The Cyclops of Loneliness

The glare of the desk lamp glows in the dark like a spotlight. It casts long shadows but doesn’t dispel the dark. It makes some of it scurry but it doesn’t overcome the dark. As soon as the light goes off the darkness races back to overcome the areas that were once claimed by the light. In many ways that is like my life.

I sit here with the glare of the light that is like a Cyclops in the darkened room. It reminds me of my aloneness. The absence of people while surrounded by things. Possessions are not the sum total of my life but they threaten to rush in and take over the place where people who are the light of life.

I spend so much time alone that the loneliness is like a constant companion. Like a ever present darkness. The scary monster of defeat and gloom that stalks me constantly until I feel I cannot go on. It is like I am drowning in a vast ocean of emptiness. It is the loneliness that is the hardest part to deal with, it is never defeated and rushes back in like the darkness after the light.

I don’t want to give into it. I feel guilty for feeling it. The lonely starts as I drive in my driveway and attacks as I open my front door and there is a feeling of dread when I close that door.

As I sit and watch yet another hour of boring television I grow into that sad old single bloke that lives down the street. I Facebook to try and feel like I am plugged into some kind of community, to talk to somebody, to feel. Nothing works! The lonely is always there. It is so palpable. I can’t find the cure nor do I know the answer.

The Cyclops of loneliness is a powerful enemy.

Just a moment

What is a moment?

Life is made up of moments be they good or bad moments. What is it about these brief parcels of time that we store them in our memory to be recalled and reflect on these moments. It sometimes feels like we can take them out and look at them like a diamond or precious gem.

Life’s moments can be good or bad memories. I can clearly recall the moment that I heard of John Lennon being gunned down outside his Dakota apartment building in New York by Mark David Chapman. I can tell you where I was and the shock that gripped me along with grief. I had never been to New York nor had I met John Lennon but it affected me. It was a moment just a moment in time. It is like this for people when it comes to events like when Lady Dianna Spencer died in a car accident or how the 9th of September is forever connected to the terrorist attacks on the United States of America. If I bring it to the more personal level I know the moment that my mother passed away with me by her side.

Moments don’t have to moments of bad news because I still remember holding hands with a girl for the first time when I was in Yr 7 at school. I swear that I could feel electricity surge through me as our fingers entwined. There is the memory of that moment when I know that I am in love. Moments of laughter. Moments with friends. Moments with the sun on my shoulders. Good moments that become great memories.

Sometimes special moments can happen with people you just meet and probably won’t ever see again. One such moment happened a couple of days ago when I went for coffee with a friend of mine. We were at Café Mondeo in Blacktown. As part of my paranoia I try to be aware of everyone and everything around me. I noticed that several people from another table got up to leave, one person went to the counter to pay and this woman in a wheelchair came wheeling towards me. She stopped and we talked. The conversation started because as always my psychiatric assistance dog Buddy was with me and she told me about her assistance dog which is a golden retriever. We didn’t need to ask each other what the dogs do for us or why we had them. It was a moment of two people who had a bond of common understanding because of our dogs. It wasn’t about the dogs it was about that we were equals. It didn’t matter about our disabilities because for a moment it was just two people talking. There wasn’t that awkward question of “why do you need a service dog?” we just talked. It wasn’t a romantic thing but what it was was a moment where I felt normal.

It was an amazing moment. I don’t think that I connected with someone like this for a long time. A moment of understanding. A moment of equals. A moment that I treasure.

In a crowded city and in the crush of depression I was treated as a person. I was treated as normal. I was me.

Service Dog Discrimination Must End!

Today a report surfaced that read, “POLICE have cracked down on a Batemans Bay food outlet after a blind customer with a guide dog was refused entry on Saturday, September 12… The shop owner would not let him enter the store because it was a food outlet”. (Read the article)

I am a person who has an Assistance Dog and while Buddy is not a guide dog it doesn’t make him an less needed for me to  live as normal a life as possible. Buddy is a mindDog. You haven’t heard of mindDog, well, you probably aren’t alone there. The point is that business owners and managers need to know the law. Assistance dogs have been around for sometime now and so the concept is not new. In the short time that Buddy and I have been a team and going out in public (October 2014) we have been kicked out of 3 businesses and one physically. This is an embarrassing event when it happens and it shouldn’t happen. I never mind if a person in any business ask about Buddy and Assistance Dog status. I try and stay calm and explain, show his ID card.

It is time for all the discrimination to stop. I personally think that this man was right in calling the police over being refused entry to a business. I do know a lot of people with Assistance (Service) Dogs think we need to tread carefully and educate the owners and managers. As a person with legal rights I do not think that this is my responsibility. I agree we who have Service Dogs have responsibilities but we also have legal rights. Discrimination in all its forms needs to be ended and if defending our legal rights via legal means maybe the only way. Once businesses know that we are not going to give in, give up or crawl away then things might change.

There are now service dogs assisting people who have impaired vision (guide dogs), impaired hearing (hearing dogs), a physical disability (physical assistance dogs) and psychiatric service dogs (mindDog). I know that there are other assistance dog organisations for other impairments and illnesses but you get the idea. There are more and more ways that dogs help people but none of this is new. If you own a business it is time to know the law and more than this you need to let every member of your staff to know the law to do with Assistance Dogs. It is not my job to do your staff training.

Since Assistance Dogs have been around for some time now this should be a no brainer!

FROTH & BUBBLE, TOIL & TROUBLE!!! R U OK

Today is what I consider a day of froth and bubble or one without substance, this is R U OK day. I know that these thoughts run counter to the media hype and positive vibe we are suppose to feel. I guess this will make me Mr Unpopular!

In my humble opinion I think that R U OK day is so incredibly stupid that it would be funny if it wasn’t about such a serious topic. As I have made clear in previous blogs I suffer from mental health issues. I am probably one of the most out there people when it comes to being open and honest about my illness (quiet I ain’t). What is my problem with a day that is to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day. Well, here is one day in 365 that you ask someone R U OK and tomorrow people won’t ask and won’t care. It is like an abusive husband buying flowers on Valentines Day for the abused wife or an alcoholic father sitting with his kids as they unwrap the Christmas presents. It is both in-congruent and without real meaning.

To all those who don’t give a flying fig for the other 364 days I hope you feel good about yourself today. After all R U OK day is all about you and you feeling good about yourself. If you ask if I am ok today and if I choose to off myself tomorrow you can at least say “I tried to reach out to him” thus clearing your conscience. As John Lennon said “whatever gets you through the night is alright” so at least this is one night you can get through feeling like a great person for asking the question.

Trust me any clown can paint a smile on their face and make you believe they are happy.

The R U OK question doesn’t go deep enough. It doesn’t start a conversation. Is anyone really listening to the answer? Don’t be fooled the world is not going to suddenly become a more caring and loving place. The chill of apathy will descend upon us all tomorrow. Life will go on as it did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. The only mental health issue ever spoken about is depression so there is no new understanding of other mental health issues. There won’t suddenly be a longer que of people wanting to be psychologists or psychiatrists. Governments are not suddenly going to give money to help with mental health issues or to community based groups that can help those who need it. So R U OK?

Then there is this ridiculous “world suicide prevention day” surely you don’t believe that there will be a world without suicide. If you do then you can head home with Peter Pan and Tinker Bell to Never Never Land. I guess once we get the people to stop killing themselves we can have other great days like:

  • No car accident day
  • No drunk people day
  • No domestic violence day

Because by just saying things like R U OK will stop suicides so surely saying Don’t Crash will stop car accidents or Keep Your Hands To Yourself will mean women and children will be safe. If I were to suggest these other days or
agitate for any of these days you would say I was barking mad. Which means we are treating mental health frivolously by giving a day to ask R U OK and that band-aid will not fix the open gaping wound that is suicide.

The life line statistics on suicide in Australia are chilling and state:

  • There are 7 deaths per day by suicide.
  • For every completed suicide it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt suicide.
  • That is around 200 attempts per day.
  • That is more than one new attempt in Australia every 10 minutes.
  • It is estimated that around 250 people will make a suicide plan every day.
  • It is estimated that around 1,000 people will think about suicide at some stage in their day.
  • Men account for 3 our of every 5 deaths by suicide which makes suicide the 10th leading cause of death for men.
  • For those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, the suicide rate is 2.5 times higher for men and   3.4 times higher for females than the national average.

R U OK?

While I do understand that words have power. They have power to hurt, injure and tear someone down they also have the power to heal, sooth and lift up. However, these three words R U OK won’t bring us any closer to either an understanding of mental health issues or stemming the torrent of suicides. This is like trying to hold back a flood using a thimble.

We need to become a more compassionate nation that stops being so focused on our own wants and needs to be able to see that a neighbour might be hurting, or a work colleague or a family member. One day a year isn’t going to do it. R U OK day isn’t going to change a thing. It is like putting lipstick on your granny.

R U OK?

Smoke, Mirrors & Politics

This could have easily have been titled “The Politics of Public Attention”. There are a few threads that need to be unravelled so we can understand the yarn.

There is a national and local focus that seem to emulate one another. Firstly, let me look at the national. Once again the idea of a republic has been raised. Now don’t get me wrong while I am not opposed to the idea I am opposed to the timing. It seems to me that every time a federal government is in trouble they suddenly come up with a topic that will draw attention away from them. The first time that I noticed was when Paul Keating was Prime Minister. Here we now have Joe Hocky backing the idea. He has not been faring well because when the last budget was handed down he was basically marginalised. He need to re-establish himself and regain power. Could part of this be the once powerful wanting to be back where they think they should be? If one has a belief that you were born to rule then this could be a possibility. I don’t have to go into a list of things that are far more important than if we do or don’t have a President. Every day, I see things that need to be done. We have taken money from charities and community groups because the federal government has deemed them unaffordable or unneeded. Over years we have lost personal rights and society has been moved into a less generous and dare I say less Aussie by governments who have cut costs with the mantra of reducing deficit. No one has ever asked me but I would vote for services to the community over mean spirited politics.

Why now? Why a Republic debate? Could it be that the current Federal Liberal Government are on the nose so badly that they need a smoke screen? Is it a matter of adjusting the deck chairs on the Titanic? Is this just a cynical view of politics? The problem is that the older I get the more I seem to have seen it all before and it is time to stop the smoke and mirrors and govern. It is said that you can tell how compassionate a nation is by how it treats the least in society. How do we fare on this score card? It is not time to treat the elite to more power. In my opinion it would be best to bring back the egalitarian society where all are treated with respect.

Now let me turn to a local issue for those living in the Blacktown LGA. There was a vote held in council to have a type of referendum on a name change for the city. Again the push has come from the Liberal’s and one (1) independent. This topic seems to come up with some regularity… Is this another smoke and mirrors trick? I can’t help but wonder what we are not meant to notice. Is there at least one development application that we are having our attention taken away from? Are services being cut? To be honest I don’t know but what I do know is that I have lived in and around Blacktown for a long time and I am extremely proud of my city. If these elected officials aren’t proud to call Blacktown home then here is a novel idea: retire from office.

No matter if the idea is a nation one of a republic or a local one of a name change both are attention grabbing sleight of hand tricks.  Whatever you do just don’t fall for it!

Depression My View

As I start this topic on depression let me state up front that I am NOT a mental health professional. I am just a fellow sufferer. If you are feeling depressed please see your doctor (G.P.) and they will refer you to other mental health professionals. You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you live in Australia.

My journey with mental health goes back a long way. I was first diagnosed with depression at 13, severe depression at 15 and since then the diagnosis changed to bipolar and now to what I believe is the correct diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. In case you have never heard of bipolar it is a combination of bipolar and schizophrenia. As you can see all the diagnosis have had depression as a part of the illness.

I also want to say that I see no shame or stigma in having a mental health issue. I cannot separate myself from my mental health any more successfully than I could separate ownership of my skin. It is just part of who I am. Do I love it? No. Do I want it? No. I have to live with it the same as I have to live with my height, eye colour or skin colour. I think mental health is like heart health. By this I mean we all have a heart but not all of us have heart health issues in the same way that we all have mental health not all of us have mental health issues.

WHAT IS DEPRESSION TO ME?
Well, this is a tricky question because each person that suffers from this insidious illness will describe it differently. The way that I describe it is like a thick black fog. This fog is devoid of light, hope, peace, joy, love. It is like a blackness that descends on me without warning. There is no cause for it. So many times well meaning friends will ask me, what caused my depression. These people live in a world of cause and effect. I guess it could be called the world of equal and opposite reactions. With my depression this is not the case because it is like someone just flicks a switch from light to darkness and back again. My depression can last an hour or two, ten hours, ten days, in fact, there is no way of knowing how long it will last. I get completely overwhelmed by it. There are times that I cannot get out of bed let along out of the house. When I am in the grip of this black fog I give up caring and life. Yes, you can be disabled by your depression that is why I keep saying “Not Every Disability Is Visible”.

DEPRESSION Vs SADNESS or UNHAPPINESS
On of the things that really gets to me is when I hear people who don’t have depression say they are feeling depressed when what they are feeling is unhappy or sad. Depression is made of many things it is not just feeling blue. Within depression there is: fear, anxiety, self hate or loathing, sadness, anxiety, panic and a blackness that is just indescribable. There are so many emotions and thoughts flooding over me. It is like being in an ocean of emotion and not being able to stand up against the waves that pound me. It is not just a matter of cheer up or don’t worry it may never happen because it already is happening. If you are just feeling blue or unhappy or sad please don’t say you are depressed because that  is like saying you have a brain tumour when all you have is a headache!

I don’t know if I have helped anyone understand depression or even aided the cause of those who suffer from this terrible illness and that is what it is and illness. I don’t think that I am anyone special or that I have all the answers because the more I live with this illness the more it baffles me. I just hope that I have helped you have a better conversation with someone who is suffering from depression. If you are the one who suffers I hope this may help you open up to those around you. The more we talk the more we end the stigma.

If you are feeling like you want to self harm please see your doctor (G.P.) and they will refer you to other mental health professionals. You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you live in Australia.


Greetings & Salutations

In life they say there are no “do-overs”, no starting again, no re-launch, no next time. In many ways this blog dispels the theory. Before I go into all of that I must introduce myself.

Welcome to the boy in a bubble blog. This blog and the desire to blog have come out of my ramblings on my Facebook page. I had never thought of blogging until it was suggested by friends who read my scrawls on the aforementioned Facebook. I must say that I was greatly encouraged by their desire to see me expand my ideas. TA DA!!! Here I am!

The reason that this blog is called Boy in a bubble is because that is how I see my life, as if lived in a bubble. The world seems to happen around me and without me. I think that the Beatles expressed it the best “life goes on within you and without you”.

Not only is this blog me starting over but ever single day that I get up out of bed is a “do-over”. My bubble is part of my disability which is as invisible to most people as I am. My disability is that I deal with mental health issues and some days the battle seems tougher to win than on others. The issues I live with and battle are: schizoaffective disorder; agoraphobia; paranoid delusions, anxiety and panic attacks. Not every disability is visible.

I have the world’s best service dog (officially he is an Assistance Dog) Buddy. Buddy is a 4 and half year old Cavoodle and he is certified through mindDog. If you are looking for them online then go to www.minddog.org.au they are fantastic. Before mindDog and Buddy my life was rubbish. Without Buddy I cannot even go to my mailbox let alone out into public places. My life has changed so much since he has become a part of it.  For those who like to know the details… Buddy is a Cavoodle which means that he is a combination of Cavalier King Charles spaniel and Poodle parents. I did not ever meet his parents as he came from the Hawkesbury Animal Shelter in Windsor N.S.W (www.hawkesbury.nsw.gov.au/services/places-and-facilities/animal-shelter). So he is a rescue. Buddy is so perfect for me. I am amazed by how much I love this guy which is a good thing since we spend 24/7 together. Buddy has been with me on trains and gosh I hate public transport, to… the shops, cafés, the Sydney Opera House, hospitals, bush walks, TAFE and anywhere I go. I do some talks to community groups about mental health issues, mindDog and Buddy.  Come on who wouldn’t want to talk about this amazing guy.  Trust me if you stay with this blog you will be seeing more of Buddy.

I am also a Christian and go to an Anglican church. Faith is a major part of my life. While I do not believe that this blog will become a religious one but it would be impossible for me not to view the world through this world view. I mention this to be completely up front and honest.

I am into various hobbies and interests. Among these include photography, knitting (yes I am a male who knits…), spin fibre into yarn and community radio. The radio station that I am involved with is SWR FM 99.9 the station can be found online at www.swrfm.org or on Facebook www.facebook.com/swrfm999 you should check it out.

Thank you for dropping by and checking out my blog. I hope you will come back again soon.