Why Who You Have As Parents Matters Dick.

So I saw that the godforsaken plebiscite bill passed the lower house earlier today. While it isn’t destined to pass through parliament, it’s still worth addressing. For those that aren’t local, the plebiscite on marriage equality in a nutshell is a mandatory opinion poll that gives the conservative religious types free reign on treating me and others like me like we’re freaks and abominations, costs the government millions to throw together, and even if the overwhelming majority of the nation ticks the “For fuck’s sake yes” option, the government doesn’t even have to then follow through with making it law. In other words, WOFTAM. Waste Of Fucking Time And Money.

But while it’s on my mind, I thought it was worth spending a moment addressing one of the most commonly used arguments in the so called “debate”- that a child needs a mother and a father to grow up and function normally. With a divorce rate now of what… is it about 1 in every 2 now? Yeah having a mother and a father seems to really be working out there.

I have known plenty of people from all walks of life that have had different family types. I have known people that had two dads for parents. Didn’t stop them from becoming and accountant and marrying someone of the opposite sex. Just as I have known people with a mother and a father who have grown up, gotten a law degree and married someone of the same sex.

Some people have two mums and they grow up fine. Some people have two mums and they grow up to be a fuck up. Some people have a mother and a father and grow up fine. Some have had a mother and a father and it still didn’t stop them from killing themselves.

A child doesn’t just get support wholly and solely from their parental unit. Their growth comes from a wide network of family, friends, authority figures, teachers, the wider community at large. A family unit does not make up the success rate of whether someone is going to grow up to be a functional human being.

My partner happens to have a mother and a father, and sorry to the conservatives but she’s still gay as the day is long. I on the other hand happen to only have one half of the parental equation. I knew that I was gay long before my family fell apart, so before you start jumping on the bandwagon of “Well you just had a single mother no wonder you’re a fag”, shoosh- you’ll be insulting more than just me and my mother.

A weird but fascinating fact I discovered while doing a stupid high school report on family types is that I actually come from three generations of single mothers, all for a variety of different reasons.

My great grandmother escaped in the night with her two children to get away from her violently abusive drunk husband and managed to raise them on her own, with help from a network of supportive family and friends during a time when a woman getting work was unheard of. Her two kids grew up, married and had kids of their own.

My grandmother lost her husband to a heart attack, while still raising the youngest of her children. Her two kids grew up to be good people who married and had kids of their own.

As I obviously have the most experience with the next tier down, I’m going to divulge a little bit about how I had the perfect nuclear family, and it didn’t mean jack shit.

I ended up as an only child. I had a brother at one point, but I was seven years old when he died. I think I was 7 going on 30 after that. Seeing a tiny coffin and having family and friends awkwardly telling you to be strong for your parents will do that to a person. But that’s a story for another time.

My mother was a craft nut. She collected porcelain dolls which littered the house with their creepy dead eyed stares. She was also an artist, exceptionally good at drawing but never really followed through with it. She tried to do the whole suburban mum thing, on the parents committee at school, pitching in at all the bake sales and school fetes, and while she was good at it she absolutely hated it. She loved her garden, would spend almost every weekend out in it planting or maintaining. She always encouraged me to be myself, no matter whether that meant me running around the house in a power rangers costume or chasing kangaroos in the back yard with a stick. Yes I lived the stereotype.

My father was a family man. Loved tinkering on home renno projects, thought himself to be Tim the Toolman Taylor. He loved music, like his father before him, and played guitar. Tried teaching me a few times unsuccessfully. He was a pretty crap teacher. But the way his eyes lit up when he came home to find me strumming his guitar one afternoon after they started teaching us in music class.. It was like he had found a kindred spirit in his kid. We would have jam sessions here and there; he taught me to love real music, the classics.

He loved talking about space and astronomy with me, he had ambitions to become a scientist but didn’t have the inclination to get through university. I would read all his books about the universe though, it bringing a smile to his face whenever he would see me taking off with them.

He was fiercely protective of me. He pulled a kid off me by his neck and threw him across the room when he had walked in on finding the boy choking me as part of a “game” he wanted to “play”. We were best friends. When I had to go into hospital for surgery, and there were complications which meant I had to stay in overnight for monitoring, he cried like a baby.

Living on acreage in a giant house (by 90’s standards anyway), despite the fact that both parents worked long hours, we spent as much time as we could as a family, board game nights, playing racing games on the playstation, helping with homework, playing music. You know, normal family shit.

One day though it seemed like he went through a mid life crisis or something, and started distancing himself from us. When I was 13 I was awakened one night by a scream that would freeze the blood in your veins. I fell out of bed and stumbled downstairs to find mum on the phone, hysterical. Tears streaming down her face, clutching at the phone like her life depended on it. Repeating “WHY” over and over again.

She looked up and saw me in the doorway of the kitchen and just lost it. She fell to the floor and started rolling around screaming and crying as the phone was left dangling. I had no idea what was going on. I raced over to the phone and held it to my ear. There wasn’t any dial tone, it was silent. “Hello?” I said, panic creeping in the edges of my voice. Nothing but silence hung in my ear.

At this point my mother managed to pick herself up and stagger into the loungeroom.

“Is anyone there? Hello? What’s going on??” I became more frightened the longer the silence stretched on, the sounds of glass shattering in the loungeroom weren’t helping my fraying nerves.

“…. H… Hi… I’m here..” a rasping voice finally responded down the phone.

“Dad! Shit. Are you ok what’s happening why is mum going off her tree?!”

More silence.

“Answer me please what is going on?”

Even more silence. Then, he found his words, stilted as they were.

“I’m……… I’m leaving.”

It didn’t process in my mind the way logic should have dictated. “Leaving where? When will you be home?”

“I…………………………… I won’t.”

It was like someone had dumped ice over me. Cold dread shot through me like lightning.

“What the hell do you mean you won’t.” I growled through the phone.

“I’m l-l-leaving. I am… I am leaving your mother.” He stuttered, his speech impediment making his conviction sound less than convincing.

Ever the pragmatist despite my age, I had automatically launched into lockdown mode. “If that’s your decision that is your decision, but you come home and say this shit to our faces. Mum is hysterical and I don’t know how to calm her down. You cannot leave me to deal with this. You make your decisions you follow through with them. You come home, you talk to us, and if you still want to leave then leave. But don’t you dare leave me to deal with the fallout. Don’t. You. DARE.”

Deal with it later. Just don’t let the realisation hit full force. Someone needs to remain rational. I had managed to convince him to come home, and when he hung up the dial tone pierced my brain with a sense of finality. I raced into the loungeroom to find a scene of absolute chaos. Broken glass everywhere from every single photo frame we had of the family scattered about. She had swept her arms along units and shelves, sending them everywhere.

I grabbed my mother’s face and kept repeating to her that he was coming home, until the hysterical crying had calmed and she had exhausted herself. I grabbed a bottle of southern comfort from the bar and gave it to her in an attempt to further calm her. She ended up polishing off the whole thing straight, while listening to that Love Don’t Live Here Anymore song on repeat for the next 5hrs. I still can’t hear that song without my shoulders involuntarily tensing.

He didn’t end up coming home until the next morning, with bread and milk in tow like it was some kind of meagre peace offering. I was made to go upstairs while they had a chat. I pretended to comply while sitting on the top step eating coco pops and listening to how my whole world was falling apart.

The truth hit like a steel trap shutting over my heart. He had decided to go through with a mid-life crisis and had been having an affair with a woman he worked with behind our backs. Somehow managed to carry it on for over 2yrs without us knowing. It all came to a head when he managed to get her pregnant. He no longer felt anything for mum but carried on the charade for “my sake” which… no.

People, if you ever fall out of love with your significant other, pro-tip: don’t stay for the sake of the kids. Your misery will in turn fuck them up even worse, and they will then in turn blame themselves for years to come because it’s then perceived to be their fault when it all inevitably falls apart anyway.

And fall apart it did. From then on it was all pretty much down hill from there. He seemingly turned into an asshole over night, a complete 180 on his earlier described demeanour. All of this shit was effectively dumped in our laps, with a “like it or lump it” shrug of his shoulders, without giving time to process or grieve. Because it took me longer than five minutes to come to terms with it, one day he decided to “let the dust settle because everything was too raw” and brush me off like an insect hovering over his food. It was the last time I would ever hear from him.

I would hear along the grapevine at a later date he joined the Jehovah’s Witness church at one point, and fell in deep with them. I would hear along the grapevine that due to the age of technology he would track me down on Facebook, look at my “lifestyle” and “disapprove of it”, like he had a right to an opinion over anything to do with the life he hasn’t had any involvement in since I was a teenager.

However even now, nearly 20yrs down track I still have difficulty reconciling the religious zealot he has become, with the man I grew up with. His absence in my life notwithstanding, I still do miss the bastard. There are times still when I have completed a song recording and wanted to send it to him so he could see that I’m still playing guitar.

Sometimes it’s out of spite, I want to throw my life in his face and rub it in like sandpaper to his skin. Look at all the shit I’ve done without you. Sometimes it’s out of grief, I want to talk to him, ask him if he still plays guitar, give him back his Eagles music sheet book he forgot to take with him, have a jam. Please see me, please remember that I exist and that I was once your daughter. Sometimes it’s out of all of the above. Depends on the day really.

My mother and I formed a close relationship in the wake of his departure, and despite the lack of fatherly figure I still turned out the best I could.

Just because I happen to also be gay doesn’t make me any less of a person, and his lack in my life has sweet fuck all to do with it. If anything, his lack taught me to always be communicative with my partner, to make sure that I wasn’t afraid to have the tough conversations when things became difficult, because anything less would make me a coward. I didn’t want to be like him, so I worked hard to be better than him.

Whether you have a mother and a father, or two of each, or one of each, or none of the above does not determine your upbringing or your level of functionality in the world. How much support you get from those around you will.

Should by some freak accident this plebiscite goes through, you will need to support your kids regardless of whether they are straight, bisexual or gay, cis or trans, or somewhere in between. The plebiscite will only cause divisive, hateful rhetoric aimed right at the heart of the entire community. The kind of language that you hope dies out with the last generation. The kind of closed minded sentiments that does nothing to advance society and culture forward, but keeps it stagnating until algae forms around the surface and suffocates us. The kind of rhetoric that says that only a mother and father can raise a child, and everyone else doesn’t cut the mustard.

But here’s the kicker. We’re all fuckups regardless of where we come from. As humans we are inherently flawed, with emotions, memory, values, belief systems, humanity. No matter your race, gender, religion, sexual preference, social status, financial status, whether or not you think Nickleback is actually a decent band….. It’s by pure chance that we are conscious beings born the way we are, when we are, where we are.  In every community there are the best and the worst of us.

It doesn’t matter in the end who is the parent of a child. Because if you teach your children compassion, humility and to not be fucking jerks to each other, then they will turn out fine regardless of how many parents they have.

 

 

Getting Fresh Air: Oxygen Doesn’t Fix My Brain, Venlafaxine Does.

I actually hate medication. I hate the concept of it, I hate taking it. I hate brain meds.

Now before you start wondering if I’ve actually taken my daily pill, let me backtrack a little.

I was finally put on medication last year, and of all the millions of cocktails I could have potentially been stuck on, I was put on Venlafaxine or as it is more commonly known, Effexor. I can barely remember to take my wallet with me when I leave the house of a morning, and now I was expected to take this pill on a daily basis to stop me from going batshit crazy.

This was going to work so well.

Complicating the matter further, Effexor happens to have a very short half-life. Which means that if I forget to take it at a regularly scheduled time, it takes less than a few hours before I start experiencing the joyous symptoms of SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome. These include blinding headaches, vertigo, nausea; and in the cases where due to financial restraints I have gone more than two days without the medication, slurred speech, “brain zaps” (electric-shock type of feeling hooray), insomnia, and just all out manic crazy.

So why would I willingly subject myself to this daily ritual? Simple, because I wanted to have a normal life.

In a previous rant, I outlined all the other options I did to attempt to avoid going on medication, and guess what- they didn’t work for me. I know what I am like without it, so I shut up and swallow the damn pill because the alternative is so much worse.

When I look at people who share photos on social media like this delightful gem:anti-depressant-meme

I just want to pat them on their feeble little heads until it less resembles a light tap on their crown and more a bludgeoning into oblivion.

One of my favourite places to go is the forest. I will go and stand in the middle of it and just open my senses up to take it all in. See what I can smell, try to figure out how far off into the distance I can hear. It is something that quietens my mind and achieves a meditative state.

The only reason I am able to enjoy that is because I am medicated.

When I wasn’t, no amount of getting out in nature was going to stop the fact that I was constantly numb to the experience. The voices that said I was worthless and shit and should just kill myself didn’t just up and vanish in the presence of the forest before me. Being out amongst the trees and stillness of the world didn’t stop those wandering eyes looking for the nearest cliff to throw myself off so I could just be done with it all.

Heading out into the great wild world and experiencing nature may work for some. It could be great to recharge. Some people need to just go and blow shit up on the Playstation and they overcome their stress. Some people just need to light a candle and sit in the bath while reading their favourite book. Yoga works for some, meditation for others.

BUT SOMETIMES, PEOPLE NEED MEDICATION TO FUNCTION AND TO SHAME THEM AND HUMILIATE THEM FOR IT MAKES YOU A FUCKING ASSHOLE.

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Yeah. You. An asshole.

I have bills to pay. Mouths to feed. Responsibilities to myself, my partner, my pets, my family, my friends, my job. I don’t have time to wade through the constant gnawing that hollows out my chest when I am not medicated. I have to go to work. I don’t have time to breathe and meditate to get through the crippling desire to never get out of bed. I have a partner I want to spend my life with.

I wasted a decade of my life trying to not be on medication and doing all the things that stupid meme said and I got nowhere, accomplished nothing and destroyed almost every last one of my relationships and friendships. While I’m not entirely happy to be on medication in the first place, it is as much the same as taking medication for blood pressure, an aspirin for a headache, insulin for a diabetic.

I don’t. Have. Time. To not. Be. Functional.

If getting out into the wilderness works for curing your blues, a round of applause for finding something that works for *you*. Whatever you find that works for you to get you out of bed and into the wide world around you on a daily basis; it is treasured and I am happy for you. But for some it’s not just a case of “just perk up” or “just go for a walk you’ll be fine”. Leave those alone who have to take medication in order to show up for life every day. Nature is not a stand in for medication, nor should you be pushing or shaming people into moving away from medication.

When I was living south of Sydney, there was this beautiful lake set in the foreground of a mountain range. On a clear and quiet day you would feel like you were living in a painting. It was far enough away from the main roads that you wouldn’t hear any traffic, and if you positioned yourself just right along the path you could pretend you were thousands of miles away from civilisation. The water was a deep blue, gentle waves lapping at the shoreline that became the sound of the lake’s heartbeat. Occasional seagull calls would echo across the water, and there was always the slightest of breezes that would gently caress your skin like a skilled lover.

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Look at this picturesque motherfucker

I would often take a detour and walk past it on my way home, just because why wouldn’t you when you lived next door to all of that? I would sit on a bench looking over the sheer natural beauty of it all, take a deep breath in, and as I would exhale slowly with a gentle smile on my face I would quietly say;

“God I wish I wasn’t here anymore.”

Fresh air will not cure my mental illness.

 

 

You Require More Than Matching Socks

So I spied a thing last week in the toilets at work. No it wasn’t poop. For once.

Ladies seriously fucking FLUSH.

Rather, hanging off the back of the toilet door door was a printed flyer for a “mental awareness day” called “Odd Sock Day” – And I quote – “Because anyone can have an odd day.”

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Yaaaaay debilitating crippling mental illness woooooo!

I shit you not.

I’m going to let that simmer for a moment, while I recap. If you read anything else on here you’ll know I am no stranger to talking about mental health issues, nor am I the slightest bit hesitant when it comes to calling out these “awareness days” in their incessant shoulder patting bullshit. And once more I find myself delving into the self-congratulatory armchair muck for yet another round of “People, you need to fucking stop.”

Let’s go back to that tag line for the moment. Because anyone can have an odd day.

An odd day.

I looked down at my shoes with mismatching socks just because it’s a day ending in “y” for me, and asked myself why people feel the need to constantly have all these “awareness days” to “raise awareness” for mental health.

Seriously people- if you need to have your awareness raised that mental health is an issue then you’re as useless as the people who still think that smoking isn’t harmful despite the ads, the bans, the taxes and the pictures of people with cancers all over the pack.

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Tastyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Oh look at how enlightened and aware you are because you’re wearing a weird coloured sock next to your business sock. Look at how supportive you’re being to those suffering from mental health because one of your stocking socks happens to have a batman logo on it.

No. Enough. As someone that does deal with mental illness on a daily basis I am beyond over it. By asking me “RUOK” when you really don’t want to hear the answer trivialises the nature of support and those who genuinely seek it. Wearing a weird sock and having a laugh about it for the sake of “awareness” insults those who have to have about twenty extra steps in their daily routine just to leave the house.

I have worked for a company before that as soon as I was open about my mental health to my manager in the wake of these particular “awareness” charity days any development or hope for progression dried up, and suddenly anything and everything became about the illness to the point of where I was no longer considered an employee, but a ticking time bomb and a liability.

No amount of bake sales and weird garments are going to stop the fact that mental health care plans are limited at best- if you’re employed you’re expected to pay well over $165 for a single session once the rebates run out. So if you’re having to go at least twice a month you’re already looking at over $300 for appointments. If you have to see a psychologist as well? Double that. Medication? I’m lucky, so far I only set myself back about $30 a month, but I’m only on one set of meds at this stage- other people have to take a cocktail that would make them sound like a fucking maraca if you shook them.

Mental Health units in hospitals? Forget it. If you’re strung out to the point of where you’re about to throw yourself in front of a bus, they won’t help you. Head out the front door and into incoming traffic so you come back in on a stretcher five minutes later, and then we’re talking!

When I’m having an “odd day”, it goes well beyond a funky fucking sock. When I am having an “odd day”, I am pacing around the house talking myself up to be capable of leaving the house to go to work, giving myself an inner pep talk of sorts while shaking like a leaf because crippling insomnia kept me up until 3am the night previous, and I am up before 7am because I have to get ready for work. When I get to work I am twitchy and monosyllabic in my responses and my jaw is already aching from clenching it so hard I thought my teeth were going to shatter.

When colleagues and supervisors notice my skittish behaviour, they ask if I am ok and I lie to their faces saying I am fine. We both know I am full of shit, but if I start talking about how I am feeling, I don’t know if I am capable of being calm about it, or whether I am going to flip a table, set off the fire alarm as a distraction or jump off a goddamn balcony. So I opt for “Yep fine” and walk away because it’s all I can do to stay put. My right leg is sore and cramping by lunch because it hasn’t stopped bouncing on the spot at my desk for almost 5hrs straight.

By home time I have had 4 or 5 coffees to try to stay awake from the less than 5hrs sleep and have been talking at a million miles a minute like I am one of those auctioneers from Storage Wars. I have had to coach myself internally to slow the fuck down when talking to customers because they aren’t sure if they’ve gotten a person or a fast forward button on cocaine.

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I get home to find a mountain of things to do, and they all get left for laying down in bed still mentally wired but physically exhausted. I don’t get to sleep until about 2am the following morning.

But by all means, wear some crazy socks.

I don’t want to have yet another day dedicated to “being aware” and “fighting stigma”. I’m already aware. You’re already aware. We are over-saturated in awareness. I don’t want anymore fucking awareness. I just want some help.