Monday, February 28, 2011

No statue has ever been erected to a critic

“Pay no attention to what the critics say;
no statue has ever been erected to a critic.”  

Jean Sibelius 
Finnish Composer

How good is that quote and so true.  But it is very hard to hear critical comments about yourself.  It is even harder when those critical comments are in your head.  Whether you are criticising yourself or imaging what critical comments people are saying.  Really; are any of us that clever and psychic we know what other people think.  And like Jean Sibelius states "Pay no attention to what the critics say; no statue has ever been erected to a critic."   So you know what feel free to be critical.  I will be positive. I will compliment, inspire, mentor and motivate. I will do this for myself and for others.

This morning I walked my children into school for the first time this year.  I was shaking in my manolo blahniks boots.  Will people look at me and think "oh there is that woman who was in that psychiatric hospital.  Is she going to go loopy on us now?  Fancy not being able to cope, she has no idea what problems are."

That was my headtalk this morning.  So the bottom lip started to quiver, tears welled in my eyes.  But I was holding my daughter's hand, I had to be brave.  It was hard.  It was so very hard.  My God, I have had a baby drug free, I have spoken in front 600 executives while working in London, I have argued with politicians, I have been an advocate for autism, I have done many many hard and courageous things.  But this morning was one of the hardest things I have ever done. 

Like that Cowardly Lion from "The Wizard of Oz" who said "Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?"

John Wayne that eternally famous cowboy says "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."  That was me today.  It was a small small thing for most people but for me it was a hard tough experience but I DID IT.  I did it and I will do it again and next time it will be easier.

So to quote my hero that Cowardly Lion "Put 'em up, put 'em up! Which one of you first? I'll fight you both together if you want. I'll fight you with one paw tied behind my back. I'll fight you standing on one foot. I'll fight you with my eyes closed... ohh, pullin' an axe on me, eh? Sneaking up on me, eh? Why, I'll... Ruff! "

So watch out fear I am onto you, I am all over you, I own you. Such big brave words hey?

Take care, and as Mahatma Ghandi says be the change you wish to see in the world. You want a good friend then be a good friend.  You want a peaceful life then be at peace.  You want acceptance then be accepting.  You want understanding then understand others.  You want compassion then empathise.   Never judge until you have walked 100 miles in that person's shoes.  These are not hard impossible tasks, but they must be altruistic. And yes, one person can truly make a difference.  Below is one of my most favourite stories about making a difference.  In fact no matter how many times I read it I get goose bumps.  Please read and pass it on.

While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
The old man smiled, and said, "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, "It made a difference for that one."
This story has been circulated around the web in many versions, usually with no mention of author. It is said to be paraphrased from "The Star Thrower" by Loren Eiseley, 1907 - 1977.

So lets you and I make a difference.  It can be small, it can be big just do it.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Home James and Don't Spare the Horses

Well first weekend home after spending seven weeks in a safe cocoon of no housework, no cooking, no fighting kids, no additional pressures, stresses etc other then what was in my own head.

On Friday morning I was nervously but also excitedly waiting for my darling husband to pick me up from that safe cocoon I had spent seven weeks in.  I thought right, it won't always be easy but you have worked hard and you can do this.

What I never considered is that I was coming home and the same issues that were the main cause for my depression were still ever present and looming.  These are not relationship issues, although the stress and grief of a disabled child is definitely thrown into the mix.  These issues are just unfair wobblies life has thrown at us. We can't change them, we can't escape them, some of them will eventually ease and disappear and some may  permanently darken our shores.

My sisters' 40th party was on the Saturday night just gone.  I did not attend as I simply could not face a lot of people and most of them being people I did not know.  Mum was telling me about her dancing and the fun she had.  I felt very distressed and wondered if I would ever feel like dancing again.

Those cognitive behaviour therapy tools I have spent many hours working through in my safe cocoon suddenly seemed to totally retreat to the darkest reaches of my tired and tangled brain.

I was feeling pressure and overwrought and seriously concerned for my shaky mental wellbeing.  I am feeling like this balloon ready to explode.  My poor husband who for seven weeks has been both Dad and Mum while still working, also visiting me in hospital, keeping my clothes clean and rotated and reassuring me all was well on the home front.  I totally lost it because the kitchen my kitchen where everything had it's place was suddenly in quite a state.  The kids water bottles were scattered amongst the coffee cups and the tupperware was in with the saucepans....need I say more.  I just was not able to leave until I had lovingly and irrationally placed all items in their correct homes.  In doing this one or two cupboards may have been slammed and then to break the camel's back smashed 3 of my most favourite vintage drinking glasses.

Shame on me really.  Seriously there are much more important issues in the scheme of things.  This is just another sign of how mental health can simply spiral out of control.  So I am now thinking breathe.  Stop and think.  Distract yourself.  Take it easy.  Remember your husband has shouldered it all.  As far as he is concerned they were put away.  So what if it was not anally where you expected them to be.

So I am fairly upset that I have not cruised through my first weekend home.  James certainly got me home were the horses spared? hmmmmmmmmm not sure but that black dog is lurking in the periphery.

Take care, please take care of your family and friends.  Particularly the ones who regularly disappear off the radar.  They won't ask for help but they definitely would gratefully accept it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mind your Mindfulness

I attended my third CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) follow up session today.  It was a great session.  We spent three hours working through Mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness I hear you ask?  OMG it is just one of the best of all the CBT tools as far as I am concerned.  This is the 'official' explanation as taken from my course notes:  Mindfulness is the act of being completely aware of and engaged in the present moment.  It originates from Buddhist meditation principles.  It has been well researched and has been found to be beneficial in the treatment of a range of mental health problems including depression, anxiety and substance abuse problems (Segal, Williams & Teasdale, 2001; Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Soulsby, 2000)

So with discussion and small group participation we worked through Mindfulness meaning and also practising Mindfulness.  I would like to share with you the questions and my own personal answers from today's group.  (This sharing is mostly for selfish reasons as it helps me revise and think again about it and I also have it saved here in cyberspace forever)  I will put the questions in bold and remind you all this information is copyright and must not be used for any commercial use whatsoever.

What is your understanding of mindfulness? Perhaps you remember the concept from the CBT day program, perhaps you have heard of it elsewhere? What does the word mean to you?
Mindfulness for me is living in that very moment.  Feeling, smelling, touching, maybe tasting, describing and acknowledging it is just this moment.

Have you been practicing mindfulness?  Give an example.
Yes - drawing, painting, writing poetry, listening to music and also writing in my blog.

Can you think of some of the benefits of mindfulness?
It is like meditation because you are tuning your mind to just that moment and minimising or completely switching off negative headtalk and anxiety.

Can you think of some of the consequences of "mindlessness"?
Increased anxiety, depression and inactivity

Ask yourself: how often do you allow the world to pass you by without fully experiencing it?
For the past two years 100% of the time but am now purposely finding ways to experience life in the pleasant and the mundane.

Do you think mental health problems such as depression and anxiety can interfere with our ability to be mindful? If so, how?
Absolutely, because my ability to be in the present is completely warped.

How do you think mindfulness can be beneficial in recovery from mental health problems such as anxiety and depression?
Either by distracting or acknowledging that yes you are anxious etc but only at this moment and this will pass.

Give some examples of activities you are more naturally mindful of:
Playing with my children, making jewellery and hair accessories, cooking for guests.

Give some examples of activities you are less naturally mindful of:
Routine tasks like washing, folding, ironing, cleaning, driving

What would be some of the benefits of increasing mindfulness to those activities you are less naturally mindful of?
Less rumination and headtalk

List 5 beautiful/fascinating things you have noticed today
1. Smell of cocoa butter body wash
2. Trees and the way the sun sparkles on the leaves
3. Clouds
4. Laughing
5. Drawing

List your mindfulness goal for the next 7 days
To enjoy the ritual of showering, getting dressed and blow dry hair, make an effort to wear makeup and lovely clothes.

And remember to do one thing at a time.

Something one of the participants shared today was "if you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future you are peeing in the present" and that was such a wonderful powerful message for me.  My poor present is just getting totally washed away with pee at the moment. But that will cease and dry up and that is a promise I have made with myself.

So, until next time enjoy each moment, breathe in and breathe out each moment and mind your mindfulness.
Take care

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Step away from the dark

After seven weeks I think my time in hospital is drawing to a close.  Finally last night I started looking forward to returning home.  Initially, I couldn't even think of home and then, I was scared to return home.   Now, I am wanting to be at home.  I think that must be a very good sign of how my mental health is faring.

In my previous post I mentioned how hard I was finding to let go.  I am reading a book at the moment which really is just a bit of fluff as I really can't concentrate on anything heavy.  Funnily enough a character in this book spoke about letting go and suddenly I felt some clarity.  Why am I really letting this weigh me down so much.  Yes it is crap stuff that life has dealt me.  Yes it is unfair.  Yes there is nothing I can do to change it.  But why let this CRAP affect how I live my life.  I can still find pleasure in simple things.  Like how beautiful my children smell freshly shampooed.  How the sound of their laughter is the closest to heaven you can experience here on earth.

As I write this, our neighbours in Christchurch, New Zealand are fighting for their lives or searching for their loved ones.  Please pray for them.  Lets not also forget the flood and cyclone victims and their families here in Queensland.

This Thursday evening my husband and Mum will be coming up visit me.  We will be holding a think tank.  Planning my return home and working out support and strategies to allow my mental health to continue it's recuperation.

I have been taking in a lot of art classes while here in hospital.  Prior to coming here I found it a challenge to draw stick figures.  Here with some help and a lot of support I have discovered a talent and a delight in drawing, painting and felting.  It has been a very emotional journey this journey of creativity.  It has helped me feel again.  I have, through my art, experienced a full gamut emotions.

I have also re-established a lovely relationship with my ipod.  I had forgotten how much music moves me.  Listening to Paul Kelly's 'How to make Gravy' will reduce me to a quivering mess.  But this is GOOD.  I am finally feeling.

With the help of my family and supportive friends I plan to continue on this path.  I will keep working on the cognitive behaviour therapy strategies, plan simple pleasant activities, keep drawing, play my music, enjoy the life I have with my husband and children and just live from day to day.

That darkness that fully encompassed me is slowly subsiding.   The light which can only be seen in true dark is shining from within.  But instead of flickering, faltering and fading it is shining longer and brighter.

Please take care of your family and friends, love one another, be kind and be true.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bloody Life is Cramping My Style

Just a little poem written by moi-

Life can kick you when your down
Take the wind from your lungs
Knock your feet right out from under you
Punch you in the guts

How can you fight back -
When you can't see life
An invisible opponent
A silent assassin

A selection of weapons
A sick sense of humour
No sense of fairness
No reason no justice

Integrity, morals, ethics mean nothing
Life will trod on you like an ant
So what that you are honest and kind
Life cares not, Life comes for you regardless

So, now I need to find a way to tell Life to get a Life.  I need to free myself from crap that has been burdening me for many years.  I may walk tall but my heart carries such a load that I am surprised I have not turned grey from bad circulation.

How do you let go.  What if anger is the only emotion you feel anymore.  How do you let go of crap and release that anger.  I am afraid that anger is all that is left that defines me.

I certainly would welcome any advice on letting go.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4 

This post is dedicated to my kind, sweet, patient, loving husband.  He has taught me so much in life.  He is strong but gentle.  He is a man of few words and when he speaks you want to listen.  He has a wicked sense of humour and a wicked sense of fun.  He loves me unconditionally and nothing is too much to ask of him.  Kids and animals love him.  Get a few drinks into him and see him on the dance floor; he can really move.  He is my sexy beast and a wonderful Father to our children.

Thanks for being there for me my beautiful husband.  Thanks for being so selfless and for believing in me.  You rock my world my darling.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Would you walk on a broken leg

Now lets talk about that D word - DEPRESSION.  It is something that some people just can't acknowledge either in themselves or others.  Maybe they are embarrassed or feeling guilty.  For whatever reason, it is a disease.  It is not contagious although it can be heredity.  It is not terminal but it can, for some, be deadly.  Age, gender, race, sexual preference are not precursors.

Quite often I have been told "come on chin up", or "there are people worse off then you", or "why don't you just try harder".  If it was really that simple or easy you would chin up or try harder.  And as for thinking about people worse off then you; all that achieves is a perpetual cycle of guilt which most depression sufferers are overwhelmed with anyway.  I can't speak for all but when I am in a depressed state I have no self worth.  I just don't feel deserving of anything and certainly am in no position to help myself or motivate myself.

If you have a family member or friend who suffers depression it is much better to just be there for them.  Call them or drop in unannounced.  Let them know you care and are there for them.  Acknowledge their depression and also that it is how they feel at the moment but it will pass.

                                                image from

If you feel your family member or friend needs professional help.  Help them get it.  That may just be to encourage them to get counselling or perhaps see their GP.  After-all, you wouldn't let them walk around on a broken leg now would you.

Take care and be kind to yourself as well as others.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Take that you dirty black dog

So just wanted to share with you today what the cognitive behaviour program (CBT) is all about.  The hospital that offers this program has been delivering it since 1983 and it must be recognised as one of the best around as there were participants from all around Australia in my group.  Confidentiality is a must; so no mention of names, details etc will be shared.

The CBT program is a comprehensive and intense program for anxiety and depression.  It demonstrates the role of learned patterns of behaviour in maintaining, or worsening, anxiety and depression and teaches strategies to allow participants to use alternative methods of coping in order to minimise or eliminate symptoms.

The course is run for three weeks and you can attend as an inpatient or outpatient.  I won't go further into content as that is protected by copyright but feel free to email me if you would like information regarding the hospital that runs this program.

I found the facilitators were mostly all fabulous.  They were open, welcoming, approachable and showed empathy where needed.  You were provided with further one on one therapy twice a week during the time of the course.

Some of the participants have done other CBT courses and could only rave at how effective and fantastic this course compares to others.  As this is my first and hopefully only time I can't comment.  BUT, I did agree that it offers effective skills and tools you can use in everyday life.

This is not a quick fix and will take many hours of continued practice to successfully apply these components into my life.  Challenging unhelpful thoughts and negative headtalk is a life learned habit so it will not improve overnight.

There is also a weekly follow up you can elect to attend either during the day or at night.  I have been to the first follow up and am committed to returning for as long as it takes.

That dirty black dog is still currently a constant companion.  He is good at heeling but I plan to make him beg and then roll over and die.

                                          taken from

Take care

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pardon My Craziness

Wow I have been absent for quite some time.  And looking back, that time was a most difficult and sad time for me.  I have been battling depression for almost 8 years.  It has been a very slow insidious slide down to rock bottom.  I had forgotten how to live, I had forgotten to laugh, love and enjoy.  I had no pleasure in life, I found nothing to look forward to.  I had become comfortably numb to quote Pink Floyd (sans the drugs).

So I am at the tail end of my 5th week in hospital.  A hospital where I have received help with my depression. With no discharge date yet in sight.  I have also completed a three week cognitive behaviour therapy course. Which I must say was the best thing I have done just for myself in a very long time.  I have gone to art classes and discovered a talent.  I have started writing poetry again.  I have reflected and remembered.  I have worked hard and confronted uncomfortable realities.  I have had my medication tweaked and then tweaked again.  I am almost there.  I wanted to share some poems from my time here in hospital.

The Return
Sliding down
So slowly
No-one knows
Seems no-one cares

Rock bottom
No pain
No feeling
Isolated but loved

Now removed
Yet safe
Cared & loved
Remembering life lived

Hoping wanting
Yearning feeling
Crying missing
My return awaits

Broken and beautiful
A crystal smashed
The shards are sharp
Held in the sun
Reflecting the light

No.1 Son
Baby baby born tonight
You're the one I dreamt of
My hopes my dreams
Now they're yours

Wait I am told
He needs more help
Still perfect, yet
Still loved, adored

My grief unmeasured
The challenge too much
My heart lay bare
My tears filled lakes

Those hopes
Those dreams
Now in trust
Kept, savoured, waiting for you

Fuck people who stare
Fuck people who tsk
Fuck people who judge
Keep your narrow minded opinions
Keep your ignorance
Keep your prejudiced whispers
This child is not naughty
Not a tantrum you see
He is releasing a feeling
Letting go
To start all over again

I feel unseen
I feel unheard
But my tears are wet
My pain is real

I am tired
I hide in sleep
Lock the house
Hide the keys

The TV on
Snacks on hand
Kids run wild
Let Mummy sleep

Waking guilty
Couch potato
Husband cooks
Wife drinks

This afternoon I felt something
It was a foreign something
A bright sparkly foreign something
A remembered something
A longed for something
It was a glimpse
A fleeting glimpse
It was enough of a glimpse
I felt it for a second
And I will feel it again

Please if you ever feel down and need help, seek it.  See your GP, ring Lifeline 13 11 14 or check out this website Beyond Blue

This is me sanely zany back in better days - bring it on baby