A Letter To Mr Rose

Mr Rose,

You were the teacher, the adult, the one person in the room charged with a responsibility towards your students. Yet, you failed me. Oh, I passed your ridiculous exams without a second thought…. My intelligence was never the problem. It was you who failed me.

Your sarcastic sneer has never left my mind. I will forever remember your condescending arched eyebrows accompanied by your smarmy comments, expecting me to crumple into a heap at your feet. My humiliated crimson face could never stare you down, but I made sure you never saw me cry. I still have that. I don’t remember most of the teachers I had in high school, but have never forgotten you, Mr Rose. You scarred me for life.

You, Mr Rose, were supposed to be someone I could trust. A teacher. A person in authority. You behaved like a nasty schoolboy. Each time, and just for fun, you sought out the sharpest spear of humiliation you could find and you pierced my heart with it. The entire class thought you were hilarious. You’re the reason I dropped out of high school.

If I faced you in the class room today, things would be different. I would stand up to you. I would stare you down. I would call you out. I would reclaim my power and show you up for the miserable cowardly pathetic creature you were. I didn’t even know back then that was possible. At school, I never had the kind of teacher who could teach me how to manage a bully.

Yes, Mr Rose, you were a bully. You were mean. You were rude. You were cruel. I was fifteen years old. As it was, I struggled to get through a day in the school yard without being harassed by some kid who thought they were better than me. Then, in the class room, there you were with your insufferable insults and degrading commentary. You shamed me to my bones. I hated school. I hated you. I hated all you stood for.

I went home depressed every night. My parents thought I was crazy. I was desperate for help and support, and you made it all so much worse. Because of you, I didn’t trust anyone in authority enough to tell them what was really going on. I suffered needlessly for many more years because you showed me that people in authority could not be trusted with any of my deepest secrets.

You’re one of the reasons I don’t ever go to school reunions. You, and everyone else who sat smirking in that class room, chortling at your heartless barbs. Not only do I have zero interest in reconnecting with people who regularly beat me up in the school yard, and laughed at me in class, I also have no interest in returning to a place that gave me nightmares, where you haunted my sleepless nights, and ruined my school days. You were a horrible teacher, Mr Rose. You never bothered to find out who I was then; an abused, confused, angry teenage girl. Instead, you abused your position. You could have made an amazing difference in my life, but you contributed to my life-long struggle.

You’re nothing more than a PTSD trigger, Mr Rose. I hear a certain comment, catch a glimpse of someone that resembles you (or your smirk), cop a whiff of someone’s terrible aftershave, pass by a high school, and there you are … again … taunting me with your cheap shots. But you no longer have the power to humiliate me. You can no longer torture me throughout the night. There is no one there to laugh at your stupid jokes. Your sting is blunt and ineffective.

I stopped hating you a long time ago, Mr Rose. It’s been decades since I stopped caring about what you thought of me. My only regret was that I never spoke up. I never told anyone what you did to me, Mr Rose. There was so much going on then … I had a lot of problems much bigger than you … you were forgotten about, until an occasional trigger slapped me in the face and once again reminded me of you, Mr Rose. I’ve been wanting to write this letter to you for about twenty years. This afternoon, I finally could.

Despite your attempts to crush my soul, I became a writer, anyway, Mr Rose. You did not dull my passion for books. You were unable to cool my ardor for perfectly crafted words. Your stinging remarks did not deter me from spending time in libraries, theaters and cinemas all around the world. Yes, that’s right, Mr Rose. Despite your small-minded little snarks, and in spite of my own struggle, I became the exact opposite of what you so vocally predicted for me in your class room, much to the amusement of everyone else. You, sir, however, remain to be the worst English teacher I ever encountered.

Roni Askey-Doran
Writer
Traveler
Survivor

 

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Posted in Bipolar Disorder, Books, Depression, Emotions, Healing, Mood Disorders, PTSD, Self-Help, Survival, Writing To Heal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Am I In “Recovery”?

A lot of people in “the bizz” talk about “recovery” from mental illness. From mental health professionals to advocates, and also us poor sufferers of all those insidiously invisible diseases that plague our minds. I’ve been asking myself lately: Am I in “recovery”? Because it sure doesn’t feel like it.

It took me decades to figure out; firstly that I’m not, in fact, totally batshit crazy and that I actually have Bipolar Disorder, as well as OCD and PTSD, and secondly how to live with, primarily, Bipolar Disorder with its suffocating suicidal depressions and wild hair-raising manic rides without the use of prescribed medications. I ran screaming from doctors hovering over prescription pads threatening a lifetime of lithium and other chemical horrors. I was determined to find a way to stay alive without Big Pharma’s fingers in my purse, chemically altering the way I think about life, and inflicting all kinds of physical harm they brush off as the “side effects” of their poisonous medications. Instead of succumbing to pressure from those in the medical profession, I chose an organic route to sanity. It’s relentless hard work, but it works for me.

CoverIBAIKI5sm(If you’re interested, you can read details of my reasons to reject all prescribed mental health medications, and how I manage my own Bipolar Disorder in my book about coping without prescription drugs: I’m Bipolar And I Know It)

Over the course of several years, I worked really hard to learn new ways to manage all of my mental health issues. I visited all kinds of therapists, practiced new behaviors and reactions, radically changed my diet, made a morning routine, do frequent self-assessments, monitor my moods, emotions, mental state and physical health, and even follow my own advice. And yet, I still don’t feel like I’m in “recovery.”

What would “recovery” from Bipolar Disorder feel like, I wonder? It’s certainly not the same as that time I almost cut off my left index finger and had to have it stitched back together. In time, the finger fully recovered. It’s almost as good as new, and works perfectly, although it now bears a scar to remind me to be more careful with newly sharpened chef’s knives. I also don’t feel like my damaged mind is “recovering” in the same way as my body does after a nasty bout of the flu (when I definitely feel more dead than alive) or any of those other physical diseases that have slammed me into the pavement, made me wish I was dead, and forced my body into “recovery” mode so that I could get on with the  business of living my life. So why won’t my mind “recover” from these mental illnesses in the same way? It seems to be less about actual “recovery” and more about “good management” that keeps me from toppling over the edge.

I still stack up coins in neat piles… make sure all the plates are lined up properly… check the door two, three, four times… count everything; my footsteps, lines on the road, fence posts, oranges in a basket, and struggle through a day if someone upsets my routine…. My OCD is nowhere near any form of “recovery” if we’re talking about cures for diseases. Out of necessity, I learned to stop going into a full anxious meltdown if things aren’t in their proper order. Breathe, breathe, breathe…. That’s called coping, not “recovery” and I’m actually pretty good at it. (Just please don’t put that cup there, thank you very much.)

There are PTSD triggers everywhere… a smell, a taste, a sound, a touch, a sight… Even after all these years of training and practice, I can still be cannon-shot back into the past faster than you can say “fart” and find myself reeling emotionally and struggling to cope. How do you ever “recover” from childhood and adult traumas? I don’t believe you do. Instead of becoming instantly traumatized by all the triggers, I have learned how to remove myself from them; sometimes emotionally, other times physically. Today, I will calmly get out of an elevator if someone enters wearing aftershave or perfume, and I will patiently wait for the next one. I may be a few minutes late, but I won’t be a ragged exhausted blubbering mess. I no longer become fidgety, agitated and inexplicably angry when faced with a trigger. As far as I can tell, I haven’t “recovered” from PTSD. Over time, I have learned how to recognize and react appropriately to triggers. Is it 100% foolproof? No… but I’m doing okay as long as no one brings lavender into the room.

With daily assessments (sometimes hourly, sometimes minute by minute) I no longer fall, plummeting into the great black abyss of depression without any forewarning. There are signs and signals, checks and balances, and an enormous tool box of coping mechanisms at my disposal which I can rummage through to find ways to pull myself back up before it’s too late. That doesn’t mean depression doesn’t happen. It does. But it feels like the deepest darkest suicidal edge has been taken off, and it’s slightly easier to get back up and get on with life.

To be honest, even though I can detect them, I do tend to let the manic phases go a little bit … they’re so much fun! Those crazy manic times are my most creative, productive, and inspired moments. Why would I want them to stop? However, instead of letting the manic roller-coaster race wildly out of control until I’ve suddenly become the Queen of my own country, I’ve learned to take breaks, to stop and eat something healthy, to meditate when my mind starts racing, to go for walks, to get some rest (even if I can’t sleep), to lay on the floor with my cats, and even to wash the dishes and focus on appreciating whatever I can see out the window at that moment. These things help bring me back to earth a little bit, and keep me grounded, without crushing my creativity. And the come down isn’t nearly as devastating as it used to be.

Am I in “recovery” from Bipolar Disorder? From OCD? From PTSD? I really don’t think so. There is no known cure for those afflictions (death is not considered a viable option here). My finger healed. My flu went away. I recently made a full “recovery” from a nasty bout of gastroenteritis. But, even after all these years of treatment, therapy, and practicing good management strategies, my mind is still terribly broken. Without proper supervision, it can’t be left to its own devices. It still needs its daily checks, exercises, activities, a good diet, and a whole lot of careful monitoring to keep going without collapsing into a screaming heap.

Maybe one day, with scientific research and all its advances, a full “recovery” from our mental illnesses will become a possibility. Scientists and health practitioners all over the world are searching high and low for those kinds of answers. I just don’t believe we’re quite there yet.

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Happiness

happiness

Happiness can seem like the most elusive emotion to get a solid grasp on. Wallowing in the desperate black hole of depression, it does not even manage a blip on the mood-radar. Yet society, and also the media, tell us that “happiness” is the ultimate goal that we’re all reaching for. They tell us if we drink sugary sodas and eat caramel filled chocolate, we’ll be happy. They say if we lose weight and wear designer jeans and buy over-priced accessories, we’ll be happy. Apparently, if we spend up big on expensive appliances we’ll be happy. The latest model car supposedly contributes to our happiness too.

Men are convinced they can only propose marriage if they first buy a diamond. Women frown and pout when the diamond that cost at least one month’s salary is too small. The fact that diamonds have no inherent value, and that De Beers invented this superficial “tradition” of engagement rings for their own profit has been lost in a fog of mis-history. Why can’t women be sufficiently happy without a diamond if the man they truly love wants to marry them? Why isn’t love in itself not enough? Why can’t teenagers be happy in their own skin, without being made to feel insecure and inadequate by media, society, over-anxious parents and their own equally insecure and self-loathing peers? Today there are more unhappy people on Earth than ever before in the history of the planet. Everyone seems to believe you need “stuff” to be happy. Or you need “perfection” to be content. Never has such blatant bullshit been so prolific to the extent where people of all ages in all nations have become brainwashed into believing this ridiculous hype is all true. And so many fall victim to the bleakness of depression when they feel they can’t possibly achieve all these materialistic goals set to achieve this mysterious “happiness” everyone keeps talking about. Of course they can’t. No one can. It’s impossible! Happiness is not a material possession.

After years of conforming to society’s idea of who I am supposed to be, and trying to live up to the social status expected of me, and living on a constant rollercoaster of dieting and failing and being miserable because I couldn’t afford Gucci shoes or Dolce & Gabbana jeans – which would never fit me in a million years anyway because designers of that caliber never account for ample booty – I decided to put a stop to the entire circus and embrace myself for who I am and what I am. What am I? I’m a woman. I’m gorgeous. I’m stunning. I’m perfectly flawed and beautifully wounded and I am a survivor of a very rough life. And I’m happy. What? How did that happen? It wasn’t easy. I worked hard for it. But I now can honestly say that I’m a happy woman, and my depression – while it still comes and goes in waves – is a lot more manageable as a result.

I started with Mirror Therapy – an exercise in improving self-esteem – which was the very first building block towards happiness. It nearly destroyed me, but I survived the experience with flying colors and kept moving forward, one small step at a time. I screamed. I wrote. I danced. I laughed. I lay on my back at the beach and watched the clouds form into interesting shapes. I watched sad movies and cried my heart out. I learned to love me. I learned to be kind to myself. I learned to acknowledge my flaws and accept them. I learned what I truly need to be happy – and that does not include a two-door fridge with an ice-maker, a red Lamborghini or anything else which carries a label or price tag. It was a wonderful, and at times traumatic, stressful and tearful, and extremely liberating process which lead me towards today’s blissful feelings of contentment and inner peace.

Gratitude, I found, was a key factor in my healing process. Gratitude for a day that did not include feeling blue. Gratitude for a friend’s kindness. Gratitude for the small things that we often take for granted: fresh water to drink, healthy food to eat, a warm place to sleep. Gratitude to Mother Nature for providing me with a sustainable life. I learned that I could decide to be happy if I wanted to feel happy. Or not. I could decide how I wanted to react – or not – to each life situation. And I could decide who to let into my life, into my inner and outer circles, and began to add people in my life who are positive and optimistic, letting go of those who did not enhance the quality of my life or share in my optimism and happiness. As a result, today I am happy. Yes, I have Bipolar Disorder, which is never going away, with a healthy slug of PTSD thrown in for good measure and a helping of OCD just to make life a little more interesting, but even with all these obstacles in my path just waiting to trip me up, I have chosen to be happy. And so can you.

Click the link to find out more about my book: I’m Bipolar And I Know It

Posted in Addiction, Bipolar Disorder, Books, Depression, Emotions, Healing, Mood Disorders, PTSD, Self-Help, Survival, Writing To Heal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking Up With The Supermarket

Hell in a Box

A whole lot of hell and damnation packed into one little box

To see the Recovery Illustrated version of this article please click here

Every trip to the supermarket is like a visit to the House of Horrors. The moment I step through that automatic door, lit up like a Broadway stage by dozens of bright fluorescent lights, the demon in my head screams “CHOCOLATE!” It makes no difference if I have gone there to buy laundry powder of one of those thingamijiggies that fits over the end of the doobilacky, that evil harridan is inside my mind having a super-size tantrum, beating her fists against the fragile walls of my broken mind and making demands that are harder to resist with each breathless step into the cavernous den of temptation.

“CHOCOLATE!” she shrieks, getting her friends to echo the call, howling in my skull. I head into the dog-food aisle to get away. It’s like taking an alcoholic to the liquor store: heart racing, short breaths, clenched teeth, balled fists, sweaty brow, limbs quivering. And then, transported by some mysterious magnetic force that I do not understand, I somehow find myself staring at an entire wall filled from floor to ceiling with caramel drops and cherry coconut bars, dark rum and raisin chocolate bars, and packets of gooey rocky road. I don’t remember how I arrived here. The dog-food aisle is at the other end of the supermarket.

Multi-colored bars and blocks of chocolate beckon me to try them; a whole planet of mouth-watering flavors seductively calls out my name. The rich aroma of chocolate engulfs me. My brain begins an automatic shut-down. All around me, chocolate calls and beckons, blowing kisses and wiggling like sexy pole-dancers with suggestive flicks of their shiny wrappers. I’m frozen to the spot, unable to fight or flee. I won’t say yes, but I can’t say no. It’s not the monsters under the bed I am most afraid of, it’s the monsters in my head.

“CHOCOLATE!” screeches the wild pack, a cacophony of shrill voices, all beating down my resolve. Drowning inside the murky pit of depression, my defenses are weak and I struggle to fight them off. Chocolate-coated peanuts dance a Can-Can in front of my eyes. I’m tempted to throw myself on the floor, face buried in my arms and cry, “No! No! No! No! No! No!” but the supermarket’s security would probably have me arrested. How would I explain that to the police?

“Well, officer, I was trying to escape the demons. They wanted me to buy chocolate.”

Right. Transported post-haste to the psych-ward in a straight-jacket by men in white coats. Then, an evaluation, where my dirty little secret will become public knowledge.

“She has a mental illness,” people will whisper conspiratorially as I pass.

Actually, I have three mental illnesses, and I’m not too concerned about who finds out, but that is neither here nor there. Right now, I’m in hell. I’m fighting for my life, trying to stop them from dragging me into the abyss with depression-inducing chocolate. Or am I? Is chocolate the real problem? When I can eat an entire 200g block in under half an hour, it could be. But how is this so? What is it about chocolate that causes it to be so devastatingly addictive? Sugar. That ugly albino beast rears its ugly head and roars:

“You NEED me!”

Still on the verge of panic, I back out of the aisle cautiously, as if backing away from a pack of wild howling dogs. The sugar-addicted demons in my head go berserk, pounding at my mind to go back and pick up a handful of shimmering packets. Soft truffle centers catch my eye. I spin on my heel and run. Out of breath, I find myself in the health-food aisle. I stop right in front of a paper bag stating that its contents include 100% organic cacao beans. No sugar. There is a picture on the front of a fresh yellow cacao pod, split in two to reveal the beans inside. I grab it and race to the check out.

Once in the car, I collapse into a heap, tears coursing down my face. I feel as if I’ve just had one of those terrible heart-wrenching passive-aggressive fights that occur frequently within an unhealthy relationship. I arrive home exhausted from the trip. As I unpack eco-friendly laundry liquid, rock salt and a pack of life-saving cacao beans, I resolve to end it. Munching on cacao beans, I feel stronger and more determined to succeed. I’m also getting the chocolate hit my body wanted, without the paralyzing guilt and self-loathing attached. Cool beans!

Just like that boyfriend who beat me up all those years ago, I swore I would never see the supermarket again. It’s too harrowing. All that shimmering and glimmering in your face, pretending to be your bestest friend and then dragging you down into a festering wound of bleak negativity and self-annihilation. And after all that, they tell you it’s your own stupid fault. It’s time to break up with the supermarket. It’s not that difficult actually, when I consider the number of times I’ve walked out of there feeling as if I’ve survived yet another emotional massacre. It’s much the same as when you know the relationship ended a while back, and now you finally have the fortitude to walk away.

The following day, there is a Farmer’s Market nearby. It’s love at first sight. The beginning of a new, healthy relationship. Let’s see how this goes… so far, it all feels pretty good!

Little bombs of bliss in every bean.

Little bombs of energizing bliss in every rich chocolaty bean.

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The Sweet Life

Sugar is the root of all evil.

Sugar: the root of all evil. Causes cancer, diabetes and depression, just to name a few. Photo: Turchuk.com

Sugar is my worst enemy. Its insidious presence in so many food products gives me cause to wonder if the Big Ten are actually mass marketing sugar with government permission to reduce the overall world population, rather than “feed the world”. Conspiracy theories aside, we all know it’s about the money. Presumably, they do it for the massive profits. You eat sugar. It gets you “high” and you want more sugar. And next time, you want even more more sugar. They take more and more of your hard-earned money (Did you know that Nestlé is the currently the world’s most profitable corporation?). When you crash, you feel like crap. It’s a never-ending circle that’s really hard to break. But “hard” is not impossible. And it can be done!

Unlike identifying my specific food allergies, the sugar-addiction thing actually took me a very long time to figure out. When I realized that sugar was the culprit, guilty of numerous crimes against my person, I decided to change my life style and eating habits. You know, I hit the “health wagon” which dictates that brown sugar is healthier…. and honey is even better. But that propaganda is not true either, so it took quite a while to rid my diet of processed sugars. Eventually, I turned it all upside down. Everything lurking in the back of the pantry that came in a packet, jar, can or bottle was tossed out. However, even though it contains fructose, I did not eliminate fresh organic fruit. Without regrets, I broke up with the supermarket and got engaged to the Farmer’s Market instead. Now I know exactly what I’m consuming, and there are no secret ingredients. Fruit is what saves me from sweet cravings at any time of the night or day. In fact, to be specific, low-fructose bananas totally save my butt. I have another blog called Going Bananas which – apart from sharing other fascinating foods made from bananas – also shows how you can replace sugars in cakes with ripe bananas, with some fabulous recipes. Believe me, learning about how to sweeten my life without sugar was a miracle!

I like to eat sweet things. I love chocolate. Very often, after dinner, my sweet-tooth kicks in and my body wants something sweet. Usually, I choose a piece of fresh fruit. Sometimes, I want something that feels more “naughty” than a holier-than-thou slice of pineapple – as delicious and fresh as it is. A brownie? Hell yeah! I make mine with bananas and olive oil instead of sugar and butter. As I type, I’m drinking a banana-chocolate shake made in the blender with two bananas and a spoonful of organic cacao beans. I get my sugar hit, my chocolate hit and my sweet-tooth is satisfied for the rest of the day. Woohoo! Occasionally, to satisfy my “need” for chocolate, I even snack on a few organic cacao beans while I’m working in the garden – this is an acquired taste, but well worth it. And guess what else…. I’m not going to be crashing into a depression because of sugar.

The best thing about eliminating processed sugars from my diet is feeling great. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a magical “cure” for my Bipolar Disorder. There is no cure. There is only finding a way to live beside what I now refer to as “a terrible neighbor”. Once a level of inner peace is achieved, it’s doable. Sometimes, bouts of depression still occur. Days when I can’t get out of bed and face the world still take place. But it’s not because of sugar. There’s none of that searching every corner of the house like a desperate drug-addict, looking for some snack I’ve hidden somewhere to satisfy my insatiable craving. Some of the edge has been taken off my disease. When it comes to what I put in my mouth, I have a lot more control now.  No more Michelle Pfeiffer (I am Sam) style marshmallow binges, puking it up later and crying on the bathroom floor. No more late night movie tantrums because there are no more toxic gummy bears. Freshly made Chili Popcorn has become my favorite movie snack. I’m preferring more salty home-made snacks nowadays, but low-fructose fruit has become the new path to sweetness in my life.

There are several great low fructose fruits that really help me out in the sweetness department: berries, kiwi, grapefruit, pineapples, and avocados to name a few. There are several sites online that go deeper into that, I won’t do that here. But there is also something else that has happened recently. Something so vital to my mental health that it deserves a mention. Whenever I choose fruit, I also congratulate myself on a wonderful choice. I look at directly at my face in the mirror and compliment myself on my smart decision. The smile that comes back at me is pretty hard to beat. This self-esteem boost is amazing. I am both physically and psychologically combating my Bipolar with powerful weapons it can’t easily break through. I’m beginning to believe that poor self-esteem has a lot more to do with depression than we understand. As for that bleak crazy depression skulking around somewhere in the darkest shadows of my messed up mind, well, these days it’s got a whole bunch of large complicated obstacles to get over before it can ruin my day! Happy sugar-free days!

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Vegemite Therapy

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I’m a Vegemite kid. I have always been a happy little Vegemite as happy as can be, until the rotten bastards took my Vegemite from me. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and still too young to dress myself, my mother had dressed me up in white frills and lace, then left me to my own devices while she went to dress herself. I played quietly. Apparently, too quietly. It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. By the time my mother returned, ready to take me out, I was covered from head to toe in black goo, and still delightedly licking thick brewers yeast extract off the spoon.

Breakfast Vegemite

Breakfast Vegemite

Millions of Australians have grown up with this strange edible enigma, best on hot buttered toast, but also known to season a soup, flavor spaghetti, or serve as a pizza base. Vegemite is so popular, rock songs have been written about it! Having lived a long way from the island for the best part of three decades, my one tenacious connection to the motherland has always been Vegemite. I always throw a jar in my bag on my way out of the country and an essential part of my roots go wherever I’m going. Vegemite is a vital part of my mental health routine, maintaining a single thread of continuity throughout my life’s journey. When the jar runs out – usually after about a year of being sparingly spread onto home-made gluten-free breads as a special treat, there is not another thing I crave more from home. Home-grown delicacies such as Cherry Ripes and Old Gold Dark Rum and Raisin Chocolate, Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce and Mum’s Mango Cheesecake take a back seat to my favorite treat from Australia. During the rough times, a thin spread of deliciously tangy black goo over fresh bread can take me back to a happier place where life is easier, even if only for a moment. Treasuring each mouthful, savoring the salty bite of Vegemite is part of my therapy.

Vegemite Toast

Lunch Vegemite

Living away for years at a time, in remote locales where most people have never even heard of Australia, much less Vegemite, where such a weird black sticky concoction is impossible to buy or reproduce in the kitchen at home, can sometimes be a burden too heavy to bear when the chips are down. It’s nice to have a jar of Vegemite at home in the cupboard. It represents so much; Vegemite is the nerve-calming breakfast toast the day of the big essay presentation at school, a Vegemite and cheese sandwich snack is the motivation to swim another twenty lengths of the Olympic pool at the daily training session, Vegemite on hot buttered toast is the girls coming home at 4am, still giddy and giggling from a night on the town, Vegemite on salty crackers is lunch on the beach with teenage friends. And when your Vegemite toast falls out of your hand, it always lands face down. Vegemite is not just salty black gunk. It’s a happy place. It’s somewhere I can go when life gets on top of me and there is no other escape. It helps keep me sane, and can be the first step out of a bleak low point; onwards and upwards, like a happy little Vegemite. Knowing all this, you may now empathize with my despair when the precious jar of Vegemite is removed from my bag and confiscated at the airport. My unopened, recently purchased, jar of Vegemite, packed to the brim with good mental health is suddenly gone.

Vegemite Spaghetti

Dinner Vegemite

“It’s brand new! Unopened!” I tell officials, who are clearly not deprived of any home comforts.

“It’s a spread. You can’t have it,” they chant, robotically.

“I need this. You don’t understand how important it is!”

“It’s illegal. You can’t have it.”

Vegemite is illegal?

Vegemite is illegal?

Vegemite is illegal? Since when? Are the authorities afraid I will kill a plane full of people with an overdose of vitamin B? If the airliner does crash, my jar of apparently illicit substances could actually mean the difference between life and death. This is the first time it’s been taken away. Again, the goal posts have been moved to suit whoever feels the need to micro-control the population in the name of safety. Australia has a paranoid obsession with safety. Taking my Vegemite does not make air travel safer. This confiscation is cruel and heartless, carried out by inhumane minions of the police state I once called home. It is the equivalent of taking away my medication for depression – in fact, if I’d been carrying those kinds of prescription drugs, they would have passed muster. However, I am devastated by the loss of my Vegemite. It is a massive blow to my fragile emotional state, which I already struggle to maintain in good condition without prescriptions. What kind of people rip a life-raft from the hands of the drowning? It is unnecessary. Suffering from a lack of home-comforts most of the time, that jar of Vegemite is all I have. There is no bean-curd vermicelli, no gluten-free spaghetti, no Cherry Ripes or Old Gold dark chocolate from which to take solace. Bereft, with nothing except a sour taste in my mouth at a ridiculous law that not only makes no sense but causes terrible suffering, I board the waiting plane.

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Vegemite Toast at 4am

I depart the homeland both disgusted and distraught. I grieve the loss not only of a simple jar of delicious toast spread but the only link that takes me home, transporting me to the other side of the Pacific Ocean with just a few bites, to soothe my anxieties, calm my fears, wash away my worries, and bring a smile to my face. As I take off, sans Vegemite, to leave the country where I have suffered the most over the past 47 years, once again it causes me indescribable pain. A lucky country it is not. Vegemiteless, I cross the Pacific to live in the boonies, to survive on hope and realize my dreams, this time minus my vital sensory connection to a happy place. I don’t know how I’ll cope when things get tough. I hope the Australian Customs Officer who took home my precious jar of life-saving Vegemite chokes on his toast.

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Happy Little Vegemite

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The Question of Lithium

Ever since I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (or manic depression as it was known way back in the dark ages of mental illness diagnoses) I’ve been running as fast as my fat little legs would carry me in the opposite direction of all kinds of prescribed chemical treatments, from Zoloft and Prozac to a massive range of other unpronounceable mood-altering concoctions that medical and psychiatric professionals were only too happy to prescribe faster than my lovely round bottom could settle into their comfy sofa chairs, the scariest of the lot being Lithium, which is an alkali metal said to increase the synthesis of serotonin and decrease the release of noradrenaline and is somehow designed to make my loopy messed up brain happier. One aspect of my bipolarity that has never been taken into consideration by anyone is that my attitude to these totally zombifying treatments is at the opposite pole of professional attitudes to treatment, making the entire treatment concept a bipolar one, and not just an unwelcome illness residing inside my own twisted mind. An addled brain filled with introduced heavy metals (not counting Iron Maiden and Metallica) was never one of my highest goals in life. However, recently I had an experience that caused me to pause and think about the idea of lithium as a viable solution for a moment longer. Maybe, just maybe, lithium isn’t so bad as a treatment for my Bipolar Disorder, after all.

People who know me well at this point will be asking, “Where is the real Roni, and what have you done with her body?” It’s true that I’m not the kind of person who would double back on my own convictions and give up a lifelong battle just like that. You don’t fight against something with full claws out for so long just to prance daintily up to the chopping block like a lamb to slaughter, ready to be converted into neat little chops shaped by the hands of others. But this has now become a perspective issue. Maybe, for all these depression-riddled moody rollercoaster-riding years, I’ve been looking at the whole Lithium Question from the wrong angle.

On a trip back home from home – which takes me half way around the globe and all the way across the Pacific Ocean (twice) – while staying with some friends in Los Angeles, I visited a local adult shop to replace my big-girl version of Buzz Lightyear. The old one had thrown in the towel many months previously and fun toys like that are not so readily available out in the boonies of South America. In fact, adult stores in Latin America are as rare as men who don’t urinate in the streets. Culturally speaking, women are supposed to hook up with aforementioned men (and be happy about it!). Ugh! Give me a latex lover over a Latin lover any day. While I was in the store, the friendly salesgirl pointed out a few different multi-speed models based on my specifications and then proudly announced with a big smile, “These ones run on lithium batteries. You’ll get a lot more happy miles out of them!” Really? A light bulb popped over my head. Lithium. To treat bipolar depression. OF COURSE!

If all those therapists had been prescribing this kind of lithium as medication, instead of trying to convince me to fill my body internally with toxic metals, I probably wouldn’t have fled quite so quickly. It couldn’t be simpler, could it? Buzzing myself to bliss, a couple of well-chosen lithium battery-powered appliances have the potential to make a world of difference to how I’m feeling. Buzz Lightyear Mark II was an instant hit. Oh yeah! He made me very happy! In fact, if he hadn’t been powered by lithium, he’d probably have melted from exhaustion with dead double As and burned out pinions (just like the last one).

Then of course, lithium has a multitude of other uses to whip my bipolarity back into its place. I mean, one does have to get out and about from time to time, breathe fresh air, feel the sun on one’s skin, listen to waves break on the beach. Armed with a lithium battery-powered camera, I can now go outside the house and feel good too. I love to take photos. Here’s the thing: over the years, I have found that doing things I enjoy helps me to feel good. Taking photos is great fun! Then, there’s the lithium-powered cordless drill option. My inner-carpenter can buzz her way to bliss with her clothes on and make home improvements at the same time. Apparently, there are even cars and motorbikes that run on lithium. I love to drive, it’s relaxing. What better way to beat Bipolar Disorder than to whack in some lithium and rev it up? The choices are unlimited! All kinds of gadgets and toys run on lithium these days. Things have changed a bit since the dark ages.

My attitude to lithium has changed too. When applied externally, I see great potential for lithium not only as a remedy for Bipolar Disorder, but for all kinds of ills that plague modern society. De-stress with lithium! Admittedly, I have not done any personal studies on the side effects of externally administered lithium treatments – and since I’m the only subject at this point in time, I doubt any recorded results would be considered objective or conclusive. However, from my experience, I can say that lithium has certainly made a difference to my mood swings and levels of happiness. It’s just probably not quite what all those therapists I’ve seen over the years were expecting me to do. So, I’m off… to Al’s Toy Barn… and beyond…

Posted in Bipolar Disorder, Books, Depression, PTSD, Self-Help, Survival | 2 Comments