Posts Tagged ‘Help’

The Pororoca lives in my memory now. In Brazil however, twice a year, the wave rolls on. Sometimes ridden by an inquisitive surfer, sometimes with no one to watch it.

Every time it builds up, it passes São Luis – the bustling town that lies near the mouth of the river.

It rumbles through the region of Maranhao where population dwindles and buildings become huts. As it approaches narrow banks and shallow water it builds up and passes by the lives of local Brazilians regardless of their problems.

It twists as the river curves and finally nears Arari, the town I used as my base for the expedition that put my problems into perspective.

You see, nature continues as we experience the events that seem to matter so much. As each full moon waxes and wanes, the lives of every person on the banks of the river wax and wane too. As I write this, the full moon tonight is the same one that greeted me in my early morning trips up river to meet the wave of my lifetime. Tonight’s full moon however greets a different me. I’ve changed. I look different. I think different. I’ve grown.

But I’ve changed because I wanted to. I could have returned to my life and struggled but as Robert Frost said, I took, “the road less travelled”.

And like Frost, it did make all the difference.

Now I don’t try to beat the world’s longest wave. In many ways I took the Pororoca home with me. I’ve made decisions since then that have allowed me to ride more waves. I moved so that I am minutes away from nature and waves and forest. I watch the ocean, the wind, the swell and yes, the tide.

I’m happy doing that. I found that the waves I dreamt of as a teenager do exist. I went to the end of the world and found that happiness is under my feet. Do I still struggle? Yes, but that is just part of being human. 40 years of wanting to do something better than before led me back to the place where I don’t feel bad about standing still.

I went from a human doing to a human being. Feels better.


I was in the waiting room of a hospital for my son today. He was having four wisdom teeth removed. It was an excellent time for reflection as waiting rooms force you to sit with very little to do. I also had flashbacks of my own heart surgery last year, other visits to hospitals and even a week in a mental clinic in 2004. 

I reflected on my efforts to shake my own depression.
At the time, I tried alcohol but that was temporary.
My next effort really made a difference. Extreme sports. I jumped out of an aeroplane and bungee jumped. Both within the same week. I took massive risks when surfing. I even travelled to northern Brazil and surfed a wave down the Amazon river.
All life-threatening events.
All meant to jolt me out of my state at the time.
A bit like when someone is in a trance and you clap your hands in front of their face and they snap out of it.
That’s what depressed people try to do. They do crazy things to jolt them out of their current state.
We think they are crazy but to the sufferer, it is completely logical and therefore understandable.Image

These efforts are where suicide victims exist. Self termination is the ultimate way to jolt yourself out of depression. (World’s biggest understatement.)
A permanent answer to a temporary problem.
The only problem is that after suicide the depression jumps to family members. The ones left behind. Definitely not something you would wish on your loved ones.
So where to now?
Like my son’s dental procedure it is now a mix of medication and exercises.
The jaw exercises for wisdom teeth removal are to ensure that the affected area will return to full movement in the long run.
It’s the same with depression.
Physical exercise is a necessity for a return to normal life for the depressed.
Psychological exercises are also a necessity for a return to normal life. They help manage the pain of dental procedure and of psychological pain.
Unfortunately, this is where this article reaches its limit. Only qualified psychological help will give you the tools to control the damage for today and for the future.
But the onus is also on you to educate yourself in this process. Not only is it easier to educate yourself, it’s also cheaper.
Cheaper is good.
Don’t you think?’



I am looking for some company …. Online company.

No, its not what you think.

I know I’m not alone but right now this page tells me I am. My ‘page of meaning’ outlines 3 areas of my life that I really care about.

More importantly it outlines what I’m doing about it. You see, mental problems are a result of looking within yourself. Looking at your opinions of the world.
Focusing on others overrides inward focus on self.  (more…)

I’m looking at the diary of the darkest period in my life.

Page after page of negative thoughts, complaints and aggression.diary

As the months have turned into years since these dark days, I look back at this time and it seems like a dream. I remember the feelings … but that is about all. They are just a memory.
A friend reached out to me recently and asked how I got through this time. You see, it’s his turn now. He is struggling.
This article is my effort to shine some light where there is none. To make sure others can follow advice that worked for me.
But when it comes down to it, my Mother gave me the best advice. “Put one foot in front of the other,” she said.
Smart lady.
Through counselling, I looked at emotions from a logical point of view. I was asked to imagine that I firstly was a lawyer fighting for my opinion. Why I was right. Then I would list the reasons why I was entitled to feel that way. Then I would be the defence lawyer arguing why my assumptions were incorrect. Why I was not entitled to feel that way.
Writing a journal.
Writing a journal of your thoughts and feelings does two things. Firstly it allows you to get intrusive thoughts off your chest and onto paper. These thoughts often happen at inappropriate times. For example, when you are trying to sleep at night. I looked back at the diary of my worst days and looked at the times I wrote many of my posts. 2, 3, 4 and 5 AM in the morning.
Putting these thoughts down on paper allowed me to go back to sleep. Even if I was only to wake up an hour later I would still write down what I was thinking. The second reason is that in the light of day, you look back at what you have written and can balance your emotions better. You realise that feelings are transitory. They rise and fall sometimes with a mind of their own. In my darkest days I seemed to only be experiencing lows. Then occasionally I would feel slightly better and record that. This helped me realise that if I could have one good period, then I could have more.
“Don’t do the things that cause you to get upset”
I remember deciding on this. I traced why I was feeling negative and realised that sometimes the cause was something I had control over. I committed, if at all possible, to stop doing things that created negativity in my life. This is a lesson I learned that helped me pull through the darkest period. But as an unexpected benefit, I still use this mantra 10 years later. My experience of depression is behind me, but I realise that it is the small things we do on a daily basis that make a massive difference in our future.
Small seemingly insignificant habits that reap a massive return years later.
So there you go. Writing a journal, logic and not doing the things that cause you to be upset. I used these three techniques to get me through a period of time that seemed to go on forever.
One more thing. A counsellor asked me at the end of that period why I had never done anything fatalistic. To end my life. My response was that I didn’t think it was in my make up. But I suppose no one who takes that final step would say it is in their make up. One thing was that I have always wanted to leave a positive legacy as a result of my life. This intent allowed me to look into the future and see something worth working towards.

In conclusion, I remember reading about a conversation between a student and a teacher. The student asked, “How will I know if I haven’t achieved my life purpose?

The teacher responded, “If you are still alive, your life mission is still in front of you”.

I have created this list as a result of looking at several lives that were wasted.

Lives that ended in suicide.

In the days after, there were signs that the person had given up. It is a sad and traumatic experience to go through a person’s room after they made the final heart-breaking choice.
However we can learn from what we see.

There are signs.

A bed unmade.
Dishes not done.
Jobs unfinished.

It is logical to think that if you don’t let the signs appear in the first place, you can avoid the result.
If you look around you and all is well, you will feel well.
If you look around you and all is in disarray and untidy, all will seem pointless.

A list to avoid depression…
Firstly, clean your house.
1 Have a job
2 Have friends of both sexes
3 Meditate
4 Volunteer to help the poor or disabled
5 Eat well
6 Fake being happy
7 Read
8 Exercise every day
9 Walk
10 Car pool to work

Action first.
Feel better second.



Midnight Express

Balanced People Don’t Obsess.

I don’t watch much TV but last night I watched, “The Voice.” For those of you who are unaware it’s a bit like a talent quest. One performer and four judges.

In this case, all four judges passed the performer and applied to be his coach. As the performer was talking, he mentioned his struggle with depression.

Nothing special about that.

Then one coach admitted that he had struggled with depression too. Another coach admitted the same. The other two stayed quiet.

That’s 3/5 people on stage.

All of them high-performers.

I think this is indicative of all high performers. Many struggle with depression or at least OCD. How else can you explain an obsession with performance? Balanced people usually don’t obsess.

So if you typecast yourself as OCD, depressed, ADHD, bipolar, or having a psychological disorder, you are in impressive company.

And what about PTSD? A disorder arising from a trauma. Maybe if you have lived through a traumatic event, it may be just what you need to step head and shoulders above society…

To lead.

To achieve.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I think for some it should be Post Traumatic Stress Opportunity.

Remember Billy Hayes from the film, “Midnight Express?” He spent five years in a Turkish prison and the film recounted his experiences. He said that looking back it was the best thing that ever happened to him. Spending 5 years in a Turkish prison was the best thing? His comment was that he learnt things that he never would have learnt about the human condition.

It’s all about your perspective.

Get Midnight Express here

Start with your inner circle. From there, move further out.


The people that are closest to you are your inner circle.
This is less than 10 people … sometimes less than five.
It is only by achieving meaning with the people in your inner circle are you allowed to move to the outer circle. In much the same way as a rock hits a lake and causes ripples, the greatest impact must be on your inner circle. This will enable you to touch more people in your outer circle.
Giving meaning to those in your inner circle means making a difference.
Improving their life.
Imparting knowledge.
Being a role model.
Being a faithful friend.

I am told that if you have five people who love you at your bedside when you die, you are a success.
These five people are your inner circle. Those five are usually the ones you would die for without any thought whatsoever.
Start by saying out loud, the name of the five people in your inner circle. Say them now. You should not have to hesitate. The ones that come to mind first are the ones you would give your life to.
Say them out loud. In order.

Outside of that inner circle we can mention other people who have contact with you. They could be fellow workers, clients, customers, church members, sporting group members. The more people you can meaningfully reach in your outer circle is a measure of your career or financial success.
It’s not a requisite for happiness.

It is a fact of life that by working for a living, it means we spend most of our time with the people in our outer circle. Often customers or work colleagues. This isn’t wrong, it’s just the way the world spins.
Remember that the quality of your life is measured by the quality of the time that you have. Give me 50 great years over 100 miserable years any day.
Problem is we gotta work.
We spend 8 hours at work servicing hundreds or thousands of people.
But the one hour you spend in the day with someone from your inner circle should be the one that you put the most thought into.

Drop Falling into Water

“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them – a mother’s approval, a father’s nod – are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.”
Mitch Albiom,
The Five People You Meet In Heaven

Depression is just an internal dialogue struggle.
Everyone has an internal chatter happening constantly. Those who have been struck with depression are simply experiencing a struggle with that dialogue.
So to put this in Buddhist terms, identifying and accepting that a struggle exists is half way to controlling it.
The cessation of suffering is finding an antidote for that struggle.
The remedy is to concentrate on doing things that create a positive internal dialogue.
Not in stopping the things that create a negative internal dialogue.
Take weight loss for example. To cut down on the amount you eat can not be achieved by sitting and staring at a fridge whilst thinking, “I will not eat, I will not eat.”
A new habit must be formed in its place.
It is well-documented that people who suffer from depression have a chemical imbalance. These chemicals can be replaced medically but must also be supplemented with a lifestyle change. The lifestyle change, which includes regular exercise, will change a person’s internal dialogue for the better.
This will maximise the chance of a positive outcome.

Lifestyle change.

It’s worth a shot.

From Trauma To Enlightenment.

It’s been 30 days since a part of my heart was replaced with a mechanism made of carbon fibre. As I sit here typing this, I can hear it click with each beat of my heart. Kids can hear it across the room and ask, “What is that sound?” Adults hearing isn’t that finely tuned as life has dulled our senses.

The clicking is a constant reminder of an event 30 days ago.

For the surgeon it was just another day at the office. He has done over 4000 of these operations. But when you are on the receiving end, it is traumatic to say the least.
To begin with, my sternum was cut from top to bottom and pulled open for 4 hours. All this so the surgeon could get his hands in.
After the repairs are done, they wire your sternum back again and stitch you up.
I explain this as a precursor to my real point. I’ve never been happier.
The peace of mind is not because of the extension to my lifespan I’ve been given.
It’s the perspective I’ve been given.
So yes, your difficulties transport you to the next level in life. They are an elevator to the next floor that has a better view.
And the view is pretty good from where I sit now.

It’s obvious that trauma causes enlightenment. But is enlightenment possible without the trauma?
Surely from where I sit, I should be able to direct other people towards enlightenment so that they avoid the trauma.
Not possible.
So those of us who have experienced the trauma, sit here and wait for others to join us. To join the brotherhood. To shake their hand and express our happiness at their arrival. We quietly look on as others bounce from one diversion to another. Chasing the very thing that prevents the happiness that they so passionately and urgently seek.
It’s only when the person exhausts all the energy through chasing these opportunities that they finally sit down and see the comfort that was at their feet anyway. Like the student of Zen who is confounded by an unanswerable question. His mind pushes him so far around the bend, that he meets himself on the way back.
The Zen master watches patiently, occasionally hitting the student with a stick to jolt him out of his present way of thinking. The timing of the hit with the stick is critical.

There is a little known Zen story of a master and a student walking in the dark. The master hands the student a candle so he can make his way home. As the student accepts the candle, the master blows it out.
In that moment, the student achieves enlightenment.
He is still in the dark but achieves acceptance of the situation.

Life is good.
06 3 days later

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.



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)