Discussing Depression with Melinda Schneider - Part 2
Part 2 of my conversation with Melinda Schneider about Depression. We talk about the need to reduce the stigma of mental health conditions in our society and how to notice when it might be time to see a health professional.
And Melinda shares why she created her own new website, BeGentleOnYourself.com.au
In this episode, Melinda and Sandi chat about:
You can read the full transcript here:
Melinda Schneider 0:00
I think we have to do a lot of work just to take that shame and stigma away altogether so that we can all speak about it openly and say, "Yeah, I got depression." The shame is a debilitating part of it - the terrible part of it.
Hi there, it's great to have you join us for the Psychological Safety Works Podcast, where we bring you concrete strategies, and inspiring ideas about how to confidently have important but tough conversations.
Do you know businesses required by law to provide mental or psychological safety for their employees as well as physical safety? Are you aware of the risk factors that can lead to mentally unhealthy work environments? Do you feel confident your team is working at their best and being fully productive at work?
We're here to help business men and women with all this and much more. Listen in to discover how you can build greater psychological safety in your workplace and reap the benefits of reduced business costs and increased employee productivity. And now, here's your host, Sandi Givens,
Sandi Givens 1:15
I was just talking with a group of people this morning online about what Beyond Blue promotes as the mental health continuum. Because a lot of people can think about mental health as 'I'm okay' or 'I'm not okay'. You know, the two choices, like you said, that binary kind of thinking. Whereas the mental health continuum suggests that on one end, we've got the green zone, which is a highly functioning healthy mental state, moving through to yellow, which is, you know, 'I'm experiencing some few bumps along the way' ... moving through the orange, which is, 'Wow, this is feeling really challenging for me now', and then red is where we're really finding it hard to function at all. So I love that idea about encouraging people to think about their mental health along that kind of continuum.
Sandi Givens 2:11
The other thing I've found, and I'm interested in your thoughts on this, and especially with what you've noticed, in rural areas of Australia, is that people almost feel like they have to be really bad, you know, really burnt out before they phone Beyond Blue, or before they go to their GP. What have you noticed in that area?
Melinda Schneider 2:37
Well, I haven't been able to speak to many rural people this year, because of COVID. Because I haven't been on tour in those areas. And my Doris Day tour, which is a regional tour, has been pushed into next year. So next year, I'll be speaking to a lot of people in different rural and remote areas. And I'm looking forward to that, especially with this new ambassador role.
Melinda Schneider 3:06
But I think, you know, the stoicism is something that rural people have to have, because of the way they live on the land there in isolated areas, sometimes they have a lack of income security, due to drought and different challenges on the land. There's a whole lot of uncertainty that they have to deal with, over, you know, not just the last couple of years with the drought and COVID and the bush fires, but decades of uncertainty and generations of uncertainty. So it there's a lot of trauma there that they go through. And I think they have to be stoic in order to actually live that life.
Melinda Schneider 3:57
But you can be too strong for too long. I think that happens to a lot of rural people where they look after themselves, and then collapse. They just work until they can't work anymore - due to their mental health. So I'm really looking forward to talking about this stuff, talking about my experience and hoping that that opens up the conversation to them. And also, the shame that comes with it. They're very private. I'm generalizing here, but you know, often country people are very private people, you know, they're proud people. So it's very difficult for them to talk about mental health.
Sandi Givens 4:51
I think another layer that is a challenge in the country areas is that a lot are small communities, where everybody knows everybody. Everybody knows if Joe Bloggs sneezes two paddocks over sort of thing. And people can be really worried about, gee, if I do go to the GP is it going to get around the town that I'm crazy, or something. I know in the little bit of work I've done in regional and rural Victoria and New South Wales, that was something people spoke to me a lot about - that they don't want everybody to know. I emphasize that your health professional will treat everything you say in confidence. And they said 'but what if they see me coming out of the GP's office?' They feel like they can't have the anoninimity that maybe people in the big city might have?
Melinda Schneider 5:46
Yeah, that's right. That's what I love about the RAMHP coordinators - they are based in these different areas. And I think people in those particular areas might feel more comfortable talking to someone they know, and they could trust to get some help as well, rather than talking to a stranger. But yeah, I know what you mean, I think that that is an issue. But I think we have to do a lot of work just to take that shame, and stigma away altogether, so that we can all speak about it openly and say, "Yep, I got depression, I'm one in four." You know, just so that we can all really speak about it openly and take that shame away, because the shame is a debilitating part of it, the terrible part of it.
Sandi Givens 6:43
Yeah, one of the things, Melinda, that I talk to people about too, is ... I do my best to draw as many analogies between physical health and wellbeing and mental health and wellbeing. I'll say to people - if we just put that idea of the shame for a moment on the side there ... if you had a serious pain in your side, or in your gut, or, you know, you're having trouble swallowing, or pick any kind of physical condition. You might put up with it, you know, for a couple of days, or what, but there will be a point in time when you go, 'Now, this isn't going away, I need to go get help.' And you wouldn't blink an eye - you wouldn't hesitate to go in and say to your GP 'I've got this massive pain in my side. And we'd want to get on to it quickly. Because the quicker we do, the less worse it will get, if that makes sense. Plus, the quicker we can get better. I think it's the same with mental health.
Melinda Schneider 7:47
You know, it is and I think if we can get the message out there that what goes along with mental health, what goes along with depression is shame, feelings of defectiveness, feelings of guilt. Like, 'how dare I have depression? A lot of people out there worse off than me. Why have I got this?' That stuff - sadness, hopelessness - there's all these different emotions that go along with depression. They're like symptoms of it. And people know that when they start to feel shame, defectiveness, guilt, all of those things, they'll go, 'Oh, I'm feeling all of those things.' They'll start to understand that these are the symptoms of depression, just like a swollen ankle might be to a broken ankle or pain down your arm might be for a heart attack. And that was something I had to learn because even though my partner Mark had had depression for a couple of years before I met him ... for 14 years, he's had it and he's been on medication all that time. And I've lived with him all that time, and been empathetic to his depression. I used to say, 'Go on ... go and curl up in the fetal position if you need to darling. If you're down, just go to bed.' I'd be empathetic. I still didn't understand it, because it hadn't happened to me.
Melinda Schneider 9:20
And so when it happened to me, I didn't even realize it was depression. I knew I had adrenal fatigue. I just thought I was exhausted. And I am an emotional person - I'm a songwriter. I'm an artist. And I'm not I'm no stranger to sadness and grief, and struggle. So I just thought, you know, I'm exhausted and I'm a bit emotional. I mean, I didn't realize I had major depressive disorder until a year later when it came back again. I mean, I'm pretty aware. I read up on stuff and everything, but I didn't really understand it.
Sandi Givens 10:02
It might actually be some part of our subconscious. Like, I know for me this year, there was probably a part of my subconscious that was saying, 'No, look, everybody's feeling bad because it's COVID' - dismissing our own symptoms, even when we start to recognize them.
Sandi Givens 10:23
My first experience of depression was postnatal depression, some 26 years ago. And the day the penny dropped for me ... I knew I wasn't sleeping well, I knew I didn't feel right. But I just thought, 'Oh, this is motherhood, you know?' And I can't even quite remember whether it was the maternal and child health nurse or my GP or who it was - it was a health professional - said, "Sandi, in the past two weeks, have you experienced any joy, happiness or enjoyment from activities that normally would give you these feelings?" I didn't have to think it through - the answer was 'no'. And that's when I went, 'Oh, okay. You know, maybe this is a lot more than just trying to come to terms with new motherhood, huh?'
Sandi Givens 11:18
I want to talk about your new website, BeGentleOnYourself.com.au. On there, you mentioned some of the symptoms that you've experienced, some of the things that have helped you in not only recovering but staying well. And on that site, you've also got this very bold, very courageous, insightful 10-minute video of yourself talking about the events of the last couple of years. I highly recommend people go and watch. It's 10 minutes, and it's eye opening, and it's affirming for anyone who might be feeling a bit unwell. What are some of the things in that video that you'd like to highlight in this podcast for people?
Melinda Schneider 12:23
Oh, look, the contributing factors for me were 20 years of workaholism. I would say high ridiculously high standards that nobody could meet. And when I didn't meet them, I beat myself up about it. So a very strong, critical inner voice beating myself up all the time. I would never speak to a friend the way I speak with myself - I wouldn't speak to anybody the way I speak to myself! I think the 20 years of workaholism - that's the big one. Unrelenting standards. Perfection - setting goals for myself that there was no way I was ever going to be able to meet them, and then beating myself up if I didn't. I've got a dreadfully critical inner voice that tells me I'm not good enough all the time. So that's not easy to live with for a lifetime. leading up to the first bout of depression, I was having hardly any sleep. I had my little boy at 41 and he didn't sleep through till he was three and a half. And I fed him on demand for nearly five years. So he loved his boobie, Sandi.
Sandi Givens 13:46
And, remind him of all that, in the future when he becomes teenager.
Melinda Schneider 13:51
You know, what, I will. I was up, you know, three times a night for three and a half years, breastfeeding him back to sleep and doing all that sort of stuff. Whilst I was doing eight shows a week with my Doris Day show and managing my own career and hardly any sleep. I don't know how I did it. So my body was completely depleted. And that was a massive contributing factor, having a being a geriatric mum, as they call it.
Sandi Givens 14:23
Oh, I know. I remember being called that myself!
Melinda Schneider 14:28
Sandi Givens 14:32
Well, if we go back to your incredibly high standards for yourself, just to give people an understanding of how high the standards were, I know that you had two sold out concerts at the Sydney Opera House.
Melinda Schneider 14:47
Yeah, I think I've had more than that. But yes, probably. I better bloody have more than that! Otherwise, I cannot live with myself.
Sandi Givens 14:56
What number should we go for, Melinda? 25?
Melinda Schneider 15:00
Yeah. What is enough? What is enough? What am I gonna be able to be happy with? You know, it's just not only do I, you know, I aspire to doing things incredibly well when I do a performance, but ... that's sort of the ultimate performing at the Opera House performing at big concert halls with big orchestras and stuff like that, which I've been doing a lot of in the last 10 years with my Doris Day show. But yeah, once you've done that, you've hit that goal, you've got to keep doing it. It's the same as that athlete you mentioned earlier, Sandi. You've got to keep doing it. Anything less, you consider it a failure. That's what I meant by incredible or crap.
Sandi Givens 15:45
But now you've adjusted your sails, haven't you? You've realized that just because you did X number of sold out concerts in the Opera House, for example, doesn't mean you have to do twice that number again. How do you set goals and standards for yourself now?
Melinda Schneider 16:06
Well, I've let go. I've done a lot of work on that this year of just letting go of the outcome. And just saying, look, all I can do is my best. And that's enough. And it doesn't matter if I don't have a number one album, it doesn't matter if I don't sell out the Opera House. The most important thing is my health. And yes, I want to keep creating and keep doing shows, and I want to keep having an income from music. I've never had a day job. I'm so lucky. I've always earned my living as an artist and a singer my whole life. So I want to keep doing that. But I'm just learning to let go of the outcome. And not have that matter so much.
Sandi Givens 17:04
I'm going to ask you a really tricky question. So I apologize in advance. How do you let go the outcome - any tips on how you do that?
Melinda Schneider 17:16
I think it's probably in line with your values. I've been doing some work on my values lately, and making sure that I'm living in line with them. And that, I guess making other things matter, rather than the success matter. So this year, I put out a few songs, important songs, that will help people and will help me as well. But I just wanted put things out in the world at the moment. I don't really care about where they land, or what comes of them. It's more for humanitarian reasons than career success, I suppose. So I want to keep doing that. And I've always looked inward. And I've always written songs about different crises and different things that I've gone through in my life. That's what country music singer songwriters do.
Sandi Givens 18:31
Well, they always tell a story, don't they - country music songs. And I love that.
Melinda Schneider 18:36
Yeah, yeah, we draw from real real life experiences. So I'm gonna keep doing that. But I'm just not going to be ... I've decided that my body won't allow me to be so obsessed about success and achieving and workaholism anymore. I just, I just can't. It's hard because it's an addiction for me. Yeah, it's really hard ...
Sandi Givens 19:04
I think that was a really great insight you shared. I think the phrase you used was 'I make other things important now.' And it sounded like other things matter, perhaps even more than a particular measure of success, or a particular quantifiable outcome or something. That's a really nice tip. And I also know that you've said that you have found that you've been grateful for COVID ...
Melinda Schneider 19:37
I mean, of course, I wouldn't have wished COVID on anybody. And, you know, what's happening in America at the moment is absolutely mortifying that the death toll is just terrible. So I'm not glad that we've had COVID ...
Sandi Givens 19:53
Sorry, I didn't mean to just go "blah" with it ... but in terms you personally - you have found the positive side for you.
Melinda Schneider 20:00
Yeah, good things have come out of it. I think for a lot of people as well as negatives. I think, obviously working from home, people having to adapt and, workplaces having to have their eyes open and adapt and understand that people can work from home, they don't have to be working long hours at the office all the time to be productive. For me, personally, it's allowed me to stop traveling every weekend. And be at home with my little boy all year from March - I haven't done any gigs since March. And I've recorded and I've released music, but I haven't had to go on stage and go traveling or anything. And it's been wonderful to have that time at home and just be able to take the time to care for myself, because I would never - it was an imposed break. It was a forced break. I wouldn't have given this to myself. I would have been too guilty.
Sandi Givens 21:01
Melinda Schneider 21:02
So it's been really wonderful to stop to have to stop and then go, 'Oh, I don't think I want to work that hard anymore'. Where I used to work hard, I just don't want to do it. So yeah, it's been a real a real blessing in a lot of ways.
Sandi Givens 21:18
Yeah. So to be able to kind of step back from that treadmill, that ... look, all of us end up on a treadmill in our lives often. And it's when we get off that treadmill that we can start to take a breath, assess and and make some choices about how we're living our life and
Melinda Schneider 21:38
get some perspective.
So that's it for this episode of Psychological Safety Works with Sandi Givens, which we trust you found valuable. Naturally, we'd love you to share this with your colleagues and friends. To access the shownotes, helpful resources and subscribe to this podcast to continue to build a psychologically safe workplace, you can find us at PsychologicalSafetyWorks.com.
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