No trip

 

 

I couldn’t quite believe I would not go on our planned trip to Iceland when my back was playing up. I thought the back would get under control before we left and could I look after it well while we were away. But no, once we got into the “no withdrawal/no refund” period of two weeks the bloody thing got worse.

So I had a CT scan and X-rays which showed that the disc between L5 and S1 (in the small of the back, where it curves towards the stomach), was bulging out in a big lump that would not fit back through the space leading to where it belonged. I decided to get some physio to relieve it but finally gave in and had a cortisone injection into the nerve root. I screamed a little but did not lose my cool. The radiologist was quite surprised I held so still he got it in first go! So now I can sit here comfortably and blog in contrast to my constant twitching, and getting up and down, beforehand.

Iceland would have been brilliant. Steve wants to do it in a few years’ time by car on our own while I still want an organised tour to take me to places I normally couldn’t go. A movie funded via Kickstarter was on Netflix the other night and showed the main tourist attactions very nicely but I’d like to see the bird colonies and geological hotspots. Named “Bokeh”, keen photographers will know what it means and labeled as “sci-fi”, younger viewers may be perplexed to find something slow and uncomplicated.

With full-on gorgeous cinematography you could believe was directed by the Iceland Department of Tourism, I didn’t have to worry about the characters and plot. Although they weren’t bad at all! There  were scenes of the hot lakes in the snow where you can swim until your hair goes all stiff with mineral salts, of gigantic waterfalls you can walk behind and view the world through a curtain of crystalline water, and geysers that whoosh up boiling water into the air at regular intervals. The two characters gallivant about on devastated black-sand beaches and over ancient lava flows covered in lichens, having picnics in the grass and swimming in a variety of settings. Very picturesque, both the young actors and the scenery.

The typical Icelandic golden horses appeared in the movie, abundant and friendly as reputed in our tourist brochure. It was a shame the movie didn’t permit a glimpse of the abundant nightlife in Reykjavik, but the plot didn’t allow for crowd scenes. If you are intrigued, there is a review at Screen Anarchy and I’m sure you’re perfectly capable of finding alternatives.

Meanwhile, I can cruise among the photos on Flickr and do some armchair travel while my various structural problems resolve. Look at this!

I took this in Adelaide, years ago and thought it looked a bit Icelandic:

Adelaide could be Iceland...I don't think so!

For the real Iceland, you’ll have to go to Flickr and enjoy the amazing pix taken by people who’ve been there (lucky sods).

Here’s a link to the tour we had booked:

https://www.odysseytraveller.com/tours/iceland-cultural-and-wilderness-tour-for-groups/

 

 

Not so bad after all

Here I am back again (again). Must write blog. Must write.

Specifically, I am honouring Erin at Daisies and Bruises who just came back from the slough of despond and WROTE!!

Last night in South Australia we had a once-in-fifty-years weather event which brought down 23 electricity pylons and blacked out the entire state for at least 8 hours. Once we had heated up some defrosted spinach soup on our (luckily) gas stove there wasn’t much to do except write a little bit of my novel while the laptop had some charge. After that it was knitting-by-candlelight.

pylons
Photo by Tom Fedorowytsch of downed pylons at Melrose, South Australia from a total of 23.

I hadn’t done anything with my NaNoWriMo novel for months when I wrote about half a chapter and researched some dialogue. Last night I did a little background writing and research on two characters, the main heroine and the person whose life intrigues the heroine. Incidentally, the basic plot has already inspired two short films by a friend who was taking a Film-making course at a local college of further education! Here is one if you want to know how a first film might turn out. With Grace.

The old Black Dog has been affecting me far less than Erin but I still have not reached my old level of productivity or anywhere near it. Mind you, I am not expecting to get totally back to my version of “normal” as circumstances have changed.

I have been able to reduce my dose  of antidepressants to half and I no longer suffer insomnia nor those dreadful “brain zaps” which cause many people to stop taking their medication. Having Omega 6 Fish Oils on a shot of cranberry juice seems to have stopped the zaps completely.

Cognitive re structuring has helped me deal with negative thoughts but I still find myself unable to tolerate daily meditation sessions and I have only the barest of daily routines. This is the sort of therapeutic self-talk I have done. I can get out of bed on time in the mornings with a smile on my face, have breakfast and a shower, plus I can get to any morning appointments, like aquarobics classes, 95 perent of the time.

Socially I am coping fine although I feel the need to get out more and have lunch/movies/coffee with people every second day. Only a few people have ever asked me out to do anything and after 18 months of phoning and Facebooking to invite others I have almost given up. Sometimes I go out shopping and have a coffee or lunch on my own, but that isn’t very social and I could do the same at home. Trips out with a busload of people to wineries and restaurants have been good and I’ve made a few new friends and acquaintances that way.

Continuing our friendly Wednesday night dinners with four mutual friends has been a very stable influence on my mental health even when I found it difficult to sit there for the whole mealtime. I also occasionally have this thing where my ear drums seem to spasm or vibrate, making some voices sound intolerable if they have a lot of high, whispery frequencies.

david-bday
Wednesday dinner with friends

 

Deities vs denigration. Or how to stop dwelling on things.

I was trying to locate some pointers on rumination that I felt were suitable to my own situation, being depressed. A few behaviourally oriented ones sounded good while others went all god-dy and totally put me off. What is the point of a deity saving you after you are dead to make everything right? You’re dead then and have no life to BE good FFS!

When I read the attached account of a woman grieving for her prematurely-departed husband I thought she was making more of a hole for herself by denigrating her own worthiness as a human and potential partner. Somehow I need to steer between deities and denigration!

My concept of myself is not that bad; I think I am worthy of love, praise and comfort and I have a fair measure of each. My social network is rather lacking at the moment and I haven’t had the cheerfulness or energy to cultivate it, so I feel a bit disconnected but NOT lonely. I am quite happy with spending every day alone, my only contact with the world through my laptop or tablet. However, my social situation of 90% isolation is NOT good for curing myself of ruminating. While I don’t blame myself for being depressed currently, being alone is provocation for negative thoughts about anything. A few years ago I was able to keep my mind active with online courses and I learned some amazing stuff. Recently though I have been unable to get out of my unproductive ruminative loops in order to learn new stuff, so unfinished online courses are just more negatives that I don’t need right now.

Iceland poppies

Iceland poppies

My Mindfulness practice has helped to a certain extent but it is not strong enough to keep all my head-crap at bay all the time. Doing something active like my hobbies would be great too, but I am in the middle of a very stuck period and haven’t got past first base with several projects that are lovely in themselves. Seeing the endpoint in my mind doesn’t seem to have the push-power it should. Somehow, my unfathomable feeling that things are not “right” gets in the way. Please contribute some ideas if you have tried successfully to fix your own stuck-ness or ruminations.

Here is the woman who is down on herself in her grief:

REALITY: WHY IT IS LIKELY THAT A LIFETIME OF LONELINESS AWAITS ME.

 

When will things be RIGHT?

Over-wintering ducks

Over-wintering ducks

Hello Kind Readers (if any of you check back here),

I am in the grip of a two-year plague of procrastination and holding back from whatever I am holding back from. Somehow I am writing this, so I have now conquered a tiny section of it, inspired by commenting on Lori Stone’s piece, The hard work of fun. This was my comment on her struggles with perfectionism in everyday life:

 

  • I DO have trouble letting go and having fun! However the big block in my chakra is procrastination while in the grip of the Black Dog. Somehow the conditions for having fun – having anything at all – must be “right” before I can let go. My head is constantly full of ideas to create and see and do and learn but I can’t make myself DO anything because the conditions have not become “right”. Unlike you and your perfectionism, I don’t mind if things are out-of-line, messy, incomplete or whatever unless it’s something like driving the car or taking the correct dose of pills. But, yep, I’m having a lot of trouble having fun. When will things be “right”? 

The depression around the shortest day of Winter has been worse this year than for several years but I have been coping marginally by trying to practise some useful habits like mindfulness meditation, regular exercise, taking my pills and almost cutting out alcohol (normally I only have a few glasses of wine per week, but now I’m down to zero for a while). However I cry easily, quickly become irritated by certain people and things and spend a lot of time huddled under the quilt mindlessly playing word games on the device. I have managed to keep up with the washing, aquarobics (mostly), looking after my painful wrists, cat maintenance, preparing 50% of meals, going to Wednesday night dinners and keeping the bathroom mould at bay.

I won’t mention things I HAVEN’T managed as that would be allowing negative stuff to intrude on my achievements! I do confess to having missed one or two showers in the past three months but that’s it.

Purple haze

Purple haze

Getting down to the nitty-gritty: What is stopping me from having fun? What conditions must be met before I can let go and enjoy my time? Should I go back and have some more counseling? But I know what the psychologist would suggest and I’m obviously not getting on with the job, so – duh.

Admittedly I have had some setbacks in my life the past few years but most of them have been worked through although some could use still more effort. Lack of cash stopped being an issue a few months ago which is the best and biggest boost to life I’ve had in decades! However Spotrick says my generosity has brought more troubles upon me and that is true to a certain extent, but why are people so demanding and judgmental? Disappointment in human nature is definitely part of my current low mood although that hasn’t been the problem for long. Before that I had some big hiccups around money, with the tax department chasing me over imaginary debts and then trying to fine me thousands of dollars for not reporting my non-existent income. I also have continuing problems with my bank where they keep cutting off online access because I am too slow (apparently) inputting my security numbers (my hands are not wonderful any more). It is so frustrating and I feel so helpless because I am being “punished” for a disability. After I get cut off things snowball as creditors start contacting me for automatic debits that have ceased etc etc I just want to relax and have a life. With no job, alone all day and no family I COULD be quite OK except for these money hassles I don’t need at ANY time.

We have green winters

We have green winters

When I Tweeted about not being able to start anything,

  • I’m definitely in the wilderness again. Empty horizons in all directions. How to escape?

    @LaLegale replied:
    Rather than “escape”, create. Imagine your life as a blank tapestry, which you embroider with the things that you do every day.

But that’s exactly what I CAN’T do – my life IS a blank tapestry and I can’t make myself start the bloody embroidery. Who would want to embroider on the topic of the washing or cleaning the floor beneath the cats’ bowls?

So, sweet readers, how can I start or get some enthusiasm for the various projects I would LOVE to do including photographing stuff, getting back into film (rather than digital), sewing, knitting, and yes, tapestry; also I almost wrote the first draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo last year, so when will I resume writing, blogging regularly here and on my Health for Humans blog; there are some songs to work on, bits of the garden to rejuvenate, yummy things to cook, places to visit, people I’d love to see more of, and holidays to plan?? Ideas, quick, please!

Finding richness in the shade

Finding richness in the shade

We need this program in Oz: Ruby Wax’s Mad Confessions

Ruby-Wax-Black-Dog-Tribe_1

Ruby Wax

Ruby Wax’s Mad Confessions | Channel 4 goes mad | Documentary | Blog | Time To Change.

Reading the summary and readers’ comments on this British TV program from their Channel 4 made me think about how I am coping right now with my own head.

Crepe myrtle from L Street

Crepe myrtle from L Street

In the midst of a few physical health issues I’m not doing too badly. As the people in the above program and the commenters pointed out, I could do with some company and a  bit of real-life support. I feel a bit stigmatised as people don’t invite me to stuff. Now maybe they’ve just forgotten about me because I’m not around much or maybe I DO make them feel uncomfortable. That must be the difficulty about having a mental illness that doesn’t make you think or behave in  unexpected ways – you can never quite tell if a drop off in friends is just chance or if they’re deliberately avoiding you.

As I’ve said before, I never really feel lonely and I AM alone during working hours; I just feel the need for different environments and social input from different human beings. Now I can’t drive or walk to the bus stop, my lack of regular company apart from Spotrick and the cats has become more salient. What strategies could I use, apart from spending even more time on the Interwebs?!

Chunks of Pi

My friends and I have been rather tardy in going to see The Life of Pi at the local cinema, but we managed it last Sunday night. I thought that the book was un-filmable, even without modern CGI effects and animatronics, but the movie was an enthralling adaptation of the book in startling 3D [we wore Clark Kent glasses].

Scene from the movie

Pi & Richard Parker

We were all very happy with it and I felt rather inspired by what I saw, which is unusual for me. For the very few who might not have read the book by Yann Martel [Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize] nor seen the recent movie, it is about a boy who finds himself alone in a lifeboat with a tiger after a ship sinks containing his fathers entire zoo exhibits.

When I first read the novel, which is quite short, I liked it OK although I didn’t think it was great. The writer seemed to go well for the first third of the book and then hit the doldrums, just like the boy in the lifeboat! To my mind the symbolic and philosophical themes didn’t seem to progress for a long interval and I was tempted to abandon ship/book. However, I knew there had to be some sort of resolution, so I went along for the ride. I was rewarded in the end and concluded that the book was an allegory of nature, growth, life and death, where the elements could each mean a number of things, depending on the mindset of the reader. I didn’t relate the themes to my life at the time, but seeing the interpretation of the book by Ang Lee (of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon fame- is he getting stuck on tigers??), I felt quite touched. As said by reviewer Gary Krist in the New York Times Review of Books;

Pi understands that his own survival depends on keeping his ferocious opponent alive and well — ”because if he died I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger. If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to Richard Parker.”

Pi to multi decimal places

Pi, as Pi writes it on the blackboard

The film said to me “Get your tasks of necessity over with and just enjoy doing your own thing. Life won’t come back and give you another go.” That’s quite revolutionary to me at this stage of my life. For years I have been wanting to get my Masters degree and find a job in Public Health, preferably in Policy and Research because I am so drawn to them in many waking moments. However, no one has been very encouraging and I haven’t gained any jobs or scholarships to study further yet, having arrived at a sort of “fallback” position of trying for a PhD for lack of a job. I figured I could still immerse myself in the subject area even if I couldn’t work in it. With the stimulus of Pi I may be shifting my thinking to accepting I have finished my working life and settle for enjoying the crafts and hobbies I can still do with my disabled hands and wrists.

I will still need to learn to value myself and accept I am worth Spotrick supporting financially as my childhood background has almost brainwashed me into thinking I must always have an independent income. At least now I have been unemployed for many years I have somewhat forgotten what it’s like to have my own money to spend the way I wish [while keeping up my household contribution, of course]. It’s still fairly sad for me to see friends going away on holidays to places I had planned to visit before the end of my life, but I am trying to experience those things vicariously now. I have been asking my friends to take lots of photographs when they go away – photos of the places, rather than the standard touristy pix of “me in front of the Tower of London” sort! My friends are beginning to co operate, but they take a bit of flogging [you know who you are, LOL!]. I still get tears in my eyes regularly when I see places on my Bucket List on the internet, but I’m improving.

Scottish loch

Scottish loch

 

So this week could be quite influential for me and I haven’t changed my mind yet in the light of a week’s distance or reality biting.

Does this sound like a good thing? Have I missed something that’s going to wreck it all?

Comments welcome.

Here are some reviews of the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/life-of-pi/

Acknowledgements: Pi poster with multi decimal places http://hoffnermath.files.wordpress.com/2009/

Movie poster: http://theawesomer.com

 

Praise was a no-no

Child development: The right kind of early praise predicts positive attitudes toward effort.

_____________________________________________________

When I taught developmental psychology to young teacher- and childcare-trainees, I fought a losing battle most of the time trying to show them how to use praise in the best way to enhance the lives of the little ones in their charge. All the other teachers on the programs thought that you must “treasure the precious little children” by [wrongly] “boosting their self-esteem” in saying “wow, that was good” or “don’t you look gorgeous”, no matter the merit of child in any way.

This article points out where I was doing OK and they were NOT encouraging the children to try hard and put their best efforts into whatever they did. I believe the “wow, you’re wonderful” style of upbringing has resulted in generations of youngsters who won’t put in an effort, try to get by on appearance [at which many succeed & others derive much misery from], feel entitled to a good job no matter how lackadaisical their performance and are intolerant of less than perfect traits in a partner. Who knows?

As I mentioned on Google+ in response to this article, my life has been heavily influenced by getting no praise or the wrong kind when I was a little kid. I was virtually “squashed down” because apparently the “tall poppy” syndrome reigned in the 1950s. I can only remember a few instances where I was praised for any achievement, and this was by school teachers or other kids’ parents. As an adult [in years, maybe not in mind!], I have not usually tried very hard at most things, because I achieved most things as a kid by just turning up and doing. No one will believe me, but I got into med school that way- however, lack of effort after being ill for a long time probably made me drop out, where I might have been able to cope with some coaching and support for a while.

Kids I went to school with apparently often tried to topple me from the top of the class, but, not having put any effort in myself, I didn’t notice their frustrated efforts! Therefore, I didn’t congratulate them or praise them either because I hadn’t experienced it myself. These days I sometimes chat on Facebook to some of these old friends and discover how “victorious” some of them felt when they topped me at something and how some of them were jealous of my performance/”marks”, disliking me as consequence. It all seems so trivial now, but THEY have mostly succeeded in life with good jobs and happy families, whereas I am long term unemployed with a still “itchy” mind!

So, from many years of experience and contemplation I would say to parents “Be alert to your children’s achievements in every sphere and give them plenty of praise about the way they achieve.” My idea would be to teach kids as many things as you can quite deliberately so they don’t have to make so many mistakes along the road to becoming adults themselves. Teach them about praise too, once they are old enough to get the idea, and they will become sought after companions in life for their peers. Show children how to do things and don’t keep saying “No not that way” and correcting them – let them work through and discover for themselves the best methods once you have shown them, except when it’s dangerous, eg. diving off the high board!

Surely I might be happier and healthier now, maybe even suitably employed if I had been able to build on a solid basis of feeling competent and autonomous when I was learning to become human. I’m working on it.

What’s affected me this week?

I was chatting to a friend at aquarobics this morning and he said that I tend to promote a lot of causes and “sad cases” on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. He thought this was all very noble but he felt that I should try to communicate about happier themes, since I am becoming like the national news! Maybe I would be able to dig myself out of my frequent depression by latching onto cheerful topics.

Bird & lotus

Bird & lotus

Now, I hadn’t noticed that I was negative in this way before and it hurts a little to think that the things I am most passionate about – affordable health care for all, looking after our ecology and food supply, reducing the use of manufactured chemicals in our food and environment which could enter our bodies, using discussion not weapons to solve national, tribal and territorial disputes and being at least civil (if not kind) to each other and to animals – seem negative. All these things tend to occupy my mind during the day, when I am mostly alone, since I don’t go to work like my partner. How am I going to change these themes around? Perhaps I could seek out positive stories or I could blog about other topics altogether. Would anyone like to weigh in?

Bronwyn Clee was saying, in her blog announcing #52b52w that:

Ideally all posts will be authentic and informative and have a clear message.

I’m not so sure about sticking to all three guidelines all of the time. However, I’m being authentic in asking for some ideas on how I can be more positive. I’m just not into positive affirmations like “I write uplifting blog posts” for motivating myself, although I’ve adopted the

Almost 22

Almost 22

practice of putting Smiley stickers on lots of things. Some friends have been mildly shocked by finding the Smileys on my laptop, phone and handbag! For a long time I had an excellent Smiley on the kettle so that I could smile at it every morning. It even had a name, Edwin, and I would say good morning to Edwin & grin cheesily as soon as I got up. One positive step I can take is to put a replacement Edwin sticker on the kettle right now!

Ending on a positive note! How did I do?

Finding hope

I’ve joined the 52 blog posts in 52 weeks blogathon started by Bronwyn Clee, so I thought I would announce my theme. My personal goal is to find hope for the longer term future for myself.

If you’ve ever visited this blog before you might have noticed I get visited by the Black Dog quite a lot, although less during the past 12 months [yayy!]. Hearing about my miseries may have put you off coming back, so I’m resolving to pursue a happier path if I can, blogging about daily events and topics that take my fancy, tying it all back to the “HOPE” theme.Cawfee

Just a bit about the “setting conditions” so you know where I’m starting from this year:

I’m now over 60, feel as though I’m about 30; I live with my partner Steve, aka “Spotrick”, and currently, three cats: Moustiers [nearly 22 years old], Mogadon [six] and Bendix [four]. No kids or grandkids courtesy of mistaken genetic instructions. I’ve had several “careers” and I had been hoping for a new one, but it hasn’t happened. Firstly I was a junior sort of university lecturer (in developmental psychology), then I was a researcher in mental health (mainly on a psychiatry ward of a general hospital with eating disorder patients), then a general public health and computer network dogsbody all over the place. I’ve been doing a Masters in Public Health over the last several years and have finished except for the details that I and my supervisor need to decide about my dissertation/journal article. Hopefully I can sneak into the April Graduation Ceremony.

I V

I V

This year has a loose plan of generating some longer term hope for me and I don’t plan on applying for any more jobs because that could mean pressure and negative mood triggers. My application to volunteer at the South Australian Museum for one day per week is being considered right now and I hope to get that so I can introduce some outside structure into my week. If successful, I will be part of one 4-person team among several, which will digitise the non-written Aboriginal artefacts the museum holds in storage. Only 2% of the collection is ever on display, so we have the other 98% to record in detailed photographs and notes before they need to change the display again! It sounds like quite an intriguing project. We will be cataloguing everything from tiny pieces of bark cloth to whole canoes hewn from trees.

When I get this structure to my week, there are other things I would like to fit around it such as doing more online courses to keep my brain alive, rallying people in the field of public health around Australia to use online social media to keep up to date and have short meetings, my various crafty hobbies, continue my Street Name Alphabet photography project started last year, keep socialising with friends every second day on my shrink’s prescription[!] and make our small garden beautiful again by looking after what’s there and adding to it. That’s plenty to do, I reckon, without having any pressure or time limits and should keep me moving forward while I search for long term hope.

Knowing that most of the other bloggers in the  #52b52w crowd have jobs/careers/family commitments to occupy their time, it might seem a bit weird to have my sort of goals, but that’s the way it is and I’m sticking to it.

Hopefully I can gain some ideas that will lead me towards my goal by seeing how the rest of you are travelling towards your goals and futures in your blogs. Happy blogging  #52b52w crowd.