Tired head image

Appearance of actual frog may vary

Those of you who have been reading me for a long time know that from time-to-time I have relapses of anxiety and/or depression. This has been going on all my adult life so it’s really not a big deal. I manage myself as best I can, take a low dose of meds constantly, and look out for triggers and warning signs. Signs that I’m heading down that slippery slope again.

Last year was a huge work year for me and at the end of last year I was very, very tired. I was so tired that each night before a work commitment, I prayed that it would be cancelled.

I still had so many urgent things on my to-do list by the day before Christmas, that I wanted to cry. Most of those are still there – in fact the list is growing daily.

The sense of despair I felt just before Christmas was my first warning. Overwhelming, bone-crushing fatigue was another.

My finger nails have started to split and peel in layers. My mouth is filled with ulcers.

The idea of having to start work again in January made me teary and filled me with anger and resentment.

My system was trying to tell me something.

It was something absurdly mundane that finally made me pay attention. It’s three-quarters through January, and my Christmas tree is still up. I’m not someone who rushes to get the tree down the moment January 6 arrives, but having it still up at this point is unusual, even for me. I keep looking at it, registering that it needs to come down. Anxiety and exhaustion grip my chest and so I walk past it. Tomorrow. Or the next day. I’ve stopped turning the tree lights on. Isn’t that enough?

I had a much-needed holiday in early January, so I know how ungrateful I sound. That holiday was not enough. Having another break is not an option (did I mention my to-do-list?)

Here I am, at the start of the year, already struggling; already barely dragging myself from week to week. Fatigue is the biggest trigger for anxiety for me and I’m well-and-truly heading for a crash.

What to do?

Right now I’m doing as little work as possible, given my workload, and spacing it out. I’m trying to get more sleep. I’m setting myself one small thing to do each day. I’m taking iron and Vitamin C.

There’s another part of me, though, that is screaming. Not only is it looking at my to-do list and having an aneurysm, it’s telling me countless other things as well. It’s telling me I have to stop doing superannuation work, because that’s not why I set up my own company. It’s telling me I have to write my own training material and market that. It’s telling me to get that stand-up routine organised. It’s telling me I have three books to write, a blog to run, a comedy blog link-up to organise. A speaking career to investigate. It’s telling me I don’t spend enough time with my son. It’s telling me I’ve neglected my creative side. It’s telling me it’s time for a new career (again).

My brain is yelling at me to take action while my body is telling me to slow down.

I suspect I’ve seen the signs that I was on that slippery slope a bit too late, and I’ve already got my toes in that craptacular depression/anxiety pool. Time will tell.

I’m off now to try – again – to take down the Christmas tree. It won’t matter if it’s still up in February, right?

How have you started 2014?


Depression is a lying little bastard – Part 2

Today I give you the second part of Gaynor Alder’s series on how she beat depression.
This post can also be seen at MWSG.
Go here for Part 1 of the series.

Depression in all its mind fuckery and trickery may have cloaked me with its darkness, exhausted me with its relentlessness, and picked away at my identity rendering me unrecognisable to myself, but underneath it all, I knew everything it was telling me was bullshit.
Yes, you depression. You’re full of shit. And I’m calling you on it.

Whilst at times it may have looked like I succumbed to you, as I spent another day pinned down to my bed by your force, trying to climb my way out from under the criticism, judgement, and torment you were serving up for breakfast, compounding on the grief my heart was trying to reconcile from all the other precious time you had already stolen from me, there was something you could never take from me.
My hope.
When you felt impenetratable and undefeatable, hope is what nursed from me from one minute to the next, one hour to the next, one day to the next. Hope that tomorrow would be better. Hope that one day it would all be over. Hope that you would eventually become a distant memory.
And with that hope, was a desperate determination to not fall prey to your lies. Your accusations. Your demeaning assassinations of my character. Because depression, you don’t get to define who I am. No depression, you’re not forever. 

And, I’m here to say you can be triumphed over.
And I emerged from you stronger. Wiser. Better. And my spirit is unstoppable. You’ve become something I look back on. Something I draw strength from just knowing I lived through you. Something I have stepped on top of to propel me further towards all those things my heart longed for when you were holding my dreams hostage.
With it I carry a deeper gratitude for life. I see the beauty in simplicity. Find great joy in small moments. An appreciation for waking up and just feeling okay. And I thank you for that. Reminding me of what’s really important and teaching me to pay homage to the beauty of the present moment. A love for romancing the everyday.
Overcoming you was never going to be a battle of force against force, or a change in my thought patterns, nor a matter of being strong enough. You’re not a battle of wits, because you’re a scheister who plays dirty. You’re an illness, not a mindset. You’re a flaw in chemistry, not in character.
What depression needs is gentleness. Care. Love. Kindness. Patience. Support. Understanding. Not only from ourselves, but also from others. Because we can’t do it on our own. And to find a safe passage through your 3 ring circus, requires a crack team of friends, outside help and medical professionals.
We need to call in reinforcements to help us find the courage and strength to hold on, to endure you for yet another day, and to remind us there’s a future beyond you, and it’s burning bright.
In the next installment of this series, Gaynor Alder talks about finding the right crack team, and why it took her so long to turn to medication for help.

Has depression given you a deeper understanding of life?

Gaynor Alder is a Melbourne based writer with a penchant for vintage glamour and all things Parisian. She is the Editor-in-Chief of The Modern Woman’s Survival Guide magazine and editor-at-large Teenage Girl’s Survival Guide, gallivants around the world as a Travel Writer testing the thread count of sheets and the fluffiness of hotel pillows and freelances in public relations.  

She started writing The Modern Woman’s Survival Guide, after the umpteenth person told her, you know you should really write a book. Her fingers struggled daily to keep up with the thoughts that desperately wanted to become words on pages, to take centre stage in a book that she knew was going to become the new voice of womankind. Her calling, her destiny, her whatever you want to call it, Gaynor writes because she can’t not write.

You can catch her being awesome here: 
Facebook – www.facebook.com/mwsgmagazine
Twitter – @themodernwoman

Depression is a lying little bastard – Part 1 (guest post)

© Alptraum | Dreamstime.com

Today I have the honour of hosting a guest post by Gaynor Alder.
This is the first part of a series on how she beat depression.
This post can also be seen at MWSG.

“If you haven’t cried, your eyes can’t be beautiful” – Sophia Loren

Me: Get up off the floor Gaynor.
Depression: But, why?
Me: C’mon Gaynor. You can do it. Just get up and go lay on the couch.
Depression: What’s the point? I’m not going to feel any better on the couch.
Me: But you can’t lie here all day.
Depression: Why not?
Me: I should have a shower. Maybe blow dry my hair and put on some lipstick?
Depression: Why would you waste your time doing that? Why don’t you crack that bottle of wine in the fridge? Go on, that will make you feel better.
Me: But it’s only 11am.
Depression: So?
Depression had invaded every part of me, its weight heavy on my heart. A sorrow so great it should have instantly identified itself, instead of hiding in the shadows and dishing out its pain by slowly seeping through the cracks of my confusion. A sorrow that once its tears formed puddles at my feet, dropped me to my knees with its piercing and persistent pain.
This was no garden-variety depression, none of your general malaise and misery on offer here. This was the deep debilitating kind that straps you to your bed and meddles with your mind, making a complete mockery of who you are. Sadness was surging through my veins with ferocious velocity. I was as flat as a day old pancake and I wanted to know where the fuck the maple syrup was?
I held onto hope like a child clutching at a bag of lollies that were in fear of being stolen by a sibling, but depression is a lying little bastard and kept telling me I was never going to get better. Attacking my self esteem with all those nasty things it was saying about me, isolating me from everyone and holding my confidence captive, so it could pin me down with its force and strip me back to nothing.
There were plenty of people telling me to pull up my socks, but every time I tried, I discovered the elastic was long gone and they’d just end up around my ankles. They could have tried to walk a mile in my Pradas, but they’d long been gathering dust in my wardrobe and had not seen the light of a dance floor since depression had decided to barge in one day uninvited like a bunch of teenagers with a six pack of Bacardi Breezers.
Sure, I tried all that positive thinking bizzo and even though I’m naturally an optimistic person, it did jack. Because let’s get one thing straight, this is not a self-indulgent negative mindset, this is an illness.
Know that I’ve been to that place, when you think you’re never going to get better. Know I’ve been to that place when you don’t know how you’re going to get through the night. Know that I’ve felt that endless struggle just to get through every day, hour and second. Know that I have been to that place and I have returned.
Follow this series each month as I share how I overcame a decade long battle with depression. From a rocky love hate relationship with medication, psychics wearing purple crushed velvet skirts cleaning my aura with feathers whilst telling me the problem was in my past lives, coping with the people kicking me whilst I was down, to finally finding a kick ass crack team.

Have you fought depression? 

Gaynor Alder is a Melbourne based writer with a penchant for vintage glamour and all things Parisian. She is the Editor-in-Chief of The Modern Woman’s Survival Guide magazine and editor-at-large Teenage Girl’s Survival Guide, gallivants around the world as a Travel Writer testing the thread count of sheets and the fluffiness of hotel pillows and freelances in public relations.

She started writing The Modern Woman’s Survival Guide, after the umpteenth person told her, you know you should really write a book. Her fingers struggled daily to keep up with the thoughts that desperately wanted to become words on pages, to take centre stage in a book that she knew was going to become the new voice of womankind. Her calling, her destiny, her whatever you want to call it, Gaynor writes because she can’t not write.

You can catch her being awesome here:


The emotional shit-storm of high school.
It was the best I could do.
You wanted to see a real storm of shit? No? Then shush.

Dear readers,

I have a favour to ask.

I keep waking up at sparrow’s fart.

What even is that? Do sparrows fart? I’ve never heard one, have you? Would it be very loud? Sparrows’ arses must be very small, wouldn’t you think?

And while we’re at it with stupid sayings, why do we call someone a “something extraordinaire”?

A “blogger extraordinaire”.

A “saxophonist extraordinaire”.

Like, someone can be a “blogger ordinaire”, or a “saxophonist ordinaire”?

Where was I?

Ah yes. Sparrow’s fart. At this time of the month I’m always awake early. Which is just fabulous.*

Human creatures crave connections. As a species we’re social, like our primate neighbours. We naturally tend towards grouping together, fitting in and feeling that others understand us. That craving for connectedness – the need to feel an emotional connection to another – is wonderful and terrible.

I was bullied at school (and later at university), picked on, harassed and generally made fun of, because I didn’t fit in.

I was a freak, different, weird.

I WANTED to fit in. Desperately.

So what happens when you’re denied connectedness when you need it most? You either grow a big fat denial gland and decide it’s not what you want, or you soldier on and try not to hurt too much.

My denial gland refuses to function so I soldiered on and learned that most things turn out for the best eventually. Looking back, I would have dealt with those bullies differently.

I’ve had bouts of Depression and Anxiety Disorder over the years. That’s hardly a brave revelation in these times of chronic over-sharing (hello I am the shameless QUEEN of this).

Currently I’m officially well, which is quite wonderful.

This current bout of wellness has unearthed a new challenge. For a week and a half every month, I become that anxious, horrible, aggressive person I am when I’m sick. I get PMT so badly now that for almost half the month I’m someone else. I’m Hormone Helen.

I lose that feeling of connectedness, of belonging. The walls close in. To me, it seems that everyone is having wonderful conversations without me. Everyone has bazillions of wonderful, close friends that I don’t have. I feel excluded and worthless, my connection to everyone summarily cut off.

All my connections severed.

With ironic cruelty, the need for connectedness becomes immeasurably stronger, just at the time when it’s been severed.

I’m thrown back into the emotional shit-storm of high school crapulousness. I’m that weird kid again that almost everyone hates. I blather all over social media, trying to reconnect. I usually fail because HELLO when I’m like that I’m not good company. I’m flat out crazy (and not in my usual froggy way). The snake starts eating its own tail.

When Hormone Helen isn’t visiting, everything’s fine. So I know she lies, just like Depression lies, like Anxiety Disorder lies.

So I try to wait out this week and a half each month, hoping that I don’t become so horrible that everyone, including my family, finally decides enough is enough.

You may spot Hormone Helen on my Twitter feed now and then. Please say hi to her, give her a hug and then tell her to get the fuck off social media before she hurts herself.


The Frog – Chronic Over-Sharer Ordinaire

* This is a lie.

Honesty, warty frogs and blogging angry

There’s been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere lately about honesty. A few weeks ago I was told by my beautiful friend RedundantMother that I appeared so experienced and published. I hadn’t claimed to be either, and flattering as her comment was, I started to worry.

The fearless Eden Riley blogged about the cost of honesty in her fabulous post here – http://www.edenriley.com/2012/04/taking-hits.html. She talks about honesty in blogging being like putting your best china out there… and risking someone coming along and smashing it.

A few weeks ago my partner, R, suggested I write about how people on the internet produce their “Dinner Party Persona” to the world via Facebook, Twitter and blogging. He feels people aren’t honest about who they are. They only show the good stuff. The stuff that makes them look like mature, concerned, worldly-wise activists/political theorists/insert preferred ist here. Not the tantrums, bad hair days, grumpy arguments, shitty attitudes, and CBF days. They don’t expose themselves, warts and all.

At this point I need to point out that on my Facebook page (the personal one, not the professional one) I AM CONSTANTLY SHOWING THE WORLD MY WARTS. Figuratively speaking. I often whinge and whine on Twitter too. Fess up; you know there are times when my whining is annoying. That’s OK.

People have told me that they keep that stuff off the internet (maybe they don’t have that stuff to start with) as it’s “unprofessional”. That people don’t want to hear about it. That’s not what Facebook etc. are for.

To that I say; bog off. I blather on to express what I need to express. Don’t like it? Unfriend me, or hide my feed. Everyone uses social networking tools for their own reasons and in their own way. You don’t get to tell me how I’m allowed to use mine. Thankyouverymuch.

So, on to blogging. As bloggers, we’re in a quandary, especially if we have professional lives. WHAT IF A CLIENT SEES MY BLOG?! What if they happen across a Facebook comment that shows I’m a human being?! THE WORLD WILL END.

Or not.

I gather that I have a blgging persona. One that doesn’t match my real persona. Or only my Dinner Party Persona. I’m not sure why that is. What am I hiding? Why does R care whether the two things match? I suspect because he feels a bit ripped off that he has to put up with the warts and all version and you readers don’t. I don’t blame him. He has to put up with the warty version of this blogging frog.

So just in case anyone is wondering about the real me, here I am.

I’m almost 44, overweight, my hair is grey. I have chronic health issues that I keep meaning to work on. I drink too much. I have a 7 year old who takes up most of my energy. I hate housework so avoid it. Wherever possible. I hate loud noise. I regularly lose my sense of humour. I get defensive over stupid things that don’t matter. I usually define my self-worth based on the opinions of others. I’m insecure, and sometimes lonely. I have anxiety disorder and have had depression in the past. I’m often angry and irritable.

I’m not a super-experienced writer. I’ve been doing it on and off for 20 years but always dabbling, never putting in the required effort and focus to really call myself a writer. I have trouble dedicating myself to a single idea, for long enough to really do it justice. I’m also lazy.

Most days I feel decidedly UNSPECIAL.

I write because I feel compelled to. Don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s because I reckon I’m fabulous at it.

On days when I’ve felt particularly unspecial I haven’t blogged. I haven’t wanted to blog angry.

I’ve probably missed some smaller pieces of crockery here and there, but that’s most of my china. None of it is particularly precious, so smash away.

Here’s my commitment to you – from now on I won’t self-censor my blog (beyond making sure it make sense and is readable).

I’ll make extra effort to be honest. On days when I feel unspecial, I’ll write regardless.

And Microsoft Word, I don’t care that unspecial is not a word. Add to Dictionary, arsehole.

Have you risked your china lately?