Wednesday, 24 April 2013

This is Everything

On Tuesday I will be lucky enough to meet both Tegan and Sara Quin both of whom mean so much to me. I promised myself that when this day eventually came I would not let this opportunity pass me by. I would write them a letter telling them everything I wanted to say, and so I have. You can read the letter below.

Dear Tegan and Sara,

Meeting you today is the culmination of a nine year dream. I am sure you get fan mail like this all the time, but I just want the opportunity to share the impact you have had on my life. You have touched me in such a profound way that you are more than mere role models, you have both been my emotional and spiritual guides through times both good and bad. Your music has been the soundtrack of my life and defined me as a human being.

Tegan and Sara are my band. You are the band of my decade. You are the band of my twenties. That stage of life when all of the possibilities are endless, and the search for identity is eternally frustrating. The decade that has marked more disappointments than victories, but with each victory it is 10,000 times more gratifying because I get to share it through your music. Actually, forget about the band of my decade: You are my once in a lifetime band.

I connect with each of you, particularly in an emotional way, not just through fan boy adulation but also through experience. I regard myself as emotionally fucked up in all the worst ways, unable to communicate my feelings properly unless shielded in a protective cocoon. But you know what? Your songs speak for me. You have taught me that it is okay to be emotionally vulnerable. You are strong enough and brave enough to communicate these feelings on my behalf. I cannot tell you how much that means to me.

Tonight will be the tenth time I have seen you live. My first experience was following you around Australia for three shows on The Con tour of 2007. Without a word of hyperbole I can safely say that seeing you live bordered on having a religious experience. There were tears, screaming, shouting, laughing and heart palpations. I quoted your lyrics like Bible verses. Seeing the band once was always destined to be a memorable experience one way or the other. Seeing you three times in four days however made it destined to be a spellbinding journey. The time I spent with you over those four days was undoubtedly the best time in my life. Sitting in the front row at the Enmore, where both of you could see me, and I could see you was so memorable that I can still remember every minute of the entire performance from five and a half years ago.

Ever since the moment I fell for both of you in June 2004 I have been wanting to thank you from the bottom of my heart: for making music that touches me deep inside my soul, for speaking up on my behalf when I cannot, for allowing your creative genius to be heard by the masses, but most importantly for being your unique selves which has given me a huge creative influence, and emotional catharsis.

You have done more for me than you can ever possibly realise.

Your Biggest Four Wheeled Fan:

Todd Winther

(AKA @toddocracy on Twitter)

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Kill the Dog: Advice on How to Treat Depression

After my own battles with the big black rabid bastard also known as Depression I like to share good bits of advice to combat the illness. Below is probably the best set of tips I have come across

1) Know that you’re not alone. Know that we are a silent legion, who, every day face the solipsism and judgement of Happy People Who Think We Just Aren’t Trying.  There are people who are depressed, people who have been depressed, and people who just haven’t been hit with it yet.

2) Understand that the Happy People are usually acting out of some genuine (albeit misguided) concern for you, that it’s coming from a good place, even if the advice feels like you’re being blamed for your disease. Telling you these things makes them feel better, even if it makes you feel like shit. (If they insist on keeping it up, see #12.)

3)Enlist the help of a professional.  See your doctor. You need to talk about the ugly shit, and there are people paid to listen and help you find your way to the light at the end of the tunnel. 

4) Understand that antidepressants will only do so much. They’re useful, they’ll level you out and give you the time you need to figure out your own path to getting well. They can be helpful. There are lots to choose from. They may not be for you, and even if they are, they take some time to kick in. Conversely, they may not be for you. Work with your doctor.

5) Pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, an activity you got joy from in the past and re-explore that.  Or, sign up for the thing you always wanted to try. There is a long history and link between depression and creativity. It’s a bright light of this condition, so utilize it to your best advantage.

6) Eat nutritionally sound, regular small meals. If you’re having trouble eating, try to focus on what you’d like to eat. I went through a whole six week episode of tomatoes and cream cheese on a bagel twice a day.  Conversely, if all you want to do is scarf down crap, try to off-ramp it by downing a V-8 and doing #9 for 15 minutes, and see how you feel. Chucking your blood sugar all over hell’s half acre is going to make you feel worse.

7) While you’re doing #3, get some blood work done. If you’re low on iron or vitamin D, or if your hormone levels are doing the Macarena… these can all contribute to zapping your energy or switching your mood to Bleak As Hell.

8)  If you’re in bed and the “insomnia hamsters”, as I like to call them, are on the wheel of your head, watch Nightly Business News on the ABC. This has the effect of Nyquil.  Swap out your coffee for herbal tea. If you just cannot sleep, try the next tip….

9) Learn how to meditate. Start by focusing on your breathing. Not sleep, not thoughts. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Meditation is focusing on being present in your body, not careening around in your brain. It may not be as good as sleep but it will give you some rest and recharge you.

10) Face a window as often as you can – at work, at home. Look out into the world. Watch. Observe. Try to find something you find pretty or interesting to focus on. And, handily remember that one in five of those people out there feel the way you do.

11) Cry. Better out than in. Sometimes it’s not convenient or career-enhancing to cry, so find a private place as best you can and let the tears go. Carry Kleenex and face wipes and extra concealer if you wear makeup. You can always claim allergies.

12) Any “friend” who resolutely believes that your depression is because you’re lazy, because you’re not trying hard enough, who blames you for not bootstrapping out of it- that friend needs to be cut off. Polite (#2) is one thing, but there is a limit. You don’t have to explain, you can just not respond. You feel badly enough, you don’t need their “assistance”.

13) Limit your time with people who drain you. You know who they are. Often you don’t have a choice- but you can put the meter on. And, subsequently, be aware of what you’re asking of those close to you.

14) Everyone has shit they’ve got to deal with. What you have been saddled with is your shit. Recognize, just as you’re not alone, you’re also not unique. The grass may look greener, you may be jealous or envious of others who don’t have to deal with depression, but you likely do not know everything that’s going on with them. 

15 )Let go or be dragged. This is an old Buddhist saying. It’s a very useful way to frame aspects of depression. Betrayal, anger, fear… letting go is a process – often a painful and difficult process - but it’s ultimately going to show you the path out of this terrible place. Repeating the mantra can help when you’re feeling gripped by these feelings.

16)Wear clothes that make you feel confident. It takes as much time to put on nice clothes as it does to put on sweatpants. You will want to wear the sweatpants. Fight the urge. The whole “look good/feel better” campaign isn’t limited to cancer and chemotherapy. Or women.

17) Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague.  You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only.  Or trashy stuff. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books.  Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.

18)  Simple exercise, if you can. It can be something as simple as taking the stairs up a flight, or walking around the block. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t have to involve climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Baby steps.

19) Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking.  That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. “I am not a psychic”.  Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them.

20)  If you are well and truly losing this battle, reach out to someone. I’ve been the random friendly-but-not-close person who has fielded the occasional outreach. I like to think I’m not judgemental and generally resourceful, and others have thought the same, so they called and asked. You know someone like me. And they will help you.

21) Forgive yourself. I’m writing out all these tips, and I can’t always muster the strength to even stick my nose outside, or walk up the stairs, or eat my vegetables. Today, I got outside for ten minutes. I will try again tomorrow. And I will try again the day after that.

Monday, 8 April 2013


Those that follow my social networking pages will already be aware that Roger Ebert died this past Friday. His loss has left a large void in my life for a very simple reason. For the past 17 years I would watch a movie and then without fail gauge my reaction based upon Ebert’s opinion. He was my guide through the film world. He probably had the greatest influence on me as a taste maker than anybody has ever had, despite the fact that we sometimes disagreed. He was, and will always be a cultural icon.

On a different level Ebert was also a literary inspiration, particulary as he adapted to writing blogs. Unlike any other creature of ‘the old media’ he adapted to the online community better than any other of his contemporaries. In an unfortunate coincidence just about the time he was devouring these new technological advances Ebert lost the ability to speak. The power of his written words became even more precious and he knew it.

My favourite piece of Ebert’s writing is not even a movie review, but rather an unflinching portrait of his own alcoholism. He also wrote about love unlike any other person I’ve ever come across.

Unfortunately in Australia we weren’t blessed to see Ebert’s version of At The Movies, but Margaret and David owe a great debt to his partnership with fellow Chicago film critic Gene Siskel, because they pioneered the 'frenemy film critic' banter that has now become a staple of film criticism on TV.

I can’t write too much more because the loss still affects me deeply more than 72 hours after I first heard it. Instead, I’ll remind you of two great things: his excellent taste in movies, and his razor sharp wit.

I will miss his writing every single day.    

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Wanting the Unwanted

Late last week my fourth month of independent living commenced. To celebrate I have written almost 5,000 words on the Hawke era for my thesis over the past 6 days, working two thirds of my conscious time on average. I guess that’s the freedom I was seeking when I started this journey.

In between repeated diagonosies of ‘information overload’ and tiredness, there have been some bright spots: trivia victories and defeats, finally getting to know Brisbane and getting to do things on my own. Don’t confuse this with ‘by myself’. There’s something magical about hopping into town under ones own steam, having lunch and returning back home without having it as intricately choreographed like a 17th century Opera.

Now that I am finally settled in, I’ve reluctantly decided to try and make another concerted effort to date again, despite my best efforts to avoid it. Unfortunately, even though I’ve tried to get other things that I want more, and I’m still confronting the same problems as last time, it is a bigger issue than it needs to be, probably due to my lack of meaningful experiences. It FEELS like a necessity for absolutely no reason and at the same time it is both a touchstone and a building block for my self esteem. I see people who seemingly have less than I do, happier than I am (although I’m a long way from where I was) and I wonder what makes them so special? What do they have that I am missing? These questions should probably make a difference of say 5% if I had to quantify it, but to me it feels more like 20% and I can never work out why: though 80% is still okay considering I’ve never reached 100% of comfort in 29.5 years.

Now that I'm healthy again, I owe it to myself to try and attain perfection, even though its unlikely to ever happen. Quite a good microcosm for my life actually...