Am I About To Have Another?


At Eternity's Gate by Vincent Van Gogh

‘At Eternity’s Gate’ by Vincent Van Gogh (Wikipedia)

Last night was bad again. The black dog well and truly had me in his jaws and was giving me a good shake. The noises in my mind are getting bad again and the anxiety levels are rising.

The worst thing with the anxiety is that it becomes a vicious circle, one cause of anxiety is the rising anxiety level. It’s true that my anxiety levels rose steeply before my last mental breakdown and my anxiety levels are rising steeply at the moment. Mostly I’m anxious about increasing symptoms of another breakdown and anxious about it becoming a self fulfilling prophecy.

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Life, Living, Depression And Why I’m Still Here


I should be dead now. I’ve been close. My life could have ended several times over the past forty years or so, a victim of depression, the mental illness problem that society constantly denies. I’ve been picked up out of the gutter by Ambulance officers having a massive asthma attack while stoned off my face on a combination of booze, pills and grass. I’ve imagined jumping off a balcony, I’ve thought of driving into a sandstone cliff, I’ve looked at a pile of pills.

Most people realise that suicide is the largest killer of young men under 25. Not many people know that suicide becomes a larger and larger killer the older you are – when measured as deaths per thousand of the population suicide is a bigger problem in older men, it’s just that other causes of death outrank it so we only hear about the young, where it stands out.

I had my first bout of depression when I was in high school though at the time I didn’t realise it was depression and nobody else did either. My mum realised I was not in a good place one day when she was driving me to school. I said:

I don't believe this is Wednesday morning, it feels like Monday morning.

It must have been the way I said it or something because she asked:

Why? What does Monday morning feel like?
Monday mornings I want to be dead.
Oh, that doesn't sound good.
I guess not.

Mum thought that this feeling was due to me “not fitting in” at school. Not fitting in was actually the three years of constant, savage bullying I underwent at Killara High. Killara High is a general public high school in a fairly affluent upper middle class section of Sydney. At the time it had a fairly good academic reputation and was certainly considered one of the best general public high schools in NSW (as distinct from selective public high schools like North Sydney Boys where my friend Robin was bullied).

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Which Way’s Home


Sanity is In

Sanity is In (Photo credit: Cocoabiscuit)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “Share a story about the furthest you’ve ever traveled from home.”

Well, the Daily Prompt is repeating itself again. Back in July they asked the same question. Then in my response I skimmed across a number of places that felt distant from home – some physically, some spiritually, some mentally.

This time I’d like to give you a piece of semi-biographical prose. Semi-biographical as I can’t really remember a lot about the time. It was April last year and I suffered a serious mental collapse. I ended up a long way from anywhere I could call “home” .

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Pep Talk


Purdue Cheerleaders at Dallas Pep Rally

Purdue Cheerleaders at Dallas Pep Rally (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “We all know someone who could use a pep talk… so write them one!”

A pep talk. “Pep” – the word is a shortened form of “pepper”. The spice has been known and used for thousands of years and is today the most widely traded spice. The phrase “pep talk” was first used around 1910 but had a surge in the thirties.

I think I’m the one that needs the pep talk. Here I am, recovering from major depression, suffering from constant anxiety, starting a new job, feeling alone and friendless.

So here goes.

My dear friend, you are incredible. Let’s list some talents and virtues.

  • You are a warm friend. You are caring and can be relied upon.
  • A wonderful father (just look at the result).
  • A romantic and generous partner.
  • You are extremely well read.
  • You’re highly intelligent.
  • An experienced and knowledgeable computer tech.
  • A decent programmer.
  • You quickly learn new tech.
  • When it comes to finding a solution you are dogged and determined.
  • A fun dancer.

When you are well you are capable of so much. You have an interest in so many things that give you joy. Theatre, literature, art, papercraft, Lego.

Finally, remember that major depression has hit before and you came out the other side. You are capable of rebuilding the shattered mind and once again becoming that amazing man.

So do it!

Getting It Out


Writing

Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “Tell us about a time you couldn’t quite get your words or images to express what you wanted to express. What do you think the barrier was?”

This happens to me almost every time I sit down and try and write about depression, particularly my own depression. Just a few days ago I tried to write a blog post about the feeling of loneliness and isolation that sometimes overcomes me.

The words came out but they came out haltingly and didn’t ever feel right.

What are the barriers?

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Anhedonia – A Loss Of Pleasure


Depression

Depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the things people find hard to understand with major depression is how debilitating anhedonia can become.

I’ve previously mentioned anhedonia here on this blog but just to remind you anhedonia is defined as the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions. It is a symptom of major depression, indeed one of the defining symptoms.

Think about the things you do to relieve stress. Do you have some sort of hobby or pastime? For me, my hobbies were papercraft and Lego. I also enjoyed spending time watching good movies and high quality TV such as David Attenborough documentaries or “The West Wing”. I enjoyed riding my motor scooter and bicycle.

Most people when they are “depressed”, sad or stressed have something they can turn to. When those things, our hobbies, no longer give pleasure then it becomes harder to cope with the stresses of life. I’m still capable of those things, and sometimes still do them, but they no longer bring me joy or pleasure. They are at best time fillers and at worst another failure, a task I can’t complete.

Boredom also becomes a problem. If you no longer gain any pleasure from your pastimes then it is difficult to get through a long night. You can’t settle down and do anything and I often find myself starting to watch a half dozen movies without being able to settle down and watch one.

All of this adds up to a life that is at best grey. I end up defining a good day as “not unhappy” and a good experience as “not boring” rather than “happy” and “exciting” as those possibilities have left me.

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Not A Chance


think stencil art & graffiti cat

(Photo credit: urbanartcore.eu)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “You receive some wonderful, improbable, hoped-for good news. How do you celebrate?”

How do I celebrate? Wonderful news comes along and what do I do to celebrate? Wonderful news?

I’m suffering from major depression. According to DSM IV “Depressed people may be preoccupied with, or ruminate over, thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-hatred.”

So the hard part of this question is not thinking about celebration. The hard part of this question is imagining a world in which I get good news. I just don’t believe it. It was only a few months ago I was telling my psychiatrist that I could find no evidence that I wasn’t in a universe that God had created for the sole purpose of torturing me and causing me pain to punish me for not believing in Him.

It starts with having no hope. I don’t even have any hope that I will get better. Nothing good can possibly happen to me because that’s not the way the world works, maybe it’s because I’m broken, maybe because I’ve had a life where at the moment all I can see when I look back is bad decisions.

Then there’s the constant feeling that nobody wants to help, nobody can help, nothing can help.

How can good news intrude into that? Where is the space for it to actually be good news? At the moment if I received news that you thought was good then I’d find a way of turning it into pain or anxiety. A million dollars? I’d find a way to lose it. A better job? Probably just more stress. A long lost relative? What do they want?

So, celebration. I don’t think so. I guess I’d tell Jessica my daughter and leave it at that. Oh, I know, blow a few dollars by going out somewhere nice for dinner with her.

One Tiny Change


English: Johnny Depp in Cannes in the nineties.

Johnny Depp in Cannes in the nineties. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “For a moment today, time stands still — but you can tweak one thing while it’s stopped. What do you do?”

A myriad of possibilities open up. From the almost infinitesimal to the huge. I think about the day I had today and what changes I might make.

There are, of course, the fantasies:
– Make me as rich as Rupert Murdoch
– Make me as handsome as George Clooney
– Make me as sexy as Johnny Depp

Then there are a few philanthropic ones:
– Reverse the Federal election results
– Give the illiterate Aussies the ability to read
– Trash all the poker machines in Australia
– Abolish nine out of ten liquor licenses in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD

They all have their appeal. Are they really the “one thing”? “Tweak” implies a small change not a huge bunch of wholesale changes so it doesn’t allow us ot go for the really big ones, the almost impossible, such as
– Make cancer disappear
– Make poverty disappear
– Fix TV so there’s always something worth watching
– Give the Liberal/National Party Coalition a heart

Then there’s the elephant in the room. The one I’m not talking about. The big one. “I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?,” as Bilbo asked Gandalf.

So while time is stopped, all motion ceased, reactions halted I reach inside my bruised and battered brain and tweak those hormones and proteins and structures and erase a little, adjust a little and cure my fevered mind. Major Depression gone.

It would be nice if it was that easy. That’s not really a “tweak” is it? That’s a big change. It’s a lot of tweaks all together.

Small changes, minor adjustments or tiny alterations just isn’t going to do it. If I can’t have the one change that will actually effect some change in my life, some change in my future and make tomorrow even a little less lonely and painful then you can keep your “tweak”. Nothing, thanks.

Have A Talent?


Talent Show

Talent Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “Tell us about a talent you’d love to have… but don’t.”

The first thought I had when I read this question is what the difference might be between a “talent” and a “skill”.

So it turns out that a talent is innate, it’s something you have, while a skill is something you can acquire.

The last time Daily Prompt came close to this topic it asked about learning something that came hard. In that case I talked about drumming.

Most of the things I’d like fall into “skills”. In that post I also mentioned Italian and Haskell programming. They are skills.

What talents do I already have? I think I have a talent for writing with some experience and skill in editing. I’ve also shown a talent for computer support.

What would I love to have that is a talent not a skill? Quite a lot of my desires are skills. A talent? I don’t really need to know how to dance, paint or sing – none of those artistic talents.

Where I sit at the moment I’d have to look at my life and say “relationships”. I’m not good at relationships, both platonic and romantic, and there are parts of finding and maintaining them that I think are innate. Some are skills, skills like knowing how to care for people and being a good listener.

Other parts of it I’m sure are innate, they are a talent. Making friends, understanding people, even seeing problems in a romantic relationship. These seem to me talents rather than skills. I’ve tried over the years to learn these things but they never seem to come to me. I lack the talent. I try hard, I’m a good friend to anyone, I’m always the first to help in a crisis and don’t mind doing any of those small favours. In a romantic relationship I always try to make the other person feel loved, I always make sure I say it and I always do a range of small things to make the other person feel good. It just doesn’t seem to work, I just don’t have the talent.

There is another talent I seem to lack, particularly at the moment. I’d like to be able find pleasure and happiness. As I sit here writing away with my major depression leaving me grey and lifeless I look back on the last thirty years and it seems that happy has been a fleeting state of affairs, never with me for long and always far too fragile. At the moment with major depression there are medical reasons I can’t find it – anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, is one of the defining symptoms.

People tell me that finding happiness is actually a skill rather than a talent, that it can be learnt. I wish I believed that. It’s another thing I’ve tried to acquire, I’ve read any number of books, tried meditation, yoga, positive affirmations and all manner of things.

Could It Be?


English: Katy Perry performing "E.T."...

Katy Perry performing “E.T.” in Budapest on October 1, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After seemingly an improved mental state on my current medication for quite a while I have suddenly this week felt myself slipping back, felt myself slipping away into black moods. My insomnia is back with a vengeance, I’m waking early with no chance of getting back to sleep. It has left me wide awake but physically tired and shaking. I’m also back to weeping a lot over the past few days.

So what has caused this? Why suddenly are the old problems back? I can think of three possibilities.

The entire time I’ve been on my current medications the one thing I’ve continued to feel is anger and frustration. I’ve described the mental state the two combined have given me is “grey” and still leaving me without will or desire and still unable to find pleasure or fun but at the same time I find myself angry at the silliest things.

It could be that the anger and frustration have built up to make me say and do things I then turn into a black mood. I’m certainly harder to live with and I’ve said some things to Jessi that have upset her which then makes me feel terrible. The thought of driving off the one person who has stood next to me through all this is pretty upsetting.

The second possibility is that the stress of a job interview last week and anxiety about the preparation and now the outcome are weighing more heavily on me than I thought. I really want the job but truth be told I am lacking experience in Linux support for it and probably wont get it. That’s not good for me considering how I had to build myself up to get through the interview prep and the interview itself. Every rejection hurts a little more.

The third possibility is the one that interests me most since it deals entirely with the subconscious.

Last Sunday out of the blue I received a totally unexpected email. It was titled “Thirteen parts of the puzzle” and was just “I miss walking by your side, up the steps to The Wharf.” It was obviously from my ex, Sonia, who had left me in such a bad way that it triggered my descent into full blown major depression.

I had fired off both a quick reply and then a few hours later a quick short poem:

The Wharf
Ancient boards beneath 
My feet, white walls on
One side and bare bones
Of a mercantile
World long gone to sea
On the other lead on.Beside me the clack
Of heels and soft hand
In mine as we pass
Posters and photos, on
To an evening
Of shared art and joy. 

(A creative way of saying I remembered doing the same thing.)

I then pretty much dismissed it. It’s not the first time I’ve had a similar email out of the blue. Last October I got a link to Katy Perry’s song “ET” out of the blue. Back then it seems I quickly forgot about it.

Certainly there is a huge amount of mixed stuff associated with Sonia inside my head that has yet to be properly dealt with. The big one is the usual with a messy break up of dealing with the two different “people” – the one that you loved and made you happy while you were in a seemingly good and happy relationship and the person that caused so much pain and unhappiness at the time of the breakup that is so easy to hate.

A while ago, when the pain of major depression and loneliness was at it’s worst, I couldn’t help but yearn for the love and care of the first person while knowing that going back to that was impossible.

I had thought that while that stuff hadn’t really been dealt with that it had no effect on me stuffed away in it’s box.

So right now I’m wondering if right now, when truth be told I do feel a little lonely and friendless, that email has triggered some feelings that are not quite at the conscious level, that my subconscious is back to that yearning and churning up the old pain.

A couple of interesting data points.

I had no real trouble writing this post, I’m not sure if writing it made me feel better or just that the change from the early morning grey outside to a sunny day is responsible but when I went back to start the edit I found myself getting weepy when I was fixing the paragraph about Jessi.

So Jessica has quietly left for the day and won’t be back till after dinner she tells me.

Now I find myself finishing this up and totally stuck. I just started to call or SMS three different people to see if they were free for lunch or dinner but stopping before making a call or sending a message as I’m not sure I could cope with them saying no. Instead I sit here feeling lonely and weeping.