Relaxing

I lost my step-father at the end of January. As soon as I found out about it, I knew that I needed to visit my Mum. That was the easy part of course.

Over the last two months, my Mum & I have been trying to sort through so much of their life together. It hasn’t been easy to say the least. It has been stressful, tiring, wearing, exhausting and mentally draining.

University needed to be placed on ‘pause’ and I had to depend on the support of friends back home to make sure things kept running smoothly whilst I was away.

However, I have been incredibly fortunate to have friends on this side of the world that offered to let me stay with them for about 2 weeks before returning home. The whole idea is that I let myself have a ‘holiday’ from what I’ve left behind so that I can prepare myself for the recovery that needs to take place once I get back into the UK.

The purpose of relaxing is not lost on me, but I actually think this is first time that I’ve been consciously aware of the fact that I am actually capable of it. Even after I started to ‘chill out’ I started to question what I was actually doing with my time. There was a sense that I ‘should’ be doing ‘something’, although it’s pretty clear that there’s nothing I can do from here that will fix anything that needs to be done once I get back to England.

So, I’ve been attempting to really relax, and it’s been liberating and also a little telling. There are still a lot of ‘thoughts’, I worry about this that and the other, what impact my actions and words have on the other people around me and what I’m thinking and feeling and most importantly why? In the end however, I did concede and ended up purchasing myself a Bullet Journal so that I could take some more control of my life. Perhaps it’s a step backwards, but I can say that since I bought it, and started using it to log my much smaller day-to-day chores and events I feel much better about the whole thing.

Being able to look back and see what I’ve done is useful, and to give myself smaller goals that will help settle the uneasy feeling in my head has actually worked! It’s simple stuff too, less planning months and months in advance and more accepting each day as it comes. I’ve set myself little goals, ‘have a shower first thing’ or ‘put laundry away’ or ‘mail postcards’. It’s definitely easy to forget that these seemingly ‘simple’ things were at one point or another really difficult to accomplish – but just ordering my life some how has given me a greater sense of purpose.

Weird, honestly – because I was already doing those things, but it felt increasingly like I had to open myself up to a new project or plan some huge ‘game plan’ for the future.

The truth is that I have decided on a few avenues to follow once I get back home, and there are definitely jobs that I will need to ‘get done’ when I get there. Not that I’ve written them down! I have a feeling that will happen on my return to England on the plane, maybe? It’s a long, overnight flight – but there will definitely be time to take some notes and make a few lists.

Mostly, I’m just glad that I’ve been able to take a deep breath and just ‘be’. It hasn’t been easy, and I still struggle to ignore that nagging doubt and the constant questioning but it’s all practice isn’t it?

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My Story – Melbourne

I was ‘diagnosed’ with Borderline Personality traits at the ripe old age of 29.

Honestly, at the time it was a massive shock – but not for any of the bad reasons that you might associate with a life-changing diagnosis.

At the time, I was trying to ‘live’ in the beautiful city of Melbourne, Australia. I’d managed to find a city I loved, where a few good friends of mine happened to be. The hostel that I’d chosen to stay in due to awesome reviews (United Backpacker’s if you’re headed that way) needed someone to fill in a position four hours a night, for four nights in exchange for free accommodation and I was incredibly lucky to be chosen for the position.

Only, nothing else was ‘working’. There’s a long story, but the short one is like every other story of depression, really. I needed to see a doctor, and that was that. I’d already been on Duloxetine for well over a year, and had a GP for that purpose anyway, but the attitude of those working in the Australia Health Care system was such a pleasant surprise, I had no idea that things would work out so well.

My G.P had already seen me a few times, he even went as far as to remember the name I’d introduced myself to him as ‘Ollie’, and not the name on my records ‘Olivia’. It was the first sense I got that this was someone who saw beyond just another patient looking for a quick fix.

After some coaxing, my wonderful G.P decided to make me a health care plan. Accustomed to long and arduous assessments, forms and conversations I expected that the ball would need a bit of a push to get rolling. I think even he was a bit surprised to see the look on my face when he quite simply printed out all the notes he had on me and handed it over with instructions to call a psychologist to have a discussion with them. He even recommended someone, and of course – as soon as the appointment was over (and I managed to get over the shock of having such a powerful document in my hands) I called the psychologist.

Two weeks later, I sat down in her office and told her the same things that I have always told people. Tensions with family, struggles relating to others, anxiety over expectations, the frivolous spending, the lack of desire to do anything that wasn’t playing video games. On, and on. At the time, I recall focusing a lot more on relationships. I wasn’t in Australia on a whim, exactly – although I didn’t recognise just how much of it was an attempt to run away until later.

Forty minutes rolled along, and I expected the usual. CBT comes in bite sized 6-8 session chunks. Anti-Depressants are useful. The waiting list is as long as fifty arms and there’s probably not much point in me even being there because I only had another 4 months left on my visa.

Instead, she said three (not so little) words. Borderline Personality Traits.

I’ll be honest – I just stared at her.

Even as she began to explain where her suspect diagnosis came from I was struggling to keep up. Borderline? Border-what? What was I on the border of, and why hadn’t I heard whisper of it in connection with me? I was given recommendations, along with the sad news that this particular psychologist didn’t feel that working with me on my issues was something she felt fully trained to do. Her focus was on other mental health issues, but I had this golden ticket.

As soon as I got back to the hostel, I did the very same thing I always did. The laptop was out, but this time I had an incredibly clear goal in mind.

There are far too many metaphors to share with you to try and convey just how it felt to learn about Borderline Personality Disorder. Every single article I read hit home in a way that I’d never felt before. Suddenly I had access to a world of information about me. The experiences that others had shared, the difficulties that they were facing on a daily basis, the intensity of the feelings of self-hate, almost every anecdote was relatable.

This new understanding that I have of myself has completely and utterly changed my life, and although I’m not quite back on the horse again – I knew one thing for certain. I had to make my voice heard.

I am one of a suspected 5% of  people with a Personality Disorder.

Understanding, awareness and knowledge about Personality Disorders are pivotal in a person’s ability to cope with, and learn to live with them. Clearly, I speak on behalf of myself as someone with Borderline – but I have seen a huge difference in myself that is completely and utterly down to this new, eye-opening diagnosis.

I hope that by blogging, writing and sharing information about My Story – I can help to raise awareness of Borderline Personality Disorder and the ways that it can be overlooked, and mistaken for depression, especially in the UK.

 

Whales

Today was something really awesome.

My Step-Dad and I took the boat out on the bay today. The weather was perfect for it, the water was incredibly still, and there was no hint of wind, the cloud coverage was, as is so common in Cold Bay – awful, but there were hints of sunshine!

It’s been a long time since I last went out on a motor-powered boat, and that was driven by someone who had years of experience manoeuvring boats like this one. The last time I was on a boat, of course was in San Francisco when I crossed the bay to Alcatraz.

To say I was feeling apprehensive is an understatement. There were so many different noises that I was trying to determine the function of, and although I wasn’t scared, I was alert.

It didn’t take long to get up on my feet after we saw this.

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Humpback Whale. It was really exciting just to be able to see one from a distance like this. I don’t recall having seen marine-life outside of captivity before, so to be able to see a wild whale like this was an amazing feeling. A humpback whale. I’ve seen a humpback whale in the wild!!

Slowly, but surely – we got much, much closer, and I found a sudden courage and faith in our not-so-little vessel. Perched on the very front of the boat I did my best to stay steady despite how exciting it was to be so close to this whale.

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Of course, then it was just a matter of taking as many pictures of them as possible!

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Just as we were leaving, after about 30 minutes following this one whale, I reckon it wanted to say goodbye. =D

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I came away with over 100 photos, and an experience I don’t think I’ll be forgetting any time soon! Exciting times!

365 Days out of England

Today marks an entire year that I’ve been out of the UK.

A year always seems like a short time when you think about THIS day all that time ago, but it’s not until you look back at all the things you’ve done and all the places that you’ve been that you realise just how long a year is.

Ever since I made the decision to come home I’ve been thinking about the things that I’ve accomplished, not so much the things that I’ve done. Whilst I was in Melbourne, staying in the hostel especially – I met so many people who had done so many things whilst on their travels, and their stay in Melbourne had been so short because they were always on the move.

I can’t say that I moved so much – but in that, I learnt something about myself. I’ve learnt so many things about myself that I refuse to forget. Not that it’s over yet. I’ve still got another two months and a handful of days before I end up back in a place that I’ve come to call home. I have no idea how long I’ll be there, all I know is that I have a lot of things that I am  looking forward to, a lot of decisions to make and a lot of self-healing to finally allow myself to get, for myself.

running away

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder only 2 days ago.

Before that, I’d spent the last 13 years believing that I was ‘just depressed’. That the things I was feeling and doing and saying and thinking were just part and parcel of having depression.

I wish I could fully express how glad I am to finally have the right diagnosis because I believe it so strongly now, and I understand so much about the things I’ve done in the past. The abuser I was in a relationship with what should have been the best thing to have ever happened to me. I miss you to this day, and I wish I wish I wish I could go to where you are and that you’d have me back and I could make everything better because I have a diagnosis now. I know that it wasn’t just me, it was me and the disorder.

I understand why I so desperately needed to leave. What was so important about travelling. It breaks my heart to understand that I had to get away because being functional, managing my days, my weeks, my hours, my minutes was hard. So fucking hard, and I can’t even begin to explain how and why. It’s easier to be out of touch with people than to have to explain yourself, to regulate your feelings and go through the agony of wondering whether they are your friend or not.

I understand now, why the slightest word, comment or joke felt like it was pushing me off a cliff and I wasn’t sure if it was a cliff that had rocks at the bottom and I was being told in not such a direct way that those people hated me… or whether there was going to be a huge warm bath of water at the bottom and somehow I’d been wrong all along.

I know now why I could never believe that people would be in my life forever. The constant fear that it would only take one thing for people to turn their backs on me, and I would lose everything about that person that I loved. That fear is so real, and now that I’ve been hunting around online I realise I’m not alone. That wasn’t just depression and paranoia but the BPD. I’d feel so guilty and untrusting of people who I knew in one breath would do anything for me, and in the next would ditch me like a banana peel.

Living away from that has been so liberating and yet so exhausting. My life has dissolved completely in front of me. I’ve gone from keeping a full-time job, managing the bills in the household, living every day like it was my last and enjoying the company of friends I knew and loved for this. I work in a hostel for my accommodation, and I can’t go to work because I’m so fucking anxious about which school I will be going to, never mind which teacher I’ll be working with. What type of person will they be? Will they have a sense of humour? What if they make a joke and I don’t understand it? What if their expectations of me are different? and what about the children? What if I can’t remember their names. People will think I’m dumb if I call out the wrong name to a child, and I’ve done it! I’ve been that person calling out to a child and using the wrong name. I’ve felt that sinking realisation that I am that person. I got it wrong and everyone is thinking about how stupid I am. That’s not that child’s name how dumb can you get? How stupid ARE you? What kind of teaching assistant are you?

It took me MONTHS to feel comfortable in a situation that I should have felt safe in. Three other adults, and four children I knew relatively well. I thought things were fine, and I know now why I was so freaked out. This disorder forces me to think the worst in every situation. It’s no wonder that every time someone wanted to talk to me that I thought the ground was going to collapse under me and everything I’d ever done would be for nothing. That all the years I dedicated to a school I loved would be erased, that all the friendships I thought I’d made there would be meaningless.

I wonder maybe if I left the UK for so long to test my theory. You know, if someone is gone for long enough will people forget?

I’m so consumed by this, and I never realised it until now. I never thought that I was suffering for a reason, I truly thought that I was naturally delusional and dysfunctional.  That the depression was just an added bonus.

I want so desperately to leave here. I want to be somewhere safe, but I’m so scared that I don’t know where that is. I want to be with my Mum. I want to be somewhere that I can pull the covers over my head and know that I’m safe. That it’s going to be okay even if I mess up a little.

I want to believe my friends when they offer to come round, when they say they miss me, I want so, so much that my head is hurting so hard right now, to believe. I don’t want to hate myself, I don’t want to have this self-loathing anymore, I don’t want to love the people I love, and then feel like I hate them the next minute. I want to be stable, I want to be normal, I want to live my life and laugh and be happy.

I want that so much

When things are steady

Yesterday was the busiest day for me in weeks, and I didn’t actually ‘accomplish’ anything that I’d set out for myself.

A friend from Brisbane was in the city, and along with two other mutual friends of ours from Melbourne, we spent the day together. Despite the huge amount of things on offer in Melbourne we ended up doing the very thing that I think Melbourne should probably be most famous for.

‘Brunch’ was an instant requirement. Melbourne Central has a really convenient food hall, so that was where we headed first. I think I’ve had food from most of the food establishments that have set up shop there, but I tried out Oporto. I try to avoid burgers, mostly because unless you go somewhere like Grill’d you have no choice but to have their wheat-full bread buns. I’m not a coeliac, but I’m intolerant and usually I pay for it for the rest of the day but it was a risk I took. (I think I’m paying for it now it’s ‘the next day’ actually, which is unusual, but I suppose that’s just how your body works sometimes.) I actually really enjoyed it, but I could have quite easily just done with the burger rather than the chips and drink I added. Why am I always hooked in by meal deals??

After that we went to look at the Little Library. There were far fewer books than normal, which made me wonder if the school holidays had anything to do with diminishing numbers of books. I wish there were an easy way to count how many books there are there… or maybe I ought to start a book counting project. I love numbers, but without a regular count it’s just figures without any pattern. (Still, it might be fun!)

After that we went for Froyo. This is easily one of my favourite things. I love the stuff, and even though I have the same thing every time (with the singular difference in what kind of yoghurt I choose) I still really enjoyed it. There’s something about strawberries and white chocolate chips that I really love, and despite trying to recreate this at home, there’s something about frozen yogurt that sets it apart from yoghurt out of the fridge. It’s a rather expensive habit, to be honest. I rarely manage to pay under A$10!

We debated for a long time what to do with the rest of our day. The weather wasn’t particularly awesome, and we were hoping to avoid anywhere that was terribly expensive. Walking was quickly knocked off our list of top-ten things to do after finding out what one of our number had kicked a thing and hurt her toe so we went to EB Games. This, was unfortunately, a disappointment. I love the Nintendo Experience in EB Games on Swanston St, mostly because it’s the only place I can get free wifi for my 3DS automatically, which means my gaming experience is vastly improved! We attempted to play on one of the Wii U units they had on display – but the two old Wii controllers severely lacked battery power and with no obvious method of recharging them we were left sitting around discussing the state of our friend’s food, whether one of our friends who was clearly incredibly tired was asleep or not, and occasionally talking about a few games we played and what we liked about them.

Inevitably, our stay didn’t last long.

In the hope of inspiration we took a trip on the Number 35 tram. It’s a free ‘circle’ tram that takes you right the way around the CBD in a loop. We spent a bit of time looking at the map whilst we were on our way and talking about which buildings were which and whether we ought to go to them. Most of the things we’d like to have done involved either a lot of walking, or breaking our vows to boycott certain places (Not naming any names, SeaWorld and MelbourneZoo. Sorry not Sorry.)

We ended up in a coffee shop on Flinders Street an hour later.

It was so nice to be able to spend an entire day with like minded friends, to talk about ridiculous things that we were all interested in, to debate the validity of every single chapter that possibly existed after Naruto 699. (It’s all fake. :\) To talk about games, and jobs, and careers and families with absolutely no pressure.

One of our number left us, and we were joined by a friend of mine that I’ve known for well over 13 years. The fact that I’d known him for 13 years was a point of discussion and two of my friends were quite happy to remind us both how old they’d been at the time we’d started talking. What amused me was the fact that I’d met them all through the same medium. Roleplaying online has been a hobby of mine for well over a decade, and I’m not sure when I’m going to give it up. It always, of course, relates back to writing so I can’t see me giving it up any time soon no matter how much I’ve tried in recent years.

Dinner was a joint affair, at a Japanese Restaurant attached to the QV building. I had ‘gyu don’ or beef with rice, and although it was nice, it was full of other things that weren’t rice and I didn’t REALLY enjoy it which made me sad, and also made me miss Wagamama’s back home.

My two friends from much, much earlier left us after dinner – leaving myself and one of my dearest friends to catch up after what must have been a month. It’s always so good to see him, and I’m going to hate it when I have to leave Australia. We chatted, caught up and he finally asked me about my mood.

I talked. Openly. He commented, honestly and I wish I could say that I found accepting his advice easy but it wasn’t. Again, the difference between knowing something intellectually and accepting it as relational to yourself is huge.

One of the biggest things that I feel I need to take away from my chat with him is that Depression is a valid illness. There are such huge differences in the way some people struggle and cope with depression, and I think that hearing about some people with depression who maintain a steady job, relationship and do all kinds of other things makes me feel like I’m a failure for not being able to manage it.

I was very easily able to understand what he was saying to me about trying to hunt for something else to label myself with. I have friends with bipolar and I know, without a doubt that I do not have it, but I questioned myself despite that. I’m terrible with money, and incredibly impulsive about the things I do, buy and say. This is often classed as a trait of bipolar, and an example I used with him yesterday but he suggested that perhaps that’s just a ‘normal’ trait of mine. He’s right, and I think that my impulsiveness goes hand in hand with my compassion. Just today I turned a corner in the local Coles and I saw a man who was bleeding. I didn’t stop to ask myself whether he was a danger, or who he was, or whether he was of sound state of mind – I just went over and instantly asked him if he was okay.

I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the person I am and I know I need to focus far more intensely on the things that I am, and what makes me, me. Rather than looking for something that I need to slot myself into. Yes, I’m impulsive, yes – I use instinct before I use knowledge and wisdom. Yes, I tend to look for the negative before I hunt for positives.

I’m Ollie, with depression. I will never not be.

There can never be too many cats.

This is one of the first cats I met on my travels.

She belongs to the awesome friends who housed me for just over a month before I left jolly old England back in October last year.

I was pretty pleased to find that a lot of the friends I’ve met along the way lived with animals of some kind. The cats were everywhere, especially.

It’s a short post – mostly perhaps to push my new youtube videos, but also because I suppose that’s something I really love about life at the moment. I’ve had so much time to stop and consider the wildlife around me. Not just the animals that my friends have, but the creatures I’ve come across along the way. It’s nice to have time to just stop when I want to and observe the mean seagulls continually stealing crackers or bread from each other, or watching parrots in trees, or staring at cows in the hope they might actually gather enough courage to come back over to the fence and say hi. They never did. :(

I’ve felt incredibly conflicted, especially during one leg of my journey up in the hunter valley where questionable things happened to the animals locally which is apparently a common thing up there. I’ve seen parrots in the wild, kangaroos, snakes! (Scary!), weird bugs, loads of puppies, cows, horses, sheep, cats galore, doglets that like to eat peas, stray cats, feral cats, cats that never seem to stop purring, cats that like boxes.

My general consensus on animals has really made itself solid to me. I’ve really begun to accept that they own the Earth just as much as we do. I’m upset by the things that happen to them, the attitudes of other people toward them, and I don’t care if people keep looking at me weird. I will always talk to the rats, cats, birds and bugs!

Bookcrossing, Take 2

I’ve been a member of BookCrossing since 2009. I haven’t used it very frequently since first discovering it, but I blame that on being holed up in a City that isn’t quite as progressive as the places I’ve ended up on my adventures.

The general idea that books are to be shared and passed along is a wonderful notion – bookcrossing isn’t the only initiative that I’ve come across to promote the sharing of books, and I mentioned in another post of my love for the ‘Little Library‘ here in Melbourne. It’s on the corner of La Trobe and Swanston and if you get the chance I highly recommend that you check it out. People drop books off there by the cart load.

The shelves are frequently changing as people move, take, and replace books they find there and every time I visit there is always something new worth taking a look at.

I’ve heard a few people question these initiatives. Doesn’t it damage the traffic in book shops? How are the authors of these books going to be affected because their books are freely available in places like this all over the world?

My own experience has been pretty detrimental to any idea that I might read books for ‘free’. Anyone who knows me is aware of this amazing book I discovered whilst on my first trip to Melbourne. ‘The Awakening‘ by Bevan McGuiness was one of those random finds. It pains me to admit, that the only reason I chose this book over the hundreds of others, was the fact that it had been clearly labelled as a ‘BookCrossing‘ book!

I later met the very man who had gone to trouble of labelling and ‘freeing’ it, and was amused to find out that he’d been given a stack of books from a friend and it was a part of that bundle. (Random chains of events like that are like candy to me! I love it.)

After I read this book I went on a wild goose chase across Melbourne in the pursuit of the next in the series. Every shop I went to told me that they didn’t have it in store, and the ones who stocked ‘new’ books told me they hadn’t had any copies of any of the trilogy in since 2008! It took me a while before I finally checked the last store on my list, and there I put down a payment for it’s deposit.

One book sold. Not just that, but a book that no one else seemed to have in stock. It’s got Bevan’s e-mail address typed out in the front pages and I’m sorely tempted to tell him about the brief saga, but I think it needs noting that had I not picked up The Awakening, I wouldn’t have even considered buying the second (and once I’ve finished it, I’m sure I’ll get the third.)

There’s something else about the Little Library that both amuses me, and frustrates my wallet.

The number of books I’ve come across and picked to read later which turn out to be, not the first in a series, but often the second or third. The Hunger Games is a popular series that I know I’ve ‘needed’ to read for quite a while now. Since being on the special look out for the first book in the series at the Little Library I’ve been teased horribly by not one, but two copies of Catching Fire. It’s a shame that I have to admit my ignorance of the series because at first I believed I had in my hands the first book in the series. :(

I also grabbed a book called ‘Shadow’s Lure‘ by Jon Sprunk, which is the second in a series, AND even more frustratingly came across A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond E Feist that I picked up because I’ve been told time and time again that I need to read something of his… to learn that it wasn’t the second, but THIRD title in a trilogy was most disappointing. It left me with an troublesome decision to make.

Do I hang onto the books and try not to feel guilty about holding them back from people who might need to have that next title in a series, whilst I buy the titles that I need and then release them together once I’m done? Or do I put them back, stare sadly at them and hope by some miracle they’re still there when I’ve bought and read the others?

Either way. I’m spending money I probably wouldn’t have spent on them, and in a lot of ways, supporting authors I very likely never would have considered before.

No matter which way I look at it, I’ll still try to promote bookcrossing, and the Little Library as best I can. I love the idea, I love the people I’ve met, and I love the books I’ve read. What could be better?

It’s been a while…

This post has been a long time coming, but I’ve tagged it as the 16th January as that’s the date I arrived.

It would be impossible for me to properly write about how much has happened since I’ve been here and how the job I’ve taken on as an au pair has changed my life.

I currently have four children in my care, and spend most of my life up in the house here in Timor. It’s beautiful, and I love it – but I spend a lot of time thinking.

Thinking is something I do in excess. It happens without me having to think about thinking about something. I’ve realised I stress too much over the smallest things and really need to keep learning how to ‘let it go’.

I also think I ought never to take another job as an au pair! As much as I’ve loved the experience, and absolutely adore and love the children I’ve come to know so well – this is not the right place for me. At least I can cross something off my potential jobs list. I have discovered a love of ironing, but only when there are no children about to demand they ‘help’ you.

I’ve learnt that I am partially in control of my moods. I can choose to be mean, and say no to a bunch of stuff, or I can be really nice and negotiate and have an awesome time. Unsurprisingly, children don’t like being told no. It’s been a fair few months and I’m still learning. Trying to undo whatever institutionalised thinking I’ve become used to and adopt a more open mind to things.

Soon, I will update about how awesome this place is, the landscape and the scenery and the lifestyle.

Today is not that day.