Grant Hackett


I read the following with dismay yesterday. It is a road many families have walked. I have walked… Some of my friends have also walked this road. It can start gradually, sneaking up on both the individual and those who love them. They don’t want to do what they once loved. They retreat, becoming uncommunicative. They find no joy in anything. You may find that they are drinking more than usual. You may uncover just how much when you put the bins out and see the many empty bottles in the recycling. There is something going on that you can’t quite put your finger on, and they are either refusing to talk or aren’t capable of telling you. It is frustrating, as in social settings, they can be  quite animated-jovial even-which masks what is really occurring.

When it all falls apart, it is often dramatic and spectacular. It can be after years of seeking help for the person. Marriage and family counselling, dietitians and alternative healthcare practitioners (to get their diet right and make sure that they have no deficiencies), AA, NA, GP’s, brain scans, blood tests, and so much more. There may be brushes with the law, and unpaid bills and fines. You may feel as though you are grieving a loved one, though they are right in front of you. You would do anything to retrieve their essence.

Thousands of families across Australia are facing the same agony as Grant’s loved ones. Right here and now. Finding appropriate help is time-consuming and exhausting, particularly when you are dealing with someone who denies they have a problem, or who tires of being on the merry-go-round. Who could blame them? Services tend to be dislocated from one another, and having to relay the story of why you came to be in somebody’s office time and again is wearing.

After five exhausting years of not knowing what the heck was going on with their partner, a friend was relieved when a diagnosis of depression came about. It was short-lived, as the antidepressants put them in free-fall. After another year of tumult, it turned out that they actually had bi-polar disorder, and the medication was causing them to rapid-cycle. They are doing so much better today, though life can still be challenging. The whole family or friendship group may have to adapt to a new normal. Stressors which the person may have coped with in the past, may cause them a set-back in their recovery. I hope with all my heart that Grant gets the help he needs, and I hope that his family can feel our support. It highlights the urgent need for prompt and cohesive services.

For urgent help, contact Beyond Blue or the Black Dog Institute.

Pressure


14102268_1244490178918158_844414322105905141_n

I have been suffering the worst anxiety of my adult life; well, since I had IVF at least. The kind that makes you wake in the middle of the night, sweating and shaking. The ferocity of which makes you heave and feel as if you can’t catch your breath. I am entirely responsible for my child’s education; that alone is a lot of responsibility. I am trying to look after an adult with a mental illness that is unpredictable. I am trying to keep a household going, pay bills, and keep a grin on my face. I am preparing to see specialists and have necessary medical tests; attempting to scrape together the money to do so. Society regularly tells mothers that we are responsible for our health; that if a parent goes under, everything falls apart. I have been trying, I really have, to not go under. To ensure that my daughter is happy and secure. To not fail in my sworn mission to make everything okay with everyone I love. Oh, also to complete a book this year. 

14202610_1244404835593359_8637837528357546261_n

This year has pummeled me, the marks of which I acknowledge  in the rare moments  I have to sit and reflect. I knew the anxiety was turning into a monster by the following: 

I had two panic attacks in as many days.  I couldn’t work a door handle to exit a building, and the other when a lavatory door got stuck. I went straight into full panic, and passers-by had to calm me.

Feeling disengaged from life. Having  a list of things to do, but not having any idea as to how to do them. 

A pounding head all day, every day, and a terror of everything that once provided comfort. Social outings and social media, phones and emails procured extreme anxiety. 

Forgetting to eat, to sleep, to stop moving and sit quietly.

I called Lifeline, and tearfully relayed the events which had transpired to heighten my symptoms. The counselor was marvelous, and said they weren’t at all surprised that I was finding the going tough. When everything is all up to you, it can be anxiety-producing! I made contact with a counselor, whom I am going to see for a while, and I also saw my local GP. I am going to start medication, until I have a handle on the anxiety. It is not something I can do by myself, and goodness knows, I have tried. My brain feels as though it has forgotten how to relax and is ticking away 24/7. I am sure many can relate. Chronic pain is exhausting. Being a carer is exhausting. Having high expectations of yourself is exhausting. 

It took a lot for me to admit that I couldn’t cope; that I was in trouble. Relaxation and walks, chamomile tea and lavender oil are lovely adjuncts but weren’t offering a complete solution to such extreme anxiety. Spring is now here, and help is at hand. It is a matter of resetting a brain that has spun out of control. It is a matter of calming it down and soothing the tempest. I will still be responsible for an awful lot in life; that isn’t going to change. However, I will have the foundation required to cope with it all. One short woman alone.

14102334_1363729713660947_2100664534869243828_n

I saw the doctor and she agreed that I needed some help. I have started on a mild dose of medication and my mind already feels clearer. If you are suffering, please know that you aren’t alone.

Please Read the Following…


Josh has posted two courageous stories over at his blog. Stories I wish he hadn’t had to endure…

Supporting a friend through AA as a teenager, I met many women, young and middle-aged, who found themselves in the grip of alcoholism. The beginnings of this cruel disease were pretty pedestrian. A bottle of spirits shared at a party with mixers, wine shared with friends at dinner, sipping a glass of alcohol whilst studying late at night. It’s not like you need it, right? Only if it’s there. Hard times hit, and the anxiety chews away at your mind. Adrenaline racing and unable to sit still, you reach for alcohol. Perfect, huh? It is a depressant, thus ideal to soothe a raging mind. Ah, that’s better! You remember how you relaxed the previous night, and instinctively reach for another bottle. Able to function during the day, you look forward to your nightly elixir. Trouble is, it is hard to gauge the damage being done internally, and the horrific rebound affect the alcohol shall have on your mind. Depression and anxiety heightened, you need more. You have heard the recommendations of having several alcohol-free evenings each week, and also the advice to never have more than two standard glasses… As the ice melts in your glass, you quickly refill. Automatically, in response to a nagging thought that if one glass felt good, another will feel better. Here is Part 1 of Hannah’s Story.  With a heavy heart, I bring you Part 2. It has given me pause for thought and made me question why so many social events revolve around alcohol, why we instinctively reach for it after a hard day. Hannah’s story could be so many of ours, in particular women. We are good at concealing our struggles, to our own detriment. I commend Josh on his bravery and also his generosity in sharing the above.

Revising Life.


IMG_3060
Robin Williams has left us. My friends and I are all in tears. Those that bring laughter and joy are usually the ones who battle in private. Acutely aware of not wanting to burden the people around them, they say little of their struggles. They keep busy, running several projects at the one time, spinning the plates with only two hands. Their social life looks full and one witnesses the happy snaps, reassured that your friend or family member has had a week of contentment. Busy, busy, busy. Loathe to stop and sit quietly with their thoughts. Running harder and faster, with a full calendar and mind. A fleeting sinking feeling might appear, and they acknowledge the hidden anger, grief, pain and sadness within their psyche. Who to tell? Everyone is so busy. Everyone has their own stuff. I have to keep it together. I don’t want to have my depression dismissed by platitudes. It wont help. When I was in the midst of grave depression, what did help was acknowledgement. A hug, and sharing a pot of tea. Going for a walk in the sunshine and talking to a friend. It is a tremendously brave thing to do, to share that you are in hell. So very brave.

One cannot keep depression at bay by running harder. You stumble, and the black dog awaits the fall. Maybe we need to have a revision of life, and how we do it. Simplify, go back to basics. Keep Sundays as a day of rest and of connecting. Give more hugs, be attuned to the subtle nuances of our other humans. Pare down the commitments and be with those who fill your heart. You can’t afford to be punctured, to leak as though you were a sieve. This is your life that is at stake. Anything and anyone that compounds the darkness, must go, at least for now. I regret that life is so difficult, and for some, too difficult. I have lost many loved ones to suicide. My heart still aches. If I could have breathed hope into them I would have. If you are suffering depression, and are dismissed by the first person you confide in, keep going. Go gently in this world, beautiful people. Too much activity is just as troubling as none. Balance. These are things I am learning. Robin, we love you. We cherish the legacy you left us. As I sit with my daughter in the years to come to watch your movies, I will tell her about you. Bless you always and ever, and our love to those whom you left on earth.

Hold On.


I am going to republish this post, after hearing of the passing of Robin Williams.There are many amongst us who are battling depression. Brilliant people, who seemingly have the world at their feet. I can tell you from firsthand experience,that when you are feeling low, you have fallen into an abyss where the stars aren’t seen. They are smothered by an unforgiving cluster of coal, smeared across the light. I almost succeeded at ending my life at fifteen. In fact, I had a few serious attempts. Serious enough to have claimed my life each time. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted the pain to stop. I had to be brought back after my heart stopped. I awoke several days later in ICU,after dancing between life and death. I wasn’t pleased to still be here. I felt like a stranger in this world, without a home nor tribe. It seemed that circumstances including severe abuse- had conspired to push me out, and so I spun around in orbit. I tried to cling to a glimmer of hope, but in that dark moment,I couldn’t imagine anything changing. This was before being thrown off a building. This was before more pain, and a lengthy recovery.
IMG_3057

I am a grown woman now. I would say to that teen, “little girl, don’t give up. Don’t react in an act of violence against yourself. There will be growth after this anguish is done. You will get away.” Have you ever seen a forest after a bushfire? Black, the trees devoid of life. Then, regrowth. New shoots, tremulously and shyly start to peek out of the hollows. When I see this spectacle, I get emotional. That is what a person battling depression must cling to. New shoots will grow. It wont always feel like this. Today I talked to a friend, was helped by a friend, my daughter told me about her day, and we played. I had a few of her friends rush up and give me a hug. I have been loved. I have eaten good food and smelt citrus fruit. I have heard my little canaries melodic song and patted my guinea pig’s soft fur.
IMG_3060
Those with sensitive spirits, the wounded and vulnerable. We need more of you. You are the healers. Defy the pain that wants to take you out of this world. Just keep breathing. The answers will come to you in time. If you speak and aren’t heard, put it down to a dodgy connection, and try again with someone else. I love the saying, ‘If you are brave all the time, people will come to expect it of you’-Mignon McLaughlin. Nobody sees your suffering if they don’t know it exists. It is true, that some won’t understand when you speak your truth. Keep talking. I know Lifeline is stretched, and sometimes they can’t pick up every call. Try again. The stakes are too high. You are fighting for your life. You are precious. We need you. Lifeline, 13 11 14 in Australia. xxx

IMG_3058

DV


The hidden, silent epidemic, wounding our children, scarring families and killing partners. We see the end result on television, and picture the scene we have once viewed in a movie. The partner arrives home, after visiting the pub, his dinner is set down in front of him. “What’s this muck?” he yells, before throwing the plate at the wall. The kids are feuding in the background, after a tiff breaks out over whose turn it was on the Wii. The tension carries on into the night, wherein the police are called by the neighbours. She has a black eye. He is contrite, the children solemn. Formulaic. The picture is quite different most times. The man or woman once met a delightful human being in their love interest. They are confident without being proud, attentive without being cloying. Overtures of warmth and tokens of love are reciprocated. Nobody falls in love with an abuser. There is no sign of what is to come, as the appropriate buttons aren’t being pressed. The monster within can be contained in the early flushes of romance. Add pregnancy, uncertain employment, redundancy, illness, children and a host of other life events into the mix, and those buttons are well and truly pressed. Whilst some couples endure and flourish, some men or women revert to their inherent factory settings. Nobody is more stunned than you.

Financial abuse often occurs,consisting of sabotaging everything from holiday plans, housing, courses, and anything that you derive pleasure from or will advance you. It will all be falling into place, when whoosh, the money isn’t available. You will be given an allowance of your partners deciding. Opportunities are limited. Emotional abuse doesn’t just consist of verbal aggression, but also of deathly silence. You are never praised. Never told how loved you are. That is another sort of loneliness. Frustrated at their own lives, and never taking responsibility for everything from a fine to being sacked (they are always the victim), they take it out on their loved ones. Untapped wells of anger and immature emotional responses come to the fore. Their livers are drowning in a tumult of rage- Chinese herbalists believe this is where anger is stored. So, they take drugs, and hit the bottle, inflaming it even more. You don’t know where your partner has gone, or how it has come to this. The roots are insidious, the tendrils taking hold over time. A shove when you want to discuss a bill just arrived in the mail, an intolerance to the kids and their natural noise. A deathly glare. Suddenly, you can’t do anything right. The house isn’t clean enough, your appearance not up to standard. You keep silent about how your household has tilted at a  peculiar angle, because you don’t know how to voice what is occurring. A grumpy partner; hasn’t everyone endured that at some stage? There are no black eyes, yet.

As the boundaries are stretched, and you are drip-fed abuse every day, they become more arrogant, and angrier. People ask if everything is okay, as your husband drinks copiously, and avoids you at a friend’s BBQ. You defend him. He is hard-working, just under stress. You don’t want people’s esteem of your partner to be altered irretrievably. He is after all, the father of your kids. As you start to avoid people and feel more isolated, it reaches its crescendo. This is often years later. The police are called, and plead with you to make a statement to have him charged. You react with fear. You are defensive. You are suffering Stockholm syndrome, where you have become enmeshed with your captor. You only recall the gentle side, the human side of your spouse. To come to grips with who they have become would break you. http://counsellingresource.com/lib/therapy/self-help/stockholm/There is no turning back from that realization and you aren’t quite ready. When the spell is broken, you need all the support you can from friends and family. To start anew and rebuild a life that has been stripped back to the bare bones, takes time and care. I hope you do it. I understand why you stay, and what you fear. You fear staying and you fear going. Nothing is as bad as the place you are in. I promise.

Anger.


Today, I learnt that a group of bad guys from my past were flourishing, and planned to open a business nearby. My first reaction was numbness. I couldn’t feel anything, nor did I want to. Nervous energy needed an outlet, and I cleaned my guinea pig’s hutches. I paced. I put on music. My daughter could feel the nervous energy and asked what was wrong. I couldn’t tell her. She is seven. It would require a long, convoluted explanation that I didn’t want to give to this precious child. These people almost successfully ensured that I didn’t get to grow up, and have her. I took her to school, and had coffee with a friend, a lovely distraction. I then became pissed off. How dare these people ever be allowed to be in a position of trust again. I want more for kids. I want more for my kid. I want them to live in a world where the bad guys get punished. I want her to live in a world where stuff like this doesn’t happen to kids at all. The truth will come out. It always does. I know that. I have been around long enough to see empires crumble, villains brought to justice and Royal Commissions uncover the reality of various groups. For now, I will treat myself well, go for a stroll in the sunshine and pick my daughter up from school. I can’t wait to play with her this afternoon and hear about her day. We are planning a trip to Nutcote, May Gibbs’ home. A place of Gumnut babies who get away from Banksia men.

PTSD.


As a toddler, I had night terrors, the peculiar feeling of being cognizant of forces at play which can be felt in sleep. Terrorized to the point of screaming. They faded as I grew. Now, I suffer PTSD, as a result of having lived a dark dream. To confront the places of terror, and rewrite my own endings, was my weapon of choice. Many years ago, I revisited places of trauma. Instead of being left bloodied, broken and half-dead, my husband could recite a poem, I could leave flowers, and I could walk away. Not a speck of blood upon me. It rewrote the script, and I felt stronger. Over many years, I began to heal. It is a process, a series of steps. Walking to the letterbox whilst an unfamiliar car with a driver was parked outside was a moment of triumph. Listening to a song which once hooked me into the past was cause for rejoicing. Climbing a staircase, picking up my phone… Learning to be a functioning human.

 

The past few weeks have been tough. I have retreated somewhat, which fills me with pain, though not surprise. I have had a book published which details my dark dream. The media have interviewed me for hours on end, dredging up every painful moment, then leaving me to deal with the fallout. I was on a train with my daughter, travelling into the city for a day out. As we approached the station in the suburb where one of my villain’s lives, I could suddenly see his face. I could smell him. I recalled his deep guttural voice and the hollow eyes which contained no depth. He was there in that carriage. The other day, it was the anniversary of my fall. The day that changed everything. The reason I have had to pay a few home deposits to surgeons, the reason my kidneys are damaged and I self-catheterize. The reason I had to have a caesarean and was in unbelievable pain in pregnancy. The reason my daughter has to adapt to having a mother who needs to lie down mid-way through the day and can’t do all the physical activities other mums do with their kids. The reason I cry in the shower each morning from pain, so my daughter can’t hear.

 

A friend met me at my gym and we worked out together. We screwed up at our noses as a smelly, muscle man lifted weights, then had lunch together. I was so grateful she was there with me, my friend. I took my daughter to her singing lesson, and delighted in hearing her practice her scales. I chatted to the teacher’s grandmother, and revelled in discussing the frivolous subject of candles. I had dinner at the shopping centre with my child and husband and did the groceries. Songs from the past came over the speaker, and I was furious. Why tonight? Why are they playing songs he collected and strung together in a cloying, threatening mix-tape? I got home and burst into tears. The distraction of the day was over. I was here with my soul and my body’s cellular memories. Grateful and sorrowful at the same time. How could I not be thankful? Somebody wanted to kill me and yet I am still here. I have married, and had a spectacular child. I have a multitude of friends who love me deeply and I them. I laugh often and much and am resilient. Nothing much shakes me, certainly not the little hiccups in life. Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou!

 

Sorrow… Hmm, I have that too. As a mother, I grieve for that child, put in an impossible situation and left to fend for herself. She did the best she could. She screams within my heart that somebody hurt her, and it’s not fair. No, it’s not fair my darling. I will spend the rest of my life loving you, and protecting you as best I can. Memories get stirred up, songs are played. Something on the news reminds me of yesterday. I try to take each moment as it comes. Right now, my husband and daughter are playing with our baby guinea pigs, and I am in the office, listening to the sweet trill of my budgerigar, Cuddles, who has decided to join me. This moment is all that matters right now.

What would you say to a bloke you suspect of having bipolar?


My husband wanted me to write about our experience with bipolar, as we know several couples at the start of their journey. He wants what we have been through to help others. I commend him on this, and also on the huge changes I have seen in him. He said he didn’t understand that he had textbook symptoms. There needs to be a checklist. He says to other men, if these things are happening in your life, get help! What sort of things need to be on your checklist? Feeling different from everyone. Not being able to communicate with people, especially in long-term relationships. Feeling unbeatable and unstoppable, then feeling worthless and useless. Drinking heavily and/or experimenting with drugs. Seeing loved ones pull away from you. Going around in circles. Going really well for a while, then plummeting back to earth. The main thing for my hubby is relationships. He went from a naturally gregarious character to a fellow who couldn’t talk with people. He wouldn’t know what to say, and would get extremely restless at social events, and wander off by himself. Talk to your doctor, and loved ones. You can receive help and it is more than possible to not just survive, but flourish. The Black Dog Institute