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.

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.

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? 

Pressing Pause

I think I’ve been running from something for most of my life. Memories, shitty home town, relationships, reality…you name it. The move from the UK to Australia is testament to how far I will run!

Motherhood changed that. I had to focus on raising the two beans. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t hide.

Presented with Joseph’s diagnosis and the challenges and stresses it put on our family, I found myself with the urge to run again.

Of course, I couldn’t run away. So I did the next best thing. I took up triathlon.

When we moved here I joined a club and I set myself a serious goal.

The Murray Man. A long course triathlon. 1.9km swim, 80km bike, 21km run. Not for the faint-hearted.

I threw myself into the training. I had a PLAN.

I was happiest when I was out on the bike, running long or thrashing out laps in the pool. I was out of the house at 6am for pool sessions, then running during the day. On the weekends I was away for hours on the bike.

The Saint looked on. Supportive, but as time went on, concerned.

And then.

An iron infusion. My levels were so depleted there were negative numbers in red on the Doctors screen. Apparently, I am secretly Wonder Woman as I shouldn’t have been able to walk around, let alone anything else.

2 weeks later…

A simple case of road rash after being knocked off my bike. Which 5 days later was actually a fractured elbow.

4 weeks later…

A chipped talus.

Yes, Calamity Jane had ridden into town.

I was forced to stop.

My pause button was well and truly pressed.

The Universe had spoken.