Category Archives:Mental Health

Blue Day 2008

I was going to write another post about depression for Blue Day, but in the end I seemed to be rehashing my post from last month, and I have no intention of turning this into a “depression” blog.

However, October is Anxiety and Depression Awareness Month, and today, October 10th is World Mental Health Day.

Blue Day 2008 is a site put together by a number of people in the Australian social media and tech communities in support of World Mental Health day. Some of us have experienced it, and most have known someone who has. According to Beyond Blue, one in five people will experience depression at some stage of their lives.

A group of Twitterers (including myself) have turned our twitter icons blue in support, and have tagged our related posts with #blueday2008.

The reality is depression will touch you or someone in your life. Most of us who experience it don’t want to stay there, living in it – no matter how it seems from the outside.

Sometimes we just need someone to listen and point us in the right direction, sometimes we need more help. Like any other illness, healing takes time, and some of us will never be “100%”. Some will require medication permanently, just like a diabetic. For others, it will be like a broken leg, and the medication and counselling are the cast and crutch to get back on our feet.

There is still a stigma around mental illness, but with knowledge and understanding, together we can make that a thing of the past.

If you want to get involved in Blue Day 2008, I suggest the following:

  • If you don’t have a blog or a podcast, register on this site and submit a post that will appear on the Submitted Posts page.
  • Change your avatars on your favourite social networking site Twitter/Facebook/FriendFeed/etc to something blue, download one of our pre-built ones
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Modify your blog theme to be mainly blue
  • Run a Second Life event, or attend the jokaydia event
  • Wear blue for the day
  • Organising a meet ups on the day, currently organised:
    • Melbourne – Oct 10 from 5.30pm at Fad Gallery (more details –
    • Sydney – Oct 10 from around 5pm, will be a STUB event and part of Official Friday Drinks at Grace77Bar on the Mezzanine level, cnr King and York
    • Adelaide – details TBD
    • Brisbane – details TBD
    • Perth – Oct 10 from 7pm at Queens Hotel – 520 Beaufort Street, Highgate
    • Canberra – details TBD
  • Tag your photos/posts/tweets with BlueDay2008
  • Become a fan on FaceBook

Depression; a postscript

Wow. I didn’t expect anything like the responses I had to my last post. I want to explain some things.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression in late 2000-early 2001. I didn’t go to the doctor looking for a diagnosis, the doctor just started asking questions. I’d had a breakdown a couple of years earlier, and never “dealt” with it. I was put on anti-depressants, and went off them six months later, against doctor’s orders.

I had another breakdown in the middle of 2006. I was in a high-stress job, and eventually came apart at the seams. I was put on anti-depressants again, which I ceased taking on Good Friday this year. While they helped me get sorted out again, for me the side effects were ultimately worse than the cure.

One of the comments claimed that depression is a ‘modern invention’. There’s an element of truth to what he’s saying, but it’s wrapped in a attitude that’s the kind of response (in my experience) that causes many mentally ill people keep their mouths shut and “deal with it” in silence. 

I don’t shirk my responsibilities. I’ve been employed since I left high school. I’m raising a family, mindful that my attitudes and response to this illness have had an effect, and will have an effect on my children. Mindful of a family history of depression.

My grandfather drank himself to death. My grandmother was on lithium for part of her life. My cousin blew his brains out. My paternal grandfather was an alcoholic who dried out in his seventies. I had a shrink once describe it to me as “you lost the genetic lotto”.

Please understand why I wrote that post. I’m don’t want your pity, and I’m not a hero. I’m just a guy, trying to live my life and raise my family. My younger brother is extremely visually impaired; to me he’s a hero for just living through what he’s had to live through, and still keeping a cheesy grin on his face.

I wrote that post because I was finally able to put into words what has been rolling around inside my head for ages, trying to come out. I wanted something to be able to point people to if they ask what it’s like to live with depression, to explain what it’s like from the inside.

I’m not sitting on my couch waiting to die, crying into my cornflakes “woe is me”. I’m trying to live. To appreciate my life, and the blessings I have. I have an illness that won’t go away through wishful thinking, or just “deciding to stop”. However, there are things I can do to deal with the blackest days and that is what I choose to do. Some days I succeed, some days I fail.

But please, please, PLEASE – don’t use my post as an excuse to sit on your couch, crying into YOUR cornflakes. If you’re in a situation to read these posts, you’re likely to be financially in the top 20% of the world population. You ARE blessed. Live life. Don’t let it just wash over you.

It’s hard; I understand just how hard it can be. Maybe you’re like me and “lost the genetic lotto”. Maybe you suffered through experiences that have caused your brain to break. Maybe you’ve been pushed (or pushed yourself) to the edge, and then went over.

In 2008, you don’t have an excuse to suffer in silence, or feel sorry for yourself over your illness. Get help. Talk to people. Look after yourself, and take responsibility for dealing with your illness. In my experience, people are a lot more likely to be willing to look out for you if you’re being proactive about dealing with it.

Be gentle with yourself, allow for the fact that you’ll have black days. But remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and however briefly you pass into that light, and you may enter a tunnel again, that light is unlikely to be an oncoming train.

pps. 23rd Sept.

One more thing. Get out there and start creating. Write, paint, sing, just start something. I can only speak from my experience, but of the people I’ve met who suffer depression, there seems to be a much higher percentage of them that have incredible creative talents. Almost like the other side of the coin. I don’t know, I only have circumstantial evidence, and it might even warrant another post.

It seems to me that creating stuff (particularly stuff that’s not focussed on depression) seems to provide an outlet for something buried inside. Maybe I do need to write another post 🙂

Depression, in my own words.

You can’t explain to someone who hasn’t been there what it’s like to wake up, and the black curtain of storm clouds have suddenly dropped around you. How do you face the people around you, silently mouthing to each other “again?”. How can you explain that the objectively irrational impulses seem subjectively rational? That you understand that you’re not OK, but there’s nothing you can do to change it, while the world goes on making demands as if you still felt “normal”.

Your partner still wants you to be able to be there for her. The kids still want to get hugs from you – and they still need to eat. The boss still wants you to output widgets. The bank still wants you to make payments on the credit cards you used to survive when things went pear-shaped last time. The landlord still wants his rent. 

There are two ways things can go from here. Sometimes with a good night’s sleep (or two, or more), and some looking after yourself, things will be OK again, and you’ll pick up your stuff, and keep moving forwards.

Sometimes, things don’t get better. The wiring isn’t just on the fritz, it’s burnt out. If you ask for help, they’ll insist on chemical assistance. They don’t really understand quite why or how the chemicals work, but “they should help”. They might (will) have side effects. The cure might end up being worse than the disease. If that one doesn’t work, they have others. Or a cocktail of medications, each one to deal with the side effects of another. That way lies its own unique madness.

With the meds, they might prescribe talking. Lots of talking, in the vain hope that like the infinite monkeys with their infinite typewriters might turn out some Shakespeare, if you say enough words for long enough, everything might fall into place. Sometimes they’re good at listening, sometimes they’re not. With the right person, it helps.

Some sift your words carefully, picking out the little nuggets of truth that help you understand a little better who you are. Others nod, grunt, and write you another prescription. I’ve known both. And it’s expensive to sit in a little room and talk. When you’re in a situation where you need to sit in a little room and talk, there’s a good chance that you’re not in a position to be able to afford it.

Fortunately, for me, most days now resemble ordinary. I wake up. I stare at the face in the mirror worn with lines I don’t remember collecting, and stubble that feels like it belongs on someone older than me. I go to work, and try to fit into “normal” like a cheap suit that I bought in a hurry and can’t take back.

But occasionally, there are those days. Days where the mask is tissue-paper thin. Surviving the day is an act of will that leaves a lingering exhaustion that seeps into your bones. Like a drowning man in a flash flood, you wrap yourself around the hope that the waters will recede soon, and you’ll be safe and dry again.

At least until the next deluge.


Postscript, 21/09/08

Maybe this will help you understand.

Try for a moment to imagine a personal world drained of emotion, a world where perspective disappears. Where strangers, friends, family, and lovers are all held in similar affection, where the events of the day have no obvious priority. There is no guide to deciding which task is most important, which dress to wear, what food to eat. Life is without meaning and with meaning has gone motivation. This colorless state of being—the very antithesis of the emotional outpouring experienced in grief—is exactly what happens to some victims of severe melancholic depression. Emotion drains away to be replaced by a visceral void.” — A Mood Apart — Peter C. Whybrow, MD