Poetry: Day by Day by Vincent Ramos

Each day I live, the pain consumes
What little sanity I have bloomed
Like walking in a cloud of fog
Falling down, sinking into smog

Life just seems grim
I think on a whim
Interest lost in everything I do
But what a life, who really knew?

Depressed to a fault, that all I see
Death just seems like the only way for me
A waste of time, I feel I am
But that’s its nature, a full mind jam

I try and try to ease the pain
A fallen effort with no gain
Thoughts begin to eat away
Makes me want to end it today

Uncomfortable around others for the way I feel
I pray and wish this all wasn’t real
Life just seems more like a prison
Caged, alone, an abomination risen

No one could ever understand
Why I would want my death sooner than planned
Its not something I want for me
But to end my suffering this is what has to be

So I write this all as I fall from grace
Down to this place, some barren waste
I know not how much longer I will last
But all I can do, is pray that this will just pass.

The week that was: wringing the black dog’s neck

Well it has been an interesting week to say the least. It started with me writing about taking a metaphorical light saber to my personal black dog that had started barking and it draws to an end with the dog still barking a bit albeit less loudly.

To butcher a line from the 12th man: it’s a funny old game depression. Perhaps more aptly put: it’s a funny old game life! I say that because this has been a week where I have, on the one hand, been tested and,on the hand, been heartened. It is the heartening that I want to talk about more because to linger on the testing would be to allow negativity to win and, by extension, the black dog to rise.

So why have I been heartened this week: it is simple really … I have been asked by more than few people this week about my blog from last Sunday and also about my forthrightness in dealing with the black dog. That is heartening because, particularly in the case of men of my generation and those of earlier times, we do not talk about our own mental health enough.

Now I am aware that I am a talker and expressing what I am feeling is an important part of my own therapeutic journey. It is an approach that will not work for everyone.

My point is though that this is not a disease that should be pushed to shadows or stigmatised: simply, if you want to talk about your problems you should be able too.

Don’t just take my word for it though: I read an excellent article during the week by one of the greats of Australian racing Lee Freedman in which he talks about his battles with depression and the bottle and his new beginning having fought those demons.

Being able to talk about it helps me and, more importantly, starting a dialogue about it must help reduce the stigma that sits around depression. That is the big thing that heartens me when I see those who actually have a profile in the media and in life speak out (after all I am just a hack with a blog few people read).

I know I am going to keep talking about it (sorry if that bores you) and use talking about it is as a mechanism to wring the black dog’s neck however short term. Of ever you want to talk about it dear readers I am always happy to listen.

I repeat: we need to talk more about this disease. Too many people are suffering without a semblance of a light at the end of the tunnel because of the natural worry of by stigmatised. Please listen if one of your friends wants to talk to you.

Finally, to everyone who has reached out this week for a chat be it face to face, by text or on twitter thank you. Not just for being in contact but for sharing your stories too. Let’s talk more and talk loudly!

Battling the Black Dog: the trouble with not knowing when …

I have been silent on this blog this week and have been nearly as silent on twitter. I commented that I had “lost my mojo” when it came to writing and had been busy with work. That is true but underlying all of this is that the black dog that is my depression had flared up again.

I don’t write this post to garner sympathy or to self aggrandise. I write because writing helps. If you don’t like that then click away now.

What has struck me this week as the barking dog has overtaking me is the unmistakable feeling of helplessness that comes with not know when the dog is, on the one hand, going to start barking and, on the other hand, going to stop. For therein lies the problem for me: I did not know the dog was coming. Nor do I know why he is visiting this time because things in my life have never, frankly, been better. I am healthy, happier than I ever imagined I could be in my personal life, working in a job that I enjoy and have a roof over my head.

Why then is the bloody dog visiting? Maybe I will never know. I know I am sick of hearing: “you have to let yourself be happy” and “you have it better than most people” because I know those things already.

Unfortunately my brain is telling me other things though because it is flooding my sub-conscious with the negative slant on everything and blocking up my thought processes with procrastination.

I should point out here that I have excellent professional help when dealing with the disease that is depression and have some excellent strategies to help me through these times of blackness. Fundamentally though, as my friend and psychologist Daz has pointed out to me more than once: sometimes you just have to ride these times out like a summer storm.

It does not get me away though from the problem of not knowing when the black dog is going to circle me. Why can’t my depression be like the flu or a bad back and give me fair warning that it is coming? Why can’t I hear the thunder on the horizon like a looming summer storm?

I don’t have an answer and, frankly, that angers me. Actually today I am furious with the black dog: for not only invading my mind with negativity and procrastination but for not letting me know it was on the way.

Feeling fury is oft associated with negativity but in this context I am going to go with something my father said to me once “Son, you were always at your best and worked your hardest when you had a bit of the red mist going”. I am going to, unlike Luke Skywalker resisting the urge to give into his hate, harness my anger at the black dog and try to use it as a way to make it go away.

Being passive hasn’t worked and I am sick of “riding out the storm” and if I can’t tell when it is going to hit me maybe using my anger to fight back at it is the next best thing.

So, black dog, ignore the metaphorical light saber in my hand and run at me today. After a week of trying to avoid you I am ready to face you head on! Let the battle commence ….

Life Lessons from Denis Wright

Many of you will be wondering: Who is Denis Wright? I was forwarded an article writen about him on news.com.au (http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/life-lessons-from-terminal-cancer-patient-denis-wright/story-fnet09p2-1226671303372) earlier today and have spent a lot of my time since reading his blog (http://deniswright.blogspot.com.au/). What an inspirational bloke: I am not goint to say much about his story save that I implore you to have a read of the blog.

What really resonated with me, as I have been struck in recent days by a darker than usual shade of my black dog, were the life lessons he provided for the article published earlier today. I reproduce them (without any agreement or approval from anyone) here:

1. Don’t spend your life in a job you hate. Life is too short to live it only in the evening and at weekends.

2. If there’s something bad happening in your life you genuinely have no control over, learn all you can about it and how to live with it. Beating your head against a brick wall is unproductive.

3. If you think you can change it, then go all out to do so. Try to understand its nature and work with it where you can.

4. There are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ decisions. If you made what you think might have been a poor choice in life, learn from it, and you might make a better one next time. You don’t know what’s going to turn out good or bad in the long run, so regrets are a waste of time.

5. Don’t agonise about the past, in the sense that you can’t change it. Live in the slice of time that’s the now. You can’t live in the moment; it’s too short. The slice is richer. It contains a little of past, present and future.

6. Apologise as soon as you can when you think you’ve hurt someone. Don’t try to pretend you’re perfect. Accept responsibility where it’s due.

7. Keep your options open for as long as possible. Don’t close them unnecessarily.

8. Try to keep your sense of humour if you can, though it’s not always possible.

9.Carpe Diem … Or, for a change, seize the day!

10. Do not be afraid of death. “If you’re not more afraid of your own death than you need to be, then you need have little fear for anything life can hand out.”

Some of these are pretty obvious but the one that reasonated with me most was number 2. It is time to stop bashing my head against the brick wall!

9 March: a difficult day for me BUT one that comes with a message

I have been a little bit quiet on social media and a bit introspective (I am told) and quiet in real life over the last 24 hours. The thing is this: 9 March is the anniversary of the day I had to face my mental problems and admit I had a problem. Doing that had some flow on effects that continue to effect me to this day. I remember that day two years ago when I faced what had been a building storm for a long long time like it was yesterday and the remembrance of it effects me no doubt. So that is why I have been a little quieter than usual.

Let me be clear here: this is not a “pity post” and I am not seeking sympathy. 9 March might have been one of the worst days of my life BUT it was also day that shifted my life for the better and was the start of the changes in my life that have helped me deal with the depression and anxiety that had crippled me. There will continue to be periods when my “black dog” is barking, some which will be longer than others, and I am resigned to the fact that I will have moments of anxiety daily that I will need to deal with BUT without 9 March 2011 I would still be mired in the undiagnosed black hole I had descended into.

I write this because it is important to reflect on the past and it is equally important to learn lessons of said past. The biggest lesson that I have learned is that it is important and cathartic to talk (or in this case write ) about ones problems. It certainly helps me to talk and I certainly wish I had have talked about my problems sooner.

So it is now one of my missions in life to advocate at every opportunity that anyone who has a problem, any sort of problem, talks about that problem. It can be through talking to a family, talking to a friend, seeing a professional or calling one of the help lines that are available. No one should be scared to talk about their problems like I was for so many years. Equally, if you are the recipient of one of those conversations, you should not be scared to engage with the person you are talking to: they will feel significantly better for having articulated whatever it is that worries them.

I implore you people: speak up or listen. It may be the best thing you ever do. I know, despite all of the difficulties that invaded my life having done so, that speaking up certainly is the best thing I have ever done.

Only 364 days to go till 9 March comes around again.