Thursday, October 25, 2012

What it feels like to be broken

I have been a bit quiet on here (or at least it seems to me that I have as I haven't been checking the stats everyday or drafting up new post ideas). There is a reason. I have been dealing with some news in my real life and its been taking over all my emotional energy and draining my desire to write about anything else. It has been all encompassing and yet I have been too scared to share it on here. I am starting to feel ok with it or at least accept it so I guess it is time I release the news into a public forum. More-so for myself so that I don't get buried under the weight my mind is putting on myself by going over and over and over it in my head. It seems appropriate and somewhat ironic that today is all about I heart my body and yet the whole reason for my emotional turmoil is because of my body, and the last thing I feel at the moment is love for it.

I was officially diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) recently. For those of you sitting at home wondering what the hell I'm talking about, you can read more about it here (so that I don't have to go through all the symptoms myself). It has been both a relief as such and a curse. It was not a shock, I have suspected it for years since I had fertility problems in the past. It is reassuring (in a strange, twisted way) to know that there is a reason why a lot of things have been and also haven't been happening for me. It is nice to know that I am not imagining or making up all of the symptoms I was experiencing. Everybody used to tell me to just relax when I was trying to get pregnant (FYI worst advice you can give someone who's ttc) and that it wasn't my fault. I started to think I was crazy. That there wasn't actually anything wrong and that I was just looking for excuses as to why nothing was happening. Then, when my marriage broke up everyone was consoling me with "it was all him it has nothing to do with you", "you will be able to have a baby it was just the stress of the relationship". As naive as it sounds I hoped that they were right, but on a subconscious level I knew it was me. I knew this pain would continue. And I was right, but not in a good way like where you want to go running back at people and throw "I told you so" in their faces.

I am having huge issues with my body right now. I have never really had a healthy positive relationship with my body thanks to years of low self esteem and then being told how crap I was by so many people. Then, when I had infertility issues my self loathing deepened. Now, its at a whole new level. I used to think that my body was against me by not letting me get pregnant. Like everybody else could just decide they wanted to get pregnant and their body would follow suit and do what it needed to do to reach the common goal. I have always felt like my body hated me and wanted to punish me, but deep down I knew that was crazy. Now I feel completely disconnected from my body. I feel like my brain and my soul are trapped inside this vessel that is doing everything in its power to work against me and against my dreams. I know that it could be a lot worse and that there are a lot worse diseases, conditions and injuries out there. I am thankful that I don't have anything worse but to me at this point in my life it is one of the worst things that could happen to me as a woman.

PCOS makes me feel really alone. Its not something people want to talk about and its not something that people can easily relate to. I think that I must have got it genetically (as I don't have the usual lifestyle factors) which makes it even harder as nobody else in my family, that I know of, has it. Nobody understands. It makes it even harder to sit here and wonder why me? Why did I have to be the one to get this? Why, when I always thought I was born to be a mother, was I essentially born with a syndrome that causes the exact opposite? It's not fair. But, it is what it is and I just have to deal with it. I have met some wonderful people online in support groups (and of course T is nothing short of amazingly supportive as usual) and without them I know I would be in a much darker place right now. I am so grateful for the relationships I have made with complete strangers and the fact that together we can help each other through this.


Thanks to Mel for this awesome banner

There is no cure. I will never be "normal" not that I ever feel like I have been. The good news is that I can fight it in order to hopefully have kids in the future. I fully intend on fighting it, and succeeding. That is the small light in a somewhat dark tunnel. I have hope that one day sometime in the future, however far away from now, that I will infact be a mother. I will have children. I will never beat this fully, but I will not let it beat me. It doesn't lessen the emotional pain that I am feeling now, but I know it will make me appreciate it much more when I do have children.

The part that scares me the most is the fact that my cysts could turn into cancer. I feel like there are these little time-bombs ticking away inside me and I never know when I'm going to piss one off and it will turn into cancer to get back at me. Before I just imagined I might have cysts, but now that I have seen them on a screen in front of me (and there are many) its hard to forget that they are there. It bothers me more-so because the same year my father died the lady two doors down (my friends mum) also died from cancer (from similar causes to PCOS). She was only young and she got very sick. I can reconcile the fact that my father died young because it was of his choosing, but the fact that she died so young, from cancer and she didn't have any choice in it never really sat well with me. Now it really scares me.

I am trying not to let myself go there though, because the thought is too scary. I am trying to imagine the future with me and T and everything that we ever wanted. I mean seriously I think by now I deserve a break. If ever there is a reason for me to live in the moment and not worry about the future this is it, so that is what I am going to try really hard to do.



Toni x
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

They made me love writing

Many people have been mentioning to me lately that I write quite well. Firstly, thanks! Trying not to sound up myself here, but it does make me happy to hear people say that. Like all the time I spend writing these posts is most definitely worth it. I also have to give some of the credit to my high school English teachers, without them I probably wouldn't have as much of an interest in writing as I do now. It's funny because at the time I had no idea how much those classes would have an affect on my life.




My first English teacher Mrs Cameron really is the reason why I developed such an over analysing mind, I think. Or at least she gave me an outlet for it. In grade 9 I was introduced to "critical literature", in other words a way to analyse everything that you're viewing, reading, hearing; to work out what the underlying message is. I have never been able to just sit and watch a movie since. I'm always trying to work out why they used certain colours, props, scenes, music and what it's meant to mean. It's quite annoying, maybe this is why I can never just sit and relax, I always have to be trying to work out why everything is happening.

While I'm grateful for being introduced to the crit lit way of thinking, Mrs Cameron and me didn't really get along that well. In grade 10 she accused me of cheating on a short story assessment. She walked me outside the classroom and told me that I obviously had my parents write the story for me because it was too good. Apart from being offensive, I found that mildly hilarious. A: my dad was not even alive (she didn't know that) and B: my mum never finished high school let alone had any interest in writing. I never got good marks in her class. I think the highest I ever got was a B and that was rare, which is odd considering I was supposedly cheating because my work was too good. And yet not good enough to get good marks. Makes total sense right? Anyway, in grade 12 they had to split her class up and she had to pick 3 students to move to another English class. Not surprisingly, she picked me. I didn't care, in fact I was so thankful to get out of her class by then. I moved to Mr Huth's class and that's when I really started to love English and writing even more.

Mr Huth was awesome! He actually cared about his students and helping them. He also made his classes fun. I went from an average student in Mrs Cameron's class to the top of the class with Mr Huth (and I never changed the amount of effort I put into my work). Go figure. In that year we were asked to do another short story, this time about an important time in our life. I wrote about my dad, for the first time ever. I wrote about walking through the funeral parlour when we went to see him after he had died (yes I saw him dead) and included flash backs to my last few memories before he died. I never admitted to most of the people at my school that my dad had died and the teachers didn't really know either. Writing that story was a big step for me, but it was one of the strongest memories I had and one that I thought I could write about in detail. I also never wanted to forget it. I found out after the assessment that Mr Huth took my story home and got his wife to read it as well. Apparently they were both in tears it touched them that much. I got an A+ for that story.

I am so glad that I was moved to that English class. Mr Huth made me believe in myself and my abilities. He gave me the courage to open up and tell my story. He made me feel like it mattered. He cemented my love for writing. Writing has been such a huge constant in my life since then. I want to tell my story. I want others to learn from my story, but most of all I want to make it matter by telling it. To give a reason to why I went through all these hard times and heartache. I guess it was a combination of Mrs Cameron's critical literature and Mr Huth's encouragement that got me to where I am today, and I will be forever grateful to them for that.




Toni xx

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Have you lived with mental illness?

Do you know what it's like to live with a mental illness or someone who has one? There are a lot more people doing it than you realise, it's just that nobody really talks about it. Like I've said before the social norm is that mental illness or mental health issues are not normal, that the people who have them are weird and that they should be hidden away so that society does not judge you.  

Today is Mental Health Awareness Day and much like R.U.OK? Day it's all about raising awareness of mental health issues and encouraging people to openly discuss them in order to remove the stigma and promote prevention and the treatment options available. I have discussed what it was like when my dad committed suicide, now I want to let you know what it was like after that.

I was not really aware of my dad's issues until after he had already committed suicide and I am only discovering more about them now as an adult through my quest to discover who he really was as a person. My mum's issues however became very apparent when I was a child and were a direct result of my dad's suicide. After he died she had a mental breakdown. I don't really blame her I mean I can't imagine what I would be like if my husband died, let alone killed himself and then I was facing the world as a single mother and a widower. I'm pretty sure I would have a breakdown too of some degree. She had a big one. Nearly to the point of hospitalisation and I believe she still to this day has to take pills for it as she can't function properly without them.

She became like a child in a sense. She had immense anxiety and couldn't function properly at first. She couldn't leave the house, she was too scared. I remember so many times she was in tears because she was too scared to do something. She lost a lot of weight - I think it was something like 10kg in a week or so. I remember she spent a lot of time in her room. We didn't go anywhere except school and her friends would drive us there because she was too scared to drive the car. She didn't have a job for a long time because she just couldn't go out and be around people. It probably sounds strange when you're reading this (it even does a little to me), but it just became normal.

It kind of happened overnight, but it just seemed like a natural progression to me. And so for a few years I traded places with her. I took on the role of the parent because in my mind I had to take care of her and my brother because if I didn't, who would? I'm not even sure if she knew that was happening. I started cooking the majority of the food. I remember doing washing, collecting the mail and I'm pretty sure I even knew when all the household bills had to be paid. Every time I would talk to her I would first think is this going to make her have a panic attack? I put aside my own grieving for my dad in order to focus on getting her better and making sure my brother didn't flip out altogether. I had to be the strong one because everything and everyone else around me was falling apart. I had to hold the family together because I knew if anything happened to either of them as well I wouldn't cope. I lost my childhood. I grew up way too fast and had to deal with issues that children of that age should not even know exist let alone have to live through. It's ok though, I wouldn't really change it. Partially because I don't know anything different and because it moulded me into the empathetic and understanding person I am today. People who have not dealt with mental illness can easily put it in the too hard basket, but when it becomes your life you have no choice but to accept it, deal with it and work through it.

Nobody (apart from our family) knew what was going on at home. Nobody knew what was going on in my head either. My mum and brother went to psychologists for their depression, grief, anxiety etc and I didn't. Because I was the strong one. I couldn't show what I was feeling because they wouldn't have been able to handle my issues on top of their own. Besides nobody ever questioned what I was going through because I was so good at hiding it and so nobody ever really asked me. I kind of wish someone had asked me how I was doing or at least encouraged me to have a discussion about it so that I could have worked through my issues earlier.

If you know someone who is dealing with a loss, going through a tough time or is acting out of sorts please at least ask if you can help. Or if you notice someone who is withdrawing, being quiet and not being as social as they normally would please try to get them to talk to you or at least let them know you are there if they need you. Knowing someone is there to listen and to help is a huge support to someone who is suffering. Even if you can't actually help, knowing that you want to help is huge.




Toni x

P.S. My mum got back on her feet thanks to the help of professionals, family, friends and neighbours.


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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Turns out, I'm not all that into 50 Shades of Grey



If you really like a book you should want to read it all the time, get lost in it for hours and never want to put it down. Put off doing household cleaning etc just so you can spend more time reading it. Right? At least that has been my experience in the past (despite the fact I hardly read books).

So, the fact that it has taken me nearly three months and I'm not quite finished the first 50 Shades of Grey book is a really obvious sign that I'm just not that into it.


MY EXPERIENCE READING 50 SHADES OF GREY

I started out reading with the best intentions that I would like it, honestly. All I was told was that it was about this relationship between a guy and a girl and that there was a lot of sex, and there was a contract involved. The book was supposedly saving marriages it was that good. And really, who doesn't want to read a book that contains a lot of sex? Don't look at me with judging eyes I know that's why people secretly read Mills and Boon books. So, off I went to read the book expecting a love story with a twist, peppered with a fair bit of sex.

Contrary to a lot of other people, I did not fall in love with the book at all. In fact it was actually quite hard for me to read some chapters. I literally forced myself to read through a few of the pages whilst my subconscious was screaming at me to put it down and back away because it was stirring up a lot of old emotions. Really bad emotions. This book took me back to where I was a few years ago, with low self esteem and stuck trying to please someone who wanted nothing more than to control me and treat me like a possession. I seriously don't see how someone could be turned on by a person who asks you to sign a contract in order to be with them, and not even in the context of an actual relationship..? I guess my new-found independent subconscious is ruling my thoughts on this one. Yes I did like the constant struggle between Ana's subconscious and inner goddess - it was the only part of the book I did like because it gave a real, deeper insight into Ana's actual personality.

Before all you haters get up on your high horse and start telling me that the book has nothing to do with abuse etc this is simply how it made me feel based on my past circumstances. The main issues I have with it are the fact that Ana clearly has low self esteem and Christian's incessant need to control her. Case in point:

"I have rules, and I want you to comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don't  I shall punish you, and you will learn."

"I like the control it gives me, Anastasia. I want you to behave in a particular way, and if you don't  I shall punish you and you will learn to behave the way I desire. I enjoy punishing you."

If anyone ever straight forward told me I had to follow their rules in order to get a reward I would respond with 'I'm sorry, I'm not a dog I don't do tricks for a treat'. Actually firstly I would say you can take your rules and shove them up....

As far as learning to behave the way he desires is concerned, this to me is bordering on emotional abuse (in the way that I have experienced it). You should not set out to change a person to suit you. If you don't like the way a person is in the beginning then move on. End of story. Nobody should ever feel like they are superior and have the ability, or the right, to mould someone's behaviour, for their own benefit. This is not 50 shades of grey, this is 50 shades of narcissism, plain and simple.




And the punishment aspect, well! Seriously, would any self respecting woman lay down to be spanked because they broke the rules?! I get the sexual aspect of it, but I for one would not be able to turn off my brain and lay there and allow myself to be treated with such disrespect because he thought I needed to be punished. Certainly not by choice and most definitely not these days. On a few occasions of varying circumstances (none in a sexual way) my ex husband hit me, I guess to punish me (once for saying I loved one of my gay male friends). Being hit by a man, especially one you are supposed to be in a relationship with (no matter what type of relationship) is humiliating and makes you feel violated. At least E L James somewhat acknowledged this in the book.

"this evening, he actually hit me. I've never been hit in my life. What have I gotten myself into? Very slowly, my tears begin to slide down the side of my face and into my ears. I have fallen for someone who's so emotionally shut down, I will only get hurt - deep down I know this - someone who by his own admission is completely fucked up."

At this point I thought good she's coming to her senses. If she isn't going to end the relationship she will at least stand up for her rights and demand to be treated as equal. Obviously, I also knew there was no way this was going to happen, otherwise there would be no need for two more books. So this is pretty much the point where I completely lost interest in the book and decided to let it sit quietly on the shelf and gather dust.


MY OVERALL OPINION ON 50 SHADES OF GREY

Here's the thing, if you're a bored housewife with a lacking sex life then yes you will probably like the book if not for anything other than the 'exciting' sex. By exciting I mean different to the norm. I don't mean to patronise housewives, I am merely generalising for the sake of keeping succinct. I think people are drawn to the whole fantasy of a rich, good looking man coming along and wanting you so much that he wants you all to himself. Most women want someone to want them so much that they make you the centre of their universe. And, if he's rich, good looking and has a high libido then even better. But, if you strip away the money and the good looks then you just have an egocentric narcissist who happens to be into BDSM trying to control everything you do purely for his own benefit. Doesn't sound so appealing now does it? That's where I'm seeing it from.

I fear this book gives women extremely unrealistic expectations. It shows the fantasy side of BDSM in a very glorified way (I mean how many of the guys that do this are actually going to be rich and attractive?). I think the reality would be very different (not that I ever actually want to find out). I also think it exploits Ana's low self esteem which really irritates me. I guess that is a necessary element (its not like Kate would ever agree to this contractual arrangement - for those of you playing at home who have read the book). Although, I think I would have fewer issues with the book if it was someone more experienced with higher self esteem going into it as it would feel a lot less manipulative. And really, how is someone who is so inexperienced going to fall so "in love" with someone after just 3 weeks that they get to the point where they actually contemplate (let alone agree to) doing any of these things?

The book does bring up quite a few interesting aspects though:

1. We as women tend to fundamentally want to fix everything that is broken (including people)
2. Women do tend to like the "bad guys" or at least the guys they know aren't right for them
4. Low self esteem does tend to lead us to make bad decisions

All very good topics for future posts.

But for now, if you have relatively good self esteem, you like to read books for their literary value and you're not the slightest bit interested in BDSM (or you already have a relatively satisfying sex life) then this book is so not for you. I'm quite happy to leave it sitting on the shelf and go ahead living my emotionally fulfilling, equal, non BDSM relationship for now.



If E L James does ever write the rumoured 4th book from Christian's perspective, I would be a lot more interested in reading that one. Purely because I love psycho analysing and it would be interesting to find out exactly why a narcissist came to be that way.

Toni x


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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

September was full of happiness

Well September has been and gone and it was well and truly full of happiness from all the photos shared on the event page. Thanks to everyone who participated. Thanks for being a part of my photo experiment and thanks for sharing with all of us! Hopefully this made everyone stop and think about being happy at least for a little while each day. I know I spent most of each day paying attention to all the things that were making me happy no matter how big or small, just so that I would remember to take a photo!

I noticed from all the pics that were shared that there are five main parts of life that make us happy - people, places, animals, food and stuff!


People


People make us happy for obvious reasons. Its human nature to want to be accepted, to share and to be involved. Interacting with other people (friends, family, co-workers) fulfills all of these things and you cant help but be happy.




Places


There are so many beautiful places all around us if you stop and look. Nature was definitely a big source of happiness during September. The colours, the smells, the beauty of it all. It just makes you want to smile and be grateful for being able to enjoy it.





Animals


Animals are a continuous source of joy and happiness whether they are pets or wild. There are many reasons my animals make me happy - the look on their faces, the funny mannerisms they have and the fact that they love me back. A glimpse of a wild animal is just as exciting.





Food


Who doesn't love food?! Just the thought of it makes me happy, no wonder why it featured so much in the photos. I'm salivating just looking at them again....




Stuff


Finally, stuff. I know were not meant to measure ourselves by possessions and all that, but sometimes stuff just makes you happy - however frivolous it is. A good book, your favourite outfit, some nice jewellery. They are all simple sources of happiness and enjoyment.





These are only a few of the gorgeous, fun, amazing photos that were shared. To see all of them check out the photos tab on my facebook page.

I hope they bring you as many smiles as they brought me.



If anyone has any other ideas for photo projects or would like to do this again another month let me know.

Toni xx

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