mental

Jessie vs Mental Illness – To the Victor Go the Spoils

mentalMental illness has been such a destructive force for Jessie, that has seen her life stripped back to its bare bones. She became unable to cope with human contact and attending school became altogether too much for her. Living in the dark of her bedroom, she only came out only for food or the bathroom. She shut right down and pretty much closed herself off to the world for close on 12 months.

Her re-emergence has been a slow and gradual process, but she’s been able to do it in her own time. Because of this, she’s been able to create strong foundations for herself. No-one has built them for her, she’s put in all the hard work, making them pretty sturdy. Her time’s been well spent researching all about bipolar and anxiety as well as positive coping techniques. Jessie’s level of insight into herself and others is amazing and is continuing to grow.

♥ After refusing professional help for many years, appointments are now requested, willingly attended and well utilised.

♥ After being fired from a job at 14 because she was too quiet and shy, she’s now making new friends where she works in customer service. She has to deal with all types of pesky people, some of them quite rude. Just the other night we we’re talking about how resilient it’s helping her become.

♥ After missing probably half of her education since Year 4, being educated at home has allowed Jessie to get back into her studies. She plodded along for the most part but I’ve spoken with 2 teachers who have both said how much things have changed over the last 6 months.

mentalI’d been contacted a few weeks ago as Jessie had won a Principal’s award for her mockumentary she made for English. I was also told that her gothic poem has been printed in the Year Book! That was a good day, made even better seeing Jessie really happy as well. I haven’t seen her outwardly care about her results like that for a long time.

Last week I had a call and a letter to say Jessie was getting another award and could we attend Presentation Day so she can “be presented with her ‘portfolio’ of awards”, whatever that means. It sounds impressive but we joked it could be a plastic sleeve folder with one award. …’To be added to’!

The icing on the cake for Jessie was being accepted into a talent academy. It’s such an awesome opportunity for her and who knows what doors it could open. This will give her training and exposure to agents, and she’s really excited but keeping her feet firmly on the ground. I’ve been receiving emails from Star Now for a few years. The interest’s been there, just not the self esteem.

I’m so rapt that she finally has the confidence to be moving out of her comfort zone. It shows that mental illness no longer holds the monopoly. It hasn’t gone away, but Jessie knows her triggers and symptoms and has a good grasp of her emotions. She’s learning to control the symptoms of her mental illness, instead of them controlling her. And she so deserves these outcomes.

She’s said to me that she’s waiting for it all to fall apart because things don’t go this well for her. Luck has had nothing to do with her academic achievements I reassured her  – they have come from her decision to put the effort in. Her acceptance into the talent academy was due to her creativity and the immediate impression she made at the audition. Jessie has her own green screen and has starred in her own short movies for years. She has earned loads of merit awards throughout  her school years for her stories and poetry. Writing is something she has always enjoyed, even when not engaged in school.

I’m so proud of the person she is becoming. I’m feeling more and more confident that she’s not only going to be okay, she’s going to be awesome. Even during her last full on manic episode where she didn’t sleep for two days, she decided to use it to her benefit. She washed all her bedding, did a big clear out of her wardrobe and drawers, tidied and cleaned her room and did a week’s worth of schoolwork. She was so productive which I think helped her keep it together. By having tasks to focus on, her energy was directed instead of being scattered.

It takes great courage, determination and inner strength to overcome the challenges Jessie has faced in her young life. Like an iceberg, people only see what’s above the surface. However what’s unseen is the largest part of the equation. People like to make judgement on what they see, presuming they understand and are therefore entitled to do so. Jessie’s learning to recognise her worth and not allow others to undermine her achievements. Unlike her mum, others opinions no longer affect her so negatively and this is going to help her immensely in life.

The harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.

mental

 
 


 
 


 
 

formal

Year 10 Formal, Meet Anxiety and PTSD

formalYear 10 Formal. What was hoped to be a special night for Jessie, ended up being memorable for all the wrong reasons sadly. She looked absolutely gorgeous and had been so excited. My heart sank when I got the first text an hour in, and I knew where it was going. I hadn’t been home an hour after already doing the 2 hour round trip to drop them off before I was doing it over again…

For $90 per head to attend formal, we knew there was a three course sit down dinner, DJ, photographer and photo booth. What we didn’t know was that the girls hadn’t put their table request in so wouldn’t all be seated together. Or that the DJ would be playing so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, from the start of the night. I felt for the teachers, but that’s how I loved my music many years ago, and all the girls had fantastic night. But for Jessie, her anxiety and PTSD were triggered, she lost her confidence and it was all over red rover.

I was angry. Screw you universe for allowing this to happen to Jessie. Fuck you for giving her this shitty plot in life that stops her from being a normal teen. I was angry that I had all the driving, when I’d been SO needing time out. I was angry that neither of our nights were what we’d hoped for. Jessie had been looking forward to the formal for so long. She’d paid off her own dress with weekly payments. It was a big deal for her, I wanted it to be a night with her friends she’d always remember. For me – I wanted to feel like I assume most parents feel thinking of their teen out having an awesome time. I don’t know what that’s like, Jessie’s been unwell since age 8.

formalJessie’s aware her mental illness isn’t taken seriously, and formal night really cemented that for her. She’d obviously gotten the feeling from friends on the night that she needed to say sorry, and did so the next day. I think she needed reassurance, but instead was thanked by her best friend for apologising. For what I don’t know. She didn’t create a big scene, she managed herself really well, just sat and waited for me. But as we talked about with Jessie’s counsellor, mental illness is invisible, and people don’t understand. If she’d had a physical illness, no doubt her friends would have instead looked after her. And certainly wouldn’t have expected an apology.

Sadly people don’t understand mental illness. The notion is thoughtlessly thrown out there that sufferers should be able to control their symptoms. Yet you’d be a real a-hole to expect someone to control their asthma symptoms, or to walk on a broken leg. But the reality is that I think many mental illnesses are seen as a choice, and can therefore be controlled. If not controlled, the mind must be weak. Weak is definitely not a word I’d use to describe my Jessie, in any way, shape or form!

But that’s life. And as disappointing as it can be, if Jessie can learn how to get on regardless now, she’ll have strong foundations for life.

She loves her friends. And her need for friends is the same as everyone else’s.

They’re all learning – they’re teenagers, all trying to work out how and where they fit in this world.

formal

 
 

imperfections

Catastrophic Imperfections – Or So I Thought

imperfectionsI’m not one to make excuses for myself nor one to blow my own trumpet. This post could be seen as doing both those things. However my purpose for writing is to help me to be less judgemental of my imperfections. I’m hoping it will also help keep things in perspective for me.

In my previous post I was really upset with myself and worried about the repercussions of not being on top of things. After walking out of Jessie’s previous session I’d been asked to come back in to talk with her counsellor. I was convinced of a catastrophic outcome after previous experiences. Before Jessie was diagnosed I was told by a DoCs worker that her issues were due to my bad parenting. Despite that not being the case, that judgement has always stuck with me.

So after chatting about Jessie and things she had brought up, it turns out that ultimately she’s worried about me. I’ve been getting angry and my patience levels aren’t what they had been. The counsellor was concerned too, as I’ve never walked out of a session before, and we’ve dealt with some pretty full-on things over the 6 years we’ve known her. The expectation of hearing if I didn’t do xyz Jessie would be taken, was getting to me. I had to ask if there was any threat of me losing Jessie. The counsellors reaction was something I want to record as a reminder to my critical self.

She gently told me that if I was waiting to hear those words I would’ve been waiting forever as they were never going to be spoken. I was told the only time she’s ever rung DoCs was when I was sitting in her office many years ago, desperate for help. I burst into tears and she told me how sorry she was I’d had that fear hanging over me. She said she’s never had a concern for the safety or wellbeing of Jessie with me, ever. With Jessie having been sectioned so many times we became well known by the ER staff and the CYMHS team. I was reassured that there has never been a imperfectionsconcern by anyone, at any time.

We talked a little about me not coping. I told her I’m angry with myself because I know the parenting stuff yet I’m struggling to get it right lately. I was also upset because I’ve had so much counselling over my lifetime, yet I can still get to this low point. Counselling was supposed to ‘fix’ you I’d believed. So wtf was wrong with me? Again the counsellor’s reaction was not what I’d expected! I thought she’d remind of what I needed to work on. Instead she talked about the effects of trauma and why I’m feeling so overwhelmed. Instead of my imperfections being highlighted, I was heard and validated. What was highlighted were the positive changes in Jessie over the years which she put down to my parenting and love. Thankfully it’s allowed me to stop judging myself so harshly.

Apparently I’m doing really well, even when I feel I’m not. The counsellor told me that there are families there who aren’t coping with things quite small in regards to what I deal with and on my own. She reminded me that our lot is very far from the norm – we’re dealing with some very difficult and stressful realities. There are things about it which are triggering for me, bringing me to ‘why aren’t I fixed?’

The explanation was so rational it could’ve only been blocked out by my delusions of a tune up and off you go, good as new. All of our experiences stay with us. They go towards making up who we are. Counselling helps us process emotions and thoughts in the hope we can move on. But it doesn’t erase the experience, dammit, and the side effects can be triggered by any number of things, at any time.

imperfectionsJessie’s educated via distance ed and doesn’t have a social life unless friends come here. As the counsellor said, we live in a small space where there’s nowhere to get away, no yard to escape to. It’s not normal to live in such close confines with someone 24/7. Being mum, I’m on call 24/7 as well, no respite. What’s normal in that situation is to become frustrated and less tolerant with each other. I do have a tough egg here, and Jessie’s been home consistently for 2 years now. Having regained perspective, we’ve done pretty okay really! She drives me crazy but I love her to absolute bits! It’s gotta be that bond that gets us through, imperfections and all…

Solution?

A solution…that’s a bit like ‘being fixed’ isn’t it?! We’ll see.

I’d had an idea about creating a roster type thing that would give me uninterrupted time to study, write and do my volunteering stuff. The counsellor thought it was a fantastic idea so I’ve written up a trial timetable. The hours might change, it needs to be practical, but Jessie’s on board which is a positive start.

• We’re also going to see the counsellor each fortnight for a while, plus I can see her on my own whenever I need.

• I’ll also read this if ever I have any doubts about my parenting. I won’t doubt a counsellor who’s known us for 6 years. I also need to listen to those who love me instead of those who don’t.

 

imperfections

 

 

composed

Eventually The Composed Face Falters

Disclosure: Course language  

composureRemaining composed as a parent is like my Nirvana of parenting. It’s what we hear and preach – stay calm, don’t shout, listen, don’t argue, be strong, be patient, be kind. I’m exhausted just writing that!! I know I’m stressed and I’m forever tired, even when I’m not sleepy. So this perfect parenting thing isn’t going so well. Actually it’s going even worse than I’d thought.

Jessie had her appointment with her counsellor earlier in the week that had me unhappy before we even went in. I copped an attitude that’s not unfamiliar, but after a lot of seemingly little things put together, it got to me. Things only went downhill from there. The session launched with a vitriolic tirade about how I had forced Jessie to take her job back despite her having another job interview and despite her hating her current job. We’d had a conversation about her resigning months ago and weighed up the pros and cons. Then it was her choice. This was completely unexpected as she’d been complaining about not having enough shifts this week. And she was hating on me, no holes barred! Way too much, and I got up and walked out. The tears started flowing and didn’t stop for the next hour.

It’s the first time I’ve ever done that, in all these years of some pretty heavy times. Composed? Ha, fuck no! And even though I HATE crying in public I’m hopeless at holding back the tears. I didn’t want them interfering with Jessie’s time, and she should be able to have a place where she can unload about me. I just don’t feel I need to be there. However her counsellor says she can only go so far with Jessie without me there, which I find confusing. I know of other kids whose parents aren’t allowed in, let alone be privy to all that’s discussed.composed

The appointments are for Jessie to help her with her challenges. I’ve always gone in because of Jessie’s age, then more recently to bring up things she forgets to. Her counsellor said she had to stop Jessie talking because the time had run out which was a first. Jessie’s usually keen to get going! We both found that pleasingly amusing. So I actually think it might be good for Jessie to have her own space to talk. She’s told me that there are things she needs to talk about but doesn’t want to worry me. That kinda sux but if she’s happy to discuss stuff with her counsellor, that’s a positive.

So what now?

I have an appointment in the morning to discuss Jessie’s session and to make another appointment with her psychiatrist. No doubt we’ll also discuss my abrupt departure – brought on by not one thing in particular, but lots of little things tied together as I’ve said before. All these little things say mountains about me if you know what to listen for. But once it’s got to this point, it’s like opening up a can of worms. The worms all start piling out and you can’t deal with them all at once like this so you push them all back in and put the lid back composedon. You keep your hand pressed on the lid for a few seconds to make sure that fucker’s on tightly.

The next time, you suit up, ready for battle. You bravely open up that lid again, just enough to peek in and let one worm out. But voomp, there they all are – squished together in an unsightly mass trying to get out through that tiny space. Nup. Lid’s back on. Fuck it!! FUCK!!!!

All this makes life difficult because it’s little things now that are making me annoyed. Angry!! Which then makes me really upset and I bag myself for losing control and letting myself get angry. Swinging… Sounds fun. But it’s really not! I feel quite suffocated and the effort it’s taking to not shutdown into myself is not sustainable. The worst thing is having so much knowledge and knowing the tools to use, because it makes me acutely aware of when I’m fucking up. And when my tank is so low, fucking up is the best I can do. Thankfully I’m assured my level of ‘fuckinguptivity’ doesn’t rank too highly in eyes other than mine, but that’s for my next blog.

 

composed

 
 

future

The Future is Starting to Glimmer and Shine

futureDuring the week Jessie came with me to TAFE to return and borrow library books. I’ve finally completed my Cert IV in Bookkeeping and onto my second cluster of subjects in a Cert IV in Mental Health. The Diploma in Mental Health is next, as my future plan is to find paid work in the field. Currently I’m volunteering which I really love. I’ve also been recommended to be on the Board for Kathleen York House, a drug and alcohol treatment centre run by the Alcohol Drug Foundation NSW. Hopefully I’ll be meeting up with them this coming week. All great experience and good for my resume!

But l’m already off track. This post was intended to be about Jessie, and the epiphany she had as we were leaving TAFE. So diverting back – this visit unexpectedly sparked a shift and an excited buzz in Jessie around her future studies. She started reminiscing about school and talking about the things she missed. In general these were the learning environment, friends and being part of something. Music to my ears.

I suggested she should find out what courses are run at our local tafe. She was pumped and did just that the minute we got home. There are times a rocket can’t shift this kid, but when she’s motivated, don’t get in her way. Either she’ll take you out in her haste, or I’ll take you out for stopping her (I write in humour, having a little chuckle to myself – before realising there may just be a little truth in it!). I don’t care what she choses to futuredo or in which direction she goes. I just want her to find her direction and kick its arse. Or just follow it. Or anything in between!

With a uni application already under her belt, she’s now favouring the pathway through TAFE. Personally I think she’s made the right decision for herself, if for nothing more than the fact it’s going to be a big change from what she’s doing now. So the wait now is for her to finish Year 10 so she can apply for her chosen course, and hope to god she gets in.

After all these years of worrying about what Jessie’s future might look like, this excitement in her passed through to me. I allowed myself to feel the relief and imagine seeing Jessie grow up to have a happy life. What a luxury!! And something I’d always taken for granted before things went haywire. She may very well have just taken an alternate route to get to where she was always going. Fingers crossed…

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”

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aura

Here, Have An Aura With That My Friend

I know…it’s rude to look a gift horse in the mouth. But c’mon universe, I’m feeling smothered and need some space from your ambiguous generosity. An aura here or there, but not like this.

I don’t know what’s going on but I’ve been having regular aura’s again this past couple of months. It’s annoying and I’m wanting to minimise them, but I’m actually incredibly lucky with my epilepsy. Others suffer incredibly and I realise auras are miniscule. My love goes out to one brave young sufferer in particular.

I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2008 after doctors witnessed me having a grand mal seizure in hospital. Since then I’ve been medicated and haven’t had a seizure in five years. So I’m doing okay! However each aura is letting me know my brain’s still misfiring at times. I just find them annoying because they make me so tired afterwards and leave my brain hazy. And from what I can gather the only cure for an aura is avoiding the trigger.

I’ve started keeping a record of them and what I’m doing at the time. After a few weeks I’m hoping to see a pattern or be able to identify the triggers. At the moment it’s quite confusing because my doctor tells me these auras sound like side effects of a migraine. Although I do get bad headaches that last for days, they’re definitely not migraines, instead tension headaches. A massage at my favourite Chinese massage place where the only one who speaks English is the receptionist, and I’m healed. These women are tiny but can cause agony! I can’t handle them at full strength! I walk out feeling like a feather though. I’m recharged and the headache’s gone, along with the auras. For a little while.

auraOther times they come on, seemingly without cause. I have them when I’m hosing the garden, reading, at the gym, in the shower, shopping, when I first wake up, talking to people, at tai chi. They don’t discriminate on the basis of location or company. It’s a conundrum I want to ‘uncondrum’ – bahaa! (FYI – uncondrum: to unconundruminate a conundrum)  *sigh*  It’s late…

I remember years ago the auras used to really frighten me.  This was a few years before I was diagnosed. I’d ring Mum and have her stay on the line with me until it passed. I couldn’t ever really explain exactly what it was I was experiencing. I still can’t explain it well, but I know what the process is so I don’t panic anymore. They can be like a wave of physical detachment that passes momentarily. But they can also run their course, how long that takes I’ve never timed.

That feeling of detachment lingers, things sound and smell different. I feel myself shutting down, and prefer to sit still with my eyes closed, in a quiet place. If I’m in conversation I can keep looking aware (I think!) but cannot understand the conversation, let alone contribute. My lips feel numb, my hands and fingers feel and look like they are huge, like they’ve been blown up with air! Sometimes I feel nauseous, and every time I become extremely hot and sweaty. Afterwards my whole body feels tired and I’m exhausted.

I’ve been wondering if it’s something environmental, as I didn’t have a single aura whilst we were away. Last weekend we caught up with the family. I had one in the morning, was fine during the day, then had another after we got home. It’s a mystery, and one that will likely only be answered with speculation.

Whatever the cause, I think it’s time for a break universe. It’s not me, it’s you.

Brain restarting….please wait….

aura

 

 

challenges

My Challenges to Conquer as a Parent

challengesAs parents I guess many of us face challenges we want to conquer in order to be the best role models for our kids. Our job is to teach our kids so they grow to reach their full potential, whatever that may be. Rationale tells me that to achieve this, the parent must be adept at life skills themselves in order to be able to teach. Agreed? So what do we do when we question our own skills?

A recent situation with Jessie has really made me think about my boundaries and whether they’re right for Jessie. She had been really hurt and upset about a text message from a close friend. She didn’t know how to respond, and became really down on herself and her value to her friends. My suggestion was to let her friend know how the message made her feel. Jessie read her text to me before sending it and I thought it was great. It wasn’t accusatory or mean spirited, just explained how she felt and why. Whether Jessie reading it to me gave me the added benefit of her tone I don’t know, but it wasn’t received well.

The reply Jessie received in return had her in tears and feeling suicidal. This was not okay and I felt the need to intervene. Not a way any friendship should ever leave you feeling. I was told that Jessie was the cause of so much pain and pressure to others and caused other emotional scars. That statement really stood out to me and I wondered what the hell had been going on. My heart broke. What was it Jessie had done and how can I help her to have better friendships? And how awful to have friends who thought of me that way. So therein lie my challenges…

Firstly, at what age do parents stop getting involved? For what things do parents remain involved for kids with social issues like mine – if any? The goal posts keep moving and sometimes I’m not sure where they are! Maybe at 15 all I can do is support her from my end with whatever comes her way. I realise Jessie has to learn to work through friendship problems and create her own values. Which leads to my second challenge…

challengesIf you were to ask me, I’d tell you I’m happy with my set of values around friendships. However I do wonder if they’re too black and white for modelling to Jessie. I become very protective when she’s hurting and feeling so worthless to the world. She’s been through so much and I wish I could shield her from any further anguish. My ‘shark music’ takes over and emotion challenges my reasoning. But that is my baggage, and I need to remember that Jessie’s on the ball. She does have good boundaries around what she feels is and isn’t a good friend. I need to let her forge her own way, learn from life in her own way, and only share my thoughts when she asks for them. She’s got this. She needs me to love her and support her through her experiences.

I don’t ever remember evaluating friendships at Jessie’s age – not until I was much older. I was lucky with my group of friends – and I didn’t have social issues then which probably helped. We didn’t have mobile phones and internet like we do these days, which probably helped as well!

Maybe questioning the sincerity behind our fellow humans is something that can happen after our core feeling of trust and safety’s been damaged by another? Or is it that I’ve lost faith in my own ability to make good choices in who I allow to get close? Maybe it’s that I feel when anyone gets to know me and sees my flaws and weaknesses, they’ll not want to know me any longer? It could be my rates of forgiveness are no longer favourable? No doubt it’s a combination of all of the above that has contributed to independence in my own life. Where’s that line between being teaching awareness and teaching our own fears, if that makes sense?

I don’t like seeing Jessie so distraught, but maybe it’s not my job to fix it anymore? It can be difficult letting go…an only child is the first and the last out of the nest. I wonder if it’s going to get easier…

“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had…

…and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.”

– Linda Wooten

challenges

 

pets

Pets Provide the Best Therapy

petsWe love our pets. We have two cats, Meisha and Ji. They’re members of our family – even though they can be naughty. Sometimes very naughty! But life wouldn’t be the same without them. It’s really lovely, Jessie and I each have our own special connections with them both. I feed them and clean the kitty litter, so they know who looks after them. However Jessie likes to play with them and pick them up for cuddles. Meisha usually likes to interact on her terms, but doesn’t mind a quick hug from Jessie.

Meisha is our tortioseshell, and she’ll be 6 next month. A long story short, Jessie refused to hand this little kitten back to the girl at the pet shop, and refused to leave the store without her. (Two weeks prior they’d sold the kitten we were supposed to be getting.) She ended up costing a fortune! It petswas just before Chirstmas and I had an expensive present stolen from my trolley in the commotion that I had to buy again as well. Anyway, Meisha believes she is queen of the house and claims everything as her own. I’m sure she believes we’re actually her pets, and not the other way around.

She’s a cat cat, who despite having lived indoors her whole life, prefers to dig in my pot plants rather than use the kitty litter, and shows all the typical hunting behaviours when birds sit on the balcony railing – or she sees an insect.

Ji is our tuxedo cat who looks very smart in his suit indeed. He’ll be 5 next month, and is finally starting to grow up…a little. He’s a wuss cat, and attempts to imitate Meisha’s hunting prowess which is incredibly funny. He studies her for ages. She has really taught him how to cat. He was only 5 weeks old when we took in these three little petsorphans. We chose to keep Ji because he started purring whenever you even looked at him. At 8 weeks of age his brother and sister were old enough and went off to their new homes. Meisha used to clean him all the time, but he’s pretty much on his own now. Which I think he prefers because she always ends up chastising him by biting his neck or ears! She has become a disgruntled mother, and her patience with him wears thin.

Meisha’s my hot water bottle at night, always snuggled up next to me, no matter which way I move. Quite often I’m woken by her wet nose touching mine, or her stare from up close and personal, willing me to wake up and pat her before she goes back to sleep again. There are times however when Jessie’s really upset that she’ll sleep on Jessie’s bed. Meisha’s very in tune with Jessie’s mood fluctuations and knows when to hide and when to keep her company.

petsPets seem to love unconditionally, and Meisha and Ji are no exception. And although cats are very independent and can seem quite aloof, I realise that ours more often than not follow me if I change rooms and settle down to sleep again, or just hang out with me.

Pets bring joy, purpose and love into our lives. They provide us with the best therapy, being company that is loyal, always happy to see us, and always happy to listen. The conservative notion that poor or homeless people shouldn’t have pets due to the expense is one I’m glad the RSPCA is providing a solution for with their Living Ruff Program. The RSPCA recognises the ‘mental, emotional and physical benefits’ of owning a pet, providing free food, worming and flea treaments, and access to vet services through this fantastic program. Being a not-for-profit, community based organisation they are always in need of donations which, if you like, can be generously made on their site here.

♥ Pets are family too ♥

pets

time out

Time Out With Purpose, Peace and Pets

time outWe don’t have money for expensive holidays, but I was thinking today how lucky we are to have family and friends who live in beautiful places that we can stay with for time out. I love driving so am not phased by distance. I grew up with long road trips and I find it an enjoyable part of the whole venture. I’m really grateful for the opportunities we have and to those who welcome us.

We arrived home a few days ago from a week house sitting my uncle and aunt’s place near Mudgee. I’d jumped at the opportunity, and made the most of this much needed break.

Time out means different things to us all. And it means various things to me depending on how well this ol’ engine’s running. She keeps getting bogged in the mud lately – not at all where she wants to be. But as my therapist tells me – the beautiful lotus flower grows out of mud – and we humans are the theoretical lotus, striving to grow and prosper throughout the many facets of life (the mud). At this time, I really needed to get away to somewhere I could focus on anything other than current situations.

I’d completely lost my cool on a couple of occasions – a clear sign I was losing my perspective and stability. I had been incredibly affected by the nasty comments of someone who can’t help themselves, and coupled with a really confronting situation where I was volunteering, I was struggling to keep my thoughts in a good place.

The universe can be pretty amazing in it’s timing. Luckily for me, my uncle and aunt’s usual house sitter had cancelled and the ‘job’ was offered to moi. With Jessie being schooled via distance ed, we’re able to travel out of time outschool holidays which is one huge plus. And our neighbour likes our cats and is happy to look after them whenever we’re away, which is lucky. Everything fell into place – as it always does, one way or another.

So we left our two moggies in good hands, to look after two other beautiful moggie sisters, two lovely natured boxers, three friendly chickens, and three Indian Runner ducks – all of which have left an impression on us. Jessie, being a cat girl, immediately formed a bond with Billie, the extrovert of the two sisters. Ella was quite shy for the first few days, only coming in for dinner. After a few nights of pats at dinner time, she figured we were okay and started hanging out with us. The warmth of the fire had to be a drawcard too! Our two sleep on my bed at home, so Jessie loved being Billie’s human to snuggle.

time outI had the company of the boxers on the bed in the mornings, so I wasn’t left feeling lonely. I didn’t mind being Ginger’s pillow, while Chili slept at the end of the bed keeping my feet warm. Chili is 9 and a beautiful boy. Ginger is 18 months old if I remember correctly, and full of playful energy and youthful curiosity! I was told she liked to chase the ducks, which would’ve been hilarious to watch.  They were amusing enough to watch waddling around with their long necks, honking away to each other. However we did get a good routine worked out. Everyone had run of the yard for some part of the day, without anyone being harrassed by anyone else!

I learnt quickly to allow the ducks time to get to time outtheir bush before letting the chickens out. There’s obviously been some unfriendly banter between them while safely separated in their coups – I’ve never seen chickens attack before! The mild mannered, innocent hens snapped, becoming psycho thugs and the kerfuffle would’ve been a viral hit! My uncle did say he likes duck eggs, so that may just have pushed them over the edge. That was an interesting fight to break up – something I reckon should be added to my resume.

Jessie was initially intimidated by the dogs, but she didn’t stay that way for long. We took them for a long walk on our first day, and she got to see how obedient and well behaved they were, even in their excitement. Ginger was on the lead as she likes to chase things and go awol for a short while, and insisting she hold her own lead had us in stitches. She thought that game was so much fun. Chili’s simply a gentleman. From then on Jessie had no time outhesitation in taking them for walks, and did so on her own numerous times.

We enjoyed our afternoon walks, mainly because we delighted in seeing the kangaroos and wallabies, many with joeys in their pouches. They’d stand and stare at us before taking off, one big fella in particular, thumping loudly as he bound along the fenceline at high speed. The power in those hind legs is incredible and we stood quietly until we couldn’t hear him any longer.

Our time out was relaxed and peaceful. Being a prosperous wine region, we visited Huntington Estate Winery where I bought some wine before having the best wood-fired pizza ever at di Lusso Estate Winery. Definitely going back there. We also enjoyed the pop-up cafe at Burrundulla Winery and Vineyeard – awesome play area for little kids. The rest of the time we chilled out with the animals at home.

Nothing was rushed, there was no pressure or stress. There were no sirens, no traffic, no 3am deliveries to the school. And no skateboard guy! He flies down the hill anytime between 12 and 2am. There was no construction noise, no reversing trucks with their alarms. No drunks, no car accidents, no noisy neighbours. Just peace and quiet, and space not consumed by humans but by nature.

 

I’m looking forward to going back next week, I have another couple of days time out. I’m just hoping it’s still cold enough at night for the fire! I could very easily live where I need to light the fire during winter. I found it strangely satifying lighting and maintaining a fire to keep us warm. Watching the flames flickering and dancing over the timber was my meditation before bed – calming for the mind and body…

 

“Hello holidays. I’m so happy to see you.”

 

fears

Facing Fears and Moving Forward

fearFacing my fears can seem really daunting sometimes. That cautious inner voice, the sweaty palms and the flood of adrenaline once had a role in keeping me safe. However these reactions have now become a hindrance to a smooth transition forward. The inner voice is the most annoying culprit these days. I’m hoping if I keep burning its soapbox and cutting off its audience, it’ll go back to where ever it came from.

Fears are the creation of our thoughts. So surely if we are strong of mind, we can live without fear? Logically that sounds more than reasonable, does it not? I think so, and I consider myself a pretty logical kinda person. Thoughts can be pretty powerful though. They seem to permeate the body, setting adrenaline flowing and the heart to beat faster. Shaking hands, nausea, cold sweats, and a dry mouth quickly follow. Now the body’s freaking out, the fearful thoughts amp up, in absolute drama heaven! At this point one of two things will happen:

• my Virgo side will come out and I’ll retreat, crying, or

• my Leo side will come out and I’ll get this shit sorted.

Naturally the second course of action feels so much more proactive, but they both have purpose.

Raising Jessie over the last seven years has spiked my interest in psychology and what makes us tick. I’ve found I have a much greater capacity for acceptance and tolerance of myself when I understand why I work the way I do. It doesn’t ever justify anything, but I can only change what I comprehend. I was first diagnosed with depression and PTSD in 1995. I didn’t take prescribed medication until I was diagnosed again in early 2003, and then again in fear2015. I’d written the words on forms and things, said the words many times no doubt, and seen various counsellors over the years, but didn’t ever actually look into depression or PTSD in regards to myself.

I don’t recover well from hurtful or unjust words or situations. Buddha’s story about the angry man is in my mind now, but its theory isn’t always easy to practise! That saying “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, hasn’t applied to me as yet. I interpret that line to mean that we gain resilience after going through tough or traumatic situations. Am I wrong in my interpretation? Instead fear can set in, disguised by various emotions and reactions. When the stressors feel to be dominating or numerous, my resilience drops dramatically. If the situation involves broken trust, my brain becomes the most frantic as secure boundaries are demolished in an instant.

Some days I’m better off keeping to myself, but the time always comes when we all must make a choice – succumb to fear which gives it more and more power, or push through and empower ourselves. I think moving forward requires permission to self to forgive our shortcomings and be kind to our multi-faceted selves. I need to work on these things! Labelling ourselves as one thing is so short sighted, especially when that label isn’t flattering.

As a beautiful friend said to me yesterday, “even while depressed or negative we are 100 other things – most of them fucking wonderful.”

fear

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