Daring to Tri

Since I stopped work to have the boys, setting and achieving personal goals has been hard.

And I don’t mean finally emptying the laundry basket or single-handedly building the Death Star out of match sticks.

When you work, there are tasks to master, recognition for a job well done and a sense of purpose.

In parent-land it’s groundhog day most of the time. Same chores, different days. No pay rise, no ‘well done!’.

It was my choice to stop work and on the whole I’m glad I did. I need to be there to advocate for BW and he needs me to be around.

A few years ago, a tragic event shattered our family. I put on weight. A LOT of weight. I stopped caring.

One day, I realised the need to be a healthy role model for the boys.

Running became my new jam. It didn’t help me lose weight initially, but mentally it was what I needed.

I had a new goal. Times to be beaten.

Personal Bests to accumulate.

Being a novice and all, I didn’t do it properly, so got injured and had to think of other forms of exercise.

Surprisingly for a lazy cow I actually like being outdoors. Gyms bore me senseless.

I love swimming so switching to triathlon seemed the obvious choice.

In tri, you are running your own race (nothing like watching all the elite athletes sprint past you in a half marathon to make you feel like a snail).

Competitors come in all ages and shapes. And there are lots of women competing too.

I entered a few sprint triathlon (400m swim, 10km bike, 3km run), but naturally it wasn’t enough of a challenge.

So six months after we arrived in Melbourne, I signed up for The Murray Man.

The only long course (2km swim, 80km cycle, 20km run) triathlon in South Australia.

I knew I’d be among the slowest, but I didn’t care.

To finish would be a massive achievement.

Then this happened. I was devastated.

All that hard work. For nothing.

Luckily, I have a knack for picking crazy friends.

S and J were originally coming along to cheer me on, but decided to form a team with me.

I was doing the swim, J was doing the cycle and S was doing the run.

The swim may not seem a big deal, but I HATE open water swimming.

Oooo, the glamour!

I am TERRIFIED.

Of everything that might be in the water.

I get  seasick when it’s choppy and I don’t like being out of my depth.

As my mate Kim would say I am that “sooky lala”.

But I did it and knocked 14 minutes off the time I expected. Barring a migraine from looking at the sun, I felt amazing.

S & J both came under their estimated times.

We came 3rd in our category with a time of 5 hours 41 seconds.

I thought I would feel sad that I hadn’t had the chance to do the race solo, but being part of a team was fantastic.

Team Anglo-Viking

The most fun you can have without drinking.

And for a gin queen, that is saying something.

Do you like to set yourself challenges? I’d love to hear from you!

Anxiety – The Joy Sucking Vampire

Someone needs eye drops.

THINGS ARE LOOKING GOOD.

Married to a man I adore, two (on the whole) OK children, and living here, I am content.

Some weeks are harder than others, but the laughter is more frequent than not. There is an exciting new project on the go and some plans to help my writing. All progress on the path of self-fulfilment.

But hanging around like a bad smell, threatening to throw me off course, is my old foe, Anxiety.

Heart-racing, palm-sweating, breath-stopping anxiety.

Sucking the joy out of life, like a fucking vampire.

Along with his friend Panic Attack, both of them can …yes. That.

I am what is known as a  ‘born worrier’ (an insecure childhood will make you anxious that’s for sure) and have carried that throughout my life.

Then we had children. God knows every parent worries. For us though, our intense experiences were more than just the average concerns about sleep and potty training .

BW had seizures on average every 6 weeks between 12 and 24 months. We would hear the noise in the night, in his sleep. The sound of him choking.

There were too many high-speed ambulance journeys, too many nights sleeping in hospital chairs next to his cot. We got to know the paramedics by their first names.

He was finally diagnosed with epilepsy at 2 and medicated shortly afterwards. The seizures stopped and we relaxed enough to allow babysitters to come so we could go out together (we’d been too terrified before).

But that didn’t stop me from keeping a baby monitor in his room until he was 7.

A few years later, after a spell of enormous stress,  TS had 4 seizures in 2 hours. I’d seen enough seizures with BW not to panic, but my mind was racing through the possible causes – brain tumour, cancer, he was dying? No. It was epilepsy.

For him, that meant meds and no driving for 12 months and for me,  being too terrified to leave him  alone with our children. You can imagine the scenarios that went through my mind, can’t you?

BW’s Asperger’s diagnosis was probably the final twist in our family story that my anxiety needed.  The worry that goes with parenting a child with special needs is unfathomable. I have no idea what each day will bring, let alone what sort of future he has.

Now my body doesn’t know how to function unless it is in fight or flight mode.

I am an adrenaline junkie.

Cold Turkey isn’t an option.

Medication, space to contemplate and relax, good friends and gin help.

I can manage.

Some weeks better than others.

But I need to kick the habit.

Do you suffer from anxiety? What helps you?

Chicken!

The sky is falling!

What if something embarrassing happens? again?

Like, this one time, I fainted on a train and the passengers shouted “Help the young man up!”

NOT EVEN JOKING.

So scared, so much of the time – such a chicken.

But, today I am stepping out of my comfort zone.

Today, I am nervous as hell, but focusing on how lucky I am that I get to do something new and exciting.

Today I am trying to remember that if I can do this:

I can do anything.

What have you done recently to step out of your comfort zone?

Who Do You Think You Are?

It’s happening again.

Activities I have been looking forward to, suddenly loom like insurmountable obstacles, to be avoided at all costs.

The Black Dog is whispering in my ear.

“Who do you think you are?”

“What makes you think you can do this?”

“Is anyone really interested in anything you have to say?”

I swear I can hear the fucker laughing at me.

I can’t breathe.

Trying to ignore him, I realise the voice is coming from inside my own head.

Fuck.

My brain, conditioned over so many years, is playing its favourite tricks.

You are not good enough.

“She may as well stop coming to ballet you know, she’s getting too tall”

“It’s a shame really, her sister is so pretty”

“Why do you have to look like him?”

“You can’t do that”

“Depression  lies” a good friend told me.

It probably does.

But she’s still here. The tall, gawky girl, who sometimes talks too much and too loudly, scared of doing or saying the wrong thing.

Still trying to find out whether or not she’s good enough.

Today is World Mental Health Day – raising public awareness of mental health issues. Depression affects 350 million people worldwide.

It’s time to end the stigma.

Sleep Deprivation – Where The Hell is Mr. Sandman?

Oh god I miss a good night’s sleep. Before the boys arrived I could always catch up at the weekend, but now? No chance (although I am quite good at a nana nap on the couch).

We all know how much sleep you get with babies (if your kids slept through I hate you), but as they got older I thought it would get better.

Sadly not. There are night terrors and nightmares to deal with, plus the fact that we seem to have bred early risers.

Sometimes, it’s just me. I wake at 1 or 2 with a nagging bladder to play “Shall I or shan’t I get up for a wee” game. Or to go over my to do list again. SHUT UP BRAIN!

Or at 4am for no reason (except maybe the birds. Australia your birds are so darn noisy!). TS invariably gets up as I am dropping off to sleep again. Gah.

In an effort to shut out external distractions (kids, birds, TS breathing SO BLOODY LOUD) I wear ear plugs and an eye mask.

In my head I look like this

Ha!

Valerian was suggested. Herbal. Non-addictive. Great.

Oh deary me!

The Walking Dead wanted me as an extra. I was so buggered I didn’t dare drive.

Now I self-medicate with chamomile tea (mixed results), gin (awesome, but not sure about sedative qualities) and wine (see gin).

Forget baby sleep clinics, I’d pay top dollar for a grown-up one for shattered parents.

What are your tips for a good night’s sleep?

Helping Myself

Sometimes, when the black dog is hanging around, it’s hard to keep going.

Lost in the fog, I stop smelling the roses and focus on getting through the day, one sluggish step at a time.

This blog is going to help me on those dark days, by enabling me to look back on moments like these pictured above.

A reminder of who I am, who I love and who loves me.

The Boy Who Broke My Heart

(image source)

(image source)

Our eyes locked and I knew my heart was yours.

I loved you so much, I wanted to be your perfect love. Quickly I became scared and depressed, worrying I couldn’t be what you need to be.

A year passed. I got better. The sun began to shine more.

Then you got sick. Every few weeks we would make high-speed journeys under blue lights with me clinging to your hand, willing you to be OK.

On the darkest night of my life I watched as the room filled with white coats. They worked frantically to resuscitate you. Pressed against the hospital room wall, I made promises to god, the devil and everyone else I could think of.

The cracks in my heart started to appear.

It should have been me on that bed, not you.

More time passed. The illness was managed, our lives became calmer, more settled.

Except something was wrong. I couldn’t pin-point what, but you were changing.

We talked, we saw counsellors, we tried therapy.

It became harder to reach you.

Of course, I knew the truth deep down. I didn’t want to hear it. I still don’t.

I denied, I raged, I blamed myself.

I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t leave when you needed me so much.

So now I stand and watch as you rage. Spitting venom and anger. Throwing threats at me to self-harm or to hurt the others you love.

I stand and take it, feeling my heart splinter inside me.

I have to stay. I have to change. I must help you understand yourself and make other understand you, because I am the one who knows you best.

You are the boy who broke my heart without ever meaning to.

And I am your mum.

Birthday Girl.

I am the one on the left.

Today is my birthday. I am 21*

The picture above is just a small insight into my traumatic childhood. Yes the monkey is real.

Anyway, birthday, shmirthday. It’s just another day really, isn’t it?

Except if you have two over-excited boys who are bursting to tell you what they’ve got you:

“I’ll give you a clue”, says Cheeky Boy “It’s not Lego”.

Boy Wonder is a more direct (Aspie that he is) “Um, do you like sparkly books that you can write all your notes in?”

Um, I’d better say yes to that one, eh?

The Saint, bless him, bought me a ticket for Pro Blogger Training Event in Melbourne next month. VERY EXCITING!

So that’s my gifts out of the way.

How am I feeling about being 21*?

Birthdays have scared me more as I have got older. (Me no like ageing).

Two months ago I would have told you I was terrified about being 21*, but recently those feelings have changed.

For the first time, in a long time I am excited about life and what is coming next.

So Cheers! and remember to have a gin for me tonight!

*AGAIN.

How do you feel about your birthday? Like ’em or loathe ’em?

Happy Aussaversary!

Today is the 1st anniversary of our arrival in Melbourne.

Woah! What a ride. I’m sure I should have been issued with a safety helmet.

It has been, in equal measure, the most thrilling and terrifying, happy and miserable, relaxing and exhausting year of my life. It is put strain on our marriage and made us question our sanity, but in spite of all the black moments, we know we made the right decision for our family.

In the UK The Saint had been commuting from Brighton to London for 15 years. In winter he left for work in the dark and returned home in the dark. The children saw him for half an hour just before bedtime. We were in a rut.

One evening while on our summer holiday, we had one of those wine-fuelled conversations, “what are we doing?” “where are we going?”. The subject of moving overseas was raised. We loved the idea but were unsure of how to make it happen.

Three months later The Saint’s job came up in Sydney. Same company, same job, but in Australia. Fate had intervened.

It was very stressful year in the run up to leaving the UK. Medicals, worry that we would be denied a visa because of Boy Wonder’s Asperger’s, and the doozy of them all our beloved Granny B being diagnosed with cancer and passing away 6 weeks before we left the UK.

Nothing could have prepared us for the emotional experience of leaving friends and loved ones behind and I was very naive when I arrived:

“Oh, you mean I’m not the first Pom to move here?”

“Oh, you haven’t all been waiting for me to come into your lives and be your amazing new friend?”

There have been some set-backs – I was unable to pursue my studying and – yikes- Australia, you are sooooo expensive! Plus the hard graft that goes into working out the new system for a child with Asperger’s has been draining.

In spite of it all, we LOVE it here!

In a nutshell:

Tim tams, Cherry Ripe (dark chocolate), sunshine, sea, daddy around more – YAY!

Vegemite- No. I’m sorry, I persevered for 4 months, but no. Marmite is my one true love.

There are plenty of forums and websites our there catering for those expat needs, but here are my tips on surviving the move:

DO’s:

1. Check blogs and forums before you arrive, researching as much as you can. It will save you a lot of time if you can narrow down the areas and schools you are interested in. We only had 3 weeks to find somewhere to live and a new school. Not easy, especially with 2 boys in tow, raging jetlag and no idea what we were doing.

2. Use twitter! Oh my, it was a godsend! I found some great contacts.

2. Ask lots of questions when you arrive. Australians are a friendly bunch who love talking about their country and sharing tips on where to go/stay etc. Although, I was freaked out by number of times we were asked which AFL team we would be supporting, but then we did arrive in Finals week…(FYI The Saint goes for Demons, we go for Saints, ha!).

3. Treat it like a holiday. Explore! It’s a great, big country and you need to get to see as much as you can.

4. Keep busy. I don’t work (at the moment)  and once The Saint started his new job and the Boys started school the house felt empty. I helped out in Cheeky Boy’s class, only for an hour a week, but it gave me something to look forward to.

5. Join a club. It’s a great way to meet people. We joined a triathlon club.  The Boys enrolled in Nippers (Junior Lifesaving). An activity plus a social side. Good fun.

6. Say “YES!” to everyone who asks you for coffee. We all know good friends are hard to find and never more so when you are ‘new’. I likened it to digging for gold. You have to mine a lot of rocks, to find that nugget!

7. Look after yourself. I was completely unprepared for how the move would affect my mental health. It’s very common to feel low during a big life changing move. Seek support and advice from your doctor or via Beyond Blue.

8. Remind yourselves daily why you made the move!

DON’T

1. Underestimate the financial hardship of starting afresh. It will get better, but be prepared as you will have some large outlays to begin with for example a car, bond for house, school uniform etc.

2. Compare your new home unfavourably with the motherland. There are petty annoyances everywhere you live, but banging on about them with the citizens of your new country will alienate them. NO ONE LIKES A WHINGING POM.

3. Endlessly check up on Facebook/email what your friends back home are doing. Particularly if you are homesick. Too much looking back stops you looking forward.

Sink or swim?

It begins with butterflies in my stomach. Pesky, annoying, fluttery buggers.

Then the familiar feeling of panic.

I sleep, fitfully, woken every so often by palpitations.

The Black Dog is sniffing around me.

My chest weighs heavy as if a block of cement is sitting where my heart and lungs should be.

I can’t breathe.

I look at my ‘to do’ list and my chest tightens further.

I reach for the cookies…1,2,3 and more.

The Black Dog yaps in my ear:

“Cancel your lunch date”

“Who needs friends?”

“Why don’t you have a day on the couch?”

I eat another cookie.

Then I hear a tiny voice.

“Go. Get your stuff and go”.

I quickly get in the car.

Within ten minutes the smell of chlorine has wrapped itself around me.

I’m gliding through the water.

Counting my breaths 1,2,3,1,2,3.

Counting my laps 10,20,30,40.

For an hour the chatter in my head stops.

The Black Dog is banished to the sidelines.

I return to the house. The ‘to do’ list is still there.

I make a start.

What do you do when the Black Dog comes?