Getting out in the Sunshine.


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A friend texted me the other day, and insisted on seeing me. “When are you free today?” he had written. I felt a pain in my chest, knowing I would be flitting from one activity to another, and then another. Then, a smattering of light hit the quagmire, and I replied, “I have an hour whilst L is at a class.” We sat down and conversed, he with green tea, and me with a strong coffee. It was my fifth of the day. He could see I was overwhelmed and questioned all that I forced myself to fit into a day. He was concerned. It was enough for me to be taken aback and review what I was doing. Home schooling my daughter, I was trying to be all things to her. Teacher, mum, social planner, and many more aside. I was trying to please all the people in my world, keep my commitments, and generally be functional. I had around thirty texts a day and around a thousand emails to answer. I was exhausted.

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There was no time to eat lunch, no time to change hormone patches, no time to see a doctor or exercise… Hell, there was barely enough time to down more caffeine! I had been feeling as though I were heading for a nervous collapse. Deadlines for articles and deadlines I put on myself. Put in a noisy neighbour who compromised my sleep… I would wake up and have to down two coffees. I would sit on the couch shaking with anxiety, filled with dread at all I had to do. I had to keep everyone happy. Sometimes I would hyperventilate and my stomach would churn. When you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start… My friend was right, and I acknowledged the wisdom of his observation. “I use business as an avoidance tool,” I replied. If I am busy, I can’t feel lonely. If I am busy, my physical pain is ignored. If I am busy, I don’t have time to feel the sorrow, depression and anger.

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If I am busy, I can avoid my social anxiety. I don’t quite know where I fit in, and if people actually want to see me. I don’t call friends out of fear of rejection. I am unsure of my place in friend’s lives. I am scared. Thus, I drink coffee of a day, run around like a mad thing, and drink wine at night to come down off my adrenaline rush. The wine brings me down, way down. I go to bed, sleep for a few hours, wake up with a dry mouth and start again. It has to stop. My friend held up a mirror, and I saw the truth. I had no spaces in my life. None. I have to let go of control.

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The school holidays began, and I vowed to not over-commit. A new playground opened around the corner, and I set off with my daughter. It felt wrong, and I had a panic attack. I felt guilt that I wasn’t doing things at home. That was a big indicator that I needed to do this, immediately. When depression hits, it hits in a big and scary way, like a tsunami of churned-up emotions. It tells me to stay home and hide. I have to do the opposite. We went to the park, and a friend joined us. We watched the girls play, and we walked in the sun. A few hours later, when we returned home, I felt refreshed. I didn’t drink wine last night. I went to bed early, and had a good sleep. The noisy neighbour was at it early this morning. I had one coffee, made lunch, and we set off for the park again. It was glorious. So many friendly faces, hugs and smiles. A friend even brought her little pony for the kids to pat. I am changing everything at this point. If I continue on this trajectory, I will inevitably collapse. More early nights, and less commitments are required. I have to. It will mean saying “no” to things that are stretching my limits. It will mean more time in the sunshine and for spontaneous gatherings.

Two years ago, I did a free e-course for people with anxiety. I completed a questionnaire which was designed to advise how far I had come.

‘Dear Raphaela,

Thank you again for your ongoing support of this important research – we really appreciate your time and benefit from your support.

We are pleased to say that the questionnaires you completed indicate that your symptoms have reduced since you first completed the questionnaires more than 24 months ago. Specifically, your symptoms of both panic and low mood have reduced by more than 70% and are now in the low to non-clinical ranges. We appreciate that the questionnaires do not always reflect people’s experiences, but these are good improvements to have made and maintained – we hope they are reflected in improvements in your wellbeing.’

I am never going back to how I felt as a young person; to how I felt two years ago. I wont. I do have work to do, and life does get busy, but I am going to cease pushing myself to the brink. It leaves no time for joy and happen-chance. I am going to walk in the sun, and we are going to play most days. I will find time. If emails go unanswered, if my phone gets switched off, so be it. I will snatch back time.

L cloud-busting
L cloud-busting

I have to retrain my nervous system and my brain. I have to learn how to breathe again. I have to understand that caffeine is lovely provided its one cup a day. I have to stop using alcohol to make me feel comfortable socially and to drown out the panic which overtakes me at night. They are only habits, and a habit can be changed.

 

 

 

Abba, Lolo Lovina, Red Wine and Rainbows


The week that was…

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My daughter played Titania in a Midsummer Nights Dream. She loved the experience and wants to do more acting! I was very proud of her.

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I took my daughter to see Inside Out, a spectacular film, which addresses depression. It illustrates how a young person can break down and also be rebuilt. Afterward, we had a few chores to see to. As I walked through the shopping centre, I started to stumble. I had an horrific pain through my left foot, shooting up my leg and into my spine. This was annoying, as I usually have that sort of pain on my right side. There I was, holding onto a trolley, my daughter gently guiding both it and I. I met a friend, who saw that I was in agony. She had just been to the post office to pick up a box filled with wine from the Margaret River region. She handed me a bottle of red, of which I am immensely grateful. I managed to get home, poured myself a glass and lay down. New symptoms added to the mix shake things up. At least its a change to the pathways of pain!

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Should I get a device that turns zucchini into spaghetti? Hang on, I have one but have never used it!

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We went on a cruise around Sydney Harbor Friday night. My daughter loves Abba, and was delighted with the tribute band.

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Anzac Bridge, Sydney
Anzac Bridge, Sydney

Here is an excellent article on the machinations of PTSD. I found myself nodding in agreement throughout.

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Saturday night, we went to Marrickville Town hall, to a Masquerade Balkan Beats Ball. The divine Rroma Gypsy fusion band, Lolo Lovina got us all up dancing.

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My daughter went for it on the dance floor, enthralled with the frantic beat and unencumbered joy. When life is rough and you are tired and in pain, my suggestion is get yourself along to a festival. Go for a walk. Shake up your world.

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We saw a lot of rainbows on the internet, and it filled me with joy! Things can change and advance, yay!

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This is so silly. I love it!
This is so silly. I love it!

 

 

Once a Victim, now a Survivor


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I am incredibly touched that Gentle Kindness nominated me for the Once a Victim Now a Survivor Award.

This award is for those who have gone through mental illness of any kind, abuse, trauma, and especially PTSD. Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the blogger that nominated you
  2. Nominate 5 – 10  bloggers to pass the award to
  3. Post  questions for your nominees to answer (you may use the same as these below)
  4. Inform your nominees and post a comment in their blog to let them know they’ve been nominated

Here are the questions for my nominees. Feel free to skip any questions that you want to skip. You can fill in your own questions as you feel appropriate.

1.  In what ways do you feel that blogging can help people with psychological trauma  or mental illness?

Most definitely! It gives you a platform to not only articulate your experience and feelings, but also to educate.

2. How has blogging helped you with your healing, or your personal journey?

Being able to tell my story has been invaluable, and the messages of support I have received are incredibly uplifting. We are a real community! I certainly feel validated.

3. What books, movies, or YouTube channels would you recommend to someone with a similar background to you?

I have written a book called Lived to Tell. It details what occurred, and most importantly, how I came back from hell. It has a happy ending! People placed bets that I wouldn’t live to fifteen, and now I am a grown woman. That still makes me shake my head in wonder! My worst day now pales when compared to my worst days then.

Here are my Nominees:

Remember how to Fly

Bipolar for Life

Heathers Helpers

Lovely Wounded Lady

There are so many others, and you all deserve this award. Please put it up if you would like to.

Dinosaurs and Keeping up with the Holsbys


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The beautiful  Danielle  of  Keeping up with the Holsbys  sent me an email, notifying me that we were the lucky winners of four tickets to Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta. My daughter thought of inviting her young friend, Ben. He had a nasty fall at the playground and broke his arm so badly that he needed immediate surgery. She considered that it would be his bravery award. The Riverside Theatre is in a glorious spot in Parramatta, the lights from the theatre twinkling in the river, like water sprites beckoning to you. Erths Dinosaur Zoo was an amazing show, and the kids roared with laughter and gasped in amazement at the dinosaur’s they saw. The babies were so cute!

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Photo by Jeni Nagy
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Photo by Jeni Nagy

It was an interactive experience and the children engaged with the lifelike puppets. One brave kid even agreed to put her head in a dinosaur’s mouth! A huge thankyou to Danielle and the Riverside Theatre for gifting us the tickets. I don’t know who had the most fun, the kids or mums! There are some fantastic productions coming up at The Riverside Theatre. Click on the link to see their website, and pay a visit to Keeping Up with the Holsbys for honest, entertaining and heart-rending content. Winning a competition shakes up your world a bit. There you are, ensconced in the everyday minutiae of living, and a lovely surprise lands at your door. It is a reminder that life can be thrilling indeed.

 

Ten Ways to Help Yourself During a Flashback


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Many people in my circle would probably be surprised to know that I have PTSD. They would be surprised at its ferocity and how hard I have had to work to have a semblance of normality. It hasn’t been easy! There was years of involuntary shaking when the telephone rang or someone knocked at the door. I would have to talk myself into venturing to the letterbox. I rarely went out alone. I can suffer flashbacks pretty easily, especially in social settings. You are out of your comfort zone and when a “red zone” topic comes up in conversation, I can literally feel my body tense and my brain react. I will sometimes feel welded to the seat, unable to move and get away. Sometimes I look placid and I smile. I have covered up my terror with gulps of wine, but when I get home, the horror hits. It can take weeks to get my equilibrium back. When a group of people start talking about the horror in the news and such, I usually think “there goes two weeks of sleep.”
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I began to think that there had to be a better way than to nurse a flute of champagne (well, actually several), to take away my discomfort. There had to be a better way than to stay glued to my seat, listening to horrifying opinions on deeply upsetting topics.
Here is how I cope.
1. Remembering that I am here, not there. I have a little piece of paper that I pull out of my purse. You are here, not there, it reads. I find it deeply assuring when I am feeling myself pulled back into the trauma of the past.


2. I will immediately excuse myself. Whether that be from a conversation or a shop where music is being played that reminds me of the past. I will find a quiet area (usually the bathroom), and concentrate on my breathing.


3. I will watch my diet. Grabbing crackers and dips at a party will not do. A balanced diet is necessary. When I was at my worst, it was found I wasn’t absorbing B12 and needed shots. The difference was quite incredible. Bananas and other foods high in the amino acid Tryptophan are also helpful.


4. I am allowed to state that I am uncomfortable. If the people are unaware, I am allowed to state what my past looked like.


5. I need to have adequate rest. The PTSD (which involves nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks), escalates if I am rushing from one thing to another.


6. On certain dates, I need space. I wont commit to anything on the anniversary of my fall, for instance. It is a time of reflection, grief and also celebration that I survived. It is a deeply personal time.


7. I take a bottle of Rescue Remedy and lavender essential oil with me in my bag. The act of sniffing them -or putting the Rescue Remedy on my tongue- snaps me back to the present.


8. I carry a photo of my daughter with me and take it out and look at her smiling face. The joy contained in the picture helps me to centre. It could be a picture of a pet. Whatever helps you.


9. I wont over-imbibe. The crash that comes afterward emotionally is devastating.


10. I can leave. Wow! I now give myself permission to leave! If the vibe is going South and the conversation is awful, I can leave.

It is a hard thing to live with. Sometimes the past can seem clearer than now. Every detail is etched into my memory, and doesn’t fade with time. Sights, sounds, smells, touch and taste can take me back. No wonder it happens a fair bit! The most important thing is that I show myself kindness. I need regular time to myself to process what I am feeling, and what I have heard. In a week, people can talk about murder, sexual abuse, child abduction, and crime movies/novels many times over. It sticks to my skin, like they have gone mad with a labeller. I go out to nature and breathe. I need silence to oppose the noise in my mind.

I had an experience the other day, whilst visiting a school on the other side of our city. I saw a lady sitting by herself. Her eyes showed abject terror, her body language stiff and self-protective. She was waiting to pick up her kids. I sat with her, and we started talking. She talked about a man from her childhood, a member of her family. “He was too friendly,” she whispered. Her eyes met mine. She knew I knew and I knew that she knew that I knew. I told her how sorry I was. So very sorry. I hope she is treated kindly in her adult life. You don’t “get over” some experiences, but you can live beautifully despite them.

Freestyle Writing Challenge


The glorious Judy of Edwina’s Episodes  has nominated me for the Freestyle Writing Challenge.

Here are the rules:

1. Open a blank document.
2. Set a stop watch timer to 5 or 10 minutes, whichever length you prefer.
3. Your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!!!
4. Once you start writing do not stop until the alarm sounds!  Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check (it is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write with correct spelling and grammar.)
5. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals
6. At the end of your post write down the number of words to give an idea of how much you can write within the time Frame.
7. Put the whole document onto your post and nominate 5 others and give them a new topic. Remember to copy paste the rules in!

My topic is: What music gets you up on the dance floor?

Tremulously I stood. Dancing is hard when you use a walking stick, though not impossible. I do a little jig on the perimeter of the throng, and feel the music. A rigid spine made out of hip and ribs cant stop the connection. The songs that get me up on the dance floor? Songs from my younger years. Battle-cries of defiance and rebellion. Though I am flesh and blood and can be wounded, you wont break me. Pat Benatar and Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper are amongst the  artists I will dance for. They do their thing as autonomous humans, undefined by social norms and generic expectations. They sing of love and pain, of anger and joy. Their music is knitted into the fabric of my soul. I get up every time, and dance my clumsy dance.

Words: 140

I nominate:

fillyourownglass

Melissa Barker-Simpson

Putting My Feet In The Dirt

Bloomin’ Uterus

Homemade Naturally

My Question is, What fills you with joy?

 

The Creative Blogger Award


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The wonderful Erika nominated me for The Creative Blogger Award! Thankyou very much, my friend!

Here are the rules:

* Display the Creative Blogger Award logo on your blog
* Nominate 15-20 blogs and notify all nominees via their social media/blogs
* Thank and post the link of the blog that nominated you (very important)
* Share 5 random facts about yourself to your readers
* Pass these rules on to them

Seven Random Facts About Me:

1. I am shrinking with age. My last bone density scan showed I have lost 2cm in height!

2. One of my favourite meals is steamed vegetables with chilli beans and cheese. I also love Indian and Italian food. A vegetarian can always find something yummy to eat!

3. I can’t resist anything covered in sparkles, or that is shiny and/or glittery!

4. I want to create more art when I grow up (I don’t like the odds, seeing as I am shrinking)!

5. I can’t stand ironing and buy clothes that don’t require it when I can. I don’t understand ironing at all!

6. My lavender scones are the stuff of legend and the aroma of the lavender flowers streaming from the oven is heavenly.

7. I love gift baskets and buy far too many at fetes!

I Nominate:

MaKupsy

Journey of MsT

A Red Lip And A Nude Shoe

ksbeth

Gentle Kindness

Underground Energy

That’s Another Story

Cooking with a Wallflower

The Practical Mystic

witlessdatingafterfifty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Style Writing Challenge


The wondrous Josefine has nominated me for the Freestyle Writing Challenge.

The rules:

  • open a blank document
  • set a stop watch timer to 5 or 10 minutes, whichever length you prefer
  • your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!!!
  • once you start writing do not stop until the alarm sounds!
  • do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check (it is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write with correct spelling and grammar.)
  • you may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals
  • at the end of your post write down the number of words to give an idea of how much you can write within the time Frame
  • put the whole document onto your post and nominate 5 others and give them a new topic. Remember to copy paste the rules in!

Milk.

Building bones and knitting cells, milk is a pure white food. It’s the stuff of cheeses and ice cream, milkshakes and cream. There is something about pouring it out of a  milk jug and into my cup of tea that is contemplative, like having my own tea ceremony. Reinforcing our scaffolding, making us stronger. As delicate as a snowflake, as porous as a sponge.

63 Words in 5 minutes.

Should you wish to take part, I nominate you all!

The subject is rain.

 

Ten Things I Dislike/Ten Things I Love


The marvellous Corina invited her readers to make a list of things they dislike and those they love. I agree with her that “hate” is a word I try not to use, and much prefer “dislike.”

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10 Things I Dislike.

1. Lateness. I am a punctual person. It reflects respect, being on time. It is an acknowledgement that the person’s time is valuable. It is also necessary. I take medications at certain times to curtail my spinal/nerve pain. I have to self-catheterise at specific times as a result of my spinal injuries. My days are timed to such an extent that an hour spent sitting  is calculated. If times blow out by as little as twenty minutes, everything goes to hell.

2. Noisy Neighbours. They can make or break a place!

3. Talking on phones. I can reply to texts and emails in blocks, and just don’t have time for several phone calls each day, especially when service providers keep you waiting for hours!

4. Drama. Drama is something that one trains for as an actor, and should only be seen on-screen or in the theatre.

5. Politicians. Need I say more?

6. Wrapping gifts. Mostly because I suck at it.

7. Big shopping centres. Sensory overload. I resent being deliberately hypnotized by lighting and sounds into a state of inertia.

8. People who gossip and are mean. I would hope that we have evolved as a species.

9. Winter. I lay broken on the ground in winter, going into shock as the paramedics wrapped  a foil blanket around me. Winter doesn’t float my boat.

10. Noise. Why are people scared of silence?

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10 Things I Love.

1. My Daughter. She is magnificent. She sings and plays guitar.

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2. My Guinea Pigs and birds. They are whimsical, affectionate creatures.

3. My computer and Wi fi connection!

4. Springtime. The season of hope.

5. Loyal Friends.

6. Music. Everything from Lolo Lovina to The Old Married Couple and many more aside.

7. People who make me laugh and are fun! Life can get so heavy. It is a blessing to be around those who lighten your load.

8. My errant treasures of books, vintage clothing, photos and decorations.

9. The magnificent fresh produce available in my town, and the purveyors of such.

10. Art in all its forms.

If you would like to devise your own lists, feel free to do so!