THE STORYBOARD CALLED LIFE

Love Stories – Chapter 6: Philautia

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Love Stories-neon2

Cover art by Katrina Nash of Yours Truly. Check out her work on Facebook and Instagram!

This is the seventh post of the Love Stories series. The pilot is here, Chapter 1 here, 2 here, 3 here,  4 here, and 5 here.

TIH and I have also partnered up for a cool competition that closes on Friday! Details are here. We look forward to hearing your stories too!


Philautia

Philautia means love of self. The Greeks broke it down into a positive and negative type of self-love. And for all you dirty minded folk who are laughing at “self-love”, relax lol. It’s not about that.

In its negative form, philautia is selfish, narcissistic, arrogant, and looks down on others. Did you know the word narcissism is derived from Narcissus who was a hunter in Greek mythology (the Greeks are just on fire with this kind of stuff) who was apparently very beautiful, but was a bit of a prick (my boss’ favourite insult). A Greek goddess named Nemisis was against evil deeds and dudes and wanted him to chill out, so she lured him to a pool. Back then they didn’t have mirrors, let alone selfies. Narcissus saw his reflection for the first time in the pool of water, then fell in love with his own reflection. He couldn’t bring himself to leave his beloved (his reflection) and so he stared at his reflection until he died. No embellishment or heightening for the story’s elegance. I wonder how many people are the same today but with selfies and snapchat filters.

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It’s also seen when people just want to get ahead and bulldoze anyone in their way, Or only see their own needs. A lot of the time when people are depressed they actually can’t see beyond their own needs. But there’s another breed who have the ability to see, but choose only to see their own need. What is the point of wealth if you’re only building your own kingdom?

In its positive form, philautia is healthy self-love, self-esteem and self-worth. The Greek philautia is in line with Buddhist philosophy of “self-compassion”, an understanding that if you love yourself, you will be able to love others. In the words of Aristotle, “Όλα τα φιλικά αισθήματα για τους άλλους είναι μια επέκταση τα συναισθήματα ενός ανθρώπου για τον εαυτό του.” Looks like elvish, but the English translation is, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.” i.e. the love you have for others is an extension of your self-love. You can’t love other well if you don’t love yourself first. When you can see your worth, it is easier for you to see the worth in everyone else. The opposite is if you are self-loathing, you will be world-loathing. In a minor sense, this is perfectly illustrated by internet trolls. I really cannot comprehend people on twitter who create whole new twitter accounts just to troll people. Get another hobby.

Hurt people hurt people.

There are a lot of studies that show the effect that parents have on their child’s ability to love – generally, parents that treat their children with love and respect will produce children who have healthy levels of self-esteem, self-compassion and confidence. Nature also has a part too – the never-ending nature vs nurture discussion arguing whether a person’s development is caused by DNA or experiences and environment. But generally, people who experience unhealthy environments growing up will have to work harder to have self-love because they were not shown this as children by those that are meant to love them.

I’m very passionate about this topic just because of what I said earlier: hurt people hurt people. Including themselves. I hate hearing stories of people who stay in toxic relationships because they don’t think they deserve anything better. The bruises of abusive relationships rarely stay between the abuser and the victim, the children see it too and it can often start a cycle of violence.

It’s awesome that we are getting a better understanding of mental health, but it’s still really incomplete, even among those suffering it. I saw a post on social media this morning that went along the lines of: A depressed person constantly questions whether they’re depressed or just lazy on a daily basis.

Be kind to yourself and to others. xo


Sick of Myself

I was 16 years old when I first started showing symptoms. Mornings were the worst. Every joint creaked, every muscle hurt. It felt as though I hadn’t slept at all. The hardest thing was keeping up with everyone ; friends and family. I wanted to be ‘normal’ – have a normal school day, hang out on weekends with friends, do what any normal teenager would do. Occasionally, I would be able to, maybe have a few hours here or there. But usually that meant days of recovery.

A doctor told me I’d be better after 3 months. Another told me I was not eating well enough. Another, that it was all in my head. People didn’t believe I was sick – because I had no outward signs of illness. It was mentally draining having people think it’s not real, your suffering.

I felt alone. Nobody understood. Nobody could see it. Nobody could feel it. I dropped out of school because I couldn’t keep up with school work, quit my job, stopped seeing friends. I felt like I had no future.

Illness broke me down. As well as my body aching, my mind ached. I slept. A lot. Whether it was from the fatigue or depression – who knows.

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If you’ve never suffered from a mental illness, whether it be anxiety or depression, you never realise how physically exhausting it can be. Everything is hard. Crawling out of the hole is too hard, too tiring. So you don’t. You stop caring. You stop wanting to try. You have no interest. Everything is bloody hard.

It was 5 years of loneliness – I was alone in my pain.

Then something changed in me. I just got sick of myself. I got sick of being the ‘sick’ one. I wanted to be known for more than my illness. Sitting around, watching life pass me, started to bother me more and more.

I found support groups – these saved me. I met some beautiful people, and listening to people in the same boat as you is an eye opener. I met one of my best friends at one of these groups, who I speak to daily, especially during the worst days. Having someone who understands is the best thing.

I started to study. It was hard at first, especially because of fatigue, but I got there and completed a few small Tafe courses.

Next, I started working. After a few hiccups, I finally found something I love and am super passionate about. I had to start working one day a week, and only just recently, started working full time.

I love my life now. It’s not easy – it took years to work up to this. Years of pain, tears and laughter. But I’m in a good spot mentally. I’m always looking out for the positives each day.


Rollercoaster

I was a rape victim at 13 years old, and it was then that I started to experience depression more noticeably. 25 years later, the effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) still haunt me.  I am still dealing with the initial hurts that shaped some wrong views of how I see myself and others.

Sometimes the anxiety can be so debilitating that I sit and stare and don’t want to do anything at all.  Crying. Anger. Confusion and frustration. Crying takes a lot out of me, so I’m usually so ‘flat’ for a day or two. The ‘flat’ exhausted and emotionally stretched thin stage, easily turns into a ‘depressive low state’.

My depression and anxiety went undiagnosed for a number of years as I was navigating teenage years riding an emotional rollercoaster with thoughts of suicide, mood swings and confusion. I survived by putting a smile on to mask my pain, desperate to show my friends that I was ok. I had a desperate need to be loved.

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Sometimes, I can put on a happy face like a pretty bird just to survive the day. – A F Jess, 2016

I was bullied after a Year 12 Retreat because I was suspected and targeted as ‘dobbing’ on some girls doing drugs during camp. I just happened to move out of their cabin because I didn’t want to be involved and hated the smell. It was common knowledge these girls did this and someone told their mum, who told the school and subsequently the police.  I was threatened that I should watch my back, picked on in the classroom if the teacher stepped out. A friend had to escort me to and from classes. These ‘scary’ girls threatened anyone who was seen talking to me. Finally the truth was let out, they stopped and pretended to be my friend. I put a smile on my face and couldn’t wait to leave the school.

My anxiety/ depression was diagnosed by my GP when I was about 20 years old. It was no surprise. When I was diagnosed, it felt like such a relief that we could put a name to it, but I had mixed feelings. Growing up I felt that I was never good enough and this diagnosis felt like confirmation saying, “See, I told you she was broken, not good enough, not normal.” Without proper help, the diagnosis on its own tempted me to feel worse… you have to wait weeks, even 4-6 weeks for antidepressants to kick in sometimes.

I got married in 2005 at 27, had my first child, Nathan the following year in 2006, then fell pregnant 3-4 months after he was born! I experienced the first real stages of postnatal depression whilst pregnant with my second son, David. I had a wonderful Maternal and Child Health Nurse who I’ve had for 5 of 6 babies. I went back on antidepressants in 2007 and stayed on them for over 4 years, meanwhile having baby 3 (Angelica), 4 (Sammy) and 5 (Anastasia)!  

When Anastasia was 9 months old, I started a fitness journey to keep active and to channel my energy into something good for me. I started to wean myself off of my meds. Then went back on again when I was about 6 months pregnant with Alana (baby 6).  That felt like a relief but I also felt like a failure because I felt that I was somehow being selfish and that medication would hurt my baby (no Doctor would put me on meds if the benefit didn’t outweigh the risk). While I was pregnant with Alana, I had increased blood pressure, the baby scanned at a smaller weight, I was developing pregnancy induced hypertension / pre-eclampsia after 20weeks. Depression/anxiety kicked in because I had to slow down and also stop boxing and some exercises.

I was in tears one night and just couldn’t stop. The kids were asleep and we rang for an ambulance. I remember being in the ambulance, feeling so guilty, sad, confused, relieved, happy, alone, scared, brave, clinging to God’s plan for me.

Going into emergency for the first time and heavily pregnant for a long-standing battle with depression/anxiety, I don’t know why I didn’t go into hospital years earlier. It was the best experience! I thought it would be like how it was in the movies – dark and isolated. But it felt more like a shared ‘home’ with communal dining, my own room with a TV, and space to do my art every day.

Alana was born 10 weeks early on 17 December 2015 at a public hospital. This mumma had to set aside luxuries of the private hospital because the Neonatal ICU was top quality there for very premature babies. This stay was very different. Bigger hospital, busier, louder, more levels, lifts, walking around after my 6th major abdominal surgery – Caesarean section. I should have spoken up about my needs but I didn’t. It was more for this new baby. Alana was in hospital for the 10 weeks she would’ve been in my tummy.

The fight for survival, which lasted 2 -3 months after birth, were the toughest on my body both physically and mentally. I felt like it was my fault she came out early. It didn’t help when people asked if it is because I’m doing too much. I felt so helpless that I couldn’t hold tiny, tiny Alana close to me, only look at her through a glass box.  I desperately wanted to give her my own milk but I thought it might hurt her because I was taking anti-depressants.  I felt guilty because nurses wondered why wasn’t I at her bedside for long periods.

My family and friends have had all different reactions to my struggles, but all with the same intention of love and care. However, depending on how much you know about mental illness, reactions were sometimes more hurtful than helpful. Sometimes I had to weigh up whether or not I should explain myself for the hundredth time, do they really want to know how I’m feeling?

Comments were confusing and ‘advice’ drove me nuts at times:

  • Maybe you’re not praying hard enough?
  • Maybe you just need to relax
  • Don’t worry, just be positive!
  • You’re exercising too much
  • I just don’t want you to be addicted to medication…. that pi***d me off. I asked this person, if someone had an illness like cancer or asthma, would you tell them the same thing? Give wrong and judgmental advice about medication.  It might have some truth but I think it was because they’re not qualified and haven’t really asked, “How are you really?”

The best ways and reactions to my illness have been simple but profound. When people offer to cook a meal, babysit a kid, hubby telling the kids to let Mummy have a good rest, hubby asking if I’d like a cup of tea, hubby also gently prompting me with reminders to practise mindfulness and to talk me through more helpful thinking.

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I have the support of my husband and children. I have got an excellent team of professionals around me – really good psychologist and psychiatrist, mental health nurses, maternal and child health nurses, help lines like PANDA, Post and Antenatal Depression Association, my sister Laura and maybe one or two close friends.

Over 2 years later, I am now finally in the last leg of weaning off the medication!!! Woo hoo! I’m now 4 weeks off medication, but fully immersed in 3 times a week hospital visits – all day CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), all day Art Therapy and Counselling with someone at NCASA – Northern Centre Against Sexual Assault.  I exercise 4 – 5 times a week which includes teaching one Funk Dance Fitness class and seeing a Personal Trainer. I’m about to start a new Art group – dance and art, my great loves.

In CBT I’m starting to reverse the negative core beliefs that I have of “Not Being Good enough” and that people that love me will betray me or are not as they seem. I’m working on myself, with God’s gentle grace and compassion.

If you or someone you know if going through depression / anxiety, my advice would be:

  • Seek help if your gut feeling is that something’s not right.
  • Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. It takes and it takes and it takes. Any age, race, gender, lifestyle or situation.
  • Know that mental illnesses are just that, an illness. A sickness that can be managed.
  • See a trusted GP, Counsellor, someone else who’s been through similar, go to websites like Beyond Blue or call someone a helpline like Lifeline.
  • Be patient with medications to work, I see them as lifting you out of the dark, to a better place to actually be more clearer in mind to start changes to get better.
  • Be patient with finding the right health professionals too, it’s like shopping around.  These guys will need to be trusted with your life & feelings.
  • Medications are not a sign of failing.
  • Mind, body, heart and soul all work together. Check things are in balance.
  • Find something you love to do, protect it with your life. It will be a source of happiness out from dark places.
  • Make decisions, even tough ones with confidence especially if it will help you get better and if others (like children) are relying on you to be better.
  • Practise mindfulness, being still, deep breathing, praying, meditating and seeking quality time out regularly.
  • Celebrate even the smallest of changes or smallest of victories!  Today I told myself, people coping with mental illness CAN live a full and meaningful life.
  • We are blessed in this country that mental illness awareness is growing. Bear in mind that not everyone is on the same page. This what I have to tell myself every time someone tells me to pray harder or just ‘think positive.’  It’s a little more than just that.

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‘The King hugged His daughter and said, “This will pass,”‘ – A.F. Jess, 2015.

I had mental illness before kids, during and after kids. Experiences of mental health issues are always heavy and can make life more unstable. In my younger years, suicide felt like a card to play. As a Mum, it feels like there is just more incentive, go deep in my heart to try harder, to keep going, to get better for my hubby and kids. Mental illness is a big part of my story, but it doesn’t define me. It is only a part of my story, and I’m grateful that I have found ways to express my story and make it into something beautiful.


The takeaway from these two Love Stories is that it can get better. Usually when you’re in the pits, it feels like you’ll be there forever. You don’t have to be. If you recognise something going on in yourself or those around you, you don’t have to face it alone.


As cliche as it sounds, I knew she was the one when I first saw her in 2009. That rare feeling you get about a person that one day they will have a great impact in your life. The rest was Gods work.


PreviewShe went to her final scan on a Tuesday, getting ready for the C-section on Wednesday. I got a phone call at 2 o’clock, she goes. “I lost him.”

Check out the next instalment of Love Stories, “Storge”, on Wednesday 14 June at 3pm AEST

Don’t forget to enter our competition with TIH! Entries close 9 June

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Written by Candice

June 7, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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