Life’s ‘Colour’ Shouldn’t Cost Anything

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I overthink all the time, particularly these last few days in the light of the death of Robin Williams.


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Overthinking is not necessarily a bad thing. It helps us remain accountable for our decisions and to think about whether we are making the most of each day.

 

 

 

But overthinking can be exhausting.

 

 

 

The ‘thinkers’ among us, and I don’t define a ‘thinker’ by intelligence, are those of us who are more prone to self-analysis, self-blame and general dissatisfaction as a result of those exhausting thought processes. We expose ourselves to setting the bar too high and then being disappointed, which can ultimately lead to depression.

 

 

 

I wish I was one of those people who have the fortunate disposition to embrace life no matter what shit it slings at them. I envy them. But many of us become bogged down by the nitty-gritty and what we perceive as bad luck – a bit like when you ski over a mud patch. We become ‘victims’ because even though we might believe that we make our own luck very, very deep down, when fate throws those curve balls to test our strength, we can’t dodge the feeling of inadequacy they create.

 

 

 

Being a victim is not an attractive trait and we’re very aware of that.  But sometimes the victim’s lair is a hard one to crawl out of.


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When that shit rains down on us personally, or we hear about something awful that has happened to someone we love and catch ourselves thinking ‘fuck, that could have been me’, we might have a short-term knee-jerk reaction and make a pathetic effort to try and remain positive for a while, but it usually only lasts until the next dollop of shit hits the fan.

 

 

 

From a global and superficial perspective, we know how lucky we are in the western world. In theory, we have very little reason to be unhappy. It is impossible to compare the poor in the west to the poor in the East, if you measure those riches in terms of money. We are fortunate to have the best health care systems, we take sanitation for granted, we suffer from little disease, have adequate employment and enough money for most of us to be able to feed our families.

 

 

 

Yet, still many of us aren’t happy, are we? Because we know that those riches aren’t the important ones. Rich people get depressed and commit suicide too.

 

 

 

An Indian client of mine told me the other day that his first impression of Sydney is of a lack of vibrancy and ‘colour’; and by ‘colour’ he was not describing different races.

 

 

 

I was surprised. There seems to be plenty of vibrancy and colour when you walk down Oxford St or into The Rocks late on a Saturday night.

 

 

 

But in his opinion, even though Indian society has so much less to offer in terms of monetary reward and benefit, the people have so much more to give. Their ‘colour’ is not superficial, it’s not dependent on things that cost money. The spirit and ‘colour’ of his country comes from its sense of community. A sense of community that offers an inner peace and happiness.

 

 

 

Interestingly, there is very little depression.    

 

 

 

The large western cities of the world can be isolating places to live – full of tourists and migrants who are alone and bereft of support from close family. The ‘colour’ of a community emanates from the love and warmth of family and friends and it can be lost when that family is divided. Community is created from spending time with people, knowing and understanding them and having a focus outside of work.

 

 

 

Religion can work to bring a community together too. It’s not all bad. I admit that I’m one of those sceptics that walks by my Christian church each week and watches their happy-clappy group love longingly, and then bitches about religion. Religion has its issues, and we certainly don’t need religion to build a community, but it can be a starting point.

 

 

 

Our children become more self-centred without elders to remind them about manners and respect. I see this problem in my own children. They haven’t had to sit through the rituals of family dinners or been knocked into shape by elderly, less tolerant relatives and so they have a tendency to be self-absorbed, to act ‘entitled’ – anything that doesn’t benefit them directly is too much for them.

 

 

 

We have failed in our responsibility to teach them how to give properly.

 

 

 

On the positive side, they are confident young adults because we have given them the opportunity to explore more of the world, absorb different cultures, the freedom of dual citizenship and access to a lifestyle that is more at one with nature.

 

 

 

But who do they turn to when they are pissed off with us? Who talks to them when we don’t know how to handle them? Communication with their friends is via their phones and social media these days, not at church, not around a raucous, Sunday lunch table with their extended family.

 

 

 

We are creating our own isolation and giving ourselves more time to overthink.

 

 

 

Perhaps that’s where western society has got it wrong. Life’s ‘colour’ shouldn’t cost anything.

 

The Messy Business Of Suicide

Today I was going to give you a typically vacuous account of my spending spree yesterday for my birthday celebrations, befitting of the usual level of content on my blog; but somehow it seemed inappropriate with the news of the death of Robin Williams.

The Messy Business Of Suicide
Suicide? Courtesy of Bubblegumgirlz at http://www.flickr.com

Because although shopping remains ever close to my heart, increasing awareness about depression is even closer, and each time I’ve spotted a photo or tribute to Robin Williams today, it has made me feel inconsolably sad.

 

Suicide is a messy business that no-one really wants to deal with. But the loved ones of its victims are forced to, and society should be accountable too.

 

Tragic cases, such as this high-profile one, and the many more that eventuate each day, touch me personally because of the depression that runs in my own family and the fear I experience with a young adult who often teeters precariously on the edge of life. I can only pray that my child never reaches the same level of desperation that Robin Williams reached, but I am also aware that it’s part of the beast.

 

But the more people understand depression, the greater the chance of someone being there for my child, should he ever reach that dire moment of of need.

 

I didn’t know Robin Williams but I do know that there are few entertainers that have managed to strike a chord across generations and cultures as successfully as he did. He demonstrated a passion, a loveable silliness and an infectious vivaciousness for life that drew people in to empathise with him. He had the ability to make his audience laugh and cry at the same time, such was the immeasurable talent and authenticity he displayed as a performer.

 

Grown men mounted tables yesterday, in honour of his performance as the English teacher, John Keating, in Dead Poets Society – I get goose bumps when I think about that. 

American comedian Robin Williams at "Stan...
American comedian Robin Williams at “Stand Up for Heroes,” a comedy and music benefit organized by the Bob Woodruff Family Fund to raise money for injured U.S. servicemen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

People die every day from clinical depression, which often culminates in suicide. A few months back, someone jumped off the Harbour Bridge at the end of our street and I still feel sad and guilty whenever I walk that part of the street. That someone should feel so overwhelmingly desperate they would choose to end their life in such a public manner, with so little dignity and in such a brutal way, still horrifies me.

 

Suicides like this are often covered up. Apparently we don’t need to know about those people who reject our society, and anyway, suicide is a messy business that makes us feel uncomfortable. Suicide emanates from inner negativity and the fear is that it will provoke a rise in copycat suicides from those of a similarly fragile mental state of mind.

 

But if we don’t educate people about those far-reaching extremes of depression, how can we prevent it or help those who are suffering before it’s too late?

 

The reality of death is that it is the end of our journey. It is the day the candle is blown out. And as harsh as it sounds, the dead are soon forgotten (except by family and friends) unless you have the public status of Robin Williams, who will live a little longer via social media and the legacy of film.

 

What was so shocking about Robin’s sudden death is that he appeared content to the outside world – although his inner circle would certainly have been all too aware of his demons. Depression is a common condition in comedians – some believe that depression has a role in feeding genius because of the mood swings it exacerbates. That’s the silent danger of the condition; unlike other illnesses with more visible physical symptoms to alert close ones to those at risk.

 

Robin Williams was the last person that you would think was ill.

 

From the outpourings of public grief since news of his death broke, Robin left an enormous legacy for what he gave to the entertainment industry and to his relationships with friends and family. His final legacy is to those who are currently fighting depression and who may still have time for support as a result of the awareness his death has raised.

 

He came across as a genuine man with a genuine heart and suffered from a very genuine and common condition that took him away from us all too soon.

 

Let’s hope that Robin’s sad, high-profile death can help prevent the deaths of others who still struggle, isolated and privately like he did, due to the stigma that surrounds this terrible illness.

Fighting Depression With Drugs

It’s been a funny old week.

Depression please cut to the chase.
Depression please cut to the chase. (Photo credit: darcyadelaide)

My day job is seasonal and eerily quiet at the moment, which has provided me with the rare opportunity of pushing ahead with ‘the book that will never be published’.

In spite of its themes, (some of which that can be emotionally destructive), I have found myself completely submerged in my fictional characters and their life trials once again.

You need to be in a particular frame of mind to immerse yourself in a story where one of the main themes is depression.

You can just tell that it’s bestseller material, can’t you?

And then, on top of sobbing my way through several chapters that were sadder and darker than Harry Potter’s home life, came the terrible news of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. We knew him well in our household because he starred in one of Kurt’s all-time favourite movies, The Boat That Rocked, and each of us have mastered the dialogue of that movie almost as well as Top Gear.

Like Heath Ledger’s death, his passing made me revisit my own particular ideas about the causes of drug abuse and self-medication, because self-loathing and a lack of self-worth can often be fuelled by depression and self-medication can cleverly camouflage itself in the short-tern as a viable solution.

And when I waved off a more mentally balanced Kurt to school camp this morning at ridiculous o’clock, I noticed how clear his arms were of cuts for the first time in a long while. The scars of the darkness are finally healing and I found myself saying a secret prayer that they stay that way, even though I know that ADHD and depression are life-long buddies who can get into all sorts of trouble together.

English: Zoloft

So I will always need to helicopter be vigilant.

And that thought process drew me to watch an amazing TED talk by Andrew Solomon on the subject of Depression – Depression, the secret we share. Have you watched the TED talks? I’m sure that you can come out with a BA in TED if you watch enough of them.

The main problem with depression is that no-one really wants to talk about it, just like no-one ever used to talk about cancer, even though we now wear bright ribbons and ugly rubber bracelets to celebrate beating it.

We don’t really celebrate beating depression because it’s always there, lurking in our psychy, and more often than not, only the drugs will help keep it at bay. And sadly, there’s still very much a stigma attached to taking anti-depressants, even though they prevent millions of people from taking their lives prematurely, preventing their loved ones from loving them.

Anyway,it’s just too depressing to talk about depression.

Many of us probably believe that we’ve experienced a level of depression at some point in our journey. Life is hard, and the pressure to keep buoyant can sometimes become too much to bear. But as Andrew points out, there is a huge chasm between depression and sadness in terms of its symptoms, its effect on quality of life and its duration.

Not many of us will have experienced the inability to get out of bed, or to care for our children or get out of the house.

What a bizarre choice for me to attempt to write my first book with depression as a theme when I like writing humor. But writing has always been therapeutic for me and writing about what I know seems a safer way to start.

If I use Andrew Solomon’s yardstick, I’ve never suffered from true depression, but I’ve come a little too close for comfort. And I’ve known people who have suffered from it and witnessed my own son become tainted by the Black Dog too.

Mental illness is a terrifying experience for those outside the box as well as those trapped inside, because it is so difficult to manage.

Telling someone who is depressed to cheer up is like telling someone with a nut allergy that Brazil nuts are fine.

Perhaps Philip Seymour Hoffman used Heroin to try and control his depression?

The biggest issue with depression is that like ADHD, it is an invisible illness which for some reason dents its credibility. If you break a leg, the plaster proves you are injured but when you suffer from depression, people assume it can’t be that serious because sufferers rarely want to talk about it or share their story. Platitudes are more along the lines of ‘toughening up’ rather than healing.

I was lucky. The reason I only touched the surface of depression is because I am a hypochondriac, as in tune with any subtle changes in my body as the finest athlete. My anxiety draws my attention to any new blockages in my system. So when I began to lose ‘vitality’, which as Andrew Soloman states is the most obvious symptom of depression, I sought help immediately.

Most people ignore the symptoms or don’t have time or money to deal with them, or put them down to life’s set backs and assume they will just get better with time.

But anxiety and depression don’t get better with time when left untreated – they fester.

Which is why sometimes we need to fight mental illness with drugs.

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The Lethal Cocktail of ADHD And Depression

Deutsch: Cocktail
Deutsch: Cocktail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve had a bad week with Kurt.

You might remember that in my last post I caught myself foolishly romanticizing about how fantastic life was – it was like I’d discovered God or something and would be joining those rockster Christians in our local church on Sunday for a non-alcoholic drink and a session eulogising the joys of ‘giving’.

But anxiety says that dumb attitudes like that always precede a big mother fucking fall, and inevitably the euphoria was short-lived as reality banged rudely on our door once again.

ADHD can be a bitch like that. The only positive thing you can say about mental illness, is that it’s certainly never boring or predictable.

I sat in an ADHD support group last week, trying not to laugh hysterically as I listened to this fantastic speaker, Caroline Stevenson, reaffirm what life is truly like with ADHD kids. She talked of highs and lows, sinking and swimming – drowning a lot.

As she pointed out, ADHD is a very different animal to other mental disorders. Where other mental illnesses provoke pity, caring and support, ADHD is much more reactive and controversial. These kids can test your limits all the time – they can be angry and make you angry, oppositionally defiant, sly and (as she put it), fucking ‘annoying’ at times. (I might have added the F word).

Sometimes, they are very hard to love.

Mix depression into that blend, a pinch of anxiety and the general horrors of full-blown teenage-dom and you have the recipe for chaos.

After the fallout at the beginning of the year when we first arrived in Gotham City, (and the shit hit the proverbial fan), things had settled down recently to a suspiciously calmer pace. Kurt had tried and tested the delights of Glee School and its bounty of illicit goody bags and girls, and I assumed that the novelty of city life had worn off to a steadier grind.

The old man and I breathed again.

Kurt has been ‘happy’ of late, aided by a concoction from his psychiatrist, although he has put his outlet of music on the back burner while focusing for the first time on the social side of his life and new school.  He objects to his medication, saying that it thwarts his creativity – but at least those terrifying angry outbursts which often led to cutting, (which is terrifying as a parent), had dissipated for the time being.

He continued to hyper focus on the 27 Club, of course. He soaks up everything about his idol Kurt Cobain, and is as admiring of his behaviour offstage almost as much as his music, sadly.

But then something snapped.

It can be the tiniest trigger with ADHD – a falling out with a mate, me being less patient than I should be due to the balance of work and parenting or putting my own needs first, or simply from tiredness towards the end of term and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of relentless assignments, (that he has no hope of completing).

He buys sharpeners with my money and unscrews the blades to cut his arms. This is the same boy who screams in pain when I tweeze his mono-brow or put his earring back in.

And then I freak out and blow everything out of proportion because I am his mum and that’s what mums do and I can’t bear the thought of life without my ‘mad’ son. And that triggers the old man to become Mr Angry because he doesn’t have the emotional tools to deal with a child he can’t understand. Which in turn triggers NC to defend her Dad, and get all bitchy because her loony brother is taking over again and the family revolves around his needs like stars orbiting in the Kurt solar system.

He’s not actually ‘OK’, you see, if you measure ‘ok’ on the sanity chart with ‘conventional’ being ok.

And he probably never will be.

Suicide is my biggest fear. We all know that ADHD mixed with depression has the potential to lead to suicide.

I try to undo the damage caused by the missing Dopamine in his head at every opportunity, but sometimes the sheer frustration of not being able to get through to this human being that I created turns me into a mad woman too. When you are terrified that your child will hurt itself, the parenting rules go out of the window.

How can I punish him or shout at him? What if he does something stupid?

God, I would miss him. He is part of me, a huge part of me. It would be like someone opening my body and ripping out my insides. I am so like him. There is a bigger connection than normal, (almost perversely so), because genetically we have many of the same traits, only mine are not as extreme as his – perhaps my wires are not quite as tangled as his or I was able to develop the coping strategies to manage my shit better.

I want him to understand the preciousness of life and how much we love him, but I can’t get through to him. He smiles sympathetically when I try to tell him my fears, but I know that he doesn’t understand them.

On a good day, his ambition in life is about making his mark and leaving the world on a high. Which is what he thinks Kurt did.

On a bad day, he can’t even see a way out.

Mental illness sucks. I defy anyone to say that eventually a ‘pull yourself together’ attitude works. There is a chasm there, a black hole of chemical imbalance that defies logic.

If only my biggest fear for my teenage son was his HSC score or him drinking too much alcohol, rather than him taking his own life. If only I could be certain of that suicide cocktail not becoming lethal.