Harassment and the “Occupational Hazard of Being Female”

Rings true for me and includes some good links I’ll add to my blog. Thanks!

Purposefully Scarred

“I came into work one day with a black eye from playing racquetball without protective eye wear the previous day. When I told my boss about it, he asked if I finally made my boyfriend the sandwich” (linked above, submission to The Power of Harassment).

Inspired by and fashioned similarly to the Everyday Sexism Project, The Power of Harassment is a place for women to share their stories of harassment: the forum “exists to offer a space where we can share our stories without fear of retribution. Perhaps by contributing your story, you’ll feel a sense of relief. Or maybe you’ll gain a new awareness of your own behavior, whether as a target or as a complicit party. My hope is that by sharing and internalizing these stories, it will help us recognize how problematic — and even traumatic — those seemingly small instances of occupational sexism might be, and motivate us…

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Seven Years

It is almost seven years exactly.

Seven years since I walked into that school and felt all of the pride and excitement that comes with starting the job of your dreams.  Especially after returning to university to get there.  Giving up a professional income to study for this because THIS is where your heart is.  Where all of the best things can happen.  The classroom.  And it was mine.

Seven years since I moved into my first real home on my own.  Not a granny flat or weirdo share house.  Mine.   Two bedroom unit I would pay for with my dream job in the school I had chosen, in the beautiful small suburb on the edge of town.

I was in a relationship.  I had my home.  I was happy.  All my ducks were in a row.

Seven years since the school year started but I see now that by that day, I was on his radar.  He was a predator from very early on, if he has ever been any other way, I couldn’t say.  Certainly the gossip from those on his interviewing panel were that his references were questionable.  Inappropriate relations with staff, in general, were part of his MO.  But hey, they knew him.  He was a Nice Guy.  Further complicating my experience, the power plays and existing alliances amongst such a small, long term staff list would ensure I would not get any of the support that was rightfully mine when the time came; ethically, morally, legally or as the profession standard.

Seven years I have tortured myself.  First with denial – This revolting creature could not possibly be serious?  But I will never forget how he asked for a ‘team photo’ on school photo day and as they took the shots his hand slid down my back and squeezed my buttock.  But I look so happy in the photos.  My hair was shiny, my eyes bright.  My belief that I was in the right place with important work to do with students as a caring, empathic teacher was at peak level then.  And I fought it’s demise every step of the way.  Then I tortured myself with the guilt and shame spiral that I’d come to know well working in welfare with child survivors of sexual abuse.  No amount of reasoning and research means a thing when you feel so stupid and trapped in your own skin.  That theoretical knowledge probably makes it worse in some ways.  Another thing to beat yourself with.  How could I miss the signs?  How could I be fooled?  How did I get to this?  I am an educated adult in a fair country in 2007.  I am a Union member who knows my rights by heart.  I can talk.  I know who to tell.  How the hell can you have all of that and still sit at the bottom of your running shower every night and wail?  How?

It really has been seven years of screaming into people’s faces as they stare blankly ahead and pretend they can’t hear me.  I did it that first night.  We had the children on a school camp, you see.  While you wondered how your kids were on their first big camp away, they were tucked up in bed but the most senior teachers were both in a dark room with me.  One trying to remove my pyjamas, one joking about how I was young and “probably giving HIM an erection” as I fought him off and yelled about how much trouble he would be in.  She was awake.  She did hear me.  I fucking told her I was upset about it when he left the room and she said, “He’s just an affectionate guy” – hard to say in your sleep.

I just had to stop for a bit.  Seven years and it still hurts.  It is still hard to believe that two primary school teachers acted in that way with kids asleep in the cabins beside us.  He was supposed to be in a cabin on the other side of the camp.  With the fathers who had volunteered to assist.  On this camp so far away from home.  No car.  Only HIS car.

I am in awe of the human mind, how it worked to get me through that camp.  That whole year with HIM, in the office next to my classroom, only windows between us. Six months later, after he was sent home and the Police became involved.  As the Principal held a staff meeting to tell everyone that HE was suspended due to accusations by a staff member.  And the room fell in on top of me.  (Protocol that can be found on a Google search clearly states that this meeting should not have taken place, staff should NOT have been told but apparently the Principal should not be reprimanded because “he was new to the job”.)  I printed out the guidelines for him, you know.  Highlighted what he had to do next and the ‘chain of command’, if you will.  I spoon fed it. I knew enough to have little faith in either his abilities or interest.  And he pretended I hadn’t. Because they went to school together as kids.  He knew HIS wife.  HE was immature but harmless, couldn’t I see that?  They were both just NICE GUYS.

For seven years I have heard that.  From every level of the hierarchy.  I have been questioned, cross examined, shamed, blamed and talked about.  I worked for another two years (because I’m stubborn, and I truly believed in Right and Wrong) but this followed me.  Like they told me it would.  When I sat in her office, broken down, desperate, and asked the Principal for help as HIS frightening behaviour was breaking all kinds of LAWS (I thought that would scare him into action HAHAHAHAHA) and he stated very simply, “If you make this known outside these walls, your career will be ruined.  Mud.  Sticks.” I still thought he was being dramatic, or referring to other difficulties.  I did not realise that what he actually meant was that the three of them together would almost kill me from the inside out.  That he would laugh when a temp agency called to ask if I had worked there before.  That I would become unemployable because someone with authority over me in the workplace decided that he would have me, body and mind, whether I wanted that or not.  Every time I got the guts (or pissed off enough) to say something I was “being unprofessional” and “should reconsider whether I am suitable for the job”.  Said the ‘new to the job’ principal.  Was he also new to planet Earth and Australian Law?

For seven years I have known that the only option for me was to fight.  At times I had nothing left.  I considered how I could stop the insanity…only one way that I could see.  Then I would decide again that they couldn’t have all of me, the pricks.  I didn’t try to wipe myself out in defiance because that would be too much of a gift to them.  All gone.  Nothing for them to worry about.  I wanted them to have something to worry about.

For seven years I imagined bloody revenge.  Fiery vengeance.  Sometimes violent retribution.  What else can you do?  I did take myself to a counselor then and ask if I was becoming a psychopath, had I crossed the line?  What had I become?  (It’s particularly disconcerting when the targets inhabit primary schools, really makes you feel fucked up)  Just a normal person after trauma, apparently.  Using anything that my brilliant mind could dig up to release some of that pain.  I don’t think you can ever be the same though, after a mind shift like that.  My tolerance for hearing about other people’s trauma is much lower.  I am enraged.  Angry.  Sick to fucking death of sexual violence and manipulation and victim blaming bullshit.

It has been less than seven years since I first called my union representative and put this scenario to them.  Probably about three years since I saw a lawyer.  The union works with this law firm to aid employees financially and legally in a way I cannot emphasise strongly enough to you.  Join your goddamn union and investigate your rights at work.  That wasn’t enough to help me, true, but I have utilized those venues in the only way they are available to some of us – with the impending threat of a public hearing.  Seeking some financial compensation.  Not to get rich.  Hahahaha you don’t choose Workcover to get rich, kids.  Turns out you have to be a bit of a sadist, or one tough mother.  It’s brutal.  For bringing Rape and Stalking charges against your boss…faaaaark.

Even with all of the evidence that I had, the Police and Court documents, countless psychiatric examinations by strangers and sharp legal representation to face their scary lawyers…seven years to come to an end.  Three years of constant legal action.  He pled guilty, right?  Still three years for that to be recognised.  To prove that I was damaged by what we agree he did.  Prove damage enough that I might get some recognition in the eyes of…well…anyone.  I wasn’t fussy by now.  Only one option.  I had to fight for it.  I knew I couldn’t go on any other way.

Yesterday, I got the call.  My lawyer.  Her voice happy and light.  It IS over.  I’ve taken it to the limit and the other side has made an offer that indicates I was indeed the victim of some hellish wrongdoing.  There was a tussle, mind.  Some initial offers which were insulting to the person reading them out and all of us.  This kind of settlement could’ve meant a much higher one should I have been forced into  jury trial to prove employer negligence.  It could also have meant the same, or less.  Depends on the jury.  It would have meant more public knowledge and opportunities for more abuse and pain for me.  I was willing because I wanted to prove a point but I’m pretty bloody glad that I don’t have to, as I’m sure anyone would be.  Seven years is enough.

Turns out that there is no precedent for this scenario in workplace/employer law to get this far.  Has a boss sexually assaulted an employee?  Well, yes.  Was it like this?  Did everyone involved lie, bully and blacklist the victim?  Was that person able to fight this long?  Nope.  When I first called the union they did say, “Um, I don’t know where to start.  This is a new one for us!”

I wanted to make a mark on the world, you know.  And I hope I do it in other ways, too.  But in these circumstances, I have had a big win.

What I am hoping for is that this seven years and yesterday’s outcome serve as a warning to employers and other staff (especially THIS employer) that rape, sexual assault, stalking, harassment and gossip ARE WRONG, EVEN IN YOUR ISOLATED WORKPLACE!  A Duty of Care exists even if you choose to think that young women are “dick teases” who “bring it upon themselves”.  (Yes, direct quotes).  If an employer in the future only acts out of fear for his own hide rather than being a lawful and ethical professional, so be it.  As long as someone’s silent suffering is minimised or prevented.  The moral revolution necessary and thorough smashing of the patriarchy that enables this shit must come also but that’s work far beyond the capacity of the utter bastards in my story.  It was of course their strongest weapon.

If there happens to be another asshole out there preying on a Bright Young Thing who dreams of Making A Difference (and I think we know there is), and she has to call her union rep or a lawyer one day, I want to make sure they know there is a precedent in this area.  You are not lost in the woods entirely.  Because I tried my best to slash my way through and I think I left a trail with a little light.  It’s yours if you need it and I’ll be here somewhere if you need directions.  Funnily enough, in about seven weeks I don’t have to be an anonymous shell anymore.

Persistence

The Standard You Walk Past Is The Standard You Accept

The Standard You Walk Past Is The Standard You Accept Watch the video here

The Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison, reported that he has stood down three Defence Force members, and investigations were continuing regarding up to 100 more personnel.  The issue is a series of emails disseminated amongst the men (who revoltingly even gave themselves a ‘name’, The Jedi Council) containing images of sexual encounters between the men and unsuspecting females.  Morrison has refused to elaborate on the contents other than to say they were “explicit and repugnant” and denigrate women.  Amongst the officers including in this ‘ring’ is a Lieutenant-Colonel, the highest of non-senior ranks.

What takes this story to another level, if it needed to be any more abhorrent, is that the filming and sharing of these images, without the women’s knowledge or consent, allegedly occurred while the ADF was already under investigation for  its sexism and harassment culture.  This brazen defiance of any decency at all was all sent around using Army computer servers.  AKA ‘work emails’.  You have to ask just how rancid the culture is in this organisation that they continued to flaunt their derogatory and probably illegal behaviour in the midst of ongoing investigation?  This suggests that these men felt pretty secure in their ability to do these things and get away with it.  Staggering.

The inquiries leading to these revelations were triggered by the April 2011 Skype scandal in which (consensual) sex between two Army cadets was filmed and broadcast over the internet without the 19 year old woman’s knowledge.  I recall The Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, publicly condemning the Force’s handling of this event and attacking it’s complete lack of support for the young cadet who had to seek help outside the Army when it failed her.  An incredibly risky move for the brave young woman and even for Mr Smith to condemn ADFA, the Army being a protected species.  He was angry, outraged.  You rarely see a politician speak with such genuine feeling and compassion and it is rarely on the topic of victims of sexual assault and harassment. Minister Smith must be livid now as this latest dirty saga unfolds.  But he is one of a few to speak up.  Alongside Lieut-Gen Morrison in this video that he posted on the ADF youtube channel.

I was about to write that I have heard these words of public condemnation before, but that we should not trust it until we see real consequences for the perpetrators.  Actions, not words.  But you know, I never heard anything like this at all from anyone in the Education Department, the school where I was sexually assaulted and harassed, the next school, the Institute…no one ever uttered anything like this.  No one condemned.  No one bothered to even bullshit me and show an attempt at credibility.  Even after I took it to criminal trial.  I still cannot believe what I’m saying!

Let’s just pretend I had been told this kind of thing before.  I’m sure others have.  Immediately I have seen calls that Morrison is “a feminist hero” and the saviour of the Force.  The pragmatists among us know that any change at all requires a Zero Tolerance effort of blistering pressure, sparing no one.  Given the events in this country this week regarding sexist language, harassment and sexual violence…we have a HELL of a long way to go.  And the first step has to be calling this shit out.  Every time.

“If you become aware of any individual degrading another then show moral courage and take a stand against it”

Does the reality of the task ahead mean that I can’t delight in the deliciously No Bullshit approach in this speech?  No way.  Because sadly, this kind of stance IS a big deal.  It’s groundbreaking.  In 2013, it is a novelty that a powerful man is saying that a culture of misogyny and sexual harassment of women is Not Acceptable.  To a lot of us, this is just common decency.  But we have to admit we live amongst some seriously deluded, hateful and entitled bastards.  It’s time for them to hear the message.  That is something to be hopeful and positive about.

“If that does not suit you…get out”

How Much Is The Self Worth?

I read something that got me thinking about feeling worthy and where I feel my worth comes from.  Is my worth what I produce/complete/have to show (external)? Or is it entirely separate from what I project into the world (internal)?

It sounds a bit obvious to say that self worth is an internal entity, more consistent and valuable than simply the output I can produce as some kind of evidence.  But I read the words and thought, How have I been viewing my own worth?  

“If your worth equals your job…how will you feel if you realise you have already gotten your last promotion..?  Your feelings would probably go beyond the normal and appropriate sadness and disappointment.  When worth is in doubt, depression usually follows”

*I must find the exact details to reference this text correctly.  I only have one copied page at the moment

The above statement could be true of many significant life roles and events.  What resonated for me was the experience of Workcover, or being made somehow unable to be the person you were before in the workplace.

I am someone who has probably often measured my worth externally if I’m honest.  

What do my parents say?  How would I feel if someone knew that I thought this way/did this thing?  What do people see in me?  Do they see how hard I try?  That I always try my best?  That I want so much for them to be happy, and I’ll behave accordingly?  

I measured my self worth based on external feedback.  To be fair, I think that is an understandable error.  You only know what you know, and what I learnt growing up was that I could fall out of favour in an instant.  I could be dropped, ignored, made to feel redundant depending on the whims of others.  That probably reads quite morbidly (see, trying to judge what you might think when you read what is essentially a tool for healing and learning which I made for my own SELF) but I’m just trying to look at the landscape, not roll around in self pity.  The main messages I got over a long period of time were ‘our happiness depends on your actions’.  And the consequences were so dramatic.  

A parent says, “I’m done.  We’re not family any more”.  The other parent hasn’t spoken to me in four years as I type this.  He can do that with people.  It’s his thing.

“Your sibling behaves like that (harmful behaviours, anger) because they can’t live up to your benchmark”  So I’m wrong to have enjoyed study?  Uh oh, I’m confused.

Call it First Child Syndrome if you like.  I always wanted to try hard, do my best and improve as I went.  I thought everyone wanted to be better as they got older (and wiser?).  Didn’t everyone seek self improvement and mutual understanding?  That’s a positive trait?  Isn’t it?

“My God, you’re so into yourself.  Read another psychology book, did you?  Gonna fix everyone like Oprah?”   

Hang on, I’m lost now.  Doing well is wrong.  Trying to encourage others to feel worthy and proud is wrong.  How do I become worthy here?  I need to see a Cheat Sheet…

The rules changed so often.  I couldn’t work out what I was supposed to be striving for.  Do you praise me when I work really hard or is that when you tell me I’m a Smart Ass, Know It All who Thinks I’m Better Than You?  Do I encourage younger siblings to stay in school because I am a good example or am I shaming them with my ‘lofty’ ambition, so that they are destined to fail and so choose to embrace a life of bitter regret and improper blame for their lot?  Are you proud of me or intimidated by me?  Isn’t this what people should do?  Try?  

There were messages of a worth I possessed, but said worth was so often taken back, recanted or mocked.  And I just kept right on trying to please people.

Self Worth Score:  Pretty unstable, dependant on others

I worked hard in a professional capacity and supported myself through university twice.  That’s good, right?  Lecturer comments and exam marks gave me what I needed.  Validation.  Positive reinforcement.  Ergo, worth.

Meeting new people, or catching up with old ones, I was proud to say, ‘I’m at university, studying Social Science.  I want to work in the public policy sector”.  And later, “I’m back at uni.  I’m going to teach, which is what I think wanted all along..”  

My proudest moments?  When I got to say, “Me?  I’m a teacher!”  My feelings of self worth were inextricably linked to my career.  I was proud to have studied.  Proud to be an educator.  Proud to be a success.

Self Worth Score:  Peaking, Feel strong and worthy

So what happens when your job is in question?  Your career torn from you?  Your dreams of contributing to society and making a positive impact on kids’ lives becomes an administrative issue of psychological injury and monthly assessments?

Well, your self worth is somewhere in the ashes after the fire that tore through everything you’d built up.  In short: you’re fucked.

Self Worth Score:  *game explodes*

 

Over the course of this debacle, I have spent so much time fundamentally depressed and disillusioned.  I am not studying.  I am not working.  I am not aiming to achieve a goal.  I. Am. Nothing.

‘Hi!  So what do you do?’ > Panic attack > Tears > Run > Never leave house again

That’s not a life.  And I do believe I deserve to live the best life I can, even while I go around again on this treadmill of bureaucratic and legal bullshit.  And wait.  Mostly I wait.

So I’ve had time to re examine myself.  My role in the world.  My worth.  Just where I am, as I am, right now.  

It has literally taken years to accept, even partially (because I am still pretty pissed off), that I cannot make those famous Wheels of Justice turn any faster.  Indeed, I have had to face the fact that those wheels are deliberately set to an excruciatingly slow and painful pace – to squeeze you and increase the chance of you just walking away.  Abandoning the fight.  It was the first warning from my GP and I laughed bitterly and retorted, “How is that going to be any worse than the situation I’m in now?”

What I still had then, angry and justifiably indignant at the way I’d been a victim of crime and then of bastardry, was a firm belief in my worth.  I knew I was a good teacher.  I knew students and parents believed in me.  I literally blossomed in the role which I barely considered a ‘job’.  It combined most of my natural nerdy inclinations and I got to tell jokes which always got a laugh.  That’s a win, people!

I was sexually assaulted, harassed, followed, bullied and subjected to what I can only refer to as psychological torture.  And it was excruciating.  But I knew they were in the wrong.  I believed that someone would have to address the issues once I got the courage to raise them.  Because ethics and standards would compel them to.  Because the law would compel them to.  Because at least fear of me taking it higher would compel…nope, I was so wrong.

Eventually my doctor said, ‘No more.  You have to leave that place’, and I was at the point where I could only be relieved to hear that.  I was determined and convinced that I would be ok, it would be somehow sorted out.  But I was also tired, about to break and almost suicidal because though I believed in myself at last – the people who had done the wrong thing were trying every tactic in the book to cover up, deceive and denigrate me.  As She (the Evil One who was my ‘mentor’ teacher) once said, I needed to Shut Up.  Me speaking up was a Big Risk for them.  So they tried all of the ways to shut me up.  I tried to work somewhere else – still inherently believing in myself and my worth.  But they made sure I knew that I could “never work again”.  When they used that phrase I thought they meant at that school.  I had no idea they meant any school, ever.  I’m apparently not the only individual with determination and drive.

I’ve probably said it before, and if you’ve been assaulted, harassed or bullied in the workplace (or at home) then you know what I’m about to say.  You are forced to become another kind of victim.  You must bare your soul to strangers, go where you’re told to go, take what you’re prescribed, be assessed, written about, become a reference number and be passed around from case worker to case worker as if the trauma you have been through means nothing.  It’s ‘protocols’ and ‘expectations’.  It’s ‘meeting thresholds’ and ‘producing evidence’ of personal anguish.

It’s really shitty.  Degrading.  Draining.  Damaging.

Self Worth Score:  No, stupid.  You need an Injury Scale Score now!  How fucked are you?  You can’t even think about what your ‘worth’ is!  And if you start to hope…don’t mention it to anyone.  It might be used against you by the insurance company.

If that sounds depressing, it is.  And you get scared thinking, What if this doesn’t end?  Or it does, but I’m so far gone, I can’t do anything any more?  Could this damage become permanent?

Now, I’m not talking to Them, I’m just talking.  I have worth.  I am worthy.  As a human, a woman, mother, sister, daughter (grumble), friend, aunty…and plenty else.

And also, just because.  But I have to build on that concept again, in spite of the struggle to regain a feeling of professional and intellectual worth.  I grieve and rage every day in some way over the fact I have to fight that fight.  (Mindfulness is a challenge)  But I’ve started again through becoming a parent to an adorable boy (see here for my best thoughts on that) and accepting the limitations of what my role as a daughter can be.  I’m never going to get the validation I wanted there, so I need to come to accept that.  And know that that does not detract from my worth as a person.  (Hey, counsellors, check ME out there!) It’s a shame but it doesn’t have to become an impairment.  I have sought ways to feel worthy and empowered, such as through child sponsorship and community advocacy (Amnesty International, Reconciliation and Healing).  They were great ways to stake a claim, help others while I help remind myself of the power I have in me at any time.  

Honestly, thank all the gods and goddesses that there is THE INTERNET.  I have made immeasurable gains through sharing, learning and connecting with people via this medium. I quite literally would be lost without access to this space and I have made some brilliant connections with people.  I have been inspired.  I have laughed (laughing…yay!) and I have built on my own self concept as I have interacted.  People talk to me.  People are positive and loving.  I can quite often contribute to debate and feel intelligent again! People are lovely.  I don’t use my name, and I’m not always this Little Lion either.  Because I deserve an identity that is not framed around being a victim.  The Internet allows that to happen in a safe way for me.  I love you, Internet xx

It’s a funny thing.  Being stripped right back to raw nerves and rebuilding yourself.  However that happens to you.  I’m getting to appreciate every little part of the whole as I put it back into place and practice making it stick.  I’m working on emerging a stronger, wiser, more mindful version of myself.  Worthy now, worthy in the end.

 

The pattern was kind of the same to begin with.  It’s what they like about new teachers; enthusiastic, flexible, idealistic.  Fresh confidence and the promise of invigoration.  Over time, if you’re unlucky, what they praised you for in emails and at assemblies becomes a danger.  ‘You are a breath of fresh air!’ becomes ‘Look, some others find your go-getter thing a bit intimidating..’ and then that becomes ‘I don’t know who you think you are coming in here claiming you’re entitled to help, demanding your ‘rights’ because you are in the Union!’

Again, I am left confused.  Wasn’t I supposed to be excited about my job?  Bring new ideas?  Students and parents giving you positive feedback about what I was doing was The Aim, no?  You said ‘be confident’, ‘contribute’.  Then you said, ‘Not too much.  It intimidates the others who are more comfortable in their routines’.  You ended it all by yelling in my face that I was ‘of the generation that was brought up to flaunt the Union entitlements’ and that I should shut up or I wasn’t welcome any more.  

Self Worth Score:  Deficient enough to warrant medical intervention.  Great. 

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.

Goodnight.

http://today.ninemsn.com.au/article/8427286/how-anthony-got-his-wiggle-back

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/blue-wiggles-black-dog-20120121-1qb7b.html