Depression is on the Increase

We are surrounded by uncertainty these days, and much of it is a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, which came out of nowhere and turned our lives upside down in a matter of weeks of its first appearance in China, towards the end of 2019.

According to a recent international survey, South Africans are rated as some of the least happy people on the planet, and for good reason. We are currently being bombarded with negative reports and disturbing news items. With a failed economy, a corrupt ruling party, crime which is rampant, a failed power supplier, potholes everywhere, unemployment (the list goes on and on) it is not surprising that many of us feel despondent and helpless. These negative emotions can manifest themselves in a state of severe depression which may be overlooked by one’s nearest and dearest until the sufferer may need medical intervention.

It is a sad state of affairs that we still have a negative connotation regarding mental illness. If you have a leg in a cast, or a huge bandage around an injury, the reaction from others is more often than not one of concern and sympathy. However, if you are sad and feeling down, and battling to find anything positive or amusing in your life, you may find yourself ostracised to a certain extent as being too miserable to be around. It is often uncomfortable to spend time or energy trying to cheer up a person who is negative and having an internal battle with themselves and their feelings. When the situation becomes desperate, and even possibly results in a suicide attempt, then those closest to the sufferer may feel guilty at not having seen the signs, or having avoided getting involved because it caused them too must discomfort.

Isn’t it strange that we shun the words “mental health” yet we as humans, provided we are mentally intact ourselves, function as a result of our feelings and emotions most of the time. Unless we have succumbed to a frontal lobotomy we are normally bombarded throughout our waking hours with sights, sounds and various other forms of stimulation which result in our having a mixed bag of emotions. Being able to shrug off anything which causes us to feel down and sad, is usually achievable, within reason. However, if you are suffering from severe depression even the slightest trigger can be the straw which breaks the camel’s back. A failed attempted suicide may be the result, and this then creates a situation where the depressive may be given a limited amount of freedom and is watched constantly in case the next attempt is successful. A challenging situation for everyone involved.

I have known several families throughout my life who have had a family member who committed suicide and this has resulted in painful memories prevailing for many years after the event . There are always feelings of guilt from the surviving relatives or spouse and questions asked of how this could have been avoided.  Were there signs that this was going to occur? Could anything have been done to prevent the tragedy? If a suicide note is left it probably helps to alleviate many of the unanswered questions. Without a note, is it possible that the act was never meant to be successful but more a cry for help?

There appears to be a massive move afoot in Western society to accept that mental health deserves as much attention as physical health. Telling people to pull themselves together and to cheer up is not an answer to serious depression. Even giving drug therapy often just treats the symptoms and not the underlying cause. It is a difficult balancing act on the part of professionals and is not as simple as mending a broken bone or removing a malfunctioning body part. A holistic approach is probably the most successful treatment which would be likely to include exercise, diet, counselling as well as the possible intervention of certain medication whether alternative or complementary or resorting to anti- depressants, if all else fails.

We all have times when the trials and tribulations of life threaten to be overbearing, but thankfully these interludes do tend to pass without too much trauma. However, if doom and gloom become the order of the day, it is definitely advisable to seek help so that the condition can be nipped in the bud before all the beauty around us fades into oblivion and is replaced by darkness and negativity with life itself having no meaning at all. Together we can all try to make a difference in the lives of others if we just observe, take notice of disturbing signs in those around us and bother to get involved.  Easier said than done as those afflicted may be resistant to others trying to help them, but help we must in order to try to prevent a possibly disastrous outcome.

Human,Hand,Helps,Sad,Young,Girl,In,Depression,Lying,Hugging

Having studied clinical psychology at an Honours BA level, and later qualifying as a Lifeline counsellor following the Carl Rogers approach, I do believe that many of us are capable of helping our friends and family members just by being a good listener. We all tend to run around like headless chickens being busy with our lives and we often resent having to give up some of our precious time for others. However, those who are emotionally hurting need to be heard. Talking to another human being and unloading one’s worries and distresses can be extremely cathartic. By simply identifying the other person’s feelings and emotions and feeding them back to them can sometimes help them to identify their own way forward. Telling a depressed person what they should be doing to get their lives back on track is totally counter- productive. We all (well, most of us at least) have two ears and one mouth. Let the words we are hearing from the one who is battling depression be received consciously by both our ears and let us be very careful what we utter in response.

Not a Blue Monday

A few Mondays back I found a very young baby pigeon shivering in shock and pain beside the wall of our carport. At first I thought it was dead, but on picking up the little creature it became obvious that something had harmed it and pulled out all the feathers on its tiny back. It looked so sore, and it was heart-breaking to hear its tiny feeble squeak. Anyway, I found a cardboard box, lined it with a soft towel and brought the little creature inside. I stroked it gently and tried to transfer some love and feelings of caring while talking to it quietly.

Many years ago, there had been a situation where another even smaller pigeon had been abandoned by its mother (maybe she had been killed and had not deserted her offspring) and was in a swallow’s nest under our patio roof. I had asked around and been told that the best thing was to get hold of a bird cage and to feed the baby bird with a very weak mixture of Pronutro porridge and boiled water and to administer it with a medicine dropper. This worked well, was pretty time consuming but resulted in a fully grown, healthy bird. Unfortunately, I felt that I had to find an alternative to keeping this bird in a cage. Someone I was told about had a large aviary and, with a very heavy heart, my baby bird was given up for adoption.

Circumstances are different these days and I could not see myself being able to devote the same amount of time and attention to this new foundling. After contacting my local vet, I was given the name of a woman called Georgie who runs a rehabilitation centre for wildlife just a few kilometers away from where I live. Once I had managed to get hold of her, she arrived within minutes to pick up the baby bird. She had a look at it and said that she was convinced that the bird had been attacked by a cat. Although neither my husband nor I have seen a single cat in our garden in the 14 years in which we have lived in this house, she said that it was possibly a cat which hunted at night.

The outcome of this incident has been so heart-warming that I felt the necessity to write about it. Georgie not only took the little creature home with her but has been in constant contact with me ever since sending pictures of his newly grown feathers as well as up to date information regarding the development of the baby. Today I heard that he is now feeding himself, growing up fast and apparently is quite a little character. What might have been a real Blue Monday turned out to be one of the best Mondays in a long time.

A few weeks have passed and yesterday when I arrived home, I was taken aback to see a stranger in the garden, leaning up against a flowerpot and warming its tummy in the sun’s rays. The stranger was a very pretty little white and light grey cat! That is the first feline that has been spotted in our garden in the many years in which we have lived here. Beautiful or not, this little potential bird killer is not welcome here and I shooed it away immediately. It rushed up a nearby tree and went over the wall into our neighbour’s house. With a bit of luck it won’t be back again in a hurry. Hopefully, when Kelly, our German Shepherd, gets a whiff of a strange cat, her barking will be enough to deter the intruder. I really do hope so!

Bird Watching. – 2021 May No. 2

I know many people who seem to have an insatiable desire to constantly be on the move. Spending any free time in their own homes seems to be alien to them, and they probably miss out on so many simple pleasures which are often right there in front of them, just waiting to be spotted. This ramble is most certainly not a case of sour grapes, but rather gratitude for those little things in life which, when the odds seem to be against us, and life feels bleak, can be so heart-warming and a total delight.

Just the other day, my better half (I’d better describe him as such, instead of just “other half” as I need him as my designated editor!) called me to come into his office, which is situated on the other side of the house to my own office. We are fortunate to have indigenous trees in both areas of our garden, which attract a reasonable variety of bird life and both areas have bird feeders and baths. Anyway, on that particular occasion we were witness to a mass gathering of sparrows having a swimming party in the bird bath. There must have been at least 15 of them splashing around and having a whale of a time. It was a delight to observe and, only because any movement on our part would have disrupted the party, we did not photograph or, better still, video the episode. A pity, as it might be a once in a lifetime event, but still something which will be stored away as a beautiful memory.

Some of you are probably thinking, is that all she is going to say today? No, but even the common little sparrow deserves to be treasured for the pleasure it can bring. On a slightly more sophisticated level, we have the occasional grey lourie popping by to see if there are any pieces of fruit waiting for them to enjoy, as well as a pair of crested barbets who also like the fruit. These beautiful, colourful little characters apparently have a penchant for Hungarian peppers! Good to finally find out who it is who takes bites out of the ripening vegetables. They had a very cocky attitude when caught in the act yesterday and were not in the least bit embarrassed! Just strutted away and then flew up into the trees. Gorgeous little birds who have to be forgiven, as they obviously have excellent taste in their choice of fresh produce.

Lastly, my favourite garden guest has to be the Hadeda Ibis and it is such a pleasure to watch them, after rain, pushing their long, thin beaks into the soft grass to find the delicacies deep down in the soil.  I must admit to calling back to them when a group, sitting on the roof of the house, screech out their familiar ha-ha-ha-dah-da. It’s very funny to actually see them listening when I pretend to be one of them, and to have them shout out in reply. Oh well, as some of you may have come to realise if you have read any of my previous postings, that in my case little things definitely do please little minds! I just love watching the avian carryings on from the window of my office, whilst I work!

Pomp and ceremony. 2021 May No. 1

Although I have lived on the other side of the world from my birthplace for most of my life, I still feel a strong bond to my English roots. As much as I try to have a fairly casual attitude to anything Royal, the pomp and ceremony which is part and parcel of the British culture never ceases to make me feel proud of my heritage. The recent funeral of Prince Philip just emphasised once more how much there is to admire whenever there is any occasion involving the Royal Family.

So much negativity and gossip seem to be part and parcel of the world today and when it involves “the Firm”, to coin a new phrase to describe the Royal Family, then much of the fanfare is to sell the news to the world at large. We had just recovered from the Megan Markle and Oprah Winfrey debacle, when we heard that the Duke of Edinburgh had died just a few weeks away from what would have been his 100th birthday. Despite anything negative having been aired on television recently showing flaws in the early years of the royal marriage, the fact is that the Duke had been a very important support for her Majesty the Queen throughout a marriage spanning 73 years. That in itself is an amazing achievement.

When one watches a British royal event one can only admire the precision with which everything occurs. Discipline and control as well as taking absolute pride in being part of the proceedings is par for the course. Everything goes according to plan and the timing is precise. No such thing as delays and hiccups – a far cry from African time! There was not very long for the entire proceedings to be planned and even the tailors must have worked around the clock making the identical outfits for the males in the entourage. Once again, the perfection of the outfits, both male and female had to be admired for their beautiful quality and fit.

I felt sad when I watched Her Majesty enter the chapel on her own, as well as sitting by herself whilst the funeral service took place. She looked rather frail and alone – not surprising when one considers that she is 95 years of age. It was a very tasteful ceremony and apparently the kind of service which would have been chosen by the Duke of Edinburgh. When the British do something such as hosting a royal occasion, then the hundreds of years of pageantry and tradition guarantee an event of which they can be proud. 

Communication in 2021

I hesitate to appear to come across as a professional moaner, but there are certain things which rile me more than others. One of those is the inability of far too many people to communicate effectively, or correctly. Everyone is quick to blame technology and the constant use of mobile phones and i-pads as being the cause, but I tend to disagree. I believe that part of the problem is the current obsession with oneself, one’s rights and one’s feelings of self-importance, with little regard for other people. A saying which has left a lingering impression on me is, “You will be remembered not so much for what you did, but how you made people feel.” Very profound words if you take the time to consider just what they mean.

Many of us across all age groups are faced with too much to do in the course of the day, and not enough hours to get it all done. Therefore, making the effort to get in touch with friends, family or even acquaintances, just to find out how they are coping in these troubling times, should be seen as a privilege by the recipient of the contact. In many cases this is not so. Nothing is more uplifting than someone sounding genuinely pleased at hearing your voice on the other end of the line, or having enjoyed reading your written message, either via WhatsApp or e-mail.

It is very deflating to find that, no matter how you try, certain people just seem to be either too involved in their day-to-day activities, or just not interested in hearing from you to respond. It takes a very thick skin not to feel disappointed and often dejected. Surely, it’s only common courtesy to acknowledge that someone has bothered to think of you and to try to get in touch? In days gone by, when it was very much more challenging to be able to keep in touch with one another, people did   recognize the importance of having good manners. That does not seem to be the case in the world in which we now find ourselves. Hence, it can be a pleasant surprise when you get a truly happy response from the other person. It is enough to give you a certain amount of motivation to carry on making contact with people even if your response rate is not as high as you would have liked.

Another gripe (excuse the moan) is when, through your communication channel, you have enquired about certain aspects of the other person’s life or situation, or even something connected to a shared past incident or occasion, and their response totally omits any reference to the subject you mentioned. It seems that they did not even take the time to actually read what you had written. This kind of communication can be very frustrating and leave you feeling irritated and dissatisfied with the outcome of your endeavours. Nothing makes life more meaningful and pleasant for many of us than being able to communicate with other people, and it is sad that it seems to be the older generation who still bother to make the effort. Not all older people are sitting around waiting to die and having hours of time on their hands. These days many find that they are busier than ever before, and retirement is not on their agenda. However, they are often still the ones who make the effort for meaningful communication.

Another adage which can refer to the above is, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person”. Where computer games, mobile phone usage and hobbies take up a large portion of a person’s day, apart from studies or work, then it is probably somewhat unrealistic to expect any time to be given up for reading your correspondence, or to call you back after you left a voice message. Strange as it may seem, it is very often the busiest members of your so-called “circle of influence” who give you the satisfaction and pleasure of the kind of response for which you were hoping.

My wish is that, despite the world moving at a breakneck pace where technology is concerned, we begin to see more people keeping in touch meaningfully with one another. Should this not happen, then feelings of abandonment, loneliness and worthlessness are likely to manifest themselves in more and more cases of depression and even self-harm, which could be avoided or minimised just by communicating how much you care for the other person’s well-being.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion
that it has taken place.” –
George Bernard Shaw

Update and Comments – 18 April, 2021

Hopefully, some of you noticed that I have added an extra section to my blog called “Coffee and a Chat”. The reason for my starting this is that, on so many occasions, I feel that there is something which, although not earth shattering, happens to appeal to my senses in one way or another. It is often watching a bird or even a small lizard getting on with its day-to-day activities, that gives me a feeling of pleasure, and a reason to be alive in this crazy, confusing world in which we find ourselves currently. Things such as those I have mentioned above may take me just a few sentences to describe or, who knows, something simple may justify a couple of paragraphs. One way or the other, I will be attempting to post on a fairly regular basis, and hence will attempt to prevent writer’s block from paralyzing both my mind as well as my hands!

On a slightly different note, it was such an emotional afternoon watching her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, sitting in the chapel at Windsor Castle, observing her husband’s funeral service. As she arrived at the entrance, she seemed so small and fragile, and one just felt the need for someone to hold her arm and escort her safely to her pew. After all, at 94 years of age, albeit fit and healthy enough to still ride her horses, a stumble could so easily have occurred. Fortunately, nothing untoward did happen. Many of us watching the ceremony must have felt a great sadness just seeing her enduring the service so very alone with her grief.  She has lost not only her long-time beloved husband but a support system which cannot be replaced. Extremely sad indeed.

Well, that’s my bit for today, and I do appreciate knowing that there are a number of readers out there who do seem to enjoy at least some of the writings which are on my blog.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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The one who rules the roost. – April No. 2

“Don’t you realise that it’s afternoon playtime? Why do I have to do my utmost to look as pathetic and badly treated as possible, just to get you to do what I want you to do?”

“Please leave me alone to get on with writing this article, as I have a deadline. Just go outside and lie in the sun, or play with your toys, but I don’t have time right now to play with you.”

“Oh, come on, what does writing an article have to do with giving me the treatment I so richly deserve?”

“I told you that I have to earn a living and writing this article is one of the ways in which I make enough money to feed and house you.”

“Do I look as though I believe you?”

“Please be good and leave me alone just for another half an hour or so, and then I will have time for you.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. Patience is not my strong point at all. I would have thought that, after living together for the past 2 years, you would understand my needs completely.”

“I keep on telling you that you are not the only factor in my busy life. Now please leave me alone for a short while so that I can finish my work.”

“I am going nowhere without you. You can try as hard as you want. You can even resort to threats of putting me up for adoption, but I know you would never do anything like that. So, sorry for you, but I am going to make as much of an irritating noise as I possibly can so that you will have to come and play with me.”

“Please, just for the next few minutes, sit down and be quiet. If you behave, then I will come and play with you. Do you understand what I am asking of you?”

“I actually don’t negotiate on your terms and I will continue to irritate you until I get my way.”

“You can be such a spoilt brat and I am tired of always having to do just what you want, and never what I feel like doing.”

“You were told that I was special so that should have warned you. I am special and you need to treat me with the respect that I deserve. I am intelligent as well as good looking, so please understand that I am not average at all.”

“Look, you are really getting on my nerves. You have been given so many toys and heaps of attention recently and you just don’t seem to appreciate anything. It’s almost as though you think that you deserve to be treated like a valuable, rare commodity. I don’t know where you got that superior attitude from, but it’s driving me nuts. Now, please just another few minutes and I will finish what I’m doing, and play with you.”

“Oh, I suppose I had better do as you ask otherwise my life could become difficult. You might just decide to go out without me again and I will be locked up for hours until you decide to come home. I will lie down here next to you and just have a quick nap and hope that you really will decide to play with me as soon as you finish what you are doing.”

Am I the only nutcase out there in the big wide world whose life has been taken over by a mutt who doesn’t need to be able to talk in order to express exactly what she wants. Isn’t it amazing that, with no verbal interaction at all, our four-legged companions are able to let us know just what they want as well as how they are feeling. Life would be very dull without our dear Kelly, but an extra few hours in every day wouldn’t go amiss either, just to be able to fit in all the important things and not just doggy playtime!

Coffee and a Chat – April No. 1

I cannot believe that I have been so shockingly neglectful about my blog over the past year. It’s all very well to blame lockdown restrictions and the Covid 19 pandemic, but I must take a great deal of the blame myself. Somehow days just fly by at an alarming rate and I just want to grab hold of time and make it slow down, just a bit. Suffice to say that I have decided to stop grumbling about lack of hours in the day and to make a concerted effort to post something short, and hopefully of interest to some of you out there, every couple of days. This should assist in the prevention of the so-called “writer’s block”.

Isn’t it amazing just how you only really start to see the true person when you observe their relationship with money. We are all very aware of how difficult life has become and it is certainly not easy to amass fortunes, unless one is a corrupt politician or an out and out scoundrel, or both! However, observing the way in which individuals react in circumstances where cash is involved can make or break a friendship, or a business deal. Sad to say, there seem to be way too many people who have made money their God. It isn’t money which is the root of all evil, but the love of money!

We can’t do very much without it, and we need to have it in order to survive as well as to help others in this lifetime, but when meanness of spirit is the result of penny pinching, it can really kill a friendship. I am sure that many of us have felt let down and disappointed when this has happened and it sometimes results in us feeling used and abused, especially if we should land up paying the bill after meeting a tight fisted “friend” for coffee or a snack at their invitation.

Thinking back over the years and remembering people who were, for a lengthy period of time, friends with whom we socialized on a regular basis, money matters often created a certain amount of discomfort. One couple lived in a fairly affluent suburb, the husband was a company director, but at every turn the wife was counting the pennies and making sure that the meals she made for us were the most economical possible, despite the fact that we made every effort to entertain them well in our home.  Even her children had to put a price tag on everything that was purchased, including the cost of re-decorating their bedrooms! Strangely, when our own financial situation took a bit of a temporary dive for various reasons, we no longer heard from this family. Did they think we were going to arrive on their doorstep, suitcase in hand and expect charity? Instead of showing some concern for our well-being, we were instantly taken off their Christmas card list!

When I have been involved in direct selling it has always interested me to observe the various attitudes by customers across the board when it comes to payment. One person comes to mind who, having placed a relatively large order, wanted to know what I would give her as a gift for buying from me. The fact that I was saving her time as well as money and personally delivering her order seemed to be of no consequence. At the other end of the continuum, there are those customers who have very little cash to spare, place an order and then almost refuse to accept the few rands of change which is due to them. Just goes to show the difference between those with the generous hearts versus the tight fisted penny pinchers, who make sure that their payment is correct to the last cent! This is a painful learning curve when one first becomes aware of these differences in peoples’ relationship with money!

We all need money and it might not bring happiness, but not having any, most certainly brings sadness and despair, and with it crime. That is something we are very much aware of here in South Africa. However, enough waffling and today I am feeling positive and am looking at a totally blue sky, and a relatively warm day. A good day to be alive!

Coffee and a Chat

There are always so many moments in life which create memories, feelings and often a sense of nostalgia as well as a desire to share them with other people. That is why I have decided to create this new section within my blog. I sincerely hope that there will be writings which you find fun or thought provoking, depending upon my mood at the time. Some of these will be short and others not so short, but hopefully you will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

Update and Comments – January, 2021

Well, here we find ourselves facing a year in which anything is possible, and nothing is likely to surprise any of us any more! After 2020, for those of us who have managed to survive relatively unscathed, what is there ahead which can shock or disappoint us any more than the events of the past year. If anyone had told us on 1 January 2020, that we were facing a pandemic of previously unseen proportions, we would have asked them what they had been smoking or snorting! However, somehow, most of us have survived this year and if it hasn’t totally destroyed our mental well being, perhaps it has made us a little stronger than we were at the end of 2019.

It is impossible to be flippant about the past year as it has brought untold trials and tribulations for so many people. Financially, there are few of us who can honestly say that we know of no-one who has either lost their jobs or had their hours reduced to a level where mere survival is the name of the game. Some people may never ever be employed again and for others it will take years of hard slog and perseverance to creep back to some semblance of normality with the accompaniment of financial stability. When the past year has seen the loss of loved ones, no financial recompense is going to alleviate the loneliness and heartache which this has caused.

It is difficult to be positive when we are still being bombarded with statistics relating to the Covid 19 pandemic, and we are not alone. Most countries in the world are now in some or other form of lockdown yet again. The only areas which appear to be relatively “normal” right now seem to be in Asia. Where a ruling party demands respect and obedience, it seems that the population at large listen to the call to follow preventative protocols. Asian countries tend to be ruled in a disciplinarian manner whether communistic or not. The resultant low numbers of affected people are proof enough that it all boils down to doing what you are told to do by the government. Sadly, if the ruling party comprises a corrupt bunch of uneducated thieves then the public at large is hardly likely to take any instructions dished out by them as meaningful. Hence, no adherence to rules regarding the wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing, and refraining from mingling with crowds of people is resulting in the numbers of sick and dying people growing day by day.

The vaccines which are already being rolled out in many first world countries should eventually result in the pandemic being brought under control. However, in less privileged societies, who knows just how long the fear of being infected will continue. Only time will tell.

Meantime, wherever you find yourself in the world, may 2021 bring you good health, happiness and prosperity as well as safety for your family members!

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud!
– Maya Angelou (American Author).

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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