in my youth

Channelling all old fogeys ever, today, when I say that I might currently live a circumscribed life, but I was young once. I took risks, was adventurous, did silly things and survived. Every so often I feel the need to assert this fact. I’d hate to think that I had spent my whole life living the way I do now. Hmm, perhaps other people do and are happy about it. Maybe I shouldn’t cast nasturtiums.

In my mid teens I frequently took the train to the Blue Mountains to walk quiet bushland tracks I’d seen described in a guidebook, without letting anyone know where I was headed or for how long. It gives me the horrors now to recall how often I wandered off alone, prior to cell phones, GPS, etc. This was while I still believed in the power of magical thinking to protect me, along with the usual youthful sense of immortality.

In my late teens I often took the overnight train up the coast and hitch-hiked around the Northern Rivers region when public transport or bicycles weren’t available. This was years prior to getting my drivers’ licence for work purposes. Back then I said I’d delight in smashing a car if I ever won one. The only injury I sustained while hitching was to my pride, when a drunk old man playing dirty ditties on the car’s cassette player called me names after I declined a ride to his house, a drink, and a root. Shaken, I still hitch-hiked to Nimbin later that week with fellow WWOOFers.

In my twenties I hitch-hiked around the North Island of Aotearoa for the same reasons as before. Once, I was picked up by a police patrol car and they dropped me at my destination without a word of reproach. Another time a couple of young men bundled me into the back of a panel van and asked leading questions about past hitch-hiking experiences. I bluffed my way through until they dropped me at my workplace. One gorgeous summer day, wearing only a sarong, I was propositioned when the driver detoured to a reserve off the main road. In my own mind I was demurely dressed compared to my time in a clothing-optional commune. I pretended not to understand what he was suggesting and he dropped me back at my digs. I was propositioned by strangers a lot, back then, and not by anyone I was remotely interested in. It was disturbing.

The older Aussie man I was seeing around that time wasn’t a big talker, and neither was I. We could walk for hours around town, hand in hand or with his hand on my neck, without exchanging more than a few words. We lived in sugar cane country and my parents would be horrified if they knew we once had sex in the middle of a cane field. I don’t recommend it. It’s hard, lumpy and full of critters you don’t necessarily want to get naked with. Think rodents, snakes and spiders. We never used contraception and thus it was only luck that kept me barren. Good old luck!

My Kiwi partner and I frequently hitched rides to camping grounds (carrying everything but the proverbial kitchen sink), and once hitched from Christchurch to the West Coast, only to discover that bikies were having a convention near our campground that weekend. Another weekend we hitched up the coast and ended up being rained out of our tiny tent and harassed by seals. We also hitched to Auckland for a kd lang concert. Apart from the inter-island ferry passage, the rest entire ride was free. In Auckland, we stayed with friends. We were both working full time, but on crappy wages, so this was the only way we could manage the trip. Having someone to share the conversational burden with was excellent, and I had a blast.

One New Year’s Eve we hitched to Blenheim to join a group of women for a peaceful protest near the Waihopai spy base. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, so after a night or two I WWOOFed nearby at an older woman’s place. We later hitched home together, singing songs we’d learned at the campsite. A lovely Swiss couple we’d met there ended up staying with us for a few days and kept in touch for years after.

At Seal Rocks, NSW, I swam alone one morning (not a great idea), and without my glasses on thought I was swimming with a dolphin. I just saw the fin a short distance away and was oddly thrilled. Walking later along a higher vantage point, my companion and I spotted the shark patrolling the beach.

Friends and I swam in a river at Kakadu National Park (Northern Territory, Australia), while joking about the presence of crocodiles. Having safely survived this, our campsite was trashed by stampeding water buffalo while we scrambled for safety atop the Land Rover.

I had my first driving lesson en route from Darwin to Perth, on a stretch of straight highway. As soon as my companion had me safely reach fourth gear, she slept for an hour, then woke to teach me to brake. Fortunately I didn’t encounter any creatures on that road, as hitting one probably would have turned me off driving for life. She also took me to a remote Aboriginal community to visit people she knew. The people were friendly but the place was sobering. I’d had no idea that such conditions existed outside the big cities – like a World Vision advertisement. Approaching Perth, we witnessed the glorious Spring wildflowers. They’re worth making the trip to see, if you get the chance.

I hitched alone from Perth to Albany, staying en route in youth hostels and other tiny establishments, and talking to the occasional dolphin from a pier in the middle of what felt like endless, peaceful nowhere.

In Brisbane I rode pillion on a flatmate’s motorbike, in shorts and t-shirt, to Lamington National Park. Stupid, and I paid for it with a horrendous sunburn, but good Lord it was a magnificent place to visit. I still remember the letter I wrote to my sister about it.

After my sister died, I joined a friend for parachute jump training. Sadly, before the jump date I relocated to another town for work. As it turned out, I wasn’t really cut out for live-in nannying, but while there I learned to use equipment at the community radio station, and had my first close encounter with a Steiner School, imprinting me for life.

Grieving, I visited many Spiritualist Churches, hoping for messages. At one, the medium pointed to me, using male pronouns, and said that my sister wanted me to feel her hugs every time I wore my woolly scarf. Imagine my devastation when my scarf blew overboard on the inter-island ferry. That trip was so rough that many passengers rushed to the toilets. I ended up cowering below, breathing slowly and deeply near a window. I hoped to at least see a dolphin or whale, but no such luck.

At some point, after volunteering at an independent pre-school, I decided to try live-in training at a cult-like religious organisation that attracted me with their wholesome values. While I didn’t last long there either, I still think of it fondly. The people were warm, kind, sincere and funny. Some of them kept in touch for years. It was also the first time I’d encountered a macrobiotic cafe, walked barefoot in frost, chanted in groups before an altar, or tried using a regular flush toilet without the benefit of dunny roll (we were encouraged to use a bottle of water with a nozzle you aimed at the required area, to clean ourselves). I’d been camping before and used composting toilets, but this somehow seemed more adventurous.

Then there was the time I completed a three-month outdoor adventure course for ‘at-risk youth’. We canoed, kayaked, climbed rocks in the snow, abseiled, cross-country skied, camped and bushwalked in gorgeous locations. My only injury was a twisted ankle when forced to jump from a boulder while bushbashing. We’d managed to lose the actual track. In between trips we sat around, played pool, wandered off to buy ice cream, or participated in worthy pursuits such as basic bush regeneration. I’d never felt so alive as when I was in the forest. It felt like the meaning of life.

Later, I participated in the Conservation Corps (South Island, Aotearoa) and the Greenhouse Corps (WA, Australia) and once missed a Michelle Shocked concert when forced to participate in some bogus group bonding event. Yep, still disgusted about that, lol. I attended Soil and Health meetings, community garden meetings, Landcare and Permaculture meetings, political meetings, exchange and barter group meetings, and Al Anon. I volunteered with Greening Australia and Meals on Wheels. I studied periodically, wrote articles for a community newsletter and helped establish a rural farmers market.

In my thirties, my partner and I lived in a rustic log cabin, and regularly went spotlighting around the bushland property. We put red cellophane over the flashlights – it was supposed to protect the eyes of wildlife. A favourite memory from this time was sitting at the fence line at dusk, and watching a group of Yellow-Bellied Gliders swoop one by one from tree to tree until all ended up in an enormous gum beside the house. There, they gnawed on bark and made noises that I couldn’t imitate if I tried. Another favourite memory is of standing at the front door to try to identify the source of some odd noises, and witnessing two Wedge-tailed Eagles swoop past. We camped one summer in a National Park north-east of Melbourne, and I saw my first Greater Glider. Everywhere we drove, I’d be leaning back in the passenger seat and looking out the sunroof for koalas. It was an amazing place.

After a particularly chaotic time, I couldn’t do it any more, just came to a full stop. I tried, repeatedly, and kept shutting down. Thus began attendance at mental health support groups, CBT treatment groups, and art therapy groups, until I eventually decided to be gentle with myself. To accept reality. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy now feels like a better fit than CBT. Living slowly and quietly agrees with me. Writing helps too. Solitude, stable housing and a small group of friends and acquaintances are a blessing. Until further adventures are possible, I can enjoy memories.

Thanks for letting me share them with you.

Here, queer, and raring to go

Hello, yes, I’m back. I may yet have more farewell posts than John Farnham has farewell tours. He’s a hero of mine, what can I say?

Today I’m back to talk about being trans in 2021.

If we’ve not met before, I’m an old fart, not a wee whippersnapper, so I remember the lesbian ‘trend’ of the early 1990s, when the male-dominated tabloids were whipped into hysteria by kd lang, Martina Navratilova, and Melissa Etheridge. I remember a lamentably short Green trend from back then too. And the greed trend of the 1980s, the unisex clothes trend of the 1970s, and the glee of choosing a new Patons knitting pattern for Nanna to knit me a trendy new jumper.

I also recall the excitement of seeing an interview with Madonna’s bisexual girlfriend, Sandra Bernhard, and discussing her with a SNAG friend. For a sheltered white, middle class kid in the burbs, this was a big deal.

Around the time that I was questioning my own sexuality, a series of horrific homophobic murders in Sydney gained almost as much air time as the annual Pride March. There was no question about what my parents and extended family thought of it all. Their faces, gestures and comments were clearly anti-gay. About a decade later, when I hesitantly told my father that I had lesbian and gay friends, he told me that it would kill my mother if I was ‘like that’. Much later, when I told my mother about my girlfriend, she said it would kill her parents if they knew. Nobody ended up dying except my younger sister, and all three of us kids turned out to be queer.

My first, and older, female partner taught me a lot about queer and feminist history. She also worked hard to train me to be the girlfriend she wanted. She wanted me to believe the ‘right’ things, do the ‘right’ things, dress in ways she found appealing, and refrain from stuff I might find fun but she disapproved of. As someone who’d been an obedient kid and enjoyed rules and boundaries, I lapped it up to a certain degree. When the guidance became overtly controlling, my mental health suffered and this became another source of unhealthy relationship dynamics. I became ‘the sick one’. At times I was so unwell that I could not trust what my severely depressed brain was telling me, and needed reality checks from trusted sources.

My next female partner exploited that periodic need for reality checks, in order to pursue other relationships. It was a psychologist teaching me mindfulness meditation who finally helped me identify her behaviour as gaslighting. I’d always expressed an interest in open relationships, so it wasn’t necessary to lie to me. It wasn’t until I actively looked for another place to live that one of her other girlfriends approached me about becoming a throuple. By then of course all trust – the glue of any quality relationship – had evaporated, and I declined.

During these fraught periods (regardless of the snippets shared here, I still love my exes and the relationships weren’t always fraught), it was necessary to hunt for suitable individuals who could help me/us figure out what was happening and how to remedy it. The lesbian communities in those locations were relatively small and close-knit. Privacy and objectivity were rare and prized. I fished from the wee pool of suitably trained lesbian therapists, seeking help from straight people only in emergencies, given the ridiculously low numbers of knowledgeable and non-judgemental straight therapists. At times I went without support because I couldn’t risk some ill-informed person’s input.

Much older and re-evaluating my life, I took advantage of my suddenly single status to explore long-suppressed thoughts and feelings about my own gender. Now that I didn’t need to accommodate another person’s feelings and opinions, I wanted to find out just who I was in terms of gender. It had cropped up from time to time in therapy, but been squished back into the box through lack of time or expertise. It had cropped up in specialised anxiety and depression treatment, among a group of patients who included those I recognised as gay or gender-diverse, but the group leader had been straight, cis and determinedly uneducated in the ‘rare and specialised’ field of LGBTIQ+ care. She told me so, while directing me to consult a non-existent local expert.

I’m over fifty now, living as the person I had previously only seen in my dreams and guided meditations. Being trans isn’t something I actively read or talk about on a daily basis, or even think about much. It crops up occasionally, such as when meeting a new doctor or disability support person. It crops up when considering going out with those few friends who still misgender me. And it crops up when well-meaning friends forward me trans-preoccupied media items that turn out to be revolting examples of prejudice and hateful misinformation.

At those times I gravitate back toward trans groups and others who have proven themselves kind, supportive and knowledgeable. I watch more videos that these people recommend, and am thankful that they exist. They remind me that nature loves diversity, thrives on it, requires it. And that I am just fine.

Pic courtesy of Pexels (artist’s name not visible to me).

I’ve been worse (aka Life Is Good)

Another lockdown has been declared for regional areas in our state. Once again we join the people of metropolis in adhering to lifesaving rules, such as staying within a 5km radius of home and using only essential reasons to leave home at all. I’m not devastated. It’s tiring, trying to keep up with the latest rules, but in truth they impact my life in tiny ways. Where do I usually go anyway?

Yesterday I invited a friend on a jaunt in the car. Ok, in their car. Ha. They’ve wanted to go somewhere fun with me for ages, and I was finally in the right state of mind. They laughed and lit a joint, rendering themselves useless behind the wheel. Oh well. There will be other days, maybe months from now. I’m ok with that.

This morning I woke at stupid o’clock to dwell upon the book I’d skimmed before bed. It was about rewilding yourself within an urban environment and included accounts of what the author had been up to last year during lockdown. My own ideas of appropriate lockdown behaviour are quite different to theirs! The whole book had irritated me and perhaps what troubled me the most was my inability to pinpoint why. So before dawn I was mulling it all over again, much to my ongoing annoyance.

Eventually I drifted off again, with the cat curled close enough to tickle. Then woke to a beautifully warm, early Spring day. What’s not to like? For some reason I was thinking about last year’s shenanigans while showering, and I was listing far more stressful periods from my own history. My personal Workers Compensation era, for instance, or the year of living with a mendacious ex while looking for affordable solo accommodation. Or the year prior to my long-desired surgery, when full of rage about hoop-jumping, and the fear of having the rug swept from under me. As tiring and stressful as last year was, it’s been worse. And I feel for those who are having their own Worst of Times right now.

Let’s go Outside, sings George Michael on my computer. It must be time to noodle around in the garden and wave at my lovely neighbours. One of my most amusing dreams last night involved black and white photography of naked men in yoga-inspired poses within garden settings. The light and composition were beautiful, the men fresh from the gym. I wouldn’t mind a calendar of those.

(Today’s banner pic is my own)

Hello, people

Hello, how are you? Lovely weather we’re having. You’re looking well!

I finally have to concede that I have nothing much left to share in a blog format. It was a phase I was going through. It was a stepping stone, an adventure, an exercise in terrifying myself with visibility. It appears to be done.

My book-writing is enjoying a fallow phase as well. I sorted the chapters last night, alternately wincing and grinning at my prose. Slow and erratic progress is still progress, though.

Unlike my social media experiments, I will leave this already-rebooted blog here. My current therapy is reshuffling memories and adjusting the ambient lighting. I wonder which facts will remain shareable and which fade into obscurity. What emerges at the end is anyone’s guess. I’m reasonably confident of a more compassionate tone overall. That’s how my current therapist works and what I have craved for years. Every appointment so far has been useful, even revelatory.

Thank you for reading, commenting, and responding obliquely through your own blogs. I’m still reading blogs, between books.

Take care of yourselves. We’ll see each other again.

Shadows to sunlight

As I’m writing, I keep being drawn to write about past experiences that still bother me. Stories I took to my therapist, with no resulting insights. Stories I tell myself late at night, inconveniently hungry and desperate to sleep.

A friend sent me a link to a free online memoir workshop that turned out to revolve around fairytales. This has fed my imagination ever since.

What is it that attracts us to fairytales? Jung would tell you one thing, a kindergarten teacher another (possibly). It’s been blooming’ fascinating to ask everyone I know what their favourite fairytales are, and why. For one person who immediately said, “Snow White” and grimaced at my own choice, it was all about positivity. They didn’t want to entertain the darkness they saw in my own choice, and our conversations often return to this theme of choosing the light.

Maybe it’s because I embraced the notion of depth and darkness as being valuable, in my teens, that I can see this person’s point without being personally affronted. After all, you usually have to plant a seed in dark soil, where the growth then heads for the light. I can accept that some of my poor choices and others’ hurtful actions hold the potential for my further growth. I see the value in that and am excited about learning.

We went on to discuss Snow White further, and she conceded there were darker elements, like the poisoned apple and the ubiquitous wicked stepmother (where do they all come from?) But for her, Snow White was all cheery positivity, complete with Prince Charming and multiple little buddies who worked as a team to create a happy home. I could see the appeal.

Can you see a “but” coming? Ha. No, not a butt, not this time. I could see the appeal for her, but it left me cold. I guess it’s handy then that there are so many fairytales to choose from, and so many personal paths for us to venture down.

Everyone has one

It’s a matter of how you use it. Whether it’s your bunghole or your opinion, it’s yours and we don’t always need to know about it.

“Thank you for your valuable input,” has become my favourite sarcastic reply to unsolicited advice or rude feedback of any sort about my own life. There’s no need for me to even say it out loud in order to enjoy its restorative powers. In just a few words I can laughingly dismiss their nonsense and let it go.

Lately I’ve noticed more straight white people pontificating on subjects they know nothing about. Maybe they have done it since year dot and I’m late to the party. But crikey, what self-awareness they lack. What smug faces they present as they blithely evaluate and completely miss the point of whatever they’re discussing.

Not all straight white people, and not all male ones, in case you wondered. Glad we cleared that up.

Today the tipping point for me was encountering a straight white male’s opinion piece on the subject of treating trans people with respect. Of course he missed the respect part with miles to spare, and focussed on making it all about him. He didn’t want to be labelled ‘cis’ and didn’t want to change his own behaviour in any way, and we couldn’t make him do so. So there! Naturally, he was middled aged, which I could have predicted. Sigh.

What we definitely could NOT make him do was tell people his pronouns, because he’s privileged. He doesn’t need to specify pronouns. He’s never needed to. He can’t even see pronouns unless someone points them out and even then he can’t join the dots from there to respect and inclusion. He probably expends more care in correctly gendering others’ babies and dogs (who don’t give a flying fig) than thinking about trans people. Unless of course he can earn a few bucks from a notoriously trashy mass media outlet by sounding off about his own entitlement, ignorance and utter lack of regard. Thank you for your valuable input, generic old conservative straight cis white dude!

(This joyful image is courtesy of Vitória Santos, via Pexels. Thank you!)

To be fair, I’m also an old fart. And I experience an embarrassing level of resistance to sharing my own pronouns in email signatures or anywhere else. Others are forced to guess, ask me outright or even ask my friends, if they give a hoot to start with. But my reluctance also stems from past experiences of outing myself, and until stating your pronouns becomes mainstream, telling all and sundry can lead to unpleasant interactions. Ask me about my decades of coming out experiences in general. It’s not all Pride Marches and glitter. It includes gritty, ugly conversations with unsavoury nongs. I’m at a point where I’m not actually willing to go there, thanks anyway. Maybe next year.

But thanks heaps, haters, for your ever-valuable input!

All the naughty people

Where do they all come from? All the naughty people, where do they all belong? Somehow a conversation about cartoons collided with an external house inspection and set me on a mental path to pondering the purpose of basic social norms.

My friend was talking about the animated Barbie videos she watches with her daughter. I was curious about them, wondering what she personally got out of watching them. She said that they contained good values and usually had a morality lesson. I compared it to Shaun the Sheep, one of my own favourites. He’s usually naughty, we agreed. That’s why he’s so funny and popular, my friend said. That hadn’t occurred to me before.

“We buy things we don’t want with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like,” goes the social media post in my newsfeed. Yeah, yeah, I think. I guess that’s why I don’t invite people inside my home, because I’m not able to live up to that meme. I can’t and I won’t conform to that norm. It’s a source of both pride and shame. Hmm. Why shame, I wonder. I guess my middle class capitalist indoctrination was strong and is reinforced by the popular media I choose to keep paying attention to.

And it’s expected by my landlords. This is social housing, after all. They know I’m not rich, so aren’t expecting a backyard jacuzzi or expensive statuary, but they do expect neatness and tidiness. My nemeses. I’m in agreement with Bill Mollison, one of our late Permaculture elders, that neatness and tidiness are not ecologically sound. They are merely a Western social norm. And as a tenant, I am required to conform.

As I pull out plants that attract beneficial insects, for the crime of self-seeding in the ‘wrong’ place, I rant about social norms and values and mindless conformity. I don’t want to be the squeaky wheel that cops the grease on this occasion, yet I am feeling stressed by our clash of values. I’m reflecting on how we all try to keep each other in line. On the nature of crime. Naughtiness.

Shaun is funny. If this were Shaun’s garden, this scene would be funny.

This set me thinking about this past year or so, and the social pressures associated with that blasted virus. How we have often felt socially connected and influenced, despite distancing. Many of us (not all) felt the need to keep in touch and reinforce social bonds and social norms. I wondered how those who lived through the Spanish Flu, one hundred years ago, navigated those challenges. (Unprecedented times? BS!)

I thought about C19 wins and fails. Masks that people (still) wear under their noses, if at all. Social media posts about conspiracies that were allowed to proliferate, because Free Speech trumps defendable facts. Grass roots care organisers, random acts of kindness, hand sanitiser at almost every turn, and the front line staff who suffer the brunt of customer aggression (not OK!)

It made me reflect on basic social norms, the purpose of rules and how I usually take our acceptance of them or agreement with them for granted (until I transgress via my gender presentation, social awkwardness or my gardening style that is so out of keeping with my neighbours). What makes Shaun’s disruptive behaviour funny or the farmer’s confusion or anger funny? Could any of the Covid disruption be funny?

Could Shaun have been used in C19 social education campaigns? Could he have made it all funny? Could he have helped?

How did I get from my resentment of pointless tidiness to serious crime and the power of social pressure? I don’t know, but it’s one of the wonders of gardening.

Restimulated

CW: mental illness

Years ago I was part of the RC (Re-evaluation Counselling) community. One of the jargon words from that community was ‘restimulated’. In modern jargon it would be ‘triggered’. It was a handy way to let someone know that it might appear that you were speaking from an emotional, possibly incomprehensibly random place, but that the response came from memories of past experiences. It wasn’t personal. It was me, not you.

I’m restimulated to heck, today, and words want to come tumbling out. Keeping them inside, or writing them down for my own private use, is not working for me right now.

There’s a great Aussie-made series on national television at the moment called Wakefield. Set in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, it’s about various staff and patients within a residential mental health facility. We see situations from various perspectives, and wouldn’t that be handy in real life! Someone’s impossible behaviour gradually makes perfect sense. We see unravelling and healing, both. It’s beautifully done, and a complete surprise to me. I had originally dismissed it as more exploitative crap.

So today I am restimulated to heck by an episode that involves electric shock therapy. This includes how the side effects impact the patient as well as the husband. Far out. Never have I ever seen this explored so sensitively, or even so honestly. I just paused to bawl my eyes out, so this writing is helping me already.

I feel as though I have been waiting my whole life to be mentally well, and to have healthy relationships with my unwell family members. I can’t say that I have put my own life on hold, because that’s patently untrue. I’ve travelled around Australia and New Zealand, mostly alone, and explored different ways of living that were in line with my personal ethics. I’m still exploring new options. But I have always hoped to be able to do this more elegantly, with fewer meltdowns and with more confidence in my own social skills. I’ve lost so much of my earlier confidence and don’t even have my youthful hubris to fall back on. And now, since my sibling’s electric shock treatments, I no longer hold hope that we can have that relationship I’ve always wanted with her.

Look, I know, we have to accept ourselves and each other and whatever circumstances we live within (on some level at least) before we can move forward. Acceptance is part of mental health and part of love. And yet… why wouldn’t we want more for ourselves, when childhood led us to believe that it was possible?

I have so much grief, still. And I guess saying it out loud is part of the process. Thanks for listening.


Thanks too to the photographer responsible for the banner photo, which I obtained via Pexels. I can’t see your name!

Sporadic writing

It’s ok to pop in and out with random posts, right? I’m on nobody else’s timetable and my income doesn’t rely on these mini public monologues. Still, it would be nice to be more regular for the sake of readers; perhaps reliably regular and perhaps more reliably informative or entertaining. I’m sorry if that’s your preference, because I just can’t seem to deliver.

I had a heck of a lot to say a year or two ago, particularly about my experience of gender and whether to transition/undergo gender affirmation. I spilled my guts all over the page and in the end I had little left to offer. All the stuff I desperately wanted others to know or understand about that situation has been said. Now I’m restored to my prudent, reserved self, living my life. Nothing to see here.

How do you feel about the word, ‘triggers’? People seem to have strong feelings about that word, one way or another. Rude people are triggered to be rude, ignorant and condescending types are triggered to be more of the same, and so forth. Lately I’ve been triggered as a reader to write about my triggers. It’s been helpful. I’d thought I had nothing left to say, and now suddenly have multiple topics. Who knew?

Still, I have reservations about sharing those strong feelings in a public setting. This isn’t anonymous enough for me to let fly without some judicious editing. Editing takes time and the kind of level-headed judgement that doesn’t arrive daily with the cat’s list of demands. I guess this is me coming to terms with another aspect of life’s randomness; my own rhythms.

It’s a beautiful night. The stars are out, creatures are rustling in my garden and something is walking across the tin roof. Country music with American accents is playing on this digital radio station (to snap me out of the trance that Dr G Yunupingu’s beautiful music put me in). I have nothing to complain about, much to look forward to, and people to love. I’ll be back with some mulled triggered thoughts soon enough. 🙂

And now for something completely different…

No, the fire scenes are not triggering at all, aaaaggghhh!

PS: The header photo is courtesy of Pexels. I can’t see the photographer’s name or I’d acknowledge it here. Sorry, mate.

Shelter from the storm

CW: mental health, self-harm

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There was the time, late 1990’s, that I paused in the Student Counselling building on my way home to collect and calm my thoughts, and was later reprimanded by my therapist for doing so. My brief, silent presence had unnerved a staff member, although they’d told me it was ok for me to sit there, alone in the waiting room.

No further explanation was forthcoming. She conveyed no compassion. Asked no questions – no, “why?” or, “what were you needing?” or, “how can we better meet our respective needs in future?” Just, “don’t.” Stern, uninterested, unyielding, unhelpful. The antithesis of what I had hoped for and needed.

Did I return? NO.

How did I next try to meet my needs? Already mentally exhausted, I gave up on the mental health system, along with myself, and hurt myself.

Despite all my misgivings about being vulnerable, I had done all the right things, according to the mental health handbook – I’d reached out, disclosed, asked for help, taken meds, engaged in daily exercise and maintained social contacts. On that extra day I simply needed a safe, quiet place to collect myself before walking 4km home… and was shamed for it. The support available to me as a deeply depressed student living below the poverty line was inadequate. It let me down.

Just as well I survived.

I wrote this as a warm up exercise while reflecting on my myriad interactions with the amorphous mental health system. Happy at the moment to be taking a break from therapy. Happy to feel well enough to!

Engaging with the mental health system sometimes takes more energy than we have available. Being a Rule Keeper, I am frequently dismayed by the mixed results achieved by following the rules. Still, I am a big fan of seeking help, because I have been bereaved by others’ suicides. Now, I am more likely to call a queer crisis line than make an appointment and wait three months for my therapist to be available. I have accrued a good box of self-help tools and have multiple phone numbers and support groups to access.

I’m writing here because others’ writings helped me when I was most down. You’re not alone. ❤

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