Slowing down

If you look carefully, and you shouldn’t feel the need to, you can see the signs of me slowing down. Mornings get harder (and they’re never really my strong suite, but I’ve impressed myself lately), I stop answering the phone (which is always my strong preference but sometimes I’m better at it), I stop doing anything much around the house (which isn’t saying much but still), I stay in bed longer and longer, getting up and going is harder, and I dive into my laptop and live there because its more predictable and controllable in there than in the outside world. I jump into a world that isn’t reality, where beautiful music and sitcom laughter falsely pep me up. But I take falsely pepped up over no pep most days.

This week I haven’t been doing so well. I know why, but I can’t seem to shift it and improve my mood. There’s just been this one thing that’s bugging me, and I haven’t been able to physically do anything about it to this point and its just biting and biting. That has worn me down as well as consuming my thoughts with less than impressive ideas about myself. It’s brought about a constant level of fight or flight instinct in me, and between palpitations and just feeling amped up it hasn’t been fun.

At work on Sunday a patient came in desperate for something to help him sleep. He really seemed quite beside himself, saying he can’t get to sleep til 2am, doesn’t sleep long, and then is bombed out all day and can’t get anything done for being tired. It seems like a pretty clear case for handing out a Pharmacist Only sleeping tablet, but this man is on an old school medication that interacts with EVERYTHING! He was well aware of this and told me about it before I could ask about other medications. So I did the proper thing and checked to make sure that I could offer him a safe option. Most of the medications we can sell are sedating antihistamines like Phenergan and Polaramine which you may well have heard of. But these interact with his medication so they’re out. There was only one option (other than referring him to his doctor whenever he could get in) so I set him up with that, explained it all to him, reassured him that it was fine, advised him to take a half dose to start with and we both went on our way happy.

Then I got a call from him saying he’d read the leaflet in the box (of course, he would be the one in twenty to do so!) and it said not to take it. I explained again that the reason not to take it with his medication was because of drowsiness not another side effect, and in his case we wanted the drowsiness. At this point I recommended he discuss it with his doctor before taking it if he didn’t feel confident, but he said I was the medicine expert so if I said it was okay, then he was okay with it. Flattering to hear, but a bit of a terrifying responsibility at the same time. But I was happy from what I read so all good. But that call back set off some doubt in myself, some insecurity that maybe I got it wrong and I just cannot get rid of the [insert adjective] questioning in my head!! I looked it up again, and again, and although it seems right, there’s just something!! Did I do the wrong thing? Should I have not given him anything and hoped he could see his specialist soon? Is my knowledge still not up to date enough? What if something happens?? That last one is a killer of peaceful thoughts! Is it likely? No. But…and that is pretty much the loop my brain is feeding me.

I’ve tried to breathe: in 2 3, out 2 3 4 5. I’ve tried distracting myself, thinking of something else like our holiday to Queensland sometime later this year: I now have put together the most thorough bird watching to-do list that you’ve ever seen, have an order pending for a Cairns specific bird book, and GPS coordinates for good locations! I tried eating: fail. Telling a colleague: they weren’t concerned but what does that mean? The responsibility doesn’t rest on their shoulders so…I was asked to work yesterday so I was going to look the patient up and give them a call to check everything is okay, but my shift got canned. So that phone call got pushed out til tomorrow. It’s been a long week!! I’m just stuck in quandry, in limbo waiting for the knife to fall, the bell to toll, the consequence to descend on me. ARGH!

So my mood has struggled. Monday I was in bed til lunchtime, or after lunchtime; sometime around 3pm possibly. I don’t think I did a single thing. Wake up, sleep, wake up and breakfast, sleep, wake up and snack, sleep, wake up and drive 2 minutes for KFC, sleep, dinner, sleep. Very interesting. I was bugged by this sleeping tablet business all day, but I didn’t realise how much it was sapping my energy, motivation, interest in anything else til later. But every time I woke up either overnight or during the day it was right there, clear as crystal in the front of my mind!

Yesterday I managed to get out because I had a voucher with a use-by date to redeem at the aquarium, and at Pancake Parlour; freebies are a good motivator. Breakfast/brunch near an open fire while sorting bird photos on my laptop was pretty fun!!

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Then on to the aquarium where I enjoyed walking around in a removed kind of way, apart from the lovely shallow rock pool with little rays and elephant sharks (which are so ugly!!) and little fishies; that was awesome. Then on to the behind the scene package where we got in a glass bottom boat and watched rays and sharks and fish swim just beneath us. That was pretty cool. But the breakthrough was feeding the rays. I’m not talking about the little ones, I mean the Smooth Stingray species that is 3 or 4 metres across. They come up to the side of the tank for feeding, and they aren’t meant to, but they flap flap flap their “wings” against the side and cause huge splashes!! So naughty, and so fun fun to watch and take photos of! That got me laughing out loud; I really enjoyed that. I was smiling for ages after that.

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Then I went down a couple of levels to the bottom of that tank so I could watch the big sharks and rays swimming around through the glass; another wonderful experience! That really did it for me, and it is SO important to have things that do it for you on not so great days. Last stop was the penguins, and a cute penguin onesie for a baby who I know will be coming later in the year. I was still wrecked by the end of the day, I was still dragging myself around the levels of the aquarium, I was still tired but I got some smiles and laughs in which makes it a win as far as I’m concerned. It didn’t take much to suck that out of me, but at least it was sucking from happy to regular, not from regular to down. That’s a good thing too.

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We had a chat last night, hubby and me. Something about me being in a rut, lost in my laptop, not really engaging with the world or him. And I recognised it then as a symptom, that I really was down a bit and struggling a bit and it was cause and effect happening right there in my easy chair. I was almost at a point to make an appointment with my GP for a pep talk and pick me up, but I’m still holding that card because I see my psychiatrist next Tuesday.

So what about today? There is purely one reason why today worked. Wheel Women had a ride on that I had RSVP’d too but wasn’t sure if the weather would turn out good enough. Last night hubby said: “go even if its raining because there’s only meant to be a small amount of rain, so if it’s raining its probably nearly done”. And it happened exactly like that. Even though it was POURING rain when I woke up, I got up, got dressed, got ready, checked in to make sure the ride was still going ahead, and drove over to Kensington. It rained the ENTIRE way over there, except the last 1 to 2km, and then it was the most spectacular morning you could possibly imagine. Blue skies, the Maribyrnong river was looking stunning in blue as it reflected the sky, the grass was green and it was good to be alive with friends enjoying the sunshine and the fresh morning. That alone does it for me, and I would have been so disappointed had I stayed home.

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Instead we had a lovely time chatting while we rode, chatting over coffee and chatting all the way home again!!! And then, because I wanted to check out some birds (so wishing I had my camera in these perfect conditions!!) and get some shots of the city that I couldn’t take while I was riding, I did the whole thing again!! Yep, 2 loops along the Maribyrong and I can’t think of a better way to spend the day! Right now, I’m happy. I have a low level of anxiety still going on but I think I might take a Valium to give me a bit of a break from that so I can enjoy this feeling of happiness and friendship and accomplishment. Every time I do that ride along the Maribyrnong I remember the first time when I thought it was the hardest thing in the world! Now I just spin along and enjoy it for the scenery, and don’t even notice the kilometres going by. It’s nice having landmarks to show how far you’ve come!! I always appreciate them.

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What else was good about today? I went back again to look at birds and I found some terrific ones!! A Hardhead duck so close I could touch it when they’re normally shy birds. A stunning male Superb Fairy Wren in full blue plumage on a fence post in the sun (oh camera, wherefore art thou camera??!!). A group of Little Black Cormorants fishing together. A pair of Red-rumped Parrots flying off JUST in front of my wheel! A Great Egret in slow, graceful flight. Beautiful, lovely day. Plus a new Wheel Women friend. And watching a recent Wheel Women member improving with every ride; I love that!! Let’s hold on to that happy!!

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Downer

When  you suffer with anxiety or depression in any of their various forms, it doesn’t take much to get you down. In fact it takes a lot to keep you up!

I find this with a million stupid little things that turn a perfectly good day into a gloomy do! Usually its something that I’ve done that I’m annoyed at myself for, and I just can’t let myself off the hook about it. My husband can just cruise through these things and flick them off, just like water off a ducks back, as the cliche goes; it also helps that he doesn’t seem to make dumb errors in the first place! We have a joke that he’s always right…and it’s nearly always true! But I find myself berating myself over and over inside my head, mentally abusing myself for being so idiotic, self flagellating for my mistakes and lack of memory, or of thought, or of judgement. That just can’t make for a happy day.

I spent a lot of time with a psychologist when I first got sick and one of the main points of therapy involved reframing my thoughts, and interrupting a snowballing chain of thoughts. Reframing means to look at a situation and how you usually react, and try to consciously change your reaction to it so that you put yourself through less stress and hurt, and therefore are more well mentally. Interrupting a snowballing thought process means recognising when you’re starting down a line of negative thinking that is escalating to the dramatic and trying to stop it early, while its something that can be dealt with, before you’re almost to the point of a panic attack. I spent a lot of time working on this, and when you consciously and deliberately look at your thoughts, you do recognise a lot earlier where you can intervene and save yourself a lot of drama! Having said that, it does take a lot of energy to do this at the beginning. It gets to take a little less effort as you get more used to it, and you have less of these thoughts because of dealing with them in a better way. Eventually its more of a habit, but as soon as you think to yourself that you do it automatically and don’t need to put so much effort in, it can creep back in.

It is almost indispensable to have another person around who understands the work that you are trying to do with your head, and who can remind you what to do when you’re working yourself (unintentionally) into a bit of a tizzy! Someone who can remind you to breathe, that the drastic thoughts you’re having are just that: drastic thoughts; and of the techniques that you’ve learnt. I say it all the time but I have the utmost admiration for people on their own dealing with their beast. Kudos, and I don’t know how you do it!

Today started out as a great day. I had a good ride with my Wheel Women. We rode from Docklands to the pink lake in Westgate Park and back, and I had a superb raspberry jam donut (apparently it’s a “bombolini” according to this bakery) to top it off! I also had one of those San Pellegrino chinotto flavoured sodas in lieu of my usual Coke; that was not a highlight! Tastes like medicine!

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I was planning on doing a bit of extra riding today. I had planned to ride from Hawthorn velodrome to the start point of the Wheel Women ride, and then ride back there after the finish of the ride to add in some extra ks, but a little glitch with snoozing the alarm prevented me! Sometimes that would be enough to get me down, but I smiled through that mix up. I mean, just the fact that I wanted to do extra ks is a pretty good indicator that I’m sitting well up on the scale of blue.

I got to the start almost on time, and marvelled with everyone else at how stunningly beautiful Docklands and the water looked in the unexpected sunshine and after the rain. I really expected to get a bit wet with rain today after 2 days of LOTS of rain, but we lucked out. It was beautiful through the whole ride, and we agreed we could just keep riding and riding on a day like this where it was cool so we wouldn’t overheat, dry so we didn’t get cold with wet, not windy…perfect! Shame about me not getting up on time to do the extra riding; it would have been the ideal day for it. Oh well, let’s enjoy the ride I’ve got going on right now, instead of worrying about what I’ve missed. And there is some great re-framing and preventing of snowballing thoughts! And so the ride was just lovely!

And then, the error. The trigger.

Stupidly (it’s always stupidly by the way) I put my phone on the roof of my car.

I know!

Always a first. And last. Then some other first. Or another first if I just haven’t learnt my lesson. And so on.

3 blocks down the road from my car park, I went to put my phone in the holder and an adrenaline shot went right through my gut! I instantly KNEW what I’d done! On the bonus side, I’d been creeping along slowly since leaving the car park, hadn’t cracked 40kmph, maybe not even 30kmph…maybe it was still on the roof?!?

No!

Dulp!!

So back I go to re trace my wheels. I couldn’t get there fast enough; itching at every red light and pedestrian crossing until I got back to where I had been parked. There was a ute there now, so I got out and checked under it for my phone, once, twice etc. Then I carefully drove even slower where I’d driven already, retracing, scanning the street and gutters, wishing, hoping and more.

And back around again, and a third time! Nothing!! ARGH!!

And that’s how it starts. The adrenaline shot depletes a bit of your good mood, the persistent bad results of looking and not finding get you down more, knowing this is all your stupid fault hacks away at your confidence and suddenly you’re berating yourself and the day is not the same day it was before. It’s plummeting down through the levels of good into mediocre and before you know it, it’s not a good day anymore.

Although lately, I’ve been well, and more resilient. I knew this about myself, but this incident proved it without doubt.

I was SO bummed out over this stupid accident which should never have happened in the first place! How could I have been so thick as to put my phone on the roof?? I knew it was a bad idea, and I did it anyway. Who does that?? Typical! I make a rule, and I break my own rule, and of COURSE this is what happens! It’s okay to put the keys on the roof, because you can’t leave without them. But your phone? Idiot!

This is how my thinking goes, left to its own devices. Berating, accusing, bullying, incredulous of myself, throwing insults.

This is where the challenge lies. Putting my psychologist’s knowledge into practice in this moment and not letting the snowballing of negative thoughts get off to a head start. Re-framing the thoughts: instead of calling myself an idiot and stupid and dumb, realise that accidents happen (even if it’s often and always to me!) and this was just that, an accident, and give yourself a break!

So, having proved that my phone cannot be found and doesn’t seem to be anywhere that it should be, I head home. On the way I think of half a dozen reasons why having my phone right now would be so good: to find out the best route home, to take a photo of the city shining in the sun, to pop a starter note for this blog into my notes section, to check my calendar for what else I’m meant to be doing today, to use the Optus app to put my phone plan on hold, to call my hubby and let him know about my phone!! It really is my right hand and its going to be a bit painful without it. Stupid, stup…no, we agreed: not stupid; unfortunate. Accidental. Breathe.

But then, halfway through sliding down the blue scale into the depths, I slowed up and stopped. I stopped. That hasn’t really happened before. And it wasn’t like I put a heap of work into it, into stopping my thoughts. But my head is just in a better place lately, and this didn’t seem to be as big of a deal as similar events have been before, where I could wrap myself in guilt and grief for a whole day. Now I was stopped somewhere around the “okay” mark, still realising the inconvenience and bother I’d caused myself, but not fatalistic like many times before. What is this new feeling? Is this being well? Could it be?

I got home and flicked a message off to hubby about being out of phone contact. Then got out one of my comforters and I was pleasantly surprised that before long I was smiling and feeling quite serene about the whole thing! What is this? It was still annoying etc but it didn’t feel like it was taking up my whole world with distraught stress but like it was just one part of the picture. I like this feeling!

I believe that this is how you know you’re well. You can recover from events that happen, instead of collapsing into various levels of despair and misery. I’m not sure how this state came about, but I feel like the chemicals in my brain are finally aligned and things are just easier. It’s very exciting!! To say the least.

As to what happened with my phone? Hubby told me all the things I could do and so I went through Google’s ‘find my phone’ function online (just search for it) and I used that to lock my phone, to put a message on the lock screen to say please return my phone and to give the number to call, and to track my phone. I have to say that was the most satisfying and frustrating part, watching someone driving my phone along. It travelled the Bass Hwy towards Phillip Island via the koala park, and then stopping at the Nobbies, and I was unable to do a single thing about it!! But it was awesome to be able to watch them in the first place. I made a full report to the police and they were very helpful. But then my husband got a phone call from the person who picked it up: turns out they were a coach driver who found the phone in Docklands super close to where I’d driven past, and they planned to bring it back the next day! How kind and honest! So all’s well that ends well in the end. My husband biked from his work into the city in his lunchtime to pick up the phone, and everything is as it should be once again.

Lessons to be learned:

  1. Do NOT put your mobile phone on the roof of your car in any circumstances!
  2. Do leave your GPS function on so that you can track your phone if you ever lose it, it was accurate down to 6 metres at one point
  3. Do be aware of Google’s find your phone functions
  4. Ideally always have your screen locked, but know that you can lock it remotely in an emergency
  5. One day, after so much pain, stress, medication, therapy and time, you will be well again. Believe.

Wheel Women

This past week, and the week before that, were all about the bike. And the women. And the rides. And the cafes. Put it all together and it’s a winning formula; there is almost nothing I could recommend more! And it’s all due to the women’s cycling group Wheel Women. Have I mentioned them before? Once, twice?? But they’re always worth another mention or more because they do amazing work getting us women on bikes and keeping us there.

I have to say that my involvement with (possibly read: dependence on) Wheel Women is one of the main reasons why going to Canberra for 3 months from September to December 2016 was hard, and why coming home was so good. I really didn’t know if I’d keep up riding in Canberra without my supportive group. Wheel Women’s director kindly put me onto a cyclist in Canberra, but her group was more of a mountain bike club, and the road cycling group she referred me to rode at 6am on a weekday; enough said! She offered some one on one rides, but in the end I sort of bumbled around until I found a few places on my own. It was a nice offer though.

Of course I took my bike, helmet, cycle computer, bike clothes and other accessories (there a lots of add on products that you “need” when you start riding!!) with me to Canberra. But having the stuff with me, and actually using it are two different things. I’ve proved this before. Having to think out where to go, how to get there, what the route will be like, what to do if I got stuck halfway due to accident or mechanical, if I’m up for it etc becomes a barrier very easily. With Wheel Women, organised rides are thought out, planned and advertised by someone else. All I have to do is turn up at a specific place and time and follow the leader; that holds a lot of the attraction for me to keep up riding, I’ll admit. Is that laziness? Maybe. But it’s a winning, working formula and I think it’s an attraction for a lot of us Wheel Women members. I did try to find some new riding locations in Canberra, and I fell in love with Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounding bike paths so that kept me going on rides a bit. A few local rides to brunch or dinner, to sightseeing near our place etc made up the rest of the rides, twenty in all; not terrific for 90 odd days but hey I did something more than look at my bike on the verandah!

As much as I was looking forward to riding with Wheel Women again when I got home to Melbourne, I didn’t get straight back into it because we were away a lot during January; but now that I’m back into it, I feel like I never left. It has amazed me though how quickly your bike fitness diminishes when you aren’t regularly riding. You really do have to do a couple of rides a week to maintain your level, and it is worth maintaining that level of activity so the next bike ride feels better. But on the plus side, it only takes a couple of rides to get back to where you were; it’s a constant state of flux.

What has been the most wonderful thing about returning to Wheel Women rides, aside from the excellent rides, is the response of Wheel Women members. I’m not saying I’m anyone special, or trying to be pompous, or blowing my own horn but the lovely, sweet response I’ve received to being back on rides has been overwhelming. I honestly don’t know whether I feel more humbled or thrilled or excited or overjoyed or loved at each next ride. Catching with my old friends and being welcomed back so warmly; meeting new members and striking up new relationships. Man, it is SUCH a great group of people. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a group of women that are so unanimously supportive of each other, tolerant of others at a lower level, encouraging to all, utterly friendly and so focused on building each other up regardless of individual personalities. It’s such a privilege to be part of Wheel Women!

So, here I am back riding with my cycling group and loving it! But it’s not a group that you make friends and develop relationships with, it’s each of the special women that have made my day each time I’ve gone out riding with them. These women are really special treasures: women who’ve overcome their fears, their past experience, their lack of experience, other people’s unhelpful opinions, their weight, their age and more to tackle what is essentially a sport but for most has become a means to transport, to a broader social life, to permanent skills and, most importantly, to independence. Who knew that so many benefits could come out of trying out cycling?

I certainly had no idea of the depth of experience and privilege I would come to experience when I started cycling with Wheel Women. I wanted to attempt to start bike riding again; that was my entire ambition. A few years hiatus from cycling followed a bad fall off my bike onto my chin and hand, narrowly missing falling into a 3 lane road in peak traffic. This left me shaken and lacking confidence to return to commuting to the train station to travel into uni. Several years down the track, I was off work on sick leave but having been used to working hard, full time I wanted to do something, anything, to fill in a little time in my week. My hubby was riding lots, commuting to work every weekday, long rides on Saturdays and 2 or 3 early start weekday rides plus any other chance he got. I thought it would be nice to get started back on my bike slowly before attempting anything too drastic with him. Knowing my fitness wasn’t great, and I’d recently stacked on a LOT of weight, I wanted a quiet, friendly environment without too much expectation and did I get a lucky break falling into Wheel Women’s arms! They wrote and taught the 8 week program administered by another agency, and so I was involved with them right from Day One. A very good way to start. I’ve talked about some of those early days before and you can read about it in my other blogs.

Today I want to share the rides I’ve done in this 2 week period. Between the beginning of the week before last and the end of last week (a fortnight all up) I have done 7 bike rides, each and every one of them has been with Wheel Women.  I should say that this is the most I’ve EVER ridden in a similar period. It’s also the only time I’ve gotten on my bike to do a ride THREE days in a row. So I’m kicking goals, as they say, which is not the point of the piece, but I just wanted to make sure you realise that this isn’t a typical or usual or expected run of rides. All the same, I’m thrilled that I did it all, and it’s more points on some fictitious blackboard somewhere out there in the universe that tells me whether I’m doing good or not. I’m doing good! Brain, take note. You seem to very easily let the good things slip through the net while retaining the smallest bad things for my constant reminding. Well, here are some solid facts for you as proof that I can do it, okay?

13th Warburton rail trail, 34.5km

Chatting to Alicia at Woori Yallock

This is cycling to me – riding with my friends and chatting at any opportunity

15th Moonee Ponds Creek trail, Upfield bike path, Capital City trail, 18.5km

Mixed business cafe with the girls

The face of cycling to me – smiles, happiness, water, and a new cafe menu to check out

17th Specialized sale, Capital City trail, Moonee Ponds Creek trail, 16.5km

oo ooh so much stuff

RIDING to a BIKE clothes sale with my BIKE buddies and shopping for BIKE stuff galore…now how to get it home??

18th Otway and Great Ocean Road classic, 30.5km

yep struggling a bit

This is Wheel Women – when the going gets tough, there is always someone beside you keeping you company, someone at the top of the hill encouraging you to get there, someone behind you letting you know you aren’t being left behind and someone at the finish line cheering. It inspires me to dig deeper.

 

23rd Merri Creek trail, Main Yarra trail, 25km

me and kathy

Friends on every ride

24th Williamstown, Maribyrnong River trail, Bay trail west, 30.5km

Classy ladies Sylvia, Robyn, Judy, Alicia, Lyn

We ride, we find thrones…what can we do but be glorious, Lycra-clad queens of cycling?

25th The Women’s Ride, Gardiner Creek trail, 13km

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The aqua and purple team of Wheel Women teaching 30 women how to change a flat tyre after a ride along the Gardiner Creek trail – what a terrific morning!

That’s 168.5km all up in a fortnight in case anyone is counting. I’m sort of stuck at the 30km per ride mark which is my next thing to tackle, alongside mastering hills. But it’s not really the point is it? The point is the company, the enjoyment, the fresh air, the friendship, the new cafes, the new sights and places; the personal achievements are kind of a lovely bonus.

P.S. Aren’t you glad there are keen photographers around to capture all my best moments?! All photo credit to the Wheel Women Facebook page, most likely to a coach or ride leader, or fellow member. Enjoy!

 

Canberra Day 96: the final day

[Friday 16th December]

Well here it is, the last day in Canberra! For me anyway.

Can you believe it?? I can’t!

I’m in a bit of a cranky mood: if my husband has to come right back to Canberra early Monday morning, why are we driving all the way home this weekend, when he’ll have to go straight back? Why not just have both of us stay the extra week? But I don’t get a say so pack the car and keep quiet! Hubby doesn’t need the extra stress.

Today I have one last catch up for morning tea with an old friend that I’ve become reacquainted with here in Canberra. I just wish there was more time, but gotta fit in what I can fit in and live with that.

Today there’s just one thing on my tourist list, and I’ve been waiting a LONG time for this. The Music at Midday concert is finally here. I turned up a month ago on a date mix up so it has felt extra long waiting for this! Luckily it could be squeezed in before I left. This is a Christmas concert, a real Christmas concert with actual carols and jingle bells, played by the Australian Federation Band at the Canberra Theatre! Finally I get to hear the band again!! And a bonus: a terrific singer who gets right into the spirit of things. The minus is that I’m the youngest person in the audience by roughly 40 years!! Really? I know it’s a week day, but there has to be someone out there in my age bracket interested in great music played by a talented band. But it was a great show, the hour was over in a flash and I just loved it.

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Unfortunately that’s the fun part of the day over. Now I need to clean the apartment (lucky its small!), empty the bins, distribute the leftover food and household supplies we had to buy for this place, and get ready for lock up and leave. Surreal really. Can it truly be over? Are we really finished here?

And then all that’s left is to get in the car and go! We’re just going a couple of hours tonight to stay at Lake Jindabyne so hubby can get in a nice long road ride in the morning to blow out the cobwebs, and of course I’ll look for birds anywhere. Then we’ll figure out our way from there. We didn’t get to say goodbye to everyone, because of being away last weekend, so I’m sorry about that but let’s hope we meet again. Til then, friends. The grand Canberra adventure is over.

Canberra Day 95

[Thursday 15th December]

Today I have to bite the bullet and start packing! I thought we’d be here a bit longer because hubby’s work isn’t finished but our rental apartment ends this weekend so I guess we going home! I’ve got to sort out our mail redirection too, it’s been an utter mess since we moved out of our family’s place into our own apartment – to date we still haven’t received a piece of correctly addressed mail despite many phone calls. Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter now cos all the redirection will be cancelled. But its been a bit hopeless.

I didn’t put too much on my ticket today because of all the packing, but I am doing a tour of the Old Parliament House rose garden in the drizzle. Myself and another lady were booked earlier in the week but the guide never showed; some administration issue apparently. So there are gardens on each side of House and they were designed with the politicians in mind for their rest and recuperation when they weren’t sitting. There aren’t many things more relaxing than strolling through a rose garden so I think it was well intended. There are some themes that run through the garden including sections dedicated to a particular politician or wife, and different varieties and pedigrees of roses, plus bowls and paths and arch ways. It’s beautiful really, just wish I could fit in another visit. The photo doesn’t do it justice; it was raining.

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Then I picked up a free National Gallery of Australia highlights tour, which looked through the sky space , went through various collections, overlooked the fern garden and some of the sculpture garden and was a terrific glance over everything. I went back over a few collections, but time being of the essence it was time to keep moving.

Later in the day I went back around the embassies to get some photos. When we did the driving tour earlier in our time here I just enjoyed it without taking photos. So I had fun taking some photos until I got near the USA embassy then I got emphatically shooed off! They are very touchy!

So, I’ve just about fitted in as much as I can here, and tomorrow is the last day for me! Hubby has to fly back up on Monday morning for another week but he’s not getting any free time at the moment, so I doubt he’ll be getting any tourist attractions. Til tomorrow!

Canberra Day 94

[Wednesday 14th December]

Well today was a terrible day career-wise, nothing fatal but nothing fun, so it’s a good thing that I’m in Canberra with a licence to explore and enjoy new experiences.

I’m having some issues with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) that manages the registration of 14 different health professionals, including pharmacists. Previously we had our own pharmacy board, but in 2010 several boards were amalgamated and now we are managed jointly. This new organisation, AHPRA, manages our annual registration including our compulsory continuing professional development (CPD) requirements, whilst another organisation manages the regulation of pharmacies and pharmacy departments. All very boring and tedious, until your annual registration comes up against a problem. In my case a CPD problem. Each year between October 1st and September 30th, every registered pharmacist in Australia now has to achieve 40 hours of CPD to qualify to be re-registered. After the amalgamation the amount of CPD to be achieved began as 20 hours and increased over a couple of years. Its pretty standard now, and pretty achievable if you’re working, which is the point; to keep you up to date.

I first went on sick leave in March 2014 and stayed on sick leave for several months before I dragged my reluctant body back to work only part time for 6 weeks in September/October that year to complete my contract at the Alfred, in the vain hope that I would build up professional fitness quick enough to convince my workplace that I was fit and well to work and be re-hired. I was desperately hoping to stay on because I loved that job. It was a joke looking at it now; there was no way I was even fit for the very part time work I was doing then let alone more. But the point being, between October 1st 2013 and September 30th 2014, the annual CPD year, I worked 6 months and work generates CPD as does starting a new job as does changing positions within a job all of which applied to me. So even at the 6 month mark when I got sick I had oodles of CPD numbering probably around 50 or 60 hours. So I finished my feeble 6 weeks in dispensary, ended my contract and went back to bed.

By the time I got going again and went back to work, it was July of 2015. Already up to 9 out of 12 months of the CPD year, and to be honest, to this point CPD hadn’t even crossed my mind! A little teensy nervous breakdown and the associated issues had occupied the major part of my brain for months on end and work had just gone away. Even now returning to work I was conscious of the need to get up to date with the many new drugs and devices that had hit the market in the last year and a bit, but I hadn’t thought particularly of my CPD requirements with respect to my registration. I did all the required new job CPD, I did study on things that were relevant, I recorded it all and never really thought of whether I was making the 40 hour amount. Which is unfortunate, because I didn’t make it! I got 25 hours, not 40.

And there is no clause for people on sick leave. Or for people not working. You’re either practising or not practising. So, in November 2015 when I was re-registering as a pharmacist and got to the compulsory question about whether I had completed 40 hours in the previous year, I had to answer in the negative as in I did NOT meet the CPD requirements. And I won’t say that all hell broke loose, but all kinds of official pharmacy correspondence started flying around the web and through the postal service, and today is just another step in the painful process that is rectifying the situation! I’m not complaining about having to fix this up; I should have to. I’m a health professional and patients need to be sure of me being up to date and on top of the latest drugs and professional practice. I’m just complaining about the amazing bureaucracy that prevails in these matters! It is not easy to show that you have done your best to fix it, that you’ve learnt your lesson, and that you’ll do better in the future. Especially if you’re out of work again, because things just don’t come up when you’re not dispensing and reviewing medications on a daily basis. You have to actively look for things, and it’s just harder. But it’s part of my commitment and I have to just get on with it. So I’m off to send yet another email, which will probably get yet another “out of office” reply, followed by an actual reply sometime in the next two weeks or so telling me that there’s yet another technicality that I haven’t met because I was never told about it, followed by another email from me phrased very conservatively despite my inner rage and so on. You get the drill!

So there’s that, and following that the awful words “we’re terminating you”!! Seriously?! I went back to work officially in June 2015 with a fixed term 9 month contract. I guess I always assumed that there would be a possibility for extension at the end, assuming they liked me and my work was up to scratch etc. But no, despite putting me through two traditional interviews and a non traditional observation of practice interview I was never successful in getting an extension. So I was told I would be put on the casual list and they’d call me, which they never have but that suited me lately being in Canberra and all. So now out of the blue I get a call to say sorry, it’s just a HR thing but because you haven’t worked for us in 3 months we have to terminate you!! I’m sorry, what?! I’m costing you zip, I’m (usually) a resource available at short notice a 4 minute walk away, and if this was always a HR thing, why didn’t you just say goodbye at the end of my contract, instead of giving me an impression that I’d be called up to work?? So when I get back I have to return my keys and it’s all over. Well what a wake up!! Could this day get worse for my career?

Luckily I have good things planned so let’s off to the High Court to observe other people getting the rough end of the stick, potentially. I won’t pretend to understand the case that was being argued but the solemnity and the ceremony of it all was very impressive and the two counsels arguing were humorous in their own way, especially one who referred to “my learned friend” at the beginning or end of every sentence! I’m pretty sure even the 5 judges were smiling under their wigs. A bit of light relief, and I’m glad that becoming a lawyer was never on my list. I took my fill then left, remembering to pause and bow to the judges on my way out!

And now to really flush all that career mess out of my system!! I’ve been looking forward to this christmas concert by Igitur Nos at the National Library for a couple of weeks now. Turns out it wasn’t quite what I was expecting…more classical music, Latin and high brow Christmas songs than your typical carols. But it was pretty nice. Then a drive by a few places of interest: the historical and very pink Calthorpes House, and a few embassies.

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Lucky I have a lovely catch up with a friend after lunch. Nothing so soothing as hanging out with a friendly face and chatting away the afternoon. A super cute little baby helps just a little bit too! Happy day…in the end.

Canberra Day 93

[Tuesday 13th December]

Alright lovely readers, we’re on fire! So let’s keep it moving with the next Canberra day; promise we don’t have far til the end.

Today is a bit about goodbyes. The days are increasingly more about leaving and less about Canberra but I’m still fitting a few things in. I had lunch today with a new friend who has been super lovely to me and hubby while we’ve been in Canberra, and we had a great time catching up, albeit for the last time. I also realised that I’ve gotten behind in keeping family and friends up to date so I wrote some postcards, and then bought a few souvenirs to remind me of the experiences we’ve had. As I was popping into the souvenir store at National Portrait Gallery I saw that they had a new exhibit: this one was digital so photos of it don’t do it justice, but some incredible talent in short videos.

I started thinking today about things I needed to organise before I get home: firstly make an appointment with my psychiatrist for the first time in nearly 4 months! He gets booked a month or two in advance so no time like the present to make sure I can see him soon after I get home. I can’t believe that its been 3 months without meeting with him. I guess it shows how far I’ve come that I went off to Canberra so cheerfully knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see him for at least 3 months. Any early in the piece and I wouldn’t have been prepared to go more than a month without seeing him. It helped a lot that I have his mobile number and have the okay to call at any time, definitely. And hey, I’ve survived 3 months without any debrief or counselling. It’s not something I’d recommend but I’m pleased that I got through it, and got through it pretty well. But nevertheless I’ll be glad to touch base again.

Today I had a couple of things I wanted to do. First off was yet another trip to the National Library which has been a surprising treasure trove of interesting exhibits and fascinating behind-the-scenes insights. Today I’m checking out an exhibit of Robert Ingpen called Wonderlands. Does it sound random to you? Maybe it wouldn’t be if you saw his paintings, or illustrations, in such books as Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, Tom Sawyer and more. He’s a genius artist and the display was wonderful, if brief. And of course I had to poke my nose into The Sell exhibit once again; can’t get enough of cheesy advertising!

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Alice in Wonderland

I also wanted to walk next door and sit in on the High Court, but unfortunately they had concluded earlier in the day; much earlier at 11am. But hey, why not have a look around at the courts while I’m here, especially as you can’t take photos while the court is sitting, but you can photograph the rooms empty. And I have to say, the staff at the High Court couldn’t be more lovely and helpful! I highly recommend making time to talk to them if you visit. They have such a mental dossier of interesting facts and figures about the courts, the judges, past cases, upcoming cases, history of the courts, the decor…really anything that you’d ever want to know!! Just ask; you won’t be sorry.

Then on the way home I drove around the rear of Parliament House, an area you don’t see in pictures or in person much at all. Turns out, Australian Federal Police don’t really like you seeing it, at least not if you pause the car and take photos!! First time being pulled over by federal police! Oops! That’s an experience I don’t have the nerves to go through again. They were perfectly lovely and just asked me to keep driving, but still, flashing lights and the word “federal” have a way of pushing your heart rate up!

Last and most important job of the day: take dinner to Chester at work. This poor guy is working his butt off 60 hours a week at the moment, and barely seeing daylight!! They just will not extend the deadline despite the extremely poor chance of it reasonably being met. So we’re going down the path of it being unreasonably met! I say we: I’m not really doing anything, but I feel terribly about it, even while swanning around enjoying myself.