2017

Family

I can’t actually remember the last time my immediate family were together, it’s been that long. My parents divorced in 2003, which is now a decade and a half ago, if you can believe that. It feels like forever ago as well, the fateful days when I was in my early twenties, living without a care on my own, working weekends at my uncle’s restaurant and studying at uni during the week feeling far removed from life presently. I feel as though I didn’t spend my days well back then, and now I’m frantically back pedalling for lost time.

So, it’s been a very long time since my immediate family were even in the same 3 kilometer radius, let alone together in the same room. I think, if memory serves, it was in 2009.

A sole 3 weeks after Adrian and I started dating.

One night, after what could only have been described as a romance-filled, sweet evening of walking around the city to see the Vivid festival [the first one held mind you, which was much more of a simple, art-student affair than the multi-million dollar event it is these days]; we came back home and were accosted by someone who followed us from the train station on the street where I was living at the time at my dad’s place.

Long story short, I ended up in Concord Hospital in quite possibly the most acute pain I have ever felt right up to this day. My jaw was smashed. I had black eyes which meant I wasn’t able to see very well. Blood was gushing out of my face, and the only way to stop it was clamping my broken jaw down on to gauze in an attempt to stem the flow.

I still remember clearly the sensation of my teeth not being in a neat row. I could move my broken jaw like tectonic plates. The sensation of this is something that still makes me recoil slightly. They rubbed up and down each other. One side was much higher than the other, as I probed it with my blood-sodden tongue. It was a clean break right through my jaw bone. Still to this day the left-hand side of my jaw doesn’t clamp together quite as uniformly as they once did, and I will permanently have a strange tingling sensation on the left side of my lips and lower left hand side of my face. Especially in the morning when I wake up, for some reason.

It’s funny how quickly, simply and with even some degree of finesse and elegance one’s life can change in such complete finality. I was bisected. The night before this incident was one of the most enjoyable and love-filled I had experienced yet. The remainder of the night was crushing, traumatic and filled with an absolution of dolorous pain and disbelief. Similarly, I feel as though my life has been bisected into -pre and -post periods. The post me became a much more wary, distrusting and introverted character than its ‘-pre’ forerunner.

This is the rather dour context that would have been the last time my immediate family and I were together, in a cold and austere patient ward in a run-down ramshackle hospital. It took me being assaulted and being hospitalized for a week for my parents to be even in the same room together, even if only for a brief period of time, namely, under an hour.

The mood was stark, uncomfortable and bare. Like the hospital room, the general tone was devoid of anything warm or decorative. There was a lack of love or closeness or any affection at all. Tension pervaded the very air.

Very little was spoken about, and what conversation or even communication was minimal, necessary and bizarrely efficient. My parents had no volition to be there at all. I was the only reason they were persevering with this experience.  Since this uncomfortable and necessary collaboration, I think my parents have only had minimal contact when absolutely necessary, and even then it seems brief and only to the point.

Family for me then has become a concept of receding and vestigial importance. A wave rolling back out into the ocean after crashing on to the shore. At least with regards to blood ties. I feel as though my friends are now more familial and close to my soul than my own family. They know me well. This hurts me to say, but I don’t think I trust my parents or would be able to count on them if things went awry. And this is ok. I’ve become a fiercely independent creature, something which was first seeded and incubated that day when I was 20, and told my parents I was moving out, with literally just my mattress clenched in my arm.

Definitions of family and familial love differ for everyone, I’m extremely lucky to have had a family at all, not to mention a roof over my head. Yet there was a definite strain in my family since I was a youngster. A sense that all was not right, and that an invisible expiry date was stamped on us. Which turned out to be true.

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2017, Australia, Gayblog, Uncategorized

Anxious Anxious Me.

Anxious Anxious Me.

It strikes me without warning, so completely, and without any rhyme or reason. Tension and tightness  clamps my chest, my breathing quickens and becomes faster, shallow and less able to convey oxygen into my lungs. My skin sweats and shortly perspires and clams up. My face clearly changes, as does my demeanour. Shoulders might slump. Posture diminishes as an outward sign of feeling crumpled. My confidence shatters and dives. Coworkers, friends and family can clearly see me struggling. I wish I could explain how it feels, or what I feel at this moment.

I still can’t tell you where this sense of impending anxiety comes from. It just appears out of nowhere. I can’t say why one day I feel great, alive and invigorated and yet the very next flat, barely able to do simple tasks and full of internal monologue. I wake up on days like today and my heart feels as though it’s racing, barely restrained within me. I feel paranoid, wary and on guard, despite the fact that I have done nothing wrong, and have no guilt over anything as again, I can’t think of anything that I could have possibly done to make me feel this way. Is it because of worries in life? Work problems, family issues or problems with other loved ones? Did I get this nervousness from my mother?

There’s literally no real reason for me to have this anxiety which creeps around every few months. Life for me is good. I don’t suffer from want for anything. I work in a decent job, I have a great boyfriend and can afford my rent. So there’s plenty to feel grateful for. Perhaps it’s more the fact that I self-assess constantly. Maybe my overt self-examining of life leads me to consider myself unworthy, which then leads to anxiety attacks. It might strike me in the morning when I wake up. I may have had a great, restful sleep yet regardless, wake up with a sense of dread and fear.

Fight Or Flight

An instinct for me when I do get anxious and suffer an anxiety attack no matter how minor is that base bodily instinct, hard-wired into our biology, that of ‘Fight Or Flight‘. I’ll have to decide then and there whether I can fend off these feelings and attempt to modify my thoughts, regulate breathing and simply place it out of my mind and get on with my day or simply pack it in and find the nearest exit. It’s almost like a giant lever in my mind that cuts power. Or those old brakes made of cable that would hang above passengers in old steam trains you see in old movies that would activate the brakes. During these episodes, nothing is more attractive to me than being at home in my bed with the covers over me. My bed becomes the Starship Enterprise and my doona Deflector Shields impervious to all. Nothing can get through. All I want is to disappear for the day.

In the past, during these attacks, I have physically been unable to carry on with my day. I recall one instance whilst working at my previous workplace. I would usually catch the train in the morning. On one of these days commuting to work, I got off the train at the nearest station: a busy station close to the city airport. There were people bustling about in their morning commutes, tumbling out of packed trains, piling into further full trains, and herding themselves towards the exit turnstiles. The rumble of voices and footsteps echoing the large and imposing chamber-like walls of the station. I’ll never forget this day as I filed in line and shuffled into the herd-like crowd towards the turnstiles. I decided to pull back and wait for the crowds to process through the exits.

And that’s the moment it struck. My heart began to race, my skin began to sweat. I could feel the muscles in my face tensing and transforming my relatively calm face into one of worry and fear. I could remember thinking to myself, over and over: ‘I can’t do this today. It’s not possible. I need to get out. I need my own space.’ I felt like I was in a rather bleak Haruki Murakami moment. I could either press on into the crowd and through the exit and onto work, or escape. My instincts kicked in and I chose escape. I turned myself around, pale-faced and wide-eyed, and almost without any thought, floated back to the platforms, caught the train and before I could recall, I was home.  I became a ghost and disappeared out of there. An apologetic text was sent to my work, but the truth is, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face the day. I couldn’t be at work facing unhappy customers and mean demanding managers who misunderstood me. I needed that time to myself to have some silence and peace at home.

A part of me hates that I harp on about this subject. I know it can all be construed as something akin to whingeing and whining. I know I can come across as moody and brooding. I used to love the fact that I was seen as this. I would thrive off it. But I find confronting and writing about my ailments, problems and issues such as anxiety acts as a salve or healing agent, and these days I aim to be as open with myself as I can be. Sometimes it’s easier for me to express feelings this way as opposed to conversing. However, I always feel orders of magnitude better afterwards.

Misconception.

If there is one thing that I want to impart upon you, dear reader, is that if you do come across someone like me who visibly suffers from panic attacks or anxiety, don’t misconstrue them as being unfriendly, depressed all the time or negative. Understand that it’s not something they or myself choose to have happen. Maybe be genuine and ask if everything is alright. If that person can talk about it comfortably, let them. If not, perhaps give them some space. Let them have their time. If you manage someone who is prone to anxiety don’t be surprised or upset if they need to take a day off or leave early. If you have a friend that maybe isn’t coping with being out somewhere busy like a pub or club, don’t be surprised if they too ghost out of there. Sometimes a quiet environment and a moment of tranquility is needed. It’s just a period of time for this person to realign themselves. Just don’t think that this person is pissed off, doesn’t like you or thinks the world is out to get them.

It’s a simple thing to assume and have misconceptions. About anything, really. People, places, beliefs and ideology for instance. The concurrent thread through all of this is ignorance. Lack of information and experience creates ignorance which then bleeds contempt and misunderstanding. Whereas knowledge creates the opposite. Be kind to your wide-eyed anxious person that you know.

 

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2017, Australia, Gayblog, Life, Sydney

[De]Motivators

The biggest motivator that has been driving me lately has been time itself, and the fact that as every day that goes past that I don’t write or contribute is a day lost. I’m motivated lately by fear. Fear now, of looking back at my life and feeling shame at myself, for not trying hard enough and not working hard enough. I feel as though I am at a point where I really have to start pushing for myself, and to continue working with what I have and to make my goals a reality. In a month I turn 33, I’m no longer a youth. The days of being an aimless lout are far behind me. I’m supposed to, according to society, have my collective ‘shit together’. It still doesn’t feel that way. The last few years have seen me try to try to work out what it is that I’m good at, enjoy doing that will make me some money. The idea of ‘finding yourself’ can be cute and romantic, but not once you get into your mid 30’s. I’m not after fame and fortune, I’d rather just be comfortable and be able to have freedom to be able to travel, or perhaps one day own my own home. I can really feel the clock ticking these days, the nerves fraying, In back of my mind my own voice urging me to write more, contribute more, to take more of a chance, and to not let slip any possible potential opportunity that may come my way.

I guess sometimes fear of the future or of failure can be an immensely potent motivator, yet I also sense that it can bring ruination. As the flip side of this is the response of ‘well whats the use’ or ‘I’m doomed to fail anyways.’ It’s hard sometimes to stay focused and on the ball and to continue on when at times it all seems pointless. This has been something that I have definitely struggled with over and over again in the past. The smallest set back will trigger my confidence and morale to collapse. I picture it like an eagle posed, ready for flight, and when it takes that first sweep of its wings something goes wrong. It’s been a game in itself to keep my confidence up and in flight, it’s been an absolute disaster when my confidence and morale plummets. It’s something which takes time to re-balance itself enough for me to get back on my feet, dust myself off and try again.

It’s very easy to feel like a failure at life. Which is how I’m feeling at this moment. I feel that I’ve not accomplished enough, I’m not travelled enough, and I’m not doing enough in my life to bring me joy, happiness and yeh maybe a little success and prosperity. Success continually seems to elude me.

It’s very easy to place yourself next to someone else and consequently compare yourself to them. They might have all those things you desperately crave. A great job. Amazing looks. A great body. Lots of friends. People paying attention to them because of these things. In my world, it is easy for me to fall into this trap of envy. I find myself doing this more and more these days, and it worries me. Being in the Gay world of Sydney, as well as Melbourne, everyone seems to have something that they’re doing that brings them something quantifiable and desirable: money, career, attention or exposure. Everyone is to my eye out partying, doing photo shoots, getting great gigs, always at fun parties dressed up in crazy outfits. I get a little bit envious and down at times. All I seem to see is other’s displaying how fantastic their lives are, which isn’t even necessarily the truth. I feel sick about myself and insecure. If I’m not comfortable in my own skin at this point, when will I be? Does the act of me comparing myself to others work as a motivator, or de-motivator? What reason then do I want the things out of life that I do? For my own wellbeing and benefit, or simply so I can feel better about myself and what others think of me?

Motivation has to come from the right place, and lately for me it hasn’t. I’ve spent too much time comparing myself to others, which is a toxic and unhealthy approach. I see people taking selfies at the parties, dressed to the nines, at the gyms showing their biceps off. All of this self-aggrandisement has an effect on others. An effect that needs to be monitored and contemplated and considered. I’ve also thought of myself as ‘too old’ for the things I want, and that I am over the hill. None of this might necessarily be true, as I have met some fantastically talented people who have come into their own later in life, and found the things that I have been searching for, yet lately this has been something to which I have given much thought to in my life.

Does everyone struggle with this, and finds themselves motivated for the wrong reason? Is it wrong to motivated through envy, or is it simply a case of the means justifying the ends?

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2017, Gay, Gayblog, Life, Opinion, Thoughts

Manifesto 2017

It’s the start of a new year, which means it’s an opportunity for reflecting on the year ahead, and setting goals and objectives, or just in more general terms, a time for self-examining.

The idea of new year’s resolutions is nothing new [we all do it], but year by year I find myself keeping track of my year that has just passed, and I recall what I promised to myself.

This year however, I will try something different. As we all seemed to collectively feel, 2016 became a somewhat dire year. It may not have been as bad a year as we all seemed to think, but collectively it appeared that plenty of us were struggling to make it through.

Things for many of us went from bad to worse, a fact reflected by what happened globally throughout the year. Brexit, Trump, celebrity deaths et al. We all, I think, had a stinker. And we all deserve a pat on the back for making it through together.

Instead of a new year’s resolution however, I decided to write myself up a ‘2017 Manifesto’.

I’ve always loved the idea of the ‘manifesto’ concept, used by artists, philosophers, politicians as well as now corporations, and for personal use. The idea of transcribing down objectives, statements of purpose, delineating clearly the goals and ambitions and very identity of an art or political movement as per example, was something that intrigued me from an early age, from when I first learned about manifestos in Art class in high school.

The Dadaist Manifesto, for instance, was an initial exposure to the art of the manifesto as well as the original. The work ‘Manifesto‘, a fantastic video installation featuring Cate Blanchett, a logical endpoint, highlighting famous manifestos in history, all spoken by Cate Blanchett in character. The expression of ideals, virtues and identity is what has drawn me to wanting to write my own for 2017.

In my own life, 2016 has taught me that direction, decisiveness and clarity is key. A clarity of purpose and identity. Taking inspiration from above, I present my 2017 Manifesto. I’m not sure I will possibly be able to live up to this, or adhere to these tenets, but I no doubt will try.

 

 

 

Manifesto 2017

I will not be taken advantage of. My life is finite and fragile.

I will be honest about my feelings. I won’t hide behind half-truths and passive aggressiveness.

I will take my career, or lack thereof, more seriously, and give it focus and thought. In this year, I will knuckle down and work out 3 things: What do I want to do, how do I do it, and where.

I will say yes only when it pleases me to do so, and no when it doesn’t please me to not do so. I won’t let myself be swayed for the sake of a good time or fun.

I will not listen to or accept idle gossip.

I will not lead others on, or let myself be lead on by others.

I will invest my time into those who will reciprocate.

In 2017, I will surround myself with those whom inspire me, and hopefully I am able to inspire them in return.

I will create, produce and generate more. I won’t second guess myself, will output more, and worry less.

I will not think less of myself compared to others simply because they may have more followers on social media than I.

I will remember to breathe.

I will use the block button on apps more, and argue online less. Low-resolution profile images a good opponent for arguments does not make.

I will not succumb to thinking of myself or others merely as a ‘brand.’

I won’t forget to take my meds.

I will learn to like myself more, and hate myself less.

I will write/photograph/contribute to the greater world because I am compelled to do so, not for likes, comments or the affirmation of others.

What would your manifesto for 2017 say?

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2016, Gay, Gayblog, Life, Opinion, Thoughts

Why I stopped, and why I need to start again.

You may have noticed I’ve not posted much on this blog for months. I’ve felt somewhat paralysed and unsure about the future, or even the point, of continuing to write this blog. There’s been quite a bit of inner-monologuing which has resulted in me being incapable of action. And as much as I cringe at this, [truly I do] to paraphrase Ru Paul, I’ve let my ‘inner saboteur’ sabotage myself. Such cringe and cliche from the great, vaunted High Priestess of Drag herself, yet really fitting for how I’ve been feeling lately.

It’s been great to hear people’s responses to what I’ve posted, it’s also been great to know that a select few individuals have taken their time out of their lives to read about what I have to say. It makes me feel quite priveleged, and in a way, responsible. Responsible for the words I put down here, as well as the thoughts behind them.

Lately, I’ve had more than a few people remark on something I wrote months, or now, even a year or more ago. I’m chuffed when they praise, I’m interested when they critique. My ears instinctively perk up like an eager pup. Even negative criticism has had a positive effect, as it has meant that my stumbling about therefore has equated into experience.

So what happened, and why did I stop?

Life, in short.

In the past 6 months, I feel there has been someone out there in the great big blue sky, pushing a giant celestial finger on an equally over-sized heavenly fast-forward button. I finally left my old workplace of two years, [which was a drama in itself], I spent a couple months out of work and doing some office temping, and finally found my current workplace, which has been such a blessing and such a great ailment for what had been 2 years worth of work related anxiety and general unease.

My social circle has rapidly expanded with more characters I’m grateful to have in my life; I go out more, can socialise and I am able to generally be more daring with life experiences.

Adrian and I have been great together, we talk much more and have opened up exponentially. It’s been invigorating and revitalising having this level of dynamic energy and honesty in our relationship; communicating and being honest with each other has meant we have both grown and in turn, our relationship has grown leaps and bounds.

My new job has also given me a fresh new start and the chance to ‘reset’ myself. The stress related to my former workplace has diminished immeasurably. Day by day it gets better. I no longer sleep with unease. I no longer wake up in the morning with my stomach in knots of nervousness, and my heart sinking. I no longer feel as though I am constantly being spied upon from afar, [or worse yet], judged and taken advantage of. I feel more understood at my current work place, as well as more pro-active and generally interested. If any of you read this, all I can say is never work at an environment like Matt Blatt. But in the end, I learned a valuable life lesson in this: never let others take advantage of your hard-won skills and talent and be true to yourself. Being in that toxic work environment caused me much distress, and by the end, a sense of ‘giving up’ on my own self worth. Moving ahead to the moment, now I work in a great work environment for a large, professional company. I’m treated well, am trusted and get along with my job every day. The change has been something fantastic for me, a real chance for some much needed breathing room.

I don’t know exactly why it’s taken me months to get to the point to be able to write. Lately I’ve felt much of what has been going on in my life has given me much to reflect and think upon, and that I’ve felt much more grateful for the things I have. A part of me feels pangs of guilt for not continuing to post. I don’t know what could have come out of 3 months worth of writing and posting. Perhaps I’ve needed this time off. Maybe it’s actually been a good thing for me to take a break and step back from the blog and just try and enjoy my new job, friends and life in general. I’m re-learning how to relax, and to not feel riddled with guilt when enjoying those things in life that help me unwind and chill: reading, playing games, my new Dungeons and Dragons play group, cuddles, dinners out, a silly night dancing at the Imperial, et al.

It’s been a time of detoxifying and re-grouping, something that I feel I have needed for some time.

I guess with it being Spring comes a chance and time to re-assess, revalue and begin again.

So having said that, thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me, giving me pointers, following my [at times] angsty ramblings, and most of all for believing in me.

 

Much love,

Alessandro.

 

 

 

 

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2016, Gayblog, Opinion, Thoughts, Uncategorized

My Marvellous Meds

Lately I’m getting asked quite regularly about my medication. I’ve been taking antidepressants/anti anxiety medication for just over a year now. I’m very open and honest about it, which is something I never thought I would be. I’m happy to share my experiences with medication.

Growing up in a family where mental illness was viewed a fixable state of mind that was able to be fixed through hard work, grit and physical activity lead me to believe that medication for mental illnesses was simply a taboo. I still remember my parents saying there is no such thing as stress, it’s just something made up for lazy people to get out of work.

In fact, I grew up believing that any form of medication as well as therapy strategies like psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and the like were detrimental, negative and simply a means to shirk responsibility.

If you’ve followed my blog you’ll note that much of my written subject matter since starting out in 2014 is charting my progress and journey from being undiagnosed with depression to seeking help and initiating treatment in the form of medication as well as therapy. It’s been a difficult road, and I still have my ups and downs. So I decided to write a post about my marvellous meds.

Why I take them

My medication has been a help. I can’t deny that. That’s why I take them. However, its not the 100% solution to solving all the problems in my life, but is simply one part of a larger strategy. Aside from meds, other strategies such as psychology sessions, exercise and positive thought modification techniques have meant I have a larger plan for attacking my depression. A bigger picture, which lets me work through my bad days. Meds have really helped improve my general mood however. I still have my less-than great days, but for the most part it’s really helped me manage my moods. It’s been tougher for me lately as I’m currently in between jobs, and I find when I’m not busy at a job or working on a project my mind can run off it’s hinges and into darker territory.

What they don’t do

Meds aren’t going to put the fucked up parts of your life back together, or automatically stop the shitty thoughts in your head as you try to get some sleep at 3am. They won’t necessarily have a direct effect on the course of your career, relationship or mental makeup. They won’t magically transform you into a wide-smiling, motivated go-getter overnight. They won’t make you a better lover or friend, they won’t make your bed in the morning or write emails or perform better at work/study. They take time, and you won’t see any change quickly. How they do work is more akin to something in the background humming away that has a purpose, like a fridge. You know its there doing it’s thing but you don’t pay much mind to it.

What they do

It has a job to do, and sometimes you’re aware of the proverbial humming fridge sound which means it’s working and keeping your shit cool. But for the most part, I just tend to go about my day as per usual. What I have found however after being on them for over a year is that my ups are much higher, and my lows occur less frequently and are generally much less world-ending or fraught with despair. The best way to describe this is with the idea of a wave pattern. Before starting medication, the wave would crescendo then quickly dip low. Nowadays, that wave is more uniform. I still feel down sometimes, yet the main thing is that the low in the wave is not as low as before. I am also more productive, although this is still something I need to work on. The fact that I have kept this blog going for almost two years is a testament to that. I don’t get so affected by something that has previously had a monumental effect on me, and I’m also able to deal can deal with negativity much more efficiently.

In the words of Aahliyah [RIP], I can figuratively ‘dust it off and try again’.

giphy

Hey gurl.

I also find myself being more relaxed in social settings and being less nervous when meeting new people, or in high stress situations, not to mention not being as anxious when attending large social gatherings.

Chop and change

I’ve already changed my meds once since starting them, as I found the previous prescribed medication had side effects on me which I didn’t care too much about, like lowered libido, increase in headaches and stomach aches. My thoughts on this are if it’s not feeling right, change it. Hit your GP up to change your script. I simply spoke to my GP with my concerns and was given a new set to try, which have been way better for me. Since opening up about this issue, I’ve met and spoken to many people who have given me advice as well as how they’re feeling on what they’re taking. It almost feels like speaking about your drink of choice, or what cheese you like. I like this as it has de-stigmatised this from being a taboo subject into something more grounded and social, and strangely has made me feel a part of a club. Brie or camembert?

Don’t feel bad for taking them

Is it right however, to use medication with the purpose of altering one’s mood or general demeanour? Again, growing up in a household that was quite conservative in its views on medication for mental illnesses, I always viewed meds as something only those who were suicidal took; a last resort. To me, the mind was something inviolable, holy and unalterable. I was brought up to believe that medication causes one to become something unnatural. An automaton that isn’t the real you, a modified version of you with a layer of nauseating cheerfulness draped over skin. It took some time for me to educate myself and to understand that the mind is chemical-based. I lacked and still lack the right chemical mix that most people take for granted. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t normal to experience running the daily gauntlet of emotions and despair I felt. My mind quite literally stopped me from experiencing life. Which is why I personally don’t feel bad at all for taking medication, and neither should you. Perhaps me as a teenager would have been dismayed that I would have need of them, but hey, in short they’re designed to put in balance what some of us lack.

So never feel bad or feel as though you’re a failure or you’re somehow inadequate for needing them. I find that increasingly people are opening up about this, and the more I speak to and open up to people, the more I hear that medication has really helped people for the better and works for them. Which is a bit rad really.

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