Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The beginnings of my journey with meditation

I'm no stranger to meditation, I used to do it every week at Yoga. I loved it, it was guided meditation so I wasn't really left to wander, my teacher's voice and guidance kept me on track. However I would only meditate once a week, very rarely would I practice on my own. In recent months I have been sporadically listening to a guided meditation on my ipod; it goes for about 45 minutes and I found that after the first few times of listening my mind was complaining 'this is so predictable' and my mind would then wander off, bored with listening to the same thing.

In the last month I feel as if I have been bombarded with suggestions to meditate. Yeah yeah I thought, good idea, intellectually I'm all over it. I have read the statistics, understood the psychology of meditation etc. As I've mentioned before, if I had $1000 for every time someone suggested I meditate I could afford a really amazing trip to Europe, greek islands included! The hassling started to wear me down and my wise one inside was asking why I wasn't listening. I did not have a good excuse. I wanted to be able to proudly state that I do meditate whenever someone suggests it, so I started.

My boyfriend's been doing a mindfulness course through work and has noticed that his daily meditation practice has brought about some very positive changes. I must say I have noticed too, he seems more positive and relaxed and I am enjoying the benefits of that. He's not usually someone to go on about things, he can be a man of few words, so when he started banging on about mindfulness I was surprised. I was quietly pleased that he had become so passionate about something as healthy as mindfulness and that I was not the only one in the relationship that would talk alot about a particular topic. At first it was ok, all the talk about meditation, but as he continued to ask if I was practising the meditation and I continued to feel like a school girl who was repeatedly turning up without her homework, I didn't like it. But the wise one inside of me was telling me to listen and would not allow me to tell him to shut up.

So every day for the past 10 days I have meditated, just by sitting still and focussing on my breathing, when thoughts come I return to my breath and let them pass. Sometimes the thoughts keep coming, often actually. On my third day I went into a beautiful peaceful space for part of the meditation and heard a voice inside saying 'ahhh, this is what it's all about'. That experience helped me to feel motivated to continue.

Aside from the peaceful experience whilst meditating I also noticed something else had changed; my mood. On my fifth day of meditation I noticed how happy and content I felt. It was so noticeably different because the usual feelings of anxiety that arise within were nowhere to be seen. It is a common symptom of hyperthyroidism to experience anxiety, in fact, if left untreated people can become psychotic. It happens because everything in the body is working too hard, the heart is beating faster and too much adrenaline is released into the body. Sometimes the feelings of anxiety are really hard to bear, and often the anxiety can lead to increased fatigue.However, something has changed recently and I am now feeling much more relaxed, I haven't noticed anxiety like I used to. I feel at peace with where I am and how I am. Worries about my health and future don't buzz around in my head and body like they were. I can honestly say that I have had times during the past few days where I have felt more relaxed and happy than I can remember in a very long time. I can just be lying on the couch watching television and notice these positive feelings and feel gratitude for how good I feel.

My circumstances haven't changed much in the last 6 weeks; I still have an overactive thyroid, I am still unsure what has caused it and when I will be well, I am still tired alot of the time, I still have low energy and I am still staying with my parents in the country instead of living life in Melbourne with friends and my partner.
However, the way I feel about all of this has changed, I no longer look to the future with fear. I can accept what might be without stressing over it, but I am also having positive thoughts and ideas for what I will be doing in coming months. These ideas make me feel excited and hopeful; while I still hold in my awareness that there's a possibility my plans will be delayed because of my health. It's not about disregarding reality or potential issues, it's about focussing more on the light than the dark and having the faith that I can do it, that I can manage this and I will be ok. I am not giving up and I am doing all that I can to support my healing. I am choosing to accept what is, whilst choosing sunny thoughts that help me to feel good in the now. There's no tomorrow, there's no yesterday, the time is always NOW.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Resignation...and letting go

One of my readers recently sent me a lovely e-mail sharing her story about her experience with thyroid disease. She asked me about how I managed my work situation back in May (being too unwell to work & consequently resignation). Blog posts from around this time in April and May can be found at Inner Beam; however at the time I didn’t write specifically about how I managed the experience of resigning from my job. I may not have even used the word resignation in the entire blog. Perhaps because it was quite a traumatic experience and at the time I was just trying to cope with what was happening and how unwell I felt. At the time I resigned I felt like the job was taken from me; not by the organisation, but by a higher power or something. I felt as if I’d had the rug pulled out from under my feet with my health and life up in the air. I had been crashing slowly over many months; but when I finally could not go on anymore; when I could barely get out of bed, that was when I stopped going to work.
Here's some background of what was going on in the months leading up to my resignation: I had been in the job, a management role, for only three months. However I had been with the organisation for just over two years. In January I moved house and began a new job in a new location within the space of 4 days.
In hindsight that is NEVER a good idea. Both are stressful experiences, even if they might be enjoyable or positive, change places stress on our system for some time as we adapt. My new drive to work was an hour in heavy traffic; disgusting. I absolutely hated the drive and couldn’t believe what I’d done, yet I didn’t regret moving house or the new job, I just wished the two were closer together.
So there I was, in a new role, with a big job ahead of me, it was a development role with a not for profit organisation and there weren’t great resources. I was also the only one doing my particular role, I was to employ others to help in time. Every night when I got home I thought about work, I had trouble getting to sleep because I was thinking about work. Even when I spent time with friends or my partner I would either be talking about work or thinking about it. I felt overwhelmed by what was expected of me, the faith that others put in me scared me even more- funny that, but it did. I had never really done much of what was required of me in the role; I had experience as a social worker with people or communities presenting their issues to you and then working with them to try to resolve them; but I did not know where to start when there were no ‘clients’ in front of me.
I began to dread each day, I also felt some dread at the thought of the national and international travel that would be integral to my role. Every day I got to work feeling weak and tired, sometimes anxious. I recall telling my boss that I found I wasn’t feeling truly awake until after 10am, I didn’t feel like my usual friendly self. I recalled that in my previous job I had only 10 minutes to travel to work and I would usually arrive ready for the day and feeling friendly. In hindsight I had some very real clues that something wasn’t right. I decided that it was all in my head and that I had to keep on pushing. I think that the more I denied the reality that this job just wasn’t working for me and that my body was really struggling the more anxious I got.
Just over two months had passed and I returned home from a work trip to Sydney feeling awful, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I felt weak, fatigued, had lost my appetite and was experiencing high anxiety as well as dizziness. I tried to just lay low for the weekend. Come Monday I called in sick. I think it was during this week that I saw a GP. Many tests were run and no answers were found. Yes, my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was checked. No clues there. I have since found out that thyroid imbalance symptoms often exist well before it will be indicated in the blood. Two weeks later I still felt awfully weak and unwell, so I headed off to the country to stay with my sister for the weekend and to see a holistic health practitioner who uses a bio-feedback machine. I struggled to sit on the chair during my appointment because I was feeling so weak and depleted.
In the two weeks I'd been really unwell I actually managed to work from home in the second week; so I technically only had one week off sick. During that second week that I pushed through and worked I rested a lot on the couch. I really struggled to get through, and could definitely not have made it in to the office. I guess it was my determination that got me through, because as I look back now I think I was crazy to be trying to work and I can recall just how awful I felt.

On the Sunday afternoon that I was due to return to Melbourne (in order to be back in the office the next day) I felt awful and tired and could not cope with the thought of the trip back, let alone the reality that I would have to go into the office the next morning. The thought of my workmates expecting me to return in good health was horrifying, my state of health was so poor, I felt so weak and fatigued. I knew that as desperate as i was for things to be ok, returning to work was not going to happen. I was far from well, I was barely able to go into the supermarket with my sister because I felt so awful and out of it. The thought of returning to work had me in tears; it was around this time that I think I became consciously aware that my job stress was impacting significantly on my health. I also realised that it was unlikely that I would get well if I was only doing it to get back to my job. I could feel my entire being screaming to leave the job, to be free of it, it had been for some time, but I just couldn’t hear because I did not want to know.

On the Monday morning I called my boss and told him where I was and that I was still sick, I explained that I thought I needed a month off to get well and I still wasn’t sure what was going on with me; the only thing I could liken the feeling to was Glandular Fever (I had GF when I was 18). I stayed with my sister for four days until I missed my boyfriend so much that I just had to get back. Before I departed my sister's I warned him that I needed my dinner cooked for me and just needed a lot of rest. He accepted that and I made the 5 hour train trip to get back to him. He greeted me with gluten free spaghetti bolognese, as requested by moi, it was so good to be back to him.

 I stayed in regular contact with my boss, who I had and still have a great relationship with. He requested to meet with me only a week and a half into my ‘month off’ for my 3 month review. I knew that he wanted some answers and I made the really tough decision to resign from the position, because I knew that I could not promise him I would be returning full of energy at the end of the month. He needed this guarantee to grant me the continued leave. Resigning at that point was the best thing I could have done. It was a huge huge weight off my shoulders. That afternoon I felt revived and more energetic than I had in weeks. I met my friend at the local and we shared a bowl of wedges; life felt good.

That energy and sense of relief was to be short lived. The next day I went to stay with my parents and in those first few days with them the reality of what had happened hit me like a tonne of bricks . I think that in the first couple of days after I resigned I was in shock, because now I barely recall what happened. Soon enough the tears came and I started to feel the significance of what had occurred in the recent past. The pain was massive, it was something like heart break. I felt as if the job had been taken from me because of my health failing; I felt I'd had no real say in things, I felt like a victim of circumstance. I no longer see what happened in the same light, I am now grateful that I didn’t live that miserable stressed life, which was a lie, for another minute.
The next few weeks were tough, I came to many confronting realisations and worked to find acceptance of what had happened. I felt incredibly vulnerable and out of control. My health was still very poor, anxiety was high and energy was low. However it wasn't long before I was confident that the resignation was the right choice for me and gratitude crept in for the freedom and relief that leaving my job brought.
I’ve barely spoken about these few weeks of my life, I don’t think I've fully recounted the story to anyone; those who do know it were there for every step. To be very honest, the experience was heart breaking, to lose your health and job concurrently is really tough, but to walk away from an organisation you are passionate about and thought you’d be with for a very long time, that can break your heart.

I believe in the old adage that a problem shared is a problem halved; and that feeling like you're not alone is important for all of us; particularly during hard times. Therefore it is my intention that in visiting this blog you may feel a part of a community and that you are not alone. I hope that those of you who have experienced something similar, or are facing the challenge of walking away from something that is not conducive to your well-being, will draw strength from my story.
Here are my thoughts from earlier in the year, the many questions I asked of myself as I lay sick in bed which were the weeks prior to my decision to resign. http://innerbeam.blogspot.com/2010/04/in-sickness-and-in-health.html

Wishing you the greatest strength to make choices that serve you, that support your health and vitality and bring greater peace and harmony to your life.

If you have a question for me or would like to share your own experience, please leave a comment or send an e-mail to innerbeam@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The process of healing

Wow, what a week it has been. I have been staying with my parents for the last month now, the hyperthyroidism has hit me hard and left me incredibly tired, occasionally nauseous and dealing with heart palpitations. On Friday we headed off to Melbourne to see the endocrinologist and to catch up with my GP. On Friday the specialist informed me that my thyroid was still just as over active as ever; which was disappointing for both of us. Surprisingly I coped ok with the news.

Then off to the GP, who I adore, she is my favourite GP ever! She is so lovely and appears relaxed; I am truly grateful to have found someone I trust and can speak openly with. I don't feel like just another number. She takes the time to understand me and meet me where I am at. We chatted about my news from the specialist and all things thyroid related for nearly an hour. It was nice to have her to discuss things with and to normalise all that I'd been experiencing recently.

So the specialist has increased my anti-thyroid medication by double, I have realised that it is my role to not just sit on the couch and take the medicine, but to take an active role in my healing. I am calling people who I think can help and asking questions. I am being encouraged to continue asking questions to truly uncover the cause of my thyroid going crazy and overdoing it. Sarah Wilson's blog has truly inspired me, she has experienced both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism; the latter came over 10 years after the former for her. It started out as mine is now, way too fast, and then became way too slow.

My favourite part of her blog post is this:

If I could send a note to myself two years ago, it would say:
Dearest Sarah,  Please, please be kind to yourself. It’s your abrupt, impatient, push-yourself-to-limits approach that landed you here in the first place. Healing will come when – and as – you learn to be kinder and gentler to yourself. This is good news. It’s time to treat yourself well. From Me. x

Well don't I resonate with this! I am learning how to be kind and gentle with myself; to put my own needs first, because if I don't, how is it fair to expect that anyone else will? I could be waiting a long time.
I am the only person who can do the healing for me, others can be there to help, to facilitate, to offer guidance or suggestions, but it is me who must make the choices and discern what is right for me. The learning is all here for me; I have known this ever since I became unwell in April (see the beginnings of this journey here Inner Beam). It seems that I have re-opened to this many times. Sometimes just dealing with my symptoms and how I feel becomes all consuming; but then there comes a point where I come up for a breath and re-focus, re-commit to this journey I am on of growth, healing and forgiveness.

Yes forgiveness. Yesterday I had a conversation about this with a wise woman; she spoke about how different organs hold various emotions. We decided that due to my history of not putting my own needs first and focussing on others, there was surely a part of me becoming mighty pissed off about this. I haven't really been aware of such ill feelings, which means the feelings would be unconscious, they must have been going somewhere. The liver perhaps?

I opened to the possibility that there are feelings of anger and resentment being stored by my liver; that I have not necessarily been aware of, but that my liver or other organs have been dealing with. If you're interested in this concept that we store emotions in our body I can reccomend Louise Hay's 'You Can Heal Your Life' for reading, as well as Caroline Myss's Anatomy of The Spirit, which I am currently reading. I am very interested in understanding such concepts more so and have ensured that I have people and books around me who can help me on this path. Alongside these more holistic approaches to healing I am also continuing with the western medical approach and taking my anti-thyroid drugs.

Today I am venturing to see an acupuncturist, she is a family friend and I haven't been to see her since April, when I first became unwell.  I have been having Chinese Medicine treatment in Melbourne since May and I think it helped to keep me reasonably well, all things considered. I believe it is essential to continue with it,  it is very powerful.

The healing process is a bit like a ball of wool, unravelling and revealing more. Sometimes my thyroid is like a kitten, pushing and pulling on the ball of wool, forcing things to shift and change, more and more is revealed. Sometimes I am the one pulling the end of the string, sometimes it's friends, family, my partner or the health professionals in my life. The process is truly a joint effort, I am grateful for the input of all. Thanks to my thyroid for pushing me beyond my comfort zone, thanks to the family, friends and professionals for supporting me as I am pushed and prodded by this illness. Thanks for being there to hold me and help me to feel safe. I am hugely grateful to my wonderful partner for hanging  in there and being the support that he is in this time. Even though it feels like we've known each other for a long time, the reality is that in the time that we have known each other I have been unwell for at least a third of it. I think he's pretty amazing.

Like The Answer Is Writing? You might also like Inner Beam.

Monday, September 6, 2010

More grey than blue..practicing acceptance

I recently wrote a post about arriving in struggle town. It was about how crappy I was feeling. Interestingly the post took a positive turn as I explored things other than how poorly I felt. It took me to places I did not know I'd go; discussions of a future trip to France and my memories of how I came to fall in love with all things French.

Today I am also spending the day in somewhere like Struggle Town. A couple of things have happened that didn't feel great, or just a little uncomfortable. In my already unwell state the skies seemed to be more grey than blue today. I was nearly not going to write; why would you spread misery Sarah? I asked myself, how about today you just lie in bed and keep quiet?

Then I remembered my commitment to welcoming all that I experience, the good the bad and the ugly. Theoretically it's true, just that when I considered not writing I was really judging how I am negatively. Today feels something like 'bad' and I decided it was consequently 'ugly' and therefore I wouldn't be writing on my blog and exposing the ugliness. I like pretty nice things, blue skies, sunshine and butterflies.

It's a whole lot of judgment I placed upon myself on how I am in this very moment. I told myself not to write unless I had something positive to say; I couldn't be sure that I would. I find that I always want to put a positive spin on things, probably more for the sake of others than myself. This led me to decide that I wanted to honour the seemingly bad and ugly; because hiding this is to hide a part of my experience. I wouldn't expect others to hold back on the less pleasant aspects of their lives. I really like Ghandi's 'Be the change you wish to see in the world'. Today I am.

I want to see people being honest about it all. I want for people who don't feel well to be able to say it, experience it and not run away from it. Speaking of running away, you should have seen what I did last night! It was certainly not the first time I did it, but it was the first time that my own awareness caught me. I was feeling something, really feeling. I was really missing my boyfriend. It hurt. I picked up my phone and sent a text, then I picked up the computer and logged on to all my communication gadgets- facebook, twitter etc. I just wanted to escape the feeling, I hated feeling it and I knew I could distract myself. I managed to temporarily avoid the uncomfortable emotion; whilst also acknowledging what I was doing. I chose to go ahead with my plan to distract, because I wasn't sure what else to do, but I saw how I ran away from feeling. Awareness is the first step, it is key.

So I guess today the moral of my story is not to run away, not to hide. Be real and authentic and try not to be afraid of what it might look or sound like. I am now going to publish this post and do my best to accept it as it is; a day in struggletown, not much fun but not 'bad' or 'ugly. It is what it is on this very day. I choose acceptance.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Food v Pleasure- what is more nourishing?

image from philosophicalsociety.com

Today I'm trialling a new approach to writing, I am going to write on a specific and somewhat factual topic. The somewhat is my official disclaimer. Ok, there are some facts here and lots of opinion. I'm not a scientist, I'm a philosopher.

The question is, Food V Pleasure, what is more nourishing?

Last Christmas I asked my partner to buy me a book called 'The Power of Pleasure'. It was a book that suggested that the way in which we consume our food has much more to do with our health than the actual food we consume.

It was a theory I was very much interested in before stumbling across the book in a second hand book shop in Bendigo; I'd been mulling the idea over in my own mind for a few months previously.

I have tried many kinds of diets and approaches, I have seen naturopaths, nutritionists and psychologists to discuss food. I have obsessed over such ideas from the age of 18, perhaps earlier. Why did I start? To oversimplify it, because I put on weight and had low energy as a result of too many carbs and too much alcohol in my first year of Uni. Why haven't I stopped? Because it is clearly such a passion for me. It started as an interest while in school, food and health were my favourite classes, then turned into an obsession and is now one of my great passions.

At times I have desperately wanted THE answer. Are the vegetarians right? Is the naturopath correct in suggesting eliminating most of my staple foods- wheat, dairy and sugar? Is the dietitian right when she feels sorry for this confused young woman with all her ideas and recommends she get straight back into that food pyramid (weet-bix and cow's milk for brekky)? Is my Dad right when he tells me balance is key? As he washes down his manufactured and refined jam fancy biscuits for his morning and afternoon snack with a good old cow's milk latte.
I find myself wondering (worrying?) could I have coeliacs and not know it? Am I just wheat intolerant? Or is it just the extra nasties added to many wheat products that's not good for me.. or anyone; but I'm just super sensitive to them. Ok, I admit I am still quite confused about what's really good for you. I am channelling this energy into a healthy appetite for learning about all things nutrition, whilst keeping an open mind.

I know that much of our well-being is affected by our thoughts and feelings, it leads me to wonder if the answer to good health does lie in pleasure? Is it as simple as the book suggested? Is it the way we feel and think about our food that is key to our health?

The book suggests enjoying our food and all sorts of pleasures courtesy of our 5  senses. I question whether we truly only have five senses, but I digress, that discussion is for another time. Now, back to pleasure, I believe that our emotional and mental state when it comes to food is a vital factor in our well-being. For example, if we truly believe that something is bad for us or the food is 'naughty' it then becomes guilt inducing, hence we are likely to become uptight during the meal.

So what happens when the body is anxious? Our muscles tense and adrenaline courses through the body to aid with the fight or flight response. The wonderful flight or fight response is essential for if and when we encounter real danger. It helps us to be super strong to fight and survive or super quick to run away. It is an overused and overstimulated response in our modern western world. An imminent deadline, an intimidating boss or a stressful driving situation among many others is enough to trigger our body's natural response to danger- adrenaline.

Adrenaline is a hormone secreted by our adrenal glands when we feel under threat. The brain can not distinguish between real and imagined danger; therefore it may send signals to the adrenals to start 'doing their thing' just because we have an irrational fear of birds and a sparrow lands at our feet.

Consequently, if we are stressed or anxious at meal times our body is preparing to fight whatever is about to be consumed, or run away with fear. Here's a little science from someone who has basically been studying humanities and languages since Year 11; when adrenaline is present in the body, our digestion ceases to function. Think about it, the whole point of the 'fight or flight' response was so as way back in the day, if we were confronted by a dangerous situation we would be able to defend ourselves, or run very quickly. Adrenaline helped our bodies to make us capable of more strength, speed and agility aswell as stopping the organs such as the digestive system from working during this time so as all the body's energy could be used solely for survival purposes.

The key here is that when we feel anxious and are not in a state of pleasure, perhaps because just looking at pizza elicits feelings guilt and remorse, perhaps causing an anxious response. Even if the adrenals don't kick into action, when we feel uptight our organs and muscles are no longer relaxed and won't function at their optimal; hence digestion will not be 100%. The same would apply if you are stressed and anxious for other reasons; our digestion is just not going to work nearly as effectively as if we were in a state of relaxation and pleasure.

This is why I think there's truly something in the teachings offered in 'French Women Don't Get Fat'. The book teaches us to source the finest and freshest produce and to make wonderful food from using herbs and other wonderful natural sources of flavour. It encourages using all the senses, for example, when shopping at the market for food the books discusses engaging with stall holders, listening to the wonderful hustle and bustle of shoppers, smelling the wonderful scent of a ready to eat peach and touching your produce. It seems to me it is the French woman's version of mindfulness.

According to my reading, French women prepare their food mindfully and it follows that they eat in the same way. They are aware that eating too much bread in one day or gorging on pain au chocolate is not true pleasure. Pleasure is about all 5 senses being engaged in the sourcing, preparation and consumption of food. The table is set, food can be consumed with beautiful music and or company and it is done so at a table that is set to honour the meal time. There is no rush, no tv, no fast food. Meal times are to be treated with respect. In understanding this I suspect that it is far more likely that the French can enjoy their food, stimulating the senses, rather than with feelings of fear or guilt attached. I propose that consumption of a meal in such a way means that ones digestive organs would be relaxed and functioning, as opposed to 'shut down' in a state of anxiety.

Having explored how the emotional and mental aspects can impact on our physical being, let us now return to question the importance of the quality or type of food we choose to eat. Is our good health truly all tied up in eating in a state of pleasure or is there more to it?

I believe that if all we ever consumed was pizza and beer with great delight, we would probably digest these ok, at least as best as is possible and should consequently absorb nutrients as best as possible (this is in the case of those without wheat or gluten intolerance/allergies).

However, if we were to find ways to consume a wide range of foods, the most part being those that are provided to us from the earth, in a state of pleasure and gratitude, following something similar to the French approach to food, I propose that we could then absorb many wonderful nutrients and sources of energy from our food. Now this could just be the ideal approach.

I have certainly not developed a definitive answer to how we can eat in order to achieve optimal health, but I believe that pleasure is a significant clue, as is the types of foods we consume and how close they are to their natural state. I must say I think different approaches work for different people; so there is no one answer. Stay tuned for further questions and musings on the energetics of food eg. manufactured, processed, natural, fresh, canned etc. and their effect on our health.

If you've got thoughts on the topic please leave a comment, I'd love to hear them.

Like The Answer Is Writing? You might also like Inner Beam.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A love of learning...

I love this rose too!
Image from robodesign.ro
The topic of the day is Education. Why? Because I want more. Why today? Because I have just been reading about Sarah Wilson's interview with Edward De Bono, a man well known for his ideas about thinking and the 'Six Thinking Hats'. I felt that the following words as written by Sarah captured the essence of what The Answer Is Writing is about. It also got me to thinking more about Education and theorists, taking me back to my time as a teaching student.

Sarah wrote:

We’ve been raised, he says, to think in order to “hurry up and find an answer”. Instead, thinking should be about being open and random and exploring possibilities. It’s the process that matters. And from it, value – not answers – emerge.

I feel that Edward's thoughts reflect how I feel, and offer one possible explanation for why I believe the answer is writing. I don't truly anticipate this blog is a blog of answers in the straight forward black and white sense. The word 'answers' is a metaphor for the process that happens when I write and what is revealed as I partake in the process. The name of this blog suggests answers come from writing; it would be more accurate to say that value comes from the exploration that is synonymous with my writing.

Not only was I impressed with Edward De Bono's words because they are align with my own sentiments, his work has been of interest to me since my grade six teacher used his theory of 'The six thinking hats' successfully in our class. His theory provides a process for thinking through topics, for example you use the Red hat for feelings, Black Hat for negatives etc.

Eight years later I was studying Education at University, and learning about Edward De Bono and other educational theorists. I think these studies of the psychology of education were of the greatest interest to me. I felt that their ideas could extend well beyond the classroom. My favourites were Edward De Bono, Howard Gardener and his Multiple Intelligences and Vygotsky's  'zone of proximal development'.

As much as I enjoyed learning about these theories, I didn't enjoy the actual practice of primary school teaching. After four different placements across two years of study it became quite clear that my heart did not lie in the classroom. Looking back I can see some of the clues that Primary Teaching wasn't the path for me. One would be the panic attack I had on my very first primary school placement while walking with a teacher around the school yard. We were going around and around and kids were yelling, screaming, running. I remember feeling incredibly dizzy and anxious. I rationalised it by believing it was low blood sugar, from not eating my morning snack yet. I didn't mention it to anyone and I certainly did not know what a panic attack was. In hindsight I think it was one of the first clues that my heart and soul was not wanting to pursue teaching.

I also remember sitting in my first Psychology 101 class, I had chosen Psychology as my elective and there were very few of my fellow teaching students in the class, it was made up of nursing, arts and social work students. As I sat listening to my lecturer, completely engaged and excited about studying Psychology a few tears rolled down my cheek. I wished I could spend all of lectures feeling this way, learning about such interesting things. I'd fallen in love with Psychology. I think the realisation that something could make me feel this way in addition to the knowing that the rest of my course seemed far less appealing in comparison brought the tears on.

Two years later I was quite miserable studying Education and made the decision to transfer into a Social Work degree. A few years later after I'd graduated I re-discovered Vygotsky's work whilst attending the International Narrative Therapy Conference in Adelaide. A whole hour was dedicated to how Vygotsky's work had influenced the development of Narrative Therapy and what his theories could do in supporting our understandings as therapists. I can't truly explain why, but I was captivated. It was the highlight of the conference, I found the rest fairly bland, apart from the session on polyamoury (having many lovers/relationships), that was a real eye opener! We heard from people who have chosen polyamoury about how it is possible, even wonderful, to have more than one lover in a very honest, adult and fair way.

However it wasn't polygamy that drew me in, it was hearing about Vygotsky that did it. When I returned home from the conference I began researching more on the Internet.
Vygotsky worked in the area of psychology for 10 years before he died in his late 30's after contracting TB from his brother whom he was caring for. In those 10 years he achieved a huge amount, he developed and wrote about 18 or more works, including those still very prominent in educational psychology today. If you're interested to learn more, I suggest googling him; I did and you can see a list of many of his works here. His history and achievements are amazing.

I still find certain areas of psychology extremely interesting, and the reason I didn't pursue it as an undergraduate is because the course sounded to be fairly scientific, and I knew it would take at least 6 years more study on top of the 2 years I'd already done to become a qualified psychologist. I was keen to get out there working and chose Social Work instead. I don't question the move now, as I still feel little interest in taking up studies of behavioural science. But my passion for learning i still very much alive, I'd like to feed that flame some more.

I'm not too sure what I might pursue in order to fulfill and fuel my desire for further study yet. I think it involves some form of psychology, perhaps learning and education related, learning more about the mind body soul connection (metaphysics) and health and nutrition. I'd love to learn more about writing too, but not about academic writing, more about the creative, expressive fun kind of writing!

So I'm still riding that train, enjoying the scenery, embracing that which tickles my fancy. Next stop?? Who knows, perhaps I'll just keep chugging along for a while and enjoy the ride.
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