Friday, August 19, 2011

The sting of anxiety

My latest news is that I am back working part time as a Social Worker, yeah, not thrilled, but it's a means to an end for now & I'm trying to make the most of it.

Yesterday I attended an awesome Professional Development day to become an accredited facilitator of a group work program to assist children to manage their experience of fears, anxiety and depression. The program's been developed by a bunch of psychologists and is impressively evidence-based, which means that they've done their research.

Some of the research stunned me, for example, apparently adults who have mental health issues have signs and symptoms by the age of 12 years old. I thought of a few people I know, including myself, yes indeed I had signs of anxiety by 12. That anxiety goes untreated in most people until adulthood when their anxiety becomes debilitating, usually as the result of a stressful event or experience.

Research and anecdotal evidence from the therapist running the training indicates that depression often stems from anxiety. The theory is that we all tend to have fears and anxiety is a pretty common experience, it's part of being human. However if anxiety is ongoing and occurs regularly, we become exhausted, as a result we tend to become depressed. It's like we can no longer function with the high levels of arousal in our body, so we shut down and our affect becomes flat, our body movements and thinking slow down, it's a form of shutting down. This isn't to say we don't continue to experience anxiety, the two usually go hand in hand; but depression seems to be our body's response to ongoing anxiety. That's how most people end up with the double whammy- depression and anxiety.

Why is it that I'm writing about this today? Because it's personally significant and I felt like the learnings I got out of the PD yesterday created lightbulb moments. It's helpful to understand that because I didn't know about anxiety or learn how to manage it as a child, I am now having to do so in adulthood. Current stats say that 1 in 5 adults will be diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression atleast once in their life. This stat reminds me how normal it is, though I think we'll see an increase in the stats in future years, as currently many people go undiagnosed..struggling. I reckon more like 99% of people in the western world will experience anxiety and or depression in their lifetime (diagnosed..or not). For many of us it's a recurring experience; each time we understand a little more, we know more about how to manage the symptoms and will recognise what's happening more quickly so as we can get help more immediately.

I believe that anxiety and depression can help us to see what needs to change in our lives, I don't think it's just about how we think, that's kinda bullshit to me. It's in part how we think, but usually it's our external and interpersonal circumstances that can tend to get us down or into a worried state of mind. If those circumstances or relationships continue then often so does our inner experience of stress and worry. We can't always change our situation immediately, what we can do is reach out, get the help we need and soften, become more gentle with ourselves and try to find opportunities for positive experiences wherever possible.

What do you think about all this? Any lightbulb moments or stories to share?

Thanks to Cath at Precocious Lotus a number of Mental Health related blogs are now linked up, so if you want to read more, you can, please do add yours if you've blogged on a MH related topic!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Me V Me

Tonight I've been in battle, the part of me who wants to forget about everything and drift into peaceful sleep and the part that's calling for an opportunity to express herself. The latter has been calling for some time, and she has also been ignored. She wins tonight, because I was hearing a blog post being written in my head. That's not terribly comfortable or conducive to getting to sleep.

The me who wanted to express and to write also requested a bowl of muesli, her needs for food and expression are both being satiated right now.

Today was a kind of significant occasion. Today I walked down memory lane. I went job seeking, I went to a recruitment company that I'd had contact with before. Last year when I had contact with them I felt pretty awful, but also felt like I needed to get on with my life and that perhaps if I just took steps forward into work I would feel better. Nearly a year ago I was in the recruiter's office for an interview and I missed a call from my GP's office. When I returned the call I was asked to go into the clinic straight away because they'd found something in my blood tests. Anxiety coursed through my veins, I freaked out big time. I texted my Mum warning her that I was on my way to the GP and might need some support after the appointment. I didn't know what they might have found but I kept thinking it could be cancer or something equally awful. After all it would make sense that it was something awful, because I felt like a seriously ill person.

As it turned out I was seriously ill, not with cancer, with something very treatable, a thyroid condition. When my Dr told me, I was both relieved and confused. How had I come to have an overactive thyroid I'd wondered. I also started to wonder what the thyroid did, because I'd never given it any thought before now. I figured it must be capable of doing alot, seeing as it had made me so awfully sick.

So that's what happened last time I left this recruiter's office, today I am gladly reporting no such thing occurred. But it was a time for reflection, I noticed that today when I walked in through those doors of the big city building that I felt a strength I hadn't had last year, one that I'd had to fake last year. I realised how far I'd come and how much had changed since that day. When I walked into the building nearly a year ago I'd believed I was just struggling with a bit of depression (even though symptoms said otherwise), I was employing all of the determination I could to act strong, be brave and 'overcome' my difficulties, I had a will of steel.

Today I took a moment to feel gratitude for being in a very different position, one that places me alot more 'in the know'. I know what was wrong, I know now that I am well on the road to recovery, towards full health and that it's safe to be applying for jobs. I might not feel so flash, but I think this time around it's a combination of general tiredness and feeling the effects of winter..and the effects of stepping back into 'the real world' after being sidelined for a year. I wouldn't blame you for imagining it's just awesome and that I'd be celebrating feeling better and being able to move on.

Unfortunately it's not so simple, I've got this 'story' I have to tell about why there's a 1 year gap in my resume. It's also a little more difficult as I'm no longer connected to the working community I used to be a part of, so I'm therefore an 'unknown' as a result of a geographical move. My confidence in what my body can cope with is not great; I know that it's more than likely that I will have times that I will struggle to find the energy for work. For a while work might be all I can do and the rest of my time might be taken up by recovery and sleep. Illness has changed me on all levels- mental, emotional, spiritual and physical; I am the same, yet so different. It's hard to know quite what that means; the only way to find out is to get back into things. It's daunting not knowing what it's going to be like to be the Sarah I am post illness. I can guarantee it won't be the same. I know there are things I need to consciously change, in relation to how I look at things and how I take care of myself; because they will be protective of my health into the future.

I'm in nervous anticipation of discovering this, trusting that I will cope, facing the issues that come with ongoing recovery/return to full health and dealing with the financial effects of long term unemployment. It's not always easy to see the bright side, but today I was truly grateful for being in a very different position to that of 1 year ago as I walked through the recruiters doors.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The pull

I've had my longest break between blogs ever. During the past two months I haven't completely forgotten about the blog, or that the answer is writing, but other things have kept me occupied and I haven't been feeling the pull to write like I was.

In my case, no news has pretty much been good news. I have been too busy living, stepping foot outside my door kind of living, to have the time, space or energy to write. I've also been busy enjoying communication and time spent with new and old friends; which has created a space for me to process things. Until recent months this blog was essential in creating space for me to process and come to terms with things while I was ill. It was like there was so much stuff coming up for me that I needed an outlet available 24/7; I was spending heaps of time alone (on the couch) so a blog was the perfect companion. I also felt like it was important to document things; as much for myself as for the possibility that my experience might help others through their own struggles.

So I'm not sure what's happening with the blog, I don't know if it has a future, I'm not feeling any great pull towards writing- though I know that this is sure to return at some point.

With all the change and development happening around getting back into work my focus is more on that. I've got one part time job, have applied for another, am establishing a private practice in counselling and have had another job suggested to me. I'm attempting to retain some sense of stillness amid this temporary chaos. I'm also trying to listen carefully to my wise one within, to ensure that I make decisions for my highest good. I've learned so many lessons during the past 18 months and have had moments of such great clarity about what's important in life; I don't want to forget them!

I do feel the pull of forgetting all of that, of switching off and just 'getting on with things' but I can't- thank goodness. I do get confused, sometimes in good health, or average health, it's easy to lose sight of what's important and to become preoccupied with the material world- money, clothes, home, what your neighbours and your friends are doing etc. That stuff has some serious weight to it in a way that feels so hard to resist.

Whilst I'm glad to be spending time back in this 'real world' with 'everyone else' I look back a little wistfully at the simplicity of being ill and the permission it granted me to be able to go inward, to rest, to put myself first and the way it forced me to be open to receiving help. I sure don't want to have to be sick to enjoy these things, here within lies my current challenge, ensuring that I get the aforementioned when I'm in good health, not only when I'm stuck and forced into it. The key is to love myself enough to give myself what I know I need and to do it without guilt or dis-ease, to do it because I am deserving and it's natural. I know that it's going to be essential in my continued increasing vitality and to a happy and balanced me. I'd like to say I'll keep you updated, but I'm not going to make any promises I can't keep- so we'll see huh :-)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Gratitude

So cute!

I've just come from writing a contemplative piece on Inner Beam about Easter and what it means for me, it's a questioning piece because I'm still trying to work it out.

The absense of sugar in my life means that this Easter looks quite differently to those in the past. I must admit that I felt somewhat relieved this morning when I realised I would not be feeling regretful about the amount of chocolate consumed at the end of the weekend. It's not so much a weight issue for me, in fact, it's not a weight issue at all, I'd be happy to add a few kilos to my frame. The issue is how I feel when I've had too much 'crap' or sugar, I feel yuck, sluggish, tired and bleh.

So I'm pleased that there's no Easter eggs this year and no other forms of sugary sweets. For anyone who eats sugar it's probably hard to imagine thinking like this, you've probably been enjoying chocolate treats for atleast the last week and you can't imagine having to 'go without'. Interestingly without my choccy 'vice' I am left seeking some sweetness, I wondered what I could find to savour.

I decided to 'do' gratitude, to take a look around (metaphorically) and acknowledge all the goodness surrounding me. I took a walk down the hallway and had a little peek into the bedroom, where the bf was lying reading a book, I smiled to myself and walked to the back door. I peered out through the window and saw my gorgeous bundle of fur curled up in his bed sleeping peacefully, I smiled widely. My heart felt warm, my two boys are content and chilling out after a beach walk this morning.

I looked outside and the sun was shining, although it's pretty chilly out, the sun coming in the window is delightful and helps me to feel bright too. I reflected on the domestic tasks we'd ticked off the list this morning in a team effort to create a nice space (home) to spend the coming Easter weekend in. I felt a sense of accomplishment and gratitude. It's the simple things, isn't it? I felt so good and so in love with my life as I practiced gratitude. All is well, is perfect.

What are you grateful for today?

Wishing you a safe, loving and very Happy Easter.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Returning Home

I have just returned from retreat, I must admit that I've been feeling a little anxious about getting a blog post up- either here or on Inner Beam. So tonight I find myself ready and willing to write after a lovely chakra clearing meditation from Goddess Leonie.

Last time I did the meditation I fell asleep with ease, tonight I'm feeling revitalised and a need to write. I think meditation is alot like Reiki- it fills the vibratory need, in other words, it meets you where you're at and helps with whatever you require.

So about the retreat...where do I begin?

It was amazing; who would have known that within an hours drive of home I would find myself in the bush at such a gorgeous retreat. I truly would have believed that I'd travelled over seas to arrive in such a place, it felt so far from home. The experience was relaxing, insightful, clarifying, an opportunity for growth, detoxifying and completely and totally what I needed.

I have returned home feeling more like myself than I have for a long time. During my time away no aspect of Self was ignored. There was an abundance of healthy food, vege juices and pure water, meditation and yoga and walks, opportunities for stillness and reflection, reiki and massage, wood fires, comfy relaxation lounges, awesome views and informal 'counselling' and teachings.

I came to realise that all the aforementioned were important ingredients for healing; the healthy food made it easier to hear my truth and to lighten up, the movement and yoga helped my flexibility both physically and mentally, the reiki heals on all levels, the informal counselling/teachings inspired me, got me reflecting and made me want to nurture and listen to my Self. I could go on and on...but I won't.

Things changed 'big time' during the retreat.

It was actually as if everything changed. The last however many years of my life made more sense, I could observe patterns of behaviour and thinking and where I'd turned my back on my true path. I could see how fears and doubts caused me to believe that others knew something I didn't and therefore I should be listening more closely to them than myself. I saw that I had known since a very young age why I was here, what I wanted to do, but I'd become confused and tried to do it just the same as everyone else does. I hope I haven't lost you, I'm talking life purpose kind of stuff here.

The theory behind Reiki goes a long way to explain what can happen when we're not in alignment with our true selves and we lose sight of 'our dream'. Reiki teaches us that being out of sync with our higher self/soul/god/spirit causes discomfort. This dis-ease can be in many forms- emotional disturbances, accidents, addictions, illness etc. Reiki teachings say that our higher self loves us so mucht that it will do anything to 'wake us up' and remind us of our real dream when we veer too far from our paths; initially the attempts at waking us up are gentle. However if we continue to ignore the calls from our inner self they can become more alarming. I have learned about all of this before; but somehow I didn't have the clarity (or the memory) to apply it all to my own life.

In summary, during my 4 day retreat forgiveness happened, clarity was found and my energy started to improve; I felt lighter and brighter. I still feel this way now; I have kept up my daily meditation practice, I intend to maintain the yoga and eating well and am drinking plenty of water. My focus is now narrowed and I trust that as I stay true to myself and begin exploring my 'dream' that things will unfold in miraculous ways. Stay tuned for updates :-)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Underneath it all

My last post was a cheeky little affair, all about my recent indulgent behaviours when it comes to food. I knew that my fun may meet with trouble soon in the form of a naturopath. I knew that once I told her what I was getting up to that she would probably remind me of the issues around eating croissants and pies regularly for lunch.

When she asked about my 'diet' I quite cheekily shared about my lunch time indulgences and she seemed a little shocked. I explained that I believed that habit stemmed from a lack of appetite at lunch time, which meant I had to coax myself into eating via tantalising the taste buds. I was also dealing with a secondary issue of 'can't be bothered, too exhausted to prepare healthy food'. We both knew that things needed to change a little, my regular lunch time antics would have to be replaced with more nutritious options and the not so healthy options would need to reduced to a weekly occurrence.

I expected this to come up while at the Naturopath. However I got a little more than I'd bargained for during my appointment, I got confronted. The food was a non-issue, I've been seeing naturopaths for many years and the required dietary adaptations no longer scare me, so I didn't go in prepared to be challenged.

The difficulty started with me having to explain my current situation to the Naturopath. I had to back track and explain that I'd become seriously ill last year with hyperthyroidism and that the cause was dangerously high levels of iodine in a soy milk I was drinking. I went on to explain the symptoms I'd experienced- nausea, loss of appetite, vertigo, extreme weakness and fatigue, anxiety...(the list goes on). I explained how I had to leave my job because I wasn't getting better and that I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and did not find the true cause of my condition until I'd been chronically ill for 6 months. Yes, it's an awful story (and for this reason I don't like telling it).

She was amazed and told me it was interesting to meet an actual 'case' from this disastrous soy milk debacle. She went on to ask if I'd had anger come up and listed a whole lot of reasons why I would- loss of income, loss of prime years of life, loss of good health, not being where I could have been career wise....

I felt myself struggling to hear what she was saying, it was almost as if she was telling me those things were going to happen in the future, I felt a disconnect from it being my reality. I became annoyed and upset at hearing her speak the words out loud; I knew them to be true, but did she have to say it OUT LOUD? It was an interesting reaction to have to hearing someone else speak about my reality. I spend so much time trying to focus on the every day issues of just living and getting on with things as best I can that I don't dwell on the awfulness of what I've experienced. I try to pretend that I am ok with where I am at and what's happened; because if I wasn't I might have to feel angry, hurt or some other kind of emotional pain. I might feel sorry for myself, I don't feel entitled to do so, because there are so many worse off than me.

Something else happened last night, I spoke with my sister about her upcoming wedding, it's 12 months away, but I was honoured to be invited to be her maid of honour six months ago. When she asked me I had hoped I'd be well soon, unfortunately that hasn't been the case and I have been pretty much unable to do anything to help. I haven't been well enough to travel and go shopping for her dress or the bridesmaid dresses. I haven't had the energy to offer much to anyone else, to get excited for others or offer guidance or advice. All of my energy right now goes into getting out of bed, feeding myself and putting one foot in front of the other. I hate to admit it, because it feels like a weakness, but it's true.

Thinking about my maid of honour duties are something I have been blocking out, in order to do so I pretty much had to pretend that my sister wasn't preparing for a wedding...and in order to do that I put up a wall between her and I. It only came down yesterday when I realised why the wall had been put up; to protect me from the painful reality that I'm not the maid of honour I would love to be for my sister. I am someone who is struggling with her own stuff, trying to get her health back on track, experiencing chronic fatigue on many days and living the rollercoaster life of someone recovering from long term chronic illness. It hurts, it makes me sad, but only when something forces me to look at it. Yesterday my eyes were opened to how much I practice denial or blocking out of things to try and 'keep going' each day, to survive.

As I once wrote here before, there comes a time when the pain of denial becomes greater than the pain of acknowledging the truth. Yesterday the tables turned and I was faced with the painful reality that everything is not ok, I am not 'just fine' with what's happened to me and it's not 'no biggy'; I often feel frustrated but can't pin point why. I guess it's for some of the reasons my naturopath pointed out and because I am physically a shadow of my former self, mentally, emotionally and spiritually I am different and I am constantly faced with challenges on every level of my Self, alot is required of me to recover, rehabilitate from this illness. It's true, there are many aspects of the whole thing that are shit. It's not very often I let myself think that, let alone say it, but I am allowing it today. On the up side, I am glad I've realised the blocking tactics that I was using to try and keep myself self from difficult emotions. The blocking was getting mighty uncomfortable...and in the long run it's not healthy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Guilt-Free Affair

I am having a love affair and I couldn't keep it to myself any longer. My affair is the kind that's lesser heard of than those of the heart. My experience is not entirely unique, I've heard of others enjoying a similar thing. Author of 'Eat, Pray, Love' Liz Gilbert, of Oprah-esque fame touches on this kind of an affair during her time in Italy. It's not so much the gorgeous men who whet Liz's appetite, it's the delicious food, the pizza, pasta, red wine and coffee.

My own affair is something akin to Liz's, it's one of the stomach and involves much delight for my taste buds. Let me give you an example of the fun I am having, today my 'diet' looked like this:

Brekky: Vegemite and real butter on dark dark rye and a cup of black tea with milk.

Snack: Almonds

Lunch: 2 champagne ham and jarlsberg cheese croissants, a decaf long machatio (made with creamy unhomogenised organic milk)

Snack: Rice crackers with spicy pumpkin dip from a local deli and meredith goats cheese in olive oil.

Dinner: In a matter of minutes I will be devouring a gourmet chicken, leek and swiss cheese pie with roasted veges and generous amounts of steamed broccoli, carrot and zuchini.

Dessert: Grilled fresh peach with vanilla custard (I made my own with the yummy aforementioned milk).

If your mouth isn't watering just a little, then you really should stop reading, because clearly we're not on the same wavelength. However if my day of food has turned you a little bit green, read on, you might even get inspired to join in the fun of a food affair.

So what caused the affair?

For anyone who knows me I have been and generally still am a bit 'careful' with my food. Since realising that wheat, sugar and sometimes dairy are not my friends over the past however many years I have gone through phases of being super strict or really lax.

Right now I am doing a bit more balance, though admittedly a naturopath may have a thing or two to say about my current diet. In my defense, I am eating plenty of veges.

Am I getting fat?

Nope, I lost a heap of weight being hyperthyroid- I am now about 8kg shy of what I was before I got sick. So if I put on some weight that's fine with me. This kind of attitude is a first for me in my adult life. Also, I think that because I haven't been eating refined sugar or fructose for 3 months now I don't run the risk of excess calories through sweet temptations. Also, I like really good quality foods and because I don't waste money on desserts or sweets I feel I can spend an extra couple of dollars to enjoy a gourmet pie, with less fat, quality ingredients and alot more taste- the quality makes it more nutritious. This concept is written about in 'French Women Don't Get Fat'. Interestingly it's the diet/lifestyle book that has spoken the most sense to me, ever. Disclaimer: I may be biased because I love everything french.

To summise my new found affair and how it 'works'-for the most part I try to include one yummy/special meal a day and ensure that I rarely eat food for the sake of being 'healthy'. Boring food makes me not want to eat it, however I do appreciate simple quality fresh food. My appetite has been on and off during the past 18 months of illness, to the point where the lack of interest in food has been scary and I have struggled to even eat a piece of toast. I learned to celebrate it being 'on' with yummy food. My appetite is not nearly as big as it used to be, so I make the most of it by not eating much between meals and then having a yummy (not neccesarily big) meal at meal times. You have to work with what you've got...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


All I want to do is retreat. Retreat, retreat, retreat.

I get this retreat like feeling occasionally, I have had it for as long as I can remember. Sometimes retreating is going to my parents in the country; sometimes I want something else. I guess it depends what I'm retreating from.

I've been doing a 'straight' data entry job for the last 6 weeks now and I am over it, I hope that it will be over shortly. When it was offered to me it was described as about 40 hours over 2 weeks. It's been 6 weeks and nearly 50 hours. About 30 of those hours have been in the last fortnight. It's no wonder I am tired and wanting to step back...

The work is not too difficult, it's just a bit tedious, I like to minimise tedious in my life and maximise the creative and enjoyable stuff (it's essential for healing/balance). The job's been handy and a blessing really, so don't get me wrong, I'm not griping about having work. It's just that it's made me really aware of easily I get tired, it has actually been a major factor in me having a burn out type experience of late. However it is good to know where I'm at, even though it feels disappointing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Land of the Unknown

That's where I am right now, the land of the unknown. Today I watched Eat, Pray, Love- a story about Liz, a woman who travels to Italy, India and Bali to find herself and become stronger. I cried during the movie, mostly during the India part, it stirred up emotions from somewhere deep within. As I write this now I feel them again. What was it about India that got me? Liz was 'lost' when she was at an ashram there and she did some hard yards; she struggled with meditation, she scrubbed floors as her selfless service and faced the reality that she needed to forgive herself.

It struck a chord with me when she said was that she was at 'the source' but had never felt so disconnected. I could identify with the feeling of disconnection, one of the most painful experiences a human can have I believe. Right here I could go on a rant about how that leads to addiction; but I feel no need to share information like that. I just want to be here and now and discuss how it feels to identify with a woman who has travelled to 3 very different countries in one year- when I have not spent more than 10 days outside of Australia in my life.

I could see my own experiences and struggles reflected back to me as I watched Liz face her typically western issues. I recognised her struggle to want something more and to find the courage to take the journey. In her I saw my own confusion, pain and guilt and the way 'dis-ease' is created by living in our western 'civilisation'.

Although I live a comfortable suburban life I sometimes feel as if I am trying to find my footing in a place that is foreign to me, like I don't truly belong. Have you ever felt as if you don't belong? Disconnected? It's painful, uncomfortable and a feeling that rarely leaves you alone.

I have been feeling out of place since before I became unwell; in fact my journey of being unwell started before I became hyperthyroid, it started with perfectionism, with buying into how things 'should' be done, by selling out on my true wants and needs to please others and from always wanting more yet never giving what I truly needed to myself.

No one ever taught me how to give myself what I need, nor did they really mention that it was important. When faced with 'dis-ease' in a serious or chronic form it forces the point that we all have needs and dreams and they are not to be ignored. Illness woke me up, nothing like the rug being pulled out from underneath your feet to give you a good jolt. I now believe that nothing in life is more important than feeling fulfilled- what is life without joy, peace and some fun?

It is impossible hard for me to explain to others what has happened to me and how much has shifted internally for me during the process of healing. Sometimes I get really frustrated by it, because I look at the world so differently to most people around me. I now look at life differently and my priorities have changed, big time. I think this is why I feel like I don't quite fit. It takes courage to speak my truth, to own up to where I am at and honour it. Some days I feel like I am all out of courage. Right now I require bucket loads of it, I don't really have a job, I certainly don't have a career, my health is like a precariously balanced see saw and makes things unpredictable...I don't know what I am capable of anymore and sometimes when I push it I fall flat on my face (regardless of the determination).

On the upside I do know I am truly in love, I know I live in a wonderful place close to the sea and that I have amazing family and friends, I am supported and I have faith. I remind myself of how important all of this is and always put things into perspective by reminding myself that the job, money and vibrant health will come, it's just change, healing and strengthening. I am scared, nothing looks the same to me anymore. I feel like I woke up from illness to a new kind of me and a world that seems to be changing. Where do I fit?

Does anyone else relate?

Monday, March 7, 2011


It's important to celebrate regularly- the big, little and medium size wins. Just now I recognised that I had something to celebrate.

I asked for what I want.

I have called a recruitment agency in my pursuit for work, I no longer fell victim to the idea that I have to fit someone elses mould. I did not choose to give my self a hard time for my limitations (energy levels, fatigue easily, still dealing with my tendency to do burn out). During the phone call with the recruiter I stated my situation and work needs and even had the confidence audacity to throw in a request- do you think you might be able to get me some work in a University?

I was speaking with the department who specialise in Social Work, but I did not say- I will do anything, throw me to the wolves I just need some money. I know a me from the past who may have done just that. I did not say I will try anything you give me (even if it kills me). I unapologetically stated that I am in recovery, that I only want part time casual work and that ideally it would be project or shift type work that meant I did not work a full day. I did not feel guilty or 'less than' for this being my current situation, I felt confident in knowing that I have alot to offer.

Today I celebrate asking for what I want, what I need. The recruiter, Lizzy, responded really well to my University work request and said she'd been looking into working with Universities, she was open and positively responsive to my seemingly left-of-field request. I reminded her that although my CV might be very social worky I am not attached to that and would be happy to try something a little different.

I have not made any commitments to myself about having to take a job that she offers, but I have opened up to the possibilitity that I can use my background and skills in social work to find some temporary work that will work for me, that will be comfortable and fulfilling...and even energising?

Wow, haven't I changed, celebrate with me? What have you got to to be pleased with your Self about?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ok, wow

Today I opened my e-mail to this 'Note from the Universe':

Sarah, sometimes that which you don't understand is drawn to you so that you will understand it. But never because you needed the lesson, and not because all must be so initiated, but only because there had been earlier thoughts of awe, wonder, or criticism. And such thoughts, as all thoughts must, have rearranged your life.

    The Universe

Need I say more? It resonates, it speaks to me and makes me see things in a slightly new light. I like the way this new light makes things more clear and even adds a slight shimmer to the view before my eyes- kinda like magic.

Does it do anything for you?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Civilised Life

It's been a few weeks since I last wrote, I blogged about feeling 'like a normal person' after a day of work. Three weeks later things are looking alot differently to how they have in the past 11 months, actually my life looks differently than ever before.

A number of significant things have happened in the last few weeks, I was offered some casual work as a research assistant with a University, my bf and I decided to get a puppy (his name is Oscar) and I have been spending many days living like 'a normal person', sometimes even feeling it!

My boy Oscar
My work requires travel on some days while others I can work from home, it's flexible and ideal for me right now, because it's difficult to know how I will feel on any given day or sometimes from hour to hour. Any nerves that may have arisen around being able to complete a 'proper job' have not come up in this situation because I don't have to 'be' somewhere for any extended period of time. This makes it much easier as I am very capable of getting things done as long as I can walk to the beat of my own drum. If it means that I work funny hours I don't mind, I have loads of determination and employ the approach of working smarter rather than harder in order to manage my energy levels.

I have learned that determination alone is not enough to get things done. I have always had plenty of determination once I set my mind to something, but sometimes it can turn into perfectionism, which leads to overworking and consequently stress. Having a serious chronic illness taught me that determination alone will not get you far if your body is out of sorts, however being gentle with your Self and learning your limitations combined with determination can be a powerful.

I am much more aware of my self, my body, emotions and thoughts these days. However busyness and activity provide temptation for me to move further from awareness and into unconscious doing. This is an ongoing issue I struggle with so I place great importance on observing how busyness creeps into my life.

An indigenous friend of mine who used to visit me at my old work place where I was a social worker called this crazy busy pace that many city dwellers (and others) keep up 'uncivilised'. He was a member of the stolen generation and had been called uncivilised many a time, unfortunately his people still get that alot today. He sees the uncivilsation in people who are chasing their tails, completely out of touch with what's really important to them and living in an unconscious whir. This lack of consciousness he would explain to me led to the need to fill a void in their lives- with food, clothes and bigger better cars, houses etc. This way of living is synonomous with doing extreme damage to our natural environment and resources. I liked the way he taught me to know what is real; I treasured his visits and he was one of the few people who could help me to make sense of things, with his visits I experienced a sense of calm because I enjoyed being in the company of someone with such a big heart and so wise- thanks Den.

Clearly his message has stuck with me, when he would talk to me of such things I would agree and feel somewhat helpless to escape from the uncivilised behaviour, but now I feel empowered to keep my eye on things and to maintain control in my own life to ensure I don't allow myself to feel 'trapped' ever again.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Like a normal person

Yesterday I spent the day pretty much like a normal person. When you're unwell for an extended period of time, it's not uncommon to begin to compare yourself to what is 'normal'. Spending the day like a normal person is an exciting experience because it feels so good and it also signifies hope, that one day in the not too distant future you might just feel 'normal' all of the time.

In my mind a 'normal' person can get up in the morning at a reasonable hour feeling fairly refreshed from their sleep (not like they have just woken after a massive night out after just 3 hours sleep). A 'normal' person can get ready to leave the house without tiring, they can eat a standard kind of breakfast without feeling ill or thinking twice. When a 'normal' person leaves the house they feel ok, not like they want to curl up and sleep or as if their eyelids are threatening to close on them all of the time. They also feel relaxed, they don't worry about getting home soon or how sick they feel, they don't think twice about being on their way to a shopping centre because it's just so regular.

Yesterday I felt normal because I did all of the above with relative ease, once I was at the shopping centre I felt a little bit tired but not so tired that I wished to be at home, I was happy to be out. After an hour or so shopping I still felt ok and was still not wishing I could go home to rest, it was an enjoyable experience.

Upon returning home after many hours out and about with the boyfriend I did indeed feel tired, but not so tired that I also felt sick or that I needed to lie down and not get up for the rest of the night. It was a bearable tiredness that was not going to prevent me from feeling ok and continuing being 'normal'. The boyfriend decided he wanted to make dessert for the first time since we have begun our sugar free lifestyles. We decided to try a baked cheesecake, which involved a trip to the supermarket for ingredients. I walked to the supermarket without dragging my feet, as we walked up a slight incline I felt the muscles in my legs kick in and do what they're meant to. Just a week ago this same slight incline would have slowed me down and had me asking the boyfriend to walk more slowly, my muscles would not have 'kicked in' like a 'normal' persons, they would have gone weak and slowed me down.

We made dinner and dessert and enjoyed a nice evening in, because the cheesecake took so long to cook we ended up staying up late to be able to eat it. I was able to stay awake and felt just fine. I had successfully spent the whole day feeling reasonably well- awake and capable. I had been able to contribute to helping with housework, shopping, considering the planning of a mid year holiday and baking. Yesterday I hadn't had to make a choice between using my energy for housework or going shopping or baking, I had been able to do all three and it was a real thrill.

The other 'normal' thing that I did this week was work. I spent one day at work, helping at my parents' business. Do you know how long it has been since I have been in an office for work purposes? About ten months. I have not been involved in any official work or earned my own income (apart from a once off tutoring gig) in that long. It was a huge day for me to be up and ready for a 9am start and to deal with having to sit in the once place all day. I did feel quite tired by the end of the day and was glad that the job was not at all intellectually demanding, but I made it through.

All of this 'normalcy' has been made possible by my thyroid coming into balance, it was just two weeks ago that I was begging my specialist to let me stop taking the medication that was slowing my thyroid down (too much). She agreed that it would be safe to do so, I was going nuts dealing with the symptoms of an underactive thyroid; the worst of which was an extreme fatigue that had slowed me down to a near stop. With that fatigue came alot of disappointment and frustration that I was not yet better or feeling 'normal'. This 'hypothyroid' state was induced by the medication, just to make sure I would not return to the 'hyper' state (aka hell).

My hyperthyroidism was caused by the consumption of excessive amounts of iodine in a so called 'healthy soy drink' that was actually very dangerous. This is very relevant to my recovery, the theory is that once all of the iodine is flushed from my system and my thyroid has found balance it will remain that way.

Just 3 days ago, for the first time since my diagnosis in August 2010 my thyroid test results came back 'normal'. The results of my test go a long way to explaining why yesterday I had a normal day and why last week I went to work and felt kind of normal. The test results also signify hope for the future, that 'normal' days will increase from her on in and from there I will start to have energetic days where I feel completely healthy and day...I will live an energised, healthy and balanced life. As you can see, 'normal' is very important to me.

I doubt I will ever again take for granted how wonderful it feels to be 'ok' and to have my body be able to follow through on doing the things I want and need to, in harmony.

Friday, January 28, 2011

(Un) healthy Habits

This morning was the first I'd woken up without the freedom to surf. I am far away from my beachside home in the country. I am hundreds kilometres from the ocean and without a computer or Internet access. In case you didn't know, I don't surf at the beach, I surf on the couch. It is the Internet surfing I missed this morning, the comfort of knowing that the world (wide web) is right there at my fingertips. They say that the first step to healing from an addiction is to admit that you have one first. I will do no such thing as to admit I am addicted to the Internet, I just find it difficult to go without it for long (a few hours).

This morning as I dealt with the cold harsh reality that I was without computer or iphone access all sorts of feelings and thoughts crept in. 'In this modern day how is it that there is not one single computer available to me?' my mind questioned. 'If I had brought my laptop I would never have landed myself in this situation' I thought feeling annoyed. This was followed by an uncomfortable sense of emptyness and slight agitation. I wished I could fill the void with Twitter, checking e-mails and blogging. I wanted to be able to distract myself from the feelings. Then a horrifying thought emerged 'I might have to sit with this feeling of emptyness because I don't have anything to fix it'. I also realised that my number one tool for avoidance of writing my morning pages had been stripped from me.

I recently wrote about morning pages and my intention to begin a creative exploration process with the book 'The Artist's Way'. I am officially on day 3 of the 12 week course. One of the main components involves the practice of writing 3 pages of uncensored stream of consciousness writing every single morning upon waking.  Not once yet have I undertaken this task in the AM hours.

Today, with nothing available to distract me, other than Mel and Kochie (let's be honest, that ain't any kind of excuse) I turned to my empty page and began to write. Once I had begun it felt good and I felt mighty proud of myself for acheiving the seemingly unnatainable- morning pages being written in the morning. Upon finishing the pages I felt a little bit inspired to consider my Artist's Date, which is the second regular task that is to be undertaken each week as a part of the course. This date is to be a date with your 'inner child' the playful part of you that enjoys new adventures, creative pursuits and just having fun. I came to realise that this date would need to happen while I'm here in the country, in a very small town. I wondered what on earth I could do, a few ideas began to flow about going fossicking through the op shops and antique store in town (I think there is still an antiques store). I'm not yet sure if this will be my date, I am wondering how I will fill 2 whole hours with the pursuit.

So I had completed the morning pages and still had no Internet at 10am, I decided to flick through some of my Mum's Country Style type magazines and cut out some clippings of the kind of elements I would like to have make up my own home one day. I found it really inspiring and alot of fun, I still feel the excitement bubbling up now when I think about my future balinese style landscaped garden.

My future garden
I quickly came to realise that thanks to my Mum's computer blowing up and her taking the laptop to work for a presentation I had been gifted with the opportunity to experience my morning differently. To take time out to nurture my creative self and think outisde the square (latpop). Doing things differently in the morning is something I've been thinking about for a while, but I was stuck, completely stuck in the rut of beginning my day online and unable to break the habit. I've been so aware of this for such a long time now, but the awareness itself of the habit had not broken it. Today I got a glimpse of what is underlying the habit, how this routine has served to help me avoid 'being with' my self in the morning and enjoying creative time. Tomorrow the Internet will be available to me in the morning, let's see what happens.

Monday, January 24, 2011

If my thyroid could speak...

Without a doubt I heard my thyroid speak to me whilst writing my morning pages (see yesterday's post for morning page specifics). Do you want to know what my thyroid said? It said 'You push me and I'll push you'. It sounds as if my thyroid threatened me, right? No, it was not a threat, it was a promise. You see my thyroid was actually attempting to befriend me, help me and get me on side. It reminded me of the concept the thyroid story revolves around- balance. Oh how often I use the term 'balance' when referring to my thyroid; 'Hopefully it will soon be in balance' and 'My thyroid's out of balance'. Hint hint, the thyroid is about balance, completely and totally.

I have been reminded, firmly and without a doubt, that if I push myself, if I continue to push the boundaries and see how far I can get, my thyroid will indeed push me back. My thyroid is a powerful regulating gland in my body, it can create great harmony or cause complete chaos. It truly calls the shots on how I feel, how I look, my skin (pimples, eczema etc), my cycles, my mood, my energy levels, my physical strength, how my heart beats and my digestion. That's a whole lot of my body being affected if I decide to take the gamble and 'push it'.

My thyroid does not seek to punish me, it seeks to befriend me, it is a very real guide as to how well I am acheiving balance in my life. Right now my kind of balance looks so very different to the 'average persons'. My mind finds my kind of balance laughable and frustrating, and that's where my mind tries really hard to convince me it knows best and 'we'll show that thyroid who's boss, life will go on, lets go sister!'. My mind can not believe how much rest and nurturing of my Self is required right now and how little 'doing' or 'working' is allowable

My thyroid is kindly and firmly reminding me that this kind of mind chatter is unacceptable and not conducive to good health. To acheive harmony I must listen to my body, my heart and my wise one within. This is the only way to strike the kind of balance I need to experience long term health.

It might sound bizarre, the concept of body parts speaking to us, they often do so just through symptoms and we don't hear the meaning behind our pains and dis-ease. If you could hear what your body was saying to you, what would you be pushed to understand, to acknowledge, to change?

If you desire to know more about what your body is saying to you, I recommend the following books, 'You can heal your life' by Louise Hay has been my bible since I first discovered it years ago, it is a must have on the book shelf.

Anatomy of the spirit is a much more challenging read, if this concept is new to you I suggest starting with Louise Hays work, she makes it easy and enjoyable to read and her book is beautiful and colourful. However, if you're wanting more and up for the challenge of learning metaphysics at a deeper level, try Caroline Myss's book.

My thyroid has inspired me to write more about balance.
You can find out why your 'balance' will look differently to everyone else's on Inner Beam. 


In the past few days I have taken up the challenge of 'morning pages'. The concept of 'morning pages' comes from Julia Cameron's 'The Artists Way' book. The book came highly recommended recently from a very wise and knowledgable woman who did a sacred contract reading for me. 'A what?' you might ask, never mind I'd never really heard of such a thing either. However, when my naturopath mentioned that I might benefit from one of these readings I immediately recognised the words 'sacred contract', because I have been slowly reading Caroline Myss's book 'Sacred Contracts'. It seemed like synchronicity at play when the concept came up during my Naturopathy consultation. My naturopath, Donna, explained that the woman she wanted me to have the reading with had studied with Caroline Myss herself. By that stage I was amazed and convinced I needed to go for the reading.

A sacred contracts archetypal chart is not an easy experience to explain. The best I can do in short is that it was very accurate and mind blowing. The easiest way to explain it is to say that it is based on archetypes and how they're playing out in your life. The archetypes are used as a metaphor for various aspects of the Self and the psyche and how they help and hinder your progress. The reading also looks at the lessons you're currently learning and the ways in which you might be doing so. Yes, ill health did indeed come up in the reading, Barb who was reading for me didn't know anything about me or my 'story'.

So upon completion of the reading Barb strongly suggested I open up more to my creative side, which would in turn allow me to hear my intuition more strongly. She told me to get Julia Cameron's book 'The artists way'. The book is a 12 week program/process for opening up to your creativity and exploring it, it is meant to help unblock the blocks. I have felt huge resistance to the process, which means that if I do follow through with it, it will most likely be awesome! It's just the saboteur or 'inner child' at play, resisting, because it's not sure what's going to happen- and that's scary for a child.

So I'm on day 3 of my morning pages commitment and I have done these 'morning pages' twice, once in the evening and once in the afternoon. Next step is to actually do them in the morning. The task is automatic writing, for 3 pages. It does not matter what you write, just that you do. You must write whatever comes to mind, just let it flow. It's helping to rid the mind of fears and blocks that come up, getting them out of the way in the morning, before they grab hold and take your power during the rest of the day.

I must say that once I get started I enjoy the process and have even had some great insights; the process truly does take you down paths you least expect. You can ask questions in the writing, allowing yourself to open up to your subconscious mind/intuition and hear unfiltered honest answers. I draw a parallel between the morning pages and exercise, I often resist putting runners on for a walk, but once I'm doing it I think 'tomorrow I will look forward to this, I don't know why I think I don't enjoy it'. Tomorrow never that sense. That may just be because (as Eckhart Tolle says) 'the time is always now'.

Click the books to find out more.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's not over til it's over

It's time to write again. Tonight I went out to a social event with some people I've known for a while and others who were new to me. It brought up stuff, thyroid and illness related stuff.

I haven't written here about my thyroid much lately; I'm not too sure why, maybe I'm sick of talking about it? Maybe I think I should stop talking about it, let it go and focus on other more positive things. The problem with that is that it's not over, it's not over 'til it's over. The journey of what it is to be unwell is continuing. I am now experiencing symptoms of an underactive thyroid due to my medication for the overactivity. I am having 3 weekly blood tests to keep an eye on things, hopefully soon I will be off medication and my thyroid will function 'normally'. People think that being physically sick is the only problem with illness. That's a myth, there is so much more to deal with than one would imagine.

When you've been sidelined for 9 months of your life, made a forced resignation from your job, spent 2-3 months at your parents place (300km from your life,friends & partner), lost 15kg (and put 4 back on), lost fitness and muscle strength and struggled to maintain self-confidence at times- well your life looks and feels really differently to anything you have ever known.

Once you've been so unwell that you dread hairwashing day because it's too long to have to stand for in the shower, your perspective changes. When you've been so unwell that driving yourself around the corner to the Dr's is a new and exciting achievement- your view of your life and what it's all about changes. When you have lay in bed day after day, week after week wondering why you can't get out of it without feeling horrifically lightheaded, anxious and exhausted-your reasons for wanting to live and to be healthy, they change.

I haven't come across alot of people who can say that they identify with my experience; but I know that chronic and debilitating illness has affected many. It's quite likely that because I'm in my 20's I have far fewer people in my life who have been chronically ill.

So when I meet someone who I don't know or don't know really well and they ask what I do for work, at the moment I have to tell them 'I do nothing'. It is a strange and unexpected answer to most. Therefore I follow up with an attempt at explaining briefly why I don't have a job right now. I often tell them what I used to do, to satisfy their curiosity about the 'type' of person I might be. We all know that asking someone's profession or line of work helps us to think that we know them better, somehow.

I must admit that I really hate telling people that I do 'nothing' and following up with the story of illness. I never wanted to be the person who had that story. But I do and that's not going to change, even as my circumstances change, I will always have the story.

I hate sympathy and telling sad stories, I like to talk about other stuff. My story usually elicits some confusion and sometimes sympathy, depending on how I tell it. When I say I had an overactive thyroid, most people don't really know what that means. I can choose to give a basic overview or go into the particular effects it had on me and my life. When I do this I begin to feel like I'm eliciting sympathy (or not making sense) and it's around this point where I wish the story wasn't true...and most definitely wasn't mine to tell. One of the most frustrating things though, to be really honest, is that people just don't 'get it'. How could you really understand unless you'd been there and seen it first hand or experienced it?

Being so seriously ill was truly my own personal experience of hell, I reffered to being in my own personal hell for many many months. It was the worst time of my life, the hardest time. I don't want to get all optimistic right now, cos I am over that for today, but it was also the hugest learning curve of my life and I am really grateful for that- there have been many blessings in the disguise of illness. Unfortunately I feel unbalanced because I so often share the positives and I feel like I am not being honest to myself when I focus on the light rather than allow the shadow some air time. People like to say 'be positive' and they also like positivity in general; well I am! But sometimes you can be way too positive and everyone thinks you're more well than you seem. I always do my best to come across as well as I can, to be as positive as I can, to be as happy as I can. 99% of the time this works for me and I prefer this approach; but it needn't be at the detriment of not acknowledging the crap or not fully allowing those close to me to see what my true experience of this illness is.

If you've had a similar experience to me please do leave a comment. Also, if you have never had such an experience, your thoughts are much appreciated- I won't hold good health against you :-)

On a brighter note, you might enjoy my new web-site Inner Beam.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mother Nature

Well aren't things a little crazy in Australia right now, mother nature has got us all wondering what's going on. Here in Melbourne I am watching rain fall and feeling somewhat confused because I can't seem to get by without the cooler. Usually this kind of tropical weather isn't a normal part of the Victorian weather pattern. However, usually massive big floods aren't part of Queensland's pattern either. We had truly become accustomed to being the country in drought up until not so long ago. It's quite a mental shift to recognise that we now have alot more water than we can deal with.

I know many are wondering what has gone wrong. Perhaps somehow all of our prayers for water during the very long drought were stuck in a pipeline somewhere between us and Mother Earth's inbox and she recently had them all flow in like spam. The only way that I can make sense of the current situation is that Mother Earth only just got all of our prayers and went ahead and opened the floodgates. I'm open to other theories though...I know that there are more scientifically based explanations out there, but I'm sure you didn't come along here for scientific explanations (if you did, I am sorry but this is rarely a place to find science).

So what am I doing here in Melbourne other than observing the destruction that is flooding? I am developing another blog. ANOTHER ONE? I hear you ask. Yes indeed, it's to be bigger and better and different. It's to be a platform for my own business- I am very excited as I step into new territory. I'm currently attempting this new endeavour over at Wordpress, because I've heard so many good things about it. I am struggling just to work out the basic mechanics of it though and have returned here to where I feel at home to practice a couple of things and to write this very post.

The only thing that's changed here at The Answer Is Writing is that I've added a link to my new Amazon bookstore, it can be found at the very bottom of the blog's home page. I've put nearly 40 books and tools from my most favourite inspirational and useful authors- you might like to take a browse. I will be sure to let you know when my new site is up and running, could be a little while yet.

I want to let you know that I am sending prayers out for everyone affected by the floods to ask that they are looked after and kept safe. I'm not going to bother to ask for the water to be turned off, because of my suspicion that Mother Earth's inbox could already be full of such requests (and also my theory on the communications pipeline getting clogged). Here's praying that those who need strength, nurturing, love and hope right now can find it in bucket loads (excuse the pun).

Friday, January 7, 2011

Perfect, I think not...

I want to pose a question, as inspired by a discussion I had yesterday- Are we experiencing an era of perfectionism globally?

Today I read an article in one of the free mags you find in health food stores and the writer spoke about personal issues often being a part of something bigger than the individual, a symptom of a global issue. So imagine the Universe has a psyche, just as we each do, would the Universe be grappling with and playing with perfectionism right now? I do think that there's a fair chance.

Up until I went to University I thought perfectionism was a 'good' word and being labelled a perfectionist was an acheivement. I think that there's others who probably think like this right now, either openly or secretly. There are many people who like to be known for their high standards. If there was no such thing as perfectionism I think we'd see cosmetic surgery and cosmetics sales dwindling. In fact, I think we'd see a whole lot of consumerist behaviour cease. How much of our consumption of 'goods' is an attempt to satiate our inner perfectionist?

I know that I am tempted all the time, I definitely deal with the inner drive for perfectionism, even though I now feel like it's a dirty word. Fir example, I wish that we had a new doona cover to put on the bed because it would just make the room so much better, possibly nearly perfect....well maybe with a few pillows and a throw and a rug for the floor.... You get the gist of it, my bedroom is not going to be 'perfect' because there's really no such thing, I would still manage to find fault with it. That's the toughest part about perfectionism, those who have it also have an equally strong inner critic, always finding fault. However I could easily spend $1000 trying to acheive the unnatainable in my bedroom alone.

So what is the antidote to perfectionism? I am not too sure. I guess it's probably acceptance, acceptance of ourselves just the way we are. I think that a need for creating perfect circumstances outside of ourselves stems from feeling that something within us is just not quite right. As I write this, I get the sense that the more we love ourselves the more we would find that our desire for perfect aesthetics and circumstances would ease.

 I would truly love to hear your thoughts on the topic, so please do leave a comment. I'm just beginning my investigation, because I'm fascinated by it and I'd certainly love to let go of that niggling feeling that perfectionism creates in my body in attempt to keep motivating me to be more, do more, buy more and have more. I know I'm not the only one feeling the niggle...
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