Safety Net

I hope you don’t think this is me crying poor, because I know how lucky I am in so many respects. In fact, I often use the types of figures below to show my patients how financially lucky we are to be treated in the Australian healthcare system, and not in a user pays system like the United States of America.

We stay in a public hospital and never know anything about the $2000 per day that it costs the Government to enable you in that bed to have access to whatever you might require. You have blood test after blood test, and you don’t pay for it. Your meals come free, and you don’t have to pay the doctor, the nurse, the nurse’s aide, the ward clerk, the person who takes your blood, the physiotherapist, the occupational therapist, the social worker, the pharmacist and so on. You may have to pay a small fee for the podiatrist, and the TV, and your discharge medications when you leave.

When compared to the tens of thousands that Americans or their health insurance providers have to pay it’s nothing at all!

But at the end of the day, poor health does comes at a financial cost. That cost may not be anywhere near what it could be, and might not compare to someone else’s cost, but it’s a cost regardless and this is just my example.

I take 8 different oral medicines, be they tablets or capsules or dissolving tablets. I take all of these every day, and some of them a couple of times a day. I think I do an alright job of keeping up with it all, and I’m a pharmacist. I can tell you that my respect for patients who manage their own medications has sky rocketed this year!

An 80 year old lady tells me off that top of her head that she takes these 6 in the morning (and she names them by name!) and these two in the evening, and she is meant to take this one but she’s getting this side effect and so she talked to her doctor and now she only takes it every second day, and her insulin has just been changed and now it’s 8 units in the morning but if her blood sugar level is over 10 she takes 12 units, and if she has to go out in the morning she doesn’t take her fluid tablet til she gets back etc!

It’s exhausting to listen to, and I always congratulate them because they do an amazing job! With all of my medicine specific education I am still not doing as good a job as that! All the things that patients have said over the years are coming home to roost.

“I can’t tell you off the top of my head, but if I had my list I could tell you. You should be able to find my list in my history; I gave it to them in ED”

At which I inwardly groan, knowing that in 99 cases out of 100 the list will be nowhere to be found and no one will know anything about it, and the patient is now a useless reference, with their knowledge locked firmly in their brain, and no release key to be found. It’s so unfortunate. I recommend every patient to create their own medication list, or I do it for them when they are being discharged home but whoever borrows it first in the hospital seems to put it with the odd socks and off it goes into the ether.

So I’m always thrilled to have an A type personality carer who have neatly run off 10 copies of the medication list; one for every medical professional who asks for it! Of course I’m less thrilled when they start going all A type on me because Mother’s glucosamine is being given once a day instead of twice, and her cholesterol tablet is meant to be night not morning, and when will someone attend to her rash; it’s not itchy or sore but someone needs to do something about it, right now!

“I’m sorry, I just can’t seem to remember. If you tell me the names I’d remember. If I had the box in front of me I could tell you how I fill it, and I’d remember the tablets. If only I had my tablets with me!”

Another inward groan. This patient from home alone with no next of kin to go to the house and collect the box, so again, knowledge locked inside. And no I’m not going to sit beside you firing off common medication brands in the off chance that one will trigger a memory. I have better ways around that.

But I do then find myself unable to give a full list without at least once or ten times referring to my written list or to the dosette box I make up. It’s a hard job!

And that’s just managing the meds themselves. Then there’re the scripts, the doctors appointments, Medicare, PBS, etc.

So these are my figures. At the 12th October 2015 I had officially spent $1,526.13 on my medications. That’s 8 medications, every day, over the course of the calendar year since January 1st. It sure creeps up on you!

Any patient with a Medicare card and no concessions on 8 medications, or less or more depending on the actual cost of each script, this could apply to you.

It also applies if you are on a pension card, but because pension holders have their prescription costs capped at $6.10 (or whatever it is capped to in each calendar year) you are eligible for the safety net when you reach a certain NUMBER of prescriptions, rather than a certain cost. For example once you have had 62 scripts dispensed, then you’re eligible for the safety net.

Every year the government sets an amount of money which if you spend that amount of money on PBS prescriptions, you will be eligible for the safety net. For 2015 the amount of money is $1,453.90. If you spend this amount of money on your scripts between January and December, you are eliglible for the PBS Safety Net.

How do I know if I’m eligible? Simple mathematics, my friends. Which is simple if you go to the same pharmacy every time like a sensible person would, so that said pharmacy had all of your records and could give you the best care. However being young and mobile I have gone to pharmacies far and wide across the country. And now I have to track them all down! I did have some idea of this coming, so the good thing is I had receipts from every script and every pharmacy; now to track them down!

Macleod Pharmacy

Chemist Warehouse Box Hill

My Chemist Box Hill

Surrey Hills Chemmart

Pharmacy 517

Tathra Pharmacy

Chemist Warehouse Shepparton

Nunawading Amcal Pharmacy

Amcal Max Doncaster East

Seeto and Dodd Merimbula Pharmacy

Duh!!

Now I remember why I should always go out of my way to go to the same pharmacy every time!

Instead I chose convenience at the time, and now I’ll have to traipse all over the city, and do some interstate sweet talking to have stuff posted, to get everything together in one place.

Bring on Australia-wide electronic records where every script I have had dispensed is automatically recorded and when I reach the PBS safety net a card is automatically posted to me, and I get a SMS alerting me to my status and card number! Sounds much easier and less time consuming to me.

There are proper forms so that each time you get a script dispensed the safety net stick can be attached, and you gradually build up…but of course that was too logical for me this year as a newbie to the scheme as a patient. Next year I’ll be all over it!

So 1300 words so far, what’s the point of all this?

Well, the safety net does this. Instead of paying some amount of money up to the $37.70 capped price for each prescription that I get dispensed, I will now only pay up to $6.10, the pensioner price!

Can you imagine? The average cost of one of my scripts up til now has been between $15 to $25 usually, with some actually capped at $37.70. So already by living in this lovely nation I’ve been saved a fair bit of cost through this genius Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). And now I’ll be saved a heap more! And if I were already on the pensioner price and reached the safety net?? Zero dollars for the rest of the year for PBS items. I make this disclaimer because even on the safety net, if you are prescribed an item that isn’t covered then of course you still have to pay what anyone else pays.

So this is a major saving to the individual! And I’ve never been so excited about maths, as when I thought to myself that I might be close to the safety net, and found out that I was over!!

Of course now I have to go and line up at Medicare to get a refund for this difference…………………………………………………………………………………yeh.

But it’ll be worth it, won’t it? $6.10 for the rest of the year; I’m getting that tempting sensation to do what all the oldies do and queue down the street to get all of their scripts dispensed on December 31st! Will I, won’t I? We’ll have to wait and see. But the sales junkie inside of me is stirring…

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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.

Avoiding a missed dose

Remember a little while back when I was talking about what happens when I miss a dose of my meds? [Tales of a Missed Dose, 22nd June, 2015]

It’s not a fun experience, and so I go a fair way out of my way to make sure that I avoid it as much as possible! Probably my motivation is just as much to avoid the unpleasantness as it is to keep on my prescribed regimen.

So, how do I do it? How do I manage my medications? What is my system?

strips, tablets, capsules

The strips. This is where the real stuff begins

Is it hard? Yes. Is it worthwhile? Absolutely! Does it get easier? Not so far.

Up until the last few months my medications have been all over the place, add one here, add one there, add one here…that went on for a while! Then the doses were changing and the psychiatrist was fiddling with timing and so on. But lately I’ve had the same meds at the same doses for a while, at least until a week or so ago, so at least I got into a bit of a rhythm with what I’m packing into my tablet box. Although then there’s the thyroxine which must be kept in the fridge, and you can only take 14 days’ worth out at a time. And there’s my lithium dose where I take two tablets every morning, but two and a half tablets on alternate nights with three tablets! That takes some keeping up with!

medication box, dosette

Blank canvas – my weekly medication box exhausted and ready to be repacked

Then there’s valproate which literally cannot be taken out of the foil stripping until you need the dose. I found this out the hard way! The problem arises because I take the lowest strength available which is soluble, and therefore designed to absorb water as fast as possible once exposed. So the first week that I packed valproate into my box, I went to tip out my tablets the next morning and had more-than-soggy valproate! In fact it was more of a glob of paste that smooshed on your fingers and fell everywhere all at once! So I had to fish out all the goopy bits from fourteen small sections of my box and throw out some of my other tablets that had also become soggy and learned my lesson. So NOW, I get out my scissors with my shaky fingers and cut out all the tablets of a ten tablet strip, fold each of the sharp corners of the square into the middle so that it’ll fit into the box compartment, then put it on top of all the other tablets, and try to jam the lid shut. P.S. DO NOT swallow the tablet still wrapped in foil! It has been done, but thankfully so far not by me. I think the sharp edges would give me the hint well before it got as far as my throat; or so I hope!

Epilim

So Valproate, I cut the strip into 10 squares, then fold the squares until they fit into the medication box with the other pills

But you’re a pharmacist, it’s probably easy for you?

I’m a pharmacist second, but a patient first. My systems and medication knowledge is invaluable in understanding my condition and sorting out my meds! In fact, I constantly wonder how people without that knowledge get by at all!! I say that because at times I feel like I’m barely keeping it together: what scripts do I need when I see the doctor (among all the other things I need to talk to him about!), what scripts do I have to take to the pharmacy to get dispensed this week, and when will I get there? What tablets are in low supply, do I have a current script for that? Have I got enough thyroxine downstairs in the fridge, an inconvenience to my medication box packing that the company did not consider strongly enough when developing their product?! Have I taken today’s tablets? Did I take the right time, like did I take the morning tablets in the morning or did I not look closely enough and accidentally take the sedating night time doses in the morning? Did I remember that I must not have fizzy drinks within two hours of taking valproate because it will dissolve much more quickly and make me drowsy? Loads of questions and loads of answers, and it’s still tricky matching them up properly!!

The many faces of scripts, handwritten, computer generated and the pharmacy yellow slip. And yes, my doctors have terrible handwriting!

The many faces of scripts, handwritten, computer generated and the pharmacy yellow slip. And yes, my doctors have terrible handwriting!

So here are my many systems.

A very short time into my Prep year, my teacher commented that I’d lose my head if it wasn’t screwed on! This wasn’t prophesy or prediction of how my life would turn out, but simply a comment on how I was then. I was only 5, but I remember it clearly. It was a kind of epiphany moment. She didn’t mean it maliciously, but it was a pretty apt saying at the time, and for quite a few years to come!

Being organised probably comes from my Dad’s side. Every week he would strip back his tradie van to the bare essentials, remove all the Coke bottles and get it stocked, clean and ready to go again. Of course a lot of his motivation was listening to a footy match on the radio on his own without noisy kids! He would come home at night and the messy house was a constant trial to his patience!! He would get up a head of steam and do a week’s worth of chores before dinner! We all just vanished into the paint work and let him get it done; making any kind of noise meant you might get a faceful of steam!! When I was in primary school, he taught me how to pack for a holiday systematically, starting from the feet and working all the way up to make sure you don’t miss anything. Shoes, socks, tights, skirts, tops, dresses, hair ties, hats etc. I used this for packing, but the rest of my life was less designed and more accidental. Rushing from place to place having too many things to physically fit into the hours of the day and accidents happening all over the place! That came from my mum. Surprisingly, since my mum’s mum is uber organized. Forgot my lunch, forgot my jumper, left my USB with my presentation at home, missed a deadline etc! None of this really taught me the life lesson you would think it should!

boxes, bottles, tablets, capsules

The real deal, all of my many tablet boxes and one bottle…and there’s one box in the fridge

Studying pharmacy was a revelation to me, and it really has gradually changed my approach to life. So has the last 12 years with my now-husband, who is very systematic and had taught me a lot about being organised. Pharmacists have to be so systematic that there is almost no possible way that an error can occur. Each of us has to work out our own system that doesn’t fail when curveballs come out of nowhere, but is a failsafe as much as possible. I’m not going to go through that because its tedious from the outside, but next time you’re waiting in a pharmacy, and they’ve told you the script is going to be 10 minutes even though that’s not possible, and you’re wondering what they’re doing, distract yourself wondering how that pharmacist is ensuring your health and safety.

pink bag, surprise, treat

Bag of medications disguised as something pink and desirable! Cunning

So my medication taking has become a system. It didn’t start that way, because at the start I was on one antidepressant. That doesn’t take a lot of managing apart from remembering to take it! Then I was on two antidepressants, one in the morning and one at night. That took a bit more remembering. Then the pivotal moment when I was diagnosed with bipolar and started on a mood stabilizer, and another one, and another one. It got too much to keep in my brain, so I took the old person option and got myself a medication box so that I could make up a week’s worth of pills at a time, and stay ahead of the game, instead of waking up in the morning to get ready for work, and finding I didn’t have any more of a tablet! Having to squeeze a trip to the pharmacy into my already tight getting-to-work schedule was essential, but stress-inducing!

medication box

Nearly done, got to visit the fridge and fold the silver squares

I have an up-to-date medication list that I’ve written on the back of the box, and that I keep a copy of in my handbag, and a copy of in the NPS Medicines app on my phone, and which I update after every doctor’s visit if any medication changes have happened. This is vital. If anything ever happens, the first thing your hospital pharmacist will ask for is your medication list. Having it up to date means increased safety for you. That’s the most important thing. We don’t want to give you something that will make you worse by allergic reaction or by interaction with your current meds or your medical conditions.

medication list

The ‘official’ medication list, updated every doctor’s visit…maybe I should type it out to make it look less made up!

Every week when there are only a couple of doses left in my box, I repack it according to my list. I cross check each tablet as I pack it, i.e. I take venlafaxine 450mg, which is 3 capsules of 150mg, so I check the list and pop out that many tablets. It sounds so easy, but an error right there could be catastrophic. Cross checking makes sure every prescribed medication ends up in the box, in the correct amount, at the correct time of day, every day. So I sit up on my bed and surround myself with boxes and strips and bottles, my list and my box. It’s actually a satisfying job, ticking each med off one by one and ending up with a neat and tidy box of lifesaving pills. I end up with a massive pile of rubbish, mostly in the form of popped out strips. Pharmacy isn’t exactly a green industry; the medications demand certain wrappings and changing that order would be unsafe.

medication box

Ready to go! Time to concentrate, accidents do happen but good idea if they don’t!

Unfortunately the names of the days have rubbed off the box and remembering the order wasn’t working so I had to relabel the medication spots. I ended up writing AM or PM as well, because a couple of times I’ve taken the morning medications at night and ended up not sleeping for hours, or taken the night meds in the morning and been doped out all day! That was because I started checking on autopilot and not really checking. So now reading the label of the dose reminds me, hopefully, whether I’m meant to take that dose or not.

System change #71! Always updating and changing to improve my safety

System change #71! Always updating and changing to improve my safety

Forgetting is a big part of my life now. I start a story and can’t remember why I was telling it, I can never remember names, I forget a conversation from earlier that day, and many other things. Pity help me if I get to 80!! My husband will have gone mad by then! So I have alarms. I’ve always done this since I only had one med. First it was an alarm that you switched off. Then I’d forget all the same. So I changed my alarm to being able to be snoozed three times. I’d snooze it three times, and forget! Procrastination much?? So I found the NPS (National Prescribing Service) excellent Medicines app and put some alerts in there for the morning and night. These can be snoozed endlessly so I know that it won’t let me forget!

reminders, alarms

The cool app from the good folks at the National Prescribing Service – recommended!

When it’s time for my tablets, I go to the box and look for the day and the time. I tip out all the tablets, and take the foil off the valproate. I count the tablets against the mental dose list, or actual dose list if I can juggle the tablets in one hand and box in another. I check that each tablet for that time of day is there, and in the right dose then scull them! My husband hates this, he thinks that I should take them one at a time, but that would take forever! I’d rather just get them down as quick as possible.

20150520_093805

I’ve developed a new system now. My alarms go off at 8.30am and 8pm. I’m meant to take my tablets when the alarm goes off, but however systematic I am I’m still a procrastinator. I know that my tablets are keeping me in the good life, and that without them I’d be in all kinds of awful, but there’s still that little part of me that doesn’t want the tablets, because it doesn’t want the illness! A small part of me that has the hopeful thought that maybe if I don’t take them everything will just go away. Of course that’s ridiculous! But it’s just how it is. So I snooze, and snooze, and snooze. Ridiculous and childish but there you have it! I can’t imagine how much more difficult it must be for people who don’t acknowledge their illness, are in denial, believe the medications are evil or unnecessary or poison, or are being medicated against their will.

My husband does a good job of asking me if I’ve taken my tablets, but my memory is absurd and I remember taking my morning tablets and say yes I’ve taken my night tablets. A couple of times I said yes yes, and I hadn’t taken them. So now, once I’ve taken them, the lid stays up, I don’t clip it down again, and so both of us at a glance can tell if I’ve taken them or not, no confusion.

Some are empty, some are closed and it helps me keep track and avoid slip ups

Some are empty, some are closed and it helps me keep track and avoid slip ups

Well that’s about all my systems. I try to avoid anything that relies on memory, and try to have a clear, repeatable, systematic way of keeping well. At the end of the day, its fingers crossed and trust in all the steps that have been taken to take care of me.

Hope you enjoy the pretty pictures!

Sunday Summary

Dear friends,

It has been a busy week! For me, I mean; probably not what you would call a busy week. I didn’t work at all, I didn’t get many chores done, and the most I did daily was get out of the house for an hour or two. That’s busy, for me.

I’m so happy that it worked out to be that way!

When I finished work three and a half weeks ago I was worried that the naturally “depressed state I was in about finishing work, together with my ongoing lethargy and tiredness, would result in me becoming a bed bound vegetable again.

Well again isn’t fair; I’ve never ever not gotten up at one point or another during the day. But with no definite reason to get up in the morning, my lack of motivation to get up unless there’s someone waiting on me, and the general listlessness of having no set purpose, I thought that there was a fair chance of me lounging around all day.

And it turned out to be that way for a few days. With nothing planned, with accumulated tiredness from keeping up with my shifts at work for six weeks when they consumed about the last ounce of my energy, and no reason why not to get up, I had some pretty massive sleep ins.

Until I missed my tablets one Sunday night! This happened in spite of the careful routine that I have built into my days after I had previous missed doses to prevent the same thing from happening again. Obviously there’s still a loop hole somewhere that I haven’t found but I’m working on it.

My routine is to weekly make up a medicine box with all the medications that I need to take both in the morning and at night. My pharmacist brain cross-checks the directions on the bottles and boxes with the number of tablets I put into each slot and then double check that I haven’t missed anything by comparing what I’ve packed with my complete list of medicines printed on the bottom of the box. My triple check is when I take each group of tablets and I count again to make sure I have it right.

I set this medicine box right next to my bed on my bedside table so that I should see it when I get up and when I go to bed; this should give me a visual prompt to take my tablets. But I don’t trust this system so I have set a morning and evening medication alarm in my phone. This can only be snoozed three times so I also have a medicines app that generates a reminder at 7am and 9pm for me to take my tablets. This can be snoozed to infinity I think, but the fact that I missed a dose makes me wonder if it actually does have a limit to being snoozed. I’m looking into this.

So the missed dose. You wouldn’t think it would make that much difference; it’s only one dose right? But it does make a difference, at least for me at this point while we’re still fine tuning the medications. Most times when I miss my tablets I end up getting upset over some little thing or teary for not much reason or get in a fight with my hubby! Poor hubby, he has to bear the brunt of everything! I think this reaction has been when I’ve missed my morning dose, which means I miss my antidepressant and my morning lithium dose.

This time I missed my evening dose. That means my evening lithium and my other sedating mood stabiliser. I’ve only ever done this once before. It’s never fun, because it means there’s nothing putting me to sleep! This time was terrible! I’m sure I had a maximum of 4 hours sleep but who knows. When you’re tossing and turning and can’t sleep and want to sleep, time loses all meaning! Poor hubby again, every time I tossed or turned he turned! But I physically couldn’t bear the sensation of lying still! It was awful! I just had to move and move and move and move!! I woke at 5am and tried to exist as quietly as possible til hubby was ready to get up. Then, so out of my recent character that it was laughable, I jumped out of bed fresh as a daisy at just after 7am and left the house before hubby! I was in my runners and leggings and I was off!

Compared to my recent sluggish, only-move-if-I-have-to, and even then moving snail’s pace, I was striding off to the park like I haven’t since I don’t know when, and paced out two laps! It was ridiculous to me even as I was doing it! But it was a fabulous feeling! I could move as fast as I physically wanted to for a change, instead of how fast I physically could through mud bearing heavy weights!!

Incredible! And so friends, this is mania. Or a sub form of it. You won’t see me like it often, unfortunately or fortunately, but you’ll know it when you see it. I’ll be smiling at all and sundry, grinning, laughing, putting out a decent amount of physical effort, having a great day! I’ll be chatting flat out, possibly jumping topics or getting distracted. I’ll be super effective and get many tasks done. I’ll be physically active and able to do a lot more activity than usual.

It’s a feeling that is addictive actually, I never want it to end…to start with! By the end of the day I was pretty sick of it actually because I could hardly sit still or rest, and was just feeling irritable, agitated and like I couldn’t possible tolerate having another night like that. By then the frustration tears were pretty close to the surface, but let me tell you I achieved a great days work! All three loads of washing done, some of it off the line and folded! The kitchen was sparkling clean; I’d cleaned the grout and the stubborn grease on the splash back. Lots of jobs attended to, a family visit where I chatted away like a…like a crazy person! Chat chat chat chat chat chat chat!

But I was glad to put it away. Not glad to go back to lethargy and anergy (absence of energy), but after all it’s a balance. You can’t have everything, so you have to decide on the most important things. Which is not being a whirling dervish, but a calm reasonable person not prone to snap decisions and excess!

My short point at the end of that long explanation was that it broke my bed rest habit and got me out into the sunshine, and the outside world. I watched the ducks paddle, saw the swallows come out to swoop and feed, found a magpie nest without getting swooped and in fact saw the magpie partner watching from on high at a distance. And remembered that I liked the outside and wanted to be out there, not inside all day.

Add to this a pep talk from my psychiatrist AND my GP in the same week about just getting outside, no agenda, no pressure, no panic about how I was feeling, just enjoyment…and the message was clear! Just enjoy it.

So I have enjoyed it! What a glorious week it has been!

Monday started slowly, but a late afternoon trip to Blackburn Lake Sanctuary yielded a fabulous hour of the new Musk Lorikeets ( see earlier post) plus an added hour of delightful favourites. Then a sleepover with our great friends and delightful bubba!

I just love love love this gorgeous Galah eating wattle photo!

I just love love love this gorgeous Galah eating wattle photo!

This is the cutest Noisy Miner sequence I've ever had - mother catches moth, baby screams for it, baby gets moth, mother leaves :) eucalypt

This is the cutest Noisy Miner sequence I’ve ever had – mother catches moth, baby screams for it, baby gets moth, mother leaves 🙂

Tuesday didn’t work out how I had thought it would, but a picnic on the banks of the Yarra river in delightful Warburton with several girlfriends and their cute kids is a pretty fine day if you ask me! In addition I got to see two lots of adorable ducklings and a fun Kookaburra.

Cute cute cute! Discovering the innocent joys of crawling up and down stairs, green grass

Cute cute cute! Discovering the innocent joys of crawling up and down stairs

More cute! Fluffy Wood Duck ducklings huddling on a rock in the Yarra River at Warburton

More cute! Fluffy Wood Duck ducklings huddling on a rock in the Yarra River at Warburton

Wednesday morning was a return to Blackburn Lake Sanctuary, the top end this time for some variety of bushland and birds. What a day it ended up with a Kookabura flinging a metre long snake around and many cute tiny birds that were hard to capture.

The fabulous post and rail fence that completely encircles my favourite Blackburn Lake Sanctuary

The fabulous post and rail fence that completely encircles my favourite Blackburn Lake Sanctuary

I spotted this Laughing Kookaburra and stopped for photos, didn't realise it was in the process of killing a snake!

I spotted this Laughing Kookaburra and stopped for photos, didn’t realise it was in the process of killing a snake!

I just love being in the Sanctuary - so pretty and lovely

I just love being in the Sanctuary – so pretty and lovely

Thursday, oh Thursday! This was a bucket list day with a girlfriend and it was amazing! Glorious day, two brand new birds that I’d never seen before, loads of flowers, a couple of moths and some damsel flies! Some amazing scenery, the awesome Kuranga native nursery, Birdsland reserve and a flash trip through the Dandenongs (see previous post).

Friday was appointment day and catch up with my old work mates day and getting my favourite bacon and egg sandwich and eating it in the gorgeous Fawkner Park. A picnic above Yarra Boulevard with my fabulous hubby and some new photo ops over the city as the sun set…wow! Can you beat that for a way to see out the work week?

The great outline of Melbourne city backlit by a cloud sunset, blue sky,

The great outline of Melbourne city backlit by a cloud sunset

The brilliant sunshine, the silhouette of a pretty tree and Melbourne - I love you

The brilliant sunshine, the silhouette of a pretty tree and Melbourne – I love you

Saturday was another girlfriend catch up and was great fun finding plover babies and getting swooped relentlessly by their parents! Then we went on a Loch Ness Monster hunt all around the Blackburn Lake and still aren’t sure exactly what was doing so much flashing and splashing and swimming…tbc, duln duln duulllln! We got a fabulous shot of a Spotted Pardalote by the path and had a great lunch at Gourmet Girl – what an awesome catch up! Over tea cooked by sensational hubby we heard and saw two Striated Thornbills in our minimal garden! I think they’re building a nest! Excitement!!

Mummy Masked Lapwing with tiny weeny baby - these must be very new because the plovers have been docile until this week; now they are savage!

Mummy Masked Lapwing with tiny weeny baby – these must be very new because the plovers have been docile until this week; now they are savage!

Not a clear shot but the beautiful front of a Spotted Pardalote

Not a clear shot but the beautiful front of a Spotted Pardalote

Sunday is rest day and I’m glad for that, but boy I am so glad for every bit of excitement and interest that has sprinkled my week and made it actually fun! And thanks to all my wonderful people who are there every day giving me a hand along, and making my life more amazing!

Funny side story. After looking back at the week in the detail above, it made me remember all the good things and I mentioned to hubby that I’d had an amazing week. His response was fascinating: “Really? Maybe the last couple of days have been okay but I thought you had a bad week.”

To which I, in the mood of putting all the good bits together and seeing them in clear focus and forgetting the rest, replied: “Really? But I’ve done all these amazing things.” So we had a chat and here’s another perspective moment – what’s in focus is really clear and the rest in lost in fog.

My hubby was remembering coming home to me still lost in my afternoon nap, to me not able to get my thoughts together enough for our weeknight Bible study, to him making dinner from scratch every single night of the week, to me as a blob instead of an enthusiastic lover, to me struggling to get enthusiastic about any physical activity; basically to him carrying the load of the relationship, the housework, being the bread winner and the carer for this weighty gal.

So yes, if you look at all the cool bits it was a great week. If you look at all the failures it would bring you to tears. If you see all that hubby did to get us both through the week, you like me would have overwhelming admiration for this great fella without whom I don’t know what awful state I would be in!

So my motivation for this new week is trying to even out the load for my good man, and continuing to have great days!

Hindsight

Everything seems obvious in hindsight; we often remark on this theme:

If only I’d known that beforehand…

Well it all seems clear in hindsight…

With hindsight I would have…

But that isn’t how the world works.

We do not have a crystal ball with magical views of life and what is to come. We don’t have a written score or script to tell us what the path will be and when each event will occur.

We have the blessing of life, and breath, and relative health and wealth, and a brain and body and have at it! Go to and create out of what you have, what you will.

Some people argue, probably very rightly, that if we could see the path that our life would be, we wouldn’t be anymore equipped to face it, and the unknown bad moments ahead would ruin our happiness right from the start rather than at the time.

Imagine how it would be if you knew before you were born or in your early life which of all of your loved ones would leave you in death or in circumstances. Would you draw away from them to protect yourself? Would you cling to them to try to make the most of every moment? Either way, and I’m betting there are many other ways that people would respond too, it would make life unnatural I think.

It’s a moot point of course since it’s an impossibility that we could ever have that knowledge, or any other similar knowledge of the types of experiences that face us in our life.

I believe that God is in Heaven and has set us on earth for his pleasure. I believe that Jesus came from Heaven to earth to live as we do with all our limitations, temptations and experiences. I believe that He himself was tempted in every possible way that a human could be tempted and still never sinned so that He could buy salvation and eternal life for us by his sacrifice. I believe that God has planned every teeny tiny step of my life, of your life, of every life. And I believe that if we ask, and it’s right for us to know, that God can give us a glimpse of some past, some future, some present obscured moment to help us better understand and cope with our life as we live it.

Not our whole life’s map or pathway or span. Just a glimpse to help us on to the next step. In eternity I think we will see why everything happened as it happened for God’s good reasons.

You may believe the same. You may believe differently. You may not have a belief about a greater being. That’s up to you.

What I’ve been thinking about today is hindsight.

Imagine if, say, eighteen months ago I had been able to look into my crystal ball and see my future.

At that time, I had been suffering fairly severe abdominal distress for four months or so with frequent, sudden, violent and painful bowel motions each day, terrible wind and muscle spasms on and off. I’d had tests done for bowel cancer, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and a bunch of other bowel and inflammatory conditions.

I’d had to give bowel movement samples and urine samples and have my blood taken. I was stressed to the max over all of these potential diseases, besides being embarrassed and inconvenienced by uncontrollable bowel movements, appalled at having to take poo samples, and absolutely shamed at having to hand these over to my doctor! My work was affected because I’d have to dash off to the loo in the middle of something and come back fifteen to thirty minutes later exhausted and horrified once more. My home life was affected by me having this uncontrollable loud angry painful stenchy monster inside of me that wouldn’t be calmed down even at crucial moments.

I was feeling pretty crappy about the whole situation!

I was given a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, a fructose elimination diet and a reassurance that I could return to the tummy specialist at any time in the next twelve months. So hindsight.

What if, at that point in time, someone had said to me, Danika, have you heard that irritable bowel syndrome is usually diagnosed when people have some kind of stress in their life that’s gone on for a while? Tell me about the things going on in your life that stress you out. What things are putting pressure on you at the moment? Is there a chance that you have been undergoing stress for some weeks or months? Tell me what we can do to manage or alleviate your stress.

If they had then reassured me that none of the diseases I’d been tested for were going to happen, had assured me of the success of the fructose elimination diet and how my symptoms would all go away, and referred me to have a chat with someone sympathetic and capable of helping me with my stress, maybe my path would have changed.

Then again maybe not; who knows?

If at that point in time they had said to me, Danika, here is your pathway for the next eighteen months: your bowels will improve on the new diet, but your immune system is compromised from stress so you’ll be more susceptible to minor but irritating afflictions like colds and yeast infections. You will be diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and truly stress about EVERYTHING; the medications don’t work that well and the one that works best you’ll have to stop because of bleeding. While you’re off medication you’ll get sick again and you’ll be diagnosed with depression; the new medications won’t work that well and you will eventually have a nervous breakdown before finally they find out you have bipolar disorder. This diagnosis will change your life because you’ll start new treatments and they’ll work marvelously and you will get well for the first time in eighteen months!

What would my reaction have been? I’m guessing it would have been, and certainly was along the way, oh no that’s terrible, I can’t possibly have or go through that! Or would I have been far sighted enough to look through the pain to the end and decide to go with the pathway shown? Probably not, we humans with myself as the main example are pretty jolly keen to avoid pain of ANY kind!

Would I say, wait, I can’t let that happen, and take leave from work straight away to recuperate and sort out my life, removing all the major stressors (which I did six months later but maybe too late)? Would that knowledge followed by these actions have stopped me from continuing along the pathway? Would I have only got to halfway down and no further? Would anything have kept me from reaching the endpoint I got to?

What if they’d only told me part of it: you will change your whole lifestyle and method of cooking to eliminate fructose and will completely overcome your bowel issues; however not having your bowels to stress over will shift your conscious awareness of stress to the actual source: working with high workloads, no extra workforce in sight and in a group of similarly stressed colleagues that are piling additional stress onto each other. You will stress over your work ad nauseum and to the nth degree and it will severely affect your sleep, your motivation, your energy levels and your commitment to your job and profession and your general joy for life.

What would I have done then? Would I have looked more closely at my work situation and realised months earlier than in real life that I was putting way too much energy and thought and adrenaline into a dead-end? Would I have realised way sooner that the situation was never going to change and was only going to become more and more toxic as I advanced to a more and more senior role and shouldered more and more of the responsibility? Would I have cut my emotional and sentimental ties months before I did, and saved myself anguish and conflict? Would I have found it much easier then to walk away before the chaos descended? What if…?

What if they’d told me this much? You will seek help for this stress through the employee assistance program with a delightful lady who will be your mother and guide for the next six months. Then neutropenia and recurrent infections will send you to the doctor who will ask how do you do? causing you to melt down into a panic attack and this will start the diagnostic pathway to generalised anxiety disorder. You will learn many methods of controlling displays of anxiety but you still aren’t conscious of the severe degree to which your work is affecting you. This will come and you will start accepting that you need to leave this septic workplace and find work elsewhere. You will do your best to handle all of these things together with a friend your own age dying suddenly bringing death right into the room, your mother’s diagnosis of breast cancer with subsequent surgery, chemotherapy (in a naturopathic, homeopathic, everything alternopathic system!), your major supports in the workplace also having to leave for their health’s sake and whatever else this bully of a life has to throw into the mix!

Surely by now you would do the bleeding obvious: quit your job, look for a new one, cut ties and uproot yourself and do an anti seachange! Which you did, at this time. So would knowing earlier really change things? Would anything have made you move and change sooner? I just don’t know.

I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. There are so many combinations and permutations of thoughts and actions and decisions and autopilot and words and instincts. Can the past ever by viewed from the present, and a different path traced? Can we ever say for certain what would have changed the outcome? I don’t believe that we can.

What I can do is suggest; I can infer; I can consider it very likely. But fortunately or unfortunately there is no going back and changing the path we took. It’s done; it’s fixed.

Regrets? It takes some consideration but actually, I don’t think so.

I wouldn’t have wished myself a nervous breakdown. I didn’t enjoy all of the stress that was actually placed or that I mentally thought was placed on my metaphorical shoulders. I never ever want to be within 10 miles of suicidal ever again if possible be ANY means!

But, the slippery slope that I skidded down and down and down led me to make decisions I would never have made otherwise, to seek out opportunities and advancements and personal development that I wouldn’t have thought necessary in different circumstances, and to change my thinking, my behaviour and my take on life to (hopefully) come out at the end with a splash into a new and improved life!

It might seem strange but there is so much that I wouldn’t have today if it weren’t for this pathway that I may or may not have gone down if I’d been a different person or acted differently in the past.

All for the best? In hindsight, yes I think it was 🙂

Recovery

 

“You will get there when you are meant to get there and not one moment sooner. So relax, breathe, and be patient.” -unknown

 

Last Wednesday was an interesting day for me.

Another new start, another new pursuit, another new hobby, another new lifestyle angle.

I began a new journey, a new pathway towards I don’t know what exactly. I participated in my very first formal mindfulness class.

When I was in my first year of university and had my first panic attack, I went to see the campus counsellor. She was a really sweet lady and helped me through some difficulties, frustrations, emotional strain and odds and ends in our one-on-one sessions. She also got me involved in a lunchtime class where we tried meditation and mindfulness as stress reduction methods.

I don’t have a very clear memory of that time; I had a lot going on I guess. But I do remember one mindfulness exercise that we did with a mandarin and I’ve gone back to that a few times over the years since then.

This year and last year while I’ve been seeing a psychologist pretty frequently the idea of mindfulness has come up briefly a few times and the last time I was able to borrow a mindfulness CD from my counsellor by well known Dr Craig Hassad, lecturer at Monash University. That was a good reminder of what mindfulness is and how it can be used.

So now I’m doing this class for two and a half hours every Wednesday for eight weeks. So far, I’m very happy. The lovely group leader is a practical, kind lady who has made me feel very at home and the other members of the group all seem like they are very nice as well. I was a bit worried that it might be really alternative and other worldy, like rituals and incence and weird stuff; but thankfully its all very normal and logical and helpful.

We arrived on a freezing cold morning to a delightful old church done over for other uses. Not only was the heating on high but we were able to help ourselves to lovely fleece blankets that had been warming in front on one heater to keep ourselves soft and cozy! Plus cushions and pillows; how lovely! Off to a good start!

What I’ve been thinking about most is not the course so much, but how I introduced myself to the other ladies; no men in this particular course. My introduction of myself was that over the last year or so I’ve been progressively diagnosed with anxiety disorder, depression and now bipolar disorder. I told the other ladies that I’m now in the recovery phase of resting, starting medications, having doses changed and getting used to medicines.

Recovery phase.

Interesting.

When I got home that day I thought about that a bit more. And realised something. I tell other people that I’m in the recovery phase; resting, medications etc but I don’t let my brain get that memo. I’m telling myself a whole other message, which is hurry up and get your stuff together because your life is waiting for you and it won’t wait much longer!

See? A whole other message!! And quite a lot more stressful! So time to help myself out.

Danika, you are in the recovery phase.You can rest, you can allow time the healer of all things to have its place to work. You can allow medications to take their effect, you can attend your appointments with your doctor, psychiatrist and psychologist. You can go to your photography course, your mindfulness course, to free meditation class, on bird watching walks, on interesting day trips and excursions. You can take naps when you need them, rest when you are tired, socialise if you have the energy.

Can you take five minutes to realise how amazing this is? You have free rein to do whatever you feel like to help yourself and heal yourself!

Don’t think about how you can’t do everything that you want to, don’t worry about your limitations, don’t get put off by tiredness or weakness or feebleness. You can do whatever you feel like and are up to with whatever resources you have. That is amazing!

And make a new attempt at perspective, please. You have been on six different antidepressants on less than a year, each one taking a month to six weeks to show its full effect then needing to be washed out and a new one started. You have been on varying doses of a mood stabiliser since March and each dose or formulation change had its own issues. Remember that you started lithium not even eight weeks ago, and that the last dose change was just three weeks ago!

Three weeks. That’s not forever ago, you aren’t taking forever to get better, please remember that you are still taking step after step and every change takes some kind of toll, so you need time to roll through each new wave of turbulence.

 

 Don’t even think about work.

 

Those are the words from the psychologist provided with my insurance.

 

Don’t even think about it. Just relax, take it easy, take your time, get yourself better.

 

At my last psychiatrist visit we checked in again about my colossal weight gain and high cholesterol. He’s still thinking about putting me on a cholesterol lowering drug.

 

Its pointless trying to diet and exercise right now with all the changes in medication. You aren’t going to be able to do much about it until we get you stable.

 

Stable. We aren’t there yet. You are still in the figuring out what’s what and getting everything straightened out stage. You’re still adjusting to having this condition, and having to take medication twice every day and having to take life at a different pace.

But as always, instead of taking the psychiatrist’s words face value, I debated with myself and am still debating whether using that information is a cop out, and maybe I can do more about it than I think, and maybe I’m just being lazy and not trying etc. Typical!

But no, rest, relax, take advantage of this amazing time that you have. You’re young, you have time to fix your cholesterol, time to fix your weight, it doesn’t have to happen three weeks after changing doses of lithium! Sure, if you have the emotional and physical energy you can small changes now, but let’s resolve to postpone the big changes until 2015!

You’re in the recovery phase. You’re only job right now, is to recover. So off you go, recover. Rest, relax, enjoy, feast on this unexpected piece of time that’s been given to you, make the most of having very few responsibilities and hardly any “have to” claims on your time. Recovery.

Saturday and Monday

I have been having some great days lately.

At my last visit with the psychiatrist he assured me that despite having poor energy and motivation, he felt I was 75-80% of the way to recovery.

He increased my lithium dose minutely and organised to have a blood level taken after 5 days at the new dose. That was Saturday morning. I see him this Thursday and I’m feeling so excited because for the first time in a long time I feel like I’m making real, sustainable, predictable, reliable progress.

I feel like I’m getting my life back!!

This is a big statement but it’s really, truly real.

I’m not all the way there but I’m so much better than I have been for a long time.

So Saturday I had the blood test. My long disused pharmacy knowledge is begging to be used so excuse the following jibber jabber.

Lithium is a tricky medication. For a lot of medication, you start at a certain dose, then increase by certain increments and the effect of the medication increases at the same rate as the dose to a set maximum dose.

For lithium and a few other medications, you start at a certain dose, then increase at ever smaller and smaller amounts because the removal of the drug from the body is limited and once the removal process is used up, more dose increases quickly lead to toxicity. For these medications there may not be a set maximum dose for all people as it depends on an individual person’s removal processes, or metabolism.

So a blood concentration or level is used to ensure that the medication is between under dose and overdose limits. These levels are determined during development of the medication for use or during clinical trials.

The blood test has to be taken at the right time so that the result is meaningful. In the case of lithium, the range we use to determine whether the drug is working but not toxic is established as a “trough” level. This means you take the blood test just before the next dose is due when most of the medication should have been removed by the body’s metabolism. If the body’s metabolism has been used up or “saturated” then the trough level will be higher than it should be and the patient is at risk of toxic side effects like blurred vision, unsteadiness, possible vomiting, diarrhoea etc. In fact the patient may already be experiencing these so the doctor will talk to the patient about side effects that they are experiencing plus look at the blood level result to get a clearer idea of what is going on.

The other part of taking a blood test is that it has to be timed correctly to when the dose was last increased. If the dose is increased today and we take a blood test today, the effect of that increase won’t be shown. If we look at the level and increase the dose based on that, we will have acted prematurely and risk the patient getting toxic side effects. So with each medication, there is a length of time between a dose change and when the level should be taken called the steady state. Consider it to be the time it takes for the higher dose to come to equilibrium or to spread out through the body so that it is present everywhere in the body to an equal degree.

For lithium, steady state is 5 days so the blood test must be taken at least 5 days after the last dose change.

Well that’s got that out of my system!

So to have the blood test at trough state, I have to be at the blood collection centre by 8.15am on Saturday. The reason for this is that I took my medications the night before at 8.15pm. Meaning I had to wake up at 7.30am! Good plan, very hard to follow through!! But I had the additional incentive that my hubby was going mountain bike riding and had promised to take me along so that I could go bird watching. I’d wanted to head out to King Lake for bird watching for a while so I was excited for that.

So I forced myself out of bed, through the shower and into the car without breakfast. I also had to have a fasting blood test. I packed my tablets and some food in with my fleece-lined coat and camera and off we went.

I won’t show a lot of my photos from Saturday at Smith’s Gully, just the new birds. But I wanted to say that we left home at 8am and returned at 4pm and I did okay!! This is so exciting for me! I didn’t tire out, I didn’t sit in the car and wait for the boys to get back, I didn’t feel exhausted, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t do what I wanted to do!

I did have a nap when we got home, then went out again for tea with my hubby. But I had walked and walked, I took photos for hours, it was pretty freezing cold, I didn’t have any lollies or chocolates or my other usual treats, I didn’t get grumpy or tired or feel worn out.

What a great day!!

The beautiful Queenstown Cemetery housing old-time gold rush prospecters

The beautiful Queenstown Cemetery housing old-time gold rush prospecters

Gorgeous yellow bulbs growing wild and free in the bush

Gorgeous yellow bulbs growing wild and free in the bush

I loved the beautiful gum bark, looks so much like a watercolour painting, and serendipitously shot an Eastern Rosella!

I loved the beautiful gum bark, looks so much like a watercolour painting, and serendipitously shot an Eastern Rosella! See top left corner

Mother and baby Eastern Grey Kangaroo across the paddock, as soon as I pointed my camera they all looked! So observant, gum trees, grass

Mother and baby Eastern Grey Kangaroo across the paddock, as soon as I pointed my camera they all looked! So observant

Large male Eastern Grey Kangaroo bounding across the paddock, grass, trees

Large male Eastern Grey Kangaroo bounding across the paddock

Beautiful country scene in Smith's Gully, lily pond under the gum trees, grass, reeds

Beautiful country scene in Smith’s Gully, lily pond under the gum trees

One of the many beautiful scenes of the winter sun showing through the gum trees

One of the many beautiful scenes of the winter sun showing through the gum trees

Group of Eastern Grey Kangaroos bounding across the green grass, gum tree

Group of Eastern Grey Kangaroos bounding across the green grass

A tiny litting bird that I've been trying to identify with a good photo for a while! I believe it is a Striated Thornbill; alternate opinions welcomed :)

A tiny flitting bird that I’ve been trying to identify with a good photo for a while! I believe it is a Striated Thornbill; alternate opinions welcomed 🙂

Striated Thornbill with a grub, the longest one sat still all day!!, tree branch

Striated Thornbill with a grub, the longest one sat still all day!!

Male Superb Fairy Wren in the bush, not new but always stunning!, grass, trees, bushes

Male Superb Fairy Wren in the bush, not new but always stunning!

A gorgeous Treecreeper that I have never seen before, I think its the White-Throated Treecreeper, tree branch, leaves

A gorgeous Treecreeper that I have never seen before, I think its the White-Throated Treecreeper

An accidentally amazing shot of a Grey Fantail in full flight!, tree, branch

An accidentally amazing shot of a Grey Fantail in full flight!

A day of rain, cloud, and the odd gorgeous blue sky :), dam, green grass, gum trees, clouds,

A day of rain, cloud, and the odd gorgeous blue sky 🙂

Mother and Joey Eastern Grey Kangaroo, so beautiful! green grass, eucalyptus

Mother and Joey Eastern Grey Kangaroo, so beautiful!

Beautifully delicate wattle sprig - looks like Spring!

Beautifully delicate wattle sprig – looks like Spring!

Sunshine, blue sky and everything is green, green, green, gum trees, shadows, green grass

Sunshine, blue sky and everything is green, green, green

Then Monday, after a slower Sunday. I’d organised to go for a walk with my Grandma at Blackburn Lakes. A couple of new birds, and so many kookaburras!!

A Noisy Miner is a very common sight but I just love this cute shot!, pink flowering gum tree

A Noisy Miner is a very common sight but I just love this cute shot!

I find these sky shots really fetching, I have taken a few lately but this one really draws me in, gum tree

I find these sky shots really fetching, I have taken a few lately but this one really draws me in

Australian Magpie, common but still awesome

Australian Magpie, common but still awesome

Juvenile Australian Magpie singing away, gum trees

Juvenile Australian Magpie singing away

A nesting mother Dove or Pidgeon sitting on its nest

A nesting mother Dove or Pidgeon sitting on its nest

Pair of Kookaburras sitting in a tree, gum tree, euclypt

Pair of Kookaburras sitting in a tree

Common Noisy Miner again, but how pretty are those wings? Sadly mis-timed! dead tree

Common Noisy Miner again, but how pretty are those wings? Sadly mis-timed!

Gorgeous pink native flower, not sure what but its so cute

Gorgeous pink native flower, not sure what but its so cute

Beautiful serene Blackburn Lake

Beautiful serene Blackburn Lake

Pretty Blue Iris flower probably sown by birds

Pretty Blue Iris flower probably sown by birds

Some kind of fungal growth on a tree

Some kind of fungal growth on a tree

Is this our state floral anthem? Its a type of native bell flower

Is this our state floral anthem? Its a type of native bell flower

A new bird to me, the Golden Whistler, a stunning bright yellow!, gum tree

A new bird to me, the Golden Whistler, a stunning bright yellow!

Pretty little Flame Robin showing off its bright colours

Pretty little Flame Robin showing off its bright colours