Tag Archives: mental health

The Snow Nymph

The nor’wester blows.  Summer-like heat bruises the body; compresses the air within.     Barely emerged from winter chill, not yet accustomed to the freshness of spring on my shoulders, I flail under hot air and bluster.  Bring back the southerly, I wail; a gentle one, dipped in iced water, iced with snow, one that I can enjoy like an ice cream cone.

Some of you will remember that, a few months back,  my daughter was hospitalised. She has been out of hospital for a while now. She is working slowly towards a better state of well-being. In recent days she has been able to return to writing poetry and has felt strong enough to publish one poem on her new blog, where she goes by the lovely name of ousel. If you would like to read her poem, The Snow Nymph, you can find her  here    I confess that I don’t always understand my daughter’s poems because they are full of allusions and references which are beyond my small brain, but I always find them beautiful. 🙂

Afterword:

The michelia in my photo is very bedraggled as a result of our capricious weather. It seems to be flowering far too early, this year.  Last year it didn’t flower till late August/early September.

And a special note for Steve , at Portrait of Wildflowers, who teaches me new words, almost daily: the corolla of my  michelia is fugacious, as fugacious as this summer heat in early spring.

Tomorrow, our temperatures are expected to return to more normal ones for the beginning of August. The michelia is likely to be bitten by frost. 😦

© silkannthreades

On a cake and a prayer

In the small hours of Tuesday morning, I settled into bed and into my 15 minutes of  dedicated, purposeful reading with my current book   Heaven on Earth by Stephanie Dowrick. My bookmark was placed, from the night before, at page 118, and, when I pressed open the pages, this is the prayer that greeted me:

Watch, dear Lord, with those
who wake or weep tonight.
Let your angels guard those who sleep.
Tend the sick.
Refresh the weary.
Comfort those who are dying.
Soothe the suffering.
Have mercy on those who are distressed.
We ask this for your love’s sake.

Augustine of Hippo

I know very little about Augustine of Hippo. I don’t know exactly when he wrote this prayer.  I don’t even know if I like him, or his ideas, or would have liked him way back when. But it moved me deeply  that someone, a hugely long time ago (somewhere, perhaps between 386 and 430 AD) wrote the words that I needed to hear, that I needed formulated for me, in 2014.  It moved me that, on the very day I needed them most, they appeared before me. But, in truth, it was more than being moved; it was more as if Augustine himself,  scroll in hand,  had reached through the ages and said, “Here, take this, I wrote it for you, right here, right now.” Was it a miracle ? (Unlikely)  Was it timely? (Certainly)  Did the prayer work? Possibly, but evidence suggests not for the bone-tired sister I had in mind. But, for me, it did bring some peace and rest and I have repeated this prayer every night since.

Last Sunday, the recent, particularly stressful weeks of  letting ‘nature’ take its heart-breaking course with my daughter’s mental health came to the inevitable conclusion; and she was hospitalized for the sake of her health and well-being. No fun for anyone: not for the daughter, crying uncontrollably; not for the mother listening, helplessly, on the other end of a phone thousands of kilometres away, across land and sea, and not for the on-the-spot aunt, trying to cope, in utter weariness, with the complex needs of elderly, frail parents and a troubled niece.

A few days on, a few prayers later, another phone call to my daughter and I hear words that cradle me: “Mum, they keep bringing us little cakes. They are so delicious. It’s so good to eat cake again. ”  Thank you, thank you, anyone who wants to be thanked. My daughter is delighting in cake once more.

This is only the beginning for my daughter’s recovery. It may even be a false start. Years of less than perfect mental hygiene do not vanish at the pop of a pill or two. Many of the bloggers I follow are affected by mental health issues; by health issues; many are weary; many are caring for family; many are grieving. There is nothing unusual about these situations. They are part of the human condition. As Stephanie Dowrick writes  on page 150 ” First Noble Truth: In life there is suffering.  We free ourselves whenever we ask:  “How can I help?”

And, I would add, by asking, “How can we help each other?”  By being “Angels” for each other? By prayer, by care?  By simply being there, and here, and taking time to listen, to read, to be compassionate and to lighten each other’s load? And by reminding ourselves, over and over, that in life we can also find joy and laughter and fun….and cake. 🙂

Helping  make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

Helping make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

© silkannthreades

 

Joy and Woe are woven fine

Man was made for Joy & Woe,

And when this we rightly know,

Thro’ the world we safely go.

Joy and Woe are woven fine,

A clothing for the Soul divine;

Under every grief and pine

Runs a joy with silken twine.

I don’t like to dwell in Woe. I prefer to seek the  silken run  in the cloth; the run of Joy . But, sometimes, the woe is like a shroud over one’s face and it’s hard  to see through it; hard not to feel overwhelmed.

Our cheer-leading public service campaign, All Right?, says that, as we approach the third anniversary of the  earthquake of 2011, it’s all right to feel overwhelmed some days.

It's all right to be overwhelmed some days

It’s all right to be overwhelmed some days

So I was, yesterday. Very. I am not alone in my whelmedness.

The experts are worried by our numbers: ‘The initial trauma may be over but experts say earthquake-weary Christchurch residents will endure at least six years of “man-made” stressors as the region battles bureaucracy.’ (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11197956 ) The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority  has even produced a draft document on its psychosocial plan for the city. It “says anxiety and stress will continue to dog the population due to ongoing battles with insurance, land issues, changes to schooling and problems rebuilding homes and businesses.” 

So, three years on……my house is repaired, but my insurance claim for the external areas of  my  property has yet to be settled. I contacted my insurance company, AGAIN, 10 days ago, and, although they have not once forgotten, in the past 3 years, to send out an invoice for my steadily increasing insurance premiums, they admitted that they had forgotten about my outstanding claim. I was assured that the matter would be  resolved, speedily.

Ho-hum, twiddle my thumbs, nothing has happened yet. What’s another 10 days added to 3 years, especially when my claim is  minor compared to those of some other claimants. And getting the financial settlement is but the first step in the process.  Finding someone to do the repair work will be  extraordinarily difficult. I could be waiting another 3 or 4 years for that to be done.

Is it important? Does it matter? Not really, in the overall scheme of life, but it’s all so unavoidably in your face; an ever-present reminder of altered states; altered dreams.

I  live in one of Christchurch’s  least badly damaged suburbs, yet these photos are all  taken within a two-minute walking distance of my home.  They represent only a sample of what I see on a daily basis in my immediate neighbourhood.

Take a look….

Homes, untouched,  untended, and unoccupied, since February 2011 and being slowly overwhelmed by nature.

Overwhelmed

Overwhelmed

Homes erased,

Erased

Erased

and properties exposed to man-made post earthquake stress disorder.

There are some small signs of progress, of normalcy.

Homes are being repaired,

Signs of Progress

Signs of Progress

and some have been repaired.

Recovered

Recovered

But there remain many abnormalities, some of which are intriguing and require us to restructure our thought processes to new levels,

Raised to new  heights

Raised to another level

and give us something upon which to ponder  (with a giggle and a smile ),

Another level

Another level

as well as a precious  moment, to be still, to refocus on holding fast to the silken twine of joy,

Entwined hydrangeas

Entwined hydrangeas

the Heaven in a Wild Flower.

Heaven in a Flower

Heaven in a Flower

Hold fast…that’s as much as I can do for now.  None of this excitement business…All Right? Maybe :)

Not yet 🙂

© silkannthreades

Connecting the World with Maps and Music

Today is the last day of  Mental Health Awareness Week in New Zealand. The main theme of the week is Connect which is one of the five ways of achieving, and maintaining,   Well-Being , for each and every one of us.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know how fascinated I am with connections and connectedness;   how I love  to see the weavings we make in the tapestry of our world. So, with the theme of Connect very much on my mind this week, here is another post dedicated to the silken threads, delicate stitches, the warps and wefts, the skilful hands and minds, that bind us together on the great work-in-progress that is life’s journey.

Remember the Atlas? What we used before Google Maps. Here is my copy of  Bartholomews Advanced Atlas of Modern Geography, Tenth (metric) Edition, published in 1973.

Tools that connect the world

Tools that connect the world

It was given to me, as a school prize, in my final year at high school, (presumably for Geography; the book-plate is missing, so I no longer know ).  It is a beautiful book and was, once, much used. Mostly, it sits idly on the bookshelf, these days, which is a shame because it is full of wonderful information and exquisite workmanship, every bit as fine as that which is found in a Gallery masterpiece.

The last map in the Atlas is of New Zealand, which seems an appropriate placement for a small country, almost at the end of the world. Here is where I live;  Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand, the World…….

Christchurch

Christchurch

Thanks to early settler, Charles Alured  Jeffreys (1821-1904) of Glandyfi, Machynlleth, Wales,

Machynlleth and Plynlimon and Cader Idris

Machynlleth and Plynlimon and Cader Idris

my city , supposedly, has the most street names of Welsh origin of any  New Zealand settlement. In the suburb of Bryndwr, we have the names Snowdon, Garreg, Plynlimon, Idris and Penhelig and Glandovey ( Glandyfi). And we  pronounce those place names in ways that no Welsh speaker would recognise. Curiously, the only residents of our city who pronounce Idris correctly, (so I am told), are those with Islamic or Coptic  backgrounds. They say “Id (t)ris” and we, of British ancestry,  say Aye tdruss. What the Cader Idris/Coptic/Islamic connection is about, I don’t know, but Idris is one of the   Ancient Prophets of Islam, and may also be Enoch of the Bible.

It is, perhaps, because I see  Welsh words on a daily basis

Plynlimon Park, Christchurch, is no Mountain

Plynlimon Park, Christchurch, is no Mountain

that my ears and eyes were alerted to the sounds and sights of Mike Howe’s blog, where Mike shares with us the true landscape of Wales; the landscape which our early Welsh resident, Mr Jeffreys, tried  so hard to impose on his raw, new homeland, Christchurch.

Here is Mike’s tribute to Carl Sagan, who like the Idris of Wales and Idris the Prophet was a philosopher and man of wisdom . The music is called Pale Blue Dot.

The images in the video clip are from Skomer Island which my Atlas says is here 🙂

Skomer Island

Skomer Island

Mike’s music may come from hands and heart, enfolding and unfolding the spirit of Wales, but, for me, his music travels; it has no boundaries. For me, some music is about a place or time, a memory or an emotion, but my favourite pieces are those that travel; pieces that are music for the journey.

Another of my favourite composers of  travelling music is Mulatu Astatke; this composition is called When am I going to get there? 

And now I have; got there; to the end of my post on connectedness. Has your Well-Being improved? If not, and my route around the world has been too long for you,  look to my side bar, and rest, whilst you listen to Mike’s soothing Time Stand Stills.

© silkannthreades

What the ‘good fairy’ brings…..

I have a ‘good fairy’ friend who flits by at least once a month. I never  know  exactly when she is coming, or what she will bring with her, or if I will see her, or just a little gift in my mail box as evidence of her fleeting presence. Sometimes her gifts are delicious edibles and, other times, she comes with her window washing wand  or her car washing wand.   One of my favourites  is  her silver polishing wand. Last month, she came with the gift of the company of her daughter and her 5 month old grand-daughter. It was wonderful fun to have a baby in the house again; especially one that only required admiration and smiles from me.

Last week my ‘good fairy’ friend arrived on my doorstep with a wandful of magazines. In amongst the ‘usuals’, like North and South, was a magazine I had not encountered before called FamilyCARE.

It was a fascinating read BUT I was completely stunned to learn from its pages that there are 420,000 (plus) unpaid family carers in New Zealand and that 10% of New Zealand’s 15 to 24 year olds are unpaid  carers of family members.  That’s a very large unpaid work force for a small country like New Zealand.

That got me thinking, and googling, about family carers in other countries, and that is when my jaw really hit the floor.

In Australia, there are 2.6 million unpaid family carers; 300,000 of them are under the age of 24; 520,000 are over the age of 65. In 2010,  these carers provided an estimated 1.32 billion hours of care. The estimated replacement value of their caring roles was $A 40.9 billion in 2012.  Yes, we are talking in BILLIONS.

The situation is much the same in the UK where there are an estimated 6.4 million unpaid family carers providing services valued at  £119 billion  per year. Again, we are talking BILLIONS .

In the USA, there are 65.7 million family caregivers; or 29% of the adult population caring for one or more family members.

The numbers are staggering, and growing yearly, as populations age and social services grow leaner and meaner. In the UK , the lean meanness seems to extend to the introduction of a strange creature called the Bedroom Tax which, somehow, relates a person’s benefit to the number of  bedrooms the Government authorities believe an individual requires. Huh??? I hope the idea doesn’t catch on in New Zealand which is already far too keen to cut and paste (or is it slash and burn?) its social welfare programmes  in to a more eye-catching, voter friendly  system.

In both Australia and the UK, there appears to be some provision for a small allowance for family carers but that is not, currently, the case in New Zealand. Most family carers, wherever they are, undertake their caring duties willingly, and with great devotion, and little complaint. Never the less, surveys show that there are often huge physical, mental and financial costs incurred by family carers which, eventually, will need to be borne by yet more family members or Government support agencies.  Where does it end? What is to be done?

Carers’ organisations are working hard to support family caregivers. Are Governments listening? It’s hard to believe so, when we see the screws being tightened on social policies worldwide, whilst the purses open for banks and motorways and big business, and  goodness knows what else that is supposed to enrich our lives.  Wouldn’t it be amazing, bordering on miraculous, if a Government were to come forward and say to its family carers, “Why, thank you, good people, for giving millions of dollars worth of service to your country, without which our economy and health services would crumble.” Whilst millions wait, with little hope, for an official  vote of thanks, we can take matters into our own hands and thank and bless all those who take care of another. In that category, I will put my ‘good fairy’ friend. She has done her share of caring over the years.

© silkannthreades

Is it good news or bad news?

The good news is that a friend came to stay with us for a few days last week.

The bad news, for me, is that she has now gone home.

The good news is that she is coming back again for another visit in June.

The even better news is that I have good friends who walk beside me in good times and bad, and the times in between.

A long time ago, when my friend (the one who has just been and gone) and I were students in Christchurch, we were desperately looking for accommodation we could afford. Then, as now, reasonably priced rental accommodation was hard to find.  In pre-Internet days, finding a place to stay sometimes meant physically exploring the streets for vacancy/rental signs.  We had almost given up hope when my friend came across an abandoned and neglected  cottage in an area of the city which is now called the Avon Loop.  She thought it looked habitable so she set about tracking down the owner of the property.  Again a lot of footwork  was required but, finally, an agent for the owner was located and negotiations began.  We proposed that, if he let us live in the house for a small rent of $20 a week, we would tidy the property and be responsible tenants. We would protect the property from vandals and vagrants, we said!  The owner was dubious (we were students, after all) but he agreed that we could live there until he received  planning permission to build on the property, at which time the old cottage would be demolished.

Thus began one of the most interesting years of my life. With some help from friends and relations, and a teeny, tiny budget, we scrubbed and cleaned and painted that old house into a lovely  home.

At the end of the student year, my friend and I had different paths to travel, so we arranged for some friends to take over the tenancy of the cottage. The landlord was only too happy to agree as his building plans seemed to have fallen through and he had seen how his derelict cottage had been transformed from disastrous to desirable at no cost to himself. Lucky man.

Over the years, we  kept an eye on the cottage and, to our absolute delight, it seemed to find more care and loving hands  with each passing decade.

Then along came the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. And the Avon Loop area was hit hard. We feared for our cottage but, on a visit to the Loop last year, we found the cottage, a little tilted, but still standing.

Here it is in 2012, once again uninhabited, as far as we could tell. The residents had probably been forced to move because of  earthquake damage to the property.

Our Cottage

My friend and I  have since discovered that the property is on land that is considered safe for rebuilding but we don’t know if demolition once more hangs over this little house that has such a special place in our memories . Maybe we will investigate next time my friend visits, but, in many ways, if it is gone I would rather not know.  Too much of what we once knew has gone already. And as the buildings go, so, too, go the anchors that keep our memories secure in time and place.

Friendly notes or why our friends are more important than ever:

The bad news:  almost 12 percent of our district’s populace is depressed.  209,000 anti-depressant prescriptions were handed out in 2012; pre quake mental health referrals of 90 per week have soared to 150 referrals  per week in the past 3 months; 80 community support workers are helping 1100 people daily….. and on it goes……

The good news:  66,000 people are seeking help. I would like to say that 88% of the population is doing well but, judging by levels of road rage, domestic violence, drunk and disorderly behaviour  and general short temperedness, more people could do with help from friends, medical or otherwise.

© silkannthreades