All Behind Me

I write this post after disposing of every last one of my Mental Health Medications. I no longer have a secret stockpile just in case, I no longer live in fear of having a relapse, I no longer have the same internal struggle whether I wished to live or die. I firmly believe that this is All Behind Me.

I was sorting through our medication box that was tucked up in our hallway cupboard, looking for something to settle my wife’s stomach. Unfortunately I didn’t find anything that could help my wife, but I did find all of my old medications that I used to take for Depression and Anxiety; Lithium, Olanzapine, Sertraline, Temazepam, and Quetiapine. Boxes of them. Hundreds of tablets designed to keep me safe from myself. I looked at them all. I looked at the cost, the number, the side effects, the regime that I was under. I looked at myself. I looked at where I am now, where I have come from. I looked at the bin. I decided that I would no longer keep the medications as some kind of safety net, a fall mat for just in case. I would dispose of them all and finally say good bye to that part of my life.

Since I gave up the medications at the end of last year I have been feeling elated. I am still struggling with my anger, though I am improving day by day. I am more positive than I have been in years. I laugh, I cry, I joke, and I interact. I don’t shy away from social situations, I feel like I have my mojo back. Like I can take on the world, and Win. My job is great, it challenges me, pushes me, but most of all validates me, respects me for me, understands my background, my knowledge, my experience, and uses it. We as a family have been battling with Illness for the better part of 2-3 months, sinuses, snot, and coughing, but we are better together. We play more, interact more, laugh more, enjoy each others company. We live together more.

I write this post knowing that not everyone is having the best time. I know that I have friends and family struggling with their own Mental Health issues, physical health issues, family issues, work issues. I write this knowing that I may not be able to physically do anything about it, but at least I am now physically here to be leant on, to be a shoulder to cry on, to be a sounding board, to listen, and to share with. And sometimes that all you need. To know that there is someone in your life that no matter what, is there for you. Not to provide answers, or pearls of wisdom, but to listen. To allow you to say your piece, cry your eyes out, open your heart and reveal everything. Right before gathering it all back together again, composing oneself, and rejoining the fight. A little bit less burdened knowing that someone has your back.

That’s the feeling I have. I know that I have a great circle of friends, and an unshakable family that have my back. That listen to me whinge, bicker, yell, scream, cry, and in every other way emote. That don’t necessarily have the answers, but are there to just listen. And it helps. It helps a lot.

But I move forward. Every day I move forward and leave the past couple of years behind me. Like a bad memory, and in some cases no memory at all. I leave the drugs behind, the ECT, the weekly Psychologist appointments, and the constant meetings with my Psychiatrist. I leave it all behind, and hope and pray that I never end up there again.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

 

Weight Loss since Jan 2020: 8.5kg

Check In

So after a month of being off my medication, looking for a new Job since graduation, and hitting 2020 like an out of shape boxer, I thought it prudent to perform a little check in. This serves both to satisfy my own sanity and to let my readers know I’m not completely falling apart. I will use the DASS score to assess where I am at mentally, along with a set reflection as the DASS has its own limitations. I will also share about some of my struggles since coming off my medication and the strategies I have put in place.

So the measurable things first. DASS. I used the Das 42 to ascertain my levels of Anxiety, Depression, and Stress. Typically I score reasonably high on Anxiety and Depression, and despite not feeling stressed, I usually score some ridiculous number.

DASS Scores

DASS Scores

As you can see, my score being the darker colour and the normal being the lighter colour, the DASS has me sitting pretty well. Being on the higher end of normal for Stress is seriously the best score I have EVER had, I scored nearly 40 in one of the last ones I took. This test thinks I am doing pretty well, and I would have to agree. I haven’t felt true anxiety for quite a while due to medications, and I was worried that they would make a resurgence but even with the added anxiety and uncertainty around Job interviews and applications I have felt pretty good. My depression is mainly due to adjusting to life without medications again. What the DASS doesn’t show is the opposite emotions. I have felt more periods of absolute elation, hysteria (in a good way), happiness, and fancy free than I have in years. I have been openly laughing at movies, TV, people’s jokes, entertaining scenarios, and things that I would normally find amusing. I have also been experiencing the opposite too. I found myself in one afternoon laughing myself silly to Lilo and Stitch, and then nearly balling my eyes out at the end of a Bluey episode. These swings are becoming easier to manage, but I also welcome my full gambit of emotions back into the fold.

Emotions

Emotions

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing and laughter however. I have found myself more irritable than I have been in years. This has meant that, at times, loved ones around me have copped the brunt of it. I have had several… heated discussions… with my wife in the past month over my behaviour and mood, and rightly so. I know I am on a journey with my emotions and there are going to be speed bumps, but that does not give me licence to be a jack hole. Sleep has been a little hit a miss, I have returned to taking anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours to get to sleep, however once I am asleep I tend to stay there for a reasonable amount of time. I have tried putting strategies in place when sleep eludes me like reading a book, praying, leaving the room the get a drink, or something else that just changes the situation enough to give it a go again. So far it is working. Getting up in the morning is still a bit of a struggle, but I have never been a morning person, and whilst I was on the medication it was almost impossible to wake me up and get me moving unless the drugs had worn off enough. These things have been improving over the past weeks but will take more time, so stay posted.

Dreaded Job Hunt

Dreaded Job Hunt

Otherwise, things are travelling pretty well. I am a little disillusioned with the Job hunt thus far, but I remain confident the right job, at the right workplace is out there and I just have to find it or have it thrust upon me really. I am looking in places I would not have considered in the past, either because I thought that schools didn’t have nurses anymore or some workplaces didn’t employ them, I have also tried GP clinics which is something I wouldn’t have considered previously. It is interesting to see how many different facets of Nursing there really is, and I thought I knew most of them already. It is also refreshing, as someone who is constantly trying to improve the community between Nurses both within Rockhampton and outside of, it is good to know these opportunities exist, as it may be the perfect fit for someone else in the future. Again, I will keep everyone posted on the Job front.

Checking In

Checking In

Otherwise, everything continues to tick over. My wife goes back to work today, my Son in a week, the Girls have been back at daycare for a week which has given Wife and I plenty of time to get things done around the house, not necessarily achieved them, but time to do so. I truly look forward to what 2020 has to offer, and the brighter outlook I have off my medication.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Better or Worse

I trust that everyone reading this blog had a restful Christmas and New Year. I know I enjoyed the time with family and friends as I ramp up into 2020. Thank you to everyone for their patience during the break time here at Maintain the Rage.

During my time off I had a lot of time to reflect on where I was, how I was feeling, life in general, and what I wanted out of 2020. One of the thing that I knew I wanted to change was weight, the other was to regain control over my emotions and the ongoing effects of my medication. I noted that my medication could be contributing to both my weight and the numbness I was experiencing. Most of the medication that I was on, namely Seroquel, Lithium, and Venlafaxine all act to reduce the swings in mood and control depressive episodes, but also have the nasty side effect of weight gain. These two factors led to the choice, without consultation with my medical team, to cease my medications. For better or Worse.

No More Meds

No More Meds

The first step was to research the right ways to cease my medications. Most could be stopped reasonably easily without too many issues. the Seroquel and Lithium however would have potential side effects if ceased. These side effects would be small for a long period if weaned down slowly, or a week of pain if ceased suddenly. For better or worse, I chose the week of pain. I ceased all of medications knowing I would experience mood swings, insomnia, dizziness, nausea, headaches, and a list of other potentials. Most of these side effects would be reasonably minor and manageable. Insomnia was hell for the first two nights, no sleep there, a couple of nights with help from Phenergan, and my sleep returned, if not a little broken. Headaches were managed with hydration and aspirin as needed. The nausea wasn’t too bad. Mood swings were managed as I was on my own most of the time anyway, as my family were visiting family in Western Australia, and I was taking the opportunity to rest up before a big camp that was coming up. The worst and most annoying side effect was definitely the dizziness. The only way to describe it was like being tipsy all the time. I felt that every day started with 6 or seven beers and never let up. Since then the side effects have subsided and I feel that I am now completely off my medications, so now the only thing left is deal with my emotions.

Rollercoaster of Emotion

Rollercoaster of Emotion

Since the drugs are no longer in my system I have been feeling the full gambit of my emotions, in their full, unbridled fashion. This has been great, in some respects, as I don’t feel numb or disconnected from myself or those around me. The down side is I have been swinging from hysterical laughter, to crying, to blood boiling rage. I have not been managing these very well and it has led to arguments with friends, family members, my children, my wife, and myself. It has meant that something I would normally have dealt with appropriately and civilly was instead dealt with; sarcasm, a sharp tongue, or harsh words. Those around me know of the part of the journey I am on and are, thankfully, patient but this won’t be the case forever. I know I will regain control, even if it is a little slower than I would like, however I believe this choice needed to be made, for better or worse.

For Better or Worse

For Better or Worse

I will continue to share my journey through mental health, and all of the lumps and bumps along the way. I will continue to monitor myself, and have safeguards in place to ensure I don’t wind up where I was last year. I am taking a hiatus from my psychiatrist and psychologist while I work out what I want from myself and work through the rollercoaster of emotions. For better or worse.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

 

Own Company

I have had the unfortunate issue of being at home away from work. I have an acute case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and can barely butter toast. It was therefore agreed that I stay home until it is remedied. So far we have done the conservative, today I am having a Cortisone injection, and we will see how everything unfolds from there. Anyway, as a result of all of this I am at home. While everyone is at work, school, or daycare. I have been completing small tasks as much as my wrist will allow. Unfortunately, most of the tasks I want to achieve require way more physical capacity than I currently have. This has left me with waaaaay to much time for my brain to go into overdrive, schemes and plans come out of said overactive brain some of which are probably best left as ideas, and too many hours to be wracked up on my favourite game Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Overactive Brain

Overactive Brain

Now as most of you who have been reading for a while now know, my Brain and I have a love/hate relationship. Though my brain is my superpower in many ways, when it is left alone with little stimulus or mental drain it tends to run different ideas, what if’s, and half truths. Most people, and probably a fair portion of the readers, who have depression and anxiety are well aware how crippling racing thoughts, what if’s, and half truths can be. It can take a considerable amount concentration and positive thoughts to bring you back around, if that even works. Normally, like me, you find the easiest way to avoid the negative headspace is to keep the brain active, and sometimes that involves getting off your backside and catching up with people. I know I find it hard most days, and if I don’t have things pre-planned then I will often make stories up that ensure I don’t have to leave the home. I suppose we all need to ensure we take positive steps to ensure the best possible headspace.

Anxious Mess

Anxious Mess

The positive that does come out of having an idle mind and therefore tons of free thought time is some other plans, schemes, and ideas that make their way out. Now, some of them, OK most of them, are pretty terrible ideas like opening my own business, moving interstate, having like 7 more children, and the list goes on. However, every now and again a good idea pops up. Currently the best idea that has graced my cerebral white matter is moving to a parcel of land of 50 acres or more, building the house we want, and selling the one we are in. Now there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, not the least being finances, timeframes, and livestock. Now this idea is not beyond the realms of possibility, and the more I investigate the idea, the more plausible it becomes. This will still be a long term project; though who knows, everything may fall into place quicker than expected.

Property Search

Property Search

The large amount of time that I do have at home, when I have accomplished all that I can, I find myself spending a majority of it playing Drag Age: Inquisition. I fell in love with this game in 2015 when it was released and I am currently playing through it for the third time. The last time I played it through was during ECT, and subsequently I can’t remember any of it. So far, I am up to nearly 100 hours of game play for this run through, and I am no where near finishing. I enjoy the game, mostly, because of the story line and interactions between characters. I also really enjoy making the decisions that sway the game and actually impact of how the world around you looks or reacts. I am also playing through again in anticipation of the 2020 release of Dragon Age: The Dread Wolf, which follows on from Inquisition. I am no way a hardcore gamer, nor am I an elitist or competitive type, I am just a casual gamer, with way too much time on his hands.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition

And that has been my week. I have an interview for a Graduate Nursing position at the public hospital today, and of course that lovely injection I am sooo looking forward to. But both are for a good reason, and both are for my future. I will see how the next week shapes up, hopefully I will find more to keep me stimulated, or I’ll design my house, pick a block of and, sort out the finances and push the plan forward. Either way.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Rock Bottom

A Doctor and friend of mine once told me that “You are unlikely to change until you reach a particular point in your life, and that point is Rock Bottom, then and only then will you make real change”.  Though I agreed with his sentiment at the time, I had achieved so much without having to hit Rock Bottom that I didn’t completely take on what he said. This week I think I have hit that point. I knew that between my medication, my depression, and my bone idol laziness, I had gained most of the weight I had lost. I didn’t realise that I had actually found more. To date I am 140kg. Last time I was even close to this was 2007/2008 when I decided that I was going to join the Navy, and had to lose 50kg to do it.

My View

My View

I am not proud of how I got to this point. My weekly treat of a cheat meal,  became a more frequent treat throughout the week, to sweet every night, large carbohydrate meals, and generally not taking care of myself. My depression did play a role in this, as I felt the needed to have some sort of joy in my life, and food for me has always been a joy, and at times a crouch. I have rarely received a lot of joy from things such as Salad, Low Carb alternatives, or low fat, which has made dieting difficult. Some keen readers will remember my last attempt at dieting. I had mixed success. I lost over 15kg, which was great, but the way I achieved it was unattainable. I was on an Extremely Low Calorie Diet, I was consuming less then 5000kj a day. Which for a healthy weighted gentleman of my height is too little. If I am going to succeed this time, I will need to attack this in a completely different way.

Nourishment

Nourishment

My medication that is keeping my brain from backflipping on itself includes; Venlafaxine, Lithium, Risperdone, Seroquel, and Mirtazipine. Some of these medications have been known to increase appetite, and some have the unfortunate side effect of weight gain. As much as I would love to firmly point the finger at medication and say “Its the meds making me fat” I know that would be short sighted and naive. But I do need to keep it in mind, it does have the potential to slow the weight loss down, or cause longer then expected plateaus.

Medications

Medications

In 2007/2008, when I decided to join the Navy, I was 149kg. For my appointment to go ahead my weight had to be below 100kg for my BMI to be acceptable. I wasn’t as smart about how to loose the weight as I think I will need to be this time around. I cut ALOT out of my diet, I refused to take any lifts, escalators, or anything similar, I worked out for an hour a day, I ran to the shops for milk and bread,  I would skip breakfast, lunch was generally soup, and dinner was a little as I could handle. I lost 50kg in 12 months. I joined the Navy. But I  cannot lose the weight the same way again. For starters, I had a desk job then, my caloric requirement then is substantially lower than what I need now as a floor Nurse. I cannot exercise the same way as I did then. When I was working out before the Navy I had only ever broken One bone. To date, I have had 13 operations. 3 abdominal wall incisions. 2 knee operations. 4 shoulder operations. This hampers my efforts, it doesn’t stop me from working out, but I have to be smarter about it.

Team Work to make the Dream Work

Team Work to make the Dream Work

So what does this all mean? I am going to restart Wednesday Weigh Day. I am going to devote to getting my arse below 100kg again. I am going to drag myself out and exercise. I am going to stop shovelling food into my face like its going out of fashion. But I need help. I need you the reader to share your healthy recipes. Your work outs. Your motivations. I need you to come not the journey with me. I need the community that we have built to rally together. Together I can, and hopefully if you come on the journey, you can lose the weight too. Let begin a journey together.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

 

Addendum

Alinta here, Luke’s wife, I too will be fully committing to this journey. Part of the reason he is in this mess is I did not commit to it with him the first time around. That stops now. No more enabling.

 

Recharging

Last week I wrote about where my headspace was at, the immediate actions that were taken, and the decisions that still had to be made. This week I have been reaping the benefits of the changed medications, Thiamine, and the ever recharging event of Camping. All of these have been attributing to a greatly improved mood, improved motivation, and reduction of both negative self talk and suicidal thoughts.

Medications

Medications

As discussed last week, my Psychiatrist has upped my Venlafaxine to 375mg, added 1mg of Risperidone, and added 100mg of Thiamine three times a day. I will admit it took nearly four days for a noticeable change to take effect, however, once it did it was hard and fast. Like a switch had been flicked over, the negative self talk stopped, the suicidal ideations stopped, I was more engaged, more motivated, and generally more like me again. My wife is almost completely convinced that it’s the Thiamine, mainly because she hates Risperidone, but I am also beginning to see merit in her theory.

Out Camping

Out Camping

One of the best ways I recharge and recenter is camping. I find nothing more relaxing then sitting around a fire with a bunch of mates, enjoying the serenity, chewing the fat, and forgetting about all of life’s stressors. This weekend was no different. My friends and I decided to go camping this weekend for my birthday. We picked a suitable location, in this case it was Cockscomb Veterans Retreat, booked it all in, and set off. My brother and I were the forward party that arrived early and set almost everything up. Over the course of Friday afternoon we were joined by everyone else. We ate tons of great camp food, some of which was a little more charred then desired but that’s camping in the end of it all. We played trivia games, thanks to Jess, which showed our intellectual prowess, and shortcomings all at once. We walked through the peaceful forests and admired the majesty of Constitution Hill, which we can sadly not attempt to climb. The kids had an absolute blast getting dirty, exploring, and generally causing mischief. It was an amazing weekend that we are attempting to replicate every month or two, as we all need to camp more, and we all need to rest and recharge.

Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill

Other then that I have very little to report, which is actually a good thing in the long run. I would like to thank everyone for their love and support through the continued roller coaster that is my mental health. I thank you all for continuing to read, share, and support Maintain the Rage, and I hope that I can continue to share stories and experiences that spur conversation and action.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Decisions Made

Last week I posted about where my headspace was at. This week I met with my Psychiatrist. The meeting went as well as I could expect. Discussions were had about things I didn’t think I would have to live through again. Discussions were made based on my headspace now and the similarities to where we were almost this time last year. I am not going to lie, it scared me a bit.

Fear

Fear

My headspace hasn’t been the best of late. I have had massive issues with Negative Self Talk and maintaining an even keel. I have been distancing myself from friends and family, I have had suicidal ideations, I have had thoughts of self harm, I have just wanted to run away from it all and just cease to exist. Thankfully my wife and family are more insistent than I am withdrawn. The have surrounded me and done nothing more than shower me with love and accolades. It was nice to know that I am loved, and that I am not useless, or lazy, or any of the other things my brain was trying to tell me.

Depression

Depression

I went to my psychiatrist. We caught up and had a conversation about where my head has been. He was not amused by what I had to say. He almost immediately suggested a course of ECT. A prospect I was less then interested in, given the side effects and trauma it put my family through last time. I told him I was less then keen at this particular juncture as my protective factors where in good stead, and I didn’t feel unsafe at present. He made some changes to my Venlafaxine, and added Thiamine back into the mix. I agreed to let him know of what my decision was going to be regarding ECT after I had a chance to discuss it with my wife.

ECT

ECT

I went home and discussed with my wife everything that was shared with the Psychiatrist, the options put forward, and where to from here. We both agreed that ECT was not currently a viable option, and that we are safe enough within ourselves to give the medication a chance to work. There have been studies into the effect of Thiamine and its ability to quicken the effect of Anti-Depressants and lower their side-effects, others proposed that a deficiency in Thiamine leads to depression amongst other ailments. Whatever the case, my wife did note that my depression had become worse around the same time I stopped taking Thiamine, just over a month ago. It will be interesting to see, now that I am taking it again, if this will aid in my recovery at all.

Thiamine

Thiamine

The way forward… As readers, friends both close and distant, family, and others in my life, I need you. I need you to keep an eye on my behaviour, stop me from completely isolating myself, appropriately build me up, watch out for signs of clinical worsening, ask the question “Have I thought about suicide?” “How did you plan on doing it?” and “When were you planning to?” It should be noted that if I can give you an answer to the second or third questions please call the Acute Care Team on 4920 6111 or 000. Thankfully through my entire depression I have never lied, I will not hide my thoughts if directly asked. These things will keep me safe. Also, please keep an eye on my wife, she is my first line of defense and has enough going on in her own world to have my dramas lumped on her as well, so if you can lighten her load that would be appreciated.

Support

Finally, share the message about Depression. Share the message about Suicide. Don’t let fear or a lack of knowledge be the reason someone takes their own life. Be brave enough to have the hard conversation with someone, talk to them and listen. Get them the help that they need, and be there to support them through it.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Collapsing

This week I have been feeling the weight pushing down on me harder and harder. Every day seems like I have found a new way to disappoint myself and those around me. Little Luke seems to be becoming more and more negative, and that voice is getting louder and louder. The scary thing is I think I am starting to believe what he says. I think I am seeing myself as he sees me. I feel myself collapsing under the weight of it all.

The phrase “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired” seems to be my life’s motto;

  • I am sick of being in pain
  • I am sick of these headaches
  • I am sick of my sinuses
  • I am sick of my Brain
  • I am sick of being fat
  • I am sick of seeing the ugly person in the mirror
  • I am sick of walking around corners to hushed conversations
  • I am sick of this anchor I am dragging around
  • I am sick of the anxious feeling I get when I talk to somebody about it
  • I am sick of the perceived judgement that follows
  • I am sick of the way people treat me because of my depression
  • I am sick of the expectation I have of myself
  • I am sick of not meeting it
  • I am sick of being the only person people seem to rely on
  • I am sick of feeling like it would be easier if I was gone
  • I am sick of feeling like it would better if I was gone
  • I am sick of feeling like I should be gone

The daily struggle consumes more energy than I would like to and it is getting the better of me. Even as I write this entry I am holding back tears, feel defeated, feel like I just was to crawl into a hole and never come out. I feel like I just want to let everything collapse around me, and let it just end.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Rough Patch

For those who have been following my journey through Depression and Anxiety, you will know that the trip has had many twists and turns, ups and downs. Well unfortunately I appear to be at one of the downs. The past couple of weeks has seen my motivation decline, mood slip, and overall my headspace to take a sharp turn towards the negative. So much so that my Psychologist left our routine session and made a time with my Psychiatrist for the end of our session. Made me feel awesome, huh?

I'm Fine

I’m Fine

I don’t know if it’s the end of University Semester, or the recent placement I had, or my brain just changing things up for a bit of excitement, but I hit a wall. A rather large wall. I had little to no energy to drag myself out of bed, I felt like last year were I was dragging a boat anchor around. I would go to bed early, rise late, and still feel as though I hadn’t slept a wink. I felt drained, I felt demotivated, I felt lousy. Something that was out of character for me, I was actively avoiding social situations. I was avoiding my friends, church, life group, family, everyone or anything that would drag me out of the house, or invade the hovel at home. I knew this wasn’t a good place to be but at the same time I couldn’t seem to shake it, or see the reason to actually do anything about it. I even ran into my Psychiatrist on placement when the decline started, but didn’t want to cause a fuss so just said “I’m Fine”. This was in no way going to help my situation, but it sure as heck made it worse. I slid further and further into the depressive phase, until I had my meeting with my Psychologist…. then things changed.

I'm OK

I’m OK

My headspace was in no way helping the situation. Other then feeling like I was swimming through molasses or dragging an anchor around, I had a little niggling voice at the back of my head. The voice started small and quiet, occasionally making a remark about what I was doing or calling me stupid or fat. This voice steadily got louder. Soon it would be commenting on my driving, what I was eating, things I said to patients, my weight, my clothes, my cooking, what I was watching, when I was doing things…. EVERYTHING! The voice was so loud and so constant it became impossible to ignore. Soon I started to listen. Maybe I am going to be fat forever, maybe I’m not good enough to be a Registered Nurse, maybe I am a lousy Husband, a Terrible Father, a horrible friend, an awful cook, a slovenly mess…… you get the picture. This just fed the aforementioned anchor problem.

Negative Self Talk

Negative Self Talk

Through all of this I am going to say I didn’t have suicide ideation like I had last year, and for that I am eternally grateful. I did however have thoughts of self harm, and toiled with the idea of different ways in which my life could be taken. Like whilst cutting vegetables with my exceptionally sharp knife, acknowledging the fact that the brachial artery was an easy target, or after refilling my script for Seroquel how peaceful it was be to just consume a whole box. I know to most these would seem like the start of a plan, or even intention, and if I hadn’t gone through last year I would have agreed with you. However, the power in which the thoughts carried, the lack of conviction, and the lack of desire to see them undertaken did not lend, to me, the idea that they were “proper” suicidal ideations.

Depression

Depression

However, after my Psychologist appointment, I did go and see my Psychiatrist. He was less than amused by what he heard. He was also less then amused that I didn’t say anything when we ran into each other. He was concerned that we were heading down the very slippery slope to where we were last year. So some changes to my medications where made. My Venlafaxine is now 300mg a day instead of 225mg, and my Quetiapine is now 600mg per day, instead of 450mg. I’m not overly excited about the prospect of the increase, but given the alternative, and where it could lead, I’ll take it.

I am going to call on the Maintain the Rage community, please keep me in your thoughts, prayers, and best wishes. I am doing OK, but not great. Because I am slowed, my wife shoulders the burden, which is not sustainable. Keep being awesome, and normalising the conversation. I’ll keep writing, as long as everyone else keeps reading, sharing, and motivating.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

2nd Year

Well I thought the First Year went by quickly, it seems as if I blinked and the second has disappeared. I thank everyone for coming on this journey through depression, weight loss, nursing, parenting, and life as a whole. It has meant so much to me that you have decided to come along for the ride.

Second Birthday

 

Firstly, the numbers. In the past twelve months I have written 67 posts, starting with Quoth the Raven and ending with this one. I have written about my success, my stumbles along the road, and the treatments I went through to save me from myself.  I began to share about my struggle with weight, and the steps taken to change the image that was in the mirror before me.  I explored more of my own struggle, ideas behind death and the nursing implications, what it is to father someone who is not your biological child, and a pictorial view of the town I love so much. From these posts, and many more, we can sum up the year with some key numbers;

  • 64,659 Words Total
  • 696 Words per Post (average)
  • 139 Comments
  • 348 Likes
  • 6,288 Views, of which the top five countries were
    1. Australia
    2. United States
    3. Canada
    4. United Kingdom
    5. New Zealand / India

These are just the figures from the Maintain The Rage website and do not account for comments, likes and shares from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, or Reddit.

When I started Maintain the Rage I had the intention of sharing what I had learnt, my tips and tricks, and general advice. I quickly realised that I would immediately be thrown into the Do these five things if you want to be rich, successful, and sexy category. I shifted to sharing about my life, not in an attempt to illicit pity or praise, but to show that you can do all the things you want to do, to juggle the different activities, work, school, family, and life, to show that even if your are struggling, thats ok. I hope that this has been a well received shift and that I have made the right choice. But judging by the reads and conversations with people in comments, direct messaging, and face to face contact, I am going to say it was the right move.

For the future of Maintain the Rage I am going to stay the course, I will continue to share my journey as a Parent of both a 1 year old, a 3 year old, and a 16 year old, my life as a Nurse, my journey through life with my Wife, my Scouting life, and my struggles and successes with depression and anxiety, and the victories and struggles through weight loss.

I thank everyone of you who have come on this journey with my and hope you have enjoyed and taken away something from the posts. I encourage all of you to ask me what you want to hear about, and what part of my life you are curious about. I also encourage you to share this blog with family and friends, not for mere likes or views, but so we can expand the community that Maintain the Rage has and continue to share together.

Thank you again,

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Duplicity

The word Duplicity conjures up imagery of being deceitful, untrustworthy, or as the literal translation actually goes, two faced. However, there is another meaning to Duplicity which is the state of being whereby you feel two normally conflicting emotions at the same time, both are equally as rational as the other, and both are valid emotions at the time. The later form of Duplicity is where I am at. I feel torn inside myself, like there is two me’s occupying the same space. I cannot help but think of the movies Split and Glass, both of which have a character who suffers from Disassociate Identity Disorder and has 24 known and identifiable identities occupying the same body. I am not saying that I am developing DID, but it helps draw the parallel.

Duplicity

Duplicity

This week has seemed like a struggle. I have been on placement for my Bachelor of Nursing, which was interesting but a difficulty in itself as I felt like I was simply doing my job but for free. I have been endeavouring to finish my last written assignment for the semester, in a subject I find quite interesting, but the final assessment left me feeling drained and beaten. These two things probably dragged me down enough without the continued badgering from within. My internal voice, Little Luke as previously written, has been unrelenting in the negative self talk, between my weight, my memory, my seeming inadequacies, thoughts about my children, my shortfalls as a father, shortcomings as a husband, and my absenteeism as a friend. This thrown in with constant thoughts and feelings of inadequacy and failure when it comes to my study, my work, and well every other facet of my life, has left me feeling a touch defeated.

Defeated

Defeated

This object negativity has been periodically broken by moments of spirited energy, positivity, and sometimes glee. I have been driven to finish my essay; research and plan ideas for a camp kitchen setup, and engage with my children with more frequency. On Sunday, for example, I spent the morning with my wife out at OfficeWorks, Bunnings, BCF, Anaconda, and of course Gus’ Coffee. I was more engaged than I had been in recent days. I enjoyed the time with my wife, and I felt genuinely happy about the prospect of a new project that would benefit the family. However, by the time we returned home the mood shifted from enthusiasm to a near blunted absenteeism. I would performs tasks, complete jobs, and look after the kids but feel disconnected, and had to fight the desire to simply run into my room, shut the door, and sob in the corner.

Depression

Depression

I feel that there may be a link between the Duplicity of the past week or so and the discussion regarding Masks several months ago. Masks are the voluntary changes in our state, whether to serve other better, protect ourselves, or something in between. I don’t feel that it is truly honest of me to be one thing in one moment and something completely different in another. It makes it hard on my wife, my children, and myself. It dosen’t serve any purpose, but to create division and hostility. The bible asks us to ensure that “Our yes’s be yes, and our no’s be no’s” that we are transparent and display who we are, and what we are honestly. I am struggling with what I am feeling, when I am feeling it, and the similarities to the thoughts of 2018. I don’t want to go down that road again. I have come too far in my journey to simply turn around and walk back.

Pre-Walked Path

On the surface I may be accomplishing everything. I may seem to have it all together. But underneath, not even that deep underneath, I am struggling, I am burning out, and I am failing. I need patience, love, prayer, and grace in this particular period. I thank everyone who already provides all of these things and more. I don’t know why I am feeling so Duplicitous in this very moment, I just hope I land on the uphill side of it.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Little Luke

Through our day to day lives we reflect, review, argue, weigh up, decide, and posit over a myriad of different things. Sometimes this internalisation can be heard inside your head as an echo of your own voice. Some see this as the classic Devil vs Angel on the shoulder, or others as a respected figure they hold dear. Myself, I hear me echoed around in my head, this is sometimes drowned out by the noise around me, other thoughts, or otherwise. When I am reading it is the voice that reads the word, and even when I am writing, like right now, he is the one dictating what is to be written. This is Little Luke.

Devil and Angel on Shoulder

Devil and Angel on Shoulder

It should be stated that this discussion is not dealing with the psychosis of hearing voices, hearing instructions to do certain things, or the dehumanised detached ego of self. This is more the reflection on the voice that is you on the inside. I enjoy the fact that Little Luke reads my stories, it makes it feel more like I am a kid having a bedtime story read to me, even if it is complications surrounding acute kidney disease, or leadership principles and their applications. I am thankful that I hear the words that are being written onto the page before they are written. It gives you an odd pre-completion sanity check for the sentences, and the knowledge that what you are writing is heading somewhere. Sometimes Little Luke freezes up and forgets a word, mispronounces something and therefore spells it wrong, or get distracted by a thought, an idea, or a problem, and therefore has to be encouraged to come back on topic.

Official Conscience

Official Conscience

For some, the little voice we carry around is like Jiminey Cricket, our Official Conscience. They are our voice of reason, the sound person in your corner, the person who often tells you what would be the best course of action but you summarily ignore. Little Luke plays this role. He plays it as either the sounding board, or simply voicing what would be a sound idea, even if I end up ignoring it. Thankfully, these discussions don’t tend to become heated, Little Luke is not easily offended, and even if I have completely disregarded my Conscience, he will still be there to read me a story.

However, Little Luke is overly hash and judgemental. Small mistakes taken during the day will be dragged up for weeks. The negative self talk that comes from Little Luke does at times, have a huge impact on my mood and mental health for the day. He can berate me for days about my weight, my attitude, my choices at work, my habits, the way I spend my time, and even the fact that I listen to him. These words and the venom that comes with them is hard to escape. No amount of background noise, distractions, or changes in activity can silence Little Luke when he is on a tirade.

Is it worth keeping Little Luke around? Even if I had a way to purge my internal voice would I really want to? Would the benefits of less negativity outweigh the complete and utter silence that would follow? For all his faults, and subsequently mine, Little Luke does provide an invaluable service. I just need to kerb his behaviour a little more.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Self Care

Self care comes in many forms; for some its a walk or run to clear the mind, others it’s writing or creating something, whatever the self care is it’s important to engage with in it  as often as required. We often don’t take the time for self care, thinking it is a selfish endeavour, or that we are coping fine with our daily struggles. The reality is that more and more people are suffering from depression, anxiety, and are committing suicide because they cannot see the way out of their situation. Last year I was in that very situation. I was not self caring as I should have been, and it nearly cost me my life.

Rosslyn Bay Marina

Rosslyn Bay Marina

Earlier this week I posted about being at Rosslyn Bay Marina and enjoying the sea breeze and quiet crashing of the waves. I have always enjoyed the ocean; the rolling of the swell, the gentle noise of the water against the hull of the boat or rocks of the shore. I find it so calming, it has always been a great way for me to clear my mind. That’s probably a fairly large part of the reason I joined the Navy, truth be told. I don’t however enjoy the beach, the sand gets everywhere and tends to be covered in people, but that’s besides the point. So when I had the opportunity to go, sit, clear the mind, and enjoy the waves on the rocks at the Marina I took it. I was only there for 20-30 minutes in total, but my mind felt refreshed and recharged.

Psalm 94:19

Psalm 94:19

My faith has always been a great comforter no matter what my situation. I have been able to turn to God and at the very least lessen my anxiety. Some people have this luxury, others do not. Some people meditate, use crystals and oils, or in other ways care for their spiritual side. The care of soul, for lack of any other term, is quite often overlooked. In a modern and often skeptical society any real focus on anything that isn’t completely tangible, visible, and “real” is often immediately discarded as useless. I would encourage everyone to find what cares for their “soul” and engage in the activity at least once a day. Its doesn’t have to be for hours, but enough to top up.

Take care of yourself

Take care of yourself

Your physical well being is also massively important when dealing with self care. Some people go for a walk, others a run, some people go to the gym, others get a hair cut, or get a massage. Our lives are getting busier and busier, and as such we often don’t take the time to care for ourselves. I know I for one did not care for myself over the past 12 months or so and as such gained an enormous amount of weight. As such I am now self caring and losing the weight. I am a shaved head, bearded gentlemen, I enjoy nothing more that sitting in a barbers chair having my head shaved with a razor and generally getting pampered for 45 minutes. I find it incredible relaxing, and I feel that I look better afterwards too, which helps with reassuring my self image. Whatever it is, getting your nails done, a deep tissue massage, or acupuncture, try and engage with it as often as time allows.

There are numerous ways to self care, but as long as you take care of your Mind, your Soul, and your Body, you can’t go wrong.

Do you have a favourite self care activity or technique? Feel the there is something that needs to be shared? Add it to the comments below, it could be what someone is after.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Self Worth

There are many different things that people use to gauge their self worth. For some people if followers, for some it money, others it might be accolades. For me, it’s simply acknowledgment, whether it’s being quietly thanked for a job well done, or reads on a blog post, a lot of my self worth is tied up in the opinions and actions of others. This is leaving me downtrodden and despondent as I am not feeling any level of acknowledgment for almost anything I do. There are three main areas in which I base my self work; my work, my family, and my blog.

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This isn’t to say that I am chasing accolades for doing my job, I do not celebrate mediocrity with my children, therefore I do not expect it for my self. What I am talking about it is the above and beyond moments. A recent example is being called into work early so I could work a 10 hour shift. I accepted it, as I need the money and knew for them to call me in early they needed the help. I completed my shift, which was both long and intense, and at the end of the shift the Nurse Unit Manager came up and thanked me for pulling a longer shift. That is all, a simple Thank You. I felt great, like I could do it all again right then and there. It warmed my heart and charged my spirit.

Conversely, in the past I have busted myself to ensure my work is finished, I have assisted the other two nurses on shift, filled in for the Wardsman in some of his duties, and nearly killed myself to be above reproach. Instead of any kind of small token of kindness, I was met with negativity and questioning why I did not complete one ancillary task. I felt down trodden, beaten up, like there was no point to doing all of the extra work. Now, I am not one to slack off, even if I have finished all of my work, I will ensure there is nothing I can do to help the others on my shift, or help to set up the next shift. That is just who I am. However, just because it is my normal status quo, it does not mean I do not appreciate the occasional thank you.

The other area which I am finding it profoundly difficult to increase my self worth is this blog. I write twice a week, share my opinions, my life, my struggles, and my world. I bear all, share all, and endeavour to be interesting. I endeavour to make sure that every post that comes out is the best that it can be. That it portrays the message I am trying to convey and meets the expectations of my readers. I am struggling with motivation when I keep seeing 30-40 readers a week for my posts. I struggle to keep writing when the readership is constantly reducing, not increasing, or even stay the same. It hits hard that people are disinterested in my work. I am always trying to write to stay interesting. My posts surrounding my mental health I had hoped would  touch someone and encourage them to seek treatment, or even encourage them to start a conversation with someone. I don’t know what to do, and I am seeking help.

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So now I write this post, thinking about the possibility that it will be read as a whinging post, or looking about people, or even fishing for compliments.  This post is not supposed to be any of those things. It is supposed to bear all to you, the readers, that I base a third of my self worth on the readership and interactions with this blog. I hope that the message has been received appropriately, if not I am sorry.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Dragging the Chain

Despite being as supported as I am, you know who all you are, being well medicated, having professional help, and generally doing infinitely better than 6 – 12 months ago, I still find that I am dragging the chain a little. Now, most people would say the I am just being too harsh on myself and I need to cut myself some slack, but I still feel that I am sometimes actively avoiding chores, activities, social events, and family moments. This cannot continue.

Let’s start with around the house.  I am constantly reminded of my inaction with the forrest that has befallen my herb garden, and the terrible state of my vegetable gardens. I have had none of the motivation required to actually just sit in them and pull everything that isn’t edible out. I managed to gather the necessary energy to poison the Nutgrass that has conquered much of the garden, but even this has required follow up action that just hasn’t happened. I continue to come up with excuses as to why I can’t do it; it’s too hot, I just finished work, I’m busy doing something else, I’ll just wait till it’s cooler, I’ll do it later this afternoon, and the list continues. I would love to see my gardens be back to where they were. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just stop at gardening, I find it almost completely draining to look after the girls. Like all 1 & 3 year olds, they are exceptionally demanding, they are contradictory, they yell and scream and cry and then as if by the triggering of some self defence mechanism are completely adorable. I find myself just letting everyone else take care of the girls, even our eldest son sometimes, this isn’t the best but until I can stop dragging my chain on this one, it will have to do.

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The garden at it’s completion

I want to prefix this paragraph by saying I love my job, I would never do anything, or fail to do anything, that would be a detriment to my or anyone else patients. However, my motivation to actually go to work is, at times, a little low. I find it difficult to get out of bed, I drag the chain the entire time I am getting ready, and even on the car trip to work my mind continues to come up with ways that I could not work that day. I do find though that once I am at work I am almost, energised. The lack of motivation could have been spurred by a run in with a couple of staff, it could be because the workplace is a little slow at present, whatever the reason I need to stop dragging my chain on this one.

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Must stay motivated for Work

Finally, I have been dragging my chain when it comes to Maintain The Rage. I have skipped weeks, struggled to write anything meaningful, constantly put off writing, and otherwise simply want to put this by the back burner. I know that’s no fair to the readers, it not what I want for this blog, it’s not what I want out of myself. There are many reasons behind this chain being dragged; it takes a large amount of energy and thought power to write a post and most days I just don’t want to put that kind of energy into anything, and from an ego stand point the readership has fallen from over 1500 a month to less than 500. Now I know a lot of you will say that 500 a month is still great, and others will say it’s not about the numbers, and to an extent they are right, but like the thank you after a job well done, a good reader count following a post is a nicety. I really do appreciate every single reader, and I love the interaction we can get with comments, personal messages, or emails and I don’t ever want that to stop.

Study

I started Maintain the Rage to share, help, and encourage. I don’t want that to change

So as you can see between my depression and decreased motivation I am dragging the chain in almost every facet of my life. I want to improve it, I want to take charge of every facet of my life and do all of the things that I want to do in it, I want the motivation I had when I started this blog over 18 months ago. I don’t know if I need more sleep, more prayer, more coffee, or some sort of combination of these and more, but whatever it is I hope I can stop dragging my chain before it becomes habit.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Living with Depression

I sit here at my computer getting ready to write this week’s blog and my mind is a complete blank. I read back through my recent posts to see if there is something that needs a conclusion, read back through the end of last years for inspiration, and I think about the week that has been and realise that I have covered all that has needed coverage. It dawns on me, however, that I have not written about how life is post treatment, with a stable medication regime, and all things considered a reasonably stable and improved mood with no suicidal ideation. So now I am.

I completed my course of ECT a couple of months ago and since then I have been on the upwards trend regarding mood and suicidal ideations. I haven’t had a suicidal thought in over two months, my mood has improved, my anxiety is under control, and I can continue with life in a reasonably normal fashion. ECT has left me with a rather large memory hole covering the period of treatment and several weeks preceding in following.  I consider this a small price to pay considering the alternative. The other negative side effect that I have noticed is the occasional inability to remember a word or name. Now I don’t mean in the sense of I haven’t seen someone for years and forget their name, I mean I was actively talking to the person and their name alludes me. But still, a small price to pay.

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Being motivated to spend time with my beautiful children has been a huge bonus outcome to the treatment

I conjunction with the ECT I have been in regular contact with my Psychiatrist who has both been monitoring the outcome of ECT and also the effectiveness of my medication. I have seen a significant change to my medication over the course of the year, but we have finally found a combination that works and is achieving the results we are after. These medications have now remained unchanged for nearly two months with minimal side effects. The only side effect noted is a bad case of the cotton mouth with is caused by the Alpha Channel blockers I am on. But, again, considering the alternative, chewing a bit of gum every now and again is a small price to pay.

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Finding an artistic outlet, something that tickles the strategic part of my brain, and the opportunity to engage with others has been an excellent ongoing tool

Medication and ECT are both great physical treatments for depression and anxiety, however, talking therapy is still important as we need to process the thoughts that led us to this point to avoid the same thing occurring in the future. Hence my regular visits with the Psychologist. Together we have been talking through present thoughts, the effects of treatment, and current mood. Since the recent stability we have been able to move towards processing trauma and memories in an effort to minimise the risk of a decline in depression again. The Psychologist has been using a process called EMDR, which utilises rapid eye movement and a scripted approach to process memories and emotions. So far I have found it to be really useful, even though I was quite sceptical at first but have since been corrected, and look forward to the future sessions.

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Being able to have a laugh at myself and realise I don’t need to take life so seriously

The actual day to day living with depression is fairly manageable. I know most of the time when a situation arises that is likely to push me into a reclusive depressive state, so I try to either avoid them or mitigate the outcome. I have had the classic lack of motivation moments ranging from not wanting to go grocery shopping to not attending that party to not wanting to get out of bed. Thankfully I have an amazing wife who is there to encourage me and sometime give me the kick in the behind I need. Financially my medication is currently costing me $2.15 per day, which doesn’t sound a lot but adds up pretty quickly.

I don’t feel that I am any different than anyone else who is going through depression or is dealing with anxiety on a daily basis. I just encourage those who are out there reading this to reach out and get the help you need to live a “normal” life and not live with the constant heavy downhill of depression or crippling fear of anxiety.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Addit: If people could please pray for myself, my family, and my immediate friend circle it would be greatly appreciated. We have had an illness of some varying description or another doing the rounds for months. We have had Influenza, Gastroenteritis, Conjunctivitis, Sinusitis/Rhinitis, Bacterial Skin Infections, and Bacterial Tongue Infections all do the rounds. We are all sick and tired of being sick and tired, so your prayer would be appreciated.

Checking In

Today I conducted a little experiment to see who was paying attention, if there were any folks out there who have been paying attention to my posts, tweets, and articles. The result I have is unfortunately not surprising, and is the reason behind my post today. As a community, whether Maintain the Rage, Church, School, Friends, Family, Work, Clubs, Hobbies or otherwise we need to ensure we keep a closer eye on one another, and Check In once in a while.

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The experiment was, miss a post that has otherwise been out every Monday at 0530 Australian Eastern Stand Time for over 12 months, see if anyone reacts, posts, tweets, calls, messages or otherwise tries to get in contact with me or the page to see if I am ok, or at least comment on the lack of post. Sadly, as I write this a little after 1400 on the Monday, I am yet to receive even one such attempt at contact. This is mildly concerning for myself as I have recently gone through an episode of severe depression, suicidal ideations and planning. There has been reports saying that someone who has attempted suicide in the past is more likely to attempt in the future, and normally with an increased completion rate. This post is not meant to guilt trip anyone, or make anyone feel concerned for myself, this is supposed to show people how easy it can be for something to go awry and encourage the simple act of Checking In.

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For those of you who’ve read my Blog for a while now will recognise the man in the picture above, it is Peter Bach, a good friend of mine from my Navy days, he was also a close friend who was taken away from us because of Suicide. Peter even gave us a chance to help him. Two nights before he succeeded in a suicidal action, Peter had made an attempt, so we would realise later, and injured his head. Nobody realised. When asked how he received the injury, nobody suspect his answer was off. Nobody put two and two together. None of us realised it was probably the last time any of us would get the chance to save his life. We missed it. We failed to Check In.

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I therefore encourage everyone to be aware of the community they are in, the people they influence, and those who influence them. I plead with you to notice when someone hasn’t performed a task at their usual time or arrived when normally they would. Sometimes retreating back inside themselves is the first noticeable sign of someone in trouble. The earlier signs are changes of habit, changes in mood, changes in dress, or changes in interest. Notice the signs, get educated, be involved, and Check In.

Maintain the Rage,

Luke Sondergeld

Anchored

For the past 10 weeks I have been taking part in a local life group, a small group of people from church who meet on days other than Sunday, that focusses on being able to deal with life hurts, hangups, habits and hard times called Anchor. I initially flagged the idea with my wife during my ECT about attending Anchor, we started attending, and it has now become just as much a time for connection with God as it has been a great time to improve my Mental Health and resilience.

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The primary focus of Anchor is to equip the attendees with the biblical tools necessary to deal with their bad habits, hang ups, hard times, or hurts. It is not like an alcoholics anonymous were you continually attend to get you through to the next week. I found, despite being on my Christian walk for nearly a decade, that there were still a lot of lessons to be learned. Some of them were rudimentary where as others were not so. One of the mnemonics that is passed around is ANCHORED;

Admit I am poor in spirit and need God
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)

Nourish a meaningful loving relationship with God
“Blessed are they that morn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

Choose a life of commitment to Church and His will
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5)

Humble my heart to God’s evaluation of my life and past
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)

Offer myself to Go and submit to His changes for my life
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6)

Reconcile and seek peace in my relationship
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7)
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9)

Establish a daily time with God as his Child
“For they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9)

Dedicate my life to the service of Christ
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10)
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake” (Matthew 5:11)

Through these 8 steps I have been able to control my anxiety better, control my anger and attitude towards things that don’t go my way. In a lot of ways, Anchor has shown me what is to be a Christian again, it has almost been as though I was coasting on autopilot but now I have control of the rudder and with God’s direction can navigate to a place of blessing and peace.

lightstock_177391_full_user_493488.jpgI could write for pages about the benefits that I have received since attending Anchor and leaning in to God once again. Instead I will leave this post here, open ended, and ready for you the reader to take the steps and take control over what’s going on in your life. I encourage you to connect in with your local Church, find a small group, lean in and receive the blessing He has for you. If anyone wishes to ask any questions, I encourage you to either message me directly or comment on the post here. Maintain the Rage is a safe place for all to explore, learn, and grow.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Mental Health Fast 5

My journey through mental health has taught me a great many things about what it is to have a mental illness and how it feels, the daily struggles of even the simplest tasks, and how the world views you because of your mental illness. So I thought I would share my insight in the way of a Fast 5, in an effort to increase awareness, decrease stigma, and generally try to build a better future surrounding mental health.

1. Communicate

One of the simplest things you can do, and is often overlooked due to not knowing what to say, is communicate. Start by asking if the person is OK, ask if they need anything, let them know that you are here for them. The simple act of asking someone if they are OK can make the biggest difference to a person’s day. This is why I love initiatives like RUOK Day which encourages communication and gives practical step by step guides or collaborations like #YouCanTalk which provides the tools to people so that they feel empowered to talk to a person with suicidal ideations. There are many other great resources, websites, and material out there on the big bad web; take the time to read some of it, you may be the only person someone has.

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2. Listen

I know that this could be part of communication, but it is so important to the process, that I decided to make it its own point. Once you have opened the dialogue with someone you then need to actually stop and listen to the response. The person you are talking to may reveal something to you, and you may be the only person to hear it, or may be the only person who can take action. When listening to the person, don’t listen to answer. Listen to actually hear what the person has to say, you can take the time after they have finished to consider your response. Don’t be afraid of what they are saying to you. They may reveal to you they have suicidal thoughts, plans, and intent. This is great, as they have allowed someone else to know, which means the possibility of help is there. Remember you were given two ears and one mouth, guess which one should be used more.

3. Take Appropriate Action

Taking appropriate action does not necessarily mean dragging the person down to the local mental health ward and having them admitted. It could simply mean that you ensure the person isn’t left alone for the next day or two. It could be getting the person to have an appointment with their GP, or call a mental health service like LifeLine or BeyondBlue. If however you believe there is an imminent threat to the person’s life, they cannot be reasoned with, and otherwise refuse help, please call emergency services and have an Ambulance come to take them to a hospital where they can get acute care.

4. Don’t Judge

When someone has decided to open up to you and unload their problems and burdens, it is imperative that you are not judgmental. Someone may be having an issue, that to you seems minor or insignificant, however, to them is an insurmountable challenge. Don’t try and say cliches like Its not bad or you’ll get over it, these do nothing to help the person and only serve to degrade them. Simply accept what has been spoken, and encourage the person to talk through what solutions they have tried, or would like help with.

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5. Check In

If you have had a conversation with someone while they are struggling with a mental illness, and they have decided to open up to you, ensure that you continue to check in on them. The initial conversation may have been great, or not that great, but they fact that the person had decided to open up to you means you have a responsibility to continue to help that person. A check in doesn’t have to be complicated or even that long, it could just be a simple phone call to ask how they are doing. If the person expressed suicidal thoughts make sure you ask about them, is there a plan, or intent? These things could indicate a decline in condition that requires more immediate or deliberate action. Be there for them.

That’s my fast five for Mental Health. It is in no way an exhaustive list of what should be done, or how it should be done, but it is suppose to give you the frame work to start the conversation off and what to do afterwards. I encourage you to visit the links provided in this post for more information, resources, and contact details of where to get help if needed.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Getting my Groove Back

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my desire to “get my old brain back” and how I was despondent because it felt like everything I did was laborious or these things didn’t happen at all. I was also concerned that my drive to achieve things, my edge, the ‘A’ factor if you will, was some what lost. Well it seems I was running an old version of OS and it just took a little while to reboot, as this week saw a return to a slightly less manic, and more controlled version of my previous self.

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The first instance where I noticed my thought process return to the efficient machine it once was, was during placement. I was at a new facility, with new staff, new processes, and a whole new way to do the same things I do every day as a nurse. By all rights this should have thrown me, taken a week to adjust, by the time I was comfortable it would be time to leave. However, this was not the case. I found myself falling into the groove of the workplace with relative ease, I worked with the staff as though I had been there for ages, the processes seemed almost natural, and I integrated within the first couple of days. It was nice to have the ability to be organised, sort out my workload, complete all that I was required and then have time to assist others. It was a giant relief to have the level of competence back that I was not sure would return.

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I have also noticed an increase in my motivation at home. Darby has been the typical three year old and want to be with you, doing what you are doing, and generally being involved. For the past couple of months this has been a burden, a chore, or otherwise an inconvenience. However, the past couple of weeks has found a new patience that is willing to have Darby stir dinner, cut up vegetables, or otherwise help out where she can.  I have been a far more useful husband, a better father, and softer individual. Most recently has seen a shift in the house. We have swapped our study and our eldest son’s rooms around. This was a major effort, that took all of us, and still took more than six hours to achieve. I feel great about my new found energy and drive, I just pray it hangs around.

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Something that I have been avoiding, whether through apathy, or otherwise, has been my quiet time with God. It had been months since I actually stopped and prayed, or gave thanks for everything that I have, that I do, and that is done for me. I have also been avoiding reading my Bible, this stems from some kind of misplaced anger and resentment that the God who is supposed to love me and be there would allow me to go through all of this nonsense. The past couple of weeks I have come to the realisation that God has not put me through anything I could not handle, he has allowed me to suffer for the knowledge it has given me, the empathy it has generated, and the quieting it has provided. I now have the patience and persuasion to read everyday, pray everyday, and be thankful for everything that I have.

I am still on the road to recovery. I do feel that the reboot is nearly complete if not actually done. I am glad that I have not lost my edge and that I can continue to be me.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

My Old Brain Back

Over the past couple of weeks since ECT I have been blessed by the almost complete removal of Suicidal Ideations, reduction in the feeling of depression, and the decrease in general negativity. With this all been said, as I have been back at work, endeavouring to be more proactive around the house with both chores and children, and participating in Bible study with my wife every evening. All in all things have been going pretty well, but there are a few things that have made me want my old brain back.

I like to think that I am quite good with my words, almost eloquent if you will, but over the past couple of weeks I have barely been able to string a sentence together without forgetting one of the key words. For example, when I was writing the introduction paragraph to this post, I completely forgot the word proactive. I sat here staring at my computer for several minutes trying to think of the word. Eventually I asked my wife, and we sat in our office going through possible words until something twigged. It isn’t always a difficult or foreign word that is forgotten. Yesterday I forgot dishwasherdrinkphone, and car. I know that we all have moments were we simply forget something, or our brains decide it’s on lunch, but when it happens with as much (like right now) regularity as it has done with me, I wish that I had my old sponge of a brain back, and the guys and girls from my Diploma of Nursing class will know what I mean.

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The other thing I have lost is my tenacity or drive. Previously I was beyond driven, I had so many things on the go at once sometimes I didn’t know how I got them all done. I was volunteering at Scouts, the Diploma of Nursing Society, the SRC, the SPARC, studying my Diploma, parenting, assembling painting and playing Warhammer, and working. By anyones standards I was busy. I know that to work at that level for too long can burn anyone out. There comes a point when you have to hit the breaks and slow down for a bit. I unfortunately didn’t do that. I decided that the only thing to do was keep going and try and pile more on. I have no doubt this lead to my brain applying the breaks for me. Now I work 8 days a fortnight, study my Bachelor of Nursing, parent, be a friend, a son, and assemble, paint, and play Warhammer. A far stretch from where I was six months ago. The issue I have is, I miss being busy, I miss achieving things, I miss making the area around me better. I have no drive, no tenacity, and no push to achieve almost anything. I find it distressing and depressing that I don’t have the same level of drive as I have had previously and I am scared that I won’t ever have it again.

A mindset that I have found to be creeping in is mediocrity. Too many times over the past couple of weeks I have uttered the words ‘Meh, that will do’ or ‘Ps get Degrees’. Anyone who knows me will know that is not an attitude I ascribe to. During my Diploma studies I strove be be the best that I could be, know as much as I could, and generally attempt to be all that I could be. This is the reason I was nominated for two awards, received a High Distinction in one of my first semester units of my Bachelor, and a Distinction average on the others. I always pushed harder and reached further. Now I can barely motivate myself to achieve the minimum I need to just achieve. I am sitting on a credit average this semester, may have just passed two essays, and have not undertaken any extra curricular activities, vice this blog. I do miss the thirst for knowledge, the little voice that yearned to know more, the attitude of nothing is good enough until you have done all that you can. Instead, I am left with an apathetic brain that can barely remember the word dishwasher, a far cry from where we were.

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How I actually go about cherry picking the best parts of my brain and behaviour from before treatment and then apply them to life now is still a mystery. Maybe the only way to have the level of tenacity and drive is to have the negatives that come with it, negative feat for a positive feat. Maybe I am now stuck with the brain as it is and I just have make the most of it. I find it distressing to think that I have voluntarily removed almost everything that made me, me. It is almost as if I have been changed from an A type personality to a B type. I know as many of you read this particular post you will be thinking of how much I still do, and how I am being too hard on myself. The reality is the one of the behavioural traits that carried over almost flawlessly was my ability to self analyse and subsequently tear myself to shreds. It’s not the healthiest trait, but it does help me improve, or at least identify fault. Where do I go from here? I honestly don’t know. I know I need to improve my drive, but not at the cost of my mental health. I know I need to push more, but not at the cost of those around me. One day I suppose I will find that balance, unfortunately today is not that day.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Working through it

Anyone who has been following my social media on Facebook or Twitter, and those who have been reading my blog for longer than a week will know I have Depression and Anxiety disorder.  This has meant that I have had a course of ECT, been on a myriad different medications, and see a psychiatrist and psychologist on a regular basis. All of this is done with the hope that I can continue to exist with some sort of sense of “normality”. A part of that is I endeavour to continue to live my life as though my mental illness didn’t exist; I study, I parent, I work, and I try to be there for my friends. Sometimes things don’t always go to plan.

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So on a weekly basis I see my psychiatrist for a review of the week, not too dissimilar to what I do on here actually, identify any risks or significant changes in my mental state, and then come up with a plan for the week ahead. This week we discussed how the medication had been sitting, how much coffee and alcohol I have consumed, how my week had been travelling, what my thoughts had been like, how my motivation was, how my sleep was, and as always any thoughts of self harm or suicide. Most of the medication had been sitting with me quite well, no significant side effects, and all performing as they should. The only exception to this was the newly added Quetiapine. It was added to help with my anxiety attacks, and at this task it was performing adequately, the only side effect was it made me a little dopey and sleepy, but thats ok nothing an extra couple of coffees a day couldn’t fix right? The Doctor wasn’t too amused by the number of coffees I was having in a day. His suggestion was to completely eliminate coffee, well actually all caffeine, and to assist in this he changed when I take the Quetiapine. Instead of three times a day I take one large dose at night, it helps with sleep, stops the daytime nap attacks, and assists with eliminating caffeine. I may not eliminate caffeine completely, but I will cut down to one coffee a day. Small steps.

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The past couple of weeks have been intense on the study front. I have completed 26 quizzes, written 1500 words for a reflection on my mental health placement, and a series of small written tasks that are more time consuming than actually difficult. The workload this semester has been a little more intense than I had anticipated, compared to last semester, and in fact the diploma, this semester has required a lot of work in a surprisingly small period of time. The period of time may have been made smaller due to the fact that I had four weeks of ECT, a period of most of the semester in varying states of depression, and losing large portion of my memory that cover the semester and its content. This hasn’t stopped me from studying full time however. I intend to keep this momentum for the remainder of my Degree, thus finishing at the end of 2019. Not long now.

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The past two weeks have seen me on placement at a Mental Health facility. Though I thoroughly enjoyed my placement, the staff, the opportunity to learn, and the new experiences, there were some interesting situations that arose that may not have been an issue, if it wasn’t for my mental state. John was a consumer who was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder, and was currently in the depressive phase. John was not an aggressive consumer, nor was he deliberately belligerent, or difficult. John was, typically, a polite consumer who was in the throws of the depressive phase of his condition and didn’t know how to deal with it. With this information at hand the conversation was easier to begin, and it made engaging with John possible. The conversation began with idle small talk about how he was going, what he had been up to and the like.  When he answered about how he was going this opened the conversation up to talking about his feelings, what was making him feel low, was there anything that made him feel joy, was there anything that provided an emotional response other than sadness or depression. By listening to John’s responses, asking open questions, being empathetic to what John said, and engaging with him on a personal level, I was able to draw out more from John, and John was able to see more of himself.  The result of this conversation with John saw the rapport together grow stronger, and the conversation to progress naturally and openly. John began to share his story of life prior to his admission, share on his lost loves, his family, his illness and struggles. It took nearly an hour of general conversation before John began to openly reply without the need to have every piece of information drawn out like blood from stone. He spoke about his illness and how it made him feel, how it skewed his view on things, and how it most likely affected his previous relationships. Personally I was affected by the openness and his story, how his illness has affected him, and how it continues to burden him. As someone who suffers with depression himself I found it both confronting and comforting hearing the story. I found the similarities and the emotions to be difficult to swallow at first, and to be honest it are still a little difficult to process. To think that my trains of thought could continue to develop to one day be admitted to an institution such as the one I was working. To have my thoughts and emotions assessed and probed by someone who was in my situation. That thought still lingers.

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My mental health has not had a more profound effect on anything as it has on my family, and my role as father. Thankfully there hasn’t been a direct action caused by my depression or anxiety that has bought harm or ill will to my children. The effect it has on my children is more closely related to apathy. My mood often places me in the position where I do not want to interact with my children, do necessary chores for the children, or otherwise do the necessary things I need to do as a father. This has weighed heavily on my heart. I feel terrible for not doing what I need to do for my children, but at the same token I have no energy or drive to complete the tasks either. I love my children, I want to be able to say I would do anything for them, and have it be true.

I have not been back to work for several weeks, this has been due to the original mental state, followed by ECT, and most recently I have been on placement. Today marks the first day I will actually be returning to work. I am both apprehensive and excited to be returning to work. Though I have no doubt about my physical ability to do my job, or my professional ability to carry out the tasks my job requires, my anxiety continues to whisper in my ear feeding ideas of inadequacies and shortcomings. The end of the shift will be the only true indicator of how the day will go. I just pray the day goes well.

As with most things surrounding my mental health, my friends have suffered through all this. I have bailed on events, forgotten almost everything that has happened or been said over the past month, and almost actively avoided interacting. Though my friends may not think I have been a lousy friend, it is certainly how I feel. My heart is to spend more time with my friends, give them the time they deserve, be there to support and help out when I can. I hate myself for not being the better friend, which causes my depression to take a dive, which leads me to generally being a worse friend, which leads to the loathing again. Thus the cycle continues.

Though the story above may seem to be now of woe and worry, it is not all doom and gloom. ECT has been a raging success, with my mood improving and suicidality decreasing, the medications have been working with varying degrees of success, my walk with God has helped me keep things real, the time I have spent with friends has been great, and I have managed to find time to spend on my hobby.  Things are still hard, I still have thoughts of being irrelevant or unnecessary, I spend most of my day trying to motivate myself to keep my mood up, I am still failing in more areas than I am succeeding, but I am doing everything I can to,

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

The Week That Was

I have been wracking my brain trying to think about what this post was going to be about. I kept bouncing between my mental state, my placement, my family, my study, and everything else in between. I couldn’t sensibly decide on one topic to share with you all. So I have decided to share all of them. This weeks post will be The Week That Was.

THIS POST OPENLY DISCUSSES MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AND MAY BE DISTRESSING TO SOME READERS. DISCRETION IS ADVISED

I start by updating everyone on my mental health. For those of you who follow along at my Twitter, @LukeSondergeld, or keep tabs on my Facebook, Luke Sondergeld, or the Maintain the Rage Facebook page, Maintain The Rage, you would know that things haven’t been going so well. I shared yesterday that I have been feeling a lot like I had done back in the middle of August. This is particularly distressing as that is also pre-ECT. The most distressing part of all it is the anxious and helpless thoughts that are returning, with no rhyme or reason. I feel as though I have been knocked to the ground and am constantly being kicked by circumstance. The most frustrating part of it all is, my life is pretty great. I have have an awesome wife, my kids are pretty great, I have a roof over my head (which I own), I have a car, a job, food in my belly, and I am not actively been persecuted, hunted, victimised, or belittled. I have no reason to feel the way I do. But I still seem to be coming back to it, over and over again. It is moments like these, in my darkest moments, I catch my mind wandering back to suicidal thoughts.

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Through all of this I have been on my clinical placement, ironically, for Mental Health. In the interest of keeping the workplace, the consumers, and the staff protected, I won’t mention where I have been doing the placement. The placement has been amazing. The staff have been great. The consumers have been challenging and accepting all at the same time. I have been allowed to do my job without being treated like a child, and my opinion, thought inexperienced, is still listened to and respected. I still have another weeks placement ahead of me which is going to be challenging and rewarding all at the same time.

The one thing that has been the constant, the rock, the shelter, has been my family, my friends, and those close to me. They have all been my greatest support though my depression, the most understanding when I am stuck behind my computer completing 26 Quizzes in a little over a week, forgiving when I loose my temper, and supportive when I am a blubbering mess or quivering wreck. To all those who I call family, and you know who you are, thank you and I love you.

To add a little salt to the wound I am still trying to complete my Bachelor of Nursing, hence the placement. This has also meant I have recently, as previously alluded too, been completing, and subsequently passing, 26 Quizzes on Pathophysiology. This week I still have one more to complete, which is some 60 questions and has 3 hours allotted to it. Additionally, I have a 1500 word reflection to write about a difficult behaviour, how I handled it, and what I learnt from it. Thankfully I am in the habit of writing and reflecting, so it should be too difficult.

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So that is the Week That Was; this week will see a return to my Psychiatrist for a review and a serious discussion about my headspace and what we are going to do, a return to my placement, more study which I hope to complete, and somewhere in there some peace and quiet. To those reading, and sharing, this post…

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Continued Treatment

With three treatments left this week, I am finally on the downhill run. I am not going to lie, I will be glad to have the treatments all done and dusted, be back at work, and resume some sort of normality. The memory loss has been quite significant this past week, with some of those memories being shared with you this post. I don’t regret choosing ECT as a route, I firmly believe that without the decision to undergo ECT I wouldn’t be here to whinge about it, or its side effects.

I will start out by saying the treatments have been effective in managing and limiting my suicidal ideations, which is a positive, and the treatments themselves are relatively painless. I arrive early in the morning, get processed through day surgery, make my way down to a theatre, have the treatment under general anaesthetic, wake up in recovery, hang around for a couple of hours, have a cup of tea, then go home. All in all I am there for 4-5 hours. The staff are always fantastic, polite, pleasant, and professional, nothing is too much for them, and they truly love their jobs.

My mood has seen an improvement over the past week, and has certainly seen an improvement since treatment began several weeks ago. My sleep has improved, with less waking hours through the night, and a better quality overall. I feel as though I am able to tackle each day with relative ease, and with relative focus. I have been able to focus on my school work, achieve things around the home, and spend time with my family. While this has been great to achieve different things it has highlighted many of the blanks that exist in my memory.

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Of these blanks include, rearranging the shed. Apparently, some point over the past week or so, I rearranged my workshop shed to facilitate the installation of a wood lathe. It was also, from what I can tell, a great opportunity to tidy up the workshop, clean things up, and generally give the workshop a bit of a once over. The thing that struck me as most odd about this particular forgotten job was I didn’t even remember one of the ancillary portions of the job, like moving the shelving, rearranging the storage, or even making the hole the lathe will eventually go into.

Continuing with forgotten labours, there is a rather large pile of timber at the base of my decking stair. Judging by the type of timber that is in the pile, I would say that timber comes from my parents place. Judging by the size of the pieces I would say that they where felled trees from their house, chopped in situ, then moved over in their small cut up pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful for forgetting this arduous and painful job, I am just just thankful the job is done.

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Unfortunately, my assignments for University have not miraculously been completed and I conveniently forgot, instead I have uncompleted assignments which I have no idea which direction they were going. This has delayed there completion as every time I sit down to work on the assignment I would have to completely re-read what I had written and try and understand the direction I was heading. It was arduous, painful, and time consuming. It is a task I am sad to say is a continuing task, with continued frustrations. But I will soldier on.

I feel what my wife actually does every day following my treatment, needs to be mentioned, not just so that you the reader have an understanding of what she does for me, but in the unfortunate circumstance that you find yourself as the only person in support of one of your friends or family members. Firstly, be patient, in every possible meaning of the word, be patient. The person you are supporting is going to forget things, go through a whole gambit of emotions, and struggle with their own thoughts and feelings. My wife is my portable diary, keeps my brain in check, reminds me of everything, takes the lions share of work when it comes to the children, and is the single most patient person on the planet, she isn’t shy about repeating a story for the tenth time, or about reminding me to do a job for the twentieth time.

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In the coming week I will have three more treatments, have to finish off my University assignments, prepare to return to work, be a father and husband somewhere in there. This isn’t supposed to sound like a sob story, or for me to come across as a charity case, it is simply me sharing what I am going through in the hope that you can all gain an understanding of what it is to go through ECT, and what it is to be a support person of someone going through ECT.

So that does it, ECT in the morning, assignments to complete, study to get done. A busy week, one that I am glad I have such a supportive wife through.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Fixing a Headmark

The past week has been a little tumultuous with the dizzying heights of the Queensland Training Awards, the crushing depths of my depression, which comes with all the treatment side effects following ECT. I would love to claim that my week was smooth sailing. I would love to say that the Awards were the boost to my confidence and self worth that I needed. I would love to say that my treatment has been amazing, I feel better and that I have suffered no ill effects, but alas I cannot. Instead I will share with you the very raw details of the week that was in the hope of raising awareness of mental health, reducing stigma surrounding ECT, and to encourage others to push themselves and study further. This, I hope, will encourage me to refix my headmark and correct my course.

I will start with the Awards, as it is always good to start on a high note. Several weeks ago, for those who weren’t aware, I won the Regional Vocational Education Student of the Year award. It was a humbling experience and one I am truly thankful for. The weekend just gone saw the announcement of the State winner. In my category there where seven candidates from a variety of backgrounds and education streams. The night went on. I went through the gambit of nervous emotions. Finally my category was up. Unfortunately, I did not win the state award. However, I was in the top 7 out of 840 nominees. And that has to account for something. I am not going to lie, I was saddened and disappointed that I did not win. I know that CQUniversity, represented by Scott and Anita Bowman, Helen Huntly, and Peter Heilbuth, were pleased that I made it as far as I did, and they couldn’t be any prouder. The award has encouraged me to pursue my dream of teaching future Nurses, while working as a Nurse, it has also encouraged me to strive harder and do more for my fellow students and University as a whole. Looking forward to the future, that’s where I need to focus.

Next, my treatment. For those who have been reading I have been undergoing ECT for the past two weeks. This has been in answer to my depression taking a dramatic turn toward self destruction and suicidality. The treatment has, from what I can tell, made small improvements to mood and self destructive behaviours. I am not as depressed as I was, I am less suicidal, and I am engaging more with those around me. However, my drinking has seen a stark increase, my memory is frustratingly shot with most of my short term memory being nonexistent. To the outside observer I would appear to be improving, with an improvement in mood, and engagement. Not to dismiss what improvements there has been, but I still feel I have a long way to go.

I feel like I should take the opportunity to say to everybody reading this, if you are given ECT as a treatment option consider it. But make sure you have considered all of your options, make sure you have a solid support network around you, keep a journal or notepad of different thoughts or ideas so you don’t loose them, but most of all make sure you are making the decision for you, don’t let anybody coerce you in or out of treatment, if that is what you really want.

If there has been one thing out of this awards process that I have taken away, it is the dedication, hard work, and persistence that the teaching staff put in every day. Having been a student, a mentor, unofficial teachers aide, and tutor I have seen first hand the hard work that goes into lesson plans, instructional lessons, handout, and assignments that go into making sure that the student can receive the best education possible. I have a new found call to not only be a Nurse but also educate the next generation of Nurses as an instructor at either the TAFE or University level. I feel that my drive to always be better, do better, and know more will serve me well in this endeavour.

So now that I have identified some landmarks around my life at the moment and I am confident I have my position, to keep the Navigational metaphor going, it is time to realign with my head mark and regain my track. And here it is:

    Finish assessments for this Semester
    Finish placements for this Semester
    Finish Treatment
    Return to Work
    Make headway towards teaching
    Spend more time with the Children
      Spend more time with the

Wife

    Continue to build Diploma of Nursing Society
    Continue Mentoring new Nurses
    Take time to self care

Most of these will be a continual thing, some will be achievable by the end of the year, some of them have to be completed by the end of the year. If I keep myself accountable and share my journey with you, the reader, then I am more likely to stay on target and achieve my goals.

I need you all, the readers, to help me stay honest and keep on track. You can do this by engaging with me on Facebook, Twitter, or by commenting on blog posts on this page. Engagement is the cornerstone of any community, and I call you to be a part of this great one.

Finally, I ran a competition to design a Logo that would be used on a line of Maintain The Rage Merchandise. Below is the winning sketch that will be used turned into a logo to be used on this run of merchandise, the designer has been notified of their success.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Simply Forgotten

For those of you just tuning in, I have been receiving ElectroConvulsive Therapy (ECT) for a little over a week now, and the experience has been eye opening if nothing else. Firstly, I will say that any treatment should be weighed up with its pros and cons, and should be considered by the individual. I considered ECT to be my solution to a problem that was all too likely to be fatal. Secondly, the person undergoing ECT will need all the love and support those around them can muster, for reasons I will go into in a moment. Finally, I am profoundly thankful for those around me, friends, family, or otherwise, without you I wouldn’t be able to go on this journey.

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For those readers who may be faced with ECT as a treatment, or perhaps those who are supporting someone else who has decided to take ECT as an option I offer you these simple pieces of advice. Firstly, they are going to forget almost everything during treatment, and remember the most random. This is not a reflection on the importance they place on that particular thing, or how much they don’t care about the forgotten. The memories lost and retained are unfortunately random. Be patient with them, remind them of the things forgotten, and be there for them. Secondly, they won’t know they have forgotten. Unlike misplaced keys where you know you put them somewhere, ECT memory loss is rather, complete. It is more like dementia memory loss, whereby you don’t even remember having keys. This can be frustrating to person going through the treatment as they can’t trust their own memories anymore, and can be frustrating to those around them as they try and piece together events and memories.

Despite all of this, the alternative to not seeking treatment would most likely have resulted in my own demise. Or at the very least a good attempt at it.

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For those who are supporting someone going through ECT, I wish you all the patience and love you can muster. The person going through ECT is already having a hell of a time with memories, emotions, and stigmas. The last thing they are going to need is a cup full of judgement from their support team. I know as I write this, and it is conversely read by my support team, and you guys know who you are, I wish to convey my utmost gratitude and sincerest apologies for forcing you to repeat conversations over and over again. I love you, and without you this journey wouldn’t be possible. A prime example of plain not remembering things, apparently I have had KFC for lunch after each session without even knowing it. I don’t remember it, I don’t remember who it was with, none of it.

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And finally, the lovey dovey portion of my post. I wish to sincerely thank each and every friend, family member, acquaintance, or otherwise. Without you, your input, your wisdom, your patience, and your understanding I would not be able to  undergo treatment, and hopefully get better. I know at times I am going to be forgetful, dopey, or simply absent minded and for that I apologise. You guys are awesome. In particular, but in no particular order;

Alinta

Joseph

Chris

Jess – Non kiwi type

Adrian

Jess – Kiwi type

Mum

Dad

Ashley

Bec

And everyone else that I have failed to mention that has played their part. You are awesome.

I go into the next week with several more treatments to go, followed by a weekend in Brisbane for the State level Training Awards (follow #QLDTA & #MTR for tweets along the way). For those of you who are separated by distance know that I am well cared for, for those of you who are nearby but feel helpless, know that just by being there and being yourself is all that is required.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

One Down

I feel compelled to write about my most recent ElectroConvulsive Therapy (ECT) experience. For those who aren’t aware I am undergoing a course of ECT for my Depression, after attempting many different anti-depressants and mood stabilisers, along with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), despite this my Suicidal Ideation continued, and actually resulted in a plan.

 

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From the outset I should say I was still nervous and apprehensive regarding the treatment. Not because I thought it wouldn’t work, or because I would be scrambled, but I was worried about loosing memories, people, events, and other important information. Thankfully the fear was completely misplaced.

The day began like any other operation, of which I have had 14, where by you arrive at the Day Surgery unit, fill out some paperwork and await to be ushered around to your bed. Once ushered to your bed, you get changed into a paper gown and spend the rest of the wait cold, huddled under a blanket, awaiting your turn in the theatre. Once in the theatre there is a flurry of activity which ends with the anaesthetist placing oxygen on your face and giving you the start of your sedative.

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After a period of time, of which I estimated 30-45 minutes, you awake back to where you started from, with the headache to end all headaches. The staff were all attentive and checked my observations as they should, offered paracetamol which I accepted with great glee, gave me something small to eat, which was completely insufficient after fasting for over 12 hours. On the whole the actual experience was very reminiscent of every other operation/procedure I have had done. With a couple of exceptions.

The memory blanks that I was warned about are a totally real and frustrating part of the treatment. I have bits missing from the couple of days prior to, and day of treatment, I find myself repeating thing I have already said, and my wife doubly so. However, apart from the whopping headache which was solved with Aspirin in the end of it all, and a couple of memory lapses, the experience has been entirely positive. My mood appears to be slightly improved, I haven’t had a serious Ideation all weekend, and most importantly my wife has seen an improvement in my mood.

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I will have somewhere between 8 and 12 treatments every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until complete. I will continue to see my Psychiatrist and Psychologist during this time to monitor the treatment and continue with CBT.

There is a lot of negative press out there surrounding ECT, people claiming that it has completely wiped all memories, erased family memories, caused irreparable brain damage, makes depression worse, triggers migraines, and a host of other negatives. I am not going to dispute any of them, I am going to suggest that you talk to you psychiatrist before treatment and understand all the risks associated ECT itself and also anaesthesia. My suggestion would be to be risk aware not risk adverse. Make sure you know all the risks, and don’t forget to weigh those risks against the risk of not receiving treatment.

I will continue to share my journey through ECT, and my struggle with Mental Health. I thank you all for coming on this journey with me, and I pray that you all get something out of it as well.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Treatment

If you haven’t read last weeks post I suggest that you do so, it is the basis for this post and will give you a brief overview of what I have been going through. If you want the full story read the Category posts under Mental Health.

READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED, THIS POST DISCUSSES SUICIDE OPENLY AND FRANKLY.

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This past week hasn’t improved on the last, if anything it has continued into steady decline. I had an appointment with both my Psychologist and Psychiatrist, both of which where planned, and we discussed where I was at mentally and what to do next. The unfortunate side of things was that due to my mental state, thought patterns and suicidal ideation and planning, a serious discussion was had regarding treatment, and how that looked moving forward.

Firstly, the week that was.  My overall mood can only be described as low. I found little joy in the week, and the joy that I did find was short lived and circumstantial. My thoughts were often of self loathing, self hatred, and self defeating. I would think that I was worthless, useless, un-wanted, un-necessary, inadequate, and hopeless. these thoughts surrounded every facet of my life; whether work, home, or otherwise. These thoughts would give way to thoughts of suicide, which I will cover later in this blog, and its comforting finality. I was bordering on the edge of crying, screaming, and everything in between every day. I felt that all eyes were on me, and none of them were thinking nice things. Every whisper, hushed conversation, or comment was immediately translated as someone poking fun, talking negatively, being critical, or spreading rumours. This just continued to fuel my negative thoughts and ideations.

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During the past week my brain has betrayed me and continued its constant barrage of suicidal ideations. For those of you who don’t know the ideas surrounding suicide are broken down into three steps; Ideation which is the thoughts of suicide, Planning or Intent which is actually organising the method of suicide and collecting equipment, and Attempt which is when the person actually makes an attempt to end their own life. I have struggled with ideations for months. They started off as fleeting thoughts that I found disturbing and actively tried to squash, dismiss, or otherwise rid myself of. This progressed to the thoughts no longer being disturbing but still sporadic. About a month or so ago the thoughts became constant and almost comforting. My ideations have either been generalised thoughts of suicide or thoughts of opportunity, that is driving my car and thinking about driving into a tree, or cleaning my bathroom and having thoughts about drinking bleach. Often these thoughts lead to a rather clinical process of working through the likelihood of success, likelihood of survival or reversal, resultant physical outcome following survival. This week I had moved into the Planning stage.

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So on Thursday I had my appointment with my Psychologist. Like all meetings it began with a risk assessment and overview of the week to guide the conversation for the rest of the appointment. After telling them about my ideations and planning, they became quite concerned. Concerned enough that they left the appointment to talk to my psychiatrist. After a couple of minutes they returned. They began by saying they were both concerned about my mental state and level of safety. They also agreed that immediate and decisive action was required. Thats when the discussion moved towards ECT, or ElectroConvulsive Therapy, again. We had discussed ECT months ago, but I dismissed it as I didn’t feel I was bad enough to warrant the treatment. Now, however, I was a little more convinced. For those of you who don’t know what ECT is or have a image of ECT like the one below from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, I encourage you to watch the Insight program around ECT at the link here.

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The treatment involves an electrical current running through your brain to induce convulsions in the hope of curing or lessening Depression. This in now done under a General Anaesthetic with muscle relaxants and looks nothing like what is going on in the above image. The treatment can be either bilateral, unilateral or bifrontal, as the image below shows. The treatment I will be undertaking is unilateral. This approach still induces the seizure without undue damage to the brain, which is great. There is still the possibility of side effects like; short term memory loss, cognition issues, headaches, nausea, and all the normal anaesthetic issues. However, My wife, my family and friends, my Psychologist and Psychiatrist, and myself all agree that this is the best treatment for me, at this current point.

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In addition to the treatment planning, I have also been placed on suicide watch. My wife has been instructed to make sure that I am in constant company to limit the potential risk to myself. I have endeavoured to reinforce my support network by keeping them in the loop with what is going on, giving them all the Acute Care Teams details in the event I am unable to be dealt with or have an acute deterioration.

For now, I play the waiting game. I am waiting to find out where I am going to undergo treatment. There are three options currently on the table; one of the two hospitals here in town where I will undergo treatment as a day patient, or a hospital in Brisbane where I will be an inpatient for nearly 4 weeks. Me, and my family, obviously want the option that keeps me here at home. Though due to the fact I work at one of them, and the other tends to have a huge waitlist, which both my Psychiatrist and I agree that any undue waiting comes with increased risk.

So that is where we are currently. I wait with baited breath for a call from my Psychiatrist with the when, where, and how. Until such time, my life continues, with most things on hold. I am in constant company, my mind is constantly betraying me, but I have a way ahead. For now thats all I can hope for.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Feeling Low

This week has seen a dramatic shift towards the negative, motivation has been low, and I have felt like I have been wearing a lead apron and dragging around an anchor. I would love to attribute my feeling to an event of change in circumstance but unfortunately I cannot. Instead I am left damning my own brain and its inability to remain stable for longer than 20 minutes.

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I have been attempting to utilise the techniques I have learnt during my Psychology sessions, but alas have not been overly successful. I try to change a negative thought, or a suicidal thought, into a something that is dismissed and categorised as useless or not helpful. This, however, has not always worked. More often than not the thought continues to cycle around gaining strength and subsequently becoming harder to dismiss. I know that I am able to change my thought process and utilise the neuroplasticity  of my brain to change the thought processes, but no amount of knowledge seems to be helpful. In the same way that knowing a parachute will slow you down if you jump out of a plane, it doesn’t help you if you only know about it, you need to be wearing it, knowing that I need to change my thought processes doesn’t actually give me the ability to change the thoughts.

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Motivation has always been a struggle amidst my depression, and this week has been no exception. Work, study, family, and even self care have been draining and exhausting tasks. This Saturday afternoon I almost completely shut down. I was non verbal, could barely lift my arms, my head felt heavy, I shuffled everywhere as though I was swimming in molasses. My wife had to give me instructions, step by step, to shower, change, and get ready for work. At work I felt like I was a passenger just along for the ride. I could see everything getting done, but had no control over what was happening. I felt as if my soul was leeching out the bottom of my shoes.

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I endeavoured to motivate myself by engaging in a little self care. I sat around the fire a couple nights with friends and family, I tried to organise my shed to satisfy my accomplishment streak, I have played a game with my wife to switch off for a while, but have been overwhelming unsuccessful. I am clawing at my brain trying to find what will work. The prospect of never getting my mind back still frightens me, I don’t want to be trapped in the tar pit of despair that has become my thoughts and emotions.

I am running out of ideas, and subsequently hope, surrounding my mental health. I am open to suggestions and ideas from the Maintain the Rage community. So please, comment, reply, direct message, or send a carrier pigeon with you suggestions. I will be listening.

Maintain The Rage,

Luke Sondergeld

Running on Empty

As you all painfully aware, mainly because I don’t hide anything, I have an exceptionally full plate. I work full time shift work as a Nurse, study for my Bachelor Full Time, am a Father to my three children, Husband to my Wife, Chair of the Diploma of Nursing Society, Assistant Group Leader of one of the local Scout Groups, and somewhere find time to stop and recharge. This has meant that I am very time poor most of the time and I cut corners to make things work. Unfortunately you can only run like this for so long before you start Running on Empty.

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In the past week I have spent time invested in some portion of the aforementioned activities. I had work as normal, three days of Residential School, an assessment, a Badging Ceremony to organise, scheduling for Scouts, mentoring other students, being a dad and husband, and sleeping sometimes. For those who follow my twitter already know, I was originally rostered on two night shift at the same time my residential school was planned. This meant that I would be awake for about 64 of the 72 hours of residential school. Thankfully my Nurse Unit Manager was awesome and noticed what was going on and cancelled my second night duty. It made the Res School so much more enjoyable, and I got so much more out of it. I am constantly appreciative of the hard work of those around me. I have been encouraged to speak up when I am in situations like this one so that I can self care. I suppose I still carry a lot of the Navy’s Adapt and Overcome mentality that I tend to just deal with the hand I am dealt, forgetting that I am in the real world now and I can actually ask for help…. and I’ll likely get it.

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In addition to asking for the help, managing my time, and cutting back, I am endeavouring to actually stop, relax, and simply exist from time to time. Thankfully, again due to the wonderful people around me, I had that opportunity on the weekend. A good friend of mine, you know who you are, invited the family and I over for dinner and fire. And I can’t say no to a fire. It was a great night of just chilling, shooting the breeze, and having a couple of quiet ones in front of the fire. It nights like that where I can top my tank back up again. It is no where near full, if only to dull the warning light long enough that I don’t have to worry any more, but it is helpful.

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Emotionally things aren’t as positive. I am still struggling with motivation, even the simple act of dragging myself out of bed can be exhausting. My mood is still low, with spikes of amusement or cheer, normally involving my children or friends. My thoughts are still negatively driven, the self talk is getting worse despite efforts to change, and the ideations continue, though no plan or intent at this point. I wonder if the medication is working effectively, or if the depression is just in a low cycle, or if I am not doing enough? But these thoughts I know are not conducive to recovery. If I continue to dwell or cycle through the what if’s then I will always wind up thinking negatively. My Mum reminds me to think positively and focus on the good things that are in my life, and I do, and sometimes being reminded to focus on whats right in front of you can be useful, but doesn’t always help. I guess I will just have to keep working at it.

For those following my twitter (#MaintainTheRage) you will have notice the continued work towards our garden and the life that has sprung forth. For those of you who haven’t, I have included the photos below. I am getting a little bit of joy out of seeing the fruits of my labour, and I think that will only grow as they are planted and sprout food, because you know food.

 

That’s basically the week that was, don’t forget to follow and subscribe to this page to receive updates, follow the hashtag #MaintainTheRage to see everything as it unfolds, and thank you for being a part of this community.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Kicking Goals

One coping mechanism I have adopted to deal with my Depression and Anxiety is to keep busy. Sometimes I border on being too busy and burning myself out, but generally I am at a steady pace of flat out. One of my projects that I have been working on has taken its next step.

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Over the past couple of weeks I have been turning some white lines on the grass in my backyard into proper raised garden beds that will house our vegetables, some 20 odd varieties. The whole process actually took shape rather quickly, when I actually got moving. We stepped out roughly what we wanted, how it was going to look and what type of vegetables to grow, then we marked it all out, chased down materials, bought and collected them, then built the beds. Then we organised the six cubic meters of dirt to fill the beds, drove out to collect another ¾ of a cubic meter, then covered the whole lot with straw. All in all, a tiring but rewarding process.

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Other then completing tasks and getting things done, it was a great time to spend with my parents, brother, and sister in law. It was so nice to know that they were willing to come around and sweat it out all in the name of family. After a terrible couple of weeks battling isolation and loneliness, even in the midst of company, it was great to feel that connectedness again. The day was also an opportunity to bond with my boy a little more as we toiled in the yard. He actually had the opportunity to watch the whole project come together, be a part of the construction, the preparation going into the garden beds, and will also help with the germination of the seeds, and eventual planting and maintaining of the vegetables. I believe this is a key skill that we are losing very quickly.

IMG_5341When we lived in Western Australia, my wife had a worm farm set up in her back porch. It was a way for her to deal with food scraps in an eco friendly manner and generate fertiliser for the garden and lawn at the same time. I felt guilty as I asked her to leave it behind when we moved as I didn’t know what kind of set up we would have on the other side. Nevertheless now that we are heading towards reducing our waste and growing our own produce I decided to buy my wife, and subsequently the rest of the family, a new worm farm. This achieves the same as above with the added benefit of feeding our worms the produce they just help feed. Its all very Lion King and Circle of Life.

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So now I have three beautiful new garden beds, an extended front garden, and a treasure trove of seeds coming in the post. It will be great to see the garden grow and produce food for us to eat. It will be great to teach the kids about cultivation and self sufficiency. I am probably the most anti-green person I know, but even I feel good about the whole project. One day I would love to be able to scale this project up to a size where the family unit is actually self sustainable, vegetable and fruit wise. But for now I will settle for the handful of cherry tomatoes, fresh baby spinach and home grown jalapeños.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Masks

In everyday life we all wear masks. Sometimes we put one on so we can work our retail job with a smile, sometimes it’s so we can visit our mother in law and keep things civil, other times it’s simply so others don’t ask us how we really are. That’s the mask I have been wearing, and it’s starting to get heavy.

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As regular readers are aware I am a Nurse. I work predominately on the Surgical ward but float to others as required. I work ten, eight hour shifts a week, of all varying start times. I arrive everyday in an ironed uniform, washed and clean, presented well, with a smile on my face and a pleasant demeanour. This is my work mask. I don’t like to show my despair, dread, anxiety, or flippant attitude at work as it is unprofessional, unbecoming, and won’t keep food on my table. It takes a large amount of effort to keep this mask on. I can take moments of rest, and put the mask down for a period by escaping into the treatment room, or ducking to the bathroom, or even making a bed. It allows me a small window of time to release all that is pent up so that I can continue with my shift. I have managed to get through most shifts unscathed, except for this week. I began the shift on a real low, I had been barraged for days with suicidal imagery and thoughts, I had zero motivation, and even less interest in anything that was going to cause me to expel energy. I walked onto the ward, people were saying hello and I made some kind of grunting noise for the most part, someone asked me a question about a patient and I said something on the line of Kick the guy out he has the drugs he wants and moved on. One of my colleagues notices the dramatic difference in my behaviour and calls me on it, they say Aren’t you in a mood today, I take the opportunity to use it to my advantage and pass off my mood as a lack of sleep and move on. The shift continues, I put my mask back on, and nobody asks anymore questions.

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Our friends and our family are normally the hardest to successfully wear Masks in front of. These people know us the best, they can tell when there is a subtle change in behaviour, dress, or appearance. It is therefore harder to build a Mask to suit, it often requires the wearer to build from a previous successful mood or appearance and replicate. This can make the Masks heavier and harder to carry, and thus take a large amount of energy to maintain. I love my friends and family, and I’m not just saying that because they are probably reading this post, I genuinely mean that. To that end, I hate worrying them. I don’t like to burden them with my issues or my struggles. My friends and family, like everyone, has their own stuff to worry about. So I generally try and down play how much I am struggling. To make the Mask work sometimes you have to show a little of what’s going on. I will share a little of what I am going through, show how I am overcoming that, and hope that its enough to satiate them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t like to wear any Masks with my friends and family, but sometimes it is necessary to save them from everything that is going on.

I write this post with tired arms and sore hands. I don’t know how much longer I am going to be able to hold these Masks in place. I don’t know what is going to happen when they drop. I don’t want to jeopardise my job because of my Mental Health. I don’t want to unnecessarily burden those I love. I have to just trust that God has it all in hand, and that I will be OK, regardless of what I believe is going to happen, or what my anxiety tells me is going to happen. Time will tell.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Continuing Struggle

I would love to say that I was coasting along, achieving things and kicking goals, staying motivated, keeping everything under control. But I would be lying. Though I have achieved a lot this week, mainly around the house, I have been riding some wave of energy that I know is slowing down and beginning to break. I know that my Psychiatrist can only adjust medications so much before he has to wean me off one, and start me on another. Which just creates weeks of pain. I may not be doing well, but I am surviving, and that’s a start.

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I have taken time to centre myself and spend time with family. I have entertained people on the newly constructed deck, and subsequently burnt a pile of wood in the interest of staying warm and staring into the dancing glow. I also took the time to go to the range with my brother and son. I find the time at the range to be soothing, as some people find meditation or yoga, and for many of the same reasons. At the range you are required to have controlled breathing, often placing shots at the bottom of an exhale, you actively try and reduce your heart rate and blood pressure to limit those forces on your shot, and you try and repeat the process numerous times over the course of a session. I have never walked away from the range angry, upset, or defeated. I always leave feeling refreshed, excited, and centred.

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I have been so busy, or absent minded over the past several years, that I have never stopped to enjoy something for its mere existence. On Friday I actually took the time to do just that. I was outside on the deck and the clouds were passing by, I took a cushion off one of the chairs and just laid there watching them go by. There was no ulterior thought about weather, or what I had to do later that day, just the simple act of watching them go by. It was nice to take a small moment in the day. It is something I haven’t done in a long while, in fact I can’t remember the last time I did. It was so nice to have the time to simply lay down and watch the world go by. I think this may have to become a regular activity.

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I spoke of riding the wave of energy that I have currently. Anyone who has read my blogs from last year would know what I am talking about, if you don’t I suggest you duck over and read up. I have had the same feeling of energy that I had last year. I know now that this can be dangerous and lead to burn out and a spiralling of my depression and anxiety, so I am trying to curb it with the aforementioned activities. But, I will say that I have kicked some goals. Along with the new deck and landing at the front of the garage, I have also constructed some garden beds (with the help of my Mum an Dad) for our back yard and installed a gate for easy access.  The next step, which is probably the hardest will be to fill them up with dirt and plants. I am looking forward to the day when my backyard if full of greenery and life, especially since it will be all edible life.

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My weeks are getting busy again, I am coping OK with the pace, and I am endeavouring to keep up my self care. I had an exceptionally low week last week, enough to spur action from my Psychiatrist, but I do feel better this week, or at least in part. I am still struggling with thoughts, both negative and suicidal, I am struggling with maintaining a civil mood and not simply retreating into myself or exploding outward, I am still struggling to complete some tasks and chores. I am struggling, but I am sick not weak, and as such I know I can pull through. I don’t like to say that I am suffering from mental illness, I prefer to say living with. Knowing the community that exists around Maintain the Rage has helped me continue on my journey, writing these posts helps me process my week and really sort out my thoughts, and hearing from all of you helps me know that I am loved and supported, and that means a lot.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

 

Headspace

Most weeks have their ups and downs, most have lessons to be learnt and things to take away, most have happy memories and troubling memories. This week was no different. I have found a new well of motivation, and I have been drawing upon it to achieve things around the house, work my shifts, spend time with the family and try and squeeze in some self care. But not everything goes as planned.

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This week I organised the contraction of a concrete deck off the rear of the house, it was a job I wanted to get done nearly 12 months ago. While the job was being completed by our concreter I supervised, made changes and approved design elements as the day went on, and juggled the payments. A subsequent job that came out of the construction was filling in a crusher dust slab out the front of the garage to park trailers or vehicles on. The extra crusher dust was left over from the slab and all that needed to be done was to level it out. Which sounded way easier in my head than it was. Several hours later the job was done and I was filled with joy as I tickled the part of my brain that likes to achieve things. I needed that day on a high.

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The time with family has been great. I have managed to spend time with the younger girls, spend time with my wife, and even see my boy between his shifts and mine. All round the week has been good for family moments. I has been especially good to have my family help with the jobs that need doing, like raking out the crusher dust, or preparing meals, or simply cleaning the house. Though these activities aren’t necessarily fun or entertaining it is quality time together, and thats important. Thi week, out of the blue, I was even invited by my Mother to donate blood. This is the same woman who used to faint on us, when she would take my brother and I for immunisations. It was a nice afternoon to share something that I enjoy doing with my Mother, and it was especially gratifying to see my Mother overcome her fears. A great day that had me feeling on top of the world.

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Work itself has been good. I have been doing a large amount of shifts in a row with little time between, but I have been coping. On shift a couple of days ago was particularly hectic, and seemed to simply go by in blur. The next day I received a phone call from my NUM detailing an incident that had occurred with one of my patients. Without divulging too many details, I had neglected to check a patients BGL prior to the administration of a long acting insulin and she subsequently had a hypoglycaemic episode that lasted most of the evening. I was gutted. I could not believe that I could make such a silly mistake. I took it hard. The next three shifts I was doubting everything. The time between I kept thinking about how it could have been worse, I kept thinking about hoe much of an idiot I was. I was low. I began to feel like I should just give it up. That I am not good enough to be a Nurse and that I should save everyone else the trouble and just quit. I thought that if I am so incapable of doing this job, then maybe I should end it all. For the first time in over a month I had serious thoughts about Suicide.

As I always do, I shared with my wife. She was both shocked and concerned that we had gone back to this point. I still feel anxious regarding the mistake. I still feel low in myself that I could be so neglectful in my care. I feel useless and idiotic. I have to keep reminding myself that I am capable, despite the error, that I do know what I doing. I have to remind myself that there are speed bumps in the road and they aren’t indeed road blocks.

I remain low. I remain despondent. I know I will be fine. I am taking steps to self care and break the cycle of thought. I am not succeeding very well.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Trying and Failing

In recent weeks I have been endeavouring to be more motivated, I have endeavoured to achieve more, I have endeavoured to complete tasks that have been on my mind for a while. I have tried to accomplish a lot of these and failed at most.

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As most of you will be aware, and for those who have not I suggest reading through my Mental Health category of posts, I have been struggling with motivation and achieving the things I used to be able to achieve. I have been attempting to make a conscious effort in do these things. I have been making lists, I have been identifying small tasks that add up to a larger completed task, I have tried to place myself in the right mindset, and I have tried to be my own cheer squad. To some degree these things have worked, I have managed to complete some tasks, I have planned the backyard with my wife, I have organised the back deck to be completed, I have planted some new trees in the front yard, and I have finally weeded the front garden with help from wife. I have also begun house hunting for an investment property, or conversely a larger house for ourselves with our current residence becoming the rental. But in a lot of other ways I have failed, this post for example is over 30 hours late, I still haven’t sorted our study for next semester, I still haven’t completed my online quiz for the short course I took weeks ago, I still haven’t patched the walls where there are cracks, I still haven’t cleaned the current patio area, I still haven’t achieved a lot of jobs that I need to and want to get done. So in that regard I have failed.

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I have also failed myself. I have not been self caring as much as I should be, I have not been as forthright with my work schedule as I should be, and I am not having as much down time as I should be. In all these things I am self sabotaging my own wellbeing, I am falling into old habits and I don’t know how to change them. I want to take more time to relax and unwind with my family but I feel guilty about doing so, I then get anxious I begin to spin the plate with how much is left outstanding and I seem unable to change my own thought processes. Sleep is becoming more difficult again, with my mind wandering or racing for hours after getting home, then either waking up early or sleeping in too much (which then adds to the guilt of wasting the day). I am stuck between the Rock of Achievement and Wall of Self Care. I know I need to achieve both, but can’t seem to correctly balance either. I have achieve some small things, I finally sorted out, cut up, and stored the firewood pile (a job that took just over a year), and I then subsequently took some recharge time and burnt some of said woodpile. I am trying to balance life, but seem to be coming up short.

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This week is not helping my balance, I am currently on day seven of eight, with one day off on Thursday and then another five in a row. I have organised two nights (on my days off) for friends to come over, eat, and sit around the fire, this will be a great unwind that I am actually looking forward to. I now just have to not make it a task by over complicating an otherwise simple evening.

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I am not perfect, nor have I ever claimed to be. I feel some days that my awesome is a little lower than others, and thats OK. Each day I just refocus, try and take control and Maintain my Rage. I take pleasure in the small victories, and vainly attempt to not beat myself up too much over the losses.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

When reflecting over the week that has been it has certainly had its ups and down. I crammed for my final A&P exam, I was a nervous wreck for weeks leading up to said exam, I featured in my local paper, I started journalling again, I still have this headache I can’t seem to shake, I started looking into investment properties with my wife, and I got away with a check up with the Psychiatrist without a medication change. This week has been hectic, in both the amount going on and the severity of the emotional drain. My week can be summed up with Shake (mainly caused by anxiety), Rattle (from the medication), and Roll (because I just have to Roll with it).

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Shake

The background level of anxiety has taken a noticeable upwards trend over the past week. I thought it centred around the exam and the unknown surrounding it, but ever since its completion I still find myself on edge and shaking like a leaf. This is of greater concern as I and the psychiatrist thought we had the anxiety under control. Apparently we were wrong. The anxiety I find manifests itself mostly with a several activities;

  1. Anything involving fine detail, like threading a needle, or removing sutures
  2. Anything outside of my control that I have to endure, like the exam
  3. Anything where I know that the choices I make could negatively impact on the opinion others have of me
  4. Randomly and for no good reason

Even as I am writing this blog, I can barely stop my hands from shaking, my heart racing, and I can barely stop the urge to simply close the laptop lid and walk away. I wish that I could control my anxiety better. What I have been doing of late is trying to avoid the activities that would generally cause the anxiety to rear its ugly head. But that doesn’t work for exams, procedures at work, or blog writing.

If anyone out there in Internet-Land has any suggestions I am all ears.

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Rattle

My daily medication regime is in no way over the top, unnecessary, or the largest I have seen. I work in a hospital, I have seen some fairly full on regimes. However, my morning count is currently; two paracetamol, one sertraline, and one multi-vitamin. During the day I could take up to another six paracetamol for the headaches, then at night its three lithium and two mirtazapine, sometimes with two paracetamol for bed. This isn’t a lot, but considering six months ago the only tablet I took regularly was the multi-vitamin, it is a marked increase.

Now, I am going to add here that I am still a firm advocate for the medication regime to be a full on or heavy as is required for a person to be functional within themselves. I do not condone the act of polypharmacy, that just laziness disguised as medicine. But I do condone prescriptions when the need arises. I am also a strong advocate for asking questions, refusing medications, and requesting other choices. Just as long as those choices only effect you.

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Roll

Given the week’s tendency towards the ridiculous, I am not surprised that I ended up with Roll with It as my mantra. As with all things during my walk with Depression and Anxiety, Nursing School, Nursing, Fatherhood, and everything else in my life, I tend to do all of them 100%, except donating blood. I still Maintain My Rage, with bon fires, friends, family, fishing, and fun. But when you stand on the shores of life and cop wave, after wave, after wave, you just have to keep rolling with it. There is always going to be something on the horizon that will slap you in the face. You just have to Maintain your Rage and roll.

This week may have been tumultuous but there were a lot of good things as well; the local paper bit, the completion of my exam, work has been awesome this week, I am on course for IV Medications, I have had some great family time, I have actually seen my friends, and I still get to Blog. Life is pretty sweet.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Quoth the Raven

Never have I starred into my computer screen, mulled over for so long, pained at the thought of a post as much as I have today. Not because I am unable to write, or because of time constraints, or lethargy. My issue has been how to express what is going on in my Brain, I was reminded of the opening verse of a very well known epic poem by Edgar Allan Poe.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”
The Raven
Edgar Allan Poe
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Though there are similarities between this verse of fantastic work and my blunted brain, there are some stark differences. Though I would love to say that I pondered over volumes of forgotten lore, alas, patient charts and nursing text books are the closest I come, there is still plenty of pondering, and defiantly lost of weak weariness to boot.
While this is curious, and quaint, the rest of the verse is what resonates the most. The gentle rapping at the chamber door, though the chamber door is merely a objectification of my brain. There has been this niggling, sometimes quiet, sometimes deafening tapping going on in my brain. The unfortunate thing is I know who is on the other side, and I don’t want to let them in. This unwanted house guest is, Anxiety. I have felt the crippling presence of it looming over me with more and more weight his past week. My neck and ears feel as though they are being pulled and stretched, I have had a persistent headache all week that nothing will shift, I feel on edge like I am going to snap at a moments notice. I continue to put on a brave face, laughing, joking, or otherwise attempting to deflect any real interest of curiosity that is likely to bring down the fragile house of cards that is my emotional state.
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I feel guilty for sharing with my wife, who has always been my shoulder to cry on, as I don’t want to over burden her. She has shifted from full-time Teacher to full-time Mum of our three children, two of whom are home all day. She deals with me working all kinds of crazy shifts, studying for my bachelor, a teenage son who has his own issues to worry about, maintaining the house in some resemblance of order, and somewhere in all that actually caring for herself so she doesn’t burn out. I did however have to share where I was at with everything. I felt terrible after the fact. In the interest of continuing to share my story, not hide anything, and normalise the conversation, this is what I sent my wife;

I am sick of memory blanks, sick of apathy, sick of lethargy, sick of feeling like a fat useless piece of crap.

I’m just sick of it. I want to know why this happened, I want to be able to feel joy in things without it being surrounded by worry and regret. I want my mind to be mine again.

I don’t want to be a burden, I don’t want to be medicated for eternity, I don’t want my life to be vanilla, I don’t want to be angry, I don’t want to short tempered.

I just want to scream, and cry and let everything out till I pass out and wake up from this mental nightmare I seem to be stuck in.

I want to show you that I love you, I want to show the kids I love them, I don’t want to be acting like everyone is an inconvenience to my existence.

I just want to be me

My wife was speechless, as you could imagine, when I got home all she could do was hug me. I thought she was never going to let go. Frankly, I don’t think I wanted her to. I am still not OK. I am safe. I know I am surrounded by love and help and encouragement. I just need to let my visitor know that he is not welcome here anymore.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Nursing with Depression

Nursing is a tough gig by anyones standard, the demands put upon us to know medications, procedures, illnesses, conditions, symptoms, cultural traits and behaviours; be able to assess pain, nutrition, hydration, mental state, and to be able to perform our ever increasing mound of responsibilities while maintaining our smile, our professionalism and conducting our duties with aplomb. Then on top of all that add in a large dose of self doubt, insecurity, second guessing, negative self talk, fear, paranoia, anxiety, reluctance, demotivation, and malaise. That’s Nursing with Depression.

Perfectionist

I love my job. I don’t mean that in a cynical it’s nearly Friday kind of way, I genuinely love what I do. I am privy to people at their worst and get to help them through it. I get to see someone take the first steps on a new knee, or regain movement after a traumatic injury. I get to see people recover from the depths of despair, and see them cast off their demons. I love my job, but, I have deep perfectionist traits, and these traits often leave me feeling uneasy about what I do. If I am administering medication I like to know the reason for why the patient is on it, how long have they been taking it, do they receive the intended benefits, and have they spoken to someone if they have not. What I also tend to do, is beat myself up. I will be organising a patients medications, get to something I am unfamiliar with by name, look it up, realise it is the same as a drug I already know, then kick myself for not knowing, for the rest of the shift and sometimes further past that. This then leads me to kick myself about everything. Sometimes things that are even out of my control or ability. I have such a high expectation of myself that I will count failure where others count success. I have been told I need to see the silver lining in things, and for the most part they are right, but to my perfectionist side… silver is second place.

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The perfectionist it probably the reason for my burn out last year, my depression taking hold and the anxiety being as high as it was. The depression is the ongoing anchor around my waist. Most days I can get through with a reasonable level of positivity glued to my face and convince everyone I am ok. For the most part I succeed, but not every time. There are a few who I work with who know what is going on, to what extent, and understand the daily struggle. To everyone else, I am either well rested or exhausted. The depression manifests itself at work in the form of doorway syndrome, having to read the same thing anywhere from twice to six times, checking my watch three times and still not realising the time, feeling lethargic on the floor and feeling like I am walking through molasses. It takes some of the joy out of my job, the time spent with the patients, and the satisfaction from my work. It truly is hard to describe what is it like.

Anxious

Though the depression makes the day difficult, nothing is as debilitating as anxiety. Anxiety as a whole is terrible, I feel for every person who lives with anxiety. Trying to nurse with anxiety some days is down right impossible. There have been times on the ward I have had to leave a patient’s room to try and calm myself. I have had to steady my own hand as I’m giving an injection, not only to perform it correctly, but to give a modicum of hope to the patient that it was going to be fine and they needn’t be nervous. Thankfully it hasn’t stopped me from performing my job, yet, only delayed or slowed what I am doing. It has curbed my interactions with staff and patients. I find it difficult to talk about some subjects, especially those that I believe will cause people to think less of me, or that I am incompetent. But I suppose that all links back to the perfectionist side again.

This article is not designed to illicit sympathy or cause you to feel pity. This article is to show you that times can be tough, work could be rough, your anxiety is kicking you when you’re down, and depression won’t let you get back up again. It is to share with you my struggle, every single day. It is to show you that you are not alone, your journey is shared and we are stronger together.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Positive Change

Firstly, I apologise for the delay in this post, and the absence of last weeks. I was suffering terribly with my depression, motivation was at an all time low, and I had zero energy. Since then, I have seen my psychiatrist, had a medicine change, had a drastic change in diet, and felt better about myself.

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For the past couple of weeks I have felt my motivation waining to the point of nonexistence. The simple things that you have to do every day were difficult; showering, getting up, eating, children, and work. When I did finally muster up the energy to actually attempt the tasks at hand I found myself either exceptionally lacklustre in efforts, or completely exhausted by the endeavour. I felt terrible, as I was relying heavily on my wife, who was also trying to breast feed our new born daughter, wrangle the two year old, and keep some modicum of sanity and self care. It was fair on my wife and I was doing myself and injustice. Thankfully I had an appointment with my psychiatrist, which I managed to drag myself to.

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The appointment with the psychiatrist went like any other. We covered the medications I was currently on, discussed suicidal thoughts, mood and motivation. I mentioned to the Psychiatrist that my motivation was practically non-existent, he noted that this had been a downward trend for several weeks, to which I agreed, and we discussed alternatives. We talked about the psychologist, and he was happy with the progress there, asked about sleep patterns and quality of sleep, which I expressed no concern over. So after a little bit of thought he pitched the idea of changing my Lexapro to Sertraline. Both of the medications are in the same class, Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors, but Sertraline has the added side effect, for lack for a better descriptor, that it can cause the user to have increased amounts of energy, almost to the point of fidgety. Given the fact that I felt that my energy was at -10% I figured I could use an energy boost. We came up with a step down plan for the Lexapro and added the Sertraline. Since then I have found new levels of energy and motivation. I still have moments where I feel flat, but they are getting fewer and further apart.

pexels-photo-989688.jpegOne of the components of my life I have been struggling with, an have been for a while, is my weight. I have been yo-yoing for nearly 10 years between 95kg and 130kg. Most recently I have been hovering around the 130kg mark. I noticed the image of myself was changing, the language about my self was deteriorating, I was becoming negative about myself almost every day. I needed to break the cycle. I decided to take positive action and take control over my weight, and subsequently my diet. I had a look at my diet as a whole. For the most part I was eating a well balanced diet. Way too much of it, but balanced. I knew portion control was going to be the first hurdle. I also noticed that my love affair with carbohydrates was at an all time high. I was consuming, on average, 300g of carbohydrates a day. Which, for someone who doesn’t work out, has a sedentary life outside of work, and only ticks over his 10,000 steps because of Nursing, was too many. I spent a bit of time on Dr Google and found a series of different Low-Carb diets. The two I felt I could stick to are Atkins or the Ketogenic Diet. Both are relatively similar, the only main difference is Atkins is exceptionally strict where as the Ketogenic is a little more forgiving. The idea behind the both of these diets is to force your body to feed on fat instead of carbohydrates. This is achieved by limiting your carbohydrates and increasing the fat and protein intake. As a percentage of calorie intake I now sit at about 5% Carbohydrates, 40% Protein and 55% Fat, or about 20g Carbohydrates, 130g Protein and 160g Fat. I decided that this was the way to go. I have been on the diet for a little over a week, and I realise that the first weeks loss contains a large amount of ‘water weight’, I was encouraged to find a loss of 6kg. If nothing else this encouraged me to continue and helped boot my self image slightly.

All in all, a postive couple of weeks. I would like to thank everyone, again, for being there and being awesome. This community has been great to me, and to each other. I am so glad to be a part of it.

Maintain the Rage,

Luke Sondergeld

Dear Luke

Dear Luke,

I received you letter and thought it pertinent to issue a reply. I would like to start by saying thank you for continuing to provide the medication that is both prescribed and needed. I am aware of the events of the past several months and wish to convey my viewpoint and hope that I am able to provide you with some sort of understanding as to my actions and subsequently the feelings you have been experiencing.

The sense of dread you have experienced on several occasions over the preceding months is perfectly rational when you consider the circumstances I am working under. You have insisted on signing up to almost everything that you can, supporting people whom you barely know in the hope of improving the community in which you exist. Though this endeavour was, and still is, noble, it had placed a large amount of stress on me. In my effort to afford you all the available information you required, I was working overtime. This lead to the constant fear of whether or not I was right, if I remembered the information correctly, what was coming next, and the weight of responsibility of the positions you had nominated yourself for. Quite frankly sir, the sense of dread you felt was the most minor of reactions anyone would consider under the circumstances.

Apathy is defined as a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. What you are experiencing is actually exhaustion.  You have been asking me to work at my full potential, day and night, for too long. Even on down time you would demand I absorb large volumes of information in the quest for supremacy. Instead of sleeping you would engage with those just waking up halfway across the globe. You would demand multi-tasking at a caliber that would make most computers blush. You simply asked too much, and the current level of ‘apathy’ is nothing more than a forced vacation on my part. The weight gain, you so referred should be geared equally by both parties. You requested me to work at a high level, that requires food and energy which is quick and readily available. That did mean taking some shortcuts and sometimes overindulging, you should talk to the eyes and stomach about the last point. As for inactivity, even a workhorse must be allowed to rest, lest we live out an Orwellian existence. I do, however, agree that a level of fitness needs to be maintained, for both increasing work fitness and general health.

The lack of focus you have been experiencing is a response to fatigue and mental exhaustions coupled with some of the dulling effects that are noted with the medication so prescribed. The caffeine you have been imbibing has done little more than make a slightly more alert zombie. You cannot expect to attach a rocket to a corpse and call it superman. I suggest we endeavour to actually maintain a healthy sleeping pattern, or at least sleep the recommended amount, no more and no less. I would also suggest narrowing the field a little. You already work as a full time shift working Nurse, a Father of three, a Husband, a full time student for your Bachelor of Nursing, a Scout Leader, a Blogger, and you still take part in more than three committees. SLOW DOWN! Any three of these would send most people off the rails.

As for the thoughts surrounding mortality and finality. These were at a time where I could not see a way out of the cycle you had put us in. I knew that continuing as you were would eventually cause harm to someone else and I couldn’t allow it. I did not mean to scare those around us, especially our mother, with these thoughts. I hope that your actions do not place me in such a precarious position again.

I need to suggest a couple of things for both our sakes;

  • Less ‘stimulation’ – you take on too much, let some of it go
  • More down time – enjoy life, spend time with the kids, read a book for pleasure
  • Less caffeine – we both know we are kidding ourselves, lay off the sixth cup
  • Less food – you eat well, but you eat too much of a good thing
  • More sleep – it’s good for you, it’s good for me, lets just lay down and do what comes naturally
  • More exercise – frankly a five minute walk is 5 minutes more then we do currently
  • Less yes – say Yes a little less often, I think that’s how we got into this mess
  • Less pressure – you place an inordinate amount of pressure on yourself, lay off once in a while

I hope this letter brings to a close the issues you have with me. I trust that we can put this  animosity behind us and push forward into the long and bright future ahead us. Stay in touch.

Maintain The Rage

The Brain of Luke Sondergeld

Dear Brain

Dear Brain,

There have been several events over the past months that has me concerned. As co-resident of this body we share, I felt it pertinent to contact you in the interest of working through these misadventures. I would like to discuss the sense of absolute dread for no apparent reason, the overall sense of apathy and laissez faire attitude towards almost everything, and what can only be described as the unwillingness to retain the simplest of information or focus on the task at hand.

Firstly the sense of dread. On numerous occasions over the past months you have reacted to situations, people, and things in an extreme and unnecessary manner. You completely freaked out over the choice of herbs at the shops, you where convinced that everyone at church was talking about you, and you seem to be in a constant state of hyper vigilance as if we are constantly under threat. I request that these actions and this overreacting ceases immediately.

Secondly, the generalised apathy towards life. We are driven, ambitious, strive to learn, and stretch ourselves, not just to better ourselves but for other around us. Recently, however, even getting out of bed is becoming difficult. Your unwillingness to tell the rest of the body to get up and get moving, without some fear driven response accelerating our actions, is subpar. We have gained a large amount of weight recently due to inactivity and comfort eating. We need to be using our time more wisely then sleeping all the time, lounging around, or otherwise goofing off. Motivation will increase, directions for movement will be more easily forthcoming, and drive shall return.

Finally, the inability to focus. Even writing this open letter to you has been difficult. I am aware that you have been put under a large amount of strain of late, but you need to maintain control. There have been too many sentences that have not been finished, ideas that have disappeared, jobs half done, time wasted, and energy lost due to the inability to focus. I have endeavoured to maintain the supply of caffeine in order to sharpen the mind and allow the focus to be there, but this is obviously not enough. I ask that you consider waking up, focussing in on what is going on around you, and stay on task.

Additionally, the thoughts of ending our existence need to stop. I appreciate that they have slowed of late, and are now almost a nonevent but they need to stop forever. Shuffling off this mortal coil is not the answer to our issues, it is not the gateway to an eternity of laziness, and it is certainly not in everyone else’s best interest.

I don’t understand how all of this came about. I endeavoured to make sure you were sufficiently stimulated, we studied the Diploma of Nursing last year, and we are studying the Bachelor this year full time. We are working 10 Nursing shift a fortnight, Early, Late or Night in the interest of maintaining our skills. We took up the role of Assistant Group Leader with Scouts so we can continue to be a part of everything and grow the group. We have three kids to play with, teach, and grow with, and a wife to spend time with. Not to mention the Maintain the Rage community that we fostered and grew to share the journey. With all of this stimulation and input surely this would have kept you happy.

While I remain at a loss as to what to do, I will continue feeding you the Medications as prescribed in the hope that you will one day come around. Until then I await your reply.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

UpHill Battle

I am finding it difficult to be motivated to achieve anything. Betting our of bed is difficult, going to work is difficult, enjoying the time with my family is difficult. Everything feels cumbersome and laborious. I have spoken to my Psychiatrist and he is even a little unsure of a clear direction of where to go.

For the astute among us, you would have noticed that I did not post last week. That is because every time I had the time to write I did have the motivation, the stirring or the inspiration to write anything. This has led to this post explaining were I am at.

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I am concerned my depression is taking hold again, for a couple of weeks I felt that I wasn’t having any of the crippling lows, conversely I wasn’t having the dizzying highs either. My psychologist calls it Feeling Vanilla, no chocolate, no strawberry just Vanilla. Now I feel that my comfortable villa is becoming a little more on the low side. Which is worrying.

On a Happy note we had the birth of our Third Child and Second Daughter in the past couple of week. Her name is Ethne Joy, she was born at 1726 at 3.62kg (8lbs for those on the imperial scale). She has bought much enjoyment to the household. Which is much needed.

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Thats the state of play at the moment. A little joy and a whole lot of down. I thank everyone for their continued support, words of love, wisdom and kindness. This community continues to be awesome. Don’t ever change.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Motivation Monday

I am feeling at the lowest point for my motivation that I have felt since taking my medication. Everything is a struggle, or effort, the things I love doing are chores, and even playing with my daughter or spending time with my very pregnant wife is emotionally draining.

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I know that I am exhausted from working full time again, on a roster that rotates nights, morning and afternoon shifts. I know that I am anxious with the soon to be addition of my new baby daughter, I know Uni is the niggle at the back of my head that starts every time I sit down or put my head to the pillow. But I know I shouldn’t feel this way.

I love to cook, I love to paint, I love to learn new things, I get extreme enjoyment out of seeing my children grow and succeed, or fail and learn. All of these things I know in my heart are joyous. But none of them are making me feel this way. Cooking has become nothing more that a chore. Painting has been a frustration as my hands continue to shake and tremble as soon a brush comes into contact with paint. My children have been draining and exhausting and too much to bear. I don’t want to feel this way anymore.

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I want you all to know, that I have no thoughts, inklings or even hints towards self harm or otherwise. I have always spoken very freely about my struggles with Suicidal Ideation and, if the need arises, I will continue to. So pease do not think that this is a final note, just a call out for the community that is out there, the Ragers and the rest of the Mental Health community to share their secrets for how to keep going.

I am calling out to the community that I know to be there and strong, share your motivation tips, how you see through the dark, how you gain enjoyment from life itself. I am struggling to do this myself and need your help.

Maintain The Rage,

Luke Sondergeld

Back to the Grind

So as my medications begin to take a better effect and I can see improvement on the anxiety front, I am faced with returning to work and the beginning of University in a couple of day. The reality of how much work I have ahead of me is starting to hit home, and I would be lying if is said I wasn’t a little nervous.

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I begin my first ever job as a nurse today, Monday, on the Surgical Ward of a local private hospital. I am so excited to actually get in and get the job done, however, I am also a little nervous, and has been the centre of several anxiety episodes over the past week and a bit. I know that it centres around my own idea of how much I need to know, and the idea that I will never know enough to do my job. I also know that when I get on the floor and actually start doing my job I will fall into the groove and be fine.

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The other thing that is rapidly approaching is the starting of University. Though Orientation Week is technically this week, I am working so have completed an online orientation. I am nervous about starting University. Though I have completed three Diplomas I have never started or studied at the Bachelor level. I have no doubt I would be able to do the work, but through 40 hours a week onto of full time study, things get difficult. Then throw another baby in the mix at the same time.

My Mental Health is improving. The number of anxiety episodes has reduced, even if the generalised feeling of anxiety remains. I haven’t had any suicidal ideations this week, though my mood, motivation and patience have all been low. Medications continue to change, but in an expected way this time, with the addition of more Lithium to bring me up into the Therapeutic Index.

I am struggling to live day to day with my Depression and Anxiety but I am getting there, getting back to work and starting school again will help with that. My wife, as always, continues to be may rock. And I love her more for it every day. Stay tuned next week to here how the first week of Nursing went. Until then,

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Moving Forward

This week has been an improvement, when compared to those recently. I have had fewer anxiety attacks, not to say none, more days with a positive outlook, and fewer ideations. When all things are considered, a reasonably good week. Then to top it all off, my Nursing Registration came through finally, so I can now start work in the coming weeks.

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As you would have read last week my Psychiatrist changed my medication to include Lithium Carbonate which is a mood stabiliser. Whether is was that or the increased activity and general business I am un sure, but my mood over the week has improved. I have had an average of 6/10 mood for the week, only 2 real anxiety attacks and almost no ideations at all. Which is great.

I did see my psychiatrist again on Saturday and he upped my Lithium to 900mg a day, which was expected. I mentioned to him that I was having trouble sleeping again and maintaining sleep, so he added in 15mg of Mirtazipine in the evening to help with sleep and to also help with my mood in general, as it is a A-Typical AntiDepressant medication. I took my first dose that evening and slept like the dead. I went to bed and the very gentlemanly 2100 and fell asleep within minutes. My wife was so shocked as she had to come and turn my bedside light off for me, and I didn’t roll over 10 minutes later to complain about hers still being on. The down side is, Sunday. I felt distant, removed and depressed. I felt as if I was being crushed under this massive weight. I didn’t feel anxious at all, which was nice, just low and irritable.

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My AHPRA Nursing Registration finally came back to me after waiting for it for over 10 weeks. The short of this is I can now start work in the Job I secured last year. I will hopefully be on the next roster, and begin working 10 days a fortnight. This will be good for my mental health as well, as I will feel useful and feel as though I am contributing again. I will just have to ensure I self care better than I have been of late to ensure I don’t make matters worse.

I am encouraged by the thoughts, messages and comments being left by you all. It fills my heart with joy to know there are so many kind, generous and thoughtful people still out there. I implore you to continue sharing this story, your story and comments with us all. Until Next week,

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Long Road

After seeing my Psychiatrist, and following a dismal week of terrible anxiety and low mood, we have decided to make some medication changes. We have also decided to continue with weekly visits, and I have no doubt after talking with my Psychologist today, Monday, that will change to a more frequent visit as well. It’s going to be a long road to recovery I feel.

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My visit to the Psychiatrist was surprisingly quick, I was also accompanied by my wife for the first time. We entered, discussed my mood, my motivation, my suicidal ideation and overall thoughts on the effectiveness of the medication. My answers were, Low, almost non-existent, 4 thoughts this week and steps backwards instead of forwards. The Psychiatrist then discussed with my wife how my Illness was effecting the home and family unit, which she honestly answered “His level of frustration and irritability is increasing, anxiety is almost constant, and I feel that he is getting worse. The anxiety was originally manageable but now he is having physical manifestations”. All of which is true.

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We discussed the options for medication changes, and went backwards and forwards about the pros and cons. We eventually settled on the idea of a mood stabiliser, in this case Lithium Carbonate. The idea is, over the coming weeks to slowly increase the dose from 450mg a day to whatever is necessary to have an effect, while still staying below the toxic levels, which is pretty easy to do with Lithium. I will continue on the rest of medications with the exception of no longer taking Diazepam, which even after the first night, I have noticed a rapid decline in my ability to sleep.

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My visit to the Psychologist tomorrow shall be interesting, there are things I discussed with my Psychiatrist which they would like me to discuss with them. They include, Bullying at school, a toxic and traumatic workplace and my relationship with my Son (who is my wife’s from her first marriage) though I treat him as if he were my own. I don’t quite know what will be in store for me otherwise, I am hoping a plan and a way forward, as well as starting the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is just a fancy way of saying learning to cope.

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On a professional note, I continue to wait for my Nursing Registration…. only been 9 Weeks, can’t rush these things.

I hope these posts continue to inspire people to reach out and get the help they need. I also hope they continue to normalise the conversation around mental health, and begin to remove some of the stigma surrounding it. If these posts have helped you or someone you know, or encouraged you to seek help, let us know in the comments below, or go to our Connect page and send me an email, I’d love to hear from you. Until next week,

Maintain the Rage,

Luke Sondergeld

Complications

I write this post following a rough week of anxiety and frustration. I write this knowing that I am going to have a rough couple of weeks ahead. I write this knowing that despite complications my Psychiatrist is doing everything he can. I write this so people know and understand what I am going through. I write this to normalise the conversation. I write this as I am sitting here scared that I will lose myself.

My week was filled with the feeling of either complete fear, or feeling like I was going to cry for days. I didn’t known which one was appropriate, or which direction I was going to go. I felt crippled. I felt that every time I had to make a decision, do something, complete a task I was doubting myself. I felt like I had to confirm exits and have a strategy to leave every situation and location. I also felt that I was completing a combat analysis on everybody and identifying the most likely threat, and how to deal with it. It was exhausting to say the least.

I returned to the Psychiatrist, at their request, on Saturday to discuss some of my life in more detail. We talked about my school years and the bullying. We talked about my work life, in particular a traumatic workplace I worked in. And we spoke about my relationship with my Son, who is my wife’s from her first marriage. It was an emotionally charged conversation, not difficult, just charged. I have the sneaking suspicion that this particular conversation will not be the last time I talk about those three things. We talked about the way forward, mainly revolving around medication, which they want to change given it isn’t working. They upped my Risperadone from twice a day to three, and if needed, four times per day. We discussed the possibility of changing the Lexapro to Fluoxetine but we will see what happens there. They also raised the question about being voluntarily admitted to the ward. I answered with, If I ever felt unsafe at home I would, otherwise I would question the merit of the admission. The psychiatrist agreed with me and left it alone.

I am scared.

I am scared I will lose myself in my own mind. That my thoughts will not be my own again. I am scared I will not get better. I am scared that I will feel unsafe one day. I am scared it will impact on my family. I am scared it will impact on my friends and social circle.

I am scared.

I never want anyone to feel alone, I know I am not alone. I know I can go to a number of places any time I feel unsafe or anxious, and without any prior warning those people will let me just be with them. I also know those same people will give me the space I need if I ask. Not everyone has that. I encourage everyone who reads this post to share this story with someone who may be struggling and just let them know they can stop in, have a chat, call, text or otherwise rely on you, any time day or night.

I am already anxious about what the week will bring, I will share it next week.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Steps Taken

So over the past couple of weeks I have been writing about my journey through a poor state of Mental Health; New Year Just Me, Breaking Point, and First Steps. Since then I have seen a Psychologist, and a Psychiatrist and been on differing medications for a fortnight. This post will be a reflection on the week that was.

Please note I will not hold back on what I have experienced.

Firstly, the medications. My GP prescribed 10mg of Lexapro two weeks ago, with 10mg of Temazepam to help me sleep. Since seeing the Psychiatrist, he has upped my Lexapro to 20mg, changed the Temazepam for 2mg Diazepam, and added 1mg of Resperidone. The reason behind change was the 10mg wasn’t cutting it for my depressive thoughts, the Temazepam is a great sleeping tablet but the Psychiatrist wanting a more calming medication, and the Resperidone is traditionally an anti-psychotic, but when given at low doses works well as an anti-anxiety medication. The problem is, it can take a while. As such, my thoughts are still low, I am still experiencing periodic opportunistic suicidal ideation, and I feel like I am a passenger in my own life.

The last point is the one I want to explain a little more. I am naturally an extravert, I normally feel recharged after social situations, however of late I have been feeling drained. I have also been feeling like it wouldn’t matter if I was present or not, like I was  an observer to what was going on, without actually being there. This leads to thoughts of why bother, why come, I should have just stayed home. These thoughts are never helpful to anyone with depression as isolation is the enemy. However, I cannot help the thoughts, I cannot shake them, and no matter how much I try and engage, I cannot shake the feeling.

Next, I mentioned, opportunistic suicidal ideation. This term is something I have coined to explain to my specialists, and subsequently to you, the kind of thoughts I have been having. Traditionally, suicidal ideation follows some steps;

  1. Thoughts that you are worthless
  2. Thoughts that life isn’t worth living
  3. Thoughts of taking your own life
  4. Thoughts of how you would take your own life
  5. Thoughts of when you would take your own life
  6. Collecting the method of taking your own life
  7. Attempting to take your own life

As you can see it is a slow build up of thought, it requires the previous thought to execute the next. The reason why I chose the term opportunistic suicidal ideation is because I don’t have thoughts of planning suicide. What I experience is the immediate thought of how and when and the method at the same time. For example, cooking dinner and while holding a knife having the thought of slicing my arm while I a standing there in the moment, or driving the car into a tree. They don’t have any preconceived notion of premeditation, but rather are spontaneous, and thankfully fleeting. They tend to arrive, make themselves known, and then summarily be dismissed. This is my saving grace, and the only reason why I have any thought as to being safe in my own company.

Sleep has been a hit a miss affair. For the mot part my ability to get to sleep hasn’t changed. It still takes several hours to get to sleep, however what has changed is my ability to stay asleep. Instead of tossing and turning, waking several times during the night and getting three to four hours, I am now sleeping a fairly solid six hours. Except for Saturday night, which was nothing short of terrible. This has led to a less then perfect day mentally. However, I persevere and attempt to sleep better.

Today, being Monday, I will be returning to my GP for a review, discussion surrounding my medication and blood tests. I will also, no doubt, have a discussion regarding my current mental state, my sleep and my thoughts. So that will be fun. I will continue to write about my story and experience in the hope that someone will benefit and we can normalise the conversation about Mental Health and Mental Illness. I also hope that I can encourage those to talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to suicide and suicide ideation. Until, next week;

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

First Steps

In any journey to recovery there are the first steps that need to be taken. For a broken limb its weeks in a cast, for an infection its antibiotics, but for depression, anxiety and other effectors of Mental Health, the first step is asking for help. I have now taken my first step.

For those of you who aren’t aware of what has been happening I encourage you to read New Year Just Me and Breaking Point which cover the story thus far. I’ll wait for you to get back.

After identifying that I wasn’t OK, and with the support of my Wife and loved ones around me I took steps to get help. Last Monday I saw my GP for a Mental Health Assessment. And it didn’t go well. The discussion began asking a series of questions that, to the casual observer would seem random, but given my background as a Nurse and history with Psychological screens in the Navy I could tell she was ascertaining in which direction my Mental Health had gone; OCD, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, ADHD etc.

She determined, and I agreed, that BiPolar is unlikely due to a tendency towards the lower side of mood vice the euphoric, and the fact the symptoms haven’t been present long enough. So my GP completed a short assessment, a DASS (Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale), to determine the extent of my Depression, and to test for presence or influence of Anxiety and Stress. I completed the questions and handed them back to my GP. Now the results are a tallied score of certain answers to give 3 total Scores, one each for Depression, Anxiety and Stress. Out of a possible 48 I scored a 36, 24, and 44 in the same order as previously listed. A score over 14 is considered extreme and deserving of immediate attention.

So the current diagnosis is Combination Anxiety/Depression which is almost what I expected, I wasn’t expecting the results in either Anxiety or Stress but there you go. We had a discussion surrounding the way forward, and my GP advised a Medicated and Psychological approach would work best. Having read numerous articles, books and listened to a number of lectures on the benefits of a combined approach, I agreed. She wrote two referrals, one to a Psychologist and one to a Psychiatrist. The Psychologist will conduct the actual Talking Therapy while the Psychiatrist will perform an extensive assessment, medication plan and treatment plan long term. For now though, I am booked in this Thursday, so stay posted for how that goes, and I have been given Lexapro to help with my Depression and Anxiety and Temazepam to help me sleep.

I have felt a little less low this week since taking the medication, I am still feeling distracted, fidgety, and everything is an effort. This coupled with the anxiety attack I had in the grocery store on Friday, a near miss on Saturday and being borderline most of Sunday morning, has meant that I am not feeling supremely awesome, but I am sleeping better. So thats a start.

My family, friends, church family and social media community have been excellent during all of this. You have restored much of my faith in humanity this past week. It is truly awesome to know that I have so many people around who care about me, and wish me well. It is also important that you keep that same love, care and good will towards others as well. Together we can lift the stigma on Mental Health and be the support that others so desperately need.

Until next Monday, keep me in your prayers, and Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Breaking Point

I write this post as my Mental Health is at one of its lowest points I can remember. I share this with you all for two main reasons, so you don’t fall into the same pitfalls, and to keep me accountable. For some of the readers this will come as a shock, for others an inevitability. Let it be known, I may not be OK today, but I will persevere.

As I Wrote last weekI feel drained, I feel apathetic, lethargic, I feel that everything is an effort and one more often not worth beginning. I am struggling. Those feelings aren’t getting better. They are, in fact, worsening. I am finding it more difficult to maintain a brave face, smile when in company, I am physically and emotionally drained by things that I used to be recharged by. I am experiencing both crippling lows and almost euphoric highs. Extreme anger and extreme compassion, often in the same day, and sometimes within the same hour. I feel more unstable in my own thoughts, I feel disjointed, disorganised, and for the first time in a long while, without real purpose. My wife has been an amazing support through all of this, as have my friends and family. And for that I am thankful.

I am, however, seeking help. I am going to speak to my GP and come up with a strategy, both short term and long term. I am inherently a driven person, and I will not allow what I am experiencing to negatively impact my family, so to that end, I will not be changing my plans for employment and study. I will simply be looking for assistance to help with the aforementioned feelings. Thats the accountability part.

Last week I proposed a New Year Just Me concept, in which I will be winding back from lot of extracurricular things, and saying NO a lot more often. My advice to everyone, do only what you are capable of doing, not what you think you are capable of doing. There are countless studies that talk about the dangers of multi-tasking and the benefits of simply focussing on one task. There is merit though, to being busy, but not to the point where you sacrifice your family, friends and your own health.

Take care out there readers of Maintain the Rage. Stay safe, and don’t forget to check up on each other once in a while. It’s OK to ask if someone is struggling, and its OK to be honest. Just do everyone a favour, if you ask the question, listen to the response, you may be the only one to hear it.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

New Year, Just Me

Welcome back to Maintain the Rage for 2018, I thank you all for coming back and allowing me the two weeks break I needed with my family and friends away from Social Media.

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I like to think that things are going pretty well. I completed my Diploma of Nursing at the end of last year, I have secured a full-time job as an Enrolled Nurse at the Facility I wanted, I have a new baby girl due in the early days of April 2018, and my other two children are doing swimmingly. Yet, I feel drained, I feel apathetic, lethargic, I feel that everything is an effort and one more often not worth beginning. I am struggling.

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For some of you this will come as a shock, I am not perfect. I am not right all the time, I am not the be and end all of knowledge and I don’t hold every secret or know every correct step. I think this is one of the many facets to my failing mental health. I have been running at 100% for so long, I am burnt out. I have been on, and achieving, and maintaining such a high level of everything I do, and doing a lot of things, that I am now fatigued. I am entering what should be one of the greatest moments of my career, the first time I step on the floor as a qualified Nurse, I should be ecstatic by the prospect of a new child, and by the growth of the ones already here. But instead I feel low, flat, dark, snappy, moody and otherwise unpleasant. It worries me.

Now, burn out isn’t the only culprit, there is increasing weight, failing health, low fitness, slowing momentum, unachievable goals, faith and family that all contribute to the place I am currently at. But, they all stem back to the same centralised issue. Expectation. I have a massively high level of expectation of myself to be awesome, to be the best, to achieve more, do more and be everything to everyone. But I can’t, and I shouldn’t. This expectation has led to others expecting it of me, at all hours of the day and night, on holidays, at work, at social events, wherever there is a person or mobile signal there is an expectation and most of the time its pretty damn high.

A lot of bloggers, You Tubers and any one with a Social Media presence will have posted their New Year New Me idea. I am proposing a New Year Just Me idea. The idea that the expectation I put on myself needs to be realistic, and I need to ignore the expectation of others. I need to let go and let God more in 2018, I need to accept that I am not perfect and thats OK. I need to self care before I can care for others. I need to set realistic goals for myself, in realistic timeline, and with a realistic workload. I need to be more realistic and less pipe dream.

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I hope you will continue with me along this journey. The Maintain the Rage community is important, and we need to be there for each other, in the good and the bad times. If you have anything you would like to add, a struggle you are going through or a testimonial for surviving one, post it below, we would love to hear from you.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld