Gratitude Journal Day 1 – Family

About my family – who they are and why I am grateful for them.

I have a very small immediate family, there are four of us and we are fiercely protective of one another. There used to be five of us, but things change and disease can get in the way. It was a phenomenally rocky time. If I am honest, we all still struggle with it in our own individual ways each and every day.

I am thankful for my four. I have two siblings who would set this world on fire for one another and a Mother who has no idea how incredibly strong and amazing she is.

My family taught me to work for what I wanted. To be aware of how lucky we are to live where we do. To appreciate time with those you love, and to never expect anything. A sense of entitlement was not something which was bestowed amongst us. We valued each and every treat we ever received, we never complained about our parents being out of sight, because we knew that they were working hard to provide for us.

We all went through something uniquely traumatic and devastating, we came out the other side and met each other there, though our journeys were all different – we may have all entered the abyss together, but we all emerged from separate tunnels. Kicking, screaming, shocked. I have to tell you, for anyone who ever mutters the sentence ‘touched by cancer’ – take yourself away, rethink your sentence and have another go. There is no light touching involved. It is a demolition derby, created by fear and doubt and terror, wrapped up in an all-consuming and suffocating blanket of sadness. Followed by years and years of grief.

My family is kick-arse and I am thankful for all of them.

My Brother is a rock at all times, he may have intentionally moved as far away as he possibly could, prefers animals to people and is the only 27-year old I know who has no social media, but he is absolutely everything any and all of us need.

My Sister is the chalk to my cheese. We could not be any more different, and yet our similarities define us. We know what is and what is not important. We don’t hide anything under any rug. We rip that rug from the ground and expose all of the hurts and annoyances. We all speak a different language, have our own standing point and our own battles to fight, but if the battle comes from outside of our circle – then you will get all four of us defending who we are.

We are funny. We are arseholes. Our sense of humour is unique. Our Mum has barely been able to follow a conversation between her three children for twenty years. Nobody can quote a movie the way we can. We all have our Mother’s chin, tenacity, humour and resilience. We have our father’s approach to life (go now, look later), his looks and his confidence where it is rarely deserved. We love like both of them loved each other. We are the product of our parents and their love for us – our Grandparents had nothing to do with it. Our Mum and Dad made the choice every day to mark their own path, create new roles and display how they felt love should be displayed.

My family is small, but there is more love that could possibly be understood. We may be less one, but together we are five. Our spirit is unique, we are at the end of our family name, we all have different goals and adventures, but our love is the same.

Always.

x Courtney x

Father’s Day – when your Dad is no longer here <3

Today is the eleventh Father’s Day without my Dad and on Thursday it will be the eleventh anniversary since he passed. I almost lock myself into a room the week leading up to Father’s Day. Every t.v ad, social media, shop signs, the radio. It’s everywhere.

Is it Father’s Day for those of us without Dad’s? Guess what? – for all of us out there who don’t have our father’s anymore – its still Father’s Day for our dads too.

Dad. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Thank you for being my hero and warrior when I was little. Thank you for giving me your height and confidence, but not so much for the skin and feet.

Thank you for teaching me how to ride a bike on the cricket pitch when I was 5, and how to read a clock/watch when I was 6. Thank you for teaching me the art of telling stories and having a laugh.

Thank you for showing me how important family is, it took us a while but my sister and I are now the very best of friends.

Dad, thank you for instilling in me pride for being Australian, for being tall and for looking different to others. I miss you saying “pacifically” instead of specifically, I miss how cranky you would get when you would bust us cheating at monopoly.

My brother has so many of your traits. As does my sister. But I got your looks. I have your tenacity, Irish-Australian temper, stubbornness and confidence but I also share your fears and concerns for the world. How DO we keep our loved ones safe? WHY is the world such a mess? I too am dwarfed by the same things you were.

I have travelled the world, knowing you didn’t get a chance to. I still go for your footy team, I was sad when they stopped making spearmint leave lollies and I laugh whenever I see the classifieds ads. Every now and then I watch a Clint Eastwood movie and eat a cheese and jam sandwich – just for you.

Dad, I love you and miss you. We all do. You were gone too soon. We are doing our best to make you proud of us. I hope you’re happy and although not in person, in your own way watching over us.

Love, your eldest daughter.

Courtney

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I let my heart & mind rest, for a while <3 My Mirtazapine Story (Part 1).

Hi there – thank you for reading again!

Okay, so my last post ended with when I started Mirtazapine for my depression. Mirtazapine is an atypical antidepressant and is also known as Remeron/Avanza and works to correct the neurotransmitters in your brain (which mine were most definitely Out. Of. Place).

I am no chemist, but if you would like to know more about this medication please see following link from the PBS: MIRTAZAPINE.

The Dr who prescribed this for me understood I had depression and anxiety but when I said I had insomnia as well, I think this is what swayed her decision to prescribe this for me. I remember the only side-effect I was told was ‘you will be drowsy and maybe dizzy – so take it before bedtime’. I remember laughing to myself thinking, yeah right – I don’t sleep.

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Sleep was the first thing I noticed about this medication, I could take it and be asleep within 20 mins – eyelids heavy, thoughts slowing. I could sleep for 5 hours at a time, it was my miracle pill. Within 2 weeks the panic attacks were lessening and I felt a little better, but that early in that might have been the sleep rather than a change in my depression.

It took a couple of weeks to feel any effects emotionally, but it definitely helped with the sleep straight away. I could sleep, I was not crying as much during the day. My anxiety was more manageable. I COULD leave the house to go to work. I was in control. I was able to choose how I would react (to a certain degree).

I still had sadness, I still had depression I was still anxious but I could leave the house. I could get 5/6 hours sleep a night. I could make plans. See my friends, travel the world, manage and excel in my career, have a rewarding relationship and finish my Degree. Thank goodness.

My relationship took its natural course and I suppose too much damage had been done and we had grown apart. Or perhaps I had more clarity about my life – what I deserved and what I needed in my life. Which was structure. I felt more in control.

When I felt brave enough and ready, I went overseas and had a phenomenal holiday as part of a tour group and I met one of my best friends whilst doing so. I changed my degree, I applied for a new job – I had a career in mind.

Within 12 months I had my life back on track. I was still having anxiety and depression and I was still taking the time to feel my feelings and cry when I needed to. BUT I was leaving the house. I was a better friend, a better Daughter/Sister and a better employee/student.

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I guess looking back, there definitely were some effects to note. The first being, I lost motivation for a lot of things. I used to be completely in control of my eating and physical exercise. I had a pretty good appetite, in that it was manageable. I didn’t really need to snack throughout the day – don’t get me wrong, I could binge eat on the weekend but I could handle eating a relatively normal amount of food on a day to day basis.

My energy levels definitely dropped as well. It felt like a relief though, when I had been operating at this constantly anxious – go-go-go level. I figured I was just sluggish because of the medication but after a few years I think it went from being a chemical effect to being just ‘me’. Slow, low motivation, low levels of interest and packing on the weight.

When I started Mirtazapine I think my weight was around the 74kg mark (I am 5″9). I would say by the end of 2011 my weight was around the mid80kg mark and by the end of 2012 I was up past 90kg. Now, I am not blaming the medication at all for all of my weight gain, but when I was 74kg – that was heavy for me and I could go between 65kg – 75kg, maybe 78kg if I was fluctuating. The 78kg being quite heavy. I could lose it though, with diet and exercise.

Mirtazapine was my anti-depressant, it is what I took every night. It helped me sleep and I assumed it was helping my depression and my anxiety. I had an insatiable appetite, I never felt full, I was sluggish and slow and before my period I would be absolutely melancholic, miserable and felt quite hopeless.

If I am honest, I can say that for the next 6 years it helped me with my anxious mood and deep depression. However, with the nightmare which the Mirena IUD brought me, it’s impossible for me to pick when it stopped working. It did though, and it had some pretty nasty consequences when it did stop working.

Mental Health Australia

SANE Australia

Beyond Blue

Headspace

Lifeline

This is a several part blog, so seeing as I am still recovering from the events last week, I might leave it there for now :).

TBC

Lucy

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I had no idea how to control my brain anymore

A big hello to anyone who is reading, I really appreciate it. Knowing I might be able to help someone out there is wonderful, but knowing this is a safe place to help my own mind is even better. My last post was very negative and for that I apologise – however, I think it’s important to acknowledge the state I was in. We as a community need to end the stigma behind mental health.

Knowledge is power, my approach this week was ‘if I am losing control of my thoughts, then I need to flood my brain with as much factual information as possible to try and corral these dark thoughts – INTO LINE!’ Please excuse my next few posts, they will be heavily focussed on my mental health battle, because right now – that is my focus. I need to be in control of this – my mental health has to be my focus.

The last week I have read as many peer-reviewed journals (thank you USQ library access still working), Psychological/Psychiatric/Mental Health websites, other blog posts, online support groups and MIMS medication fact-sheets as I have been able to get my hands on.

So – since I am mapping my journey from then until now (because I KNOW my light is just around the corner…*fingers-crossed*.

Antidepressant medications are absolutely the first treatment most Westernised Doctor’s choice for people who meet the diagnostic criteria for depression and/or anxiety.

When I was 14 my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. When I was 21, he passed away from this illness. What I (along with my entire family) had been through during that time was not only grief, but anticipatory grief. Waiting for the inevitable. When that time came around and my father died, I did not react the way I expected to. I did not cry. I did not cry for 18 months. I had cried for eight years. I was shocked, I was hurt, I felt a huge loss, but I could not cry for 18 months.

Then, out of apparently nowhere – I hit my low. I stopped sleeping, I was unable to go to work five days a week, I am sure the only reason I was not fired from my job (at 2 or 3 sick days a week), was due to industrial laws protecting workers. I was biting my fingernails until they bled. I was washing my hair maybe once a week or fortnight (I have dry hair so it’s not as gross as it sounds), it was the effort behind self-care. I was biting my nails until they bled. My thoughts were constantly swirling around mortality, I was constantly anxious and I was always crying.

I was smoking at least a packet a day. I would drink until I passed out. Even then I would only sleep for maybe 2 hours total. I was a full-time employee and a full-time student as well (work during the day, study at night – attempt to maintain relationship somewhere in the middle).

This kept up for probably three months and I ended up in a HR meeting at work, job was on the line, get your sh*t together or you may be formally disciplined (in Australia it takes businesses many many steps before they can formally dismiss someone, btw).

I loved my job, I needed my job – financially I was helping my Mum support my younger siblings. I also lived out of home and surprisingly had a relationship that was somehow still together.

My work output was absolutely shot, everyone knew I was the girl who’s Dad had died on her second day of working there, and then came to work the next day. So I did not have much of a leg to stand on (in their eyes, grief of course is different for everyone), where 18 months later I broke, it was too late to say “My Dad died and I am really depressed“.

When a balloon went off in the office after someone’s birthday and I ended up under my desk crying and shaking, I guess that’s when I realised I couldn’t handle it alone.

I think where I went wrong, is not going to MY family Doctor. He had been my Doctor since I was 17, and for a transient family that’s a long time. He knew me, my medical history, the ‘family story’, he had treated all of us. Yet, I didn’t – desperate times called for desperate measures.

So, I went to the Doctor which was A) near my house; and B) bulk-billed (because who could be bothered paying $80 just to see a Dr when they’re 23?). I walked into that room and said I needed help with panic attacks and sadness and insomnia. I could not sleep, I am anxious and I am going to lose my job. Please. Help. Me.

I walked out of that medical centre within 8 minutes, holding a script for something called Mirtazapine Sandoz. I figured that all that had happened in the nine years was the worst that would happen. Ahh, the naivety of a 23 year old. I really believed that medication would ‘sort me out’. Life would be on the up and up now I had medication.

What a shame it took me another seven years to work out the medication was having its own detrimental effect on my mental health, my relationships, my physical health and my life.

I hope you are being kind to yourself today, however and wherever you are <3.

To be continued…

Lucy

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Grief: Even when I know what’s coming, I’m never prepared for how it feels.

Grief. It’s a bastard of an emotion. I’m currently on my commute to work (read: public transport of all methods), and I’ve spent the entire journey crying. 

Those hot, heavy, sorrow filled tears. I am sorry if you know the tears I am talking about. They rarely come with anything less than destructive and devastating memories. 

Thank goodness for dark sunglasses and everyone else absorbed with their phones, otherwise this would be spectacle. 

Ten years ago, everyone around me would have noticed. Ten years ago people read books on the bus and texted. We weren’t completely absorbed by our phones. Today I am thankful for the destractiob. I too can be lost in my phone. Ten years ago (almost…) we lost our Father. Our families Husband, Father to three and friend to all died. 

Our father had been ill for some time, but this is not what took him. Which was so cruel as he had worked so hard to fight his sickness for so long. To then die after a routine procedure in hospital – 1200km away from his family. I can’t imagine. 

Yes. It has almost been ten years. So why am I sitting on a bus today crying? Why have I spent the last three days crying? 

I have this every year as it approached the date. Every year. However today and this week, I am less in control than I normally am. 

My heart hurts. My soul is aching. For ten years I have fought to keep my head above water, me and mine. My small family. Just the four of us. Fighting to keep going, fighting to stay above the water. Fighting the world. Fighting each other. Hurting. 

It’s a cruel twist of fate that the anniversary of dad’s passing is always the same week as Father’s Day, here in Australia. How f*cking cruel is that? The first anniversary was ON Father’s Day. 

All else aside – I seem to have lost my strength. I’ve hit this ten year mark and I’m out of steam. I’m so desperately sad. I miss him. He wasn’t at my wedding. He hasn’t met his grandchildren. So many life events. I am crying not for me but for him. You aren’t meant to die at 50. I know plenty of people do – and I guess I have always used this as a coping mechanism. 

He had a good life. 

People die much younger. 

We loved him and he knew that. 

I had a great childhood. 

Etc. 

It’s not helping this week. My sadness is palpable. Breathing hurts. When my alarm went off this morning I started crying again. When I showered last night the water was so hot that all I could think was “did they use warm water when they washed dads body? Did they wash it?”. That’s morose I know. Here I am though. 

So what do I do? How do you deal with long-term grief? Why has it hit me now? Is it the ten – year mark? Does life-healing work? Where do I go? Who can actually help with this?

Please help me. If you know how I should try to deal with these feelings (psychologist?, kineseologist?, yoga?). I don’t know. 

Sending love & thanks. M

Lucy

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