Monthly Archives: July 2012

Fear Into Anger Into Action

Currently, the country (and the world) is talking constantly and loudly about the Olympics. That’s fine. Sport can be a great leveller, it can bring cultures together, it celebrates people who are some of the most committed and hard-working in our society. All good.

But you know what else is happening right now? Women are being killed by their partners. Every week in Australia, there is at least one domestic homicide. That’s an odd euphemism, isn’t it? Let us call it for what it is- death. Murder. The fact is that women in Victoria aged between 15-44 are more likely to die and be permanently disabled because of family violence than any other health indicator.

Four Corners in a long running current affairs program, and I applaud them for talking about an issue that doesn’t often get air time. But as I sit here, shaking with rage and sadness and frustration, I wonder what will happen next. Will there be the same outrage that exploded over the live-export story? Media exposure has power, or at least it did for livestock. I want Australian women (and all women) to be valued and kept alive. Supported, able to live in safety and peace. Able to know that if they report violence, police will respond promptly and properly.

And I’m angry that these things are STILL not a reality. I’m angry when I have almost-daily conversations with people- men, women, young, old- who say, ‘isn’t feminism over now?’. When, in a professional capacity, I advocate to get a client into refuge but know that such services are at 100% capacity nearly 100% of the time, and I have to tell her this. In short, I am telling her, ‘There are not enough refuges because the government values gold medals over your safety, over funding workers and resources to adequately respond to this national epidemic’.

How can we change this mentality? When will Australia get its fucking priorities straight? Any of the women who die this week at the hands of their partners could make wonderful contributions to society- yeah, including sport- if they were able to stay alive, and to live their lives without fear of violence.

I’m into sport. I get teary when the Olympics are on and the TV networks show those montages of great athletic feats. I like yelling and screaming at the screen as though that will make swimmers go faster. So don’t go calling me a killjoy. I just wonder what might happen if we as a country could put even one tenth of the passion, energy and money spent on elite sport into the elimination of domestic violence. I wonder and I write blogs, and I cry. And then I pick myself up and try to bloody DO SOMETHING to create change because fuck it, crying just makes your face look funny.

 

Got cash? This organisation could use it: Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service

Got time and skills? Women’s Information and Referral Exchange and Men’s Referral Service want your help.

Got an email account? Start bugging your State and Federal MPs.

Got a mouth? Talk about it.

 

 

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Everything’s OK. Really. Hopefully. I Don’t Know.

I thought I was going along OK there for a bit. And, if I can step back a bit from the black/ white, all/nothing, perfect/ shit mentality, then I guess I still am going OK. Just a bit shaky. Semester 2 has kicked off, it already feels like a a lot of work- 4 days a week placement plus 2 subjects- and it’s already tempting to give in to the Neg Voice and just…well, just die. Which I can’t do. So, gotta battle on. It still shocks me though, just how quickly my mind turns to suicide (and/ or eating disorder stuff) whenever life gets even the slightest bit difficult/ busy/ messy etc. Like, BANG. No other coping mechanisms, no other neural pathways lit up, no self-care or self-compassion, just, fucking die you useless fat bitch. Like there’s a big chunk of my brain that’s blacked out and shut down, too many years of abuse, such a huge gap between being the child who was terrified of being killed every day and now, ta da! I’m an adult in control of my own life but it’s like driving a car without ever having had a single driving lesson. Which is to say, fucking terrifying and it takes all my energy just to stay on the right side of the road. And I wish she had just killed me all those times she threatened to and saved me the agony of having to live with it and no I don’t but yes I do and on and on and ON. And they tell me, it is possible to live through this, to take the middle path, stay alive for a long and productive life, maybe even enjoy it. Really? Really??? I’m glad you believe that for me but all I have is a tiny spark lodged somewhere deep in my gut and sometimes thats just not enough to see a future with.

ANYWAY, part of my need to ramble is that placement is finally happening. I was all, ‘Oh, I’ve worked for years, and I’ve done placements before, I’m a pro at this, not nervous at all, nope, not me’. Yeah well my bullshit lasted approximately  30 seconds, and it was/ is full on, and I only realised I was scared when I got to the lunch break and she whispered, you have a great opportunity here, you can restrict food the whole time, you SHOULD, no, (yelling now) YOU HAVE TO, you’re gonna suck at this, what skills do you have? none, they all hate you already, you’re in the way you idiot and oh fucksticks, how did THAT happen so bloody quickly?? My placement learning goals do not include ‘starve the whole time so that I have no energy to do anything’. That’s NOT what I want. Yes it is. Argh. Messy head is messy.

So I go to counselling and watch myself, from outside myself. I see this awkward lump of a girl, behaving almost like a parody of the clients we watch on the dated videos at uni- no eye contact, one word answers, incessantly fidgeting with her hands. Swinging between enthusiasm and openness to suicidal in the space of an hour, shutting down whenever anything gets too hard. And realise, that girl is me. And the thought that this is who I am, how I am, weighs me down more than food ever could, fills me with disgust and self loathing, get me out of here, this room, this life, get me out NOW. And I am back in that bed, with her on top of me, suffocating me, and at the time I struggled and begged for breath but now I wish I’d given up.

But I didn’t, and so I am here now. Here, alive, an adult not a child. And maybe life is shit, or sometimes OK, or just a huge fucking awful wonderful mess. And I write it all out because I can’t do anything else with it and otherwise my head would explode, and it doesn’t have to make sense, just to be, and maybe I’ll learn something useful from it and maybe I won’t and on and on it goes…

 

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Light In The Darkness

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness

 -Peter Benenson, founder, Amnesty International

Tonight it’s dark within me, and around me, and if not for that spark of light deep down inside, I would be gone.

I often wonder about this spark, this tenacious source of light that sometimes flares up with passion and conviction, but far more often flickers on the edge of extinction- yet never completely goes out. It keeps me alive, and it also keeps me doing- working, studying, volunteering for a more just world. And working on myself, too- talking with the Wise Woman, writing, reading, reflecting.

Other people see this light within me. They recognise it as compassion and kindness and determination to create change. They call it leadership, courage, willingness to speak up. They tell me I am smart, funny, open. They say these things when I ask why, why would anybody want be around me, such a disgusting person, a worthless thing? Why is it of any consequence if I die, what does it matter if I go? I asked these questions, though not with words, in 2009. Those were the answers I got. I didn’t believe them then and I struggle to now.

But I do know that it’s there, and sometimes I allow myself to consider that my life- my future- will be about working so that this spark of ‘me’ can develop into a stronger light source, one that outshines the Negative Voice, feeds my spirit and my soul, helps me stay in the world and contribute in many ways.

Well then. Carry on.

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Keeping My Balance

So much of my life has been all or nothing. Only ever two ‘options’ and very little room to move. You’re the best, or you’re a failure. You starve, or you binge. You make yourself invisible, or you suffer the abuse that comes with being visible. You live, or you die. But I’m finally getting the message that life doesn’t work like that. Life is about having the effort and determination and guts and grace to keep your balance in the centre. Knowing that the pendulum might swing to the edges sometimes but that it can be brought back, you can be brought back. It’s about recognising what your equilibrium looks like and working hard to stay there. Recognising that you, just like everybody else, are worthy of peace and safety and care.

It’s hard for me to remember and practice these ideas, particularly after a period of feeling acutely suicidal. Hard to cross that line, stand on that edge, be totally convinced that it’s time to end it and yet be pulled back- gently but with great determination- towards the centre by the tiny spark inside me that knows death is not the answer. Every time. Every second that I hang on, every meal that I feed and nurture myself with, every connection I maintain with people who support me.

It’s hard but it’s worth it. So I remind you just as much as I am reminding myself: keep your balance.

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Just. Keep. Going.

Yippee for me! I made it to Thursday!

That’s what life is like at the moment- getting through each day, and more importantly each night. Finding reasons to get up in the morning, and reasons not to give into the darkness and Negative Voice that sweeps over me at night. Trying with all my willpower and determination to ignore ED thoughts and  eat regularly.  Trying to believe the Wise Woman when she says, ‘you can do this, it’s bloody hard and it sucks but you can do it’.

It always seems impossible until it is done. Repeating this, over and over. Most likely this is not what Nelson Mandela meant his words to be used for- my daily battle with food and my body and not giving in to suicide. Those words were probably written and spoken for bigger causes. Too bad. I promise you social change is next on my to-do list, right after I convince myself to stay alive long enough to achieve it.

Food is a good example. Yesterday I had an awesome day, food-wise. My target at the moment is to eat at least one meal (of the 3-meals, 3-snacks ideal) at a regular time and in a regular portion size. Yesterday I hit breakfast, lunch AND dinner. I can’t believe I did that! And yet- I can believe it, because I went through every excruciating moment of doing it. And yes I know it’s self-obsessed, and yes I acknowledge in many other contexts and for most other people it’s nothing unusual, but for me it’s FUCKING HUGE. It’s a Big Deal. it’s something I need to record so that when I doubt myself (uh, like, always) the reminder is there.

Also, on a related note: proper thick non-diet yoghurt, with dry roasted almonds and canned peaches? For breakfast? It is yum. I had forgotten this.

The other activity that makes good use of Mandela’s words for me is stair climbing. I am going to Nepal soon. Very soon. Nepal is a steep and mountainous country. Melbourne is flat. Very flat. Thank goodness then, for my university and its’ 14-storey buildings, full of stairs to simulate mountains. How lucky for me! How unlucky for my aching calves! But I enjoy it, in the weird way that pain and feats of endurance can sometimes be enjoyable. The uni is mostly empty because of mid-year holidays. It’s just me and my backpack and my head. You can do it, keep going. Twenty more steps in this flight. Ten more flights. Two more sets. Then you’re done. You can do this. That’s me, the same authentic and real voice of me that gently reminds me that full-fat yoghurt is not poison. It’s nice to hear her voice again.

I used to be in a swimming squad, between the ages of about ten and fourteen. The coach told me once, ‘I always give you one more set in your program than I think you’re capable of. I always push you, just to see if you can rise to it’. I absolutely thrived on this concept at the time, mostly because I craved adult approval and praise. But I still find it a good motivator now. You never know what you’re capable of until you do it.

It always seems impossible until it is done.

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