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Deb Shugg Diary of Secrets Depression and Anxiety

To trust or not to trust….

When you live with depression and anxiety trust is a four letter word.

Like most who struggle with their emotional health, the issue of trust can be seen threading it’s way through the Diary. From our ability to trust ourselves to our ability to trust others, there seems a spectrum of trust by which we learn to measure and predict another’s trustworthiness.

For me, having been raised in an environment where it was necessary to find a way to protect one’s self (even if that meant submission) it’s easy to see that trust might be an ongoing issue. However, when you’re as old as I am you’d think that I’d have learned a few techniques to help me mange the ebbs and flows of life.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to live a life without social interaction. That means, no matter how much we kid ourselves that we’re ‘independent’ and don’t need to rely on others, we’re almost always wrong.

I’ve had many lessons recently about trust. And, I’ve spent a great deal of time telling myself how stupid I am for trusting people. In fact, I’ve turned myself into a complete ogre for believing that I could trust anyone.   The pain of those breaches burns embers in my soul that flare up under the most gentle of breezes only to die back down and await the next breath. And yet, I blame only myself for it. For being stupid. For being a complete f…ing idiot!

I guess it’s self-soothing to tell myself that it’s my own fault. It means I can take responsibility for whatever pain happens in my life because it was me who breached my own rules. Interestingly, once you believe you can control what happens, it seems the world can be perceived as a safer place.

So I wonder then, what integrity is about. I have always valued my personal integrity quite highly. I attempt to ensure my thoughts and behaviour are aligned regardless of the discomfort it causes me. (And, it has caused me a great deal of discomfort.) In fact, my desire to keep this in balance has me known for being someone who will actually say what I think no matter the risk.

This is something I actually like about myself. (Interestingly, there’s not much else I like about myself.) Where I find many things abstract and unimportant (like time), the fact that if I tell you something, provide advice, or give you an impression, you’re getting a glimpse of the real me. I might not necessarily be right, but you will know what I really think. (Mind you, this wasn’t always the case!)

Because of my own beliefs about integrity, I’ve always considered that another person’s integrity will provide a degree of reassurance in respect of how trustworthy they are. That their desire to be viewed as they actually are will allow me to discern what degree of trust I should apply.

But sadly, it’s becoming more obvious to me that a person’s displayed integrity might just be an illusion created specifically to deceive. A calculated manipulation by those who would willingly hold their own need more tightly than any social or personal responsibilities. So it begs the question then of how can I trust others, when they hold their own integrity in such low regard?

I guess it’s a problem I’ll have to keep working on. The truth is, I cannot do life alone. In order to live a life of purpose, I must fully engage with others even though life has taught me not to. Unfortunately for me, it’s almost a fore-gone conclusion that any engagement will provide an opportunity for someone to break through my carefully constructed fortress and ensure a direct hit to my heart.

So, to trust or not to trust, that is the question?

From someone named George MacDonald: To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.

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

Blowing in the wind…

When you live with depression and anxiety the answers are blowing in the wind.

It’s been a very interesting week in the diary. Full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and a few king hits thrown in to drop me back to floor. Frankly, the floor and I have become far too familiar in the past few weeks. Me buckled, and the floor… well it’s a floor. What does it have to do but keep me separated from the dirt below it.

When you live with depression and anxiety, the world doesn’t have a floor to protect us from the dirt. Metaphorically speaking, when we receive a punch from the world’s ongoing posturing for control, our illness drops us directly into it.

It became abundantly clear to me this week that regardless of how much we resist change, the world continuously presses in on us, reshaping and altering us in ways over which we have no control. And it’s not just the physical realities of knowledge and ageing that are pressured into adaptation, but the more subtle elements about who we are and what’s our purpose.

I confess that the woman I was at 20 was not the same woman at 30 who was not the same woman at 40 (and so on…!).   Apart from the fact that my body, like all others, is subject to entropy, decay and eventual death (not to mention gravity!!) it is the more indefinable qualities in my life that have altered simply due to the ‘winds of change’.

Apparently, it’s a generally known fact that high-rise buildings are built to flex in the wind because if they don’t, that same wind will blow them over. This seems a great example of how, when we tie ourselves to particular self-perceptions, we can position ourselves to stand unmoving against the wind. Our expectation being that the wind will alter it’s course to suit our position.

You see, I think there are two types of people in the world. People who embrace change and undertake a life of self-discovery and growth, whilst others prefer the consistency of sameness. Neither is a better or worse position than the other, they are simply different. However, whether we choose change or not, our lives will always move in the direction of the wind.

There’s no doubt that as we deal with our relationship to the world around us we will be drawn more heavily into the rips and eddies that catch us unaware. Events that generate loss, fear, anger, happiness, jealousy, excitement and joy (just to name a few) are the unknowns in how we as a person will develop our opinions, our decisions and our actions.   However, before any development can take place we have to reconcile the fact that life cannot be the same as it was. It must flex or be destroyed.

I’m no expert in how to change gracefully. In fact, whilst my personality displays itself as loud and spirited, at the heart of it is a small girl who sits, waiting to be loved for who she is.

In the words of Bob Seger:
And I remember what he said to me
How he swore that it never would end
I remember how he held me oh so tight
Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then

Against the wind
We were runnin’ against the wind
We were young and strong, we were runnin’
Against the wind

To listen to Bob Seger’s Against the Wind:

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 is a carrot not a carrot…?

When you live with depression and anxiety, tired and emotional takes on a whole new meaning.

Today, I’m tired and emotional. I’ve spent weeks dealing with winter viruses that have come and gone and come again on top of which I’ve been working on some amazing business development opportunities for clients and friends. After a spectacular ‘crash’ last year, getting back into a full swing life is both exhausting and exciting.

So as I sit here this morning wanting nothing more than to go back to bed (something I intentionally deny myself) I’m considering whether or not another 3 shots of coffee might placate my indolence or simply make me fidgety. But hey, I’ve got the rest of the day to decide.

One of the difficult ruminations of those of us who struggle with our emotional health is that we are useless. That we are a burden on those around us and of course, the world would be much better off without us. These thoughts are a strong precursor to suicide as we consider our value by the things we haven’t achieved and those that we can’t ever hope to achieve. Our life seems an endless cycle of grieving for what we can’t do. We put all you ‘normal’ people on a pedestal and tell ourselves that our life would be much better if we could be more like you!

If I wasn’t such a cynic I’d quote a whole heap of statistics at you about the prevalence of ‘mental illness’. Then I’d set about attempting to tell you that the prevalence of ‘mental illness’ is an astounding burden on society and that we should all attempt to focus on making those people with ‘mental illnesses’ normal, like the rest of you. But, what I really want to do, is to tell you that we are normal. Just like the colour of your skin is normal – whatever it’s colour, it is what it is, normal.

As society seemingly works it’s way to a more politically correct ‘vanilla’ flavoured expression of harmony I’m inclined to think about what happens to those people who will naturally fall to one end of the ‘normal’ everyday variety or the other. People like me, who for all my ability to fit within society (and usually excel at it), from time to time find they don’t. Every now and then, we find ourselves in an inexplicable emotional crisis that has us perceiving that we aren’t as normal as we think we are. And, that we are in some way less than ‘normal’.

Frankly, and it’s not the first time I’ve said it, culturally we’ve fallen for an airbrushed, neutral toned, marketers view of how we prefer to see ourselves. We’re so ‘tuned’ into what other people do, that we’ll buy into almost anything presented to us. When you’re a person who is continually measuring what you can’t do against an unattainable perception of what everyone else can do, there seems to be an exaggerated sense of us and EVERYBODY else.

I remember the time when I was a young mother attempting to explain the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ to a 4 year old. And the best I could come up with is ‘you know it’s fake, right’? The only way I could help my children begin to understand the world around them was to help them understand not everything they saw was real. Whilst even today this seems to have been a little paranoid, I was attempting to manage my children’s expectations of themselves and others. My desire was to help my children navigate an uncertain world amid the snake oil salesmen and inappropriate and unhelpful diversions.

However, I was also keen to let them know it was okay to suspend reality in order to enjoy a fiction or to be entertained. We’re all aware that when children play they are doing so by ‘pretending’ reality. They do not believe those toys are real but it does not lessen their enjoyment whilst they suspend that reality to pursue the pleasure of play.

Sadly, it seems now that reality and fiction are blending to such a point we have become much less capable of determining the difference. We’re so busy attempting to emulate the unattainable we’re damaging ourselves in the process. When did we become so reliant on another’s compass to navigate our own journey? How did we fall for the lie we’re all so similar, that appearing in the most populated area of a standard distribution bell curve of ‘human behaviour’, makes us ‘normal’. When did we begin to assume that everyone else was normal and we are clearly not?

And, as an example, we won’t even buy bent carrots! We have fallen so hard for what marketing experts tell us is normal that we’ve come to believe straight carrots are somehow better than bent carrots. (Carrots, like humans come in every shape and size and this does not in any way limit their ability to be a decent carrot!)

So, if you think perhaps you’ve missed being ‘normal’ and you don’t belong in this world with all those normal people, perhaps it’s time to see yourself as a carrot.

From Kristen Wiig:   I can relate to having those people in your life that you feel are moving on to this great, big, normal life and you’re like, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ 

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

Take me to the Volcano….

Everything I needed to know I learned from watching television.

Last time I touched on the concept of flashbacks.   The point being that flashbacks are nothing like what we’re shown on TV. They do not automatically transport us back into the circumstances or memories of our trauma.   They generate an emotional and sensory collage that stimulates the ‘feelings’ associated with the trauma, making some or all, everyday experiences almost impossible to endure.

It’s the mistaken belief, that a flashback is like playing a film reel in time lapse, that I learned from watching too much television. I forgot (or didn’t know) that a filmmaker’s objective is to help the viewer understand the characters portrayed.   They do this by ‘engineering’ behaviours and character ‘traits’ to an extreme.

The trouble is, that many people (like me) are sold on the concept of “real life” television drama. We’re sold the ideal family and the ideal circumstances that for the most part are unattainable. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for setting goals and having aspirations. But… whenever I have the privilege of talking to people whose achievements are enviable, I don’t have to scratch hard to find the reality that was the adversity they were driven to overcome. The circumstances that stimulated growth.

I’ve found this with my own hardships. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my anxiety and depression have, in many ways, been the motivation underlying my successes. But what does all this have to do with unhelpful things to say to someone living with depression and anxiety?

Too often caring people’s only experience with emotional illnesses is what they’ve seen on TV. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily. But it does open them up to saying the dumbest things at the dumbest times simply because they saw it on TV.

In a discussion recently, I was asked to explain what was the turning point in my recovery and I had to explain that it was the attention of a friend and neighbour. To my knowledge, this person had little experience with a thirty something year old woman bawling because she couldn’t get in the car. But regardless of that, when she saw me in my driveway distraught with debilitating anxiety she stopped what she was doing (which was going to work) and chose instead to sit with me until I’d calmed down.

She didn’t drop any of the usual lines like; you’ll be okay. Stop worrying. It’s probably for the best. Nor did she try to tell me how I should fix it. Aromatherapy, Zen, Tai Chi, sports, exercise or eating better did not make the topic list as she sat next to me on my bed and let me ramble on punctuating my discourse with “I don’t know what to do”!

Mind you I’d heard a lot of suggestions about how I could fix myself. And, after trying most of them and enduring endless disappointment I was literally out of ideas.   One of the more frequent urgings was for me to ignore “it” and get on with whatever I had to do.

This in fact was a favourite of Mr Wisdom’s (he suggested another name this week). He knew and could see that nothing bad was going to happen to me and that my “emotions” were being deceived into believing I was under attack. What he didn’t understand was the anxiety was not happening in relation to what was going on around me. The glandular manufacturer of fight or flight chemicals was erupting like a volcano inside me and was dictating my behaviour.   Fear, hot and acidic, was oozing from my every pore.

Being told to ignore anxiety is like telling villagers living on the side of a volcano not to worry if the volcano erupts. “Just get on with what you’re doing and never mind if you are vaporised in an instant.”

Just ignore the anxiety and it will go away?   If I could I would! But the threat is too great. The onslaught of emotions associated with trauma flow too fast. Like believing that you can ‘think’ yourself out of insulin dependent Diabetes if you just ignore it, anxiety does not give up.

It’s a physical malfunction. A physical breakdown. A physical illness. It does not stop simply because you don’t think about it. It does not stop because you cannot justify why you have it. And it does not stop just because you’re more clever than anyone else. It stops when the chemical balance has been restored and it may or may not require medication to do that. But either way we need to be patient.

Agnes Smedley:  I feel like a person living on the brink of a volcano crater.

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 business woman, 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

The Doctor is in…

When you live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder it’s easy for others to think you’re being moody.

For a long time, in fact since I was a child, I’ve experienced what are commonly known as “flashbacks”. These flashbacks aren’t always what you’d expect. Thanks to an invaluable resource, that takes all our real experiences and dramatises them for our entertainment, the television, we’ve become accustomed to seeing life through an unhealthy film of unreality.

If you’ve ever watched a television drama you’ll know that a flashback sequence is like a clip from the past. Where the actual event is replayed word for word, experience for experience and in real time. This isn’t the case for me. And, for a long time I didn’t realise I was experiencing flashbacks. In fact, I just felt confused.

Flashbacks, like all memory related recollections don’t play like a clip from your favourite movie.  They are a collage of sensory perceptions and emotional destabilisation laid across an everyday experience. Too wordy?  Let me attempt to explain it better and in the context of what not to say to someone living with depression and anxiety.

Mr. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (his new name for himself!) has often been thrown into a state of confusion when I’ve moved from a state of relative calm and contentment into what appears to him as moody and cranky. These movements happen within moments and without notice. They’re unpredictable and frustrating and not just for him. So, it wasn’t uncommon for Mr. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to ask the question… “what’s wrong with you?”

Nothing, there’s nothing wrong with me that you haven’t lived with for the past 30 years. I do this just to throw you off kilter and upset your day! Don’t you know what’s wrong with me by now? Have you not heard a word I’ve said? Have you not been taking any notice of what I’ve been dealing with? Do you not know that when the sun gets to a certain point in the sky on a certain type of day that I am immediately repositioned?

“Nothing” I answered.

I can remember all the trauma I’ve experienced. (Not like a film clip.) I can talk about it. Analyse it. Justify it.  And, otherwise maintain a detached distance from it. But, when the sun gets to a certain point in the sky on a certain type of day, I’m undone. When a particular style of music is played, I’m lost. When I walk inside my mother’s house (which becomes increasingly necessary now she’s less capable of getting out), I’m set adrift. Not by a series of memories, but by an unstoppable onslaught of emotions, that I cannot, no matter how much I talk, analyse or justify, stop from happening.

I want Mr. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to understand that I am not moody. I want him to hug me, kiss me and ask… “Have you had a bad day?” A question that doesn’t require me to articulate what’s happening. Something I can nod to and know he understands. I just need a little extra patience.

For me, these flash backs take me to a place of vulnerability and abandonment. For others, it can be about frustration and anger. Regardless of how flashbacks manifest, they add a whole new dimension to an otherwise normal life. Over time, we might become adept and hiding our discomfort or creating diversions, but what we’re looking for is a way to explain what’s happening and be understood.

For people dealing with trauma, our ‘normal’ is about dealing with unexpected feelings and confusion. Our usual world view has been distorted by incongruous experiences and a new normal has been physiologically programmed within us. Of course we learn to live with our symptoms and we hope and pray that those who love us learn to as well.

For those who have experienced trauma the world is not a safe place and never will be again. We are left with a inability to ignore the triggers that take an ordinary day and make it anything but! In Mr. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ defence, it’s because he loves me unconditionally that I’m a lot less moody and a lot more grateful.

From Sharon Salzberg: Someone who has experienced trauma also has gifts to offer all of us – in their depth, their knowledge of our universal vulnerability, and their experience of the power of compassion.

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 business woman, 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

It’s lonely at the bottom…

When you live with depression and anxiety unsafe might be the new safe.

Frankly, I struggled with publishing last week’s BLOG because I wondered if it was too personal. Too revealing. Too distressing.   My intention has never been to engender sympathy or support for myself but to comfort those living with depression and anxiety by letting them know they are not alone. That their suffering is understood rather than judged. It’s based on a bible verse from Isaiah 41.

“So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Last week, as I challenged myself to write from where I was, I let myself try to explain how painful being at the bottom is. How lonely. Then, I was blown away by those who contacted me, to encourage and support me in my darkness. You did for me exactly what I hope to do for others and remind me that I am not alone.

This week, there’s no doubt the tunnel lighting has been turned back on, I can see beyond myself and the world has become a little less scary. But still I wonder what is it that recommends me.

Mostly, I see myself as particularly needy. I’ve already confessed to being an affirmation ‘junkie’. I seek out ways to be affirmed simply to reassure myself that I’m good enough because, for the most part, I never feel good enough. It’s a scary thought that no matter how many business awards and recognition I’ve received: No matter how well I’ve raised a family or how many books I’ve sold, I cannot see that I have an intrinsic value. And, I ask myself, why should I be continually encouraged and supported when really, I have precious little to recommend me.

Of course Mr Wonderful disagrees. He’s been busy this week trying to build up my self-esteem by reminding me how my life has purpose. And that in my humanness, I will always have difficulty bearing life’s lack of safety and predictability.

However, it appears no matter how much effort I put in I cannot make the world safe. Even my carefully designed and well-considered emotional barricade, is not capable of protecting me from those, imagined or otherwise, who could perpetrate harm.   It makes the clandestine attack I recently experienced that much more disabling, because it was my belief that I was safe.

It’s possibly interesting to note that I am a compulsive risk taker. I’m always looking for opportunities and jumping in to things head first!  And yet, last week I was caught completely off guard!  My pants were in the down position simply because I’ve recently avoided doing anything unnecessarily risky!

So, when asked by Mr Wonderful if I was more affected because of my depression and anxiety I wondered if it was so. I wondered if it was wrong of me to feel the way I do and if, for some reason, I had things wrong? Or is this the ‘stigma’ associated with ‘mental health’ that means the ‘trigger’ can be reduced to absolve a ‘perpetrator’ whilst having an illness wears blame?

I guess it depends on what’s at the bottom of your illness. Where your vulnerabilities lie and how deeply scarred your endocrine system is. In my world, I’m always on alert to danger and I manage this with a fortress of knowledge, self-awareness and thoughtfulness. I even make allowances for others, because I know where I’m vulnerable. However, when the fortress fails and all my good intentions crumble, I am left exposed, naked and unarmed. The good work I’ve done unraveled and useless. The positive self-talk; the self-promises; the self-awareness; the purpose; the pride; all gone… dust.

I confess that getting back on the horse gets easier (for me at least) however, the ride to the bottom is still the same. Yet, in all this, no matter how alone I feel, I know that I am never alone. You reminded me of that and I’m grateful.

From Greek historian Herodotus some 500 years before Christ:  “It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.” (I trust it can be so for me!)

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

Finding comfort…

When you live with depression and anxiety finding comfort can be a trying thing.

I’ve lived with depression and anxiety for most of my adult life and possibly, part of my childhood. So I often wonder what it must be like to ‘normal’. You know what I mean… ‘normal’ like, everybody else is ‘normal’!

This week, after hearing some distressing news and working hard for days to put it in a manageable perspective, I found that the burden of keeping a functioning personality operating knowing what I now knew, was too great. So, I stood at the kitchen sink, ejecting pills from their pretty, tamper-proof packaging ready for a fast intake. (When you’ve been trialling medications for as long as I have, throwing down a handful of ‘horse’ pills in one hit is easy. Hundreds of these tiny things would take no effort at all.)

I’d always promised Mr Me, that if I was ever going to kill myself I would tell him first. A little bit courtesy, a little bit safety. So my casual remark as he prepared himself for work; that everything was okay, I’d be dead before he got home, and then being found squeezing pills from their packaging, was notice enough for Mr Me to quickly divest me of my carefully amassed stash (as I knew he would).

It was an agonising moment when my desire for an ultimate release conflicted with the reality that I could not escape the burden I was left to carry. That I could do nothing but collapse to the floor under the weight of knowledge that could not be seen and could not be lifted. I sobbed.

I needed physical pain. I needed a pain that was real. Not this thing that sits in your gut forcing it’s expansion until all you can do is roar like some mythical creature caught in it’s death throws. Screaming and beating at the cabinets in attempt to find something solid, something to give the pain a description, a tangible form.

Then, buckled on the kitchen floor like a neglected rag doll, unable to un-know what had hurt me and unable to raise myself up I asked for my pills. Please. I need to make it stop. Please.

In the physical world we know how things move. We know people get hurt. We know that physical pain is an inevitable part of making forceful contact with something.  When we take a swing at someone with our fist and make contact, we know, when we’re forming the punch in our mind, that it will inflict pain on the recipient. We know that the punch will cause a physical disfigurement, either short or long term. And, we all know that the only reason to punch someone is to cause pain and disfigurement.

Emotional pain is invisible but sadly, you can’t see through it.

Emotional pain is not caused by contact from a fist but from the intention that formed the fist. It seems that the concept of emotional pain is not in the fact that we were punched, but that the punch was conceived.

I’ve been punched. Not by a fist, but by knowledge. Irrefutable truth. A truth that shattered my carefully constructed self-perception. There’s no bruising. No telltale evidence that violence has occurred. And now that truth has been revealed, it’s invisible pain has grown as would unwanted ivy. It’s obliterated the view of both my past and my future. It’s pain caused by knowing what cannot now be unknown and conceived in the mind of those who would willingly perceive deceit.

So now, I’m blinded by an invisible force. Paralysed by invisible fear. Broken by an invisible punch. And drawn into the loving arms of an invisible God to rest, to recover and to forgive.

From Olivia Cooke as it relates to today’s BLOG. “I can’t keep secrets about myself.  I can keep secrets about other people, but if it’s about myself, I’m like, ‘blah blah blah blah.'”

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

Where have all the rainbows gone…

When you live with depression and anxiety you can feel such a long way away from your dreams.

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

It struck me recently that I have an overwhelming, deep-seated self-belief that I’ll never achieve anything. I’ll never be successful. I’ll never make a difference. I’ll never have the opportunity to be something special!  Funny, I know. Because it seems I’ve already achieved so much. So how could that immature voice constantly mumbling away inside me still have so much power?

Too few people are able to maintain a marriage, raise healthy amazing kids, interact routinely their grandchildren and live surrounded by the things they enjoy.  Too few people get to start and run their own multi award winning businesses. Too few people get pulled out of nowhere to be recognised for their entrepreneurial gift. Too few people have had the business and personal successes I’ve had.

And that’s the trouble with depression. It robs you of the ability to feel good. It steals your dreams, your expectations and your joy.

Oh why, oh why can’t I?

If you’ve ever wondered why those of us with depression seem incapable of seeing an ‘up side’, then you’ve likely never been swamped with any number of physical, physiological, psychological and environmental factors that impose a most distressing paralysis.

I could take you down a memory lane of all the reasons why I might believe all of that but I’d be repeating all the stuff you’ve read here before. Of course I wasn’t wanted. I wasn’t needed. I was socially and economically disadvantaged. I was abused. Frightened. Confused. I wasn’t smart. I wasn’t anything or anyone.

So here I am at 50 something wondering why the heck I still think all those things about myself. Why, in spite of many more recent positive experiences I still believe myself to be the small child who no one really wanted. Why do I still think I’m stupid? Unlovable? Unnecessary?

I’ve never claimed to have all the answers to living with depression. But when I think back through all the bad times and all the bumbling bad advice I’ve received, the advice that seemed the most unhelpful, that hurt the most, was the advice that contradicted my inner voice.

While my inner voice was telling me how useless I was, external voices based on the external evidence were telling me to ‘snap out of it’. In fact, I was yelled at for not being able getting out of bed. I was told I was being ‘melodramatic’ and ‘over sensitive’. I was told I would just have to ‘suck it up’ and ‘get over myself’.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

In the extremes of my depression and anxiety when all I wanted was someone to tell me everything would be okay, I was often drawn into an inexorable argument that required me to justify the way I felt. I don’t know why I’m like this, I would scream with my face covered in snot, my eyes sore and bloodshot and my nose a bulbous red appendage on my face. “I don’t know what to do!”

It’s only years later and in a retrospective frame of mind that I consider how these arguments might have shaped my self-belief. How they gave me an opportunity to face the contradictions that life had imposed and find a way to stand up to my inner self to find a way forward.

When my symptoms became debilitating I became desperate to be supported in my inability. To be told I was okay the way I was and that I didn’t need to do anything. In fact I had 2 years of pretty intensive psychological counseling during which I developed an attitude of entitlement and self pity. Each session encouraged me to accept that anyone with my ‘history’ would feel ‘bad’. I would leave sessions primed to tell the people around me how they should treat me because I’d been dealt a crap hand in the game of life. Interestingly in that 2 years, none of my symptoms abated. My depression and anxiety continued to incapacitate me and I grew increasingly defensive of my right to be pampered.

My dreams were continuing to float further away. They’d been swept up in a hurricane of niceties and platitudes designed by psychotherapy to save me from feeling bad about feeling bad!!

I’d fallen hook, line and sinker into believing what my inner voice was telling me. It’s the ultimate in selfishness. I’d fallen for a perception of myself that did not meet the reality. I expected everyone around me to support the person my inner voice created by being incapable of believing the truth.

So what’s the point?

Believing the rhetoric of my inner voice meant being sheltered from the truth of who I actually am. The truth of who I was born to be and the paths I needed to travel. Recovery, meant finding a way to believe the truth about myself. And when challenged to choose an emotional state that contradicted my inner voice, I felt so vulnerable the only defense was to blame the challenger.

If my inner voice is telling me I’m a fake, I’ll produce an emotion that supports this view. If it’s telling me I’ll never be any good, I’m bound to feel something that recognises the grief and disappointment of that belief. When, in a moment of frustration and anger, I’m asked to confront those lies by ‘getting over it” or to confront the fact that I actually am being ‘melodramatic’, I respond by defending the voice that tells me I can’t get over it.

A voice that lies. I know it lies because it continues to lie to me in spite of indisputable truth.

Knowing my inner self still wants to use negative experiences to justify it’s need to ‘protect’ me from further pain, means understanding that surviving between conception and death means negotiating pathways that are unfamiliar and potentially damaging.

The only thing worse than having seemingly unachievable dreams is not having one.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where you’ll find me

Oh, somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

If you’d like to hear Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole performing ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ CLICK HERE  (you’ll be taken to YouTube)

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

Are thoughts of suicide deadly?

When you live with depression and anxiety suicide can be deadly!

If you’ve ever heard the phrase, time heals all wounds, you’ll be familiar with the fact that the more time that’s passed since the wounding, the more pragmatic you can be about it. The more circumspect.

I suspect this is a combination of how our memory works and the way our endocrine system rouses chemical activity in extreme moments.

A great deal of discussion has been undertaken about the ‘scarring’ of this emotion producing network in research about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s now reasonably well accepted that one extreme, perhaps life threatening situation can make a person so sensitive to the production of stress related chemicals (adrenaline, cortisol, etc) that a new, elevated base line is set for their production. A new, heightened ‘normal’ is created. That is; the new calm is in fact a highly stimulated (but carefully veiled) state of nervous arousal that has us on alert for any potential ‘danger’.

To the casual observer, being afraid of the most innocuous activity can be seen as quite ridiculous. A walk to the letterbox; A trip to the supermarket; A train ride; can have us quivering in our proverbial boots almost to the point of hysteria. And to what end? To retreat and let our now exhausted mind and body submit to the deriding of our sensible, logical voice berating us for our pitiable attempt to be ‘normal’.

Frankly, this is an agony, a dichotomy between the rational and emotional. Not unlike making a major purchase, the car with better fuel economy is the logical choice. The car with better ‘street appeal’ is the emotional choice. The indecision that emanates between these choices pushes us to begin making the emotional choice a logical one. The ‘street appeal’ will make me feel better about myself which will help me get a better job, that will pay me more money, that will mean I can afford the prettier car!

When we’re dealing with anxiety, we know that there is nothing logical about the fear we feel. We know that the entire world can leave their house without fear. We know the entire world is worse off than we are. We know there is nothing for us to worry about. We know. We know!

But not going out, means not being afraid. That’s a logical choice.

Interestingly, you don’t need to have experienced a traumatic event, for these stress chemicals to be set at a higher than ‘normal’ level. The same as your hair colour or height or toe length! It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a case of that’s the way you’ve been made!! You can berate yourself for not being ‘normal’ but frankly, sooner or later you have to come to terms with it.

To be honest, I’ve had so much counseling that I’m a little bit immune to the niceties of coming to terms with ‘who I am’. Of how my family of origin impacts the way I do life and how making better choices or responding differently will make my life more manageable. If I had a key to the box that holds the answer I’d have already made a million copies to give away. But, that’s not the point.

The reality is, (to me) that life is about being productive. It’s about being engaged (we could call this relationship). It’s about the risk of bumping into situations that you may not want or enjoy and that your ‘emotion producing’ chemicals will act to keep you safe. But it’s also about bumping into situations that have you laughing until your stomach hurts. Stuff that makes us amazingly, wildly happy and wonderfully alive.

You might be surprised to hear that my ‘normal’ tendency is to isolate myself and spend my time ruminating about all the things I’ve failed at. I have a tendency to believe that bad things will happen and that I will have no ability to protect myself (or others). And, I believe I’m so completely f****d up that I’ll never find out who I am or who I was meant to be or what I am meant to do.

The truth is however, that I was created for a purpose. I am here not just because my mother was unable to fully protect herself against another pregnancy (pregnancy was generally not the concern of men). I’m not here by a chance encounter of some lucky piece of pond scum and to be completely frank, I believe if humanity continues to tell us that we are nothing but lucky pond scum, then there seems no reason to fight against a rising suicide rate. You cannot tell people they are nothing and then expect them to rise above it.

If you’ve ever felt that life wasn’t worth living. That the pain you’re in is too much to endure. That the situation you’re in means making decisions you’re incapable of or that you’ve been abandoned and you have nothing to live for (I’ve felt all these things) then, based on the premise that we came from nothing and are going to nothing, the desire to end our life becomes a reasonable and logical decision to make.

However, the trouble is, we were not created for death. That endocrine system that looks after us when we’re confronted with a frightening situation, the system that gives us the strength to stay and fight or to get away fast, tells us when we think of death, that it’s something to be afraid of.

When we justify logically that our death would be a solution to whatever emotional space we’re in then we have retreated to a position that confirms we are nothing. That there is no more to our existence than our own incorrect understanding that there never was a reason for humanity to exist.

If we can convince ourselves to buy the wrong car because of the possibility we might be able to afford it, then surely we can convince ourselves that living provides more hope for a positive outcome than death.

Ambrose Bierce – Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.

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

The way you see it…

When you live with depression & anxiety it’s hard to find the real you.

Amid the multitude of drugs available for treating dysfunctional emotional health symptoms, there doesn’t seem to be anything that leaves us emotionally “in tact”.  The feeling that we are somehow disconnected from our “true” self can have us believing the treatment is worse than the illness.

For some, the distress caused by the treatment is enough to reject it for a life of manic emotional swings, unpredictability and dangerous behaviours.  For others, it’s just that nagging feeling that we’re not quite ‘present’.  That somehow there’s a part of us that’s missing.  But, in a lesser of two evils approach, for me, part of us missing is small price to pay.

I have to confess to feeling a bit disconnected myself recently.  I’ve struggled to write even the briefest of pieces.  I’ve chosen to isolate myself further from the rest of the world and I’m riding an emotional merry-go-round that because of it’s predictability, is entirely boring and unfulfilling.

On top of this, my medication is known to cause weight gain because of it’s (side)effect on whatever part of me processes sugars.  My taste buds have difficulty determining what I’m eating and I am in a state of perpetual tiredness.  In-fact, it’s only the guilt I have over my inability to earn an income, that keeps me from sleeping my life away and dedicated to perfect housewifely behaviour.

And amid all this, I’ve had no significant improvement in my illness.  I’m still stuck!

Mr Me is gracious in his understanding.  He’s tolerant and (mostly) gentle.  (I don’t know how much more gentle he could be!)  And, while his expectations of me sometimes feel unkind, they’re not unreasonable.   After all, who wouldn’t expect an award winning business-person to get up and go to work.   It’s not like I’ve lost my capacity to think!

But here’s the thing, I appear to have lost the ability to feel confident.  In the absence of praise, I automatically default to failure, and by extension, I withdraw.

Now, I can hear you all thinking “how silly”.  Just because no-one tells you, you did a good job, doesn’t mean you’ve done a bad job.  However, from somewhere within my illness, a voice of disbelief is broadcast.   Sometimes it’s so shrill that no other sound can be heard above it and at other times, it’s like rain on a tin roof, a constant drone beneath all other noise.  It’s message, clear and constant, is only to remind me of my ineptness.  My inability to be anything more than my self-perception allows.

This arousal of dissonance, between my cognitive desire to be worthy, acceptable and of value and my cognitive belief that I am a disappointment, seeks a resolution.  Without any external evidence to support the belief that I’ve attained my desires, I must conclude that I am what I believe myself to be.

Of course, we could debate my self-perception for hours on the basis of whether it’s a pre-set biological outcome as a result of the DNA responsible for my being (like Blue Eyes).  Or, perhaps it’s the result of the way I was nurtured (like an Attachment Disorder).  Or perhaps, I’ve acquired a chemical imbalance as a result of increased chemical production due to a life-threatening trauma (as in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  It could even be the result of an autoimmune type condition, where my body’s own defences kill off any feel good chemicals before I am able to use them (like Type 1 Diabetes).

But for now, it’s not the question of why that drives me to seek a solution.  It’s the how and when that keeps me striving to find a treatment that will allow me move forward.  After all, I was not created for a life of despair.

From Anais Nin:  It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.

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 business woman, 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.)