Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Career and Studies: Where to from here?

Dear friends in the computer and friends in my life.  I once again find myself at a fork in the road and seem unable to decide which path to take.  I know once the choice is made that becomes my path and essentially the life that I then live.

When I started studying 4 years ago I had just turned 40 and my midlife crises was in full throttle.  At that point I did not have Dystonia and all the challenges that it has brought with it.  I wish I had chosen shorter courses instead of a frikking honors degree.  I started and I told myself if it gets too hectic or I no longer love it then I can always stop.  The problem is I have written 23 of the 40 modules I need to do.  I have loved learning new things and the challenge it brings.  The growth of my mind and intellect.   At the end of the year I will have the last 10 to go which makes giving up harder.  When I thought I could do all 10 in one year I was OK.   Now after researching the workload I know managing 3 children and my home and husband and annoying dogs (not you Goose) and then the daily toll my Dystonia takes, I just cannot.  It would require 3 full days at welfare institution, 1 workshop a week and then the vast volume of report writing, research and regular studying.  I spoke to a lady with NO kids who does not work and has a husband who is away a lot and she said studies Monday to Sunday.  No weekend, no holidays.   She is seeing a psyche as its just cracksville mode.  So, that means 2 more years.  OR, and here is where the fork comes in:  I finish this year and convert my degree to a BA Health & Social Science.  I qualify as an auxiliary social worker and not a full social worker.  I would still do some short courses next year and volunteer somewhere to gain some experience. 

The point, I suppose, is what I actually want to DO with my degree.  Where do I want to work, why do I want to work?   Adoptions and fostering is one area but I am pretty sure I need my full SW degree for that.  Working for Nurture screening donors and surrogates and counseling commissioning parents is also something I would love to do but once again is my auxiliary social work degree enough?  And then my other choice I would LOVE to do is family counseling and child and adolescent counseling.  The problem with that one is my speech.  Because the movements of my tongue and palate are involuntary and 24-7 the constant deliberate speaking against that movement is f*cking hard and as the day goes on more and more painful.  I have to take a deep breath when my girls ask me to ask them their work in the evening.  I don't want this to impact my family.  Gary must be so super sick of it by now, feeling helpless.  I really try and not say anything but I probably mention how sore my mouth is more often then I think I do

So what do I do?   Stick it out for another 2 years?  Take a year off and then decide although I am not sure if can start again from a motivation point?   Finish now and add some courses and see where I can work?  I need a flexible job as 8 hours of speech a day is unrealistic for me.  I also need to know on a very bad day I can rather do admin.  This week at hockey I sat next to a little girl of 11 for 10 minutes.  She chatted away about her new stepmom and baby sister and how she lived with them and all sorts of things.  She was lovely and I thought to myself, I am good at this.  Talking to kids and getting them to open up.  I respect kids and connect with them.  I want to help.  I just don't know what to do at this point although luckily I have until November to decide when I would need to register for next year.  I am seeing a Unisa career counselor next week for some more info.   I really want to earn my own money, I want the security that independence brings, I want to make a difference like we all do and make an impact.  I want to use my gifts and talents.  I also need to manage my Dystonia though and be realistic.  The energy is takes to be positive and put a smile on my literal spastic face is sometimes so huge I am unsure if I can do it all again tomorrow.  God, family, friends and exercise keep me going but I need to find some balance and acceptance and dial things down a notch so I can recover each day to build up for the next day.  

Bugger, I should be studying.  I write on the 4th and 5th.  Thanks for listening/reading to my rambles.  I will work through my options and think about it but outside perspective always helps so get out your Agony Auntie hats and pour out your wisdom.  Go!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Patting myself on the back

On Friday my 10 year old had to sing 2 solo songs in the Eisteddfod.  In a family that has zero musical inclination and no ability to hold a note, we stand amazed at our daughter and her sweet voice.  One or 2 of the little girls forgot their words and the tears welled and once they were encouraged to start again they finished their song then burst into tears.  Even my Sofie critted her 1st performance as she played with her dress when she was nervous and didn't perform to her expectations.  Her second song went better as she tried to control her nerves.  The next day we watched 2 solo rhythmic gymnastics performances.  Her 1st time competing and again some girls forgot moves or lost their time or missed a cue.  Sofie's hoop flew out her hand and she forgot some of her moves so of course was brutal to herself after the show.  We were just so proud of her for being so brave and loved that stunning big dimpled smile she gives throughout. 

On both days I wanted to stand up and tell those little girls:   You are here trying something many others are too afraid to try.  You are so brave and everyone messes up at some point or another.  The fact that you manage to finish your performance is amazing.  I don't know you all but I am immensely proud of you.   You will mess up in your life many, many times.  Most of the time it is beyond your control.  How you handle it though, that is up to you.  Be kind to yourselves and proud of trying your best.

And then there is me.  Yesterday I am down at the harbour at 7.00am in the icy foggy morning prepared to swim in the cold harbour.  Bad hypothermia in 15 degree water in January and this is 9 degrees. The memories are rather fresh and the relief when the swim is cancelled is huge.  I am then prepared to get on my bicycle and race for 40kms amongst other cyclists hoping I won't fall with slippery roads, tight corners and hundreds of other cyclists racing part.  I remain a nervous cyclist.  It is draft legal.  This means people ride in bunches and you use 25% less energy and you go much faster as you pulled in the group protected by the wind.  I just cannot.  I want to, I see the sense of it but that awful fall I had last year and my ugly scar renders me paralyzed to even consider tri-bars or cycling in a bunch.  And the run.  How I swore I would never run absolutely hating it and now I love it and my slender frame makes me a better than average runner.  But my hip, glute and thigh muscle has been bugging me for 6 weeks and even walking hurts.  For me personally this Triathlon is daunting but I am here, ready to race.

Beeeep.  The horn goes off and I am in the age 40 and above age cat, our group is small.  I try to run to my bike but my hip aches.  On the bike and we start.  My goal:  don't be last and don't fall and try and improve on last years time.  I push as hard as I can and people whizz past me.  I am so slow around the hair pin bends I almost fall off.  I manage to overtake a few people and I am not last, I am THIRD last.  People in my age cat overlap me.  The temptation to be awful to myself is big so I try and control it.   Are you doing your best?  You utmost?  Yes I am.  I think back to my huge goal at age 41 of doing a triathlon and I remind myself even taking part is miraculous for someone like me.  Lap 3 I still hope to run so I pop 2 myprodols and I finish after lap 4.  I take my time getting my takkies on, my cap.  I cannot swallow while I run as my dystonia makes me choke so I have my gel and then I run.  And I pray and I run and pray some more and somehow God places His hand on my hip and I can move.  I love it, I have missed it so the past month.  I love how my body feels.  The ache in my calves and thighs from the bike and pushing through.  Last year I was in the bottom 50.  I was revolting to myself afterwards.  It is easy to be kind to others and encourage them but I can be awful to myself.  Its a shit quality and I should know better.  My goal this year is to be above the bottom 50.  With no swim this is harder as I am an average swimmer so come out half way.  I finish my run feeling strong.  My bike time is over 10 minutes faster than last year and although very slow, it is still better.  My run time is 50 minutes for 10kms.  And I am done, grateful I got to run.  Happy that I am in the bottom 100 and not bottom 50.

The times of my group are brilliant. It is hard not to compare. I see big improvements with their performances and times and mine are tiny.  I only have my best.  I have never been athletic and I need to be grateful for what my body can do.  I need to be kind to myself.  I need to be proud of myself instead of always stealing my own joy.   Cannot draft or use tri bars?  Its OK Mel, it really is.  I know what it takes for you to get on the bike.  I know how fearful you still are but you on that bike and you show up.  You always give it 110% and the fact you even doing triathlons is crazy.    YOU?  You are a triathlete.  Do you swim, bike and run in one race?   Huh?  Well then regardless of your times or when you finish you have transformed yourself into a triathlete and that is quite something.  So imagine you are someone else and think about what you would say to them and stop being so damn critical every time.  OK?  Promise?   I will try, I really will.  Will I try 100%, no, I won't score it, I will gently try.       

Monday, March 30, 2015

Learning to chill

So today was session 2 with hypno guy.  As you know I am on a quest to try and make my Dystonia more manageable and improve my quality of life.  I actually wrote to a new professor today and as I was writing my treatment history, I was a little amazed at all the people I have seen and avenues I have tried.  I was even prepared to fly to Canada to see one of the docs who did a Ted talk on DBS (deep brain stimulation) but it turns out he is unable to help me.

So for now I research the new meds prescribed by my new fave psychiatrist and tentatively try one at a time if I get the go ahead.  I learn to relax at hypno guy and I attempt botox again in my upper jaw.  The clenching is giving me awful toothache and earache.  I know for some reading about this is boring.  I know I am hard to live with and I wish I could be lightness,I so do but I am struggling here.  Yesterday was a scary day.  Scary days are when the pain is so bad you are unsure if you can stay on planet earth.  Another reason why I support Death with Dignity.  Everyone should have a choice as to when their quality of life is too compromised to hang around.  Not even close to that point but knowing that if it ever takes over the rest of my body and I am immobile and in constant pain, knowing I can check out, well its hugely comforting.

The problem of having something like this is it is hard for the people around you so they react a certain way and it causes massive stress which in turn is a big trigger for Dilbert.  Sometimes I wish I had a place to go to on bad days.  Where I didn't have to pretend or make everyone lunch or be chirpy and available.  Where I could calm myself down in a quiet space and breath and breath till I was zen and calm.  Hypno guy made some good points.  Because my sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive and I am so fight or flight, I don't relax much.  My hands are almost always clenched and my muscles contracted.  We did a relaxation exercise today and my jaw and mouth were soft.  My whole body was soft so now I need to repeat that.   He asked me when I am in a perfect most me state.  My pregnancies.  I know this sounds sexist so please forgive me if I offend you, but when I am pregnant I feel soft and gentle and feminine and nurtured.  I feel special and beautiful and precious. I allow myself to be safe and I stop trying as somehow I trust the people who care for me to keep me safe.  The past shit from a 6 year stint has robbed me of my safe space.  I want to let my guard down, I want to just be but somehow I feel too vulnerable doing that.  Am I making any sense here?   Oh well, blogging is my therapy and as I write I work through things in my head.

I think I need to merge the old me and the new me, the best parts of both.  I need to remind myself I always have choices, I will be OK.  I have ridden out storms, I have come out the other side.  Yes, that sounds good.  The Mel Merger.  The new and improved me.  The work has been started and truth be told I guess will always be on-going but my goal is definitely lightness in my muscles, my heart and my soul. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

My Face, My Page

Back in the days when I had time I used to blog almost every day.  I never had to think too hard about topics to blog on and I loved the therapy that writing brings.  I had about 500 regular readers every day that felt like friends.  Well most did, the trolls only hung around a while to spew their nastiness and then left.

Once I started studying I no longer had the time to blog.  I hardly read anymore and seldom journal.  FB has become the 5km run alternative of an ultra-marathon.  The quick bits of shared info, opinions, questions that I no longer have time to share about or ask on my blog.   I was always aware that certain posts will annoy certain people.  I am an odd mix of all my unique experiences and ideas so I am bound to hack someone off.  What I don't get is pretending you are someone else on FB.  Becoming all beige and vanilla and posting pics about your lunch.  (Yeah yeah I know I got a bit smoothie obsessed.)   I have never been afraid to be exactly who I am.  Many will think I overshare and I get that other people are more private and accept that.  For my sister and I, we are unafraid to make ourselves 100% vulnerable and wear our hearts on our sleeve.

I am not ashamed of the fact that I am a follower of Christ, that I am passionate supporter of gay rights and any marginalized or oppressed group of people actually.  I battle with anxiety and sometimes depression.  I vaccinate my kids.  I have an ADHD kid and an ADD kid and have carefully and deliberately chosen to medicate with great success.  Just last night I was telling Sofie how proud I am of her and we compared last year this time to now when she had constant tunmy aches and stayed in at break to catch up.  That was pre Ritalin which has changed her life and mine.  I am not ashamed that I was a single parent for 6 years before I married Gary. I am not ashamed of my battle with Dystonia and how hopeless it makes me feel sometimes.  I will write about my training and my triathlon as it is a big part of my life.  I will say when I am happy or when I am sad or when I am cross.  I should be beyond caring about shit but I do.  I get hurt.  I am lots of OK and lots of fucked-up too.  We ALL are!  So if you think I am boring, too much, act like a victim when I ask questions on certain pages, too sensitive, too anything then hide me, unfriend me or just ignore the boring bits like I do when I read your pages.  I love connecting with my friends on FB as modern day life means we are all too busy.  

PS...the 2 people that unfriended me lately did so for other girl political BS reasons.  Promise it wasn't my boring smoothies, training updates or odd theology! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Where to from here?

Amongst the mixture of emotions I feel I have that good old useless dose of guilt.  How can I feel this grief over a race when other people have real grief over death and divorce and illness and infertility and all the other real losses?  Yet my throat aches from being full of tears I cannot shed and I feel like I have been punched in my chest.  Punched so hard that all my organs shift and I have the hollow ache in the middle.  It feels so physical.

I went for a run this morning.  My 1st one in 10 days as I have been sick so I need to catch up for our 2015 mile challenge.  I ran and thought and ran and thought as one does trying to figure out this grief and loss I feel.  It is not the medal.  Yes its a huge bummer I didn't get it and the disappointment makes me want to puke.  That bit is all normal, training that hard and not finishing.   But this achey grief and paralysis where I just can't start my studying again and I don't know what to do with myself?  What the hell is that?   The 300 people who also didn't finish this race are probably not about to quit their entire lives.

Its a God thing.  After Singapore I knew I was totally depleted.  I knew I needed help and went on the anti-deps and we all know how that ended.  14 days on Cymgen and life long Dystonia.  So now when the going gets tough I cannot ever go on meds.  It doesn't matter how cracksville I feel, no meds for me ever.  This meant I needed to rely on healthy diet, exercise and God.  My scripture and my mantra...I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.  So I did just that and I managed my anxiety and my life and stayed sane.   I trusted God 100% for this race, for my life, for my sanity and now I CANNOT do all things through Christ.  I can train for 6 solid months and I can have total faith and belief and still I cannot.  The grief is the loss of my trust and my hope.  I know I have been in this place, where I believed for something so much and it didn't happen and God and I were not tight for a while. I know I will return because what else do I have but for now I feel like He has left me alone and I am not quite sure how to do my life alone.  Do I make any sense?   I probably sound mad?   I got home from the run and Ella had chewed up more of my outside pillows and then I stood in her squishy shit and I started shouting like a mental person till my throat hurt.   Mad?

I don't want to study anymore.  I don't want to do anything at all.  I don't know anything anymore.  I am not going to ask and trust for signs.  I am going to do one day at a time and today, the 1st day of my studies when I am already so far behind is not going to happen.    

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ironman 70.3, Ungracious in Defeat

Gary says everytime I write another bitter & twisted FB update I am simply prolonging the recovery of my disappointment.  48 hours ago I was still nervously eating breakfast in a room full of like minded athletes about to go off and do what my 6 month training had prepared me for.  This is so new and so fresh I need the time to process it.

I am going to try and explain how this feels.  I might make reference to situations that you have been in and you might think how dare I compare this pain to yours.  I mean no disrespect, it is simply to try and covey how I feel.  I am also going to swear.

When I decided I was going to do a triathlon before I turned 45 it was for many reasons.  Firstly I thrive on challenges and secondly after my brain op I felt like I wanted to live my life large, extra large.  I have had too many friends die and I just wanted to honour them by living my life so fully.  I also didn't want the fear of failure to hinder me trying big brave things.   I wanted to do something where I am in charge of my body.  I control my movements and how much pain I am prepared to take.  My Dystonia which is life long is incredibly hard to handle sometimes.  I wish I had a date that it would end so I knew I only had to endure it for x amount of months or years.  I cannot make it stop, I cannot escape.  It has me in its twisty painful grip and I can only try and live my life as best as I can with some adjustments.  The desire for 1 triathlon turned into an addiction for the mad sport and I continued improving and learning.

Training this hard for 6 months this hard has been very tough.  My bike accident set me back and every time I cycle I feel nervous.  As you know I am also not very good at all.  The slowest in my bunch so I had to try extra hard.  I knew the route was tough.  This particular ironman 70.3 is the second toughest in the world.  The bike course is endless rolling hills with wind on a bad day.  I had calculated my swim time and knew the extra 25 minutes saved that I could add to my 4 hours on the bike would mean it would be tight but I would probably make it.   The alternative was impossible.  To take so much time from my kids and friends and life and work that hard only to return empty handed was simply not an option.  I believed my strong mind and determination and my faith in God would get me there.   I also believed if I trained 100% I would make it so I cycled hundreds of kms and I swam and I ran and ran and ran.  The times on my alarm clock are 4.00am, 4.30, 5.00am.  6 days a week, 9 sessions a week for 6 months.  Even on holiday.

Fast-forward to race day and I am on the beach ready for this.  I had prayed for calm and warm sea and little wind.  6 days prior the sea had been 24 degrees and the wind calm.  On the day before the sea was so rough they were considering a duathlon and canceling the swim.  The rough choppy sea did not phase me.  I had trained in big waves.  The ocean is my place although I did not know it was 15 degrees.  I had drawn a cross on my hand, my bike and my helmet.  My God was my partner and I had many people praying for me.

We were the last wave of 8, the women over 40 and the teams.  Out of 3000 athletes only 780 are women.  The gun goes off and I get through the waves and I swim.  Towards the end my hands and feet are numb and looking for the final red buoy had me see so many other red landmarks but I was still good to go.  As I run up the ramp towards the bike area my legs turn to cooked spaghetti and I walk like I am totally pissed.  The official tells me I have hypothermia and pulls my arm towards medical.  No, no I am fine, I need all the time on my bike I slur in my drunk voice.  Thanks but I am fine. No choice and then I am on the bed and too cold to get a reading under my arm.  Under my tongue is a joke as my dystonia means my tongue is doing its usual spastic dance and the thermometer won't stay still.  Time is ticking and I am frantic to get on my bike.  Rectum she says, sorry but I have to put this up your rectum to get a reading.  At that point I am so desperate to get on my bike I don't care.  I am finally shivering which is a good sign.  34 point something.  Fuck.  I have to wait till 35 before I am allowed to go.  After 30 minutes in the tent I am released although still cold and confused.  The bike section that had 3000 bikes is now a graveyard.  I get changed and I can't read my watch as my vision is still screwy and I start my bike.  The last person of 3000 to start the course.  the LAST.  I have 3 hours and 56 minutes to complete 90 kms.  With the wind and hills and my cycling being so week it is a big ask but not impossible.  I trust God to intervene for me.  For the 1st 7km I am alone on the road which has been closed off.  Its a ghost town, the end of the world.   After a wrong turn I correct myself and I start.  I fight harder than ever and I pass the slow people at the back although I see I am still too slow.  My chain comes off 3 times but I calmly put it back on.  I hope when I get to the 45km mark that somehow the wind blows me back and the 1 hour and 36 minutes is miraculously enough.  I think about contestants on Survivor who never quit a challenge even when they cannot win.  I think about so many things and I cycle through the pain and wind and hills and when I look at my watch knowing it is now impossible I cycle anyway.  They have a truck that comes round and they put you and your bike on that sad truck and drive you back.  I see people on the side of the road crying, knowing they have missed it.  Well fuck that, I am not going on that truck.  I want to see how far I can get by the 1:15pm time so I pedal with my legs and feet so sore.  85kms the time stops for the race.  I had 5km to go.  30 minutes spent in medical would have been enough.  A girl asks me if we will still make the run and I hate that I have to tell her no.  No, we haven't made it.  We will not make that run.   I don't cry and I cycle that last crap windy hill to get back and then I cross the finish line to see Gary and then I cry but I am marched off immediately as she yells: DNF, DNF.  Did Not Finish.  I am another DNF.   

It really happened.  What I feared but what I fought because I trained so damn hard.  On the other side of the road are the runners with the awesome crowd cheering.  This is the part they said makes it all worth it.  I feel traumatized.  I walk amongst jubilant finishers with their medals and finishers t-shirt.  6 months of my life and I couldn't do it.  Knowing I would have just made it had I not got hypothermia makes it worse actually because I felt so deserted by God at this point.  We were meant to be a team.  I did my bit, all the parts I could control.   It was not enough.

Will I come back and try again?  I don't think so.  I suck at disappointment.  I simply couldn't handle it again if I didn't finish and the variables are too great.  I feel like that jilted bride and I have called off a wedding by a cheating spouse just a few short months before so I know what that feels like.  Not moving to Singapore after so much prep and hope and excitement was killer.  This feels like this.  Disbelief that it is all over and trying to process just how traumatic that was for me.

I know many cannot relate.  I am not a drama queen though and this is real for me.  I will get over it.  I need some time.  My faith has been broken, my trust.  I have to start my studies and do my kids but I want to sleep rather so I don't have to feel like this.  Crushing defeat, ah, that's what they mean.  I am crushed in my defeat.  Time to wake them up, make school lunch, carry on my life.  How do I do this???

Friday, December 5, 2014

Words can indeed express

My sister wrote this really cool e-mail to her son's school about a teacher who was beyond awesome in the way she handled the kids and did her job with such passion and excellence.  What struck me in the mail was that she said something like: words can never express how grateful I am etc.  I imagined the head calling in the teacher and showing her that mail and I just know the affirmation that she would feel and would keep forever.  I then later read something on a private FB page about what words were once said that hurt deeply and remained painful years and years after they were carelessly uttered.  Everyone that commented had messages said to them they could not forget and defined them and damaged them.

We have all received tangible gifts over our lives.  Some were boring, some were special and most have been used or lost or long forgotten.   Words however, both good and bad, those we so often keep.  They have the power to make us or break us.  The responsibility that this evokes for all of us is huge.  Sometimes we feel shy or awkward to express how we feel, to say something personal or make ourselves vulnerable.  We keep it casual, a love u instead of an I love you is far safer.  With more and more communication being on-line and long conversations on whatsapp and FB instead of a call, we get a little braver.   It can be good and it can be really ugly too.  Social media bullying is rife and it seems adults are just as bad typing all sorts of nasty.  We have good sites too of course, safe places where people can post what is on their heart knowing the community of strangers shares and supports with no judgement.  Places where encouragement and affirmation is given because in the real world the person is unable to get that unconditional support.  

Sometimes when we hurt we lash out but what is said stays there.  A sorry cannot erase those words and for deep wounds, even time cannot alter them.  I want to be more aware of what I say both good and bad.  I want to take the time and effort to tell people in my life that I appreciate them.  I think I am OK with people in the middle, its the ones closest to me I need to tell and not assume they know my heart.  And its the everyday people that I want to commend when they are excellent, the waiter at lunch or cashier at the grocery store or a business that gives great service.  2015, I will take the time to write letters complimenting staff and tell people.  Sincere words of praise and appreciation make anyone feel valued.   Before I call you all and love you up I am off to shower because I went for a cycle.  I was doing my usual ugly to myself routine going down the very steep hills holding on the breaks.  Me to me: You such a scardy cat and waste so much time going down the hills.  (I stay a little nervous since my accidents)  You not even brave!  Me to me:  Actually, the fact that I am cycling at all makes me brave and if I need to break a little going down the hills so be it.  Being brave is being afraid and doing it anyway.  Right!   I am going to be kinder to myself too although I will probably still give myself a hard time but then I have my come back.  My nice self that will drown out that nasty critical bitch who I will force into submission.  I love you, I love me. x