Ode To Mental Health Professionals (And Their Funding)

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On this International Day of Mental Health awareness it seems apt to pay homage to the two people who have saved my head, and almost certainly my life, on some very hard days.  This is not your typical Thank you Speech.  No one can play the music to hurry me up or cut to an ad.  And Kanye cannot take the mic from my hand.

Through the combined efforts of my GP, Worksafe and the insurance company of my employer, I have sought the help of/been mandatorily sent to see a few professionals over the last five years.  The first GP I saw looked terrified and had a generally nervous demeanour which given the subject matter was problematic to say the least.  I saw his neighbour at the same practice and here we are today.  My GP is always in a hurry, as so many are, but he is one in a million.  When you have to see someone every month for a ‘mental health update’ and a new Medical Certificate for Worksafe you get to feel comfortable.  Our meetings are routine.  A part of my schedule. Every time I go, I think, huh that’s a month gone!  There are other times where I think Dear God, it’s soooo long until I can tell him this. My son has grown up in front of his eyes along the way.  My doctor has an eye on us both and was so amazing when I was pregnant and trying to stay on at work.  I would be crying so hard and refusing a Medical Certificate until he just said NO MORE one day.  I am grateful he was there to stop me when I couldn’t stop myself.  He is always on at me to exercise more and I’m like, Dude…still trying that gym thing?  I don’t know how many people see their local doctor and get to laugh like I (almost always) do.  He’s a gem.  And I am virtually unable to try for a laugh from any crowd, clearly.

There’s one other professional who has been integral to my mental health for a couple of years now.  I have seen so many random counsellors, psychologists and ugh psychiatrists that I know a good egg when I meet one.  This woman is one of the best.  We fit beautifully.  And she knows her shit.

The person I am talking about is a Mental Health Nurse.

Mental Health Nurses work in collaboration with your GP to provide supportive care through a range of services including counselling, home visits, mood and medication monitoring, group work and community integration.  MHN work with people who require long term support and engagement.  You can access the services of a MHN through a referral from your treating doctor.   In my experience, appointments are flexible, forgiveness always forthcoming when you forget the time again and they are always contactable via mobile phone.  There is more about the MHN Incentive Program here.

My gorgeous MHN works from a variety of locations and makes home visits.  I am permanently wondering if I’m at the right place (possibly, so is she) but I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the flexibility and accessibility of such a service.  Now most days I am pretty together and making myself presentable is a large factor in feeling confident enough to go out and be seen in public (lest any of the school community argh see me).  I don’t mean that in a rude or patriarchy-victim way – just to say that it is a part of my coping mechanism and how I work.  The people a MHN sees in a day make up one motley crew, I can tell you.  The needs and quirks of each person would cover such a spectrum that a Mental Health Nurse requires broad training, experience and a personality that is able to engage with all of us successfully.  This woman: she’s got it in spades!  This isn’t a love letter but here is what she offers me.  She is so warm and gentle, always smiling and engaging.  In her eyes I see focus, on me, on what I’m expressing.  I see empathy.  Genuine care and concern.  Once or twice I have seen them get a teeny bit watery when I’m really getting raw.  I cannot speak for anyone else but when you are raging about being silenced and lied about and there you are, just a pile of stripped back hurt, to see some feeling reflected back in the eyes of the person you’re confiding in is extremely important.  Acknowledgement.  Validation.  Life.  Thank Christ!  you think, It does sound as shitty as I think it does!  I’m not imagining it!  And you don’t want to tell just anyone about what Your Weakest feels like so it is important to know that they have human feels.  (I’m giving a nod here to the psychiatrists in the Worksafe system.  Well done, you, on becoming robots with prescription pads!)  My MHN also wears jingly-jangly silver bracelets and asks if she can eat her mandarin in front of me and I completely adore her.

The critical difference I have found that sets this service apart from the rest (when I’m not dazzled by shiny objects on her arm) is the combination of supportive counselling practice and a genuine knowledge of medications and therapies.  Supportive Therapy as opposed to Prescriptive (hi, psychiatrists!) or simply Analytical (Worksafe – how you doin’?).  She cares.  She hears me.  She notices little things that may be cause for celebration or alarm…she keeps tabs on me.  She explores new avenues of help, ideas from her colleagues and frequent training and I also benefit from the wide range of service users that she works with.  People young and old, intellectual and physical differences, addicts working on getting sober to war veterans with PTSD.  This broad knowledge of mental health practice and human experience she bears witness to through her work makes for a completely wonderful form of medicine.  Human Medicine.

Who’d have thunk it, eh?  People do better when they are treated by and as…individual people!  Hurrah!

Dear lady, whose name I can’t use (and it’s killing me, Mum always said “‘she’ is the cat’s mother!”), I am so grateful for your presence in my life.  You have helped me in so many ways.  I am better and stronger for having spent time with you and whoever else you work with is equally blessed.  Your positive impact on lives cannot be measured…who knows how working with you may affect my ability to make changes, take risks and build a new identity for myself?  It cannot be quantified nor given monetary value.  Which brings me to my next point.  This.  Australian.  Government.

The MHNiP is facilitated by Medicare Locals and Federally funded.  I pay nothing (nor does Worksafe or the insurance company, mind) for this assistance.

Introduced in 2011, there are 61 Medicare Locals in Australia — independent, federally-funded offices that co-ordinate primary health care at local levels.  That may sound like bureaucrat-speak. But it’s a solution to the fact many communities have disconnected health services that don’t really talk to each other or share information.  Medicare Locals bring them together, facilitating things like after-hours GP care. They also tailor services to individual community needs — think non-English speakers, Indigenous Australians, the socio-economically disadvantaged, the elderly, and so on.

Source: PolitiFact website

In 2012, the Liberal Party (that’s conservative for you international folks, not ‘liberal’ as you may know the word) announced they would “not proceed with” the Medicare Local system if elected, questioning its validity and suggesting it was an unnecessary “layer of bureaucracy”.  By May this year the position was officially that the system would be “under review” by an incoming Liberal government. I think we know what that means *arched eyebrows*  The future of Medicare Locals, after so much work to introduce them without disruption to service users and umpteen changes to the workplace for the Mental Health Nurses themselves, was raised during the recent Federal Election campaign.  The man who would become our next PM (that’s Tony Abbott #sadface) stated to a surprised audience that he guaranteed no Medicare Locals would close under his government. Abbott said they had initially wanted to abolish the program but now would concede to conducting a review – but no offices would close. At the official launch of the Liberal Party Health Policy (Australians, LOL with me here) it was declared that official health policy launch that “while the Medicare Local system may not be shut down, individual offices weren’t guaranteed” (source as above).

I don’t feel full of confidence – do you?

Medicare Locals provide frontline services in consultation with GPs and other healthcare professionals which are flexible and seek to meet the needs of the diverse Australian public.  Programs such as the MHNiP support vulnerable people with a variety of mental health needs to remain functioning parents, employees and even tax payers. They assist soldiers and returned servicemen and women.  This should appeal to a man who created an entire portfolio for a Minister for ANZAC Day, should it not?  These services actually save dollars by diverting users away from other, potentially more costly medical interventions.  There is also the preventative aspect which you cannot measure.  Early intervention.  Immeasurable benefits in dollars and human lives.

That I may not have had the opportunity to work with my Mental Health Nurse and make such progress with her support is a terrifying thought.

That another person may not be able to access this help after “review” and “possible individual office closures” from this government is plain dangerous.

As we talk more openly about mental health and seek to encourage people to ask for help before a crisis, now is no time to be playing semantic games about cost cuts and fiscal policy.  Look elsewhere for your savings, Mr Abbott.  While Mental Health Nurses and Medicare Locals go about their business of saving lives.


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The Slut and The Crazy Bitch

I testified in court.  If you are able to do so, I urge you to.  I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience or what is best for them.  All I can say is that although it was the worst day of my life (or so it seemed) it was also infinitely empowering.  I didn’t know how things would turn out but as I got to spell out what he’d done to me and look into the judge’s eyes…I felt real power.  The defence smashed it pretty quickly with vulgar and caustic rebuttals but I just repeated the truth – over and over – and he realised that I was in fact a very good witness.  It got easier as the day went on.  And the result was that the accused asked to plead guilty if the DPP would remove the threat of twelve months jail.  Now testifying was fucked up.  No way around that.  I would have possibly agreed to anything at the end of that day.  But I’m pretty proud of myself that before any other evidence was submitted – and his slew of lying accomplices had the chance to try to slam my character in court – he caved.  You bet that feels good.

Given that experience, I almost spontaneously combust when I read other examples of victim blaming tactics used to deny claims of sexual harassment, assault and rape. I understand the adversarial legal system on an intellectual level but it can fuck right off in this area (and family violence, child abuse…).

Outside Court

Ms Robinson 

Earlier this year the media reported on a pending sexual harassment case.  According to the International Business Times, “Philip Goodman, chairman and sole director of Rivers Australia, is again on the hot seat after a former employee has lodged a sexual harassment claim, his second in a span of two years.”

You can read more of her allegations here and evidence that the complainant was far from the first woman to be assaulted and bullied by this man is here.

Today’s brief article addressed the defence barristers claims.  Or as the sub heading said, “boss’s ‘counter claims'”.  A counter-claim would be if she also molested him.  Gross misuse of the term here, editor! After you testify, the defendant and his legal team come at you (in this case, Sallyanne Robinson, a Brit in Australia on a work visa at the time) with anything they can.  All of the claims generally centre around mental health and promiscuity.  They can’t come out and call you a slut anymore but they paint the picture in other ways pretty bluntly.

As if that would actually BE a defence for unlawful assault.

Here are some excerpts:

Herman Borenstein, SC, for millionaire Rivers Clothing boss suggested to Ms Robinson “that she lacked a sense of humour about the CEO calling her Madame Lash in front of co workers.  He asked if she was hypersensitive and over reacted”

Yes, because sexual harassment is just Regular Guy Banter.  He was Having Fun.  Mucking Around.  Geez, lighten up.  You’re probably an uptight feminist lesbian.

Ms Robinson complained to her supervisor and Goodman ignored her for a while then approached her, “Do you still think I’m trying to get into your knickers?”

It was flirting and you are an uptight bitch.  You think so highly of yourself that you think everyone wants you.

Borenstein said that ex colleagues had a list of “humiliating allegations” he wished to put to Ms Robinson; she “abused alcohol and would get ‘so wasted’ she had to be carried home”

This is to insinuate that the victim was out of control, had personal issues and could do anything if she could get that drunk.  Because alcohol always equals women who never say NO.  Obviously.

Colleagues allegedly reported that Ms Robinson “was obsessed with her own breasts”

What.  The.  Fuck.  I can’t believe he read that out with a straight face but it was deliberately used to insinuate that the victim was overtly sexual.  Breasts!  She liked them!  Breasts!  *old man drool* Ugh.

Berenstein accused Ms Robinson of “urinating on her partner every morning in the shower”.

Well, bugger me.  I thought the breasts thing was stupid.  Bizarre. Used to insinuate the victim is kinky?  Dirty?  She urinates???  I can’t believe that a judge would let that through the gate.

Next, he said that Ms Robinson had previously “been a burlesque dancer”.

Slut.  Slutty slut slut.  They can’t ask if she’s ‘easy’ so they draw tenuous links from gross innuendo allegedly given to the legal team by employees.  (Obviously not the employees who have backed up claims of a harassment culture inherent in the company for a decade, as stated in one of the above articles).

Ms Robinson told the court that colleagues had seen her upset after Goodman had made her model underwear for him, alone, with only a towel to change behind.

At first glance, one may ask, How did he make her do that?  It’s pretty weird…  I didn’t model underwear for the shithead I took to court – I was a school teacher – but you can bet your ass that manipulative men in powerful positions can have you in situations that you just can’t believe are happening…your mind goes in slow motion because who would actually do that?  And you need your job.  It’s how you are staying in the country.  And please, ladies, don’t talk back, make a fuss, say no or rock the boat.  Appease.

Who do you think you’re talking to?  I own this company.

The links above also detail various accounts of Indecent and Sexual Assault where Ms Robinson was groped and poked like a piece of meat.  He grabbed a breast and told her they were ‘good natural ones’.

The next textbook question is ‘if this is true, why didn’t you tell someone straight away?  Why wouldn’t you tell your boyfriend?’ because unless you screamed it out in a staff meeting or called the police on day one, it couldn’t have happened, right?  Ms Robinson said that she didn’t tell her partner for a long time as he wouldn’t have wanted her to go back to work and she was also concerned about her visa status.  I believe her 100%  I didn’t tell my boyfriend until I gave a statement to police.  Eight months after it started.  He saw me upset, was at my house when I got late night phone calls from my boss over and over, saw the creepy text messages.  But I lied.  I said it was manageable.  The guy was just a pest.  I lied because I preferred to be in denial.  And my boyfriend would have been at the school the next day to bash this guy’s head in (I’ve had days where I regretted avoiding that).  It was my first professional teaching role.  I loved my job.  This was a career at stake.  I was on a six month contract.  Very dicey ground.  The boss makes it clear, as all abusers do, that no one would believe you.  Some, like mine, take proactive steps to set up their defence as they go.  I worked up the courage to seek help the first time and I was met with derision and rejection. ‘Actually, he’s already approached me about that.  He said you’d say that’.  Gobsmacked.

In one of the articles about this Rivers case, Goodman (just seen the ugly irony in his name there) claims that Ms Robinson had mental health issues and exhibited problems during the entire course of her employment.

The Other Ultimate Dismissal.  If you’re not The Slut you are The Crazy Bitch.  Probably both!  Classic strategies.  Up yours, Freud.  Hysteria.  Hysterical.  You can’t trust females. Hormones.  Probably a ‘bunny boiler’ and all that.

Suddenly the victim crying on the stand medicated for her PTSD might be a horny, vindictive woman with loose morals and a permanent hangover.  Same thing.  All the effing time.

The upside?  They all use the same bullshit.  It’s standard.  They don’t care.  Just got to ‘muddy the waters’.  Cast aspersions.  But don’t worry too much.  Those bastards use the same defence tactics and prosecutors and support people know this.  They can help you prepare.  There is some small comfort in the sameness of their approach.

We know that sexual confidence or emotions have sweet eff all to do with whether someone is a sexual predator or a criminal.  But how often do we hear that a child ‘led a man on’ to contribute to her own vulgar rape, or the way we treat rape and murder of sex workers with minimal outrage and barely an inch of media column.  Because sexual.  Women.  Sluts.  Made him do it.

We need to smash this shit into a thousand pieces.  And that means talking about it in all its gory detail.  It takes women like Sallyanne Robinson, Kate Shea and hey, even anonymous me, to make some noise when the worst happens. To hang in there through the shitstorm that follows.  Be The Slut and The Crazy Bitch in some people’s eyes.  Vocally support others when their turn inevitably comes around.   Sometimes people are really ignorant and it takes what happened to Jill Meagher to rattle their cages.

We may never reach a freedom and safety utopia but my fervent hope is that we make our voices heard until our last breath.  And encourage all others to do the same.

Which reminds me…

Walk through the city of Melbourne tomorrow, everybody, shouting loud and proud for SlutWalk 2013.  Some may not like the name, nobody likes the word but fighting is fighting and I can tell you from last years experience, it feels really bloody good to yell your heart out and demand respectful attention with some of the best women in the country by your side!

Do it.  Do it for Sallyanne Robinson, Kate Shea, Jane Doe from Steubenville, Jill Meagher, Jazzy O and everybody in between.  Do it for your mum, sister, the daughter or niece you love.  Do it because it’s the right fucking thing to do.

Speaking out and being heard helps every single woman feel stronger, more supported and less alone.  When they need it the most.

If you don’t walk tomorrow, there are so many other ways to help. Just talk to those close to you.  Talk to strangers on the Internet.

Know that if you are the one needing to tell, there is someone out there who wants to hear you.

What Say You, WorkSafe?

This won’t be a long one but (insert scream here)…

Image credit here

Firstly, WorkSafe sent a letter asking if they could use me in their research coming up.  Not me in particular, just any workers.  But do I have anything to say which could help others?  Why, yes I do, sir.  Please contact me.  Or, employ me to design and conduct the research project – as I am also qualified to do so.  But now I just blog instead.

Photo credit here

If I get the chance, I will explain to the good researcher that there is a problem with insurance companies.  Professionalism.  Duty of care. The critical role they should play in getting people back to work.  I find mine lacking in this area.  This makes ‘recovery’ more difficult when it needn’t be.

Also, could we possibly have a bit of recognition for psychological injury?  Not to suggest that a physical injury does not harm and affect the inside, too, but WorkSafe, you are involved with me because I was sexually assaulted (etcetera) by my boss, and then heavily influenced to keep it quiet by others in charge.  This is not a simple injury.  It did not actually ‘happen on a Wednesday’.  I cannot go back to a school on ‘modified duties’.  At the heart of the issue, when you have me assessed every 90 days, you are essentially undressing me and requiring me to talk about my own body.  Not in the mechanical sense.  It can move.  In the violated sense.  The deeply personal sense.  The embarrassing sense.  The retraumatising sense.  Am I painting a picture for you here?

Therefore, when somebody makes a mistake or an admin person calls to question me; it’s not as clean cut as you might like.  I am a compliant person.  I do whatever is asked of me in this process and apologise the whole time for bothering you all.  I’m also trying to get better when I have a psychological injury.  So please don’t fuck with me.

Photo credit here

I would also like to comment on the process of exiting the ‘system’ roundabout.  I had thought recently that I would like to make some plans for the future.  I know that I will need to continue counselling and medication but I would like to think I might have the chance to rebuild my professional self and earn my own wage, not through blood money.  Now, you suggest I cannot do that in a school environment.  This is probably true, though I will never be happy to concede this.  I would also like to note here that should appropriate action have been taken AT ANY STAGE of this awful experience, I would not have had to forfeit my career, and you could have quite easily handballed me back into a teaching job which I loved.  But even as I type, I have never been approached or addressed with regards to my welfare, safety, wishes…nothing.  The schools, the Institute (especially, I might add), the Department and all parties involved (however tenuously) in my alleged repatriation.  I have initiated everything, every step of the way.  I have followed through despite what everyone around me did to make it harder for me.  And now when I think of my future, you give me this…

I was forced from a professional position which I earned after postgraduate university study.  I wanted it.  I sacrificed for it.  I thought my dream had come true.  When I had to be assessed for future employability options, I was told that I would not be put into a random position.  It would be somewhat commensurate to my position when I left.  I recently made enquiries about retraining options.  To get better, I need something to imagine.  Something to work towards.  I was told that I cannot be retrained until I have been declared Fit To Work.  Here’s the conundrum.  I won’t get better (from a psychological injury) without retraining.  Catch-22, yes?

Photo credit here

So what retraining is open to me when I perform a mental miracle (presumably after a Department-funded partial-lobotomy to remove the memories and flashbacks..)?  Oh, you only fund short courses?  In what?  What if I’d never worked in another role?  I was only a teacher?  How would you fix me then?

I offered to finance my own retraining and seek to complete my Masters in Social Work.  I could study things that matter to me.  Work towards helping others.  Make a difference.  It’s what I wanted to do at the start, but, funny girl that I am – I thought I could work in schools and be a positive adult for children before there was a need for social intervention.  Quaint, aren’t I?  A tragic idealist.

But I can’t do that either, can I?  Because there is a component of Field Placement.  An ‘internship’ providing essential practical experience.  And the chance to get my pride back.  But I can’t be in any workplace.  Even in that capacity.  Because I am certified unfit by my GP with regards to work before.  But I can’t legally make a positive change and become a distant memory for you all when I regain my independence.

Photo credit here

Small balloon of hope: deflated.  Back to the drawing board.  As usual, I’ll do it all myself.

Next Stop…SleepyTown

A positive from the recent psychiatrist’s assessment was her suggestion to make use of sedatives to deal with nighttime anxiety.  I’d been offered a ‘sample pack’ during the ill-fated attempt to see a psychiatrist of my very own.  I tried this medication a couple of times and fell down like I’d been shot with a dart.  Problem was, I couldn’t get out of the fog until the next afternoon.  That’s quite impractical with a child on your own.  Also, I really did not like the feeling of being in a virtual coma.

Photo credit here

I want to stop the extreme anxiety and on many days I have considered any way to shut my brain up – but I want to be able to stand up.  The psychiatrist who assessed me told me that this medication would quickly have less of an effect within a few days as the body gets used to it.  In my personal experience psychiatrists are pretty keen prescribers so I didn’t necessarily buy her spin but I had been assessed by her before and she’s the only one who’s struck me as even slightly in tune with me as the patient.  Because you can certainly tell when a doctor is not!

I’ve been taking half a tablet a night, about 8pm-ish, and by 9pm I curl up in bed in a delicious marshmallowy comfort.  It’s been just a fortnight and I don’t plan to be a long-termer.  I am surprised at the difference in my sleep, and how little I have been surviving on until now.  Or how poor the quality.

Now when I go to bed I don’t scroll through twitter or play word games on my phone until my eyes close.  I don’t wake up in the middle of the night.  I do wake up if my child needs me.  I would rather sleep in a little longer in the morning than he wants…but I can get up with a clear head.  These are all positives which you would recognise if you have ever tried something to help you sleep.  I am in a slightly better mood during the day, too.

I know I’m feeling better because I took my little man to the Zoo this week.  For the first time.  You know, where other people could SEE ME.  I have not been able to do that until now.  Not even close.  I am seriously proud of myself.  It was a big deal.

Guess which animal captivated my interest…

So now I can add experiencing the Zoo through your child’s eyes to my list of mini-cures.  I felt such happiness, which has eluded me for so long now, and for a couple of hours I was living in the moment.  It was so very lovely.

Another of my mini-cures is a bit more accidental.  Reading the words of someone who has experienced something similar to you, especially deeply personal and often negative feelings – that’s life changing.  I am a reading ADDICT so I have found a few things that have helped.  From text books to spiritual journals and very often, twitter 🙂  My latest find?  How I Got My Wiggle Back by Anthony Field.  Yep, the Blue Wiggle!

He’s already on my list of mini-cures with the rest of the band because a) I have a preschooler b) I have always wanted to be one of the hosts on Playschool c) Being a clown is super fun and d) I love everything to do with kids and their experience of the world.  Hence the teaching thing.  Plus there’s no way you could not love The Wiggles.  Even clinically depressed ex-teachers can rock out to those songs.  That’s some serious entertainment.  Do yourself a favour!

Dance like nobody’s watching…and hope like hell they’re not…

I had to go on a waiting list at the library to get my hands on the book if that is any indication of its popularity.  By page 40 I already had a tear in my eye.  It is very well written.  Anthony’s writing is tender and loving, self deprecating and cheeky.  And he explains his depression and battle to come out on top in a way that has you nodding your head with a sad smile.  Because they are the exact words you would use if you shared the feelings with someone.  I’m halfway through the book (just today) and I’m saving the rest because I don’t want it to end yet.

What has really struck a chord with me personally is two-fold.

On one hand, it seems we have similar personality types and er, quirks.  Shy, like to clown around and put on a show, and care passionately about children being nurtured, encouraged and supported to experience growing up with joy.  They way Anthony described his driving force to bring happiness through performance for families made me cry because it is at once both inspiring and painful; I wanted to be that person as a primary school teacher.  But instead I am writing here tonight.

On the other hand, he talks about the cycle of depression, self loathing and hopelessness than hounds you when you are fighting depression on a serious scale.  And I nodded along with that, too.  Reading the words from somebody else’s heart somehow lightens the load a little.  I’m not a freak and I’m not alone, because at least one person has felt that same darkness.  It is strangely comforting.  But he would know that – it’s why he’s sharing his story.  And why I’m telling mine.

The way Anthony’s book is written reminds me of another man I admire, one who helped me to seek help and go to the police.  Maybe it’s their similar approaches to life.  Jim Stynes.  They both come across to me as passionate, determined individuals.  They care deeply about their work, their ability to connect with kids.  They have both had their struggles and battled…well…themselves, really.  They have both shared some of that battle honestly – with us.  They’re not perfect and they are man enough to go there.  Because they both wanted to be the best men they could be.  For their families, for their role in kids’ lives.  And because that’s what life is for, isn’t it?  Striving to learn and try harder?  Use this chance at life?


Photo credit here

So, I am grateful for the brave, the passionate and the storytellers.  They make my path a little clearer, the journey less lonely.  It is an extraordinary thing to be able to change someone’s experience of life.  In related news: the library is my happy place.

I am grateful for lions (!), orangutans and seals.  I am grateful for smiles and feeling happy.

I am also grateful for resting my very busy mind.  So I’m going to make like Jeff Wiggle and go to sleep now.




A Funny Thing Happened At The Park Today

Something funny happened today.  I’ll try to explain it as simply as possible but I’m a terminal rambler…

Little dude and I were on the way to a meeting for his daycare but I could read the signs that he was not in the mood.  Given that the signs were mostly vocal, everyone could tell.  He was hysterical and usually he can be calmed using typical toddler distraction but today, not so.  As we passed a park he held up his “puddles” (gumboots, wellies) and cried out, “Jump in puddles!  I didn’t get to jump in puddles!”  I’d promised a rainy day adventure the day before but we spent most of it inside the car.  So I took a sudden left and we pulled up at the park.  If my little man wants to jump in puddles, damn it, we will.  This was the first funny thing.  My desire to soothe him and make him feel happiness overtook the orindary urge to hide from the general public.  It felt good.  As it should.  I’m still the all powerful Wizard in his world.  I make shit happen.

Today was a sunny, mild winter day in Melbourne.  It was delicious on the skin and helped ‘outside’ feel a little less scary.  So we wandered around looking for puddles to jump in.

Little dude’s excitement was growing.  His teary eyes cleared to reveal a perfectly honest grin.  He was simply and innocently happy to be there.  He pointed out the “bootiful ducks”, “luffley water” and blue sky.  I had an ache in my chest and tears threatened to escape.  Second funny thing.  An overwhelming sense of the beauty of simplicity.  Dare I say it, I was in the moment.  I was inhaling it, absorbing it, just being.  For about a minute.  Then my thoughts went something like this,

‘This is amazing!  Look how happy he is.  Just being outside and observing.  Like every little thing is brand new and amazing.  This feels good.  Oh shit, I feel good?  Oh God, how long is THIS going to last?  Stop!  Hold on to the moment!  Why do I PANIC when I realise I am having a pure, happy moment?  That’s pretty stupid.  God, this feels so RAW.  Ouch.  Here comes the waterworks.  You can’t cry here!  Who cries because they’re at the park?  You’re just doing what mothers are supposed to do.  Bloody hell, get a grip!’

So I ruined it a bit.  And then I was a bit hard on myself for thinking I’d ‘ruined’ anything.  I was still standing in the sunshine, holding the hand of the greatest little being ever to grace my life with his presence.  “Mum, the ducks are laughing!”  And he answered the ducks quack quack quack with a slow ha ha ha.

‘Jesus, I love him so much.  He just makes my heart swell.  I feel so full of love for him.  It’s almost overwhelming.  Oh God.  I’m going to cry again…’

We talked to the ducks.  I pointed out shapes in the environment and leaves and he just said everything was “bootiful”.  Which made it so.

As we walked around the water  (a few more times than I wanted to, but it was his treat) I had to take deep breaths.  I was experiencing waves of emotion.  Funny thing being that they were so raw, deep and the kind that remind you what a gift life is.  It shook me.  Am I allowed to feel good like this?  Is this a blip on the screen or is this the moment that marks a new chapter?  Am I on the way to allowing myself to feel good?  Could I have a life that feels like this all the time?  Do I ask too many effing questions about things that I should just acknowledge and be grateful for?

Mindfulness is the greatest challenge I face.  I had a racing brain before this all happened.  Now it races and swerves and freezes and snaps…*screams*  I thought to myself,

‘No matter what happens in my head, the ducks are still swimming here.  No matter how I worry about what happens next, they will still bob their heads under the water to feed and stick their bottoms in the air.  No matter if a parent or student SEES ME out somewhere, the garden will still grow, the mountains will still stand tall on the horizon here.  If I take antidepressants until next week or next decade, other things remain constant.  Simple and constantSome things remain as they were.  It is not the whole axis of the Earth that alters, just a bit of mine’.

And the beat goes on…

I can’t emphasise enough how reassuring and calming this was to me in that moment.  Not a flippant, ‘Life goes on, mate’ which deflects and demeans.  It was almost a meditation.  A chant.  But such a simple thought.  Straight away I thought, ‘I should get a tattoo saying something like that!’ because I know I need reminding.  I’ll settle for this post for now 🙂

We neared the car again and I kissed and cuddled my baby boy and basked in that love.  You know, briefly.  But oh so intensely.  We stood at the edge of the water and I looked down at our shadows on the surface.

Yes, he is kissing my hand.  No, I am not Mary Poppins, despite the outline. 

“That’s it.  That’s what I have that no one and no trauma or trial could ever take away from me.  This boy that holds my hand and looks up at me with all the love in the world…for me.  He has no reason to believe that I am weak, scared, hurt or less than I was before.  He sees me through my old eyes, the way I used to see me…as anything I wanted to be.  Infinite possibility and promise.  About to be unleashed on the world :)” 

What a beautiful thing to realise.  To feel.  To my son, I am still the best of everything.  So why not go with that?  Like getting an A+ at the start of the semester, and I just have to maintain it.  Can I?  Hmmm.  Not all the time.  But I felt today more than ever that there’s a good chance I can do that.  He deserves nothing less than that.  He deserves the world.

We got to the car with many loving goodbyes to the grass, ducks, rocks, sky.  And the ducks again.  I turned around one last time and this is what I saw…

I thought, ‘Are you bloody serious?  All these profound feelings and realisations and then, like a movie scene, I turn to face an open door.  Symbolic much?  I got into the car with a wry smile on my face.  Something funny happened today.  I’m cautious and a bit scared but I think, just between you and I, it was a taste of what’s to come for me.

Silly Me


Well, well.  What a fool am I.

Once a brilliant multi-tasker (if I do say so myself), able to deconstruct complex ideas and research jargon, I am now unable to follow a simple flowchart explaining this process of obtaining a Serious Injury Certificate regarding a workplace injury.

How many assessments have I had?  If I could be bothered, I would look back at these posts to see when I was last assessed by the female psychiatrist, not two weeks after being assessed by the last male psychiatrist.  I’m sure I had the letter stating that I had the assessment (which I attended today) prior to the female psychiatrist interviewing me (is this making sense??).  My understanding was that SHE assessed whether my claim was valid and today HE would assess my ‘level of impairment’.  This is relevant to any further Court proceedings against my former employer.

I was dreading today and had worked myself up into quite a state of anxiety.  I had to get my sister to take me into the city because I couldn’t face the exposure.  Needed a hand to hold mine.

I went through the assessment/interview/session with (another) stranger.  Talked about the most private of my thoughts.  My lowest lows.  Who I was BEFORE and how I saw my future.  I answered questions about my body parts and my personality.  My family.  I started off in sunglasses (Big Daddy movie; you can’t see me if they’re on..?) and did the rest with my hands over my eyes.  And this on the ‘anniversary’ of the assaults.  He raised his eyebrows at that.  I mean, read the papers, Mr Insurance Man.

He said at the end, “Hopefully you won’t have to go through this again”.

That was kind.  I thought, am I nearly there?  Have you heard it enough times?  You got the part where HE pled guilty 4 years ago, right?  What’s to decide?  It happened.  It was a nightmare.  Why do I have to sit in the middle of the nightmare while another stranger argues if I am affected enough to have my damage recognised?

On the way home I sat next to my sister and then I panicked.  Did I get it wrong again?  This was just another generic assessment, wasn’t it?  It wasn’t the BIG one, was it?

This is the second time I have worked myself up for a huge assessment of my ‘damage level’…and realised after handing a strange Doctor my guts on the desk that it wasn’t worth that much.  I could have repeated my symptoms in bullet points with less…pain.  Less pressure.  Less trust in them.  Less explicitly.

I’d like to be wrong but I guess tomorrow I will make a phone call and confirm that today’s exploitation was just to confirm my psychological injury.  Which was confirmed twice, independently, last month.  And has been confirmed repeatedly over the last five years.

It’s a process that brings out the most toxic of your secrets.  They bubble up to the surface.  Seep out of your pores.  Sit around your being like a noxious gas, tainting you.  I have a headache.  I feel sick.  I’m pretty sure if you could see me now I’d have squiggly lines emanating from me like a cartoon character that stinks.  Rotten eggs.  I’m not saying I’m rotten.  But this is a rotten, heavy, toxic thing I carry. And days like today; to appease the faceless men who play me like a puppet on a string (mirroring the manipulation by my boss and senior colleagues in the first place) to dance for my supper; I push the dirty secrets out and hang my head, hoping nobody is looking my way today.

Information from the legal team states that I “may be filmed” by the assessors (the OTHER SIDE) while they make me dance to prove my pain.  Like a cheap current affairs segment with grainy footage of someone claiming to have hurt their back caught lifting a bag of cement.

How humiliating.  Are you going to watch me to see if I smile?  Feel joy?  Does that mean I wasn’t raped?  That it doesn’t claw at me?  Would you like to watch through my window as I cry at night?  When I do my food shopping at a petrol station in the hope that less people see me?  Turn away from my child so he can’t see as I take the pills each morning that stop me from lying down in the hope I never get up?  How very just.  That seems reasonable.  Not humiliating, violating.  Because I wasn’t feeling paranoid enough after being stalked for months.  The possibility of a private investigator following a rape victim for footage makes my stomach turn.  The possibility that someone might do it to me…

None of the bad feelings and thoughts (of hurting THEM, not me today) go away.  But the sheer brutality of this process; the shredding, the exposure, the scare-mongering…makes me want to keep going even more.  So I can shout about it at the end.  What a pack of bastards.

Mind Matters

I’m on the downward slide today. Tonight is not a good one. I’ve been feeling a bit unwell with a cold and I think that sapped what energy I had. I don’t think I have mood ‘swings’ as such but how I feel tonight is like my body letting out a huge sigh. I just brushed away a tear and made myself go to bed but I’m doing things without thinking like I just brushed my teeth twice. I didn’t think oh, that’s silly. I thought, you stupid cow. You don’t even know what you’re doing.

How I’m typing this is a miracle.

I got into bed and just thought how selfish I must be because I have blankets on my bed and I’m crying but outside here tonight there are hundreds of people sleeping rough. No blanket. No home. So I feel like an asshole. Where’s the line for getting a balanced view of the world and your own pain or struggle? People need to remember things like homelessness to put other things into perspective but I use things like that against myself. As if when I feel down, unsure about what is required of me next from The System, or overwhelmed (trying to be perfect), I am actually being self indulgent. That’s not how it feels inside, it’s quite unenjoyable to feel like the weight of bricks on your chest, hard to breath. But my thoughts keep repeating that I must be a selfish so-and-so. You can see this doesn’t get me very far; feel down, feel like an asshole, feel down that I’m an asshole and so on.

I don’t even know if this makes sense tonight. I’ve been saying for ages that I think it is mostly about the anxiety, not depression now. Tonight makes me wonder. Then worry. Then feel silly.

Dear mind,
Shut the hell up.

Stupid grey, sad sighs. Always catch me by surprise!

This post is crap but I feel a bit lighter for having spat it out. Better than a Scotch, eh?


Photo credit here