Asking for help in modern times

I have seen a few people on social media asking for help and it makes me happy to see this.

I’m not happy that they have yucko problems in their life but instead that they are saying, “I can’t get a job, I can’t pay my rent, my kid is talking about hurting himself,” and that people are prepared to go to the wider community and ask for help, advice, ideas and solutions.

Isn’t that a marvellous thing?

Most people like being asked for advice. Lived experience is everything and while it’s not great to be going through shit times, you will find, as I have since becoming a crone, that everyone gets a turn at a shit time and sometimes you can help people with their shit time by talking about what got you through your shit time.

The thing to remember about asking for help is that no one is actually judging you. They don’t want to see you upset or worried or whatever. They want to help you. They really do. I promise.

This week I saw someone on Facebook trying to sell a Persian rug to make her rent. The first part of the sentence is nothing unusual, but the fact she wrote that she needed it so she wouldn’t be evicted was brave. It was powerful. It was real. Of course she sold that rug 100 times, and people refused to take the rug, so she still has the rug and now her rent and she knows she is loved and that people will step up for her.

This is when social networks work well. Reaching out to others and asking for assistance instead of Boasty McBoasterson.

But sometimes shame is so pervasive that people can’t ask for her, but you can. You must. Always.

I have friends and some family members who are wonderful, helpful, generous souls, who have helped me financially and emotionally. They have invested in my life in every way and I have done the same for them and will do again if they need it and vice vera. Quid pro quo and all that.

Some people think asking for help is a sign of weakness, but dammit, it’s not. It is the bravest thing you can do. Evolutionary psychology taught us that by asking for help we were admitting we were weak and this would risk us being demoted in our hierarchy or even kicked out of the tribe.

However, love is more important now. We don’t need to lose our place in the tribe by asking for help in catching something for dinner because we’re sick, or tired or haven’t got cash to get our spear sharpened. There is more than enough to go around and people want to share. If you can’t ask for help, then remind yourself we aren’t in caveman times anymore.

People have resources, and lived experience, and ideas, and a lasagna and some cash and they know someone who might need someone to do some work for them, and they might want to buy the rug you are selling. Just ask. You will be surprised by the help that is there for you.

Have a lovely weekend.

Why people don't talk about depression

The problem with telling the truth about your depression is the fallout afterwards.

Depressed people don’t tell the truth  because:

  • People with depression can’t get life insurance.

  • People with depression can lose their jobs either once the illness is discovered or when they have to take time off for the invisible illness that makes them bedridden for weeks on end.

  • They aren’t offered jobs or opportunities because they are deemed unreliable or unstable even if they haven’t shown any signs of either.

  • Friendships wane when you stop attending social events because people don’t understand when you say you can’t go because you’re anxious/stressed/depressed.

  • Relationships can fall apart when the vulnerability is exposed.

  • It’s near impossible to get a rental property if you reveal a mental illness.

  • It’s near impossible to get Centrelink benefits for depression. Same goes for Workcover or income protection.

  • Their opinions or solutions to a problem are dismissed because of their illness.

  • Their emotions are attributed to their illness and subsequently dismissed.

  • If they treat their illness with medication, it’s seen as ‘the easy way out’.

  • They are told they have no coping skills, despite the fact that many have faced extreme physical and psychological horrors and still manage to get up most days.

  • People tell men to ‘nut up’ and women to ‘stop being so emotional.’

  • People avoid them in social and professional situations.

  • People will gossip about them and their ‘craziness’.

  • People dismiss their revelation because ‘they don’t seem depressed.’

  • People make it about them and their experiences.

And yet the question is still being asked, why didn’t he/she tell anyone?

It’s pretty fucking simple.

Telling someone to tell the truth and then punishing them for their courage is a dog act.

Being punished for telling the truth is the act of a narcissist. I guess the world  is turning into one giant, narcissistic, reality star.

What to do when you're depressed

I was talking to a friend this week about depression and whether they should go on meds or not.

I am a firm believer in medication for diabetes, heart disease and depression. I once went off my meds and tried to use a psychologist for my growing anxiety. Instead of working through it, I got worse and worse, meanwhile, she kept asking me how I felt.

I felt like killing myself, I told her. And why do you think that is? She would ask.

So back on the meds for me and I haven’t looked back.

But when I was depressed, some of the bullshit advice I got was laughable and in hindsight, dangerous.

“Go for a walk,” a family member would tell me. “Thanks but I haven’t been out of bed for three days, and can barely walk to the bathroom, so a walk if probably out of the question unless it’s off a cliff.” I know exercise is good but if you’re knee deep in the depression pit, you can’t do this. It’s exhausting to even think about.

“It could be worse.” Someone said. “Yes it could be but it’s pretty bad for me right now, so why don’t you fuck off?”

“I know a healer…” Do you? I know a man named God also, who lives in a huge cloud and shits rainbows and sings like Randy Newman.

So here is my list for what to do when you’re depressed:

1) Go to a doctor. Don’t wait. A GP. The emergency department. A psychiatrist. Do not be turned away. If you need an advocate, ask the toughest person you know to go with you and tell them what you need and let them fight for you.

2) If you decide to wait for the decision to see a doctor, give yourself a time limit for feeling better. If you still feel crap by then or even worse, go to the doctor.

3) If you do therapy, then tell the truth. This is your space and nothing will be said outside those walls. Tell the truth. Get some self-awareness and ask why the therapist thinks that is happening in your brain.

4) Avoid triggers. Don’t watch Silver Lining Playbook or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest while depressed. I watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls while waiting for my Zoloft to kick in. Lorelei and Rory have a special place in my heart forever more.

5) Try and eat something. Even a little something. Think nutrition, not calories. Your brain needs food. If you don’t eat it will start to eat itself. Not good at all.

6) Do what feels right. If you don’t want to go to something don’t. Don’t want to see a certain person or group, don’t. You do not have any obligation to do things to make others lives happier while you’re in the depths of the depths.

7) Meditation. Meditation has got me through some tough times. I tend to like guided meditations such as Sharon Salzburg. She is so lovely and gentle. Her meditation while drinking a cup of tea is gorgeous and so soothing. It’s emotional self-care at it’s best.

8) Try and work out if it’s situational or clinical depression. If it’s situational, then I would suggest that something in your life needs to change. Is it the job? The relationship? The money issues? Changing your life instead of ending it is the goal here.

9) If it’s clinical, then see a doctor. Don’t fuck around with it. Doctor. Stat. Now.

10) Write it down. All of it. You can delete it or burn it afterwards if you’re afraid but the mere act of writing it out means it’s out of you for that moment. Cut it out with your pen or keyboard.

11) Join an online group for support if you can’t leave the house yet. Reading can be helpful but ensure you’re not overthinking it too much. Discuss with your doctor if you’re unsure this is a good idea yet.

12) Tell someone you trust about how you are feeling, and if you don’t have someone, ask your doctor for support and who you can speak to. There are lots of people who can help you through this, services and carers.

13) Don’t trust your dark thoughts when you’re in the bad place. They aren’t helpful or kind and are full of shit.

14) Don’t spend too much time alone with your thoughts if you can help it. Watching mindless TV is good. Listening to nice music helps, as long as the lyrics aren’t too emotional.

And finally, trust that this is just a feeling that will pass. You will be happy again. You will be content again. You will care again. The apathy will pass and you will be part of life again. But changed and for the better. If you can come out of depression with real skills for helping others and sharing your journey back to wellness, then that’s amazing. But sometimes just knowing yourself that bit better, your triggers and what has bought you to your knees is enough to get you on your feet again.

You have my support always and I promise, you will get through this, just get help and don’t try and do it alone if you don’t have to.




On The Mammoth Loneliness Of Being Creative

A long time ago, when woolly mammoths were a big thing, loneliness was an important feeling that existed to remind us that it isn't safe to be away from the tribe. It beat at our chests and heads, warning us that pain is out there, a loss is out there, even death, perhaps from one of those pesky and clumsy woolly mammoths or some other dangerous mega-fauna.

But as we have evolved, we still have that sense of loneliness, even though the threat of death by mammoth is now slim to none. 

Loneliness is at epidemic proportions, with studies now saying it's worse for you than smoking or drinking, raising your stress levels and causing inflammation in the body, which in turn manifests into all sorts of serious illness, even death. 

So now the fear of the woolly mammoth is the actual feeling of loneliness. What was once a warning sign of danger, is now the danger in and of itself.

I don't think there is a greater loneliness than that of the creative person. You can spend days not speaking to anyone. You can miss phone calls or put out stern messages that you will not be available to sup or dance with until you meet your deadline. No exceptions! All these self-imposed rules exist so we can meet our desire to create and obey the muse that stalks within us. We self-punish to please what yearns to be let out of our minds and fingers, and this is for the term of our natural life. 

Then, just like a dream, you then wake and realise everyone has gone dancing without you, and you are alone with the woolly mammoth of loneliness as your only company. 

But not everyone is afraid of, or even dislikes their mammoth. Writers often make friends with it, tucking the feelings it evokes away in their mental notebook to be repurposed at a later date. Artists paint it, musicians score it, and poets plait it into a verse that stabs at the earliest parts of our awakening and DNA.

We head out into mysterious lands of the imagination without a compass, the place that no one else but us will charter and map. We face demons of our own making, we face grief, and loss, and fire and drownings and death and guilt and that is only up to Chapter 3. 

We take the photos and draw the shapes and paint in a way that makes others cry, just like you do when you hear that special piece of music that seems to have been written just for you, just for this moment.

We write and paint and compose and more, all of it for those who choose to stay in the village, far away from where the mammoth roams. We aren't resentful, we need them there, as not everyone can tame the mammoth, and we want them to be there for us when we return. We will share our stories, and they will sup with us, and tell us about the news in town and keep us up to date with the area, so we will be safe again.

They read the stories we write and dance to the music that is composed for them. They weep over the poems that remind them of a time before they were alive, and they hang the art that cheers them, even though they don't understand why. They are present and real and aware of the dangers of the mammoth and sometimes they drag us out of our caves, or back from the badlands, and pull us into the moment.

And when we come back to ourselves again and reconnect with the world by drinking and laughing with friends, our bodies and minds relax, the good chemicals are released. Yes, we are better for the loneliness, it forced us to be brave and rely on ourselves, to tame the mammoth, but coming back to each other again reminds us that we need companionship to feel safe again. 

We must remind other creatives they are not alone. We must support other creatives when the mammoth threatens to stomp them into extinction. We must call out the names of our fellow creatives, so they know that they exist and matter and their work matter. That they will always be missed from events, even if the mammoth says they aren't, that no one remembers them or their work (mammoths say things like that, mammoths also lie, a lot).

We must rely on each other to keep the loneliness in check. These relationships give us meaning and desire. These relationships are what fuels our work. Without them, who are we creating for? We want to be read, to be heard, to be collected, to be noticed.

These social connections fire up our dopamine levels and dopamine pushes us to find what we desire. We need the social relationships to help us realise our creative desires, just as we need the solitary block to realise them into some form of art. 

So, my beloved creative people who are reading this, don't deny yourself company and connection. It's all lived experience, and it's all important, for, in the end, to live well, you must live fully, mammoth and all.