Getting through Hard Times


If you had told me as a teen that I would live to the grand age of which I find myself, I would have laughed. I would not have believed you for a moment. I had been clinically dead, in coma’s, had repeated seizures without regaining consciousness, had my spine shattered, and much more besides. I wanted to die more than I wanted to live most of the time. Those moments when I experienced pure joy were often found in nature, and boy, those times sustained me. I can recall without struggle the moments a bird would land on me from out of nowhere. I recollect the dragonflies and butterflies encircling me near streams. In those moments, I realized that I in fact wanted very much to live… Really live, and not just exist.

As a young adult I faced infertility, health worries, safety concerns, and poverty. I have had my heart broken, been deceived and financially ripped off. I have been humiliated, retraumatized, and faced great pain. When the first wave hits, you don’t know how on earth you are going to survive it. It all seems too much, especially when placed upon an already rocky foundation. Trauma on top of trauma.

I have learnt what helps by learning what doesn’t. Here is my advice for getting through tough times.

  1. Do nothing. That’s right, just breathe. When you receive frightful news or it feels as though your world is breaking apart, just be. Your adrenals will be pumping hard, as will your heart. Your stomach will be churning and your brain will reach for fast responses to the crisis. You may even think of reaching for something to quiet the discomfort. Don’t do anything whilst you are processing the crisis. Breathe deeply, run a bath. Cry, scream or confide in a loved one. The situation isnt going anywhere, so just stop for a moment.
  2. Write it down. Get yourself a notepad and describe what is happening. Pour it all out, and then make a bullet list. List the steps you need to take for resolution. What would help you in your grieving? Time away from everything that is familiar? A support group and counselling? A tribute to the person you mourn? How about financial worries? Maybe write a list of all the businesses you need to contact to explain your situation and organize payment plans. You could apply to AirTasker to accept jobs to bring in extra cash.
  3. Once your list has been finalized, I hope that like me, you feel a sense of empowerment. Now it is time to ask for help, whether that be from friends, charities or professionals. People don’t know what your needs are if you don’t articulate them. You give them a precious gift by allowing them to assist you.
  4. Be extra kind to yourself. You may want to run or sedate yourself with booze or pills. You may want to stop caring for yourself and partaking in all the rituals you usually do. Please don’t. Now is the time for reflection, to sit with your feelings and reach healthy conclusions. Your body is under enough duress without adding to the load. It is time to reach out, open up and if possible, go for walks. Many solutions have been reached in my life by long strolls.
  5. Get all that stress out in a creative way. Whether that be by writing a blog, or keeping a journal, painting or drawing. It all helps.
  6. Imagine your life in a year. What will it look like? One thing is for sure, you won’t be in the same place that you are now. Nothing in this world is stagnant. We keep moving forward, even if we can’t imagine that as possible. If you are horrified at the thought of your life remaining the same by this time next year, it is time to change that which brings you dread. Life and time have a way of changing things, and it is much better to reach conclusions and embark on new beginnings of your own volition.
  7. There have been times in my life when I couldnt imagine surviving the enormous crisis pounding down on me. I couldnt imagine wanting to. By doing the things listed above, I did survive, and have a beautiful life. I weep when I think how my life could have ended before it even began. How I would never have had the opportunity for emotional healing to take place, nor hold my daughter in my arms. I shudder when I think of not having survived to meet the splendid people in my life today, nor see this morning’s sunrise.

I can tell you this with assurety, if I could survive, then so can you. This season of winter won’t last forever, and spring will offer new life and along with it, growth.

Real Women


Sooo, I saw the above headline regarding Serena Williams last Sunday. I was so astonished that I doubted what I had just read. I had to read the quote a few times. I winced as though I had just been kicked in the gut. Surely, the media have grown up and are past such archaic statements? Apparently not! I am quite sure Ms Williams would recoil in horror if she saw her words twisted to make a point as to what constitutes being a real woman. I felt for women struggling with infertility when I saw the headline. I was one of those women. I look back on those years as the most achingly painful and lonely of my life. Opinions such as that above seared my soul, and made me doubt my worth on more than one occasion. When I came to the point of IVF being an absolute necessity, it was in some ways a relief. By then I had come to know myself. By then I knew that being a complete and functioning woman had nothing to do with fertility. It had to do with my biology, and the fact that I coped with constant agony courtesy of endometriosis. I was a woman because I had survived the un-survivable. I was a woman because I supported my sisters, both younger and older, providing counsel and comfort. I was a woman because I sought to rise to the status of survivor, and steer my destiny without interference. It would have been unfair to expect that a baby might gift me the label of woman. If anything, having a baby takes your autonomy for a time, and you need to grip on to retain your identity. Thousands of women read that headline, and winced last Sunday. Know that you are already a woman, and having a pregnancy neither heightens nor completes that status. It is time the media steered toward inclusivity and created less blanket statements which end in exclusion.

PTSD-Understanding Yourself


This article by Pete Walker astounded me with the breadth of knowledge and detail entailed. I could identify with it, thinking no wonder I am tired! Recovery is a full-time job in itself, and by that I mean recovering who you were before the events, and who you were set to become. It is confronting (albeit healing), to uncover why you do the things you do, and respond the way you do. Your beautiful, brilliant mind conjured up all sorts of ways to cope!

Grant Hackett


I read the following with dismay yesterday. It is a road many families have walked. I have walked… Some of my friends have also walked this road. It can start gradually, sneaking up on both the individual and those who love them. They don’t want to do what they once loved. They retreat, becoming uncommunicative. They find no joy in anything. You may find that they are drinking more than usual. You may uncover just how much when you put the bins out and see the many empty bottles in the recycling. There is something going on that you can’t quite put your finger on, and they are either refusing to talk or aren’t capable of telling you. It is frustrating, as in social settings, they can be  quite animated-jovial even-which masks what is really occurring.

When it all falls apart, it is often dramatic and spectacular. It can be after years of seeking help for the person. Marriage and family counselling, dietitians and alternative healthcare practitioners (to get their diet right and make sure that they have no deficiencies), AA, NA, GP’s, brain scans, blood tests, and so much more. There may be brushes with the law, and unpaid bills and fines. You may feel as though you are grieving a loved one, though they are right in front of you. You would do anything to retrieve their essence.

Thousands of families across Australia are facing the same agony as Grant’s loved ones. Right here and now. Finding appropriate help is time-consuming and exhausting, particularly when you are dealing with someone who denies they have a problem, or who tires of being on the merry-go-round. Who could blame them? Services tend to be dislocated from one another, and having to relay the story of why you came to be in somebody’s office time and again is wearing.

After five exhausting years of not knowing what the heck was going on with their partner, a friend was relieved when a diagnosis of depression came about. It was short-lived, as the antidepressants put them in free-fall. After another year of tumult, it turned out that they actually had bi-polar disorder, and the medication was causing them to rapid-cycle. They are doing so much better today, though life can still be challenging. The whole family or friendship group may have to adapt to a new normal. Stressors which the person may have coped with in the past, may cause them a set-back in their recovery. I hope with all my heart that Grant gets the help he needs, and I hope that his family can feel our support. It highlights the urgent need for prompt and cohesive services.

For urgent help, contact Beyond Blue or the Black Dog Institute.

Fragile Minds


I was on the bus the other day, when a familiar gentleman boarded. He is usually quiet, his movements steady. On this day, he was swearing and banging his head with his hand. He had a pronounced tic. The bus driver greeted him by name, and warmly invited him to sit down. I was touched by his kindness. For twenty minutes, this fellow pounded his head with his hand. I wondered what had happened to make his condition heighten. Had his medication stop working? Was he taking it at all? I looked out the window at the rain falling, and a memory emerged.

When I was fourteen, and in the clinic, I was sipping a hot chocolate, when I noticed Robert outside. Robert was a cordial fellow, always with a greeting. He had greying ginger hair and beard. I noted him pacing up and down the courtyard in the rain. Suddenly, he went over to a window, and repeatedly banged his head into the frame. As blood gushed out of his head, I ran over, begging him to stop. Finally he did, and I held him as he wept. I was later told that he had been editor of a big city paper in the later stages of his career. Esteemed and well-regarded, until his breakdown.

What causes people to break down? It is usually those who seem to have it altogether that are the first to succumb. It is damned exhausting, keeping up appearances. I once knew a CEO of a large corporation, who was found under her desk, cowering after years of intense pressure got the best of her. When she told me her story, I determined that I needed to deal with stress as it happens. I learnt not to store it away; not to drink or eat until I drowned.

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People have minds that can be drip-fed abuse of every kind. From the workplace to home life. We need to be careful whom we listen to and whom we consider our allies. It is not only our hearts we have to protect, but our precious minds. Think of all those who give you joy, and stick with them. Christmas is a tinderbox of embers, which can either give a comforting glow, or explode. Life is not meant to be played, as if a game, and minds aren’t designed to be toyed with. Seek out the gentle, the kind and affirmative. Your precious mind is designed for dreams, for visionary ideas and to give solutions to pressing problems. It is nigh impossible to achieve any of that if it is being filled with nonsense from people who have no business being in your life. I saw scores of adults (some famous), rescind during stellar careers and lives. I learnt early on how precious a gift our minds are. Be kind to others, but also to yourself.

Coping with Christmas


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Customs House, Sydney

Christmas can be a time of great joy and conversely, tremendous pain. Remembering those we have loved and lost, reminscing about people and times past, and hopeful about times still to come. A concentrated month filled with undiluted feelings. Memories sparked by carols, occasions and conversations. Lovely memories can be just as tough as bad ones, when the people involved are no longer with us. Half of all Australians find Christmas hard due to finances. It can feel as though it comes upon us when we are least prepared.

There are a few things we can do to uplift ourselves and keep swimming when feeling overwhelmed.

  • Volunteer! Nothing lifts your spirits like being of service to others, whether that be serving meals, wrapping gifts or talking to the lonely.
  • If you haven’t the finances to give purchased gifts, how about offering a service? Babysitting, a dinner, gardening or cleaning may be what your loved one most needs.
  • Cheap and lovely gift ideas include Reindeer food for kids to sprinkle on the front lawn Christmas Eve (A mix of oats and glitter in little bags), bath salts, hot chocolate mixes or a picture of you both in a painted frame.
  • Walk around town and enjoy the free entertainment, window displays and decorations. Find out when carol services shall be held locally. It costs nothing and will lift your spirits.
  • Whatever you do, please don’t isolate yourself. Connect with the community and friends. If Christmas is a challenging time for you, trust me, you will feel worse if you shut yourself away.

Love costs nothing, nor does enjoying the beauty of the season. It is a misnomer that you need money to be able to enjoy Christmas. You just need a full heart.

Lowering Stress at Christmas


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This article got me thinking about how stressful Christmas can be. We are usually dealing with the same income we have during the rest of the year, with the added burden of buying gifts, extra food, drinks and attending functions. It is easy to become anxious with the pressure! I had planned for my daughter and I to go on an overseas holiday for a week with friends this month. I had budgeted for it, and my daughter was so excited that she packed her suitcase months ago! Circumstances beyond my control led to me having to cancel. It broke my heart to disappoint my daughter, and I dreaded breaking the news to her. She put her arms around me, and said “it’s okay; we will go another time.” We surely will.

We are of the belief that things are meant to evolve for our highest good. If something can’t happen in that moment, then maybe it wasn’t meant to. Our time shall come, and it will be all the sweeter when it does. I underestimated my child’s reaction prior to her hearing that we would have to pull out. I think we do that sometimes; buying things we can’t really afford for people. Those that love you, truly love you; want you, not tokenism. They don’t want to see you in debt, stressed about paying off the credit card bills. She has already stated that the best Christmas present will be us being together. She has a little wish list that I am able to fulfil for Christmas (with Santa’s help).

The season is much more than gifts. It is helping those less fortunate, trips to the city to see the decorations. Carol services and playdates with friends. Swimming and a cheeky gin and tonic (for me). Reflecting on the year and how to build upon it in 2017. We can only do what we can do, and it’s okay to be honest with those around you that you can’t afford to do something (or buy it), at this time. Love is what it is all about!

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.

Flower Markets, Pie shops and Friendship


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Some time back, I went through a hellish week. I hadn’t endured such concentrated crap for quite a while. Unpleasant people from the past tried to sneak back into my atmosphere via social media, money that I was assured would be there to pay essential bills wasn’t, and I was devastated by other events beyond my control. “What on earth is this?” I shrieked, to nobody in particular. “I’m a good person!” The week before, I had been blissfully unaware of the universal dump that was about to be bestowed on me. I wasn’t at all prepared. The thing with trying times, is that they are often beyond our control, but not our capabilities, despite stretching us to our limits.

I knew that I was in strife when I couldn’t stop my arms from trembling, and my hands from shaking. I lost my appetite and three kilograms in a weekend. I was exhausted and longed to rest my thumping head. I was on the loo constantly, my digestive system unable to cope with the stress. My heart felt as though it was leaping out of my chest, and I felt numb; disassociated from what was occurring. All the above were symptomatic of the massive adrenaline rush I was enduring. I couldn’t articulate what I was going through, and so I retreated. I didn’t want to burden anybody, anyway. I longed to disappear. I couldn’t see a way out of the situation I was facing. I felt I had let my daughter down, even though events had been out of my control.

There was a little tap at my door. A friend had been working around the corner and had called in to see me. My eyes were rimmed red from crying and sleep deprivation. Upon seeing me, she held me close, then took me for a drive. We stopped at a pie shop off the beaten track, and I ordered a vegetable pie. They began to make our pies, and we were shown to a round table, the linen tablecloth and colored serviettes adding warmth to a chilly day. There were flowers on each table,nestled in bright vases, and we enjoyed the best pies of our lives. The pastry was flaky, and the filling had just the right amount of seasoning. Afterward, my friend took me to a flower market. We were allowed in the cool rooms, and admired the floral displays. My daughter was asked if she wanted to pick out some flowers to take home with her, and her little face lit up. The dear lady who was running the farm even let us look out the back to see where the gerberas were growing in massive irrigated sheds. Watching my daughter play with the little dog on the farm, I felt the oppression of the past week loosen. The lady at the flower market was gracious to this stranger, and I am sure she could sense that I was fragile on this day. As for my friend, well, she did more for me than she will ever know. She enabled me to escape my own mind, gifting me temporary reprieve.

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The next 24 hours, saw two other good friends call in, and I cried some more as I relayed the impossible situation I faced. What they gave me in terms of support, love and compassion outweighs anything I could calculate. They are indeed my sisters, and they effectively pulled me back from the abyss, and helped me seek ways to continue on. You can feel overwhelmed when a friend is facing a crisis, particularly when lacking funds, time or the health to physically assist.Let me assure you, that real friends understand all that. I equally treasure the cup of tea I was made, a friend opening her house to me, the phone call I received and the heartfelt messages I was gifted. Just knowing that you aren’t alone is enough to sustain you, and bring you clarity. Each and every kindness shall be recalled and valued always.


I still haven’t any resolutions to long-standing burdens, but at least I have a list of steps I can take, right here and now. I feel a little more empowered, and certainly stronger than I did throughout that horrific weekend. It all started with a country drive, a quaint pie shop and a flower market.

Seeds and Growth


They certainly did not know that we were seeds! Seeds containing the most fragrant, vibrant flowers. This life, it can get so ugly. I have had my body smashed up, bloodied and ground into the dirt. I have been saved by garden mulch. When I am out, and find it has stuck to my shoes and clothes, I am not in the least irritated. Rather, I am grateful for being reminded of the time it saved my life. If I had landed on concrete, I would be gone. The mulch softened my fall, allowing me the opportunity to live.

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The battle was far from over. There I’d be- lovingly attending my budding garden- when a slug would come along and eat the shoots. Pesticide was poured over the dirt, and it seemed that everything had died. Over and over again. Little did they know that there were slumbering seeds buried way underneath the mulch. They couldn’t destroy what would flourish underground! As a grown woman, I have tools to keep the pests at bay. I have a little fence (not white picket in nature), and those seeds are about to rupture. No matter what they do, they can’t access those seeds. I think it’s time for us all to bloom. I will scoop up a handful of mulch, and give thanks.