Photo essay: We learn to bend so that we won’t break

 

We learn to bend so that we won’t break.  Those are our options.

A part of me wants to tell the world I have been hurt too many times to move ahead.
A part of me wants to justify how my pain has left me frozen, petrfied, and unable to let go.
A part of me is so afraid to look at what is hurting me that it would rather escape than face it.
A part of me us afraid to see because it knows that in seeing, I will be asked to let go. And that in letting go, I will be asked to be reborn. And that in being reborn, I will have to uncover who I truly am.

But another part of me knows in every ounce and inch of its being that I am serving no one,  not one single life by staying asleep.
A part of me is beckoning me to move up and out from all of the places of ungrowth, the dark rooms of stagnant air.
A part of me is being propelled out into this great wilderness, and asking to discover the power hidden within the creases of my skin, resting on the tips of my eyelashes, travelling in the veins that surge through me.

You are longing to be more alive.
You are longing to be fully present to your one, precious life.
You are not afraid.
You are ready, dear one, to be accountable, to be wholly responsible for your life.

 

If you can relate to any of those words, I’d really recommend taking 10 minutes out of your day to listen to Sarah Blondin’s full meditation right here from the Live Awake Project. As for the photos, they were all taken in Warburton last week, while I was there taking a little time away from it all, learning to bend 🙂

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8 Things That Help Me Get Through The Blue Days

A while ago I wrote that I’d share a bit more of the not-so-picture-perfect/real side of my life with mental illness… I think that everyone will be affected by mental illness in their lifetimes, be it their own personal suffering, or the suffering of someone they know. It seems to be so much more prevalent these days than generations before; I don’t think it’s because more people are getting sick now, I think it’s just because more people are getting help, which is awesome  : )

But, there are some days that you’re not so keen on talking about your crap to other people and you’d rather help yourself. Everyone has things that work for them; these are the things that work for me when I’m having a bit of a blue day…

 

1. Marley cuddles
Most people who struggle with depression generally know when they wake up if it’s a good day or not; I do, anyway. If it’s a good day, I’m usually out of bed and going for a walk or doing some weight training. If it’s not such a good day, Marley usually knows and makes himself very available for a cuddle. Studies have also shown that hugging a pet can help with depression, so grab your fur baby and snuggle it first thing in the morning before you even try to deal with the day!
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2. Braided hair
I’ve always loved braiding my hair; I think maybe because it takes some time and forces me to slow down for a few minutes. On those days where I feel particularly crap and revolting, even a little side braid pretties up an otherwise boring ponytail exponentially and makes you feel a little better, especially when people comment on how nice your hair looks. It’s like my own little self-love ritual  : )
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3. Security-blanket clothes
I know it’s not a real term, but it’s one that I use a lot. My security blanket clothes are the clothes that I feel good in. They’re the ones that don’t make me feel self-conscious because they’re tight fitting or brightly coloured or too over the top. They’re pieces like my old, torn, blue jeans, my hooded red flannelette shirt, my over-sized white striped t-shirt, my denim shorts, my Hogwarts cardigan from London, my black and white long-sleeved floral printed swing dress, my brown leather lace up boots or my chucks. Crap day = wear a security-blanket piece.
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4. Walk
Exercise is always recommended for people struggling with depression, but it doesn’t always have to be intense exercise; walking will do just fine, and I walk every day. Some days it’s a 5km walk before work with the husband and the fur baby. Some days it’s an after dinner stroll. Some days it’s getting off the train a few stations early and walking to the office the long way. Some days it’s all of the above. Even when you feel like absolute shit, fresh air is so, so important.
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5. Lunch break cuppa & read
Pretty much every day. I cannot be stuck in an office all day, every day; I don’t know how other people do it. I eat my lunch at my desk while I’m working, and spend my lunch break most days drinking tea and reading a book at a cafe. I know it’s a bit of a waste to pay for tea when it’s just boiled water, a splash of milk and a tea bag, but I look at it more as investing a few dollars rent each day into my well being. If a $4 cup of tea and time to read is what’s gonna get me through the day, that’s not a waste of money. At the same time, that’s also why I always BYO lunch!
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6. Music
There are a few things I never leave the house without having in my handbag; a notepad and pen, a book to read, and my iPod. Music has always been incredibly important to me and has always played a big part in my life. I listen to my iPod on the way to and from work, and all day at work – on a bad day, the silence is too painful, especially in a big office. My go-to playlist is a compilation of a few Trombone Shorty albums, a few Rebirth Brass Band albums, the Treme soundtracks, and a few other random New Orleans jazz tunes. Works every. Single. Time.
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7. Easy dinner
I love cooking; it relaxes me. But on the days where the disordered eating and food-related anxiety is at a horrible high, having food prepared and ready to go after dinner is so important. For that reason, I have a freezer full of frozen meals – once a week, I make a meal that is cheap and easy to cook in bulk and freeze, like my 6 ingredient fried rice. That way, if I wake up and know it’s gonna be a hard one, I just have to take dinner our of the freezer to defrost while I’m at work and it’s ready to be re-heated when I get home.
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8. Write
Always. Every single day. I have since the day I learnt to write, I will until my old fingers can no longer hold a pen.
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I believe the time has come for me to re-introduce myself…

For someone who rarely struggles to find something to write about, I’m finding it really hard to know where to start this post… If you’ve been reading for a while now, you’ll know that I’m struggling a bit at the moment. I’m not the same person I was 18 months ago when I started writing here, and given that this space is more or less my “journal” of sorts and I’ve always written my way through hard times, I think that’s something I need to acknowledge here.

Before I go on, I realise that the honesty in the post might lose me some “followers,” and that’s OK. If some of what I write about makes you feel uncomfortable, or you’re just plain not interested in it, that’s perfectly fine. That said, I also can’t ignore what is increasingly an enormous part of myself and my life, and I’m pretty sure I can’t keep faking it to you guys either 🙂

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So, allow me to re-introduce myself…
Hi, I’m Jess :)I work in corporate travel by day and moonlight as a food & travel blogger.
I love to travel, I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to write.
I live in Melbourne and love this city to bits.
I’m a bookworm, a tea enthusiast and a market fiend.
I’m a classic shy little introvert, and as such have seriously honed my skills in “faking it” and keeping up a happy, confident facade in public.
I’m currently dealing depression, anxiety and disordered eating.

Depression has been part of my life since I was about 16 years old. I think anxiety has been around for a while as well, I just haven’t known what to call it. The disordered eating is relatively new to the party. They’re all really hard, in their own ways.

It’s hard to wake up some mornings feeling as if a dark cloud has formed over your bed while you’re sleeping. It’s hard to get out of bed at 5.30am after only a few hours broken sleep so you can exercise before work, every morning, no excuses. It’s hard trying to explain and defend over and over again why you can’t just “be happy” when you have a perfectly lovely life, and there’s really “nothing wrong” with you and so many other people have it so much worse than you do. It’s hard wondering what the hell is wrong with you and having no rational reasoning behind it.

It’s hard to come home feeling miserable and flat with absolutely no explanation for your husband other than “I’m just having a blue day…” It’s hard knowing that you’re putting him through such a hard time. It’s so hard to feel like such a burden to the one person who’s been through it all with you for the past eleven years and still feel like you’re no closer to being “better,” when all you want in the world is to be better for them. It’s incredible to see how strong he always is, without hesitation or complaint, which makes it harder still to have one of those days; you just want the pressure to be taken off him from now on. 

It’s hard when your family don’t know or understand what you’re going through. It’s hard to realise that you haven’t got many friends left, because not many people are willing to stick around when you’re going through this shit. It’s hard to keep up a brave face in front of the amazing friends you do have left even when they do know what you’re going through. It’s hard driving to meet a friend for brunch and panicking the whole way there. It’s hard sitting in the cafe with your “happy happy food blogger OMG I love all of the food!” face on when you’re freaking out inside. It’s hard sometimes to post happy and upbeat writing on my blog when my heart is breaking. It’d be harder not having this space and place to write at all though – it’s a big part of what keeps me sane on the bad days!

It’s hard to be so scared of food some days when you’ve always loved it. It’s hard to be invited to lovely meals out that you can’t totally enjoy because you’ve spent two hours studying the menu for the “healthiest” option, then freak out completely when you get there and order the “unhealthiest” option possible, plus sides, plus dessert. It’s hard to come home feeling like a failure, and continuing to eat because you’ve already ruined everything anyway. It’s hard to feel so ill you can’t sleep. It’s hard to throw it all up. And as if that’s not all hard enough, throw in lactose and fructose intolerance!

It’s hard to realise that you really just can’t handle it on your own anymore, and that if you really do want that happily ever after, you’re going to have to enlist help. It’s hard making that first contact with a “professional.” It’s even harder turning up to that first appointment. Hardest of all is looking at a complete stranger, kind as they may be, and still trying to smile through the tears as you tell them that you just don’t know what to do anymore. That you’re depressed and anxious and you really don’t want to be. That despite your degree in exercise science and decade working in the health and wellness industry, you’ve still somehow become one of “those” women who hate their bodies and often binge and throw up and “restrict” calories. It’s really, really hard to own that. And it’s really hard to share that to God-only-knows how many strangers.

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I think it’s silly and unfair and dishonest for me to keep writing here as if there’s nothing wrong, as if my life is a shiny, perfect bundle of travelling and adventuring and cooking and eating (side note: it feels unbelievably good getting all of that off my chest! I’ve hated the last few weeks feeling like an imposter here!); that’s what I’m working towards, but we’re not quite there yet 🙂

I also wanted to tell you guys that while I may start to write a little more about this side of my life (now that I’ve actually acknowledged both to you guys and to myself what’s really going on), this is still going to be first and foremost a food and travel blog. Writing is my solace. Travel is what sets me free. Food can go either way, but I’m hoping that with a bit of help, I’ll be able to add that back to the “good” column! So if you’re just here for recipes and suggestions on places to eat at and things to add to your bucket list, don’t worry; those posts are gonna keep on coming!

Anyway, a huge thank you to everyone who is still following my adventures on here – it still amazes and humbles me so much to know that there are people out there who are still interested in what I have to say! And the online blogging community is amazingly supportive, which I’m super grateful for 🙂 To anyone else who’s fighting their own battle right now, my thoughts are with you guys – never be afraid to reach out for help, because there’s something better out there if you do! But right now, I’m kinda tired so I think I’m gonna try to get some sleep… Here’s to more tea, more travel, more books and better days coming!

xoxo

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Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be? [Escape part 2]

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Well? Can you? That’s one of the big questions I’ve had on my mind this weekend.

I’ve tried to be pretty blunt and honest lately about what I’ve been going through because a) it’s my blog and given that it doubles as a type of journal for me, I can write about whatever I want, b) there’s more to me than passport stamps and hamburgers, and c) I want something good to come out of this struggle, and if only one single other person reads this and decides to fight on, it’ll be worth it.

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So, this weekend, I took off. I left the real world on Friday morning, and made my way to Warburton. I’m really struggling to deal with everything that’s going on at the moment, and I thought the shit ton of money I’d been spending on psychologist sessions might be better spent booking a room far enough away from it all to give myself the space to mull it all over. There were questions I needed to answer that no professional could have possibly helped with:
– What’s at the heart of all of this pain?
– Who do I want to be? Who could I be without depression?
– Why do I dislike myself so much? Why have I no confidence in myself?
– How have I ended up believing that I’m unworthy of the good stuff in life?
– When and why did I start believing my self worth was directly correlated to my weight and clothing size?
– Who was I before I lost myself? Who was I before I stopped being me and stated trying to be who I thought the world wanted me to be?

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I spent my weekend walking the river trail, eating slowly and mindfully. I meditated, went to cafes alone to enjoy a pot of tea and some time to write, and treated myself to a much needed massage. I wrote, a lot – it helps me to clear my mind and understand myself better. And among other questions I answered and revelations I had, I thought long and hard on that big question: who was I before the world told me who I should be? That’s gotta be one of, if not the hardest question to ask yourself and answer honestly. Who was I?

I was an introvert, that hasn’t changed. But I didn’t care what anyone else thought of it.

I had my dreams and ideas, and never stopped to consider that they might not work out, that they could fail. I just made the things I wanted happen, by myself and for myself.

I was headstrong with the added bonus of not giving a damn about what anyone thought.

I never gave any thought to what I ate, nor what my body looked like. It was never important.

I didn’t surpress my creativity. One of my favourite things to do when my soul was hurting (depression and I go way back, like, literally half my life,) was to go for a long walk with my camera and take photos of whatever caught my eye. I found beauty in the most mundane everyday things, I developed roll after roll of film, and I did it just because it made me happy. So that’s what I did this weekend; I walked and drove and walked some more. I explored out in the fresh air, and when something caught my eye, I stopped and captured it.

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That girl wasn’t always happy; she still suffered relentlessly from depression just like today’s me does. But back then, I didn’t care what “they” thought, I wasn’t trying to be someone I wasn’t, I was just doing things that I wanted to do, that made me feel good, that captured and created beauty. This weekend helped me remember who I was before the world jaded me. I’m grateful.

Escape

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I took this photo almost two years ago now, when we moved into our new home. I cannot believe it’s actually been almost two years… wow…

Anyway, we were unpacking, and I’d just laid out Marley’s favourite blanket that I knitted him a few years ago on the new couches. I opened the blinds so he could watch the happenings on his new street while we unpacked our lives and set them up again. Oh man, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to have been unpacking… I mean, moving is a real bitch, and we moved 4 times in 5 years, so I was really starting to hate it. This move was huge for us – a few years ago, we bought a nice big block of land, around a third of an acre, and built a beautiful big 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom home on it. We were there for 3 years, and it never felt like home. What the hell did two people and a midget beaglier need that much room for?? We’d been there a few months (we moved in at Christmas time, and went camping at Easter the following year when it all came out) when we realised how much we’d been fighting lately. Sitting by our campsite it all kinda came out that we both hated this lovely new home of ours, we hated the bigger than necessary mortgage, and we hated that we were stuck paying off a house we hated living in. We wanted to travel instead, and we were stuck there instead, and we both realised we’d made a huge mistake, which manifested itself in us fighting about everything from what to cook for dinner to what to watch on TV to what newspaper to buy. This photo was taken like 30 minutes after that revelation, way back in 2011…

Fast forward a few years, and we were in a home, not just a house. A cutesy little two story townhouse, with a man cave for husband and a book nook for me and a little yard/park a few streets away for Marley. So there we were, unpacking, and I noticed this little dude looking out the window. I felt like the want and need and yearning for escape were written all over his beautiful little face. And I got it.

 

Anyway, I remembered this photo of Marley over this weekend when I recognised that same feeling in myself that I thought I saw in him. That wanting to escape, to run across the road, and run down the street to the park, and just keep running to… I dunno, freedom I guess. The last few months have been tough; maybe it’s the fact that I’ve finally acknowledged how much depression and anxiety have affected my life, what horrible consequences the disordered eating has had, how hard it is to try to take these illnesses seriously and “recover” while trying to keep my shit together and keep up the “I’m fine!” act in front of everyone, which means that no one else takes what’s wrong with me seriously… I’ve been living such a wonderful life on paper for so long, with an amazing husband, a surprisingly supportive family, a job I enjoy, a beautiful house, a cutie pie dog, a full passport, all that jazz, and yet my soul aches more and more every day. I think the problem is that I’m being encouraged to stop and think and feel my feelings instead of dealing with them in my typically self-destructive ways, which is not easy. Does anyone realise how hard it really is to actually feel your feelings?! Damn…

 

I’m trying to take a multifaceted approach to this whole dis-ease that’s in my life right now, including a 12 week meal plan based on hitting food group targets instead of counting calories, daily exercise including strength training, the C25K run training program and yoga, daily meditation and reflection time. I should also be practising active daily “self-love” and trying to build some sort of confidence, but honestly, I’ve hated so much about myself for so long that I don’t even know where to start. Any tips from anyone who’s been through this kinda thing?!

The other big part in all of this is trying to work out what makes me happy and keeps me going. What am I living for? What am I working for? What do I love? I love to travel. I love to learn. I love to see new things and experience new cultures and throw myself into new places. Feelings of fernweh and wanderlust are becoming stronger and stronger every day. And if I’m meant to be finding what makes me happy, I think that’s where I’m going to find my answers. Much like Marley, I need to escape and run free every now and then. Unfortunately I’m not a rich kid or a trust fund baby, so a life of constant travel is out of the question (unless anyone wants to pay me to work Bourdain style? I love to travel and eat and write, and will gladly do that for a paid living if anyone wants me!), but I can still find ways to escape when I’m not giving my passport a workout. Going for a run with my favourite music blasting through my head phones. A weekend road trip on my own. Time on my yoga mat. A pot of good tea and a home made biscuit while reading my favourite blogs. Writing. Writing helps a lot. Reading helps the most. My baby sister just gave me the most fabulous gift on Sunday night, too, something I’ll probably read every day now. Actually, I will make it a point to read this every day from now on. She wrote in the front of it to me, “Be strong now, because things will get better. It might be stormy now, but it can’t rain forever.” I can’t believe I haven’t read this book since things really started going down hill – it is the exact life advice and daily reminder that I need, it was like this book was written directly to and for me…. In the words of the great Dr Seuss:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

What I’m coming to see is that we all have our obligations, we have to work to pay the bills, we all have to do what we have to do. But our obligations are not who we are. Our dreams are who we are. And we feel the need to escape so desperately when we’re not honouring those dreams; without taking time to escape the world of our obligations and indulge in our happiness, we fall apart. I know that if I stop giving a crap about what everyone else thinks, what everyone else expects, and just do what makes me happy, I can’t possibly be depressed or anxious. If we live authentically, if all we aim to be is the best possible versions of ourselves instead of what we think the world wants or expects us to be, what could we want to escape? How can we possibly be miserable failures? We only fail when we’re trying to be someone we’re not – we’re setting ourselves up to fail by comparing and trying to compete. I know that I just need to embrace who I am and be the best version of that. Then instead of wanting to “escape” to something “better,” I’ll be living a life I love, doing the things I love, surrounded by people I love, and I won’t feel the need to escape at all. It sounds so simple…

WANDERLUST 108: Melbourne 2015

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Back in 2006, I completed my first and what I assumed would be my last triathlon. I don’t like swimming, running or cycling, so it clearly wasn’t something I did of my own free will; it was something I had to do in order to graduate from university and complete my Bachelor of Exercise Science. While I am a competent swimmer and bike rider, I don’t enjoy either of them, particularly not in a competitive setting like a triathlon. I also have a tendency to struggle with heat exhaustion; my triathlon was held on a 36°C Melbourne summer day. I had met my now husband a few years earlier, towards the start of our time at uni together (we studied the same degree), and will be forever thankful to him for getting me through that. He grew up in the water and is a better than good swimmer, so he helped me through the half-kilometer ocean swim leg. I was fine on my own for the 20km bike ride (I didn’t enjoy it, but it was at least pretty easy for me). By the time I got to the 5km run, I was spent. The heat was ridiculous, and I was in a world of pain. Dad was the only family or friend either of us had there to cheer us on and meet us at the finish line; he later told me that he met husband at the finish line and husband’s first question was “have you seen Jess?” Nope, not finished yet, answered Dad. Husband back-tracked a few kilometres to find me in a hallucinatory state, poking his chest and asking if he was real, and walked the few kilometres back with me to the finish line. That was when Dad decided he was a keeper and part of the family.

Anyway, despite how proud I am of myself for finally finishing, it was a shitty experience and one I never intend on repeating. So you can imagine my husband’s face when I told him I’d entered myself into a triathlon this weekend. Not just any triathlon though; the Wanderlust 108. The “kind” and “mindful” triathlon.

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Wanderlust is a global lifestyle group that focuses on keeping both the mind and body fit and healthy, and they’re running a triathlon unlike any other in cities all around the world.  What they’re all about, as they write on their website is…

Wanderlust’s core mission is to create community around mindful living.

Mindful living is a conscious, value-based approach to leading a sane & healthy life. At Wanderlust, we focus on a few simple principles:

Practice Yoga

Practicing yoga helps clear the mind, tone the body, and heal the spirit. Wanderlust is committed to creating inspiring places to practice with a broad array of the world’s most accomplished teachers.

Eat Well

We are what we eat, and at Wanderlust — and in our personal lives — we support local farms and purchase organic, sustainably grown products whenever possible.

Be Green

It is our solemn responsibility to be good stewards of the earth. Wanderlust is committed to sustainable practices, including waste reduction, recycling, composting, the utilization of renewable energy sources and carbon offsetting. Sustainability is a moving target, and we also pledge to improve year after year.

Practice Purpose

Wanderlust is a purpose driven company, and we build partnerships with like-minded companies who value social good as well as the bottom line. Some of our greatest power lies in what we do, what we purchase and who we associate with.

Create Awareness

Many of the great challenges facing us today, from environmental damage to food shortages to disease to political upheaval, can be improved or solved through mass action. But mass action requires awareness, so wherever possible, we will use the Wanderlust platform to highlight — and with luck, resolve — the most important issues of our time.

Showcase Art

Wanderlust is a place where creative expression is both valued and open. We treasure our community of artists and are honored to provide a canvas for their work.

You can find out more on their website, but basically, the event looks something like this:

  • 5km-running course
  • 90-minute yoga class
  • live music
  • inspiring lecture by One Giant Mind’s Jonni Pollard
  • lawn activities such as acroyoga
  • delicious locally sourced organic food

They run these events all around the world, and I was pretty excited to find out they were hosting one in Melbourne! I found out about it exactly four weeks before it was scheduled; I entered myself online, immediately downloaded the Couch To 5K running app to my phone and instructed husband to drag me along to the gym with him when he went three mornings each week, so I could complete the program on the treadmills there. Let me emphasis what a big deal this is; I have always hated/completely sucked at running. I’ve never been good at it, I’ve never enjoyed it, I’ve never understood the “fun” concept of a “fun run.” But at this stage, I was just beginning to take my depression/anxiety/disordered eating recovery seriously and thought this was the perfect opportunity for a fresh start, and a great way to train my body to achieve something other than losing weight. So I did. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 5.30am and every Sunday around 7.30am for the four weeks leading up to it, I got up, put on my workout gear, and hit the gym. I kept up my own yoga practice, a few sessions per week, leading up to it too.

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So, how was the day itself? Pretty amazing! Despite the event running a little late to start, it was a fun day! I surprised myself with how well I did on the run and couldn’t have been happier when I crossed the finish line 🙂 The 90 minute yoga class was good fun with great tunes from Aroha, led by the incredibly motivating “flying nomad” Simon Park – seeing 1500 people practising their downward facing dog in the park on the beach overlooking the sea is one hell of an experience!

I also got a lot out of listening to Swisse ambassador, the gorgeous Bianca Chatfield, captain of the Melbourne Vixens netball squad, superstar athlete, founder of The Ignition Project and all around lovely lady 🙂 Hearing her speak about not only the importance of working hard, but the importance of resting and taking time out to look after yourself, too, was EXACTLY what I needed to hear.

A big thank you to the team at the Lulu Lemon hub as well – how they kept up on the bag check front (the best ever complimentary service that could have possibly been on offer), as well as selling their gear, I will never know. But they did, and they made everyone’s lives a lot easier because of it! Oh, and the food was hella good, too – I hit up the team at Mastic twice – firstly for the black rice risogalo after the run and before the yoga (black rice and coconut milk/yoghurt pudding deliciousness, topped with toasted coconut and pomegranate), and then went back for one of the phenomenal quinoa falafel souvas after the yoga class, by which point I was famished!

Hellenic Republic Kew on Urbanspoon

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Wanderlust108 Melbourne was an awesome experience, and I think something that most of us would benefit from; taking the time to slow down and make time for ourselves, to both challenge ourselves physically and mentally, as well as nurture ourselves, and to be around other people wanting the same things, is a truly uplifting and inspiring experience, and I’m super thankful for the opportunity to have been part of it all! Was anyone else there on the weekend, or done any of the others in other cities around the world??

You’re not alone.

Happy Monday people! I know, Mondays, not really such a happy day for the majority of us who had to drag our tired asses off to work this morning after a weekend that almost certainly wasn’t long enough, and are now dragging those same, even more tired asses back home to cook dinner, do laundry, pay bills, blah blah blah… But I’m trying to be a little more positive and optimistic, so HAPPY MONDAY! Congratulations on getting through!

Anyway, I thought I’d do something a little bit different with today’s post. If you’ve been reading for a while, you may have noticed that while I share a little, I’m not inclined to be as super open and sharing as a lot of other bloggers. That’s no reflection on you guys, it’s more a character flaw of mine; I tend to be extremely reserved, introverted, a closed book. But recent happenings in my life and resulting conversations with a few trusted friends have led to some realisations that while we are all fighting our own battles, we do not necessarily have to fight them alone, nor do we have to simply shut up about them.

Sometimes the bravest thing is not to keep your problems to yourself and deal with them stoically and alone. Sometimes, the bravest thing we can do is to share our battles and vulnerabilities, in the hopes that others fighting similar battles can see that they’re not alone and find courage in that, to maybe fight a little harder themselves.

So, let me be brave. After many, many years of struggling alone (I’m talking over a decade), let me say that my personal struggle is with depression, anxiety and disordered eating. Let me say that it’s not easy to deal with it, and that I’m not special; there are millions of people who deal with these things every single day, most of whom will never share these battles. You may have absolutely no idea that someone you care about is fighting; most people who know me will have absolutely no idea whatsoever. And I’m not writing this because I want people to know what I’m dealing with . I want no attention, no being treated any differently, no fanfare, no bullshit.- I’d quite happily continue dealing with my shit alone. I’m writing it because what’s helped me most so far is realising that there are other people out there dealing with the same thing and making progress, so while I hate to share, if my sharing helps even one person out there to know they’re not alone, and makes a difference to or even saves just one life, that’s worth it.

Depression, anxiety, disordered eating – they’re really shitty things to deal with. The stigma around it all is still there. Because there aren’t generally many physical symptoms, not like with other mental illnesses like anorexia, for example, people don’t take it as seriously. “Just cheer up, your life isn’t that bad, there are people out there who have it way worse than you!” May as well tell a diabetic to just “get your shit together and regulate your insulin levels!” Just because we look “normal,” doesn’t mean we’re not drowning on the inside. You can’t see the black cloud that follows us around, sucking up all our energy and happiness. You can’t see our scars, emotional and/or physical. You can’t see the self-hatred behind the fake smiles. You can’t see the panic attacks over what to order at restaurants before you leave the house, or the binge eating that goes on behind closed doors, or the after-math of that. You don’t see any of it. But, it’s there.

AFL footballer Mitch Clark recently and very bravely spoke out about his personal battle, and I think this post he wrote a few weeks back on Facebook sums it up pretty well…

People think depression is sadness. People think depression is crying. People think depression is dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to life. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again. Days aren’t really days, they are just annoying obstacles that need to be faced. When you’re depressed, you grasp on to anything that can get you through the day. Even in a strange way you fall in love with your depression because you think it’s all you have. It’s not being able to see a way out, to see something good, to feel normal. That’s what depression is, not sadness or tears, it’s the overwhelming sense of numbness and the desire for anything that can help you make it from one day to the next. Please don’t suffer in silence and alone. Reach out and ask for help.

 

So, as I finally put on my big girl pants and reach out and ask for help after half a life time of trying to go it alone, I hope that others can start to do the same. I hope those of you who are fortunate enough not to be dealing with these issues first hand can be gracious and understanding and non-judgmental of those of us who are. Remember, you’ve only got one life; you should never be too busy to save it  : )

And this weekend, as a kind of thank you to myself for finally dealing with all of this, I got myself some fresh ink… allow me to introduce to you, the owl…

The attribute of the Goddess of Wisdom & a symbol of knowledge 📚 they live a solitary existence & are efficient hunters 🍃 they are a symbol of the moon, giving the gift of second sight 🌙  it is also a companion of the Goddess of the Underworld, able to guide the souls of the deceased into the afterlife ✨ the presence of the owl announces change 🔑

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