Thursday, October 31, 2013

Who am I?

So my last post was a little rude. Lots of swear words, lots of finger pointing, lots of anger.

I really don't like being like that. Swearing? Whatever! I actually do enjoy throwing out the odd expletive, but I really dislike being angry. When I'm in that mood I become childlike. Actually, teenage-like.

Angst ridden, emo, woe is me, everybody hates me and the world is working against me in a conspiracy to make my life a living misery.

From my psych who won't seem to listen to me regarding the medication I know is not helping me, to the stupid blood taking woman who had to weave around my veins that morning looking for an entry point to get some blood to test the levels of the antidepressant I didn't want to take in the first place.

To make matters worse, after I came back here to my glorious new haven (commonly known as MY room I share with NO ONE!), I wrote that anger filled post and then went to bed and sulked all day, fantasizing about my death that would cause everyone else all the misery I was feeling. You know, just to get all those conspiring against me back!

I woke only to gorge on a whole packet of those overly delicious new Tim Tam Chocolicious Bites for lunch and then went straight back to sleep again.


Yum! (unsponsored)


When I finally did get out of bed it was only when my mum text me at 4.09pm with a "Where are you?". I was fuming! I'd been MIA all fucking day and only now they were looking for me? I could have been at the pub or lying in a pool of my own blood for all they knew.

Ugh! No one takes my tantrums seriously these days!

So off I storm, to the apartment next door, where my parents live (until we put the two apartments together and we all live in one apartment again). Cried my eyes out while dad hugged me as I wailed "There's something seriously wrong with me Daddy!".

I then grabbed my iPhone and sent an email to my psychiatrist with a link to my abusive post and told my parents I was going off all my meds.

"I need to know who the real me is", I cried!

Because that is what it comes down to. While I can look back and write a mildly funny post about it now, at the time I was in a living breathing hell. Mental illness with all its ups and downs suck big time.


Who the fuck am I?


Pumped full of medication that alters my mood (nortriptyline), my ability to concentrate (methylphenidate), my ability to digest food without getting heartburn (rabeprazole), handle anxiety (diazapamquetiapine) and sleep (temazepam), how am I to know exactly who I am?


Who am I?
No filters, no make up (ok my eyelashes are tinted and my hair is bleached),
and I'm cutting back on the meds. 


So I'm getting off all the drugs.

Except the Pariet (rabeprazole). I've tried to get off that before and the old lady heartburn comes back with avengence! And it ain't pretty.

I stopped taking sleeping tablets weeks ago so that is easy. I haven't had any Valium (diazepam) or a Seroquel (quetiapine) since the weekend and I've been going without the Concerta (methylphenidate or Ritalin (in slow release form) as it's more commonly known) since I ran out on Monday.

Antidepressants should never been stopped abruptly so I'm slowly weening off that one. I'm down from 100mg to 75mg and will be down to zero by the time I have my next psych appointment in a week's time.

Right now it is nearly 11am. I slept soundly from about 10.30 last night until Noo came and woke me at about 7.55am. The morning rush to get him to school was OK because his Grandpa is taking him down there in the morning which relieves me of a lot of stress.

So far I feel pretty good.

Yesterday I started an eight week "Mindfulness for Stress Reduction" course at the hospital I hang out out at get treated at. I want to learn how to find that window, or fork in the road, or whatever cliche you want to use, where I get to choose.

I've lived most of my life from one impulse to the next. Blinkers are firmly in place as I reach for the decision that is going to make me feel good right now. The future doesn't exist in my world when it comes to making choices. That is until later when I worry about all the bad choices I have made and my anxiety flares out of control because I've paid no mind to the effect those choices have on the future.

I'm hoping mindfulness meditation will help me find the STOP button which will in turn give me a look in the window of choice or down the forks in the road that offer different paths to choose from therefore giving me the wisdom to make better decisions.

Crikey! Am I making any sense here?

I'm not just talking about the impulse to buy another black dress or to eat that block of chocolate. I'm also talking about emotion regulation as well.

I'm hoping mindfulness will help me find some inner peace.

Fuck, another cliche!

I'm getting outta here before I crack out yet another one.

Mindfulness be with you!

What do you do to quieten your mind?
Got any tips for this impulsive anxious little soul?


V.






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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Doctor, this antidepressant isn't working - so fuck you

I'm so fucking angry right now.

Since my first outburst of tears on 10 May 2013 when I got the sign that my mood was slipping in the wrong direction, I have been on and off a shitload of medications.

None of them have helped me:

Citolapram
Duloxetine
Fluoxetine
Sodium Valproate
Quetiapine
Lithium
Lamotrigine
Diazapam
Nortriptyline

I've had side effect ranging from constipation, headspins, blurred vision, vertigo, dizziness, dry mouth, altered menstrual cycle, headaches, restless leg syndrome, depression, anxiety and now rage.

I'm so angry right now I could punch my fist through this fucking computer.

I'm so angry right now that I'm not getting better.

I'm so angry right now that I have ALL THE THINGS an unemployed person could want but I'm fucking miserable.

I'm so angry right now that I screamed at my son this morning because we were running late for fucking preschool. I pushed him down the hallway because he didn't do what I asked him to do the first time I asked it, or the second, or the fucking third time.

I'm so angry right now because when my one and only child begged me for a kiss for forgiveness I couldn't even look at him because I AM SO FUCKING ANGRY!

I'm so fucking angry because I keep telling my fucking psychiatrist that I'm fucking angry in the fucking morning and he just fucking tells me that I haven't given this fucking medicine enough of a go yet.

Well I think three weeks of fucking anger is enough fucking anger!

I'm so sick of being on this pharmaceutical rollercoaster.

I just want to feel the way I did before this all happened. I know I wasn't 100% before this episode but it was a hell of a lot fucking better than this fucking bullshit!


I'M SO FUCKING OVER IT!


So, Shrink, fuck you!




V.




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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Part 5: On being a victim of rape culture


TRIGGER WARNING: This post may be triggering to those who have been a victim of sexual assault.

LANGUAGE WARNING: There is an excessive use of profanities thought this post. 


On being a victim of rape culture

Part 1: The day before
Part 2: Where am I?
Part 3: The day after



Drunk or sober I am not to blame for being raped


I have spent most of the last six years blaming myself for being raped by a stranger. Why? Because on the day it occurred I had been drinking heavily. In fact, I was hammered. Like most Friday and Saturday nights and a few other nights during the week as well, I drank a lot.

Of course it was my fault! I gave over all my rights to protect myself when I took away the ability to control my physical actions, mental cognitions, and the ability to verbally give consent or otherwise by drinking a shitload of booze with a group of work colleagues on a Friday night. I might as well have been wearing a sandwich board over my shoulders with the words "FUCK ME FOR FREE" printed on both sides.

WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!

Yes, there's a good chance that I wouldn't have been raped on 19 April 2007 if I was sober that night.

But there's an even greater chance I wouldn't have been raped that night if the man who committed the crime had any respect for women. Or the law.

Mia Freedman published an article regarding the correlation between sexual assault and alcohol a couple of days ago. It's caused a bit of a shit storm around the interwebs.

On one side of the argument is Mia, and a hell of a lot of her commenters on the post, saying that we need to teach our daughters, sisters, nieces, girlfriends to stay sober while out because if you get yourself inebriated some randy bloke might just come along and stick his dick where you don't want it.

Mia says "Some people are angry at the idea of highlighting the link between drinking and sexual assault. Some people insist that when we mention the connection, we are victim blaming."

Mia, if what you say isn't victim blaming, why have I felt so responsible for what happened to me that night?

And then there are other commentators (Clementine Ford for Daily Life and Kim Powell at the news with nipples) who are crying foul on Mia's argument, saying women have the bloody right to walk the streets at night, drunk and teetering on sky high stilettos, scantily clothed should they wish, without the fear of coming to any harm.

I think I, as a victim of drunk rape, sit somewhere in between the two arguments.

Women should be able to dress up in all their finery, go out and get a little tipsy, drunk if you like, and feel absolutely safe from harm.

But the reality is there are fucking arseholes out there that will take advantage of our drunkenness. There are fuckers out there that will see that lovely cleavage we are showing off as an invitation to sex. Some men will even buy us the drinks to get us to that state of willingness to leave with them. Hell, he could chuck in a rohy to make it a sure thing.

While I was in hospital recently, a blogger friend posted on her timeline this image. It sent me into a spiral of PTSD flashbacks and depression because it brought all the memories back to the forefront of my mind.


Image source


And there it is!

Victim blaming lies in the culture we live in that lectures women to prevent themselves from being raped but doesn't put nearly as much emphasis on teaching our men the meaning of consent and that sex without it is morally reprehensible and against the law.

My right to give consent that night was stripped away from me. By alcohol, yes. But mainly by the man who coerced me by force to his filthy apartment.

You would think waking up out of a drunken stupor while a stranger is violating you, and has been for hours while you were unconscious, is one of the worst things that could happen to a woman.

I've only realised this recently. As bad as being raped was, and I still feel the pain of it every time I sit down on my permanently damaged coccyx, the actual act wasn't the worst part.

The worst and most damaging effect of being raped, for me anyway, is the way I was treated after the assault; once I became the rape victim

I've written all about what happened that night in detail which you can find under the tab above titled "From Rock Bottom to Parenthood". The last post that I wrote in the series, "Reporting the crime", is not the end of the story. I've been meaning to write that final chapter for six months but haven't been able to get my head in the right space to do it. I just haven't been well enough to go there. I'm probably not well enough to write it now, but I'll take the risk and go for it anyway...


The interrogation


Even before the night I was raped my life was a slowly, yet surely, moving train wreck in the making. Heavily addicted to cocaine, ecstasy and alcohol I partied hard and I slept around all while holding down a 9-5 office job with a prestigious investment bank. I never, ever blacked out and I never went to a one night stand's house. I always brought them back to mine where I felt safer because my flatmates would be sleeping in the next rooms and could come to my aid, should I need it.

The last chapter ended with me being accompanied by two London Metropolitan WPCs and a friend through what would turn out to be a 17 hour interrogation of my story, my character and my body.

Back in April this year I wrote:

Fear returned to me then as I thought over my life and how by being there, at the police station, it could be put under scrutiny. I've watched a lot of Law & Order and countless other crime shows and I realised that my life was turning into an episode of Special Victims Unit or The Bill. If the cops ever got this guy and it went to court all my secrets would be exposed. All the lies I'd told to my family and my employer would be dragged out in court. Everyone would know about my addictions, my financial debt, my promiscuity. I had visions of my friends and work colleagues being questioned in the witness box as to my character: "Yes Your Honour, Vanessa loves to party. Oh yes, she's known to have slept with a few blokes from the office...".

At some stage in the evening the two WPCs, my friend and I were driven to a rape crisis centre in Whitechapel where I was prodded and poked by two nurses taking swabs of fluids and blood in the hope of finding some DNA evidence. I knew the exercise was superfluous because I'd showered several times since the assault two days before. This was all just routine. I knew I was being put through a series of procedures to be ticked off a standard "girl raped while drunk crime report" as we went from one examination to the next. I remember my friend pointing out to me, while they measured how tall I was and what I weighed, that I was shaking. I hadn't even realised until that moment that I was trembling. I was petrified and in shock. I still hadn't really grasped the idea that I was a victim of a crime. This was all actually happening to me and that my life had been changed forever.

It was heading well toward midnight, if memory serves, when we arrived at what I remember to be a massive police complex situated north of the Shoreditch/Hoxton area I was familiar with. As my girlfriend waited outside I was escorted into what looked like a store room. The WPC asked me to take my top off so she could photograph the bruising on my right shoulder. Photos were also taken of my face from various angles. Instructions to move this way or that were given in cold, well rehearsed lines.

I think it was not long after that the detectives arrived. A male and a female detective. The two WPCs that had been with me all day had done all the hard work now I just had to repeat everything I'd already told them to the female detective while sitting in front of a video camera. This must have been at about one or two in the morning.

I sat there like a good girl, shifting from side to side to avoid sitting directly on my damaged tailbone, and repeated the story of what had happened on the day and night of Friday 19 April 2007. I think one of the WPCs was present as well as the female detective who was asking all the questions. She went over the notes that the WPCs had taken through the day, I guess looking for holes in my story.

Exhausted does not even come close to describe how I felt in those early hours of the morning as they questioned me over and over again. I'd been interrogated for hours and I just wanted to go home. But the questions kept coming: How much exactly had I drank that day? How could I possibly drink that amount and remain standing let alone get myself where I ended up? Is it any wonder why I can't remember anything? What did the perpetrator look like? What kind of black man was he? African, West Indian, Arab? I don't know, I kept telling them. Can't we finish this another day, I asked. When I've had some sleep. No, it was better to do it while it was all still fresh in my mind.

When the WPCs finally drove my friend and me back to my flat in the early hours of Tuesday morning I felt worse than I had before I went to the cops. All those questions asked over and over. The doubt in their eyes said it all: another drunken girl got herself into more trouble than she could handle.

My friend told me that while I was being interviewed on film by the female detective, the male detective sat with her in the waiting area of the police station. He asked her all sorts of questions about my character. Did I like to sleep around? Did I have a thing for black men? Did I get drunk a lot? Had I made this sort of complaint before?

If that line of questioning isn't pointing the finger directly at me, the victim, I don't know what is.

Over the weeks that followed, the police would phone me with questions about everything I'd told them. From the description of the building where the assault occurred (taken from the drawing they'd got me to do from memory which apparently didn't match that of the building I pointed to in the drive-by of the crime scene) to my belief that my drink was spiked which was why I had no recollection of getting to where I did (the toxicology results, obtained from blood taken two days after the assault, came back negative of any stupefying substances).

Learning that my blood was clean was devastating. Even though I knew the chances were slim given the time between the crime and when I was tested, I wanted so much for them to find rohypnol or some sort of date rape drug in my blood to give me a reprieve from the responsibility of the destruction of my life.

Appointments with a counsellor at the rape crisis centre were made and on the second occasion I went the social worker told me outright:

"The police would hate me telling you this but do not go through with the complaint. If they do actually find the man who did this to you his lawyers will do everything they can to undermine your character. From talking to your friends and family, to getting information from your colleagues and employers. Your entire life will be dragged before the courts. They will find a way to say you asked for it."

I don't know why this warning from the social worker shocked me, but it did. I had convinced myself that my previous concerns that my private life would be made public was just paranoia. An overreaction from watching too many cop shows on the telly. But when the social worker confirmed my fears I realised that we, as a so called civilised Western society, had not progressed past the bad old days of victim blaming.

To protect myself, I had to protect the rapist.

I didn't even tell my parents back in Sydney what had happened for nearly a week because I thought they'd blame me too. I turned out to be wrong, but that was how deeply I felt responsible for what had happened to me.

I felt like gutter trash. A drug-fucked whore who deserved everything she got. I stopped seeing the counsellor and started drinking from the moment I woke up through to the moment I went to sleep, if I slept at all. I had my hair cut short so the rapist couldn't recognised me should we have the misfortune of passing each other in the street and I was constantly on the look out for him. I tried to keep up appearances by turning up to work when I could because I was so scared of losing my job.

The company I worked for sent me home to Australia for a couple of weeks so I could get some rest and see my family. As I flew back to London two weeks later I knew deep in my heart I should have stayed in Sydney. I was flying straight back into the path of self destruction. The burden of blame and disgust was so great that I wanted to die.



There are so many messages out there for women to keep a look out for baddies ready to jump on them at any given chance. Just as Clementine Ford puts it, us women are told:

Don't drink. Don't walk by yourselves at night. Don’t wear provocative clothing. Don't flirt with men you don't intend to sleep with. Don't be rude. Don’t lead men on. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Don't sign a check you don't intend to cash. Don’t go to parties without your boyfriend. Dress like a lady. Understand that the world isn't fair. Look out for evil monsters, but don't make normal men feel like rapists by avoiding their attentions. Smile. Don't imagine for a moment that you have an equal right to take up space in public without having to endure touching, groping, objectification and jokes at your expense. The world is what it is, yo.

The message has to change from telling women to protect themselves to telling men that sex without consent is wrong. We must teach our sons, brothers, cousins, all men from all cultural backgrounds, that NO MEANS NO!

Being unconscious and therefore unable to give consent, means fucking NO!

From the time sex education begins, at home and at school, boys and girls need to have it ingrained in their psyche that non-consensual sexual activity of any type is unacceptable and is a crime.

In an ideal world women should be able to go out and get pissed and walk home alone without fear of being attacked but until we ramp up the message directed at the perpetrators and would-be perpetrators of these crimes, we still must do whatever we can to protect ourselves.


As difficult as it is for me to truly believe I am not responsible for what that man did to me back in 2007, I know deep in my heart I did not ask to be raped. An unconscious body cannot say yes or no. But when I live in a society that is constantly bombarding me with messages like one in Mia Freedman's article, it's a hard not to feel I am somewhat to blame.

I chose to have a few drinks with some colleagues after work.

     I accepted the free rounds of vodka shots that were handed out in the name of lifting office morale.

              I am the one who must have followed that stranger back to his flat...




V.



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Saturday, October 5, 2013

The power of hair

On the weekend I wrote about my three favourite ways to distract myself from my depression. There's actually a fourth way I like to shake things up when life feels really shit. This method of depression distraction is so radical at times that I felt it deserved its own post.

As a method of depression distraction, getting a new hairstyle can be a little high risk. Fuck it up and it could make you feel worse. Get it right and, I personally believe, it could be just the ticket to lifting the spirit. Even just a little bit.

Mood reviving isn't the only good reason to get a change in hairstyle. I, for one, have used the ol' cut 'n' colour for a number of different reasons. Here they are:


Making a statement against authority


There have been a number of times when I've made major changes to my barnet in order to make a rebellious statement to the world. But mostly it has been to piss off my parents or to give a big "fuck you" to the private girls' school, and their strict uniform rules, that I attended.

The photos below look pretty tame, but what you can't see under the top layer of hair in many of the pictures is a shaved undercut. These days kids get away with all sorts of  hairdos at school but things were different back in the 80s and 90s. We had to wear our hair tied back with a regulation 2.5cm navy blue ribbon if the length of our hair was below the collar of our uniform.

I wrote a post about my past embarrassing hairstyles back in May. For those of you who were lucky enough to miss the shocking photo evidence here it is! I'd hate to deprive you of a laugh at my expense!


The school years: Never been one to shy away from a pair of clippers, scissors or a bottle of hair dye!


The I can't be bothered with my hair phase


I also go through phases where I just cannot be bothered with my hair and I let it grow really long, don't bother getting it coloured (my natural colour is mousy blonde-brown) and just pull it back in a messy bun or a braid. It's that pulling back in hair elastics that I thought was contributing to my headaches (more on that later). I tried getting it chemically straightened thinking it would make for an easy to manage style but the straightening effect didn't last long at all.


My long natural coloured hair 


The everybody else is doing it so I am too phase


Pink, purple, orange, blue, green, yellow - any colour you can think of really. Permanent colour, semi permanent, hair chalk! Crazy hair colours have been all the rage for quite a while now. Earlier this year I decided I wanted to go pink!


Clockwise from top left: The photo I showed the hairdresser to illustrate how I wanted my hair done;
how my hair actually turned out; big smiles as the dye goes on; worried look as reality hits; posing for the hairdresser;
Bubblegum Princess from Adventure Time; a forced smile at home as I realise I look a bit like a cartoon character.


Argh! I just lost a whole stack of work I'd done on this post when Blogger showed an error message and I stupidly closed the browser without doing a copy/paste of what I'd already written into Word. The paragraph lost was basically about how upset I was at spending 5.5 hours and nearly $400 at a hair salon recommended by the biggest hair blogger in Australia only to walk out of the place with a completely different 'do than the one in the picture that I showed the stylist.

The pink did fade. I washed my hair nine times in three days desperately scrubbing out the dye that was going everywhere: on my pillowcase, clothes, towels. And when it actually got to a colour that I liked that only lasted a couple of weeks, but it never looked like the style I asked for.


Getting back to 'normal' phase


After a while the ends, that had been bleached to create that balayage effect, became so straw like that I had to get them cut off. I ended up going to a different hairdresser to get the good old half head of foils in order to restore any semblance of a decent hairdo.



From pink to blonde


Let's go crazy!


My most recent hairstyle change is probably the most crazy. Ever. From long blonde highlighted hair to short white hair with a few greeny blue streaks chucked in for good measure I sure have made a statement this time. Like I said earlier, I've never been scared to make radical changes to my hair. In fact I get a bit of a buzz (no pun intended - ok maybe a little) out of it.


Hair today, gone tomorrow



There's more to the change in style than trying to cultivate a new look. I have been having headaches that start around my scalp and shoot down through my head nearly every day for the past two or three years. I wrote about these headaches recently when I listed all the symptoms that have landed me here back in hospital. I also talked about my headaches when they seemed to disappear after I went 40 days without eating any sugar.

The pain always gave me this overwhelming desire to shave my head. As if my long, thick and heavy hair was to blame for the pain that's had me popping painkillers like lollies for years. Whether I had my hair back in a hair elastic or out falling down my back, my scalp still ached. Then last week, when I was readmitted to this psych hospital I've now been an inpatient at four times over the last five years, I decided: fuck it! The hair is going.

Have I been cured of my headaches? No. They are still there, messing with me physically and psychologically.

Do I feel refreshed from having a completely new look? Yes. I love that I have an actually 'style'. That I don't just wake up in the morning, throw my head forward, gather up my masses of hair and scrunch it into a hair-band. I love washing my locks everyday. Oh, the freshness of it all!

The moral of the story? Hair is fun, can make a statement, but cutting it all off won't necessarily cure you of chronic headaches.

Maybe I need to start thinking about cutting back on sugar again. Bugger.


Are you a person who likes to change hairstyles with your mood or
do you stick to the same trusty hairdo year after year?



V.





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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Three ace ways to distract yourself from depression

If you haven't noticed on my blog or on any of the other online places I haunt, I've been going through a pretty shit time. In medical terms I'm currently suffering from major depression combined with a shitload of adverse side effects from the medications I've been prescribed. Woohoo!

My life has been like clenching onto the side of a cliff with white knuckled determination not to fall into the abyss. It's been fucking hard work, and my hands are cracked and bleeding, but there's way too much good shit on top of that mountain. So much to fight for. Everything to live for.

I'm in hospital right now. At this moment I'm feeling ok but there have been moments in the last week where I've cried so much I've been almost inconsolable.

"Why are you so upset?" the well meaning psych nurses ask.

"Is there something your [doctor, family, group therapist] said to trigger you?" they want to know.

"You're not going to hurt yourself, are you? You are feeling safe... right?"

Yes! I'm safe from harm. This much I know is true.

But no! Nothing has triggered the flood of tears. I'm just fucking crying! I want to scream it at the world. I just don't know why I'm crying. The tears come out of my eyes as my heart is squeezed by the black hands of an unnamed doom.

The brain is a wondrous yet ill understood organ. My doctors don't know what's wrong with mine. They can't give me a neat little diagnosis. They don't know what pills to put me on so it feels like they are giving them all a go. One drug at a time, sometimes two.

Over these almost five months since the Black Dog came to take residence in my soul I've found a few cool ways to distract myself from his howling. I thought I'd share them with you. Don't tease me because I've been partaking in a fair bit of low brow entertainment. It's just for cheap laughs!


Big Brother


I love this show! (picture source)
OMG! I love this show. I've watched every episode from day one and I can't get enough. Weekends are hell because the show doesn't air on Saturday and Sunday!

Watching these Gen-Ys bitch and moan and scheme and backstab each other is so much fun! I feel so involved in their lives. I've cried at times while watching BB. I usually never cry at TV shows or movies! And how hot are Ed and Drew? OMG! Such eye candy. Some of the girls are pretty hot too.

Even Noo has got into it. Although he doesn't really understand what's going on. Noo just likes the characters that are nice to people. Noo's favourite is Drew and my favourites are Tim and Ben. Tim and Ben are not boring pretty boys there to be ogled - they actually have really interesting personalities and don't feel the need to conform in order to fit in. I like that. Tim is a bit of a schemer and you could say he has a bit of a nasty side, but at least he tries to stir things up in the house. Makes for much better entertainment for us watching at home.

I know the show is quite mindless but such a great distraction from the guilt and negativity whirling around in my head. It really is a worthwhile escape. I miss them all like mad on the weekends. Seriously. Noo says after the 6pm news every day "It's nearly Big Brother time!" and is devo'ed when I have to break it to him that it's Saturday so no BB.

Goodness knows what we will do when the whole season is over. Noo and I wish we could go to the final eviction. Won't happen. Maybe next year!


Candy Crush Saga


So addictive! (picture source)
Talk about addictive! For a long time I saw Facebook requests from friends asking me for 'lives' or publishing notifications of how they'd cracked another level. I saw status updates from friends expressing their frustration at not being able to pass up to the next 'episode'.

I resisted for as long as I could. Knowing my addictive nature I thought CCS could have the potential to take over my life. I've not been that wrong!

It was actually my Shrink who said I should play CCS as a way to distract myself from negative self-talk. It definitely works but crushing those bloody candies can also distract you from other things like - blogging, household chores, sleep....


Cat memes on Pinterest


Even when I'm feeling 100% shit just having a scroll through Pinterest cat memes can crack me up. This sort of thing would usually not make me laugh but for some reason these days cats make me LOL!

You can't tell me these aren't funny....


Hilarious... right?



So what do you think about my depression distraction methods? Funny ha ha or funny it's a good idea you're in the crazy house again Vanessa?


How do you cheer yourself up when you're feeling blue?



V.


Disclaimer: Clearly I am no doctor! I have had no training in the treatment of people with mental illness. This is just a post about what helps me sometimes forget my woes. I make no promises that anything I have said above will help anyone. In fact it could hurt you. For all I know you may be allergic to cats. 




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Friday, September 20, 2013

My brain is driving me crazy... literally

I've been going over and over in my head various topics I want to write about. I don't know about other bloggers but my mind is in a perpetual cycle of blog titles. Like when I'm in the shower I might have some brilliant blog topic going around in my head: as I'm standing under the warm water the first para is written, a witty eye catching title has been formulated. But then I turn off the shower, grab my towel, get on with the day and the thought is gone, laid to rest in the black caverns of my mind along with the bones of other awesome ideas.

The general theme of course is me. I don't ever forget that. This is my blog after all. This virtual dumping ground for the ideas that actually make it into coherent sentences in my little corner of the interwebs. Because of that it disappoints me that my posts are so negative these days. But, as I've read a million times around the blogosphere, we must write "our truth" in order to be authentic. My truth is pretty shitty right now and I apologise for that.

This post has been written for about a week. It's been sitting here in draft on an open browser tab. I've been umming and ahhing as to whether I should bother publishing it at all. Who benefits? Me? I don't know. I'm certainly not writing it in the hunt for sympathy. Maybe my motive is just to document this supremely shit emotional and physical state I'm in. I guess I could just copy and paste it into a Word doc and save it on my hard drive should I ever want to be reminded of this time of my life again. Because this too shall pass.

Maybe there's someone else out there that has similar symptoms. Mental illness sucks hard. The doctors don't know how each medication is going to work on each patient. Or which cocktail of medications is the right one. It's a game of pharmacological hit and miss. Quite frankly I'm sick of riding the pharmacoaster!


Source


Ok, so without further ado, here my list of complaints or symptoms which both my GP and psychiatrist think are probably caused by the meds I'm currently on in combination with clinical depression.
  • Headaches that are mainly around the top of my scalp. To touch my scalp is very uncomfortable. To move my hair around sends shooting pain through my scalp and into my head. I feel like I'm wearing a skull cap lined with spikes.
  • Brain buzzes. Last time I had these symptoms I was on a massive dose of the antidepressant Effexor while suffering acute postpartum thyroid disease. My thyroid was processing the antidepressant so fast causing withdrawal like effects. Back then the symptoms eventually stopped once I was taken off the Effexor. I haven't taken an antidepressant for four weeks so why have I got this very unsettling sensation every. single. day? Every time I move my head it feels like a Star Wars light sabre has passed through my brain. I got that analogy from a medical forum from others suffering similar sensations. None of them had received an adequate diagnosis from medical specialists.
  • Dizziness, vertigo, nausea. The brain buzzes make me very dizzy if they happen while I'm walking/standing. It's getting worse every day. I feel like I'm walking on skates almost 100% of the time. When it's bad it's terrifying. I can feel the ground move beneath me in a sideways and up and down motion. It's freaky and completely unnerving.
  • Sensitivity to loud noises. Not ideal when you've got a almost five year old boy!
  • Jumpiness. Feeling on edge all the time. I flinch at loud noises, people touching me unexpectedly, that sort of thing.
  • Anxiety. I've always got that at some level it's just worse right now.
  • Aggression. Outbursts of screaming and crying so fierce I think I might pass out from the pressure it creates in my head. Poor Noo has been the receiver of such bad behaviour from me which makes me feel extremely sad and guilty.
  • Loss of sensory perception. I am not allowed to drive a car at the moment. I had three really close calls in the car over the weekend that scared the crap out of me. I vagued out and almost didn't brake in time before hitting the car stopped at the lights in front of me. My sense of distance feels warped. Things, like cars, seem further away than they really are.
  • I'm still extraordinarily emotional. This is why I went into the hospital six weeks ago. Even with the change of medication I'm still crying at the drop of a hat. Or at watching with pride as my son makes friends so easily at his new big school open day. Or in fear as I watch my 21 month old niece negotiate the steps in her backyard. Hell I bawled when Ben from Big Brother got to re-enter the Big Brother House!
  • My weight has ballooned out and I've gained 10 kg since May. That's 50% of all the weight I lost since having a $9,000 lapband installed in 2010. Let's talk about some of the emotions around this: failure, fear, defectiveness, disgust... 

That's about it, I think. Awesome, hey. My psychiatrist is baffled. I've started seeing a new psychologist that works with people with eating disorders and body image issues. I know I've got to address the deep dislike I have for myself and my body as well as find out what the fuck is wrong with me physically. What I'm feeling can't be a case of the moody blues! My doctors know that.

The next step? It's back to hospital I go where they'll keep juggling the chemical cocktail that is suppose to fix me. I'm waiting for a bed. Monday is the likely admission day. The hospital I go to is quite a nice place, considering. Going there isn't what makes me sad. Leaving my son is. I know that I have to get better so I can be a better parent for him but still it breaks my heart.

There has to be a turnaround soon.

V.





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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I haven't really been OK since 10 May 2013. What about you? RUOK?

Trigger alert. For crisis support click here.

Yesterday marked four months since my first anxiety induced crying attack. Since then I've been on an emotional rollercoaster with way too many ups and downs at a speed even I didn't think I was capable of.

Tomorrow is the annual suicide awareness/prevention event known as RUOK? Day where people are encouraged to asked friends, family, colleagues, anyone if they are ok.

Last year I wrote about a time in my life when I was really not ok. Last year, as I typed up those words, I never thought I'd feel that kind of not ok again.

But here I am. Twelve months later and I have dipped back into that place. Well, I go in and out of the black hole. It's hard to explain.

I guess the difference between this depression and my 2007 depression is that now there's hope. Being a parent is what keeps me fighting. I'm also way more knowledgeable about depression and anxiety than I was back then. Six years of constant therapy has made sure of that. I know both those bitches lie. They make me feel and think things that aren't true and as convincing as they might be, it's hope (Noo) that keeps me from believing them.

Knowing the signs of when my mood started to change also allowed me to get help sooner. And I guess the spontaneous bursts of tears made it pretty bloody obvious something was not ok.

Having an excellent support network of family, friends and medical professionals is also critical. Just showing up to my psych appointments keeps me accountable. Like seeing a personal trainer for my emotions. Even if I don't work really hard during a session at least I'm there.

I know RUOK? Day has been getting a lot of flack because we should ask our friends, family, colleagues, anyone if they are ok every day of the year if the signs are looking like they are not. But I think RUOK? Day isn't about one day of the year, it's about general awareness of mental illness. It's about getting those crisis support numbers out in the media, and on posters in workplaces and schools, where maybe just one person notices them for the first time and thinks, hey, I could actually use a bit of help.

I really don't think people involved with this initiative will just switch off once the sun sets and the day is over. The conversation has been started and that's gotta be something. It sure beats silence. The more we talk about mental illness the more we will hopefully remove the stigma attached to it giving more people the courage to come out and seek help. And yeah, maybe even save a life.

Whether you've got a lifetime's history of mental illness like me, or you're having a really bad time for the first time, I think RUOK? Day has it's place.

I think we all like to feel supported on any day of the year.

So don't forget to ask: RU OK?

V.

For help please use these helpful resources:

Call: 1800 RUOKDAY (1800 7865 329) to connect with crisis line

Visit: your doctor, a counsellor or trusted healthcare professional

Access: ruokday.com for tips from their information partners

Lifeline 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467





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Monday, September 9, 2013

Freedom

My inbox and social media news feeds have been awash with disappointed bloggers complaining about the new government that was elected by the overwhelming majority of Australians. I wonder if they had their posts drafted up last week, or maybe even last month? The writing has been on the wall for a very long time that change was about to happen so Saturday's result surely wasn't a surprise.

A well known blogger recently said on national television that, as bloggers, we have to have thick skins in order to deal with trolls and other nasty travellers on the information superhighway. Right now, my skin is paper thin. Look at me sideways and I'm likely to burst into tears. This is one of the reasons I've been avoiding my blog.

I want to write about the election like any of the other bloggers who shared their opinion with their readers but I'm scared. You see I sit on the other side of the fence to what feels like 100% of the Aussie mummy blogosphere. And going by some of the posts I've briefly scanned I'm a fucking uneducated idiot for being there.

Maybe my current depression is blindly throwing me on a blog suicide mission but what the hell. I voted for Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party team and I'm overwhelmed with joy that they won. Yep, I cried as Tony made his victory speech and they were tears of joy. Six long years of living through one of the most wasteful, shambolic and vindictive (and that was just to each other) governments finally came to an end on Saturday and I applaud the Australian people for making it happen.

I don't agree with all of Abbott's values particularly marriage equality. I believe love is love whether you're gay, straight, bi, transgender. I would march side by side with Labor voters, Green voters, anyone for the law to change and make marriage equal.

Anyway, I'm not going to nitpick over every single policy that I agree with or don't agree with. I'm not going to try and sway you (if any of you read this far down the page) to agree with what I believe. But I did just have to write and publish this. Because I'm entitled to my opinion too.

I'll leave you with this little note I typed up on my iPhone while catching the ferry to Manly a couple of weeks ago. Noo and I were sitting up the top of the ferry inside right at the front. I overheard two men unknown to one another talk about the upcoming election. This is a little of what they said:

"Australia is a great country", said the Chinese man to the bloke sitting next to him who later explained he was from Sri Lanka. 
They don't know each other, they are just having a friendly chat while taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly on a stunning Spring day. 
 "We can call Kevin an idiot and it's ok. Not get in trouble like in China. We have freedom here." 
 "Yes, everyone wants freedom", replied the Sri Lankan. 

Says it all really: You have the freedom to be pissed off at the change in government. I have the freedom to be stoked about it.

Let's agree to disagree and be happy neither one of us will be shot for saying what we believe.

V.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Busy bodies/healthy minds

It's been about two and a half weeks since I discharged myself from the psychiatric hospital where I was in being treated for depression. I thought I'd give you an update of how I am feeling and how Noo and I are getting on with our new regime. Writing it down helps me to consolidate and understand my feelings as well.

I am definitely a hell of a lot better than I was before going into hospital. The proof is in the fact that I'm not crying every day any more. Sometimes I can feel emotional tears start to well at the back of my eyes but they mostly quickly subside. I've been using mindfulness techniques to ground myself back into the moment rather than letting my mind go off in emotional tangents that just look for evidence of reasons to cry... if that makes any sense. I'm getting better at reigning those emotions in but they are still there.

Noo and I have been keeping super busy. In two and a half weeks we have been to Sydney Tower, Madam Tussauds, Wildlife Sydney, Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, the Powerhouse Museum, Darling Quarter Playground, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The weather has been gorgeous which helps both my mood and my willingness to go outdoors.




Before I went into hospital I was so anxious about going out with Noo that the thought of it filled me with dread. I felt completely out of control of myself and of him. I wrote about my fear and sadness in late May which I just reread and it made me cry all over again. That post reminds me how lonely sole parenting can be, especially when I'm unwell.

I was so petrified I was going to breakdown in public in front of Noo. I felt so incredibly anxious all the time. I actually didn't realise just how anxious I was and how constant it was. It's like when you've had the radio on for ages and it's just off the station. The static becomes white noise because you've become so used to it. That is until someone moves the dial to the correct frequency and you can't believe the clarity of the sound. That's how I've felt for four months. Constantly off frequency with spurts of static so unbearable that I just want to throw the damn radio out the window.

But now, finally, Noo and I are back to being a partnership. Well, a partnership where one partner is more senior than the other, but a team of two nonetheless. The static is still there but it only comes in and out quietly, like my emotional aerial is blowing in the breeze and sometimes goes off station for a moment or two.

There's still a lot of work to do for my wellness and, of course, parenting is a job that never ends. I just have to be as strong and vigilant as I can to ensure I stay on top of my therapy and I keep up with our new routines in order to maintain a healthy, happy home for the both of us.



How are you feeling today?



V.





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Thursday, August 29, 2013

I'm a big boy now!

When I was a little girl through to my teen years my family and I lived in a terrace house in the Sydney suburb of Newtown. The house was on a leafy street that leads down off the main road and continues through to the railway. I always loved this house and I think I still do because I miss it sometimes. Some of my best childhood memories come from the home we had there.

One of my funniest memories from when I was a little kid was brought back to the forefront of my mind when Noo, who is fast heading towards his fifth birthday, did something almost exactly the same as my sister did at around his age.

My sister was a feisty, vivacious little girl who pretty much always knew what she wanted and knew how to get it. She had blonde ringlets and beautiful blue eyes and an attitude that could even make adults doubt their position in an argument with her. And this when she was only a preschooler!

I clearly remember the day. My mum had filled the bath and left us to our own devices to wash and play in the water for a while. I was already undressed and in the tub when Yolanda stripped off her singlet and declared it was for babies so she didn't want to wear it any more.

The offending singlet had a little blue pony on it, if I recall correctly. Yo held it ceremoniously above the toilet, dropped it in and flushed, declaring: "I'm a big girl now!"

Unfortunately for Yo, and more so for my dad, the singlet didn't make it too far passed the S-bend and clogged up our toilet pipe. I remember dad having to hire special plumbing equipment to stick in through the pipes to find that pony singlet and remove it. As you can imagine my dad was not happy about Yo's way of showing us she was over with being the baby of the family.

Noo made a similar declaration with one of his material possessions just a couple of nights ago. Thank goodness it wasn't a singlet flushed in the toilet! Instead Noo found his Thomas the Tank Engine spoon, held it up to me and said "I don't like Thomas any more because I'm a big boy now!" and proceeded to chuck the spoon into the bin with a clang.

Well I'll be. My boy is no longer a baby.


Our Thomas days are over!


Maybe that was what Miley Cyrus was trying to tell the world the other day when she made that performance at the VMAs a couple of days ago? If only she'd just chucked out her baby clothes or cutlery to show she was moving on to the next stage of her life. Surely there could have been a more appropriate way to make such a statement.


Have your kids made any grand gestures to show they are growing up?


V.











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Recipe: Pressure cooker lamb ragu

Since getting out of hospital I've started cooking again. Part of my depression recovery plan is to make sure Noo and I eat better. We all know it's critical for good mental and physical health whether you're a late 30s mum or an almost five year old boy. Hell, we all need good food and exercise.

So far we've had chicken sticks, spagbol, tuna rice and veggie patties, and cottage pie served with salad. Tonight Noo and I made ham and pineapple pizza together which was delicious. But the recipe I wanted to share with you now is for a dish I made a little while ago while we were up the Mountains, before I went to hospital. I took all the photos as I was cooking but somehow life got in the way of me publishing the recipe.

Earlier on this year I was the lucky winner of a Tefal Cook4Me pressure cooker. I entered a competition on Kate Says Stuff and was so stoked when I was notified by Kate that I'd won. The massive box arrived soon after and both my parents and I were amazed at its size. Where the hell would we fit this appliance into our already stuffed apartment?

The obvious solution was to send the Cook4Me up to my parents house in the Blue Mountains. We have a bit more space there and it is the perfect place to cook and eat hearty food like lamb ragu.

I must admit I had doubts about the appliance. Why? It looked too good to be true. I recently bought a slow cooker and I didn't like it at all and actually gave it away to Noo's day care. The Cook4Me however is awesome. So good I'm thinking we've got to get it back to town so I can use it more often!

I got the recipe from my favourite recipe website Taste.com.au but I adjusted it for the pressure cooker. The original recipe can be found here.

Without further ado - my first go of the Tefal Cook4Me...


Cook4Me Lamb Ragu


Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 kg half leg of lamb
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
About a 10 cm chunk of bacon speck cubed
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm pieces
2 sticks of celery, cut into 1cm pieces
1/2 cup fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley - whatever you've got)
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 x 400 g cans diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock

Pasta of your choice
Parmesan cheese to serve


Method

1. Prepare

I like to take out all the ingredients I need and prepare the veggies, herbs and meat so everthing is laid out ready to go. I didn't read the recipe correctly and so cut my lamb into large chunks rather than cooking the 1 kg half leg as a single piece, as you can see in the picture below. I highly recommend not doing what I did because you don't get that really tender melt in your mouth thing happening with the meat if you do.

Also have the Cook4Me out and ready to go.





2. The Browning

Add the olive oil to the bowl of the Cook4Me. Using the manual setting, brown the lamb using the 'browning' function on the Cook4Me for a couple of minutes on each side. You can set the timer on the machine but I just went freestyle and used my noggin to determine when the meat was browned.

Remove meat from cooker and set aside.


3. Sauteing

With the Cook4Me still on 'browning' mode, add pre-prepared onion, garlic, speck, carrot, celery and herbs to the cooker. Saute, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened.




4. The Saucy Bit

Add wine and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, 2 cups of chicken stock. Stir to combine.


5. Introduce the Meat to the Sauce

Return meat to the Cook4Me and stir to combine or if using a whole piece of lamb ensure meat is covered with the saucy bits.




6. Speed Cook

Batten down the hatches! Close the lid on Cook4Me following the instructions. It's really super easy compared to our old pressure cooker which is now doomed to be heading for the garbage bin, if it hasn't already been let go of it's old duties thanks to a younger, smarter worker taking its place.

Set the Cook4Me to 'quick cooking' for 20 minutes. The cooker will tingle with a bell sound when it has completed the 20 minutes and steam will shoot out its rear. It is all rather exciting! I just couldn't wait to see what the end result was inside.

If the ragu needs more cooking you just need to shut up the pressure cooker again and set it to cook for a further 10 minutes or whatever you think it requires.




7. Finishing Touches

Shred the lamb with a couple of forks. Remove any fat or bone from the ragu.

Cook whatever pasta you wish to have with your lamb ragu. Chop up fresh parsley and shave up some parmesan.


Yummy lamb ragu with pasta


There you have it! It actually took way longer to prepare all the ingredients than it did to cook the ragu. Writing this post took double the time of all of it (gosh I'm slow!).

Everyone in my family loved this recipe and even fussy eater Noo gave it the tick of approval.

I would highly recommend the Tefal Cook4Me. I'm so glad I won it! Can't wait to get back up the Mountains to try other recipes in it.


V.

PS. I was under no obligation by either Tefal or  Kate Says Stuff to write about my prize. I just felt like it. So there.






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Saturday, August 24, 2013

The drugs don't work

I'm eight days out of hospital and I feel like shit. Four days ago I was feel bloody fabulous. I went on the longest walk I think I've ever done. The energy, clarity and freedom I felt was amazing. Now, I can't seem to get that feeling back. My brain is playing tricks with me as usual.

The dizzy spells started around three days ago I think. The ground has been moving from under my feet - sideways and up and down. My head feels foggy and I can't really see clearly. I'm anxious and depressed at the same time yet I'm able to have spontaneous fits of giggles and bursts of happiness. I imagine my psyche sitting at an old one armed bandit poker machine. With each yank of the arm, the reels turn and I score a different emotion to contend with. I wish it would stop at happy and walk away from the machine. Enough is enough.

My tear ducts are ready to give forth salty streams of water down my face at the push of a button. Any one of my current sensitivity buttons will do: crowds, blogging, Noo not doing as I ask, Noo being noisy, Noo being messy, Noo being gorgeous, politics, thinking about my parents and wishing they were back home. Yep, anyone of them can start me off.

Combine the wrong spin of the pokie with the more dramatic button being pushed and bam! It's a recipe for the proverbial disaster.

But this too shall pass.

This too shall pass.

Yesterday started like the rest. Woke up....

Ah, fuck it. Was going to tell you about this huge public breakdown I had in the middle of Pitt Street Mall, no less, but I'm going to spare you the details. It started with the dizziness. Poor Noo had to endure the whole thing. It really was terrible.

I'm suppose to be getting better! That's why I'm home from hospital. I can't go back. I just can't leave Noo again. Not until my parents get back at least. He needs the familiarity of his own home rather than being shunted around.

This morning I broke down crying but I decided that rather than hide from Noo I sat with him. I tried to explain my tears and how I was feeling. We were getting ready to go out and he just had his undies and singlet on as he crawled up onto my lap. He's so small with no clothes on. My baby again.

He kissed my hands as I cried and told him how much I love him. That the tears were not his fault. They are no one's fault. Mummy's brain chemistry is just a little weird right now. 

"You need to go back into hospital and get better Mummy", Noo told me.
"No way! I'm not leaving you again. I'll be ok."
"Don't worry about me, Mummy. You have to get better."

My four and a half year old is so brave! Braver than I am that is for sure.


The brave and the bold


I can still feel the dizziness come in waves. It makes me feel out of control physically as much as I've felt out of control emotionally for months now. I think the problem is that I'm having serious withdrawal symptoms from discontinuing one of the medications I was on. Well, I'm pretty much 100% sure.

I was only on fluoxetine (also known as Prozac, Lovan) for about two months and it has been about ten days since my last dose. Prior to that I was on a different SSRI antidepressant called citalopram for about four years. Citalopram is supposed to be quite hard to come off. The dose has to be tapered down so withdrawal symptoms are minimised. In the switch from one to the other, my doctor had me on both citalopram and fluoxetine at the same time for weeks to help avoid any withdrawal symptoms from the citalopram. I haven't had any citalopram now for about six weeks so it should be completely out of my system. Even though I stopped taking fluoxetine abruptly 10 days ago (as directed by my psychiatrist) it is not supposed to have the same withdrawal problems as the other because it has a longer half life which means it stays in the body for longer therefore naturally tapers off slowly.

Phew! Did you get that?

Basically, if none of that makes any sense, my bloodstream should be completely free of SSRI antidepressants and I should be feeling a lot better than I do.

So why am I feeling all the textbook symptoms of SSRI discontinuation syndrome? Brain zaps, dizziness, nausea, vertigo, tremor, confusion, anxiety.

I guess I'll have to wait until my next doctor's appointment to find out.

Dr Google can't tell me everything.

It sure can't tell me when this shall pass.

V.






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Friday, August 23, 2013

Mental illness: Coming home from hospital

If you follow me on the social networks you'll know I'm freshly out of hospital. I was an inpatient at a psychiatric hospital for two weeks being treated for depression and anxiety. Or maybe it's bipolar II. My shrink can't put me into a DSM-5 box yet.

I've been back out in the big bad world for a week. Well, it isn't that bad, but it is full of new challenges as I try to adjust to life on a completely new family of medications with a son who has gone through a behaviour training program of sorts while I was away.

This is an excerpt from an email I sent my parents earlier this week. Actually, it's most it. There's not much I don't share on here! It explains what went on and how I was feeling in those first three days out of hospital without me having to write it all up again.


19 August 2013


Dear Mum and Dad

The last four days have been quite strange in both good and bad ways. Nothing seems ‘back to normal’ but it’s not all negative, there’s been a lot of positive change, which we were all hoping for I guess. I've only been out of the hospital for three days and I still feel really fragile.

While the medication change has been worth it there are some side effects that aren't great, the worst one being that lithium causes a slight tremor so I'm kind of shaky all the time. Sometimes it isn't noticeable, eg when out for a big walk (which I've started doing regularly) or watching telly (rather than staring at my laptop being unproductive I've been getting back into my shows), but typing on this keyboard or texting on my phone can be quite challenging at times.

Like I told you in my text message Saturday was the hardest day so far. I was so shaky and nervous about seeing Noo after a week of not seeing him that when I arrived at Yo’s house I burst into tears. Noo was so happy to see me. You know how chatty and happy he is normally, well times that by 100 and you can imagine what he was like.

We hung out with Yo and Cal for a little while as Mala had her midday nap. Noo was constantly asking for food to eat. It felt really strange. Callum made him a ham and cheese toasty which I shared with him. Noo's aunt and uncle are very stern with him and he is not allowed to leave the table when eating. Even fruit comes after main meal because it is considered a sweet treat! Seems to have worked, whatever they have done, because the kid has got an appetite and he's stopped being such a fussy eater!

Yo had promised Noo that I would take him for a chocolate shake at the cafĂ© around the corner and then to the local playground. Noo scooted while I walked along. He was just so happy. Oh my god, the talking! He’s language skills have improved ten-fold as he relays stories of what had been happening while I was away. When we got to the cafe we shared a banana bread with Pepe Sayer butter and strawberry jam and Noo had his shake and I had a coffee. He said please and thank you and was just lovely to be with – just so different with me from before I ‘went away’.

I was still so shaky and nervous about doing the right thing though. I don't want to fuck up all the good work they've done by giving Noo more structure and routine to his life, something I've always struggled with.

We went to the park and Noo enjoyed a huge turn on the swing and then the slide. I sat and watched and tried not to be over anxious about him falling or whatever. There were a lot of other kids in the playground and it took an effort for me to not stress about them being mean to him. Of course they weren't going to be, it was just my own fear from when I was a child. I didn't realise just how much of my own childhood anxiety I have been transferring on to him. And anyway, if they had been mean, Noo probably would have handled it differently to me because he is such a confident kid.

When we finally got back to Yo’s place I was worn out. I just needed to be alone for a bit and so had to say goodbye but Noo kept trying all these distraction tactics to keep me there. I felt so bad leaving. He was crying with his little hands reaching out of the front gate but I just had to get into the car and not look back. It was a hideous experience.

Saturday night, back home alone, I was determined to pull my shit together and get him back the next day, despite having said I'd take another week off to be alone to sort out the apartment and work out our new routine. I'm so glad I made that decision! He is just amazing. I'm so happy we are back together and so is he. And he keeps telling anyone who will listen – “My mummy and I are back together! Isn't that great?”

On Sunday I met up with Yo, Cal, Mala and Noo at Marrickville Markets where the sun was shining and we all worried about getting sunburnt. We are having the warmest August which is lovely. We hung out on the grass near where the pony rides are until Mala started getting tired.



“I'm just so glad we are back together Mummy!”



Next job was to transfer the car seat from the Volvo to the Subaru with Noo and all his clothes. Noo and I then headed back to the apartment and he was happy to be back in his own home. He chatted non-stop all the way, saying “I'm just so glad we are back together Mummy!” over and over. My heart filled with so much emotion it was hard to not cry - for the joy of being back together and for the sadness of having to leave him in the first place. I am still so emotionally sensitive that it doesn't take me much to start crying. I have to use all the skills I relearnt in hospital to distract myself in order to stay in control of my emotions.

We hung out for a while and Noo ate all the sandwich he requested: Ham and American mustard on sourdough while watching Escape from Planet Earth. I’d already had the most delicious pulled pork with coleslaw and crackling roll at the markets. Only $9 and oh so good. I hadn't had breakfast so got the roll when I arrived at 10.30am and there was no queue. By the time we left at 11.30 people had already queuing for it. Noo and I will have to take you there one weekend when you get back. I'm salivating just thinking about that thing!

We went back out to the shops later in the afternoon. When we arrived at centre we jumped on board the lift heading for level 2. I said the usual “press number two, Noo” but the other person in the lift had already pressed it. Rather than crack it and give the angry look, Noo said to the man, “thank you for pressing two for us”. I was fucking gobsmacked! Talk about manners!

We checked out the new frozen yogurt place and shared a huge yogurt, trying all the flavours. Then we went into the arcade game place and played air hockey and it was a draw. Noo then said he was hungry again so I said lets go for dinner on the sushi train. I was hungry too as it was 5pm by this time and I had not eaten anything since that delicious roll at 10.30.

We sat up on the train and Noo ate his whole plate of tuna rolls, some raw salmon from my plate and most of the edamame with piles of ginger and soy sauce. He even tried a little wasabi!

Next stop was BiLo and we each had to have a basket with identical contents. I said he could get one Kinder Surprise Egg for his dessert and he also got a small chocolate milk which he finished in the car on the way home. There were no arguments trying to get more treats than were already offered.

By the time we got home, with shower and dinner already done for the day, Noo enjoyed some time with his own iPad while I did a few jobs around the apartment. I’m telling you mum and dad, the happiness emanating from this child is amazing! He was a bit wound up so getting him into bed at the time Yo was managing just wasn't going to happen. Instead of 7.50pm bedtime he was in bed by 8.20 and lights out at 8.35 with only a few arguments. Can’t complain about that! So much better than his old 9.30-10pm bedtime, that is for sure.

Getting ready Monday morning was also pretty easy. He was up before 7am and asked to watch a movie while eating the breakfast that he made for himself (nutella on sourdough with a bowl of strawberries). I resisted the movie as Yo had said no screens in the morning. After a while I thought, fuck it, and told him he could watch some cartoons but no long movies or iPad. I had to shower and wash my hair so I had to give him something.

We got to school by 9am. Before we left, when we got to the lobby Noo says “Hello Terry and Joel! Look! Mummy and I are back together again!” It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it! Actually, I'm bawling, but don't be alarmed. Joel and Terry were really happy to see us and Terry high fived Noo for us being ‘back together again’.

At preschool, it was the same thing from Noo. As soon as we were through the gate he was telling everyone. I stayed for a little while because Noo just wanted to show me off because I was home from hospital. One of the boys asked why I'd been in hospital and Noo answered that it was because he didn't go to bed early enough. I was really surprised and tried to say no way was it his fault! He changed the subject pretty quickly but I will have to address that with him later. I do not want him thinking it is his fault that I am unwell.

Mala heard my voice from the nursery and was trying to get my attention. OMG! She is so funny. She’s lost that baby look and has started to look more like a toddler. She’s started to get quite long. She'd dragged herself to the gate, had her legs all the way out pointing over at us. I went over to her side and gave her a cuddle but she kept pointing at Noo saying “Neh, Neh!”. The both of them are so gorgeous together. Noo really didn't want me to leave but I didn't want to be disruptive so by about 10am I was finally out the gate. I then went for a big walk around the Harbour which will brighten anyone's mood.

Well, that’s enough for today. Not much else to tell you. Hope you are having a wonderful holiday.

Love
V.








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