7 April 2017

World Health Day: Depression - Let's Talk

It's World Health Day - 7 April - and this year they want us to talk about Depression.

Sometimes, I feel that I talk about depression a lot. But other times, when I encounter people living with it and they are feeling like they can't talk to anybody about it, I feel like I don't talk about it enough.

Turns out I like to write about it roughly once a year ((For the record - I'm okay to talk about it any time - just get in touch) .... see - here I talk about PND and then I talk about PND/PTSD and then I talk about learning to accept that I live with depression, and then I'm pissed off to add a fourth kind of depression to my collection here, and then I talk about how I had 'suicidal ideologies' and then shortly after that the 'oh, here I am' post happened.

And then here we are.... or more precisely, here I am (again). I live with depression and probably have since I was a teenager and used to slice my thighs with a razor blade, because I had all the feels and no way of coping.  Back then they called it 'cutting yourself' or 'attention seeking', and now it's 'deliberate self harm' but either way, it did fuck all for making me feel better and made wearing jeans very uncomfortable.

I am what is known as 'a high functioning depressive'. This basically means on the outside I'm what people recognise as 'me' and on the inside, my brain and I are struggling.  It's not about life circumstances. It's not going to be fixed by a change of attitude. Or exercising more. Or eating different foods. I can't snap out of it. Just because I'm not sobbing on the floor in front of you or refusing to get out of bed, doesn't mean that on the inside I'm not thinking about being dead. People find it hard to comprehend because 'I have nothing to be depressed about' or I'm not 'acting depressed'. Trust me on both fronts - I know and depression is not an act. It's exhausting being two versions of yourself.

The first version is the you that you want to be. The second version is the you that you are. The truth is, I am both versions of myself. All of the time.  All. Of. The. Time.

Just six months ago, I was pretty sure I was going to die. I saw no point in my existence. I couldn't see the value I added. I felt like a burden. I believed my family would be better off without me. I cried so much thinking about how much I was going to miss my girls and then I felt awful because how selfish that I was thinking about me and how I would feel, when they would be clearly better off without a parent who was going to fuck them up.  My husband would be clearly better off without me. This went on for weeks, then months.... getting progressively worse. First you feel a bit flat, then a bit down, then a bit sad and before you know it, you've fallen over the edge and you're in free fall.

Long story short for those that are new here - treatment works. There was an intervention, medication was upped, I started seeing my psych again regularly and I'm better than I was. I wasn't instantly cured. I'm not 'better'. But I'm managing my illness now so that mostly I feel like the version of me I like best.

Mostly. Some days I live in a state of tightly controlled overwhelm and feelings of immutable failure. Even on the drugs.

Depression is an insidious fucker. You might be functioning, you might be holding it together externally, but other balls are dropping. Once you hit free fall, you start smashing through the things that keep you stable. It impacts your work, your relationships, your finances, your hobbies, your social life, your esteem, your eating, your self care, your ability to respond appropriately. It makes you feel thoroughly no good and irredeemably worthless.

Depression sits in your chest, a physical lump pressing on your vital organs. It thrives by consuming your insecurities and regurgitating them, repackaged and repurposed, into your brain. It weights your limbs, distorts your vision. Your brain ricochets between the walls of your skull, pulsing with nervous energy, anxiety, emotions, thoughts at an ever increasing speed, and the stress of 'coping' stretches your body and mind so thinly that the smallest bump would cause it all to explode. You get so that the idea of being in a lifeless state - be it a coma or death, becomes an overwhelming urge.

The siren call for people with depression is not death. It's peace.

So let's talk about depression. Let's talk about how with the clarity of being in a 'better place', I can recognise my resilience. Let's talk about how that 'better place' allows me to recognise the courage that gets me up and getting on with it no matter how I feel inside. Let's talk about how I am not the only one that lives like this. Let's talk about how it's an illness not an attitude problem. Let's talk about how if we could choose to have an illness it would never be something so dreary and unsexy as depression.  Let's talk about it so when that clarity isn't around for me, or any one of the thousands of people living with depression, that reaching out is possible.

Let's talk about it so when somebody hears the mournful melodic siren call, they don't dash themselves on the rocks, but steer towards the lighthouse.

Let's talk about it, so people don't die when all they want is peace.

If you're need to speak to someone, even if you don't think it's depression, don't forget about the fantastic team at Lifeline Australia who you can call 24/7 on 13 11 14.

Also The Black Dog Institute has some brilliant resources for people living with depression, and for people who live with and/or care for, people living with depression. 

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6 April 2017

The old lie

I lay in my bed last night, sobbing my eyes out, as I watched the ghastly video of the children of Syria dying as the result of chemical warfare.

I read the articles, trying to get my head around who was responsible. And I realised it didn't matter. Whether it was government forces or rebel forces - we are all responsible.

The west gassed the children they sent to fight during the first world war.

It was ugly then. It is ugly now.

Source: The New York Times
Wilfred Owen, a soldier and a poet, fought in the first world war. I read the poem below when I was about 13 or 14, and it has always stuck with me, his words painting a scene and an experience so vividly, so viscerally, I could see it in my minds eye, feel the panic, sense the terror.

And last night, I watched it not in my minds eye but on the screen of my phone.

Humankind's ability to inflict the unimaginable on itself continues - one hundred years after the war to end all wars.

The old lie -Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori. - it is sweet and honourable to die for one's country - is still bullshit.


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, 
And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind. 

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling 
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling 
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 

In all my dreams before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud 
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,— 

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est 
Pro patria mori.

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