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Archive for April, 2012

Gifted, adjective

“having exceptional talent or natural ability”Oxford Dictionary

Alcoholic, noun

“a person suffering from alcoholism” Oxford Dictionary

Mothers Day is coming up and so I’ve been reflecting back on my own experience growing up with my mum. My mum was 4ft 11inches tall, she could sing from the bottom of her boots, paint whimsically, write creatively and helped many a star find their shine. She was a gifted woman, she was an alcoholic and she was my mum.

Dear Mum,

It’s been twelve years since you left. I remember the day so clearly, it was early in the morning, Lel and Rob arrived, they came to tell me that you had died. You went for a nap and never woke up. Jen found you with a smile on your face lying peacefully on your bed, at first she thought you were simply sleeping but then when you didn’t wake up after a while she realised you were gone – you had become my rainbow.

Our relationship was never really an easy one for either of us I think. I needed you but you needed so much more. I don’t really remember you being happy at home, I remember having happy times like when we used to listen to the radio on your bed; Dick Tracy, Squad Cars and Dial-A-Tune, I remember you singing funny songs like Dear Auntie Vera and Ain’t nobody here but us chickens! As I’m writing this I am trying to think of other little anecdotes that I remember from when we were all together – I am sure there are more but I just can’t seem to recall.

You were right to leave when you did, I never begrudged you leaving. You and Dad were not a good fit, you made each other unhappy, you were so different and you fought all the time. I remember pretending to be sad about you separating to friends but deep down I was relieved, there would be less fighting, less stress and less caution. You had so much you wanted to do and Dad was holding you back in ways that I don’t think he or you even realised at the time. I was ten when you left, it hurt when you didn’t ask if I wanted to go with you, it hurt that you only asked Ash , I felt you didn’t want me. I can look back now and in all honesty I am grateful that I didn’t go, I don’t think it would have been the right thing for me and I don’t think it was the right thing for Ash. Your life was big, bold and brash at times – it wasn’t an easy place to raise a child even though I think you thought you were doing the right thing, I know you never meant harm, I know that you loved us even if you found it difficult to be a mother to us.

Since I have had my own children I have realised how difficult it must have been for you, not everyone is maternal, not all women are born to be mothers. There is no hand book to good parenting, there are no fool proof methods of raising a happy child, your own upbringing is proof of that – parenting is hard work and when you are reluctant to play the role it makes it so much harder I am sure. Your demons were so hard for you to deal with and when I looked at you I couldn’t understand, you were creative, talented, intelligent, loved and respected but yet that wasn’t enough you were still unhappy, still sad, still lonely. I know now that you were sick, that you had depression, that you struggled with anxiety, that you probably lived with panic all your life and that your alcoholism consumed you. I wish you had of had the tools, support and guidance to find peace and happiness in your life, I wish you could have forgiven yourself. You did the best with the tools you had and I will always be grateful for that.

I want to thank you for the gifts you have given me, you gave me a belief that everyone equal not matter your colour, heritage or sex, everyone has something special in them even if you have to dig really hard to find it, music is a gift that we should all be grateful for and above all I want to thank you for giving me the gift of acceptance. No one is better than anyone else, no one is more deserving than the next person, everyone has their own history, everyone has their own journey to complete and we are all trying our best to get there.

You brought me every spectrum of the rainbow Mum, there were bright and bold times, there were dark and dull times but you brought colour to my world, you helped make me the person I am today, I am a stronger woman because of you, I am more resilient human being because of you and I am a better mother because of you so thank you Mum, I hope you have found your peace and every time a rainbow graces our sky your granddaughters, Greg and I know you are nearby.

With all my love to you always

Tray

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Thanks Neal for this great contribution, I know from my own perspective that getting down to the nitty gritty of the details and knowing that there is proof that I am not “off my rocker” seems to make the tough times a little easier. I think it would be an interesting investigation to see what the real financial cost to the medical system is in the process of  getting to the actual diagnosis of depression/anxiety/panic.

A note from Neal 

Many would know, the most common disability insurance, known as Income Protection, is designed to replace income in the event of sickness or accident preventing you from working.

Some may know, historically the largest individual contributor to claims was muscular skeletal conditions, more commonly known as back complaints.

Few realise however, over the last few years Mental Health has become an increasing contributor to the claims experience of insurance companies and now represents approximately 20% of new claims.

In addition, longer term claimants suffering secondary depression as a result of being off work for long periods are not included in these figures. Their number is expected to be significant.

White collar, professional workers appear most at risk and given current economic conditions, the number and duration of these claims have been increasing.

So, if you suffer these issues in silence and feel you are alone, think again, because your feeling of loneliness is certainly not supported by the facts.

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Adversity, noun

“a difficult or unpleasant situation” – Oxford Dictionary 

A good friend recently gave me a birthday gift of inspirational, thought provoking cards. Today I drew a card that gave me the following message for my day “They scattered the seeds of adversity and there grew flowers of freedom, compassion and respect” – Affirmations Publishing. It seems to fit very well with the journey this blog has taken so far.

Opening up has been both difficult and unpleasant, I won’t pretend otherwise. I have spoken very openly about some of my most private feelings, fears and experiences, I chose to do this, no one asked me to, it was what I felt I needed to do for me. I needed to make the leap, I needed to completely expose myself even if it was just for a short while, I needed to take the risk. I am not going to say that I suddenly feel light as a feather like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, because I don’t, my gut is still churning, my heart is still racing, it still feels difficult and unpleasant but NOTHING TERRIBLE HAPPENED, life carried on and that does feel good!

Thank you so much to all of my friends and my family who sent me their words of support and encouraged me even if it seemed difficult to understand at times. I was also very privileged to have received words of encouragement and support from people I do not know, people who have read the blog and felt that it was helpful and thought provoking to them.

My vision for this blog is that people will continue to contribute and that it will grow and develop into a blog for the broader community. I will continue to write and share and encourage anyone who has something to say to feel free to post on this blog. Over the last two days I have had so many conversations with people who had interesting stories and shared their point of view – wouldn’t it be great if this could be the start of a virtual global conversation, sharing views, memories and stories on mental health, community and human relationships from all over the world.

I have started a Facebook page for Trying not to disappear and my hope is to provide a place for people to share and access information about depression, anxiety, panic and any other mental health issues.

I am not a mental health professional, I have no answers, only my own experiences. I have found it inspiring to read about other people’s journeys and their perspectives as well as the tools that have helped them through.

“….there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think…” Christopher Robin

Trying not to disappear has be privileged enough to have readers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, UK, Korea, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, France, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, Taiwan, Cyprus, Solomon Islands and Thailand. How incredible this could be if we all contributed, can you just imagine how much we could learn from each other and each others cultures, the possibilities are endless.

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Julie wrote the following as a comment to “There are no picket fences” I have shared her comments as her story.

Thank you Julie for your courage and bravery in sharing your story.

This is Julie’s story.

What a heartfelt topic to read and share. I lived with a unspoken sadness and emptiness for many years once. Only those very close to me understood it and could see me in a place that wasn’t healthy for me. Many would have thought I had a wonderful life. Free of stress, harsh words, impressionable behavior. I had a wonderful home, children, usually a stable family income and even the odd overseas holiday. For a long time I convinced myself it wasn’t really that bad and even made excuses for my life and the events that unfolded. I thought I should be strong and not show any vulnerability.

As you mentioned in your story of hiding behind picket fences, I may have been similar to the woman who is missing. Didn’t want to bother people in my community with my drama’s, the unhappiness below the surface and felt a great deal of shame and embarrassment for why I had put up with certain aspects of my family life. A mothers job is not quantifiable. Most people don’t notice the effort that always goes into it. We need a village to help raise children, not just mum and dad, and not just one of those on their own.

Thanks to listening to my ‘gut feeling’ I eventually changed my life and had some wonderful people who helped me get through. There ARE people who will be there for us when we are vulnerable and falling into a hole. We just need to choose the right ones, trust that they will listen, care, and offer their loving friendship when we need it most. No one is perfect and no one know’s exactly how to get through life unscathed. If they did, life in many aspects would not be experienced fully and we would not grow as spiritual beings.

My life is different now. I faced the fear with every ounce of strength I had, but it still scared the shit out of me. The experience has given my life more depth and encourage me to make more choices based on what feels right. I hope the woman who is missing is found and if she is, I hope, if she needs to, she also finds herself. Maybe, like many people, she’s too proud to say she needs help and is just trying to fumble her way through life the bast she can. I hope her children get their mother back soon and they all receive the love and support they need. Sending love and blessings to her family and close friends through the community. Tracey you are an inspiration for many to write about a topic that some will just push aside.
Take care
Julie

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I live in a world of manicured gardens, pruned hedges, strong women, professional men and proverbial picket fences – or so it would seem. How much do we know about each other? How involved are we as a community in looking out for each other? When there is gossip it spreads like wildfire, when there is public disaster we all pitch in and do our bit. But what about the stories that aren’t so easy to deal with, the ones that make us look at our own lives a little more closely or make us feel a little too vulnerable – what about the real day to day mess – do we share this, do we ask for help, do we offer help or do we pretend to not see the sadness in someone’s eyes, or notice their absence at school pick up?

I have to wonder what goes on behind those picket fences and draped windows, is it all as perfect as it seems? I am fairly certain it’s not but I do know that we don’t like to rock the boat, we don’t like to stand out in a crowd and we certainly don’t want to be seen as weak. It the last few years there have been deaths, divorce, affairs, abuse, addiction, betrayal in my very small little community. We all have mess in our lives, we all have chaos at some point – perfection does not exist, life is not neat and tidy, relationships are minefields, children are just like us but in smaller bodies with less restraint – life is not picket fence perfect, so why do we keep pretending it is.

When I decided to start writing this blog the name for it was a clear as day “Trying not to disappear”, the specifics of what the blog would be, were not clear. I new I wanted to write about panic, anxiety, depression and hoped to get people talking about their own experiences and in doing so that it would help people to know that they are not alone, that others think, feel and experience the same or at least similar to what they do. But it is not just that, it is much more. My hope is simply to get people talking and sharing their experiences and hopefully helping them not to disappear.

The belief in what I am doing is there, I know it is right for us to talk, to share and to open up but I have also realised how frightening that is through my own journey.

Sharing is not easy, being vulnerable is like Everest to me, but when I owned that and still made the decision to carry on I felt stronger and even though I was still frightened I also saw that nothing fell apart, my life carried on but I was a little less concerned about what people thought because the people who loved me supported me. There is no shame in vulnerability, there is no shame in sadness, there is no shame in loneliness and there is no shame in asking for help or accepting friendship.

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Adjective.

“exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Oxford Dictionary

Making the decision to post so openly provided me with an incredible insight or at least made me own what I already knew at some level but didn’t want to see. I detest feeling vulnerable. I realise detest is a very strong term but in reality it is the only one suitable for the depth of my feeling.

Making the decision to let friends and family know that I was writing this blog was spontaneous and even though it felt a little risky, I couldn’t have imagined how anxious I would feel once I had done it.

It went a little like this:

I was feeling positive, my husband was supportive of what I was doing, my sister felt it was a great idea and as someone who also struggles with panic and anxiety, said she believed it would be a help to others, I had had other people contribute who thought it was a good idea and so I thought – this feels right, it feels worthwhile. So in thinking about what the next step would be to get it out there so that people could start to share I thought, I’ll tell my friends and family and ask them to send it on to people they know – tell the world I say bravely! or so I thought.

I sent a message through Facebook with a number of recipients on the list, thinking that the message would go to one person, they would respond back to me individually and the conversations would be private (safe). Well this wasn’t the case, I had created a conversation (ironically, the exact thing I was intending to do!) and when people responded it was a public response within the bounds of the conversation not a one on one as I had thought. People started to leave the conversation, a few responded with positive supportive feedback and I began to feel fearful.

Now it all felt very wrong, I had exposed myself and I could not control how people interpreted what I had written, I couldn’t explain it or carefully craft the scene around it. I couldn’t reassure everyone that I was ok, that this was just a part of my puzzle, that it doesn’t define me, that I am strong, I am in control and so on – suddenly I was vulnerable and it felt awful.

So I started to take things away. First I deleted the Facebook message – hoping that not too many had seen it and I wouldn’t be too exposed. Next I edited a post, taking little bits out that felt a little too raw, then I deleted the whole post. Then I agonised about another post and wondered how it “made me look”, what people would think, and so I deleted that post too. That left me with one post, I read it, re-read it, took out a little, re-read it and then decided it felt safe enough to leave it there – but now I felt ashamed.

Then I started to feel that I was letting down the people who had so courageously allowed me to post their snippets and stories – I had failed, or so I thought. I was feeling very anxious with panic lurking very close to the surface. I wanted to phone or make contact with everyone that I had sent the message too, not to talk to them about what I had written, not to share but to see if they were upset, disappointed or embarressed by me, I wanted to feel safe again, back behind the carefully constructed protective barriers I had learned to build a long time ago. The barriers that I knew were there but didn’t realise how much I needed them to feel in control or at least think I was in control.

What I am starting to learn is this; I cannot control, manage or make anyone believe or see anything, I cannot make anyone happy, sad, embarrassed or uncomfortable. All I can do is share my thoughts and experiences as honestly and clearly as I am able to. And in doing so, allowing myself to be vulnerable and hopefully provide the space for someone else to do the same, the rest is up to you.

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A message from Christopher Robin.

“…there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

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