Thursday, December 13, 2012

My six year old son wants a six pack

My beautiful son is in his first year of Primary school, and he is changing.

You see, my son is becoming his own person. He spends a lot of his time with his teacher and his friends at school, he has thoughts and experiences that I know nothing about. I can't limit his world any more (nor would I want to), and he has stories to tell me about the schoolyard that sometimes leave me in slack-jawed disbelief.

It all started last weekend, at a birthday party for one of his schoolmates.  One of the ladies was telling us that her son, who has an older brother who is 14, goes into his room of a night and does sit ups and push ups so that he can get a six pack. I was amazed that a six year old would be so concerned with his body, but thought it was harmless enough.  I mean, there's nothing wrong with a bit of hero worship and wanting to be healthy, right?  Well....the conversation quickly continued about the boys in the playground ALL wanting six packs, with the boys deciding that those who had the six packs  were good, and anyone who didn't was bad.

There is a bit of a gym culture at our school among the parents, but that's not unusual, and healthy as long as not taken to excess, right?  I mean, I try to stay fit but I'm never going to be a gym junkie. Shopping is my cardio, and my beautiful hubby has a full on manual job, which means he doesn't have the time or the inclination to go to the gym.

Yesterday, my son came home and dragged the scales out of the bathroom.  "Mum", he said "I need to see if I am fit or not.  Am I fat?"  What the actual heck?  I thought that this was a conversation I would just not need to have with him, especially at the tender age of six!  He pulled up his shirt and said "I don't have a six pack, it's good to have a six pack mum".  I whipped out the laptop and fired up the Height and Weight charts for six year olds - and showed him that he was in the 100th percentile for height and the 75th percentile for weight.  "You know what this means, mate - you are just right.  Your weight is exactly what it should be for being healthy.".

I think I reassured him, but I was still confused by our conversation - so I brought it up with one of my friends at the school concert last night.  She told me that her son had taken Christmas beads into his bed with him and was sleeping on them.  She told him that it was dangerous to sleep with beads, and he said "But mum!! If I sleep on these beads they will go into my skin and in the morning I'll have a six pack".  She was horrified!

Seriously? Is this a thing? If this is happening to the boys, what are the girls saying to each other?  I guess there's a lot more images of physical perfection in the media and society as a whole feels a lot more compelled to be fit and chiseled.  When I was six, all I can remember is running fast and playing with my friends. I certainly didn't worry about whether I was fat or not. All I can do is reassure my son that his body is strong and healthy. Are we too obsessed with bodily perfection?  I don't know what the answer is.....but I'm fairly certain that it doesn't involve a six pack on a six year old.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Christianity and Halloween

So, Halloween has got me thinking about what I believe…and whether I have to justify it or not.  I’m a Christian, but I think my sub-category is radical/liberal.  Identifying as having a faith is a bit of a minefield these days.  So, yes….. I’m always going to be one of the first to say that I am a bit of a radical – that my Christianity is kinda left field.  I believe in Marriage Equality, I am pro choice, and I recently - *gasp* - took my son and a friend trick or treating.  In some people’s eyes, that makes me a Christian in name only.  Really?

I’d understand this attitude if I took to the streets with a sign saying “the Devil ROOLS OK!” and was dressed in a devils suit.  I wasn’t. I had black on, with funny glasses, and my son and his friend were dressed as ninjas.  Because we haven’t gone trick or treating before, I took a huge bag of lollies for the neighbours to give the kids…. For me, it was more about the lollies and having fun.  I understand that life is serious, and that there is evil lurking.  But, must we imbue every fun childhood tradition with EVIL and SATAN where there is really only a bit ‘o’ fun?  For me, the important thing about Christianity is that Jesus was a dude who loved us sooooo much, that he died for us and the rest of the world, so that we would have everlasting evidence of how much God loves us.  It was all planned.  It’s something that sustains me when crappy things happen.  God’s love…it’s strong.  It’s a lot stronger than a pair of devil’s horns and a plastic bucket with a pumpkin on it.

So much of what’s wrong with faith these days is making judgements about how we worship the big guy in the sky, or if we believe in him at all.  My gorgeous mum knows how much I struggle with the attitude of “you must believe or it’s the fiery furnace for you” – she says that only God knows what is in a person’s heart and what their relationship with him is.  That makes me feel better – God is the one who is in control – not me. It’s not my place or anyone else’s to judge where God fits into another person’s life…or to dictate what they believe or the choices that they make. 

A couple of years ago, my husband Richard and I attended the funeral of a loving, kind, Christian woman who lived a gorgeous life of love for others, regardless of their faith.  A perfect opportunity to tell the non-believers there more about the God who helped her live such an amazing life. ….But unfortunately, one of the members of that congregation used the opportunity to address the captive audience about the small matter of their un-savedness.  Fiery furnaces and eternal damnation were mentioned, along with a sprinkling of saliva as the fervent and fired up speaker doused this dear lady’s memory with lashings of guilt and judgement.  I don’t think many of those people will return to church.  To me, that’s not what God is all about.  God is love!

I recently wrote in my blog about my two younger sisters and their approaches to their personal walk with Jesus.  The upshot of it is that our views are vastly different – but we haven’t yet come to blows over the Christmas dinner table.  Despite our differences, or perhaps because of them, we all still worship the same God. We believe that God has his hand on our lives, that he sent his son Jesus to die for our sins, and that he is the way to have a relationship with God. Same God, but very different people. So, please don't switch off when you hear that we're Christians. We may have the same core beliefs, but there are many different flavours.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Different flavours of Christianity

So - once upon a time, there were three sisters.  The eldest had red hair and was prone to anxiety.  The middle sister also had red hair, and was very private.  The youngest had blonde hair and was a happy girl, with a touch of worrying.

These three girls are my sisters and I - we are 36, 34 and 33 respectively.  We are all Christians, although we are all very different Christians, with very different lives.  I was thinking about Christianity and how a lot of times, it gets a bad rap for hate, scandal and greed.  I wanted to let you in on how it's possible to worship Jesus and God in a way that is genuine and honest to you, and yet to be very very different in the ways that you approach your faith.

Let's start with me, because let's face it - talking about me is one of my favourite things to do.  I had a lot of years away from the church - where I was out living the party life, drinking and kissing boys and getting myself into terrible trouble.  During times of terrible trouble, I'd turn to God and start going back to church. I'd try to repent and to stop making rude jokes, to help out with the youth group and stop binge drinking.  I lived a bit of a double life, advising the girls to wait for their true love, then going home and getting changed into lurid outfits and hitting the town.  I had a spiritual awakening about nine years ago, when I realised that I had to stop living a double life.  I'd been praying for a husband and yet my younger sister was the one who got engaged first.  I was terribly angry with God, but didn't realise that my partner in the bridal party would go on to be my husband.  It was like God said to me "huh, do you think I'd leave you all alone to make this decision? Here he is, the one you were waiting for - I had it planned all along.  Why didn't you just trust me?"

So, I've learned to trust God and during the time when I had intense and severe Post Natal Depression, my faith developed. I realised that God had a plan and a purpose for my life, and that I had to stop thinking that I could know what was best for me - that I had to trust him and just do my best - learn to stop trying to control surrender and let go absolutely.

These days, I attend church with my hubs and son, teach Sunday school, support gay marriage, am pro choice, love dirty jokes and movies with Kirsten Wiig in them.  I've learnt that I don't have to say goodbye to my racy sense of humour - God gave it to me for a reason....but that I do need to learn where to unleash it. I am very open to other religions, and have seen lots of people have spiritual experiences that don't involve Jesus.  I struggle with the idea of one true faith, but I know that I can't not believe in Jesus.

The next sister had a period of illness in her early teens, where she suffered terribly with Chronic Fatigue.  During those dark times, her faith developed, and she was one of those well balanced girls, who concentrated more on her books and her faith than boys. Our mother's faith was also an amazing example to her, as it has been to all of us.  She got her license before I did, and had a wide circle of friends.  She was always interested in other cultures, and wanted to travel.  Funnily enough, as the one who didn't really care about boyfriends, she ended up with the most interest.  Perhaps it was because she wasn't interested? Perhaps because she trusted God with the outcome? She studied hard, became a vet, and whilst she studied, she traveled the world, had lots of adventures and lived in America for a year. 

These days, she lives in a small country town, and attends church with her husband and five children, was the first of us to be married and have a baby. Although she's settled down, she has by no means settled, she took her first born to Japan and is always scheming the latest trip to visit friends far and wide.  She supports a number of organisations that ensure the rights of unborn children, mothers in need and those who have had terminations and who need counselling.  She's loving and giving and prays endlessly for the members of our family.  She holds a bible study in her home and sends her children to a Christian school.  Her husband preaches in their church and they frequently discuss the bible and how to better follow God.  They don't observe the traditions of Santa, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, and have requested that the family not give their children any characters that could be seen to have magic at their core.  No Power Rangers, No Ben 10, No Fairies. 

I don't always agree with all their decisions, and they don't always agree with mine, but our Venn Diagram of faith overlaps in many areas, and we are able to respect the other's opinion, even though we may not agree with it.

Moving on to youngest sister.  She and the middle sister attended many christian camps and workshops in their teen years.  Youngest sis is a very talented cook, and catered for many church camps, and was happy and cheery and loved organising her friends into races and active things.  She got her drivers license earlier than I did, and was often the designated driver to parties.  She was more social than middle sister, but still studious.  She studied hard and excelled at Uni.  Her faith developed during a difficult time, when she was the only child left at home and things were very busy in the family business.  She would probably have liked a boyfriend, but I think the cautionary tale of my unhappiness with chasing boys and her faith made her content with what she had.

These days, she is an Assistant Minister at an Anglican church in Sydney.  She's an accomplished cook and is a very caring lady.   She wears the full frock and collar (when necessary), but when she was ordained, she wore a pink shirt and high heels, when everyone else was in black.  She is moderate, and believes that life is hard but that God is grace.  She is a big fan of Harry Potter, Dr Who, The Big Bang Theory and Legally Blonde.  She often runs 14km a day, lost 40kg over two years and is addicted to the bustle of city life.  She loves technology and is incredibly funny.  She has a black cat, Max, who she adores, and lives with two very cool flatmates.  She is infectiously happy and loves "Miranda" more than I do.

Despite our differences, or perhaps because of them, we all still worship the same God. We believe that God has his hand on our lives, that he sent his son Jesus to die for our sins, and that he is the way to have a relationship with God. Same God, but very different people.  So, please don't switch off when you hear that we're Christians.  We may have the same core beliefs, but there are many different flavours.

What is your experience of Christianity?

Friday, October 19, 2012

A message from an ex-dancing queen to Em Rusciano

I have been thinking a lot about Em Rusciano's post on Mamamia yesterday. -

And, it brought up a lot of stuff for me.  I'll admit it, first I went all judgey, and wondered why she was still going out when she had kids.  And then, I realised that she was right - she has the perfect right to dance on a podium, get dressed up and enjoy a night out.  Why does it bother me so much?


Because I can't be that mum.  And, that comes with a bit of grief for me.  As readers of my blog know, I'm nine years sober and mostly happy about that.  But, to have a sustained sobriety, I have to avoid the old places.  I have to check myself before I literally wreck would be all too easy to fall back into drinking to make me feel good about myself, then ending up a messy wreck, doing things I don't like with people I hardly know, losing my self respect, probably losing my marriage and perhaps even access to my son.  Yes, it was that bad at the end. My husband and son have never seen me drink, and I never want them to.

I know from my friends in AA, that if you go to places where the drinks are flowing, that sooner or later, you'll drink.  As the saying goes, "there's only so many times that you can sit in the hairdresser's chair before you get a haircut".  My life has had to change because of my illness, and mostly, I'm okay with that....but it makes me feel different!  Which, I guess I am....but I realised that I had a message for Em, as I read her article.

Em - you are foxy, and go girl, for going out and partying.  That's great that you can do that without compromising your family and relationships.  (Apart from those nosey parkers who judge!)  But, just because I'm not on a podium dancing, or because I can't have drinks with the girls, doesn't mean I'm a party pooper.  My life is different to yours, but I like to think that I'm still fun.  So, even though you say that you have little in common with the 40 something mums at school, try sharing a racy joke with them occasionally.  You might be surprised....we might have been waiting for the opportunity to make you laugh.  Don't judge a book by it's un-sequined, non-podium dancing cover.

Deb xx

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Total Control

Does anyone else out there remember a movie called "She's Out of Control"?  It was a totally awesome 80s movie, featuring a makeover that made a shy, bookish girl totally irresistible to the opposite sex.  Her father, played by Tony Danza, freaks out about this, and tries to stop it by a tactic that he calls "Total Control".

Like most control freaks, he's doomed to failure.  And I was thinking about poor old Tony Danza in this film, and how "Total Control" doesn't work. At all. In fact, it makes things a lot worse.

You know there's a metaphor coming, don't you? Yes, well...those who know me, will know that I am somewhat of a control freak.  Not the control freak who has to have a clean house. That would be nice.  Mess, I can live with, but when people start doing things in a way that I don't like, I'm not so cool.

And I have learned to evolve from this.  Back 15 years ago, I was a very very judgemental 21 year old, who thought that most people were "sheep" and that "it would be so much easier to be stupid, as I wouldn't be troubled by all these agonising thoughts".  I was also a grammar Nazi of the highest degree and judged books by their covers.  Needless to say, life wasn't easy, as I catapulted into many other people living their lives and doing things that I didn't think were right.  I judged, I judged hard.  And the one I judged the hardest, was myself.  I hated lots of people, places and things, but the one I reserved the most hatred for, was myself.  I never knew why.  But from the age of about 8, I can remember viciously hating myself and who I was.  Wanting to be someone else.  Watching other people and finding out the right and wrong ways to do things.  Trying to imitate them. Not trusting myself, not knowing who I was, but knowing that whatever it was that lurked inside me, it was damaged and untrustworthy.  Other people had the answers.  But not the stupid people.

It wasn't much fun being trapped in judgement like that, and over the past 15 years, I have sought various therapies to combat these disordered ways of thinking.  And I like to think that I'm fairly evolved...but do you know what? I'm still a victim of "Total Control".  I don't like just going with the flow...unless I decide to.  I hate surprises.  It has been brought to my attention by my brilliant psychiatrist, Dr Chakrabarti, and my clever mama, that I still try too hard to manage the way that other people see me.  I love myself these days, but I still want to control the way that you see me.  I still want a barrier between us. I still hide.  I still want people to behave the way that I want, but I reserve the right to change what that way is at any given moment.  No wonder it is confusing to be in my head, let alone in my life.

My past is littered with friends who I have totally confused by my inability to be real with them.  My insistence on managing how often we contact each other.  My insistence on the interactions that we have. My anger when things don't go my way. My repeated attempts, when we grow apart, to bring us closer together, to prove that I am cool and funny and interesting....that end up looking needy and even frightening.  I am scared of how much I want to be liked, how much I need social interaction and roles in society to prove my worth and my function.  I must manage socialising or I fear I will cease to exist.  I don't trust that at my essence, I will be satisfactory.

I realised yesterday that I think if I don't chase people and convince them to be my friend, that I won't have any friends.  How screwed up is that?  A friend of mine recently withdrew from friendships and obligations, and I didn't understand her thinking. How could she do that, how could she trust that people would still remember her.  I remember her saying that it was a way of trusting God more.  And I now totally and completely get that.  God does not want me to live in isolation, he has made us for relationships with each other.  But the thing is, that he wants to be first.  He has amazing, wonderful, beautiful things in store for us that way outweigh the pitiful attempts that we make to manage and control our own lives.  And I think I've reached that point.  I keep ending up at the same spot..and saying "If I do the same thing, perhaps I'll get a different result"...which, as we know, is in-freakin-sanity!

I'm scared, but I'm ready to let go. I want God in control of my life and I want to stop being Tony Danza.  No more "Total Control". 

I want to give God all of me and see what he has in store when I stop orchestrating my life and the way people see me.  I have been made this way and put in this place for a reason.  Time to start living in the sun and stop hiding in the dark.

Deb :)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

This is where it all began

Chapter One.

My life began the way it continues to be - with a family who cherishes me.  I was always supported, always given love and had two parents who had fun together, and with us separately.  They brought us up to believe in God, and Mum especially always had time to listen to us and our feelings.

So why did I feel so scared all the time?  I guess I've always been predisposed to anxiety.  It's in my genetic lottery.  Many generations of my ancestors have suffered from the black dog and his worrywart relatives.  I believe I was destined to walk the journey that I have.....although it took me a long time to find acceptance about who I am and why I am the way I am.

I remember being terrified for a large portion of my life.  I was scared of school, scared of leaving my mum.  The only time I wasn't really scared was safe in the bosom of my family.  I was an extrovert at home and an introvert in public.  I was so shy, that I couldn't speak a lot of the time, and had a good line in blushing.

I didn't go to the toilet or eat my lunch a lot of the time at Kinder (first year of school), because the mean boys stood outside and said they were going to catch and kiss us.  A well adjusted child would have potentially just went in - I was a bit prone to going to extremes, and so developed a fear of men that kinda still haunts me to this day. 

See her? She's 6, but she's scared of the photographer and the big flash.  I can see the fear in my eyes.  It's actually my standard smile!  When I was 5, we moved to Papua New Guinea, and lived on Igam Barracks in Lae.  Dad was in the army, and working as a doctor.  I suppose there was a lot to be scared of, the threat of violence and being in a different country.  I don't think it really impacted me adversely, but I did continue my fear of both boys and toilets.  I didn't go to the bathroom at school at all, because there were no doors on the stalls.  I remember one horrendous day on the bus, when I couldn't hold my bladder any longer, and peed in my pants.  I was sitting over the aisle from my younger sister, Jen, and watched transfixed, as the yellow trail crept along my seat, and dribbled onto the aisle.  The trail worked its way towards the bus driver, then as the bus gained momentum and lurched along the streets, it doubled back on itself, and headed towards the big kids down the back of the bus.  Jen and I stared at each other in horror.......and sure enough, soon one of the big kids noticed.... "Who did a wee in the bus!!", they gaped in disgust.   Funnily enough, that's where my memory ends. I suppose that I got off the bus all wet, or put my bag behind me.  I certainly don't remember being particularly traumatised by it.

What I do remember being traumatised by, is the boys who lived on Barracks.  I was constantly scared of them. I don't really know why. I don't know what I thought they would do to me.  I do remember one of mum and dad's friends teasing me, and I was very worried by what he said.  "My, isn't she a tall girl?",he said as he smiled down at me.  I ducked my head and flushed.  "She's a lucky girl", he continued, "She's got nice long legs that will help her run away from all those boys who are going to chase her!".  At this, he laughed uproariously.  I was gripped by anxiety.  Boys...chasing me? Again? Like Kiss Chasey?  I pictured myself running really fast and the boys chasing after me.  What would happen when they caught me?  I didn't like to think about it, and resolved not to talk to any boys.  That way nothing bad could happen.

It probably didn't help that I was the eldest of three girls.  We socialised a bit, and I sometimes played with the boys on barracks, but I didn't really trust them.  At any stage they could start to chase me, or do something strange.  Boys were different to me and I didn't want any part of them.  I had a best friend called Jordana, and I would hide beind the bus seats with her and pretend we were husband and wife.  I liked that a lot better than playing with the boys. 

In 1984, we returned to Australia, moving to Canberra, where dad got a government job.  I started Year 3 and after a bout of pneumonia, moved schools to Trinity Christian School in Waniassa.  I struggled with socialising and making friends.  Apparently, the way I started a lifelong friendship, was to approach a girl, pin her up against the wall and say "I'm going to kill you!".  This continued until I started saying "I'm going to kill you, but not today", until apparently the death threats stopped completely and we became friends.   I don't remember this at all, but it fits in well with the idea that I was somewhat of a lonely, mixed up girl.  Again - none of this was visible in my family (that I'm aware of) - at home, I was the oldest, I was happy to play games with my sisters and have fun with my mum and dad.  I didn't know that usually people aren't two different personalities at home and at school.  More was coming, too. Puberty was coming.....what fun that would be! 


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thinking about you, thinking about me..

Hmmm.  So, around the time of my birthday, I always go through a period of assessing things.  Where am I at, who am I? Do I have enough friends? Am I the only one who thinks that?  I remember when I used to go out drinking, if one of my friends got a boyfriend, I'd always be worried that I wouldn't have anyone to go drink with.  I think it's a feeling that still pervades me to this day.  The feeling of being not quite good enough - feeling like everyone else is having a big party elsewhere and they're all friends.

I think in the psychological world, they call this feeling "Paranoia".

And yeah, cause I've been in therapy for a while, most of the time...I know that this feeling isn't real.  I know that parenting and motherhood is a solitary game, most of the time.  That you have to trust your instincts, that you have to make decisions and be happy with the decision that you've made.  I also know that a lot of mums suffer from guilt.  And I wouldn't like to say that I'm the guiltiest of mums, but I think I'm up there.  Alex has been having lots of problems with sleeping and nightmares lately, so much so that we are taking him to a child psychologist to talk through the fears that he has.  I am terrified that it's my fault!! That I've somehow damaged him and they're going to find out that I've done a crappy job.  But, in my rational mind, I know that I have done the best that I can.  That Alex is a well adjusted little boy, who is a little shy, and who has a vivid imagination.  That's where the nightmares come from....I've even had that clarified by my best friend Jen......who had similar nightmares at a similar age - and as far as I know is leading a pretty creative and successful life!

So I need to stop doubting myself.  Another favourite way of doubting myself is to look at the relationships that I have, and the ways in which I've let people down....the ways that I could have done things better.  I was watching the Lion King with Alex on the weekend, and that Wise Old Baboon cracks Simba on the head.  Simba says "that hurt!" and the Baboon says "yes, but it's in the past! You can't change it, but you can learn from it"  So the next time he goes to crack Simba on the head, Simba ducks.  He learns from his hurt.

Do I do that? Or do I just hurt from my hurt?  I've been going over and over my dramatic exit from Weight Watchers.....and the people I hurt.  And the hurt I feel.  So much hurt.  And is there a point to going back there?  I still miss the friendship that I had with N and L, and if I'm honest, the kudos that came from being a Leader.  Alex asked me tonight again, "why did you fight with your friends, mum? Why don't you work for Weight Watchers anymore?"  and I told him - "buddy, mum wasn't very good at being a boss.  She didn't like telling people what to do".  I have very high standards of myself...and I want everything to be perfect.  And I started to realise that I would put in way too much time ensuring that my clients were receiving the perfect service.  That I'd think about them after hours and plan how I was going to help them and meeting their needs.  That I was going to be the absolute best at everything.  And if people didn't do things the way I wanted them to, I tried to be nice about it.  But I hated having to ask. I wanted them to know the right way (my way) to do things. Instinctively! Without being told!

Oh...and I wanted reassurance constantly, that I was the best.  Because I felt like I wasn't doing enough to be good, to help.  I realise, looking back, that I was always asking them to prop me up. That I was always relying on them to help me. And that I wasn't necessarily giving that back.  I like to think of myself as kind of evolved when it comes to my emotions.  But it's going back over things like this that makes me realise that I am controlling.  That I am inflexible.  That I am limited.  That I want people to agree with me 100% of the time or I feel like crap.  And that's not their fault.  It's mine.  It's something that I need to fix.  And I can start by stopping the comparisons.  Who cares if I have enough friends? Am I a good friend? Am I so worried about being perfect that I am an imperfect friend?  My flawed and skewed perception of myself cuts me off from so much.  But I can learn from this.

I can start to solve my own problems, and to be open to imperfections. Soooo much of my life has been opting out of things that I'm not good at.  Not even trying, because I dont' like the way that coming last feels.  And it's not about doing stuff that I's about living life.  A life without fear.  I have so much fear.  And it makes me angry.  Because I'm terrified that I'll be rumbled for the fraud I am.  But what if I'm not a fraud? What if I'm the authentic me, the one that I don't think is good enough? And if I say "this is me, warts and all, the way God made me". and be proud of that, instead of waiting for the moment when I feel good enough.  Living life, as me, and not looking around to see what everyone else is doing. Being happy in my own company, and taking each day as it comes. 
I'm terrified that Alex is afraid, because I spent so much of my own childhood being afraid.  But learning to accept that fear, and triumph over it, is a battle that only he can fight.  As it's a battle only I can fight.  I alone can do it, but I don't have to do it alone.  My relationship with God gives me great comfort, if I would only let it. I try too hard to do it all myself, to be perfect before I come to God, or anyone for help.  I would much rather be the helper than the helped.  But that's arrogance. Of course we need help. Everyone needs help. Being vulnerable is not a's a necessity.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Jumping off...

I have had another article published on Mamamia - bam, just like that. Sent it off,  and 24 hours later, 91 people have read it.  Some people I do know, some people I don't.  Crazy stuff.  And good friends of mine are telling me that I should write a book.  Whoa.

I guess I'll look at the reasons why this scares me!
- because it might be crap, and everyone will laugh
- because writing is something I enjoy and if I make a job out of it, will I still enjoy it?
- what if I suck? What if I don't suck? What if it's really good and I sabotage it?
- Richard is not keen for Alex or he to feature in this book.  He says he just doesn't know that everyone needs to know everything about us.  So I'm wondering if I need to still write it autobiographically, or do I write fiction?
- I know me, and I like approval.  What if I get addicted to people approving of me and feel bad if they don't.  I guess the answer to that is, to find other ways to define myself that don't centre around what I do.  Which is kind of why I'm not rushing out to get another job - there is a lot of work to be done in the house, etc, but I don't want to jump into something else so that I don't have to think about the reasons why this last job didn't work out. I feel that I need to work on the ways I respond to conflict and the reasons that I do what I do. (see previous post on approval!!)

Reasons why I like it:
- Gosh, I love writing. If I could make a living out of it, then I would feel soooo happy!
- I am slightly/moderately/very egocentric and like the idea of my name being on the title of something, of achieved something, of everyone telling me HOW FREAKING AWESOME I AM!
- I love the feeling of constructing a sentence, and modifying it, of searching for the right word, of encapsulating what I am thinking and feeling. Of sharing that with other people and having them say "yes! That's how I felt, but I didn't know how to put it into words".  The bible says not to hide our lights under a bushel.  Maybe it's time to kick that bushel to the curb and just go for it?

Watch this space :) :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

9 years sober today!!

One day at a time, the days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years.

Yes. They do.

So what's different today?

I have been married for nearly eight years.  (that whole thing about not getting into a relationship when you first get sober? Totally ignored that.  Met Richard when I was 3 weeks sober. I looked upon our meeting as my reward for not drinking.  It is a lot easier to focus on your recovery when you're not in a new relationship, but that's why everyone gets into one.  We don't want to focus on us when we could be focusing on something else - food, smoking, another person?  Lucky for me that Richard was Mr Right, and is along for the long haul.  He's been my rock)

I have a five and a half year old son. His name is Alex. He is beautiful.  Today, when I wake up, I know that I won't have embarrassed him with my drunken antics, I won't have endangered his life by driving drunk.  I may embarrass him in other ways, but at least I don't have to worry about the ones that I can't remember.

When I have a good time, it's real, and not the product of a glass of alcohol.  It's a lot harder to have a good time when you're sober, cause alcohol is a magic carpet ride into the land of "gee whiz, everyone is HILARIOUS tonight!!".....everything seems funny until you wake up with vomit all over your new jacket, no money, the car parked at a crazy-jaunty angle in the car park and a sense of dread at the missing hours in the night that enabled you to get grass stains on your back.  Yes, it takes more effort to have fun without alcohol.  But it's real, and it lasts.

I have a good relationship with my family these days. I particularly have a friendship with my sisters, instead of always needing to be rescued by them.  My approach to family occasions would be something like the line in that song "I love the good times that you wreck..."..... I could be counted on to pick a fight, to get too drunk, to show up with only half an hour's sleep and a massive hangover, reeking of alcohol.  The fact that I have my sisters back is proof of their capacity to forgive and my capacity to change.  It hasn't been easy, but it has been so worthwhile.  My parents and I have a better relationship too, I am more able to look after myself and others than to always be the one needing scraping off the road.

I respect myself these days.  Don't get me wrong - I desperately miss alcohol sometimes.  I miss the ease that it gave me, I miss the ways in which I could be the life and soul of the party.  But, the buzz I got from alcohol was shifty.  I could never predict which nights would be the "wooohooo sister, we is having fuuuuun" and which nights would be the "you skanky ho, get away from my (ex)boyfriend, Ima punch you in the stomach".  And no, I didn't ever get violent when I drank...but that didn't stop me from copping a punch in the guts once when an equally drunken lass didn't appreciate me giggling and dancing with her ex boyfriend.

And I started to become less trustworthy. I took to drunk driving.  I took to getting friendly with inappropriate men.  All the people I hung out with went home and I started hanging out with the hard party crew.  And, as your parents would tell you - guess what comes with the hard party crew?  DRUGS! Drugs are bad, mmmkay? Although they seem like fun when you're drunk.  I was such a try hard, chameleon, trying to fit in with the people who I thought were the coolest.  So when the people I hung around with started talking about drugs, I took on the lingo, and became so good at it, that everyone thought I was a speed freak.  What a compliment, eh?  So, when a cool guy offered me a line of speed at a party, thinking it wasn't my first....I felt so complimented that I had to accept.  Are you surprised that I was a natural? They couldn't believe that it was my first time.  And that made me feel like I was good at something.  Good at taking drugs? What a talent.

I was starting to lose myself in the last days of my drinking. I felt like I was walking a line between a semblance of sanity, and tipping off into lu lu land.  That could have been the pills I was taking when my new friends brought them out.  I still like club music, but if I ever hear any songs about "I was so f#$ked up", It gives me the chills and I have to change the channel.  That's what it's like... everyone comparing how out of it they are, and how wasted they are, how they can't see and it's sooooo cooool to be so wasted.  Did you know that you gurn and grit your teeth when you are on drugs? it's really bad for your teeth.  One of my friends, a hairdresser, had to have a few of her teeth removed cause of the drugs....and I have a missing tooth that reminds me of the ways that I started to neglect myself.

I'd always, always wake up feeling awful, alone and dreadful. Ashamed, guilty, dreadful.  None of my other friends seemed to feel the same way, or if they did, were wayyy in denial.  I knew things were bad when, after a particularly bad bender on a pill (which I didn't want to take until I got drunk), I couldn't leave the house. I hadn't driven, I had the car there, I could have walked to the shops.  But I couldn't physically leave the house.  It was like the paranoia and guilt were weighing down on me and stopping me from getting out.  I didn't feel safe.  I had no choice but to eat my flatmate's chocolates.  This caused trouble, as it would.  But I felt it was justifiable.  My behaviour was out of control.  My housemates staged an intervention. I cried and told them it was none of their business.

I kept on drinking and dabbling in drugging.  My life got worse.  Then, one night, I went out drinking with some friends.  I had started drinking quicker and quicker.  The good, fun part of my drinking lasted for less time each time I drank.  I'd go straight from "this is awkward, small talk, let's get pissed" to "dribbling, slurring, I just need to lie down for a sec", without a pause in the middle for "waheyyyyy!! Girls are having funnnnnn tonight!!".  My drinking had really ceased to be much fun for anyone.  That night, I crashed my car into a soccer field, completely missing the road to the highway I had to travel home on.  As wake up calls go, you can't get much bigger than that.  I was in a blackout. If I'd got on that Highway, I'd almost certainly have killed myself, or someone else.  All the other points in my life, I'd ignored the signs.  But here was one I couldn't ignore.

Two days later, on the 25th of May 2003, I attended my first AA meeting. I was 26, and sure I was too young for this program....but the stories I heard, I identified with. I craved the peace that the people there had.  I admired the way that they had turned their lives around.  I was arrogant, and thought I was different, but I stuck around.  Things got a lot better from then on.  Not right away, and not always.  I still struggle with my addictive personality and with being "different".  I wish I could go out for a fun night with the girls.  I wish I could sit down with a fun glass of wine.  But I'm just not confident that I could stop at one..... And my husband and son have never seen me drink, and I want to keep it that way. I just can't guarantee what would happen.  So I will keep trudging this path of happy destinies and enjoy life on life's terms. I value what I have today, and a single glass of wine could undo that.  It's just not worth it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Eating me up inside


Well, since I've left Weight Watchers, I've been on a journey of self discovery regarding my weight.  The ways of containing my weight that seemed to work whilst I was with Weight Watchers, have left me.  I didn't want to go back to meetings, it seemed like a bit of a comedown to be sitting in a meeting as a member. Isn't that a crap way of thinking? So, I have tried a lot of things to manage my weight.  First, when I left WW, it was like "wooohoo, I'm not a leader any more, lets just eat everything in sight.".  So, my weight stayed the same for a while, especially as I was exercising a lot.  But after a couple of weeks, I hit the 100 mark again.  Ugh. I feel so much better about myself when the scales say "98", as opposed to "100". And if they say "94"....well, that means that I'm an awesome person, right?

Ugh.  So I tried protein shakes, I joined the gym, I let myself have one day of eating whatever I wanted, I tried to restrict, I went for long walks.  All of this culminated in me weighing 107 kilos.  That's right - since I've left WW, in January, I have put on nearly ten kilos.  And whilst I know that this doesnt' make me a bad person, I wonder if there is something wrong with my metabolism? Because I don't overeat that much...I just seem to be able to put on weight extraordinarily easily.  It sucks.

So - I had been eating vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. So many vegetables that my tummy was bloated, the scales werent' moving and I felt more and more down on myself.  I've since quit the Fast Food place that I was working at...that I'm sure didn't help.

I ended up at a place where I never wanted to be again - crouched over the toilet, trying to get rid of some biscuits and chocolate that I had just consumed.  How had I got so low that I was punishing my body with food again? This is more than just input in and input out.  There is something wrong with the way that I think about food.

My answer was to reach out for help- in group therapy. I know that one of the reasons that Weight Watchers works and worked for me is that it involves talking about my feelings surrounding my weight.  And the food isnt 'the issue - it's a symptom of a greater problem. Address the problem and you'll solve the symptom. So, I've been reading a wonderful, amazing book that my friend Kellie wrote about her recovery from an eating disorder and many other ways of disordered thinking.  I am victim of all of these things as well - and I want to get well.  I am no longer going to deprive, starve, overfeed and overeat vegetables. I am going to listen to my body, tell it that I love it, drink lots of water, do exercise that I love, feel good about the food that I eat, and not beat myself up about the times that I slip and overeat.  I have been fighting this demon for over 20 years, and all the other ways of fighting it have failed, time and again. 

This time I am going to love my body and stop panicking and trying to lose weight.  I made the mistake of stepping on the scales with PMS last night, and it said 109. I panicked, so went and ate two vegemite sandwiches. Punishing my body, it doesn't make any sense, but that's where my mind goes - and that is the thing that keeps me overweight.  I need to let go and give God control of my weight.  My ways do not work, they just don't.  If I practice loving my body and nurturing it, it will become second nature and I will no longer feel the need to overeat and punish myself with food.

Wish me luck! :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Danni Minogue

This is a previously unpublished post from 2008 :)

I've been uploading more songs onto my ipod, and am plundering the depths of my music collection....Danni Minogue "everything I wanted"....oh how I loved that song and the album it came from, can't remember what it was called. It reminds me of moving furniture around in my tiny flat in Narrabundah, where I lived with my little cat Xena. They were some lonely times, I tell you what. I existed just to go out on the weekends, and if I didn't - I had nothing to do and no-one much to do it with. I just had party mates, or my other friends were in relationships and I felt sooo alone. Nothing more alone than a Sunday when you're single and apart from Church, you haven't spoken to a single person all day.

I think that's why I love music so much, because a song can catapult you back into memories of another time. I am one for playing a song over and over again and having it represent how I feel at that time. Thinking about the songs on my depression list, make me think of a particular feeling or episode...a time when I was not well in myself. I love the power of music. I am part of a group in Facebook that says "why yes, I do frequently burst into song". I am always singing to myself and if someone says something, I can usually think up a song that has those words in it.

I hereby present 10 songs that make me happy:

1.Walking on Sunshine, by Katrina and the Waves - I can remember geting a bit tispy with my girlfriends and heading out to the RSL club to dance to this song. I loved it, everytime I hear it I can see the three of us dancing around like we were having the time of our lives. It also reminds me of my husband...he makes me feel like I'm walking on sunshine. aww.

2.Unbelievable, by EMF - this song is the title song for angst and tenage rebellion. I hated moving to Taree from Canberra in 1989, and my friends and I learnt the song words and would write them in letters to each other. I loved EMF, particularly the hunky lead singer James, and bought many copies of Smash Hits from Borders newsagency in Taree. When I moved to Canberra for Uni, my good friend Laura was also an EMF fan and knew all their songs, they way I did. We often would walk along or sit and quote their songs.

3. Xanadu - or any song from the Xanadu soundtrack. I love this movie. I love it because the first time I saw it I was about eight and it embodied all the romantic dreams I had about love. Love breaks down all barriers. I liked to think that I would be good at rollerskating if I really tried. But I didn't ever try, so remained one of those people who pulled themselves along the edges at the rollerskating rink. The girl next door, Tracey, and I would watch the movie while saying the lines. I got to play Sonny cause I was taller, and she got to play Kira.

4. Kiss from a Rose - Seal. I spent much of my late teens and early twenties yearning for my one true love. I didn't have much success with the guys (don't know why, as I had long dark hair, long dark eyebrows and very dark lips. Gothic? slightly.) and I was slightly bitter, as my friends paired up with guys. I remember sitting in a nightclub in Taree, listening to this song, vowing that one day I would meet someone who would feel like this about me. It was also in the soundtrack for Batman and I loved Chris O'Donnell at the time. hehe. Oh, and cause my hubby is so great, we had this song as the bridal party walked into the function centre at our wedding. yay!

5. Crazy in love - Beyonce and Jay-z. I remember hearing this song around the time of my sister Jen's wedding, where I was paired with Richard (my gorgeous husband). I had a massive crush on him and was too scared to speak to him, but overcame those feelings at their wedding and talked to him a fair bit. He invited me back to his house with some of the other bridal party and his best friend Jamie dropped me home. The next day my sister Angela drove me back to Canberra and all I could talk about was Richard. We stopped at Wagg and I bought a mix cd that had this song on it. I listened to it all the time, and whenever I hear it, I remember that weekend!

Life changing discoveries

Oh my goodness gracious me - sobs were on the menu at my session with my psychiatrist today.  It was tough!  I went in to discuss my latest job meltdown - hurling abuse at coworkers isn't the way that I want to behave.  The last few times that I've spoken to him, he's been approving. I have had my issues and I've brought them to him......and he's been in favour of the way that I've solved the problems.

I've evolved a lot from the lady that I used to be. I was once angry, hurting those who I assumed were hurting me, I validated the way I behaved by the feelings that burned inside me. I was a mess.....I can still go back there, too. 

I was so angry at my psych cause he said that BPD wasn't an illness, it's a personality disorder, it cant be cured by medicine, it can be cured by hard work, and he was explaining in all this detail about what BPD was and what other diseases are and how they're cured  -
and I was like - wt, how is it not an illness? i felt like he was saying it was my fault, I wanted him to agree with me and then I felt like he wasn't getting what I was saying and I got cross...and he was getting cross at me getting cross - and he wasn't telling me what he wanted me to say, so I was like "listen to me, I am sick, I should be on medicine, you've said it's an illness before'

But I think he was making a point of how quickly my temper turns when someone disagrees with me.He said its part of my abandonment issues, that I think if people don't agree with me then I get afraid that they're gonna leave and so I get angry so that I can end things, not them

And he said if you can't work through this here, you won't be able to get through this in life!

I was soooo angry at him, I was like "you are the psychiatrist, I don't know what you want me to say" and he was like "well thats' where we have to leave our session today" and I was like noooooooo I need closure! don't leave me being cross with me!!"  and that's when I realised that he was right. I get a huge knot of fear when someone disapproves of me - don't leave me, don't disapprove of me. Love me. Like me!! Please!!!
I am crying as I write this because it is such a truth - soooo deep to my core. And i know why he pushed me so much, because it is something I need to get past in order to stop repeating the pattern of approval seeking behaviour. I just find more people to approve of me and repeat the pattern. This is core stuff for me. It's scary as hell. I wish I knew why I was like this. I am starting to remember some bullying that I think is perhaps to blame - the trauma I guess?

I was sobbing in the office when I came out but he was so proud of me when I said "I am arrogant and I want people to know that I am the best at everything but I don't want to try unless I'm the best - and I need people to tell me I'm the best constantly" - he was like "that's what I wanted from you - you needed to come up with your own solution to your problem" - it's so much easier to get angry and run away than confront what is wrong.

I'm going to confront this. I am going to work on my approval issues. I am going to get well and stop repeating these patterns - I am going to be God's creation and proud of me, instead of trying to be what I think I should be.

Peace out.

Friday, March 23, 2012

In the nuthouse.

First of all, a big hello to my new followers!! I'm so excited that I have people following my blog who don't even know me....very blessed.

Since I last wrote, my blog post was published on Mamamia and I got so many positive responses to my struggles.  I worried a bit that I'd made myself too visible, and too open.  I said a lot of stuff in there that I can't take back - I came out of the closet as a mentally ill person to my Facebook friends.  That's scary stuff....I worry sometimes that I put people off, that they won't want to be friends with me if they know all about me.  And at the same time, I guess it opens a dialogue that's amazingly healthy and helpful to be a part of. Then again, is it too much info?

I've been thinking a lot lately about my time in the psychiatric ward of a hospital.  I wanted to share my experience...because let's face it, the average person in the street doesn't know what it's like (or do they?).  So, I have always had depressive iss-yews, but the months after I had Alex was the first time that I ever had the experience of staying in a psychiatric ward.  I'd developed Post Natal Depression with Alex, that at first presented as anxiety.  Fair enough, we thought - and started some coping strategies.  I read some books and wrote gratitude lists.  I spoke a lot to my friends in AA.  I didn't want to seek psychiatric help, as I felt I'd been working towards handling this.   So I tried.  My maternal health nurse was extremely worried about me.... My results on the Edinburgh Depression Scale were off the charts.  Yet, I tried to fob her off "No", I said "I don't have Post Natal Depression - I'm just an anxious person".  I walked everywhere. I tried soothing techniques.  I went to sleep school.  I tried to bond with Alex. I tried to breastfeed.  I watched the clock constantly, and one morning woke up with gastro.  Terrible gastro. Yet, I wasn't throwing up or going to the toilet. And something was sitting on my chest. I couldn't swallow.  I must have been sick. Surely there was a virus going around?

I went to the doctor that day, trembling as I unloaded the pram from the back of the car and tried to snap it together. Loaded Alex, my gorgeous baby (who I was terrified of), into the pram and waited for the solution.  I saw a different doctor, and as I outlined my symptoms, he smiled and looked at me kindly.  "You have Post Natal Depression and Anxiety", he said.  "You must go on antidepressants and put the baby on the bottle".  I was instantly relieved and hopeful.  The solution was found!  I drove home feeling happy for the first time in ages.  I called mum to come over from Albury to help me wean him and organise bottles.  I waited for things to get better.  They didn't.

I was terrified of being a mum. Terrified of Alex crying and terrified of not being able to make him stop.  Panic and dread flooded me every time he cried.  I hated breastfeeding.  I felt disconnected with my body. It hurt.  It took ages.  I took to watching the clock to see how long he was feeding, how long he would sleep, how long I'd been awake, how long I had to sleep, how long until Richard went to work, how long before he came home. I became obsessed with sleep and time....until time became my enemy. Time seemed to be stuck. I was stuck.  I sometimes wished that he would go away, so that this feeling would go away, yet I loved him fiercely, and was terrified that something would happen to him. I was terrified of being away from him, scared that he would be in an accident and die. Scared that something would happen to Richard, scared that I would hurt Alex.  I was terrified. And things started to happen to me.  I had never, ever wanted to kill myself, but suddenly it seemed like a good idea.  To stop the insanity, to stop the madness. I was sick of the whirlwind of thoughts in my mind and the constant fear, nausea, anxiety and churning of my stomach. The constant weight on my chest, the palpitating of my heart, the urges I felt towards myself and to my beautiful baby boy.

The church organised a roster so that I didnt' have to be by myself.  Someone would arrive while Richard was about to leave for work, and the shifts would change over during the day.  Richard would come home. The whole day was an excruciating passing of the seconds and minutes. I was trapped in deep, deep and cloying misery.  I had ceased to be myself. I stopped being able to eat or sleep. I couldn't imagine coping.  I had started cutting myself, just to stop the thoughts.  I had never done this before....I had worked through my issues - why was it happening now?

Alex got a place in the mother and baby unit, and we moved over.  Richard  came to visit and we tried to be a family - pretty hard when you're in a hospital.  I tried so hard not to talk to Richard about how I was feeling. I felt like I was dead inside.  I felt like I wanted to escape.  If it wasn't for the love I felt for all of them, that I knew I felt, I would have just checked out.  I was in agony.

I transferred to Banksia house at the Austin after a few days, as it was a public hospital, and I met some lovely women.  Sam and Alicia and I remain friends to this day.  We got used to bathing our babies and trying to normalise the situation.  But I was still terrified. I still felt like I was a million miles away from everyone else.  And I was stuck in a hospital.  I saw psychiatrists and psychologists, I took my pills.  But nothing helped.  After a month, they sent me home.  Things got worse.  I started seeing another psychiatrist in Albury, who prescribed some new antidepressants, sleeping pills, and anti anxiety tablets.  I couldn't cope.  People were around me all the time.  I wanted to escape.  I told them that I could cope and overdosed. I called Mum and a helpline as I took the pills.  I didn't want anything bad to happen to Alex.  A neighbour came over to be with him. I still cry when I hear the story about my sister in law, Catherine, driving away with Alex.  My poor, poor baby.  It wasn't that I didn't want to be with him - it was just that I didn't want to be with me any more. I couldn't cope with the desecration and agony that was living in my head - the counting down of the moments and living through each day without any hope or life.

I was taken by ambulance to the Albury Base Hospital and admitted to Nolan House, their psychiatric wing. Mum and Dad lived in Albury and came over to be with me.  And this time, it was different.  I was taken to a hospital room and had most of my possessions removed, particularly anything sharp.  I had a bed with hospital bedding and a communal shower.  I still couldn't sleep or eat, and I was terrified.  The seconds and minutes were agony.  There were large, high, brick walls around the outside of the ward.  The inner gates were locked.  Some of the nurses were nasty.  Once it was 10pm, you had to go to bed.  There was no wandering around. You couldn't watch TV late at night.

The days were marked with military precision.  There was a schedule of group therapy, coping exercises, walks in the morning with one of the nurses, and mealtimes. The meals came on a cart, with plastic covers.  I can't see those plastic covers without getting a shiver down my spine.  They meant that you'd survived part of the day. Another section of the day was over.  I was surprised at how hard it was to pass time.  Time was still my enemy - I would wake at 5am, in panic and anxiety, and force myself to wait. I couldn't stay in my bed.... I would try to read but was unable to manage more than a couple of words.  It was torture.  Suicide was a constant thought.  I couldn't justify it but the ending of this agony had become paramount.  The suffering became worse the longer I went through it.  There seemed to be no end and I had no hope.  I saw my psychiatrist and he advised a medication change. I was to have sleeping tablets. I was not given anything for my anxiety during the day.  They wanted me to try and cope.  I still have a piece of paper where I have calculated how many more hours it would take before I could see my psychiatrist again, with the time I slept taking out.  I was in prison, but it wasn't about my surroundings - it was all in my mind.  I couldn't escape.

Some of  the people around me were terrifying.  There were no other mums there with stories to tell of husbands who were confused and feeding schedules.  These were unwell people.  And some very nice people. I remember a real estate agent who had a gambling problem, and who had driven his car into a pole rather than cope with his problems.  He did really well in therapy and recovered quickly.  His depression was reactive and he was going to get his life back together.  There were people who came in every six months to get a course of Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT), as it reset their brain chemistry.  Every time they came back from their sessions, they went to bed, slept, and woke up a step closer to themselves.  It was amazing. I was jealous of the people with lots of medication, who had to take it often. Why couldn't I have more medication? Surely that would make me feel better?

The walks and the times we were allowed outside were the worst of all.  It only served to highlight our incarceration when we were given freedom.  I remember going on a walk with the other patients and realising that we were about a kilometre from my mum's house, where Alex was staying.  She was coming to visit me with him later that morning. I longed to break away from the group and run towards them - but I knew that would only cause more trouble.  I remember thinking that this is what it must be like to be in rehab - and I thought that looked so cool in all the Hollywood movies...and how wrong I was to wish to be in rehab all those times I found sobriety hard going.

I remember being on a trip to the supermarket over the road, and seeing a woman my age buying groceries.  I remember wishing that I could be that woman. I remember thinking, "one day, I will be out of here. One day I will be that woman, and I won't resent having to get those groceries.  I will be glad that I am getting those groceries and that I'm not here". 
The next time I went on a shopping excursion, the fact that I felt so far away from that woman was too much to bear.  I stole a pack of 24 panadols and when we got back, I took them all.  I thought that everyone would understand that I couldn't live anymore if this was all that I could be.  I cried for myself, I cried for Richard and I cried for Alex. I cried for my parents and for my family.  I was so loved but I couldn't feel any of it. I was imprisoned, I had ceased to be a person, I was a series of symptoms and agonies.  I wasn't me.  I was dead inside. 
I couldn't believe it when nothing happened.  I was so upset that I smashed a mug and tried to slash my wrists.  That didnt' work either.  All it ended up doing was landing me in the isolation ward, where I wouldn't harm myself or others.

That day, when both of those things happened, and when my liver tests came back totally normal, and I sat trying to make sense of why I was still here, when I wanted to die, I realised that there was a reason I was here.  A reason why God had kept me alive.  It was hard and I couldn't understand it, but I remember writing in my diary that "THIS IS SERIOUS! PEOPLES LIVES ARE AT STAKE!".  I suddenly realised that it wasn't all about me.  That I wanted to stop being in hospital.  That I wouldn't get any better until I became responsible for getting better.  I realised that I wanted to go home and start trying to live and be a proper mother to my son.  That I wasn't going to get any better for a while, but as one psychiatrist said "This is a severe depressive episode.  We don't know why it happens, or when it will end - but we do know that as long as you keep on living, you will get better."

Lots of other things happened, and it was a while before I got out of the hospital and even longer still before the episode ended and I found my way back to where I am today.  But, I still remember it.  I still remember that there is a reason why I am here today.  And I still remember to be grateful when I am buying the groceries and I don't feel like it - because I could be the other girl, and today I'm not.  Today I'm a million miles away from her.  But I carry her in a tiny piece of my heart, because she's taught me to be responsible for me.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Does that make me crazy? Probably....

This week has been a very interesting one.  So, first off, I've always been a little bit different. Always had trouble living life on life's terms.  I have always been afraid, always been thin skinned, always taken things personally. Always been afraid of being alone, always been bullied, always been sure there was something wrong with me. Always looking at the person next to me to see how they did it, and trying to do the same.  Always sure that I would be rumbled, and people would see how crap I truly was, and that nobody would ever want to be my friend.

So when did that change? Well, about eight and a half years ago, I started taking things a little more seriously. I started looking at the circumstances in my life, and how people were always being unreasonable...I started looking at how the common denominator in that was me.  I started thinking that, as someone says in Bridesmaids "You are the problem. You're your own problem, and you're your solution".  How true.  My relationships with people have always been interesting, different, fraught.  And although I got help, a lot of it didn't make sense.  Not until I reached my rock bottom (those other ones were just practice), when I developed extreme Post Natal Depression, and was forced to evaluate my own life.

I was forced to see that if I always let other people define me, then when I was alone, I would always feel weird and sort of nothing-y. I learned that nobody was going to show up and help me fix my life.  I began to see that I was my solution.  I also learned along the way, that the reason why I behaved like this, was because I had an underlying mental illness.  I have a mental illness.  I don't like having a mental illness. I want to be all better, because I decided that I should be.  But at the same time, it is a relief, when I relapse and I look at the criteria for having Borderline Personality Disorder.  Because, there in black and white are all the things I do.  All the things that I struggle with.  And I realise, again, that this is not something that I enjoy. This is not something that I brought on myself.  This was the answer to the question the 14 year old me asked herself again and again "WHAT THE F&*K IS WRONG WITH ME? WHY AM I LIKE THIS? WHY CAN"T I LOVE MYSELF?"

Being diagnosed was a huge relief because it meant that there was a REASON why I found life so difficult, why I struggled so much with extremes of emotion, why I became obsessed with certain outcomes, why I struggled to let things go, why I sought to bury my emotion in food, shopping or drinking, why I felt things so much more deeply than other people did. Why I compared myself, why I judged myself and others.

So, it was a curse and a blessing.  A curse, because I had all that stuff that I had to deal with, to work on, to try and live with.  But, a blessing, because I finally knew what was wrong with me.  I had help. I was shown the way and had a loving family, friends, and a psychiatrist who specialised in making people with BPD find a life that was liveable.

But - I still struggle. I still struggle fiercely with my emotions, and in particular, anger.  I haven't had an anger episode for a long time, but I had one last week. And it destroyed some stuff in my life.  Good friends, who I haven't known for that long, saw me at my worst, and didn't like it.  It scared them.  This episode set off a chain of events that led to me having to resign from my job, a job I loved, a job where I finally felt that I had found my calling.  A job that was proof that I wasn't limited or challenged. A job where people looked to me for the answers.  A job where I could give back for all the compassion and help that I'd received in the past eight years.

I am struggling to not feel like I blew it - like I should have tried harder.  But, my overwhelming feeling is that I may have lost friends and a job, but that I am moving on. I have made some amazing friends through this job, and I am proud of my achievement in keeping this job, even though I wish it could have lasted for longer.  I recognise that I was starting to get tired.  That I was starting to get stressed.  That the responsibility was starting to be too much for me.  That I was feeling out of control...that I didn't know how I was going to fit it all in.  That I felt like it defined me.

And you know what? I don't need a job to tell me who I am.  I am Deborah Louise Hay (nee Cook). I make mistakes.  I let people down.  I fall down, but I get back up again. I am honest about my failings.  I try to right my wrongs.  I am what you see.  I love helping people. I love being social. I love sarcasm. I love food.  I love sugar.  I love my family.  I love my son. I love my husband. I love cats. I love toilet humour.  I love that life is full of surprises and I love that I"m getting better at rolling with the punches.  I love that my husband has taught me to laugh at myself, and I love that I have taught him compassion. I love that I am me.  I may not be the best me that I can be, but I'm working on it.  Watch this space.
Much love
Deb xx