Don’t Blame It On The Sunshine

A little bit of extra sunshine floated in my window a few days back when Purple Law Lady from Fibromodem very kindly nominated me for a Sunshine Award. I’m not blaming her or the sunshine… actually I love it.  It’s still winter here so any extra sunshine is always welcome.  So an enormous thank you to PLL. :-)

If you have fibromyalgia, or know someone who does her blog is a great blog to check out.  She has so much information there and is so enthusiastic in finding ways to manage fibro.  And hey, she’s from across the ditch, in Australia so we’re almost neighbours.

Here are the rules:

1.  If you are nominated, you must blog a post linking back to the person/blog that nominated you.

2. You must answer some questions, nominate ten fellow bloggers and link their blogs to the post!

3. You should comment on your nominees’ blogs to let them know you’ve nominated them.

So, here are the questions:

1. Who is your favourite philosopher?  In a previous post I named Calvin and Hobbes, because they are just the best.  But seeing I’ve named them before, today I’m going with Eleanor Roosevelt.  Now she might not be what you consider a philosopher to be, but she has some damn good words of wisdom.

2. What is your favourite number?  I don’t really have one but I’ll go for my birthday which is 11.

3.   What is your favourite animal?  Bears, any bears although I won’t be too keen to get up close.

4.    What are your Facebook and Twitter URLs? 

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/InfiniteSadnessorwhat

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CateReddell

Feel free to join me at either. :-)

5. What is your favourite time of the day?  Sunrise.  Love it.

6. What was your favourite vacation?  I think I’ve told you about my favourite trip through Canada years ago so this time I’m going with Lake Rotoiti.  It’s a small lake just out of Rotorua in the North Island of New Zealand.  Some friends own a bach (that’s kiwi for holiday home) up there and my ex and I often borrowed it.  It was fantastic.  Very basic and very tranquil, not to mention gorgeous surroundings and just a little way off the beaten track.  Unfortunately the friends were really friends of my ex, so he still gets to go but not me.  But hey, I have my life!

7. What is your favourite physical activity?  If I didn’t have fibro I’d say cycling, but needless to say my bike is sitting unloved in the garage. :-(

8. What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink? This changes but right now I’m addicted to iced coffee (without the cream) or frappes.

9. What is your favourite flower? I love daisies but actually I just love flowers.  In my dreams when I am rich (LOL) I’ll have lots of flowers inside and out.  The only flowers I don’t like is geraniums, because I can’t stand the smell.

10. What is your passion?  So I’m only allowed one?  I have lots, and some of them you can read in The Passions Profile Challenge posts.  I spent way too long not being passionate about anything, so I’m making up for lost time.

My ’10’ Blogger Nominees

(actually I’m not going to 10, and reserve the right to award more later):

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I Was Just Thinking. . .

Seasons Change, and so have I

Pride in Madness

dailylifewithfibromyalgia

My Bipolar Bubble

laurenbersaglio.com

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Something In the Wind? (TAGGED!)

Tagged!     Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Yes, I too, have been tagged.  There seems to be quite a bit of this going on, so perhaps there is something in the wind.  Thank you to Kevin at Voices of Glass for tagging me and making sure I didn’t get left out (that was always my fear in playing tag as a kid).

The rules set before me are:

1.  Post the rules. √ Done
2.  Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post.  √ Done
3.  Create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.  √ Done
4.  Tag (eleven) people with a link to your post.  √ Done (Well we’ll get to that later)
5.  Let them know they’ve been tagged.  √ Done

Before I go any further I need to explain that I started to answer the wrong questions.  Obviously my brain wasn’t in gear and I was half way through before I realised.  So actually what you get is half of the questions Kevin answered and half of the ones he asked.  Confused?  Apologies.  Anyway here are the answers you’re getting…

1.  What is your proudest moment from your blogging career?  Actually it just happened recently when someone told me that I had given them hope.  What more could I ask for?  It not only made my day, it made my blogging career.  So a special thank you goes to the person concerned for sharing this with me (they know who they are).

2.   What is your proudest moment in your life?  That’s a hard one.  My wedding was my first thought but then I was so high on Valium (to make sure I went through with it) I can’t remember anything of it.  How could I be proud of something that didn’t work and I can’t remember anyway?  So I’m going to go with when I got my degree in 2008 (Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Social Work if you’re wondering).  I admit I was too freaked out by crowds to face the graduation ceremony so I just got mine handed to me in the registry office.  That suited me just fine.

3.  What makes you feel happy when your down? Seeing the sea helps me feel better.  It’s only a 10 minute drive away so I’m lucky.  Or else there is always my nieces and nephews.  They always make me smile and three of them are only 40 minutes away.

4.   Is there a particular song that makes you happy?

Apologies for the poor sound but it was a little more interesting than the usual version.  As for why this song?  For reasons I’m not going to go into (because you’ll then know that I am completely crazy) the song reminds me of my Dad.  And actually the Sesame Street version kind of fits for the same reason.  It’s always good to be able to be silly, in spite of myself.

5.  Do you have any tattoos and if so what and where are they? At the moment I have no tattoos but for about a year now I have been seriously considering getting one.  I just haven’t completely decided where I want it.  I’ve narrowed it down to my wrist or my shoulder.  But it is going to happen.  And who said people with BPD were impulsive???

Image credit: voicesofglass.com

6.  If I was to get a tattoo on my left buttock and you could have absolute say in what I got tattooed there – words or picture or both – what would you choose and why?  (And trust me there is plenty of room for quite a few words LOL ( Now there’s a mental picture you never needed! LOL) Oh and answering ‘wide load’ would not be nice!  Kevin has a series on his blog of Funny Words, (which is well worth checking out) although I’m often inclined to believe he simply makes words up.  He says he doesn’t but…  Anyway the last word was ‘Flibbertigibbety‘.  He openly said he was inclined to be this way sometimes and I think it would only be appropriate to have his butt labelled as such… and maybe a picture of his gremlin (see here).

7.   If you could be one human movie character of the same gender as you which character would you choose and why?  Please also name the movie as well as the character in case we don’t know them. I admit I’m not good at remembering movies but I’m going with Janeane Garofalo from The Truth About Cats & Dogs.  She was the vet with really low self esteem but I’m pretty sure she won her man in the end.  And she was so good with the animals.

8.   If you could be one human movie character of the opposite gender to you which character would you choose and why? Please also name the movie as well as the character in case we don’t know them.  Another difficult one but Baines (Harvey Keitel) in The Piano.  What a man!  And a great NZ movie too.  If you’ve never seen it check it out.

9.  If you could be one non-human movie character which character would you choose and why? Please also name the movie as well as the character in case we don’t know them.    Alf the Alien from the TV series.  I’m guessing it was the 1980’s.  Back then I just loved it.  And he became a movie character at some stage.  But please be aware I’m not talking about Elf.

10.  Beauty pageants often require the participants to demonstrate an individual skill or talent – if you were in a beauty pageant which individual skill or talent would you demonstrate?  I’d have to sing.  I’m not sure how I would demonstrate blogging on stage so singing is about the only other talent I have. ;-)

11.  What part of your body would you change if you could and how would you change it and why?  (If this is too personal  just makes something silly up like adding wings to yourself or simply decline from answering lol)  You have to be kidding.  I have an eating disorder and a body image problem.  I’d change the lot.  Okay so that’s not an option?  How about what I wouldn’t change?  I’d keep my hair.  I have curly hair and I like it that way.  Everything else can go.  LOL.  One final comment, is that the addition of wings would be great.  Travel would be so much cheaper.

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As you will see I have completely broken the rules by answering the questions I wanted to, and avoiding those I didn’t (accidentally).  I’m also breaking more rules and opening this up to anyone who wants to be tagged,because I know lots of people have been tagged already.

As for my questions:

1.  What is your favourite movie of all time, and why?

2.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose? (extra points if you choose NZ!)

3.  Why do you blog?

4.  What is your personal definition of happiness?

5.  What is your favourite milkshake flavour?

6.  If you had to give yourself a pen name for your latest novel being published, what would you call yourself?

7.  What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?

8.  What are you most proud of?

9.  What do you make of karma?

10.  What is your favourite treat?

11.  Who would you love to meet?

So do you want to play?  Consider yourself tagged and go for it…

(At Least) 67 Seasons In One Day

People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), or the latest name, Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) experience this every day.  Me too.  Well maybe 67 seasons in one day is perhaps a slight exaggeration, but to leave at four, just doesn’t explain adequately what it is like.  Unfortunately the Aussie/Kiwi combo of Crowded House weren’t willing to change their lyrics for me.

What I mean is that we can be all over the place in terms of our emotions and moods, and if you think it is hard for you to keep a track, it’s at a whole lot harder for the person.  This song is about the emotional storms along with sunny times that  normal relationships go through. Crowded House – Four Seasons In One Day Lyrics

I used to live in Auckland, New Zealand for a while (twice actually – once as a child and then as an adult).  Auckland is NZ’s largest city and is a the place well known for having weather of four seasons in one day.  Every day.  Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration too but it certainly feels like that when you live there.  I was never sure what sort of clothes to wear, did I need a jacket or an umbrella?  Or should I plan on heading to the beach?  Actually probably all of those could be used in one day.  But you get used to it.  It helps if you have a car, but even so you can build contingency plans around the knowledge that the weather could do absolutely anything.  And even if you get caught in the rain, it’s likely that it will pass and the sun will be back in half an hour.

So how does this relate to BPD?  I’m only an expert as far as that I live with it.  One of the first things we deal with are the extreme intensities of our emotions.  One minute I can be happy, but the next I’m raging angry.  For me, that anger is usually directed at myself but regardless of where it is directed, if you think it’s hard for you to handle, imagine what it is like for us.  We don’t always know why the extreme change happens.  It just does.  There are times for me that I don’t actually realise what I’m feeling, until I open my mouth.  Then it can all pour out and then it’s often too late to avoid damage.

My understanding (and please don’t take this as the textbook answer for everyone) is that it is because my feelings change as I try to know who I am, and that knowledge varies depending on who I am with, and where I am.  As someone with BPD I also tend to be impulsive and while that has advantages in some situations, it also definitely has disadvantages.  I can respond to something someone has said, or something that has happened without giving myself time to think it through first.  This is something that I battle with regularly and am learning to pull myself back, and give myself time.  But I admit it doesn’t always happen.

I end up being more than just one Cate.  No, I don’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) but I do have lots of different parts of me.  Actually I think we all do this, regardless of a diagnosis of BPD, but perhaps the BPD makes it more extreme.

I have a Cate who is fun with my nieces and nephews, but then my mother, who often sees another angrier Cate I call ‘Nasty Cate’, and she wonders where the change in me has come.  She doesn’t always get the ‘Nasty Cate’ treatment, and also doesn’t understand the different Cate’s inside of me, so struggles to know what to expect from me.  She doesn’t understand how I can be one person to her, and then a minute later be entirely different with L and her brothers.

I can be the same in the workplace.  One minute I am compassionate Cate, there to help support clients, but I will change in an instant when I leave that client and go to a fellow staff member, whose opinion I don’t respect.

As an example a few years ago I was working with a man who had a physical disability which meant he often had urinary accidents and as a result tended to smell.  He explained it to me one day and I was perfectly fine with helping to work out how our organisation could help him.  While he was still with me another staff member came in and told him in no uncertain terms that the smell was not acceptable and he wasn’t to come to a meal there in that state.  I was furious, and did all I could to make up for her hurtful words, but I never really forgave her for it and after that, she always got ‘angry (and if I admit it ‘slightly obnoxious)  Cate’.

Eventually I found myself in a situation where ‘nice Cate’ got on really well with the clients and my bosses, but other staff got a different Cate.  To cut a long story short, I ended up without a job but also with completely confused people wondering who all these different Cate’s were.  I know I did nothing wrong in my dealings with the client, but not being able to be consistent with people I worked with cost me my job.  I never told them it was perhaps related to BPD, but I know it  was.

There are many Cate’s and to be honest I am sometimes fearful of some of them.  I end up with one Cate who wants life and has hope, yet there is another Cate who wants death.  That Cate continues to see suicide as a solution and a way out of everything, regardless of my attempts to rein her in.

It means that I having been posting lately about hope and feeling better as one Cate, but behind the computer screen there is another Cate (also in me) who is still set to destroy me.  So who do you believe?  Do you just decide that everything Cate says is lies?

None of it is lies.  Every bit of it is genuinely felt by me, so please don’t just disregard what I say.  The reason I am writing about this is because while it might be hard for you to comprehend, it is so much more difficult for me (and the others you know who have BPD).  It’s at least 67 seasons in one day, although probably more.

I am really fortunate to have a great therapist who works with me on this, but it takes time.  A lot of time (and money).  But I really feel for those people with BPD who don’t have access to those resources.  Without them, I’m pretty sure I know where I’d be.  Imagine living with 67 seasons of weather in one day.  Now try 67+ emotional states.

“I’m so good at beginnings, but in the end I always seem to destroy everything, including myself.” 

    Kiera Van Gelder,    The Buddha and the Borderline

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“Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance.”

Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance

Happiness Is…

Source=[http://www.flickr.com/photos/45654212@N00/3339462422/ supreme happiness]

Do you remember the ‘Love is…’ cartoon series?  They have been running forever and were originally the work of Kim Casali ( a kiwi).  As a teenager I thought they just had it all in terms of the answers to that question all teenage girls wonder about of what is love.  For some reason the cute couple depicted in the cartoons had worked it all out.  If we just did what the cartoons told us, then love would be perfect.  Hmm.  In reality?  Not quite.  Well, should I say, it never worked that way for me.

Actually this cartoon series still continues today and in my research I found that “Love is… buying your girlfriend a domain name” and “Love is … letting your girlfriend choose your blog banner”.  Again, hmm.

I got thinking about that series when I was thinking about happiness.  I had been discussing with some people whether happiness was possible, especially in the middle of mental illness.  Now I’m no happiness expert, and I know there are many people who get paid extremely large amounts of money to surmise just what happiness is, so I’m not going to do their work other than to say what it is for me.

My introduction to what happiness is came pretty much from birth.  I was raised to believe that happiness was found once I had God in my life.  My conscious recollection of this comes from a song we sung in Sunday School back in the early 1970’s.  We knew the song as ‘Happiness Is…’

Happiness is to know the Savior,
Living a life within His favor
Having a change in my behavior,
Happiness is the Lord

Happiness is a new creation,
Jesus and me in close relation
Having a part in His salvation,
Happiness is the Lord

Real joy is mine,
 no matter if teardrops start
I’ve found the secret
It’s Jesus in my heart
Happiness is to be forgiven,
 Living a life that’s worth the livin’
Taking a trip that leads to heaven,
Happiness is the Lord

(By Ira Stanphill)

Even if your personal beliefs don’t fit with these words, have a look at it from the perspective of, say a five year old child.

I understand that I started at Sunday School at three, and so I would have been expected to sing this song from then, but I imagine the words might not have sunk in for a few years.  But when they did sink in, they were there to stay.  I haven’t actually sung, or heard, this song for probably 30 years but it didn’t take long for all the lyrics (word for word) to come back to me when I started think about it.  It would have been one of the earliest songs I ever learnt.

They’re what I would call nice words, but the message I got as a little girl, who had a few issues with self-worth even then, was that as long as I knew God I would be happy.  And even if I cried, I had Jesus in my heart and that’s all that mattered.  I know it is generalising, but that’s actually what I grew up believing.  It became my truth.  It was simplistic, but then what would I expect from a young child?  My knowledge of children is that they take things literally.

The problem was when things started to turn bad, I was left wondering what had I done wrong if I didn’t have that ‘real joy’ anymore?  To be honest, and it’s a whole other post, there were many similar things that left me asking the same question thanks to my years at Sunday School.  Eventually I concluded that joy, or happiness, was just not mine to have.  I just never was going to be happy.

After far too long of concluding that happiness was not mine to have, I’ve had a re-think and started to think about what happiness is for me.  A definition that actually means something to me, and is something that I can achieve.  Something that is possible within the midst of mental and physical illness, because I know only too well that feeling any joy in mental distress, let alone constant pain is difficult to identify with, let alone claim for myself.

It’s pretty clear to me that everyone has a view on what happiness is, and I don’t claim to have read nearly enough to have a firm grip on the general consensus.  Happiness is defined in the dictionary as:

a: a state of well-being and contentment

b: a pleasurable or satisfying experience (1.)

I found a definition that described it a little clearer for me in the Urban Dictionary.  It said (amongst other things):

“happiness is like peeing in your pants.  Everyone can see it but only you can feel the warmth”

Futhermore it also suggested such a thing as a Happiness Blip was:

“A moment of brief satisfaction in the midst of an otherwise unpleasant series of circumstances.”

There are mountains of theories about what happiness is.  Some say it’s a decision, others say it accepting circumstances as they are, others still say it’s a way of life.  That said, the moments of happiness, suggested by the ‘happiness blip’ is something I can live with.

I can have a moment of happiness, for example, when I spend time with my niece L.  Even if I am in pain, or depressed or angry, she has a way of lighting up the day for me.   Perhaps the real test for me is to take that moment with L and let the happiness last longer than just the time I am with her.

I love seeing the snow fall (it’s winter here) and my mood lifts as I watch the snowflakes fall.  The thing is that once I have to get out and clear the snow off paths, I’m not so taken with it.  That’s when pain and fatigue kick in, but if I can remember the happy part maybe it makes the whole thing easier.

With Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is far too easy to change moods.  One minute I might be happy and having fun, and the next I’m angry and hurt.  Somehow I need to learn how to take the ‘happy and fun’ and stretch it out.  It takes conscious effort but perhaps this is a way to help me even out my emotions.

Moments of happiness are manageable and realistic.  I don’t have to be on top of the world but I do have to take notice of what is happening around me.  Blink and I might miss it.  So I think that a decision to look for happiness in my life is appropriate.  Maybe it’s that first cup of coffee in the morning, or a visit with L.  Maybe it’s noticing a flower in the garden, or smelling the fresh, cut lawn.  They are simple things that make a difference.  But I have to be looking for them, and I have to appreciate them when I see them.  I hope then that I can carry those things over to parts of the day that don’t seem so good.

I always thought happiness was this permanent state of glee (and I’m not talking about the television programme).  It’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to find that in the midst of any illness, mental or physical, and so it doesn’t really work for me.  I thought God would make me happy, and that with him I’d always have a smile on my face.  That didn’t work for me either although let me be clear that I’m not knocking God, just the expectation I was taught.

In writing this post I came across many statements about happiness, but I think only one that really sat well with me.  I can live with this:

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of travelling.”

 – Margaret Lee Runbeck

‘Normal’ Coveted In Christchurch

Is it too much to ask for these signs to be on my front gate?  These Occupational Health and Safety signs indicating a construction area are popping up all around my city of Christchurch, and so they should.  Every house, getting repaired following the earthquake damage, gets them and I’m thinking they are becoming a sort of badge of honour.  Well, perhaps not honour but at least a badge of knowledge that things are actually finally underway.

Let me be clear.  I don’t have such signs on my gate.  I wish.

One of these would also not go amiss:

This isn’t meant to be free advertising. It’s just hard to escape.

Ah, what I could do with one of these on my front lawn? I could clear the pile of damaged roof iron ( from the emergency repairs done after the chimney collapsed and bounced its way to the ground) from my back lawn.  That would tidy things up but even more so the appearance of a skip (is that what they’re called in the rest of the world?) would again, be signs of things to come.  Out with the old and damaged, and in with the freshly replaced.  Aesthetically, it might not look much as an addition to a front lawn, but it would mean everything to me.  I’d much rather have one of these than a goldfish pond.

But again, let me be clear.  I don’t have one of these either, and nor do I have any sign of having either the skip or the signs any time soon.

From memory, there are around 180,000 house repairs to be completed in Christchurch and we have been told that 80 per cent of them will be completed by the end of 2014.  I’m guessing that I’m going to be in the other 20 percent, and interestingly no timeline has been given for those.

One of the best kept secrets in this city, is in what order the repairs are being done.  The only reason I can think of for the government authorities and insurance companies to keep this little bit of information from the public is public backlash.  That’s because it seems pretty obvious that the approach taken is to do the easy jobs first.  Maybe it makes sense if you’re a bureaucrat, after all it makes the statistics of repairs completed climb quicker.  It might look good on the books but it’s not fair on the people having to live with the damage to their homes.  Easy repairs generally don’t affect one’s living standard.  More complicated and severe repairs do, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

I haven’t heard from anyone about my repairs (which rate as severe) for 11 months now, and that is pretty standard.  Actually it’s not quite true.  About a month ago my insurance company asked me (yes, me) to tell them what the repairs would be worth (so they could estimate their level of liability across the whole region).  That’s in spite of an assessor being here 11 months ago, they still don’t know what the amount of the claim will be.  When an insurance company wants me to tell them the cost, that’s scary.  How would I know?  In the end I gave them a rather large figure, after a stab in the dark (along with asking my ‘slightly, but not much, more knowledgeable’ brother to also have a guess) but I still have no idea what their thinking is, let alone whether they have the resources to meet their liability.  But I’m not going to go there.  Some things are better left un-thought-about.  The company has actually now fled the country completely, although they say, if they can, they will honour the existing claims.  That’s reassuring, isn’t it?

As The Spice Girls, many years ago sung, “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want”

What I want is to know.  All I know is that at some stage I will be required to move out of my house (and live who knows where!) for about three to four months while repairs are completed.  I don’t really care if that is still five years away (although please no one tell Roger Sutton or Gerry Brownlee that!). I’ll cope.  But I like to know what is happening and when.  At this stage I don’t know if I will be told tomorrow that I have two weeks to find somewhere to live (in a city with a major housing crisis).  Someone must know how far down the list I am, presuming that they have planned sufficiently that there is a plan.  Actually I suspect my house is on the too-hard list, if anywhere, so I’m sure it will be a while yet before it rises anywhere near the top.  But don’t worry about me.  My dear brother has kindly ‘offered’ me a very delapidated, draughty shed complete with holes in floor, walls and roof on his farm.  So kind.

The thing is that while I (and many other people) don’t know, it is so hard to move on.  Everywhere in my house there is evidence of the damage.  I can live with it now that doors open again, although my windows don’t; but it is affecting me physically and mentally.  Everywhere I look there is a reminder of the fear I felt during the quakes, and the loss I experienced as a result.  It’s very difficult to move on when I still don’t know when my life can return to normal.

But that word ‘normal’.  Actually it’s pretty hard to gauge just what ‘normal’ is now.  Perhaps, normal is post-quake living with the damaged homes, businesses and roads and sounds of demolition in the air.  My area (eastern Christchurch) doesn’t seem to have got far on the signs and sounds of construction yet, but it is obvious if I drive around the city.

I used to like my home.  It felt safe and friendly.  It has become just a roof over my head.  I don’t like living here now, and I see all the negatives of the place.  I really would love to just pack up and move on, but that is impossible.  It would be impossible to sell or even rent out, in its current state.  So I, like many thousands of other people here, just have to put up with it.  I can’t even get insurance for it now.  No company offers insurance in Christchurch anymore.  We are stuck.

“There is no comfort anywhere for anyone who dreads to go home.” 
―    Laura Ingalls Wilder,    Little Town on the Prairie

Lighting Up Train Tunnels

I have been talking about hope a lot lately, and somehow that’s made me think more about trains.  You can read my last post about trains here.  Perhaps the thought of trains links me to hope because of the whole ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ thing.

Some years ago in my younger, fitter, more healthy days (they did once exist) I did a weekend mountain bike trip with a couple of girlfriends over the Rimutaka Incline Rail Trail, just north of Wellington (where I was living at the time), NZ.  It was fantastic.  One of the best weekends of my life.

Location map of Lake Wairarapa, Greater Wellin...

Location map of the Wairarapa area, Greater Wellington, North Island, New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Rimutaka Hill is pretty steep, and I certainly wouldn’t have been on to bike it by road but the Rail Trail, based on the track used for Fell engines from 1878 to 1955, makes it a great bike trip over to the Wairarapa region.  From there, we biked down to the south coast of the North Island and back around the Pencarrow Coast to Wellington.  Two days biking was made easier by a truck carrying our gear (the easy way!).  At the time I didn’t have my own bike but my very generous flatmate (room-mate) leant me his.  He didn’t even mind when I brought back what was a perfectly clean bike, totally covered in mud.  What’s more, if memory serves me correctly, it was him that cleaned it down.  But hey, I had fun.

The Incline included three decent length tunnels.  The good thing is that if a train can make it up there you’re fairly sure of making it up on a mountain bike.  What I remember though was that each tunnel I rode into, I had an irrational fear that a train was going to come the over way.  Trains hadn’t been on the route since 1955 but I still wondered what I was going to do when one approached.  I had the idea that ‘what if the light at the end of the tunnel was simply another train’.  This was well before my days of diagnosable mental illness but it does show a certain pessimism creeping in.

There were no trains coming the other way.  I didn’t enjoy riding in the dark much, our bike lights did little to light our way, but as there were many of us there was a decent amount of light provided.  It reminds me of something I saw this week:

“Believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Believe that you might be that light for someone else.”

 – Kobi Yamada

English: Cross Creek yard, showing start of th...

The start of the Rimutaka Incline and shelter shed. Photographed by Matthew25187 on 2006-12-28. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friends biking with me, provided light for me.  The light I had on my bike wasn’t enough to sufficiently light my own way through the tunnels and so their lights helped me to feel safe.  I have to say that shortly after exiting the final tunnel we had reached as high as we were going (for then anyway – one steep climb the next day) and it was all down hill.  What a ride!  I had so much fun and any fear I had in the dark of the tunnels was gone by the exhilaration of speed.

As regular readers will know last week I changed the name of my blog to highlight the role of hope in my journey.  There have been a few hiccups along the way, and I apologise for that.  I still not sure that a hiccup-less (new word!) way is a possibility but what’s done is done, and hopefully readers have managed to find me.  What has been really nice for me has been the feedback I have had both here, and through other avenues.

Firstly, there has been the encouragement of people pleased for me that I have got to a point in my journey when I can feel hope.  That’s so nice and quite beyond what I expected.  I think that many of those dealing with mental illness don’t really get much encouragement.  We can be a pretty isolated bunch, often of our own choosing, but for some it is forced upon us.  Regardless though, of how the isolation has come about, it gets lonely, and there’s not anyone around to say “you’re going great” when you are, or to give you a hug when you’re not.  While I have said before that I have some issues over my safety in social media, I am so glad I ventured into it because now I get the encouragement that I needed, but didn’t often get.  I think part of that is that no one else realises just how desperate we are to know there is hope.

As I said in my post, Hope Is A Four Letter Word I Use Now I was actually a little nervous about talking about my hope because I think, too often, in the mental health area there is more bad news than good, and so to want to share a piece of good news I was worried about what reaction I might get.  Would someone tell me to pull my head in?  Would they tell me to wait and see how I would feel next week?  I didn’t really know, but almost had a sense of needing to be slightly apologetic for feeling good (finally).  Actually I didn’t get any of that feedback, just people happy for me.  People (mostly those I have never met) being happy for me is such a good feeling.

Even better though, a sense that my hope could provide hope for someone else.  One dear friend (who I have also never met but she’s promised to try her hand at making a pavlova when we do finally meet) wrote:

“I so often think of you when I am feeling as though the air will never clear because you DO give me HOPE!  Not unrealistic hope that I will be ‘fixed’ one day, but hope that tomorrow can be better and illness can be managed.”

Wow! That was actually what I was hoping for.  My illness won’t be ‘fixed’ as it is part of who I am, part of my personality.  But I firmly believe that tomorrow can be better, and that I can manage my illness so that I can live a good, satisfying life.  I also firmly believe that this will happen for my friend.  And if she can take hope from seeing where I am at, then that is simply wonderful.  It actually makes it all worth it, and I guess I didn’t ever expect myself to say that.  No doubt bad days will still exist, but I know now that the bad can ease.  It’s not always going to be black.

As I have been writing, the thing that has been stuck in my mind is the Just One Touch Campaign 2012, that many bloggers have joined.  My experience this week just reinforces my certainty that this is something we need to do.  I know it’s possible for all bloggers to be involved, and I completely respect people’s decisions to choose what is right for them but if we can do one little thing to stamp out some of the isolation resulting from mental illness, then I believe we will save lives and build hope.

I wish someone had shared their good stories with me, especially in the early days.  I remember one of my brothers gave me a book written by a woman who had been depressed.  At that stage I had been depressed for maybe six weeks and I couldn’t imagine in my wildest nightmares her tale of being depressed for two years.  I couldn’t finish the book, even though it was good because I couldn’t bear to think that was what I had ahead of me.  That was nearly 20 years ago.  I wish someone had told me that there was hope.  I wish someone had said “this is how I did it”.

For so long I existed on Borrowed Hope, and it worked.  I’m still here today.  And if that’s what’s going to get you through, then my best advice is to grab hold of someone else’s hope and hang on.  If I can be that for someone then, even though I’m not going to say I’m glad I have been down this path, I will say that it has been worth it.

Image credit: FB-Positive Outlooks

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Can The Mentally Ill Get Treated Fairly?

Iraena Asher

Iraena Asher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week the news in New Zealand has been full of reports of a coroner’s inquest for a young woman who disappeared at Piha Beach, west of Auckland, New Zealand back in 2004.  The result of the inquest was to find her death accidental.  I’m no expert on these things but the more I heard the more I was uncomfortable.  It’s a case I’ve followed with interest since she first disappeared.  It just didn’t sit right with me.

Let me give you a quick summary.  This woman, Iraena Asher, 25 went to a house at Piha Beach, about 40 minutes out of Auckland with some new friends.  Iraena had bipolar disorder and was said to usually stay completely away from drugs.  She made an emergency call to the Police saying she didn’t feel safe in the house she was in with these friends.  The Police sent a taxi to pick her up.  Yes, a taxi.

The next problem was the taxi was sent to the wrong address (about 30 minutes from Piha).  In the meantime she escaped the house she was in and was helped by some locals before taking off on her own again.  To cut a long story short she was last seen several hours later, behaving bizarrely including being naked on a street in Piha, apparently saluting a street light.  It is presumed that she then went down to the beach (a fairly wild beach with strong currents) and drowned.

My concern is the time that was taken to decide at the inquest whether she was under the influence of drugs (she apparently used marijuana but also was concerned as to whether someone had spiked her drink) or whether this was a manic episode of her Bipolar.

Does this really matter?  I’m not convinced it does.  The woman needed help, asked for it and didn’t get it.  Regardless of whether this was a case of the influence of drugs or the effects of her mental illness, she needed help but the Police seemingly didn’t take her need seriously sending only a taxi to pick her up.

Piha

The Police now seem to take the view that her behaviour was due to her mental illness.  In which case I’m inclined to think that her death was the accidental drowning caused by Police negligence.  But then they didn’t ask me.  What I’m now wondering is why aren’t mental health groups speaking out against this ill-treatment of someone mentally ill?  It doesn’t matter to me whether this was caused by bipolar, drugs, alcohol or… well, whatever.

Here was an obviously vulnerable, distressed woman who spent her last hours in some sort of hell.  Iraena’s body was never found, and considering that coast’s wild reputation that’s not at all surprising.  Her father said he saw no point in the inquest.  It didn’t bring her back and it didn’t answer any of their questions.  To rule the death purely accidental without following up the failures on behalf of the Police, seems like a complete waste to me too.  Do we just accept that sending a taxi for a mentally ill person making an emergency call is acceptable?  I don’t think so.  It’s wrong.

Interestingly the coroner criticised the people who tried to help her for not calling the Police while she was at their home.  That seems rather ironic to me.  One call to the Police achieved a taxi sent to the wrong part of the city, so how would another call have helped?  It seems rather like the quote:

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

―    Albert Einstein

I’m wondering just who it is that is apparently insane?

I’m inclined to think this is about the stigma of the mentally ill as well as about how a person is treated when they’re in distress and in need of help (even if it is drug induced).  Did they not take her call for help seriously because they knew she had Bipolar?  And what would they have done differently had they not known?  What would they do for any other person making an emergency call?

I don’t actually think what really happened at Piha Beach really matters now.  Tracing her last steps seems rather pointless.  What matters is that a good person was lost, and we will never know just what happened to her.  We would do that woman more justice by asking why this was allowed to happen, and what we can do to make sure it never happens again?  We need to make sure that authorities treat mentally ill clients with the same dignity and respect as those who are not mentally ill.  Is that so difficult?

“…I am the girl you see in the photograph from some party someplace or some picnic in the park, the one who is in fact soon to be gone. When you look at the picture again, I want to assure you, I will no longer be there. I will be erased from history, like a traitor in the Soviet Union. Because with every day that goes by, I feel myself becoming more and more invisible…”  

―    Elizabeth Wurtzel,    Prozac Nation

On a final, unrelated note:

I know I have created confusion this week by changing the name of my blog and then the domain name.  So if you missed my posts from this past week, and had difficulty finding them, I apologise.  Those posts are as follows:

It Made My Day

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Obi-Wan Shinobi of Shitegeist recently made my day by nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  The thought that my blog might be inspiring, as well as “keeping the blogosphere a beautiful place” is fantastic, so thank you very much Obi-wan Shinobi.

His, is a blog that I admit I haven’t been following for long, but in the time that I have, I have found myself educated, challenged, enlightened and even entertained.  Just what I love in a blog.  I like his honesty, but also the way that he balances that line we all grapple with sometimes of what to share and what not to share.  Enough of that though, except to say it would be well worth a visit.

The rules:

  1. Display the award logo somewhere on the blog
  2. Link back to the blog of the person who nominated you.
  3. State 7 things about yourself
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award and provide links to their blogs
  5. Notify those bloggers that they have been nominated and of the award’s requirements

7 Facts About Myself:

  1. I have to admit what I confessed to Obi-Wan, and that is that the first live concert I went to was Cliff Richard. Yes, I know it’s sad!
  2. I studied music right through school, learnt several instruments, but never made myself an accomplished musician.
  3. I have walked over the Bridge Over The River Kwai (and I’m talking about the bridge, not the movie)
  4. I want a dog.  A small one but not a ‘handbag dog’.  How can people carry dogs in handbags?  It’s so wrong.
  5. The first protest I was ever involved in was an anti-Apartheid march (in 1981)
  6. My parents were embarrassed when I was born.  True.  It’s says a lot, doesn’t it?
  7. I am currently reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  Better late than never!

The bloggers I nominate for this award are:

bipolarandbreastless

Miss Mental Health’s Rant Space

Laura Susanne Yochelson

Voices of Glass

Yes, I know the rules said 15 bloggers, but that’s it for now.  I’m going for the minimalist approach. :-)

I Love Technology

I have now changed my domain address to match my new name but while I thought WordPress would re-direct from the old address, I now find it doesn’t.  Ah, such fun!  So please be assured that I am here under:

http://infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com/

My Facebook page will remain the same, as Facebook seems unable to cope with my change. The link to that continues to be:

http://www.facebook.com/InfiniteSadnessorwhat?ref=hl

If I am on your blogroll, or list of blogs you follow I would much appreciate it if you could update my blog address.

I apologise for the inconvenience if you lost me momentarily, but all is well and housekeeping is hopefully sorted.

Hope Is A Four Letter Word I Use Now

Image credit: thefabweb.com

Recently I saw hope defined as:

The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best; A person or thing in which expectations are centered; to look forward with desire and reasonable confidence.”   (1.)

I have this seedling, that was planted a while ago from Borrowed Hope.  At the time I had no hope of my own.  I couldn’t see anyway that things would work out, let alone see that I had it in me to make that happen.  My own hope somehow started to grow at the time I lost that Borrowed Hope.  I don’t really understand how, but I know that’s where it started.

I began to see that I could make things get better, and no amount of convincing talk by anyone else had allowed that to happen before.  Maybe it was the right time, or maybe I had to reach in and pull on every ounce of reserve I had left.  However it happened, it began to grow.

It’s important to say that hope for me is more than a casual ‘it will get better’ line in my head.  It’s a specific belief that the future looks better and I can make a difference in my own recovery.  If you’d told me that five years ago, I would have thought you were spinning me a yarn, and not a very good yarn at that.  But I have got to a point where I can see that I can change my life, inspite of my mental and physical illnesses.

Image credit: flickr.com

With that in mind, I have changed one four letter word for another.  I’ve changed the name of my blog to Infinite Sadness… or hope?  When I started my blog was named to question a previously held belief that Infinite Sadness was my lot.  The name was asking what else can there be?  Now I’m realising that hope is what there is. Infinite Sadness was my name for the struggle I had been through and that I wrote about in my book by that name.  At the time I published it I just thought this is how it is going to be for the rest of my life, and that’s what some doctors had told me.  By changing the name of my blog I want to acknowledge that I’ve come to a point where hope is there as an alternative to Infinite Sadness.  But I need to make that happen.  If I use my hope to move forward then I leave Infinite Sadness kicking in the dust.  That’s my plan.

All that said I’m not ignoring that I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and that isn’t something that is just going to disappear.  I’m not ignoring that I still struggle to control disordered eating patterns and body image, and that I have a tendency towards depression, and general self-destruction.  I have all of these, they make up who I am, but I believe I can manage my symptoms so that life is better in the future if I focus on the hope I have.  It’s a journey, and I take these things and physical issues I face with me.  They make the task a little harder but I now think it’s going to be possible.  I’m sure there will be days when it is hard to find that hope but I can see that I have turned a corner, and I think the man (my Dad) who lent me his hope for so long, would be proud.

You know it feels a bit weird talking about hope, almost like I need to apologise for seeing a little bit of positive finally.  I guess what is important is that we are all on individual journeys and my hope is that if after all this time I can start to feel the air is clearing, then maybe it can give my friends who struggle some hope too.  That’s what I want: to be able to show that hope can follow Infinite Sadness.

Now if I could just work out how to change my domain name without losing my whole blog…

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’  No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” 

―    Dalai Lama XIV

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair.  And though in all lands, love is now
mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”  

―    J.R.R. Tolkien,    The Lord of the Rings