Sunday, February 26, 2012

hello, Life

How beautiful.

It keeps hitting me.

As the sun rises and casts the day into warmth that goes deep, so deep.

As the mountains lift up and up, and the trees glow green.

As the water hits when I leap with my whole self, my whole heart

straight in without pausing to think of the cold.

As the car whooshes the known road home, children chattering in the back seat, sun on my skin, radio on, husband beside and every window down,

and I put out my hand, out into the warm wind and let it ride and leap like a dolphin.

As I sit on the lake in summer rain, in a canoe,

and all around is blue and dusky green

As my daughter sits in her own small boat marvelling at the feel of the water on her flat fingers

As we lift up and down on this big blue powered by only our own hands, our own dreams.

As I laugh with a friend in a chair and she speaks of her shoulder angels,

As her children and mine play for hours, never tiring, never ceasing to love being, simply, Together.

As I listen to a song never heard before, sitting at the computer with the kids standing beside,

and the tears just come.

As the tears come forth with joy, with joy,

As my children smile and touch my shoulder and stay so close,

As they say, Oh Mum. Mum. We love you.

As I ride the bike hard and feel my skin and my sweat and my feet moving under me

As I walk along the beach path with my son early in the morning, and he chats like a bird in my ear, calling like a song

As I lie at night with the window wide open, door wide open, listening to the breath of the man I love, and the whirr of the fans in the children's bedrooms

As I swim and swim, and feel how the water slides along the line of me,

As my hands carve my own, good path through the water, marking, pointing, guiding, claiming.

As I walk with a new-washed dog and he finds the Just Right patch of grass in the park to roll and roll in

As his tail swipes wildly from side to side and his tongue lolls out,

And he smiles up at me,

as if to say,

Isn't it just wonderful?

The feel of this? This light? This sun? This Earth? This Life?

Isn't it?

It is,

it is.


Written to the soundtrack of James Vincent McMorrow.
Recently discovered just two days ago on a car ride, with the radio on and windows down, with my hand riding the wind. Wind made by moving, by taking life with both hands, by claiming it for my Very Own.

Friday, February 17, 2012

a step back…then forward


Sometimes you begin the climb without realising. 
Suddenly you look up and all around
and see what you have begun.
It's startling. It's scary. 
Do you turn back? 

You want to, badly.
Go to the comfort of all you know, the easy paths, 
the ones without overhangs or slippy bits, 
or those cliff edges where you look down and see the drop below.

You don't want to look up, and see the rise and rise…
the endless, impossible rise…
of where you need to go.

Sometimes it's a conscious choice.
You begin to climb because if you don't, you're already falling. 
You climb because staying here, in this place, doesn't work. 

The climb begins 

and it's extraordinary how quickly you feel terrified.
The incredible heights! The drop below! 
Unreachable! Impossible!
Fear fills your chest and hurts it. 

You weep at night with your husband. 
You say, I don't know what's ahead. 
What if I don't make it? What if I fall? 
When will it be better?

He says, There's no rush. 
He says, There's no time limit on "better." 

He tells you a good, simple story, and it speaks of small steps. 
Steps taken with faith, with openness, with hope. 

His words slow you, stop the fall.

He sits with you. He scoots his chair forward so your knees can touch,
so his hands can touch, 
so you can see his face and his eyes connecting with yours. 
His eyes and hands and heart hold you. 

You begin to breathe.
You look up again. And around.
at the path in front of you.
Not at the height above or the drop below 
but at the path, here
where you are walking,

All you have to do 

is take a single step.



Yesterday was my first session with a new therapist. 
Later, at night, when the dark loomed and monsters began to shift and creak under the beds,
the past opened like jaws and wellness seemed suddenly out of reach.

But there was a man, and he listened and told a story,
and sometimes that's all it takes for you to lift your head again. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

These words, from the glorious movie The Princess Bride, have been flying around my head for the past week, as I've wondered what to write here, in this space.

How to 'splain? How to describe the past month? How to describe moving out from the white water ride that has been my journey through severe depression and crippling anxiety, into the mostly-smooth water that seems to be my Now?

Well, there really is too much—so, so many tiny details. Steps back, steps forward, steps back again. So, let me (try to) sum up.

I'm heading into better.

I've spent the last month head-down, treating an illness that I've realised is real, and can be as life-threatening as any I've heard of. Sound kind of melodramatic? Not when I look back at what Rock Bottom was like. It was terrifying. I didn't end up in hospital, but I got close. I didn't try to leave off being, but I got close.

Yup. Terrifying.

And it was heartbreaking too, because I have an amazing family. Like, extraordinary. And I have love. Gobs of it. To feel so bad with the life I have—that told me this was an illness. To have doctors and counsellors calling almost every day, to have a mental health team come to my house, then call every few days to check in, a team who got concerned if I didn't call back—that cemented it.

I have always known logically that depression is an illness, but looking back, I think I believed I could just will it away. When the signs started to appear again, I thought, "I'll just flip it. I'll just think of the good things; I will find the joy. And if I want it to disappear, then it will." Poof! Gone! Magic.

Not so simple.

I have been very ill with a very real illness. It's all encompassing—it's chemical, neurological, psychological, physical, and environmental. It's not something I can just wish away. And I'll probably always be dealing with it. For the rest of my life, I will always have to monitor and keep up my seratonin levels, exercise exercise exercise, eat right, and check in with a counsellor or doctor on a regular basis. If I stopped all the treatment and self-care I've set up, I am certain I would get sick again. Maybe not immediately, but sometime.

But I am one of the lucky ones: this is treatable. Isn't that amazing? That's what the psychiatrist said—This is treatable. It is fixable. Those were such welcome words.

The best part? By treating this illness, by asking for help and doggedly claiming wellness, I get to be part of the grand adventure that is "Saving My Life." Yes, it feels that big. Hand in hand with kind others, I am saving it.

And every single day, I am finding my way out.

It feels…it feels…?

Like waking up.

These are some of the things I've been doing to find my mostly smooth water, to find my mostly better.

These are my small steps forward:

First, I asked for help.

I have spoken to doctors, counsellors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, and psychiatrists.
I've talked about everything with my husband.
I've explained things simply to my kids, so they aren't confused or scared.
I've talked to friends and family, and let them know how much they mean to me.
I have reached out. The support has been unfailing, and incredible.

I go see a psychiatrist every week. 

He's the kind of capable that feels like someone is literally holding a net beneath me. His office is in the oldest building in my town. It's gorgeous. It has a wraparound veranda and an inner courtyard filled with ferns, lush plants, and a huge old fig tree; its branches reach out like the curved arms of a dancer. So beautiful.

I should mention: My psychiatrist has assessed me thoroughly, and last week said that I do not have Bipolar Disorder II. I have all sorts of other medical-sounding labels, but I don't have that. Howabout that. Howabout that?

I'm about to start treatment with a clinical psychologist. 

He specialises in anxiety, and does something called ACT — Acceptance Commitment Therapy. It's based on mindfulness—a lot like meditation is based on mindfulness—and that's about all I know, for now. But I have so much hope for it. I hope it'll help me mend the breaks inside me, the ones I've kept blocked and locked forever. (Think of someone holding their hands to their ears and saying, La! La! La! La! for oh, about 35 years.)

I have begun natural therapies. 


Woah, acupuncture—it's been extraordinary.

On the first session, the guy stuck a pin into some magic spot and instantly I burst into tears (and no, not because it felt like an ice-pick but because it was like a tap someone had turned on, or perhaps like a fire hydrant that broke, for all the neighbourhood kids to dance around in).

The acupuncturist looked kindly at me and said, "I think you've been holding that back a long time."
As I kept on bawling, he said, "Let it out. You're in a safe place here."

Every time I get pricked and more hedgehog-like, I feel better. Each time, the effect lasts longer. At some point, the treatments will get further and further apart, and I'll only have to look like a porcupine now and then, for maintenance. That's the plan, anyway.

I'm taking a supplement that has this seratonin booster in it called 5-HTP. It's a natural seratonin replacement and it's helping. My supplement has other things too, but I can't remember the technical names, all of which help lift me up. The cool thing is, my doctor was the first to recommend it, years ago. (I love when doctors believe in, and suggest, alternative remedies. Isn't that how it should always be?)


I'm drinking Anti-stress Ginseng tea every single day. It brings a single word into my life: Clarity. That's the word it makes me feel without fail. Clarity.


I make a protein smoothie every day (usually), 'cos I've read that protein helps keep your seratonin up. Right now my smoothies have berries, banana, nectarine, spirulina, oat milk, and big ol' spoonfuls of pea protein powder. That's a lot of mixed colours! Mix yellow, orange, white, pink, red and dark green together, and yep, you get a dark grey smoothie. It's the look of wet concrete. Mmmm Mmmm. It's kind of like drinking wet concrete, too, but I imagine goodness going in, some kind of golden loveliness, and just like that, it turns yummy. For real.

I am exercising. 

Every day. It has been wonderful. I can say absolutely now, that exercise is a truly effective treatment for depression. Not to say it's the only solution, or that it resolves underlying traumas or suffering, but wow, it makes getting better easier. It makes living finer. Clearer. Better. Add it to your day, your every day, and you feel wellness rising. Literally.

My mum loaned me her stationary bike (longer story: she actually loaned it to my sister a year ago, who—the moment I asked to borrow it from her and knowing I was in crisis—got the bike to me the very next day. I love my family). So if I haven't gone for a brisk walk or a swim in the day, I get on the bike. I ride hard for half an hour. I drip sweat. I drip! I ride hard enough that I can't talk while I ride (unlike people in the movies who do all that chatting, flirting or plotting while they jog). It's glorious.

I go to a meditation class.

Every Monday evening I go to my class with a friend. We sit and mindfully breathe. We listen to a talk on an aspect of life, like happiness or acceptance. And then we meditate on an idea, like love, or breathing out the dark and breathing in the light. I think some sessions I've gone to sleep… but it's a peaceful almost-sleep, with the WahWah sound of the teacher's voice floating in the background like waves on a beach at night.

I am still homeschooling.

I think some people thought perhaps I should stop. Even I wondered it, briefly. But the minute the school year started and we went back into our routine, everything settled into place. We have had small weepy moments, like anyone might, but so many more good ones. We've been to the movies, we've read, we've played music and talked about dna, electron clouds, whales getting beached, learned about kittens who can glow in the dark. (True!) We even made a silent movie! (Now that was fun.)

The best part: we have SIMPLIFIED. We've stayed at home when we were expected to go out. We haven't gone to all the groups. We have let go some classes. We haven't said Yes to absolutely everything. The days have space in them again. Sweet, sweet space.

I have been listening to music. 

Which has been like curling into a lap. I put the headphones on, and I'm a cat padding my paws into the soft belly of someone, curling around and around, purring, 'til I am a warm circle. Complete, clear, contained.

(And just this moment I found this video of a song I have completely fallen in love with and listen to every day. It's such a beautiful video—gave me goosebumps.)

Finally, I have been given a script for medication. 

I keep it in my wallet. I keep it there as my back-up plan to my back-up plan. I have accepted that if I try all these natural remedies, do all the things I've listed above, get all this help and still get sick again, I will fill that script and start taking medication again. I will not be ashamed. I will not think I have failed. 

It's like a dance, you know? (Though in the beginning it was more like a race, under water, with an anchor tied to my waist).

There are so many steps—so many of them back and back at first—then there is the slow gathering of sound and movement and that sense of rightness and tranquility…as you learn the steps you need to keep the dance going. You learn to keep upright, to move with all those around you. To keep a rhythm like a heartbeat, like a life. A good life.

You learn to move with yourself, peacefully. To see the space ahead and all around you. To feel light again. You smile to see yourself, dancing. 


Such deep, big, heartfelt thanks to Karen, Simone, Deb, Lyndell, Ingi, Kim, Debra, Nikole, Susan, Jackie, Misty, Tracy, MJ, Lou, Kimberley, Joanne, Greg, Jan, Alicia, Clare, Sally and Sally, Suzie, Theresa, Hi Kooky, Jessica, Jessie, Adam. Thank you for reaching out, for your comments, your friendship, your messages of love and support. I have felt every warm hug, every smile, every kind thought and prayer. Thank you.

And thank you. To my American Mom and Dad. To my sister. My mother. My son. My daughter. My husband (who listens whenever I need to talk). My husband (who loves me unconditionally). My husband (my funny, gorgeous, inspiring man). My beautiful family. Thank you.