Little bird.

***

There is a little bird, a little voice inside of me

He lives inside my psyche, telling me who I cannot be

Ever the naysayer; the first to spoil any fun

A lifelong companion; a completely invisible one

 

‘You look completely fine’ they say, not knowing what they do

They give that little birdie power, because he knows that it is true

He pollutes my thoughts and ideas, stealing all that is mine

That lifelong companion, wreaking havoc inside when I look fine

 

Some days I feel the strength, to keep that bird in his rusty cage

Some days I have no power so he makes me older than my age

A constant battle of wills, some days he tends to win

This lifelong companion, strutting around with his victorious grin

 

This little bird has learned to live, inside my chaotic head

Because a weaker bird you see, would have long ago fled

But also this little bird he knows, a stronger host he will not find

A lifelong companion, my creativity he does bind

 

He likes to tell me frequently, I am just not good enough

I fight back most of the time, when I am feeling brave and tough

But there are some of the days, I am just not strong you see

That lifelong companion, he likes to make an example of me

 

He likes to remind me not to get too tough or brave

He isn’t going anywhere soon, he prefers to maim and deprave

I have to learn to live with him, to fight back within reason

This lifelong companion – choosing lifetime over reason or season

 

I used to hate this little bird, sometimes I still do

The safest thing for me to do, is introduce him to you

Because then he loses some of his power, he loses his authority

A lifelong companion who does not define but is a part of me

 

***

Stock image – Pexels

I must let you in on a NOT so little secret.

People are a constant reminder to me that I’ve lived my life behind a mask, behind a manmade shield of strength and certainty, behind a facade of stability and success.

I didn’t just wake up one day feeling like an incomplete puzzle. I always felt like I had the corner pieces in place, most of the framework and some areas of togetherness within the body of the picture, though there have always been gaps. Sometimes the gaps felt small and insignificant and I knew that I could come back to them at a later time, I would surely find the pieces I needed. Other times, the gaps were so colossal that I felt like giving up on this puzzle, that the picture wasn’t worth completing. All this time I hadn’t considered that the gaps were there because the pieces were missing entirely, until now. These missing pieces that were balance, emotional stability, self esteem and true happiness had always been assumed to be on the floor, accidentally tucked beneath the corner of a rug or unknowingly swiped off of the table. I never realised that these pieces were never to be found, not because they were lost but because they were never in the puzzle box to begin with.

This is my story. This is where I learn to heal.

I think back to a day in my mother’s kitchen, not too long ago, only a few years. A moment that has stayed with me up until this point of realisation as a pivotal confrontation in my journey thus far. A heated conversation between siblings resulted in some raised voices and a release of some pent up frustration, though not violent or threatening. I don’t remember the subject of the argument nor how it started, I only remember my mother’s words to me after some time… ‘Are you sure you’re not depressed?’. I remember how utterly insulted I felt and how defensive I became. I needed to stand up and fight for my mental stability, I needed to prove that there was nothing wrong with my emotional health because how could anyone accuse me of such a thing? I remember the look of defeat that fluttered on my mom’s face, the hint of dishearten and hurt that flashed and left as quickly as it came. We have never again discussed this moment, we probably never will, but Mom you were not wrong. I just didn’t see it sooner.

I have always experienced very strong anxiety in highly pressured situations, I also used to be exceptionally good at hiding it. (Operative words being USED to) From a young age, any emotionally charged situation instantly resulted in a physical and mental lock down. I learned to protect myself by hiding myself, by faking it until I made it. So many experiences in my childhood into adolescence and right though adulthood should have broken me, they would’ve broken a weaker person – or so I told myself. When I felt that I was slipping down into wells of despair, I would make myself feel better by telling myself that my experiences and circumstances were often extreme and it was completely understandable that I wandered around feeling broken and lost. I threw myself into many things, into any thing, often starting something but not finishing it. I lost interest quickly and changed my mind often, very little kept my busy mind occupied – except writing. I have always loved writing and I would throw myself into writing poetry, blogs and online articles. In high school, I spent a lot of time writing and performing songs to myself, keeping journals and penning stories. I wrote because it was my escape from the real world, a place to tell my truth without having to explain myself. A place I could be myself without judgement or fear, where I could be weak and no one would know.

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The problem with never allowing yourself to be weak is that you never allow yourself to be weak, you also have little to no tolerance for anyone else to be weak. I had conditioned my body and my mind into thinking and acting a certain way and I had extremely high expectations that those around me do the same. When the people I surrounded myself with could not live up to that expectation, I excluded myself entirely. I convinced myself (and still am convinced) that I didn’t like people. Human beings as a species are weak, a representation of something I’ve spent my entire life trying to avoid. People are a constant reminder to me that I’ve lived my life behind a mask, behind a manmade shield of strength and certainty, behind a facade of stability and success.

The truth is, I’ve never felt good enough. At anything, anywhere, anytime. I spend my life putting myself down no matter how many times my supporters pick me back up again. A lifetime of sadness and puzzle piecing will do that to a person. A lifetime of constant self doubt, of low self esteem, of anxiety and social ineptitude. If there is nothing to worry about, my mind (never calm or quiet) will find something to worry about. Anxiety will creep into every facet of my life in any form it can, from a midnight panic attack to a morning bout of OCD.

I didn’t have it easy growing up, I’m not sure anyone does in their own way. I always hoped and dreamed that when I was older, I would make something of myself. I would show the world that I would not be a victim of circumstance, another statistic for another book on broken homes. And I did. I grew up, I have a career, a home, a family, I moved countries, I chased the dream. Despite all that I have endured in my short time on this earth, I am a success and I should be able to recognise that. I should be able to see the good, I should be able to appreciate the great and all of this should make me happy…

It doesn’t NOT make me happy, only now I’m of the opinion that I am not sure my body is chemically designed to be happy. The puzzle pieces aren’t on the floor, they’re not on the table, I’ve spent my life looking and they’re nowhere to be found. It’s time to start accepting that the box was never properly packaged, a few pieces were left out.

It took a year and a half of hormone therapy and surgery to kickstart the realisation. I have never really been able to sleep well but now more than ever, my hormone imbalance was wreaking havoc on my sleep cycles and emotional well-being. Fast forward past a very long recovery, another injury, a life threatening diagnosis and the toughest medical decision of my life and I now know that even though this would have affected anyone of sound mind, all of this has taken me deeper into a rabbit hole for which I don’t have a shrinking potion to escape.

You have to know, I don’t want to hurt myself and I definitely don’t want to exit stage left earlier than my time. I have children who depend on my emotional wellbeing, I have people that encourage and support me always, I have friends and family that have my back no matter what. It is only fair that everyone know what they are dealing with, allow the healing to begin.

I suffer from a mental illness, I suffer from depression.

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Over the years I’ve told myself that I have anxiety issues and that is all, various doctors have told me that I have an anxiety disorder and I should manage this by eating healthily and exercising, removing myself from anxious situations and doing the best I can to stay as healthy as I can. In my early twenties I had a brief stint on antidepressants for the treatment of depression, which I decided against in the hopes that the doctors had been too quick to medicate instead of counsel. In the lead up to today, I have had bouts of clarity pointing me in the direction of depression but I have always talked myself out of this self diagnosis. The stigma was too real, the shame too haunting, the realisation too frightening. I did not want people to know that I was a weak soul, unable to process the chemicals / hormones / emotions in my own body, failing at something that should be natural to my brain and body. I did not want people to think that I was going to do something drastic, that I was going to follow a dark path as my late uncle did and leave my children without a parent. I was afraid that if I said something, the worst conclusion would be jumped too and no one would take the time to understand my illness.

My plate is so full, I feel like a hungry teenage boy at an all you can eat buffet. The spoons upon spoons of food keep piling high on this plate and the topple is only moments away. The lack of sleep, the anxiety levels, the physical pain and stress of my current medical situation, the financial stress and my constant feeling of sadness and defeat is testing me every second of every minute in every day. All of this in the lead up to my 33rd birthday, a mere baby in the grand scheme of things. A baby with the weight of the world on her very small shoulders.

I’m not giving up hope but I’m not sitting here saying that I can get over this either. I know that I will not follow in the footsteps of Chester Bennington no matter how real his situation has made my situation become. This is not an illness for which an easy cure is prescribed. This is not a disease which sympathy will make better. I am not asking to be told I will fight this, I am not asking to be told I will make it through. I am offering my truth to the world in the hope that the world will understand and forgive me for being an incomplete puzzle in a universe of artworks. I have overcome the stigma, I will overcome the judgement and I will show that my depression is an illness and not a weakness.

It was recently world mental health awareness day and for some reason, I’ve become very active on Twitter again. The universe has its ways of talking to me and it was no coincidence that I was online and involved in many conversations about depression and anxiety in the wake of my realisation. I have been able to talk to so many people who also suffer with depression, so many people to talk to about a shared illness in varying degrees. I’ve watched people hurt and cry and I’ve watched the same people fight and stand up against this disease. Most of all, I’m learning to be kinder to myself whether I am hurting or crying or standing and fighting. Each day is a climb, I have little control over the ascent or decent but no matter the direction, it is up to me to put my all into the fight.

  • Depression will tell me I am worthless, it will tell me I am weak.
  • It will wake me at night after hours of struggling to sleep and it will keep me from getting up in the morning as it reminds me of all the missing puzzle pieces it represents.
  • If I am sad, depression will make me feel like I could not possibly be any more miserable.
  • If I am angry, depression will turn me into Hulk.
  • Depression will force me to look in the mirror and hate what I see.
  • It will take all the good things and overshadow them will all the bad.
  • Depression is the lifelong shadow I didn’t ask for, only now it’s the shadow I know exists and it will not define me no matter how hard it tries.
  • Depression is being surrounded by people and never feeling more alone.
  • It is the disconnect between my reality and the reality it wants me to believe is real.
  • Depression is the reason I allow myself to settle for less than I deserve and believe I’ve achieved all that I can in a world that deserves more of me.

The box may have been missing a few pieces but I have learned to function without a complete picture, I have a lot of work ahead of me but now is the time.

My name is Siobhán and I suffer from depression. I am no longer in hiding.

All my love

Siobhán

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Insomniac

Behind the drooping eyelids and sleep-deprived thoughts, I am the DJ of this party and “I (yet again) can’t get no sleep”.

It isn’t any wonder that I start a ‘mind rave’ every time I feel myself lacking in the sleep department, Faithless are headlining and the song on repeat is one that I am sure many of you know all too well. Behind the drooping eyelids and sleep-deprived thoughts, I am the DJ of this party and “I (yet again) can’t get no sleep”.

 

I am at a point with my non existent sleep cycles that I would like to be a bat, 18-20 hours of sleep a day is sounding more and more appealing. The curse of sleeplessness came over me approximately 7 months ago, shortly after my operation and the start of my hormone replacement therapy. I was told that it could be a side effect of the hormones, personally I felt that my insomnia was largely in part to being in such pain that the body would not let me sleep for an extended period of time. Whatever the reason, it decided to stick around – Yay me.

 

There is a common misconception that insomnia is the inability to sleep at all – This is not correct. I do manage to fall asleep, quite quickly in fact and usually at the start of a movie that I have been dying to watch for an age. Insomnia presents itself as a sleep disorder, disallowing its sufferers from getting enough sleep during the night to wake up feeling refreshed and revitalised without copious amounts of caffeine. It means waking up multiple times throughout the night (for me, this is hourly), it can also mean waking up earlier than sparrow’s fart and not being able to get to sleep again until the witching hour. So, that’s an hour of sleep a night then?

 

For someone who used to go to bed by 9 or 10pm and sleep right through until 7am, this is absolute self-torture. Some would argue that perhaps I was getting too much sleep but after experiencing both sides of this sword, I would opt for too much over too little any day of the week.

 

While I don’t condone animal testing, extensive research has been done into sleep depravity in animals and the physical effects thereof to better understand the effects of sleeplessness in humans. In one particular study carried out by Allan Rechtschaffen and his team in the 80’s, it took only 32 days for all of the experimental rats to die after being subjected to sleep deprivation. Though there is still some disagreement into the final causes of death ranging from hypothermia to bacteria and ultimately brain damage, the end result is still very much clear, for these rats the lack of sleep was fatal. So why is this important? Because there is nothing that says the same would not happen to a human after a prolonged period of sleep depravity, the problem with humans is that the psychological repercussions kick in long before the physical ones do.

 

In a world where human testing is considered unethical, we will never completely know the full effects of sleep depravity in humans after a prolonged period of time. That said; there is a reason that depriving people of sleep is used as a method of interrogation and torture. It is a living nightmare when you cannot do one of the very basic things that your body is designed to do, catch some Zzzzz’s. In fact, people with insomnia are 4 times more likely to suffer major depression than those without insomnia and similarly this can be said for anxiety disorder and substance abuse. An inability to sleep is also a key sign of mental illness; this to me means that insomnia can bring on depression but depression can also bring on insomnia… vicious mental health circle right there. I may be too tired for this.

 

This week, I have been bed bound thanks to the DVT I have been diagnosed with (You can read more in Human pincushion). Unfortunately, along with a blood clot comes excruciating pain. Not only have I been relegated to a piece of furniture that my body has forgotten how to use, I am now also in worse pain for it. Sleep is coming to me in short bursts, 20 minutes to an hour at a time throughout the day and night however nothing that is long enough to sate this sleeplessness.

 

There is comfort, albeit a sad one, in knowing that I am not alone. According to Wikipedia (And if it is on Wikipedia, it must be true right?), between 10 and 30% of adults have insomnia at any given point in time. That is at the very least, 750 million people who are feeling as fed up, run down, tired and grumpy as I do right now. While I would not wish lack of sleep on anyone, it is nice to know that I am not dealing with this as a lone ranger.

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What of those that don’t suffer with insomnia but their sleep is impacted as a direct result of this disorder? Take my husband for example. He could sleep through an earthquake if given half the chance, that said, if I am tossing and turning next to him or waking multiple times through the night, he too will waken and so I am affecting his sleep as well as disallowing my own.

 

I feel my psyche taking a beating daily and this lack of sleep forces me to ask myself the question, ‘Have I gone mad’? My response (to myself) is a quoted one…

I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Once my leg heals, I am totally taking up Yoga.

 

Side note: Moonsomnia, the name of this blog space, was inspired by many nights of insomnia and my obsession with the moon. I may or may not always suffer from insomnia but someone else out there will; therefore it will always be relevant.

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Managing stress effectively…

… is a farce.

I will no longer manage it effectively, I will only accept that this stress is unnatural.

At what point did we choose self enslavement over personal satisfaction?

When will we learn that we are not punching bags for another’s gain?

At what point did we choose financial gain over health and well-being?

When will the time come that we value our sanity over materialism?

At what point will the breaking point become a broken one?

When will the broken point come?

***

I am not ashamed to say that I can no longer handle the pressure. My body and mind are under immeasurable stress, everyone around me suffers for it. It is time to revisit an old saying that initiated a country move a few years ago…

If you do not like where you are, move. You are not a tree – Jim Rohn

Phobiaphobia. It’s a thing.

I can pinpoint the exact time and place that my irrational fear of fear determined my view on horror movies for the rest of my adolescence into adulthood. I am certain that I always disliked horror movies but this was solidified when I actually watched a full length horror movie at the age of 11, Frederick Charles Kreuger paved the way for horror movie antagonists to come and I would forever be conflicted as October time came around. A month of Halloween (Samhain), my birthday and my favourite time of the year but also a month of horror movies, scary dress up and cult classic revivals.

 

Standard 5, the last year of primary school, an impressionable time and a period of social discovery. I was invited to Lisa’s 13th birthday party along with a few other girls in our year and I was so excited because it was one of my first sleepover parties. I was younger than the children in my year and so I found myself over compensating for this age difference by constantly accommodating the older girls demands. For this reason, I ended up volunteering myself to do a lone beverage haul from the kitchen at 11pm midway through one of the Nightmare on Elm street movies. We had all settled for the night in Lisa’s living room on the floor with our duvets and or sleeping bags, all huddled up in what is favourably known as a ‘Christmas bed’. All the lights had been switched off to set the scene and a poor quality VHS provided the subject of my forthcoming nightmares.

 

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…

Three, four, better lock your door…

 

You didn’t have to tell me twice. Swiftly I made my exit, kitchen right. No sooner had the door security warning been offered, I was fumbling my way through the darkness over huddled bodies and intermittent squeals to get us some orange squash and forget the scenes on the bold box TV in the lounge.

 

Thinking back on it now, I can barely remember these scenes in the movie. I vaguely remember something about a bed of nails and possibly even a hot air balloon, though my deep-rooted fear was not of Freddy himself but rather the fear instilled by a combination of an eerie score, threatening cinematography and a catchy theme tune. Fight or flight told me to run and to the kitchen I thought I had escaped, forgetting the pitch darkness of the dead of night and the possibility of other frights waiting to go bump. It was at this time that Lisa’s brother grabbed his opportunity to scare the living daylights out of me by creeping up on me in the kitchen. A tray of Oros filled plastic cups hit the floor within seconds and the shrill screams of my terror filled the house. Lisa’s mom came running, lights were switched on and there I stood with my shame soaked pyjamas clinging to my legs as my urine ran down over my feet into the pool of orange juice that was making its journey through the tile grout and under the fridge.

 

I wasn’t invited to another sleepover in primary school.

 

It was a while before I was encouraged to watch another horror film, unbeknownst to me might I add. I spent my high school years doing all possible to avoid scary movies while maintaining a somewhat ‘cool’ reputation but when a date with my boyfriend David presented itself at around the age of 15, I was less concerned about the movie choice than I was about the fact he had a driver’s licence, and a car. He picked me up in his red something or other and we drove to Randburg Waterfront (Now Brightwater Commons) where he bought us tickets to watch ‘Bless the Child’.

I now understand that this was a teenage boys right of passage, taking his girlfriend to a scary movie in order to play the hero and extend the movie arm wherever possible. Poor David didn’t get the opportunities he hoped for as I spent majority of the movie with my head beneath my shirt. It was somewhere around the knitting needles in the eyeball scene that I decided this movie was not for me and so I sat on the floor in front of my seat with my fingers in my ears. This practice has since been adopted on other occasions, resurfacing for a movie date with another boyfriend to watch ‘Paranormal Activity’ where my face was firmly planted in my shirt with my fingers in my ears and just when you think it is safe to come out from this manmade cocoon, I look up to see a girl standing over a bed, swaying. An image that is firmly planted in my mind when I think of scary movies and how much I intensely dislike them.

 

Phobiaphobia is a real thing.

 

I always find it quite funny how people who know me are shocked to learn that I don’t enjoy horror movies, but not for lack of trying. It has become the mission of many of my friends to get me to enjoy a horror movie experience and I have now seen a few other scary movies (Though I never revisited Elm street, I drew the line). It is safe to say that none of the scary/horror movies I have watched have ever been enjoyable for me and I started to wonder if I had a phobia for the all threats addressed in these movies, from clowns to dolls and everything in between. I have since learned that the only phobia I have is fear itself and my body and mind do not enjoy feeling scared. This is my phobia, I am afraid of being afraid.

 

I have tried all types of horror movie, the likes of IT, Halloween, Psycho, SAW and Texas Chainsaw Massacre to name a few. I have dabbled in spiritual horror such as The Excorcist, The Excorism of Emily Rose, The Haunting and the likes. I have even tried the whole ‘based on a true story’ genre like Blair Witch Project. I can confidently say that I have watched a whole 5-10 mins of each of these movies and made the decision to switch it off, forsaking the reputation of cold-hearted macabre bitch. Some fears just cannot be faced.

 

So what spurred on this trip down memory lane? I found myself watching ‘Dorian Gray’ at 1am this morning and proceeded to watch ‘Celebs go Dating’ until 3am to get over the demonic portrait of Dorian that I was left with in the final scenes. This is not even a horror movie and still my subconscious has decided to make mealtime of the mental images deep-routed in my mind.

 

Horror movie buffs everywhere, you are welcome. You are welcome to have a good laugh at my inability to understand your infatuations. I have tried and I am sorry, I have failed. In future, I will stick to slapstick comedy and Disney classics. It is almost October after all, Jack Skellington is ready for a visit.

 

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