Tag Archives: just keep going

Working, eating, breathing, being

progress

Wow…time has flown by since I last wrote at the beginning of January.

I got a job. Not necessarily the ‘best’ job, or my ‘dream job’, but a job none the less. I’m thrilled and I’m terrified, because with this next step comes a bundle of anxieties that I recognise from every other job I’ve ever had, every other change I’ve ever made, every other challenge I’ve ever faced: You suck. You’re stupid, you’re incompetent, everybody thinks you’re an idiot. You can’t do it. You shouldn’t be here. Go kill yourself. Just, whoosh- all the negativity spewing forth from my head before I even signed the paperwork.

Well, fuck that. I can do it, in fact I *am* doing it, every day- yup, full time work, another scary concept for me. I’m learning, and sitting with the scariness of not knowing all the answers, and dealing with the social anxiety of meeting lots of new people. Trying to translate an honours degree in social work into the reality of social work, in a speciality that I know hardly anything about = really fucking scared. Two weeks in, I’m still running on adrenaline and fear but I’m functioning, non-one has told me I shouldn’t be there and the world has kept turning. So screw you, head noise.  

Working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (with a really long commute on top of that) has forced my body into a decent eating routine- I’m managing breakfast, lunch (in front of work colleagues!!!) and a couple of snacks most weekdays. That’s more regular and ‘normal’ than I have been for YEARS. It’s not perfect because I’m not perfect, nobody is perfect, fuck being perfect. It’s still an achievement, and it’s good enough for now. Quick oats, toasted sanwiches, muesli bars and bulk cook-ups of soup are my recovery aides right now. Staying away from any sort of restrictive diet or notion of ‘clean eating’ is also helping my sanity levels. I’m doing what I can, the best way that I can, when I can. I am enough.

A counsellor from a previous therapy group (RIPE, check them out) is running very gentle, body-positive and restorative yoga that is really helping me to manage the head noise, if only for an hour a week. It was perfect timing, the kind of thing that makes me believe in the ‘workings of the universe’- start stressful job, win free place in yoga course- and the gentle reminders to breathe, be still and be kind are just what I need at the moment.

So- I’m doing well. I’m scared and I’m shaky and I’m feeling pushed but I’m managing. I’ll take that, thank you.

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Milestones and stumbling blocks

I’ve finished! I can now call myself a Social Worker, with the piece of paper to prove it, the transcript that shows four years worth of courses and late-night essays and months of placements. Done!

Sooo….what now? Who am I, if I’m not a student anymore? So much of my identity was (is) wrapped up in being a high-achieving, HD-scoring, super-involved student. I will graduate with 1st class honours and a string of extra credits, but no job. What?! That wasn’t the plan! I’ve been looking for jobs since September, because ‘obviously’, in my high achiever, go go go mind, I wasn’t going to take a break after study. I was going to finish, graduate and get right onto changing the world.

WELL. That hasn’t happened.  My perfect transcript doesn’t really count for much, in fact, many community sector jobs list qualifications as ‘desirible’ rather than ‘essential’. Which is depressing given I have been at uni for 4 years and have a $20k debt. Then there’s the driving thing. Apparently, being a social worker is not about people skills, or advocacy, or supporting people through the shitty times in life: it’s driving clients from A to B. Again, a four year degree to…drive people to Centrelink? About 90% of ads list a driver’s licence as essential, and regardless of whether that’s true or not, I don’t drive yet. Thanks, epilepsy. I’ve had two job offers retracted because, despite clearly stating this fact, people don’t register it. It’s like a foreign concept, like not driving is equivalent to being unqualified.  ‘Oh…we just assumed you could drive…oh yes I see it’s written here…well, sorry. Come back when you have a licence’. Part of me wants to scream, “DISCRIMINATION!’ in their faces, but the reality is that I’m a new graduate and they know I’m not going to make waves about it.

It is so FRUSTRATING. I’m so ready for this, I’ve worked so hard, I want to be out there using my skills and just…nothing. Well meaning people say things like, ‘your time will come’ or ‘just think of these stumbling blocks as stepping stones’, and I want to scream. I’ve never been in this situation before. Everything I’ve set my mind to, I’ve worked hard for and gotten it- jobs, scholarships, everything. It’s really hard not to spiral into self loathing- what’s wrong with me? Why are other people getting jobs and not me? I’m a failure.

I may well be unemployed for the next few months, until I- hopefully, all things going to plan (huh)- get my licence in March. I don’t know how I’m going to cope with that. I’m a lot more resilient that I was just a year or so ago, but it still hurts like hell, and I still feel useless and out of control. I’ll keep churning out applications and hopefully get one of the rare-as-hen’s-teeth jobs that don’t require driving. I hate having to rely on hope and the discretion of others instead of skill and experience, it makes me feel completely shit and more disempowered than ever. But I don’t have a choice.

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Well Hello, September

So, it’s been a while since I wrote. Things have happened. People have come and gone. I’m almost through my final placement, therefore almost a Fully Fledged Social Worker (TM). I’m shit scared, feel like I don’t know anything, hate that feeling. I must know everything and have all the answers ready all the time must be perfect always…Oh hey, Negative Voice. I’m actually going really well in the placement and hitting all the benchmarks easily and getting really good feedback from clients and co-workers and teachers, and part of me knows this- a small part of me, somewhere inside me- and the rest of me is like oh fuck maybe today will be the day when they all realise I’m a massive fuck up and they’re going to kick me out. 

Whooo! Anxiety! Fun times!

And I eat and eat and eat and make myself sick and wipe my face down with acidic toner that stings as it mixes with my tears. I say, no never again, never again, and within hours I’m there, but not really there, floating outside myself, watching myself as I do it all over again. Again.  And I wake up crying in the middle of the night, can’t breathe, my chest is tight. And the hours pass and the light comes through the window and (most days) I force myself out of bed to keep up the act.

How are you going?, they ask, not really wanting to know.  Tired, I say. Always tired.

It’s not all bad. If I can manage to stop and breathe, I realise that I am OK. The world is not as bad as my head would have me believe, am not as bad as she would have me belive. Things are getting done. Friendships are being nourished, plans are being made, the degree is so close to completion I can almost touch it.

Just gotta keep going.

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I Am An Adult Now- Misery, Whimsy and a Dash of Hope.

I have a lot of moments where I think, fuck it, this is too hard, I’m sick of this, I want this to end, I want to die.

What is ‘this’? It’s having to look after my body, to self-care. Sometime’s it’s the realisation that I need help, and I don’t want to have to admit that, so I want to run away/ hide/ put the happy face on. ‘This’ is having to be alive, contained, having to keep on going when I feel like I missed out on getting a copy of the ‘how-to’ manual, when I don’t know what’s around the next corner, and whether or not I can cope with it. ‘This’ is living with uncertainty, being vulnerable and open to life rather than killing myself.

I spend far more time thinking about death and dying than I do about life, both current life and also what I want to do in the future. I talk about the future, big things like finishing my degree and having kids one day, and smaller things like I’m going to a music festival with a new friend and it’s going to be awesome. But I don’t really feel committed to it, like I’m always carrying around the thought of, ‘well I don’t want to invest my energy/ time/ emotions in X because I’m going to be dead soon anyway’. My mindset is not, what’s going to be next and how do I get there? It’s more, at what point this week/month/ year am I going to pull the plug?

I feel so out of control and overwhelmed by the things that have happened to me that I want to reclaim some tiny little bit of it by saying, I am the one who gets to choose when and how I die, I can choose to do it at any point. But conversely, what is stopping me from spinning that around and instead putting energy into choosing to live instead? What if I’m not really happy with only having choice in death, no thanks, I want more than that. Because I do want more than that.  

I want to be more than the scared little kid who had no choice about what was done to her. I want to do more than play to the roles of ‘peacekeeper’ and ‘sacrificial lamb’ and ‘good girl’ and all the other things I had to do just to survive in my family. I want to do more than just survive, damn it. I spent the whole time surviving and thinking, today she really is going to kill me, and always being on edge and waiting for it and it never came, but that was always the feeling, I’m going to be dead soon, either she’s going to kill me or I’m going to suicide to get the fuck out of here. And I’m nearly 24 now, not ten or twelve or seventeen, but I still slip so easily back into that mindset.

I am an adult now. I did survive and now I am here and it’s my life that I have control over, not my death. I think I’m still waiting to be told that by my parents. Hey, thanks for copping all that shit, sweetheart. You can get on with your life now. Knowing that my parents won’t, can’t, ever do that is really hard. I feel like screaming at them, You didn’t help me! You just LET her do all those things! And now I’m alive and I don’t know how to be alive as an adult because I never got the space to even think that I would be still be here!’  But what would that achieve? I’ve kinda missed the boat on the ‘being an angry teenager’ phase, and they missed the chance to intervene, to nurture and protect me. They still want me, or need me, to be that person I was, that quasi-adult, good-little-girl, not making a fuss, not questioning, taking the crap, no boundaries. Looking to them for nurturing, understanding, acknowledgement is like looking for fish in a desert- not going to happen, I just get hot and frustrated and ultimately sick, waiting and digging.

So I have to commit to being the adult now.  I have to find other family figures, role models, mentors, friends, people to support me. I have to learn to trust people. I have to learn to look after myself rather than continuing the hurt. To write my own stories, my own future, instead of trying to adapt myself to theirs. To be authentic and true to myself. I’ve talked before about it being like walking in a black maze with only a tiny spark of light, only really seeing the tiny space in front of you but having to keep going anyway.

It’s scary. So scary. No certainty, lots of worries. Anxiety dreams and lots of nights laying awake thinking I can’t, I can’t, what if…? And then sunshine and moments of happiness so wonderful that even the Negative Voice gives up and admits, hey, this is pretty sweet. And the extraordinary everyday mashup of life, each day in between those hard nights, and I never think I can do it no not me not ever surely not- but hey, would ya look at that, it’s already mid-Feburary.

Now, my dear reader, well done for getting through that ramble of misery, whimsy and a dash of hope. Watch this awesome short film! It is full of six-year-old wisdom and beautiful imagery. And cookies! 

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Saved By The Evening Sky

 

 

 Saved by the evening sky. My favourite shade of blue, dusk sweeping west and blending with orange to wrap the city into night.

Nausea won me over this morning. It’s something I have everyday,a  side effect of medications, but normally not too bad. I take my epilepsy medications early to try and give it time to settle down before starting the day, but today I was still unable to function at 9am, wave after wave of ‘oh-god-I’m-going-to-vomit-whoops-no-I’m-not’ passing through my tummy. The occasional sharp stabbing pain that I associate with (now long past) laxative abuse. Trying to get vertical but too dizzy to stand. Resigned to bed and a short email to placement, sorry it’s not going to happen today, sorry, sorry again. Guilt, shame, fuck you body I need to be able to DO things, how I hate letting people down, not being able to follow through on my commitments. Close eyes, give in, fade out.

Being able to get out of bed the second I wake up is a very important part of my Don’t Kill Yourself Today plan. If I don’t, the Negative Thoughts take over and everything goes to shit so quickly that I hardly even notice until my real self is buried underneath layers of blankets and doom. So today was kind of a write-off, in that most of it was nauseated hell and the afternoon was just a cycle of thoughts about it being a waste of a day and ergo, me being a waste of space. Delightful inner monologues are (not so) delightful.

I had to get out of the house and out of my head. This is the real hard work for me- not the contemplating, not the therapy, but the action. Standing up to my head, rustling by the fragmented bits of ‘real me’ and giving depressive thoughts a big FUCK YOU by choosing to engage with the broader world.  I got lucky this evening because it was so beautiful, the clear sky and the moon and air cold enough to see my breath as it exhaled, reminding me I was very much alive.  I am alive and here in the world and that’s a good thing. Tomorrow I will get up again, go about my day, look to the sky, notice the colours around me, engage with people, keep doing the hard work…and then probably come here and write about it!

 

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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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Because…

TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide talk. Yup, I know, there’s been a lot lately. I’m going through a hard time, but I’m not going to kill myself and I really hope you won’t either. Get help now and don’t read on if you think it may be harmful for you.

 

I’m not particularly keen on life right now (*cough* understatement of the century *cough*). There’s been the usual Negative Voice noise but it has been turned up by a few notches. Last Saturday I was put in danger by a guy who’d obviously missed the ‘consent is sexy’ lesson and was trying to get me to do things that I wasn’t interested in. I was scared, it triggered lots of memories and it gave me a shock that I’m still reeling from. Then on Wednesday a particularly insecure girl thought it wise to tell me to die because she didn’t approve of my body. So things have been harder than usual. I have to do lots of work each day convincing myself that life is awesome and worth sticking around for.

I need to keep living because…

Circus is fun

On Monday I really, really didn’t want to have to deal with getting a train out west in peak hour. I didn’t want to expose my body in public or in class. I was shit scared about waiting in the dark getting home. But the tiny part of me that is fighting 100% to keep on keeping on whispered, you will feel better if you go. And she’s right. Throwing myself into crash mats is a great release from my head. Trusting that somebody else can hold me with their feet is a great fuck you to the Neg Voice. And so I will force myself out of bed tomorrow, and I will go to class again, one foot in front of the other until I’m there, having fun, and I don’t even realise until it’s over.

The internet is helpful if I allow it to be

For years I have used sites like Tumblr to reinforce what Neg is saying- that I’m too big, taking up too much space, worthless, unlovable, and on and on and on. There’s good stuff on the web, sometimes it can be harder to find but it is there. I spent a sleepless night downloading inspirational pictures and quotes to my phone so I can scroll through them whenever I need to. Highly recommended as a distraction from suicidal thoughts, and to light (or re-light) the spark of hope in humanity that is in you, in all of us, somewhere.

Example A:

Example B:

Beds are comfy and warm and safe

When I got into shit last Saturday and was shaking and freaking out and having flashbacks, I was able to find safety in my bed. My warm, familiar bed with soft sheets and scruffy velveteen toys and the hottest hot water bottle my body could tolerate. This is my space. In my home, that I have created and made safe from the demons of the past. I choose who comes in to my room and my bed and if it just needs to be mine alone for a while, that’s OK. Props also to SACL, who were able to bring me back into my body, and the present, and calm me done enough to breathe deeply again. Help and support, they are good, who knew?

I’ve worked too damn hard in my degree to bail on it now

Part of the increased head noise at the moment is that all my uni work is finished and there’s too much space for the Neg Voice to take over, which it did, almost the second I handed in my last assignment. I was convinced that everything I wrote was crap, and I’m going to fail, and I’ll never get a placement and I’ll never qualify and on and on in a spiral of doom. Reality has proved otherwise- I got my first one back on Wednesday and it’s a HD. Regardless of marks though, I love my course and I’m excited about my future. Dead = no future. Ergo, keep going. KEEP GOING.

People love me and care about me, even when I don’t believe that

I don’t believe this one, well, I find it really hard to accept. I just can’t fathom it. I’m here, I’m dead, what’s the difference? I lived my adolescence thinking I would be dead by the end of it and nobody would care. I tried, twice, to make that happen. To have the beginning of a supportive circle of people around me now, in my 20s, feels incredibly strange. But if I imagine somebody close and dear to me taking their life, and how devastated I would be, then maybe I can see why it’s not just me I’m fighting for. That’s compassion and that’s enough to hold me here. I’ve had this conversation with my Wise Woman a few times recently, and even knowing that she cares is holding me back, just that tiny but vital bit, from stepping over the edge.

Going through rental applications is a pain and I don’t want to inflict that on my housemates

Seriously, it’s awful. You have to interview people, and work out if they are weird enough to fit in but not so weird as to be annoying. And you have to fill out a zillion forms, and update Centrelink details, and vacuum the carpet to make it appear as if there’s no mice living in the house. Exhausting stuff. Wouldn’t wish it my worst enemy, and if I top myself, somebody would have to clean out my room AND go through the horrible process of trying to fill it.

OK, so it’s clear. No self-inflicted death allowed. Must. Keep. Living.

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