With Suicide Prevention Week coming up in September (usually on my birthday ironically), I always reflect on not only what progress I've made since my two experiences with suicide and suicidal depression, but on progress the world around us is making toward helping those who genuinely feel like it would be a better place without them.
I had a rough morning - my version of rough anyway. Then everywhere I turned there was what seemed like unrelenting negativity. The radio was talking about Trumps latest insults, the news had one soul undermining headline after another (my friend Fiona calls is 'misledia') and my brain went into a spiral of What's the point?! Maybe I could let my family know that even though I'm happy and content, I just don't see any progress happening anytime soon so would it be OK with you if I check out? Nothing personal.
In the past, when I used addictions to salve my wounded soul, I would have reached for a pipe or a bottle, but today my news feed reached out to me and gave me this video and it reminded me of the humanity of love. My point being it's not about the video - it's about what I found comfort in.
I have a lot to say. I've overcome depression and multiple addictions by myself but I still hadn't felt worthy of commenting. But when I compare what I have to say with what so many others have to say, I realised I just have to get over myself. My words are of strength and overcoming adversity. Who doesn't need those kinds of words?
So, this page, that has been passive is about to get a bit more vocal. If your attention span doesn't do 'soliloquy', I'll understand if you don't come back.
But like anybody else, your comments, likes and feedback will be my fuel and the more you give, the more I'll give back.
This is me Pimping My Attitude and you're heartily welcome to join me...
I became the Gaijin Henro just before my 40th birthday and now my fiftieth is coming up but I just don't think I've really given the experience the respect it deserves. I've talked about parts of it in depth with maybe 5 people. It's been forgetable fun fact slipped in between sips to 40ish people in the last 10 years. And I wrote a blog/book who 4 people to my knowledge have read (I feel like I'm exaggerating) that's been tucked away in googles dusty basement for 9 and a half of those.
So I put my out-of-shape pilgrim on notice that she may be in for some spectacular terrain, then bravely sent this email...
Hi RNZ Team
It's 10 years ago this month that I started and, despite myself, completed a pilgrimage around the 88 temples of Shikoku in Japan.
Info links here and here.
I won't bore you with the preamble of why I did it etc - you can read about it here.
Why I'm contacting you is because I feel driven to share what I've learnt in the 10 years since.
How the pilgrimage still affects me, how it improved my mental health, how it still informs some of my decisions to this day then ultimately, my now deep understanding of the life-affirming impact of 'rites of passage'.
If you were to ask what my agenda was for contacting you (and believe me, I'm shaking even as I write this so it's not about ego), I would say that it's only ever and always to share stories of weakness/strength and courage for the sole purpose of empowerment (especially toward youth).
After leaving my husband and children to overcome an OCD of self-harm and suicidal depression, only to add some more addictions to my repertoire, I was finally able to overcome them all through developing my own techniques.
It took 10 years, and the pilgrimage, but I've been everything free for 7-8 years now.
Despite my preferred state of flying under the radar, lately I've been feeling extremely irresponsible not sharing what I've learnt so I'm challenging my remaining fears in contacting you. I've done a lot of public speaking (as a JP) so I have no issues with the actual talking bit, I've just never talked about myself to an audience.
I'll understand if you choose to pass on chatting to me and have no attachment to the outcome of this email but if I was going to step out into this world of sharing, having listened to the RNZ family for so many years, I'd want to do it with you first and the pilgrimage feels like a good place to start.
It's 10 years ago this week that I started this epic adventure that I still can't believe I completed. The effects continue to be profound and have given me a real insight into rites of passage and how important they are.
What can you do/are you about to do/have done that challenges everything you thought you knew about yourself?
I thought I was weak, cowardly and had no discipline. Turns out I was deluded.
I can feel a new adventure brewing and despite being so private and reclusive, I get a sense there will be lots of talking. But this time I'm excited to see what delusions I'll be forced to accept.
And here's the ace up my sleeve. When I packed for the 1,500km pilgrimage and the backpack brought me to my knees, I halved the weight by taking out all the expectations...
After another a hairy scary week with my Father, my Aunty Adrienne flew up from Levin to support us and my oldest friend Ross drove up from Cambridge to entertain me. Today Father was up sitting in a chair so I left Aunty, and Ross and I went to Father Teds just off Queen St to play pool. The extra 6 ball that may have left with us in my bag and the number 6 playing card I found on the Grafton Bridge will always be my reminders of this traumatic yet triumphant experience. I've been ambivalent about technology for a while but I'm not sure if I'd have coped so well without the momentary bond it helped create through group texts and phone calls with so many different people with one thing in common...love and respect for this spectacular man xxx
Hoping that the tube about to go down my father, Tex Eric Schwass, throat doesn't show bad news about the massive cyst on his liver and that Ward 4a, Room 11, where he is, doesn't become his new home...
I'm not sure that these words are going to translate the gratitude that wells in my chest every time I visualise you and re-feel your presence and kindness...
This job was the hardest role I've ever had in my 30 years of working. Even managing 90 fickle cleaners for a year, three quarters of whom made it clear they didn't like me from Minute One was a Princess Fiona themed party compared to this. You know what I'm talking about. Everyone on the production would know what I'm talking about. And that's what made it bearable - knowing that every single person involved in the production was struggling as much as I was. But I won't go into the details for obvious reasons.
What I do want to share is the way you not only got me through it, but helped me to heal from it.
The first time we met, we'd been emailing and by then I knew who you were but you'd never seen me yet the second we came face to face yours exploded into a mosaic of smiles and you lunged toward me, wrapping your arms around me with a hug I could have lived in for the rest of my life. And from that day, our greetings were almost always the same.
We didn't get to chat much but whenever we did, I felt like you weren't just listening to my words - you heard everything I wasn't saying and saw deeper than anyone had bothered to look. Seeing me reflected in your eyes reminded me of who I was and not who I was worried that I was becoming.
Towards the end I felt infected by my surroundings and I was scared I would never get rid of the layer of smelly behaviour that I was forced to soak in each day, then you gave me the perfect gift. Some Weleda Body Wash. Each night I would come home to my apartment, literally stripping off my clothes from the door to get in the shower as soon as I could - using the body wash to cleanse away the days cloying emotional corruption as if my souls salvation depended on it.
We all made it home from location, battered and bone weary.
By now my body and mind were starting to shut down to the point that I was unable to talk to anyone and just kept my headphones on to avoid any interactions. I was in an office full of people yet never felt so isolated. We were so close to the end yet those last few weeks felt interminable and I felt depression creeping into the gaping wounds in my mind.
Your role had essentially finished so I didn't see you much but you promised to come and say goodbye so when I came back to my desk one morning, I knew the gifts of two bars of chocolate, a card and some lavender were from you. I called the chocolate lunch that day but the card...that card became bandage and salve...
I got home from my last ugly day, to more ugliness in my inbox. I kept reminding myself that They couldn't hurt me anymore, that I was free and immediately deleted everything associated with the role, including the website I'd taken weeks to make. I then wandered forlornly around my house almost hyperventilating with both distress and relief. I slowly unpacked everything I'd bought home, rolling all the events, interactions and words over and over in my mind until I'd almost convinced myself that I was unworthy of the few friendships that I had, and that I'd done such a bad job of my role that I'd never work again.
Then I unpacked your card.
I related immediately to the woman on the front. To me she looked emotionally devoid. But when I turned it over and reread the words you had written on the back I sobbed, saying out loud "This may just be enough to heal me!". Then I clutched that card to my chest for the rest of the afternoon, rereading it every time clouds of doubt threatened and when I was finally able to let it go, I tucked it up in my bathroom mirror so just the sight of it could build on the strength that was seeping back in to me.
So, all of this to say you made a difference. What, to you, might have been small tokens of appreciation were my salvation. They've also taught me not to underestimate the immense power a spontaneous kind word or small gift might have. You weren't to know what was going on in my head and heart and even though all that I've shared here might seem melodramatic and even pathetic to some, it was my reality at the time.
It's only been a week since I walked out that door for the last time without even saying goodbye to those around me and already I've been contacted about three different roles. Also, my friends have been lining up to see me, all helping me to morph back into my strong, positive, happy Self.
The words Thank You don't even come close to the cuff of your jeans. You might never read this and I'll probably never see you again but I had to share the impact you had on my life while you were part of it and to tell you that you are the only memory I chose to keep from this experience...
This person, mind, work environment, attitude doesn't feel like it's from the same planet, let alone the same skin, as a week ago!
Last Friday night I'd got to the end of my patience with fractious personalities and told the accountant he needed to start looking for someone to replace me then I spent all weekend recuperating from the frustration and disappointment. My back was really sore, my shoulder was tense and my mind was verging on troubled but by Sunday afternoon, I was ready to face it all again. I told myself that a) this was clearly a lesson in 'toughening up' and b) just get through each day, which inevitably will lead to weeks, then the end of the project.
So I got to work on Monday where it was frosty outside and in but I felt so much better and cheerfully resumed where I'd left off. We had some breakthroughs during the week so that by Friday I was starting to feel the bliss I'm used to when doing what feels right and good. There are a few things that might have contributed to this turn around...finding out I couldn't be replaced (appealing to my ego), the payroll software finally working (appealing to my inner geek), others around me having a worse time than me for a change (appealing to my need to feel and show compassion), people finally treating me like part of the team (my need for acceptance) or it might have just been the new magnesium pills - whatever it was, there was no more mention of my leaving and I happily had my head down all week making huge progress.
I have to admit this riding the wave of adversity gig is all new for me.
My pattern in the past has always been toward flight rather than to sit it out and see what happens but having my dear friend Jim staying for the week was so helpful. Someone who knows me well, believes in me and my abilities, has no connection to (or fascination btw for) my work and despite how much flying around the world he does, two feet firmly planted on whatever surface happens to be beneath him at the time.
After relaying the extremes of being a happy hermit with 27 hours in every day to fill with creativity, to a frantic maniac with 27 seconds to eat if it personally presents itself at my desk, he said a few magic words that knocked me sideways with their perfect timing...
"It sounds like you just need to find the middle way..."
So the Middle Way has become my daily destination of choice.
It's not flashy but it's functional and I think this perfectly describes where I've got to in my life.
My ego has come to terms with not 'being somebody' and my obsessive compulsive side is happy that it gets to put its 'efficient' tendencies toward work each day. And rather than feeling irresponsible for having overcome all that I have and not sharing the techniques with the world in the hope that even one person might choose life , I'm seeing that it's OK to just focus on keeping my own backyard in order.
Suicidal Depression can make one narcissistic but that's because everyday you're having to focus on just yourself, doing whatever it takes to survive through the day. So this left over narcissism combined with not feeling worthy of anyone's love meant I'd largely kept to myself for most of my life. This past year has shown me how much people genuinely care about me so my backyard has grown to include them. One of the biggest pleasures I'm getting from being monied again is being able to ring them regularly, buy treats or occasionally slip a sneaky little something into their bank accounts.
This support and loyalty has had a profound effect on me, my view of myself and those around me and of all the wonderful things I've learnt, the change of attitude and love and commitment toward these people has been the most important.
I can't thank you enough for being silently in the background each day while I tried to make sense of everything that was happening (or not happening). You might not have said anything but knowing you were there was enough and kept me focused.
As well as my dear friends and family who kept in close contact, fed and financed me through this period, I want to give special thanks to Norma, Nalan and Brenda for sending me such encouraging comments that I dined on for weeks.
Love to you and yours and thanks again...
Because this period of sharing started with a list...
What was helpful
What surprised me most
What I'm looking forward to most
What I would do next time
And why did I stay in my expensive apartment?
The most practical reasons first...
It took me a year to find this beautiful, earthy 'loft' and when I moved in, I was debt free and earning more than enough to cover the rent. I hadn't had my possessions around me for a few years so I also felt safe and secure with warmth, depth and history being reflected back at me everywhere I turned. I never had one doubt that this was just a phase and knew I would have deeply regretted giving in to a temporary money shortage as a reason for moving out. I'm aware that my actions send a message to my subconscious of what I really believe and even though I've been poor this past year, I never even considered that my situation wouldn't improve.
Also - I picked up pretty quickly that it was to be my work place - that it was to take me to a new experiential level of compassion. I've only told you about the external aspects of what I've been going through but I've been doing a lifetime of essential internal spring cleaning and ultimately, this has been the most valuable outcome of this whole experience. I'll always think of this time as Spiritual Bootcamp and be forever grateful I was given the opportunity to go through it and in such conspiring and supportive surroundings.
I've got a suspicion this past year has had a profound effect on my future...
I never used to get that term, but I do now...
With an unpredictable pantry, every few months when I do get a treat like chippies, the flavour and texture are so intensified that in the name of making them last as long as I can, I only put a few in my mouth, chew slowly, locate which part of the tongue they're stimulating then breath in the flavours as I swallow. And in an ongoing mission to control eating like I might never get a chance again, this has also been a perfect teacher of discipline. Because I don't know when I'm going to get more and because I just so want to appreciate every mouthful, as soon as the flavour becomes less intense, I put them away till next time.
I haven't made bread for at least 20 years so, in an honest attempt at a more predictable pantry, I gave it a go tonight.
I printed out some recipes, wrangled the Close Enough ingredients and got kneading.
I soon realised it was my kind of Sunday night.
I had a funny-enough movie on that I could watch easily from the kitchen and the oven was on behind me so I was warm, entertained and creating.
Because everyone on the website where I got the recipe from seems to share their 'loafies', when mine came out of the oven, I automatically went to get my camera. It was when I was taking these photo's that I suddenly thought "Ohhhh right - food porn - now I get it!" then to distract my mind from the inevitable phrase for said photo's that could stick in all the worst ways, I started looking around for the bread knife.
I first read the term Mindful Cooking in Dan Millman's - Way of the Peaceful Warrior and it was the only miracle I could come up with as to why those loaves looked so perfect to me. In fact (this is where it gets weird), I was so fond of them that, at first, I came over all mothery and found it hard to make the first incision.
They were so fresh and warm and...co-joined.
If you had to tenderly pull apart their little bodies, you would have had trouble slicing them open too.
This first cut was the creepiest but once I lathered butter on the slice and tasted it, with eyes rolling back in my head, I tuned out the noises I was making and went into a zone. I only have maybe one vague memory of hearing myself demand more cake, but only zoned back in reluctantly when I was into the fourth cut and a voice said "OK, E - remember the discipline thing?" and it was right. Not only had the flavour diminshed, my tongue had started focusing on the sugar and we all know that slope never gets any less slippery.
I didn't need to be warned twice. I knew exactly what I had to do...
Thursday is always D Day for the elusive $90 for my rent.
I don't stress about it but I can never relax until I know I have it.
My generous dear friend Shelley has been putting $15 in my account for the past month. She intends it for food of course but this week she gave me $25 so $5 went toward my weekly phone top up and $20 toward my rent, which meant only finding $70.
This week, I just couldn't ask my Father again. In fact, I couldn't ask any of my nearests and dearests because they've all been so giving so, in desperation, I made a sign, saved it as 'Risk#1' pulled out my last few business cards, layered myself with every warm thing I could then set off to go beg.
The decision where to go was easy.
Having a rampant imagination and knowing that I look far from poor, the thought of becoming the next "Look At This Loser" Youtube sensation (even if what I was wearing could be loosely spun as Homeless Couture) made me feel nauseous so anywhere near the swarm of commuters rushing home was not where I wanted to be!
The waterfront has always been my place of peace and grounding so it felt like the only place safe enough to be that vulnerable.
As I walked along I said to myself "Just do it for 8 minutes (steps) this time then next time you might be able to get to 15". I wasn't sure where to stop and I hadn't figured in how quickly it gets dark and there weren't as many people as I expected so I was fast losing the minutiae of confidence I had.
The Hikitea is a small ship slash floating crane that does maritime work around the ports of Wellington. It's always docked on the corner by Te Papa and I'm quite fond of it because my brother used to work on it so I gave myself till the Hikitea to make up my mind. I then remembered that my brother was now home from his rig job in Oman and wondered if he might be able to lend me $70. I remember saying to myself "I wonder if Paul could save me?" (from begging). He's always been outrageously generous to me but I stopped asking for any form of help the minute he met his now wife and became a family man. But I also knew he'd be horrified if he found out I was about to beg so I walked past the Hikitea, sat on one of the many seats and called him.
He answered and straight away I got the sense he was really tired. We chatted for ages (for us) but in the end, I just couldn't do it. After saying I love yous and goodbyes, and it now being too dark for anyone to read my sign from a distance, I rang my Dad and with shaky voice, asked if I could borrow $70 this week. Of course he said yes.
With relief but still feeling vulnerable, I gathered some stones then put them around the edge of the sign which I left on the seat where I'd been sitting and after putting the few business cards on top I walked away.
I've always given what I can and engaged with Street Brokers but now I had a new appreciation for just how hard it was to even be there. Small things like do you stand or sit? Do you look people in the eye as they walk past, possibly making them uncomfortable or is that the only way they'll feel compelled to give? What if one stops to talk to you? How do you explain your situation? What if one was to offer you a job?! And the most awkward scenario - what if someone recognises you? Not to mention being cold and hungry, which I'd now become. Even though I barely scratched the surface, I was suddenly really thankful that I'd been through this experience and somehow felt like a better person for it.
The next day I had just got up when I got a call from my gorgeous colleague and friend Adrianne to see if she could put me forward for an accounts role in a film.
Suddenly I came over all deja vu.
I'd been through this situation before.
I'd gone right up to the cliff edge of desperation then, in a moment of clarity, stepped back from it only to be rewarded soon after. It's almost like forcing the Universes hand.
And you know how I say "When it's right, it just gets righter!"
When I got more information later in the morning, I saw that the accountant was a guy I'd worked with briefly on The Hobbit and we really liked each other and he said as much to Adrianne.
I'm not sure that my future's looking bright enough to take off my sunglasses just yet, but this is a new piece of information that will make asking my Father for $90 next week slightly less painful.
Years ago I was working amongst the shipping area of the waterfront. To get to the building I would have to walk along a long dreary stretch of concrete that felt like a never ending trail of asphalt so I made up a game. I would see how many steps I could take with my eyes closed. Have you ever tried that? It. Is. Freaky!
The most I could ever go was 8 steps but after I'd moved on from that job, I continued the experiment and 15 steps had been the farthest I could go.
This last weekend was sunny and it would have been immoral of me not to go out into it so I headed out for a walk along the waterfront. As I got closer to the train station I decided instead to go up some steps I'd never explored that I knew lead to the Stadium. At the top were wide, empty pastures of concrete concourse and you know where I'm going with this right?
15. Easy peasy.
20. Was getting a bit nervous but still felt like a huge achievement.
Then I got to the widest part of the concourse and started getting a bit clever and working with my brain. With my eyes open, I took 10 steps then looked back how far that was. I went back to the start again then looked ahead of me. I was then able to calculate that the nearest obstacle in any direction was at least 40 steps away - so even if I went wildly off course, I still had 40 paces before I needed to open my eyes but there was room to go 300 or more.
I can only imagine how this process might have looked.
I walked back to the very beginning, did some side steps to get dead centre, hesitated as I took a deep breath then closed my eyes and set off walking.
I only got to 20 steps before screaming to a halt because a shadow crossed my eyes and it gave me a fright.
I went back to the start again, factored in all the shadows and when to expect them and set off again.
Once I got to 25-30, my minds eye got all matrixy and was erecting fences all around me but I kept reassuring myself that I knew there were no obstacles and to keep going.
I ended up walking a whole 50 paces with my eyes closed yet it was the surreal aspect of pushing through the images my mind was creating that overshadowed the achievement and became my new favourite metaphor for the barriers our mind creates for us.
I kept on with my stroll and came down on the waterfront side of the motorway - coincidentally to the first piece of asphalt where this all started. I wandered around the buildings taking images then went back the way I'd come. I needed to go to the bathroom and even though I wasn't far from home, I wasn't ready to end my walk so I looked around for how to get down to the railway station.
I could see ramps going down to the platforms but the gates at the top of these ramps said Access Closed. After looking around me and feeling a bit mischievous and stealth like, I headed toward them anyway.
I had to stop myself from laughing out loud when I saw that the signs were actually on open gates! My mind had stopped at the signs and had already decided it wasn't allowed to go any further and it was only because I was in an adventurous mood to find a necessary bathroom that I kept going.
It felt like I was being taught a valuable lesson about what games the mind plays that it might see as fun but we don't even question. Now that I'm on to it, I'll be interested to see how this new realisation unfolds in the next while.
At the bottom of the ramp, I was taken by the Japanese-like beauty of the entry to the platform. It reminded me of the Torii I was so fond of that were at the entry to every temple. This is the sort of imagery that puts me on high alert for something significant but over the years I've learnt to take note but not make it into anything it isn't.
As I got closer to the quiet station, my mind, knowing it was being watched, decided to show me something that wasn't tricksy. There were no less than 6 trains, all lined up on standby with not a soul around them.
Then quietly it said "They're all waiting for you. You just have to decide what direction you want to go..."
You know how I'm this weirdo who's always hinting that she's an overachiever at Getting Over Addictions And Mental Illness? Well I just realised that over the past year I've been working on and overcome an addiction I didn't even know I had.
I've already bored you enough with wah-wah money stuff but what I spend it on when I get it has taken on whole new priorities.
Some of the changes, however, have been ironically so much better for the environment. I don't know if I'll ever be as efficient as Meliors who's carbon footprint is so small she could accidentally feed it to her beloved chickens if she wasn't careful but through necessity, I've changed some of my own eco awareness processes that have now become habit.
I feel this eerie sense of being in a period of calm before a (life-changing pleasant) storm so I wanted to share a few of them with you for two reasons...One: When money does start flowing again, I want you to know my intentions for it so there are no surprises and Two: I want to have this record to remind myself if I'm tempted by bright shiny sparkly NEW things. The biggest aspect of getting through an addiction is having faith that you're going to be alright and that you'll make the right decision when you're faced with temptation. This list will help me make the right decision when tempted...
I will always try to be as environmentally conscious as I can but my commitment is to either Recycling/Reusing or Converting.
The thought process in the shower when I had this realisation went like this...
I want to never have to worry about money...actually...apart from finding the $90 each week for balance of rent, I'm already not worried about money!
So the last point is that if and when I'm anyone worth anything, all I'll ask is that my expenses are paid for me (ie: I don't have to worry about them). Just between you and me, I've learnt a valuable lesson from this set up...the arrangements other people make for me give me a clue to how they perceive me and/or my value to them - which has nothing to do with money of course.
An example is my dear friend John Washington.
I met him at a Hari Krishna meal. He'd been sleeping outdoors so I offered for him to stay a few nights on my couch while my flatmate was away. He was the most respectful, considerate, humble house guest I'd ever had. He'd been in the reserves and patiently taught me how to roll my clothes up when I pack them to reduce creasing and space. He was so grateful to have a few nights indoors that I was surprised and thrilled when he insisted that he treat me to dinner in town. He stated a time that I thought meant a booking so we walked into town to get there early. As we got closer to the building I could see he was really proud to be with me. His chest was puffed up and he nodded and said hello to everyone as he opened the doors for me, lead me in then pulled out my chair. As we looked around, we saw that the other diners were already eating then John looked back at me and said with such pride "You don't get good meals like this at those other fancy restaurants now do you?!"
We were at the Soup Kitchen and he was right. I couldn't think of anywhere where we would have been able to get such delicious soup then sausages, mashed potatoes, peas and gravy for dinner.
As he gathered our empty plates to take them up to the kitchen, he leaned over and with glee in his eyes, whispered "And there's even dessert!"
The whole meal cost him $2 and I felt like I'd been treated like a princess.
My situation hasn't improved yet but because my need to show gratitude for your support overrides my need for money, here's my gift to you...it's probably only worth $2 but it feels like the most precious thing I have to give right now...
I know you might not get it and even if you do, it's not going to change your life but all I ask is that if you have a reaction to any of it - good, bad or ambivalent - please share it with me...
Over the years I'd struggled with accepting my body so, on top of depression, the OCD and my upbringing, I had multiple body dysmorphic addictions I had to work through too.
Sores. Scars. Small breasts. Puffy knees. No ankles. Crooked nose. Crooked teeth. (Fortunately the latter two lined up perfectly ;-)
They don't sound much to anyone else but they justified the Ugly label I'd been given and were all I could see when I looked at myself in the mirror. In fact, I saw and thought of myself as the Elephant Woman for many years.
I know that seems hard to imagine now but the plus side of not being classically attractive is that it seemed to serve as protection from predators as a child and my loss of innocence was able to happen in a natural way that I had control over.
When I finished at The Hobbit I was 65kgs but most of it was from access to an abundant supply of chocolate. At my thinnest during this most recent period of financial lack as well as appetite inhibiting medication, I was only 53kgs and my bones seemed to catch on doors and benches and furniture and people found it uncomfortable to hug me, often commenting on my boniness. I've always been slim - I put it down to being told to 'go and play outside' as kids and even when I do put on weight, being tall, it's always just blended in rather than protruding out like those with shorter frames experience. But I was surprised to find that 53kgs was too slim. I wasn't comfortable at all and I'd lost my beloved butt. It was like a balloon that had been popped and I wrote "My butt is an inconsolable ice-cream sliding down the back of my legs". When I was growing up dealing with the Ugly stick, I'd always said to myself 'Oh well - at least I have my butt!' and I admit that it's recent deflation did take some of my mojo with it.
With the delicious and sustaining food that Meliors and Julie have been feeding me, I went up to just under 60kgs and guess what?! I liked it. I love having a (relative to me) fuller figure. When I look in the mirror, I don't see the fullness of my facial features, the pouff of my stomach, my thicker thighs or the rounding of my hips. Instead all I see is the femininity of my upper body (just like the differences in the images above), and I got my butt back! Even when I'm walking, I love feeling the substance of my thighs and I suspect the padding is helping my arm feel better too. What's most reassuring is that the food I've been fed is mostly organic and super wholesome so, if this is how my body is reacting, why would I see it as a problem to be managed?
For the first time in my life I feel feminine. Not in a BFFs-painting-each-others-nails way but in a rubinesque-pioneer-woman way. Because of my fortunate metabolism I'll never be overweight and I feel deeply for those who struggle with any form of weight issues (be it over or under) but I'm just so happy to be free of the burden of feeling like I have to be any other way but the way I am on any given day.
Side note: As I hit publish, a thought crossed my mind...how much of this newfound appreciation of my filled out body is due to having no influence from the media? I've been social media, Google and tabloid free for over six months now and I'd be curious to know if that's having a subconscious effect?
One of the many skills that I learnt from watching my Mother is to not speak when you have nothing to say. We were two females in amongst a male dominated community. We were happy to let the menfolk do their thing because we were able to get on with ours. We were quite capable of looking after ourselves and our needs, so the occasional time either of us would say we needed something to be bought, moved or cleaned up, it was done. Because the menfolk knew that if we could do it, we would have, they also knew that if we were asking, it would be because we couldn't.
There was never any nagging, fuss or arguments.
When I first started writing my way out of the mess that I felt taken hostage by, I didn't think anyone but me would actually be reading it. I certainly never imagined that you'd check back every few days. Most of the time I know that I'm worthy and that people care about me and because I care about you, I should have prepared you that I'll only write when I've got something to say.
I'm also a NOW girl.
Whoever's in front of me gets all of my attention.
This week I've been privileged to give all of my attention (and words) to Julie so I didn't want to write because I didn't want to miss one second with her. And because it was such a profound week, it's also impossible to put into words and words I never want to feel I have to force. As I've said before, Brand E is Bullet Point One about integrity and I never want to write words that don't mean anything to me because it would be an insult to your interest and/or caring. It would become like nagging where you would eventually switch off.
So maybe check back once a fortnight, or even each month.
If I've been productive you'll get a pleasant surprise.
If I haven't, you can be sure I'm immersed in my own pleasant surprise and I'll probably share the high/lowlights with you when I can...
I've been thinking a lot about this since my son broke the news of her death to me the other night.
The reality is that people don't visit depressed people because it seems futile. No matter what a well meaning supporter says or tries to do, a depressed person will have 37 reasons why nothing and no-one can help. We tell our depressed friend that we'll be there for them but it's very rare for a depressed person to reach out. When they do, it's often both manic and short lived with no long term positive effect.
I also had to ask myself if it would have made any difference to my state to have people offer me support when I had suicidal depression and unfortunately I know that I would have used those same 37 reasons to fend them off. For me, I learnt that depression was an addiction and when I was suffering, I was only open to whatever fueled it to justify and verify my state.
There are two aspects about bullying that no-one talks about.
First is that bully's are clearly suffering too.
Second is that so many of us bully ourselves mercilessly every single day.
Why is it that so many people are able to ignore bully's and why are there so many people that bully's never even think of attacking? I don't have the answer but I suspect it's to do with confidence.
In an ideal world, a movement would start where a bully is encouraged to make friends with their biggest target and show them how to protect themselves and tell them what makes them an easy/desirable target and how to avoid that. The bullied could in turn share how it's felt for them and what effect it's had.
I know I'm idealistic but it seems to me that the very act of bullying actually takes a lot of confidence (you never know who's going to fight back) so why can't we find a way of channeling that confidence in a pro-active way? And the bullied are often sensitive souls, why can't they be taught to apply that sensitivity to themselves. It seems this could have a profound effect ie: working on internal world to combat external world issues.
Buddhists say 'Life is suffering' but, and I'm just making this up, I suspect you never see a Buddhist in pain because they don't actually see the ebb and flow of life as either positive or negative - just as you never see a tree die when one of its branches falls off, or a herd of deer become depressed when one of them gets picked off by a predator, gun or vehicle.
In other words, like nature, shit happens but it's our reaction to it that causes us suffering, or not.
I was walking to WINZ this morning and thinking about the events of the past week. I've had my faith, commitment to my path and close relationships challenged but, while it's been stressful, I've bounced back not only unscathed but feeling even stronger than before.
This has been a revelation to me.
Even though my living circumstances aren't ideal at the moment, I essentially live in a cocoon where I avoid conflict or external challenges. And even though I'm in pain most days and struggling financially, I'm not getting any further into debt so, really, I'm living the easy life. But that's because that's how I choose to see it. As I've said before, the way my mind worked in the past I probably would have been admitted to a psyche ward by now.
This then lead me on to wondering about a friend of mine who's suffering. They're unhappy with both their professional and private lives and feel unable to do anything about either.
Suddenly I realised how lucky I am!
My friend whose pain is caused by things they're not passionate about, is just digging a one way hole deeper into a cave that's only taking them further away from their self. Whereas my suffering is about things I care passionately about so my pain is merely a tunnel that might get dark for a while but I'm lucky enough to come out the other side where I'm rewarded with the warmth of feeling closer and even more passionate about the things that mean so much to me.
Through leaving my children, a saying came to me that's in Little Peaces - When you do what's right for you, you're doing what's right for everyone around you. As painful as it was for my family when I left them, it was the right thing to do and later, in his own way, my ex-husband thanked me. And this is the pattern I've noticed since - that when you do do the right thing, things get better, never worse. You're rewarded for the courage it takes to make a stand on behalf of your self.
When I was tending my wounds a few nights ago and wondering what to do next, I looked back over the progress I'd made over these past few months, especially the realisation that I was 'finally 100%', and there was no way I could go back on that, on my self. So I did what was right for me and I feel humbled with the even deeper level of strength and support. But the real reward has been seeing for myself the value of embracing the scary and potentially painful places.
I've already learnt that laying solid foundations takes time and patience. But I'm now being shown that building something of value on top of them requires leaning into the risks and maybe the fact that I've been wearing my steel cap boots everywhere these past few months could be seen as a metaphor that I've been in the construction phase for a while now without even knowing it...
I haven't written for a few days.
I'm sure you're as bored as I am by my woes so I'll spare you the violin concerto of the 'whys' and just admit to having a crisis of faith as the 'what'.
I'd always actively disbelieved in God but over fifteen years ago, while surviving in a caravan park I had a dream. The sort I call a Telling Dream because it felt so real and significant...
The first night I met you I had no idea who you were. I climbed my way through the house, through the people, around the plants only to find I had to turn around and go back.
As I walked, bewildered, back down the hall, I saw you leaning casually, waiting for me.
Then as I came closer to you, you looked me in the eye and said something I will never forget.
“I’ve been watching you. I love you. I have something to tell you. You need to stick to the Path.”
I was overwhelmed by the love I could feel coming from you and I knew, without a doubt, that I would never meet anyone who would love me as much, and as unconditionally, as you did at that moment.
I knew this was God.
The Christians around me at the time explained that if I wanted to be in a relationship with him, I just needed to ask him into my heart, which I did, albeit petulantly. I then tried different religions but I couldn't align myself with them, the teachings, or the followers but God reassured me that he would be enough.
Ever since then, I've felt like I had a best friend with me constantly. Someone who's had my back as he held my hand, leading me gently out of the darkness. This relationship with God has been so intimate yet so private that even those closest to me will be surprised by it. It was him I begged for help and him I thanked when I got it and I'm sure that's why I've been single for so long - because his love was always been more than enough.
But over the past week I've become bone weary from the relentless struggle of the past 10 months.
Don't get me wrong - even when I'm lost, I'm still happy so this is not a 'cry for help', it's just a review of my belief system and whether I still feel supported by it. I'll never forget the food and funds generously donated by the caring people around me, and one or two have read these posts but essentially, I've felt like I'm on my own. That I need to move on and forget about my dreams of writing, speaking and helping people and just get a 'real job'. But worst of all, facing the possibility that maybe God was done with helping me. That even he had run out of resources and patience.
So over the weekend I moped around wondering how it would feel to separate from God and go it alone. Not consulting him in everything I did. Not chatting to him at night or in the shower and even getting rid of our playlists and favourite movies and books.
Then waking up this morning I never felt so alone as I wandered morosely into the kitchen to make my morning porridge and cup of tea before setting about fighting the days fires.
After getting off the phone with my kind ACC man who had launched into a new round of humbling helpfulness, I rang the bank to find out when my credit card payments would resume and sat slumped over, staring vacantly at my computer monitor while waiting to be connected to someone in the collections team. Then as I was put on hold, I was suddenly jolted back to reality when I realised that God was crooning reassuringly into my ear that everything was going to be alright and that he'd be there for me.
You can imagine the sense the nice lady got out of me when she finally answered!
And that's what real love is.
Even when you feel so destitute that you try to push those closest to you away, they don't budge.
They hold their ground with kindness, love and compassion and remind you, yet again, that nothing and no-one, not even you, can change how they feel about you.
Gods love for me is independent of me.
He doesn't need me to love or care for him, or even myself, in order to love and care for me.
He does it regardless - unconditionally and endlessly.
God's love is rogue and thankfully I have no control over it...
You'll very rarely see the words Warm and Character Home in the same sentence so, sitting around my character apartment all day every day writing, I really feel the cold and if anyone were to visit unannounced, I would probably answer the door wearing my old green bathrobe with a hot water bottle shoved down the front. (What's under the bathrobe will depend on whether the visit is to the left or right of midday). So today I got my brave on and texted the owner of the building to see if he would consider putting in a heat pump. Because his offices are right behind my apartment, and because he's so responsive and, in the past, has knocked on my door rather than text me back, I kept my bathrobe on but I did tidy up my hair, just in case.
Fortunately (for him) he called instead. As I anticipated, even though he agreed the place would benefit from a heat pump, it would need to wait till he won Lotto.
It took me a year of scouring the To Let ads daily to find this place. It's one of the pleasures that makes being unemployable enjoyable but it's not just the space, it's the people. The landlady runs a store downstairs and I sublet the upstairs apartment from her. Between her and the building owner, I couldn't have two more laid back yet respectful and thoughtful people who also work on either side of me so that I feel not only safe but it makes it impossible to become a complete hermit.
The building owner, as he always does, asked if I had found work. I admitted that I hadn't, because I couldn't do my usual work due to my sore arm, but that I was writing and had submitted a book of quotes to publishers. Naturally he asked what I write about and for want of a better explanation, and suspecting that the longer, more accurate answer wouldn't go with his morning coffee, I said that I would loosely call it 'philosophy'.
Earlier I'd been injecting myself with my daily dose of TED and stumbled on this fascinating talk on How To Spot A Liar. Now, brand E is about integrity and truth and I like to think that I'm one of the most honest people you'd ever meet, often to my detriment, but after watching the talk, I wandered around analysing myself to see how accurate that view was.
Being honest about my day to day ins and outs, feelings and emotions, history etc is really easy for me. It's one of the first skills I had to teach myself in order to be my own therapist all those years ago when I started peace negotiations with the depression that held me prisoner. I even have a see-through hand bag - that's how transparent I like to be.
But after my conversation with the building owner, I felt like I'd lied. Granted, it wasn't the time or medium, and I don't know him well enough to confess that I process overcoming mental illness and addictions etc, but it did make me realise that I'm going to need to develop a clear description for the next time, because it's not the first time in the past few weeks that I've been asked that question.
As a creative, I won't even lie eloquently, but I realised that I use my way with words to make the truth more comfortable for people to be in the same room with it so, according to Steve Jobs Seven Secrets To Success I just need to define my dream, write a twitter post sized job description, master that message then sell it as an insanely great experience.
I could be a while...
I had written till 1am so, although I can't get enough of writing, today I decided to have a different kind of fun. I have five planets in Virgo so I should warn you that 'fun' usually means getting some sort of order somewhere. Last month's fun was cleaning my whole house from top to bottom - literally - including all the beams and high up windowsills.
Earlier this week my internet service provider rang to find out how I was enjoying the United Arab Emirates because that's where I was apparently sending a lot of emails from ie: my account had been hacked, so, taking this as a warning, today's fun was changing every online password and updating my excel spreadsheet list of these logins.
You'd already worked out that I was a weirdo right?!
And because I'd written till 1am, the days excitement left me exhausted so I went for a nap.
As I was lying there tingling with the thrill of being alive and, more importantly, tidy, my mind turned to this weeks rent payment. Had I covered the weeks $90 shortfall between what I get for my benefit and the amount of my rent? I'd done some sewing for my wonderful landlady so I only had to find $15. And I had enough food for three days and an allocation of $50 food grant that I could get at the end of the week so the weekends food was covered too. Having worked this all out in my mind and feeling very taken care of, I started winding down but just as I was about to drift off, with a sudden intake of breath, my eyes flew open and my stomach lurched.
Exactly a year ago I was still working on The Hobbit and my children and I were about to leave for their graduation presents of a trip to the States and the Electronic Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. It was one of those trips where anything that could go wrong, did, horribly, almost comically, and what was meant to cost $4k hemorrhaged out to $7k. I'd been debt free for years and even though I had the cash in my bank, I reluctantly had to get a credit card to pay for the airfares online but I admit that it ended up being the saviour that finally got us home.
Fortunately, when the doodahs hit the fan earlier in the year, the bank was generous enough to put me on a minimum payment plan of $20 a week for 6 months before the full payments would resume.
The sudden rise of my heart rate was when I realised that that 6 months was almost up and that I was going to have to find $300 a month when the payments started again!
That was the abrupt end to any fantasies of a nano nap so I got up to start working out what I could do.
I'd already manifested every available cent from places I didn't even know existed just to get through the past 9 months and ACC had rung me yesterday to inform me they were turning down my claim so there was nothing to work out. I had zero options left.
Then, just as I was absorbing this, I got a rejection email from the second publisher.
I remember a time when this right here would have had me writhing on the floor in foetal position and wondering if I had enough pills to abort this life that clearly didn't want me. But back then I had suicidal depression, addictions, debt, nowhere to live, no-one to love and, worst of all, no belief in myself. I'd written a quote that's now in Little Peaces "It's disheartening to not believe in something and soul destroying when that something is you".
So today, rather than focus on what I owed the bank, I couldn't help but reflect on what I owed to God, the Universe and my family and friends who love me I'm-still-not-sure-why for how far I've come since then. After what I've been through, and survived, this is a mere stub of the toe and I can't explain the feeling of surreal calm. I've cleaned up my backyard. I've taken care of business. And I finally believe in myself. I've never felt more sure about my mission and will gladly pick the gravel out of my hands and knees each night if crawling on them is what it takes to get to the people I feel so driven to help.
You are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we will hold your hand
Hold your hand
Mumford & Sons
Pimp My Attitude
You need to know, right now, this is all about me. I'm not educated. I don't have any (non-driving related) qualifications therefore, I'm not about to tell you what you should do - I know my place.
And here you are.
At my place.
So - welcome.
If you're here for 10 seconds, I won't even know so I won't be offended that you left early.
If you're here for hours and keep coming back, I will consider you a friend because the only thing my diverse yet loyal friends have in common, and what I appreciate most about them, is that they just keep coming back..