Monthly Archives: March 2015

Life Beyond the Dark Cloud

I’ve lived most of my life in a chronic state of anxiety with periods of deep depression. Sometimes there have been reasons. At other times, there were no reasons. It was just my normal state of being.
My first memories of anxiety were as a little girl when I would suffer form panic attacks over the simplest of things such as what clothes mum dressed me in.
As I grew up, I retreated into my shell. Quiet as a mouse, I wasn’t a ‘strong’ kid and I did a lot of stupid stuff, especially in my teenage years, just to fit in. I also started to starve myself because I listened to the bullies, believing that I was fat and ugly. Being a pasty redhead with freckles, I was an easy target.
I started to binge drink at the age of 15, with alcohol being a depressant I always awoke the next day feeling like crap and having to deal with the consequences of my actions.
It wasn’t until I started University that someone mentioned the ‘D’ word to me. Depression. To finally have a name for what I was going through, well, on one hand it was a relief to think there was name for it, but on the other hand I wasn’t ready to admit that something was ‘wrong’ with me.
The black cloud descended over my life for many years as I embarked on a more self-destructive period in my life – stress, booze, bad food, starvation, over-exercising, too much or too little sleep, partying, over-working, dodgy men, and bouts of ‘straight and narrow’ living. I didn’t stop until my body crashed or I got sick.
After plunging into the corporate world I reached both my highest and lowest point. Struggling with social anxiety I became a shut in, whilst on the flip side I excelled in whatever job I landed in. After consulting a GP – who I still see to this day – I levelled out on anti-depressants, but ended up weaning off of them because of the adverse side effects and because I had decided to throw caution to the wind to embark on my one true passion – travel.
After the insanity of backpacking and working around Europe and the UK I returned home, plunging into a new career. Project management, possibly not the wisest of choices by someone with chronic anxiety…but that was a lesson I had to learn later! I came up trumps, winning company awards and delivering the undeliverable and this should have been the most amazing time of my life – one of love – as this was when I met my now-fiancé, celebration and success, but on the inside I was a nervous wreck. Unable to sleep well, over-worked and stressed to the max, I physically and mentally burnt out a number of times.
It was around this time that I started delving into the history of mental illness in my family (both sides), which was an eye opener as it was present in both sides of the family. I also saw a fantastic psychologist and started taking anti-depressants again, this time with no adverse reactions. She was a godsend and helped me overcome my body image and confidence issues.
It took me a few years to find stability but by 2012 I was healthy and happy. The year started out amazingly – my career was going well, and my partner and I had even walked the Great Wall of China. Life was good. Reinvigorated and loved up, we returned home on a high and two weeks later my partner had a freak accident at home and nearly died. We are incredibly lucky he has made a miraculous recovery, but you can’t play down the impact of post-traumatic stress. Me being me though, I ttally ignored it and ploughed through! People were amazed at my resilience!
If the near death experience of a loved one hadn’t woken me up already, I certainly did in 2014.
My body had been going haywire for a while. I had developed eczema on my face, and had been suffering from stomach issues, pain, night sweats, dizziness, nausea, forgetfulness and panic attacks for years. I couldn’t even work full-time any more as I was incredibly fatigued. This culminated in a car accident in the driveway of my own home. I hadn’t even made it out of the driveway! I was really lucky to not kill myself, and also because this was my third car accident in one and a half years.It took three car accidents for me to finally realise I was chronically stressed and that I needed to make some drastic changes in my life or else I wouldn’t have a life left to live.
And so I finally decided to put myself first and enrolled in an intensive mindfulness based stress reduction course where I grew to understand the impact a lifetime of stress has had on my mind and body. The eczema, stomach pain, fatigue and forgetfulness…it was all a result of chronic stress. This also helped me to release the shame I had been carrying around for the longest of times – the shame as a result of the stigma of having a mental illness.
It hasn’t been easy but good health, maintaining balance, accepting that I am enough and living authentically have became the guiding principles in my life. It was these that led me to quitting my 12-year career in project management and finding my way back to my other passion – that of writing.
I am the first person to admit that I will constantly need to remind myself of what is important (my health), as it is so easy to fall back into life-long habits. I also accept that I am looking at a lifetime on anti-depressants, but that is okay with me as this life beyond the dark cloud is so worth it.

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Janine Ripper
Janine Ripper is a Freelance Writer, Blogger, Social Media Addict, Mentor and Coach. After a 12-year career in Project Management, she decided to leave the corporate world to start her own business and pursue her passion for writing and travel. Janine is now an advocate for mental health due to her personal experiences, and hopes to combat stigma and to help others through sharing her story and helping others live an authentic and balanced life. She loves yoga, mindfulness, reading and relaxing with her fiancé and her fur child.You can find more from Janine on her blog Reflections from a Redhead.

#BellLetsTalk Everyday

bright lights in the big city

As many are aware, Bell takes the initiative to end the stigma towards mental health. They provide to their public ways to help those around you who are suffering, as well as conversation boards. They do a phenomenal job at allowing people to express themselves and become aware of mental health facts. Bell uses new media in a way that encourages people to join together and help others. This is done through “Bell Let’s Talk” day. On a specific day in the year, Bell donates money for every tweet that uses the hash tag #BellLetsTalk. Their strategy is so smart–they know a large portion of the population use many forms of new media so they find a way to bring new media and mental health awareness together. It is a day where people can speak up about what they are going through and what others can do to help. It…

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Stigma Fighters- Elly T.

Originally posted here on stigmafighters.com on the 24/7/2014

Special discount for our readers on Elly Taylor’s book: ‘Becoming us: 8 Steps to Growing a Family that Thrives.’
Click Here and enter discount code TSCBNVW5 for 50% off the RRP
Over ten months, I morphed from a skinny blonde into a 45-pound-heavier brunette. From being praised by my workplace boss for a great job of managing change in our organisation to struggling to explain to my husband the changes happening inside me. I went from a woman who could buy a house to a woman who could barely take a shower. Left behind a wide circle of friends and nights partying to long days living between neighbours I didn’t know and the ghosts of dance-floor memories. Nobody warned me that motherhood was likely to affect my sense of who I was as a person and how I felt about myself. Or that losing myself could lead to postpartum depression.

I didn’t know I was depressed. I just thought I was exhausted and yet I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know insomnia was an early sign that something was amiss. I thought it was the same for all new parents and so I just sucked it up; I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t know I was anxious. What I did know was that my stress levels would peak about half an hour before my husband came home each night and that on the days the house wasn’t tidy and he would go tight-lipped I was primed to explode. As well as protecting my fragile self-esteem, I was fighting to stay afloat, to stop myself from sinking deeper. What looked like power was panic underneath.

I desperately wanted, every day, for it to be different: to look forward to him coming home, for him to wrap me in his arms to reconnect at the end of our now very disconnected days, so I could forget the drudgery of mine. For him to be my anchor while I grew into someone I recognized. I wanted to look into his eyes and find myself again. Instead, I couldn’t meet them. Like amateur boxers we danced around each other every night, occasionally taking a half-hearted swing, not really wanting to hurt each other but not knowing how to do something else.

It had been stressful leading up to the baby. I had left my high income job and my husband was just still finding his feet in his new, lower paying one. We didn’t know that high stress in both moms and dads during pregnancy was correlated with depression after the baby came. Maybe we could have done something different if we had.

My depression made my husband more anxious. His anxiety made me more depressed. We wove through each other with tenuous threads. There were sub-clinical symptoms that wouldn’t rate a tick on a clipboard but would undermine our ability to work together and support each other as co-parents for the first few years of our children’s lives.

This is what also made me take a special interest in the perinatal stories of my clients. As a relationship counselor, I’m trained to ask my couples in a first session “when did things start to change between you?” I paid close attention to their dance. I stopped blaming my husband when I saw him multiple times in the faces sitting opposite me in my counseling room, my clients revealing the layers of themselves and seeing that he was just trying to cope too.

So I started researching, for my husband and I as much as for my clients. I found the number one factor in antenatal anxiety is a woman’s relationship with her partner and it is one of the three biggest factors postpartum – for both women and men. One in seven mothers suffer with PPD and so do one in ten dads. Fifty percent of depressed mothers will have a partner who is depressed too. That makes for a lot of depressed and anxious new families.

But I wasn’t looking for statistics. I didn’t want to be one; I was looking for a way out. I learned we, all of us, new mothers and fathers alike, are vulnerable to anxiety or depression. Because before baby, we are each other’s personal battery pack, a mutual source of comfort and strength. In the first few years of parenthood as life becomes busy and chaotic and everything changes, couples naturally go through a period of disconnection, even happy ones: it’s hard to make time and space for each other. And when partners become disconnected from each other, anxiety or depression can creep in.

I wondered if we could do anything about that. There was a wave of research done in the 1980’s by Gottman and Gottman, Cowan and Cowan and Belsky and Kelly. From this research we know that 92% of couples experience increased conflict and disagreement in the first year after baby and 67% a decline in relationship satisfaction in the first three. These researchers also gifted us some clear information on what brings couples closer together and what sends them further apart. Gottman and Gottman’s pilot for Bringing Baby Home even found that just two 40 minute relationship sessions prevented the risk for postpartum depression by 60%. I had my answer and yet relationship preparation is still not a part of traditional antenatal programs. It’s become my passion to change this.

Over the past 15 years, I have seen important issues like family violence and physical health go from private matters to a public concern. It’s only then that new programs can be drafted and rolled out. For the sake of our new families, Mental Health needs to be the next wave. It’s time to stop speaking in shamed, hushed tones. It’s time to clear our throats and ask, clearly, openly: how can we prevent this? How can we support our new families? How can we help couples bed down strong foundations for their children?

Next week I will be traveling to the U.S. to present my work with couples at the Postpartum Support International conference in North Carolina. It will be a full circle moment for me. I will be telling my audience that parents are born along with babies. That as well as infant-care, self-care and couple-care is important too, for the sake of the whole family.

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Bio: Elly Taylor is an Australian relationship counsellor, perinatal researcher and author. She lives in Sydney with her firefighter husband, their three children and a bunch of pets. Her new book Becoming Us, 8 Steps to Grow a Family that Thrives  has been warmly welcomed by parents and the professionals who care for them.
Click Here and enter discount code 2H9RAPQP for 30% off the RRP

Clinical Depression Awareness/Testimony

This is an amazing YouTube video detailing the personal experience of a young woman with severe clinical depression. The testimony is raw and compelling, and we are honored to share this story with you.

Jasmin profile pic

My Name is Jasmin Pierre. I am from New Orleans, Louisiana and I am 26 years old. At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression. For almost 6 years I’ve been battling this illness. The worst of it came in 2014 when I nearly almost died. This video spreads Awareness and I also give my personal testimony of how I got through everything and came out even stronger. I want people who are suffering with this or just life situations in general to know that they can and will come out victorious as long as they have a faith in God, a faith in themselves, and they NEVER EVER give up

Love who you are

Gratitude, Creativity, and Wellness

I’d like to prelude this piece by quoting something I saw one day while scrolling through Facebook: “Whenever you feel sad, just remember there are billions of cells in your body and all they care about is you.”

My whole life, I have been trying to overcome something: social anxiety. In each stage of my life, I had a different way of doing it. As a sensitive teenager in middle and high school, I took ballet and drama classes. I was in some school plays. I dreamed of being an actress. In college, I took medication: luvox. It didn’t help, actually, the opposite happened: my depression worsened. After college, I worked in a library, because it seemed safe. I always did what my mom wanted me to do: go to school, get a job, be perfect, even if it means hiding parts of myself.  Then, I couldn’t take it anymore. I flipped…

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Opinion: How dare Mark Latham call anxiety and depression trendy

Originally posted at http://mobile.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/opinion-how-dare-mark-latham-call-anxiety-and-depression-trendy/story-fniym874-1227256837571

March 11, 2015

Em Rusciano is not happy about Mark Latham’s latest column.

Em rusciano not Happy Latham

AT THE risk of starting an epic inter-columnist war to be fought across space and time, continued across the ages and settled via an intergalactic senate; what the actual f**k was Mark Latham on about in his most recent offering for the Australian Financial Review?

His column entitled “Give us back our anxiety” tells the story of how he went to see the Academy Award winning film Birdman with his wife. The movie was not to Mark’s liking — in fact he hated it. He hated it so much that as an alternative to watching the critically acclaimed film he chose to watch his wife sleep next to him (presumably Mrs Latham wasn’t a Michael Keaton fan either). He writes in disturbing detail: “Head back, mouth open, her nose gently reverberating to the sound of deep slumber. She looked so angelic the great love of my life.”

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on where you feel that sits on the creepy as s**t continuum. Hint: pretty high.

Latham

Mark felt the film was a trendy, lefty, Hollywood look at mental illness and it caused him to speculate how it (mental illness) has become so popular that we’re all needlessly medicating ourselves. He reminisces about an era where people just got on with things. There was no time for self indulgent pursuits like mental illness.

“Anxiety used to be seen as a regular part of life — worrying about our children’s welfare, worrying about driving in the wet, worrying when your footy team is behind at half time — but now it has become a frontline heath condition; the medicalisation of normality.”

Shazam! Hey 1 in 3 Australians with crippling anxiety. You’re probably just having blackouts and heart palpitations because the full forward in your favourite sporting team has a rubbish conversion rate. Just pick someone else to follow OK? Goals equal smiles. Problem solved.

So, according to the wisdom of Latham, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, great news- you’re in vogue! You’re so hot right now, congrats on being fashion forward you trendy head cases you. Someone needs to alert Anna Wintour yesterday: Hipsters are so 2014. Debilitating depression is now.

Mark also went into serious conspiracy theory territory as to why there are so many Australians being diagnosed with mental illness. As you well know conspiracy theories are steeped in rational thought and unbiased, researched facts. Mark’s hypothesis did not disappoint: he believes that mental illness has been manufactured by the evil left.

“Tactically, this makes perfect sense for the Left; having lost the economic debate and seen capitalism succeed, it needs to develop a new social critique — a new basis for government intervention,” he theorises.

What is this new social critique Mark reckons they want to make money off?

Yep, you guessed it — mental health. Because effective health services are a profit making machine of course.

With no scientific/medical background, knowledge or even any sort of sincere effort to understand the terms “anxiety” and “mental illness” he’s crafted his own reasons as to why neither exist. Because, you know, he’s never had them and the big bad left want people to think they have them.

At this juncture, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should alert you all to a couple of things:

1. I have suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my adult life.

2. I am a proud Beyond Blue ambassador.

3. Mark’s article was a red rag to a bull, and I’m the bull in this scenario, obviously.

Red Rag to Bull

I have re-read Latham’s column several times, trying to find at least one point of agreement, and all I can say is that it was well punctuated. That, and at a stretch, I liked the use of the ‘Zzzzz’s’ when describing Julie Bishop listening to Tony Abbott speak (that was a nice throw back Mark). But in all other respects ….

SWEET MOTHER OF CHRIST why are you weighing in on metal illness with zero empathy and zero expertise?

He also, inexplicably, went on to have a crack at author and model Tara Moss while complaining about the cinematography of Birdman:

“I was stuck with the camera angles showing the back of actors’ heads as they walked down darkened corridors. And when they finally turned around. there were more close up shots than Tara Moss’ Facebook page.”

Nice one Latham, in the week where Moss courageously spoke out about her rape in an effort to combat violence against women, you chose to use this expression?

As I stated earlier, I have suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my adult life, I am also a Beyond Blue ambassador. And I’m assuming anyone with a sliver of intelligence can see the argument is more than about my reaction.

This weekend past I spent time with women on the remote NT island of Groote encouraging them to speak up about feeling depressed or anxious. I have travelled to Karratha, Yeppoon and various other parts of the country encouraging people to come forward and get help. Many others who represent Beyond Blue also tell their stories, over and over again, in the hope that people can feel OK about not being OK.

Then someone like Mark Latham comes along and with one small minded, ignorant column and threatens to undo all that work.

Initially I didn’t want to draw any more attention to his column, I wanted to limit the amount of clicks it got and then I remembered how hard it was for me to admit I had depression, how long it took me to say it out loud and seek help. So I was compelled to provide an antidote to his words. I wanted to reach that one person who was on the verge of saying something, who may have seen his column (which is now everywhere thanks to its content) and because of it taken a step back.

To them I say, come out and get some help.

To Mark Latham I say:

Stand down mate, stand down and get a f**king clue.

Seriously, inform yourself and hope that mental illness never darkens your door because at the rate it is occurring in this country, the chances are it will.

If you would like more information or support for anxiety or depression call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Em Rusciano is a comedian, writer, singer and regular News.com.au columnist. She is currently touring her new stand-up show “The Motherload”. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Australian mental health services too focused on acute care, experts warn

Have you been affected by mental illness in Australia? Are you satisfied with the care you’ve received? What should the government focus on to improve the quality of mental health care? Please send up to 200 words to cif.australia@theguardian.com

I plan to write in but I also think that it is important to share my thoughts about this for those unfamiliar with our medical system. There is little to no long term government funded (or partially funded) mental health services here.

The mentally ill have no representation in parliament nor in any major healthcare institutes. What little funding we have is being stripped in the name of cost cutting. This means that there is no support for preventive care, minimal crisis support and no long term help options.

An example of this is that there are no government mental health hospitals for long term patient care. Some public hospitals have a crisis mental health wing that are notoriously bad. These however are for short term crisis admissions, not mid-long term treatment which is needed for many mental health concerns.

Many psychiatric medications are full cost with no government funding to make them affordable. There is also little to no support in educational institutes for mental health concerns. Most school in fact only have “support” through the christian groups, which is highly inappropriate for mental health care.

They are “fine tuning” the disability support system making everyone on it get reviewed. This is complicated by the fact you need the support of a medical professional to stay on the support system and often they are too costly to afford.The reviews are often subject to extreme stigma and bias against the mentally ill and individuals in need are being taken off the support system. These people are unable to work or support themselves in anyway so this is basically a death sentence for many.

It is also important not to forget the almost nonexistent support for indigenous communities. The support that is available often completely ignores the importance of the cultural differences in health care treatment. Also often the support that is available is only available under government mandate. Many individuals do not participate in this ineffective mandated therapy understandably. Rather than acknowledging this the government penalises indigenous individuals who are mentally ill with fines and criminal charges.

Instead of implementing measures to improve the state of mental health treatment in Australia, aiming towards preventive healthcare and long term treatment – it’s simply getting worse. This lack of appropriate care, support and representation is going to have long term repercussions for the health and wellbeing of our community.