A Change of Weather


Years ago, at the end of my first serious bout of depression I remember waking up one morning feeling fine. I gingerly explored all corners of my mind to see where the heaviness was hiding. I couldn’t find it. After several weeks of rock bottom, I found myself not trusting this new state of being. There was nothing to fight, no darkness to push through before I could go about my day. When you’ve been fighting for so long, waking to find the enemy has disappeared during the night is disorientating.

The last several years have been heavy. After Mum was diagnosed it felt like every phone call was a threat. There was the constant awareness that things were going to get worse. Even the good moments were overshadowed by what was to come. Even though it was a relief when she died, it marked a new phase of sadness. The sleepless nights that come with raising a child added to the precariousness of my mental health. It was quite a surprise last week when I realised that for the first time in a long time I felt completely fine. I searched for any residue of sadness, but it wasn’t there.

Although I can’t say exactly why I’m feeling better, I can take a guess. I’ve let go of friendships that were doing more harm then good. That was hard. But as the saying goes, don’t hold onto a mistake just because you’ve spent a long time making it. It’s hard to recognise when someone you love isn’t good for you. It’s almost impossible to untangle and let go. I’m started actively putting time aside for creativity. I’m standing up for myself and asking for what I want, when I don’t get it immediately I’m learning to negotiate to get the best outcome I can. I’m taking the time to exercise and eat healthy. I’m reading some fantastic novels and listening to podcasts full of interesting ideas. My brain is getting fed. I’ve started pursuing some ideas that have been simmering away for some time. I’m being proactive with my emotional, mental and physical health. I know the storm clouds are likely to reappear. But I’m going to do everything in my power to make the most of this sunshine.

Ask The Question


I grew up in a house with domestic violence. My willingness to speak when everyone else was ducking their heads painted a target on my back. Throughout the years I have been shocked to learn how many people knew about the situation. Neighbours heard my father’s shouting rants but never reached out to see if we were ok. Church members knew of the violence and offered their prayers. Family members suspected what was happening but did nothing. My inner child still wants to know why? For years I was lost and hurting. After years of trying to fit into my father’s expectations, in my early twenties I made the painful decision to stand apart from my family. It took even longer to untangle myself from the emotionally controlling web my father had created. During my twenties I had a conversation with my dad where he confessed he had sort help for his violent behaviour. The help he found turned out to empty promises or tokenistic in nature.

A few years ago, White Ribbon had the ‘Real men don’t hit women’ campaign. Even after being on the receiving end of countless physical blows, I hated these advertisements.  It is hard enough for men to seek help, why are we heaping shame onto the already steaming pile of dung that is domestic violence? While I’m not an expert on this issue I have lived through it and I have an alarming number of friends that have also survived the chaos.

I will never forget the day my friend arrived at work with a cloud hanging over her. Our desks were positioned so that while we sat side by side, when we faced our computers I could only see her side profile. From her body language I could tell she was upset. After asking if she was ok, she turned to face me. Her face was a watercolour of purples, blues and blacks. Her cheeks were marked with tears. This was a broken woman. She had been able to walk across the office floor with a face like that and no one had stopped her to ask if she was ok.

One night I was out with a different friend. Some of her work mates had joined us. One of the partners started gossiping about their mutual friend who was choosing to remain in a violent relationship. I asked if they had talked to her about it. I wanted to know if she knew that they knew about her situation. The bloke doing all the talking got mad at me and shut me down. He said something along the lines that it was her choice and he didn’t want to intervene. I left early that night in a rage. My argument was caring without actions is not really caring, it’s voyeurism.

Another friend was in an abusive relationship when I met her. She told me that I was the first person to tell her that her relationship was not normal. Screaming matches in public isn’t a sign of passion, it’s emotional dysfunction. Emotional manipulation and control is not love, it’s abuse. People knew the relationship she was in was unhealthy. No one said it to her face. Abusive relationships are manipulative by nature. They’re not easy to be in and they’re even harder to leave. But the person needs to know that they’re not crazy. That their feelings are valid and rational. Even if they do decide to stay. You’ve got to say something.

It’s great that we’ve had all these public campaigns. Social awareness has been raised. But now it’s time to get our hands dirty. There’s people in our lives that need us to take an active interest and ask the hard questions. This isn’t just about domestic violence situations. Those that are suicidal, lonely, hurting or just kind of weird all need to be noticed. Let people know that you care. Social media isn’t an entirely bad thing. The internet has helped many people find connection. But nothing compares to a real connection with a real person. Life can be busy. But we’ve got to make room for what’s important. People are important. Your social media feed is not.

This Too Shall Pass

During the school holidays I babysat a friend’s kid for a day. I’d already booked Lucy into the gym creche so I could get a workout in. It was easy enough to add the eight-year-old to the booking. However he wasn’t eight. He was a very offended ten-year-old. It’s funny how age makes up such a big part of your identity as a kid but these days as a thirty something I often struggle to remember how old I am. My birthday is in two days and I think I’ll be 35. I’m not actually sure.

Life hasn’t turned out how I expected it to. In my early twenties most of my friends got married. That’s quite normal in the church crowd. I waited patiently for my prince charming, he either never showed or I scared him off when he did show up. Of the four girls I was bridesmaid for, only two are still married. While I still want the fairy tale, I have a much better understanding of what makesup a desirable relationship. Dating in your thirties is scary. It feels like I’m fishing in a very shallow pond.

My romantic life aside, there’s so many other things that I expected to be different when I reached my mid-thirties. It was never a clear expectation, just this vague feeling. I was hoping to go on and complete post grad studies after my psychology degree. But losing one parent and having the other be diagnosed with a terminal illness was a major distraction to my studies. My grades were not reflective of my potential and it took a lot longer to finish the degree then I would’ve preferred. My career is kind of in a no man’s land right now. I’ve got a job that’s great for what I need, but I’m not entirely sure what the next step is. There’s so many other things about my life that aren’t what I thought they would be.

I used to wonder what my life would’ve been like if I was raised in an environment without domestic violence. As I’ve grown up it’s become clear to me that depression is a common trait in my extended family. Combine the genetic predisposition with emotional and physical violence, my poor brain didn’t have a chance.  Even with years of therapy, there are still days I wake in a dark cloud of depression. Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become better equipped to deal with the cloud when it turns up.

The psychologist that introduced me to Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) will always have my thanks. ACT encourages patients to be present in their world without investing in the emotions. It’s so much more than that, so google it. There’s heaps of free resources. Anyway, back to the psychologist.

One of the greatest things she ever said to me was ‘motivation is a falsehood. Don’t wait until you’re happy to do something. Do it sad if you need to. But just do it’. That changed my life. I’ve learnt that while depression can turn the world grey it doesn’t have to stop me from doing stuff. Doing stuff won’t cure depression. It’s a ghastly beast to battle. But at least my washing gets done or bills paid, life is a little less messy then if I had submitted to the black dog.  

Another strategy I employ on the bad days is the strategy of the non-negotiables. A good friend shared this with me, it’s what he used on his bad days. What he did was to pick three things that set the standard for a ‘good’ day. No matter what else happened as long as those three tasks were complete he could spend the rest of the day hiding from the world because it was a good day. At first it seemed too simple.  But then I started doing it and it worked. My three things are leaving the house, do some form of exercise and to talk to a friend. From experience I know that if I stay at home on a sad day my emotions are just going to spiral downward. I also know that I always feel better after exercise and talking to someone. Remaining immobile and hibernating in my head is a recipe for disaster.  

I hope I’m not coming across as though I have the answers. There is so much pretentious and tokenistic advice out there. I know that continuing to hope for a better day is hard when you’re deep in the darkness. Sometimes it’s a long and lonely fight just to feel ok.  But please, do what you can to hold on. Because it will pass and you will be ok.