Tag Archives: anxiety

“Speak even if your voice is shaking”…

The terrible thing is that for every person who takes their life, there are others just hanging on to the very edge of the abyss by the skin of their fingertips. Moreover, we often don’t find out who they are until it’s too late.

On January 3, 2018 a young Australian teenager “Dolly” Everett tragically took her life in response to cyber bullying.

At the time, I was quite surprised that this young woman would be a victim of any kind of bullying, let alone something bad enough that this was her only escape. She was a very attractive young woman, who had modeled for Akubra Hats. I don’t know. I guess it just goes to show that nobody’s immune to being bullied or its consequences.

In the days before she passed, Dolly drew a young dancer with the heading: “Speak even if your voice is shaking” and these words are now being used in a media campaign to tackle cyberbullying and bullying in general.

However, Dolly’s words came back to me today in a different context. That her advice doesn’t just apply to people experiencing bullying, but about also enduring other trials and bottling their feelings up.

After all, it’s not easy to find the words to express yourself when you’re stuck in a labyrinth. It’s not easy to reach out and say you’re not okay. To go beyond that socially acceptable “fine”, when someone asks you how you are, even when you’re feeling shattered.

I try to laugh about it
Cover it all up with lies
I try and laugh about it
Hiding the tears in my eyes
Because boys don’t cry
Boys don’t cry…

The Cure

I don’t know whether we ourselves are holding it all in, or whether it’s what society expects. Turning back the clock a bit, there was that classic song by The CureBoys Don’t Cry However, while our society has encouraged men to be more emotional, I suspect it’s also pushed women to be more controlled and to adopt the stiff upper lip. What do you think? I certainly don’t want to break down and cry. No, I’ll soldier on. Keep smiling… sunny side up. I don’t know whether it’s a case of denial or acceptance, but there isn’t a manual for how to keep living year after year with a severe life-threatening medical condition either from my own point of view, or from that of my family. We just keep going, because we have to and because we want to. I don’t want to die before I’m dead!!

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Yet, through Dolly’s words, I’ve also realized that I’ve been silent. That I haven’t been speaking up, and we as a family haven’t spoken about the elephant in the room for quite awhile. After all, we’ve been living with it for 12 years now, and it’s starting to look like we’ve established some kind of mutual stand off. That it has its part of the house, while we have ours. Yet, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That it’s not here and sometimes moves so close that I can feel it’s breath against my skin. I start to scream. Feel my life slipping away. Then, somehow the storm has passed, and we’ve back to calm seas and endless blue skies.

Yet, as hard as it is to speak when your voice is shaking, it’s not always easy to write about it either. Indeed, for the past couple of nights, I’ve been typing randomly into my computer hoping to unravel the wound up spring inside. Work out what’s eating me alive, when everyone else is asleep. What’s wrong.

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Here I am at Railway Park, Byron Bay.

 

It always seems to come back to this. I live with a neuro-muscular, autoimmune disease called Dermatomyositis, which has spread to my lungs causing fibrosis. I look perfectly fine most of the time on the outside. However, if my lungs were my face, you’d barely see my eyes through the scar tissue. Yet, I breathe. I walk. Play the violin and sometimes dance. I also love and hug my husband , my children, my Mum and Dad and the puppy dogs. I have a rich and beautiful life jam packed with love. More over, I am also able to give and care for those around me. Put my arms around the broken-hearted, and shelter them from life’s storms. Try to help them feel loved. Indeed, even in the face of all my health issues, I strongly feel that my time on the planet has only just begun, and couldn’t be about to end any time soon.

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But these are the words, the feelings, the fears, I carry on my shoulders like Atlas, because I don’t want anyone else to worry. I don’t want them to be afraid. I especially don’t want my kids growing up wondering when Mummy’s going to die. It’s much better to keep those thoughts to myself, although given my frequent coughing attacks, they must also have their doubts. I’ve been stuck gasping for air too many times and desperately holding onto that Ventolin for them not to be freaking out.

Yet, how long is a piece of string? No one knows. Not even those who think they know, get it right. Dying seems to be a very complex equation. Indeed, this week we saw death’s contrariness personified in the death of Stephen Hawking at 78 years of age, when he was supposed to die in his twenties.

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So, there is no crystal ball. You can’t predict when your number’s going to come up and to me, it’s all starting to look rather random.

So, what can we do?

I guess that’s where I thoroughly believe in Carpe Diem…Seize the Day. You need to be thankful for what’s going well and you do need to find an outlet, some way you can share those challenging days and emotions and know that your concerns will be taken seriously, respected and that someone will respond in exactly the way that is right for you…be it a hug, a bunch of flowers, a card, a poem.

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Now, I’m going to turn this around and throw the challenge back to you the bystander…”Speak even when your voice is shaking”. I have also been in the situation many times where someone I’m close to is sailing way too close to the wind.When  I know life is excruciatingly painful, and they could well pull the pin. Again, there seems to be no manual for what to say in this instance either. If you’re anything like me, you can get tied up in knots trying to think of the right thing to say. What to do. “I dunno!” Surely, something is better than nothing. A stutter or an awkward stumble, is better than silence.

In Australia, we have “R U OK Day”. This is a fantastic idea because it at least provides some kind of way to start that awkward conversation.

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That said, once we’ve asked the question, we need to be able to leave room for the consequences. Make sure we have enough time to listen. Moreover,  I believe most of us should have some basic understanding of how to handle a mental health crisis. Anyone of us could be that first responder and you’re not always in a position to call 000 or 911. I have been in this situation and I must admit that I had the peace of God around me at the time, because I am not a calm person.

As a parent of teenagers, this is a huge concern. Not just for me, but all parents of teens and all who love and care for them.

This takes me back to something Dolly Everitt’s Dad said:

“Be honest with your kids. If you can’t connect with them for whatever reason that may be, find someone that can. They’ll always have a mate they’ll always have a little buddy somewhere that knows more than mum and dad.”

– Tick Everitt

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So, I apologise that my thoughts have wandered but I don’t profess to have the answers. I just have the questions. Yet, I’m thinking. I’m trying to find a better way to handle my own hard yards, and also to reach out and be there for those within my sphere. After all, I’m only human. The rest is in God’s hands.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments, but if something is troubling you, I encourage you to turn to someone where you live who can truly be there for you.

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

PS You would think that by broadcasting my thoughts on the World Wide Web that those closest to me emotionally and also in proximity would also be the wiser. That they’d read my confessional on my blog and know what’s in my heart and mind. However, there is that cyber divide and my family rarely reads my blog. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if they knew a very different me, and for those of you who also blog extensively, that this is the same for you. This is important for us to keep in mind, just as it is for parents to be aware that they don’t know what they’re children are sharing online or how they’re being treated. There are two worlds.

More About the Photos

The photos which appear in this post were taken in August, 2011 in the Railway Park at Byron Bay, NSW. Byron Bay is a stunning coastal town with such amazing natural beauty, a striking lighthouse and since the 60s, it’s been a magnet for hippies and alternative lifestylers. People who are troubled, searching and potentially experiencing mental health issues go to Byron Bay to clear their head and yet their issues only follow.

We have taken our kids to the climbing tree whenever we’ve gone to Byron Bay to stay with Geoff’s sister and family. It is our home away from home. Or, at least it was when we could get away more often.

This climbing tree is rather special because it’s fallen on its side so kids can climb it easily and given the hippy vibe of the area, it’s not surprising that people tie scarves and ribbons in the tree. We’ve even found an empty milk crate suspended from a rope.

However, on two separate occasions many years apart, we met  a lady, Mama Dee who was painting the tables and chairs and decorating the tree as a tribute to local youth who had taken their lives. Indeed, her son had accidentally died in the park through an overdose of prescription drugs. She wanted to honour all these precious young people and also brighten up the park for children and make the place happy.

I hope her gift of love will also touch your hearts as it has moved mine.

 

A Stone In My Pocket – Friday Fictioneers.

This was it. I took a deep breath. The 23rd Psalm echoed in my head, and I recited the Lord’s Prayer. Not deeply religious and anything but devout, I still kept a toe in with the man upstairs just in case. However, as I stuffed the heavy stones down my shirt and stared into the lake, I wondered whether he’d accept I was repentant, even if I did commit the ultimate, unforgivable sin. However, it was a done deal. I’d left a note, blown my dosh. I closed my eyes….5,4,3,2,1…Geronimo.

Oops. Next time, I’ll find a deeper pond.

…..

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s photo prompt comes from  © Sandra Crook.

 

Starting High School’s Eve

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Tomorrow morning, our “baby girl” starts high school. While this is something we’ve been working towards for some time, I still have this sense of impending doom. That we’ve forgotten something. That we’ve forgotten something of earth-shattering significance. The sort of thing that crippling anxious nightmares are made of. Sleeping through the alarm. No uniform. No shoes. What about what’s for lunch, packing and actually eating it?

High school is going to be a piece of cake compared to getting out our front door and as much as I’ve hoped for the best and prepared for the worst, I have this awful sinking feeling, that we’re doomed. To quote someone very dear to me: “That we were born under an unlucky star”.

Indeed, perhaps there’s no point even getting out of bed, and we can try again next year.

Thank goodness my alter-ego pushed that anxious sod off her perch and confiscated her scrapbook of memories as well.

Of course, you can’t turn up at the high school gate with a swag of baby photos and snaps of firsts to share with the other parents…Mum’s Bragbook. OMG! Talk about taking uncool to such unprecedented heights, that even I who is eternally impervious to embarrassment, would be cringing in my boots forever more.

I could never show my face again.

That’s if I was still alive after such an escapade. If my daughter didn’t kill me, I’d have to kill myself…or lock myself up in a crate addressed to deepest darkest Africa, or even post myself to Mars.

I guess this also reminds me that Mummy’s not allowed to cry. Mum has to be strong. Smile, wave and not cling onto my little girl like a limpet trying to stop her from growing up and stepping out the front door without me.

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Our Son’s Starts High School Two Years Ago in 2016.

Really, tomorrow’s just another day and it’s not like we don’t know the place. No, her big brother’s paved the way and for better or worse, we’re known at the school. Our daughter hasn’t been going to school locally for the last two years, so hasn’t really been round the traps but she’ll know a lot of the kids from her last school and round about. She’s also in a selective dance class within the performing arts and will automaticlly land on her feet with a few extra moves thrown in just because she can.

So, of course, tomorrow is going to be fine.

 

This is the broken record that I should be playing over and over in my head instead of feeling crippled by this shapeless, formless, sense of impeding doom.

After all, we’ve crossed the i’s dotted the t’s and like a airline pilot, double-checked that the hatches are shut. (See I told you things were a bit skewiff around here.)

How hard can it be to get one kid around the corner?

Or should I say, how easy!

After all:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

footprints on the beach

I’ll be back tomorrow to let you know how it all went.

Fingers and toes crossed!

xx Rowena

 

Captain Clean – Friday Fictioneers.

“Mum and Dad built this place after the war,” Muriel said. “Lived in the garage, while they built the house.”

Captain Clean was very tempted to add that nothing had been thrown out since, but bit her tongue. Condescending self-righteousness never worked with hoarders. So, she stuck to the script.

“Keep or throw? Keep or throw?”                                                                                                                                                                     “There you are,” Muriel smiled.

Captain Clean screamed, bolted and drove away.

Muriel had finally found her spare set of teeth, playing hide & seek in her husband’s old shoes.

“I could’ve handled a dead body,” she told the psychologist. “But not false teeth.”

…….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter

xx Rowena

 

Love is… A Dog In Uniform.

Last night, I found out that my dog Lady has an online boyfriend. So, today I’ve been processing the ramifications, and am going into what’s known in professional circles as “Harm minimisation”, but in the real world as “going into damage control”.  Just like parenting your own kids, there’s no manual advising you on how to parent your dog either. Only an educated guess, gut feel and prayer.

While conventional wisdom recommends to “let sleeping dogs lie”, I’m discovering that these so-called “sleeping dogs”, aren’t sleeping after all. Rather, they’re like those enchanted toys. They come to life while we’re asleep, and then there’s mischief. Pure mischief.

While food theft has always been high on their list of misdemeanors, the most recent survey conducted by Naughty Dogs Research, shows clandestine cyber activity is rife.  Indeed, many dogs have become so tech savvy, that they’re accessing our lap tops while we sleep. Not only have they taken to writing on their parents’ blogs and posting selfies and vlogs, they’ve also turned to online dating. So, while I thought Lady was little more that a sleeping ball of black fluff curled up in her bed, she’s beeen hooking up with Gavel, the Queensland Governor’s dog. No longer content with Maltese Max, she’s punching well above her weight. Gavel’s official title is: “Vice-Regal Dog”.

Lady & Max

Lady chatting with Max online.

Obviously, like any responsible dog owner, I’m taking steps to reign Lady in. I’ve changed my password, and now keep my laptop in with us overnight. She has to be stopped. As I said, zero tolernace. I’m even thinking that I might need to catch up with the Governor over coffee, and just set up a few ground rules. After all, I doubt Gavel will be able to perform his Vice-Regal duties after staying up all night.

Anyway, this all came to light last night when I caught Lady in the act. A simple trip to the bathroom, and she quickly tried to do that alt-tab manoevre you do when the boss turns up. You know, how it works. You’re on Facebook, and quickly bring up some spreadsheet to cover your tracks. However, she wasn’t fast enough. So, thats’ when Lady being Lady, looks up at me with her ginormous puppy dog eyes and says: “But Mum! I couldn’t resist a dog in uniform! AND… like me, he’s ALMOST part of the Royal family.”

By this point, I was well and over all of her blue-blood talk. Indeed, I was sorely tempted to remind her that she’s a “Working Dog”, and that her grandmother was apparently a Blue Heeler. Nothing but a farm dog. That indeed, she is a mix, and NOT a pedigree.

BUT, as usual, I said nothing. I could hear my husband telling me that I’d catastrophized AGAIN. What’s so bad about two dogs talking over the net anyway? She’s desexed, and they can’t even share their fleas.

But, what would he know? Just because he’s an IT guru for a university, doesn’t mean he knows everything there is to know about the dangers of dogs talking over the Internet. While this Gavel seems squeaky clean, he could be TROUBLE. He could be one of these dangerous stalker types and he could arrange to meet up with her at a park or the beach and we’d never see her again. Not that I’m catastrophising. I’m troubleshotting instead. Forewarned is forearmed.

Anyway, not unsurprisingly, Lady wasn’t happy when I took away the laptop.  Like a fuming, exploding teen, she errupted: “You just don’t want me to have any friends. I hate you!”

Then, she delivered this dramatic monologue with all of Hamlet’s gravitas:

“Gavel and I met in an online chat room for dogs in distress. While you humans seem to think you’re the only ones who miss Bilbo (our Border collie who passed away a month ago), I miss him too. However, instead of being able to express my grief and talk things over with my mates at Dog Beach, I’m having to look after you lot, feeling like I’m about to snap in four, what with each of you fighting over who’s going to have me on their lap. That’s hard on a dog, especially one who’s spent her entire like wagging her tail, making people happy and having to disprove all those stereotypes of black dogs being the bearers of depression, anguish and angst.

“Gavel understands me. He was recently sacked from the Police force for being “too friendly”. While he now tells me that it’s worked out for the best, like me, he needed to grieve. Ooze out all the nasties and learn how to enjoy life again. Of course, he’s grateful that the Queensland Governor kept him on, and has recruited him as the Vice-Regal dog. However, he’s still coming to terms with the knock-back and was concerned that the Gov had only kept him to be nice. Anyway, he’s had time to get his head around it all now, and knows he’s better off. That it’s more of a case of dogs for different jobs, than being a dud. That he’s the master of the meet & greet, not concentration. Indeed, since they interviewed him online, “his story’s gone viral. He’s a star  and he’s promised to light up my star as well…just for a very affordable $1000 per month. I’m going to be famous.”

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What do you think? Am I wrong to be concerned, and take pre-emptive action?  Surely, that doesn’t mean I’m controlling? Treating her like she’s putty in my hands, which I can mould in any particular shape I like?

I don’t think so,  but clearly I have doubts!

Anyway, I almost forgot to mention that Lady’s been sending him postcards on our walks, sneaking them into the post box while she’s seemingly sniffing and I caught her posting this photo of herself, which she’d labelled as “My bed”.

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Lady caught sleeping on my son’s bed while he was at school. 

Who does she think she is? Soon, she’ll be angling for her own TV show. Or, better still he own movie: Love Is…A Dog In Uniform.

Meanwhile, I’m heading off to yoga, following my a massage and a huge piece of chocolate cake.

That’s what’s known as “self care”.

If your  dog has been up to any mischief lately, please dob them into the comments below.

xx Rowena

 

 

Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle…Friday Fictioneers

The train pulled into Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof. The knot in her stomach was now tied around her throat. She couldn’t breathe. Some huge, cosmic vacuum cleaner had sucked out all the air. There was nothing left. Anonymous, invisible, lost without being lost, her heart was churning like a clunky washing machine. Her mind was detergent. How could she fall in love now? With Europe at her feet, she needed a man like a fish needs a bicycle

“Mark, I’m in Heidelberg. I..I..I.”

Clunk. The coins devoured with gluttonous greed, he was gone.

Humph, turns out fish might need bicycles, after all!

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. This weeks photo prompt was kindly provided by © J Hardy Carroll. 

Weekly Smile… 17th July, 2017.

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

Mother Teresa

Any motivational guru will tell you, that when you least feel like smiling, is just the time to get out there are find something, anything to smile about.

It’s  mid-Winter here and we recently lost our older dog, Bilbo and to be perfectly honest, I just feel like hibernating. Not so much because I’m feeling depressed. It’s simply my response to the cold. In much of Australia, our houses are not designed for the cold and since we only need the heater on for about a month a year, I tend to tough it out until my fingers and toes are numb. There’s no central heating. So, while the winters aren’t as cold as other places, inside the house could well be much worse.

I’ve had quite a few things, which have made me smile this week. To read the extended version, you can refer back to my Coffee Share Post

The biggest smile I had this week, was watching my son performing in the Gang Show. The Gang Show is a variety show put on by scouts and guides and it was a real delight to see him smiling throughout the entire performance. He danced and acted well too, and I really admire his commitment to rehearsing for something like 4 months. It’s been a big effort.

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”

-Doris Day

Our surviving dog, Lady, has also brought me many smiles and much love particularly since Bilbo passed away. I’ve never seen such a happy dog. She wags her tail like crazy, and her entire body quivers with excitement. Naturally, that has to cheer you up!!

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Lady with the kids leading her astray. She’s not allowed up to the table. 

Lady spreads so much happiness, that I’ve been thinking of using her as a therapy dog. However, I looked up the stringent requirements, and suspect we’re a bit too laissez-faire. Lady doesn’t always come when she’s called and I also found out that being  “portly”, can lead to rejection as well. Not to be deterred, I noticed how much joy she brings to people simply walking down the street, and thought that could be our thing. That we don’t need to be part of a program or strut our stuff to share her zest for life with people who need it most. We can think global and walk local.

“People leave imprints on our lives, shaping who we become in much the same way that a symbol is pressed into the page of a book to tell you who it comes from. Dogs, however, leave paw prints on our lives and our souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.”
― Ashly Lorenzana

Bilbo and paw prints

No paw dipping for Bilbo. He stayed well clear of the water…and the other dogs for that matter. He’s the canine equivalent of a bloke standing alone holding his beer in the corner at the pub.

If you would like to read more about the mood-boosting power of dogs, this article is very comprehensive.

If you have a dog, how do they help you smile?

The Weekly Smile is hosted by Trent McDonald at  Trent’s World and you can join in the link-up here.

xx Rowena