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, 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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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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2016, Uncategorized

On Being Afraid.

Fear, and feeling afraid of anything can be such a life-halting force. It can deter us from moving forward in our lives, it can tempt us into drinking the bittersweet nectar of self-wallowing. It can drive us off the proverbial cliff; yet at the same time fear can be a potent motivator for many. The fear of failure, or mediocrity in this case for me, is a constant in my world.

I’m afraid of failure, right now at this point in my life. Failure is something that is on my mind a lot these days. Far too much mental energy is expended in my mind to thinking about my life, and how I feel as though I’m not reaching my potential. I’m afraid of mediocrity, of living life in the box, of every year that goes past being identical to the last. A generation of us have grown up with the ideal that we can all be ‘Whatever we want’ as long as we put our grit, determination and drive to it and work hard for it. Is this the truth? Is it possible to work hard and reach that impossible dream, or are we all setting ourselves up for a fall?   For me, I feel as though it has been a long, slow and difficult progression, getting what I want, and where I want to be in life. Right now, my career [or lack thereof] is what has been filling me with fear.

Truly, I’m afraid of being 40 and still being a Human Vending Machine. It all comes back to this. I don’t want to be folding clothes, tidying pillows, putting chairs away and wasting my days away with a ‘hi, how are you?’ I just can’t do it, and I refuse to. Yes, I know that so many other people are struggling with so many problems of much more magnitude than my little conundrum, yet lately I have been putting a lot of brain power and thought to my future, and my escape plan out of my current job. I just don’t want to be there forever, my dream is to be in a workplace where my skills other than that of selling are appreciated, a place where I am motivated to give my all because I actually enjoy being there. Where I am now currently is far from this. It is a factory. Fast Furniture. It’s terribly difficult to face the day there sometimes, to put on a brave face and live day in day out. I started my current job almost two years ago, with the intention of progression. Which inevitably has not happened. I’m forever thinking about my future at work, and formulating little plans and fantasies in my mind, the foremost being the moment I finally attain that job that will lead me to an actual career, and I tell everyone there that I’m leaving, with a big unapologetic grin. Am I placing too much strain on myself? Is this fear something that will leverage the best out of me to get me off my arse and get out into the world, or will it make me drift in a malaise?

I’m afraid of being in stasis,I’m afraid of every year morphing into the next, each segmented division of time being the same as the previous, as well as the next.I’m afraid of not changing, growing or evolving. Of being static. I want to change. ‘I Am Willing To Change’ is something I tell myself almost daily. It’s a simple self-affirmation that I will say to myself in the mirror when I wake up, or at work on particularly difficult days. I Am Willing To Change. We all can change. I truly believe this. We keep the core of ourselves intact, yet we are always in a state of flux. Transforming, discarding and shedding our old selves, and forming our new selves.

What is life without change? Meaningless, stale and fetid. I know this is quite a dramatic statement, but in my eyes we all have to be willing to change ourselves, to adapt, to be dynamic. I’m not the same person I was 7 years ago. Both literally and figuratively. My skin grows, dies and is replaced by fresh new skin. My hair gets greyer each year. My mind grows un-incapacitated, expanding like an infinite USB memory stick. I learn more and more every day. I collect information, no matter how trivial, and I manage to store it away for future use. I collect life experience as well, and snapshot every event in my mind.

I am afraid of losing this ability, of not being able to collect things like experience and information, of taking things at face value, of not looking past the present, of not breaking life down into its core components. I’m afraid of my world being confined like an ornamental garden: manicured, pleasant and placidly safe.

Fear and being afraid can be a positive thing; it’s what makes us strive to achieve foremost. What would life, the world and existence itself be like if it weren’t for a small dose of fear to motivate us into doing things? Into achieving and reaching higher and higher goals? It can help us grit our teeth and carry on towards the light on the hill. Perhaps I should choose not to be afraid, but to look forward to my future, to take every step towards that future with a determination and undaunted, unbowed outlook.

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