Tuesday, 9 September 2014




Hi all..
The new blog is finally up and running..
You can now find me at
http://www.sevenyearsinglemummy.com

See you there xx


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Lets connect to overcome depression..

Lets critique this topic of depression a little more, go a little deeper. After any high profile suicide it appears the topic is once again up for grabs, everyone keen to have their say, some display empathy others staunch in their beliefs that suicide is the easy way out. Hopefully more people become aware, others fess up to having depression or suicidal episodes, we make pacts to monitor our loved ones a little closer. I wish the discussions wouldn’t lose momentum.


Image via Pinterest
  
  
I have a really close network of family and friends, some of us have depression, some of us don’t. But its not a dirty topic, we frequently discuss our mental wellbeing, where we’re up to, most of us are so attuned to each others signs and triggers that we can monitor one another from a purely visual perspective. My loved ones can tell when my symptoms for depression are at their worst. I wear it on my face, it completely changes.. My eyes lose their sparkle, black circles magically appear, I look drained, as though I haven’t slept for a week, even my posture deteriorates. But more importantly I retreat, away from the noise, the busy-ness of life, from those that love me the most.
Why?
Because I feel heavy, burdened, a dead weight and quite frankly I need to be alone with that. So I push everyone away, when really all I should be doing is drawing them closer, letting them envelop me with their love and care.

Depression is lonely, but it makes you want to be alone. Sometimes getting through each minute, each thought is hard enough. People drain you, try to take you away from your grief, your pain, your vulnerabilities when all you want to do is swim in the revulsion of yourself, drown in the self-hatred just a little longer.
Depression also makes you feel invisible, the whole world continues on in its whirlwind pace and yet your stuck in an insular bubble of total abhorrence, left behind, a total misfit. You observe people smiling, laughing, radiating joy, content in their togetherness. How do they do it, how can they be so comfortable in their own skin? How can the world look so sparkly to so many when all you see and feel is the dreariness, the consuming bleakness. The world is loud, sensory overload occurs, people seemingly push past you, vulgar in their movements, cruel in their actions of not noticing.
So alone, so lonely, so broken.

 
Image via Pinterest


The times that I have suffered from depression (read here) my friends and family rally around, even though I retreat I know their still there. This is usually how it goes down. My friends ring, they leave messages, words of love, positivity that I can defeat this black hole, not be defeated by it. They send text messages reminding me of how far I have come, the various hurdles previously endured, the strength gained from surviving past battles. They remind me that they love me, that I am valuable and worthwhile, that they miss my face and desperately need me back.  They remind me how strong I truly am to have walked away from an abusive husband with my children, to start again with very little intact, to rebuild my life one step at a time. My dad books me in for a massage (the power of touch really works), he takes me to my GP or psychologist. Mum makes me a fresh batch of kombucha, brings me a plant or some off cuts from her garden, picks the kids up from school.
They don’t make me feel useless, don’t reiterate the anguish I am disbursed in, instead they give me love, hope, unfaltering support when I need it the most.
 And usually, with a little time this amazing support network that I have starts to work its magic, eventually their words ring true, reignite the spark for life, slowly and tenderly I am able to re-emerge into the land of the living. At first it feels foreign, too bright, too loud, too busy but gradually I adjust until the weight is lifted. Its freaking hard having depression but its also tough to be the bystander. It’s not for the light hearted, you soon learn who you can count on, who plans on sticking around, some don't and that's completely fine.

Here’s the thing..
Its important
All of us want to feel loved, feel worthy, feel valuable and connected.
It’s all we need, our souls are crying out for it. From the moment we are born to the very moment we die.
Depression takes that all away, it stops you from feeling you deserve any of these things, it stops you from wanting these things. I, like the majority of people with depression, have had to work hard at leaving each of my depressive episodes, kind of like a break up, its so easy to stay but deep down I know its not the right thing for me. I’ve taken varying quantities of anti-depressants, learned strategies such as CBT (read here), remind myself of my strengths, valuable attributes, start to notice the important stuff (sun rises, the view from my window, the way my daughter lights up my heart when she laughs, the never ending attempts of really bad jokes from my son). I get my body moving in some kind of attempt at exercise, cut back on the vino, the coffee, increase the omega 3's and veggies. Strip back to the essentials.

The stats for depression and anxiety have risen dramatically over the previous 10 years. Particularly for adolescence and teenagers. Half of all life time causes of mental health disorders start by the age of 14, and one in four young Australians aged 16-24 have experienced a mental health disorder within the previous 12 months. (Provided by Youth Beyond Blue). Now I have lots of theories on why this has happened (stay tuned) (yes its around attachment theory in babies read here in the meantime). But the point is depression and anxiety is not going anywhere, almost 50% of the population have suffered from depression or anxiety at some stage in their lives. Its huge.. we need to better equip ourselves, become familiar with strategies to support and help our loved ones, discuss how we can help to ensure sufferers still feel a sense of autonomy and ownership over their lives when their in the midst of an episode.
 
image via Pinterest



So yep, I’m incredibly lucky, forever grateful that I have built this close-knit support group of friends who love and value me, and it’s reciprocal.  Others aren’t so lucky, lots of us for whatever reason, don’t have family, don’t have a safety network of friends and loved ones. Perhaps some are surrounded by people but feel invisible, obscure, too small to see. Other times the pain is just too deep, no matter who we have begging us to see the sunlight, the hurt too much, too entwined in our beings, too fucked up. The truth is we don’t really know anybody’s story, what battles and demons their hiding, so lets make an effort to be kinder, slow down, take the time to connect. It seems simple. I wish it was.

Monday, 18 August 2014

It's a long way back up..

The low point.
Today I hit it.
Not the lowest I’ve ever been but pretty darn close
The only way is up
If I continue to spiral I may never get back out.
I just walked for an hour and a half, it was barely 5 degrees, in the pouring rain. The tears, snot and rain melding into one, dripping down my face, the saltiness sitting heavily on my tongue. At one stage I almost surrendered, my body too heavy, the grief too much, I looked at the road beckoning me to rest my weary head, the embrace of the cold grey tar enticing me.
Do it...you know you want to.
God don’t do it
 Remember how hard it is to get back up.


Image via Pinterest

The thoughts sporadic, messy, unordered.
He’s doing it to me again, pulling me in, waiting for me to succumb, words cannot describe the amount of ill feeling I have towards my ex husband, the destruction he has caused, emotionally, physically, mentally.
‘he will not defeat me’
‘he will not defeat me’
‘he will not defeat me’
‘I will not be defeated’
‘I will not be defeated’
‘I can get through this’
‘I will get through this’
Like the thousands of other times
How?
 This is so fucking big.
He just ripped my very reason for being out, reached in, grabbed my heart with his bare hands and tore it to shreds.
Again.



He’s leaving town
In three weeks.
I’ve waited years for this announcement
But there’s a problem
He plans on taking my son with him
Yep..
Hang on I need to stop, too many tears.

Did you hear
My ex husband is leaving town
And taking my son with him
My solicitor advises there is little I can do
Due to his age
Due to the fact he wants to go..
It probably wouldn’t progress to court
His dad walked past me today and smirked.
I’ll get through it.
But it feels like a little piece of me just died.



Monday, 11 August 2014

Let's really talk about suicide..

Six weeks ago my friend committed suicide, today came the news Robin Willams had taken his own life. Four years ago I stood in an emergency room looking down at my mum who had tried to take her own life.

Suicide is so cruel.
For the person suffering and for the people left behind.

Image via Pinterest



Yet so many people still question how life could possibly be so bad that it would warrant killing yourself.  The figures keep rising, especially for men, especially for people that identify as Aboriginal. Most of us are continually shocked when news spreads of another succumbing to life's pain. Yet it's our biggest killer. There’s no justification as to why people commit suicide except that the hole is too big, the pain too deep, the will for life sucked dry (read here).
Life can be cold, cruel, raw, too many hurdles. Not enough sunlight.
I get it.
I’m currently weaning off anti-depressants after a nine year journey with depression (read here).. Some days are really freaking tough. The intensity builds, sometimes removing all rationality, the pre-learned skills with the psychologist quickly discarded, little stuff becomes ginormous. Like today, my body is swollen and aching from a recent flare from the undiagnosed autoimmune disease that I have spent the last two years trying to manage, the severity of brain fog sent me home from work, the associated food intolerance's mean I consume only a particular range of vegetables and a small amount of protein three times a day. I’m talking no sugar, no coffee, no tea, no alcohol, no dairy, no nuts and seeds, no gluten or wheat products, no fun. 
And then it builds and I start fretting about the direction of my life, the fact that
I have limited sick leave left, five months left on a work contract, no energy to search for another job.
That then leads to my financial worries, like the fact that
I am constantly broke from trying to run a household on one income, spending copious amounts of money on specialists, while purchasing fancy probiotic foods like sauerkraut and kefir (supposedly to fix my leaky gut), organic veggies, and a whole host of supplements and ailments to soothe, support and reverse my digestive issues.. I’m constantly constipated and because of my recurring joint pain am unable to partake in my usual gym sessions or do any exercise apart from a gentle walk. Safe to say I feel like I’m 70. 
There’s more, actually there’s a lot more, which at this time I won’t divulge (surprising I know, I’m usually such an over sharer!) but my point is sometimes you get pulled into the vortex of life. All of this by itself is probably manageable, I mean life isn’t supposed to be perfect, I know that, but then I mix it with my past life experiences with domestic violence, job instability, financial upheaval, on going battles with the ex and having no significant other..then, well, quite frankly my fear and anxiety really starts to gain momentum.
But somehow underneath there are tiny glimpses of hope that I will achieve my goals, conquer my fears and insecurities. While ever I have this belief that my life is actually evolving closer to my dream then I know I will be ok. 
It's when this glimmer disappears that people find themselves in a bit of trouble.
Everyone reacts differently to life circumstances, it depends on our personalities, our social and cultural context, our resilience levels, our support networks.
Safe to say most of us are a work in progress..
The thing about depression and suicide is that nobody really knows how to talk about it, feel about it. We're not taught this stuff. It doesn't come naturally. Really we should all be attuned to the warning signs for those closest to us, not just friends and family but work colleagues, people we have regular contact with. We should know how to support, empathise, access help. Depression makes you feel like your nothing, it takes away any skerrick of positivity you may have previously had about your self and instead leaves a rather large hole full of self hatred and disgust.  



Image via Pinterest

Before you start fretting I’m not suicidal, no where near it. But I feel slightly defeated, fragile and tender. And for now that's OK but I can kind of understand why life gets too damn hard for so many of us (and that's without a mental illness). For so many people there’s no way out of the ‘cluster-fuck’ of life (yes I borrowed this fab word from Sarah Wilson because its just so damn fitting). Some people get much more than their fair share, others glide through seamlessly.. Who knows how the universe divides us?? There’s a whole heap of people in this world that truly care about me and while I know that at any time I could pick up the phone and have a house full of support, for some stupid reason I retreat further into myself..I can't help it, I don’t condone it, nor recommend it but its hard enough to admit that my life is a little misconstrued to myself let alone to the people that I care about.
Dumb hey? Especially considering I'm all about 'connecting' (read here)., sometimes it's easier to do it with people I don't know.. hence this blog..

I’ve written in depth about my mums numerous suicide attempts (read here). The impact they have had on me, my dad and my siblings, the understanding and acceptance of her intolerable pain and experiences that have seen her self worth rapidly depleted to a bare minimum. It’s hard to watch someone you love experience such anguish, torment and hatred. She has to work incredibly hard to maintain her emotional and mental health. I’m talking everyday, wrestling with her demons, trying to build her confidence and inner strength, every single action can have a huge impact on her overall well-being.
 And yet I'm guilty of not discussing these attempts with her, truth be told sometimes I was just so heartbroken that I wasn't enough for her to want to stick around, I was grieving as well, unsure of how to make sense of these repeated attempts. I didn't fully understand, couldn't comprehend her pain, her wish to self-sabatage. I get it now but its taken a fair bit of time to fully understand. Mainly through my own life experiences with depression, but also through research and studying a post grad Diploma in Mental Health.


Image via Pinterest

I’m really trying to raise awareness of suicide, domestic violence and divorce (read here) and (here).. While I’ve had a couple of radio interviews I’m kind of heartbroken that mainstream media aren’t overly interested in talking openly about suicide. I understand theres a fear of promoting 'copycat' attempts but theres a bigger fear that unless we really start talking about suicide and depression more people are going to feel isolated, vulnerable and unable to find a way out of the black hole.
We need to move forward.. 
We need government reforms, increased funding for mental health programs, an increase in support agencies such as LifeLine, relevant community programs where people can team up with mentors, we need to learn how to effectively support friends and family. There needs to be cohesion between agencies, understanding and acceptance within our communities, stigmas broken down, opportunities to connect with others at a deeper level, we need to hear life stories, people's battles. And most importantly we need to focus on programes that support people to focus on their strengths, their goals, their ambitions and to do this effectively we need an increase in mental health & wellbeing programs within primary and secondary schools, we need to teach these skills (accepting ourselves, resilience building, inclusion and support strategies, looking after ourselves) early to ensure these strategies are developed at an early age. We need workplace policies and procedures that cover mental health, and more than anything we need to change our own outdated thoughts and beliefs, we need to ensure people suffering from depression are no longer stigmatised, no longer viewed as second class citizens. 

 I had a letter to the editor published in the ‘The Australian Magazine' on Sat which was fab, but I desperately want to reach more people, continue to raise awareness, reiterate the importance of meaningful interactions, demystify the myths and social stigmas associated with these topics that have had such a significant impact on my life.
(An ex newsreader had her blog promoted in a Sydney newspaper over the weekend..her blog focuses on her transition of becoming a stay at home wife… mmmm jealous much!)
Don’t worry, I’ll keep going.

I’m too passionate to give up yet!

Vale Robin Williams



Part of my letter to the editor regarding Allison Bayden-Clay's death. Published in the 'Weekend Australia'.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Tapering off Zoloft..

Recently I saw my GP; over the years we’ve enjoyed an open and honest Doctor/patient relationship. He’s seen me at my lowest, barely hanging by a thread on many occasions. We’ve openly conversed about the intricacies of my life dilemmas. He’s offered nothing but unbiased, empathetic and practical support. Thank god. I can’t imagine not having the consistent and reliable rapport with both my GP and psychologist. It’s amazing the benefits of having such people believe in my abilities and worthiness.
The reason for my visit on this particular Friday afternoon was simple.
“I want to stop taking Zoloft”
“ Ummm, OK, why?” perplexity in his voice.
“ I feel taking it has become more about habit than actual need”


Image via Pinterest

And so it continued back and forth, presumably so he could monitor my current wellbeing, where I was sitting emotionally, what was happening with my ongoing IBS and health issues, my stress levels, how the bambinos were and if there was any sign of recurring parenting dramas with the ex. When he treats me I feel he does so in a completely holistically manner, and is often open in my quest to pursue non-traditional medical options.

I’ve been taking varying quantities of this tiny white tablet for exactly nine years now (read here). I’ve needed it, sometimes only 50mg but at my most fragile and tender I’ve required significantly higher doses to get me through not just each day, but each second, minute and hour (read here). It’s precarious, this whole depression dilemma, ask anyone who suffers, sometimes it’s a complete and utter mind fuck. No control, no vision, no power, just an oversized Tardis of loneliness, crammed with emptiness in its purest form, the cruelest of emotions, tricky to feel anything but loathing and self hatred. And yet the world continues, predominantly oblivious to the agony and heartache felt by so many.

 But right now it just feels like its time. Life is running relatively effortlessly and I’m in a great headspace for a number of reasons.  My daughter is living with me full time (read here), I have optimism for my future, a hopefulness JAM PACKED  with excitement and enthusiasm. I’m continuously being drawn to a state of mindfulness, of living in the present, riding through the ebbs of life, the realistic, genuine contentment that comes with having lived a slightly unconventional and fractured life. Life is full of highs and lows, it’s the cold hard reality for the majority of us. Funnily enough when you’ve experienced some kind of ‘ life trickiness’ your ability to ‘feel’ becomes increasingly heightened, an awareness of ‘the real stuff’ is no longer buffered and instead brightly shines through. I’ve become so much more attuned to my inner self, the interactions that bring pure joy, the state of  ‘being’, but also the acceptance of my past and feeling a sense of peace with this, putting it to bed if you like. The reality that life is so far removed from the supposed idealistic fairytale the majority of us grew up with, but instead a journey of hard knocks, vigorous life lessons, and the gaining of gradual wisdom. A life that so often I have had no control over but one where I accept ownership, responsibility and accountability for. Let me just be clear, my body for now is healed from the deep depression I have suffered for close to a decade, the monumental grief, loneliness and feelings of betrayal are restored, packed away, not forgotten but for the most part mended, at least for now. I don’t have enough arrogance within me to believe that depression will never come knocking again but what I do have is an innate ability to recognize that my life at the moment is calm and for the most part fulfilling, and right now that’s all I need.

Image via Pinterest

 If we’re keeping it real, there’s an additional reason I’ve been tapering of my meds. Over the last few weeks I’ve done a whole load of research on the link between the gut, depression and medications. There’s a vast amount of reliable info available that for me just really seems to make sense (read here) and (read here). Regular readers will know of my ongoing battle of trying to heal my dodgy guts, the testing for auto-immune, the debilitating bouts of fatigue and joint pain, the continual constipation, bloating and stomach pains. I’m desperately trying to strengthen my inners, increase the amount of healthy bacteria, fix my health once and for all. I’ve quit coffee, soy, dairy, wheat, gluten, grains, alcohol, fruit and some problematic vegetables. I’ve considerably upped my intake of greens, veggies, protein and omega 3, healthy fats, fermented foods and drinks and have taken to drinking copious amounts of water and bone broth throughout the day. Its really working, my eyes are shining, my skin is clear, my stomach within the past month has predominantly been pain free and because its working I don’t feel like I’m missing out (although truthfully I’d kill for a glass of red!).  My food intake has increased, I feel satiated, clearer, calmer and undeniably more focused.

At the same time I’ve slowly dropped my initial 50 mg daily dose of Zoloft, and am currently taking 12.5mgs every second day. Zoloft is notoriously difficult to withdraw from, and it’s taken me 7 weeks to reduce to this level.  At times its been scary, the withdrawal bringing dizziness, loss of memory, haziness, numbness in my tongue and lips, tightness in my jaw, periods of feeling as though I have no control over my body or my thoughts, kind of like I’m really drunk but without the fun. The side effects are often worse first thing in the morning, subsiding briefly as I take my lower dosage before rapidly returning later in the afternoon around the usual 3pm slump. For the majority of the day I feel mostly normal and the real beauty has been the clearness in my thinking and thoughts, its like my IQ levels are on steroids.
There’s been a few times which have left me wondering if the depression has reemerged but upon further investigation I’ve been able to determine these feelings are derived from the normal side effects (read here). I’ve let my friends and family know, and their all keeping an eye out for me but really I know only I can truly monitor if this is going to work or not. I’ve outlined how I reduced my dosage below but if you are considering this make sure you do so in consultation with your GP. There’s nothing wrong with being on anti-depressants, its crackers the amount of stigma still associated with depression.. 
but for me it’s just time.

DOSAGE
M
T
W
TH
F
S
S
WEEK 1
50 MG
25MG
50MG
25MG
50MG
25MG
50MG
WEEK 2
25MG
25MG
50MG
25MG
25MG
50MG
25MG
WEEK 3
25MG
25MG
25MG
25MG
25MG
25MG
25MG
WEEK 4
25MG
12.5MG
25MG
12.5MG
25MG
12.5MG
25MG
WEEK 5
12.5MG
12.5MG
25MG
12.5MG
12.5MG
25MG
12.5MG
WEEK 6
12.5MG
12.5MG
12.5MG
12.5MG
12.5MG
12.5MG
12.5MG
WEEK 7
12.5MG
0
12.5MG
0
12.5MG
0
12.5MG

So I’m heading into Week 8 but just to be safe I’m going to repeat week 7 before completing eliminating all medication. 
I’ll keep you in the loop..
 
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