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. 

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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.

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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.

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The Secret Garden


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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.

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Wendy Whiteley and Janet Hawley

-Photography by Jason Busch

For further information, click here.

Raphaela’s Latest for Siren Empire


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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


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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. 

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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.

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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.