Compromised Immunity

Updated version…..

Its the end of mental health week 2014.
I was listening to Macca – a national program aired every Sunday since forever on ABC radio. A woman called the program from a mental hospital. I’m sure there’s a more PC name, but that’s what she called it. The woman, a solicitor, was in there on a detox from all the prescribed drugs she is on to figure out what side effects went with which medication.
The woman rang because it was mental health week, and because it tends to be non or recovered sufferers that talk about it. Not those in the thick of it.

She had a point. If we can’t tell our story as it’s happening, the truth about mental illness won’t get told. And it won’t get told because of the stigma associated with mental illness.
I thought maybe relating mental illness to something less difficult to accept might create a different understanding and show how ridiculous this stigma is.

Your immune system. You do everything you can to keep it healthy, but because its continually bombarded by germs, occasionally a gap appears and you get a runny nose or headache. Mostly that gap closes before the next gap appears. When multiple gaps appear, that’s when you get really sick. Most of us wouldn’t hesitate seeking help with such a compromised immune system. Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to help those who get really sick, and their families, due to a compromised immune system, without judgement.

Your brain is the same. You can do everything in your power to keep the germs from taking over, but you can’t always win.

Sometimes, leaving a germ filled environment for a more sterile (supportive) place can compromise your immune system. When you go back, the germs are stronger than your immune system.

Some people and events are like shopping trolleys, covered in things like staph that get into your blood and stay there, leaving a permanent gap in your immunity, bubbling to the surface in puss filled lumps when you least expect it, causing complications when you’re injured.

Sometimes, all of this combines to cause you pain nobody else can feel, see or understand. Some even believe its attention seeking.
And, like the ultimate in compromised immunity, cancer, it sneaks up on you, taking you by surprise.

I will relate a very recent experience of mine using this immune system analogy.

If I’d been diagnosed with cancer last week, I’m sure I would have received the care from those closest to me I needed. Including me. There is far less stigma associated with cancer. It is not my intention to belittle cancer. It, like mental illness, can be deadly if not treated. And even when treated, some never recover.

My environment had become infected with negativity and aggression. There has been little immune support. From any of us. Gaps in my immunity would appear, I’d work hard at closing it.
The last six weeks seemed worse than normal.
Evil thoughts of causing myself pain slowly became a daily occurrence. Like a runny nose dripping away.
Events that bordered on full on panic attacks occurred more frequently. Think of these as a fever.
I kept telling myself I could handle it.
I had reason last week to be in a sterile environment, where immune support was prevalent. My immunity fell. I had to return to my infected environment with my compromised immunity.
And so it happened Friday that the last defense of my immune system was compromised by a barrage of bad news germs.

My runny nose and headache were symptoms of a much larger problem that, when ignored, became far worse than it should have been.

I have spent the last two days locked in my bedroom, trying not to spread my disease or make it worse.

For some reason, every man and their dog decided Saturday was the best day to come visit. Had it been any other sort of illness, my weepy red eyes and disheveled look would have been acceptable. The stigma kept me locked away. Some members of my family told the visitors I’d lost the plot and was just chucking a tantrum. An opinion I’m sure would have been different if my problem has been even a cold.

I don’t like the fact I didn’t have the guts to stand up and tell everyone what was going on. This perpetuates the stigma in my opinion.

I realised toward the end of day two that I have a history of these ‘tantrums’ this time of year – my own stay in the mental health ward of the local hospital happened in October – and put what was left of my mind to figuring out why.
It occurred to me my beloved Nan died this month. Its amazing what a search engine will tell you. October 3, 1990. I loved my nan. Her and I were very close. She understood me and the only reason I didn’t follow the usual path of Borderline Personality Disorder sufferers is her. They say BPD runs in the family, and I think she had a sister with it and could see my future. She taught me how to live, and made it OK. In short, she was my rock.

I was 16 when nan died. By then BPD had taken hold. Because any trauma felt by me was internalised, people thought I didn’t care. And I was treated badly because of it. I really didn’t get to grieve. I was made feel like I wasn’t acceptable to others. It was brought up during screaming matches for years after.

Nans death wasn’t a one off sadly. A bit more of a search reminded me of David Wall, a classmate who was killed when his motorbike ran into a truck. That was June 15 the same year. That death was handled very badly by the grownups in my life too.

So, there’s the staph infection, completing the circle.

How I deal with that knowledge, to make it less likely I’ll have another episode like this next October, I do not know. I think I need to let the dust settle here first. Maybe I need to try to mend the family rift that widened with this ‘tantrum’.

I don’t blame people for thinking the way they do about me and my mental illness. They know not what they do.

Another quick point I want to make is this.
I had absolutely no desire to call any of the phone numbers given out in case of mental illness emergency’s. None at all. Or to talk about it with my friends. Some of whom I feel I may have frightened this weekend and for that I am very sorry. I’ve told nobody of my suicidal thoughts. What I’m trying to say is don’t ever feel guilty you didn’t see the signs. Its not your fault. It worries me a little that there’s a huge emphasis on seeing the signs.

And if you know me and you’re reading this, don’t worry. I know what I need to do. And I don’t need to cause myself any more harm. Suicide is not on my to do list. Like a flu, two days in bed have done me the world of good.

I hope this has given you a new perspective on mental illness, and maybe changed the way you think about those around you going through this.

UPDATE
After reading this blog with some clarity, I thought I should clarify some things.
1. Hubby was absolutely beside himself. He had no idea what to. He wasn’t sure if he should call someone or let me be. That wasn’t my observation but that of a couple of friends. On top of that, he still had the farm to run.
2. It certainly wasn’t hubby being so horribly negative about it all.
3. The negativity that has been growing quietly here has been discovered and we have taken steps to fix the problem.

I saw this meme yesterday

How to improve the culture at your office
Rule 1: Be happy
Rule 2: Be awesome
Rule 3: Help others with 1 & 2

This will become a mantra on this farm….

Thanks Greg for that one.

Horror Movies

I don’t watch much television. It can go weeks without being turned on.

Other than not having enough time, I’m often too tired and fall asleep!

We do have Pay TV (cable, subscription) and that’s my beer money! Sometimes I think its an expensive baby sitter or video shop.

We originally had Pay TV connected because we lived in an area that only received two TV channels. It was easier to have a satellite dish installed than borrow videos from 80km’s away.

I love cooking shows, sewing shows, police procedurals and anything crime. Pay TV suits me.

Both hubby and I have become serial junkies though.

It started with Dexter. From the get-go I couldn’t get enough of him! What a brilliant premise – a serial killer that only kills serial killers.

We have watched True Blood from the start because I wouldn’t mind if Alexander Skarsgard bit my neck!

Sons of Anarchy has a pretty good story line too. I can’t wait for that to come back.

There’s a remake of a much loved Aussie serial ‘Prisoner’. It was around in the ’80’s. Its set in a women’s prison. Its now called ‘Wentworth’ and even better than the original. We have both become a bit obsessed!

Last night I (belatedly) found episode one, season two of ‘Orange is the new Black’.

I’m not sure if the protagonist, Piper, was in season one and I’m not sure what she did to end up where she has either. But the show intrigues me enough to consider borrowing season one and watching. In my abundant spare time, of course. If no more blogs turn up in the next week, you’ll know why!

From watching the promo’s I thought ‘Orange is the new Black’ was a comedy. The episode I watched last night could be described as dark humor – the sort of humor I get.

I started to really want to know what Piper did and (spoiler alert!) why she decided to lie under oath to protect her lover.

And then this thought popped into my head….

What would I be willing to go to jail for?

What could I possibly be capable of that a judge would deem me unfit to live in society?

Do I love somebody so much that a life in prison to save them would be ok?

I know if anyone touched my kids they’d be in trouble. I would seriously consider murder, but would I go through with it? Would I believe justice would be served without my intervention?

So many people get away with so much these days, I wonder of the threat of jail is even a deterrent.

For example, animal rights activists break laws all the time by breaking into peoples farms to set up cameras, making death threats, harassment. But not too many of them end up in prison.

A lot of people commit horrific crimes, beating people up, raping. Quite a lot of them are baled until they are sentenced. Some even get away with it.

The area I live in is becoming a bit of a druggy haven. I know of drug dealers who are not only known to the police and walking the streets freely but committing other crimes as well. Obviously they feel they are immune to the system. I don’t blame the honest police either. There is a do-gooder element in our judicial system that suits the corrupt police. All t’s must be crossed, all i’s dotted.

And is it that bad a life in prison? I believe it would be for me! But if you live on the streets and three meals a day is a rarity and a bed with sheets is unheard of? Or if your fellow gang members are in there and you can just continue on living like you were? To receive medical attention including for chronic illnesses, TV, education….there are times when I joke about it!

Could I spend the next 20-25 in a cell with someone else and one toilet?

I doubt it!

But the big question I found myself asking me was what has happened to society as a whole that makes it OK to have shows that ‘glorify’ drug use, gang mentality and completely amoral behavior?

This is just my opinion – I think that journalists keep putting more and more shocking images and words together. It has normalized violent behavior. I wonder if the images of dead people laying in the streets of war ravaged countries would have been shown 40 years ago. Are we becoming desensitized by these ‘news’ reports? Is death and destruction not just in wars overseas but in our own ‘war on drugs’, ‘war on gangs’ etc. becoming so commonplace we’ve lost the ability to feel distressed by what other ‘humans’ do to people? Are we becoming victims of the ‘Horror Movie’ Skyhooks sang about all those years ago?

When I was a child I was terrified the police would come and put me in jail for misbehaving. I was taught right from wrong, good from bad, the difference between a good decision and a bad one, consequences for actions both positive and negative. It didn’t stop me from pushing the envelope at times! But I knew where to stop. Others I know didn’t and paid the price.

Is it because of the morals instilled as a child?

We had a daughter ring us from school and inform us she wasn’t coming home. She was going to live with a friend. She is my step daughter but I have always treated her as one of my own. While her parents were bickering I took it upon myself to be the parent her and her brother needed. I taught them all the things I had been taught. So even though she lost her way, what I had given her as a moral compass guided her and she didn’t end up where a lot of these kids do. Doesn’t mean she didn’t have a go, though! She even thanked me for being so ‘tough’ on her and often try’s to tell her 13 year old sister that I am not the bully I’m made out to be.

A lot of it is blamed on TV. That shows like Breaking Bad have caused an increase in meth labs for example. I don’t know really. I haven’t seen an increase in bikey activity since SOA came out. Or an outbreak of serial killers dying. Or vampires taking over the streets. Watching Law and Order – SVU hasn’t made me want to abuse a child or rape a woman. Watching shows and reading books on Ivan Millat hasn’t turned me into a sadist. And I became pretty obsessed with Ivan!

What I do see is children believing the idyllic life they witness on sitcoms and tweeny shows is the way life is. No responsibilities, doing whatever you want, having the best most supportive friends, perfect skin, perfect body, perfect grades without any work, money never being a problem.

And I do believe there is a link between video games and violence. If you’re involved in the killing of humans on a regular basis where no real emotion is felt by the victim it has to effect  your mind. At least in paintball you can see the bruises on your friends!

I worry for the future of our children. Our society is increasingly becoming more about rights and less about responsibility. That a 14 year old child has the right to call us and say she’s not coming home from school but we as responsible parents don’t have the right to turn up and remove her from an unsafe situation has to got to be seriously looked at.

That someone who has raped and murdered before can be released from jail to do it again because it isn’t right to keep people locked up can’t ever be considered the right.

I hope the fact we don’t let our children watch copious amounts of TV – they can go days without watching it – and that they both have jobs on our farm and rules they have to abide by will help make them hard working adults who contribute positively to the world. But our way of parenting seems to be the exception these days.

Maybe I do seem hard on my kids to the outside world. Maybe they are deprived in some ways. But they know they’re loved and have a safe place to come to and people who will go in to bat for them when required. And that none of that came from a TV show.

If kids came with a manual, I’m sure the first instruction would be turn the bloody TV off and spend time getting to know your kids!

I don’t have the answers. I wish I did! Our world has been filled with violence since the beginning of recorded history. When or if it will ever stop, I don’t know.

What I do know is this. TV has less to do with our children’s – and society as a wholes – behavior than people give it credit for. If the idyllic idea isn’t reinforced then it won’t be reality. Its up to us as parents to create the world we want for our children by teaching our children its up to them to create the world they want to live in and give them the tools to achieve it.

 

 

Daily Prompt – Object Lesson

Sherlock Holmes had his pipe. Dorothy had her red shoes. Batman had his Batmobile. If we asked your friends what object they most immediately associate with you, what would they answer?

That’s easy – my phone! The very piece of technology I’m using to answer this question!

My phone is my lifeline to the outside world.

Farming and particularly dairy farming can be isolating. A friend of mine posted on Facebook the other day “Dairy farming – ruining social lives since forever!”

The long hours and the need to be there 24/7/365 puts a dampener on most outings. Just as you settle in you need to go home to milk. By the time you’re done you’re too tired to bother and you know you have to get up in the morning and do it all again.

So my social life is really social media!

I discovered Facebook a long time after my friends did. I’m still not convinced, but it has its place.

Twitter has been my true savior! I have found kindred spirits there I would never have known existed. There’s a different type of person on Twitter, but how and why I can’t tell you. It suits my because I think that’s how I talk. 140 characters, straight to the point.

Twitter is where I’ve learnt about dairy farms in different parts of Australia and the world, discovered activism and most importantly found out what a blog was!

Its where I found my ‘home’.

Its the place that I can go for a serious conversation about the goings on in the world or find some bubblegum for my mind.

I have met some of the people I ‘know’ on Twitter. The most extraordinary thing is its like we’ve known each other for years. Its something I’ve written about before.

I do talk to people I know! I text a lot. By a lot I mean A LOT! Its how I and my busy friends get our information out in a way that doesn’t impose. I can ask a question, make a statement, invite or just update in a way that doesn’t stop my friends from doing whatever it might be they’re doing. They can answer when they’re ready. Also gives people time to think before they answer. 

I do make or take the odd actual voice call too!

Without my phone I’d be lost!

Daily Prompt – Nosey Delights

From the yeasty warmth of freshly baked bread to the clean, summery haze of lavender flowers, we all have favorite smells we find particularly comforting. What’s yours?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a peaceful, lush and at the time, isolated place called Nowendoc.

Our 900 acres of hilly beef cattle country is bordered to the west by a State Forest. My parents still have a 99 year perpetual lease on 300 acres within the boundaries of the forest where we used to put mature cows to winter. I say used to because they don’t put any stock there now. Too many have gone missing with the only trace being horseshoe marks in soft soil.

When I was a child I was a loner.

At school I spent my lunchtime reading in an out of bounds area which the principal ignored (she got me).

At home I spent my daylight hours on a horse.

I would catch my horse on the weekend in the morning, might come in for lunch, but mostly I’d get home with enough time for my horse to dry off before the cool night arrived.

These are the days that my nosey delights come from.

If I think hard and breath deep, I can smell…

The sweet smell of my horse, slightly sweaty.

The earthy scent of freshly disturbed humus rich soil.

A whiff of musty honey near a native bee nest.

The occasional stench of death.

I think the one I miss the most is the smell of a summer storm rolling in from the west.

I would feel the air pressure change and my excitement would build.

There would be a rumble of thunder you could feel as much as you could hear.

A waft of earthy scent building to the glorious and unique smell of our native eucalypt forest that I’ve never smelt anywhere else.

Slowly, the fresh smell if the rain mingled with the forest, cleaning the air.

These are the smelly memories of my childhood.

My happy place.

CTFD And The Duck Effect

I have battled with my mind (you can read about that here if you haven’t already) and its little quirks all my life. It’s on only relatively recently though that I’ve learnt to manage these quirks.

It was two meetings yesterday that showed me how far I’ve come!

The first was a meeting of the local Dairy Advancement Group.

For various reasons this group had lost its way but thankfully enough people could see the value of such a group to make an effort to refocus the intent and call a planning meeting.

I’ve been part of the industry for six years but have only just started going to these meetings.

I haven’t gone in the past for a lot of reasons. The meetings tended to clash with places I needed to be for kids. Or we had farm work to do. Or I just wasn’t informed the meetings were on.

But the big one was I didn’t believe I belonged or deserved to be there.

What forced my hand was a good friend who has worked tirelessly to encourage youth into the industry was having a crisis of confidence herself and I went to support her.

So I went to my second meeting yesterday.

I went again to support my friend, but realised I had ideas and insights to offer.

I listened and sat on what I had to offer and really fought with myself….

Do I open my mouth and offer my thoughts?

Am I worthy of such an input into the future of this group considering I didn’t have a past with it?

Would I be taken seriously?

I have applied for a job with our state body. As I listened to some of the political side I started to really panic, telling myself I had no idea and what did I think I was doing applying for this job and I wouldn’t cope and what if what if what if….

Then the convenor asked for my input. That nearly brought me completely undone!

By this stage I was hoping what I call the duck effect was working.

What’s the duck effect? On the surface, calm, floating peacefully. Underneath, paddling like a crazy!

My heart was pounding, headed toward my throat. I could feel the shaking and struggled to control it. I was starting to get the cold sweats. The occasional blurry vision (for want of a better term) thing occurred. My hearing, at times, sounded like I was in a tunnel.

Panic attack.

I have spent the last three years building an internal support system for panic attacks. Thankfully.

I call it CTFD therapy.

Calm The Fuck Down!

I managed to get CTFD to kick in, though I spent the entire meeting being that duck.

Towards the end of the meeting they were talking about building our ‘brand’, not just locally but world wide. The convenor, who knows my social media experience, kept looking a me and then kept dropping my name into the conversation as the person who could build our brand on social media.

Big responsibility in my mind. Huge in fact.

CTFD kicked in again.

I decided I would challenge this crisis I was having.

I put my hand up and told the meeting I have the skills and the experience to make this work if you want it. The convenor backed me up.

I was still that duck, but was excited. Not only had I lived (a serious question I ask myself when this happens because I do feel like I might die), I have a new project to sink my teeth into. Its not going to be an easy project. I need to drag old school people into a global life.

But I’m really looking forward to it!

After a stressful six hours you’d think home would be where I needed to be. It was. But hubby and I had been invited to a meet and greet for the new combined version of our stock and land management bodies, the Local Land Services. As it turned out, hubby couldn’t go.

I’d met the lady organising the meet and greet at the recent Dairy Research Symposium. She mentioned they were having this meet and greet and asked for my email address so she could invite me when dates and venues were confirmed.

I assumed a lot of farmers would be invited.

I walked up to the venue, where there’s a large window looking into the bar, and saw suits. Lots of suits. And women dressed very business like.

No farmers.

But I lifted my head, put my shoulders back, and became that duck again!

Oh boy! Talk about fish out of water!

I was, though, pleasantly surprised how many of the suits I knew. And how some of them were actually interested in my opinion.

Again with the big responsibility.

Again with the panic attack trying to take hold.

Again CTFD kicked in.

Again I became the duck.

Three years ago I wouldn’t have walked into the room.

After sleeping on it and therefore calming right down, I can see clearly how far I’ve come.

I am proud. Very proud!