Prescriptions And Privacy

About a month ago I saw my doctor, a General Practitioner.  It was just a routine appointment, although it quickly went from routine to fascinating when he said he had been wanting to talk to me.  The result was that after two long years of debating with him my need for adequate pain medication, he finally agreed to prescribe some.

He had previously refused, in spite of acknowledging the level of pain I was experiencing from fibromyalgia, because he believed that my history of mental illness would mean that I would get addicted to the stuff and my mental health would suffer.  One of my arguments was that my mental health was suffering already as a result of the pain I was in on a daily basis.  For some reason unknown to me that argument seemed to count for nothing to him.  It seemed that he didn’t accept it and so was only prepared to let me use over-the-counter medications.  The problem with those is that they did nothing to relieve the pain, perhaps because they are designed to treat a different kind of pain.  Our argument went on over the months.  When I felt I had some fight in me I would raise the issue, but basically he was quite clear that he would never prescribe anything stronger and more appropriate.

Let me say at this point (in case you’re wondering) the easy thing to do would have been to change my doctor.  For me though, that has some difficulties related to my past experiences of doctors.  More about that in a future post… when I’m feeling brave.

In the meantime, what changed my doctor’s mind?  It seems he felt a little backed into a corner.  At an earlier appointment he had arranged for me to have some short-term counselling to deal with a specific unrelated issue that had been affecting my state of mind.  It was only to be six sessions, which always seemed too short, but it was free and it was available.  I had no other options and so I took up the offer.

I had seen the counsellor twice when I went to my doctor a month ago.  That was what my doctor wanted to talk about.  He proceeded to read out to me word-for-word something I had said to the counsellor, on my second visit, about my doctor’s refusal to treat me with pain medication.  I was totally gobsmacked to find that the counsellor was giving my doctor a written report of my counselling sessions.  This was not something I had been told about, nor had I given permission for him to share the details of my sessions with anyone.

That was the end of the counselling sessions.  I guard my privacy carefully and I expect that when speaking to a counsellor or therapist that what I say will remain confidential.  I accept that if I am at risk of hurting either myself or someone else then the counsellor may have to call in emergency services but I could never accept that my doctor needed to hear word-for-word what I said when I was no where near being in a crisis state.

Well that might have been the end of the counselling, but for some reason (he didn’t explain) my doctor didn’t appreciate what I had said to the counsellor, gave me a small lecture about “keeping secrets from him”  (really?) and then handed me a prescription for medication to treat severe pain.  Weird.  It’s like he knew he was discriminating against me and was waiting to see how long he could get away with it.

I finally had my prescription!  Yay!  The only problem is that a month on I declare it totally useless for me.  If my body is anywhere close to horizontal, the medication will put me to sleep (which is one way of dealing with pain) but it does absolutely nothing to take away the pain.  Actually if anything the pain has been worse in the past couple of weeks.  I wonder is he just giving me sugar pills (unlikely, I hope) or just a very small dose?  This coming week I will be going back to my doctor to keep fighting.  I have tried that drug but now I need another.  The fight goes on.

Gotta love doctors (and counsellors) like him.

“Life isn’t as magical here, and you’re not the only one who feels like you don’t belong, or that it’s better somewhere else. But there ARE things worth living for. And the best part is you never know what’s going to happen next.” 

― O.R. Melling, The Summer King

My Letter To America

It’s pretty clear to me that readers of my blog from United States outnumber all other countries by leaps and bounds, and because of that it’s important for me to say that I know what I am about to say might not fit too comfortably with those readers.  I know my country of New Zealand and yours, are quite different.  It is over twenty years now since I visited your country and I know how different what I saw then was from where I live.  Even though we might look the same, or similar, I think it is fair to say that our culture and society is quite different.  This post, which is basically about the use of guns, is not my attempt to sway your opinions on gun laws but rather I want to acknowledge that your environment is different to mine but clearly both have some issues to address in terms of guns.

In the past few days, New Zealand has been rocked by the news of the murder of two children, aged six and nine, (by their father) followed by the suicide of their father in Dunedin, one of New Zealand’s four largest cities.  It was not a mass shooting.  It is 24 years since we had a mass shooting in New Zealand (Aramoana, 1990).

The father shot dead the children in their beds, before turning on gun on himself.  Those children come from a school now in mourning, and while I hate to say it, I suspect this type of incident happens every day in your country.  In my country though, it is not common, thank God.  The mother of the children, the man’s ex-wife, had run next door to get help.  It’s hard to begin to imagine the hell she must be going through now.

The man apparently had a mental illness and was on medication for it.  To his family’s knowledge he did not have a firearms licence, necessary in New Zealand to own a gun.  It’s hard to imagine how he would have held a licence with a string of breach of protection orders in the past year.  Questions that are all being asked now.

Personally I am very glad that it is not easy to obtain a gun in my country.  I won’t pretend to be anything other than anti-guns, although as I said already I recognise that my society and yours are quite different.  But I will always stand up for more control on gun ownership.  I have no desire to live in a world where owning a gun is necessary, or even desirable.

I was 15 years old when my ex-boyfriend J loaded a rifle, gave it to me and told me to kill him.  He didn’t want to live if I wouldn’t be his girlfriend.  He owned a gun (he was 18 at the time) for hunting but I strongly believed both then and now that he should not have access to one.  Why?  He was too impulsive.  I knew he could shoot himself, or me for that matter, without too much thought.  The thought would come later, when it was too late.  And that is the problem I have with guns.  Act now, think and get the facts later.

I can still remember thinking how easily it would be to pull the trigger.  By then J had been creating a lot of problem for me by stalking.  Fear thankfully got the better of me, aside from the fact that I’m not the sort of person who could fire a bullet at anything, anyone. Harming anything is difficult for me.  I just wouldn’t do it.  Instead I dropped the gun and fled, running about three miles home.  He followed me on his motorbike.  Who knows where the gun was by then.  I didn’t stop to ask.

In spite of the fact that I would have arrived home hot, sweaty and out of breath I didn’t tell anyone what had happened.  My family was all home, it was Saturday night, and no one knew a thing.  It was many years before I ever let that burden go by telling my family (when I wrote my book).  The trauma of that night was something I carried with me from then on.  I didn’t tell anyone because I thought it must be my fault.  What’s more I had been told I must show Christian compassion to J, and frankly that seemed so unfair.  It still seems unfair and totally wrong to me.  I hate the thought of people being guilted into this Christian compassion.

That night was over 30 years ago now and, in spite of a lot of therapy, I still carry it with me when I see things like the Dunedin shooting reported.

It’s too easy to pull a trigger.  From what that man had with him, he had apparently gone there to burn the house down.  Who knows whether the shootings were part of the deal.  Maybe it was simply too easy.  I don’t know, and I guess no one will ever know.

I don’t want to get into a gun lobby debate but when this story hit me I needed to say that while I hate that those children have died, and I hate that their mother is now alone, I am very glad that guns are not common in New Zealand.  Tragedies like this happen but not often.  Thankfully.  Frankly I wish it was harder still to get our hands on guns here.  I simply don’t believe there is a need, although I accept that maybe your country is different.

“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.” 

― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

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Being Heard

ISOH Ear

It’s amazing how some of the most simple words can have such an enormous impact.  I think it is a fact that we all too often forget, or pay no heed, but Anna Rose of Rose with Thorns wrote a comment on my last post.  It was, exactly what I needed.  She said that she had heard, as other readers would have.  Being heard is one of those things that simply makes everything better.  Someone has heard me.

The post I wrote was not full on detail and that’s just the way it had to be in order to protect other people’s privacy.  I know that when I do that, it is going to be difficult for readers to fully grasp what is going on in my world.  I nearly deleted the post simply because I knew I couldn’t say what would make my pain make sense to the reader.  But there are lots of times in blogging, and in life where what we say might not make sense to the reader.  That’s okay for me.  For me what I need to know is that someone heard.  And Anna Rose, probably without realising how important it was to me, told me very simply that I had been heard.

When I think about what I most want to achieve in blogging, it is to be heard.  That someone has heard the thoughts I haven’t been able to speak (often) in my own world.  I don’t need you to agree with what I say.  I don’t need advice even. I don’t even need you to understand what I say.  Unless you have been through exactly the same experience, you can’t possibly understand exactly what I am going through.  All you can do is try to understand…  but we all know how limiting that can be.

“Being heard 
is so close to being loved 
that for the average person, 
they are almost indistinguishable.”

― David Augsburger

I came across the quote of David Augsburger above and asked myself whether being heard is the same as being loved.  For me, I don’t think so and that is because so often the people who come out of the blue and indicate they heard me, are not the people I would expect to be loved by.  So often for me, it is an almost complete stranger who will tell me I was heard and will make that big difference for me.  So often complete strangers will get it.

That said, if someone who loves me, also hears what I say, then that kind of seals the deal in some ways.  It is after all, what we often want from the person who says they love us.

I think too often we listen with the intention of understanding, and while that is an admirable wish, it seems like something that usually we won’t ever achieve.  Unless we walk in the world of the person we are listening to,  Unless we experience the same hardships and the same stressors, then it will be very difficult to understand entirely what they tell us.

I would rather someone listening to me, ensure that they hear what I say.  I don’t expect people to understand what, for example, my mental illness is to me.  They probably won’t because while others have the same collection of diagnoses, they don’t have the background I bring to it.  Their experience of that mental illness is going to be different, although admittedly sometimes similar.  If they are too busy likening their experience to mine, they are likely to miss exactly what I have said.

Stephen Covey said we listen to reply.  I think there’s truth in that.  We listen, and as we do we’re thinking of what we will say next.  By doing that, you’ve missed exactly what I said.  And that piece that you miss might just be crucial (to me) that you hear.

This doesn’t just apply to mental illness though.  Take for example physical illnesses which are often very difficult to understand if they are what is termed invisible illnesses (where you can’t see the evidence of the illness).  Because you might not have the same illness and symptoms as me, I don’t expect you to understand how limiting my pain is.  I’m way past the point of needing people to understand the nerve pain associated with my fibromyalgia (unless you have the same illness in which case we might have the same symptoms).  But what makes the difference to me is when you hear how this is for me.  I don’t expect you to take it away.  I don’t even expect that you will understand how that nerve pain feels.  I just want you to hear how it is for me.

I suspect that is a common wish for us all… to be heard how it is for us.  I suspect if more of us had that in our lives then there would be more acceptance of our individual burdens, there would be more sense of togetherness, and actually I’m sure it would result in less suicide and less mental distress.

Being heard made a difference to me in something that I knew most people would not understand the detail, because most people simply haven’t had that specific experience in their life. You don’t need to understand me.  You probably won’t.  But if you’re prepared to listen and hear, that’s enough for me because I, and my words are now valid.  Thank you for hearing.

“Listening is the most dangerous thing of all, listening means knowing, finding out about something and knowing what’s going on, our ears don’t have lids that can instinctively close against the words uttered, they can’t hide from what they sense they’re about to hear, it’s always too late.” 

― Javier Marías, A Heart So White

This Has Been A Hard Day

This has been a hard day for me today.  I’ve done everything I could to hide from it.  To put on a smile, make happy posts on social media, to do ‘happy’ things.  All the while what I was hiding was that I was breaking up.  The emotion of today crumples who I am, and I’m not sure exactly where I go next.

It’s really easy for me to put the ‘happy face’ on.  I do it all the time.  If I’m with anyone who knows the ‘happy face’ is not how it really is, then I’ll struggle to carry it off.  But today, it was only me that knew I was falling apart.  Only me that knew that ‘innocently’ spoken words, and words not spoken at all are so damn painful.

Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook which must have been written for me.  Well, not really.  But it was appropriate to how I feel today.  I don’t know who the real author of the image is (it’s so hard to tell these days with people stealing images all over the place).  Because of that I can’t share the image with you, as it is important to me to attribute credit accordingly.  But I can share the words that hit me:

You’re important!

I’m here!

What can I do?

You are loved!

You are worthy!

They were quoted as words to say to some who is feeling down.  But for me, they are words that I wish that a specific person in my life would say to me.  I know s/he won’t.  I won’t ever hear those words from that one figure in your life, and today that is tearing me apart.

There are other people in my life who would use these words on occasions, but sometimes it’s what you need from just one specific person.  Common sense and experience though, tells me it’s ain’t going to happen. I just have to ride this time out.  There’s another day tomorrow and maybe it won’t hurt so much.

But in the meantime it hurts like hell.

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” 

— Louise Erdrich (The Painted Drum LP)

Blog For Mental Health 2014 (Four In Four)

Last year I committed to Blog for Mental Health 2013 as part of the campaign fronted by A Canvas of the Minds and I’m right here ready to take my pledge again.

Artist: Piper Macenzie

Artist: Piper Macenzie

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

Like last year, I intend to devote a healthy chunk of my time to blog posts related to Mental Health, but before I go on it’s also important to note that my blog is not solely for Mental Health and therefore I reserve the right to continue to write about what I like.  If it happens to be hedgehogs and unicorns, so be it.  I still doubt you’ll get recipes here though.  But you never know…

Mental Health is really important.  Duh!  Well of course Mental Health is important.  Just as we often hear the statistics of one in four people suffering from mental illness, it is as important, if not more to remember that four in four people (yes, that’s everyone) has mental health.  Mental Health affects us all, just like Physical Health.  We can’t run, we can’t hide.  Actually all of us (all seven billion of us) has a degree of mental health.

I draw your attention to that because it’s all to easy to get lost in terms and definitions.  It’s because Mental Health affects us all, that I want to be writing about it.  I also want to be writing about Mental Illness, and unless we look at both then we are doing a disservice to those of us impacted by both.

Mental Health is defined by the World Health Organisation (as good a source as any!) as:

“as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Unfortunately I didn’t find it so easy to find a definition of mental illness, but I’ll create my own (if you don’t mind) based on the commonly understood difference between physical health and physical illness.

” Mental Illness is a lack of the well-being stated above”

I’ve often read that some think that if we write about Mental Health, then we are ignoring those with Mental Illness.  We’re even stigmatising them.  I don’t believe that.  Oh, and if we write about Mental Illness then we are ignoring Mental Health and being too negative.  I don’t believe that either.

I will be writing about both Mental Health and Mental Illness, because I believe that both discussions are crucial to the well-being of our community (I mean the world).  We can’t have one without the other.  But wouldn’t it be great if Mental Illness was so well addressed that we could focus more on health?  But like with Physical Illness there will always be the tonsils that need removing and there will always be people born with incurable diseases.

One last thought.  It is possible (in my mind) to have both Mental Health and Mental Illness.  I’d rather not have Mental Illness, but I do.  Fact!  And it’s here to stay.  And I’m not going to hide from it.  But I also have my own degree of Mental Health, and that is something that always gives me hope.

“I’ve always thought of wholeness and integration as necessary myths. We’re fragmented beings who cement ourselves together, but there are always cracks. Living with the cracks is part of being, well, reasonably healthy.” 

― Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of an American

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The Novelty Had Worn Off

I guess we like to think that every baby born is welcomed with a great deal of happiness.  I admit that I have never had a baby myself, so could be accused of being out of my depth… except that I was a baby once.  I know it from that angle, even if I have never had my own child.

I’m pretty sure that my birth was not welcomed with happiness, let alone joy.  There is only one photo of me as a baby.  You see, the novelty had worn off.  I was number three child, and I certainly wasn’t planned.  I came just ten and a half months after my next brother, and my mother will openly admit that my presence was an embarrassment to her.  Two babies in the pram was more than she wanted.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and wondering just how happy I was as a young child.  My first diagnosis of a mental illness didn’t come until I was 28 years old, but at that time everyone was pretty amazed nothing had shown before then.  I’m inclined to think that maybe there were signs but no one looked, or knew what they were looking for.  When I think about some of the (slightly) unusual things I did as a child, and then as a teenager, I am amazed that no one said “Wait a minute.  What’s going on here?”

But then this is the 1960/70′s I’m talking about and who went looking for signs of mental illness in their kids?

Deborah Serani, psychologist has written a book last year entitled ‘Depression And Your Child‘.  I think I’d like to read it, although the focus of it being about the reader’s child is not what I’m after.  She wrote a blog post, What Adults Need to Know about Pediatric Depression and I found that interesting, although I admit it also made me sad.  She reported that

“In the United States alone, evidence suggests that up to 1% of babies, 4 percent of preschool-aged children, 5 percent of school-aged children, and 11 percent of adolescents meet the criteria for major depression.”(1.)

Wow!  Even one in a hundred babies having major depression is huge, without stopping to think about the older age-groups.  She continues to list ten myths relating to childhood depression, which all parents should know.  It makes worthwhile reading, even for this non-parent here.

I don’t know whether I had depression as a baby or a child, but the odd things I started doing go back as far as I can remember, which suggests to me now that something was up at a young age.  I’m sorry but I’m not going to tell you what those odd things were.  Just know they were a little different from normal, and seem to me like a coping mechanism I used from a very young age.

I’m not saying this to in any way accuse my parents of anything, but I suspect there was something going on that they didn’t realise might give clues to my state of mind.  This is more about my own journey to work out what has made me who I am.  I’m not interested in blame, just in being able to understand myself.

Phew! It makes me sad for that little girl who was me.  There’s no denying that because if my theory is right, then it has had an enormous impact on my whole life.

I need music to finish.  As you will see the lyrics don’t go with the music.  Purposely.  I just had two tunes in my mind, for the child in me.

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow

 - Cyndi Lauper, True Colors

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Let’s Do That One Again

It might be New Year’s Day here but I am ignoring that.  I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, as I have said before.  It just so happens that I woke up this morning and it’s a different year.  Someone let off a lot of fireworks last night(think what could have been done with that money), some people won’t remember last night, but hey, big deal…

I did something yesterday that I don’t often do.  I went back and read my last post.  I don’t often do it because by the time I hit ‘publish’ I’ve usually read it so many times that I nearly know it by heart.  Not to mention how many times I wrote it in my mind before pressing fingertips to keyboard.  But this time there was something bugging me about it.  And when I looked, I found it.  A case of paranoia building, along with a case of ‘blame myself for everything’ coming through.

Why is it that I do that?  Pretty much every time even something minor happens, I am quick to blame myself.  Someone does (or doesn’t,for that matter) do something, or says something, that doesn’t sit right for me?  Yeah, every time I blame myself.  I’m the one with the mental illness, so it must be my fault.

The instances I was referring to in my last post were pretty minor, but I felt upset.  I felt that someone in my life didn’t want to be near me.  I have no idea whether that was true.  It was simply an assumption based on their actions.

Through many years of psychotherapy, group therapy, and every other kind of therapy possible, I have learnt to examine my thoughts, feelings and reactions.  But sometimes I think I take that too far.  Maybe what they did, had absolutely nothing to do with me.  Maybe they were having a bad day (or six).  Actually, maybe the whole thing was nothing.

On the other hand it could be to do with me.  Now that’s getting confusing, isn’t it?  I guess the conclusion I’m coming to is that therapy is great (usually… and that’s another post I really must write) but we can take it too far.  We can turn everything into being about us, when actually it may have nothing to do with us.

I say lighten up, Cate.  If it was about me the person concerned can tell me and then I can decide if I need to do anything.  Meanwhile relax.  The whole world is not about me!

“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.” 

— Ellen Goodman

Play Nicely With The Other Kids

As a child I am sure I was told by my parents on many occasions to ‘play nicely with the other kids‘.  And that’s what I did.  Mostly.  I wasn’t one of the popular kids in the playground, but was one of the next tier down.  The middle of the road kids who were okay.  I had lots of friends, no real enemies except for the one class bully, and even her, I tried to be friends with.  I guess I wanted to be friends with everyone, rightly or wrongly, and pretty much, I achieved that.

It’s not an easy task to get along with everyone, and now to be honest, I wouldn’t be so open.  Now I’m more selective, but as I child I did what I was told to do.  What’s more, at that time as a young girl, I didn’t have a mental illness that contributed to how I ‘got along‘.  Now I do.

You don’t have to look very far on the internet to come across the sites that talk about what awful people those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are.  Those sites, which I’m not going to quote or name, will tell you that Borderline’s are really hard work to have in either your family or circle of friends.  Actually they probably warn you not to have Borderline’s in your circle of friends.  And do what you can to distance them from your family.  They’re simply too much work, and you’re just going to get hurt.  Sites by health professionals are also in abundance telling you that Borderlines are the worst patients you could have, and actually if you are a health professional, those sites would probably just tell you to steer clear of us Borderlines.

Those sites are ones that I purposely avoid, as they simply contribute to the large amount of stigma that exists toward Borderlines.  And actually, that is not what we need.  Apparently we have low emotional intelligence.  We are also impulsive and  aggressive.  We act like children and we are very sensitive to rejection.  Basically we are too hard work, and as a non-Borderline you would probably best to run a mile (or 100 miles) from us.

I’ve been aware of those attitudes to Borderlines for a long time, but have wondered how much of that I am seen to fit with.  I know BPD is a difficult illness to live with (for the person who has it!) but I’m not convinced there is the need for such strong feeling towards us.

I know that I don’t fit the classic mold of a Borderline.  My psychiatrist would go as far as saying that possibly I don’t have BPD.  I can’t afford to keep visiting psychiatrists until I get a definite answer, but so far BPD does seem to fit for me.

But while I played with everyone in the playground, and in my early adulthood was referred to as being a ‘people person’ who got on with anyone (and I mean anyone!),  now I start to wonder.  I’m too much of a recluse for a ‘people person’ anymore. I prefer my own company, and my own world.  I am an introvert naturally, but more and more I prefer being alone.  There are lots of reasons for that, and I admit that one is to do with repeatedly being let down by other people.

The people around me in my life actually don’t seem to want to be near me.  I’m not feeling sorry for myself, or having a pity party.  I just don’t get on with people as well as I did.  And those in my life seem more interested in distancing themselves from me.  We just don’t fit anymore.

Earlier this year I was victim of some lies told about me.  It was a situation where there was very little I could do about it.  I simply had to let it be, and hope that people worked out the truth in time.  I became quite paranoid, mostly because I didn’t know who had been told the lies.  I became very wary of people.  Another reason to withdraw, and I admit I found it hard not to do so.

I continue to be wary of people.  It’s hard to know who I can trust, and it’s hard to know who would choose to be on my side.  Would they bat for my team?  Somehow life has changed so that the people I thought would bat for my team, I suspect won’t anymore. And that is rather sad to find that those I thought would always be there have different lives and lifestyles from me, and we just no longer fit.  Time changes.  And time has changed me.  I choose to be alone, so much more than I did.  My own world knows my name, and I can be content there.  Can’t I?

Has BPD changed me?  Have the events in my life changed me?  Maybe it is the other people themselves that have changed, but then it’s always easier to blame the psych patient, isn’t it?  I don’t mean to accuse anyone of anything in this post, but rather I simply see that there has been a radical shift in my life.  I’m actually okay with the solitude I have now, but I do wonder what happened to the little girl in the playground who was friends with everyone.

“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.” 

― Albert Einstein

Christmas Resolutions

Image credit: By Kelvinsong, via Wikimedia Commons

Twas the night two days (in NZ) before Christmas… and all through the house world, not a creature was stirring (well, that’s just wrong!) and every Kiwi (and probably Australian too) was hard at work baking a pavlova (staple Christmas food Downunder).  Me?  I have no pav to bake, and my contribution to Christmas dinner can’t be made until the day.  So I’ve been writing and here’s my Christmas post…

You maybe thinking that I’m a week early on setting New Year Resolutions, as is the usual practise for many people.  I’m not though.  I don’t do New Year Resolutions because they never seem to last, and I never seem to be enthusiastic enough.  But as Christmas has approached I’ve realised that I’ve quietly been setting Christmas Resolutions instead.  The great thing about Christmas Resolutions, in case you didn’t know, is that they come bearing a little Christmas magic with them.  A perfect way to make sure they come true.

So here they are.  Completely unrelated, but of importance to me…

Image credit: Connie Bowen (used with permission)
Facebook: I Create My World: a Children’s Book of Affirmations

Christmas Resolution #1
I believe (again) in the magic of Christmas!

I admit that I gave up on the magic of Christmas a while back.  Actually, I had almost given up on any Christmas.  I didn’t enjoy it, couldn’t really see the point, and just hoped it would be over sooner rather than later… with as little pain as possible.  But actually, Christmas is kind of cool.  There’s the Christian Christmas Nativity story, which I’ll get to in a minute, but there is also Santa Claus and reindeers…

I’ve been watching a few Christmas movies lately, my favourite being the one my friend Kathy very kindly sent to me.  That is ‘Miracle on 34th Street‘.  It makes me sad when children, through the ideals of their parents usually, are taught to believe that Santa Claus is not real.  I think those children miss out, on a lot.  I think it’s good for children to use their imagination and experience such tales.

I can remember when local television stations used to track the progress of Santa around the globe.  What amazed me was just how Santa made it around the whole globe in just one night.  Well I understand that better now and it helps that some places don’t celebrate Christmas, so he can zip past those places.  But again, it is sad that those children (and adults) miss out on the magic of Christmas.

So what is this magic of Christmas.  I think we need to get away from it being about gifts and start to see it as being about spreading peace, joy and love around our whole globe.  If each person, adult and child, could have a piece of that this Christmas, then I think we’d be going a long way.  And if it could apply to the whole world, and not just those of certain religions, then that too would be a great move to seeing the world be kinder to each other.  Now I believe that is something Santa Claus would support.  Throw in a few reindeers, and a bit of mistletoe, and we’d be getting somewhere.

One more point on the magic of Christmas.  For a few years now I have been aware of a debate within the Christian church of whether the virgin birth (at Christmas) was really a virgin birth.  I was raised in a Christian home and spent a good chunk of my life as a practising Christian (although I’m not now).  The Christian story of Jesus’ birth was what I was raised with.  Santa Claus took a very definite second place, and I know that many people reading may also see it this way.

So what of this virgin birth?  Was Jesus’ mother really a virgin?  This is far from a theological stance(my argument would probably not hold up anywhere) but I’ve come to my own conclusion that if I can believe in the magic of Christmas, then I can believe in the virgin birth. Maybe it takes a little imagination, but imagination is a very good thing.  And why should we confine it to children believing in Santa? In my mind, it is sad when we limit our experiences to what we see as literal.

So yes, I believe in the magic of Christmas, including the virgin birth.

Christmas Resolution #2
I support the survival of the rhinoceros  (and I did tell you these were unrelated!!)

Image credit: Andrew McMillan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

It broke my heart a few weeks ago when I read that the black rhino as a species is now extinct.  Rhinos are wonderful animals.  In my mind they are part hippo, part dinosaur and part unicorn (yes, I did say unicorn).  That spells a wonderful mix.  The thought that we as human beings have killed off a species because ‘we’ wanted the ivory from their tusks, is a tragedy.  It’s happening to elephants too, another animal I like, but I won’t get side tracked.  Why can’t we salute the rhino?  Why can’t we put an end to the hunting, and celebrate the unicorn in the rhino.  That little bit of magic.  If you look closely you’ll probably see a rainbow too.

One species are extinct but we can’t afford to lose more.  As for me, I will do what I can to support their survival.  What about you?

Christmas Resolution #3
I must stop crossing oceans! 

This third resolution comes on the basis of the quote I read some months back and knew instantly that it was ‘my‘ quote for 2013.  Anyone else might read this quote and think “oh, that’s nice advice” but after this year, it is imperative that I get on board with it… and not on board a plane either.  I did something like 75 hours (there and back) of that before I learnt my lesson).

The quote is:

“There comes a point when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.”

I have no idea who uttered these wise words, but I’m sure they were speaking metaphorically, and not literally.  Only I could do this literally, crossing many, many oceans (and lands) before I read this quote. Sure, you can say I was in love and had my head in the clouds.  It’s true.  But from now on I check first on the ability of the person in question to ‘jump puddles‘.  I checked many things, but alas, I forgot to check whether he would jump a puddle for me.  Even if he’d lay down his coat in a puddle so I could walk over it (as I remember my Dad telling me that a gentleman would).

If they won’t jump puddles for me, my feet are staying firmly on kiwi ground.  And I expect them to jump big puddles too.

That’s the end of my resolutions.  There’s no point making so many that you can’t keep up.  New Year Resolutions are made to be broken, but these Christmas ones are firmly embedded in my mental ‘it’s happening‘ list.

So sit back, look out for Santa Claus and his reindeers flying past. Oh, and keep a very big eye out for any flying rhinoceros.  I think that would be a sight to see, but also one to perhaps avoid if you can.  Have a lovely Christmas.  Forget the stress of families and money and food (especially for those of us who battle eating disorders and know this time of the year is the absolute worst).  Have a little magic instead.  Have a little peace.

And while you’re about it, check out the wonderful Facebook page where I got the image from.  It is I Create My World: a Children’s Book of Affirmations  A big thank you to Connie for her permission to use her work.

“Christmas magic is silent. You don’t hear it—you feel it, you know it, you believe it.”

― Kevin Alan Milne, The Paper Bag Christmas

Christmas With Mental Illness

Cate Reddell:

My latest post on A Canvas of the Minds.

Originally posted on A Canvas Of The Minds:

CateIn my country of New Zealand, I think it’s fair to say that most people celebrate the occasion of Christmas, and that those who choose not to do so, don’t on religious or cultural basis.  There’s been a few years in my past when I have chosen not to celebrate Christmas, and that has been all about mental illness.

There was one year with my ex-husband where we chose to walk the streets of an unknown city, anything to pass the time until I would be admitted to a hospital there the next day.  We found out that year that not even McDonald’s is open on Christmas Day. We ate pies from a corner shop for Christmas dinner.  Another year we stayed at home, took the phone of the hook, and ignored the world.  To do otherwise would have been much for both of us.  It was simply a ‘normal…

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