Thursday, 30 August 2018

My Story: Being a Child of a Mentally Ill Parent

Prior to uploading this, I felt a deep sense of fear around what people were going to say and how I'd be judged for doing this video in the first place.

Much to my surprise, I've been contacted by a number of people who completely resonated with my story and experiences, so I've decided to share it further in the hopes that anyone who needs to see this, will find their way to it.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Never Enough

I think it's probably safe to say that a vast amount of us have seen 'The Greatest Showman'.

I personally held back from watching it despite so many people raving about it, because I thought it was a 'Water for Elephants' kind of circus movie, and I couldn't get into it.

When I finally watched it (after repeatedly hearing the anthemic 'This is Me' and wanting to know the context of this glorious piece of musical history) I didn't really know what to make of it. As in, it hit me in so many different emotional places that I couldn't give an accurate summary of it without turning it into an emotional tangent the size of intricacy level of an oak tree.

Credit: Youtube

One thing that stuck of the most for me was the theme throughout the whole movie of just constantly pushing to go that one step further because nothing you've achieved ever seems to be enough.

The scene where Barnum is confronted by his in-laws who made him constantly feel like he'd never be good enough for their daughter, or seen as an acceptable member of  their level of society and yet he goes out of his way to essentially show them up, as though all of the success he achieved with the oddity circus, and all the good that had come as a result, still couldn't fill that void deep inside him.

While I still think it was a huge dick move to bar the circus members from joining in the party because he was about to make something big of himself and he didn't want them to basically ruin it for him, I can understand on some levels, the sense of shame that comes from the metaphor that they represent.

When you've got a chance to finally be that person that you always wanted to be, the last thing you want is all your proverbial skeletons to come out of the closet and deeply shame and embarrass you, despite the fact that everyone has them, to varying sizes and degrees.

The song 'Never Enough' pretty much summed up Barnum's experience, and dare I say it, mine.

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It doesn't matter how much success, fame, accolades, glory, etc that you achieve, if you've always felt like an outsider, no amount of fancy parties and the 'good life' are going to change or fix that.

On a personal note, I've been holding onto stuff for most of my life, usually beliefs that I'm not good enough or worthy of a lot of things, so Barnum's need to keep aiming higher and higher, despite his wife telling him that 'You don't need everyone to love you, just a few good people', really just doesn't seem like enough.

In a similar fashion, you've got the forbidden romance between Anne Wheeler the bi-racial trapeze artist, and Phillip Carlyle, the white male next greatest showman, in a time when interracial romance was a big no-no (although I legitimately thought their romance was frowned upon because being a circus performer wasn't a suitable profession for a woman).

Just like with Barnum needing to get the approval of all the higher society people (mainly his in-laws), Anne wasn't ashamed of who she was, but the getting looked down on by people who thought less of her on the basis on her skin colour, that was enough to break anyone.

It's funny how Barnum's wife and Carlyle seem to have the same view: why does the opinion of these people bother you/matter to you so much?


When you've come from privilege/high society, you can't possibly understand what it feels like, and why it matters so much to not have it.

(Semi-unrelated side note: I love it when Carlyle finally stands up to his uber white privilege parents and defends Anne's honour. It shows a whole other side to Zac Efron as both a person and an actor, plus he's fully clothed in the entire movie! About damn time!)

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So what can we take from this cinematic masterpiece of music and emotion?

I'd say to own all the parts of you that you'd happily keep outside the door of the fancy party. Easier enough to say, sooo much harder to do. But realize that we're all human, just in different shapes, sizes and packages, so no one is immune to dodgy skeletons.

I guess the greatest question is, when will it be enough?!

(I'll let you know when I've figured out the answer for myself. But in the meantime, you do you!)

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Friday, 17 February 2017

When Change is a Little Bit More Than a Holiday

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So it's been a while since my last post, primarily because I've been swamped with uni work and just completely exhausted the time I come to flesh out a new idea I want to write about.

Now we're halfway through February of 2017 and there's a sense of change that's coming up for me, both a feeling of who I am as a person, as well as my external environment. I'm shifting things up a bit.

I've decided, and agreed with my boss, that I'll be finishing up my current position at the end of the year. October will mark my 6th anniversary in the company and I daresay it's time for a change.

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I've also decided I want to go down the self-employment route so I can do what I really love and get paid for it. After all, isn't that the ultimate employment dream...?!

But in all seriousness, my heart just isn't in it anymore. I guess it never really was, but I made it work because I needed a job and there were things that I needed to experience and learn that only the people I've worked with and the things I've done during that time have allowed me to glean from.

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I told my boss the other day that I just needed some time off to collect myself and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I'd pretty much just been dividing my time between work and uni for most of last year, so when I finished the semester, I was completely buggered. In fact, I'd been pushing myself so hard to keep up with everything that by the time week 11 of 13 came along, I was burnt out.

After completing everything study-wise, I just spent more time at work to get in extra money before the Christmas period and because my boss wanted to utilize the extra time I now had available to me and by extension him.

The Christmas period was all about running around to make sure everything was perfect for Christmas Day. Being the second one since mum passed on and it being the holiday she usually over-prepared for, I saw it as my duty of being the only female in the family, to step up and try to emulate what she'd done for most of my life. Needless to say, it was exhausting and disappointing in the end, but at least I acknowledged where I'd gone wrong: I was trying to make up for her not being there by trying to overdo everything and block out the emotions I felt so intensely. Lesson learnt for next year.

After Christmas came the preparations for the cruise dad and I were going on (my brother had to work across the 10 day period and wanted to save up his holidays for an overseas trip next month).

Having never been on a cruise before, I didn't really know what to expect or what to pack and whether I'd have enough of whatever I took on board and since I wasn't sure what the shops were like, I didn't want to leave anything to chance.

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Upon return from the cruise, I had been crash-tackled with the flu (thanks dad!) and spent what was meant to be the first week back at work for the year, sleeping the contagion off at dad's place and intermittently enjoying the sibling time I had while my brother was home and not preoccupied with his fancy hi-tech computer setup, or the latest phone he had.

Being back at work for the past month or so, I've really started to think about what it is that I want from life and work.

I started making candles at the end of last year in order to reignite the creative spark and have since become hooked on it, so I'm toying with the idea of turning that into a business and combining it with my love of writing and helping people.

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I've also entertained the thought of getting my own place. Don't get me wrong, I currently live in a great home, it has everything I could possibly want and need, my cousin is an ideal housemate in that we can easily be independent or enjoy outings together, but don't typically cramp each other's styles and there's a general lack of judgement between us. If I do or order something absurd, she'll acknowledge my comment and congratulate me on whatever it is, and continue on her way. If she gets completely drunk at dinner and gets home in the early hours of the next morning, I just make sure I see or hear from her within 24 hours from that moment.

Some other things that are changing include my belief systems around a lot of things. I've been seeing a new therapist for the past 3 or 4 weeks now and have taken a break from my existing one to see how I cope without her for the foreseeable future.

It's been fun and challenging to branch out and try different things which I'd been curious yet fearful about in the past.

It's also interesting to see what happens when you make change a little bit more than a holiday.

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Sunday, 25 September 2016

When Ish Hits The Fan

"Secrets make you sick"

This is probably one of the biggest and simplest take home messages from To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA).

For those who haven't seen it, it focuses on Rene Yohe and how, with the help of her friends, she overcame drug addiction. Although that seems like a really simplified or watered down explanation of what really happened, because what you learn at the end is that it's a daily battle. She comes home and writes 'Day 1' on her bedroom mirror, because essentially, every day is day 1, over and over again until you don't need to think about the number associated with the day anymore.

The most inspiring thing that I took from it is to own my story. I may not have been sexually assaulted or suffered deep depression, I may not have anything more serious than Generalised Anxiety Disorder, but my story is still one worth telling, if only to make myself heard and so others know that they're not alone.

So hi, I'm Melissa and I'm a love addict who also suffers from anxiety and possibly depression.

I grew up in a family that, due to a family history of mental illness and not knowing how to cope with it, saw me lacking in my own psychological and particularly emotional needs being met.

As a child, I didn't understand what was going on and took it personally when one or both of my parents would yell at me because I genuinely believed that it meant I wasn't worthy of love, attention, affection or any of the other things that I craved.

Throughout high school I sought out quite possibly the one person that couldn't give me the love I so desperately wanted, which only make me want to fight harder for it, much to my own detriment.

I was also diagnosed with severe Idiopathic Scoliosis at 12 which saw me undergo two intensive surgeries just before my 14th birthday. Despite this huge hurdle and the impact this had on me at the time and has since affected me and helped shaped my life, I don't consider myself a Scoliosis survivor. It's a condition that I have and was corrected as best as the surgeons possibly could, but it in no way defines me, who I am, what I do, or what I want to achieve in my life.

Anyway, with my love addiction seeking a new target after spending 4-5 years hopelessly trailing after a guy who was becoming less and less appealing as a person the older he got, I met a teacher when I was 16 and became completely obsessed with him for about 3 years. I'm really not proud of how I acted during this time and how relentlessly I pursued him despite him making it clear that he couldn't give me the kind of attention that I wanted and trying to get me to stop what I was doing, but I understand why I did what I did and have subconsciously vowed to never behave in the same way ever again.

Everything came to an absolutely crushing halt when the teacher got married. It was like my entire world had been completely shattered and I was left with two choices: either stay where I was and revel in the pain and misery of what my life had suddenly become, or ask for help and keep doing whatever it takes to get myself out of the intensely grey pit I'd found myself in.

It took a few weeks along with trial and error of counselors, but I finally found someone who was just right for me and help me get past the first hurdle of pain, find the core of my problem and helped me rebuild myself and my life, one step at a time.

I've now been seeing her for nearly 7 years and my life, as she reminds me as well, is completely different from when I first started seeing her. I've got a stable job, a happy home life, great friends, am halfway through an Arts degree, finished paying off my car a few months ago, and am finally learning to love and accept myself exactly as I am.

During my darkest times, namely around the age of 15 when I hated everything about my life, was sick of fighting for a reason to keep living and often thought about running away or taking my own life, I couldn't have fathomed I'd be able to create the kind of life I have now. It's not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than where I've come from, which means that where I'm headed it going to be better still.

So that's my story in a nutshell. I'm sharing it because I feel like I need to and that others need to hear it.

So tell me, what's your story? What do you do when life messes with the fan?

Friday, 10 June 2016

The Culture of Rape

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  1. the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
  2. a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.
  3. a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)
  1. an act or instance of robbing or despoiling or carrying away a person by force
  2. unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent
  3. an outrageous violation
Does it bother anyone else that we're joining the two?

I'm as aware as the next person that rape occurs worldwide in a whole host of different situations and scenarios. I'm also incredibly aware that it shouldn't. Period.

I get the feeling or rather the message that's being sent by there even being a 'rape culture' is that it's permitting it to happen and continue happening. It's not okay that it's happening, but since it is, it may as well be glamorized in the way that 'party culture' is, right?!

I completely understand how sensitive a subject it is for a lot of people. You don't need to be personally affected by it or know someone that has been in order to feel sensitive towards it. 

Whenever I'd heard the word used, it's made me feel incredibly uncomfortable, regardless of the context that it's in. But I think for a lot of people, it's a common feeling, so it ends up just not being talked about when it really should, and not be attached to a 'culture' of any kind that would appear to be accepting or even promoting (however passively) it's existence.

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During a discussion in one of my Philosophy tutorials this semester, there was talk about freedom and if viewing pornography was a breach of that. While people have the right to view pretty much anything they can get access to, the question was around the freedom or rights of those taking part in the filming of it.

One of my classmates pointed out that when it comes to shows like Game of Thrones, where nudity and the like are all part of it, it is expected that people can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Another classmate argued in response that ill-educated people could easily watch Game of Thrones or even just porn, then go out into the world genuinely believing that this kind of behaviour was commonplace and acceptable.

A different classmate pointed out to the first that a lot of women are still terrified to walk around alone at night, and there's emphasis on walking in pairs. Why are the women talk to protect themselves when there doesn't appear to be any courses or part of the school curriculum that tells males that they can't just put their penis in wherever they want. If there's no consent, if the person says yes then changes their mind at any point, no means no!

It should also be pointed out that rape isn't only male to female. This is something that I'm sure a lot of people aren't or weren't aware of. I know I wasn't until I heard a statistic about it several years ago.
While the cases are significantly less, they're still significant.

There's also something to be said for the false accusations of rape. This is not okay either. Accusing someone of something out of spite or jealousy or whatever motives you have not only makes a mockery of those who've actually experienced sexual assault, but it creates emotional and financial distress for the accused. This may be what was intended by the accuser, but there are doubtless other things to spend time, money and energy on, rather than trying to ruin people's lives and reputations.

Going back to the ill-education argument, I was watching Murder by Numbers the other night, and the janitor was watching what was presumed to be porn based on the sounds being emitted from the TV. As he got up to check something for the guy he was selling drugs to (played by Ryan Gosling, in case anyone's interested), he made an offhanded comment about how the sounds the woman was making as she was being spanked indicated her enjoyment of it. "Look at her, she's loving it!" he said.

If the only things an adolescent or even mature male knows about sex and women is limited to what he's seen in porn, it explains a LOT, but it most definitely does not excuse his actions!

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For those of you who can't fathom how a person's knowledge of the outside world can be limited to only what they've seen on a screen, this is essentially how I grew up. Aside from my lived experiences in high school, I understood the general idea of it to be exactly what I'd seen in TV shows and movies, nothing more, nothing less. I went to a religious private school in a semi-rural area where the only public transport I ever saw was the odd taxi, but even that was a rare occurrence. I also attended church every Sunday and dance class on a Friday for 45 minutes. 

When you combine all of that, there's really not a lot of real-life external influences to broaden my perception and understanding of the world. I didn't associate with anyone else outside of these areas and was too scared to even try since the fear of the unholy and unknown had been drummed into me from an early age.

That has changed significantly for me not only since finishing school and pursuing further education, but by moving homes twice after the age of 21 and gaining employment in an industry where I have to engage with people on a daily basis.

Bringing this back to point, I'm sure everyone has heard of the Stanford rapist story by now, as well as the open letter the victim wrote about her harrowing experience. As you read through, you become incredibly aware of how the perpetrator seems to be incapable of taking responsibility for his actions or how they've impacted the victim. He continually blames alcohol and the 'party culture' for what he did, even though the numerous readers throughout the world have pointed out that they've been completely drunk or at parties and managed to not sexually assault someone whilst under the influence.

'Rape culture' always tends to focus on women and how they were 'asking for it' or as with porn and what Brock mentioned in his statement 'she loved it'. 

Unless a woman who is in full control of her cognitive functions and aware of her surroundings (not under the influence of alcohol or any other substances) actually says that she wants to have sex with you and doesn't change her mind or lose consciousness at any point during the act, do not have sex with her. 

She's not asking for it. She's not loving it and you should not proceed.

It doesn't matter what she was wearing, what she was doing, saying or thinking, where she was or why she was there. If she did not consent, she doesn't want sex, regardless of what your genitalia is telling you or what it is that you want. 

She is a person, not a thing, not a piece of meat, a person and she should be treated with nothing less than the respect a person deserves.

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Friday, 22 January 2016

The Price of Gold

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It's amazing how valuable something is or becomes when it is a finite resource.

I was going through my inbox the other day noting that I had just over 2000 emails which had accumulated over at least 3 years with a few stragglers from earlier than that, when I came across emails from old friends that I no longer communicated with for whatever reason as well as emails from both of my parents.

There was a time back in 2012, a few months after I moved out of home that I was processing a lot and essentially cut off contact with everyone in my family except my brother.

For a period of about 3-6 months I had the barest of contact with my parents, still reeling from a lifetime of hurt and other emotions, having been so sheltered and finally being able to adjust to life on my own, it was a lot to come to terms with.

During this time I deleted whatever I could of theirs that came through if I REALLY didn't want to see it, otherwise I just viewed and ignored it so I wouldn't have to focus on it. I decided when I moved out that as much as I was hurting, I didn't want to be the kind of person that slams the door shut out of pain and anger, then regrets it terribly a few years down the track when they realise how much they've missed and how, with enough time and space, things could really have been forgiven and built up from.

Skip ahead 4 years and now going through my inbox, I'm treating those same emails like some kind of treasure Nicholas Cage would star in a movie about saving.

I can now completely understand how, after a popular person dies, whatever they've made becomes the most precious treasure because it is now a finite thing.

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The few emails I had from my mother which I normally would have rolled my eyes at, I'm now mentally and emotionally clinging to like a kid with a security blanket. Her main method of contact was via phone call which unfortunately now looking back I didn't record. Luckily her ineptitude when it came to technology meant that quite a few photos she took with her camera are actually videos with her asking dad or someone else if the photo had been taken.

It's been 8 months since she passed on and it still doesn't feel real, I'm not sure if it ever will. It's like you start new routines and they help you get through the hard times which you just keep on going with, but then you look back and realise just how much has changed even though it feels like yesterday in a way. Now whenever I say 'about 6 months ago' I do a double-take a realise that the benchmark for things occurring is around the time that she passed so I can definitely tell whether it was a certain vague time frame or not. It's a strange thing that.

The period of time around her demise and the emails that came in were harder than others to reread, as you can imagine.

All of the artworks mum made are still scattered around dad's place, the home I lived in from age 10-21. It's not that I don't want to touch them, it's more the struggle to fully comprehend that what we've got is all we'll ever have. She'll never make artworks or anything else ever again and that sucks immeasurably.

Have you noticed how much more special and meaningful something is after the creator of it has passed on? Those photos, that whachamacallit, the thingamebob, the doodad become the most valuable things you now own. Sure it's not about the money, but they're as good as gold and there's no conceivable price you can really put on them because the person that made them or that you associate with them is no more.

What do you consider the price of gold? Is there even a numerical amount?! What is gold to you anyway? Maybe it's the literal sense of money or jewelry, or maybe it's the sentimental sense of the perfume someone wore or the brown jacket with the fur trim, the red handbag still sitting on the chair in the kitchen where it was dropped one day and never picked up again.

One thing's for sure: the price of gold goes up exponentially the moment it becomes a finite resource and there really is no true substitute for it.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?

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So yesterday I had another Tarot card reading done after seeing a voucher on one of the multitude of deal sites for a 30 minute reading for $29. Bargain I say!

I was curious to know two things: what was a meant to learn at work so I could finally move on from a job I'm not passionate about to something I would thrive in, and what was stopping me from being in a relationship.

Straightaway the tarot reader told me there were definitely guys around me and I just wasn't paying attention (haven't we all been there?!).

She did the first reading with a focus on career choices and told me what I already knew, that I had an emotional attachment to my current job and despite talk of leaving for greener pastures, I wasn't really making any moves to do so. Guilty again.

At the end she told me within the next 6-8 weeks I'll shift to know exactly what I want in a new job and then I'll create an action plan to go with it. Solid enough advice and something I've started working on by doing a 'wish list' of what I want in a new job, it's something at least!

When she moved to focus on relationships and confirmed again that there were definitely romantic interests around me but for whatever reason I just wasn't paying attention, I felt fear intermingled with excitement and was torn between paying attention to what she was saying and trying to work out who of the few guys I knew or was around frequently, she was referring to specifically.

I asked her my question of what was holding me back with the belief that there was something more sinister blocking me from moving on rather than just fear of the unknown and taking a risk to find out it didn't work. Again she confirmed that I was the only person standing in my way. I want love and to be in a relationship but don't believe I deserve to be or that I'm beautiful enough to have someone in my life so I'm appearing as unavailable.

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I asked then asked her how I get past this and allow the love that I truly want into my life. Her answer was relatively simple: I cut out some time in my week to do things that show love towards myself. I have a date night just by myself so I prove to myself that if I can love me, someone else definitely can!

It sounds so simple, yet it's amazing just how hard doing self-love related things are, especially if you haven't grown up with positive reinforcement or certain freedoms.

She also told me that I should do whatever makes me feel sexy to build up the confidence to meet someone, even if I'm not going to just yet, I'm making the effort to do so and that counts for something.

Along those lines she asked me what makes me feel sexy. I couldn't think of something immediately but pondered it on the way home. She suggested a pamper session, waxing, buying lingerie, whatever suited me personally. All I could think was how I'd been taught that sexy was bad. Every time I watched something where a female was skantily clad, my mother would tsk tsk at how terrible it was and say she wished the female in question would put more clothes on before it gave everyone the wrong idea. I disliked my mother's take on a lot of things, but being a parent, I kinda had to adhere to what she was saying even if it didn't align with my own personal views.

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So the question remains, what is sexy? How does one go about creating this feeling within themselves? What do I think is sexy or what would or could make me feel sexy?

When you Google 'sexy' you get a plethora of images of toned, slim photo-shopped women in barely there bikinis and suggestive poses. This may be what the world considers sexy, but I'm of a differing opinion.

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I'm more inclined to believe that sexy is a state of mind rather than an article of clothing. When you're comfortable in your own skin and have unshakable self-esteem and ultimately know your worth, that's pretty damn sexy!

As for what I can do to make myself feel that way, I'll let you know as soon as I figure it out ;-)

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