Battle Of The Beasts – Update #7

Last weekend the Canberra Times ran a story about my fundraising and motivation for riding cycling. I was somewhat apprehensive about sharing my story to a targeted audience. Blogging is a platform that I regard as a broadcasting medium…I type and post things and push it out to the internet for interested parties to stumble upon and look at. To have a quite personal story printed in the Canberra Times was a decision I made based solely on the positives I hoped would come of it.

Many returned veterans don’t speak out about their issues; especially those living with PTSD, depression and anxiety. Everyone has different reasons for wanting or not wanting to speak out. The fact of the matter is that I was not looked after by the Australian Army when I asked for help. That help eventually came from the Army; but only after a Navy doctor stepped in.  This lead to me closing up and not talking about the underlining issues for my depressive episodes.

I was embarrassed about my behaviour and the stress it placed upon my family and friends; and only after a couple of years did I realise I wasn’t alone in my experiences.

Hopefully by me speaking out about my experiences living with (I hate the terms suffering and battling) PTSD and depression it will empower others to put their hands up and ask for help and hopefully one day share their experiences with the wider world and inspire others to do the same.

Thank you very much to Canberra Times Sunday Editor Scott Hannaford and Photographer Mellissa Adams for spending a quiet Sunday afternoon at my house and listening to my story.

…Link to the original story…

CanberraTimes Article

…Click on the image to enlarge and read the article…

The Black Dog Sitting In The Corner

When living with a predisposition towards anxiety and depression it’s sometimes a struggle to keep the right balance.  There are many ways to keep balanced and focused and on most days it’s quite simple to control the symptoms by either dealing with the issue before it becomes a real problem or by removing yourself from the situation entirely.

Although I am not ashamed of my past episodes, I do pride myself on being able to maintain my composure in view of others.  I’ve become quite adept at it over the past few years by either being quiet and maintaining a calm facade or by injecting humour into stressful and upsetting situations.  Over the years I have developed an effective system where I disengage from the stressor for a few seconds, regain my composure and re-enter the situation with a different viewpoint and plan of attack.  This system worked extremely well for me when I was in the Army.  I would often break eye contact with the person involved, take a deep breath and then reengage with a different angle and either put the person on the back foot or remove myself from the situation entirely before I lost control and acted out inappropriately.  When mitigating a mild anxiety episode it is quite possible that others will not realise what is happening. Family and close friends can pick the signs and will often start to deflect conversation or actions away from you; my girly often does this when she sees that I’m becoming uncomfortable.

I have a number of physiological changes that occur that a person observing me will be able to identify when I’m becoming anxious.  Two of my more obvious ‘tells’ are: the lowering of my voice and more deliberate pronunciation of words; and the emergence of a light skin rash that will originate on my upper chest and migrate up my neck.  But anxiousness is only part of the equation.  The other is depression.

I have been accused of being pessimistic for most of my life; but in reality I’ve always known I’ve been depressive since childhood.  Often I would withdraw from others and act out aggressively towards my family.  Basically I acted like a shy young boy, and then a typical teenager; but shouldn’t these actions and reactions have ceased in adulthood?  For me they didn’t, they became more acute, and combined with some incredibly stressful situations in my mid to late twenties I found myself staring right at the proverbial black dog sitting in the corner.

To go through life pretending everything is okay is both difficult and incredibly easy.  It’s not quite living a lie; it’s more playing the part others want to see.  I was so good at it I even convinced myself I was okay sometimes.  But in reality I wasn’t; and with a lot of support from friends and family I asked for and got the help I needed and life became easier.  Admitting there is a problem is not the cure all; there is a constant battle in your head and heart to keep positive and do the right things to keep the scale tipping upwards and not down.

Sometimes the balance tips the other way and the black dog reappears.  I have tendency to become aggressive and short with most people during these episodes and will push away those that are closest to me.  What was judged as being the actions of a moody young man was actually the depressive episode of a person too afraid to call out for help.  While I was lucky enough to have the support of my friends and family and afforded the opportunity to seek counselling; many others don’t.

This is not a post that really goes anywhere, it’s not a guide for anyone with anxiety or depression, it’s just my thoughts on a subject I know quite intimately.  No one is ever cured of anxiety and depression; they just learn to live with it and not let it dictate the future.