Friday, November 26, 2010

Why are we depressed?

Living in the 21st century, our lives are very different to generations of the past. We have so many modern conveniences and luxuries that in many ways our lives could be considered easier now. We live in comfortable homes and have limitless options available to us. So why is it that so many of us are taking antidepressant medication?

I am a young woman who has found myself in a similar circumstance. I am very blessed to have a wonderful loving husband and three beautiful, if not insane, children. So why have I been depressed?

I have started reading a very interesting book called The Depression Cure, by Stephen S Ilardi. He is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas and has treated many patients for depression using what he refers to as TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Change). I find the more I read of this book, the more I am nodding in agreeance at his logical advice.

Dr/Professor Ilardi makes the following point-that while the risk of depression is increasing in western countries, depression occurs significantly less in developing countries, and that among the Amish, and in some tribes who still live a hunter-gatherer type lifestyle, depression is almost non-existent. He attributes this to the fact that the human body was not designed to live the sedentary, fast paced lifestyle we have become accustomed to now, and that the way that humans used to live before industrialisation was an 'antidepressant' lifestyle. It included the six factors he discusses in his book as helping to cure depression.

This made perfect sense to me. Think about the way we live now, driving everywhere and watching TV, sitting in front of computers, and having access to junk food all the time. Or, in circumstances where husbands and wives are both required to work to achieve financial stability. If you were living in a tribe, you would be on your feet walking around looking for food to hunt to keep you alive. We wouldn't spend so much time alone, and isolated from each other by technology.

The six elements Ilardi referred to are:

- Dietary omega 3 fatty acids (very important in brain structure and function, eaten in abundance by former generations, and significantly less by us)
-Engaging activity
- Physical exercise (consider a modern sedentary lifestyle and compare it to hunter/gatherer lifestyle)
-Sunlight exposure
-Social support

Think about it- if you are a very new mother, for example, chances are you won't be involved in much of any of these. Time for cooking nutritious meals and exercise and sleep is out of your control often enough. And I know there have definitely been some days earlier this year after I had my third child I would realise I literally had not walked outside, even to the letterbox, in days. Combine that with little sleep and nothing to do apart from child care duties, of course I was going to lose it!

Exercise is what saves me. On weekday mornings, I go to the gym around 530 in the morning and lift weights or run. It completely lifts my mood and energises me for the rest of the day.

I would definitely recommend this book to anybody, whether they have struggled with depression, or want to prevent it....or really, anyone!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The joy of puking for 9 months

I was recently pondering the possibility that I could be pregnant with baby #4. Me feelings could be summed up as follows: AAAAARGHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Fortunately for myself (and everyone who has to live with me) that was not the case.

I do hope to have another baby one day, but not for a couple of years when I don't already have three pre-school age children, and hopefully when we are rich enough to experiment with possible cures for morning sickness, e.g. acupuncture, expensive anti-nausea medication, or a nanny....a the very least, sufficient funds to cover my daily requirements of hot chips.
(This was our plan for the last two- to have a little more money, and that didn't happen, so, fingers crossed for next time!!)

I am waffling. My point is, as I contemplated the world crashing down around me, having three kids destroying the house for the next nine months while I lie on the couch in the foetal position, or with my head over the toilet, crying about how miserable pregnancy is and how incredibly annoyed I am that I have to pay for food I will no doubt vomit up anyway, I remembered last time I was faced this this situation.

I lived in Perth and had literally just finished becoming a qualified personal trainer, maybe a week or two before. I was pretty sure almost immediately that I was pregnant and was merely waiting it out until I could actually check. I was doing a bunch of errands at Joondalup shopping centre and I was pushing around a trolley with Jack and Isabel playing and screaming and crying and jumping in and out, all frazzled and dishevelled, and we entered the pharmacy where I found a pregnancy test. I remember the overwhelming embarrassment I felt walking to the front counter as people turned to look at all the racket coming from my kids while I attempted to threaten or distract them, and then placing the box on the counter while I deliberately avoided the saleslady's gaze. Ohhhhh the humiliation. Young out of control mum with psycho kids buying a pregnancy test, don't you just feel sympathy hearing about it? It's like, Oh, the crazy cat lady is getting another cat, cool.

At some point I took the test, it was positive, and i don't even remember any of this or telling my husband or anything, you see this is how frequently I get knocked up, I can't even separate different pregnancies any more! We also moved two hours away to a smaller town (city? It feels like a small town) halfway through the pregnancy so that wasn't all that much fun. I got huge, like with the other pregnancies, so I was very used to questions about if I had my dates right, and was I sure it wasn't twins. My favourite was at the gym, this guy said to me,"Not long to go now, huh?" I was three and a half months pregnant. SIX months left. At the end of my pregnancy, I recall someone walking past me saying WOW.

Now I have my baby, Sophia Adele. She is almost one now, standing up by herself and trying to walk. Eep! I am absolutely in love with her. I love all my children, of course, but Sophia is still little enough that I am her favourite person, and that feels very, very nice. She smiles and laughs and buries her face in my chest and puts her arms around my neck tightly. Plus she is very cute (says her Mum). But it does make it worth it to go through all the ickiness of pregnancy and then have a beautiful child. LUCKILY.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This one's a serious one.

WARNING: This post contains some disturbing material involving children.

Last week I read about an extremely tragic event in Connecticut. This happened three years ago. I think most people would agree that this is an absolutely horrific thing to happen, and so very sad for the father left behind.

Following is a segment from the article that was particularly poignant.

Petit said he cried at the verdict, "thinking of the tremendous loss."
"Michaela was an 11-year-old little girl tortured and killed in her own bedroom, surrounded by stuffed animals."

Some of you might be wondering why exactly I am writing about this.

You might know a song called "Love the way you lie" by Eminem and Rihanna. The lyrics can be found here Here is part of it. "If she's ever tries to f---ing leave again I'ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire".

This does not promote respect for women, or equality between the sexes. It depicts men as having power in relationships, and using violence against women to keep it. Women have the very important role of being punching bags.

Rihanna herself was famously beaten up by her former boyfriend Chris Brown. This was quite a big deal. Photos of her bruised face circulated and the particular attack was described as being quite vicious, including Rihanna being bitten. I have tried to fathom how a young woman who has actually been the victim of violence could then participate in a song eroticising the very same thing. The most obvious point I considered was that maybe it was not supposed to be glamourising domestic violence, but just creating awareness of an important issue. HOWEVER- that theory doesn't actually hold up.

Things I learned from this song.
- Domestic violence makes for a more passionate, intense relationship.
- If a man loves a woman very much, he will want to kill her for leaving.
- Women enjoy being abused (see lyrics like "...stand here and watch me burn, it's alright because I like the way it hurts", or even the title of the song)

Even if it this song really was about creating awareness of domestic violence, the message would still most likely go right over the heads of the performers' young fans. Here are some comments from the youtube music video page (with over 200 million hits).

surething6996: awesome kick ass song love the way eminem is so passionate in this song
1990ravetoxic: wow very nice,,,I love the story,,,,and the song of course..the singers...very nice... perfect...
la8dyc: megins right hook......i have done that....then had the best sex ever...
MrFROHOE: i never thought people burning a live could look so sexy, but...DAMN!

Violence against women is still a very real problem in the world, even in (especially in?) western cultures. As I read about the Petit family in the paper, I felt sick at the thought that many young people love and celebrate this music, but it is not unheard of for men to tie girls to their beds and burn their houses down.

I am disgusted by the evidence I see around me of men who hate women. But what I really don't understand is when women participate in their own exploitation.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

If I was a rich girl

Remember how when you were younger and in love, and you had this romantic notion that you didn't need anything else as long as you could just be together? That money wasn't important, and the only thing that really mattered was your love?

This is a rumour spread by poor people to make themselves feel better. I know this because I am a poor person who spreads rumours like this to make myself feel better.

I remember sitting on the old, torn couch at my husband's place, The Boys House, when we were seriously considering getting married, as we did the sums to work out how we could balance full-time university, part time jobs, and Centrelink allowances. I thought, 'Wow, Centrelink! We're rich!' HA. So naive. We were married and found a rental unit in Scarborough that were among the few that we could afford. We actually have a lot of fond memories of living there, across the road from the beach, sleeping on our mattress with our blanket. My husband loved that he could check the surf from our bed, and decide if it was worth it or not. (It usually was.) We would go for early morning dips and walk around Scarborough at night. We loved the feel of the area, kind of old, but with the beach vibe, despite some "scumminess", which came in the form of our neighbours. They spent their days drinking, not wearing shirts and having noisy, violent fights, with at least one involving a woman being beaten. The police visited often. At this point early on in our marriage money was very tight. (Still is!) I would spend $40 a week on groceries.

Back to that idea of "all we need is each other"- when you can't afford decent shampoo or to get your hair done or you legs waxed, you can begin to question some of these things! Financial hardship can be quite a strain. Last time I went to get some waxing done, my beauty therapist said, "It's been awhile, it's been four months!" And I said "Yes, it feels like four months..." based on scary high levels of hairiness I had been exhibiting.

This week our family car died. It is the sixth car we have had as a married couple, and we have not yet been married for six whole years. This is because we have only been able to spend a very small amount of money on a car, so we buy a bomb, then soon enough it requires thousands of dollars of work which we can't afford, or it gets a yellow sticker, or it dies. How much easier (or less complicated) would life be if we were wealthier? I wouldn't be leaving the car at the gym because it won't open and we couldn't afford to replace the central locking system. I wouldn't spend so much time pushing 3 kids around in a pram meant for two. And our car wouldn't break down late at night on a completely dark country road in the middle of nowhere when I have about $2 credit on my phone. Actually, if I was rich, I would have enough phone credit. Maybe my husband would have a pair of pants without a sizeable hole in the crotch (he calls these his "air conditioned pants"), or I could afford clothing that fits and was not previously thrown away by someone else.

After this last week of car trouble, my frustration has nearly reached boiling point. I have, however, started looking at the situation from a different perspective however. While it seems natural to say "Why me???" or wonder when thinks are going to start going right, I have tried to stop seeing the glaringly obvious negative, and start seeing some potential positives.

The other night when my car broke down, I honestly had to laugh, it just seemed so ridiculous, and also somewhat like an urban legend. I was thinking about how I was driving, singing along to The Fray (my husband hates them soooo much, haha) and the radio just cut out. I was concerned, but hoped maybe it was just an electrical problem (because that's so much better). Then I started to wonder, 'Are the lights always this dim?' And that's when I thought, 'Oh dear, my battery is going to die...please let me make it to my destination FIRST and not on this quiet scary dark part of Gnangara road!' Very soon after, my lights went off and it was pitch black, and I swerved off the road because I literally could not see. I am getting to my point now. It occurred to me that while I was aware only of the difficulties my family had been facing, I hadn't been paying attention to the blessings and the good things we have. When my lights went out and I swerved, things could have ended very differently. Maybe the blessing here was that while inconvenienced, I was perfectly safe. I imagine if I had been seriously hurt, I would have wished and prayed for these circumstances which I did find myself in.

As for being poor, I am pretty tired of it. I think I am an expert and having achieved expert level status I should be allowed to move up. But if the alternative to this would have been to delay getting married, or having children, and finding full-time work so we would be a double income family, I would still choose this. All my happiness comes from my family. They make my life worth living. For them, I will continue to endure life as a hairy badly groomed 25 year old. Still waiting to see if I have any long-lost wealthy ninety year old relatives though.

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