Friday, September 09, 2011

Things I know: About Not Being Okay...

Do you see that bright little button at the top of the right column over there? It looks like this:

Cute isn't it? You might be wondering what that is all about. You might have seen the ads on the television about it and have some idea, but still be wondering why I'd have it on my blog. This post will explain all!

In the past couple of weeks I'd noticed a few people talking about this campaign, especially the lovely Gemma over at My Big Nutshell, so I asked her about it, and she sent me an email outlining the purpose of this campaign: to raise awareness about mental illness and to encourage people to really ask their friends and loved ones, "Are you okay?"

"How are ya?" is one of those classic Aussie phrases most of us hear every day and "Yeah, I'm good" is the most common response. Sometimes people say, "Yeah, I'm good" even when they're not good, out of habit, or because they know it's not really a question so much as a common greeting. Sometimes, people who are not at all okay go unnoticed because no one looks them in the eye, puts a hand on their arm and says with meaning, "Are you okay?"

It can be hard to ask this question. Most of us know from experience at some point, that asking this question can sometimes lead to a flood of tears as the person we ask is prompted to ask themselves "Am I okay?" and suddenly realise - maybe even for the first time - that they are not. That they have been bottling it all up and just getting on with life - keeping busy to avoid facing the gaping hole in their gut that is sucking them dry from the inside out.

I've lived with anxiety and depression for many years. Probably since I was a little girl, maybe even from toddlerhood - I can't remember. I just know that anxiety is normal for me, and depression visits on and off and sometimes stays a while and makes itself at home - and it's a messy houseguest.

It's been a while since depression came to stay, and when I read Gemma's email, I thought - yep, cool, I'll post about the R U OK campaign and encourage people to have meaningful conversations with their family and friends because it might help someone else acknowledge the pain they are living with, I know what that feels like, it used to be me.

Then I let it sit. I blogged about all sorts of other stuff. I was busy. I was so busy I failed to take notice when I cried about not being able to call my dad for Father's Day. I failed to take notice when I cried over submissions to Words on Wednesdays. I failed to take notice when I cried because I found out Blogger stats are flawed and overestimate page views, so my page views were about 40% lower than I had thought - and been excited about - man, you would have thought crying over statistics was BIG CLUE!

Last night I had an anxiety attack because today is free dress day at the boys' school and instead of a gold coin donation, parents were asked to send 4th graders with some kind of cooking related item (apron, cookbook, etc), and preppies with some kind of beauty product (hand lotion, make up, etc). These items had to be unused. As we don't have funds to buy surplus to requirement, we had nothing at home to offer. We also have less than no money until the first week of October (mother-in-law will have to buy food for us next fortnight) so couldn't afford to buy things for this donation drive.

I had an anxiety attack over my kids not being able to participate in free dress day, which led to anxiety about how they don't participate in so much of what their peers do - like computers games - because I have anxiety about their brains not developing properly. Which led to anxiety about the boys future high school which (like so many high schools now) is moving to an IT based teaching system and the boys being leased their own laptops to use at home as well. It felt like we were being forced to let our kids be on computers all day long, and risk their brains not developing properly and when I posted my fears on Twitter, people seemed to react as if I was accusing them of bad parenting and got all defensive. So then I had anxiety about pissing people off and being viewed as overly paranoid as well. Even writing about it now is giving me more anxiety because it feels like I shouldn't be concerned, so then I wonder what's wrong with me that I can't embrace this change happily the way so many other parents do.

Then someone asked, "You okay?"

The flood of tears became a tsunami at that point because it finally, finally dawned on me that I am not okay.

I realised that I feel like an abject failure as a parent, as a wife, as a writer, as a blogger, as a friend, as a daughter. I feel like I struggle to shine and instead I fall flat on my face unable to even get to the starting line of what is considered acceptable.

This has been a long time coming and the reasons are many and very complex, but this is what I know about not being okay and how just being asked that question can open flood gates, but also open doors to that may lead to being okay again.

That is a gift you can give someone today.

If you're experiencing a mental health crisis at the moment
contact Lifeline on 13 11 14

I'm linking up with Yay for home! for "Things I know".


Cherie @ 'a baby called Max' said...

Oh, my gosh!

Wish I could give you a big hug.

I'm a nurse, and work in mental health, and ask people if they're ok all the time, which has made me good at asking people if they're ok in my own life, and even good at asking myself if I am ok.

I have learnt that it's best to ask this question as regularly as possible, because every now & then, we all need someone to ask that, so that we can release a flood of tears, or get a hug that we've so desperately needed, and just talk about what's bothering us.

Release feels so damn good!

As for your twitter conversation, I thought it was a fantastic point that I completely agreed with. Maybe some people have their own insecurities? And maybe they took it out on you (unfair, but people can do that).

And as for stats, who cares. I'd prefer one loyal reader over a ga-zillion twitter induced hits. And I've only recently found your blog, and adore it. You're a beautiful writer, and you make me think :)

Keep doing what you're doing, and don't forget toast yourself occasionally if you're ok :)

P.S I let my iPad autocorrect 'occasionally' just then because I couldn't remember if it had two s' or one :) and that's the perfect point you verbalized last night, computers can make us lazy xx

Jayne said...

*hugs* I'm so sorry you are feeling shitty :-( Depression and anxiety suck massive donkey dick :( I'm also sorry that the Twitter convo last night made you feel bad :-( I totally get triggers like that-I know if I start reacting to stuff online for example (which I often do btw) it's probably time to step back a bit. That's just *me* personally, not saying that's what you should do! Looking at this post you sound overwhelmed to me, like maybe you're trying to do too much-which can cause us to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves. (I'm familiar with that as well!) Would taking a week off from blogging, or writing for example make you feel less overwhelmed and able to maybe connect with your kids? Or conversely, could you find a way of getting a bit more alone time to write? Maybe get D to take them all out on the weekend or something?

I think your feelings are VERY understandable btw, especially considering all the money stress you guys have had of late. That can be such a huge trigger for all other sorts of anxieties :(

Sorry, I'm not sure any of this is in any way useful, but anyway, I hope you feel better soon *hugs*

BossyMummy said...

I don't have any words that would be meaningful enough, just sending hugs and that I love your blog and you are such an inspiration in all that you do xx

Anonymous said...

Such a brave post & I hope it made you feel a bit better putting it all out there. I know it often helps me.

I hope you will be OK soon *hugs*

Sif Dal said...

Thanks guys :).

Cherie, I don't think anyone was having a go or anything on twitter last night. I think my anxiety about being viewed as judging others was affecting how I read other people explanations of how they view their children's interactions with technology as positive - I was seeing other's people's well, it enhances my child's life as are you saying my child is brain damaged? I was afraid I was being viewed as having a go at parents who are happy for their children to interact with technology at home and at school. LOL, this kind of misunderstanding is one of the reasons I mistrust technology as a reliable source of social interaction. So that was also feeding my anxiety.

Jayne - I totally agree about stepping back. I had to do that last night which is why I disappeared off Twitter for an hour or so. Stepping back from blogging or writing for a week isn't going to happen because I'm a bit addicted, but I feel the need to really nut out my issues with technology and try to figure out if i can find a middle ground allowing my children access where I don't feel damned if I do and damned if I don't - which is my biggest problem here (I'm incredibly envious of parents who think it's a great boon to their kids because embracing it is easy for them, but I just see pitfalls at the moment, but at the same time excluding my children from society in this way is also riddled with pitfalls, hence the anxiety).

Chantel and Nee - thank you for your words of encourage, I really appreciate it! I really love coming to my blog and reading comments, and also going to other people's blogs and commenting and slowly building up a rapport with other bloggers, I can honestly say I've felt less isolated from other mums in recent weeks because of this!

Ai Sakura said...

Thanks for sharing this. I've seen the yellow box around but didn't really know what it was all about.

I do find myself giving the cursory answer "yeah I'm good" without thinking much of really, am I good too. Sometimes I know that's I'm not ok, but I'm not sure why... so I'd rather not think about it much.


Ai @ Sakura Haruka

tahlia @ the parenting files said...

its okay to not be okay. But I think too many of us feel assumed when we are not okay. I think our minds were aligned today as I also blogged about being ok and asking.

The more we ask, the more we listen, the better everyone will be i think.

Sometimes we also have to let go of our own insecurities. Great post sif. Glad you jumped on board with the campaign.


katepickle said...

Sometimes it just creeps up on you doesn't it.... though I guess that is part of the nature of depression because if you saw it coming earlier you could maybe do more about it...

Here's hoping that things turn around for you guys...

Mr B said...

Im sorry your feeling this way Sif. Anxiety and Depression do really really suck, I know all about it, so sending empathy and hugs. Just thinking, do you think a quiet word to the teacher, when these extra expenses come up will help? We are on a good income, and even we struggle at times to pay all the extra school stuff that pops up.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this post Sif x

Jay said...

Forgive yourself for ignoring the warning signs, Sif. Anxiety and depression are sneaky bastards who like to let you think you're ticking along ok, until you're not.

I hate that they make you feel the way they do about yourself - so far from the truth of what I feel about you in the brief time we've known one another.

You shine, Sif. Believe me.

I'm hearing you, and here for you xx

Veronica @ Mixed Gems said...

Oh Sif. Not sure what to say except wish you feeling better soon.

Glow said...

Anxiety is such a bitch.
It's so much easier to notice our own anxiety when there are times without it... but when it's constant it's so much harder to realize that it's escalating.
Much love to you for sharing this, Sif. x

Kate @ Puddles and Gumboots said...

Big hugs for you, I hope the anxiety eases for you a bit soon. I worry about too much technology with the kids too xx

Anonymous said...

i,too suffer from depression and mine never leaves so I feel for you.its good to reach out and lean of someone.

gentle hugs

Crash Test Mummy said...

Oh Sif! You are not failing. Your writing is amazing and I think you are a fabulous blogger. And you are a fabulous mum, remember? Your kids said so, it's on record for Cherish Your Cherubs ;)
Take care,
Laney x

Rhianna said...

Fairy wishes and butterfly kisses to you, this is a great post, I think many of us are not ok but at the same time not realising it.

Kate said...

I'm so sorry for inadvertently causing you grief Sif :( I know where you're coming from... I have that defensive 'reading into' thing going on IRL right now. If a stranger so much as glances at my son I'm ready to screech at them. Feeling judged (even when you're not being) is horrible.

nellbe said...

I know it is annoying when the school does things like this, often it is short notice and I know that not everyone can help. I am pretty sure that if explained your situation the teachers would be understanding.

I am sorry the twitter convo got to you, I thought you presented another side to things which I love because it makes me think. I find Twitter hard to have these conversations as 140 characters just doesn't give you the space to write how you feel.

I do hope you are ok. Whenever anyone asks me,I just say I am and hope they see through the lies and know I am not. They never do know.

Hope you are feeling better today.

Sif Dal said...

Thank you everyone for your lovely support, I went out with a friend today and took a quick peek at comments while waiting for her to arrived and was so touched I almost burst into tears there and then! So, i've kind of avoided looking until now (after a loooong nap).

I just want to say, where I've mention specific situations I became upset at I'm not blaming the people in this situations for upsetting me, so please don't feel responsible. Anxiety and depression eats away at the teflon coating we all would normally have where things that might be sticky (things that aren't what we want them to be) would normally slide right off - so, others have a different view of technology to me, that's fine, doesn't mean my view is invalid - or - so, my stats aren't qutie what I thought they were, that's okay the percentage increase hasn't changed and is still 110% on what it was in July, that's still great progress...

But when that coating is corroded by anxiety and depression, stuff sticks that wouldn't otherwise. The problem isn't the sticky stuff, the problem is the corrosion! I blame the illness, not the people who are innocent bystanders, to my reactions - just so that's clear xx

Charlotte said...

Sif, you have very high standards for yourself! If you're failing, what am I doing? Seriously though, I know I don't really know you, and this might not mean much hope you feel more okay soon.


PS I found 5 years of psychotherapy really helped me to break the anxiety and depression, not that I don't fall into it sometimes, but that it's easier to get out and stay out for longer. Yes it was expensive. No it didn't make me a nicer or more likeable person (seriously, I know this, but I feel better and am much more comfortable about being selfish now!) Yes, I know it's not for everyone, nothing ever is for everyone, just trying to say, albeit very very clumsily, I know the place you're coming from, and it sucks to be there, and I hope you find a more comfortable to be soon.

Sif Dal said...

Charlotte, I hear what you're saying. I've had a few years of CBT and that has helped a lot with a lot of my issues - I use it every day - I really cannot afford any kind of therapy right now (not even on that plan thing), it's not an excuse just a reality. Circumstances might change but right now I can't afford to hope. Disappointment in the past 2.5 years has brought me to where I am today and it feels life threatening to cling to hope right now because that thread which holds me from dropping into the void is very fragile and more disappointment would shred it completely. For now I'm holding my breath and trying not to shift my weight and put strain on that fragile thread.

Joseph Rent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

As somwhat of an expert on you as a daughter, let me just say that you have fulfilled every hope I had as I waited for to be born - and those were many and high! You are the light of my life, and I love you!

Anonymous said...

Not 'anonymous' by choice - simply that I am having a serious 'Senior Moment' and can't work out the other two...Hringa vitlaus! lol

Eg hringi a morgun!

Much love, mum

Sif Dal said...

Aw, thanks mum :) <3 <3

Unknown said...

Oh God, I've been there. And if the school is good, they don't make a big deal of the kids who forget.
And I've had - and still get - the anxiety too. I've had depression on and off for my entire life, but probably the worst one was PND after baby number one (and later I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having PTSD as well). It was a GP who put her hand on my arm, looked me in the eyes, and said: And what about you? Are you okay?
And I dissolved into tears which would not stop.
And I knew then that I was not okay.
But with her help, and the right psychiatrist and the right medication and counselling, I was.
(Sadly that did not last forever, but that was a defining moment in my life and I will be forever grateful for her for taking the time to ask if I was okay. Because, clearly I was not, and I didn't even know it yet).

Sif Dal said...

I'm glad that doctor asked you how you were then. I had PND after my second and after 1.5 years if counselling and medication, i did feel okay, and have been since then until now. Now we have a lot of stress and have had ongoing since the beginning of 2009 - it just hasn't let up (tho this year hasn't had some of the great troughs of the previous two, it's been grinding away), and it's all catching up... Hey, at least we know enough to know we're not okay but can get help...

Kelly Exeter said...

I'd just like to echo what Glowless said - anxiety is bitch. Maybe not very useful ... but just know that I understand!

Kristy said...

Awesome post.. I too suffer from Anxiety.. I love the fact that all of this "talk" will blow the cover on this stuff!! Kristy- The Imperfect Mum xx

Elephant's Child said...

Just visiting via Gemma (my post will go up tomorrow). Beautiful post. Not a failure - human, with all that it entails. And obviously trying so hard (sometimes too hard?). Thank you. Hugs.

Sarah said...

The comment from your Mum brought tears to my eyes, what a lovely lady!

Take heart from her words and all the other comments. People comment because they care, because they empathise and because they hear you.

I understand your struggle when you can't provide everything for your children that there peers may have. I have that same struggle on a daily basis too and it sucks BIG time.

I understand the battle with technology although accepting that it is a big part of the world my children are being brought up in.

I love your writing for Wow and am feeling a little dense at the moment because I was convinced I already followed you doh, something I'll remedy right now. x

Lady Koukou said...

I have no idea what to say because I have no idea how I could help you - but thank you for your honesty and raw emotion xx

Actually Amy said...

Hey Sif, hugs to you! I really mean that too. I wish I could come and hug you right now.

It really creeps up quietly doesn't it.

You are a fabulous writer and blogger. And from what I can tell and fabulous mother too!

Thanks for sharing. I am glad some one asked you if you were okay and that you responded honestly.

Lifeasmummymax said...

Big hugs. I dont think your a failure. xx

Crystal Goulding said...

I know exactly where you are coming from! When you started talking about your anxiety "snowballing" I thought you were talking about me as that happens to me often!! big hugs coming your way xx

Flower said...

Many people used flowers their many occasion , For example - weeding, birthday,anniversary and many more. Flower is a source of peace by Revathi

Daisy, Roo and Two said...

Oh Sif! How are you feeling now? Are you ok? (I'm not joking by the way)
I just wish I could hug you, so much!

Deborah said...

I really hope you are okay. The depression and anxiety spiral really does creep up. I hope the crying was very therapeutic and that you have found some good support. Of course, all us here in blogland are thinking of you too. xx

Gemma @ My Big Nutshell said...

Dear Sif,

like I said to you on the day you published this, I am so sorry you were feeling like this. Living with depression and anxiety on top of many other daily challenges is so hard.

When you wrote about feeling like an abject failure on so many levels and not shining, I felt so sad. I see you as a wonderfully talented writer, caring and empathetic, I totally love how you think and even more how expressive you are with your deep and soulful thinking. When I read your words I am always touched by them and in my eyes you shine so bright. Meeting you at blogopolis was a real highlight for me.

Thanks for taking the time and getting all of this out on your page to share with all of us. Feelign like that on top of all the parenting stuff, it is huge!

We've got 132 posts for the ruokday bloggers collective, so thank you for being a part of it and covering so many themes too!

xxx gemma

Sif Dal said...

Thank you everyone for your encouraging words - yes, even you, Joseph Rent, who used this blog post for your own advertising purposes - I really appreciate all the comments so much.

Gemma, I was more than happy to support this cause - though I had no idea just how it would end up supporting me.

I really wish I could just feel better about things and get out from under this cloud without having to do anything more than thinking positively, but as the days draw on I'm seeing I probably need to seek some sort of professional help as this doesn't seem to be a flux of hormones as I was kind of hoping it was. I encourage anyone who is reading this and feeling oppressed by their own emotions to talk to someone, to seek professional help if talking to friends and family doesn't seem to be working. As much as you might just want to curl up in a ball on your bed, you will need to being the one doing something - it's a horrible catch 22. Just take one step at a time, make a call, make an appointment, go to the appointment, say you need help, accept help... After a while, and it may take a while, you will be well enough to do more, but don't worry about that yet. First just make the call. Know I'm struggling to do the same thing right along with you.

Thank you everyone xx

Karen said...

The feeling of failure can really put me down. I just feel like such a perfectionist, I have to succeed at all cost. This is not good, though, because it often prevents us from enjoying life.

Good Job!