Forever

Although I have always known in my heart that this was true for me, I can now categorically say that once I experienced depression, it was something that I had to learn to live with forever. Before I write today’s post I need to say to my friends who follow my blog that I am fine; I have lived with depression for 15 years; yesterday really wasn’t any different from any of those days.

I awoke yesterday morning with a list of tasks to complete for G as a part of his move to Sydney. This is the reason that I came to Canberra and I was happy, willing and able to complete the list, nothing too onerous or challenging at any level. When I started with the tasks I started to feel overwhelmed. I kept saying to myself, “Break it down, deep breaths, break it down.” I continued to work through these feelings all the while wanting to curl up in a ball and pull the doona over my head. Now, you have to realise that what I had to do was manageable, more than manageable but I absolutely could not galvanise myself into action. I experienced the full gamut of emotions that I had experienced for the last 15 years. The hardest emotion to control for me is anger. The problem with anger is that being angry with myself makes me beat myself up. I use statements to myself like, “You are being ridiculous,” “You must be able to cope”. As a parent and a manager of people, I would, except in extreme circumstances, divorce the person from the action and speak of behaviour in a non-threatening way. I do not use the words ‘should’ or ‘must’ but rather use softer alternatives like ‘could’. I see that with both my children and the team that I manage that it is destructive to speak in absolutes but I cannot afford myself the same latitude.

Earlier this week, I came to the conclusion that I needed to go back onto anti-depressants in the short term (albeit at a very low dose). I realised that with the stars aligning of G needing my support and my home bursting at the seams with both of my children living with me short term, although these are both things that delight me, they are nonetheless stressful.

I found packing to come to Canberra extremely challenging. Every ounce of common sense told me that I was being ridiculous but I packed, unpacked, repacked. Bear in mind that I went through this going to Tasmania and still had to buy warmer clothes and actually the purchase of those warmer clothes did not cause the world to end. I recognise that when stress starts to spill over into depression, I find making any decisions, however minor, extremely challenging.  

Depression also brings to me extreme exhaustion. I had mostly completed what had to be achieved by around 2PM (see definitely not onerous) and went to sleep, soundly for about two hours. I awoke still experiencing the fog of a depressive episode. G is very tuned in to my moods and emotions and unfortunately, as soon as I collected him from work, he was aware that I was not travelling well. This made me feel worse as his emotions are on a roller coaster of tying up loose ends, goodbyes and thank yous and my desire and intention was to be there for him and support him, not add to his pressure. Last night we headed to a school performance that our niece was participating in and the light relief of normal social activities was a welcome distraction. I then fell asleep on the couch soon after dinner, exhausted from the emotional roller coaster that I have been on over the past few days.

In accepting awesome, I have said that I had withdrawn the permission that I had given myself to be depressed. Sadly, this is not a choice that can easily be made. In fact, it is not a choice that can be made at all. The choices are to move through and accept the feelings and to act to regardless of those feelings.  As a person who makes a sport out of giving myself a hard time, accepting that I can have these feelings is much more difficult than moving through them.

The decision to take anti-depressants is a very hard one for me. I have to say that, particularly now, I see it as a sign of weakness where-as I could just as easily see it as a sign of strength; being strong enough to acknowledge that I need some help right now.

Part of the issue for me is that G is going from strength to strength with the submission of his PhD and the move to his new job. All I have to do is provide support and I should (there I go again with ‘should’) be able to give him that support. I have always compared myself to G from a professional perspective, given that we studied together and then worked together for many years. Some time ago, I realised that G was travelling down a path that I did not wish to follow. His strengths and mine are quite different, with me being more comfortable managing at a people level rather than at an organisational level. Although when I was younger, I used to feel competitive with him, we now work as a team, fighting external foes together. We respect each other immensely and ask each other for advice when we move into the areas of each other’s expertise. I guess that I just find it hard to accept that I can’t necessarily leap tall buildings with a single bound.

Another aspect of depression for me is that I go to sleep normally and quickly and then wake up in the early hours of the morning. I will then stay awake, generally for a couple of hours. Sometimes I use this time to solve the problems of my world or catalogue what has to be done and how to achieve it; sometimes I just lie there concentrating on not concentrating on anything at all. Over the past week or so, I have returned to those early morning mind musings that anyone with depression will know are absolutely debilitating. Days are marked by exhaustion; nights are spent in the company of unwelcome thought processes.

Last night I slept better; I attribute this partly to having achieved everything that had to be achieved yesterday and partly that the anti-depressants would about now be starting to kick in. A good night’s sleep makes a huge difference to anyone. That difference is magnified many-fold when a person is depressed. I have mentioned before the irritability and lack of decision making ability that I experience with depression; both of these symptoms are much more prevalent when I am tired.

The ability to make decisions is very important to me. Because my normal modus-operandi is to ‘see it, make a plan, execute the plan, recognise any issues and fix them’ before most people would even have got past ‘see it’, the frustration I feel is immense. I have learned, at work, that when I operate my preferred way, I am likely to leave dead bodies (figuratively) along the way because this way is very stressful to those people around me who need plans and details and I have modified my actions and expectations in this setting. However I still expect myself to act with purpose and spontaneity outside of the work setting. I need to think some more about this one; perhaps if I modify my actions on a personal level, as I have at work, life will be easier for me.

Well, having slept well last night and completed all of the tasks I had for G’s move, I am about to head out for some fresh air and a walk. Life is feeling much better today and my learning from yesterday is that I will have days, weeks even, when I am feeling down. I need to work towards managing these times and pushing myself through them. And I need to stop being so bloody hard on myself! J   

G

Short post today, I’m off to Canberra and have not yet packed or got anything organised. The words, ‘Just Do It’ spring to mind.

I am off to Canberra to help my husband, G, move to Sydney and his new job; yesterday he submitted his PhD thesis. These are clearly two very big life events and I am immensely proud of him on both accounts. I have before described him as my ballast. I find it stressful when my ballast is experiencing turbulent water. I am thankful that for him, the turbulence will quickly pass. As he has described over the last few weeks – starting things and then jumping to something else, finding it hard to focus and feeling generally unwell with stress, I had to say, “Welcome to my world!” I am so glad to be going to him to support him as he has supported me over the years of my depression.

Now, yesterday’s other good news: Princess Lily Flippers (the second) arrived safely via Australia Post. Those of you who follow my blog will know that I have been sweating on her arrival since the original Princess Lily Flippers ran amok and extended her holiday in Tasmania.

Must move, I need to pack for Canberra and Sydney!

 

 

                                                               

Ten Things I Love About Queensland

Having waxed lyrical about Tasmania and the important people in my life who live there, I have decided it’s time to share what is good about Queensland. It’s time to stop and smell the roses, my roses, the ones that I get to appreciate every day.

I love my children more than life itself. They both call Queensland home and when I am in Queensland, they are nearby.

I love my awesome network of ‘Brissie’ friends. Most of you, had I never moved to Queensland, would not be a part of my life and I am thankful, daily, to have you in my life. Now time to move onto the place…

1. I love winter in Queensland. I love the cool crispness of the mornings and the warmth of the winter sun on my shoulders.

2. I love the sea. I live an hour’s drive away from some of the most stunning beaches in the world. I love to immerse myself in the sea. I love to see it, hear it, smell it, feel it, taste it and just be around it. My parent’s ashes were scattered in the sea (in Tasmania). When I am near the sea, they are nearby.

3. I love storms. I love the sound and light show that brings in the afternoon wet. I love the anticipation between lightning and thunder and the racing heart when the thunder is overhead. I love walking in warm rain! (Don’t get me wrong. We have suffered storm damage. Mother Nature, you need to be sensible with this one!)

4. I love jacarandas in flower. Jacaranda purple is the most glorious colour. I love trees in bloom and walking on a carpet of fallen flowers.

5. I love the smell of frangipani after rain. This smell, to me, represents tropical holidays. I am privileged to be able to smell frangipanis daily in season with several in my own yard.

6. I love flame trees.

7. I love the time of year, this time, when poincianas flower.

8. I love the bird-life. I love cockatoos with their demanding squawk, parakeets with their incessant chatter. I love the timid pale faces who come out only in the absence of their noisier relatives. What a privilege when they do appear.

9. I love the wildlife. We have bush reserve behind our home. Quite often I look over to see a kangaroo looking back at me. I gaze the gum trees for a koala but have never seen one. My son has, or so he says…. I love the non-venomous snakes; pythons and tree snakes. I love the cicadas as they herald nightfall.

10. I love fresh tropical fruit ripened by nature, served natural; mangoes and pineapple especially.

Seaside and Friendship

Yesterday was a lovely day on many levels.

I swam in the sea. Now this should not be unusual for a Queenslander who lives less than an hour from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world; it has been. I haven’t swum in the sea for at least the last couple of years. I have always swum frequently in our pool but as I grew larger and more depressed I stayed out of the sea.

There were multiple reasons for this. In the depths of depression, my organisational skills were such that I found it almost impossible to get myself organised to do anything I didn’t have to. When I was larger I had extreme issues with balance. Many everyday tasks were a huge challenge and being buffeted by the water was a terrifying prospect. Energy – I just did not have the energy for anything.

The sea is healing. There is no doubt that the magic of the sea is healing to the soul. Yesterday the sea had a brilliant balance of crystal clear water, crisp coolness and gently rolling waves. By virtue of the arrival of a storm our visit to the beach was quite brief but it was long enough for me to know that this summer I will be keeping a promise to myself – to visit the beach regularly, immerse myself in the healing waters and enjoy!

I went to the beach to visit my friend G who is house-sitting. G came into my life when we first moved to Brisbane. She is one of the great people that my children introduced into our lives. Now, as a parent I have met many lovely people; some come and go; some, like G stayed. We started as friends while navigating the mine-field of raising children. We shared the joys, the heartbreaks and the angst. G is a stunning example to everyone in her life. She is eternally sunny and thankful for her blessings. It is a privilege to spend time with G. We spent yesterday catching up on each other’s and our children’s news and just generally enjoying each other’s company.

Mental note: a day at the beach in the company of a lovely friend = a really great day!

  

The Power of Doing!

After two weeks of ‘doing’ in Tasmania, I was feeling a little melancholy yesterday to be back in Brisbane and in my own company. I found that quite interesting given that I was finding it hard to be around people all the time in Tassie.

I took delivery of my Thermomix yesterday so it is not as if I had nothing to keep me entertained. It was a very warm and humid day so I spent most of the day inside with the air conditioner on creating culinary masterpieces. Interestingly, I must have significant ‘male genes’ as, instead of following the recipes, I used my own recipes and played. I had fun! I will however go back now and use some of the recommended recipes so that I can learn to make full use of my new kitchen appliance.

Anyway, come evening, I stopped with the Thermomixing because, being alone for the weekend, I could not justify cooking any more food and I sat down to the television. I knew that I was not feeling great because I was feeling extremely irritable. Now when I get irritable, I am not a nice person to be around. I was not enjoying my company at all! After doing some ‘bear-like’ prowling I decided that the best course of action was action. So I spent the evening cleaning. I now have clean and tidy pot and bake ware cupboards and I also washed a couple of walls.

I was surprised at how good I could feel just by doing. So my message to myself for today is that when I feel the fog descending, fight it; don’t wallow; just do it, and I mean anything!  Interestingly, before accepting awesome, there is no way that I would even have been able to contemplate making myself ‘do’ when I was down. It is very true that until I could be there for myself, depression was going to win every time.

Today I am thankful for my gorgeous boy, Crash, who is now saying to me, “Stop writing about doing, we need to get out there and just do it!” I feel a walk coming on!

Quiet Time Pottering

I deliberately took 5 consecutive week’s holiday from work because I felt an overwhelming need to totally disengage. Sometimes a week or two just does not seem long enough. On a shorter break, I would find my mind slipping back to this problem or that and relaxation would be elusive. I have to say that when I received my mail after being away for two weeks and had received notification of a medical appointment on my second day back, I rang my manager to confirm with her that the timing was convenient. With trepidation, I asked, “How’s everything going there?”, all the while in my mind saying, “Don’t tell me, don’t tell me…” And she didn’t. She gave me that all-encompassing, “Fine” which could mean anything or nothing at all. (Thanks L, perfect answer) It got me thinking that before embracing awesome, I would have spent an hour cataloguing my team and wondering what they may be up to. Yesterday, I took the ‘fine’ on face value and moved back into holiday mode. I realised that is a conscious decision and one I must continue to embrace. No more letting my mind run into fanciful dramatisations!

For the next few days I will be at home pottering until I head down to Canberra and Sydney to help my husband G with his move and the transition into his new job. It’s hardly a quiet time with two boomerang children (and one gorgeous partner) currently on the boomerang back into my household. I love having ¾ of the family in residence together, pity we won’t make it 100% even for a day or two. G will now not be back in Brisbane until Christmas by which time S & C will hopefully be moved into the new house that they are building. The lack of altogether time is a price that we pay for our chosen lifestyle.

I love how my children have grown. I love and admire the people that they have become. It is a privilege to spend time with them. Today I am thankful for my children and the joy that they bring.   

Reflection

Tasmania always brings out the reflective side of me, I guess because like many, I look at what I had through rose coloured glasses. Did I love Tasmania when I was here? I would absolutely say no. The grass was always greener on the other side for me. Visiting with people who are so very familiar but have been at arm’s length for many years by virtue of distance and seeing what they have made of their lives and their circumstances has me considering what it is that evokes contentment. I would like to share my top five and would love to hear your thoughts on these or other ways to embrace contentment.

An attitude of gratitude – yes this sounds somewhat evangelical and could easily be written as being thankful but I kind of like the ring of ‘an attitude of gratitude’. In order to foster the development of this in myself, I will be reviving something that I did when I was first diagnosed with cancer; that is, sharing something that I am thankful for every day. I remember at the time that I focussed hard to find something to share (at that time I shared three things per day on Facebook). I always had a sense of achievement when I felt really disgusting but could still find something to be thankful for. I am thinking that if it can help when I was down, it should also be able to help me feel awesome now! As I write this, I realise that I still aspire to awesome rather then just content. Old habits die hard!

A child–like sense of wonder – in Tasmania I got in touch with my inner child on several occasions. There were baby bunnies on the lawn at Burnie. I know that they are considered vermin but there is no disputing they are very cute vermin. Their antics playing hide and seek in the grass brought a smile to my face. There were the penguin photos, the disappearance of Princess Lily Flippers and hopefully the receipt of the Penguin Newsagency’s second prettiest soft penguin in Brisbane in the next few days.  My friend C yesterday was sharing the antics of baby birds on her front lawn and was taking a maternal interest in their well-being. I had several opportunities over the course of my break to spend time in the company of small children. Looking at what excites them is one simple way to keep in touch with my inner child and to appreciate the world as it is.

Acceptance – purely and simply accepting where I am on a particular day and what it is that life has decided to send my way. I met in Tasmania a couple of people whose lives challenge them on a daily basis and those who care for them. Those caring souls were pure inspiration to me. Their sunny attitudes stopped me in my tracks. They are inspirational and if I find myself lamenting my lot in life, I intend to focus on them.

Holding tight, Letting go – absolutely imperative to hold close important people and let go of those who have the potential to hurt. This has always been a challenge for me as I have always taken ‘winning people over’ to be almost a trophy sport. It doesn’t matter that there are people who constantly zap energy when I am around them. I had decided that if they wanted to be around me, then I must do my best to make them stay in my life. This does not mean that I will ever give up investing in people who are difficult. Some of my very best friendships have started in this category. It just means that I will invest then step back and see whether the relationship is constructive or destructive. For now on, my energy will be spent on people who give as well as taking. I have awesome people in my life and, at times, I have expended all of my energy on others and neglected those awesome people.  My time in Tasmania had me reflecting that at times I have neglected my relationships with these people because I’ve been exhausted by life. The same is true of relationships with my friends everywhere!

Living healthily – I have not managed to stick with my newly adopted healthy life style since I went to Tasmania (even vaguely), though I have managed to not put on too much weight so that has to be good for a holiday. The biggest price of this change is altered sleep patterns and general feelings of well-being. Prior to my visit to Tasmania, I would have under-estimated the benefits of diet and regular exercise, but now I need to just get back into the routine.

Must move, my gorgeous boy, Crash, is wagging his tail, saying, “C’mon mum, I’ve missed you, I love you, let’s get going!” I love the way he can communicate all that without words. Jemima (meow) is just looking at me disdainfully, “Oh you’re back!” I have had affectionate cats in my life; Jemima is not one of them.. I am clearly another human to do her bidding..

My first thankful is for the awesome people in my life; family, real friends, virtual friends. Thank you for being a part of my life! I’d love you to share a thankful with me. We can all do with inspiration!

Tasmania – Homeward Bound

I have awoken at 0630 on my last day in Tasmania on this particular holiday. Tasmania is always a place to which I know I will return so there is never that desperate, “Just one more…” like there sometimes is on holidays. 0630 is a sleep in in Queensland but is a much more uncommon time in the Tasmania I have enjoyed for the last 2 weeks. The heat in Queensland demands that all living and doing is done early in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. Here, particularly on this trip, we wait until the day brings a degree of warmth.

Having been away for just more than 2 weeks it’s time to go home. I am looking forward to seeing my children and my fur family. No matter how comfortable the home of my lovely hosts, I am looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning in my own bed in my own home.

The rain this morning is constant, not heavy but much more constant than any day since I arrived. My daughter L and the daily storm warning texts that I have received since I have been here tell me that Queensland is stormy, humid, uncomfortable and unpleasant. I have to say that I relish the stormy sound and light shows of the Queensland summer but often they arrive in conjunction with damaging winds and volumes of water that leave a path of destruction. L & S tell me that until now we have personally had no damage. I hope it stays that way!

Yesterday I caught up with two friends, both C‘s. The first C was a colleague when I first started work in 1978 and later became my supervisor. We have been friends since that time and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with her and her husband. They have their own piece of water frontage onto the river at Perth. Her husband A is quite frail and spends much time surveying the river from a lovely sunroom that overlooks the river. One thing that I like most and admire greatly about C and A is that they delight in their surroundings and are truly grateful for their their lives. It makes time in their company a privilege.

My second C has been my best friend since the first day of grade 1 where we discovered that we lived in the same street, 7 house numbers apart. I caught up with her, her husband, father and his partner, daughter and her partner and grandson. They are privileged to have an extended family of this nature. By any definition her father is an older man but he is sharp, energetic, fitter than I am by far and inspirational. In my new found fitness, I aspire to an old age like his! C and I have shared memories and time spent in her company always beings out ‘Remember When’ stories. As Tasmanian business people it was interesting, quite sad really to hear them speak of the downturn in the Tasmanian economy. I have made comment here before about the fact that Tasmania’s green policies have kept Tasmania as the place I grew up; their picture is much more bleak. They are blessed to have made strong decisions but the picture they paint is not one of a great future for Tasmanian enterprises. I find that very sad.

Today is as I said, my last day. I look forward to spending the morning with my hostess, L. I am then taking her to lunch at Josef Chromy Winery with another friend L. This is one place that I love to visit. I am hoping that the rain stops long enough for just one or two photos.   

Tasmania Day 16, Final Full Day

So the question of the day is, “How is this day 16, when I have been here for two weeks exactly? Clearly holidaying is not an exact science and who really cares anyway? I am comfortable in my decision to allow this to be day 16. It makes my holiday seem longer.

I have once again gone to the Cataract Gorge as I have enjoyed my visits there immensely. This time, I am alone. I am enjoying a hot chocolate at the café and am enjoying the company of my friends the peacocks. Not daring to come here without my camera, I have been rewarded with a private viewing from one of the young males. They are such a stunning photographic subject. As I drink my hot chocolate (it’s cold again today), there is another bird strutting its stuff and at least a dozen Asian tourists have converged. Most Asian tourists do not have the same personal space expectations as westerners and have to be a part of all of their holiday snaps. I am thankful for my previous private viewing but am thoroughly enjoying people watching around this group. What a blessing this place is. Those of you who are locals owe it to yourselves to come here. It is sad that one must go away to come back and truly appreciate what is here.

I have spent time most days since I have been here alone in cafés. I marvel at the fact that I have been most alone during this break in public places. I love my friends dearly and have enjoyed their company immensely but having lived ostensibly alone for the best part of 10 years, I love being alone too. I have started a reflective piece on happiness and contentment and will share that when I am back in Brisbane. In fact I will probably finish writing it on the plane when I am alone but in close proximity to the person in the seat next to me. J

I have lunch with one friend and dinner with another today so I guess it is time for moving on. How am I feeling today? Truly blessed! I hope that you are too!