Saturday, March 9, 2013

rude words, gloomy post


This is a hard one to write, and I will no doubt feel vulnerable or naked once I press publish, but what the heck.

Let me start with just one anecdote relating to mental health care. I once rang a clinic in a desperately suicidal state wanting to see someone. They asked me my postcode, and they told me I was not in their catchment area, and to ring the clinic at a different town. The people at the different town insisted my postcode was in the first mob’s catchment area.


How lucky was I to be born with a few brains? After years of searching, I was finally able to work out the “something” I had always known was wrong with me was a bipolar disorder. In my mid fifties I finally got a shrink and a diagnosis but only by volunteering for a drug trial.

So many, many people with no resources at all fall through giant cracks in the system. Thank heavens I'm obese.

Call me callous, but whenever I hear people expressing shock horror indignation about asylum seekers being depressed or wanting to harm themselves, I wonder how naïve anyone must be to be surprised.
I’m sure detention doesn’t help, but a better sense of perspective might.

Do I think resident Australians should get better treatment than asylum seekers? No. Nor should they get less.

Far too many people with no resources at all fall through giant cracks in the system. Resident Australians - even those who live on the street - deserve as much consideration as asylum seekers.
Not because everyone in the world should be walking around with a sense of entitlement, but every one in the world deserves consideration because life deserves respect.
All life.
People we don’t understand, people who are needy, the animals we eat, the ones we gawk at in zoos, and more.


I know I’m not alone in claiming to have a mental illness. The longer I live the more convinced I am that everyone is phuct in the head one way or another.
I would never ever accuse anyone of jumping onto a trendy bandwagon who says they have suffered depression, or have x or y syndrome, or they struggle to read the body language of others. Life is diverse. All life.

People are not jumping on bandwagons, the world is simply better informed now, and service providers are more aware. Life is not always happy, everybody is different, and everyone has some shit to deal with. If we know what people are dealing with, it can help us deal with them, providing a win-win outcome. Not knowing what people are dealing does not mean they are not dealing with anything.

The trial drug Seroquel was disgusting, and for a couple of years left me feeling like I was trying to run through wet concrete. But they were two relatively good years, with no really debilitating depression. It was a relief to be numb.

Thanks go to TO – saviour of many – for not only finding a good shrink but getting me in to see him even though he was not taking new patients.
I asked the good doctor if the bipolar diagnosis was correct or was I just accepted because the drug trial people were desperate for guinea pigs.

He said diagnoses are not definitive but handy – that certain symptoms are helpful for deciding what medications might help people.
Then he filled out a form which not only mentioned bipolar disorder but post-traumatic stress disorder. A surprise that was no surprise.

The price of Lamotragine has fallen and is sometimes as low as $75 – before the cost of having a prescription dispensed.
God help people with dreadful illnesses desperate for drugs costing thousands a month.
God help those poor women – 55 of them - who were given Hep C by “Doctor” Peters.

Many, many people have damage which was self-inflicted. Do I feel for them? Yes. I don’t know anyone else’s story, but for the most part I guess people are human. Life is a lottery. Maybe it was random chance that the mistakes I’ve made weren’t the same as the mistakes they made.

Do I give a toss about federal/state right fights over hospital funding?
You betcha.
There’s something disrespectful of life itself behind all that despicable, self-indulgent political bullshit.


I grew up listening to a relentless litany of reasons that life is defeat. There were negative opinions, thoughts and beliefs about every one and every thing, and that only stupid people set themselves up for disappointment. If anyone was a success in one aspect of their life, there were a thousand things that made them defective and undeserving of success.

I grew up believing that humour is sarcasm. Well, clever humour, anyway.

It has taken me 40 years of conscious effort to curb my own tendency to sarcasm, though there are still and probably always will be lapses.
It’s a horrible thing, sarcasm. It’s awfully disrespectful of life.
It’s awfully easy to be good at.


Aunty who came to live with TO and I last year is a positive, forgiving, tolerant, and accepting woman.

I was talking about my mother one day when Aunty said in mother’s defense “she probably has what you’ve got” [bipolar disorder]. My reply was “Yes, she definitely does, but I hope it hasn’t made me half the arsehole she is.”

How can I claim to accept and forgive the foibles of others, their human failings and mistakes, and still be so hard on my mother? Must be because in this one instance it was about me. Maybe I’m human after all.

I’ve tried to be forgiving, and even believe that I really have been, but as one friend quite reasonably pointed out, it sounds like I’m still bitter. It was disappointing to hear, but she was right. I’ve decided that forgiveness and bitterness are not mutually exclusive.

I looked after my mother for many, many years. For the past 3 years she has lived in a Nursing Home in Murchison and although Bro 2 has visited her religiously every month, I stopped going.

It’s too far from Frankston to drive just to be sneered at with a “what are you doing here?”, to listen to her criticising the people who’ve gone out of their way to visit her, or to feel humiliated every time she said to a Carer who has just wiped her arse “okay, you can fuck off now.”

I doubt I have to tell you all about my early years for you to get the idea.

Show me a carer working in an old age facility, and I’ll show you a saint who is grossly underpaid and exploited.
I’ll show you someone who will walk up to a demented patient wandering the halls confused, and give them a spontaneous hug at no extra charge.


There is an organisation called CLAN that has been around for quite some time now. There have been generations of Aboriginal children stolen, and there were British migrant children sent to all corners of the globe whose stories are distressing. CLAN was about the third lot – those who have been in care in Australia.

Just one of the members I’ve corresponded with wrote of all the things she was then doing for her ageing mother. Her story and her goal broke my heart and left me feeling impotent.

Not every mother has a naturally maternal instinct. Some women are so broken themselves they have nothing to offer anyone else. And I felt this CLAN member would live in a dreadful hell for years trying to get acceptance or approval that would never be forthcoming only to find that, when her mother finally died, the CLAN member would continue to judge her own self harshly for failing to get blood from a stone.

I accepted long ago that I would get no acceptance let alone approval from my mother. I looked after her because it is the right thing to do, not because I felt affection for her, or even still had hope of receiving any in return.

Just the same, I can’t help feeling cheated. It’s a bit like having a hundred good reasons to remain childless, but still going through a lot of angst on reaching menopause.


Naturally something has prompted all this gloomy introspection – my mother had a fall just over a week ago, and whatever caused it finished her off on Thursday.

Most people are good and kind and caring. I even suspect that those who aren’t wish they knew how to be good and kind and caring. And naturally when people discover there has been a death they offer condolences which are quite sincere. But sometimes they gush.

I’ve been reminded now of a cousin who quietly told me, after her own mother died, how painful it was to present a polite front in the face of so much sympathy and so many compliments.
She would be the first to admit her mother was essentially a good person as well as popular. But there was a little kernel of conflict too, for she and her sister had reported as little tackers that their father was up to no good, only to have their mother blank out her face in denial.
Ironic, really, that said cousin came from what appeared to be a successful, stable, loving and fully functional family.


Bro 1 rang me this morning and asked if I had a good photo of mother we could put on the Order of Service. “Yes!” I said, knowing just the one.

I’ve searched for hours, and it is nowhere in the bag where I have always kept my photos, or anywhere else that I can think to look.

Giving up the search and being unable to find the photo was more distressing than anything I’ve felt since I got the news. I wondered why until I realised it was the only photo I had of the only time I remember my mother being genuinely happy. She was smiling for herself, not for anyone else – she had been living in the moment and there was someone home behind her eyes.

It occurs to me that maybe automatically thinking of this photo - of a photo that showed a positive moment in my mother's life -  means I’m a little more forgiving today than yesterday, and a lot less bitter. 
God, I hope so.


  1. I'm sorry you've had to deal with such pain. But I'm selfishly glad you have written about it. I didn't give mental illness any thought at all until I had a series of bad experiences that triggered it in me and changed my life forever. I've been lucky - but it makes me realise how little it would take for that luck to turn into 'unluck'. I hope your journey continues to take you to a better place and I send you love and light.

    1. Thank you Red, your wishes are greatly appreciated.

  2. How are we supposed to deal with the deaths of people we don't like? And how do you deal with all the well-meaning yet misguided comments?

    I imagine it makes most people mentally confused, tormented, sad...regretful.

    Maybe there's some amount of relief...a sense of freedom? In some cases?

    I don't know.

    Death is difficult to process whether you loved the person dearly or did not.

    Your call-for-help-during-a-crisis story is very sad.

    There's this idea that if we're depressed and/or suicidal, we can simply call a number and someone will be there to rescue us.

    It's not always so easy.

    It seems in Australia (maybe USA too) that every time there's a news article about suicide; there's a phone number provided for those who might be considering suicide too.

    It's sad to imagine that maybe the subject of the article DID reach out for help...called that number provided; but no one helpful enough was on the other side.

    I'm sure a lot of people ARE helped; and that's good.

    But my guess is you're not the only one with a negative story.

    1. I'm sure a lot more people are helped these days, and it certainly is a good thing.

  3. Profound reading, but nothing to say.

  4. Am sorry to hear about your Mom sweetie. It is hard, it is angering, it is life. I too have a hard time dealing with everyone's "sympathy" or worse when they show true pain for my pain. I tend to like to deal with my grief on my own, give me time then I can deal with the "I'm sorries" that come along. I do like your comment on sarcasm though, that it is disrespectful. I'd never really thought of it that way and feel I am more often sarcastic than I should be. Sending you a big ol virtual HUG!

    1. Thank you so much for your hug, Sherry, it means a lot.

  5. This is a sad story and you seem to be dealing with your lot quite well. Mental illness must be the worst thing to endure. I had a short episode when under extreme stress but I am so lucky to have responded to treatment and recovered and it has never returned. The worst thing is that most people can't understand what you are going through and don't regard it as an illness because you don't look sick.
    I cannot imagine how devastating life must be for people who are not loved and supported by their parents I was extremely lucky n this area.
    Nature is amazing. You obviously want to remember your mother as the photo portrayed, as a happy, positive person. I wish you the best in coping with this episode in your troubled life.