Recently I have been contemplating the good rather than the bad of my mental illness. This all started out from a question that my GP asked me: Can you see any positives in your disorder? No, not in my life but my disorder. If I had to answer the question: are there any good things in your life? I am prepared for that one but this took me completely by surprise. I mumbled some incoherent response but it started me thinking about the question. Most if not all the questions are about the negative and bad areas of my mental illness. As I have mentioned before my illness is multi-faceted and includes:
- Schizoaffective Disorder
- Generalise Anxiety Disorder
- Paranoid Personality Disorder
- Panic Disorder
I have also been seeing doctors, be they GPs or psychiatrists about my mental illnesses since I was 13 (not to mention a passing parade of counsellors, psychologists and others who put out a similar shingle). After all this time questions are nothing new and up until this resent meeting with my GP all the questions had been pretty much the same: how you doing; how has your week been; have you self-harmed (as in cut myself); have you had thoughts of suicide; do you have a suicide plan; blah, blah, blah. I am sure that you either get the picture or are used to having these questions asked. However, I had never been asked the question “can you see any positives in your disorder” before. I couldn’t dismiss it nor could I let it go. Once my mind locks on something, I can never let it go. The words kept echoing in my mind. If I slept, I woke up to this question. The voices in my head played havoc with me as I continued to ponder these eight (8) words though it morphed into CAN I SEE ANY POSITIVES IN MY MENTAL ILLNESS. Slowly but eventually the answer came as a yes. I must admit at first it was a faint “maybe” but the more I dwelt on the question the firmer that the yes became.
Friends. I have never had such amazing friends. If someone puts up their hand and says I am a friend to someone with mental illness then they are an amazing person. The people that I call friend have seen me at my best and worst, at my highest and lowest points and love me anyway. They have sat with me in my depression and run beside me in my mania phases. They have listened while I have shouted and screamed at the voices that they tell me they cannot hear. They have driven me to the emergency ward of the hospital when they feared that I may off myself.
My friends have stood by my decision to look into getting a psychiatric service dog. One friend use to print out information about various breeds of dogs for me right when the idea was in the embryonic stages. When I could talk about nothing else but getting an assistance dog, they listened patiently and never once told me to shut up. While they may not have been able to see the benefits or impact that a mindDog (www.minddog.org.au) may have they encouraged me to keep going. Once my psychiatric assistance dog Buddy, became part of my life they accepted him. At no time did they ask me not to have him with me or tell me that they were embarrassed that he was with me.
My friends are awesome and if you are friends with someone with a mental illness then you are awesome too.
I think that this is summed up best by Stephen Fry, the great British actor and comedian who once said, “If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
The way that I think. Ok, this one may seem odd but I look at issues differently. I don’t see the glass as half empty nor do I see it as half full but I see it has something in it and more interested in what it is. If someone tells a joke I analysis it. I need to know why those two guys were in the bar or the logic of it. This part can frustrate some people that I talk to but my brain works differently and to me that is a positive. I used to try to blend my thinking to those I was in conversation with but over time, I have learnt to embrace my difference. I am able to see that there are not two sides to an argument but so many more. Sometimes this makes answering someone’s question quite difficult because I see more to it or my answer comes from a different point of view to what was asked because of how my mind works. To be honest I do love that I think about things differently to other people. Often people say, I never thought of it that way. So yes, this is a positive.
Creativity. I see the world differently and helps with my creativity. I have found others with mental illness to be super creative too like my friends: Dawn-Joy, Ell, Arielle and Sally. These are four of the most creative people I have ever met and propel me onto a greater depth of creativity.
I choose many creative outlets like spinning fibre into yarn, knitting, colouring in and photography. My greatest creative outlet is photography because it lets me express what I think or feel about the world around me. My creativity helps me see, feel, express myself and connects me both to the world around me and to others. It is something that I love.
Introspection. As someone with mental illness, I am asked an incredible amount of questions. I always need to know how I felt in a given moment to answer the question “how did you feel about blah, blah?” Over time, I have become good at knowing what is happening with my thoughts and emotions. I have learnt to be introspective and self-regulating. While it is true that the illness sometimes takes away this ability, I am able to know that when I start to consume a large amount of sugar or crave sweet foods then a depression is looming. When in the depression my introspection may falter, I am able to know what is happening in the lead up and to take precautions if I can or at least warn others about what is happening.
I am so connected to my thoughts and feelings and I like that.
It is me. I didn’t ask for mental illness but I have it. In fact I was first diagnosed when I was 13 by a very switched on GP who sent me to see a psychiatrist. I have lived with being ill for 41 years. I hate the illness but it is part of me. In at least some ways it makes up who I am today. So I guess since I don’t like the illness I have to admit it has shaped the adult that I am.
Recently, I have started to do talks to other groups like Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, V.I.E.W Clubs, and PROBUS Clubs about mindDog and mental illness. Without the illness, I wouldn’t have Buddy (my ace service dog) or be able to talk to groups about this stuff.
While there are many, many, many negatives and struggles with my mental illness, I am glad my doctor challenged me to think. Anyone struggling with mental illness will tell you that it isn’t fun or wanted so please don’t hear in any of this that it is ok because it isn’t. I just wanted to be able to look from a different point of view even if only for a moment.
I am me. I have mental illness. I am alive. I struggle. I am me. I ride unicorns.
Where does the hatred come from?
I don’t mean the hatred of other people, races or religions. I can honestly say I don’t think that I hate, truly hate anyone. I also cannot say that I am always at harmony with those around me but I don’t hate them.
The hate that I am talking about is the hate of self. Where does it come from? I have spent many hours throughout my life asking the question why was I born. I am not a great thinking. I am not a great artist. To be honest I don’t really do anything well. If mediocrity had its lowest common denominator then I would be it. People don’t understand my self deprecating humour, I have often heard statements like ‘stop putting yourself down’. If I don’t say it, you’ll be thinking it so I say it. That humour is to get the truth out in the open.
From the moment that I read Job chapter 3 I thought that it could be words I penned about me. In case you don’t know Job, it is a book in the Old Testament of the Bible, just to give you a taste of what I mean here is an extract:
After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’ That day–may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine upon it. May darkness and deep shadow claim it once more; may a cloud settle over it; may blackness overwhelm its light. That night–may thick darkness seize it; may it not be included among the days of the year nor be entered in any of the months. May that night be barren; may no shout of joy be heard in it. May those who curse days curse that day, those who are ready to rouse Leviathan. May its morning stars become dark; may it wait for daylight in vain and not see the first rays of dawn, for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me to hide trouble from my eyes. “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?
The chapter is longer but you get the idea. I have always thought that my birth was a mistake or putting into more plain english I should never have been born. Did I some how slip through God’s quality control? I know I am a malfunctioning model because of my mental health issues. I don’t know if I am incapable of love but I know I am not worthy of it.
Where does the hate come from?
From the age of 6 I said that I would never marry and so far I have kept my word. I grew up in a very violent family though to be honest it was more directed from my father towards my mother. My earliest memories of them are bloody fights (yes, where blood was spilt). From the time I could walk I was always trying to get in between them to stop my mother from being hurt. Was that were the hate come from? Was it my fault? To this day I don’t know and telling me that I am not to blame really is stupid. Why would I marry only to perpetuate this type of relationship? I wouldn’t, no, I couldn’t, bring a child into the world and have them see what I have seen and felt. I have never been to war but have lived in a battle zone!
John Lennon penned these lyrics:
How can I give love when I don’t know what it is I’m giving?
How can I give love when I just don’t know how to give?
How can I give love when love is something I ain’t never had?
Love is a very hurtful, deceptive thing.
Where does the hate come from?
This is a deep down loathing. No, this isn’t a little thing of oh I didn’t do that well because I do nothing well. You may think that is just a pity party but what I am trying to express goes much deeper than that. I deserve nothing because that is what I am. I am not expecting you to understand. I am not sure I understand. I am just expressing.
Where does the hate come from?
I don’t think that this hate comes from my parents or siblings or those who thought it was fun when at school to bully me. Those long days of relentless bullying by teachers and students. We moved so many times that the notion of friends became like a dream, a desire, something longed for but never realised. We moved so much that friendships or what I might call friendships became transitory. When people say they are catching up with old friends I am bewildered by the idea.
Where does the hate come from?
Is it being born into an Aboriginal family but having white skin or as close to as possible. Does this hate come from not feeling I belong in either society the Aboriginal or the European? Does it come from clawing at my skin to find the Aboriginal skin? Does it come from people not seeing who I really am? If I mention my culture people either eye me suspiciously or ask the dumbest questions. I am denied full access to either.
Where does the hate come from?
Does it come from the desire not to be a gender. Being male is to me a shameful thing. It is men who hurt women. It is men who rape. It is men who destroy the land in a desire to be wealthy. I have never wanted to be female. I do not desire gender reassignment. I just don’t want to be male. I constantly see the things males do and I don’t want to be connected to that even by gender. Men breed children, don’t love them and often leave. There was what was called a joke when I was growing up, the Australian male is like the wombat: eats roots and leaves. Basically it is true. Men drink to feel good about themselves or to numb the pain and then inflict it on other people.
Where does the hate come from?
It comes from deep down. It is within me and without me.
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!
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?
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.
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.