Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Early Friday afternoon I packed very lightly and headed to the bus station for a long planned 24 hour getaway.... to Canberra.* As I am sure I have said before, two of my best mates live there, as well as other assorted friends, so I try and spend some time there every few months. 

This trip was organised a couple of months back and I very nearly didn't go, given how I have been feeling lately. In the end I decided to go, given that the friends I was seeing know me pretty well and I wouldn't have to 'act' too much, although of course I wasn't planning to wallow. I spent Friday evening having dinner with M. and his girlfriend, who I'm slowly getting to know and who is tops, and then most of Saturday with E. These guys couldn't be more different, but they're both terrific and I love them to pieces. M. was claimed by our group after he dated a girl who we no longer hear from and we realised he was the better person (not that picking sides is something I usually condone, but in this case....), E. has suffered almost the reverse fate, floating to the fringes after he and his ex broke up some two years ago. It doesn't help that he isn't the best at keeping in touch with people, something I talked to him about at length on Saturday. He's moving overseas on a government posting next year, and I've begged him to try harder. I don't want to lose him. 

It was a good trip. I got to watch my AFL team get through to their first grand final in six years over a couple of very fine beers at a lovely local, and then play with M.'s cats (the house has 3 of them). On Saturday E. and I had a really lovely lunch, a walk by the man made lake that defines Canberra's landscape, and then spent the afternoon at one of the nerdiest museums going, although I did get the feeling this museum is mostly pitched at school children. When I eventually go to D.C. I will be interested to see if museums there have the same vibe; I was disappointed at how 'dumbed down' some of the national history stuff is. I think a lot of this is because Australians think we have really boring history. 

It was just nice to be with people with whom I am mostly able to be honest. 

It's the trip I want to talk about though, the running away. I really felt like I was on this trip, as I do when I head country to be with other friends elsewhere. I am running away from the person I am in Sydney and running towards the person I really am with people I love and trust. I'm aware this makes me sound dishonest, like I am constantly lying to everyone. With the exception of a close friend at uni and my sister, who I'm still building something with, it's not like I have people to talk to on a regular basis. Most of my close friends don't live here and the ones who do aren't around much. My one on one time with my friends is rare and very precious. 

There is my mentor, of course, but he's my teacher and I try very hard not to talk him to death about my problems or use him as a default psychiatrist. And here's how I know I really haven't been well lately - I have been hiding from him for almost 2 weeks. I promised both him and myself that I would be honest with him about my health this year, and it's a promise I haven't really honoured these last weeks. Truthfully I would let it go even longer, but it's mid semester break next week and I can't hide from him for almost a month, that's just wrong. Especially given we are at the business end of the year. 

One of the best things about a trip is leaving and seeing the city go behind you. I actually prefer trains as you can get lots of things done and it's more smooth, the journey, and the world sweeps past at such a rate, it's exhilarating. You also have more room to hide on a train....are you seeing a pattern here, with my behaviour? But it's a lovely thing, leaving. The worst part is coming back, knowing you're coming back into your old life, old ways, and the work that you can't possibly do right now. Plus a birthday at the end of the week. When the bus eventually got back into Sydney, and very quickly, I might add, I just didn't want to get off. 

The worst part of my illness is that my future disappears when I get really sick. For 24 hours it was nice to remember that I have people who love me, who know me, at least a little. It's what I remember when it feels like I am clinging on with my fingertips. On the trip down the guy across from me on the bus had a notepad turned to a blank page ready for something. He never wrote anything, the whole four hours. Although a blank page is an impossible thing as a writer and researcher, I'm hoping my future is still there, still blank.

*I clearly need to perfect the art of a getaway, Canberra's rated G, well, except for being the porn central of Australia. Wikipedia can tell you anything else you want to know.

**I'm on the fence about cats - good cats I love, bad cats are just *awful*. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thank You

I am overwhelmed by the good wishes and kind words I have received these last few days about being accepted to speak at the conference next year. These expressions of support mean the world to me, and I feel so privileged to be part of this amazing community of women.

I was talking to my sister recently about my internet friends, and made the comment that my 'wifey' (Bea, the lovely @mLadyLazarus) is one of my closest friends, despite her living in Spain and us not hanging out in person. My sister protested this could not possibly be the case, that without being in the same room you can't possibly know someone.

I take her point, there is a certain extent to which intimacy relies on place and shared space. But virtual communities have existed a lot longer than we think (certainly since the early modern period) and we do ourselves a disservice if we relegate our internet friends to second class status. These last years my internet friends have saved me many a time when my friends who live in the same state weren't around and didn't make the effort. 

What I remember is that Bea and I have chatted long into the night, talking about anything and everything, for years now. I remember that Skully was the first person with whom I was able to bond over sharing the same illness, despite us becoming friends through something completely unrelated, and that we only discovered that common ground because she was brave enough to speak about it first. I remember Nina and I talking about the differences between the academic world in Canada and that in Australia, and the difficulties of blogging when you're actually a private person. I remember Lyn messaging me in great excitement when she discovered my name is a synonym for a word she looked up (so cool!), and the fact that she shared with me her dating history in a way that made me feel less alone. I think of Sarah and her family and everything they have been through these last months, and how Lyn and a few others were able to be there for her on her wedding day. (She always gives such wise advice, even if it's just about what children's books to buy for a friend.) I think of my friend Rob and the silly jokes we share. And I think of Emma and the beautiful pictures of her flowers that she posts that always make me feel better, and the homey recipes she passes on that have gone down very well in real life. 

I am so grateful for you all, and what you share with me. The internet is an amazing thing. And the only people who doubt how important internet friends can be are the people who aren't lucky enough to have them. 
Friday, September 14, 2012

State of the Nation

Oh hai, hello! Nice to see you! 

One of the problems with blogging when you have a chronic illness that you mostly like to keep secret is that you're reluctant to write and talk when you don't want to spew the blackness forth onto the internet. I know there are other who feel differently, who feel it's part of their social contract to be honest and open and all sharing. But I'm a pretty private person, something hard to reconcile with the notion of blogging, so there you are. It's not like I link to my blog on my social media (apart from a subtle link to it in my twitter profile, something no one ever sees) so the readership of this blog remains all of about 6 of you. 

The implication of the 'not posting when things are hard' rule is that things have been pretty bad. They have been, consistently, for some time now. I essentially had a three month episode between May and July, and have been up and down (or rapid cycling) since early August. This up and down is unusual for my type of Bipolar, although I used to suffer from it a bit in the early days of my recovery (beginning back in June 2010 when I started seeing my specialist and taking the correct medication). And in some ways it's the worst thing for me right now, because I never know what I am going to wake up to. So when I have a good day I feel the need to ride it out for as long as possible. Not playing to a regular pattern is really bad for me, for my sleep, for how I feel, it just sucks.

I'm working a night shift job twice a week to bring in some badly needed money. It's not difficult work, but in order to try and keep on some sort of normal schedule I work through the following day, so Tuesdays and Thursday I am completely shattered by about 4pm. The nights I work I am also unable to take my medication as it has a sedative effect and this isn't ideal, to be skipping days. 

I am not getting through as much work I need to. I am hoping to knock out my first chapter by Tuesday morning, and then I am devoting myself to the second seminar paper that still isn't written (and was due some time back). I am, to my surprise, able to get an extension on the thesis rather than dropping to part time, and the person in charge of granting such an extension is my supervisor, as he is also the Honours co-ordinater. I can get what I need, so I think I will be OK, despite the rising terror levels. 

Now for the good news, and there is some of it. Firstly, writing this blog helped a dear friend of mine feel less alone in some depression they were experiencing and have been suffering from for some time, and that can only be a good thing. 'This thing of ours' is really ugly, and reaching out isn't easy, so we have to find common experience when we can.

The rape paper (my sister HATES that I call it that) that I spoke about a few months ago has gone down very well with the markers. I don't yet know what my mark is for that seminar, but it will be one of the top marks for any Honours student this year, so 20% of my Honours result overall will be very high. It's a good feeling.

I mentioned to my supervisor that I had big plans for that paper, that I hope to develop it ultimately into a journal article. He then prodded me into entering it for a conference next February in another part of Australia. Which is how I have been chosen to speak at my first grown up, academic conference.

Most of you have seen this news already on social networking. This is a really big deal, especially as I am not even yet a postgraduate student. The initial deadline for the conference had passed, so they must have really loved my work to accept it. I have a bet going with the mentor about how many people will show up and he's betting high. It's very exciting, this is a wonderful start to my career and will help enormously when it come time to apply for the big scholarship for my PhD in about two years. Lots of conference activity, and papers being accepted for publishing, really help in getting an Australian Postgraduate Award and in, ultimately, getting positions as associate lecturers or postgraduate fellows. 

This is a very boring post, but I felt the need to check in with you. The news about the conference is very exciting, and I'm hoping to get a few days of productivity out of it. Not least because the monster on my back is demanding attention and an episode is hovering on the edges of my consciousness. 

Yeah, 'this thing of ours' is a bitch.