Bomb Proof Baby

I’m doing a terrible job of sharing my journey. It makes me giggle to think how many times I’ve been told “Oh you should write a book about your life” and I just smiled and nodded while thinking “glory no one wants to read that”. It occurs to my now that possibly I’m not capable of writing it anyway. I’m doing a terrible job of sharing this little section of my life. I shudder to think of the job I would do of a whole life. Hopefully I am better at fiction.

I keep telling you that last year my mental and physical health took a scary dip and then not really saying anything other than that. And yet what I kind of want to do is at least sort of explain what happened and the steps I took to fix the situation. Though I fully disclose that I am still very much a work in progress.

I don’t know if everyone else’s bodies work this way, but my health seems to very much be tied into my emotions. For instance, I absolutely cannot lose weight if I am unhappy. I will just gain and gain no matter what I do. Let me be happy though, and my new weightloss plan is seven pizzas and a glass of wine and look here you guys I lost ten kgs! Depression is an asshole like that.

Depression & Anxiety have been my shadows for pretty much my whole life. I always thought I was relatively ok at hiding it. I remember as a teen I once tried to confess my melancholy to a friend. “You’re not depressed are you?” she snarled at me, with a look of utter disgust on her face. I added being depressed to the list of things I do wrong and have pretty much never brought it up again until now.

These two shadows of mine infiltrated not only my mind health last year, but my physical health as well.

Anxiety, especially, decided to go into overdrive in about June last year. Depression I can kind of live with. But Anxiety? She’s a bitch, man. That Cow has been telling me for my whole life how everything about me is wrong. And let me tell you the things that other people do/say is used as evidence of your incompetence when Anxiety is your friend. Nadine is too this too that. Too loud. Too shrill. Too excited. Too intense. Too too too too too. You’re all wrong, whispers Anxiety, and everything is about to go wrong. Good luck with that…

Before last year the last time I had a severe panic attack (meltdown) what the day before Noah was born. There was a period of about three months last year when I was having panic attacks maybe once a week. And the worst part is that a lot of them were happening in my sleep.

I have never felt more hopeless or ridiculous in my life.

You see, when you’re conscious and something sets you off you can kind of grasp that. Like ok I’m really upset right now because xyz happened and I might be overreacting just a smidge but I can’t seem to stop myself and that’s fine we’ll ride this meltdown out and it will be ok. And even if you’re melting down for no reason at all, you can still say to yourself ok you seem to be panicking for no reason your body is just reacting to something that’s not physically there but that’s ok we’ll ride it out you’re still ok.

But when it’s happening in your sleep. Bloody hell it makes you feel stupid. You wake up in full blown panic mode out of nowhere. How do you talk yourself down from there? I’d say “it was just a dream” but waking up from a bad dream and waking up because your heart is about to leap out of your chest are two very different things. At least in my experience. So what do you do? You (I) just feel stupid…

And then there was the matter of the frights. When someone could make me flinch just by talking to me when I didn’t expect it. When gunshots on TV would cause my skin to shrink. When Noah could touch me gently on the arm and my whole body would jump.

Everything gives me a fright.

This is pathetic.

Obviously something would have to change…

There were other things, of course. Niggles in my body. Things that had started to become unbearable. But none of them like panic originating in the depths of my subconscious. This one I could not tolerate. This one I could not shrug off with a small laugh at my ridiculous self. No. This bully living somewhere in the in my forgotten dreams would have to go. And it would have to go very quickly.

And so I started taking steps to make myself a little more bomb proof.

A Different State of Mind

Last year when I decided to split my blog into two separate blogs it was with the intention of keeping my travel musings (a mostly happy space) separate from my more personal musings, which have a tendency to become a little political. This space is more the writer’s space, though as of yet I haven’t shared much writing that isn’t in the form of a diary entry. I do hope to change that. I have, in the meantime, tried to make peace with the fact that I’m not a writer so much as a writer-in-limbo at the moment. I have sort of put my writing fantasies on pause while I raise and homeschool my family. Sometimes it can be a little tough because I feel like I’m not entirely suited to this task. But it’s ok.

The point is, I suppose, that when I split my blogs I had it in my head that this would probably end up being a space where I vent my (probably political) frustrations and share some benign triumphs (as I have done in the past) with the odd bit of poetry or photography thrown in for funsies. What I didn’t expect was that it might become a space where I started to get very personal. It seems though that my instincts are pulling me in that direction.

I feel like I keep emphasising this to the point of becoming annoying, but after an exceptionally hard year of fighting with my own mind I can see I am becoming more willing to open up about personal demons that I face on the constant. I suppose the reason for this is catharsis on the one hand, but on the other hand it is that there is also value for others in being honest about experiences. I learned in the last year that being open about what you’re struggling with is in itself a help. It also allows others to at least try to understand where you are coming from. They won’t always hear you, but that’s on them.

Anyway that’s enough talking rubbish from me. Next week I’ll start telling you about how I used supplements to start propping my fading self back up again. Or maybe I’ll moan about Trump. Who even knows anymore?

 

The Neverending Suck of 2017

I had a nightmare last night about a broken friendship. Again. These dreams were the theme of my 2017, many of them culminating in panic attacks that happened in my sleep. There are few things that have made me feel quite so stupid as this. You can’t even reprimand yourself for panic attacks that happen while you are not conscious. At least when you are panicking while awake you can still sort of tell yourself “are you sure you’re not just being silly” and then breathe a bit or have some chocolate. I don’t know. Panic attacks while you sleep feel really bloody ridiculous.

Of course I’m kind of used to dreamy sleep. And even nightmare sleep is par-for-the-course when you’re me (another sports reference!) but over the last year it has been a bit extra intense. Too much dreaming can leave you exhausted and this lack of reprieve played a huge role in the downward spiral I experienced in both my mental as well as my physical health. For some reason, I had convinced myself that in 2018 these nightmares would stop being a problem. This year is supposed to be better. So far it’s not co-operating but I’m hopeful.

I haven’t watched the first season of Grey’s Anatomy in a really long time, but I think it was there that someone (possibly McDreamy) had a policy of allowing themselves to panic, for five seconds only. And then after the five seconds were up, they would get on with it. I always loved that. Yes, panic. But then stop.

2017 was supposed to be my five seconds. I panicked for 2017. And in 2018 it was supposed to stop.

Of course real life doesn’t work like that. Real life doesn’t observe the clock striking midnight and imbue magic to the act. Real life doesn’t care that you’re only allowed five seconds. It takes a whole bunch of bad-assery to force life to conform to our own timelines. I know there is nothing rational about giving healing a time limit. Still I feel a little betrayed by this silly body of mine. It needs to stop now. The heart palpitations that come out of nowhere need to stop. The seemingly insurmountable fear that likes to sneak up and try to drown me needs to stop.

I am done with all this suck. So I’m trying to put the five seconds behind me and just get on with it.

Have you resolved to be resolute this New Year?

I know all the cool kids are sharing memes of Robert Downey Jr rolling his eyes about New Year’s Resolutions, but as far as conventionally celebrated holidays go, New Year’s is not only my favourite, it’s pretty much the only one I like. They should create a new Scrooge/Grinch character who hates Christmas AND Easter AND Valentine’s Day AND Halloween and they should name her Nadine. Besides that: I am not one of the cool kids so it’s all good.

I love the new year though. I suppose in the same way that I kind of like Mondays (although admittedly I like them less now that I home school). No, I’m not in to the parties and the drinking and the low-key experiments with drugs or the accidentally bumping into people having sex in public stuff. I kind of make it a point not to leave my house on New Year’s Eve these days (although funny enough even though we had a very low-key New Year’s at home again this/last year, we still managed to accidentally stumble upon some awkward hanky-panky in the middle of the crescent…well…my husband stumbled upon it while trying to figure out why all the dogs were barking…he told me though so I knew they were there and even though I couldn’t see them it still felt awkward…)

I do like the symbolism of it all though. The idea that the old can be put away as we make room for the new. Even though it will mostly fail. Even though, like every other year, the coming one will throw you the sorts of curveballs that even my writer’s mind could never have hoped to conjure. That’s ok. It’s still a hopeful feeling. (also it’s weird that I made a sports reference…though granted I’m not entirely sure which sport)

I don’t really know what my resolutions are this year, to be honest. I have a vague idea, I suppose. Like if I sat down and thought for a little while I could probably come up with a hundred things. Or I could just google a generic list I suppose. I usually have giant writing aspirations that spiral into failure around week two. The writing stuff tends to be a little too big though. You know? Fitting my style of work ethic as far as novel-writing is concerned into family life is a little bit like bashing one’s head against a rock, but without the added benefit of becoming blissfully concussed afterwards.  Maybe my resolution should be to disappear once a year to one of those month-long digital nomad retreats. That would be super confusing though: would I share those experiences here or on Passing the Open Windows? This is what I get for going niche…

Smaller resolutions though. Perhaps I should start there. With silly ones like painting my nails more often, purely because chipped nail polish makes me happy. Or learning how to actually put on mascara without it being a mess. Maybe I should get a tattoo or dye my hair purple. Definitely I’d like to buy a new lens for my camera, and continue to learn how to use it more effectively. And I need to save for travel. Do more yoga. And probably I should practice doing flat-lays because the one I made for this post is bloody terrible.

These are bandaids, at least, right? Small bites of distracting pleasure while I choose to neglect the thing that I should have locked myself away to focus on years ago.

Perhaps I need to learn how to turn the writing into small bites…

Because the thing is: If I die before I’ve finished writing them all down then they die with me. And that really fucking bothers me.

Choosing NaNo Over Novemberitis

So every year I have this huge issue with Novemberitis which I’ve mentioned at some point somewhere but since I haven’t actually properly set up this particular blog yet I actually don’t even know if it exists as a published post anymore….

My God I digressed in the very first sentence. Ok then….

I decided this year that instead of being crippled by Novemberitis (guys, it’s so real….) I’m going to throw myself into NaNoWriMo like a fiend. Of course I haven’t actually started yet. Instead of waking up early I woke up late and now it’s almost 10am but you know most writers aren’t even awake by now (lies) so it’s all good, right?

The thing is, this particular load of nonsense doesn’t actually count towards my wordcount so perhaps I should mosey away from here and just move on over there, right?

I’ve only ever completed NaNo once. And honestly that manuscript is the biggest mess that could exist. I wrote it all out of order and of course by now I’ve actually forgotten the order so…. fek…

This year I’m actually doing a sequel, which is something I kind of thought I’d never do because with the exception of Harry Potter (and weirdly, Karin Slaughter’s books) I’ve never been a massive fan of books that are part of a series. I need closure. When people keep writing more books to go with the other books I just get all floopy like why are you doing this to me. Do you understand how much Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them anxiety I have? No, you don’t. Although come to think of it…it’s nice anxiety… You guys when in the hell is the next movie even coming out because I can’t!

I may have digressed again…

Oh yes. I’m doing NaNo this year. I am Queen_Nayes on the forums because I didn’t realise that I could name myself without using underscores. I’d link you to my profile but honestly I can’t even find it. After many years of failing NaNo I still think my biggest failure is my inability to figure out how the hell the site even works.

You are welcome to drop your NaNo IDs in the comments if you’d like me to follow you though!

Good luck, writers and um…. Yup that’s it.

 

 

I Need You to Love Me when I Hate Myself

I’ve just spotted a Facebook ad for a meditation centre which I then clicked on out of curiosity. In my quest to alleviate some serious struggles with anxiety, which presently feel like the worst they’ve ever been (this may or may not be true – I admit to any bad patch feeling like “the worst it has ever been” – I’m just usually way less open about it) I have come to the conclusion that some or other meditation is necessary. This is because it is brought up quite a bit by folks who have shared similar struggles to mine. Which is obviously why targeted advertising is now showing me meditation adverts. That was a very arse-about-face way of explaining why I clicked on the link…

Anyway, meditation…

I’ve used some YouTube videos which have been helpful with the panic attacks that I have been failing to get under control over the last few months. In times of great heightened stress they have helped me. I have not implemented a general day-to-day mindfulness practice which is what I had in mind while perusing the page.

I scrolled down the page a bit and came to a part where it said “How can anyone love you if you don’t love yourself?”

Now of course I am intelligent enough to know that this is not the general attitude of meditation advocates. This is just something that someone using Facebook put on their business page because they thought it sounded cool.

But I have to ask: Why on earth is this a question that we are still posing to people? Is it because it kind of sounds good? Like it sounds like it’s some sort of profound wisdomous thing that someone ancient once said and now we must all adopt it as a core truth of human existence.

If loving myself is the currency with which I have to pay for the love I receive then you’re going to have to paint me fundamentally unlovable.

You don’t really get to love yourself when you pitch up on this planet and from the time you are capable of placing yourself within the context of others you feel like definitely you were put on the wrong planet by the n00b in the soul placement department. You don’t get to love yourself when the loudest and most repetitive question inside your head is what is wrong with me, a question which never gets answered no matter how many times you ask it of yourself. You don’t get to love yourself when almost every interaction with other people leaves you feeling humiliated and defeated, because even though you’re trying really hard you still keep getting this whole being a person thing wrong and you’re trying to concentrate really hard and remember all the things you’re supposed to do and not do but you just know that you missed the mark so many times and probably everyone is laughing at you. You don’t get to love yourself when it seems like every time you slip up and let your guard down, someone is right there to point fingers and call you on it. You’re too loud. Too enthusiastic. Too serious. Too this. Too that.

Too everything.

So please don’t tell me that my inability to love myself makes me unlovable. While I am quite aware that a certain affection for my own self is necessary to my wellbeing, I most certainly don’t need the pressure of feeling undeserving of love because of failure on my part to establish my own value.

Some of us wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those who loved us when we hated ourselves. Some of us would have our self-worth irreparably compromised were it not for souls kind enough to allow us to look at ourselves through their loving eyes for a moment. Some of us are kept alive by the love we know that people feel towards us even though we can’t feel it right now. 

So next time you decided to tell someone that they can’t expect anyone else to love them if they don’t love themselves, why don’t you rather shut up and love them just a little bit more? Because I don’t care how well-meaning your intentions are. That is violent language directed at floundering souls.

This ridiculous saying needs to die now.

How do you even decide on baby number two?

When Noah was about 3 months old we were driving to Sedgefield to visit his great-grandparents and I was happily chatting away to my sort-of mother-in-law about having a second baby. At the time I was convinced that the trauma of my pregnancy and prem birth would subside quickly (it didn’t) and that I’d be ready to produce a second child with a reasonable 2 year gap between them. Obviously, we needed to have two kids. Or four. As long as it wasn’t three! (I remained convinced at that time that an even number of family members was ideal)

“I hope we have another boy,” I said to my other mom. “We could call him Isaac. Don’t you think that’s a gorgeous name? Or Violet if it’s a girl.”

My (now) ex turned to me and with more scorn than I knew he was capable of and said “We’re not having another kid and anyway it would be my turn to choose a name.” (more…)

Finding Photographers: An Impromptu Shoot with Kelley Felix

So, I admit that I might be a bit of a complex creature who makes no sense to anyone but herself, but here’s the thing: I don’t do spontaneity. I know that spontaneity is supposed to be the mark of a fun and artistic character, but no. Don’t tell me we are going to do one thing and then off we go and do another thing. Ok? I can’t deal. My brain is prepped for the first thing. Now you wanna go skinny dipping instead but first you said we were going line dancing? Aikona. What am I going to do with these line-dancing shoes? But… I DO like in-the-middle-of-other-things organic spontaneity. There’s totally a difference. I don’t expect you to get it…

Anyway, I went to the Curl Talk Spring Instameet (#curltalkspringmeet) on Saturday which was run by Kelley Felix and Shavon Leander. My family members and I only expected to play photographer while there. The meet was for curly girls! I’m more of a wtf-happened-to-that-lady’s-head girl. So when I was asked to put my camera down and play model, I was of course awkward af and not-at-all mentally prepared, but flattered none-the-less. And to be honest I was a little bit excited to have attention from one of the cool kids.

Kelly Felix, though! There’s something special about feeling like you are in the hands of a collaborative artist. And there is something even more special about feeling like someone sees the same kind of beauty in you that you yourself are constantly identifying in others. Silly girl gave me the warm and fuzzies. An especially welcome feeling at the moment I will admit!

I love the way Kelley works because she is not afraid to get what she wants out of you. Her directions are quite precise which for someone like me is helpful. I don’t really know what to do when you tell me to just be yourself and act natural  so it was kind of nice to have someone telling me exactly what to do and where to put my hands and feet and hair.

She also somehow managed to charm the more-than-grumpy Noah into smiling his head off and looking like his mother is the entire point of his existence so that was an extra bonus. I keep waiting for the switch from I-love-my-mother to I-hate-my-mother to happen so I need all the photographic evidence of adoration that I can get before that actually happens.

Thank you Kelley, for making me feel arty and special. I had so much fun with you! And thank you for teaching me that art can happen with no preparation and still come out beautifully.

PS: Please excuse the tiny low-res images. For some reason WordPress is saving my images at a higher res but putting them into posts at low res because WP has no respect for how you should be able to do things as you’ve always done them and not have it just suddenly change on you. I can’t bigger or smaller these things. But I’m pushing publish anyway because life is too short for blog stress!

Check out Kelley’s Instagram for more of her gorgeous portraits. Otherwise if you’re keen to do a photoshoot with me to inspire me to say nice things about you give me a shout.

Dear Facebook Friend…

I met you years ago through your husband. I don’t know how I met him. It was because of The Poetry Project which I was playing with. Poetry meets photography. Two of my great loves. Two things I consistently feel are better served by other artists. Other writers. Others…

That doesn’t matter.

I don’t know how he found me. There are many Facebook Friends on my timeline who I cannot place. I don’t know how they got there. Some Facebook strangers inspire a shrug of indifference, perhaps a moment of confusion. Yourself and your husband inspire fondness though.

For years you have been a welcome presence on my timeline. Though I did not know you, I learned from you often. Your passions come through in the things you share. I believe that even as a stranger you made me a better person. You played that role. I’m sure you didn’t know that…

In the last month you switched over from stranger to saviour. A certainly more demanding role and one I doubt you asked for. In my darkest spaces you somehow managed to be a stable voice, a source of guidance that one that I might not have heeded had it come from anyone else. I cannot begin to express the magnitude of my relief. How do I say thank you for that?

I still marvel at how quickly and how efficiently you “fixed” me in my weakest moments. How you pulled me out of anxiety-fueled panic. You helped me! When I was desperate for it. And all I can give you in return is a bumbling blog post…

Thank you though. From the bottom of my heart. Because in moments when I was incapable of knowing how to be helped you showed me exactly what I needed. That alone fills me with a continuing calm. There is a small spark of hopefulness that wasn’t there before.

That is everything.

Finding Photographers: One Two Tree Photography

After grumpy-posting last week, I’m quite pleased to have another Finding Photographers instalment to present. I’ve been a little slow on my photo project this year, but thankfully the existence of Bernadette Meistre from One Two Tree Photography inspired me to book a family photoshoot as a present for the parentals this year. Even though the husband and I have a ton of professional photographs of the two of us, it’s been a while since we’ve had any family ones done. And by family I mean the whole damn brood! I couldn’t have chosen anyone better to capture our sense of “family”.

Now, we know that I’m “experimenting” with photographers on here a little bit, so I told Bernadette that she would need to tell us what to do. I wanted the Bernadette-stamp to be as authentic as possible. This “rule” of mine tends to be met with a little bit of hesitation on the photographers’ part, I admit. And I get it. When you’re working with “clients” you like to give them what they want. And here I am telling the photographers that what I want is what they want.

What would you like us to wear? Where would you like us to meet? What would you like us to do?!

So much pressure!

But Bernadette is a little bit like a magical unicorn. First she suggested a Maroon & Blue theme and then she did one of the coolest and cleverest things that has ever made me go “oh duh, what an obviously clever trick that I’ve never even remotely thought of”… She sent me a colour swatch that we could use as inspiration for our matchy-matchy photo shoot. I didn’t even have time to stress about “getting it right”. And to be honest, after she sent the cool colour palette thingy I decided  I didn’t even care how the pics turned out because I was too busy being over the moon impressed with being sent such a pretty colour scheme.  I’m kind of excited at the prospect of using such swatches to inspire myself in the future. Maybe that sounds weird… (more…)