You see, the funny thing about depression is…

First off, let me just start off by saying there is nothing funny (in the comical sense) about depression, and the effect it can have on people. It can be so severe, so crippling, that some people can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and are so engulfed in the darkness that they make life altering, even life-ending decisions. Although it is improving, there is still such a stigma around mental illness in our society which is not conducive to helping those in need when they need it. The stigma needs to end so those affected feel supported when reaching out, or even as friends, family or colleagues, being aware of signs of depression so you can say, upfront, to someone “hey look, I’ve noticed [this] and [this] about you which are signs of depression… what can I do to help?” So, to that end;

I’d heard the ‘post O.E. blues’ mentioned before. I heard people casually drop in to discussion that they “struggled” upon moving back to Aotearoa after years living amazing lifestyles in incredible European cities. Heck, even as close as moving back from Australia.
But what I didn’t realise was that “struggled,” in a lot of cases, meant depression. I heard phrases like “I’m trying to get back to NZ life…” or “It took us a while to get used to being back,” “It took a loooooong time to come right once we moved back. About… two years I reckon.” But that was about it. A mention of difference in lifestyle but no mention of mental health.

So, a confession. Before I left, I naively thought that one could return from their O.E. (‘Overseas Experience’, an NZ/Australian ‘right of passage’) changed, of course, perhaps more ‘worldly’, but relatively similar to how one was before they left. That, and that you’d slot straight back in to the kiwi lifestyle.

Haha. Good one past Sarah.

Well, here I am, 6 months post arriving back in the country and still, the ‘dirty creature’s got me at a disadvantage from the inside‘. For the most part, depression is so incredibly lonely. But, you see, the funny thing about depression is, sometimes, when you’re in the depths of it you just have to laugh at yourself.

Or, I am, at least.

The first few months once you’ve returned back you manage to avoid the blues… kind of. Granted, when I finally got off that last plane, in to the terminal and in the arms of my awaiting Mama I did fully breakdown. I was emotional, tired, full-on ugly crying, heaving and just wanting to take my bloody boots off. But, you’re home. You’re catching up with friends and family, seeing old things, seeing new things, eating comfort foods of your past, trying new foods that have arrived since you left. It’s all a bit overwhelming. Your mind is occupied with all the going-ons so it doesn’t have the time to slow down and start playing tricks on you.

And then all of that settles down, and you’re left to your own devices.

Tim Finn was completely on-point when he wrote Dirty Creature; “Sneaking up from behind, binds my gags and wit, Dirty Creature’s got my head exactly where he wants it.” 

Honestly, I didn’t see it coming.
I had never suffered from depression before and I’d always been careful not to use the word in a sentence to insinuate that something was “depressing” because I had no experience of it. But slowly I started to feel more and more like a zombie. I was my usual all-singing, all-dancing bouncy self in the classroom. Outside of it however, nothing.
It’s so bizzare, that feeling of nothing. That’s how it started. Slowly I stopped feeling what felt like, anything. Anything positive at least. I wasn’t chirpy, and most of all, *gasp*, I wasn’t cheeky… the absolute essence of my soul!

I walked around with what I thought was a look of ‘nothing-ness’ on my face, and I couldn’t change it. My colleagues noticed. So many of them reached out and said something, or asked if I was ok. And I answered honestly ‘Not really…’ Because when you’re in the grips of it, you need to be honest. There’s something about knowing that someone (or in my case, many people!) has got your back, that they’re there for you and they notice you’re not ok, and let you know. It feels like a safety net; like you’re not in this alone, there’s people who’ve got your back and they’re going to help you fight this! And all you fabulous folk – I truly love you for that. Thank you.

Well, this is about when the fun part began.

I broke a mug.

That’s it.

I broke a mug. I was doing the dishes, picked it up and went to put it in the drying rack and it slipped out of my hand and fell handle first into the other sink and broke. I picked it up and saw the handle had broken off. I closed my eyes, inhaled very, very deeply, and then started crying. And crying. And crying. I cried myself to sleep that night. All I could think was these eight things:
“That was my favourite mug.”
“A lovely student in my first class in Scotland got me that mug.”
“That was my favourite mug.”
“I used that mug in Scotland all the time!”
“That was my favourite mug.”
“I don’t have very many things and I just broke a bloody mug!”
“That was such a good mug, it had so much volume!”
“I loved that mug.”
“I can never get another mug like this, there’s not a TK Maxx in New Zealand.”
“IT WAS SUCH A BLOODY GOOD MUG!”
“IT HELD SO MUCH COFFEE!!!!!!”
“THAT WAS MY FAVOURITE MUG! I LOVED THAT MUG!”

What?! Completely irrational. I mean, it’s just a mug!
As well as thinking all of the above things, I was also completely bewildered with myself. I kept trying to remind myself… it’s just a mug!
I’d broken crockery before and never reacted like that. But I was completely consumed by the fact that the damned cup was broken and I couldn’t replace it. At that point in my life, it wasn’t just a mug. It represented the vessel to which my emotions about having to leave Scotland were carried in and now it was laying in the bottom of the sink all broken and sad. Much like I was feeling.

So the next morning I laughed as I told Stephanie about the mug. I held back tears, but I laughed through it because; it was just a bloody mug! But it was at that point I knew I had a problem – why was I so upset about it?!? So I told a lot of people about the mug. I laughed and smiled because, well… my reaction was ridiculous, and I knew it. I just couldn’t help it. A week later I was chatting away to my GP who, with a pensive look on his face interrupted me and said “It sounds like you could be depressed.”
To which I replied, “Yes, I’d agree with that. I know, and am aware, and have things in place to help me try and keep my mind healthy.”

But then a few days later it struck again, in potentially the most odd circumstance.

I was sitting at home on a Saturday night doing my usual nothing. I’ve always enjoyed, in fact, preferred listening and watching live music being played than I do just playing a record. I got the YouTube up and put on Slipknot’s 2009 Rock am Ring set and off I was, playing my air-bass guitar, bopping about and swinging my hips, ’cause there’s nothing more can get me dancing than that of nine grown men in masks and jumpsuits jumping around like lunatics. I had a glance at the screen and the bassist, Paul Gray, was in the shot, looking like he was having the time of his life. And then the sadness sunk in. I did the maths in my head… Oh dear god!! This was filmed just months before his untimely death! Oh no…. He died when his wife was 8 months pregnant with their first child! I look up again and in a moment on solidarity and teamwork, percussionist Chris Fehn is playing the chords on Paul’s bass as he strums them out. Oh no…. here it comes…

I don’t even know where it came from but a visceral noise escaped from my body. And then the tears started. And right behind all the irrational thoughts I was having about this musician that died 8 years ago, I thought to myself… You didn’t react this way at the time, look at you, you’re being ridiculous, stop it! But I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop. I mean, I could have stopped the video. I could have played something else. But I didn’t. I let the entire set play, and lost a tear every time Gray was in a shot on the screen, or someone looked like they were having fun. And at the time, I knew it was ridiculous. I was crying during songs titled things like ‘Pulse of the Maggots’ and ‘Heretic Anthem’. “How is this normal?” I was thinking. But I decided to go along for the ride because I clearly needed that cathartic experience to rid myself of whatever it was that was irking me.

I saw a Hedgehog out walking the dog one night and went back to see it a few minutes later and it had gone. I was engulfed in an overwhelming sadness. It physically gripped my body, and I went back inside, head down feeling defeated. What?! It was just a hedgehog! I cried at some other things too. But the aforementioned two were the most ridiculous.

So, you see, the funny thing about depression is, sometimes, when you’re in the depths of it you just have to laugh at yourself.

You laugh at yourself because you break a mug and you think the world is going to end.
You laugh at yourself because you’re crying to a video of a heavy metal band!  (What!?)
You laugh at yourself because some of your reactions are absolutely ridiculous, and you know it, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
You get through it, and you laugh at yourself, throw your hands up in the air and say “I just… I dunno!”

So if you are about to come back, already back, have been back for years or even if you’re in the thick of it now, having a rough time, behold; you are not alone! A lot of people go through depression and it’s a normal part of life. I find the sad thing, however, is that it’s only once people are through it that they’re happy to talk about it in the past tense. So this is my attempt to show you, right from the middle of the storm, that actually… hey! Here I am, and you know what… I’m ok! All the things you’re trying to do to ward off the darkness, keep it up. It’ll work eventually. And just know, that those little irrational things that are happening…. yeah, it’s normal. Just go for the ride, and ask for help if you need it.

Because with the love and help of those around you, you will get through it.

With all that being said, my Dirty Creature and I have a few people to thank.
LW, you’re the bloody best. There’s nothing like a bit of fresh air and nature to shake the cobwebs off. That, teamed with our coffee dates pulled me back into reality. You’re the only one who I reached out to who dropped everything and drove the one and a half hours to come and see me. I needed it. Thank you. My colleagues; you lot inspire me every day. Thank you for your love and compassion. You’d think in our profession we’d run out of it at times. Alas, no. To those wonderful people around the world who messaged me, sent me the greatest memes to cheer me up and just generally kept me happy by talking to me, and telling me about your lives, thank you. To my gorgeous friend in Scotland who offered to go out, buy me a mug and post it over; thank you, you beautiful thing. And to my Mama – thank you for replacing it with an equal sized, massive tea cup!… Needless to say, I now have a new favourite cup.

But if that cup ever breaks… my god, look out world!

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Life as a Crohn-ie

World IBD Day is the 19th of May.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an autoimmune disease that affects mainly the intestines/bowels, but can affect the entire digestive system.
It is the umbrella term for those diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease (CD), Ulcerative Colitis (UC) or Indeterminate Colitis (ID). Each diagnosis can present in different parts of the bowel/digestive track and can be absolutely debilitating for the person with the disease. Not only this, people with IBD are also four times more likely to develop bowel cancer than those without it and have a higher chance of developing osteoporosis, skin conditions, joint pain, eye inflammation and liver disorders. Now, that is a daunting list for anyone to face when you’ve just been given the news that you have a ‘disease’ with no known cure. But IBD appears to strike mostly young people aged 15 – 40 years old. Young people who, after diagnosis, now have a life ahead of all sorts of possible complications. Imagine finding that out during the prime of your life.

In New Zealand around 15,000 people have been diagnosed with IBD. This number was established in 2010. The number of people diagnosed since then would have increased and there are probably more people who are ill, but for a range of reasons, have and may continue to go diagnosed. So chances are, you know someone who’s got it.

I have Crohn’s Disease.
I don’t hide it, I’m not shy of talking about it and after I was diagnosed I took great delight in showing everyone my colonoscopy pictures. (“Do you want to see my insides?!”) BAM. Picture in your face before you had time to reply much to my delight and my peers intrigue and slight disgust.
But this wasn’t always the case.

I was diagnosed at 19. I was living with 4 boys and sharing a bathroom, well, it was an issue. I knew something wasn’t right with my body, so off I went to get myself some iron injections. 5 injections, 25mg of liquid iron was injected into my body and my iron count went up by only two points. My GP was concerned and tried to probe a little deeper. Dreading having to tell someone about my toileting issues and the fact that I was in pain for a large percentage of the day, it made the whole situation worse. I was full of angst. But my GP made me feel so incredibly comfortable I told her everything. I told her the truth.

I told her the secret that I had been keeping for almost 8 years.

That when I was 11 years old I started have symptoms, my bowels were bleeding, I had constant diarrhoea and I couldn’t remember the last time I had a firm/normal bowel movement – it had to have been over 9 years. I couldn’t even remember what it felt like. But I was SO embarrassed about it that I couldn’t tell anyone. Somehow I just put up with it. And my teenage years… well, they were miserable.

When I think back to my teenaged years I was so lethargic and unwell. During the school holidays I would sleep 10 – 13 hours a day and would wake feeling unrested. And during term time… well… I’m amazed I got through it. My Mother always said
“You burnt yourself out in Primary School!”
Well, if I burnt myself out in Primary School, during High School I must have put the ashes in an incinerator and cranked it up on high. As well as having bowel problems I was sick all the time. Chest infections, colds, rashes… It felt like it was never ending. The mornings were always the worst, the hardest. My bowel obviously having had a rest, was ready to dispel everything as quickly as possible. I had terrible cramps and some mornings could barely get off the toilet, and if I somehow managed that the only other thing I could do was lie in bed in the foetal position until I fell asleep and/or the pain receded. This un-diagnosed condition dictated everything I did. Did I go out and visit friends? Did I stay in? Could I stay the night, or go home really late, or perhaps go home really early in the morning? Would there be a toilet close by? Would the toilet be too close to an area where people were which meant I could potentially be heard? What about a toilet in the bathroom, so I could feign a shower if it was decidedly bad? What about the smell… would anyone potentially get a whiff of the smell of my insides dying? That’s what it felt like. These questions and many, many more occupied my thoughts for a large percentage of the day. I had to be close to a toilet at all times. I preferred if it was secluded and I had a preferred time to go normally dictated by my body. If possible, I would go at a time when the volume of traffic passing by was slow and there was low to no chance of anyone catching me coming out of a cubicle or bathroom with the look of pain and shame on my face. It was just a horrible way to live, it consumed me.

I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I tell anyone? Someone?
The real answer is I just don’t know. I don’t know why I didn’t say something. I was so incredibly embarrassed by the entire situation. I could have been healthier much, much earlier if I’d said something, but I didn’t. My family GP referred me to a specialist Paediatrician when I was 14. My Mum and I took the trip down to Palmerston North and the Dr asked me about my bowel movements. I seized up. I started to sweat. I just couldn’t say the words purely because I was so, so embarrassed about what was coming out of my body.  So I lied.
I regret this now. Had I known I had 5 more years of pain to go through I would have done things differently. But that’s the thing about hindsight. It’s usually too late.
So I continued to put on a facade and live with the pain. And you know, on a bad day having to put a facade on just took up what energy I had left. I was physically and emotionally drained all the time.

Then I went to University and had to live in the halls. Luckily, I was given a room with an ensuite, so I could continue my facade for another year. But then I moved in with the boys and, well, then there was a real problem. So after 8 years I finally told a medical professional the truth, and I felt a weight lift. The burden was no longer mine, I was going to find out how to get healthy again and I instantly felt better.

So at 19 years old I finally had a diagnosis. I had IBD and luckily for me, the Gastroenterologist said, I had Ulcerative Colitis, the ‘better’ of the IBD diseases. Better? How?
‘Well, if your condition gets really bad we can take your large bowel out and you will be better.’
Oh, well that sounds delightful, I thought. If it was that easy, take the bloody thing out now, get me off your books and you can go about fixing other people too! I had ulcers in my large bowel which were making me ill, but with some steroids and Mesalazine (the most common prescribed medication for those with IBD) I would get back to being healthy in no time. Well, no time was actually 12 weeks. And some steroids and Mesalazine turned out to be 12 pills a day in the beginning. I remember being in shock thinking… ‘Really…. 12 a day?!’ But also, ‘Thank goodness it’s not cancer!’
I was weaned off the steroids and settled on 6 pills a day.

For the rest of my life.

And it was a hard pill to swallow – figuratively and literally.
The thing about Mesalazine is that it’s really a bunch of granules in tablet form. As soon as it touches water it dissolves. The granules separate from each other and you are left with granules sitting on the back of your tongue and all through your teeth, even when you manage to swallow most of them.
Every day. Twice a day.  For the rest of your life.

Well, respite came in the form of a new Gastroenterologist who took my dose back to 4 tablets a day, and upon my confession that I find it difficult to take the pills so often tend not to, was told I could take all four at once. Hurrah! However this reduction of medication also came with a bit of a shock; a change of diagnosis. Another colonoscopy revealed my ulcers and the inflammation of my bowel had gone down. My condition was still currently confined to my large bowel, but under the microscope my biopsy samples showed that my condition wasn’t Ulcerative Colitis but in fact, Crohn’s Disease. So, if my condition ever gets worse, well, the above mentioned surgery is not an easy fix anymore, and could in fact encourage the condition to spread to my small intestine where a whole raft of problems could begin.

Now, this is not a woe is me post. Since being diagnosed I have lived a relatively healthy lifestyle. I still continue to take my medication sporadically, but I have managed my Crohn’s through my lifestyle. My biggest sacrifice to date has been meat. I would love nothing more than a helping of roast lamb, a surf and turf or all the bacon in the world. It took me 6 years, but I realised that my body didn’t like it. I would double over in pain every time I ate meat. So I phased it out. I try not to consume too many foods that are high in saturated fats, eat my veges and stay away from anything fizzy. I don’t eat fruits with a high pectin content and I shouldn’t eat fruit with small abrasive seeds, to name a few things I stay away from. Or at least I try to. At the moment this is how I manage my condition. I take my Mesalazine sporadically, but I try to be as stress-free and eat as clean as possible and for this, I have been pretty healthy since my diagnosis 8 and a half years ago.

But IBD is different for everyone it affects. What I find I can eat, others can’t. Whilst I work on remembering to take my medication, others would give anything to just be on four tablets a day. The reality is, for so many IBD sufferers daily life can be a struggle. Other than routine colonoscopies, I have been lucky enough to never have been hospitalised with my condition. For some sufferers of IBD, this is a yearly and sometimes even monthly reality. Some sufferers cannot work because they are just so sick, all the time. And if it’s anything like what I went through as a teenager or worse, well, I’m not surprised. I still have both my large and small bowel. Many sufferers have had surgery to remove parts of their bowel, leaving them with a stoma bag. Because often, that is the only resolution. There is still no cure for IBD. These are the realities facing sufferers of IBD.

We don’t know what causes it. We don’t know how to cure it. There are so many things we don’t know about it. But we do know it sucks the quality of life out of it’s sufferers. We know it turns the strong weak. And with more than 15,000 sufferers in New Zealand, you probably know someone with the condition or someone who will be affected by it somehow – your brother, sister, husband, wife, partner, cousin, aunt, uncle, mother, father… IBD doesn’t discriminate.

So how can you help? 

There are plenty of ways. The first thing you can do if you know someone with IBD is to be supportive and understanding. We didn’t ask for this condition and everything that goes with it, so when we’re not feeling 100% the thought of going out to a cafe or restaurant where we A.) can’t control the food and B.) are unsure of the toilet situation, well, let’s be honest, it can really give us the shits – literally. Stress is a contributing factor with the disease and sometimes we need things to be as stress free as possible.

Ask us how we are feeling; if we look terrible, we are probably feeling terrible and sometimes a little understanding and sympathy can go a long way. Be mindful of making comments such as “Oh, I heard you can fix that by going to Naturopath, eating a gluten free, dairy free, egg free, meat free, grain free diet and rubbing oil on your stomach outside under a full moon!” (Full disclosure, not a direct quote from anyone I have ever encountered, but that’s what it feels like you’re saying.) Because we’ll probably think something along the lines of “Oh, did you now? And here I am, with modern medicine, still with Crohn’s disease, silly me, it was that easy all along!”

In public; be aware, and be understanding. Not all disabilities are visible. I don’t do it all the time but if necessary, I’ll use a disabled toilet. Yes, they are for the handi-capable. But when your disability is your bowel, surely  you’re entitled to use that disabled toilet too. The disgusting looks don’t make us feel any better, and we’d probably rather be curled up in bed, dosed up on painkillers in the foetal position than use the disabled toilet. But needs must. And our needs… well, sometimes we can hold it in and sometimes we have 30 seconds to reach a toilet before all chaos breaks loose.

Donate.
Crohns and Colitis NZ are the NZ charity established to support those living with IBD. They receive no government funding, yet the work they do is so important. As I mentioned earlier, many young people and teenagers are diagnosed with this condition. Had CCNZ been around when I was younger I may have felt confident enough to tell someone my problem much earlier than I did.

Help out with the toilet map!
This toilet map let’s people with IBD know where the nearest accessible toilet is. If you know of any in your area that are not on the map, email in and let them know! This is not just a brilliant resource for people with Crohn’s and Colitis. How many times have you been caught up short? Once again, this is merely one of the services CCNZ provide. They really do deserve a pat on the back.

Get yourself checked! If you have any inkling you may have a problem with your bowel – get it checked. Feeling bloated, having pains, constant diarrhoea isn’t normal! Watch what you eat and which foods seem to cause you problems. Notice patterns and see your GP as soon as possible. Look after yourself!

Spread the word!
I have a lot of feelings in my gut [pun intended], but there’s this one I just can’t shake which is telling me that the number of New Zealander’s diagnosed with IBD is going to sky rocket over the next 10 years. Talk about IBD, talk about poop, talk about gut health, talk about the importance of living a low stress lifestyle to care for your body. Normalise it! I don’t do it intentionally but I know I hold all my stress in my stomach. I can feel it. Your bowel is often described as being the second brain of your body. It can dictate so much of your life as it does with IBD sufferers. Perhaps knowledge and awareness is our best prevention for the future.

So this is my story of life with Crohn’s Disease so far. I’m not an expert. I’m not a researcher. But I am a sufferer. It’s not the detailed story, just the important parts. Except the part about my first farts in 9 years smelling like lemons; I did miss that part out. Anyone who’s had a colonoscopy (or three, or four…) can tell you about Glycoprep, mmmmm salty lemons!

It’s a cause that’s so important to me, because unlike other sufferers, I really have got it pretty good. But that may not always be the case. One day you’re fine, the next you’re not.

So if you know someone with IBD, wish them a happy World IBD day. Congratulate them on being healthy, because it isn’t always the case. It is such an invisible disease that it often gets swept under the rug and is not talked about. Yes, bowels and poop and blood can be yucky. But maybe the concept of it will be a little less yuck if we speak about it openly a bit more.

However, farts are always hilarious. So, if you know they have a sense of humour like me, make a fart joke or two. They’ll appreciate it.

It’s time to behave like the (inner) 10 year-old that you really are.

Growing up.
It’s hard to do. Some days I just don’t want to ‘adult’.
I often catch myself thinking the most peculiar things. For example, today as I picked up my recycling boxes from the kerb  (an entire day late, heh) I thought to myself ‘Look at me, I’m such an adult. Doing adult things and stuff!’ Or ‘How did ‘they’ let me get this far? Surely adults don’t behave like this?!’, ‘WHO LET ME GROW UP?!?’ or ‘Oh my gosh, I’m such an adult right now!’ Which, the fact that I had to think that indicates, perhaps that I often don’t feel like an adult. I sometimes think that I should be awarded my next birthday once I’ve reached certain maturity achievements and have been able to maintain a facade of adulthood for an entire year, not unlike a video game. You level up when you attain certain achievements, but until then, no gifts, no dress-up parties, no new shoes…! I mean, I do adult… I have a job. I can drive. My pets haven’t died through a lack of dehydration. But I still don’t feel 100% like an adult. And there’s nothing more that makes me feel less like an adult than experiencing joy.

Joy.

You know the word. You know what it means. Or at least you think you know. It’s often paired with the word happiness. A variant of happiness, it does however differ from that definition. So just to make sure we’re on the same page;


Joy
Noun
1. the
emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.
2. a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated.
3. the expression or display of glad feeling. 

Got it? Good. I bet you can see where this is going.

There’s two key phrases/concepts I want to focus on in the above definition, those being “great delight” and “the expression or display of glad feeling”. You see, the thing about being an adult is that you often find yourself trying to be ‘mature’ or behaving in a manner you think to be acceptable, by society, at least. We experience things we greatly enjoy, something we get great delight from… and ‘we’ reserve our reactions even though our inner child may be jumping for joy. Now, I say ‘we’, because those of you who know me well will know that I experience joy all the time. Almost on a daily basis. I mean, I don’t keep a tally or anything, but I know it’s often. I know this because of my reactions or ‘expressions or display’ to things and in turn, people’s reactions to me.

You see, the thing about growing up, is that most of us just don’t want to do it. I was speaking to a homeless man in Wellington this past weekend and our conversation briefly touched on this topic.
“I’m 60, but I still feel like a 10 year old boy most of the time!” he said as we fed fish together at the Waterfront with bread he’d got from a soup kitchen.
Hear hear, friend, I still feel like a 10 year old boy a lot of the time too. (Minus the physiological differences that come with that, of course.) If you knew me at 10, you knew I did all my shopping at Hallenstein’s men clothing store, spent most of my time playing outside with boys in the mud and was generally a pretty rough definition of a young girl, much to my Mother’s upset. Then my boobs sprouted out the front of my chest and that changed things a bit. I think I was more interested in the boys than being one. But by-and-by, I have maintained my ability to react/express/display my joy to things I like with absolutely no reserve.

And that is because I don’t care what anyone thinks about my reactions. I have every right to behave in any way I see fit when I see or experience something I enjoy. For example…

Walking and talking around Blackford Pond in Edinburgh with a friend, I noticed a Swan and some Cygnets (baby Swans) in the pond. And well. I just ran off. Sprinted. Straight towards them. I think I even screamed “OH MY GOD, BABY CYGNETS!” [confirmed: I didn’t say a single thing.] and once arrived, I starting doing my happy dance/jump/foot shuffle thing… (which, if you didn’t understand the context you’d probably look at me and think, “Gosh, that woman looks like she needs the toilet, stat!”). The other adults around the pond were all wondering what was so exciting, looking on somewhat perplexed and my lovely friend Barnet was left in the dust laughing at the child/adult hybrid she’d bought to the pond that day.
I love a Swan. I love a Cygnet. I mean, I really love ’em. I’ll sit and watch them for hours and I’ll give off a full belly chuckle when the male Swan puff their wings up and speed towards other Swans in the water like a man on a mission. They are magical, amongst other things. What’s not to love!

Then there was the time someone bought me a Shark cookie cutter… Well…
I don’t even bake (yet, I will now!) and I did the whole dance/jump/foot shuffle thing in the street. The thing about the shuffle is that it’s teamed with silence, because my brain is too overloaded to string together a coherent sentence. I’m almost too excited to function. So the dance is what eventuates. That, or I talk through my thoughts very slowly, usually in a high-pitched voice: “This is so exciting.” “I love [insert noun here].” “This is so much [adjective].”

Then there’s every time I’ve ever seen a Highland Cow. (THEY’RE JUST. SO. CUTE.)
And every time I’ve pretended to be a tree/bush/shrub in a park/bush/woodland (yes, I can create my own joy by behaving like a child).
And the time I crocheted a hood and found it so hilarious that every time I put it on that I would fall into hysterics no matter where I was… home, pub, car.
Music is another good one. If I hear a song I enjoy, these hips/shoulders, well. They’re not stopping for anyone, anywhere. A friend got a full (albeit somewhat restricted due to the checkout space) dance and lip synch to ‘Grease is the Word’ whilst the checkout lady scanned items, slightly scared and confused. I even today danced in my seat at a cafe in between drinking my latte and eating my salad. My Mum; well, she didn’t bat an eyelid. She’s used to me doing me.

You see, I react the way I do because I enjoy doing it. I almost get more joy out of letting go of this adult facade and actually behaving the way I want to.
And you know what? The people I’m with… They enjoy watching me do it. It makes them laugh and smile. I may slightly embarrass them. But they’re not the one rolling around on the supermarket floor giggling and shouting out ridiculous things. That’s me. And I don’t care. It makes everyone around me feel good and those who don’t know me, don’t know or understand what’s going on or think that I may be slightly bonkers… Well. I won’t lie, I am bonkers. But I don’t care about what you think about me, and you need to lighten up.

So, how often do you experience joy? Or rather, how often do you allow yourself to experience joy? Do you let your inhibitions hold you back because you’re too worried what people will think? Perhaps you adult just far too much in your life. I hope not. Because it’s tiring. And everyone has an inner 10 year-old dying to get out, jump around, dance or giggle. If we all just let go of the adulting a little every now and then, maybe the world will become a slightly happier place. So join me. Get out and allow yourself to enjoy the little things exactly the way you want to. Like they say; “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

And I’ll tell you what. It feels damn good to let that 10 year-old out for a dance from time to time.

How do you see yourself?

I’ve been through a few big changes recently.
I returned to New Zealand after two years living in the U.K.
I worked in the same sector in a different country, teaching three different classes in one calendar year. I even started playing team sports again. (And then tore the ligament in my ankle, which put an end to that… whoops, I really should have known.) I travelled Europe on my own.
But it was my time living and working in Scotland that I met the most inspiring, kind-hearted and generous people I had ever come across. I forged incredible friendships. They were friends not by default, but by choice. We had things in common, a similar sense of humour, similar interests. I was incredibly content, happy and to be honest, I felt very lucky.

You see I’ve always known it, but it was only when I left the U.K I really realised it to be true.
And that is, to be the best version of yourself, you need to surround yourself with the right people. People who inspire you, people lift you up. People who care for you and others, people who are kind. People who are genuine and don’t always think of themselves. Just genuine, good people. And so you see, because I was lucky enough to experience this, I changed. I was growing as a person, becoming a responsible citizen and reliable friend. A better version of myself. And I was enjoying it. I worked hard at it.

Now I’m back in Aotearoa and I’ve found re-assimilation hard. I knew I would. But I didn’t quite expect it to be as difficult as I have found it; I mean, I lived here beforehand! It’s been three months and I’ve lost myself a little. Which isn’t usually a great thing. I feel like I have no direction. I have ‘nothing’ to do, even though I’m always doing something. And I’ll be honest, I haven’t really gone out to try and find new friends. I’ve been busy with work, animals and catching up with old friends. I mean… I already think the ladies at the supermarket checkout think there must be something wrong with me. When I go in on a Sunday afternoon, I dance and sing up the aisles and then seem overly chipper when they ask me how my day is going. Sorry ladies, it’s just that I haven’t had any human contact in over 32 hours and I’m starting to go ever so slightly insane. So half the town probably thinks I’m nuts. So, anyway, I’m at a crossroad. I can continue to think that I’m not happy, or I can actually stop being a wet rag and actually get back to being happy. I need to get back to feeling like my positive self again.

So I posed myself the question:

What are my good qualities?

It’s a tough question. We, as woman, are often hard on ourselves. Sometimes a little too hard. Men – maybe you are as well? I wouldn’t know, I’m not one of you. But as woman, we know every single fault we have. ‘We’re not good at’ this, and ‘we need to work on’ that…
But do we know what we are good at? What do we perceive as our strengths? What are we good at? Because it’s the sum of the parts that make a whole. And if I know anything about myself, it’s that I am a positive person. So feeling lost and directionless is kind-of new to me. So to that end, here is my list. Here’s what I think I am/good at;

  • I am positive (scarily so)
  • I am caring
  • I am loving
  • I am resilient
  • I am patient (most of the time)
  • I am calm (most of the time)
  • I am good-humored (that’s not to say it’s a good humour… just that I have one)
  • I am supportive
  • I am a good friend (because of many of these other attributes)
  • I am super cuddly
  • I am honest
  • I am committed
  • I am fiercely loyal
  • I am (somewhat) creative
  • I don’t take things too seriously
  • I’ve got a pretty good bum
    and the one we all like to think we are;
  • I am fun (or at least, I like to have a good time)

This is not an exhaustive list. I’m sure there are other things that I am good at. But many of these attributes are umbrella-like in their nature. They can cover many aspects of life; they are not restrictive in any way. Except when it comes to the Carterton round-about. Oddly enough, that’s where my patience runs thin.
So with these qualities in mind, I also wondered…
How would my friends and family describe me?
Would they think the same as me? Do they see me the way I see myself?
So I asked them. In one sentence, how would you describe me? Well. Ask, and you shall receive…

  • “Radge wee Kiwi” (Clearly not a Kiwi who wrote that one)
  • “Quirky, fun, loving and caring friend”
  • “Positive and quirky and a personality that’s wasted in a small town” (You’re telling me!)
  •  “Sexual that predators” (it’s a short, uninteresting story that relates back to a stream of consciousness I had during a Year 10 Social Studies lesson… Basically, I’m silly)
  • “A loveable and loopy, constant giggle companion who can always see and inspire the positive. Caring and creative and a truly wonderful friend.” (That’s two sentences, however, I’ll allow it.)
  • “An adventurous ball of energy, lovely and hilarious…”
  • “Wonderfully talented and enthusiastic teaching friend who always lives close and yet too far away.” (Dammit, so correct!)
  • “A fun loving, confident cousin who is the life of the party.”
  • “A ridiculous, bubble fanatic, cat lady with a great arse who makes me feel loved as though I were a a fresh bag of mini doughnuts.”
  • “You are sheer joy and when something makes you happy you treasure it like a kid on Christmas morning.” (Incredibly true, you should have seen me when someone bought me a shark cookie cutter…)

Well.
I’m not sure what I learned more from this list… That my friends think I’m a little bit loopy, or if they’re almost as loopy as me.
I think, as it turns out, my friends know me well. Many of the things they wrote I already knew about myself… but they see it in me too, which is great. It’s a confirmation. That makes those attributes my strengths.
What I love, is that these people value me and my friendship enough to answer my question. Most of you may think I’m a bit bonkers, but you (clearly) appreciate that in me. I mean… who else is going to stop a political debate between friends by taking their clothes off? I need to have some purpose!
So to those of you who wrote in, thank you. You are brilliant, and I love you. Because those are two of my attributes; loving and honest.

So with that in mind, I am going to move forward. It’s time to get back to being positive, time to get back to making and thinking the best of of every situation. And it starts now.

Except the vacuuming. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel good about having to do the vacuuming.