Depression : – What it means and is to me.

Depression:- Getting my head around it. How it makes me feel. Searching for a meaning, a definition that explains me and how it has formed me.

I live with PTSD, Depression and Anxiety.

For the past few months I have been in a deep trough and searching for words to describe the feelings and sensations that I have running through me. It’s been hard to articulate them and turn the swirling winds in my mind into something that the people in my life could maybe understand.

My conditions stem from abuse that I survived at the hands of Catholic Clergy. Priests, Brothers, Nuns and Lay Teachers. From the age of five until sixteen. The Church has acknowledged that the abuse took place and that validation has been important and enabled me to start to heal. The acknowledgement of the courts was important, but as most survivors will tell you it is the acknowledgement of the perpetrator of what they did starts the process.

Through sessions with in the first instance an amazingly perceptive clinical psychologist I was able to acknowledge two things. Coping with the after effects of a traumatic event or situation can lead to depression at any age, and in my case since the first abusive action that I survived I had been sliding into depressive episodes all my life. It helped me understand many of my behaviours and the way I lived my life.

When I am in a depressive state I feel like I am in a zone. It’s almost a state of meditation, of removal from reality. When I used to run in the High School Cross Country races or ride my bike for long distances I would feel something similar. When you are in this “zone” you feel like you shouldn’t be on this earth, you are a waste of time and space, an oxygen thief. With others you feel like you are the only person who can feel this way. No one “gets” you or understands you. Social events “sink you”. I know that when I am in this state they are not for me because the reinforce to me my worthlessness.

You can have great parents, great children, a great family, great friends but you feel like you are simply the worst, most disgusting person who ever lived. You love these people and I know for me I know that my “absence” of soul and of interaction has hurt those in my life. That creates a perpetual cycle of further withdrawal which makes me feel even worse and so it goes.

People struggle to understand that while everyone around you is happy, or on the surface your life may appear to be “perfect” all you want to do is just cry alone. You struggle to acknowledge people in your life, your partner, your children, your colleagues, your friends and your family. This struggle is heart breaking, because for me I was empty, a shell. My physical presence was there, on the couch when my children wanted my attention, my interaction, but I was a zombie, in my own world. I wasn’t angry. I was sad but I couldn’t understand why I was. Why I was so low.

When you are so low and in that “zone” rational thought leaves you. You begin to feel that suicide is a release from it all, from the demons. You think that you have found “the” solution”. Some do and they get that release from their tortured world. When you are in that space you think that you are doing a good thing for all around you. I know that I have felt that in the past. I don’t now and I work hard so that I don’t again. You just don’t think that you are a good person.

I know I’m not “right”. Why cant I make myself “right”?

I know I should try to follow mindfulness and live in the moment as much as possible but many times it’s just too hard to do. I feel like I am watching myself in some twisted movie. There are days when the physiological aspect of depression manifests and I cant even force myself out of my bed. I struggle on those days to even get one thing done. When I was working I had to push myself and it helped and like that perpetual motion machine those achievements of work helped me do other things. Now without that impetus its harder. That being said I use lists and it is satisfying to cross an item off the list and move on to the next thing. Some people over work to combat depression but for me it it’s the opposite. I become emotionally paralysed. I have no energy.

When you are in that “zone” if someone offers you a compliment, for example they say that they feel lucky to have you in their world you (and I know I do this) disagree completely. Most people do that because they are being modest but inside I don’t feel worthy of it at all and I believe that with my whole heart. Depression swallows me up with self loathing.

So these are my thoughts about depression and how it affects me and how I live with it. I hope that by finally getting these thoughts into words I may help other struggling to work it out for themselves.

To those living with someone who has depression, you are their rock and their foundation. Your love and patience is cherished by them.

Believe Me!

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Home amongst the “Other Worldly”

I have since I was a little child understood that I have some sort of connection to what I call The “Other Worldly”. I “feel” or “get” things. I always have.

In 1996, my then wife and I were looking for a new home as our daughter had been born and our little unit was becoming too small.

One particular a house came to our attention so we organised an inspection. From the moment we walked through the front gate the house “touched” me. A sense of warmth, peace and spirit of place came over me. The house at that time was twenty years old and had an “English Cottage Style” garden behind a high brick fence. The backyard was classic Australian suburbia with a Hills hoist and a BBQ. The front garden because of the fence made me think of, and reminded me of Frances Burnett’s story, “The Secret Garden”. It felt welcoming and comfortable, so we bought it.

After some minor renovations, new carpets and fresh paint we moved in and felt at peace.

Around a month after moving in though, I began to notice things. Subtle little things such as items in different places to where they had been left. Lights being turned either on or off, or the occasional flicker. Sometimes I would feel a little breath over my shoulder. Sometimes hot sometimes cold.

Some things though were less subtle and whether they relate directly to me and my “other worldliness” I cannot be sure. For years, since childhood I have experienced “time slip” moments and for a number of years experienced them at this house. I can be walking in the garden and for brief moments everything disappears and the area around me becomes open paddocks and is undeveloped. If you were to try and measure the experience it happens in the blink of an eye.

In this house I have often felt a presence of peoples past. Perhaps they have had some connection to the land the house is built on, the physical house itself or maybe they are the spirits of those who may have visited the house and had some sort of profound moment here. Good or bad, happy or sad. When my grandfather died he visited me to say his goodbyes. I had left the hospital he was in an hour and a half previously because the journey home was a long one and the family were worried about me falling asleep at the wheel. When I got home the house was dark and my family were asleep. It was the 16th of July and the middle of the football season. I was a bit anxious and wound up and I knew that if I went to bed I wouldn’t sleep. So I went to my study and turned on my computer to lodge my football tips for the coming weekends games. Roughly around 1am I heard footsteps walking through the house and thinking one of the children had woken, I got up to check on them. Everyone was sound asleep. I wasn’t too concerned because I often heard footsteps and whilst these were a bit more insistent I just said goodnight, turned off my computer went to bed and fell into a deep sleep. In the morning when I awoke, there was a message from one of my uncles that had come through at around 2.30am telling me that my grandfather had died at around 1am. I am sure that the footsteps I heard were my grandfather “stopping” by the house to say goodbye. He must have sensed that I hadn’t wanted to leave the hospital. I’m glad that I actually said goodbye to the footsteps. I had never done that before. I think the resident spirits welcomed his visit and gave him safe passage.

My daughters have often said that they felt a good feeling in the house when they were little. My son has a sensitive soul and for a period of time from around three years of age told me many times that he had a feeling about his bedroom. He never liked sleeping in his bed.

We purchased another home in 2009 and let this one to a number of tenants. All said that they felt a presence in the home but not one of malevolence. They felt that if anything, the presence was protecting them.

After my marriage ended in 2015 I returned to this house to make it my home again. It was for me a time of great stress and distress. Yet once I had unpacked and created a semblance of a home I felt enwrapped and protected by the spirit or spirits within its walls.

They most definitely are here. My dogs sense and see them. They bark and play with them.

The spirits have communicated their presence to me on many occasions. Books get moved in their shelves. My compact discs, records and cassettes are moved as well as things in the kitchen and pantry. They keep watch and warn me of danger. On one occasion a smoke detector that has no battery sounded its alarm to remind me of a pot on the stove top.

Often, as I sit at my desk working and writing, I will catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye, of a little child running past the window in the yard. I will feel a breath on the back of my neck. Often when my anxiety is building or in the throes of my depression feel a warmth envelope me and calm me.

The room that was my son’s bedroom especially feels like there is a presence there, as if someone is watching me when I am in it. I just sense it. Sometimes I sense that the presence is not calm, that they are feeling “out of sorts” and it makes me feel quite disconcerted, “out of whack”.

However over the past eight weeks or so there has been a malevolence as well that I have sensed. The spirits are not at peace. I feel as if in the netherworld that some sort of battle is taking place and the battle has me as its centre, its focus. Perhaps that is my mind in turmoil and conflict.

As a survivor of clergy abuse from Priests, Nuns, Brothers and Catholic teachers from the age of five to almost seventeen I have always had a heightened awareness to the world around me. Since coming forward in December 2011, nightmares have played a significant part of my life. They change your perceptions of the world around you and I have had to learn to adapt to them. Consequently, I am a night owl. I only go to bed when I am exhausted, so that I will fall asleep quickly and perhaps they won’t come. I sleep with the radio on, with the team from “The Nightlife”, Trevor, Rod and Pav from “Overnights” and the storytellers from “The Moth Radio Hour” on the ABC to keep me company.

Over these past eight weeks or so my nightmares and dreams have become more vivid and physical. I believe that this is linked to the malevolence. On Friday the 10th of March I went to bed just before midnight. I fell asleep quickly as I don’t remember listening to the 1am news broadcast. At around 4.30am on the Saturday morning I was woken by a noise. I sleep on my stomach and when I went to lift my head off the pillow I was held down. One hand was on the back of my head and the other was around my neck. I was pushed down into my pillow and struggled for breath. My dogs were scratching at the window. I pushed up with all my strength using my elbows and the pressure on me was released. It felt like whatever had been holding me down had been pulled off as I pushed. I turned on my back and sat up breathing rapidly. I tried to regain my sense of equilibrium. The dogs settled and I heard them return to their kennels. I got out of bed and walked the house which seemed extra quiet. I made myself a cup of tea and settled myself.

On returning to bed I lay there with the lamp and radio on and ruminated on what had just taken place. I feel that those events and others where I feel dread and upset and that eerie feeling of malevolence are not directly related to the house. I have owned the house for over twenty years and lived in it for fifteen years and at no time prior have I had any negative feelings about or from the spirit presence.

I believe that these feelings stem from the evil that I experienced as a child and youth and that the stress and distress that I have been living with since December 2011 has opened a pathway for it to manifest itself. The good spirits that are part of my home have interceded on my behalf. The experience that I have shared has repeated itself six more times since that first time and the coming of night fills me with dread on occasions.

It is almost as if the good spirits that have a presence here in this home are watching over me. It’s as if they know something is ailing my soul. In the days since the first incident there is more activity from them. More books are moved and in particular the child has become more active in my periphery. My dogs have been a lot more attached since that first incident and sometimes they become restless in the evening as if they sense something is wrong or is going to happen.

I am grateful to and for my guardians. Whether there are spirits in my home or just in my head. Being receptive and open to the “other worldly” has helped me cope with the challenges in my life. Generally my home amongst the presence of these spirits is a safe and comforting place. I am glad to be in its envelope and I am open to all it offers me.

 

 

Squeaky the silent saviour.

Squeaky1

This post was originally published by my good friend Min on her blog Write of the Middle in October last year. I thank her for allowing me to post it here.

Squeaky’, fifty-one years old and still going strong.

Battered and bruised, his love is eternal.

His shoulders are the strongest I have ever had to lean on.

He has been my salvation, silently listening to me, drying my tears with his fur and keeping me warm in the coldest and darkest of times.

My first toy. My most precious toy. He has been the constant, my rock. When I was abused by clergy, priests and nuns, betrayed by those meant to teach us, care for us and protect us, not hurt us, HE listened when I told him how frightened I was. He knew that I couldn’t tell my parents because back in the 1960’s and 70’s it would have been too hard for them to believe they had been betrayed by those that were, in their eyes, Gods.

Because of that abuse, my mental health was damaged. I didn’t know it at the time or even understand what was happening in my head at that time. It was the black dog building his kennel in my mind and Squeaky would knock it down. In Primary school I would rush home from school, change out of my uniform, and give him a huge hug and he would draw out the pain and hurt of the day. I could feel him draw it out of me and light would shine.

In secondary school the black dog’s kennel was complete. He had a split level kennel, half in my mind and half in my room. Squeaky, from his hiding place in my wardrobe, would try to get rid of the kennel in my room and still have energy to draw out the pain from my heart when I got home. He had more strength than a phalanx of Roman Centurions.

For many years Squeaky fought a lone hand against my demons, my black dog. His presence a perpetual support, wherever he may have been living. His cupboard, my parents home, his spirit was always there.

There were those who should have understood my pain, my hurt, and my confusion as to why I was like I was, but they didn’t. However, Squeaky never abandoned me.

In 2011 circumstances conspired to force me to open the box containing my abuse and face it head on. To face the last living abuser and to put my complete trust in the legal system and its servants. My mental health and my life spiralled downwards but Squeaky was there hiding in his wardrobe but still supporting me, always there, his little head sitting still for me to spot and recover.

Now I live on my own once more and Squeaky is still there, my guardian. Proudly he sits on my bed because I need him now more than ever and he doesn’t mind that I was forced to make his house in a robe or cupboard because like the best of friends he knew that it wasn’t my heart making him live there but an unreasonable world. Now he is proudly on his guard post like a Beefeater protecting his King.

These days the black dog barks louder and louder and Squeaky corals him for me.

Squeaky is an old bear, a strong old bear, and at the moment he is fighting the black dog in a tough battle for me because I am almost out of fight myself. His will and his spirit is unbreakable. It needs to be to hold me up.

We all need our own Squeaky Bear to help us in our battles and on our journeys. I hope that you all have yours.

 

 

Changing Tracks: A reflection on a song of significance.

Here in Victoria on our local ABC radio station 774 Melbourne we have a wonderful presenter of the Drive Time shift, from 3pm to 6pm. His name is Raf Epstein. On Friday afternoons he has a segment called “Changing Tracks”. The segment is an invitation for listeners to write in and tell Raf and us about a song of significance in our lives. The song can be of a time of change, recalling a time of happiness or sadness. The song that was playing when our life changed track.

This is my changing track.

In November 2015 I turned 51. Sometimes I wonder how I have made it this far. One of the answers to that question is my changing track.

I grew up as the oldest child of my entire family group with loving parents and then loving siblings. We were and still are close. As a child in the sixties my life before primary school was a happy one and I have wonderful memories of it.

In 1970 that all changed for me when I started primary school. For some reason the nuns took a dislike to me. I was strapped constantly by them and could never seem to do the right thing or be a good boy. I can still feel the spittle of one nun hitting my face and see her eyes bulging as she called me a demons spawn because I was left handed. In the middle of that prep year I was sexually assaulted by a priest. I fought back as much as any terrified five year old could. That meant I was singled out even more as a trouble maker.

I had friends but in reality I was alone at school. I protected myself from other kids bullying me and the nuns finding me at playtimes by sneaking a small Tonka truck to school and playing away from other groups in isolated parts of the school grounds.

Secondary school was no better because the primary school bullies were there and also certain teachers and teaching clergy took delight in meeting out corporal punishment on any whim. Again I had a few friends but mostly hid myself away in the school library where I was safe from them. During this time a teaching clergy attempted to touch me inappropriately after a class. Again I fought back and further isolated myself.

In 1983 I left the Catholic education system and entered the world of tertiary education. It was a revelation. Lecturers and tutors who respected me and encouraged my contributions to class discussions and encouraged me with my work. It was a new world where I didn’t have to keep myself in a state of high alert for my own protection. This however was almost my undoing. All of a sudden all my anxieties, fears and emotions were able to escape. After thirteen years the walls around me crumbled.

My mental health was damaged and I became depressed, I became super sensitive to my environment and suicidal but I didn’t understand why and like most males especially then I didn’t seek help I just tried to rebuild those walls around me and pack away as if in a suit case all those issues causing my depression. On one particular day when my emotions were playing havoc with me and I was contemplating ways to end my pain I was walking through the mall in Footscray and the record shop was playing this song. I stopped to listen and went inside and bought the album it was on. This song changed my tracks that day and has done ever since. It brings me strength and solace to this day.

Over the passing years I managed to lock everything back up from those school years in that case and bury it deep in the recesses of my mind. I forged a reasonably successful career working in the community services sector. Rubbish pay but it’s been so rewarding being able to make a positive impact on peoples lives. Working my hardest to stop people suffering like I had. I married and have three children who are now young adults that I am extremely proud of.

In 2011 however all those years of abuse and all the years suppressing it, trying to cope just burst open. One Saturday when buying my weekends newspapers one of my abusers was on the front page. By the time I arrived home the carefully stuffed suit case was burst open and my life would again be slowly torn apart. My life was changed forever. Slowly my world began to self destruct. I went to the Police along with others who had been abused by this man. However all my childhood protective mechanisms began to again manifest themselves. I began to isolate myself again and was unable to tell my wife and children what had happened to me. It destroyed my relationship with her and with my children.

In the middle of 2013 I lost my job so with far too much time on my hands to brood and contemplate things I isolated myself even further from my family. Over the past two and a half years I have unsuccessfully applied for hundreds of jobs, had many unsuccessful interviews and went through several court cases. My self confidence was destroyed and these past years have left me totally debilitated.

Thankfully through the support of some caring people I was linked into a psychiatrist whose field of expertise is helping survivors of sexual and clergy abuse. She is helping me to rebuild my life. Her diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression and Anxiety Disorder and her taking the time to explain to me my disassociation and other coping mechanisms have enabled me to start to rebuild the foundations of my life. Hopefully through that rebuilding I will be able to again secure a job in my area of knowledge and skill and to rebuild the relationships with my children.

My changing track was written and sung by an amazing man. A man who when just a boy joined with three other boys to form a group that changed the world with their combined genius. They still do so today.

This song is over thirty years old now. It’s not my favourite song but for all these years it has been the most important song in my life. I can honestly say that this song has saved my life. My changing track is “Somebody Who Cares” by Paul McCartney.

The Fortieth Anniversary of a Landmark Album

I have had this blog page for a while and not made that debut post as time and circumstance have conspired against me. However today I felt the inspiration to write and post. Who or what was that inspiration? Bruce Springsteen. Forty years ago give or take a day or two one of rocks greatest and seminal albums was released. “Born to Run” was a revelation. To this eleven year old it stopped me in my tracks when my best friends older brother came home and put it on the stereo back in 1975.

I had, and liked “Greetings from Asbury Park” and “The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle”. Nothing but nothing prepared me for “Born to Run”. From the first strains of the harmonica and piano to the guitar in “Thunder Road” – well BANG I was transfixed. Simple lines like “The screen door slams Marys dress waves. Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays” A reference to “The Big O” Taking his guitar and making it talk. This was poetry that I could get. This was music that a boy growing up in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia just intuitively “got”. Why? Because the links between us and other teenagers in the western world were universal and Bruce in writing this album just magically hit on all the elements all at the one time.

“Born to Run”, was the birth of Springsteen as rocks Steinbeck. I remember my dad saying those words without understanding their meaning until much later at high school when I came across “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men”. As an older teenager listening to those albums the parallels in their writing became stark. No more is that evidenced than in his 1995 album “The Ballad of Tom Joad”

Each song on this album is a personal story – Bruce’s older sister is named Mary and he has referenced her on many songs over his career (The River) for example. They link to people that he knew either personally or by reputation growing up in New Jersey and hanging around Asbury Park. Each song could also be the basic foundation for a two or three hour opera. The stories are so intricate and the plot developed so well they stand on their own. Each a vignette of mid 1970’s western life.

Musically the songs rise and fall in waves. The crescendo of sound brings the listener to the songs climactic end. “Thunder Road” a perfect example. “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” with its brass intro sets the scene for a song revelling in a suburban big shot prancing around his “patch” and having delusional dreams of grandeur about growing that “patch”. In reality the song is about the birth and genesis of the E Street Band itself and Bruce’s dreams of making a living with the band and making music. “Night” starts in an “upside down fashion” musically it again is the story of the dreams of a blue collar worker wanting to forget and have fun at night with his crew and trying to impress a girl whilst they race around in their cars. Cars are such a central theme to Bruce’s lyrics and given that the mid 1970’s was the peak time of the muscle car era both in the United States and here in Australia the songs struck a cord. The next track on the album is an all time favourite of mine along with “Jungleland”, “Backstreets” defines the album, defines Bruce and defines us the diehard fans. Two songs about youth maturing, young love, hanging on the fringes, perhaps making some poor choices that lead to interactions with a brutal underside of society, petty crime and maybe even law enforcement. About building a reputation as a tough guy so that you could be king of the hill. The jangling, disturbing yet so perfectly right piano and organ of Roy Bittan in “Backstreets” contributes to the energy of the song. At its end like the protagonists you are exhausted.

Of course “Born to Run” was the killer track that “made” Bruce. It certainly is iconic continuing the theme of searching and desperation and being so commercially accessible it became Bruce’s defining moment. You feel yourself in that Mustang. Camaro, Falcon GT or Monaro. You become one with the song. You feel it deep within you. The desperation of the plaintive request to Wendy to let him in and for her to become one with him is all powerful. This song sold millions of records because the theme of young love, hot weather and fast cars are milk and honey to us all. The blend of Bruce’s guitar Gary’s Bass and The Big Mans sax makes this hit into the ultimate five minute opera.

“She’s the One” again hits at the heart of our insecure youth. The story of a young mans desire for a woman who in his eyes is perfect and unattainable is captivating. Who amongst us males at some stage in our lives hasn’t been driven to distraction and despair over a desire for that perfect woman. Who hasn’t cowered in our own stupid fear about making that approach. The fear of rejection that makes you want to vomit, even now decades later you feel your stomach move violently at the recollection of it. Who also doesn’t remember the elation of conquering that fear and making that approach and not being rejected. This song has it all and the intermixing of all the instruments together creates again that compelling yet disturbing feeling and reaction to a song that is magnetic as it draws you in.

“Meeting Across the River” continues the theme of desperation and hopeful redemption of the fringe dweller. The young man trying to convince a friend to accompany him to meet with a shady character to do a deal, get some “easy money” and save his relationship that like his life appears doomed unless he can pull it off. The mournful opening with the sax and piano sets up a melancholy mood and also a sense of trepidation and possible violence. It is a plaintive request to a friend to help him with a meeting that could result in their death or glory.

The final and climactic track on the album is Bruce’s mid seventies reinvention of “Romeo and Juliet”, his reinvention of “West Side Story”. “Jungleland” is a masterpiece. The story of the Magic Rat and the Barefoot Girl. How he rocks into town and steals her away from her crew. The reaction of her gang. The Maximum Lawman. The arrangement of the “rumble” which is disrupted by the local cops. The two star crossed lovers unite but just as in Romeo and Juliet one of the Rats crew guns him down to stop an ongoing feud between the gangs. A brilliant story and musically stunning employing his own version of Phil Spectors wall of sound “Jungleland” is a perfect combination of lyrics and music. The music creates a mood that the lyric completes. Apprehension, fear, exhilaration and resignation at the inevitable outcome of the story of the two young lovers.

“Born to Run” isn’t my favourite Springsteen album, that is 1978’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, but it is a brilliant album none the less. It defined Springsteens writing from then onwards. Bruce Springsteen passed through adolescence in creating this album. “Darkness” was the proof of that. That’s why this album is a must for every music lover, story lover and poet. It truly was a breakthrough and even forty years later still stops me in my tracks to listen. The songs are still solid and hold up today. In 2013 I saw Bruce play in Melbourne. “Thunder Road” and “Jungleland” were show stoppers. They were evangelical.

If you have never listened to this album in its entirety, if you don’t have it in your collection, well listen to it and you will buy it. When you listen to it listen to it LOUD.

Born to Run
                            Born to Run

Hello and welcome

I’ve always had thoughts and opinions that I like to share so this will be my forum. I don’t know how regular I will be, especially until I get the hang of it, but well this could be the start of something. Who knows? It should be an interesting ride.