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

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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.

The Need Of The Hour – Lead Article from ‘The Dawn’ Volume 2, Number 9.

Sydney, January 6, 1889

THE great need of the hour is for men and women who are not afraid to take hold of active practical work against the growing immorality of the age. There are plenty of persons who applaud the good deeds of others and yet what are they themselves doing? Martha K. Pierce, LLD, in a little tract, which constitutes No. 9 of the social purity series, issued by the Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, asks such persons a number of very pertinent questions which are worthy of most serious consideration. Did you ever think how dangerous a thing it is for us to attend a meeting, where evils are talked about, and to read articles about them in papers, and get into an agonised state of mind over them and yet do nothing? There is no surer way to deaden moral energy. I fear that this is the danger of the hour.

We are feeling dreadful about it all, but are we doing much to stop it? How can we sit in our safe churches and lecture halls and listen in a perfect ecstasy of indignation to denunciation of faraway evils, when we might know if we would, that in the next street some work as diabolical calls to heaven for vengeance. How dare we go home and quiet ourselves into obliviousness to disagreeable things with the hope that sometime women will have the power to do something in some safe and effective and eminently proper way to prevent these shocking things? How many of us are contenting ourselves now with praying that somebody else will do whatever it is “advisable” to do at this juncture? If we could only see ourselves as the pitying eye above sees us when we try to put celestial aspirations into the straightjacket of propriety, we would humble ourselves in the dust, realizing our utter unworthiness to receive those fleeting visitations of the Divine. There is real work before us.

Are we watching the train on which bewildered girls are being hurried to a future so terrible that those who love them can have no hope except that Death will find and secure them soon? Are we sure that the pretty sales-woman who waits on us so patiently during an afternoon’s shopping, is not wishing that she had some good, safe friend to go to for advice about some acquaintance whom she half distrusts? Is the servant girl so kindly and justly treated that she does not go to unsafe places for the scanty pleasures that her life of drudgery knows? Has our grumbling at the sewing girl’s bill made her wonder as she turns to go to her home, whether it would be so very wicked after all to accept the protection of some man, who, dissipated as she knows him to be, is the only person who seems to care whether she starves or not? Have we taken pains to secure the confidence of the silly daughter of our careless neighbour, that we may give her an effective word of warning? Is there a place in our town in which any hopeless woman could shelter? And have we taken pains to have its location, and purpose so well advertised that no one could fail to know of it?

Have we joined hands with every other woman in our neighbourhood who can be interested in this work (and what true woman cannot be?) that we may help each other in lines of effort that cannot well be carried on by other individuals? Are the laws against abduction, kidnapping, and other crimes allied to the traffic by which our sisters are enslaved, put in force in our locality, not spasmodically, as peculiarly distressing cases happen to come to public notice, but every time they are violated? Are we trying to gain for womanhood such a direct influence in the body politic that officials will find it to their advantage to enforce those laws, and to guard the interests of women as scrupulously in all ways as they now do the interests of the voters upon whose support they depend? And whatever else we do or leave undone, do we speak in season the well-deserved and sorely-needed word of praise for the ones who dare to be the first in any line of this work?

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Louisa Lawson penned this article for her female readers almost 130 years ago. The call now, directed at both men and women, must read exactly the same! How sad for such a nation as ours to have changed so much, but yet so little, in over a century. Surely there can be no fewer community-minded citizens now? Do we still, as Mrs Lawson suggested, feel that someone ought to do something about ‘those poor folk’ who have not the blessings we ourselves are so richly equipped with? Or do we do it ourselves? I know all too well there are no fewer in need now than then.

Is this a task which you would like to undertake and yet find yourself with no knowledge with which to go forward? Here then are causes and organisations with whom you may partner to ensure you meet (some) of the NEED OF THE HOUR.

Days for Girls (daysforgirls.org)

A practical service to girls and women all over the world, groups or individuals produce washable, reusable sanitary items so that, exactly as it says in the name, we can secure more ‘days for girls’. Days for education, days for work to sustain their families, days of dignity and recognition and hope. Consider your freedom to just ‘duck in’ to shops to purchase sanitary products for yourself or someone you love. This basic right is something not afforded to all. As you will realise as you peruse the ‘Days for Girls’ website, many women use shockingly unhygienic or relatively useless items in an effort to manage their menstruation and have access the opportunities that we too often take for granted. There are stories of ongoing failure and poverty due to the lack of such a seemingly insignificant item as a sanitary pad. The shame and taboo of women’s issue is prevalent in more countries and cultures than not and the indignity and mistreatment of women is horrific. Consider the story of one 12 year old girl who, when presented with the DFG kit, was ecstatic that she would no longer have to offer ‘favours’ to a male adminstrator whose role included distribution of donated sanitary products. How can you help to buy back days for girls? Every girl, everywhere, period.

Raw Impact #rawimpactorg

Consider families all over the world for whom poverty is generational. Regardless of the initial cause; famine, genocide, war – civil or international, these families spend a great deal of time and energy each day simply surviving. Simply finding enough food to support some growth of their children, finding shelter that most of us would NOT consider adequate and working hard to maintain life and existence. A few minutes spent meeting the families aided by the ongoing work of RAW Impact on their youtube channel will open your eyes to the real life examples of these families. It will also give you hope and a real vision of how these seemingly insurmountable challenges might begin to be overcome, one piece at a time, when you believe, as RAW does, that #everypiecematters And when you believe that, and recognise that YOU can make a difference, this might just be the way you’d like to impact your world for good.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of a team of women who travelled to Cambodia in April this year to deliver women’s health classes and Days for Girls kits. You can watch our video here.

These are only two of the numerous organisations around the globe for whom people matter, for whom others come before self. It does not take a genius to understand that things don’t change unless YOU do. Things don’t happen without people power. I’m sure there are so many wonderful organisations that you have been privileged to know and work with. Perhaps you would like to share these in the comments below so that others might choose to assist their world in a real way?

Veritas,

Eski.

My Mum the Shearer

It seems that I’ve inherited my mother’s ability to find, be found by and adopt any lost sheep. In some cases, her ability is literal. We adopted a large, lost sheep. We were in Central Australia, the year I turned 9. We’d been travelling for 6 months around the country and now had taken up residence in a single carriage of a converted silver bullet train (something like this). My bed was over the hot water service in the ‘laundry’; Mum and Dad had a fold out bed in the lounge room so my brother and sister could share the double bed in the single bedroom that there was.

When cattle or sheep were rounded up, little ones would often be brought into the community, almost like a toy, and, as toys often are, they’d be discarded and forgotten. This had happened to Sheepy. He had been around the place for a while. He was no longer little and cute, but full grown, fat and fluffy. Well, he would have been had his overgrown wool not resembled a large and fibrous tumbleweed, complete with spinifex grass and felted matting. Sheepy had wandered into our yard one day and, as I mentioned, Mum is genetically predisposed to be unable to resist something or someone in need of assistance. Sheepy became her personal project. She blunted the few pairs of scissors we had, regardless of their original purpose, trying to create a coiff from a conglomerate. The community thought it was hilarious, but I could understand her concerns. Desert days are not cool and Sheepy was lumbered with inches of filthy thermal insulation. Each day, scissors of various sizes and Mum waged war against Sheepy’s many extra layers.

With time and perseverance, Mum won the war against the wool. Sheepy bore his new, attacked by vicious lawn mower, wool cut with lightness and freedom, if not pride. His accepting personality was overcome, layer by layer, with the more realistic taciturn nature of a scruffy, hot male specimen. So Sheepy left his temporary home and ran off to rejoin the community at large. And, not long after, and not shared with the shorter siblings, Sheepy made a guest appearance at a local barbecue. Such is life, I suppose.

We Are Human

We are all human. We are not girls and boys; we are not young and old; we are not black and white; we are human. Created in a womb and buried in the dirt. We are God’s creation. Skin woven together to hold our organs in does not determine our class. We are blood, sweat and tears, made to speak emotions, not to become a job. We are human. We are united by our similarities. We run on the same energy sources and live lives with the same needs. We wake with the sun and sleep by the moon. Because we are human.

We are not homelessness or poor government choices or malnutrition. We are not words on a page, or enemies or friends. We are human. We are not the clothes on our backs or the clips in our hair. We are not the endless race of who is better and who is faster. We are not broken relationships or torn families.

We are the kindness of strangers. We are the random smiles. We are the endless love that fills new parent’s hearts. We are human. We are the species that has a heart so fragile a simple sound can shatter it. We are one but we are many. There is nothing that unites us more than the feeling of love.

There are insects that spend their whole lives trying to eat children’s eyes from the inside out, plants which can kill us with a small touch; mosquitoes that are only 3 millimetres in length which are perpetuators of some of the worst diseases ever seen; bacteria which cannot be seen, yet we watch them take the lives of our loved ones. And yet what a person has between their legs determines if they are worthy of being paid or not. A person’s age determines their apparent ability. The colour of someone’s skin is the difference between having their say in their life, or not.

We still feel that we are a threat to each other and ourselves. We are our own worst enemy; we destroy ourselves so others can’t. We set up organisations, funds and protection programs with which to save us from us. We have created a world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are.

We are human. We smile with joy, showing white teeth and cry for many reasons with clear and salty tears. Children, reproduced humanity, drink white milk regardless of the hue of the breast by which they lie. Blood, spilled, stored or shared, is still red.

When we recognise our humanity, our similarity, and reinstate dignity and equality, we increase our integrity and solidarity. We create and affirm responsibility and let go of long held, closed-minded thoughts of normality.

We are human and the sooner we realise, recognise and remember, the better for us all.

With thanks and acknowledgement to Tahlya Andersen.

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.

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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Beyondblue

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