Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hamilton Gardens

Feeling sad on Monday after Jeff  had gone, I organised to have lunch with Steve (#2 son) and to then meet a friend at the Hamilton Gardens for a walk.

I love these Gardens. I love the 'rooms'. I love how there is space, but also a sense of privacy because of the way it is arranged. There are some lovely photos on the website, as well as information, but these are a few I took on Monday.

And I love how, even though life brings sadness, it also brings beautiful things into my life, and beautiful friends - thanks so much for the company, Steve and Chantal.

An End and a Beginning

Sunday 21st November was the beginning of Jeff (youngest son) and Konny's adventures in Auckland. We loaded up car, van and trailer to move their belongings into a tiny apartment in central Auckland. A great day for them, but a sad one for Mac and I - we will miss them so much. Jeff did go flatting in Hamilton for a few months, but that was close at hand, and we missed him heaps even then.

Jeff and I had a lot of time together, far more than many parents get to spend with their grown children, and I just love his company. I will miss his humour, his sense of fun, the board and card games, the majong, the music, and the wonderful discussions about Life, the Universe and Everything.

I love you Jeff

Procrastination of the Best Kind

Our wonderful weekend was over, and now I had the following weekend to dread look forward to. For the final day of my Permaculture Design Certificate course on Saturday, I had to put together my design and present it. It was all more or less done as far as content, but I had a lot to do to actually put it together. So I thought a lot about what I should be doing and panicked more than a little. Not liking the feeling of panic the obvious solution was to get head down, bum up and get on with it. However there was an alternative - procrastination.

So on Monday, having an appointment in town, I managed to find quite a few extra things to do - you know, really essential stuff like buying new pillows - and then went out again in the evening! It was the monthly meeting of HOGS. Don't panic - I haven't gone insane and joined the local Harley Davidson Motorcycle club. This HOGS is the Hamilton Organic GardenerS. Pat and Michelle talked to us, and showed a video, about how Vitamin C Can Cure and about the Coalition which is trying to make access to high-dose Vitamin C available in New Zealand hospitals.

Okay, so it's Tuesday - this has to be the day I get stuck in to my presentation. Well, maybe. Well, no, actually. Instead I went to Manurewa to the Auckland Botanical Gardens for lunch and a long walk and talk with my sister, followed by a bit of spending at Ceracell, buying bee equipment.

 If you click on the photo to make it bigger, you can see my sister, Elizabeth reflected in the window.

Wednesday. YES! Though still not finished, what with finding all kinds of 'must-dos' around the house, and heading off to marimba group in the evening.

Thursday. Have an appointment in town at 12 and another at 1.30. I managed to spend all morning doing silly chores that didn't need to be done. I could have taken my project with me to work on between appointments, but why would I want to when I could go and sit and read in the cool of the Hamilton Gardens?

Okay, so it's Friday. I haven't got a lot of options left. I'm 59 years old and I'm still behaving like I did when I was a 17 year old student in my first year at university! But whatever -

I did it!

It was so good to get it over. I'm a very good back-of-the-hall heckler, but I get so very nervous about being at the front with all eyes and ears on me. It was a great day with a varied and fascinating range of projects presented. And a very delicious lunch.

The Best Kind of Weekend

We had a wonderful weekend two weeks ago. It was the first time for a few years that we had fireworks - our cow got more and more crazy each year so we stopped but now she is gone we were able have the again. It was so nice to spend the evening with all our sons and some of our closest friends, although I did miss the friends who spent our first Guy Fawkes night with us. The Seefeldt family moved back to the USA nearly 10 years ago after spending two years in Hamilton. I miss my friend Susan so much - but thank goodness for the internet.

They were too late for the bonfire and fireworks, but my oldest son, Greg, arrived to stay a couple of nights with his new girlfriend, and with two of his children, Ti'ana (8 1/2) and Ethan (7). There were still some sparklers left for them even after the big kids had their share. As usual, we had a bunch of people stay over for the night, which is always fun - instead of that flat 'it's all over' sensation, our parties seem to drift on over the whole weekend.

The next day Greg and Maggie picked up Greg's daughter, Sam (2 1/2), and stepson, Dylan (8 1/2) and first on the agenda was a visit to the Raglan skate park so that Ethan could try out his new full size skateboard that Greg and I bought him.

 The grass really needs cutting - Sam looks so cute but there was a very real possibility of her getting lost!

 Ethan found a big kid at the skate park who helped him with a few tips. The kids at the Raglan skate park are always so friendly and patient with the little guys.

 Ti'ana mostly played on the snake board, but borrowed the scooter from Dylan for a little while.

 In the afternoon a bunch of us went for an adventure in the bush, starting at the bottom of the driveway.

 Through the trees......

and past the River Pirates' tipi.

Dylan, Ti'ana and Ethan
Past a small waterfall.

 Up a hill.....

 Why have they stopped?   Bob is keen to keep moving!

 I do so love the rimu trees in our bush.


 Ethan and Ti'ana had fun on the tyre swing while Dylan and I went to look at my beehive. Dylan is fascinated and asked many very thoughtful questions.

 The goats were slightly bemused at so much unusual activity.

 Ethan ran ahead to check for eggs in the chook run.

 Homeward bound - time for a cuppa and a rest - yeah, right!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catching Up

It's been almost a life time since I last wrote on my blog. About three weeks ago I found a blog that I really enjoyed reading so became a 'follower' - and Joan checked out my blog and sent me an email asking how I was now. A little moment of sunshine in my day. And that's what I'm trying to live on these days - lots of little moments of sunshine. I've finally come to understand that life is a collection of moments, some good, some bad, some funny, some sad, celebration times, grieving times. I've spent so much of my life focusing on the down side of life, and wishing for the perfect life.

Since that bad time in June, I have been to a clinical psychologist and made some progress. But it is spring, the sunshine has returned, which is always a time when I feel better. So although I am not seeing the psychologist again until mid-December, I am constantly working on myself. It hasn't been easy. As well as my own inner turmoil, my eldest son has been / is going through his own personal hell (he too is making progress, and is determined to turn his world around.) I've had some physical health problems, minor, but tiring and thus a typical time when I am likely to fall down. Two of my grandchildren have moved, with their mother, to Wellington, so I won't see them so often. The two sons and their partners who have been living at home are moving out, one couple in 10 days time, the other couple 'soon'. My design project for my permaculture course is to be presented on Saturday 20 November, the day before my youngest son moves to Auckland.

So, I have to work hard every day to remind myself of the good things in my life, not something that comes easy to me, although I have been an expert at cataloguing the miseries of life. I am determined to change my attitude - but DAMN! it is hard work focusing on the positive.

However I really feel that I am making progress. Some days, like today, are harder than others, and then it's so hard to overcome the sense of sadness that can so easily lead me down the path towards the black chasm. I have to constantly talk to myself, reminding myself of the good stuff: the warm cuddle with the cat; the sunshine lighting up the spring green leaves; the cup of tea and chat with a good friend; the smile from my youngest son who is still here at this point in time. Reminding myself to live in the present, not in the past, nor in the future, just in the here and now.

It is getting better!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's 'just' how you look at things...

Standing in the dining room this morning, folding the washing, and thinking that I really needed to get out and weed the overgrown garden, a thought crossed my mind: if I was well, instead of being so SAD and depressed, what would I be doing?

I'd be standing in the brilliant sunshine, folding the washing and looking forward to getting outside in the fresh air tending my garden.

All I have to do is get from here to there: I'm on that path, but it's very overgrown, and the way is not clear at all.

PS After a day of gardening in the sunshine and fresh air, I am knackered but feeling a lot better, psychologically. (The path's still overgrown but the garden's a lot less so.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Progress Report

I am so very tired. I have had a wake up call, and know that I have to find new ways of being. Five years ago, after a particularly bad bout of depression, I went to a counsellor and made some progress. I learned both to recognise the beginning signs of a downwards slide, and to take action to halt its progress. I came to a better understanding of the reasons for the way I felt about many things, and to come to terms with most of them. I thought I had things under control.

Then came Tuesday 15 June 2010. I knew I was low, with winter SADness, but I thought I had things under control. However, one phone call, and I discovered that I was wrong. I had things under control just as long as nothing sudden took me unawares. I can't let that happen again without making a serious attempt at preventing it. I decided that almost immediately.

What usually happens to me when the shit hits the fan, is that I withdraw, crumple up, and stay low until gradually I uncurl again, slowly feeling better, until I can once more function and even start to enjoy life again. But really, nothing changes. I still 'know' deep down that I am ugly, stupid, mean, clumsy, useless........ you name a badness and that's how part of me feels deep down. Another part of me 'knows' that these things aren't (entirely) true. The thing is, although I'm glad I've done the work to understand the influences that led me to believe so many negative things about myself, all these years I've been navel gazing to get those answers, I have, at the same time, been developing and reinforcing those same things, and also behaviour patterns which really don't work well for me any more. I've reached a point where I can't blame anyone else for my problems, and nor can I blame myself for 'causing' other people's problems - not even those of my sons. I need to take responsibility for learning new behaviour patterns, and learn to have a more appropriate and realistic self image.

So.... the last four weeks have been such hard work. Mac took the day off work the day after the panic attack, and 'bullied' me into going for a walk on the beach. In the past when I felt this bad, I would be curled up under the blankets at home. I was exhausted. Walking was such hard work that I found I couldn't walk unless I concentrated on the process, consciously moving one foot at a time. If Mac spoke to me, I had to stop walking to answer - I couldn't do both at once. But this episode had left me so weak that walking, even like this, was easier than trying to refuse to walk. And by the time we had walked the length of the beach (about 2 - 2.5km) I was actually feeling a smidgeon better - and I could talk a little while walking back.

Mac had to go to work the next day, and with two of our vehicles booked in for WOF checks, I forced myself to go into Raglan with one car, and Heidi (my daughter-in-law and good friend) took the other. We walked on the beach a little while the cars were at the garage, and she looked after me just by being there - which is all anyone can do really. I am so lucky to have her in my life.

The next day Mac had already organised to have off so that we could go to the Fieldays: the last thing I felt like doing, but I went anyway, and it was good to spend the day with Mac, looking at things and thinking about our future plans for our land. It is very hard to think about the future when you are feeling so dead inside, but I pushed myself onward.

After that traumatic visit to a local Raglan GP coming on top of the original depression / phone call / panic attack, I was left wondering where the hell to turn next. I started with a visit to an osteopath. This probably seems like an odd choice, but this is a man I have known for about 25 years, and one I trust implicitly. Trust seemed more important than the type of therapy, and as always, I felt a bit better afterwards: not a lot, but a small first step. I also booked an appointment for the following week with the herbalist in Raglan, another person I felt I could trust. Two weeks after that appointment, I finally saw another GP, the man I used to go to before we moved to Raglan, and finally got a proper examination, along with a huge battery of blood tests; so many I felt faint after the blood was taken. I am looking forward to getting the results next week. He also referred me to Webhealth who in turn gave me a list of psychologists whom they judged to be the most likely to be able to help me. I'm still working on that.

Both the visits and the phone calls organising them were terrifying: I was so scared of getting another metaphorical slap in the face, and the sense of panic that still sits in the bottom of my stomach, threatens to overwhelm me each time.

Interspersed amongst these were visits to friends and family. I even went to my bee-buddy's 60th birthday party for a little while, though after a couple of hours among mainly strangers, I had to go find Mac and tell him, "I need to go home now," as I could feel  myself starting to panic once more, with my breathing getting lighter and faster, and my heart starting to race. But the times spent with people who are good friends have been my saviour: Mac, Steve, Heidi, Jeff, Cate, Chantal, Eileen, Margaret. Cups of coffee with Simon the three times I have visited the doctor helped me get through my fear. (He works next door to the medical centre.) The other friends who have been supportive via phone and internet. There have been some who have not been supportive, but I have managed not to take that personally, but rather as an indication either of their ignorance of depression, or of their own inability to face it - just like I struggle to help someone who is bleeding.

I have never tried before. I have always just crawled under the blankets, literally and figuratively. Trying is really really hard work! It leaves me exhausted. It's hard even to remember to try, so I've taken to wearing weird nail polish left over from fancy dress parties: every time I see it I get a shock, and that reminds me that I've got to keep trying to behave and think differently. I can only manage one challenge a day: a phone call, a visit, half an hour on the treadmill, shopping. One's sufficient to exhaust me, any more and I start to shake, the fear starts swirling in the depths of my stomach, and increases the nausea that has accompanied me for the past four weeks. (Although the last couple of days I've been free of the nausea - since Bronwyn added ginger to my herbal remedy.)

I still find myself feeling weepy over the smallest thing on tv or radio. I am so lacking in self confidence that I had to get Mac to stand next to me while I laid a few tiles in a straight line in the bathroom because I was so scared of doing it wrong - yet I am the person who made this. Some days I feel unable to cook a meal out of fear of stuffing up. The effort of pushing myself to do very ordinary things leaves me mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. Still, the tiredness combined with Bronwyn's herbs are ensuring I'm sleeping well for the first time for about three months.

So it's been four and a half weeks since I descended into the depths, and I've been shaken to the core of my being - but I am slowly rising to the surface again. Tomorrow Mac and I are going to the Mount for a couple of days of beach walks and hot pools, and then it will be back to the grind of getting well. As the depression lifts, and the days get longer and sunnier, it is going to get harder to persevere, but I am determined to keep trying: the next step is to start working with a cognitive behaviour therapist to reprogramme my internal voices and behaviours.

I didn't chose to be susceptible to depression, but I am choosing to work on finding ways to reduce it. I'm 'okay' at the moment, but I'm determined to be OKAY!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Winter in the Bush

It was sunny today, albeit somewhat chilly. The ram pump had stopped working a few days ago, when it was raining hard. Today we went down to get it started again, and went for a bit of a wander.

 I love fungi - and there is always something different in our bush.
The inlet for the ram pump was blocked up again - it is at the top of a waterfall.
Looking down into the pool at the base of the waterfall.
New life for a dead punga - a great 'pot' for these ferns.
A tree still lives through the epiphytes attached to it before it fell.
Sooner or later the ram pump had to be flushed out and started again.
 Then back across the stream
and back to the house for a cuppa......

Friday, June 18, 2010

Apparently, all you need is faith and god

As I said in my last blog, I have grown increasingly depressed as the days have grown shorter, and the nights longer. I was coping, but on Tuesday an unexpected phone call pushed me over the edge. For the first time in my 58 years I suffered a full blown panic attack. I didn't know it was a panic attack - I thought I was dying. When I felt a bit better, I drove the 10 minutes into Raglan to the doctors' surgery. Won't do that again!

When I got there I was taken into the nurse's room, and she asked about what was wrong and felt my pulse briefly - I guess it wasn't racing wildly. She said it was probably a panic attack, but that I could wait and see a doctor, so I said, 'yes, please.'

After 20 minutes she had do do something else, and told me that I couldn't wait by myself but that I had to go to another room -  with someone who turned out to be a counsellor and who also asked me what happened and a whole lot of other questions. In just 20 minutes she assessed me and told me I needed counselling, that I should get a job, and that I should stop caring so much for my sons, saying that worrying about your adult children is controlling behaviour. In the matter of the job, she asked if I was working: I was silent for a minute then said, "I work, but I am not in paid employment" to which she replied, "so you have no qualifications." Seemed like a bit of a leap to me! I responded saying that I have a degree in psychology, to which she replied, "So you should be a teacher." She also insisted that having two of my adult sons and my lovely daughter-in-law living with Mac and me must be a terrible strain on me, and refuted my statement that they are my friends, and that it is a joy not a strain. I then told her that I had not asked for counselling, and didn't want it from her, and repeated (as I had said to the nurse, and to this woman several times already) that I wanted a medical check up, not unsolicited advice. I was obviously upset and angry. So at that point she finally went and found the doctor.

Should have stuck with the counsellor. The doctor started asking all the same questions. After the first few questions, she put the blood pressure cuff on my arm - and left it dangling there. She asked about what happened and when I spoke of being depressed, and talked about Seasonal Affective Disorder, she asked how long I had been depressed. I told her that I had been depressed on and off since I was 16. Then she wanted to know what brought on that first depression. I told her I didn't want to discuss it, that I just wanted a physical check up. She reached forward - and removed the blood pressure cuff, saying she couldn't help me unless I let her, by answering all her questions.

At this point I started falling apart again. I started crying. She repeated that either I told her what she wanted to know or she couldn't help me, and stood up.

Why didn't I get up and leave? I don't know, except that I was still very scared about the physical symptoms of my attack. No, not scared - bloody terrified. I could feel my heart starting to race again, my breathing getting faster.

So I told her. I told her of a believer's very sudden loss of faith in the god of her youth. I told her of my GP's reaction: "Stop being so selfish and worrying your mother or I'll get you locked up in Tokanui (psychiatric hospital) and make sure you get shock treatment." This was New Zealand in 1968 - the days when they really did strap people down and administer Electroconvulsive Therapy - and if that didn't work it was still possible to get a lobotomy. (It was still happening in the early 70s when I worked at Tokanui.) She didn't ask how I survived that particular episode of suicidal depression. I told her that I didn't want to discuss it ever again with a doctor. I repeated that I wanted a physical examination. She became very angry with me, saying that not all doctors are the same.

Furthermore, she said, she could prove to me that God exists, and asked if I would like her to do so. Yes, this was the GP, the General Practitioner, the Medical Doctor - not the local priest. I said, 'no thanks' to which she said, well there's nothing I can do for you then, and gestured towards the door. I repeated that I wanted a physical examination, and she repeated that she couldn't help me unless I cooperated fully. So (yes, I know now that I was foolish, but remember, I was in the middle of deepest depression and panic) I said, 'okay, go ahead.'

After a long rant about the miracle of the human body and how it works at a cellular level,  she said, 'so you must agree there must be a god.' I said no, I didn't agree and that I wanted a physical examination.

This doctor then told me that there is no such thing a purely physical condition, and went on to describe the placebo effect: how in some study somewhere, they took a bunch of people with heart disease, and operated on them all, except half were only cut open and sewn back up, with no actual work done inside. After several weeks, she said, they were all assessed at having the same level of health. She said that what I needed to do was to have faith in the perfect body that god had given me and then I'd be cured. I repeated that I wanted a physical examination.

She was angry, took my blood pressure and pulse, listened to my heart and lungs, said that my blood pressure was high but that "that was to be expected,"and that there was nothing else she could do to help someone who wouldn't cooperate. No blood tests for B vitiamins, Vit D, iron levels (I've been vegetarian for 40 odd years) or anything else. And so she opened the door and ushered me out.

My husband, sons and daughter-in-law are holding me together at the moment, and I'm gradually feeling the anxiety lifting. The depression's still there, but I keep reminding myself that in a few weeks that too will lift as the days get longer. However, there's going to be another winter next year, and there are going to be more shocks in the future (that's the nature of life) and I really don't know where to turn for help.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Colour Amidst the SADness

This time of the year is so hard for me. I have suffered from depression for most of my life, however it took me a long time to realise that it was worse in winter, and even longer to discover this winter sadness had a name: Seasonal Affective Disorder.

This year it's been a little different. I've had a couple of pretty bad days but in the main, I've been able to live with the huge weight of SADness - an overwhelming grief for something unknown really. I live with it by constantly repeating the mantra: this will pass, the colour and light will come back into my world. And by reminding myself of how many days it is until the longest night, until the days start getting longer again and the nights shorter. It is, in fact, just a week away: seven more nights, seven more days.

A couple of days ago, when the weight of the grief of the entire world seemed so heavy I could hardly walk, I took my camera and went, slowly, looking for colour in my life. This is what I found:
 The arctotis my friend Jenny recommended glow through the darkest of winter.
 This wind battered plant has both red berries and small yellow flowers at the same time!
 The gorse may be a weed, but as well as acting as an excellent nursery plant, it brightens my days.
 The bottlebrush provides colour but also food for the bees and bumble bees.
 'Spring' bulbs - such optimism!
 Tagasaste - a magic tree: provides food for bees, other insects, birds, goats, wind shelter, and at the end, really hot burning firewood for a future winter.
 Potted wallflowers
 and the first grape hyacinth.
 One of our banks is covered with what was originally a small root from my mother-in-law's garden.
 It's been icy-cold but windy so no frosts yet to wipe the smiles from the nasturtiums.
 The magic of pinus radiata - these glorious fungi.
 Even the ugliest grey warty pumpkin
 glows inside.
 And the blackest of skies hold a promise.