Canberra Day Three

13th September, 2016

I promise that my posts are getting (okay, will get…) shorter as I progress through the 90 days that I anticipate I’ll be spending in Canberra! The writing to photo ratio is all wrong. And I’m aiming to get them in line with the days themselves; I’m confusing myself writing the day after!

It was a bit of a funny day. Same start to the day today, albeit more sluggishly cos I left going to bed, and more significantly taking my tablets, until 11pm. Meaning I was a bit “hung over” when it came time to wake up. Nevertheless, I jumped in the car early with hubby to drive into his work with him by 8am, then took over the wheel and started off on what is becoming my morning “pick a road at random and explore before breakfast” drive. I had woken up by then; I promise I didn’t drive hung over.

“Peak hour” traffic was really not a thing yesterday, at least not between Harrison and Dickson. Aiming to get to hubby’s work by 8am today did take a tad longer, like 4 minutes longer! I love the traffic!!! I might as well be back home in Shepparton, a town of 25,000. No waiting, no kilometre long lines of traffic, delays of half an hour – instead you just go where you want when you want and the traffic just flows. You could get used to it…

Today I headed south across the bridge over Lake Burley Griffin towards Parliament House then took a left and passed by what I assume are some of the embassies with flags in front of grand houses. The highlight was Mugga Drive in a suburb somewhere which has a fabulous view over the city and to the mountains beyond.

Home again for late breakfast, then writing up yesterday’s blog, trying to sort out the glitch in my website, adding the list of birds that I saw at Black Mountain yesterday into the ebird database, phaphing around doing nothing in particular but spending a lot of time! Oh, and unpacking my suitcases! That was fun, not. I mean, it had to be done sometime, but I was putting it off for some obscure reason. Anyway, its done. I forgot to bring clothes hangars but luckily our awesome hosts have spares. Then back to bed by lunchtime cos the drowsiness was just persisting and I couldn’t think straight!

Got myself up after a couple of hours, and even though the day had been a bit of a wash out, and nothing much in particular was happening, I just decided not to let that go any longer. Time to get my bike out and hit the trails, especially since the rest of the week could be rained out. So I did it. I pulled myself together (to me that’s the most impressive part), got dressed, got my gear together and didn’t forget anything, successfully drove there and back with the car on the roof and it stayed on the roof! Hubby has me on a training schedule and this week I’m doing 15 and 20km rides. Well, kicking that off I rode the western loop of Lake Burley Griffin by myself, and clocked up over 19.5km! And it was beautiful! The skies were really dramatic looking like they’d start raining any minute, and the lake was so still and the trees, the grass, everything was so lovely! Stand by for a Lake Burley Griffin portfolio! I stopped and started a bit too much to take photos; I got a bit cold, which is rare for me. It was challenging with “undulations” but so worth it. I’ll definitely do that again!

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So this has to be my photo for today. A bike ride on a not-so-hot day AFTER my nap, and late in the day when I could have decided not to bother. Pushing myself through the undulations, but loving the downhills. My first bike ride in Canberra. A solo ride, my first for Canberra. First ride around Lake Burley Griffin. Lots of things to celebrate! So here I am at 3.30pm deciding to make something of the day despite it all.

It should have been 16km, but I’m having some issues reading signs! Not literally, my vision is fine. But it’s like I decide what I’m doing to do before I even read the sign based on what makes sense to me, then I read but don’t register the sign, and carry on doing my own thing regardless. So far in the 3 days I’ve been in Canberra I’ve done 2 laps of the entire city in the car after missing my turn TWICE while trying to find my own way and refusing to use GPS, I’ve walked for 3.5 hours instead of 2 hours on Black Mountain cos I didn’t pay attention to where I should have parked and thought I was somewhere else, and now a 4km detour into the Australian National University because I skimmed the sign and thought I should go straight ahead instead of veer off! Oh and the shower. It’s a new shower to me and doesn’t have the symbols on it…tell me though, isn’t it always hot to the right and cold to the left on those mixer taps? Someone agree with me. I was getting very annoyed at whoever used up all the hot water, and my hair was half wet so now what was I going to go, etc, until my hubby pointed out that I was turning it the wrong way!! I feel that there must be a lesson here somewhere…

Lastly for the day, a really enjoyable night out with loads of new people at a baby shower for a girl I’ve sort of known over a few years, and reconnected with this year. I forgot that there would be so many new people until I was inside the door, which I’m really pleased about because it has happened twice in our 3 days that there’s been a bit group of new people, and I haven’t had any anxiety about it at all! Hubby and I agree that I’m not high, I’m not low, and we feel like maybe this is what normal will be like; and we’re happy with that. Some great days, some struggling days, and some middling days. Isn’t that life for someone who isn’t mentally or physically unwell? It’s not all excitement and performance, sometimes it’s just step by step. This would be my photo of the day if it weren’t for my bike ride.

Last thing.

I’ve finally had success getting more photos onto my website after a technical glitch. I have to commend Fran from Adobe for being super helpful! The link for yesterday is below, and there’ll be more to come with coming posts. I’m so pleased with my website and the individual portfolios!! I love my photography, it’s so satisfying and fulfilling. Having somewhere other than Facebook to share it, and share it professionally is so exciting! I really hope that you find something you enjoy, whether it’s scenery, birds, my journey in Canberra or life in general.

For more photos of today, see my website: Bike ride and baby shower

See also my Canberra Day Two photos: Black mountain views and Black Mountain Birds

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A bad day

**Usually I write in a very controlled way. I write on my good days, and although I access sadness and badness and evil, I do it in a way that I can manage easily without things getting out of control. Yesterday things were out of control. I was having a bad day and a bad moment of despair and crying into my pillow and thoughts just exploding all over the room and I thought, you know what? I need to write this down. If I can’t write down the darkness and disorganised-ness what am I really showing you of the “real” diseased me? So this is raw and I apologise if it’s too much of anything. By the time I am writing this, things have been sorted out and we’re back on track. There’s still the diet thing, I’ll get to that another day, but for now here is the thoughts as they spilled out of my head in my crying despair**

Stayingquiet

I’m the Monster. The one under your bed. The one that jumps out and scares small children and large adults alike. The obese monster, morbidly obese by the books. The one who side on, at a glance, could be confused with a large tree trunk or concrete pylon! Who has been asked TWICE this week if she’s too far into her pregnancy to fly! And another two times in that same week if she’s pregnant, once before a massage and once before a dress fitting. Cos that’s relaxing!

I’m the Destroyer. I start with memory foam beds and crush the memory and the foam out of them. I move onto brand new leather couches and triple my husband’s imprint in the first 3 months. Time to change sides! Then I grind the life out of said husband until he doesn’t care, or hurts so much from caring that he leaves. Well that’s my mental image of how this goes, in any case, and I’ve had a couple physical images to assist with the mental image; that’s the extent of his distress.

I break laptops, drop mobile phones, spill anything remotely liquid, trip over power cords ruining plug connections, slip down inclines, fall over pebbles, draw ink on bedspreads, stretch clothes in the wash,  wrench roof racks and bikes off the car roof bending the metal and stripping paint off bikes and car alike!

I’m fat, so fat, so very very fat and it’s ruining everything. I’m told. It’s hard to see from the inside. I’m ruining my marriage by being fat. I lost my job from the consequences of being fat. I’m slow, I’m too slow, I need to lose weight, I need to speed up, I need to change, change, change change, stop being me, be someone else. Someone not fat and not slow who isn’t ruining everything.

My husband is fed up. And why wouldn’t he be? 3 years of me being sick, 16months of being off work before, 9 months in a job and here we are, back at the beginning. And if I just lost weight it would fix everything. I wouldn’t be ruining the couch, wrecking the bed, sitting at home doing nothing. If only I would lose weight. Because it’s difficult for him, me being fat. Every day it’s hard for him, me being fat, he tells me. It’s hard on him. I’m fat and it’s hard. He says we can’t do things, be things because of it. It’s fair for him to ask me to lose weight, because he has to deal with it too. And me not losing weight makes him think I’m not trying, I’m not trying for us. Can’t I do it for him? Can’t I lose weight for him? If I won’t do it for myself. It’s been 6 weeks. 6 weeks since I saw the dietician and starting a food diary. And I haven’t lose any weight. Why? Because I’ve been snacking. Why? Because I eat in emotional situations. So instead I’m meant to be dealing with my emotion. Here you are, here is my emotion. I’m dealing with it.

thunder inside

I hate to cry. Crying is weak. I know, I know; I shouldn’t say that. Especially me, advocating for mental health. But to me it’s weak, I hate it, and I avoid it. But here it comes, crying, because of my diet. If I cry, I don’t store and if I don’t store, I don’t eat because of the store. Apparently. So I’ve cried twice since starting my diet.

I want to see that you’re putting in an effort. But you won’t see it; change is gradual and you don’t see weight loss for a while, a good long while. So what do you want to see? It’s such a lot of pressure, proving something. Proving you did, defending that you didn’t; proof. I’m trying. But I want to see that you’re trying. Well I am trying. Well how can I see that you’re trying? It goes round and round.

And now, one in the bed and the other one said I can’t stand this anymore. Is it cold? How cold? Who cares, I’m storming out. And I’m crying my tears because I have to put in an effort and one can’t bear it and the other can’t wear it, and it’s a mess. Royally a mess. What to a fix? I promise sincerely I will truly really do what I’m told, and I will make the numbers go down, and I will make them keep going down. And then we will live happily ever after because I’ll be able to energetically walk everywhere that I’m asked to walk, and I’ll enjoy physical activity and my fatness won’t slow me down and make me sluggish and I’ll be fixed. And if my condition and cures continue to prevent that from ever being realized? Well at least I’ll be skinny. Life is better when you’re skinny. Time for my daily walk and my diet jelly. Adieu.

Departure lounge

This week was always going to be a week of goodbyes.

After my sister’s wedding last week (photos to follow!!) my cousin, one of the bridesmaids, flew out to France for an open dated holiday in her favourite country on earth. Having been there before and having good French language skills, she is planning to spend this holiday off the beaten track. We’ll miss her at our weekly gathering point, Grandma’s fabulous Sunday lunch roast and dessert! More for us!

Then of course, my newlywed baby sister and her hubby are flying back to Latvia today! I say back because that’s where he was born and grew up. Their plan is to be there for 4 years because they are both planning to start and finish their undergraduate degrees there. So It’s a big goodbye!

I don’t think that any one of us has grasped it yet, especially Dad who wonders why everyone is asking him if he’s sad to see her go! Not much to wonder at, but he’s fixed himself in the mindset that its exciting and happy to see her marry her love and move off into their new life. We’ll see how long that lasts once she has actually gotten on the plane for 4 years!

Of course the two students may scrape together enough money to come back to Australia, and most of us are planning a visit at some point but it’s still a long time. Mum and Dad and her have been the only ones at home since my brother moved to Melbourne for uni 3.5 years ago, so I think they’ll really notice her absence around the house.

Then my teacher brother-in-law is flying to England for a year on Thursday! How’s that, sister and brother-in-law, plus brother-in-law, flying out in the same week! It makes more sense when you know that the school year starts on the 1st September across the UK and Europe. So for a teacher, and two students, it makes sense to move with a few weeks grace to get settled into accommodation etc. A year isn’t so bad, there’s an end point to look forward to. But it’s so hard to imagine his Mum and Dad without him. He’s also the youngest and it’s been the three of them since his older brother moved away to do his apprenticeship YEARS ago. Not sure how many, but it could be eight or so years. They’ll definitely be looking for him around the house!

So those are the scheduled departures. We’ve had the goodbye parties, given them advice, wished them farewell. Everything according to plan and tradition, and everyone has had their part in it.

I want to add one more departure to the list.

This was not a scheduled departure. There was no celebration beforehand where people got together with the person leaving and shook their hand and talked and laughed and got their fill of the person departing that would tide them over til they next met. No advice was given about the next step of the journey about to be traveled by the departing and how to traverse it.

I think that most people involved felt that this was a tragic departure, in the literary sense that tragic means inevitable.

I want to wish my own farewell to RT who departed his life this week. You know when someone starts a sentence and they haven’t finished yet, in fact they’re only in the middle but you know the end is going to be something you don’t like? That’s how I heard about it. There is no other way to hear it, other than someone telling you but the hearing of it is never easy.

Many months of a terrible depression preceded this departure, I heard. A mighty, mighty battle has taken place. That battle involved good friends doing their best, multiple inpatient psychiatric admissions, previous suicide attempts, medications, and more that I don’t know about.

In fact I don’t know this person, only in passing. I would recognise him on the street, we’ve maybe exchanged a dozen words in total in our lifetimes. Every year while I was growing up we would spend 3 Saturdays in October at a farm where our annual Christian convention was held, getting it all ready. Our family was always there, he and his wife were always there. They were the cool, young couple that girls growing up through their teens can admire. That was the full extent of “knowing” him.

But there is this phenomenon I’ve heard spoken about where people can experience grief for someone they don’t know, or have barely met, or celebrities etc that is disproportionate to their relationship with that person. Sometimes it can be as profound and take as emotional a toll as the death of a family member. Like when the news of Elvis having left the building descended on the world. Tears and sobbing from people who “knew” him from a concert, a tape, magazines. It’s valid.

I don’t think that’s what is happening here. I think what is happening is several months ago a mutual acquaintance described to me the suffering this person was experiencing as a result of depression. And it resonated with me very strongly because of my experience with depression. I had amazing support and all the help that I could possible require and there were days when I didn’t think I could survive.

As far as I heard, this person had no one at home, some friends around town and family nowhere near by. I could totally connect with his deep need for support and love and care, and the absence of these needs being met. No amount of psychiatric care can compensate for having a partner, family member, very close friend who “gets” you, who understands your suffering, who can be there for you to help you keep safe, who feeds you with love and care and hope, and reminds you again and again that you can fight this war to a victory and they will help you all the way.

His story just made me want to reach out and say, I feel for you, I’ve been where you’ve been and I know how awful and hard and dark and hopeless it is, and I want you to know that I came through and it is worth the fight. Or something like that.

That’s what I wanted to say. But after his wife left, his whole world crumbled, he had nothing to live for on this earth. Because I think kind honesty is the best way to support someone, I don’t know that I would have been able to say convincingly that it’s all worth it in the end, keep fighting, one day this will be all behind you and be a distant bad dream and you’ll be glad that you fought and won.

When you have nothing to live for on earth, it’s a very hard situation. I had everything to live for, and it was a hard, uphill, difficult road, and still may be in the future. But with nothing to live for, why would you try? Why would you fight for, scrabble for grip to, desperately cling to, and give your all to hang onto life? What for? Giving everything to hold onto life that doesn’t feel worth living, that holds searing pain, awful agony, sorrow, struggle, being alone, without love etc. All that terribly difficult effort while drowning in molasses, and what for? That’s what being suicidal is like.

And so he left us. It was inevitable. It’s sad, because nothing more could be done to hold him here on earth, because he couldn’t find enough to hold him to life. But I strongly feel that now he has peace and rest from so much awfulness. And how blissful will that peace and rest be, after so much difficulty on earth.

I have more thing to say. I believe in God, in Jesus, in eternal life. I’ll write about this point more one day. God’s commandments in the Old Testament were, thou shalt not kill. And I think that would have included ourselves. But the New Testament came in Jesus who has showed his great love and mercy. I believe that although we would want to help someone not to end their ow life, when someone is hurting so much that they can’t handle it anymore, Jesus understands and forgives. He knows what we have gone through and why we have reached such a point of desperation. He offers his help and grace in our lifetime, which is promised to be sufficient for us, but in our agony we can’t see much beyond our hurting self.

I feel that our mental health and our spiritual health are two disparate things. But they get confused. We don’t confuse our physical health with religion. We don’t expect our faith to help our gout. But our mental health has foggier borders. Our religion can be a help to us in all situations, but it’s not a cure for any illness, and depression isn’t a religious issue; it’s a medical issue.

I say this just to make the point that when someone we know hits the threshold of what they can possibly bear and can no longer suffer their daily life, let’s recognise that they have succumbed to a medical condition that was unable to be sufficiently treated with the medications and therapy that we have available these days. Let us never consider that their faith wasn’t enough, or they lost their religion, or they somehow should have found a way to survive. Suicide isn’t a comment on the sufferers ability, but the disease’s severity.

Farewell, fierce fighter. I recognise how much you fought, and I’m sorry that the disease was too strong for you. You will be missed. But I will remember your story. I won’t forget your bravery.

To all of you in this post, til we meet again.