IUD. It’s not as scary as it sounds

Have you ever wanted something for as long as you can remember? As soon as I found out about this magical contraceptive device that works for 3-5 years, I was intrigued, and wanted to know more.

This has been a long time coming. When I first heard about an IUD as a teenager, I was told that IUD are for women with babies. I can remember going to a doctor, and asking what different types of contraceptions available, and she repeatedly told me that the only forms of contraception were the pill and condoms. I knew this simply wasn’t true, and I was dumbfounded at the time, as there was a family planning certificate on her wall, and we all know that family planning is polite speak for ways to avoid pregnancy. But, as I get older, and the more I speak to my friends and family, the more I realise that being a woman comes with so many different hang-ups and challenges. So this is my story, and my experience with getting an IUD. I’ll try and use all the correct terms, but if you’re reading this to get medical advice, then I strongly suggest you check out your nearest family planning and sexual health clinic. This post is about my feelings and my experiences with fertility management. Also, be warned, this post contains things like blood, menstrual fluid, vaginas, fertility control, cervix and other female body parts and female bodily fluids. Avert your eyes now, if you are sensitive to such content.

 

So, how does one get an IUD? What is an IUD, and why am I talking so much about reproductive management? Ok, an IUD is an Intrauterine Device that sits in your uterus as a form of birth control. It typically lasts 3-5 years and if it is made out of copper, it contains no hormones. The other IUD is known as the Mirena and contains low dose hormones which are released directly into the reproductive organs, as opposed to the pill which has typically higher levels of hormones as the body needs to digest them first.

So that’s the easy part, understanding the basics, an IUD is a form of contraception that is device based and sits in your uterus, and can contain low-level hormones, or no hormones. It’s also pretty cost effective. I only had to pay around $25 for the IUD from the pharmacy as it is on the PBS in Australia. As I am a student, my doctor bulk bills me, and the Gynaecology clinic is free in NSW.

 

Now, for the hard part; getting you hands on one of these magic uterus thingos. Like I said at the start, I began asking doctors about this in my late teens. I was in a (sorry Mum, for talking about my sex life on the internet!) consenting sexual relationship and I was after contraception. I knew I didn’t want kids at that stage of my life, for the next 3-5 years, or in the foreseeable future, so I wanted something that was long-lasting and safe. When I raised the concept of an IUD, all the doctors said no. Both the GP and a trip to the family planning clinic all recommended against it stating that it hurts to insert it, that it should be for women who have had kids as the placement is challenging, and that it was too long term for someone my age. I got a resounding no, from every doctor, but the main reason they gave me, for not recommending it was that I might want kids. That I was too young to decide that I didn’t want kids. Now, I don’t know about you, but in my late teens and early twenties, I thought I was too young to be making babies! Sure, I was in a committed relationship by the time I was 20, but, I was not ready for children. And I certainly was not ready for kids in the foreseeable future. But, apparently, doctors know best, so I was on the pill for the better part of my 20s.

I want to detail one of my pap-smears with you, to demonstrate what it’s like, being a woman who wants to control her fertility. I think I would have been 21 at the time, so I bought my bf (now husband) along to the family planning clinic, both for moral support and to prove that neither of us wanted kids, and that I had a long-term partner. That’s another reason I was given when I was younger. I was told that having multiple sexual partners was not advised with an IUD. Now, I’m not going to delve into my ENTIER sexual history, but I can tell you that I have been in a committed long-term relationship, since I was 19 (ish), and I was married by 22. So, I’m in the clinic, with my bf, and I’m in the stirrups. I’m trying to convince this doctor that I want an IUD, and that neither of us want kids. She tells me it’s expensive, that I’ll have to pay over $200 for an anesthetist, and that she would give my cervix an extra poke so I can feel what it may be like, to get the IUD inserted. Yeah, that’s right, she poked my cervix, to prove a point. In short, she pretty much shut down any further talk of the IUD.

 

Fast forward to my late 20s, and I need to see the doctor about some girly things. The pill isn’t the best for my lifestyle anymore, and I’m having some bleeding, outside of my period. I see a young women doctor, and she is the best. She gives me my own home testing kit for the bleeding, so I can poke my own cervix at my leisure. I make another appointment to get a long overdue pap-smear, where she discovers I have an ectropion cervix (DO NOT GOOGLE THAT! it means the inside cells are growing on the outside, and the images associated with it are less than pretty. You have been warned), but most importantly, she listens when I say, I don’t want kids. I know I’ve said it a million times before, but I don’t want them, and I’ve found that the doctors, don’t really seem to listen when I tell them. They tell me that I might change my mind (maybe, but I’ve known since I was 12 that I don’t want kids), that I might change partners, basically, the medical system is paternalistic in this sense, and it takes a good doctor to listen to the patient, when they say, I want to control my fertility. I also want to point out, that I know that there are many women who do WANT kids, and all this talk of contraception might be really sensitive as they may be struggling to conceive, so I’m sorry for any distress you are experiencing. I can only imagine how it feels, and you have my deepest sympathy.

 

So, I got myself a good doctor, who was kind to my cervix, and after some discussion, I got myself sorted with a copper IUD. I wanted to go without hormones, as the ectropion cervix may have been a side effect of the pill. I got my device from the chemist, again it was relatively inexpensive, had my appointment at the clinic, and I was ready to rock and roll! The insertion was kinda like that bad pap-smear I described, where she poked my cervix, as I had anesthesia. I can’t remember if it was a needle or a gel, but there was little pain. The worst part was the aftermath, as the next 48-72 hours, it’s kinda like a bad period, where you can’t do much, and you’re in a relationship with the hot water bottle.  Nothing a good rest, and some pain killers won’t fix. But little did I know, the worst was yet to come.

 

Yeah, so the copper IUD, no one really wants to deal with, and they’re so un-common these days that when things go pear-shaped the doctors don’t have enough experience with them. After about 2 months of no problem, by month 3, I was constantly bleeding and had INTENSE cramping. It was eye-watering. After some toing and throwing between the hospital and doctor, we decided to pull it out. Which was so simple. I remember the appointment was rushed and late, but once I was in there, it was relaxed, and nowhere near as painful to remove. I remember the specialist talking about the cervix and the uterus and how she used such beautiful terms like luscious to describe the cells in the uterus. Again, making me a firm believer of finding the right doctor for you and your needs. I want a doctor who works on reproductive health that gets excited about the reproductive system. Not someone who doesn’t explain everything to me, and doesn’t allow me to make my own choices.

 

So, in the first instance, my IUD was a big, fat, painful failure. I went back on the pill and left things alone for a few years. I guess, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right? Wrong. The pill isn’t the devil, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, it does allow for fertility control, but I also felt like it was too many hormones in my body, and I had the ectropion cervix which may have been caused by the pill. I still wanted a long-term method of fertility that didn’t have many hormones. And, now with all the other daily meds I was taking, I was a bit over one more daily pill to take. You would think that with all the daily pills, it was easier to remember, but, as each pill had to be taken at a different time due to the side-effects, it was easier to get out of sync with the pill. Just this last month, I was one day ahead, as I dropped a pill and couldn’t find it, so I took the next days pill.

Round 2: how did work up the courage and convince the doctors (again) that an IUD was the way to go? I outright told him (my fantastic lady doctor had moved to another clinic) ‘I’m tired of taking the pill, and I want to try the IUD. I don’t want kids now, or in the long term future. I’m in my 30s and I understand the consequences of not having kids. My husband doesn’t want kids, and quiet frankly, I don’t know how I would cope mentally and financially if I had children’. This doctor was great, and he booked me in straight away for the clinic ( I had to hustle at the clinic to get the appointment, but I think that was more about the lack of resources at the clinic).

Yesterday was V-day, and I was armed with my inexpensive IUD, and ready to be poked and prodded. In preparation, I took myself to the doctor for a pap-smear and I peed in a cup on arrival. Yeah, by this stage, be prepared to talk about all the bodily functions, like when was your last period and when did you last have sex? This is not for the feint-hearted. I also had to wait a while in the clinic, despite having an 8:30 am appointment. Once I was in there, I was cracking jokes and the staff even let me take a picture or two for my blog! There was a nice student doctor, and the nurse assisting the Gynocologist was really sweet.

So I’m in there, pants off and on the bed. The Gynocologist had three different speculums before she found one that really got in there. It wasn’t the nicest feeling. The sweet nurse told me to look at the umbrellas on the ceiling, but looking at umbrellas isn’t the best form of pain relief. The gynecologist keeps telling me to relax, and I was trying, but it doesn’t take much to start tensing the vaginal walls. I was a little bit anxious here, but it wasn’t overwhelming. I wasn’t offered pain relief, which I was disappointed with, as it would have been better, but again, the pain wasn’t the worst. I went quiet and began the goddess chant in my head. A few more jabs in the cervix, and some INTENSE pain, and the device is in. I felt a little woosy, and the gynecologist advises me to take my time getting dressed, but again, it’s not the end of the world. Compared with my post gall-bladder surgery, this is nothing. I hobbled to the car with my husband who drove me there and back, as driving post-insertion is not recommended. We made a quick stop to the IGA, where I ordered my husband get me all the chocolate.

Arriving home, I settle in with the hot water bottle, some chocolate, a tea, and Netflix. The rest of the weekend was spent on the couch, and overnight, I had some really bad pain, but it went away quickly, and I kept some Ibropfen on hand.

All up, I can report, my IUD insertion was tolerable and relatively incident free. It’s now just over a week and I’m yet to be pain-free or stop bleeding, but it’s just like a light period right now, which is to be expected, until my body adjusts to the device and the hormones.

I’d give the procedure a 7 out of 10 on the pain scale. It was intense, but only for a small moment. And if you’re sensitive to pain, you can ask for anesthesia. Post-insertion, for the weekend, it was like a bad period. If I had to be back in the office, I could have done some light paper-work, but I made sure I had the weekend clear. Six days later I was ready for my morning walk. I would have been to yoga sooner, only I had to wear a pad, which would be visible with my yoga pants. I can’t say if I would recommend the IUD just yet, as it still hasn’t settled, but so far, the process is ok. I would DEFINITELY recommend talking to your doctor, and asking ALL the questions about contraception and what is right for your body and your lifestyle. You are the one who has to live in your body, so you have the right to find out what works for you.

 

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Homeless Periods

IMG_7999.jpgIf you know me IRL, of you’ve been following me on social media, then you would know that I am an avid supporter of Share the Dignity.  This year, I decided that instead of just supporting the charity by donating resources, I would be the change I wanted to see in the world, and signed up to be a Shero. A Shero is a woman who organises a collection point for the #DignityDrive, and it’s SHEro, instead of HEro, to acknowledge that woman are doing the work.

 

As a part of my work for Share the Dignity, I was asked by the VIEW to give a talk to the local Murwillumbah club about the work that Share the Dignity do. I thought it was so exciting that I just had to share it all with you.

 

So what is Share the Dignity, and why am I banging on about pads, tampons and incontinence products?

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Banging on about pads and tampons. NBD

Share the Dignity was launched in 2015, when the founder, Rochelle Courtnay heard about a story of a woman being fined $550  for stealing a $6.75 packet of tampons. From there, Rochelle began collecting pads and tampons from her community members, with a collection point on her front verandah. Now, Share the Dignity is a nation wide charity with numerous events to get involved with which aims to provide pads and tampons to homeless women.

 

Why? Why collect all this Lady Equipment? Can’t woman just buy their own pads and tampons and be quiet about it? Well, if you are lucky enough to have a roof over your head, and food on the table, you’ve probably never really had to worry too much about where you get your lady equipment from. You might be familiar with the tampon scrounge; where you go through all of your handbags, pockets and belongings to find that one tampon when you’re caught short. You may have even asked a friend if they could spare a tampon, but generally, these types of circumstances are rare, and you know you can pop down to the local shops and buy your preferred brand of lady equipment.

 

However, for some woman, this is not the case. Fore homeless woman, getting your period is a massive problem. This story   in the Conversation for NADOC week details the problem in aboriginal communities and explains how some girls are missing school because they have their period. I knew this was happening in their world countries, but I never thought to think about it happening in this country.

Why do all these women need pads and tampons? Because due to domestic violence too many women are homeless and these women face a monthly problem, on top of all the challenges associated with homelessness.

 

Why woman? Domestic, intimate partner and family violence disproportionately effects woman . If you follow the counting dead woman project you would be aware that 21 women have died this year, and 73 women died last year as a result of domestic violence.

1 in 4 women have experienced domestic, family or intimate partner violence at some stage of their lives. 

11,403 woman are homeless in NSW

Woman account for 63 percent of domestic violence victims- this translates to 13,124 victims of intimate partner violence.

In the Tweed region, .36percent of the population is homeless,  ranking 129th/ 328 in Australia.

Domestic violence in the main cause for homelessness amongst woman.

What has this got to do with pads and tampons? Having your period and being homeless is not fun. Far from it. Woman who leave their homes often have children with them, and place their children’s needs above their own. Sometimes, woman have to choose between feeding their children and tampons. I was listening to a podcast, where Mia Freedman detailed her experience of the CEO Sleepout, where they ran her through the typical scenario. In the role-play, she had to leave her house, with her children, and needed to find somewhere to go. The options were a friend’s house, a shelter or sleep in the car. From the role-play, Freedman found the options weren’t really options, as the reality is, most woman can’t stay with friends if they are escaping an abusive spouse, as the partner would follow them to their friend’s house. A shelter isn’t always an option, as some of them don’t take women with teenage boys, and sleeping the car isn’t a great option, as women can be reported to child services, and have the children removed. I know I’m not painting a pretty picture, but the reality is, homelessness and domestic violence is not pretty. Women are using socks, newspaper, wadded up toilet paper, napkins, old socks or simply going without. For some women, pads and tampons are a luxury. This is a monthly problem and in some shelters, pads and tampons are rationed out, as they are a scarce commodity. This is where Share the Dignity comes in, and provides woman with pads and tampons, making ‘that time of the month’ a little bit easier for homeless women.

 

How can you get involved? What can you do?

  1. Start stockpiling pads, tampons, menstrual cups, re-useable pads and incontinence products for #DignityDrive. Get on the website and find your closest collection point. Not one in your area? Get involved and make one! Have a pad party, and get your mates around for a cuppa and a collections of pads and tampons!
  2. Donate to Share the Dignity, as they are always collecting donations for the Pink Boxes. Pink Boxes are free vending machines which are placed in the relevant locations to help women access free pads and tampons. We’re aiming to have 50 machines throughout Australia, and we can’t so it without your help.
  3. #Yogafordignity In September, were doing a yoga fundraiser, so get on the website, find your closest location and get flexing!
  4. #itsinthebag collects basic toiletries (and maybe a few luxuries!), put together in a nice handbag and is delivered to women in need in November. Too often, women put the needs of their families first, and they do it to their own detriment. #itsinthebag, aims to provide women with the necessities that they may have left behind in the rush to leave their homes when fleeing domestic violence.
  5. FOLLOW SHARE THE DIGNITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA! Facebook &  Instagram

While it may seem like all of the homelessness is about other people, and ‘those poor woman’, or even ‘aboriginal woman‘, but the reality is, domestic violence effects women from all backgrounds and all cultures, and more recently, homelessness is increasing for older women.

 

If you need help call 1800RESPECT , 

or LIFELINE  131114

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Some of the VIEW Murwillumbah Evening club and their handy-crafts. These blankets will be keeping the homeless people of Murwillumbah warmer over winter.

My Friend Told me to Blog, So I did.

My friend told me via Instagram that I should blog about what I’m wearing because I usually share my outfit of the day. I’ve been doing it for a while so it just becomes a habit really. I started doing it as a part of the Body Positive Movement. Sometime last year, I went to get a picture of myself, only I couldn’t find any. I had a habit of running a mile from the camera, because I thought I was too fat. I knew I was fat and I  didn’t want any more evidence that I was fat because that would make it abundantly clear that I was fat. As a way of countering this fear, and a method of changing the conversation about the way we talk about fat bodies and fat women, I decided to own the tag and jump on the #bopo train.

 

I know for me, that when I was at my heaviest of 95kg I didn’t need anyone telling me I was fat. My clothes did, my body did, and pretty much any mainstream picture or image of a woman reminded me that I was a fatty fatty boombalada. I’ve since lost weight, but I did not do it in a healthy manner, and in no way would I recommend it. At my smallest of 65kg, I was also really unhealthy, and I was wasn’t able to eat in the same way that Lena Dunham   recently explained on her Instagram. Since losing all the weight (and gaining a little bit, because Hot Cross Buns are still being sold!) I had to get a new wardrobe, and I also started taking pictures of new outfits because I love the thrill of finding my op-shop bargains.

 

The thrill of op-shopping started for me at a young age. I’ve never been able to walk past a second-hand store, without a quick glance over the pre-loved goods. There is something really satisfying about finding a new home for pre-loved items. My local area does roadside pick ups, and I’m not ashamed to say I salvaged a perfectly good armchair from the side of the road. Op-shops however, are my favourite second-hand shops. Not only can you grab a bargain, but they help communities by providing welfare services for those in need. I can smugly walk around in my Zara pants and use my Tupperware  champagne flute (I already had the set, because I’m a tupper-adict but I leant one to a friend with whom I lost contact with, and I never got my flute back from) knowing that I’m helping others as well as looking swish! And did you ever get hand-me-downs as a kid? I was lucky enough to get hand-me-downs from outside of my direct family, since I was the eldest. I can still remember how excited I was to find a Sportsgirl shirt in the bottom of a pile of pre-loved clothes.

 

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My Sportsgirl top was black, but you get the idea.

 

 

Op-shopping for me isn’t always about designer labels or helping others. There have been times where they were the only clothes I could afford. As a long term student, money is always tight, so op-shops have been my go-to when I need an outfit. Sure, not all my things come from Vinnies or Salvos, but it’s always worth looking at. And there’s always the War on Waste (side note, today I riffled through the bin, picking out banana skins for the compost bin because I was so inspired by Craig  Reucassel, and if you know about my disdain for bananas, you’ll know that I MUST be passionate about reducing waste). Last night’s episode featured food waste where they had a go at dumpster diving  and Richard Fidler also did a great interview on this, but I’m really passionate about is recycling fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I have my fair share of disposable clothes, which will be used as rags when I’m done with them, but I’ve always got one eye on Ebay or my local Salvos, because you never know what will turn up.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Pete, what had you said now?

So you’ve all seen the interviews and read about Pete Evan’s paleo plate and activated almonds. No doubt you have some very strong opinions about his thoughts on fluoride, bone broth or advocating the dumping of sunscreen, so I’m here to tell you what I think as someone who suffered poor health and was bombarded with everyone’s opinions and well-meaning advice.

By now, you all know, last year I got sick and it was the pits. I even saw some of you in person, and no doubt we discussed it at length since it was the only thing going on in my little world. Some well-meaning friends suggested natural therapies and alternative medicines. The doctors prescribed drugs and more tests, and I can now definitively tell you that both science and alternative therapies are full of shit. Yep, in my own experience, both have their merit and both are full of shit.

 

First, the medical system: sure, it’s calculated, quantified, measured and for the better part, it works. But what about when it doesn’t? For the greater part of my sickness, my symptoms were blurry, making it hard for the doctors to diagnose me. That, and the system is a pain in the arse. Having to wait for the test results and specialists was actually a part of the problem, and added to my illness. Was this ideal? No fucking way, but it’s a part of the necessary evil. Sometimes, you need to work with the system, instead of railing against it. Sure, I’d love to try medical marijuana and say I was cured overnight, but the likelihood of that is slim to none. The biggest downfall of medicine it also it’s biggest positive. That paradoxical quantitative data, whereby you test and weigh up results against other results and make a measured decision. When the results don’t add up, it can be really frustrating, and I can completely see the lure for alternative therapies. In sheer desperation, googling on the internet for your closest reiki master* can seem like a really good option.

 

Now that I’ve explained how bad science is, let me tell you how shit natural therapies are. First, there’s the problem with how these ‘natural therapies’ are passed around.  From online chat rooms, to wives tales, to your next door neighbor telling you all about the chem trails, the source of alternative medicines is a major problem. What worked for them, will not necessarily work for you. And, by passing down secondary sources, you cannot under-estimate the difficulties associated with getting it wrong. Not to mention the sheer bogus rubbish people try and pass off as real. Or the stories of how they cured their cancer by prayer/eating raw carrots. If it sounds farcical, it probably is. And then there is the marvelous internet. My doctor of all people suggested a few different sites focused on natural remedies for gallbladder issues, and let me tell you how led down the garden path I was. For two weeks, I ate nothing but beetroot, lemon juice, and rice crackers. It did fuck all BTW. Sweet fuck all, because if you have sludge and stones in your gall bladder, a few meals of beetroot isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need more than a natural remedy when there is something quantifiably wrong with you.

 

What do I advocate? A healthy smattering of both approaches. I’m currently on medication for heartburn, anxiety, and contraception. I’m also taking natural supplements for my heartburn and anxiety, alongside diet and lifestyle changes. There is no one magic bullet or cure which will make you feel better instantly. Although, if you have a shitty gallbladder, then get it removed, you’ll probably feel a darn sight better, even if you have anxiety triggered indigestion.  So next time Mr. Paleo Pete recommends his activated almonds to cure anxiety, give it a bash, but don’t be surprised when you’re panicking over how many almonds to activate. Maybe, just maybe, try science AND natural remedies. Where one fails, the other might just cover the gap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Some of my good friends are reki masters, and I would never dismiss their ability to work with energies. But please, for the love of the Goddess, don’t let this be your only form of treatment in times of medical need.

 

I’m on the drug that killed River Phoenix

Well, not really, but every time I think about taking drugs, I think of that song

Am I the only TISM fan? Probably. So drugs, yeah, I’m on them. I’m on so many drugs that I have a drug log where I itemise all the drugs I’m taking, because I’m a nervous wreck. I’m a nervous wreck because of all the drugs I take and all the things I have to do each day. Yeah, I’m talking about that anxiety goblin. The bastard that stole my anniversary from me, and threw 6 months down the drain. To try and placate the bastard, Im now officially trying a new course of drugs to calm my mind and break the cycle of anxiety.

I know I’ve written about my anxiety before, and you might already have your own anxiety goblin or mental health demons knocking at your door, but I want to shout this stuff from the roof tops, because B. A. (Before Anxiety) I had no fucking clue about it. I thought anxiety was something that other people experienced. That mental illness and mental health issues were something that other people had. Other people might have panic attacks and not want to leave the house, but not, me. I’m fine.

But I’m not fine, and the other person is me. I’m that mental health statistic rattling around, popping pills to fix my broken brain. I know it sounds cavalier when I say taking drugs, and broken brain, but right now, cavalier is all I’ve got. For the past year, I’ve been blundering my way through anxiety and all the little trips, hints and techniques haven’t worked, so it’s time to take out the big guns. For the past year, I feel like I’ve been stuck in solidified amber. trying to move, but trapped in someone else’s aesthetic.

Ive tried walking, diet, sunshine, sleeping medication, drugs for indigestion, natural remedies and heal supplements. I had surgery, time off and time on the couch, but all I did was waste time and shut down. I haven’t been fun to be around. When people ask me how I am, I say, ‘I’m here’, or “I’m as good as I’m going to get’ because my brain can’t focus with all the bovine excrement I’m processing through on a daily basis. Each day, I’m fixated on what I can and can’t eat because the dietitian gave me a meal plan to see if I’m having anxiety problems due to processed food. I’m also controlled by my diet because I’m so wound up that my body isn’t processing my  food properly, and on any given day, I might just have the urge to vomit from indigestion.

Well, that how I feel most days, sans curry, beer or funny friends.

But in all seriousness, my body is physically breaking down because my broken brain can’t produce the right chemical to deal with stress. Im the past, my coping mechanisms of a nice wine, some cheese or a nap just did’t cut it with level of stress associated with a PhD. In hindsight, it makes so much sense really. I mean, a PhD is hard. Like real hard. I thought I could cope, because I was prepared for it. I had some setbacks for my Honours, but I had learned from my mistakes, and I knew what my internal challengers were. I was on top of my triggers and though I was bigger than anything stress could throw at me. Until I realised I was sick. Physically and mental sick. I lost 30 KG and was having intrusive thoughts. Like, ‘you could just drive into that car.’ Or ” What if I vomit, right here. I’m not sick, but I could just vomit”. The scariest one- “you could jump out of that window”.

Anxiety is eating up my life. The wretched goblin is taking my time, stealing my energy and turning me into someone I never thought or know I could be, but I’m not going to let it take over. I’m on the drug (that killed River Phoenix), and I’m breaking free of these amber chains.

Instead of dinner, how about a panic attack?

How was 2016 for you? If you’ve been following along, you would know that I’ve had a few lowlights. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, but I can say that I’m ready for a productive and prosperous 2017! In fact, I need to earn some extra pocket money this year, as I want a do-over for my anniversary. I want a do-over for my anniversary as I spent the dinner in the loo. Follow along and I’ll fill you in.

Have you ever had a panic attack? I managed to live 31 odd years without having one, and then, out of the blue, I began to have times where I felt like I was having ‘a moment’. You know, like, I just needed to slip away, like I just needed to get away from everyone. Like my heart was going to explode out of my chest, like my throat was going to expand and implode, like my stomach was going to be emptied and twist inside out, like I wanted to run away, like I wanted to freeze and hide. Like I wanted to no longer be here, not die, but not be here, not in my head. Yeah, have you ever felt like that?

The first time I felt out of sorts, I didn’t understand it. Heck, I don’t understand it much better now, but I would get strange pangs of adrenaline rushing and pulsing through my body with no trigger or external reason. Like the time I was having a post-gig drink with my parents when we went to see Renee Geyer, I had to step out of the line at the bar, stare into the distance and focus on my breathing, until I stopped shaking. There was no reason for me to feel panicked about having a drink of diet coke, but in that moment, I couldn’t think about anything else except keeping my dinner down, and my breathing steady.

I didn’t understand the time I had dinner with my in-laws, celebrating the fact gall bladder surgery was a success as a wave of adrenaline washed over me. I didn’t understand how I could finish dinner (and one beer! A tasty Stone and Wood) and have a conversation with people I know and love, and all of a sudden, all I could think of was the food pouring out of me, covering the table. I just needed a moment.  I fumbled around, erring on erratic, searching for my magic ant-nausea pills. When they didn’t help my mind from racing, I tried to breathe, breathe in and out, and in and out. And I tried to go to the bathroom, in case I was really sick, but I wasn’t, my mind was sick, my heart was racing, again, how was I so panicked and anxious about talking with my family? All the way home, my heart was trying to jump out of my chest, and all the way home, I tried to focus on my breathing and take back control. Failing, I imagined asking my father-in-law to pull over, but I didn’t want to make a fuss. I didn’t want to tell anyone what was happening because I couldn’t explain it. How do I tell someone, can we just stop for a minute while my brain re-calibrates?

I didn’t understand, when my husband and I packed up the car for a night in the big smoke for our anniversary, why my mind kept thinking of all the bad things that could happen in his car. I didn’t understand why my mind was focusing on the contents of my stomach, or how the car would roll down into the valley we were driving about. I didn’t understand why I was hungry and why I couldn’t eat lunch when we stopped for sushi at one of my favourite places. I didn’t understand why I didn’t really want a drink of wine when my husband and I went for a drink before dinner. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t stop shaking when we met up with friends for another pre-dinner drink, or why I couldn’t finish my sparkling mineral water. By then, I had no idea why I was reaching for my anti-nausea meds, but I think I needed something, anything to try and still my mind. I couldn’t describe why I didn’t want dinner. Why couldn’t I make a decision about what to eat, despite knowing that the head chef of the fancy restaurant we were dining at would have made me anything I wanted because we’re old mates? I didn’t know then, and I can’t quite articulate it now, but I do know that I rushed off to the loo, twice, while my husband sat in the restaurant, quietly celebrating seven years of marriage by himself. While my husband of seven years drank artisanal cocktails and nibbled on hand made crackers with exotic dips, I was on the floor of the loo, in a fancy dress bought for the occasion, with my phone glued to my hand, playing puzzle games and trying to make sense of my chest that was about the empty and burst.

When I went to the doctor, I tried to talk about why I might be struggling to eat and breathe, which was so strange. I mean, anyone who gets to 95KG doesn’t have a problem with consuming food, amirite? And why, why was this happening now? Why after 31 years, was my brain deciding that it was necessary to panic about waiting in line, or having dinner? The doctor gave my some drugs, and I have an appointment with the psychologist, so I’m doing all the ‘right’ things, but this feels so far from right. I’ve felt nervous before, I’ve been proper stressed before, I’ve been depressed before, but I’ve never felt like this before. The logical part of me feels my brain is broken. As though someone flicked a switch inside, making me fly into overdrive when it’s not necessary. The logical, or perhaps illogical part of me hopes I can see the psych, and she’ll tell me where the override button is so I can feel normal again. So I no longer fixate on food coming out of me, when I go out to dinner.

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That Time I Lost 25 KG.

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Before.

What were you doing six months ago? According to my bullet journal, May was when it all started. On May 17 I was driving home from uni, listening to my podcast with Richard Fidler and Kumi Tagichi when I started to feel faint. My breathing became erratic, I was getting hot and cold flashes, I felt shaky. I began to wonder if this was what a panic attack feel like. Determined to get home I focused on my breathing and began chanting the wise words of my role model Julia Gillard. I was going to be resilient one more time. I made it home 25 minutes later, had some food and felt a little better.

The following day, I discussed my moment with my good friend over lunch, asking her if she had ever had a panic attack. I detailed what had happened the night before, and we diagnosed that it wasn’t a panic attack, but I probably needed a decent meal. Being a PhD Candidate, it’s easy to get buried in work and forget what day it is, until your body shouts at you for being complacent about meal times. I decided to make an appointment with the doctor anyway. Other little things were starting to unravel within me. For example, at night times, I found it hard to sleep. And not in a count some sheep and get over it way. My mind would race with all the things I needed to do for my research. Then, I would start to worry that my husband was going to vomit. That he would vomit in his sleep, and I would have to wake him up, and get him to safety, which was the worst thing I could imagine, because I HATE vomit. In other words, my brain was in need of a rest, but the hectic pace of life meant I needed to be resilient one more time, and one more time after that, and fuck, I forgot my house keys. That paper is due next week, have you got dog food? Will you pick up the dry cleaning, I don’t care about the dry cleaning, the mortgage is due, and the bank is empty. Where is my resilience?

I saw a medical doctor, and if you read my previous post, you would know, I have been diagnosed with a crappy gallbladder. It’s full of sludge, and I am now counting down the days till the doctor takes it out. I also booked in to see the psychologist. She said I’m stressed and have a phobia of vomit. I could have told her that, but that’s not the point. The point is, since that non-panic attack on the 17th of May, I’ve lost 25 kilograms. It doesn’t seem like much when it’s written down. When I look at my tummy, I still see my body in the same way, so really, I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything at all. This is something I also mentioned to the psychologist. I told her I remember worrying over my thunder thighs when I was four years old. I didn’t tell her any of the other things I did in my teens, or the shitty relationship I developed with food during my adult life, but she told me to eat healthily and regularly, which, sounds like good advice, but when your brain breaks down, logic and reason fly out the window.

So 25 kg. When people see me know, they tell me how radiant I look. How healthy I seem. I’m trying to take it in with good grace, but for the better part, I tell them I’ve been really sick. That no, I’m not healthy. My body was not my priority for so long, that it cracked the shits and decided to put everything on hold on my behalf. That my PhD is now progressing at a glacial pace (although, with climate change, is that a relevant metaphor anymore?), that I’ve spent too many hours on the couch feeling sorry for myself. That I missed my little Bro’s 21st birthday because I was camped out next to the loo in case I spewed ( So really, I didn’t miss the experience of a 21st birthday). 25 kg because I couldn’t eat for days on end. 25 kg because I’m only eating one proper meal a day, with two small snacks, with very little processed food.

25kg. What would you do if you lost 25 kg? I’ve cleared out my wardrobe and scored a few bargains on eBay, but in all honesty, I’m scared. I’m scared I’ll put it all back on again. I’m scared I’ll lose more weight. I’m making plans for my life post surgery which include health and fitness professionals, but I don’t know if I have the resilience necessary for this weight fluctuation bullshit. By the time I turned 30, I felt I was at peace with my body. I knew I had mistreated it, starved myself, gorged myself, not exercised, exercised too much, hated myself. I was at peace with myself and realised that my size was just one piece of the puzzle that makes myself up, and my lifestyle didn’t have enough room for hour sessions at the gym, or organic kale and quinoa smoothies. I also knew from experience, that every time I started a gym membership, or went on a health kick, that falling off the bandwagon was inevitable. By 30, I think deep down, I just decided to keep off the band wagon all together was the safest option.

If you were starting to think that my gallbladder was obesity related, you would be wrong. Despite coming to terms with the fact that I would never be slender, I was still hyper-aware that being fat was a health risk. I heard it on the news with near a daily occurrence. Well-meaning loved ones warned me that I was at risk of diet related problems. The nurse I saw for a check-up tut-tutted as she wrote down my weight at 95kg. It would be easy to say my weight was the cause for all of my problems, but when I pressed all of the doctors and specialists, they have assured me, my gallbladder sludge is not weight related. When I pressed the surgeon, he said I wasn’t fat. I reminded him that I’ve lost 25 kg, and he said, that I was overweight, but not fat. He see’s patients who are much larger than me and my body was simply breaking down on its own accord. It’s probably genetic, and that I’m probably a part of the 30% of the population who have naturally shitty gallbladders.

Fat fat, fatty fat fat. I was fat, now I am not fat. Fat is a part of my body, but it is not me. It was me, I was on the Body Positive cheer squad “all bodies are good bodies’, but it doesn’t feel right when I say it now. I’m still overweight for my height at 164 cm and 70 kg, but with the right outfit, you wouldn’t even notice. I mean, I’m not going to get mistaken as Miranda Kerr anytime soon, but my face isn’t moon-face fat. I no longer get chub-rub and my wedding rings need to be re-sized (again).

On my fridge, I have two magnets that I purchased on a trip to Canberra. One of Paul Keating and one of Julia Gillard. Each has a different look on their faces. I like to think Keating is telling me to work hard, that he says “Ainslie, get the work done.” Gillard, on the other hand, has a softer smile. Sometimes I see it and think it’s a reminder to be kinder to myself. Other times, I’m reminded of the importance of researching the women members of parliament, since no-one else has done research at this in-depth level. But after reading her book, I know her smile is saying “I was not going to give any bastard the satisfaction. I was going to be resilient one more time”.

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Fully Sick

I’ve been off the radar for a while now. Mainly because I’ve been sick and tired of being sick and tired.

 

It all started on the weekend of the 25th of June. It was a shit weekend. As in a storm caused a 24 hour black-out, a branch broke one of my front windows and a stray dog to wander into my yard. The stray dog freaked out my two dogs, and in the morning he attacked my puppy and bit Mac’s face. With the power out, I had to use my car to charge my phone, and I was hungry because there were minimal ways to prepare food worth eating. Yeah, it was a shit weekend. Not the end of the world, but the shit kept hitting the fan.

As soon as one thing was fixed, another thing broke apart. Once the power came back on, I went into town, grabbed some supplies for an indulgent dinner and looked forward to a good night’s sleep. Which I got for about an hour. Then came the worst. I was sick. I will spare you details, but as you can imagine it wasn’t fun and it capped off one of the worst weekends I have had. Did I mention that I was by myself? Yeah, My husband was having a working holiday in Sydney, So I was the one calling the insurance at 9 pm about the broken window. I was the one dealing with the glass truck bogged on the lawn at midnight. I was the one who called the owner of the stray dog. I was the one who drove my dog to the vet with a bleeding face, and waited in the vet surgery (Side note, Murwillumbah Vet Clinic are great.When they heard that the injury was from a stray dog, and realised they had made me wait for 30 min with a cranky bleeding puppy, they waived any fees. Also, their level of care is amazing). I was the one restocking the fridge since the black-out ruined most of the food. To say it was stressful is an understatement, but I thought it would all be over eventually.

And it was for a few days. I felt better, but at night time, I was feeling really gross. Like I could puke at any minute, subsequently, I spent an hour or two in the bathroom most night, feeling sorry for myself, but not puking. I put it down to a bad diet and stress, and made a note to bring it up with my doctor at our next appointment (I had an appointment about contraception, which I spent talking to the doc about the ins and outs of my ins and outs). For my 31st birthday on the 30th, I had two drinks, and couldn’t stomach dinner or breakfast the following morning. By the time I got to my doctor, I was hardly consuming anything other than rice crackers, apples and  ginger cordial. I had many more hours in the bathroom still feeling like I was going to puke but not actually puking.

 

She put it down to a bug, and sent me out for blood tests, gave me a list of foods to avoid, and told me it should settle down. Then the results came in, and I was now unable to eat apples and rice crackers. I didn’t have a bug, I didn’t have any of the other things she tested for, and by now I was plain sick. I saw two other doctors in one week, because I was so sick, I needed a medical certificate for missing uni, and I had’t eaten in days. One of the docs gave me some ant-nausea meds which didn’t work and said I was stressed. The other one ordered a second round of tests and an ultrasound. Now, I don’t know what your experience is with the Australian healthcare system, and really, I can’t complain, because it’s not America, but golly I was tired to tests, and the unknown. And to make matters worse, getting appointments for these tests just confound the matter further.

So, after about two weeks of feeling like puking (No I wasn’t pregnant. I both peed on a stick at home, and in a cup for the doc) but not actually puking, and not eating I was understandably behind with uni. Yeah, that’s a losing battle now, but I’m at peace with the concept that I am now well and truly behind my schedule, but I guess shit happens. Also, I still had no actual results. Stress was one suggestion, gallbladder another, but no real idea. A week later, I found out I had a sludgy gallbladder, but it shouldn’t be making me this sick. I tried eating beetroot with lemon and flaxseed oil under the advice of my doctor. Some days I managed to eat a golf ball sized amount. Others, I was still feeling revolting, and struggling to drink enough water. Somewhere along the line, I was prescribed stronger ant-nausea meds. They still didn’t help completely, but they were the type given to chemo patients, so I knew they were hard core.

The beetroot wasn’t cutting it, and neither were the ant-nausea meds. I spent numerous nights sleeping on the couch, because I didn’t know if I would puke. One night, after I ate a piece of bread with avo at 3 pm, I spent the next 12 hours feeling it at the back of my throat. I was hopelessly behind with uni, and when I had a moment in the doctor’s office where I scared her because I looked like I was going to puke in her office, she told me in no uncertain terms, that I had to get the gastroscopy which was suggested previously. I was doing my best to avoid it, as it was $450, the thought of medical procedures make me anxious, and I was having a good day here and there. Some days, I managed to eat my beetroot with avocado on rice crackers.

I had the gastroscopy. and I lived to tell the tale. I was so fucking anxious going in, I nearly had a teary in the carpark. When I was told my husband couldn’t wait with me, I did cry a little. The only thing that kept me from falling apart was breathing and reading. Once I was in the operating theatre, I was so scared, I could hardly answer the Doctor’s questions, but then came the drugs. WOW dude. Can I say, hospital drugs are some good shit. I was so off tap when I woke up. The nurses were so lovely. I got an icy pole, ginger ale and some crackers. One of them even fed me water. Like she stood there, next to my bed with a cup of water with a straw, patted my head and asked me if I wanted a drink. Like I was a small child.

The nurses told me everything was routine, that I had nothing scary going on, and that I have a small hiatus hernia, but there is nothing to worry about. The doctor came back, confirmed this and said to organise an appointment with my local doctor for the results in five days time.

It’s now an hour before my appointment and I cannot wait to hear an answer. I want a diagnosis, and I want to know what I can and can’t eat (If you’ve been following my snapchat (ainslie_mg) you would know what I’m on about). But mainly, I just want to get better. Or at least what is happening and how to handle it. I’m no longer spending hours in my bathroom, but I’m still not great. I don’t have much energy since I’m hardly eating and I don’t want to push things and go backwards.

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So, I had the appointment, and the doc sent me off for more tests. Can you see a pattern happening here? The Doctor told me the problem is definitely my gallbladder, but I was sent away for more tests to make sure it wasn’t Primary biliary cirrhosis of the liver, and a million other conditions. I then waited another seven days before getting the all clear from all of the things except for a sludgy gallbladder. In the mean time, I regressed. Yep, I went from rice crackers, avo and a wee bit of lettuce back to crackers, or nothing. And I became close friends with the loo again.

So, ANOTHER TRIP to the doc gave me a referral to the specialist so I can hopefully have my gallbladder removed and finally feel well again. This whole time I’ve been fantasising about eating food and dreaming of what my next proper meal will be (Pizza, pad thai, burgers, pulled pork, CURRY WITH SAMOSAS!!!!, soft cheese, chocolate, wine and beer and motherfucking whiskey.) I’ve done my best not to think about what surgery will be like, as I’m not good with medical procedures. As a kid I kept out of danger, and I never even broke a bone, so my time in hospitals or medical centres was few and far between (although, some kid did tip pond water on me, which made me break out in hives, which ended with a late night trip to the hospital, but there’s a difference between some itchy skin and someone inserting things into your body). A friend suggested a natural remedy, which, to be honest, I’ll consider, but I want to talk it over with a trained medical professional. Having said that, this whole process could have been a heck of a lot shorter if the trained medical professionals diagnosed me properly the first time…

For now, I’m back to taking it one day at a time. I’m still sleeping on the couch as it feels better to sleep upright, and it’s easier to sleep upright on the couch than in my bed (oh man I miss my bed. AND lying down horizontally). I’m about to have lunch which will consist of rice crackers with vegemite and I’m counting down the hours till my next overpriced (I’m tottaly doing the wrong PhD!) specialist appointment where maybe, I’ll get a straight answer. If there is one thing I have learned from all of this, it’s ask questions. I mean, sometimes the answers may lead you up the garden path, and prolong the issue, but ask questions anyway. When I was told this was my body’s reaction to stress, I asked for more tests. Yes the tests dove me mad, but I knew, deep down, this is not how I normally react to stress. Sure, I don’t doubt that stress exacerbated what I was feeling, and that stress was a part of the poor diet leading up to this, but how I was feeling was not a direct reaction to a stressful situation. My symptoms were not typical, so I can understand if the doc was puzzled, but I made sure that I asked what the medication I was prescribed did. Would it react with anything. In sum, I was a pain in the arse but I was through.

 

 

 

It’s the Numbers, Stupid.

I’m a published author! Look! I wrote some stuff with the help of my supervisor, Dr. Liz van Acker. Wheeeeee! look at me, adulating all over the place.

 

I’ve been so snowed under with my PhD, and I’m actually enjoying the work, although, judging by this note I wrote on my phone a few months back, one would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

What they won’t tell you about a PhD: you’re going to be poor and uncomfortable.

I get asked all the time, “are you smart?”  Which is based on the assumption that to do a PhD, you need to be smart. I think it stems from the STEM fields (pun tottaly intended). If you’re going to create science things which are at the highest level of research, you want to be one clever cookie. But it takes more than smarts to get you over the finish line. 

During the dark days of my undergrad thesis, I had many days where I thought I wouldn’t make it. My project was going pear-shaped because I was broke, from being a student for too long, and my marriage was up shit creek because marriage is hard work. Also, we’re still young and headstrong, so my husband and I have many jerk tendencies. And a thesis required time and energy. I just didn’t have enough to really care about relations or housework. All of which combined for many a perfect storm, and as a result, I have distinct memories of sobbing in the bathroom, having an existential crisis.

And no-one tell you this stuff. There is so much that you give up, for the hope of future success. I am broke as all hell right now. In the words of Trials, I gotta save up to be broke. Which is almost romantic. I mean, goon is cheep, and you can get a wheel of Brie for 3 bucks at the grocery store, but it also means never having any cash to pitch in for a round, to fly over to see friends get married (Sorry Nads!), to drive anywhere without thinking of your fuel consumption and most dramatically, it means things like the mortgage are just another world away. Which sounds like an overstatement, but when I see my friends with careers, kids, holidays and new Nikes, I really feel like I’m missing out. Just for once, I would like to purchase fuel and groceries without checking my measly bank balance first. I’d like to save up for that cruise, and I’d like to feel the satisfaction of paying the bills without argument or juggling. But all of that is on hold until I sort out the failings of western democracy and feminism. Which is the biggest challenge. No body tells you this big world problem that you’re trying to answer (whether it’s female genital mutilation or saving babies from cancer), the smaller problems like who lost the TV remote are bigger problems than what’s in your philosophy textbooks. 

And don’t even get me started on how challenging this is from a gendered perspective. I mean, i known have it easy, being middle class & white, but if I get one more man trying to trick me about my topic, or tell me what the answer is, I’m going to go bat-shit crazy. Like for reals. When I hear ‘women just need to put them selves forward’ or ‘yeah, but they have kids’ it makes me want to pound things. Sure, we could all do with extra confidence. And it’s undeniable that women have children and biologically, they carry and sometimes nurse them, but having kids doesn’t impact men in the same way. It’s not even close. And I don’t know about you, but I’m yet to meet the Virgin Marry. In other words, men are part of the baby making process too, but it’s yet to hold them back from their career success. And that confidence myth ignores the structural inequalities which reinforce everyone’s place. 

Bottom line: a PhD is far more challenging than the project itself. There are so many sacrifices that you have to throw out,

So there you have it folks. I’ve been buried in PhD land. Life is tough, even if you’re middle-class and white.

Not Another One

It has been too many months since my last post, but I am back on the band wagon, so never fear!

 

I have undertaken many things in my time away from the blog, and if you’re following my adventures on Instagram you would know that I visited Sydney Town, drank some coffee, visited the family, cuddled my dogs and got in touch with nature. Fun times. I’ve also really enjoyed getting-to-know the wider Insta-Community. Whether it’s the effortlessly stylish Nikki with #everydaystyle or the more outlandish charm of Kobi Jae with #whatfatgirlsACTUALLYwear I’m really digging the body positive movement, and the power of social media. I’d be an idiot, if I didn’t acknowledge some of the challenges associated with social media like trolling, stalking or identity fraud, but I think it’s great that we can all be a media outlet. We are no longer stuck with the glossy magazines of the past. Sick of seeing the same images? Then go make some of your own and become an independent broadcaster. The power of creative curation is contagious.

This summer, I even managed to fit in a holiday. As in a real holiday, away from home, at a proper hotel and it was mag-fucking-nificent. The power of relaxation cannot be overstated, and my husband and I enjoyed the delightful Freshwater Point Resort. By an amazing happy coincidence, it was walking distance from the Cardamon Pod,  a vegetarian restaurant we have been meaning to try out, and we were thrilled with the results. The only downside to the whole holiday experience was a creepy old man. In all seriousness, a much older man approached me in the pool, and asked me where I was from.

 

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Despite the face I’m pulling, I’m enjoying the pool. 

It went something like this:

Old dude in speedos: Where are you guys from?

Me: What do you mean?

Speedos: Where are you from, where do you live?

Me: Does that matter?

Speedos: No, I’m making conversation, where are you from?

Me: What? Where are YOU from?

Speedos: No, were did you come from, did you travel?

Me: I want to be left alone thank you

Speedos: I was only making conversation.

On the surface it was innocuous, and a part of me is trying to give Speedos the benefit of the doubt, and imagine that he really was curious about my true location. BUT. Can a woman, just enjoy herself at the pool without a man interjecting on her time? I was really thrown off-guard by this dude. I wasn’t up for a conversation, and it is no business of his where I am from or what I was doing. To me, this speaks of the male gaze, and white male privilege, where men think they are entitled to a woman’s time and body. My clothing is irrelevant, my location is irrelevant, my mood is irrelevant, I am not here for your entertainment. It was also a reminder of the everyday sexism project. As women, we are consciously and subconsciously taught to be submissive to men, and that men deliver an omnipotence power of authority over women. Sometimes, I think because of my size, my clothing choices and where I spend loads of time hanging out (at home, or in the hetro-female-heavy office) I’m not often a target of the male gaze. Or maybe I’ve managed to filter it out, and I’m oblivious to the pervy eyes, who decided in an instant if I’m fuckable or not. Regardless, I am not your toy, I am not up for a conversation. Women have the right to exist in public, without harassment, even if you don’t think it’s annoying, if it’s annoying a woman, then it’s harassment.

 

Sigh, do I really have to say this? It’s 2016 FFS!

 

Till next time folks 😉