On The Importance of Taking Time Out

On The Importance of Taking Time Out

It was starting to become clear that both my boyfriend and I were long overdue for some time out of the house and away from our desk - with a few little technical glitches popping up and testing my patience to prove it.

Taking an extended break isn't a priority for us right now, but we weren't about to let that stand between us and a relaxed few days together.

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On Handling Stress and Traumatic Events

On Handling Stress and Traumatic Events

I know I talk about this a lot, but if there was one thing I could teach the entire world, it would be that we don't have to be 100% okay all of the time. It's okay if we're not okay, but it's important to tune into how we're feeling, and to figure out what we need.

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On Letting Go of Fear: Dead Weight and Pink Balloons

On Letting Go of Fear: Dead Weight and Pink Balloons

And as the conference started to loom closer, I could feel myself starting to slip back into some of those old patterns - although thankfully, I've kept to my limit of two coffees a day, and I haven't taken up smoking again.

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On Being An Upstander and Why it Matters.

On Being An Upstander and Why it Matters.

I honestly hadn't realised how much I'd accepted people throwing negative comments at me until someone stepped in and made it absolutely clear how NOT ok it was.

I hadn't realised how much it meant to me that other people didn't care enough to say anything until somebody did.

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On Massive Shifts in Reality

On Massive Shifts in Reality

I've been making a point of reflecting and taking note of the big - okay, massive shifts which have occurred in my life over the past year. Spending today getting stuck into finally unpacking the last of the boxes from when we moved into The Kitteh Palace, clearing out stuff we no longer need, and rearranging some of our furniture, really helped to anchor these reflections.

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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.

 

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On Feeling Ick and Comfort Foods

IMG_3662This weekend has been far quieter than the last few - and definitely quieter than I had planned on this one being. I had honestly been really looking forward to heading out both last night and today, but unfortunately have caught myself an ick. It's nothing serious, just a cold, but definitely enough to have taken my voice away and replaced it with a hearty deep and gravely bark. In the spirit of focusing on the positive, and considering that I missed out on seeing them play last night, I recommend that you all go and check out the psych-rock goodness of House of Laurence. Seriously, their tour diaries always look like their adventures are super fun.

Add this to the facts that I was supposed to attend a picnic this afternoon to help my friends celebrate their first wedding anniversary, and that my neighbours have set up an outdoor cinema in our courtyard and are currently chilling out on bean bags watching Clint Eastwood films, and I'm dealing with some seriously Knowledge Of Missing Out.

So, what's a girl to do when she's feeling ick and trying not to cough up a lung? Well, in my case I'm using this as a healthy reminder to take better care of myself. I've spent most of today rugged up in my PJ's, I've taken a nap and done some writing.

IMG_3659Check out my 'Sassy while Sick' PJ Styling.

While I don't want to weigh in on the whole "Food as Medicine" thing that's become a massive, polarising and sensationalist shit-storm in the media at the moment, for me there's no denying that certain foods at least help me feel more comfortable, and as if I'm taking care of myself when I'm sick.

In that spirit, I've decided to share with you all some of my favourite comfort foods, and most of these have been passed down across generations - and not just in my family.

Hot Fresh Lemon and Ginger Tea in the mornings.

Anything with Garlic, Chilli and brightly coloured vegetables.

I'd love to say that I up my Vitamin C levels with Fresh Citrus Fruits, but the truth is that I have never liked Oranges or Grapefruits, and I can really only handle them if their flavour is buried beneath lots of other yummy fruits.

I do however LOVE fresh berries, so I eat as many of those as possible to help boost the anti-oxidant levels (but mainly because I love them).

Creamy Pumpkin Soup is by far my MOST favourite comfort food when I'm not feeling well. Usually, when I cook soup for myself, I roast the pumpkin, garlic and onion in maple syrup before cooking the actual soup. I've had to resort to buying pre-cooked soup this time (I know, I'm devastated by this) because we've recently discovered the biggest flaw with The Kitteh Palace having an original kitchen - our oven doesn't work!!! Also, my stab mixer died and I haven't had the opportunity to replace it yet, so I can't puree anything at the moment.

Another massive favourite of mine, is a Hot "Buttered" Rum Toddy. I've had lots of requests for my recipe for this, which is honestly the entire reason I'm blogging about having a cold in the first place!

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So, without further a-do, here is my Hot "Buttered" Rum Recipe, although it's really just a list of ingredients that I never measure, I just add in willy nilly as I see fit, so use your own responsible discretion here.

Sailor Jerry Spiced rum

Nuttelex Spread (if you're making a non-vegan version, just use butter)

Agave Nectar, of Maple Syrup (again, if you're not vegan, you can use honey)

Ground Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves and Cardamom

Fresh Cloudy Apple Juice.

To make it all hot, I heat the apple juice in a saucepan over the stove, before pouring it over all of the other ingredients - either directly in your own cup, or in a teapot if you're making enough to share.

I'd love to know, what are some of your favourite comfort food recipes when you have an ick?

Until next time, stay healthy, everyone!

xx

Kym.

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On Cult Films and Cat Fights

In my last post I made a passing mention of the cult classic 80's film, 'Heathers' - purely in reference to the fact that I'd been playing croquet at a picnic over the weekend, and to be honest, it's been on my mind ever since. It turned out that nobody else at the picnic had seen Heathers before, so I gave a super brief, non-spoiling description to the interested guests that, "It was a cult 80's high school film starring Winona Ryder and featured heavy doses of dark humour".

The comparison was immediately drawn between it and 'Jawbreaker', a film which I remember watching on VHS when I was still in the early years of high school, and starred Rose McGowan and featured a cameo appearance her then boyfriend Marilyn Manson. For the record, I really enjoyed this film when I was young - and I'm a little tempted to give it, and 'The Craft' another viewing - just for shits and giggles and "old times sake".

Anyway, this all got me thinking about pop culture references to Girl Gangs - particularly in the films I grew up watching - and the interactions between female characters in them, and I was struck by how overwhelmingly negative the relationships were.

In pretty much all of them, there's backstabbing bitchiness, competition over boys, perfectionism, idealised superficial beauty - and murderous cat fighting.

Even if I think back to stuff I watched as a kid - 'The Addams Family Values', 'Daria', and the relationship between Darlene and Becky in 'Roseanne' - the sarcasm, snark and straight-up resentment that played out between these fictional girls, was intense! And yes, I totally identified with the "odd-girl out" in all of these examples.

About the only examples I could think of which featured solid Girl Gangs, were 'Now & Then', and 'The Baby-Sitters Club', which was originally a book series (books that I devoured copies of faster than my Mum could bring the next one home from the Second Hand Book Shop) before being made into a film. The fact that I grew up and became a Nanny, is no freaking coincidence when you think about this.

This isn't just limited to films intended for teen audiences ('Bridesmaids' is a good example of this), although it's super prevalent in the whole high school film genre.

In reality, most female relationships are not this fraught - and for the most part, these films are a great excuse to hang out on the couch in your PJ's with your own Girl Gang, eat pop corn and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Yet the overwhelming message in most of these instances, is that as girls, we are automatically and intrinsically pitted against one another and will fight to the death.

There's rarely any real, deep learning - let alone genuine self-acceptance that takes place by the final act of the film, and whatever "feel-good" message we end up with, is usually pretty generic and superficially blase. I could very easily get into a rant about how this is all because patriarchy is still a thing, but that's not really the point of why I wanted to write this post.

I suppose I've been thinking about this sort of thing a lot more recently - especially since I created The Rad Bitch Girl Gang. Although in truth, I've probably been thinking about this - at least on a personal level, since I started on this whole adventure of rebuilding my own world over the last few years - because my focus is on creating positive, supportive relationships and safe spaces which encourage and facilitate growth.

So as not to sugar-coat stuff, I've definitely had my share of falling-outs with girlfriends, and regrettably have dished out as much Girl-on-Girl negativity as I've copped over the years, but it's a pattern I've worked damn hard to recognise, repair, to change and improve upon.

One thing I have DEFINITELY recognised over the years, is that I am far more likely to treat others well, and to feel confident in my relationships when I'm feeling confident and comfortable within myself.

I believe that there are three sides to this:

  • First of all, we have to do the work to create our own genuine sense of self confidence.
  • Secondly, there's the Karmic side - What you put out into the world comes back unto you.
  • And thirdly, I wholeheartedly believe that we teach others how we to be treated through how we treat ourselves.

As much as I think it would be cool to have a well known pop-culture reference to point out as an example, and confidently say, "YES! THIS!! This is exactly how my Girl Gang feels!" I honestly can't think of one - yet! So, in the meantime, I suppose I'm working to create what I hope to see more of in the world - groups of amazing girls and women who treat themselves and one another beautifully.

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I'm proud of the fact that The Girl Gang is a safe space for many of The Rad Bitches to share and support one another, and I'm proud to know some incredible women who are working to empower women in ways that will seriously change the world.

Remember, each of us is enough as we are.

There is enough in the world for each of us.

xx

Kym

PS: '10 Things I Hate About You' will probably ALWAYS be my favourite high school movie, ever.

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