Sunday, March 30, 2014

Face the fear and blog anyway

Last week, for the first time since I started my blog, I felt I needed to defend my need to write and publish my story as if my life depended on it - like my blog's existence depended on it.

Someone important in my son's life felt I was compromising Noo's (as my son will now be referred to) anonymity by publishing photos of him here. It was interesting timing for this comment as I'd just written about my fear of such a challenge.

When the words were first uttered I was completely taken aback. Not even my parents had said anything so bluntly even though I know they have their own concerns about this space of mine. I was devastated but I was forced to really think about, and write down, why I risk my own privacy as well as my five year old's.

The two days that followed were surprisingly overwrought with emotion: fear, sadness, exasperation, indignation, anger. The crazy thing is, my passion for blogging has waned this year. I've wondered if I really am comfortable having all this shit on here for anyone to read. And I've been bored by my own voice and have avoided listening to it through this medium.

So why did I react the way I did?

I realise now just how sensitive I still am about my past. How desperately I still feel the need to defend it - to myself and to others. The things that have happened to me still have such an overwhelming amount of control over me. But if I shut the past out, lock it up and ignore it, I feel like I'm giving in to it. Like it will turn into the skeleton in the family closet. A dirty little secret.

I also realised how proud I am of a lot of my writing here. Before I started this blog I had no confidence in my writing ability. I'd only ever written corporate correspondence and emails home while travelling. Through writing here I found something that I love doing. I found an activity that has kept my mind going and my computer skills current while I've been off work for the last six years. There's no way I could just throw it all away based on one person's opinion.

This is my space

So defend my blog I did.

Here is an edited excerpt from the email I wrote:

Why I won't delete photos of my son off my blog (until of course he personally asks me to) 
I’m not ashamed of my past or current struggles.
The aim of my blog is to help kill the stigma of mental illness, addiction in recovery and of being a victim of rape. I will not hide from these facts about my life. Hiding implies guilt which implies blame.
My son will be told what I've blogged about as soon as he asks or is old enough to know. He already knows about and he knows I don’t drink because it makes me go silly. When he gets bigger I will tell him of the alcoholism and depression that has plagued many members of his family.
When you google my son's name no pictures of him are found and no links to my blog are returned in the search results. However, I have completed a ‘find and replace’ to remove all instances of my son's name throughout the blog.
Please don't get overwhelmed by the “From Rock Bottom to Parenthood” story. Yes, it is graphic and confronting. But it is MY past. I own it and will not be shamed by it. And my blog is so much more than that series of posts.

Some of my favourite posts I’d like to draw your attention to:

When is the right time for kids to try alcohol?
In this post I discuss my belief, backed up by research, that children should not be encouraged to drink alcohol before the age of 18, despite many parents in our society thinking that allowing younger kids to drink at home is the way to avoid binge drinkers later in life.
Managing mental illness: Self-care
In this post I talk about my experience with mental illness and tips on how to manage it. You can see from the comments on this post that many people found it extremely helpful. I have had so many people from all different walks of life either email me or comment on my blog thanking me for my raw honesty.
Sole parenting: Mums raising boys without dad around
I discuss my fears of raising Ned without his father. I then go on to say why I believe I made the right decision nearly six years ago to not have any contact with his father, as well as delve into some referenced research as to why parenting is “not anchored in gender” and that it is possible to raise a happy and healthy boy without a dad in the picture.
The BB top 10 benefits to living sober’s most popular blog post is The BB top 10 benefits to living sober. In this post I write a list of reasons why sobriety is awesome. I was sponsored by FebFast to write the post to inspire those taking a break from alcohol. It has been shared widely around the web.
My blog attracts approximately 900 unique views a month. In the grand scheme of things it is a tiny blog. I do however occasionally publish sponsored posts and have advertising on my blog which generate a little bit of spending money for me.
I am proud of my blog. I am proud of how far I have come as a person and as a parent. I am sure as Noo grows up he will be very proud of me as well. Everything I do, I do it for Noo. If he should get to an age where he is ready to learn about where he comes from and is unhappy with the story being online, I will remove it. But how he was conceived has nothing to do with who he is as a person and I will always reassure him of that.
I am raising my son to be a confident, happy child. I will advise him to stand up for who he is and be proud of it. I hope I will arm him with the confidence to deal with bullies should that become a problem in the future...

My email had the effect I wanted it to. Even though the whole experience was emotionally difficult, I faced my fear and won.

Now all I have to do now is get on with it and blog!

What do you think about bloggers using their kids' photos online and telling stories about them before they are old enough to consent?


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Monday, March 17, 2014

Writing as therapy: Fear and judgement

I have writer's block. Again. This block is a big one with the label "FEAR" etched across it. And so I find myself again blogging about my fear of blogging.

Makes for boring reading, no?

It's not like I don't have anything to say. I've got a list of blog titles and even folders of photos to accompany some of them, but actually sitting here and writing it up seems like such a chore.

I don't think I'm consciously worried about stats. In fact my unique monthly hits are higher than they ever have been, despite my slow blogging. And I'm pretty sure there's not too many of you (if any) out there hanging out for my next post. But I still feel that I should  be getting my words out ("Use your words, Vanessa"). For me. For my son. Maybe. I don't know why.

I'm going through a really blah period of my life. I have no real passion for anything. Of course, my five year old is everything to me, and my love and excitement for Noo will never cease. But the rest of life? Blah.

Boredom makes me hyper-aware of all that ails me - my knee which needs surgery later this year, my coccyx which is arthritic and worn thanks to that fateful night way back in 2007, constant constipation thanks to psych medication that I just can't survive without, headaches, anxiety about money, weight woes, loneliness...

Truth be told, I probably have too much time on my hands. I know what I want/need to do but as always fear holds me back.

Once again I fear the possible repercussions of my writing. Someone dear to me (who shall remain nameless) said by putting our (and by "our" I mean bloggers, Twitterers, Facebookers, celebrities, anyone on social media or in the public eye) life online we open ourselves up and invite criticism and judgement. That basically if you get bullied for what you've disclosed online, you kind of deserve it, because if you didn't expose yourself to the world you wouldn't have gotten bullied in the first place.

Personally, I call bullshit. Because it's kind of the same as saying if I didn't go out on Friday 17 April 2007 and get drunk, then I wouldn't have been raped. This theory places the responsibility and blame for the crime on me, the victim, rather than on he/she  the rapist/bully.

I have never been trolled online which I'm so grateful for. I've read what some people say about some bloggers and it fills me with dread that anyone could possibly dissect my life like that. But I don't think those trolls or forums which facilitate them should be banned. I regard freedom of speech as one of the most important values in our society. Banning such sites would do more harm than good as a whole. But, what I don't understand, is how anyone could even think of those things to say about people, let alone publish them publicly in order to ridicule them.

A lot of what I've published here has taken a huge amount of courage and a massive chunk of my heart and soul has gone into putting the words together. I told the story about my past problems with drugs and alcohol, about being raped, about my endless struggles with mental illness because I want to help people. I want others who may be in a similar situation know they are not alone.

But I'm not just fearful of what I blog about, I'm scared about what people in the real world might say/think about me if they got to know me. I avoid social situations. I fear the question "So, what do you do?".

I don't know what the fuck I do. I survive each day. Is that not enough?

I stand by my belief that the only way to kill stigma is to talk about the things that some sections of society try to shame us about. For some reason I feel I need to reaffirm this belief to myself, and to you, so I can keep writing. Hiding in the shadows is only going to feed the fear. Standing up and declaring who I am and owning it should surely make me stronger.

So here I am:

Hello my name is Vanessa and

    I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict

      I suffer from have PTSD, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and ADHD

        I take various psychiatric medications

            I have a lap-band and weigh about 92 kg

               I have been a victim of violent crime on three separate occasions in my life

                     I'm a single parent

                          I don't have a job

Fear and judgement can kiss my arse

I'm sick of living a fearful life.

The truth of it is, the only troll in my life is me. I am my own worst enemy and most critical judge.

Build a bridge, Vanessa, and get over it. Fear can kiss your arse!


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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Anxiety: Out of financial control

It is Sunday afternoon and Noo and I have spent our third weekend in a row at home. That is we came home from school Friday and have not left the apartment since.

Since Noo started big school he's turned into a boy who likes to lounge around and play with his screens all weekend. It's not really healthy, I guess, but with no cash in the bank it is kind of a relief for me. I don't need to deal with a kid begging to go out and spend money.

All my life I've lived from payday to payday. I've never saved a penny but I've paid off tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt, which is kind of like saving but you get the goods first (and hand out a shit load of interest).

I hate living like this but I don't know any other way. This pay, my dad and I are going to try a new system. One where he will basically hold my spending money and doll out a weekly allowance to me. I have my doubts, but I need to try something.

Out of financial control - image source

You'd think that a 39 year old shouldn't have the need to have her parents control her cash. When I was in hospital last year, spending five weeks in the depression unit, I met many others like me; grown ups who needed other grown ups to take care of their finances.

I'm sure it is quite common for people with addictions to need help this way. I guess to stop them spending their money on their vices. I've also met people with bipolar who need help managing their money, especially when manic.

Simply, I have little self control when it comes to cash. While I've been sober nearly six years, and I don't even crave drink, drugs or even cigarettes, I do love to shop. I have a wardrobe full of (cheap) clothes I've never worn. Some still have labels on them and some have only ventured out once or twice. I don't go anywhere so there's really no need to dress up.

I don't work so you might be wondering why I have any money at all. I wrote a post about it years ago that you can check out here. Basically I've been on salary continuance insurance since my breakdown in 2007. I have a very generous policy that I paid a premium towards during the seven years I was working with my last employer. This was the company from which I attempted to walk home one fateful Friday night before being taken, against my will (I assume - I have very little recollection of how I got there), to a stranger's flat and raped (you can read about all that here).

I'm still considered a 'low income earner' as far as the Tax Office is concerned but I don't qualify for a healthcare card or single parents' benefit. I get a tiny bit of Family Tax Benefit A and B (Aussies will know what I'm talking about here). I'm not pissed off about that because I know I'm very lucky to be in this position, unlike the majority of single mums unable to work for one reason or another, who are really doing it tough on just what the government provides.

I live with my parents in a really nice apartment. It is so awesome now Noo and I have finally got our own rooms after sharing for the last five years. We are so lucky my parents are happy for Noo and me to live here for the foreseeable future. This is necessary for us both financially and health wise as I don't think I could cope with the loneliness of living by ourselves.

I pay my father board and contribute towards bills. I have a personal loan and I'm on a rental plan for my laptop. My mobile bill is considerable because of the data allowance I use, as any blogger with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts would understand. I have top private health insurance which is an astounding amount of money every month but with my health I would never give it up.

I always pay my bills on time and Noo and I really do not need anything (except food) yet I always seem to be scrounging for cash.

Money is one of the main fuels for my anxiety. Money and food, or should I say, my negative body image, are the areas of my life that I worry about most (other than being a good mother). The body image stuff I'm trying to get over using the Health At Every Size approach. It is working a little bit. That's for another post.

At the beginning of the pay month, when I'm flush, I'm anxious to buy something nice because I've usually gone three long weeks without much cash to play with. I'm anxious because I know I shouldn't buy anything (like clothes or toys) but I desperately want something new. Often when I make a purchase, it is done with the same compulsivity that I used to seek out cocaine back in the day. The blinkers go up to block out all reason. Fuck it, I think to myself, I deserve this [insert item here].

But like when I eat junk, spending my money on unnecessary things just makes me feel worse. As my cash starts running out, and it's weeks until my next pay, my anxiety flares while I worry about how we will survive. I wrote about my insufficient self control schema (or my self saboteur) early last year. Living with a highly addictive personality in this day and age of want it/need it/have it now, I fall prey to cheap consumerism way too easily.

I just want to snap out of it. Wake up and find that a frugal/thrifty/financially responsible grown up resides in my body. But that's not going to happen. I have to work at this.

I wrote a post about money management last year which won a blogging competition. Ha! I should follow my own advice. But why are the things that we want to change the most the hardest?

Are you a spender or a saver? Got any financial advice for me? 

If you used to be a spendaholic like me but have changed your ways, please get in touch. 


PS If someone writes a comment like "first world problems" I might cry. Of course I've got "first world problems" - I live in the frigging first world. Which is lucky. In the Lucky Country, even.

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