An amazing surprise!

My Grandpa and his three brothers all served in World War II in various capacities with the Australian Defence Force. My Grandpa was a navigator in a bomber for some time. My Great Uncle Bob was captured early in the war by Japanese soldiers, transported to Burma and forced to work on the Thai-Burma railway. (For another excellent story of that time, watch Colin Firth in ‘Railway Man’)

Not long after Bob was captured, his family received an official letter telling them he had been captured. For the next 3 1/2 years, they heard nothing and did not know if he was alive or dead.

My Great Aunty Barb and Great Grandma were at the Rialto in Box Hill in 1945, where they both saw this newsreel video. (No sound)

My Uncle Bob appears behind Lord Mountbatten at 2mins 20secs!

What an amazing shock that must have been for Aunty and Grandma. I wonder whether they stayed to watch any more when they saw him laughing and looking so happy? I don’t think I could have. 

I’m so thankful that after hearing this story recently from Aunty Barb, my first-cousin-once-removed, Ray, went searching for the clip and found it from British Pathè. He now has a copy on DVD. 

I’m also thankful to never hve been in any similar situation. God willing we won’t be again. 

🐛

Anxiety and depression – My son’s story

Some of you know and have supported Logan and I recently so I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that someone else will be helped.

Depression doesn’t always make sense and many people don’t understand it. I’m sharing because of that too. Thank you for your support whether you’ve understood or not. I’m happy to chat anytime.

Please share with anyone you think will benefit from knowing.

I’ve copied and pasted an email I wrote to some people who knew more of this earlier, in the middle of 2014, so it may not all be relevant to you, but the info and sentiments are.

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Because we’ve spoken about this before and you are aware of what’s been happening for Logan, I want to keep you updated on Logan’s situation. I’d appreciate it if you could continue to keep your eye on him, like you’ve already been doing, and let us know if you see any changes.

I took Logan to a psychiatrist on Wednesday and she agreed with my ‘mum diagnosis’ of chemical depression within 10 minutes of us all talking. After a thorough discussion, she’s prescribed him a 12 month course of daily Zoloft, which she will monitor closely with us. She believes that we will see, and Logan will experience, positive change within 3 weeks. All going as expected, he should be functioning normally within three months and in six be back to where he ‘should’ be. This is wonderful, prayed for news, which is exactly the outcome I had hoped for from yesterday’s appointment. Thank you for praying with me.

As with any medication, there MAY be some side effects and although these are mostly minor, we want to be onto them. Especially these next two to three weeks, Logan might be more tired (not sure that’s possible); have slight headaches; have more ‘body irritability’ like jumpy legs, unable to sit still and tightness or clenching of jaw or grinding teeth. None of these presents a problem, it’s just a settling in period. As I said, she’ll be monitoring him every few weeks in person to make sure that’s all. After the initial few weeks, most people have only positive change and because we often don’t see small changes from so close, you may see these more than Logan does at first. I’ll be noticing every tiny thing, I’m sure, which will be a nice change to noticing the decline, but I’d love your feedback too. Logan knows that you are aware of the continuing story and is, even now, willing to talk to you about it all. He has briefly mentioned his anxiety to his friends, but has trouble knowing what to say. As you can understand, some people have negative perceptions in relation to psych-anything, so he’s nervous about judgmental reactions.

This next is probably the most important part of my explanation today and what I hope will help others. It’s only due to my first hand knowledge of chemical depression that I’ve seen beyond what often presents as grumpy, ’emo’ teenager,Neanderthal behaviour and really known he wasn’t ok. It took a close friend’s amazing transformation recently from severe, self harming depression to normal, functional, and finally happy person, for me to seek a psychiatric referral. The psychiatrist had worked with my friend’s medication over months to achieve this and it’s been a miracle. It’s the best discovery I’ve made. I’ve been diagnosed, and improperly treated for, various types of depression for the past twenty years. I’ve been to multiple GPs and referred to counsellors and psychologists and have attended each session feeling like a fraud and a ‘mental case.’ I rarely had anything to discuss and my catch cry has been, “There’s nothing wrong with me; why is there so much wrong with me?” Why did I still feel so hopeless, helpless and lacking in any energy or motivation?

I have tried a number of anti-depressants with varying degrees of un-success, prescribed by GPs who have tried. When one suggested post natal depression when Toby was 4 years old, I wondered if I really was in the ‘too hard’ basket. My latest GP, just prior to finding out about Theo, was the first and only person to use the words, ‘chemical depression’ and she told me it wasn’t psychological, but my body’s inability to manufacture Seratonin, among other things. She said I’d likely have to be on anti-depressant medication for life and likened it to some diabetics having to inject insulin. I felt such relief at that, finally having an answer that wasn’t a mental issue. She’s been amazing, guiding and supporting me through what’s been a rough few years with pregnancy hormones and true postnatal symptoms. I’ve taken my medication as prescribed and have been ok; but only ok. Theo’s nearly two and I’m still only ok. I am so used to being flat that I’ve only really recently realise that I’m probably operating at 75% of what’s normal for me. My head’s above water, but it’s easy to go under. With the change I saw in my friend, I’ve self-referred to this same psychiatrist Logan saw. I’ll see her next week but through the tiny bit of my information I gave her today as background for Logan, she’s already determined my medication is wrong for what I have and that I have been improperly diagnosed and treated for 20 years. She has said that most people can be treated for chemical depression like this in a relatively short, finite period, easily with the right prescription; which is a psychiatrist’s specialist area. I’ve never felt such relief and frustration and anger at the same time!

Although I knew psychiatrists could prescribe medication, I had the mistaken, but disturbingly common, view that psychiatrists were the top of the mental health hierarchy: the more crazy you were, the further up you went. The thing that’s perpetuated this myth and given me what I feel are wasted decades is that no one, not GPs, counsellors or psychologist – NO ONE has ever suggested I seek a psychiatrist’s help – and they SHOULD HAVE. If they had, I’d have done so. If they’d suggested amputation, I would have gone there too in an attempt to feel ‘normal.’ I tell you this because I know I’m not the only one in my situation and although I’m finally going to get this all sorted starting next week, I’m angry at such wasted decades. The only thing I can see that makes it ok is that God has a plan for this knowledge and experience. Because of it, I’ve been able to get help for Logan early and not shrugged it off as grumpy teen. Because of this, I may (and hope to) direct others to seek the right help. And you’re some of the first I’ve told. Maybe you can pass this on to help someone else.

I so appreciate that I’ve been able to honestly share this and my experiences with you all individually over the past few years. It seems trite, but isn’t, to say thank you so much for your support and observation and care of both me and Logan. It was so good to know others saw what I did in him and cared enough to tell me. Thank you for continuing to pray for us. Please ask about and share my journey with anyone who needs it and WATCH THIS SPACE! for new and improved Ross’. Bit scary, hey?

Veritas, Eski

Extreme Do-Over! A fairy story for modern times.

I want to tell you a story. 

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, in an ordinary suburb, a woman – let’s call her Sally.

(Or, to be honest, it is me.)

Anyway, a woman, strategically organised jobs for her family so that everyone was doing their share. She was so considerate that she allowed her family their choice of chores and allocated what was left to herself. Now this woman has never been renowned for her particular abilities in terms of housework. In fact, she reduced her immediate family to hysteria when she landed a Home Ec teaching position. She is possibly one of the least domestic people we know. However, for the short term, the chore sharing went well and everyone was in clean, folded clothing.

A little while ago though, her life filled up more than usual and something had to go. Sighing disappointedly, she removed the self-replicating, rapidly increasing mountain of clean, unfolded clothing from its normal slothful position on the lounge room couch/floor to the hidden confines of her small walk-in wardrobe. What a relief to have this monstrosity invisible to anyone who dropped by. Now she only had to wrestle with it once a day in order to find her outfit. As happens with self-replicating life forms, however, the mountain grew and grew as days passed. Infuriatingly, no housework fairy tiptoed in at night to do it for her. In fact, not even one fairy tale creature crossed her path to offer redemption in exchange for the soul of her first born or her undying affection. Bah, humbug!

More time passed, but the woman knew she would conquer the ever widening pile soon, or die trying. As is often the case in these moral tales, time moves more swiftly that we bargain for and moment is lost. Yesterday, the clouds of the oncoming storm released their deluge upon the home of the poor, unwary woman and her family. (Literally, a pipe from the hot water service blew inside the wall between the laundry and the back of the wardrobe.) For long hours, the storm raged. (Possibly 5 hours til her husband and kids returned home.) The woman’s wardrobe, then (carpeted) bedroom, the hallway, then the (carpeted) bedrooms of the (4) children, the (carpeted) loungeroom and linen press transformed from dry, to damp, to swamp over the space of one afternoon. Upon returning to the dwelling, her longsuffering husband found frogs croaking, dragonflies skimming and a mountain of once-clean washing, steaming in the (carpeted) estuary (2 inches deep) that had been their wardrobe.

In a valiant attempt to stop further damage, said husband attacked the source with gusto. (He turned off the water.) He and the children, frustrated with the limited capacity of their mop, thought laterally and used the already wet washing (towels and quilts first, then everything down to undies) to soak up as much of the excess water as they could. It must be noted that on its travels the water had surged and back washed through the cat litter tray and so these once-clean items were now pungent and aromatic. What a delightful scene greeted the woman when she returned from inspiring the minds of the future. A tired family and a gruff wizard in plumbing kit were still at work determining the source of this evil. Holes were blasted in walls until the copper culprit admitted its guilt. (A 2 millimetre wear in a weld.) Captured and replaced with a sturdier guard, the culprit was wrapped for The Insurer’s inspection and the family once agin bent their backs to shift sodden, smelly piles of washing to the relative safety of the cork floor in the dining room. 

Fearing for their safety, and comfortable sleep, the husband manhandled (cause he’s a man) the thankfully dry mattress to the outside room and they, their youngest child, a couple of cats and an attention seeking dog attempted to sleep whilst still listening out for The Insurer’s promised vacuum wielding water diviner. Who promptly arrived at 10 the next morning while they were out. 

The woman long (3.5 hours) regretted her laziness as she slaved over huge, costly ($85 total), roasting machinery (laundromat). What had once seemed a fine plan now tortured her day off and her slim purse. She knew that laziness was not the answer. When she arrived home she found herself and her family surrounded by towering fluorescent orange dehumidifiers and fans with such gusting power they bellowed throug the hallway like an engine of a jumbo jet. Ah, the peace; the tranquility; the sarcasm!

The woman’s patience was tested further with a call to The Insurer who requested that she provide evidence of ownership of her 10 year old bed frame, two spare mattresses, numerous secondhand bookcases and desks and a, now structurally questionable, MDF toddler bed in the likeness of a well-known, blue, British steam locomotive. 

So, although this vicious attack of liquid was not the woman’s fault, she felt sorely tried by its ramifications. And the washing mountain? I hear you ask. Clean, dry, partially folded and safe.
And still in the back of the car.

Absolute verity,

Eski Caterpillar 💦

Sensory Overload

I am utterly blessed. In the midst of an overload of senses; no, through them; God has blessed me.

I have a hot little hand on my face as I try to read. It pokes me and twitches at the entrance to my nostril, making breathing odd. If I turn over, I’ll have, instead, little untrimmed toenails in one of two choice spots: kidneys or buttocks.

A short reach away, I hear the thunderous roll of snoring. I prod and suggest turning over and for a moment, the storm abates. But only for a moment. Without any lightning to warn of its advance, the long drawn in breath offers new meteorological mysteries.

Further distant still, the irritating whine of machinery. It’s monotony is broken only by the insidious, regular alarm throughout the night.

Dogs, ours, bark at intruding nothings. Loudly.

If I leave this horizontal plane and venture out, I will likely find lines of light break through the darkness. Here and there, I will hear more cacophony to interrupt my rest. From one doorway, little light accompanies the pings and whirs of levels unlocked by a well known Italian plumber in overalls. From another, brighter light pops out, as unyielding as the so called notes screamed by a boy-man wearing more eyeliner than I ever have as he bemoans his newly single state.

Should I turn and retreat, my hapless tarsal structure is likely to be assaulted by weaponry at floor level. Possibly this time, I will encounter the string of a cheap bamboo bow. As I lightly sidestep the threatened trip, my other foot may find the arrow; or Danish building materials with spiked edges; or an assortment of miniature bovines cavorting without care near an enclosure of even smaller dinosaurs; or a shadowy feline hoping for food.

But despite this risk; this riot; this rude interruption of horizontal calm that I say I’d prefer; I am utterly blessed.

Little fingers and toes are not a blessing all who wish it share.
Snoring means he’s here with me.
The whir of machinery speaks of luxury others do not have.
Lights and music mean my children are home safe. They can be and do just as they wish without fear of persecution, despite my musical preferences.
Even the scattered hazards of a family hall shout freedom, safety and luxury.

I am utterly blessed.

Veritas, Eski

May I buy a vowel please?

I’ve been discovering that my anti – depressant medication is working well – That is:
I’m not crying all the time;
I’m not a screaming fish-wife;
getting out of bed is not ALWAYS as difficult;
I have interest in life;
I’m doing creative things for myself;
I recognise the goodness in my life;
I can get out and do the things that seem like a good idea in my head most of the time…… and much more that has previously been in the too hard basket.

However, I’m finding I’m still not as ME as I want to be, or think I ought to be. There are things I want to achieve; things I want to do each day that do not eventuate. And it causes me to question: Are these still symptoms of depression or am I just inherently lazy?

For such a major part of my life; for the past 22 years; I’ve been misdiagnosed and mistreated for depression. I have struggled with all of the symptoms above and the guilt of being ‘wrong.’ Finally, last year, I referred myself to a psychiatrist who properly diagnosed me and I have been properly medicated and improving since. As I said, though, I have certain expectations of myself and my accomplishments that are as yet unrealised. Is this normal? Does everyone, especially those who are NOT depressed, feel like this? Is it just me? Have I always been a thinker and NOT a doer of my wild and wonderful ideas?

I don’t have all the answers to the above. My hypotheses so far are: yes; yes; no and probably a bit, but I hope not.

So now, further experimentation is required.

May I buy a vowel please? I’d like an E. Are there any spare Es out there willing to be my friend?

In case it sounds like I have actually lost it, I’m talking about Extroverts. I’ve been undertaking MBTI personality testing with one of my senior classes and in teaching them have learned a bit more about myself. I’m an extreme extrovert.

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This comes as no surprise to those who know me, but perhaps very few realise how far I swing in that direction. When I’m really ME, I need literally no alone time. During my serious bouts of depression, this flipped to barely wanting to see anyone. I would work when I had to – and ‘play’ at being my general happy self – come home and go immediately to bed. I would often pretend to miss phone calls so that I could either text people or call them when I could cope with it. This is NOT the real me. Nowadays, I ask my family members to follow me to the shower to continue a conversation in case I miss out on company time.

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Back to my experiment. My hypothesis is this: My motivation to do more will increase with the acquisition of an E friend who likes similar things and has/makes time for me. So I need an E please!

My family love me and do spend time with me, but all 5 (actually, uncertain about Theo) of them are I people and, after a day at work or school, scatter like cockroaches under kitchen lights. They know who I am and do spend time, but, short of a roster, there’s not enough company for me.

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All of my close friends are I people. That’s always been the case, now that I think about it. I make plans and my friends enjoy coming along, but they don’t NEED me like I need them. Not need like clingy for emotional support, but need in terms of time. I’ve always had I friends and they don’t think of inviting someone (specifically me) every single time they think of going somewhere. Not out of spite, you understand, just because they are happy to do things on their own.

So, I’d like an E friend who’d like to spend loads of time with me.

The idea I have is that I will have more E time and therefore more energy. More energy equals more things achieved.

What are your thoughts? Any other experiments? What’s your personality type and how has it affected you?

Permanent Ink?

I have never considered getting a tattoo before. This has been for two main reasons:
1) Apart from God and my family, I’ve never stuck to one thing long enough to warrant contemplating having it inked permanently onto my person.

2) I have a relatively severe needle phobia. This is self-explanatory.

This afternoon, I came upon this blog post:

The Semicolon Project

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And I felt a blast of decision. I will do this. I will tattoo a semicolon on my inner wrist to:

1) Remind me to take a pause and keep going. When I struggle with my depression, I need this. Life throws all manner of things at us and we all need to pause and keep going.

2) Start conversations. When I’ve shared my experiences of depression on Facebook, I’ve been whelmed by the conversations that are ignited. People vent and share and feel they’re not alone. I’ve had some people say that they’ve been on the verge of taking their own lives and, having seen my posts, have felt less alone and kept going.

One woman, hearing me describe my decade at a ladies’ conference, came up to me afterwards and said that her grown up daughter felt the same way as me and they’d never understood each other.  She was going home that day to apologise and help her seek help. I’ve seen her since and apparently all is going much better.

During times like this, when I feel like my depression is somewhat sorted and under my control, I often forget to share and the world sees me as ‘normal’ me. I’d like to remind others and myself that depression is often ongoing and the need to support each other is also ongoing.

If experiencing some little pain will help even one person, it’s enough. I’ve been through much better and much worse than an hour or so of needle pricks; I can do this.

I will do this. Who would like to join me?

The C Word

I wrote this some time ago and I felt that I’d like to share it tonight. Another leg of the caterpillar. 🐛 As always, comments are welcome.

Eski Caterpillar

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Six months isn’t very long. Not really. When you’re a little kid waiting for your birthday or Christmas, the time is utterly immeasurable, interminable. When you’ve been given six months to live; terminal.

Grandma must have known that she wasn’t well for a while. Surely that size of growth, that sort of invasion, you’d realise, if not recognise; wouldn’t you? But, while not one prone to impenetrable silence, she was never one for dramatic proclamations either. So even if she knew, we didn’t.

And then, just as suddenly, we did. I don’t remember the moment – not at all a movie moment where the thundering minor chords loudly announce the arrival of some devastating disease; not like that. We were all told. My cousins travelled out of season to see Grandma while she was still well. She made a point of doing things with them while they visited. I’m sure she did that for me too, but, shamed to say, I don’t think I noted it then, for I don’t recall it now.

For six weeks she was away for treatment. For some reason our base hospital was ill equipped (no pun intended) to offer the assistance she required. My uncle and my great-grandmother both spent blocks of time with her – ostensibly to help, but I recall overhearing that Nanna’s help was probably easier done without, although it was given in love.

I also overheard, not from Grandma herself, but my mother and aunt’s frustration and my Grandpa’s useless silence. Certainly not renowned for many outward displays of affection, he seemed unaware of the momentous happenings around him – surely they affected him most of all? I think though that he certainly was aware, and affected, but unable to express or even comprehend his emotions. We all chided him, behind his back of course; but I’m sorry for that now as I was sorry for Grandma because of it then. I never told her either how much I would miss her. I never spoke of love, or anything that might have been read as, “I’m admitting you’re dying.” It wasn’t consciously done – just unaware or unable to admit or comprehend what was going on.

I knew about the doctor’s sorrowful admission that all that could be done, had. I understood, but as for what I felt? Mum got it. She understood, then again, you would about your mother – I hope I do if ever the occasion arises – which I am praying not.

The last thing I did for Grandma; more for mum really, was buying a bedpan the day before she died. Isn’t it strange, the useless things we remember? Of everything, all the emotion, I remember that! But of course, by the time I got it there, it was too late; she’d died. For a week afterwards, I carried it in the boot of the car, not sure how to return it. No one asked any questions when I did.

Grandma died the day after / of my Grandpa’s birthday. That I felt sorry for him for, certainly no celebration to be had and always then that anniversary.

I wonder if people often feel entirely inappropriate planning a funeral. My sister and aunty visited the funeral directors only to be struck with the giggles, as we all were when they shared, by the man’s sincerely meant, but utterly inane question, “So, I understand we’ve had a death in the family?” Is it wrong to want to laugh at that? The comment still raises a smile today. I was proud of us, we weren’t wailers, we kept our sense of humour and practicality throughout the planning. It’s hard to mourn continually. The trite line, “Life goes on” is true. For the rest of us it did. Nanna understood. Considered more than a little old at 92 and particularly scatty at times, this time she understood. She discussed some and agreed on most points. Of course, we all cried here and there, I don’t remember it often. I can’t imagine having to plan my daughter’s funeral or my mother’s. I don’t want to imagine it – but that’s what they did, these amazing women. They carried on, smiling through tears and holding it together. It’s a girl thing in my family, I think.

I’d never been to a funeral before. I’ve been to three since and I’m not interested in having too many more experiences of it, thanks all the same. Grandma’s minister did what he did. We sang some hymns that none of us really knew the words to, but the church people did. I don’t remember what they were. Mum, Katie and I sang “Precious Lord”, which chokes me still, although I love it. I don’t understand it, maybe it’s just me, but there is kind of a perverse pleasure in outward displays of sorrow. We’re not an unemotional family, but we don’t dwell too much on the “negative” emotions. Anger has a limited place in our family and we’re ‘cross’ or ‘frustrated’ rather than angry. There’s a therapy session in that! Sorrow isn’t something I’ve had much dealing with and this was one of those few times. I was certainly ‘movie’ dramatic enough in that one moment. I never want to see anyone’s coffin be lowered again! Death I can cry about and cope with. Since believing fully in Jesus, I can learn to celebrate a little at times – but it’s still a hard thing. Lowering of coffins – never again!

Just for one moment, when the ropes tighten to lower the coffin and its silver handles – which have been for all intents and purposes useless at a graveside service. But you can’t have a plain wooden box for a much beloved family member – optional extras courtesy of the funeral director – waste of time and money but they assuage the guilt you’d feel if you didn’t do it. When the coffin lowers, I cry out – unintentionally – the term “wrenched from her throat” makes much more sense now. I cry out and stumble – almost to my knees. Silly really. Useless now she’s gone. But the feelings. Such conflict with my joyous mood later, when we went that night to a dress up charity collection. Odd, the things we do. But then it’s finished, and again, life goes on.

Reflecting, I think I’ve learned more about Grandma’s illness and her life as a person since she died. Even since writing this, mum and Katie and I have discussed more about that time than we did then. I don’t want to think that about my mum more than eleven years after she dies. Or anyone I’m close to – bit of a hit in the head – a wake up call. Talk to your family! Let them know what you’ve done, what you’ve felt. Share what you’re doing now and tell them how you feel. Take the time to do it now, while you can – my mum does that and I want to. It’s not morbid, it’s more important. Why not?