Sunday, September 29, 2013

Three ace ways to distract yourself from depression

If you haven't noticed on my blog or on any of the other online places I haunt, I've been going through a pretty shit time. In medical terms I'm currently suffering from major depression combined with a shitload of adverse side effects from the medications I've been prescribed. Woohoo!

My life has been like clenching onto the side of a cliff with white knuckled determination not to fall into the abyss. It's been fucking hard work, and my hands are cracked and bleeding, but there's way too much good shit on top of that mountain. So much to fight for. Everything to live for.

I'm in hospital right now. At this moment I'm feeling ok but there have been moments in the last week where I've cried so much I've been almost inconsolable.

"Why are you so upset?" the well meaning psych nurses ask.

"Is there something your [doctor, family, group therapist] said to trigger you?" they want to know.

"You're not going to hurt yourself, are you? You are feeling safe... right?"

Yes! I'm safe from harm. This much I know is true.

But no! Nothing has triggered the flood of tears. I'm just fucking crying! I want to scream it at the world. I just don't know why I'm crying. The tears come out of my eyes as my heart is squeezed by the black hands of an unnamed doom.

The brain is a wondrous yet ill understood organ. My doctors don't know what's wrong with mine. They can't give me a neat little diagnosis. They don't know what pills to put me on so it feels like they are giving them all a go. One drug at a time, sometimes two.

Over these almost five months since the Black Dog came to take residence in my soul I've found a few cool ways to distract myself from his howling. I thought I'd share them with you. Don't tease me because I've been partaking in a fair bit of low brow entertainment. It's just for cheap laughs!

Big Brother

I love this show! (picture source)
OMG! I love this show. I've watched every episode from day one and I can't get enough. Weekends are hell because the show doesn't air on Saturday and Sunday!

Watching these Gen-Ys bitch and moan and scheme and backstab each other is so much fun! I feel so involved in their lives. I've cried at times while watching BB. I usually never cry at TV shows or movies! And how hot are Ed and Drew? OMG! Such eye candy. Some of the girls are pretty hot too.

Even Noo has got into it. Although he doesn't really understand what's going on. Noo just likes the characters that are nice to people. Noo's favourite is Drew and my favourites are Tim and Ben. Tim and Ben are not boring pretty boys there to be ogled - they actually have really interesting personalities and don't feel the need to conform in order to fit in. I like that. Tim is a bit of a schemer and you could say he has a bit of a nasty side, but at least he tries to stir things up in the house. Makes for much better entertainment for us watching at home.

I know the show is quite mindless but such a great distraction from the guilt and negativity whirling around in my head. It really is a worthwhile escape. I miss them all like mad on the weekends. Seriously. Noo says after the 6pm news every day "It's nearly Big Brother time!" and is devo'ed when I have to break it to him that it's Saturday so no BB.

Goodness knows what we will do when the whole season is over. Noo and I wish we could go to the final eviction. Won't happen. Maybe next year!

Candy Crush Saga

So addictive! (picture source)
Talk about addictive! For a long time I saw Facebook requests from friends asking me for 'lives' or publishing notifications of how they'd cracked another level. I saw status updates from friends expressing their frustration at not being able to pass up to the next 'episode'.

I resisted for as long as I could. Knowing my addictive nature I thought CCS could have the potential to take over my life. I've not been that wrong!

It was actually my Shrink who said I should play CCS as a way to distract myself from negative self-talk. It definitely works but crushing those bloody candies can also distract you from other things like - blogging, household chores, sleep....

Cat memes on Pinterest

Even when I'm feeling 100% shit just having a scroll through Pinterest cat memes can crack me up. This sort of thing would usually not make me laugh but for some reason these days cats make me LOL!

You can't tell me these aren't funny....

Hilarious... right?

So what do you think about my depression distraction methods? Funny ha ha or funny it's a good idea you're in the crazy house again Vanessa?

How do you cheer yourself up when you're feeling blue?


Disclaimer: Clearly I am no doctor! I have had no training in the treatment of people with mental illness. This is just a post about what helps me sometimes forget my woes. I make no promises that anything I have said above will help anyone. In fact it could hurt you. For all I know you may be allergic to cats. 

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Friday, September 20, 2013

My brain is driving me crazy... literally

I've been going over and over in my head various topics I want to write about. I don't know about other bloggers but my mind is in a perpetual cycle of blog titles. Like when I'm in the shower I might have some brilliant blog topic going around in my head: as I'm standing under the warm water the first para is written, a witty eye catching title has been formulated. But then I turn off the shower, grab my towel, get on with the day and the thought is gone, laid to rest in the black caverns of my mind along with the bones of other awesome ideas.

The general theme of course is me. I don't ever forget that. This is my blog after all. This virtual dumping ground for the ideas that actually make it into coherent sentences in my little corner of the interwebs. Because of that it disappoints me that my posts are so negative these days. But, as I've read a million times around the blogosphere, we must write "our truth" in order to be authentic. My truth is pretty shitty right now and I apologise for that.

This post has been written for about a week. It's been sitting here in draft on an open browser tab. I've been umming and ahhing as to whether I should bother publishing it at all. Who benefits? Me? I don't know. I'm certainly not writing it in the hunt for sympathy. Maybe my motive is just to document this supremely shit emotional and physical state I'm in. I guess I could just copy and paste it into a Word doc and save it on my hard drive should I ever want to be reminded of this time of my life again. Because this too shall pass.

Maybe there's someone else out there that has similar symptoms. Mental illness sucks hard. The doctors don't know how each medication is going to work on each patient. Or which cocktail of medications is the right one. It's a game of pharmacological hit and miss. Quite frankly I'm sick of riding the pharmacoaster!


Ok, so without further ado, here my list of complaints or symptoms which both my GP and psychiatrist think are probably caused by the meds I'm currently on in combination with clinical depression.
  • Headaches that are mainly around the top of my scalp. To touch my scalp is very uncomfortable. To move my hair around sends shooting pain through my scalp and into my head. I feel like I'm wearing a skull cap lined with spikes.
  • Brain buzzes. Last time I had these symptoms I was on a massive dose of the antidepressant Effexor while suffering acute postpartum thyroid disease. My thyroid was processing the antidepressant so fast causing withdrawal like effects. Back then the symptoms eventually stopped once I was taken off the Effexor. I haven't taken an antidepressant for four weeks so why have I got this very unsettling sensation every. single. day? Every time I move my head it feels like a Star Wars light sabre has passed through my brain. I got that analogy from a medical forum from others suffering similar sensations. None of them had received an adequate diagnosis from medical specialists.
  • Dizziness, vertigo, nausea. The brain buzzes make me very dizzy if they happen while I'm walking/standing. It's getting worse every day. I feel like I'm walking on skates almost 100% of the time. When it's bad it's terrifying. I can feel the ground move beneath me in a sideways and up and down motion. It's freaky and completely unnerving.
  • Sensitivity to loud noises. Not ideal when you've got a almost five year old boy!
  • Jumpiness. Feeling on edge all the time. I flinch at loud noises, people touching me unexpectedly, that sort of thing.
  • Anxiety. I've always got that at some level it's just worse right now.
  • Aggression. Outbursts of screaming and crying so fierce I think I might pass out from the pressure it creates in my head. Poor Noo has been the receiver of such bad behaviour from me which makes me feel extremely sad and guilty.
  • Loss of sensory perception. I am not allowed to drive a car at the moment. I had three really close calls in the car over the weekend that scared the crap out of me. I vagued out and almost didn't brake in time before hitting the car stopped at the lights in front of me. My sense of distance feels warped. Things, like cars, seem further away than they really are.
  • I'm still extraordinarily emotional. This is why I went into the hospital six weeks ago. Even with the change of medication I'm still crying at the drop of a hat. Or at watching with pride as my son makes friends so easily at his new big school open day. Or in fear as I watch my 21 month old niece negotiate the steps in her backyard. Hell I bawled when Ben from Big Brother got to re-enter the Big Brother House!
  • My weight has ballooned out and I've gained 10 kg since May. That's 50% of all the weight I lost since having a $9,000 lapband installed in 2010. Let's talk about some of the emotions around this: failure, fear, defectiveness, disgust... 

That's about it, I think. Awesome, hey. My psychiatrist is baffled. I've started seeing a new psychologist that works with people with eating disorders and body image issues. I know I've got to address the deep dislike I have for myself and my body as well as find out what the fuck is wrong with me physically. What I'm feeling can't be a case of the moody blues! My doctors know that.

The next step? It's back to hospital I go where they'll keep juggling the chemical cocktail that is suppose to fix me. I'm waiting for a bed. Monday is the likely admission day. The hospital I go to is quite a nice place, considering. Going there isn't what makes me sad. Leaving my son is. I know that I have to get better so I can be a better parent for him but still it breaks my heart.

There has to be a turnaround soon.


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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I haven't really been OK since 10 May 2013. What about you? RUOK?

Trigger alert. For crisis support click here.

Yesterday marked four months since my first anxiety induced crying attack. Since then I've been on an emotional rollercoaster with way too many ups and downs at a speed even I didn't think I was capable of.

Tomorrow is the annual suicide awareness/prevention event known as RUOK? Day where people are encouraged to asked friends, family, colleagues, anyone if they are ok.

Last year I wrote about a time in my life when I was really not ok. Last year, as I typed up those words, I never thought I'd feel that kind of not ok again.

But here I am. Twelve months later and I have dipped back into that place. Well, I go in and out of the black hole. It's hard to explain.

I guess the difference between this depression and my 2007 depression is that now there's hope. Being a parent is what keeps me fighting. I'm also way more knowledgeable about depression and anxiety than I was back then. Six years of constant therapy has made sure of that. I know both those bitches lie. They make me feel and think things that aren't true and as convincing as they might be, it's hope (Noo) that keeps me from believing them.

Knowing the signs of when my mood started to change also allowed me to get help sooner. And I guess the spontaneous bursts of tears made it pretty bloody obvious something was not ok.

Having an excellent support network of family, friends and medical professionals is also critical. Just showing up to my psych appointments keeps me accountable. Like seeing a personal trainer for my emotions. Even if I don't work really hard during a session at least I'm there.

I know RUOK? Day has been getting a lot of flack because we should ask our friends, family, colleagues, anyone if they are ok every day of the year if the signs are looking like they are not. But I think RUOK? Day isn't about one day of the year, it's about general awareness of mental illness. It's about getting those crisis support numbers out in the media, and on posters in workplaces and schools, where maybe just one person notices them for the first time and thinks, hey, I could actually use a bit of help.

I really don't think people involved with this initiative will just switch off once the sun sets and the day is over. The conversation has been started and that's gotta be something. It sure beats silence. The more we talk about mental illness the more we will hopefully remove the stigma attached to it giving more people the courage to come out and seek help. And yeah, maybe even save a life.

Whether you've got a lifetime's history of mental illness like me, or you're having a really bad time for the first time, I think RUOK? Day has it's place.

I think we all like to feel supported on any day of the year.

So don't forget to ask: RU OK?


For help please use these helpful resources:

Call: 1800 RUOKDAY (1800 7865 329) to connect with crisis line

Visit: your doctor, a counsellor or trusted healthcare professional

Access: for tips from their information partners

Lifeline 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

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Monday, September 9, 2013


My inbox and social media news feeds have been awash with disappointed bloggers complaining about the new government that was elected by the overwhelming majority of Australians. I wonder if they had their posts drafted up last week, or maybe even last month? The writing has been on the wall for a very long time that change was about to happen so Saturday's result surely wasn't a surprise.

A well known blogger recently said on national television that, as bloggers, we have to have thick skins in order to deal with trolls and other nasty travellers on the information superhighway. Right now, my skin is paper thin. Look at me sideways and I'm likely to burst into tears. This is one of the reasons I've been avoiding my blog.

I want to write about the election like any of the other bloggers who shared their opinion with their readers but I'm scared. You see I sit on the other side of the fence to what feels like 100% of the Aussie mummy blogosphere. And going by some of the posts I've briefly scanned I'm a fucking uneducated idiot for being there.

Maybe my current depression is blindly throwing me on a blog suicide mission but what the hell. I voted for Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party team and I'm overwhelmed with joy that they won. Yep, I cried as Tony made his victory speech and they were tears of joy. Six long years of living through one of the most wasteful, shambolic and vindictive (and that was just to each other) governments finally came to an end on Saturday and I applaud the Australian people for making it happen.

I don't agree with all of Abbott's values particularly marriage equality. I believe love is love whether you're gay, straight, bi, transgender. I would march side by side with Labor voters, Green voters, anyone for the law to change and make marriage equal.

Anyway, I'm not going to nitpick over every single policy that I agree with or don't agree with. I'm not going to try and sway you (if any of you read this far down the page) to agree with what I believe. But I did just have to write and publish this. Because I'm entitled to my opinion too.

I'll leave you with this little note I typed up on my iPhone while catching the ferry to Manly a couple of weeks ago. Noo and I were sitting up the top of the ferry inside right at the front. I overheard two men unknown to one another talk about the upcoming election. This is a little of what they said:

"Australia is a great country", said the Chinese man to the bloke sitting next to him who later explained he was from Sri Lanka. 
They don't know each other, they are just having a friendly chat while taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly on a stunning Spring day. 
 "We can call Kevin an idiot and it's ok. Not get in trouble like in China. We have freedom here." 
 "Yes, everyone wants freedom", replied the Sri Lankan. 

Says it all really: You have the freedom to be pissed off at the change in government. I have the freedom to be stoked about it.

Let's agree to disagree and be happy neither one of us will be shot for saying what we believe.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Busy bodies/healthy minds

It's been about two and a half weeks since I discharged myself from the psychiatric hospital where I was in being treated for depression. I thought I'd give you an update of how I am feeling and how Noo and I are getting on with our new regime. Writing it down helps me to consolidate and understand my feelings as well.

I am definitely a hell of a lot better than I was before going into hospital. The proof is in the fact that I'm not crying every day any more. Sometimes I can feel emotional tears start to well at the back of my eyes but they mostly quickly subside. I've been using mindfulness techniques to ground myself back into the moment rather than letting my mind go off in emotional tangents that just look for evidence of reasons to cry... if that makes any sense. I'm getting better at reigning those emotions in but they are still there.

Noo and I have been keeping super busy. In two and a half weeks we have been to Sydney Tower, Madam Tussauds, Wildlife Sydney, Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, the Powerhouse Museum, Darling Quarter Playground, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The weather has been gorgeous which helps both my mood and my willingness to go outdoors.

Before I went into hospital I was so anxious about going out with Noo that the thought of it filled me with dread. I felt completely out of control of myself and of him. I wrote about my fear and sadness in late May which I just reread and it made me cry all over again. That post reminds me how lonely sole parenting can be, especially when I'm unwell.

I was so petrified I was going to breakdown in public in front of Noo. I felt so incredibly anxious all the time. I actually didn't realise just how anxious I was and how constant it was. It's like when you've had the radio on for ages and it's just off the station. The static becomes white noise because you've become so used to it. That is until someone moves the dial to the correct frequency and you can't believe the clarity of the sound. That's how I've felt for four months. Constantly off frequency with spurts of static so unbearable that I just want to throw the damn radio out the window.

But now, finally, Noo and I are back to being a partnership. Well, a partnership where one partner is more senior than the other, but a team of two nonetheless. The static is still there but it only comes in and out quietly, like my emotional aerial is blowing in the breeze and sometimes goes off station for a moment or two.

There's still a lot of work to do for my wellness and, of course, parenting is a job that never ends. I just have to be as strong and vigilant as I can to ensure I stay on top of my therapy and I keep up with our new routines in order to maintain a healthy, happy home for the both of us.

How are you feeling today?


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