So today is Australia Day, I would like to start off by saying that there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the date. The current date is the 26th January to coincide with the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet back in 1788. For many it also serves as a sad reminder of what is often deemed “invasion day” and the atrocities that occurred causing a devastating impact on the Indigenous people of Australia.
Traditions are hard to break, I know most people, particularly the older generations in the small town where I live hate the thought of change and we all love a good public holiday, but they are talking about changing the date, not scrapping the Day itself. We have successfully managed to cope okay with changing public holidays in the past and I am sure as long as there’s still cold beer and a sausage sizzle, we could do it again.
Personally, I feel that Australia Day should be about celebrating our triumphs and growth as a nation, part of that growth is accepting that the current date holds deep emotional scars for our Aboriginal community. I feel that perhaps a new date would be the best thing to do, a demonstration of understanding and solidarity as a nation allowing us not to forget or ignore our rich and troublesome history, but centre our celebrations around the idea of building a new history together, as the wonderful multicultural society that Australia has become.
So, on a lighter note, I thought I’d throw in some Aussie anecdotes for your amusement and or education, feel free to have a squiz, make a cuppa, take a load off and enjoy. I would also specifically like to dedicate this next part of the post to the lovely and hilarious Dyane Harwood who’s awesome memoir Birth Of A New Brain I reviewed here. Her comments are always chockablock full with attempts at Aussie lingo, she never ceases to crack me up!
*Firstly, a little reminder that ‘Aussie’ is pronounced “Ozzie” and ‘Australia’ is pronounced “Uh-Stray-Yah”! Got it? No worries mate.
10 Fun Aussie Facts:
Traditional Aussie Summer Cuisine :
This is my favourite (scarily accurate) Aussie meme:
I love living in this vast sunburnt land, I whinge about the heat and the cold and the snakes and the spiders and the… well I whinge a lot, but I love watching the wallabies playing in my garden and I wake up every morning to the sound of Kookaburras and Magpies. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Well I’m off next door to crack a cold one, have a snag & play a game of backyard cricket,
Happy Australia Day Mates!
Just a quick note to say I’m feeling quite a lot better today, in fact I’m feeling quite good. I only had 3hrs sleep but I have a stack more energy. Yes, I know thats potentially a bad sign but while the fluctuations in my mood are so frequent I’m just going with it while it lasts and catching up on things I haven’t done in ages like reading blog posts, having a shower without having to leave the house and the worlds largest pile of washing…
Thanks for all of the awesome support over the last few days guys, you rock because you are my rocks. Just for fun, heres an unflattering picture of me with a goat on my back when I was 14ish, (please ignore the fact that you can see down my top).
((Hugs to all)) xoxo Kate
I’m writing this from my bed on my phone, it’s 2:00am and the figurative and literal darkness of this night is overwhelming but my minds on fire.
I think today was the first time I have left my psychiatrists office feeling worse than I did when I went in.
Not because of something she said or did, I was already on the edge walking in and being in a ‘safe space’ had me bawling within 60 seconds of entering the room.
“Thank you so much for writing, I’m glad you came today. So tell me what’s going on”
“Nothing, everything, I don’t fucking know!?”
She was great and we covered some important stuff but I felt like I didn’t get what I was looking for, though I guess I don’t really know what I was looking for, a fix? A magic bullet perhaps? A lead one?
That’s not her fault, I forgot how to speak for half of the session, it is so much easier to write out my feelings. Maybe we should just chat over Twitter instead.
We reached the end of the hour so fast she didn’t even mention meds, nor did I. It occurred to me that she probably thinks I’m still taking the ones that she prescribed me last time – but I never did open that blister pack of blue & white capsules. It’s still sitting in the cupboard inside the white paper pharmacy bag. I glance at my watch, we’re already over time, I’m not going to open that can of worms right now.
“Do you have any questions?”
Yes, millions, I have all of the questions! like what do I do now? How the fuck do I manage this? How do I make it through the day alive? What about tomorrow? How can I rest when I don’t have time to be unwell let alone get better, I only have time to be magically better right now or…dead.
“No, no questions.”
I can barely utter another syllable without being overwhelmed by tears again, the waiting room is full as I walk back out into reality and I avoid looking at anything except the reception desk.
M comes up with me and organises some voodoo magic with the receptionist to get me another appointment in a week and then fortnightly for a while. I tried to say thank you without making eye contact, but I don’t think the words ever left my mouth. All I can think about as I hand over the kings ransom for services rendered, is walking out that door as quickly as possible.
The receptionist rattled off the dates of my next few appointments but I’m too busy trying to work out how I am going to last another week to listen, after that feels irrelevant.
In my haze I vaguely hear Feb 12th 10am – reality hits light a lightning bolt “shit, I can’t do that day…” I stammer, “I’m so sorry… Gotta take mum to Sydney for a dr appointment” Fuck. I totally forgot about that, I have to take her, nobody else can. I have to live that long, how the fuck am I supposed to live that long? “Okay we can sort that out next week” I nod glancing momentarily at her face and back down again.
She knows I’m about to lose it and passes me my receipt “see you next week” she says gently, “uh thanks, bye” head down, sunglasses on, earphones in.
Outside, fresh air. My head fills up with Eminem’s ‘When I’m Gone’ and I bee line down the street to the car, past all the public servants milling around on their lunch breaks. Why are there so many fucking people? I want to jump in front of a truck or a bus but none pass me. I get into the car, sit down and start hyperventilating, the drive to pick up the kids from hubbys workshop is only 20 minutes so I have to stop this crying shit quickly.
I look at my phone for a distraction, Jamoalki has just released another pod cast, that man has impeccable timing. The podcast soothes me enough to make the drive safely.
Hubby takes one look at me, hugs me and asks if I want to do the grocery shopping first, yes I do, I’m not up for an hour in the car with the children just yet.
At the shop I see the guy that I “dated” when I was 12, the one who was a good friend in early childhood, then when puberty hit reappeared as a friend with benefits, the one who at 13 knew I had few friends and didn’t no how to say no and still begged me to jerk off his friend and let his friend go down on me while he watched even though he knew I hated his friend who had bullied me for years and I was terrified of him.
The one who got angry with me when in my dissociative haze I managed to break free from the moment and find the strength to run out of the room while his mate stood there with his pants off yelling “what the hell?!”
Him. He’s apparently gay now, or so I was informed -our mothers still talk sometimes – but I hadn’t actually seen him since I unceremoniously dropped school like a hot potato in yr 10. That was 18yrs ago but apparently it’s still subconsciously an issue for me.
He didn’t see me. Thank god. But I was still a quivering puddle on the floor as I hastily left the supermarket forgetting all the important things on the list.
I got the kids, got home, made them satay chicken for dinner- I even ate some of it, not sure if that’s a breakthrough or just evidence that I’ve given up.
Watched a movie, it was sad the whole way through and then everyone died. FFS really?
I’ve been lying awake in this dark, dark room for hours now, the urge to cut myself is back from its long hiatus and so intense that I can’t distract myself from its pull any longer, I just want to feel pain, physical pain lessens mental pain for whatever bizarre reason. Control, probably. I can’t shut out this noise in my head anymore, I can’t wait a week, I can’t wait another day.
The whole world is fading away from me, the edges of my vision darken and there is a hole where my heart used to be. My soul is bleeding out and nothing can be done to stop it.
Last night something changed. Dramatically, suddenly, with no particular trigger. I vaguely remember that I walked out of the room and then the depression faded to black with the light switch. I felt it wash away from me.
The internal trembling in my chest picked up pace, my eyes became clear, thoughts, words, songs and ideas started coming then played over and over in a nonsensical loop in my mind, faster and faster. I was aware of myself bouncing my knee, tripping over my words and giggling too much about trivial comments my husband was making.
Sleep was slow to come, but it finally did, and I woke with the energy of 1000 jack rabbits at 5am on the dot, I haven’t woken of my own accord before 9:00 in over a month. Still trembling, mind still racing.
Hypomania? Well I did dedicate a decent portion of last nights Insomnia to redesigning the landscaping plan for my back yard to include a pool, cabana, spa, tennis court and archery range…
I don’t know.
My psychiatrist appointment is today.
I love my shrink, I’ve mentioned this before, she looks exactly like a young Meryl Streep, elegant with perfect poise and she always knows exactly the right thing to say.
In the end I sent her The Letter, she replied quickly. Her response was of course, perfect, she’s so professional, so good at what she does, I guess this is why she’s booked out 12 months in advance.
But despite her awesomeness, today I am afraid.
I am afraid because I know that medication is going to be coming next. What else is there? Aside from ECT, but, and I mean no offence as I know some of you guys have had success with it – I would rather be eaten alive by fire ants and you will under no circumstances voluntarily drag me into that procedure EVER, and if it’s done to me involuntarily like that DARLING psychiatrist in the hospital threatened me so kindly with, then I will kill myself very violently and publicly purely out of principle making damn sure to get my reasons broadcast on every news channel in the process!!
Okay, deep breath, sorry I will get off my soap box, yeah so I’m not an ECT fan. And really not a fan of being threatened.
Where was I? So I suppose my fear is that this morning will be my last few hours of having an unpolluted mind. Which sounds ridiculous considering the torment it throws at me on a daily basis.
But you see, in all of it’s confused muddled up glory I still have my clarity, the kind of clarity one can only possibly understand the value of if they too have ceased mind altering medications and felt it return. That clarity, purity, pulled as if by strings from the distance, the clarity you hadn’t realised you had even lost until you found it again.
It’s like a drug, the best drug in the world.
That feeling as the last of my prescription had dissolved and clarity seeped back into my body, it was so, I don’t know, honest? Real? Like part of my soul came home and I promised myself never to hold it back again.
I can hear what your thinking. They’re just meds Kate, millions of people take them. You’ve taken plenty of them in the past, you need to take them again you crazy idiot, you know you do!
As fucked up as I am, as much as I just don’t know how to survive right now. Even without little voices that aren’t voices whispering that they will kill me if I dare to pop a tablet in my mouth…
To go back to that medication fog? To choose a life of dullness and side effects, to squash down a part of myself feels unthinkable, like I am murdering my truth, and that seems so much more unforgivable than just murdering myself.
Even when it seems denying medication comes at the ultimate price, it’s just easier for me to accept, it’s easier to believe that maybe, just maybe that really is how it is meant to be.
When I’m really struggling, sometimes I write letters to my psychiatrist, letters that I usually never send but the mere act of writing them somehow makes me feel better.
I wrote the following letter to her today, I haven’t sent it yet, but I think I actually will this time…
This is kind of hard to write. Oh really? Now I’m actually shaking for goodness sakes. Ridiculous considering that you’re hardly a stranger, you’re not actually here, and you may never even read this… I think perhaps I will just pretend that you won’t. Hell by the time I get to the end I will probably change my mind and never even send it.
Anyway, I am writing this because… well, I want to explain to you, and maybe to myself, that I’m really not coping and I need help.
I suppose that is a weird thing for me to find hard to say, I mean you’re my psychiatrist and I’m your patient so the fact that I need help is implied in the very terms of our relationship. Yet it hurts to write it out plainly like that, partly because I’m terrified of what that actually means and partly because a big piece of me is still secretly hopeful that this whole mental illness thing will just magically disappear, hope that it will become an obscure memory that may in fact turn out to just have been a really long, really bad dream the whole time.
After all I am 100% fine for moments at a time, even hours sometimes, if I don’t have to interact with anyone and I can lose myself in a movie and simply forget to think or feel. Until it suddenly hits me again.
I think I’ve reached the point where I really don’t know what to do next and while writing still helps me catch my breath it’s just not giving me enough oxygen to keep outrunning my shadow.
This endless cycling, it’s… well endless, and I’m just so tired. I am trying hard to just keep swimming but I’m slowly but surely drowning.
My head aches constantly from the strain of holding back my darkest thoughts until once again I am alone in my crowded mind, the freedom to breathe comes at a harsh price. Depression is a dangerous place to take a holiday.
I cry every day, several times a day, the source of my tears often times a mystery to even myself, perhaps the trigger of a moment, a voice, a look, a memory or perhaps just an overwhelming sense of sadness or hostility.
When I can’t do it anymore, something takes over and does it for me, pulls the levers and presses the buttons that make me walk and talk, while I watch on stupidly from a distance. I don’t know what I’m doing or how I’m doing it, I don’t even care.
Just as I have resigned myself once more to a world without colour, the weight I didn’t notice pressing on my shoulders suddenly lifts without warning and i am enlightened. The world becomes crystal clear. My cells flood with energy and I quiver with anticipation. The truth shines in on me from the diamond sky above and I feel as though I have been chosen by the universe to save the world. In that moment anything seems possible, and it really, really is.
Until eventually, it isn’t.
Reality quietly spins away as fear slowly seeps into the cracks and entangles itself within a web of unlikely coincidences. Fear breeds the paranoia, moments of time I can only barely recall now but find overwhelming evidence of later. A scrap of paper here, a blade hidden there, lists of the people we suddenly cannot trust along with scattered reasons why. It scares me, I don’t know exactly what I’m capable of, I’d like to believe I wouldn’t ever harm anyone else but when fear takes over and collateral damage seems inevitable, even I don’t know anymore.
All the while He stands too close behind me whispering not-so-sweet nothings in my ear like the tortured memory of a ghost, and then with his hot breath on my skin I find I am but a child again, his unquestionable, unexplainable authority weighing down on my sense of reason. He informs me that if I dare go against his word I will pay the ultimate price. With this revelation he chuckles eerily in a voice no one can hear.
The dice rolls as a new day dawns and we play the same worn out game once again, still captive in the second skin of our mind, the real world carries on around us, with or without our participation.
Play dates, school holidays, housework and celebrations.
Never ending commitments churning on and on in a questionable and impossible world that I can’t possibly commit myself to.
Finally the seemingly infinite madness relents a little and we retreat exhausted and able to sleep but still I wake behind enemy lines, not knowing when the ceasefire will be lifted, perhaps hours, days or even months if I’m lucky; but I know that a return to the front is imminent.
M, I only know one way to make this all stop, end the eternal, internal war and I feel swathed in guilt because in ending my own pain I know I am passing it along to others, but, and there’s always a but, it eventually just becomes too much for me to bear and even that guilt fades away into the black abyss of subconsciousness.
If there is another way, any other way, I need to find it soon, as I can’t do this for much longer, and I have made so many people so many promises. You know how I hate breaking promises.
I have an appointment with you next Wednesday and I don’t know how I will feel on that day, I don’t know if I will still have the strength or the will to ask you for help then, I don’t know if I will think I need help then, my moods are so volatile I might even feel amazing again. But we both know it won’t last.
I’m skating in circles on fast cracking ice, confused by my own thoughts and my own reactions, every day and every passing hour is a guessing game, except for right now, right this second, I am completely calm.
Chaos is surrounding me as I write this but I am numb to it, I have my headphones in and the extra two tweenage boys staying with us for the next few days have forced my emotions back into hiding, a calm practical front, a defense mechanism for the storm brewing underneath. So right this second, I’m okay.
Instead of bringing this up on Wednesday, in case I blather on incessantly about something else as I tend to do and forget, or change my mind… I’m asking you now to help me, although I don’t exactly know how you can. As much as I will regret sending this later, I really don’t know what else to do, so at the risk of losing all credibility in the following words of cliched tackiness, please save me from myself.
*This is a flashback Friday Post from my old blog, first published 17th Feb 2017*
The topic of mental health and the right to own a firearm has come up a bit recently, there have been a few deep conversations on Twitter and I was listening to the Jamoalki VS the second amendment episode 19 on the “Depressed Not Dead” podcast the other day regarding his fight to NOT be allowed to purchase a weapon. This has made me realize just how differently our two countries view gun laws.
Here in Australia the laws around gun ownership are very strict. You are only allowed to own a gun if you have a specific “genuine” reason that falls into select categories. You must do a firearms safety course before you can get your licence and then keep any firearms locked in approved “safe storage” with ammunition stored in a separate locked box. Only the licensed owner of the weapon is allowed access to the safe storage place.
Hand guns are a very special class of license, automatic and semi-automatic weapons are not permitted at all and above all else firearms are not, for any reason whatsoever to be used for self-defense.
As land owners, my husband and I applied for our gun licenses a few years after we bought the farm, our applications falling under the ‘genuine reason’ of needing to control vermin such as foxes and wild pigs.
Now as an animal lover, I had no intention of actually murdering any living creatures, I only really applied because that way Hubby (who was quite content to dispose of nuisance foxes) and I could both have legal access to the gun safe and I could do a bit of target shooting and purchase bullets etc for him which is more practical as he hates going to the shops if he can avoid it.
At the time I first applied for my license my mental illness was very much present but remained undiagnosed. There are boxes that you have to tick on the license application form regarding criminal or psychiatric history including questions asking if you are receiving any treatment for a mental health condition, if you have been hospitalized for a mental health condition or if you have suicidal ideation or have attempted suicide.
I knew that answering yes to any of those questions would mean that my application would be denied. I had been suffering from bouts of suicidal depression and hypomania for well over 10 years but at that point I was still heavily denying my illness, I had never had professional treatment or official diagnosis and nobody could prove anything, so I simply lied and ticked “no”.
After paying a fee I was of course granted the license I didn’t need and probably shouldn’t have, for an initial term of five years. Hubby, through a long comedy of technical paperwork errors was denied his license. Because he immigrated from overseas and his Citizenship Certificate was granted when he was a minor, he was listed under his father’s name which meant it was apparently “not valid ID for these purposes” and he didn’t have a current passport to use instead.
He was told to obtain a new passport and then reapply after 6 months. The ID he needed to get the passport WAS THE CITIZENSHIP CERTIFICATE. *Sigh…* By this point Hubby was just cranky with the ridiculousness of the system and couldn’t be bothered retaking the safety course and reapplying.
I never did buy a gun because I had no intention of shooting anything except myself and when my depression flared to suicidal proportions again and I wanted one, the rigmarole of actually purchasing a firearm was way beyond my exhausted mental capabilities at the time.
There are forms for intention to purchase the specific gun, application fees, somehow secretly coming up with the money to pay for the gun itself, the “safe storage” inspection by the local police department prior to receiving the gun. Then I would have to find somewhere big enough to hide it from hubby and the kids (remember these aren’t hand guns).
Besides gunshots are messy, I didn’t want to be found that way; it was much easier to overdose. When I was eventually admitted to a psych ward they went through my wallet, the nurse found my firearms license and immediately tensed up and demanded to know if I had access to any guns on my property.
Answering “sadly no..” got me a raised eyebrow but she must have believed me and not looked into it further as my license was never revoked. During my lowest periods the temptation to go through the red tape to buy a gun was outweighed by the fear that a black mark would come up against my name and I would be stopped and questioned about my motives. I didn’t want to end up back in hospital so I didn’t pursue it.*
My personal opinion is that a person who has had a diagnosed mental health condition’s right to own a firearm should be assessed on a case by case basis rather than a blanket ban, after all someone who had a suicide attempt at age 18 but no further mental health issues and is now 50 would be far less of a risk than someone like myself who is still frequently cycling in and out of depression with a recent history of attempted suicide.
**I received a letter a few days ago stating that my firearms license is up for renewal soon and a form with those familiar boxes to tick, I was surprised it came at all, gosh that five years went fast. Against my better judgement I filled out the form, lied in the appropriate sections and posted it off rather than just letting it lapse the way I should have.
The question now is will my form be taken at face value or will a little blip show up on a computer somewhere stating that I have a diagnosed mental illness, have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility for attempted suicide and am no longer permitted to hold a firearm. Just how good are their system safeguards? I guess I will have to wait and see.
*The information about me having a firearms license was never passed on by the hospital to my psychiatrist or primary care GP – I mentioned it in passing to my psychiatrist years later and she was shocked and horrified that nothing had been done about it at the time nor had she been notified.
**I sent back the renewal forms and they approved them without question, all I had to do was go into the licensing office pay a small fee and have a new photo taken within a certain timeframe. In the end I chose not to go into the office and my time limit expired.
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Struggling with mental health, I was sat on a psych ward and inspired to start my very own blog! So here we are, welcome to life’s in the eyes of lauren where I’ll be tackling difficult topics and sharing my personal experiences, mainly focusing on mental health but also social services, the care system, living away from my biological family, school struggles and just life in general! i am writing to help poeple, if that means ive helped one person, ive achieved my goal. I hope you enjoy reading, Good Vibes Only xoxo
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