A never-ending challenge …

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been this really overly anxious person.  I just put it down to being a “stress-head” or “overthinking things” and I have just learnt to live with it, like it was just one of my character traits.

But I have this weird (OK – wrong) habit.  This too has been with me since I was a kid, and probably cropped up around the time I was getting anxious about … everything.

I could lose hours playing with my hair

I pick at my hair. I play with it. I split the ends. I watch TV and I twirl it around my fingers. In school, I would sit at my desk doing my homework, and sometimes the answers would flow from me like magic, but in the times where I was stumped, I would sit there and pick at my hair. I could lose hours sitting there, picking and playing with it. Studying for maths exams was hell, not just because maths was my worst subject, but because I was so bloody anxious about not being good at it that to avoid facing the heartache of learning trigonometry I just … picked at my hair instead.

When I was bored, I picked at my hair.

When I was sad, I picked at my hair.

When I was angry, I picked at my hair. Angrily.

By the time I left school at aged 17, I could no longer tie my hair up in a ponytail.  The sides were sparse, little sprouty baby hairs or something were the only things left.

I was mortified. I don’t know why my friends never noticed it, and I especially don’t know why my boyfriend at the time didn’t notice it. But I was glad he wasn’t the “run my fingers through your hair” kind of person, so I was cool with that.  Similarly, I was cool that my friends at the time were not, “let’s give each other makeovers and braid each other’s hair” kind of folks, either.

Coping and failing, but succeeding, sometimes … 

For the longest time, I’m talking like all through uni and after graduation, I tried to stop my “bad habit”.  I went to a hypnotherapy woman, and while that worked for a little period of time, it was so expensive I stopped.  She did, however, give me some tools which I still try to implement today, like keeping your hands busy and visualising what I would look like with a full, healthy head of hair.

Sometimes, I would be OK.  I could go months without an urge to touch my hair at all, except to comb it.  I even resorted to cutting it really short, so that I had no choice but to NOT play with my hair, and that worked too.  When the hair grew out, I was able to tie it up and back, and there aren’t many people out there today who know the sheer joy of being able to do that, after years of feeling like a pariah because you just couldn’t do simple things like tie your hair up when you go to the gym.

During the really bad times I would lose myself for hours and I would arise from my clumped over position and I’d have picked at the sides of my scalp in a weird non-frenzy, because it wasn’t done in this frenetic way, it was done calmly like I was doing delicate cross-stitching.

To this day, I have never tied my hair up with the use of serious bobby pins. But at least I can tie it up.

It is what it is

A couple of months ago I saw this youtube clip about Becky, who has Trichotillomania. And I holy crapped myself because I read up about her and her condition and I was … floored.

Because there was someone like me out there who has had to deal with crap pretty much all her life, and she was so open with sharing her story to the world.

Something about Becky and her story clicked in me, and I decided that I wasn’t going to ignore this in myself anymore, and I was going to acknowledge that this was something I NEEDED HELP with, so I am seeking it now.  Re-phrase that, I have sought it. I have good days and bad days, lately I have been OK, not great.

Good and bad days

Some days I am great – I use the tools I’ve been given to combat my urges and keep me out of “danger zones” (i.e. I’ supposed to be mindful of where my hands are on the steering wheel while I’m at a traffic light, as I tend to zone out and pick and pick and pick …).

Some days I am horrible. When I am stressed about a deadline,  or if I am finding something hard to write (I’m also a freelance writer, which makes me much more introspective and prone to overthink everything), I have really bad days.  When I get down on myself, then it’s over.

But I accept now that this is something I need to work on daily, because it’s not a thing I can beat entirely, but it’s a trait I have to understand – or it will beat me entirely.

I think taking the stigma out of mental health is so so so important, because many times – ok, all the bloody time, I feel like I am fighting this alone.  And it’s yes, yes, it’s my battle to fight, but it would be nice to have support, you know?  In Australia, in NSW anyway, there are no Trichotillomania support groups.  There are online tools and they are U.S-based, but the support of everyday folk to even take the sting out of it would be so lovely.

HatDay_CMYK

Hat Day is an event run by Australian Rotary Health, and it happening this Friday 10 October 2014 to coincide with World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Week.

You can participate by wearing a hat (everyone loves hats!) and donating to research.

It’s important to support mental health awareness and research because everyone, at some point, is touched by it in some way. Hard facts:

  • 1 in 5 people will suffer a mental illness this year.
  • The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 mental illness will be the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death in first world countries.
  • Every Australian will know a family member, work colleague or friend who will experience some form of mental health condition.
  • Mental disorders are the leading cause of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity.
  • The annual cost of mental illness in Australia has been estimated at $20 billion, includes the cost of lost productivity and labour force participation
  • Nearly 50% of all Australians experience at least one episode of mental ill health in our lives

If that doesn’t say a lot the state of mental health in Australia, well … read those again and get back to me. ONE IN FIVE.

How you can help

Visit www.hatday.com.au to register a Hat Day FUNdraiser event, and invite your friends, family and colleagues to join in and to donate generously on your fundraising page.

Follow Hat Day 
Facebook – www.facebook.com.au/hatdayevent
Twitter – @hatday
Hashtag for instagram, twitter and facebook – #hatday14.

If you or someone you know is in need of counselling, contact Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or Lifeline: 13 11 14

Articumalationising

Writing notes for a review (The Zero Theorem, Terry Gilliam’s new film), and this is my best note from it:

Bob, the young guy in the movie, is like the Andrew Garfield character from the Heath Ledger movie in the other Terry Gilliam film.

Written in a dark screening room with very little coffee.

I will refine and it will be brilliant.

 

Maths

Conversation between me and my 15 year cousin yesterday:

Me: Come on, quick!
Him: I have homework
Me: I’ll help you. What is it?
Him: Maths
*Pause*
Me: Oh can’t help you

So it was me and his 9 year old sister who cleaned up the purple glitter we spilled all over her bedroom floor (another story, another time).

On the up side, I did get a homemade bracelet out of the visit. And I learnt my limit. Everything on his workbook page looked like code. Maths …

The Happiest Sushi People in St Leonards

800px-Western_Sushi

Today I went to get sushi from the little sushi shop (or hut, more like), near the Platform 9 and 3/4 tunnel near St Leonards station.  There are 4 people who operate the shop:

1. Head chef (I think). Fatherly figure. Wears glasses, always ready with a smile

2. Main lady behind counter. Quick, business-like, cheerful. Always ready with a smile

3. BBQ beef guy, who mans the BBQ beef station near the front window of the shop. Also wears glasses. Not so quick with the smiles but that’s probably because he’s so busy with this cooking and grilling and bbq’ing.

3. Other lady behind counter. Maaaaaan, this woman is cheery. Always, always, always ready with a smile. She is never NOT smiling.

I walk in dazed. I’ve spent the past 5 hours staring at my computer screen in the office, amending copy for things like bluetooth bracelets and discounted accommodation in Noosa. All I can think of is the unread emails in my inbox, the un-crossed-out items on my to-do list, and the end of the day. I could’ve been standing next to a giraffe, and I wouldn’t have noticed.

Cheery woman, all happy, pops up out of nowhere. No, not really. She popped into my line of vision. She had probably been standing there all arvo, it was the lunchtime rush after all.

Her: Hello hello!
Me, deadpan: Hey there.
Her: What can I get you today?

I’m scanning the sushi display and although I could smash a couple of salmon sushi thingys today, especially with the mayo on them I like, my eyes travel over the head of Cheery Lady and up to the board behind the counter. There’s ramen and udon and bibimbap and other dishes. The ramen looks tasty. I’m intrigued.

Me, to Cheery Lady: I think I’ll have the ramen with chicken?

All of a sudden, Main Lady and Head Chef appear at Cheery Lady’s side.  They look concerned.

Main Lady: Are you sure ramen?
Me: Ummm, yeh?
Cheery Lady: You don’t like spice, you say before. Ramen is spicy!
Me: Like, how spicy?
Main Lady: No, too spicy. What about udon?
Me: Ummm … ok

I feel a little defeated. I can’t believe I’m being denied my choice by food, no less! Spice, man! Spice is what gives variety to life, spice is great, there were 5 spicy women in Spice Girls who peppered my experience of the late 90s. What’s a bit of spice gonna do? Also, the image on the board looks  a m a z i n g ! 

Then, like a knight in a chef’s outfit, Head Chef says, What if I make the ramen less spicy?

I’m back on board. Main Lady nods wisely, Cheery Lady’s head nodding is much more enthusiastic.  I’m all for it. Load me up, I say bravely. I’m smiling as widely as Cheery Lady now.

My day’s looking brighter. I didn’t sit for 5 bloody hours only to have my lunchtime choice vetoed! Oh no, sir! The universe saw I wanted ramen, and the universe is delivering. The Universe, capital “U”, and all!

In less that 10 minutes, my ramen and noodles with chicken is delivered to me in a takeaway bowl so I can return, triumphant, back to the office to eat slurp soup and noodles at my desk like the hero I am, clearing my inbox whilst simultaneously dying on the inside.

Head Chef hands the bowl over like a proud chef handing over a meal he partially modified to appease a non-balls customer.  He says, If it’s still too spicy for you, just add a bit of hot water to it. 

I am so touched by this culinary gesture, that I thank you, thank you so much profusely to everyone in there, including the BBQ guy, who had nothing to do with my meal. Head Chef gives me a little chuckle and a wave.  Main Lady gives me an Enjoy! before I head out the door. One last look, and Cheery Lady is smiling and nodding intensely in my direction, as if to say, you’llloveityou’llloveityou’llloveityou’llloveit! 

Back at the office, I plop down in my seat and peel off the plastic lid. Steam rises from the bowl like a magical expectation. The soup is somewhat red in colour. Dear god, that’s the spice, right? The noodles are loopy and fat and sloppy. The chicken are logs of kastu joy. I’m ready.

The first slurp tells me, yep, I’m cool with this. Not spicy. The second slurp does the same. The third and the fourth, still nothing. I can’t believe this, I’m doing it! I’m really doing it!

I eagerly hack into my noodles. Yum yum yum, everything is all good. There’s a satisfying feeling in the pit of my belly that comes with hoovering down carbs, and it’s happening again with these noodles. I am in my happy place. I’m like Po from Kung Fu Panda when he’s eating. I’m smiling all over.

Then the spice hits me. Not all at once, but it had been building for a while. I try to deny it by slurping down more soup, more noodles, even charging in on the chicken which I had planned to eat halfway through my bowl, but the spice is still there, and it’s not going anywhere. Head Chef told me, f it’s still too spicy for you, just add a bit of hot water to it, but I’m already re-stamping my ass into my seat, and the kitchen is like, over there, so I don’t want to get up for the hot water.  I’m going to have to deal with the spice like a grown-up. I’m eating slower now, carefully, so as not to keel over from extreme spiciness.

Ten easy email replies, two medium-ish tasks and 45 minutes later, the bowl of ramen noodles is sitting half eaten to the side of my computer screen. The chicken pieces are gone, they are the only bits not affected by the spice invasion. I should’ve heeded Head Chef’s warning after all.

Later that afternoon, I head out the door to the 7Eleven to grab a Dare Iced Coffee and promise myself to get the udon noodles or the salmon sushi on Monday.

The staff warned me. At least they were nice enough to do that. I’ll go back just for their cheeriness!

A funny thing happened on the way to the sex scene …

Like being an actor wasn’t soul-baring enough …

So last night the Mister and I went to watch a play, one that was run as part of this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival. I love this festival. It supports new and emerging talent, left-of-centre entertainment and generally anything edgy. So in keeping with this theme, the festival runs Equus, a play that is all at once unnerving, shocking and just full of WTF moments. In a good way. And by good, I mean, “hmmmm, interesting”, not good in a Candy Crush kind of way.  Highbrow good, know what I mean?

So the Mister and I were sitting in the audience watching this play called Equus, which is highly unnerving. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s the play Daniel Radcliffe did on the West End when he was on school holidays from Hogwarts.  You know, the one where he had to get his kit off in front of everyone?  Yeh, that play.

We’re at the point in the storyline where two of the characters are in the nuddy coz they’re doing their sexy time.  I haven’t seen a naked man other than the Mister in a looong time and I haven’t seen a naked woman since I stopped going to the gym (a loooong time too) and therefore no longer get dressed behind my towel in the change room trying to be all nonchalant about all the nudity in front of me.  I’m not a prude, I’m just not an exhibitionist.

So the nudie bits in the play were not for nothing, and they were part of the storyline, but goddamn those actors had not a stitch of clothing on!  And right there, right at that point in the scene, the fire alarm goes off. So we’re all sitting there thinking, “Hmmm, this is awkward”, and the actors on stage had kind of frozen in their nudity, kind of like someone had hit the pause button on them. A theatre attendant usherette lady comes on stage and says the play has to stop for a bit because there is actually no fire, the alarm just tricked up, and the fire brigade would be there shortly but that it was standard procedure for them to check the premises out anyway – just in cases.

So usherette lady wraps the nudie actors up in big koala fuzz blankets and they mercifully hightail it backstage.  The play resumed again after 15 minutes and the actors took it from where they left off.  Fair play to those guys, I would have DIED of embarrassment but to their credit they were really good about it and if actually garnered them a standing ovation for their professionalism and commitment to their characters and the play.

This is not the only time I have experienced Frozen Sex Scene. I was on an international flight from Hong Kong to Sydney once and one of the movies featured a couple of very nice looking guys. The movie was a foreign film called Habana Blues and as many of you know, with foreign films, particularly those produced in Europe (which this was – it was party produced in Spain), they are quite fond of their sex scenes. So there I am with my first plastic cup of water in two hours, watching my film when BAM! The sex scene hits and the nice looking guy is all nekkid with a lady and there is like nooooooooo prettying it up.  There wasn’t even sexy time background music prior to the act to pre-warn me.

It was going on for about 15 seconds when the captain made an announcement about something mundane like free peanuts or something, and that’s when I realised that my screen had FROZEN on the part where the couple in the film are both … really … enjoying each other’s naked company.  All TV screens had frozen whenever there was an announcement made over the plane’s PA system.

Needless to say,  I was mortified because someone walked past my screen from the toilet back to their seat, and then I think a flight attendant came around to actually give out those free peanut packets and I just didn’t know how to hide my screen. Yikes!

FYI, my review for this crazy night is here.  And this is how Daniel Radcliffe talking about his stage experience: