Canberra Days 57 to 63

[Day 46 OR Day 57 – Monday November 7th to Day 52 OR 63 – Sunday November 13th]

…okay I’m calling it, Day 57 to 63…our time here won’t be shorter here minus the NZ trip…you can’t take back days, so there we have it

To kept this moving, and because my week was pretty uneventful anyway, I’m going to give you another ‘one week snapshot’ and then we’ll be approaching up to date. Not my original plan, but rolling with the punches, and here we go!

Monday November 7th – first day home from holidays, a day spent processing holiday photos and cross checking them with my new bird book, doing a couple of loads of washing and not much else, feeling a bit dull and flat and tired. Then to get me going hubby suggested an after work bike ride around the city: ANU, Commonwealth Park, the lake, the Carillon, defense department, Lonsdale street. I believe this had the secondary purpose of making me change my front bike tube already from before we went on holidays! I just lost confidence that I could still do it so I put off doing it, missing out on some ride opportunities because of this, but as soon as I started there it was! Back again! I’m really down on myself lately; I’ve got to stop! Then tea at the food truck park from ’10 inch custom pizzeria’. Watching the skilled girl flipping dough into bases was lots of fun! Haloumi and potato wood fired pizza; winning! And rolling home again feeling excellent.

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Tuesday November 8th – a new friend kindly invited me out to morning tea at her friend’s house out at Bungendore. I arrived to a table set up down the back garden under fruit trees with chocolate cake and fizzy drink; so lovely! Got a cuddle with another friend’s little bubba who is growing fast and just adorable, and a lovely few hours chatting and getting to know the other friends. Then a drive around town taking in all the historic buildings, an awesome hot dog and the drive home. I discovered Sparrow Hill and Kowen Park for future birding, photographed the awesome Dickson street art and then home for a well deserved, and very satisfying nap. A load of washing and that’s a pretty good day.

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Wednesday November 9th – not much of anything today. A load of washing, lots of sitting on the couch, lots of rain and this fleeting rainbow as seen from my couch. Bit of a blergh day. I did get my scripts dispensed and my awful tax debt sorted with my accountant…no wonder I’m flat! So it was good that hubby called at lunchtime for me to ride down to Dickson and meet him for lunch at Alara’s turkish place. At least that got me kickstarted.

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Thursday November 10th – I took a while to get going today again. I had my plan of what to do but just couldn’t really get started. Instead of riding out to Mount Majura as planned I drove, and actually I was pretty glad cos I wouldn’t have done half as much walking if I’d been thinking about the ride home. So a late afternoon walk around Mount Majura from the Federal Highway entry birding which was interesting mostly for one fact. A Brown Falcon was hovering overhead which was brilliant in itself because it was pretty low down and I got some fabulous photos! But this always upsets all the other birds. All the little birds had completely vanished, and the big birds were all making an absolute fuss and racket! What was particularly fascinating was the behaviour of the ravens. There were between 15 and 20 ravens in the air also hovering, spaced evenly over the whole area that the falcon would be interested in and it was like they were creating a blanket of protection to prevent the falcon from getting down and attacking other birds. This was so interesting, I’ve never seen such teamwork from ravens before. Anytime the falcon got too near one of the hovering ravens there would be a scuffle and the falcon would move on. I didn’t watch the falcon the whole time, but I don’t think in two hours that it got down to the ground. Once I got further up the hill away from the falcon’s area there was a sudden explosion of little birds which was excellent. I’m really pleased that I got myself out to do this walk. Apart from all this the bush flowers and butterflies and dragonflies were also excellent.

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One Brown Falcon soaring above Mount Majura and every other bird goes crazy!

Friday November 11th – Remembrance Day at the National War Memorial. What can I say? I am so glad that I attended! I rode down on my bike. I’m getting quite used to just jumping on my bike in whatever I happen to be wearing and going. Before I would procrastinate about having to change my clothes, and maybe take a nicer change with me, and change again…and of course I never got started. But a different mindset about just going regardless makes it much easier to get out the bike and down a flight of stairs! Oy the stairs! Anyway, at least its only one flight. You have to book to attend Remembrance Day. You don’t have to pay, just book, and I can see why; it’s one classy event! From the Army, Navy and Air Force representatives marching onto the parade ground, to the Royal Military College (RMC) Duntroon band playing absolutely beautifully, to the Australian Rugby Choir of veterans singing so wonderfullly, to that chilling minute of silence of a few hundred people, to the traditions of formal arrival of the Prime Minister and Govenor General and partner in town cars, to the outstanding speech given by Beyond Blue ambassador Jeff Kennett on veterans mental health and our responsibility to care for them once they are home, to the laying of wreaths by all the embassies…wow, what an hour and a half!! Just fabulous. The hymns played by the band…there were 5 that I recognised and weren’t they played to perfection?! I’m going to hear the band again in December, and I’m very excited! On another note, did you know that I do a weekly weigh in? And somehow despite all that we ate and drank in New Zealand…I lost a tiny bit of weight. It’s nothing conclusive, but still. Every little win is something. Another win was going laptop shopping and buying a laptop after only an hour of so of looking! MAJOR win, I hate looking at specs! Despite shopping at JB, we had an excellent saleman who was super helpful. I ended up getting a super dooper deal buying the last computer in my model, and YAY! I finally have a laptop that can connect to the internet, can process photos without dying, has a CD drive and once we get the extra storage, doesn’t flash ‘no more storage’ every time I try to upload photos! I’m really happy. I got my handbag repaired at the same time, had yummy tacos for dinner. And had a catch after NZ chat with grandma. What a day!

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The Navy, Army and Air Force backed up by the Royal Military College Duntroon band and the Australian Rugby Choir

Saturday November 12th – A big sleep in and slow day for both of us, hubby a bit under the weather and me the usual. Not a very eventful day, we canned our plans cos we just didn’t feel up for anything, not even bike riding or birding! Feeling that the day had been too sluggish hubby got a burst of energy to do the vacuuming, clean up the kitchen, do some washing and get some groceries in the late afternoon. We had Japanese for dinner at Bon Kura in Dickson with rainbow rolls which was excellent!

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Sunday November 13th – hubby under the weather again so had to cancel our lunch plans which was a big shame! As always a beautiful drive down south for fellowship. So Macca’s for lunch as a poor substitute. Afternoon naps all round, and not much more to it than that!

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Actually, that was pretty eventful! I’ve gotta stop telling myself that I am less, I do less, I’m worth less because I don’t work, I don’t volunteer, and I do different stuff to what other people are doing. Do I sometimes go back to bed at 11am? Yes. Do I sometimes lie in all morning? Yes. But do I always try to make my day something new and special? Yes. Do I nap every day? Yep, you betcha! But I’m doing my best to live the best life that I can right now and I am making gains in physical stamina and mental strength. You probably know all this without me having to explain it. But it seems that I need to explain it to myself rather often, so it may as well be written down for posterity!

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Beating the weather

Lately my life has been all about learning.

Learning new skills, learning that I can be the old me again, learning that old skills are still stored carefully in my brain waiting for me to dust them off again. Learning to have confidence in myself and trust in my abilities. Important stuff.

There’s a learning point that I’ve been thinking of in particular.

You never know if you never go.

You never know if you never go. This is slowly but surely becoming my new motto.

Instead of staying home just in case the weather is awful, the traffic is terrible, the people are critical, the class is long and boring, the walk is too steep and etcetera, I’m transitioning into a more cautionsly optimistic frame of mind.

Cautiously optimistic is a term coined by my GP and is used when we think we’re have a breakthrough but it could be nothing or it could come crashing down or it might stick. We’re hoping, based on not very much maybe, but we’re hoping.

So being cautiously optimistic would look like saying to myself, what if the weather is lovely, it doesn’t rain, the traffic is a breeze, they are all lovely and kind, I learn lots and the content is interesting, and I manage the walk and have the satisfaction of accomplishment? What if?

You know by now that I completed the Wheel Women-run She Rides program in Hawthorn. By the nature of bike riding the classes are held outdoors. I was happy to be enrolling in the autumn class rather than summer because I get hot easily. But of course the flip side is that autumn can get cold, and as it turns out wet. Wet was something I hadn’t really thought about beforehand but there was a lot of it around!

So every Tuesday for 8 weeks I committed to meeting the group in a car park at 10am to take the class. The classes were held over March, April and May. Other than the first class all of the classes involved some riding around of various distance. So I’d wake up on Tuesday morning and look out the window to see what the day looked like it had in store and what kind of riding conditions were out there.

I have a second storey window that looks west-ish. Probably South-West-West if I remember correctly from school, but it doesn’t really matter. The morning sun, if it is showing, bounces off the new plate glass type multi-storey construction in front of my window a ways away so I can sort of get the gist of east and west. All irrelevant detail really.

Sometimes it looked windy. Sometimes it was raining. Sometimes it looked clear. Sometimes it wasn’t rainy but looked ominous. And to be honest, sometimes it was beautiful and sunny. Somehow the story doesn’t have the same drama when things go well but of course sometimes they go well, and really well!

If I had pulled the pin every time that I thought the weather was going to mean the class was cancelled, I’d only have made about half of the classes. But there was no weather cancellation clause, the rider being that if it was truly too awful to be outside well at least we would all have coffee together and a nice morning anyway.

And you know what? In eight weeks we never got rained on once! The weather was never terrible, just a bit windy or a bit chilly. Now that winter weather has arrived the weather we had for those classes looks even better by comparison! And we had some really nice, lovely, enjoyable days too. Must mention the good days!

One time we had to move our class from the outdoors to the nearby cafe to continue talking about bike gear; but only for the last half hour anyway which may well have been spent the same way on a clear day.

One time we sat in the nearby rotunda and chatted while it dripped around us.

Every time that we went on a ride it rained before, or after, or both and a couple of times it started raining as we got into our cars to go home.

But every time we had a great class, a lovely social event and nice chatting over warm drinks and fun riding.

And the stats have gotten even better: it has now been 13 weeks since the first class and in all that time we have only cancelled one class. That’s it, one class.

We’ve sat in a cafe with our hot drinks until the rain cleared, we’ve had coffee instead of a ride once only, and last Thursday it started raining as we got in our cars!

The forecast has looked terrible, the radar has been worse but I have really learned a valuable life lesson over these weeks.

By treating the situation as non negotiable, it takes away all the umming and ahhing that I usually do, mostly from a sitting/lying in bed position. No procrastination, because it’s an inevitable event.

You are going. I am going. The other girls are going to be there expecting you after having organised themselves and gotten to the meeting point. Our dedicated coaches are waiting for you to show up so you have to go. Telling myself ‘if it’s really bad we’ll just have coffee and it’ll be fun’ got me out the door on the worst days.

And do you know what? That worst day by forecast we did a 14km loop into Herring Island and back, which is somewhere that I’ve wanted to go back to since the summer but didn’t realise there was a bike path that could get me there.

And so this day, and each and every week I have said to my self, and likely to some one else too cos I’m like that, ‘if I hadn’t come, look what I would have missed out on!’

I would have stayed home, probably in bed to be honest, trying to avoid the rain when in fact by going I found out that there was no rain (although it was jolly cold!)! At least not between 10am and 12pm. It was beginning to spit as we got in the car but we did it! A nice flat ride, interesting sights and a surprising location, great company and that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that is just so lovely.

To feel like, I’ve really done something today! I wasn’t going to go, I thought it would be awful and difficult but I went (kudos for that), I participated (easy once you’re there, getting started is always the key!) and I had a great time and now I can rest mentally knowing I’ve done something worthwhile for myself and I’ve been a team player and it’s such a nice feeling!

Rather than wasting away the day waiting for the forecast and the outlook to be better before venturing out. Turns out you really do have to JUST DO IT! And more times than not, it will be well worth your while and you have experiences and enjoyment that you would have missed waiting for the sun to come out!

Bike learning

Last Wednesday I drove out to the Yarra Ranges for a bike ride with Wheel Women.

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You remember Wheel Women? They are the awesome group of women who have teamed up with Cycling Australia to run the empowering She Rides programs for women around Melbourne.

I’ve finished the course and now I’m in that tricky phase after completing any kind of training or education; implementing the knowledge and making changes in my life. But with the great Wheel Women She Rides version it isn’t really a difficulty at all! Each and every week there are several rides posted by Wheel Women for us graduates and other female riders (and occasionally males), and the majority of them suit the level I am at now.

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Not the level I want to get to, or that my husband or friends are at, or that I have been told or feel that I should be at; just the level that I am at. Which is very encouraging to keep on keeping on with regular bike riding.

There are a variety of rides from different starting points with different groups. I participated in the first ever Hawthorn She Rides program, but there have also been programs in Docklands and Knox and Geelong, and I think one in Bayside…don’t quote me on that one. I know the Hawthorn girls pretty well after eight weeks of classes and practice rides and coffees and tech nights together. So I’m always happy to go riding with them. But I’ve also been on a Docklands ride and a Knox ride and one of the all-in rides out at Warburton. And so far I haven’t found a single lady/girl/woman/chick that wasn’t lovely and helpful and kind and considerate. Also encouraging!

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Take the Warburton ride last Saturday. The large majority of the riders started at Lilydale for a 70km round trip to Warburton for lunch and back. In the classes and in my first ride after with the Docklands group (group being an optimistic term as there were two of us plus the instructor!) I’d only done up to 20km; not sure that we’d actually hit twenty. We’d done a 2km round trip to practice starting and stopping and turning, and about the same to practice signalling.

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I’d been terrified of doing really any riding at all before the class because I was, and still am a bit, scared of the effort involved in riding up hills, and that I couldn’t do the distance, being so much less fit than when I last rode. The only ride I’d done in the last two years was an excruciating 5km on the Eastern Freeway trail with my hubby. I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t fit, there were hills and it was just a struggle! It hurt and I wanted to get off and not get back on.

But those first two rides were fine. Then we did a 6km ride into Richmond to the Total Rush store to learn how to fix a flat tyre including taking the wheels off and putting them back on, adjusting the chain and derailleur, taking out the tube and patching or replacing it and putting it back in. That was a great and very empowering session!

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The ride was pretty good but I got too hot going into town from Hawthorn. I always get hot, it’s just a fact of life now that I’m on the antidepressant venlafaxine. I overheat, I sweat, I wipe off the sweat and repeat! I’m so excited for winter! Well outdoors winter, not indoors winter…heaters are the bane of my life!

Anyway, I got hot and that reduces my tolerance for pushing myself. I get exasperated and just want to do anything to get cooler. It’s such an unpleasant feeling, and I hate that people can see all the sweat on my face, and its still my number one side effect to get rid of on my dreamboat wishlist. I’d followed the clothing choices of everyone else with lots of layers including gloves and neck warmer. But I’ve learnt since that in most situations I’m better off in Tshirt and pants. I get hot riding but the breeze goes through my shirt to keep me cool and I’m happy; it works. I take extra just in case, but don’t put it on until I need it.

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Anyway, the ride from Hawthorn to Richmond is a pretty flat ride with a couple of little rises but we’d only learnt gears the week before and I’d had a chest infection and hadn’t practiced. Of course I’d used gears before this course, but not correctly it turns out. Gears makes so much difference when you know how to use them! So being hot and exasperated and still coughing from my chest infection I ditched the 6km ride home and caught the train instead. With a flat phone and scant knowledge of the Glen Waverley train line I somehow got off at the right station and found my way by bike the 2km back to the car. I wasn’t that far behind the others.

But the idea that I couldn’t keep up, and riding was hard had received a boost!

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Luckily the next week we tackled a 14km ride to Herring Island and back that I found easy! From can’t do more than 6km to easy 14km! I don’t know how or why but it happened!

I was worried beforehand, but I ended up chatting to another girl all the way in (the distraction really works!) and at the end I felt like I could have ridden further; I had effort still in the tank waiting to be used! That was a nice feeling.

And for the very first time in years, I felt that exhilaration, euphoria, sense of everything being well and life being exciting that they tell you comes from endorphins! Which was a real revelation! 18 months after my diagnosis of depression/bipolar I finally felt that benefit of exercise that everyone’s been yackedy yacking about! I can see now why they say exercise is good for your mood…but I just couldn’t get anything like that with walking. It was sometimes pleasant but not euphoric. Going to the gym sometimes gave me a taste. Playing squash had gotten me part of the way, but my fitness can’t manage that now. But bike riding really nailed it!

After that ride we rode a longer distance into Fed Square which I managed well, then my Docklands crew ride was 16km, dead flat and along the beach on a glorious day! Perfect!

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So the Warburton ride. I’d made up my mind that I would tackle the 35km loop on the trail from Woori Yallock to Warburton and return. I could have chosen the 20km loop from Launching Place but I wanted to see how I went extending myself. I was reallly enjoying my riding by now, and had proved myself to myself a bit, and was aptly a fitting graduate from the She Rides Confidence program!

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I’d wanted to ride the Warburton to Lilydale rail trail for YEARS but never felt fit enough. And herein lies the beauty of the Wheel Women community. A ride that my husband would do, but which wouldn’t really be as valuable to him as his 100km+ weekend road loop. He would enjoy exploring and the scenery, but I’d feel a bit babysat. I don’t have any other friends who ride right now. And going out there by myself is something I’d never think of! But here is a ready made group of women who also want to ride the trail, don’t have anyone to ride with and we all turn up and do it together! Brilliant!

We were told beforehand what speed range we should be able to hold to keep up with the group. I knew that I could maintain that speed based on previous rides, however I failed to consider the difference between riding on asphalt/concrete and fine gravel; the latter is quite a bit slower! But the leaders put me at the front of the group so that my speed would dictate the speed of the group and I wouldn’t get dropped (a cycling term for being less fit/skilled/able than other riders and getting spat out of the back of the group as they gradually pass you by virtue of their better skills/fitness/abilities!). This still happened to me, twice! But I was never left behind.

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The combination of a slight incline, gravel, starting with no warm up, the group being warmed up and ticking along at a good pace meant the first few kilometres were a struggle! I was maintaining a speed about 4km/hr slower than intended but the first time I was dropped I caught up with the group at a road crossing. I got put at the front but still got inevitably passed one by one as the incline and my quads fought each other! That time I stayed behind for a few kilometres with a very patient partner-of-a-coach tagging me all the way.

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That’s what I love about Wheel Women; they leave no man behind…or whatever the modern expression is. You are noticed, you are part of the group, you are looked out for, you are helped and supported along the way, and if things go bad thay’ve got your back. Although we’ve been taught how to fix our own mechanical issues its nice to know you’re riding with experienced women who can back you up with technical assitance and spare parts.

Speaking of mechanical issues. I went back out to tackle the Warburton trail on Wednesday with the Knox group, also lovely ladies. I rode two easy kilometres to where I was meeting them for the Launching Place 20km loop. My mum and grandma were driving out to meet us for lunch. And lucky they were! As I was waiting I heard the unmistakeable gush of air passing out of the tube valve, and my back tyre went dead flat! Not good, but the group were coming and they could help. Here was a steep learning curve that I needed and won’t forget. The group leader: Where’s your spare tube? Don’t have one. Okay I’ll see if mine fits, no it doesn’t. That’s okay we’ll patch it, where are your patches? Don’t have any. Okay I’ll use mine, start taking off the tyre, where are your tyre levers? Don’t have any…spoken very quietly!

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Oh dear!

And the reason I didn’t have them? So silly! The week before I went in to Total Rush to get all the bits and pieces, but I forgot the $100 Specialized voucher that comes with Wheel Women membership. So I postponed buying until the next week when I would be passing by for my GP appointment. Sadly this ride came the day before that appointment! Missed it by that much!

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Suffice to say I now have all of the above and more! Because the outcome of the day was no one had the right sized tube to lend me, the patch didn’t hold and the valve got damaged and wouldn’t hold any air. The one bike shop didn’t stock my tube size, so they day ended with an emergency pick up from the family, lunch, and a drive home! Very disappointing but I won’t repeat it! 2km total on a lovely mild day with fair weather all round! Dulp!
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But stay tuned for photos of me doing all the mechanical work with my two bare hands while my hubby commentates from the sidelines. You haven’t seen the last of me!

*Much of the photo credit must go to Tina, possessor of the genius behind all that is Wheel Women. Your talent at taking photos while riding knows no bounds! Thanks for documenting my progress in pictures 🙂

Success

It’s been a big week. I’ve been at opposite ends of the emotional scale and I’m a bit frazzled. A bit frayed, a bit stretched too far, a bit edgy and nervous. But I’m here, I’m overall doing okay so we press on. And let’s bear a thought for the people that have been there with me. Who’ve felt for me, who I’ve felt for; they’ve been all over the place and back again, some much more than me.

I’ve been higher than I’ve been for a long time. And not a high-due-to-mania high but a regular this-is-how-normal-people-react-to-good-things way, which is the awesome part! I had something good happen and I reacted and behaved just like a normal people-person. In a something-good-has-happened-to-me way, and in an I-want-to-jump-up-and-down-about-it way. Not with depression, not with mania, not with anxiety. Well not much anxiety anyway. Gotta have a little; its a big deal

So what happened? I got the job! I GOT THE JOB! I GOT THE JOB!!!!!! I GOT THE PERFECT JOB!!!!!!!!!!

The job that is 4 minutes walk from my house. The job that is part time; two days one week and three days the next. The job that is everything I’ve done before in my career. The job that has lovely people who are already very supportive and willing to give me a go. Cos it is a big deal for them to take me on. I haven’t worked full time since March 3, 2014 and I haven’t worked part time since October 14, 2014. They don’t know how I’ll go getting back to work but they’re prepared to take the chance which is just amazing.

I can’t tell you how much my confidence has increased in the last couple of weeks from rewriting my resume and looking at what I’ve accomplished so far; going to an interview and establishing a rapport with the interviewers, being able to sell my strengths and nailing the clinical question despite so long away from the hospital wards; hearing back that I was the best applicant and that I’ve been offered the job.

I lost so much confidence, trust and faith in myself after I went off work sick. Sitting at home not exercising my brain, not using any of my knowledge and skills, not able to keep up my practice was brutal on my self worth and identity. And has been brutal over a long time, to the point where I sometimes felt that I would never practice as a pharmacist again. I’d never proved that I could retain knowledge and skills over a period of non use.

But now I have, and it’s been an enormous relief to me! I’ve still got it! I can still do it. I’m not useless, I can go out and make a difference and earn a wage and contribute something to the universe. Pheeewwww!!

And then there was the darkness. A dear special friend in very real danger reached out to me. I was honoured they came to me. But the task given to me to save the day was a very difficult one and I experienced such fear and worry and helplessness. Nothing compared to what they felt, but still real to me. It made me return to some of my difficult days and use the pain and suffering I remembered and try to give the antidotes that I’d found. But ultimately the day was saved, by a combined effort of concerned family and friends. The success which gave me a whole other sense of relief and alleviated fear and even achievement.

Which got me thinking about success. Again. I’ve been thinking about it on and off for a while now. What is success? How to we measure success? How do we know when we have achieved success?

In my job interview I was asked a question that caused me to be a bit flummoxed. At the end of your work day, how do you measure success? What needs to happen in the day for you to feel that you have been successful at your job?

In every other job that I’ve had the number of patients seen in the day has mostly been the measure of success. You have this many patients and you need to provide this level of pharmaceutical care to each of them. Not meeting this demand was a stressful event!

But an unexpected thing happened. My new boss has a much different and very refreshing philosophy. Accepting that there is insufficient funding to provide the ideal pharmacy service that we all dream of, management have taken the view that seeing every one of your allocated patients probably isn’t possible.

So instead they want pharmacists to find satisfaction in the good work that they do for each patient that they see. They want pharmacists to do there best work for patients one by one instead of rushing yourself to show on paper that you’ve seen each patient, when in fact you’ve probably skimmed each one. By prioritising patients and doing your best work for each patient that you can see in the day, management hope that there is higher job satisfaction. And I believe that there will be! Which is a success.

That’s success on the high side. Me, back in a job, helping patients and providing a clinical service. Or anyone doing that, really. It’s not all about me. Holding a job, earning a wage, paying a mortgage, being financially independent, completing study and I’m sure you can think of more. Being a friend, achieving personal goals.

Success on the low side is totally different. It’s not about ideals and doing your best work and demands and expectations. It’s about survival. Surviving the night, the day, the hour, the next five minutes. It’s about accepting whatever help is necessary to get by, taking whoever’s hand you are able to grasp to pull you back up, using the little strength and will you have to just hold on. It’s a whole different picture and the contrast to success on the high side is enormous.

So whatever your success is, well done! You worked hard for it and you deserve to be acknowledged for all that work and for the courage that it took to start and finish that work. Whether it was getting a promotion or putting down the poison or making great strides in your fitness or deciding to keep on going. You have done a great job and I’m proud of you!

To my dear who kept living, my darl who keeps facing it alone, and each one of you who has had success in any part of your life: you are amazing and an inspiration to me every day!

Back on ya bike

Today is the 17th of March.

But you knew that.

St Patrick’s day I believe. Not that this ever has much to do with me, or I with it. Just something that’s going on out there in the actual real world.

All that the 17th of March signifies to me today is that it is not the 9th of March. Quite a bit past it in fact. So I’m over my deadline of writing to you all but let’s put that aside and focus on the fact that we’re here! All alive, all well to some degree.

I have in fact been writing in preparation for my deadline but it just wouldn’t go to plan. It didn’t flow, I wasn’t comfortable with it, the stars weren’t aligned. So I’ve been thinking and thinking and getting nowhere. Then today it just started waking up and forming in my head and here we are! Patience is a virtue remember, and I say remember to myself more than anyone else. Patience! So here we go with the brain flow of today.

Today I strapped on a pair. Strong start, right? But we’re going down a different pathway.

Today I strapped on a pair of runners. Sneakers, joggers, running shoes. I got them out of the wardrobe, literally dusted them off! loosened the laces like the shop lady taught me so many years ago, put a foot in each one, pulled the laces tight again and there I was ready to do battle. I will admit now that I checked last night to make sure they were in fact still IN the cupboard! You know, in case it had been so long that for whatever reason they had vanished!

I strapped on a pair of socks; that happened before the shoes. When did I last get out a pair of socks AND wear them? I get them out every time we go on holidays, in case. I never use them. But I take them in case. Every time. Sometimes several pairs. In case I’m active several days in a row. You know, cos that happens! Along with my runners. I take them too; in case. My socks had burrs in them from goodness knows where! Or when. I guess it’s lucky they didn’t have moths in them, or a family of spiders! Spiders would have definitely changed the course of the day! My horror of spiders long pre-dates all the other fears that have developed in my life more recently. And it’s a hard one to conquer! Their legs move and I run, literally, screaming from the room. Could be a good exercise incentive, although repeated episodes of that much adrenaline cannot be good for me!

I strapped on a pair of sunglasses to contend with the overcast drizzle; good choice!
A pair of yoga pants, the only pair of pants left that I can wear without shame and horror at how much of my body doesn’t fit into them!
A bright yellow T shirt that I bought for a casual top when I grew out of all my other casual tops, but which irritates me by not sitting where it’s meant to. But the request was for bright clothes.

The occasion? I’m re-learning to ride my bike! I’ve signed up to have ‘Wheel Women’ teach me and 7 other ladies the Cycling Australia ‘She Rides’ course. We’ll learn about the bits of our bike, how to fix things, how to ride, what essential equipment you need etc. Our course isn’t the beginner course. We’ve all ridden before. Ours is the confidence course, remembering what we’ve achieved before, how much we already know. It’s also about just how much what we learn will help us to become confident in riding again etc.

Because I have been confident in the past, you know. As primary school aged kids we would shoot out of the car as soon as it stopped in the garage after school, throw our bags inside the house (or in the yard, on the garden, near the chook house) and be on our bikes before you could blink. We’d all ridden since we were toddlers on foot propelled solid plastic indestructible stabilised bikes. We’d all progressed up through a trike, a small bike with training wheels then up through a variety of pretty solidly contructed biked until we made it to an actual store built mountain/commuter bike from Kmart! That was a great moment! It had gears, a stand, flat handle bars, a bell, brakes activated by levers instead of feet!

We had a hill in our driveway where the channel had to be broached and a roundabout for cars to easily turn around. So we’d ride flat out from the road to the top of the bridge and the competition was who could roll the furthest down the bridge, around the house on an S bend curve and the ultimate victory was to make it to the gate into the backyard. It was one on one so there were heats for me and the next down to compete and the two little kids to compete. Then there were speed races down to the garage, technical races around the garden beds and so on. I love it all! We did learn to ride classes at school and the big ride day every year with half the school. We rode to school when mum was working, often with the naughty fox terrier tagging along. We’d tell her to go home but she was sneaky. She’d pretend to head home then sneak diagonally across the paddocks while we round around the square and often beat us to school where, of course, all the kids loved her and made a big fuss out of her!

Great days! And lots of fun. Of course I had the odd accident, ironically the first big one was trying to go too slow while Mum with the baby in the backseat caught up. Our whole driveway was gravel so there were of course many accidents where the wheel slipped out or we hit a bump. Then a bigger one when I was riding up Manningham Road to Heidelberg train station to get to uni. I decided to leave the road for the foot path to cross a big intersection, took it on too much of an angle and landed on my chin! That was the confidence sucking one! That was really the death knock for me riding on roads, and even bike paths.

Thus the course. We have 8 sessions of 2 hours and the first one was this morning. And already I’m stoked!

Which is a miracle considering I spent most of yesterday in an absolute stew about it! What if, what if, what if?!

What if I don’t wake up in time?
We’re meant to be there at 10am, that means I have to be awake at 9am at the latest and ideally leave the house by 9.30am. That’s kind of early given my getting out of bed times lately! Despite my consistent bedtime of around 10pm my morning wake up time can vary from 8am to 11am! This is the result of medication sedation, which is consistent daily but it’s so unpredictable in how much and for how long!

What if I wake up in time but I’m really drowsy and not fit to drive the car?
I’ve been minimising my driving lately when I feel I’m too sedated. That means I don’t do long distances, especially when I’ll need to drive home again later in the day. I don’t need a collision to tell me I’m not fit to drive!
What will I do if that happens? Cancel? Then I’d feel like a failure. Go anyway? That could be dangerous. Get a cab? How would I get my bike there? and etc!

What if it’s too hot for me?
Since I’ve been on this particular antidepressant my temperature feels high all the time. I’ve never actually checked if it is higher, but I feel hotter than the average person unless that person is going through menopause in which case we’d make good buddies! When others are comfortable I’ll be wringing sweat from my brow! Which sounds old fashioned and romantic but it sucks, it really sucks! I don’t like sweat beading on my forehead and running down my face or into my hair! I don’t like other people seeing that. I don’t like them seeing me wiping the sweat off. I don’t mind having them see me wave a fan around or sitting in a breeze but the other stuff? Ergh!

What if I don’t have the energy to get on my bike and ride?
So many days I just don’t have the energy for anything! I’ve become very sedate.
How do I know I’ll be able to do it? What if I just can’t and get humiliated?

Also, what if I’m too unfit?
I know the course description says no one is too unfit for them, but my hubby and I went on a 5km ride a few months ago to try to get me back into riding. The scenery was beautiful but I couldn’t hear anything over the sound of my heart beat and breathing!! And it felt bad!
What if I get left behind and its shameful that I’m so unfit at such a young age?

At about the sixtieth what if my husband suggested a Valium and that helped. A lot. Diazepam, it really is a wonder drug used sensibly. It took the agitation and fretting and stressing out of it. The contingency plan from my husband: all I want you to do is show up. Go there with your bike and at that point that’s a win. Stay if you feel like it, if you have to leave early that’s okay. If you can get through the whole thing that’s fabulous.

Perfect! He always knows what to say! My issue in all things is the starting. Getting out of bed, getting out of the house, getting started on a job, getting to a social event. If there was a time warp around the getting ready life would be easier. It’s the mental preparation that trips me up!
Once I’m there, out of bed, out of the house, started, at the event I’m fine! I’ll be yucking it up with everyone, telling stories, hanging out, ready to get the day going.

So I had my back out strategy, which is vital! If I can’t think of the way out of any place or situation I tend to get panicky. But knowing that I can leave whenever I want and having a specific plan for how I will execute the leaving makes it okay to put myself in that restricted position. It’s crazy but it works! Everywhere, every time.

So I’m stoked with how it all went!

The 3 trainers were lovely and there was no pressure. There were only a handful of us so no hoards of unknowns to face up to. 90 minutes was taken up off the bike with instruction and demonstration so that was a big relief! When we did do riding it was gentle and tiny distances. I seemed to be at least at the same level as the other ladies so no more fear of being left behind!

I looked okay in my clothes which made me comfortable; no more squishing into old size 12 and 14’s; from now on regardless of the size I’m wearing clothing that suits my new figure! I was able to do everything I was asked, my bike is the perfect fit for me, and some old confidence and enjoyment of doodling around on my bike kind of seeped back into my heart.

It made me glad that I was on track to rediscovering riding for fun. Not for competition or eliteness but just good plain fun! I’m excited about that!! It’s so important to me these days to have things that are mine alone to feel good about, to enjoy, to feel satisfied with. My bird watching, my photography, my writing and now my riding. This isn’t so I can go on every Saturday monring 5am 100km road ride with my husband, or brother, or sister, or brother-in-law or father etc! This isn’t so I can go all day up hill down dale mountain biking. This isn’t so I can put on an external skeleton and go hurtling down Hotham or Buller in the off season! Definitely not the last one!

This is for me. This is to remember that I have a kife skill in me that can make me feel better about myself, that I can openly and completely enjoy without any reserve, that is all mine, that I dictate and I steer.

Anything that excites me these days is to be treasured!! Held on to and pursued. And I really feel like this is it!
There are 7 weeks to go, and I’m really truly looking forward to all of them 🙂 YAY!!!

Saturday Shoutout

I have hedged around this and hinted at in and mentioned it obliquely but it’s time for some straight speaking about an important part of my life.

My peeps.

Specifically, my psychologist, my psychiatrist and my GP.

My support crew.

Without them, I don’t know where I would be. Literally and figuratively. Would I be in a psychiatry ward in a hospital? Would I be in rehab? Would I be doing a lot worse than am I now? Would I be a vegetable in bed? They have stood by me, held me up, dealt with me, kick-started me, bucked me up and saved my life.

I don’t say this lightly.

They saved my life! They’re that important.

Everything I say here has what to me is an obvious unwritten addendum: as well as my husband. He is the most important person in my life and has been my most supportive friend through every hill and valley, through every new discovery and every boring pushing-on day, through every heartache and excitement. He is so critical in my life but there are times in life when you need to call in the experts!

And these times have been the last year!

My aim today is to give a shout out to my current team because I truly do owe my life to these people. There are other people who have also been hugely helpful to me and I acknowledge them mentally; they might get a write up another day.

Starting with my local doctor, my general practitioner or GP, Dr Richard Young.

I came to see him accidentally after a false start with the GP that I used to see back when I was at uni. She charged a fortune and didn’t give me any confidence that she knew what she was doing. In fact she said to me, I’ll ask my colleagues and check some textbooks; can you come back next week? Well no I couldn’t wait a week, I needed help now! I complained to a colleague at work that I didn’t know where to start looking for a good GP and that I wanted to find one close to work.and who didn’t cost me so much and she handed me a business card for this doctor. I rate this as the best recommendation I have ever had and am always so thankful to her for this!

I didn’t tell this colleague why I needed to see a doctor and yet she gave me a recommendation for a doctor with a special interest in mental health, and who sees many patients with depression and anxiety. That was lucky number one. Lucky number two was the location of the clinic, within a 5 minute walk from work! Could anything be more perfect? I could easily slip away from work in my lunch break, between discharges, after ward rounds etc for my 15 minute appointment. And lucky amazing number three is bulk billing for mental health patients! That is, no fee to pay for each visit! Thank you infinity for this amazing policy that has benefited me and my husband so much!

Richard is a young enough doctor to have passion for his job in spades, old enough to have experience and knowledge and confidence, and has bedside manner and compassion like you dream of in a doctor!

His knowledge of the health system is unsurpassed. I have attended many different GPs in my old clinic last year as well as here, and have never experienced such thorough care! I have cervical migraines; I get Medicare subsidised visits to a physiotherapist. I’m gaining weight on medication; I get some of those visits changed to see a dietician. I have deficiencies; I get treated. I have risk factors; I see the practice nurse to develop a care plan for how I will reduce my risk factors. I have depression/anxiety and need help managing my symptoms; I get ten Medicare subsidised visits to a psychologist, and when I use them all up, I get more! We need help managing the medications; I get Medicare subsidised visits to the psychiatrist. And most importantly, when I’m suicidal he doesn’t let me go home; he sends me straight to the hospital where I can be cared for and a new plan can be made for my treatment.

You get the picture: this doctor is amazing! There is nothing I have that he can’t fix me up with the appropriate health professional or service!

After 8 months of seeing Richard once a week every week I have no complaints! I have had to wait on occasion, I have had to be rushed through on occasion but I have proved abundantly that when I have acute and severe needs, I will be given as much time and attention as I need and be cared for exactly how I need. How I want not always; but always how I need. I think you do need to give credit where it is due and understand the limitations of the medical system and within those limits I have been wonderfully and carefully looked after!

I would absolutely recommend Richard to anyone!

It is due to Richard’s amazing insight and care that I was first given a referral to see a psychologist. Unfortunately the first lady I saw did not connect with me at all, and in fact I left worse than I arrived!! Crying going down the steps is not the right way to go. So Richard promptly organised for me to be assigned another psychologist and I have loved her since the first meeting!

Patty Sabbagh from the Nexus Psychology group is her name and place.

She has seen me through all kinds of scenarios. Happy, sad, suicidal, excited about life, demotivated, purposeful and everything in between are the ways that I have turned up at her door and she has adapted and given me real help and hope and a new way on from every problem! She has helped me to deal with all kinds of issues, she is so resourceful and like a good friend. Sometimes I have gone and its just been a good chat with an understanding fellow human that I needed, and she has been a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and a clever therapist able to give me a better way to fight on. A mother, a friend, a support; all labels I could give her and more!

She listens and considers and recommends the best approach. Sometimes talking about it really does solve the problem, sometimes a new way of looking or thinking about an issue is needed, sometimes there is need for meditation, or mindfulness, or cognitive behavioural therapy. Whatever is needed, this talented psychologist and counselor has the remedy!

Anyone in trouble needing someone to help would be well advised to seek the help of Patty from Nexus Psychology or one of her colleagues.

Lastly my newest support crew member, and one who has changed my life. Another big statement but well deserved! My psychiatrist, Dr Ian Katz.

He entered later in the picture because I initially saw a psychiatrist as part of my outpatient follow up from being in the emergency department of the local hospital. He was the one who suggested cautiously that bipolar was indeed a possibility and who first started me on a mood stabiliser. However his role is to see patients in the short term then send them back to their GP to be managed. Which is what happened.

My GP and I went along with the plan for Seroquel and for a while we seemed to be winning. Then that started to fall apart and my GP gave me the referral for Dr Katz. He picked up the pieces, made a sensible picture out of it all and gave me a ‘wait and watch’ directive and asked me to come back in a few weeks. I returned with a history of the most manic-like state that had happened to me so far coupled with a long period of depression and the diagnosis of bipolar was complete. He prescribed lithium, one of the best things that has happened to me in a long time, and things have been improving ever since! He calls it “the game changer”; I call it a life changer!!

I have been so impressed with Dr Katz because of his huge capacity to listen, and hear all the information then process it in a logical and helpful manner. He will then set out a considered, clinically sound plan and make everything clear and easy for me, the patient. That takes a huge lot of knowledge, skill, patience, kindness and clinical experience to attain and I think there are very few other clinicians like him. In addition, his commitment to his work amazes me. I have had appointments at 6.45pm, 8pm and 9pm!! Thank you for that!

I have a very high respect for his opinion and his directions and am just so grateful to him for being the one to really turn my life around!

So there you have it. The three most important people in my life just now, besides my husband. Three people who have left a permanent impression on my mind, and my heart really. Conditions like bipolar absolutely need to have this three pronged approach, which in the past was not such a priority but I would not give up either one of these three for anything! Each has a separate but vital role, and each one contributes in a different way to my overall mental and physical health.

I don’t think I could step into any of their shoes, even assuming I had the appropriate training. They each have some strength of character to do what they do that is beyond my understanding but its so important to me that they continue to do what they do.

I don’t know when they take holidays, I don’t know how their families cope with their dedication to their jobs but I know that without them I wouldn’t know where to go or who to turn to and I am forever grateful to them, and everyone like them who works for us, the patients.