Anxious and depressed – The next day

Following on from my post Anxious and depressed I went to bed feeling flat and depressed.

As is often the case with me but unfortunately cannot be predicted, I woke up the next day feeling physically better and mentally ok. I wouldn’t say 100% as they are rare days indeed but definitely considerably better in the head.

The next step was to obtain a medical certificate from my doctor to cover me for my absence for 2 days. The first question the doctor asked was ‘How are you?’. My response was ‘Good!’. Probably not the response he would expect from someone that is asking for a medical certificate but it was my honest response.

I then went on to explain that physically I felt great but I had been struggling mentally. Honestly, I always feel awkward in these conversations as mental health issues must seem like a scam for anyone that doesn’t suffer from them. It’s not like a blood pressure or thermometer can tell the story of what is going on in my head.

In fairness, I’m not much better than the rest. If anyone complains of a migraine, I just think they have a headache and they are overreacting. Surely a bad headache only needs an aspirin? Of course, I have never had a migraine and therefore have no idea how bad they are. Like mental health problems, it is not something I can see and I can’t relate to the pain it causes. I should know better, I know.

Anyone, the doctor was understanding and offered to write me a certificate for the rest of the week off. A nice offer (especially as I have 4am starts) but I do find that the longer I’m away from work, the harder it is to return, so I said I will return to work tomorrow.

Hopefully, the black dog of depression doesn’t visit for a while.

Anxious and depressed

The last few days I have noticed that I have been noticeably run down. Not feeling unwell but lacking in energy.

To counter the lack of energy and to stave off a possible cold or flu, I have been trying to take it easy and get a lot of sleep. Unfortunately, I had to work on the weekend and one of the mornings was very cold and I was situated in a breezeway.

I arrived home from work last night and did very little. I slumped in my lounge chair and stared at the TV screen for a couple of hours without taking much notice of what was on. I had almost zero energy to do anything but eat and take a shower.

In the back of my mind, a worry started to creep in about specialised work training that was due to commence today. The training would involve being around approximately 50 colleagues over 3 days. I had known about the training for a couple of weeks but only last night did I start to experience anxiety about being in a room with a large crowd.

I slept a bit restlessly and struggled to get out of bed when the alarm went off. I got up and started to wander around. I felt physically unwell and drained but not to the point of needing to take a day off sick. Unfortunately, what was overwhelming me was a feeling of anxiety and depression about the days training.

I went through the motions of having breakfast until I decided that I would not be able to confront the training and called in sick. I went back to bed and slept until 10:30 but awoke feeling no more refreshed.

For me, there is often a direct correlation between my physical and mental health. When I feel fit and healthy, I am able to cope difficult situations. Frequently, I am able to resolve matters calmly and methodically when others around me panic. However, when I feel rundown or sick, I find it impossible manage even simple matters and can barely face people. Not ideal when the job is face to face customer service.

Oftentimes, I am still physically able to attend the gym and train but the thought of going to work is overwhelming. I’m sure people would consider I am bludging as they don’t understand mental health and the impact it has.

I know the pain will pass in time but at the moment, that seems forever away, even if it is only a day or two. I also know that the training is essential and my absence today will be a black mark against my name.

Sometimes there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel and only dark.

Prison justice – Fair and reasonable?

The other day, I was listening to a podcast on Case True Crime, the Anita Cobby murder. This episode focussed on the rape and murder of Anita Cobby by 5 men in 1986.

I’m old enough to remember this crime. It gained a large amount of media coverage due to the severity of the crime and probably due to the fact that Anita was a beautiful young woman.

Further to that, Anita was a former beauty pageant winner and a nurse, which a vibrant and caring nature. The murder was horrific, Anita was abducted while walking home at night and beaten, dragged through barbed wire, raped (by 4 of the 5 men) and then had her throat slit, almost to the point of decapitation. In some ways, perhaps death was a blessing rather than living after that ordeal.

The response from the public was unheard of in Australia. Huge crowds were seen at the courtroom hearings and abuse and death threats were yelled at the murderers. I recommend you listen to the podcast for more information.

My post relates to a story of prison justice that occurred to one of the convicted prisoners. One of the murderers had a plastic tube inserted in his anus, to which a length of barbed wire was inserted. The plastic tube was then removed, leaving the barbed wire inside. At following court hearings, he was unable to sit.

My view is that the punishment is fair and reasonable. It provides some justice for the crime. I’m sure that some will contend that wishing pain and suffering on another person makes me no better than the murderers themselves. I respond that the difference is that Anita was an innocent person. Her only ‘crime’ was walking home alone from the train station at night.

However, the murderers were serial offenders with long criminal histories. Amongst them, they had raped and burgled, one was an escapee from prison at the time of crime and were abusers of alcohol and drugs. In short, they served no purpose to society and never would.

The family and friends of Anita will suffer with the memory of her death for life. The husband of Anita in fact, turned to drugs and alcohol following her death and had a very long road to recovery.

I say, let the animals suffer. Prison justice is sometimes the only fair justice.

Positive influences – It starts at home

This post is somewhat of an extension to Surround yourself with people that challenge you to grow.  Surrounding yourself with the right people is not especially challenging if you are motivated enough and have the courage to distance yourself from the people who bring you down.

However, over the last week, I have encountered several cases where the above is not really an option. That is, by having parents that are poor influences. Again, I am relying on my experiences at work where I have high-volume customer contact.

Example 1 relates to two separate cases where I was approached by an adult and a child. My role on the night was to advise that the trains weren’t running due to track maintenance and to provide them with options for Rail Bus travel. An inconvenience but not the end of the world. In both situations, I was in the middle of discussing the correct bus when the ‘adult’ turned away from me angrily and stated variations of ‘F**k off, you guys are hopeless’.

I’m big enough, old enough and ugly enough to let abuse roll off me. I all but forget the interaction immediately and move onto the next customer with a smile. However, how does this influence the child? They absorb that aggression and verbal abuse are the manner to interact with people when things don’t go their way.

Example 2 relates to a middle-aged woman who was visibly shivering on a platform. It was only slightly chilly, so I approached her to see if she was ok and if she needed an ambulance. Her son (so I found out later) pipped up to say she was ok and that she just had a ‘dirty shot’.

The son was in his early 20’s, barefoot and his clothes were clearly dirty. I will note also he was smoking on the platform in the middle of customers and I had to tell him to put the cigarette out as it was illegal.

I contacted my manager for advice. I found out that both the mother and son were well-known to police, with extension drug histories, aggressive behaviour towards customers and staff and never paid for tickets.

Again, what hope did this kid have to grow up to be a positive contributor to society? His main influence was an antisocial drug addict mother.

I’m sure there are countless examples of people with poor influences who have grown to be beautiful people and achieved amazing things. However, I will bet that the majority of children that grow up with poor parenting influences follow a very similar path.

For a number of reasons, I never became a parent. But surely when you have a child, the world becomes more than just you. Children are sponges and on the whole, look up to their parents.

Maybe if you can’t create a positive environment for your children, parenting might not be for you. How do you want your child to grow up? Think about what you say and do.

Self-limiting beliefs – Not for Cathy Hughes!

One of the biggest obstacles to success is having self-limiting beliefs. I’m definitely a victim to self-limiting thinking. Often I’m caught myself in doubt due to my age, lack of education, my mental health issues, financial situation or whatever else I can find in the dark recesses of my mind.

I came across a wonderful podcast today on How I Built This. This episode featured Cathy Hughes . Cathy is the founder of Radio One. She is now 70 years old and has a net worth of over $500 million.

I won’t go into every detail of Cathy’s story and recommend you listen to the podcast and read Wikipedia. The major points that I took from Cathy’s story is that she had no self-limiting beliefs. She had a goal and had no doubt that she would achieve it.

However, Cathy had several potential obstacles that many would consider insurmountable to achieve even minor success:

  • Lived in housing projects as a child
  • Was a single mother at 17
  • Is an African American woman
  • Lived in middle America
  • She started her career in the 60’s and 70’s, which I understand was a less enlightened time in the US for African Americans (I’m from Australia, so I wasn’t there to experience it)

Cathy apparently faced discrimination in her early days but again, she maintained focus on her goal and never doubted she would succeed.

Again, I won’t go into her whole story but one story she recounted was approaching financial institutions for a $1 million loan with only $10,000 in the bank. She went to 32 banks before getting the loan. 90% of people would give up after 2 or 3 banks but not Cathy. She said that she believed in the law of averages that every ‘No’ is one step closer to a YES. It is not hard to believe that she would have gone to 100 banks if she had to.

What if we all had the same confidence as Cathy that we would succeed despite self-imposed limits? Very few will achieve the success that Cathy has. Without question though, the person that follows a passionate goal without thought of failure will be far more successful then the one that finds reasons they can’t.

I pity miserable people

‘Miserable people love to make other people miserable. I don’t hate them, I feel sorry for them.’

Brandi Glanville

A few weeks back I was at work during a train track closure. A track closure normally is due to essential track repairs. Alternative transport is organised to accommodate customers. My job on the night was to provide customer service through to guidance, advice and directions to appropriate transport.

Track closures are an inconvenience. They add time to a customers trip and mean there are sometimes multiple transport changes. All the same, they are performed for a purpose to provide a safe service for customers and are traditionally scheduled well outside of peak transport times to minimise disruption.

Well, I was half way through my shift and waiting for the next connection to arrive at the station. Customers were waiting and I was standing back with a couple of my colleagues on the night. One of my colleagues shared a joke and we had a laugh together. I excused myself from the group and made a round of the customers to see if anyone looked confused or had questions.

I was stopped by a sour-faced middle aged woman. The conversation went something like this:

Woman: I don’t appreciate you laughing while we are being inconvenienced.

Me: My apologies but we were certainly not laughing at your situation.

Woman: That doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t be laughing at all.

Me: Ummm…ok

Woman: I’ll be talking to my priest about it tomorrow.

From memory, I might have just nodded and continued me walk around the customers.

Surprisingly, my immediate thought wasn’t ‘What a miserable old bitch’. My first thoughts were 1) Is that why people go to church?; and 2) I feel sorry for her.

Working in high-volume customer service, I encounter miserable people that complain almost daily. On the whole, and putting things into perspective, their complaints are petty. There would have been a time when I would have reacted with irritation and anger. But perhaps due to some of my roles I performed over the last decade that dealt with death and real suffering, I see minor annoyances and complaining people as very small issues.

My honest response to miserable people now is pity. Are they so miserable that the smallest thing is an opportunity to be upset? Do they see no joy in life? Or maybe trying to demean others gives them pleasure? Either way, it is not a pleasant way to live and I feel sorry for them. Barely moments after our encounter, I have all but forgotten them but I assume they will continue to stew on the issue for some time after.

Life is hard, why make it harder when something minor disrupts your day. Just go with the flow, there will be plenty of really bad experiences in your life to test you without worrying about being 2 minutes late or your coffee is slightly too hot.

And if you come across one of these people, just let there bad energy slide over you. Don’t absorb it and take on their negative point of view on life.

Tall poppy syndrome – The curse of the insecure

I was prompted to blog by a comment made during a podcast episode I listened to recently. On the Tim Ferris show, Phil Keoghan – The Magic of Bucket Lists and Amazing Races was interviewed. Phil is the host of the Amazing Race and originates from New Zealand.

Amongst topics discussed, Phil mentions the phrase Tall Poppy Syndrome in relation to the mindset of a lot of people from New Zealand. The term relates to maintaining conformity and not standing out from the crowd, such as in a field of poppies with one taller than the others. To keep things equal, the taller poppy will be cut down to size.

Phil uses the example of the NZ All Blacks, the champion national Rugby Union team. The All Blacks are arguably the highest achieving team ever in world Rugby Union, however, in line with the NZ mentality, they will understate their greatness.

This reminded me of Greg Norman’s win at the 1993 British Open with a final round of 64. Following the round, Norman quipped that “I’m in awe of myself” as he didn’t miss hit a shot. I recall that this comment was discussed in Australia almost more than his win. It was considered discourteous to the other players and arrogant. I could argue though that he was actually understating his normal ability and he just had a great day.

In Australia, anyone who has achieved celebrity through their success is in constant danger of being cut down at the slightest perceived indiscretion. Any comment is taken out of context, their personal life is massively scrutinised, they are lambasted for not contributing their great wealth to charity….the list goes on.

Paul Hogan was considered a national treasure until he achieved worldwide fame with Crocodile Dundee. Initially, he was the still the regular Aussie bloke that made good. But then, his relationship to his co-star was made public. He was then a cheater that let a bit of fame make him forget family values. He wasn’t quite disowned but his public image was massively diminished.

Why can’t we celebrate the success of others instead of trying to bring them down to our level? Instead of looking for fault, why aren’t we looking to learn from them instead? Is their public life really any of our business? Being a tall poppy in Australia is a terrible burden. Be a nobody and fail miserably and constantly and no one cares.

However, it seems that in the US, being a tall poppy is something to be proud of. Sure, the failures of the high-flyers make the press, such as Tiger Wood’s infidelity and Donald Trump’s misguided comments. But it seems that this is more of identifying that everyone can make mistakes rather than wanting them to fail (though maybe with Trump I could be wrong). I doubt I would be wrong in saying that the US would love it if Tiger was the best again.

Maybe Australia could learn some lessons from the pride that American’s have in themselves and country. Pride is considered a character fault in Australia. Why should it be though? Australia is a great place to live, with an envious quality of living but we are happy to hide in the shadows.

To steal a quote from the movie Troy when a messenger boy comments to Achilles, ‘The Thesselonian you’re fighting…he’s the biggest man I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t want to fight him’. Achilles responds ‘That’s why no-one will remember your name’. Come on Australia, strive for greatness and be a tall poppy! If you are too insecure to admire the success of others, keep your undermining comments to yourself and live in obscurity. No one will remember you anyway.