Hard questions #1

*WARNING: this is a blunt and honest account of hygiene, specifically the lack thereof – you may not look at me quite the same after reading this, but remember that I am the same person, just struggling to keep my juggling balls in the air*

What I write here, I write to share with you the side of mental illness that isn’t necessarily obvious to the onlooker, be they aware or unaware of the illness. Or maybe its obvious, but not understood. I write it to break through the stigma, if I can, that still settles over the mentally ill and to raise awareness of what life is like inside a head that doesn’t let you be the boss very often.

I know this isn’t going to be glamorous. But believe me: I’m not trying to sensationalise the truth. If anything, I’m under-selling the real story. So here we go:

Some questions are hard to answer.

Some questions are unanswerable.

Some you just wish were!

Like,

“How long is it since you last had a shower?” – husband

 

Ummm…well…

I’m not really sure…ahhh…

Maybe…I don’t know…

I think it was…

Hang on, when did I last work? Was it then…no, that’s right, I dry shampooed…

So, then…maybe on the weekend? Which day was it…

You changed the towels a week ago?

I haven’t used mine yet? Hmm…

…well then I guess…well then I guess that’s when…ah, yeah…so…a week you say…

Now where was I? let me just…slowly walks awaydrowns in shame

Plans to shower tomorrowknows it probably won’t happen

more shamethat’s life!

There are a number of questions that you try your best to avoid hearing, and therefore having to answer, once chronic illness has set in.

Like, when did you last have a shower.

I was never a shower-a-day person. I grew up out of town in drought years and whenever the rain didn’t come we had to buy in tanker loads of water to fill up our concrete tanks because we weren’t connected to town water. For longer than I liked we didn’t shower, we bathed because it was much more economical for water use to run a bath tub full of water rather than have individual showers. Plus when we were little its just what you do; everyone piles in. When we were little the bathroom was also outside in the mud brick section of the house: shower and bath in one room, laundry in another, and toilet at the end. Later on in our school years we got an inside bathroom (toilet still outside) and it was one after the other, and you got to top it up with hot water if it ran cold, which by the time the 4th person got in was a high likelihood, never mind the parents. Especially because some people liked to have a sleep in there, regardless of those following! Okay I was one of those having a sleep in the bath, but I went last or close to last. If you were washing your hair you got to quickly rinse the conditioner off in the shower, given that the bath water wasn’t the cleanest by that point. Then again, showering wasn’t all it cracked up to be since the shower head was too short! It was half a gym workout doing squats under the tap while rinsing your hair!

So I was an every second day washer, basically just when my hair needed washing or my leg hair was getting to liberated woman stage! So when I got sick I didn’t exactly have the best routine to fall back on.

Why is showering so difficult and so irregular now?

There’s no simple, snappy one-liner answer.

It’s a few things.

My shower is in a bath. Lifting a leg over the tub just always seems so…HARD! I think about having a shower, and I think about getting one leg up and over, let alone 2 legs into that bath without over-balancing, the effort of getting my big self up and over into the tub and its just…its…its so…its just, yeah, well, maybe tomorrow.

So there’s that. Plus it takes energy. If I had a store of energy, like in a barn, I would go get the amount of energy that I need with my forklift and bring it back to the bathroom and have my shower. It would be simple, straightforward. I would just take the exact amount of energy needed, use it to have a shower and it would be all good! Sadly, unfortunately, regrettably, energy doesn’t store. It just comes and goes, waxes and wanes. You either have it in the moment or you don’t. There are things that help or not, but there’s no guarantee of having the energy you need when you need it. So, lying in bed thinking about having a shower and I ask myself, do I have the energy to do this right now? And it’s an easy answer, it’s a yes/no problem. So it either happens, or it doesn’t. I.e. it doesn’t. Because all that thinking just used up my having a shower energy! Isn’t that ironic? So now no energy, no shower and I turn my attention to covering up not having a shower, if its been more than a day.

There are things that make it a bit easier. Hubby getting the shower running and frogmarching me to the edge of the tub for instance. Well that’s about it, actually. There are hardly any things that actually motivate me to the point of getting up off my tush and having a shower, even my amazing husband. Even when he asks me to, as a favour to him. This is a point that a lot of people don’t understand.

“Don’t you want to do it for me?”, “Yes I do want to do it for you”.

“Do it for me”, “I can’t”.

“Can’t you even do it for me?”, “I’m sorry, I just can’t, even for you”.

It hurts me to give these answers. I love my husband more than anything in the whole world. We have been best friends since 2003, since we met practically. We’ve been married for nearly 8 years and have shared everything together. If I could do it for him, I would! Come to think of it, if I could do it for myself, I would! But its not about that. Its about not having the energy, the motivation, the drive to do it. If one of those questions comes up, it just makes me feel worse about the whole thing, which is not the intention I know; that I wouldn’t even do it for him, after all he’s done for me. How selfish!!

And maybe it is selfish. A lot of times depressed people have to make selfish choices for their own survival, be it mental, physical, or emotional survival. And it hurts us to do it. But we need to, even if you don’t see why. It’s not about you, its about us; that sounds selfish right there. But we spend a lot of time conserving our resources and we know what we can and can’t manage. But doing that means a lot of navel-gazing, inward looking so you’ll have to excuse us while we’re busy sorting ourselves out, please.

I think it is a severe understatement to say that my husband is long-suffering! He is beyond patient and kind with me, beyond what I deserve for trying his limits so severely with such things as:

  • unwashed hair looking and feeling greasy
  • the same hair tangled into dreadlocks-style clumps that have to be cut out after who knows how long of not brushing my hair, then dry shampooing, then not brushing, then dry shampooing etc
  • eyebrow/underarm/leg/bikini waxing abandoned I don’t even know how long ago anymore!
  • tooth brushing I also don’t know…well I do know cos I brushed them last week once, but before that its anyone’s guess and he suffers them orange with food stuff and still bravely kisses me when I must be repulsive with plaquey teeth and bad breath
  • BO is one area that I think is mostly under control thanks to Dove Invisible Dry with 1/4 soap
  • avoiding hand washing except when its absolutely necessary, meaning much less often than I should

You would think that because I love my husband so much, and because I know that I owe him so much, and want to please him, that these emotions would motivate me to fix these areas. He hopes that I would do it for him, and I’d love to be able to do these things for him, but wanting to do it and doing it are separate entities that rarely collide, I’ve found. Because while I DO want to do it, especially do it for him, wanting it doesn’t give you energy, the kick, the ability to actually get up and do it. I wish. So often, probably daily, my husband may well think that I don’t care enough about him to do one “little” thing for him like clean my teeth. But there’s just something so difficult to overcome in myself to just start to think about doing one of these things. I want to in theory, but practice hasn’t really tallied out on my side.

It’s difficult to explain why its so hard to do these things. After all they’re easy things that most people just do without even thinking about it. But its a common happening in depressed people to get slacker on these things. It’s just one of those things that goes when your mind and your body slow down. It takes 10 minutes of pros and cons to decide that I absolutely can’t go another day without showering, that even my soapy deodorant, dry shampoo and perfume aren’t going to cut it today. Then it takes a good 10 minutes to plan how I’m going to get up, walk the 9 steps to the bathroom (actually 9 steps), clamber into the bath and get the shower going. Then I may actually have a shower, or can it after all and skip another day.

I’m not alone. I was relieved when I found this out. Depression tells you that you’re a slob, and disgusting, and no one wants to be around you, and maybe thats not far off. But knowing that this is a common symptom of depression takes a little of the pressure off, which helps you to take it easy on yourself, which in its own twisted roundabout way means that you’re MORE likely to pick up some of the hygiene slack. So here’s what others have said

“Literally not showering for months. Not changing your clothes for weeks. Not combing your hair for days. Not brushing your teeth for weeks. With depression, hygiene goes out the window.” — Zoe S – The Mighty ‘Worst Symptoms of Depression‘ article.

“Not keeping in touch with anyone, bad personal hygiene and extremely bad reactions to seemingly trivial things.” — Jenny B – Upworthy ‘30 Things Depressed People Do‘ article.

“I love not having to decide if I’m mentally and emotionally prepared to spend time drying my hair after a shower” – a friend who just shaved her head for cancer awareness and fundraising.

“Thinking about going to the gymhaving a shower like”…hopefully this opens to a visual aid giving you an idea of how I think about showers.

But now, a new directive:

“Danika, I strongly encourage you to shower daily” – my psychiatrist

Rats!! *snaps fingers* I was hoping to avoid such a direct instruction!

“Not for hygiene…”

Well that’s surprising! All I’ve considered so far is hygiene.

“…but for your own self-worth. You aren’t showering because of low self-worth, and then not showering further lowers your self-worth. *cue light bulb moment* You have come from a long way back to get back to work and it hasn’t been easy, especially having issues with the pharmacy board and your current job, but you made it. As far as work goes you’re back to where you came from, more or less. Showering daily will reinforce to you that you’re back to where you came from, and improve your self-worth. Your actions inform your mind, just as your mind informs your actions” – my psychiatrist, quoted as near as I can remember.

Well that was all a revelation, I can tell you!

Showering to improve how I think about myself. Not cause its the thing to do, or for hygiene, or cause someone thinks I should. In fact, its all about me! And don’t we like that?

So, here I am the day after yesterday when I talked to my psychiatrist, 5.26pm, wondering when exactly should I have this shower? Cos I’ve managed to not have the time for it so far: dropping off the car to get serviced first thing then doing a jobs run of picking up clothing repairs/script dispensing/groceries/posting a parcel then walking home, breakfast, a nap, another little nap, house inspection, groceries delivered, pick up the car, Officeworks. And now going out to dinner…is there time before? Or when we get home? Hmmm.

I do feel like my head is in a different space though, after that chat. Shout out to my darling husband for dobbing me in to the psychiatrist!! Sheesh!! So, about that shower…

Canberra Days 57 to 63

[Day 46 OR Day 57 – Monday November 7th to Day 52 OR 63 – Sunday November 13th]

…okay I’m calling it, Day 57 to 63…our time here won’t be shorter here minus the NZ trip…you can’t take back days, so there we have it

To kept this moving, and because my week was pretty uneventful anyway, I’m going to give you another ‘one week snapshot’ and then we’ll be approaching up to date. Not my original plan, but rolling with the punches, and here we go!

Monday November 7th – first day home from holidays, a day spent processing holiday photos and cross checking them with my new bird book, doing a couple of loads of washing and not much else, feeling a bit dull and flat and tired. Then to get me going hubby suggested an after work bike ride around the city: ANU, Commonwealth Park, the lake, the Carillon, defense department, Lonsdale street. I believe this had the secondary purpose of making me change my front bike tube already from before we went on holidays! I just lost confidence that I could still do it so I put off doing it, missing out on some ride opportunities because of this, but as soon as I started there it was! Back again! I’m really down on myself lately; I’ve got to stop! Then tea at the food truck park from ’10 inch custom pizzeria’. Watching the skilled girl flipping dough into bases was lots of fun! Haloumi and potato wood fired pizza; winning! And rolling home again feeling excellent.

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Tuesday November 8th – a new friend kindly invited me out to morning tea at her friend’s house out at Bungendore. I arrived to a table set up down the back garden under fruit trees with chocolate cake and fizzy drink; so lovely! Got a cuddle with another friend’s little bubba who is growing fast and just adorable, and a lovely few hours chatting and getting to know the other friends. Then a drive around town taking in all the historic buildings, an awesome hot dog and the drive home. I discovered Sparrow Hill and Kowen Park for future birding, photographed the awesome Dickson street art and then home for a well deserved, and very satisfying nap. A load of washing and that’s a pretty good day.

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Wednesday November 9th – not much of anything today. A load of washing, lots of sitting on the couch, lots of rain and this fleeting rainbow as seen from my couch. Bit of a blergh day. I did get my scripts dispensed and my awful tax debt sorted with my accountant…no wonder I’m flat! So it was good that hubby called at lunchtime for me to ride down to Dickson and meet him for lunch at Alara’s turkish place. At least that got me kickstarted.

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Thursday November 10th – I took a while to get going today again. I had my plan of what to do but just couldn’t really get started. Instead of riding out to Mount Majura as planned I drove, and actually I was pretty glad cos I wouldn’t have done half as much walking if I’d been thinking about the ride home. So a late afternoon walk around Mount Majura from the Federal Highway entry birding which was interesting mostly for one fact. A Brown Falcon was hovering overhead which was brilliant in itself because it was pretty low down and I got some fabulous photos! But this always upsets all the other birds. All the little birds had completely vanished, and the big birds were all making an absolute fuss and racket! What was particularly fascinating was the behaviour of the ravens. There were between 15 and 20 ravens in the air also hovering, spaced evenly over the whole area that the falcon would be interested in and it was like they were creating a blanket of protection to prevent the falcon from getting down and attacking other birds. This was so interesting, I’ve never seen such teamwork from ravens before. Anytime the falcon got too near one of the hovering ravens there would be a scuffle and the falcon would move on. I didn’t watch the falcon the whole time, but I don’t think in two hours that it got down to the ground. Once I got further up the hill away from the falcon’s area there was a sudden explosion of little birds which was excellent. I’m really pleased that I got myself out to do this walk. Apart from all this the bush flowers and butterflies and dragonflies were also excellent.

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One Brown Falcon soaring above Mount Majura and every other bird goes crazy!

Friday November 11th – Remembrance Day at the National War Memorial. What can I say? I am so glad that I attended! I rode down on my bike. I’m getting quite used to just jumping on my bike in whatever I happen to be wearing and going. Before I would procrastinate about having to change my clothes, and maybe take a nicer change with me, and change again…and of course I never got started. But a different mindset about just going regardless makes it much easier to get out the bike and down a flight of stairs! Oy the stairs! Anyway, at least its only one flight. You have to book to attend Remembrance Day. You don’t have to pay, just book, and I can see why; it’s one classy event! From the Army, Navy and Air Force representatives marching onto the parade ground, to the Royal Military College (RMC) Duntroon band playing absolutely beautifully, to the Australian Rugby Choir of veterans singing so wonderfullly, to that chilling minute of silence of a few hundred people, to the traditions of formal arrival of the Prime Minister and Govenor General and partner in town cars, to the outstanding speech given by Beyond Blue ambassador Jeff Kennett on veterans mental health and our responsibility to care for them once they are home, to the laying of wreaths by all the embassies…wow, what an hour and a half!! Just fabulous. The hymns played by the band…there were 5 that I recognised and weren’t they played to perfection?! I’m going to hear the band again in December, and I’m very excited! On another note, did you know that I do a weekly weigh in? And somehow despite all that we ate and drank in New Zealand…I lost a tiny bit of weight. It’s nothing conclusive, but still. Every little win is something. Another win was going laptop shopping and buying a laptop after only an hour of so of looking! MAJOR win, I hate looking at specs! Despite shopping at JB, we had an excellent saleman who was super helpful. I ended up getting a super dooper deal buying the last computer in my model, and YAY! I finally have a laptop that can connect to the internet, can process photos without dying, has a CD drive and once we get the extra storage, doesn’t flash ‘no more storage’ every time I try to upload photos! I’m really happy. I got my handbag repaired at the same time, had yummy tacos for dinner. And had a catch after NZ chat with grandma. What a day!

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The Navy, Army and Air Force backed up by the Royal Military College Duntroon band and the Australian Rugby Choir

Saturday November 12th – A big sleep in and slow day for both of us, hubby a bit under the weather and me the usual. Not a very eventful day, we canned our plans cos we just didn’t feel up for anything, not even bike riding or birding! Feeling that the day had been too sluggish hubby got a burst of energy to do the vacuuming, clean up the kitchen, do some washing and get some groceries in the late afternoon. We had Japanese for dinner at Bon Kura in Dickson with rainbow rolls which was excellent!

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Sunday November 13th – hubby under the weather again so had to cancel our lunch plans which was a big shame! As always a beautiful drive down south for fellowship. So Macca’s for lunch as a poor substitute. Afternoon naps all round, and not much more to it than that!

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Actually, that was pretty eventful! I’ve gotta stop telling myself that I am less, I do less, I’m worth less because I don’t work, I don’t volunteer, and I do different stuff to what other people are doing. Do I sometimes go back to bed at 11am? Yes. Do I sometimes lie in all morning? Yes. But do I always try to make my day something new and special? Yes. Do I nap every day? Yep, you betcha! But I’m doing my best to live the best life that I can right now and I am making gains in physical stamina and mental strength. You probably know all this without me having to explain it. But it seems that I need to explain it to myself rather often, so it may as well be written down for posterity!

Canberra Day Thirty Six

[Sunday 16th October, 2016]

Since we’ve moved closer to the city we have a shorter drive to our morning fellowship but the drive is just as beautiful! And today is a beautiful day. Finally, people are saying, finally its spring! Lovely blue skies, warm sun, breezes; aahhh! And for more than one day at a time. A lovely group of people on a lovely day; life is pretty good.

And then lunch. Well we aren’t organised for it so eating out it is, such a shame. I mentioned Piallago to hubby a while back and he brought it up for today. Perfect. It consists of one short little road that goes off the highway into a little country nook and to my count has 7 plant nurseries, 1 moonlight limo bus, Piallago Estate and ballooning. I’d only been there during the week when it was dead quiet on the road and only a couple of cars in each nursery car park. The weekend was something else! Cars parked in every possible place that a car would park and then some! Far out! I guess that’s what you get when you combine nurseries, the weekend and a beautiful day! Anyway despite the majority of people having booked in advance, obviously knowing more than we did, we got a perfect little table mostly in the shade, out of the wind and with a great view. Luck of the walk-in customer! A great little lunch, enjoying time in the weather, chatting; spot on! Nip home for an hour’s nap, off to the mission meeting, then back to one of our new friend’s places for dinner. A lovely couple and their Miss 4 and Mister Nearly 3. We had such a fun time with the kids and with their parents. A great dinner and a lovely night. A nice lovely little day.

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Canberra Day Fourteen

Today was so satisfying.

We were planning to go away for the ACT long weekend. Ever since we first found out that we were coming up here we’re planned to explore the area around Canberra and into NSW while we’re nearby. So, first long weekend, what to do? Unfortunately the week just flew by and it was Friday night before we knew it and we hadn’t organized anything. Don’t panic, all is not lost. As it turns out hubby wanted to do a morning bunch ride which would get him back home by 9.30am, and I really wanted to attend the Government House open day at 11am because I had heard that these days don’t come around often, and it’s something I’ve never done. So we happily “compromised”. Read: not really, we just changed our thinking from what we “should do” i.e. leave Friday night after work, to what we wanted to do and what worked much better for us. A victory over the “should”s.)

Hubby did a ride, and then another ride; very excited to be out riding and out riding with a group of like-minded people who wanted to push themselves, and I’m thrilled that he’s back out because he really needs his riding to keep everything else in balance. No riding for hubby=no joy for wife. I went to Government House and was blown away by the sheer crowds of other people wanting to do the same thing! Seriously, it was incredible! And the whole Government House experience was worth it, for sure. The old English style very much prevailing in old fashioned buildings. Hubby feels sorry for the Queen who never gets to say in upscale modern buildings with all the mod cons. But there’s something so familiar about these old places; or maybe that from my grandparents-in-law’s sitting room…the exact same floor rugs and carpets, tea settings, sofa chairs; the list goes on! Even a cushion in the EXACT same fabric. Sadly you couldn’t take photos inside.

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So mission accomplished for both of us. Then time to chill and check out accommodation without rushing, and set off on our holiday, still with two days ahead of us. We might do it this way again; it really worked for us. A gorgeous drive over through the dramatic and scenic Kangaroo Valley and surrounding mountains which should be worth visiting on the way back, and arriving just in time for a walk along the bay/river at Shoalhaven Heads where we’re staying at the hotel. A yummy dinner in the hotel restaurant watching Bulldogs reign supreme over GWS in the proper football code on the big screen, then a baffling time trying to figure out what the Raiders and Storm were doing; and don’t dare barrack for Melbourne in that room!! So much to look forward to, so much enjoyed already. Life is good.

Canberra Day Eleven

When it rains in Canberra, it rains!

None of these Melbourne showers, and squalls, and sun showers with rainbows, and breaks of nice weather then another shower, from clouds to blue skies and back again. Just steady solid rain from well before I woke up, until 4pm; just constant, consistent rain requiring wipers on continuous cycle. Rivers have overflowed, lakes are breaking their banks, creeks are rapids; there must be a lot of water coming from upstream, and the ground around here is already sodden from before today’s rain so water is running off not soaking in. No threatening flooding that I know of, but you can see it all around. Good day to hibernate, right?

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Yerrabi Pond well above its usual borders by the look of the swamped young trees and surrounded bigger trees

So I had a sleep in, then another one, spent some fun time looking through my Floriade photos at the gorgeous flowers, got my spare tyre replaced after hitting a curb and getting a sidewall puncture on Monday…and that’s about all! Had a bit of a drive into some housing estates on the way back home checking out the flooded Yerrabi Pond that is up the trunk of several small trees around the usual edges. Didn’t get any photos that really represent how flooded it is…it’s hard to get the context. And what do you know? It’s nap time! That day went quickly! Well it wasn’t quite over: I made tea cos it was way overdue to be my turn since we started our 4 person rotation last week, enjoyed our weekly gospel meeting and met up with wonderful old friends. Then ended the day with hubby, some overdue alone time since our lovely hosts are away on holidays and we have the run of the house.

Canberra Day 4

14th September, 2016

Today was another sort of not much day, but last night was also late at the baby shower of all things, so that wasn’t the best preparation for the day. Not that I regret going one little bit, it was a fun feel good night with lots of laughs and lovely people.

The same pattern prevailed today: get up early and go to hubby’s work, drive on, this time around part of the western loop of Lake Burley Griffin that I rode yesterday and take photos, home for a late breakfast. The lake makes such a brilliant subject, and I also got some lovely shots of King Parrots feeding in the grass. These are usually very timid birds but living next to the bike path seems to have accustomed them to people coming and going and I was able to get within a few metres which was fabulous!

Then some work on my website, yesterday’s blog, leftovers for lunch and a couple of hours napping to round out the day! Really not much of note. It rained today from lunch on and off so it was kind of a rest day. There are meant to be showers for the rest of the week but I’m hoping to get some things done between showers. If not, there are plenty of indoorsy things to do so I want to keep the ball rolling before I get stuck on the couch again.

My photo of the day, surprisingly, isn’t the awesome close ups of king parrots, welcome swallows and my first decent photos of yellow rumped thornbills. The photo of the day has to be the lake, beautiful and serene. I think it’ll become a favourite!

And we’re done! See, I promised they’d get shorter 🙂

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For more photos from today check out my website: Morning Lake Burley Griffin Drive

Feathery Friday #2

This is the continuation of a series about our recent roadtrip.

His and hers luggage for the week of biking and birding

His and hers luggage for the week of biking and birding

7th July 2015: A rainy start in Lakes Entrance meant no sightseeing in the morning, so no bike ride along Cunningham Arm.

An attractive looking wood fire smoking the back yard at Manna Park

An attractive looking wood fire smoking the back yard at Manna Park

A beautiful drive through to Eden for delicious oysters for lunch, then afternoon tea with friends in Merimbula then on to Manna Park just past Tura Beach for more mountain bike riding.

Mountain biking at Manna Park

Mountain biking at Manna Park

I was happy to bird watch where we were, there weren’t any notable bird watching areas in the vicinity that came up on a Google search!

Grevillea growing around the park, makes for good birding!

Grevillea growing around the park, makes for good birding!

My friend photographer has inspired me to look at the ground, its amazing what you see!

My friend photographer [2_anne___ on Instagram] has inspired me to look at the ground; its amazing what you see!

I wandered around and got shots of a Little Wattlebird feeding on nectar,

A couple of blurry shots that'll make you wonder if you need your eyes tested; low light is hard to work with

A couple of blurry shots that’ll make you wonder if you need your eyes tested; low light is hard to work with

Early dinner for this agile birdie, lots of fun to watch and photograph...even with no light to work with!

Early dinner for this agile birdie, lots of fun to watch and photograph…even with no light to work with!

and a lifer in a Wonga Pigeon!

Could have missed this one in the gloom, but out of instinct I stopped the car and got a lifer!

Could have missed this one in the gloom, but out of instinct I stopped the car and got a lifer!

Another Wonga pigeon, from the other side...nothing flash and still a once in a lifetime for me, so far

Another Wonga pigeon, from the other side…nothing flash and still a once in a lifetime for me, so far

I drove elsewhere to get some other pictures, but the light and time of day were not on my side.

Not a bad alternative, but the light was too low for many photos

Not a bad alternative, but the light was too low for many photos

Last light of the day, not super productive but got me a lifer!

Last light of the day, not super productive but got me a lifer!