Friday, June 28, 2013 is a Bupa Health Influencer Awards finalist

Wow! I've been chosen as a finalist for a Bupa Health Influencer Award in the category of "Positive Life Change". I'm humbled because I figure I am probably the only person who nominated for an award so it must have come down to the judges decision to put me in the final five for this category. I know there's no way I can win, the competition is amazing, but to be in the final five is awesome.

I have never pretended to be an expert at anything. Or to be an inspiration to anyone. I just write honestly from the heart because I have to. It helps me to survive.

The last post I wrote about mental illness and what I've been going through lately caused a bit of concern for my family and closest friends who read my blog. Enough for some of them to either contact me directly, or to call my parents, to make sure that Noo and I are OK. I know they are reading now so thank you for your love and concern.

I think the episode is finally passing after seven weeks of disruption and uncertainty mixed in with a lot of fear and loathing. Of course as I get better so too will Noo. I already feel our usual connection retethering, fibre by precious fibre.

The response to that last post, however, made me think about how much I divulge here, especially now so many people from my real world read my words, and the effect that might have on those people and on my family. This has always been at the back of my mind, like anyone who doesn't blog behind a pseudonym, but it's been even more of a worry to me lately.

But then I just have to remind myself why I write here at and my concerns feel neutralised by the positive reasons why I blog:
  • it is my journal where I record little snippets of my life for future BB generations should they be interested
  • it is where I share my tremendous joy at being a mum as well as the struggles I have as a sole parent and parenting in general
  • it is my place to unload, to write as therapy
  • it is where I can honestly whinge, whine and over analyse my weight issues
  • it is where I hope that by sharing my struggles with mental illness I might help others suffering similar situations by letting them know they are not alone
  • it is where I hope the honesty in my posts help break down the stigma of depression, anxiety and other mental health related conditions, as well as the medication some of us need to take in order to manage them
  • it is where I have been able to unload my story of being a rape victim and how the events of one night unravelled me but were pivotal in helping me make positive life change
  • it is where I hope to shatter the stereotypes of addiction in recovery.

I don't pretend to be an expert in weight management, mental health, addiction recovery or in parenting but I do know that writing about my experiences in these areas helps me.  If it also helps others, as a lot of readers have told me through emails and on comments, that's a huge bonus.

Cliche alert: Life is like a carousel - full of ups and downs, going around and around 

The core message I'd like anyone reading to get is that no matter how deep down you are in the dark pit that is Rock Bottom; there is always an escape. My Rock Bottom was a horrible place, but anyone who is unfortunate enough to make their way there will find a different hell from the soul that visited there before them.

All of us who find our journeys have taken us to destination Rock Bottom should be given the chance of a return ticket.  But we, the passenger at the end of the line, must reach out and ask for it and take the help* from wherever we can and then slowly learn to help ourself.

There will be setbacks. My last post proves that. There have been times in the last seven weeks where depression has tricked me into feeling so close to the emotions of my Rock Bottom that my body has literally shaken with fear. The thought of alcohol induced oblivion has, at times, seemed sweet by comparison. But I just needed to take one look at my beautiful boy and knew I wanted to live so I asked for help: From my wonderful family, my general practitioner, my psychiatrist, my pharmacist, my friends.

I'm so thankful for the support team I have. And I'm grateful I've done so much to educate myself about my mental illness to be able to notice when the cracks begin to appear before they turn into gaping holes I might fall into.

Even though it's pissing down outside in Sydney right now I believe in my heart of hearts the sun will shine again.


* There are so many resources for people who need help with addiction, depression, anxiety and other mental health related issues. If you feel you need help, these sites may be what you are looking for:
Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia
Beyond Blue
Black Dog Institute

Or call:

Lifeline 13 11 14

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mental health: What about the children?

What must it feel like to see your mum break down in tears for no apparent reason in the middle of a public place in a city you don't know?

What must it feel like to have your usually fun mum constantly say to you "get off me", "get away from me", "stop harassing me", "leave me alone", when all you want as a little four year old is to get closer and try to help?

I try to be conscious of my mood swings and how they might be affecting Noo, both now and the ramifications of the indelible mark they could make on him into the future. Sometimes, actually a lot of the time lately, it is too hard to control: I just burst into tears or scream for him to get off me!

The photo above seems highly narcissistic (don't all selfies?), but whatever. It is taken in a shopping centre in Melbourne where Noo and I managed to get a doctor's appointment because I could feel myself on the brink of a massive public breakdown. I had tears in my eyes as I asked the receptionist for an appointment. I took the photo to check my makeup hadn't smudged too much. Thank fuck for good quality cosmetics!

We had to wait one hour for the appointment. We killed a little time in Big W downstairs and then came back to the waiting room of the large medical centre. Noo was playing nice and quietly until another boy came by and wanted to play with him. All fine except the other little boy was quite boisterous, and despite me asking both kids to quieten down the other kid continued to be rowdy in the area where sick people were waiting to be seen. It wasn't until the office manager of the surgery came out and told the boys off that they calmed down a bit.

With this whole scene unfolding my anxiety levels were rising. The mother of the other kid made absolutely no attempt to quieten her child down. Her kid was about seven years old to Noo's four and should have known better. My heart raced as I desperately looked around begging some imaginary god in my head that my name would be called so we could get the fuck out of there before I lost it completely.

Finally, it was my turn but Noo didn't want to leave the boy he was having so much fun with. I made such a display using my sternest voice and firmly announced "MOVE!" to Noo who must have seen the anger/fear/crazy in my eyes and the floodgates opened for all to see.

To cut a long story short the GP I'd never seen before called my GP in Sydney who gave permission for low dose Valium to use at extreme times. They've helped but are not a long term solution.

I want to get away from my life. Be free of responsibility, of being needed. I want someone else to make decisions for me.

The swings have become quite cyclic. Every day begins with me waking up from a night of bad dreams that linger. I feel anxious yet tired. I'm still drinking coffee first thing in the morning yet I'm starting to wonder if I should cut back to help with my jittery soul. By the afternoon, I'm so low and start crying at the smallest of triggers and then by evening I can be up again but oh so sleepy by 11pm.

Today I couldn't get out of bed until 12.30pm. I'd risen earlier to do the usual trip to the loo, coffee, breakfast and then I read Mumabulous' post here and did a massive word vomit all over her comments section. After that I had to just walk away from the computer, lay down and sleep. Mum played with Noo who pretended to be Mala because he was worried Nanna was missing her other grandchild.

We are still in Melbourne and I'm really starting to wish it was time to come home. I crave familiar surroundings. It has been six weeks since the first really noticeable cracks in my psyche appeared. Six weeks of ups, downs and sideways are taking their toll on me. Changing my meds around has really fucked me up as well. I really don't know whether I'm here or there, Arthur or Martha, up or down... Can someone pass me the cliches please?

I've also lost interest in so much; I'm numb. A classic depression symptom is having little interest in the things that usually would stimulate you. I don't give a shit about anything and then I get so worked up about the most minute of issues. For the first time in well over a year I don't even give a shit about this blog. This place of my creation that I loved so much. What the fuck is wrong with me? What am I going to do?

Mum asked me this morning if I thought I should go back into hospital for a little while for a "rest". That way my psychiatrist could monitor me more closely and we could sort out this medication issue. But do I really want to go back there? It can be so draining being with other psych patients day and night. (FYI, I'm not dissing in patient peeps, but you know what I mean! I'm surprised my numbers are not down to zero on this blog!) On one hand the in patient support is great and you don't feel alone but sometimes it can drag you down further. Sitting around talking about what our diagnoses are and what meds we're on is fucking boring. And depressing.

My sister asked me yesterday if they should start looking for a back up nanny for Mala on the days I have her. I was feeling better at the time of that conversation and said no, I'll be fine, I love looking after Moo. Today I'm not so sure.

How will Noo feel about me being in hospital? His Nan and Pa will of course take good care of him but he'll miss me and I'll miss him. Would being in hospital even help?

I wish I could go to a health retreat in a beautiful location where they wean you off all your meds (including sugar and technology), and then nurse you back to health with long baths, massages and delicious wholesome food and exercise (with hot instructors of course)!

But mostly I just wish this awful mental health episode was over and I could go back to being the fun, loving mum I've always been.


Saturday, June 15, 2013


I haven't blogged for a week.

I'm completely overwhelmed.

There's the...

  • natural chemicals in my brain doing crazy shit
  • unnatural pharmaceuticals in my brain trying to correct the crazy shit
  • the amazing response I got to this post from people I don't know
  • the warmth I feel from letting the above people know that some of us city folk haven't forgotten them and that we do appreciate them and all they do for us
  • family I love and who continue to support me through this crazy mental health situation I currently find myself in
  • travel, the new sights, smells, sounds of being in a different city
  • and, last but far from least, there's my little boy who is trying so hard to understand why his mum is a bit more cranky than usual, cries a lot more than she used to and who just isn't as fun as she used to be.

There's about a dozen posts in all that but I'm too tired and my brain is too strange to write a proper story.

When in doubt: talk about the weather

We are having a good time in Melbourne but it is hard. My ability to handle stress has been pretty poor over the last six years but now it is almost non existent. Actually, it comes and goes, but generally I feel overwhelmed

One minute I'm so annoyed and agitated that I want to scream a big FUCK OFF to the world, the next I'm lying on the couch, covered in a blanket feeling like I'm being sucked into a big hole of never ending blackness. And then there are bits in between the crazy that I feel kinda normal, but the moments are oh so brief. 

I'm being treated for a bipolar mixed state episode. I'm up and down at the same time and my psychiatrist is trying to even me out. You know, like a hairdresser running hot irons over corkscrew curls but the kinks keep springing back up. 

I just want to go back to my 'normal'. I'm not asking for jubilant joy and unwavering nerves of steel, I just want to be back to my old self that stumbled along through life without the constant fear of bursting into tears or exploding in rage.

I want some control back in my life.

How's your life going?


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Live cattle export ban: Have you really thought about all the consequences?

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or here on my blog, you'll know I'm having a hard time of late. My mental health is a little shaky to say the least. I haven't been posting as often, but I am still writing. I'm currently involved with a writing course which you'll hear about in a couple of months and I'm also keeping a detailed 'mood diary' for my psychiatrist.

I've been spending so much time over-analysing my moods that, quite frankly, I'm sick of myself. There are so many people out there in the world doing it a hell of a lot tougher than I am. I'm not going to take that away from my personal situation, because mine is a chemical one. I could have everything in the world going for me right now and still feel like shit. It's just my brain is playing tricks on me.

All that aside, I want to talk about something completely different to what I usually post about. This is a pretty emotive issue. There are a lot of opposing views out there but one side of the story is being heard much louder than the other side which I think is unfair.

I also want to say upfront, while my mood has been unstable, my ability to process rational thought and use critical thinking to write my arguments regarding this issue are still functioning. Any commenters that oppose my opinion and use my mental health issues as a means to ridicule me or this article will have their comments deleted immediately. If you don't agree with me, by all means tell me about your views, but keep my mental health condition and my opinion on this subject separate.

I have some pretty strong political views but I tend to stay away from writing about them on my blog because I don't want to be a target for trolls and I don't want to alienate any of my readers (ie lose one of the few of you). I've seen it happen to Woogsworld and Edenland (less in the form of lost readership, more in regards to vicious trolls).

Mrs Woog is pretty good at writing about the PM without giving away too much of who she'd actually vote for, but Eden on the other hand, lays her heart on the line and strongly aligns herself with the PM and her Government. That is her choice and I respect her for that because it takes huge balls to open yourself up to criticism on the level she received. And I'll keep reading her blog even though I don't agree with her politics.

Now, without any more beating around the bush (no pun intended), I want to talk about live animal exports. I know; it's a big, emotive subject!

I don't pretend to be an expert on this topic. I live in the CBD of Sydney and have grown up in the inner cities of Sydney and Melbourne and spent many years living in London. I'm a city chick through and through. But I have family from Far North Queensland who have been graziers there since the 1860s and I care about them.

I'm writing this post from my heart, from the information my FNQ family has given me and from what I've read around the interwebs.

All Aussies should care about our farmers that are doing it tough in Northern Australia suffering from both drought and the impact of the live animal export ban. Many of these families are still trying to rebuild after the destruction caused Cyclone Yasi. And now they can't sell their livestock to make the money they need to survive. Instead they spend their days rounding up dead or dying animals while the likes of Animals Australia and GetUp rake in the cash through donations from the misinformed city dwellers who want to punish them for trying to make an honest living and provide the beef that most of us enjoy.

While animal rights activists scream loudly about the disgusting treatment of a small number of our cattle exported live to foreign countries, what are they doing about the poor animals left here with nowhere to go?

Far North Queensland is suffering from a drought worse than that seen in 2007. Feed is scarce. With a huge glut in the beef cattle market what do you think happens to the animals not sold? They are left to die, that's what. A slow painful death out in the Australian outback unless the farmer can get to them in time to shoot them.

The graphic truth of cattle left to die in drought stricken Queensland. Image source.

No one likes to see what we've all seen happen to Aussie animals that have been exported live to places like Egypt, Indonesia and the Middle East and mistreated. The disgusting cruelty these mistreated animals have endured at the hands of these despicable human beings is to be abhorred. As a live animal exporting nation, I believe it is our government's responsibility to do all that it can to make the governments of the nations buying our animals guarantee that their abattoirs abide by the international regulations regarding to the humane slaughter of animals.

Of all the live animal exporting nations, Australia has the highest standards in animal transportation conditions. Animal hygiene is paramount and accredited export vets accompany each voyage to ensure animal health and safety.

The nations that buy our animals want them live for reasons we might not understand: for religious rituals or because of lack of refrigeration in poorer countries. Personally, I don't understand it but I'm an atheist and I have a fridge. Regardless, these countries want their meat live and if they don't get it from Australia, with all our strict regulations in place, then they are just going to get the animals from other countries that don't have those same rules and regulations and even more animals will be mistreated.

In the meantime, the ban on live exports means that hundreds of thousands of animals are dying slow and painful deaths here in Australia because they have nowhere to go, not enough rain and not enough feed.

The ban is hurting our farming communities that are already doing it so tough. The cattle industry in Northern Australia, most notably in the Northern Territory, accounts for an enormous number of jobs in regions where there is no alternative industry. In this article it is estimated that half of land in the Northern Territory and 20-30% of the pastoral leases in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia is owned by people from the indigenous community. The article also goes on to describe that "there is an entire transport, feeding, administration and shipping industry based on the trade" that has suffered enormously from the ban.

There was an article published on the front page of Saturday's Australian Newspaper that also tells of the slow demise of one of Australia's most successful indigenous pastoral operations, partly due to the live export ban.

But the mainstream media mostly continues to publish stories that are so biased against live exports. This article from the Sydney Morning Herald prompted my sister's mother in law to respond:

I'm hoping you might balance out your article on the 'live export artist' with the ensuing catastrophe caused by the cessation and disruption of live export. At present because of the resulting glut of cattle, compounded by drought, hundreds of thousands of cattle in northern Australia are facing a slow torturous death. Many are already dead. This is an animal and human welfare disaster of incredible proportions. Possibly the like of which we have never seen before. The vast majority of abattoirs do the right thing. In Indonesia there is oversight of abattoirs by Australian authorities but poor people will accept bribes to do the wrong thing. I know you are essentially a city based newspaper but you report on national issues and this is without doubt a national tragedy about which the majority of Australian are unaware. Government departments give out spin that they are offering this or that but it far too little and far too late. There is still a chance for some of these cattle to survive and be spared a long, lingering, horrific death.
   Sheena - retired grazier

So while everyone is enraged about the treatment of Aussie animals in abattoirs in other countries, by people who may or may not have been bribed by animal activists to make the situation look worse than what it is, who is doing anything to help the animals that are left here to die of starvation? Who is helping the farmers put meals on their tables at night? Who is helping to keep the indigenous community of Northern Australia working in their own businesses?

Where are the artists creating works that depict the pain and the heartache of the farmer who can't afford this month's debt repayments? Or of the cattle that can't get themselves up on their own four legs to walk to a water hole?

Why isn't the Sydney Morning Herald or The Age running those sorts of stories? And why isn't the ABC’s 4Corners program that launched the current publicity about cattle mistreatment in Indonesia now doing a program on the much greater devastation being suffered by cattle and cattle families as a result of the export ban and drought?

Have you really thought about all the consequences of the live cattle export ban?


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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Retail therapy

So it has been confirmed by both my GP and my psychiatrist: I am depressed again. While I've battled anxiety continuously all my life, the bouts of major depression have been less frequent. The most recent time before this one was just after Noo was born while I was suffering from postpartum thyroiditis.

One of the ways I deal with my lows and my highs is by spending money. Retail therapy can be great if you can control it but it is not really a healthy coping mechanism for an addictive personality like mine. I am still paying off the $26,000 I spent in six months in 2009.

When I'm depressed become obsessed with clothes, shoes and makeup. Anything with a dollar value really, but fashion just makes me feel good when I'm feeling so bad. When I'm well I love to shop too, but when I'm down, it becomes all consuming.

I have been spending hour upon hour scrolling through Pinterest and clothing, footwear and bedding retailers for months now. I haven't spent nearly as much as I did back in 2009 simply because I don't have access to that kind of cash. Without actually tallying up my receipts I'd guess I've spent about $1,000 on clothes, boots and toys for Noo over the last three months. Maybe a bit more.

As winter started to approach I became fixated with the need for Noo and me to get flannelette bedding for each of our beds. I was also desperate for a new duvet cover.  The plain white one I've been using for years I bought in London back in 2006!

So I googled "flannelette sheets" and scrolled through hundreds of pictures on major department store websites as well as on dedicated homewares and bedding websites. There were a few that I liked the look of but as my bank account was dwindling due to all the clothes I was buying I figured I'd just wait until next pay day...

And then, as if someone had heard my wish for new bedding, out of the blue I get an email from asking me if I'd like some new new sheets or a duvet cover in exchange for a review of their website!

OO had been one of the sites I had been scrolling through for quilt covers and bed sheets! I swear to you, on my reputation as an honest blogger, this is true. They have some lovely sets on there and I was stoked to be offered $100 worth of whatever I wanted from these ranges.

I chose bright red flannelette sheet set for my double loft bed and a boldly patterned quilt cover to help brighten my mood.

Once my selection was made within days OO sent me the goods and I was stoked. The quality of each set is lovely. I've been snug as a bug up there in my loft bed.

Yay! Fresh new bedsheets.

Even though I was asked to review the OO site based on these products I just didn't feel I could give an honest opinion of how the website worked unless I did it all for myself. I wanted to go through the process of selecting, ordering, paying and waiting for delivery so I could give an true review of how the worked.

I was in need of some more toner cartridges for my printer and lucky for me OO stock them. The model printer I have churns toner like no tomorrow. I've always used the branded toner and at an average of $25 a pop, they are quite expensive. OO have a really cool Ink Finder so I was able to easily find the make and model of my printer and the relevant cartridges I required. I was shocked to find they were almost 50% cheaper than the branded equivalent.

I made my selection, added it to my shopping cart and then chose to pay with PayPal's own shopping cart. That way I didn't have to put all my details in the OO system because they're all there on PayPal. Nice. Quick. Easy. What more can you ask for?

My current 'fantasy' shopping cart. I do this all the time when I don't actually have the money to spend.

I ordered my printer cartridges late on Sunday night and they arrived at my apartment by courier on Tuesday. I was amazed at the turnaround time for the order. The product was well packaged and worked a dream in my printer. I won't be paying full price for cartridges again!

So, would I recommend to buy anything from bedsheets to printer cartridges?

Yes I would. Definitely.

Just like pineapples, shopping sure has a way to distract me from the other stuff going on in my life.

Have you had any good retail therapy lately?


Disclosure: I was offered $100 worth of bedlinen in exchange for a review of the website. No cash has changed hands. All opinions are my own in accordance with my disclosure policy.

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

What's wrong with me?

I am in the grips of one of the worst depressive episodes since Noo was born. I feel completely without control of my feelings. One minute I feel happy, the next I am bawling my eyes out. I don't understand what I am experiencing. I'm scared and I don't trust myself.

My mood has always been erratic. But not this erratic. Friday morning I woke up feeling fine. I made plans! I had fun things to do... without kids! This should be awesome, no?

I declared it to the world on Facebook and Twitter:

Not long after I posted these messages I was standing in the kitchen about to grab something for breakfast when I felt that horrible feeling stir. It first makes itself known at the pit of my stomach. An icy emptiness gnaws there until it rises up burning its way through my chest making each breath catch in my throat. Then that horrible tingly sensation makes my nostrils smart until finally that wretched feeling reaches the back of my eyes that seem to swell with the sheer pressure of emotion until it must be released in the form of tears and sobs.

I was trying to fight the overwhelming urge to howl when my dad walked in to find me standing there staring at nothing in particular on the ceiling while attempting to catch my breath and will the tears to stop.

"What's wrong darling?" he asked, face filled with concern.

"I don't know, dad. I just fucking don't know."

My dad grabbed me then and held me so tight. I was able to cry into his towelling robe covered shoulder, muffling the sound of my anguish so Noo, who was playing in the next room, couldn't hear. As I heaved through the episode, I braced myself waiting for it to end.

Each outburst of tears is like a contraction during labour; it rises up to a peak then starts to subside until it is done and over with until the next one. But these episodes are not predictable. Just like my posterior labour with Noo, the contractions are not evenly timed, the length of each burst of emotion can last for two minutes up to 20 minutes...

What is happening to me?

Yesterday I forced myself to get dressed to go and meet my best friend. I'm so glad I did because being with her made me happy. We caught up on the usual stuff about our kids, life in general and our moods. My best mate has suffered from severe anxiety most of her adult life too.

My friend said I looked really well. She commented that it looked like I'd lost weight, my makeup looked awesome and I sounded like I was really organised with how I was managing Noo and Mala.

And that is the weird thing. One minute I can seem totally fine. I'm there in the moment and I feel content, happy even. Until - boom - I'm breaking down again.

Just after I got back from going for coffee. Not long after I'm bawling!

After I left my friend I went to get a stack of blood taken. My thyroid, iron and other various vitamin levels are being tested to see if I do in fact have an underlying physical issue going on.

Later that afternoon, not long before my sister was to arrive, I sat quietly at my laptop on the dining room table. Dad had taken Noo for a walk to a playground nearby so everything was quiet for a moment. My mum was sitting about 5 metres from me. I stared at my screen. I could feel the emotion building up inside me again.

I whispered to mum, "it's happening again, I'm about to cry".

"What is wrong? You've just had a lovely morning and you're about to go out with Yolanda for the night." My well meaning mum tried to reassure me.

And then the waterworks started all over again.

I asked her to just listen to me as I tried to explain everything that was going on in my mind and through my body. Whatever was going on was not a reaction to any particular situation. It is a chemical change in my brain. I truly believe that.

Yolanda arrived and I managed to slap on some gladrags, some lippy and we made it out to the wonderful Vivid Festival. Sydney was at its best Friday night. I love this city with all my heart and soul. Her beauty fills me with such joy. Being by the Harbour can actually fill me with a sense of euphoria and, despite my current woes, Friday night was no exception.

But I still cried. At dinner explaining everything to Yo I struggled to fight the tears. My sister has such an amazingly insightful and wise soul that she is able to soothe me very quickly. She has her own shit going on (as a career woman extraordinaire!) but she never belittles me or  makes me feel my problems are any less than hers.

Crikey! I'm crying again.

My poor family. It must be so hard for them to feel so unable to make my shit go away. But they are doing a wonderful job at trying to alleviate the pain as I ride through this trough.

Please, Universe, bring me another peak soon!
(But not too high otherwise other labels might be stuck on me.)

Thank you for reading.