Canberra Day 65

[Tuesday November 15th]

Today was actually a bit of a mopey day. A bit self indulgent, a bit self pitying, a bit low, a bit depressed (as if that’s a thing that you can have a little of!), a bit trapped inside the house (self induced, maybe a bit self punishing) and trapped inside my head with only my own thoughts bouncing around…if that doesn’t get you down nothing does! Now I remember why I keep myself busy every day with my tourist attractions, with getting out of the house. Sitting around thinking about possibilities and what ifs and goodness only knows what other junk that’s coming out of my consciousness all day long isn’t the way to improve your mood that’s for sure! Bizarro scenarios, stressing about whatever awful terrible or just weird dream I had last night – they have really been acting up lately! – and I don’t know, just “having a gloomy do” in general about life and love and the future and whatever else.

Aaaahhhh! It’s a hard mood to shift when all of that sets in. Feeling unproductive and useless and so on. I mean I did one load of washing today. I backed up my photos. I ironed 3 shirts in the morning. That was about the sum total of my day. Ironing is always a pretty big feat! Not that I don’t like ironing, but I don’t, but it makes me hot and then I sweat and then my face prickles and I get irritated and vow never to do anything to increase my body heat ever again! I retire to the corner mopping my brow, drinking cold drinks, and letting my temperature regulate to a normal level. And give evil stares to the rest of the ironing for defeating me. But I just can’t stand that prickling heat and sweating! The onset of summer again is filling me with trepidation…I don’t know how it will go. I’m a bit nervous, a bit “we’ll see”, a bit hoping it’ll be a cool summer. I don’t want to stop getting out and about, obviously it isn’t good for me, so I guess I’ll do the air conditioned attractions once it gets hot. I did go back in the afternoon and get the rest done, somehow. It helped that there was a nice breeze coming in the balcony door to soothe some of my heat woes.

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That’s our apartment on the second floor – it’s pretty nice

SO! I know I have to learn to filter what applies to me and what applies to not-mes. But it’s hard to see the line. It’s that disconnect between what we have and what we think we should have, and etc, that causes so much heartache. But it is a bit hard to bear at times that the things I want are currently out of reach: a job, my old income, the chance to buy our own home. And the things that I might want in the future, or didn’t want before I got sick but the passing of time and age has brought to my attention. Etc. We could spend a lot of time here, and I did today. But we were invited out to dinner and that broke the trend, thankfully. Having to put on my party face to go out got me somewhat into a better frame of mind. As it turned out I didn’t really need it because I was amongst friends and family and we had a lovely time, especially with 2 unknown visiting guests, one of whom was a really good friend of ours in the town where we lived for the first 4 years of our married life. What an awesome catch up that was! And so that broke the evil spell, and Cinderella went on to be more productive for the rest of the week!

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Canberra Day Forty Six

Wednesday 26th October, 2016 – the uber late edition!

Well folks, this is going to be the last regular blog for a while. I’ve kept going writing about my journey in Canberra throughout weekends away and visits out of Canberra that somehow related to our stay in Canberra, but now we’re headed to New Zealand for 10 days on a trip planned well before we knew about Canberra. And I’m not at all sure how much internet I’ll have as we travel. If I can, I’ll absolutely let you know what we’re up to, otherwise I’ll pick up where I’m leaving off with Canberra days when we get back. The only dilemma: should I keep numbering the days as they pass, or pause until we get back? Still undecided…any ideas?

Aaaahhhh wifi! I’ve been dying to finish this blog today the 27th but the airport wifi signal was appallingly weak, my phone wouldn’t let me use the Maccas good wifi because it decided it wasn’t safe and I couldn’t override it, and neither plane had wifi! Yes I’m here safe and sound in New Zealand but that’s tomorrow’s news.

I’ve been meaning to get the car serviced for a while. Like a month. It’s overdue in kilometres, and by date. Of course I put it off until the very last minute when hubby realised that we need it tonight to drive to Sydney to catch a plane overseas! Luckily yesterday I found a place that would fit me in today so I had an early-for-me-right-now start before 8am to drop the car off at 8am. At the same time I needed to hit the bike shop for disk brake spacers that hubby needed for deconstructing his bike into a proper bike bag piece of luggage to take with us. So check and check, 2 jobs down before 8.30am! Kicking goals. Now I have to walk home! It’s not far but you know, it’s walking. Not always my first love. I walk home along Lonsdale Street, the hip eating out venue with lots of nice restuarants then through the beautiful lines of trees in Haig Park, over the hill and home. This park has cement paths around it and through it but everywhere there are tracks cut through the grass into the dirt going wherever! Do that many people not want to walk by the squares? 

Now onto packing day for our New Zealand trip.

I won a 5 (read 3) day cycling tour for 2 people from the tour group that ran the 7 (read 5) day tour that I did with Wheel Women earlier this year in April. Why the edit? I’m just a teensy bit more than tired of the arrangements being misrepresented by the individual from the tour company that I’ve been dealing with since I found out that I’d won this tour. 5 days? Okay technically yes, but dinner on the night before the tour hardly makes one day and ditto for breakfast on the day after the last day of tour. I’m calling it 3 days. Grrr. I’ve had not a little annoyance and anxiety with this person today, and since June!! From 1) not booking us the new direct flights to New Zealand from Canberra because we won the tour and weren’t actually paying for it and they were expensive, oh and the T&C’s back them up, to 2) having to pay for our Napier to Christchurch transfer on the way home because we aren’t paying for the tour and had changed the New Zealand exit point from Auckland (even though they would have paid it if we went back to Auckland!), and 3) most annoyingly, after saying they would book the flights in June, July and August, they finally booked them 12 days before we flew out! So much for forward planning for our planned catch ups with friends!

I hadn’t intended on it, but yet another reminder from him that we weren’t paying for the tour and therefore should settle with grace for whatever he saw fit to organise for us and be grateful saw me start the process of “feedback” a little earlier than intended! Then I got “what if” anxiety: did I say too much, did I say it too soon, would there be repercussions, but seriously he was out of line but was I too? Have I really “misunderstood” as often as he is suggesting? A giant lump in my throat all day because of this that I couldn’t get rid of! Onto the packing, do something to soothe your anxiety by ticking of your list. 3 sets of bike clothes, helmet, bike shoes, casual clothes, smart clothes for eating out, etc etc. All packed in half of my suitcase ready for hubby to put in his stuff. I still had a few things left over to pack but I figured I’d wait for him. Then I decided to do a cull. Out go the sneakers, I’ll wear my bike shoes on the tour then when we meet up afterwards with friends in Christchurch I’ll wear my casual shoes. One down. Don’t need my tripod, I never use it at home so doubt I’ll use it on holidays. Etc. Out went anything I couldn’t absolutely justify; trimming the fat. Turned out hubby only needed a tiny bit of my suitcase, but that’s okay, room for souvenirs!

So up before 8am, jobs ticked off, anxiety, packing, that bloke!! I knew he could be disorganised but we are now amazed that his business survives! I felt exhausted so looked at my phone; only 12pm! Bad luck, back to bed. I’m waiting on a call from the society of hospital pharmacists on a continuing professional development (CPD) deadline issue, and they ended up waking me up after an hour, but that was about right. A phone call to say I needed to head down to Canberra Centre to pick up hubby’s contact lenses. I was meant to ride down, but when we went to ride down the street to get tea last night, my front wheel had a flat even though it had just been in the car! Not wanting to change it in a hurry, I stuck it in the apartment and meant to change it this morning but you know! I bought a new spare tube though; does that count for something? So Uber it is! By this stage the tour operator stress is behind me; now I’m fretting about getting my CPD record printed and posted before we head away. I know, so old-fashioned! Hubby reminded me that I can print screen it into paint and save it as a Word document then email it! In the middle of a stress event, changing your thinking process is difficult. You have been going around and around in circles, and have more or less worn a path into the grass; you’re kind of rutted into the path. Stepping up out of it isn’t easy, so every time is a victory! I managed to squash the no I couldn’t possibly and say I’d think about it, and a while later I accepted it as the new approach. Aaahhh anxiety! A wander around the mall near Canberra showed some of the dirtier seedier side of Canberra city; don’t think I’ll be back around there. Needed another nap later on to recover from all that.

Picked up the car and paid 4 times the usual service amount! Got my CPD sorted largely by hubby doing it! Got the bike bag, suitcases, hand luggage in the car and bike on the roof and drove off into the most gorgeously vivid strongly colored bright pink and deep orange sunset that I can ever remember seeing! Our snaps just don’t compare! And off we drive to Sydney!

Canberra Day Forty Four

Monday 24th October, 2016

Not exactly a Canberra day but…

What a lovely day! A truly delightful day. Beautiful weather and excellent company. Today I hung out with a good friend of mine and her charming little 3 year old man; Mr Independent. I drove down to Wagga Wagga last night to stay a couple of nights with them. We’ve been trying to organise it from Melbourne for AGES but it hasn’t happened. Moving to Canberra actually made it easier cos its closer than Melbourne so FINALLY we’re having our hangout! A sleep in for me this morning, aahh! Then a quick brekky and off down the green highway to the lovely town of Junee in New South Wales for a unique experience visiting the licorice and chocolate factory. If you are ever in the area, this is absolutely a must visit and I’m so glad I got to see it. You can see the rotating machine that coats organic licorice made from scratch on site with Belgian chocolate, the chocolate polishing bubble machine that buffs up the chocolate pieces once the THIRTY to FORTY layers off chocolate have been applied creating a matt effect, the licorice pipes and cooling system, and you can actually make rocky road or an enormous chocolate freckle. Plus a brilliant gift shop, great cafe, a great little video tour and a rustic setting…shall I go on? Oh, and vertical bowling with a ball make entirely from licorice!! Such fun. Plus chatting all the way there and back, like old friends can. What a lovely time we had!

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How adorable! Mr 3 pretty excited to be making his own giant freckle!!

And that was only the day time. Another friend of theirs had a birthday today: I know, how many birthdays can there be? So my friend worked through the afternoon while I sat and chatted (I know my specialties, plus I dunno how to work the Thermomix) and cooked us up an enormous feast! Even the 10 of us couldn’t finish it off, with a huge main course, dessert, birthday cake and fruit platter plus drinks laid on. A lovely evening making new friends and catching up with old ones. Then to bed on a full stomach ready for a huge sleep.

Canberra Day Forty

[Thursday 20th October, 2016]

It is a wonderful thing to have friends. It’s been one of the most amazing things about being ill: finding out how many friends I have! I love you all!! Today’s plan was to have coffee with a friend, actually someone I knew before we moved up to Canberra. We caught up at a great cafe, coffee and cake for $10! At Canberra prices, this is a bargain. We have definitely found food prices are higher than Melbourne; maybe less competition? Or people on higher salaries? I don’t know. Anyway Cafe Injoy gets my recommendation. A brilliant catch up for a couple of hours; what better way to spend the day? Then I drove around the village of Hall checking out the Canberra tracks historical signs which was kind of fascinating; plus the scenery over there is gorgeous on a sunny spring day. Then I called by “home” to get yet another few things that we forgot when we moved! Then “home” for a nap, then out to a ‘create your own’ burger 2-for-1 deal and free sundae from Macca’s Monopoly, and home again, gig-a-de-gig!

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Canberra Day Twenty

Friday 30th September, 2016

It rained today. Again. A lot. It’s positively mushy underfoot! It can stop now, by the way. There’s plenty of water for everyone. More than plenty. I know we aren’t the worst off by any means but still. And the chill wind! Is it snowing somewhere?

I woke up bright and early at some outrageous hour because the thick clouds were creating a great wall of glare! Too stupid with sleep to shut the blinds, I slept intermittently til hubby got up and we both complained about it; just hadn’t done anything about it! So I got up for a shower (!) and breakfast, but couldn’t hack it. Back to bed, a good sleep this time, then up for some study to finish my CPD year which ends today, some lunch, and then the highlight of the day, if not the week; afternoon tea with a good friend from my Traralgon days. One of those brilliant people who you can catch up with after who knows how much time, and all manners of experiences and just pick right up and go with it! Awesome!

We had afternoon tea at Via Dolce right in central Canberra, and wow, what a place for decadent cakes and pastries! Definitely recommended. So a lovely cake on some gorgeous china, a wonderful chat about all manner of things, and just a feeling of well being to be catching up and enjoying life. Brilliant!! Then a wander around the Canberra Centre, kind of like Doncaster or Melbourne Central shopping centres in Melbourne, then trying to find the travelator that went to my car park; that took a while!! Some groceries for tea, some scripts dispensed, then home to our lovely hosts who are back from their cruise full of stories and happiness. A lovely meal together over green curry, and tomorrow we’re going to the beach! And it’s going to be 22 degrees and sunny! But that tale is for tomorrow. Chat later!

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Canberra Day Twelve

I had such a wonderful surprise on Tuesday! I was idly wandering around Facebook when I saw a post from some old friends that I grew up with from about 3 or 4 years old which showed their location as Canberra! I thought, really? So I messaged them and yep we had managed to coincide in a city that neither of us had really been to before! So we organised to catch up for dinner and it was the best night! All the years and events that have passed since I left home 10 years ago haven’t changed a thing and it was a fabulous evening of yummy Thai food and chatting about everything under the sun.

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So the cake, what’s that about? Well, while this family have been on Victorian school holidays visiting Canberra, the youngest girl had her birthday and this was the cake she had. It was huge, tall and sugary with the fakest colours available, a horror to some of the family who wouldn’t choose this kind of thing ordinarily, and only half eaten. They’re moving on Saturday and really can’t take the cake with them. So a condition of our catch up was coming back to the hotel to eat cake! Not the worst thing in the world hey…and the absolute delight of hubby who will eat anything colourful! Fruit loops, smartie smiley face cookies, sprinkles, cakes of exactly this description etc. It was delicious, but I didn’t get through it; turned out it was pretty sweet after all! But what a lovely way to end the day: old friends and familiar faces in an unfamiliar city. Bliss!

Otherwise the day was washing, drying, folding, making phone calls I’ve been putting off for ages, writing emails I’ve been putting off for ages, organising a catch up, trying to decide on accomodation for a long weekend coming up, and watching for rain so I could decide when to do a bike ride. Turns out that I watched for rain all day and it never rained. But then it was the end of the day. And I didn’t get to ride. I wonder where I went wrong? In my defense it poured the entire previous day. So. Also, I realise as I’m writing this down what a social day I had; quite unusual for me generally. I must be going pretty well at the moment. I guess I already knew that, but it’s nice to have proof.

 

R U OK?

Today is R U OK? day. It’s an annual day nominated by the R U OK? suicide prevention charity to think about the people in our lives and consider if they are okay. More than that, it’s a day to take ourselves in hand, try to be brave and open a conversation if we think someone we know is struggling. Of course this is something that should happen every day. But today is a day to revive our intentions to be a good mate to our family, friends, colleagues, anyone we bump up against in our daily lives. It’s a day to understand a bit more about what drives people to consider suicide, and to learn ways that we can safely help them.

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I’d love each one of you my readers to check out the R U OK? website. Just pick one topic and give 5 minutes of your time to taking on some new knowledge, or understanding, or strategy. It really can change and even save a life. It’s that important.

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Some of the topics I think are great are Mates, resources for every day, news stories and information, but I’m sure you’ll find the topic that makes most sense, or means the most to you.

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I’ve been a mental health advocate (at least I think I have been) for a lot longer than I’ve been ill with mental illness. By that I mean that I’ve considered mentally ill people the same as myself just with a condition requiring treatment, and tried to show to others that they don’t need to be feared. As a child I was used to being around mentally unwell patients. One family friend had schizophrenia and another had bipolar disorder. We saw them regularly, saw them better and worse, visited them in hospital and knew they were just people like the rest of us. And they were just the people who had known, obvious, must-be-treated illnesses. Who knows how many people in my acquaintance had depression or anxiety that was more or less invisible. I wouldn’t know. It was never talked about. If they were there, I never knew. Which is a terrible shame.

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So today is about conversations. I want people to have conversations. But first of all I want to tell you why R U OK? as a charity and a question is so important to me.

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When I was depressed or anxious, I felt awful. I was barely dragging myself around, limping from bed to work and from work to bed. My brain was either whizzing or sluggish; it wasn’t very useful. I felt like all of this must be pasted across my face, and that surely someone would notice today that I was struggling and ask me about it. It had to be written on my forehead, I thought, why can no one see it, why is no one wondering what’s wrong with me? I was just dying for someone to see it and come to my aid.

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But nothing happened. I didn’t want to be attention seeking and bring it up myself, I wasn’t one of those people who was always making a fuss. But I was in pain here, it must be obvious. I thought of a hundred ways to bring it up, but I just couldn’t. It was too obvious a way to start a conversation, there was no easy lead in.

“So you’re having tuna for lunch, that’s interesting, did you know that I’m depressed?”

So I dragged myself around, wondering and waiting and hoping that someone would do the hard part for me and bring up so I could let it all pour out. And do you know the funny thing? Having felt so isolated, like no one could see the real me inside, like I was alone in this experience and so on, once I was officially sick and had told people about it, I had several comments along the lines “oh I thought so” and “I figured something was wrong” and “I knew something wasn’t right” and “you didn’t seem like your usual self”. If just one, only one person had actually said that out loud, it would have been such a relief, a balm, a comfort! It probably would have meant that I got help sooner. It could’ve shorten the process, and I would have been so thankful. It would’ve meant such a lot.

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Speak up. If you can see a change, say something. If things seem different, say so. The worst that can happen is that you’re wrong, and they are just having a bad day or week, or are preoccupied. But how can it hurt? At the least, I’m sure they’ll appreciate your concern, the effort that you’ve gone to, your care. It would be a rare person who would take exception to your kind heart.

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The second part is knowing what to say. The reason for this charity’s name is that R U OK? is a powerful question. It might not seem like it, or seem much different to our usual greetings, but it works. We say hello, hi, howdy, how are you going? what’s up? how’s it going? how’s things? alright? and a hundred similar things so many times a day. And we’re programmed to response almost rote: good thanks, hey there, great, how about you? not much, well, yep and so on. So much so that if someone says something different to these, we can accidentally get caught saying good thanks before we’ve even registered that they’ve asked us what’s up?!

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But R U OK? hits a different nerve. It makes us really think about how we are, and it elicits an honest answer.

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So here’s what I want to do. I want you, one day over the next day or two, to count how many greeting encounters you have in one day. I consider one encounter to be one person say hello and/or how are you and the other person responding. Now I know for myself, home most days, there aren’t very many encounters. But for people working in retail there might be many, maybe more than what I’ve allowed for. I really want to know what your number is! Please get involved and let’s see how many times we bump up against each other each day.

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I’ll post the results as early as possible once you’ve had a chance to respond with data from your working life today and tomorrow. If you don’t read this until the weekend, give me your weekend numbers too.

My aim for this poll is to think about how many times we have a typical hi/how are you conversation. The next step after this is to consider what might happen if we changed ONE of these rote conventional habits into an R U OK? conversation. What could U achieve, how could U have an impact on someone else’s life? You already read my tales of mental illness, so you already have a kind heart and I daresay you want to help others too. This is the perfect chance, and I hope to take the baton and run with it.

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