Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tale of a Black Dog


Despite the title this post is not about our Labrador Lilli.


It is instead about me and why I haven’t been posting for sooooo long.

Since before Christmas, I have been battling an episode of depression. Hence the title of this post, Winston Churchill called his bouts of depression a “black dog”.  The sad truth is posting has been a casualty of my illness.

What follows is an account of what I have been going through.

It will be somewhat personal so you can of course stop reading now.

Still reading?
Well here is some of my story:-

I suffered with repeated episodes of major depression (clinical depression)  from my teens until my mid to late thirties - to the extent that I was frequently suicidal. Fortunately, I never attempted, because I always retained some inkling of what my death would do to those around me. I did the typical male thing and hid much of what I was going through all that time.

Then around 2000 I was introduced to a psychotherapy called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and achieved amazing results - from about 2001 - 2002 until recently I had been well. I was essentially controlling my illness using CBT techniques.But I guess like a recovering alcoholic there is always the risk of a relapse...

Then, as readers of my blog will know, I have been putting myself under a fair bit of stress with a new job (ironically working in mental health) and rebuilding our house etc. etc.
The final straw was my mum getting very ill. We have always been very close and her condition deteriorated to the point where I thought we were going to lose her.
The end result was last year I became unwell. Perhaps surprisingly given my history it took me some time to realise that I was ill again.

It was quite a strange experience.
I knew depression well and it seemed that my bag of mental tricks was still working. I experienced nothing like the despair I had known in the past.
What I did experience was a growing sense of anxiety, which got so bad that it became virtually crippling. As an example I spent 36 hours worrying about how to cancel an appointment.  Oddly, at the same time I was still positive. I didn't understand what was happening but I knew I had beaten mental illness before, so I assumed I could do it again.

This time I did the right thing, talked to Deb about it, made an appointment with a GP and got a referral to a psychologist.  After discussion with the GP and Alice (my psychologist) we decided not to medicate, but to hit me with CBT.  After all I am an expert at using CBT on myself after all these years.

I was seeing Alice nearly weekly from December until February and have dropped the frequency of visits now. In terms of diagnosis, Alice has plumped for depression rather than anxiety. I have some of the other symptoms such as exhaustion, lethargy etc (hence no blogging) so she argues it is the best fit.  I am not quite sure I agree, because my experience of depression was always agonising despair. And as I said I have felt surprisingly positive the whole time, I guess that part of CBT never stopped working for me. In any case CBT seems to be working for this new species of dog I have had visiting me. I would not say I am well again, but I am very much on the mend.

I am back at work and more or less functional there.

We have the house to the point where it is comfortable enough to allow me to ease up on it. There is still a lot to do, but we won't freeze in the coming winter and the kitchen and bathroom are fully functional. In fact I have barely touched it for weeks.

We have also been deliberately taking it easier, making trips so I can point my camera at things, visiting our girls who live only a couple of hours away now, spending more time with mum while I still have her (her health is improved at the moment). 
Dangar Falls (near where we live)
 Speaking of mum, I have been more involved with her medical journey. That has, I think, been positive. I think when it happens it will be "simply" grief. Part of my problem has been grieving in advance.
As a measure of my improved mental state I am even thinking about my writing again!  I haven't written a word for months, but the creative juices are beginning to churn.  I think I have worked out how to solve the problems I was having with my book Veil of Iron. I have also been composing this return to my blog.
So for me, it is a case of one step at a time, and hopefully most of those will be forwards.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

And Happy New Year!


Deb and I are back from our holiday with the girls at Yamba.
It was a relaxing time a fair bit of lazing around, going to the beach and hanging with the girls. I love the fact that in Oz our Christmas break is in summer!
 
One of the things Deb and I did do was to get back to our old pastime of jumping in the car and going for an explore.
We chose to have a look around the lower reaches of the Clarence River. As I have mentioned before Yamba is on the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Clarence, and the Clarence is an impressive river.
The first leg of our trip was to head upstream 18km (about 12 miles) to the little town of Maclean where we crossed this Nineteenth Century bridge across the south arm of the Clarence onto Woodford Island
From there we followed Lawrence road about 10km (6 miles) across the island to the Bluff Point Ferry . 
For that whole 10km you are crossing an island in the river. No wonder they call the area “Big River Country”
I snapped this on the ferry crossing the river. The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority runs the ferry 24 hours/seven days a week and its free!
From Lawrence we turned off the main road to follow back roads along the North Arm of the River.
I just had to pause to capture these abandoned dairy bales.  
 
Like many regional areas the rural industries have been in decline.
On one of the side channels I spotted a beautiful Brolga (Grus rubicunda).
Unfortunately,  as I stalked closer to get a good shot a couple of ducks I hadn’t noticed took flight and spooked the Brolga, so all I caught was some shots as it flew away.
A truly beautiful bird.
About ten minutes later we came across this fellow about to cross the road.
At about 90cm (3 feet) this Lace Goanna (Varanus varius) is about half grown. 
I went as close as I was comfortable to capture some nice shots.
But not too close, these guys are versatile predators and even a smallish one like this is armed with razor sharp inch-inch long claws.
If I was silly enough to hassle it, it would show me it was a bad idea.
Having said that, their defensive tactic is usually to run up a nearby tree.
Unfortunately, not being very smart, if there is no tree they have been known to panic and run up the nearest vertical object, that is the person they are afraid of!

Then it was further along the river to the Ulmarra Ferry where we crossed back to the south side before heading back to Yamba.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Deb and I are away again, this time not for work,  but to spend Chrissie with our girls down on the coast at Yamba.

So tonight I will just post a quick piccie of the dawn of this Christmas Eve and wish you all a Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Away again, but a quick WIIW anyway.

I am away in New England at the moment (the Australian New England, not the American region) so I will keep this quick.

A couple of weeks ago I posted this WIIW.
For those of you who said "feet" - well you were half right.

The feet are Lu's (my youngest)
As to what she was standing on - it is a tree root.
The tree is a lovely old (maybe 300 years) Blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis)  that leans out over Coffs Harbour Creek. Lu kindly agreed to be a scale.


Which leads to this week's WIIW.
What on Earth do you think this might be?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Not Dead - Just Away

My blog has been rather quiet for the last week or so.

The reason is just under a week ago I was up well before dawn to head down to the regional airport at Coffs Harbour.

I snapped this with my phone before I boarded, yes that is the sun coming up behind the De Haviland Dash-8 I flew to Sydney for a conference.
A Dash-8  is about the smallest plane I ever want to fly in. The smaller they are the bumpier planes seem to be.

So I was in Sydney for a few days before heading home on Friday. My conference ended a couple of hours before my home-bound flight.

Things got a bit stressful for a while as I tried calling a taxi. A rainy Friday afternoon and after 30 minutes I was still on the phone queue.

A quick change of plan, I jumped on an express bus which went into the CBD across the Coat-hanger (Sydney-sider slang for the HarbourBridge)

From Wynyard station in the city centre the airport is a convenient train ride.
A bad piccie I know, but it does show that Sydney suburban trains are double deckers.

The flight back to Coffs was in another Dash-8, an even smaller one! Just a thirty seater
It was a miserable flight; turbulence most of the way with ice forming on the propellers which flew off and banged on the fuselage with a real racket.

Then to add to the joy it was pouring at Coffs  and you have to walk across the apron to get into the terminal.

Thank goodness we had a relaxing weekend with our girls at Yamba to celebrate our Lu's 20th birthday. It is hard to believe our baby is 20!
 Lu our baby, when she was still a baby (more or less)



Friday, November 22, 2013

Shameless Comercialism

Well, as you know I have  posted the odd piccie on this blog over the years.
Like this:
 I have decided I am going to try to make my camera habit begin to contribute to its own upkeep.

With that in mind I have been looking for a way to sell some of my piccies.

What I have hit on is a site called Redbubble.
The way it works is you upload your work, tell them what format you want to sell it in. They manage sales, printing and postage and then pay you a royalty.

The upside is it is a very easy way to make your work available.The downside is like any product on the web you pretty much have to market it yourself, and your images are likely to be drowned in a sea of other people's work.

So with nothing to lose I have made a start.
I have put together two calendars (figuring Christmas is near) and so far most of the images in the calendars are available in various other formats  from prints, to greeting-cards, to posters.

http://www.redbubble.com/people/alrussell/calendars/11108573-seascape-sunsets
 The first features piccies of sunsets I have taken along the southern Oz coast.
















http://www.redbubble.com/people/alrussell/calendars/11089105-waterfalls?ref=work_main_nav
The second features some of my favourite waterfall piccies

If you click on either it will take you to the Redbubble site where you can have a look at them and the piccies I have added to my portfolio.

If you don't want to pay for the calendars, the cards and small prints are much cheaper.

I'll also be adding some more photos from my archive - things like cute Oz animals.  If you "follow me" on Redbubble, you will automatically be sent updates on what I add.  Go on, you know you want to :-)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Two answers, one question.


Well unlike last week 
 
we had four guesses for this week’s WIIW
 
Linda G guessed: “Hmm. Looks like sunlight shining on a rock formation, maybe something with opals?”
It is bright sunlight shining off something smooth, so that earns 50%. But it isn’t mineral.

Marcy guessed: “I was thinking a cement bench or stone seating of some sort - maybe. And I thought the other one was someone's shadow being cast. but I don't think I'm right on either count.”

Well your first guess is just dead wrong.
But your second earns 50%, it is a shadow but of something much smaller than a person.

Dawn guessed: “I think the first is the shadow of someone's head on a book or car. Or a sidewalk? The second is a flat rock patio with moss growing between the stones. Right? Am I right on that one?!
 Alas No.
50% for the shadow. But the second is way off.

Susan guessed: “The first one looks like a layer of frost or snow on a windshield, and I have no idea what the second one is. But it sure is interesting. I especially like that prismatic patch of color.”

Alas the first is wrong.  The surface those colours are refracting on are probably going to surprise you.

First to the older WIIW.

The shadow on this paper daisy petal was cast by another petal.
 
So what is the smooth shiny surface?
This handsome fellow is a Land Mullet (Egernia major)   they are a giant skink lizards that are fairly common in the rainforest here. Although you don’t often see them.
I snapped this fellow crossing our track a few weeks ago. He was a large fellow about 60cm (2 feet) long.
 
Which brings us to this weeks WIIW.
What on Earth do you think this might be?