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 nigh 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 myself. 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 healthy 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 incase 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 loose 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 it’s 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 any time soon, but my face isn’t moonface 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 have 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 😉

 

Hen House Update

Remember when I rambled on, at length about how excited I was for my new Hen House? After a few months in, I thought I would share some highs and lows.

Without a doubt, the best highlight has been the eggs. I got the ‘pullets’ at around 18 weeks, which is supposed to be point of lay. It was the middle of winter, so we had to be patient, but we are now, well and truly in supply.Eggs! or in our house, eggy-eggs.

Poo has been another positive aspect of my backyard chickens. Each week, I ‘muck out’ the hen house. I take out the sugar-cane mulch, shredded paper, any uneaten scraps and of course, the poo. This is added to either the compost, or the veggie patch. I also add some camphor laurel leaves to the nesting boxes, once I’ve raked up all the muck, to deter any bugs.

See that ‘igloo’? At first, we didn’t need to worry about the garden when we free-ranged the ladies. They were shy, and tended to stick close to their coop. As time wore on, they became bolshy, and we spent most of out time shoo-ing the ladies out of the veggie patch! My husband was determined to have a hen-free patch, so he created this beauty, which keeps the ladies out of the veggies. For this creation, most of the items were purchased, but it was a necessity and my husband points out, this is only igloo stage one. Igloo stage two will have a door, and be re-strung with clothesline for a more even tension.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Phase 1

My husband also made a shade-house while he had all the materials and equipment handy. Most of the materials for this one were re-purposed and salvaged, just like the hen-house. This is also in stage one of development. My husband was quick to point out, there will a floor for the shade house. IMG_5896

The celery can flourish, now the hens can't get at it.

I also had to hastily make some guards for some individual plants. This was a contentious issue in our household, so I would call this part a low-light. My husband was quiet stressed about the ladies digging around in his garden, and I clearly didn’t plan for keeping them out of the garden. I knew they would make a mess, but they went to town in the veggie patch. I would STRONGLY recommend hen-proofing your garden if you don’t want it dug up.

It’s all in the detail.

Another low-light was finding a dead chook in the middle of the lawn. One Saturday, we found one of the hens had died, but there were no warning signs, and there were no signs of distress. It was upsetting, because earlier this month, we had to put down our surrogate dog (We dog-sit with regularity for my in-laws.). Last year, we also lost one of our own dogs as he was attacked by an un-identified animal, so we buried the feathered lady in the pet-cemetery in our back yard. It wasn’t pleasant, but it is a part of life, and we all die at some stage. It also brought back memories of the death of my grandparents that I hadn’t dealt with, and earlier this week, a friend also lost a loved one. Death is just another part of life. It is inescapable but we spend out lives trying to ignore it’s certainty. Death death death. Dead. I know it’s not the end of the world, but Hermione’s death was a sharp reminder of the banality and certainly of death.

On a more positive note, I’ve really enjoyed having the hens in my life. It gets me out of the house, and I spend time chasing the chooks and dogs around the yard and feeling the sunshine on my skin. I spend far too much time behind a desk, and the gym isn’t my thing, so the time I spend outside with the ladies and my puppies is precious. It’s also drawn my husband and I closer together. He is very much an out-doors person, se we now spend time outside together, which feel like a rare treat.

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My puppy pulled the head off his toy chook. I hope it’s not a sign of things to come.
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Hillary and Henrietta out for a stroll.
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I found a Giant Panda Snail and an egg on my lawn.

I would absolutely recommend getting some hens for your back yard, if you can spare the time and space. Our eggs are plentiful, and sharing them is a joy. Getting outside, in the fresh air has helped me break out of my comfort zone, and given me something else to focus on,  other than impending doom the mammoth task of my PhD.

The nesting nook
Growth
Growth

Unedited Glory

I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe that it is the end of October. My PhD has taken hold of me, and while I am no-where near as productive as I would like to be, the workload is all consuming. It’s all I think about, and everyday I am doing something towards it. The good news, is most of my quantitative data has been collected. YAY! The bad news, is now it’s more fucking hard work. Ugh. And I’m a wee bit tired of of people asking what I’m going to do when I finish. Stop making me folks, because I have no fucking clue. Unless you’re offering me a job, don’t ask what I’m doing with my life post uni.

In September I went to Canberra and it was exciting. It has been ages since I travelled alone, and even longer since I’ve travelled for the sake of it. Canberra was everything I expected and more. I went for the APSA conference, and I was reminded that I am socially awkward. NBD, cause I got a selfie with Antony Green, visited the Federal Parliament, and saw Floridae.

#studentlife
My desk in all of it’s unedited glory. How does your compare?
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Tulips from Floriade. Call me a Nanna, but I can’t wait to go back again.
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In the House of Representatives. They wouldn’t let me on the floor, because I’m not an MP.
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A snapshot from Federal Parliament. I felt super safe, because there was a man with a massive gun, patrolling the place.

Needing out to the MAX at the big house.

Because I am lazy, I ripped this list street from Meet me at Mikes.

Making : My head explode with data
Cooking :Vegemite and cheese on toast
Drinking :Goon (don’t judge, I’m a poor student)
Reading: All Fall Down by Matt Condon.
Wanting: To have my life sorted
Looking: Like I’ve just rolled out of bed
Playing: Sonic Dash
Deciding: That I need a job. ASAP
Wishing: upon a star
Enjoying: Coming home to my puppy
Waiting: to hear back from a friend
Liking: comfort food too much
Wondering: If I will ever be an adult
Loving: $6 roasts at uni
Pondering: the ethics of a $6 roast
Considering: Netflix. But dammit Mr Turnbull, you still haven’t fixed my internet!
Buying: Nothing because I am poor. Although I need new tyres and a windscreen.
Watching: Kitchen Cabinet, Peeky Blinders and HANGING OUT FOR DR BLAKE!
Hoping: Dr Blake is coming back real soon
Marvelling: at the data
Cringing: At federal politics.
Needing: Cashola and a holiday
Questioning: existentialism
Smelling: I caught the bus today, and was stuck between bad aftershave and fart.
Wearing: A wool dress that I nabbed for $20 from a posh lady shop.
Following: The QLD Hansards
Noticing: That I need to stop procrastinating
Knowing: That Social Media is the worst
Thinking: about gender equality
Admiring: Other academics
Sorting: My shit out
Getting: tired of driving so much
Bookmarking: election info on websites
Coveting: Thou shall not Covert
Disliking: Politics
Opening: my wallet and finding moths
Giggling: at Tony Abbot telling Europe to stop the boats. If you don’t laugh you cry.
Feeling: Sad after watching the news. Too many women are being killed by their partners and at the hands of men. 
Snacking: On lollies
Hearing: podcasts that I’m addicted to. Like this one, and this one and this one.

Counting Dead Women

TRIGGER WARNING: Domestic violence.

Call DV Connect if you need to talk to someone about your domestic situation 1800811811

It’s 12:06 pm, and I sit down at the computer for the day. After opening my internet browser, I learn that a man has died in hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He shot himself, after he shot his partner at a McDonalds restaurant on the Gold Coast.

In Queensland, the police deal with an average of 8 call-outs per hour which are related to domestic violence. I once made a call to the local police, because my neighbours were feuding on the front lawn; the woman was holding her young daughter in her arms, while her male partner was yelling and attempting to hit the woman. When I called the police, the tone of the voice on the other end was unmistakably tired. I’m sure the officer had seen it all before. This incident is not the only time I’ve witnessed domestic violence, or male dominated violence, earlier this year, a fight broke out in the local uni cafe, and a young woman was held by the neck by her male partner. I’ve also witnessed domestic violence and male dominated violence in my wider circle of family and friends. I write of these occurrences, not to draw the narrative towards my trajectory, but to illustrate the ways in which domestic violence permeates all of our lives. I’ve also experienced male dominated violence, but I’ve been fortunate enough to walk away unscathed and able to tell my story. This year, 62 women did not have that luck, and unfortunately, died as a result of domestic or male dominated violence.

I could put together all the stats in a neat table, indicating the number of women who experience domestic violence, but it’s not going to stop the pain, and it’s not going to change those stats. While getting ready this morning I was listening to the news and heard Minister Pyne tell us all, that we need to change our culture (He has a habit of telling women what they already know) towards domestic violence. On the from page of the Courier Mail we’re told that the government and community is doing something about this terrible tragedy. I’m sure all of the people pictured here (and many others) recognise the need to end domestic violence. Premier Palaszczuk has rightfully condemned this behaviour and committed to additional resources to assist DV Connect. This is a necessary move, but I can’t stop thinking this is only half of the problem. When the first line of the article states “SPORTING great Darren Lockyer has joined other prominent Queenslanders in making an impassioned plea to rise up against the domestic violence scourge, and scores of people have taken to social media to join the campaign”. I’m sure I will be forgiven for being somewhat cynical. I don’t care how great Mr Lockyer is at throwing some pig-skin around a field, it does’t make him an instant champion against domestic violence, and when a man’s sporting prowess is used to justify his stance against domestic violence it reinforces the nature of male and female dichotomy. It also patronises the survivors and victims of domestic violence, by ignoring their narrative, at the importance of a white man’s sporting ability.

http://www.couriermail.com.au
Front Page of the Courier Mail, Friday, September 11, 2015.
I am somewhat cynical because I’m tired of hearing from men, what us women need to do, and how we live our lives, and I’m damn sick of hearing of how good some men are, when they lead the charge, like a white knight against the scourge of domestic violence. And again, I’ll ask for your forgiveness for my cynicism when I hear Dazza taking a stand against anti-social behaviour. I’m also over hearing men say they don’t hit women, that is is something done by other men, and those men are horrible. This year, °62 women have died as a result of domestic violence and its only now that you’ve seen an outrage at that statistic and the reporting of the issue. You want to know why men hit women? Because we let them. We let boys get away with violent and aggressive behaviour, because, well, boys will be boys, and that translate to more aggressive behaviour resulting in domestic violence. Not only do we let male domination to occur in this self-perpetuating cycle, but we expect it and we demand it. When we tell boys not to cry, we’re telling them expressing emotions is not ok.

Peeling back through the layers of our masculine hegemony, there is a striking imbalance when it comes to men in power and leadership.¹ Not only do we condition our children in explicitly gendered terms but our wider culture maintains the dominance of men. In the ²workplace, women comprise 26.1 percent of key management positions and 17.3 percent of CEO positions. Women are also under-represented in politics, since the represent approximately ³29 percent of parliaments. Our capacity for leadership is not related to any biological pre-disposition based on what we keep in out pants, but somehow, as a society, we equate very different abilities and traits with gender, and these traits seep further into the cultural milieu. While it looks like a large jump between a women being killed by as a result of domestic violence, we need to recognise how we got there in the first place. Not only do we expect a certain level of aggression from men, but as a culture, we are blind to the dominance of male power because it is perceived to be the status quo.

Domestic violence is a complex and wide reaching issue, but at it’s core is power. If we can address this power imbalance, we can address male dominated violence. Don’t ask why a woman stays in an abusive relationship, ask why men are still behaving like this.

°COUNTING DEAD WOMEN

¹ BATHES, R. 1927. Mythologies, New York, Hill and Wang.

² AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT 2014. Australia’s gender equality scorecard. In: WORKPLACE GENDER EQUALITY AGENCY (ed.)

³WILSON, J. & BLACK, D. 2014. Women Parliamentarians in Australia 1921–2013. In: SERVICES, D. O. P. (ed.). Canberra: Parliament of Australia.

#bodypositivealldayeveryday

TRIGGER WARNING: Body Talk. Food Consumption

I saw this video on Facebook last week and it made me think many thoughts. I couldn’t watch it all the entire clip, intact, I think I got one minute into it, before I walked away because I found the argument so appalling. But at the time, I didn’t react to it, as Nicole Arbour is entitled to her view, and she is entitled to explain her view via social media. I also dismissed the video, because I like to think that what we see on Facebook and other digital platforms do not control my life. I clearly love a good selfie, but there are more important things in life than what someone posts on their social media.

But then, I saw this article, and, truth be told, I had some niggling thoughts and feelings about what Ms. Arbour was saying.

In my experience with food, exercise and weight control, there is no single path, cure or pill that will immediately change your body or your headspace regarding weight management. I have been many different sizes, from 10-16 (maybe even 18), and even at my skinniest, smallest, lowest weight, I thought I needed to drop a dress size, tone up and be smaller. I cannot think of a time since adolescence where my diet of my body didn’t enter my mind at some point during the day. And I don’t think I am different from too many other people with these thoughts and feeling. How did it start, and why did I, at 13 take a day off from eating, because I thought I was too fat, or only eat rice crackers, or binge and engage in many different unhealthy diet patterns? I have a distinct memory of reading Dolly/Girlfriend and looking at the models, with their thigh-gaps and flat hips. In my mind, I knew the girls in my magazine were photoshopped and therefore, unrealistic, but it didn’t stop me from obsessing about my weight, and weighing myself daily, to see if I had lost anything. And now, despite all the knowledge we have about photoshop, it is still just as challenging to walk through our daily lives without seeing those images of unrealistic perfection.

Me, in all my #bodypositive glory.
Me, in all my #bodypositive glory.

So back to that YouTube clip: fat people are unhealthy, and therefore bad, and need to be stopped. SIGH! This makes me so disappointed, on so many, MANY levels. 1) Skinny people can be unhealthy 2) Fat people can be healthy 3) STOP MAKING THIS ARGUMENT INTO A SKINNY/FAT DICHOTOMY! I’m not going to comment on Ms. Arbour’s appearance, because that is rude, her exterior doesn’t dictate her academic capacity and I don’t know her background. But what I will say, is I’m a bit over skinny people telling fat people how to live their lives, and as for denying the concept of fat-shaming. Lady, you’re doing it. The whole video, which I have to say, I don’t find humorous or intelligent, shames people who are outside the socially accepted size range. I’m never going to say it’s acceptable to be unhealthy choices but it’s not my place, nor Ms. Arbour’s place to judge what is acceptable for someone else’s body. #BODYPOSITIVE.

And as of blaming the #bodypositive movement, oh golly gosh, do I have plenty to say about this. When we are bombarded with images of white, able-bodied, slender people, (usually women, and usually sexualised), and those images are replicated and reproduced within our cultural expectations, its pretty darn hard to fight the hegemony. So as I fill my mouth, one-by-one with choice malt balls, I wish to remind people that weight management, is more than a mathematic equation. Yes, we need to be mindful of the types of food we consume, and how much activity we engage in, but this doesn’t take into account the external pressures of the day-to-day grind. It doesn’t account for the ways in which food is marketed to us (How many Maccas do you have in your local neighbourhood compared to fruit and veg shops?), it doesn’t account for the internalising process of watching a sea of perfect images, and it doesn’t account the relationship we have with food, exercise and our bodies. All of which are personal and shape the way we approach life. When a fat person speaks up, dares to take up space and be unashamed in their body positivity it can only be a positive thing. From my experience of being all sizes, I know you are never going to be able to sustain and maintain a healthy weight range when you work from a position of fear, shame and negativity. Ms. Arbour’s stance on #bodypositive is rude, demeaning and seeks to further oppress the already marginalised by reinforcing the dominant cultural expectations. Love your body at every size, live your life for today, and not when you fit into that dress or those pants.