Mind Your Language!

It may not come as any surprise to you that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for words, meaning, phraseology, etymology and all things language. Due to Mummy interference, I expect, my kids learned to read very early on, the latest taught himself. I can validate just about anything; waffle and buzz words are a specialty and my poetic license renews quarterly, but I think this shortest kid, currently 5, is going to outstrip me. The imagination is amazing! I’m actually thrilled! 😚

Tonight’s moment:

VERY SMALL CAT (VSC):

Hiss! Scratch!😼

MASTER 5 (M5):

Ow! Aargh! (Genuine fright and real tears follow) 😢

VSC: exits quickly stage right 💨

M5: is gathered up by next youngest brother and mummy for cuddles

Sniffle. Sniffle. (2 minutes maximum)

M5: I want VSC to apologise! 😡

MUMMY: How would you like her to do that, sign language or meowing? Has an ‘I am hilarious’ look on face.

M5: 😠 I just want her to say sorry for hurting my foot and my feelings.

MUMMY: I know, but how can she do that? ‘Meow-ry, M5’?

M5: I have to tell her she’s not being pleasant and when she does that, I feel like she wants all the love and doesn’t want me to have any love.

MUMMY: 🤤😲😨 Pardon? (Apologies, but WTF would seem appropriate here.)

M5: repeats previous statement, with feeling and lip quiver. 😭😢

Where does he get these things?!

Last week we caught up with friends at an indoor play centre. M5 appeared to be immobilised in a very small ball pit by an unknown Miss 3 waving/hitting with a small kids’ book. From 3 metres away, I could see the look of surprise, shock and indignation on M5’s face, “Why would she do that?!

I called to him to move away, a few times actually, before he shook off the apparent petrification and took two steps backwards. Miss 3 followed, book raised. By this time, all five of the mums with me were watching, interested in the stand off. Miss 3’s mum realised what was happening and stepped in to move her daughter.

Noticing all of us watching, M5, totally serious, raised his still tiny forefinger stiffly and intoned with purpose,

“If she does that one more time…

REVENGE!

I am thankful that I was sitting on the floor. We all fell about laughing, much to M5’s disgust. He walked away to more mature interactions in the cubby house.

I did feel the need to tell my friends, still laughing, that we don’t teach revenge as a matter of course in our home.

Love the odd little being so much!

🤣 Eski

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.

****

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.

Modesty – is it just for girls?

Why do we teach girls and young women modesty? Huge amounts of resources are put into educating (mostly young) women to dress modestly, to be polite and to attract boys with their personality rather than their body. Books, music, social media posts, entire Facebook and Instagram pages and a bunch of other stuff is dedicated to this topic. Why? Y’all are teaching the wrong people!

I hate that young girls are taught that they have to careful on how they attract boys or what boys notice about them. It’s wrong. Though I’m sure it’s out there, and it definitely should be, I’ve never encountered this same level of educational resources and encouraging media educating boys and young men to respect women for their brain, not their body.

Even within Christian circles, I don’t see this. There isn’t a whole section at Koorong for boys called, How to Look at Her Eyes, Not Her Chest. Why aren’t there books, music, social media posts, and entire Facebook and Instagram pages dedicated to educating young men to notice her personality and not her tight jeans?

Young women shouldn’t have to worry about where guys are looking and what is noticed about their physical appearance. We should be teaching our boys to have self-control, not to exploit insecurities and to put respect first.

I know there is a very small amount of this sort of thing being taught, but I don’t believe it is done well enough or to the extent that it needs to be. This idea of respect is only shown very subtly to boys and it’s done in a very summed up and harsh way:

“Sex is for marriage and if you even notice that she has boobs you’re going to hell.”

I know that many young men, including myself, experience the guilt of noticing a low cut top. We’re taught that physical attraction is evil and wrong. It’s not. It’s human. And it’s okay. There is a difference between lust and noticing and we need to make sure that men, young and old, are taught to know and value the difference between them. Boys and young men also need to be taught how to show affection that isn’t always physical, but that you don’t have to feel guilty for finding her physically attractive.

#ThatChristianVlogger suggests that noticing that a woman is attractive is not a sin, but lusting after her is. He outlines his reasons, quite soundly, in this video.

So, what are your thoughts? Who needs to do what?

Much of this post was originally posted to Facebook by Harrison Seydler.

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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House Sitting – Rules & Contradictions

As a house sitter, I’ve mopped more floors in someone else’s home than I will EVER do in my own! I’m a much better house sitter that I am house keeper and, because of that, I’ve learned a few things that I thought I’d share with you.

If you’re a house sitter, always be a better house keeper than the owner. Not ALL the time, just when you’re in their home…or at least on the day you leave.

If you’re a house owner, realise that your home won’t really look the way you left it. If you’re lucky, they might be a better house keeper than you, but…….probably not.

Communicate. This is so important for both sides. Ask questions! Lots and lots of them.

Do you want something done, or not done, while you’re away? Write it down. Write everything down. Where is the vacuum cleaner? Where on Earth is that tiny white on white button that turns on the dishwasher? What does the dog eat? Write it down.

Uh oh. Broken something during your stay? A cup? Plate? Door knob? Write it down. Text if necessary, but at the very least leave a note and an apology.

Be honest. Before during and after the experience, be honest.

I’m bringing 4 kids under 10 and our own inside Dalmatian. We were hoping to have just one person stay with our anxious Shi Tzu.

I’ll be out every day from dusk til dawn. Our pets need someone all day, everyday.

Be realistic.

If your house owner says, “Help yourself to whatever you’d like,” they don’t actually mean that you should eat them out of house and home. Sure, have at the pantry…in moderation. Perhaps don’t eat all of their chocolate stash and drink all of their boutique beer or feed yourself for the week on everything they own. If you had to shop and replace it all before you left, would the grocery bill frighten you? Hmmmm.

If you say, “Help yourself to whatever you’d like,” don’t be surprised if you come home to no milk, bread or chocolate. Say it, mean it.

Be prepared for weird.

It doesn’t seem like much to mind someone’s house and maybe pets, does it? And most times, it’s not. But sometimes…..

Last night, the little old terrier I’m hanging out with this week had a bad night. She’s been fine for the rest of the time, but last night she couldn’t sleep for some reason. Her insomnia and dementia had her pacing her garage bedroom, yipping. Loudly. She’d been fed, watered, taken outside for the necessities, but nothing was working.

So, what to do? It’s now 10pm. Let’s try it all again. Is she too warm? Too cold? Needs to go out? Needs to come in? Water, check. Food….bit more, check.

30 minutes later, it hasn’t worked.

So, what else might work?

I’d turn on the light, but she’s blind.

I’d turn on some music or white noise, but she’s deaf, too.

What to do? What to do?

I’m a mum of 4, I’ve got this.

So now it’s a little past 1am and I’m sitting by the dog’s bed, patting her tiny little self as she circles and pads and sniffles and, finally, falls asleep.

They say there are rules for this house sitting business. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some. What do you think? Tell me what I need to know for next time.

Depression – The roller coaster that doesn’t stop.

image

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