Neglected Friends

This post is one of those which started out being about something completely different, but evolved into this. Am I the only one that does that on a regular basis? Is it some type of blogger affliction?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have a number of friends in their nineties. Yes, old people. I like old people. They are generally not caught up in sex, drugs and energy drinks. They don’t spend hours on Facebook posting seemingly inane statuses.  They’ve probably never sent an email in their lives, and they have no idea what blogging is.

In spite of loving these people dearly, I need to be quite clear that I don’t believe anyone over 70 should be allowed to drive a car.  No offence intended.  Just stating the obvious. ;-)

The thing about old people is that they have lived, usually through incredibly hard times. Think World Wars.  The Great Depression.  They are likely to be living with the daily reality of pain and reduced mobility, yet the people I’m thinking of still have a smile for me when I see them.

And therein lies the problem.  I’m sure that after this year, they are probably all thinking I’m not the friend they thought I was.  Actually I suspect this doesn’t just apply to my friends about to clock up 100 years, because this year I appear to have neglected so many of my friends and family.

My elderly friends tend to have more limitations on them than younger friends. Because of their age and perhaps frailty, the load of ensuring the friendship is maintained tends to fall on me.  And that’s the problem.  It’s really hard to maintain friendships when I’m not well.

I used to be a pretty good friend.  I’m not so sure anymore.  I prefer an afternoon sleep instead of jumping in the car and heading off to visit a friend.  I make plans with friends, and have to cancel them at the last minute because I am having a bad pain day.  Maybe my head is too full of fog to be able to sit and have a conversation with a friend.  Sometimes it’s that I feel depressed, and walking out the door is just too hard.

Yesterday I had to say no to another regular commitment.  Over recent months my health has rendered me unreliable in terms of actually being able to turn up on the day.  While I didn’t want to do this, because I know it was helping someone out, I knew that my health meant that he could no longer rely on me.  Another friend (this time also family) neglected.

You might think that I am feeling guilty… but I’m not.  I know I’m neglecting friendships and I hate that, but I know too that I need to put myself first this time.  I’m sure not everyone understands this.  I know for a fact that some people just think I’m lazy and don’t want to see them.  They can think what they like.  Yes that attitude hurts but I don’t have the energy to worry.

There is a lot of talk about invisible illnesses, and how difficult they are because others can’t see my hardship or pain.  When I think about it, most illnesses are invisible.  There’s only a few where we can see the physical effects of the illness, but even then do we automatically assume that means they are sick and/or in pain?  Not always.  And how do we see pain?  Realistically we can’t.  What a person experiences as pain is beyond the grasp of another.  I know this well because I have a condition (fibromyalgia) that is known to be about chronic pain.  But knowing that does not enable another to understand just what that pain is and how it affects me.

I’ve heard people say that it’s not fair that people with cancer apparently get more compassion than someone with an invisible illness.  I believe that is a generalisation that isn’t helpful for anyone.  The thing is that we are all struggling in our own way.  My reason for not being able to maintain friendships to the degree I would like to is my physical health, but it could just as easily be something else, equally as valid.

Everyone is fighting their own battles.  My battles are not necessarily and greater than yours.  They’re just different, but equally valid.  I guess what it teaches me is not to jump to conclusions.  Not to assume I know why a friend appears to have let me down.  I hope my friends (and family) can do the same for me.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 

―    Henri J.M. Nouwen,    The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

  • Loyal (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)

I Want It… And I Want It Now

It’s generally known that Preacher’s Kids (PK’s) have the worst reputation on the playground.  There were homes I wasn’t allowed into because I was a PK, as I was assumed to be a bad influence on the children who belonged in those homes.  That was a few years back now, and actually I’m still waiting to try out some of the things I was supposedly reputable for, but I admit that I wasn’t the perfect child either.

Crisis occurred in our house, when I was eight.  It’s one of those moments that stands in my memory as a pivotal moment in life.  It was huge.  Well I thought so anyway.

I was eight, and at that time (in the early 1970’s) that meant I got eight cents a week in pocket-money.  My brother who was nine, got nine cents.  I’m guessing by now you can work out the rational.

I was never really a big chewing gum/bubble gum kid, actually I don’t know that my parents approved of such things, but I loved lollies (candy).  Onto the market came a new chewing gum, Wrigley’s Doublemint.  And I wanted some.  My friends got enough pocket-money from their parents to be able to afford the ten cents for a packet.  My eight cent pocket-money was not enough for me to be able to buy a packet each week with my friends, and I thought I was completely hard done by.

At the time my father was working part-time as a Preacher, and unless you are the Archbishop of Canterbury (I mean England, not here in Christchurch, NZ) the pay rate was never good.  He was working part-time so that he could complete his theology studies.  Mum wasn’t working at the time, because my parents believed that it was more important that she be home for us three kids.  Money wasn’t flowing freely in our house.  I never went without food but I did think life was tough and this is part of why  Mum insisted in sewing my clothes (instead of buying them).  Again, I was hard done by.

In spite of financial strain, my parents actually agreed to put my pocket-money rate up to ten cents, so that I could afford the chewing gum and be like my friends.  To this day, my brother thinks this was unfair.  His pocket-money went up to ten cents too, but he maintains that he was the one hard done by.  He’s getting over it (even without the aid of the therapy I’ve had to have).  I got what I wanted, but actually I’m not sure that in the long run, it did me any good.

One would think that the issue was solved, and crisis was averted.  It wasn’t though because at that point I admit that I decided that now that I had more, I needed more (again) and began regularly stealing money from my parents.  It was never huge amounts, but only because they didn’t have huge amounts that I could access.  You could say I had a taste of Doublemint and wanted more.  My friends could afford to buy an ice-cream after school and I couldn’t, so stealing from my parents meant I could have what I wanted… when I wanted it.

My stealing continued for several years.  Not only taking money from my parents, but Mum regularly had money in the house for various church mission projects, and I siphoned off (never large amounts)the top of those funds too.  I can remember being questioned once by my parents about the missing money, but actually I don’t have any memory of being told off, or disciplined for my stealing.  To this day, I have no idea why they didn’t.  They must have known it was me, and it was certainly against the rules.  But then that’s probably a whole other post.

Eventually my stealing came to a natural end.  I can’t explain how, I just know that I didn’t want to take their money anymore.  Actually the shame I carried was huge, and is the reason why I have never raised the issue with them as an adult.  I could admit that lots of kids steal the odd money from their parents, but that wasn’t what my shame was about.  I was ashamed because I was stealing from them when they had practically nothing, and of course stealing from the church.  My parents were breaking their backs to provide for me and my brothers, but I was simply making matters worse by taking more.

A lot of people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) have difficulty with impulsive thoughts.  But I don’t think what I was doing was necessarily impulsive, nor have I had a great issue with impulsivity in my life since.  Rather I think what I needed was instant gratification.  I wanted the chewing gum ‘now’.  I didn’t want to have to wait until the next week when I could afford it.

Last year, in my city we all became very good at internet shopping because most of our shops were closed for months because of earthquake damage.  Actually I like internet shopping anyway because I don’t get seemingly brainless shop assistants asking me if I’ve ‘had a nice day’.  But there’s one thing I hate.  When I click the ‘purchase’ button I want the product I’ve brought right there and then.  I don’t want to have to wait for the next day, or the next week for it to arrive.  I want instant gratification.

I can be very careful in making decisions about what I want and what is right for me, but once I’ve made that decision, I want it now.  I am completely impatient and even impractical.  Recently I made a decision about something that I want, but I can’t have it yet.  I have to wait.  I hate that waiting.  No doubt it is good for me, somehow…

So how do I accept the wait and the delayed gratification?  I asked my brother, the one who was upset about our increase in pocket-money, and has been suffering ever since.  He tells me what I need is maturity.  Only he could tell me that… but I want it now.

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire
to be very grown up.” 

―    C.S. Lewis

Time To Cut Back

For some time now I have been wishing for more than 24 hours in the day because I simply didn’t have enough time to do everything I needed to.  Add on top of that a general decline in mental health and a serious ‘falling off the cliff’ in terms of physical health, and I’ve been struggling to cope.

I’ve said before that I have been behind in my reading.  That’s mostly because I just don’t have the ability to concentrate at the moment.  If you think I’ve given up following your blog, it’s not true.  Actually I am appalled to find that I have over 500 posts sitting in my inbox waiting to be read.  There’s no way I’m going to get through those, is there?

As more time is spent in bed, or lying on the couch I came to the conclusion that it was time to cut back.  Reluctantly I have had to let go of the online support groups I was running.  One has now been handed over to a friend to run and I am still arranging something for the other.  If necessary, it will be closed.

I feel really sad to be doing this but I simply don’t have the energy to run the groups as I want them to run.  It was important to me that they were focussed on recovery and management of illness, rather than simply a place to vent (as many online groups are).  To do that effectively means being actively involved every day and I found myself with less, and less energy to do this.

Time to cut back and look after me.  I know so well that if I can’t adequately look after me then I can’t possibly hope to look after others.  I know this, but sometimes I need the reminder so thanks to those who helped me see that this was necessary.

I was brought up to put others before myself.  While this is an admirable goal (I guess) it’s not a healthy one.  It trips me up time and time again, because I forget that actually I am important here and my wellbeing matters.

PSI’m on day six of quitting the cigarettes cold turkey.  Actually while there is pain, it’s not as bad as my last attempt in September, so I’m thankful for that.  But I still want a smoke, and I am so over mints.  They’ve completely lost their excitement, if they ever had some in the first place.

“The only thing a cat worries about is what’s happening right now. As we tell the kittens, you can only wash one
paw at a time.” 

―    Lloyd Alexander,    Time Cat

Quitting Cold Turkey

A few weeks back I read an excellent post by my friend Brett Batten about his efforts to give up smoking.  I laughed.  I laughed so loudly, that I think he heard me in Canada, and regret to say that maybe I laughed a little too loudly.  Having only tried to quit myself (and failed) several weeks earlier I guess I took a little too much glee in his struggles.  So my apologies (again) to Brett…  and if you’ve ever tried to quit, go and have a read.

If you want to follow my saga of abolishing the need for nicotine in my life, you will need to cast an eye over Giving Up Nicotine and Unseen.  If you don’t want to read those, the short version is that I tried to quit in September, but had to give up on giving up because the pain caused by nicotine withdrawal was simply too much for me.  It was much worse than the usual pain I am used to from having fibromyalgia.  It was always my intention to try to give up again, once I had access to some pain medication that would make life bearable while I went through the withdrawal.

My attempt to make that happen by getting off lithium (Ten Years Later, And I Have My Answer) failed, and so did my attempt to get my doctor to give me some stronger medication.  So there goes that plan.  Initially on failing both points I decided to just keep smoking for a while longer until I came up with Plan B.  That was until I was told that my Graves’ Disease (Is There a Sign On My Back?) is on its way out of remission.  The problem with this is that smoking makes the problems a whole lot worse, and is probably what is causing me so much eye pain, let alone an accelerated heart rate.  So it’s time to quit… again.  It won’t fix the problem (the Graves’), but hopefully it will ease the symptoms.

Last time, I used nicotine replacement patches, but a long conversation with the pharmacist yesterday left me with no options for nicotine replacement.  Because of the combination of health issues I have, I can not use patches or any other form of nicotine replacement, not even gum, and so I will now be going cold turkey.  And yes, it has occurred to me that if I can’t use nicotine replacements I really shouldn’t be smoking in the first place.

Right now I’m considering that being asleep for at least a week might be the best option, but as that won’t work I’m going to be grumpy and emotional for at least a week, so be warned.  And if you thought I already was, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

What interests me is that no one in the health sector seems interested in helping me to do this.  My doctor even refuses to admit that pain will be an issue.  He just thought I’d “been on the internet again too much”.  At least the pharmacist readily admitted it would be a problem for me.

The New Zealand Government now insist that cigarette and tobacco packaging must have graphic images of diseased body parts resulting from smoking.  They’re adamant that these images will stop us smoking.  Actually since they were introduced a few years back I have just ignored them, as have many others I know who smoke.  I don’t know of anyone who has given up because of the images, even though the government continue to go on about their success.  But now that I want to stop, and their images do nothing,  no one will help with the pain I will experience in the coming days.

I guess I could pay for hypnotherapy or something, but I don’t have the money; and I would be saving the government a whole heap if they just gave me a small amount of medication to get through the pain of the withdrawal.  But no…  because a week’s supply might turn me into an addict apparently.  I am a little concerned about my mental health (my mood)in all this, but I really don’t accept that a week will make me a drug addict, when I haven’t turned myself into one so far in this life.

There was one other suggestion put to me by one of my regular readers.  John has suggested the method by which he successfully gave up.  Smoking cigars without inhaling.  Ever since I was a child I have loathed the smell of cigars, put off by an aunt who smoked them.  She wasn’t the problem but I just couldn’t bear the smell.  I just don’t think I could do it.  But thanks for the idea, John.

Oh, and I refuse to eat my way through withdrawal.  I am not going to put on weight just because of no nicotine.  I absolutely refuse.

So what all that means is that you’re stuck with me.  I have to make it work this time.  As I was reminded by a family member yesterday, I can be stubborn when I want to be, so I guess I will just have to use it for good.  Wish me luck.

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right.  Which one are you?” 

―    Henry Ford

Foraging In Dark Places

Yes, you’d be quite right if you came to the conclusion that I had been missing in action.  I have been doing what all good kiwi do, in order to stay alive.  Hide from anything alleged to be a predator.

Image credit: whakaangi.co.nz
.

This is a kiwi.  (A kiwi is not a piece of fruit, that is a kiwifruit).  Outside of captivity the kiwi is actually pretty hard to find.  They are nocturnal and prefer foraging in the undergrowth, keeping out of the path of their predators.  That long beak helps them in this foraging process.  While it might look strange, sometimes I wish I had a beak like that, so that I could forage away, safely out of harms way, and manage to turn over the good from the bad in the undergrowth.

I might not have the beak I would like but I have been foraging in the undergrowth myself.  It’s a good place to stay safe, keep out of trouble, and reflect.  Sometimes it gets a bit dark and lonely, but then bumping into other friendly birds in the undergrowth could provide for some companionship without risking the broad light of day.  My good friend Ruby and I seem to cross paths in the undergrowth a bit.  And I like that, although both of us seem in positions where we are unable to be of much help to each other beyond recognition of each other’s pain.  While I would never wish pain on Ruby, it is sometimes nice to know that I am not alone in this.

Okay, so what does all this mean, you’re no doubt wondering?

On a literal sense my eyes are now giving me trouble courtesy of Graves’ Disease.  It seems even more likely now that this little number is returning from remission, and it does not please me.   At this stage there is no treatment for my eyes available (until get gets worse and might require surgery).  The worst of it is pain behind the eyes.  The only relief I can get is a dark room with my eyes closed.  It helps a bit for the time I am there, but it does  mean very little gets done.

But it is the figurative darkness that disturbs me most.  I can’t think straight (it’s taken me all day to write this because five minutes at a time is a marathon),  I don’t want to think, I don’t want my feelings.  I don’t want anyone to ask me how I am.  I just want to sleep.  All this spells one thing to me:

D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-O-N

Perhaps I mistakenly thought that when my medication got sorted out a few weeks ago, that I would be back to me.  The problem though (I think) is that I have been dealing with some very difficult and uncomfortable feelings in therapy lately.  Actually it’s more like a long running saga, but maybe I’m getting some where.  The problem is that it hurts like hell.

I regularly tell other people that feelings are just feelings, neither good nor bad.  And it’s true.  I know it is.  It’s just really hard to practise what I preach when I don’t like those feelings.  I’m trying not to judge myself based on those feelings but I find myself feeling guilty, ashamed and just generally not a very nice person.  I’m quite sure if you knew the substance of those feelings you wouldn’t like me either.

I apologise for not being able to go into the details but I set some rules for myself when I started blogging (using my real name).  There are some things I am simply not able to discuss here because of the impact that could have on other people.

But I don’t think the details really matter.  What this is about it finding a way to do what I tell others to do.  Feelings are just feelings.  They are just are.  But do I accept that when I find myself completely mortified by some feelings, let alone the intensity of them?

I think I did what any self-respecting kiwi does.  Scurry for the undergrowth and hide from predators.  Otherwise those predators (perhaps my judgments on my feelings) will whip my sorry arse.  For US readers read “ass”).  Hmm.

Meanwhile I would like to thank my friend Kevin for coming out looking for this missing kiwi.  I think I needed that.  Thank you Kevin.  I’m not sure how long I was planning on staying there.  And a big thank you to Frank for holding my hand in the dark.

And now I’ve been in day light too long, my eyes are hurting again,  and it’s time to find my darkened room again.

Hope is the feeling that the feeling you have
isn’t permanent.

 – Joan Kerr

Self-Stigma… Am I My Own Worst Enemy?

A discussion with someone recently about the stigma of mental illness as I have personally experienced it, has led me to do some soul searching.   I think both of us eventually came to the same conclusion… that perhaps self-stigma has been the biggest issue for me.  That’s not to say that I haven’t suffered at the hands of the cultural distaste of anything  related to mental illness, or that institutional stigma hasn’t affected me.  There have been times when social stigma has hurt, and often the result has been damaged, if not ended relationships.  But I realise that I have consistently applied self-stigma to myself for as long as I have had a mental illness, actually probably longer and that may have prevented me from getting the help I needed earlier.

The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, in their document Fighting Shadows suggest that self, or internalized stigma is:

“…internalised feelings of guilt, shame, inferiority, and the wish for secrecy experienced by those who live with a mental illness…  Self-stigma is a belief in negative stereotypes about a group to which one belongs and the application of those beliefs to oneself, thereby undermining one’s self-efficacy.” 

(Watson and Corrigan, 2001)

My guess is that what this means is that I internally hold negative ideas about mental illness, which I apply to myself (and that if I was applying those ideas to others then it would be social stigma).  That’s the understanding I’m going to use for now, and I have to say I feel less than comfortable with this thought.  Regular readers know that I have discussed the issue of stigma regularly.  It is something that I feel very strongly about, and wanting to fight it, is the reason behind a lot of the things I do. 

What I need to understand is why I have those stereotypes and why I apply them to myself.  I don’t pretend to think I’m going to satisfactorily answer that for myself here, but it’s a good place to start. 

My mother always used to tell me that I was my own worst enemy.  I’m not sure exactly what she meant by that, as Mum and I have never been known to have the sort of conversations that might see that answered.  Reality was more that the statement was made and that was the end of the conversation.  No doubt both of us were contributors to that.

I can remember when I was first diagnosed with depression, one of my most common thoughts was:

“I can accept anyone else having depression

but I can’t accept it in myself.”

Somehow I thought I was immune.  It would never happen to me.  I was 28 at the time and right through my life I had been surrounded by people with mental illnesses.  A lot of that exposure came through my father’s job which extended to having church people in and out of our home.  At high school, I was friends with a girl who had Anorexia.  We were never close, but she was the only person I was aware of in a school of one thousand girls who had a mental illness.  No doubt there were others, but it wasn’t something ever discussed.

When I left school I went straight into a job where I was working closely with a lot of people with mental illness and addiction issues.  Actually I gained a reputation in the office for being one of the few staff who could handle the particularly difficult clients, and so I was often assigned clients that no one else wanted to handle.  I enjoyed working with these people, and other staff couldn’t quite understand that.

Then I got to 28 and discovered I was sitting in a psychiatrist’s office talking about my failing mental health.  Straightaway I could accept it for anyone else, but not for me.  Things like that didn’t happen to me.

I think that all these people with mental illnesses, who surrounded me from a young age, were also a step removed from me.  They weren’t my family, and they weren’t my personal friends.  Mostly they were clients of my father’s or later, my own clients.  It’s almost like it wasn’t personal so it couldn’t affect me personally.  By that time I had a number of friends who had mental illnesses, and again that was perfectly okay.  I could accept their illness and often did a lot to support them.  But that was them, not me.

Why was it okay for them,

but not for me?

At this point I admit that I am guessing.  I don’t understand why I set one rule for others but another for myself.  Why could I have compassion for others, but be angry at myself for what I see as weakness?

What springs to mind is the first person whose mental illness had a direct effect on my wellbeing.  I was only 14 when I became the target of a stalker who had schizophrenia.  He was one of my father’s clients.  Dad would welcome him to our home because he wanted to help the guy.  The problem was that my father didn’t realise what danger he was putting me in.  When I left home at 18, the man followed me, as he did every time I shifted trying to keep one step ahead of him for the next 14 years.

I was literally afraid of this man.  He threatened me ,but never lay a hand on me.  But the damage he did to my mind in that time, along with other things happening in my life, was huge.  Actually it was only nine months after I finally felt I was free from him (by shifting cities) that I was being diagnosed with my own mental illness.  I’m sure that’s not simply a coincidence.

The man was regularly in and out of the local psychiatric hospital because of his illness, usually because he had taken himself off his medication.  The times he was in hospital were the best times for me.  Sometimes I got phone calls or letters, but mostly I was free while he was behind a locked door.

It make senses to me then why the last thing I would want would be to be diagnosed myself, as I might end up in hospital with him.  Even figuratively a diagnosis would put me in the same camp as him.  If I was the same as him, then somehow I was in more danger.

The second thing that comes to mine is that on several occasions I tried to talk to his mental health workers, to help get them to help me be safe from him.  Actually each time I tried I had the Privacy Act quoted at me, and they wouldn’t even listen to me.  I didn’t want information about him.  I wanted them to know what he was doing.  But the mental health system was not interested in the harm he was causing me.  Again it would make sense why I wouldn’t want to diagnosed myself, because clearly (to me anyway) the system was not interested in helping or protecting me.

What you’ve just read is me thinking out loud.  Obviously there is no audio link with this post but I’ll leave you to imagine that I have been tossing ideas with you.  This self stigma hindered me from getting help from medical services but even when I began to accept that actually it was okay for me to have a mental illness, I perhaps unconsciously  used the stigma to make it hard for myself to get other types of help.  There was a lot of help at university for people with disabilities, including mental illness, but I struggled to seek it out because I didn’t look sick.  It was me that put that barrier up, no one else.

Considering self stigma is not an easy one.  I am a little embarrassed, but I wonder how many others might struggle, unknowingly even, with our own attitudes that prevent us getting the help and support we need.  It doesn’t take away the problem of the stigma we get from other sources, but I’m realising that I have to start with myself.  How can I expect others not to stigmatize me when I do it to myself?

Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend.” 

―    Elizabeth Gilbert

Dona Nobis Pacem

“Grant Us Peace”

Trying to achieve peace within myself has been a life-long battle, not helped by long-lasting mental health issues.  Achieving peace is a battle I continue to work on daily.  The Dalai Lama says that peace can’t be achieved in this world until I find peace within myself.  I think he’s right, purely for the reason that I am part of this world.  I am affected by what happens in this world.  Sounds simplistic, doesn’t it?

I live in a small country, almost on the edge of the world, called New Zealand.  Our population is only 4.5 million.  I know that’s pretty small, but it needs to be kept in perspective.  Our statistics might not sound much, until you think about the proportion of people in our population affected by the country’s decision to be a part of war.  We all with be familiar with the six degrees of separation.  In New Zealand, that shrinks down to around two, maybe three degrees of separation.

In the 11 year war in Afghanistan, 11 New Zealand soldiers (including one female) have been killed in combat.  It doesn’t seem like much does it?  But what if one of those 11 soldiers was your flesh and blood?  Then their death becomes personal, and the war has a deep impact on your life.

On top of those 11 kiwi soldiers, there have been many more soldiers from around the world who have died, and then there are thousands of civilians who have also died.  If they were your family, this is very personal.  If you are/were a soldier there, then this is personal.

Six weeks ago New Zealand  sent its last group of soldiers to Afghanistan.  This is the last troops that will be deployed from here, as New Zealand is pulling out its troops in April 2013.  I watched on the television channels here as those troops said their good-byes to their families at the airport.  It was gut-wrenching stuff, not only to see parents saying goodbye to young children and husbands to wives, and vice-a-versa, but for one reason that must have been at the heart of most kiwis watching that day.

Just a few weeks earlier a total of five kiwi soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, in two separate incidents.  Those five were from the same battalion as this fresh group were from, at Burnham Military Camp.

How could this new group of soldiers say good-bye to their friends and family, and have any sense of peace of mind, without this in their heads.  And how could families say good-bye without wondering whether this would be their final good-bye?  Would they come back in a box, like their friends and comrades had?  I dearly hope not.

Peace of mind?  I don’t think so.  All in the aid of fighting a war.

Saying good-bye to troops headed for war is something my father knew only too well as a child.  There was very little peace of mind for him as a six-year-old, and my grandmother, when my grandfather would be sent off to World War Two.  Some 92,000 kiwi troops went to this war, the maths is mind-boggling to consider just how many kiwis were left at home, with little peace of mind.

Grandad as Lieutenant S.T. Reddell (1942)

You can read more about my feelings about my grandfather’s involvement in Peace Not War   (Passion Profile Challenge #1).  He was in the Royal New Zealand Navy Intelligence division.  He ‘officially’ served his time in the War in the National Home Office in Wellington.  ‘Officially’ he never left the country.

Unofficially though, and the reality for my father and grandmother is that, he ‘would go away’ for weeks at time.  They wouldn’t know where, or for how long.  It just happened that the ‘trip away’ would coincide with a naval ship or submarine leaving Wellington harbour around that day.  They could see it leave the harbour from their temporary home in Kelburn.

To this day no one in the family knows where Grandad went, or for how long.  He died in 1969 after a long illness related to his war injuries, but he was never allowed to tell anyone the details of his trips away.  From the rumours, I think I’m glad about that because there would have been no peace of mind for anyone had they known where we suspect he was, or what he was doing.

Peace matters to me on a personal front because of the experience of my father and my grandparents.  But it matters to me on a global basis for much more than this.  I don’t believe that we were put on this planet to fight, kill and injure each other, let alone innocent by-standers.

“We are connected to the sky
and connected to the earth.
Together we are the conductors of nature.
Let our song of connection be forever beautiful.”

Image and words used with kind permission of Alison Pearce (see credits below)

We are connected to the sky and the earth, but we are also connected to each other.  Regardless of our history, race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, sexuality or even simply our thoughts… we are brothers and sisters, as fellow human beings.  However we choose to believe that we appeared here on this planet, and regardless of what higher power we choose to believe or not believe in, we are all one species.  So why would we choose to kill each other?  Why would we choose to destroy another’s family?

I believe that we choose  war over peace because it is easier.  Certainly not easier for those caught up in it, or watching loved ones in it, but it’s an almost simple way to win an argument.  Just kill the opponent, or at least anyone who matters to that opponent.  End of argument.  Apparently.

If we could simply lay down our arms, and talk.

If I disagree with my neighbour, we stand in the drive-way and talk.  It works because we are prepared to listen and understand each other’s  perspective.  It works, and while we have differences, we can still be friends, respecting each other’s individuality.

It’s interesting that in the past two years, living in Christchurch, we have all been through multiple devastating and deadly earthquakes.  As neighbours, we all put aside our differences, and helped each other.  The increased bond between neighbours is one good thing that came from the devastation.  I suspect something similar is happening today in the areas badly affected by hurricane Sandy.

Peace between neighbours reigned for us in Christchurch, and was a very good thing.  More important than arguments was making sure each other had the basic provisions of food, water and shelter.  Maybe it’s a simple way of looking at it, but I believe that simple is often best.  Talking and listening is often best.  It by far beats the need to kill and destroy.

That’s why I have taken part in today’s BlogBlast4Peace.  All of the bloggers taking part in this event believe that if words are powerful….this matters. The wider we spread this message, each in our own way, the more people will agree that the right thing to do is to lay down arms and live at peace.

I encourage you to read some of the hundreds of other blog posts on this subject today.  See the official site at BlogBlast4Peace for more details.

Make a choice, and take a stand for peace, as I have done, and speak out.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

- Bishop Desmond Tutu
Nobel Prize for Peace 1984

“Never doubt that a handful of committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

 – Margaret Mead

Some Very Important Credits

My Peace Globes (used here and on my Facebook page) were kindly created for me by my friend, Michelle Frost.  Check out Michelle’s blog to see what she is saying about peace today at Crows Feet.

Artwork and Prose from Alison Pearce  are both used with her permission.  Alison produces some excellent work, which can be seen at Art That Speaks by Alison Pearce.  Her site is well worth a visit.  Thank you for your co-operation Alison.

Is There a Sign On My Back?

I am seriously wondering if someone (who doesn’t like me) has, unknown to me, stuck a sign on my back saying “pick on me” this week.  Mysteriously, each time I change my clothes, I still seem to have the sign plastered there for all to see.  Having spent time with my brother this morning, I sent him a text a few hours ago to ask whether he noticed the sign.  So far he hasn’t responded.  I’m not exactly sure what conclusion I should draw from that.

Some weeks seem just determined to make things hard, and this week has  achieved that for me in so many ways.  I thought bad things were meant to happen in three’s, but so far I’ve counted six.  Here’s a run down (and I promise it’s the short version):

1.  My trial to come off lithium failed (as I told you in Ten Years Later, And I Have My Answer).  You’ll be pleased to know that I am back on the original dose.  Just waiting for it to kick in.

Actually the day after my psychiatrist told me to start the lithium again immediately, my GP (General Practitioner who handles day to day medical issues) objected, and wanted me to wait another week “just to be sure”.  Basically I quoted my last post at him and explained why waiting wouldn’t be a good idea…  and then I ignored him.  Meanwhile as I wait for the lithium to kick back in, I have all the usual symptoms of depression.  It’s a few years since I was last depressed.  I hate that it is back.

2.  The implication of my inability to get off lithium now means that I can not get medication to treat my fibromyalgia (the whole point in trying to come off).

3.  A further implication of my inability to get off lithium is that I can not get adequate pain medication for fibro symptoms that can not be treated.  All I can use is paracetemol (an over-the counter analgesic) and a very limited amount of codeine.  Neither of these do anything for the worst problem, which is nerve pain.

4.  An implication of my inability to get adequate pain medication takes a blow at my intention to use  extra medication so that I could deal with the extra pain caused when I try to giving up smoking again.  (See  Unseen).  Actually my GP denied any knowledge of this issue, and had no willingness to hear me on the issue of pain caused my nicotine withdrawal.  He basically told me to “toughen up and try again“.  I can’t say I was too impressed by his lack of compassion, empathy and helpfulness.

5.  Totally unrelated to  numbers one to four, I saw my endocrinologist yesterday for a routine check-up for my auto-immune condition Graves’ Disease.  This has been in remission for about 10 months now, and I half hoped that he would discharge me from his care and send me on my way (on the understanding that the disease could come out of remission at any time.).  What he told me instead is that it looks very likely that the disease is coming out of remission.  It’s a wait and see game now.  More blood tests in a couple of months to draw a definite conclusion, and a reminder of what to do if acute symptoms return in the meantime..

Grave’s affects a number of areas in the body, but the biggest impact is on the thyroid gland (producing a pretty serious condition  called thyrotoxicosis), the eyes ( I won’t tell you what it does to the eyes simply because the thought of it turns my stomach), and speeding up the heart rate beyond healthy.  It’s not a pleasant condition to have, nor is the treatment particularly appealing for this ‘nuclear-free’ kiwi.  More about that if, and when it happens.

6.  Just when I get to Friday and really think I’ve had enough… today the Pain Management Clinic, a public health service designed to help me find alternatives for pain management has refused to see me.  Apparently I am simply not a priority, to the extent that they haven’t even put me on a waiting list.  Being unable to get off lithium, this referral was essential, but it seems it’s not to be.

So what do you think?  Is it reasonable to conclude that sign is on my back?  Are my stars just not aligned this week?  Is it one of those weeks when I should never have got out of bed? Hmm.

Image credit: farm4.flickr.com/3140/3103360425

What do I choose?

Despair or Hope?

I’ve been struggling to do much reading this week, finding it too difficult to concentrate even on a short blog post.  I manage the first couple of paragraphs and then drift off.  It’s a symptom of depression.  One thing that I did manage to read, made me stop and think.  Hope Is A Choice.  Actually, if you’ve got the time, and the concentration, there is a lot written on this premise.  I’m inclined to think it’s true, that for me hope is a choice.

Hope is an easy word to say, and I know I use it a lot in my writing, but actually it’s pretty hard to practise, especially when times are tough, and there is a ‘pick on me’ badge on my back.  Actually there had been a fair amount of despair going on here in the last few days.  All these health (including my mental health) issues I’m dealing with are chronic, with little to no hope for complete recovery.

When I said in my last post that I had proven to myself that lithium kept me out of prison and out of a grave, I wasn’t kidding.  That’s the reality, especially if I choose to go down the road of despair.

One of the extra difficulties I’ve faced this week is what Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) adds to this scenario.   BPD enables me to split too easily between my emotions.  What that means is that one minute I can be happy and full of hope, sure that all this will work out.  But shortly after I can be completely depressed, despairing, withdrawn and without hope.

Actually it is this reason that has stopped me from posting this week.  If I post when I’m feeling good, you will get one impression which might be quite different from what reality is.  That has consequences for you, as the reader, trying to understand but it also has a habit of kicking back at me.  It’s hard to explain but I’m sure fellow BPD sufferers know the issue well.

What I really need to say is that this week has been really hard, and it’s not over yet.  I have some practical issues that I am going to have to try to resolve, but as yet I don’t know how I will do that, and frankly it doesn’t seem like I have a lot of support from the medical fraternity.

Sometimes this week, I have seen very little hope.  Other times,  I have had to go back to borrowing hope (see Borrowed Hope).  I felt disappointed to have to do that, but it was necessary because I had lost sight of my own hope.

As for now?  Deep inside I have a sense that this will work out, that my health can be revived and that hope does exist for me.  Although I’m not sure how it will look.  Sometimes I have to look a long way to find that sense of hope and in the meantime I guess I’m suspending judgement.  I’m not choosing despair.  No matter how bad I feel, I refuse to go back down that road again.  I can’t afford to do that to myself.

“to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.” 

―    Ellen Bass