Archive for March, 2013

Depressed people need an obsession.
That obsession must be anything except depression.
Rule 1 – It must be bigger than yourself. Checking the stove 25 times wont do.
Should I give some examples? If I do, it will stifle your creativity and that is something a depressive type has in abundance.
The list of great ideas the psycho has is endless. So the closer you are to the psycho end of the spectrum (is there an end?) the more creative you are.
Putting your energy into a positive obsession is the stuff that creates a better world. It also improves your internal world – and let’s face it, that’s where we live.

So where do we start?
With questions, that’s where. Apart from mental illness, what do you feel is wrong with the world?
Come on, everyone has an opinion. Yours is there, it’s probably somewhere on the horizon. We just need to bring it closer, like “in your face” closer.

Ok, here are some ideas. Some big, some not so.
• Solving poverty.
• Global warming.
• Volunteering in a soup kitchen.
• Blogging on religious intolerance.
• Researching animal extinction.
• A new angle on the gun debate.
• Supporting those in palliative care.
• Interviewing heart valve recipients on changes they’ve made in the years after a life saving operation (I’m doing this so you can’t. I chose it first)

Now print this list and leave it in your restroom. Daily you will sit there and look at the list. Adding some, deleting others.

Then put aside some time to work on this. To decide what you are going to do about it. Opinions are a dime a dozen. Those who make a stand are like rich hippies. Rare.

You may not change the world.
But one thing is guaranteed.
You will change YOUR world.
Not a bad place to start.

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Motivated By Pleasure

Posted: March 22, 2013 in Suicide
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It’s now 15 months since my friend took his own life.
He had a great idea every day of the week. A creative genius. Good with his hands. A magnetic personality. Enthusiasm that burnt your face if you stood too close.
The problem is, the ideas came so thick and fast that he became surrounded by unfinished dreams.
Enter depression.
Each time he had a new creative seizure, he would courageously climb out of his depression and leap into the next venture. Motivated by the pleasure of the new idea and escaping the pain of the last idea.
What he lacked was a reality filter.
My advice? “Don’t quit your day job mate”.
What I meant was to keep your feet on the ground and not jeopardise progress you made in the past.
The problem with that advice is that it’s hard to sail over the horizon if you don’t want to leave the safety of the port. It’s like the story of the ancient army who came ashore to challenge their enemy. The first thing the general ordered as they were coming ashore was to burn the boats.
No way home.
This gave them no other choice. Either victory or death.
That’s what my friend chose. Victory or death.
I wish he had never burnt his boat.

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I’m trying to identify what tag I should give myself.

Is it depression? Or bipolar? I’m also OCD. I definitely have ADHD.
Or are these all different aspects of an interesting personality?
I must admit that I do like the term bipolar. Everybody has up and down days but the term bipolar conveys the image of the ups and downs being poles apart.
Opposite ends of the spectrum.
Opposite ends of the world.
Now even more interesting is obsessive compulsive disorder. If you are obsessive about something you now share a trait with the world’s most successful people.
If Tiger Woods is obsessive about golf that’s ok. (Let’s forget his mistakes for the moment.)
If a scientist devotes her life to curing cancer, that’s admirable. The applause is deafening. Long hours at work. Other areas of life falling by the wayside. An untidy home. Poor hygiene habits.
BUT, all that is overlooked as she is on a quest to make the world more comfortable for the rest of us. Her quirkiness is actually part of the attraction. We actually like her more because of it. The problem is when someone has all those traits except the obsession with curing cancer, they become outcasts.
When I was in my early 30s, I performed a public grading to get my fifth degree black belt in karate. Since my teens I had obsessed over martial arts training. Excessively and obsessively working on fitness, technique and mental focus. Hours every day and often two or three sessions a day. The grading was one of those times when everything went right. No stumbles, no mistakes. A living example of obsessive compulsive disorder. I was awarded the rank and praised by the grading panel of higher grades.
Afterwards I remember a girl coming over to me and saying that she’d never witnessed anything like that before and said how she admired my performance.
I thanked her.
Then I said to her to keep in mind that I am now in my early 30s with nothing.
No house, no wife, no kids, and no money. I didn’t mean to be negative but I wanted to explain the price that is paid for obsession.
Poor girl. I don’t think it’s the answer she was expecting.
So we need to look at the glass being half full now. A disorder shouldn’t be measured by the difficulties it creates. It should be measured by the creativity it can foster. By the ability to think outside the box.  It’s a blessing if you look at it this way. Like the mother who loves her son even though he is a convicted murderer. She doesn’t forgive the transgression. She just chooses to focus on the love.
Jim Carey was once quoted as saying that behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes. It means that the world sees the competence of the great man. The woman sees the dirty underwear at home.
Glass half full.

The Obnoxious Aunty

Posted: March 20, 2013 in Depression
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I have a friend with a drug history.
All types of drugs. Ice, ecstasy, heroin, marijuana and of course alcohol. Her personality before drugs, from what I can tell, was exciting.
Interesting point is that her spectrum of feelings now fluctuates considerably. When she’s happy she’s over the moon. When sad she’s downright depressed. When mad she is livid beyond belief.
The human brain once stretched by a challenge never again takes its original dimensions. I say once stretched by drugs it also never takes on its original dimensions.
Depression, bipolar, OCD and a range of other conditions are similar. The internal dialogue of a depressed person is like a constant fight to survive. Trying to get through the day.
When the fog finally clears, it’s like having an obnoxious Aunty visit. It’s great when she leaves.

That’s why people with depression withdraw during these times. We know it’s happening and this struggle needs total focus. We block out the outside world. We are not pushing people away, we are dealing with a struggle.
We are not weak, we are in a fight.

When you know The Obnoxious Aunty is on the way to your house, your natural reaction is to go to your room and stay there. It’s a natural response to withdraw to safety.
Episodes of depression are the same. It’s all about acceptance and understanding. Acceptance by us and understanding on our family’s part.

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I’ve been reading what other bloggers have to say about depression. It’s enough to make you depressed.

I must admit, I do believe in looking at your dark side to get a handle on it. To understand the beast. But as my last counselor said, “There comes a time when you can look at the pain for too long.” (It took me 5 counselors to find one that suited me)

So now I have decided to share some notes with you. They are my thoughts from the Intensive Care Unit just after heart surgery. A pretty serious place. Lights are on 24 hours a day. There is a nurse by your bedside non-stop. Her job is to look after and watch you, no one else. You are completely vulnerable and at the mercy of another human being. Coming from a guy who has always tried to avoid depending on others, it’s a new experience.

But an N.D.E. (Near Death Experience) is something completely out of left field for most of us. A brand new perspective. A helicopter to the ceiling of your life for a brief moment.

Oh, one thing I want to share. I was looking forward to the operation as my heart was going to be unplugged for about three hours. Blood transported around my body via a machine. Breathing thanks to a ventilator. So really I was clinically dead.

My big thought was, ” Would I see a light at the end of a tunnel?” “Would I see dead people?” “Would I look down on the operating table and see myself?”

I remember being wheeled into the operating theater a little drowsy, but looking forward to what would happen next.

I closed my eyes. “Here it comes”, I thought.

Then I opened them.

It was the next day.

Nothing.

Oblivion.

Sorry I don’t have something interesting to say. But my experience was zip.

I only have my thoughts as a result of this event. After passing through ICU with 60, 70 and 80 year olds, I wrote some words down to share with friends. Here they are:

This is Sean. 
Thank you all for the support every time my wife has posted a pic …. now you have all seen me in a sexy backless gown. 

The surgeon has said the operation went well … but he wasn’t on the receiving end. He didn’t have his sternum split open and heart operated on. (Did I ask for a photo? Yes. Did he take one? Yes. Classic!)

I have had three rough days and now will be in the cardiac ward at the hospital till Friday. 

Life experiences like this are very effective in that they give you perspective. You very quickly realise what is important and what is not. 
Each time there are likes, I scroll down, read each name and think of each person. 

Remember you touch many people in your life. You may not see some of them often but it doesn’t mean you haven’t made an impact. 

Thank you again to you all but especially to my close friends, Mum, Dad, my kids and to my wife, the rose amongst the thorns. 
The road was smoother because of you.

So it seems having a brush with death is good for you. It puts daily let-downs into perspective. You appreciate everything more. The challenge now is for me to share these insights with those of you who are struggling in the hope that it will provide a much needed safety net.

By sharing it is my way of showing that you are not alone.

(Posts from Cardiac Ward to follow)

Heart operation insights

Posted: March 16, 2013 in Depression
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March 16
I’ve just looked at the numbers and think I’ll drop them for awhile.
A happiness score out of 10 doesn’t necessarily mean you are calm and peaceful on the inside. That should be the real score.
Three weeks ago I had open heart surgery. For 22 years my cardiologist and I have watched my heart progressively failing. Within a year I would have died as the deterioration was rapid in the last six months. So now I have a an impressive scar on my chest an audible clicking sound from my heart. That’s the mechanical valve thats been inserted to keep me alive.
I was warned about a high incidence of depression post operation.
Funny thing is my depression seems to have vanished whereas before the operation, there were times when I struggled.