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Shedding your old skin starts from the inside out

They say that it’s a picture that can paint a thousand words, but words themselves also have the ability to spark a thousand mental images. Here’s a little something I prepared earlier..

‘Sometimes to self discover, you first have to self destruct’

This sentence alone sparks some of the most powerful memories in my mind, and a subsequent flood of emotions.
The mental pictures printed in my own mind depict a small woman, snuggled in knitted blankets, on a brown leather couch, rocking a non-matching tracksuit, face and eyes reddened and fatigued. I’d cocoon myself for days and adopt a victim stance for weeks.

I’d throw blame in every other direction that I could, and unconsciously I’d practice my own distorted schema that perpetuated my self-pity. And that self-pity, combined with a severe self-esteem crisis, would dig myself into the very miserable and lonely hole, where I spent much of my early adulthood.

Of course, it was everyone else’s fault, it couldn’t possibly be attributed to me, if it was my fault, why would I keep feeling so bad?!
Ignorant & entirely oblivious to the universal fact that it’s you who has the power to hurt yourself the most.

It is generally during these times- sadly repeated on far too many occasions throughout my life & probably yet to be continued- that my mental defences are far too exhausted to protect me from the self-realisations that I desperately need to confront.

These scenes were my own period of self-destruction, where likely, I have previously caused mass destruction in all arenas of my life. And the truth is, every time, the destruction was focused internally all along.
I certainly didn’t envisage this to be my hand-made path to discovery, I couldn’t see any prospect for the future that didn’t continue to involve imploding inwards. Thankfully, I was wrong. But as a slow and experiential learner, it took me a few goes first.

It’s during these times, where my life seemed to be on repeat cycle, that piece-by-piece I became to realise that I could no longer deny that I had no other choice. Nothing else worked, all the road blocks I constructed continued to fail.
I had little choice left, but to face and learn about the things I do and the ways I contribute to the problems and destruction of my internal resources and external interactions.

I couldn’t maintain a healthy relationship, no matter how adequate the partner. I couldn’t sustain my life for 2 months without some form of crisis or disaster. I’d externalise my dissatisfaction to my closest friends, often sabotaging some of the greatest connections I have ever known. I’d hurt myself regularly, directly and indirectly.
My family, every single time, where left to collect and rehabilitate the scattered pieces that is their daughter and their sister.

It’s not through lack of trying, on their part. I heard the same messages, like a broken record. You need to stop this, you need to change, you need to listen, you need some help, let us in, we can help you, but you need to first learn.
These messages of concern fell on the angriest of ears. Embarrassment and emotional turmoil converted straight to disobedience, defiance and aggression.

Thankfully and eventually, with maturity on my side, it was not possible for me to continue ignoring the repetitive facts that kept being offered to me. I was troubled, I needed help, I needed to learn & I needed to change. And for me, the thing is, once I know something I have responsibility to respond to it.

The realisations that I needed to change and that I required a considerable amount of help were probably the easiest realisations. The subsequent ones were a hell of lot less fun and certainly less easy.
To respond to my late night realisation, I first had to confront them. I had to admit their existence, I had to accept responsibility for the sabotage they contributed to and the harm they cause.
Much of this of course, also involved the foreign task of suppressing the ego that I thought protected me for so long and to accept the inner monologue that regularly reminded me ‘I told you so’.

This process, of course, was and still is a long term piece of work, with multi-layered stages of ‘project management’. But the last 18 months of this project has since allowed me to arrive at a pit-stop destination of really beautiful self-acceptance.

For the first time in all of my years, I am proud. Simply of myself and all of my internal aspects, rather than being proud of something that I have achieved.
There is an enormous, incredible & proud difference between those two states (being proud of self versus being proud because you have achieved) and that is certainly something that has been need to me!

I’ve always (naively) believed that to be proud of oneself, you must first achieve. Even more so for my own self, that I could only sustain a level of self pride if I achieved regularly, that each of my achievements were bigger than the last & that my achievements were also acknowledged by others first. If I was not receiving ongoing external commendation (to which I became addicted and dependent on), than I simply wasn’t good enough and I would have limited reason to feel proud.

That ain’t pride. But for as long as I can remember, I firmly believed that it was. And my entire identity was built around that misconception.
My personal confrontations have since encouraged me to re-evaluate and to challenge these distorted perceptions.
I’ve been slowly learning that the only self-fulfilling and sustainable sense of pride comes from within, and for myself that meant ‘stripping back’ several layers, firstly to find it, secondly expose it and to lastly, bask in its glory.
While trying to battle my demons at the same time.

For a while during my ‘stripping’ process, I was comfortable admitting my self lessons internally, but never before have I been comfortable enough to verbalise them.
After a few opportunities I’ve had to share this process externally, with some of my most trusted confidants, I’m finally willing to whack these bad boys out and to lay them on the table.

I’ve always know there’s such therapeutic capacity in owning your demons and your process of change, but quite honestly I’ve been scared to death of having to do it myself.
But as I preach, personally and professionally, the greatest growth comes from the options that you fear the most. And maybe, just maybe, this can reach someone else too. God knows I needed to read something like this years ago too.

If you haven’t yet noticed, I have an overwhelming tendency to ramble incessantly and to try and shove as many words into a sentence that I humanly can. I am going to defy the odds and explain my next section as succinctly as i can.

Over the last 18 months, this is what I have found to be very true. For some, I have found remedies, and for others, I’m still searching.

– I’m not sure there’s ever been a time where I could describe my self image as ‘healthy’. I’ve had a terrible time building any level of self confidence with regards to my image, or in relation to my personality. I was disgusted by myself, so how could anyone else love that? I’m not sure I even wanted to love it, just wanted a million others who would instead.

-my insecurities were like a plague that flooded every area of my life & desperately I tried to mask them in every possible way. Whether that meant I acted confidently and pretended as if I didn’t need validation, when that is what I really craved. I went to extremes in so many areas to build this false image, all the while, the people I was trying to impress simply looked at me with pity.

– From this, and other problematic self messages, I developed significant issues with attention and the desire for every kind. I viewed attention, mostly from males, as my one and only saving cure. If I was not able to obtain a constantly increasingly level of attention, I felt ugly, lonely, unwanted, not worthy and essentially desperate. Of course I could never admit that at the time, nor did I allow myself to develop the insight to realise that this is what precipitated so many moments of acting out.

– As a ‘partner’ in my early adult years, I was in fact anything but a partner. I was destructive and dangerous. I was a person largely with my own agenda, often self serving, only self interested, non-negotiable, emotionally erratic and highly problematic, covertly and overtly controlling, jealous, insecure and extremely, extremely manipulative. The whole thing was a game, and I always had to WIN. I was horrible, I’d isolate and emotionally manipulate, and someone make it feel like your fault and I’d turn into a mistreated victim, who of course ‘deserved better’.

– My issues with self-pride, as previously mentioned. I was addicted entirely and completely to external commendation. Desperate to be envied, because I truly loved in a state of envy of others so much of the times

– All arenas of my life were considered by me to be a vicious competition. If I didn’t perceive that I was leading those ‘competitions’, my insecurities, jealousy and sense of inadequacy would spiral into a tornado of uncontrollable emotion, mostly aggression, resentment and vengefulness and would sabotage the hell out of NEARLY ALL the relationships I’ve ever had around me.

– Everything I did, said, planned was motivated purely by an image I wanted to reflect of myself and my lifestyle, based on what I believed would demonstrate that I was attractive, successful and carefree. In some areas maybe I was, but not in the ways I tried to portray myself to be.

– Once I was made aware that I experienced problems with depression and anxiety, they quickly became my self-proclaimed ‘ticket out of jail’. I’d throw around these diagnoses and past trauma to justify and excuse my foul attitudes and behaviour. All without the intention of ever addressing it.

– I tried on so many different forms of identity, to try and be everything but who I was- cause I had so, so, so many things to confront and to address and it seemed so much easier and quicker to just be something else, rather than hauling myself through brutal self-development and having to admit so many tough truths. I tried to be the victim, tried to be the sook, tried to be the hero and the martyr, tried to be the damsel in distress, tried to be the party girl, tried to be tough and heartless. Just a whirlwind of pathetic acts, one after the other.

What an absolute mess.

I’m honestly not saying these to receive any sort of praise- after a few decades it appears I can finally give that to myself, I’m also not trying to profess that I’ve undergone a transformation of change.
I’m outlining these things, as I said, for my own therapeutic outcomes, but also in the attempt to resonate with others, who may be experiencing similar internal struggles. It’s actually okay, once you admit these things, it makes sense, to you and to others. It’s certainly not going to shock anyone to the core, these things are fairly transparent and everyone around you have seen this long before you have.
You will not receive backlash, or judgement, maybe you did through these problematic stages, but certainly not during your journey of realisation and change.

It’s with a comfortable level of easy that I can briefly outline this summary of my issues. I’m fairly familiar with them now and they start to become less shameful the more you address and move away from that period in your life.

I view a chunk of these issues as if they are now in ‘remission’ and there are some other areas that still require my active attention, so as to not reinforce of further perpetuate.

Maturity has been my friend throughout this journey, time has absolutely helped, developing insight & awareness has been a treat and learning to be okay with myself has been a life saver!
The ‘relationship’ component of my issues has been my biggest and first priority, because that is where I have been most problematic and where I have caused the most harm, to myself and to others. But it’s taken years of reflection, and expensive supervision and therapy to get to a place where I can become a partner in the true sense of the word.

Let’s not be foolish, there’s still a hell of a long way to go. I believe this will be a lifelong adventure for me, and probably also for the people who choose to be around me.
It’s less comforting for me now, probably because I’ve learnt that I can take on these demons and I can turn them into more angelic creatures.
I’m keen to devote some time to my process of addressing the problematic elements of my development, but that’s a whole blog post of its own!

I know that shedding my layers from the inside out revealed for me shiny, glowing, and radiant new layers that I’ve worked super hard to develop and embrace and I’d love to show others how they can D.I.Y too, despite how long and how ugly it may appear at first.

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Welcome back!

Welcome Back!

Not that I have an enormous range of readers to notice, but there has been a significant passing of time between the last time that I ‘blogged’ and the creation of this entry today. Well over 12 months, with my famous explanation being ‘life gets in the way’. That old chest nut.

There seems to have been an incredible industry boom in the world of female blogging, which isn’t negative, but for me, maybe a little deterring.
The old insecure mind thinking, with so much out there, would could I contribute that would make any more of a difference?!

BUT, the difference is really for me. It’s myself who benefits the most through writing and re-reading my own blog posts, much like a journaling exercise. So if it makes a difference to me and my own life, and doesn’t hurt anyone else in the process, than that’s enough for me and full steam ahead!

I’ve noticed, through my own exploration, that the focus of many similar blogs have an inherent link to fitness and the appearance of ones body. I’m not saying this is negative, but kinda not what I wanted my own stuff to be about. As a marathon runner, gym enthusiast and psychologist, I’m the last person who will deny the significant correlation between fitness and mental health. HOWEVER, I’m kind of not convinced that that is the only message we all need to keep hearing. I for one do not, and perhaps many others don’t need to keep receiving the same messages also.

It’s for this reason my blog entries focus solely on mental health, internal process and self development, separate to physical exercise and fitness related lifestyle choices, because the two do and can operate without the other.

It’s been one hell of ride between the last time I have written publicly and now where I have picked up the pen again, so to speak. Everything that has come between now & then have had their own little way of delaying the blogging process for me. Aside from forgetting my password.

I never anticipated or imagined that the universe could throw so much at me over the course of a year and a half, but as always, the universe is yet to cease surprising me. Sometimes, in the most wonderful of ways, where I couldn’t be more elated in awe and gratitude. And then other times, where I feel debilitated in ways that I never thought I would or could be.

The last 18 months have offered me a relocation 2000km from all the things I know and love, a massive injection to my career in a fairly unique and highly challenging specialist industry, multiple threats to my mental & physical safety, both within the professional arena and my personal life.

I entered into a very intense and slightly controversial intimate relationship and survived the break down of said relationship. I chose the word ‘survived’ intentionally, because that is truly what it felt like. I take an enormous amount of pride from the fact that I have strengthened myself to bare the brunt of most of life’s traumas and manage the outcomes reasonably well… However, heartbreak was not one of these. It certainly wasn’t something I gave enough consideration to previous & I was definitely ill-prepared.
I’m currently working through the process of rebuilding and mending that relationship and the parts of my self that felt indefinitely crushed.

In amongst this, my life has been touched by deaths, fights, regret, successes, travel, the strengthening of older & valued friendships and the development of some life-saving new ones.
I have made marvellous progress in my career and I’m excited to consider my future prospects. I’ve moved to three different properties in a short space of time, I’ve added more cats to my collection and there’s probably everything else that could possibly occur in between.

That’s the last 2 years of my life in about 300 words & I’d say that’s probably about enough.

It was recently that an old friend from my university years got in contact with me after stumbling upon my blog posts. This is a woman who is exceptionally well-cultured, successful and intelligent and she wanted to let me know how much value she got from reading the different things I used to write publicly about. If that wasn’t going to kick my ass right into motivation, nothing else ever could. So it’s for her, for me and for the chance that maybe others need it, that I’m ready to start writing again. To share the stories that are relevant to me- my mental health, my self development, stages of change and life’s unavoidable challenges, that might also be equally relevant to the stories that belong to many others.

Stay tuned and watch this space….

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Rehabilitating my Mistakes

If you are at all anything like me, you probably feel like you’ve stumbled through life, through periods of mistakes, confusion, crisis and the in between moments of intermittent clarity and adaptability.

In which case, if you’re still anything like me, you’re probably unable to count the amount of mistakes that you have unleashed upon the world.

And perhaps those mistakes range from humorously foolish to downright idiotic, horribly shameful and regrettably hurtful.
Maybe there’s some instances where your mistakes transform into novel disclosures over a few glasses of wines, in the company of girlfriends. Where you’ll all laugh and laugh, openly admit the awfulness of the time and situation, though feel generally okay since so much has changed since then.

And then, there’s the others. The ones that are considered more insidious, one that make you cringe at first thought and every recollection thereafter can quite literally stop you in your tracks. The kind that you attempt to bury deep into your soul, with the hope that some level of denial might offer you peace or respite. The old Ignorance is bliss kinda thang.

Again, if you’re anything like me, you have a storage compartment of these hidden moments and indiscretions, perhaps much more than you’d like to admit to yourself.
Like me, are you wondering when you’ll stop collecting moments and ‘lessons’ like these?!
So if it’s true that you are like me, I guess that this makes you human… Just like me.

As all the quotes go, unfortunately we can’t take them back, no matter how much we fantasise over rewinding time, and for those really dark memories, there’s the chance that we may never forget some of them, no matter the years that pass…

If you’re anything like me, if you spend countless hours and stolen moments of too many days ruminating on the outcomes and consequences, the harm and the disappointment, the damage and the reputation of it all, just imagine how much it must hurt your soul to have all these things stored inside of you.

The anxiety episodes, the sleepless nights and recurrent heart palpitations. These are probably the only external signs of the internal destruction that’s likely occurring inside your heart and soul.
In my freshly formulated theory, it kinda seems counter-intuitive..

It doesn’t change the past, it probably won’t change the likelihood of a mistake ever happening again, it doesn’t offer any reprieve to those we have hurt and it sure as hell doesn’t do you any favours. In fact, I think it’s probably having the opposite effect.

I’ll put it to you…
So we’ve stuffed up, we’ve done something or said something, we’ve either been drunk or we’ve been sober, we’ve hurt someone, potentially multiple someone. Your emotional reaction is probably enormous… Guilt, regret, embarrassment, shame, disappointment, anger, heart ache, blame, failure. The works.
It’s a one way ticket to self loathing city.

Generally, we become overwhelmed with such an intense flooding of emotions. Our first response, perhaps instinctual, is to supress, repress, hide, lie, deny, anything we can to avoid the source of such an experience. The only thing worse than having a broken heart is when your heart has been broken by your own actions.

Those emotions and memories, if done so effectively, are pushed away, underneath the surface, where we may not be able to see or hear from them on a regular basis. But in that time, they’re left unaddressed and unsupervised, to bubble and boil, and concentrate and fester. Cause that’s what things do with the Ye Olde trick of ignorance.

They begin to slowly pick away at our souls, from the inside out, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Our unresolved issues impact us in ways that we can’t always see coming, as the emotions compound.

The math is simple. You’re feeling all sorts of shithouse because of the things that have occurred… You can’t cope with the associated negative emotionality… We use dysfunctional ways to somehow release the frustration and pressure…
This usually ends in yet again an another regrettable lash out, and hey presto, we’re straight back at square one and about to pick up more emotional baggage, the burden of another mistake.

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t need to constantly suffer because of our past and because of our mistakes. Well not for such an extended period of time, at such a level of intensity.
If someone out there believes that you do indeed need to suffer, then that’s a mistake that they are making.

If YOU think that you do, then consider this… It doesn’t decrease in impact on any way, the pain felt by anybody else. And in all honesty, the most mature and valuable thing we can do for human kind when it feels like we’ve temporarily destroyed it, is to restore it by making sure that it doesn’t happen again, at least to the same extent.
It might take multiple attempts, it could be a battle of trial and error, but at least try. That’s redemption in my eyes.

What I owe to people and what I know that I will always owe to myself is to try my very best to embrace a mistake, to own it, to acknowledge it, to learn and to grow from it, change from it and get the fuck over it.
As I said, some of our behaviours, actions and perceptions that lead to our mistakes could be so ingrained that we might require every tool in the shed. Well that’s just fine, cause it turns out you’ve got a life time to learn. Commit to that, and you can start letting yourself off the hook.

There’s not many actions braver than putting your hand up and admitting when you’ve messed up, when you’ve messed up badly or when you’ve hurt someone unforgivably and when it’s really not okay. The only braver in my eyes is to know that you’re more than an action, to give yourself emotional forgiveness and room to change and view it as a useful memoir to limit the harm we ever cause again.

That is precisely what the world needs more of. The world, most certainly does not need more people silently beating themselves up. It’s a thick fog that is close to impossible to guide yourself out of, particularly when you don’t know how to find yourself after being swamped with guilt and regret.

How is it that one would go about achieving such a feat?! I’m not entirely sure. I wish I was. I wish there was some details recipe that I could follow myself and pass on.
But for me, the emotional baggage that is associated with all of the mistakes that I have made can be likened to something similar to cancer…

To be able to address it and recover from it, I’ll require a lifestyle, attitude and emotional overhaul, for an undisclosed amount of time. There’s nothing that scream out ‘unmet needs’ or ‘unresolved issues’ quite like making mistakes. I think they are secretly our way of saying it’s time to look under the bonnet, all the other ‘check engine lights’ didn’t catch our attention quick enough.

I think with every mistake we need to give ourselves the chance to really check under our own bonnet, to review our entire lay out and processes and goals and outcomes. I think it’s usually timely to review our intentions, motivation, attitudes, perceptions, defence mechanisms and coping strategies for a wide range of situations. It’s probably going to be relatively confronting, tedious and not overly pleasant, however nothing motivates the desire to change quite like some sensitive social shaming.

Let that adjust your expectation of your own ‘sentence’. You don’t have to suffer and hurt endlessly for an amount of time, you don’t have to hurt to offer consolation to someone or to seek forgiveness. You don’t have to beat yourself to a pulp for someone, or yourself, to say ‘okay, that’s enough now, you’re released’. That doesn’t need to be common practice anymore.
Yes you’ll have to do some acknowledgment, apologising, reassuring and explaining, but do that to yourself as well. You were there too, you probably need it just as much.
Let your punishment be more therapeutic than painful, like mistake rehabilitation.

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If I had a dollar…

It’s that age old line, used to signal that you’ve heard, or seen, or experienced something to excess

“If I had a dollar for every time…”

Being a female, particularly one in her mid 20s and being a therapist, I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every time I heard another female engage in verbal and physical expressions of self loathing. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time, I would have inherited enough financial wealth to be a Sugar Mama in a finely established, three storey canal home.

Additionally, if I had a dollar for every time I allowed myself to do the same over the course of my adult life, I’d probably be able to double that wealth.

And then all would be okay in my world… For at least 45 minutes. Because I don’t think buckets of money, brand name handbags and state of the art appliances will ever be enough to balance out, or compensate for what eats at our soul.

So that got me thinking… If I can’t have “a dollar for every time” and if this mythical dollar isn’t going to make a difference anyway, then what is it that will?

For such complex, complicated and deep issues such as self loathing and self esteem, I guess so many of us professionals assume that the only remedy to this will be something equally as complex and time consuming.

I know for myself, I have been waiting the bulk of my adulthood so far to “grow out of” my own patterns of self criticism. And maybe, like so many other health issues, I’ve been waiting to the “miracle fix” that’s equal parts psychological, science, medicinal, lifestyle and natural. Because it could only be something ultra complicated to be intense enough to tackle my own thoughts, right?!

Wrong. As per usual, I’m forever learning that it’s right in front of our eyes, and the simple response is so often the most effective.

So, maybe we all keep waiting. Or maybe we try something new. Something tried and tested, based on fact, something simple, but with a little twist. It might only make a difference for 5 minutes, but 5 minutes of peace certainly feels nice than 1 minute, and it’s sure as hell better than the alternative.

So here I’ll go again… With my ideas.. Seems I have more “ideas” than John Farnham has Come Back Concerts.

Replacing the “dollar, but keeping with the same tenet… If I had a positive for every time I have a negative…
For each time that you hear yourself think about whatever it is that you beat yourself up about, give yourself a minute, take 5 very cliche deep breaths and tell yourself, with the exact same level of emotion, what it is about yourself that you appreciate.

Generally, I’d encourage myself and others to focus your healing and positive powers on your internal jewels, but I think that so much of our self detesting revolves around our physical features, rather than these other attributes.

So it makes sense to me (and not a lot does), that if you’re judging yourself negatively based on your physical appearance, you need to allow yourself to acknowledge at least one part of your body that you enjoy owning and admiring.

I say “admiring” because I think that word really resonates strength and pride and note arrogance, shallowness or materialism.
And I think that’s what we are really trying to promote here; authentic self appreciation and the ability to feel some level of pride and satisfaction when you look at yourself in the mirror.

Lending from the principles of science, this approach makes sense to me… The use of a fool-proof method and plan to reach a particular outcome.
We know that if we repeatedly dwell on what we perceive undesirable about ourselves and our body, we very easily end up hating these exact things.
So I’m going to do the exact same thing- repeatedly acknowledge the positive and admirable, at the same intensity as my negative appraisal.
And see where that gets me.

We might not all get to a destination of loving ourselves sick, but with equal amounts of effort, perhaps we can mould ourselves into better balanced individuals.

So much of our turmoil, resentment and disappointment in ourselves and appearance is drawn from social comparison of our peers and celebrities. Generally based on the physical observation of how someone else looks.

This, my darlings, has forever been and will forever remain an un-winnable battle. And a step closer to the miserable demise of your self esteem.
For no other reason than that we all look different. Different eyebrows, complexion, jawlines, cheek bones and waistline. This will not change. And as I have said, repeatedly and passionately, any self esteem points you derive from a materialistic or aesthetic source, will last you approximately 30 seconds.
Yet, you’ll hate yourself forever for the things you don’t like about your body.

So. Let’s combat the negative things that seem to stick, with some of the positive things that we also know can stick.

What do you like about your skills? What makes your personality shines? What makes you a happy person? What makes you a nice person? What are your attributes and qualities that stand out to you?
Are you… Funny? Clever? Loving? Accepting? Helpful? Caring? Creative? Nice? Hard working? Positive?

These are the characteristics that run as strongly as the DNA in your blood. They create your purpose in life, make others fall head over heels in love with you, give your peers reasons to befriend you and make employers want to give you a job.

Precisely why these are the things that will offer you authentic, legitimate and sustainable pool of self love, respect, esteem and pride.

Think about what it says about you if you talk more about appearances than qualities. If that’s all you see in you, then sadly I think that’s what you’re looking at in others. That’s not healthy, and sorry to say, it’s not admirable either.

You don’t like the shape of your nose? You wish you were as skinny as that other chick?
Cool, 98% of the female population probably do to.
So, tell me something different, actually, tell yourself something different… What is it that you can love about yourself? Say it all the time.

If I had a positive for everyone I have a negative… I’ll be a richer little lady for sure, in all the right ways.

Start now. I am. I don’t have a minute longer to waste in this life.

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Redefining Love; no strings attached, no baggage or expectations either

I am about to embark on quite the ramble. A ramble of which many would probably accuse me of not being well placed to offer too many insights.

Which is kinda why I’m here I guess, lying in bed, typing on the keypad of my phone. Because if I’m not good at something, I’m fairly motivated to work on it until I am. And unfortunately, in most areas of my life, I tend to require multiple attempts. Definitely not keeping count.

So I’m about to tie two themes together in this ramble, rather than just one. Oh goodie. My mind is disorganised enough already.

As I have passionately demonstrated, I am a strong advocate for the internal processes of self discovery, development, reinvention, evaluation and an innately ingrained standard of self value and self respect.
These processes are tied very closely to a variety of movements and perspectives, a prime example being feminism. Without using that example to set my scene, I’m simply drawing an imaginable picture of journeys in which we are all encouraged to participate within our own souls.

Generally, the subsequent outcome of said processes looks a little something like empowerment, morals, standards and a self prescribed direction.
With that, we tend to develop those ideals of love, relationships, intimacy and networks and how each of these domains should look in line with our refreshed view.

Typically, these self discovery searches and others alike are very much motivated by our experiences of intimate relationships; ones that may have not been as successful as once anticipated those that may have left us bitter, vengeful and laden with emotional baggage and those that week seek to better ourselves in order to achieved. No matter how drastic, cliche or ridiculous it may seem.

I am seeing this so very regularly, which should be equally as refreshing. However I am also seeing an additional derivative, that almost appears to be these ideal outcomes on steroids. Generally anything on steroids will slowly start to see the negative impact of so much exaggeration, and I believe this to be the case with the phenomenon I am about to describe, unpack and analyse.

Take a quick glimpse of the memes, quotes and lyrics often shared on social media and the messages spoken to unsatisfied or heartbroken friends and I believe you’ll be able to catch my drift. The latest trend, or culture perhaps, is all about the condemnation of previous partners and failed relationships based on the perceived inability to reach a particular standard set solely in the mind of one party in said relationship. Does the phrase ‘he don’t deserve me’ sound familiar?!

How common it is, perhaps more so for those of a female gender, that after our identity transformations and the level of empowerment people want to generously give to women, particularly those out of painful breakups, that other men are no longer entitled to be imperfect or make mistakes…

I’ve been thinking a little about this; particularly motivated by a novel in which I am currently indulged, and my own reflections on relationship mishaps, mistakes and my determination to ensure that I am a fair, understanding and accepting partner.

Look I may be looking at this with magnified lenses, but I’m secretly suspecting that perhaps this level of deservedness that we believe we have may be the very thing sabotaging our future relationships.

If we are left scarred emotionally and drained, which all humans are at the end of an unsuccessful encounter with another, it’s almost as if we then give ourselves permission to punish subsequent partners for their mistakes in advance.

We’re essentially saying ‘I’ve already been with someone who made mistakes, so you’re not allowed to make any now, I’ve already been hurt by someone else and my quotas up, it’s not what I deserve’.

I’m all for living in an imaginary world where none of us hurt another, it’s not pleasant for either side and I think we forget that people generally don’t want to inflict pain on others. However, if you feel as though an imperfect relationship is below your standards, then I hope you’re comfortable with becoming asexual. Which is about as delusion as the an idea of a fail-proof human Union.

I believe (I’ve realised I need to start stating that before I declare my self proclaimed facts) that LOVE is extremely different to what seems to be idealised, or what I’m starting to notice in the world. Love is not just affection, loyalty, devotion and admiration (and my god those things are beautiful) it’s actually acceptance, tolerance, fairness, the absence of judgment, no preconceived standards, modules or ideas, it’s forgiveness, understanding, compromise and patience. It can be exhausting, tiring, trying and oh-so-very frustrating. But that’s what makes it even more mindblowingly beautiful.

It is also my belief that if a relationship that is characterised by these negative qualities as well as the positive is not up to someone standards, then it’s got nothing to do with deserving anything. And it’s perhaps an issue to do with an inability to love effectively. On your behalf.

Additionally, if there is something outstanding in a relationship, and one party is not getting their needs met, whatever they may be, than its up to that party to take responsibility for said need. We can not keep condemning partners and attributing blame to others for not meeting something internal of ours, cause they are exactly that- ours, no one else’s. If there is something lacking and it can not be resolved then perhaps, unfortunately, the relationship may not be matched appropriately. But it’s never someone else’s responsibility to feed the needs of others, if it is not something that is also a need of their own. Neither should you be ridiculed for not having the same need or desire, that’s not a rule of relationships.

If it doesn’t work and if it can’t be amended in other ways, than that’s okay, leave, not everything is meant to work for forever. But don’t make it your partners flaw, your needs belong to you, don’t condemn someone for not understanding what isn’t their own.

I love love. I love being in love, I love receiving it and I love motivating it in my other. In a relationship, IN MY OPINION, you should not only love offering your partner those positives, but also really love going through those negatives. Be proud of the fact that in your ‘love’ you can offer those beautiful things but can also experience the others. Be impressed by that. Cause that’s actual love.

I’m beginning to believe that it’s not those relationships that are 99% positive and pleasant that are the ones that are satisfying and fulfilling. It’s those that encompass that entire range I just described. I love being able to offer that to a partner and I love knowing that that is what I am offered in return.

If you believe you deserve love and happiness, than power to you my friend, I concur and I’m right there with you. But perhaps if it’s your belief that you won’t stand for the mistakes, trials and errors than I’m beginning to think that a relationship or love is not what you’re looking for, it’s probably a therapist.

If you’re not in it for the whole range of experiences and if you don’t love it at the end of the day, maybe you too will have to relearn how to love the human nature of a human.

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I Stand for Mercy, I sit for it and I’ll write for it too

With the recent hype throughout Australia and probably throughout Indonesia as well, revolving around all things ‘Bali Nine’, my brain, like many others can’t help but think, my stomach can’t help but churn and my heart can’t help but hurt.

It’s particularly easy for us, in our own distant lives, to separate ourselves from the confronting situation that is human execution. Even more so confronting, when it’s doomed to happen to those who have walked on the same soil.

It’s easy to create a mental divide between our lives, our situation and the prospect of our future, and that of others; a distance that is perhaps even bigger than the physical one between our country and the one where two Aussies will soon take their final breaths.

This is an art that us humans have mastered; the defence and protective mechanism that allows us to change our own channels cognitively, to divert attention else where, to lessen the impact that naturally comes with the intentional confrontation with the fact that someone is about to lose a son, a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a best mate.
Those thoughts alone are painful and if you think about it long enough it can leave you breathless and even hurt and confused for the loss of people you’ve never known and for the pain experienced by families you’ll probably never meet.

That’s why it’s easy to continuously do what we do, to use those cognitive shortcuts and turn ourselves away from the things that hurt, especially when it’s something that doesn’t feel like it should hurt us personally.
You hear it when people say “they had enough warning” or “they shouldn’t have done it, they knew their punishment” and things similar in nature. I’ve been saying these things myself, I’ve been saying the same things since it happened all those years ago. Again, purely for self protection. When you live in a world with enough tragedy, shock and misery, you kinda wanna be selective with the ones you let effect you, right?!
Samesies.

But then again, you know what?! Humans are also unique animals, in the fact that we experience such an enormous arrange of emotions. Some of those can make us and some of those can break us. And in a world where so much terror is driven primarily by the negative experience of emotion, I have opted to use the experience of my own emotion to add to the volume of positive support being offered to these men; Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

I’ve been motivated by a number of forces, and of course, as per usual, I am keen to document and publish these. Largely, because this is what I want in the world; I want people to hear good shit, or read it rather. I want to use my emotions to generate good shit!

I’m making a promise to everyone who suffers, that there are others in the world who are choosing to feel pain on your behalf and want to use every single piece of that pain to advocate so passionately for you, your situation and others alike. That is, after all, what I have chosen to do for a living. And just because I’m not receiving financial compensation, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t motivate me just as much as if these people and their families were my very own clients.

There’s enough people willing to do harm too easily in the world, I don’t want to continue that. I don’t want to allow or enable ignorance, arrogance, the loss of human rights, the loss of good human spirit or any further condemnation of people, whether I know them or not.

We don’t need to know their exact circumstance, internal processes or anything about their past, chances are that people will jump to their own conclusions, irrespective of the factors and/or explanations.
What we know and all that we need to know, is that for their own reasons Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran chose to involve themselves in an international drug syndicate.

I’m not going to make assumptions or guess what factors precipitated or perpetuated their decisions; everyone’s experiences are so very unique, others can not be expected to understand lives that they have not lived.

But what I do know, from my personal and professional experiences and what I know to be true, without ever meeting either of these men (and many others), it’s that time and time and time again, even with the absence of harmful intention, people can get into such dangerous and deadly situations.
Often, the more dangerous and sensitive a situation transforms to be, the quicker that things start to spiral out of anyone’s control.
And what I am also very sure of is that the kindest, most loveable and smartest of individuals are not immune to the lure of these situations.

A bad situation does not mean that the individuals involved are also bad. And I struggle so much with the un-natural and very much avoidable death of people who may not be the ‘bad’ that they have been depicted to be.

I’ve seen this very cycle, hundreds of times, it’s heart breaking and it’s tragic. In society, don’t you think we would want to decrease the amount of tragedies we inflict onto others?!
Because, there is no possible way, in this world or another, that this execution will have a positive effect on one person, in any country.
It will only lead to the most unimaginable and destructive experience of grief for all of those who have ever loved these men. And it will only force drug syndicates to become darker and deadlier, as the risks continue to rise.

If we simply use our brains, it’s evident to see that a major contribution to substance use and addiction is human suffering. It truly is this simple; the more suffering, trouble and adversities our population experiences, the more time, money and effort is invested into the illegal drug market, in an attempt to self medicate all that pain away.

If it was me who was about to lose my brother, or my best friend, to the hands of strangers in a firing squad, that would be enough to send me searching for anything that could make me feel better, even for a minute.

I could go on for hours discussing my own vision for policy, reform, support and strategy, but I am aware that all this will achieve is a cramp in my writing hand, sadly.

Also sadly, is the fact that one blog will never be enough to make the difference that is so desperately required, in fact the efforts of thousands of people still hasn’t proved to be effective.

But again, if this was my beloved brother, or my beautiful best friend, or anyone that I have loved in my life, then maybe it would offer me the smallest bit of relief in knowing that others understood that my brother or my friend were not monsters, or bad eggs, or hurtful malicious people and they do not deserve to be ‘put down’.

I’m sure that I do not need to explain that generally the motivations behind drug trafficking and drug taking are very different in nature. While I understand and have experienced first hand the devastating effects that drug use and addiction has on individuals, families and communities, it is not my belief that it is the intention of those who traffic drugs to cause such widespread harm.
They too probably engage in those very self distancing methods I was just writing about.

I believe that if ones intention is not harmful or deadly, they should not be punished as such.
I’m going to be the first to put my hand up and admit that already in my life I have done really awful things, with the knowledge of how I could negatively impact the lives of others and regrettably, I continued to do these awful things, time and time again.
I do no think that I am alone in this either. If each of us were to face similar punishment for equally as immoral acts as the Bali Two, or the Bali Nine, how many of us would be going up against a firing squad?!

Think about yourself in this situation, think about your mates, your siblings, your parents. And how sick does that thought make you feel, not just in your stomach, but in your heart?!
I rest my case.

I stand for mercy, but I also stand for second chances, third chances and even fourth. I stand for forgiveness, redemption, healing and change.

Xxxxxxxx

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Guilty Pleasures

Guilt; the socially constructed phrase used to describe the internal phenomenon that indicates to an individual that their body will soon be consumed with regret, dread, remorse, helplessness and all round awfulness.
Guilt is also a legal term, used to define a particular stance, or perhaps a finding against a certain someone. Again, signally that an individual should be feeling an abundance of negative emotions.

Overall, guilt is never a great time for anyone involved, wherever it may travel. One would think that this is an experience or side effect reserved for significantly wrongful or heartless actions or intentions. Unfortunately in the world that I live in, this is not the case.
Nope, just in case you’re ever not experiencing enough emotions in each and every moment, while trying to survive in a very busy world, you can be assured that guilt will be lingering not too far away.

Guilt is different to loneliness, in that it doesn’t present with the same sensation of isolation or disconnection, but rather it’ll bring along a crew of acquaintances just for good measure. Whenever guilt is hanging around in your back yard (we all know I love a good metaphor, and even a really average one) you’ll be sure to find regret, doubt, self-consciousness and embarrassment as well. You’ll be able to recognise them, they leave a distinctive bitter taste in your mouth. Good luck rinsing that out.

It’s all sounding fairly miserable so far, right?! Well, imagine this… Imagine living in a world and on a daily basis experiencing this inner turmoil over not only the most momentous disasters in your life, but also the really, really tiny ones.
Imagine experiencing guilt every time you checked your bank account balance, each time you bought yourself lunch, all those times you slept in, when you eat all of your dinner or when you don’t eat at all, when you purchase the most expensive brand at the grocery store, when you spend an extra 5 minutes in the shower, when you stay out late on a Saturday night, or whether you don’t go out at all.

Sound familiar?! Because it’s a pretty dark reality, a rather scary reality. I’m not entirely sure where, when or even how this all started, whether it was well before my time, or whether this has been a relatively recent turning point in society, where everyone feels so damn guilty over so many of their moves. For me, it’s everywhere, undoubtably so. And just a glimpse of it can leave me crawled into a ball of misery for a long enough time, let alone when it creeps into every aspect of a persons life.

Again, one would think that guilt only accompanies us in those times where we act out against another. While that’s a natural and warranted assumption, there’s a significant amount of guilt laden baggage getting around for many unjustified reasons.
We are made to feel guilt for dieting, or for eating too much. We are made to feel guilty for spending too much time taking care of ourselves, or for letting ourselves go. We are made to feel guilty for spending our hard earned dollars but also made to feel guilty for having too much in the bank and not doing enough with your money. And with each and every one of those examples, these are standards all set by our peers, parents, friends & enemies in society. As if there is a recipe to life and we’re all very bad in those moments where we don’t follow the instructions.
We’re made to feel guilty for indulging in simple pleasures, when it’s not even indulgence at all. We are made to feel guilty for having time off, to care for ourselves and loved ones. We are made to feel guilty while ‘indulging’ in the activities that gives us the most amount of life satisfaction, whatever that may be, to the point where it feels as if maybe we should have justified this act in a plea to some directors board.
And just when you thought it’s only about the good times, We’re made to feel guilty for spending too much time at work or too much time at the gym or in the library.

Even more mind baffling is the fact that we can’t even experience sadness, disappointment, or self pity without these emotions being overtaken and overridden by guilt itself. I’m not sure if it has taken me this long to notice it, or whether this is an unconscious process, but have you noticed that we are made to feel guilty over having a shitty day, or feeling miserable about the world?! It only takes one day where you’re a little ‘down in the dumps’ as some would describe, where maybe a few too many odds feel against you, to have someone, or something, somewhere challenge you, with a cliche quote about a dying village in Africa, who have absolutely nothing in the world. Or the fact that someone’s uncles neighbour has it just so much worse, or even the simple but belittling statement that ‘this happens to everyone’. Yep, it does and you know what?! Everyone’s allowed to be pissed about it.
All of a sudden, we are not only feeling guilty but also a little bit selfish, inconsiderate, small minded and ungrateful. Makes for a good Tuesday.
Jesus Christ people, can’t we just have a bad day and get away with it.

I’m not trying to take away or trivialise the awful experience encountered by other people in other countries, in much more difficult times than I’ll ever be in. But I’m certainly not going to allow my emotions to be held hostage by guilt. Particularly when it’s not entirely warranted.
Cause you know what? I’m not in Africa, nor am I anywhere else, I don’t know what they know and that doesn’t mean I’m not lucky to be able to say that. But it’s true, I’m not there, I’m here and it’s honestly not helpful to me, or to them for that matter to compare our very separate experiences, to only create further suffering in the world.
I’m in this house, in this street, in my own little world that I’ve created just for me and most days are really beautiful and others turn out to be below mediocre, and it just so happens that we are made to feel equally as guilty for fully experiencing both of those days.

Not too long ago, I had what I describe as a ‘soul destroying’ experience, that lasted way longer than I hoped it would. To me, it feels like the perfect example to describe this ‘guilt’ phenomenon.
I’m not going to go into much detail here, out of respect for everyone involve (but also to save myself from any unwanted nearly-strangers knocking down my door in protest).
In a very shitty, awful, unfair and devastating moment, I felt unable to experience any range of emotion without being stared down by guilt and a variety of bitter human eyes as well. I felt as though I couldn’t experience or express sadness, because my experience and impact was much less than so many others around me and I struggled with the appropriate and non-offensive display of emotion for some time. Because it appeared as though there were rules, restrictions and etiquette attached to this experience. Made it very difficult to live in any present moment.
As months went by, my mind ticked over so many revelations, as it so often does and after a period of existential questioning, I was confronted with the very overwhelming reality that this is it, this is all we’ve got, literally one chance at being a living and breathing human being. So after this time of reviewing my own life, I felt lucky & eager to continue living this beautiful life; keep achieving, keep goal setting, moving forward, enjoying and feeling proud and lucky.
You’d think that this an approach to life that is celebrated by those around you, particularly those who may have had similar confronting realisations…..
Fuck no.

Never, ever, in all of my days, have I witnessed such an uproar and such a protest, cause that’s exactly what it felt like, a protest against my own forward movement and desire to make the most of all the days that I have received.
I worked hard to source employment in the profession that I found fulfilling and rewarding, I celebrated modestly with my family my achievements at post-grad uni, I expressed my gratitude for luck and opportunity, I was motivated to be fit and healthy and excited to experience all the world had to offer with this one single shot I got at my own life.

And… I got torn to shreds. Again, I’ll skip all the gory details, but man did I cop it! I got abused publicly and privately on social media, was faced with ultimatums and comparisons, called all sorts of names and labels, got given looks, sniggers, assumptions, two faced interactions and completely outcasted. Which ended up destroying not only every speckle of self esteem I’ve ever earned, but several other important areas of my life.
All because so many people have an issues with someone else being happy, so much so that we we inherently think that if people are so passionate in their disapproval, then they must be right! And then, hey presto, you turn into an uneasy human ball of guilt, perceived selfishness and self consciousness. When all we tried to do was enjoy ourselves.

Well here I go again, taking a stand. Mostly for myself (of course, selfish cow), cause I never want to feel such crippling and/or debilitating guilt like that… It has taken years and I very obviously still haven’t recovered. If anything is a waste of your life, it’s this. Suspending your own enjoyment and life satisfaction out of an unjustified guilty conscious.

It’s certainly a tough societal phenomenon to conquer, as it appears that in this time even our peers are tough critics and are capable of judgment, so what does that make our enemies?!

So I’m proposing baby steps, little by little, until I can make it into a habit of living with enjoyment, rather than with the heavy burden of guilt.
Additionally, I’m going to encourage myself to think before I say or do anything that could translate into a guilt trip for another human being. Because if I deserve to enjoy freedom, achievement, luck, love and satisfaction, so does everyone else. If we don’t want the pressures of guilt on ourselves, don’t try to make someone else try it on for size.

None of us are all that different in this whole game of life, we are each given one of our own, only one. Emphasis on that.
I don’t know what happens after this, but what I do know is that everyday that I’m alive is another day closer to the time where I will no longer be given such w privilege. I just can’t justify wasting it, suspending or restricting it any longer.

So if you want to upload a hot lookin’ ‘selfie’ then do it and don’t be afraid of feeling guilty in fear for being called vain.
If you want to have that extra sleep in on a Saturday morning, then do it cause it’ll be refreshing and don’t feel guilty because you ‘should’ be at the gym.
If you want to take yourself out for a lovely breakfast, then do it and try not to let the ‘I should be saving money’ restriction make you feel guilty.
If you’ve had a really tough time and you’re feeling miserable and all you want to do is lounge around, then good. Give yourself some empathy and compassion and check yourself out for the day. Because those feelings are very real, regardless of the opinions and perceptions of others. If you’re feeling something, then it’s ALWAYS there for a reason, listen to it and respond to it in the nicest and gentlest way that you know how.
And for God sakes, don’t let someone’s story of Africa, or tale of something that was worse than your own make you feel guilty for even a minute.

It is literally your right, your privilege and obligation to live your life just the way that you want. You are allowed to experience your days however you do, so long as you are okay with that. Don’t worry about everyone else, soon they will learn to do the same. You are ALLOWED, everyday to do what feels nice and good for your soul, that’s apart of the contract you signed when you were given life!

We need to make the most of our own lives doing what feels right for us, in each and every moment. Your restrictions, standards, comparisons, ideas and ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’s’ aren’t welcome here anymore.

The only time you can feel guilty is when you’re allowing yourself to restrict your own enjoyment.

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