Life Beckons!

Cold! The pre-dawn beckons the day.

Splat! The cat flies, landing near my face, “Let me in! It’s cold out here.”

Brisk! The early morning walk to remove the cobwebs of sleep.

Golden. The hue around the pre-dawn moon, promising warmth but unable to deliver.

Grey. The pre-dawn sky, paler as the day advances.

Blue. Peeping through as the sun peeps over the horizon.

Awesome! A day full of promise…

 

Have an absolutely fantastic Monday!

Reflection June 2014

Hmm, as I write this, I have no idea of its title or direction. My only feeling is an absolute need to write.
As anyone who has followed my blog will know, I have battled my personal demons for many years. Sometimes I am the winner, sometimes depression has the upper hand. I find that I constantly have to consider my checks and balances and constantly have to tell myself that what I am feeling may or may not be real.

For the most part, I am going very well. I have a much lesser reliance on anti-depressants and generally am content. And after many years of wallowing, I am pleased to say that life is mostly happy!

So what brings this frame of mind? This week I have been challenged multiple times by work. Interestingly I have support, significant support for my opinions and mind-set but that has not stopped the 2AM churning of the mind, the wakefulness when all I really crave is sleep, the mindfulness when all I really crave is peace.
I have a great deal of respect for my manager, L, and have discussed the reasons for my feelings with her and she agrees with the way I feel. I understand that I should find comfort from this; instead for the most part I cannot find peace. I wake up in the morning and my face is sore; clenched teeth from thinking, the cause.
I have always called the feelings that I am experiencing now my princess genes; that is the part of me that experiences an over whelming feeling of self-righteousness, a strong sense of indignation that I am right and there is no other perspective. This ‘gene’ has gotten me into trouble for many, many years. It does not matter what evidence is presented to me, my mind has been set…

I understand that this is destructive and that just a small compromise or consideration that there is another perspective would make a huge difference to me but I can’t bring myself to accept that reality. Until I do, I guess I will continue to have a sore face. 🙂

On June 30th I will be five years since my breast cancer diagnosis. At that stage, I guess I will be considered cured. That is an interesting feeling for me. I have, since diagnosis defined myself, at least in part, as a breast cancer survivor. It is interesting as in my heart I do not consider myself defined by breast cancer, but in my head, I can’t define myself without it.

Having said that, depression defines me much more strongly than cancer ever has. Though I am comfortable to speak about cancer and my feelings about it, I rarely speak about depression. I believe that is because when I announced to the world that I had cancer, people came from far and wide to wrap their arms around me, support me, love me and make sure I had what I needed. When I announce that I have depression, I am considered brave, foolish (or both). I am considered somehow to have control. With cancer, there was no consideration that I had control over my illness or its course. But with depression, I hear people saying, “Get over it,” “Be thankful,” “Take control.” I can only say it’s not as easy as that.

I often feel judged because of depression. I consider that it seen as a weakness. Sometimes I wonder whether I am my own harshest critic and the judgement is not there at all. I understand that my desire for perfection significantly colours my acceptance of my weaknesses and that probably depression should be given a much smaller partition in my life than it actually occupies.

I now have a number of routines in place that help me to minimise the impact of depression. Each day, the first is a walk with Crash (woof) who is sitting by me now saying, “C’mon mum! Our walk is more important than what you are doing.” I think he is probably right!

Insidious

Depression fronts unannounced, uninvited, unwelcome and insidious. It pervades first of all in little ways; I concentrate hard to see the good, the light and the joy but there is always that tinge, that sadness that dampens the eyes first and then the spirit.

I am sitting at my computer, knowing full well that it is time to write. Overwhelmingly, I need to write. I previously diarised my recovery from depression. For the most part, what I wrote was what I had felt while depressed and I wrote when I felt well. There were a number of reasons for my reticence in writing when I was depressed, not the least of which was that I needed to feel in control and when I am feeling in control, it is much easier to write positively.

For me depression never came from a specific event. It came from feeling and caring too much about things, I guess from being too sensitive. I don’t just take on board my own stressors; I take on the stressors of those around me and of the world in general. And at times, my stress pot just boils over into depression. I have an overwhelming need to fix everything for everyone around me. Surprise, surprise, that sets me up for failure because some things just can’t be fixed and some people just don’t want to be helped.

I have never felt as conflicted by work as I do now. What goes down, from an organisational perspective has messed with my closely held core values for an extended time now. Unfortunately at 55 and having worked in the same narrow field for more than 35 years, I find it difficult to see a viable alternative. There have been times when I wished that I had been told that I was no longer required by the organisation so that the choice would be taken away from me.

Choices are hard to see and decision making is definitely impaired when I feel like this.

It’s not just me feeling the stress of the workplace; without doubt my team and the people we interact with feel the pressure too. So we are all a little less reasonable with each other and we have all retreated somewhat into managing and caring for our own needs to the detriment of those around us and a consideration of the bigger picture.

In addition to work, life seems to be getting in the way of feeling healthy right now. I am off to Sydney tomorrow to move G into our new apartment. G has been living in hotels for the last month waiting for the apartment to be finished and he is obviously feeling a need to be settled. The moving in part not without stress. I have removalists booked and will take a perverse pleasure in putting all of G’s possessions away the way I would order them (G is Mr OCD while I am a free spirit… watch this space). This is the price he will pay for not being able to free his calendar and unpack himselfJ.

So that’s the stressors of life at the moment. Writing puts those stressors into perspective and boxes them up so that I can deal with them more rationally.

The most challenging aspect for me is the insidiousness of depression. I can recognise when I am stressed and I manage it. I exercise a little harder, take time out for myself or talk to a friend. I do have strategies but I don’t always recognise that things are getting worse and that I need to up the ante. It would be so much easier if I could just go happily along feeling OK and then wake up one morning not OK, deal with it and then get back on with my life. Just getting over it is often not an option.

Sadly, for me, depression brings with it an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Depression brings a lack of caring, of self-respect and control. When I am on top of the world it is easy to have a glass of wine, when I am not, that glass turns into a bottle. I spoke with my counsellor regarding alcohol, possibly hedging around the subject, and her answer was, “You have proved through weight loss that you have self-control, alcohol should not be a problem for you.” I’ve said that one over and over to myself and it’s like a challenge to myself. I am stubborn. I say this is controllable, this is no problem. After a particularly challenging day at work recently I stopped at the bottle shop, bought a bottle of my favourite red and then delighted in the fact that I could have 3 small glasses (less than ½ bottle) and stop. Sadly I am not always as controlled.

I don’t ever wake up with a hangover. I think that my body just gets used to it or possibly my hangover comes at 2AM when I am asleep. I do however often feel tired and sluggish. I know that I am not as sharp on days when I have drunk any alcohol the night before, ever a moderate amount. Added to the fact that this sluggishness at least enhances and worst causes the depressive state, sometimes choices are clear.

Yesterday I woke up and said to myself, “ENOUGH!” I need to take control, get out of this headspace, look after myself physically and emotionally and start living fully again.

So here I am. My commitment to myself is to get well and stay well.

First things first, alcohol – gone. I say that with a high degree of confidence. Fortunately for me, alcohol is more an emotional crutch than a physical addiction and the previous times that I have really made up my mind to stop drinking have not been as difficult as I would have predicted.

Second, exercise and diet. This is not a biggie for me. Exercise is an ingrained part of my life now and when I don’t walk daily, I really miss it, even if I am feeling sad! Diet is generally not an issue though when I am down, I crave chocolate. Sadly, like alcohol, when I am depressed, chocolate is not something that I moderate well.

Motivational reading – My iBooks app sent me an email today titled 10 Life Changing Books You Must Read. I have downloaded three of them, the three that appealed most to me. I will chat about them as I read them but can’t mention them until I know what I am talking about. Would love to hear any recommendations.

Yesterday I put on Facebook my mantra. It was in response to discussion regarding cancer. I have said before that depression has been much more defining for me than cancer. This is probably because my battle with depression has consumed nearly ¼ of my life. Cancer visited fleetingly nearly 5 years ago and except as my 6 monthly check ups approach, I do not dwell on it at all. Anyway, I started considering my mantra and whether it is fully fit for the purpose of guiding me through a happy life and have made a couple of modifications to it. I’ll share it now:

Live proudly,

Laugh loudly,

Love muchly,

Forgive quickly (especially yourself)

If you can’t fix it, let it go,

Self-first, sometimes,

Body and soul, care for them,

Be passionate (about something, anything)

Look at life with a child-like sense of wonder,

Practice gratitude daily,

Do something every day for someone who can never repay you.

Never, never, never give up

I am on my way back and am very, very happy to be where I am today. I have the next week off work. It’s a busy one but it will also give me time to focus on fixing some things that can be fixed and distancing myself from some that can’t. I am not sure when I will post again as I sometimes feel that what is say is too repetitive to be interesting.

Have an Awesome day and thanks for reading my blog!

 

55

Well today is my birthday and I am 55 or, as one of my team pointed out last week, eligible for parole! Twelve months ago, before accepting awesome, I would have to say that all 55 would have felt like was old; today I am celebrating 55 years young with gusto!

Last night G cooked an absolutely sumptuous dinner for the whole family including my brother A and his lovely lady, D. What a lovely evening. The food was spectacular, wine outstanding and both were eclipsed by the company. Family gatherings are one of my very favourite pass times. I love the banter and the feelings of unconditional love. I foolishly said last night that I felt privileged to have the 7 most important people in my life all together with me on my birthday. That prompted S to point out to his sister, L, that Crash, who was lying close by, was clearly one of the 7 which meant that she wasn’t. Yes, I love my family dearly.

Today was supposed to be a day at the beach but G and L’s new partner, J, were still partying at 3:30AM, so I am guessing we may not get there. That’s absolutely fine as G has not spent any time in J’s company and I am very pleased that they got to know each other. In addition, G, who rarely indulges in alcohol in any quantity, worked so hard to put on my dinner that it was great to see him let his hair down (odd choice of words, he doesn’t have any hair!)

I continue to go from strength to strength on the road to awesome. I mentioned last post that I had committed never to jog again. I have decided to take a different tack and improve my core strength so that I can do whatever I want to. I am up to day 5 of a 30 day planking challenge; that is starting with a 20 second plank and increasing slowly over 30 days to 4½ minutes. It is quite amazing but I can already see and feel results. I do suspect though that my 30 day challenge may be more like a 90 day challenge as I won’t keep increasing if it starts to hurt! Interestingly, in my previous life as a teletubbie, I would never had laid on the floor for fear that I may not be able to get back up. A friend suggested I try yoga so maybe I’ll give that a go too.  

I am acutely aware that depression can return at any time and I really believe that once you have had it, you can never consider yourself recovered only controlled. I also believe that having been there heightens my enjoyment of life now and my overwhelming thankfulness for where I now am.

I am looking forward with anticipation to the next 55 years!

My Inner Child

Last time I wrote I said that I had discovered that I could jog… And jog I did…. Three times to be accurate, last Friday, Saturday and Monday. By Monday afternoon I realised that every joint in my body was unhappy with me. For the most part I have been forgiven. I still have twinges in my back and my toes, they are still extremely painful. Note to self – just because you can jog, does not mean that you should. So like all sensible people would, I downloaded the ‘Chariots of Fire’ ringtone for my phone and told myself to act my age and be sensible.

Well, since then I’ve had a few opportunities to act my age and sadly….. My first opportunity was when I was swimming with my husband G. Now G and I have always been a tad competitive and when he started swimming butterfly, I thought, “I can do that.” We then progressed on to doing multiple tumble turns. Now this body has been sedentary for a very extended time frame. Why can’t I just be kind to it?

The answer to that question is that I have a highly developed relationship with my inner child. Today I had one of life’s outstanding days with my brother, A and his lovely lady, D. We spent the day on the water, boating, swimming, walking, kayaking and then out came the tube! All sense told me that it was a bad idea; sore back, dodgy joints, why would I think that tubing behind a high powered boat was a smart thing to do? As adult me tried desperately to get a grip on the situation, my inner child spoke up, “Hello, of course I want a go.” And, it was AWESOME!

I’ve been thinking since then about the times that my inner child has overwhelmed the responsible adult in me; sometimes it’s just been funny, sometimes embarrassing, sometimes it has elicited strong feelings of ,”I really can’t believe I did that.”

I have a friend G who is probably as in touch with her inner child as I am. I love time in her company. We are friends because our young daughters were one time friends at school. Since the girls have grown through that time of not being so close into adulthood, we get together for meals and to reminisce. I remember a time when G and I took the girls and our sons to a waterpark as a holiday treat. The girls were teenagers and as is the way with teenage girls, they caught the attention of a group of teenage boys. They were in line for a ride and one of the boys looked over and said something along the lines of, “Look at those old ladies squealing their way down the speed slide.” L said that she and her friend, A, looked at each other and then fessed up that the old ladies were their mothers.

Sometime into my children’s adolescence I realised what sport it was to embarrass them and now that they are grown, I am pleased to say that they look back at things that we did as memorable.  I used to slam dunk the groceries into the trolley when I shopped with either of the children. L told me recently that she has taught her partner to do the same. I remember when L and S were about 16 and 14 that I ‘flew’ up the main street of Surfer’s Paradise singing “I love aeroplane jelly.” At the time they appeared mortified but now they say it was awesome.

My son once took me for a ride in a shopping trolley. He would have been 18 at the time and that would have been funny if only I could have gotten out.  He and his girlfriend laughed so hard!

Sometimes my inner child is just downright embarrassing. We were out to dinner, again with my friend G and her family and my son asked me to pass the sugar down a very long table. My inner child lobbed it down the length of the table. Unfortunately aim is not my strong point and it landed in the pasta dish of a rather reserved and unamused lady on the next table. Sometimes I wish my inner child would think first and just not. But my inner child is not known for restraint.

As my muscles start to stiffen from the unaccustomed workout of tubing, I say to my inner child, “Never, never, never grow up!”    

Able to Jog

So, back to work and I do not have nearly the time I had before to write. It’s not just work; having embraced life again, there is so much to do and so little time. I have not gone back into my previous modus operandi of embracing one aspect of life to the exclusion, or at least detriment, of others. In my life, I have focussed on work to the exclusion of everything else, I have made jewellery every waking moment, I have taken photos until I could see nothing but the photographic potential of a situation. These are far from the only things that I have embraced to the point of obsession. Now, however, my world is different. I can feel when I am moving into the danger zone and I back off. I limit any activities whether they are an enjoyable pastime such as beading or photography or a necessity such as work or cleaning and organising. I feel very much better with balance but balance includes limiting my writing. When I first started blogging, I had an overwhelming desire, probably need to get out a whole lot of feelings. That urgency has past. The desire to write is still there but the need is not nearly so overwhelming!

I do have to report that part of the impetus to accept awesome and change my life was an increasing awareness of my physical limitations. I have been on the road to awesome now for in excess of 8 months. But for an odd speed bump, the road has ostensibly been smooth. I’ve had to step back from some of the things that I initially placed in the category of high importance. I found that it was very easy to make me cry, and cry at inappropriate times and that I could tie myself in knots so I made the decision to return to taking anti-depressants, albeit at a much lower dose than the one that I have taken for many years. I chatted with my GP and she said to me that I was one of her inspirational patients and that I should not consider this to be a failure, rather a strength, that I had chosen to just do it and get on with getting better. I did have a moment or two when I considered this to be a monumental failure and was very pleased to take her words on board. So, enough of the challenges.

I have attracted attention at work because of my weight loss and have decided that my mission is to support others. I certainly won’t be preaching to anyone but, if they want support I am going to be there.  Last week, I decided that in order to help the people that were coming out of the woodwork and talking weight loss to me, I needed to zone back in to challenging myself. Don’t ask me why I would make the decision to challenge myself in this way but I decided that I wanted to re-introduce running, jumping and hopping to my range of movements. The surprising part is that before I realised I couldn’t, I never valued my talents in any of these areas. In fact, I hated running!

I have been unable to run, jump or hop for many years because of my lack of balance, lack of physical fitness and lack of confidence. So, last week I started jogging while on my morning walk. I was doing brief stints of jogging; by brief stints, I mean just 20 or 30 metres. On Saturday morning, I left on my walk with G and L sitting chatting at the table. I had a skip in my step, felt great in fact and did a couple of short jogs. I then rang G and said, “Just come out to the letter box and look towards Hamilton Rd.” I waited round the corner until I could see both G and L standing there and then Crash and I set off to jog the 100 or so metres home. By the time I got there, I was flying, I was crying, I was totally overwhelmed. I could have won an Olympic medal and not been prouder of myself. I doubt that anyone who has never come to the realisation that they have lost something will appreciate the feeling of getting it back but that feeling was awesome. I am awesome. I don’t believe that there is anything that I cannot do if I put my mind to it.

What I have to say today is, “Be awesome!” Define your awesome, whatever it looks like and, just do it!

A Very Happy Holiday Season

Well 2103 is drawing to a close. I have to say that I enjoyed this Christmas much, much more than I have enjoyed Christmas for many years. Purely and simply, the contentment of this Christmas came from within. It would not have mattered what I had done any of the years I spent in the fog, Christmas never really shone. This was by anyone’s estimation a quiet one. We did the extended family Christmas thing on December 20th, had the five of us (immediate family) on Christmas Eve and then went our separate ways after breakfast on Christmas day. G, L and I spent most of the day mooching. There was an afternoon nap, a swim, a get together with the neighbours when all of their family commitments were done. All in all, an unremarkable day, but for me, a very happy one.

As a perfectionist, I have always found Christmas to be one of the hardest times of year. There is an overwhelming need to do just one more thing to make the day perfect for everyone around. My house has always been and still is decorated to the hilt. I have not gone anywhere near Christmas shops this year, which means the addition of no more to the Christmas stash. I am pleased with myself about that. Going further and further with the decorations was always along the lines of, “I’ll be happy if I do just a little more.” Not surprisingly, this year, I am happy with just a little less!

Our family bounces off each other. It is not so much a game of one-upmanship as that we have always challenged each other to be the best people that we can be. I love spending time in the company of the whole family. Sadly L’s partner J was working Christmas and we have not yet caught up with him but the greatest gift I got this Christmas was time spent in the company of the rest of the family. Life is complete when everyone is together! I always get excited when I see a group text come through. Everyone is included. We may be sharing something good, something funny, something stressful; rest assured that once the family has deconstructed the topic of the group text, we will all be laughing, and quite probably be way away from the initial topic.

I wrote previously about the traumatic events between L’s dog and mine while I was away in Sydney on holidays. When I came back, I came back to a house that was very, very distressed and overwhelmingly sad. The sadness was palpable; not just L and I, but S and C as well. They were integral to getting Crash off to the vet and C was the only family member to witness the attack. L and I shed many tears together and I was very worried about L as she beat herself up going back through every aspect of her life’s decisions that had Beo join our family as a rescue dog. However, now we appear to be all moving on, which is a relief. Crash was initially clingy but is now returning to his old self. He is a little less secure when I walk him but twice today, we met other dogs who jumped at him in their enthusiastic greetings. A week or two ago, Crash would have responded as a cowering mess; today, his head bowed slightly but his tail kept wagging. Yes, we are all moving on.

I have gained just over a kilo this holiday season. I guess I should not be surprised given that I have basically eaten my body weight in chocolate, well not quite but I still do not do moderation in chocolate at all well. I have gone back to drinking alcohol, though not nearly as much as I did before. My ‘off button’ is still somewhat faulty with alcohol. I never stop at just one drink. In the New Year, chocolate and alcohol will become banned food groups again. Put simply. I like myself better when I don’t drink. I feel healthier and hate the fact that once I start, stopping is not so easy. I also want to lose a little more weight and cement in this year’s healthier life style.

I went with L to the post-Christmas sales. We bought what we intended to and did not stay much beyond the time required to do so. L really does not like people all that much (her words) and finds the crowded shopping centres claustrophobic. I on the other hand love people but I too found the crowded shops claustrophobic. I picked up a bag that I intended to buy and put it down only to have it ripped from under my nose. L looked scathingly at me and indicated that I really needed to learn the rules of the Boxing Day sales. About then, I decided it was time to call it a day.

I did buy some exercise gear from Lorna Jane. Now my exercise is only walking but I have to say that when I put my Lorna Jane’s on, I feel like I can fly. I was somewhat perturbed about my choices (the top gives me a cleavage and I haven’t seen that for many years!). However today, the second day that I have worn my Lorna Jane’s, I came to the realisation that I have earned the right to wear them by losing the weight that I have this year. I actually did my walk faster in my Lorna Jane’s than in my ordinary clothes – clearly magic!

Well to you and yours, I wish a happy and prosperous New Year. I have no idea what 2014 will bring my way but I am looking forward to embracing it with open arms. Life is good, no great!