Bored.

I’m bored.

 

In primary school, I used to get in trouble a fair bit. Often, it stemmed from lack of interest and boredom… and just being a ratbag kid. This was particularly a problem in Music class. It was about year 7 or 8, and my knowledge was well beyond those of my counterparts. I’d already learnt how to analyse pieces of music in musicianship, the pieces we performed for concerts were of a level I had mastered years before, and as a result I rebelled, out of boredom. I needed a challenge.

 

Now, I’m finding myself sick of the same routine, day in, day out. In my career, I am at the level of a baby in diapers – there is so much I have not seen and do not know. So much. Plus, I work in an career that is dynamic, ever-changing and new research is constantly evolving the way we do things. But as a 22 year old kid with ADHD, I’m sick of the routine. I love to be busy, and I love to be challenged. I have early identified the area of work that I like and it is unpredictable and no two days are similar.

I feel frustrated though. I have so much to learn, and so much that I can apply myself to, but I am constantly pre-occupied with the same, monotonous routine. I didn’t say it wasn’t time consuming… Sure, there are some days that are different; some days that are stressful, but the principle is the same.

I’m in a rut. Maybe it’s because I’m getting closer to the end of this work stint, before I move into my dream area where routine isn’t applicable per se. And who knows, maybe I’ll look back on the hectic days and wish for the routine.

But not right now.

“Assisted” Death.

Today was a big step forward in the world of medicine and for our quality of life in Australia. Today, Victoria’s Upper House of Parliament passed a ‘Voluntary Assisted Dying’ bill. Whilst it is one of the most conservative in the world of its kind, it offers a small percentage of those “sound-minded” and “terminally ill” an option to pass peacefully and medically assisted, which no doubt will be a relief for some.

We aren’t very good at dealing with death. It’s ugly. It’s hard. It’s confronting. It’s sad. Our inability to deal with the issue, however, is not an excuse to leave our loved ones without a voice. Saying goodbye is hard; but we are not the ones living through their experience; we are not ill; we are not bound to a hospital bed, poked and prodded. We are not the ones left incontinent of urine and faeces in our chair for hours, we are not the ones with unrelenting pain all over. We love them. We are not them. Let them go with dignity: let them have a voice. And, when they are unable to speak for themselves, let them be in peace.

This bill excludes many individuals – it is a bill that contains powerful and meaningful words… “sound mind”, “terminally ill within six months”, “over 18”, excluding many individuals from the accessing the choice. What about that dementia patient, who can’t remember her daughter? What about that patient with chronic pain, who has lived to ninety years old and she wants to be with her husband who passed many years ago? What about that sixty year old, rife with medications and interventions so delicately balanced he only just sustains compatibility with life? What about…..

“Assisted” death isn’t a new concept. It’s done all over the world, and in a sense we do it in Australia. For example, the patient who opts out of receiving his dialysis therapy… His kidneys have failed. He is unable to sustain life without connecting to that machine three days per week. We allow him to cease it; he is of sane mind and he has many comorbidities; he has lived his life and now wishes to go with grace. He has that choice; it is his right to refuse medical intervention. That’s assisted dying, no? Or perhaps by “assisted”, the phrase is meant in the sense of a medical professional actually administering a substance that will end of your life. How, though, is not administering dialysis, for example, different?

It’s a thousand times different… and then again, it’s not that different at all. It is such a vexed issue – ethically, legally, morally, emotionally, physically… There never will be a right or wrong answer, but I think we need to broaden our minds a little. Until you have been exposed to the ill on an intimate and regular basis, it is hard to grasp an understanding regarding the need for “assisted dying” in a broader sense. Every persons experience is personal, different, unique and intimate. You’re mums experience of xx disease may be very different from his mums experience. But then again, how can you be sure this person will die within the next 6 months? How can you make that decision for a twenty year old? After all, medical miracles happen…

It’s a step in the right direction, but perhaps over time we can learn to acknowledge and appreciate death in a different sense, and the appropriate changes to the scheme can be made.

Panic

Chest feels heavy… Tight. Like you can’t exhale completely. Like you aren’t getting enough oxygen. It feels like, no matter how hard you focus on slow, deep breathing – exhaling all the way – you can’t relax; like there’s too much residual air. It’s that feeling of doom when you’re about to find out bad news. It’s that shaking feeling when something bad is happening, or when your adrenaline levels are running at a level too high to sustain. You feel wired; anything can tip you over the edge and trigger an unfavourable response – angry, snappy, teary… You’re an emotional mess.

You check your pulse. You check for the heartbeat in your chest. You worry that it’s irregular or too fast, or not strong enough; that there is something wrong. So you keep checking it. You worry if you should go to the Emergency Department and get yourself assessed, even though you know better… you know this is not cardiac related.

It’s stress. A lack of sleep. A perceived lack of support. And when, inevitably, you snap, you feel like one big crazy mess. You question yourself and what’s wrong with you. It’s scary, you see. When this feeling of impending doom finally spirals out of control into a panic attack, it’s unfamiliar. It only happens once or twice a year, at best. It’s unfamiliar.

“Are you okay?” No.

“What’s wrong?” I don’t know. I can’t explain it. Everything; and nothing at all.

When you look back at the turn of events, you realise it’s completely normal to feel a little out of control. Any sane person would feel out of their comfort zone with the increased demands and stress you’ve bared recently. And recognising that you need a little TLC is a positive step; you’ve identified you’re not okay, and you’re going to do something about it.

You talk to people. You immerse yourself in fun and healing activities with loved ones. You sleep. You focus on the positives. You allow yourself the space to be okay.

It will be okay.

Ode to Naomi Barnbaum

Tonight a dear friend sent me an article that resonates so strongly. It inextricably pinpoints exactly how I have, and continue to, feel on so many occasions. Gender equality – rather, gender inequalities – is a poignant constant that crops up in my everyday life, and it is an issue that I believe warrants more social attention. The following blog post by Naomi Branbaum sums it up so well; I feel as though I have experienced such similar scenarios and, like her, been labelled negatively for speaking up and out against this “norm”. Is this truly how we want our daughters to grow up?

 


” Our lives are full of shoulds. For women, these shoulds act as the hands that form and shape a lump of clay. Like clay being formed into something suddenly respected as art, we are pressed into behaviours that see us recognised as ladies. This pressing begins so young, and is so omnipresent, that it becomes an intuitive and unthinking framework for every interaction. Like how we’re so used to stepping out of others’ ways, deferring space. Like when we’re told to smile, deferring our faces.

When we start challenging these shoulds, it’s uncomfortable, it’s shocking and it’s scary – for us, and for others. These shoulds are in fact, compliance. Compliance with a world that wants to bind and conscribe our behaviours, voices, bodies and ambitions, veil them beneath manners, politeness and contentedness with the progress we have made from being the chattel of fathers and husbands.

‘You should write happier things,’ says my mother, worried about the emotional and societal implications of my ‘complaining’ all the time.

I have started watching for acts of everyday compliance – instances where I subsume my preferences or comfort for another’s. They’re everywhere. But this has become much more than proving that if I don’t move from the path of oncoming pedestrian traffic I’ll get shoulder-checked five times a day.

I understand now the myriad ways I have complied my entire life. I understand why a barely known middle-aged man rested his hand high on my seven year old thigh. Why a guy refused to wear a condom when he had sex with a friend of a friend. Why so many of us yield to accepting what is done to us even though it makes our blood chill. I understand that we have been moulded and pressed and shaped so that we are compliant and cannot resist. I need to push against the hands that want to form us into something prettier and nicer and quieter. I am trying harder and more consciously to be a non-compliant woman.

Since I started my micro-movement of non-compliance, I have been terrified of the consequences of pushing back. ‘You’re going to get punched in the face one day,’ my mother has oft said following a small act of perceived surliness or, as I like to call it, standing up for myself. I’ve been screamed at. Ridiculed. Glared at. But what I take these reactions to show is the genuine and deep-seated fear that men have when we challenge the expectation that we’ll comply.

Some examples:

1.

I hadn’t seen him for a decade, yet every few years he’d crop up on messenger and just check in and say hi. Somehow, I would fold into myself and become 16 year old Naomi, on the cusp of her first heartbreak. Anxious to do everything right lest I made something go wrong. I was so eager for his approval. I was so eager to keep him happy and not upset him.

As each conversation ended and I morphed back into 30 year old Naomi, I’d feel sick afterwards. So unaccustomed to this role of subservience, of ego-stroking. Is this what it feels like, really, underneath all the superficial male-awarded affirmation, to be a cool girl? To comply?

So it went until he caught me on a day when I was grumpy, busy and NOT in the mood to listen to white boys playing four chords on the guitar and expecting me to swoon.

‘You’re still into music aren’t you,’ he asked. ‘Wanna listen to a song I recorded?’

‘No thank you,’ I said. ‘I would find it awkward. You know I’ve taken music seriously my entire life. I’ve performed professionally. For a brief moment it was going to be my career. I tend to want to offer constructive criticism. If you enjoy playing that’s great. You don’t need to know what I think to enjoy music and I’m worried that what I think won’t be what you want to hear.’

This honest response unleashed a flood of comments that I was a stuck up bitch with massive tickets on myself and that I was incredibly rude and by the way I was really unattractive.

I just really didn’t want to listen to him play the guitar.

 

2.

‘You should get a job here!’ A smartly-dressed older man beamed at me.

I broke from the conversation I had been maintaining in my head while I waited in the queue to return his comments with an expression that said, ‘Huh?’

‘Here, at Priceline! You’d look gorgeous in their pink uniform.’

I looked down at my orange, undoubtedly food-splattered shirt and to the woman behind the counter wearing a pink blouse and a humiliated expression.

‘Pretty in pink! You should get a job here because you’d be pretty in pink!’

‘I have three degrees and an important government job. But I’ll throw all that away for the chance to be pretty in the uniform of your choosing.’

‘It was just a compliment! You don’t need to be sarcastic.’

I’m guessing the correct reaction was to laugh merrily and accept his gaze.

 

3.

I was at a wedding, a handful of friends and I taking a break in the fresh air from the furious dancing.

‘Do you guys have a lighter?’ An unknown wedding guest approached our group.

‘Sorry, none of us smoke,’ I said. ‘But those guys over there were just smoking so perhaps they can help out?’

‘Are you trying to get me to fuck off?’ My new acquaintance demanded aggressively.

‘No, I was trying to be helpful. But now you’ve spoken to me like that you can certainly fuck off.’

The atmosphere suddenly shifted. His body language morphed into something larger, squarer, and stronger. His eyes narrowed on me. I saw his hand tighten around the beer bottle he was holding. Women are very, very finely tuned into these atmospheric changes.

Just as it seemed he would explode, my partner calmly said, ‘Mate, she was trying to help and you blew up at her.’

Suddenly, our friend was on more familiar footing: how two white guys sort out a little problem.

‘Oh yeah no worries mate.’ He shook my partner’s hand.

‘No hard feelings love,’ he said to me, ‘give me a hug.’

‘No thank you,’ I said, offering my hand instead.

‘I just want a fucking hug what the fuck is wrong with you.’

It was a friend’s wedding, I was already weakened by one small round of resistance. I listened to the damn guitar and gave him a hug so he would go away, so I didn’t get hit and so I wasn’t rude. It was easier.

Why not just be nice to people instead of assuming the worst? Is what I want not valid? Especially when my niceness is exploited by intentions that are clearly not the best? Why is it so much more horrible to be truthful and honest, to be a non-compliant woman, than to allow myself to be formed into something quieter, meeker, smaller and unhappier? So what if the guy told you to smile where you were in your head about a serious issue? Well, raising a defiant eyebrow might be the first step to having a framework for saying what you really want, what you really feel, when it really matters. I send a question back: why is the scrutiny not directed at those who uphold the shoulds, who react angrily to non-compliance, who exploit the expectation that someone will acquiesce to their wants, who assume we want ask for more than we were given. Are not they the ones who should be doing things differently?

For many women, facing the condemnation of non-compliance is too terrifying because our social worth is bound in the approval our every action is given (or not) from men. Not complying will get you yelled at or dumped or hit or raped. So they just listen to the damn guitar. It’s easier. It makes them go away. But it hurts our souls and binds the fabric of compliance even tighter. I imagine that non-compliance allows us to stretch fully, to be radiant and brilliant and powerful without limit. And to imagine the true possibility of a womanhood without shoulds is terrifying in the most beautiful way.

To look into the eyes of someone who has asked me to submit to their expectations of my femininity, and refuse, is the most powerful act of womanhood. I feel adrenaline and power and strength race through my blood. Then afterwards, the shaking, rage filled tears of doing what I know is right despite criticism to calm down and not overreact; despite snarling, warm, drunk breath spewing insults at me; despite the fear of being hit – or worse. Non-compliance is more anguishing the more intimate the hands that press my compliance are, because it is shattering a relationship that was built upon my compliance, and I see that, to some people, I am not loveable when I say no.”


Thank you, Naomi, for so perfectly articulating what I feel on an almost daily basis.

Check out the original article, and Naomi’s blog, here

How are you, really?

Hi.

How are you?

 

 

How are you, really?

What’s been bothering you?

What’s on your mind?

What did you hate about today?

 

What did you love?

Who made you smile?

What did you achieve?

What did you accomplish?

 

Is there anything that I can help you with?

What can I do for you?

What are you keeping bottled up inside?

What are your fears?

 

 

Every day we are engaging with one and other, but how often are we actually taking the time to listen to what is really going on? Do we really give each other the space to share our joys, our fears, our thoughts… without fear of judgement? I can’t remember the last time someone said “no” to me when I asked if they were okay; how many times in the past month have you said you’re well, donning the happy mask, when deep down inside you’re miserable.

The one constant in the world seems to be that life is getting faster and we are getting busier – trying to fit more into our schedules, take on more roles, learn new things… but the clock doesn’t tick over to twenty-five hours in day.

 

So… next time you ask someone how they are, take a minute to listen. Really listen; offer the space and opportunity for expression. We need to take care of each other.

 

YES!

Australia, congratulations! You’ve done it! You’ve taken a giant leap towards equality. What a historic day!

I can’t say the marriage equality debate is one that I’ve followed with a fine tooth comb, but equality is something I am passionate about. And I for the life of me cannot seem to understand why or how people exist who believe it is fair and just for such discrimination in marriage equality.

Marriage is religious? I’ll believe that when I see you go to Church every Sunday; when you do not use fowl language; when you treat all others as your equals (which you obviously do not if you do not agree with marriage equality); the list goes on.

Marriage is for heterosexual couples, and allowing others to marry will diminish the sacristy of marriage? Ok, well when the divorce rates plummet, when people stop marrying for Visas, for money, for insecurity… then I might consider your view. Until then, nope.

If we allow same sex marriage, our children will suffer? Open your eyes.

Children need a Mum and a Dad? No. Children need love; they need commitment; they need education, support, opportunity, sacrifice… but most of all, love.

But most of all, how does your marriage, your choices, your love affect me? I don’t even know you… what makes it my right to determine who you can love?

We are arguing over LOVE! Does that not seem absurd? We should be encouraging love! In a world so messed up and the newspapers smeared with heartbreak and death, we should be embracing love, however it is shown. And we must lead by example for our children, to show them that they can be brave, we can create change, and we will accept one and others differences.

Love is love.

Congratulations, Australia.

You’ve [finally] done well.

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We Hurt Ourselves?

Yesterday I read an article that a friend had ‘shared’ on Facebook.

It was about the ‘hat’ of depression – I’ll link it here. It resonated with me on many levels – the notion that depression – or any mental health issue for that matter – is quite often invisible to others. Then, when I realised I knew the guy who had written the article, I was challenged in my thinking again. ‘I never would have known’…. Ain’t that the classic saying we hear over and over again. As Jock says in his writing, it’s not like a broken bone or a common cold where everyone can see the symptoms and act accordingly to help you. It is much more complex and individualised in showing the signs.

I remember a conversation I had about mental health and treatment about a year ago. I remember it so clearly. It was the lead up to Christmas, I was away on holidays with my family, and we were at a pub having a few drinks with friends. Now, believe me, I recognise that everyone has their own life story; everyone has their issues and you cannot always compare situations. However, I do know that this discussion took place between myself and a highly educated woman of my parents age. I expected better; more compassion; less ignorance.

This woman argued about how society and individuals inflict mental health issues; that todays generation is ‘privileged’ and that – to the effect of – mental health medication is an unnecessary excuse; that everyone is on it.

I do not dispute that perhaps todays society has some input – look at Instagram, for example. We are constantly comparing each others lives and perfectly staged photographs. Look at Text Messages – I’m sure half of the cruel messages sent via a screen would never be said to a persons face back when phones did not exist.

Then one may take into account today’s economy and society structure – we are living in a society that it is becoming increasingly harder to buy a first home, for example; there is almost an expectation that when you finish school, you will go to University and get a degree if you wish to make the big bucks (I’m sure there are jobs where there is a potential to earn excellent money without a degree, but to me, it seems for the most part, we are becoming a formal employment sector) – and Uni isn’t for everybody.

Then, on the other hand, I’m certain that we have it much easier than our predecessors. It’s all about the perspective.

However, easy or hard, mental health is a real thing. With real aetiology and real physiological findings.

You want to argue that your son, your brother, your best friend, that stranger at the coffee shop must suffer alone, without any help? You want to look me in the eyes and tell me that I inflicted anxiety upon myself? That I shouldn’t have sought help to balance my Serotonin levels during a dark couple of months? Whilst you continue to take your Type 2 Diabetic medication – a disease which is one hundred percent lifestyle and choice inflicted?

How does that argument add up?

How is taking Fluoxetine – one small pill – for anxiety or depression any different – any worse – than injecting yourself on the regular with your Insulin? And why, when I reach out to friends to offer help, do they refuse to consider medication for mental health; why does it feel like if we medicate, we must be seriously messed up?

Because of your stigmas and false ideas.

It’s an argument that I feel very passionately about, and this discussion went on for quite some time. To my dismay, I don’t feel like I made any groundwork with this woman.

Perhaps when we drop the stigma around mental health and stop leaving so many of our loved ones in the dark, alone. We need to begin a conversation that, I can only hope, will result in sufferers feeling safe, accepted, and heck, maybe medication needs may even decrease.

Your ignorance is no excuse.

 

* if you are suffering with mental health, there is help. Lifeline: 13 11 14

365 Days

Don’t you think it’s funny, how much changes in a year? How much has changed… How much can change?

When you look at the day by day, small actions don’t surmount to huge changes. But somehow, over time, those small actions and small choices add up and when you look back, everything is different.

When I think back to this time last year I was a bit of an anxious mess. I’d just finished studying my Bachelor of Arts (Sociology) and Masters of Nursing at one of Australia’s top Universities only to find out that I was potentially going to be unemployed in my field for 2017. I’d been unsuccessful in receiving a first round offer for a new graduate Nursing position.

I’d like to look back and think I was resilient – a character trait crucial to any successful individual. I had my few days of disappointment and tears before embarking on further job applications. At this point my mentality was “whatever… I have nothing to lose” so I gave it my all and when, a few weeks later, I found out that I indeed had been successful in receiving a job offer from this second option, I was again disheartened.

The job was not to commence until September… SEPTEMBER!? That was 9 months away. What was I supposed to do then? Live on the street? Twiddle my thumbs?

I was gutted, proud, excited… all of the feels.

The world works in funny ways, you see. Somehow, everything happens just at the right time, for the right reason.

A matter of days latter, I received an offer from a small Hospital in a rural location. I cried. I felt incredibly unlucky that these turn of events were happening to me. I didn’t want to leave my new home in Sydney, and my established network of friends. I didn’t want to give up my dream of working in one of Sydney’s largest hospitals to work in a 60 bed hospital. I had no idea what to do.

I am an impulsive person. I get an idea in my head, and I roll with it. I just go for it. I don’t give things much thought (sometimes…). So when I found out this small hospital was going to offer me work in my dream area – The Emergency Department – as well as some other fantastic opportunities such as the Operating Theatre, I took it. Without much consideration for the move, reshuffling, the fact I had not yet found somewhere to live.

Well… It was the best damn decision I’ve made in a while.

The skills I’ve gained – although not without initial feelings of “I’m drowning” and spending every weekend at the library – the people I’ve met, the opportunities I’ve had, the doors it has opened.

I’ve learnt a great deal about myself; a great deal about what I value; and a great deal about what I want. I think everyone should move to a foreign place. Everyone should be forced to put themselves out there, start over, make the effort, feel scared and unsure of oneself. It’s terrifying. It’s so worthwhile.

Twelve months later (almost) I now have plans to pick up my life and move again. To a place I have never been; a place that is literally in the middle of no where.

I’m terrified.
I’m excited.
Most of all, I’m ready to learn: about my job and about myself.

I can’t wait. Bring it on.

The Carousel Keeps Turning

Long standing thoughts and wonders, inspired by my job but reinforced by the loss of loved ones…

I am constantly bewildered by the notion that ‘life just keeps going’. It’s a concept that I haven’t wrapped by head around, despite much thought and reflection on the matter.

How is it that one person is having the best day of their life, whilst another person is living their absolute worst nightmare? Even more, how can it be that such polar opposites of human emotion can simultaneously unfold in adjacent rooms?

As a nurse, I am fascinated and a little overwhelmed by the idea that I can be leaving a patient in one hospital room who has just found out their diagnosis is cancer, and walk down the hallway to another room; a couple who have just welcomed their first child. How am I expected to act? Do I carry myself with the sorrow of that cancer diagnosis that unquestionably saddens me, or do I allow myself to absorb in the joy and love of the bedroom next door? I guess it’s similar to being a puppet, putting on a show for each patient and each encounter. It’s draining. I often come home and take solace in my own silent company. But my wonderment is not with my own feelings; it’s the bigger picture; the highs and lows of life.

Heck, that person at the coffee shop may still push in front of you, whether you’ve just welcomed your healthy first born or received a doomsday diagnosis. That person has no clue.

It fascinates me to no end. The carousel never stops turning, and you’re either on or your off. There is no in between.

Stay kind. Cease judgment. Allow one another to balance the pendulum.

 

Lost?

“Why do you act so opposite… feels like I’m hitting a wall… Its hard to get through to that sensitive, great person underneath the bravado. Not to mention intelligent when you feel like it. Or you’re not afraid…I don’t like what you project but I like the glimpse underneath who seems caring, thoughtful, insightful and shy… I’m pretty sure you’re gonna grow into a pretty amazing individual when you drop the facade and just be you…”

The power of words, hey.

Deep down, I think those words were said from a caring, heartfelt place, but my god… I have never been more confused, flattered, upset and angry all in one. A huge ball of emotions, all in one. An unwanted source of turmoil, I suppose.

Angry that you sent those words to me via a text message.

Angry that you didn’t have the decency or courage to face me and speak to me in person.

Angry that you have had months to say those words to me, but instead you wait until I will indefinitely, or perhaps never, see you again.

But somehow flattered because those words hold the potential for something so beautiful. For the type of person I endeavour to be; kind, caring, thoughtful, intelligent… it’s everything anyone aspires to be, right? They’re the qualities any parent hopes their child will grow up to encompass.

Flattered, because everyone wants to be seen as “an amazing individual” by others; particularly when those words come from someone I admire. Someone intelligent; someone who’s lived and met humans from all walks of life.

But upset because I am not there yet.

Upset because I don’t know how to get there.

Upset because I am trying to be that person; that person I apparently can be… and so much more.

Confused because I don’t know how to get there.

Confused about who I am; how I act; if this is all a “facade” or “bravado”, or if this is really me?

Why can’t I be a thousand colours in one?

Who gives you the right to determine how I should be?

Who gives you the right to judge my character?

I’ve always seen myself as a multi-faceted person. Many of my friends will say I’m loud & outgoing, full of energy and, most of the time, pretty happy. But I’m also horribly awkward and shy; I enjoy my own company and I quite often can’t be bothered with crowds of people. I have many acquaintances, but few close friends – not necessarily something I resent.

I reflect on who I am today and my character, compared to that of even two years ago. We are every changing, and I strongly believe we are adaptable to our circumstances and those around us. I know they say that a fresh start in a new place means that you have the opportunity to be anyone you want, but really, how much of that is pre-determined by the setting and the people there? This, in my opinion, is not insignificant. We are a product of our surroundings.

So as I come to the close of this chapter in my life over the next few months, and begin my next one in a completely foreign environment, I wonder who I’ll be?

Will I live up to your standards?

And will I care if I don’t…?