Thursday, 27 February 2014

Sigh, grit teeth and smile...Checking in.

I think this bug that I got has knocked me around a bit. I still feel a bit sick occasionally, especially if I get hungry. And I've been really pooped.

Most of my attention has been towards work and my PhD. Specifically, I want, HAVE to finish the PhD (or lapse candidature). My energy has been directed towards developing a plan to complete, overcoming certain obstacles (too mundane to discuss here). Also, towards expanding my work practice, perhaps into some private practice, though not too much during the PhD (otherwise I shall never finish). Towards making other life plans - saving money, having babies, et cetera.

Nothing like an end point to sharpen your focus, no?

I am also very rapidly approaching my 35th Birthday - on Saturday. That might sound spring chickeny to some readers, but it is officially Mid-30s. I can't help but get a bit philosophical.

When I was 25, where did I think I would be when I was 35? I don't think I thought about it that much. I was newly married, in the physician training program, and life felt a bit like is was mapped out, like I was on a raft on a river.

But life goes interesting when you go against the flow, doesn't it? Difficult, sad, challenging, and at times, harrowing, but ultimately rewarding. I am very happy with the way things have turned out.
Yet it is the perceived holes in our life that keep us from stagnating, keep us moving along. I think you know what that hole, that yearning, might be.

I am having a think about what I would have told my 25 year old self. My 30 year old self. That might be a separate blog post.

Anyway, that is enough for one night. I think it will be House of Cards, then sleepybyes.

I have just finished the book "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro. I am looking for another to download. Something fairly light, a bit funny.

What would you say to your younger self?
What book do you recommend?
What telly series are you enjoying?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

On helping a friend with depression.

I know guys I have promised a post with photos of Sri Lanka. It's a big 'un and it's in progress.

Right now I have something more pressing I want to write about.

Everyone has been talking about Charlotte Dawson lately.

It's always a terrible tragedy when somebody young, beautiful and with the world at their feet takes their own life.

I confess to not knowing much about Charlotte, I don't watch the model shows or follow celeb gossip much. I was aware that she battled depression. Battle seems like a cliche but it is an apt descriptor for depression. It is chronic and debilitating. It is something her and I have  in common.

The common narrative is "she was so loved" "she was so beautiful".
"I wish I had have asked her whether she was ok".

Severe depression, no doubt like what Charlotte suffered, puts you in a place which is not amenable to declarations of love, or compliments. You don't believe them, and you certainly do not feel worthy of love or compliments.

I suspect that, if anyone other than her very closest confidant/ therapist had asked her was she ok, she would have smiled dazzlingly and said "I am fine".

Indeed, Charlotte reportedly looked fresh, glowing and energetic at recent engagements. Successful people who suffer with depression are adept at maintaining this facade.

Giving people compliments and reaching out by saying "RUOK" are great, and absolutely appropriate. It is great that people are thinking in these terms.

So, for argument's sake, you have a friend who you strongly suspected was struggling. What would you do if they said they were fine and you really didn't believe them? Alternatively, how would you react if they said they had serious thoughts of harming themselves?

It's quite a confronting thing to bring up, but bear with me.

A number of times, I have teetered a little too close to the proverbial cliff. Or I have wanted the earth to swallow me up. Mostly I kept this quiet, and many of those closest to me either did not know or did not know how to deal with it. It was good that I was mindful of these teeterings, and took myself off to the doctor when I had them.

Once, I was feeling this way, a friend who had also suffered with depression said to me "are you safe?" I didn't answer. He took the day off work and sat with me.

If you have a loved one who you know is struggling, I would suggest a proactive approach. In the place they are in, they will not likely take you up on offers, but they will be grateful for small interventions. They will get them through till the medication kicks in.

Call around. Sit with them. Make them take a shower and put out some clothes for them to wear. Bring around some food. Put your mobile phone number by their mobile phone, with strict instructions to call at any time if they feel on the edge.

Feelings of being on the edge often occur at the most inconvenient times of the day.

Being near somebody with severe depression (or any severe illness) is hard. They know that, and will try and hide themselves from you. But, like most other illnesses, with correct treatment, it gets better. Support will be remembered.

I am sure Charlotte had many people to tell her how wonderful she was, and ask her if she was ok. It was probably only a very inner circle that did the hard yards with her. My thoughts are with those people.

Above all, if you are in the situation where a friend is seriously depressed or suicidal, ask for help. Call the local CATT team. Call Lifeline (131114). March them to their doctor. Don't try and deal with it alone. Some things are bigger than the support you can provide.

This is an emotive topic, and I may get some differing views, which I would be happy to hear, but keep them respectful. Everyone comes from a different place. If it stirs up anything for you, please, go and see your doctor or therapist.

Saturday, 15 February 2014


I got home last night.

I was going to write a big, shiny blog post, one with photos, today.

I have just this afternoon come down with a nasty bout of gastro.
I've not felt so ill in years.

Will write as soon as I can xxx

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Sri Lanka 1

Ayuboman! (Greeting in Sinhalese meaning "may you live long", said with hands in prayer position and head nodded at the end, graciously.)

Due to fluctuating internet connectivity, this blog post is in a few pieces
Photos will be up when I head back!

Thurs 6/2

The fella and I are in Nuwara Eliya, one of the only places in Sri L where it is possible to be cold- it's at an altitude of  just under 2000 metres. Which means walking uphill seems slightly more strenuous than at sea level.

The fella and I have just awoken from afternoon naps. We were off at 0530 this morning, to get to the Horton Plains national park, for a hike through the high country through to Worlds End, where the mountains suddenly drop off into a 1km high precipice.

The terrain was variously grassland, with frequent streams and ponds, and high country jungle. The path was rolling hills mainly, interspersed with steep inclines and declines, and very uneven surfaces. Words can't really do justice to its beauty. The fella was the official photographer for the trip so I shall have pics up at a later date! We heard lots of wildlife, but only saw a very brave and bossy jungle fowl, a magnificent specimen indeed!

This little town is perched among the famous tea plantations in the central district. There is a big British colonial influence- the Brits probably found the weather more to their taste here! Walking into the township from the hotel, I am reminded of Halls Gap, with the mountain range in the background and towering trees, many of them eucalypts.

The town is less crowded than the bigger cities, but still pulsing; SL has the same population as Australia so crowds are inevitable. We went to the market, seeing exotic spices and some less exotic fruits- being cool, apples and strawberries and other cool climate produce is abundant. The pong of the fish and meat. Fresh yoghurt in terracotta pots. In the west, we have a very sanitised view of food!

Sun 9/2

After Nuwara Eliya, we headed to Yala national park for a jeep/ wildlife watching safari. SL has a lot of biodiversity. We had already been to an elephant orphanage, and cooed over the playful baby elephants, and saw them guzzle milk from bottles (nnnnnnawwwwwww).
On our drives around the country, we had seen many birds- our driver often stopped to point them out!

Yala was a great place to see animals in their natural habitats, from the safety of an open- topped 4WD.

We saw:
- birds- green tailed bee eater, herons (grey, white and purple), egrets, hornbills, pelicans and many others
- water buffalo
- wild boar
- spotted deer, sambal deer
- elephants- mums and babies in a herd, 2 young males fighting, a male with tusks (rare- only 7 percent have tusks, only males)

Tues 11/2

Ahungalla, beach resort.

A bit of argy- Bargy when we arrived here- the hotel had overbooked. And we had to stay elsewhere for 1 of the 3 nights we had booked! So not impressed! We managed to get some upgrades/ free meals as recompense, after a few stern words were had. The tranquility had descended, with the aid of some soothing drinkies....


The drive along the coast was nothing short of stunning. The term palm fringed beach sounds like a cliche but here they are aplenty. We first stopped at Galle, to check out the fort, built in the Portuguese period, then taken over by the Dutch merchants. The driver very proudly pointed out the Galle cricket stadium, which was rebuilt after the 2004 Tsunami, with funds from Shane Warne, who had played his first test match there.

That tsunami wreaked havoc at many of the towns on this beautiful south coast. While the views of the fishing villages and the coastline were spectacular, it all felt a bit sombre.

Generally, I have rediscovered my childhood love of the beach, while being slapped around by waves and watching the big ones roll in from a safe distance.

The food at this resort is brilliant-many of the chefs here have won international awards. There are both western and Sri Lankan cuisines.

We are off to Colombo tomorrow- it will be sad to leave the beach.

Will post now, before my battery dies. More soon xx