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Your 6 minutes are up

11 Oct

 

I have a friend, a work friend, who hasn’t been feeling too crash hot. Mentally that is. She went and saw a GP at her local clinic. She wanted his advice on what she could do about these feelings. The appointment went as follows-

Doc: how can I help?

Friend: I need to get my prescription for the pill renewed and I would like to talk about something else also.

*insert 5 minutes of interrogation about said pill before handing over the script anyway*

Doc: is there anything else?

Friend: yes, I haven’t been feeling very good lately, I think it might be depression but I’m not sure. I’m flat and I haven’t had to deal with this before so I wasn’t sure what I can do.

Doc: well you’ve used your 6 minutes so you’ll have to make another appointment and come back another day.

bad-doctor


It was World Mental Health Day yesterday and still is National Mental Health Week, but I don’t need a week to talk about mental health. I’m always banging on about how important it is to talk. Talk about anything. Everything.  Your pets, your garden, your housemates. It’s that kind of chat that leads to being more comfortable talking about your health, physical and mental. It allows you to speak up if you’re feeling different to your usual self. People think small talk is a waste of time, but I believe the small talk is what leads to the more important stuff. And starting this general chat with friends and co-workers helps us all notice changes in others. In short, it allows us to be more mindful of what’s going on around us.


That conversation was no joke. It actually happened. My friend isn’t suicidal. She goes to work and takes care of herself daily. She isn’t about to collapse in a heap. But he didn’t know any of that. Because he dismissed her before she had a chance to say anything.

Now, I get how bulk billing doctors work. However I also know they have a duty of care to not just palm off someone who could be on the brink of a fucking meltdown. I have also seen enough to know they go over time on appointments, all the time. I myself see a bulk billing GP, and he is hands down the best doctor I’ve seen in my 13 years on Brisbane (Dr Tim Bresseleers if anyone was wondering!) and I’ve seen a lot, for everything imaginable. Including the ones that charge $80 just to get a doctors certificate. None compare. So I know that the bulk billing tag is no excuse for what this guy did to her.

Unfortunately so many people find it near on impossible to seek help when they’re not feeling quite right. Whether they’ve got funky smelling pee or they’re hearing voices, nobody likes to feel judged or put under the microscope. And a doctors office can feel so intimidating, especially when you go in alone. What he did to her is the exact reason I went untreated for so long. I was afraid of being overlooked, of having a professional tell me I wasn’t worth their time, of being labelled a hypochondriac. Since then I’ve had my entire body and mind paraded through so many doctors offices I’ve lost count, so it no longer bothers me ask for help, mental or otherwise. But for those who have not been down that road, potentially facing someone like my friend’s asshat doctor might be the thing that stops them.

She is resilient, strong and outspoken so she already knows he was a dick and she wants to see someone else. But imagine if she wasn’t. Imagine she was shy, without a strong network of friends, without wonderful parents, without a supportive ear to hear that story. That right there is an absolute disaster in the making, and there are a LOT of people around who fit that description.

So today is Friday, the last day of the regular working week.  If you’re standing around the water cooler, or out at end-of-week drinks, I challenge you to chat to someone about something you normally wouldn’t. What are you up to over the weekend? Did your work week go smoothly? And if you have trouble starting with a question, you can always start with something about you. The weather is nice I might go for a swim, do you like to swim? I’m glad the week’s over but now I have a weekend of study, are you studying also? It’s so easy to make that small talk. And starting off doesn’t take any longer than 6 minutes.

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Loss and the questions why

9 Feb

The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. – “One Art”, Elizabeth Bishop

Loss is a part of all our lives, from the banana that went off in the fruit bowl to the friend we no longer connect with. It seems, we are trained in the art of losing from a young age. We lose toys, teeth, races, games… As we grow the lost items become more significant; house keys, purses, expensive appliances that break, jobs… The losses get larger and larger and we get more used to them, expect them even. But regardless of how large the loss, we are never prepared for the loss of a parent. This one is like losing a part of your soul, a piece of you that you can’t fathom being without. Like that all important structural block in Jenga, without them you’ll surely crumble.

This loss of mine was my mother-in-law, a year ago today. Not a biological parent, but a deep pain nonetheless. June Rose Fielding, from the first time I met her in 2003, treated me as one of her own. There was a period of time during our relationship where she knew more about me than my own parents did – she was mentally supporting her son, who was mentally supporting me. And when I had improved and was able to get back into the world, she didn’t treat me as a leper, she never brought it up, and never held it against me. She was the most zen person I know, even thinking about her now calms me down.

As the last of 4 children, and born 10 years after the rest, Andrew had an older than average mum. It never stopped her doing everything with him as a youngin though. And after his father George passed away when Andrew was 8, she truly had her work cut out for her. She’d make pizza and TMNT costumes so he could watch it and be part of the action. She would bowl cricket balls to him until the grass under the big tree was a bare dirt patch. She’d punish him when he was caught giving neighbors the middle finger. She looked after the farm and worked her buns off in some pretty menial jobs to make sure they never wanted for anything. So when she retired officially and started jet-setting around the world and building a home full of lovely things, we were all stoked!

She was an incredibly active and healthy 73 year old, but when she called Andrew for help with her washing on Australia Day last year, we were worried. She was tired and seemed thinner at Christmas time but had refused to go to the hospital. She said she had been seeing her local GP and he was doing some tests. When we arrived in Gatton I gently asked her how she felt about us taking her to Emergency, and to our surprise she said “I think that’s a good idea”. She was in the passenger seat of her car waiting before we even had time to pack a bag!

In a very brief summary, they found lumps the size of a football and cricket balls in her abdomen, as well as necrotic tissue in her neck and chest. She had stopped eating by then and continued to go downhill fast. They performed exploratory surgery and put in a PICC line to provide nourishment as she was no longer able to eat or drink. But eventually the specialist said the cancer had taken over so much of her body that by feeding her, we were giving it strength to multiply, and therfore killing her. The only option was chemo ASAP and even then it was a shot in the dark given her state of health. But almost as a sign from her god, it was not meant to be. She had a nightmare during the night before she was due to start and ripped out the PICC, leaving a gaping wound that prevented her from starting. As with everything else in life she took it on the chin and asked that all her family come visit. So instead of treatment, we had a beautiful day in the hospital gardens with all of her children and grand children, and she made well sure she’d seen every Bromeliad and Rose before she left.

From start to finish she was only in hospital 2 weeks. 2 weeks of trying to get our head around changing diagnoses and what was going on. 2 weeks of questioning “Why us? What did she ever do wrong? What did we do wrong? And what part of her faithful and giving life led her down this putrid path?”. We still can’t believe how quickly it progressed, we had both heard stories about these kinds of things and thought about how awful it must be to not have the time to prepare. But never in a million years do you believe it’s going to be your experience too, being young and saying goodbye. I can only begin to imagine how Andrew feels, this loss, and as a cruel twist, a reminder that 4 days time marks 25 years since his Dad passed. We talk about her often, and I’m always keen to learn about and hear stories of George. So much of our current life is with thanks to her. Items around the home (she had the most amazing knack for knowing exactly what you wanted), the plants in the garden (she had the biggest green thumb I know), performance parts on the GTR (she loved hearing about his new mods, even if she had no idea what any of it meant), and even the home itself. Everywhere we look we’re reminded of how incredible she was, but that now she’s physically gone.

You can’t see what’s lost, if you could then it would be found. But you can sure as heck FEEL the lost.

Rest in Peace my sweet mumma-in-law. We miss you xx

DBT, my BFF

24 Feb

So here we are, 7 months since I started this thing. As you can easily deduce I am rubbish at this bogging caper. I want to come up with some kind of fancy impressive excuse, but I simply can’t – I have just been lazy. And sad. And angry. And sad. And that’s what’s been on my mind.

I have been through a tonne of roundabouts with doctors, specialists and hospitals and have come out the other side just barely hanging on. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable enough to talk about my childhood online, but as far as my adulthood is concerned, I’m an open book. I’m responsible and I take ownership of how I’ve handled it.

I have been told I have major depression and anxiety, bipolar and borderline personality disorder.  But frankly I don’t care for a name, I just want to function and have a stable and peaceful life. I’ve been prescribed countless different medications, endured never ending hours of therapy, spent a small fortune on doctors, attempted suicide and enjoyed the company of other mental health patients in public hospitals. I have gained weight, endured excruciating pain from medication reactions, lost control of my bladder in public, jumped from moving vehicles, physically attacked perfect strangers, inflicted horrible anguish on my partner and I STILL somehow believe there is a purpose for me.

I have said on many an occasion that I believe some people deserve happiness and others are destined for misery. I always come back to this when I am in the deepest depths of despair. And even on my best days, for some reason, I still think it. But since starting Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) I have learnt that this is just my minds’ way of convincing myself that I deserve nothing, and that I am worthless.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with talking therapies and their purpose, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) used to be the go-to for a myriad of problems and for homework based therapy. I always hated it. I tried it with several therapists and always found it so confronting. It made me feel worthless and wrong because it tells us that we need to change. So I stopped. I did find some peace and calm with meditation though, and as someone who doesn’t believe in ‘all that hocum’ I surprised myself. I started to learn that so much of what we struggle with is self inflicted and if we just take time to ‘download our problems to mother earth’, as Dr Pee Tek Chan would say, we can be less stressed, less angry and less ill. So when I read about DBT and how it is based around mindfulness I thought it might be okay. Shit was I wrong!

It is amazing. It teaches us that it’s okay to have issues, but helps us control the parts that affect us negatively, and accept ourselves for what we’re dealing with. It shows us that our circumstances are always changing, and helps us learn skills to adapt and be ready for any situation.

I’m sure over the course of my posts i’ll talk about the different components of DBT, but what I’m most fond of is Distress Tolerance. DBT is complex and requires a decent amount of commitment and work outside of therapy sessions. At first I didn’t understand the point, but now that I can call on a skill when I get the urge to run away or self harm, it makes sense. And the biggest plus for me is that I can now sort out a panic attack before it even fully manifests. Previously I wouldn’t know I was having one until I woke up from my seroquel coma many hours later, to learn that I could add another store to my list of places not to visit again. Now I can mostly feel them coming, so I am able to remove myself from the situation, use some skills and get back to life. The sensations are still the same, just less intense. I am still exhausted afterwards and need a cry, but it doesn’t last as long. I still have wretched days where none of the skills work and I wind up in bed waiting for sleep to come and take me away.

But that’s okay, because I am taking responsibility for me, and I am okay with having a shitty day. Because I know that tomorrow I will practice my skills again so that the next time I have a completely nonsense moment they will be there. Like right now…

xx