Canberra Day Ten

There’s something about “having” to get going in the morning to take hubby to work that really keeps me going and it’s working well. Actually, until his new workplace provide him with an ID and access to the change rooms (I mean its only been 7 workdays!), he’s been given authority to charge a cab to and from work. But I asked if I could still take him in of a morning, because it’s really working for me. And why tamper with a willing system?

I took my bike AGAIN today, two days in a row, and did the same combination of central loop/eastern loop of the Lake Burley Griffin bike path. I love that lake every time I see it: it’s so scenic, and rich with birds, and history. Not to be caught out with my camera twice, I slung it over my shoulder and headed off. Not the best set up but it worked well enough. It was pretty chilly but I had my camera and my bike and I was excited! Anticipation is so powerful. I guess it’s like hope, in a way. And hope is probably the most powerful counter balance to mental illness.

I got my photos of the NINE ducklings. YAY! Hope fulfilled. Plus unexpectedly another family of ELEVEN ducklings!! And TWO Masked Lapwing (previously Plover) chicks!!! And a baby rabbit! And a baby Golden Whistler that was playfully flitting around the tree above my head. This paragraph hardly does justice to the joy, the bliss, and excitement, and happiness that all of this brings to me! It was a beautiful morning. Not only that but I recorded MORE species of birds this morning; FORTY FOUR up from THIRTY EIGHT yesterday, including a Double Barred Finch which was a LIFER for me; a bird that I’ve never come across before. That’s because it doesn’t occur naturally in Victoria – truly a bird for above the border.

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I had another fun jaunt at Floriade checking out the shopping stalls, trying one some clothes, tasting the honey donuts which were a terrific recommendation from a friend, and checking out the flowers. I can already see some tulips starting to fall apart, and others popping up and starting to unfold. I can see how a week can make for a total change in the gardens. I still haven’t tried the ferris wheel, but I will.

You must check out my website for Spring Babies!

And for some photos of the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin check out Bike Ride and Baby Shower and Morning Lake Burley Griffin Drive.

Bird’s eye view

[Written 15th October, 2015]

Apologies for my two week break. I’m calling it my school holidays! It’s just been busy busy lately and I’m struggling a little (read: more than a little!) to keep afloat. I tried to write for both Monday deadlines but I ended up with rambling, vague, long and somewhat pointless essays that I’d lost touch with and couldn’t relate to anymore. But now I’m back 🙂

Today a fellow birder from one of the several bird photography groups that I’m a member of on Facebook posted something that I could connect with. It’s a quote from a very famous author.

“I never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself” – D H Lawrence

I wanted to call this post perspective, again, but I’ve done that at least twice, so time for a new title. I looked up synonyms and one that was listed under prospect was bird’s eye view. It’s a unique outlook that humans mostly never get to enter into. We often imagine what a bird’s view is, and project onto birds our human emotions and thoughts.

There’s a whole animal welfare section of society that campaigns for different animals in different situations. As far as I can see, which might not be well or far, we can assess an animals pain based on what would cause us pain, or by the animals behaviour and reaction to the pain. Then we can treat the pain.

The rest of the industry I don’t know about, and I’m not sure if we always do it right. These are just my questioning thoughts; I’m not basing this on any evidence or proof.

We campaign for cage chickens and want them free to roam the open green grass paddocks. But as long as the animals aren’t being injured by too close proximity to each other or the cages, does the chicken feel sorry for itself? Or was it bred for this and in this environment, and doesn’t know the difference and is actually quite content? Are we thinking of ourselves and how we like open, green spaces, and don’t like being too close to each other in physical distance and housing? Are we projecting onto a creature that doesn’t even have the kind of human thinking that gets us worried about other life forms? I don’t know. I just wonder. How about overseas where high density living and family groups are crowded into one house? Do they think about free range chickens? Doubtful, because it’s exactly how they are living. Hmmm. Feel free to comment.

The picture posted on the bird photography group that prompted this quote was of a Silver Gull, commonly called a seagull. If you glanced at the photo, if you looked at it, you wouldn’t think anything of it. It’s a photo of a seagull standing on a stone border. Nothing particularly notable.

Until you read the comment that the person posting the photo had written:

“Silver gull with no feet. While it is sad, the bird seemed to be doing okay. And it shows just how adaptable the species can be” – Jade Craven, Bird Photography Australia.

That makes you look again. And this time you notice that instead of standing on two  three-toed, webbed feet, the bird is standing on stumps. Remarkable!

But looking at it you would have to agree with the description. This is a healthy Silver Gull.

Clean, healthy, perfect-looking plumage; healthy coloured legs, eye and beak; looking well fed.

Our instincts would be to protect this somewhat disabled bird, but actually, it’s doing okay.

We’d want to take it in, feed it, keep it safely enclosed from predators, care for it.

In doing so, we’d give it our idea of appropriate food at our idea of frequency, we’d make it dependent on us for food and water so that it would be lost or dead without us, we’d keep it in an environment where it couldn’t fly like normal and it might lose the ability to do so making it prone to attack. Being in a safe environment could make it unaware to danger and threat, so that it becomes an easy target.

I’m not saying this in any criticism of animal rescue professionals who are trained in animal welfare. They know what they are doing, and they take animals only if they cannot be left in the wild by any means possible, and give them the best care that is known by humans to give.

But I’m trying to look from a bird’s eye view and see how they see. Of course it’s impossible; they don’t talk so they can’t tell us. But I’ve seen a LOT of humans lately, in the groups that I follow, rush to take birds, especially babies into their care when in some circumstances, nature was taking its course as the fledglings left the nest and made their way to the ground. Taking them in is the worst thing for them, now that they are separated from their family. In my opinion.

I was always taught to leave well alone. Just because you’ve stumbled across a situation at a certain time and it looks a certain way, don’t jump the gun. Nature is incredibly smart! Birds and all the other creatures are incredibly well regulated and well designed and they know what they’re doing and are more resourceful than we are, I reckon. Of course this is all opinion but I’ve been interested to think about this.

People have tried to enter into a bird’s perspective. I’ve seen Go Pros strapped to the back to eagles before they are released to fly and soar so that we the humans can look down on the world like they do. Something that astounded me was that I couldn’t see the ground! Not in any detail at all anyway, of course I could see it but I couldn’t make out anything. And eagles can not only see the ground in detail but they see tiny animals in amazing detail and they dive on a pinpoint spot to capture and get away with their prey. They’re way ahead of us!

So I was just thinking about birds not feeling sorry for themselves, but just getting on with life in whatever way they can. Most times they don’t need us, and we can certainly make things worse for them, and maybe sometimes a little better.

But I can keeping thinking this: birds don’t seem to feel sorry for themselves. They just go, just do, just be without considering whether they are hard done by, or its unfair, or someone else should do something for me. So can I, if I am prepared to make the effort to change my thinking, and I hope I am!

And it stings like…

“A little twist of the knife, yeah. A little salt in the cut, yeah. A little thorn in the side and it stings like hell”

– The Veronicas, ‘Cruel’ lyrics.

Lazy. Not listening. Not trying to help yourself. Making yourself sick. Not doing what you can to get better. Doing things to make yourself sicker. If you really wanted to get better you would… .

Exaggerating. Everyone’s getting sick of this. Everyone else has problems too. You think just because you have a problem that it means you’re worse off than anybody else. I have problems too.

When I read this out loud or run it through my mind, it sounds like the negative self-talk that I had way back a year or more ago when I was really depressed. But I thought I worked though that? Didn’t I spend all that time in therapy with my psychologist specifically addressing this type of self-talk, bit by bit by tiny itty bitty little bit? I think differently now, for the most part. I try, in any case. And when a bit of negativity comes up, I think I have the skills now to recognize it, to dissemble it, remove its effect on my mood and thoughts and carry on regardless. For the most part; I’m not impervious!

What is it then, this string of insulting, hurtful words? It does sound quite a bit like one of the soundtracks a person with schizophrenia might be subjected to listening to. But I don’t have schizophrenia. I’m very sure of this. The number of mental health reviews and tests and interviews I’ve been through have shown up a string of illnesses, but psychosis has never come into the mix. I’ve never had voices as such, delusions or hallucinations as such, or this kind of audible insulting persona living in my brain.

What then? It must be an actual voice coming from an actual human. You wouldn’t think this would be a way a person would speak to me, to anyone, even if they did think it in their mind. Not like this. The words are awful things thrown with an angry, reactive tone. Who would know enough about me to think they were able to say such things with such venom?

Not my dear one, my husband. He watches the struggle daily and knows what effort I put in. It wears thin but he never throws blame. What an angel.

Not my friends, not one of my precious friends could say these things. They support, and support, and support. They are lovely, kind, genuine, helping, caring.

And there, aha. It sheds the light on who it is, who it can only be. And a shard pierces the heart, again. Again. I hoped.
I thought in my hoping that things would change for the better; that knowledge and understanding would temper such words. I looked for empathy, love, kindness. Not too much to hope for?
Disappointed again.
Sorry again to find that expected allies are enemies still, slashing and stabbing and wounding and delaying the healing and brutalizing the hope.

Well fooled me. Fooled in hope, in desire, in wanting, in needing something different. Fooled again. More fool me. Well, fool no more. Hope no more.

I see the scene, and I see that change cannot be brought by me. Nor by my dear one. Nor by my friends. I tried, it isn’t for want of trying. But I failed, and can’t stand to fail over again.

I don’t know where the change may be able to come from, or by who, or if it even can come.

But I turn my eyes away, I do not look for it anymore.
It is finished, for me. I have my love, my friends, my allies some. They are enough for me. I am enough for me. We will be enough.

I’m back…

[Started on December 9th]

“I’m back, baby doll…”

-one of favourite quotes from How I Met Your Mother

I’m baa-ack. It’s been a month, apparently. It felt a lot longer! I only know this fact of it being a month since I was here from opening my blog today for the first time since … so it tells me … the 9th of November.

Wow.

And during that time I actually thought up zero topics, had zero inclination to write anything and was pretty much happy to climb into a hole and be a hermit for the rest of my natural life. But the light has broken through and here I am.

It’s been a very full month. I’m trying. A trip away to Werribee, days out of the house doing stuff, hanging out with girlfriends, some actual real live housework. There were, surprisingly, some pretty great times.

And then there were days when I wore my pajamas until 5pm and only left my bed to eat. But you know, looking for the upside!!

There was one amazing week where I thought I’d finally broken through the depression glass ceiling into what normal life could be like, and I loved it! So did my GP: ‘Imagine if this is how life could be from now on? That would be f*@%*^# awesome’. His words, not mine! Just to clarify. But yes, why yes, yes it would.

Sadly for me and anyone my life bumps up against, it was mania.

Oh mania, you heartbreaking devil you. You get us so excited and hopeful and relieved and let us sniff “normal” for 5 minutes, before depression overcomes us again and we all sink back into the swamp!

Normal, or a bit more overdone than normal; either way, it’s a nice change from blergh, uff and erk!

But it wasn’t devastating when mania went this time. Well not as devastating. This time. I’m getting more resilient gradually.

[Updated from here in later December but the computer wiped all my additions and made me so angry I gave up on it! Then I vowed to complete it on January 9th but when the date came around I was staying in a motel without WIFI…ahh the horrors of modern life! So here I am, Feb 9th…and finally I’m back! And saving my draft after every word!!]

Thankfully, bit by bit, episode by episode, high by low by high by low I am taking it less personally, getting less excited and less distraught when my brain chemistry flicks the switch and lands me somewhere I wasn’t prepared for.

So says my mouth, and my head. So I wish, so I hope. And maybe sometimes that’s the case, that I’m less wrung out over it. Maybe.

But actually now that I’m slipping down the slidey slope again I find myself not so okay with that. I don’t want to go down there again. I don’t want to be like that again. But it seems that I’m not being consulted in the matter of what goes on in my own head.

Ironic, isn’t it? My own head, taken hostage by chemicals. Chemicals that don’t even have brains or thinking power or motives – but they pack quite the punch! We’re doing all we can to oppose them but it’s turning out to be more of a war than just a battle.

I’ve been told over that I have tricky brain chemistry. At first I thought it was one of those placating remarks all doctors make to help ease you through the rough period between the diagnosis of depression and the onset of full medication effect, which can be up to 6 or 8 weeks at times in some people.

Although I guess I didn’t hear it said first until I was trying the 5th antidepressant; but I definitely needed to hear something at that point to convince me that I should still hold hope that this one would work! My doctor told me that every time an antidepressant didn’t work, we were one step closer to finding the one that would; we were one step closer to getting better; the depression was one step closer to showing us how it was working and what we could do to oppose it.

That’s a lot of talking for a chemical to do!

Time and experience have unfortunately proved the fact to be true. I have tricky brain chemistry. It’s difficult for the medications that we have available to match the chemicals that are lacking from, but should be in, my brain keeping me from becoming anxious, depressed, manic or a swinging monkey between all three moods!

I’d love to be one of those people who gets diagnosed with depression, gets prescribed whatever antidepressant their doctor has on their mind that week, tolerates it well and after a year or so with successful treatment and other supports, undertakes a careful withdrawal of their medication under supervision of their doctor and continues on with their life drug/medication free. Not trivialising their sufferings, just envious of their rapid and successful long term improvement and freedom from medications.

Of course that doesn’t happen in bipolar disorder; only in depression. Bipolar is not a condition that remits; it’s a life sentence. It’s not going anywhere, and it’s quite unlikely that I’ll ever be free from taking medicines.

But it’s the dream, isn’t it? To be medication free, drug free, not drug dependant; isn’t that the dream of any person tied to medication?

As a pharmacist I have to ask every person/patient I deal with if they take medications. Apparently this is the most annoying question that a person could possibly ever ask! Or maybe I’m just asking it wrong; that’s always a possibility.

When I was working, a distant memory just now, I’d get 50 people a day saying “I’m not the kind of person that takes medication”, “I’m not the type of person who takes tablets”, “I’m not some kind of druggie”! Or my personal pet favourite hate: “I don’t like taking pills”.

Really? Well who does like taking pills? And what exactly is the type of person that would take medications? I guess having to take medications to get by makes me more sensitive to these types of comments spoken from ignorant minds. It’s obvious that they’ve just never given the issue more than a seconds thought, or they’re basing it on inappropriate pill popping they’ve seen on TV.

But just a suggestion, if you ever come across me actually working as a pharmacist in the indeterminate future, please just answer no or pass me a printed list of all your meds with doses, thank you so kindly!

 Moving on.

Tricky chemistry, multiple antidepressants, additional diagnosis of bipolar on top of depression and anxiety.

The diagnosis of bipolar disorder, after the initial shock and rejection of the idea as stupid and crazy (oh the irony of calling it crazy!), was actually not that surprising, looking at it rationally. The failure of antidepressants to work or to work fully is actually an indicator of bipolar disorder, which I knew somewhere in my mind from when I studied mental illness as half of my post graduate studies. Another irony!

What if I’d had the clarity of thought to see it that way back when? To look inside my brain in a rational, systematic, logical manner. But that’s not how mental illness works. It takes a regular brain and clouds it with so much doubt, fear, hurt, pain, sadness, hopelessness etc that you just can’t see.

I’d go to my doctor and say, I was so bleak and black yesterday I nearly couldn’t stand it. And he’d say, how many Valium did you take?

Valium. Brand name of diazepam, used in my case as a sedative and anxiolytic, remover of anxiety and worry.

And every time he said it, it would be such a revelation to me: oohhhh! RIght! I should have taken a Valium! That would have made me feel better. Of course, how did I not think of that? I say every time because there were quite a few times he had to say that to me!! And I’m a pharmacist! Turns out being a good pharmacist doesn’t always extend to yourself! Luckily my husband is happy to jump in and now whenever I’m complaining of my mood he puts on his doctor voice and asks me, did you take a Valium??

I had this sanctioned stash of tablets capable of taking a stressed-to-the-eyeballs or suicidal girl and transforming her into a warm, fuzzy, calm girl ready to take a nice comfy little sleep to get her through the hours until her chemistry improved or she crawled into the doctor’s office, totally empty and out of ideas and ready for the next injection of hope, help and medication changes.

I had it. I still have it. 13 months later! I think I’m getting better at remembering how to render psychiatric first aid to myself when the complicated muddle of meds I’m on just isn’t cutting it, or the depression is just a bit too strong, or the mania is making my limbs dance a jig of agitiation. Or everything is just all too much and the circuit breaker has to be activated to prevent the whole place from burning down! Metaphorically, not literally.

 Because there are still those days. Bleak days. Blank days. Flittering days. Storm in a teacup days. Meltdown days. Frustrating days. Agitated days.

There are less of them. They come less often. They do less damage. They don’t get full control of me. But they do come. They’ll always come.

The key, as they always say, is management. So here we are, my and my team, managing. We’re managing. And that’s pretty great!

Thank you for taking the time to read my great big long shambles and hope to chat again soon x