Starting Again


Hey you,

I know it doesn’t seem that long ago, since your last round of chemo/radiotherapy/surgery. You wonder if you have it in you to go another bout. You wonder if you can recover from this loss, and whether this divorce will destroy what is left of your heart. It’s one thing to sit up, crawl and stand as a baby, and quite another to start again as an adult. Way back then, a topple was a mere blip on your radar, and no matter how many times you fell, it only served to engage your stamina and your sheer strength of will.

Bankruptcy, marriage and relationship breakdowns, insecure housing, ill health and troubles aplenty, have brought you to this place, upon your knees. You have nothing left to lose, but also, nothing left to fear. The ghouls have descended then scurried, taking what was yours, and not leaving much at all. Peace of mind has gone, as is the feeling of being secure in this world. They have pillaged the treasure chest, their hands grabbing up rubies and emeralds, diamonds and gold. You have the dirt beneath your feet and on your knees, that is all.

You can’t abide thoughts of the road ahead, and how long and hard it shall be, before you are back where you once were. I have to tell you, you won’t ever be back there; you will be propelled somewhere better. We can never go back; we weren’t designed to. I remember when my spine was broken, and I foolishly believed that I would only have to work hard at rehab for a season. There would be a solitary surgery, to fuse all of the broken pieces, and then I would go on with my life, as though it had never happened. I don’t think I could have taken the knowledge that I would have to work hard on my body, year in and out, forever. That I would have many surgeries, and have to learn how to sit, stand and walk many times over. I don’t know if I could have tolerated the understanding that I would slide back to the beginning. What is the point of trying? What is the point of beginning, whether it be rehab, exercise, a new relationship or a business proposal, if there is a risk that you will put in all that effort, only to lose it all; to begin again. Perhaps, the point isn’t found in the finale, but in the effort. What you prove to yourself about your strength of character, and what you prove to others. What you find out about yourself, and the relationships you cultivate. Perhaps, these are all diamond days. Perhaps, when you are kneeling in the dirt, watching in despair as the ghouls make away with your treasure, you will find comfort in the fact that you are left, somehow alive, though bloodied. They can’t take you away. They can’t control your thoughts, nor your will. That is the greatest treasure of all.

So, let us begin again, knowing that the archer shall propel us forward, farther than we have been before. It is time to start anew. Let us begin…

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Phone Etiquette


Every time you ask a query online, you seem to have to put your mobile number in the contact form. I have tried to get away with not entering it, but the page won’t let you proceed until you do. I was recently enquiring about further education, and contacted around twenty institutions. Imagine, twenty places, all trying to call you, each and every day. I kept missing the calls, and we played tag-team. I  pleaded for them to email me the pertinent details, rather than insist on talking to me. I simply didn’t have time for all the calls.

There are many reasons why answering the phone may not be possible.

  1. You are using your mobile to navigate with Google Maps, and the phone dips out whenever a call comes through.
  2. You are a migraine or Trigeminal Neuralgia sufferer, and answering the phone during an attack is not possible.
  3. There is thunder and lightning about. I have had people that I love suffer electrocution during storms, so keep well away from my mobile as soon as the clouds gather!
  4. The phone is charging in another room, and you forget about it.
  5. I am early to bed and early to rise, and have programmed my phone not to ring after a certain time of night.
  6. You are working or studying, and  haven’t the time to hold a phone conversation.
  7. You are driving or otherwise travelling.
  8. You are at the theatre, cinema or enjoying the arts in any capacity.
  9. You are spending quality time with your child.
  10. You need time to relax.
  11. Calls coming from unscreened numbers make you nervous.

These are just some reasons off of the top of my head! If I didn’t email and text, and spent every day with the phone to my ear, I wouldn’t get anything else done.

Caitlin Fitzsimmons investigated this issue in the Sydney Morning Herald. Do you agree that phone calls are disruptive? Wouldn’t it be easier to text a message, rather than play a tiresome game of tag?  I use my mobile to get around the city, take photos, look at my emails, and shoot off a text. What is yours primarily used for?

Pain and Anxiety


When I first read about Jo Cameron-the ease in which she moves through the world- I envied her. Imagine not being woken by niggling fears surfacing at 2am? What a joy to not suffer anxiety, nor terrors, from real or imagined foes! As for aches and pains, imagine not suffering with any? How liberated would you feel?

 

Jo Cameron was interviewed in the New York Times recently. The potential for her genes to be studied, so that pain and anxiety in everyday patients may be diluted, is a tantalising prospect. It may result in the ability to demand that a certain gene calms the hell down!

 

Along with the obvious advantages to living as Jo Cameron does, there are also disadvantages. I have told my daughter to be aware of that feeling in the pit of her stomach, that relays whether a situation or person is giving off good vibes, or not. Are they making her feel anxious? It is a sense that over-rides all logic, and hence doesn’t involve the brain, as much as the gut. I have told her to always honour that feeling, and have promised that I shall too. Imagine if we didn’t have any warning of danger? No rapid heartbeat, sweating, nor adrenaline in overdrive? There can be good stressors, which pivot us beyond what we believed were the limits of what we can endure. Studying, exams, public speaking. Anxiety can be used as a helpful resource, and not a hindrance in these cases.

When I went into labour, I thought they were mild contractions, involving my lower back. Compared to endometriosis pain, it was a walk in the park! The back pain grew worse, which saw me agree to finally go to hospital. It turned out that I was in full labour! If I hadn’t had the back pain, I would never have known. Every segment of my spine is damaged. There are bony spurs growing on my neck, all the way down. My spinal canal is narrowing, leaving little room for the nerves. I am sometimes out of my mind with the pain, and as a seasoned pain-sufferer, I often welcome it. It gets so bad that my brain packs an overnight bag, and we escape the minutiae of everyday life. I laugh more heartily, dream more vividly, and write more eloquently than I would have done.  I appreciate the spider senses in my solar plexus going into overdrive if confronted with danger. The same goes with my hand retracted from a steaming cup, before being scolded.

It would be lovely to have the ability to adjust the settings on anxiety and pain, without turning them off completely. Perhaps, Jo Cameron holds the answers we have been seeking.

Budget 2019


The contents of the Australian Budget, 2019, struck me as being staggeringly cruel. No money for housing, funds pulled from the NDIS, TAFE stretched thin and services unable to cope with demand. There was no celebration in my household last night.

Doctors are campaigning for a Trauma Recovery Centre to be established. This and other incentives would have been most welcome!

NDIS

I know of families trying to access funding for their children, and being kept waiting in no-man’s land. They aren’t as yet funded for all the treatments their children need and deserve, and aren’t eligible for any other help whilst their claim is being processed. It is a long, excruciating and expensive journey.

I was referred to a support service, who have been trying to help me access the NDIS. I mentioned that I was diagnosed with complex PTSD many years ago, and have been battling alone, unable to locate adequate services. An assessment was organised, the doctor agreeing that indeed I had complex PTSD. He made the error of remarking that I am coping well, considering the amount of trauma endured. I was informed that this assessment had been knocked back, and I would not be funded for specialised help. No matter that I experience flashbacks on a daily basis, and that I have nightmares each night.

An appointment was made with my doctor, and a case worker was scheduled to accompany me. I had to ring the NDIS to ask that they email the access request form for my doctor to fill out. I tried for two days to get through, without any luck. Yesterday, I nearly fell over when my call was answered. I explained the situation, and asked that they email me the appropriate form. The operator told me that he would put me on hold, whilst trying to track down somebody to help. Eventually, he came back on the line and said that he was unable to rouse anyone in the department, and that it was highly unlikely that they would respond to the memo in time. The case worker had to cancel the appointment with my doctor. This support service are trying to help me access funding due to my spine. I spend around $120 a week on catheters alone, so am in need of assistance!

Newstart

The unemployment benefit called Newstart has not gone up for 25 years! It is well below the poverty line. How is one to keep their phone on, buy food,  pay rent and afford travel and clothing for job interviews? A friend of mine has major physical limitations and has suffered unspeakable cruelty in her married life. Instead of being a lifeline, Newstart has made her stress about the $50 she has to spend on medications each week.

I have another friend who had to give up her job in November. Her specialist insisted, saying that she would never be able to resume work. He promised to help her by filling in reports so she could get onto a Disability support pension, which is a much higher rate than unemployment benefits. Her medical treatment has been all-consuming and brutal. Four months after she applied, her application for a Disability Support Pension was denied. Devastated, I accompanied her to Centrelink. The staff member was lovely, and one could feel their frustration at not being able to help. My friend-who is a single mother-has had no income since she had to give up work, and because she still had a small amount left in her savings account, she was told that once she had burned through that, her application for Newstart would be expedited. She is now on Newstart, which is just enough for a little bit of food and her rent each fortnight.

Housing and Domestic Violence

I have a friend who was forced to flee her marital home with her children, and ended up living in her car for a time. Here is the experience of many women.

  1. Locate a local service, and turn up desperate, pleading for help. You have no money, you are already battle-weary and the kids need emotional support.
  2. The service promises to help, but they are stretched to breaking point. Even getting your child into specialised counselling means hopping onto a waiting list for a year. Your child- who was ready to open up and talk- has closed down in the interim, and the opportunity has passed by the time their names are at the top of the list.
  3. You go from service to service, all wanting to help you start anew, but unable, with their limited funding.
  4. You learn of a scheme wherein your rent is subsidised for a year or so, whilst you get back on your feet. Unfortunately, there are strict guidelines you must adhere to, including locating a property with a tiny rent attached. There is nowhere in your area, nor near your child’s school at or under this price.
  5. The public housing waiting list stretches to 60,000 people. The chances of you and the kids being offered a property in the near future is remote.

A friend of mine applied to have security cameras and other measures put in place at her rental property. The funding was finally approved, and the company came out to instal the devices. Pulling up the paperwork, they told her that it was an old quote, and as it had taken so long to be approved, their prices had gone up. She would have to reapply and start the process anew.

TAFE

On a personal note, I made contact with NSW TAFE, and was told that I could apply for a concession for the particular courses I was keen on. Excited, I arranged a loan to cover the deposits, and called up to enrol. TAFE apologised, and said that at this time, they were unable to complete my enrolment, as their system was having issues with Centrelink. I have the amount for the deposit in my account, and am eager to begin, but at the moment, can’t proceed.

There are many families and individuals in the same predicaments as above. I wouldn’t have thought that the ability to fund one’s education, have a stable place to live, be able to afford medications and support, and to feel safe, would be requests deemed frivolous. Don’t even get me started on the necessity of having dental work included in Medicare!

Joy wasn’t found in last night’s budget. I hold onto the miracle that is found within the human spirit, which can somehow survive setbacks and knock-backs and frustrating delays. I hold dear the resilience contained in a battle-weary person, who gets up each day and dares to hope.

Naked Bike Ride Sydney, Parrots and Friends


As a result of a recent slip and fall, I have had to take more pain medication for my spine.   Come Friday, I was hunched over my toilet, continually throwing up (this medication can interfere with the nausea centre of the brain). As a result, I missed seeing my daughter sing at her Highschool’s talent quest. It was the end to a stellar week, which saw us being notified that our darling little home was being sold. We are hoping with all our hearts that an investor buys it, and we are able to stay. Saturday was spent eating dry toast and apple to settle my stomach, and resting in bed. That evening, my girl and I watched a very silly movie, and laughed until tears streamed down our faces.

We had arranged to meet friends on Sunday in the city, and there was no way that I was going to cancel. We all did IVF together, ending up with daughters. We hadn’t seen each other for the longest time, life getting in the way. It were as though no time had passed, as we hugged and caught up. IVF had taken a lot out of us, but it had also given us an inner resilience. Boy, have we needed it!

Strolling along, we came across a very sweet man, who was walking his three dogs and his Eclectus parrot. The girls were invited to hold him, much to their delight!

This gorgeous boy is named Apollo, and you can follow him and his family on Instagram.

Light exuded from Apollo’s dad; he was one of those people of whom you leave lighter and much happier.

We had Italian ice-cream for brunch, then indulged in a gorgeous Earl Grey and rose donut, baked fresh. A long walk was in order afterward, and we found an eatery, where I ordered a zucchini flower and plate of Brussels sprouts, pan-fried in balsamic vinegar. Surprisingly, my friends asked that the surplus be put in a container for me to take home,  and were more than a little reluctant to finish them off!

The girls paddled in the harbour, and as we reclined at a nearby park, we were surprised to have the Naked Bike Ride, Sydney, stream past! A helpful fellow at the front, announced to the gawkers that they were indeed nude riders, as if we couldn’t figure it out for ourselves! I admired their chutzpah, and the whimsy of it all. Such a random event to come across! It certainly made everyone smile!

At the end of the day, I was tired and sore, but no more than I would have been had I stayed home. In fact, I would have been worse off. I wouldn’t have seen my lifelong friends, watched my daughter have fun, met a very kind man with his canine and bird family, eaten glorious food and seen the naked bike ride. I wouldn’t have been embraced by my glorious city. I love that I can go into the city depleted, and come back retrieved.

Scoliosis


When I was in Primary school, the Government funded a scoliosis screening program, to pick up worrying curvatures early in a child’s life. At the time, I passed the screening with flying colours. Then, I broke my back. A few years later, after numerous surgeries, I was informed that my hip graft had failed, and I had scoliosis to such an extent that my heart, lungs and stomach were being crushed. Without major surgery, I would die. I was seventeen when I went into hospital to have this surgery. I had previously spent two years in a body brace, which unfortunately couldn’t save my spine, as the problem stemmed from the grafts failing. They at first opened my chest, somebody holding my heart whilst ribs were removed for grafting and put in via the front. Then I was turned over, and they operated on my spine, installing Harrington rods, screwed into place. I was later put in a fibreglass body cast.

 

 

My scoliosis was rectified enough to save my life, but the rods had to be taken out at twenty, and later fractures in my spine have seen the scoliosis worsen. I live with a monumental amount of pain now.

I worry when I see kids slouching, quite often unable to sit up straight with shoulders back. I am also concerned with the weight young people carry in their backpacks to and from school. It is as though they are carrying bricks around! It is essential that scoliosis is discovered early, before long-term damage is done, and requires surgery. It affects future pregnancies, the work you can do, and your general wellbeing.

My friend’s daughters were diagnosed early, and whilst they require bracing for a few years, they shouldn’t need any treatment beyond that. My friend has set up a petition, to urge our government to bring back screening within our schools. If we can prevent even one child from enduring hell later on, it is worth it.

You can sign the petition here.

 

Financial Abuse


I recently met up with a friend whose partner (in secret), had racked up substantial debts, which they were repaying at $550 per week. If you asked her partner what he’d bought, I don’t believe he would be able to tell you, such was the lack of value placed on the items. It has added up to a huge chunk out of their wages. Financial abuse is insidious, tied in with emotional and mental abuse, and at it’s heart, control.  Ultimately, living with someone whose goals aren’t aligned with yours, is unworkable. Being lied to, having money taken out of your account and being forced to withdraw what you have saved in order to live, is more common than most people think. It consists of regularly making up excuses when you can’t afford to go out,  whilst trying to keep the household running and school supplies bought. It is incredibly stressful.

I have seen and heard it all in my time. I have seen people I love left with nothing after sacrificing everything, in order to pay off debts that aren’t even theirs.  I have seen people trapped by ill health and other issues, rendering it harder to leave. I have seen people promised money over the Christmas period, or a partner swearing that they would pay their share, and then not do so. I have seen it all, and wept with those on the receiving end.

I have written an ebook about financial, emotional and mental abuse, available on Amazon. It is such an important subject, and my main goal was to help people feel less alone. The fact that you are still here and fighting for yourself and any children you may have is extraordinary! It takes such a massive effort (and toll), when you are locked out of your own life; financial matters and fines, debts and betrayal hidden from you. If this is you, keep going, please. I have seen lives rebuilt after suffering these particular traumas. I have seen a woman five years down the road- and now financially secure-cradling the hands of another, promising that they too shall get through it. I believe her.

417k77ugrel

Get your copy here.

What I have learnt about camping…


I recently attended a camp with my daughter. Now, I have limited experience with camping. There was the time I went to Kangaroo Valley, and our tent collapsed in the middle of the night, and the wombat population decided to climb on top of me, laying under the flattened canvas. The less said about that the better! I have some handy hints, learnt from my limited experience.

  • Buy a popup tent. Our campsite got flooded, and the people who fared better all seemed to have popup tents.
  • As we struggled to get our tent up, we noticed the ease of which the pop-up people had erected theirs. Within minutes they were done!
  • Buy a tent that has a decent height. I am under 5 feet tall, but still had to crouch every time I went in and out of the tent. It was hard to do with a fused spine! My next tent will be of such a dimension that I can just walk in.
  • Buy self-inflating mats. We brought along air beds, which went down constantly. We had to keep lugging them over to the air pump. The first night, we slept on the ground whilst rain water ran underneath the floor of our tent. Self-inflating mats are easy and surprisingly comfortable.
  • Buy mini-toiletries to take along. Nobody needs big bottles of shampoo or body wash when camping!
  • Bring a first aid kit, with painkillers, Band-Aids, bandages and disinfectant for the inevitable scrapes.
  • We had to attend several functions, and those ironed clothes that we had neatly folded, were in no shape to be worn after being retrieved from our case. Only bring clothing which doesn’t crease.
  • Bring fairy lights to decorate your tent. Okay, normal lighting will do (you can buy magnetic lighting for inside your tent), but hey, fairy lights are pretty!
  • All of the stuff you were going to bring; go through it before leaving for camp, and halve it. You only need a pair of thongs to get to the bathroom, and a decent pair of walking shoes.
  • Bring an air dryer. Dirty clothes can be washed when you are in the shower (body wash makes an excellent detergent as it turns out).
  • Bring at least one camping chair and a table to stack all your belongings on, particularly if you have a spinal injury and find getting down difficult.
  • Stretcher beds to put your self-inflating mattresses on are a great idea, so you don’t have to get up and down.
  • Microfibre towels dry 6 times faster than ordinary towels, and are a great inclusion!
  • Make sure you keep hydrated and pack sunscreen and hats, even if the weather is mild.

I had a wonderful time on our latest adventure. The above are lessons I learnt, so as to make the next camp even better. We woke at dawn, the neighbourhood kookaburras laughing at our efforts to sleep in. There was camaraderie, hugs, dancing and singing. There were shared meals and kindness. You revaluate what you actually need in way of possessions. All you require can be accommodated in a tiny space, as it turns out. It is freeing, to get back to basics.  I can’t wait for the next camp. Next time, I am going to do it right!

Frida, Tomatoes and Giving Pain Meaning


I had a hard time holding my newborn. When I was pregnant, I practiced carrying  a string bag filled with oranges, and a sack of potatoes. Weights and hydrotherapy also played an important role. When my daughter came along, I found it very difficult to hold her, and wrangling her as an active toddler was a challenge! Breaking my back again when she was three, saw me unable to carry her; even navigating a roundabout in the car would see me bite my lip to avoid screaming in agony.

I am a planner and think a great deal of the future. I guess when one has had so much out of their control, you grip onto that which you can have power over. My spine is a case in point. Working with weights each day and walking are things I can do to prepare for the future. I had researched spinal cord stimulation, and sought experts in this particular field. I was excited about the prospect of being able to cope as my back pain became more challenging (the fusion sites are already wearing out with age). I was so young when the damage happened, which means that preparations and reparations have to be considered now. I thought of my daughter as a teenager and young woman. I want to travel with her, and maybe one day be a hands-on grandmother to any children she may have. I want to be able to hold those babes in my arms. Unfortunately, a site of major damage is the thoracic region. Holding anything in my arms is agonizing. For a year, I harboured hope that spinal cord stimulation would help. It was to be my insurance policy; a nod to the next decades of life.

Last week, my daughter and I saw Evita at Sydney Opera House. It was a spectacular production, which left us spellbound. Tina Arena as Eva Peron, was stunning, and deserved the standing ovation which she received. My girl asked lots of questions about Argentina, and we researched it’s history online after we left. We stayed in Sydney overnight, having a leisurely brunch before seeing my spinal specialist. Armed with my latest test results,  I followed the doctor to his rooms, unaware of what was to come. I assumed we would be arranging to have a trial device implanted.  Spinal stenosis and fibrosis at the site of former surgeries meant that there isn’t adequate space to weave the wires through. I can’t even have epidural injections to manage the pain. Having surgery to place a stimulator would be far too hazardous, as it turned out. It was a lot to take in. It means I have to reimagine my future, and my daughter has to reimagine hers. Simple things like sitting or carrying luggage, going on long treks or long-haul flights will be that much more difficult.

I went home and cried. I watched the movie Frida, as I laid on my Frida cushions. It will be a reimagined future. I am doing everything in my power to keep my bones and muscles, kidneys, lungs and mind strong in preparation. There will be no hope of relief nor reprieve from the merciless pain. It shall always be there, a constant reminder of the brutality of my youth. It will limit what work I can take on, and how far I am able to drive. I will be damned if it limits what I can do with my daughter. She stubbornly took my suitcase off of me the other day, on our way to our hotel room, giggling as she ran ahead, despite my protestations. She reaches out her arm to me, and carries my backpack on her strong shoulders each and every day.

 

We shared the bus ride to RPA with an eloquent middle-aged gentleman who was homeless. He was Italian, and ate a tomato as though it were an apple. He reorganized his bag, and when he stood, he rolled deodorant under his armpits, before gifting the family opposite a drawing. He read a book on philosophy as he sat back down, finishing his tomato with relish. As we departed, he tipped his hat. I would love to know his story; I’m sure it is brimming with pathos and triumphs. The most remarkable stories are.

I have always been fascinated by birds, butterflies and dragonflies. How wondrous it would be, to have wings. For over half my life, I have been fused from my shoulders down, with  limited range of movement. I am grateful that I have been able to walk, and if my mobility were to cease tomorrow, there would be no lamentations. I just want (and need), to be well enough to see my daughter through to her adulthood.

For a moment, I regretted the time and money spent seeing specialists and having all of the tests done. What a monumental waste of a year! Then there was the matter of the space all of this took up in my brain. I had put things off ‘until after I had the device fitted.’ Ironically, as I reflect, I see that these days had only brought my daughter and I closer together. We had stayed in the city, walking and laughing in the rain. We brunched and cheered on street performers. We had been together, smart phones displaced from our hands. I found myself outside the Downing Centre courts, a place I had avoided since the court case I endured at sixteen, trying to get a bad man to pay for the vile things he had done. I stood outside for fifteen minutes, waiting for our bus. Lost in my thoughts, the Italian gent, tomato in hand, tipped his cap and we talked. Mental illness had robbed him of a lot, but not his heart. Physical injury had robbed me of a lot, though not my heart. For a moment, we were in simpatico. He gestured for my girl and I to board the bus before him, and I glanced out the window at the imposing courts. I had come back to retrieve that girl.

Perhaps, none of it was about a spinal cord stimulator. Perhaps it was to give me leave to spend quality time with my daughter. Maybe it was also about facing another piece of the past. Maybe it was to show me that I can organize travel and hotels and that I am enough for my daughter. I am the mum that she needs. Perhaps it was to affirm that I need to let go of fear. The worst has come and gone and I am still here. Maybe I was meant to meet the Italian fellow, and be encouraged to eat vine-ripened tomato’s as though they were apples. He even ate the stem, and I realized that nothing is ever wasted. The same is true with lives.

I have been referred to a physical therapist, and my specialist is going to review my case at the next practice meeting. As I reflect on the year gone by, I see no wastage. My daughter and I had experiences we would never have had, and seen parts of Sydney that we wouldn’t have. We have met magical people, been in magical shops, had magical food and stepped out of comfort zones. The only thing left to do is eat a tomato as though it were an apple.

 

The Trouble with R U OK Day


Today is R U OK Day, that 24 hour period where Australian’s ask the question over social media. The usual answer is that we are fine, thanks for asking. A number of young people have told me they are dubious about this collective day of enquiring. They have a sharp point of comparison on social media and in real life. If others seem to be together, with not a care in the world, they daren’t declare that in fact they are not okay and life is not alright. Mum and Dad are okay and seem to be emotionally together, as do their friends and the community at large. They don’t see their softball coach collapse in tears, needing to be comforted in their grief, and they don’t often see mum connecting on a level that is beyond a cocktail night or a movie with the ladies, as seen in their Instagram pics. We aren’t great at naming our emotions and sharing our struggles. Pride may come into it as well as shame and embarrassment amid a desperate, silent struggle to make our centre hold. We need to show kids that we cry and need to reach out to a friend when life is hard. They need to see us as open, if we want them to be the same.

I just read back through notes I have written since December, and boy, this eight months has pulverised me, leaving shards of glass scattered around my psyche. My friends only know a little of my depression, and of my anxiety. The experiences which led to this are too much, even for dear friends. I have been loathe to burden anybody with the complete picture. As a result, I reached out to experts. I spent hours explaining things, handing over my notes. They in turn promised that they would organize specialised counselling, at a price I would be able to afford. I waited and waited, and I rang and emailed. Eventually, I had the horrible realization that there was no help forthcoming. It reminded me of the time, twenty years ago when I was promised a dedicated counsellor to help me navigate my past. After a long while, they rang, and apologised. They were unable to offer help for the deep trauma I had suffered. There was no help at all for me. I remember the sinking feeling, as I began to understand that I had too much pain for them to deal with. If I wanted to survive, I had to find a way, without being given any tools. It was like climbing a sheer cliff face without ropes and a harness.

It is lovely to ask people if they are okay, but what if they answer that no, they aren’t? Where are the services? Where is the immediate help? I know so many families who are trying desperately to help their son/daughter or brother/sister hold on, but they are doing it alone. Whatever the mental health budget is at present, it needs to be tripled, at the very least. We are in a state of emergency. I have not been okay, and hand on heart, I hadn’t found the help I have needed, despite searching. I made up my own emotional first aid kit. It contains:

*Contracting in to save energy, necessary for the battle. Huddling up in my home, and retreating from social media.

*Opening my front door and firing up my laptop when I had a clearer head.

*Walking at least thirty minutes, most days.

*Playing soothing music and calming my senses with candles and essential oils.

*When I didn’t have the energy to talk on the phone or meet up in person, I would try and at least converse via text and email.

*Making sure that I eat, and do so regularly.

*Movies and the theatre, always.

*Making a list each day of what I wanted to achieve. I found my brain was so overloaded that I couldn’t remember half of what I needed to do, and so my lists have been a blessing.

*Not comparing my journey to anyone else.

Top of the kit was being kind to myself; knowing that I was doing my utmost to be here in a year’s time. I did so whilst querying all the wild suggestions my addled mind proffered. I would be panic-stricken leaving the house, worrying as to who I might bump into and what I could possibly say. Wondering if people liked me at all, worrying that I was alone. The brain that hasn’t rested at night, and is going full-pelt of a day, is a brain that can trick us into believing any number of scenarios. I wanted to give up searching for tools, I really did. I was tired and it is hard to be vulnerable enough to ask for help in the first place. I did one thing before shutting the door for good; I rang a dear lady who works for a large organization and I told her everything. Within a day, she had emailed me a list of resources and has organized assistance. It is hard-going, locating a service without a huge waiting list (at best), but you are worth it; your life is worth it. Persist, and if you don’t feel you can, ask a trusted friend to persist on your behalf.

On this R U Ok day, I hope that people feel free to answer honestly. Our young are looking at us to not only give guidance as they make their way through life, but to also show them our vulnerabilities and the strength it requires to ask for help. In the past week, I have been honoured to hear several women sharing with me of their grief, that they are suffering domestic violence, and that a child has had a devastating health diagnosis. These women were not okay, and I batted away their apologies and assured them that it was alright to state it. Tea was drunk and tissues were given, as well as the biggest gift of all, which is time.  Imagine somebody came to your door and you asked, R U OK? What if they said they were the opposite of okay? Would you sit with them in their anger, depression and sorrow? Would you be still and silent, leaving room for them to speak? This is what is needed in the midst of our noisy and harried existence. Arms to hold you, hands to dry your tears, cups of water to hydrate and compassion so that you feel heard.

Here a list of excellent Apps which be of assistance if you are in Australia:

Recovery Point

Headspace

Positive Pathways

Daisy

Suicide Call-Back Service