Angels and Demons

This week Charlotte Dawson committed suicide. She was a media personality, a celebrity. She also publicly acknowledged she suffered from depression.

For some reason trolls on social networking sites had been bullying her. I don’t understand bullying. Many people don’t understand depression.

But I do. I also suffer from depression and have most of my life. I started to feel like this aged about 12 or 13. Hormones, they said. Troubled teenager. Moody.

It is not that. You can’t pull yourself together when your brain is suffering a chemical imbalance or wonky wiring. No-one tells a diabetic to get over themselves, and have some sweets. They look out for them, watch for signs of insulin imbalance. Make sure meals are regular and medication handy.

People with depression often have to deal with all this themselves.

Depression is not just feeling down. Depression is feeling weighed down. All day. All night. It makes simple things so much harder. I still have a lot of trouble making simple decisions. In fact today I rang my husband from the supermarket so he could tell me what to buy for lunch. That decision was too hard for me today because I am tired and hungry.

I am well supported. My doctor is great. Through trial and error we have a medication plan which works as long as I take my one pill each day. To help me keep track of this I write the first letter of each day on each pill. This means I know at a glance whether I have taken it or not. My husband is also very supportive. He knows to ask the right questions if I start to feel down – he starts with the obvious ones. Have I run today? Have I eaten? He listens. And does not judge.

For many years they were the only people who officially knew. But recently I outed myself. Why not? it is not my fault that I suffer this. There may even be a genetic makeup as I suspect numerous members of my family, through my mother’s side, suffer or have suffered. It is just who I am.

It was just who Charlotte was too.

In discussing her death I have heard so many people ask why she went on the internet. Why she read what these trolls wrote about her and to her.

Charlotte probably had voices in her head. I know I do. I have learned to tell mine to fuck off. Thanks to three years of intensive counselling. But they are still there, whispering. I hear them.

I read a book on Sunday night. Jodie Picoult’s The Pact. Two teenagers appear to have had a double suicide pact but only Emily died. Chris is charged with first degree murder. This was their story. When Emily was nine she was molested by a man in the toilets at McDonalds. The whole episode probably took less than a minute. He rubbed his hands over her non-existent breasts and stuck his finger right up her vagina. A cheap thrill for him. A lifetime curse for her.

I was also sexually abused in a similar manner when I was 10. And again by a different person when I was 12. Both men, though in reality they were only older teenagers, probably don’t remember anything about it. I know I shoved it into a dark recess of my brain. But things don’t stay hidden. They have a habit of jumping out and scaring you when you least expect it.

At a time when I was coming to terms with the changes a child goes through as he or she begins the journey to adulthood, two innocent invitations to come and see what someone has in their treehouse or tent leads me to being an adult who is still very wary of physical contact. Both these lads were well known to me and I trusted them. I probably looked up them. They returned my hero worship by abusing my body and my trust.

And their legacy is voices in my head. Useless. No-one wants you. No-one likes you. Can’t do anything. What’s the point.

Jodie Picoult’s Emily had these voices in her head. She silenced them with a gun.
Charlotte Dawson had voices in her head. And also on her computer. She silenced them on Saturday.

My voices are still there. I am not listening to them today. But I never know when they too will get too loud for me to cope with.

Depression

Sexual abuse of children

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Friends or Foe

Friends.

What is a friend? What makes a friend more than an acquaintance, or a colleague, peer, clubmate?

Why do some friends last the distance, across physical distance, through the years? And other friendships just don’t.

And what about this latest phenomenon of Facebook friends.

Recently I have been reading FB status updates from “friends”. Some of these friends are real life friends. The people I see often, engage in actual not just virtual conversations. Others I share a bond. We went to school together. We share five years or so of memories of green kilts and felt hats, of latin names, of school singing with Miss Kerr, of roasting our legs with baby oil at lunchtime.

Other friends are people I have connected with through running and my children. Or workmates from days gone by.

But a lot of my “friends” I have never physically met. We met through an online forum for people who had run or were about to run the Boston marathon. I joined this forum in 2009, just after I had entered the 2010 race. This forum was great. Through them I learned so much about the marathon. We had two FEs (forum encounters) to meet these virtual friends. This was great for me as it meant I was not alone in Boston, and I had people to share the experience with.

After the marathon I continued on with the forum. I continued to learn so much more about running. I changed my training and improved dramatically. I owe such a lot to you guys. Over time we left the forum and joined FB, creating a private group.

But it was hard being part of a group who had so much more in common with each other than I would ever have. Other members regularly meet up at other running events and via business trips. Not many call in to New Zealand as they pass by! I withdrew myself from this group late last year. Mostly because the talk was about another big Boston reunion this coming April. I felt like a wallflower.

But I am still “friends” with a lot of them.

I had been thinking I might weed out a few people with whom I had never had a personal connection. Unfriend them. Such a horrible term.

My personal self-worth does not need to be measured by the number of FB friends I have. I like to think quality comes before quantity. I feel I am a good friend to my real-life, real-time friends. I even try (but am not always successful) to be friends with my family – excluding my children. I will always be their mother first and foremost!

One click of the button and a person doesn’t even know they have been unfriended. My finger has hovered over this button so often. Do the world’s leaders ever hesitate like this as they hover over a similar button to drop a bomb? Because that is what it feels like to me. The fallout could be massive and I would be oblivious.

Yesterday a New Zealand public figure decided the fallout from her online presence was too much. She took her own life.

Digital dumping. It really is a big fat middle finger.

And I just can’t do it.

And if anyone feels they no longer want to hear about the inane ramblings of the sometimes insane, please have the decency to tell me before you just click on that button.

Wow for a Working Girl!

One question which people often ask is what would be your dream job? I had my dream job. I worked as a trainer in an inclusive gym which was set up to assist people with physical disabilities achieve their health and fitness goals. It was also open to the community, and so people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities (or lack of) worked out together. I loved it. It was rewarding in all aspects. And the future looked bright.

Until one night I had a phone call to say the building had been deemed unsafe and was red-stickered immediately – which meant no access at all, except to retrieve important personal belongings. This was a bolt out of the blue as we had been using the facility through all the earthquake period, for more than 18 months.

I was immediately out of work. That was May 2012. Since then I have worked as a part-time casual relief trainer for a city council facility. It seemed impossible for me to get permanent hours as I stated all along I was not willing to work weekends. I would happily cover occasionally, but I did not want a permanent weekend shift.

It was disheartening. Plus I have to admit the pay was ludicrous. Both my children were being paid much more than me.

My goal for this year was to find work. A friend suggested I formalise my computer skills with a free course which would give me the necessary qualification to prove my ability. It is a self based learning programme and I am racing through the papers, loving it all. Computer geek alert!! She also said to treat the application process like a bit of a game, a challenge. I used two online job seeker sites, searching for both administration work and positions in the health and fitness industry.

I created a spreadsheet to keep track of them all. Each morning I would receive email notifications of possible positions. I would shortlist those I was interested in and on Friday afternoon I would sit down with the PC and the iPad and apply to them all. Twelve applications so far. Three flat out nos. Two interviews. Five still haven’t “closed”. One job offer today.

Both my interviews were absolutely perfect and I am sure that I would have been offered the other position today. The clincher in the interview for this position is the husband and wife team for who I will be working with are Totaranui people. I knew then I was in!

I am thrilled. For so many reasons. But mainly some job security. The ability to plan ahead knowing what my income projection will be, knowing what hours I will be working. Plus wearing colour, and what I want, not a uniform of black tee shirt and black shorts or trackpants.

I am also thrilled that my admin skill base was still relevant enough to compete with applicants with more current experience. I have not worked in an office since 1997, a brief stint between Jonny and Robbie.

So big wow. A wonderful start to the weekend. Looking forward to Monday 4 March for my first day. Also looking forward to maybe buying some real clothes!!

Mad dogs, Englishmen, and Runners!

Today was hot. The temperature peaked at 32degrees celsius. For once even our house was uncomfortably hot. Usually the stone keeps it cool.

Today was the perfect day to be a swimmer. Not a runner.

But I am a runner. And tonight I had a race.

Of course, I could have followed my son’s advice, “It’s too hot to run, mum. Lie here with book.”

But I am a runner. And tonight I raced.

It was my first short race (8k) since September or October. I have been feeling ambivalent about my training recently. Just last week I met with my coach to re-evaluate where I am at, what I am doing and most importantly, how I am feeling.

We decided I needed the race practice but I was not to wear a watch.

I like races. We all know each other and there is a lot of banter before hand, and inter-club rivalry. I had not done the lead-in series to this race because of work commitments so a fair amount of the warm-up involved catching up with others.

It was hot. I doused my head, neck and shoulders with water, drenched my cap and cooled my wrists under cold water.

Time to go. My plan was to run by feel.

I felt strong and by the first kilometre was neck and neck with a club mate, who doesn’t like me to beat him. But I left him looking at my arse on the first hill and he never caught me again. I passed another woman and that put me in fourth overall but the next woman was only about 100m ahead. I felt I might be able to catch her.

I didn’t. I pushed through to the end, having a tussle with another man in the last couple of ks and eventually we crossed the line together. I finished fourth overall woman – no age groups here – in 34 minutes even.

When I came home my husband and kids asked me where I placed. “Why didn’t you win,” they teased me. And then my husband asked me if I was happy with my result. The perfect question to ask anyone.

I replied, “Yes.”

Not just because I didn’t barf at the end though it was an option! Or that I did a PB even if only because I had never raced that distance. I was pleased because after all the months of struggling with speed work and feeling I was not improving, I could still pull out the stops on a stinking hot night.

All you need is love

Today is Valentine’s Day. The day of love.

What bollocks!

Every day should be a day of love.

Growing up in New Zealand, Valentine’s Day was something I read about or saw on TV. It was part of a culture quite different to mine, one which included Halloween, Thanksgiving, cheerleaders, proms and drive-in movies.

I also read a lot of English books and was just as intrigued with boarding school, lacrosse and smugglers. (OK, I read a lot of Enid Blyton.)

Somehow with the globalisation of the world these figments of my childhood literary world have invaded my actual adult world. I even saw school girls playing lacrosse in Hagley Park on Wednesday.

Valentine’s Day. Roses. Chocolates. Cards. Gifts. Dinners and special dates. The pressure is on.

It is Friday. In our family Friday are fragile. Everyone is a little frazzled. Tempers are frayed. Fights frequent.

But we know this and try to avoid any extra pressure.

Juliet teaches dance class and then babysits or goes out, or else goes to bed early. Jonny usually has indoor soccer and dines royally at Burger King. Robert goes into cyberspace and does not notice anything else outside of that world.

Often Andrew will come home and offer to take me out for a meal as neither of us feel like cooking. It will be cheap. Sometimes so cheap it involves a trip to the supermarket deli and then parking up by a river or the sea. It doesn’t actually matter. What is important is the time we have alone to talk about stuff – big stuff, little stuff, silly stuff. That’s what keeps the love evolving.

I like getting flowers. And presents. I like being romanced and treated like I am special.

But I like it more when it just happens. Not because of some declared day.

And when Juliet says I can share her pot of coffee, or Robbie pats me on my head as he walks past. Jonny puts selfies all over my phone and Andrew offers to bring me tea if I am working late at work.

That is love.

The cat nuzzling me all night, kneading my shoulder, purring loudly on my chest? Not love! Hunger! The cats need to give me flowers and chocolates today!

So this Valentine’s Day will be like any other Friday. If we can get through it without falling out – that will be fine. That is all I need.

Wows on a Wednesday

What do a wooden chopping board, popping a red balloon and running in the rain all have to do with each other?

They all made me stop and say Wow!

Yesterday morning and this morning I have been attending a summer school workshop, Woodwork for Women. We were tasked with making either a wooden tray or a laminated chopping board. I have lots of trays but needed a new chopping board. On Monday I went shopping at the local hardware store and played the dumb card. Worse I was wearing running gear, pink running gear. I walked out with 10 pieces of pine cut to approximately the right length.

Yesterday I glued the pine together with strips of rimu for contrast. While the block of glued wood dried in the sash clamps (I learned the lingo) I used the band saw to make a couple of wooden spatulas out of scrap rimu. Then a big belt sander to smooth the spatula surfaces, round the edges and sharpen the point of one.

Today I scrapped the excess glue off the now dry block, and then ran it through a ginormous plane until it was all the same height and then through the table saw to make it rectangular – the rimu had been different sizes. Then remembering some basic geometry skills and using a compass I drew rounded corners. Back to the band saw.

It was looking good.

I sanded the edges with a block and sandpaper, and then ran the board round a router to give it a rounded edge, and also some little end handles.

Finally an orbital sander until it was smooth along the flat surfaces. A wee touch up with the sandpaper. And she was done.

At home I oiled everything a couple of times, just using ordinary olive oil. OMG. The board looks beautiful. I just want to show it off to everyone.

Of course my kids think it is weird. But then everything old people do is weird. I think it worthy of a Wow. Wow for woodwork!! And DIY!!

After lunch I went to the optometrist. Ka-ching! They see me coming and know they are going to get a big sale. I dread the bill. It is always horrendous and I always need new glasses at totally the wrong time financially. I was due for new ones before Christmas but was hoping to hang out another six weeks or so. But I am so tough on my specs. I am always surprised when I last two years without standing on them, losing them, or driving over them. Last week I stuffed them in my backpack and ran to a course. By the time I arrived my keys had abraded the right lens. Bugger!

So I did the whole eye test thing. One test I never need to stress about because you don’t ever “fail” or get a question wrong. I need progressive lenses. Ka-ching! Had I thought about upgrading to the tougher quality ones? Ka-ching ka-ching! But before I chose my frames I got to pick a ballon and pop it for a surprise gift. I was surprised. Really pleasantly surprised. My balloon was holding a voucher for $200. Oh wow! This makes the difference between ordinary frames and really nice frames. Yeah. Wow number two.

Wednesday is running night. Drills with the running club. Though in an effort to recruit more members we were trying a new initiative, bombing window screens at a recent 5k series advertising six sessions of Running 101 – learn how to run, and how to run better, more efficiently and avoid injury. My co-captain and I were leading it. Weeks had gone into the planning. We had practiced the sessions, written handouts, learned how to video and critique running styles with a fancy ap.

We had no idea who, if anyone would turn up.

The session was due to start at 7pm.

At 6pm it started to rain. Pour. Teem.

Bugger.

But lo and behold three hardy souls turned up, from our flyers. We took them through their paces, literally. They seemed to enjoy it, and learn something new. And hopefully next week it will be summer again, and more will turn up. It was a great start. Another Wow.

So three cheers for three wows!

I am tired after my big exciting day.

I could do that, yeah right!

Each week at work we have a COW, a Challenge of the Week. The trainers devise them, and are supposed to do it themselves first. It is non-competitive (in the words of a Tui ad, yeah right!). Each “competitor” puts their name and achievement on the board. It encourages community and interest.

This week the challenge is a prone hold, or plank. As many as you can do, rotating from front to left to front to right. Holding each position for five seconds. Each position counts as one rep.

When I came to work today only one name was on the board. Anaru had done 74.

Now we have a second name. Yee.

Yee is a quiet young man, one of our regulars. He keeps himself to himself, locked in his private world of Samsung and headphones. He gently approached the counter and asked me to supervise his effort. No worries.

It is quite hard counting a rotating body and not lose count. Luckily I worked out a full rotation took 20 seconds, or three every minute. Yee had his Samsung set up beside him on a stopwatch, so he could perfectly time his five second rotations. I set myself up on an exercise bike and prepared to count and say encouraging motivational things for the next five minutes or so. Yeah, right!

I hate prone holds, and most other isometric exercises. My brain starts telling me they are stupid, I am stupid, everything is stupid. Let’s stop. NOW.

I don’t know what Yee’s internal dialogue was but it sure as hell worked for him.

Forty-five minutes, yes, minutes, later he was done. Five hundred and forty rotations.

I am happy with 45 seconds.

Yee, I am in wow of your feat. Just bloody awesome. Wow.