Helping those who need it most

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I’ve been pissing and moaning a bit lately how money is a little tight. Just a little tight but not the end of the world tight. It ebbs and flows for us, depending on my workload, the time of year (not necessarily Christmas) and Anth’s bonuses. In terms of the last one, his promised quite hefty bonus was unpromised which meant we nearly cancelled our most recently holiday. I’m glad we didn’t though.

Lately I’ve been reading about funding cuts to people who really need it. Firstly it was the Federal Parliament bill to place 100,000 single parent families onto the Newstart allowance.  This removes an estimated $60 to $100 a fortnight from already struggling families. Please dispense with judgements about single parent families. As per a ‘normal’ family, there is a wide range of what a single parent family looks like.

Then there’s a mum from our school, Becky, who is a teacher working with refugee families in a primary school in Melbourne’s south-east. A few weeks ago, the State Government cut her funding and two weeks ago she was told the school wouldn’t be able to find the money in their own budget to fund her position next year. I wonder what will happen to these most vulnerable of children without someone with the empathy and compassion of Bec to guide them.

A letter in The Age today mentions the loss of funding for the School Focused Youth Service. This is a Uniting Care service supporting marginalised and disadvantaged children, young people and families. According to the Education Minister, Martin Dixon,  a new, “targeted, whole of government” strategy to support young people is being developed, but agencies have expressed fear that in the current cost-cutting environment any new scheme will rob schools of the support they need to help troubled children.

‘Whole of government’. Uggghhh. Whatever that means. I just don’t understand why money is taken away from those who need it most when we know that there are squillionaires out there who have enough money to fund accountants to work out how to dodge tax payments and nothing is done about it. Well, perhaps there is and I’m reading the wrong stuff. Perhaps these stories aren’t as sexy as taking that damn cash from those slack-arsed single parents who are lucky to receive anything at all…(there are people who think like this, just read the comments when these stories pop up).

We need to help the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. We just do. Otherwise it’s a perpetual cycle – unless it can be broken.

So, given we’re heading towards Christmas, here’s 5 suggestions to help those less fortunate have a merry Christmas:

  • Woolworths have boxes in each store you can donate goods – I bought an extra shampoo and conditioner with my shopping the other day and whacked them in there. Too easy.
  • The Salvation Army has a ‘how to help’ section here
  • The Smith Family have Joyspreader Gifts here
  • Wesley Mission have Food For Families here
  • KMart’s Wishing Tree

A few months back I purchased a Giving Bowl from Foundation 18. Here’s my blog post about it from waaayy back in March here. We’ve been a bit slack throwing our spare change into it but as of today it holds $36.05 and I’m donating it to the Salvation Army. Believe me, I’m no saint given the shit I whinge about but next time I moan about white, middle class stuff (like cancelling our holiday!) I will quietly slap my own face.

Do you have any other suggestions to help make someone’s Christmas a little merrier?

 

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My 6 Steps to Recovery from PND

Following on from my last post about my experience with PND, I thought I’d write about what worked for me in my recovery – short and long term.

  1. Talking. I belonged to a mother’s group – not a particularly close one but a nice one all the same – and I remember sitting at a cafe in Sandringham and talking about how I felt and the other mums saying that sometimes they felt the same way. It sounds simple, but I cannot tell you what a relief this was. We go around thinking everyone is doing okay and they probably are, but to share my thoughts and feelings and have others feel the same was important. I remember always thinking “why didn’t anyone tell me it’d be like this?” And this is a time before blogs and twitter. There were online forums but I wasn’t a massive fan. Just on this though, society still has this thing where we have babies and we’re meant to live in a fog of nappies and smiley hugs – not always the case.
  1. Time. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone but after about nine months of barely sleeping, I actually said to myself “righto Beavo, you’ve gotta let go, you have to get over this” and I sort of did. If I’d heard it from someone else, I would have punched them.
  1. Exploring my values. I’d never even thought about values. Ever. But I’d recovered enough to start really enjoying life but something was still not quite right. At a values coaching session with my friend Jen (which was rather intense), it emerged that my top value, my most important value, was freedom. When you have absolutely no support for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week it can feel like it’s never going to end. I still get quite* tense during school holidays.
  1. Drugs. See previous post.
  1. Research. Exploring the reasons for perinatal depression and anxiety. As well as the values session, this was the real eye-opener for me. I suspect first time parents aren’t really prepared to explore the possibility of experiencing depression or anxiety or understanding that your family of origin has a huge impact on how you parent and how you cope as a parent. Everything seemed very focused on the pregnancy and birth – I gave very little** thought about the emotional impact of having a baby and a lot of thought about whether I had enough wraps, grow suits and newborn nappies. I kept thinking “gee I wish I’d known all this stuff when Mitch was born” because having an understanding of WHY I felt the way I did would have alleviated somewhat the ever-present feeling of confusion and the sense that I was, well, hopeless. I know, I was completely naive.
  1. Time. Again. Slowly but surely the boys got older, I got wiser and I created strategies that allowed me to have my freedom, to work and to start to feel human again. Obviously life is not the same. I still have my challenges if my freedom is impinged upon. The upcoming six weeks of school holidays fills me with a little dread, yet I know other parents are thrilled because it means a break from the monotony of the school run. Sure, I love the flexibility and lack of routine but six friggen weeks of it…breathe…

A reminder to breathe…

There are many ways to recover from perinatal depression and/or anxiety. Counselling is definitely one of them. Money was extremely tight at the time so I wasn’t able to have ongoing counselling.

If you’re pregnant (or new to parenthood), you’re in Melbourne and would like to undertake some classes around emotional wellbeing during the transition to parenthood, check out this website – Well Mum Well Baby. The last workshop for the year is on 16 December – definitely well worth a look. I would have loved to have done something like this.

Would you care to share how you recovered from PND?

* very
** no

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It’s #bePNDaware week

This week is postnatal depression awareness week. I won’t bang on about stats, suffice to say there’s more women and men who suffer some sort of perinatal (post or antenatal) depression than you would think.

I know I did. It’s eleven years since Mitch was born and while I clearly remember being surprised at how long he was (he was 54cm) and remember this squishy, gooey baby being placed on my stomach, the next few months are a bit of a blur. I didn’t sleep a wink for about 3 or 4 days after he was born because I was so wired and then I didn’t sleep properly for nearly a year. Big deal you may say, what new mother does, but Mitch was a pretty good sleeper and while he’d sleep for 11 hours, I would – Every Single Night for about nine months – wake up during the night and be awake for around two hours. It was a killer. My neck, shoulders and back were in constant pain and the tiredness was numbing. I lost a lot of weight and I couldn’t think straight.

I got by okay but the ever present anxiety was crushing. I’d cry a bit but I never really thought about PND or anything like that. I never sought professional help and didn’t even know PANDA existed. While Anth was an enormous support, I had no family support (those of you who have mums to visit or who come and help you, please be grateful) and only one close friend around (the others were all working). The weekly visits with my old high school buddy Michelle to North Road Pavillion saved my sanity…just.

Slowly but surely the fog lifted and I seemingly recovered and “got on with things”. Then I got pregnant with Dan and the shit hit the fan, big time. I could not stop crying. I had an inability to look after Mitch and I was in all sorts. It was only after a desperate call to a friend who said that I just had to get to the doctor, that I went to my GP. It was a long consult and in the end the difficult decision to go on a low dose of anti-depressants was made. Of course I was extremely reluctant to do this but during the consult my GP rang the Monash Drug Info Line and I was told it was safe to do so. So I did.

I’m sure it’s difficult for some people to understand why I did this, but I was so desperate and no matter what I did to try and feel better, nothing worked. And it was having a very big impact on my mothering of Mitch. He was two at the time so he needed me to be very present and at times I wasn’t – I was barely keeping my head above water.

My memory is hazy about how long it took to feel better but it was probably two or three weeks. Thankfully I didn’t have any side effects and I kept taking the medication until Dan was around a year old. I was slowly weaned off them and have not taken anything since. I always tell people the happiest day of my life was when Dan was born because he was healthy, he was out and I knew I wasn’t having any more children! So the most amazing day of my life was when Mitch was born (seriously, child birth is a fucking miracle) and the best was when Dan was born.

It was really only when Dan was about one that I started researching into why some women cope better than others and it is truly fascinating. It’s too much to write in this blog post but there are very valid reasons why women and men suffer from perinatal depression or anxiety. I’m sharing my story in case it helps someone else.

If you’re a new parent and you’re reading this and you’re not feeling okay, please check out PANDA’s website. It is full of easy to read information on every topic you can think of. There are also some very awesome volunteer and paid counsellors who are on hand to talk to you from Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm AEDST. Call 1300 726 306. Please call. Even if you’re the mum, sister, friend or partner of someone you think needs some assistance, just call. Also, it’s a follow up service so PANDA calls you until you’re either linked in with support services or you feel you don’t need to be called any more.

These days I’m fine. I’ve done a lot of work, research and life changes to get where I am. It’s not perfect, but what is? I’m a volunteer for PANDA’s Homestart scheme where I get to visit a mum once a week. I’ve just finished up with one gorgeous mum who is doing so much better than a few months ago. There IS support out there, don’t be ashamed to seek it. #bePNDaware

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So, here I am

Last time I wrote a blog post it was day 2 of the most fabulous meditation retreat. Since then, I’ve devoured the rest of the retreat, spent a couple of days with my family in Byron and driven the hefty road trip back to Melbourne from Byron Bay. I’d love to know how many kilometres we’ve covered in the past 12 months – this time last year we had just embarked on our 10 week road trip…

Firstly, the retreat. I could not more highly recommend this meditation retreat if I tried. I’m not kidding when I say it’s the best thing I’ve done for years. Years. Start saving now if you’re a woman. If you’re the partner of the woman and you have kids, book your annual leave now to look after said kids while woman goes on retreat. Just on this, there were 15 of us on the retreat and there were eight who had kids and seven who didn’t. And, aside from one retreat participant who has a three year old, my kids were the youngest at 8 and 11. Methinks women with younger kids just simply don’t give themselves a break but I get that because it took me three years and the bribery of a family holiday to get there.

Anyhoo, everyone was there for their own reasons but it was a retreat full of laughter, no judgements, great food, terrific company and connecting with creativity (this years retreat theme) through sketching, painting, writing and my favourite, photography – all these photos are ones I took. I’m not sure what the theme will be next year but it doesn’t matter. Just. Start. Saving.

It wasn’t until the afternoon of the second last day that I had the clarity and brain space to be able to sit down – on my own – outside in the sunshine and clarify what my goals are for the near future. Small, achievable goals. Unfortunately I have difficulty thinking beyond the near future, it always seems a blur. While sitting down and clarifying goals wasn’t actually part of the retreat, being away in such a beautiful, peaceful setting provided a really great space for me to gather my thoughts. Not sure about you but I don’t seem to be able to do that at home as all I’m thinking about is the next meal, work or who is due at what training or sporting event next. It’s like Groundhog Day and you get trapped in a cycle of ho hum.

By the final day none of us were ready to leave but leave we had to and at the last session there were tears – mine and others. Anth and the boys picked me up at 1pm and it was so great to see them. I nearly cried (again!) I was feeling slightly anxious about how I would feel after 5 days of not being hassled for food or stopping another punch up but we always had to dive back into reality. Thankfully our reality was another couple of days in Byron camping and lucky for us the weather was awesome (and there was Baskin Robbins ice cream).

Just to prove I’m not always taking the photos. Took me AGES to get my hairstyle just right…Clarkes Beach in Byron Bay on Mitch’s birthday. Love.

Which brings me to Mitch’s birthday last Thursday. After the present opening, we began the day with a swim in the ocean. It was probably around 7.30am. Clarkes Beach Caravan Park is literally right on the beach and what a way to start the day!! We had a day full of food, relaxing, ice creams, more beach time and dinner at a pizza restaurant! Mitch wasn’t quite up for a vegetarian or sushi dinner. And just on ice cream – how is Mars Bar or Maltesers ice cream organic??!

Sadly, we had to leave the next day. I have totally and utterly fallen for Byron Bay and would love to spend more time there. Where there’s a will there’s a way…

Finally, I’m feeling really great. I’m hoping this carries on for a while yet and I don’t get bogged down the the minutiae of parenting and all the other stuff. Actually I will get bogged down in it but if I breathe, meditate, stay mindful and breathe again I may just survive!

Here’s a little info on the retreat in Byron or Bali 2013. Kate is still away and the website hasn’t been updated but it’s likely next year’s Byron retreat will be on 21 November for 5 nights – the pricing may change as well. As Molly would say, do yourselves a favour…

Update: The retreat in Byron for 2013 has been locked in. Connecting with Creativity from 21 November 2013 for 5 nights. Click the Byron link above for further details. Do it!

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Retreats

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The words meditation retreat bring out different responses depending on who you’re talking to. Some say “oh you’re so lucky…” while thinking “you’re so lucky”. Others say “you’re so lucky…” while thinking “what a load of hippy shit…” And others say “sounds wonderful…” while thinking “geez, couldn’t think of anything worse than meditating the whole time AND no alcohol.”

Whatever your response, I’m immersed in the second full day of the retreat and I’m feelin’ lucky in an I’m lucky and lovin’ it kind of way.

Fifteen women from Victoria, NSW and Queensland have gathered here at Sangsurya Retreat in Byron Bay for their own reasons. And whatever those reasons are, they’re perfectly valid.

Me, well this is the third year my beautiful client Kate James has run this retreat in Byron and for every year prior I’ve been booking people in and hearing the most incredible feedback. It has always been my intention to come here one day.

The words “me time” can be a little cliched and sound a bit wanky but a very strong reason for coming here was for just that. My life isn’t difficult, it’s not particularly stressful though I seem to have a knack of feeling more uptight than I should (I know, who woulda guessed huh?) but the day to day grind can take its toll, whether you’re a parent or not. Five days of being completely cared for, the most amazingly scrumptious healthy meals I have ever eaten, massages, daily meditation, qigong, creativity exercises, free time to just be and pretty much no responsibility makes for a rather relaxed Lisa!

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There’s been tears, laughter, fun, joy and a sense of being in this together that is really poignant. We spend so much of our lives heads down and bum up without any time to reflect, truly reflect. In fact it’s scary to truly reflect because we might not like how it is for us, so it’s easier to eat chocolate excessively (ahem) or whatever it is that is not particularly healthy, to numb the discontent.

But we can only change things from our perspective – how we view and interact with the world; whether it be a shift in attitude, being more mindful, taking time to stop (without the guilt) and find joy in our everyday lives. These sound simple but I’ve been doing none of it and have twisted myself into knots.

We’re here til after lunch on Wednesday but at the moment I’m feeling rested and my mind is clearing. And as for those of you who think I’m ohming for hours on end, I’ve not chanted once! We do 20 minutes first thing, 20 minutes at 4pm and a short meditation at the end of the day. Ohm…

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45 and counting

The Black Hole at Wet n Wild. Okay, tenuous link to my brain but I’m away at the moment and don’t have a lot to choose from.

Life’s a funny thing isn’t it? All around me, I see people who I think are leading the lives they want to. I always have the urge to ask them if this is true but I know I’d be looked at like I’m a nut job…plus not everyone wants to admit they’re not entirely happy with their lives; that they’d rather not be in the job they’re in, their relationships are faltering and their children are giving them more grief than they let on.

In essence I think I’m pretty bloody lucky. Great partner, healthy boys, a roof over my head, constant holidays(!!), enough money to live a comfortable life, volunteer stuff. There’s actually nothing else I need materially. Nothing. There’s stuff I want but nothing I need. Cos really, it’s just stuff. I have everything I need.

But, but, but…(and I’m finding it hard to articulate here) I’m still “um so yeah, what now?” Is it just me? I ask myself, if I were to wave a magic wand, what would I want to be doing and the answer is I don’t really know. So I do nothing and lose the motivation to do anything and the will to live. Actually not the last bit, I put that in to see whether you were paying attention.

So, what to do? At the moment, I’m going to sit with it. Just sit with it. Not fight it. Not over-examine it, just sit with it. I have a sneaking suspicion that this time next week I’ll know a little more.

Do you have that ‘what now’ feeling? Have you had it and the answer to that question has been revealed to you? How?

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No really, I’m on top of it…

Surfers Paradise

So, brief post. Today (Melbourne Cup Day) we headed on down to Hastings Point on the Tweed Coast in northern NSW. Except…we weren’t supposed to. Yep, we were meant to be staying at Treasure Island on the Gold Coast for one more night. I stuffed up the dates, even though I printed out the confirmation email which has the dates clearly stated. Sigh.

But we’d packed up and we weren’t unpacking so we came here a day early and I’m glad we did. Treasure Island was okay and definitely a lot of fun for the kids but it was in the middle of an industrial area and of all the places we’ve stayed – and we’ve stayed at a few – we were the only ones not walking around without our tops on and a cigarette tucked behind our ears. And tattoos. Anth reckons people stare at us because we don’t have them. It seems “everyone” has one or fifteen. They’re not the domain of the so-called bogan any longer. I just can’t love them though. They’re so…permanent and we all know I’m not into commitment.

We’re at the Hastings Point Big 4 which I believe has won awards for being the best Big 4. Of course Dan’s disappointed there’s no jumping pillow and basketball ring. Kids these days. The thing I love about it the most? You can hear the surf. I am totally in love with the sound of the surf at night – it’s the sound of life continuing on its merry and not so merry way. It calms me. Pissed dickheads with loud music, not so much. As someone responded to my frustrated tweet about pissed dickheads with loud music at 11.30 last night at Treasure Island – #nannatweet. Yes, that’s me. Nanna. But seriously, Monday night in a caravan park playing Red Hot Chilli Peppers full blast. Fuck right off.

Yes, you’re right, I really do need a meditation retreat.

I’ve no new photos really, just ones like the one above of the kids playing in the surf at Surfers Paradise but this is Anth actually upsidedown on a roller coaster ride at Seaworld. No thanks.

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