World Suicide Prevention Day 2018 (Late)

Yes, I’m late. World Suicide Prevention Day was last Monday, but I didn’t quite get there. My excuse? Well, the short version is a bad toothache followed by really bad fatigue. It doesn’t sound like much of an excuse on a particularly important awareness day, but it was at the time. It completely put me off track with my writing. My apologies to the organising committee for not getting it right this year. Better late than never!

But hang on. Don’t we need to be talking about suicide every day? I think we do. We need for it to become part of everyday conversation. (Although we can do without the graphic details thanks, MSM.)

At the moment we’re pretty good at writing (and maybe even verbalising) when there has been a so-called celebrity who has taken their own life. Then we start stirring the pot, but maybe a week later? It’s gone deathly (and I chose that word on purpose) quiet again.

In my country (New Zealand) it is only a few weeks since popular newsreader, Greg Boyed died by suicide. Perhaps because he was in the media and known to many writers, the country went wild on speaking about suicide. One writer even used the occasion to say that mental illness had gone mainstream. Personally, I’d refute that. Sure we might have John Kirwan speaking depression and anxiety, and for a week we spoke of depression and suicide, on account of Greg Boyed’s death, but there is no way that most of mental illness is mainstream.

But let me not get side-tracked. We are pretty good at speaking about suicide when a “celebrity suicide’ happens. But who is there to speak to an eighteen-year-old who is desperate and suicidal? Or the forty-year-old farmer? Or the thirty-year mother? Or anyone who is at the end of their tether and doesn’t know where to turn.

It is my opinion that we need to be speaking about suicide every day, and so while this Awareness Day is a very good thing, it doesn’t so much matter if I am a week late. What matters is that I speak of suicide today. And tomorrow. And the day after…

We all need to be speaking of suicide so that the people around us know they can speak about it with us.

I get worried though when I see media report on suicide and offer telephone numbers of helplines afterwards. It’s not that it’s not a good thing to be offering, but it’s no good if we think that those numbers are enough. Take an example of what I’m talking about, taken from a recent NewZealand article on suicide. This or similar is now, pretty routinely,  tacked onto anything that mentions suicide. We need to do better.

If the content on this website is distressing or triggering, or, if you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, we have provided in contact details below for you to speak with a professional. If you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call the police immediately on 111.

• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor (available 24/7)
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
•WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757

It’s great that we put this information out there, but we can’t stop there and think we have done enough. We haven’t. We need to be out there talking to our friends and family. Maybe we need to be volunteering for those organisations. We have to do more than rely on the occasional article to put the merest information out.

There’s one more thing I think we need to be doing. For years, we have been telling people who are suicidal to reach out and ask for help. Actually, the rest of us need to reaching out and offer help. It’s time to stop expecting struggling people to ask for help…  because I can tell you that they won’t.

I spent a lot of years struggling with chronic suicidality, including two suicide attempts. In that time I (mostly) didn’t ask for help when I needed it. I didn’t know who to ask and I feared the consequences if I asked the wrong person. The consequences could be anything from being punished and ostracized to being locked in a psychiatric hospital. I didn’t want any of these things and more. I simply needed someone to talk to, someone to trust with what was happening to me. Asking for help would more often than not, not give me what I needed.

Asking for help when you’re struggling with suicidal feelings is too much for us to expect. What is needed is for us  to be willing to say “how can I help you?” What is needed is for us to reach out to those around us and ask “how are you?” “what can I do to help you?“.

I come from a place of experience on this one. Please don’t expect a suicidal person to ask for help. It’s too much for them. They simply won’t. They often can’t. They need you. It’s necessary to try to understand that living with suicidal feelings is quite unbearable.

Mostly it is likely that a person would have some type of mental illness, and it is quite an intolerable experience, particular alone. To expect them to ask for help on top of what they are experiencing is quite ridiculous. We must turn the tables and offer help.

“The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.”

— William Styron (Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness)

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

 

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Don’t Call Me A Monster

I knew I was a monster by the time I was fifteen. Everything had gone bad. I had no understanding of the things I was doing and saying. Neither did anyone around me. Well, the people who knew and that was only my immediate family. I would be too ashamed to admit it to anyone else, even though I desperately needed help.

My parents wanted to help me but had no idea how. They wondered whether this was simply normal teenage stuff. It wasn’t! They should have got me some help. But hindsight is wasted. They didn’t get me help, and it remained a secret. I had become a monster! I was sure!

What followed were major life decisions I quietly made according to my belief that I was a monster. I quickly concluded that I should never be a parent. I couldn’t inflict myself on a child, nor could I pass on any rogue genes. You see, I had no idea what was going on with me. I couldn’t risk ever becoming a mother.

I must be a monster for real! I continued to hold that secret monster close to my chest. My friends must not know because surely they would reject the monster. Even those with whom I would be in an intimate relationship would never know.

It was my secret to hold and use against myself for what has been most of my life. I was full of self-loathing and hate. I was terribly ashamed of what my family (but no one else) knew of me.

Terrified of what might be if I didn’t maintain a tight hold over my monster. I couldn’t let anyone see, for that they would surely hate me if they did.

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Actually, it would be thirty years (yes, I did say 30 years) before I had a medical professional offer me help with my monster. It was at that time that, after seeing many mental health professionals before him, one psychiatrist had the guts to diagnose me as having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

 

Monsters. Hmm.

I know better now. I am not a monster, although there are still times of self-loathing in which I threaten myself with that label. There are also times when I lose that tight rein over myself and become rather monster-like. Jobs have been lost. People have been lost. But I understand better how that comes about, and I am learning ways of being in which monster doesn’t get a look in.

Monster aside, the psychiatrist who recognised in me the symptoms of BPD did me an enormous favour because finally, I had explanations for the me who had always been me (and not a monster).

There had been mental health professionals who had gone close to identifying BPD much earlier when I was being treated for depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)and Anorexia.

They had hedged around the issue but they told me cryptically that they didn’t want to see me labelled negatively. It would apparently negatively affect how I was treated in the future. So they continued to see me as having chronic depression. In my opinion, this was simply the BPD stigma I will address shortly.

It would have done me the world of good if I had that explanation of who I was. They didn’t understand how much the monster that I knew as me was actually killing me. Had they understood, perhaps between us we might have prevented two suicide attempts that would eventually come when I could no longer stand my monster.

Those of us with BPD live with all kinds of negative labels. Monsters. Drama Queens. Attention Seekers. Manipulative. Impulsive. Addicts. We get told we don’t have a ‘real’ mental illness because what we have is a Personality Disorder. We are likened to Narcissists and Sociopaths. Yes, some would go so far as to say that we are “bad” not “mad”.

There are plenty of websites out there that are dedicated to viewing people with BPD in this light. From what I’ve seen, most are run by family members who have seen the consequences of people living with BPD who don’t have adequate treatment or support. While I understand that those family members have had a lot of pain and hurt in their lives, I don’t accept the way that they paint us to be.

I am not a monster. I am not a Drama Queen. I am not an Attention Seeker. I do not seek to be Manipulative or Impulsive. I do though, accept that I am an addict and this continues to be a thorn in my side even though I have done a great deal of work to overcome it.

I do suffer, and I do struggle to know myself as anything other than these labels. Because believe me when I say, that the harm I can do to myself with these labels is much greater than the harm you do me.

It is clear to me that there is a great deal of stigma hanging over the two in a hundred people who live with BPD.

Just last week I read the words of another kiwi writer who said that the shroud over mental illness has been lifted. I think he was writing about depression and anxiety, for which I know are much more acceptable than in the past. But for BPD, there is a very long way to go.

Even amongst medical professionals, we are often viewed negatively. It was difficult to decide whether to let anyone know of my BPD diagnosis, and there are times even now when I wish I had not let it be known.

Am I a monster? No, I’m not but I need your support to believe in myself. Don’t write me off. I am a unique human being. I happen to feel my emotions strongly but who given the right opportunity can love and be loved as much as you.

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

Image credit: Facebook Page Anxiety Depression & I

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucy’s Getting Married!

Recently I read on Facebook that the eldest daughter of a friend was getting married. I was totally thrown off track by the realisation that the only time I had met the daughter was when she was a baby, yet now in her twenties, she’s to be wed.

It’s not an issue of whether my friend and I not keeping in contact. She was a close friend with whom I had travelled the world (a long time ago), followed shortly after when I was one of her bridesmaids. It’s funny how you can be so involved in each other’s lives and then? Well, then, Cate took a dive into a very thick and murky depression (along with a few other things that sent us in different directions).

I pushed people away. I didn’t appreciate the advice some tried to give me, and I took it to mean that I was being judged for an illness that must be my own fault.

I was in my own world now. I had disappeared from my late twenties. I had dropped off a cliff somewhere, landing at what I never knew was rock bottom (or would I fall yet further?).

I had literally turned to skin and bone, and so social occasions around meals were something I did my best to avoid. The idea of eating with other people (watching me) was enough to send me into a panic attack. “Meeting up for coffee or maybe brunch” was something I refused to be a part of at a time when even the milk in my cappuccino was too much for me. The world had taken up socialising around food and drink, but Cate couldn’t cope!

Many years of self sabotage, followed by years treatment and therapy…

Time has gone on…

And suddenly I find myself 25 years on, when Lucy is getting married (how can this be?) and M is going to be a mother-of-the-bride. Let’s also not forget that S has been a grandmother for a year and the lives of my friends have moved on…

Can you see what has happened? I was 28. My life was ahead of me. It was a time when everyone ‘knew’ that some day you’d be “married with kids”

And now, 25 years on, I’m not married with kids. The closest I have to a child is a much-loved cat, Hobbes. Life didn’t turn out as anyone expected.

It’s really weird to pop your head up for air and find that you’re middle-aged. Everyone else has aged too, but for them their lifespan went on. For me, my life halted before abruptly coming up at 50.

There was never the plan in my mind that I would have children. There were lots of reasons for that, and I just knew it wouldn’t be a good idea. This post is not about regret, because there isn’t regret. What there is, is what I will call life-cycle shock.

The life-cycle for my twenties friends has gone on as it should. But I fell off this darn cliff called mental illness and 25 years of my life just vanished. I’m still a 28-year-old at heart and at mind. My life has taken a different route and while fifteen years ago I couldn’t contribute to the kids’ achievement discussion that my twenties friends were now having, now I have no means of contributing to the comparisons of the grand-kids. Actually, at this point, I am probably better to go outside and catch up with the dog!

I can’t compare photos because you simply don’t take photos when you’re depressed and/or have severe mental illness. Okay, so that might be too much of a generalisation, but look at it this way: you don’t have those family occasions like graduations, engagements, marriages, and births.

I did manage one of those with a graduation, but I didn’t attend the ceremony, didn’t celebrate… and I didn’t have anyone take my photo. That was too much as I was barely hanging on at the time.

When you come up for air 25 years on, you have to expect that it will be different. You know that friends have moved on but, but how do you fit in? Anywhere.

It’s just beyond me to get my head around ‘baby’ Lucy is now to be a bride. Congratulations anyway, Lucy! I am really happy for you.

Thanks for reading!

 

Cate

 

 

What’s In A Word?

If you’re like me, you’ll struggle to find the word. You might just hit a blank, and not for the life of you be able to come up with the word you want, or maybe you might blurt out a completely different word than the one you intended. Where did that come from?

It’s called brain fog. Or cognitive dysfunction. Or cognitive impairment. Maybe specific to your illness, it might be fibro(myalgia) fog or maybe chemo(therapy) fog. I’m sure there are others related to other illnesses. I battle with brain fog thanks to two chronic illnesses (fibromyalgia and Graves’ Disease).

They said it might be a problem when I have a flare of my fibro, but actually, it is a constant for me.

I used to be paid to talk. I was employed to train people how to be managers, and so I was either in front of a classroom, talking all day, or other days I might be on the telephone for most of the day planning training programmes.  Even outside of my work, I talked. Leading groups.

I spoke fluently, without hesitation. It didn’t worry me whether I was speaking to one person or 200. Much of my speaking was off-the-cuff and I would only have minimal notes to guide me. I was good at this. It was my chosen career until severe mental illness cut me down, but that’s another story.

Now, I struggle to string a sentence together. I stutter, I hesitate, I lose the words I want to use, or completely wrong words come out of my mouth. It doesn’t matter whether I speak to one person or a group, I am constantly battling my brain to come out with the right words at the right time.

I feel like an idiot. I imagine what people must think of me. They would have no idea that I am actually an intelligent person because I really do sound like an idiot.

Worse yet, is speaking to people for whom English is their second language. Most of the staff in the dementia facility where my mother lives are immigrants. My problem is that I struggle so much to say what I want to say, but if they don’t understand me, I have to start all over again. They are trying to guess what I want to say, and I get flustered and my speech gets worse.

I am so frustrated by this today but it is like this every day. My inclination is to isolate myself, so that I don’t have to speak. But I can’t do that. I don’t want to answer the phone and actually fear that it will ring.

This is a constant problem for me. Anxiety is up, so is depression because I am so frustrated with the simple task of speaking. For those who think I should be out there working, I couldn’t work. I couldn’t do my job, because my job is talking. I retrained as a social worker, but wouldn’t manage to do that either. I just constantly stumble over my words. (By the way, there are other substantial barriers to me working, but my speech is just one more invisible problem.)

And that isn’t the Cate I always knew. What the f*ck happened to her?

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

Questions Of Suicide

TRIGGER WARNING: This post is a discussion that may be distressing to some people as it looks at suicide and suicidal thinking. There are no details of suicide and no discussion of methods. If you are distressed and don’t know where to access help, I recommend that you use the resource Befrienders Worldwide to find your local support agencies.

 

You’d have to be totally without wi-fi not to know that two American celebrities have died by suicide in this past week. I admit I hadn’t heard of one of them, but I still knew that it had happened.

I wonder how it is for their families to see, at least the western world, discussing the tragedies in so much detail. I wonder how it is for their personal friends also trying to grieve their loss with the media looking on so intently.

But also…

What about the families and friends of the other people who have died by suicide this past week? I haven’t sought out the statistics of how many people across the world die by suicide each week, but my guess is the number would be alarmingly high. How must it be for those friends and families to watch as the world focusses on only two deaths when every death by suicide is a tragedy for us all.

What about the people across our world who attempted to die by suicide in this past week? Again, that number is too high, whatever it is. While we talk of the celebrities who died by suicide this week, do we know who attempted suicide? Were either our friends or our families one of those who was suffering so much that they lost complete hope and tried to end their lives. That’s a really hard place to be. And what do we do about them?

What about the people we know who might have struggled to hold onto hope this week? Do we know if our family or friends are struggling that way? Do we know if those closest to us, might be thinking they can’t go on any longer? Maybe the struggle is too much and they’re thinking about ending it all. Dying by suicide. Do we know?

What about the people in our lives who live with depression? Do we know who they are? Have we considered reaching out to them, letting them know that they’re not alone? Or do they go on thinking it’s only the celebrities that matter?

What about the people who think they don’t matter? I suspect there are no statistics on this one, but I also suspect that the number would be higher than we might think.

What about the people who live with daily pain, disability and sickness? How do they feel seeing the world focused on two lives? What about them? Do they have enough hope to hold onto and keep fighting? Or have they had enough of their battle, and do they matter to you and me anyway.

There are a lot of questions that I have asked, with the sole purpose of thought. They are the questions I began to ask myself this morning. Where do I fit in amongst those questions, but also where are my friends and family in it? Do I know who in my world is struggling with life, and needs my support? Or do I just go on blithely living in my own world? It’s easier that way if I can ignore the fact that people around me are suffering. But should I? And could I do something to alleviate suffering?

What really worries me is how we get involved in discussing the tragedies of two celebrities who have died by suicide. We (particularly social media) will go on discussing it for maybe a couple more days and then we will be back to ‘normal’.

Back to ignoring the fact that too many people die by suicide every day. And too many people attempt suicide each day but don’t get any support to enable them to grab hold of life again. We ‘pump their stomach’ and send them on their way again. How will that help?

Are we ignoring the numbers of people suffering (and I mean suffering!) from mental illness. Stigma is a ‘great’ thing isn’t it if we can push those people into a corner and then forget about them. Are those people in your or my family? What are we doing to support them in life, or is it easier to let them lie hopelessly in that corner?

I hate that two celebrities died by suicide this week. I wish that we as a world could have reached out and helped them so that they didn’t see suicide as their only option. But we’ve been here before. Celebrities who die by suicide generate chat. But how would it be if we take this chat and turn the tables. Turn the conversation of a couple of days into the action of seeking out and supporting those of our circle who need our help. If we stop talking and reading our screens so avidly, for now, and ask the necessary questions of suicide. I believe we can do something of good.

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”

— Dalai Lama XIV

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

 

“In Restless Dreams I Walked Alone”

It is a dark and lonely place, sat in front of the keyboard, ready to write, knowing not how one’s words will be read, whether they will be read at all, but hoping, maybe, to reach at least one person who also walks alone.

That’s me. I want to share with you something I don’t easily talk about. Something that keeps me restless. Something of which I am ashamed.

Drove the night toward my home
The place that I was born, on the lakeside
As daylight broke, I saw the earth
The trees had burned down to the ground

It was twenty years ago that I stopped drinking. There have been drinks since then, too many, but I finally stopped for good about five years ago when I accepted that one drink was never going to be enough. And no matter how much I drank I would never succeed in what was driving those drinks. I needed to no longer be me.

To cut a long story short, declared an alcholic I turned straight to another addiction. Smoking. Actually it was endorsed by my doctor. And I kept adding addictions as I sought to no longer be me.

I stopped trying to kill myself (to be honest, I’m not sure why) about the time I stopped drinking, but while I might have looked better to anyone looking, I was battling myself so hard that I needed a vice.

I’m not going to tell you what my vices have been. No one knows and it would detract from the point of this post. You see the point is that no one knows. You think you know me well enough to know? You’re wrong. It has all been hidden. From everyone.

Paint yourself a picture
Of what you wish you looked like
Maybe then they just might
Feel an ounce of your pain

Years ago, when I was battling severe depression, my mother used to tell me that I had to tell people how I was because they had a right to know. A sideline is that what she meant was they had a right to know because they were praying for me. That was actually one of the biggest points that put me off Christianity, but like I said, that’s a sideline for another day.

What happened instead, was that I withdrew. Pulled down the covers and hid. If they didn’t know then they couldn’t hurt me by their judgments, their meaningless comments and their complete inability to ‘get it’. Because let’s face it, who does ‘get it’ …unless they’ve been there themselves?

And more important to this post is who gets addiction? Who understands what can drive an addict to destroy themselves trying to achieve some nameless and often unknown goal?

I need(ed) to not be me. I need(ed) to distract myself from what I’m feeling.From the pain within. Maybe even destroy that pain, or just feel better… for a while (in reality, maybe a second).

It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

It might seem boring, but the only visible sign of addiction now is my smoking, everything else is truly hidden (but still destructive). Even my smoking, I do alone. I’ve given up telling anyone when I try to give up, because there have been so many attempts. Too many. And now I’m not just ashamed of the need for nicotine, but also of my inability to give it up.

The thing is though, that there are two sides to me. Always. One side wants to give up. That side needs to give up because aside from my health, cigarettes are really expensive in New Zealand and there are other things I could be spending my money on.

But then there is the side of me that wants to smoke. Yes, really. She’s still there, and I know that it is her that stalls the ability to stop. She likes smoking. She likes it when people cast judgment her way. She laughs when her neighbour coughs as she passes. The New Zealand Government wants to do away with smoking by 2025, and she is determined to still be smoking past then. Just because. Because she can.

She wants to stop herself from feeling, stop herself from being …her. She knows there are healthier approaches to life, but she also knows that she can change to a ‘healthier’ addiction but that any addiction can (and will) become unhealthy. She’s stuck on a treadmill. No matter what it is, she will take it to the extreme. Just another addiction. Just another attempt to stop herself from being her.

In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail
No fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my name, I’ve changed my face
But no one wants you when you lose
I never thought this would be me. You don’t even know the worst, but if you’d looked at me 30 years ago, you never would have thought it would be me either.
The short answer is that perhaps this is what trauma does to you. Trauma that keeps repeating, and keeps having you fight not to be you anymore. Because if you can do that, then maybe the trauma will end.
They don’t see the angel
Living in her heart

The good news is, there is an angel living in my heart. Actually, that angel is probably what nearly everybody sees. Because either they’re not looking, they see only what they want to see, or I don’t want them to see. Shame drives it all.

That angel wants to conquer her demons addictions. But it’s hard when shame pulls the curtains. Recently I metaphorically fell on a programme available in my area to help my angel conquer those addictions. All I have to do is go, at the appointed time. Tuesday at 6pm.

That’s not hard, is it? But it is. Three Tuesdays at 6pm have passed since I found the programme and I can’t get myself there. I can’t get there because I’m scared. The anxiety is enormous. There are too many “what if’s” and “yes, but’s”. Every Tuesday (so far) I choose to not go (because I know it is a choice) and choose to stay with my addictions. There is a fierce battle going on inside of me. I need the help but I just can’t quite do it. Yet.

So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
Quotation Credits
‘The Sound of Silence’ by Simon & Garfunkel
‘Don’t Give Up’ by Peter Gabriel
‘True Colors’ Cyndi Lauper (Songwriters Billy Steinberg/Tom Kelly)
‘Skin’ by SiXx AM

Becoming Mindful

I admit to being a reluctant participant. While I understood the principle of mindfulness, I had no desire to make it part of my life. I know, I’m not meant to say that. But I have.

Maybe it was the fact that it was recommended to me by so many people in so many places. It would help my depression. It would help with anxiety. It would definitely help my Borderline Personality traits and would help my dissociative disorder. On and on have been the recommendations. Apparently it would help with almost any disorder. Don’t get me started on how mindfulness was meant to help with chronic pain. The only thing was that if someone recommended something to help me, I was more than likely to do the opposite.

It’s not that I didn’t want help. I just pushed away the help that came my way. There have been too many recommendations from all types of quarters from my (ex) mother-in-law to the best of psychotherapists, psychiatrists and pain specialists. Most things recommended actually didn’t work. Some have actually caused me more harm rather than good. I just didn’t want to know anymore.

So any time someone mentioned mindfulness or a programme including aspects of mindfulness I just gave a non-committal answer and quietly backed away. I didn’t want to know. That was until recently.

Before I go on, it’s important to clarify just what I’m talking about when I say mindfulness. So here’s a definition from my fav Oxford Dictionary:

“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

I got thinking one day about what is a daily activity for me. It’s one that you might be surprised I am linking to being mindful. Most days I spend time with my mother in the secure Dementia Care facility when she has lived for the past 15 months. Not only do I spend time with my mother but also the twenty-odd other residents and the staff. They have all become a bit like family to me.

It occurred to me that when I go through the locked doors, I leave everything behind me and focus on what is happening at that moment. I can’t focus on any of my stuff. That gets left at the door because Mum needs my complete attention. She is also not well enough to be able to give attention to my stuff. It’s not exactly mindful meditation, but it is focusing on the moment.

Then today I was reading a blog by a woman with early-onset dementia. She said:

Once you’ve got your head around the diagnosis, don’t dwell on the losses or the future as you have no control over each. Instead enjoy this moment as there are still many adventures and laughter to be had”

She made me think that aside from finding a mindful approach the only way to cope with visiting my mother, it was also an approach for those facing diagnosis of illness. It’s far from an easy illness, or an easy place to visit, let alone be there day after day. But there are fun moments. There are adventures to be had. I leave my troubles at the door and venture forth into Mum’s reality. That is all that matters for the time I am there.

While those thoughts have been gradually forming in the background of my mind, I almost literally stumbled a few months ago onto a more conventional form of mindfulness through meditation. I was truly desperate to quiet the tinnitus in my head one night. Having bought a new phone I had lost the app that I used to use a night for nature sounds.

Instead, I came across the app Calm which offers mindfulness meditation. I was listening to it before my rebellious mind had a chance to say no. What’s more, I found the sleep story I listened to, was quietening my mind, focusing on one thing. Now.

For as long as I remember, I have had trouble with over-thinking while I am supposed to be going to sleep. It has been like an automatic switch that pings me into thinking and worrying about everything. As a sufferer of anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) I didn’t have a hope of getting to sleep until I finally collapse in exhaustion. Using sleep stories to focus my attention, I am getting to sleep much quicker and not becoming anxious about the whole night time and sleep thing.

Having found mindfulness useful in sleep I have started using meditations offered by Calm. Yes, really. Me. I admit I have been amazed at how calm I can be after meditating and how it helps me throughout the day.

But I am slow to change my daily routine to make sure I build into each day some time for meditation. I also still find myself amazed to even be going here. Me? Mindfulness? I would have said never. Not for any really solid reasons but simply because I had got a thing in my head and simply wasn’t going to go there.

Well, now I am.

I finish with a rather long quote, but one that I wish I had read, and had the willingness to take on board, many years ago:

“I’m simply saying that there is a way to be sane. I’m saying that you can get rid of all this insanity created by the past in you. Just by being a simple witness of your thought processes. 

It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. The moment you say “this is good, this is bad,” you have already jumped onto the thought process. 

It takes a little time to create a gap between the witness and the mind. Once the gap is there, you are in for a great surprise, that you are not the mind, that you are the witness, a watcher. 

And this process of watching is the very alchemy of real religion. Because as you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start disappearing. You are, but the mind is utterly empty.

That’s the moment of enlightenment. That is the moment that you become for the first time an unconditioned, sane, really free human being.” 

― Osho

Thanks for reading!

 

Cate

“He Gives Me The Creeps”

Even before I have started, this post runs the risk of being full of generalisations. I hope you will excuse this. I really don’t mean it to be this way but it’s just where my thoughts are at today. I know a good number of very good men, so don’t get me wrong. I am not, nor will I ever be a ‘man-hater’. Actually, there are many times when I prefer the company of men over women.

So many good women have dealt with the wrong man and so many good men have dealt with the wrong woman that, by the time you two finally meet, you’re BOTH afraid of each other… so afraid, you run the risk of ending it before you’ve even given it a chance.” 
 – Unknown

I wasn’t able to establish a definitive author for this statement. More than one voice seemed to claim it as their own words and I admit I have eventually given up searching in order to focus my efforts on what it is that I want to say. Please forgive me for this, and let me know if you know for sure, who is the author. Meanwhile, the words are sadly, perhaps the story of my life.

Am I a good woman? I don’t know and I wouldn’t dare to say. I’m sure there are more than a few who would say I am not. What I do know is that I have come across the wrong man too many times in my life. More than just the wrong man, but the true determination of a wrong man (in my eyes) as a ‘creepy man’ and usually sometimes dangerous man. Certainly dangerous to me. Sometimes dangerous to me physically, but even more so, emotionally and mentally dangerous.

It is the point at which I label a man as “giving me the creeps” that I know that I am at a turning point. The best thing to do would be to run like hell, but I admit there have been times when I have been fully immersed in a relationship when I finally conclude he “gives me the creeps”. Then running like hell is still the best course of options (for me), but can be easier said than done.

Yesterday I came home and muttered to anyone who would listen:

“…(he) Gives Me The Creeps”

It was not about anyone I am in a relationship with, not the least reason being that I have previously concluded that a relationship is the last thing on this earth that I want to be in.  Yes, too many ‘wrong men’ have set me on this course, but more so, and completely outside the scope of this post, I have simply decided that a relationship of any sort, with man or woman, is not what I want for my life.

This particular man maybe not be relationship material (for want of a better phrase) but still can stand as a threat to my personal safety and wellbeing.

When anyone who would listen to my mutterings hears me say “he gives me the creeps” they know that this is a turning point for me. I can hear my own gut instinct speaking (finally) and take it as a fair warning, a threat to my wellbeing, particularly my emotional wellbeing and I should run like hell. That would be the logical thing to do. Many times it is exactly what I have done regarding both creepy men and women. But there is another option. It may not be the most sensible option but it is often what comes to mind first.

My experience of ‘wrong men’ (sadly more than one) has left me carrying the burden of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The summary of this you will find recorded in many posts on my last blog Infinite Sadness… or hope? so I won’t go into detail here. As healthy (and recovered) as I usually like to see myself, there are still triggers to my feeling of being unsafe. They can come up in all kinds of environments, but they often eventually carry the statement “he gives me the creeps”.

When those words come from my lips I immediately want need to hunker down in my own version of a safe house/bunker. I want need to shut all the doors and windows, pull the curtains, unplug the (landline) telephone and go off-line. Before those words are uttered my gut instinct has not kicked in. I have perhaps been oblivious, maybe naive. I have wanted to be friends with anyone… until now when I am reminded that there are more than just one creep in this world (sad but true).

The events in my life that lead to the PTSD were across a long period of time. I came to know that “safe house/bunker” existence as normal. Yes, that’s right, I did say normal. I was constantly afraid. In terms of relationships, I feared that every man was a ‘wrong man’ and would eventually turn into a ‘bad man’ who could would hurt me. I couldn’t trust anyone. I had determined that my gut instinct could not be trusted and that every situation was one in which I could be would be in danger.

I’m not quite so afraid nowadays (after a whole lot of therapy and time), but that feeling that ‘a person who gives me the creeps’ is the first step to me feeling I am in danger. And it can come for any number of indicators, sometimes just even a hunch.

Of course, I know the reality to be that I am not always in danger when I determine someone to be ‘a creep’ but it’s still a turning point in how I regard a person. I admit that when I came home muttering this about someone I encountered again yesterday, I knew I needed to be careful around him.

Yes, careful in the sense of keeping myself safe but also careful in the sense of not going overboard in barricading my life. The difficulty is in getting the right balance and recovery from PTSD never taught me how to get that balance. I guess balance is something that comes with time and experience. Meanwhile, I realise I am not as recovered from PTSD as I thought, but rather I live and fight it every day. Oh, and yes, the barricades are up!

One last note, if you’re reading this and “think this song is about you”, (yes, I’m borrowing the lyrics) please don’t. This song post is not about you.

“Alone with thoughts of what should have long been forgotten, I let myself be carried away into the silent screams of delirium.”
― Amanda Steele, The Cliff

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

 

 

Here Comes The Sun

This week you may be thinking things look a little different around here. Even though this blog has just begun, I realised almost immediately that things were just not quite right and that I needed to do some tweaking. And so I did.

The theme got changed first. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a theme is going to work until you actually work with it. It didn’t, and I’m hoping the new theme you’re seeing will work for both you and me a whole lot better.

Then I needed to incorporate some new images to make everything ‘just right’. The first one, the wings, is one you will have already seen on my first post. I liked it so much, and some readers told me they did too, so I built it into the look. Remember wings are about flying. Yes, I know you could work that out without me saying it but flying really is my favoured superpower. I want to be sure that those who are giving out superpowers remember which one I want. What’s more, there is nothing better than getting on a plane and flying up above the clouds.

But more importantly, living with chronic health issues does mean taking that extra step, to see if we can fly in spite of those issues. I want to have these wings right in front of me when I’m looking at, and working on my blog. I do have wings. And I can use them.

sunrise

The second image I have added is about flying too. I wanted to add this image because it is a picture of a sunrise over the Pacific Ocean, taken in Kaikoura, a little under 200kms north of  Christchurch, where I live. I just love seeing the sunrise from anywhere but there’s not much better than seeing it come up out of the sea. Wow, it really does get my heart rate up and reminds me that I’m alive. I am so lucky that for me it is only a 10 minute drive to the ocean to see a similar sight.

A few years ago I was flying over Australia, heading east towards New Zealand. The flight was actually from Bangkok and it happened to be early in the morning. As a fluke, I was seated on the side of the plane (with a window seat) that enabled me to watch the sunrise – for literally hours. You have no idea the joy I felt. Actually, it was perfect timing because for most of my flight I had been feeling dreadfully sad, having left a close friend behind. It was one of those ‘wow’ moments I will never forget.

It’s not important what you believe about where nature comes from and who governs it, but whoever it is really gave me a gift that morning. I had an almost eight hour long, perfect sunrise. One thing that I believe is that sometimes we get gifts like I got, at just the perfect moment. We get them for a reason. I would soon be facing a great heartbreak (no, I’m not going to go into the details) and even though I had no idea of what was ahead of me this eight-hour long sunrise really was a gift I could hold onto when the going was going to get tougher than ever.

This blog is me. It is my journey with chronic illness. It is my journey of life. While the original images and themes used represented me, I came to the conclusion that wings and a sunrise were so much more appropriate to the theme I was building right from the name of the blog.

I hope you stay with me on this journey. There is much to come.

“At the moment that everything goes dark, the sunset in front of us becomes the whole story. But if we find courage enough to wait until tomorrow morning, we will suddenly come to understand that in reality yesterday’s sunset was only half of the story.” 
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

PS. This image of sunrise at Kaikoura, on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is by Charlie Evans, Nelson http://www.kiwiwise.co.nz

Hopes For Another Year

What are you doing tonight? What I mean is, what are you doing for New Years? The great celebration of New Year’s Eve. It is great, isn’t it?

I’m not so convinced, but then you could just say I’m old, down on myself and I have few friends to spend it with. Any number of those might or might not be true, but for a long time now, I have been less than impressed by the ‘great’ New Year’s celebrations. Please, can’t we just skip to February and carry on as if nothing is different?

New Year celebrations are great if you’re twenty-something, physically and mentally healthy, have money in your purse, have mountains of people you want to spend that occasion with, and while I’m at it, you’re probably an extrovert.

Am I any of those things? The short answer is no. And perhaps that’s my excuse for planning to go to bed tonight, at the usual time (early by most people’s standards) and if I wake (get woken) up at any time while it’s still dark, my cat, Hobbes will have a lot of explaining to do simply because he’s the usual culprit (other than just normal insomnia).

Before I go on, it’s important to point out just what would happen if I didn’t do that, if I stayed up until 12.05am, or even say, 2am. I would be very likely to spend at least the next few days in bed in an unreasonable amount of pain, not to mention fatigue. And my brain would turn even mushier than usual (brain fog).

It’s just not worth it to stay up that late and have a change of routine. I have to spend too many days in bed as it is, the last thing I want is self-inflicted New Year celebration pain/fatigue/numerous other symptoms.

Health has been a determining factor in New Year activities for more time than it should. But that’s not about to end. My chronic illness is in it for the long haul. But even before that, I struggled with this occasion.

It’s really hard to celebrate yet another year when you’re suicidal. It’s even harder when mental illness has turned life to hell and getting through the next day seems impossible without facing 365 more days. It’s just not even a bad joke. It’s beyond thinking to consider that another year is ahead, and because you might be depressed in amongst other illnesses, you can’t bear to have another year like the one you’ve just had.

I saw a meme on Facebook yesterday that loudly proclaimed that 2018 would be a better year. Really? Who said? How do you know that 2018 will be a better year? Yes, I guess we can hope. And hope is all important, especially on this occasion, but what if 2018 is a worse year? Who’s to say it won’t be?

In her (and my) younger years, my mother used to like greeting her family first thing on New Year’s Day morning with a chirpy “Happy New Year”. That’s fair enough, isn’t it? I should add that she wasn’t out late celebrating the night before, and she didn’t drink so wasn’t nursing a hangover.

Lots of people will be saying ‘Happy New Year’ on Monday. I admit that I cringe every time I hear it. The first year I was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder and was quietly (I mean I hadn’t admitted it to my parents even though I was staying at their home) desperately suicidal she was a bit stuck. And so for the next following years (too many to count), she would skip the “Happy New Year” and give me a “Well, I hope next year is better than last”. You can’t argue with her thinking, but I didn’t want to even know I was facing another year. “Mum, can’t we just skip this and get on with breakfast?”

My mother hoped that the next year would be better, and I can look back and be thankful that she hoped on my behalf because hope was completely beyond me. It’s funny (okay, well not really at all) that I am left thinking about the year ahead in terms of both my mother and myself. This time I need to hold the hope for her.

I can say with certainty that because of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2018 won’t be easy on Mum. It’s a disease that just keeps getting worse. There’s no chance of recovery and there’s no chance that 2018 will be a better year than the one we’ve just had. The disease will continue to destroy her, bit by bit. There will be less and less of a functioning brain. How do you celebrate New Year when that is ahead of you?

My hope for Mum is that her suffering is eased by the love of those around her, even those who she no longer knows. My hope is that she won’t feel alone or scared. My hope is that she will have peace.

I’m inclined to think that those hopes were something of what Mum has hoped for me, particularly in my many years of disabling mental illness. What is sad is that Mum and I didn’t have, in those years, a relationship in which she could share that with me. We weren’t close, and she and I both knew that much of what she might try to say usually ended in harsh words. It was safer to keep the silence between us. Thankfully, our relationship has changed, although too late to have those conversations.

Mum no longer comprehends that I struggle with illness of any sort. When I can’t visit her, I tell her why but she doesn’t remember the past years nor the journey I have been on. That’s probably a good thing (if any good can be found in her suffering). Maybe it means that she can join in the New Year celebrations at the dementia care facility where she lives. If she can have hopes, maybe she can hope that 2018 is better for both of us. She doesn’t understand that illness deems that unlikely.

But hey, if you’re going out to celebrate New Year with friends or family, have fun. Be safe. And take a moment to think about what you hope for in 2018.

I leave you with a quote. I read this today and was inspired by it. Maybe you will be too. I guess it is my hope for myself for the coming year. To be nobody but myself in 2018.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
― E.E. Cummings

Thanks for reading

 

Cate