Nesting

I have to say that in all the years I’ve been alive, I’ve never put some much attention towards the world around me, particularly nature, until this year. I’ve always loved nature, but I guess I didn’t have the time, or the attention before. I’ve spent a LOT of my life rushing and I regret that; so now I’m trying to deliberately slow down and enjoy what I have.

This year, I’ve had the time. I haven’t had much energetic time, much enthusiastic time, much motivated time but what I’ve had I’ve used, pretty well I think. Bird watching and photography are almost the only things that will get me excited on a down day – that’s a pretty powerful thing!

Taking notice has led to a weird phenomenon of me finding new things around me that were always there, but I wasn’t looking. I’m so glad that now I’m looking because the reward is great!

Here’s a series that has given me great pleasure this spring – enjoy!

eucalypt, Looks like my kind of throw together nest...not sure that its being used now

Looks like my kind of throw together nest…not sure that its being used now

This was found deep in the thickets around Blond Bay game reserve so it must have been made by birds, but its so neat! Also looks a bit off kilter!

This was found deep in the thickets around Blond Bay game reserve so it must have been made by birds, but its so neat! Also looks a bit off kilter!

Pair of Willy Wagtails have built a perfect little mud nest and take turns to guard it

Pair of Willy Wagtails have built a perfect little mud nest and take turns to guard it

Welcome Swallow building up a new nest, although why they don't use the other one is baffling

Welcome Swallow building up a new nest, although why they don’t use the other one is baffling

The first nest which looks fine from the outside, but they've moved on to build a new one

The first nest which looks fine from the outside, but they’ve moved on to build a new one

Not sure what kind of bird made this but it looks well built

Not sure what kind of bird made this but it looks well built

A Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a nest very securely located on a broad eucalypt branch

A Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a nest very securely located on a broad eucalypt branch

They tell me this tiny nest belongs to a tiny bird...again can't remember which but something like a Striated Thornbill

They tell me this tiny nest belongs to a tiny bird…again can’t remember which but something like a Striated Thornbill

I can't remember what kind of bird I saw coming out of here - either a Magpie, a Pied Currawong or a Little Raven

I can’t remember what kind of bird I saw coming out of here – either a Magpie, a Pied Currawong or a Little Raven. It flew straight at me as I was trying to get a photo, which distracted me a little! Not deliberately I think

Cape Barren goose with a ground nest inside the safety of Serendip Sanctuary

Cape Barren goose with a ground nest inside the safety of Serendip Sanctuary

A Willy Wagtail built his nest near this busy weekend cafe...and spent the day dancing all around the area - pretty pretty

A Willy Wagtail built his nest near this busy cafe…and spent the day dancing all around the area – pretty pretty

Hope this doesn't hurt your eyes! I'm thinking maybe Swallows make a habit of building multiple nests...I can't figure out which one they're actually using! Incidentally...this is directly over a wedding car!

Hope this blurry photo doesn’t hurt your eyes! I’m thinking maybe Swallows make a habit of building multiple nests…I can’t figure out which one they’re actually using! Incidentally…this is directly over a wedding car!

I think this is a Magpie nest - although I wasn't swooped the Magpie was chattering away

I think this is a Magpie nest – although I wasn’t swooped, the Magpie was chattering away

This is the first time I've seen a Magpie-Lark nest. I was looking at it when they flew back...one onto the nest and one surveying from nearby

This is the first time I’ve seen a Magpie-Lark nest. I was looking at it when they flew back…one onto the nest and one surveying from nearby

This is a fun one, well to me anyways! So far I’ve gotten relatively close to a Magpie nest on three occasions and never been swooped. Maybe its beginners luck…I’ve been swooped by Noisy Miners, pigeons, Welcome Swallows, Magpie-Larks and Willy Wagtails so maybe the Magpies took pity on me!

And this is the Magpie nest high up with the other of the pair sitting on it

And this is the Magpie nest high up with one of the pair sitting on it

Poor quality to boot, but if you peer through the sticks to the far tree, you can see one of the Magpie pair standing watch over the goings on

Poor quality to boot, but if you peer through the sticks to the far tree, you can see one of the Magpie pair standing watch over the goings on

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Mammals and birds of the East

Good morning peeps.

I think it is a good morning; the view out the window looks promising. Haven’t actually put a foot out to check but that can wait. I’m having a recovery day, catching up on some down time and some sleep.

So what better to do while lying around in bed than go through some photos? Yay!

You know how I recently went on holidays, and didn’t post any bird pictures whatsoever? No not that WA holiday, also not the Phuket holiday. The other holiday, the Victoria one. Hmm, I do seem to have had a lot of holidays lately!

You didn’t really think you’d get away without my birds that easily did you?

Good, cos here they come! Also this special post comes with animals as well, so you can skim over the birds if you like.

And I promise you that you do want to have a look at these photos. We’ve got babies following mums around, mums and dads sitting on nests and maybe one of my best bird of prey photos yet! I know that last statement doesn’t say much, but still…I think it’s worth a glimmer.

These photos were all taken in East Victoria either at the holiday house at Wattle Point, at Paynesville, on Raymond Island, on the Silt Jetties and in the Blond Bay game reserve. I highly recommend any of these spots for great wildlife encounters. Sadly I don’t have photographic evidence of the 3 echidnas I glimpsed from the coach on the way; only my memories.

So here we go!

I love the Eastern Spinebills. So far I’ve only ever seen males, and only ever in the pink flowering gum! Must be one of their favourite playgrounds. Notice the first photo and the second; despite most of the photos showing them at a reasonable size they are actually very tiny!

Stunning male Eastern Spinebill in the pink flowering gum

Stunning male Eastern Spinebill in the pink flowering gum

Tiny little Eastern Spinebill flitting around the gum tree

Tiny little Eastern Spinebill flitting around the gum tree

So agile and skilled at balancing in all kinds of poses so that he can reach the nectar, eastern spinebill, pink flowering gum

So agile and skilled at balancing in all kinds of poses so that he can reach the nectar – sadly the focus is just off

Dangling upside down with breast side up getting right into the pink gum blossom, eastern spinebill

Dangling upside down with breast side up getting right into the pink gum blossom

Another favourite of mine are the swallows. I’ve been trying to photograph them in flight for a few months, and up until recently I had never seen them sit still. Now I know that they do roost at night so dusk or early morning can be a good time to find them sitting still if you catch them before they head out to feed or after they’re back; if you find their nest you’ll see them sitting on the nest or busy building a nest; and when they dip for water they slow right down, and sometimes stop on the edge of the water. So it turns out there are a few opportunities to catch them.

The first Welcome Swallow I found sitting still, checking out the world from the property gate

The first Welcome Swallow I found sitting still, checking out the world from the property gate at Wattle Point

Beautiful Welcome Swallow taking time out of flitting around to preen up in the eves next to the main road

Beautiful Welcome Swallow taking time out of flitting around to preen up in the eves next to the main road in Paynesville

A Welcome Swallow standing on a half built nest up in the eves over a cafe

A Welcome Swallow standing on a half built nest up in the eves over a cafe in Paynesville

Welcome Swallow sitting still at dusk, facing into the bracing wind!, green grass, wooden fence

Welcome Swallow sitting still at dusk, facing into the bracing wind!

My absolute favourite photo from a whole series of Welcome Swallows sitting on the fence at dusk, green grass

My absolute favourite photo from a whole series of Welcome Swallows sitting on the fence at dusk!

And then there are Black Swans, beautiful, elegant, graceful. And then there are their delightful cute cygnets!

Fascinating viewing: two Black Swans fishing together along the shallow shore

Fascinating viewing: two Black Swans fishing together along the shallow shore

These are about the most adorable thing I've ever seen! And I used to rear ducklings that are also cute and cuddly, black swan, cygnets

These are about the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen! And I used to rear ducklings that are also cute and cuddly

Adorable grey fluffy Black Swan cygnets bobbing in the lake, green water

Adorable grey fluffy Black Swan cygnets bobbing in the lake

And another mum and bub group! This time the Black Swan cygnets are tinier and cuter

And another mum and bub group! This time the Black Swan cygnets are tinier and cuter

The cutest little only child learning to gather sea grass with its vigilant parents

The cutest little only child learning to gather sea grass with its vigilant parents

I love Laughing Kookaburras. They can look fluffy and cute, lean and mean and sound lovely or act vicious. You just never know how you’ll find them.

Evil mean look Laughing Kookabura, ironically found next to the house named 'Kookaburra Corner', electric wire

Evil mean look Laughing Kookabura, ironically found next to the house named ‘Kookaburra Corner’

Here’s a “lifer”, twitchers/birdwatchers term for a bird that you’ve never seen, or in my case photographed before; in this case a bird that I’ve never appreciated before. And never heard before. They can produce an amazing volume of sound that travels for blocks and blocks!

The female Common Bronzewing pigeon sadly in the shade so you can't see the luminescent bars on her wings

The female Common Bronzewing pigeon sadly in the shade so you can’t see the luminescent bars on her wings

A few days later,  huge "oom oom" sound caught our attention. We finally tracked it down to the male Common Bronzewing pigeon sitting on the nest

A few days later, a huge “oom oom” sound caught our attention. We finally tracked it down to the male Common Bronzewing pigeon sitting on the nest on Raymond Island

If it doesn't turn you cross eyed, this was meant to be a great photo of the bronze wing which gives the bird its name, but i must have moved!

If it doesn’t turn you cross eyed, this was meant to be a great photo of the bronze wing which gives the bird its name, but i must have moved!

Cormorants are just so fascinating with their clever diving and swimming under water skills and then their wing drying habits.

A mixed bunch of Little Pied and Little Black cormorants hanging out in the sun

A mixed bunch of Little Pied and Little Black cormorants hanging out in the sun

I do love all kinds of seas birds. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen these terns before, and I’m almost certain I’ve never photographed them.

lake, pier, Pair of fabulous Crested Terns hanging with a silver gull

Pair of fabulous Crested Terns hanging with a silver gull

Another graceful gentle bird:

Ever graceful, even when stalking prey, beautiful White-Faced Heron, cape weed

Ever graceful, even when stalking prey, beautiful White-Faced Heron

And now to the nest!!

A pair of Willy Wagtails taking turns sitting on the nest

A pair of Willy Wagtails taking turns sitting on the nest – fascinating watching them switch over with dance rituals and much noise-making!

The partner looking on in displeasure as I get too close to the nest

The Willy Wagtail partner looking on in displeasure as I get too close to the nest

Beautiful cheeky Willy Wagtail dancing around for his mate before they changed turn on the nest

Beautiful cheeky Willy Wagtail dancing around for his mate before they changed turn on the nest

Forest birds are pretty great. I loved finding these because they weren’t screeching; I tracked them down by the sound of them destroying an innocent gum tree!

Somehow I haven't gotten to photograph many cockatoos so far, but I love the glossy white and bright yellow crest, gum tree

Somehow I haven’t gotten to photograph many cockatoos so far, but I love the glossy white and bright yellow crest

Sulfur-crested Cockatoo: such a beautiful, if racous and destructive, bird, gum tree

Sulfur-crested Cockatoo: such a beautiful, if racous and destructive, bird

I apologise in advance for this one because I’m meant to be posting new stuff only, but you know I can’t resist fairy wrens! Especially on the beach, it just seems so unusual, even though I’ve seen it a few times now.

Female Superb Fairy Wren dancing into the sun and just the right moment, beach, sand

Female Superb Fairy Wren dancing into the sun and just the right moment

Another oldie, but these are the best shots I’ve taken, I think.

This photo is still a bit dark despite my adjustment, but it shows the white eyebrows of this White Browed Scrub Wren very nicely

This photo is still a bit dark despite my adjustment, but it shows the white eyebrows of this White Browed Scrub Wren very nicely

Fun shot out in the sun, eyebrows aren't as clear but you can see the bars on the wing more clearly

Fun shot out in the sun, eyebrows aren’t as clear but you can see the bars on the wing more clearly

Another favourite that I can’t resist:

Acrobatic Rainbow Lorikeets are always a delight to photograph

Acrobatic Rainbow Lorikeets are always a delight to photograph

I love to watch birds of prey circling and catching prey, but I’ve hardly ever gotten a shot that means anything! I took this a while ago so I can’t remember the face so much, but fortunately this particular bird can be identified from underneath.

You'll have to take my word for is because I don't have a top or front shot, but this is a fabulous White-bellied Sea-Eagle over Blond Bay, blue sky

You’ll have to take my word for is because I don’t have a top or front shot, but this is a fabulous White-bellied Sea-Eagle over Blond Bay

A more distant shot but this shows off its wings a body a bit more - White-bellied Sea-Eagle

A more distant shot but this shows off its wings a body a bit more – White-bellied Sea-Eagle

I’ve posted photos of Eastern Rosellas a million times but I am always fascinated by juvenile forms:

Lovely juvenile Eastern Rosella with more muted colours, following mum around gathering food

Lovely juvenile Eastern Rosella with more muted colours, following mum around gathering food

And an underneath picture gives a whole different perspective:

gum leaves, The fabulous under belly of the Eastern Rosella - just as pretty as the top side

The fabulous under belly of the Eastern Rosella – just as pretty as the top side

A big moment, finding the Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos in exactly the same spot Mum and Dad had found them the day before!

I just love these darlings! I've been lucky enough to see them a few times, but it's always just as exciting! Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo

I just love these darlings! I’ve been lucky enough to see them a few times, but it’s always just as exciting! Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo

And now for the cute animals!

The cutest little bunny Rabbit caught in a 'who me'? moment deep in the capeweed on the side lawn green grass

The cutest little bunny Rabbit caught in a ‘who me’? moment deep in the capeweed on the side lawn

Another caught-in-the-headlights moment with a Wallaby, no idea what type sorry

Another caught-in-the-headlights moment with a Wallaby, no idea what type sorry

The most exciting amazing awesome moment of the day/week/month/year! So we’re driving along beside the river and suddenly three dolphins breach the surface!! In my haste to get out I very nearly didn’t stop the car, put on the foot brake, take off my seat belt, put the gear into neutral or any of the other necessary tasks when driving! I got some awesome video, but only one photo. Still, that’s better than nothing.

A gorgeous Dolphin surprisingly found up river...I guess the water is still salty there. I'm assuming it's a Bottlenose, only because I don't know any better

A gorgeous Dolphin surprisingly found up river…I guess the water is still salty there. I’m assuming it’s a Bottlenose, only because I don’t know any better

Birds of the West

Hello Lovelies!

We’re just back from a family wedding in Swan Valley, WA which gave us a good excuse to spend a few days catching up with our various family members who live in Perth and southern WA.

Of course my aims for the holiday included seeing new birds specific to WA and I had some good luck with that!

So here’s the new ones for you to enjoy as well.

One of the most exciting new birds I saw was the WA black cockatoo! Sadly I didn’t get any pictures! I’m pretty sure what we saw was the Carnaby’s, but I’m willing to consider it was the Baudin’s.

The other was a brief glimpse of the Western Rosella, as opposed to our Eastern Rosella; just as stunning in different colours.

A textbook example of a juvenile Silver or Sea Gull near Canning River, green grass

A textbook example of a juvenile Silver or Sea Gull near Canning River, Perth

The '28', one of 4 types of Australian Ringneck Parrot - gorgeous! gum leaves

The ’28’, one of 4 types of Australian Ringneck Parrot – gorgeous! King’s Park, Perth

I thought this was a New Holland Honeyeater but its actually a new one, the White-cheeked Honeyeater! Yay!

I thought this was a New Holland Honeyeater but its actually a new one, the White-cheeked Honeyeater, western form! Yay! King’s Park, Perth

A Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike singing high up in a tree down the paddock

A Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike, humid form singing high up in a tree down the paddock in Boyup Brook

A pretty Singing Honeyeater flitting around above the treeline on Canning River

A pretty Singing Honeyeater flitting around above the treeline on Canning River, Perth

As we drove up to the wedding I saw that bird perched way up high, pretty sure its a Sacred Kingfisher

As we drove up to the wedding I saw that bird perched way up high, pretty sure its a Sacred Kingfisher, Swan Valley

I have never seen so many “crows” on a daily basis! Every day they were all around the house we were staying at in Perth. Did you know that in Victoria we do not have a single crow? We only have Ravens.

This is the Australian Raven. Every time I get a shot like this where I can shoot past or through the foreground to focus on the subject, it gives me great satisfaction!

This is the Australian Raven. Every time I get a shot like this where I can shoot past or through the foreground to focus on the subject, it gives me great satisfaction! Perth

Ad this one is just for kicks…a Red Wattlebird that took off just as I clicked the shutter!

Flying Red Wattlebird! King's Park, Perth WA

Flying Red Wattlebird! King’s Park, Perth WA

And this one for some springtime cuteness!

Soooo cute! A mother Pacific Black duck with at least 7 ducklings which she hurried away from us

Soooo cute! A mother Pacific Black duck with at least 7 ducklings which she hurried away from us to Canning River, Perth

Maybe just one more cuteness photo…

Impending cuteness: mummy Magpie-Lark on the nest, with daddy close by keeping an eye on things

Impending cuteness: mummy Magpie-Lark on the nest, with daddy close by keeping an eye on things

And this is because you don’t see flowering grass trees everyday, and especially not birds feeding off them!

A gorgeous-as-always Rainbow Lorikeet on the grass tree (Black Boy) flower

A gorgeous-as-always Rainbow Lorikeet on the grass tree (Black Boy) flower

And this is for plain fun!

This immature Australian Magpie looks like the cat got his tail!! Doesn't seem to be bothering him too much though

This immature Australian Magpie looks like the cat got his tail!! Doesn’t seem to be bothering him too much though

Pregnancy

What could I do, I had to like it! It just made me think of myself, in a kind of funny.kind of truthful way!, gorilla, grass

What could I do, I had to like it! It just made me think of myself, in a kind of funny.kind of truthful way!

This popped up in my Facebook feed the other day from Brindabella and I actually laughed out loud! The expression ‘lol’ is so overused online that it has lost all meaning, but this is one situation where it was actually appropriate.

I laughed because over a few months I gradually increased in weight  until suddenly one day I looked in the mirror and realised I looked like this! Not a fun realisation! I mentioned it to my hubby and he agreed that he’d thought for a while now that I looked pregnant! Always helpful but he was kind about it. But its the truth so what can you do.

I should clarify here that I’m not pregnant; the weight is due to indulgence, medication side effects and the symptoms of mental illness. Just to be clear.

But anyway, somehow being that shape and seeing this gorilla translates to funny in my brain…not sure why, but I guess it’s amusing to see yourself mirrored in another species, and to see a big round belly, flabby arms and a double chin on a cute-ish animal looking equally unhappy about the situation!

The weird thing is, I know I’m overweight to the point of exploding over the obese line. But somehow my brain hasn’t caught up. Maybe because it happened so fast and unexpectedly, maybe because I’m in denial a bit…not sure why. I kind of knew already that my brain was lagging behind, but it became most apparent when I was in Thailand recently. Sitting on the boat in just my bathers, swimming in the pool, jumping off the boat into the water carefree and happy in front of everyone else, walking around at lunchtime feeling completely comfortable with my body the whole time. Which was a really nice feeling instead of hating it and wanting it to be different.

Until…I looked back and saw the photos! My big round tummy, double chin, fat cheeks and eyes deep in puffy sockets…ergh! Then I was not happy! Then I was not comfortable with my figure! Photos are kind of the cold hard truth that shoot you down out of your dreamy sky and bring you down with a big hard bang to reality!

I can kind of understand the idea behind body dysmorphic disorder now. I don’t have it and I’m not suggesting I do…but the brain is powerful and can really twist reality sometimes. To be one way, and consider yourself to be another way is…well in this case it’s kind to me to a point, but I guess when it comes to addiction or something like that it is very unhelpful, because you think you’re okay when really you are not. It can be unhelpful to me too I suppose, because when I’m looking at a block of chocolate I think it’ll be okay instead of considering my obesity and how chocolate is really not okay!

Here’s the other thing. When I was first really unwell, the psychologist and the doctor and all the self help websites told me to do nice things to and for myself to help me feel just a bit better. Have a bath, eat your favourite food, watch your favourite show, go to your favourite place either physically or shut your eyes and imagine you are there. So chocolate, a hot chocolate, a bowl of yoghurt…whatever you love, was okay to eat anytime and all the time to help get you through the difficult days.

Except there was no limit put on that habit…so I just kept going and going. A limit would have been good, but realistically I was unwell for months while we tried fluoxetine, venlafaxine, sertraline, sertraline plus mirtazepine, sertraline plus quetiapine, desvenlafaxine plus quetiapine, reboxetine plus quetiapine and full circle to venlafaxine plus quetiapine and finally venlafaxine plus quetiapine plus lithium, the best yet! All of those antidepressants working a bit or not much, until finally the correct diagnosis of bipolar and the life-changing prescription of lithium.

And still the end date for self indulgence hasn’t been set.

I’m better; I’m not back to where I’d like to be. I have more energy; but still need my daily naps. I have more resilience; but some days I just need something external to make me feel better. I’m trying to cut down on my treats and snacks; but it’s hard!

And here’s my shortlist of how fatness that looks like pregnancy is different to pregnancy:

1) In pregnancy, you know what to expect and you prepare your body. You moisturise and Bio-oil your belly to prevent stretch marks. In fatness, stretch marks pop up out of the blue completely unexpected and you have no warning to prepare for that.

2) In pregnancy you get the baby most times, not always. In fatness you just have the rumours, the questions, the look without the baby at the end. To be honest, I haven’t decided whether I think this is a bad thing or a good thing….I’ll get back to you.

3) In pregnancy you deliver the baby and the belly size reduces a bit, then gradually reduces slowly back to somewhere near where you started. In fatness, these is no initial tummy reduction; you just start from wherever you are and gradually reduce it hopefully also to somewhere near where you started. So actually, the two conditions can be pretty similar in this regard.

Well that’s about all I have to say about fatness and pregnancy at this point in time.

I started and stopped the gym, I did a few food coaching sessions, I returned to pilates for a bit, I go on and off calorie restriction, we’re trying to do daily walks, I’m trying to get back on my bike on the trainer in the shed, I’m trying to walk past my favourite snacks.

It’s a work in progress; I’ll get there one day. And for now, my attempt is to be kind to myself and remember why I came to be where I am, and whenever I can, to do bits and pieces to help me along the way to getting where I want to go.

Work

It’s finally official.

The papers have been signed, keys handed over, cards taken back, electronic access removed, interview completed.

Done and done.

Going, going, gone. Just like that.

The end.

Goodbye, all.

I, Danika Sanderson, as of the 14th of October, 2014 no longer have a job.

I am now unemployed.

Fully unemployed. Not like before when I got sick leave and regular contact with colleagues and had a job to go back to.

No, this time it’s different. This time there are no prospects of going back to paid work, no contracts giving me assurance that if I am fit for it, I could give it a go. No, there’s nothing.

And I have to say it’s pretty scary! I’m finding myself to be quite emotional and upset about walking away; about just leaving with no guarantee of returning.

I’m a think-of-the-consequences girl even when I don’t have raging anxiety, and my plan has always been to have a career that is essential and will always be needed, and to always have a long term position. I was extremely lucky to get a permanent position straight out of my internship and I was in that role for 4 years.

Taking the one year contract that just finished was my most risky move yet. And it’s really not that risky! Even inside that one year contract my plan was to apply for every full-time permanent position that came my way. Unfortunately the first position came up at the same time that I went down…so I was never able to do anything about it. Which has brought us to now.

The most important lesson I’ve learned as I’ve approached the end of work is that my idea of where I want to be (working full-time in the high turnover critical patient load environment of the emergency department, or as a close second best filling a full clinical role of the general medicine ward) is still a long long throw from where I actually am (barely holding down 3 shifts of 5 hours per week).

I keep coming up against this issue: I want to apply for the full-time permanent clinical pharmacist role, but I’m probably better suited to one day per week, if that!

Expectation versus real life. Dream versus reality. Hope versus experience. Fiction versus fact. Etc.

I suppose it continues to frustrate me that I’m not getting any closer to my overall goal with any great speed. I want to rush ahead and get there already. I want to be there so badly that I really feel like shoving through the tired and the anergy, to enter into ill-fated contracts and over-commit myself.

I’m so keen that it conveniently doesn’t occur to my brain at the same time that I wouldn’t last a day, let alone the week even if I happened to get the contract and commit myself. It doesn’t come to mind that I’ve spent literally months in bed in the last 6 months and although I’m up and about my brain certainly isn’t quite as sharp as it was. Nothing about the reality of my days ever seems to share the same space with my hopes for future days; I’m not sure why my brain works like this…but it’s something I need to sort out.

Time to move some furniture around and get hope and reality together at the dining table for a serious chat before I start looking at my future plans!

Mental as

This week is Mental Health Week from 5th to 12th of October and today, Friday 10th October, is World Mental Health Day.

You know me; that’s just way too much of an opportunity for me to let it pass!

There have been some amazing efforts put forward this week by various agencies to improve our understanding of mental health conditions, treatments and the help available to every single one of us. In particular today’s theme is Schizophrenia so there will be a lot of information available about this condition specifically.

If you haven’t already seen some of these efforts come up on Facebook/Twitter/MySpace/ Instagram/email/TV/the streets, you may want to check out the Black Dog Institute, the South African Depression and Anxiety group, Beyond Blue, ABC TV, Headspace, lifeline or one of the many other groups, associations and publishers that have websites, social media presence and who are doing remarkable work to help us all.

Mental Health Week allows mental health issues to be brought to the foreground as a topic for discussion in workplaces, at home, in schools, TAFEs and universities, among certain ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural groups and generally everywhere.

I think the very much most important-ist place to talk about mental health is with yourself. What do YOU think about mental health? What are your fears, concerns, issues, problems with mental health? What do you know, and what don’t you know? Is it a personal issue for you; is it a family, personal, friend, colleague, acquaintance issue? What do you want, need, hope for, wish for about mental health? Etc…you can think up the questions.

The second most important place at discuss mental health is at home. Around the dinner table, in front of the TV, in the car on the way to school etc. If we are all too afraid to talk about it when it isn’t an issue for anyone important to us, how on earth are we going to be able to bring the topic into the house if and when it does become something that we need to talk about?! So start a conversation today. Do it. Just do it. For your future self, or family member, just in case.

Mental health week is a chance for the concerns, the issues, the requests for resources, the commendations of individuals and organisations to be heard. It’s also a time when each party puts forward their specific focus and area of interest.

So what’s mine? And what’s yours? I’d love to hear them, and I’m sure any of the organisations and even government bodies putting in a presence this week would appreciate knowing your opinion too. In fact you can pledge your promise to improve mental health and share it via the awesome R U OK? website or social media.

My dream is that every single solitary person in this lucky country would understand mental illness.

Or if they don’t understand it, that at least they would know what mental illness is, how it can treated, where help can be found and when to intervene to help somebody. That would make me so happy!

‘Mental illness’ is a vast and changing term but my dream is that at a minimum depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia would be understood or known by everyone. I know there are a whole lot of other disorders and illnesses that are equally important and need to be educated around, but this is my dream.

I want mental health education to start in the first year of high school as part of health, or English, or science, or SOSE, or PE, or languages or ANYTHING! I don’t care what bracket it’s taught under; I just want every child to know what can be out there for a friend, family members or themselves.

Since I have been talking about my mental health, a friend has contacted me to say her mother was undiagnosed with bipolar for her whole childhood and teen years and treated unsuccessfully for depression, which can be a common course. She wrote to say how glad she was that I got the right diagnosis so quickly (18 months didn’t feel quick, but it’s relative), and to say how much she wished it had been found out earlier in her mother, because it would have changed everything!

So consider this: some education to family members earlier in life may, just may, have changed lives!

I don’t want mental health to scare people. On my return to work, a health professional colleague responded to my statement that how I’d been off work with a nervous breakdown by saying: “Depression scares me! Sometimes I find my mood getting low and it freaks me out so I make myself be happy again. I don’t want anything messing with my brain”!!! This is a health professional! With clearly no more understanding of mental illness than a goose, which is very unfortunate!

We need everyone, and especially health professionals, educators and anyone dealing with the public, but we might as well go for ALL people while we are at it, to UNDERSTAND mental illness!

Not just read about it, swot it for exams, know the diagnostic criteria! We need people to know that depression doesn’t change your brain, yes it’s not nice but no reason to be terrified of it!

It’s not any more scary than diabetes which can kill or damage nerves causing severe pain, blind you, deafen you, make you prone to infections, put you at risk of stroke and heart attack!! That’s a LOT more scary to me than a serotonin imbalance that can be corrected with medication, counselling, time and support.

So here’s to dreams! And the tiny steps we can take to today, to start to get there!

*I’d like to acknowledge the slogan of the ABC’s fabulous efforts in broadcasting mental health education and issues for Mental Health Week as the inspiration for my title*

Tired

Tired. Being tired. Feeling tired.

This is still the hardest thing of all for me to deal with. Especially so because I can’t really see that much of an end to it coming up with any haste.

Being or feeling tired, is pretty much the physical equal of being or feeling depressed, mentally. In fact I think they are different ends of the same condition. I’m sure that every depressed person feels tired; I’m not sure if every tired person, who is tired from some other cause that is ongoing and continuous, feels depressed but I’m guessing the percentage that do feel depressed is pretty high.

Most of the stereotypes are exactly the same.

You know, all the old favourites: “you don’t look tired”, “you don’t seem tired”, “I bet if you pushed yourself you would find that you’re not that tired”, “if you just tried a bit harder I’m sure you’d be fine”, “exercise is good for people when they’re feeling tired”, “if you were really tired you’d be sleeping instead of just laying around”, “are you eating properly because if you were I’m sure you’d find you weren’t so tired”, “are you sure you’re not just being lazy”, “are you sure you wouldn’t feel better if you did something for the day instead of sitting/lying there”, “are you sure quitting is good for you? If you pushed yourself I think you could keep going”, “everyone gets tired, you just have to push through it”.

Yawn! Surely it can't be time to get up! bed

Yawn! Surely it can’t be time to get up!

Really?! So let me get this straight. It’s not bad enough that I’m suffering with tiredness, but now you get to judge me for the affliction which I would never have wished for, and condemn me for however I somehow manage my way through it. Hmmm. Yep that sounds reasonable.

Rant over; that’s not what this is about. But I will make a side point here before we move one. Every single time that you want to ask someone a question that subtly suggests they are being useless and not helping themselves, think about this.

If that person had cancer and was suffering from whatever-it-is, in this case let’s say tiredness since that’s the topic, would you still ask the question? Would you still hint that they could do better and be better?

If that fails, try, and I mean REALLY try, to empathise with the subject, in this case, let’s say me. How about, as a mental exrcise, you imagine you were me? You may be a friend who knows a little about me, family who knows a bit more about me, or a stranger unmet that knows only what’s written here…but try. And if you can’t imagine it, or have insufficient information to really get into my shoes, then maybe it would be appropriate for you to consider that you also have no right to comment.

And please don’t take this as a rudeness or a get-out-of-here sentence! It’s meant only as a demonstration because I’m certain that most people commenting on health and mental health these days are not the people who have an inside and intimate view of the various conditions that exist.

So; being tired.

Here is the 50 million dollar question: is it physical or mental?

Here is the 25 million dollar: does it matter?

And here’s the question that I want answered that I’m not sure there is even an answer to: what the ……. am I supposed to do about it??? Fill in the blank yourself.

I have no idea what to do about it. No clue.

Everyone else has a lot of ideas.

Who has the answer that is best for me?

So here’s my systematic approach.

Why am I tired?

First cab off the ranks: I have depression, bipolar depression that comes with lack of motivation, lack of energy, lack of stamina, lack of feeling. So there’s that.

Second idea: medications including quetiapine (Seroquel) which literally puts me to sleep at night and possible hangs over a bit the next day; lithium which is known to slow you down a bit, so there’s a bit more.

Third thing: I have underactive thyroid which was caused by lithium and we’re still working on getting the thyroxine (Oroxine) dose right. I started on half a tablet, now I’m on a full tablet of the lowest strength and we’re waiting the 6 weeks before we can take a blood test to check if we need to bump it up again. Also I’ve had iron deficiency anaemia over the last year and while my iron levels are finally okay, my iron stores are still low so I’m still getting that sorted out with iron tablets and I’m also enrolled in a clinical trial to help with iron levels. None of that helps.

Fourth: the weight gain thing. The last time I ran around and got excited about jumping up and down, I was 30kg lighter! Thirty kilograms. It should surprise no one that a person carrying a bag of 30kg moves slower than they used to! It’s logical maths.

So actually, when I see it all written out on paper in detail…I realise maybe I could be giving myself a break.

Hmm. That’s actually quite a lot of reasons to be going slow…maybe I need to go back to psychology basics and re-frame my life these days. Maybe what is desperately needed here is some of that self compassion that I blab about but forget to apply, and a new perspective.

The perspective that says, Danika, whatever you can get done today is excellent. Congratulate yourself for getting up out of bed, for having breakfast, for getting out of the house, for getting through a shift of work, for whatever activity you do.

Forget about wondering why you can’t this and that, why you used to be able to do this and can’t now, why it’s hard to get through what you want to get through.

Try being excited and satisfied and happy about whatever you can get done. Give yourself a break. Don’t just say it, give it! It’s not a theory, it needs to be a practice. Give yourself a break!

And remember that you have hope of improving in the future: the plan to eventually wean you off sleepy quetiapine, your intention to slow weight slowly but steadily, your commitment to your medication that should correct your thyroid function and anaemia.

RIght now, it doesn’t matter what the tiredness is; could be anything off the list. Just take each day as it comes, and try not to have excessive expectations of yourself in your current state. You aren’t last year, you aren’t later this year; you’re right now, so just handle what you can handle, and leave the rest to another day.

And seriously: take your own advice! Don’t just right these easy lines for someone else’s benefit; read them and believe them and check in on them again each day. Every day. I don’t want you getting into a state about this tiredness thing anymore; give yourself a break!