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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It’s Been A While…

It’s been a while since I lasted posted.  Much longer than I had intended, but as you know, that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.  There has been a hard time of depression, which unfortunately still continues.  It’s difficult then to motivate myself into anything, and time has just passed without me being really aware of it.  It seems that when depression isn’t winning the war, then fibromyalgia is.  I seem to swing from one to the other, without as much as a break.

There have been two dilemmas pressing down on my desire to blog right at the moment.  The first is a simple case of needing to protect the privacy of those around me.  Mostly it is simple to disguise identity, but sometimes it is not so easy, especially when I write under my own name and people in my ‘real‘ life read my blog.  The result is that some issues just don’t get written about.  The people around me do not get a choice in whether I blog, so I must appreciate that, and leave them out of the equation as much as possible.  Sometimes it means no posts, and I avoid those topics completely.  It’s far easier than causing offence unnecessarily.  But often anonymity has its attractions.

The second dilemma has been a more difficult and painful one.  From the experience of being lied to, abused and manipulated, I find myself reluctant to ‘put myself out there‘.  While in the past I was willing to write pretty freely of my experiences and feelings, once I got slapped in the face (hard!) I am not quite so willing to be open.  Because the pain came initially through my blog, I think it’s natural that I need time to reassess.

What is it that I am willing to ‘put out there’?  What is it that I am able to share openly, while protecting my own need for safety?  How can I achieve my goal of wanting to write about mental illness recovery, without putting myself at risk of abuse?  These are the questions that I need to answer for myself, and if you have thoughts I’d love to hear them.  They’re difficult questions, especially once someone has broken the trust, and I might take a while yet to work out exactly what I want now.

Ultimately there is always risk when writing openly.  I know that, it’s just that I need to decide for myself how much risk I take.

So meantime…

Do I start posting recipes?

I don’t think so somehow.  While that might have been me 20 years ago (in my days as a foodie… I could afford to be one then), it’s not me now and I think I would die of shock if I found myself posting recipes.  All power to those who do, it’s just not me.

So…

How about I post pictures of my pets?  That usually goes down well, and personally I love seeing photos of pets.  So try this…

Meet my dog, Dixon.

Dixon

Dixon is 34 years old, and has yet to need to be taken for a walk, yet to need to be taken outside to ‘do his business‘.  He hasn’t even needed a trip to the vet.  Oh, except I think an eyebrow needing re-gluing but actually the vet wasn’t required for such a procedure.

While he gives excellent cuddles with a bit of encouragement, he will never wake me up with sloppy, wet kisses to my face.  While there are a few drawbacks to this kind of dog, you have to admit that 34 years for a dog is ‘going the distance‘.

My best friend at high school gave me Dixon, and he is named after her.  She had a similar dog (different colouring).  My friend died tragically in a car accident about 15 years ago, so still having Dixon now is very special to me.

Actually I’d love to have what you might call a ‘real dog’ but Council By-Laws in my city rule that out as an option right now, as it is a requirement to have your property completely fenced if you have a (real) dog.  That’s not something I can do, because of shared property ownership, but no one can object to Dixon.  My neighbours don’t even know he’s here. ;-)

Stay tuned for more pictures of pets, meanwhile I’ll get back to trying to work out just what is right for me in terms of blogging.

One final point.  I love you, my blogging friends.  Please don’t think I don’t.  It’s simply when one person spoils something, it takes work to find the will to trust again.  But I will find it, eventually.  And if you haven’t seen me on Facebook lately, I’ve been taking a break from there too.

“Laugh, even when you feel too sick or too worn out or tired. 
Smile, even when you’re trying not to cry and the tears are blurring your vision. 
Sing, even when people stare at you and tell you your voice is crappy. 
Trust, even when your heart begs you not to. 
Twirl, even when your mind makes no sense of what you see. 
Frolic, even when you are made fun of.
Kiss, even when others are watching.
Sleep, even when you’re afraid of what the dreams might bring. 

Run, even when it feels like you can’t run any more.
And, always, remember, even when the memories pinch your heart. Because the pain of all your experience is what makes you the person you are now. And without your experience—you are an empty page, a blank notebook, a missing lyric. What makes you brave is your willingness to live through your terrible life and hold your head up high the next day. So don’t live life in fear. Because you are stronger now, after all the crap has happened, than you ever were back before it started.” 

― Alysha Speer

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight…

My mood had been steadily declining as the week went on.  I had made a bargain with myself to get to Wednesday.  The fact that I had to make that deal with myself indicated in itself that things weren’t going well.  I got to Wednesday.  There was never any doubt that I would.  It was my niece L’s third birthday and I was hanging out for some ‘L-time’ and I admit it, I didn’t want to create a family crisis around her birthday.

L-time was perfect.  L, her father, her grandmother and I went out for coffee (and fluffy for L).  In a bit of a daze, having taken some extra meds to get through the day, L and I played with the toys she had with her… teddy, little monkey and Sally, not to mention the cafe’s range of toys available.  We were at a local cafe that had its buildings collapse in the 2011 Earthquakes, and now runs primarily outside (it’s spring here but they provide blankets for warmth in the winter and sun hats in summer).  There’s nothing unusual about that in post-quake Christchurch and it’s good when you have kids (and adults) who need a bit of space.  Oh, and delicious cake.  For local readers, visit Under the Red Verandah Cafe (a shameless piece of advertising).

Spending a few hours with L made a significant difference to my state of mind.  I mean it went from ‘I’m not coping‘ as I (strangely for me) posted on Twitter a few days before, to ‘I can do this‘.  I concluded once again that I must get myself into the presence of L when I feel that bad.  Do not stop, do not pass go… go directly to L’s home and have some quality time with my favourite person.

The thing is I came home feeling better but I still somehow posted this picture on my Facebook timeline that night (with no explanation):

sad_teddy_bear

Image credit: The DawgPoundFreeWeb
I have been unable to find more detail of image credit but would appreciate being advised accordingly if known.

I am not sure exactly why I posted it, but usually I am very careful about posting pictures or comments that could be disturbing and/or worrying to others.  I wasn’t thinking.  I posted it with a sense of being flushed down a toilet, or maybe jumping, and turned off the computer and went to bed.

By morning I could tell that a few friends were concerned about what I posted, but perhaps more so, I realised that for me, what I had posted was concerning.  Time with L hadn’t quite improved my state of mind as I thought it might.  I was still very depressed and struggling for hope.  Living one day at a time, although it had cut down to one hour at a time.  Time to admit there was a problem and get some help.  And time to apologise to to friends.

I guess the thing for me is that earlier in the week I had tried to ask for some help (twice)  from someone close to me, but they didn’t pick up on it.  Perhaps I wasn’t direct enough.  Perhaps there were just other things on their mind, but I had to accept responsibility for the need to keep asking until I got the help needed.  That’s something that is really hard to do with you’re depressed, hopeless and you’ve already tried without success.  You probably know that feeling too.

Yesterday I saw my doctor.  Actually he wasn’t my doctor (who was away) but a very good locum who I have seen on a number of times before, and trust more than my own doctor.  The first thing he picked up on was that last month’s lithium blood tests showed that I was only just in the therapeutic range.  He felt my meds should have been increased at that time the tests came back, considering that I was already showing as depressed at that time.

What worked for me was that I was heard.  The doctor heard that my mood was dropping by the week and that I needed some help.  I am terrified of returning to my years of hospital admissions, suicide attempts and self harm.  It was a never-ending cycle in one hospital door and out another.  I will do anything to avoid going back to that lifestyle (if I can call it that).  My mood might have dropped dramatically but I still had enough life in me to do anything I needed to do to avoid that.  My doctor acknowledged that, as he increased my medication.

I have also now been given six therapy sessions (free) which may help me deal with some of the family issues going on for me right now, and affecting my state of mind.  Meanwhile, today I am going out to see L.  ‘Therapy‘ of a kind for me, and her chance to show me her new scooter and balance bike (birthday presents).

Someone said ‘fall down seven times, get up eight‘.  I don’t know who but I know it’s true.  I just have to keep getting back up.  I know this is a recurrent illness and every time I get back up is another claim of hope that tomorrow will be better.

“Needing help doesn’t make you weak, in fact quite the opposite. It makes you strong, smart, resourceful, and realistic. Being prideful is a weakness. Asking for help when you know you’re in over your head is STRENGTH. Don’t ever forget that!”

 - Unknown

Back To Music (Therapy)

Today I turned back to music, because I was losing my grip and I know (when I remember) that when that’s happening the best thing for me is to turn back to music, my favourite kind of therapy.

In many years past, back in what must have been another life, music was my world and playing in an orchestra or singing in a choir was a way to guarantee that feel good factor.  It was a long time ago, but music still works if I give it a chance.  And so today I pulled out a movie soundtrack from the 1980′s.  It’s one that others have told me they find depressing, but for me it’s the opposite.  It lifts my spirits every time… and gives me some peace.  I don’t imagine that you’ll click on it, and that’s ok.  The music is for me, and if anyone else gets something from it, then that is a bonus.

It has been a really hard week, and while many times, I have sat down to write, the part of me that withdraws when I’m struggling pulled me back from writing.  I realise at the other end of the week that while friends tell me to reach out and ask for help, I simply don’t know how.  Does that sound crazy?

Logically I know it’s three words “I need help” but actually those words are so hard to say, especially when you’re used to being independent.  I’ve attempted it in different places a number of times but have come away silenced by my fears and insecurities.  I need to be very clear that I silenced myself, rather than anyone doing or saying anything to silence me.

For a number of reasons, right now I am struggling to know who to trust, even to know who is real.  I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly lately, and while the good still outweighs the rest, the worst of it colours my picture of the world and leaves me scared, even paranoid of who is really there for me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have some wonderful friends who have done their best to be here for me, but it’s me that keeps pushing them away because I simply don’t know who, if anyone, is trustworthy now.

I want to trust people again.  I want to know that people are good.  I want to believe that I’m not alone.  I need to know that the world is a good place, and that the good and pure-hearted will win out against the bad and the ugly.

This week I have been rapidly running out of hope.  That’s right, I’ve been running out of hope.  It’s been hard to see the point anymore.  Yesterday a dear friend offered to hold onto my hope for me, and that is exactly what I needed.  We agreed to hold onto hope for each other, and somehow that seems so much easier than doing it alone.  I am very lucky to have her gift.

So I keep going.  The overwhelming urge is to run to under  the covers of my bed.  There it feels safe.  There it feels that the bad and the ugly can’t get to me there.  There I have no need for the paranoia and the anxiety.  There is peace.  I know I can’t stay there 24/7 but just sometimes it’s the best place to be.

“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

An Anniversary I’m Not Celebrating

Twenty years ago this weekend, I dived off the platform into the murky waters of mental illness.  Twenty years!  It does seem like a long time ago, but twenty years?  That is a good chunk of my life down in those muddy waters, trying to hold my breath and not drown.  I celebrate that I didn’t drown, but twenty years?

I had won a weekend holiday in Queenstown (a tourist trap for kiwis and plenty of overseas tourists).  My boyfriend, D and I chose this particular weekend to take the trip because it had been my birthday during the past week, we had just got engaged the weekend before, and we both needed a break.  Over the past couple of months I had Glandular Fever (mononucleosis) and was still feeling pretty fatigued.  A weekend away (from Auckland where we were living then) was just what was needed.

The weekend started okay.  We flew to Queenstown and picked up a rental car.  We were feeling pretty lucky to have won this weekend because money was tight and it’s not something we could have afforded.  I had been off work for about six weeks and was only back part-time.

But life was pretty good.  I was a career girl in a job I loved, I had shifted to Auckland the year before and so had finally escaped the stalkers who had plagued my life.  I had good friends.  I owned my own home,  I was a committed Christian who was at church twice on Sundays, and most of all I loved the lifestyle I had.  But wow!  How life can change?  Twenty years on and I am a completely different person.

Back to our weekend away, I wasn’t really aware of anything but at one point D said to me that I had been really negative all day.  It wasn’t about anything specific, just everything.  I hadn’t realised but now that he mentioned it, I started to realise he was right.  So I stopped talking.  That seemed like the best way (at the time) to fix the problem but by the end of the day everything had got too much and we were back in our hotel room, me bawling on the bed.  For hours.  Once I started, I couldn’t stop.

D had no idea what was wrong, or even why I was crying.  Neither did I, really.  I just knew my life had crashed somehow and I couldn’t stop crying.  The glass in the mirror had shattered, and somehow I knew I couldn’t put it back together again.

And so began 20 years of mental illness.  It seemed my mental health had got on a plane to Queenstown, but didn’t come back.  First, I was diagnosed with Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Next, those two triggered Anorexia and that became a whole different ball game as not only my mental health but my physical health was under fire.  Much later came the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Adult Attachment Disorder.  It seemed like once it started, there was no stopping it.

As I said earlier, up until that weekend it seemed like I had life together.  Sure, bad things had happened in my life but I had held myself together and survived.  The thought that I would dive into the mental illness pond was the furthest thing from my mind.  It wasn’t anything anyone else seemed to expect for me either. My parents had only recently given me a birthday card which said “for the woman who has everything“.  I never thought of myself that way, but life was pretty good at that stage.  I assumed it would just go on that way.

But life has a way of surprising us, doesn’t it?  Really, I had a lot of things go wrong in my life and my strategy was to hold it all together, rather than deal with it.  The years of stalking had a price to pay, and now I know that when the trauma ends, that is the time the effects of it really hit.  Until then you’re just fighting for survival.  But I could finally relax.  Perhaps it was finally safe to let go and cry. But then I couldn’t stop.

I remember in the early days reading a book about a woman who had depression for two years.  I was appalled by the idea of two years of this hell.  I couldn’t consider I might be depressed for months, let alone years.

Contrary to popular opinion I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason.  I also don’t believe that, as I was taught as a child, I should be thankful for all things.  What I do believe though is that I can learn from all things.  I have learnt many things across that twenty years.  I have learnt that kindness and compassion extend to all people, regardless of who or what they are.

I’ve learnt a lot of things I’d rather not have learnt too.  But that’s how life goes.  We don’t always get to pick and choose.  I’ve seen a lot of things I’d rather not have seen.  I wouldn’t choose this route.  I would never choose mental illness over health and life, but having gone down that route I choose to let it be.

I finish with this thought.  For a (very) long time I wished for my life back.  I wished for a return to the ‘old days’.  I know that’s not going to happen now.  This is my life as it is.  That old life is gone and wouldn’t be relevant to me now anyway.  I went to Queenstown as one person, and came back as another.  If twenty years of mental illness has taught me one thing it’s to live one day at a time and accept what I have.  I won’t always have the answers to why, but I can just let it be.

“An infinite question is often destroyed by finite answers…To define everything is to annihilate much that gives us laughter and joy…If I try self consciously to become a person, I will never be one. The most real people, those who are able to forget their selfish selves, who have true compassion, are usually the most distinct individuals” 

― Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

I’ve Joined Canvas

I’m really happy to tell you that I have joined a great group of writers at A Canvas Of The Minds, a site used to write about  mental health, through different voices and different perspectives.  I’m going to use my voice to share one more perspective.

I will be writing different material for my Canvas posts, but will share with you the link when I do, so that you have the opportunity to read it too.

My first post (posted today), is about why I choose to blog using my real name rather than a pseudonym.  I know that’s quite different than a lot of bloggers.  I’m sure you’ll find it interesting and…  You’ll find it here.

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’ 
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” 

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Sliding Scales (Actually Quite Good Considering)

Sometimes bad is relative.  Good is too, when I stop and think about it.  But lately it has been hard to focus on anything beyond the bad.  Not just one issue, but several, all combined to create bad.

For a moment there I considered packing my bag and moving out to my brother’s farm.  There’s ‘no room at the inn’, other than the cow shed (which is small and breezy… this is after all, a mushroom farm and not a cattle farm!).  I was still seriously tempted.  The reason of course, being my darling niece L, who kindly gave me a few hours stress relief the other afternoon.  The only problem was that I needed more.  That said, I recognise for all parents out there that I might be being slightly unrealistic in thinking that living with a two-year old could be stress relief.

Still, a few hours of feeding L’s doll (it is still beyond me how one can feed a doll and it poops out the other end!) and chatting to her Dad was a very good remedy for what had been mounting symptoms of stress.  After a few days of that tight feeling across the chest, and breathlessness, I realised I needed to do something fast.  And so the trip to visit L.

L is, of course, a very healthy stress relief but I admit that this week not all relief has been healthy.  No, I’m not sharing the details.  Surely though, some things are less bad than others (I know that is terrible English but it’s warranted).

Put bluntly there are two things I am trying to avoid happening, in terms of where my brain goes.  The first is suicidal thoughts and the second is the ‘need’ to self harm.  If I can avoid those two, then I am relatively happy with whatever it takes.  And you’ll be happy to know I have avoided both.  Actually, in spite of being what I consider as addicted to self harm in the past, it has been the furthest thing from my mind.  I simply have no desire to go there.  Wow!  Even when I stop to think of what I need to avoid, I still find I have no desire to go there.  Everything else aside, I am so happy to have got to a point in my life where I can say this.

As for suicidal thoughts, I haven’t gone there this past week either and again, that is a major victory.  This past week I have (almost) been able to accept (or at least acknowledge) my despair, my anger, my hurt and my loneliness (and I’m not talking about needing a partner, I’m talking about feeling apart from people when I don’t want to be).  I could ‘be‘ with those feelings, and not think that I needed to destroy myself.  Don’t get me wrong, none of this has felt very nice but I haven’t slipped straight into destruction mode as I usually do.

So why the difference?  Well, to be totally honest with myself I’m talking about the last week, and I have no idea of what the next week will entail.  That said, I realise that I am a good person.  I realise that just because others do me wrong (and yes, they have done me wrong!), it does not make me any less of a person.  And perhaps most of all, I realise that at some stage (who knows when?) I will get through this.  I will heal.

There’s so much truth to those three words I will heal.

When all those bad feelings dominate my life it is almost impossible to tell myself the truth, that I will come out the other side.  When I’m depressed, I don’t even care about ‘the other side’ because I simply can’t see that far.  Maybe right now I’m not so much depressed as very badly hurt several times over.  Maybe that’s why I can see that I will heal, in time.

Meanwhile I keep up my stress relief.  So some of it may not be as healthy as it could be, but it’s kept me alive and physically unharmed.  That has to be a good thing.  I’ll worry about the rest when I get to a point beyond the hurt.  It is going to happen, and while I wish I never was hurt in the first place, I know that I will heal and grow.  If I could just keep telling myself that, then I’d be fine.  But I might need a few more visits with L because after all, I’m only human.

I just wish that humans could treat each other better.  It would avoid all this need for healing.

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” 

― Martin Luther King Jr.

Disappointed By Humanity

It sounds serious, doesn’t it?  Disappointed by Humanity. But I can’t really complain.  According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I have all that I need.  I have food, I have shelter and I have clothing.  I have a lot of other things rated on his Hierarchy, so I have little reason to complain.  And one thing that has struck me very firmly in the past few days is that a lot of people have it a whole lot worse than me.  I have every reason to be thankful.

But I have been thinking recently after saying in recent posts that I have been going through a period of depression.  I’m not so sure it is depression after all.  It feels a little different from other times, and while I haven’t headed to my doctor to get his opinion (he’s not usually that interested in either my symptoms or in giving his opinion, so why would I waste my money?), I have been thinking it through.

If it’s not depression, then what is it?  It could be sadness, and I’m not sure where one draws the line between sadness and depression.  But I know that I have been very sad.  Day after day.  So maybe it’s that.

Then I started thinking about the ‘great’ DSM-V (the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.) which came out in May, 2013.  I’m not fanatical enough to start wading my way through that but I know there are a few new ‘disorders’ that get a mention in this latest version.

Grief, for example.  Some people claim that grief is now a separate disorder in itself, rather than previously be recognised under Major Depressive Disorder.  Now there is a two-week cut off.  Somehow after two weeks, we are meant to have moved on from our grief, and so I guess anyone still grieving is regarded as having depression.  The key indicator in my small search was that “The grieving individual typically maintains the hope that things will get better”  I presume that if they switch over that two weeks, then they lose hope and fall into depression.  Really?  Hmm.

I admit that it is well over two years since my father died suddenly.  Yes, I said two years, not two weeks.  I still grieve for my father.  Right now I am missing him terribly and would love one of his hugs, let alone a long chat about… well, everything.  Dad was my best friend.  Interestingly he became a better father to me as I became an adult, than when I was a child.  As a child he wasn’t there.  He was pursing his career, vocation, calling or simply his desire to help people.

I don’t imagine I am going to simply stop grieving for a man who made such a difference in my life.  A man who taught me what life was about, and perhaps more importantly, what mattered.

So back to the DSM-V and I admit I’m not sure then, when to diagnose grief or depression in terms of Dad.  They don’t make it easy.  I guess that’s what doctors are paid for.  Not mine though.  He’s there to take my blood pressure, ask me how my mother is (also a patient of his) and send me on my way.  And no, I’m not in the least bit skeptical and dissatisfied with this ‘service’.  And if you believe that, well… another post.

But anyway… I’m still not clear about what is going on for me right now.  Until I had this thought… disappointment is a large factor in how I’ve been feeling.  I am disappointed by many things, how I get treated sometimes (like doctor’s, for example), disappointed when a friend lies to me, disappointed when I suspect others have been less than truthful with me, disappointed when others don’t treat their animals they way I think they should, disappointed by having a hope and a dream and having it whipped away, disappointed when I see my friends being hurt terribly, disappointed by seeing bureaucracy (manned by people) disregard the needs of residents still trying to recover in a quake damaged city.  Yes, I’m disappointed and mostly by humanity.  People let me down.  They might not let me down personally but the way they act towards either me, or other people/creatures who matter to be lets me down.

My mother always used to tell me that my standards were too high.  It was a criticism.  Maybe she was right (but please don’t tell her I said that!) but I always thought she should be grateful if her daughter had high standards.  I think  my father had high standards and that is perhaps where I got it from.  But he had the ability to let it go when people disappointed him.  He had sufficient compassion to let their humanity be.  I don’t find that so easy, and I guess that is one of the things I would dearly love to chat to him about now.

My high standards are about how I treat other people.  That’s where I slip up.  I’m certainly far from perfect and I too, let people down, but like I said in my last post (I Want To Change The World) , I tend to treat people the way I would want to be treated.  Is that so wrong?  Surely not.

My only conclusion is that I need the APA to revise their DSM-V again and this time include a new disorder, Disappointed By Humanity.  It’s not quite the same as depression, but certainly framed by sadness and a difficult in finding joy in life.

I don’t feel the need to have masses of mental illness diagnoses (although I already have a few to my name) but they are helpful personally to understand exactly what is going on inside this head and heart of mine.  Save for a long chat with Dad (which I can’t see is going to happen), this is the only way I can see for moving forward.

“Joy is sometimes a blessing, but it is often a conquest. Our magic moment help us to change and sends us off in search of our dreams. Yes, we are going to suffer, we will have difficult times, and we will experience many disappointments — but all of this is transitory it leaves no permanent mark. And one day we will look back with pride and faith at the journey we have taken.” 

― Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

A Soul Craving Music

In the last week, or so, I have discovered that my soul is craving music again.  It’s so long since I’ve had that need, that I hardly remember it, and I certainly have little idea of what to do about it.  It’s completely unexpected. It just came from nowhere, that I need to listen to music (I mean really listen) and even more, I need to make music again.

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” 

— Victor Hugo

The music inside me, and the desire to make music, went a very long time ago.  As my life fell into a deep depression many years ago, I found tha,t if anything, music just made it all worse.  It was worse because music draws out emotion for me, and I couldn’t bear what it was drawing forth.  Music was not just a noise in the background.  It spoke right to my heart, even more so when I made my own music.  I had to silence it.  I did for a very long time.

Music was always an important part of my (previous) life.  I learnt instruments from the age of about seven.  First the recorder, then piano, guitar, flute and voice.  I was never going to be a virtuoso.  I didn’t put in enough practice.  I wanted to play because I could and lacked the discipline to excel.  I studied music right through school and by high school was in every choir, orchestra or event going.

While my parents encouraged, and paid for, the music lessons they didn’t support my desire to excel further in voice. I always felt sad about that because when I sang, my heart opened.  It was a feeling I didn’t get anywhere else.  I continued in my own way by being heavily involved in music as what I’ll call a practising Christian.  The music was largely the reason I went to church.

When my mental illness started to kick in, the desire for music dropped out.  I also stopped going to church shortly after, and so again, the music went out of my life.  Actually I couldn’t bear to listen, let alone play music.  That was all aggravated further when I had my flute stolen soon after I got sick.

Any musician will understand that I loved the flute I had.  I loved the sound I got from it.  Now I had a new flute, purchased only because the Insurance company insisted, but it didn’t give me the same sound quality.  That was about 18 years ago, and I haven’t played my flute since.  As for my voice, it has largely remained quiet too.  I’ve sung at a few special weddings, but that’s it.  It was simply too hard, to let that sound out.

So now the desire returns.  It’s a little strange after all this time.  I listen to music, carefully chosen, and it brings emotion to surface.  I hear music and it reminds me of events, places  and people.  More so though, it brings to the surface feelings about those events, places and people.  It’s not a bad thing either.  It feels good, and so I listen to more.

The desire to make music is back even more strongly.  I’m not sure I can bring my flute out from the back cupboard.  After so long of no practice I hate to think how it would sound, and I’d still be disappointed by the tone of my ‘new’ flute.  But I’d like to sing again.  And not just in the car to make myself look ridiculous in the traffic.

Church music is no longer for me, although it will always have a special place in my heart because of the extent to which I was involved in it.  A few days back I was watching a Youtube clip of a friend’s son who was singing in a Jazz Band.  It was only short because his performance was interrupted by the Cook Strait earthquakes last Sunday (yes, it does seem that there is always an earthquake in New Zealand).  What I listened to left me with a ‘I’d love to do that‘ feeling.  I don’t know how or when, but I’m open to what comes my way.

My soul wants to sing again, and so it shall.  Music is, and has always been, about expression for me.  I need to express what is inside again.

And to express my mood about all this, is one of my long time favourites.  Maybe out of left field, but my music tastes are wide.  Close your eyes and listen.  It’s wonderful.

Awake my dear. 
Be kind to your sleeping heart. 
Take it out into the vast field of light 
and let it breathe.

~ Hafiz 

Remembering Who I Am

It is difficult, to almost impossible, to remember who I am when struck with depression, or indeed, anything that takes my mental health off an even keel.  Any number of the issues caused by the mental illnesses which plague me at times, make me forget just who Cate Reddell is.  That in itself is sad, although usually, at the time I admit I am not aware of it happening.

I become a shadow of me.  Maybe the clothes are left on the body, but the body is gone.  The face might be there but the happiness in the smile and the life in the eyes are nowhere to be seen.  If you only know the ‘surface’ me, you could get away with thinking I am still completely there.  But those few who love me and really know me, know that this is simply a shell of who I am.  Mental Illness has stolen from them, who I am.

The recent weeks have been difficult for me, as I have told you previously.  I have felt sad, lonely, depressed, jealous, angry and even at times, bitter.  Those feelings have been what have made who I have been in that time.  They have crowded out any feeling of being loved, happy, grateful…  and maybe a little bit silly.  Today I am reminded that these later feelings symbolise who I am when my mental illness gives me the chance.

I still feel sad, but not plagued by it.  I have seen a glimpse of the real me again, and I welcome her back.  It doesn’t mean the hard days are over.  They’re not.  I have more to work through.  I’m quite clear on that, but they don’t have to rule my life.  I can let ‘me’ shine again.

It has been said before that I can be a little bit ridiculous.  It’s true.  Actually when either alone, or in the company of people I know truly love and accept me, I can be totally ridiculous.  But let me be clear. I don’t see myself as ridiculous, or even just silly.  I’m just being me.  But I acknowledge that I can be seen this way, and that in the past I have lost some important relationships, because those people were unable to understand this side of me.

I so wish those people had celebrated the ridiculous in me, because it is worth celebrating.  It’s not only who I am but it’s who I once was, perhaps even as a little girl (when it was allowed).  But adults (particularly) have (in my opinion) a bad habit of knocking the ridiculous out of the child, let alone the adult who tries to display that trait.  In an extreme attempt, doctors tried to knock it out of me with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) (see On Being A Little ‘Weird’).  Shame on them.

To give you an example of the ridiculous I am referring to, in the past few days I have changed my personal Facebook profile picture to that of an Okapi.

Image credit: Wikipedia.com

An Okapi, so I have learnt, was initially thought to be a magical, mythical creature assembled from the best parts of the other animals around it.  I like that.  I could also see immediately, that by its physical resemblance, I could liken it (a small way, at least) to having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  My thinking comes from our susceptibility to take on the personality traits of the people we are with.  We do that because of our unstable sense of self.

But in my ridiculous thinking I became concerned for this particular Okapi, and this is what I wrote on Facebook a few nights ago:

“Don’t you feel a little sorry for him?”

(Reply by a friend) “I do. I think he must have some kind of identity crisis going on looking like that. What he needs to do is embrace the fact that he is different and be proud of it.”

“I totally agree. I was thinking he might need some therapeutic help to embrace his individuality. Either that or perhaps positive affirmations. My real worry is whether he might be victim to bullying for being a little different from the crowd. That’s why I have adopted him as my FB profile friend. Anything to support him.”

I recognised immediately just who of my friends could recognise, and appreciate, the ridiculous Cate.  That made the post infinitely worthwhile in itself.  Friends like that will always be treasured.

Why am I telling you this? Because for some weeks I had forgotten how to be the ridiculous Cate, and I realised that this was almost more sad than the depression itself.  That person is who I am.  When I’m depressed it is impossible to remember how to be me.

Does anyone else notice that I can’t be me?  I’m not sure.  I suspect that the few who know me really well, and love me in spite of my silliness, can see if I am just trying to mimic her, but I also suspect that to most of the world, they think they are just seeing me.  That too, is sad.

I read a this statement today:

Image credit: Facebook  – Bliss Sisters

I love that, and it’s what I’m going to try to do.  Maybe if I work hard enough on it, I can drive away the depression.  I am still me, mental illnesses and all, but it doesn’t have to be all of me.  There is much more to me than mental illness… thankfully.

“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”

~Elizabeth Gilbert