Aid4Amara YouTube Channel

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Don't Give Up

Dear Me/Amara (aka Marzi to my friends or variations of that – Marzipan, Marzipants, Marz, Marzsticles, Mara – or to my family RaRa or Aunty Ra Ra or the dreaded Tomato Jane and Fanny – as in the old ye English version of bottom - Fart Draws)

I wonder if that quote is true of humans as well as cats, that the more nicknames you have the more loved you are? I have loads. Maybe it's more that I give them out with regularity and it induces loved ones to respond in kind.

Anyway I digress, it is rather weird writing to oneself, so likely I'm hopping on a tangent as a form of distraction. But I do want to have a bit of a serious chat with you. Since I am you, well, I know what that brain and heart of yours is feeling. And you are struggling quite badly.

To be honest I don't believe you have ever had it quite so bad as you have it right now. In fact were it not our reality, I would not think it possible to even live this close to death for so long and to have not died yet. That you suffer the way you do, in the manner that you do, breaks my heart and you do yourself a disservice sometimes by being so strong. Although I am aware of you faltering now, in this moment, and that is why it is important to say these things to you.

You have to stop doing so much and distracting yourself from your reality by throwing yourself into helping others. Yes, stop, I know that's who you are in your very core and I know you can't be anyone else, but you are no good to anyone else dead, or worse still suffering even more than you are now.

I know you want so badly to be a mother, to lead a meaningful life, to write that book and to help people who are like you and can't help themselves, but how can you do and be all that if you won't stop and just first look after yourself?

I am terrified that this time you've gone too far. What does it take? You already suffer daily with seizures, Tourette's, dystonia, paralysis, risk of death from exposure to chemicals even just transference of them to your environment and now you've suffered your second minor stroke, they have found some sort of artefact in your right temporal lobe that travels into your frontal lobe (which thanks to the lack of any neurologists in your team means you are relying on the public hospital – CRINGE – to ensure they have read all relevant scans and understood the gravity of the situation and will action it appropriately) and to top it off, you've been advised you have cerebral atrophy. Then there's the low blood volume, the clogged arterial veins to the heart, your suddenly visible veins when you were never able to see them before, your inability to be upright without falling into paralysis after just minutes, your worsening dementia symptoms, frequent and innumerable dislocations of bones and joints, small and large, the cyclical vomiting syndrome, acidic blood, rashes over your vital organs, yucky overgrowth of bad bacteria in your gut, very low oxygen flow to the brain... and well really do I have to go on?

This is not the life you wanted. I know that. In the absence of life has been moments, minutes, hours, days, months and years of endless suffering. Decades. To have made it this far is, well pretty damn impressive. Most would have checked out by now. But you still laugh with your Ma and your loved ones, just not as often or not as freely as you did before. Because it's really hurting isn't it? You wanted to fill your life with meaning. To nurture life and mother a child, more if you were gifted with them and yet you lost your baby. That makes you a Mum still you know? No one can take that from you. And you wanted to help people – which you have done simply by sharing your story and starting Change for ME with Lee and the gorgeous team – it may not be all you wanted it to be but you did something and you did it while so sick you couldn't bathe yourself, that's no small achievement. I know you wanted to write too. To publish a book or books. To really tap into your soul and let out one of the gazillions of stories that travel around your brain and you have done that too just in a different way. You bare your soul in your blog. And it gives those who are not sick like your community an insight into their reality. That's something. Stop minimising it. Plus you let people see all of you in your most vulnerable state. That's no small thing.

Ever since you were a child, a tiny innocent child, you have been more like an adult. You always had a lot of emotional responsibility and you know how to be good friend and to look after others (just not yourself). And I know it kills you to not be able to participate in your friends lives the way you would if you were well. You used to juggle so many friends. And you loved them all and were in all sincerity close to them. But why do you judge yourself when no one else is judging you and you wouldn't judge them if they were sick? In fact you'd be making all the effort if you loved someone who was sick. So why do you still feel like it's your job? It's not your job. And those who have let you down or worse, been unkind and self involved are not worthy of your love or another moments thought. People are not perfect, do not worry if they are not there all the time, worry only that they are there at all and when they are they are they are good to you.

*Don't give up
 'cause you have friends
 Don't give up
 You're not the only one
 Don't give up
 No reason to be ashamed
 Don't give up
 You still have us
 Don't give up now
 We're proud of who you are
 Don't give up
 You know it's never been easy
 Don't give up
 'cause I belïeve there's the a place
 There's a place where we belong

Don't give up, you are loved. Don't give up, things will get better. Don't give up, hang onto hope. Don't give up Marz. You are a good person. You try very hard to help others. You are not perfect but you are NOT supposed to be. Yes I know you hate caps but I need you to hear me. You don't have to be perfect, stop trying so hard. No one else is perfect and you're okay with that so why do you think you have to be?  Be your beautiful imperfect self and own it.

I am begging you, please, don't give up, I need you to fight. Don't give up, because around the corner could be the answer. Don't give up, you are not alone. Don't give up, you are not on this journey alone.

I love you because despite what your inner voice says, that toxic inner dialogue of yours, you are innately good, ethical, moral and giving. Ignore the bugs that riddle your brain and taunt you with their lies and paranoia. Ignore the stroke induced doubts in your brain berating you and clouding your instincts. Listen to your soul, tune into the love in the universe, it's tangible, it will cocoon you and keep you safe, give you a soft place to land if you'd just let go and tap into the network of people who love you and their connections act like a safety net. Don't give up, I need you to survive, we have got shit to do. Please, don't give up.

More love than you can handle and squishes to crush you with

PS You may still have all you dream of. Don't give up.

NB Thanks to Jayne for dedicating this song to me and inspiring me to let this out xxx

*Song Lyrics by Herbie Hancock - 'Don't Give Up' (ft. P!nk and John Legend)

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Fling your love to the stars

I have been unable to articulate to you what I am feeling. I keep writing it and feeling it is not enough, she is so beautiful my Kae, so angelic that the words I write cannot touch her or do her justice. My heart is weighed down, a clunky stuttering beat as it tries to compute the idea of what it must feel like to her. Perhaps like the tragic heroines of years gone by who walked calmly, almost sleep walking, their elegant nightgowns weighted down, stepping delicately over the slowly gurgling stream into the deeper waters where the current swept them along, their last vision of the stars before the pockets full of river rocks smoothed by the rushing water and tumbling momentum dragged them silently beneath the glassy surface.

She is my Kae, a flightless angel, whose boundless depths of love and wells of beauty of spirit always remind me of my flaws. She would hate that. Admonish me harshly for saying such a thing. For that is not how she sees others. Kae does not see what she does or is as extraordinary. She is unaware that she is so ethereal and otherworldly, she has lived in her skin her whole life, to her it is normal to be just so. But to those of us touched by the glow of being near her, she is a majestic and beloved spirit to be awed.

Kae has been trapped in the dark for a while. Years really, but there's been light let in for long stretches, and then again the shutters slam shut. Now she is taunted and maliciously harassed by pain and an exhaustion so deep and harrowing that only those who have nearly died of exhaustion can come close to understanding, and still you will not understand unless you have experienced it day after day after mind bending, soul destroying day.

Her brain is playing tricks on her, the river calls, waits until she falls into fitful dreams and coos her name in a melodious whisper, the rhythm of water gurgling over rocks mocking her with echoes of her name through the trees. The invitation taking root in her psyche when she is defenceless against it's malignant charm.

Never have I known someone so willing to selflessly step up, to surprise, to support and fight for you and most importantly, to simply be with you. Never have I known a heart so big, a love so dazzling , a well of selflessness that runs so deep there is to my knowledge no end. Kae is what we all wish we could be. She is not perfect but she is what most of us strive for.

My Kae (I say my Kae but she is not just my person, she is many people's person, her heart is that big) is going through the biggest battle of her life and unlike people with recognised illnesses, she is battling an invisible and insidious illness so extraordinarily brilliant in it's trickery that it hides from doctors while it wreaks havoc with your body, your cells, your organs, your limbs, your pain receptors, your perception, your gut, your balance, your spirit, your soul, your heart and everything that is you. How do you fight that which you cannot see and no one except those who fight beside you, a secret army of warriors, even believe it exists, spare a few special doctors who believe in that which cannot be seen or labelled.

So I am asking you to stand with us, the secret army of warriors who fight without armour, without weapons, without the support we have earned, without medals for the bravery and courage in the face of such inescapable horror day after day. We go without acknowledgement and mostly we've all grown used to relying on our battle mates as only they know what it truly feels like, apart from the few carers privvy to witnessing the extraordinary war that we battle every day like clockwork.

No I am begging you. As I have begged of you before to fight for me and others, I am begging you to help me will my darling Kae, my most gorgeous and selfless friend who is so very tired, I am begging you to help me. Will her on. Join a chorus of love and prayers and good vibes and healing meditations and send them into the universe so that she may be surrounded by your love and the light will be forced into her lungs.

Send her all the love and light you would your most beloved. Because my Kae would do it for you without a second thought. She reunited a family who were separated on other sides of the world after years apart and refused to admit she was involved, and yet our very sick and beautiful friend knew it was her and she got to see her grand babies and spend a very special Christmas with them. She forced me to see a doctor and when I had no money she forced me to take a loan from her that she refused to allow me to pay back. She sends random gifts just to amuse herself. She finds beauty in the simple and every day things and has the most creative and instinctive eye for capturing moments most of us either don't notice or take for granted. She sends thank you cards to people who think of her when she can barely lift her head, let alone see the page or muster the energy to force the pen to the page in eloquent coherent sentences. She sponsored an elephant for a group of us, a sick group of friends from all of the globe that she networked together – my twinkling, glistening orb of friends like a spider web around the world – she was the catalyst. She remembers everyone's birthday, anniversaries including the awful ones, the days of those that were lost. She is an angel. She is my angel. She is many people's angel. She is not allowed to be another angel who is has their wings bestowed upon them too soon. We will not allow them to be fitted. She will stay with us because we will fight for her.

We have too much to do. Adventures together with our friends. A commune to run. And although I may never get to have children, neither might Kae, but we will have each other and our most beloved friends and family. My love pours from my heart into this page like she were my child and I were cradling her in my arms soothing her with a lullaby, whispering to her about all the stars in the sky and how they will never ever come close to shining as bright as she does. I could not love her any more.

Please I beg of you help me keep this angel here on earth. Fling your love to the stars and wish it back to her.

NB these two beautiful photos above are Kae's work, to enjoy more of creative work, click on either photo to be taken to her gorgeous blog.

Our dear friend Cusp started this candle vigil to show Kae how much love is in the world for her, please take just a moment click on the photo and light a candle and send some love and light.

Please note, since writing this - just today - I have heard some news that Kae's spirits have lifted a little.  But I also heard today that we lost another Lyme warrior who gained her wings.  So please know, today Kae be okay, tomorrow she may not be and again and so on and so forth.  It is an arduous and awful fight and this is as pressing in this moment as it was the moment before.  Perhaps even more so as the reality hits home that we have lost one of ours and that reality is tangible, touchable and real.  Please help us fight.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

♥ Love ♥

I have breathed out and released some of the bleakness that has completely overtaken my body in dark shadowy patches of intense sorrow and grief. So I am going to try to breathe in the light.

For there is so much beautiful, dazzling, uncovered treasure in my life. Despite all that ails me I have a network that stretches like a twinkling, glistening, barely visible spider web surrounding the world like a beautiful orb of criss crossing love. Perched upon it are not captured or wounded beings, but beloved connections who together knit the web and use it like a hammock to rest upon when their day gets too weary. We each rely on those connections, feeling the vibrations of love from across the globe even when we are unable to speak.

So to those who have woven the beautiful web which works as a safe place to rest my head and dream of swinging madly about in joyous tumbles, I thank you. To those who I have uncovered in the rubble and ruin of life, in the dark heavy sorrow, whose love has forged connections between me and other broken winged birds, some now angels, I adore you and whisper softly always to your faintly beating heart, “I love you, I love you, I love you”.

To my beloved healthy friends who share dazzling moments past with me, jewels in my memory that shine bright when they're tended to and polished up to focus into perfect clarity, I love you for standing by me, holding our shared jewelled memories like keepsakes, protecting them for me, keeping them in your hearts, ever present so you do not allow me to forget who I was and who I can be.

For my family, some of whom are not blood, but I have chosen to adopt in my closest network of glistening connections to share my resting space, you see both sides of me. You see my grace and strength and joy and you see the depths of my struggle and how I fight so very hard to hang on to my sanity, to war with the bugs that are forever inching closer to a coup in my brain. You keep me fighting, you fuel the fury that allows me to control the bugs and prevent them overtaking my very being. And most importantly, you love me despite the days in which I cannot summon grace, the days in which I lose the battle and the bugs take over, the days in which I am so deep in despair and desolation I drag you down. Your love is what love should be. The love of imperfect perfection, the love without conditions, the forgiving love, the understanding love, the momentarily angry but quickly forgiven love, the true and gritty messy love of truly seeing each other and accepting each other's faults love.  The real love, not the manufactured candy love we've been sold, the messy, ugly, gritty, beautifully tainted, imperfect, perfect love.

And lastly, to those of you who witness my suffering, who do not turn away, who stand by me quietly unwavering, it is you who inspires me. You who patiently waits for the moment when I can properly communicate, you who sees me despite my inability to fully fulfil myself, you who supports and loves me without conditions, you are all the best of me. All the loves of my lives.

Thank you for the love that fuels my fight.

NB please click on the image to be taken to the website of media artist who created this meme quoting Molly Friedenfeld.

Broken Winged Bird

I woke yesterday morning in the dark. Around me was an ominous and oppressive feeling of grief. It filled my lungs so quickly that I could not even scream out, I was drowning on sorrow.

There was this most awful realisation, one that I avoid contemplating too deeply most days, that the world is beyond the glass and stuck behind it, I am trapped like a wounded bird. My wings are broken and my flock has flown away. The loneliness in my heart aches so deeply I wish I could cradle it and whisper to it that you are not alone and you are loved, but it cannot hear me and it does not feel what my head is attempting to persuade it to believe.

Over the last few months I have experienced some of the hardest times in my life. And the anchors that hold me together, my friends online, my healthy friends, I have mostly been unable to manage connecting with. I am too fragile, too consumed by fighting to exist. Every single moment is a struggle, every breath a weighted heavy sigh, every step a painful uncoordinated dragging limb, every fall into paralysis another inch closer to permanency, every seizure more painful, every bronchial spasm more brain starving and every reaction to chemicals a gamble on anaphalaxys.

I have been fortunate to have medical gurus in my journey. But I am now alone on my travels. Only one left an unhealing festering sore, the doctor whom promised me a life and then told me dispassionately that I should tie up loose ends, write a will and seek out palliative care. The other doctors have been my stewards but obstacles have meant that I am now mostly without them and in this moment, this moment of grave illness, this moment when I am so terrified I cannot breathe, in this moment where my eyes leak as my body mourns the loss of all my safety nets, in this moment of utter vulnerability, I find myself alone.

There is so much to carry, so much to learn and I cannot walk nor can I find answers. My brain is unwilling. This broken winged bird has thrown herself against the glass too many times, breaking more tiny bones and finding only again and again that I cannot will the world to shape itself into how I wish it to be. In this second decade of fighting, failing and picking myself up day after day, I find the dark more and more inviting.

We travelled to the hospital not so long ago, they looked upon me as though I was nothing, they endangered my life, they withheld my medication and they ignored my pleas for help. One of the doctors, just one of the very many who looked upon me was kind, the rest ignored my very obvious, very grave, very dangerous symptoms and history with a cult like investment in the bland paradigm that allows them to behave so inappropriately within a severely deficient system.

How does a broken winged bird stuck behind the glass, drowning in sorrow and grief get help? How does she find hope that has buried itself so deep within her soul that even her eyes look haunted by the loss of it? How does she uncover a reason, even one, to keep fighting? Because she's been on an excavation, picking over the ruins of her life trying to keep the dazzling, bright and shiny moments in focus, but they have all faded to grey and resettled themselves amongst the rubble.

Banality tinged with torture, judgement for her imperfect grace, she cannot carry this load alone. But she is not alone, I wish she could hear me. I wish her heart would feel the messages of love that come from the world, through the glass, even if she can't hear them.

Broken winged bird, I wish I could promise her a better tomorrow, and yet I cannot bring myself to lie to her. So I must let her fall down, drag her broken body into a dark corner and lose herself in grief. I will not let her drown. I will help her excavate the rubble. I will fight for her despite the fact she is me and wants to give up. I won't let her. But I cannot do it alone.

So I ask of you this, please do not let me slip through your fingers. Do not let me give up. Do not turn away from my vulnerable truth. Do not let this system stand. Fight with me, fight for me, fight along side me, help me fight. 

I am not the only one. We are many, the broken winged, flightless birds, stuck behind glass, perched on the rubble and ruin of our lives. We are many who fight and flail gracelessly just to get through the most torturous of days you could ever imagine in our imperfect ways. We only wish to survive this moment and the next. We do not always do things the way you would or the way you think you would. We don't always do what you think we should. We are not you, you are not us, but we are all perfectly imperfect.

Before you judge us, imagine yourself without all the things you've come to take for granted, then imagine you are trapped, you can not turn and walk from this moment or every moment to follow for decades to come, imagine you are so incredibly lonely your eyes leak rivulets of tears that drown you in sorrow, imagine your very existence is so torturous that it seems impossible to be alive and then imagine no one sees you. Imagine yourself alone, terrified, defenceless and gravely wounded. Unless you are a broken winged bird I don't know if you can imagine such desolation, so perhaps just hear me when I say when your life is obliterated and there is no end to the war on your body, and you have no army to protect you, your flock has left you behind, you were delaying them and so they left and now you will find yourself doubting there is any reason to go on.

So please take this pledge with me so that together we might will the universe into bringing about a change for all of my fellow broken winged birds who I gently cradle in my hands as I whisper love and reassurance to their hearts, chase the haunted shadows from their eyes and gently blow hope and laughter into their lungs:

Broken winged bird, I will fight for you. Broken winged bird, I am going to promise you something, one day you'll take flight, you'll soar aloft the beautiful dazzling moments of your life that are yet to come and your heart will beat in time with the collective conscious of loved ones who you will get to touch and love and hold and laugh with. Broken winged bird, even when you hate yourself, hate your life, wonder if you should bother with fighting another day, another moment,  even then know this, you are loved. Now breathe in the light and breathe out the sorrow.

I will be with you tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. You are not alone.

NB please click on the image to be taken to the website of Theo Aartisma who created this beautiful evocative piece.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


Change use to be my bag. I used to thrive on it. It was exciting and imbued with endless possibilities. It probably started from my childhood, we moved every couple of years when I was a kid, we used to buy or build and then we'd move. Most of the houses – something like seventeen – were in Ferny Grove. The furthest we went, apart from a few years at McDowell before there was even a roundabout (oh that horrendous roundabout) was Toowoomba for six months, well that was a weird trek into a parallel universe. They put all the new kids (including my little sister Rhiannon who was in grade one, I was in grade three) in the new class room with the new teacher. We were segregated from the Toowoomba kids.

One bonus was I did year five work and she did year three work. But it was a strange place for us – no offence to those of you that come from there it's a beautiful country town but it's not so welcoming for newcomers, or at least it wasn't – so we moved back to our old stomping ground.

And I went to Ferny Grove pre-school, Primary School and High School. But we continued the tradition of moving house frequently. And I liked it. Then when I started working as soon as was legal, fourteen and three quarters I got jobs, starting at the horridly unprofessional Snow Deli at Brookside where they were incredibly unhygenic and frequently shorted me or overpaid me. Stupidly I was honest and would tell them (they would make me work it off, rather than taking the over-payment back, keeping in mind in those days it was cash in an envelope pay), then when they under paid me I'd have to get my Mum in to argue with them and look through their books to prove they'd fucked up. I was already smarter then their manager at fourteen. So it inspired a series of jobs, and at one stage I worked three. Full time at Mountain Designs head office Monday to Friday, Thursday night and Saturday at Woolworths Stafford Deli and Friday nights and Sundays at the Ferny Grove Bowls Club. Plus when I could the private boxes at the football – union or league – as the bar attendant serving lovely plumbers and tradies or asshat lawyers and barristers who were always the most problematic.

I then moved into temp work and loved that too, it fulfilled my need for change and my love of meeting people and I was very comfortable with learning new things I was intelligent enough that I quickly adapted to new environments and became friends with staff. I became a favourite of many companies because of my ability to seamlessly transition into their teams.

Then I worked the longest period I ever worked anywhere – four years at Education Queensland – and ironically had just started a job with the Human Resources Rehabilitation Unit as an Executive Assistant when I got sick, very, very sick. And I tried to return to work, but I kept falling asleep and falling over. And I was young and I was naïve. A woman I used to work with saw immediately what I had, she told me her brother was sick just like me. He had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And pretty quickly I was diagnosed with it. Thankfully because that doctor saved my life. I lost my job because I was a casual, which isn't right and wasn't right. My old boss and dear friend went to bat for me. I should never have been casual. They should have made me a permanent employee by then. But the new director of HR had in for me. She really didn't like me and frankly in retrospect I didn't give her much reason to. I was too sick to work, and yet I would go out drinking. I did it because after spending six months as a saint doing everything right, eating barely anything, restricting my diet, resting and working barely existing, I didn't get any better. And when I drank it gave me false energy and for that time I felt normal. I was such a gregarious and outgoing creature. I had worked full time, played netball up to seven days a week, spent lunches with friends every day and always had weekends full of plans. Then bam, nothing. Four walls, revolting food, endless torture and no escape. So I drank. And she heard about it amongst other things I did that were not indicative of a sick person. But I was a kid. And I had lost my world to a torturous illness. I couldn't deal. I sent out mixed messages and I confused people.

Anyway.... that's that. So this incredibly gregarious, outgoing, young woman with extensive and varied social circles was suddenly slammed shut into a box back when the internet was a major luxury and people just didn't really call you. I lost myself. I self sabotaged. And then I would be good and nothing would improve, giving me no incentive not to find at least some happiness in company while drinking instead of the stark isolation I had been locked into. It was and is the most soul destroying and hope crushing world to be trapped in.

It has changed me. I am not who I was. I used to have parties to celebrate my birthdays, populated by seventy or more very close friends and they were legitimately close friends.  I was very good at maintaining friendships. Now the limit is no more than two to three people – talking very softly one at a time – or I go into the foetal position shaking and sobbing hysterically because it feels as though my head is being stabbed repeatedly by knives. I lost the ability to maintain friendships with people I had known and loved my whole life, because I couldn't even look after myself. They thought we just grew apart when really they just grew away from me and I never saw them again. They stopped reaching out. And although I still felt exactly the same adoration about them, I simply could not reach out. I became invisible, translucent and weightless. A non entity.

So time stopped then for me. Every thing since has been grey with occasional slashes of colour. Garish reds or the very rare dash of blue with beautiful dots of sunshiny golden yellow.

Now I am me. A shell of she. I shiver and shake at the idea of change. I get overwhelmed with the thought of it all. I used to thrive on it. I loved it. Now it is so complicated. My parents are poor age pensioners. They are my carers. And they're both sick. I am a disability pensioner and I cannot even get myself in or out of bed alone any more. We suddenly have to move house. And it's not like the adventures of my youth, I am a cowering mess. There is still a steel will but it is weakened and cracked.

On the weekend my sister Rhiannon and my friend Fiona came to help pack and I barely helped, I could do much except direct really. And yet by dusk I was projectile vomiting, with gastro, clammy with chest pains and unable to walk, my head exploding with a mitochondrial migraine.

Change. We have to move after just under two years and I'm not even fully unpacked. The house we loved just fell through. We don't have bond. We can't afford movers. We have nowhere to go. We can't afford double rent in case we do find the right place (dual living, hi-set, pet friendly) too early. The owners are likely to be asshats and refuse release our bond even though we've done everything right,  They're simply that way. The roof leaks, the lights short out, there's no insulation so we have ridiculous electricity bills because I cannot moderate my body temperature (they promised to drop the rent as we pay way over market price  due to the urgency of finding a house to move into, and predictably they then reneged their offer), there were no curtains or rods … I had to do everything to adjust this house to make it safe for me and now we have to move. And I can't work out the how of it.

We will. I will. I'll find that girl I used to be and wrench her out and try to make use of her for the small things. I can't do the big things. I'm too busy trying not to die. But I can summon her up for the little things. The bond loan. A charity loan. Commandeering volunteers. Something.

Please just pray for me, send me good vibes, meditate on good health and a beautiful change, do whatever you can to send out love into the universe for me and my parents. Because we've been through enough. And it shouldn't be so hard all the time. I need a break from the torture.

Help me wrench her from the shell. Help me please? Help us. We need it.

And thank you. For being in my life For hearing and seeing me. For loving me. For your unconditional unwavering friendships – especially those forged online in sickness, in the dark – you are the best of me. And I love you all xxx

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Tiny human in the mist

Little by little it crept up on me. I feel as vulnerable as an innocent tiny human lost in the forest as the the light of day fades out and a dark and menacing mist curls its way towards me around the trees, enveloping the trunks at eye height. The mist is primeval, it radiates an intense and threatening presence and I feel myself panicked, my little heart beating like a bird fluttering uselessly entrapped in a too small cage, the bars painfully catching its wings.

Stuck in my throat is an aching lump. Droplets dwell in my tear ducts at the ready, as though all they need is to hear their marching orders, “Get in formation. March down her face. No that's not enough, run, gush like a waterfall, drench that face.”

My heart physically hurts. It feels engorged, overloaded with the injustice, loss and terror. The noise of the world feel like painful barbs, blows to my body and my brain, the light feels like the sun has moved closer to earth and burns my retina with the slightest sliver of yellow that stripes my floor if the curtain parts. My brain hurts, my skull feels tight around my head, the skin taut and pinched. The mist has overtaken the defenceless tiny human that lives inside me. She is trapped, like an ancient faerie tale, in a twisted land, dark, cold and alone and waiting for someone to save her.

But nobody comes. Nobody has heard her cries. Maybe not even me. I have steeled myself against her angst and terror filled psyche. Allowing myself only to pay attention to the now. This very moment. Because it's the only way I know how to get through. And yet something has broken, perhaps she broke through the mist I don't know, but now I hear her and she's been tugging on my heart, wrenching at my gut, choking my throat and welling my eyes up just trying to get me to listen to her and speak her truth.

She is me. The part of me that I don't let out because it feels like letting go to her will be impossible to recover from. I am terrified. Every day my life worsens and I don't know how to sustain the courage to keep facing the next moment, let alone tomorrow. I do not want you to think that I am going anywhere. I will not leave. But I cannot quiet the inner voice of the wise tiny human who lives in all of us. She is unfiltered and unwilling or too naïve to participate in pretence.

Sunday night I was so incredibly ill I thought I might die. And I know the difference between dying and feeling deathly, I've had my flirtations with death, the real ones, so I can differentiate. I have had a migraine for weeks, months even, but this was different. This was like my head was going to come off. And I had a vomiting and gastro bug picked up from a friend who had visited her friend in hospital – I should have thought, should have realised – never again post hospital visits. Then (and warning boys or the squeamish you may want to skip to the next paragraph now) I had my period. But not in the normal sense, this was previously a fortnightly visit that had not come to visit for months and it was doing a hell of a lot of catching up. It was all dark and all clots and all excruciating. Even the slightest loss of blood for me is dangerously weakening, this together with everything else and I had my perfect storm. Then I got chest pains like I've never experienced before. Intense and wrong. I felt wrong. So not right. So far removed from okay.

The paramedics came and in the dark comedy that is my life, my cat Tobey escaped for an adventure so Ma and my Dad were running around the cul-de-sac at three am attempting to herd him back into the house. Meanwhile the paramedics entered the house without noticing the prominent sign warning NO PERFUME. And Jock – the Northern Irishman, oh the irony – had been marinating in cheap cologne for three days. So he nearly killed, an already nearly dead me with his enormous cloud of neuro toxins. I had a massive seizure, got paralysed and followed it up with a sterling finish of an asthma attack.

Since it's Ekka time, the hospital was filled to the brim with the fluey, infectious and gunky sick people. I couldn't risk it. So I allowed my tear ducts to give the order and and my face was wet with streamed tears at the ridiculousness of the situation. Me, people like me, we need help the most. And yet I cannot get it. Thank you government. Thank you health system. You just may kill me yet.

Rochelle, the exceptionally kind paramedic who had thankfully refrained from marinating in her own perfume bath, told me I was the sickest and funniest patient she'd ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Ma and I had giggled our way to and from the toilet while I drooped about like a wilted flower on the walker, unable to control my muscles or limbs and she unable to control the walker.

Maybe it's Robin Williams death that has the tiny human in me yelling so loudly. We're not so different me and him. As far as human beings go. I hide my pain behind a layer of humour. He did the same. But I'm tired.

And interspersed between the dark had been moments of laughter and lightness, but like dashes that conjoin and become an unbroken line, the darkness has stitched itself together and the mist is merciless. So I think I will just stop fighting for today, and we will go to sleep under the mist, pull it over our heads like a blanket, rest on the forest floor and let the world work out its shit. I've got enough to deal with. But if you happen to hear my inner tiny human's cries, please don't ignore her. She was very brave to fight her way out.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

To be sure, to be sure

You know I'm turning Japanese, I'm turning Japanese I really think so.... except I'm not. I'm turning Irish. Northern to be specific. Or at least I sound that way.

*Please see note at the bottom before playing these files

But the weirdest thing is. Besides being Australian. Is that it comes and goes. It's called transient Foreign Accent Syndrome. And it's been with me about a week. Even now in my head I sound Irish. I could type how I would speak, but it's strange because it's not how I speak. And it's this strange tug of war in my head. I imagine what it is to be bilingual and whether it's like that. Except of course they're both English languages. Still the idioms (I actually really want to write idiosms there but apparently that's the bastard love child of two words my brain mated – idioms and idiosyncrasy), the linguistics and the rhythms and patterns of speech are different.

So let's just try letting the Irish woman take over.

This mornin when I woke I had focking mad pain all over and me eyelids were so focking 'eavy that I could barely see out them. Then me Ma'am showered me – well she hosed me – an' I musta passed out at least seven times. It's not been a good'un. I have the sorest focking head and to make it all the better, me brain decided I was a bull and the wall was one of those nancy pants bull fighters with their stupid red hankies and I ran full speed at it so hard I think I came close to breaking my focking cheek bone. You can guess who won. Now me 'ead feels like it's wriggled loose off me neck like a bobble head. And me cheek feels like it's still focking corked. It hurts like a mother focker.

Alright I have to stop that now or I will more likely get stuck there and it's so painful for my mouth and jaw to make those noises and shapes so differently to my normal speech patterns (I actually have for the last few years had to speak out loud when I type or I forget what I am saying).

It's torture. And slightly scary. It was funny. But it's not funny any more. Because it's not budging. I can be talking normally and then I drift into this other accent and it gets thicker by the minute. And it sticks for hours. Plus there is no way in any version of reality I could actually do ANY accent with any proficiency without sounding ridiculous. But this is not just passable. It's proper. Except for one dent in the Northern Irish woman.... apparently I should say shite and I just say shit with the accent. Otherwise it's been pretty flawlessly Dubliner or Belfastian apparently, a friend of a friend from Northern Ireland said, and I quote, “Sounds more inner city Dublin or maybe country northern Ireland or even Belfast.”

I guess I'll just leave it at that. I haven't got any great insightful things to say about it. My brain is hurting so intensely just from the circus that it's already coping with. Like I wasn't a bloody weirdy weird pants enough, we had to add another symptom to the mix. And a rare one at that.

I do know one thing. From my brief time studying a creative writing degree before I pushed myself into this very relapse, I was told by several tutors and lecturers that I have a good ear for dialogue. I can easily imagine myself as a character and write in their voice. And I actually dream from all perspectives. I dream as various characters in my dreams through their eyes, man, woman, child.

But this is taking having a good ear to a whole different level. And frankly, despite my love of the Irish people, I would rather like to just be little ole' me.

By the way before I go, I can't leave this unsaid.  Me Ma just asked me if I was putting this on YouTube or booger.  You read that right.  Booger.  You wonder where I get my bloody weirdy weird pants from.

*Note: The audio files I've added are not PG. I swear. More than normal. Although if you haven't spoken to me you wouldn't necessarily know I swear like a sailor. I have temporal lobe damage and no filter. Add in that the Irish are free and expressive with their swear pants, well let's just say I would listen to it through ear phones if tiny humans are nearby.

Note 2: Please do not take the piss out of me. I can't take it right now. I do know most people find this hilarious. And I get it. It's funny. But you must understand it's also slightly terrifying for me. The suspected causes for this type of thing can be a stroke, lesions or tumours. That is obviously the worst of it, there's likely very benign reasons this happening also. But still. I'm too fragile for ribbing at the moment. Save up your witty one liners for when I am back to normal okay? Then we can enjoy them together.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Theda and her red shoes

 Elizabeth D'Angelo Fine Art

Life stood still. Everything slowed down. Time moved like it was struggling through mud. It was no longer fluid. It was clunky and faltering. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO was all I could hear in my head. And then I realised I was screaming it. I was hysterically screaming, “NO, NO, NO, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”

Somehow I had collapsed in the sludge of time, I was stuck in a tangled pile of limbs on the floor. Confused by the fact that my brain could focus so intensely on the dust on the floor while my body shook with shock. Everything became crystal clear around me, and yet the world moved slowly, in chunks of moments. Moments that seemed unconnected. I lost the time between them. I still don't remember much of that day.

It used to be that people asked you where were you when they landed on the moon? Where were you when JFK was shot? Or Martin Luther King? For their contemporaries, us, it is, where were you when the Port Arthur massacre happened? Where were you when the planes hit the towers? Where were you when the Bali bombings happened? Now where where you when flight MH17 was shot down?

For those of us who are gravely ill our questions are different. We know the answers to all of those. But time is sludgy, murky, desperately cold and merged into one huge pool of invariable days, months, years and decades. But ask us where were you when Amberlin Wu died? Where were you when Theda Myint died? Where were you when Tom Hennessy Junior died? And we all immediately know.

I was in this house. Just steps from where I now sit typing. I rose from the computer and I stumbled to the top of the stairs. And then from me escaped this terrible keening noise. And as I sobbed hysterically all I could hear was this distant scream of no. It took a while to realise it was me. I was screaming.

Ma came to me, she flew up the stairs and I couldn't make words except for NO. NO. NO. NO.

Just the night before, or hours really Theda had liked a status update of mine:

Wednesday, 24 July 2013 at 19:28

Ma and I were just singing in the shower (I was in the shower she was hosing me). Anyway I said to her ladyface you could win a granny. And keep them all on your mantelpieces.

I'm such a tool.”

I remember finding that later and wondering if I had of just made her laugh more, just done something more, maybe I could have gotten her to stay here a little longer. Theda was a soul sister. It is hard to articulate to those who have not suffered greatly every day of their lives for years on end, decades. We become naked, raw nerves. We are stripped of all the things “normal” healthy people assume as part of their identity. Independence, clothing and accessories, grooming, the way they style their house, the car they drive, where they live, their job, their house or unit or apartment, their partner, their social life, their facade. We are stripped down to the bare minimum, our world is so small that all that matters is surviving the next five seconds or minutes.

So we have a magical power. We see you. Behind your facade. We see through the little white lies you tell yourself and the lies you tell the world. The masks and costumes and material things you surround yourself with to create a perception of who you are. We see you. The real you. You cannot hide from us. And we cannot hide from each other.

It means that we become extremely close extremely fast with other gravely ill friends. We say I love you with a freedom and verbosity that would scare most healthy people. But we know the truth. We might die tomorrow and we won't go down without letting you know what we feel, no matter what you feel about it. We want to be right with the world if the inevitable happens sooner rather than later.

Theda and I became fast friends. We barely spoke. We just suffered intensely on the same battle field and knew without a doubt the other would be there should we wish to share something, to talk, to check in. We had a kinship. A love. But she just was that way. She was a huge beating heart. In her darkest moments she was altruistic and selfless. Always she thought of others first, she was innately good. She was not perfect I am certain, we do not want to martyr the dead, but she was pretty damn flawless in my eyes.

I cannot clearly articulate what it is I want to say to you. I guess I want you to remember Theda as more than someone who was sick. Because we are all more than the sum of our parts, even if the majority of our parts seem to be made of infections. Theda was a talented, beautiful, beloved member of our world. Not just for those who were ill, but anyone who she met or even touched online with a few kind words fell in love with her.

Today is Red Shoe Day, the very first annual international day of remembrance in Theda's honour for those lost to Tick and Vector Borne Diseases and other invisible illnesses. Even now Theda is changing the world just by the legacy of love she left behind.

I don't have any red shoes. I don't think Theda would mind. She knows what is in my heart. The day I fell to the floor and lost complete control of my heart, exactly a year ago today, as I wept and keened and screamed on the floor, I felt arms encircling me and a calmness wash over me. I don't know if it was Theda. I like to think it was. Suddenly I knew in my heart that she was free, that she was happy and she was in a much better place. So that is what I choose to believe. I take comfort in the fact she made a choice to leave. I wish selfishly it wasn't so, but for her, I can muster up the love I have to be happy for her freedom from suffering. She deserved it.

Theda my angel, you live in my heart. You live in my soul. You will forever be part of me. And when I sleep tonight I hope that I commune with you in my dreams.

Sweet dreams princess.

*Special thanks to my dear friend Elizabeth D'Angelo who upon the request of another darling angel in my life, Sarah-Louise Feather Jordan created this beautiful piece in remembrance. To support Theda you can order prints, bags, pillows, shirts, cards, and duvet covers with this image here .

All proceeds from the sale of this work will go towards the Theda Myint Fund, to bring much needed care and services to people suffering from invisible illnesses.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

My twisted faerie tale - normalcy

You never know what expectations you  have about life until they are not met. I was never a girl who had wedding dates, locations, dresses or honeymoon destinations picked out. Nor did I have a set age by which I expected to be married and have kids.  But as I approach 37 I find for the first time a sense of overwhelming panic enveloping me in the most unexpected moments, catching my breath and bringing tears to my eyes.

I may not  have expected a faerie tale, but I certainly didn't expect hell either.  If I am honest I imagined a love deep and soulful, where I was with my best friend, and we talked on intellectual and emotional subjects and had similar senses of humour.  We worked as a team to achieve things, no matter how big or small.  Instead I was with my best friend and everything that was our friendship slowly got lost as his very traditional parents whispered in his ear about my inability to work and how that made me a less valuable human being.  My illness progressed and in retrospect I have realised that he often relied on emotional manipulation or guilt tripping me into doing things that I wasn't up to (he simply couldn't understand my illness) and because there was a familiar underlying dynamic he was inadvertently pushing all the right buttons.  That pushing caused my illness to escalate and it made our relationship crumble.  But we had the most beautiful and amicable of break ups because of that foundation of friendship.  What I didn't know then was that while we were parting because he couldn't cope with my illness, what he really meant was he couldn't even manage to be a friend to me while so ill at all.  Ever again.

I imagined kids always, it was obvious to anyone that I had an innate calling to motherhood.   I had a miscarriage in my mid twenties, so that was stolen from me, but in some ways I am thankful because the type of mother I want to be would never have a child and potentially pass on an infection (that I didn't know I had then) nor would she bring a child into a world where she couldn't look after herself let alone a child - but I was younger and more naive then - time and hard lessons have made me cynical and harder. Nonetheless I would have kept that baby.  And she would have been eleven today.

Thankfully I don't need any sort of reassurance from anyone about my self worth.  I am a kind, resourceful, generous, intuitive and giving person who gives all of what I have to spare to others to sustain them and help our illnesses get recognised.  I have my faults and I own them, certainly there is a big flaw that has become more apparent lately, I self sabotage and I throw myself into advocacy to distract myself from my reality.  And it has been working, it has given me purpose when I felt like perhaps it was best if I were no longer here in hell.

Time moves forward, as naturally it does and my illness keeps me trapped.  My beloved friends are passing all those milestones adults take for granted as markers on their path through growing up. And now my heart aches as my best friends all fall pregnant and have babies. Although thankfully the love in me can put aside any sort of envy and just feel pure unadulterated joy at their gorgeous tiny humans, but the mother in me - and I am a mother because I carried a child in my womb, full term or not - dies a little more each time I think about the fact in a parallel universe my children could be growing and experiencing the world with theirs.   Little faces side by side grinning mischievously at the camera faces smeared with food, feet dirty and laughter tugging at their mouths.

To distract myself, I try to imagine a normal day.   One in which I awake and notice the sunlight catching dust motes where the curtain is parted, and I stretch cat like, feeling so rested and dreamy.  One of my two kitties Cooper chases my feet around under the blankets trying to catch my toes in a gentle bite and I giggle spontaneously.  

Just those few moments would be heaven.  Instead in hell, it is very, very, different.  The room is heavy with darkness because I cannot stand the light, it burns my eyes and my head throbs with the slightest movement.  And when I wake the first thing I feel is the intense bone deep ache that is always present.  I feel hungover, and am disoriented uncertain of the day or time.  Tobey my older cat lays near my head, ever my minder, while Cooper screeches at me to wake up and his voice is unbroken, frozen in the kitten stage and he sounds like he's being tortured when he is merely serenading me with his song of the morning and yet that sound yanks viciously at the motherly instinct in me and my body floods with adrenaline. I am intensely pained and cranky simultaneously.  And now thanks to the cat opera wide awake in hell.

I go to speak but I have yet to fumble for my medication as my mouth will not be manipulated into shapes to form words until I've gulped it down.  So I grunt and reach for my phone to call Ma, who recognises my number and drags herself up my stairs to get me from my bed.  I try to sit but my body doesn't cooperate and it takes six or seven attempts to manage to get upright. And then like a well oiled but clumsy machine, we load my walker with meds, pillows, water bottles, pawpaw ointment and I roll off the bed so we can pull the sheets up.

I fall down.  Hard.  I get up again trying to avoid the hand Ma is offering as her back is always paining her.  Then I start my weird gait, like a ping pong ball bouncing from wall to wall.  At one point I get stuck my head against the wall my eyes open, my arms dangling behind the bar that runs the length of the hallway and I am paralysed.  Thankfully I am at a lean to, so my chest takes my weight on the wall but my cheek is excruciatingly painful. Having been upright for a few minutes, my hands and feet have started to burn and the ache in my soles and palms is like nothing you can imagine.  My mouth is dry.  And it is all I can do to will my fingers to gently squeeze Ma's hand once to indicate yes I am present, with a predetermined form of communication.  As the time stretches my eyes widen in panic, my throat is not getting the air I need and my face is crushed against the wall.

Abruptly as though by magic I come unstuck and my body frees itself into an uncoordinated dystonic twitch as I rub my cheek and slur that I am okay to Ma.  We make it to my day bed where I unload the stores from the bedroom and assemble my pillows so that I am reclined with no strain on my heart and my knees are lifted with my feet slightly raised to take the pressure off my hips and knees as they are constantly dislocating.  I am very hot and my skin crawls as though a thousand bugs are marching over my body hairs.  My face is flushed and now my soles and palms burn to touch, I place them against Ma's cold arms for relief or hug  one of my stainless steel water bottles between my palms, relocating my hands as the bottle warms.

Suddenly I am cold, so I pull up the blanket that sits at my feet although the weight pains my legs and I wrestle on the jacket that rests behind my head.  It is this crazy flip flop of thermodysregulation where I cannot ever find comfort in whatever the climate.  In fact most all of it makes me sicker.  Ma cracks the back door for the cat to wander out and after one second I smell smoke, maybe a burn off.  I have ten seconds to yell shut door, turn on fan - thankfully we have an extraordinary ability to communicate without words and I gesture wildly as I lose my speech and the contortions take hold of my body.  I am wildly thrashing smashing my limbs about and when I can slamming my hands into my head to attempt to stop the explosion that feels like it's about to emanate from my brain. The movements slow and for half a second it seems okay, but then my eyes widen and my throat muscles stretch and contort.  Bronchial spasms take over my throat, closing my air ways and preventing air access to my brain. Although the oxygen is getting to my body, it is not getting to my head.  I pass out and continue the whistling breathing that indicates my throat has constricted to just a tiny space as though someone is gripping my throat with both hands and squeezing every half second.  Then I come to, frightened and disoriented and find Ma with the nebuliser and asthma meds held under my nose.  I grip her hand tightly and hold onto the nebuliser port with my other hand, wrapping my lips around the top.  I can't use a mask, they are idiotically made of plastic which sets me off. It feels like forever, but it's mere minutes and my breathing is no longer musical but my senses are dulled and I cannot see.  The lack of oxygen to my head has starved my brain and I am slow witted and uncoordinated.  Ma lurches for a towel and the valium and presses the towel to my chest, she finds the water bottle with the smallest opening, to slow the speed of the water down my throat and pours it into my mouth and quickly shoves the valium in.  I clap my hand over my mouth to keep it in.  Take another sip of water and cough, splutter and dribble it over my chest. I am shattered.

At least this time I didn't have a convulsion.  They now incorporate my tongue rolling back into my throat choking me.  It seems like every day I accept a new normal and yet the gaping maw that is the hell I fall into every day is bottomless.  Every time we find a ledge, it dissolves and we have to adapt.   So we do, we just keep adapting.  And I keep dying slowly, because that is what chronic is, acute illness that doesn't abate.  But we went from third gear to fifth really fast and something shifted.  Not just the gear.  In me.  I felt it. I feel like a ticking time bomb.  My low blood content means my blood is thick and throws clots and all the main veins to my heart are now clogged so I cannot get a peripherally inserted central catheter or a port because the veins are clogged, my body is a genius though, it's created a network of spider veins to carry my blood around the clogged parts.

I wish it would work out how to heal me.  I guess it is doing it's best just to keep me alive. Technically I probably shouldn't be.  There's too many things wrong.  It could be sheer willpower. It is the thing that's kept me going for the last fourteen years, arguing with doctors and specialists who kept getting it wrong and keep getting it wrong.  Thankfully there has been a few good ones on the way whose genius I didn't appreciate until much later and whose friendship I treasure.

This last six weeks or so I have been certain that death was near.  Two steps closer than before.  We've been neighbours for a long time, but now it feels like death is invading my space, getting in my way, like a guest who overstayed their welcome and is a little too familiar with your home and your things.  And I'm not ready to go.  There's too much to do.  Too many people to stop this happening to.  A government to be held accountable and specialists that need to be reamed out for their arrogance and misplaced logic.

I authored an article that appeared on the Mamamia website, although they sort of hid it - perhaps it's the paranoid cynic in me, but they ignored my comments and didn't respond to my email querying its placement - buried it in the second page under the wrong date when they sort them chronologically, perhaps Tick and Vector Borne Diseases are just too controversial for them.  Imagine how it feels for me and my community, we're not too fond of the controversy either but we don't get to choose to say oh well we will pretend it doesn't exist.  Didn't matter anyway, it didn't stop my peeps.  It very quickly garnered nearly a thousand likes and shares.  I also edited together a video of Tick and Vector Borne Disease warriors and that too has over a thousand views.  Plus I have shared the stories of my community on my charity page with my dear friend and co-founder LeeChange for ME, to give insight and support to our members and their healthy loved ones.  I have been filmed for a documentary for students for their assessment piece for Griffith. And I have kept trying to reach out.  But I think I broke myself. Because I have nothing left.  And since death has decided to play dirty, I have to take myself out of the ring.  Concede this round. Take a time out.  Try and heal.  Because if I don't heal now, I can't help anyone later.  And I will be damned if I am one of those people who lives with this illness in our community for so long, fights to get my life back and leaves you all behind.  I won't do it.  I will always fight for us.  It is my calling.  Sick or not.  Let's hope not, but frankly I would settle for half and half.  Be a hell of a lot better than where I am now. Shhh don't tell anyone.  I don't want the universe knowing I'll settle at all.  I want it all the way back.  The whole hog.  The normal life.  Not some faerie tale, just normalcy. 

So in the meantime know this, I have a burning need to fight for you all.  I am not going anywhere. I'm just taking some time to slow down deaths march.  I don't fight dirty and he does. And there's something about being so sick and having had a few real scrapes with death that teaches you the difference between actual dying and feeling deathly. Unfortunately I am in the former category.  So I got to do what my wise friend Kae says, I have to put my oxygen mask on first, stop trying to save everyone else and save myself.   Because when I can save everyone. There will be no stopping me.

Please don't forget about me or think I've abandoned you.  You can always message me through my awareness team  Aid 4 Amara if need be and I will be back eventually - time is weird for us it can feel like forever and yesterday simultaneously, but it will be months if I am disciplined - so just hang in there.  

Also in the mean time my family and friends are fundraising through
The Amara Campbell Foundation which you can message if you have any offers of support or help you can give them. They desperately need volunteers, as the beautiful team that put together the last fundraiser are all very busy and or recovering from surgery.

Love to you all.  So much love.