Sunday 22 March 2015

Are You Ready For This?

In the opening line of Hilary Duff's song 'Fly' she sings "In a moment, everything can change".

Have you ever had one of those moments? Everything in your life seems to be on schedule with its ebb and flow, then suddenly you feel like you've been hit with something hard enough to knock the wind out of you and it takes all of your strength to get your bearings back into order again.

A few weeks ago mum told me she wasn't feeling well and hadn't been for a little while. We were concerned, naturally, but since we had no idea what is was, there didn't seem any reason to overreact until we had some idea of what was going on for sure.

Each week that followed involved another doctor's visit, another test, more uncertainty, stress and worry until finally we had something to go on.

Cancer. The specialist she'd gone to see and a mammogram had revealed that she had a lump in her breast, there were also lesions in her liver and her bones. In short, things weren't good.

How do you prepare or even cope with something like that?! Knowing there's nothing you can do except support the person as needed and spend as much time with them as you're able to because you never know what's going to come of it all.

With each test and new bit of information I've been checking in with both my parents and they with me. Oddly enough mum seems to be in the highest of spirits out of anyone. We're still trying to process it, but she's loving the attention and waves of support that are coming from telling people her problems. The worst part is, the rest of us just have to suck it up. It's her thing to deal with however she chooses and although it affects the rest of us, our needs come second.

When I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Scoliosis at 12 and had my surgeries at 13, I chose to block it out and refused to deal with it except for the times when I had to, namely at each doctors visit. Outside of the hospital, it didn't exist because I didn't acknowledge it. Mum on the other had made it everyone's business to know exactly what was going on at every opportunity she had to do so and I hated it more than anything. I fought with her constantly about it. It was my problem to deal or not deal with and she had no right to try and deal with it for me when it was the last thing I wanted.

I've noticed that my coping mechanisms haven't changed much, but I can understand more than I ever could before what mum was going through. Although I've tried not to tell many people about mum's illness because I don't want to think about it, I've found myself mentioning it more than I would have a decade or so ago. It's another way of coping with it.

A close friend of mine who's been through pretty much the same thing told me that as much as it sucks, I need to tell people that I'm around so they know how to approach me. If I react differently than I normally would to anything and they have no idea why, it changes everything. She has a point.

I posted an update on Facebook last week once we had the biopsy results back to announce of the findings and let people know. I hesitated at first because as much as I wanted people to know, I didn't want to say it because that meant it was real then, that meant I actually had to deal with it and I still wasn't ready, I don't think you ever can be unless you have no other choice but to be.

Now we're all just finding ways to deal with it. Dad told me he's just taking one day at a time which I think is all you really can do in this situation. I told him I'm glad that work and uni are keeping me busy because there's nothing worse than sitting around feeling worried and helpless with nothing to keep your mind occupied.

I've personally received an outpouring of support from my friends and people I'm close to which has been nice, but again, it's still early days and trying to wrap my head around it all is incredibly hard. Watching TV shows, listening to as much music as I can handle and crying in private moments has been the biggest help so far, aside from focusing on my studies which requires a significant amount of mental energy.

Are you ever ready for something like this? Is it possible to ever prepare yourself? So many times people say 'I never expected it to happen to me'. I guess the biggest question is, how do you deal when you don't know how to deal? You either don't, or you find a way.

Thursday 19 March 2015

It's Not Unthinkable!

You know that feeling when you can't stop thinking about something? We've all felt it at some point or another. You're just going about your daily business and BAM! this thing that has been bugging you for a while comes out and just sits in your brain and thought process like a loyal and obedient dog waiting for the next instruction.

It could something so simple, something that someone said, did, you said, did, you saw, the list goes on. The point is there's nothing that you can do about it. You can't unsee, unsay or undo what's been done and you can't compartmentalize it in some section of your brain because it just seems to keep popping out and driving you insane.

How do you move forward from it? You can't just block it out because that hasn't worked. You sorta suspect why you might be thinking about it but can't be completely sure that that doesn't help either!

I remember one of my counselor's told me that there was scientific term for it, the name escapes me now though, but she told me that if someone tells you not to think about a specific thing, that's all you'll be able to think about. It's apparently just how the brain works.

The best solution I've been able to come up with so far is to distract myself from whatever it is that's not unthinkable for me and hopefully, or eventually, that will stop the thought train on the road to nowhere.


The first time I started having obsessive un-unthinkable thoughts was back in high school when I had too much to cope with and they themselves were a distraction and a much appreciated one at that.

Then the thoughts turned to a particular person and again it was a distraction from other much more unpleasant things that I didn't want to think about or deal with, so thinking about the person and their significance to me definitely help...until that all fell apart and I had to deal with stuff. Dealing with stuff you've spent so long avoiding dealing with is not fun, not at all!

I got to the point where I wanted to ask other people what they thought about, in order to not think about the things I was thinking out. That seemed like an incredibly strange and personal question to ask someone, regardless of how close I was to them.

The best thing I found that really did help was to find something else to focus on. At the time when it all started I threw myself into organising school events. Someone had to do it and I want to occupy my mind with something more productive. It worked in my favour too.

Now I'm finding the technique is still quite helpful. My brain goes on overdrive and I feel my head start to spin because I don't think anyone has created an off switch for the brain. Even in sleep it's still working hard.

The alternative is to meditate. Focus on one thing for a set amount of time, block everything else out and just focus on that thing and breathing. Usually it's done by focusing on your breath which helps. Since my brain works constantly in overdrive, focusing on just one thing is nearly impossible when I have so many thing at any given time happening in a fairly small space.

Of course different things work for different people. You can only really do what works best for you to stop thinking un-unthinkable things.

Procrastigreat: Living The Uni Life!

Y'know what's great about uni? Aside from the discounts, breadth of knowledge acquired and total bludgefest it can be at times? You become exceptionally skilled at procrastinating!

Okay, so maybe that's not really a great thing especially if you have a hectic life schedule to start with and just need to get stuff done. But still, maybe one day it will become an employable skill...maybe.

With my new timetable this semester I've been left to listen to 2 of my lectures online due to work or other study commitments. The first time I did this was last semester and found it much harder to do since I was so accustomed to being in a theatre of some variety surrounded by laptops and writing implements.

Listening to lectures online is convenient yes, but it's also time-consuming especially when everyone can find something they'd rather be doing. I only ended up listening to a few of the lectures, mainly because I found it hard to keep track of what slide they were on half the time, and the other half the lecturer's voice wasn't the easiest to listen to for 2hrs.

One of the lectures I've actually found interesting content-wise which eases the pain of having to commit to 2hrs worth when I could be watching a movie or whatever else. The other one I've found is easier just to copy the slide notes from since that's pretty much what they're working from anyway. That narrows down the audio side of things and definitely something I can do at my own pace instead of the frustrated groan I hold back in sit-in lectures when I'm written half of the slide down and they skip ahead.

You might be thinking, if there's slides, why bother writing them down? The same reason I don't type up notes on my tablet which I've just bought a bluetooth keyboard to accompany, because I don't retain nearly as much. My boss has even said to me that it's been scientifically proven that writing notes is more effective than typing them. Makes sense.

So last week I had a midterm to study for, an essay for which I needed an interview subject for, at least 3 readings to catch up on and 2 other lectures to listen to. I told my cousin/flatmate in an attempt to hold me accountable for my uni work that I would dedicate my weekend to catching up on it since I had no other immediate plans and no immense desire to communicate with the outside world so it seemed a perfect occasion to do so. Instead, I spent both days watching season 1 of Supernatural. Niceee.

To be fair, between a fulltime study load, working part-time, attempting to have a social life and take care of myself, there's really not that much time left in the week for me to just chill out. So I took that opportunity and ran with it.

Thanks to my incredibly lenient boss, I was able to get everything sorted in the first few days of this week. He agreed to let me interview him on my own time, I got the rest of the essay done the following day, had a crash study session with some group-mates in my midterm class which was enough for me to pass it, yay! The following day I had enough spare time to dedicate to catching up on one of the lectures and copied down notes from the second one so now it's just a matter of finding the motivation to finish off the readings for the remaining subjects of the week even though there are definitely things I'd rather be doing, like blogging!

Procrastination is kinda great when you use it wisely. Sometimes you just need to unwind with some me-time.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

It's A Hard Knock Life For Single Parents!

Anyone who's a parent will know that it is no easy task. Wrangling kids, getting them to eat something even a little bit healthy and trying to keep curious minds and bodies safe. It's a LOT of work!

I have always had immense respect for single parents, having to take over all the duties of two people as well as trying to meet their own needs without falling apart in the process. I'm pretty sure they definitely deserve it.

Admittedly I'm not a parent, although I have been known to mother some of my friends, my pets and my family on occasion, my maternal instincts have been pretty strong even from an early age. But nothing ever compares to actually being a parent and having to juggle everything on a daily basis to make sure life works for everyone, even if that means sometimes that you lose out.

In my life I've only known about 2 or 3 single parents. The first one I met was my friend's mother at the start of high school. She'd had a tumultuous family life and found herself pregnant at 15, giving birth at 16. I applaud her for doing the best job she was capable of doing at such a young age, especially when, as is quite often the case, the father didn't want the responsibility and only stepped up to attempt his parental duties when said friend was in hospital at around 8 years old.

I had the opportunity a few years back during a sleepover to chat to her mum about what life was like for her. She told me she was going off the rails and felt like no one loved or wanted her around so if she hurt herself it didn't matter. Then she found herself pregnant and knew it was a sign that she had to get herself sorted out in order to care for her child.

As a young mum she was always terrified of what could happen to her daughter at any given moment, but she realized after a while that she couldn't hold so tightly to her child because things were going to happen and it was a learning curve for both of them. She herself is probably one of the strictest and most over protective parents I've ever met. Not to say that my friend or her younger sister haven't tried to push their luck, but they know where they stand with her and what she'll do if they cross her.

One of my best friends a few years ago was a single mother of two young children when I met her. She'd escaped an abusive arrange marriage with a 2 and possibly 5 year old child and restarted her life by moving back in with her parents which is where I met her for the first time. She and I became the best of friends almost instantly, we just meshed that well together. I was honored to be someone that she trusted implicitly and to help her move on from her troubled marriage and find some happiness in the way her life had turned out.

Many times she told me she never would have guessed in a million years how quickly her life would change. I guess that's just how life goes.

I got a real taste of single parenthood when I was with her and it made me respect not only her but single parents that much more. She had great kids, kinda crazy which we joked about a fair bit, but they were fun to be around and endlessly entertaining.

She herself wanted more from life and started studying in her spare time, however short that was. She also took up employment when she found that Centrelink was going to cut her off when her youngest turned 6, so she tried every dignified means she could to find a job that suited her skill set and allowed her to be there for her kids when it was needed.

Luckily she had another best friend with a daughter around the same age as her kids and that lived nearby so if she was unable to pick them up due to traffic or if one of her kids was sick and she had no choice but to go to work, she had someone there to care for them. I lead a different sort of lifestyle about an hour's drive from her so I did whatever I could whenever I could to help out, even if it was just calling or texting her to see how she was coping. Even the smallest things can make the biggest difference.

I think the worst part of being a single parent is that you REALLY don't get any sick days. If you're ill, you still need to get up and do everything and deal with your own stuff in the rare free moments that you have. She told me many times when she was sick how incredibly hard it is to be a single parent. I told her I could see from the amount of time I'd spent with her that it was no easy task and highly commendable to every parent that found themselves in that position.

She would occasionally beat herself up when her kids didn't have something that they needed or weren't doing as well at school as they could be and told me she was struggling and doing a terrible job. I'd ask her if her kids were happy and healthy. If they were then she was doing a great job. If they weren't, she was still doing the best job she possibly could and shouldn't let the occasional slip ups bother her so much. I always knew without a doubt that she was a wonderful mother who would do anything for her kids, I could tell by the way she interacted with them and how they treated her. Even if they were too young to understand what respect was, they felt it for their mother.

When it came to their father, she would happily drive them to his house on the weekend for their usual visit. Even if she didn't particularly care for him after everything that had happened, they'd both agreed that they would never make their kids take sides or stop them from seeing the other one. I'd say that's the best parenting decision one could ever make! He knew how he treated her was wrong and completely inexcusable and would spend the rest of his life regretting his mistakes, but the best thing he could do from then on was be the best possible father to his children.

My boss is another example of a single parent, although his ex is still quite close so the sharing of parental duties is a little bit easier in that respect. It's interesting to see parenting from a male's perspective and it doesn't seem to differ that much. He still plans his work and life around his daughter and if he gets a call saying she's not well or something has happened, he'll rush to her side and make sure she's taken care of before returning to his own work. He's also told me how hard it is to be a single parent, especially when you're running a business and your phone doesn't stop ringing.

Parenting is hard, doing it alone is so much harder. Let's give a standing ovation and endless support to the hard knock life of single parents!

Sunday 8 March 2015

The Evolution of Marriage

The more I see or hear of people getting engaged or married, especially at an early age, the more I find myself becoming cynical of marriage. Every guy I've ever felt something positive or romantic towards, is now either unappealing, married or engaged. I feel left behind and it's kind of like being back in high school all over again.

I didn't really get to start my life or do catch up until I was 22 when I'd moved out of home and was really learning how to survive in the world entirely on my own steam. I know it's bad to compare, but sometimes I just can't help it. I feel like I'm still just figuring out my life now and people are already settled down and married or whatever and I've never been on a date or held a guy's hand.

I was discussing it with a good friend the other day. He himself had been briefly engaged to the point where he'd applied for a mortgage to support his future wife only to find that her mentally ill mother had essentially brainwashed her into breaking up with him.

I told him about the guy I used to work with and how it was making me dislike the idea of marriage even more. So many people seemed to be getting married so young, I wondered whether it was because they felt some kind of societal obligation to or they genuinely thought it was the right thing to do so they did it.

During a conversation with another friend, I told her about the guy from high school being married at my age, she said 25 is still so young which I concurred with. I always thought a more mature or appropriate age was late 20's to early 30's, that way you'd gotten all of your fun living stuff out of the way and were ready to move on to the next stage of your life.

I've known a few people who got married really young because it was part of their culture which I think is fair enough, but when you've got a choice to do so, why rush it?

I've always loved the idea of marriage though. I've dreamed about my wedding day so many times, the dress, the music, the location, the vows, etc. But seeing what my parents were like and how much they fought when I was growing up, plus only seeing them show affection maybe once or twice in my entire life, that's enough to ruin any fantasy.

My parents didn't believe in divorce, for both religious and personal reasons. My dad's parents' divorce was incredibly painful and messy, I know this because no one ever talks about it. Mum was a school teacher who saw kids who were caught in the middle of a nasty divorce battles getting left behind and forgotten, it broke her heart to see it so it seemed my parents just settled for a blah marriage. Sure they still love each other deep down, but you'd never think or know it just by looking at them. I get that some couples are very private and aren't big on PDA, but the incredibly few times my parents actually acted like what I'd consider a happily married couple surprised me so much that I had to check it was really them.

One of my greatest fears which the psychic I mentioned in an earlier post picked up on during the first reading I ever had with her was that I'd just settle for whatever. She told me that wasn't going to happen to me and I was immensely relieved.

I was discussing my new found disdain for nuptials with another close friend. I told her that for me it felt like a trap. You made a legally binding agreement to love, honor, obey, trust and be loyal to someone for the rest of your life. While that's not the hardest thing to do, people change as much as life does, I don't get how you can promise something like that when you have no idea how you're going to feel tomorrow, next week or in a few years time. Maybe my disdain comes from my family's inability to do a happy marriage well, hence my upbringing and the string of divorces and defactos on my dad's side.

I posted a question on Facebook a few years back pondering it. One of the responses was that they believed the person they were married to is the person they were meant for and it was an easy thing to do when that happened. Another response was that it was a continual effort to make it happen but you did it because you love that person. Fair enough.

In the movie 'Ever After' which was and still is one of my all-time favorites because it's a version of Cinderella where she isn't depending on a prince to save her and knows how to fend for herself, the prince asks Leonardo Da Vinci when talking about his impending nuptials to a Spanish princess, how is he meant to know who the right person is for him. If he marries someone, does that mean that she's the right one, or if she dies and he marries someone new, does that mean that the new person is? What if the two were walking side by side, how would he know then?

It made me wonder, how can I be completely certain that the person I end up marrying is the right one for me? What if just after I've gotten married I meet someone new and fall madly in love with them?
I've met, had strong feelings for and eventually gotten over my fair share of guys, who's to say that won't change when it comes to marriage?

When one of my close friends and I have talked about marriage, she's fairly indifferent and unexcited about the whole thing which she attributes to her mother dying when she was so young and her father not knowing how to raise her or her brother so she was essentially taught not to show emotion. Even though her fiance is absolutely crazy about her and wants to settle down as soon as possible despite his poor lifestyle choices and deep seated insecurities, she's content just to go to a marriage registry and be done with it, he's the one that wants the whole shebang.

I told her I was always thrilled by weddings and even did a certificate in wedding planning. I loved the event and spectacle of it even though a former teacher who I had an obsessive crush on getting married was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. But with time and wisdom I've learnt that it's not about the wedding itself, there's so much more to it and that's kind of terrifying when you realize how quickly things can change.

In an episode of Buffy where Xander and Anya are preparing for their wedding and his family comes to town who he can't stand, and Anya's friends and family who are mostly demons (she's a vengeance demon) are treated poorly by them because they aren't human, the two of them end up locking themselves in the bathroom to escape from it all. Xander tells Anya that their marriage will be different but they just need to get through the wedding because they were two different things.

I remember mum telling me about just after she and dad got married and he told her he was a traditional guy and what he would and wouldn't stand for. She immediately wondered if she'd made a mistake but somehow convinced herself it was all okay to this day.

I know of couples who have had the same thing happen. A family friend married her high school sweetheart and a year or so in he split after deciding he didn't want to be married any more. She's since moved on and is happy now, but it shows how easy it is to happen.

One of dad's half brothers married his girlfriend and from what my dad's sister told me, a year or so later she'd left in order to pursue her career. She said he treated her like a princess and told me that I should never settle for crap. She herself had been engaged to her high school boyfriend and had run off with him for a few years until he mistreated her one day and she decided to leave. I asked her about him and she laughed and said she assumed he was probably dead by now, implying that he got mixed up in drugs or something.

From the last time I saw dad's extended family I found that the formerly married uncle was either single or with a new girl, one uncle who had had 2 boys with his house mate who he'd eventually married was now divorced and sharing custody with her, and the third one was either committed to or engaged to his partner and they had 2 boys together.

My grandfather and his wife of 40 or so years seem to be going strong still. They're not the most affectionate couple but their foundations haven't appeared to have shaken even if they are from a different generation.

That's another thing I struggle with. I've seen so many posts and comments about how back in the day couples would sort out their differences instead of getting a divorce, mum would always say that to me but I asked her, what if the other person wasn't prepared to change or refused to acknowledge there was a problem, would you really choose or be prepared to spend the rest of your life with them knowing they make you miserable? Clinging to religion in the hopes that it will save you is all well and good, but it's also a waste of energy when you could find happiness somewhere else.

When I talked to another friend about it she agreed that it was a tough call and it was possible to love more than one person at a time. She said that some people get to a point in their lives where they don't want to be with anyone else and are ready to settle down. I knew it made sense because I'd had a similar conversation with different close friend who'd said she was in the best relationship of her life and would quite happily get married tomorrow because she knew nothing about the relationship would change.

From the conversations I've had with my dad and boss, I could see where she was coming from, but wasn't sure if that was entirely true.

I could understand the thought process though. If you've been with someone for so long and put so much effort and energy into the relationship, it's easier to commit to each other for the rest of your life or whatever, rather than having to start all over again with someone new.

My cousin on the other hand has openly admitted that the thought of kids in the suburbs is her worst nightmare. Given that doesn't seem to possess any maternal or remotely emotional part in her body and her sister started having kids at 19 before finally married her partner 5 kids later, it kind of makes sense.

I've always loved the idea of having a family and knew I wanted kids since I was 5 when my parents continually refused to give me another sibling whether naturally or by adoption.
It all seemed so fairytale-like, but getting to my mid-20's has opened my eyes significantly to the reality of it all.

It's funny how much has changed. I used to collect images of wedding dresses and rings and mentally note songs that would be featured in the wedding, but now it almost makes me cringe. Maybe I'll feel differently when I meet someone just like the indifferent friend did. She always swore she'd never get married or have kids, but since her fiance wants both more than anything, she's open to the idea more than she ever was before.

I've seen and heard from a variety of couples through the years. Some of them still appear to love and cherish each other almost as much as they did when they were first married, for others the romance has dried up. I guess it's different for everyone.

A little while after I moved out of home but still went back to visit on a weekly basis, dad would open up to me about the earlier years of their marriage and tell me how quickly things changed. Mum stopped being the woman he'd been dating for a year or so and turned into her mother because she thought that's the kind of person a wife should be. Only for mum, it didn't work out so well because that's just not who she was but tried too hard to be.

I felt for dad. So much of the distance in their marriage came from mum's idea of what a wife should be, coupled with her inability to cope with mental illness and the strains that marriage and motherhood placed on her, it wasn't easy for anyone.

To my parents credit though, when I was in hospital with my surgeries, they worked like a well-oiled team to make sure I was cared for at every stage. Dad told me that it wasn't easy for anyone to deal with but somehow we made it work and no one fell apart, well not obviously at least.

Now that mum's going through her own health problems, I'm proud of my dad for stepping up and fulfilling his duties as a husband should. It's a hard time for everyone, but he's been endlessly supportive to mum and the rest of the family, just doing whatever he can to get through it all.
Life changes, people change, everything evolves in it's own time. If people can sustain a marriage through those changes then great for them, if not, decide what it is that you really want, how much you're willing to fight for it, then it's time to either take action, or move on.

Saturday 7 March 2015

Suicide Silence: Stole

I was scrolling through Facebook last week to find that a girl I knew had posted an R.I.P message but didn't say who it was for. I messaged my brother to see if he knew since he still regularly attends religious events and would have some idea of what was going on.

He told me it was one of the sons of my high school best friend's bus driver. He had taken his own life at 15.

I'd kind of known him from the times I went to my best friend's house and he'd been on the bus or from wandering around school. It was hard to believe he was gone. I could only imagine what his family and close friend were going through.

I remembered being that age and contemplating suicide myself. I hated nearly everything about my life and didn't see the point in living if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was in love with a guy that I knew would never be able to love me back, my parents were too busy with their own emotional turmoil to notice how much I was suffering with life in general, I wasn't any step closer to achieving my dreams and I was just tired of everything. I got sick of fighting to stay alive and just wanted to give up.

The only reason I went to school was because of 4 boys in my class. My crush was one of them, but he wasn't the highlight given the number of times he'd (albeit unintentionally) broken my heart. They were like One Direction, just musically-challenged. Every day I would go to school just to see what they'd do. On the days when they talked to me I went home feeling invincible and like nothing could bring me down, which usually changed the moment I got home and my parents negativity slapped me in the face. On the days they ignored me, I went home wondering if anyone cared or would miss me if I ended it all.

It was crazy to think that a group of 4 boys could have such a powerful affect, but then I think of boy bands and even solo artists like Justin Bieber. So many people take the piss out of them because it's the 'cool' thing to do, but I remember reading one girl talking about when her sister starting listening to JB, she stopped cutting herself and for that she was immensely grateful to him.

While the circumstances surrounding his death aren't known to me, or possibly haven't been religious public knowledge, I told my therapist that I could understand what it was like to want to take your own life.

My 9th grade English teacher told us during one of his classes that suicide is the most cowardly and selfish thing you can do. He made us read, write and repeat it until he was convinced the message had sunk in. Looking back on it, I think that was a premeditated warning of things to come. At the same time, when it comes to mental illness, it's kind of a different ballgame. I can see how it can be seen as a selfish or cowardly act, but I can also understand how you would be driven to feel like it's the only way out.

In the documentary 'I Am A Girl' which I watched just recently, Katie, the Australian girl, talked about her battle with depression and said that when you're in that mindset of feeling so low about yourself, you honestly believe that you're doing everyone a favor by ending it all because you feel like such a burden to them.

That's kind of how I felt. So invisible and insignificant, as if something happened to me and I disappeared, no one would notice or care. It doesn't matter how many times or ways people try to convince you otherwise, if you're certain or set on believing that you have no meaning or purpose in life, I don't think anyone or anything can change that for you, especially if you're not willing to let them or it.

Mum, with her mental illness, spent most of her time asleep. When I got home of an afternoon she'd usually be resting on the bed until dinner time. The worst part was, I didn't really know how to distinguish between my mother as a person and the illness that took over her, to me they were one and the same.

Dad, struggling to deal with the cards life had dealt him, spent most of his time in the study avoiding everything because it was too hard otherwise. I only realized later in life that most of his negative words or actions towards me were just him trying to process everything and I was an outlet of sorts. I know he meant me absolutely no harm, I was just the only person he could open up and talk to about it even if I was too young to really understand it all.

My brother was similar. He and I didn't really talk much growing up and everyone in my family just did their own thing at home. There was very little sense of family or community within our family unit, it was like we were just biological housemates with familial titles.

Music for me was the biggest saving grace imaginable. There was a song for every mood, thought or feeling. Most of 10th grade was spent listening to Evanescence's 'Fallen' on repeat. Almost every day after school I would come home, put the CD on and fall asleep in a cocoon of their sound.

I also loved bands like Three Days Grace, Papa Roach, Breaking Benjamin, and particularly resonated with Simple Plan's 'Welcome To My Life'.

I was sure I had depression, possibly because mum had and I figured that if I slept nearly as much as she did, I must have it too. I didn't have it diagnosed, or rather didn't diagnose it myself and inform the doctor until after I finished high school and felt intensely emotional every single day.

After getting a mental health care plan sorted I started the process of seeking counseling and found the therapist that I still see to this day.

When I found out about the guy from school and how he'd died, I put a status on Facebook trying to reach out to people who may be affected by negative thoughts, confusion or mental illness. Speaking from personal experience without making it personal seems to be that much more effective and sincere I think.

"To anyone who's ever felt alone, unloved, unwanted, insignificant, confused, neglected, undeserving or just made to feel like they shouldn't exist. Whether you're feeling immense pressure from others or the world around you, you don't know what you're doing, who you are or where you're going, I promise you, you are not alone. Every negative thing people have said to you or made you feel has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Never let anyone dull your shine or take what's rightfully yours away from you. If you feel like you're trapped or don't have a choice, voice or opinion, find something that makes you happy and hold onto it with everything that you have. Life goes on and it will definitely get better if you believe it will. Whatever you do, don't give up because you'll miss the best part and that's something you'll never be able to get back. When you look back on your life after all you've been through, they will be some of the most valuable years because they made you who you are and ultimately helped you get to where you are today."

Life gets everyone down at different times and if, like me, you feel trapped, lacking purpose and meaning, it's up to you to do something about it.

One of the things dad has said to me over the past few years that mum's condition is that people who are mentally ill are the only ones who can do anything about it. They need to recognize that there's a problem and then be willing to seek help. Mum didn't see her illness as anything serious despite taking various medications for it for significant amounts of time. This left the rest of us just trying to keep up with her for the most part.

A final note: if you feel the need to talk to someone, even if you think that no one will listen, that you're problems aren't important, or even that no one could possibly understand. I promise you there is someone out there who will, you just need to be willing to take the first step. Acknowledging that you aren't okay and there is a problem is a huge thing, but it's also incredibly brave and noble. Admitting that you are in fact human and there's things that you need help with IS NOT A BAD THING! It's incredibly admirable.

When it comes to matters of life and death, don't stay silent, don't let your life be in vain, don't let people's attitudes towards you dictate how you live your life or the thoughts that go on in your head!

If you're ready to talk, try one of the numbers below to get started. It could be the best thing you'll ever do for yourself.

Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Help Line (under 25 years) 1800 551 800

Kaan Pete Roi

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1800 273 8255
Kids Help Phone (under 20 years) 1800 668 6868

Samaritans 08457 90 90 90, 116 123 (free call for Republic of Ireland residents)

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Find Your Happy

One thing I've noticed since starting uni, or rather since starting my second semester of uni last year is that I've become so much more confident in myself and happier as person. I'm studying things that I'm really interested in and haven't had the opportunity to explore before which is really exciting!

I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine around the time second semester started. She was having a life crisis not sure what she was doing and where to go from where she was. She was at the same uni studying something environmental or animal related as well as doing TAFE and work experience. She was also having on again, off again issues with her boyfriend and felt muddled up about everything.

I gave her whatever advice I could for her situation, but told her that for me, I was just really happy with how my life was going. No one had control over my life except for me and it was beyond liberating!

Even now as I start my second year of uni, I'm even more excited than I was before, although I'm more settled since I've got a year of experience under my belt. My life feels like it's finally on track and in a way going to uni is making up for the less than pleasant experiences I had during high school.

I've also noticed that I'm spending less time of Facebook than I used to, and not just because of my somewhat shameful stalking habits which I've mentioned once or twice. I'm more interested in what I'm doing with my own life than I am with what other people are doing, or rather, not doing with theirs.

The shift in my mental state, or happy place has effected my emotional state as well. Only when I feel kinda crappy about myself will I go on a FB stalk and make myself feel worse until I've decided I've had enough.

I was telling my therapist in my last session that I openly admit to checking the profiles of people from school and feel dread and anxiety when I do so because I start comparing myself to them and their life and almost always feel inferior even though I have absolutely no reason to.

In one of the posts I did earlier, I mentioned about my dreams or goals for my life. I also brought this up in therapy and said that for me, my dream of becoming famous whether by acting, singing, dancing, modeling or whatever, that was something I had to cling to because without it I'd have had no reason to live.

When I was on Facebook most recently, a friend from high school posted a pregnancy announcement. Since she was the youngest of 5 and all of her siblings have at least 2 kids, it was inevitable that she and her husband would have kids sooner rather than later.

I felt happy for her, but at the same time I cringed. I'd always loved the idea of having a family and still hope to have one one day, but as I've said, I'm really happy with the way my life is going right now and I know that having a baby would throw a massive spanner in the works.

The more I thought about it the more I realized that my goals which I've always focused so incredibly hard on, were just that, my goals. In a speech that a very close friend of mine gave at my 21st she said one of the admirable things about me was that I had the ability to dream and dream big at that. For me, finding a decent paying job, getting married and having kids seems too achievable to be a legitimate dream. I'd never really considered that some people didn't dream big, nor did they need or want to.

My upbringing was quite different to a lot of people that I've met, not that that's a bad thing, it's just made me who I am today, as has everyone else's. For some people, they grow up in a big and happy, or just a happy family, so that's all they strive for in life, is to recreate that for themselves.

Being able to achieve happiness in any aspect of your life is a wonderful thing and shouldn't be knocked or discouraged. Some people go their whole lives searching but never finding happiness. Others find it in the smallest of things and are content with that.

Going back to The Alchemist, there's a different type of happiness for everyone. Some of us dream of huge and seemingly unattainable things so we have something big to live for, others of us are just content with having small ideas because they make a big difference to our lives even if very few people can see it. Then there's different variations for everyone in between. None of them are bad. It's just how it is.

If what makes you happy is sitting in the park for a few hours people watching, that's cool. If you love more than anything to get out on the water and go fishing or even engage in some type of extreme water sports, that's cool too. If you've never dreamt of anything even remotely spectacular and just want to find love and have a family, that's also cool. Whatever it is, find your happy and stick with it until it doesn't make you happy any more, then go out and find your new happy.

Just remember, "You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger darling!" :-)

(Photo credit to

For Those Who Are About To Rock...

(Photo credit to

So yesterday was Soundwave and it EPIC!! Not just because it was my first festival ever, but the atmosphere and the location just made it that much better.

I'd been told horror stories by friend who'd been previous years and said how good it was although the location or weather didn't work in their favour.

This year was a fair sight better location-wise. The weather, as per usual, seemed to do it's own thing and everyone struggled to keep up.

There were several stages all spread out with toilets, cafes and food places in between as well as enough shelter and space for people to take a few moments to collect themselves between shows.

I went purely to see Papa Roach who I've been a fan of more so since their second last album 'The Connection', but still love 'Scars' and 'Last Resort'. The friends I went with were more keen for All Time Low, who unfortunately had to cut their set short after only 3 songs when the rain decided to party hard and apparently damaged their equipment. They were unable to stay on so fans just took what they could.

We also saw Tonight Alive, briefly checked out Mayhem, Escape The Fate, Of Mice and Men, and hung around for the finale of Fall Out Boy. From my position in the stands as I ate lunch I was able to admire the crowd that Marilyn Manson pulled in. Some of my friends had been fans of his from back in the day but said they didn't like the direction his music had taken and recommended not checking him out. I was curious and indifferent. Those same friends had told me to check out Apocalyptica, sadly I didn't arrive in time to do so.

I must say, the overall energy of the day was pretty amazing. It was very much 'let your freak flag fly!' and even though I felt slightly self-conscious at the start for wearing fairly short shorts even though the weather was definitely insisting I did, when I got there and found more than a few people wondering around half naked, I knew I was in my element.

I love how inhibited people are at concerts, well for the most part. You're there to be entertained and let yourself be so.

(Photo credit to

When we got into the mosh pit for Tonight Alive I was slightly terrified at the idea of being squashed to death given I'm just under 5ft tall. It was all good though. I got some great shots of lead singer Jenna, who I have new-found respect for, and got to bounce and fist bump with the rest of the crowd.

I was more than a little excited for Papa Roach though, but at the same time I was torn between getting closer to the stage for some decent shots, or hanging back and not risking certain death.

The worst part was having what has been dubbed as a 'human giraffe', you know those really tall people who sit or stand in front of you and completely obscured your view of the awesomeness. I had more than my fair share of them blocking my camera so a few shots were of their heads instead of the band. Damn them!

Having said that though, I didn't fork out a decent bit of moolah to not get the most out of the day. I was surrounded by people that loved and connected to the songs that I loved and connected with. I shamefully hadn't gotten around to purchasing their new album but made mental note to do so as soon as my bank balance and I had recovered. I totally forgot that there would be merch when I got there so suffice to say I'm feeling a little poor right now.

Halfway through their set it started raining pretty hard. Given that it was like a sauna around midday, I didn't think it would be necessary to bring an umbrella or anything more than a really light jacket which could also double as a blanket of sorts, given its length. This was hardly a deterrent though.

When they finished their set and we realized there wasn't time for them to do an encore unlike at solo shows when more often than not the artist will indulge their super awesome fans, I went in search of my friends and we wandered around the stalls that were strategically setup outside the main arena where most of our favorite bands had been playing.

We had a few hours to kill before Fall Out Boy, which one of my friend's all-time favorites and a definite must-see, so we just sat around in the entrance dome for a bit until we could must the energy to get up again, or when a friend of the friend's came along to say hello and wanted to check out another band.

By the time Of Mice and Men started, which I might add weren't what I expected. To be fair I'd only ever heard or read their name in various publications but had the idea that they were more Mumford and Sons rather than screamo or whatever specific genre they fall under. They weren't really what I was there for so I just sat against the fence and hung out for a bit until FOB came on.

As I've made mention to, I'm not terribly tall by a long shot, so when I'm at a concert I prefer elevated seating over standing so I have some kind of an advantage. When you hang back a bit so you don't get squashed by the raging mosh pitters, you don't get a very good view of the stage, but you do get to keep a few extra lives.

In a discussion with one of my friends prior to attending the festival, we were saying how everyone seems to love Pete Wentz because he's quite possibly the most attractive one in the band. So naturally I spent most of their gig when I didn't know the songs, trying to spot him out from the distance between me and the stage.

I mistakenly thought he was the other guitarist who wasn't clean-shaven and had floppy and fluffy hair and spent a fair part of my time wondering what happened the this supposed Pete Wentz dude.

Only when the crowd started screaming louder when the other guitarist came over did I realize that the bottle-blonde sleeveless and tattoo'd guy was the real Pete Wentz. I was not disappointed, only surprised at not recognizing him, but then again I'm not a hardcore fan so it didn't really matter all that much.

After that, I also realized that he was the one doing most of the talking or intros for the songs. Again, not disappointed, just surprised, I don't think I'd ever heard his voice before. Clearly I'm a dedicated fan.

At the end of the day, or rather night, I hadn't been that exhausted since my 21st birthday which had taken myself and my parents approx. 3 days to recover from.

Luckily I don't live too far from the location so once I got to the station It only took about half an hour or so, including a 20min wait at the middle station, before I was back home and struggling to stay awake.

Since I had uni the next day, I decided the prepare my lunch even though I could barely see straight and was more than glad when I got to crash into bed afterwards. Mind you, I was so overtired that I had to wind myself back down to tired before I could actually sleep.

The day after was still a struggle given that it was a full day of classes. I was determined to get through them because not going when I'd made the choice to attend a full on concert the day before seemed irresponsible. If I'd woken up feeling shockingly ill, that would have been another story.

I checked in with one of my friends to see how she was faring since she had work on. She told me both her and the other girl were slightly nauseated with headaches but were pushing ahead to get through the day.

Sheer exhaustion aside, it was definitely worth it. I got a Soundwave tshirt to prove I actually went, a couple of decent photos, and some pretty awesome memories. Nothing compares to belting out meaningful songs with a bunch of people who love them as much as you do, as well as being able to feel the music or the beat running straight through you. You're doing music right!

For those who are about to rock, who have rocked and will forever rock, we salute you and your epic level of awesomeness!

(Photo credit to