Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The mystery of change

Although its late for me (ie. after midnight) the most rapid reversal yet to occur with my depression has taken place. Two days ago I couldn't sleep and couldn't get out to collect the mail. Last night I had the first decent night's sleep (in about a month) and earlier today I managed a project, negotiated a settlement of terms to a financial situation (on behalf of a friend travelling overseas), undertook some home duties, nursed a sick 3yr old daughter, and caught up with a good friend in the evening! Easy!

How things change. Whilst I have had hypo-manic reactions in the past (ie. manic symptoms) this was not it. It was a rapid return to normality.

I know in general my health is on the mend - my energy and mood is evening out. But I still suffer.

I don't care why anymore. I don't care how anymore. I'm not angry and bitter about the world or God or the universe anymore. I don't regret or grieve for my life anymore. I don't even care to reconcile the daily/weekly/monthly changes in my health anymore. I am simply living my life to the fullest that my health will let me - warts and all. No regrets.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Long Time

Well it's been a long time since I updated this site and a lot of water has travelled under the bridge.

Bottom line is that although I have had periods of pretty good health the bastard of a condition known as depression has walked beside me daily for the last 12+ months.

Much of my inactivity on this site has been the result of not having the energy to update it due to my involvement in part time management work - and since January this year the birth of my second child (which is a small miracle because depression usually kills my libido).

I am back on here again because life with depression is giving me serious grief. I have had worse attacks over the last 12 months but this has been the most prolonged and most frustrating (and my minimal energy reserves can be used to carry out the ongoing documentation of my battle with depression).

The basic update is I have had a patchy, but promising, 12 months. The most pressing drama has been in the last 3-4 weeks. What began as insomnia has escalated to somnolency (i recently slept 30 hrs out of 36) only to return again to serious insomnia. On its own it was ok but it has dragged in the disinterest of life, lethargy, melencholy, loss of libido and questions on the point of living - many of the keys of serious depression. One thing I have learned after a solid four months of relkatively good health is that depression for me is a never ending battle even when I think the end is near.

The upside of the current circumstances is that I no longer pair the failure of my health with the failure of myself and self hate. I find it a little more like a rollercoaster ride that has the occasional up turn but a shit load of down hill action. i no longer feel responsible for or guilty about my behaviour when I'm depressed in this way (as long as I can look in the mirror and know that the guy staring back at me is doing everthing they can to overcome it).

Having seen the light of recovery over the last three - four months (where I was performing home duties superbly well and beginning a serious home project to manage) the last few weeks of serious depression has been a bitter pill to swallow. Having tasted again the fleeting feat of normality I almost want to feel better at any cost - including 'extra prescription medications' if you get my meaning. Thankfully I have good friends who help me maintain strength against these futile and destructive desires.

In the end the loss of control over my life is no longer a surprise - but it doesn't make it easier. It's just bump in the road to be ridden over but I still get the shit shaken out of me when it happens.

As I write now I have moderately over medicated myself to numb the pain (purely doctor's prescription). This has been supplemented (on my own initiative by a few choice drinks of hard liquor. please note: THIS IS NOT A RECOMMENDATION OF HOW TO COPE AND I WOULD ADVISE NOONE TO FOLLOW THIS EXAMPLE. I only write it here as an honest representation of how I am coping and to elighten reader of just one of the responses I have to my immediate frustrations - and i presume what other people would feel in the same circumstances.

I expect there's more to come shortly in this site. i haven't forgotten some of the key topics I still want to address from previousa posts. They are are as alive and dear to me as they were when I flagged them. It's a matter of time and energy which many of you would know is at a premium in the midst of depression.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Update-comment spammers suck

I have been forced back on my blog by advertising being spammed to my comments section. Anyway, it was about time I posted something to it. Hopefully I will now be inspired to write a couple more of the episodes I had planned to.

I have actually had a life of two-three parts since I left my last post. One of utter depression and one of hypomania. No - I am not bipolar, but an over-correction of my medication caused me to peak a little too much! With a little extra tweak on the meds i have managed to get on quite well and have been quite productive and busy... so busy in fact that I have been unable to get back and post!

Anyway, thanks to those who sent messages of encouragement - I do receive them gratefully (but know that you make me feel really guilty for not keeping up the pace of the earlier posting - I'm kidding).

When this blog starts earning money for me (this is not an invivtation for spammers to tell me how to make a million by giving it to them first) I might then be able to get on a little more often and post all the anguish of my heart and provide the sage insights that I know people want to read. If that fails I might just write as I did before with some fresh updates into the life of a (formerly?) depressed man.

My final thought:
Even if depression dogs me for my entire life it will not master me because I will never surrender.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Monday, July 25, 2005

Sitting beyond a window

This entry is based on a pair of experiences on my loungeroom chair this afternoon just half an hour apart.

Sitting beyond a window.
Blue sky roaming, sun beam warming,
Flower blooming, life is moving,
Not lost on him beyond the window
Yet lost as if it surely were.

Sitting beyond a window.
Sky is storming, wind is blowing,
Leaves are scattered, life is battered
Not lost on him beyond the window
Earth mockingly well aimed it's dart.

From a Psalm of David

Deliver me, O God,
for the water has reached my neck.
I sink into the deep mire
where there is no solid ground;
I am in deep water,
and the current overpowers me.
I am exhausted from shouting for help;
my throat is sore;
my eyes grow tired of looking for my God.
Psalm 69:1-3 (NET Bible)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Reply - reflections on hope

This post is a reply to comments left in "Trial By Terror". For context you should read that first. I wrote a little too much for a comment so I put it here.

It is true (and not crass) that having a child puts a higher cost on abandoning hope as well as giving hope itself a greater value (perhaps through it having a physical object to identify with). My daughter (and wife) through whatever means definitely take me to a place where I virtually 'have to hope'. While I am fighting with all my strength to hold on to my life and on to my hope, and doing quite well most of the time with it - even though my health has been quite appalling lately - I don't think I am beyond the capacity of losing hope just because I have a child, or a wife, or any other object or means of supporting that hope. Unfortunately there are common enough examples of persons with children and loved ones who abandon hope and succumb to the darkest fantasies of despair and I don't think that I am intrinsically more capable of holding on to hope than these.

I have actually thought quite a lot about hope since being depressed, and again more recently after reading trial by terror, and I do think hope is something that can be built, nurtured, and maintained. Whatever the 'process of hope' it is definitely not the path of least resistance so is, by default, at times inconvenient and at others damn near impossible!

For me there are three powerful foundations in my life that sustains and maintains my ability to hope.

My family (wife and child) - they are an unfailing inspiration to my determination to get better and be as well as possible in the midst of my depression (ironically they also cause me the greatest grief, especially at those times when my depression is the worst, because I know that my illness traumatises them and places a burden on their lives that noone should have to carry and that I can't bare to see them carry). They actually have to do nothing to underpin my hope. The fact that they tolerate me and even give me a kind word or look when I am at my worst is amazing beyond understanding. When occasionally (and this is rarely) I receive a cruel word or glance from them how can I hold it against them as they naturally get frustrated (or confused in my daughters case) and are burdened with something they are not compelled to endure. Ties like this certainly give me something to live for both in way of inspiration to me and also with a desire to repay the faith and love that they have extended to me.

My friends/supporters - I have a few of these that support me at all times but especially when I am at my most vulnerable, as I am coming out of a deep dark place. In the depths of depression I find I get frustrated, angry, agitated, numb, feelingless, my mind doesn't work, I can't concentrate, I barely eat or sleep (or over eat and sleep often), have dark thoughts, barely move 20m in a day (a couple of toilet stops and the occasional fridge stop) etc. A place where I am too far caught up in the illness and can exist only in the immediacy of my depression's depths. As I come out of the worst of this my mind begins to straighten out and my activity begins to increase slowly. I soon get enough breathing space from the illness and am able to reflect on my depression and the impact it has on my life and my loved ones. I do this though with a weakened mind that easily gets drawn into speculation about ultimate recovery, or about feeling cheated by another episode of depression, or with certitude about my lack of worth, or get hooked about some crazy scheme to restore some of the things I have lost in my life due to illness - money, usefulness, routine, normality, or just a little further on I become lucid enough to hate myself for what I am as measured by my symptoms (a do nothing slob that can't think or eat or shower or add value to another's life - especially to those who endure his frightful presence in these times). It is at this point that my friends are like gold. I have simply made an agreement with myself (with the support of a few close friends/supporters) that no matter what I am going through as soon as I am well enough to be at this point I will call them and let them know. They reassure me, deconstruct the false conclusions about my worth or about my burdens that only my distorted mind is capable of drawing. They reaffirm my value to themselves as friends and speak on behalf of my family. They reconstruct hope in my thinking where the disease of depression had previously wrought havoc. The fact they do this spares my wife from being faced with the pressures of my darkest mind when it requires energy and strength to fight against it on my behalf - this too makes me want to live for my friends. If my friends think it's worth fighting for my life and my family then I can certainly use their judgement. It gives me hope that people are willing to spend time and energy on me - even when I am at my worst - there has to be a message of hope in that. But it doesn't end their with my friends. They also tolerate my need to be 'normal' and do what they can to do 'normal' things with me when I improve a little more. It doesn't matter if I am not well enough to engage the rest of the world they will meet me for coffee, watch a dvd with me, talk about sport or politics or religion or any interest or just sit silently with my, virtually any place any time just to give me an experience of normality when ordinarily I am not well enough to be normal. To glimpse that light at the end of the tunnel brings hope.

Faith/God - This is a worldview/ideological advantage as well as a practical one. From the beginning my faith tells me that I am not a biological or cosmological accident but a being with value, meaning, and purpose - immediately this is a reason to hope and live regardless of my circumstances. It provides me with comfort through prayer (although unanswered prayers become a challenge from time to time), through reading of texts that relate to my situation with a message of hope, and through the tool of faith itself that provides an avenue to hope when rationality can't (basically a belief in the unseen even in the midst of doubt).

I hadn't intended to write this much in reply (I often won't reply to posts - not because I don't essentially want to but because I don't want correspondence to be a burden that turns me away from logging on to my site and reading it if I need to or feeling obliged to reply before I write a post I think it's important for me to write). But I had been thinking about hope and I had intended to jot a couple of additional things to my last comments. I have forgotten a little of what I was going to say (as my mind is getting a little tired after writing the above) but it was along the lines of the disaster it would be to have hope become an anathema by virtue of embracing it as something that keeps one going just sufficiently to suffer more in the future. It's enough that hope is shattered by setbacks in health without it becoming something to fear and despise of itself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Trial By Terror

" ... the steady battering of the mind by hope aroused and cast down could be more punishing and destructive than truncheon or rubber hose crashing against skull or jaw."
Paul Gallico, Trial By Terror
I recently read the book from which the aforementioned quote was sourced. It was the story of a vigorous young man (Jimmy) in his prime who was captured by secret police behind the "Iron Curtain" during the cold war. The story gave an account of how Jimmy's soul and will was broken down by psychological means (fairly easily in the end) and left him as a broken mind in a still hearty shell of flesh. His ultimate fate was to falsely testify against himself in a public court as a western spy - fully believing his guilt. Whilst I have read novels I have liked much better the parallells I saw between Gallico's story of Jimmy and my own experience with depression were quite interesting.
The quote itself was the punchline following a series of ploys from the interrogators to keep Jimmy on edge and uncertain about his case. Jimmy would be brought in for questioning from complete isolation randomly, arbitrarily. The key to his torture in this was his not knowing when the isolation would be broken. His agony was increased by anticipation of his case progressing - especially when confronted by familiar cues of hope eg. guards walking past etc - only to be left alone and waiting again. The combination of these and other psychological events did much to break his spirit and hope and left him vulnerable to a false truth constructed wholly by his interogators.
Immediately I read this section I recognised the parallels with my depression. The waiting in hope of a breakthrough in my health, the uncertainty of when the next period of recovery will take place, the familiar footsteps of normality echoing in my ear only to pass me by, cruelly, taunting me with the promise of normality but leaving it yet again unfulfilled, the battle to remain hopeful of a recovery in my depression - or at least for a break in my health where it is reliably manageable - and life as 'normal' resumed again.
The uncertainty, and the taunting nature of my illness, has at times worn down my will and terrorised my soul with impending doom, utter hopelessness and despair, and growing desperation. In these times I have been tempted by (and have at times succumbed to) falsely constructed realities. "My life has no value" "Liquor will numb my pain" "Gambling can provide a replacement income" "Amphetamines (speed) will pick me up out of my depression" "My death will please those for whom I am a burden". And others less dramatic. "There's no point in trying" "You'll always be like this" "You're not really sick - just lazy and good for nothing".
Many of these sound completely ridiculous when phrased as above especially when considered in times of a clearer mind. But these phrases, like the Sirens voices, embody an irresistable reality when being terrorised by the uncertainties of depression and its cycle.
In parallell with Gallico's assessment I think much of the power of my 'trial by terror' is the constant uncertainty of my health coupled with the breakdown of hope. There is not much I am able to do with the uncertainties of depression except develop undying patience - the quest continues. The constant uncertainty makes me vulnerable to unfair assessments of myself and other false realities but works most strongly against the hope of recovery (or hope of reliably managing my depression).
Fighting against the breakdown of hope is a battle I must renew often and thankfully is one I keep ahead of most of the time - thanks to supportive family and friends.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The flashlight

Did you ever have a torch with dirty contacts or a dodgy set of wiring? You know the type that doesn't work properly. You'll switch it on and it will work. You move to shine the beam to a point of interest and the movement disturbs the continuity of electrical current from the battery to the globe and the beam flickers and dies. You shake the torch and hit it. The beam responds to the bursts of energy wrought upon it by the owner. At each crescendo of effort in the shaking and beating the torch the beam brightly flickers in the darkenss. It dazzles but only momentarily. A few gentler shakes follow and aha! You've found a position where the beam is emitted continuously from the torch through the dark - but dimly. You move the beam to different targets ever so slowly and gently to keep the circuit of the torch intact (what a ridiculous sight to an onlooker). You keep searching different targets with the beam that is left. You fool! You made a false move, or at least moved at normal pace, and the beam dies. You shake your torch and beat it and bang it violently but the more you abuse it the less often and less brightly it flickers. Is the torch good for anything? In this case it has to suffice as there is no provision to purchase another one. Can it be repaired? Much work can be done on it but so far there has been no fix for it. Perhaps one day it will spontaneously regenerate.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Another few weeks have past since I last posted and I have only just got my health back on something approximating an even keel (I think). The signs are there that I am finally getting through this current set back but I don't know for sure. I get sick of asking "how long will it last?" and "why?" and am simply resigned to pressing forward as best I can one day at a time. I live in hope that my health will turn more permanently for the better but suffice to say I am continuing to live as best I can and am definitely not holding my breath for major improvement!

Most of the last few weeks I have been living on the borderline between somewhat normal function and serious depression. I have increased my medication by another 20% which I think has kept me from sliding hopelessly into another major episode. But as I have mentioned it is still a day at a time.

I have spent a lot of my time over the last few weeks sleeping - up to 16 hours/day. I have been feeling totally exhausted. The minimum of effort expended has resulted in an unusually high level of tiredeness. The increase in medication may have contributed something to my somnolosence but the improvement in the quality of my waking moments has been a more than worthwhile payoff. It is just as likely that the tiredeness is a result of my illness as the medication but even if this is not the case it's been worth having this side effect as my waking hours have been of a much higher quality compared to the weeks prior to increasing my dose. On balance I am less unhappy than happy.

With good management of my waking time and energy I have been able to achieve quite a bit while on the borderline. I have managed to fulfill my role at home with my wife and daughter and keep my chores mostly up to date. I have done some management work too (but have only managed half my target hours of 8-10/week). I also spent last weekend acting in and producing a short film. Pretty good really, perhaps even a minor miracle, considering the level of health I am actually possessed of at the moment.

Overall it's been a tough few weeks and perhaps the thing I have come to appreciate most is the impact my outlook can have on my quality of life. I am no where near 100% health but have managed to achieve quite a lot this last month. If I had this level of setback in my health previously I probably would not have achieved the results I have this last few weeks. Lowering my expectations on what I can be (compared to normal eg. sleepwise, energy, feelings of wellbeing etc) and making the most of what I do have (rather than worrying about what I am missing) seems to have been an important part of piecing together my depression puzzle when on the borderline.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Finally an update - trouble and support

I can't believe it's been three months since I updated this blog. I was flat out with work for the first six-eight weeks and then I was out of action more or less for the last four.

One thing I am still very keen to do is update this blog with more recounting of my experiences - if only for myself to read and be mindful of. Even now I am still deceived when I feel a little bit tired when actually I am suffering the effects of a depressive episode. I feel so stupid sometimes promising that I will be able to do something after a rest only to find no amount of rest cures what I am facing. The frustration is that it is still important for me to pick the right moments to push things. If I go too hard too soon I end up getting worse symptoms and becoming less reliable. But I have to say once I figured out that I was in a down cycle of my depression I was much better at managing the symptoms and recovery.

The thing that has frustrated me most over the last few months, especially with the last down turn in my depression, is the impact its having on my wife. It's heart breaking to see her struggling with the helplessness of having a depressed partner when she rightly gets frustrated and tired of facing these circumstances. It became quite a serious issue in our marraige recently and we've had to work hard at talking things through and keeping our feelings and love for each other strong.

I thank God that I have such an amazing wife who is sticking things out 'in sickness and in health'. It would be such a relief and so very easy to walk away.

This is probably an opportune time to remember the poem I wrote for my wife on our last wedding anniversary:

Anniversary of Hope
Dark are the years of our recent life
With love tested to its ultimate.
We have learned to survive on the smallest spark;
But its floodlights we seek,
Or the Sun,
Or galaxies of Light
To warm us and show us through.

It would probably do me good to remember the hope that I actually have in my relationship with my wife because I have been battling to see my personal worth within my family. The pressure of these times has had me wondering whether or not my family would be better off without me. And I soon after moved to questioning the point of living. It got particularly difficult a couple of weeks ago where I had to ring a couple of my supportive mates late into the night to set me straight. It's hard for me to admit to people that I am not coping but it's sometimes harder to realise that I am a needed member of the family - especially when so much of my engagement in the family is a drain. It's kind of weird to want at the same time to be with your family and give them your all yet at the same time want to spare them from the heartache you bring and remove yourself from their lives.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Another sleepless night

Managing my depression is becoming a frustration again. I feel very well except for the fact I can't sleep at night. My motivation and drive is good, my concentration and agitation of mind is worse than 'normal' but manageable, but my sleep is really suffering. I am going great with work but I can't see how I can sustain the level of quality without much sleep.

Hmm ... what to do ... I think I'm going to keep my meds up at 2 1/2 tabs daily and push myself a little harder than I have in the past. Previously when I've pushed I have crashed but I might take a bit of a chance on it with the additional medication constant. I can usually see or feel the depression coming (although last time I didn't). It's worth a try anyway.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


Well I finally figured out what was going on with my depression and why. It was all medication related.

Had been experimenting with doses of my SSRI after finding 2 tabs were not enough and 2.5 were too much (an extra .5 tab every 2nd day did the trick). After being well for a while I just forgot to take the extra half every other day and after 2-3 weeks of neglect it got me!

I have been much better today but am still getting my sleep back on track. Hopefully that will settle over the next two or three days.

Sometimes I do the stupidest things.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Not Again!

It's interesting after all the experience I have had with depression in my life it could once again slip under my guard. I'm not even in the clear with my existing episode and I still couldn't detect a relapse in my health for a couple of weeks. I wasn't avoiding it or in denial I was just telling myself that I was a little bit run down, a little tired from a busy couple of weeks, when actually I was sliding ignorantly back into depression. The subtle differences of depression and run down normality (if any) remain unclear even when I'm vigilant.

Anyhow, I finally figured it out on Monday when all I wanted to do was sleep. Same for Tuesday and Wednesday (FYI - both night and day). I managed not to sleep throughout the day today so that's some kind of bonus - but now I can't sleep at night! Seems like its feast or famine with my sleep at the moment.

Sleep patterns have been a pretty reliable sign of how I am travelling with my depression. It usually starts with too much (up to 16+ hours a day) then suddenly switches to insomnia. And then the insomnia lingers night after night. It's probably been six months since I was able to sleep on time (before midnight) without medication but at least for most of the last few months my sleep was stable until now (the odd exception notwithstanding).

It's hard to know what to do differently. I am doing pretty much everything I can. I am frustrated daily about taking sleepers and wish I didn't have to but I have little choice if my lifestyle is to fit in with my family's and with the work I am doing.

Perhaps its time to try lithium treatment (I am currently on SSRI's) and see what that does for my depression? But my mood seems pretty stable compared to previous months so the efficacy of a change like that is uncertain and may even be unwarranted.

Whatever the outcome just know I am screaming on the inside - "aaarrrggh - not again!"

Thursday, January 20, 2005

New Year Update

Well it has been a while between posts this time round but I have just been so flat out with work and staying on top of home life that I haven't been able to get here to write. I can say the recovery is steady although it seems to have plateaued for the moment. I now need to be very careful about managing my time and involvement in things very tightly to ensure I can cope with the rigours of my now semi-rigorous life.

Helathwise I have had a mini crash for one day in the first week of the new year. This came on top of stepping up to a 20 hour a week work commitment, Christmas, a temporary move of residence to a holiday destination, and a weekend of guests over the new year period. Pretty active no question. But after that crash I bounced back quickly and had no further dramas until this last week where I had a nasty little cold/flu/virus which increased my vulnerability to the depression symptoms. So here I am after 1am doing an update! In all it has caused me to miss one day of work, miss 4-5 days of home duties, and throw my sleep out - its the depression symptoms for sure but its due to the cold making me a little more vulnerable.

The good thing has been I have been able to remain fairly upbeat despite this little setback in my health. I am getting a little frustrated with myself and not being able to fulfill my roles at home and in the work place but this is nowhere near the elevated levels I have faced in the past and I am very much at peace with myself at the same time.

I can now say more confidently that the optimism I had that the worst of my depression had passed is proving to be well founded. I am feeling this way depsite some of the setbacks along the way. From a perspective that had been quite bleak for most of 2004 I am feeling quite optimistic about 2005.

I am still bursting on the inside to have the time and energy to write about the things that I floated in my december posts but I am just unable to do that. I just can't be confident of managing my active roles in the work force and at home as well as keeping up the pace of writing that I had in the final months of 2004.

A parting thought:
Now that I have the necessary support around me (family, friends, medical, pastoral etc.) and have been able to stabilise the feeling of crisis in my life with their help I am finding more and more that I have to consciously manage my energy levels as this now seems to have the largest bearing on my well being.