If you would like me to speak at your next meeting or conference please contact me at kazsynnott@gmail.com

Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Importance of 'Shenanigans"!

You've got to love Eeyore!

Last blog I talked about the importance of asking for professional help. But at different times in our lives we all need a little help from our friends. There are a lot of song lyrics about that. And Eeyore lends a little humour to a serious topic.
One of the signs that a person may be suffering from depression is that they may begin to isolate themselves. Sometimes they may not even realise they are doing it.

Facebook is an interesting tool for someone to seem present but they may actually be absent. Facebook allows you to hide right out in the open. In fact you can create the most social of lives without ever leaving your bed. You could even google image some photos to accompany your activities. What an interesting social experiment that would be.

It can be easy to just stop including someone if they continually reject contact and invitations. But please don't give up. They are not doing it to reject you. For me, it just became impossible to put on the mask. I could never have shared how I felt. At least Eeyore's friends know how he is feeling. I didn't ever give anyone but those very closest to me the chance. I felt too ashamed and guilty. Good on Eeyore! I could definitely have learnt some lessons from him.
When things got very difficult I didn't leave home because I was actually very, very busy. Even though I didn't leave my lounge I was fighting a raging war in my head. A war that is exhausting beyond comprehension. And no wonder. It's hard to fight a war with no ammunition, when you don't know who the enemy is, and you have no freaking idea why they are attacking you! Busy is an understatement. Busy doesn't touch it. And all that time you are fighting you are trying to pretend that there is no war, everything is okay. You are keeping it a secret because of the stigma and concern over being judged. And exactly like most wars-all you want is peace. Just a little would do. Just to close yours eyes and not feel that you are tumbling even further into this bottomless black hole. Just a little break from your war. Just enough to allow you to summon a little bit of energy.

But now I know that I would have had a whole army of people with me. They would have brought their own ammunition. They would have energy to fight for me when I needed a rest. (They might even see a picture and think I might like it for my blog-thanks Sue x). Just like we all need our own armies at different times. These armies can be made up of our family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, church, community organisations. These are the people we would fight for. And they are happy to have their turn to fight for us.

Going out and connecting with people is so vitally important for people with depression. So find some friends like Eeyores'. Those who don't expect too much at the moment. Some people with depression find that they loose interest in things that they would usually have enjoyed. They no longer get enjoyment from the simpler things in life. But if you can do at least some of these things sometimes it is so helpful for recovery. A little adventure and shenanigans can do wonders.

So I have a suggestion for this week. If you are in Sydney go and check out Vivid. Not only is it a spectacular visual presentation but it has so much positive energy that you couldn't help but absorb at least some of it. It reminded me a little of the Sydney Olympics. Not on the same scale of course but just that there were crowds of people, everyone enjoying themselves, everyone friendly, no one rushing or pushing. Just a whole lot of people happy to be exactly where they are. How often does that happen? And it's contagious. It's all free so everyone can enjoy it. All ages and stages. Great access for anyone with a disability. I bought a double scoop gelato (blood orange and burnt fig- highly recommended!) and stood and watched the light show on the fa├žade of Custom's House. It was brilliant. And I took a moment to look at the people around me. That was brilliant too. If large crowds aren't your thing then go during the week. It is much less busy then. I am hoping to get to see the Darling Harbour display this week.

Even if you can't get to this particular event make sure you do something you enjoy this week (and every week). Indulge in some adventures and shenanigans. Share it with someone, because someone wants to share it with you. Let YOUR army in! And be mindful while you are doing it. Be present. Because these are the moments that make up our life. These are the moments that count.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

A Matter of Choice?

First of all before we get to the topic of the title I have just a few points to cover.

1. A huge thank you for the amazing response this blog has received. It's been very overwhelming. Please keep sharing as it is apparent that this is a conversation that many would like to be involved in.

2. Some people have kindly asked how they can follow it. I THINK I have added a spot for you to enter your email address and you SHOULD receive new posts automatically. There is also a google+ button near my photo. This APPARENTLY puts us in circles (?) that means you will also receive it automatically. I am not afraid to admit that I have yet to learn all about this but I guess I am just jumping in the deep end. I have yet to understand what a 'blog' actually is! There is also a google+1
button which SHOULD allow you to easily share this with friends (?)

3. Other people have enquired how they can comment. If you click on the little pen near the word 'comment' a text box will come up. Your comment will not automatically be published straight away but look out for it.

4. Please also note that I THINK I have added a list of available support for anyone who is interested in gaining support, information or resources regarding depression, anxiety and mental health.

Okay, on to the topic               'A Matter Of Choice'.

Today I had the honour of speaking at a Lifestyle Expo. As often happens, one on one discussions take place once the formalities are over. Today I was asked an interesting question during a chat with a member of the audience.
 If there was one message I could give to the general population in order to reduce stigma, what would that message be?
Now, I am not known for thinking on my feet but, strangely, my answer popped straight into my head.
I would like people to know, in their hearts and in their heads, that depression is NOT a choice.
I guess this popped into my head because during the week I had commented on one of those 'inspirational' posts that came up on Facebook. The words of the post said " happiness is a choice. Every single day you make a choice".
I disagree. And I said so. I even advised that the author should think carefully about the language they use. (I am sure they were grateful for my advice -NOT!) A number of responses followed mine. Some agreeing with me and others asserting that happiness was DEFINATELY a choice.
What do you think?
I definitely do not want to be a voice of gloom but I know that thoughts like these tortured me.
I constantly berated myself for not being happy. I SHOULD feel happy. I SHOULD feel grateful. I SHOULD look on the bright side. The list of 'SHOULDS' was endless. But all of these thoughts imply that I had a choice. So that then left me carrying huge guilt because I COULDN"T feel any of these things.
Think of it like this.
If I had a broken leg would I be telling myself that I SHOULD be able to run and jump and hop and skip? No. I would know that I COULDN"T do these things whilst my leg was broken. Would I feel guilty? No. Is it likely that anyone would tell me that I just needed to change my thoughts and I would be able to run and jump and hop and skip? I doubt it. What about if I just 'cheered up'? Could I run and skip and jump? I don't think so.
So, what is the difference?
The difference is that some people believe it is a choice to be depressed. There are no blood tests to confirm it. There are no x-rays to confirm it. Although I have been told that if scans had been done of my brain when I was at my worst that "it would have lit up like a Christmas tree". Strangely, this was reassuring to me. It would have helped with the guilt if I had scans to show the physical 'proof". How sad.
I am sure that if the general population understood this one concept of lack of choice then stigma may lessen. Perhaps empathy may even replace impatience. Understanding instead of cynicism. And education is the solution.
But there is something that IS a choice.
And that is - seeking professional help.
As hard as it is, seeking professional help is the only way to go. And, just like with any other illness, the earlier we seek help, the earlier treatment can begin and the better the outcome for everyone. Would you hesitate to seek professional help if you broke your leg? What a ridiculous question. Of course you wouldn't.
Would it be a sign of weakness? Another ridiculous question.
So be strong. Be Proud. Ask for professional help. For yourself or someone you know.
And be proud of yourself for doing so.

To those professionals who have changed and saved my life.
Jodie, Craig and Carolyn.
I thank you.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Welcome to Write Strong

My name is Karen Synnott and I have started this blog after encouragement from many people who believe it may help, support and educate others. It is certainly part of a process of revealing some truths about subjects which some may prefer to ignore. However, the responses I have received since the first publication of parts of my story suggest that there are many out there for whom these conversations are critically important. Lots of issues were raised in the comments, texts and emails I received (as well as many, many hugs!- delightful!). In time I will open up these issues.

The first issue though is well timed in introducing myself. Many people have commented that it has been so helpful that someone 'normal' has admitted to having a mental illness. That sentence could read as a contradiction in terms! But I know what they mean. I am not a celebrity, nor an elite sportsperson. I do not have social or economic disadvantage. I am intelligent and well educated. I am not homeless nor unemployed. I have had a long and successful career and continue to work and volunteer in areas of which I am passionate. I am not wealthy. I do not have an addiction. I have a mortgage. I am a wife, mum of 3, mum in law, and any day now will be a grandmother (unbelievably excited!!!!). But I also have a severe, chronic mental illness which I will have for life. 10 years ago I was diagnosed with severe, major clinical depression with psychotic features. The prognosis was "at best guarded". So yep! I am 'normal'. I am no different to the many, many, many other people who live with a huge variety of challenges.

So what makes mental illness different?
The shame. The guilt. The stigma. The secrecy.

So I am working somewhat backwards (how unusual!). I am starting with exposing the secrecy. This is in the hope that by doing this we will, in turn, be able to dispel the guilt and the shame. When that's all gone the stigma will also be a thing of the past.

Why the title Write Strong? Because Power of Words was taken. And I wanted something about words. Words have always been so important to me. From the moment I realised that those squiggles on a page could be woven to take me to another world I was hooked. I could never imagine not having a pile of books on my bedside table. And journaling has been a crucial tool in my recovery and survival. I have kept all my journals over the last 10 years in case I ever write the book that I have been told is a must. But those journals are all tied up in a bag with a note asking that they be destroyed unread if I'm not around and they still are!
With words we can change anything. A kind word can make someone's day. A harsh one can destroy a soul. Words have more power than anything else. Words dispel secrets. Words make or take away shame. Words can reassure or condemn. So, with words, we can grow strong. With no limits.
Words have led to the creation of this blog. The words that became mine after people read parts of my story. The words that didn't judge. The words that didn't blame. The words that didn't shame. The words that said I was okay. The words that said I was enough. The words that said I was loved.

So if you, or someone you know might benefit from being part of this process please feel free to share this blog.

Off we go! Stay in touch and please feel free to comment and make suggestions. I can't tell you how important your contributions are. Let's make a difference.

BUT please know - this is not a blog offering professional advice. I am starting a conversation. For help and professional support there are wonderful organisations like Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute and Lifeline who offer 24 hour support and advice. They do this because help is available. There is support and resources. Mental illness can be treated. But only if we seek help.