Category Archives for "Uncategorised" On the mend
Jun 04

Life Story Part 3: Feeling Happier…In China!

By Vickie | Uncategorised


Yes, after the previous Really Bad Years of depression, talking to the doctor and the psychologist and getting advice and taking an antidepressant, citalopram (celexa, cipramil), I felt happier and more optimistic than I had for years.

Life took a turn for the better. I took on some small business clients who had the money to pay and the expectations to go with it. I felt a bit more optimistic that I could make it work, but in reality, working with these businesses caused me a great deal of worry.

I was still filled with doubts about my own abilities, lacked confidence in myself and my processes and let my clients feed my insecurities. Even though I had more clients, the stress of the job was still hard to deal with and I didn’t cope well with unexpected obstacles in the migration process. On the mend

RIP Frances.

Frances got me through. That beautiful soul with her gorgeous dark eyes, soft cuddly fur and adorable nature got me through some dark times. While I didn’t care about myself, her need for walks was the only reason I got out of the house at all. I did eventually seek professional medical and psychological help, but without my furry girl by my side I’m sure I would have sunk even lower.

And then she died.

I cried, deep, gut-wrenching sobs every day for exactly three months. I went to bed and didn’t get up for a fortnight.

In the months following Frances’ death I managed to conclude all of the active client immigration applications and began to temp full-time as a receptionist as I had through uni.

I felt very reckless in those months after Frances left me. 

Part of me felt that nothing really mattered any more; that is, that with Franny’s death died the part of me which always did the sensible thing, the right thing, what everyone would expect and accept. 

Suddenly I didn’t care.

At my receptionist jobs I spent hours (between phone calls) thinking about what would make me truly happy. 

What did I really want to do with my life?  How could I regain some of the joy that had been lost?

The joy which I gave away with archaeology.  The bliss.

I wanted to be as far away as I could from that horrible life in that horrible house and began to research teaching English as a Second Language and working overseas.

I’ve always enjoyed languages, reading and writing. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between language and culture and learning where words come from.

It seemed a good choice.

I completed a certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Armed with my freshly minted certificate, I turned my attention to the overseas teaching job posts.

There seemed to be so many job opportunities in so many countries. There was a lot of information to get through; which course should I do? Did I need teaching experience? Where should I go?

With my background in archaeology, I thought Egypt might be fun (all those antiquities)! I got a phone interview with the British Council in Cairo, but it was for a summer job with children and without any teaching experience, I didn’t get the job.

I turned my attention to countries in my region. It came down to Japan, Korea and China. There were so many jobs to choose from. As I look further into them, I noticed that Korean employers had a question on their application forms: Have you ever taking medication for depression?

This took me aback a bit. Why would they ask that? Why should that affect my ability to teach? Was it any of their business?

Korea was removed from the list.

Japan…I had no knowledge about Japan but it seemed such a tiny, crowded place. I read about how Japan had a massive program for bringing native-English speakers into schools and universities, but that somehow there was a scandal attached to it. Had they not paid their teachers? I was doubtful.

Japan was removed from the list.

That left China.

China. Hmmm.

It’s a massive country. There are dozens of universities and colleges in every city. Each had many English teaching jobs advertised, each with their own terms and conditions. I was thoroughly confused.

I opened an atlas and closed my eyes. I made circles above the map of China with the index finger and then just dropped it down.

Inner Mongolia.

Huh! Inner Mongolia…was that even part of China?

I got a job at the Inner Mongolia College of Finance and Economics in the capital, Huhahaote.

It was a wonderful, if challenging experience and I was happier there than I had been in years. Inner Mongolia

“Mongolian style” architecture, Huhahaote, Inner Mongolia, China

Huhahaote is a smallish city by Chinese standards, easy to get around in with views of the mountains in each direction. There is a substantial ethnic Mongolian population and street signs and architecture bear evidence of Mongolian language and culture. The sky was clear blue, the grasslands were boundless and green, the temperature was below zero for much of the year…one of those challenges for this Aussie girl!

My colleagues were friendly, Saul from South Australia, Tod from the US, Peter from Canada and Alcoholic John from the UK. Our Chinese English language colleagues were also kind and approachable. The grounds of the college were under construction so it was like working in a construction site, but my apartment was warm and comfortable.

The students were lovely and so grateful for everything we did. I didn’t speak a word of Chinese, but they teaching English in China

End of semester lunch with one of my classes, Huhahaote, China

took me out to dinners where we laughed and played drinking games, into the city to hotpot restaurants and karaoke, out walking in the hills and grasslands around the city.

I found a gym in town where I worked out three times a week and took Mongolian dance classes. There

Three dogs, the Puppy, the Twitchy One and the Dirty Dog in my Huhahaote apartment.

was a small circle of apartment dogs we all fed and often my apartment was full of stray dogs and puppies who wandered about the campus. I fed them daily and they slept inside overnight, especially through winter. Having dogs around has always made my feel happier.

I still had moody days, blue days and often found it hard to keep my environment as clean as I would have liked, I missed home and my family.  I thought about Franny frequently.

But I felt a heck of a lot happier than those really bad of depression.

The students were sweet and as a foreign teacher I was treated like royalty. I felt valued in the work, believed I was making a difference, traveled around China and enjoyed seeing all those fascinating places and learning about the culture and history and overall, felt…well…happy. Or at least, happier.


And I began to wonder…

Am I to be taking anti-depressant medication for the rest of my life?  Was I still sick?

Click here for the final part of my Life Story

Save anti-depressants
Jun 04

Life Story Part 4: Does Freedom From Depression Mean Anti-Depressants Forever?

By Vickie | Uncategorised


Am I to be taking anti-depressants for the rest of my life?

The thought worried me. I had always been a little uneasy with the idea of being sick. Certainly, I didn’t feel very good, but did I feel unwell?

Chronic low mood is cruel reality for many people. I felt ‘pressed down’ every day, like I was just getting through my day bearing a heavy weight across my shoulders. Tears were never far away. I was sleep deprived, my mind was constantly racing, I worried constantly about money and the future. Emotionally I felt drained; overwhelmed with sadness, regret frustration and dissatisfaction with myself and with my life.

I didn’t like myself very much. I hated that despite my privileges I couldn’t seem to get my act together. I wondered from occupation to occupation, never sticking at anything for more than a few years. I felt like a loser, hopeless, not good enough. I pounded my mind everyday with nasty, nasty lies.

No, chronic low mood is no fun at all. It’s a devastating, cruel, debilitating way to live.

But still, despite knowing that there was ‘something wrong’ with how I was feeling, I didn’t identify as sick.

Going to the doctor that day I was ill with the flu gave me a strong sense of relief. At last, I wasn’t keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself. I was grateful for the medication. I wanted it to work because I so, so wanted to feel better.

If taking medication and therefore believing I had some kind of sickness would take away these dreadful feelings, I was in.

I stared at my salvation, that tiny white pill in the palm of my hand. I swallowed it with a gulp of cold water.

I felt better immediately. I had no idea how antidepressants worked. I thought they were like antibiotics or even pain killers. The relief of taking action!

And I was one of the lucky ones, no side effects either. Of course, I didn’t know there could even be side-effects. The doctor gave me no information about antidepressants or how they were thought to work.

Life was on the up and up. I was treating my illness and seeing the kindly psychologist weekly for tea and a chat.

I took my citalopram every day for 6 months. Then I stopped because I thought I was cured. I felt better. I was still running the business but I had some new clients. They caused me a huge amount of stress but at least I had more money.

My mood dropped as those clients made bigger demands of me than my little business could sustain and before too long the wonderful new clients I thought I had won left me for big legal firms.

I went back to the doctor. Obviously I wasn’t well enough to cope with everyday life. I got another prescription.

Then I did it again. Life seemed to be improving and I was feeling better. I met a bunch of new friends through business networking who were also building businesses and I felt re-energised and optimistic.

But it didn’t translate to change on the ground. In reality, I was still not sleeping well, I still had racing and worried thoughts. My emotions still left me winded and breathless.

I went back to the doctor. Obviously I wasn’t well enough to cope with everyday life. I got another prescription. This time I promised to take the pills forever. Clearly I had some abnormality in my brain that needed constant medical treatment. I bought into the disease model of depression.

I was a depressed person. I was sick and needed drugs to keep me functioning in the real world.

Finally, I close the business and retrained as an English teacher. I went to China and packed two years worth of the little white pills. I’d be back in Australia after that and could pick up some more, which I did, but not enough, as it turned out.

I ran out of medication while in China. The supply I had brought from Australia was not quite enough to cover my last remaining months.

I left China in July 2012 and after travelling briefly around the province I was living in, and visiting my late uncle in France, I returned home to Melbourne, having been off the anti-depressants for about three months.

But I really felt good, great even. Normal.

Perhaps whatever was wrong with my brain had been fixed by the drugs.

I got a job teaching at one of Melbourne’s prestigious universities.

In 2013 something very exciting happened. I published my doctoral research for a general reading audience! This was a project I had longed to complete, but my low mood and negative self-talk robbed me of the energy to buckle down and get it done.

I had to rewrite large chunks of the theory so that it would be more accessible to non-archaeologists. It was a big job and I was pretty tired, though happy, by the end.

I uploaded it to Amazon and then, even more excitingly, I was chosen to launch my brand new book at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival! This is the pre-eminent event for Melbourne, known as the City of Literature.

And yet, I felt something I hadn’t felt for a while…

Self-doubt. Uncertainty. Fear.

I was excited, but it was tinged with more worry than I had anticipated, a lack of self-confidence that I hadn’t felt for some time but was all too familiar.

The launch went well but I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t prepare a speech properly and I had no marketing or publicity plans. People seemed happy and were very congratulatory, but I couldn’t banish the feeling that I could have done better.

The old negative thoughts were returning.

My mood was taking a dip yet again.

During this time I also felt more and more uncomfortable at work. “You’re not a real teacher!” my mind started telling me. Most of my colleagues had masters degrees in teaching and years of experience. I didn’t really understand English grammar all that well.

Classes made me feel insecure. When a student asked a question I turned to face the board, mumbling something about “We’ll look at that next lesson…”

I wasn’t really a teacher. I was an imposter.

I couldn’t keep up with lesson preparation and marking. I became short-tempered and irritable. I lost patience with the organisation and the students, plodding home after work, stressed and exhausted to fall weeping into bed, dreading the next day when I’d have to do it all over again. It was never like this in China.

Despite not feeling very well, I was determined not to go back on the anti-depressants.

I began reading, scouring the internet for information about anything that might have an anti-depressant effect.

I read that having low magnesium levels might be a contributing factor to low mood so I bought a large tub of magnesium tablets.

No real change.

Being low in vitamins B and D could also be a problem so two more large tubs joined the magnesium in the bathroom cabinet.

Still not feeling that different.

Valerian and Evening Primrose Oil were my next choices and although I thought I might be sleeping a little better, they didn’t really have a major effect on my depression.

St John’s Wort was the final supplement and really, it didn’t have much of an effect either.

Perhaps I had the doses wrong.

And then, suddenly, I just got really angry.

Angry with the depression. Angry with the medication. Angry with myself for still being ill.

And pretty angry with the fact that no one, not the doctor, not the psychologist I had been seeing, had prepared me for this.

No one had told me that anti-depressants don’t actually make the depression go away, unless, that is, you stay on them forever. Or so it appeared to me.

Maybe anti-depressants do work for some people. Perhaps I was just unlucky. Perhaps I misunderstood the health professionals who were trying to help me.

I felt let down by the medical model. The doctor told me I was sick and gave me a pharmaceutical solution. It worked. The fact that right at the beginning I felt so good and when I thought I was cured, stopped taking them and the ‘symptoms’ came back proves they worked, doesn’t it?

I began reading about antidepressants and came across four astonishing pieces of information:

  1. Nearly half the people prescribed antidepressants experience no relief at all
  2. The placebo effect of antidepressants is almost as strong as that of the active drug
  3. Taking action, getting help and expecting to be offered a solution is an effective mood booster
  4. Stress is the origin of depression, not an imbalance of chemicals

I suddenly realised why I felt so good after seeking professional help for my mood all those years ago. I realised why I felt relief after speaking with the doctor and psychologist. I also realised why the good feeling didn’t last. 

Talking about the way I was feeling to a sympathetic and supportive person was enormously relieving. Not to have to carry this burden alone, but to share my fears, doubts and uncertainties was such a good feeling. The medications gave me hope. They don’t seem to have had any physical effect or made an practical difference, but the idea that I could feel different was a light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. I closed the business, thus eliminating the one massive cause of stress in my life and things looked up very quickly after that.

When I calmed down, I put the supplements away and did three things.

I began to think.

It occurred to me that if I just decided to be well, and made it happen, that perhaps I didn’t need something ‘external’ to me, like anti-depressant medication or supplements, to make me feel better.

Perhaps I could just decide that I was going to change myself, my thoughts and behaviours, and just choose not to be depressed.

This was a massive shift in the way I thought about depression and my experience of chronically low mood.

I began to read.

I began to read about neuro-plasticity. I learned that the brain changes in response to actions we take, experiences we have and also to the way we think about and respond to those actions and experiences.

I began to reflect…

I reflected on the times I felt good, or at least better than normal…

I enjoyed going for a walk, especially to dog park where I got a little canine therapy too.

During the five years I was going to the hot hot summer of Syria I missed the gloomy grey winters of Melbourne and I realised that warm sunny days made me feel a lot better.

I had taken up salsa with a tiny group of eight people and loved every class. We had a lot of laughs and the music was fabulous.

Reworking my thesis into a book for a general reading audience was an accomplishment which made me feel very good.

A counsellor friend had introduced me to an odd little method called Emotional Freedom Technique which helped conquer negative thought patterns.

Just sitting in fast food restaurants made me unhappy. Fresh light meals, delicious flavours, interesting combinations of ingredients…these made me feel good.

I know I always felt better when I’d had a good night’s sleep.

Hmmm….could I use these strategies in place of anti-depressants?

Sunshine…Adequate sleep…Human contact…EFT…Exercise…Music and dancing…Dogs…Making a contribution through meaningful work…A good diet…

These were a few of my favourite things and what’s more they made me feel good and kept my depression symptoms at bay!

I began to play with different kinds of exercise and lengths of time.

I experimented with different times of going to bed and waking up.

Some days I took my morning coffee out into the sunshine and on others, my afternoon tea.   

After spending time with loved ones or friends vs time alone, I’d reflect on my mood and feelings.

I knew I was onto something. anti-depressants

The first breakthrough came when I read Dr Steven Ilardi’s The Depression Cure, which describes how he and his team from the Department of Psychology at the University of Kansas realised that it may be our modern lifestyle which has contributed to such high levels of depression seen in the developed world.

Based on years of research by anthropologists among communities living a hunter-gatherer way of life, Professor Ilardi proposes that it is our sedentary, isolationist lifestyle, together with poor sleep and dependence on processed food which is the cause of the rising levels of depression in wealthy western nations.

Lives that are filled with social connection, physical movement, healthy food, quality sleep and meaningful, value-filled activity are those that will have the same effect on depression symptoms as anti-depressants.

I finally stopped thinking of myself as sick. I moved away from the medical model of depression.

Sure, depression is real. It’s horribly real. But it’s not a sickness, not to my mind anyway.

It’s what happens when stressful events are present in your life and when your thinking patterns and the way you talk to yourself are not effective at handling that stress.

Depression may also occur when you’ve lost social connection, aren’t doing enough exercise and are eating poorly. Inadequate sleep, lack of motivation and problems with thinking and memory all sustain a depressive mood.

Eliminating depression a matter of finding a way to make that ‘hunter-gatherer’ lifestyle your lifestyle, to decide to make those changes.

These days, my lifestyle looks a bit like this:

I take 3 regular brisk walks each week. In addition to that, I have made a decision to leave the car at home whenever I can, and use my local shops and facilities. I also walk with my father at the park; this is much slower because he has moderate dementia, but it’s still movement, it’s still outdoors and there’s still the opportunity for meeting other people and passing the time of day (all essential to a depression-free life).

I ensure I see friends or family at least twice per week. That might be a coffee or lunch with a friends on the weekend and a phone call with my brother who lives interstate. Or a movie on a Monday with a friend and a visit to Mum on the weekend.

Omega 3 supplements support my brain health and I enjoy a delicious and easy-to-prepare Mediterranean diet.

Dogs are very important to me and I get plenty of ‘canine therapy’ through walking and pet-sitting through my online profile with a dog-sitting company.

When I visit Dad in the care facility where he lives now, I always speak and share a laugh with the other residents. I know some never have visitors. It’s no effort for me to do this and I think it may just brighten their day a little. It makes me feel good to do something nice for others, even a simple thing like saying a cheerful “Hello, how are you?” and sharing a happy smile.

I ensure I get adequate, good quality sleep by sleeping and waking at roughly the same time (not exactly with the sun…but something like that).

I enjoy a range of new and interesting experiences such as seeing a new exhibition at the gallery, reading a fascinating book, stopping to listen to a street musician, admiring someone’s garden, hearing about my friend’s recent trip to country, watching a quality documentary on television…being open and curious about the world!

Being aware of how I’m thinking and reacting is important too and I use Emotional Freedom Techniques to keep negative thoughts under control.

Yes, I certainly know it is possible to live without depressive symptoms AND without anti-depressant medication.

I believe with the right tools, resources and support, you can turn around your depression symptoms without needing medication1.

It’s a matter of finding a way to make your lifestyle ‘antidepressant’, to decide to make those lifestyle changes.

How has choosing a lifestyle free of chronic low mood enabled me to live a much more rewarding, happier life?

In 2014 I decided to go to a large archaeology conference in the US; something I never ever thought I’d do because I left the academic world of archaeology behind so long ago.

But thanks to my newfound confidence I created a poster of my research and presented along with all the 20-something year old university students and I felt great! It didn’t matter that I was nearly twice their age.

Recently I travelled to Jordan and Israel and participated in archaeological digs in those fascinating and ancient countries. What a dream come true! I never thought I get my trowel in the ground again and there I was, among people both younger and older than me; it was an unforgettable experience and one I plan to replicate in the near future!

Archaeology won’t be a career choice, but I’m able to indulge in my passion without criticising myself for ‘wasting time’. It’s my hobby and brings me a great deal of happiness.

Reconnecting with archaeology is my way of reconnecting with my bliss. What would you like to reconnect with that would give you back your bliss? anti-depressants

Dogs have always been a very important part of my life!

I also created a dog-walking and dog-sitting business which enables me to get lots of canine therapy with dogs of all ages, sizes and shapes and get paid for it too!

…and I’ve developed this website to share what I’ve learned.

None of this would have been possible even five years ago.

Strong, empowered, clear headed, able to cope with things that life throws my way, such as my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and a recent close family bereavement. 

Now and then I have a blue day, a weepy day comes that from out of nowhere, but I know that having sad, unpleasant or unwanted emotions is just part of being human and I have the strategies now to get rid of it so that my mood doesn’t spiral downwards again.

I have learned that having a healthy lifestyle, a nutritious diet and a values-driven, meaningful life can help push the symptoms of depression away. I’m in my mid-40s. I have maintained a stable mood, fought procrastination, knocked low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, self-doubt and uncertainty on the head.

Today, life is wonderful!

It’s taken some doing, but life is now very rewarding, in all sorts of ways.

Thanks to my new-found resilience I am able to cope much better when life throws its challenges my way, like coping with my father’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. He has really taught me a lot about living in the moment.

Life is for living and giving and being fulfilling!

If you feel you are struggling with chronic low mood, don’t stay in that place. Get help today. With the help of effective means of controlling negative thought, regular exercise and socialising, a new diet and adequate sunlight and sleep, purpose and meaning in life, I now life free of chronic low mood. I feel like I’m OK. I like myself now. You can too.

I’ve worked out what works and it’s taken some years.

Don’t wait years for relief. Get help now.

Send me an email today and ask how I can help you regain your bliss! persistent depressive disorder


  1. Please remember that on this website I am talking about chronic low mood, sometimes diagnosed as persistent depressive disorder, formerly known as dysthymia, which is a chronic form of depression. It is very distressing to live with, but may allow some day-to-day functioning and decision-making. I am grateful that I have never suffered with major depression, bipolar depression or depression with psychosis and I am not recommending that an anti-depressant lifestyle is necessarily going to work for you if you have been diagnosed with any of these illnesses. It may, but you must seek medical advice. You must also seek medical advice immediately if you are considering harming yourself.



Save hate exercise
Jun 04

I Hate Exercise

By Vickie | Get Moving , Uncategorised


I do. I hate exercise. I always have and suspect I always will.

That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the health benefits of exercise. I understand that sitting around all day is really not good for one’s physical, or, as it turns out, one’s mental health.

I was a skinny, weak little kid. My congenital heart defect meant that my lungs did not send enough oxygenated blood around my limbs, leaving me lethargic and lacking in energy.

Finally I had open-heart surgery at age 7, which enabled me to live beyond the age of about 20, for which I am very grateful. I remember after being bed-ridden and molly-coddled by my mother after my heart operation, finally racing outside and up the big oak tree near our house.

At 14 my mother told me to stand up straight. I stared at her and said I was.

“No”, she replied, “Your right shoulder is higher’.

I pulled up my shoulder and raised my right hip. Everything seemed a bit out of whack. It seemed I had Vickie Clayton Life Story

When I see how crooked I am, I really can’t believe the scoliosis wasn’t picked up earlier.

developed a severe scoliosis so familiar to many tall skinny people.

Yay! Back to hospital with me from which I emerged with a leather covered metal back brace (complete with plastic covered arm straps) which I wore for 6 months.

School sport was characterized by a mutual dislike and distrust of physical education teachers.

They disliked me and I loathed them.

One teacher told me to remove the t-shirt I wore under my sleeveless gym dress.

“It’s just with this brace, the straps are plastic and they rub on my underarms”, I tried to explain.
The teacher scowled. “Well, you’re going to get very hot”.

Thanks for pointing that out, oh-so-caring sports teacher who should have picked up my postural problems long before.

So my relationship with physical activity has been strained to say the least.

I was clumsy, unco-ordinated and couldn’t catch a ball to save my life. Netball and tennis made me feel inadequate (I was always put in the goal because of my height, but I couldn’t save a ball to save my life), hockey freaked me out (those wooden sticks and hard, hard ball), I nearly drowned in the swimming pool and point-blank refused to haul myself over the high jump bar.

The only physical activity I quite enjoyed was riding my bike and climbing trees. Something about the sense of freedom?

Whatever your physical condition, some sort of movement is essential for mental health.

Why is exercise so important for raising one’s mood?

As well as increasing blood flow to the brain, exercise also releases the body’s own antidepressant, endorphins.

People with depression are also lacking in another chemical, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes memory and general brain health. Exercise has been shown to increase levels of this vital neurotransmitter.

How to get started with exercise when you’re feeling low and lacking in energy?

The trick is…well there are three tricks:

1/ Start small

You’re not running in the marathon next week, so you don’t need to start training like an Olympic athlete. A brisk walk of 15 minutes three times per week is an excellent start. Try to build up to 30 minutes over the following few weeks. exercise

Walking with a human or canine companion (or both!) is a great form of exercise.

2/ Make it enjoyable

While you’re walking, listen to your favourite music or comedy podcast, walk with a friend, or treat yourself to coffee and even a cake (after all, this is not about weight loss; it’s about creating serotonin) at the end.

3/ Schedule the time

Use your diary or phone to factor in three sessions of walking this week and at least one on the weekend. Once you have committed the time you are more likely to stick with your plan.

One brisk walk will make you feel good for some time after, but for ongoing mental health, you need to make exercise part of your weekly schedule.

Get moving and lift your mood!

Go on. Start. Start today. Start now.

Your brain will thank you! exercise

Your Brain Is A Muscle; Use It Or Lose It!


1 6 7 8