Uncharted Territory

“Life is uncharted territory. It reveals its story one moment at a time.”

Leo Buscaglia


When I was first dealing with mental illness, I found myself in a world where people wanted to know about my feelings. Feelings? I thought myself an intelligent person, but feelings were something I knew nothing about. Actually, I knew so little that I thought I was being asked what I thought.

I don’t remember  ever talking about feelings in my family while I was growing up. Actually, I’m pretty sure that we simply didn’t talk about how we felt. Even into my adult years, my parents would never talk about how they felt, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that feelings were simply not an issue for discussion.

When I found myself in the offices of doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists, they all wanted to know how I felt. And I had no idea. How I felt simply did not register with me.

In time I found myself able to explain what was happening for me using imagery. I could paint a word picture, and if the health professional had the time to listen, I was able to arrive, through the imagery, at what I was feeling.

I was depressed (apparently). I simply knew there was something very wrong. Even now, after many years of therapy to unearth my feelings, perhaps my first sense, when my mental health is on a downward spiral, is that there is something very wrong. I’m just not that sure what it is.

Using imagery I would eventually arrive at fear. Yes, I was terribly afraid.  I felt like I had fallen off a very high cliff face. I had no idea where I was. And as I fell, I wondered where I would land. It was uncharted territory.

In my mind, this cliff face was in the Waitakere ranges, west of Auckland. I lived in Auckland for a time during my childhood and later as my mental illness was revealing itself. I had childhood memories of walking in the Waitakere’s with my father and brothers. I always felt very safe with them, even on days when we might end up a little bit lost. I don’t remember there being any great rock faces from which I might fall, but my mind’s image was clearly here.

The problem when you fall, you often can’t see where you are or what is above or below. You don’t know whether you have landed at the bottom and so can’t fall any further, or whether you have landed on a ledge. And you don’t know whether the ledge you might be on, might give way and you fall further.

With depression, I found myself falling often. I would think it was rock bottom, and it couldn’t get any worse. But then, worse would come and I would be falling again. I thought I couldn’t possibly feel any worse. I couldn’t feel any more despair. But I did. Over and over.

That’s why Penny Redshaw’s (of Motivating Giraffe fame) drawing hit a note with me. It was my experience of living with depression.

Image credit: Penny Redshaw,  Facebook/Pics by Penny

Thankfully, I’m not at the bottom of a very big cliff called Depression right now. But I do feel like I’m being dangled over the top of a cliff, and I am very scared terrified of what might happen next. At the moment my doctor (who doesn’t know me very well) and a psychiatrist (who doesn’t know me at all but has somehow ‘assessed’me without me being present!) have decided between them that I should come off lithium, a medication I had previously been told I would need to be on for my lifetime. The doctor has asked what I think but basically ignored my both my thoughts and my fears. It’s happening anyway.

So back to word imagery, I feel like I am being dangled over this very big cliff by these two doctors. There has been a fence (its’ name was lithium) which protected me from a fall but that’s gone and my toes are over the edge. I am currently clinging onto the few bits of greenery, the odd tree also clinging to the edge. I hope they will have strong enough roots to hold me safe (think skills I learnt in the years of therapy which might, if I am lucky, hold me fast to my well-being). Will it all be enough?

I don’t know. And if I fall, I don’t know whether it will be a ledge on which I land or the bottom. I don’t know how hard I will land.


As I said, I just don’t know. We never know. With a physical illness, there is often some sort of chart, maybe just a pamphlet or maybe a book, to tell us what to expect.Sometimes it’s called a prognosis. That’s not the case with mental illness. We never know what will come next. That’s just one of the reasons why we need our friends who are on a similar journey. They ‘get’ that uncharted territory can be a scary place to go.

Stay tuned. Hopefully, I’ll be able to grab a passing tree root to stop the fall.

Thanks for reading






Image credit: தகவலுழவன் (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Please Don’t Mess With My Meds

WARNING: This post does not contain the hope that might usually be found in my blog. I’m sorry about that, but I have to be real. I hope (yes, really) that ‘normal’ service may resume soon.

It’s pretty simple. Just don’t mess with my meds.

Don’t change anything, don’t add anything, don’t stop anything. That should be simple enough, shouldn’t it?

It’s like a huge cauldron of… smoke. Me.

Yes, smoke ( see the image above). The fire beneath burns red through the hot coals. You might not be able to see the coals, but I can. I can see them and I can feel them. They will burn me in their wake and if you get too close, they will burn you.

But the smoke? It looks innocent enough but will strangle, suffocate and kill you and me both. Even at a distance.

Did you read my last post? If you did you will know that I just experienced lithium toxicity (it’s not an experience I would recommend). That is, too much lithium in my blood.

Beyond what I wrote in that post, I was sent home from hospital to detox. That involved coming off the lithium, cold turkey. The withdrawal wasn’t too bad, perhaps because the symptoms of toxicity were pretty awful and over-rode absolutely anything else.

But that wasn’t the end of this issue. Nearly a month later…

I went back onto lithium and have suffered for the decision. Now, I have had two times when lithium toxicity was thought to be the issue resulting in some major physical symptoms, and a total of four changes in lithium dose.

This week my doctor suspected I was toxic again, but after more blood tests finally concluded (yesterday) that I wasn’t. My levels were simply ‘too high’ and I needed to come off lithium again.

I’m struggling to keep up with this,so I will completely understand if you are too.

The whole time what is most on my mind is my mood. When the doctors are most worried about my medical condition, and getting the lithium out of my kidneys. Yes, I get that is important, but my worry is my mental health. Four changes in dose of any drug for your mental health and you might just be reeling too.

It’s when people start messing with my meds that my mental health is what pays.

And now I’m paying. My mental health seems to be dropping by the day and perhaps the biggest thing addressed in my blog – hope – is nowhere to be seen.

Hope is replaced by irritability on a good day, and sheer raging anger (mostly contained internally) on the other days.

Hope is replaced by a belief that I am now completely alone. Everyone in my life has gone, or so it seems.

Hope is replaced by thoughts (but not plans or actions yet!!!) of self-destruction.

And of course, hope is replaced by paranoia. Somehow I have annoyed everyone in my life, and they hate me, so they have either left me (yes, alone again) or despise me.

Hope is replaced by depression (of the sad and angry type right now – no tears yet)

Hope is replaced by nothing. Void.

About a week ago I have to admit that I came scarily close to keying someone’s car. Yes, that’s right. I was going to take a key and run it down the side of this car, leaving hundreds of dollars of damage in my wake. For at least a moment, I didn’t care.

That’s not me! I have never vandalized anything before in my life, but I was so close to doing it. I didn’t. Somehow I woke myself up from a bad dream and walked away, relieved but more than a little bit shaken.

I have been here before.

Not the vandalism, but the Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) taking over my functioning. It is perhaps most likely that the symptoms of these mental illnesses rear their ugly heads when people are messing with my meds (my physical AND pyschotropic).

Across the last 13 years I have tirelessly taken my prescribed medication every day. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t take the medication prescribed simply because I was terrified that if I missed a day, then I would go back to the psychiatric hell that was 1993 to 2003.

I had been told in 2003 that I would have to take two medications (particularly) for the rest of my life. One was lithium. I believed the doctor.

After my experience of (particularly) the last month, and admittedly some other problems I have had with the drug over the 13 years, it has been recommended that I come off lithium permanently.

The only problem I have with this is that the doctors involved seem only interested in my medical well-being. Sure, that is a major issue but my desperate desire not to return to what was the pit of hell for me, is a much greater issue for me. I don’t want to put my life at risk, and that is what it will involve. I know it.

The doctors treating me now didn’t know me when I was in that pit. Perhaps they think I am exaggerating how bad it was. I am terrified in the possibility I could go back.

When people (yes, doctors) mess with my meds, they have to consider ALL the consequences, and they have to be listening to ME. I know myself better than they do.

Of course I know that the worst may not happen if I come off lithium completely, but I have to do my darnedest to protect myself from the possibility. I would be crazy not too.

We would all be crazy to not do this when changes to our health regime are made.

Thanks for reading!



To See A Light That Shines

Source: To See A Light That Shines

“For me, and maybe for you, if you’re in a similar situation, it became harder to let my light shine as I got older. As my mental illness took over, it became a life and death battle to keep that light shining. Depression wanted to suck the life out of my flame. It wanted to kill the spirit within me. It wanted to change, and even murder, who I was. Actually, there were times when Depression, Anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder did a good job.”

To See A Light That Shines is my latest post on A Canvas of Minds…

Stigma Via Health Professionals

This is my latest post for A Canvas Of The Minds. It was posted yesterday. I apologise for my lateness in sharing.

“Am I alone with this? Have you been on the receiving end of stigma from health professionals, be it general health or mental health?  How have you handled it and what effect has it had on the overall treatment of your health issue? If it isn’t something you have experienced, how would you handle it if you came across such stigma?”

Read on at: Stigma Via Health Professionals

Thanks for reading




Love Doesn’t Cure Mental Illness

This week, not surprisingly, there has been a whole lot of talk on our screens about mental illness and suicide.  Having those subjects ‘out there‘ is a good thing, but I can’t deny that unwise words and ill-formed arguments have not helped anyone, most especially those personally affected by the tragic death of Robin Williams, and also importantly, those people struggling with their own mental illness battles and suicidal thoughts.

I read a lot that I really wish I hadn’t read, but one article I came across perhaps summed up the issues for me more than ever.  I have shared that article in several places but if you haven’t seen it I urge you to read the wise writings of Molly Pohlig:

When the Illness You Live With Becomes Breaking News
(I Bet Robin Williams Knew He Was Loved. Unfortunately, Love Doesn’t Cure Mental Illness)

One thing we perhaps know from this week, is that fame, fortune, a great sense of humour, laughter, family and perhaps above all, love does not cure mental illness.  Robin Williams appeared to have all these things.  Depression is not magically spirited away by the possession of such things, and the struggle with suicidal thoughts is not relieved.  Oh, that it could be.  Wouldn’t it be great if mental illness was so easy?

If love were enough, my depression would have been cured years ago.

If love were enough, along with maybe a plate of my favourite food of course,  then perhaps my Anorexia would never have got the dangerous point it did, not to mention halting the permanent damage it did to my body.

If love were enough, I wouldn’t have struggled with chronic suicidal ideation for so long, several times plunging my body close to death.

If love were enough just maybe Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) would never have become the major stumbling block in my life that it is.

And perhaps finally, if love were enough then Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) would have been cured.  But then for me PTSD was triggered into a perhaps worse state by the presence of love in my life.  Now that’s confusing if you believe love will solve all.

Love certainly made the last 20 years of my life better than it would have been without it, but only because in spite of the pain I was in, I knew someone cared and perhaps I wasn’t quite as alone as I felt.

But love didn’t fix the pain for me.  It didn’t cure my mental illness.  I had a family surrounding me who loved me.   It was hard for them to know that their love couldn’t fix me.  I guess that hurt like hell.

As I have said before (An Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree), I tried very hard to prove for myself that my family didn’t really love me.  They did.  I can’t deny that.  Some of them (at least) probably thought they could help me if they could just love me a bit more and provide for the needs I had.  Maybe to sit down with me and watch a Robin Williams’ movie to make me laugh for a while.  I should say that just because I might laugh, doesn’t mean I am cured either.

I had friends who loved me, and though I tried very hard to push them away, some of those people are still my friends today.  No, they didn’t cure me, but they’ve stayed in for the long haul.  Mostly they simply kept being there.  But that didn’t cure me.

And then there was my marriage where for years a dedicated and caring husband tried harder than you could imagine to love my suffering away.  No one could fault him for the effort he made during what were the worst years of my suffering.  Strangely, the more he loved me, the more I kicked up my heels and pushed him away.  He loved me so much yet it wasn’t enough to save or cure me.  In the end was a broken marriage and still a mentally ill woman.

Why?  Obviously this is just my opinion but I think the reason my ex-husband’s and others’ love, weren’t enough to cure my mental illness was because:

I knew that I was unlovable

It wasn’t that I felt unlovable, but that I knew I was unlovable.  It is that certain.  I knew in my heart.  From my earliest days I knew I was unlovable, and actually I would go so far as to say that I knew this before I was born.  That might seem extreme and you’ll have to do without the reasons this time.  Some things are too private.

All the love around me meant nothing to me because I knew that it couldn’t be real, and I knew that eventually I would prove it to be false.  There was no way (in my mind) that those people really could love me like they said.  It just wasn’t possible.  I knew.

It’s certainly not the fault of the people who tried to love my mental illness away.  They didn’t understand that their love meant little because I was unlovable.  I couldn’t have explained it if I tried and so instead, the more they loved me the more of a fake I felt.  The more guilty I felt for not getting well.  This was not something any of them could fix.  It just was.

While I needed the love they were offering,  it was never going to be enough to cure my mental illness.  I can’t speak for others and I don’t pretend to.  This post is about me, and not the thousands who suffer from mental illness.  I can’t say if more love would have saved Robin Williams’ life.  In spite of many contrary opinions voiced this week, I believe that only he could have said what, if anything, could save his life.  And I suspect that he, like me, didn’t know if anything could cure us.

Mental illness affects different people differently.  And what is needed to cure it, if indeed that is possible, varies. To generalize simply isn’t fair on anyone.  I simply know that love was never going to cure me.

Thank you to those who tried to make love enough.  I am lucky to have you on my side and I’m sorry if I disappointed you.  There was nothing wrong with your love, it just was never going to be enough.

I saw a meme yesterday which said that love can cure everything.  I don’t believe that.  If only it were so easy.

“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”

― Elizabeth Wurtzel


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.


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 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):

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

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

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