About

One door closes….

Life is so precious. How we spend our time really can make or break our spirits. Sometimes we know when something isn’t the right fit for us but for all kinds of reasons we keep trying. When will we learn to listen to that nagging feeling or some might call it our intuition.

Today I walked into a situation that I was trying to make work with the best of intentions, but I left slightly broken and sad. I’d been made to feel I was an invaluable team member, that I had nothing to offer and it HURT. It was the opposite to that strong voice within that tells me I am secure, I am loved, I am worthy. It was as though my soul repelled from these incorrect pictures of me that others had developed. They never saw the real me, the valued me, the me with hopes, dreams and potential.

I determined that I would never visit this place again, that I wouldn’t waste anymore of my precious time and energy on these people. My life has become such a beautiful experience that I have carefully handcrafted to nurture my loved ones, to reach for my dreams and to live a life that I love. Nothing will stand in the way of that. It has cost me everything to fight. I threw my suit of armour down, looked at the empty shell, I walked away and never looked back. I will never look back.

Thrown out of the ‘In’ crowd

An unexpected side-effect of having depression would definitely have to be friendships ending.  I’m not sure if people don’t know how to deal with mental illness or they just decide now, while you’re down and out, is the  best time to part ways.  I attended a group activity for over ten years, spending some time in voluntary leadership roles and I was a much loved member of our gathering, or so I thought.  At first my friends would spend time with me and doing activities for me however they very quickly went away.  I didn’t hear from them or see them when my depression became worse, I was acutely aware of this and I cried, tears of grief and loss, not tears of depression.

I was very unsure in the beginning of how to engage with people and I remember a very dear friend bursting into tears of relief when she saw me.  She knew I had been hospitalised, but did not know the extent of my treatment requirements.  She was just grateful to see me, to eyeball me, to just put her eyes on me and make sure that I was okay.  I had other friends who would take me out to lunch locally or read stories to my young daughter just because they could.  I consider my family to be my friends as well, and they were most certainly there for me.  My mother travelled between states so that she could meet her work commitments and care for me at the same time.  My sister visited as often as she could and would take my daughter to a play café  so that I could get some rest.  So you can see, while some reached out to me, there were others who backed away.

It was deeply hurtful to be in the worst place of your life and to lose friends.  It’s a pain that I hope will dull over time.  Fortunately my good friends speak to me very wisely about letting go and being able to move on from the pain.  My dear friends are so damn cool and I appreciate them so very much.  I will move on in time, but I think its going to take some working through in the counsellors office.  The depth of my anger and hurt is of a magnitude I  just can’t deal with myself.  Not yet anyway.  At the end of the day I always think good triumphs over all, so I have to believe that one day I will be able to make my peace with it.  For now I am just going to live, I’m going to try give what energy I have into being a great person, a great mother, a great friend to those who have stayed in my life.  That includes being a great friend in ‘real’ life and in my online community that I have created.  I may have been ditched out of the so called ‘in’ crowd, but I ain’t looking back.

Beauty + Depression

SO, I’ve had severe depression for three years now and for a year + a half I’ve been successful in treatments of medication and some BRILLIANT counseling from a very talented social worker. In all of this time, NOT ONE professional has spoken to me about my identity or beauty. This really struck me lately, because I’m really being confronted by my weight. You see, anti-depressants make you gain SIGNIFICANT amounts of weight + together with a coca-cola habit I have gained a LOT of pounds!

When I recently completed my Mental Health Care Plan, the Nurse also completed a weight management plan, so I was able to have access to an exercise physiologist. So all of a sudden my weight is in the spotlight. What has struck me most, is as I’ve gradually gained weight, peoples different reactions which range from ignoring my weight, acknowledging how I feel to glaring at me eating a fast food take away.

I can tell you that my perception of people who are overweight has definitely changed since I have gained weight myself and I now understand weight gain can be for many various reasons. I know for some of my friends, they shun any type of discussion in which I frown upon my voluptuous figure, but I genuinely do not like my ‘new’ body and I am mostly not comfortable with myself at all. So where does this leave me…

WELL, I’ve started exercising but just small steps each day with a 15 minute walk and I’ve enrolled in swimming lessons which I can say are fun! I’m noticing small reductions in my waist size but nothing significant yet. Strangely I have to say that in my bathers I am SO COMFORTABLE because they are so well made! If I could give anyone uncomfortable with their weight a tip, it would be to buy the best clothes that you can afford. It really does make a difference to be dressed in clothes that make you feel good about yourself! My energy levels are too low to wear makeup or keep up with my hair, so an investment in clothes really pays off for me. This size is the largest I’ve ever been but I’m mostly feeling pretty grateful to be alive without the pain of depression to let it bother me. I’m all for loving yourself, being healthy and I believe the person is more important than their appearance but I just miss being myself and recognising myself in the mirror. That’s all. That’s Me.

Progress

The way that I experienced depression was that I got very unwell, very fast to the point where I was sleeping so much and any time spent awake I couldn’t stop crying. It was a living hell and in those days I could barely go through the motions of everyday life. My husband and my mum became my carers and I couldn’t do anything for myself. Everything looked bleak and I feared there was NOTHING good for my future or for my life. I was living in constant pain, agony and emotional suffering.

Three years on and although I live with fatigue daily, I enjoy spending time with friends, I volunteer at a local youth service for four hours a week, I’m an avid beginner watercolour artist and a huge fan of modern calligraphy. I enjoy everyday with my daughter and we go on outings and play dates. Most importantly I am almost all emotionally pain free. So how did I get here, let’s see.

Seeing my health professionals has definitely helped in the long run, but in the short term I did not find relief. My severe depression was treatment resistant, which meant it took a damn long time for any antidepressants to take the edge off of my pain. I also saw one counsellor and one psychologist that were not a good fit for me. I found little relief, however it took a good six months for my Sister to convince me to see her counsellor/Social Worker. OMG there was a massive difference in the way the social worker approached me, from a trauma perspective. My emotional pain left me after 2-3 sessions. She was brilliant, and a skilled mental health practitioner.

I think that the support team that I desperately needed started to form. I had my Husband, my Mum, My Sister, Psychiatrist and now my Social Worker to work with on different aspects of my mental illness and this was the team to move me forwards. Oh yeah, most importantly there was MYSELF who was striving and pushing forwards. I have a favourite cartoon character called ‘King Julien’ who stated in a movie “I don’t just want to survive Maurice, I WANT TO LIVE!” and it was this thinking as well as regular appointments with my individual workers that pulled me through.

My friends dwindled in comparison to the social life I had before depression and I certainly learned who my friends were. I stayed in contact both in person and on social media which has become very important to me. I find I can just be myself, without this wicked depression being so present and all-encompassing.

I hope you will find this post encouraging and please dm me if you have any questions at all about my depression. – Tam xx

Matters of Faith

This topic is one that is very close to my heart. I’m yet to see anyone write on the subject of depression and God in such a way as I’m about to.

Before I had depression, I was a strong believer with a very sure conviction that God was real and that Jesus his Son was someone I had a spiritual relationship with. I was so enamoured with my faith that I was considering leaving my profession of social work to become a Youth Pastor or a Christian Social Worker. I’d worked in the youth department of my local church for many years and I genuinely cared for the young people and their families that I spent time with.

But then disaster struck. I had a mental health breakdown and was medicated immediately. I don’t even feel I was given a choice about taking the medication, I just had to take it. I didn’t study the side effects, I wasn’t in the right mind to. But one side effect the medication boxes won’t tell you about is that you will stop hearing the voice of God.

Yup, that’s right. It was like that medication caused me to be spiritually numb, the voice of God I used to hear was like a ‘still small voice’, so gentle but I could definitely hear it, was gone. If I mention this to my psychiatrist he’ll just diagnose me with schizophrenia and wouldn’t understand. So where does this leave me spiritually speaking?

My pastor recommended that I spend time reading my bible, to get to know the promises of God. I tried upteen times but it was like there was a giant void. I just couldn’t relate anymore. I’d also been deeply wounded by a friend, who had abandoned me in my despair, so I couldn’t read about the love christians had for one another, without breaking down in tears.

My church were certainly there for me when I was ready for them, it was the oldies and the pastoral care staff that cared for me, my peers were nowhere to be found. There’s no dinner roster or visitors calling where mental health is concerned.

When I think logically about it, I know there must be a God because of the miracle of life and how Children are so miraculous in coming into being. It feels like God is just so far away from me and Jesus I’m just not sure about these days. I wonder if my faith will ever come back to me and I hope it will. I miss the beauty of it.

My six year old daughter has a STRONG faith in God, that she no doubt inherited from my Husband and I’s faith in years gone by. My husband is a firm believer too but the faith my daughter has is rock solid and absolute. She is absolutely rock solid about her love for Jesus and ‘Gawd’.

So where does this all leave me? Believing in a faith that I can not feel? Questioning my faith in God because my spiritual side has been ‘switched off’ by medication. I’m not quite sure where it leaves me to be honest. But I’m open to it, I couldn’t stomach a church service just yet, but I’m open to it. I wonder if anyone out there has had similar experiences as mine. I’d be glad to know. Thankyou for listening – Tam xx

Journaling

Hey there! I hope you are well as can be and that you have been following my blog and also The Depressed Caravan on Instagram, or @thedepressedcaravan shall I say!! I really feel that the posts lately are so helpful for those going through depression, to show some hope at the end of the tunnel or to provide support and care for wherever people are in their journey with their mental health.

As you all know, a public figure that I look up to is @OsherGunsberg and that is because we’ve both been through similar mental health issues. I call it my ‘breakdown’ but really what it was is psychosis. @OsherGunsberg has enabled me to look at this as a protective feature of the brain and therefore positive. Going through psychosis for me felt very traumatic and extremely frightening. I am now medicated so that I won’t have to go through it again, thankfully. Being on medication has given my life stability and for that I am grateful.

So anyway, what I wanted to talk about today was journaling. I’ve recently heard this concept from @OsherGunsbergpodcast and when I read it had proven scientific benefits I was in. I prepared myself with a new notebook but you really can use anything you like and as I’m a stationery lover, I had a selection of fine liners to use just in case I felt like getting fancy with it! I just stared at this stuff for about a day and then I decided to give it a go!

I treated it like I was having a conversation with someone and that’s how I began to write. It’s surprising how easy it is to write about your day so far, what your hopes and dreams are and then the things that I haven’t been able to talk to others about started pouring out. I’m very conscious that if anyone stumbled across my journal they could have a little read, so I try keep it above board. I think if there was anything too involved I’d write it on a separate piece of paper and then tear it up (which can also be therapeutic).

I found just the art of journaling felt like I’d gotten a huge load off my shoulders, a load that I didn’t even realise was there or that I was carrying. I was so much more able to concentrate on my creative pursuits, of Calligraphy and Watercolour painting. I felt free to attend and participate in a Watercolours group that I haven’t attended for the longest time. If these are the IMMEDIATE results from journaling, then I wonder what the longer term benefits are. I’ll definitely blog about it and write updates at @thedepressedcaravan. I hope you’ll come along for the journey! – Tam xx

3 Long Years

Today marks the three year anniversary of my breakdown which two weeks later led to my severe treatment resistant depression. I anticipated the date was coming up and put considerable thought into how I wanted to spend the day. I thought about a celebration lunch but I didn’t think my family could cope with that, so I took a laid back approach. When you’ve been through an event such as a mental health breakdown it is so traumatic. Thankfully time has faded some of my feelings and the slow but necessary journey of healing has begun.

So, I spent the morning practicing Modern Calligraphy and contentedly splattering ink all over my hands. It filled my sense of wellbeing no end. I stayed in my pyjamas all day and ironically had to go to a chemist to get medication to stop me having further breakdowns. So cheers to that. I went for a long drive with my Mum, my biggest supporter through this whole ordeal and I realised I’ve never actually verbalised just how much i LOVE driving!!!!! It is the best feeling of freedom and I swear music sounds 1000 times better blaring from the car stereo!! I still use cds lol.

I had a minor upset during the day with someone in my family commenting on me being overweight. WHY aren’t we talking about this people? Why don’t we talk about the fact that some anti-depression tablets can make the average female gain 40 kgs. For anyone reading this Do you know how DISTRESSING this is??? I resent those sideways glances with people looking at me as though I ate myself fat. I myself resent the fact that I eat moderate mostly healthy meals yet I look ready for The biggest loser. Having your IMAGE and IDENTITY changed without having any control is gobsmackingly painful. I’ve lost my beauty, I’ve lost my career and I’ve lost my energy levels all thanks to depression. Is there anybody out there who has experienced any of this? I hope not but at the same time I don’t want to be alone in this. So yes, 3 years is significant to me. 3 years……….