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?


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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:

Sodium Valproate

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!


So, Shrink, fuck you!


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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.


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...


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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?


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