Monday, August 21, 2017

Waiting room.

The waiting room for the breast clinic is full and I've run out of data on my phone, so I guess digital dissociation isn't an option. 

your appointment may take 1-3 hours

We appreciate your patience

thank you.

There's a TV in the waiting room, I wish it were playing one of those trash morning shows.

Instead, there's a loop tape. 
It's the same loop tape that plays every time I come here.
Slowly it cycles through miscellaneous, supposedly relaxing footage.

A waterfall.
A fern.
A flower, petals coated in raindrops, the word secludio in the top right corner. 
A swan.
Gum trees reflected in a body of water. The text reads Lilly pond, but it is not a lily pond.
A gliding close up of a leaf with the word somewhere in the bottom right corner.
Another waterfall.
I feel like I'm dying.
Another flower.

The water fountain is located on the other side of the waiting room area.

When I came here for the surgery, the oncologist was named Dr. Mann. 
I thought that was pretty funny. Because it's the breast clinic. 
A different oncologist just popped his head out into the waiting room and called someone's name. 
She got up and smiled as she greeted him.

I'll probably smile too, involuntarily, when my name is called. 
Like maybe if I'm polite, they won't tell me I have breast cancer? 
Is that how manners work? 
The naive subconscious smile, the hope for good news, like a pleasant greeting is going to make a difference to what the papers say inside that folder.

God I wish I had wifi.
A pelican soars across the loop tape screen.
Wait time: 30 minutes

The tumor was removed nearly 8 years ago. 
Benign, but some kind of rare tumor. 
The scar is the same colour as my skin now, but it's still thick.

Every year we check to see if it's come back. 
Every year a different doctor. 
Every year their hands are cold. 
Every year they press them into me.
Every year the swans and waterfalls. 

what if your Pap test result is abnormal?

Wait time: 45 minutes.
My name is called. 

A new doctor tells me his name and I forget it instantly.
A student is in the room and he extends his hand upon introduction. 
This formality puzzles me considering I'm about to take my top off.

"Everything seems fine Rebekah, We'll see you again next year."

Monday, February 20, 2017

I overdid it.

If you, like me, are a person prone to occasional depression relapses, I would like to offer you some advice.

You don't have to take the advice, I know sometimes advice is the least helpful thing for people like us, and to be honest, I actually write this blog for me, not you, so it's kind of advice to myself...but it's nice that you're here, so please stay.

Firstly, congratulations on getting up and going about your business most days. 
What a feat! Oh trust me, I know, it's a big deal.

Sometimes, I can go days getting up and going about my business. 
Sometimes, days in a row!
Sometimes even weeks!

I know if I remember to eat, sleep, tend to my garden, and avoid certain things that make me very sad, I can continue along in life without my carefully built mental structure crumbling.

The other thing I need to make sure of, is that I balance my energy levels.
I require down time.

I use a lot of energy by being outside. 
By talking to people. By working hard. 
By trying hard to be a successful, non-depressed, non-anxiety-controlled person, with a life, and responsibilities, and goals, and really, really high expectations of myself.

Last week, I did not allow myself any down time.

I worked,which I enjoy.
I socialised, which I enjoy (in controlled environments).
I worked again, a little harder and a little longer than usual.
Then I did some more work, and I socialised a bit, then I worked more.
Then I went to the gym. Then I went back to work. Then I went out with friends. 
Then I got back to work.

I enjoy all of those things.
I like my work, my friends, and heck even going to the gym isn't that bad (yes it is).

I did not stop and rest in between.
So when suddenly I didn't have any work scheduled, or any catch ups planned...

I was catapulted into 48 solid hours of heavy, guilt-ridden uselessness. 

I told myself the free time would be a good opportunity to do some house work, run some errands, maybe fit in a bit more editing work. I should use this time to stay on top of everything. 
Maybe even get ahead of everything!

That was not correct.

The time should have been allocated to rest.

So, when my brain collapsed on itself, as it inevitably does sometimes, 
I was not ready or able to deal with the low. 
I can ride out the lows most times. I try to be kind to myself. 
I watch netflix, I ignore my phone, I ignore the mess in my apartment, I eat a lot of crackers and dip, and I recuperate.

But this time I couldn't believe it. I was so shocked! 
I was doing SO MUCH. 
I still had SO MUCH MORE TO DO. 
I was internally screaming at myself WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS.
Then I eventually remembered that I'm just like this sometimes, 
and that's okay, and I could probably chill the fuck out for a second.
And just give myself a little break.

So I guess my advice to you (but mainly to me) is to remember to take care of yourself. 
Remember that depression can be dormant for a while,  which is great, but if you're not paying proper attention to it, it can flare up a bit. 
But we can manage that. 

If you find that your depression flares up again and stays for more than 2 weeks covering you like a thick tar - get to your GP for a mental health plan and get back into that sweet sweet therapy, and remember that it can be managed. 

I know it can be managed cus I'm doing it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Travel Anxiety - Arizona

Albuquerque to Arizona by Amtrak.

I wake up in Flagstaff Arizona, but momentarily I forget where I am.

It's the first time I've had more than 4 hours sleep in days. 
The second I open my eyes it's there. 
I can feel it buzzing in my chest. 
It's loud today. Shit.
I curl my body in tightly towards my ribs, attempting to stifle the buzzing. 
I try to catch my brain - where am I? Am I supposed to be somewhere? Was I supposed to be awake for the sunrise??  Am I missing out on something amazing?? Have I fucked up the entire day???
Fuck, shit. Shit. I've fucked up somehow, Oh I know it.

Woah, no, okay slow down there brain. Try again.

It's 8:15am. I'm in Arizona. I don't have to be anywhere yet. 

Good. That's good. 
So what am I doing today? 
Picking up a hire car. Oh fuck. 
The very thought of driving makes my stomach flip. 

Try not to think about it. 
I'll deal with it when it happens.

I can smell burning toast. 
I should get up. 
Not yet anyway.

This mattress is hard. 
I usually don't mind a firm mattress but my body is aching. My camera bag alone is 8kg+ and I carry it on my shoulders every day. The thin straps dig in to me, but I dare not leave it at my accommodation. That's when the magic happens - when you leave your camera behind.

I remind myself that all of this is my choice.
Being here.
Being here by myself.
The hire car.
The annoyingly heavy camera bag.
The occasional 3am starts (I went up in a hot air balloon).

I chose all of this for myself because at some point, I assumed I was capable. 
I latch on to that thought as my stomach continues to twist itself in knots. 

Travelling is hard for a person like me. 
Travelling takes a lot of energy. 
At times I can't even find the energy at home to get out of bed.

But at some point, I believed myself capable. 
So I suppose I better not let that version of myself down. I don't want to disappoint her. 

Okay, I can get out of bed now.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Travel Anxiety - New Orleans

I can't disguise my tourist appearance.
I'm covered in it, like a thick layer of "HEY I'M A TOURIST" tar. 

The huge camera. 
The constant checking of google maps. 
My facial expressions range from delighted (eyes wide, mouth open, the colourful houses, the neon signs, the band playing in the street) to falsely confident, truly concerned. By the people sizing me up on the street. Noticing me, noticing my huge camera, my small size, my distinct lack of companion.

People keep stopping me, asking me where I'm from, asking me for a dollar, asking me what I'm taking pictures for. One man says "you should get someone to take a photo of you taking a photo!" He tells me about how he saw me taking a photo, and it looked picturesque. One man says "do you want to take my picture?" And he poses. I tell him what I tell my autistic brother when I don't want to do something: 
"Maybe later".

One man says he'd "like to get to know me".
Further down the street another man asks "was that guy bothering you?"
I want to reply "you're all bothering me."
But what I said was: "no he's fine".

It's 30 degrees Celsius at 7pm.
I slept 4 hours last night. 
I have my period
(oh yes I know we're not supposed to talk about these things, pretend they're not really happening…)
But it's obvious my current state is affecting my ability to enjoy myself.

Whilst my stomach cramps have subsided from the 'close to tears on the subway' level yesterday in New York, they are still there, pestering me. I knew I would get my period on my travels and I'm actually kind of glad it didn't come when I would be at the hot air balloon festival.

Last night at the comedy cellar the host said "hot air ballooning is the whitest thing you can do". Then an African American uber driver named Wayne told me that his hobby is scuba diving. He booked a scuba diving trip to Seychelles, and the trip started with a hot air balloon ride over Kenya. He was excited to go, but then Hurricane Katrina happened.

He tells me that he just moved back to New Orleans from Virginia. He says he's just doing this (driving for uber) until he joins the police academy in 2 months. We chit chat about that for a bit. He's from an I.T and comms background. He tells me he's 45.

I ask what brought him back to New Orleans.
His mother was not doing so well. 
I immediately say "I'm sorry to hear that" and think about the phrase "sorry to hear that" like the subtext is "I wish I hadn't heard that, and now I feel sorry for myself, because I created this awkward situation I'm in" but I also think I said it kindly and casually, and I think of all the things to say, it's probably not that bad. It's better than "bummer". Which I'm pretty sure I've said in response to a serious situation… he seems cool about it. He tells me he got divorced in March. I say "it sounds like there have been a lot of big changes in your life his year!" He kindly laughs and agrees with me. I like him a lot. He helps me carry my bags to my hostel. I give him 5 stars.

I think my waiter asks
"You doing alright?"
and I say yes, but he actually said "Dyou wannanother?" so he takes my drink and refills it. 
I asked for lemon lime and bitters. 
He didn't know what that was, but he made it anyway. There's a lot of lime. I like that.

I'm not a confident care free person.
I hate myself for not being easy going.
It's so sexy, going with the flow.
You know what's not sexy? 
Wanting to stay indoors for at least 5 hours during the day.

I feel better after I've eaten. The restaurant was so cold and the balmy temperature feels good. I walk a little too close to nice looking groups of people on the street. I'm trying to look like I'm "with" them. Two women notice my close presence, they think they're blocking my path and politely move aside to let me pass. I confess I just didn't want to look like I was walking alone. 
The people here are so nice, I just can't handle the interactions sometimes. Also not EVERYone is nice….

Is it possible to be pleasant and stand offish at the same time?

I get back to the hostel. Some people invite me out to see a show. I decline.

The next day I force myself to go out. 
I allow myself an easy morning, then I book a swamp tour for the afternoon. 
It is touristy and delightful.

When I get back I tell myself I have to go and photograph Frenchman Street at Sunset. 
This takes courage and energy that I'm struggling to access.

But I go.
I walk out of the hostel and walk approximately 20 metres. 

I see people on the streets. 
Asking for a dollar. Looking at me. Noticing my camera. My size. Distinct lack of companion.

I go back to the hostel.

The young man behind the desk gives me an unimpressed look. I later learn that's just his face. 
He introduces himself to me and says I should go to jazz in the park. It's free, and he'll go with me,

I agree.

I tap in to a special reserve of false confidence that I keep for when I have to interact with people and I need them to like me (So I don't get murdered, or worse, have to sit in awkward silence) I think it works. I don't mention how scared and tired I feel all of the time, so that's a plus.

The singer in the jazz band has a beard that blows in the wind and it's his birthday. In the crowd a man has a hand puppet of a giraffe wearing a party hat on, The giraffe dances separately to the man.

After this we get dinner. 
I try an oyster for the first time. 
It just tastes like sauce and slime?
I don't gag, but I also don't see the appeal. 

We go back to the hostel and everyone is out on the deck. 
There are 2 people from Melbourne, one person who lived on the Sunshine Coast for a few years, and someone from Sydney. Straya.

I agree to vodka?

Later, after more vodka, rum, and something called 'fireball', one of the people I met the day earlier at the hostel tells me "I thought you were boring when I first met you, but you're alright" and I wanted to drop dead.

We go out. We see more jazz. We dance. There's an artist market. I find a bucket of chalk and start squiggling on the concrete. What I draw doesn't look very good but I'm having a nice time so I don't care. An absolutely gorgeous woman tells me she thinks I'm pretty, and I wasn't sure if she was serious. My brain went into instant overdrive - Is that just something drunk girls are supposed to say to each other? Is it a joke? What do I do? Run away? Laugh? I command myself to stop thinking about it immediately and say thank you.

At 4am we go back to the hostel.
The following day I find myself at the airport headed to Albuquerque to be surrounded by hot air balloons, I leave New Orleans with a peculiar sense of achievement.
Even though I'm struggling to keep my anxiety in check, with all the moving around and weird sleeping patterns, I'm getting around just fine. 
The after affects of alcohol always wreak havoc on my usually well maintained psyche, which is the reason I avoid it in the first place, but I know it will pass. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A small attack.

I had a small panic attack at my work yesterday. 
I was expecting something mildly unpleasant to happen, but I didn't know when. 
When it happened, I wasn't ready.
I suddenly couldn't catch my breath and started to shiver.

I tried to run away from nothing, in a small space, with nowhere to run at all.
I don't really remember. 
I blurted out something like "I can't" and started to cry.

Afterwards I felt embarrassed and disappointed in myself.

I have friends in my team who are empathetic, kind, patient and understanding.
But it is still a very awkward thing to have happen.

I was also very uncomfortably sweaty for the rest of the day.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

How to have an anxiety attack.

Well, there are a couple of different ways to have yourself an anxiety attack, here's one I'm quite good at, in three easy steps:

Now when I feel the beginning of an attack, I try my best to keep my breathing steady. 
I remind myself I'm not dying, and I focus on breathing. I think that's the key.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Rooms full of people. Why am I in them?

Social Anxiety

I haven't been socialising well lately.
I've been forcing myself to go out because when I stay home I feel sad and lonely.
But when I'm out and I'm surrounded by people ...I still feel sad and lonely. Maybe even more so?

Sometimes people are nice to me, and they start to talk to me, and I forget how to be a person.
I stare at them strangely and furrow my eyebrows and try to answer their very simple questions like "how are you?" and "what do you do?" and "how do you know Felicity?" and I just get flustered and end up saying something utterly strange.

Then, I apologise for being a bit strange and I try to assure them that I used to be able to answer such simple questions, in a timely manner, and sometimes even with borderline charm!...but by this point I'm rambling, which just makes me seem stranger.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Welcome Back

It was my intention to write a very funny and wonderful blog post about 2015.
I had it all planned out in my head, I knew exactly what I wanted to say.

I decided the first blog post of 2016 was going to be a positive one. 
What a great uplifting message I would share. How reassuring it would be!
I would address my one challenging 2015 goal
I would tell you how it went (spoilers: it went well).

But no. 

Instead it is just a series of drawings of me being sad. 
I sat down tonight and I drew them all. It's the first time I've done that in ages.
I don't even have a story to go with them. 
It's just me being sad, and drawing it. How dreary.

I really have been doing great. I want to tell you about it. Just not right now.
It's okay to be sad right now. So I'm just going to do that.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Age 11, Treading water. Age 12, Drowning.

Age 11.
I find it harder to settle at night.
As soon as the night starts to go quiet I feel nauseas.
The quieter my surroundings, the louder my thoughts, the more my stomach turns.
The doctor tells my Mum I have an anxiety disorder.

Age 12.
Sometimes during the day, I find myself suddenly unable to take a breath.
I realise at that second that I never really learn to breathe. It just happens.
I try to remember how, but there's no memory of a lesson on how to breathe. 
It's just supposed to happen. 

So when it suddenly stops happening, an overwhelming dread takes over my body.
I'm dying. 
I'm standing in the middle of the street, drowning.

This is a sensation I will experience for years to come.
These are my panic attacks.

Thank you Caitlin (pictured)