Fun and games

I have been having a really happy time lately. Somehow things have been going really well for me. And for the first time I do believe that my bike riding has something to do with it.

I’ve been cynical of the supposed serotonin-increasing effect that exercise is meant to have on a person. I have experienced severe depression and so many people have told me to exercise, encouraged me to exercise, told me how exercise would help, and asked me if exercise was helping, and referred me to endless articles that supposedly prove how exercise should help me and would help me by increasing my serotonin.

I never got it.

I never felt that I was “better” after exercising, and specifically after riding my bike. I think this is mainly because in my lethargy and weight gain, exercise was so difficult to get started and to maintain that the sheer effort of exercise was greater than any benefit that may have been lurking way back there in the background. I didn’t feel a buzz, I didn’t feel elated, I wasn’t flying high or whatever it was that I was meant to be feeling. What exactly was I meant to be feeling, after all? Exercise was meant to increase my serotonin, yeah? What was the effect or end result of that increase in serotonin meant to be, exactly? What would it feel like if I had it? How would I know I had it? Would it be a direct effect? Would it occur at the time or would the effect be cumulative? I’m sure there are some answers out there but I’ve avoided looking at them, because for a good long while my bike riding was harder than it was anything else, and I just didn’t believe in the serotonin thing.

Until now. I haven’t lost any weight as yet, but half a dozen people have told me lately that they think I’ve lost weight; I’m hoping that means I’ve put on muscle and lost fat but time will tell. I’m a lot less lethargic thanks to returning to work, and having a regular schedule, and places to go, and people to see. Regular bike riding has definitely built up some kind of stamina in me, more than I would have had 13 months ago when I did my first ride with Wheel Women, and thought I would die from it! I view bike rides a lot more optimistically these days, I’m happy to say. This is based on my cumulative experience of so many rides; 60 rides in 59 weeks since March 2015, when I first got back on my bike.

This increased stamina has been improved on recently when I did a 4 day bike riding tour with Wheel Women through central northern Victoria. Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook will have seen the photos! To prepare for the tour I rode every day for 3 days over Easter in the week prior to the tour. I did this to prepare for the anticipated soreness I might experience when getting back on the bike day after day, and to try to build up the endurance that I would need on the tour. I didn’t ride long or far, but riding every day really did something. Then riding 62km, 43km, 37km and 28km for 4 consecutive days  on tour built up another kind of stamina. Arriving at this level of stamina has brought my riding up to another level, and since I got back its been like I’m riding on a cloud. I think it’s because the 3 rides I’ve done since I got back to town are less kilometres, bar one 40km ride, and less strenuous, also bar one ride with a few “gentle” hills, but overall they aren’t as tough as the rides I did while I was away and so I’m riding within my limit, inside my reserves and so it all feels easier!

And I love that!

There’s a saying in cycling, and probably in all sports, and maybe in life too that a certain thing doesn’t get easier as you develop your skills in it, you just get quicker at it. But at the moment I’m not only quicker at riding, but it feels like it’s easier too. And that feels awesome! Not all of it of course, hills are still a bit of a nemesis but I’m even going easier up hills! And I’ve changed my philosophy about hills since the tour. We did 40km or so one day that was more or less flat; my ideal situation, I thought. But now I think differently. Flat terrain just means that your legs go up, go down, go up, go down, rub in the middle on the bike seat, chafe from the bike shorts however comfy they are to start with, get tired, have no chance for a break unless you want to slow down, and it all gets tedious! I thought it was ideal, but now I can see the downsides to flat, and the upside to undulating and even hilly!

At least with undulations or little hills, you get a break while you’re rolling down the other side. It can be quite fun actually, a little up then a little rest on the way down. A little extra work for a little less work; it feels worth it. Plus it’s kind of a challenge for this girl from Flatlandria to operate the gears correctly to get up the incline without changing pedal rotation speed…it can be one way to keep your brain going when your legs aren’t loving the effort.

So here I am, having fun and games on my bike 🙂 I’ve even recently bought a T shirt that says ‘I want to ride my bicycle’. And I’m even heading out on my own after publishing this to do a ride that really sucked a month ago, just to test out my new theory that with the new stamina I’ve built up lately, it’s gonna be a whole heap easier, faster and more fun this time.

Wish me luck!

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Smiling!

You can hardly wipe the smile off my face! Just sitting here chilling out in a comfy chair at the end of the day, I’m smiling 🙂 No one’s making me, nothing is happened to draw a smile out of me, there’s just a good humour welling up out of me, and it’s delightful!

I suppose this is what they talk about when they say riding and exercise increase your serotonin levels. When I was unwell, exercise was just torture, even though everyone said how good for you it was supposed to be. I could never understand it! It’s only now that I’ve become fit and can do longer rides that I’m getting some of that effect. Ah well, better late than never!

So, what a great day!

The plan was always for a great day: the Wheel Women Christmas ride! What a cause for excitement, end of year festivities with all the fabulous ladies I ride with at one time or another! Wouldn’t miss it for almost anything!

A bit of a reminder to myself at this time: this is my first Wheel Women Christmas, because I only joined Wheel Women in March! March!! Can you believe it?? I can’t! What kilometers, what skills, what adventures, what misadventures have been gained in barely 9 months! Those who have been there for the misadventures only need these words: velodrome, baby ducks, emergency braking, whoops that hill and corner came out of nowhere! That last one? Today!

What a perfect way to celebrate the year of riding that Wheel Women across Melbourne have had; getting together for a large group ride from Kensington to Williamstown.

[Note: every time I say something like “what a perfect…” and it’s attached to something bike related, it gives me this little jolt, well not jolt, but just a little flashback to March, or was it April, when they told us we were going for a ride, an actual ride not just practicing stopping and starting, and 6 kilometers sounded like a death sentence!!! I have a little giggle to myself now, and have a little moment of wow, how far I’ve come so quickly! Not in a bragging way, just in a ‘Woah! How did that happen?!’ way].

So we gathered together outside Cyclic Bicycles in Kensington. And lucky for me that we did, because Dum Dum Dugan Danika here forgot her helmet! I mean, there are very few essentials in the world of riding, but a helmet you must always have! The day would have quickly soured if Evan from the bike shop wasn’t ready and willing to lend me a helmet! Lucky he opened the store an hour early just for us! A hat tip, and a recommendation that if you’re looking for anything bike related in the general area, he’s your guy!

Riders of all shapes and sizes (I mean that in the best way, and I should know!), and all abilities, with 4 wonderful coaches and great excitement for the day’s activities! There were jingle bells and baubles dangling off bikes, The Tinsel Bike shedding silver Christmas cheer all over the place apparently whenever the brakes were applied, coordinating glistening shoes covers for the coaches, Christmassy T shirts and earrings, and a sleigh bell dinging!! Hard not to get into the spirit with so much effort put in!

We were taking a new route today for me at least, up the hill (!) from Kensington, along the beautiful old Stock Route with cobblestone sections under the shade of huge old peppercorn trees and lined by the original post and rail fences of the stockyards. Then onto the gorgeous riverside bike path that follows the Maribyrong River more or less to Williamstown. I can never get tired of the stunning views we are treated to along this river and out into the bay; really they are such a delight each and every time I ride this way.

And the weather was perfect! It was meant to get hot, but it was overcast so it didn’t heat up and there was a breeze around; ideal conditions!!

So we got to Williamstown, partially along the road this time rather than all on the bike path. I have to say, I did enjoy it a lot more than the path for that section that we swapped because you don’t have to give way and face the rumble strips at every crossroad, it’s a lot smoother and I think I can go faster! Which is always fun 🙂 I know people are nervous of the road, but in that instance I would recommend it! There’s a good sized bike lane and all.

What can I say about arriving in the lush green park in Williamstown, with views of the marina and across the bay to the city?? Need I say more? A champagne toast followed (pink plastic cups!), Lyn’s delicious rumballs then a Christmas speech, and an award!!

This part I am so stoked about! Because…drumroll…I was the recipient! I am so so touched, and thrilled, and encouraged, and heartened by Tina and Tracey and Alicia and Deidre’s choice, and inspired to keep going further and further! What an absolute honour, and of course it would never have happened if it weren’t for Wheel Women and the hard work these 4 ladies put in to keep us riding safely and enjoyably every week!!

The award was for courage and bravery! Warrior status! And it even included a quote from this here blog!! Amazing!! I’m just thrilled over and over!! It’s incredible to have people believe in you, and see the effort that you put in and respect that effort! Every skill I’ve learnt from them has given me the ability to develop bit by bit. I never saw myself going this far from the beginning; I couldn’t see how I’d ever be able. Pottering around the suburbs was more of my vision. But I’ve got the momentum now, so 2016, let’s see what you have in store for me and my bicycle!

As if that didn’t cap the day off as pure amazing, we then had the arrival of Santa!! Dear Ray who is a great friend of all Wheel Women and brings life to every party, had dressed up in a great Father Christmas outfit with huge black boots and all, and was ready to distribute the Kris Kringle gifts! His wife Lyn had to go first, because she was his favourite, said Santa, then we all lined up for our gift and a kiss! Then Ray gave us another delight for the day, his alternate Santa hat that turned on, and the top and the bauble danced around on his head while it sang carols!!! We were in stitches laughing, loving his enthusiasm!! What a great friend, to give us so much Christmas joy!

All that was left was to head to the cafe for eats, drinks, chats and laughs galore! I do so love these ladies who have added such a great social aspect to my life from when I was bored stiff at home alone 5 days a week, right through til now when I’m working half time. It’s such a pleasure to meet up again at the next ride, and pick up right where we left off!! LOVE YOU ALL!!

Well if all of that doesn’t leave me smiling for weeks I don’t know what will! Of course our moods being fickle and subject to sudden change without notice, that won’t be the case. But tonight, I’m smiling!

Thank you to each and every person who made it so!

Oh, I did forget one thing. The award? Came with prizes! All of them exactly what I would have wanted for Christmas!! A Wheel Women riding backpack (now I’m part of the crew! Jokes), a solid high quality bike lock (YAY, out with the old fuddy duddy one!), bright rear and back lights (perfect because although mine allow people to see me, they don’t show me the path ahead!) and the smallest, most adorable set of tyre levers and patch kit!! Absolutely perfect! Couldn’t have picked them out better myself! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Last night I had a dream…

Anxiety, depression, antidepressants.

Condition, condition, treatment.

Cause of dreams, cause of nightmares, cause of crazy, surreal, nonsensical, weird-as concoctions of ideas and sequence.

Either way, not a great night’s sleep!! And a poor night’s sleep leads to waking up tired and already sick of the day, and that’s no way to feel better about life!

In December last year I got started on a second and more sedating antidepressant to help with my anxiety, and depression. I was initially scared of being on two antidepressants simultaneously. The pharmacist in me was screaming “serotonin sydrome, serotonin syndrome!” [see author’s note]. But then I took it, as directed, at 9pm at night. Within in half an hour a warm fuzzy feeling was spreading all over me and I was feeling sleepy. So I went to bed. I fell asleep straight away, no tossing and turning and trying to force myself to sleep. No fretting, anxiety, stress, fears for tomorrow. Just pure sleep. Bliss!

I fell asleep, and stayed asleep. All night! In fact I couldn’t get up the next day! The doctor had warned me about this so I had started the medication on Christmas Day. I dragged myself out of bed about 9.30am, tried to keep my eyes open over breakfast and finally gave up after a shower and went back to bed about 11am. I slept solidly for two hours and woke up feeling a bit better, but still sleepy – luckily it was a small family lunch for Christmas so it didn’t matter too much. The next day was better, the next even better and within four or five days I could wake up bright and early as soon as my alarm went off and head off to work. And I was getting a full night’s sleep every night!! I was no longer waking up feeling like someone had “punched me in the face” as my doctor describes it, pretty accurately!

Oh mirtazepine! I still have a soft place in my heart for this wonder drug that put me to sleep, kept me asleep and then allowed me to wake up and get on with my life.

I’ve changed medications a lot since then. I had to get rid of mirtazepine because the doctors wanted to start quetiapine instead, an antipsychotic/mood stabiliser to stop me swinging from one end of  the spectrum to the other. It is also sedating. It does a pretty good job with my sleep: it certainly puts to sleep, and keeps me asleep, but I’m having this annoying phenomenon of waking up every morning at 4am or 5am bright as a button!

And to all the helpful people who say “just get up” – thank you for your advice but I respectfully decline!! What kind of time to get up is 4am?? What am I meant to do at that hour of the day? How am I meant to occupy myself all day? It’s hard enough as it is! So I go to the toilet and get back in bed and start the fight with myself to get back to sleep. Unfortunately by the time I succeed it is time for my hubby to get up and a much more reasonable hour of the day to be awake, and I’m conked out! Completely out to it! So my actual getting up time is more like 8am, 8.30am, 9am, 9.30am. Which doesn’t work well with a plan to go back to work eventually on a 8am to 5pm shift…but hey, I really shouldn’t be getting ahead of myself!

I asked my psychiatrist about this early waking thing. At first I thought it was just going to be a temporary thing, but it’s going on and on. He doesn’t want to increase the quetiapine dose anymore; I’m already fat and have cholesterol problems which are in part due to this medication and neither of us want to worsen that! Besides I’ve been started on lithium since which he hopes will be my main medication and the idea is to eventually reduce and possibly cut out altogether my antidepressant and mood stabiliser. His opinion on the matter is that depression is the cause. Early waking can be a typical sign of depression in his view. Bummer!! I was hoping it was something medication-induced that was more easily fixed than depression! Ah well, at least I got most of a good night’s sleep. Mostly.

There’s still the odd crazy antidepressant dream. I’ve heard about other people on antidepressants having strange out of context or deranged dreams, so I guess it’s something that can be part and parcel of treatment. I’ve had a lot more in the past but since being on a mood stabiliser they’ve been a lot rarer.

However I had one last night that got me thinking about this again.

Here’s the reality as background. My sister is a chemistry and nutrition teacher and mostly we get on well. We had a phone conversation last week that was really nice, we had a good chat about different things and only stopped because we had to go out for a date.

Now here’s the dream. I get invited to go to a private girls school to give a lesson on nutrition but I can choose exactly what I want to give the talk on. I choose to talk about waist circumference and it’s link to heart disease. I go to give the talk but I get lost and I’m running late so I have to call ahead and tell them I’m going to be late; not impressive for a guest lecturer! I finally get to the classroom and there are 5 girls; a bit surprising for a guest lecture but okay. Somewhere in the dream the classroom becomes a car and the number of girls drops to two!! Anyway when we get to the car part my sister (the nutrition teacher) turns up and begins heckling me about my facts, saying that they are not evidence-based, the greatest insult in modern medicine! I respond but suddenly I can’t find the evidence that I had before and can’t fight back against the allegations. It turns into a bit of a shame fest for me as a lecturer and then I start getting criticised for my lecturing style, my notes and my slides and it descends into a big higgle-di-piggle-di and I wake up!! Ridiculous!!

Questions: I have no idea on what authority I’m giving this talk, why me? I don’t really have to guess why waist circumference; it’s clearly because mine is well over the line and I need to do something about it other than eating chocolate! Why am I running late – I don’t actually do that much anymore; I’ve really turned over a new leaf. How did we get into the car and why? Why a private school; I went to public schools and have no idea what private schools are like. Why is my sister even there, she lives in a different state? Why are my facts being questioned, especially by my sister who would absolutely support them in real life?

There is no reasoning why with these dreams, they just have to be brushed off as we go on with life. Sometimes they are harder to brush off but I’m sure that looking for meaning in them isn’t very productive. If you beg to differ, and can find a meaning, I’m listening.

So sleep, dreams, life. All wrapped up together and getting the perfect balance is an art. It’s not perfect now, but it’s a long way better than it used to be so I’d like not to fight it but to be glad for what I’ve got and make the most of it!

[Author’s note on serotonin syndrome: when prescribed a high dose of a medicine that increases serotonin like SSRI and SNRI antidepressants, or when prescribed a combination of two medications that increase serotonin there is potential for a patient to develop serotonin toxicity or serotonin syndrome. I have been prescribed both at different times and have never experienced any problems; that is not to say it doesn’t happen, but it is not common. If you believe you have been prescribed one of these you should discuss serotonin syndrome with your doctor/psychiatrist. I am not an authority on the matter and won’t be giving a list of symptoms to look out for. ]

Blackburn Lake Santuary

A great day out today with my hubby at the Blackburn Lake Sanctuary. A good friend recommended this park for bird watching and wow, it was amazing! We saw more birds than I can show here, so many little flitting miniature birds all over the place. A lovely older lady was there bird watching and pointed out a few for us, most notably the grey fantail which was awesome to watch, dancing and fanning its tail feathers.

What a beautiful place, and I feel so glad that it has been preserved down through the many years of development of Melbourne to be a sanctuary not only for birds and animals but for people to enjoy the unspoiled bush and to see these creatures in their native environment.

We will absolutely be going back! Thanks for the recommendation, Jeanette! We spent a happy day spotting birds all over the place and thoroughly enjoying the clear weather, sunshine and crisp autumn day. Couldn’t have been better!!

Despite my tiredness and slowness and dragging of feet there is always something magical about catching a glimpse of each bird for the first time, hearing the call and tracking it down, or suddenly coming across it in the path, or spotting it high up in the tree! It really gets me going and speeds me on for a few minutes, gives me a burst of energy for a little while and distracts my brain completely from anything else going on in it. I smile, I laugh, I exclaim and all of that is positive feedback to my brain that things are going well! I’m sure it must do something for my serotonin levels.

Photo credit is split about half and half with me and my hubby; can’t take full credit!

For the bird watchers among my readers, please take a look at the little bird third from the bottom below the duck – I need some help identifying this one, can’t quite decide based on my guide book. Thanks in advance!!

flowering blossoms, gum tree, eucalyptus, eastern spinebill

Fabulous flitting Male Eastern Spinebill amonst the flowering gum blossoms

eastern spinebill, eucalyptus, gum blossoms, male

Male Eastern Spinebill in the blossoms with throat on show

rainbow lorikeet, taking flight

Gorgeous Rainbow Lorikeet taking flight

grey fantail, tail feather

Grey fantail showing off its tail feathers – hard to catch so blurry picture!

spotted turtle-dove

Beautiful Spotted Turtle-Dove

purple swamphen

Blueish Purple Swamphen stalking the log

dusky moorhen, rushes

Dusky Moorhen in the rushes

laughing kookaburra, eating, branch

Laughing kookaburra sitting on a branch eating something gross!

black raven, little raven, australian raven

Glossy black Raven – either Little Raven or Australian Raven

rainbow lorikeet, yellow chest

An unusual Rainbow Lorikeet with a bright yellow chest

Australian Magpie

Pair of Australian Magpies fighting to be fed bread by hand

beautiful caramel and silver grey duck

Beautiful duck with caramel colouring and silver grey top feathers

unknown bird

Help wanted – not quite sure what this bird is??

[Addition: a very kind reader has given us the answer to our question!! The bird above is the White-browed Scrubwren, most likely the south-eastern form. Thank you very much!!]

red wattlebird

Red Wattlebird as seen from underneath

pacific black ducks

Pacific Black Ducks through the morning mist

eucalypt tree, new growth

Fallen eucalyptus tree shooting new trees

pink flowering gum blossoms

Pink flowering gum blossoms

Summertime sadness

 

“What a beautiful day! You can’t feel bad in this weather.”

 

“At least it’s sunny outside, that must make you feel better.”

 

“You’ll feel better if you get out in the sunshine.”

 

Fact: some people can suffer from a illness called SAD (seasonal affective disorder) where the lack of sunshine in the winter months causes them to feel down or flat and out of sorts. When the summer and long sunny days return, this illness reverses and the person gets back to “normal”.

Fact: some people can suffer from major depression where a lack of serotonin causes severe symptoms including inability to enjoy life, lack of motivation, guilt, sadness and suicidal thoughts. Sunshine does not increase serotonin and has no effect on depression.

It’s odd to me how many people have suggested that sunshine will, has, should, could or might make me feel better. I agree that being in the sun makes you feel better when you have a cold, a broken leg, are having a bad day, or are at the beach. But not true for depression, FYI. At least not for me.

I actually find sunshine makes me feel worse.

Before I got sick, I loved the sun. I looked forward to sunny days. I checked the weather every day to see if it would be a good day to sit outside for lunch.

In theory I still do love sunny days. But sitting in the sun doesn’t make my head a better, easier place to be.

Sitting in the sun while the inside of my head looks and feels like a dusty, musty, fusty, dark, dingy, crumbly, decaying, spider-webby room filled with sharp things and broken glass and knives and tears and hurt and pain only points out to me the contrast.

Why would that make me feel better? How can that make me feel better?

Incongruous: adjective, meaning not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something.

 

That’s a perfect description of me sitting outside in the sun.

I am not in harmony with the surroundings. I am not in keeping with the environment. I don’t fit, I don’t match, I’m out of place.

Being out there in the sun just makes me feel out of place. Glorious sun streaming down on my face and inside I’m full of darkness and hardness and awfulness and horridness.

It’s brutal.

So actually, I feel much more at home on a cold, rainy, foggy, cloudy, overcast, snowy, icy, windy, awful day.

I do go out on the fine sunny days and try to enjoy life. I try. I take my camera, try to get some shots to record that I’m out in the sun. That I’m out enjoying life. And sometimes I do enjoy it for a while. But it’s all a distraction. Then you go back home and there it is again, the black dog, waiting.

Waiting.

The black dog does not like sunshine, or enjoying life, or going out on fine days. He likes the musty, dusty, fusty room and the dark, sharp, hurtful things.

If possible he will go with me as I head out on a sunny day. He will go with me so that he can sit next to me and over-shadow me and ruin the sunny day.

He’s such a spoil-sport!

People say you can learn to live with the black dog. I’ve always been a dog lover, but I don’t want to learn to live with the black dog. I want the black dog to die so that I can shed off all the nasty and awful effects that he has brought into my life.

Any have a method of killing the black dog that works?? I’d love to hear it!

The faces of depression

I was walking around the back of the gorilla exhibit at the zoo and saw this excellent lowland gorilla out of the corner of my eye and it really looked like exactly how I feel some days!

That made me look differently at all my photos when I got home from the zoo. I’ve put together a few pictures that look like how depression feels, at least to me.

Silverback gorilla

lowland gorilla, bushes, grumpy

‘I’m sad and tired and sulky and just want to sit here and mope! Please leave me alone’ pose from this lowland gorilla

gorilla, eating, grass

‘I’m up, I’m eating breakfast but I’m still not convinced this is a good thing’ says another lowland gorilla

Seal

seal, water, rocks, zoo

This is a seal perfectly doing my ‘do I really have to move an inch today? Please tell me I don’t have to go anywhere!’ face!

seal, rock, water, posing

And here’s a seal doing my ‘please just go away and stop being helpful, I can’t take it today!’ face

Penguin

penguins, wooden bridge, zoo

This penguin is doing the ‘weighed down with the weight of the world’ pose

fairy penguin, beach, boardwalk, water

This fairy penguin is doing my ‘please tell me the day is over and I can go to bed? Please?’ pose!

Red panda

red panda, tree, hiding away

Here is a gorgeous red panda doing the ‘if I don’t show my face maybe everyone will leave me alone and I can just hide in here all day’ pose

Giant tortoise

giant tortoise, crawling along, heavy feet

A giant tortoise moving a slow ponderous step every few seconds, just like me dragging my feet on a glum day, heavy, slow, effort-ful!

Quokka

quokka, sleepy, grass, posts

This fluffy sleepy quokka is showing my ‘there is no way that I am opening my eyes or acknowledging in any way that its daytime’ face

Lemur

lemur, striped tail

Grumpy old lemur showing my ‘don’t mess with me today, I dont have the energy to be nice’ face

Pygmy hippopotamus

pygmy hippopotamus, swimming, zoo, blocked in

‘I’m stuck. Everywhere I look there are only obstacles. I can’t do anything. There are walls and stones blocking me at every turn’ says the pygmy hippopotamus after swimming into the corner!

Mandrill baboon

mandrill, rocks, zoo

The ‘please just let me sit here for as long as it takes’ pose by a mandrill

Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo

Goodfellow's tree kangaroo, zoo, trees

This Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo says you can talk to the back cos the face just can’t take it today!

Coati

coati, south america, zoo, next, tree

‘Should I get out of bed today? It doesn’t look too promising out there; maybe I’ll just stay here for a while’ says the coati

Sumatran tiger

sumatran tiger, leaves, zoo

‘I just don’t want to talk about it’ pose from the Sumatran tiger

Apologies to the gorgeous animals that made my day at the zoo so awesome for afflicting them with depressive characteristics!

Perspective is an interesting thing I’ve found. It can make all the difference. It can shade anything black or white into shades of grey. It can confuse things, complicate things, and completely change things.

A lot of work that I’ve done with my psychologist is around perspective, or the way I view the world, and trying to change that for the better to improve my mental health.

Identifying when our perspective is blacker or darker or sadder or angrier or bleaker or “more depressed” is step one to changing perspective. It’s interesting to me to see how a thought can change perspective on a larger part of life.

Seeing this gorilla, who is probably in fact happy and satisfied and just mulling gently on life, from my perspective as grumpy and sad and depressed, led on to thinking about my whole experience in a difference, “more depressed” light. I’m sure none of these animals are really depressed; it was just an exercise to demonstrate perspective (and gave me an excuse to share all my great animal shots!).

If I can notice this negative perspective and stop it in it’s tracks, that’s a great step. If I can then take away the negative glasses and see events in a neutral way that is a second and bigger step. If I can overlay the whole experience with a positive vibe, that is the third and greatest step of all! And it’s with these steps that depression can be beaten!

A big claim!! And it comes with a catch. It’s HARD!! It takes effort, motivation, concentration, self awareness, insight, persistence, energy. And these are the things that depression takes away. So that’s a complication right there.

This is why depression is attacked with a multi-modal approach.

One: medications to increase serotonin, reverse some of the effects of depression, and bump up the energy, motivation and effort.

Two: psychologist or counsellor help to identify negative thought processes and find ways to change them

Three: self help – learning all you can about your condition so that you can find ways to help yourself. And being willing to do these things!

Some people don’t like the idea of medication. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience, maybe they’ve had side effects, maybe they have misconceptions, maybe someone has told them something that has put them off. Interestingly people believe talk amongst themselves more than doctors; even though it’s illogical.

All I know is, without medication I would not be anywhere near as good as I am today. Without it, I was a sobbing blob on the floor, unable to move, do anything, see anything but pain and blackness.

And without the medication, everything is so much harder. Because you are fighting an uphill battle against your own self. Against a state of demotivation, lack of energy, unable to enjoy things, difficulty concentrating, sadness and pain that is serotonin deficiency.

Adding in the missing serotonin is so logical and such a necessary step in getting a person back on track. It’s helps so much, gives you such a boost along the path to recovery. Without it I can’t fight the depression. I can’t get up, go out, live life, work, shop, shower, do my daily tasks. Even with a massive dose of it I struggle sometimes, mainly due to swinging moods. That’s a whole other thing.

Serotonin replacement, or anti-depressants give the needed ingredients for me to make somewhere better in my head for my life to live. They enable me, help me, boost me, push me and give me the strength to help myself. To help me change my perspective, to improve my mental health, to make a better life. Here’s to it!!