Tag Archives: recovery

Balance & Values, part II

Check out part one of this post here.

Over the last 24 hours I’ve been thinking about what my life would look like if I were where I want to be. In each area, it would look something like this:

Health (physical): exercising each day, eating three meals & snacks each day, taking iron tablets, keeping up to date with my b12 injections, having regular iron transfusions, sleeping at least 5 hours each night.

Health (mental): being motivated enough to get up each day and achieve something, be able to do what I want, when I want – without my mental health being an obstacle.

Relationships: being comfortable with others, being able to be open with friends about what is going on for me, feeling comfortable expressing (and accepting) love.

Education: attending classes, completing necessary readings and assignments, continuing into Honours and Masters in Psychology.

Employment: continuing working in the positions I’m currently in, feeling satisfied with what I am contributing to the world, earning enough money to be independent and comfortable.

Community: actively volunteering, feeling useful, feeling as though I am making a meaningful difference.

Leisure & relaxation: resuming sailing, seeing friends regularly, practicing mindfulness, baking, travelling, bushwalking.

So – that’s an indication of how things would be if they were ideal at the moment. Employment and community are pretty much the only thing I’m satisfied with at the moment. This impression is quite dissonant from how things actually are. There are quite a few things that could change within each category, but it’s not exactly realistic to attempt to entirely change my life immediately – that would just set me up to fail. So I’m going to make a couple of small, SMART goals for each area that I feel isn’t where I want it to be.

SMART goals are something I learnt about during some hospitalisation or another – they’re a framework for setting goals which we are more likely to achieve than grandiose, unrealistic ambitions. You can read more about SMART goals here, but basically they are goals which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

Health (physical):
– write a meal plan incorporating regular meals for the next two weeks, and do my best to follow it.
– buy syringes & do b12 injection for this fortnight.
– for for at least 4x 1hour walks each week, for the next two weeks.

Health (mental):
– journal daily to get an idea of what I’m feeling and be better able to identify patterns and triggers.
– attend psychologist appointment next week.

– contact (text/call/facebook/skype) at least one friend a day for the next two weeks, telling them something I love about them.
– email a friend and explain that I have been struggling.

– write a realistic daily to do list in order to catch up on lectures and readings that I have missed.
– organise notes to study for an exam I have next Wednesday.

Leisure & relaxation:
– go for a bushwalk this weekend.
– resume crocheting the blanket I abandoned.

So, that’s a start. Steps to getting myself back on track.I’m going to print off these goals and stick them on my mirror, along with a daily checklist to tick off whether I’ve accomplished what I intend to. This will be difficult – at the moment it’s an effort to get out of bed, brush my teeth or open my mouth to speak to anyone and it feels like I’m trudging through knee deep mud – but I’m not going to get anywhere by staying still. I’ll check back in after a week to see how I’m going with these goals, again in a fortnight, and then perhaps reassess and make some more goals.

Here goes.

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Balance &; Values, part I

The last couple of years I have come to realise how important it is for me to keep my life in balance. ‘Balance’ is such a subjective term. For me, it’s feeling like I’m in the right place. Like I’m headed in the right direction. It’s an imperfect mix of values, which even out to where I feel satisfied and at peace.

I find that when I’m feeling like things are off – when my mood is worse, my anxiety is skyrocketing, my eating begins to slip and I regress to not sleeping for days at a time – often it’s because somewhere, I’ve let things fall out of balance. Whether that’s by something as practical as not taking my medication or something less obvious, like not taking time out to sit and drink tea on my own, or going a few days without checking in with friends.

A few weeks ago I co-facilitated an online session for young people about living in line with your values. It should have been obvious at the time (hell, it should have been obvious four months ago when I started struggling more again) – But I think things are out of balance. So here we go – time to reassess my values, where I’m at, where I want to be, and how to get there.

First up, here are some general areas that I care about: health (physical and mental); relationships (friends and family); education; employment; community; and leisure and relaxation. There’s more to it than identifying these areas though – within these categories, what is important? What is meaningful?

Health (physical): fitness, nutritional balance, looking after my iron and b12 deficiencies, getting enough sleep.

Health (mental): regular mood, controlling anxiety, developing and utilising coping strategies, practicing mindfulness,

Relationships: connecting regularly with others, maintaining positive relationships, showing people how much I appreciate and care for them, feeling valued and loved.

Education: performing well at university, attending classes, potentially furthering my studies beyond this degree, training in areas that I am interested in continuing in.

Employment: working in a job I enjoy, doing my best, providing a service to people, connecting with individuals, earning money, being independent.

Community: giving back to my world, doing what I can in areas that I am passionate about, making a difference.

Leisure & relaxation: keeping myself calm, doing things that I enjoy, taking time out for myself, being creative.

Now – is my life at the moment actually reflecting any of these things? I guess it’s painfully obvious to everyone around me, but it’s taken me a while to catch on. It’s not. I’m nowhere near where I want to be. It’s hard to face up to… And it’s not something that I can look at, and look away. Something (many things) need to change.

* I’ll continue this post later tonight or tomorrow – thinking further into where I am versus where I want to be, what my ideals look like and starting to develop some steps and goals to get me there.

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Protected: Home & things unsaid

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The big day

So, tomorrow is the big day. 24 hours from now I will be touching down in Bangkok to spend the night at the airport before flying on to Ho Chi Minh City at ridiculous-o’clock on Wednesday morning. I’m excited and nervous and terrified and EXCITED. This is big. It’s one of the things I’ve constantly been told that I’ll never be able to do – that I’ll always be too sick to travel, to be alone, to be independent. But I’m going to do it anyway. And it’s going to be amazing.

I’ve got a travel blog to keep friends and family back home up to date with where I’m at and what’s going on, which you can read here. Bring on the next twelve weeks!

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I feel as though I am in a very strange place. In five days I will be leaving to travel for three months. Nine months ago, I booked these plane tickets with the intention of disappearing into some unknown hostel somewhere in Europe and killing myself. But so much has happened since then. I’m no longer planning on following through with that – which I’m infinitely grateful for.

This year has been strange – there has been so much death, pain, relapse and darkness. Yet at the same time I feel as though I have grown so much. For the first time to this date, the darkness and light have begun to even one another out – and it’s with this strange realisation that I’ve come to recognise that it’s not just me: the whole world exists in dichotomy. No dark without light. Two opposites, constantly vying with each other to take hold.

Tomorrow marks one year since I was last discharged from hospital (other than emergency, which I’m not counting) – the longest break between admissions since I was fourteen. ‘Between admissions’ isn’t entirely adequate there, because I have no intention of ever being shut in one of those rooms again in my lifetime. A year out of hospital isn’t much of an achievement in the eyes of many people, but for me it’s pretty huge. It’s about independence, manageability and freedom. But somehow I still feel stuck.

I’m hoping that as I travel, somehow layers will strip away. That the scales which are tentatively see-sawing back and forth will find their balance. I’m not sure that I’m ready to get to the depths of what is within me – but I want enough simplicity that I feel more in touch with my values, needs and capacities. The last month has been riddled with re-emerging anxieties: around people, places, food, sleep. Afraid to sleep, but afraid to leave my bedroom. Can’t eat, showering upwards of fifteen times a day, bleeding hands from being washed too often. It feels something like being sixteen again. Nightmares – sleeping and waking, overwhelming everything I attempt to do. Lists upon lists: I get nervous, so I write a list of things that make me happy, a list of things that make me sad, a list of things I want to do, a list of music that calms me, a list of places to go, a list of people I love – and still I feel nervous.

I realise there are textbook reasons for this happening now. I’m about to take a huge step in travelling the world solo. I’m constantly worrying about what I want to do with my life and what I need to do to get there – and freaking out that I can’t just make everything okay, right now. I’m stressed about friends and their circumstances, and that while travelling I won’t be a text or a short walk away. And the single most terrifying thing I’m thinking about at the moment is that I’ve tentatively decided that when I return from overseas I will begin trauma processing. I’m not entirely sure what that process will involve, but I’m certain that it will stretch me to my absolute limits. I haven’t spoken the ‘r’ word aloud for over two years. I can’t write about it without losing time, and I continue to sleep in half hour intervals to avoid dreaming. It will be difficult, that’s for sure.

I feel in between so many extremes, unsure of which way the balance will (should?) tip. Maybe it’s incredibly naive of me, but I’m hoping that I can leave all this. That the moment I step onto that first plane, all of this ‘stuff’ will remain behind. That I can balance holding on, and letting go.

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I’ve been neglecting writing and studying instead. I’ve now finished exams for the year and am almost ready to set off on my adventure, for which I’ve started a new blog here to keep friends and family at home up to date with where I am and what I’m doing. I’m not sure how often I will be updating here, but feel free to check out my travel blog. Here come a crazy three & a half months, unlike anything I’ve done before. I can’t wait.

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It often upsets me how many people I know who feel completely disempowered in their own lives. I realise that being a young person can suck – I’ve had my share of crappy times (not that I think it’s ever about comparison). But no matter who you are or what you’re going through – where you end up comes down to choice.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re disabled, or depressed, or homeless, or an addict. I’m not talking about circumstances here: obviously there are times when things are out of our control. I’m talking about the self depreciating beliefs which perpetuate cycles of disempowerment. In terms of perception, there is nothing stopping us from believing that things can be better. I realise that there are external influences, of course, but eventually it has to come from within. Eventually there has to be a point when you decide that there will be no more of this. And no – I’m not for a second implying that the darkness leaves in that moment, but perspective makes such a difference. The realisation that you are enough, just as you are, and that you are in control, brings a whole new understanding to the table.

It’s only been the last twelve months for me that I’ve come to realise that I am in control of where my life ends up. Despite all of the shit up to this point, where I go from here is up to me. Realising this felt like such a revolutionary shift in my understanding of the world – that if I make choices in line with my values, I will end up somewhere that I want to be. Perhaps it’s a step from victim to survivor. It’s so simple in theory, but we seem to find it so difficult to apply to our own lives.

I’m not going to pretend that I don’t still suffer. I coax spoonfuls of food into my mouth and regularly wake up to the sound of my own sobbing, I still often wonder whether there is any point to this at all. But I’ve learnt that no matter what happens, it will not break me. I’ve been to the edge. I spent years there, teetering on my toes, staring into the abyss. At times I began to fall, only to be pulled back – by friends, family, doctors. I came back. And despite that being the most painful thing I have ever done, in doing so I guaranteed myself life. A life that is worth something, that has some meaning. That doesn’t revolve around my complete absence of self worth or self belief. A life that is still worth fighting for.

Life isn’t all smooth sailing. (Congratulations, way to make the most obvious point ever). Life is mountains and valleys – it’s joy and pain – and it’s only if you’re willing to endure the darkness that you see that it’s never entirely void of light. When you’re stuck at the bottom of a valley it’s easy to fall prey to the belief that you’ll never make it out. But as long as you keep putting one foot infront of the other, as long as you keep breathing – you will get there. For as long as you’re breathing, there is hope. Your life is yours.

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Day 17: Someone from your childhood

Day 17: 30 letters in 30 days


I like to think that wherever you are, you can see this. See all of us, all the people you helped. I remember your office. Two pictures of cats on the wall, the uncomfortable blue chair, the tiny plastic figurines on your windowsill. Every week, for five years. I can’t begin to thank you enough. C called me last year, to tell me that you had died. I felt like I had no right to be upset, and maybe I don’t. But I’m grieving the idea that I wish you could know that I’m doing okay now, that I’m not that broken girl anymore. Perhaps it is irrelevant, but I just wish that I could go there, wherever you are, and say, thankyou for trying to help me, things were pretty shit then and they still get like that now but I’m here. I’m still alive. And I think that’s more than either of us imagined. I know I didn’t talk much to you, I know you tried so hard. You tried so hard & I fought back just as intensely, sitting staring at the floor, refusing to say a word. Thank you. Thank you, never enough.

I hope you can see things from where you are now. How much as changed. I hope you feel fulfilled to know all the people you helped, and all the people you tried to help, and maybe they didn’t let you, but a lot of them have probably turned out okay too. I hope you can see it all and I hope you are at peace. I think about you often. You were one of the first to see that anything was wrong. I was twelve, and called to your office. I don’t even remember what we talked about – I probably didn’t talk at all. But you knew. All through high school, all the outside therapy and medication and hospitals and doctors, you were always there as the constant. You always called me when I was in hospital. You went to my house and dropped off work to my parents because you knew I was going crazy in hospital having nothing to do. There’s so many things I wish I could say to you, but it all comes back to the same sentiment: thank you.

It still hurts. That someone who only ever tried to help me and my family, who only ever tried to help everyone that she came into contact with is gone from the world. That it was so sad that you came into my life when I was too unhappy to see how much of a beautifully positive and spiritual person you were and to let you help me in that way, especially because there must have been so many like me that you didn’t penetrate. I hope that didn’t trouble you too much. There is nothing that can be underestimated about the amount you impacted upon my life.

I want you to know that I’m doing okay. I don’t say this to be arrogant, I just want you to know. I know you cared, not just because it was your job, but that you genuinely cared. I didn’t realise it back then, but I do now. Everyone I spoke to at the funeral reminded me. Teachers, telling me how much you had genuinely been invested in my health. That you’d always be asking after me, how I was, was I okay in class? Because I wouldn’t talk about what was wrong. But you cared about my life. You cared that I stayed alive.

Thank you again, and again, and again. I’m sure there are people everywhere thinking the same things. People who have shared their hearts with you, confessions, secrets. I never told you mine. Where you are now, you can see. And I hope you never felt like you ‘failed’ me, because you didn’t. You kept me going when the threads of my life were coming apart.

Thank you. From a heart hurt, but healing…not ‘but’. And. From a heart hurt, and healing. It’s a long road, but I hope that I can be like you – that I can have that influence on the lives of children and young people. You were an amazing woman, and I will never forget that.

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Past, present & future

16 Years ago I: Was 5. In kindergarten at my local primary school. I was in a composite K/1 class and I remember making pancakes and writing down the recipe – it’s still pasted in my mum’s recipe book. I went to my friend’s house after school everyday because my parents worked. We spent a lot of afternoons taking their dog for walks down the fire trails to the river and painting empty coffee jars with glass paints.

10 Years ago I: Was 11. I’d changed schools into an accelerated stream at a school about half an hour from home. I travelled to school each day via train, bus and walking, which took me about an hour each way. I had gymnastics training four days a week and was playing netball, sailing and continuing to learn the flute & piano. Each day for lunch I packed four vita weats with vegemite, and I remember one day one of the teachers wouldn’t let me play soccer at lunch because they said I hadn’t eaten enough. I was self harming daily – usually with broken glass that I would collect on my walks home from school. Often I would pretend to be sick in order to stay home alone and smash beer bottles from the recycling bin. I got in trouble for refusing to take my jumper off during hot days at school. My older brother was getting heavily involved in drugs, which all came out towards the end of the year.

5 Years ago I: Was 16. I spent the year mostly in hospitals, both public and private on general psych, mood & eating disorder units. My birthday, christmas and new years were all spent on an eating disorder unit with a tube up my nose. I started seeing a private psychologist after having discharged myself from the child & adolescent area health service, but refused to speak about what was going on for me. I hadn’t yet admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder – despite the hospitalisations and clearly failing health. Twice I overdosed, waking up in hospital and pronouncing that I was fine. Thankfully, they didn’t believe me.

1 Year ago I: Was 20. Had to quit my job as a nanny for two amazing, amazing children. I should have died several times, but thanks to my treatment team, my friends and some helpful strangers, I didn’t. I spent a long time under a legally ordered treatment plan, locked in a public psych ward, having 3x weekly ECT. I also spent time in a private hospital’s ICU – where I found that the thing I missed most was fresh air. I somehow continued to take a full time load at university studying by distance. I don’t have many memories and my journals don’t make much sense, but I know that on December 2nd I was discharged from hospital on the first effective medication regime in seven years, which (along with more work than I ever thought possible) has changed my life infinitely for the better.

Yesterday I: I woke up, healthy, with the knowledge that the world hasn’t beaten me. I attended the final day of the 8th Australian & New Zealand Adolescent Health Conference, and it was incredible. I left feeling capable, inspired, and motivated that I can make a difference. I came home and did some study for my biopsychology exam next Friday. I went to the doctor, then dropped by a friend’s place to drink tea and watch a movie. By the time I got home I was exhausted, but feeling as though I’m finally in the right place, headed down the right road.

Today I: Slept in and had breakfast on the back porch with my kitten. I spent a couple of hours studying biopsychology and going over my statistics notes for exams, then had an afternoon nap. I’m now watching Community (hilarious!) with my sister. I should probably be studying, but I’m still somewhat exhausted post-conference.

Tomorrow I: Will continue to study for biopsychology and statistics. I will be grateful that I’m alive, that I have wonderful people around me and that I am entirely capable of doing and being absolutely anything. I’m sure I will learn something new, and find some beauty where I haven’t seen it before. I will be ready for whatever comes.

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Day 12: The person you hate most

Day 12: 30 letters in 30 days

Hate is a strong word. Despite everything, I don’t think I hate you. I just never, ever want to see you again. Thinking of you brings my stomach to my throat and starts my heart racing.

I don’t hate you, because hate keeps me stuck. It creates a block between myself and the world, blinding me from seeing beauty and love. I’m letting go of hate to set myself free, not you. Not you. Hate isn’t not only a reflection of you, but a reflection of where I am at in accepting and learning to love the world, despite it’s failings. Life is a crazy journey, and hate is a hinderance. It is not part of the person I want to be – and I won’t let you hold me back any further from becoming her.

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger” (Buddha)

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