Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

Not the loneliest number…

When you live with depression and anxiety, one isn’t the loneliest number.

Believe it or not, I like my own company. I enjoy being inside my own space. Thinking my own thoughts. Wondering about my own wonders. I find solace in isolation.

What I find interesting though, is that I don’t always believe this self-imposed seclusion is a healthy or sustainable way to do life. There seems too much time to ruminate about problems, worry about stuff and become too deeply embedded in my own feelings.

There’s a lot to loneliness that most people don’t understand. For a long time, I was of the belief that loneliness was a description of a number of people, and as a consequence, the smaller the crowd, the lonelier the person. However I’ve come to realise the number of people in the group does not measure a person’s loneliness. That in a room full of people, the most commonly felt malady is that of loneliness.

How can it be that loneliness is so widely felt, we live in a world of increasing communication? How is it that in our churches, sports teams, classrooms, work places and all manner of social gatherings we are left feeling… well… um… lonely?

When I posed the question on Facebook recently the answers were varied, but the problem was common. A sense of disconnection. Abandonment. Isolation.

I have a problem at the moment that I can’t share. (Because it’s not mine to share.) Even though I’ve been incredibly wounded by it’s effect and it has greatly disturbed my sense of equilibrium, I have no right to breach another’s privacy (especially here in such a public forum). The effect of this is, I feel like I’m carrying an impossibly heavy burden. Everywhere I go, I feel like I’m struggling to hold on to an impossibly awkward and immensely large weight. The effect of which is that behind it, I feel invisible.

The obvious cure to my invisibility is that I should simply ‘drop my bundle’! I should release this burden and be freed. But it’s just not that easy!

Dropping this bundle would mean breaching a promise. It would mean releasing something over which I could no longer have control and from which there would unquestioningly be negative fall out. And so, my only option is to seek professional help in order to work through the multitude of issues and to eventually find a place where it’s safe to release. In the meantime however, I must do life hidden behind a problem that eclipses me.

And so, I’m lonely!

It makes me wonder if it’s what we’re carrying that makes us feel lonely. The secrets? Uncertainty about who we are? The abuse we’ve endured? The failures we’ve experienced? Our unfaithfulness; or our partner’s? That we are unloved; or feel unlovable? That we harm ourselves; or others? That we don’t cope? That we can’t cope? That we’re not the perfection we think others want from us?

When we’re carrying burdens that cannot be released (and yes there is stuff that it’s inappropriate to share publically) we owe it to ourselves to find a safe place where it’s okay to practice stepping out from behind what hides us, stepping away from what keeps us lonely, and stepping into ourselves. Because it seems to me that until we’re able to look back at our ‘junk’ we’re not facing in the right direction.

From Mother Teresa: Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.

If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.

If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor.

Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.


Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

To be or not to be….

When you live with depression and anxiety, what happens when your parents get it wrong?

Most of you know many of the details of my childhood and its continuing assault on the way I see the world! So I’m not going to bore you by repeating it but an interesting thought crossed my mind recently about the role of authority in our life and the way we’re inclined to respond.

Read more about my childhood here:  All the lost children.

Firstly, I think it’s important to state unequivocally that I believe in God. The Christian God. You may have heard of ‘Him’ in terms like Jesus or Holy Spirit. In this western world we have a very catholicized view of God and so before I go any further I am also going to state unequivocally that I have real problems with organized religion. You know what I’m talking about. The religious movements that fail to recognise the authority of God and work to achieve their own ends through manipulation, force, spiritual abuse, dictatorship or at worst cultish mind control.

So frankly, I’m not the favourite of many traditional church-going types. Frankly, I’m not the favourite of many! Something I could change if I just kept my mouth shut!!!

So when I was listening to someone speak about their life and the time when as a teenager their parents marriage fell apart, I was interested to note that it created within him a sense of doubt about the inherent authority they had in his life.

I can’t speak too much about all the implications this had for him because there wasn’t time to explore the details. However, I was led to consider our enlightened new way of perceiving ourselves as the ultimate authority in our own life.

We all know that at the beginning parents are the ultimate authority in the lives of their children. Then as children grow and uncover their own mindfulness, their own authority over self develops into self-control, self-discipline, and socialization. But what happens when a child’s own awareness begins to perceive weaknesses in that authority.

In the day, as a new parent, I would only allow my children to watch children’s shows on the ABC. This, in itself, was an attempt to limit the number of influences my infants were susceptible to. I somewhat intentionally controlled whom they associated with and attempted to make sure that our ‘family values’ were maintained.

Some 30 years later, in our more eclectic culture we are far more inclined to expose our children to as many influences as possible to provide a more inclusive range of experiences from which they can develop a deeper sense of self.

And this is where I’m inclined to wonder whether we’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. Are we suffering from the effects of too many choices? When have we had so many examples of ‘right’ to choose from? When have we had more access to so much information that questions our own… er… everything?

The Christian in me advises me to live by two principles. Love God. Love People. It’s not a complicated philosophy and whilst I’d be happy to discuss the theological doctrines upon which I base my understanding, I’m not so arrogant as to believe I have all the answers.

However, if I were to choose my principles from my life experiences, I would be tempted to believe that in this fight for survival, I might be best served to believe there is no God worthy of loving and that my own selfish needs had priority over all else. After all, religion has created an image of God for us that is more about what we want in a God rather than what God wants in us.

It appears to me that we’re becoming more confused; more anxious; more depressed, and more overwhelmed by own inability to maintain authority over ourself. With so many correct choices (who determines what’s correct) we are free. But to what end?

The very fact we’re physical, sentient and spiritual beings means we have needs that cannot be met by simply existing. Failing to understand how we might negotiate our way through the endless questioning of who we are and how we succeed could well leave us confused, unfulfilled and at the whim of the ocean tides.

Ha-Joon Chang (an economist) says: Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict freedom of choice. A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restrictions that we fail to see them.

So too it may be with the way we live our lives.

If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.

If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor.

(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)

Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

Getting out of the water…?

When you live with depression and anxiety it’s just possible a shark might take a nibble!

I’m sorry about the casual reference to one of the the hottest surfing topics but as I watched a shark appear from nowhere behind surfer Mick Fanning, I couldn’t help but wonder about the times a f***ing huge metaphoric shark has surfaced to bite my huge metaphoric arse!!

As I think back through the stages of my life I find that no era has been without it’s surprise shark attacks. From being bitten in my own home as a child of 9; to being bitten in my own family as a teen; to being bitten in my marriage; bitten in business; and bitten in church. It seems I have an ongoing relationship with a ‘shiver’ of sharks that routinely circle waiting for me to forget they exist.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to believe that people were good. Yes, they had the potential for bad, but as a rule, I believed goodness would triumph. This, I think, is because I’ve always felt that I was bad. Unwanted. Troublesome. I’m not exactly sure how I came by this self-determination but, having spent a life feeling like I don’t fit in, in a world where I believed everyone else to be good, it seems to be a reasonable conclusion.

It’s always been my belief that I could trust the people I trusted. I always believed their assessment that I was in some way responsible for the crap they dealt out. Even as a 9 year old the first questions I was asked having been found the victim of a ‘home invasion’ sexual assault, were; why did you open the door; and why didn’t you bite him? Not, how dare he do this too you! Not, how dare he invade your home! Just an insensitive, direct assessment of my complicity in what happened. My troublesomeness. My naughtiness. My disobedience.

When I question my siblings about my childhood they continually espouse the way I was spoilt, babied, and made adorable. They considered me to be the lucky one and perhaps I was. By the time I was born my father had almost lost interest in taking out his anger on his children (although he sometimes still did). His violence became almost solely directed at my mother who had learned to stand in his way to protect her children. The fact that my father had no interest in taking out his anger on me, did perhaps have me living in a relative utopia, however like all of life’s experiences, the impact is always personal.

So, what of depression, anxiety and sharks? How is it that we can separate the shark attacks from our illness and attempt to manage what life throws our way?

Regardless of whether Mick Fanning ever surfs again he will always be the surfer who was surprised by a shark. So therefore, perhaps we too should see ourselves as a person with an illness who was surprised by a shark. When you enter the world of the shark, you must expect the possibility of the shark to take a nibble to see what it finds. And, if the sharks are hungry you may not survive.

So too we enter a world so full of evil that we must expect the possibility that evil will take a nibble. And if it’s hungry, it’s possible we’ll be consumed. Will we be consumed because of our depression and anxiety? Definitely not! We’ll be consumed because that’s what evil does.

From Lyndsay Wagner: (Who doesn’t want to be bionic?)
“A lot of people say they want to get out of pain, and I’m sure that’s true, but they aren’t willing to make healing a high priority. They aren’t willing to look inside to see the source of their pain in order to deal with it.”

Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor or contact an organisation such as Beyond Blue.

(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)

Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

Would you live in a cave…?

When you live with depression and anxiety life can feel cacophonic.

There’s a lot to be said for being a hermit. You know, the person who lives in a cave, living off what the land provides and indulging one’s self in the comfort of his or her own thoughts. This utopia seems to me, to be an ideal location where I could live out my life. A place of isolation and freedom.

Of course those who know me, would laugh at my description of my utopia. Anyone who’s experienced my desire for strict personal hygiene routines will perhaps note an irony in my fantasies. It shows how easy it is to hide a private yearning behind a public persona. It makes me wonder how many of our lives are about the display of the peacock rather than the gentle neutrality of the peahen. Our desire to display a decorative exhibition of brilliance is in some ways perhaps preferable to walking discreetly through life, unnoticed.

For me this dichotomy is real. In essence, my personality is bigger than my physical size. My desire for notoriety is, quite frankly, annoying. (To almost everyone, including me!) And, my need to create humour takes the most sensitive of subjects and turns them into an opportunity to laugh (usually naughtily). But in spite of my own ‘quite obvious’ nature, I still long to hide. To be unseen and uncompromised.

For me, I think, this desire to hide comes from my inability to cope with the duplicity of others and the fact that perhaps I’m a bit naïve in my expectation that others would be all they seem. I’ve mentioned before that, as a general rule, you can expect me to tell you what I actually think. In fact, even blogging as I do places me at risk of; sharing too enthusiastically; exposing myself too willingly; and revealing too much. An interesting pastime for one whose secret desire is to live in a cave!

You see, the thing is, I’m inherently afraid. Notwithstanding I have a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I’m afraid there’s something I will not know; something I cannot learn and something that I cannot detect. I’m afraid, that my heart will be punctured through the seemingly essential act of trust. And because I want to believe in the fundamental goodness of others, I’m made vulnerable. Even those I would consider the ‘goodest’, hide heartbreaking secrets that once known cannot be unknown. That once contrived cannot be forgotten. And, that once played out, are etched indelibly on our heart.

How is it then that I can resolve these discordant parts of my own inner self? How is it that I can temper my natural self in order to brace for the heartache I know will come? How can I find peace without isolation?

Like a romantic symphony, the composition of life seems to move through themes of delight only to be varied, not to change the theme, but to restructure it in a way that introduces sadness and reflection until it’s been exhausted. Perhaps it’s now that the composer will introduce a new part. A new movement, in new time and with renewed energy. A new dance.

From Richard Ashcroft – Bittersweet Symphony:
Well I never pray
But tonight I’m on my knees yeah
I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah
I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free now
But the airways are clean and there’s nobody singing to me now

Not necessarily a romantic symphony but worth a listen anyway. Click to go to Youtube Bittersweet Symphony

If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.

If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor.

(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)

Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

When enough is enough…

When you live with depression and anxiety sometimes enough is enough!!

It’s been a tough time in our house. We had entered into the final days of life for my father-in-law, a man whose body, after 91 years, decided it could not perform all that was required of it. He peacefully drifted away surrounded by those who loved him. Those, who even in their grief understood he must go the way of all living things.

I often wish that I could be of a more optimistic mind. Because I feel that from time to time I’m completely incapable of imagining the dead as having ‘spirits’ that freely pick up on relationships long separated by another death.

I get why we’re inclined to believe it. I’m just not sure enough of what death holds to commit myself to something I can’t cognitively rationalise.

Believe it or not, I’ve learned a number of important things under the tutelage of Dr. Allan Meyer. And, of the many things he uttered, one that always comes back to me when someone I know dies, is: That the transition from life to death carries with it the unimaginable differences of life before birth. (My apologies to Al, if I’ve misheard his message.)

What I’ve come to believe is that when in the womb we cannot possibly conceive of ‘living’ outside it. In the place where our very being is preparing for physical reality, we would appear to be unable to compare our warm, wet, ‘fully serviced’ environment, to the harsh realities of hunger, pain and loneliness. (Just to name a few.) Being slowly, and at times unwillingly, discharged into ‘living’ consciousness, would appear to be an unfathomable notion whist we’re comfortably ensconced within the perfect environment.

Because of this, I’m inclined to wonder about the transition from life to death. Are we so adapted to our environment, that our perception of death is simply a case of ‘more of the same’ without a cumbersome structure of (failing) cells?

As you’ve possibly come to understand, my mind works in series’ of unanswerable questions that reflect a great deal on what can’t be known. Things like the fact that geologists cannot with any degree of certainty, predict the intensity of an earthquake prior to it’s occurrence. ‘Tell us what the effect of the earthquake will be?” is an unanswerable question. We can be made aware that an earthquake is inevitable, however there is no way to predict it’s scale.

Like conception, life and death, we know it will happen. We know that life can be created, that birth will ensue and that death will inevitably occur. It’s the knowledge about the effects of those events that we cannot predict with any degree of certainty.

So, to the unanswerable question of what happens when we die, we are cognitively ill-equipped to understand what awaits us at the end of the journey. Like the ‘discomfort’ of our journey through the birth canal, the journey toward death entails a painful exit from a known, to…, well…, an unknown and unpredictable …er… place.

Even though, interestingly enough, I’m satisfied by Christian teaching and it’s presupposition of an eternal relationship with a creator God, I’m not convinced by all our inadequate minds create when left to determine probabilities in absentia of irrefutable proof. And because we’re sentient beings we will inevitably believe what makes us feel best and what we can, with some degree of reflection and based on known parameters, fit into what we already know.

Sadly, what we already know, is strikingly inadequate.

From Steve Jobs: No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.

If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor.

(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)

Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

All you need is love…?

When you live with depression and anxiety relationships are about percentages.

It’s been another interesting week not just in the Diary, but internationally. Since the US Supreme Court’s decision on ‘gay marriage’ was announced there’s been a lot of discussion about: what is a relationship, how and what defines marriage, and what is the ‘right’ thing?

Living with depression and anxiety has a tendency to bring with it a need for stability. Some kind of ‘normalcy’ to help keep those things we fear at bay and help us remain ‘in control’. It’s a difficult preoccupation with safety that determines our willingness (or lack there of) to participate in life’s more notable challenges.

It’s possible if you’re gay and depressed you’ll be pleased that (in the US) you can now enter into a recognised marital relationship. If you’re heterosexual and depressed you’ll possibly feel that letting ‘those’ people marry will destabilise your normalcy. From my perspective I simply feel that relationships are tricky, organic things that do not conform to carefully worded legislation and ideals.

I’ve been locked in a life and death struggle with normalcy for as long as I can remember and I’m reluctant to disclose that I’m yet to win even the smallest skirmish! My carefully constructed perception of the world is encapsulated within an invisible force-field that has recently become less reliable.

I’ve spent a lot of time playing in a business that relied heavily on the contractual obligations of each party. Unfortunately, it was only when the relationship soured that people would extract their copy of the contract from behind the bookcase and look for the other party’s failures. After dusting off the covers and reading through the carefully worded terms and conditions, a series of legally worded letters would ensue until the matter was settled in a ‘no winner’ settlement. An outcome designed to minimise the potential damage rather than any mutually beneficial outcome that satisfies each party.

For a long time I have provided advice to people entering to contractual business relationships. I carefully explain that no relationship is a 50/50 partnership and that making a relationship work is more complicated that they think. In fact, I tell them that they will be expected to bring more than 50% to the table to which the usual response is a confused and somewhat affronted demeanor. That they might be asked to do more than their fair share and that the ‘other party’ might be getting a better deal is apparently not all that palatable.

I’ve always applied this same logic to personal relationships. When I made a promise to my husband at the time we were married, I didn’t promise to do my ‘fair’ share. I didn’t promise to remain ‘faithful’ until being unfaithful felt better. I didn’t promise that I would ‘love’ him until I could transfer my love to someone else. The promises I made were made in the belief that I would bring 100% of myself into the marriage and that bringing it meant making sacrifices.

Perhaps I have the privilege of middle class conservatism to bind me to my promises. Perhaps it’s my values based life philosophy that keeps me attuned to how my behaviour affects others, or maybe I’m just too stupid to know any different. But no matter what keeps me in orbit, I’ll always believe that every ‘contractual obligation’ requires a 100% commitment from both parties.

No matter the relationship or the parties the 50/50 rule just doesn’t hold up. An expectation that you are only required to contribute to 50% of the relationship and only on the proviso that the other party provides the other 50% seems to me like only half a commitment and, because of it’s necessary focus on what others are doing and not what we are doing, appears set up to fail.

And, the cautionary tale in all this is that life continues to happen in and around every relationship. A perfect relationship model is difficult to conceive and difficult to live out. It’s loaded with misguided expectations, foolish needs and human frailty and because of this, we must proceed with caution.

Love should never be reliant on legislation and ideals but on willingness and commitment.

From H. Jackson Brown, Jr: Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own.

If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.

If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor.

(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)