The Meaning Of Life: And Why People Who Live In Hot Countries Suffer From Depression Too

Kurt experienced a few personal setbacks a few weeks ago and because I know that many of you follow this blog because you too have young adults who struggle, I thought I’d take you through what we’ve learned from it. Obviously, I won’t go into precise detail about what happened, but suffice it to say that after more than a year of giant leaps towards a balanced, happier life, his world came crashing down around him and he felt unable to cope.

Man looking out onto world.
Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

We’ve all been there – those parts of growing up when it feels like life is conspiring against us, leaving us no way out. But it’s worse when you have a disability and the lack of a good emotional skill set and resilience to cope with it.

His cry for help coincided with my first day in a new position at work – a position that I know is within my field of expertise, even though my anxiety consistently tells me that I can’t do it – so, needless to say, I was already in an emotional tail spin that morning when he started calling me. In hindsight, I think that I may have over-reacted to the situation.

My therapist tells me that anxiety can be contagious in some families, like a chemical reaction, where the molecules keep bouncing against each other, escalating it. Apologies for my simplistic interpretation but I never took Chemistry seriously at school. However, I did manage to stop my eyes glazing over as she was explaining what she obviously believed was a useful analogy to me. And I know that I use this expression all of the time in this blog, but sometimes it really does feel (for a lot of us) as though we will never get our shit together and that life takes some perverse enjoyment out of kicking at us when we’re already on the ground. Fortunately for us oldies, though, maturity and experience help remind us in those moments that we will (most likely) get back up on the damned horse, whereas Kurt is still young. He has yet to understand the difference a year, a day, or even an hour can make to how he is feeling in that moment, or how different those areas of his life that he struggles with today may look in ten years time.

When you’ve been misunderstood and had to fight for acceptance for most of your short life, resilience is hard to build.

However, a week on, I am happy to report that he is in a very different headspace. In fact, a few nights ago the family got together for dinner – Waltons-style (not quite) – I watched the light return to his eyes as he held court at the dining table, and it was almost impossible to believe that this was the same, broken young man from the week before.

Watch any documentary or reality show on the topic of depression or suicide ideation and you will see that most people regret their attempt if they survive to be given a second chance at this crazy thing called life.

We live in a crazy world, and not even maturity hands over all the answers to our reasons for being here. So it’s understandable for an over-thinking twenty-two-year-old, whose brain is still developing, to lose his way; to question if the pressure and suffering are really worth it, and (perhaps, more importantly), why the shit seems to be dealt out so disproportionately.

Hence, the rise in mental health issues in our youth.

I constantly question what we can change for this boy of ours to help him believe that overall the good outweighs the bad. That is the problem with depression – it is not something that you can fix by throwing money at it. On paper, Kurt has everything he should need to be happy. He has family support, a job and that sort of energising personality that Robin Williams had. ie. a convincing mask.

When the old man and I watched Chernobyl this week, I found myself looking at the bleakness of the Russian landscape in disbelief, wondering how any population could enjoy their lives beneath the heaviness of those grey skies and such an unforgiving political regime – let alone a dodgy nuclear reactor – and I decided that it is because they have known no different. But I was wrong. Happiness doesn’t come from the tangible stuff in our lives. It has less to do with blue skies and much more to do with living in a supportive community and having friends. It’s why the poorest in Africa and India are still happy. Seriously, Indian people are the most rounded, happy people I’ve ever met.

Blue skies help, but people who live in hot countries suffer from depression as well.

I keep telling Kurt that dealing with life’s crap makes you more resilient, even though I’m still trying to convince myself. I’m not comfortable using “stronger” in this instance – there are many days when I feel far from strong, but I hope that he builds the resilience to hang in there long enough to experience the good bits about this world. Ie. the myriad of wonderful relationships and experiences that are within his grasp if he allows his stars to align. But then that does require a certain level of positivity, hence the Catch 22 fuckery of my parental wisdom.

I suppose that the real crux of the matter when it comes to the meaning of life is that, in truth, there is no real alternative.

Why I Cried In A Star Is Born

For those of you who know me and my need to spew verbal rubbish at least twice a week as a means of therapy, you might have guessed that my past few weeks of silence has nothing to do with laziness or writers’ block.

However, this time, it is not my story to overshare. Instead, I want to talk to you about “A Star Is Born”, because it is rare for me to cry in a movie.

Admittedly, I cry each time I watch “Terms of Endearment” – who doesn’t? – but usually, I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to movies – even tear-jerkers. Be it emotional defensiveness or a block, I am lucky that a history of brutal initiation ceremonies at boarding school, a family tree that resembles the Ewings in “Dallas”, and the numbing effect of anti-depressants for my anxiety – all contribute to protecting me from the lows.

(I should also point out, in my defense, that – spoiler alert – BRADLEY COOPER DIED in the movie).

But sadly, while those are all highly plausible reasons for my ugly sobs at the loss of that perfectly chiseled and landscaped chest beautiful hunk of a man (and the hero of many a middle-aged woman’s fantasies), in truth, the reason for my public blub was the content of the movie. It was just a little too bloody close to home.

Anyone close to a person who suffers from depression, anxiety or alcohol and substance abuse will understand the sadness and sense of helplessness caused by their struggle.

The devastating effects of these conditions radiate throughout the inner and outer circles of the people close to them, provoking a fear that never truly goes away.

Unfortunately, mental illness is not something that can be fixed as easily or as quickly as a broken limb. Indeed, I am beginning to believe that perhaps it can never be fixed – although some people do learn to manage it.

I am not a psychologist or doctor, but I would like to explain in simple terms the “depression” I have witnessed. Due to a myriad of reasons, there are some people who don’t feel that they can ever be happy or slot acceptably into society. Particularly, a society that expects the same from them as everyone else – that views them as a problem rather than a group of people that need support. Modern society is a meritocracy that is not inclusive to those with a disability, and when these people can’t meet normal expectations, they start to feel inadequate or a burden and they isolate themselves. This is when many of them start to dance freely with the notion of death.

Inevitably, their behavior can leave their loved ones in a perpetual state of fear – a fear that is hard to understand when you look from the outside in. For while there is empathy for people who are physically sick with those illnesses of which we have a greater understanding, such as cancer, there is less for those who suffer with invisible illnesses.

Added to which, the desperation they demonstrate in their behaviors and choices in life is easily misunderstood. For example, a common misjudgment about homeless people is that they are lazy addicts that abuse the system -rather than victims of mental illness, neglect, or abuse, who have hit rock-bottom. Addicts are viewed as the dregs of society or irresponsible pleasure-seekers, rather than people suffering from a disease.

I’ve used the analogy of a game of “Snakes and Ladders” many times when I’ve written about caring for someone in this situation. To support a person that you love to the end of the world and back, who won’t seek professional help, is similar to playing the game. You take ten steps forwards, and just when you think they are finally making progress, they slide back down a snake.

During their better periods, you fool yourself into thinking that this time they will stay well. You pray that the new job, new house or new partner will provide them with the change they need to provide them with the purpose they need to live. But you never breathe freely.

You despair at the way they abuse their bodies as a coping mechanism – which, obviously, it isn’t. You know that they self-harm to feel something – anything – that they drink to forget or to find the courage to function in such an unforgiving world. You know that the alcohol and drugs – the very things they abuse to feel normal – are just a catalyst to greater heartache as you watch them spiral helplessly towards their own self-destruction.

So what can you do?

You can look out for the signs. You can listen to them without judgment. You can empathize. You can remember that depression is not the same kind of sadness that many of us experience from time to time. And yes, it is possible to function with it – which makes it even harder to spot. Eventually, you may have to acknowledge that you may not be able to save them.

If the statistics are to be believed, we have a massive problem on our hands with the number of “troubled kids” and men out there. The choice made by Jackson Maine in “A Star Is Born” is becoming more common as our kids are placed under greater pressure from advanced telecommunication, social media, and fears about their future in terms of climate change and housing. Many of them are reaching their tipping point. When that silent growth of fear linked to not being good enough that has been eating slowly away at them starts to spread – like the Melanoma in those scary skin cancer ads – it distorts the reality of their situation. And ultimately, without the right support – and even WITH the right support – it can lead to devastating, irreversible decisions.

To help prevent these tumors from growing, we need more funding in schools and mental health services. We need greater awareness and better education. Above all, we need more empathy and understanding. So please consider carefully who will best serve the future of our kids when you place your vote at the next election.

For the carers of these people – who love them unconditionally and who for the most part are at a loss for answers or solutions about how best to help them – the fear that they will make Jackson’s choice is all-consuming. That is why I cried in “A Star Is Born”.

License To Rant

The best thing about turning fifty is that you get a license to rant and it turns out that I have quite a talent for it. Which is why I’m going to dish the dirt on the six or seven police officers at a Random Breath Testing unit at 10am this morning in my sleepy suburb.

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‘Have you had a drink this morning, Madam?’ I was asked.

‘If only,’ I almost replied with a twinkle in my eye, until common sense prevailed. Australian police are not known for their sense of humor, and as I locked eyes with the loaded weapon on the officer’s hip, felt the color seep into my face and for a second there, I forgot how to count to ten, I decided that a quip wasn’t worth the risk. 

But what I would like to know is just how many drunk drivers they expected to catch at 10am on a Tuesday morning? I mean, in the scheme of things, it was probably a little late in the morning to catch those that had over-indulged the night before, and a little premature for those gagging for their lunchtime tipple.

And while I know that (in general) the police do a wonderful job of policing my son and that part of the reason for the fall in the rate of traffic accidents among young people is thanks to their diligence, surely they have better things to do?

With the escalation in bullying in schools around the country that has dominated the media in Australia this week, surely some educational visits to schools would have been a more valuable use of their time?  Suicide is also on the increase in the same age-group, so what about educating kids in how best to support a suicidal friend? Surely, that has to be more beneficial to the public taxpayer than catching Reggie McPissface who is one drink over the limit?

Then there are the homeless, more and more of them, and many through no fault of their own. Perhaps, as the days get shorter and cooler, they might welcome a hot drink or some friendly advice about the best places to sleep tonight to keep warm; indeed, I imagine they would appreciate an interaction of any sort.

And yet six or seven police officers can justify the time breathalyzing a motley crowd of people on their way to work.

 

 

Suicide, And Making Men Understand That They Don’t Have To Be Heroes

man-1465525_1280It seems a million shades of wrong to be preparing for Christmas drinks when a week or so ago another family lost their son, in his early twenties, to suicide. I cannot imagine their ongoing suffering as I worry about whether we’ll run out of wine or if I’ll poison everyone with my Thai chicken meatballs.

 

A week has passed since the funeral and while the rest of us move on with our lives, prepare for Christmas and celebrate another day of life, that family’s life is shattered. Somewhere on his journey, their young son who always wore a smile on his face, lost his will to live; he lost sight of the value of his life and how much he mattered.

 

We have a duty to find out why our men are choosing to leave us when seemingly they have everything to live for. It’s doesn’t seem right that a child should find justification to end his life before his parents. That’s not the natural order of things. But castigating ourselves about how that boy could not know how much he was loved and valued, or how much he touched the lives of others, is futile now.

 

We accept the powerlessness we humans have in the face of the blows dealt by fate to change the lives of some irrevocably. We accept that we are mere pawns in the game of life with no power or foresight to change the direction of its steely hand. Illness, political gamesmanship and even climate change all impact and mould our destiny.

 

But we should never accept suicide as another of nature’s or God’s ways to control our population, because it is a choice.

 

However, unless we fund the research to identify the triggers that provoke men to give up on life prematurely, the statistics will continue to increase. Change will only come about via education and sniffing out the vulnerability before it takes hold. We need to change the way we raise and talk to our boys to make them understand how much their position in the world has changed. We need to talk to our boys. We need to remind them that they don’t need to be heroes, and perhaps, if they understood that they don’t need to carry the weight of responsibility or swallow and store their emotions to maintain a mask of strength, we could prevent such loss.

 

Television series such as the “Man Up” series are starting to embrace this rhetoric – to “start a conversation about male suicide.”

 

Because the statistics are appalling.

 

“In 2015, preliminary data showed an average of 8.3 deaths by suicide in Australia each day” – approximately two-thirds of which were men.

 

“We need a revolution in the way we think about and deliver mental health care and suicide prevention across Australia,” wrote Jeff Kennett for The Sydney Morning Herald

 

Sometimes it’s hard to truly believe that our lives are equal in value. But whether we’re in the support team on the plane of football stars that crashes, refugees seeking new lives or the nurse in the rehab centre where the multimillionaire seeks sanctuary, when our time comes our material wealth becomes immaterial. I believe that our legacy is about what we leave in the hearts of others.

 

That young man’s death has left a gaping hole in so many hearts, so we have to ask the question, why?

 

Here’s what we do know:  We know that when they are young, men can be impulsive because their brains are not fully formed until their twenties, which means that their ability to manage emotional crises may be compromised. So in those moments of despair, they don’t have the experience to comprehend that the searing intensity of pain will diminish, that things may not be as bad as they seem or that communication may contribute towards healing.

 

What we can do is encourage them to talk, ask them if they are okay, look out for signs of depression.  We can remind them that they don’t have to be heroes.

Anxiety, Hope and Earning The Olympic Gold For Worrying

If they handed out an Olympic Gold for worrying, I’d get it.

 

I’ve skirted around the void of depression many times, when my anxiety has gnawed away at me like some flesh-eating bacteria, so close to the bone that I’ve felt like it was all too much. directory-466935_1280 

 

Unlike many people out there who wax lyrical about alternative methods to “cure” depression, medication has been my saviour, the only treatment that has worked consistently for me and allowed me to function relatively normally. Exercise helps, but it wouldn’t be enough on its own.

 

But even medication isn’t an antidote, and so sometimes I get caught out when the black dog begins to circle.

 

In the first weeks after we moved to the suburb we live in now, which is close to the Harbour Bridge, a young man took his life by jumping off it. It was an event that affected me viscerally at the time because we were fighting to stay alive in a zone of wall to wall fear for our son Kurt. That poor boy’s death became personal to me. I was angry with him, visualised myself shaking him and promising him that with time he would feel better, I cried for him and couldn’t get him out of my head or imagine that level of despair. I catastrophized his death and convinced myself that it was a sign.

 

Suicide is becoming more and more common, not just in middle-aged men where it has always been prevalent, but in our young, who on the surface should have everything to live for.

 

When you’ve found yourself close to the level of negativity where you give up hope and question your reason for being, no amount of ‘but look at what you’ve got to live for’ talk can help. Whenever I move into a bad period of anxiety like I did recently, I always end up sitting with the doctor, tears of shame streaming down my cheeks at being so miserable when my life is near perfect.

 

But there are a multitude of triggers of depression and anxiety, many of which the experts have yet to understand.

 

I read many articles about suicide, not because I’m some weirdo but because it’s one of the main themes of the book I’m writing. What has stuck with me are the number of articles from survivors and how, so often, their attempt has been enough to change their outlook. It’s only afterwards that they can see through the clouds of despair, acknowledge that there is some hope, that they are loved, and that some simple changes and support in their life could provide a very different outlook.

 

When you are immersed in that thick, obscure soup, you think that nothing will ever change and it is the overwhelming fear of failure and letting people down that prevents you from embracing what life has to offer.

 

But the patterns of our lives twist and undulate constantly – something you realise with middle age but the young person with depression will find hard to see. For example, twelve years ago, I would never have believed that I would be living in Australia now, doing a job I enjoy, and that the kids would have survived my unique brand of parenting. The bi-product of a divorce, I might also be quite surprised to see that my marriage has endured all the dramas I’ve thrown at it, and I would never have believed that parenting could hold so many challenges or shape me so indelibly.

 

Three years ago, if someone had told me that things with Kurt would eventually get easier, I wouldn’t have believed them. Back then I saddled myself with blame for his behaviour, held myself personally accountable that my little boy wasn’t happy in his own skin. I now see that he has to take some responsibility too.

 

And here we are, making baby steps towards some light.

 

One of the best bits about life is its unpredictability; that nothing has to stay the same. Each day we grow, develop and begin to understand more and more deeply why we were put here. This short period on earth can be a difficult tenancy but we are the landlords of our destiny and if things don’t go to plan, it’s reassuring to know that we can move on. If only everyone was given a second opportunity to realise that.

Trauma and Bullying And Their Link To Mental Illness

The Sharpest Pencil, one of my favourite blogs, by Lana Hirschowitz, drew my attention to this illuminating, but deeply sad post by Mike Cullen recently on the subject of bullying, after the investigation of the Safe Schools program here in Australia was announced.bully-655659_1280

 

An Open Letter To The Prime Minister of Australia

 

In their own words, ‘the Safe Schools Coalition Australia offers a suite of free resources and support to equip staff and students with skills, practical ideas and greater confidence to lead positive change and be safe and inclusive for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families’.

 

Unfortunately however, concerns have been raised recently at the explicit sexual content used in schools and what some see as its ‘indoctrinating’ influence, hence the investigation.

 

This investigation into something that many see as a highly positive arm of education, was designed to help school children understand the problems faced by the young LGBT community, and its investigation comes at a time when the suicide rate in Australia has increased by more than 13% over the past year, and the worst affected group are 15-22 year olds.

 

In is post, Mike describes his time at school, where from his kindergarten year he was bullied for being an LGBT kid, a sad indictment of not only our society but of the children we are currently educating, because this behaviour still happens today. As a parent, it is distressing to read about the terrible experiences and injustices kids like him are subjected to, just for being different to their peers.

 

Around the same time, I read a letter that was published by clinical psychologist, Richard Bentall, (a school contemporary of the actor/commentator, Stephen Fry, who is very publicly vocal in the mental illness forum about Bipolar Disorder, being a sufferer himself), to correct Stephen on his mistaken belief that all mental illness is linked to genes, but rather to social and environmental factors that may lead to trauma (which includes sexual abuse, Stephen).

 

What I Wish Stephen Fry Understood About Mental Health

 

But obviously it’s not only LGBT kids who are at risk of bullying, trauma and mental illness.

 

When I first read Bentall’s letter, my old friend ‘mother-guilt’ inevitably set in and I found myself wracking my brains to think how or when we might have traumatised our son Kurt, who as many of you know we have been through the proverbial teenage mill with over the past few years  as a result of mental health issues. Until I realised that although his ADHD has always been the root cause of many of his problems, the real shift from ADHD to depression and self-harm began in Year 9 when the bullies cranked it up a notch at his school, mentally but physically.

 

Looking back to that time now, knowing what we know now, I despise myself for the naivety that led me to accept the advice of a school that had shown very little in the way of interest in my son’s troubles, despite the many red flags, and which believed that making him sit out of the classroom was the most effective way to punish him. The school also intimated that bullying was a phase my son just had to go through, a kind of rite of passage for boys to teach them to toughen up; in fact the only real support the school offered would have singled him out for even more bullying.

 

The situation ultimately came to a head when Kurt made a stand and refused to return to the school; his innate terror of physical harm at the hands of his peers was such that it far outweighed any potential repercussions from the Department of Education for what we knew they would see as truanting. He lay in bed for days, depressed and disconsolate, until we decided something had to change, upped sticks, moved location and school.

 

I wish I’d listened to my son earlier, rather than a school that was ill-equipped and under-funded to cope with mental illness, but I thank God that eventually we followed our gut instincts as parents and acted upon them.

 

These days, sadly, too many parents don’t get to see the warning signs, and aren’t given that second chance before it’s too late.

 

Ironically, within a few weeks the school did threaten to report us to the Department of Education for Kurt’s unofficial absence.

 

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the current suicide rate in young adults proves that mental illness is a big problem for our kids, that many of them are struggling and we still don’t understand what the triggers are. Suicides are not mentioned in the media for fear of copycat behaviour, but because of that cover up (which has valid reasons), many parents remain in the dark about the increase in the statistics or may not realise that their child may be vulnerable and at risk.

 

So remain vigilant, keep the communication lines open with your teenagers and don’t trust departments or schools to have the same instincts as you have when it comes to your child.

Mental Illness and Grief: Stories That Need To Be Written

It’s an interesting decision of mine, to carry on writing my book, when due to it’s subject matter, I know that my chances of ever being published are about as high as Glenn McGrath’s invitation to MC an RSPCA conference.

Grief
Grief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And no, it’s not because the subject matter of my never-to-be-published book is some X-rated erotica where Christian Grey actually gets his penis out, or a threatening feminist tale about how women will ultimately rule the boardroom.

It’s about ‘grief’.

You see, I have it on good authority, (thank you Kerri Sackville), that the topic of ‘grief’ is not saleable – even though ‘death’ is something that affects all of us, no matter which party we vote for, demographic or country we live in.

In short, the first chapter of my book opens with a suicide – SHOCK! HORROR!– because no-one wants to be reminded that suicide happens, even when the number of cases has almost doubled in certain age groups over recent years; and with the increase in drug use and impact of social media and cyber-bullying, we are certain to witness a huge surge amongst young people).

In a year where suicide has been highlighted in Australia due to the untimely deaths of celebrities Charlotte Dawson and Robin Williams, how can we still be pushing education about mental health issues under the carpet?

But back to the book. So how exactly did I get my book so awkwardly wrong?

Well mainly because having spent the past thirty-plus years grieving, I know a little bit about that topic and the ensuing mental illness it can provoke. And as a friend (who is still grieving and feeling misunderstood) pointed out recently, no-one can really understand grief unless they’ve been there themselves; so suggestions from naïve do-gooders to ‘move on’ can be highly inflammatory.

I mean, I get it…sadness and anger are uncomfortable emotions to be around in this world where we are supposed to spray a mist of happiness around us, and pretend to be upbeat and personally successful all the time – to fit in.

But grieving is an exhausting preoccupation, and like depression, the uninitiated can interpret it as a type of self-flagellation. But let me assure you, it’s even more exhausting having to pretend not to be sad and in pain, simply to appease the undeveloped senses of those around you.

Spookily enough, depression is a huge theme in my book, too.

(Definitely a bestseller on my hands!)

Depression is another wrist-slapping/don’t-go-there topic in the world of publishing, I imagine?

The point is, my book is therapy for me. It’s a story I needed to tell. It’s a story that will force my readers to deal with skeletons in closets, mental illness, guilt, family dysfunctionality and self-development head on.

And you’ll know if you read my blog, I happen to be an expert in all of those areas.

But I don’t view my little piece of never-to-be-published fiction as a sad story. The death of a loved one changes the future of those closest to them, but it can also create a sense of awakening.

‘Growth’ can emerge from the isolating cocoon of grief.

And there are some funny bits in my book, too, because I find it impossible to be serious about serious stuff most of the time. Humor and self-deprecation have always been strategies to help me cope with blackness.

We’re not all afraid to confront our emotions, in spite of what those silly publishers believe.

Did I ever tell you about how my foot slipped on the wet mud at my mother’s funeral and I nearly plunged headfirst into the hole dug for her coffin?

She would have laughed her head off.

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.

If We Could Control Our Destiny, I Wouldn’t Have Had Such A Bad Week

 

It has been a difficult week and it’s still only Wednesday.

Suicide prevention message on the Golden Gate ...
Suicide prevention message on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Kurt survived his first set of exams but I feel as though I have been put through a shredder and lived the anxiety HE should have been experiencing – vicariously.

 

When he refused to do the revision he needed to do, I fretted and mooched around the house like a dog that has been unfairly reprimanded.

 

If I could have disguised myself as Kurt and sat those bloody exams in his place, I would have. It terrifies me to think that his intelligence may be judged on how much he knows about Tutankhamen’s mummification.

 

Did you know that they pulled the poor boy’s brain out through his nose?

 

Hark, the distant whirring noise of my helicopter blades overhead?

 

We all feel like that though sometimes, don’t we? As though we’re being conspired against. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, (and it always happens when I’m already seriously under the pump), work suddenly leapt back into my life with a fucking vengeance and dumped STUFF on me, just to compound my stress.

 

And then I realised just how fucking self-indulgent and ridiculous I am, worrying about such mundane bollocks….

 

Because some poor soul jumped off the bridge on Monday afternoon – about the same time that I THOUGHT I HAD PROBLEMS.

 

And I can’t seem to shake that image from my head.

 

I didn’t see it happen but it feels as though a sadness still lurks in the streets around our house.

 

Perhaps I’m being over-sensitive, or maybe it’s menopause that is making me upset over the death of someone I never even knew.

 

No, I can’t really blame menopause this time because Kurt was affected too.

 

The death wasn’t reported on the television or in the papers – which proves my theory that the press sensors, or is sensored, and conceals suicides and rapes. Which is a shame, because both tragedies need funding, support and above all, AWARENESS.

 

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for males and it has reached a ten-year peak this year. Depression is the leading cause – meanwhile the government removes more funding from mental health organisations and makes the cost of going to the doctors prohibitive.

 

I don’t know anything about the person that jumped. I just happened to be walking down the street and saw the police standing over the still body, finally safe from scrutiny, under a blanket.

 

It’s a shame we couldn’t have protected them a little better; before they jumped.

 

What a terrible job the emergency services have – trying to fit the fragmented pieces of peoples lives together in times of terrible trauma.

 

And how desperate would you have to be to choose to end your life at school pickup time and in such an appallingly public way?

 

We failed that person somehow. Whether they did it because they couldn’t get the right support or they felt isolated. Whoever it was reached their tipping point at that particular time and on that bridge and ended up as another statistic.

 

Imagine feeling that your life was that worthless?

 

Some onlookers were taking photos at the scene – most of them had already forgotten that there was an actual person under that blanket.

 

But everyone will move on quickly with their lives. Except for the family and friends. The death didn’t even make the next day’s fish and chip newspaper.

 

Kurt was visibly shaken when he heard about it. He has a morbid fascination with suicide and death that often worries me. He often reads accounts about the jumpers at the World Trade Center and watches video footage.

 

I worry that he truly believes that there is a glory to taking your own life, or a triumph in being able to control your own destiny.

 

But if we could control our destiny I wouldn’t have had such a difficult week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.