Hiding My Real Self

This afternoon I read a very real piece from Sista over at Phoenix Fights about anger. She writes very well about hiding her internal anger from her (annoyingly chirpy) therapy group and pretty much all of her friends, resigning herself to the fact that a recent outburst has probably led to the end of one such friendship. It was a post that really made me stop and think today.

How much time do we spend convincing others (and maybe also ourselves?) that we are experiencing socially acceptable emotions? How many “how are you’s” do we answer dishonestly with “oh great” or “much better thanks”. We may go as far as a little “getting there” or even a “one day at a time” but even these will be followed with a cheery smile. And then there’s the shoulder shrug or head bob that always follows such a statement, designed to relieve the other person of any awkward duty to reply, implying that it’s fine to leave it at that.

Why do I not admit that I’m not always okay? Why do I not answer a “how are you” with “not great actually, see that corner over there…well I’d really like to lie down in it, curled up in a ball, for about 14 straight hours”. Who I am I lying to? Who am I lying for? I’m not sure any more. Am I trying to protect my partner from the reality that I’m always going to be a little bit not-okay? Am I trying to pretend due to some unconscious fear that he would leave me if he suspected this was me, forever? Am I trying to convince myself that this slightly-less-than-okay existence is enough for me?

I’m not really sure why I do it, but today I realised that I’m not the only one who does. And I’m guessing Sista and I aren’t the only two! Which makes me wonder…what would happen if we all told the truth?

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Hiding My Real Self

Catching my Breath

For the first time in 3 months I have the luxury of time. Since my last post I have been working 7 day weeks, travelling non-stop for work or family events and trying to fit in those pesky little essentials: eating & sleeping. Two weeks ago I flew to Australia for a long-anticipated Xmas break. The first 2 weeks taken up with family events & social niceties but finally, this week, I checked into a beach side retreat for 2 days and, luxury of luxuries: I caught my breath! I’m not ashamed to admit that I “wasted” several hours playing on my iPad. Or that I spent a considerable portion of my first day sleeping away the beautiful sunlight. I’ll even admit that right now, instead of rushing out to explore Melbourne, I’m relaxing in my hotel lounge, drinking the free whiskey & waiting for them to bring out the free cake I’ve heard rumours of. I am well and truly “switched off”.

Unlike others who choose to disconnect from their work email when on holiday, I still have mine running on my phone. I check in every couple of days to see what’s happening & I delete the nonsense. (I like returning to a spam-free inbox.) Unlike other holidays though, I merely mark the important ones for follow up & then forget all about them. There have been several times I could have dropped a quick one-liner in reply, but I resisted by chanting the following rule: is this important enough to break the illusion that I’m uncontactable? We all know that as soon as we send that first fatal email we open the floodgates to a hundred “quick question”s and “just wanted to check”s. The web of invisibility I have successfully weaved was hard won and I won’t apologise for guarding it ferociously!

It all sounds good so far, right? There’s always a but…..now that I’m stripped bare of the emails and the “busy” and the oh-so-trivial-but-right-now-so-important things I fill my life with, I find that the real me has no where left to hide. The “new me” who practices disconnection and invisibility finally has the mental space to face up to emotions and decisions that have been buried under the flurry of my life. It hasn’t followed suit however, that the real me is ready for them. It’s easy to distract myself from inner turmoil when there’s grocery shopping to be done or a client meeting to be scheduled. Not so easy when I’m strolling along a beach listening to the crashing waves or snuggled up in bed with my beloved, eating Doritos and watching nonsense television. And so I find myself in a bittersweet and contemplative mood. This city is my oyster, promising delicious delicacies and enthralling experiences at every turn and yet my mind, and my heart, are demanding my attention. Who wins remains to be seen, although I suspect I already know the answer: if you ever find yourself in Melbourne let me know, because by this time tomorrow I’m sure I will have a detailed hour-by-hour itinerary I can send you…

Catching my Breath

Jimmy’s Shoes

Today’s Daily Prompt is: Tell us about your favorite pair of shoes, and where they’ve taken you.


My favourite pair of shoes are my black Jimmy Choo pumps. They’re not particularly exciting: a standard enough pair of pain black, pointy toed pumps. For me, what makes them exciting is what they represent. These shoes were my gift to myself on my 30th birthday. Ever since I was a university student, sitting in my rented flat-share, watching Sex and the City with my flatmates, I have wanted a pair of JCs. To me they represented a life I knew I wanted: an arrival at a position in your life, a declaration of independence and adult-ness. And on my 30th birthday I finally had the resources to buy them and the occasions to wear them. Their representation of all these things would have been diminished had somebody else bought them for me: the whole point was that I was finally in a place where I could achieve this purchase for myself.

As they sit in my wardrobe, carefully stored in their velvet bag, they might seem like a total waste to anybody else. But not to me. If I wore them everyday their “specialness” would be diminished. Because wow, those shoes have taken me to some momentous places: the took me across the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental for my 30th birthday dinner; they took me down the aisle to stand beside my best friend as she married Mr Wonderful; and they took me across Wall St to watch one of my oldest friends take his vows. For me, these shoes not only represent the acknowledgement of an achievement at a point in time in my life, they continue to represent all of the special milestones I’ll never forget. So every now and again, when I spy my shoes sitting patiently in their box, waiting for their next outing, I remember those days that have passed with joy and wonder in excitement at what their next outing will be.

Jimmy’s Shoes

Wanting That Which I Can’t Have

I want to have down days, not weeks or months.

I want to drink a shot on a night out with friends and not worry about blacking out. I want to say yes to that fifth beer, flying in the face of my “4 beer rule”. I don’t want to be known as “the sensible one”, or in some hurtful cases “the boring one”.

I want to know what to say to strangers when I meet them and have to engage in small talk. I want to not second guess myself. I want to believe that my friends want to spend time with me. I want to stop offering them alternatives to my company, expecting them to bail out.

I want to get up and leave the house and not have to remember to take pills. I want to leave the house after forgetting my pills and not experience the chill of panic when I remember. I want to not be the girl in tears in the pharmacy because they don’t have my meds in stock and I’m all out.

I want to really read a book. I want to imagine the characters, their faces, their clothes, their little idiosyncrasies. I want to be able to talk to somebody about the book a week later…hell, a day later.

I want to remember what I did on Monday.

I want to have the energy to stay out in a social situation after 10pm. I want to look at the clock at 1am and think “wow, time flies when you’re having fun”.

I want to be able to press publish on this post without having to re-read it three times because I’ve lost my train of thought.

I want to be sad. I want to feel sadness. I want to cry for my Mother.

I want to feel angry when my friend does something stupid. I want to tell them they’re an idiot.

I want to be me. I know I’m in here somewhere.

Wanting That Which I Can’t Have

Depression: The Curse of the Strong (Review)

Quite a few months ago I came across a book called Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong by Dr. Tim Cantopher*. Naturally, any book that wants to tell me I’m strong has to be worth a read so I clicked that oh-too-simple-to-spend-my-money 1-click-purchase button. The book then lived idly on my Kindle for several months while my money lived actively in the Amazon bank account. I should probably work on my impulse buying! However, I did eventually get around to reading it and I figured I should share some of my thoughts with you all in a review of sorts. So here goes.

I finished this book in about 3 evenings. It’s really simple to read and does quite a good job of explaining without being patronising (about 90% of the time – in some places I think the author went a little overboard with the “you’re so strong” message). This book has divided me. On the one hand, I think those of us suffering from depression could do with a nice dose of positive energy and reassurance that we do indeed suffer from a physical illness. On the other hand I’m not quite sure that the author has carried through on his attention-grabbing title – I found that I closed the book with a little bit more self-love and a sense of strength but no practical ideas for maintaining that state. The suggestions are the usual: rest, relax, ask your boss to reduce your hours, don’t watch TV before bed….nothing I hadn’t heard before. Perhaps I’m looking for a miracle cure but if you author a book for the Type A personality you can’t really expect them to start spontaneously meditating. In fact, I would argue that we are the very people who should be given activities and exercises instead…something to DO! That’s just how we work.

The best chapter in the book is probably the first chapter: “What is depressive illness”. The author does a good job of explaining some fairly complex biological and psychological concepts. Of course, a neuroscientist would probably criticise the simplified diagrams and “electric circuit” analogies but lets face it, if you have depression any explanation of the brain that contains words with more than 3 syllables just isn’t going to work. Some days I have to read the microwave instructions on my soup twice! If it piques your interest my advice would be to pick up a first year university textbook on neuro-psychology for further reading.

The rest of the chapters were disappointing, however if this is the first book you are reading on depression then you’ll probably find them excellent. The author offers a good review of the history of depression (including some fun “ye old treatments” info) and an overview of the main schools of thought on the ever-present “why do I have depression” question. As a first-time reader I think you could do a lot worse than Dr. Cantopher as your guide. As somebody with a background in the field and who has read extensively on the topic I didn’t find anything new here. I did enjoy the author’s style however and I wish I had found this book when I was first starting out on my journey. In chapter 4 the author does introduce some interesting perspectives on positive thinking and introduced me to the concept of being able to “fail well”, i.e. failing, forgiving yourself & learning from it. This is something that I am particularly bad at therefore it was a section of the book that resonated with me and has led me down a path of further reading. I hope to share my thoughts and findings as I go.

I believe that the key to this book might be in what you are looking to get from it. For me, it was refreshing to read a book based entirely on the premise that I am a strong individual, instead of focusing on my negative traits. Unlike self-help books that encourage you to work on your negative traits with the aim of minimising them, this book focuses on your strengths and understanding how they may have contributed to your illness. Dr Cantopher by no means suggests that we should desire to be weaker, only that we recognise what we are doing to ourselves and quite simply: give ourselves a break! I think that is something that all Type A personalities could do with.

Overall, this is a great book for those new to the topic and an interesting read for those of us already possessing knowledge. Within the pages I found a signpost for further explorations, I hope you will too.

Note: Probably one key thing to mention about this book is that it is based on stress-induced depression and is not aimed at those suffering from Bipolar, postnatal depression, SAD, etc. So if you have one of these disorders this probably isn’t the book for you. This work is aimed at us Type A over-achievers who, in a way, have “stressed” ourselves into depression.

* This is an associate link to Amazon. I’m not looking to monetise this blog, it’s never been my intention. I’m just very technologically inquisitive (I’m learning PHP in my spare time) and wondering how this whole affiliate thing works. If you abhor these practices I apologise for this and if you’ve already clicked the link please clear your cache. If you haven’t clicked yet, you can just go to Amazon and search for the title instead of going through this site. Thanks.

Depression: The Curse of the Strong (Review)