Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cockatoo Island Biennale: Go! It is awesome and it is FREE!

After a shocking week last week, I had a fantastic time on Cockatoo Island with my sister and our kids on Tuesday. The annual Biennale is on and it is totally free. You can even get a free ferry over to the island from Wharf 6 at Circular Quay. The weather here in Sydney has been outstanding this week. Lots of mood-lifting sunshine. Perfect for some Sydney Harbour action.

Cockatoo Biennale Bonanza! 

I wanted to post this last night for Wordless Wednesday but I didn't get to it in time.

In regards to my last post and all the ups and downs I've been having regarding my meds, just thought I should let you know that I've stablised now. Had a pretty intense session with Shrink this morning and cried for hours but it was ok. It is relieving to get that shit of my chest. That is what psycho analysis therapy is all about!

Hope this post finds you well.


PS. I quit sugar is going pretty well. A few slip ups, but otherwise no chocolate or lollies. Yay me!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn't. It is done.

What a relief! I'm off the rollercoaster of psych meds and feel normal again at last. I really had no idea just how messed up I was on Sunday. Really. Really. Messed. Up.

We need each other.

When I reread yesterday's post this morning I was quite upset by it but I pushed the feeling aside, the thinking about Sunday and the risks I took. About the madness and mania that the high dose of Concerta created and that I stupidly, yet desperately, tried to make go away with Xanax.

This morning I pushed the fear of what could have been aside so I could get on with today. Just as on Sunday, I pushed through brain mush to get on with that day.

As a mum, a sole parent, I've got to push through. I can't just say, Noo, I've got to go sleep this shit off, you sort yourself out for the day. There's no dad/husband/partner to ask to take over the load while I wait the damn rollercoaster out. I just try to fake it til I make it. To use a cliché.

When my sister came over this morning I declared myself much better. I had stupidly got on the scales though and was very unhappy about what I saw: 86.6kg. That's basically a 1kg increase every week for the last four weeks. I've only been on the Concerta for about five weeks now... I wonder if there is a link. Most people lose weight on it, but not me. I never get the weight loss side effect from drugs and I never get it from illness.

I was still going over in my head last night's post:
"I probably shouldn't have been driving the car on Sunday but I was fine, we didn't have any accidents but I was a mess. My motor skills were just normal but my heart was beating so fast and I was so paranoid that something really fucking bad was going to happen but I knew it wouldn't because I knew it was just the stupid Concerta but still that physically sick feeling I get with anxiety wouldn't go away."
Then when Yo told me this morning how whacked out I looked when Noo and I got to her place on Sunday, I couldn't hide any more. I was fucked up. At the time I felt I was fully under control. I felt I had to be. Push through. Push through. Go through the motions. Keep moving. It will pass. But I was driving a car. With my baby on board. Affected by drugs. There's no other way to look at it.


I think I must have been in denial Monday night. Fear of your disgust. Fear of my own. Never again. I should have... If only I'd...


Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn't. It is done.


Monday, August 27, 2012

The BB sugar experiment: Don't quit sugar when changing psych meds

It has been a hell of a week. To give a score out of one to ten, one being an emotionally easy week and ten being the worst week of mental-hell-admit-me-now-I-am-a-danger-to-myself, I'd give this week around a seven. Bloody ADHD meds have f-u-c-k-e-d me up really badly.

Shrink and I decided to increase the dose of Concerta I was taking because I didn't think the lower dose was having as good an effect on my concentration as it did initially. The first couple of days of the lower dose was hard but I pushed through and when it levelled out by day three all was good. I figured the same would go for the higher dose. So wrong.

Day two was pretty bad. Cried a lot. The anxiety was horrific. I pushed on though and by day four felt a little better. By day five I felt terrible again. Took a couple of sleeping tablets because they were the only benzos I could find in the house and figured if I could sleep I'd be ok. Two temaz later and I was still awake and anxious as hell. Three hours after that dumped another two and finally got to sleep.

Now before you start to worry, I can take benzos now without getting all addicted on them like I have in the past.

So that was Friday. Saturday was kind of ok. Noo and I went to the Entertainment Quarter and we had fun in the sun. Saturday night was horrible again. I text a friend I knew had some Xanax and she said she could give me some Sunday morning. I knew then that I had to get off the Concerta. What the hell is the point of taking a drug if you need to take others on top to get past the side effects of the first drug? Fucking stupid as.

So what does this all have to do with sugar?

This cup of sugar had been dumped under a tree in our street just
down from our apartment. I thought it was weird until a Twitter friend
said it was a symbol for my quit sugar experiment.
Then I thought it even weirder!

Well before I reached for the benzos, I had some sugar to help me through. Not much. For me, not much at all, just a bowl of ice cream one night (damn you dad for bringing Connoisseur into the house!) and then on Sunday afternoon, after I'd had about three Xanax throughout the day I took Noo to a chocolate cafe on Glebe Point Road for a big chocolate treat. Not bad on the sugar front considering it has only been week 1 and the I Quit Sugar book says "pare back sugar and refined carbohydrates". It doesn't say go cold turkey!

I shouldn't even be admitting this here. I probably shouldn't have been driving the car on Sunday but I was fine, we didn't have any accidents but I was a mess. My motor skills were just normal but my heart was beating so fast and I was so paranoid that something really fucking bad was going to happen but I knew it wouldn't because I knew it was just the stupid Concerta but still that physically sick feeling I get with anxiety wouldn't go away.

Last Monday Shrink even gave me three different relaxation techniques to use if my anxiety got too bad but I fell back on my old standby - the sugar binge - because the other three never even entered me head.

I went back to the pharmacy today and had the repeat script for the lower dose Concerta filled and all was ok. I am ok. Thank goodness! The teensiest bit of anxiety but so much better than the last week. And I've not taken any anxiety meds or any chocolate. Happy me. Tomorrow should be even better!

So week two: Eat fat. I've stocked up on bacon and lean mince and chicken and lots of veggies. I have bought some fruit. I just don't think I can give up on fruit. I'm going to try for the sake of the experiment but I doubt the 'science' on this part of the whole sugar is the devil philosophy. The other hard part is sweetener: I've bought some Stevia but it isn't as good as the bad shit. I love me some aspartame.

Well this is all I can manage. I'm tired. Tuesday is our big play day so I should get a good night's sleep. This is a crap post I know but my imagination is off with the fairies trying to repair itself after a seven day thrashing by psychiatric pharmaceuticals.

I hope, if you managed to get this far, that you are well. That your brain is kind to you. That your soul is calm. Thanks for reading. All of you. It helps.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Part 3: The dad question

This is the follow on story about when I met my son's father and how my beautiful boy came to be. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

Walking into the abyss

"He's been in prison."

I said it as casually as anything as I looked around the large dining room that was slowly filling with patients carrying trays of food, trying to find somewhere to sit. I had been back in rehab for about a week. Mum was visiting.

Averting my eyes from my mother, I took in the faces of the other patients and tried to size each one of them up, work out their story. It was easy to tell which wards people came from after you'd been an inpatient for so long and on so many occasions. The younger, louder group sitting by the window and closest to the exit were the drug and alcohol patients. They, or should I say we, ate quickly so we could escape to the garden to smoke. Smoking was the only real vice we had left. Oh and chocolate. I consumed both in abundance during my rehab stays.

This ashtray full of filthy cigs is basically what my life was like.
Photo borrowed from here.

The women quietly chatting on the other side of the room were obviously from the post natal depression unit. They pushed crying babies back and forth in their prams while trying to eat the tasteless cafeteria style food with their free hand. There was so much sadness in their tired eyes when they first came to the hospital. Sadness and desperation. I would later come to stay in that ward too, with Noo. The difference with the PND ward is a sense of hope, knowing that what we were suffering with our young bubs was temporary - it had to be. Not like the druggies and alcos. They - we - have to battle our addiction demons for life.

The other patients, chatting with each other or eating alone, were the chronically depressed or anxious or both; the self-harming borderline personality disorder girls, older patients with seemingly incurable melancholia, bipolar suffers admitted for ECT. They came from all walks of life. All ages, backgrounds, gender. Mental health issues are indiscriminate.

I looked back at mum. She didn't know what to say. I knew, she knew, I said what I said to hurt. To make them worry about me. To make them see what they'd pushed me away to.

"Oh, yeah and he's got five kids from three different women."

Ner, ner, so there! I'm really fucking up now, aren't I mum? Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

"What are you doing, Vanessa?" asked mum without emotion. She was trying not to show that my campaign of hurt was working.

"Nothing, mum. I really like him. He's coming to the family day and I want you and dad to come as well and meet him".

"Oh. Right. Ok, well I'll have to speak to your father", was mum's non committal reply. And she left.

I knew I'd been a bitch. I felt bad. But mostly I was angry. So fucking angry. Angry at them, my parents. I wanted to hurt them.

When I got kicked out of the previous psychiatric hospital and mum said I couldn't come home, I was so pissed off. I felt so abandoned, so lonely and vulnerable. My own parents couldn't deal with who I was: the damaged, drug addicted rape victim who'd fucked up her life. If the people who made me and nurtured me couldn't love me, how the fuck was I going to love myself? To give a shit? I wanted to wash my hands of myself just like I felt they were trying to wash their hands of me.

I couldn't get away from myself. Being in rehab they make you stop running. They make you take a good hard look at yourself so you can see who it is really there looking back at you in the mirror. I didn't like what I saw. Not one little bit.

The next morning, a Friday, actually Friday the 4th of April 2008, my dad called me in my room back in the D&A ward. He said in no uncertain terms that he wanted nothing to do with this person who I'd been spending my time with and that he and my mother wanted me to stop seeing him immediately. I was to not tell this person anything about our family - where we lived, what their names were, where my dad worked.

I lost it. Screaming and carrying on over the phone. I won't even write what I said. I no doubt sounded like a crazed teenager having a tantrum. It was horrible. I was so incredibly angry and hurt but wasn't what my dad said the reaction I was looking for?

After I hung up the phone I walked out of the ward and out of the hospital grounds and to the nearest place that sold alcohol and ordered a Toohey's Extra Dry and drank it. It tasted disgusting. I ordered another and drank it too. I had to have enough grog in my system so when I went back to the hospital and the nurses breathalysed me they would tell me to leave and not return for seven days.

I then called the man who my parents had expressly told me not to see and told him to come get me.

More to follow.


Part 1: The dad question
Part 2: The dad question

Monday, August 20, 2012

The BB sugar experiment: Sugar and me, a little bit off history

Today is day 1, week 1 of mine and Noo's attempt at Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar experiment. We have started to cut back our sugar intake. I've only made a few small changes so far but at least that is something.

Noo had his sachet of oats for breakfast, as usual, but instead of adding more honey to the already sweetened breakfast I left it off completely. When I tasted a bit, I baulked. It just didn't taste sweet enough! I didn't think Noo would have a bar of it but he didn't even notice the lack of extra sweetener. I was really amazed. He is doing better than me so far! For dinner he ate two lamb chops without tomato sauce - a miracle.

I had a muesli bar that I found down the bottom of my handbag for brekky. Terribly high in sugar, I know, but we left the house in such a rush that I didn't have time to prepare something more healthy. I will get organised over this week. I did chuck out our car lolly stash (usually party mix or snakes but today it was a whole bag of eucalyptus and honey lollies). When I got my morning coffee I bought a chicken roll rather than a sweet pastry, like I usually do. Dinner was salad, lamb cutlets and some leftover pasta. I had a reasonable serve and was very content.

Now, for the people who have only started reading my blog recently I thought I'd give a little history about my weight issues and what has brought me here doing the I Quit Sugar plan.

Before I started blogging about deep and meaningful shit like who Noo's dad was (part 3 is coming I promise!) and how I was addicted to benzos for a short time, or writing poems about my drunken years in London, I was blogging regularly about my lap-band and my life long battle with weight issues. I think it is about time I revisit that. I'm getting fat again.

Sugar and me: A little bit of history

I'm a [lap]Bandit

When I started this blog on 11 August 2010 (OMG, I'm past the two year mark!), I was a massive 100kg. It was the biggest I'd ever been (actually, I was 104kg the week before Noo was born in 2008). I had tried everything to drop the kilos over the years but my weight always yo-yoed. I felt fat, unsexy, unloveable and unacceptable in a world that is so body conscious and judgemental.

Before lap-band and two years later
For more before and after shots check out this page

When I made the decision to get a lap-band I was worried about my health and my future. Coming from a family where there is heart disease and cancer on both sides, I knew I had to do something. Having Noo made me give a shit about how long I lived and the quality of life I wanted for me and my boy.

In that first post I wrote this:
"My problem used to be booze... I've since given up the devil's juice and have been proudly sober for 2+ years.  The only problem being that I picked up a replacement addiction - sugar!  Sweet anything. Chocolate mainly and lollies, ice cream, cake, doughnuts, brownies, Tim Tams...'

I still have a sugar addiction. I always will. Just like I will always have an addiction to alcohol and cocaine. The difference is, I am in recovery from the latter two. I have completely abstained from drugs and alcohol for over four years. Sugar, on the other hand, I'm in full blown active addiction.

On 6 September 2010 I had surgery to have a lap-band installed. It was drastic but I knew in my heart drastic measures had to be taken. Getting a lap-band was the best thing I could have done for long term sustained weight loss. It was not a lazy way out, like some people think it might be. In fact, managing life with a lap-band is challenging. It can be uncomfortable, if not down-right painful if you get food stuck, and it can be embarrassing if you need to purge the food that got stuck because it ain't getting out any other way. (For stories about getting food stuck in a lap-band check out here.)

But I have managed it - my lap-band. For nearly two years I have managed life with a foreign object wrapped around my oesophegus to restrict the amount of food that can get down my throat and into my stomach and I have lost 20kg. The weight loss was slow and steady (check out my goal list here for deets). I was very good with my food intake for about the first six months but slowly and surely sugary foods found their way back into my diet.

Lap-band basics

The band is like a doughnut ring full of fluid that is clamped around the bottom of the oesophegus to cause restriction around the top of the stomach (see gory pics of my band being installed here) creating a smaller pouch above. Food comes down the throat, sits in the pouch for about 30 seconds and then falls through to the stomach. As the food pushes through the band it puts pressure on the vagus nerve (pronounced like Vegas, the party city!) which sends the message to the brain that the stomach is full, even though it isn't. This feeling of satiety should hopefully occur after only about half to one cup of food.

The fluid level in the band is adjustable: too tight and you can't even get water through, too loose and you might as well not have one. The game a bandit is always playing is 'find the sweet spot'. Because we are all different sizes there's no one size fits all with lap-bands. Each bandit needs the perfect amount of saline fluid in their band: the perfect amount that makes it possible to get food down, but causes the bandit to slow down their eating and restricts the kind and amount of food they can eat. This is done by the doctor injecting into or removing fluid from the lap-band through a port that is just under the flesh around the left side of the body.

Sounds like a pain in the arse, doesn't it! It is. But it was worth it for me. Definitely! I do not regret a thing. My lovely lap-band helped me do what no other diet has done: lose weight and keep the bulk of it off. But...

What's my lap-band up to now?

Earlier this year I suffered a bout of gastro. I was up for hours chucking my guts up. Now, as a bandit, I vomited all the time. Or PBed, as the bandit lingo goes. Productive Burp. Gross, but true. PBing is ok with me. Food makes it to the top of the band but can't fit through. Like bread, pasta, rice. Or a mouthful that is too big or too carelessly chewed. Chucking that mouthful up is no probs for me because the food has not made it down to the stomach to mix with all the acidy juices down there so when it comes up it tastes the same was as it went down.

Proper vomiting, on the other hand, is a totally different kettle of tacos. Once food is through to the other side, ie in the stomach, it ain't getting back up past the band very easily. No matter how hard your gastro-ridden body wants to expel the bug that has invaded it. I learnt about this the hard way. 12 frigging hours retching, my body spasming in pain as it tried to eject the virus, while my lap-band that has been surgically stitched into my abdomen painfully rides up and down with each convulsion.

I should have taken myself to the hospital way before I did but I was scared they'd take all the fluid out of my band and I wouldn't have any more restriction, so I'd start over eating again. In the end I couldn't hack it any more. At 3am I was pumped with morphine and anti nausea drugs and had all but a small amount of fluid removed. The morphine was great and the anti nausea stuff was a massive relief. By the time I was back home again and putting my feet up it wasn't long before I was hungry again.

The sensation of being able to eat anything I wanted without worrying about it getting stuck was so luxurious. Bread, pasta, rice, potato back in my life? Hello carbohydrates! I could eat steak, go out for dinner without worrying about getting stuck, I could eat sushi! And even though the restriction had been let out I still couldn't eat that much. My stomach had shrunk so much I was amazed!

I had a follow up appointment at my weight loss surgery centre and they were really pleased with me because I weighed in at 79 kilos - the lowest I'd been since I'd lived in London and was on a healthy balanced diet of beer, cereal and class As (note sarcasm here). The doctor said I'd reached my ideal weight range and if I felt I could eat responsibly with my smaller stomach there was no reason to add the fluid back in.

I was stoked to say the least! I figured I'd be able to incorporate the healthy carbs (sourdough bread, a little rice and pasta) back in my diet and as long as I stayed clear of the sugary/fatty shit I'd be ok.

What has really happened?

Confession time here, I haven't stayed clear of bad food. If anything, I've been in down right binge mode! This year got pretty shitty for a while. I've talked about it heaps in this blog, but if you're only just reading for the first time - I was really not in a good way during the first few months of this year. I was suffering from symptomatic anaemia which caused exhaustion, low mood, anxiety, restless legs, constipation, hair loss. At the time I didn't realise I was anaemic, I just had the symptoms and I thought my depression was taking hold again. What do I do when depressed? Eat of course! And what kind of food? Sugary food!

So here I am, not far from my two year bandiversary and I'm 85.7kg. There, I've said it! Nearly back to 86 kilos! That's a 7kg weight gain since February this year. I have got to do something about it. I could go back to my surgeon and get my lap-band filled but that would mean not being able to eat bread/pasta/rice. It also makes eating other healthy foods like lean red meat and chicken very difficult. My iron levels have halved again since June so I really can't afford to not eat meat.

Where to next?

So quitting sugar it is! If I cannot make a success of this over the next eight weeks and drop 7kg then I am going back to get a fill. And anyway, this is not just about losing weight, it is about gaining control and repairing my sugar loaded taste buds. Its about not being slave to yet another addiction. It's about helping my mood naturally and stabilising my energy levels. And it is about getting my boy to eat a healthy balance diet so he can grow big and strong.

And so begins the experiment!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fussy eaters: We need to quit sugar

Noo is one of the fussiest eaters I know. I've heard some shocking stories about other kids too, like the one that subsists on nothing but fruit toast and then there's another kid I heard about the other day that will only eat canned spaghetti. Breakfast. Lunch. And dinner.

Then there are the kids that eat everything. I am so frigging jealous of those kids' mums. We know one little boy who will snack on cucumber at the park while other kids have muesli bars and other junk. Another baby I know eats cold grilled mushrooms. Without being force fed! I'm for real here! I seriously shit you not. Even my eight month old niece, Mala, eats more than Noo does on a daily basis. Noo is three and eight months!

Noo has been a fussy eater since the day he was born. After he eventually evacuated my body after a 39 hour labour, he refused to attach and I had to be hand expressed by a midwife. We were in hospital over Christmas for about six days and he left there 370 grams under his birth weight. For seven long weeks I tried to get that bub to attach but it was no use. I double pumped to express what I could for him but he still wasn't gaining enough. It was terrifying.

I eventually had to put him on formula just to make sure he was eating enough and by the 8th week he finally started to gain some weight. It was slow. And he is no different now. Noo is indifferent to eating. He only likes a few kinds of food. He'll eat most things laden with sugar (chocolates, lollies, cake frosting, ice cream) like most kids. But he also loves sushi. Strange, but true. He absolutely loves those little cooked tuna rolls with soy sauce and pickled ginger. Seriously! And wait for it. His favourite bit is the seaweed on the outside. WTF? I don't even really like the 'black bit', as Noo calls it.

Usually Noo's best meal of the day is breakfast. Most days his grandmother or I can get him to eat a bowl of warm oats with honey. But when he is sick, like he has been for the last week, he just doesn't eat at all. Even chocolate doesn't interest him. He can lose a couple of kilos every time he gets a cold. The weird thing though he is always full of energy and always has a smile on his gob (except when I try to take his picture!).

Check out what we had for breakfast today...

Click on the picture to see it better

For Noo I served dry Nutrigrain which he seems to like at the moment but didn't touch this morning. It was on sale at Aldi so I thought I'd give it a go. It is so sweet I really expected Noo to like it. He drank all his freshly squeezed juice and drained the yogurt squeezie. This I was happy with. Only a couple of strawberries were eaten but he sucked back that antibotics and he has no trouble eating the vitamin chews.

I ended up eating the fresh fruit, washed down with black coffee accompanied by the multitude of tablets I take every day.

Everything on that tray, bar my meds, has been sweetened. Since I first started reading Sarah Wilson's "I quit sugar" a couple of weeks ago, I have been really aware of the fact that Noo and I eat Too. Much. Sugar.

Could too much sugar be making my son a fussy eater?

Tomorrow Noo (although he doesn't really realise it yet) and I are starting Sarah's eight week program to see if we can turn this fussy eating around. Noo and I will spend the next week reducing our sugar intake. I plan to make this experiment a blog series. I've already been doing a stack of research on the whole sugar controversy. And yes, it is controversial because there are so many differing opinions out there about just how bad sugar is to us. And not just sugar. The different kinds of sugar. Its a bloody minefield out there!

I'm nervous about it. Shitting myself actually. Scared about how to deal with Noo and scared about letting go of my one last vice. I am not going to kid myself that this will be easy, or even possible. I couldn't even complete a bet with my mum and sister recently that I could go a whole month without chocolate.

But I'm will to give it a go. It can't hurt. It would be amazing if I could get Noo to eat better and if I could get back on my weight loss journey. I've got 10-15 kegs to go! More on that next time...

Have you quit sugar before? Or do you have a fussy eater? Any tips?


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Linking up with Trish at My Little Drummer Boys for Wordless Wednesday.

Being actively happy

Since my post on Sunday I have attempted to make a conscious effort to be active in my quest to be happy. I get annoyed when I think that being happy is something that I often have to work at. I'm not going to get bogged down in that now though, because that would be counter-productive to this exercise!

Even though I was feeling pretty horrible on Monday I kept thinking back to the Happiness Institute's "Daily Happiness Checklist"* (here is a link to the PDF) if you want to print it and follow it too).

I'll tell you how I've done over the last two days.

Monday wasn't a perfect day. Emotionally, it was actually quite challenging, I even broke down in tears to my sister, as well as ball my fists up in annoyance at Noo, but Monday ended ok. I went to bed feeling quite calm knowing things can only get better.

Tuesday was been better. We were home all day hanging out with my parents, and Yo and Mala came over to play. We also had my two cousins over for dinner. I love being with my family.

So, back to the  Daily Happiness Checklist. This is how I went:

1. I've reminded myself of my life purpose

What is my life purpose? I haven't really thought about that consciously... ever. Before I had Noo I always just lived for today. I never thought of the long term or the bigger picture. For a long time I never thought I'd live past 40 anyway.

Now I definitely look to the future. And I do have a purpose:

  • To be the best mum I can be
  • Provide Noo with a happy, stable, safe and loving home
  • To look after my family and be available to them when they need me
  • To be well, mentally and physically

I'm sure there are other purposes I have in life. And these will obviously change over time, but right now, these are the most important to me.

2. I'm clear on my priorities of the day

On Monday my priority was to get Noo to the doctor because he'd been very ill over the weekend with a chesty cough and fever. I was very worried he had a chest infection. Luckily though the doctor said it was likely to be a virus and to keep him rested.

Yo, my sister, also had the dreaded winter lurgy, so after finishing with Noo at the doctor, I tag teamed with dad. Noo's Pa took him to his favourite dumpling place (Din Tai Fung) to try to get some food down, while I headed over to Yo's place and help out with Mala. I was only there a few hours when Miss M's dad came home from work early to take over.

In the afternoon, I took Noo to see the new Thomas movie again. After four days in a row stuck in the apartment we were all going a little stir crazy. It was a fun afternoon. Noo and I had the whole cinema to ourselves so he could run around, trying out every seat in the theatre, while I tweeted away on my iPhone.

So my priorities on Monday ticked off the first three of my life purposes.

On Tuesday my priority was to conjure up my domestic goddess. She exists but she's very temperamental and doesn't come out to play very often. I actually cleaned our bathroom from top to bottom, a job I just hate. I also baked Nigella's Nutella cake for our dinner party tonight and did a load of washing. That is a whole lotta domestic-ness for me right there!

Nigella's Nutella Cake - So good

Yo and Mala also came over to hang out. All the sickies (Noo, Yo and Mala) were feeling much better yesterday which I was very pleased about. Unfortunately, now I can feel myself coming down with it - the price of playing nurse maid all weekend. I cannot wait for winter to be over, and a long with it, the flu season. This year has been a shocker!

3. I've engaged in exercise

Ok, so no, I did not engage in any formal exercise either Monday or Tuesday. This is definitely an area that needs working on!

4. I've planned to eat healthily

I baked a Nutella cake! Nothing healthy about it. Work here needs to be done!

5. I intend to practice meditation/relaxation

This one I'm not keen on. Every psych professional I've ever seen recommends focused meditation or relaxation as a part of a mind-healthy daily routine but I've always disliked it. Mainly because it used to stir up unwanted thoughts as well as my twitching, restless legs. I should give it a go again one day.

6. I will not accept unhelpful, negative thoughts

This item has been really helpful over the last couple of days. When ever I've found negative thoughts creeping in my mind I have tried to acknowledge the thought and then push it away. I think that has been helpful in not giving the 'stinking thinking' any room to grow.

7. I'm confident today will be a good day

This is a really hard one to convince myself of every morning. Tuesday I woke up feeling good. Monday I felt really bad. I never know how it is going to be.

Do you?

8. I am hopeful for the future

Yes, I am hopeful for the future. Hope is something I treasure every day. I haven't always had it.

9. I'm grateful for the people in my life

See items 1 and 2. I love my family so much. They are my world. I love my friends too, but my family are so important to my life every day and I am grateful for them and their love.

10. I intend to praise at least one person today

I praise Noo about 20 gazillion times a day, every day!

Check out this boy and his gorgeousness!

11. I'm determined to find ways to use my strengths

I think I underplay my strengths too much. I use them, I just don't recognise that I do have strengths. I need to acknowledge them more frequently.

12. I'm going to have fun

One of the best things about kids is the fun! Monday was hard but while I was playing with the kids, both Mala in the morning and Noo in the afternoon, I had fun. I can play goo ga games with babies for hours and I absolutely love playing with toys with Noo so yeah, fun is something I can do. Even when I'm feeling shit, if I take on the 'fake it til ya make it' philosophy, playing with kids can really put a smile on my face. You don't have to think too hard to play with a little kid. They're so stoked that you're hanging out with them, down at their level. Their smiles and laughter are infectious!

13. I will laugh and smile

See point 12 above!

14. I will endeavour to be in the moment as much as possible

Being present is a big thing for the happiness crowd. Not dwelling on the past, or ruminating about what might happen in the future is key to happiness. I am one of these people who gets flashes of bad memories all the time. I suffered from PTSD after I was assaulted in 2007 for a long time.

Now whenever I get a flash I try to just acknowledge it and then pack it away in a draw at the pack of my mind. It is hard though. Some days are better than others.

The future scares me sometimes and I do worry about it a lot so actively being mindful of the here and now is very helpful to keep those useless concerns at bay.

15. I will savour all positive experience

This is something I definitely try to do. Sometimes I could be in the middle of something and I feel elated by how I feel - happy! I comes out of the blue. Like last Monday when I was driving to see Shrink and I felt high on life, high on the possibilities of life. But then that can disappear in an instant. 

Ok, that is enough navel gazing from me. I've been trying to get this post out for days but I've been busy looking after sick people and entertaining family. 

Thank you for all the supportive comments over the last few days. They mean so much.


*© 2008 Dr. Timothy Sharp – The Happiness Institute

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Need versus want

This blog post has been empty for hours and hours.

I've been trying to decide what to fill this space with...for days.

I need to tell you that I've had a week that started in possibly the best mood I've been in for years. That is until, after a one hour therapy session, it turned into a four day anxiety attack and ended with Noo spending three days in his pyjamas with one of the worst colds of the season.

A sick Noo in a Slanket (a better kind of Snuggie)

I need to tell you that my Restless Leg Syndrome, which I thought was cured by my recent iron infusion, is back after only four months. I'm so pissed off and disappointed I could cry. I'm so scared of going back to that horrible place I was earlier in the year when I couldn't sleep because of the night time twitching and the anxiety dreams and in the daytime I was exhausted and felt like shit All. The. Time.

I need to tell you that although I had two great weeks on my new ADHD medication, Concerta, the positive effects I was feeling are now starting to wear off. The clear focused thinking, the motivation, determination, alertness, improved short term memory, the ability to speak more articulately, and to be less vague are becoming less and less. It is probably why I am struggling to write at the moment. My new mojo is fading. And there is still another week until I see Shrink again to determine whether or not I need a higher dose.

I want to tell you a completely different story. I've been avoiding writing because I hate just writing about my bloody problems. Surely people get sick of hearing others complain. But then I have to remember that first and foremost I blog for me. Readers are a bonus. A lovely, wonderful bonus.

I want to go back in time and feel the way I felt Monday morning as I was driving west through Sydney to my psychiatrist's office thinking about how good I felt. Back to that drive when I was going through in my head how I was going to tell Shrink how positive and excited and healed I felt.

I want to go to bed now knowing that everything will be ok tomorrow. But I don't know that. And even if I did wake up tomorrow feeling good, how could I trust myself that it would last?

I need and want some positivity right now.

So I'm setting myself a Monday Challenge. I just found this scrap of paper in the top drawer of my desk:

Original list came from The Happiness Institute
That's me in the background. It is a mouse pad with my picture on it
that I gave to my sister when I lived overseas. She recently gave it back to me.

I am going to complete all 15 items on the checklist and I will report back here tomorrow night how I go.

Maybe you'd like to give the checklist a go too?


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Anxious not so Wordless Wednesday

Since Monday my anxiety has been so bad I haven't been able to get anything out on my blog. On Monday evening I was shaking (it is more like humming actually, like an uncomfortable buzzing through my body) so much I couldn't type a word. I stayed up and watched four episodes of True Blood and took a temazepam to help me sleep.

I have posts half started, I've been writing notes on content ideas and I've even gone through all 111 posts on this blog to make sure my four core categories (sole parenting, weight issues, mental health, addiction) are tagged on all of them (thanks for the tip, Tina). I just haven't been able to write anything. That would take too much focus.

I've been doing lots of research on my sugar addiction since reading Blundermum's blog, which is awesome. On her recommendation I've bought and downloaded Sarah Wilson's ebook and I've listened to this podcast of an interview with David Gillespie the writer of Sweet Poison. I also downloaded his book on iTunes - The Sweet Poison Quit Plan. I'm going to write a separate post about that and it is going to be huge!

Now, it is suppose to be wordless Wednesday but clearly my babbling has come back. So I'm going to shut up now and show you these cool collages I made using a web app called Picmonkey that Mrs Woog recommended today on Facebook.

Blue Mountains holiday random bits

Thank you Picmonkey

Two of my favourite things: Coffee and cake

Can you tell I'm a Campos Coffee devotee?

I better hurry up and post this bloody thing because there's only 22 minutes of Wednesday left!

Linking up with Trish at My Little Drummer Boys for Wordless Wednesday.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Goodbye Blue Mountains hello Sydney!

Noo and I are now at the tail end of our ten day break in the Blue Mountains. It has been wonderful to hang out with Yolanda, my sister, and her seven month old daughter Mala, as well as to catch up with old friends.

We've had great days chilling at home as well as some fun day trips around the Mountains. The weather has been perfect: cool, crisp days with blue skies and sunshine. There's been lots of good food both cooked at home and eaten out. And with only one day of anxiety it really has been a relaxing week away.

Today: a perfect sunny Blue Mountains winters day

The part of the Blue Mountains where my parents reside is nestled about 10km west of the main road from Sydney. It is really quiet here. There are no cafes or tacky souvenir shops. No playgrounds or tourist buses. Just a fire station and a post box serve the residents who are surrounded by the most beautiful Australian bushland. The road leading in is a tree-lined avenue that is as stunning this time of year as it is in spring and almost as beautiful in winter as it is when the leaves change colour for autumn.

My sister and I know how lucky we are to have this place as a sanctuary. A place to escape to when city life gets too much. I used to come here, before Noo was born, before my years in London, to recuperate from a hectic life of working and partying. There is no mobile network here but back in the mid 1990s to early 2000s we didn't have internet either. We were completely cut off. With fresh air and lots of good food, this was the perfect place to detox, like a mini weekend rehab.

In the months after leaving Noo's father I spent a large part of my pregnancy up here, away from the dramas at home. After my breakdown, subsequent hospitalisations and sojourn to rock bottom I lost a lot of my usual support network. The general response to the news I was pregnant was negative. Most of my friends thought I wouldn't cope, that it was unfair on the unborn child. People didn't know how to be around me. And I don't blame them. I was a mess.

I spent the first trimester of my pregnancy in very little contact with my family or friends (the period which will be the third instalment of the "The dad question"). When I finally did leave Noo's father I I had an enormous amount of work to do to mend the very damaged relationships I had with those closest to me. My relationship with my sister was one that was hurt the most. She had borne the weight of my declining mental health and increasing addictions since well before my return from London. She was tired and needed to be free of my shit for a while. It was hard. Horrible actually. But that is another story.

During the second and third trimesters I wasn't working so I spent most of my time with my parents. Actually, I did attempt a return to work but the anxiety attacks became daily again and I wasn't sleeping so I didn't last very long before I was taking early maternity leave.

Despite the hardships they'd endured during the year previous my parents were still there for me. They helped me build a home for me and Noo in a little apartment I found in the inner south west of Sydney. I also stayed with them up here in the Blue Mountains quite a bit. It was so relaxing. Mum and I would spend hours and hours every day talking about my pregnancy and Noo's impending arrival.

There have been times too when I've hated it here. Hated the seclusion, the heat in summer and the bugs! But mostly I've loved it, but only as a place to visit. Which gets me back to today. Our last night after a long week away.

The sun setting over the valley for the last time while we're here this trip

And I am so looking forward to going home! I love the city. The buzz and the hustle and bustle. The people and beeping horns. The tall buildings, the Harbour and the cappuccinos. The city workers, the inner city mums and kids at the park. Friends and daycare! My bed and my desk so I can get into a better routine to blog.

Yes, I am ready to go home.

Can't wait to get back to the bright lights of the city

'Til next time.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to cope with anxiety

I have had heaps of anxiety today. It has been one of those days that I have felt like I'm losing the battle. It's weird because I have been on top of things lately. I have been coping with my anxiety, pushing it aside, accepting it. Or have I?

Coping with anxiety? Today it didn't feel like it until I wrote about it.

I'm anxious about not being on the computer enough, not blogging enough, not commenting enough, not working the social networks enough.

I'm anxious that I'm not getting comments on my blog. Am I boring? Too confronting? Not worth reading? Too whingy? Unapproachable? Unremarkable? Unnoticeable in a Web full of amazing voices where I am too small to be heard?

I'm anxious about being on the computer too much, about not playing with Noo enough, not keeping the house tidy enough, not doing enough chores to pull my weight to help my sister.

I'm anxious about eating too much, about Noo not eating enough, about there being too much junk in the house, about really needing to get back on the diet bandwagon that I jumped off six months ago.

I'm anxious about money, about not having enough, about spending too much, about how I am going to get through to the next pay without borrowing more money, again.

I'm anxious about writing, about sharing mine and Noo's stories, about getting my stats up, about this new constant need to write it all down, to photograph life as it happens, about not missing a beat.

In my mind I am writing, writing, writing the start of a post, the middle, the end. A line pops in my head and I think: it is awesome, write it down, don't forget it, share it. Then it is gone because I'm cooking dinner or hanging out the washing or pretending I'm a train choo chooing around the deck chasing Noo.

I'm anxious about who is reading my blog and who is not. I'm anxious because my mum has started asking Yolanda about my blog, whether it is good or not, what I write about and does she think it would be ok if she read it. I don't think I'm ready for my mum to enter this space. Not yet.

I'm anxious that if my mum read my blog she will tell my dad about everything I've written because she tells my dad everything. I'm anxious that they will try to stop me from writing any more or even get me to pull down what I've already written.

I'm anxious because my dad denies any existence of my son's father. He is an atheist but wants to believe that Noo is the result of an immaculate conception. He cannot bear the reality of Noo's origins. We are not allowed to talk about him or even say his name around my dad.

And so I get back to the Dad Question. Part 1 and Part 2 are now my most popular posts next to my benzo addiction story. I know there are some readers looking forward to the next instalment. I am glad of the interest and I will write the story. I've just got to get back into the right headspace to do it.

It all really comes down to one question: Why do I blog if it causes me so much anxiety? But does it? Because actually, now, after typing this out, I feel better.

I recently read a post by Bianca at Bigwords about why she blogs. I loved this post. There are so many reasons why bloggers blog. But I relate to this: "because without it I would feel alone".

Ultimately I blog for me. I blog for release, for comfort, for support, for enjoyment, for therapy. I blog because I have to. The words are there going around and around in my head. Better that I chuck them on here where they won't be alone. Where I won't be alone. And when I'm not alone I feel less anxious.

So that is how I cope with anxiety: By blogging about it.