An Angel left a parcel


I was watching a show the other evening, as there was a segment I was interested in. It was uplifting and joyful. Afterward, the show revealed what was coming next. I recoiled as though I had been punched in the stomach.  I knew I’d have to  watch it after the commercials. The damage had been done, and the memories had burst forth. I knew I had to see it through. 

As a fourteen year old, I was in the esteemed clinic mentioned in the segment. I had no definitive diagnosis, other than that I wanted to live, and kept tenaciously holding on. For a year, this clinic became my home. A man twice my age (and a heroin dealer to boot), prayed on me. Nobody stopped him; nobody cared. I saw many things that were unjust, corrupt and plain evil in this place. My part in this story ended when I was thrown off a building. For the next decade, I campaigned to ensure that such horror never recurred. I tried to ensure it never could.

A few years ago, several young women came forth to tell of the horrific sexual and emotional abuse they sustained at the hands of their therapist. These young women were a part of the eating disorders unit. They were threatened with not being able to see their families in some instances, and some were highly drugged. The place they had come to heal (and for which they had paid a fortune), had let them down. Tragically, one young woman took her life afterward. Sworn police statements obtained by the network detailed a series of complaints about the doctor from clinic staff. This was years before the full horror was uncovered. The clinic did nothing. He has been released from jail after serving two years, and will be free to practice as a doctor in five years. 

After what happened to me, I was assured that children would never be put in with adults again. I was assured that a Patients Charter of Rights was now in place and that such things would never be allowed to happen again. I watched the segment, feeling ill when I saw the clinic appear on screen. I also felt numb; hollow. This should never have happened, particularly as they were warned years prior as to this doctor’s behavior. I had nowhere to put the feelings that came up by the next morning, and life commanded that I participate. 

I came home that evening to find a parcel on my doorstep. There were flowers and a card, herbal tonics, essential oils and a tea flower, all nerve tonics. Restoratives, put together by my dear friend, Natasha, who happens to be a herbalist. She knew nothing of what I had watched the night before, nor how desperately I needed her parcel. I put the flowers in a vase, and prepared the maximum number of drops. I sprinkled the oils into my hands and breathed in the aromas. 

img_8597

How did she know that I needed a parcel at my door? Humbled by her kindness, I slept well that night. It is heartbreaking to know that others have suffered at the hands of this place. It should never have occurred. I think of all the correspondence I entered into, the statements I gave… It takes others to turn a blind eye for evil to triumph. Sometimes, memories can’t be vanquished, but the tempest can be soothed with tinctures, aromatherapy oils and the love of a dear and thoughtful friend.

img_8600

Home


Two of my favorite people had devastating news this week. They live on opposite sides of Sydney, and a week ago were connected only by their association with me. Now, they have a health diagnosis in common. One is in Intensive Care, and the other is going into hospital tomorrow. If they met, I know they would adore each other. Cheeky, irreverent and making me laugh to the point of tears. I have never found a place that truly feels like home. Could it be that it is contained in people, because these two feel like home. No social niceties and pretense; you come as you are and are loved for it. 

I spent yesterday with my soul sister. She is being admitted to hospital tomorrow. We talked for fourteen hours without pause. We talked about many things, none connected. We showed each other silly pictures on our phones, my friend proudly displaying the various poses of her beloved dog. We determined that she is going to set up a blog for this pooch, to gift the world with its wisdom. We laughed at nonsense, and reflected on times gone by as we looked through old albums. Man, the times we have had! She is afraid, and I would give anything to trade places with her. I wish it was me, rather than her and my other dear friend. I would sell all my possessions if it meant they didn’t have to go through this. 

We had cups of tea and drinks of water, food and Stevie Nicks playing throughout our day, afternoon and night. I wanted my friend to stay over, and she dearly wanted to stay as well. She couldn’t, as she needed her medications, which were at her place. We prolonged the inevitable for as long as we could. “What kind of tree is that?” she asked as she looked up in my front yard. “Canadian maple, I think,” I replied. She laughed so hard, when she realized that it wasn’t, not even close. “Well, whatever it is, it’s got buds, and will be in bloom when you come next,” I smiled. We talked some more at her car, and I held her longer than normal, tearing up. “I love you so very much,” I whispered. She told me that she loved me too. 

Our Saturday was raw, intimate and real. I looked at this spectacular human in awe and wonder. She has gifted me so much. I wish my other friend could have been with us. In the morning, she will be in hospital, undergoing tests. I looked at her tiny feet and laughed, recalling when I gifted her red sequinned ruby slippers. I had to get a child’s size for her. I wish she could click those heels three times and be anywhere other than hospital. You are both my home, and I love you. You have both been through so much; this is yet another battle, of which you shall handle with your usual pizzazz. I will be there, cheering you on. If you falter in your step, I will lend you strength; all those that love you shall. You can do this. Life has only just begun.

img_8535

 

The Secret Garden


download-1

I was asked along to a talk at the North Sydney Community Centre this past week, to hear Wendy Whiteley and the esteemed journalist, Janet Hawley, talk about the paradise behind the lush tome, Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden. Janet has written a heartfelt and intelligent book about her friend, and also of the remarkable history of Lavender Bay. Jason Busch’s photography is outstanding! It is the ultimate coffee table book. Wendy appeared first, her hair wrapped in an elegant black scarf, a sprig of lavender pinned to her jumper. She had a commanding presence, and hypnotic crystal-blue eyes. Janet Hawley sat next to her, an elfin lady with a dulcet voice, and to our delight, Costa Georgiadis from Gardening Australia was the interviewer. He confessed that he had only been to the garden for the first time the day before. He had fallen under it’s spell in an instant, and plans to help out there for many a year to come.

The garden in question was started over twenty years ago, after personal tragedy touched the artist and muse’s life. Wendy’s husband, the great artist Brett Whiteley,died in 1992, after which Wendy turned her attentions to the wasteland in front of her home. Her daughter, Arkie, was an ethereal spirit, and fine actress. She encouraged her mother’s endeavors; buying her plants for the project. Tragically, she succumbed to adrenal cancer. Losing her only child saw Wendy turn to the garden once more, for comfort and reprieve from the agony of her loss. The garden was built on land adjoining Wendy’s home, which was owned by  Rail Corp and later leased to North Sydney Council. It was neglected and overgrown with weeds. Wendy used her own money to turn it into paradise. Visitors from all over the world come to relax in this spectacular garden, and all that is asked is that they’re respectful and take their rubbish when they depart.

In a sensible outcome, the State Government has extended the lease to thirty years, with a thirty year rollover clause. Wendy would love to be given assurance that a stable of sturdy volunteers shall keep up the garden after she departs, putting in money, resources and time. She needs to have a website constructed, so that people can have a central point to gather information and leave feedback. The Secret Garden will also require a generous soul to manage its social media.  This glorious garden is her gift to Sydney. I believe that a dream team of volunteers shall come forth, and help out in the decades to come. I hope that the State Government can commit in the longer term to her vision regarding the necessity of parkland by Sydney Harbor, to bring in tourists and for the pleasure of locals. How awful it would be if Sydney were to lose it’s soul to developments suffocating every square patch of green land.  It was a daring act by Wendy, to create our first guerrilla garden, and I am in awe of her commitment. She turned a wasteland into a place brimming with life, and her grief into an exquisite  garden. I shall never forget meeting the iconic Sydney artist with the hypnotic blue eyes and the wondrous Janet Hawley.

whiteley-wendy-and-hawley-janet-credit-jason-busch-rs-small
Wendy Whiteley and Janet Hawley

-Photography by Jason Busch

For further information, click here.

Raphaela’s Latest for Siren Empire


IMG_8288

I love writing for Siren Empire, a website that is visually magnificent and inspiring, offering different viewpoints. 

A story about a Living Rainbow

Reactive Depression.

When people are snowed under.

Reconnecting with your Tribe.

Banishing Shame.

 

 

Pressure


14102268_1244490178918158_844414322105905141_n

I have been suffering the worst anxiety of my adult life; well, since I had IVF at least. The kind that makes you wake in the middle of the night, sweating and shaking. The ferocity of which makes you heave and feel as if you can’t catch your breath. I am entirely responsible for my child’s education; that alone is a lot of responsibility. I am trying to look after an adult with a mental illness that is unpredictable. I am trying to keep a household going, pay bills, and keep a grin on my face. I am preparing to see specialists and have necessary medical tests; attempting to scrape together the money to do so. Society regularly tells mothers that we are responsible for our health; that if a parent goes under, everything falls apart. I have been trying, I really have, to not go under. To ensure that my daughter is happy and secure. To not fail in my sworn mission to make everything okay with everyone I love. Oh, also to complete a book this year. 

14202610_1244404835593359_8637837528357546261_n

This year has pummeled me, the marks of which I acknowledge  in the rare moments  I have to sit and reflect. I knew the anxiety was turning into a monster by the following: 

I had two panic attacks in as many days.  I couldn’t work a door handle to exit a building, and the other when a lavatory door got stuck. I went straight into full panic, and passers-by had to calm me.

Feeling disengaged from life. Having  a list of things to do, but not having any idea as to how to do them. 

A pounding head all day, every day, and a terror of everything that once provided comfort. Social outings and social media, phones and emails procured extreme anxiety. 

Forgetting to eat, to sleep, to stop moving and sit quietly.

I called Lifeline, and tearfully relayed the events which had transpired to heighten my symptoms. The counselor was marvelous, and said they weren’t at all surprised that I was finding the going tough. When everything is all up to you, it can be anxiety-producing! I made contact with a counselor, whom I am going to see for a while, and I also saw my local GP. I am going to start medication, until I have a handle on the anxiety. It is not something I can do by myself, and goodness knows, I have tried. My brain feels as though it has forgotten how to relax and is ticking away 24/7. I am sure many can relate. Chronic pain is exhausting. Being a carer is exhausting. Having high expectations of yourself is exhausting. 

It took a lot for me to admit that I couldn’t cope; that I was in trouble. Relaxation and walks, chamomile tea and lavender oil are lovely adjuncts but weren’t offering a complete solution to such extreme anxiety. Spring is now here, and help is at hand. It is a matter of resetting a brain that has spun out of control. It is a matter of calming it down and soothing the tempest. I will still be responsible for an awful lot in life; that isn’t going to change. However, I will have the foundation required to cope with it all. One short woman alone.

14102334_1363729713660947_2100664534869243828_n

I saw the doctor and she agreed that I needed some help. I have started on a mild dose of medication and my mind already feels clearer. If you are suffering, please know that you aren’t alone.

Broken Wings and Healing


IMG_8371

A little bird came into my life on Valentine’s Day. She was found on the floor of a cage; her wings had been hacked with what appeared to be scissors. She had no tail and was ailing. Desperate to rescue her, she came home with us. Over the months, I have been in awe of her spirit. The feathers underneath her crippled wings would twist and bleed, causing terrible pain. When they fell out, I would pick them up, and feel how razor-sharp the damaged ends were. Despite the anguish she must have felt, she had a personality that was bigger than her. She whistled the Adams Family theme song, danced and chatted all day. She would run across the dining table when she saw food. Vegemite toast, pumpkin soup and cups of tea were her favorite. We named her Friendly, a fitting moniker.On shopping day, she would see you come in with the bags and dance from side to side in anticipation of a honey stick. She would lock the other cockatiel in their house, run away with Lego pieces when my daughter was playing and generally cause mayhem. She would even pick up a pencil and try to draw in my daughter’s workbooks, just as she had seen her do. When her wings hurt, she would cry, and come to me for comfort. 

Recently, she grew a proper tail, and her feathers grew strong. She became obsessed with flapping her mighty wings. To my despair, she got out the other day. Friendly flew to a tree in the park around the corner, hopping up on the farthest branches, annoyed at any attempt to catch her. We shared information about her on community pages and many kind people shared her picture, in case she flew from the tree. The fire brigade advised to leave her there overnight, as it was now dusk and she was settled in for sleep. They didn’t want to startle her. At dawn, the fire brigade came, and tried to catch her. Irritated, she flew off. My daughter and I combed the neighborhood for hours, whistling the Adams Family theme song, and calling out her name. Despondent, we had set off for home when my phone rang. She had been found! 

Friendly had flown a block away, landing in someone’s front yard. A group of teenage girls had been on their way to school when they found her, and notified the home-owner, who took her inside. They were having Vegemite toast for breakfast, and Friendly ran across to their plates and helped herself! She looked mighty proud of herself, without a hint of distress. After devouring a honey stick, she had a mammoth nap. We held our little bird, watching as she slept. Strangers as well as friends, celebrated her return. It touched my heart to know that so many people were celebrating alongside us.

Today she is singing and dancing, and as I watch her I shake my head, incredulous. I wouldn’t have thought that a frail little bird with butchered wings and no tail would ever be capable of flying as she did; nor of evading the fire brigade! Wings can be clipped and we may not have the rudder necessary to balance. It doesn’t mean that it will remain so. Balance returns and broken wings heal. Just ask Friendly. She has had her taste of adventure and I think (hope), she is now happy to stay put. She just wanted to see how far she could go on her healed wings, and the answer was a long way! The birds she hung out with and the friendships that were formed will remain a mystery, but with her outgoing personality, I am sure she charmed the native birds.



Inflammatory Speech on Social Media


IMG_8007

There is much angst out there on the inter-webs, and so many people spoiling for a fight. One blanket statement or offensive Meme and it begins. My question is, where does it end? I am exhausted by merely scrolling through the rhetoric. We live in dangerous times, and things can swiftly turn ugly. Why would I want to contribute to that? By adding my two cent’s worth, I am not helping, nor am I convincing an individual to see another side. Social media isn’t the place to be having a healthy, respectful debate. If one’s mind is closed, no amount of evidence to the contrary will pry it open. People end up angered, feelings are hurt and relationships damaged.

IMG_8008

I know what I believe, and feel strong and comfortable enough in my convictions that I have no need to convince others. Whether that be how I raise my child through to my political convictions. I live as I see fit, and am delighted that you do the same. I feel that birds of a feather do indeed flock together and I adore my tribe. There is respect for each other and how we see the world. Those who seek to make a perfectly lovely day gloomy with inflammatory posts on social media make this world ugly. I want to see pieces about social issues by those on the front line, in well-respected, unbiased publications and websites. I want to learn more about the problems in our world by reading pieces from those with direct knowledge. I have no need for blanket statements from those far removed from said issues, do you?

11903932_1672522499634150_5422947536382767480_n.jpg

I will continue to scroll on by when I see this sort of bait, for that is what it is. You aren’t going to get a rise out of me for attention! If something is truly horrendous and inappropriate, report it to the relevant hosting site, rather than starting a fight with someone who would love nothing better.

IMG_8009

I think that the above is key. To live your life in a manner that speaks of your convictions. Your life tells people what your beliefs are; what is important to you. If you will excuse me, I have a Meme of a chicken to share. This world needs beauty and humor, more than it requires your continual outraged opinion. 13599797_911708792288487_2688553416528517412_n

Happy 10th Birthday, Sweetheart!


IMG_6968

My darling daughter,

I dreamed about you for an eternity before you arrived. Throughout each endometriosis surgery and treatment, the visage of you kept me going. IVF was brutal, and resulted in me being hospitalized for weeks, and hope was hard to find. After three disastrous cycles, I had no idea what to do next. I heard the ‘thud’ of the local paper hitting my doorstep, read that a new clinic was giving a talk, and the rest is history! I nearly lost you at 19 weeks; I was put in a room down the far end of the maternity ward after my waters broke and contractions started. The next 24 hours were the worst of my life. In what can only be described as a miracle, the rupture sealed, and my contractions stopped. You were holding on tenaciously, just as you did when an embryo.

I was going to have a planned caesarian, a result of my spinal injuries and other complications. A month beforehand, you were in the breech position, and decided that you would flip yourself completely over when the car broke down on the highway! Full of surprises, you decided to arrive shortly afterward. I was in full labour for over 24 hours before I decided to get to hospital. I was so used to endometriosis pain, I thought these pains weren’t the real deal! Rushed into surgery, I felt discombobulated. Oh darling, when I heard that roar of yours, I was in heaven.

12239880_1059711050729406_2204142330169835223_n

Since your birth, you have been brimming with energy that cannot be contained, nor should it. Your kind heart has always been apparent. I recall when you were 18 months of age, and I took you to see a dear fellow who was dying in a hospice. You grabbed a hold of his hand, as though you sensed he needed your comfort in his unconscious state. You talk to the homeless, eager to hear their stories. You can’t stand bullies, and are the first to stick up for anyone under duress. When our dear friend passed in 2014, you flitted between the pews, consoling the mourners. You have never been frightened of death, hospitals nor the homeless. Maybe it’s because you know how to live; a gift you were born with.

I used to worry (freak out), when you would climb to the top of whatever took your fancy in that particular moment. I soon grew out of that. If I stopped you seeking the apex, I would be stifling who you were born to be. We have a tree out the front of our place, and I love hearing you talk excitedly of what you can see from your vista. You cartwheel, run and climb your way through life.

An artist, you see the beauty around you, and feel it is important to tell someone that you appreciate their dress, hair, style or home. “We have to compliment strangers, mum,” you say, “it makes people feel great!” You sing like an angel, and want to be a singer/actress when you are older. I have no doubt that you shall be.

12115763_1042282142472297_4471135266358827800_n

You are astute, a model of discernment. You know instinctively who is meant to be in our circle, and who isn’t. I know to trust your impressions. I have seen you grow in confidence since I started homeschooling you, and I am so very proud of who you are. You are at your desk before I have had my coffee most mornings. You love learning. You love your birds, your room, your friends. You love life, passionately and unequivocally.

You are an organizer, and have a place for every treasure you possess. You actually love cleaning and cooking! I have no idea what I did to deserve you as a daughter, but I am glad I did it! I can’t believe a decade has passed since you were born. Boy, have we had adventures! We have also had our share of trying times, and despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to shield you from disappointment and pain. Your ability to emerge from such astounds me. Keep it up, sweetheart. I know you will get to your destiny, and it shall be glorious. I will be right beside you, cheering you on.

Love, your very proud mum. xxx

Wise and compassionate words


My friend wrote an articulate and heartfelt response to the following:


‘You know what? No! Just no! I’m sick of this sentimental BS being shared around FB and people thinking it’s true. I have been through, and had many friends go through, serious life changes. I have had friends battling ongoing or chronic health problems and are just too physically weak to even handle the thought of a coffee (yes even with close friends). I’ve had friends that use every ounce of energy they have just to get through their day as they have serious challenges with their partner and/or kids (probably worse than you’re imagining cause they’re doing their best to try and keep it a secret too). I’ve had friends battling mental health issues where getting out of bed and getting dressed is a huge accomplishment for the day (again the stigma attached to that one only makes them want to hide it and if you haven’t been there then you just won’t get it so don’t even start to preach at them how they need to think positive etc). 
So screw this sentiment! If your friend doesn’t have time for you for 6 months, suck it up, cause the pain/hell they are going thru that they don’t even have the time/energy for their friends, is more than you’re going through by not seeing them. Rather than adding a guilt trip to their situation just msg them some encouragement and remind them you love them and are there if and when they need. Don’t take it personal, it isn’t about you and making it about you just makes it worse. 
So once again, just to make sure you really get this – no! Just no! This is crap.’

The above is full of compassion and empathy. I am still learning how to be assertive, and on occasion, have had the following happen. A text, asking when I may be free. If I am out each day, I will relay that in a couple of weeks my schedule shall be more open. I then receive more texts, which I don’t have the opportunity the read. This has been followed with emails and messages on Facebook. When I go in to see what I have to reply to, there are scores of messages, which I have neither the time nor energy to answer. I have offered by way of explanation, that my spine has deteriorated, I am in constant, merciless pain, and by the time I arrive home (after travelling up to four hours), all I can do is crawl into bed. I assure them that I shall be in touch in a week or so, and am looking forward to catching up. More messages ensue, (usually involving guilt trips, attempting to shame), at which point I am almost in tears. It is an energy drain at a time when you can’t afford to leak! I have racked my brain, trying to see when I have five minutes to make contact. It has inevitably seeped into precious rest time, or time when I had necessary things to do to keep my life running smoothly. I have found that it isn’t appreciated by these kinds of people. They demand another commitment before the present catch-up is over.

This happened to me regularly, and added to the load, when I was simply trying to get through the days. Every life has it’s seasons; a person’s days have delicious, empty space and then gets crammed with more activity and stress than one can handle. Kindness toward another is being accepting of it. I have long-standing friends whom I haven’t seen all year. When we do catch up, it is as though no time has passed. They don’t question my love for them, nor do I their’s. We both know that if we needed anything, we would move planets to support each other. My friend’s response to memes such as that above is filled with wisdom.

 

City 2 Surf for a little boy named Archie


14039918_1230926883607821_5458557711254325478_n

Walking is magical! It is a free tonic for what ails you. I have walked through grief, depression, feeling lonely and lost. I have walked when I am happy, laughing with friends. Yesterday, I walked for a little boy called Archie. I met his beautiful mother at a kid’s party a while back, and adored her on site. I had never entered City 2 Surf before, although it was on my list of things to accomplish. When I saw that this mum was raising money for Bear Cottage, I had the incentive I needed.

We caught a hire bus from our town with the most wondrous group of people. Before we knew it, we were in the city, ready to go!

 

 

My daughter and I paced ourselves, after I realized that 14km is a long way, and it would be best not to peak in the first hour! We didn’t want to show anyone up! I was silly on heavy painkillers and had my trusty TENS machine stuck to my back. It was a thrill to walk the city streets and go through tunnels without the interference of cars. People took their jackets off and they were in piles, of which the homeless could look through for one their size. Sydney isn’t a cold metropolis; this was shown through many kindnesses I witnessed. Encouraging strangers and helping those who were struggling. We stopped to chat to enterprising kids on their lemonade stands and made a sneaky detour to a service station for chocolate!

Heartbreak Hill came into view, and my daughter chose to cartwheel through a large portion of it! When you started to slow, there were bands playing awesome music to get you back into the swing of it! Archie was never far from our thoughts, an angelic little boy with an infectious smile and chubby cheeks. He and his family had spent a lot of time at Bear Cottage, and they wanted to raise money for them, whilst paying tribute to their little boy.

 

 

We met so many amazing people, and the people of Sydney felt like a big family, rather than a large group of strangers. When we saw the finishing line, we squealed and hugged each other. It’s funny how you can cope with such a big walk, but when you cross the finish line, your legs feel like jelly! We stumbled into the Bandaged Bear tent, where we were fed and given refreshments. We met up with the rest of the team, and found that Archie’s mum had injured her leg. She was being so brave, in spite of the pain. She has a long history of being brave.

 

14021443_1230334250333751_4064920838620317283_n

 

It was an amazing experience, to be part of a team of beautiful people, and to finish what we started. “You can do anything!” I whispered to my daughter, “this proves it!” We had a bath filled with Epsom salts, and lit a candle for Archie last night. I am sure he carried everyone through. Donations are still open for a few weeks. If you would like to make a donation to Bear Cottage, you can do so here.