In the early 1970’s I embarked upon a career in the film and television industry. The ‘hippy’ movement had become almost mainstream culture for teenagers and those in their twenties, and many of the cultural wars on issues such as free sexual expression had been fought and won.
My experience during my late teens and twenties was one of privilege in many ways. I was involved in the television production industry, mixed with a talented and creative group of producers, directors, television personalities, actors and singers. Many were ‘household names’ across Australia and the world.
I had proved myself to be a talented photographer, filmmaker and film writer, one of the upcoming pool of talent that would eventually walk in the footsteps of the industry leaders. It was an intoxicating time. Colour television had just been launched and my life consisted of rehearsals, film and tv shoots, promotion shoots and lots of production work for shows that were being screened on the newly consolidated television networks, that changed tv from parochial low quality productions, to national big budget productions (often starring a major overseas acts.
Life was enchanting and the night life bought us heady parties where drug taking was the norm. Many nights were spent under the influence of a cocktail of drugs such as LSD, marijuana, hashish or cocaine and taken with lashings of alcohol
While most of my friends seemed to sail through, I became increasingly disturbed about my life, its meaning, and what I was actually supposed to be contributing to my vocation. I loved film and wanted to tell stories about life, people and love with compassion.
I loved the nightlife and enjoyed the intimacy and fun of my friends. But I slowly started making decisions that I understand today - took me over an invisible line. This was the line that had always controlled my values. I increasingly found it easier to go with the flow of my friends and meet their expectations. My journey seemed to bog down and any alternative seemed boring.
During this time I bean to notice that I was becoming paranoid in particular social situations. I became extremely introspective and began to believe that the drugs were an important tool of perception. I had immersed myself into the works of the popular drug based philosophers of the ‘flower power’ movement and began to search for the lifestyle of nirvana that they said could be experienced though drug induced mysticism.
I lived in a semi-communal farm and many communal households in Newcastle and Sydney until such time as paranoia and depression descended upon me. Life became hell. I lost my way completely.
During this time I battled panic attacks and had an acute self esteem problem. I became the person I had always observed and pitied. My career was affected significantly and I lost my job.
On losing my job I believed I had lost a huge chunk of who I was. My dreams of a productive, creative and rewarding life seemed lost forever.
For several years after, I worked through the long, painful process of rebuilding my mind. The key to this was getting off drugs. Just as important was and getting tough with my thinking in order to rebuild my new attitude and beliefs. I know now that this takes years for any person and that is why the climb back out of the holes of depression seems so hopeless to us.
Early on I was placed under a psychiatrist who treated me for drug-induced depression and psychosis. Drugs known colloquially then as ‘uppers’ and ‘downers’, were a godsend. They gave me long needed respite and a status quo against which I could check my thinking and reactions to stress, change and sadness.
But they had their downside too! These drugs remove the exhilarating feelings we get from the normal daily highs and lows.
So my battle became twofold; one against the anarchism of paranoia and depression when not on medication and the other against the need to go off medication to regain my true identity! It was a chilling time knowing that going too far either way would bring pain, anguish and the thought of prolonging the fight.
My relationships were always faltering because I couldn’t relate to ‘normal’ people as they could not relate to my experience. Forming a relationship with someone in my mental position was also not an option. This ended in great pain because we both knew we were incapable of revealing our true selves to each other. So life was hard for some time.
Depression robs someone of their ability to trust themselves implicitly. It sows fear and loathing into your heart if you let it. But it can be fought and won if you have two things:
- * The need/wish/drive or mission to confront it and
- * Appropriate help of family and friends in the battle
Going through this terrible disease and the subsequent lesser periods of depression over the following years, have allowed me to slowly and surely re-program my more 'at risk' thinking and in turn my behaviour.
I am now a great believer in not investing all the ‘cure’ in the thinking but to actually spend as much time on your behaviour. By this I mean actually doing things outside what you had previously thought of as ‘safe’. Thinking does have a direct impact on behaviour but its what you program yourself to achieve and how you think this can make you happy that’s important. As long is it doesn’t hurt people or break the law, but gives you the biggest personal satisfaction, then that’s probably a fair start.
When going through those hellish times I always knew that I would honour the pact I made with myself .. to never, ever, be in that position again.
Well of course depression does come back to haunt me occasionally, but I am a lot stronger for going through the medication and psychological stages that I did.
Just one last thing: focus on overcoming these dark bouts for the benefit of others, particularly loved ones and friends, because they are the most precious things in life. I also believe the only way we can do this is for each of us to really work on our own self esteem and personal happiness - to get it back into strong and healthy shape, physically and mentally. It is actually a very tough fight, but one that is worth every ounce of effort to win.
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