Welcome Back (Breakdown)

04 September 2016

I've been a huge fan of gymnastics for years. I'm sure I could have been a top gymnast, apart from being too tall, uncoordinated, unathletic, having very little drive or determination, and not actually ever taking gymnastics. But I love to watch, so the recent Olympics were a treat, especially the  astonishingly good Simone Biles. And as ever, whenever the gymnasts made a mistake, a misstep, a stumble, a flubbed move, I reflected in pity that they'd no doubt performed that routine flawlessly, hundreds of mind-numbing times, in their home gyms.

But it turns out gymnasts don't endlessly practice their complete routines. The individual elements, yep; but to try and reduce the punishing wear and tear on their bodies, elite gymnasts rarely practice the most jarring elements of their routines, the dismounts; what you see in competition isn't a routine they've practiced into muscle memorial; usually, it combines special skills they may only have accomplished a few times before, with it being dicey whether they'll pull it off again on the big day.

Isn't it funny how things just aren't how they'd expect? How things aren't always how they seem?

Over winter, I finished my most successful semester at university yet - studying social work, no less. Someone doing that would have to be pretty together, mentally, wouldn't they? Able to focus on scores of hours of mentally draining and emotionally challenging coursework, thousands and thousands of words of essays and policy papers. But I did it, and did it well, acing subjects on substance abuse and determinants of health and welfare policy and research methodologies and yes, mental illness.

It all looked like it was going well, but all along I was just a very thin skin holding a big bag of misery together.

It hasn't been a great couple of years for me personally. And whilst I won't go in to the details, there were a few things in those last few months that tipped me, along with my largely untreated depression and lingering PTSD, over the edge. Two weeks after picking up my HDs, I had a nervous breakdown. Yes, that is an expression that has fallen out of fashion, but it's one I've chosen to use for my own experience. I certainly felt broken.

It was very odd. The night before was normal. I wasn't too sad, I wasn't too happy. I watched TV and went to bed like normal. But the next day I woke up at 4:30am (and I never wake up early; it's not one of the manifestations of my depression), with the darkest thoughts you can imagine. I was quasi-hallucinating; nothing like it has ever happened to me before, not since I stopped hanging around at clubs with people who assured me that I could trust them, this blue stuff is good shit. This was a lot less fun, though. Every time I closed my eyes, I was assailed with violent mental images of causing my own death in the most gruesome way possible. I wanted it to stop, and it didn't, no matter what else I tried to think about in those endless still pre-dawn hours. It was hard to think straight about what to do. Call an ambulance? Nothing was happening to me physically though, and I wasn't planning to physically harm myself, not then and there anyway; I just wanted my brain to knock it off.

I probably did need to be in hospital though, especially being home alone. And to be honest a little part of me thought that at least now that things had gotten this bad, I could get some real help. On a relative's recommendation I called the local mental health crisis team and explained what was going on. Should I go to hospital, I asked, or is there some outreach team that could visit? I'll tell you, acute mental health services can be pretty crummy. The kinda detached, ticking-the-boxes, I've-been-doing-this-since-1977-and-I-ran-out-of-shits-to-give-sometime-when-Paul-Keating-was-still-Prime-Minister woman on the phone told me to go to hospital if I was going to try killing myself right that minute, otherwise, go see my GP after the (long) weekend.

There was nothing to do but wait. It was a strange few days, until I saw the doctor then whilst waiting for the medication to kick in. I felt very detached from the world, still trying to do normal things like the supermarket shopping but feeling out of it, detached from the normal people, my little world in a strange soft focus. I made my way to my doctor, who boosted my medication and in light of my distaste of counselling, and given how long this has been dragging on for, referred me for possible electroshock (that's on the backburner, although part of me wants to go through with it for morbid curiosity reasons).

Little by little, the medication began to kick in, which came with its own fun side effects. I thought about the two tier mental health system we have in Australia; had I the money (or insurance) I could have gone to a private clinic, and gotten the treatment and support I needed in a supervised setting. Lacking this, I had to take my chances with the public system. My GP referred back to the mental health crisis team for some home visits, but I couldn't get anything during the crisis weekend, when I really needed it.

Now it's a few months on, and things are mostly under control, but it explains some of why I've not posted for so long (I missed the entire federal election, which is probably for the best). I'm sure posting this will lead to it being dragged up by some future troll who will gleefully use it as evidence I'm "crazy", but frankly those people have bigger problems than anything I have to deal with. I'm posting it, as I've posted other difficult things over the years, because when I do people comment or contact me to let me know they've been through similar, and we should be talking about this stuff, so I want to do my little bit.

Anyway, I'm hoping to post a lot more regularly from now on. And speaking of over the years, I've added archives from my old blog going back to 2004. Knock yourself out, but please remember we were all young and foolish back then. I know no one would think less of me for a mental health crisis, but I'd hate to lose any friends or followers who learn I once quite liked Mark Latham.


  1. I hope you're ok now. I'm sorry you couldn't get more help when you needed it

    1. Thank you. Mental health services are so lacking here


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