Monday 29 March 2010

This is how it feels

It's worth writing this right now so that I don't forget the feeling and make it sound glossy and nicer than it is. This depression thing has been dripping away, as I gain control over my emotions and thoughts again. It hasn't owned me at all in such a long time. Then I had an awful cold that I allowed myself to think I could treat like anyone else would. In this case with pseudoephedrine. The problem is that I'm on SSRIs and these two don't play well together. I didn't know that.

Living with depression makes the world look a little different to you than it did when you were "normal". I see it like riding a carousel at a carnival at night. Your parents help you on to a big pink and yellow striped elephant seal with a unicorn's head. It's big and that kind of slippery that plastic is when you are a kid and spend more of your days with sticky drippy hands.

For a while there, you are adjusting and enjoying the ride around and around and up and down, with the music playing and bright friendly lights. You managed to stay on your steed like all the other people going around and around and up and down. You even smile like they do and laugh because it feels enjoyable to be amongst the happy energy.

Then you feel a jolt. It's that big-for-his-age 10 year old bully who you've seen pushing people over when he thinks nobody is looking. He's holding a half eaten and mostly melted ice cream cone in one and and coming in again to charge you with his free fist and shoulder. He's like the psuedoephedrine interaction with your meds. You grip with your hands on the fake mane of the mythical horse seal and dig in your heals, so that you can absorb the hit. Other times, you've managed to stay upright when people have walked by and knocked in to you but this time it's impossible. You see him coming as the ages of anticipation pass before he strikes. You know what it is going to feel like because you've felt like it before. Before you got therapy and medication and changed you lifestyle to remove anything possibly fun from it.

He hits. You lose you grip and slide over the side of your ride. Luckily there is a seal fin and you grab on to it. Nothing around you has stopped but the angle has certainly changed. You look up and the pretty lights are psychedelic, hypnotic and make you feel like throwing up. The rhythmic music you were traveling along to is now a noise of booms and strums and bangs and squeals. Then there are more squeals and it's other people who are still riding the carousel. They are still happy. Still moving around and around and bouncing up and down. The music doesn't phase them. The lights give them energy.

You can't see the bully now but it doesn't matter. The damage is done. As you hang on and wonder if you should let go, you realise that there is nothing but darkness out there and you don't know what would happen if you did. The right thing to do is to hang on until you can get it together enough to pull yourself back up.

Your finger tips get tired and go white from the pure effort of holding on. Your whole body starts to ache and the muscles in your arms start to cramp. Physically, you can make it through this. You have recovered before. Mentally, you don't know if you have the strength to do any more than cry and let go. Fall in to the darkness and not try to go around and around and up and down like everyone else. You wouldn't have to force yourself to smile anymore. You wouldn't be so tired after pretending to be just like everyone else. Faking the ease. Laughing with the crowd.

You decide that you might as well hang on for a while but if that bully comes back again, you hope he doesn't pick you once more because if he does next time, you may not have the energy.

I'm OK now. I'm tired. I want to eat hot cross buns and watch bad cop shows until my mind slows down and allows me to sleep. You all keep riding the carousel. If you see me disappear for a while, don't worry too much. I'll climb back up again. Don't I always?

Please excuse this post if it makes no sense. It is a brain dump of exactly how I feel right now.

Have a little faith in me

When the road gets dark
And you can no longer see
Just let my love throw a spark
And have a little faith in me

And when the tears you cry
Are all you can believe
Just give these loving arms a try
And have a little faith in me

Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me

And when your secret heart
Cannot speak so easily
Come here darling, from a whisper start
And have a little faith in me

And when your back's against the wall
Just turn around and you, you will see
I will catch you, I will catch your fall
Just have a little faith in me

Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me

Cause I've been loving you, for such a long, long time
Expecting nothing in return
Just for you to have a little faith in me
You see time, time is our friend

Cause for us, there is no end
And all you gotta do, is have a little faith in me
I will hold you up, I will hold you up
And your love, gives me strength enough to

Have a little faith in me
Hey hey
All you gotta do for me girl
Is have a little faith in me

John Hiatt - Have A little Faith In Me

Friday 26 March 2010

My fave song right now

My sister intro'd me to this song and now I love it. It makes me think of her and smile.

Sunday 21 March 2010

I think...

I think love is when you wonder where I am and what I'm doing, so you come here to check.

How Twilight Saved My Mind

Early last week, the declaration was made that I feel I have reached 60% healing on the way to recovery and victory over the depression that has held on to me for so long. When I hit 50%, I owned it and it just bugged me unlike before that when I was at it's beck and call.

It probably proves my insanity is ripe in that I regularly declare out loud that this depression is my b*tch. It damn well is now and thank goodness for that.

So why the title? How did a teenage love story about sparkling vampires written badly by a mormon 30 something save my mind? Good question. As with most of my answers, you won't see this one coming.

The first thing that goes when you are depressed is your mind. "Well obviously", I hear you proclaim. To be more specific is that your ability to concentrate disappears right near the beginning of your depression. All that consumes your mind is a series of negative thoughts that run through your head so fast that you can't catch them long enough to think your way out of them. It's one good mental kicking after another until you are left too tired to think, sleep or concentrate.

Literature on depression says that it will usually pass within 3-5 years of starting. That is assuming that you are not one of the unlucky ones who suffers life long depression. I still don't know if I'm lucky or not. The progress I am making at least leaves me relaxed in the knowledge that I will be making my own mind up from now on and not some behavioural triggered chemical reaction.

Before I realised I was suffering from any mental illness (ouch! It hurts to use that term on myself but I should own it to own it), it frustrated me to no end that concentrating on anything that required higher level brain function was almost impossible. A workmate (Phil Calcado) once commented on how short an attention span I had when he'd shared a link to a blog post on some topic and he saw me take an entire day to get through reading it. That isn't the normal me by the way.

When my mind was like this and sometimes still is, I don't give up. I persist in reading; doing mind puzzles like crosswords and playing scrabble; writing code outside of work; and painting or being creative in a tangible way. It can take me up to ten times as long to finish a task as I would pre-depression. For me, it was the finishing that made it worth while. That was the point to celebrate and feel triumphant over the fatigue.

My library before the divorce contained many classic books and great works of fiction and non-fiction in every genre you can imagine. It was both my ex-husband and I who loved collecting and reading books. We spent more of our disposable income on books than anything else I can think of, when we were together. Yes, even my shoe collection.

Towards the end of my marriage and the beginning of the depression that almost took me down, I couldn't read anything much at all. My feed reader was always at 1000+ items and the pile of books to read was growing rather than shrinking. That was when I changed tack.

The new feeds I subscribed to were short reads from comics and picture blogs with lolcats to one paragraph updates from comedians and teenage girls circumnavigating the world. Stuff that didn't strain my brain but still allowed me to read. At that time, my book club decided to read the first book of the Twilight series. If you have been living under a rock then it's about a teenage girl in a small American country town who has a chaste relationship with a vegetarian vampire. It's been described as a man falling in love with his food in a New Zealander kind of way :)

The writing is simple and aimed at teenage girls and housewives. Oprah wouldn't touch it on her book club and most book geeks will deny ever having even touched the books. There are four in the series and I read them all. They were a breeze to read and took me around three to four weeks to work my way through them. The achievement I felt at the end of finishing the series was brilliant. I'd managed to absorb the simple plot and get to know the characters without much effort. Yes, they will not win the Pulitzer or Nobel in Literature but they made reading accessible to me.

My ex put them down at any chance he got and made sure I knew he thought them to be for pathetic women with no lives or brain cells. For me, that did not matter. I started them and read them all the way through. Like the lolcats and 140 character tweets that kept me entertained in those days, they also helped me keep my brain in use. That was valuable.

Now, I read a lot more feeds with a lot more words. My books are becoming more complex and challenging intellectually but I keep the fluff around and still roll in it like a dog who has found a dead fruit bat in the tropics.

What matters is not what you read but that you do read. Elitism is a way of excluding people and only makes the insecure feel superior long enough until the self-doubt kicks in and makes them find fault in something else.

Read whatever you want. Play Scrabble or Upwords. Giggle at pictures of badly spelled cakes or comic books with excessive violence. It doesn't matter what does it for you at the time, just keep doing it. Yes, therapy + medication + environment will help you but so will keeping the brain going.

Thank you sparkly vampires and teenage angst. Thank you cheezeburger cats and the Watchmen. Thanks for keeping me ticking. I appreciate you.

Monday 8 March 2010

International Women's Day

There is so much going on in the world for women, about women and by women. It's a brilliant time to be a member of 51% of the human race. Today is a day to celebrate that and show support for other women.

We can be bitchy and fight with each other at times but I have never seen the support a woman can give be topped by anything. In the first world, we talk about issues of equality in relationships, the work place and on the sporting field. Equal pay. Equal respect. Equal opportunity. In the third world and places in our own society, there are women who are suffering and struggling too much to even sit and discuss such lofty issues.

I am Papua New Guinean, on my mother's side. The culture and guidance that have made me who I am today is shaped by that small nation. The women there are amazingly strong and inspiring to me. They start with nothing and produce something of value - beit in their children; their work achievements; or in their community. Unfortunately, I am personally aware of the violence and abuse they experience on a daily basis. Domestic violence has always been part and parcel of living as a Papua New Guinean woman, in PNG.

"Across Papua New Guinea (PNG), two thirds of women experience physical violence at the hands of their husbands. In at least one region, it is close to 100 per cent. And 60 per cent of men have admitted to being involved in at least one gang rape."

Amnesty Australia has put together an online petition to show the PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare that the world is watching. Please sign it. Real people can be helped by this. My aunties and sisters have suffered with broken jaws that needed to be wired; miscarriages due beatings and lifetimes of mental and emotional abuse on top.

If you get a chance, find a woman who means something to you and let her know that she is a light in your life.

Wednesday 3 March 2010


“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love." -- Washington Irvine

I Did Survive

Today marks exactly one year since giles packed his things and walked out on me, throwing me in to the depths of depression and what I expected to be the worst year of my life.

Many people told me I would survive it. I can't say I ever believed them but I had faith. Kellie Scott compared the whole thing to someone I loved dying and the mourning that went with that. She was right, as usual. Lindsay Ratcliffe told me to take one minute at a time and then each hour and then a day and finally bigger chunks. She'd be so proud of the months I now go without a bad day.

Alice Boxhall and Rob Hunter didn't really like each other that much but they both hung out with me in the early dark days and never left me alone for a second. Both of them know the worst I can be and somehow seem to still love me.

My sister called me before _he_ left and said "when is he going?". I answered "the 3rd of March". She responded "I'll be there the next day" and she was. Her and her husband arrived early the morning after and stayed with me through the days I thought I would not survive.

Jane Nguyen came home from work with me the day he left. I asked her what I'd do if I walked in to my flat and collapsed on the ground. She said she'd pick me up. I asked what would happen if I wouldn't get up. She said she'd sit on the floor and have a G&T until I was ready to get up. I never fell over, not that day anyway. The place was trashed and she sat me on the couch and cleaned it all up before 12 of my closest girlfriends came over with fried chicken, chocolate cake and champagne to celebrate the new chapter of my life.

When I ended up in hospital, Catherine Eibner came to see me and brought a picture her 3 year old had painted for her. She told me that it always reminded her that life was so worth living and she'd brought it to remind me. Karen Urquart, Lindsay, my sister Katrina and Angela Tam all came to me that night and the next day. They kept me afloat.

My father took several weeks off work and spent time with me in March '09. He sat there patiently while I randomly burst in to tears at the drop of a hat. He really did see me at my worst.

My mother... well I can't thank her enough if I started today and told her continuously until infinity, for all the support she gave me. She was my life line. She still is.

Today, I am happy and positive about what awaits me and what I will make happen.

There are so many people who helped me survive the last year. Helped me get to the point where today is just another day and the light ahead is bright and promising. I'll try name them. If I forget anyone, please remind me. I'm sure I'll keep adding people as I remember.

Thank you to...

Mum and Dad
Katrina and Taylor
Jennifer and Madonna (my beautiful cousin sisters)
Lindsay (and Guy for sparing her)
Ines and Amanda K @ Thoughtworks
Allison C and Kellie S
Catherine, Amanda and Oli
Cathie McGinn
Christie Brown
Jane Nguyen
Kelly McCusker and Sarah Kitmer
Jason Yip
Leonie MacRaild and Rebekah Joseph
Miss Wired
Kate Carruthers
James Crisp
Suzi Edwards
Tim Brown & the other San Fran folks
All the geek girls of Sydney
Senior management at Thoughtworks Australia and International
Adam and Vanessa Whitehead
My tweeps
All the supportive facebookers