Don’t panic!

On Sunday I had a bad day.

I woke up feeling bad, kept feeling bad and managed to go to bed feeling only marginally less bad. Thankfully I woke up better on Monday and I’m trying to forget about it and put it behind me. But it was an unwanted reminder that sometime, somewhere, somehow there is going to be a relapse. It’s just a fact. But I really don’t want it!!

So what is a bad day?

I just felt bad!

I know; not terribly articulate. But that’s about all I had on the day.

To my husband’s frustration. It’s hard to be the one on the sideline asking what’s wrong and getting “I don’t know”, over and over. Like, surely you know something about what’s wrong; you must know a bit about what’s happening. But I didn’t; I still don’t. And of course there’s nothing to show for it that would give either of us a hint.

It’s also hard to be the one trying to figure out an answer to the question “what’s wrong?”. I just couldn’t explain it. Between being the one on the sidelines, and the one in the thick of it, there aren’t any winners!

In hindsight I can break it down, a bit. It’s like having a bad taste in your mouth, except its in your mind and its a lot harder to shake than by chewing gum or brushing your teeth, mainly cos you can’t get at it as easily. The bad taste makes you feel icky, yucky, unsettled, nervous, uncomfortable, sad, upset, despairing, weird, a bit spacey like you’re on the outside looking in, a bit in pain and a lot confused.

And why? Why did I have a bad day? I don’t know why. Probably there is no reason why. Or maybe there is and I’m just totally missing it. I don’t know why it happened, or why it happened today, and I probably never will. But it had gone for now, so let’s be happy about that and just leave it be. Obsessing about it won’t do any do, I’ve proved that amply by now.

So what to do about it?

Sleep.

Go back into oblivion where your brain shuts down enough of your thought processes to give you some peace. I woke up at about 9am in a sorry state, went back to bed just after 10am til 11.45pm, and went out for some lunch with hubby and family, more to avoid explaining why I wasn’t up for it as compared with actually feeling like going. Then back to bed just after 1pm til 4pm, a few hours up, then back to bed as soon as possible. It’s not living, but it’s surviving and on a day like this, that is all that counts; surviving.

So I survived, and the next day was better. Who knows how it all works. Just another story in the life of. Thanks for reading.

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Departure lounge

This week was always going to be a week of goodbyes.

After my sister’s wedding last week (photos to follow!!) my cousin, one of the bridesmaids, flew out to France for an open dated holiday in her favourite country on earth. Having been there before and having good French language skills, she is planning to spend this holiday off the beaten track. We’ll miss her at our weekly gathering point, Grandma’s fabulous Sunday lunch roast and dessert! More for us!

Then of course, my newlywed baby sister and her hubby are flying back to Latvia today! I say back because that’s where he was born and grew up. Their plan is to be there for 4 years because they are both planning to start and finish their undergraduate degrees there. So It’s a big goodbye!

I don’t think that any one of us has grasped it yet, especially Dad who wonders why everyone is asking him if he’s sad to see her go! Not much to wonder at, but he’s fixed himself in the mindset that its exciting and happy to see her marry her love and move off into their new life. We’ll see how long that lasts once she has actually gotten on the plane for 4 years!

Of course the two students may scrape together enough money to come back to Australia, and most of us are planning a visit at some point but it’s still a long time. Mum and Dad and her have been the only ones at home since my brother moved to Melbourne for uni 3.5 years ago, so I think they’ll really notice her absence around the house.

Then my teacher brother-in-law is flying to England for a year on Thursday! How’s that, sister and brother-in-law, plus brother-in-law, flying out in the same week! It makes more sense when you know that the school year starts on the 1st September across the UK and Europe. So for a teacher, and two students, it makes sense to move with a few weeks grace to get settled into accommodation etc. A year isn’t so bad, there’s an end point to look forward to. But it’s so hard to imagine his Mum and Dad without him. He’s also the youngest and it’s been the three of them since his older brother moved away to do his apprenticeship YEARS ago. Not sure how many, but it could be eight or so years. They’ll definitely be looking for him around the house!

So those are the scheduled departures. We’ve had the goodbye parties, given them advice, wished them farewell. Everything according to plan and tradition, and everyone has had their part in it.

I want to add one more departure to the list.

This was not a scheduled departure. There was no celebration beforehand where people got together with the person leaving and shook their hand and talked and laughed and got their fill of the person departing that would tide them over til they next met. No advice was given about the next step of the journey about to be traveled by the departing and how to traverse it.

I think that most people involved felt that this was a tragic departure, in the literary sense that tragic means inevitable.

I want to wish my own farewell to RT who departed his life this week. You know when someone starts a sentence and they haven’t finished yet, in fact they’re only in the middle but you know the end is going to be something you don’t like? That’s how I heard about it. There is no other way to hear it, other than someone telling you but the hearing of it is never easy.

Many months of a terrible depression preceded this departure, I heard. A mighty, mighty battle has taken place. That battle involved good friends doing their best, multiple inpatient psychiatric admissions, previous suicide attempts, medications, and more that I don’t know about.

In fact I don’t know this person, only in passing. I would recognise him on the street, we’ve maybe exchanged a dozen words in total in our lifetimes. Every year while I was growing up we would spend 3 Saturdays in October at a farm where our annual Christian convention was held, getting it all ready. Our family was always there, he and his wife were always there. They were the cool, young couple that girls growing up through their teens can admire. That was the full extent of “knowing” him.

But there is this phenomenon I’ve heard spoken about where people can experience grief for someone they don’t know, or have barely met, or celebrities etc that is disproportionate to their relationship with that person. Sometimes it can be as profound and take as emotional a toll as the death of a family member. Like when the news of Elvis having left the building descended on the world. Tears and sobbing from people who “knew” him from a concert, a tape, magazines. It’s valid.

I don’t think that’s what is happening here. I think what is happening is several months ago a mutual acquaintance described to me the suffering this person was experiencing as a result of depression. And it resonated with me very strongly because of my experience with depression. I had amazing support and all the help that I could possible require and there were days when I didn’t think I could survive.

As far as I heard, this person had no one at home, some friends around town and family nowhere near by. I could totally connect with his deep need for support and love and care, and the absence of these needs being met. No amount of psychiatric care can compensate for having a partner, family member, very close friend who “gets” you, who understands your suffering, who can be there for you to help you keep safe, who feeds you with love and care and hope, and reminds you again and again that you can fight this war to a victory and they will help you all the way.

His story just made me want to reach out and say, I feel for you, I’ve been where you’ve been and I know how awful and hard and dark and hopeless it is, and I want you to know that I came through and it is worth the fight. Or something like that.

That’s what I wanted to say. But after his wife left, his whole world crumbled, he had nothing to live for on this earth. Because I think kind honesty is the best way to support someone, I don’t know that I would have been able to say convincingly that it’s all worth it in the end, keep fighting, one day this will be all behind you and be a distant bad dream and you’ll be glad that you fought and won.

When you have nothing to live for on earth, it’s a very hard situation. I had everything to live for, and it was a hard, uphill, difficult road, and still may be in the future. But with nothing to live for, why would you try? Why would you fight for, scrabble for grip to, desperately cling to, and give your all to hang onto life? What for? Giving everything to hold onto life that doesn’t feel worth living, that holds searing pain, awful agony, sorrow, struggle, being alone, without love etc. All that terribly difficult effort while drowning in molasses, and what for? That’s what being suicidal is like.

And so he left us. It was inevitable. It’s sad, because nothing more could be done to hold him here on earth, because he couldn’t find enough to hold him to life. But I strongly feel that now he has peace and rest from so much awfulness. And how blissful will that peace and rest be, after so much difficulty on earth.

I have more thing to say. I believe in God, in Jesus, in eternal life. I’ll write about this point more one day. God’s commandments in the Old Testament were, thou shalt not kill. And I think that would have included ourselves. But the New Testament came in Jesus who has showed his great love and mercy. I believe that although we would want to help someone not to end their ow life, when someone is hurting so much that they can’t handle it anymore, Jesus understands and forgives. He knows what we have gone through and why we have reached such a point of desperation. He offers his help and grace in our lifetime, which is promised to be sufficient for us, but in our agony we can’t see much beyond our hurting self.

I feel that our mental health and our spiritual health are two disparate things. But they get confused. We don’t confuse our physical health with religion. We don’t expect our faith to help our gout. But our mental health has foggier borders. Our religion can be a help to us in all situations, but it’s not a cure for any illness, and depression isn’t a religious issue; it’s a medical issue.

I say this just to make the point that when someone we know hits the threshold of what they can possibly bear and can no longer suffer their daily life, let’s recognise that they have succumbed to a medical condition that was unable to be sufficiently treated with the medications and therapy that we have available these days. Let us never consider that their faith wasn’t enough, or they lost their religion, or they somehow should have found a way to survive. Suicide isn’t a comment on the sufferers ability, but the disease’s severity.

Farewell, fierce fighter. I recognise how much you fought, and I’m sorry that the disease was too strong for you. You will be missed. But I will remember your story. I won’t forget your bravery.

To all of you in this post, til we meet again.

Feathered friends

I have a bucket list.

On that list are birds, and some animals, that I want to find in the wild and take photos of.

It all started in September last year (2013) when my husband and I took our first overseas trip to South America.

That trip occurred smack bang in a period of huge change for us with both of us having quit our jobs before we left and taken new jobs in the city, having decided to rent out our old house and rent a new one in the city but without having anything signed and sealed, and with me being one month into a new medication for anxiety that was working pretty well. But I still had twinges and the organising of the trip had been a trigger for a whole stack of ‘what if’ anxiety for me.

We had been to New Zealand a couple of times before but it was so easy that it didn’t feel like overseas. We didn’t change any money, just used our card; we drove a car around on the same side of the road; we ate the same food that we’d eat at home etc.

So this was the big first trip. We choose South America because my aunty lives in Brazil. Our trip planning started with a wish to go and visit her, and ended up an epic 30 day adventure through 5 countries, 6 currencies, 23 flights and many many people!

We started in the Galapagos. I’d heard about the birds and animals there and wanted to see it for myself. This was my holiday pick, my husband’s was Macchu Picchu and we both wanted to see the Amazon.

Armed with a new digital SLR camera and keen interest we arrived in the Galapagos by plane and were immediately entranced with everything we saw; plants, animals, birds, reptiles, both exotic and common.

And so started a new awareness in me of the joys of spotting fauna in their own habitat, and the equally exciting thrill of getting the perfect snap to take the memory away with me.

I started to realise that I had a real passion for this hobby.

I realised that it brought me happiness and a genuine peace. I realised that when I was looking for and finding different species, everything else faded into the background, my stress response was wound down and I thought of nothing but the joy at hand.

What an amazing revelation!

I’ve always loved animals.

Ever since I was a little kid and got into the dog’s kennel to cuddle the pups, to “help” the mother dog feed the babies and take them for walks.

All my favourite kids books involved animals. I was an animal person.

I wanted to be a vet, until I realised it was mostly cats and dogs and not lions and giraffes. I wanted to work at the zoo, and still do inside!! I wanted to be a marine biologist so that I could swim with dolphins all day long; then I realised there was a LOT of counting pippies on the beach instead.

Then I realised I didn’t want to be around sick or dying animals, so I decided to keep animals as a fun hobby rather than a job.

As a kid we had a couple of horses in the vacant block next door that didn’t belong to anyone in particular, and we would go over and feed them.

I raised ducklings into ducks and supervised their swimming in the channel, sitting on eggs and hatching of more ducklings. I mourned the ducklings death to our evil Jack Russell, sobbed over squashed ducklings with a negligent mother and thrilled to see the half grown ducklings taking their first swim in the irrigation channel.

I sort of thought of the family dog as mine, and cried over it like a family member when an idiot neighbour ran it over.

So I guess it should be no suprise to me that this is a passion for me.

But in the midst of moving to the city as a student, getting married and moving to the country, buying a house and moving again, then moving back to the city and all the challenges in between, I had forgotten how reviving I find it to get out into nature, to see birds and animals and plants, and to just take time out of life to enjoy creation.

But I now feel how much difference it makes to me to get out, to open my eyes to really see the world and to look for wonders. It always completely absorbs me, gives me a break from my head and the whirling swirling thoughts that seem to never end, and gives me something beautiful to carry along the way with me!

So, to my bucket list. One of the birds was a kookaburra. And I got it!! YAY!! My husband rides a lot and is always telling me about kookaburras that he sees. On a road trip last week we saw a few on the telephone wires, but I didn’t have a chance to snap one. Then, while walking across a bridge spanning a creek, I happened to look down and see one, sitting on a branch just a few metres away!! Bliss!

And later in the day I saw this one! Another one, sitting on a post just near the pathway. Awesome!!

SO now my list is: a lyrebird (incredibly shy and hard to find!), a bellbird (that delightlful ting ting sound in the bush, but brown and drab and hard to find), a black cockatoo, a gang gang cockatoo, swallows and a koala.

I’ve seen koalas before on Raymond Island in Gippsland, but it’s kind of like taking pictures in the zoo, they’re so common. So I want to find a koala somewhere they are hard to find.

Another bird crossed off my list this weekend: superb blue wren. Gorgeous!!

I have some new areas in my sights for bird watching, and photographing, and can’t wait for the next day out enjoying the benefits of this great hobby 🙂