Canberra Day Thirty Nine

[Wednesday 19th October, 2016]

New day, new plan. We parked near the glassworks in Kingston on Saturday during our ride and it seemed like a good place to check out. We stopped off at a glassworks in the north island of New Zealand when we were there a few years ago and were so amazed at the fabulous creations the artist made there. We brought a vase home which featured a landscape of the area blown into the design, which I still love! Too good to use! So this was an interesting comparison. It is housed in the original power plant and still has the massive coal hoppers, and the building is the oldest permanent building in Canberra apparently. This is a very different space to the arty crafty boutique single man operation we saw. There were at least 4 kilns running when I was there, and 4 artists working on their products: shot glasses, vases, and some fascinating looking things that has a purpose not obvious to me. I sat and watched for ages, it’s incredible to see the red glowing glass coming out of the kiln (or whatever its called) and going clear, then adding colours…brilliant! Then there’s the whole cold work room, but sadly no one was there working on the grinders and what not. You can do a class, I’m definitely tempted; we’ll see.

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A group project: one person rolling the pipe back and forwards to keep the soft glass from settling in one direction, one person blowing from the back and one person using the thick wet fireproof cloth to shape and mould the glass!

I did another ride to and from my tourist destination today, and added in a loop around the lake through the ever beautiful Jerrabomberra wetlands and home; 20km all up. That’s a good addition to my New Zealand preparation! I’m getting better at accepting the option of riding instead of getting in the car, which shows I’m getting a bit more flexible, which shows I’m going better. All great news to me when I think about it! I drove out to Rodney’s nursery at Piallago to try the steak and kidney pie I’d seen on the menu on Sunday but it was very disappointing! 1 piece of kidney, 3 bits of steak then a whole potato and a rasher of bacon with loads of gravy! More accurately described as potato and bacon pie! Oh well. Nap time, hubby working late because of his client, off to the gospel meeting by myself for the first time and got there and on time! Quick catch up and late dinner at home, then bed. The days go so quickly!

Canberra Day Thirty Four

[Friday 14th October 2016]

Today was a great day! Not every moment, but wouldn’t that be asking a bit much in ordinary situations? But the not-so-great moments got turned around to become something good so all in all I’m stoked. I really enjoyed myself today! It started with a plan of what to do for the day. The last couple of days have been less than productive, which I don’t enjoy, and after all its day 34; time is cracking along! More than a month already, can you believe it? On days where I wake up and don’t have a plan for the day, they tend to be the days that I roll over and go back to sleep, because why not, and drift aimlessly through to early afternoon before making up my mind about what to do then having to rush about to do it, or missing the chance. So I decided Thursday night that before I went to bed I was making a plan, and when morning came I was sticking to it. The plan that Chester and I came up with was to wake up, get dressed in my cycling gear and ride my bike down to one of the streets in our new suburb that has a lot of eateries. I would go to Eighty Twenty café that hubby recommended and have breakfast, then check out the bike path that runs along Sullivan’s Creek, somewhere that I’d seen and wanted to check out, and that hubby has ridden part of, I think. And I did! Add in the bonus of remembering to call at the bike shop and get a bracket so I can attach my mobile phone to my handlebars for GPS on the go. Minus not actually navigating my way successfully to Sullivan’s Creek after my phone went flat and rendered my new bracket moot!! I haven’t really got my directions at this new place, and all the through roads around here have bends in them! What a crazy situation! So you just think you’ve gotten your bearings and the road take a 45 degree bend! Now where are you? But in the process I was in sensory heaven soaking up the lush green budding and leafy trees forming avenues over the roads, and the beautiful flowering gardens in all colours with some trees still blossoming, and well-kept front areas of houses in our neighbourhood, and probably the bordering suburbs as well; not really sure where I went! Eventually I hit Anzac Avenue which was somewhere well in the wrong direction from where I was meant to be, then my phone died, so I had a lovely meandering time trying to figure out how to get home! It was actually just so nice to dawdle around checking out the gardens and lawns, and taking detours wherever I wanted. Luckily I’d picked up some names of street nearby to ours already…remembering this is day 3 living in this new place!

I got home and felt like I could go for more so I did another street and luckily came around the block back again. All up about 9km but just a good amount to get going again. I haven’t ridden for a couple of weeks with rain, then wind, then pervasive disinterest! So it was good to feel like I can still do it, and still get that nice little spike of feel good from rolling around the suburbs on my bike. Plus the weather just turned any outdoor activity into sheer bliss! 20 degrees, chill breeze, blue skies making for great biking. That ride set me up for the rest of the day. Everything else good that happened after felt like it happened because of the ride.

I mentioned breakfast was at Eighty Twenty in Braddon on Lonsdale Street. Quite lovely, but I found the menu a bit challenging; not your standard egg and bacon! More your quinoa, nuts, almond milk, home baked granola type place, but in the end I did have their smashed avocado on toast with 2 eggs and 3 bits of asparagus on top and peas and feta around the plate. It was delicious actually, I’d have it again for sure. Just to show you can have eat-out breakfast without bacon! Sitting in the sun with my bike next to me did fill me with some feelings of accomplishment. Here I’d planned this thing that I’d been putting off really for the last week or two, and I was doing it! I can follow through. I’m not a wash out, a failure, useless. I can do it, and the proof is that I did do it! So nothing to stop me next time, hey? Except carrying my bike down the stairs from our level one apartment; that’s not an easy feat! I guess practice makes perfect.

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SO what else to do on a sunshiny day but tackle something I’ve been wanting to do: check out the Mount Ainslie lookout. I went once before you might remember but it was in a cloud and you couldn’t see a single thing! Today you could see forever or to the beautiful blue hills that border Canberra. Blue skies, sunshine, and the view is spectacular! Always worth the short drive up. I went planning on getting view photos only, but thought I’d walk along a short track back from the lookout itself, heard a bird and it was an hour and a half later when I looked up! Only two rows of trees, one on either side of me, one tree deep, but I got some spectacular birds! Great photos and extended views of a bird I’ve only seen once and got one muffled shot of that first time, a lifer in a Little Eagle soaring above (that was exciting, never forget to look up!), and other interesting birds being very conducive to photos! And I didn’t even have to try, they were all just there, going about their business. The best way to watch birds!

Went home for a nap, but was too excited to look at the photos from the morning. That was a task well worth doing because I found there were 2 different species of bird that I’d photographed but hadn’t realized what they were! Two more for the morning’s list! I knew they were something different but they were too far away; luckily my camera brings them closer J

It was all too exciting, so after a couple of hours I headed back to find the actual trail. Not the Kokoda trail near the lookout; that’s for mountain goats! So I headed down the hill looking for a trail. Not the old tip trail, it’s too rough and large gravel and steep; I’d do an ankle! Not the next one down; its appears to go into the shooting range from the back! So it turns out that the trail I did way back last year when we were here for our hosts wedding was the best one, and the one I should be doing. They need to make a brochure like they have for Black Mountain; it would save a lot of precious birding time, wandering all around everywhere. The first half of the walk was in the wrong direction really, but because there weren’t many/any birds other than the pesky Noisy Miners (!) I kept up a bit of pace and did a pretty nice 2km walk before (re) finding the best spot. So I had my eyes open to other things: rabbits, kangaroos, a cute echidna! And everlasting daisies, tons of them! They are all just about to open the buds; I’ve made a date to go back next week and check it out.

Two successes of my later birding walk were walking alone in the bush (although I have been building a tolerance to this with lots of walks lately, this one was a bit more removed from carparks and passersby) and walking alone in the bush at dusk approaching dark. My recent anxiety flare up has brought these closer to the front of my mind again which is a pest! I’d squashed them down nicely for quite a while. I’ve always been terrified of the monsters in the dark. We had an outside toilet as kids and whatever age I was I’d still wake one of my parents to go with me. But it didn’t stop me having to bite the bullet of the adrenaline rush that was running from the back door to the toilet door in the direct and utterly exposed lie of fire of those who waited at 2am on the other side of the green mesh wall to gun me down for some unapparent reason!! I was always terrified of gun men, and kidnappers, and rapists. I still am to a degree, but I’m more rational in questioning the reason: a) why anyone would want to shoot me, b) why they would wait in the cold all night right there near the toilet in case I needed to go to the toilet, c) how they would know the layout of our house and toilet, d) why they would shoot a child with a shot gun (the only gun I knew, and so assumed they had) and so on. If you start thinking like this it does all start to crumble, but you have to make that conscious switch to think like that, which is indeed the challenge. Anyhow, you’ll be pleased to hear that no thugs or bandits were crouched behind tree stumps in an enormous area populated by a whole 2 walkers waiting to loot us and so on. I returned to my car, by this time practically in the dark, unharmed, and with only a little adrenaline coursing through my veins. And so concluded my happy day! Exercise, the beautiful outdoors, challenging myself to eat outside my comfort zone, finding my way around new suburbs unaided, beauty and birds to be photographed; how lucky am I? A low key dinner and sitting on the couch to end a wonderful day.

Canberra Day Twenty Four

Tuesday 4th October, 2016

Aaahh! Another satisfying day. A bit of a different day today. I wanted to do the early bird walk around Floriade with the Heart Foundation. It’s a free thing where you get early entry into Floriade at 8am for a group brisk walk around the gardens while they’re free of all the other tourists. Photos optional, to be taken after the walk; it’s meant to be a heart healthy exercise not just gawping. The weather was meant to be windy but dry so it seemed like a good plan. I’m trying to get back into my routine of early morning starts so this was going to be good. I just forgot to plan for it! No alarm, no wakey wakey! Luckily hubby got back from his 5am bike ride in time to wake me up, but obviously you need to get there early because when I turned up at 8.02am there was no sign of them!

Hubby had said go for a walk anyway, good plan, but it was feeling very early to me so instead I headed home and went back to bed for a couple of hours. Felt brilliant when I woke up! So off I went to the other walk that I’ve had in the back of my mind for a week or so: Mulligan’s Flat. A very deceptive name; it’s not very flat and no one seems to know exactly who Mulligan is! But anyway, they have a fabulous nature reserve, some of it contained in kangaroo fencing and so I’d planned to have a look around. I wanted to do a walk for myself and to please hubby, and I wanted to see some exciting birds, but I was feeling sluggish. But after 500m or so I perked up when I entered the gate and picked up my bird walk map from the mailbox and off I went. I did realise it was 6km from the map, and didn’t really think I’d do it all, but I did! It turned out that it was a loop so after a certain point you kind of have to keep on going! I was dressed for it which helped, and the birds were fantastic! And the echidnas, and the kangaroos, and the landscapes, and the numbered points along the track describing different birds and habitats and interesting facts! All of that kept me going but still it was 4.5hours later when I stumbled back to the car!! Far out, that has to be a record!! I don’t think I’ll be able to move tomorrow! But it’s all very exciting because the last time hubby and I inadvertently did 7km it was very difficult. Of course at different points I wanted to sit down, stop for a bit etc but I got through it well, the incessant wind, the rain showers becoming plain rain at the end, the huge big male red kangaroo standing guard, and the flooded pathways requiring shoes and socks to come off and bare feet to tackle the inundated mud, grass, gravel paths under an ankle to mid calf height of water. I did it all! I really am going well, and its so satisfying!!!

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Today I got 3 lifers [5th October: correction 4 maybe 5 lifers!!!] (birds that I’ve never seen before in my life)!!! Rufous Whistler, Superb Parrot, Speckled Warbler!!! Amazing! This is what I hoped for when we came to Canberra; new species of birds in new types of habitat. And I’m getting it, fantastic! I realise that this may not be half as interesting to you as it is for me, but try to supplement whatever excites you in place of my birds.

Then I went and got a large Coke and slurped the whole thing, went back to my current house and after trying to remain awake, gave up and went and had another nap before dinner. A delicious dinner of chicken parmas with mash and vegies, looking through my 700 photos of the day and finally this! After midnight. How’s tomorrow’s early bird walk looking?

Canberra Day Sixteen

26th September, 2016

Another not-so-Canberra day. It was a bit of touch and go today actually, a bit of a struggle mood wise and energy wise. Today was an ACT public holiday so we’d gone away to NSW where it wasn’t a public holiday, and that plan went pretty well. There’d been a lot of people about on Sunday but it was quiet today. So quiet that the kitchen at the hotel was closed for breakfast, but there was a nice cafe up the road surprisingly so all good; it’s a pretty small town so we weren’t sure what to expect. This was all after I got up, which took several attempts. I’d set my alarm to 7am so I could go birding early while hubby was out on a bike ride. I managed to sit up and go through a bunch of local birding websites and pick out where I wanted to go before slumber forced my eyes shut. I lay down at 8am thinking I’d have another hour til hubby got back, but he got back early; good for him, a struggle for me to get my wits together and uncross my eyes and heave myself up out of bed!

So, no birding. I’d feel disappointed if I could convince myself that I would have actually gone. But I know that really, I liked the idea but wasn’t up for the reality. It was more of a sit-in-the-passenger-seat-and-admire-the-scenery type day. Which is more or less how it went, with the occasional magnificent sandstone cliff and huge Fitzroy waterfall thrown in for some tourist appeal! We drove out of Shoalhaven Heads through the cute tourist town of Berry, drove up and down Berry Mountain with beautiful rainforest scenery and steep roads at the top, and lush farmlands at the bottom.We stopped in Goulburn for lunch, admiring the old fashioned shop fronts and enjoying a nice cafe across from a brilliant display of tulips in the park. Then a quick stop to look out over Lake George, but it was chilly so back in the car for a nap on the way home, then back home for another nap and wait for the day to end. Hopefully a more energetic and inspired day tomorrow!

Of course my inclination is to go through the whys and wherefores, but I’m not sure that I’d get anywhere today. Could I have taken my tablets earlier and not been so hungover? Yes. Could I have gone to bed earlier and been less tired? Yes. Did having a fight with hubby last night drain my energy? Possibly. All probable cause and effect, but I can’t prove for sure what wore me out so its better to move on. I’ll aim to take my tabs and get to bed earlier, and sort out arguments earlier in the day. Good luck with that, me!

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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.