I don’t want to complain…

I don’t like complaining, and I don’t want to complain anymore. I really don’t. I don’t like seeing the looks on people’s faces thinking “she’s complaining yet again.” Seeing the looks of frustration and simply being ‘over’ hearing about my health issues. But guess what, feeling sick every day has become my life at the moment, and I didn’t choose it, nor do I enjoy it. And sometimes, I just need to vent and complain. Because it downright sucks!

Feeling sick or being in pain every day isn’t something I EVER wanted. It’s exhausting and frustrating to say the least. Especially when all I want to do is live my life, to be the bubbly and energetic girl I used to be. I’m a ball of energy trapped inside a failing body. I suspect this is a lot what prison feels like, an actual life sentence.

All that being said, let me rephrase my earlier statement. I don’t want to HAVE to complain anymore. You’re tired of hearing me complain? That’s NOTHING compared to the frustration I feel on a daily basis.

I can see it when people ask me how I am. They sound sincere when they ask, and I’m simply a really honest person, an open book really. So I answer them. “I’ve been better. I had a migraine all night.” And I see their eyes glaze over. They don’t want to hear that, they wanted me to say the perfunctory “I’m good thanks, how are you?” They want me to pretend so we can move on to more interesting topics of conversation, like hair and nails and which party they went to on the weekend.

So I started doing that. I started saying “I’m okay,” even when I’m not. Even when I’m home, achingly exhausted, dizzy, overcome with nausea and trying desperately to push through this migraine. I’m still “okay.” Every day that I work is a struggle. Staring at a computer screen all day under constant fluorescent lighting, struggling through fatigue and fighting off the pain with medication that is only going to cause worse side effects later on. But I still answer “I’m okay.” When I finally complain, it means I’ve really hit that wall of not being able to even pretend anymore.

But this tactic is damaging. It isolates those of us suffering with any kind of chronic illness, whether it be physical or mental. Anxiety or migraines. Depression or Chronic Fatigue. It applies to all illnesses. The less we talk about it, the more the stigma grows, the more people think we’re just bunging it on. It’s not good for us, and it’s not good for them. How can they understand better, how can they gain any awareness, if we’re constantly holding back what we’re going through?

That being said, we have good reason to hold back. Because of those people who don’t actually care to hear how we’re going, those people that instilled that fear in us.

You think I like the attention? Here’s the truth, I would give ANYTHING to not be sick anymore. If I wanted attention, I’d just run down the street in the nude, I wouldn’t need to be ill to get it. I’ve had to quit my job, a job that I loved that had become like a home and second family to me. I quit, purely so I could focus on my health and attempt to get it back on track. So that I could go back to living my life. It was not an easy decision, or a happy one.

If I just wanted attention, do you really think I would have done something so drastic? My complaints are annoying for you, but the reason I’m complaining is a LOT more ‘annoying’ for me. So remember that the next time my need to vent is a drain on your day. Remember that any time ANYONE with an illness of any kind is needing to vent. They’re struggling hard, the least you can do is endure listening to them, and maybe, just maybe, giving them some semblance of relief because you ACTUALLY cared. It’s not hard to be kind, especially if you just put yourself in someone else’s shoes for 5 minutes. Especially if you step out of your bubble and see the pain that surrounds so many people in the world.

Let’s be real. Speak up more when you’re struggling, break the stigma. Complain whenever you feel the need to complain. Vent, get it all out. Force people to hear you and to see the truth. Help them understand. If they get bored, if they don’t care… Well, fuck em! From here on out, I make no apologies for voicing my pain.

Exercise – The Miracle Cure

Exercise is great, isn’t it? It can relieve and prevent all matters of ailments, especially stress.

Have you ever been feeling emotions so wild and confusing that the only way to relieve them is through exercise? Go for a jog, a long vigorous walk, beat up the punching bag, get the endorphins pumping through your veins.

I admit, I used to be a sucker for it myself. There is no better and healthier way to relieve stress and help yourself to feel better. It truly is amazing.

So what if, for some reason, you couldn’t do that anymore? You’re frustrated or anxious, but you can’t run it off. You’re angry, furious even, but you can’t just punch the bag for a while. Is that a whole other kind of torture, or what?

Well… Welcome to my life, and the lives of so many others with chronic illnesses.

I often hear “maybe you should exercise more,” and man that hurts. A) if exercise could cure me, I’d be be spending every day doing exactly that. And B) anyone who’s ever suffered this kind of illness would know that exercise can quite often make matters worse.

Last night I was feeling the frustration of this. I was having one of those days where I felt down, I felt anxious, I felt angry, I felt a whole lot of things relating to the burden of feeling sick every day. I felt the weight of pushing through normal every day life when all my body wants to do is hide away and rest.

And you know what I REALLY wanted to do? I wanted to punch a punching bag or a good hour while I blast some music. Or go for a long run that makes you feel exhausted in the good kind of way. But the sad fact is, the only ‘sporting’ activities I can do at the moment are Pilates, Archery and short walks. I’ve found a real release in Pilates, it does take my mind off a lot and allows me to care for and strengthen my body, rather than fight it every second of every day. And Archery is also a great distraction, plus shooting an arrow at a target can release some pent up anger 😛

But it’s not really the same. Not for the tumultuous emotions you can feel at any given moment when every moment out of bed is a physical effort, and when you feel isolated and maybe even a little judged.

I just want to go for a run, but it will hurt later. It will cause the next few days to be worse than they need to be. To put it simply, fatigue will be kicking my ass, and those physical symptoms that were causing my stormy emotions in the first place will be ten times worse. So what’s the point?

That being said, exercise is great for so many health conditions, mental and physical, including your heart health and relieving anxiety. I used to walk every single day before all of this, and I loved it. If you can exercise, you most definitely be doing it! But also try to have a little bit of empathy for those of us that can’t at the moment. We’re not being lazy, we’re just struggling more than you can see.

Photo by Fitsum Admasu on Unsplash

Brain Fog Fury

Brain fog is a fickle and complicated symptom of many diseases. I don’t have dementia, so why can’t I remember why I entered this room? I’m 29 years old, why can’t I remember that person’s name?

Now, let’s be real, those things have happened to all of us. But imagine being in a Pilates class, and not actually FEELING like you’re in a Pilates class. Trippy, right? Let me tell you from experience, NOT a fun feeling.

Brain fog can mimic some mental disorders including Depression, ADHD, or Dissociation. It’s like being trapped, trying to grasp at something that should be so easy but just falling short.

This week has been a bad one for me. A three day migraine, constant chest discomfort, UNBEARABLE sleepiness, generally just feeling like aids (sorry for my lack of descriptive abilities at the moment,) and the real fear that these feelings may not pass. But the worst part of all, I’ve had several people ask me “what do you mean?” when I’m trying to have a conversation with them. It’s not their fault, I simply can’t focus enough to explain anything properly because I’m suffering from brain fog along with my other symptoms. Luckily for all of us, as I write this, I’m the most lucid I’ve been in days. Hallelujah! (…I should probably hire an editor.)

I’m definitely not used to people being confused by what I’m trying to say to them so many times within a few days. I make sense to my own addled brain, and I just can’t grasp another way to explain what I’m trying to say. Sound frustrating? That’s because IT IS! The worst part is, I can’t explain to anyone what I’m feeling without sounding looney, so I just go about my day looking and sounding completely spaced out and incompetent.

Brain fog is scary as hell. I want to be able to go through my normal every day life without forgetting what I’m doing. I don’t want to feel embarrassed when I can’t remember someone’s name, someone who I’ve known for 3 years. I don’t want to be constantly reminded that “you’ve already told me that, a few times”. I don’t want to be in Pilates having to mentally push myself like I’m Michelle Bridges from The Biggest Loser, just to get into position for a simple stretch! All because I’m suffering temporary migraine induced dissociation.

I don’t want to feel like I’m sleep walking through my life. Bad health has taken over my body, does it have to take over my mind too? Big events, special memories, they could all pass by in a literal blur, and there’s nothing I’d be able to do about it. I don’t get to choose when a flare up happens, or when that flare up will affect my cognitive function.

You know what? I hate that. I’m positive on most days despite my health battles, but today I get to hate it. Today I choose not to fight it, but to go home and rest. And that’s totally okay, because even superheroes need rest! 🤷‍♀️ 🦸‍♀️

My Mum is Mentally Ill

Back in the day, that would have been a hard thing for me to admit. If I’m being completely honest, it still doesn’t feel easy to say. Why’s that? Because I grew up in a time where mental illness was stigmatised. These days, it’s interesting to see that it’s become glamourised. How did that happen?! You blink, and everything changes. Suddenly, someone feels sad or stressed, and they instantly self diagnose with depression… What the f*ck?!

I was ten years old when my mum became ill. It still seems crazy to me that I was one of the first to notice what was going on. That’s right, the kid knew what was going on before the adults did! It took an extra year before they figured out what was going on and she was diagnosed with mental illness.

Now, to this day I still cannot tell you exactly what she was diagnosed with, it was a mixture of illnesses really. But I guess the easiest to explain is depression, as it’s the most well known.

While I was in high school, dealing with the usual high school shit, dealing with my mother going in and out of hospital, I received a hell of a lot of judgement. Because guess what? My mum is mentally ill. If she was physically ill, it would have been easier for everyone to understand. But at that age, how could I expect any more of them?

However, it still made me angry. I understood what was going on, so why couldn’t they? Why couldn’t they be more understanding and supportive? Because mental illness was still misunderstood in general and frowned upon. There were even a few parents that wouldn’t allow their kids to come over to my house anymore, that’s how bad it was.

I grew up very angry as a teenager. Majority of the time it was just my Dad and my two older brothers living in the house, while Mum was quite often in hospital. I was downright angry, lost, confused, anxious and quite often sad. I was a teenage girl growing up without her mother, and without the support she needed. There was a lot expected of me, it was my job to look after my mother. MY job to look after MY MOTHER. Now what sounds wrong about that statement?

My mum was ill, none of what happened was her fault. If someone with a stomach bug vomited, you wouldn’t blame them for something that they couldn’t help, would you? It took me a long time, and many sessions with a psychologist, to understand this. But what about the other adults? Why did they expect me to look after my mentally ill mother, and forget to support me or my brothers who were all teenage children? Because, again, all of this was misunderstood. The adults in my life did the best they could with what knowledge they had. That also took me a long time to understand. It also took me a long time to stop blaming myself. That was, by far, the toughest part.

So after all that, all that pain and heartache, how did mental illness become glamourised? How did it somehow become cool to boast about the self diagnosis you came up with when you cried last night? Is that depression? Not even close.

It took just 15 short years for me to see mental illness go from stigmatised, to glamourised. Well let me explain something, mental illness is not beautiful, it’s a bitch. It’s debilitating and paralysing for the person, and it’s terrifying for the people around them. In raising awareness, it’s important to know the difference between mental illness, and normal emotions. It’s clinical, it can’t be self diagnosed or self treated.

“Depression is a clinical illness. It’s been scientifically proven and documented that depression has a literal, physical effect on your brain. No ifs, ands or buts.”

There is a lot of confusion on where the line is drawn between sadness and depression, between stress and an anxiety disorder. But once you’ve seen it or experienced it, the line is obvious.
Suicide is in the top ten causes of death in Australia, and almost impossible to understand. I myself used to be guilty of seeing it as a selfish act. But it’s not, it’s an effect of an illness, and a serious one at that. One that affects way too many people. I’d say most of us know of someone who has died by suicide.

My hope is that some day everyone will start to see it for what it really is. Not beautiful, not cool, not a choice and not situational or fleeting. And most of all, see that it is just as important as our physical health. Stop stigmatising it, stop glamourising it. Just see it for what it is… Misunderstood, unavoidable, debilitating, terrifying. Even just as valid as cancer, and just as dangerous.

My mum is mentally ill. Take it from someone who knows.

The Depo Darkness

I often hear men and women alike joke about women’s hormones. She’s angry, so she must have PMS. That’s hilarious, right?

It’s not often lately that I get really bad PMS, mostly I just get extra jittery and anxious. But now and then it really hits me, and I spend the better part of a day crying or just feeling really low. I don’t really see that as funny. Emotions are all valid regardless of the cause. More than anything, it makes me really feel for the women that deal with that monthly, or the women suffering through menopause.

That brings me to my Depo Provera disaster.

Approximately 5 years ago I was prescribed a treatment for Endometriosis after a surgery, in the form of a Depo Provera injection. This is a reasonably common form of birth control that get’s injected into your butt cheek (hehe), and lasts for 3 months. The main ingredient of this injection is Progestin, which effectively stops ovulation. This in turn also prevents Endometriosis from growing outside your uterine wall.

However, what my gynecologist at the time forgot to take into consideration was my sensitivity to medications, especially the hormonal kind. Within a week of getting this injection, I was too depressed to even make it into work. And guess what… There are no medications to counteract an injection that stays in your body for at least 3 months.

I proceeded to spend the next few months with severe insomnia – sleeping a maximum of 2 hours a night. Spending the rest of the night either tossing and turning or simply crying and wondering how I was going to get through this. Of course, I didn’t actually realise at first that it was this injection causing my sudden depression, no one had explained to me that it was a possible side effect. I was only 6 months into dating my boyfriend, Aiden, and we both started to believe that it was my relationship with him that was giving me grief. This caused a tremendous strain on our new relationship, and left a few of his friends that I’d just met thinking I was an emotional wreck, and rightly so! Let’s face it, that’s exactly what I was.

So what happened after 3 months? Well… turns out that emotional side effects caused by this injection actually get worse before they get better. And so, I spent the better part of a year severely depressed . Not even being able to work most of the time – and when I did work I spend most of the day counting the minutes until I could curl up in bed and hide again.

I kept everyone in that dark about all of this. My parents saw the severe anxiety and panic attacks it caused in the beginning, but no one knew the true extent of my depression until I broke down crying in front of my mum in a cafe.

I would like to take a second to point out that I very rarely cry, and I basically never cry in front of anyone else. It’s not because I’m emotionally unstable, it’s just generally not what I do. So my mum seeing me cry for the first time in probably 15 years… Well it really kind of freaked her out, to say the least. She finally saw what I was going through. But despite that, I still felt embarrassed to share this with anyone else. I often laid awake and cried while Aiden slept without saying a word to him about it, and I never let my friends in on the whole truth. No one saw the real darkness that was caused by one simple hormonal ‘treatment’.

Do you still think it’s funny when a woman is being hormonal?

Mental illness is no joke. When it’s caused by or coupled with hormones, to put it plainly, you feel like you’re losing your god damn mind! Imagine feeling perfectly fine one day, and losing all control of your emotions the next. This is a lot more prominent in women with conditions such as Endometriosis or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, but no one seems to talk about it. It’s a very real side effect, especially to so many of the treatments for these conditions. Do you see why I can’t see the funny side to that?

I’m not laughing, and neither should you. The seriousness of this needs to be recognised. Next time a woman is “just being hormonal,” stop and think for a second. That thought, that realisation, could save your wife’s, sister’s, mother’s or daughter’s life.

To all the women out there struggling, please believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Speak out, get help and support. It’s 100% okay to need that 💙