The Great Come Down

So as you’re all well aware by now, I don’t pull punches when talking about mental illness- especially my own dealings with it. Having said that, I am very wary of the onslaught of “SEE YOU DIDN’T NEED IT AFTER ALL!” posts from anti-psychiatry woosters that I will likely receive at the end of this post.

I have been on Venlafaxine for about 4yrs now, which is an anti-depressant of the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) variety. It was initially prescribed by my GP at the time, without the appropriate assessments being taken. I have an inherent issue with GP’s (General Practitioner for those playing overseas) being quick to prescribe medication without appropriate assessments being taken. There. I said it.

I’ve only just recently gotten a proper assessment done after all these years of demanding one, and the only way I could get it done was to fork out over $600 of my own funds to obtain it.

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Stock images are often a foray into both the hilarious and ridiculous.

That in itself probably lends weight to the reason as to why GP’s are prescribing head meds instead of deferring to a specialist. I ended up going via a private practice- hence the fucking price- because the public channels were a nightmare to traverse:

  • The first public psychiatrist charged me for the session about $150, it lasted five minutes, he spoke over the top of me, cut me off when he was asking questions before I even had a chance to get five words out, terribly dismissive and at the end of it said that if I wanted a diagnosis of any sort I have to get my partner and mother down for an interview, as well as allow them to talk to friends and co-workers which was a fucking super invasion of privacy. There were very colourful ways I told him to fuck himself with his prescription pad I assure you and yes I did lodge a complaint.
  • The second public practice I had chased up for three months back and forthing with them losing my referral twice and not answering their phone, only for the receptionist to finally get back to me and tell me that I couldn’t be seen because I didn’t have private health insurance in case they needed to admit me to a ward. I’m not after a straitjacket, I’m after a solid plan to keep me out of one you incompetent fucks.
  • The third practice I had attempted to get an appointment in was booked out until May- 2018.
  • The fourth practice I had attempted to get an appointment in the psychiatrist had relocated over the border.

The final practice I finally got into see charged me $650 for a two hour session, with a psychiatrist that wasn’t actually specialised in the field I needed to see her for despite her name being the one I was referred to, and I left with more questions than answers, and my new GP, psychiatrist and I are still chasing up the office for the report a month and a half down track.

The purpose of these expensive assessments are for a psychiatrist to provide a diagnosis (where possible) and then prepare a plan for cognitive behavioural therapy with a psychologist (if you don’t want to continue with them or already have a shrink) as well as a medication plan for the GP if required. Considering the bullshit rigmarole I just went through to get this assessment, it is actually pretty understandable that it’s easier for a GP to just prescribe something and be done with it.

The problem being is that the medication I was put on four years ago, I shouldn’t have been on. The psychiatrist balked when she looked at my records.  This is also a drawback of the medicated approach to mental health- because everyone is different it can mean a lot of chopping and changing of different sorts of meds which can fuck up a person about as much if not worse than just not being on them.

The psychiatrist wanted to trial me without them for a while, because I needed all my wits about me for the CBT I’d be commencing with my resident psychologist. Certain dissociative symptoms can’t be identified and worked on if I’m not feeling the underlying emotions that are the warning signs for dissociation in the first place.

So for the first time in nearly five years I find myself without any sort of daily reminder popping up on my phone to take my daily pill.

I will say this- I think I could have taken up heroin and then subsequently quit it and it would have been easier.

Venlafaxine withdrawals are fucking horrible. Aside from the near-constant migraines that plagued me for the first few days, there’s been massive vertigo issues, nausea, insomnia, brain zaps and my god the feelings. THE FEELINGS.

Venlafaxine kind of flatlines you in the emotions department. I mean you can still feel happy, sad, stressed, angry, whatever- but it’s a very muted response. Most of the time it’s an overwhelming feeling of “meh”. Truth be told I hadn’t realised how flat everything felt  until I started coming off the medication. ACTUAL DISNEY-SINGING-TO-THE-ANIMALS HAPPINESS. CRUSHING DEPRESSION. HULK-SMASH ANGER. WHY AM I (STILL) CRYING OVER CARRIE FISHER’S PASSING.

The worst thing is though, is that this whole hyper-emotional state is a side-effect of the withdrawal, and also a symptom of my specific mental illness. Which means that until the Venlafaxine is out of my system completely in anywhere between 3-6mths, possibly even a year (fuck), we won’t really know if its a withdrawal symptom or my brain being a mess. Until then, I’m under clinical advisement to be social which is a great excuse to go out for coffee.

“LET’S HAVE HANGS I AM MEDICALLY REQUIRED TO SOCIALISE.”

FUN TIMES.

 

I have had everything from manic highs to days of crippling depression complete with suicidal ideology- I’ve always joked with my psychologist that I’d never act on any suicidal thoughts because I have a completely encompassing fear of my own mortality… but when the voices started to make sense and override that fear, that is when I knew I was in trouble. This is also a fun side-effect of withdrawal from the SNRI. HOORAY. And before anyone asks, yes, I’m past that for now and just making sure I am very aware and documenting everything and asking for assistance when I need it.

While according to the assessment I should never have been on Venlafaxine in the first place, it has done its job in keeping me upright and above ground for many years now. It’s gotten me to a point where I can now work on the deeper underlying issues instead of just scaling the mountain of immediate trauma symptoms and… level up so to speak. I refuse to use the same onion layer analogy that my psychologist used to explain this concept.

It’s also not a rail against the original GP who put me on the medication in the first place. Sometimes you can only do what you can with the resources you have at your disposal. Considering the absolute shit show that was my saga of getting an assessment and a diagnosis, I can understand why she would have just gone “fuck it take this pill” and hoped for the best.

But it is a rail against the current state of access to mental health services, which isn’t an issue that is localised to Australia and we even manage to have it better than most. This is effectively why I’ve stated previously that I don’t have time to not be functional and why I prefer to be medicated. Because I will freely admit that the last month has been an absolute fucking struggle, and I am honestly in amazement as to how I haven’t quit my job, my wife hasn’t killed me or left me, I still have friends and I have still managed to actually leave the house. 

Relationships have been impacted, my physical health has been impacted, my personality has drastically changed at work to the point of where it’s commented on when “Fun [Figgy]” is in the building vs “Scary [Figgy]”. If it wasn’t for the fact that I am under advisement to get off the Venlafaxine for this next fun phase of working through shit, I would have been on my hands and knees at the doctors begging them to put me back on something. In fact, I have been on my hands and knees begging to be medicated again because there are time’s I’d rather feel numb to the world from medication than this constant barrage of FEELING.

It’s taken me a long time to even get this far, and I’ve fought tooth and nail every step of the way- others aren’t that lucky. Others aren’t in the position to wait for that miraculous appointment to become available or to wait until an assessment is completed to go on medication. It can’t be fixed by taking a hike in the wilderness and be all one with nature and shit . We need actual, clinical, medical help and we need it yesterday.

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.

 

 

Retcon.

It wasn’t actually love at first sight. That stuff is reserved for Tom Hiddleston, Beyoncé and the first episode I ever watched of Rick And Morty.

We formally met at a party of a mutual friend years ago. She was having one of her wild parties as a celebration of an “I’m fucking leaving the country TAKE MY STUFF OR I WILL BURN IT” kind of theme. I rocked up after work, it was not long after I had moved interstate, so I hadn’t seen her in ages. There was a few high pitched sounds, hugging, catch ups then heading into the house to say hello to friends old and new alike.

I was wary of him, truth be told. There were rumours that he and my friend were very close of the very close variety, and I was the overprotective type who didn’t want to see her heart broken. He on the other hand barely made eye contact and kept any conversations to the monosyllabic variety. The rumour mill should never be listened to mind you, because that was the furthest thing from the truth.

The conversations came more fluidly when we weren’t in the same room, with us arguing via text or facebook message over who was going to get our friend’s Doc Martens, discovering points of commonality, and the conversations gradually turned to the flirtatious variety. Me being the complete oblivious moron that I am, didn’t completely comprehend this until a few days before a movie weekend at my place my friend and I had planned that he was tagging along to.

My brother always has a way of keeping it straight to the point.

My friend pulled the plug 20mins before he was supposed to rock up, and to this day I swear she did it on purpose. It still went ahead anyway, with us both feeling like awkward teenagers watching movies, occasionally brushing hands accidentally and getting closer into each others personal space as the night wore on.

Contrary to all of my hangups and idiosyncrasies, I was the one that made the first move. “Do you find it as frustrating as I do that we have been this close and we haven’t kissed yet?” After a relieved sigh of “Jesus christ yes”, we kissed. We kissed and it was like all those stupid movies describe it. My first kiss was just after high school with someone that preferred to give an experience of making out with a waterfall. This was different. It was gentle, it was slow, it was all those goofy fireworks, cherubs with harps out kind of wow.

That was how it started. We went on an official proper restaurant date a few days later, he came back to mine and we hung out and watched more movies. I don’t think he left after that. A point I often remind him about much to his annoyance.

We always communicated. He knew of some of the messed up shit I had been through, he shared his own history with me and together we took everything step by step, each day at a time. He learnt how to move with any of my episodes, would distract me with pictures of kittens when I needed it, or would just curl up and hold my hand when I needed that instead.

He was studying in uni, I was working as a business manager 12hrs a day often 6 days a week at a motorcycle dealership that was slowly sapping my will to live. We went out to movies when we could get the time, had reading nights, tried not to lose our minds over puzzle nights and just set about carving out a life for ourselves. We are both competitive so when a pool table was involved it got heated, and the only time we would fight is over the playstation controller.

Oh and also hitting up Mind Body Spirit festivals because the material we collect there keeps her facebook page occupied for *weeks*.

Everything fit so easily. He helped me get out of a really terrible job and onto better things, I started really being able to work with myself and get through some of these dramas and really grow on as a person. Just over 6mths later, he proposed. That wasn’t quite how I had ever imagined it would happen, it was just slotted into conversation on the way home from the city on the bus.

“Did… you just propose to me on a fucking Logan bus?”

“Yeah I think I did.”

“You’re an unromantic ass but my answer is still yes.”

Neither of us had a lot of money but we managed to get rings for each other, I managed to find one made by a Buddhist monk at a local market that he still wears to this day, mine was located at a random store in the city. Both were less than $40 but it was the symbol behind them, not the karat of the material. Through thick and thin, rich or poor… especially poor… more than likely poor… we would be there for each other down to our last dollar and our last breath. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

That was as official as we were going to get at this point- it was time to introduce him to the family. I had met his by this time so it was only fair. We jumped on a plane and went to Sydney for both mine and my mother’s birthday (they’re a day apart in March). We rocked up to the venue, and I stood outside for a few minutes trying to remain calm while holding his hand. He squeezed it in solidarity and we headed inside. It was pleasant enough despite how daunting it would have been for him.

My little cousin who would have been about 5 at the time was there and asked about us. “Do you love each other like mummy loves daddy?” she enquired. I looked around at the rest of the table while everyone looked about as shocked and awkward as if someone had just ran naked through the restaurant. I simply nodded and she seemed to ponder this for a moment before looking at him and saying “They have a face painter outside, I’m going to get a butterfly on my face” and taking off.

He also saw this as an opportunity to get air and decided that he too was going to go get his face painted up like a damn skull, so took off after my cousin leaving me with my family.

“You guys are so great together. It’s so good to see you happy.”

“I think it’s wonderful you’ve found someone that makes you happy you look like an entirely different person!”

The compliments went on like this for a little bit, which on a surface level seemed lovely but there was this strange air of a “but” hanging around at the end of their sentences. One of them decided to address the elephant in the room.

“But why do you guys want to get married?”

“Is this because he proposed so quickly?”

“No it’s just…. I don’t have a problem with you two being together it’s just…. I just don’t understand why you need to fight so hard to get married why is it such a huge deal?”

“I..”

The conversation took a turn for the worst pretty quickly after that. They were attempting to not be offensive and kept telling me so, but kept bringing the conversation back to “But why do you want to get married?”

“Because we love each other and that’s what two people do when they want to spend the rest of their lives together?”

“Yeah but… why is it such a huge deal that you need to be able to get married? Isn’t just being together enough?”

“Is that what you were asked when your now husband proposed to you?”

“Well no but I-”

“So why should it be any different for us?”

“Well because… because uh… SO WHO WANTS A DRINK!?”

Me. Definitely me.

Just fill it to the top mate.

I excused myself and went to the bathroom in order to cry into a scrunched up handful of toilet paper. I spent my birthday crying into toilet paper. These days my family have gotten a lot better around him but I still haven’t forgotten that day, it still burns my memories.

At this point the unknowing reader might be wondering why my family had such a bizarre reaction to introducing my partner to my family. If this is isn’t your first article you’re reading from me you might be wondering if I have hit my head. I will come clean. You see, this article is littered with typos. Replace every reference to my partner as a male with her actual gender, and re-read it again.

Our government is looking to hold a useless tax-payer funded and wasted plebiscite later in the year where you get to decide whether or not I get to hold some form of equal footing with you in societal standing. You actually get to dictate how I live my life regardless of you having absolutely no real input or impact in it! Isn’t that exciting?

No. No it isn’t. This license for hate speech is going to tell you that my partner and I are depraved. That what we do in the bedroom is a “lifestyle choice”. Kite-boarding on the weekends or going Paleo are lifestyle choices. A committed relationship between two people should not be whittled down to a “lifestyle”. I don’t point at heterosexual couples and say “ew look at their weird lifestyle choice!” because it’s not. a fucking. lifestyle. It is a LIFE between TWO PEOPLE.

“I don’t think you should be standing up and protesting what happens in your bedroom.” This was an AMAZING rebuttal I heard today. Those who are against marriage equality think about gay sex more than us gays do. I think my partner and I are both in agreeance that if we had as much sex as they think we do, we would be a lot more exhausted. YES. SEX IS INVOLVED SOMEWHERE IN THE RELATIONSHIP BUT IT IS A SMALL PIECE OF A VERY MUCH LARGER LIFE.

Let’s be real: This is what you do in bed, and it’s no different for us except we’re catching zubats outside the house on Pokemon Go.

We are coming up on five years in September. We have had our share of ups and downs, arguments over paint colours for the house, love and loss, burnt meals and laughter over farts that sound like ducks quacking. She gets on my case about the housework, I get on hers because she puts the cutlery in the drawer away weird. She hates when I eat peanut butter and won’t come near me at all until I’ve brushed my teeth several times and gargled a heap of mouth wash. I make it up to her by making the most amazing noodles or “breakfast dinners” where I pan up a plate of hash browns, bacon and surprise her with tiny cheese kranskies.

Our favourite time of year is Halloween, we deck the whole house out like a novelty store exploded. She isn’t into xmas but tolerates my need to be festive and I make it up to her by covering the tree in skull decorations and rename the season Skullmass.

There are even festive glittery skull decorations for a table piece!

She loves when I provide foot rubs because her circulation is shit and gets worse in the winter. I love when she scratches the back of my head. I have stayed by her bedside when she was admitted to hospital for a poisoned kidney, she stayed by mine when I had my appendix out. I supported her when she was going through hell in her job and helped her get out. She convinced me to save a dog who has become the most important little heart stealer in our lives. We often get manoeuvred out of the bed because the cats take up more space than a goddamn child.

We leave notes for each other all over the blackboard at home that usually consist of a capital lettered “YOU HAVE THE BEST FACE.” I gave up the giant whiteboard in the office so she could have somewhere to scribble while she figured out calculations for her science degree. We buy each other ridiculous little presents when we can but they are treated like we just went shopping for each other at Tiffany and Co. No matter how bad things get when I see her face first thing in the morning I know I am going to be ok.

It’s my grandmother’s 80th birthday in a few weeks and I couldn’t afford the tickets. She surprised me with them at work on Friday because she knows how important it is I spend time with my family, especially as my grandmother is getting older. I am now going down there to surprise her because of my partner.

We are not just a sex act.

Eat a Snickers. And By Snickers I mean Go Fuck Yourself With a Freight Train.

“You’re a slut and I hope you kill yourself.*click*”

Halfway through my day today this was legitimately a call I had received. Someone had literally taken time out of their day, to wait on hold listening to all the advertising and hold music, for the purpose of making an anonymous phone call to advise the poor fuck that answered the phone about their sexual promiscuity and how that may be solved via a swift exit from life.

Like really? Is your blood sugar low? Are you irritable and need a snack? Are you deprived of joy and need a hug? Are you coming to the sad realisation that your mother wishes you were the one she should have swallowed? Do you need to go outside and get some sun to absorb some of that glorious vitamin D THAT I HOPE YOU CHOKE ON YOU COMPLETE WASTE OF OXYGEN?

bcxak

This isn’t about that unfortunate individual who needs some more productive hobbies however, he just made me annoyed enough to write about the more pressing issue that’s been on my mind over the last while.

Did I miss the fucking memo somewhere that told the world to go nuts with acting like complete pricks?

This isn’t some revelatory statement mind you, I am well aware of the long standing toxicity that has been floating about for oh, the last several hundred years. HOWEVER. There seems to be this trend on the upswing at the moment where a handful of people in the media that have come out making some really fucking stupid statements about other communities, minorities and other perceived scary  things (I’m looking at you, Sonia Kruger et all) and now it appears to have served as some sort of xenophobic green light to have everyone throw their moral outrage at anyone not white as the driven snow and as christian as the wood they used for the cross.

I watched the Brexit insanity with a profound sense of gratuity that my ancestor decided to steal a handkerchief that landed him on the boat out here. Now Britain’s more colourful racists have come out of the cracker box like it’s white christmas; attacks on the Polish community are becoming common place, kids are going home crying because they’re being told they have to get out of the country, and people are being abused or attacked in the streets for not looking “British enough” despite having their family there for several generations.

Locally you’ve got Pauline Hanson, resident 90’s punchline politician who has made a disturbing comeback because of the absolute horse shit state of affairs with the recent election and the political landscape in general. Her election results have given her the platform to sprout her absolute divisive vitriol and the media won’t. fucking. stop. giving. her. airtime.

She will rail on television about how she wants to ban Muslims because of the “extremist problem” we have in this country. I’m sorry, I didn’t realise I was living in the midst of daesh contested territory where I can’t go down the street for a bottle of milk without dealing with a suicide bomber or IED. Oh wait, that’s because I’m NOT. Hanson wants to claim that people are scared? They’re only scared because they lack proper critical thinking skills and people like her insist on using the language of fear to divide the community. How about those in the Muslim community who no longer feel safe because of this shit?

It was the Asian community in the 90’s the last time she was on the political circuit, this time it’s the Muslims because they’re a persistent hot topic for conservatives to play to idiot bogans who don’t know how to differentiate between someone who is a terrorist and someone who is a person who happens to follow Islam.
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Stop with the freedom of speech defence. You are racist. In Australia, we don’t have a bill of fucking rights, it isn’t protected in our constitution, it is merely implied as per the high court. Just because we have an implied policy that the government does not get to interfere with political discourse, it does NOT mean that you get open slather to incite fear and hatred of a community to further your own political agendas.
You know what pushes people to “extremism”? Bullshit statements like the ones that have been coming out of the mouths of xenophobic assholes like Pauline Hanson. I’m going to use one of the weirdest references to parallel the scenario: the original 90’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action movie.
Picture it. You’ve got these teenagers all over New York, young and impressionable, that are constantly spoken down to, patronised, generalised, victimised.
They get the charismatic individual in head coverings and dramatic music who comes out and says I see you. I acknowledge you. I know you. In fact, this is legitimately the line from the movie he uses when addressing the hoards of teenagers while ritualistically promoting someone into his fold in front of them:
“Money cannot buy the honour which you have earned tonight. You make us all proud. Only effort, discipline, loyalty, earn the right to wear the Dragon Doji. You are here because the outside world rejects you. This is your family. I AM YOUR FATHER. I want you all to become full members of the foot. There is a new enemy. Freaks of nature who interfere with our business. You are my eyes and ears, find them! Together we will punish these creatures. These… Turtles.”
This place welcomes them with open arms and lets them be who they want to be. They can skate, they can play games, drink, smoke, play cards, whatever. This gets them into the fold. Then they are given opportunities to run about and do a few petty crimes, help with a few wallet thefts, pinch TV’s off the back of trucks, stuff like that. Then they get the speeches. Then they get the invite to the inner circle- The Foot Clan. Before you know it you’re now in the thick of it committing serious crimes, murder, and terrorism.
 Shredder
Now see that same scenario in our society right here, right now except without ninja turtles (though that would be beyond amazing) and you’ve got yourself a easy 1,2,3 into a suicide bomb vest. The divisive and marginalising statements being thrown about in the media at present are they are inciting racist dickheads to get a perceived free pass to enact violence against another community. Violence breeds more violence. It will breed hatred and resentment on both sides, which then goes on to create extremists regardless of whether they are Islamic or christian or just fucking racist.
If you want to ban everything that came from Islam, then put down your toothbrush and enjoy gingivitis. Throw out your coffee, stop playing smoke on the water on your guitar, stop receiving free medical care in hospitals. These are a handful of some pretty important things to have originated in the Islamic world, but by all means go ahead and talk about extremists as the most important contribution from the Muslim community.

Don’t blame the Muslim community to justify your inbred racism; the terrorist groups aren’t a “Muslim problem”, they are what happens when a group cherry pick the good bits out of their religious text in order to push their agenda and rally against minorities.

 
Politicians do it every time they use their bible to rail against marriage equality, while eating at lobster shack. The catholic church threw their magical lord words into the mix with their heavy lobbying against birth control all the while the priests of their flock fiddled with young boys behind closed curtains.
 
I don’t equate every christian with the Westboro Baptist Church or the Ku Klux Klan. Nor do I  equate them with the cannibalistic Anti-Balaka christian militia who massacred Muslims including children. Nor do I consider every christian I meet to be a member of The Army of God who systematically murder doctors and bomb family planning clinics on a regular basis.
It’s these assholes that marginalise, demonise and antagonise minorities that drive the itchy trigger finger radicals to do some seriously dumb shit. There are millions of refugees scattered across the globe with no home because of these fundamentalist racist bigoted cunts on both sides of the fence.
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That a bunch of backwater pricks in the middle east cherry pick their Qu’ran for the sake of oppressing minorities; that the taliban and the daesh and all these other spoons are literally the middle eastern version of a redneck… does not mean every member of the religion should be tarred with the same brush.

Not every catholic is a kiddy-fiddling paedophile, not every christian is a homophobic abortion clinic bomber, not every Muslim is a fucking terrorist.

Why oh Why Didn’t I Take The Blue Pill?

Genetics are a hideous shit-waffle. On my father’s side I inherited my father’s freckles to the excessive degree that I hope soon if I spend enough time in the sun I’ll get enough for them to all merge into a super freckle that resembles a tan; I also got to inherit his near translucent skin to the point of where I will burn under the kitchen light. On mum’s side I got to inherit early onset greying hence I haven’t had a natural hair colour since I was 20… and oh, yeah- the somewhat crippling anxiety and depression that generally makes life that extra bit more difficult to let my feet hit the floor of a morning. So you know, when it comes to hereditary traits everything’s coming up snake eyes.

I remember mum speaking of her dad once, wherein she spoke to me of his deep family loyalty, his kindness, but also his rage. She said that he never laid a hand on her once in all her time growing up, but had a tongue of knives that would cut you to ribbons and then pretend like it never happened while you’re still bleeding on the floor trying to pick up your innards.  I found the anecdote particularly ironic, considering how she was guilty of the same thing. He died the year before I was born so I never got to meet my grandfather, but I had heard enough to surmise that she was definitely daddy’s little girl in every way.

When I was about 4 I heard mum start swearing and yelling in her room suddenly one afternoon, and being the inquisitive little shit that I am I went to investigate because swear words are forbidden and to hear them uttered was delightful. I hadn’t realised that she had accidentally shut the door on her hand and kept asking her if she was alright until she snapped and directed all that profanity at me.

An hour later she was asking me if I wanted to watch a Disney movie and have ice cream and asking for a hug. Some days I’d find her crying at the drop of a hat, or cleaning the house top to bottom, or just not getting out of bed. It was a weird switch that kept me on my toes for most of my younger years.

At some point someone finally diagnosed her with chronic depression and started talking to her about medication. The revulsion was instantaneous. Only crazy people in asylums take medication. I’m just a little sad it’ll clear up in a few days. It’s just pms you know I’ll be fine. She went and tried meditation, saw naturopaths, tried hypnosis, even consulted the New Idea magazine for spells to overcome sadness from the resident witch columnist Deborah Gray. I watched from in between the balusters of the stairs while trying not to laugh my tiny ass off at the insanity of it all, when she just could have taken a pill and saved herself the trouble and the fire hazard.

But all the standing in the loungeroom listening to Enya and trying not to burn the house down while twirling with sage did nothing in the end, and she trudged back to the doctor with all the enthusiasm of a 5yr old being told to eat their damn vegetables. “For the love of… Jenny, you have to take medication to regulate blood pressure, why would it be any different when you have to take medication to regulate your brain’s chemicals??” our family doctor asked her point blank. Mum had no response. She shut up and took the medication. And for the first time, the highs became less manic and the lows became more manageable. We were able to build a solid relationship that resembles the Gilmore Girls rather than two people standing on opposite sides of the Grand Canyon.

I then discovered in my teenage years that instead of all the previously mentioned stress and other trauma-inducing factors that were going on at the time did NOT in fact manifest in amazing mutant super powers, but rather the same symptoms of manic highs and crushing lows. In an attempt to not repeat the mistakes of my predecessors, this is the part where you think I’m going to write that I went straight to the doctors and went on medication.

That assumption would be extremely premature in this narrative. The doctor suggested anti-anxiety medication and I scoffed at him, telling him that was for crazy people and I didn’t need them, I just needed to work through my shit.

I had managed to convince myself that the only reason I felt the way I felt was because of the subsequent trauma, so if I could just deal with that I would be able to kick the depressive episodes and just get on with it. So I did what every young person does when they think they’re invincible despite discovering their psyche is about as fragile as cracked glass – I self-medicated by way of a lot of nights out in Sydney paired with a lot of hangovers the next day. I self-harmed, I didn’t sleep for days on end just to see what would happen to try to “exhaust the crazy”.

When all the destructive ideas wore out and did nothing, I saw naturopaths, chinese herbalists, anything to ensure I didn’t end up following in the family footsteps of having to take a pill every day for the rest of my life to be “normal”.

I decided to take a far more enlightened and awakened path than my mother and her New Idea witch spell columns. I climbed mountains, went bush for days on end, visited temples of varying paths, practiced yoga, travelled, blew my mind out with illicit substances to shortcut Gnostic states and engaged in ritualistic hallucinogens while a shamanistically inclined individual broke my brain apart on a vision quest to recover suppressed horrific memories to face then and defeat them and shut up you act like you’ve never seen a hypocrite before.

None of that worked for me, obviously, so I decided to go back to the drawing board and get therapy. I went through 5 different psychologists before I finally found one that works. But the stigma still was present for me when it came to the topic of medication. I would still feel like I wanted to peel my own face off at the height of a hypermanic episode or call in sick for a week when I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed and just live under a pile of clothes while the dishes piled up and nothing was accomplished. I naively preferred that to just sucking it up and going on medication.

For some people, twirling around with sage might be all that’s required to make you feel better. I spent nearly a decade looking for a way to function without needing to rely on medication, and I wonder what would have happened and what could have been accomplished over that time if I had have been able to give up the stigma and put a pill into my morning routine that is as normal as my daily coffee. So I finally shut the fuck up and went on medication. Last year.

The evils of Big Pharma may be more perceived in countries that lack universal health care, where there lacks the true support to get help and be well. But here in Australia, all I have to do is spend $22 a month to be able to function in my job, in my relationship, make art, make music and overall get up out of bed in the morning and just experience life. I don’t really think that a pharmaceutical company that makes a pill that allows me to be a human being is as voldemorty as natural news likes to say they are.

Why does the Matrix reference get so often used about taking pills and waking up and experiencing the world for what it is and yet, the thought of having to take pills to manage your mental health is still shameful? Why is the Big Pharma evil the first thing that gets thrown about when it comes to getting well with depression, anxiety and other related disorders?

Without all the stigma I could be sitting here telling a story of how three generations of people didn’t fuck around for all, most and a good chunk of their adult lives respectively and acknowledged their mental health and got something done about it.

People often talk about the evil Big Pharma and their manufacturing of evil drugs filled with evil chemicals… Aside from the rather important fact that chemicals don’t hold a moral or ethical state, the people often decrying the use of medication are those who come from a place of privilege that don’t have to use them. And I think that’s something that should carry its own stigma.

Not So Safe Schools

I’ve been thinking about how best to write this for a few days now; previous attempts devolved into incoherent profanity and drawings of phalluses.

But I figured I would start with a story about my growing up, and somehow it will culminate in the feeling of unquenchable rage I feel towards the governments ongoing rampant stupidity.

I was always the weird kid. The first place I remember living when I was 3 was in a housing commission area in Burpengary QLD. The only kids in the near vicinity were from this beautiful family that lived next door, with two boys aged 4 and 5 respectively. I was introduced to GAK, Batman and army men. When I started kindergarten and they put me in the girls group because gender, I immediately contrasted the pink tutus and the barbie dolls with my batman outfit (cape and all) and jeans. I then spent the next many years of my life socialising with boys because it was just easier. Girls were annoying complicated gnats, boys played on bikes and pretended to be transformers and I could rock with that.

By the time I got to primary school the gender socialising was more forced, and so I got awkwardly stuck with a group of girls that tolerated my existence despite wanting to throttle me every time they wanted to play “house” at recess and when picking roles I said I wanted to be the sugar glider and climbed up the nearest tree making wooshing sounds.

Girls were still complicated creatures.

Puberty hit me ridiculously early, and I found myself developing well ahead of my peers. The onslaught of hormones, boobs and FEELINGS was too much for my brain to handle. I went back to hanging with the boys because it was simpler, I wasn’t always being compared to my peers; at that point thankfully they didn’t seem to give a shit about the fact I was suddenly in a training bra and getting lankier by the second.

I remember when I was in grade 5 and I was sitting in the school shed talking to a fellow female classmate about life, the universe and Cheez TV when the grade 7 class came up from the oval after sports class – with one of the popular athlete girls at the lead of the pack jogging ahead of the rest. “She’s really pretty” I caught myself saying out loud, and the classmate said “You’re not supposed to say that, you’re a girl. That’s weird and gross.”

It got around that I wanted to be a boy because I said a girl was pretty. I had my face shoved in the dirt, uniform ripped, beat up because I must like to rough it if I wanted to be a boy. I couldn’t even reconcile my own strange churning in my stomach let alone everyone else jumping to their incredibly misguided conclusions.

One particular girl had it in for me big time, and made it her personal vendetta to make my life hell because I was “the weird boy-girl.” Numerous kicks to the head later I was surprised I was still capable of math. She would wail on me relentlessly whenever she had the chance, and threatened to kill me if I ever went to the principal over it.

I survived primary school by surrounding myself with the guy friends that never saw me as anything other than their mate. Their equal. They kept the bully at bay and kept me safe because they saw me as one of their own despite the knowledge that I wasn’t. Gender didn’t matter to them at that point, just as long as you had a fondness for teenage mutant ninja turtles and didn’t pick the red power ranger we were sweet.

Then came their turn for puberty and you can just forget that.

High school came with its own set of turbulences; with a parental divorce on a nuclear scale that necessitated an interstate move it was enough to cause endless amounts of stress but at that point you reach a sort of comfortable numbness where you just roll with it. Autopilot engaged, you can unfasten your seatbelts and move about the cabin.

I discovered that teenagers are even more a bunch of assholes than kids. Starting a school midway through grade 10 meant that everyone had gotten into their friendship groups, made their cliques, and enter stage left- me. I stayed almost permanently mute for the first 6mths of school, all the while these feelings kept up that there was something wrong with me, that I was broken somehow. I went to the school counsellor (who I would quickly learn was a chaplain) about the feelings and she agreed with me. You are broken. There is something wrong with you. You need Jesus.

A group of boys from a grade below me sensed something was off and automatically assumed I rode the gay-mobile to school. They would shove me into lockers, trip me at every occasion (got me once down a flight of stairs), throw rocks and bottles at my face at speed… surround me in the cafeteria calling me a “dyke” and a “faggot” and a “cunt” and every other name you could conceive, trying to goad me into a fight. The teachers did nothing. They said there was nothing they could do, as I stood there once more covered in dirt, torn uniform and blood.

I self medicated through self-harm, smoking various substances, codeine and insomnia. They eventually left me alone just because they thought if I was crazy enough to cut myself up, they wouldn’t want to be alone in a stairwell with me. Ironically the scars kept me safe from them. But not from my own feelings.

I made a few friends, one of which grew intensely close in a short amount of time. We were both going through hell and found each other to grab onto and keep going through the fire. I liked her. I liked the idea of her. I was never attracted to her in that sense, but the intensity of an intimate platonic friendship was something that caused me to question everyone around me. In a moment of faith I confided in her that I thought something was wrong with me, that I thought I was gay. “preferences”, I called it back then.

“Do you think I’m pretty? Do you find me attractive?” would be the first time a straight woman would attempt to justify her vanity, and certainly not the last. I couldn’t give an answer that would satisfy because there IS NO RIGHT ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION SO STOP ASKING IT, and she let it drop. For the next 6mths she ran between the polar opposites of being ice cold towards me and calling me a weird lesbian freak to playing on my weaknesses from everything she’d learnt about me to flirt, to touch, to tease only to flip back again to ice and rage and leave me in a perpetual state of confusion and fear.

If you’ve ever had a moment where you just feel that cold dread start from your heart and rapidly work its way out to your digits, that was my morning at 5am without fail, every day. The alarm would never go off at 6am, because I would wake from nightmares like clockwork, drenched in cold sweat and fearing the time I had to leave the house and make my way up to the bus stop.

I thought about wandering into the creek by my house numerous times, and just laying there in the water until I stopped breathing. The rumour mill at school started flying around about me and the friend being intimate together, to which I laughed and said no, and then couldn’t figure out if she was more offended by the rumour or the fact that I vehemently rejected it.

I was so lonely, because I felt like nobody understood what it was to have these feelings, and that I must have been the only one in the world that had them, because nobody ever spoke about it. Gay meant AIDS and FAGGOTS and HOMOS and all things derrogatory, perverted and pornographic. They were kiddy fiddlers, depraved hedonistic sluts with diseases, and I didn’t want to be considered amongst them.

I tried taking my life twice before I graduated high school. Never could get close enough to finish the job mind you, each time I’d get to the edge I’d pull myself back, weak and falling all over the place from blood loss. I did my own stitches once and wound up in hospital the other time. It was super convenient to be within walking distance from an emergency department. Swore black and blue it was from a broken window and I knew the nurses didn’t believe a word that came out of my lying little mouth but with nobody for them to contact they just patched me up and let me go.

I think that the fact I made it through high school before the age of social media is a saving grace. I remember the times that this “friend” would call me after school repeatedly and tie up my grandmother’s phone line while she abused me and unearthed every fear she knew I had and used it against me. If I hung up she’d wait a few minutes and call again. And call again. And call again and threaten to tell my grandmother that I had been harming myself. Tell her that I was a faggot and give her another stroke. Told me her death would be my fault because I was gay and it killed her because everything about me was wrong.

I think about how my home wasn’t even safe so I’d never go home, spend hours at the library or the shops or the local music store talking guitars with the owner to find some semblance of peace and for five seconds be somewhere that didn’t judge me for my wayward feelings, didn’t call me a dyke, or a faggot and just let me be human.

With social media today there is never peace. Every notification, every vibration of the phone is an opportunity for madness. I worry about how kids today are constantly connected to their peers, and I can’t safely say I’d still be here if the torture never relented.

I survived because I had a will to fight. Because in the bleakest of moments I reached out and found a handful of people that accepted me for me, allowed me time to find my strength and find my feet. They helped me find my will. And I survived because of it. Others aren’t so lucky. It took me almost an entire decade to feel comfortable in my own skin because of what I endured in high school, and no person should ever have to climb a Mount Everest of internalized trauma at the hands of demonic asshole teenagers because you don’t realise you have a right to be safe and that its ok to have feelings and it’s fine and you’re still a human being.

People have a right to an education and to feel safe while doing so. Without the Safe Schools program, stories like mine will continue to be the norm. Needless deaths will continue to be the norm, LGBTI kids will still commit suicide or leave school with a raft of emotional problems that aren’t dealt with that will turn into explosive issues down track.

How much longer do we have to watch history repeat itself until someone in politics decides to find their feet, stand up to the bully sycophants that would rather kick a gay kid down a flight of stairs than see them get a safe education and flourish in life?

Call the double dissolution already Turncoat, and let’s find out.

 

Blackstar Waiting in The Sky

I was all set for my triumphant return to Fuck I’m Great Just Ask Me to be an album review about David Bowie’s latest album Blackstar. What I wasn’t anticipating was to be writing about his sudden passing from an ongoing battle with cancer he had somehow kept from the media until after he had gone. It seems strange to mourn the passing of a rock star when his family would be going through a hurt infinitely greater than my own. However as an artist, a musician, a weird kid and a human being my heart still aches for the loss of someone who impacted on my life so significantly.

With his career spanning decades across film, television as well as music, Bowie never had an issue reaching for the stars when he already came from them.

He captured our imaginations with his constant shifting evolution and taught us all to challenge the norms of art, gender, politics, identity and society. A modern day Shakespeare; and just like the Edwardian playwright David Bowie’s influence on culture permeates everywhere. Just about every creative will credit him for their style, their direction, their very reason for being.

The way he reinvented himself over and over again, never content to just let things sit idle – experimenting with musical genre after musical genre, identity after identity. He wasn’t afraid to stand up to the status quo and drag the uncomfortable societal and cultural conversations into the light. His often androgynous appearance and ethereal quality allowed him to transcend the boundaries of fashion, music and art; giving us some of the most iconic defining looks, statements and anthems across several generations.

Bowie recognised and encouraged the Ziggy Stardust in all of us. He saw us all as Halloween Jack. We are all Aladdin Sane. We are all the Thin White Duke. He let me know it was ok to be the weird kid who felt like an alien. Aliens become stars easily because they recognise themselves to be made of the very stars themselves.

With his latest and final release, his 25th studio release Blackstar; was the most carefully planned farewell gift to us all. A career spanning across almost five decades, David Bowie carefully constructed the album and released it on his 69th birthday- two days before his passing. Now suddenly the lyrics take on a whole new layer of meaning. His final track, Lazarus, becomes all too clear he meant it as his final send-off;

Look up here, I’m in heaven

I’ve got scars that can’t be seen

I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen

Everybody knows me now

The accompanying video track is haunting and not only served as his way of working through his impending death, but as his character frantically scrawls his final thoughts onto paper and down the desk he sends his message to the world clear- Don’t wait. Create now, create often, find your passion and leave your legacy upon the world before it’s too late.

The whole album is a carefully constructed gift that is filled with typical David Bowie mystery and iconography, effortlessly moving through each track like a journey to the stars. Each track is a homage to his various identities and genres he has experimented with over the last 25 albums, and his final send-off reminds us of just why we all mourn his passing- He was one of us as much as we were all a part of him; a sea of stars across his amazing and expressive universe.

Ziggy Stardust may have finally ascended back into space, but his thumbprint will remain permanently across our souls. The ghost of his muse will remain in everything we do as creatives, as musicians, designers, free-thinkers… as people as a whole. He challenged the world around him to step up and to embrace change and uncertainty for it shouldn’t be feared, it should mean you are alive and you are here and you are home. He has set himself free, not as an untimely ending, but the completion of a life of masterpieces; the final brush stroke that renders him not gone but immortal.

Oh I’ll be free

Just like that bluebird

Oh I’ll be free

Ain’t that just like me…

You visited us for a brief time and blew our minds like you always said you would.

Farewell Starman.

 

RUOKTHXBYE

Not to rain on everyone’s parade of RUOK day postings, but I’m going to say a quick thing that probably wouldn’t be “work appropriate”: I’ll TL;DR it up top for those that aren’t interested in a scroll- Don’t ask the question if you’re not sincere or prepared for any genuine follow up.

RUOK day is treated just like any other national day like, Jeans for Genes day or just another casual Friday.

As someone that deals with mental illness on a daily basis, seeing a news feed flood with “you can talk to me anytime” or the obligatory “RUOK” status updates is nice and all, but I hardly doubt any of you would want to stick around for the answer. Which is why often, when you ask the question “hey dude are you ok?” you’ll only get a response of “Yep.” Because shit, as if you’re really going to want to hear it.

I see a lot of you prepared to ask the question, but do any of you know how to deal with the uncomfortable silence that follows after the response is less than what you hope for?

RUOK day has become just as arbitrary as asking about the weather or asking howsit going as you pass someone on the street. You don’t ask the question the other 364 days of the year, because the true answer would be more than one line and hell, you got shit to do- nobody got time for subscriptions to other people’s issues.

If you’re asking today though, you’ll get the real answer from me. Yes. I am ok. Today anyway. I got a lot of sleep last night, I managed to catch the shifty courier before he ran away to pick up the present I ordered for my 4yr anniversary with Ness, I don’t have to start work until later, and I found a leftover donut for breakfast.

Things are pretty good.

If you had have asked me that question last week however, the answer would have been vastly different. No, not ok. I feel like every person around me is twenty times louder than they should be, everything feels itchy to the point of where I want to rip my own skin off, and my palms are currently bruised because of digging my nails into them to stop from wailing on a supervisor and friend that did absolutely nothing wrong, just asked if I was ok. My jaw is clenched to the point of aching, and I can’t focus on a single sentence so most of my calls for that day would be filled with “uhhhh’s” and “wellllllllll’s” while I tried to get all the millions of racing thoughts that make me want to run full pelt at a wall to shut up for five seconds just so I could get through my shift.

This is why I am medicated, this is why I see a psychologist, and most of the time things are just ok. Some days are better than ok. Some days are exactly like the above scenario, sometimes worse.

Yet if you ask if I’m ok you’re just going to get a “yep, fine” because do you really have the capacity to deal with that level of not ok? Would you stick around after the deluge is done? I can barely deal with it myself let alone someone external to the constant whirring of my brain.

Depression and other forms of mental illness are a silent issue. 1 in 4 people suffer from some form of mental illness. 1 in 4. I am medicated, I see a psychologist, sometimes it’s still not enough. I had my appendix out over xmas, and you can see the scar, I can poke at it, show you my belly and wiggle around til the scar looks like it makes a mouth. I have dealt with clinical depression and PTSD for years and I have nothing to show you. No scar, nothing to do a hilarious wiggle and pretend it’s talking with a rough Scottish accent. Nothing.

I’m not saying that RUOK day is a waste of time, it’s not. It is necessary to opening up dialogue about these issues and to check in with the people around you. If you’re going to ask however, approach with sensitivity, sincerity, and stick around for a genuine followup, don’t wait until the 10th of September next year. The people you ask today may not be around in 366 days time.