Blogger Awards

Hi all. Just thought I would take a few minutes to discuss blogger awards.

Firstly I would like to thank all those who have nominated me for various awards, it is very encouraging to feel that what you are doing is appreciated and that someone gets enough out of your work to think you deserve recognition for what you do. When the first one arrived I was actually stunned, my work is mostly ramblings. At the time I was very busy and trying to deal with changes in my life, changes as my medication settled, changes to where I live, changes in my work, etc., so the award got sidelined until I could give it my proper attention.

Over the ensuing weeks that dragged into months, I received more and more nominations for various awards. Now I had a problem, I was starting to feel overwhelmed, not by the generosity of the the people to nominate me for the awards but by what it involved to accept the award…I shut down, I deliberately started to ignore them, I just couldn’t face what I had to do to be a part of it. Now all of you would know that it doesn’t in fact take that much work, but you see I struggle with the concept of listing off people to receive the award when everyone out there who is sharing their journey, letting others see their ups and downs, using this medium to get things out, all deserve the awards, and the ‘worst’ ones (not that there is any such thing, but you know what I mean) probably deserve the most awards because it is probably much much harder for them to express themselves.

I’m rambling again… So where’s this going? Well I have come to the conclusion that I will not be accepting, that is displaying, any blogger nominated awards. Feel free to nominate me if you think I am worthy (it does feel good to receive the nominations), but be aware that I won’t be passing them on or displaying them.

I hope I haven’t offended anyone saying this but this is ‘my’ journey and I need to feel right about what I am doing. I really do appreciate all the nominations for awards, thank you so much. Also, could you let me know what you think? Clearly I don’t have all the answers so it would be interesting for me to get your view.

Anxiety – Team sports, Movies, Books

Anxiety, what do these three things have to do with anxiety? Well this time I am not talking about ‘tells’ as in my earlier post. No, this time I am on a different tangent altogether. This time it is all about how these things cause/can cause anxiety. I know, not everyone is affected negatively by this kind of anxiety. For me though it has always been a source of unwanted anxiety. Sounds like I have had this under control all my life, right? No. It is only just recently (I’m not going to tell you just, how recently!) that I put this together.

The one thing I have always known is that I always like to read the end of a book before I start from the beginning, with team sports I like to know the result before I watch the game, and with movies I ‘prefer’ to know the outcome at the beginning – otherwise all the way through it I am guessing the result, it helps to reduce the anxiety because I can kinda kid myself that I know the answer (for another explanation why other people like to know the conclusion first, click here). However, this is not an open and shut case with me. There are movies that I enjoy and have watched numerous times, yet there will be certain points in the show where I will suddenly jump out of my seat and go and make a cuppa or go to the bathroom. Just something about that part suddenly makes the anxiety hit the ceiling.

So why did I say ‘Team’ sports? Well I can watch golf, tennis, motor sport, etc. and it doesn’t affect my anxiety. The conclusion I have come to is that with ‘individual’ sports, the person in many ways is playing against themselves. The fact that other people are there can be almost inconsequential. Now obviously they want to beat the others because there is prestige and money at stake, but how often have you heard a competitor say that while disappointed that they lost, they are really happy with the improvement they have made? Some people will obviously say that they are just saying that to make themselves feel better, maybe, however that is exactly how I feel about it. When I play golf with others, I tend to experiment and just enjoy the experience, I don’t even care if we don’t keep the score because I know if I am playing better or worse than last time, I don’t need it written on paper.

Okay so I know how to avoid some of that ‘day to day’ anxiety, isn’t that a good thing? Well anything that stops you having an anxiety attack can’t be all bad.

hands-over-ears-woman-bigst

However, according to one clinical psychologist (if you want to read the article, click here) “Avoidance … can create new problems, such as addictive behaviors, Greenberg said. And the more we avoid something, the more anxious and fearful we become.” This same psychologist also made a good point in saying, “when we avoid something today, we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to learn new skills or solve problems”.

The problem that I have with all this good advice is, I never get around to putting it into practice! You see, I am just not the kind of person who sits down to watch something, and says “this is a good opportunity to practice….”. It just won’t happen. So to this day anxiety is a part of every day life. Fortunately I have got past the high level of anxiety that had me on drugs, so I will just put up with it and continue with my little oddities.

Depression and Anxiety – Music

Now there was a moment when I thought I would include music in my early post on ‘tells’, then it occurred to me that music was no such thing for me, rather, it was more of a ‘trigger‘ than anything else. Not all music, not any particular type of music, just some music. Can I name particular songs? No, but certainly some songs that relate to New Zealand, and more particularly some Maori music. But as I said it isn’t only Maori music and certainly not all Maori music. Sometimes it can be lyrics, but more often it is just the tune. Something in the way the music has been arranged, or interpreted by the composer in the case of classical music, will just hit me like a punch that takes the breath right out of me. Actually a better comparison is that feeling in an aircraft when it suddenly drops and the air rushes out of your lungs. Yes that sinking feeling as one descends into despair.

So what is it? Well as best I can tell it relates back to my childhood. Whether I relate it to particular events or not, I am not sure. But certainly as a child at primary school, we learnt Maori songs and related things, like how to use the poi, dances, language, etc. Perhaps some of my bad times I associate with particular tunes, I really don’t know. What I do know is that just the beginnings of a piece of music can send me into a very sad place.

On the bright side of this though is that as I have become more knowledgeable about myself and mental illness, I often can detour situations. I am particularly careful about such things as playlists. I rarely just listen to random music, like a radio station, since I don’t have any control over what comes on. With my own music, which is vast and varied, I create playlists, adding one song at a time and even if I suspect a song will affect me negatively, it gets removed or not added in the first place. Then there is the uplifting music, that stuff that as soon as it hits the first notes our mood changes, for the better, we start tapping (or whatever it is that we do) and we sing along pretending we know all the words.

But let’s face it, music is the stuff that emotions feed on. Different music can trigger any and every kind of emotion, so why wouldn’t we expect that it can play such a big role in the lives of people who struggle with their emotions. So while I do have to be careful, I would not be without music, which is a good thing really because my wife and two sons are all very talented when it comes to music.

Depression and Anxiety – Mindfulness (1)

Mindfulness, now here’s a word you are going to hear a lot if you or someone you know is seeking/getting treatment for depression, anxiety or other mental illness. From what I can gather there are about as many different opinions about what it is and it’s usefulness as there is people who write about it. So in this post I will probably provide a number of links to resources rather than spending too much time trying to explain something that has already been written. For the most part I will take articles etc from the Psych Central website as it is a major resource for mental health professionals. Here I will tell you about what I was taught while in the mental health hospital and later in a Black Dog group program, as well as what if any benefits have come from it. May I also at this time point out that like any kind of treatment, the benefits do vary from person to person.

So what is mindfulness? I would describe it as the process of stopping the mind from doing what it ordinarily does, that is, it deals with a multitude of things at the same time, most of which the present, conscious you has little control over. Using mindfulness, you are really taking a ‘time out’ and letting your mind just focus on what is happening right at this present moment within you and your surroundings (this link will give more detail – click here). It takes a bit of practice but is worth the effort, it becomes easier. When I was in the psych ward last year, one of our day program instructors started every lesson with five minutes of mindfulness. By the second week I was finding it a lot easier and beneficial. She would get us to close our eyes and stop thinking about what was on our minds at the time, then she would give a list of instructions to follow – listen to the air conditioning, feel your arms on the arm rests of your chair, feel the weight of your clothing, hear the clock ticking, if some other thoughts come to you acknowledge them and then let them go, feel your breathing,…. and so on. Probably sounds a bit potty, I sure thought so initially, but it actually does help to give your mind that break that it needs.

If like myself you have a mental illness (depression for me), you will know all about ‘triggers’.

triggers

Those things that send you off to wherever it is that you go, up or down. Also, get to know the signs of change that can indicate problems coming even if there has been no trigger. Psychiatrists and psychologists will tell you that by doing this you have the opportunity to head things off by using mindfulness. I know many people who would support this and tell you how well it works for them. At the very least you owe it to yourself to try. For me, I find it seldom works (note I said ‘seldom’ not ‘never’). What generally happens to me is that my mind says “get lost I like it down here”, I am comfortable in my misery it seems. The psych tells me that probably because I lived with the depression for so many years not knowing that anything was out of the ordinary, that I am actually more comfortable with that situation than with what I might have to face back in reality, and particularly if I am not aware of the trigger.

Well I think that is a good start…I will write more on this subject in later posts. Just remember if you suffer with depression or the like, things like mindfulness might be a really good place to start in taking some control back.

The following is a link to a Psych Central search I did on mindfulness. It provides numerous links on the subject – click here.

Anxiety and Depression – Mental Illness v Stigma

I haven’t really written a lot lately about mental illness/my depression and I don’t think I have ever written anything about stigma as a subject, but a couple of things have happened recently that has made me think that perhaps I should write a few words. I don’t intend to get bogged down discussing pros and cons in detail, or point the finger at anyone as an example of the ‘bad guy’. These are just the thoughts of someone who has a mental illness, who has had it since childhood, who has held down managerial positions in a large government department for over twenty years, who had his first business while in his teens and continued in business for twenty years, who has seen stigma ‘at work’ in varying circumstances over the years and yet, I struggle sometimes to grasp the views of some of the ‘anti-stigma’ campaigners.

Now don’t get me wrong and don’t misquote me, I also believe that stigma is wrong, that people who hold responsible positions and are in a position to cause grief by their actions, should be targeted and educated, if they don’t want this then replace them. As for educating the average ‘Joe on the street’…well good luck with that one, time and example are the best you can hope for there. In our society people have become so good at presenting themselves in a way that disguises what and who they really are in order to promote themselves, that all the education in the world is no guarantee of success. How many times have you had boss that in no way demonstrates the qualities insisted on by the company/organization that you work for, and yet you know that they would have had to sit in front of a panel of interviewers and “demonstrate” that this is part of their work ethic? Take it or leave it, that’s the reality!

Another angle on this relates to how we ourselves behave…are we free of misbehaving in this area? Can we honestly say that we have never seen a news report where some act of…(something not good) has happened, there is some connection to…(a particular race, religion, group, etc), and we have not had a thought run through our head that goes something like this, “what do you expect!”, “no surprise there!”, or even worse “should have expected that!”. Hmmm, sounds like some kind of stigma to me! Yes I know there are other factors involved here, but underlying it is a similar problem. It’s easy to pull on an ‘anti stigma’ tee shirt’ but the real problem is oh so much deeper.

So where does this leave us? Honestly, I’m not sure, but what I do know is that stigma sucks, but if we think that just pulling on a tee shirt or running some campaign is going to fix the problem, then we have an even bigger problem. It is true that in the face of such odds, even the little things (like putting on a tee shirt) are worth it, I do believe that, but we shouldn’t get too hopeful which can eventually lead to more grief. At the end of the day it is us that lives with the depression, anxiety, BPD, or whatever condition it is and it is us that needs to be able to cope with it, looking to those who we know are there for us. Don’t turn our backs on those who do care and are always there for us. All the best….

 

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