When the physical meets the mental …November 16, 2017
In the mental health and suicide prevention spaces we often say; just because you can’t necessarily SEE the pain, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. We use this to describe the hidden burdens and battles people go through every day that become internal. We want people to speak about the pain they are going through and get the thoughts out of their heads and into the open so help and hope can be achieved.
What I have learnt in the last 6 weeks is a new appreciation for those of us who have experienced a physical pain or injury and the impact that can have on our wellbeing and brain health.
In my 30 years on this earth I have been extremely fortunate not to have suffered with any diagnosable mental illness or suffered any serious physical injuries. After the loss of Aidon in 2008, I of course went through a dark journey of grief, one which still rises and falls, even today, but I see those periods as ‘depressive’ periods of my life and a journey of complex grief. I do not have ‘depression’ but like many of us, we all experience hardships and the struggle of living a happy and fulfilled life.
7 weeks ago I stepped off the plane from Canada. Back from the USA to see family and sort out some of those life hurdles. I planned on only being back for a few weeks but it appeared the universe had other plans.
A week of jet-lag was followed by a week of the most intense and debilitating flue I have ever had. I used to always say “oh my god I have the flue, this is so bad” but nope, I had never had the ‘real’ flue. That type of flue where even your toes ache. I spent the majority of 7 days in bed. High temperatures followed by sweat filled nights and a general feeling of yuck. Shoutout to the Hydralyte drink … you saved me!
After 8 days I began to feel a little better and decided to try some exercise, you know that term “just sweat it out”. Well I sweat it out and in the process knocked around a few gallstones it seems.
I woke on a Saturday morning around 3am with intense lower back pain and attributed it to my serious lack of physical exercise, which must have resulted in a torn muscle. The only difference was, this pain wasn’t going away with all the nurofen, panadol and heat packs. I pushed through, determined to not let a sore back ruin my Saturday.
In the 2 weeks since I had been home, I had left the house maybe twice. I was already beginning to feel isolated in my own home and just needed to get out into the fresh air and sunshine. I made it to the shops where I proceeded to vomit twice in the shopping centre toilets (yuck) and felt the most intense pain I had ever experienced. Yeah this wasn’t normal back pain.
For all those who know me, know I have been to quite a number of hospitals, all for members of my family. Joondalup Emergency probably have my picture on the wall as I seem to always be there with someone, except this time it was my turn. The thought of waiting 5+ hours in a hospital waiting room was not appealing but I knew I had no other choice. Shoutout to JO Staff, only a 2 hour wait! I feel like someone was watching over me (Aidon thank you, although we could have avoided this all together)
Fast forward 4 days, a lot of morphine, 18 hours of fasting and a 3 hour surgery my gallbladder was GONE. According to my surgeon it was the 2nd worst gallbladder he had ever seen. Umm thanks?
Well at least that made me feel my pain was justified. Throughout the hospital stay, the drain tubes, the painful blood thinning injections (oh my god they hurt) and uncomfortable bedding, I just rolled with it and went with the flow because I felt like finally no more pain and I could now focus on recovery and getting better.
However what is interesting about surgery, that I didn’t realise as I had never been in this position before, was that surgery isn’t the end of the healing journey, it is just the beginning. I am pretty sure I had a years worth of pain meds still flowing through my system and a weeks supply prescribed so my week at home post operation was a blur of sleep, pain and avoiding the toilet because any pushing movement felt like my insides were being ripped apart. Not fun and pain meds are the WORST.
I was once again isolated and was struggling to do much more than walk around the house for 20min intervals. I was avoiding phone calls, forgetting to reply to messages and just going through each day on autopilot. My mood was significantly shifting and not in a good way but I wasn’t self aware.
Silly things like not being able to button up my jeans or wear a bra because of the wounds made me isolate even more. It all just seemed too hard to make an effort to get outside.
4 weeks had been and gone since I stepped off that plane and in that time I had been out and about maybe 3 times. Now these weren’t big social outings, Im talking popping into the local shops to get a coffee.
2 weeks post operation and things were starting to heal, I pushed it a few times and my body was always there to remind me that I may be healing on the outside, but internally an organ had still been removed and it needed some time to adjust.
I had 2 days where I felt like I was nearly ready to get back out into the big wide world. I could button up my pants (for an hour at a time), I was off those horrendous pain meds and I could finally wear a bra. Things were looking up. And then a bladder infection decided to appear.
I just laughed. Of course a bladder infection has hit, right when I was starting to feel ok. This really hit me hard because once again I was on medication, stuck at home and working through another period of self inflected isolation. No amount of work, netflix or social media was helping.
So we fast forward to week 7 and I have my first social event locked in the calendar which I am ready to attend. Clothes would be on, makeup and hair would be done. hashtag excited!
Oh but the universe once again thought it wasn’t done. Hello viral infection, which resulted in a measle looking full body rash. Event attendance cancelled and another 4 days in isolation.
I was sitting reflecting and realised how much physical pain and illness can impact our brain health. 7 weeks of ‘sickness’ saw me leave the house a handful of times and it was really starting to impact me.
My mum suffers from Fibromyalgia and whilst I could sympathise with her and only imagine how frustrating and debilitating it could be, I couldn’t really empathise as up until that point, I had never experienced the effects that physical pain have on your mind;
“Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain in the muscles and bones. Other common symptoms are feeling tired and sleeping poorly..”
I have a new found appreciation for anyone who is battling physical issues and those of the brain & mind. Even those of us who are fortunate not to have a diagnosed mental illness can still experience those depressive periods and we have to follow those important wellness tips and practices to ensure we stay well and reach out for help.
I am so very lucky to have people in my life who support me and always check in.
Again all experiences are lessons. This past 7 weeks has been a little challenging but very enlightening. I have asked the universe for a few more consecutive days of good health. Post surgery is no joke. Taking time to heal is important and I wasn’t doing that.
Look after yourself. Take the time to heal. Reflect on your thoughts and feelings and always ask for help if you notice you are beginning to isolate yourself.
Heres to a healthy and happy rest of 2017!
Storytelling …. It’s hard sometimesSeptember 8, 2017
“The story is a rollercoaster of hope, joy, devastation, disbelief and numbness. Words are futile, the pain can be boundless”
As many of you know, I am lucky enough to travel the world and tell my story of loss, my story of Aidon and our journey in the aftermath of his suicide. It has been over a year now and every time it is special but I have realised that I have also become very good at disassociating from my story. I think many of us in this space, who share some of the most vulnerable and raw aspects of ourselves, do this as a way to survive and a way to be able to give the story the justice it deserves without always breaking down.
I have been writing about my life after suicide for the last 6 years. The good, the bad, the emotions and the grief, however it wasn’t until recently that it dawned on me that my expressive writing had stopped. Life got hard. It got messy and as always a little complicated, but instead of writing down what I was feeling, I just kept moving through every emotion. I didn’t pause and reflect enough.
This week I decided to just write. See what came up and as it does so often, the theme of loss was present. The grief and loss I have with me to this day is heavy, but I do what I can to make sure it doesn’t engulf me. Writing helps and so does talking. I don’t talk enough. Some would say I don’t talk at all, but I find talking about that experience, when directly related to how I feel, challenging and thats ok. Im slowly finding people in my life I trust enough with my story. It is always baby steps.
So how do I describe my grief? Its hard. I wrote this piece not long ago and after re reading it tonight, I felt compelled to share it;
Most of us have experienced a feeling of loss or grief. It may have been when a pet dies, a grandmother, grandfather or when a loved one passes away from natural causes or a sudden accident. Usually it is expected. Things like old age or a known illness can be prepared for.
Do you remember that feeling in your chest when that loss happened? that tightening in the upper chest, the feeling of it wanting to just jump out of your throat?
For many of us, that intense feeling gradually subsides and is replaced by acceptance and we all go about our daily lives, trying our best to move forward, keeping the memory of our loved one alive. With suicide, the grief is different and it is one of the most complicated feelings anyone can ever experience.
I have that tightening in my chest, with me everyday. It sits there, always waiting for me to feel it. It doesn’t go, I just learn to manage it. I learn to not let it control my every feeling and emotion but it is always there, waiting for me to break a little.
And I am broken.
My heart has been broken, my life was shattered, split into a million little pieces and to this day I am still doing what I can to put some of those pieces together. And if I do manage to pull all those pieces together, is it really the same?
That is what suicide does. It shatters your world. It shatters what you know about how life should be and makes you re asses everything.
It is Friday morning. The sky is bright blue, it is just starting to heat up for the day. Summer in Perth is arriving. Its December 5th, 2008. There is a knock at the door and it is a knock I have been waiting all morning for. It is not a welcome knock at the door but it is one that I knew was inevitably coming.
I know that the moment I open that door, my life and the life of my family, will be changed forever, I just had no comprehension how much it actually would.
I open the door and in front of me stand 2 police officers. Both in their late 30s, looking very sullen and quiet. We all know why they are here, but process is followed, and they come into the house and sit down.
My dad was laying on his bed, waiting for that same knock, except the knock is me on his bedroom door telling him the police are here. We both sit at the table with our visitors. It’s like no one wants to say anything because as soon as we say it, it become reality. But we live in reality and the words have to come sooner or later.
“we found your brothers body”
These are the words echoed out of the police officers mouth. That’s all he says. He knows we can’t process much more.
We just sit. No one looks at each other, no one talks, no one wants to move. My mum isn’t home, she is at work, my younger brother is in bed, it seems weird to not have everyone there for such important news but that was how it unfolded that day.
I sit there and hope it is all a nightmare that I will wake up from. A bad dream. The kind that feels so incredibly vivid and real, that kind of dream where you wake up with a sense of relief that it wasn’t real. I wanted that. but it wasn’t to be.
We sit a little longer in silence but we all know we can’t be still forever. Process dictates that grief must wait. We have things to do, tasks to complete and my brothers body to identify.
There are days, events and moments in our lives we never forget. they are etched into our mind. We can recall the smell in the air, the sun on our face and in these moments its like it happened just yesterday.
December 5th was one of these days.
The day was filled with moments. moments I would give anything to hand back and erase.
My brother Aidon had died. He had chosen to end his short 19 year old life that day and there was no going back, there was no chance to go back and convince him to stay. He made a decision that day that echoed through many of the lives he left behind. It has been 9 years but the ripple effect of his death are still present to this day.
When I think about my brother, I only think of the good.
At 19 years of age, he was a ladies man.
We have never seen so many ‘girlfriends’ as we did at his funeral, and let me tell you, none of those girlfriends knew about each other. Hashtag #awkward!
People were drawn to his kindness and genuine spirit. He had dreams of becoming a rapper, he wasn’t any good, but we didn’t tell him that. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and most of all, he loved his family.
This is why, suicide death sparks something in us. It cultivates self reflection and it makes us ask the hard questions of ourselves.
I had no comprehension what my life would look like after Aidon died. I had no idea of the impending uphill struggle to keep the rest of my family alive in the months and years after he died. The battles fought internally and externally were intense and they changed me to my core.
Life is not always perfect or pretty but the battles we usually face can be worked through bit by bit. Suicide rolls is up into a big boulder and hurls it straight at you. You have no time to prepare or plan and no chance to pause for a breath.
Our heads were barely above water. My mum and little brother were struggling, along with my dad facing his own battles. We all had pain, we all dealt with it differently but we all felt that loss and still do to this day.
The ripple effect was in full swing. My life didn’t feel like my life anymore. I had no control. I lived day to day, trying to keep my family alive. Every phone call, my heart would drop, hoping that someone would answer and I wouldn’t need to leave work and go hunting for them.
Not only was I living with intense grief and loss, I was living in fear that my loved ones would all be gone in a flash. Taken from me. Left alone forever.
The world continues to turn and people get on with their lives. We all had to continue to move. It didn’t feel like we were moving forward but we moved. Every day was a challenge, everyday was a new internal battle to try and find some meaning.
What was this life lesson? what was I supposed to do with this feeling?
Suicide in all its intensity, makes those left behind seek for purpose and meaning. We can’t just accept that it is the end of the story. Our loved ones were living in such mental torment that they made a decision to end the pain. They didn’t want to die. They just wanted the sounds in their head to be silenced.
How can we sit back and let other families go through this? We can’t and that is why many of us who have experienced suicide loss and are bereaved by suicide, find purpose in trying to make sure no one else ever has to feel what we felt on that day our loved ones were taken from us and the feelings and emotions we still deal with on a daily basis.
9 years. 9 years is hard to comprehend. It feels like yesterday. I can remember the day so clearly and the events that transpired in the months and years that followed. The ripple effect of suicide can be devastating but I have come to also learn it can be a tool for HOPE.
The stories we share about our loved ones and the pain they went through, the pain we all went through and the struggles we experience to this day need to be told. We have to share our stories so others who are experiencing this devastating loss can look at us and know that you can get through every day. It may be hard, and it will for sure be the toughest battle you have ever had but moment by moment, day by day, you can get through it.
The tears will gradually lessen, but the pain and grief will always remain and that is ok. We are human.
This journey has seen me battle against my toughest opponent, myself. I push myself everyday to learn more, to work harder and smarter, to be someone who people look up to and who my brother would be proud of.
Suicide is all consuming. My life changed the moment Aidon made that decision to end his life. My world shattered and I am still picking up the pieces to this day but this journey has afforded me the opportunity to meet some of the worlds most special people. People who all have a story. People who want to share their pain in the hopes it will help others and that is the most courageous things there is.
In those quiet moments, I reflect on the fact I paused my life for a number of years and in some ways I forgot who I was deep down to my core.
But life is about learning isn’t it? Im learning to embrace the unknown a little more because sometimes that is where the most remarkable opportunities lay.
The power of our stories is evident. We can use them to help shift the way we work, the way we treat people who are struggling and the way we treat ourselves.
Life is moments. The moments in time we fill with talk, actions and feelings. Make your moments count. The impact you could have on another might just be the reason they decide to breathe, and take the step into the next moment.
We are all on a journey. Fill your life with people who matter, be kind to yourself, and make your moments count. Take a few measured risks, step out of your comfort zones, stop questioning your ability on WHY you cant achieve something and just give it a go. You may just surprise yourself.
And lastly, express yourself. Express your feelings in anyway that you can. For me, that isn’t talking, but it is writing and for a while I forgot how helpful it was to my wellness. I am trying to make a conscious effort to let my walls down a little and see what growth happens.
AuthenticityAugust 1, 2017
What does it mean to be authentic; To ones self and to others.
Well, honestly I'm not 100% sure. I used to believe I was being my true self. I believed whole heartedly that the person who looked back at me in the mirror was the real Lauren, when in fact, I was lying to myself for a long time.
This past 12 months have been some of the toughest I have had. I have chosen to put myself and my feelings first. Some call it selfish and others call is courageous. But the only opinion that matters is my own internal thoughts and feelings.
What do you do when a chapter ends? Do you dwell on it? Do you re read it and try to sort out what might have went wrong? What you did or didn't do? Do you close the book completely or do you pause, reflect and begin a new chapter?
I am choosing to finish and close a few chapters in my life. It's terrifying and confusing but at the same time I am reflecting on how I got there, and what I have learnt along the way. I don't believe in wrong choices, I believe in choice full stop. All choices lead to different outcomes, but we can learn something from each of them.
Some lessons are harder than others but some are required if we want to grow. Why do so many of us settle for things that are no longer serving us or when we are being a detriment to those around us who may deserve better? We all deserve to be treated with respect, love and care. But first we must have that within our selves.
My internal thought process changed the minute I accepted where I was, how I got myself there and what I needed to do to move forward. I had to hold myself accountable for my actions, my words, the people I hurt and the pain I caused along the way. It doesn't take away what was said, done or not spoken in the silence, but it creates a space for those things to be present and acknowledged.
Who are we really? Who is our authentic self and how do we feed that need inside us? Some days I feel like I know, and others I have no clue. What I do know is that being true to yourself, is key.
Very few people know the real me. The raw, open, walls down, me. I have made mistakes and I will continue to learn from them but I'm slowly surrounding myself with people who can look at me and see right through the walls I put up so high. No one is perfect, as hard as we might try, we all have flaws. That's human nature.
I'm learning day by day to feel comfortable with the silence and space in the middle, because that's where the magic happens.
Jane Breen; explorer, dreamer, mother & best friend …July 10, 2017
“The more a daughter knows the details of her mother’s life, the stronger the daughter.” – Anita Diamant
9 years ago we experienced a nightmare. The world shifted and imploded all around us. The devastating effects rippled on throughout the years but from such torment, a new way of life and connection began to grow.
This is the story of my mum. Jane Breen to most, Momma Breen to many and best friend to me.
I have always been close to my mum. I remember when I was 17 and 18, I would always tell her where I was going out, who I was with and what I was doing. I never wanted her to worry and I wanted her to trust me. What I didn’t realise was this was somewhat odd and for many of my other girlfriends, they didn’t do the same with their mums. My mum became our sounding board for all those teenage girl dramas and life struggles. It was just the normal.
Fast forward 10 years and our bond is stronger than it has ever been. From that devastation in 2008 when Aidon took his life, my mum and I grew. We grew individually and along the way became closer than many.
Sometimes I forget that she had a story before all that happened and it has only been the last few years where I have actively been asking her to share those stories of her life in detail; growing up, traveling the world, becoming a mother etc.
Those experiences have shaped her into the woman she is today and that woman is my pillar of strength. Her wisdom and unwavering support have seen me through my darkest times; so it is only fair I sit and delve into why she is the way she is because among those stories are some incredible life lessons.
My momma is known to adopt many other ‘kids’ as she terms it. She has imersed herself into my world and is drawn and connected to so many of the people I have chosen to share this journey with. They look at her as another support and so many times I am told how much they appreciate her in their lives.
I wanted to share with you a bit about my mum. Not just the amazing woman who you see me post about on Facebook every few days, but the dreamer, the dancer, the performer and the mother.
I am the way I am today because I know everything about my mum and she knows everything about me. There are no secrets, just stories.
(LB) Hello mother, thank you for doing this haha
Question 1: What’s you’re favourite memory of us (any age)
(JB) Favourite memory of you was when you first learnt to walk. You used to troodle up the back of the garden with your dog, Cleo, to go and have a poo. One hand on the tree and one hand on Leo’s neck while you pushed… I’m sure I can find a photo
(LB) She is lucky I let this one in. I think she is trying to embarrass me, I don’t remember this happening haha *thank god there is no photo.
Question 2: What is your favourite childhood memory?
(JB) To be honest my own favourite child hood memory is a hard one. I actually don’t have many memories, good or bad until I was 8 yrs old. I think though the one constant in my life was my nan as she was always there for us.
(LB) Tell me about her;
(JB) My nan came to live with us when we moved into elms lane. My mum and dad divorced when I was 8 yrs old, hence prob why I have no younger memories. I just blocked out everything. Mum had to work full time to provide for us 4 kids, I think dad helped out but not in any great way as he wasn’t financial either. Nan became, especially for David and I, our primary care giver. She was at home in the mornings and always home when we got home from school. She cooked our tea every night. Here is where I get my love of liver. Nan used to make it with bacon, onions and greens and thick gravy.
(LB) ewww that stuff grosses me out.
Question 3: What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
(JB) Advice to my younger self would be don’t let anyone manipulate you.
Question 4: You danced all over the world, tell us one story you absolutely love from that time
(JB) I worked with many girls in different groups over a period of 6/7 yrs. The bond you formed with them was huge. We all watched each other’s backs. To be honest more than once we found ourselves in ‘sticky situations’ however we as a group were rock solid. My favourite memories are prob not for publication, but I have had so many happy thoughts looking through those old photos of my time in Japan and Dubai. I will say, falling in love with Baldo, Italian rigger in Dubai and then Jay, American fighter pilot in Seoul Korea was a highlight haha
(LB) Mother! haha you were quite the babe back in the day so it’s understandable they fell for you!
Question 5: What is one of the biggest lessons you learnt from that period of your life?
(JB) Biggest lesson I learnt back then was I was a quick learner and could get myself out of any unwanted situation. I also enjoyed the moments for what they were. Living in the moment. To be honest life was simpler back then. Looking back I realise how free we were in all aspects of life. There was very little judgement etc…
(JB) Nope never wanted to be a mother. Married your father and had no thought of babies, however as history shows you came along, best thing that ever happened to me
(LB) Fabulous answer
Question 7: What is the hardest part of motherhood?
(JB) The hardest part of motherhood is watching your child struggle with whatever life has thrown at them. When they are young and teething, breaking bones, first loves, emotional distress even as adults, seeing your child struggle is hard. You feel so hopeless that you can’t soothe your child’s hurt or distress. In my opinion it’s not until you have children of your own that you then become ‘selfless’
(LB) I feel like this is a little dig haha one day mother, one day. Maybe.
Question 8: The grief of losing a child is unimaginable: what words of wisdom would you give to other parents going through that nightmare?
(JB) I honestly don’t think there are any words of wisdom to pass on to a grieving parent. We all deal with such a loss so differently. However for me, since losing Aidon, I live by the mantra ‘one day at a time’ and including him in my daily thoughts, spoken words keeps him very close
Question 9: What is your favourite memory of Aidon?
(JB) There really is no 1 favourite memory of any of you three, there are many. This may sound weird but if I have to pick one it’s the memory of lying on the bed with Aidon, talking about his emotional distress. We shed tears together but the love that surrounded us was special because we were both so raw, honest and open with each other.
(JB) Wow, has my outlook on life changed since Aidon passed… YES, not straight away it took a certain someone, to lead me out of the darkness and finally breathe again. Again, it’s ‘one day at a time’ but there is hope now. Our spirituality has also been a huge factor in guiding me/us through hard times, not only after Aidons passing. I’m now finding some inner peace and for that I am thankful.
Question 11: What is one thing you want to do in the next 5 years?
(JB) In next five years I just want to be content, no ups or downs either emotionally or physically. I want to live with you, although that probably may stretch the relationship, so instead I would like to be able to visit you when possible and watch you and CNQR work and be apart of the journey you are on. With Kev and Margie and CNQR collective, behind the scenes I mean.
(JB) Lol, you and me have been perfecting our bond over many lifetimes. I’m positive in one of them you were my mother but today I think that we have learnt from each other, we are honest with each other, we do not judge each other, we are proud of each other and our love is unconditional. This was the easiest question to answer.
(LB) Amen to that. Thank you!
I cried while making Vegemite toast ….June 12, 2017
Some days I really surprise myself. Some days I am the strongest person I know and other days I feel like I am falling into a million little pieces.
Today I went downstairs to make toast and just started crying waiting for it to crisp up. After 5 mins I said “Lauren, pull yourself together, this is ridiculous”
Life has been a constant balancing act lately with shifting pieces all the time. One day I feel like I am settled, the next day I am crying at my toast.
This is something new for me. I have always held it together but this past few months have been some of my toughest. I thought I was prepared, I thought I could do it alone and I thought it would just be sorted so I could continue on. Well clearly that isn’t happening. Life can be a real jerk sometimes and I can be an idiot for not practicing what I preach.
After I finished crying into my toast, I went upstairs, sat infront of my computer and made a decision to get back to my biggest supporter and get my shit sorted.
I’m heading back to my momma for a week in July and in that time will rebalance and sort out all the loose threads.
Pretending it’s all going to sort itself out is naive, I actually have to participate in the process, so I am.
Being away from your number one supporter is hard. I am so thankful I have so many amazing people here who look out for me, I don’t know what I would do without them but sometimes we just need our Momma.
So there is no real insightful message to this blog, just the fact that sometimes we fall apart at the most bizarre moments and they spark us to take action.
I’ll be ok, I always amMay 16, 2017
ILL BE OK, I ALWAYS AM
I wrote a text message to a friend yesterday that went something like this: “I have been doing it this way forever, being alone has got me this far. I’ll be ok, I always am”. The reason I say it went something like that is because I deleted the message thread straight after I hit send so I can’t go back and read it to see what I said word for word. I knew internally it was the wrong position to take, but sometimes we have to say what we feel at the time, right or wrong. One thing I have learnt, the universe always finds a way to sort us out.
As an advocate in the wellness, suicide prevention and mental health space we always talk about talking. We say how important it is for people to speak up, reach out for help and not bottle it all up but how many of us practice what we preach? It’s the loneliest job there is.
I thought I did. I thought I did until the universe heaped a whole heap of expected and unexpected pressure on my shoulders. I went into shutdown mode. It has been a coping skill for as long as I can remember since Aidon died. Disassociation at its best. I have it down to a fine art. Now this isn’t a good thing. Sometimes it is helpful to get us through those tough moments but prolonged disassociation of thoughts and feelings is not recommended. It will always find a way to seep out.
So why this blog? Well the universe wanted to remind me that I am not superhuman and I am actually going to have to find a way, a person or a strategy to make sure I acknowledge the pain & pressure when it comes.
Setting the scene;
I am on a 14 hour flight back to LAX. The whole process of getting ready to leave, packing, uber to the airport, check in, security and waiting at the gate are all a blur. I hadn’t slept the night before. I wasn’t functioning but most of all I wasn’t acknowledging it. Instead I wrote that text message above.
I’m sitting in row 51H. We are 5 hours in. I feel the heat rise up my back, right up my neck to my face. It’s hot. Like oven hot. I take off my hoodie, still hot. It’s burning and now and I’m starting to feel light headed. My heart beat gets faster and I have this intense feeling that this is it. I’m dying. Except this isn’t how I’m supposed to go. I know how it happens and this isn’t it. What is happening. This can’t be happening. Can anyone see the panic in my face. Can they feel my energy levels spike and the unease I’m feeling. My breathing is erratic and it feels like someone is stepping on my throat. Apparently they can. The guy next to me grabs my hand and just says “you’re ok, it will be ok”.
And it happens. I cry. I just cry. The tears fall and all that negative energy I had been holding onto this last 24 hours just comes out. The tightening in the chest is still there, the breathing is still shallow but I feel relieved and I gradually pull myself back to a normal level of breath.
My new plane friend doesn’t ask me what’s wrong, it’s like he knows I’m not going to dive into the story head on but he makes sure I know he is there. It is by far one of the most bizarre experiences I have ever had. My first panic attack happened and I never anticipated it ever would.
It has been a really tough 2 weeks but an even tougher past 48 hours and all I wanted to do was look up at the sky and scream. How much more shit does one person have to go through. The self pity is at a level 10. That is another aspect of being an advocate that is rarely spoken about. The ‘poor me’ feeling. We are expected to hold ourselves together and push through because we are the people who set the example and hope for so many others. But sometimes we all need to just look up at the sky and scream ‘why me’.
We allow ourselves that because then we pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off and take that next step forward. We are allowed to have those moments. We are human.
Am I suddenly going to be an open book, talking about all my feelings? Most likely not, it is not who I am as a person BUT if the events of my plane trip taught me anything it is to take baby steps. Find people who I can trust and open up as best I can. It might not be what others are capable of or expect of me but if I can acknowledge it, it is a start.
Life is only going to get harder in this next phase. I’m preparing as I do. Every fibre of my being wants to build up those internal walls and start the blocking process in preparation for what I know is coming but I think that might not be my best strategy. So instead I’m going with a half wall. Just a little protection, but with the ability to reach for that help when needed.
Life lessons. I feel like I have had enough at 30 years of life. But as everyone keeps telling me, I have plenty more to come so I best equip myself the best way possible.
Thank you to those people who challenge me to walk through the pain and feel it. Not just block it. And a special thank you to Mr Plane Dude. You are a special human and you were sat next to me for a reason.
Life. It’s one day at a time. One step at a time. And that’s all we can ask of anyone.
Is this what they call a journey of discovery?August 31, 2016
It’s been 12 weeks in between blogs.
You know when we have these grand intentions of doing something, we know it’s worthwhile and we could do it no problem, and then we just don’t.
I had every intention of blogging my little heart out about all of the experiences that I was having… and then I didn’t.
I found myself experiencing something, and wanting to reflect on it first before putting it out into the universe. could I call that growth? or maybe I just didn’t have anything worthwhile to say.
Well this 3 months has been unique. I had always dreamed of doing what I am right now and it is so surreal. I have learnt things about myself that I never would have discovered had I not taken this leap of faith.
I know what I’m talking about (most of the time);
I knew I had some knowledge and expertise in the area of suicide prevention but what I didn’t realize was that my message and knowledge wasn’t just coming from a lived expertise perspective. It was also coming from a base of training, development and working in a sector. My knowledge in Recovery practices, Strength Based skills and peer supported programs is something that the USA is craving more knowledge on. I used to think that I was just really good at ‘faking it, till I made it”. We are all a little guilty of allowing that self doubt to enter our minds occasionally, however I am feeling comfortable in my own mind that I can add value to conversations ranging from clinical practice to policy development and everything in between. This is a true testament to the amazing organizations and programs I have had the privilege of working with. Anglicare WA & the PHaMS program has set me up with some of the most impactful lessons and tools for this work. I am going to continue to learn and grown, all the while sharing my knowledge with anyone who wants to listen.
Workshops are my groove;
Kevin & Joe are incredible at delivering powerful messages of hope and triumph over adversity and I can equally tell my story but I came to the realization that my strength is combining both my story and a workshop format into one. The interaction I have with people and the audiences I am privileged enough to be with, radiate an energy that I love to engage with and at times, challenge them to think a little differently.
There is more to my story;
I have always crafted my story from the time after Aidon died. I never thought anyone would want to hear about my life before that but you know what, I have lived through some pretty amazing life lessons and these can always be incorporated into my story. I pigeon holed myself into a small box of what I could talk about, when in fact, I have much more to tell and share.
I can’t do this alone. I am a person who much prefers to do something by myself because I know I can get it done and get it done well but I now know it is a team effort. Trusting each other is key to success. I am now apart of a team of people who are strategically planning to disrupt the status quo in the suicide prevention and mental health sectors and it feels empowering. We have each other’s backs. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that, however deep down, we are all in it for the right reasons.
Supporters are crucial;
I only truly trust a few people in my life. These people are special. A select few individuals who support me to the ends of the earth and back. You know who you are and after being on a journey of self discovery these past few months, I am reminded that I need to make sure you know how important you are to me and my journey. So thank you… this extremely personal blog post should make up for it haha
I am an incredibly spiritual person;
I have always been ‘connected’ to something higher than myself but I never placed emphasis on spending the time to develop or test those skills. I am starting to delve a little deeper, feel a little more, open myself up and trust that the process will only make me a more fulfilled person. It’s exciting.
As I sit here at the gate, about to board the last flight of 5, which will land in Perth, I am tired, bloated, thankful, optimistic, scared and excited all at the same time.
This is happening … and I’m ready!
The Chaos Keeps Me CalmJune 3, 2016
When do you feel most at ease and calm in your life? If you had have asked me 12 months ago, I would have said “when I am on my couch, watching numerous amounts of bad reality TV and sport” however my answer would be a little different now.
For a long period of time after Aidon died, the safety of routine kept me calm and kept me moving forward step by step. My world fell in on itself in 2008 and it has only dawned on me in these last few months that it has taken me 7 years to be ok with the frantic pace of life again. The chaotic nature of life.
Now I don’t mean the bad type of chaos that is painful and dangerous, but the kind that is not routine, the kind that has you jumping from city to city, country to country, workshop to workshop, balancing a full time job, 5 email accounts, a personal life, family relationships, managing an ex boxer turned mental health champion with a horrible memory, work emails at 4am and planning your eventual world takeover. It’s busy , but in all that busyness I get a sense of calm.
The thought of tackling that amount of work back a few years ago would have seen me retreat back to my couch and say “nope, sorry it’s too hard” all while clicking play on the next TV episode, but I am now thriving in this environment. Too much time sitting and waiting has me on edge. I want to be out there, doing anything and everything I can to leave a small mark on the world in memory of my brother.
I think I have always been this way, but reflecting back, I paused my life for a number of years. I forgot who I was deep down to my core but this life is about learning and I believe those years spent in the safety of my routine was mainly in part to prepare myself for what was to come… my future self must have known.
Knowing yourself and how you best operate is sometimes the hardest part, but I am very much aware now that I thrive in the chaos that has been growing this last 12 months. I am seeing myself grow and develop personally and professionally and for the first time in a really long time I am not trying to plan out my life down to every little detail.
My control freak persona will always remain. It’s part of who I am, but I am learning to embrace the unknown more and more because that is sometimes where the most remarkable opportunities lay.
Balance is important and routine is helpful, but sometimes maybe we all need to embrace the chaos a little more. Take a few measured risks, step out of our comfort zones, stop questioning our ability or why we can’t do something and just give it a go. We may surprise ourselves.
Sneak Peak – Book Chapter #1May 25, 2016
My book, “TRUST” has undergone a re write and will be re-released very soon.
I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you all a chapter in the book that is very relevant to my circumstances at this very moment. My life is changing and I can’t help but reflect back to when it all started and who was there from the beginning….
“What Makes A Family?
What makes someone your family? Is it purely a blood and genetic connection? Is it because you might have grown up together or is it sometimes a feeling you get when you meet them, a common and shared purpose that brings you together. You may have never met them before, before you know you have been friends before.
My suicide prevention family is growing every day. I remember a moment in 2010 when this concept of shared purpose entered my life. It had been just over a year since Aidon had died. I decided to attend my first mental health event, which when I think back, I can’t actually remember what the event was for. I do however remember some of the thoughts that rolled through my mind – “oh my god what am I doing here”, “I’m not a clinician, what do I even know about mental health”. I think these were common thoughts for many people with a lived experience, trying to get involved in the sector a few years ago.
Much to my surprise I met a gentleman by the name of David. David was there for similar reasons to me. He had lost his son to suicide around the same time Aidon had died and he was looking to get more involved in the mental health and suicide prevention sectors. David was working at Lifeline WA and had done a number of training courses associated with mental health, which I was really amazed by. Here was someone who went through a similar experience to me and who was able to utilise that experience and turn it into a positive way to help others.
For the first time in a long time I felt like I had someone to talk to, outside of my immediate family, who understood what I might be going through. What I didn’t know in 2010, was that David wouldn’t be the only person with lived experience to become a part of my ever growing suicide prevention family. That was only the start”
“The bond that links your true family is not always blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life” – Richard Bach
What I also didn’t know was that David would continue to be involved in my life, being a mentor and a bloody amazing friend. Today we finished up another part of our journey, leaving Anglicare WA for new challenges, but it won’t be the last time we cross paths in this journey called life.
Surround yourself with people who make you better. I have and it has changed my life for the better.
Your CrewMay 1, 2016
I have just spent a weekend with family. This family are not blood related but they are ‘purpose’ related. We share a deep sense of purpose and love for life and what we do.
A good friend said something to me over dinner this week. He said “Loz, it’s ok to have people come and go from our lives. People pop up when we need them and we connect with people who make us fuller”
And this is so true. My life has gone from 0 to 1000 in the last few months but I get such a sense of calm and freedom when I am surrounded by my mental health family.
The amazing group of humans who I spent this weekend with, are some of the most beautiful souls you will meet and are joining my ever growing crew. Some I have known a while, some are brand spanking new 🙂
Who are your crew? who are those people who make you better? who are those people who get you deep down to your core?
These people contribute to your life purpose and we are so very lucky to have them. I’m learning to show them how much I care more and more.
Here’s to good weekends, good friends and doing what we love with the people we love.