Friday, April 15, 2011

Looking Back, Dragged Forward, Still

{Image: Lady In The Water 1947/Photographer: Tony Frissell/From:}

I used to be a 'people person'.  That laughing, friendly, moderately attractive-yet-non-threatening woman, saying hello to various people at exhibition openings, Halloween parties, comedy gigs, etc?

Yeah, that used to be me.

Then I quit.


Melbourne tonight.  It's a beautiful city.  Laid back, but with good bones.  European flair, but not Eurotrash.  Antipodean, but not loudly so.  Like a confused Autumn day when the sun is on your back and you're grateful the good weather held out - something to be noticed and appreciated.

Tonight her pavements feel like the decks of a softly rolling cruise ship.  That's because the meds I'm on screw up important things, like balance and concentration, they set my internal gyroscope on "walking, drunk-like".
Also, the only thing I've had to eat today is a cup of coffee and a hot cross bun.

This isn't a good way to meet The Boyfriend's workmates.

The shindig is at a popular Oriental-themed bar in the middle of town.  It's all dark wood, loud conversation and Buddha statues.  The Art of Zen disguised as interior decorating.  I walk in, smile, sit down on the seat that's been politely cleared.  The floor is still unsteady and the room lurches to the left a little.  I chat to two people I've met before - Amanda, a quiet blonde lass from the outer suburbs and Zelle, a boyish, business-savvy Ethiopian lad with a broken leg.
There's a story behind that leg - one of late nights, girls and bar fights.  He's still smiling, though.

The Boyfriend introduces me to other workmates.  I remember their names, smile at the appropriate times, and generally Make Nice.  All the while, I'm thinking about the sushi bar next door and how I really, really need to eat something that's not mainly carbs.

The Boyfriend and I eventually leave, do the dinner thing and then grab some Japanese crepes for dessert.  They're delicious, something Sailor Moon would eat while riding a unicorn to Disneyland to hang out with Cinderella.  Mine has Nutella, custard and strawberries, the Boyfriend has one with strawberries, cream, cheesecake (yes, they actually put in a small slice of cheescake) and berry sauce.  Ridiculously good and on the fabulous side of wrong.

On the way up Little Lonsdale street, we pass cafes, bars and restaurants.  It's Friday night - people are glad to have finished for the week, glad to have a glass of wine in their hand, a buddy to bitch with and a fine city to do it in.

We pass a bar which is hosting the opening of an art exhibit - then I remember the world I used to belong to.  This world; as an active participant, not a crepe-eating, drug-addled ghost of bone-bleached judgement.

As it used to be, the past life - music playing in the background, cat's-eye liquid liner which would make Katy Perry jealous.  Yeah, I know the artist, she's super-smart and is a derby girl to boot.  Yeah, I know the DJ, he's my boyfriend.  Yeah, that's my burlesque troupe, wanna hire us?    
Always. On. The. Hustle.  The good guest, the good host.  The 'people person'.

And for what?

I met a lot of nice, interesting people.  But they aren't here now.
I met a lot of leeches and narcissists disguised as nice, interesting people - I'm glad they aren't here now.

It's through these streets I see those meet-and-greet scripts, through the windows of it's bars, restaurants, colourful laneways and alleys full of promise.  But all the roles have been played and the storyline exhausted.

Dreams are dreams no longer, some just experiences, some experiences resulting in fine successes (someone order me a parade!), some broke embarrassingly like a latte cup on stone flooring.  Oh, and lots and LOTS of stories.

So where to from here?  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No Comfort in Slumber or Stupidity

Ohhh, my head...

I've been put on new medication by the doc, and it feels like I've just roofied myself.
Normally I'm a sleep Nazi - I refuse to have a lie-in unless it's a weekend to keep my schedule as regular as possible.
However, on Sunday (my first day on mirtazapine) I woke up at noon, had something to eat and didn't get up again until 6pm.  Other days have been variation on this 'sleep alot, eat, try to do something useful, fail, sleep' theme.

When I'm awake I feel like I'm on a gently rocking boat.  Concentration is terrible, dry mouth ever present.  Apparently these are pretty normal side effects.  My doc recommended mirtazapine because I wanted something that wasn't an SSRI.
Hey, they work, but I want my libido back!  My 'date knickers' are starting to develop abandonment issues.  So... I'm going to give mirtazapine 2-3 weeks, then see what happens.

My main concern is that my brain will rot and my intelligence will be lowered.  Paranoid? Yes.  But there are trees out there lumbering more gracefully than I right now.
Also, possessing the quickness of intellect found in recently beheaded poultry does nothing for one's esteem.  

Being this stupid and clumsy is really rather trying.  Let's hope it's only temporary.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wherever You Go, There You Are - But That Don't Mean You Can't Sneak A Peek

Run away, RUN AWAY!  Like you're Ripley and a chestburster really, really wants to put it's thingy in you.  Like a politician backpedalling on an promise.  Like a sensible child fleeing from a clown.

I am a born wannabe-escapist - I say 'wannabe' because I can be unrelenting in my pursuit of even the most futile endeavours, like a T1000 missing half it's body and still chasing an chipmunk-voiced, under-aged Edward Furlong.

You know that idiot who says, "You can have my sword/bow/axe/stupendous loyalty for seemingly no good reason," in aid of some hopeless quest? Yup, that's me.

So, here is some natty writing about faraway places and looking-out-the-window dreams, possibilities and realities that belong to others.
My reality is mine - but it's always educational to peek into what could be.
Ergo, my sin today is covetousness.  Journey with me?

Russia: The Georgian Ministry of Highways building is the ultimate treehouse.

Japan: The Edo period never really went away, thank goodness.

New York: An American retail adventure as guided by The Sartorialist.

Note: Today's post is short because I slammed my fingers in a car door - the middle and ring fingers on my dominant hand are out of action.  So typing ain't easy right now... but I'll be back to 80 wpm soon enough :-)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'm A Believer

Walking up two flights of stairs, above a Korean grocery store.  On the left, a Korean travel agency that never seems to shut.  On the right - a long, brightly lit room full of tables, people everywhere.
Tonight it's busier than usual.  There's a cute blonde girl in a polka-dot rockabilly outfit sending a text on her smartphone.  A guy sporting a purple beanie and black dreadlocks hoists a large green case onto a table.  There's a half-dozen or so Asian international kids in hipster clothing and sticker-covered laptops taking up another two tables.  The room is a mess of Bright and Loud, floppy haircuts, chipped nailpolish, laughter, yelling.

No, it's not a cafeteria scene from Glee.

It's a bloody games store.  Like, a Dungeons & Dragons-type game store.  The walls are lined with Warhammer figurine boxes, various RPG rulebooks and posters advertising 'Magic: The Gathering' card... stuff.  Cute Rockabilly Girl has Magic cards.  Purple Beanie Guy sets up his Warhammer figurines.  The Asian kids are playing old-school D&D.

This ain't the geeks I remember.

Why is the ratio of male-to-female roughly equal?  Why is there a small, friendly, gay Asian guy behind the counter instead of a fat grumpy white dude?  Why does everyone seem socialised and showered?  Where's the characteristic lack of personal hygiene and self-confidence?

My little gaming group finds table and we set up.  Yes folks, I game - in the 'make stuff up, throw dice' kind of way.  The last time I did this properly was well over 10 years ago, at university (holy crap that makes me feel old).  Back then I was often the only female in the Really Geeky Section of a games store and it was weird, stinky, fun for the socially awkward.

Now, it appears that Geek really is the new Frickin' Awesome.  Yes, Wired magazine has been telling us this for years and the popularity of shows such as Big Bang Theory and the unnatural cultural fascination with teenage vampires were clear indicators.  However, I didn't really believe it until now.
It's one thing to see Bigfoot's footprints.  It's another to have him gawking right at you, breathing on your face (and about to tear it off).

So should I be embarrassed about my return to gaming?  Or is this a part of life smacking the big 'Reboot' button and showing me an unfamiliar-yet-strangely-pleasant alternate universe?  The people I game with are bloody terrific - all are employed and/or studying (the youngest is in his first year of university, the oldest are the GM and myself) all have an absurd sense of humour and are notably intelligent - but not intimidatingly so.
I mean, the GM wears gold Doc Martens and The Other Lady Gamer crochets monsters.

The game itself is very different from what I'd been used to, and loads of fun.  Between the strategic moves and 'pew-pew' fighting, there's been drunken intergalactic karaoke and spontaneous use of dwarf bread pancakes as protective headgear.

You could say I'm regressing.  You could say, 'it's all made up, there's no winner, what's the point'?    

But... maybe the point is just to have fun, for now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

'May You Live In Interesting Times' For The Podcast Generation

"Thanks to all of you for listening, and we hope you have a story-worthy week...",  Dan Kennedy's voice continues, giving credit to the producers, PRX and the like.

I'm in the kitchen, listening to The Moth's non-fiction storytelling podcast as I do the dishes. 
Dan's words, "... and we hope you have a story-worthy week...", has an odd effect on me.

I want to smash the Royal Albert teacup I'm holding and just SCREAM. 

I want to yell, "Dan, I ran away from home this week because of invading lesbians!  Dan, when I see French-polished fake fingernails I remember shooting porn in an apartment on Collins Street; the flashguns attracting the attention of office workers across the road!  Dan, did you know when a body is released from the Coroner, sometimes they still need to keep the brain?  It's not firm enough to slice into for an autopsy in the usual state so they need to pickle it, which takes a few weeks."

Story-worthy week?  Story-worthy, and possibly somewhat accursed life.

This week:
It's around 5am, Tuesday morning.  My buddy Oliver is sitting on my bed, helping me do a breathing exercise.  Words coming out of my mouth like a busted record, "Can't...can't...can't...can't...can't..." I'd woken up screaming several times that night.

For the last week I'd been trying to get a new GP - the old one was fine for vaccinations, pap smears and colds.  Terrible for mental health issues.  Very anxiety causing, so I'd been taking Valium every day whilst I searched for a new one.  Taking Valium every day not only very 60's-70's-80's, it's also very bad for you.

Around this time, The Boyfriend lets a young nineteen-year-old colleague stay with us for a couple of days, because she was being stalked.  Plus, she also has an abusive forty-one-year-old girlfriend with whom she is extremely co-dependant.
Those couple of days turned into many days, every inch turning into a mile.  The colleague's abusive girlfriend then comes and stays without permission, for one night, then two.  More of their stuff was being moved into our house.  This was very bad.  And I was freaking the hell out.

So I ran away from home at stupid-o'clock in the morning with Oliver, whilst The Boyfriend had the nasty task of evicting the colleague/freeloader and her girlfriend from our house that night, after he came home from work.

I checked myself into a hotel room, hating myself for being broken, for not being strong enough to help with the whole, "Get out of our house you sociopathic bitches," thing which was The Boyfriend's task. 
The Boyfriend is gentle, kind, strong and sweet, not unlike the treasured Mr JLB Matekoni from Alexander McCall Smith's 'No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency' series.  I am a far, far nastier person than The Boyfriend.
I was also scared, because I had an appointment with a GP the next day and I was terrified that she would not be The One and the painful search would continue. 

Looking for a new doctor isn't great under any circumstance, but looking for a new doctor whilst being a mental wreck is really, really difficult.  I'd been to two already - the first guy gave me the creeps and the second guy just wasn't interested.  It was like a shite version of OKCupid and Craigslist combined, but with my mind at stake.

And then the crazy Sapphic duo invade our home? 

Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up.  Sometimes I look at the sky, and wonder what character I am in this f**ked up script.  What plot device comes next?  What challenge will the protagonist face to move the story along? 

So yeah Dan-from-The-Moth, I've had a 'story-worthy' week.

My whole life is a story no publisher would accept - they'd say it was too far-fetched, too unreal.
Death.  Pornography.  Honesty.  Integrity.  Madness.  Dysfunctionality.

I live in interesting timesI have story-worthy weeks

F**k you, fate, life and all the laughing deities.  I will prevail (in a somewhat bitter fashion).


The freeloaders have been successfully thrown out.  I have a new, better GP who will actually co-operate with my psychologist.  I live in hope, but am curious about what the next 'plot device' is going to be.

Werewolves maybe?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rewiring the Noggin - An Ambitious Activity

Right.  I've started to read a bunch of books.  They've provided me with some of the knowledge so I can begin to make my way out of this maze.
Actually, if this horrid funk were an actual maze it would be built of cold, foggy glass bricks, and I'd come across just enough bland-tasting protein bars and occasional bit of limp salad and tepid water to keep me going.
Oh, and sometimes, a big landslide of poo would drop on my head and I'd have to start all over again.

So.  A strategy.  Umm... haven't got one yet, but it's being fervently worked on.
So let's try this for now:

  • Acknowledgement and Reframing

Event - The WorkSafe claim has been accepted by my employer's insurance company.
I got a large package in the mail full of brochures and forms telling me so.

Acknowledged Emotions Regarding Event 
Relief: I will have an income whilst recovering from my injury.

Fear: Receiving any correspondence or contact regarding the incident or my employer conjures up overwhelming amounts of anxiety and causes me to relive the experience in my head, resulting in stammering, incoherent speech and teeth-gnashing.  Unpleasant.  I just want to be left alone to get better thank-you-very-much.

Confusion: I'm not as organised as I once was.  There are forms to be filled in and the brochures are of the 'one size fits all variety', with the general message of 'stay positive and focus on returning to work'.
This would be more appropriately directed towards a someone who's had a physical injury, but it's unhelpful in terms of someone who has had a severe psychological blow.
The people I have been speaking to have not been putting any pressure on me to return to the workplace, and have acknowledged that the printed information can be confusing in terms of volume and language.
Whilst this is a positive, I find the disparity between the literature and the spoken interactions can be distressing.

Resentment: Yes, it's a 'win', (success of claim = acknowledgement that work did royally f**k me up and it's not just me being stupid) but a very bitter one.  This 'win' is a confirmation that there was gross neglect, lying (by omission or otherwise) and abuse of trust.
Why was I put in that position at all?  The company I worked had a set of four values that I lived by.
Yet the decision-makers chose not to abide by the very values they (and their marketing team) created; the money they used in re-branding and selling those values to the staff and public totally wasted.
Is "put your money where your mouth is" no longer obvious?      

Now, this is where I attempt to put the above event under a different microscope and hope to 're-frame' it from an unhelpful perspective into a helpful one.  This is hard, but here goes:

Re-frame 1 - I am fortunate that I shall be receiving 95% of my pre-injury income for 13 weeks.
This will allow me to pay bills, keep up my financial obligations, pay rent and eat food.  Whilst my lifestyle been thrown down the rabbit hole (and yes, I'm still tumbling) at least the basics are accounted for.  I'll also have a chance to do some of the regular things one enjoys, like going to the movies, eating out (not expensively!) on occasion and maybe going on little day trips to the countryside.
Oh my goodness.  Revelation; I currently have the lifestyle of a penny-pinching, lavender-haired retiree.  Laugh? Cry?
Both, I think.

Re-frame 2 - Whilst communicating with my employer, their insurer or having any associations or task relating to 'the incident', all parties involved have tried to be as helpful and courteous as possible, and are accepting of my limitations.
When I say, "this is upsetting", or "I can't speak to you because it can set off an anxiety episode", they generally get it.
When I ask to be left alone, they try not to bother me much.

Re-frame 3  - Whilst I am easily confused and am a cognitive mess (sometimes teacups are misplaced in the bathroom and face cream ends up in the pantry) I have been assigned a case manager by the insurance company that I can call and generally 'dump on' (oh my word, I've never been a 'dumper' and find this mortifying) when confused or freaked out.  Poor chap...

Reframe 4 - I have won.  It's shitty that there was even a battle in the first place, but my position has been vindicated.

And lastly, whilst this is not a re-frame, it's a last-resort, back-against-the-wall thought that sits in the back of my mind - I can instigate legal action if need be.

Horrid, but comforting.

~ Useful ~
Acknowledging the Negative in Leading Lasting Positive Change

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Not Your Normal Programming

On January 19th 2011, I suffered an acute anxiety attack whilst at work.  I believe such incidents used to be referred to as a 'nervous breakdown', which sounds terribly 'One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest', but there you have it.

It had been a long time coming, and it wasn't my first one - although I love what I do, the conditions I'd been working under had been less than ideal for nearly a year.  It then worsened considerably from November 2010 - staff reshuffling/shortages, inadequate training of new staff, secondments from other areas instead of hiring external skilled professionals, lack of management expertise, etc.

After much deliberation and anguish, I have put in a worker's compensation claim.  It's been extraordinarily gruelling, and the claims review process is not conducive to one's mental health.  HR advisors, insurance claim managers, investigators, my GP, my clinical psychologist and the WorkSafe accredited psychiatrist are people whom I had to interact with on a regular/semi-regular basis whilst the claim is being examined.
As another client of my psychologist has said, "They make it a lot worse before you can get better".

All people involved seem well-meaning, but when your poor noggin has snapped all you want is a chance to get better (I have been diagnosed with 'panic disorder with major depression').  You don't want to be carrying around paperwork in thick grey file, scheduling and re-scheduling appointments, carefully collecting receipts and making copies of everything.

It is hopeful that once the claim review process is over, I can concentrate on getting better and being well again.  I have been as proactive as I can be, doing a lot of research in at my local library and dragging home books such as Norman Doidge's 'The Brain That Changes Itself', Mireille Guiliano's 'Women, Work and the Art of Savoire Faire: Business Sense and Sensibility' and anything by Malcolm Gladwell
Due to my training in journalism and sheer bull-headedness, I am convinced that research will be the saviour, as well as a damn hard re-examination of oneself. 
This quagmire is not going to rule me, and as my psychologist says, "This too shall pass".  Even if I have to build a Rube Goldberg machine to do it.

The most difficult part has been a shift in identity.  Like many of us, I had broken the promise I made to myself as a teenager - "Stay awesome and don't be defined by your job!" 
So, who am I when I'm not Death's PA?

I don't know.

~ Useful ~

Wow... I just looked at my RSS feed and there's a ton of relevant posts and articles.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Even The Bigs Have Their Moments

My Ex-Boss will always be remembered as a tall stream of black-on-black.  He resembled a young Hugh Hefner, but with more windswept, almost emo-ish hair.
For a time he was married to a cheery English blonde with a broad West County accent.
The marriage was a very honest arrangement - he could be with an attractive 19 year old (and possibly other attractive young women), she could stay in a country she preferred, get naked on-camera occasionally for income, and study tourism.
Whilst Cheery Blonde was nearly twenty years younger, that didn't stop them getting along well and being jolly good mates.  Even if you marry for convenience, you've still got to like the person.

Ex-Boss lived a comfortable life.  Making Internet porn brought in a lot of money - he owned a large Victorian home in an expensive suburb, drove a sporty-yet-subtle RX8 and had all the Eames furniture a design boffin like himself could ever want.

But one morning, just after the coffee run, we had an odd exchange.

"Dee, you don't think I look... gay, do you?", he said, holding his long black.  He stared at me intently, then looked away and took a gulp from his cup.  I noticed how his hair swished boyishly.  He habitually flicked it away from his face, his head doing this little 'woosh' thing.

I had to lie... quickly.

"No, you don't look like a man who likes men like that.  Sometimes androgynous, maybe, but in a David Bowie kind of way."  I knew Ex-Boss liked Bowie.  A man of his generation, who thought himself as part of the Zeitgeist couldn't not like Bowie.  Right?

"Cool.  Okay.  Thanks."  The tall black stream walked away.  Back to his desk, setting himself down.
The monitor's cold light reflected upon his angular features and his full head of gorgeous hair.

It wasn't his fault his hands were graceful, or that he dressed well and smelled clean, or used complete sentences with an educated tone.
He was a man-yet-not-a-man, he could pull most items apart and see how it was made, then put it back together again.  He loved fixing mechanical items, he loved old factories and abandoned, once-useful places.
But he didn't like the football, and he didn't have any man friends he could invite over for a barbecue and watch sport with.
He didn't look like a man that made porn - he looked like an architect.  The type of architect who didn't like engineers.  Plus, he was amazingly bitchy and grumpy at times... in a terrible PMS-ish, snapping, sarcastic kind of way.

His world was made of fading light, Adobe products, long hours and beautiful young women who felt unnaturally comfortable around him.

It was this comfort that caused some to ask me, "Is he gay?"

"No", I'd reply, "He's just a bit like David Bowie".

Monday, February 7, 2011

What The Naked Ladies Taught Me - Work/Life Advice From The Adult Industry

In 2004 I worked long hours, multitasking several functions.  Booking models, herding models, interviewing models, trying not to yell at models - there were days if I saw one more beautiful, naked woman I would throw down my clipboard and scream.

There was a range of wildly differing personalities - from the photographer who lived on a diet of milk and M&M's to the adorable Star Wars-crazy video editor so painfully shy she asked me to call a restaurant to book her 30th birthday dinner ("If I could email them it would fine, but I don't do talking well").

In 2004 I worked for a recently established company that made pornography for the interwebs.  It taught me a lot.

  1. Be Alert and Appropriate - If the model's real name is Laura and her stage name is Suzy, always call her 'Suzy' on-set and on-camera.  However, never EVER fail to call her 'Laura' on her personal cellphone, 'legit' workplace or home.
    Don't make life difficult for key stakeholders by forgetting vital information.
  2. Process and Routine, Always - Bras, shirts, knickers, skirts; all worn, slightly sweaty and dumped on my desk from a late-night shoot. You'd think that a company making porn would have some sort of laundry arrangement, but no.  So after glaring down the the rest of the office and screaming, "Who the hell put this s**t on my desk?!", I worked out the most basic of systems. After-shoot clothing would go into a basket to be hauled to the laundromat weekly.  Simple.  Necessary. I don't know what the moral of the story is, maybe 'pornographers would make terrible stay-at-home moms/dads'?
    Moral or not - the point is have a system, make it consistent and stick to it.
    Even big, established organisations regularly mess this one up e.g. new management coming in and saying, "We'll change everything! Just 'cause."
  3. Data Is Useless Unless You Use It - When interviewing new talent we gathered their measurements as well as a variety of photos; a face-only shot, a full-body shot (front/back), a waist-up shot and a waist-up side shot. We used the data to choose models for upcoming shoots, "Hey, maybe we'll do a girl-girl with this cute androgynous brunette with this curvy tall redhead, good combo?  Let's book it".
    Many companies gather data without purpose.  Maybe they'll start a project and hold monthly meetings about their poor SEO stats... and eventually do nothing about it. There's nothing more impotent than a group of execs in a meeting room with charts, statistics and no results.
    I've worked in an organisation that held a meeting to discuss too many worthless meetings. Please, for the love of all that's holy, don't be these guys.
  4. Adapt or Starve - Models are not the most reliable of people. Sometimes they've smoked too much weed the night before (you can always tell 'weed-eye' in a photo!) and you can't shoot, or maybe their boyfriend shagged their best friend and the fallout is happening the day you've scheduled stills and video. Initiative and action is required.  The most admirable example I've witnessed was when a staff member who was an ex-model suggested she do a 'toy review' shoot when another regular shoot fell through. She and the photographer went straight to nearby adult store, bought a bunch of newly-released toys and gadgets and proceeded to shoot stills and video of her using them.
    Save the day by using your spark.
  5. Stay On-Trend Whilst Being Yourself - Part of my role was to keep a regular eye on Fleshbot (link really, REALLY NSFW), the Huffington Post of the porn world.  It kept us informed about what was out there and more importantly, the context and relevance of our content in the industry. We didn't need to do hardcore S&M because there are a good number of quality providers, we didn't need to Ren-Faire style shoots because that area was covered.  We also managed to find out how incredibly important the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo is, as well as news about divergent markets and opportunities.  Keep an eye on the trades and blogs to look for opportunities and monitor where you're placed - but stay true.
Some days, when the sky is blue and the sun is camera-ready, I look up and wonder, "What are they shooting now?"
2004 was freakin' nuts, but it was the sharp end of life's educational sledgehammer.
I do miss it sometimes.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fast Post of Good Stuff #1

Things I like.

1) VIETNAMERICA graphic novel - via Warren Ellis.

2) Morning sunshine.  Actually, you'd be an ass to not like morning sunshine.  Unless severely hungover, of course.

3) Games with great storylines that I don't play, but my boyfriend does - Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted 2, Assasin's Creed: Brotherhood.  I get to sit back and do cross-stitch embroidery, but when a cut scene appears I enjoy that too.  Without mashing a single button on a PS3 controller.
My old lady pastime is indulged, yet my Gen Y knowledge base increases.  WIN!

4) Bacon.  Oh, and mushrooms.  Together.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Useful Types Of Paddles When Up S**t Creek

Mentally taxing situations are like jungles.  Horrible tangled bits of evil shrubbery with no trails or paths in sight.  I've been trying to machete my way out of the bitch - some days I make a bit of headway, other days I just sit, sweat, tremble and cry.

But let's just concentrate on the Stuff That Helps.

1) Drugs.  If you need to, then you need to.  My work environment is currently unsafe for me to be in.  Therefore, I have not been at work, which means I have been tearing through my leave allotment at a galloping pace.  I received news today that I will not be recompensed for this unless I make a claim through WorkSafe.  This is devastating.  Ergo, it's a two Valium kinda day.  Result?  Drowsiness and a bit of sobbing, which is better than smashing my head into the coffee table, as the case would be if I were in an un-medicated state.  Drugs are good when you really, really need them.

2) Research.  Look for the useful stuff.  For example, Gretchen Rubin's 'The Happiness Project' has a number of life-hacker style tips which I've found useful.  I'm trying a variation of her suggestion of 'Choose One Word To Set The Tone Of The Year'.  It doesn't strictly have to be one word - I've chosen the words 'Better Decisions' to try and guide me.  As in, "It may be a better decision to go for a walk as opposed to hiding under the bed today."
Rubin's blog led me to borrowing Switch out from my local libary. Written by Chip and Dan Heath, it's byline is 'How to Change When Change is Hard' and explains (this is my terrible paraphrasing, btw) that your emotional self is like an elephant, whilst your logical self is like a small rider controlling the elephant.  The rider is a guide, but when the elephant really wants to do something - it's going to do it regardless of what the rider wants.
In my case, the rational self says, "Stick around, you're kinda cool and you like life, remember?"  The emotional self says, "Just go play in heavy traffic already, because eternal rest means eternal peace and fucking quiet and not having to deal with everybody else's gorram fuckups and wouldn't that be nice for a fucking change?"
Alarming, yes, but please don't worry.  The elephant's rider has given custody of all the strong drugs to a responsible adult who keeps them off the premises.  Also, I'm not a slice n' dice kind of gal and have never owned a firearm in my life.  And no, there's no rope in the house either.

3) Get a hobby.  When anxious my hands turn into the fists, the knuckles white.  Then I chew on my knuckles, sometimes in a decidedly undignified and slobbering fashion.  The more upset or hysterical I become, the more I chew on my poor damn hand.  Sometimes I have to sit on them to prevent doing damage.
But - my name is not Rover and my hands aren't Greenies, so I've found it's best to do something with my digits before they hysterics set in.
Recently I've taken up shooting pool.  I'm no good at it, but the mental focus needed to perform a singular task - get the ball in a hole using another ball and a stick with both hands - is a huge relief.

These three things are keeping me going for now.  They're what I do when not coordinating appointments with various medical professionals and dealing with the human resources people.
You know, I've not been at my workplace for some time now - but it doesn't mean that each day isn't damn hard work the second my eyelids flap open in the godforsaken morning.
I'd like it very much if I could one day greet the day with a sense of moving towards better things.
A light at the end of the proverbial damn tunnel would be much appreciated, but I'm not counting on it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Caving In The Brainpan

Over the last little while, my mental health has been in a poor state indeed. Every new day, when sleep turns to groggy wakefulness, my heart turns to despair and not much else.

I've spent the last week and a half away from work.  The work itself is great - every day you go in and your job is to help people; how awesome is that?  But you know, an avalanche is an avalanche.  Hey, I freakin' love those dark chocolate Lindt balls, but it doesn't mean I'd like to drown in the stuff.
So after giving it my best I declare - Atlas has toppled, badly. 
Symptoms are the usual chestnuts that go with depression and anxiety; waking up wishing you'd never been born and that there is no proverbial 'light at the end of the tunnel', anxiety attacks where trembling, sobbing and nausea/diarrhoea hit you like the messy train.

Steps have been taken to mitigate the circumstances.  My GP has been consulted.  I got myself a shrink (man, shrink shopping is always a pain in the butt).  I have been placed on diazepam and fluvoxamine, with strict warnings about diazepam's addictiveness and have been ordered not to have the whole box easily available to me.
I've utilised the EAP program at work.  I must say though, I think EAP's are good for immediate trauma - such as the time when a trusted, very popular long-term employee was found to have defrauded the company and people were bursting into tears at their desk.  Hey, that's what happens when your good rockin' buddy gets escorted off the premises by the police.
For long-term stuff though, I think it's better to get your own mental health professional you can build a relationship with.  Even if it just saves you the exhaustion of explaining and re-explaining things to different people.
Personally I've been struggling with mental illness since I was in my early twenties, when I was in constant pain due to endometriosis.  That's eased off now, but you know that saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"?
That's officially bullshit in my books.



Sunday, January 23, 2011

Been Kinda Rough Around These Here Parts

I've been put through some difficulties lately.

Don't think I'm up to writing about it yet - not because I'm a private person (remember this is a blog about stuff people don't like to talk about) but because it would be exhausting. And my mental and physical resources are at an all-time low.

So here's an observation instead from Deadwood's Doc Cochran.  Calamity Jane accuses him of having "a dark turn of mind".
In response, he replies, "I see as much misery outta them movin' to justify theirselves as them that set out to do harm."

That sums it up for now.

Monday, January 17, 2011

When The Past Screams 'Vagina'

As opposed to 'When The Wind Cries Mary'.  Oh, ha ha.


A little bit past 7pm on a Friday.  Walked into The Body Shop with The Boyfriend and there she was.  In uniform behind the counter.  The face hits me first, then name tag confirms it.  It's Her - dark-haired, pale, pretty, rounder, older.  Aren't we all older now?  Yeah.

In a blink my mind yells 'Vagina'.  And it's not so great when that happens, because it usually means, "I've seen you naked".  Which leads to a fumbling in my skull for context because I have seen so many gorram tits and vulvas and assholes in my lifetime, more than any human could want or stand.
That's what happens when you used to work in 'The Adult Industry'.

I see her and I see... breasts, round, full, large-ish nipples.  Great hips, freckles, throaty laugh, very good curves.  Insertion scene with garden trowel (miniature, green and purple, spotted).  Couples video with then-boyfriend (blonde, average appendage, average handsome).  Solo stills, various.  Group stills and video (girls only, beach?).  We booked her so much; one of our regular girls - friendly and easy to get along with.
It's like in sci-fi shows where there's a close-up of the character's face then a 'swooshing' effect to cue the flashbacks.
It's like Doctor Who meets Fleshbot but awkward.

Last time we met it was in a club bathroom where both us us were really very drunk.  We hugged like long-lost ex-soldiers from the same platoon.  She was no longer with the blonde boyfriend ("god no, I'm not with him anymore the abusive motherf**ker!") and I was no longer in The Industry.

Now I make my purchase with my my best blank consumer face on - right here, right now we do not share a past.

Then The Boyfriend starts to enquire about the shaving products placed helpfully at the register's display shelf.  The three of us chat about soaps, creams and synthetic brushes; then she says to me, "I'm sure I know you from somewhere."
And I say, "Hmm, I don't think so...but, well, maybe we met at a party or something?"
She shakes her head. "I don't think it was a party. But I swear I know you, your face is really familiar."
I furrow my brow."Did you ever work in a call centre?"
She shakes her head again. "No".

The Boyfriend's interest in shaving gear ends.  "Good to chat with you," I smile and say as we leave, with the most naive and well-meaning look I can muster.

Everyone says I'm a terrible liar, that the look on my face gives it away.  They're right.  I'm a crap liar because  lying isn't important to me and I'm not good at things I don't care about.

But when it comes to someone's dignity, their professional standing in their current workplace, the person who they are now in front of me, the person they had been - I will fucking lie my ass off to honour that.

And I like to think I lied well.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

You Can't Take It With You

I get a call from a funeral director.  "Her family had reported her missing and the police even did a search of the house, but no-one knew where she'd gone for two weeks.  Then the daughter found her under a pile of newspapers in the back room where she must have fallen while looking for something."

Don't be this person.  I've had people fall and roll under couches, I've had people have heart attacks and expire behind stacks of Reader's Digest magazines - every issue since since 1984.

This is especially true if you live alone.

I understand that every home has it's fair share of detritus and that people have connections to other people and the past.  It is important to keep your grandmother's jewellery and if her orange and brown crockpot is still in good working order, go for it.  But use it or get rid of it.  And put her jewellery in a safety deposit box at the bank, except for a piece or two that you will actually wear.

Right now I'm out in the country in a very large, very new house filled with unplugged computers, boxes that haven't been open since 1993, biscuit tins containing tool parts and you can't eat at the dining table because it's full of Stuff.  My boyfriend's parents are massive hoarders.  There is a vague intention to tidy, catalogue and label.  It's crazy (driving ME crazy) but not unsalvageable.  At least the building itself is new and structurally sound, plus they're still in good health.  There is still hope.

Further down the slippery slope however, lies a friend who lives in the crumbling wreck of her father's old house.  There are various issues with his Estate that need sorting out, but in the meanwhile she lives in a home where you can see the stumpwork through holes in the bathroom floor.
You cannot see the floor in her bedroom however, because of The Stuff covering it.  In the bed itself you'll find everything from books to candy to knives and about half of all the underwear she owns.
It's a frightening combination of  shrine to the dead (his old books and furniture are still there) and a college frat house.

  • Don't hold onto other lives that aren't yours.
  • Don't confuse getting possessions with getting a life.
  • And if you have to walk sideways down the hall because of The Stuff, and if guests have to clear away small mountains of The Stuff before they sit down - you have let The Stuff take over your life and this is Not Good.

So yes, I know you love your grandmother and her things mean a lot to you.
But please, please do not keep her ageing issues of Reader's Digest magazine.
Because you know, one day you'll have a heart attack too.    

~ Useful ~

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On A Note Of Optimism

Okay.  I'm not letting the glass be half empty around here.  So here's a list:

1) Today was better than yesterday.
2) I've found Susannah Breslin's blog again, which is great
3) ... which led to finding Penelope Trunk's blog.
4) ... which leads to gratitude and empathy and hoping that Ms. Trunk has recovered a little from the 'smashing lamp over head' incident.

Good?  Good.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dead Folks Plus Crap Management Equals Huge Pile Of Bloody Awful

Usually, it's an experienced four-person team.  We're can tell you which funeral director can do cremations in your price range.  We know that you can leave someone at Monash Medical for longer than at Bethlehem.  We know that in 2010 the Coroner was fuller than it was during the year of Black Friday and they are still busy as fuck.  We have, well, had The Knowledge.
Now it's a huge pile of scorching rubble, because there's now only the two of us to put out the fire.  Our two noobs are on holiday and the team leader is also on holiday and is usually as useful as a fart in a haybale.  Trauma cleans were supposed to be done five weeks ago.  The nursing home wanted the room back at least a week ago.  Files are coming back with the wrong legal documents.  Each file (meaning, each dead person) is like a plane falling out of the sky, running out of fuel.  I start silently crying while I put a misdirected call through to another area, thinking, "Oh shit, that used up 7 minutes I can't spare."
Every damn day, it's like putting out a forest fire with tears and pee.  The noob backlog is terrfying (one of them can't even work our CRM system) and everyday we uncover another fuckup, another job not well done.  And it fucking kills (haha) me.  Seriously.