Friday, December 20

a day in the life of me

I often get asked how I spend my days at home, sans work or infants. This is an example of a pretty good day. Pretty good days come when I follow this simple routine for weeks on end, without too many outings/energy-using occasions.

I spend my days going slow, as slow as my eighty year old grandma. If I go slowly and gently, I can exist with minimal pain and actually improve a little. In the long run, I get can give and enjoy more by going this pace, because it fosters stability. I farewell the run, crash, run, crash cycle.

8.30 – I start to surface after Ben has kissed me goodbye for work. I just grunt ‘goodbye’ {this could also be interpreted by him as ‘I love you’} because I like to stay in my sleepy zone. If I wake up early, I have a guaranteed sick day.

9:00 – I slowly crawl out of bed, and start oil pulling. I swish a tablespoon of coconut oil around in my mouth to pull from it toxins which compromise my weak teeth and immune system. After 20 minutes of swishing, I go and brush my teeth. I detest the taste of toothpaste while eating breakfast, but oh well.

9:30 – I make my breakfast, and it is exactly the same every single day. Routine is a lifeline for me.

corn puffs
rice puffs
shredded coconut
chia seeds
linseed meal
rice milk

then I drink a large glass of luke warm water to keep my body temperature stable, and swallow about twenty tablets.

10:00 – Now I’m heading for a shower, and there is no rushing and not enough concern for water conservation. My dad would die if he knew I used heat lamps in the summer too. After I’m dressed and mascared, I celebrate my victory with a little sit down and no champagne.

10.30 – It’s time to deal with my postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome {POTS}. A few days without exercise and my head goes black every time I try to walk. I drive to the gym – and depending on health, this is hazardous as my eyes struggle to focus and prefer to stay relaxed and blurry. I have a program of 20 minutes of cardio on the bike, treadmill, or cross trainer, and 10 minutes of stretching. I leave my fellows sweating it out with my speedy workout, and I feel the best I will feel all day while I’m exercising. I feel alive, but it’s worn off by the time I’m back in the car.

11:30 – I’ve arrived home and it’s time to sit down, sometimes with tea and some sugar/dairy/gluten free treat. Then lunch, where I try to stack on the carbs and protein because my body uses energy the same way I use shower water.

The afternoon is less structured. If I’m still functioning, I’ll do a couple of jobs. Maybe I’ll clean the bathroom, or fold washing, write an email, make an appointment, bath the dog. If I do too much, I get wiped out on the couch with a headache and dizziness.

I need to be restful, so I’ll also read books, make things, water my garden, and do all in my power not to fall asleep. Falling asleep sometimes happens accidentally, but it also brings on insomnia, so I have to very strict with myself.

5:15 – Ben arrives home from work! Wolfie the cavoodle goes psycho with yelping and jumping, because he knows he’s about to get a walk.  We drive to the waterfront or botanical gardens for some nature and catch up time. Then Ben cooks dinner or heats up left overs {he makes incredible food!} and I make a salad, or rest if I need to.  

The evening is eating dinner, reading together, and hopping into bed around 9.30. Ben usually picks me up off the couch and carries me to bed. Then I rest up for a few minutes, hop out and brush my teeth.

The day is done! My favourite days of all are these quiet home ones, where I can be so gentle as to keep the pain and fatigue at bay. Tiring days which escalate into accompanying symptoms are the ones where I catch up with someone, have to go to an appointment, have to go to the shops....those days usually aren’t ‘pretty good days’.

Thoughtful people wonder if going out for coffee with friends might help with boredom, not realising that this ‘boredom’ is the key to feeling ok. I have grown to be content in my own company and the silence of my home, and my body thrives on peace. Others envy my idyllic housewife life. And if I felt well, and could care for my home and see friends, it would be a most luxurious and lazy life. But to me this is a full day. Just as one person’s limit is a 40 hour work week, mine is a shower, gym and a job. 

Monday, December 16

Because who is perfect?

Pro Infirmis
mannequins of people with disabilities.

It is so beautiful when reality is accepted and loved.
We don't want reality hidden.
We are so tired of success & beauty brainwashing because who on earth is perfect?

Thursday, December 12

a delinquent body + quotes to soothe

This is the week of ailments. And such variety! of location and severity and duration. 
You just never know what will be next, it's Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans with an abnormally high percentage of vomit and bogeys. You want to bath the dog, but instead you are whisked to bed with blurry vision. You are besieged with stomach cramps demanding fetus position in the middle of the evening. Your world starts to sway as feed yourself dinner, and it keeps swaying when you're in bed with your eyes closed. Your body is as volatile and delinquent as a body can be. And all you can do is rest & wait, and re-read your favourite quotes and pictures made by your friends.

"He also serves who only stands and waits." 
-  John Milton

"She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails." 
- Elizabeth Edwards

"I have learnt to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages." 
- Charles Spurgeon

Friday, November 22

the best guilt-free dessert ever

Photo from onesmallpot

It is my birthday soon. I have come to struggle with birthdays. My issue with them is not primarily that they no longer involve marshmallows, and milk chocolate. They are my teary days because another year has passed, another hard year of sort of coming to terms with the loss of my health and lack of recovery. I have high hopes that I will be less blue this December.

Here is the plan for dessert. It tastes incredible, and I'm having berries as a treat - this is so exciting, berries!!

This recipe is sugar, dairy and gluten free. There is no guilt or sacrifice involved.
From Sarah Wilson's 'I Quit Sugar' book.

Blueberry Quinoa Crumble


1 cup of nuts and seeds {pecans, almonds, pepitas, sunflower kernals, anything.}
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup shredded coconut
pinch salt
80 ml rice malt syrup {get your hands on this fructose free sweetner from Coles, it can be used as a substitute in anything.}
3 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder {optional}
3-4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
coconut milk or yoghurt to serve. {I think the coconut milk is incredible!}


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Using a food processor (or knife) roughly chop the nuts and seeds. They should still be a little chunky.
Add the quinoa, coconut, vanilla and salt and pulse a few times to combine.
Combine the syrup and butter in a large bowl, then add the quinoa mixture and stir.
Arrange the berries in a baking dish, sprinkle with vanilla powder and scatter the quinoa mixture over.
Bake for 20 minutes until golden, serve with coconut milk or yoghurt.

Thursday, November 21

humbled and humiliated

When I went outside to embark on some weed termination this morning, the sun was shining. And after serious burns from a coconut oil mishap last summer {a story for another day}, I am anxious to avoid further torturing my skin. You see, it is quite likely I will perish from skin cancer due to alternative sunscreen experimentation. I applied sunscreen.

I pulled and tugged the little buggers with enthusiasm. After a while I started feeling faint and weak, so I took my sweaty hands out of my gloves and went inside for a rest. It was ten minutes since I’d started.

It was now time for me to feel extreme frustration, and humiliation. I tried to resist expletives. I hurled rhetorical questions instead.  What kind of a body is this?  What kind of an apology for a human being am I? Will I ever be independent again?


Yesterday I went to see my friend try on charming wedding dresses, as she is soon to be married and I am her bridesmaid. She and the other bridesmaid travelled 1.5 hours to do the shopping where I live. In each of the bridal stores, there were plush couches by the change room especially for the bride’s support team. I sank into them, I slouched in. The lady in one shop was telling us how we had to the bride’s servants on the wedding day and I reflected that I was the worst ‘maid’ one could ever choose. A few minutes in to the sitting-watching-exclaming process, I was feeling ill. The lovely bridesmaid asked me a few times if I was tired, and I agreed. Her concern was so refreshing, but oh my heart, ‘tired’ is the biggest understatement I have ever heard.

By the time we reached the last shop I was closing my eyes each time she was behind the curtain to change into a new dress. Please may this one take a long time to get into, I prayed. The curtain would open in a flash, and I would rally to open my eye lids and sit. The attentive bridesmaid next to me would exclaim, “Wow, you look amazing”, and I would slump and literally grunt. That night the bride sent me a message thanking me profusely for my support.   

 On the weekend, I had the honour of being my younger brother’s grooms woman. I didn’t help with the wedding, nor did I attend the rehearsal, or the hen’s afternoon. In fact, the only thing I did was arrive wearing my prescribed dress, take the bouquet handed to me, and stand up the front near my brother as he waited for, and then married his bride. He could have chosen any friend, but he chose his dysfunctional sister.

These are the times I feel humbled. Love hits hard when you haven’t earned it. I feel no legitimacy because of what I have done, because I haven’t the ability to do anything. Culture says it’s about ‘do’. It has for centuries. Hitler killed the disabled and elderly en masse, along with other minority groups. Those with disabilities have been hidden away as an embarrassment in homes and institutions. Now we can test for disability during pregnancy and terminate if it seems best.

Early on, I held this strong view of achievement based value. I felt humiliated if people had to help me, or modify things for me. I would stoically attend the wedding rehearsal, and refuse help because I didn't want to feel like less of a person. I still feel this way, when I face my inability to go shopping or weed my own garden.  

But slowly I begin to gratefully accept love. This is only possible as I delicately grasp the concept of not being valued or defined by what I do. If my identity is in what I do, then I have lost my very self.  I begin to think that who I am matters more than what I do, and it’s my friends and family who are teaching me this. 

My brother telling me what to do, as I missed the rehearsal.
My husband being my support team, as usual.
My eyes are closed, nothing new.

Thursday, November 14

believe me {a film trailer}

I tear up every time I watch this trailer. Every single time.
I feel raw after watching it, because it is my story, my siblings' story, my friends' story.

Canary in a Coal Mine 

I'm backing this project so that they will have the funds to create a full length film. Imagine thousands of people seeing this and believing this?!


Sunday, November 3

a kiss and a cup of tea

1956, animals used as part of medical therapy

2013, my medical therapy

Pain and frustration accompany most of my days at the moment, usually en masse. But there are always flickers of beauty and joy, even on the days where I don’t think I can continue if this illness lingers any longer.

It comes in the form of a letter, a new thought, a kiss, a doggy snuggle, a piece of cake.

Today {a lowly day} was spent in bed, but Wolfie did extra cute things, and when I was strong enough to lift a tea cup, it tasted divine, and the clouds outside my window glided entertainingly. 

Sometimes I view my home as my prison. Every time I am asked why I don’t work or study I am reminded that staying home is not a life, in our society. But the journal below reminded me of all the terribly wonderful moments which happen right here in these four sometimes oppressive walls. 

Wednesday, October 23

normal people

This morning I arrived at the animal shelter for my volunteering in the cattery, secretly wishing I had preferenced the ‘doggery’ on my form.  I signed on at 10.45 am because I’m not good with ungodly hours of the morning (10 am), and glanced above to see the times that my volunteer colleagues would sign off for the day.

4.30 pm.

Ok. That’s fine, I thought. Don’t worry about their awesomeness.  

When I first got to the cattery I had to control the dry-wretch reflex. They say it takes eight minutes to adjust to a smell, but they didn’t test this in a cattery.  Lucky I am a pro mouth-breather, a technique my cloth nappy cleaning mum taught me long ago. Once I’d adjusted to nose blocking, I began my cleaning tasks and made sure to frequently pass the quarters housing a mama cat with her day old offspring. I might have passed it ten times because as you know from my last post, oggling baby furries is very therapeutic. It was squeal worthy, the way they were suckling their mum.

So, I was happily working away feeling ‘normal’, as in, not in pain or feeling deathly fatigued.  I loved that I was pain free as I worked; it made me feel all quivery with hope.  Maybe this will be so manageable that I will barely feel the effects afterwards? I thought. After what felt like a very long time, my supervisor was going to have her tea break. I called it ‘a day’ and returned to the sign off sheet.

I wrote: 12.00pm

As I drove home I just thought, ‘How?! How on earth can someone go back to work after their tea break? Is that even humanly possible?’

Instead of feeling joy that I’d managed to do a solid hour and a quarter of work, I felt total deflation. How can it be that these people are so mind bogglingly robust? How can it be that my body is so screwed up that even my ‘I’m recovering’ strength is a weak shadow of normal people?

When I got home, I sat on the couch. I kept sitting there for hours, feeling physically pummelled. 

Of course, the proper response would be:  But, it’s wonderful that you did an hour! Don’t compare yourself to others, but be glad that you have improved so much that you can manage to do that much.

And I would say: Yes, I know. That is the perfect answer. That is so true.

But.  Proper feelings aside, I am confronted by the reality of life outside my lounge. I had lost track of the lives around me. I am like an elderly person who plods through their quiet life yet considers it hectic.
Outside my sheltered existence, people are working all day long, five days a week. They are even looking after their homes, exercising and socialising {ie. my entire existence} in their spare time.

I know. It’s beyond.

I now realise why this was my mantra in my first year of illness:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Tuesday, October 15

an impractical plan to avoid death

If you read my blog regularly you will know that I only really cover two topics:

-         -    being sick
-         -    being sick of moving house

And so this post will cover these themes in detail, because I’m sick and we’re moving house again and I’m sick of moving house and moving house makes me sick.

The realestate agent told us last week that we have to vacate, and to say that I took the news well would be untrue. I was a neurotic psychotic mess, crying with despair one minute and laughing uncontrollably the next. I said to Ben that this is what I will be like when I am pregnant, for nine whole months. It was dark, but I think he looked frightened.

Last time I felt like I was going to die. I know that sounds melodramatic, but illness is a common pre-death state and one never knows if one’s lifeless body will revive. As we packed our dirty mop and dirty dog into the car ready for the four hour drive to our new home I started to get stabbing pains in my head. They were ‘is-this-an-aneurism?’ pains, and we wondered if this was a hospital emergency. Mercifully they didn’t persist for as many months as the severe malaise, and I didn’t die.

Moving house and chronic illness are a toxic combination. This particular life event has a 100% record for undoing my health progress significantly. Three doses of this in one calendar year is not recommended.

Two moves ago, Ben had this great impractical plan to send me away while he moved house. I rejected this idea instantly, on two grounds.

  1. He needed me.
  2. I didn’t want others to have to help us if I wasn’t pulling my weight.
One move ago, Ben suggested his impractical plan again. I rejected it because he needed me as we were living in a remote town with few friends.

This time, Ben suggested his plan again and I have gratefully agreed to it.

I am either getting less conscientious, less proud, or more fearful of relapse. After psychoanalysing myself, I feel it’s a muddy mixture of all three.

It’s a bit of a social norm and pride issue, the whole being- there-to-move-your-own-house thing. I used to think it was an outrageous idea to ask other people to move house for me when I was ‘perfectly’ capable. All of next month’s adrenalin wildly gushes to my aid on moving day enabling me to fool even myself of my suitability for the job. But once I have collapsed into bed it is difficult to depart it anytime soon.

I still have to hunt, inspect, apply, pack, and clean beforehand, but my body seems more approving of quiet regular efforts than short sharp ejaculations.

At this point I am no longer hysterical, which is a relief for my small family. Wolfie kept stealing wet tissues and eating them, and he would have become constipated had my anguish persisted. I feel what I think is peace and acceptance, but it could be numbness. I have just discovered that looking at deathly cute baby animals has great emotional benefits, and I feel quite a connection to this kitten.  


Thursday, October 3

define patience.

I don’t even know what patience is.

Is it endurance? Because endurance sounds like being stuck in the mud, but choosing not to kill yourself. It’s grit-your-teeth and get through. Perseverance feels a little more determined than endurance to me. I think it has an end in sight. Patience sounds angelic, peaceful.   

I have endured 5 years. Maybe I’ve even persevered because I’ve always believed there is a purpose to suffering, however invisible.  But I don’t think that just getting to the end of one day and then repeating counts as patience.  

the dictionary definition confirms my suspicions.

Pa – tient
 Bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness.

 With calmness. 

The word used for ‘enduring pain with calmness’, and ‘person under medical care’ is the same. But I am the latter, not the former.

I have half hour stints of illumination where I see eternity stretching out and grasp how these moments now are just a breath. I feel calm, at peace with waiting.

And then I have weeks of terror as I picture myself still homebound, still limited in five years time and how I can barely face the continuance of life in this dysfunctional body. I choose again to only take today, but one second later I’m wondering about the future. Then I remember that patience is the key, but I don’t even know what patience is because I’m not sure I’ve ever felt it. Or maybe it’s not a feeling, it’s an action.

Maybe patience is deciding not to commit suicide, deciding not to cling to old plans and dreams, trusting that each day you will be carried through and can rest in God’s unfathomable, unsearchable ways.

My ramblings may sound depressed. But I’m feeling neither depressed nor anxious. These are just my muddy thoughts, the ones that hang in my house while other people are occupied with work or studies. I have hours to wander through them. 

Many people in unwell bodies seek counselling, because the thoughts which were swiftly stifled by fast paced life unravel. It’s not hard to avoid silence because we can put our ipods in, re-read the updates in our newsfeed, find a book, blog, beverage. We pass the time by incessant stimulation so we can avoid truth. But the truth is that I need to wait. 

Wednesday, September 25

jinxing myself

"There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

C.S. Lewis

I am a little bit superstitious about one thing, which is a little bit silly because I don’t actually think the world works like that.

I think that I’ll jinx myself if I tell people I am feeling well.

For about 5 years now this has been the case. I share my overflowing excitement about feeling like a normal human being, and then the next day boooom. Back to bed. This is the first year that I’ve starting to think a little more rationally about the fact that I probably never did jinx myself. I think relapses have a lot more to do with the fact that my body wasn’t well enough to sustain health longer than a day or two, than that my words doomed me.

So, I kind of want to write a blog and tell you how delicious some of the days this last month have been and how I hope this is going to go on and on, but you know now why I don’t really want to. The other reason is that various people in my acquaintance have no concept of ‘chronic’ or ‘fluctuations’ and think that more well for a month means all better forever more. Dream boats. I have to be selective. Some people I tell, the ones who know it could/will be fleeting. Other people I give my favourite phrase of all time, not bad. Which is really: not telling.

But because I don’t think I can jinx myself, I’ll write that I have been on some successful shopping trips, stayed up late without severe consequence, seen some people without headaches, and generally felt a wellness ever since the start of my fructose free diet. Not all the time, but a lot more of the time. Ben has had the week off work, and for the first time in our marriage, we have been able to do the fun holiday things that we always wanted to.

The warmer days and sunshine seems to be playing a major part in all of this, for some reason every year around this time I just start to pick up. Unfortunately, each January I have either moved house {such a bad idea} or started university {equally bad}, and gone plummeting back. What I wonder is this:
If there is no major life event this year, could the good days continue?

I continue to think that relaxed and pleasant experiences foster good health, just as stress can make us unwell. I feel that the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’ is unhelpful. Do we have to ruin good pleasures with guilt?

My not-at-all-guilty pleasures are:

Showering with the window wide open so that I look onto the sun and grass outside.

Eating chocolate cake, which is free from all the things my body dislikes and still tastes flipping amazing.

Asparagus. My mum-in-law grows the best asparagus ever, and I am in love with it. Ben thinks I am a health freak and regularly calls me one, and I think I may now fit into that category. We are planting our own veggie garden in a week.

 Sunning. Sitting in the sun, with or without tea and book is just about as good as it gets. If you add in Wolfgang and Ben, it’s even better.

Saturday, September 14

on not picking up where I left off - recovery dilemnas


less is more, more or less

It’s a little perplexing to find myself nearly 23 and so very far off the typical western life path. I’ve been existing in a different world, as far away from merit, competition and systems as I could limp, in order to re learn to exist without pain. 

Unlike my peers, I do not have a bachelor. The last time I worked for a boss was 5 years ago. If I were to write my resume there would be a blank for most of my adult life. My means of income: the pension. Role: lying on the couch and popping pain killers. Not to brag or anything, but I can swallow six at a time. Without choking.
I wonder: how on earth do you proceed when this is your situation? If I do continue to have more strength each year, I have to think about reassimilating. But I am so altered, it’s not as simple as picking up where I left off.

The thing is, I find myself desiring the opposite life to the one I wanted and lived before. I don’t want to practice tirelessly to become a flautist, despite feeling the same passionate love for the arts. I don’t even want to teach really, because it is intrinsically linked to the world that surrounds my illness. I want to lead a simple life. I just want to love and be well.

High achiever options are out the window. I mean, I am seriously considering dog walking and floristry. If you’d suggested that to me 5 years ago, I would have given you a withering look. 

I knew what I wanted to invest energy in even as a young girl. I never once looked up potential careers because I didn’t need suggestions. I was bamboozled that some people had no idea of what to do for a vocation and surprised about how often they changed course. I thought they lacked constancy. Now I sit on the couch and write down lists of things that interest me, like a Year 10 student deciding for the first time. Only, now I am the person with no conviction or sureness of which direction I should turn in.

But there is a step I can take now now, and it dawned on me and Ben a month ago as we grappled with the ‘what next’ question for the hundredth time. What next for someone who wants to dip their toes in life outside the lounge room? For someone who doesn’t want to do what they’re most qualified in, doesn’t want to start a whole new degree, doesn’t have much energy, and would love a family before tooooo long....

I can volunteer.
It’s a chance for me to take a gentle step out of my cocoon. It’s a pressure free way to test my health, aside from driving alertness and vacuuming ease. I don’t know why it took me so long to think of it, possibly because I’d never considered it in all my life.  I am thinking of offering 2 hours per week to begin with, to see how I cope. Can you imagine me coming home from having gone out and contributed?! Right now, I am most interested in Geelong Animal Welfare Society, the local pound which cares for so many beautiful animals. I don’t feel ready to deal with people in need yet, because I am still so fragile. But I feel I could care for homeless dogs.

 I am struck by how excited I am to work for nothing and do a menial task – and the strangest thing of all is that I am as happy now or happier than I was when I was doing ‘greater’ things. 

I have a very strong feeling that success doesn't equal happiness. 

Tuesday, September 10

trying hard things: five weeks fructose free


Day 1 and Day 2 I was wandering around the kitchen like a nomad, peeking at the dates in the pantry and opening the fridge over and over in dismay. I felt an unquenchable thirst for sweetness. It was overwhelming to realise that when I reached an energy and emotional low, I couldn’t pick myself up with a hit of dates, fruit, lindt or caffine. I was surprised to realise how real my addiction was. I was flat as a pancake.

Just as I was settling in for prolonged misery, I quite suddenly stopped craving things. It was bizarre how abruptly it ended.

 Ben bought jars and jars of Rice Malt Syrup, the fructose-free sweetener of my choice. He has always been a fabulously caring husband, and this was no exception. He did all the cooking, and baked for me so that my nightly tea {herbal now} wasn’t lonesome. Soon though, I was well enough to do my own baking, and that is something I haven’t done in months.

Here’s the strangest thing of all: I have never really enjoyed vegetables overly much, apart from sweet potatoes and corn -  and potatoes in the fries version. Now, I’m desiring green vegetables, even over grains. I walk into the veggie mart (yes, walk in, that’s right) and want to buy greens and eat greens. I honestly think I have broken the sugar addiction after nearly 23 years. I still wonder if this is the honeymoon period, or if I truly want healthy food now? Is my body saying, ‘FINALLY! You ended my complicated relationship with sugar. Thank you!”

The month I left off fructose, I was struggling to keep my eyes open, unable to drive because I felt blank to the very back of my head, and dreading getting off the couch to get a cup of tea. Things had been pretty wretched since moving. Now days I’m not up and down throughout the day with sugar hits and energy lows. I am driving with a clear head, not needing afternoon sleeps 90% of the time, recovering more quickly from exertion and generally experiencing a radical reduction in symptoms.

The results are worth the sacrifice many times over. And to think I put this off for four years, because I was scared it would be too hard – but, like so many things (apart from coming of antidepressants), it was easier in reality.

Today someone posted this article about fructose being very unhealthy en masse. And until a few months ago, I thought orange juice was good for me. Thank-you myths and supermarket promotions.

-        Summer might be tricky, because I love watermelon and mangoes on hot days. 

-        Going out just isn’t the same when you can’t order chai tea with honey. And no ciders or wines on special occassions. {it is worth it, it is worth it, it is worth it.}

-        Smelling Ben’s fresh brownies makes me drool, and waver in my resolution, but I will not give in.

-        I am eating ALL vegetables – including onion, tomatoes and garlic, but deliberately limiting these ones. If I hadn’t seen such a radical result, I might have eliminated these too but for now I’m content.

Tuesday, September 3

chinese secrets

"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I first met Dr. Lim a year ago. I am so very fond of him and his smiling Asian face with Howardesque eyebrows. I look forward to Saturday mornings with him – yes, frightened me, who develops a telltale nervous rash and wants to vomit or bolt at the western doctors. From herbs, to manners, to common sense, he has taught me many things.

“Come in Mrs. Martin. How you feel? Any better?”

Dr. Lim is so delightfully caring. He genuinely gets excited when I’m doing well, and concerned and sad when I’m not. I have no fear in telling him how I’m going because he won’t shrug off anything that I say lightly. He deals with the whole of me, from muscles to mind, and respects my feelings and emotions in a way I rarely come across.

Many doctors sit there coldly and then declare there is nothing they can do for my condition. Then they smirk when I mention that I’m seeing a Chinese Medicine doctor. They bemoan the use of my money on something that obviously won’t work if they have declared my condition is untreatable. I wish for open minds and love in the western profession.

“Drink warm water, is good for you.”

For a couple of winters my immune system was a nightmare, permitting me 5 day breaks between colds. Dr. Lim suggested that I drink warm water. He told me that when cold water goes into the body, it naturally cools it down and the energy required to warm it back up takes away from its ability to fight off viruses.

Since switching to warm water and boiling the jug a trillion times a day, I've only had two mild colds in a whole winter. It’s an incredible change. Sometimes you don’t need a pill or potion, just some smart body sense.

“On sunny days, go for walk outside.”

To keep myself from fainting, I've had to exercise very often for the last few years. I diligently go to the gym because I've been told to, but, eww. After I moved to Geelong and felt the low mood cloud descend on me, I opted out of trying more antidepressants {after a hellish experience coming off them last time} and instead took Chinese Herbs and sunshine. The choice is unshowered dripping males and fluorescent lighting, or fragrant spring flowers and sunshine. I'm still amazed at how joyful I feel in the sun, smelling flowers - it's a merry combination.

“Eat yoghurt for this problem, you feel better.”

Recently I had a bout of tummy bloating, severe heartburn, and other unmentionable bowel dilemmas...I expected him to give me another bottle of herbs for this issue, but instead he said to try yogurt first. As I can't tolerate dairy, we decided on a probiotic. His intuition was right on, as it immediately settled things down. I do love a simple pharmacy or food solution and avoiding a trip to the white coats.

“I have something make it go away. Be all better.”

I came to Lim after two trips to the physio which hadn't solved my neck pain and headaches. He came back from his store room with patches to put on my neck and back, containing strong herbs like Menthol and Camphor. I wanted to believe this would help, but after an unsuccessful week of treatment at the physio, I was fearful of ongoing pain. I skeptically put the patches on, and in 3 days I was pain free.

We can't underestimate the importance of easing another's burden, even if we can't take it away. I was dancing around the house over joyed to have one less pain on my plate.

Smile often

Dr. Lim and his son who helps him smile continually. They absolutely beam. I've never met such smiley people in my entire life. From the dozens of 'you feel better soon's' to the 'we find something just right for you's' I feel a warmth which is delightfully refreshing for a jaded appointment attendee. After my appointments they usually chat to Ben and I for quite some time like we are their friends - about our lives and their lives, and always with lots of laughter. I've never left without the smile they gave to me in the room.

They don't worry about being 'professional', a word which has come to feel so clinical and cold to me. I feel they embody what doctors really should be - caring, affirmative, and eager to reduce pain.

"Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution."

 Kahlil Gibran

Monday, August 26

surprise holiday in august {and a pianostool diy}

I’ll never forget my first holiday with illness, because it was a major let down.

I thought the holiday would be a reprieve and a chance to get refreshed, and I thought I needed it more than ever before.  But I soon realised that the best thing about holidays is leaving the hard work at home...and when the hard work is your own body, it comes with you. I could not believe it had come; I couldn't believe my body wouldn’t let me have a few days off. I know it is super naive/illogical, but I truly thought I'd feel better while I was away. I spent the whole holiday shocked that even the cruisey life was difficult.

All the old ‘leisure’ activities had lost their leisureliness. Reading a book was not so easy, and watching a movie hurt my head. A trip to the beach was exhausting, and catching up with friends was a demolishing task.

But I've been given a couple of weeks off just recently, and I've been experiencing the crazy goodness and beauty of leisure which actually feels like leisure. The necessity of showering and dressing hasn’t taken it all out of me, so I can enjoy my book thoroughly. I made my own lunch and baked a cake afterwards. I saw two friends in a week and didn't end up in bed. And Ben and I did a project (as in, outside, standing up, kindof-manual-labour) that we’d wanted to start two years ago but never could because the basic things used up my everything.

I’m actually on holiday from my body at the moment, and it’s so good I'm weepy. 

We got this piano stool for $10 in a garage sale two years ago. And it was gruesome brown paint with stained yellow satin. We sanded it by hand, painted it cream, re-upholstered it with natural jute from Spotlight, and now it's feeling fabulously shabby chic. 

Tuesday, August 20

words for wednesday {page 16, laughter club}

" For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe." 

Larry Eisenberg

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."

Lao Tzu

"Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine."

Lord Byron

Yesterday I went to the nursery and came home with baby Daphne, who smells like lemony spring and looks like my wedding bouquet. I keep sneaking out the front door to bend down and take in her fragrance (i.e. nearly every hour). I think Lao Tzu articulated one of the most restorative things about creation - it's never rushing or stressing or worrying. 

This Saturday, I am hoping to try the most wacky bizarre unconventional thing I've ever done.

I thought going back to ballet as an adult was courageous. This time I'm going to go along to laughter club.  I have no idea whether I will find it mad and crazy as I am inclined to think, or refreshing and freeing. I feel as though I am a crazy lady for even deciding to try it. I asked my other half if he would join me after he was quite positive about my decision to trial it, but he wasn't so keen for himself and cited concerns about co-workers seeing him there and having to explain himself {the 'laughers' meet at the Waterfront}. He doesn't want to be associated with 'hippy healthy nutters', which is quite understandable. My main concern is that I will laugh uncontrollably in the sections where we supposed to be quiet. I have this difficulty, bordering on disorder, where I lose the plot in serious situations, and struggle to stop laughing at a socially appropriate times. I might share my laughter experience next week.

Have you heard of Norman Cousins? 

He was diagnosed in 1964 with a connective tissue disease and given a very slim chance of recovery. After getting progressively worse in hospital under conventional medicine, he became active in his health and decided to put himself on a course of vitamins, and.....laughter. He knew that stress could cause harm to the body and wanted to see if positive emotions could help with healing. He tested his sedimentation rate before and after laughter (achieved by watching the Marx Brothers) - and found that afterwards it would drop, and he would be pain-free for two hours of sleep. After recovering, he went on to study the effects of humour on the body.

Thankyou cfsjourney for the Eisenberg quote.

Wednesday, August 14

words for wednesday {page 15, happy healthy resolutions}

I have been topsy turveying around feeling perplexed in relapse land. I lose the plot emotionally when I relapse, so it's double trouble.

I decided: time to give my body a chance to snap out of hazy land into energy land and hopefully driving land again soon. Ben is such a great taxi, but it really does make our lives more complicated. I am on Day 7 of quitting fructose – I know, bye-bye fruit, dried fruit, honey... caffine had to go too {and I said bye to processed sugar a long time ago}. No more midday date hits and crashes, and hopefully a move towards a sharper brain and more energy. If you know me, you will know how much I love my English Breakfast tea - my sacrifice just proves how much I want to get well.

But despite saying bye to my frienemies, I feel excited. Buckwheat pancakes, peanut butter chocolate truffles, hummus, leafy greens, nuts, jasmine green tea, and healthy granola. It’s actually a delicious feast, thanks to recipes from Sarah Wilson’s blog and beyond. 

I’m also doing breathing exercises/mindfulness to help calm my ever stressed self down. I trialled my new ‘belly’ {which I prefer to call tummy} breathing at the hairdresser this week under that sneaky black cape, and I returned without having felt anxious, told a lie, or having developed a headache. I didn’t even lie down afterwards! I can’t express my delight at finding a technique which helps conserve energy.

Ben and I also realised that in the kafuffle of moving and ‘settling,’ {which is really code for ‘not feeling settled at all’ and 'missing Melbourne'} we haven’t been doing things we enjoy very much. We used to have happy little family traditions; daily walks to the Parklands to watch the dogs play, going to buy incredible gluten free fruit loaf from the bakery on Saturdays, watching romcoms. Lately it’s all been survival, and not much enjoying – and I have a strong feeling that if we did more enjoying and just being content here we might settle better. We have re-committed!

It could be a placebo effect, which is fine by me, because I don’t care what makes me feel better, or it could be a combination of eating great food, breathing, enjoying walks outside and being positive...but I’m feeling a tiny bit better. I appreciate this little step forward.

{the other night I went to youtube for a laughing/cute animal fix, but I cannot beat this hair accident one which naturally went viral.}

Wednesday, August 7

words for wednesday {Page 14, being a Somebody}

“Like city dwellers who no longer notice the polluted air, we breathe in the atmosphere of ungrace unawares. As early as pre-school, and kindergarten we are tested and evaluated before being slotted into advanced, normal or slow track. Test papers come back with errors, not correct answers, highlighted. Ford Motor Company grades employees on a scale of 1 (clerks and secretaries) to 27 (chairman of the board). You must be at least Grade 9 to qualify for a parking space: Grade 13 brings with it such perks as a window, plants and an intercom system: Grade 16 offices come equipped with private bathrooms. Justice departments and mortgage companies cannot operate by grace. A sports franchise rewards those who complete passes, throw strikes, or make baskets, and has no place for those who fail. Fortune Magazine annually lists the five hundred richest: no one knows the names of the five hundred poorest.”

Philip Yancey, Grace

It’s not really surprising that I question my existence now that I am fully dependant, and meritless. I feel like a Nobody because every Somebody in our world has to earn their way to Somebodiness and I can’t anymore. I can't, and it doesn't feel good. I’ve always defined myself by my achievements, and now that I can’t achieve, I wonder where on earth I fit in?

But then there’s this bizarre and wonderful grace thing, where things aren’t earned or strictly fair. I have a meagre grasp of it. I just know that grace doesn’t care about what I can do, and that we need more grace in our world because there’s enough ungrace. Grace seems to me a lot like unconditional love.

I was looking through HONY and a wizened face appeared, a man playing a wooden flute. The music drew me in, but then I read what the man had said and it seemed to sum up every confused thought I have had regarding me and how I fit into the world now that I am ill.

“Don’t look to other people for validation. Your birth was your validation.”

I was born a little red squishy 7 lbs of girl. I was loved for just being a human being, even when Mum first discovered that I was in her womb, barely formed, barely functional. I didn’t acquire my validity to exist once I’d done something impressive, or sacrificial, or beautiful. I am not valid because of what I do - but because I was born and I make up one of the millions of souls who exist because they were created.

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, ever one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.”

Ps 139

I only discovered Humans of New York a couple of weeks ago, but it was love at first sight and every sight since.

I am overwhelmed by the beauty and uniqueness of every soul captured. When I trawl through the photos and hilarious or sobering quotes I feel less alone because there are thousands of humans going through highs and lows simultaneously. I feel community.