Category Archives: Life

Dancing with the Black Dog

I wanted to share this, but never knew how. After watching the special concert in honour of Chester Bennington, I figured I might as well just do it. I highly recommend watching the concert (below), and have provided some websites that help with depression as well as foundations.

Water was streaming down my face, my head against the tiles, my body standing stiff, and my mind blank, a million miles away. I didn’t want to move; I was not motivated to move. I could have stayed under that shower forever. But I knew eventually I would have to get out, dress myself, and eventually get to work. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

It was 2008 and I was a week in to my first time on anti-depressants and I wasn’t coping with the adjustment. According to the information pamphlet, side effects include nausea, constipation, insomnia, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, nervousness, strange dreams, blurred vision, changes in appetite or weight, decreased sex drive, impotence, difficulty having an orgasm, and increased sweating. Sounds fun doesn’t it.

I was on this, my first medication, before I approached my doctor and advised them that I had to change as the side effects were affecting me too much. I lived close to work (3km) yet had to time my public transportation otherwise my stomach would start churning and I would have to find a bathroom pronto. It was horrible.

My doctor changed the medication I was on and I adjusted, dealing with the lesser side effects, although spending 6 months or more with 40 hour days due to insomnia wasn’t much fun either. Nothing like getting up at midday, and staying up until 4am two days later and then passing out for only 8 to 10 hours, cycle repeats.

Fast forward to 2011 – my then girlfriend and I break up due to my emotions getting the better of me and not controlling my anger. There’s never been an instance where I’ve hit anyone, and I maintain that to this day. But my anger came out in extreme yelling. I am not justifying my actions by any means and take full responsibility, even going to anger management classes. But in saying that, anti-depressants are a horrible thing. They make you feel like a zombie, where the rational part of you that helps understand emotions, empathy and sympathy, disappears. So ultimately, a thought pops in my head and where normally that logical part tells you that’s not right, is not there to stop you. This resulted in me steadily getting worse with road rage and yelling at people.

6 months later, after the breakup and moving interstate back to Queensland and settling down again, after six months of not dealing with the emotional side of the breakup and only dealing with the logical steps of moving out, moving interstate, finding a job, a place to live, once all the logical steps were exhausted, the emotional toll caught up to me where it was the worst I have ever felt. I went to a local doctor, started seeing a therapist, and then began my road to recovery, and the long one month wait of the new anti-depressants to kick in. I knew I had to seek help at the time because the only thing keeping me going and honestly, alive, was my dog. Knowing I had him kept me handcuffed to this earth. Without him, I am sure I would have killed myself. Suicidal thoughts were prominent and my doctor even suggested I check myself in to a psychiatric ward of the hospital. The thought of leaving my dog however left me feeling even worse.

I did however survive on copious amounts of alcohol and fast acting anti-depressants which made me blackout. My doctor prescribed me two types of anti-depressants: the normal kind which is a slow acting release and takes 4 to 6 weeks to begin having the required effect, and then a fast acting, temporary medication to help in those moments prior to the long-term medication kicking in. So, I would get depressed during the 4 to 6-week period, pop a fast-acting anti-depressant, and drink half a bottle of whiskey. I would black out. I remember one Christmas, a liquor store was having a sale and I picked up three bottles of whiskey cheap, and drank an additional two bottles after that. I survived on alcohol and fast acting pills.

Medication is the worst. I gained 20kg because I couldn’t stop eating – I never felt full. I always wanted to eat and couldn’t stop. When I look at photos from 10 or so years ago, I weighed 75kg and I thought I didn’t look too bad at all. Now it takes a lot of energy – both physical and mental – to give myself the motivation of trying to lose the weight and slim down again. It’s extremely easy to reach for that pizza and booze again when your mind is feeding you negative thoughts that you might as well just cheat because you won’t succeed anyway.

There was also the previously mentioned side effect of saying or doing whatever came to mind. It was a false sense of confidence that was never good. But it’s a necessary evil sometimes. It’s not the full solution mind you – therapy and a chance of attitude and approach to things is needed, especially for handling anxiety. That built up like a ball in my chest until it exploded. I needed to learn strategies for dealing with things in a healthy way. I had to learn how to become extremely self-aware about my mind and body, then interpret what was going on, and then adjust. When emotions ran high, that goes straight out the window and you become reactive rather than putting in place those strategies.

It’s unfortunate that these days there’s still a stigma around mental health – as soon as it’s mentioned, people usually don’t know how to react unless they’ve experienced it themselves. It is always a case of never being sure who you can trust to share the information to, because you don’t know how they will react or judge you moving forward. When someone opens up about what they’re going through, just know they are putting their absolute trust in you to not judge or react negatively and they’re asking for help. Maybe it’s just to listen to their story – half the time, that’s all I need. To feel like I have someone who can listen and just be a support tool. You don’t even have to say or do anything. Just listen without judgement or reaction. Sometimes it’s just having someone there at your darkest moment that helps the most.

I’ve had people tell me all the clichés – I’ll get over it, just go out and have a good night, go get laid you’ll feel better, go get drunk, it’ll pass. You name it, I’ve heard it.

The truth of the matter is, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s always there unless you go down the path of long term medication to force the brain to adjust, as well as coping mechanisms for once off the medication to unlearn old behaviour that became so ingrained.

I’ve seen a friend post continual Facebook posts where they are feeling absolutely at their worst – then post a photo of a noose and that they’re ready to kill themselves. The reaction of their friends? “I’m here if you need me”, or one that I’ll never forget – “I’m here if you need to talk, if not, that’s on you”. I mean seriously, how is that in any way supportive? None of the people posting in response even took it seriously enough to call 000 and get someone around there ASAP. He lives interstate and I didn’t have his address, otherwise it would have been the first thing I had done.

When depression or anxiety kicks in, there’s no logical thought process going on – the brain is on an elevator to hell, going down. No stops, no turns, no stopping at a level. Walls go up and the brain is focused only on that negative energy. It’s like the Terminator – there’s no reasoning, no bargaining, it has one purpose. A mind in that energy will not accept help from people, it will continue to tell yourself that there is no one there for you and there’s nothing left. As an outsider watching someone go through this, you need to understand there is nothing you can say to change someone’s thought process until they themselves get out of it. Most of the time it passes and the person can regain some open thought process.

Even when I’m not going through an episode of depression or anxiety, I know my thought processes are different to other people. That long term medicated fog on the brain doesn’t just disappear once you’re off it. I don’t interpret or see the same way other people do. I know everyone is different, but you really do perceive things differently because of how the brain works with depression and anxiety, and on medication. It’s almost like dyslexia where you interpret everything backwards. It’s like looking through the world with a different set of eyes.

I’m now at the stage where I’m witnessing people I grew up listening and watching, who helped shape my childhood, start to take their own lives – Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington – people that look like they have the world, and still they drowned in their own inner demons and felt the only way out was to commit suicide. It shows that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, you can still suffer from it. It leaves me only empathising how deep of a hole they must have been in, like I once felt, to get to that stage where the only option was to not exist anymore. I know it’s selfish of me to think this, but if by doing what they’ve done it brings real awareness and consideration to this illness, then maybe their deaths won’t be for nothing.

The more that depression and mental illnesses are brought out in the open, perhaps one day it will make sufferers feel safe enough to open up and talk to people to help them understand without judgement or reaction. And that’s why I decided to open up and tell you my story, to help you understand. And I hope I’ve achieved that.

I’m a survivor, but I still struggle. I avoid certain situations because I know that it’s just easier to. I have to pick my opportunities to interact with people because I’m aware of how they may affect me. Other times, I just have to soldier on and put on a happy face. I use music as an escape and a way to describe how I feel as I can relate to so much of it.

I’ve given up, I’m sick of feeling, is there nothing you can say? Take this all away, I’m suffocating! Tell me what the fuck is wrong with me!

I’m holding on, why is everything so heavy? Holding on, so much more than I can carry. I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down, If I just let go, I’d be set free. Holding on, why is everything so heavy?

So pray to music build a shrine, Listen in these desperate times. Fill your heart with every note, cherish it and cast afloat, because god is in these clef and tone, Salvation is found alone. Haunted by its melody, Music it will set you free, let it set you free.

We build cathedrals to our pain, establish monuments to attain, Freedom from all of the scars and the sins, lest we drown in the darkness within.

If they say, who cares if one more light goes out? In a sky of a million stars, it flickers, flickers. Who cares when someone’s time runs out? If a moment is all we are, We’re quicker, quicker. Who cares if one more light goes out? Well I do.

A reflection of 2014 – yes it’s been a while!

So as it’s the last day of the year, I thought I would look back and reflect on the year that’s been, and some thoughts on the year ahead.

I can honestly say this year has been a great one. Considering the last few years, I would be amiss in saying it wasn’t a good one, and whilst I kept myself very busy I definitely had a great time and hope to expand on this in 2015.

I crossed a few items off my bucket list:
– I finally visited Canada which was #1 on my travel destination list, which included seeing a mostly frozen Niagara Falls, visited the hockey hall of fame, and saw amazing landscapes in the Rocky Mountains
– I watched my New Jersey Devils play at home, and at Yankee stadium
– I played ice hockey (recreational games but I still did it!)
– and continued my fitness regime

I started exercising late May 2013 and I continued this through 2014 with multiple changes to my diet and I am seeing improvements to myself both in body and mind, the fact that ice hockey has motivated me to get healthy and fit so I can play it (which I finally did) is an achievement.
I will be continuing this for the rest of my life and love doing it.

I moved interstate back to Melbourne thanks to my job, making another go of it, and so far so good.
I love seeing my dad, visiting great eateries and catching up with friends and family again.

During 2014, I made new friends, and spent time with friends.
I had an absolute blast in Calgary thanks to the hospitality of my Canadian family. I can’t say thank you enough.
I hung out with A New Jersey mate and look forward to more fun times in February 2015!
I’m sad that I couldn’t share a drink with a buddy now passed and he will always be in my thoughts.

I close out the year with family and it’s the best way I can think of.

So what does 2015 hold?
I go back to work for 5 weeks then it’s back overseas for more hockey and times with Friends.
When I get back I only have 2 months until I find out if I get selected by the USA green card lottery which will change my direction in life.
I’ve just moved in to a fantastic new place and look forward to making it my new home with Jaws, because let’s be honest, I wouldn’t go through life without my best pal

O Canada!

Ever since I was a kid, Canada intrigued me. It was always the first place I wanted to travel to without a doubt – travel through the rocky mountains in winter or summer, the snow fields, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Unfortunately with being a fan of an American hockey team, my travel plans have always been around major American cities. My first trip to the USA was in October 2010 where I followed the New Jersey Devils on a 3-game road trip around California. It was my first taste of the USA, and I squeezed in some sightseeing as well – San Francisco, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

I spent a few hours in San Francisco, exploring Fisherman’s Wharf and driving around, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, then I drove south to San Jose. I didn’t see anything of San Jose – I was only there for hockey and watched the Devils lose 5-3. Then from there to Anaheim, drove past Disneyland, hiked up the Hollywood sign hill. Saw the Devils win in Anaheim 2-1, then lose to the Kings 3-1.

The final part of the trip was a 2 hour drive south to San Diego, watched the San Diego Chargers beat the Tennessee Titans, then drive straight to LAX and fly home.

I finally got back to the USA in 2012, again in October. I was originally planning on visiting in March 2012 however I had to delay due to struggles with finances at the time. I planned a 3-sport holiday, seeing the New York Yankees baseball team, and the San Diego Chargers and New Jersey Devils again. Unfortunately the NHL and Players Association caused a lockout and my plan to see hockey was stopped. I still however spent 2 weeks in New York, visiting the tourist spots of Rockefeller Plaza, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, and a day trip to Washington D.C. I was also able to see Kevin Smith and the Comic Book Men speak in New York and a quick trip to Boston.

So as they say, third time lucky to visit the place I always wanted to visit first, and I have to thank some friends of mine for the opportunity. I met a family while tailgating in the San Diego Chargers parking lot, who were visiting from Canada, and who are also supporters of the San Diego Chargers. They extended an invitation to visit and stay in Calgary whenever I visited.

So with this, and the large tax refund I received, I decided to set the plans in motion for a third trip to the USA. I am going to the New Jersey Devils home arena for 2 home games, and the special Stadium Series outdoor game against the New York Rangers. Then head up to the great white north to Canada.

I will spend 2 days in Toronto, and visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, CN Tower, and Wayne Gretzky’s bar and restaurant. I will then fly to Calgary where I will spend 2 weeks sightseeing, with day trips to the Rocky Mountains, more hockey games, and surrounding areas. I will experience my first proper North American Super Bowl party, and great Canadian hospitality.

I am counting down the days.

Hockey is here! (So is football)

It seems like forever ago that I was watching the New Jersey Devils get eliminated from playoff contention with a couple of games to go in the 2013 lockout-shortened hockey season.
Amazingly, the past several months have gone by in a relatively quick fashion, and the Devils had a very busy and interesting off-season.

Besides acquiring Jaromir Jagr and several other free agents, Ilya Kovalchuk retired from the NHL to play in his motherland and the KHL, and the Devils sold their team and Prudential Center to the Philadelphia 76ers owners and cleared out their debt.

So a quiet off-season it has not been, and pre-season games have now begun. Cuts to the team have started, and it’s less than 2 weeks to the opening game. My NHL Gamecenter Live subscription has been paid in full, and I am ready to watch some hockey. I have already watched the first pre-season game, where the Devils faced off against the New York Rangers and won. Cory Schneider was in net and looked strong. Unfortunately I have not seen the second pre-season game against the New York Islanders, however word is it was a sloppy game and unfortunately Martin Brodeur did not have a strong game.

Following on from the previous post, my copy of NHL 14 with Martin Brodeur on the cover is on its way and in Australia; I should have it any day now, and I’m looking forward to playing the latest version in single player and online through the HUT and regular games.

Additionally, after a long off-season, the NFL is back, and we’re already at week 3. The NFL brings nothing but happy memories, especially when I was there 12 months ago and met some great people in San Diego at the tailgate before the Monday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos. San Diego is a great city, and I can’t wait to go back.

The San Diego Chargers lost to the Houston Texans the first week by 3 points – which should have been a win however as the referee’s association have publicly announced they made the wrong penalty call against the Chargers which allowed the Texans a new set of downs which resulted in a touchdown.

However, the Chargers played a spectacular game against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 2 to win 33-30. Philip Rivers played a great offensive game reading the Eagles’ defense and picking them apart. The only downside was the neck injury to Malcolm Floyd.

Week 3 has the San Diego Chargers traveling to face the Tennessee Titans after the Titans starting strong, it will be another tough challenge, one I hope the Chargers overcome to get above a winning record.

I’ve never really been fit, and my gym work is continuing. I believe I am slowly losing weight and toning up, although it all takes time, patience, and hard work. I hope to translate this in to hockey training in the near future, then move to recreational competitive hockey games. This will make for an exciting 2014 year.

Winter in Oz

It’s always interesting this time of year. The hockey season is almost over, football (NFL) still feels ages away, and baseball will be the only company of sports until the brutality returns.

Since the New Jersey Devils were eliminated from reaching the playoffs, hockey has not been quite as exciting, but I can’t miss the Stanley Cup Finals. The other bit of exciting hockey news is the highly anticipated results of the voting for the NHL 14 video game cover. Hopefully I get to see Marty Brodeur on the cover. It’s also special to see someone such as Jaromir Jagr play even at his age and make a difference to the Boston Bruins, just like us Devils fans put faith in to Marty Brodeur that he will have one of those nights that will change the game.

I’m only a new fan to baseball, but since my trip to New York last October and spending 3 nights at Yankee stadium and doing the tour, it opened my eyes to a sport that on the outside can look boring, but it goes so much deeper than that. The history that is ingrained in the stadium makes it feel like ghosts of history passed haunt you as you walk through the remains of the old stadium built within the new 2009 stadium. It is a very magical feeling.
Following a team such as the Yankees, I start to feel an expectation of winning; the 1990’s and even early 2000’s had such a success that even now it’s hard not be disappointed. Similar to the New Jersey Devils, when there is constant success over a long period of time, it’s hard not to come to that expectation. The Yankees started strong at the start of the season, however it appears the injuries at the start of the season are starting to take their toll. Thankfully with baseball, the season is 162 games and it’s still early days, hopefully they can turn the season around after the all-star break, and stars such as Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson return back with a much needed punch.

Winter is great in Australia for the reason that it’s tax time which usually means a tax refund, of which I should be getting a decently large one. Which means my plans for yet another North American holiday in January 2014 should be well on it’s way to fruition come mid July. 2 weeks in Calgary, Canada, and yet another week in New York City, to visit friends, and see the New Jersey Devils face off against the New York Rangers in their first ever outdoor game at Yankee stadium.

On top of that, I’ve rejoined a gym, and working hard to being fit and healthy. It’s an exciting time, where hard and long effort will yield results I’m sure!