if my lungs or the baby would come out too.  If getting up was hard before, it was nigh on impossible now.  My Grandpa used to tell us (A LOT) that there was no such word as can’t – but I simply couldn’t do a lot of things and if my guilt was bad before about the kids being the parents and Neal taking on so much, it was much, much worse now.  My first 3 pregnancies were boring, predictable and healthy. I now understand some of the difficulties that others have gone through.  I was sick. I was tested early for gestational diabetes (because of my weight and age – and doesn’t that make a person feel great?) and found that I did have it.  I have a severe needle phobia and had to test my sugar four times a day.  I had acid reflux, indigestion and heartburn to the point that our bed was diagonal and that wasn’t helping either. I was on medication for that and to help me sleep and did I mention the depression?? About 2 months before Theo was born, I simply wasn’t coping and I have to tell you that I felt like the biggest failure ever when the doctor prescribed me valium and three days in bed.  For me, a person who generally takes Panadol sparingly, and who now felt that if I jumped I’d rattle, this was a VERY LOW point indeed.  But, as Neal said, it was that or have him watch me like a hawk.  I think I scared him when I admitted after one utterly sleepless night that I’d looked at the door frame and considered how hard I’d have to hit my head against it to knock myself out and get some sleep.  I scared me too.  I can smile about it now because it’s over and I have the lovely small boy and my family has the relatively normal me back again – but I’m telling you this, not only for my story’s sake, but so you’ll get a little glimpse into what depression can be like.
When I’ve mentioned my depression to others, I’ve been most afraid of the three F responses. Please don’t be offended by these next definitions, they are just my way of expressing my feelings in light of some responses I’ve had.

The fixers – those who have all the answers. If I would just walk more, eat better, get some exercise, lose some weight, read this book, eat a certain type of food, not do…etc
The fragilers – those who treat me with delicacy after they know. The ones who, perhaps unintentionally, make me feel like an unexploded bomb that might go off at any moment.  I already feel a bit of a mental case, tiptoeing around me doesn’t help.
And the ‘faith-ers’ – those who believe that if I had more faith, it would all go away.  God would take it away and the devil would go away.  People don’t use those exact words generally, but the message is there.  Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely certain God can give and takeaway just as it pleases Him – He’s proven that with illnesses and depression and all sorts of things since the very beginning and still does. But I think that sometimes in our hurry to help and encourage others to get closer to God, we are actually blaming the person with the illness – physical or mental.  And maybe we’re not seeing the fact that it might not be from Satan and that God is working through my depression for His reasons, whether I know about them or not.  I hope so.
I now want to tell others of my experiences and I’ve been doing that on a one-to-one basis, in front of groups and now, online.  I’m hoping God can use my experience to help other people. For those who are aware of their own depression, I hope that my sharing will help them to accept themselves more and not feel alone and useless.  For those of you to whom this is a completely new thought, that you will carefully think about your response to people who are depressed and not unintentionally cause them more hurt.  I want us all to be able to help one another. Possibly there are people reading today, or that you know of in your own sphere of influence, who need help to recognise and accept their symptoms and to take the next step and get help.  And here’s where I want to close.  That all of us, those struggling with depression and those who are not; those who know depressed people and those who don’t; those who understand how it all works and those who don’t – that we all can do for one another what God has done for us. In the words of a lovely song – He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.

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Different types of depression often have slightly different symptoms and may require different treatments. The five main types of depression are listed below.
Major depression – a depressed mood that lasts for at least two weeks. This may also be referred to as clinical depression or unipolar depression.
Psychotic depression – a depressed mood which includes symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis involves seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations), feeling everyone is against you (paranoia) and having delusions.
Dysthymia – a less severe depressed mood that lasts for years.
Mixed depression and anxiety – a combination of symptoms of depression  and anxiety.
Bipolar disorder – (formerly known as manic depressive illness) – involves periods of feeling low (depressed) and high (manic).
Is depression common?
Very common. Around one million Australian adults and 100,000 young people live with depression each year. On average, one in six people will experience depression in their lifetime – one in five females and one in eight males. If you notice any behavioural changes that last for more than two weeks in family members or friends, then it is worth asking if the person may be depressed.

Common behaviour associated with depression includes:

  • moodiness that is out of character
  • increased irritability and frustration
  • finding it hard to take minor personal criticisms
  • spending less time with friends and family
  • loss of interest in food, sex, exercise or other pleasurable activities
  • being awake throughout the night
  • increased alcohol and drug use
  • staying home from work or school
  • increased physical health complaints like fatigue or pain
  • being reckless or taking unnecessary risks (e.g. driving fast or dangerously)
  • slowing down of thoughts and actions.

It’s important to note that you can’t always identify the cause of depression nor change troubling circumstances. The most important thing is to recognise the depression and to seek help.

It’s not always easy to help someone who may be experiencing depression. It can be hard to know what to say or do. Below are some tips.

  • Talk to the person about how they’re feeling.
  • Listen to what the person says – sometimes, when a person wants to talk, they’re not always seeking advice, but just need to talk about their concerns.
  • Maintain eye contact and sit in a relaxed position – positive body language will help both people feel more comfortable.
  • Use open-ended questions such as “So tell me about…?” which require more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. This is often a good way to start a conversation.
  • If conversation becomes difficult or if the person with depression gets angry, stay calm, be firm, fair and consistent and don’t lose control.
  • Often, just spending time with the person lets them know someone cares and understands them.
  • Encourage the person to seek professional help from their family doctor or a mental health worker.
  • Take care of yourself. Supporting someone with depression can be demanding. Family and friends should take ‘time out’ to look after themselves.

Veritas, Eski

Where is the boy I kissed?

Where is the boy I kissed?

I thought to look for him on Facebook, but I didn’t want to spoil his 14 year old beauty. The deep brown eyes and hair; the baby face he hated but we girls sighed over. Never quite as tough as the black-jeaned, long haired big brother and the wannabe metal band boys my parents nicknamed “The blackshirts.” He was beautiful and silent. Probably with fear, but to my 15 year old self, he was mystery personified. We stopped a game of spin-the-bottle once, this beautiful boy and I, simply by playing. Turn for turn, the bottle spun and lips met. Darkness, excess sugar and a tiny bit of Southern Comfort set the mood and he spun and it turned to me. Game over, baby. And we were both babies, really, but for that next 45 minutes I knew nothing but his kiss. Actually, I did know. I knew we’d stopped the game, but I was more proud than concerned. He was gorgeous; he was sexy; and he was safe. And that was all.

Where is the boy I kissed?
Same house. Same friends, almost. Same silly 15 year old me. An older, less safe, less sexy, similarly bedecked young man – for man he was, barely. Not the same sweetness and more driven by lust than wanting to play the game. I was innocent, confident in myself and in romance. Would I like to listen to a new guitar riff in the caravan? Ok. Kiss me. Ok. Where is the boy I kissed? As far as I know, still on his back on a cramped fold down caravan bunk. Just where I left him when I realised I was skin to skin shirtless on his chest as he offered, no, demanded, more. Just two words. Four letters and two letters and, this time, not kiss me. I’d never been so shocked, hurt and angry in my life. And I left, fast. And that was all.

Where is the boy I kissed?

This one is trapped inside a green exercise book in a future my 16 year old self created for him. With me by his side, of course. But he didn’t know about the life I had planned for us. He didn’t know that we were supposed to be looking after 6 children by now. He didn’t know how close I was to saying yes to the same question asked by the manboy before. This one asked more sweetly, more softly, more subtly. But he still asked. He didn’t know how nervous he made me. I guess he didn’t know why I said no. And I didn’t know then, that later, after he stopped asking me, another man asked him. And he said yes. And that was all.

Where is the boy I kissed?

The one who took six months of my none too subtle flirting to realise I liked him. The one who bought me red roses and a pendant to go with my 17 year old birthday outfit to show me he’d realised and reciprocated. Who held my hand through ‘Aladdin’; walked me to his home with our friends who we proceeded to ignore as we kissed on the couch. A lot. The one who patted my back as I cried for no reason. A lot. The one who kissed me despite gross chicken pox. Mine. A lot of them. The one with whom I scrimped – a lot; saved-hardly; screamed; psycho’d and loved. Where is the boy I kissed? He’s here. And that is NOT all.

Where is the boy I kissed? 

There are three. Faces in sequence squishy, soft and scratchy from shaving. I have kissed all of those quickly changing, growing boys for the past 18+ years and I will continue doing it. My boys. My sons.

And that is all.

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And now, as I go to press POST, the nerves rise below my sternum just as they did for the boys I kissed. Not the butterflies in anticipation of sweet lips, but the charging elephants that stir anxious thoughts of your judgement, my friends. 

But as always,

Veritas,

Eski