Welcome! My name is Vickie and I’m glad you’ve come to visit. I set up this site to share how I found a way to eliminate my chronic low mood and live joyfully again.
I now enjoy a calm, peaceful mind. I feel energetic, clear-headed and confident. I live a rewarding, intentional and yes… happy life!
But it certainly wasn’t always like this…
I lived with chronic low for 21 years.
By coming to this site I’m thinking you may also feel you may be struggling with this debilitating condition.
Or maybe you’re just wondering if it’s why you feel
- Down and kind of sad every day
- Unable to think clearly, remember things or make good decisions
- Exhausted, lacking in energy or motivation to do anything much
- Struggle through each day – work, family responsibilities, household chores – and wonder why it’s so hard
- That life is just not turning out how you expected and you’re wondering if that’s all there is.
I know you’ll find hope in my story.
When did I start to feel depressed?
I can’t be certain but I think my depression began when I was a teenager. I remember outbursts of weeping and emotional grey days of uncertainty and confusion which went well beyond ‘normal’ teenage angst. I spent hours on the floor with the dog, bawling into her furry neck.
I was a funny kid, a loner, a book reader, hopeless at sports, sensitive and not physically strong. I was a very happy child. My imagination was my world and my books were my friends.
Where I lived there were no little girls to play with but I’m not sure that even if there were, that I would not have preferred to retreat within the pages of my books.
Each Saturday morning was spent in the local library gathering books which would then present to my mother in a form of literary show and tell.
I went through a long phase of interest in British history, particularly the Dark Ages and kings and queens with names like Ethelfrith, Eggfrith and Harold the Hammer Thrower fired my imagination. Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were there too as well as Catweazle and nonfiction children’s books like ‘How place names began’ and ‘how surnames began’.
I am a true introvert. People fascinate me and I love to be around them, but to refresh my own batteries I need lots of time alone. I become distressed if I am overly stimulated by too much noise, flashing colours or images, chatter or work stress. Sometimes I wear ear plugs when I go into the city.
My idea of heaven then and now is a warm summer’s afternoon, on a blanket in a park, dogs at my feet and a book in my hand.
A teacher once said to me, ‘”Oh Vickie, you’re so thin, you must put on a jumper!”
I learned that to be thin was to be deficient, to be unable to catch a ball a major weakness, to eat little a sign of laziness or illness or ingratitude.
I was a feeble child and I was a particularly poor swimmer. We used to go down to our local pool in the summer and I remember saying to my Mum, ‘This time, I’m just going to jump straight in’, but I rarely, if ever, actually did.
I think there were at least two occasions when my brother actually saved me from drowning, even though I was using a kickboard. The kickboard was my ship and I was on the high seas. I’d paddle myself around the edge of the pool, imagining each feature of the pool to be a port in an exotic location. The steps down into the pool was a desert island, underneath the diving board a port with a waterfall, another set of steps a mountain range.
My greatest fear was PE classes.
I hated changing into our checked gym tunics. They were sleeveless and my arms were sticks. Each PE class began with a run around the school buildings. It seemed like a marathon to me. Needless to say, I was always chosen last for teams. I had no energy and no coordination. I fell asleep on the bus on the way home.
I knew I was defective.
The doctors applied wires to my chest and that’s how they found out.
The doctor’s office overlooked a park, but I couldn’t see the trees as I was hiding under a chair. I knew what was coming, as it had come so many times before.
The doctor talked to Mum and Dad and then I was taken into a smaller, windowless room. I took off my top and the nurse spread the sticky gel over my little chest and attached the rubber cups with the wires coming out.
They were always very nice, the nurses, and the examination wasn’t painful, but I was tired of being studied and scrutinzed, tired of the gel and the wires and the green and red wavy lines on the machines, tired of being on display.
The hole in the heart wasn’t picked up until I was two. Without surgery my life expectancy would not have exceeded about twenty years. I had the operation when I was seven.
A student doctor was allowed to make the incision and then sew me up and clearly his mother hadn’t made him practise neat, precise stitches.
When I got back to school after the operation, my second grade teacher asked me to remove my jumper and blouse so the other kids could have a look at my jagged, ruby-red scar.
Always being examined, looked at, feeling different.
Adults told me how brave I was; I didn’t feel it. I wanted to be left alone.
I grew skinny and lanky and was all arms and legs. When you’re a kid, though, you’re not that conscious of how you look. I was happy and enjoyed riding my bike and climbing trees, often to sit there for hours reading a book.
When I was fourteen I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine so severe that only a major
back operation would save my right lung from collapse by the age of thirty.
I had a metal rod implanted against my spine and held there using bone taken from my hip. I now had the flexibility of a plank but at least the scars were neat.
One thing I did love at school was dance and I did jazz ballet classes after school each week. This led to getting a role in a dance scene in the school play.
Unfortunately because I could no longer bend and twist I had to give up dance.
I gained two inches from the op. I was embarrassed about my pear-shaped figure with my massive hips and an ironing-board chest. I had a terrible summer having to wear a back brace for six months. We had a caravan and went down to the beach but I hid in the van or the dunes, unable to put on my bathers and swim.
Generally I was a happy as a child, but when the teenage years hit, my confidence dropped and I wonder if this was related to my surgeries and body image issues?
I wonder now whether those operations, those traumas were the start of my self-confidence and self-esteem issues?
I wasn’t exactly a nerd – not smart enough for that – but I enjoyed studying and after finishing school I actually went to university to learn stuff.
Uni was interesting, exciting and somewhat lonely. I made friends, good ones too, who were a bit more like me, but there was always the feeling of being less-than, not as smart, not as attractive. I often ate lunch alone and spent a great deal of time in the basement of the library, poring through academic journals.
I went to parties and clubs and balls, but they were never my natural environment. The noise, the drinking, the dreadful groping in dark corners with unsuitable boys…feeling self-conscious, lacking confidence and just not fitting in.
At university I studied archaeology. I joined a team of researchers and excavated in Syria for some years through the 1990s. I have also excavated in Turkey and in the Australian states of Victoria and Tasmania.
I loved archaeology and digging in Syria was bliss.
Archaeology was my love, my passion and after considering other ways to remain involved in the field, such as materials conservation, (and failing in that because the chemistry involved, not my scene at all) I went back to research.
I enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Melbourne. That was a long 5 years. They started poorly with inadequate, unsupportive supervisors who laughed at my ideas. Mid-way through, a new member of staff took me on as a student and he was brilliant. I began to settle into my research but it’s a stressful, lonely occupation.
I isolated myself from friends, had no life outside the research and found my thoughts racing constantly. It was hard to sleep and I become exhausted with worry and uncertainty about the future.
I completed my PhD in 2001 but without the confidence to pursue an academic career.
I loved archaeology but I just couldn’t see how to make a career of it and my department offered no support or mentorship into an academic career. There was support for post-doc positions and by the end I felt left out in the cold and not sure where to turn.
Have you ever abandoned something you loved and regretted it for years after?
I am convinced that not having the confidence to pursue a career I loved contributed enormously to the chronic low mood which I had developed through my doctoral years.
It was like suffering a great loss, a bereavement almost. I was filled with regret, an overwhelming sense of sorrow, and I blamed myself entirely. I wasn’t good enough. I don’t try hard enough. I’m pathetic. I’m useless.
Somehow I found another possible career option and this was the first of many career changes I have had through my life.
I felt like a loser, that I was wasting my life because I found it impossible to settle into one career and develop it through my working life. At age 30 I had no house or apartment to call my own, a crappy old car, a good education and some interesting experiences, but I felt they were indulgent, that I wasn’t trying hard enough to be what people expected.
What followed were the worst years of the depression.