A. To be honest, it’s been pretty shit. This whole pandemic thing hasn’t been great for my mental wellbeing.
Q. Yeah it’s all been pretty stressful, ay. What’s been bothering you? Would you like to talk about anything specifically?
A. My sleep has been all kinds of fucked up. Feeling tired has gotten to me a few times. There’s been days where I’ve been overwhelmed enough to just sit down and cry for half an hour. I’ve felt better afterwards but I’m struggling to get solid sleep.
Q. Why’s that?
A. I’m not sure, I think there’s been quite a few factors contributing. Getting less exercise means I have a harder time switching off at night. My apartment is so fucking cold, sometimes it takes me hours just to heat up enough to doze off. The lack of seperation of work space and home space means I don’t switch off from work. The low bar anxiety from reading the news/twitter can also keep me scrolling on my phone late into the night. It doesn’t matter how many sleepy bed time meditations I listen to, they just don’t appear to be working like they use to.
Q. Is there anything I can help you with?
A. Can you remind me to go buy an electric blanket? Do you think I should get one online or go into a store?
Q. Sure, whatever works for you. Has there been anything that’s helped you cope during these social isolation times?
A. It’s so fucking nice to have a cat in the house. My new housemate came with one. There’s been a few times I’ve overwhelmed with happy tears having the cat sit on my lap for some nice warm pats.
Q. It’s such a fluffy kitty. What about taking a break from social media?
A. I would like to try fixing one thing at a time, make a small change, measure if it helps and then go from there.
Q. No problem, is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
A. Nah I’m cool for now, I just wanted to get that off my chest. Thanks
I had a chat to a psychologist yesterday and they recommend I try schema therapy. Schema therapy can be useful for people with split personalities or who have gone through cognitive behavioral therapy before but still find they get “stuck” in unhealthy mindsets.
The premise behind the schema is that you have a belief or a mindset, normally developed as a kid that’s actually really harmful and destructive as an adult. E.G. someone who always finds themselves in abusive relationships or self medicates through a drug addiction might have an unhealthy schema.
My schema is worthlessness
I have a fundamental belief that I’m a completely worthless heap of shit who doesn’t deserve to be here and can’t do anything right. Now that’s hard to write down and I’d never say that to anyone else but this is a constant thought in my head. When I started failing uni this thought was the only thing in my mind and I couldn’t function. I fell into a bout of chronic depression and had no energy to do anything. I escaped this thought by eating, watching tv and playing video games. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helped me to quiet this voice but it’s still there.
Triggers for my schema
I think everyone has these unhelpful thoughts going through their mind. When I’m healthy and looking after myself this voice is just background noise, just like in everyone else’s head. However if I’m tired, stressed, unwell or otherwise just a bit meh, this voice gets louder. I find during a particular time of month, I don’t sleep so well thanks to those pesky hormones. I find this voice gets a little harder to ignore around then. My dad is also a big trigger for me, I think that internal voice resonates with his voice a bit too well.
This might take 2 years
I might be doing this type of therapy for up to 2 years. This won’t be an easy exercise. I have to unlearn a fundamental belief I’ve had with me since I can remember. I can’t change this mindset overnight. Believe me, if I could change it I would have already done so.
It’ll get worse before it gets better
This morning I had a teary because the side walk was blocked, I walked pass the barrier and a worker told me to turn around. I had to back track a distance to cross the road safely and I missed the bus I needed to be on. I got upset with myself for a good half an hour and felt like a complete failure. When I was chronically depressed, that upset mood would stick around all day. I’m glad it now only lasts for half an hour but it’s still an unhealthy response to that situation. By bringing this mindset to the surface it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Just like how physio can be uncomfortable but is meant to make you stronger.
This isn’t Imposter Syndrome
I don’t generally feel like an imposter, parts of my self confidence are actually pretty healthy. I’m good at what I do and I know my career is going pretty awesomely. I don’t feel like don’t deserve my job, friends or family. Overall my life is pretty awesome, I just have this unhealthy reaction to some situations.
I’ve now been aware of a persistent low mood for around 2 months now. Here is a poem to reflect on the persistent feeling of not wanting to exist. It constantly washes over me during the day. This is not a feeling I want to act on, I know it doesn’t make any sense, overall my life is pretty awesome (except for these thoughts and a few other things) but if you feel like acting on these types of thoughts please reach out to lifeline on 13 11 14 or anyone other related service. The last time I wrote a poem about depression was in 2016.
Can I Just not exist right now, k thx.
This thought sneaks in as I stand in line at the supermarket.
How about if the world just swallowed me up, k thnx.
Then I wouldn’t have to exists with these thoughts.
Why do I not want to exist?
There’s nothing in life that should be causing this.
Can I Just not exist right now, k thnx.
As I wait for the bus I think about disappearing.
How about numbing the pain?
Beer and the internet in my pocket help me forgot myself.
Staring into the void, I still want to exist in the future
Trigger warning: thoughts of suicide are mentioned in this blog post.
I had a depressive episode yesterday. It lasted for about an hour, I was brought to tears and stuck in a, “I’m a failure” mental loop. I couldn’t put away my groceries or do anything else. Now this isn’t the worse episode I’ve had, actually it was pretty mild all things considering. I was left feeling exhausted after the episode but I could function; I cleaned, cooked and settled in for a movie (I watched district 9 last night, I really enjoyed it). My trigger; a text message conversation with my Dad.
Summary of the trigger
It starts with my Dad asking to borrow $3000. I say I only have $1000 in savings (if you’d like to read more about my finances, I have this blog post). Conversation flows from there and I’m left feeling like a failure because I can’t help. The last time I blogged about a trigger, I was terrified of confronting the person who caused the trigger. This time was different. This time I thought, “If I don’t say anything, it’ll never get better”.
Confronting the trigger
I actually told my Dad, “this has made me feel pretty miserable”. I then switched off my phone so I wouldn’t have to deal with his response until the morning when I knew I’d be in a better mental state. Good thing I did because my Dad basically told to grow up and get over it. Here’s a summary of that conversation:
It didn’t work out
So confronting my Dad didn’t change anything, He didn’t apologise. However I feel better for confronting this. The last time I confronted my dad over how his words made me feel miserable, I was 16 and wrote a fake suicide note after some nasty insults were thrown my way. He didn’t apologise then so why would he now? You can see the whole conversation here if you want too:
Please be supportive
If someone reaches out to with their problems, please provide an empathetic ear. This story is a case of what not to say. We don’t necessarily want solutions, sometimes we just want to vent our frustrations.
Have you ever confronted your triggers? Do you have any stories of where it worked out for you?
On a more positive note, I enjoyed watching this ted talk on why some people develop depression or anxiety. And one idea was, “are you living by values which make you feel good or are KFC values?”
So I went to my GP to get a blood test. Turns out I’m vitamin D deficient and borderline low in iron. That would explain some of the low mood.
Some people get SAD
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression linked to seasonal changes. I find I tend to get bluer around Winter/Spring time and I think it’s connected to not enough sun light.
lethargic in the morning
Problems getting to sleep some nights
Struggling to get up and going
Easy to tear up
Sense of worthlessness
Difficulty concentrating on work tasks
Lack of motivation
I become a master procrastinator
Try to be easy on yourself
While I’m recovering from this bout of winter blues, I’ve put most of my extra goals on hold. I’m not bothered with my weight-loss goals, my book writing or app building. I’m giving myself time to recover. I’m trying to meditate in the sun in the mornings but that’s slow going. I’m open with my team at work for taking mental health days when I just don’t have the capacity for work. You can also use spoon theory to talk about your capacity.
If you are feeling something similar, try to set yourself small achievable goals and talk to someone about it. Reach out, you aren’t alone. Have you experienced SAD lately? What is part of your self care therapy?
2018 has come and gone. You know what, overall it’s been a pretty shit year for me but the goal of this blog post is to take a moment to practice gratefulness and to reflect.
The crappy bits
I started 2018 not being able to walk because I broke my ankle in December 2017 and couldn’t walk for 12 weeks. I was also starting a new job. 2018 saw me go through a relapse of depression because of broken leg blues and I went through 2 jobs. The first one wasn’t the right fit and the second one had cash flow problems. But still, these were unplanned events that made me feel like failure.
However that is enough moping about. What else did I achieve in 2018?
I spoke at the Selenium Conf in India in July. This was pretty cool. It doesn’t matter how much people tell you about cultural differences, it’s really worth experiencing some of these things yourself. I had never been to India before so that was exciting.
I spoke at a few more in Aus (Agile Australia, and Australian Testing days), you can see all of my recorded presentations here. I also attended a few offering my sketch noting services. I enjoyed being able to attend these conferences and add some value back.
Getting around on wheels made me appreciate public transport here in Sydney. Sure it’s not 100% perfect, but it’s definitely better than New York. Watch Zach Anner on his quest for the rainbow bagel using the New York public transport:
I’m binge watching youtube video’s, as I do when I’m doing nothing on the weekend and I stumble on this TED talk on co-housing:
This got me thinking of all of the different types of houses I’ve lived in over the years and I’d thought I share my stories and experiences with them.
My personal values are (I can actually use the mnemonic CASE to remember them);
Experiences over things
Living in sharehousing/cohousing actually aligns with my all of my core values in some way.
Student Housing in Sweden
I lived in Sweden as an exchange student for a year between 2009-2010. I lived in a corridor in a student housing complex. Each corridor had 13 separate bedroom & bathroom units and a central kitchen/lounge room that was shared amongst the 13 corridor tenants. Each floor had 2 corridors and most buildings 4 levels.
This student complex had a building for every letter of the alphabet. There was a communial laundry for every few buildings in the basement. The gym was in building A:
I lived in a Swedish corridor that only had 2 international student rooms. I’m really grateful for this mix because another corridor in our building was all international students. In my mind this was close to pretty much ideal living situations for a student. I had never felt this socially connected before. If there wasn’t a party happening somewhere in Delphi there was another student complex up the road that someone else knew where a party was happening.
Rent for this accommodation equated to about $125 AUD a week and included nearly everything. It was very reasonable and within my means being on government payments even though I didn’t receive rent assistance. I was getting around $375 AUD every two weeks from study allowance. My only extra bill was internet which was crazy cheap and fast (roughly $10 AUD per month for a basic 200GB package that had fast fibre speeds)
The only drawback I experienced in this situation was because I was only there for a year, I couldn’t personalise my space as much as my local Swedish neighbours could.
Variety of share houses
I’ve lived in a variety of share houses since then. While finishing uni I lived in around 5 different situations. Rents were between $60 AUD to $130 per week. I lived with a lady from Bangladesh and her two kids in a tiny apartment in Sandy Bay, in a old 3 story brick house in Glebe, an out the back granny flat in Glenorchy and a huge old house in Taroona.
Taroona was my cheapest share house but they came with some big problems. The house it self was huge. It was a two storey 3 bedroom house with a second loungeroom downstairs. We converted the downstairs loungeroom into a 4th bedroom. The total rent for the house was $270 per week. We had split the rent to between $60 to $80 per week per room. Only thing is the house came with a troll.
The troll of Taroona
There was a granny flat underneath half the house and it was occupied by a single guy. He was the troll in our house. He would bang on our floor when when we were being “too loud”, fill our house with the stink of weed, have random burnoffs in the back yard, have loud aggressive arguments with his ex misses about shared custody of their kid. He made living in this house very hard.
Another drawback to this place was one of my house mates was struggling with rent. Another housemate would vouch for him but he kept getting further and further behind. I ended up leaving that house with this person owing me over $1000 in food, rent and shared bills. I’ve never seen any of this money and I have never spoken to this person since then.
Communal Housing in Bland Street, Ashfield
Since moving to Sydney at the start of 2014 I’ve lived in about 9 different places. I haven’t had a lot of stability in my living arrangements. One of the more interesting places has become a old Victorian era town house converted into a communal community house in Ashfield, also known as Bland St. This house had around 11 bedrooms and 20-ish residents.
Sense of Community
I love the sense of community in this situation. I would often cook communal meals and had gardening and home brewing projects with a lot of the residents. I baked so many brownies. The average demographic was between 18-25 so I was a bit on the older side and most people were working holiday visa types. The house is always changing it’s personality.
Share rooms in Sydney
In Bland St most rooms were shared 2 person (usually strangers) per room. Sydney is ripe with this type of arrangement because rent is so dam expensive. I was paying between $150-$225 (ish) per week depending on the room arrangements and location. I’ve lived in this type of situation in Darlinghurst, China Town, Pyrmont and Ashfield.
The main drawback to co-sharing a room is the disrupted sleep. My depression gets when I don’t get enough sleep. The young vibe of Bland Street meant I felt like I drank too much alcohol, I still feel that now but at least I’ve reduced the social drinking urge.
Co Housing in the future?
It seems that co-housing in Sydney is starting to open up. For example apparently we opened our first co-housing in September this year. Only thing is, the rent for this is incredible expensive ($525 per week). I currently pay $300 per week for a my own room in a 2 bedroom apartment in Wollstonecraft. It’s a stone throws away from the train station. $350 is my maximum budget that I’m willing to spend on renting in Sydney.
I have an obsession with tiny houses. I have a loft bed in my bedroom. it’s pretty cool. I love the idea of tiny housing and being efficient with space. Small housing also has less environmental impacts, requires less resources to maintain and all that stuff. It’s been really nice to furnish my own room with second hand furniture and to experiment with space saving ideas.
My ideal living arrangements
Is probably a share house communal living arrangement. I would love to live in something like I did in Sweden where I can furnish my own space but partake in communal cooking. I’d love to live in a place with an easy to access community garden. It’ll probably be apartment based if I was in a city like Sydney or maybe wooden cabins based if I had my own land in Tasmania. I want something that’s nicely designed as opposed the regular cheap as possible option often seen here in Sydney.
I had a low day on Friday. I’ve had a persistent headache and fatigue for a few months now and a head cold on Friday brought out the worse of it. I’ve lived with depression for eight years now so I know when to have a day off to take it easy. Friday started with a 2 hour struggle to get out of bed. It was one of those days.
When I’m in these low moods my obsessive nature and harsh internal self critic can get completely hooked on little comments that people make. This blog is a reflection on this internal thought process to help you understand what might be going through a depressed person’s head.
In conversation someone mentioned something about, “… being a big girl”, it was related to me being able to look after myself. I responded with “I use to be a lot bigger” and someone else in the conversation added, “keep away from the pork and you’ll stay that way”. In the moment I didn’t think anything of it. But my obsessive nature got hooked and over the afternoon I couldn’t let it go.
I became completely obsessed over everything I had eaten recently infront of said company. I replayed the dinner we had recently over and over and over in my head. I counted every calorie, it came out to about 2000KJ and 10gm of protein. Then my internal harsh critic got on board. It starting saying to me, “you are fat, lazy good for nothing, completely worthless, you should just curl up and die”. So now there was a battle going on in my head, the obsessor just going over and over and the critic telling me I’m worthless. Normally these thoughts aren’t that loud but they get overwhelming on low days.
My obsessor wanted to figure out how to write a response to those comments. This blog post is an attempt at pleasing the obsessor because I am still thinking about it after 4 days.
I know those comments come from good intentions, people say these things because they care. The only nutritional goals I stick too (under the advice of my weight loss clinics nutritionist) is to get 60gm of protein a day and to take my daily multivitamin. I’ve had a lifetime of people commenting on my weight. I thought I had developed a thick skin for it, obviously I hadn’t. Or maybe it just hurts more the closer to home it is?
I’m at a stage now where I can try to practice self compassion (I try but it’s hard). I would catch these thoughts and tell myself, “that’s not a very nice thing to say Sam, you are one of most proactive people I know. You are so far from lazy and worthless it isn’t funny. Look, you even had lunch with someone who thanked you for your help with their CV recently and they are starting a new job soon because of you. Remember that Buddhist monk on youtube? Try and practice letting go.” Here is the youtube video I was thinking of:
How to be supportive
If someone has opened up about their mental health and they raise something like this with you, please don’t feel like you need to censor yourself. That is stressful and not healthy. Often when these things come up for me, I never raise them with the person who caused the trigger because I know deep down it’s just my mind overreacting. So being open and empathetic if someone does raise this is all I ask for.
Please be mindful of how your words can hurt. It reminds me of the common rhyme about sticks and stones I was told about as a kid. Here’s my new version:
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But harsh words from a loved one
Can make me wish I was dead
I’m grateful I’ve never been suicidal but I still live with this kind of depression on a fairly regular basis. My partner has probably seen me go through about 4 or 5 episodes now over a 2 year period.
I’m grateful I can be this open about this huge cause of internal stress. A lot of people who struggle with similar things aren’t as blunt as I am and keep the struggle to themselves.
I was first diagnosed with chronic depression back in 2010. I had just spent a year on exchange in Sweden and coming back just broke me. My boyfriend at the time kicked me out of home and I felt disconnected from all of my uni friends because my studies were no longer on par with them. So I fell into despair and couldn’t function with life anymore. I went to a psychologist; we did cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness training. I’m grateful for not having a major relapse since then but I can’t remember experiencing a large amount of time since where I didn’t feel some mild symptoms of depression. So this blog post is a reflection of living with depression for 8 years.
There have been ups
Don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t been 8 years of constant depression. Generally I’ll have something new or a change happen that will fill me with hope and energy for up to 3 months. Things like; starting a new relationship, moving houses, getting a new job, speaking overseas and having weight loss surgery. These are all amazing things. However I find myself coming back to a mildly depressed state. It feels like depression is my default rather than the exception. I can’t keep looking for external changes to increase my mood. It’s just not sustainable.
I have tried lots of things
Antidepressants, loosing weight, exercise, meditation, improving sleep and reducing commute to work. Anything that’s had a mild correlation in improving mood I’ve tried. Sometimes it helps in the short term but I’ve never been able to make any long lasting improvements. If it was as simple as “think happy thoughts” then I’d have been cured a long time ago. I’m going to have a chat to my gp next week to see if there’s anything in my diet that’s impacting me this time.
Impacts on day to day
Being depressed impacts my performance and engagement at work, my finances (I can’t easily control my impulsive nature when I feel like crap and just want any comfort), my health and my satisfaction with life. It’s a real downer. I withdraw from friends and family more.
I probably do too much
I’ve always had a tendency to look for external stimulation to make me feel good. Volunteering and getting involved with the community are really important to me. These things have a tendency to create burn out though. I really don’t know how to reduce this because everything I do is important to me. I can’t really attend hackathons anymore because I’m just so tired by the end of the week and when I don’t have that rest and recoup, by Monday I just want to curl up into a ball and have the earth swallow me up so I don’t have to deal with life anymore. I have an all or nothing approach, I don’t know what “sustainable pace” looks like.
So, what to do? I’m a little sick of feeling shit for no real reason. I know sleep is one the most important things for me to keep on top of but even that isn’t working. What works for you?
I broke my ankle just over 3 months ago now. It happened early December while indoor rock climbing (I fell off a wall). I’m recovering slowly and it’s nice to see the healing progress. It’s still really slow though. Before you ask about belay’s and harnesses, I was bouldering (so there weren’t any harnesses/belay’s) and instead of landing on the mat my ankle slipped between the wall and the mat. It was a freak of an accident and if I had fallen straight down it wouldn’t have happened. It’s only cause I swung out to try and reach for a hold, missed it and swung back in towards the wall.
My break was pretty bad. On the spectrum of ankle injuries; 1 = sprained ankle and 10 = complete ankle reconstruction I was about an 8 out of 10. It was a high impact fall, shattered my Fibula into 4 tiny pieces and dislocated my ankle. I had a plate, a dozen screws and 2 bolts in my ankle. I’ve had 3 surgeries so far. 2 in the first week in hospital, then 1 at the 12 week mark to remove the two bolts and to insert an artificial ligament so I could start walking again.
If you sprain your ankle, you might be advised to spend 2 weeks on crutches, then there’s a single break where you might just be put in a cast for 6 weeks and then there’s my accident. 12 weeks of no walking/weight bearing. I’ve read a few other blogs of other ankle injuries and it seems the average is around 6-8 weeks of no walking.
Phase 1: The no walking phase
I was getting around on a knee scooter for 12 weeks, the first couple of weeks were hard. I had my mobility taken away in an instant. It’s an easy thing to take for granted until you don’t have it anymore. There was also a reasonable amount of pain, throbbing and swelling. Also just always being tired (sleep is really good for healing though). I’m grateful that I had the support of family. My partner’s parents offered me their spare room while I recovered and my partner’s mum is a nurse. It was a great convenience and an offer I took them up on.
I’m also grateful for the public transport in Sydney, I was limited to the wheel chair options for transport. Sure it’s not perfect but I was able to get around on bus, light rail, ferry and train. It was pretty amazing. When you rock up at a train station you let one of the staff members know where you are going and they will pull out the ramp to let you on the train, they will also phone the station ahead to make sure someone is there with a ramp when you get off. So not every train station has staff 24/7 or has lift access but it’s still great to be able to have this as an option for getting around. The first time I took a bus on my own with my knee scooter I was just so nervous, I think I had a mobility induced anxiety attack. I had the same sensation getting on a packed light rail during peak hour. I got quite emotional (in a good way) when I actually got on the bus for the first time.
The first time I got in the pool I cried with happy emotions, it was great to feel more mobile. Not being able to carry almost anything sucks, everything requires just a little more planning and often it’s easier to go, “F%#k that” and not bother. Don’t bother about doing your choirs, grocery shopping will be hard. Even sitting in the kitchen with a cup of freshly made coffee will feel like the biggest achievement.
There were great highs and great lows. This phase has given me empathy for accessibility users of public transport and no envy of people who suffer from bi polar. Sure some of those highs felt great but I wouldn’t want anyone to go through the lows like I went through just to experience those highs. By the end of this phase I had gotten quite efficient with the knee scooter, I could role down the street at a reasonable pace.
Phase 2: The walking with assistance phase
After a few hours of getting out of surgery I was able to use an a walking frame thing to go to the toilet, it hurt a lot but it felt amazing to be walking again. The next morning I was walking in a moon boot around the ward unassisted by crutches/frame. I even went to minigolf that day. It was quite tiring though. Over the next 3 weeks I progressed from walking slowly with a cane and moon boot to being able to walk short distances around the house without aids. The first time I tried walking from home to the train station was complete torture though. The walk usually takes around 10 minutes. I was getting to a point on the knee scooter where I could get it done in roughly 10 minutes. The first time without the knee scooter it took me 40 minutes and every step was torture. It was slow going. Luckily I had the option of staying with my uncle’s while I recovered during this phase. I missed the knee scooter but I knew I couldn’t go back to it. They live a lot closer to a train station (just 2 minutes according to google maps). They also have a heated indoor pool which was amazing for recovery. I tried not to have unrealistic expectations during this phase but it still hit me like a brick wall. It was an adjustment going from the knee scooter to very very slow walking. It has been nice to see the progress but I somewhat thought it would be a little quicker.
Phase 3: Walking without mobility aids
Yesterday was the first day I walked to work without any aids, no moon boot and no cane and over 12,000 steps in one day. I’ll start proper physio in a few weeks to help build up strength and mobility back into the ankle and calf. I still can’t do a single leg calf raise on the bad leg, that’s how much strength I’ve lost in it. Walking is a little slow/tight but at least it doesn’t feel painful enough to want to take too many mild painkillers. I’m actually feeling a little tired/over it today but the feeling will pass. I’m constantly testing where the boundary is with the ankle and pushing a little out of my comfort zone.
Phase 4: back to “normal”?
The next phase should be, it feels mostly normal now. Where the idea of running/climbing/jumping don’t feel me with dread. I’m looking forward to getting back into an exercise routine because not exercising has really sucked. This broken ankle has had a huge impact on my mental health which was to be expected but I didn’t realize how much it would. I’m almost at the 16 weeks since the accident. It might take over 6 months to get back to a “normal” state. We will see but I’ll keep you posted.