On Radio Silence

On Radio Silence

I've taken an unintended, and exceptionally long break from writing on my blog, or updating my business Facebook page, The Rad Bitch Girl Gang, and from coaching in general for pretty much the entirety of this year so far.

To be perfectly honest, part of that is procrastination, and another part of that is fear of not knowing how to put my thoughts into words that really make sense. But the biggest part of why, is that I've needed the space to process, to reflect, to heal and to learn.

Read More

On Women Who Don't Go to The Police

On Women Who Don't Go to The Police

Maybe it's just the lack of good quality sleep I've been dealing with over the last week, but my anxiety has been on high alert lately. I spent a good chunk of yesterday in my pyjama's, listening to the music that got me through my 20's, feeling too many feels, and crying on and off.

Of course, it may have also had a lot to do with the near constant yelling and arguments that have been going on outside our apartment for almost a week...

Read More

On The Difference Between Being a "High Achiever" and Feeling Accomplished.

IMG_3770 I'm a little apprehensive about sharing everything I'm about to write.

Over the years, my Dad has often tried to suggest to me that I write an autobiography.

Over the years, I've always said, "No! Seriously, there's no way that anyone is going to believe that half of this is for real! Also, who'd want to read my story anyway? From the outside it probably just sounds like one big, long, depressing whinge-fest - and there's no way that I'd want to read that story! Hell, I don't even want to sit down an write it, and it's all happened to me!"

I think now that things seem to have stabilised a lot more, and knowing that people are taking something constructive out of what I'm sharing, I feel more comfortable about it. I think that sharing my story in snippets, across various media - including this blog, and through videos, with a hint of snark and humour, make things much easier to handle. Also, I get to mix topics up every week, which is super fun.

So without further ado, here are some of my experiences from the last week, and the adventures that have led me here.

IMG_3753

If you're in Australia, and your anything like Jordan and me, then you'll have already signed up for Netflix, and there's a high chance that you've spent the Easter Long Weekend binge watching episodes of TV shows you had to download illegally until now - or you know, just wait until forever for them to be released here.

Between episodes of Vikings and Bojack Horseman, I've spent the weekend watching Tina Fey's new series 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt', and in spite of (or possibly because of) the many cringe-worthy moments, I'm really digging it so far. It's nice to watch a show which presents survivors as being more than their traumatic experiences, and smashes holes in the phenomenon of labelling women as "Victims" with cheesy comedy.

I think the thing I love most about the show - and definitely the thing which resonates most with me, is Kimmy's refusal to be reduced to her experiences, and her determination to create exactly the kind of life she wants for herself.

This whole conversation around "Victims" and "Survivors" has always been really interesting to me. I can remember the first time I introduced my eldest Kitteh, Felix the Guard Tiger to my ex. I talked the other week, about how Felix lives with some pretty intense anxiety, and is generally pretty timid - especially around men. As my ex walked into the apartment I was living in at the time, I explained that Felix probably wouldn't let him too close and that the RSPCA had rescued him as a stray from Kinglake after the Black Saturday Bushfires.

My ex spun around and said, "Oh, so he's a Victim??"

And in what was probably the most telling example of the extreme differences between us, I responded, "Nu-uh! He's a SUR-VIV-OR!"

IMG_3762

Anyway, these ideas have been going through my mind a bit lately, not only thanks to Kimmy Schmidt, but also because of this awesome campaign called Red My Lips which seeks to combat rape culture and minimise survivors experiences of shame through speaking out, and because New South Wales now has a Minister for Women who's already come out far stronger than her Federal counterpart - after only a week in the job.

As you can see, a lot has been happening inside my head this weekend - behind all of the planning for tonight's Google Hang Out, and Easter Egg Hunting (I may be a 29 year old woman, but Jordan still hid chocolates all over The Kitteh Palace for me yesterday) - I definitely needed yesterday to just chill out and stream TV Shows.

IMG_3750

The other super exciting thing which happened yesterday (Yes - even more exciting than an apartment filled with hidden chocolate!) was that I received the results for my final exam as part of my ICF Accredited, Coaching Certification - and I am beyond thrilled to share with you all that I scored 95.6%, meaning that I performed extremely well in ALL three of my exams!

Now, in all honesty, I've always been something of a "High Achiever". I always did extremely well at high school, and it often felt somewhat unfair because I never had to push myself out of my comfort zone, or really challenge myself to do well. I think I felt guilty about this when I had friends who really desperately wanted to do well - especially in Years 11 and 12, and they would work incredibly hard and give their absolute best.

This all got much worse when I finished high school, and went straight into studying to become a Primary School Teacher. While on the surface, I was happy to have gotten into the university course I wanted to attend, and while I genuinely enjoyed going out to schools and taking part in practicum, as well as studying ideas and theories at a deeper level, I honestly felt kind of shit for most of the time I was doing anything to do with my degree.

It wasn't that I found the work too hard, when I actually got work done, I always received great marks. But I REALLY struggled to get work done - and if I submitted assignments at all, they were always marked down for late submission.

For years, there was a lot of underlying fear and anxiety below the surface that I wasn't ready to deal with - and eventually, I ended up dropping out of uni. TWICE!

2008_0821kym0023

As silly as it sounds, I think I was so totally scared of actually standing out and succeeding, that I absolutely sabotaged myself. I didn't believe that I deserved to be successful or stand out through my studies - or in my career - and for years I've been hiding myself away and running around in circles in my own little world.

I don't talk about it much, but there was a whole lot of really intense shit happen between the end of Year 12 and heading off to Uni. For those of you who don't know, I was involved in a serious car accident, and then on the day before we received our final VCE results, one of our school mates disappeared under water, and drowned while swimming in the Yarra River.

For a long time, I think I felt guilty about going on to university. I felt guilty that the work seemed easy to me, and I resented the idea of regurgitating information out onto paper just to prove that I'd understood it when I'd already demonstrated a clear understanding of the theories through practice. I know, essays are a part of academic study, and writing is something I'm naturally good at, so logically I should have been able to just pump the work out, but I would sit down and jam up every time I attempted to write. It was pretty much like having a panic attack every time I tried to do an assignment.

IMG_3766

I stuck with teachers college for three whole years - attempting to work my way through it and repeating subjects I knew like the back of my hand, until I finished my Visual Arts Major and got the hell out. I honestly think that I stuck with it for so long because it was always expected that I would do well at uni - and that I would make a great teacher. Honestly, I think I stuck with it because I had no idea what else to do - even though I was working 3 crappy jobs the thought of dropping out and getting bogged down in them - and feeling like a failure was terrifying. I think I felt obliged to try and figure it out and make it work - like I didn't deserve to have it easy anymore, so everyday life became inherently challenging.

The other week, I shared on Facebook that during that particular day, I'd published almost 4,000 words on this blog - and that since creating this blog roughly 6 months ago, I've written more words than I did during all of the 6 years I spent at university.

Granted, now I'm writing by choice, on topics I'm totally passionate about, which makes a big difference, but I've also spent years getting to know my fears and triggers, learning about what I'm truly fucking terrified of, so that I can try to work with those fears to create something better.

Another huge lesson - aside from working to accept the things that have happened in my life, has been that none of the time I spent dithering and working through the shit at university was wasted. I learned a whole lot during that time - not only in terms of academic knowledge - but also about myself and other people.

My biggest piece of advice to anyone considering going into study now - regardless of what field they're thinking about - or where they're contemplating going (whether it be a university, TAFE, or private college or online provider), is to seriously ask yourself WHY?

Are you choosing to enrol just because you think that you should?

Or because someone has told you that you'd be good at it?

Or because you have no idea what else to do?

IMG_3685

I finished high school over ten years ago now, I don't have a university degree, I've only JUST figured out what my thing is, and I've gotten through life quite well thus far I'd say - but things didn't need to be a fucking hard as I made them for myself.

My advice to you, is to ask yourself, when going into anything, "Is this something I'm truly excited by, and passionate about?"

It doesn't need to excite you, or be the ONLY thing you're ever going to be passionate about - EVER.

But at this point in time, for me, I've absolutely loved studying with the International College of Wellness Coaches, and receiving my exam results yesterday made me feel as if I've genuinely accomplished something to be extremely proud of. Just completing my exams and feeling good about my studies has been a big accomplishment for me.

IMG_3763

So, at this stage I'm inviting you all to really think about what it is that you truly want to achieve in this life - and to think deeply about what might really be holding you back.

Please feel free to share what you come up with in the comments below.

Until next time,

Happy Easter

xx

Kym.

[contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]

On Creating Breathing Space and Anxiety

Last weekend I started filming a You Tube video, and then I got far too angry about the content and decided not to post it. The crux of the discussion was that even though I try not to read or watch the news, because I was still following major news outlets like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), SBS News and The Age on Facebook, I was feeling totally swamped by awful stories from around our country. As a particularly sensitive person, I was finding everything really upsetting, and I've been trying to find a balance for myself between staying informed (because I genuinely believe that it's important to be aware of the policies our government are passing into law and how they impact the world we inhabit), and just getting paralysed with rage when Homicide Detectives tell women that we "shouldn't be alone in parks". So for now, I've decided that the best option for my sanity has been to un-follow all of the major news outlets across social media. A week in, I'm still finding that news is filtering through to me via friends reposting and the discussions we have, but the constant fucking bombardment has eased and created a little breathing space for me to start thinking and working again.

Interestingly enough, the additional breathing space allowed a blog post I wouldn't normally have considered reading to appear on my little radar screen - and I'm glad that it did.

Here in Australia, we have this website called MamaMia - I guess that you could say it's kind of like the Australian equivalent of xoJane. It's hugely popular, and was started by ex Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan Australia (and a host of other trashy titles) and body image campaigner, Mia Freedman. As I've written previously, I try to avoid reading it. This is due to a whole host of my own baggage and opinions. While my reasoning that I believe MamaMia tends to post shame fuelling click-bait type articles, seems like a good enough reason to avoid the site, it's not the whole truth.

The whole truth is that I never enjoy reading Mia Freedman's work because doing so makes me feel crappy.

  • I can't read her writing about feminism, or her outrage at commercial radio stations for playing 'Blurred Lines', without remembering that through her work in the media, with titles including Cosmo and CLEO, she's actively contributed to and profited from maintaining the exact same, shitty status quo systems and structures which allow and encourage this to continue being a thing.
  • I choose not to read her work because it makes me feel like a shitty feminist, as if I'm dismissing another woman's expression of feminism because it's not as coherent and robust as I believe mine to be.
  • I feel shitty because I wish that someone with such a prominent voice, who appears to be trying to get a similar message out as I am, didn't make me feel as if she's just cashing in on feminism as if it's a buzzword.
  • I feel shitty because I wholeheartedly hope that she's genuinely learned some huge lessons through her role as a media commentator, and I really WANT to see her contribute something amazing.
  • I feel shitty because as I posted the other week, I'd much rather focus on building a community - one where women are supported by one another, rather than torn down. While I know that many of the criticisms I have are valid, I feel shitty that I can't voice them without feeling catty - especially considering that I know for a fact that there are plenty of critics who have already picked apart both Mia Freedman and her work.

With all of that out in the open, I want to say this: It's not that I expect Mia Freedman to be without her flaws. I totally accept that she's a complex human being, who took the opportunities she was presented with, and has created enormous success for herself - as well as creating a platform for other women to voice their opinions and thoughts to a wider audience, and that she did instigate positive change at the publications she worked for - all of which are great things.

So all of this brings me to earlier this week, when my friend Elle shared and recommended a post from Mia Freedman's personal blog, Debrief Daily, titled, "I'm Finally Ready To Talk About My Anxiety." Apprehensive, and maybe even a little dubious about the content, I put off clicking on the link - let alone reading the article for days and days, but kept it in the back of my mind.

I know first hand how daunting it can be to speak up about struggling with anxiety and depression, so I really didn't want to read another woman's personal account and feel like I was dismissing her experience based on all the shit I was bringing with me - seriously, that would be some Gene Simmon's level douchebaggery, and I do NOT want to be that guy.

After sitting with things for a while, I decided I was open to reading about Mia Freedman's experience with an open mind - and to be totally honest, I'm really fucking glad that I did.

It was the first time that I've ever read a description of the fear of speaking about anxiety while you're in the grip of constant anxiety, which felt SO accurate to my experiences. Mia Freedman writes,

"...for reasons I couldn’t understand, my anxiety was trapping me behind very thick glass. It was like being in that nightmare where you tried to scream but no sound came out.

The worst part of mental illness of course, is not being able to find respite from your own mind. My anxiety was like my evil conjoined twin. My ugly shadow. And the realization [sic.] that I couldn’t escape made me despair."

Her description of simply going through the motions of life - appearing totally fine to the outside world, while feeling gripped by a state of total panic both physically and mentally, is something I know extremely well - a key factor in almost two decades of poor sleeping patterns and insomnia. Factor in study and two physically demanding jobs, on top of a hectic party schedule, and the weekly binge drinking I was doing at 20-21 and it's no wonder I burnt out and crashed my car into a tree.

While that led me to working with a psychologist, and starting to do something about my mental health, this constant state of fear had become so normal to me, that I was almost too scared of living any differently - I mean, at the heart of everything, I still liked myself and the things I was doing in life - why would I want to live any differently?

It was only a couple of years down the track when my anxiety and depression started causing massive problems, that I opened up to the idea of taking medication. I was living with constant physical pain and exhaustion - with real physical issues being dramatically amplified by my perceptions and the state of my mental health. My cortisol levels were so far out of whack by this stage, and after a hellish fortnight of trialling Lexapro, my prescription was switched over to another anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication called Effexor.

While the medication didn't fix everything I was dealing with, it did at least numb the worst of what I was going through and allowed me to live as close to a normal life as I was willing to at the time - bearing in mind that I was still in a toxic relationship, working two casual jobs (including waitressing late into the night) and attending art school by day, so my sleeping patterns and diet still weren't great.

In the spirit of focusing on the positive contributions people make, I'd really like to acknowledge Mia Freedman for writing such an honest post about her own experience, because I know that having a voice to relate to is super helpful. I'm also really grateful that she's put into words the frustrations of feeling locked into yourself, silently screaming. I really hope that conversations like this can help create awareness about what it's like to experience anxiety - not only for those going through it - but for those living with us. I know that my family really didn't know how to talk with me for a long time, because I literally couldn't answer their questions, or express why I couldn't do something - despite my being an excellent and passionate communicator. I can only imagine how painfully frustrating having a discussion with me must be when I'm feeling closed in.

I no longer use prescription medication to manage my depression or my anxiety, but I have gotten far better at managing them. I cut down on the amount of coffee I drink, I stopped eating meat and I very rarely drink alcohol - let alone to the point of being drunk, and I try my best to maintain a regular routine with plenty of sleep. I've also gotten way better about acknowledging when I'm going through a rough patch (when I'm depressed) or feeling anxious - and I make a point of checking in with someone (even if it's just a message to say I remembered to eat lunch) I trust daily so they know how I'm doing. Talking about it isn't as scary now, and while I'm not scared of the idea of using medication again if I feel things getting too much, I do get nervous about the period of time it can take to find a medication which works for me - and the right dosage. These things are definitely challenging and are widely reported as reasons for people not taking their prescribed meds, but from my own experience, I'm glad that I stuck it out.

While there is no 'One Size Fits All' solution to anything in life, let alone when it comes to mental health, if you're going through what I call a rough patch at the moment, or you're struggling with anxiety, finding your voice - even if it's small, or sending a text and voicing what you're going through, is a big first step to working your way out.

xx

Kym.

 

Image Credits: All images were sourced through Google, and can be traced to the source I accessed them through by clicking on them. [contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form] 

On Perfect Imperfectionism

10390355_10153003845691013_1764185762239940673_n Over in my Facebook Group, 'The Rad Bitch Girl Gang' I make a point of hosting "Self Care Sundays". Basically, each week I highlight something small that I've done, or plan on doing during the day to make myself happy, and encourage others to do the same. Some weeks I'll catch up with a friend for a coffee and a chat, others I'll put on fresh pyjamas and read all day.

This morning I participated in a Practicum Class with my Coaching Peers as part of our assessment towards our certification. Today I was coached by the lovely Theresa Burke, while our classmates were able to listen in, and provide us with feedback at the end of our session, and it was such a wonderful way to start the day.

You see, I haven't been feeling the best of late, so I've been holding back and hiding from the world a little.

Holding back from blogging as much as I would like.

Holding back from recording videos.

Holding back from creating a podcast series of interviews with some seriously amazing Rad Bitches (Super exciting!!).

Holding back from writing newsletters.

Holding back from making myself available to ACTUALLY COACH!!!

While I haven't been feeling so great lately - and I'm talking 'Randomly bursting into tears and telling Jordan that "I'm really sad right now!" in the middle of the supermarket' levels of not so great - I'd been waiting until I felt as though I'd at least learned something worth sharing - or had found my way out from this little patch I'm experiencing, to write about it or share.

IMG_3267

This morning Theresa helped me to see that a big part of what I write about, share, and encourage others to get comfortable with, is IMPERFECTION. I was really quite shocked to realise that as comfortable as I am with BEING imperfect, I wanted to be able to write about it perfectly - and with hindsight. We then identified some practical action steps that I could start taking today in order to start building my confidence around showing up in the world NOW.

After our session ended, we received some really amazing feedback - not only for Theresa's coaching skills, but also in regards to what I'd shared. It turns out that some of our peers have been dealing with similar feelings of insecurity and fears around putting themselves out there - and that some had been looking to me as somebody who's confident, and who is definitely "showing up", so they gained a lot from hearing what I had to share. Now it's kind of like, "Duh, of course, Kym! Teach by doing. Lead by example. You know this!" and it seems obvious.

My confidence is not innate. With every post, interview, or photo on Instagram, I have to make a conscious decision to put myself out there in that way - and sometimes that's easier than others. Being confident in who I am, and what I know, is something I'm constantly learning - and I know that I'm not alone in this.

I think that what struck me most today (as it often does), is that sometimes during sessions when I'm being coached, I'll find myself relearning things that I already know - or even more poignantly, that sometimes I really need to hear the same messages I'm sharing with my clients. To show up and be seen, or to let people know when things aren't ok and allow myself to admit when I'm struggling is important, because here's the thing, NONE OF US ARE FUCKING PERFECT, and sometimes other people need to see that in us, too.

So, if you I'd like you to consider this a reminder that Rad Bitches have shitty days sometimes, and if that's where you find yourself right now, then it's totally ok. Sometimes it's better to accept that this is where we're at right now, and spend some time getting to know what we actually need - rather than trying to force things to be "better".

xx

Kym

PS: I finally finished Amy Poehler's book, 'Yes Please' and I totally recommend it if you're feeling a little "bleurgh" (or if you're feeling amazing), could use a little reassurance that you're exactly where you need to be, or just want to giggle.

On Boundaries as Self Respect

IMG_3299 Whether or not it's because of Mercury Retrograde, a cold and grey summer, or just the "Back to Work" Blues, I have noticed a definite energetic slump across the internet - and within my friendship circles over the last month. Being someone who's particularly sensitive to these things - and someone who has experienced both depression and anxiety at different times through my life - I haven't been immune to this funky little period that many of us seem to be coming out on the other side of.

First of all, let's take a moment for a collective deep breath, a sigh of relief and appreciation for any lessons or gains since the start of the year.

I think it's really important for us to acknowledge and learn to recognise that sometimes we do all need some time out, to step back, reflect, recover, recoup or do whatever it is that you actually need right now.

The Sassy Ms. Honey B and I snuggled up with a cup of Hot 'Buttered' Rum on a cool evening

Obviously, as much as we may love to be able to hit the pause button on life occasionally, and take a break where we just don't need to adult for a while, the world keeps turning and we still have certain responsibilities to take care of, and expectations which need to be met.

Sometimes that might mean that we strip everything back to the absolute bare minimum, and only do the things which are truly essential (like eating) before crawling back into a quilt cocoon and cuddling up with the cats. I have definitely had my share of days like this over the last month. I have been making a point of spending my days off reading and writing in my pyjamas, and trying to allow space.

All of this said, January and early February have still been quite big months for me in terms of social events, with Baby Showers, 30th Birthday Parties, Reunions and Catch Up's out the wazoo - the biggest of which being my Lil Sis's Bridal Shower.

So, how does a sensitive introvert like me not only show up and deal with, but actually enjoy getting put and being social during a time when I'd really love to be tucked up at home?

IMG_3235

To start with, I ask myself, "Why am I going to this event (or doing this thing)?" If I'm thinking about going along, purely out of obligation and the world isn't going to stop turning if I'm not there, then I scrap my plans.

Another way of looking at this, is to check in with your gut reaction to how you feel about being at an event? Then in the words of Mark Manson, if your response isn't "Fuck yes!", then it's a, "No."

For me, the event's I've been to over recent weeks - especially my Lil Sis's Bridal Shower, have been ones which I know that I'll enjoy, and that I'll be truly shitty at myself if I miss out on them. I've also gotten to a point now, where people really only invite me to events if they genuinely want me to be there, and that my attendance will be appreciated, which makes showing up way more fun.

Something else that I've been practicing over the past month, has been to take time out DURING events. Back in the day, I used to just punch through and hop from party, to party, back to back, and stay out until the first train home in the morning, or just end up crashing on a couch somewhere I didn't want to be - either because the cab fare home was too high - or because cab drivers wouldn't go as far out into the bush as the parties I went to, or I had just had way too much to drink to be going anywhere.

IMG_3207

For my Lil Sis's Bridal Shower, her Bridesmaids had planned a MASSIVE day, starting with a champagne breakfast, followed by barefoot Lawn Bowls then a few hours of shenanigans, before dinner with cocktails, THEN dancing and drinking late into the night.

Considering that my sister lives interstate, and that many of her friends live in the outer suburbs, I definitely got lucky with the venues being within a ten minute drive from the Kitteh Palace. This meant that I was able to come home and take some time out after we'd finished with lawn bowls, and then go back out and meet the party again for dinner.

When he realised that I'd come home, Jordan assumed that it was because I wasn't having fun, however this wasn't the case. I had actually been having a great time, but I know myself well enough now to know where my limits are. By taking a break (and having a snack before going back out), I was able to really enjoy the rest of the night without feeling tired or getting cranky that the food took ages to come out.

Another thing I've learned over the years, is to leave while the party is still fun! While there's a lot to be said for those times when time gets away from you because you've found yourself engrossed in a conversation with someone you can truly relate to, then suddenly realising that you've been talking for four hours, when it comes to nights out I've become a big fan of recognising - and paying attention to when it's time to leave.

These days, I'm all for embracing the latter part of the saying, "GO HARD, OR GO HOME".