Stay…


Last week, Sydney lost a talented chef to suicide.  Bronzed and seemingly healthy, his smile could light up our city. There was much commentary after the news hit social media, but what pierced through the rhetoric was the notion that when alone, he’d fallen into a worm hole, and hadn’t the resources to stave off the impulse his depression looped into. These holes seem to have no end, and can be hard to extricate oneself from.

I know a person who was close to succumbing, in January, 2019. There are as many pathways into anxiety and depression as there are people in the world. Hers wasn’t initially caused by a chemical imbalance, rather circumstances conspiring against her. It were as though her mind were a strudel, with layers of pastry piled on top of one other. The apple promised sweetness, and she held the layers of stress in her hands, waiting to reach the filling. All it took was another day of calamity- not of her making- to break her resolve. Heart beating wildly, hands shaking and a mind unable to see a way out, she reached for the phone. Once a playdate for her child had been arranged, and she was alone, her mind led her onto a dark stage. There was no audience, nor were there lights. There were no solutions here.

She had done all that she could to make life better, more secure, and she couldn’t see her way clear. All of a sudden, a beam of light hit the centre of her brain, insisting that she send a text. She asked what her friend was up to, and if she may join her. “Of course!” came the enthusiastic response. They drove to the beach, singing along to the radio. She made herself focus on all the beauty surrounding her. The Bird Of Paradise, alongside hibiscus, in reds and oranges,  dotting the landscape. She closed her eyes and felt the salt air caressing her skin. Her bottle of chilled water felt good as it hit her neck, the Cheezels they had bought, decorating her fingers like rings. She had gone against her wildest impulse, which was to not experience anything at all. It had frightened her, how her brain insisted that the stressors couldn’t be balanced against beauty.

They were gone for hours, away from home and everyday life. She was dropped back revived, just in time to make calls and forge a path through the thorny brackets of which she had been stuck. The next morning, she woke at dawn, and saw something similar to this.

Morning light and lorikeets greeted the new day, alongside the help needed to extricate herself from overwhelming concerns. Within a month, she had begun a new medication. It was a small dose, but enough to chase away the anxiety she had been battling alone, without armour. She could now see her way clear, and a path opened up in front of her. Happiness returned, and she started to engage with the world again. To her amazement, she had been missed. Depression in an active state is renowned for the crap it feeds us. Looking back, she shudders at what she would have missed, in just a couple of weeks. The mundane joy of a cool change after stifling heat, through to her child’s laughter.

She hadn’t the language in her distressed state to tell her friend what the matter was, nor what she needed, other than to be with someone. Perhaps that is all one needs to do; to reach out and say that you need company, even accompanying them as they go about their errands. Anything to not be in alone, battling a pocket of despair by yourself. A wormhole is a tunnel with two ends. Perhaps reaching out to those on the periphery is a way of ensuring we make it back to life. Look out for those self-isolating or who seem to be going through changes. Our psyche can be as fragile as a butterfly wing, and whilst it is tempting to cease all that has ever given us joy, it is imperative that we don’t. The lies our minds feed us tends to be done in secret and when alone.  You are too precious, and life has too much beauty left to unfurl. Let today mark the beginning of us all leaving our particular pockets of despair. If you survived today because you decided to go grocery shopping with a friend, rather than stay by yourself, then that is a miracle indeed. Whatever it takes to keep you alive, do it.

The Consolation of Shopping


I once knew an elderly gent whose house was filled with clutter. The living room had no available seats, and he had given up using his mahogany dining table. There was no room for cutlery, let alone plates. I have seen shipping containers filled with items which still had their tags attached, never used. I have seen sheds built in yards to house the surplus of a person’s shopping addiction. I have come to understand the motive behind chaotic shopping patterns.

The $100 shoes that were on sale, in a style they would never wear, in a size that doesn’t fit, represents the love they never received. It is also symbolic of ill-fitting relationships.

The designer dress is symbolic of needing a lift after a failed attempt on IVF. Having the news broken over the phone, seeing prams and pregnant women everywhere is enough to drive a woman into the closest store.

The new furniture, smart TV and rugs represent the sinking feeling that something is not quite right within a cultivated life.

The bookshelves crammed with ornaments is symbolic of the urge to hold onto the past and it’s people, even though it is time to let go.

The broken pots and detritus in the garden is symbolic of a life out of control. They looked so inviting at the garden centre! You had grand plans to make an entertaining area in the yard, but realised that everyone in your family flits in and out, and the conversations you crave aren’t to be had. Those items symbolise abandoned dreams. It is akin to telling yourself that you aren’t worth the effort and time, nor is it worth doing for your sole enjoyment.

Perhaps, people that are content in life don’t shop excessively. The items that they buy are needed, and valued. They use everything that they buy, and don’t purchase gifts to win favour. A life that is in balance doesn’t swing like a pendulum.

The endorphin kick one feels at the shops is as forgotten as the identical shorts and shirts at the back of the wardrobe once home. The sinking feeling when one surveys the damage held on receipts is not worth the fleeting rush to the brain’s reward centres.

This stuff can’t make up for the cruelty inflicted on you. It is no substitute for inclusion, nor love. It can’t make pain disappear, or a longed-for child appear. It won’t make people love you more, and it can’t vanquish illness.

I have had the sad task of clearing out several homes of friends when they died. I have seen their bedrooms crammed with makeup and skincare, shoes and clothes, and gifts hidden away in case they are needed one day. Everything still had the prices attached. I have seen beds used as repositories for shopping bags, thrown into the room as though they were a live stick of dynamite, ready to explode. I have felt desperately sad as I surveyed the magazines and kitchenware, piled high in living rooms. Not wanted nor needed, nor ever used. I have understood that such scenes have been their attempt to stockpile in case they meet with a cruel winter. It happened once, and it can happen again. This stuff is their insurance policy. Mindlessly purchased, they felt the lovely flutter in their tummies, their brain beliving that this purchase will make their life better. Heck, it will make them better. It will make them care less that their husband is a philanderer, their family is a hot mess and that they are depressed. It will eradicate all of it. The shopping culture lies. It manipulates us, deliberately and often. It knows what it’s doing, down to the displays, the lighting, the music, the colours and scents. It knows how we think, the holes we try to fill and what we are trying to make up for.

Here’s how you can beat the horrid high and low during this Christmas season.

  • Make a budget and stick to it!
  • Make a list of those whom you want to buy for, and decide what you want to gift and how much you can spend beforehand.
  • Check in with yourself before leaving home. Buying stuff is no consolation for feeling lonely and sad. Make sure anything that you purchase is for the right reasons.
  • Eat before you leave home, and carry a water bottle. That horrendous disorientated feeling brought on by shopping centres is made worse by hunger and dehydration!
  • Check in any rewards points you have accrued throughout the year. These can be used for groceries or you can opt to donate them to a charity.
  • Declutter your home. The stuff that makes you depressed has to go. The clothes you have held onto but never worn, the kitchen gadgets in boxes and books you have yet to read, need to be donated or sold. No good comes from a home without sufficient room for energy to circulate.
  • Give experiences, whether that be movie tickets, a voucher to dinner in the New Year or babysitting services. Experiences last longer than stuff.
  • You have nothing to prove to anyone. You are enough, just as you are. Put down that item you can’t afford, and bake something for your friend instead.
  • Call your friends and organise catch-ups. Go on picnics or have a coffee together. People need you, not stuff.
  • Shop local! Support your local farmers markets and shops. These people are your neighbours and possibly your friends.

I remember in living colour, the sadness I felt as I surveyed dusty shelves piled high with items still in their original packets. The hope that this product would be a game-changer had long perished, and all that was left was a prison built of  discarded aspirations for a better life. Sit with pain, befriend and understand it. Shopping won’t help what needs fixing. Self-love can.

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.

Papa Al Pomodoro


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This seems like just another food picture, but there is more to it. It is an act of self-care, something I have felt unable to do for the past six months. This Papa Al Pomodoro heralded that I was coming back to life after a time of treading water. Stressful times get the adrenaline surging and self-care recedes. The things you love to do and the fresh food you used to love preparing are swept aside, thought of as time-thieves.

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The thing is, that by making space for preparing good food and doing the things you love, you end up with more time, not less. There is more energy and a clearer head space. I am learning…

Papa Al Pomodoro

1 kg ripe tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, sliced

4 cloves chopped garlic

1 red chilli

400g can chopped tomatoes

1 L veg stock

1/2 bunch basil leaves

1 cup torn sourdough  bread

Preheat oven to 180 C and line oven tray with baking paper. Arrange tomatoes on tray. Drizzle with half the oil. Bake 30 minutes until roasted. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large saucepan, heat remaining oil. Cook onion until tender and then add garlic and chilli, stirring for one minute. Stir in roasted tomatoes and canned tomato, mashing tomato slightly. Cook 4 minutes, and add any seasoning you wish. Pour in stock. Simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

After serving, add the basil and sourdough to soup. You can include a sprinkling of Parmesan if you wish. It is divine!

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Easter


You can’t breathe life into someone who is lost. Believe me, I have tried. I have been privy to someone I care deeply about being taken down. At first by addiction, and then mental illness. I am grieving although the person lives.  If you are not careful, their reality becomes yours, a closeted,  nonsensical, grey world. It holds no colour, no engagement, no life. I could feel myself becoming pulled into the mayhem this Easter. A land where money is of no consequence, rules are for other people, and laying down staring at the ceiling is what one does for 48 hours. If you are caring for somebody in this situation, coaxing them to eat, to live, to fight, can be exhausting. Best be careful that you don’t go down too. You don’t see it happening. I didn’t. I ate Hot Cross Buns in the city Good Friday, then spent all day Saturday in bed. A smothering film of depression clung to me. I was exhausted. Giving, giving, giving until I was bone dry. The rest did me good. Not having to think. “Please, don’t ask me any more questions,” I pleaded.

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Easter Sunday, the torrential rain stopped and the sun came out. I went to Ashfield Uniting Church. My sanctuary. Rev Bill Crews feeds the homeless via a soup kitchen and van. Via the Exodus Foundation, kids who have fallen behind are educated, and a new school is being opened in Liverpool. Each Christmas, there is a free lunch and it is a grand affair, with a cast of thousands! They do so much at Ashfield, and have changed many lives.

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This treasured lady is 98 years of age. She walks everywhere, lives in her own home, and takes a great interest in social issues. I want to be like her when I grow up!

We went to lunch afterward, and munchkin met the Easter Bunny and his assistant!

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Rev Bill was off to Hong Kong and then Cambodia, so she gave him a big cuddle before he left.

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Nobody pretends to be perfect here, to have it altogether. We muddle through life, and that is enough. You are still loved. Isn’t that reassuring? No titles need to be proclaimed, no diamonds flashed, no mention of private jets. No pontificating. I don’t think you would get away with it if you tried! It was a happy Easter indeed.

2015 is here!


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I went out New Year’s Eve, to where a beautiful gathering took place. Children having fun, and friend’s talking about their dreams. New Year’s Day, I needed to go to the ocean. Sit by it, bathe in it. Wash myself clean. Last year, I had no time. My day’s consisted of working, educating a loved one, keeping someone else out of hospital and alive. The year consisted of helping friends and the community, listening and trying to be there. I have thin bones, and a large section from the side of my teeth broke off three months ago. I have had no time to get to a dentist, nor to a hairdresser, nor to my specialists. No time to meditate regularly as I desperately wanted and needed to do. Why have I put myself last? Why do any of us? We are full of good intent, and determined to see these things through. There is always something pulling at us, and we follow. I tried to iron the other day, and was in bed for two days afterward. Now, ironing is horrid, and should be banned for everyone, but when one is fused from the shoulder’s down, it is excruciating. I took stock of my life as I lay in bed, my body wracked with pain.

There are things I have to do each day to keep myself healthy, to stave off the risk of complications to my health. As I look to the future, I yearn to be as fit as I can be, and out of a wheelchair for as long as I can. In the hectic manner of everyday life, I lost sight of the fact that it’s what is done everyday that produces the building blocks for the future. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that not only did I not make myself and my health a priority, but they weren’t even on the list. Having thirty minutes to be in silence each day is now factored in, as are repairs to this physical vessel I call home. Some invitations I will be able to accept, and others I won’t. I lost my friend/sister a little over a month ago. I need time. My mind is overflowing with grand plans for this year, and secret fears. I really don’t think I can fit anything more in there! That is, unless my mind is given the opportunity to expand. It can only do so by being carefree, having fun, and opting out occasionally. That is where refreshment lays.

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I took my little girl to the Art Gallery of NSW, to the POP Art exhibition. We explored, we talked and we played. We went to Myer and her Godmum bought her a Cabbage Patch Doll, which she adores. We even got to walk up George St, not a car in sight, as it was undergoing repairs.
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We didn’t need to talk, just soak in the experience. I think we all need more of that. Just to stop and be. So I am going to go see my dentist in the next month, have a haircut, and visit my specialist. I hope you also take the time to do what you need to for yourself. You need to undergo maintenance if you want to give 2015 all you have!

She had written 'I love U' in pink texta on her arm.
She had written ‘I love U’ in pink texta on her arm.

Anastasia Amour


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Anastasia Amour (pseudonym Stardust), sent me a little package of affirmative stickers. My daughter was very excited when I said Stardust had sent us a gift. Her little face fell when she searched the empty envelope. “Where is the stardust?” she pouted. I told her it was invisible, imbued on the stickers.

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Words have such power. You know, these days its cool to be disaffected and sarcastic, caustic and negative. Its easy to cut the groove in the rotating vinyl record inside your head. Doing Anastasia’s ProjectPositive changed my world. I felt connected to a vibrant group of people doing life, endeavouring to work out the snags. I learnt that I am worthy of love just as I am. I examined what beauty and self-love actually is, and what it isn’t. I was humbled and my self-talk was certainly transformed. Not only are her sticker’s embedded with Stardust, but Anastasia is as well. www.anastasiaamour.com

#ProjectPositive, September 22nd. Flawed.


Oh dear! I have plenty of these! Some can be blessings and have kept me glued together, such as my stubbornness. On the other hand, I can be a huge pain in the butt! I wont yield once I have made my mind up. It’s fun having my daughter reflect it back onto me!

See what I mean?!
See what I mean?!

I have been engineered to be a solitary creature. If I am dealing with a problem, grief, pain or depression, I will not seek out other people. Years of isolation can do that to a lady. I remember at one of the hospitals I was in, right before I was taken at fifteen, I looked wistfully on visitor’s day at the friends and family assembled. Bernadette, a hardened old boiler, saw me looking at the visitor’s. She took my hand and said, “never expect people to be there for you, honey. Be your best friend, and you will be happy.” I took her words to heart and shut down. I pretended it didn’t hurt when I was in the spinal unit for all those months, and I would see other patient’s with their visitor’s. I got used to sorting things out by myself. It collides with my stubbornness, making life pretty hard at times! I don’t want to bother people; I want to look like I know what the hell I am doing, even though I don’t. I can’t drive far, as my right leg seizes up, and the pain in my right arm and spine becomes unbearable after a while, so I do accept lifts sometimes. When I have reached out, I have chosen some dodgy characters. They have either gossiped about me behind my back, hurt me, or left me. It made me afraid to ever let myself be vulnerable again. I have to allow myself to be vulnerable, so I can teach my child that its okay to reach out. I heard her say to her friend the other day, “I know you are soft, and that’s okay, ’cause I have a soft heart too.” The young are so wise! I am not alone now. I just need to know my heart is in safe hands, and relay the information caught in my throat.
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I loathe phones. I received hundreds of death threats, and developed a real phobia about them. I don’t like the feeling that most of the time you don’t know whom is on the other end. The unknown doesn’t do much for me. I much prefer texting and emails. That is where my comfort is. For a whimsical character, I don’t go much for the unscheduled and unpredictable. I am always ten minutes early to everything, and have my calendar filled a month or so in advance. I really need to chill out! Yes, chill out. I do need to chill. To allow myself more silliness, more free time, more relaxation. I need to speak out more, using my actual voice, and not hide myself, nor carry my burdens alone. It is time to let go. Flaws are fantastic for reminding you how far you have come, and what needs to be rescinded.

#ProjectPositive, September 12th. I feel good about myself today.


photo (15)I feel good about myself today because…

Something just hit me. Do we need a reason? Do I feel good about myself because I lost 20 pounds, or because I am having a good hair day? Those things are transitory, and the thrill is lost within a short space of time. Does my feeling good about myself come down to such detritus, and if so, why? There has to be more; a solid foundation for self-esteem to flourish. I feel good about myself today because a friend (a very devoted friend), called out that she loved me from her car. I called back my adoration, and it left me with a smile. I walked two little girls into school, and enjoyed hearing their banter and giggles. I feel good about myself today because I actually remembered to feed myself breakfast, and felt I was worth the effort of preparing  a juice. I feel good about myself because I cleared the calendar and have a day in the office to get paperwork completed so I don’t feel overwhelmed. I always feel good about myself when I look to the future and make preparations. There is nothing like laying your head on your pillow at night, knowing you have taken steps to prepare the road ahead. I have life insurance so my child is provided for, I have  a budget for next week. I have my social plans on the calendar. These things make me feel good. I feel good that I caught myself this morning. I was watching the morning news when the Oscar Pistorius verdict flashed onto the screen. Not guilty… My breath caught in my chest, and a tightness gripped my lungs. Tears sprang in my eyes. I was overwhelmed with emotion, for Reeva’s family. I caught sight of the hurt and angry women’s right’s advocates gathered outside the courthouse. Some of these women had endured horrors of their own. One glimpse into their faces was all it took. “I got you,” I assured myself. I listened to Sia, and sat for a while, gathered my thoughts and concentrated on my breathing. I feel good about myself because I know what my triggers are. I know how to soothe the pain that bubbles up, and I know how to temper it. I refuse to turn away and be uninformed because of it, so I have had to devise tools to cope. The reasons I feel good about myself today have nothing to do with appearance. In fact, I am wearing mismatched socks (the only ones I could find), a men’s jacket found in an op-shop and old boots. The reason I feel good about myself is that I am hearing what I need, and providing it. Love, security, peace of mind, comfort.

 

#ProjectPositive, September 9th. Confidence.


Confidence isn’t what occurs after a haircut, manicure, purchasing new clothes. Those things are transitory and chewed up within a day of receipt. It cant be bought, and doesn’t depend on weight, nor a makeover. To have any lasting value, it must stem from within. If you don’t have it, that’s okay. A clean slate can easily have beautifully-scripted writing imbued on its surface. Make a list of all you value about yourself. Doesn’t matter what it is. Look at the positive qualities you radiate each day and all the great things you do, rather than the stuff-ups. When I see a confident person, I am mesmerized. It’s in the way they walk, the projection of their voice, the way they look you in the eyes. You can tell this person feels at ease within themselves and thus you relax too. They have a way of being. Every day, think about how valued you are, and the wondrous ripples you send out to us all. You are valued and treasured and this world would just not be the same without you. You can have complete confidence in that!
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