Tag Archives: depression

Alternatives to Suicide Talk in Glebe

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Three months ago I attended an Alternatives to Suicide talk hosted by Being in Glebe Town Hall. I felt with the news of the passing of Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Inés Zorreguieta and even Charles Williams that it was probably an appropriate time to share what I heard. And as the title suggests, yes this blog entry will indeed be discussing suicide and suicidal thoughts. The speakers, Caroline Mazel-Carlton and Sera Davidow, were from the Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community. It was really interesting to hear this revolutionary approach to dealing with suicide. What’s so revolutionary about the Alternatives to Suicide approach? First and foremost, you’re actually allowed to discuss suicide.

Being allowed to talk about suicide may seem like a given in order to be able to deal with it but unfortunately it’s not. Suicide is so taboo that generally the moment you open your mouth to say the word you get shutdown. If you’re talking about past thoughts you get told to shut up because you just talking about your issues will cause someone else to commit suicide. If you’re saying you feel suicidal people are leaping at you telling you it’s not normal, it’s not healthy, and you need to be monitored and have your rights curtailed for daring to vocalise just how tough you’re doing it. So being in an environment where silencing wasn’t the encouraged response was refreshing. I honestly felt like I could breathe easier just by being there. Being given permission to discuss and explore your life without fear of being silenced or shamed in itself was healing. But of course there was more to the talk than that.

After telling their own stories, where Caroline spoke about being treated as both dangerous and fragile like a time bomb made of glass, the issue of risk management was raised. It was pointed out how as soon as a person said they wanted to commit suicide the tone of the conversation immediately switched and the questions do you have a plan and do you have means were automatically asked. People aren’t asked why they’re asked how. And this is because of risk management. Which is odd because the most effective risk management tool is around 20-50% accurate, that’s right, as accurate as flipping a coin. Furthermore it was revealed that a clinician was more likely to be struck by lightning than to be sued over a patient suicide. So being driven by risk management and fear of litigation isn’t even realistic or particularly effective so we may as well just ask why instead of responding in fear about means in an attempt to control another person’s actions.

It was discussed how traditionally suicide is treated as the problem that needs to be fixed when in reality it’s a symptom of a problem that needs to be fixed. It was said that suicide is essentially a bad solution to a very real problem not the major problem driving a person. Why a person wants to commit suicide is key to helping them as is why they haven’t already. If we’re so busy restricting the movements of a person in order to control their ability to commit suicide then we miss out on dealing with the real problem that is causing this cry for a real solution to real pain. Ask why do you want to die and ask what do you want to do before you die.

Next the topic of pathology was raised. They spoke about how it is often portrayed that depression causes suicidal thoughts when in reality it is a symptom. They then unpicked where the concept of people having a mental illness are chemically imbalanced came from. Quick note before I go further Sera expressed that they are not anti-medication and that if medication helps you then you should definitely take it, they were more anti medication is the only and best answer. So please don’t misconstrue the next part to mean throw out your meds. Don’t throw out your meds! It was said that the studies into medication didn’t actually test levels of people within normal and severe ranges to determine if they are in fact different and that people are lacking in certain substances. They more ask how a person feels after taking medication and do they feel better. They get positive results in the short term and then gradually decreasing results in the long term. The comparison was made to coffee. These studies were compared to if we were asked if we felt better after a coffee, many of us would say yes, but does that mean we have a caffeine deficiency?

The talk really focused on the factors that contribute to suicide, such as a high ACE score. Having experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences tends to increase this risk. Being denied your own community and language increases this risk. Being silenced and ostracised increases this risk. And so the Alternatives to Suicide approach is to focus on these areas. How can we provide support for people, how can we provide community, how can we listen. It’s all about letting people have an open and honest dialogue without having to jump through prescriptive language hoops on what you are allowed to say and how you can say it. Do you know how demoralising it is to constantly have to say your life is a trigger warning? Alternatives to Suicide lets you speak without fear of repercussions and they let you explore why and also why not.

The key elements of Alternatives to Suicide are:

Validation

Curiosity (instead of fear)

Vulnerability / Transparency

Community

The people at Being did record the talk and I would love to share it with you, but to be perfectly honest, I can’t find where they have put up a link to it. Perhaps they filmed it for their own personal training or the link just isn’t quite as easy to find as I’d like. However, I did find a two part talk that Mercy Care has generously put on YouTube using two speakers from the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community Alternatives to Suicide program I hope it helps.

If you or someone you know has mental health concerns you can find good resources on the following sites:

Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community http://www.westernmassrlc.org/alternatives-to-suicide and http://www.westernmassrlc.org/hearing-voices

Mercy Care https://www.mercycare.com.au/ats
Blue Knot Foundation https://www.blueknot.org.au
Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au
Head Space https://headspace.org.au
Relationships Australia https://www.relationships.org.au
National LGBTI Health Alliance http://lgbtihealth.org.au
The Children of Parent’s With a Mental Illness http://www.copmi.net.au
Mental Health in Multicultural Australia http://www.mhima.org.au/portals/consumer-carers

Some postnatal depression specific sites are:
Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/

You can read about what Australian journalist Jennie Hill has to say about the culture of silence around suicide here.

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#RUOK 2017: I Challenge You To Do More

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R U Ok Day is upon us soon. It’s a day that has people divided. Some say it’s fantastic and saves lives, others say it reminds them just how much people really don’t care about them because they only ask on R U OK Day as if it is some glib game. I’ve asked, I’ve done my bit, I’m a good person, give me cookies.

Love it or hate it, I challenge you to open yourself up and learn more about different mental illnesses this R U OK Day. Go to the library, or a bookstore, or online, and get a memoir that focuses on a mental illness. Really engage with lived experience, find out what real people went through, what they are still going through. And then when it comes to ask R U OK you might have something more specific and meaningful to say to a friend than a simple catchphrase.

Here are some recommendations:

Madness: a Memoir by Kate Richards

This is a memoir about living with depression and acute psychosis. In the memoir Dr Kate Richards also includes notes that she wrote during episodes which puts you directly into the mind at the time of turmoil. A compelling read.

Eyes too Dry by Alice Chipkin and Jessica Tavassoli

This is an innovative, dual person, graphic-novel memoir. It explores depression and suicideal ideation. It is essentially the conversation between someone in deep depression and their friend as they try to navigate through depression together. Very unique.

Bloodletting by Victoria Leatham

Cutting has recently been much covered in the media, but often sensationally and with little understanding gained. Victoria Leatham talks about her own experiences with self harm and how it is related to anorexia and bulimia. A truly eye opening read.

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

When it comes to bipolar few people have more experience than Kar Redfield Jamison. She both treats it as a psychiatrist and faces it personally. This book looks at bipolar from both the side of the doctor / patient equation.

The Good Greek Girl by Maria Katsonis

This is the memoir of the brilliant Maria Katsonis. Havard graduate, world renowned theatre producer, obedient daughter and sometimes rebel. It explores how this incredible woman found herself in a psych ward fighting for her life.

My Life as a Side Effect by Milissa Deitz

A memoir that helps demystify depression. It gives details from Milissa Deitz’s journey, including self harm, relationship breakdowns, medication and therapy.
The Green Bell by Paula Keogh

A memoir about Paula Keogh’s own experience with schizophrenia. It has been described as a coming of age story that takes a lifetime.

Tell Me I’m Here by Anne Deverson

This has become a classic text to read on gaining some understanding around schizophrenia. It is written by Anne Deverson and explores her relationship with her son and her efforts to get him appropriate treatment and the horrors they both endured. It does not hold back on catastrophic episodes.

Under Siege by Belinda Neil

Belinda Neil is a former police negotiator and homicide detective. Under Siege explores PTSD and its effect on not only work but also on her personal life. It is a very generous sharing of living with trauma.

Me and Her: a Memoir of Madness by Karen Tyrrell

This memoir appealed to me greatly because it looks at how a teacher was brought to the brink and how she managed to come back. As a former teacher who has witnessed and been on the receiving end of workplace bullying this really hit home for me. This book is very thought provoking into our own actions and what we dismiss and turn our backs on.

Woman of Substances by Jenny Valentish

The nature of substance abuse and addiction is explored in this compelling memoir/investigation by Jenny Valentish. From underage drinking to adult use of hard drugs, Jenny Valentish uses her own story and others to explore the nature of addiction, who is most susceptible, and what both treatment and mistreatment look like. Her skills as an investigative journalism are on display in this book as she draws information from experts and sufferers alike.

Well Done Those Men by Barry Heard

Australian Vietnam Veteran Barry Heard shares his life before and after the Vietnam War. It explores how young mean were sent off to war inadequately prepared psychologicaly. It also gives an earnest and gut-wrenching look at his post-war breakdown.

Crying into the Saucepan by Nikki Hayes

The incredible memoir of someone who had battled with mental illness for most of their life only to be repeatedly ignored or misdiagnosed. Nikki Hayes had received many diagnoses such as depression, postnatal depression and anorexia before being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This memoir delved particularly close to my heart, because even though I don’t have BPD, I also had begged for help from various professional only to be fobbed off.

Small Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright

This is a collection of ten essays about Fiona Wright’s experience with an eating disorder. The essays cover different phases of her illness including life threatening anorexia nervosa. Heartbreak and humour are combined in this moving memoir from a well known and respected Australian poet.

Things That Helped by Jessica Friedmann

This is a collection of essays about Jessica Friedmann’s experience with postnatal depression after the birth of her first child. Jessica Friedmann has achieved honours in creative writing and it shows. The prose is beautiful to the point of poetic. Fans of Fiona Wright will LOVE this.

And of course there is always little old me.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Postnatal Depression Sucks by Robin Elizabeth

A direct, not holds barred, earnest telling of my time in a psychiatric hospital with postnatal depression four months after the birth of my second and third children, twins. It is conversational, injected with humour, and includes practical tips.

So, on this R U OK Day, the 14th of September, I challenge you to go further than repeating a preprepared question. I challenge you to use the day to truly engage. Grab a memoir, bunker down, and find out what lived experience is like without interrupting.
Add your favourite memoirs about mental illness in the comment section.

If you or someone you know has mental health concerns you can find good resources on the following sites:

Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au

Head Space https://headspace.org.au

Relationships Australia https://www.relationships.org.au

National LGBTI Health Alliance http://lgbtihealth.org.au

The Children of Parent’s With a Mental Illness http://www.copmi.net.au

Mental Health in Multicultural Australia http://www.mhima.org.au/portals/consumer-carers

Some postnatal depression specific sites are:

Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/

PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/

PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: A Quick Update on Writing 

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Those of you who also follow me on Twitter already know that I haven’t been feeling my best. I’m definitely not at my lowest but changing medications to try to get on top of my migraines and RLS has left me feeling subpar.
I know that I’m not that bad because when I get time to sit down and write it still comes readily. Even if I feel like total shit, the moment I open the Scrivener file my fingers start typing. When I am at my lowest I simply can’t access the things needed for writing. I’m just too empty. 
On Friday I was quite teary. My medication had been increased the day before but it takes a couple of weeks before the increase works. And I thought that I was too upset and jittery to write. I looked at the clock and I only had thirty minutes until I had to pick my daughter up from school. This made me more upset. I’d gone a whole day without writing AND I’d had time to do it. It wasn’t because of being too busy with the kids, I just hadn’t. I felt hopeless and like a failure.
And then it hit me, my POV character hits a point where she is utterly shattered and feels like she’s an utter failure. I could write that scene. I use Scrivener so I can write out of order and easily slip it into place. And so I did just that. I opened up my Scrivener file for my WIP and just typed and cried. I did this for 25 minutes. At the end I had 950 words. That’s fast for me. Normally for novel writing it’s around 500 words in that time.
So good news, I’m still no where near my worst and feel much lighter. And maybe that idea might help somebody else? Maybe you’ve been holding off writing because you feel utterly shit? Try writing a scene where the POV character feels the same. They’ll be feeling broken for a different reason than you, but hopefully you can still use the shared feeling to get to the heart of the scene.
Good luck and happy writing.

Read about my thoughts on being a dyslexic writer here.
Read about my thoughts on author branding here.
Buy my shit here.

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/ 

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: I Love Eurovision

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I love Eurovision. In my opinion you’d be crazy(er) not to. In fact, I love Eurovision so much, that I talk about it in my memoir. Yep, I managed to work it into a memoir about postnatal depression. No regrets.
In honour of it being Eurovision season I’m sharing an entire chapter from my memoir with you now. And yes, it mentions Eurovision, repeatedly. Enjoy.

Carrots, Potatoes, and Broccoli

Okay, that last section got a little heavy with the artistic wankatude. I apologize. I did a BA, so can get a little theoretical and heady at times. Let’s bring it back down to reality with a chat about hospital food. I have spent extensive amounts of time in hospital. I have a dud pancreas, therefore from time to time, I end up in hospital on a cocktail of painkillers and NIL by mouth. When they ease you back onto food, to ensure you can eat without exploding from both ends and doubling over in pain, they put you on a clear-food diet. They tell you that this involves jelly, apple juice, and broth. This sounds kind of awesome. The only awesome part of this is the apple juice, which tastes like heaven after being denied food for sometimes weeks at a time. This desperation for food, unfortunately, cannot make hospital jelly or broth taste better. The jelly is vomitously sweet, and the broth isn’t so much broth as Bonox and water. It tastes like bitterness and the ashes of destroyed dreams. Once you graduate from apple juice and refusing to eat jelly and “broth,” you get “treated” to real hospital food. Just quietly, I’m fairly confident that hospitals save on money by serving up removed organs as protein. I’m pretty sure that I’ve had my own gallbladder served back to me and a few umbilical cords. When people say hospital food is bad, they’re not exaggerating. Always order the sandwiches for lunch and dinner until they ban you. Fortunately, food at the psychiatric hospital was markedly better. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t performing organ removals so have to actually source their protein from outside the hospital grounds.

Given that I went into the psychiatric hospital on the back of two stays in regular hospital, the food was a welcome relief. It was real, it was hot, it wasn’t wet, and it tasted reasonable. I was also able to go and eat it at a table rather than in my bed. It was almost like being human again. However, there was an element to the menu that soon began to drain on me. It was the accompaniment to every meal. Potatoes, broccoli, and crinkle-cut carrots. My relief at edible food soon faded to boredom and then heightened to horror as the weeks wore on. By week three I simply couldn’t face another meal with potatoes, broccoli, and crinkle-cut carrots on the side. It got so bad that we all began joking that they must have put one of the OCD patients in the kitchen for some rehab. The head chef would walk in, all excited for the day. “Okay, guys, let’s do something different today. I’m thinking an Italian theme. How about a little lasagne, maybe a nice Italian salad on the side?” And of course, we’d end up with lasagne with potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. The next day the head chef would come in and say, “Wooooohoooo, I’m coming down with Mexican fever today. Let’s do some tacos, some homemade guacamole. It’s going to be fantastic. You can do it, Frank.” In the end, they plate up tacos with potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. “Time for Chinese food. Who doesn’t love sang choi bow? Come on Frank, you can do some Asian greens, even include some Chinese broccoli.” And so we crazies are served up sang choi bow with potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. “Seriously, Frank? You’ve shown no fucking progress; get your head out of your arse and serve something different.” Ladies, here are you potatoes, broccoli, and crinkle cut fucking carrots.

I shouldn’t be to hard on them. They’re dealing with a lot of crazy people. Maybe if they gave us too much variety for our sides, we’d start getting ideas. They’d find us sitting nude in a janitor’s cupboard reading poetry whilst smoking a kranjska. Can’t have us going all Dead Poets Society on them. Particularly because none of our group therapists were inspiring enough to have us clambering up onto tables and declaring them our captain. One of my group leaders actually told me to just quit writing until the kids were all older. Robin Williams would NEVER have said that. It just wouldn’t work at all.

Honestly, our biggest source of excitement was watching MKR and discussing the impending Eurovision finals. But even our enthusiasm over television shows was kept at bay by the rigid structure of our ward. The whole decor seemed to be designed to ensure we weren’t too stimulated.  The communal lounge room had square chairs, square coffee tables, rectangular rugs, and a giant rectangle flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. Very orderly. It’s like the structured furnishings would help keep us calm so that we wouldn’t go wild. Probably so that we wouldn’t start making crazy demands like having something other than potatoes, broccoli, and carrots with every damn meal. In fact, if we giggled too loudly whilst watching our guilty evening pleasure of MKR, the nurses stared at us and asked us if we’d like our evening medication. Couldn’t have us giggling too loudly; there’s trouble to be had there—better medicate us and ship us off to bed. But I’m proud to say we persisted in rebelling. I even got a couple of magazines with sexy sealed-sections and left them in the communal area. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone it was me.

But even with all this structure, the staff couldn’t diminish the untamed ecstasy that is Eurovision. Perhaps the hospital has better results further away from the finals. Because we tended to remain defiant and fobbed away our evening medication until we were told quite sternly that it was late, and the medication window would be closing, and if we didn’t take our freakin’ meds right now, we’d get reported to our psychiatrists. Given that mine was such a low talker that I wouldn’t have been able to understand any lecture I received, this was possibly not such a great threat to use on me. Unfortunately, my compadres quite liked their psychiatrists and could understand every word that they said, so I had no allies to fight the power with. But we still talked big.

And as for Eurovision 2014, what a spectacular winner. Conchita Wurst. An Austrian drag queen with exquisite eyes, the voice of an angel, and a beard. A real “stuff you” to the establishment. A celebration of being unique. It showed that you can be different and not deficient. Just like myself and my fellow mums were. We were anxious, we were guilt ridden, and we were gradually getting hairier ourselves because most of us assumed that we wouldn’t be allowed to bring in a razor, but we were great. We loved each other. We laughed with each other. We empowered each other in that “you’re weird and I’m weird, but that’s okay” kind of way. So as much as the food, the furniture, and the nurses wished we’d just mellow the fuck out a bit and follow an orderly life, it was the moments of joined rebellion that really helped get us through. It gave us a much needed sense of ourselves and let us know that we were still fun and good company. I still love those girls. I know you’re reading this. You’re possibly the only ones reading this. Big smooshy kisses to you all.

Looking back, there seems to be an awfully high correlation between inmates and a love of Eurovision. I’m not saying you have to be crazy to like it, but apparently, it helps. If you, like me and my crazy-arsed friends, find yourself getting the tingles each year as the Eurovision final approaches, then maybe you should consider getting yourself checked out. Personally, I think you’re crazy if you don’t like it. What’s not to love? The wind, the glitter, the dancing, the miming. It’s champagne television. But what would I know? I’m nuts.

Love that excerpt? Grab my book here.

A Thank You to Jane Rawson and All the Authors Who Allow Me to Escape

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Things have been getting on top of me of late. You probably noticed from my last post that I’m spiralling down into a depressive state again. I’m exhausted and there doesn’t seem to be a break for me in sight. There doesn’t seem to be a Robin sized shape in my life at all. Yesterday morning I could do little more than cry and vomit. I was trapped inside my own head and couldn’t see the light of day.
But then I had an external mood boost and it has made all of the difference in the world. Yesterday I received an early copy of From The Wreck by Jane Rawson to review.

It is, quite simply, sublime. From the very first sentence the atmosphere is so thick that you could eat it with a spoon. I won’t comment any further on the book right now as that’s not the purpose of this blog entry, and I will definitely write a review closer to the release date in March. The reason I am writing this blog post is to affirm just how important good books are. Not just from an educational point of view. Not just from a place of social commentary. Not just to shine a light on horrendous issues. All those things are important but they can also provide a much needed escape.

As the great J. R. R. Tolkein said, “Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?” Unfortunately using literature for escapism is often derided as silly. It is as if some people think that you should be intensely feeling and consciously changing your life at all moments of the reading journey. You must feel miserable and outraged. You can’t just grab a book and float away somewhere else, you must be very much here, on Earth, in your own tightly-fitting shoes, and in your own burning skin. Literature like that certainly has its place but so do stories that let us become so utterly immersed in their world that we can switch off our brain from our own troubles from time to time and go somewhere else.
When you have a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, like I do, sometimes you just need to get out of the prison that is your own mind. Books provide a gaol-break. They are life saving, they are necessary, they are not simply trivial nonsense. So never be ashamed of reading to escape because it very well could save your life. And do keep an eye out in March for Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck. It is intensely gripping and has allowed me to escape from my head.

This Day I am Full of Rage

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I am raging and I can’t seem to stop. I’m not raging against any political motion or global crisis, I am raging against my insignificant life. A small thing in the context of the globe yet I still rage. I am so filled with hate and despair right now I could cry.

It doesn’t help that I’m exhausted because all three kids had a restless night and all three wanted to sleep directly on top of me at the same time and I handled it on my own. It doesn’t help that I am still in pain from a spider bite I got at a family lunch three weeks ago. It doesn’t help that I have no more money left for a doctor visit nor medication. It doesn’t help that I am not sure I have enough money to cover groceries this month to feed my kids. It doesn’t help that my daughter cries every morning when I drop her off to school and I cannot afford to pay for parking to stay with her. It doesn’t help that the morning bell doesn’t go on time. But mostly it doesn’t help that I feel utterly unloved and unsupported.

You see, everyone keeps on telling me what a great guy my husband is. And on some levels he is. He is handsome, he is smart, he tells good jokes, and he usually does the washing up. But he has a couple of issues that make feeling loved and supported by him really hard; he hates anything he perceives as weakness- this includes having emotions, and asking for help; he has his set routines and if you want to tweek them you can just go get fucked, be damned that your whole life is different because you’ve produced three kids together and be damned that my whole life has changed as a result of said kids. I love them but they’re exhausting and sometimes I need help. And so I rage because stupid me can’t get it through my thick head that needing help is weakness and I will be cut down if I dare to need it.

Of course he doesn’t admit to his own weakness of not being tolerant or supportive. He says it’s my own fault. I don’t talk to him in the right way or at the right time to encourage him to want to help. I’ve asked him so many times in so many ways over the last five and a half years that I’m calling bullshit on this. He has a weakness, a massive one, ironically it is how he reacts to what he perceives as weakness. In truth he just isn’t good at sharing, sharing his compliments, sharing his encouragement, sharing his space. I’m a youngest child, I’m excellent at sharing, I’ve never had a choice not to. And so I rage.

And I rage at the people who tell me what a great guy he is and how I should give him more time to relax. He works long hours, he only sees the kids for a few broken hours each week day and at least one night a week he doesn’t see them at all. And at least one weekend a month he is likewise away. Oh he works so hard, he needs a break…. well what the fuck do you think I’m doing whilst he’s away? I’M TAKING CARE OF THREE YEAR OLD TWINS AND A FIVE YEAR OLD. It’s not exactly restful. On top of that I am a working writer. Yes, I earn money from my writing, I actually have to do it. It’s not all fun and something I can just put aside as it’s just some silly hobby as some people like to think. I’m a working mum getting limited support. I AM FUCKING EXHAUSTED. WHY AREN’T YOU TELLING MY HUSBAND HOW HARD I FUCKING WORK AND THAT HE SHOULD GIVE ME A BREAK? WHY IS IT ALWAYS ME WHO HAS TO DO MORE? And so I continue to rage.

This month he is away two weekends with work commitments. Next month he is away for one weekend and then another week with work. On top of that he is also going away with the men folk of his family for nearly a week. When I suggested that perhaps in future the menfolk could compromise on times given how full his schedule is I was shutdown. I was put down as being an unreasonable harpy not understanding the complexities of scheduling. Never mind somebody might want to think about our schedule. No, things that drive me to exhaustion aren’t important. They’re not for consideration. And so I rage. And so I cry. And so my body breaks down from being forced to carry a load it cannot and I vomit. I vomit and I rage.

My husband promised the kids that he’d take us away for a weekend in January. He’d promised it ages in advance. The kids were so excited. Then his friends wanted to play boardgames on one of those days. Family weekend away was cancelled. The kids cried. But you know, complexities of scheduling, this was the best way to do it and I can’t complain because he never gets to do anything. I got to do a writing course so he should be able to cancel a family weekend to hang out with his mates. Doing work related courses for me is akin to playing games with your mates.

He thinks I’m unreasonable that I wonder if he is having an affair. He doesn’t tell me when he’ll be home, he is away from home so much yet needs a break from us, he doesn’t tell me that he loves me- the best I get is ditto, and he won’t tell me what he loves about me and why he’s with me because I shouldn’t need to be told and begging for compliments is pathetic. And he’s right, but I’m not begging for compliments I’m begging for love and support. And that’s actually even more pathetic. I shouldn’t be so unlovable that I need to beg someone to love me. And so I rage and I weep.

I know that nothing will change because in space nobody can hear you scream. And on Earth they hear you but they just tell you to shut up because you’re so lucky to have such a wonderful man in your life and you really must give him a rest. So what does that mean they think of me? That I’m lucky to be driven into the ground with exhaustion? That I’m lucky to have my job treated as a silly little thing that needs no time nor effort nor respect? That I’m lucky to never be told that I am loved? That I am lucky that begging for consideration is met with contempt. And so I rage against the futility of it all.

And so I rage and I hit publish and I know nothing will change because I am lucky to be with him but he is unlucky to be saddled with me.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: We Don’t All Make It Out Alive

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My heart breaks for the family of Florence Leung of New Westminister, Canada. She was a woman, a human being in her own right, as well as a mother and a wife. Like me, she has battled postnatal depression, unlike me, she didn’t make it out alive. On Wednesday her lifeless body was found.

Last June Allison Goldstein made headlines in the US for her suicide. She was 32, just like I was when I had my first child, bubbly, beautiful, and well liked. She seemed to have it all on the surface. but below the surface postnatal depression pulled her down.

In 2010 an investigation was launched into Joanne Bingley in the UK. She had postnatal depression and sadly left her family home as her husband and baby slept and then laydown in front of an oncoming train. She loved her baby but felt like she couldn’t cope. Joanne had begged health care professionals for help but they wouldn’t listen. The result was that a little girl will never get to know the love of her mother.

These are just a few cases that made headlines, but they are unfortunately not isolated cases. Suicide is one of the leading causes of postnatal maternal death. I was nearly one of these women. Raging hormones, lack of support, complications with feeding, and exhaustion can provide a deadly cocktail for mothers. And yet women are still frequently dismissed when they ask for help.

Health professionals are supposed to be vigilant for signs of depression and not coping but mothers often report being treated like hysterical first time mothers when they ask for help. And science backs them up. Studies have shown again and again that males going in with the same symptoms as females are more frequently referred for further testing and given medication, whilst women are simply sent home. Mothers are on the absolute bottom rung despite the media releases from the health professionals declaring that they should be at the top.
I was on the receiving end of this dismissive attitude, I thank my lucky stars that someone finally listened otherwise I’d be another statistic. I doubt I’d even make it as a news report. Simply dead and ignored.

My daughter came at 35 weeks. She attached fine to the breast but was a slow feeder. She’d take up to two hours to feed. Then I’d change her nappy, try to put her down to sleep, she’d shriek in pain so I’d hold her upright in my arms so that she wouldn’t explode with acidic vomit. She’d sleep in my arms for forty minutes and the we’d start the process all over again. Day and night. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I’d cry often. My legs would buckle underneath me at random moments. I’d vomit up bile. I was exhausted and my body was failing me. I told the community nurse I was exhausted. She told me to just put the baby down and stop overreacting to every little sound. I told my GP at the time that I couldn’t cope. She said babies like to suck and a breast was better than a dummy. She said it couldn’t be as bad as I said otherwise I wouldn’t be able to smile or function. I felt like I was going crazy. I hurt. I couldn’t keep going. I wanted to kill myself so that my daughter could have a mother that people would help. And I would have done just that if things hadn’t changed.

My regular GP wasn’t available for my daughter’s four month check-up. I had to see a new GP. She diagnosed my daughter with reflux and hip dysplasia, both conditions were quite severe and had been missed by the hospital, community nurses, and my previous GP. Referrals to specialists were given. With medication for reflux my daughter was able to sleep better. Which meant I could too. She also needed two ooperation for her hip dysplasia, three months in a spica cast and several more in a brace. That GP improved my daughter’s quality of life and saved my mine. I doubt that I could have gone on another week the way it had been.

When my boys were born people said, just call, don’t get yourself into a tizzy like you did last time. But whenever I called they were too busy. And they were too busy the next day or the next. And then they’d show up and help with my daughter but I still had the twins, born at 32 weeks, to take care of and dinner to make.It was a slap in the face. A tokenistic gesture of help given not when I needed it and not in a way that allowed me to get any sleep.

As for my guardian angel of a GP, my boys had been in the NICU I was in their system. I had to go back to them for the twins’ checkups. I didn’t have time to also see my GP. When the social worker would pass she’d ask how I was, I’d say exhausted, she’d laugh. During check-ups I’d mention to the pediatrician that the boys weren’t sleeping well and I was having trouble taking care of them and their 2 year old sister. I was told that was life with premi twins, just deal with it.
Again by four months I was ready to end my life. And then my boys got bronchiolitis and ended up in hospital. In the emergency room I just cried and cried because I was exhausted and desperately worried about my babies and it was a catastrophic combination. I felt utterly alone. The emergency nurses were fantastic. They told me that they rarely got to have babies in there so would have no shortage of nurses who would want a cuddle. The nurses woke me to breastfeed then whisked my boys off to be cuddled. Nurses were coming from other departments on their break to get a cuddle with my boys. I got four hours of broken sleep that night. I wouldn’t have had much more than that all up in the past four months.

And then we had to go up to the children’s ward. I lost my beautiful angels of mercy who had come to help me in emergency.

They had strict rules in the children’s ward. Most of them resulted in the nurses not being able to help. So I juggled my two babies on my own and stared out the window and thought about how I’d jump out if I could actually open it. I decided that when my husband visited I would excuse myself to go to the bathroom, walk outside, then walk into traffic so that I could finally die. I was in so much pain, physical and emotional, that I just wanted it to end.

Luckily the pediatrician who had treated my daughter for reflux was the doctor on the ward. He took one look at me and knew I was not myself. He spoke reassuringly to me that there were options and that he was calling the social worker and that they would help. I was too tired not to believe him.

The social worker came. She said there were things that she could do to help but she also wanted to refer me to a hospital psychiatrist. He was there within twenty minutes. It became apparent that I was a patient along with my boys and that I was the more serious case. It was determined that I needed intensive support. Once the boys were well enough the three of us were transported to a psychiatric hospital with a mother and baby unit. And that’s why I’m still alive now.

If health professionals had continued to minimise my cries for help then I would be dead. I wouldn’t be typing this up on my phone next to my 5 year old daughter. She lies next to me sleeping peacefully as I type this because she was scared so came in for some mummy hugs. Last night it was my youngest child, he may only be younger than his twin brother by a minute but he’s still the youngest. He was scared and wanted to watch Yo Gabba Gabba. It was 3 am so I said no and he had an epic meltdown which I tried to soothe as quietly as I could lest he wake his siblings. The night before it was my middle child, all he wanted was for me to hold his hand whilst he dropped back off to sleep. If I hadn’t made it, my kids would have missed out. And to be honest, my death was only avoided by half an hour.

I owe a great debt to both those doctors, but they shouldn’t be so few and so far between. It’s about time health professionals stopped paying lip service to the notion that they’ll be vigilant of mothers struggles and actually were. How many more avoidable suicides must we mourn?

My book Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Postnatal Depression Sucks will be out in December. It deals with my time in the psychiatric hospital aan what I have learned. If it stops one more mother from killing herself then it is worth it. You’re not alone. I’m here, I made it through and so can you.

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Buy my memoir Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Postnatal Depression Sucks here.