The Price of Fame

I was genuinely shocked on Tuesday when I heard about the death of Robin Williams. Volumes have been written and said since about how sad it was and his immense talent. Like most people, I have many memories of his performances on film and in interviews and it feels like a personal loss. The depression side of the tragedy hit me because it is a condition I suffer from and it reminded me so clearly of the state I was in when I found Sir John Kirwan’s website and that sent me to my GP. Since then I have been medicated and things have been SO much easier. I know how lucky I am that a low-level antidepressant works for me. And now we know that he suffered from Parkinson’s, another level of sadness. I really hope the publicity around his death results in people seeking help if they suffer from undiagnosed depression.

Then a couple of days later, Lauren Bacall. This made me sad too. I’ve always loved Humphrey Bogart, I actually had a poster of him on my bedroom wall when I was a kid. I love his delivery and his burning eyes when he stares at his co-stars. Casablanca is one of my very favourite movies. I loved the love affair between Boggy and Bacall and she was so elegant and timeless.

Yesterday, shock of another nature. Sir Cliff, under investigation. Really? Cliff? Where will this end? And today they say that other people are helping with the enquiries which might mean that more complainants have come forward. Don’t get me wrong here, I think it is vitally important that people who have been seriously assaulted and have suffered come forward and their complaints are taken seriously…BUT, I have a feeling that people with public profiles, like entertainers, will feel a shiver when they think of all the parties, all the times they don’t remember exactly how they behaved over the years. Who is waiting in the woodwork and what will they say? The unfortunate thing is that mud does stick and no matter what happens, there will always be people who will believe everything they hear and read. There will be an aspect of convicted in the court of popular opinion. I look back over my life and remember times when someone made an inappropriate suggestion or I felt a hand or two where it shouldn’t have been, did I feel assaulted? Not at all. But I wasn’t vulnerable, I was educated and confident and I put them in their place without hesitation.

I woke up this morning and ‘leapt’ out of bed and thought to myself how nice it was to feel pain-free and flexible. This year I have decided that it is time I put a regular exercise regime back into my life. I will be 55 next month and the body needs a little help! So Monday, Wednesday and Friday I go to aqua-aerobics for an hour a day. It is in a scrumptious warm pool and I just LOVE every moment of it. Then Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday I go to the gym for around 45 mins. I listen to my ipod so I have a little concert as I go through my paces, at my own speed, and have a good stretch afterwards. Sunday I walk, or dance to a DVD, or just have a really good stretching session. And my body is feeling good.

This coming Monday night I am having a little neighbourhood gathering, a few friends and neighbours over for drinks and nibbles and to meet our lovely MP Louise Upston. I’ve decided to make the food an ode to all the meetings I remember in my childhood. We often had quite important political figures around our dining room table and meetings leading up to elections. The food served was the height of fashion, so now I am recreating the food my Mum made. There will be prunes wrapt in bacon, little vol-a-vonts with snapper in white sauce, meatballs with a satay dipping sauce (not tomato sauce as Mum would have had), kiwi dip and chips and the one concession to modern tastes, a humus with caramalised onions through it and raw veges and pita chips. It will be a cold winter night so I think I’ll make a spiced apple punch, as well as wine and beer.

I have a speaking engagement at Waikato University Wednesday night, in a series of lectures open to the public. This one is about digital innovations and I am speaking about self publishing and ebooks v paperbacks. The other speakers seem to be academics so it will be an interesting evening.

Time to put the washing on the line, it is a beautiful winter day, then hit the gym and pick up my ‘Saturday weakness’ the New Zealand Herald, for a good weekend read. Happy Days.

Patience

A little while ago I blogged about cyber bullying and depression. One of the things that makes the battle against depression hard is the loss of the ability to identify sadness. When you have a ‘down’ day there is a tendency to say to yourself, ‘the medication is not working so well today and I’m feeling a bit depressed.’

Sometimes, that’s not the case at all. Sometimes, you’re feeling sad and that’s a common emotion. If I miss my Mum and feel sad, is that my depression? No, I miss my Mum and I feel sad. If I feel frustrated and impatient because everything I want to get on and do is being held up other people, is it my depression that’s making me sad? No, that’s life and sometimes (forgive my language) LIFE SUCKS.

There is so much I could be doing, I’m due to go away for three months in 32 days, and I can’t do any of it because I’m waiting for other people. I know it will all work out and eventually I’ll be as busy as a bee, but today it feels like I’m at the bottom of a very deep hole. So, I give myself permission to feel sad. To wish I could pour my heart out to my Mummy and get a cuddle. To play ‘sad songs’ and cry as I sing along. To pray for patience, RIGHT NOW.

Actually ‘Patience’ reminds me of an anecdote. When I was in my 20s I owned a bright yellow scooter. I wanted to buy a motorbike but my Dad was adamant I could only have a scooter. I called her Patience because it was a quality I really needed to acquire at the time (and I did it so well). I had a helmet and I looked a bit like a lollipop on wheels, chugging along very slowly. One day I went down to the local dairy and parked on the pavement outside. As I went inside I realised I’d left my purse on the table in my flat. I was extremely annoyed with myself, climbed back on and instead of checking to make sure I was in reverse, I fired up the throttle…and went straight through the plate-glass window of the dairy. Remarkably both Patience and I were unscathed, the window was not so lucky. Soon after that I succumbed to parental pressure and swapped Patience for a car. The quality, clearly, remained un-acquired.

Cyber Bullying and Depression

With the death over the weekend of well-known social media commentator, broadcaster and former model, Charlotte Dawson, in Sydney, there has been much commentary about cyber bullying and depression.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be bullied on the internet. People say why didn’t she just stop reading her Twitter feed? Is it that easy? If people are talking about you, or to you, there is a strong compulsion to read it. I always marvel at actors or authors who say they ‘don’t read reviews.’ Really?? I love reading what people say about my writing and I learn far more from the criticism than I do from the raves. I have a special place in my heart for the reader who read 100 pages of “The Keeper of Secrets” and then threw it across the room because nothing happened. Dachau starts on page 109. But I DO agree that it is a bit slow to start and I have remedied that in the next book where there is death aplenty from early on.

Still, back to the subject. Social Media is a two-edged sword. Where else could I learn that Thomas Edison proposed to his wife using Morse code? Or read about President Obama’s favourite salted caramel chocolates? My Twitter feed is full of fascinating morsels of information that I didn’t know I needed to hear. And Facebook is a fairly innocuous place for me. People don’t react to what I write, but then it isn’t of an inflammatory nature. But I do read some pretty nasty stuff on other feeds at times. I follow John Key’s Facebook page. He is our Prime Minister and I happen to think he is a fine fellow and is, by and large, doing a very good job. But there are posters who react to everything he says with a barrage of personal insults that have nothing to do with the subject. In my humble opinion the only person who looks like ‘all those adjectives they use’ is themselves. Key is a public figure, as Dawson was, and unfortunately, if you lift your head above the parapet some uneducated idiot will take a shot at it.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE informed, robust political debate. I am a political animal. My favourite TV programmes (by a country mile) are the American political dramas and I love election year. But for goodness sake, debate the issues, use intelligent opinion not expletives which just make you look inarticulate, and stand for something. No-one should waste a second reading the opinions of people who just knock for the sake of knocking. Tell me you have an answer to our problems and I will listen to you all day.

The other subject that Dawson’s death raises is depression. What a massive word that is. What a world of emotion and pain and despair it represents. People who have never battled it, or watched someone they love battle it, have no idea what it means. Seventeen years ago I was diagnosed with a falling oestrogen level and a hormonally induced problem. Instead of being given anti-depressants, I was prescribed Oestrogen tablets. The only thing that caused was fibroids and unbelievable pain and a period that lasted twenty-five days every month. Several months later, at the age of 40, I had a hysterectomy and my life was transformed.

However, I continued to suffer from black ‘clouds.’ They would descend, I could literally feel them coming. There was nothing I could do about them and I would cry quietly and miserably until they lifted. Several times a day I would consider how best to kill myself and yet I had no real desire nor reason to. It was out of my control. For the most part I hid it well and got on with my every day life. Then in 2009 it would stay buried no longer. The tears were almost a constant companion. I would sit and watch TV, often with Mum in the room, and the tears would run out my eyes and into my hair as I lay on the sofa. I actually wrote suicide notes although I knew I could never do that to her.

One day, in desperation, I searched for Sir John Kirwan’s website. For those who don’t know John Kirwan was an All Black. He played rugby for New Zealand. He was a national hero. He also suffered from depression and some years ago he went public and worked with the health authorities to set up a website. There’s a questionnaire and I took it. I answered ‘yes’ to every question and the site told me to go to my GP. So I did and instead of saying, “I’m upset all the time” I could tell him that I had taken the survey on John Kirwan’s depression website. He whipped out a form and made me take it again. Then he looked at me in wonder because I’d never told him this before and he’d been my GP for years. He prescribed a low dose anti-depressant that I take every day. It took a little while to work. The black ‘cloud’ has never been back. If I cry it is because I have a reason to, something has moved me or upset me. I appreciate each day and never consider harming myself. I am a completely different person.

It is not a sign of weakness to seek help, to seek an answer. It takes courage and determination and an urge to make your life better. One visit to this website changed my life. If one person reads this blog and goes to the site as a result and it helps them, then the circle of support is continuing. It’s not a weakness, it’s just an illness.

http://www.depression.org.nz/?gclid=COud7_ef47wCFQQipQodwQIADA

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