Author Archives: rachale86

Let It Go: A Lesson In Hoarding

One of the important lessons I have learned this year is to LET IT GO. (Unless it’s a fart and you’re in an exam. Then please. Restrain.)

In all seriousness, the greatest lesson I have learned this year is the power of letting things go. And I’m not just talking about the physical stuff.  I’m talking about the mental and emotional energy you put into holding on to negative thoughts and feelings. All that self criticism, that guilt you feel over something you did seven years ago. Obsessing and worrying over what other people think. Negativity and resentment towards people who have wronged you.

The only thing this kind of crap does is punish ourselves. At the risk of sounding all new agey; negativity breeds negativity. Breathe. Write. Talk. Scream. But let it out, in whatever way you can.

If your mental and emotional being is clogged up with negativity, how can we possibly find room for the positive stuff?

I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent (you have been warned). I’m well aware that I am a hoarder of negative emotions, but I never knew I was a physical hoarder, until recently when Hubster and I had to massively downsize. We got rid of about half of our furniture and other worldly goods. Probably more.  Now I thought I was pretty good at chucking stuff out. We moved a lot when I was a kid and I never really had the chance to collect. But when we got down to it I couldn’t believe the amount of CRAP we had accumulated. To give you an idea of the craptastic calibre of crappery, here are a few items we found (and discarded):

- a nappy bag fully loaded with tiny nappies, dummies, rusks, pre measured formula, and a child nurse appointment card for 2011.

- about fifteen odd shoes and a destroyed pair of high heels that Monsiour Bark-a-lot had chewed as a puppy but I just couldn’t bear to throw out because, dude, I bought these shoes in HAWAII. Do not mess with my HAWAIIAN heels!

- three fondue sets. Hello! The 70′s called!

-twenty or so miniature metal pencil sharpeners in the shape of canons and such on Hubsters desk. Why. WHY?!

- a ridiculous, possibly uncountable number of broken coat hangers. Not even the useful metal ones that you can bend and stretch and use to break into cars (When I say “break into cars”, what I actually mean is “break into MY car when I have locked my keys in”, or perhaps how about we just stick with the old “use as a back scratcher”). No these were the trusty cheap plastic versions. Useless.

- and the creme de la creme…a Mitsubishi Magna which hadn’t started for the last three years, had spent it’s time taking up the entire garage, collecting dust, while simultaneously being fully licensed and insured. When the piece of junk broke (in the rain. With a baby in the back. Of course) we bought a new car and kept the Magna  just incase it could be fixed, and then sold, and then we could make a shit load of money. Spoiler alert: it couldn’t be fixed. In fact, it took three people to push it down the drive so scrap metal could pick it up.


At first we were agonising over each item…”do we need it? Should we keep it?”….by the end we were all “GET THIS STUFF THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” We got more and more ruthless. We chucked, and sold, and gave away, and took to charity. In the end I left an entire outdoor setting on our front verge with a “Free!” sign taped to it, because it wouldn’t fit in the car to take to charity, and I could not be phaffed with listing it to sell. (You get some odd people on GumTree. When I tried to sell my first car we had a guy who wanted to pay us in yellow sapphires. Totes legit.)

The amazing thing was that as soon as we got rid of the crap I started to receive cheques in the mail. I’m not even kidding. I think I’ve cashed a cheque, like, maybe five times in my life. And that was probably birthday money in circa 1995. But they kept coming in, all this really random stuff.  It was like now we had gotten rid of the crap we had room to receive.

I truly believe that this same principle applies to an emotional level. I’m a terrible emotional hoarder. I analyse my (and everyone else’s) behaviour to a ridiculous degree.  I beat myself up. I get inwardly panicky about conversations I had months, if not YEARS, ago. I worry and worry and worry and worry about what people think of me, what will happen in the future, whether I acted in the correct manner. Is such and such angry at me. Am I a good parent. Did I leave the cooker on. You get the picture.

All this hoarding does is take away my time, energy and sleep. It doesn’t improve the situation. It doesn’t help relationships. It really doesn’t do anything except make me feel like some kind of hyper anxious meercat. My physical health is affected too, because of course many physical disorders have links to anxiety, depression and general poor mental health.

( A recent photo of me. I know. Bit heavy on the eye makeup)

Now I’ve lost a lot of time this year that I will never be able to get back again. I spent five months in hospital, and close to a year, now, being physically and mentally unwell. I’ve missed big opportunities, career wise and family wise. I spent too much time away from family and friends. Quite frankly, I don’t want to waste any more of my precious time on negativity.

So I’ve started to Let It Go. My favourite method at the moment is to allow myself a minute or two to indulge my obsessive nature and worry about whatever it is that I’m worrying about at Hyper Meercat Level. Then I take a deep breath and let it go. What I have noticed is my mind is more free. I don’t have that tight anxious feeling in my chest. By getting rid of the emotional junk I hoard, I am allowing room for more positive things to enter mind, and my life in general.

It’s important to remember that worry, by its very nature, is always stuck in the past or projecting into the future. But life is going by, every single second, and you will never get Now again. This is it. Life is Now.

So like the annual spring clean we conduct in our houses, why not try a spring clean of the mind? Forgive yourself for the times you hurt others. Forgive those who have hurt you. Allow yourself to get angry or upset or WHATEVER, but at the end of it let go of the crap you our holding on to. Open yourself up to new possibilities and positivity. I’m not saying it’s easy or that I’m some kind of life expert (heh. someone who was practically in a straight jacket only five months ago giving life advice. That’s amusing). I’m not saying open your mind and VOILA you’re cured!

What I am saying is experiment, try to let things go at even the tiniest level. Try to chuck out even the smallest piece of the emotional baggage you hold. See if it helps. And if you are anything like me, similar to the cheques I received in the mail, I promise you will receive in the most unexpected of ways.

P.s. Did you notice that I wrote this entire post without a single reference to Frozen. What self restraint. ;)

Let’s Just Settle This Matter Once and For All….

I’m not pregnant.

No. Not pregnant. Not even a little bit. Not now and not for a while. Not pregnant. Just “fat”.

You see, when I WAS pregnant, I was blessed with a big baby and a condition where I produced a lot of amniotic fluid. I was HUGE. I was MASSIVE. My belly pretty much had it’s own weather system going on. You get the picture.

Because I was underweight before my pregnancy, people noticed a change right away. I had people guessing  I was “in the family way” from five weeks pregnant. Five weeks. The pregnancy test had barely turned positive.

By 9 weeks I was in maternity clothes. By 28 weeks people thought I was full term. By 34 weeks none of my maternity clothes fit my enormous bump, and I constantly had people asking if I was having twins.

“No, no. Just the one” I would say, laughing.
“One! Wow! You’re HUGE!” they would respond, looking at my belly in awe. I would mutter a vague “yeah….” because in what universe is it OK to tell a strange woman she is huge. Even if she is.

Some people would continue to press. Telling me that I MIGHT actually be having twins and not know it. Someones brothers, girlfriends, aunts, cousin had that happen. They saw it on the Discovery channel. Whatever. I would explain to them that I was sure that wasn’t the case given the number of ultrasounds I had had, so detailed that I practically knew my kids’ hair colour. They would shake their head and say “well…I guess you’ll find out soon!” in a vaguely ominous tone that had ME starting to wonder whether I had a hiding twin in there.

Let me clarify. I wasn’t big everywhere. I was underweight when I became pregnant, and my arms and legs pretty much stayed the same as they always had. It was just my belly that was enormous. Now that sounds like a good thing, I’m sure there are women out there who want to hit me with a wooden stick right now. But I can assure you a gargantuan belly comes with its own set of problems.

For starters my hips couldn’t take the strain and started to pull apart. I suffered terrible pain for months, I had to strap my hips together each morning, and by the end of my pregnancy I could barely walk. My stomach muscles separated to an enormous degree (which ultimately resulted in my hernia), and the nerves were affected meaning much of my belly was actually numb. After the birth I had to wear a bandage over my stomach for weeks to train the muscles back together so my guts wouldn’t spill out. My skin literally started to rip apart. To this day I have stretch marks deep enough to fit a finger into. Ain’t no Bio Oil going to help with that!

Around 32 weeks I went for my antenatal appointment and the midwife asked how long I had to go.
“8 weeks.” I told her. She glanced at my bump.
“Oh, honey. You’re not going to make that.” she told me.

The decision was made for me to be induced. But luckily the midwife was right and Master D came of his own accord, 8 pound 4…a few weeks early.

So where am I going with all of this? What is the point?

The point is that I am now the owner of a post baby belly. Of course all mothers are to some extent, but mine is particularly horrendous. I have a mass of extra skin around my belly that no exercising, no diet, and nothing non surgical is ever going to fix. I’m 28 years old and I can never find a pair of jeans that fit, I can’t wear tight t-shirts, and I will never wear a bikini again.

I have noticed a few things on the internet recently celebrating the post baby bodies of mothers. Black and white pictures of stretch marks and women proudly baring their bodies and proclaiming how much they love their stretch marks because their belly was “a home for their child” etc etc. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great that some women are celebrating themselves. Awesome. Good for you. But I certainly don’t celebrate my belly, and if you saw it you probably wouldn’t either.

The reason being is that I am constantly…CONSTANTLY…asked if I am pregnant. It happens all the time. My family tell me it is because it is only my belly that is fat, the rest of me is (allegedly) quite slim. My body doesn’t fit together so people put two and two together and get five. t don’t know if that makes things better or worse.

Anyway last night Hubster and I went to a work ‘do. I wore a dress that I THOUGHT looked quite good in. I had a glass of wine then switched to soft drink as Lorazapam and alcohol usually results in me falling asleep or making an arse out of myself. Possibly both.

I was introduced to a guy and he immediately said “Nice to meet you Rachael. My wife is pregnant too!”

Usually my response is “no, not pregnant. Just fat.” in a kind of apologetic “don’t-worry-you’re-not-the-first-to-make-that-mistake” kind of tone. But on this occasion, in front of everyone in their business get up, I was left speechless. Laughed, and then slipped away to the toilet to examine my abdomen.

While in there I took this incriminating photo as kind of a record, and started analysing the situation. I honestly the dress thought it hid my horrendous belly. But maybe it looks like a maternity dress? Maybe it was the soft drink? But you don’t go assuming women are pregnant because they drink Lemonade instead of wine. God! If this is me “looking good” then what the hell do people think when I’m having my “fat” days?!


If it were a one off situation I would have laughed it off. But it’s not. It happens a lot. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes it strikes a nerve.

You see, I wanted to be pregnant this year. I never wanted a large age gap between children. But I became sick – physically and mentally. I guess life doesn’t always work out the way you want. I wish I was pregnant a lot of the time. Not just because I do want another child at some point. But because at least I wouldn’t have to go to great lengths to hide my belly. To avoid full length photos. To have to diffuse awkward conversations. Yes, I’m one of a small subset of women who feels better about her image when pregnant than not pregnant. You’re SUPPOSED to have a belly when you are pregnant! And as much as it irritated me; being told you are huge when you are pregnant is a whole lot better than being told you are pregnant when you’re not.

On the plus side (no pun intended), It has given me an idea for Dr. Seuss-esque book..

I’m not pregnant in a room, I’m not pregnant to a groom.
No not pregnant, not am I. Though I struggle to zip my fly.
But I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat. I’m happy with one son, and a cat,
Let’s settle this, for big, for small,
I’m not pregnant. Not at all.

Nice ;)

Why I Should Be Banned from Technology

There is a reason I married an IT guru.

(Well. Aside from that fact that he is kind, supportive and dashingly handsome of course.)

The reason being that I should LITERALLY be banned from technology. Yes. Literally, not figuratively (I’m looking at you, Ted from How I Met Your Mother). LITERALLY.


I shouldn’t even be allowed to keep this blog. I’m actually fairly impressed that it hasn’t exploded in my face or something.

I’m the girl who called the IT department to my office on a sunday afternoon because my computer wouldn’t turn on. Hassled and grumpy on the phone. “Yes I am pushing the right ON button.” Sheesh. What do you think I am? I have VERY IMPORTANT work to do here!

IT arrived and I pointed out my computer accusingly. They pointed out that it wasn’t plugged in.  I apologised profusely.

Just the other day I downloaded a new photo editing app on my phone. I was swiping this and tapping that and suddenly – I SWEAR I don’t even know how – I ended up in some sort of dating application with a baboon face as my profile picture, being invited to “flirt” or “send kisses” to people. A BABOON face. I’m not even exaggerating. I couldn’t make this shit up.

In half horror, half hysterical laughter, I shut down the app which I kind of regret because it would have been endlessly amusing to see if anyone “sent kisses” to me; the baboon. Surprisingly, I feel, Hubster wasn’t as amused as I was, questioning why I was even on a dating app in the first place.

“If I WANTED to be on a dating app, do you REALLY think I would have chosen THIS  as my profile picture?” I pointed out, flashing him the baboon photo.

“Fair call. It’s not your best angle.” True love, that.

I can’t even handle landline technology. While in hospital I called Hubsters work line for something or other. It was quite late and this guy answered the phone whose voice I vaguely recognised. For some reason I panicked.

I let out a strangled “Hubster… that youuuu?!”

Almost immediately I realised it was Hubsters boss and I slammed down the phone before he could reply.


But the worst, the absolute worst time was when I saw that I had a message on Skype from  a friend. A MALE friend, I might add.

I was breastfeeding at the time. Well. Not at that actual moment, but during that general time period. I was full and sore (you mothers know what I am talking about) and, well, to put it simply – topless.

Multi tasking, choosing clothes, juggling a baby (you mothers know what I am talking about) I quickly replied to the message then noticed that I had accidentally clicked on what seemed to be some sort of bad homemade pornography site. There was a bare chested woman cavorting across my screen. What. The. Hell.

A closer inspection and I realised that it wasn’t porn. It was me. Topless. I was video calling my friend. Topless.

Abort! Abort! I ducked down and closed the window. I LITERALLY (not figuratively) could have died.

In a panic, and because it seemed like a good idea at the time, I sent him a quick message. “Did you see that?” Super casual.

“See what?” he responded. Super casual.

Yep. He saw it.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I should be banned from technology.

The Medication Police

Every Saturday morning I  trudge down to the local pharmacy where my Pharmacist doles out my medication for the week. If I don’t take my medication or, presumably, don’t show up, my mental health team are called. At nearly thirty years old, as a mother and PhD candidate I can’t be trusted to take my own medication. There is an interesting story about that.

When I was first released from the hospital I had a team of mental health nurses visiting daily. One of the nurses, Lynda, was a middle aged, extremely chatty woman who said “fuck” a lot. You couldn’t help but like her. After two weeks I knew everything from the miscarriages she suffered as a young mother to the details of her menopausal symptoms. Her chattiness suited me as it meant I didn’t need to talk much.

One day she asked to take a look at my medication. Obediently, I went and got The Box: a large metal container housing all of my medications, which the Hubster occasionally took it upon himself to lock if I was in a particularly dour mood.


“Hubster. Seriously. I’m having a bad day – I’m hardly going to kill myself.”
“Yeah well. This makes me feel better about things.”
“You know if I REALLY wanted to top myself I could just go and buy a load of painkillers, right?” I tried to reason with him.
“You can’t drive at the moment.”
“Ok. Well. You know if I REALLY wanted to kill myself I wouldn’t take pills.” I tried again.
“Why not?”
“Because overdose is a particularly risky….Gah! Why are we even having this morbid conversation?! The point is, I am allowed to be sad sometimes. I am allowed to cry. It doesn’t mean I am suicidal. And I don’t need to be treated like a child.”
“Ok. But I’m still locking the box.”

So it seems I have some trust to build.

Anyway, Hubster wasn’t the only one mistrustful of my intentions. Back to The Box. Lynda was half impressed, half horrified by the contents of The Box. My seventeen or so medications where in there, neatly organised by Hubster according to dosage and coded by expiration date.

“I’ve never seen anything like this! This is…shit…this is ORGANISED!” she exclaimed, pawing through my stocks.
“Yeah…Hubster did it because of the ECT…I kept forgetting what to take.”

“You have FOUR packets of Oxycontin in here”.
“Do I? Well at least I won’t need any more in a hurry…”
“Bloody hell. You must RATTLE,” She interjected.

“I guess?”
“Drake will have to see this!”

Now Drake I had heard a lot about. He was the head pharmacist at the State Psychiatric Facility, and the nurses tended to swoon about him. “Drake is so NICE”. “Drake is a LOVELY man.” Yes. I had to meet the famous Drake.

So the next day Lynda appeared with Drake and what appeared to be his small entourage. I was a little confused as to why the head pharmacist of the state wide psychiatric institution was sitting in my living room commenting on my medication, but hey, he seemed  impressed with The Box, telling me he was going to tell his other patients to organise their medications in a similar fashion. Hubster would be chuffed.

But suddenly there was some sort of intervention.

“You know we can’t let you keep all of this in your house, Rachael.” Drake said.
“Erm. Well. I’ve paid for it so -“

“It’s too much of a risk.” Lynda joined in. The rest of the entourage nodded.

“A risk? Well. I’m not suicidal. And besides,” I said, pointing at the lock, “Hubster can always lock it if needed.”
“We just don’t feel comfortable with you having this amount of pharmaceuticals in your home. You’re a smart girl. If you wanted to get in there you could.” Lynda pointed out.
“Well. I’m not planning on being suicidal, so I really don’t’ think it’s an issue -“
“I’m sorry. But we really think it is best if we take this all to the pharmacy. They can give you your meds on a weekly basis.” Drake said.
“Hang on a sec! You were just saying how good and organised it was, and how you were going to tell your clients to manage their meds.”
“Yes, but most people don’t have the sheer amount of medication you do. And they don’t usually have multiple packs of high schedule painkillers and boxes and boxes of sleeping pills…aside from anything this is all highly addictive stuff Rachael.”

Well you were the ones who put me on it! I felt like shouting. But I didn’t. Because that would be marked down as “being unreasonable.”

So, obediently, I went down to the local Pharmacy with Lynda and handed over all of my medication bar my weekly doses and a few PRN, to be doled out every Saturday.

“I’m proud of you Rachael.” Lynda told me as we left. “Many people feel anxious about giving up their stockpile…their “emergency stash” Do you want a PRN Lorazapam to take the edge off?”

Bang. Head. Against. Wall. It wasn’t a stockpile. It wasn’t my “emergency stash”. I wasn’t intentionally collecting the medication that was prescribed to me.  It’s not my fault that I am on seventeen different frigging medications. I am NOT suicidal. I CAN be trusted. 

I didn’t say any of that though. Because that would be marked down as being “emotional.”

So instead I said. “Yeah. Well I guess it’s for the best. Lorazapam? Why the hell not.”

So every Saturday I show up to collect my weekly supply. I can’t take too many, I can’t take too few. The medication police are surely on my case.

I know my past. I know people want to protect me. I know there is probably some “Cover Your Arse” legalities out there that prevented me from keeping the medication. I know Hubster is scared of losing me.

But I hope that I will be able to gain back the trust of others some day.

The Unintentional Addict

Last night I was having a whinge about my pain levels/ never ending fever/ fatigue, because quite frankly it is getting incredibly annoying. By my intense Google research I have narrowed down the reason for my general craptivity to:

1) a fairly normal recovery from an Autoimmune disease, or;
2) A very rare and potentially deadly form of Leukemia

Dr. Google is always incredibly comforting.

Anyway, so my Mum told me she had some “special mushrooms” that might be able to help me with my pain and fatigue.

This wasn’t exactly what I expected….


Because really…what DO you expect when someone offers you “Special Mushrooms”? Even if it is your mother. And a naturopath.

The truth is, aside from my mother, no one has ever offered me special mushrooms, or any other type of illicit substance. I never had my opportunity to “Just Say No”, and on the few and far between circumstances where in a young and fancy free (ok. manic) state I asked my *connected* friends for a hit of something, their response was somewhere along the lines of “absolutely no way.” Everything I know about drugs has been learned via a combination of my “Substance Abuse 101″ Psychology class and Breaking Bad.

Of course I drink alcohol, and I did smoke once (but that was a complete disaster which involved me taking a puff then collapsing in a coughing fit before shouting out “You do this for FUN?!”) I guess I was kind of a “good girl”. And lets face it, I don’t NEED drugs to get high or hallucinate. No, my bipolar brain can do that all by itself ;)

So how the hell am I an addict now?

I don’t smoke dope. I don’t shoot heroin. I don’t snort crack. I don’t even know if I am using the right vernacular and/or slang for these things. But I do medicate. Every. Single. Day. Of. My. Life.

And I do know what Morphine withdrawal is like. And Benzo withdrawal. And SSRI withdrawal. The best two words to describe all of these experiences is: Fucking Awful. Skin crawling, vomiting, dizziness, aches, fevers, Christ. I didn’t even want to take these drugs, yet when the withdrawal started I was practically begging my nurses for an Oxycodeine or two to soothe the pain. God knows what it would be like if you had a psychological addiction as well as physiological.

My unintended morphine addiction was one of the most difficult to kick. Especially since I was still in high levels of pain. I cut down and cut down and finally ditched the drugs then immediately had major surgery and hooked up to morphine again. Fantastic!

Even now, although I’m off *most* of the highly addictive stuff, I still take a colourful concoction of pills each day. My pharmacist and I are on first name basis. He gives me drugs, I give him money, he’s practically my glorified dealer. I HATE that I’m physiologically addicted to a variety of substances. But I don’t have any choice. We’ve seen how me being unmedicated goes down.

Society approves the drugs I am on. Society PUSHES the drugs I am on. 1 in 4 of us take anti – depressants. My drugs are made in a lab in California  instead of someones backyard. But they are psychoactive – which means MIND ALTERING. Is being on a mind altering substance for years that potentially has serious long term effects on your health at a time *really* any better than smoking a joint at a party? I don’t know.

I’m not glorifying recreational drugs, and I’m not trivialising addiction. “Real” hardcore addiction. In fact, the major thing I would like to point out here is that, although I am physiologically addicted to these medications, I DO NOT WANT TO TAKE THEM. I KNOW how difficult it is to withdraw from medication on a physiological level. Adding psychological addiction to the mix – I don’t know how I would cope.

But like it or not, I am still an unintentional addict to a mix of psychoactive drugs. Every blood test I have I wait for the news that my Lithium has screwed my Thyroid up and I will have to go on yet more medication. I panic if I run out of Lorazapam because I know I won’t sleep. There is no end date for my medication regime. Bipolar 1 doesn’t just get better. I know the nasty long term effects of my medication. But I take it anyway.

I never thought I would be chemically dependant. I never thought I would be an addict – even if it is unintentionally.

But, seriously, who does INTEND to be an addict? Do we sit down one day, and while contemplating the universe, suddenly proclaim “Gee… being an addict sounds all kinds of awesome. Now what will I become addicted to? Heroin? Coke? Food? Sex? SSRI’S?” Is that the way this works?

If so. Life achievement. Unlocked.

Ring of Fire

I fell into a burning ring of fire,
I went down, down, down and the flames went higher.
And it burns, burns, burns,
this ring of fire,
this ring of fire.

- June Carter

During my five month hospitalisation this song was perpetually stuck in my head. Perhaps it was a song that seemed appropriate. Particularly in light of my gastrointestinal distress. Did you know that “Ring of Fire”, was once the proposed advertising song for a haemorrhoid cream? Rather unsportingly, I feel,  the Carter/Cash family refused song rights for the advertisment. I can’t think why.

But on a more serious note I could relate to the song. The seemingly endless fall into an all time low that burned. God! It burned! And worst of all, it burned the ones I love.

This last hospitalisation has scarred me. The scalpels, the IV’s, and, yes, the self inflicted tearing at my skin has marked me in a way I will never be able to explain. My skin heals to shiny silveriness, but it will never be the same. A constant reminder to myself, and my loved ones.

But the scar that burns the most is the one inside my heart. The guilt I have, as a mother, for leaving my three year old child during my hospitalisation. Because it wasn’t just for a week, or a month, but for FIVE months of his little life.

He now has a acquaintance with hospitals that I never wished for him to have. If I slip, and mention that I need to see the doctor, he worries, immediately asking if I am ok, If I will go back to hospital again. I have to reassure him that I am not going anywhere and then he climbs up on my lap, ever so gently, telling me that he won’t hurt my tummy. He kisses me and tells me “No more hospital Mummy. You are doing SO well.”

I often say that he was the one who saved me, and this is the honest to God truth. If I didn’t have my son to motivate me into recovery, I don’t know where I would be. But then I think; what a responsibility for a toddler to hold! I never wanted my illness to affect my son, yet it did, from the moment he was born. Unintentionally, I have exposed my son to the ring of fire. And I burned him.

I know…I KNOW that I had no choice. I know I had to get myself better to be there for him. I know that I was “caring for my child by caring for myself”, or whatever it was that the doctors told me to try and make me feel better. But the fact was that I wasn’t there for him. For nearly half a year. I wasn’t there to watch him play. To cook him dinner. To take him to the park. To pick him up from daycare. To kiss him when he fell. To hold him when HE was sick. For nearly half a year.

And of course he takes it in his stride. Because that’s what children do. He loves me no less than he did before.

But this scar over my heart will never heal. How can I forgive myself for putting myself first, when the whole purpose of parenting is to protect your young before yourself.

I fell into a burning ring of fire.

And I took him with me.

Personalising your Lavatory, and the Legend of the Poo Bucket

It’s official. The Christmas decorations are out.


You can probably guess what type of person I am.

Having said that; the one very exciting aspect of Christmas was delivered straight to our door yesterday afternoon. That’s right people: The Home Care Catalogue: Christmas Edition.

The Home Care Catalogue is always one of my guilty pleasures. Sitting down with a coffee to read about the latest innovations and imagining the inventors at the Dragons Den always amuses me. But the Christmas Edition is something truly special. This year there was such a fantastic array of items featured that I suggested to my family that we all pick something out of the catalogue for each others christmas presents. They were surprisingly unenthusiastic, but still crowded around pointing out “Look at the motorised gardening buggy!” and “I totally need one of those Holy Bible USB drives!”

Given the calibre of the selection, it was incredibly difficult. But I have decided to stray from my usual topic of mental health today, to personally present a few of my favourite catalogue items to you. So here they are. In no particular order of fabulousness.

You’re welcome.

First up. Toilet Decals!

wpid-20141022_204057.jpgWhile I have never seen my lavatory as an object of decoration, there is always time for something new! This particular design reminds me of a birthday many years ago, when our good friend Jack asked Steven and I for a  golden toilet seat. And a private jet. In that order.

While the jet was somewhat difficult to obtain, we did manage to fulfil Jack’s desire of a golden throne. A quick trip to Bunnings, one standard toilet seat, and some gold spray paint later Jack could now rest his posterior in a princely fashion. But THIS toilet seat decal could take the DIY out of DIY. No having to explain to the staff member why you need the spray paint. And for under $50. Who could resist?

Next up….a more comfortable throne.


I have never known a gift magazine to contain so many lavatorial items. But I actually had an epiphany when I saw this. I realised that  humans vary in size and stature….but (aside from the minuture toilets you find in daycare centres) TOILETS ARE ALL THE SAME SIZE.

Thats, like, discrimination against the non – average. I’m a tall person. (Not freakishly tall, I hasten to add, but I can tend to look like a 12 year old boy at the end of a school year if I don’t buy the “Tall” sized pants). This lavatorial add on could make an actual difference to my life. To all tall people’s lives! And the convenient portable nature of the seat is a total win.

I’m sensing somewhat of a lavatorial theme here. And this next item is no exception, although it is less of a promotion and more of  a cautionary tale.

wpid-20141022_211145.jpgFor the love of God, DO NOT purchase this Dog Poo Waste Terminator.

My parents  were often trying to come up with innovative ways to dispose of our doggy dung. The time they decided to feed the poo to our worm farm being another example (Fail. Worms died). However the Poo Bucket incident was undoubtedly the most disastrous of these occasions, and has  become the stuff of family legend.

The purpose of the Poo Bucket is to add your poo (well, not yours, the dogs) to a mix of chemicals and it is supposed to, I don’t know, melt the poo, transform it into mulch, or fertiliser, or ice cream, or something.

Anyway all our poo transformed into was a molten, steaming, brown liquid that smelled SO bad that we couldn’t actually use the side of yard where the bucket was housed for the best part of a year. I am not even exaggerating. Even flies expired if they strayed into Poo Bucket Territory.

You have to understand. The smell of the Poo Bucket was so indescribably revolting. So gut wrenchingly putrid. And I’m stating this as a mother, dog owner, former childcare worker, and individual with recurrent gastrointestinal distress who should really have “Adept at dealing with bodily functions” inscribed onto my resume.

For the most part our policy of dealing with the Poo Bucket was “out of smell, out of mind.” But Dad pulled the short straw on the morning of twenty first birthday party, dry retching as he ran with the Poo Bucket, trying to find a suitable spot where the bucket could neither be smelled or sighted by guests. We totally didn’t watch and laugh.

But even after hiding the evidence, the core problem still remained. A large bucket of molten poo is surprisingly difficult to get rid of. Eventually, out of desperation my parents ended up dealing with the Poo Problem by digging a large hole underneath our lime tree.

On the up side, our limes did very well.

And now, I’ve truly saved the best for last…

wpid-20141022_210117.jpgA realistic model Bigfoot for your garden. Seriously. Who WOULDN”T want this gracing their front lawn. It’s “Fascinating”. It’s also only 52cm tall because, admittedly, a life-size Bigfoot would just be going too far, Rachael.  If you are my Secret Santa this year you totally know what to get me.
Happy Home Care: Christmas Edition!

So….who are you?

One of the major side effects of ECT is short term memory loss. And, boy, did it affect me.

I underwent ECT thrice weekly for ten sessions in the locked ward. Which, incidentally, reminds me. Recently I was considering my time in hospital and found it remarkable that when you are first involuntarily frog marched to a locked ward it is a major crush to the soul. You’re all “let me out of here! I’m being held against my will!” you pound your fists on the air lock doors and almost inevitably get told that you are going to be given something to “calm down”, which actually sounds quite pleasant until you are stabbed with a hypodermic needle. Then a few weeks later, after you have settled in, you’re all “welcome to my crib. Bitch.” Institutionalization at its finest. Clearly a topic for another time.

Anyway, back to my terrible memory.

While I was in treatment people often tried to make me feel better about my increasing forgetfulness by relating comical instances of their own forgetfulness or stating that they have a terrible memory too. While I appreciated their kindness, they really didn’t understand the extent of my memory problems.

I forgot where I was, why I was there. Which room was mine. What foods I wasn’t supposed to eat (a major problem as the nurses wouldn’t always be informed of my diet, and I would cheerfully tuck into the cheese toasty they brought me after treatment…) how old my son was, the fact that my grandmother had died, major family events, what my PhD was on.

Even worse, I started to forget the names of objects, words for things and feelings. On my homecoming found that I sent my doctoral supervisor, like ten million emails, all basically saying the same thing. I had to restart the book I was reading every few days as I would forget. Perhaps, most weirdly of all, I started to like foods that I used to dislike. Like honey (or bee vomit, as I used to call it.) Thats right. I had forgotten my food preferences.

I knew things were bad, but i don’t think i realized how bad until one day (over a month after the completion of my ECT) when there was a knock on the door. My registrar (who, incidentally was the splitting image of Gok from “How to look good Naked”. A resemblance so uncanny I had to wonder what the hell was going on when I first met him.) and a middle aged woman. They said hello and sat down and then there was this awkward silence, while I waited for the woman to introduce herself.


Eventually I cleared my throat, and since she looked too professional to be a student, said “So…are you a doctor?”

She and Gok looked vaguely surprised and then she asked if I remembered her.

It turned out that she had been my treating psychiatrist for some time. I had absolutely no recollection of her. Of course then I had to complete a number of ridiculous memory tests which I miserably failed, because, sheesh, who does know who the current prime minister is?!

I was then informed that, while most people’s memory improves fairly rapidly after ECT, I most likely had a rare side effect of severe memory loss due to taking Lithium during ECT…WHICH YOU ARE TOTALLY NOT SUPPOSED TO DO. Thank you, State Psychiatric Facility.

Luckily for me, with some rehabilitation (aka crossword puzzles and my Book of Things to Remember) my memory eventually returned to normal. There are still a few things that I don’t remember about my hospitalization….

But I think some things are best forgotten.

Miss Independent


For the first time, perhaps in my life, I am now mentally independent.

You see I used to hear voices. Not your average self talk. But actual voices, from people who had passed. These “People”, as I began to refer to them, told me that I was special in that they could communicate with me, that I had a gift. The People were my moral compass, my life guides. The People told me repeatedly that they “only wanted the best for me, and for me to be the best person I could be.”

I can’t remember when exactly the People became a part of my life. But I distinctly remember their presence during my adolescent period. Most of the time The People and I lived together comfortably. I accepted what they told me, and I never told anyone about them.

It never even occurred to me to tell someone, as their presence was all I knew. I had no idea that I was experiencing psychosis. I had a gift , goddamn it!

A few years ago, I casually mentioned The People to my psychiatric team. Suddenly I was being ushered into the on call psychiatrists office and being prescribed heavy duty anti – psychotics. I was in shock, and in trouble. The drugs didn’t work, and the voices got angry at me. They didn’t like being talked about. This was supposed to be our secret. They got nasty. I felt guilt and shame.

By the time I was admitted to hospital they were telling me to kill myself. They told me I was a bad person, who did not deserve to be helped. I was taking time away from people who were actually sick. For the first time in my life I saw them in person. They followed me around. They told me what a evil person I was. They told me I was lying. I didn’t have psychosis. I was just trying to get attention. And because the anti psychotic drugs never managed to vanquish them, I believed them. If I truly had psychosis, surely the medication would rid them?

Then I had ECT.

Suddenly the voices started to recede, then they disappeared. For the last two months, for the first time in…as long as I can remember… my mind is quiet.

As odd as it sounds, some days I struggle with this. It’s like leaving a toxic relationship. For the best part I feel free, open, and relief. But then some times I hear myself thinking “What would the people say?”. I miss their advice, crazy as it sounds.

Sometimes you feel comfort in the uncomfortable, merely because it is what you know. And I have to relearn how to deal with life without their guidance – no matter how helpful or unhelpful it is. I have to make my own decisions, without first referring to my guardians. I have to come to terms with the fact that I was not “special” at all – just psychotic.

I don’t know how long this mental quietness will last. Some research indicates that ECT will only keep symptoms at bay for 6 – 12 months. I don’t know what the future brings.

But I do know that, right now, I’m independent. I’ve broken free. I still thank The People for the lessons they have taught me, but it’s now time for me to make my own way in the world.

It’s Beginning to Feel a lot Like Stigma…..

So let’s just look past the fact that the fact that The Dungeon was housed in the hospital basement, and obviously hadn’t been the attention of any funding since circa 1976. One of the reasons I had *chosen* (I emphasise this, as I really didn’t have much of a choice), my local hospital instead of the state psychiatric facility was the hope that I could be treated for my medical problems as well as psychiatric issues. However, despite the fact that I was newly diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, the medical care I received as a psychiatric patient was appallingly neglectful. So neglectful in fact, that formal complaints were lodged by two of my loved ones, and an investigation was launched.

For starters, we were informed that the Dietetics department would not treat anyone from the psychiatric department.

What the actual crap?

Anorexia anyone? Bulimia? What about people whose mental illness deters them from eating? What about people who just plain FORGET to eat? The ones who don’t have money to eat? What about the vast body of research that links nutrition and mental health? Having spent five months in various institutions I can confidently say that I saw very few people in the grasp of mental illness who had optimal nutritional health.

This is an excerpt of my husbands complaint letter to the hospital.

“Rachael’s condition is food allergy related, and she also has a history of gluten intolerance, as such she should see a dietician. When this was requested on multiple occasions, we were informed that Dietetics would not see anyone from the psychiatric ward. I contacted the Department of Nutrition myself as they confirmed they could not see Rachael while she was a psychiatric inpatient, but could if she was on the Gastroenterology ward. This sounds a lot like stigma and discrimination.”

And this is the response we got.

“The original referral forwarded by the psychiatric registrar to Dietetics was received by the Department on 28th April, 2014. A follow up call alerted the registrar that Dietetics is not funded for patients staying in the psychiatric ward. …I would like to reassure you there is no discrimination of patients staying in the psychiatric ward and should a psychiatric patient deteriorate medically then they are admitted to the main hospital and afforded the same level as care and treatment as any other acutely unwell patient.”

So patients are only afforded the same level of care and treatment IF they are admitted to the main hospital? Sounds pretty fishy to me.

But Dietetics weren’t the only department unwilling to get their hands dirty on the psychiatric ward. The Gastroenterology department were exceedingly reluctant to take the five mile walk down to the ward and actually come and see me. At worst they “forgot”, sometimes they would phone the department instead of actually examining me, and at best they arrived…days late… telling me that my condition didn’t exist because they had never heard of it.

The surgical and investigative procedures I desperately needed were cancelled multiple times at the very last moment, and despite being an inpatient for nine weeks they were never actually conducted (the psychiatric team gave up and actually referred me to another hospital for the procedures). One night I was in unbearable abdominal pain and the nurses were extremely concerned about my wellbeing. Despite numerous calls to the out of hours doctor between 8:30 pm and midnight, he didn’t come and see me until 5:30 the next morning, and then it was all “OH MY GOD THIS COULD BE SERIOUS!”

Oh, I could talk for days about the poor medical treatment I was offered at that hospital.

Except for the psychiatric team. They were amazing.

But if there is one thing I have learned from this experience (my “field” research…according to Steven ;)), it’s that stigma is still alive. We think things have gotten so much better since One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But discrimination is still occurring, all around us, and in the most unlikely of places.

Stigma still lives, people. Let’s share, care, and make things fair.