PTSD-Not a passing phase but an actual illness.

 

Trigger warning: self-harm, child abuse and suicide 

Twenty-five years ago, a choice was made, which should have been an acceptable, reasonable decision in the modern world. But, as it turns out, that choice triggered 25 years of self-destructive behaviour resulting in the loss of everything for one young woman, A woman whose life from the outside looked normal. Married to a man, she loved settling into the new home they purchased—a Mum and Dad and Sister who loved her. An extremely talented and creative person with the potential for a successful career is on the brink of graduating with a Diploma in Opera and the prospect of spending her life doing what she loved. 

When faced with an unexpected and unplanned pregnancy, a choice to terminate the pregnancy was made. It was her right to make this decision, and her family supported it. Although the disgusting behaviour of some people who call themselves righteous, religious representatives made the whole process more difficult than it should have been. Their derogatory statements and constant name-calling were appalling and disgusting. How they call themselves Christians, I do not know. Moving on, it was not this event that changed her life. This change came afterwards during the healing period. A hormonal shift in the body was the catalyst to open the floodgates to past traumatic events. Events of a horrible nature, which we all read about way too often, are catastrophic to any person, let alone a young child. The actual story is not mine to tell, so I will not go into details. The result, after many years, was a diagnosis of Complex PTSD.  

A condition we have all heard about in 2022 and, like depression, it is thrown around a little too often. Maybe if I break it down, you can gain more insight. I note here that I am not a doctor, specialist or advisor with any training or knowledge. I am someone who has observed someone close to me suffering from PTSD. I also understand that CPTSD or PTSD can be treated, and good outcomes often occur in many cases. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the chronic disorder we hear more and more about these days. It is an actual condition, and it can be a chronic condition. As with most illnesses,’ there are degrees of depth with PTSD. It can be mild and short-term. It can result from an event in a person’s life that has a debilitating effect on their immediate life. It can also be the result of having constant trauma in their life. It should be taken seriously, and it needs to be treated by professionals. Like depression, it requires psychological assistance, medication, understanding and time to heal. Symptoms are listed in the following article and clearly described. https://www.cumberlandheights.org/blogs/17-symptoms-of-ptsd. CPTSD is slightly more complex and still being researched at the current time. 

This article is my understanding and experience with this illness. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. To write about the symptoms and the consequences would be an immense task. How I work it out in my mind is to break it down:

  • Complex – something which is compounded or multiplex. 
  • Post – after the fact. 
  • Traumatic – an event that is deeply disturbing or distressing
  • Stress – a state of mental or emotional strain or tension because of adverse circumstance 
  • Disorder – an illness that disrupts normal physical or mental functions.

I can go back over my life and find occasions such as witnessing a friend’s death, being involved in a violent situation, or dealing with a terminal illness. I can recall and occasionally will dream about something awful which will remind me of these or similar events. When this does occur, it is always sad, and you feel completely drained from the emotions you are experiencing at the time. Does this mean I have PTSD? I don’t believe it does because it is a temporary situation that is not disrupting my ongoing day-to-day life. It is not life-threatening; it is a part of living, and if we give ourselves some time and understanding, the feelings will subside. However, suppose this becomes a regular occurrence. In that case, I implore you to question it and seek help as PTSD OR CPTSD manifests and can become debilitating. 

Going back to my story, this young woman lives with the following: words, smells, or colours daily triggering memories of the events. Flashbacks, not only in dreams but in daily living, create a constant fear. This fear puts one’s body into a fight, flight or freeze state. More information and explanations are shown here.

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/fight-flight-freeze.

When the fear is intense, the body is in a constant state of tension. Try to imagine the physical pain your body experiences when it is constantly on alert. Living like this every day creates a necessity to hide, or regress into oneself, to hibernate to remove oneself from society.

Living like this constantly hinders the person from feeling worthy of living. They lose self-esteem, self-confidence, the ability to socialise the ability to be motivated. They seek relief from the constant daily battle to survive. This relief comes in many forms. Isolation, alcohol abuse, self-medicating, physical self-harm, eating disorders, drug usage and many other methods of eradicating the pain. Once they secure a way of survival that eases their pain, the trauma is numbed, and relief is experienced. But then, mental and physical destruction is imminent. Now they must live with the ramifications of seeking this relief. These consequences can be short-term, but too often, they are long-term, varied with emotional and physical destruction. Often, the only way out is for them to remove themselves from society and the world. It is certainly not for me to say the destruction is worse than the trauma; that is for the individual to decide. Again, I state there is help and although it is hard, it can be worth the effort. I implore those who identify with this story; if they have not yet sought help, please seek assistance. You are worthy of our support. You deserve to live a life that is not filled with pain.

I implore all people to try to understand the depth of pain that cannot be seen on the outside. I ask everyone to develop a more accepting attitude and understanding of mental illness. 

If you are suffering please reach out for help

Mental health line is 1800 011 511

If you cannot get through to the Mental Health Line, call:

Mental health services and support contact list

How important are Memorial Services?

Recently I attended a funeral for a friends mum, actually her step mum. A gracious women who earned the right to be called a mum in every sense of the word. My story today is not about this lady, although her story should be told, but about the process of her passing. Sadly as we age, so do, our family and friends and as we attend more funerals we notice a reduction in our circle of love and support.
The lady I refer to was nearing 103 when she finally said goodbye to her time on earth. Of course there had been time for her family and friends to mentally prepare for her passing. This does not reduce the sadness of the loss when it finally comes. I have in recent years attended a couple of funerals for very close friends which were extremely painful experiences at the time, but as the months go by I am remembering the time, more for its beauty rather than its sadness. The words that stayed with me the most during this particular service was that of the celebrant. She mentioned with a positive glow that it was pleasing to see, so many people attending the service for someone this age. I looked around and thought to myself there was only around 30 people in the room, which seemed like a small number to me. I then wondered to myself how many funerals must occur with fewer or sadly no people in attendance. The celebrant went on to say some beautiful words and reiterated this fine ladies life admirably. My immediate thoughts were sad but slowly turned to joy when I realised the amount of young people in the room who had come to say goodbye and show their respect for the life this lady had lived. The words of kindness of the happy times they had spent together, the lessons learned, the valuable knowledge passed on to the younger persons in the room, who, on this day, had no concept of the life they were going to live. This was something positive to grab hold of. It was a brief moment where I personally found calm and happiness. Further to this, watching the slide show of photographs and hearing the contented sighs of those being reminded of good times, the joy in seeing their eyes light up when relating to a moment in their past, again this all brings a happiness to the day. Later in the day as I listened to the stories of her life, all told with animation and personal experience my thoughts were reinforced.

Admittedly I was not close to this lovely lady and therefore not absorbed by grief. I was lucky enough to experience these feelings in the here and now. So I ask those who are grieving now, if and when you are able, it may be worth revisiting this day. There is a happiness that can be found among the grief of losing a loved one. Time heals the pain and hopefully the good memories become the only memories. Once the grief becomes less dominant and we are able to think clearly once again there is much to value and reflect on. This is just my opinion, I personally think a memorial service is important. The form that service takes is of course a very personal one and should be the choice of those closest to the loved one and any wishes of the loved one should be considered deeply. Having said that I also believe attendance is not something everyone can emotionally deal with and therefore there should be no criticism of one not attending a service. There is no right or wrong in how one deals with their own personal grief.

We who remain behind can only hope we have touched or influenced at least one younger person in the life we have led.

Complacency-Boredom

As a retired person I have more available time, as an older person living during the pandemic I have more idle hours to fill. Following I have written my thoughts on this situation. No expertise, no qualifications just what is in my head. 🤔

I refer back to an early blog “What will I do when I retire?” I wrote that blog with my own actions in mind and focused mainly on activities that I related to at the time. Covid has made me think more earnestly about what we do on a daily basis and how easily boredom can slip into our life and have a detrimental affect on some people. It is easy to become bored, it is easy to become complacent about your daily activities. Dictionary.com’s meaning of complacency is “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition etc.” I think this explains it very clearly but breaking it down a little and putting it into terms of actual life activities helped me to clarify.🤓

The first part is easy for me to identify, particularly during covid restrictions. Doing a jigsaw puzzle, doing my heritage investigations, reading a book or simply going for a walk.These activities were pleasureable and gave me the security of knowing I was safe in my own home.They quickly became my norm and were only broken by the necessity of housework or shopping on line. 🙂

The second part of the dictionary meaning is a little unnerving at first. I questioned what potential danger could these activities evoke. The answer came with endured lengths of time of repetitively doing the same activities every day. The danger lies in the complacency of ones own thoughts and actions. When you are in a pattern without too much change it becomes easy to be habitual. Our life becomes boring. We could easily become disinterested in our surroundings which leads to more debilitating effects to our well being. As you become more bored your life becomes less active and your brain less stimulated. You talk less, you laugh less and more and more creativity and interests die. It becomes easy to not make an effort, to not make plans, to not look forward. If we do not change our routines, explore new avenues, take risks and try new things our brains become less stimulated and more vulnerable to negative thoughts. Of course there is nothing wrong with boredom, it is a normal emotion and it is not harmful unless of course it becomes excessive and interferes with ones normal daily life and this where the danger lives. 😦

I do suspect if you have an interesting hobby you possibly will not have this problem, but if you find yourself increasingly idle try something new. If you do not have any specific interest maybe look back at what you liked doing as a young person and see how that fits into your retired lifestyle. This would not have worked for me as I worked from a very young age and did not really develop any specific hobbies other than being involved in some sports. As I age those particular sports are not appropriate. I do however like long easy walks and on line music exercise classes so I am trying to become more consistent with that. I have listing here some suggestions(not mind boggling) just simple actions to minimise boredom or complacency and things that activate our brains. 😀

  • Cooking-reinvent the way you cook, try new foods. If you have no one at home to cook for bake a cake or make some cookies for your neighbour or elderly friend and invite them over for a cuppa. (covid permitted) Make some fun cookies for the neighbourhood children.
  • Craft-Learn a new skill or two. There are many tutorials on line. knitting, crocheting, origami, macrame, scrapbooking, sculpting, ceramics, painting etc the list is endless.
  • Sorting– photos, memorabilia, kitchen cupboards, clothing, garage, sheds, music collections We all need to declutter and sort. Do it slowly so it is enjoyable not a chore.
  • Photographing– I became bored while taking my daily walk, so I decided to photograph specific things. I chose a colour and with my trusty smart phone I walked and searched for that colour. You would be amazed at what you see. Each day I changed the colour or the theme and my walks became interesting again. I posted my photo’s on facebook which resulted in interaction with friends. Use your smart phone or camera and photograph whatever you like, your home, the streets surrounding you, fungi, trees, flowers, pictures, food, shapes use your imagination.
  • Writing-this is what I chose and the subjects are endless. I chose to put my thoughts on line but you do not have to. Start a journal, each day write down what you are thinking. It is habit forming however not boring as the subject matter changes everyday when you are forced to think of something to put down on paper. Nobody is reading it unless you want them to so write whatever crap comes to mind. Reading it back is often fun and thought provoking.
  • Planning-even though covid has momentarily changed our freedom we can still plan for the future. go online and plan the trip of a lifetime, you may never do it but it does not hurt to dream and its fun to map it out, and at the same time you are finding lots of information about other countries.
  • Games-mind games, computer games, board games, card games or do puzzles. There are many both on line and probably some gathering dust in your cupboards. They keep your mind active and if you have someone to play with all the better. If not challenge yourself to better your skills or beat your own score.
  • Meet new people-Join a book club, a walking group, a community centre or simply say hi to your neighbours or local shopkeepers. Go to a bingo group or a dance class or join a bowls club. A few words to a stranger can make your day. Some of these things are difficult during covid restrictions however if you are reading this you have access to on line so be brave start a social media page and finds some new friends. There are many senior groups filled with people just like yourself. It could be just 5 minutes a day and it could change your life.
  • Pampering-this is something we forget to do, whether male or female we all deserve to spoil ourselves. The obvious is a long luxurious bath, a hot chocolate and a good book, a home facial, a cup of tea while sitting on the verandah listening to your favourite music, relax with a heat-pack on those aching bones, watch a movie or better still watch a comedy routine, paint your nails, watch the footy.
  • Mens/Womens sheds– of course we are talking post covid but definitely something for those who have worked hard all of their lives and not had time to develop a hobby. From what I have heard and read they give people a purpose and are a great way to meet new friends. Research on line as they are popping up in many places.
  • Yoga,Meditation,Pilates,Exercise.- Whether male or female there a on line classes for everyone. No effort as you are in your own home, nobody to see you, no cost just simple movement which is the most important thing our ageing bodies need.
  • Hydo-Water activities– another post coved activity. Local pools have lots of classes for seniors with special classes or simply do some easy stretches and leisurely swimming
  • Language Course-learn a new language on line. I have friends who have done just this and are really enjoying the process.
  • Pets– If you don’t have one and you live alone consider adopting a pet. The reasons are obvious, companionship, responsibility, fun and caring. No negatives here and no time to be bored or complacent. They wont let it happen.

I hope you have fun finding your new or renewed interest. If you have a story to tell of how you fill the hours let me know in the comments. 🌻😃

Living alone, loneliness and its challenges.

I am basing this blog only on the knowledge of relatives and friends I know who are in either or both of these situations. I am not assuming that every person who lives alone is suffering. One can live alone and not be lonely, one can live with many but battle with loneliness.

Living alone has some really obvious and positive benefits. One can manage their space to cater for all of their own likes and dislikes. They can run with a schedule or not. They do not have to be considerate of someone else’s feelings, their moods or their preferences. The work load is less if living alone and the grocery bill is cheaper. They can wear daggy clothes or no clothes. They can eat or not eat, sleep or not sleep, cry and curse at whomever they want and turn the volume up whenever the moods takes them. These are things that those living in a family or a relationship sometimes envy of those who live alone.

I would like to point out the numerous negatives many of us never think about.

Putting aside the unusual state a pandemic creates, imagine if you are single, unable to work or are maybe self employed and working alone from home. Consider someone who suffers from anxiety or has social phobias. Your life may be like living with a lot of the covid restrictions but not only for one or two years but for a lifetime. Consider a person in this situation could easily find themselves with no reason to actually use their own voice. The mobile phone has minimised the amount of actual calls one needs to make. Texts are a common method of dialogue now. A person in this situation does not need to leave the house as we can order our groceries, clothes, computers, stationery and actually most goods online without the need to speak. No contact drop off has eliminated the need to see or hear another human being. There are many single people in this situation. The need for human interaction becomes minimised and eventually eliminated. This is quite sad and disturbing and quite real.

Again very sad that this situation continues and can actually become a mental illness or can result in medical complications. With no accountability to others we have no need to take responsibility for our own health or wellbeing. There is no one who will question them, encourage them or help to motivate them. When one isolates we tend to think our view is the most important and this is totally wrong in my mind. We need to listen to other opinions, other ideas, otherwise we become self indulgent and therefore selfish. It is important to get out and to communicate. Working, mingling or joining sporting or activity groups puts more of a perspective on our opinions. It is vital to learn and to grow as a person.

Then you have those who are surrounded by relatives and/or friends, are members of clubs and are continually active but unknown to others they feel totally alone. Sometimes people keep busy to avoid being alone or avoid thinking about themselves. They often appear very in control or very happy with life but in fact are not. For many reasons they have not connected personally with anyone. Maybe they do not feel special or needed or loved. Often people feel misunderstood or judged. Maybe they are insecure with different aspects of themselves. I am sure there are many reasons and many times people in this situation rarely express these feelings and therefore their contacts believe they are ok, leaving the problem unsolved and the feeling of being alone continues.

Of course we have all felt alone at times. That birthday that you insisted on not celebrating but then on the day you receive no acknowledgement and you feel alone and a little sad. That time you decide not to go to the party and then are sorry you are sitting home alone on a Saturday night. Maybe your partner is away for a week and you feel moments of loneliness. I remember times when a major decision had to be made and there was no one else there to help. One feels alone and neglected during these situations. The main difference here is you will probably be laughing or commiserating with another human the following day. Time will pass quickly and you would have moved onto new things to keep you occupied and sane. That may not be the result for those who are totally isolated on a long term basis.

The Covid-19 virus has certainly highlighted the need for human touch and the sound of the human voice. The need to feel needed and the desire to talk to people on a day to day basis. We can only hope that we all consider those who are still living day to day with restrictive lifestyles and where possible reach out to them just a little more than we have in the past.

Self Harm Intimate Trauma (SHIT!)

Trigger warning: self harm, child abuse

Stream of consciousness at 3am on a rainy morning:

I don’t know how to start this story and even if I should, but something tells me to write this down. Maybe it’s to help me cope, maybe it’s to help others know they are not alone. I am a parent whose child self harms, abusing her body to experience feeling, albeit negative. When one does not feel anything at all then pain is a way to feel real. When one cannot express their feelings sometimes pain will explain.

How do we understand this when we only see the results, the trauma, the physical scarring, the broken body? We spend our entire life trying to ensure safety for our children, trying to guide them down a path that will bring happiness, wanting only peace in both their life and our own. How do we ever understand? I have spent many a sleepless night waiting in emergency rooms for my adult child to be helped by professionals. She had physically and mentally passed the stage of being able to help herself. The pain of her illness becoming unbearable. During this time my thoughts would go over the past years to try to make sense of this moment.

Where did I go wrong, where did she go wrong, where did society go wrong and what do I do now? What else can we try to do to stop this vicious disease and to eradicate some of the reasons contributing to these outcomes? There are many questions to ask with very few answers, but maybe it’s the process which heals and helps us get through this. Friends ask how we manage to keep going and to keep trying. There are two answers to this question. Firstly, she is our child and our love for her prevents us from not trying. Secondly her fight is so much harder than ours and yet she keeps trying. How dare we give up when she has not?

This self-destructive path she has chosen seems so pointless and yet an alternative does exist…death… but oh! So pointless. Death will not answer the questions. A painless void is all it will leave. I can only be thankful so far that intelligence prevails in her confused soul. If she dies, what purpose would she have served? Pain for all those who are left to endure. If she lives, more pain, certainly, but maybe, just maybe, some answers will be found. She does what she must to survive this trauma in her life and who am I to tell her how to deal with her feelings? Who am I to criticise another? I can only question my own thoughts and deal with them. Maybe by understanding myself, it will help me to understand a little more about her and her illness.

To do this we must ask ourselves the question of “What is self-harm?” Slicing through the skin with a razor, burning one’s body with cigarette butts, starving oneself, binging, alcohol abuse, most definitely these acts are all self harm and are all acts I have seen first hand. These are more obvious and are our first thoughts of self-abuse. There are more subtle forms of self abuse that many of us encounter without being consciously aware of the effect on our wellbeing. What of the abuse we inflict on ourselves which is often disguised or hidden? How many times do we say YES, when we should say NO? A simple response used daily by many with rarely a second thought. Society teaches us to help others and so we should, but sometimes the messages we get are wrong and self destructive. In saying yes when we are not fully comfortable we often break the boundaries of self-preservation and self-worth.  We often push ourselves to the extent of harm. We get sick, we get tired, or hurt and we take on others’ pain and grief as our own. The result of this is often an extreme overuse of our mental capacity. Another negative form of this behaviour is that we will often forget or neglect those closest to us, which in turn, often creates more problems for us to deal with. This is also self-harm as we are only human and only have so much energy to give.

As children we are taught that adults have already experienced life, therefore we should learn from them. We ask our children to respect them and listen to their instruction. We are told to respect our teachers, listen to those in authority. Do we let them know that some elders teachers or people in authority can be abusive or unnecessarily critical? Do we teach them how to deal with this? Do we listen when they try to speak out? Rarely as parents or educators do we clarify this advice explaining the distinction between adults who may be right and adults who may be wrong. I am sure we can agree there are many adults in our lives who do not yet exhibit adult behaviour in the true meaning of the word. We teach our children stranger danger but we neglect to teach them how to identify subtle abusive conduct by not only strangers but friends and family. I believe often this is because we do not recognise these behaviours ourself. Ask yourself about the following everyday occurrences in our lives and then determine what is right and what is wrong and what we often neglect to teach.

Society insists that children participate in sport during their school years. I agree to some extent but there is a time in a child’s life where their focus is on their body which is not always something to be exposed. There are those of us who find it difficult, embarrassing and painful, those who feel inadequate or awkward at school sport. It may be good for our bodies but are we mentally prepared for the ridicule coming from our fellow classmates and the unending barrage of thoughtless comments from our teachers? Maybe less pressure to be perfect and more understanding of how and why would gain better results. Are we teaching children to self harm?

We become competitive because we are told it is good to win, even when those who have the talent may not have the desire. Talent does not necessarily come with an inbuilt ability to cope with the adoration and expectation from others. Should we ask before we push… are we teaching them to be the best or are we pushing them to self-harm?

We study excessively because we are told this is the only chance to make something of ourselves. True, this may give us top marks but what about experiencing life, where we will learn so much more? Maybe we should consider the current high dropout rate in the first couple of years of university and ask ourselves why! Are we teaching them to excel or maybe to self-abuse?

Our children are often accelerated in their learning process. Why is that? We do not question this because we are secretly happy our child is considered smarter than others. Once this happens they are put onto a pedestal and expectations grow. We assume they will be able to hold an intelligent conversation, give speeches, talk in front of crowds, control their peers and many other tasks. Some thrive on this, or that’s what we tell ourselves, but some are painfully shy, unsure or frightened but they push forward not wanting to disappoint…once again in many cases this is self-abuse.

Elements of these lessons are indeed very good and should be learnt, but as a society maybe we are pushing for development and perfection way too much. Is less than 100% no longer acceptable? Are we moulding and changing people too often? When we are young teenagers and trying to find our place in this world, we receive so many mixed messages. I as a parent am often confused about what to teach our children. We encourage on one hand to be yourself and not be influenced by others, however we also expect them to fit into the mould society has determined as acceptable.

As parents we are constantly giving advice or consistently steering them to conform with society. Don’t colour your hair, don’t wear outrageous clothes, don’t wear too much makeup, don’t bring attention to yourself. Don’t be controversial, don’t dress individually, do what everyone else does, fit in, conform. We want them to be “normal”, accepted by society because it is easier for us that way. Now ask your self how many times have you openly said “always be true to yourself, stand up for yourself, stand up for your rights, don’t let people walk all over you?” How mixed are those messages?

Society comes with its own set of rules and double standards which also creates so much confusion. Take famous people as an example. Famous people are just the same as everyone else. They started out as everyday souls, whose lives followed a path which ended up being public property. They are famous and the general public often hold them up as gods. There are people who are famous, or who have achieved a high status by sheer luck, some by massive sacrifice, and some who just plodded along and that’s where they ended. Their lives are scrutinised, criticised, adored, and ignored when society chooses. Allowances are made when it suits, just as easily as criticism and disdain are expelled when needed. When people are famous we make allowances, we laugh and encourage them when they are different, difficult or unique. However, if an unknown teenager acted in the same manner, we ignore or criticise or force our opinion on that person. Does this not create confusion in our world? Society makes allowances when it suits them and then questions why we have troubled teenagers and confused adults. Do we not confuse them with our inconsistencies and with our need for acceptance or our need to be inconspicuous? How do we stay unique or individual or uninfluenced if this is what we are taught on a daily basis?

We are expected to do well at school, find a job or go to university, be successful, fall in love, get married, have children, raise them perfectly, buy a house and live happily ever after. How many people do you know who have actually followed this path successfully? That would be an interesting statistic. We are expected to be normal, even though we are influenced by so many different things.

What is normal and what is right?

Is it being a leader, or a follower, being gay or being straight, being married or unmarried, having kids or having no kids, being political or non-political, religious or non-religious, rebellious, compliant, withdrawn or argumentative? Is it being a university student, blue collar worker, creative, talented or academic, famous or infamous? I am sure this list could go on for many pages and all would be normal. If this society needs to grow we need all of these traits and all of these behaviours come with their own set of characteristics and emotions.

So, is self-harm normal? It doesn’t matter if it is normal or abnormal, it happens. And it happens without discrimination. Those who do it will say yes, it gets them through the moment to fight another day and that is normal for them. We as adults hold people in high esteem whom we see as having achieved and we strive to be as they are, but also worthy of our respect are the souls who struggle quietly with their demons and still continue to survive. Those who don’t seem to fit in our society. Those who strive to retain their own individuality against a society who sees them as different.

Sometimes they achieve outstanding things in their life and sometimes they are shunned and looked down upon. Often in our society we claim them as mentally ill. In my short experiences with what we call “mental illness”, I have encountered all levels. The very successful, talented actors and performers, top level athletes, high profile business people, university students trying to achieve, young teenagers trying to fit in, young children trying to emulate others, rich people, poor people, mums and dads. One common underlying factor with many of those I have met or read about was their intelligent, caring, highly sensitive minds which did not allow them to fit into society. They did not ask for these qualities and their intelligence does not allow them to just give up, so they keep trying to fit into the “normal, accepted” mould.

Self-harm is intimate, self-destructive and personal. My daughter has never intentionally harmed another living soul, I have to add here that it must be said that others have certainly been emotionally affected by her actions but that was never the intent. In fact, she bleeds inside for others who suffer. She takes aboard their pain and questions her inability to help them and make it right. She claims blame for others’ errors and accepts imperfections in people she knows are struggling. No such allowances are made for herself though. When it comes to her own self-worth, guilt, anger and self-hate are more powerful. She must change her thinking before she can heal, but do we change ours? Rarely, because we are not considered as having a mental illness, we are considered as “normal”. We who destroy with our words, our thoughtless criticism, our relentless pressure, our unyielding desire to only accept those who appear perfect. Yes, she must change to be able to survive and it is not our problem, it is hers alone, but if this world is to improve and is to support those who will be our future, we must look at where we are placing our energy. We must broaden our beliefs and allow change and we must accept that people are so individual. I do not advocate crime or bad behaviour, that is not acceptable and the consequences of those actions should be theirs to bear. What society should do is not be so quick to judge. Find out the facts and look behind the action first before you condemn. We must put money into research for those with behavioural illness. We must spare time for those in need and help them to find the answers. We must listen to those who are suffering. Do not harm others and respect their feelings. In my mind these are rules which should never be questioned and should always be taught, regardless of race, colour or creed. Unfortunately, in the world today, we are burdened with people who have not been taught these simple rules and because of this, too many people are suffering.

Once again, I wait for my daughter. This time a therapy session, one of many which leave her in too much pain. Memories from the actions of a so-called adult brought alive again. An adult devoid of respect for her in years gone by. These actions were brutal and unforgiving, but the person imposing them is long gone, their suffering ceased, but hers unyielding. She sits with many others trying to understand, trying to learn how to live with this horrid nightmare bought upon by others. All of these victims many years later being treated for mental illness. The pain and anguish these victims go through is not something I ever want to experience and the sad part of this is that sometimes the perpetrators are often suffering similar pain and anguish. The vicious cycle continues.

Is this the area in which we should be putting our resources? Why do people harm others and why do people not respect? How do we stop them? Is part of their illness because they were restricted from being who they wanted to be? It is hard to believe we are born with these destructive harmful traits. Where did society go wrong? There is much research and money put into medical research to keep us living longer, such as cancer, MS, heart conditions etc. We sink so much money into medical research for transplants and other vital procedures. Obviously this is necessary however mental illness is a major crippling illness and all the hospitals specialising in this area are closing. The only real help of any type that we have been able to find is one that is far too expensive for the average person. Society continuously tell people to seek help, but it is very hard to find the right help and it is costly and exhausting to keep looking. Sadly the process often makes the person with the illness feel alienated and alone and increases their thoughts of being undeserving. Why is this!?

There are so many things in this world that contribute to our lives and so many areas we can lay blame, but will that change us? I think not. Change comes from within and not always by just accepting what others think, but by listening to what our heart and soul tells us is right. There are so many influences in our environment which we can use to excuse our situation, but the reality is, we are the ones who choose to live the way we do. We are the ones who choose to allow these influences to affect us and hold dominance over our lives. Some of us are not strong enough to say NO, so we will continue down that path, but what we must learn is to help and assist those who do not want to follow that same path. Those of us who want to change, be different, explore and be individual. Help them to change what we cannot. Accept them and encourage them to explore. Some will say this would be chaotic, but maybe it would be inspiring and maybe it would help society to grow.

SHIT happens and we go on. Self-worth, self-esteem and confidence with our own being, is something we need and will be felt when we self-nurture a little more and when we extend tolerance and respect to people so they are able to be themselves.  

Footnote 1 (2007)

I wrote these notes in 2004 and now 3 years later, little has changed. My own tolerance is better, but my energy is drained. With this comes more frustration, anger and disappointment…

A second child, one who has already endured watching her sister go through enormous pain, one who has tried to learn and gain insight from this, one who was become stronger for this experience, one who again is individual and trying to fit into this society and now one who has herself experienced abuse by a fellow human being. How do we all deal with this. My anger is extreme and my thoughts confused. I feel alienated by society, I question is it me once again? Why would I not think this? Two children, both caring, genuine, beautiful people. It seems obvious to me that I should have raised them to be less thoughtful, less caring, and then maybe they would not have been so easily abused. Society has to change. We need to be more aware, we have to stop abuse, both mental and physical. We are destroying ourselves. So much talk of keeping our environment green, our environment includes our actions. How can we keep our personal environment clean?

Footnote 2 (2010)

Another 3 years on and again little has changed. The world changes slowly but constantly we hear of personal destruction of human beings at the hands of people who should not be in the public forum. The lack of mental health facilities, the lack of funds for research, the lack of care in general for all people. Sexual assaults, child pornography, shootings, people trafficking, increased use of drugs and alcohol and exploitation on every corner. The list is endless and I am not too naïve to realise this is all part of society. My complaint is that not only the victims of these hideous acts, but also the perpetrators, have very little options for help. I am by no means condoning violence of any type and I have little sympathy for those responsible for these crimes. My anger lies with the people who have power in this world. They who have control of where our money is spent. They seem unable to see the extreme need for money for mental health, research and institutions to care for the wide spectrum of deteriorating care in the community. Social security is mismanaged and chronically understaffed. Public hospitals are old, inadequate and chronically understaffed and underfunded. Private hospitals are overstocked and unaffordable, mental health facilities are non-existent. Private health care is extremely expensive. Jails are overloaded and mismanaged. The court system is out of date and acutely in need of investigation. This morning on the news was the announcement of a massive amount of money issued to upgrade the Opera House. I can only hope this will help keep a few more homeless people sheltered during winter, because it is certainly not going to help anyone in need.

Footnote 3 (2011)

The government has finally thrown some money into mental health. Not nearly enough though. A new private hospital has opened and some new ways are being tried. This is a great thing and for those of us who are able to afford private health insurance, we will try once again, but for those not so lucky no real changes are occurring. The government generously offers some free psychological sessions, 6, maybe 12 or even 18 if you are lucky. We can only hope this will help some get help before their illness or trauma eats them alive. For those who have passed the initial onset of the trauma, for those who are chronically affected by mental health it hardly touches us. We currently see a psychologist twice weekly and a psychiatrist monthly. This goes on 52 weeks a year, ie 100 odd sessions, so how do we pay for the other 82 not covered by medicare? We work and work and neglect the people who need constant care. Ironically self-harm persists and grows in this instance, not only with the patient but with the family.

A positive note, research is happening, new treatments are being used and hopefully these will continue and some will be helped. Education is broadening and acceptance is more widely experienced. I worry though, that parents or society in general are not being educated in simple kindness and acceptance in this fast moving world. Political correctness is killing our freedom of speech. Political correctness is not allowing individualism, and weak governments are not adhering to our general safety. How long before we go back to the dark ages and hide our mentally ill away from society because the problem is too great to tackle?

If you are suffering please reach out for help

Mental health line is 1800 011 511

If you cannot get through to the Mental Health Line, call:

Mental health services and support contact list

Doctors visits, tests and medication.

Increase in doctors visits.

This was something neither my husband or I gave any thought to before retirement. We have been relatively free of any serious illness throughout out life. Of course we are not immune so we have had the normal everyday occurrences of colds and viruses and short hospital stays etc.

Then we hit 60 and I think the body must have a trigger that comes alive around this time. As it happened we had a regular doctor at the time who was and still is quite thorough and diligent. I have always believed if you have an engaging active doctor it is best to stay with them if possible. A history is then gathered and changes are more noticeable for follow up. Of course it goes without saying one should always question any procedure or medication that is suggested. I feel we are lucky to have a doctor who does let us question and then thoroughly explains everything to us. She also does not prescribe medication unnecessarily or without follow up. I do remember having discussions over the years with ageing relatives about why they were taking a certain medication. The answer I received several times was I don’t remember, I must ask the doctor next time I am there. In my experience elderly people dont like to take up the doctors time, so they minimise the need to be there or they forget to ask questions. If you are reading this and have an elderly person you care for maybe they would let you go in with them as a support. I often wonder how many people are getting the correct care as they get older. We do heavily rely on what our doctors say. Furthermore we have less control of our faculties and therefore while have full control we need to find a doctor we can heavily depend upon for the future. Alternatively we need to ask for help.

Ken and I together have experienced the usual blood tests along with the occasional radiography scan, Colonoscopy, Gastroscopy or Endoscopy and so on. I am certainly not going to explain these procedures with my lack of medical expertise. I will also refrain from going into the gory details. I imagine there are not many people really wanting to know the nuts and bolts of my complaints.

What I would like to explain is a test I have just had which I believe could be quite daunting for some elderly people especially without prior knowledge. Please note here there is no pain involved with this procedure and it is completely safe.

I had a little scare recently experiencing heart palpitations and tightening chest. Ended up in the local emergency room for a few hours having tests. I was discharged with a suggestion that it was a reflux condition not a heart problem. I followed up with my doctor who wanted more tests done to confirm. After several tests and a visit to the cardiac specialist I was asked to have a Cardiac MRI.  

Typical MRI Machine.

I had previously had an MRI for bursitis in my shoulder so I was prepared for it or so I thought. I was referred to St Vincents hospital in Darlinghurst which is a bit of a travel experience on its own. I drove in with the assumption there would be a car park attached. This is the case however it was full so try finding a car space near the centre of Oxford street in the middle of the working week, in a pandemic was a bit challenging. Around and around the tiny, often one way side streets saw me heading quickly into a panic. Finally I came across a private medical centre car park which seemed accessible. I drove in parked and headed for the exit. I did not really know where I was but as it turned out luck was with me as I was just a little way up the street from my destination.

So it’s a pandemic and I have to sign in, but of course there system is slightly different to the norm. My QR code was not recognised. Wait in line, sign the book and then fill out a 2 page questionnaire. Finally I am allowed to proceed to the department. Now to go through the admin procedure of forms to complete, cards and referrals to present, payment to be made. Nurse takes you to another room, takes your temperature, blood pressure etc. She asks you about your medical history and why are you there. Asks you to clarify what test you are having and then more questions. MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging so naturally there are magnets at work here. Do you have any metal in your body? Maybe, I have a replacement knee but not sure if it is metal or plastic. I have dentures and not really sure if the holdings are metal. Are you claustrophobic? well not that I know of but I have not spent much time in small restricted areas, I guess not? Are you on any medications, thankfully one only. Hate to think if I had a multitude of pills to remember.

It is time to put on the dreaded gown and follow the nurse to a room where she tells you what is going to happen. We will lay you on this bed, strap your body down, put some padded bolsters around your body to hold you firmly. A devise is placed on your chest to be used to send radio wave signals where needed. In my case an intravenous line was inserted in my vein to allow a later injection of contrast material required to help with imaging. The last attachment was headphones. These are to dull the apparently irritating loud drilling sound the machine makes and also allows the technician to instruct you.I was given a push button to call if I needed to. The very pleasant nurse then explained I would slowly slide into the tunnel of the machine, I would hear someone speak through the earphones instructing when to hold my breath and when to breath. You are then told it is important to remain completely still. Please relax and it will only take about 40 minutes and I am just outside the door if you need me. Final step was to inject the die and we are ready to go. Every aspect was explained and every precaution taken considering the magnetisation capabilities of the machine. The nurse was very pleasant so there was no fear in going ahead.

I am good at breathing slowly and relaxing when having needles or tests so I took a deep breath, exhaled and closed my eyes. The first sensation I felt was the sides of the tunnel on my body, definitely smaller than I thought. Once I was in place I opened my eyes and was a little shocked to find the roof of the cylinder looming very close to my face. This I did not expect as previous MRI tunnel was a lot bigger. My arms which were by my side touched each side of the tunnel. The next surprising part was the breathing. it was explained a voice would be heard instructing me to breath in, breath out and then hold breath for about 10 seconds.That’s fine, no big deal I can do that. A very pleasant voice was heard through the head phones telling me when to start and stop. Then the drilling noise started, quite loud, quite scary at first. All good I was expecting it. What everyone omitted to say was that the breathing ritual would happen about 60 or more ( I lost count) times during the 40 minutes you are in the tube. There is no pain or discomfort. I was not scared at all but  continuously worried that I was not doing it correctly so each time it happened my concentration would increase and I tried harder to breath at exactly the right time etc. until I became exhausted. I had this unrealistic fear that at the end the voice would tell me I had to start all over again because I had not been doing it correctly. Finally, when I was beginning to doubt my capabilities I heard the assistants lovely voice saying all done we will bring you out now. 

It was such a relief to slide out and feel space around me once again. The nurse took of all the apparel off and kindly said you can sit up slowly and stand when you are ready.  I could not actually lift myself to a sitting position Either I was too tired or too relaxed from all that breathing and my body felt so heavy I had to ask for her help.Once up and moving I quickly returned to normal. The nurse had asked me prior to starting if had I had an MRI previously and I said yes. That was the wrong answer as it was a totally different experience to the previous one.

Reflection

Looking back on it now, It was interesting and slightly amusing adventure. A test one should not be frightened of but one that could be explained in a little more detail for someone who is even a just little anxious. I have inserted a link here to a youtube video which explains the procedure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-jj4KrmYPI

My results were excellent with no need for further investigation. Come back in 4 years. Sounds good to me.

Health and its many issues

Mental Illness in this Millennium – a layman trying to work it out.

It was an ordinary morning in June 2021 that I woke remembering a snippet of a dream.A group of young adults sitting around having a discussion. One young lady placing her hand over her chest expressed with sadness that she was in pain and believed she must be suffering depression. Having been in close contact with several people who suffered from depression I jumped in questioning why she felt this.  When I awoke that’s all I remember about the dream but it started a thought process which I had touched on many times over the past 20 odd years.

How does one who has not experienced mental health issues possibly understand what mental illness is? The umbrella of mental illness is very large. It encompasses such a complex range of behaviours. There is a lot of information and misinformation available. There are doctors, psychologist, psychiatrist, councillors, educators all with tools to help but not always helpful. There are books, papers, lectures and blogs which can be helpful but can also be harmful.    

Mental illness has been highlighted in recent years with the hope of bringing awareness and acceptance for those who are suffering. A much needed fight to remove the stigma around being mentally ill. The assumption  that someone with mental illness should be locked away. The thoughts that mental illness rendered people as NOT normal, strange, shameful or scary is something to be obliterated completely. 

Awareness and education is a great thing  and should always be encouraged. The need for money to be allocated for intensive research should be supported. The need to bring back institutions to help those in dangerous or destructive or self abusive situations is absolutely essential.Mental illness is too often silent and must be given a voice.

Having said this I believe awareness has a downside. It can bring false assumptions,  self diagnosis, self medication. Awareness can give people information to abuse and to misuse. It can offer people a false sense of entitlement. In the hands of the inexperienced  it can result in the wrong diagnosis and consequently  the wrong and in fact detrimental treatment.

The dream I mentioned earlier is the catalyst for this following statement, “What I have observed more and more is a behaviour which concerns me. It is the harmful reaction of normalising the illness to the point of minimisation of the illness”

Real mental illness should never be considered as normal. Accepted, yes but not ignored or passed off as a phase. Untreated it is destructive, debilitating, and painful, it silently eats away and constantly manifests itself. It can destroy both the person who is suffering and the family and friends it encounters.  It not only effects behaviour but can also result in many complicated  medical conditions.

Mental illness cannot easily  be identified by a set of  definitive criteria. As I said previously the field is enormous and the unknown is huge.

I continue to write without any formal degrees. I do not claim any expertise in the area of mental illness. I have no training in this area.  These are my thoughts only based on my experience with mental illness. My personal experience was not of my own mental illness but of family members and what I heard and felt over a 25 year span.My experience probably differs from others so what worked or did not work for me and my loved ones may have the reverse effect on other situations. Therefore I will not be presumptuous and give advice to anyone else during these blogs. What I and others should do is to encourage everyone to seek professional help at all times.  And at first you do not get answers please try again, there is someone who will be the person for you.

What I believe we can do as ordinary untrained people is discuss mental illness as you would cancer, heart conditions, dementia or alzheimers, cancer, or any other medical condition. Think about someone you know who has suffered a heart attack. If you do not have a heart condition you would not pretend to know what they are going through. You would possibly ask questions, what happened and then let them give you detailed  description. You would listen without judgement or input, you would express concern and tell them to call if there is something you can do. We certainly do not minimise, heart attacks, we encourage people to seek the opinion of a doctor, to follow up on any signs or warnings. We tell them it is serious and not to dismiss it.  We offer to make appointments for them, to drive them, we offer our help. Basically we confirm to them they are worthy of help.Do we react the same if someone indicates they have BiPolar, Depression, Anxiety, or any of the many other conditions referred to as mental illness. Most likely we do not. We often retreat in fear. People who suffer from Mental Illness are very worthy of our help and their illness is certainly worth your time.

Another thing I believe we should try to do is to maximise our understanding of ourselves and what our feelings and what our behaviours are telling us. Read the basics and ask questions of those who know and have experience with mental illness.We should not make assumptions and we should be careful in our choice of words to describe how we are feeling.

A good example of understanding the basics that comes to mind is the term depression as opposed to feeling depressed. We all have those times when we don’t feel like talking or going to work. We  feel out of sorts or off beat, unable to verbalise our problem. We cannot be bothered and we may feel that we are depressed. The end result is we often experience tears, anger or avoidance.  Usually a change in routine, a good nights sleep, a holiday or simply a chat with a friend etc will pick us up and we are able to move on. If we took the time to think about what we are feeling at these times we would probably realise something triggered our thoughts. Maybe we were grieving, overtired, overwhelmed, scared or angry.  Once we understand what we feel we can  justify it, and therefore can react accordingly. We are feeling sad, we need to cry, we feel life is boring or annoying, we feel depressed.

When someone is suffering depression or chronic depression it is not the same thing. There is often not an immediate feeling. It is something that is just there. They are not necessarily in a bad situation or feeling sad, etc etc etc. It is not something that is easily explained. As described to me they are not there at that time, they are not able to self talk, motivate, explain or describe. They are surrounded by a black cloud. Nothing exists. I experienced this once for a mere day. I did not realise what I was experiencing at the time and still cannot explain the time it happened. After the time passed I certainly identified with what had been previously described to me and it shocked me to have completely lost control of myself at that time. From then I understood in a miniscule way the debilitation that comes with true depression.  To live like that for any length of time, days, weeks or months is unfathomable to the average person. For someone who goes in and out of depression for years on end it becomes normal and therefore minimised both by themselves and by those surrounding it. It is not a passing phase and can be undone by going shopping as some would say. It needs professional help by way of medications and psychological assistance. A few other examples to consider.

  • Feeling depressed vs. Depression or chronic Depression
  • Feeling anxious vs. Anxiety or Chronic Anxiety
  • Feeling indestructible or being a risk taker vs. having Bipolar
  • Dieting vs. Eating Disorder
  • Feeling sad and frightened vs. PTSD Post traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Being clean and tidy or fastidious vs. having OCD

I value others opinions and experiences so ask you to comment below if you wish.