Canberra Day Eight

I can’t go for any more days without talking about Peanut.

We arrived a week ago last night (can you believe that it’s only been a week?!?) to our brother and sister in law’s house when they were away for the weekend on a fishing trip. We found the key and let ourselves in, and as we were doing so, the cat Peanut peered around the corner at us, decided we were okay, followed us in and that was that!

Next thing he was climbing onto our laps, and putting his paws up around our necks, while purring like a motor. He’s just one year old, and still up for chasing a paper ball around the room, getting scratched under the chin, and fake biting. He’s a gorgeous animal, and even has the two of us wondering if we should get a cat!! Except of course we’re renting right now. But he’s lovely, crawling up beside us on the couch and curling up for a sleep. He does have one unfortunate habit: he likes to be the centre of attention, so if you’re using a phone or laptop he prefers to take your mind off that by walking over it, sitting, or if it calls for desperate measures, lying on it!

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It’s hard to get a good phone photo cos he moves so quickly but you get this gist: sitting on hubby’s right hand so he can’t do anything, sitting on the laptop, giving a cat hug! His hearing is amazing, he knows when his parents are coming home and his ears twitch with sounds that I can’t hear. And he definitely knows when his chicken is coming out of the fridge!! He tries to talk to the birds, chirping and whistling…to what end I’m not certain. But after a week we’re quite smitten! Sadly our family are going on holidays for ten days and so the cat has gone to their parents! So no Peanut for 10 days! I’m already in withdrawals! Me, the outside pet only person! I may yet be wound around Peanut’s fluffy tail!

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One of those things

[written sunny Saturday 9th July, 2016; updated 12th July, 2016]

Today I brushed my teeth.

It shouldn’t be a big deal should it, but it is. No one can remember the last time that I brushed my teeth…last year? It’s terrible I know, and doesn’t exactly match my pharmacists’ health promotion ethos, does it? And it’s not something my husband relishes! Or others, possibly; I haven’t heard! But it’s just gotten to be one of those things. You know, those things? Things that you should do, but it’s just a bit too hard. So they’ve slipped down the priority scale, and dropped off the to-do list. I know I have new cavities from being so slack; I can feel them on the lower left side of my mouth when I eat hot food, drink cold drinks, eat something sugary etc. It’s going to need some attention and I’m happy to give it that, but I’ve got an insurance situation to sort out before I can afford it. Soon. Interestingly, or not, I pack my toothbrush every time I go away. I even pack my dental floss, the same dental floss that I’ve had since no one knows when! That’s extreme optimism for you, right there! I don’t know why I think it’s going to be different on holidays, why I think I’ll get it done. I guess it’s something to do with believing I’ll have more time on holidays, that I’ll feel differently on holidays, that everything will fall into place on holidays. But that’s not how it works, is it? What you have at home, your routines, your schedule, your habits, you take on holidays with you. So it just gets put off a little longer, and a little longer. I’ve never been great at this, but I’ve been a heck of a lot better than this, even committing to daily bleaching my teeth for 3 weeks once! It’s probably one of the bigger of those things.

Today I washed my hands.

That, of all things, should NOT be a big deal but washing and drying my hands has become a stand off with myself! It’s like a rebellion against something, I don’t even know what. But you’re supposed to wash your hands, yeah? Well I won’t! Terrible, childish thought process, I know. But it’s there, and it takes a lot of overcoming! Every time I should be washing my hands, this something rises up in me and I just sneak away without doing it. So silly, yet it persists. Obviously because I work in a hospital there are safety limits but a pump of alcohol or chemical based cleaner is a lot easier to me; maybe I should install a couple of home! It’s just one of those things. It’s not that I never wash my hands. If I think an activity warrants it, like dirt from gardening, dusty or greasy hands from my bike, food matter etc then yes they get a good wash; or a good rub down on a hand towel that will disguise it! I’m practically a kid when it comes to this! It’s the little times when my hands aren’t dirty, but its tradition (and probably hygiene!) like before a meal, after a meal, little things. In my mind. Probably not in others minds, but it feels like unnecessary energy that I can’t afford to waste, so I save my efforts for something more essential, as least to my way of thinking. It’s one of those things which seem like why wouldn’t you just do it, but I feel like it will take too much energy. It’s a fight with myself.

Today I walked one kilometer.

Walking, any walking, has become a big deal since I got sick. I never used to think about the things I asked my body to do. I walked as long as I needed, I ran for exercise, I loved swimming for fun, weights were my favourite form of exercise, I’ve done a couple of bootcamps including one at a boxing gym, pilates was my relaxation, and so on. But now, I struggle a lot with it! For various reasons, I suppose: I’m fat and heavy, I’m slow and sluggish, it takes energy and effort and motivation, I’d rather catch ANY other form of transportation, my legs rub together and chafe til they’re red raw unless I wear undershorts or leggings, it drains my mind and my body, and I’ve come to associate it with pain and suffering. I know, a little over dramatic! But there you have it, it’s one of those things! This walk in particular was slow, and it wasn’t for exercise; it was for bird watching and photography. But hey, it was outside in the sun and breeze, and it was a kilometer. I take it however I get it, and don’t sneeze at the little bits of exercise however they come. I’m meant to be exercising more. Well that was more than yesterday, more than the day before, and more in one go than I’d done for the whole week and probably longer so I’m counting it as a win!

Today I rode my bike.

And it reminded me that I do love my bike! I’d forgotten that. I quickly forget the joys, and never-endingly remember the pains; it’s not a good way to be! I keep planning to ride with Wheel Women and sign myself up for rides optimistically hoping I’ll feel like it by the time they comes around. But then I pull out closer to the day as it becomes clearer that not having left the house or changed out of PJs for 2 days, it really isn’t going to be likely that I’ll be up and dressed by 8.30am ready to drive 45 minutes across the city! Or I heave a sigh of relief when a planned ride is cancelled due to rain, path flooding or wild weather. Then I roll over and go back to sleep. Well that’s been the pattern lately while I haven’t been well. Before today I hadn’t ridden or been on my bike even since the 3rd of June! Five weeks out of it! I think I’ve had 5 weeks out of a lot of things, to be honest. It’s been reasonably bleak for me and with me, and that’s when all of these things, those things, fall away because it’s too much effort to keep them going. But flying downhill brought on that high, that endorphin burst and suddenly I was in my zone, loving it! And I flew all the way home, even up the hills, and that was that, I was back, mentally. And when you’re there mentally, you’re there!

Today I climbed hills on my bike.

If you know me and my riding, you know about me and hills; we have a difficult relationship! Frankly, right now, I’m not built for going up hills! My weight is very much against me when trying to defy gravity by going up. Nevertheless, the hills are there and they do come across my path, and at the end of the day I do have to get up them somehow. So when Wheel Women ran a class on climbing, cornering and descending, it sounded like exactly the skill set that I could benefit from! So how did I get to that class when I hadn’t gotten to any other rides? My innate cheapness!! I put down money for this class, little though it be, but it’s a powerful motivator in someone with Scottish blood, however diluted it be! And I did learn some super helpful tips to help me up those hills. And then I flew down them again, but that’s the fun bit, the bit that gives you a rush! The other bit, the climbing is different, but I guess it’s a means to an end if you like. It’s still hard. But I did it today! I conquered one of those things, at least for now.

At the end of the day, what a day?!

Better than I’ve had in quite a while! I’ve been struggling with depression lately and it has sucked, but suddenly on Thursday night when I woke up from my nap, something shifted! I was high, elevated in an energetic and motivated frame of mind. Just like that! If only I could click my fingers and get that result! Who on earth knows what it was that tipped me over, impossible to figure out. But YAY!

So what you’re seeing here is the chemicals in my brain giving me a booster shot to actually manage to do some of those things. I even cooked tea one night this week! Rare event these days! When the chemicals all line up, life is good. It’s easy, way less effort, far less forcing myself around. It just happens and we’re all relieved. And vice versa, you understand. But for now, for however little time I have this little break, it’s nice to use it to do something. It’s not perfect. My ride was still hard! The hills still hurt. My walking was still slow, although that was more for the sake of finding birds, and it wasn’t far, but still. I washed my hands but not all the time. And I brushed my teeth.

What I didn’t do today was shower. It’s probably the hugest of the things. To get into our shower you have to climb into the bathtub. Every time I think of having a shower, I think of having to hoick my leg over the side and it just seems like too much effort! It’s such a small thing, right, but it literally seems like it’s impossible. Once I’m in its great; I love a nice hot shower and feeling clean again, once I’m there. It’s just the getting started, which is after all, the issue with all of these things; getting started. It’s pretty much classic depression: issues with motivation, energy, self care. It is amazing what lengths I’ll go to not to have a shower, and how long I’ll go between showers. And by amazing, I also mean embarrassing! After Bali, I had a mega battle and I almost lost count but I think I went more than two weeks and no shower, and unwashed hair! You may have noticed! I still used deodorant and perfume so hopefully I didn’t stink, but it wasn’t a nice episode and finally my husband had to drag me to the shower and make me get in. And it was delightful! All that fuss and bother and argument, vanished, and I had a lovely time and came out feeling wonderful! It’s one of those things!!

That’s today [read: Saturday 9th July]. Tomorrow we have to wake up and do it again so we won’t get too carried away, but today those things have had a bit less hold over me.

So, the next day: Sunday morning, the hardest morning of the week. Mainly because I ideally would aim be up and going earlier than I may have done for the other 6 days of the week. But today I was up by 9am and actually feeling like I was up and going, not sluggish or doped out. My anticipation of the coming Sunday can mean that I go to bed late, and so not take my tablets til late just before I go to bed, and so I can be a bit sedated by the effect of my tablets lasting well into the morning. I have this contrary thought process that not going to bed will prolong the next day’s arrival…obviously it’s just the opposite. But it’s another reason why waking up Sunday is a complicated thing. Sunday morning is also traditionally when I wash my hair. I should really change that, if common sense prevails. It’s just another thing to get past to get to church: waking up, clearing my head, getting fed and watered and tabletted, showering, dressing and getting out the door not long after ten.

But today was pretty successful. I actually had a shower, and even dug out some moisturizer and did my legs! A miracle of a day! I’m energetic but not irritably manic, the best way to be. Touch wood for more days like these. I’m active, I’m wanting to fill in my day instead of hiding from it; I’m like a normal person!! YAY!

Rainy Days and Mondays

Have you heard that song?? Olivia Newton-John sings it beautifully with her haunting, husky voice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWwVN2HiWyg

“Hanging around, nothing to do but frown, rainy days and Mondays always get me down”.

Not very inspiring, but it’s a song that resonates with me. As it has done for many years. As a teenager my parent’s concession to music in the car was not the top 40 station in our town. If there was going to be music, it would be Mum’s pick of classic FM or Dad’s pick of Olivia Newton-John or various country singers. And I got to love Olivia’s Indigo Women of Song album; I would pick it out to play just for myself, not just listening because someone else was choosing the music.

Probably the indigo theme and the songs resonated with me so much that first summer that I heard them because I was in a depression. I didn’t know that’s what it was. All I knew is that we were on holidays at the beach, my favourite place in all the world and everyone around me was happy. But I wasn’t happy. I was sad, I felt worthless, I felt that I was separated from all the fun, unable to engage, unmotivated, tired. I faked it, and I don’t think anyone around me knew just how terrible I was feeling. I felt like the earth was going to end. I felt like I couldn’t survive. I couldn’t sleep – I would toss and turn with my thoughts all night long, getting maybe a few fitful hours in the early morning. I felt like all these awful thoughts that were running circles in my brain were haunting me!! I couldn’t get away from them! My then-boyfriend, now amazing husband doesn’t remember me being depressed. But he remembers how many fights we had that holiday. I don’t remember any fights, all I remember is feeling so so bad and not knowing why or how to fix it.

I look back on the happy snaps, and I see the smiles into the camera and they don’t look fake. There are some real “I’m happy to be here” smiles. Was I that good at faking, or were there some great moments amongst the crippling darkness that I just didn’t notice? Were they the moments when I was able to shut my mind to the black and despairing thoughts? And truly be happy? I don’t know. It was a long time ago. I do remember good parts of that holidays to Robe, SA. Discovering the ‘Coconut Robe’ and playing chess together while eating icecream. Going for drives exploring the surrounding countryside and boogy boarding down sand dunes. Stopping off half way to check out some cool waterfalls.

There were good moments. A lesson I’ve learned this year is that even the worst days have good moments. It’s a cliche, but it really is true. So now I try to look for those moments. It takes practice, it requires you to put in an effort, and there are days when it’s so hard it seems impossible. But it’s worth it if you get there. IF.

So that was my summer of 2007. I had completed one year of uni studying pharmacy, and one year of living in the big smoke. I was going on holidays with my family of 6 and my boyfriend of 4 years. We were going somewhere new, a big occasion because every year except one we had always gone to the same beach location in NSW.

I was 19 years old. I was depressed. I did nothing about it. I thought it was some kind of punishment, or that the thoughts in my head were some kind of trial that I had to get through. I didn’t understand it was a chemical imbalance that could only be corrected by replacing the chemicals. I didn’t think to go to a doctor, a counsellor or to tell anybody. I thought it was something I had to deal with on my own. So I did. And it eventually got less and less and it did subside. It took months. MONTHS. All the while I was desperately trying to fill in my life with distractions: TV series, chocolate/chips/lollies/takeaway food, going out with friends, staying out late, listening to music loudly to block out the sound of my thoughts, taking up new hobbies etc. All the while tackling a second year of uni and life in the big smoke and expecting big achievements from myself, as always.

I was diagnosed with depression in December 2013. Nearly 6 years later. Finally a label. Finally a treatment plan. Finally someone validating the awfulness, the fear, the guilt, the terrible circulating thoughts, the exhaustion, the lack of enjoyment and motivation.

There is nothing that feels so awful as being sad in the middle of the perfect life!

I had wondered. I had thought out the fors and againsts. I’m a health professional. I know the diagnostic criteria. But of course, with the unrelenting high standards that I hold myself to, I didn’t think I was “that bad”. I had even gotten to thinking maybe I should go to a doctor and ask. But I didn’t, I said to myself “you’re just being lazy and slack, pull yourself together and stop looking for excuses”.

I look back over my life and draw a lifeline. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, looking back. From 12 years old to today. I draw in events: starting high school, getting a boyfriend, a traumatic relationship, Mum getting cancer, a terrible job, friend dying. Everyone has their own lifeline and events are more or less severe. Lots of things happen in life. But with the knowledge and experience of this beast I now see my life differently.

I see that summer when I thought I was going to have to go to high school with the bullies from primary school and I see now that I was withdrawn, awfulising (my GP’s word), ruminating, I lacked interest in events around me, I couldn’t enjoy the holidays. I was depressed. This wasn’t just a fear that is logical. This was obsessing day and night, can’t sleep, expecting the worst, sure that life is going to be terrible.

This is not normal. I have to keep this thought in the front of my mind now. I have lived with this monster for so long, and thought it was just a part of life for so long that I expect so much of myself in very adverse circumstances.

I see the winter of 2004 when I was dating my then-boyfriend-now-husband but was obsessed with thoughts of the past, felt worthless, undeserving of him, unmotivated and like nobody could love me. I was depressed.

This is not normal. Starting to date someone should be a time filled with happiness, enjoyment of life, fun and games. Which is what I was on the surface but underneath I was tortured. I thought I should tell him I can’t keep dating you because I am so unworthy, so damaged, so broken. Not normal.

The song calls them rainy days. Today is a rainy day. Not literally, although it’s meant to rain and hail later in the afternoon. I actually woke up to bright sunshine shining on the eucalypt trees outside my window. No sunshine comes into my bedroom in the morning. There are no rays of light shining onto my floor, my bed, my face. I wake up, and then look out to see what kind of day it is. I would like it so much more if I had an east-facing bedroom window, so that the sunshine could come right in and shine on my face to wake to me. But it is what it is.

“What I’ve got, they used to call the blues, nothing is really wrong, feeling like I don’t belong, walking around, some kind of lonely clown, rainy days and Mondays always get me down”.

The blues. Sounds lovely to me, determined as I am to avoid the blacks, the midnight navy, the deep greys and even the light greys. Colours are a great representation but I think that label “the blues” trivialises the condition that is depression.

There is a deep dark difference between having the blues, feeling blue, feeling down, having a rough day, and being depressed. Not to make light of anyone who feels down, it’s never nice, but “the blues” and depression are not interchangeable describing words.

So a rainy day. This isn’t a day of depression as such, it’s a day of in-between. Not feeling good, not feeling great, just not feeling too much. A ‘meh’ or ‘blergh’ or ‘ish’ day. Unmotivated, energy-poor, wanting to stay in bed all day, not bothered to do too much, can’t see the point in much. Leaking tears every now and then, otherwise just going “okay”. Kind of sitting on the brink of okay and not okay. Nothing really wrong, just not where I want to be over there with everyone else enjoying their day.

“What I feel has come and gone before, no need to talk it out, we know what it’s all about…”

It’s just one of those days. I’ve had them before, I guess I’ll have them again. Nothing tragic has happened, but the world is just tinged blueish. I know it’s just a result of the chemistry being not quite right. Partly my fault. I’m taking a regime of antidepressants where I have one at 7am, one at 11am and one at 2pm. Not the easier to remember so I have my life set to alarms to help me remember. However I went into the city at 10am yesterday and forgot all about taking the tablets with me. So I missed 11am, then I missed 2pm then by the time I got home at 3.30pm I wasn’t sure whether to take them so I didn’t. Not a great move, by 6pm I was a dreary little raincloud sitting around the house waiting for something to go wrong, and waiting to rain. Which I did. So then I figured I didn’t care if I didn’t sleep, I would take one late anyway. And it helped.

The fact that missing a tablet or taking a tablet can change my day shows how fragile the balance of chemistry still is. I’m a ways off being stable. But patience, patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, etc. I just want to rush the process of getting stable. 9 weeks off work, sitting around the house all day – sounds like fun to someone working full time but I am not finding it fun anymore. It’s more tedious than fun.

But, still I have to try to find the fun, find the benefits, find the happiness in each day. Every day is a gift, whether it feels like it or not. It’s up to me to see the silver lining, the cup half full, the upside etc.

So what is it today?? Some TLC from my great husband, lunch out together at a bakery on the river, a bit of birdwatching, doing some chores together. Gotta keep looking past the rainy days and Mondays to find the sunny days, even the cloudy days without rain. Seeing the good inside the bad is a good plan, a sound plan. It’s one that I have on a poster on the wall because it’s hard to remember. Still, I keep trying. And that’s what counts, isn’t it?

Picture of a cloudy, rainy day over the river

Walking along the river after a nice lunch at the bakery, looking up for birds with rain dropping in my eyes, swallows flitting overhead and a very brisk wind!

Pretty white flowers with yellow centre

Finding joy in unexpected places, pretty white flowers dancing in the wind and rain near the bakery