An Interesting Day – R U OK?

R U OK? DAY Bondi Beach. Awesome morning! Hope...

R U OK? DAY (Photo credit: andy@atbondi)

Today was R U OK Day here in Australia. It’s a day promoted by the foundation of the same name, “a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ to support those struggling with life”, as they put it. They believe suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

Over the past few days I have shared a fair number of their posts on Facebook so it would be almost impossible for any of my friends there to not know it was on. It would also be impossible for anyone who knows me to be unaware that I have been fighting major depression for the last eighteen months.

Socialisation is so good for me. Getting out and talking to people and connecting to the world. As I’ve mentioned Jessi just turned 21 and her 21st birthday party was better than drugs. It had a knock on effect, I felt better after the party so I managed to get some serious tasks done and that also made me feel better. Of course it eventually faded.

I also have to admit that I am not the best social companion at the moment. I am prone to spending at least part of the time telling you about how terrible I feel and my current anxieties, though not all the time. I will, as an example from a recent drink and a meal with a friend showed, be perfectly happy to spend half an hour on a pointless argument about the digital review system in international cricket or listening to how you are going and some of your troubles.

I now find it difficult to try organising or asking for social connections. It only took a few misses, knock-backs and last minute cancellations before I found myself with a terrible anxiety about rejection. I have tried to make it clear that I would really like social contacts from small gatherings to just a cup of coffee or a drink with a friend.

Given all that how many of my friends do you think were reminded today that they haven’t talked to me on the phone or made any contact apart from Facebook in many months? Don’t know the answer to that but I can tell you that not one actually picked up the phone.

It’s pretty easy to find yourself feeling lonely and isolated when you’re suffering depression. I don’t have a full time job at the moment so I can sometimes go weeks without talking to anyone apart from Jessica or the people in the supermarket. Beating myself up is easy. Feeling that nobody cares and nothing helps is all too familiar. Having a day like today makes it almost impossible to not think of myself as friendless, worthless and a failure.

In case you’re wondering, yes I did. I rang a friend who lives at a long distance and spent a few minutes checking how he had been going. He’s fine, a new job has lifted him out of his hole. Oh, and to my friends, don’t feel guilty, that’s not what this is about and you were (obviously) not the only one.

Please, if you know someone going through a rough time then make sure you stay in touch. If you really care then you might even want to put a repeating entry into your calendar, “Phone Steve”. Google Calendar even allows you to have something repeat with a gap in any number of days so you can set it to some number like 17 or 23 so your friend doesn’t think “Pete rings every third Friday”. Then be prepared for a little real conversation, be ready to arrange a cup of coffee or a drink. If you go to the R U OK Day website they have some tips on how to do that.

You could save a life. Perhaps even mine.

Thank You

English: A female doctor examines a child.

 A female doctor examines a child. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “The internet is full of rants. Help tip the balance: today, simply be thankful for something (or someone).”

So what to be thankful for? I can’t be thankful for my health; my asthma is currently terrible due to the fires around Sydney yesterday and major depression isn’t fun.

People? Should I be thankful for my friends? I don’t feel I have friends I

rely on. I’ve often felt quite alone and unsupported over the last 18 months.

There is one person I’d like to thank. Many (many) years ago I asked a woman I was sharing a house with to recommend a doctor nearby and she pointed me towards a family practice in Enmore. There I found Sheila and for the last thirty years (almost) she has been my GP. A good GP is a blessing, a great GP is a miracle.

Sheila is incredible, not only is she a good doctor she knows all the best specialists and she makes sure to get feedback on how you like the people she refers you to.

Then there is the help she gave me when major depression hit early last year. There was a few months where she was seeing me once a week just so I could walk into her office and cry for fifteen minutes and she would listen to me vent my pain, talk to me and keep me grounded and here. Since she has spent many hours listen to me complain about side effects as we went through a half a dozen different drugs that didn’t work before we found something that did any good.

In this day and age she does house calls. She also gave me her mobile number once and told me to phone her, when I didn’t she called me.

Sheila is caring, thoughtful and can put up with a heck of a lot from her patients. I know over the years I’ve put her through a lot and I know that she cares and even worries about me.

So thanks Sheila.

Dead Already

On the Threshold of Eternity

At Eternity’s Gate by Vincent Van Gogh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many reasons not to write and post this article. It’s a little too honest to be out in the world.  I’ve written it and discarded it several times over the past few months, somehow writing seems to help me but it’s scary to post it. I haven’t given it my usual hard edit as that would require putting aside for a few hours and I’m afraid if I do that my anxiety will overcome my desire to publish and once again it will be trashed. I hope getting it out there is useful to someone.

I’ve been suffering from clinical depression for about eighteen months, for quite a while before that I was suffering from mild depression. This is the third major episode in the last eighteen years.

While I have had clinical depression I’ve been living in a different world to most of you. I’ve been living in a world devoid of hope, absent of energy, empty of will and without any love in it. A world of anxiety, sadness, regret and self-recrimination. I don’t have a full time job, I don’t have a social life and I can’t relax without my mind filling with the self-loathing of depression.

My anxiety can easily become crippling. Recently there was two weeks where I couldn’t answer the phone, couldn’t seem to answer an email or an SMS. I also have strong social anxiety, I find it difficult to talk to people and I find it hard to be around people I don’t know. It’s hard to leave the house.

About three months ago I found an anti-depressant that almost works. It was, according to my GPs records, the fourteenth I’ve tried over eighteen years. This one actually has a positive effect, none of the others seemed to, and the side effects are just annoying rather than disabling. I’m staying on it as better than nothing.

When I say it almost works it lifts me from a totally black hole into a grey void which descends into the hell only every few days and only for a few hours.

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Change The Conversation

Australian Coat of Arms (adopted 1912)

Australian Coat of Arms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here in Australia we are gearing up for a Federal election. As this happens the country will start a discussion and the character of that discussion will define the election.

Over the last thirty years the basis of that discussion has changed. The main topic of political discussion can be characterised as economic rather than social.

The perfect example is the major effort of the “Gonski reforms” which have been labelled as major reforms to education but they are almost entirely focussed on the financing and economics of schooling leaving the topic of what and how we teach our children entirely untouched.

If we wish to have a national conversation about education perhaps we might start with why we are graduating so many lawyers, economists and MBAs while we don’t have enough nurses, teachers and engineers. We might like to argue about why we are increasing TAFE fees while we don’t have enough skilled workers.

You can also look at the growing prominence of media reporting on the state of the economic market and economic news. The ABC station 702, for example, twice during the day has a report on the Australian Stock Exchange and major economic news as well as mentioning that major news during the hourly news.

Then we get to the political debate that talks so much about topics such as tax rates and government rebates such as the Family Tax Bonus, Baby and First Home Buyers Grant. When we were discussing the Carbon Tax much of the debate centred not on what was best for the country but who might be better off after the offsets were factored into family budgets.

If we do want to discuss the national economy perhaps we could talk about the restructure of our workforce. Do we want a nation where a huge rise in casual and contract labour that now has a rising number of Australian workers underemployed and unsure of their jobs?

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