Yet Another Year

DIngo…Has Passed

And this year, so much has changed in my life.

Some for better/some for worse.

In many ways, 2012 was an annus horribilis – right up there with 1983, 1992 and 2005.

Is there a discernible pattern there?

Not really, except that the years 1992 and 2005 are actually the worst years in cycles of bad years (2004-2008, being particularly awful).

So what was it about 2012 that made it so damned wrong?

I guess most of it stems from a deep dissatisfaction with my work. I had been promoted to director of research in 2010  – a job where I was expected to be largely office-bound, concerned mainly with strategic management and the Quest For Ever More Efficiency in The System.

For someone who thrives on being in the field, with quality thinking time spent on those long drives to field locations, this was a form of slow death. I was told by a management consultant (who, incidentally, has decided that the tiny little organisation for which I used to work should be structured like a lumbering, top-heavy, big government bureaucracy), that a lot of my time as a director should be spent thinking.

Really?

How was I supposed to do this when I was not doing one, but two jobs?

I was also the operational manager of the Darwin office for most of this time. I’d been doing this role since September 2010, in addition to my former manager position.  So I was Director/Manager -Darwin. Which means, of course, that the daily operations -the brushfires and emergencies- take precedence over the lumbering cogs of strategic planning and management.

One can only perform two full time jobs for so long – and then something has to give.

Which it did.

Long service leave* did the rest (*you get 3 months off in Australia, paid full time leave, if you’ve worked for the same organisation for over 10 years).

Burning Out

altar1

You know something is very, very wrong when you flip out – and I mean completely descend into a state of panicked depression and massive anxiety- after you’ve had six weeks off.

So much happened all at once. The issues look something like this:

  • I didn’t like the job I’m doing
  • I worked with an office bully. Three staff members had asked me how to deal with this bully, and began steps to report this person, only to ‘wait and see’ when they realised who serious these allegations are.  I did not wish to work with this person anymore. I simply did not have the energy any longer to manage their insecurity.
  • I disagreed with direction in which the agency was going
  • Google’s Penguin update
  • Having two lots of abdominal surgery
  • Coming home to my parents having rearranged my kitchen (minor, I know, but sooo stresful at the time)
  • Going back to work and feeling like I really wasn’t needed
  • Having a 3 monthly performance appraisal slapped in my face in the second week back (this was the straw that broke MY back)

Descent into Darkness

Stephen Fry’s clip (below) explains exactly what happened to me.

Eerily, so freakin close to what I did.

The morning I walked out, I had an email about the routine, 3 monthly performance review which all managers (apparently) had to undergo.

I disagreed with the content of the previous 3 monthly review, which I had not seen, nor had it been discussed with me. It had been filled in (I assume) by the HR Director and the CEO.

That was it.

I broke.

I told the office manager I was going home.

I then took as many sleeping pills as I could find.

I wanted to die.

Somewhere in before I passed out completely, the office manager texted me, concerned (the HR Director was really concerned, too). I replied that I wouldn’t be texting anyone anymore, or something to that effect.

My next memory is of the office manager in my bedroom, trying to wake me up, asking me if I knew where I was, my phone number, how many pills I’d taken.

(Note to self: apparently, you can take an entire bottle of 10mg Temazapam tablets and NOT die).

Obviously, I didn’t die.

But I was very, very sick.

Head Shrink

My workplace, bless their little hearts, sent me off on ‘sick leave’, and to one of those government-contract psychologists that you get 6 free consultations from. Until he deemed me fit, I would be unable to return to work.

Seriously, the guy was a complete douche. Let’s just say that he and I had a personality clash from the first day. Whenever I think of him now, that song I Whip My Hair (you know that REALLY inane, annoying song), comes into my head.

He had a classic mid-length bob haircut.

And he was balding.

sad-pup

Ok. Time to be serious.

His abrupt, confrontational style WAS NOT what someone as highly sensitive and in such a black pit of depression as myself needed. He would challenge me to try and not feel as I was feeling, AND MOCK ME by sarcastically repeating turns of phrase that I commonly used.

At the first appointment, he told me straight out that I wouldn’t be able to go back to work for a long time. This freaked me out.

Why did it freak me out?

Because some part of me just wanted to be normal and get back on with life and my job, as much as I hated it. I was ashamed that I had burnt out, cracked and just walked out of the office and then tried to kill myself (3rd time, actually).

The only good thing to come out of the four appointments I dragged myself to with this douche was that he picked up on the cyclic nature of my depression and the failure of antidepressants to have any effect.

He took a complete life history and asked did I ever getting feelings of invincibility or huge highs.

Yes, I replied, I did.

All my life, I’d had what I would dismiss as fads -where I was obsessed with a particular thing- and high achievement portals, where I seemed to have super-human focus and was able to achieve anything I set my mind to.

I thought this was normal.

I thought everyone was like that… they found something which gave them meaning and direction in their life, took it by the horns and ran with it until they’d brought it to fruition or they’d grown tired of it.

Once these phases of hyper-drive passed, I was usually left with a sad little hole -a loss of meaning- in my life and frequently, a few weeks or months of mild level depression.

Again, I thought this was normal. I thought EVERYONE was like this and that I was just really bad at dealing with life when I had no ‘passion’ driving me.

I WAS WRONG. WRONG–> WRONG–>

When you’re galloping along at a great speed, it is better than any drug you can ever take…” – Carrie Fisher on having a bipolar high.

None of this was ‘normal’ – it was classic bipolar symptoms. And the failure of antidepressants to ease my pain was further evidence.

I *might* be bipolar II was the message that I came away with.

Believe me when I say that I wasn’t just settling for one, douchy diagnosis.

Chapter 3, in Which I Get A Real Psychiatric Diagnosis

Things were moving fast.

The weeks were passing and the CEO and HR Manager wanted to have a meeting with me about my role. This made me very uneasy – even though, deep down, these were both very nice people and wouldn’t be doing anything awful to me.

I am telling you this because everything seemed to happen at once.

I was having two lots of abdominal surgery and having to recover from that.

I was freaking out everytime I had to see douche-psych.

So I called up our local government mental health department. They put me on suicide watch and got me in to see a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist was a cool, sensitive guy.

Fairly young, but with a gentle-wise demeanor. Although the first meeting was awkward and long, I felt that I could work with him.

He confirmed the bipolar II dignosis, and on my second visit, recommended that I try Quetiapine on a low dosage.

As usual, I Googled this drug and there’s every side effect known to humanity appearing before my eyes. The most common being WEIGHT GAIN and intense drowsiness.

Radacher-quote

In between my first and second visits with the psych, I had the dreaded meeting by phone with the CEO & HR.

It was not nice.

The message they sent me was a hard, cold slap in the face: there was no room for me to be ill or faff about getting used to a medication that would make me sleep half the day.

They wanted to remove me from the director’s position and wanted me back at work ASAP.

They were ‘in crisis’.

Oh really?

I was devastated and totally non-functional.

Worst thing of all, during the phone call, I couldn’t speak. I just could not make myself speak or say anything.

I felt like a stroke victim, robbed of muscular and neural control.

This meeting took place on a Wednesday afternoon, via phone.

I thought about suicide for the next 3 days.

Constantly.

If I’d had pills, I would have taken them.

Finally, on the Monday, I woke up ANGRY.

If they (my bosses) wished to be such arseholes after the two years in which I’d worked two jobs for them (incidentally, they saved around $90K per year by NOT employing a manager in the Darwin office and getting their pound of flesh and sanity from me), then I wasn’t going to be pushed around.

By the end of the day, I would either have a contract and start my own business OR I would find another job.

God Finds My Car Parking Spaces or The Power of A Correct Diagnosis

“…God is saving you parking spots, every song on the radio is playing for you, you’re enthusiastic about everyone and you want everyone to be enthusiastic about you.” – Carie Fisher (again) on the bipolar high.

I started to read books by bipolar sufferers. Some of them were full bipolar I, but many were bipolar II.

In so many of these accounts, I found myself.

The quote from Carrie Fisher is EXACTLY what it’s like to be in the middle of a superb bipolar high. I have my own terms for this, synchronicities, connections, creative links. It’s an amazing period when you can really do anything, you have so much energy, you can get by on 4 hours sleep, things magically organize around you and fall into place.

Yet, I always thought this was normal.

I truly, really thought that everyone experienced life like this.

It was, I’ll admit, disappointing to find out that others don’t have this experience. It’s the nice side of being bipolar in my opinion.

The downside is … well, the much longer, more insidious downs. The depressions that can go on for months, or in my case, years.

And it is these downs which often mask the diagnosis of bipolar, causing it to be treated as one of the suite of depressions in the DSM-IV.

This means that many people suffering from bipolar are never correctly diagnosed, and they carry on with failed anti-depressant treatment after treatment. Suffering miserably.

The problem is that no one ever presents for psychiatric treatment when they’re on a high – (unless they’re on a full-blown hypermania, doing drugs, pretending to be superman or convinced they can read people’s minds).

Most people are like me – convinced that the pleasant euphoric highs and ability to focus and achieve are just gifts we’ve been born with.

All of this adds up to either a mis-diagnosis or the usual 10 years of failed depression-based treatments, to arrive at a correct diagnosis of bipolar.

And correct diagnosis means correct treatment.

I am happy to say that I’ve been on the Quetiapine (100mg per day) for 7 months and it is the best medication I’ve ever had.

For me, correct diagnosis equated with correct treatment.

Part of the insidious nature of bipolar II is insomnia. I’ve suffered from insomnia for my entire adult life.

If I had ANY superpower, it would be the power to fall asleep anywhere, anytime.

That just doesn’t happen for me.

However, what I didn’t know was all of the links between insomnia and bipolar highs and lows. Yes, Carrie Fisher said she went 6 days without sleeping. Well, I wasn’t like that, but let’s just say that I functioned on 3 or 4 hours sleep for weeks at a time, due to racing thoughts, creativity, worry, anxiety or a mixture of all.

With the Quetiapine, the insomnia has been tamed.

It took about two weeks for me to get used to it – and even now, there’s times when I take it and I am knocked out within half an hour.

The highs and lows…

I still feel highs and lows. Mostly the lows, which the Quetiapine doesn’t seem to work on very well.

However the highs… I still get them but they’re at a level where they’re sustainable. If anything, whereas before I was like a sprinter with these highs and they consumed EVERYTHING, now I’m like a marathon runner – I’ve been able to enjoy the highs and harness them.

As for weight gain…

Pfft!

I’m convinced that people in internet depression forums blame their obesity on their drugs most of the time. If you’re eating a healthy diet and exercising, you’re just not going to stack on the weight.

Whilst I can understand that you might be made drowsy by your medication, this usually passes after a few weeks.

Someone will disagree with me on this point, I know. Before you do – I am a fitness freak and no bloody pill is going to make me fat.

But There’s This…

Unlike depression, which is widely accepted and now much more discussed in society, bipolar has the ‘crazy’ stigma attached to it.

I cannot tell people that I am bipolar.

Not unless I know and trust them. About 6 people outside of my partner and children know of my illness.

Even my parents do not know.

Which is part of the reason I wrote this blog post.

I am getting on with my life (more on that next post), but I have this huge freakin crazy-woman illness that I’m stuck with for the rest of my life.

My life isn’t perfect and it’s stupid to think that it will be, but then it doesn’t majorly suck, either.

However, having bipolar is like having an affair.

It’s a dirty little secret, best not spoken of. It’s shameful, immoral and nice, ordinary people don’t do it.

And I guess that’s how I’m going to end this post.

It’s not something I can yet speak publicly about – but write and blog about it…

I guess I can.

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Once Upon a Time… or Yes, It’s True That My Body is Part of my Mental Health

This post follows on from yesterday’s post. I have down days, and writing about my feelings is the main way in which I process such mental states. Yesterday’s post was one such post. Today’s post is an archaeology of the self. A glimpse at the person behind the blogging persona… the real person who loves to exercise, who is and has been an endurance athlete and who was born with a naturally lean, hard athletic body.

I love my muscly calves (which look ridiculous in spindly high heels).  I love that I can ask my body to walk up mountains, to run 10 km, to hit the floor and pump out 30 push ups on my toes. I adore my small, almost flat breasts. In contrast to other many other women, working with the body that I was blessed with has been the doorway into my soul. Maintaing my bodily vehicle remains the cornerstone of my mental health.

Here is My Story. Straight from the heart.

As a child, I was outgoing, precocious and perhaps a little too confident. I was a slighty nerdy Tomboy, who hated dresses, Barbie dolls, playing mothers and fathers and all the usual things little girls did. Instead of dollies and make up, my life was one of adventure, bike riding, horses (I owned two), playing in the bush, reading books, inventing fantasy worlds and cultures with my friends (this is my best friend from primary school) and getting involved in a few outdoorsy-type sports. I was an explosive ball of energy. In essence, the child I was has shaped the adult that I am.

I was a disappointment to my mother who wanted a girly-girl, not a bookish, half-wild Tomboy. In many ways, my own daughter has fulfilled this role for her. I didn’t fail my father: I was his fishing, bushwalking and handyman mate (so was my brother). Dad understands me in a way that Mum never has.

At age 15 my boundless confidence and exuberance vanished. Overnight, I discovered that I was a young woman, and that I was sorely lacking many of the things that society dictates as being desirable in a woman: for example, being tall and long legged, being slender but not muscular, being able to fuss and primp endlessly over clothes, looks, hair, shoes and handbags. At that stage, I also lived near the beachside suburb of Cronulla (in Sydney’s south),  so having a good tan was a must. I failed on that variable, too.

Another other aspect of my retreat from self confidence related to boyfriends and bullying. I am purposely lumping together ‘boyfriends and bullying’. My first boyfriend was a serious, capital L looser whose repulsive actions resulted in me being bullied at high school.

The Loser was the kind of guy that most parents dread: a barely literate high school dropout with no idea about personal hygiene and no concept of responsibility. He was a guy with no work ethic, no job prospects (or interest in getting a job) and zero interest in going back to high school. The Loser was also mentally unbalanced: not only was he a compulsive liar (worse, he actually believed his own bullshit), he refused to leave me alone when I told him it was over after 3 months. Instead, he resorted to threatening self-harm or threatening to set his own house on fire (which he did). Eventually, he held up a petrol station and ended up in juvenile custody. A real quality guy…

However, my self esteem was so low at that time, I thought the Loser was the only kind of boyfriend that a girl like me deserved. After all, I lacked nearly all of the attributes that our society deems valuable in women.

The Loser, thankfully, was out of my life in a relatively short time (about 11 months), but his putridness stained me. He stalked me and my friends for another 18 months after my father told him to piss off at my request (I’d been trying to tell him to fuck off for 6 months but he refused to listen to me). He threatened a guy I started dating a few months later, who was a really nice, decent guy (this is Mark’s website. He is my daughter’s father).  Thankfully, Mark –who as far as I know has never been in a fight in his life- called the Loser’s bluff, and the Loser backed down from all confrontations, and apologised.

My point is this: the Loser and the period of time marked by his stain were responsible for creating in me an internalised belief that I was short, fat and ugly. This is a powerful tape in my life, and I revert to it now when I get depressed. Certainly, there was an element of truth in this belief. Whilst I’d been seeing the Loser, I recall living on fast food and doing almost no exercise. I put on weight.  Once I’d stopped seeing the Loser, some of this weight disappeared.

As a consequence of the Loser’s stain on my life, I underwent some pretty weird behavioural changes. For example, for years afterward, I could not go out of the house without:

  • Wearing full makeup, including (yechhh!) foundation (triple yech!!)
  • Wearing a collared shirt (for some reason, I thought this drew attention away from my litany of physical flaws)
  • Ensuring my knees weren’t showing (I hated my knees)
  • Ensuring that my hair always covered my ears (I thought they were big! Which they are most definitely not)

This kind of self-loathing continued until age 19.

And then I started cycling.

Cycling changed everything. Within in 6 weeks, I was eating a healthy diet, began going to gym classes, began running again. Of course, I lost some weight. (Please note that I was not overweight. I never have been). Yet these were only the outer, physical changes. Inside, the benefits of exercise wrought far deeper beneficial changes.

I regained the self esteem and confidence that the Loser had stolen from me. I was suddenly and unintentionally whole, both psychologically and spiritually in a way that I had not been since I was a child. My interest in spiritual development blossomed, my outlook on the world became positive. Everything I needed flowed effortlessly into my life, like some big 1980s new age cliche. In all, as I worked on my outer shell and my body changed, or should I say reverted to a truer form rooted in childhood, so too did my inner world and all aspects of life.

To be disconnected from this deep truth as I have been over the past 6 months is to be out of balance. Massively out of balance with dire consequences for my mental health.

For me, this precedes a descent into depression, a loss of self confidence and an accompanying social phobia. It has nothing to do with me conforming to society’s cultural norms about women’s bodies: women should be skinny but lacking muscular definition, women should not sweat, women should not be physically strong, women should not lift weights etc. Nor is this about me viewing myself as a ‘body’ and only being worthy as a body.

This is about me being true to my soul… me wanting to return to who I really am.

That was what yesterday’s post -a plaintive cry to the self- was about. Just like a shaman accesses inner worlds where transformation can take place, I access such places via my body. For other people, this journey comes about when they begin to study meditation, yoga, spiritual discipline.  For me, it’s exercise and the finely tuned vehicle. When I am in this finely tuned outer state,  everything -and I mean everything- in my life comes into balance.

Thus, the connection between my physical state and my mental health lies at the core of who I am. I don’t expect others to understand this connection… after all -it is my connection. Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy soul. It might sound like a cheesy marketing line for Metamucil, but it ain’t. It’s the simple, pure truth about who I really and truly am.

So yes, I am happy to say I am back at the gym and back into running, just as I went back to yoga two months ago, and I’m loving it all. I want to push myself simply because I enjoy pushing myself physically. It relaxes me -seriously!-I work out to relax like other people flop on the lounge in front of the TV. And I find pure, unadulterated joy in using my body and playing with its edges.

Sometimes I will have bumps on the road -like yesterday- where I look back and acknowledge that I’m not how I usually am –I allow myself to feel remorse sadness for what was. I allow it so I can write about it and move on.

Let the journey begin.

Tomorrow: Benny’s post and why it’s relevant to this discussion

Black Dog Flabby

How far I’ve fallen from my former self (in the physical form) came starkly back to me today. At lunch time I had a chance meeting with a fantastic young woman, Lindsey, who’s taken over my old spot at the gym, teaching Body Attack.

 If anyone doubts that something like Body Attack can change your body, then you’d only have to look at a photo of Lindsey 6 months ago and one taken today. She looked fit previously, but now she has the lean athletic look that I had for most of my life. Quite simply, Lindsey looks awesome.

 But in the past 6 months with the thesis and depression, I’ve lost my hard athletic look. I haven’t put on weight, but I’ve lost muscle and the firmness it gives.

This really depresses me: I’m 43 in April, I’ll NEVER be able to get back to how good I looked even 6 months ago, much less how I looked at my peak, 3 years ago

It’s a deeply ingrained belief in my head: I am OVER 40 and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to look hard and athletic without liposuction –don’t worry, I’ve already had a quote and it’s very tempting- and spending 3 hours per day exercising. (Please note that two hours is acceptable. Most days, before I went to Canberra, did what needed to be done to finish the thesis and got really depressed again, I did 2 hours of exercise most days).

 NOW there is something blocking me.  Something deep and black.

 I hate it. I want my body –myself– my self esteem and confidence, back…

 I want to come back to me.

Islands of Healing

Eat, Love, Pray (ELP) never gave Bali the justice it deserved. The Bali presented in ELP is a vapid new-agey paradise. Thankfully, the Bali I know is not the Western fantasy of shamanic healers, spa baths in luxury enclaves or woo-hoo new age retreats. Each year, I visit Indonesia. This year, I needed to push back my retreat into depression. Bali is only 2 1/2 hours from Darwin by air, so it was the logical place to go.

There are a few reasons why I keep going back to Indonesia, and to Bali, in particular. It’s close and the air fares are cheap (by Australian standards). I speak functional Indonesian  -meaning I can understand most things, such as popular TV shows, advertisements, signs, and communicate all the necessities of daily life (which includes endless discussions about family, children, comparisons of life in Bali vs life in Australia). I owe my language ability to a semester spent at university in Yogyakarta in 1996, and to my love of learning languages (Hindi is next!). I would love to be fluent in Indonesian which would involve me living there for a while (long term goals: I would love to be an ESL teacher in Indonesia or work on a development or conservation project as an anthropologist for a year. This won’t happen until son Ben finishes high school).

Language, accessible cultural immersion, and the freedom delivered by Mr Anthroyogini’s expert bersepeda motor (scooter riding) to explore the bumpy dirt tracks, bukit-bukit (hills) and desa-desa (villages) of Bali make the experience deep and rich. And healing.

I suspect there is a connection between water and healing for me. Bali is green and lush (despite this, there is a water shortage crisis looming in Bali). We always visit in Musim Hujan (the monsoon), to make sure we see lots of rain. Visiting Bali in the monsoon might sound crazy to many people, but I live in a place where the annual rainfall is only 250mm (10 inches) per year. Bali is also cooler than Alice Springs at the moment, with daily maximum temperatures of 29-33 degrees Celsius vs Alice Springs’s 38-42 degrees. Thus, the prevalence of water, I suspect, seeps into my skin, into my core and washes me clean.

Then, there are doing things that I don’t normally do: like diving and snorkelling, spending lots of time relaxing on the beach (in secret locations, away from drunken bogans), or riding about on the scooter.

All this is a prelude to the profound changes that took place during the time we were in Indonesia.

By the beginning of the second week, when we were on Gili Air, off the coast of Lombok, I found that I was happy again. The black shadow of depression, a heavy fug that had left me struggling and bereft of my usual bounding physical energy, had let go. I had returned to me. But there were other changes, too.

For a long time, I’d wanted to stop drinking alcohol everyday. In the Northern Territory (and in Australia), alcohol is a major facet of our culture. In moderation, I have no problem with this. However, in the NT alcohol is an obsession. Since moving to Alice Springs in 2001, I had shifted from a social drinker to longing for a glass of wine as soon as I came home of an evening. Worse, the nightcap of port that I’d been having for years (predating my move to the NT), had increased to two or more and in larger volume.

No matter what I did to kick them, I found alcohol cravings pervasive and hard to ignore. I don’t mind having a drink, but I don’t want to need to have a drink.

However, my Indonesian holiday has cured me of these cravings. I did drink in Indonesia, but it was confined to social events. The night time port cravings have gone. I intend to keep it this way, drinking only on weekends or socially.

Then, there was the week that Gary and I spent as vegetarians. Indeed, when we’re in Indonesia we never eat Western food. Ideally, I would like to eat mainly vegetarian meals, reserving meat for only two or three times per week. However, it’s hard when you’re in a family who don’t share that desire. I don’t really want to be cooking multiple main meals at night, either. Anyway, the vegetarian week has opened Gary up to the possibility of having a few vege main meals. I brought back some Bumbu Gado Gado (proper Gado Gado spices), so I envisage a few scrummy nights of Gado Gado on the horizon. Know I know there’s no hassle getting Indonesian spices into Australia, I’ll be stocking up next time we go over.

I’m keen to continue the vegetarian meals… I just have to find recipes that my two meat-lovin’ fellas will fall over themselves raving about.

Although relinquishing my need to drink alcohol and becoming mainly vegetarian were aspirations for me, I never consciously set out to explore them on my holiday. Yet they happened. Like the cleansing of water,  my depression and the subtle yet annoying cravings for alcohol were healed. As a bonus, I gave up meat without thinking about it.

I’m not going to do an Elizabeth Gilbert and attribute to Bali some semi-mystical properties it doesn’t really have. I think the combination of disengagement from everyday surrounds and routines and the availability of downtime were what healed me.

Now, I am ready to return to my usual exercise, yoga and gym regimes. I’m even looking forward to going back to work.

And the Rain Came…

Last year, Alice Springs had only 77mm (about 3 inches) of rain for the entire year.

In the past two days, we’ve had 134mm (over 5 inches)…

The Todd River, usually a dry sandy expanse fringerd by towering River Red Gums, has broken its banks. It’s a swirling, muddy morass, flowing out into the Simpson Desert and recharging our precious underground water supply.

We don’t get a lot of rain here, and we love it when it rains. There’s crazy tourists to watch, who take loads of photos of the Todd River in flow. And there’s locals, who just stand and watch the river, the rain, the clouds, enjoying something we don’t often see. Of course, there will be an explosion of mosquitoes (mozzies in Australian English), ready to gobble my blood.

Apparently, the Ghan Train was stopped at Ti-Tree because the tracks were washed away and it had to go back to Darwin. The waterholes will be full, birds and animals will breed, trees will flower and we’ll have a magnificent bloom of desert annual flowers.  Photos, photos, photos!

Blogging Update

There’s a new page for my new blog (I Hate Books) at the top of the page. I want to improve the design of the new blog and need some help with adding a background pattern and a suitable background colour. I would like something Eastern/Indian Spicy. If you’re good at CSS in WordPress.com blogs, please leave a comment. I’m too chicken to brave the somewhat blunt and rude WordPress Forums.

At I Hate Books, I’m going to be blogging about books, book culture, books challenges, and perhaps some world music as well.  This means that I won’t be posting books reviews here anymore.

State of Mind

I have been doing a lot of asana which does seem to be helping. I’m feeling better mentally, although I had a couple of really bad days this week. I almost thought we weren’t going to Indonesia, due to a hiccup with Mr AnthroYogini’s leave.  Which was devastating.

My leave coincides with Mark Whitwell’s visit to Melbourne, which Nadine is organising. So yet again, I won’t be able to see Mark 😦

I have been able to get through a month of doing yoga 5 days per week, and I really feel it’s made a difference. I’ve also started running again (although the rain put a hole in my schedule over the last few days) and I’ve completed two weeks of one of the harder Turbulence Training programs.

I need to get up my courage to go back to the gym, and to get out of bed and go running of a morning rather than in the afternoons. It’s often 40 degrees (Celcius) here through summer, so afternoon running leave you dehydrated! Anyone want to nag me to get out of bed? I have no problem waking up. I just lay there and read, or get up and make breakfast.

As for the gym… it’s the attention of other people and the questions about how I am and where I’ve been. Comments like: ‘…hello stranger…” that I don’t want to face. Sure they’re well-meaning, but when you live in a small town, are an ex-instructor and are depressed, you don’t want attention. You just want to be an anonymous participant at the back of the class.  I think the only way to get over this is to go with Rhiannon (whose teaching at the gym on her uni break), so that attention is diverted from me. It’s that first class that’s got me.

I can’t face it alone, I don’t feel my usual fearless self.

Looking Backwards, Sideways, Forwards

Yeah yeah. I felt obliged to do it: write a year  in review post.

Except, I’m doing a non-sucky, non-New Year’s Resolution post. A commentary on my own failings and achievements for the past year. And something about 2010 for good measure.

This post written on the mighty EeePC powered by Eeebuntu.

2009: The Year I Went Blah

My daughter started university. I finished the thesis. I also went a long way to destroying Life As I Know It. I stopped going to the gym, doing exercise for several months, doing yoga. At one point, I even stopped reading. The thesis took over my life. Work got really busy. I burnt out. I was a bitch and treated my partner badly. I got depressed. I lost it and ended up in hospital. I discovered Turbulence Training. I rediscovered yoga, reading and love. My partner deserves a special mention. He is my hero.

I set out to read 52 books this year. I read 50.

My favourite books: The Book Thief, Marcus Zukac (fiction); Shadows on the Path, Abdi Assadi (non-fiction).

Honourable Mentions: Yoga School Dropout, Lucy Edge (non-fiction); The Van Gogh Blues, Eric Maisel (non-fiction); Yuendumu Everyday, Yasmine Musharbash (non-fiction); Cave in the Snow, Vicki Mackenzie (non-fiction).

Books That Sucked: Get Motivated, Tamara Lowe (so bad I couldn’t finish it); The Naked Entrepreneur, Hazard & Elita (two wannabes giving money grubbing pseudo-spiritual advice); Disordered Minds, Minette Walters (apparently, she’s a good writer!).

Things I Learned in 2009:

  • I do not have an Inner Fat Woman Waiting To Burst Out
  • Breaking BIG things down into the smallest possible parts works
  • Doing something everyday (or consistently) means even the biggest mountains will be climbed
  • Convincing myself to “…just do it for 20 minutes …” defeats procrastination
  • I can own an Ipod, provided it’s an Itouch
  • Macs are probably better PCs, especially if that means NEVER having to have McAfee again
  • Turbulence Training is nearly as good as Body Pump
  • Bill Harris of Holosync fame is a complete and utter pratt
  • The yoga teacher training I did in late 2008 psychologically damaged me

Missions Possible:

Thanks to Benny the Irish Polyglot for this inspirational rejection of lame, washed out New Year’s resolutions (NYRs). Why missions? Read Benny’s post. I’m not going to repeat it here.

Last year, I finished the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken in my life. Now I’m free, free, free to do what ever I want. Here are some missions for this year:

  • take better care of myself mentally and physically
  • read 10 books per month
  • read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Indonesian
  • start learning Hindi (mid year) for our motorcycle tour of India in 2011
  • go to 2 yoga workshops interstate
  • hang out with Svasti, Nadine & Linda in person
  • be able to run 10km again (I usually can do this hands down, but I’m the unfittest I’ve been in 20 years)
  • get my courage up and go back to the gym 3 times per week
  • prove to myself that Turbulence Training can give me the results that Pump does
  • do yoga at least 5 times per week
  • climb Mt Giles
  • in fact, go bushwalking and camping as much as I possibly can
  • go overseas at least once and twice if we can manage it (We’re going to Bali & Lombok on 29th Jan) (leave is the problem, not $$)
  • start a proper garden

Well. I hope you’re all puffed out, puffed up and ready to go. Review dates: 1 March, 1 June, 1 Sept, 31st Dec.

Let’s go…

Day By Day

Right now, I can hear the sound of multiple copies of my thesis being printed off for my examiners. I am submitting the thesis today.

The journey over the past few weeks since my last post has not been pleasant.

One would think that completing a thesis after 10 years would be joyous – there would be relief, celebration, happiness. There has been, but on the whole, these emotions have been fleeting.

Instead, I have sunk into depression, treading a well worn path into the black hole.

This time, it snuck up on me. There was no major life change. No broken relationship. No soul-destroying job to escape from. I didn’t know I was in the black hole until I found myself looking back up at the usual crowd of suspects standing around the rim of the hole, shouting down at me.

The first sign this time was my withdrawal from the gym. I simply didn’t want to go to classes anymore. I found ways to exercise alone – which I enjoy- but this absolute withdrawal from classes should have set the alarm bells ringing.

By the end of October, I was not exercising at all. I stopped doing yoga. Every spare second of my time was devoted to the thesis. If it was not, I felt guilty. By November, I was consciously aware of my depression – and sliding fast into the black hole. I was exhausted, I was stressed, not interested in anything. There were days when hiding in my room, laying on my bed asleep were the only things I wanted to do. When I finished the thesis, I was at rock bottom.  I lost it. Completely.

I don’t expect many to people to understand why someone who has finished something this big and supposedly so personally infused with meaning is now burned out and deeply depressed. Barely able to muster any enthusiasm at all about the blasted thing.

To be honest, writing the thesis did not give me a sense of satisfaction. It did not spark my creative muse in the same way that writing my Honours thesis did, twelve years ago. It was a chore, a weight on my shoulders. A heavy load chained to my neck.

I hope that one day, satisfaction will come. As yet, I just feel flat and empty. I need time for me, time to recover, time to find my muse, my energy, my spark.

I have sought help. Gary has been incredible. As much as he bears the brunt of my depression, he is also my strength. In the past two weeks, I have starting doing yoga again. Last week, I had enough energy to start running and Turbulence Training again. I found the energy to enjoy Christmas, and thankfully, we weren’t travelling anywhere and needing to put on bright faces for relatives. It was just us and our (largely grown up) children.

At the moment, it’s day by day, and sometimes, hour by hour. That is all I have the energy for. I can see the healing already. I have done at least an hour of yoga every day (save two) for the past two weeks.

Blogging Plans

I will be making a few changes to the blog. I’ve decided to keep it for a while longer. I’m going to add some new pages and perhaps change the header. The changes will reflect my lifelong passions: books, language learning and exercise. I feel the need to expand and explore a little more. Perhaps now that I have LOTS of time, I’ll no longer be afraid (or feel guilty) about expressing myself online.

For now, I’m off to Watarrka (Kings Canyon) for the New Year (look at the blog header – the picture is Watarrka). Heading bush is always healing, even when it’s 40 degrees.