Wednesday, January 30

creature comfort

I was perusing the blog of artist Kim Sears, and she wrote something which I liked:

Disclaimer: I am one of those  people. The type that take far too many photos of their animals and expect others to oooh and aaah with adequate enthusiam.

I liked it because I am one of those people too. I can’t seem to help myself, I just find everything my pup does so endearing, entertaining, and smile-provoking that I have to capture it...and then share it, be that excitedly showing Ben my daily shoots when he gets home from work, or uploading  them on Instagram, where I can even put a filter on them (oh happy day!). And I know that other people are going, “Ok Ok. You love your dog, we get it. We have seen your dog and he looks the same this week as he did last week. Do we really need to see another photo?”

Maybe I am besotted with him because I have dreamed of owning a dog ever since I was a little girl, and now I can’t quite believe that it’s happened? Maybe it’s because he actually does all those adorable dog things that my soft toys, and obliging younger sisters, and virtual pet never quite pulled off. Or is it that he is so delightfully unaffected by the stresses of this world that I catch a bit of his unconcerned happiness?

I’m his favourite person in the whole world (yes, he even follows me to the toilet) despite being a bit of a social failure. He doesn’t know that there is anything the matter with me, and if he knew he wouldn’t care, so long as he could snuggle in my arms. He makes me feel as though sleeping during the day is the most normal, delicious thing to do, as he shamelessly does the same for hours on end. I love that I can be enough for him, that I am capable of satisfying all* his needs. (It seriously helps that his dinner comes out of a tin.) I feel with Wolfgang that I am normal, valued, capable, and understood. Seldom do I come across this feeling with people, however kind they are, which is why I often prefer his uncomplicated, affectionate company. He doesn’t tell me to pick myself up, or go and see this particular doctor, or expect me to get better with no backwards patches...he just hops into my lap, and silently, unconsciously, comforts me. That's why I love him the way I do.

Wolfgang's puppyhood

Sick & swollen from a new medication, but not alone.

Ps. He also has the cute factor and being a very aesthetic person, this pleases me no end. People frequently stop me in the street to comment on how adorable he is. Toddlers point, ladies smile, men greet him. It’s like walking around with a celebrity.

*wincey exception: we had his manly parts removed, but it would seem he still would like a girlfriend for humpy-times.

Friday, January 25

needing a hole in the ground

I woke up at 9.30 am, next to my dog, who had taken my man’s side of the bed. Today was my day off the gym, and I felt very much inclined to take it easy and embrace relaxation and healing. I decided right then and there that I was going to have a pyjama day. It was the first pyjama day I’d had in months and months. I leisurely spent my morning sewing, writing an email and ignoring the piles of dishes, clothes on the floor and general household chaos. Goodness, I’m good at not doing housework now.

3.00 pm arrived and I felt that great bodily weariness which often surrounds me at this time of day. It didn’t seem wise to push through it considering I’m meant to be look after my health post-move. I decided to snuggle up on the couch for an hour’s recuperation. 

3.24 pm. My eyes are flung open by the distinct sound of people coming up the drive. The first thought that flashes into my mind is, “It’s the Jehovah Witnesses.”

But almost instantly this thought is replaced with another, more accurate, more terrifying one.


My heart is suddenly pumping like a mad thing, and I feel all shaky and weak and gushing with something they call adrenalin. I am standing up now, in my pink dressing gown, with my overly excited Wolfgang barking like crazy. They are just approaching the porch.

I am not meant to be in the house at all, neither is Wolfgang, and the house is not fit to be seen, and I’m in pyjamas and....

I open the door before the real estate agent gets a chance to unlock it with her keys.

“I am soo sorry! I completely forgot. Can you just give me two minutes?” I say in a manufactured- calm voice, as I just peak my head out of the door in the hopes that she won’t see my pink dressing gown.

She graciously grants my request, and I close the front door as I run full pace into my bedroom, skidding along the wooden floors. The bedroom floor is covered, as always, in my clothes. I tear off my pyjamas and dash on my track pants. I start wildly picking up my clothes and stuffing them under the doona, armful at a time. What can I do, when there is no cupboard to jam them in? It looks so she-just-hid-her-clothes-in-the-bed, so lumpy, so obvious.

The sewing room...well, I just hope with all of me they don’t walk in there, because they will come out with sewing pins stuck in their feet.

I run outside to where Wolfgang is, and in my sweetest voice I coax him into putting on his leash. Then I skid back to the front door, wondering how long my re-dressing and bed-stuffing took. I’m pretty sure it can’t have been more than half a second.  

I open the door again. This time I have opened the door a lot wider as I’m not trying to hide my dressing gown. I glance down with embarrassment to see the cords of my track pants hanging out, just a little reminder of my panicked dressing. I apologise again with genuine I’m-so-sorry tones in my voice, and tell her that I haven’t been well so it quite slipped my mind. She replies that ‘there has been a lot of that going round’ and I gladly take this illusion to my having a virus. Four year virus, what of it.

After all this turmoil she says that the potential buyers have just looked at the backyard and it’s not what they were hoping for. They don’t want to look through the house after all. I close the door.

I’m still flowing with nervous energy. I’m quivering inside, and feeling a big looming dose of anxiety coming my way. I also feel some escalating self-hatred for forgetting an appointment. And then I look at my chalkboard, which this week says, 

“Grace for the things that matter.”

It’s something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. It never works when I say to myself, “It doesn’t matter, don’t worry about it!” Because, all of me disagrees. All of me says, “It does matter!” 

Picture source

What I’m learning is that I cannot be perfect. I can’t remember perfectly, or be the perfect wife, or the perfect host, or flautist, or friend, or writer...and that is ok, because there is grace and understanding, from God, from me, and often from others too. Life is important, and flute, and relationships, and the house, and my arrangements with the real estate agent are important. It’s a lie to say they’re not. But there is grace. So even though they do matter, I don’t have to feel anxious when they don’t go quite right.

There is grace for the things that matter. 

And so I applied some grace to myself, and got over it all faster than I have ever gotten over an embarrassing mistake before. 

Monday, January 21

punching bags and therapy

I haven’t seen my psychiatrist for a month.

Please understand that this is a really really long time. I miss the lump-in-the-throat rants about things great and small with my unshockable, poker faced shrink. He is a wise old owl. “What’s been on your mind?” he unfailingly asks every week, and I begin to blabber on about anything from carpet stains to the uncomfortably intimate, all in his full confidence. He doesn’t laugh at anything I say, he never blinks an eyelid.

But not only have I been counselling free since just before I left Melbourne, I have also been mood-altering medication free. Right now, I am living life as raw, unrestrained Danielle Skye. I’m sure you can appreciate the difficulties. 

This equation of no medication + no counselling + new city + guests (curious? read this one too) = I needed to hit something by the end of the week. Really hard.  Repeatedly. 

As I’ve said before, when I get anxious, I nearly explode. Implode. Whichever. It’s a peculiar feeling. I tell my husband that I need to punch something. To which he always replies, “You can punch me.” To which I always say, “ No, I don’t want to hurt you.” (And then he privately thinks, “you couldn’t even if you tried.”) On particularly desperate occasions when I have declined his kind offers, the dining room table has suffered, from a rather irrational woman.

picture source

 It would be ideal if I could just run to my psychiatrist every time I was losing it, for he has the most rationalising effect on me. Calmly, firmly, he reminds me that yes, I can say no to people, that yes, I can set boundaries to let myself cope, to recover my health, to foster the stability of my home.

He is now five hours away. Alas. 

I have discovered the most effective solution to this no shrink + no drugs + people issue.


I would advertise this class as just as effective as anti depressants and excellent for sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). We need to get it into the DSM manual.
I was nervous before class. These classically trained arms of mine are on the slender side of things and people have bluntly told me that when I am punching something, I don’t look like I’m punching at all. I regret not tuning into the boxing on telly a little more. Shall I admit that my greatest fear was punching myself in the head? It has happened before, in a class. Once I start hurling my twiggy arms around pretty much anything could happen.

Well, I had a ball. I had a wild, ugly, monster kind of a good time. The brutality of the class had me in unstoppable giggles. It was utterly vulgar and rough, and the contrast to my years of ballet training was deliciously stark. Sometimes we were punching men; I assume they were potential assaulters of the opposite sex? “C’MON, make the blood trickle”, yelled out our ‘inspiring’ instructor. I sometimes made Mr. Foe my Trichotillomania or GAD. I put my disorders in a lot of pain. My favourite move, apart from the high ninja kicks, was one where we walked along like beasts, wielding a club from above our heads to the monster we were sleighing on the ground. We were staggering along in a line, swinging wildly, like massive hairy Vikings on a bloody hunt.

 It was violent and uncivilized and I was delighted. Next we ran into a circle and apparently captured some other fiend. There was nothing pretty or polite about this class of middle class girls in designer gym gear. We screamed “YEAH” as we kicked our air opponents you-know-where. I let it all out, all those perfectionist, people-pleasing horrors, which make it so tough for me to care for my body. I served them an almighty blow, and goodness I felt good at the end of class.

A great deal of mental stability came about without me hurting my table, punching my husband, seeing my psych, popping a pill or having a sob. 

Will I be back? 

Yes, for sure.

Oops I mean, HELL YEAH.

Monday, January 14

on the merits of chucking our deodorant in the bin

Life is good in the era of minty toothpaste, anti-perspirint deodorant, and soap. I just do not know how they put up with the odours of the body in ages past. I worked in a library with a, well how shall we put it? eeeeextremely obese person, and it was such a dry retching experience I am still working through it. It was beyond bad. Give me clean, fresh, and civilized. 

As for other cosmetics, I could stand in the chemist all day long just looking at them. I LOVE being a woman, so much so that I sometimes feel sorry for men having to be men. But we won’t go into that here. I am a feminine creature who has a certain love for glossy locks, tantalising perfume, painted toe nails and did I mention lip balm? (But save me from cake-faced peroxide blonde specimens sporting oompa loompa orange skintone. Please.)

Anyway, the slight issue with all of these sparkling clean delights is that they are mostly made of toxic chemicals. And our skin absorbs these deathly substances. They don’t just sit on the outside, nope, they go right on in. Take a look at this frightening diagram, from ecomom.

My body actually took a stand on all of this last year. It is a very forthright body at times. It said in no uncertain terms that if I used any more soap on it, it would boil my hands into painful red eczema. It told me that it would certainly give me a headache if I sprayed any more toxic perfume onto my wrists and a sore throat if I used one more synthetic lip balm. I stopped committing these crimes against it because the punishment was so severe, so first I was upset that it wasn’t going to tolerate any more chemicals, but I’m actually incredibly grateful for a lesson I’ve learnt for life. I started to search for alternatives, and was surprised and amazed.

Why do people wait till they are chronically ill to start caring about what goes in and on the body? We need to care even if we are well, and so I never intend to revert to normal ways of society, not even when I can tolerate it all. 

Let’s begin with a male and female staple – Deodorant.

My brother sent me the newsletter of Chinese Medicine doctor Christopher Booth who writes:

Day in day out we massage those aluminium salts and synthetic scents (not to mention all the rest for it) under our arms - into that soft, sensitive, porous, highly vascular skin.
So is there an alternative? Yes there is! This is so ridiculously simple, and it works well.
Here's the list of ingredients:
Baking soda
That's it!

How does it work? The alkaline nature of the baking soda prevents the odour-causing bacteria from flourishing in the warm damp environment of the arm pit. Dust it on after the shower, and keep your clothes clean.

So I decided to road test it.

Day 1
I showered, and then powdered it onto my armpits. Pleased to see that it rubs in well and don’t leave a trace. Particularly excited that I don’t have to walk around with that wet roll-on clamminess! Took a closet sniff or two during the day and was relieved to find that I was scent-less, genuinely body odour free. At night, my top could do with a wash, but if I wanted to stretch it one more day I probably could.

Day 2 + intense exercise
Showered, and this time I shave. There is a sting as I apply the soda, but it’s fleeting and mild. It could be avoided I am sure by applying it a little later?

I’m apprehensive about waltzing into my intense group fitness class, nearly ‘au natural’. I just don’t want to be that putrid person who forces everyone else to exercise with their nose blocked. It’s just so vile, and cruel...and argh, will baking soda really keep me civilly scentless as I drench my clothes? I’m feeling desperately close to getting out my Rexona Mens (I don’t like the ladies), but I resist. 

End result: I smell fresher than a daisy at the end of class. I actually think I smell better than when I wear my anti persperint. Chucking my deodorant in the bin, this works.

Coconut Oil needs to be sitting in the bathroom because it is the joker of cosmetics – use as:
-          moisturiser
-          sunlotion, google it
-          anti-dandruff or anti-split ends  

Burt’s Bee’s lip balm is just edible. I doesn’t just smell better than the chemical cosmetics, all the ingredients are so natural that you could eat it for lunch. After all, most of what we put on our lips gets ingested so you better be happy for it to end in the stomach. That’s why I said goodbye to my Blistex . It’s $6 well spent in my opinion, find it here.

Hope’s Relief Hydrating Lotion, found in most chemists and pharmacies is completely natural, and heals dry skin and eczema beautifully. 

An alternative to tampons I have recently invested in...This is an Eco friendly, woman friendly invention which will pay for itself in just a few months: menstrual cup, read here.

Ecomom -  sells it all, click here. Think natural shampoo, toothpaste, soap, nail polish, make up. It’s just a matter of choosing to buy the natural, clean alternative next time the shampoo runs out. 

So, we don't have to stink and look disheveled to treat our bodies well. We just have to stop walking through the supermarket with our brains switched off. We have to take some initiative, break the mold and find the better way.

Tuesday, January 8


Dear Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,

If you were going to come back for a visit, I would expect it to be now. I've just moved house, and city. I've been sleeping badly and working hard and using cleaning chemicals. Just pop in and give me some red swollen eczema, throbbing migraines, crippling stomach pains, paralyzing muscles weakness, black dizziness....why not? I mean, now would be such a logical time for you to come over and remind me of your existence - if you even do exist anymore. Do you? Do you?

With confusion and surprise,

I just moved house on the weekend to a peaceful place named Portland (more about that soon). But I don't have pain in my body from that stressor. I just feel tired, really really tired.

Moving house is said to be one of the more stressful events in life. They put it along side getting married, getting divorced, starting a job, losing a job, having a baby, losing a family member...the books say that if you have a few too many of these stressful events in your life, the chances of you getting a stress related illness are a lot higher. Our bodies hate this kind of thing en masse. They put up their hands and surrender. 

Four years have passed since I went over the edge. There were plenty of triggers to give me that final push.

During those years of illness, I married Ben (two years ago today), moved city, moved house every summer, and started and ended university due to chronic illness.

That's a lot of stressful life events - and the crazily beautiful thing is that I have come through them all, in better health than I began, both mentally and physically! This life journey is rather fascinating, the way it takes twists and turns of the most surprising nature. Sometimes they are so tough, and sometimes they are delightful - but all of them make the journey.

the beach five minutes from my house

Anyway, whether CFS is coming to stay or not, I am embarking on four months of rejuvenation. The very first thing I did in Portland was go to the gym and get a membership. I was in the car thinking it a little sad that the first thing I had to do was get to the gym to deal with my POTS, but then on reflection I realized how privileged I was to be able to do something to sustain my health.

So it will be exercise, flute practice, sewing, hanging out with my man on the weekends, and letting this stress-prone body soak up peace, and quiet. If all stays well on the health front for many more months, maybe I'll decide to take something on, something other than healing?