First posted 29 November, 2015
Today, tonight, I had an epiphany.
It dawned on me, for the first time in a long time, that I was going to be ok. That, I am ok. And it gave me butterflies. For so long, I’d keep looking back. Keep thinking back to when everything in life was easier, carefree, when I was content. I kept thinking of a time when I was only restricted by my allergy, not my intolerances. To a time when my skin was flawless and beautiful. To a time when my biggest problem was trying to buy a ski jacket before flying to Europe.
I became so caught up in what my life had been like before everything changed, that I didn’t notice how far I had come. It has been 11 months since everything started to fall apart and 8 months since I started to rebuild everything that I lost. Eight painfully long months. BUT despite how long this journey has been I neglected to realise how much good had come from it. For one, I was learning to enjoy and appreciate a whole different range of foods, from something as simple as vegetables to vegan foods… vegan chocolate actually rocks. But more than that, I was diagnosed with PCOS and was dealing with all the symptoms that came along with it – irregular period, acne, hormonal imbalances. But I managed to change that all of those things and I didn’t use a single chemical drug to do it. I didn’t just mentally will it to happen either… I instead used herbal medicine to manage and restore my hormones, a natural process that the pill had destroyed. And I know there some sceptics, and that’s fine – I’m also a big believer in traditional medicine! – but I’m living proof that natural medicine works and you can’t call bullshit on me.
My body was starting to work for me again and for some reason I kept holding on to what it was instead of thanking it for what it had become. I realised that I need to give myself a little more credit. I’ve gone from having dairy 3-4 times a day to zero times a day, and have done so for 6 months. And that was hard… it’s still hard. It’s not something I want to give up, I miss my morning cappuccino and sneaky treat of Cadbury dairy milk chocolate more than you probably realise… but I have no choice. If I want to have clear skin and a happy body then I have to. And I’ll have to go completely cold turkey on it for a little while longer. But I also remind myself that one day in the not too distant future, I’ll go easy on myself and allow myself a spoon of whatever dairy my heart desires.
Today I realised that I am changing… I’m always changing. The reason I don’t look like how I did 18 months ago, isn’t because of what I’m going through. It’s because I’m going through life. I’m 18 months older than when I felt “perfect” (of course I didn’t see that at the time… hindsight is a beautiful thing isn’t it?) and probably a kilo or two heavier and I’m sure none the wiser, but that’s ok. You know why? Because I’m not the only one that’s changing. That’s not a privilege set a side for me, and me only. To grow old is a privilege to all. So what that I have a few scars on my face and back. I know I’m still loved regardless of it. And to that particular human I’m forever grateful. When I’m having a bad day or when I feel like going back through time to when everything was ‘easier’, I remind myself that I’m still that girl, that beautiful girl and that I’m no different to anyone else.
For the first time in a long time I feel strong. I feel happy. I feel positive. And it’s the most beautiful feeling in the world.
10 November, 2015
I think when someone has anxiety they know they have it but they don't like to admit it. Or at least they don't want to be defined by it. For me personally, my anxiety manifested in a way where I was constantly searching for answers... even though I already had them.
I think I have come to realise that anxiety doesn't just happen. It's not something that you wake up with one day. It’s usually something that has happened to you many years before that awakens the beast. For me looking back on my childhood I didn't have a lot to complain about. But to say it was uneventful would be a lie.
I have a mum, a dad, a big sister… aunties, uncles, grandparents… all the usual suspects. But my upbringing was nothing short of complicated. My parents got divorced when I was young enough that I don’t remember living under the same roof with them both. My grandfather, my nonno, became a prominent father figure. That’s not to say my dad was out of the equation… for me he never was. But my nonno did the typical fatherly duties… picked me up from school, gave me 2 squares of Old Gold Dark chocolate of an afternoon (god bless your soul) and he’d tell us stories and care for us like no one else could. So when he died it kind of ripped me in two. It was the first family death I have ever experienced. The first person close to me to leave. I was 15. I wish I could say that his time had come… but it hadn’t. He died far to young, far to healthy. He passed way from an aneurism. He must of had it his whole life and never knew. It lay there dormant in his brain and one day it couldn’t hold the pressure any more.
I often think about the timing of all this… it’s a weird thing to consider but it plays a huge role. My mum changed jobs, my sister just got her driver's license; meaning he no longer had to do the school pick up or be on call if mum was stuck at work. It's almost like the universe was preparing us to be strong enough to carry on without him, before we even knew he was leaving us.
The day he died was probably more traumatic then I care to admit. I think, until now, I use to down play the entire situation. I don’t think I ever took a moment to go… hang on, that was actually really fucked up. To cut a long story short, I found my nonno, my dear nonno, unconscious on his kitchen floor. I was the first to walk into the room and the shriek that came out of me alerted my mum and sister to what might lie ahead. I don’t remember much, but I’ll probably never forget that.
When the ambulance arrived they told us things to keep us calm, to stop us from worrying. At the time, I bought in to it. I wanted to believe that he was going to be ok. I knew deep down that he wasn’t. No one lays on the floor unconscious with no blood flow to the brain for several hours and comes out the other side. I feel like we let him down by not being there early that afternoon, but unfortunately, you can’t rewrite history.
I feel like this was a defining moment for me. It changed me. I become afraid. I know death is inevitable, but after this it seemed possible, real. The aneurism my nonno had was in a place in his brain that meant it could be hereditary. My mum and aunties got tested… they were all clear. At the time my sister and I were too young to comprehend what that all meant. Knowing mum was fine meant we were most likely fine.
I don’t remember when specifically but some time after his passing, many many years after, I experienced chronic headaches. Every day I’d wake with a dull numb pain at the base of my neck. It would stay with me all day until I closed my eyes at night, and even then the thought of allowing myself to relax and fall asleep scared the life out of me. I feared, every night that I’d pass away in my sleep from an aneurism just like my nonno. It kept me awake each night until I became so exhausted with worry that I had no other option than to close my eyes and let life takes it course. I fear the idea of death more than it itself. I don’t and never did want to leave my life behind… I don’t think any one does. So it’s natural to fear it in some way. But maybe not like this. For about 3 months I lived with this headache. Some days it was worse than others, some days I forgot about it all together. The stress of it all got the better of me and I finally did the CT scan to check for the aneurism. I was clear. I felt relieved but not free.
One day I reached breaking point. I couldn’t handle it anymore… it was getting the better of me. I was sick of taking painkillers; sick of trying to pretend that this was something I would just have to live with. I forgot what life was like before the headaches. Just writing all this down, its frightening the number comparisons I can draw to my current situation. When I had just about enough of all this, a colleague of mine at the time suggested I go and get a massage… her simplistic logic was that I could be holding some tension in my muscles. Sounded ridiculous but I was just about out of options. Within the first five minutes of the massage the masseuse said my back was riddled with knots and that it was the worst he has seen in his career. Immediately after I felt relief. No more headaches. I never thought the day would come.
These last few weeks, as I open my life to this notion of anxiety, I’ve taken the time to look back and see how these things might have shaped me… made me who I am, for good or for bad. I never thought the death of my nonno could still be impacting me to this day. But like many other things I think its just another piece to the puzzle.
I think for me my life has been a puzzle. I think most people can view their life in that way. Hindsight is a funny thing, regardless of the situation. You have to go through something from start to end, through the hardest and most challenging times and the more exciting and liberating times, to be able to see it as a complete picture. Right now I feel like there is a huge chunk of my picture still missing… an incomplete puzzle. Sometime I wish I could describe how I'm feeling, but I can't and sometimes it feels bigger than that, bigger than a feeling.
I want to seek help. And I'm not afraid to say that. To me the mind is just as strong as your arm or leg... And we have more power over it then we realise… But sometimes we don't have the tools to strengthen it, to heal it. I started nourishing annalise because of dietary changes I was navigating my way through… I never thought I’d need to heal my mind in the process.
First published, 23 October 2015.
I remember the first time I was told there was something wrong with me. It wasn't a big thing. It wasn't even something that couldn't be fixed. It was small, manageable. But it felt like someone had inked a black dot next to my name.
When I was 16 I was on a course of roacutane for acne treatment. It's not a drug that should be taken lightly, so every six weeks I had a blood test. One week, I received a call from the pathology clinic. "Miss Maddrell, we've noted some inconsistency with your blood results". My heart sank. "Ok... What sort of inconsistencies?" "Well it appears you've become slightly anemic". Anemic? I thought, What the hell is anemic? "Ok... What does that mean?" "Oh that just means you have low iron levels... Is your mum or dad around? Maybe we can talk to them?". By this point I'd passed the phone on to my mum.
I sat down on the sofa. A little numb. I'd only ever heard the word anemic once. A girl in my grade at school often talked about her sister’s battle with sever anemia... Tired, loss of hair, pale skin... I'm sure you can see why I started to worry. But it was more than that, it was a sinking feeling that there was something wrong and it frightened me a little. Luckily for me I had just dipped out of normal range, so it was just a matter of me taking some supplements to put myself back on track. That was the first time I felt the black dot... In two very different ways.
The second time I was about 19. To cut a long story short, I found out the hard way that I was severely allergic, no, anaphylactic, to shellfish. As soon as the reaction occurred I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know my body was going into shut down mode over what I thought was a piece of fish (people, Marron is not fish!). By the time I got to the hospital I knew it was really serious. They rushed me to a bed straight away. I was back home before the next morning and ordered to visit my doctor that same day. I did and he issued me with a referral to do an allergy test. That's when I learnt at 19 that I was severely allergic to shellfish... And cockroaches apparently but I think I'll do just fine avoiding them!
Black dot number two had hit. So now I had the fear... The fear every time I went to an Asian restaurant that a prawn or a bit of shrimp paste might fall in my dish. That I'd experience what I experienced that one night and that scared the crap out of me. "Every reaction gets worse and happens quicker". That's what my doctor told me. Did I mention that it scared the crap out of me?
I was ok with it most of the time. But I definitely wasn't ok with it when I started to become the pain-in-the-butt whenever we went out to dinner. I felt bad that people had to worry about me and that I had to be careful. It started to become a bit of a hindrance and I didn't really want an allergy anymore (not that I wanted it in the first place).
The next time I experience the black dot, and in fact a wave of black dots, came in 2015. They year of the black dots. The hardest year of my life. The most challenging and rewarding year I have ever faced... So far. I don't think I'll forget 2015 all that quickly. It has been a tumultuous year to say the least. And with only 2 months till its close I hope it's a year that I can put behind me.
On Saturday 24 January 2015 my down hill battle began... And I had no idea what was in store for me. I noticed what I thought was a rash on my back... A rash that within a couple of days turned to little tiny pimples... you know the sort of ones that you scratch out (ew gross and #overshare!). Within a week they became sore and worse. To most people this would be completely left of field... But not for me. See I dealt with this for about 2 years from age 14 to age 16 before going on roacutane. My dermatologist at the time assured me that "I'd never have another pimple ever again... In my whole life". And she was right up until 12 months ago in about October 2014 when I decided to go off the pill. I had been advised to go on the pill after stopping my second course of roacutane. It was just going to ensure that I definitely "never got another pimple ever again". And it did, until 3 months after I stopped taking it.
I started to try to rationalise what was going with my body. "It must be a rash or a reaction from the beach", "maybe this happens to everyone when they go off the pill and it will go away soon", "maybe I don't wash my back properly after exercise" or my favourite "maybe if I don't touch it, it won't be there and it will just go away". After 2 months... It didn't go away. In fact, it got worse... And it spread. To my chest. (The overshare continues).
I told myself I was lucky it was there and not on my face. Still time to do something about it... To fix it. It was getting cooler now, so covering my skin got easier. I could deal with it. I told myself. But I couldn't. It made me sad. Really sad. I felt like I was in a time warp back to 2005. I hated it and I hated that it was happening to me. This was the biggest black dot of all. Or at least so far.
In February I decided I needed to try and sort it out quick smart. I had been doing everything I could topically but nothing really fixed what was going on. For the first time in my life I thought, "maybe I should see a naturopath". I have no idea why I said this. Or why I wanted to do it. I didn't really even know about the natural medical world but for some reason I wanted to give it ago. Maybe it was the fact that I was so pissed off that I took such an incredibly harsh drug for 12 months just to have it not work. Yeah I think that was it.
I saw a naturopath and uncovered some things about myself that I never thought was possible. The black dots started rolling in. By March the acne had spread to my face... And badly. By June I was in physical agony. I felt inflamed, sore and ugly. I cried almost every day. It was a tough, dark place. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. By July I stopped group training in the morning because I couldn't bare to have people see me without makeup. I faced the possible diagnosis of having PCO/S, and was angry that no one thought about this earlier. I cut out foods left right and center and played around with my diet so much. To this day I still feel like I haven't got my shit together and managing my weight has been super challenging. But while the black dots kept rolling in, I was making some small improvements. Since May I had cut out dairy and saw improvements in my skin especially to my face, but I was left scared. By August I received the results of my food intolerance test, which showed that I was very intolerant to dairy and eggs, so out they go too. Before that I was off the gluten but knowing it wasn't negatively affecting me meant I let it back into my life, with open arms. I didn't want to exclude another thing if I didn't have too.
So slow and steady improvements were happening. In August I also started to work on my hormones. It was confirmed by a Gynecologist that I had PCO/S which was also contributing to my bad skin. The natural medicine I was (and still am) on helped... But it's still not gone and I don't feel like I did 12 months ago.
While all this was going on, to add insult to the situation, I began having issues with my breathing. A lot of people have commented on the fact that I sigh a lot. I'm not sighing I just can't fucking breath. But of course I didn't say that... Instead "yeah I really like sighing. It's relaxing". So for the purpose of not using the phrase "weird breathing, sore throat condition" over and over again, this issue shall be named the “sighing disease”. Since June I have been experiencing the sighing disease. It's now October. That's 5 bloody long months. In the early days I saw my doctor, a random doctor… another random doctor. I tried everything. I had my lungs x-rayed, I did asthma tests… I stopped eating certain foods like Soy because I thought it might have even been an allergic reaction (add that to the list). I tried everything, or at least what I thought was everything.
One day I decided it was reflux… it had to be. It was the only thing that made sense. I started taking reflux tablets and what would you believe… it worked. It actually worked. For about 2 weeks there was nothing. Not a single sign of sighing disease. It was the greatest two weeks of my life… and then the two weeks came to an end and the sighing disease continued. This was starting to feel like the biggest black dot of all. All the others started to fade once I started figuring out my problems and actually fixing them. I spoke to my nutritionist Sahar about it. From a holistic perspective she believed I could have low HCL (hydrochloric acid) or stomach acid, which meant the food was sitting in my stomach too long cause reflux / acidity to bounce up my esophagus causing discomfort in my wind pipe and the back of my throat. Sounded pretty reasonable. I started taking HCL tablets too and guess what! It worked… it became more infrequent. Every time I had a tablet I felt better. Are you noticing the pattern yet? I wasn’t… until now. But just like the reflux tablets, after a while their magic faded. The sighing disease was still going strong.
At the beginning of this month I was lucky enough to spend 9 magical days in Bali. I was secretly shitting myself because I thought it would be fish sauce and shrimp paste central and I didn’t know how I was going to go with the food… but I survived. And the food was out of this world – if you went to the right places! But one thing happened while I was in Bali. Without help from anything the sighing disease just… went away. Just like that. Why? I have no idea. None whatsoever. I had a thought of what it could be but I didn’t want to acknowledge it. But less than one day of being home, the sighing disease kicked in.
Now I was really pissed off and on a mission to figure out what the hell was going on. Is it the air? Is it my room? Is it the season? (well no because it had been happening for 2 seasons now!). I kept thinking about every possible option. None of them fit. I texted Sahar. I told her that it was STILL happening, that it went away in Bali but has now come back. Her response….
“I suspect anxiety”.
I froze. I froze like I did when I was 16 years old. How could it be anxiety and I don’t know. How could I be having such an intense emotional reaction, to god knows what, and not have single clue. I’ll admit, I stress. I stress a lot and I don’t even know I’m stressing. I worry. I worry a lot. But anxiety. Surely not. The biggest, fattest black dot. She might be right. It might be anxiety. After letting it sink in, it doesn’t really surprise me. I’m surprised I didn’t actually think of it sooner.
I’m constantly thinking about my health. Constantly thinking about what I eat, how much I eat, have I exercised enough this week, did something I eat at breakfast cause the sighing disease, did I have enough sleep… constantly thinking. I’m tired just thinking about it now. So now I try to fix, what I feel is unfixable. I neglected to realize all the times that after making a decision the psychology of the action kicked in. I leant on material things to be my solution, when really it’s probably been in me all this time. I’m still not convinced that anxiety is the answer. I don’t think I understand its power yet… but I think its something worth exploring.
Part two... coming soon.
Reading. Who does it these days? Aside from reading an article on Facebook or an Instagram caption that could rival even some of the longest essays written; I pose the question, how often are you reading? Like truly reading. Something meaningful. That has purpose and substance?
As part of my journey to… let’s call it, self-fulfilment, I promised myself that I would do just that. Read. I have a personality whereby I say I’m going to do a lot of things, but find many reasons as to why I can’t do them right now.
For one, money was a factor. And let’s be real, books aren’t that expensive these days. Heck, they are even cheaper if you opt for an iBook. But being the traditionalist that I am, I decided I wanted the physicals. Something tangible where I could tag the pages and hold onto them in the moment. I wrote a wish list for the 7 books I initially wanted to read. I didn’t think there was any point purchasing them all at once, so I decided to set a goal of purchasing one a month. I’d have to save the money, then buy it. But, we all know that not every plan can go ahead without a hitch.
So I got made redundant from my job, I threw caution at the wind. I looked every book up on Book Depository, added them to my basket and to my surprise it only totalled $101. Within a week, they were on my door step.
So why these books? What drew me to them?
At the moment, I’m feeling a little lost. A little unsure of my purpose; or where I’m going next. My whole life I’ve placed a lot of emphasis on the future, and at times the past. But the now. The now was a foreign concept. Ironically, for much of my life, I’ve always told myself to “live in the moment” but I’ve never really understood how I could do that. So, I’m hoping with the help of Eckhart Tolle, that The Power Of Now can open my eyes to all its glory.
I’ve been following Simon Sinek for some time now, only a few months, but he’s made quite an impact. He’s the guy that did the rounds on Facebook only recently. The one talking about millennials – you’d know it. Well, he seems like a pretty smart cookie and his global best seller Start With Why has been on my radar for a long time. Knowing your why, be it in business or as an individual entity is so important. As he says “It doesn’t matter what you do, it matter’s why you do it’.
The Happiness Trap comes highly recommended. Today, more than ever, with the aid of social media and the highlight real that we are constantly putting out into the universe, we are all so caught up in being utterly and blissfully happy.
The more we strive for happiness, the more it eludes us. I couldn’t have said it better myself… literally.
How To Talk To Anyone started out as a bit of joke. I picked it up in a bookstore, thought it was funny and immediately connected with it. But, I decided not to buy it. I can’t tell you why, maybe it was a financial decision, I really don’t remember. But after that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Being a seriously good part time introvert, I actually thought I could benefit from such a book. So, I’ll let you know how I go.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. Enough said. I give WAYY too many F*CKS.
Now, Thinking Fast and Slow scares me a little bit. It’s a big ass book, written by a very intelligent man. It delves into the notion that our minds work at two paces, something I can definitely relate too. I’ll let you know if I make it through to the other side!
Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself. Because I don’t believe I’m perfect and I definitely don’t want to settle… just yet.
All in all, as you can see most of these books are quite spiritual and mind-related. This is due to my anxiety, which I established to be true in 2015. I’m not ashamed to say that I sought out help. I visited a psychologist monthly, and now every other month. And for anyone that feels they need a third party, expert view on their own first world problems then I’d encourage you whole heartedly to see someone. There’s no shame and no judgement.
In saying that, I also feel that you can’t be too dependent on external assistance. It has to come from within, and you have to learn for yourself. And for me picking up a book, is doing just that.
After losing my job (quite suddenly #redundancy) a week ago, only a short time after the end of a very beautiful long-term relationship, I was left thinking…
What the f*ck do I do next?
Instinct kicked in and straight away I went into stress-head-must-get-organised-and-sort-my-life-out mode.
I racked my brain to think of the different ways I could earn an income. Go back to my café job. Go back to working at the races. Start Uber driving. Do reception work. Find another PR job. But every option I thought of didn’t come at me with a HELL YEAH.
As much as I need a job, I couldn’t feel inspired about many of those options. I didn’t want to feel tied down or locked in for any long period of time. I didn’t want to feel like my life souly depended on any other individual or business.
So I decided, now is the time to make something and do something for myself.
And while I take some time out form ‘earning a living’ or at least being a slave to the dollar bill, I’m going to take myself on a soul-filled journey.
Why? Well, for the last 2 years I’ve felt like I have been running on a treadmill. Non-stop. With the pace getting faster and faster. And although the last 2 years have been an amazing experience that has led me to uncover things about myself like my PCOS and anxiety and has led me down this path of nutrition, health, wellness and now, spirituality.
Over this time, I’ve felt overwhelmed, less than worthy for any good in my life, I didn’t acknowledge myself for being beautiful, strong and fearless. Instead I saw a coward, someone who had no control, couldn’t make a decision, wasn’t beautiful, skinny or resilient enough.
And while I sometimes continue to see myself in this way, now as I look back I can start to appreciate some of my strengths. For one, I am strong. What person quits their job and enrols in a degree in nutrition off a feeling! I’m strong enough to make a tough decision. And sometimes I don’t cope all too well with them but I’m ballsy enough to do it anyway.
As for feeling overwhelmed, less than worthy and not that beautiful I’m working on it and over the next few weeks I’m going to be putting my energy into me. Into my soul. Into nourishing myself from the inside out.
I’m going to practice mindfulness, especially at meal times and around my emotions; incorporate twice daily meditation and daily yoga; along with moving my body in a positive manner that benefits myself and my health. I want to practice kindness and patience. I want to read more and absorb everything the world has to offer. I want to be the best possible version of myself. And I want you to come along for the journey.
My health is my wealth. And no amount of money can ever change that.