livingwithablackdog

sit. stay. good boy.

Boxing 14/05/2012

I sit here in the living room of a place that I moved into a couple of days ago surrounded by half unpacked boxes.  Behind me is the TV … I wanted to watch Bones last night, but do you think I could find the cords for the antenna or power? Nope.  I did find the ordinary drinking glasses that I was determined to unearth the evening before.  Eventually (after Bones was over) I did find the cords … in a shoe box that the removalists conveniently placed on the TV unit (duh! I had just put a stack of papers on top of it).  This is what happens when you are too busy to do all of the packing yourself and get the movers to help with the packing!  I know exactly what is in the boxes I packed … they’re also labeled with more than the room that they were packed in.  I am in the process of washing every bit of linen that I own because everything has been in storage for a couple of months in cardboard boxes and a lot of it has been wrapped around sundry items for padding … it all smells musty.  The clothes from storage will all need ironing before I wear them (although the were bagged in somewhat more smell-proof containment for the most part so don’t all need the wash fest …

It strikes me that life is a bit like this.  It’s all a bit of a journey.  We can mark time for ages and not feel like we’re going anywhere and yet be changing all the time; we can be going backward, or round in circles … or other times our world shifts and we have to figure out what to do with everything that we have and all that we are.  The things that we think are important get re-sorted and stored differently and things find new places.  Some things it is hard to fit.  Other places leave vast holes.  Some things about our new places lack things we really liked about our old worlds, yet there are things that perhaps are vast improvements and what we would wish for might be a mixture of both … but a journey doesn’t allow that.  We must leave one place in order to go to the next and then to keep moving onwards.

This is what the process of living with Depression has been like for me.  When I discovered that this was what was going on in me and that it was not going to resolve itself and just go away my whole world shifted.  Dreams died.  Hopes were broken.  My heart broke.  I needed to learn how to travel a different journey.  It has been a long road, and the path has not followed the course that I thought it would, but I find that perhaps broken hopes heal and perhaps dreams don’t need to die after all.  Perhaps they look a little different to the glorious picture that they once were.  Perhaps they are now more humble.  The journey is not over, it is a life long one … there is always room to grow and that includes the times where health is not great.  My heart has been healing and knows joy.

In the mean time, I unpack my boxes and place my bits and pieces in their new homes for this next leg of the journey.

Now … if only I could find the play doh …

(and the camera)

 

I Resolve 15/01/2012

Filed under: Mindfulness & the Senses — jillnottelten @ 3:31 pm
Tags: , ,

I resolve to make a resolution.

It will not be a grand one.

It will be simple.

Something that I can stick to – but not trivial.

It will have meaning – but not mean the world to me (or anyone else for that matter).

It will be inspiring, though.  Something that will make me feel better for having stayed my course.

Yes.  Simple but hope filling.

It will be something that will make me feel alive.

It will need to be something that can be easy to keep – and yet a challenge as well.

I could spend a year making a resolution like that.

Perhaps this year I shall simply resolve to breathe …

… and not take every breath for granted.

 

It’s Not Fair 18/12/2011

Filed under: Experiencing Depression — jillnottelten @ 1:00 pm
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It’s one of the first things children learn to say.

“It’s not fair!”

It could be.

It might be.

It might not be.

Lots of the time it’s not.

I was picturing life as fair a couple of weeks ago.

There was an endless row of storks lined up for miles on end, each with its very special bundle to deliver.

Each bundle was allocated – not necessarily the same things but things of the same weight and number.

So each stork took on ‘x’ amount of tragedy and ‘y’ amount of suffering and ‘b’ amount of joy and ‘c’ amount of strengths and ‘m’ proportion of weaknesses.  And then there was a minimum space indicator allocated for tragedies and suffering – so they couldn’t come on top of each other – because “fair” – as we all know – allows time for healing.  And each of these little bundles then was given a special value key that they would hold each other’s strengths and weaknesses, joys and sufferings, tragedies and so forth as as valuable or important as their own.

But life’s not like that.

Storks are impatient creatures.

They fly out when they’re good and ready and often when the load’s not ready to go.

And tragedies and suffering, joy and strength and weakness don’t get dished out in measured helpings at nice comfortable intervals either.

No.  Life’s not fair.

It’s not really designed to be.

In lots of ways we’d be a lot more content if we all stopped looking for fair.

Sure, I think that we should act in a way that is decent and even-handed to others when we get the choice … but there will always be someone who thinks that a choice wasn’t fair.

Why do I have treatment resistant Depression?  I don’t know.  Essentially because I had brain surgery for an aneurysm that they found.

Would it be more fair if it hadn’t been found and I’d have died in tact in my mid-20s?

What sort of question is that?  Both were possibilities.  Neither seem ‘fair’ to people who love me or my family.

Do we have to remain in some kind of pristine condition for things to be ‘fair’ then?

How old do you have to be before it is ‘fair’ for your body to start deteriorating?

No, if we go by what we usually think of as ‘fair’ then almost nothing is fair.

I don’t think life is designed to be fair.

I think it’s about growing and letting ourselves learn from the things we encounter.

I’ve met quite a lot of people who have been through a lot who are wise.

I think that they’ve learned what they could from the hard times and the scars that they’ve left.

So I’ve set my sights anew.

I want to be wise.

(but maybe by learning efficiently, not by having too many lessons????)

 

 

Apologies for a long absence

Filed under: My Black Dog — jillnottelten @ 8:57 am
Tags: , ,

Good Morning, good evening and good night.

Apologies to all for a long absence.  I have been running around in circles.

Miserable circles.

Busy circles.

Changing circles.

Family circles.

Circles of decision.

Circles of despair.

Circles of relief.

Circles of exhaustion.

Circles for lack of direction.

But I think that I have finally found where I am going.

The dog is back on his leash.

This is merely a short entry to promise more and that I will be back – probably later today and will catch up with the people I regularly visit and have been neglecting shortly.  I have been very short of energy for anything over the course of the last few weeks.

More later.  And that is a promise …

Jill

 

Renovations & Powa Toolz 25/11/2011

 

Regulars might recognise some familiar faces in the photos below.

 

 

 

 

 

The latest news is that the house is being renovated. Construction of the new wing has progressed thus far:

The house extended

 

 

The rear wall is to be replaced with the potential addition of windows. The new wing will include a front door and windows.  The indoor walls remain unsecured and no front wall exists because I failed to purchase the correct type of nail (bullet head 25mm) last time I was at the hardware shop.  I need to return sometime over the weekend to collect further supplies for another project so that should be corrected soon …

The roof as planned - notice if you will the beautifully level 45deg cuts at the edge of the eaves!

The outside shall be repainted a resplendent shade of white, while the roof the product of many hours of problem solving and labour shall need to be redesigned (original model included eaves which limit opening area for the house) and will eventually be painted a lovely cottage green.  The original stain and varnish mix ran out and there is not enough to paint the extension.  As a point of trivia, the main house was constructed principally by two boys, aged 10 and 12 who took sheer delight in wielding (with their mother’s comfortable permission and my trepidation) my power drill and hand saw, PVA glue, hammer and nails and delighted in painting on the stain.  Their 8-year-old sister and 5 1/2 year old brother undertook the interior decorating (neither their mother or I were brave enough to entrust them with the bigger tools). The indoor walls yet unpainted could wind up any one of a number of neutral to more warm happy colours or be covered in wall paper (the lower half of the green room that usually serves as a kitchen will almost certainly be softened by a half-length of wall paper.  Beyond this … we shall see.

Curtains are as yet unplanned and await decisions about window placement and paint.  Carpet and tiles await in readiness. The Black Dog and populace await their new home with bated breath (while I look forward to watching visiting kids play with the doll house.  My niece is especially fond of removing the mermaids from the bath toy collection and populating the house with these).

My other project is something that I have undertaken just because I figured that I could make one and because I know I’ll use it.  I was sure I could.  I worked out how.  Then I even found a DIY leaflet at the local hardware centre that agreed with my plan!  So I am making my very first home-made book-case.  We shall see how it turns out! It should be extra good, because as an added improvement, while I have been building I have acquired a ROUTER (gotta love the power tools!) and so I shall be setting my shelves into the upright pieces of wood.  I cut the groove straight across both pieces side by side to make sure that I got them at the same height when I measured them all up – so it should work.

Learning....

Time will tell.  I now only have to get the pine lining for the back – they only had bendy bits left when I was buying wood the other day and that would have made slotting the wood together near on impossible – so I decided to go back when they got more in.  Plan is to do a layer of stain before construction so there’s no pokey little corners.  Construct, then one or two more coats of stain depending on what the pigment does.  Finally, I’ll finish it up with some estapol with a nice satin finish.

Next one I make I won’t space the shelves evenly though, I’ll make a couple taller and shrink a couple so that it will hold folders and such.  This one is just for books so it’ll do.

Shelves

 

What do you do with the Shockers?

Yes, I am still here.  Still living, breathing and blogging.  Just fell victim to a couple of very shocking weeks (interspersed with some lovely moments, but very few and far between).

This week I’ve barely been able to tolerate daylight, let alone the computer screen – migraine like I have not had in a long time since my medication includes migraine voodoo concoctions … but … amidst my Barry Crocker of a week the week before and the ensuing weekend I became a bit disoriented and missed a couple of doses of my meds, hence the hole in the firewall (just to mix some more metaphors).  Yesterday I went to the GP to get a medical certificate for work and stopped at the shopping centre on the way home.  Talk about sensory overload!  My world had not yet totally stopped spinning so I had this strange spacey kind of sensation as I was walking, the noises were louder and more jarring, lights and colours still bright, smells still sharp.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

Work has been crazy and exhausting trying to manage the politics and dynamics within the office.  Don’t get me wrong – I like my job.  If only work could just be about going and doing your job and coming home again, what a relief it would be!  But there are systems and other people that one has to navigate to do one’s job.  Equipment that one and space one has to somehow get adequate access to do it.  Preferably in a way that lets you stay well without creating more stress than is necessary – which is where the battle lies at present for me.  At present it seems that I am destined to bang my head against a brick wall and progress nowhere and to endure life in the office that gets claimed by miscellaneous team members to serve as their staff room – while my office buddy and I are trying to work in it!!!

But alas!  These are not healthy things to dwell upon.  The goal is to work out how to attack and push through.  I had thought that we had had a strategy for the work one, but it is back to the drawing board on that one next week as it looks like this is rapidly fading into embers.

At present I am struggling not to dwell on the difficulties of the last few weeks.  I grew frustrated that my usual seasonal dip in mood was dragging on longer than usual, but didn’t really look beyond it for other triggers until much too late.  Sitting down with a friend a couple of weeks ago to go over what had been happening clarified things a lot more for me.  One of the reasons that I am so focussed on work issues over the past couple of weeks has come about because through sitting down and working through my usual triggers and warning signs with my friend revealed that my workplace is simply loaded with triggers.  There is little wonder that I have been struggling to emerge from my usual brief decline and regathering of mood.

It’s so easy to forget to go back to the basics when one gets busy.  I can sort of see why Mary Ellen Copeland, the woman who designed the WRAP suggested that going over triggers and warning signs should be something that someone should do daily to prevent relapse.  I’m not sure that I would ever go to daily, but I do know that I need to be going over my WRAP a lot more frequently than I do.  The whole point of knowing one’s triggers and warning signs is so that you can be alert to them.  It’s one thing to know them – but so easy to miss them unless you’re really watching.

So – What do you do with the shockers?  Do you beat yourself up over them?  There’s no point in that.  To me, it seems you need to do is stand back and detach a little.  Stand in the moment.  Not the future.  Not the past.  Just the moment.  Examine – and for me, it helps if I can find someone to help me stay in perspective … at least to get me going – and learn.  This helps me to see cause and effect relationships; it helps me to learn and relearn trip hazards; it helps me see things specifically rather than looming ghouls and it leaves room to remember that there were a couple of good moments in the last fortnight too.

From there I can start with a plan.  If the plan needs adjusting, then so-be-it, but perhaps – just, perhaps … next week can be a bit better …

Please.

 

Do You Tell Your Boss? 13/11/2011

If you have a mental illness do you tell your boss?

Are you obliged to tell your boss?  Why or why not?

With discrimination rife in society and difficulty getting friends and family to understand what you are going through, what are your greatest fears in the workplace? Or the study environment?  Or wherever it is you spend most of your productive time?

Does your illness affect your ability to do your job at times?  In what ways?

Does your boss know?  Do any of your colleagues? What led to them finding out?

Whether you are studying or working always consider ahead of time whether you are prepared to disclose your illness.  If your current position is non-disclosure, consider carefully any occasions which might arise which might make it more necessary and under what circumstances you may disclose if at all.

Disclosure is always best done in a planned manner.  You should have some idea what you are going to say, how you want to say it and how you are going to explain its relevance to your work.  If you need some adjustments to your work conditions or some time off, it is best for you to come to your boss with some options that you have considered and reasons for your request.  You need your boss to understand that you wish to be healthy and productive as possible and are trusting them so that they are able to best support you to reach a goal that is in both of your best interests.  A large proportion of ‘Western’ countries, including Australia, provide legislation to support your right to this.

When you plan what to disclose think in terms of how you are affected by your mental illness more than your diagnosis.  You may, in fact decide to disclose only the effects of your illness and not your diagnosis, stating that you have “a condition that affects …”.  You may identify symptoms or you may simply describe what it does to you and how that affects your work eg my condition means that I have less energy than I used to have.  This means that I have to be careful how I plan my time and that I have to take holidays at regular intervals throughout the year to maintain stable health.  I need to be careful to use my meal breaks and leave on time so that I don’t become over-tired.  Or my condition means that I need to take medication.  When I change medications, sometimes I am more sleepy than usual and over-sleep or become very drowsy in the afternoons.  Sometimes my speech even gets slurred and I sound a little intoxicated.  So if I’m changing medications I need to take a week off, otherwise I find that I’m coming to work late all week and I sound as though I’m tipsy for half the afternoon and I don’t get much done and am at risk of making faulty decisions or overlooking things because my head is all foggy – especially in the first few days.  After that I will be fine at work again, but might over-sleep a couple of times in the 2-3 weeks afterwards while my body gets used to the new meds.  It doesn’t happen very often.  I’ve only needed to do it 2 or 3 times, but each time I’ve been glad that I did.

You do not need to disclose specify personal or medical information if you tell them about anything at all.

You should also think about when to disclose.  That is – when you are applying for a job, before a job interview, during the interview, after you have been offered the job and before starting, during the time you are employed after you have worked there for a while, if you become unwell and need to or never.  There are pros and cons of disclosing at each point of the way.  Sometimes your circumstances will have presented you with little choice to prevent awkwardness – you may have become unwell at work and have it become obvious that something was wrong or you may have symptoms that you are aware will soon become obvious if arrangements aren’t made to cater for your needs.  Again, despite prejudice and stigma in some places you have legal rights to have your needs and confidentiality met and protected within your workplace in most western countries.  Further, in Australia at least, if you become unwell because the employer failed to attend to your needs having been made aware of them, you are entitled to compensation under work cover.  It is however, worth serious consideration whether or not you are going to disclose because unfortunately discrimination does still happen and there are people who do fail to respect privacy and you never know where they are until you find them.

Some helpful things to consider at each stage of the employment continuum.

Prior to interview

Why you might …

  • You are able to to discuss the organisations policies and support resources when exploring the prospective position
  • You are able to get an idea about your employer’s predisposition to your needs from the word go.
  • If you have restrictions on any key job criteria due to temporary limitations because of recent relapse/graded hours return to work plans.

Examples of Why you might not …

  • Risk of discrimination influencing whether or not you get an interview.
  • No work related needs arising from your mental illness.
  • You don’t believe that they need to know/believe it irrelevant to job.

At the job interview

Why you might …

  • You are able to address people after creating a positive impression of yourself and demonstrating your capability.
  • You can gauge their understanding of your meaning and clarify appropriate questions about your needs.
  • You are able to discuss with the employer positive traits that you bring to the team that you have learned through your journey of recovery.
  • You are able to discuss your needs and what your potential employer would be able to accommodate or explore during the interview process.
  • You can brief them as to whether your referees are aware of your condition and how it affects your work and offer consent to discuss previous workplace arrangements with other employers if they have gone well.

Why you might not …

  • Risk of discrimination in job selection.
  • You don’t feel that you have needs that require accommodating or can manage them without support from your employer.
  • You might worry about where information gathered by panel members will go and whether people are trustworthy to maintain your privacy.
  • Concern that even if you get this job, opportunities for advancement could be limited by poor understanding of your illness.
  • You might be well and consider it unnecessary at this point in time.
  • You might not want to distract the panel from thinking about your abilities by talking about areas of need.

When contacted with an offer of employment

Why you might …

  • You are able to discuss your needs without risk of missing out on the job due to discrimination.
  • You can arrange to enter the work place with a plan in place that accommodates your employment needs and commence as you mean to continue.
  • If required and with your consent, the employer can arrange appropriate mental health sensitivity workshops for managers or staff by organisations such as Beyond Blue or circulate general anti-stigma/population health information among routine organisation circulars, yet not make it obvious that it was for your benefit.
  • Allow development of appropriate support and mentoring systems.

Why you might not …

  • Fear of stigma, gossip and/or discrimination.
  • Currently well and don’t feel that you are affected at work.
  • Work does not need to know.
  • Protection of positive image and opportunity for advancement.

During the course of your employment

Why you might …

  • You decide that your employer is trustworthy.
  • You become unwell.
  • You encounter difficulties or are not performing to standard because of symptoms or medication side effects and need to offer reasonable explanation or require support, alternate work arrangements or time off for medication reviews etc.
  • You are being harassed or bullied.

Why you might not …

  • It might not be necessary.
  • Protection of positive image and opportunities for advancement.
  • It might result in harassment and discrimination.
  • You are able to manage your needs without workplace support.

Never disclosing

Why you might …

  • Protection from gossip and discrimination.
  • Protection of positive image and opportunity
  • Privacy
  • Stable health
  • Lack of necessity

Why you might not …

  • Difficult to prove entitlement to compensation in case of illness, relapse or deterioration due to failure of workplace to meet needs for psychological health if they were not disclosed.
  • Relapse or need for hospitalisation might put your job at risk.
  • Might discover a positive attitude to mental health issues within workplace.
  • Legal obligations under occupational health and safety act where specific work related tasks are affected resulting in serious risk issues.

What did I do about disclosure to my employer with my job?

For me it was simple.  I told mine.  I disclosed at interview.  I felt that this was necessary because I had taken my previous job without learning to manage my mental health well and my references would have reflected that in the answers to some of the standard questions that interviewers ask referees no matter how careful the referees were.  I chose to take control of this situation at the time of my interview because having reached interview I could present myself as a competent individual in person, demonstrate that I was healthy and create a positive impression before and whilst disclosing.  I also needed to disclose because I wanted to work less hours than the position entailed and needed to offer a good explanation.  I told them that I had depression, how it affected me in terms of energy levels, concentration, seasonal patterns, medication changes and how I managed these things to be able to work.  I spoke of arrangements that I had previously made with my former employer that had been helpful and asked if they would be amenable to such strategies.  I also used the opportunity to tell them things that I had learned and accomplished through the experience of working, the determination and dedication that it entailed and the commitment to my job that resulted so that I could achieve personal satisfaction through working.  In my case this had a positive effect and outcome, although it doesn’t always.  I don’t disclose before I have the chance at interview to sit down and talk with the employer so that I can get a gauge on how they are reading what I am telling them and to avoid preconceived assumptions about what I will be like that are difficult to shift.  There are always risks associated with disclosure, but my reasoning is that if they are going to discriminate when I am well, I would rather not have to deal with them if I were to relapse.

When I am in the workplace I lay low for a while and watch what goes on around me.  As long as they are not untrustworthy, I tell someone if they are closely and directly affected by my health so that they are not left in the dark if I have to take leave at short notice.  That’s usually only one or two people.  Often they are among the first to notice that I am off my game,  so it can work in my favour because when someone who I work closely with starts asking if I’m okay and comments that I’m not myself before I notice anything, it gives me a cue to step back and check my early warning signs and triggers.  Over the course of years there have been a couple of people who have learned how to pick my good and bad days at least as well as I do myself and also to support and accommodate me through the bad ones and to lean on me in return when I’m good.  I’m pretty limited in what I disclose to start with, but with proof of worthiness comes more trust.

My current situation in my new workplace is new to me.  I have always had employers who were fiercely protective of my privacy before.  I have little in the way of evidence about my current manager, only the report of one other worker about two specific occasions of breached privacy.  I have, however worked in a place where it has been possible to work with my information kept private and so I am prepared to stand for my rights in both privacy and in workplace accommodation now.  If I expect the respect of others, there may be times that I need to stand up and remind them what it entails.  This is however new to me and the workplace is one with strange dynamics.

I have included in the Fact Sheets menu this week a document called “Choosing Your Path.  Disclosure: It’s a Personal Decision“.  It’s about disclosure of ‘disability’ (or illness) in education and training after High School and employment and the processes of application, entry and engaging in the roles.  The booklet discusses legal issues, reasons why one may or may not disclose at various stages of training or employment, responsibilities and some of the considerations to ponder in making your decision.  Also have a look around the Beyond Blue website as they have a number of resources for work sites and managers as well as fact sheets about telling your employer about your illness and maintaining good mental health for tertiary education students.  Lastly, I have listed a book called “Tackling Depression at Work” in the Books menu.  I’ve not yet read this one, but it was written by reliable people and has been well reviewed so should be worth a read.  I have listed the book at the publisher’s site, you may or may not be able to find it cheaper elsewhere if it interests you greatly.

 

 
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