lost connections

“Professor Andrew Scull of Princeton, writing in the Lancet, explained that attributing depression to spontaneously low serotonin is “deeply misleading and unscientific”. Dr David Healy told me: “There was never any basis for it, ever. It was just marketing copy.”

I didn’t want to hear this. Once you settle into a story about your pain, you are extremely reluctant to challenge it. It was like a leash I had put on my distress to keep it under some control. I feared that if I messed with the story I had lived with for so long, the pain would run wild, like an unchained animal. Yet the scientific evidence was showing me something clear, and I couldn’t ignore it.”

From an extract from Johann Hari’s new book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions. I’ve ordered it from my library.

this is the end

“Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

It might sound like something straight out of a horror movie, but for 38 minutes terrified Hawaiian residents thought the world was going to end.

At 8:07am on Saturday (local time), locals and tourists on the small island woke up to a message that many have feared amid North Korea’s development of a ballistic nuclear weapon.

Panicked residents gathered family members, ran out onto the streets and desperately sought shelter as they awaited the attack.

Cars were reportedly abandoned on highways and people who were outside at the time hid in the homes of neighbours as others prepared to flee.

Those watching television also had their broadcasts interrupted by the ballistic missile threat alert, according to NBC.

I can’t stop thinking about this and what people did during those 38 minutes where they thought it was the end. I imagine phone calls reconciling broken relationships, and millions of messages of love.

Last year I was reminded that that any one of our lives could end at any time, and therefore to cherish every moment. Hopefully this message is realised by those who unfortunately had to be part of this unfortunate technological blunder.

the biology of desire

9781925113914“If the brain region that allows us to imagine the future is synched with the brain regions that propel us toward our goals, and if that linkage is practised and reinforced, so that synaptic highways become smooth and efficient, then addiction need be no more than a stage in the development of the self. And that often seems to be exactly what it is. Despite the misery they may have experienced, quite a few former addicts have told me that they wouldn’t be who they are now without the struggles they endured while trying to quit. As a neuroscientist, I view this passage the way a city planner might recall the construction of an overpass to relieve snarled traffic. As a developmentalist, I see it as a vivid instance of the role of suffering in individual growth. And as someone who has known addiction personally, I recognise it as the bounce our lives can take when they hit bottom once too often.”

from The Biology of Desire by Marc Lewis, a fascinating book that explains addiction as a part of regular human development and desire. 💯

2017 in review

We moved house in May to save on rent and to continue spending as much time as possible with the boys. Clare contracted necrostising facisitis during our move which meant she was suddenly fighting for her life in intensive care. During the longest time we’d ever spent apart, looking after our boys who’d she’d never spent a night apart from, I thought it was the worst year of my life. But it turned out to be the best year of my life because we got to keep Clare. Everything else became unimportant. Started meditating. Somehow suddenly stopped biting my finger nails for the first time in my life.

Time meditating: 86 sessions 13.5 hours
Trips abroad: 6
Countries visited 4: NZ x 2, Malaysia, Singapore, USA x 3
Books read: 37
Books abandoned: 4
Mountains climbed: 22
Firsts: 4 (saw my first red-sunflower, first time looking after the boys myself without Clare, first time meditating, first time not biting my finger nails everyday)

our kids’ quotes 2017

It’s that time of year which means I can finally publish the list of quotes we’ve collected from our boys throughout the year.

This year Junior Pixels was 7 turning 8, Little Bear was 5 turning 6, and Little Whale turned 4 during the year. So many classics this year it’s too hard to pick favourites.

See quotes from 2016, 2015 and 2014.

In no particular order:

Orson looking very serious:
“Mama don’t jump forever if you have no undies on. Your pants will fall down!”

Finley (biting into a freshly made toasted sandwich):
“oh Mama; the taste of happiness”

Finley: “The cup of tea at the park was a great idea. Lucky we have the furnace (Thermos)”

(In Byron bay)
Finley: “Mama, what are party herbs?”

Mama: “boys would you like one of the special cereals I bought? I have rice bubbles or nutri grain left…”
Winston: “oh nutri-gubble for me!”

Orson: “Papa, when I grow up I don’t want to be a policeman anymore. I want to be a writer: someone who writes stories”
Finley: “but you’re already a great writer Orson”

Driving to school.
Mama: “look there’s the police getting coffees”
Finley: “cops with coffee”
Orson: “why do cops love coffee so much Mama?”

Winston: “Nana is funny”
Mama: “is she?”
Winston: “she tells me funny things. She thinks everything is normal but it’s not normal”

Orson & fin in the shower
Orson: “ahhh mama the shower is getting hot! It’s burning! I’m going to boil & turn into a cup of coffee!”

Orson: “I’ve been doing really well eating my dinner. Something’s I don’t like. But I sit down and look at it. I ask my brain ‘do I like this?’ And it decides. Then it tells me what I can eat.”

Papa: “Why do you need help cleaning your teeth Orson?”
Orson: “Because of my brain. It’s telling me to do other things”

Orson: “my brain is telling me that it’s tired and that I can’t do anything more”
Finley: “it’s not his brain telling him that, his brain isn’t separate from his body”

Winston (screaming loudly and pointing):
“That man has a smoker (cigarette)! He’s going to die! He will cough and die! Look!”

(Pointing at ornate church)
Orson: “Papa is that god’s castle?”

Orson: “Mama do you know I can spot cows out the window”
Mama: “wow. How do you do that?”
Orson: “I know they are cows because they have tails like lions…horses have pony tails”

Eating dinner
 “Papa we went to the museum and saw ships in the dry dock. And we saw the pontoon where nana and grandpa saw a guy that the police were trying to capture.”
Papa: “wow that sounds like an exciting day”
Orson: “yes the guy had escaped and the police were trying to get him. Nana said he wasn’t at jail just probably escaped from the bad guy farm.”
Mama: “what’s the bad guy farm?”
Orson: “oh nana told us about it- not where the really bad guys go, just little bit bad”
Finley: “yeah, not like jail where you go if you kill someone but when you’re just a bit bad you go to work on the bad guy farm”
Mama: “oh. That makes sense…”

Papa: “What do you do when you’re frustrated Winnie?”
Winnie: “I eat!”

Orson (in bed very tired after a long day):
“and my new kicks (shoes) didn’t even arrive today!”

Orson: “your tongue is pink because your taste bunks (buds) are pink, and they’re trying to camouflage”

Winston hiccuping in the back seat of car.
Winston: “Mama I think I have hair-cups. See- it makes you do dis (hiccups).”

Finley (after reading a 1970s sea life library book and wondering about whether ‘alarmingly low fur seal populations’ had recovered or were now extinct. After looking it up we discovered they were doing okay in islands near Chile. Finley was elated)
“Some creatures, their poplee-ation can just got down and down and until the get es-tinct. In David Attenborough a farmer gave a possum skin to the museum that he thought they’d be interested in. And the museum people said they had thought it was es-tinct but they looked in the area near the farm and it wasn’t. You don’t need to give up- you just need to keep looking.
I’m so glad the fur seal is not es-tinct- I can go to sleep now.”

Winston (singing lying in bed before going to sleep):
“the ants go marching one by one, galah! Galah! The ants go marching two by two, galah! Galah!”

Orson telling papa about his park trip.
Orson: “and papa it was very camouflage but I saw a tawny frog mouse in the trees!”

Orson: “Winnie- let’s do cheers with our trollies!”

Winston: “Mama do you love me when I’m not around?”
Mama: “of course I will always love you and miss you”
Winston: “and then I will come back”

Winston: “Mama cola makes you rotten”

Orson: “Winston gekkcos are oc-tour-nal. That means they come out at night like possums.”

Winston (seeing a bush turkey): “Mama, did you know turkeys make turkey (Turkish) bread? I know that”

Orson riding his bike
Orson: “Mama, did you know that the more you ride bikes the more you will know about cars?”

Winston playing with his turtle in car after park.
Winston: “do turtles go to the bottom of the sea?”
Mama: “yes I think so.”
Winston: “mama do they have playgrounds under the sea?”
Mama: “I don’t thinks so darling, maybe rocks & coral to swim around.”
Winston: “no. I think they have playgrounds down there.”

Orson: “Mama was so ‘steaked’ (stoked) that I got this book at school”

Orson: “you don’t believe in me” (you don’t believe I’m telling the truth)

Mama: (sniffing) “oh Winston did you just fart? So stinky.”
Winston: “it was a gnome. A gnome did it.”

Winston: “what are we having for dinner mama?”
Mama: “roast”
Winston: “oh I love graby! (gravy)”

*** BONUS ***

Winston: “Why do they call them brownies when they’re actually black. They should call them blackies.”

Winston: “Orson said the f-word. Don’t say the f-word Orson!”
Orson: “what the fuck is the f-word Winston?”

a midlife “unravelling”

“People call what happens at midlife “a crisis” but it’s not. It’s an unraveling—a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. The unravelling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.”

Brené Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection

just say no

“Just say no” (to drugs, gambling, eating, sex etc) is the least helpful advice that you can say to a human being caught up in any addiction. If they could say no, they would. The whole point of addiction is that people are compelled to it by suffering, trauma, unease, and emotional pain. If you want to help people, ask why they are in so much pain that they are driven to escape from it through ultimately self-harming habits or substances. Then support them in healing the trauma at the core of their addiction, a process that always starts with nonjudgemental curiosity and compassion.

~ Dr Gabor Maté

bald rock national park

On the second day of my two day trip to the granite belt I visited Bald Rock National Park. The park is home to bald rock which is Australia’s largest granite monolith. It’s hard to describe just how huge this thing is, and how small it made me feel. Even after visiting the Giraween pyramids the previous day which I thought were huge in themselves, climbing up Bald Rock was breathtaking. There’s two routes to the summit: a longer winding gradual track through forest or straight up the slab: I just went straight up.

Hanging around the top and having the rock all to myself made me feel like I was on top of the world. An amazing piece of nature and history.



giraween 2017

I spent yesterday exploring Giraween National Park which sits on the Queensland side of the New South Wales border about 3 hours south west of Brisbane.

The area is known for its large granite formations of around 220 million years ago.

Giraween offers some amazing hiking: I managed to do 29km in a day which included climbing to the top of The Pyramid and Castle Rock, as well as exploring some creeks and seeing some rock formations like the Granite Arch.

The weather was rather spectacular with temperatures around 28 degrees Celsius and clear sunny skies.

I’d like to head back at some point and try to climb the second pyramid, but I need some company to do that safely.

🗣 sleep

This is an account of a talk I gave at my local Toastmasters club last night. The intention of the talk was to incorporate facts and research.

Thank you Mr Toastmaster. Good evening Toastmasters and special guests.

I’d like to you raise your hand if typically sleep less than 6 hours per night (a few people raise their hand). Raise your hand if you sleep six to less than eight hours per night (almost all of the audience raises their hand), finally if you sleep eight or more hours per night (one person raises their hand sheepishly – there are a few giggles and looks).

Sleep deprivation is defined as anything less than seven hours of sleep per night1.

Research by the WHO has shown typically sleeping less than 7 hours per night is as bad as smoking2.

The AAA has found that driving a car on less than 4 hours of sleep means you’re eleven and a half times more likely to have a crash. 3

An adult sleeping only six hours and forty-five minutes a night would only be predicted to live to their early sixties without medical intervention. 1

It wasn’t until I had kids that I realised the importance of sleep. Suddenly I became fascinated with it.

Both from the kids point of view: they don’t sleep and they’re so grumpy. And from the parent’s point of view: they don’t sleep and we’re so grumpy.

Why are we grumpy when we don’t sleep? Brain scans have shown a 60% amplification in the reactivity of the amygdala1 which is the part of your brain which causes the fight or flight response. So we’re more angry, anxious and stressed when we don’t sleep.

But why don’t we respect sleep? Kids are so cute when they’re sleepy. You can’t not smile looking at a cute little sleeping child. But if an adult is sleepy, or sleeps a lot, we look at them like they’re a sloth. They’re lazy. Hero’s don’t sleep. The CEOs of multinational organisations are applauded as heroes who survive on a few hours of sleep a night.

And we don’t sleep. In 1942, less than 8% of the US population survived on 6 or less hours of sleep per night, now it’s one in two. 1

It’s a huge economic problem too. Sleep Scientist Matthew Walker at the University of California has showed sleep deprivation costs the UK economy alone 30 billion pounds per annum, 2% of the GDP of the United Kingdom.1

So why don’t we sleep like we used to. There’s a number of reasons. The most obvious is electrification of the night: 24×7 electricity has made the world less dark, and we need darkness to sleep well. Also work. The grey lines between work and home, for example, I work at home, mean we’re working more and working more in our homes: checking emails on our phones all night. Not only that, we desire larger more expensive houses with longer commutes which means we have less hours to do other things. And we all suffer the modern phenomenon known as FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. We’d rather miss out on sleep than anything else.

This talk has been pretty bleak and depressing so far. So what can you do?

The first thing you can do to improve your sleep is sleep more. Try to stick to regular sleeping hours every night. We set alarms to wake up: why not set one to go to bed so you know you can sleep for eight hours that night? Every iPhone in the world has this feature built in.

Avoid sleeping pills, they delete your memory.1 Limit alcohol and caffeine – they are enemies of sleep, much like light. And do things like reading (paper) books at bedtime, or take a hot bath which helps you get to sleep1.

On sleep, Heroclitus said “Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work and helps make something of the world.”

President Donald Trump proudly declares he has 3 hours of sleep a night4, which raises the question: do you really want to be like Donald Trump?

Mr Toastmaster.

audience erupts in loud and sustained 👏

[1]: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/24/why-lack-of-sleep-health-worst-enemy-matthew-walker-why-we-sleep
[2]: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/584425/Smoking-sleep-stroke-heart-attack-risk-unhealthy-tired
[3]: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/12/06/driving-5-hours-sleep-like-driving-drunk/94992718/
[4]: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/243275

🎶 pictures in my head

I can’t get enough of this track right now, a killer combo of lyrics and beats.

“We ain’t playing hide and seek
Got a different game instead
Building cities out of sheets
I’m reminiscing about when
You told me you only want to wake up in my arms
Wake up in my arms
Building cities out of sheets
Seeing pictures in my head”


mount cooroora

During our recent long weekend in Noosa I took the opportunity to hike up Mount Cooroora which has been on my mountain bucket list for some time now. Each July, the nearby township of Pomona hosts a 4.2km “King of the Mountain” race up and back down from the local pub, with the record being held by Neil Labinsky, 4th year consecutive winner, with a recorded a time of 22 minutes 43 seconds.

I loved the 360 degree views at the top and had the full length of the summit to myself.

Distance: 3km return
Time up: 25min
Time down: 25min
Elevation: 439m
Elevation Gain: 300m