Death, the community and life.

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Yesterday I took my Nana to a funeral, not only because I didn’t want her to attend alone, but because I wanted to do the right thing and pay my respects to both the fallen and her family. Not to compare anyone’s departure from this life as less significant than another’s, but this was a lady whose sudden passing sent shockwaves through the small community we call home. St Francis Xavier Church was packed to capacity in what could only be described as an outpouring of both grief and love, from everyone this woman had touched in her lifetime. From the immediate family and friends, to the students whom she had taught to respect the ivory keys of her first love – piano, to people like my Nana who simply knew her as a lady in her swimming class, the feeling in this house of God was palpable.

As I sat there listening to her children condense their mother’s life story into a heart warming yet brief tale, I felt oddly surreal. Standing before me were clearly devastated people, trying to come to terms with the completely unexpected exit of their mother. How do you go to sleep one day and wake up the next without your parent? How do you put aside all those dreams of introducing your own children one day to your mother? How do you suddenly go from being able to call her for advice from anything to cooking, washing and shitty colleagues, to having to pause for a second and wonder who you can call instead? These children of hers were incredible, having the strength to stand there in front of a packed Church and recount happy memories of times with their mother. Put aside their grief and try, try so hard to focus on the positives. It really made me stop and think about the uncertainty of life, and how important it is to cherish all those small insignificant moments. The nights spent inside cooking, laughing together and sharing a bottle of wine. The moments of frustration when you stub your toe, or your puppy chews another shoe. This is life, every single day that passes we are another step closer to our own exit from the world, and I sure as hell don’t want to miss a thing.

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Look after yourself first, and everything else will fall into place.

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I’ve just ordered what looks to be a fantastic memoir about a lawyer in New York who had a psychotic breakdown, convinced himself his life was being filmed as part of a TV show, and his subsequent journey through mental health rehabilitation (Gorilla and the Bird):

Book Trailer & Media

Why would I order such a book you might ask? Wouldn’t my usual taste for unsolved murder mysteries and espionage be enough? Well, I was incredibly moved by an excerpt from this mans memoir, as it was a startling reminder of how close I had become to being in the same position. When you’re experiencing various stressors in life and not taking control of anything, you very rapidly find yourself going from ‘busy’ to ‘on the brink of crazy’, and only significant changes to your lifestyle will get you back on track.

While I haven’t read the full memoir yet, I did gain an insight into this mans descent into what can only be described as hell on earth. Trying to reason with yourself when you’re not mentally healthy is hard enough, let alone trying to explain how you’re feeling to family and friends. All you want to do is hide in bed in a dark room, close your eyes and never have to face the world again. Every single thing – whether it’s cooking a meal, going for a drive or walking into an appointment, gives you anxiety and seems like a mammoth effort. I remember trying to stay calm in the middle of a shopping centre, focusing on moving one leg at a time until I was out in the fresh air. When you’re in the beginning stages of a panic attack, every single sound is amplified and makes the whole experience 10 times worse. Imagine you’re inside a water bottle, being tossed around a violent ocean… you’re dizzy, disorientated and terrified. Yep, I never want to go back to the dark place I was in for months – but what I do know is that change is possible, and you can regain your footing on the earth.

Hoping you all have a great week and find something to smile about 🙂

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Getting back on track when you just want to hide.

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Sometimes in life everything just gets a bit too much. Work commitments start building up, the usual family disagreements start frustrating you, and catching up with friends is the last thing on your mind. You just want to run into a secluded forest, set up a little tee-pee and spend the rest of your days wandering the river bank looking for flowers. Am I right, or am I right?

This last week I’ve had an excruciating neck injury which has prevented me from doing the simplest of tasks without stabbing pain. I’ve held back tears, said yes to things I knew would hurt, and smiled through the pain. Being unable to move your neck is certainly a slap in the face when you realise all the thing you’d taken for granted in the past, like bending over to pat your dog, or nodding in agreement with someone during a conversation. I’ve literally felt completely useless and quite honestly, like crying in bed with a heat pack all day long. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to be responsible for anything or held accountable for things, and I certainly haven’t felt like functioning in the real world. To put it simply, I’ve wanted to fast forward through the pain and recovery of this injury and get back to living my life. But things don’t always go to plan do they?

So how do we get back on track when shit hits the fan? How do we get up and go in the morning, put on a brave face and tackle the day to day duties of Life As An Adult (that thing we were all warned of in our more youthful times)? To be honest I’m still looking for that answer, that light bulb moment where everything falls into a place and I’m suddenly one of those super-humans who can conquer any adversity with class and charisma. What I do know however, is that we gotta keep trying. Sure – take some time out if you need it. Take a day off work, listen to what your body needs and don’t fight your gut instincts. But at the end of the day, pick yourself up again and remember that there is always sunshine after the rain. Storms will pass, skies will clear and you will smile again with authenticity 🙂

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How chance meetings can really open your eyes…

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Just this week I went to a remedial massage lady in my hometown for some back and neck relief, and the experience completely rattled me. That’s to say, it rattled me in a good way (and not in the ‘Oh they massaged my bottom and it felt really strange’ way). I had previously noticed her advertisement while in the same area a couple of weeks ago and put it to the back of my mind, but just the other day it popped up again and I thought ‘Why not’. I’d given everything from chiropractic, bowen therapy and acupuncture a go, I might as well try something new.

Well let me say, if you’re after complete silence in a massage treatment then this is not your lady. I had unknowingly signed myself up for an hour-long counselling session, a chat with a stranger that was completely unexpected but overwhelmingly therapeutic. I left this massage treatment feeling completely refreshed, both mentally and physically. I had been going to Chinese treatments for the past few months where the only words uttered were ‘Ooo you are tight’ and ‘This too hard miss?’, so experiencing a wonderful massage coupled with some words of wisdom went hand in hand (pun intended).

Now it just so happened that this particular lady is also studying to be an addiction counsellor, and although I felt guilty for expressing my concerns over a loved one struggling through their own form of substance abuse, getting it off my chest provided some much needed clarity. In fact this lovely lady who I’d only known for about 45 minutes at this point, was able to give me some sound advice for helping my loved one, or at least trying to. Isn’t it amazing how crossing paths with someone can provide you with exactly what you were (unknowingly) looking for? I’m so grateful for that one hour session, not only for the benefits of the massage itself, but for the mental relief and unburdening of my thoughts. Opening up to people can be intimidating, but try to remember at the end of it all – we’re only human, and we were built to connect.

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Why bottling things up hurts nobody but yourself.

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This last week I’ve felt a significant weight lift of my shoulders, and you know why? Because I’ve TALKED to people. I’ve opened up about how I’m feeling to a few trusted sources, and regarding a few different things in my life, and it feels GOOD. As someone who is most definitely an introvert, and who enjoys solitary activities like writing, reading and listening to ‘depressing’ music, opening up to people doesn’t really come naturally. Sure, I might come across as an open book sometimes because when I’m feeling nervous I tend to overshare – but usually about trivial things like how long I’ve let my leg hair get before shaving (or other bodily functions… you get the idea). But when it comes to those terrifying innermost thoughts, the ones that are always there simmering under the surface, opening up to people can seem a little daunting – but in the end, SO worth it.

Everybody needs to vent about things from time to time – it’s how we connect as humans and discuss events / people / behaviours, and come to understandings of situations in our mind. After the year I’ve been through, I strongly believe that having someone you can talk to whether that be a paid professional, family member or friend, is absolutely necessary to maintaining your mental health. As the past few years of stress started bogging me down (work related, relationship related and health related), I really began to ball up all my feelings and thoughts into this anxiety ridden state of fear. Fear of change, fear of things remaining how they were, fear of what people would think of me – you name it, I was scared about it. I was completely and utterly stuck. I had a friend who was constantly telling me to go talk to someone, that it would help me figure things out. Of course, I didn’t listen to her at the time (because when do people ever do what they’re told, even when they know it’s probably right)? Ironically enough, that person and I are no longer friends, but I did go and start talking to someone and that small step of courage catapulted me out of my fear and into the light.

What I can say is this; no good will ever come from you trying to get through tough times on your own, and there is no defeat in asking for help. We aren’t built to withstand the storm alone – we live in communities where everyone has a story, and everyone has the ability to open up to each other. If you can see someone is going through a rough patch, kindly let them know that your arms are open. Gently push them in the right direction but remember, the choice to start talking is ultimately up to them and they must come to that decision of their own accord.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
Herman Melville

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Photo credits – lauramakabresku & fihn

Anniversaries are funny things, aren’t they.

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I’ve had some one year anniversaries lately, in fact I usually do around this time of year. November and December always seem to be a huge period of change, whether that be moving house (or city), relationships ending or drifting apart, and career moves. In exactly one week it will be my 28th birthday, and I can’t think of a worse birthday I’ve had than last year. I know it sounds stupid, it’s just another day right? It doesn’t actually mean anything in the grand scheme of things. BUT… we’re conditioned to think we’re meant to be HAPPY on our birthdays. Grateful! Excited! The life of the party! Well, shit happens. Last year I’d just quit my job, just been dumped, and was facing daily battles with crippling anxiety (I’m talking panic attacks, chest pains, digestion problems and a huge fear of crowds, driving, bridges…. you name it). It was absolutely awful, and I spent the day trying to hold back tears and resist the urge to crawl into bed and hide in the dark. I remember laying on my balcony on the night of my 27th birthday, watching a thunderstorm and just feeling really sorry for myself. Woe is me…

How things change in a year! Had someone told me to keep my head up and stay positive, that this year I’d be spending my birthday in the beautiful Whitsundays with my boyfriend, sipping on cocktails in the tropical sun, I would not have believed them. Now I don’t want to jinx myself here as the birthday itself isn’t until next week, and plenty of things could happen between now and then, but that’s beside the point. My whole life has been flipped in a year and I could not be more grateful for the support I’ve had, and more proud of myself for soldiering through. I even spent 4 hours in a shopping centre with my sister this week! Had you have known me a year ago, this simple activity was near impossible. I remember my sister begging me to go Christmas shopping with her in December a year ago, and I lasted about 5 minutes in the centre before basically needing to run outside. The intense fear, crippling anxiety and struggle to breathe or think straight was completely overwhelming, not to mention feeling like a complete failure. This week alone I’ve been shopping multiple times (I absolutely love buying gifts for my family), and I’ve been completely fine with it. In my mind this is such a huge achievement, because a year ago I was honestly at a point where I didn’t think I could ever step foot in a shopping mall again.

So what I can say is this. If you are struggling through some tough times at the moment, hold onto the knowledge that things are more than likely going to change for the better, and sooner than you think. As one door closes, others really do open – you just have to have the courage to step through, and the strength to ask for help when you need it.

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Photo credits – arthurlitau & bryanadamc

Can you smell it in the air?

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I always get antsy around this time of year. I get a whiff of Christmas approaching; of hot summer days (for those of us who live Down Under), of pools splashing and sand burning, of air cons working over time and flimsy dresses. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but it’s a feeling of nostalgia for past summers, and excitement for future ones. It’s a sense of me changing and things changing, and wanting everything to just pause for a moment so I can catch my breathe. November seems to be my month for change, where I realise the things I haven’t accomplished in the year, and smile at the things I have.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been flat out trying to maintain a balance between working, seeing my family and boyfriend, and spending time with my animals, but time really does fly as you get older! I’ve been feeling a little stretched out lately just trying to keep up with all these things, and not having enough time for me. For an introvert like myself, normal daily activities like training someone at work and catching up with friends are extremely draining, and if we don’t get that time to unwind… well, it’s not pretty. I feel like I’ve been rushing every day to squeeze a million things in, all the while feeling completely exhausted and wishing I could sleep for an entire day. Is this what adulthood is? Complaining that we’re tired every day and not doing anything about it?

I’m determined to not make the same mistakes that so many people make in life – accepting that their reality is the daily grind of a job they have no passion for, accepting that being exhausted is normal, and being completely oblivious to things that ACTUALLY matter. A girl I’ve been training at work told me she thought I was a little bit ‘hippie’ and quite bubbly this week, and I had to smile. Hippie, I’m fine with. Yes I’m into meditating and spirituality, so if that makes me a hippie then fine. Bubbly though? I don’t think she realised how utterly DRAINED I was from having to talk to someone for 8 hours a day, 5 days in a row! See I’m used to working alone which suits me perfectly fine, with the odd chat here and there to tenants and the postman. How do introverts ever find solace in a world where working in an office or shared space is the norm? I’ve been trying to work out what would be the best career path for me all year, and here I am with 2 months left to 2017 and still no answers.

Help please! Any advice would be greatly appreciated 🙂

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