Sometimes, A Good Chinwag With People That Really Know You Is All The Therapy You Need

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Bonding with someone is ” Like sharing an invisible stream of consciousness with each other.” Those are the powerful words of Zat Rana in his piece The Subtle Art Of Connecting With Anyone on Medium.”

My connection to others has always provided me with the best therapy. I’m needy emotionally. I might even go as far as to admit that I’m emotionally unintelligent. I need the validation of others that I’m an ok person.

And those connections have become particularly pertinent for me recently as I plan a twelve-day visit back to the UK for the two-yearly family summit, when, once again, I find myself caught up in the guilt and inner turmoil of who I can’t see this time.

Unless you’ve done this migration thing, and only return periodically to your homeland as The Prodigal Child/sibling/niece/aunt or friend, you have no idea of the pressure these trips cause, and the painful balancing act between offending old friends and family duty.

Just prior to this trip – thirteen years since my defection – I had come to accept that family had to be my priority moving forward. Validation comes at a price, and it’s exhausting to travel the country for twelve days in search of it, no matter how needy I am. And yet, as much as I know that (practically-speaking) I should prioritize “blood” and downplay the importance of the transient friendships I’ve made during my journey through life, there is a culture and a history with old friends that it is impossible to replicate.

The other problem is, that the older I get, the more I veer towards an embarrassing need for nostalgia.

I could have booked a longer stay, I suppose. But then, there are work commitments to think about, there’s “life”, there’s the discomfort of my dad’s sofa bed and the health of my liver. Because, drinking, eating and talking your way through twelve days takes a toll  – particularly in view of the niggling doubt about what the point of it all is.

And yet, there is a point, because many of these people are the missing pieces of mine and the old man’s life puzzle. They are the people that shaped who I am; wiped away my tears, poured Champagne down my throat when I most needed it and made me laugh until I peed myself.

And this particular trip is particularly poignant because it has been driven by family illness, by death, anxiety and the underlying knowledge that none of us is getting any younger. With the looming presence of a rather nasty weakness on my mother’s side in the “ticker” department, it’s not a duty call exactly, but it is an ‘in case I miss you next time’ type of visit.

Without catastrophizing – which I suspect I’m wont to do – it might really be “goodbye.” Which is why I want to say my goodbyes to everyone; not just the ones that fit in with my ridiculously restricted itinerary. And let’s be honest: a good chinwag with people that have shared your “culture” and your history is sometimes all the therapy you need to take you through the next stage of life.

The Best Five Therapies To Cure ‘One Of Those Days!’

You know, the real bitch kind of day that I seem to have a lot of, when the proverbial shit hits the fan so hard and fast you haven’t even had time to rub the fairy shit out of your eyes, let alone imbibe your first coffee before your phone rings. At 6.30am, no less, and after a horrible night of zero sleep due to the selfishness of one of our entitled teenagers who still believes he has the right to wake his parents up in the middle of a work night because he has the brain capabilities of a fly and missed the last bus home.

 

And yes, I did answer my phone, because no matter how much I hated him at that moment, I am his mum. But do you know how hard it is to speak at 1.30am when you have to ignore the condemnatory ‘you’re a pushover’ accusations from your husband at the same time as trying to persuade a very nice cab driver to bring the drunken, prodigal son home and that yes, you promise again and again, you will pay for it?

 

A conversation that is followed quickly by a heated argument in bed of the bitterest parental proportions about what your partner calls a ‘sickness’ ie. a ‘mother’s love’ for over-enabling our son, because he thought I should make him spend the night in George St with the homeless as a lesson in taking responsibility – Did you know that we were still living in the Victorian era? Me neither – and so disgusted was I by his attitude, it was impossible to sleep with such a heartless, callous pig afterwards and I ended up on the sofa.

 

Why do I always end up on the sofa?

 

Then I faced further withering looks of accusation hurtled expertly my way via NC somewhere around 7.30am for all the noise I’d made through the night after I’d already spent an hour loudly appeasing my client on the phone about an issue that I hadn’t been able to warn him about the previous night because he was on a night flight, with, (it turns out), a child who chucked up for most of the journey

 

The acoustics are pretty spectacular in our little semi, in fact almost on a par with the Opera House. The boards echo and vibrate in unison as we’ve discovered many a time via Kurt’s music, which even at the heavily fought for/agreed volume is unbearable most of the time, added to which my voice tends to go up at least an octave when I’m stressed.

 

And breathe…

 

And I’d sent the old man to Coventry at around 2am, somewhere between him refusing to pay the taxi on some archaic parenting principle – or because he is perfect – and then because he proceeded to toss and turn in the bed for the next hour when he couldn’t get back to sleep, which meant I was forced to retreat the sofa.

 

We really must find a location for another bed in this house because what with my snoring and the old man’s tics when he can’t sleep, we obviously have no future in the same bed, and the leather sofa really does become rather sticky when you’re a stressed, menopausal very sweaty female.

Which is how I was reminded of the best five therapies for a really shite day:

1. This enormous brownie at Harvey Norman helped.

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2. And then this little someone who genuinely loves me unconditionally was waiting excitedly to pounce on me and smother me in dog saliva when I came home.

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3. Then I pounded the local pavements to this  – the main reason I have to answer client calls at 6.30am to help pay for such an inflated rent for the noisiest, coldest house in Australia.

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4. Had one of these somewhere in between, and even remembered this time that the floor is a health and safety hazard when wet.

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5. And finally this, my trusty companion that never lets me down in a crisis or when everyone else is out to get me.

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Women + Shopping = Happiness

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Look how happy this woman looks!

I had a bit of a shite week last week and needed some release, so I decided to go shopping. It’s not something I like to admit to – needing to spend money to feel happy – because I’m sure it undermines my intelligence and makes me sound likes some weak, ‘hysterical’ female, but the need to buy new clothes isn’t a gender-related issue because I know a lot of men who get off on it and a lot of women who don’t.

 

Just not my husband, unfortunately.

 

Have I ever mentioned that my husband doesn’t understand me?

 

It seems that the longer your marriage – and we’ll be grieving 23 years this weekend – the more those minor things like the way he moves his mouth in that sniffy way when I say I’m going to the mall, that suggests I have no control over my emotions or my purse, can make me so flipping mad and full of retribution.

 

What men fail to understand are the benefits of shopping. Aside from saving money on REAL therapy,  we also burn more than 10,000 steps during a good session, which counts as exercise and therefore saves on gym membership.

 

They should also appreciate that shopping doesn’t have to be about ACTUALLY NEEDING ANYTHING, that it has much more hidden depth and is related to personal growth and space, regaining control and feeling good about yourself.

 

Happiness.

 

Not that I have to find excuses to shop when I’m an independent woman who works hard and earns money and if I want to go out and fucking spend it, I will. Anyway, it was the beginning of the month and what was I to do when those fresh dollars in my account taunted me, flashed at me from my online statement, begging me to spend them.

 

Spend meSpend me…Spend me!

 

And that glorious six hours spent trawling through retail heaven cost me less than an hour of therapy, and didn’t involve any snotty crying in that ugly way that I cry in public.

 

And in spite of being at that awkward seasonal stage of the year in Sydney, between winter and spring when the shops are flogging their winter woollies, there were plenty of bargains to be had, especially if you like sales. Personally I don’t, because I feel a bit vulnerable with hoards of crazed people fighting over a bargain and ill-assorted stock that falls off the rack in your hand, is never your size and always that bit naff.

 

Nevertheless, I persisted because I was a woman on a mission.

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Gazman shirt
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Jockey knickers

 

And the sales are good enough for the old man, so to make him feel really bad for winding me up in that evilly, patronising way that only husbands can, I treated him to a lovely, COLOURFUL shirt from Gazman (reduced from $90 to $60) –  ie. not plain blue like every other freaking shirt in his wardrobe because he’s an accountant and very left side of the brain – so he doesn’t look quite as nerdily shite when we go out.

 

Then I found myself the best new power jacket/cardigan for work from H&M because I feel that I’ve lost my style mojo in my work wardrobe recently and at $40, it was almost free. 

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H&M jacket/cardie for $40

 

New earrings? Yes please, because those fuckers disappear all the time – usually in the local pool or in bed…and finally, a pair of my favourite granny pants from Jockey because knickers and shoes have become my go-to happiness fix when it comes to clothes, now that brands use pygmies for their sizing, and because my knickers have all turned an attractive shade of grey since the old man took over the washing.

 

And he wonders why I need to shop.

 

 

 

 

 

The Stigma Of Mental Illness and Medication

With World Mental Health Day on the horizon on the 10th October, and R U OK day recently passed, it seems an appropriate time to admit to you that I see a therapist.

Mental Health And The Stigma Of Medication
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Was that a gasp of surprise echoing through the small principality of Midlife Mayhem within the kingdom of WordPress?

I doubt it. I imagine it was fairly obvious that the ‘Kurt apple’ had to have fallen from some equally loony tree.

Not so long ago, admitting that you suffered from mental health problems would have put you in the crazy box, like when you mentioned the C word – akin to telling the world you had something icky and a finite amount of time left.

Luckily for us, attitudes about illness, medication and awareness are changing for the better. One benefit of social media is that people now have a forum on which to talk about their problems, share their stories, and create a community at the touch of their keyboard.

Anyway… occasionally I go a bit crazy and need help. And my ‘crazy’ is not the funny, Robin Williams type of ‘crazy’ that fools everyone, it’s the ‘Fuck off, I can’t face the world’ type.

My personal need to spread awareness about mental health problems has also come from Kurt’s journey with ADHD, depression and anxiety. I have advocated for my son and watched his progress through the education and health system – note that I use the word ‘progress’ with tongue firmly placed in cheek. I have learned that in spite of a generally better level of acceptance, we still have to advocate for people with mental illnesses because the majority of the population appear to need highly visible symptoms as evidence before they believe that someone is ill. And people with mental health issues are a) very adept at concealing how they really feel (Robin Williams) or b) often in no position to advocate for themselves.

With the arrival of the nirvana that is Netflix, to my computer, I’ve been watching this old series called Friday Night Lights over the past few weeks. I can strongly recommend it if you too are immature and drawn to high school puppy-love, good winning over evil and a feel-good factor without having to think too much. One of the main characters is a successful high school football player who is paralysed in a game, early in the series. I know it’s fiction, but the amount of support he garners for his disability is how such an earth shattering, life-changing condition should be handled.

The mentally ill are not treated in the same way.

NOTHING gets on my nerves more than having to continually justify ADHD all the fucking time and the use of medication to treat it. The skeleton might be out of the cupboard but many people still discuss mental health issues in the hushed tones they use for STDs or lung cancer. There is shaming and blaming and the use of medication, that helps people with what can be treatable illnesses, is often stigmatised and over-sensationalised.

The use of medication for ADHD must surely be one of the most contentious topics there is, about which, it seems, everyone has an opinion.

I hold my hand up and admit that I have been guilty of surrendering to that stigma in the past, too. When applying to schools for Kurt, I often questioned whether to mention his ADHD. Even now, as I try to access clinical institutions to help him, I have been advised not to mention his depression or dependencies. You get a record with mental illness, like some common criminal, that can be used against you later in life in terms of employment.

On a personal level, I bloody love the power of therapy. Not for the self-obsessed reasons you might imagine, although as you can probably guess, I am quite partial to the sound of my own voice.

Despite what you read in the papers – how everyone and anyone can access antidepressants these days – ‘therapy’ is actually the preferred treatment and precursor to medication for the treatment of depression and anxiety. During therapy, patients work through their issues with an expert, and learn management and coping strategies which may resolve their problems without the need for medication.

Therapy wasn’t enough for me, but I feel no shame in taking medication to control my anxiety. It has turned my life around over the past few years, from a dark, threatening world, which I no longer wanted to engage with, to a place where the sun still rises. I now experience what I imagine is a normal cycle of emotions, as opposed to waking up to blackness and fear. To my mind, there‘s no difference in using a medication to treat the brain or to alleviate symptoms in the rest of the body.

And yes, I am aware that medications carry risks. As do most illnesses, when left untreated.

No-one feels the same need to criticize my use of Statins as management for a genetic cholesterol risk, but everyone has an opinion about whether I really need anxiety medication. I am often told that anxiety and ADHD didn’t exist twenty years ago; interesting, when I have a brochure dated from the seventies that outlines strategies for teachers to use in the classroom for children with ADHD.

I understand why people are afraid of mental illness, when the only time it makes headlines is when some crazy is responsible for a shooting or locks up young girls. But it’s a wide spectrum. We’re not all sociopaths and psychopaths, but there are more and more ‘damaged’ people out there – whether that’s due to nature, nurture or the modern pressures of society – who need more help than others to make the most of their lives.

As we’ve seen with the refugee situation in Europe, we’re quick to judge people in a weaker position than us, to blame them in some way for their own shortcomings, when often social, political, physiological and economic factors are at the root.

Then again, it could just be down to luck.