livingwithablackdog

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Boxing 14/05/2012

I sit here in the living room of a place that I moved into a couple of days ago surrounded by half unpacked boxes.  Behind me is the TV … I wanted to watch Bones last night, but do you think I could find the cords for the antenna or power? Nope.  I did find the ordinary drinking glasses that I was determined to unearth the evening before.  Eventually (after Bones was over) I did find the cords … in a shoe box that the removalists conveniently placed on the TV unit (duh! I had just put a stack of papers on top of it).  This is what happens when you are too busy to do all of the packing yourself and get the movers to help with the packing!  I know exactly what is in the boxes I packed … they’re also labeled with more than the room that they were packed in.  I am in the process of washing every bit of linen that I own because everything has been in storage for a couple of months in cardboard boxes and a lot of it has been wrapped around sundry items for padding … it all smells musty.  The clothes from storage will all need ironing before I wear them (although the were bagged in somewhat more smell-proof containment for the most part so don’t all need the wash fest …

It strikes me that life is a bit like this.  It’s all a bit of a journey.  We can mark time for ages and not feel like we’re going anywhere and yet be changing all the time; we can be going backward, or round in circles … or other times our world shifts and we have to figure out what to do with everything that we have and all that we are.  The things that we think are important get re-sorted and stored differently and things find new places.  Some things it is hard to fit.  Other places leave vast holes.  Some things about our new places lack things we really liked about our old worlds, yet there are things that perhaps are vast improvements and what we would wish for might be a mixture of both … but a journey doesn’t allow that.  We must leave one place in order to go to the next and then to keep moving onwards.

This is what the process of living with Depression has been like for me.  When I discovered that this was what was going on in me and that it was not going to resolve itself and just go away my whole world shifted.  Dreams died.  Hopes were broken.  My heart broke.  I needed to learn how to travel a different journey.  It has been a long road, and the path has not followed the course that I thought it would, but I find that perhaps broken hopes heal and perhaps dreams don’t need to die after all.  Perhaps they look a little different to the glorious picture that they once were.  Perhaps they are now more humble.  The journey is not over, it is a life long one … there is always room to grow and that includes the times where health is not great.  My heart has been healing and knows joy.

In the mean time, I unpack my boxes and place my bits and pieces in their new homes for this next leg of the journey.

Now … if only I could find the play doh …

(and the camera)

 

It’s Not Fair 18/12/2011

Filed under: Experiencing Depression — jillnottelten @ 1:00 pm
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It’s one of the first things children learn to say.

“It’s not fair!”

It could be.

It might be.

It might not be.

Lots of the time it’s not.

I was picturing life as fair a couple of weeks ago.

There was an endless row of storks lined up for miles on end, each with its very special bundle to deliver.

Each bundle was allocated – not necessarily the same things but things of the same weight and number.

So each stork took on ‘x’ amount of tragedy and ‘y’ amount of suffering and ‘b’ amount of joy and ‘c’ amount of strengths and ‘m’ proportion of weaknesses.  And then there was a minimum space indicator allocated for tragedies and suffering – so they couldn’t come on top of each other – because “fair” – as we all know – allows time for healing.  And each of these little bundles then was given a special value key that they would hold each other’s strengths and weaknesses, joys and sufferings, tragedies and so forth as as valuable or important as their own.

But life’s not like that.

Storks are impatient creatures.

They fly out when they’re good and ready and often when the load’s not ready to go.

And tragedies and suffering, joy and strength and weakness don’t get dished out in measured helpings at nice comfortable intervals either.

No.  Life’s not fair.

It’s not really designed to be.

In lots of ways we’d be a lot more content if we all stopped looking for fair.

Sure, I think that we should act in a way that is decent and even-handed to others when we get the choice … but there will always be someone who thinks that a choice wasn’t fair.

Why do I have treatment resistant Depression?  I don’t know.  Essentially because I had brain surgery for an aneurysm that they found.

Would it be more fair if it hadn’t been found and I’d have died in tact in my mid-20s?

What sort of question is that?  Both were possibilities.  Neither seem ‘fair’ to people who love me or my family.

Do we have to remain in some kind of pristine condition for things to be ‘fair’ then?

How old do you have to be before it is ‘fair’ for your body to start deteriorating?

No, if we go by what we usually think of as ‘fair’ then almost nothing is fair.

I don’t think life is designed to be fair.

I think it’s about growing and letting ourselves learn from the things we encounter.

I’ve met quite a lot of people who have been through a lot who are wise.

I think that they’ve learned what they could from the hard times and the scars that they’ve left.

So I’ve set my sights anew.

I want to be wise.

(but maybe by learning efficiently, not by having too many lessons????)

 

 

What do you do with the Shockers? 25/11/2011

Yes, I am still here.  Still living, breathing and blogging.  Just fell victim to a couple of very shocking weeks (interspersed with some lovely moments, but very few and far between).

This week I’ve barely been able to tolerate daylight, let alone the computer screen – migraine like I have not had in a long time since my medication includes migraine voodoo concoctions … but … amidst my Barry Crocker of a week the week before and the ensuing weekend I became a bit disoriented and missed a couple of doses of my meds, hence the hole in the firewall (just to mix some more metaphors).  Yesterday I went to the GP to get a medical certificate for work and stopped at the shopping centre on the way home.  Talk about sensory overload!  My world had not yet totally stopped spinning so I had this strange spacey kind of sensation as I was walking, the noises were louder and more jarring, lights and colours still bright, smells still sharp.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

Work has been crazy and exhausting trying to manage the politics and dynamics within the office.  Don’t get me wrong – I like my job.  If only work could just be about going and doing your job and coming home again, what a relief it would be!  But there are systems and other people that one has to navigate to do one’s job.  Equipment that one and space one has to somehow get adequate access to do it.  Preferably in a way that lets you stay well without creating more stress than is necessary – which is where the battle lies at present for me.  At present it seems that I am destined to bang my head against a brick wall and progress nowhere and to endure life in the office that gets claimed by miscellaneous team members to serve as their staff room – while my office buddy and I are trying to work in it!!!

But alas!  These are not healthy things to dwell upon.  The goal is to work out how to attack and push through.  I had thought that we had had a strategy for the work one, but it is back to the drawing board on that one next week as it looks like this is rapidly fading into embers.

At present I am struggling not to dwell on the difficulties of the last few weeks.  I grew frustrated that my usual seasonal dip in mood was dragging on longer than usual, but didn’t really look beyond it for other triggers until much too late.  Sitting down with a friend a couple of weeks ago to go over what had been happening clarified things a lot more for me.  One of the reasons that I am so focussed on work issues over the past couple of weeks has come about because through sitting down and working through my usual triggers and warning signs with my friend revealed that my workplace is simply loaded with triggers.  There is little wonder that I have been struggling to emerge from my usual brief decline and regathering of mood.

It’s so easy to forget to go back to the basics when one gets busy.  I can sort of see why Mary Ellen Copeland, the woman who designed the WRAP suggested that going over triggers and warning signs should be something that someone should do daily to prevent relapse.  I’m not sure that I would ever go to daily, but I do know that I need to be going over my WRAP a lot more frequently than I do.  The whole point of knowing one’s triggers and warning signs is so that you can be alert to them.  It’s one thing to know them – but so easy to miss them unless you’re really watching.

So – What do you do with the shockers?  Do you beat yourself up over them?  There’s no point in that.  To me, it seems you need to do is stand back and detach a little.  Stand in the moment.  Not the future.  Not the past.  Just the moment.  Examine – and for me, it helps if I can find someone to help me stay in perspective … at least to get me going – and learn.  This helps me to see cause and effect relationships; it helps me to learn and relearn trip hazards; it helps me see things specifically rather than looming ghouls and it leaves room to remember that there were a couple of good moments in the last fortnight too.

From there I can start with a plan.  If the plan needs adjusting, then so-be-it, but perhaps – just, perhaps … next week can be a bit better …

Please.

 

Do You Tell Your Boss? 13/11/2011

If you have a mental illness do you tell your boss?

Are you obliged to tell your boss?  Why or why not?

With discrimination rife in society and difficulty getting friends and family to understand what you are going through, what are your greatest fears in the workplace? Or the study environment?  Or wherever it is you spend most of your productive time?

Does your illness affect your ability to do your job at times?  In what ways?

Does your boss know?  Do any of your colleagues? What led to them finding out?

Whether you are studying or working always consider ahead of time whether you are prepared to disclose your illness.  If your current position is non-disclosure, consider carefully any occasions which might arise which might make it more necessary and under what circumstances you may disclose if at all.

Disclosure is always best done in a planned manner.  You should have some idea what you are going to say, how you want to say it and how you are going to explain its relevance to your work.  If you need some adjustments to your work conditions or some time off, it is best for you to come to your boss with some options that you have considered and reasons for your request.  You need your boss to understand that you wish to be healthy and productive as possible and are trusting them so that they are able to best support you to reach a goal that is in both of your best interests.  A large proportion of ‘Western’ countries, including Australia, provide legislation to support your right to this.

When you plan what to disclose think in terms of how you are affected by your mental illness more than your diagnosis.  You may, in fact decide to disclose only the effects of your illness and not your diagnosis, stating that you have “a condition that affects …”.  You may identify symptoms or you may simply describe what it does to you and how that affects your work eg my condition means that I have less energy than I used to have.  This means that I have to be careful how I plan my time and that I have to take holidays at regular intervals throughout the year to maintain stable health.  I need to be careful to use my meal breaks and leave on time so that I don’t become over-tired.  Or my condition means that I need to take medication.  When I change medications, sometimes I am more sleepy than usual and over-sleep or become very drowsy in the afternoons.  Sometimes my speech even gets slurred and I sound a little intoxicated.  So if I’m changing medications I need to take a week off, otherwise I find that I’m coming to work late all week and I sound as though I’m tipsy for half the afternoon and I don’t get much done and am at risk of making faulty decisions or overlooking things because my head is all foggy – especially in the first few days.  After that I will be fine at work again, but might over-sleep a couple of times in the 2-3 weeks afterwards while my body gets used to the new meds.  It doesn’t happen very often.  I’ve only needed to do it 2 or 3 times, but each time I’ve been glad that I did.

You do not need to disclose specify personal or medical information if you tell them about anything at all.

You should also think about when to disclose.  That is – when you are applying for a job, before a job interview, during the interview, after you have been offered the job and before starting, during the time you are employed after you have worked there for a while, if you become unwell and need to or never.  There are pros and cons of disclosing at each point of the way.  Sometimes your circumstances will have presented you with little choice to prevent awkwardness – you may have become unwell at work and have it become obvious that something was wrong or you may have symptoms that you are aware will soon become obvious if arrangements aren’t made to cater for your needs.  Again, despite prejudice and stigma in some places you have legal rights to have your needs and confidentiality met and protected within your workplace in most western countries.  Further, in Australia at least, if you become unwell because the employer failed to attend to your needs having been made aware of them, you are entitled to compensation under work cover.  It is however, worth serious consideration whether or not you are going to disclose because unfortunately discrimination does still happen and there are people who do fail to respect privacy and you never know where they are until you find them.

Some helpful things to consider at each stage of the employment continuum.

Prior to interview

Why you might …

  • You are able to to discuss the organisations policies and support resources when exploring the prospective position
  • You are able to get an idea about your employer’s predisposition to your needs from the word go.
  • If you have restrictions on any key job criteria due to temporary limitations because of recent relapse/graded hours return to work plans.

Examples of Why you might not …

  • Risk of discrimination influencing whether or not you get an interview.
  • No work related needs arising from your mental illness.
  • You don’t believe that they need to know/believe it irrelevant to job.

At the job interview

Why you might …

  • You are able to address people after creating a positive impression of yourself and demonstrating your capability.
  • You can gauge their understanding of your meaning and clarify appropriate questions about your needs.
  • You are able to discuss with the employer positive traits that you bring to the team that you have learned through your journey of recovery.
  • You are able to discuss your needs and what your potential employer would be able to accommodate or explore during the interview process.
  • You can brief them as to whether your referees are aware of your condition and how it affects your work and offer consent to discuss previous workplace arrangements with other employers if they have gone well.

Why you might not …

  • Risk of discrimination in job selection.
  • You don’t feel that you have needs that require accommodating or can manage them without support from your employer.
  • You might worry about where information gathered by panel members will go and whether people are trustworthy to maintain your privacy.
  • Concern that even if you get this job, opportunities for advancement could be limited by poor understanding of your illness.
  • You might be well and consider it unnecessary at this point in time.
  • You might not want to distract the panel from thinking about your abilities by talking about areas of need.

When contacted with an offer of employment

Why you might …

  • You are able to discuss your needs without risk of missing out on the job due to discrimination.
  • You can arrange to enter the work place with a plan in place that accommodates your employment needs and commence as you mean to continue.
  • If required and with your consent, the employer can arrange appropriate mental health sensitivity workshops for managers or staff by organisations such as Beyond Blue or circulate general anti-stigma/population health information among routine organisation circulars, yet not make it obvious that it was for your benefit.
  • Allow development of appropriate support and mentoring systems.

Why you might not …

  • Fear of stigma, gossip and/or discrimination.
  • Currently well and don’t feel that you are affected at work.
  • Work does not need to know.
  • Protection of positive image and opportunity for advancement.

During the course of your employment

Why you might …

  • You decide that your employer is trustworthy.
  • You become unwell.
  • You encounter difficulties or are not performing to standard because of symptoms or medication side effects and need to offer reasonable explanation or require support, alternate work arrangements or time off for medication reviews etc.
  • You are being harassed or bullied.

Why you might not …

  • It might not be necessary.
  • Protection of positive image and opportunities for advancement.
  • It might result in harassment and discrimination.
  • You are able to manage your needs without workplace support.

Never disclosing

Why you might …

  • Protection from gossip and discrimination.
  • Protection of positive image and opportunity
  • Privacy
  • Stable health
  • Lack of necessity

Why you might not …

  • Difficult to prove entitlement to compensation in case of illness, relapse or deterioration due to failure of workplace to meet needs for psychological health if they were not disclosed.
  • Relapse or need for hospitalisation might put your job at risk.
  • Might discover a positive attitude to mental health issues within workplace.
  • Legal obligations under occupational health and safety act where specific work related tasks are affected resulting in serious risk issues.

What did I do about disclosure to my employer with my job?

For me it was simple.  I told mine.  I disclosed at interview.  I felt that this was necessary because I had taken my previous job without learning to manage my mental health well and my references would have reflected that in the answers to some of the standard questions that interviewers ask referees no matter how careful the referees were.  I chose to take control of this situation at the time of my interview because having reached interview I could present myself as a competent individual in person, demonstrate that I was healthy and create a positive impression before and whilst disclosing.  I also needed to disclose because I wanted to work less hours than the position entailed and needed to offer a good explanation.  I told them that I had depression, how it affected me in terms of energy levels, concentration, seasonal patterns, medication changes and how I managed these things to be able to work.  I spoke of arrangements that I had previously made with my former employer that had been helpful and asked if they would be amenable to such strategies.  I also used the opportunity to tell them things that I had learned and accomplished through the experience of working, the determination and dedication that it entailed and the commitment to my job that resulted so that I could achieve personal satisfaction through working.  In my case this had a positive effect and outcome, although it doesn’t always.  I don’t disclose before I have the chance at interview to sit down and talk with the employer so that I can get a gauge on how they are reading what I am telling them and to avoid preconceived assumptions about what I will be like that are difficult to shift.  There are always risks associated with disclosure, but my reasoning is that if they are going to discriminate when I am well, I would rather not have to deal with them if I were to relapse.

When I am in the workplace I lay low for a while and watch what goes on around me.  As long as they are not untrustworthy, I tell someone if they are closely and directly affected by my health so that they are not left in the dark if I have to take leave at short notice.  That’s usually only one or two people.  Often they are among the first to notice that I am off my game,  so it can work in my favour because when someone who I work closely with starts asking if I’m okay and comments that I’m not myself before I notice anything, it gives me a cue to step back and check my early warning signs and triggers.  Over the course of years there have been a couple of people who have learned how to pick my good and bad days at least as well as I do myself and also to support and accommodate me through the bad ones and to lean on me in return when I’m good.  I’m pretty limited in what I disclose to start with, but with proof of worthiness comes more trust.

My current situation in my new workplace is new to me.  I have always had employers who were fiercely protective of my privacy before.  I have little in the way of evidence about my current manager, only the report of one other worker about two specific occasions of breached privacy.  I have, however worked in a place where it has been possible to work with my information kept private and so I am prepared to stand for my rights in both privacy and in workplace accommodation now.  If I expect the respect of others, there may be times that I need to stand up and remind them what it entails.  This is however new to me and the workplace is one with strange dynamics.

I have included in the Fact Sheets menu this week a document called “Choosing Your Path.  Disclosure: It’s a Personal Decision“.  It’s about disclosure of ‘disability’ (or illness) in education and training after High School and employment and the processes of application, entry and engaging in the roles.  The booklet discusses legal issues, reasons why one may or may not disclose at various stages of training or employment, responsibilities and some of the considerations to ponder in making your decision.  Also have a look around the Beyond Blue website as they have a number of resources for work sites and managers as well as fact sheets about telling your employer about your illness and maintaining good mental health for tertiary education students.  Lastly, I have listed a book called “Tackling Depression at Work” in the Books menu.  I’ve not yet read this one, but it was written by reliable people and has been well reviewed so should be worth a read.  I have listed the book at the publisher’s site, you may or may not be able to find it cheaper elsewhere if it interests you greatly.

 

Nominated 10/11/2011

By the way …

Someone has nominated this blog for Bloggers Choice Awards under ‘Best Health Blog’

See?

http://bloggerschoiceawards.com/blogs/show/177188

If you want to vote you need to register though  😦

Pretty cool though, hey?


ps Curiosity was too much – I’ve registered  …. and put in a vote (so was temptation)

 

Always a New Day 08/11/2011

Always a new day

Ever a hope

Dog on a chain now

No time to mope.

Look to the future

Too far to see –

Look to the past

Learn, go, move on, be.

Live in the moment.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Take hold of hope

No place for doubt.

The path isn’t cast;

Life is to live.

Strive for your hearts goals.

You get what you give.

Nov 2011

 

Black Thumb 06/11/2011

Habits.  My life is full of them.  Good ones.  Bad ones.  Helpful ones.  Ones that I have resolved to end a hundred times over, yet continue with.  I have things that I do because I like to.  Things that I do because I have to.  Things that I do because that’s just what I’ve always done.  Some I maintain consciously, some unconsciously; and some are maintained by failing to maintain others.  Habits.

I spent yesterday afternoon pottering in the garden.  Among my many little chores I spent lifted bulbs from some pots.

Now, I am very new to gardening.  My once black thumbs are currently oscillating between a brown and occasionally get a very slight hint of green (until I forget to water the garden for a few days in a row).  There is no science going on – it’s all experimentation … almost.  I do occasionally look things up on the net.  After I write this post I will be looking up what you do with bulbs after you lift them.

Which brings me to the some of the reflections that I had yesterday as I waxed poetical in my head and got very grotty at the same time.

I have never grown plants that were bulbs before.  So this year was certainly an experiment.  Some grew and some did not.  I believe that I probably planted some upside down, but can’t confirm that.  I probably over-watered some … they rotted in the soil.  Others grew and didn’t bloom.  I am not keeping bulbs of plants that did not bloom.  Some grew and missed a few days water and got hot wind and died while others did quite well.  Some even made it to bouquets for friends.

Yesterday came to the beginning of stage two of my experiment with bulbs.  I went to the pots that held the plants that had bloomed that I had liked and decided to lift the bulbs.  Not quite sure of the correct procedure I began to burrow.  Now the first pot was not so difficult.  They were tulips.  The second pot I did just to get rid of the bulbs because I still wanted to keep the pot, but needed to get the bulbs out.  They too, were easy to find.  The daffodils gave me no trouble.  And then I came to these other plants – whose name I do not recall – but the bulbs were in little nests that were distributed unevenly around the planter box and while the upper couple of bulbs in the nest were of reasonable size there were also bundles of little balls – I assume new bulbs – that would often fall free and needed fishing for.  It took a lot of work to sift through this pot to lift the bulbs.

While I was doing this it struck me that If I were this thorough with everything, much of my life would be a lot simpler.  I would not have forgotten to take my medication yesterday morning had I refilled my dosette box when I emptied it.  I would not get weary looking at the mess in the kitchen as often if I were in the habit of cleaning up after myself as I went  more regularly.  I would be exercising regularly by now instead of simply planning to start within the next month.  I would not grow weary from lack of sleep.  In short, I would be more scrupulous about my habits.  Certainly it’s laborious.  Yet, there is a purpose to these habits the same as there is a purpose to my clearing the pot.  I am seeking to be in the best of health so that I can get on with living and doing other things.  Just as I was clearing the pot so that I could plant something new in it that would grow over the summer months.  There is a purpose to maintaining habits that are mundane that is anything but.

The second reflection came to me while I was battling one-handed with my bush rose whilst watering it.  I was attempting to remove the spent blooms – I’ve been taught to do that, but don’t do it regularly enough so there are lots at present.  They’re all over the bush.  Some of them were impossible to get to without doing battle with thorns while working one-handed.  Others, within reach while able to be grasped and eventually detached, were not easy to remove.  I also managed to get spiked by the tree regardless.  Ouch.  How different the bush rose was from the geraniums which simply slip off the plant with the slightest pull.

I am much more like the bush rose than the geranium when it comes to surrendering my bad habits.  How much simpler life would be if when I noticed that I needed to change I were able to simply let go of the old ways like my geraniums.  But, no.  For me it is work.  It requires effort and often shakes up the petals of some of the other flowers during the process.  Occasionally, not just the dead rose came off with the pulling, but some of the good ones beside as well.  I think my roses are very much like my habits.  They grow without effort and bloom.  Often they serve a good purpose, but then are no longer needed.  Other times they just are.  But when they are past their usefulness and deadweight, burdensome – they do need removing.  Sometimes it can be done while I’m doing other maintenance like the watering, but I think that I am going to have to go out soon and pull them off myself deliberately.  One at a time.  Not a job that I see as stimulating, but to encourage the bush to be productive and to keep it looking healthy it needs to be done.  Now I just need to take the same path with my troublesome habits and learn to tackle them one at a time and replace them with helpful ones.

Will I be as meticulous in dealing with my dead habits that are no longer blooming as I work at being with my flowers?  Will I dig and sift as thoroughly as I looked for my bulbs when it comes to removing them?

Again I set my resolve to commit to tackle my environment and not let it get out of control  (The kitchen, living area and study are cluttered again and the floors are past cleaning time).  My dosette box should never be left empty – I used to be good with that.  There are a number of other things that I need to sit down and map out.

Which plant holds the flowers that are hardest to remove in your garden?  Just how carefully are you prepared to dig out your bulbs?

I think I still have black thumbs in the habit garden and it’s time to green up.  What colour are your thumbs?

It's loaded now!

 

 
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