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Oh hi…..

A year ago I was in my Roxby bubble, surrounded by the best people, almost finished my teaching degree, seeing my husband every night (or morning depending on the shift), totally familiar and comfortable in who I was and my surroundings.

The friends you make in Roxby become your family, mainly because family is at least a seven hour drive away. Your Roxby friends are the ones you see everyday, the one’s you create lifelong bonds with, the one’s whose children your children are friends with, the one’s you drink wine and coffee with, the one’s you call when you need a break (or a breakdown), the one’s who you depend on when you break a wrist falling out of the shower (don’t ask!!).

Now, a year later, I am in a totally different space. Living in my own home, in a small town in the Hills where I don’t know a single person, still in my last year of uni, adjusting to FIFO life and a possible chronic illness.

Long story short, the last year has been one of change and upheaval.

Day to day I am dealing with loneliness, pain, fatigue, being grumpy with my kids (aka the best people ever) and running a home without the support of my husband for one week out of two.

I looked around the other day and thought to myself, “I need to get a life”. Literally. I need to take back control of my life and stop letting the overwhelming feelings of fatigue, pain, anxiety and sadness become greater than me.

So here I start my journey, aiming to try new things, get out of my shell (and my head), adjust to life and my new “normal” and learn how to be happy as a thirtyish FIFO wife and mother living with illness.

Hiding pain and fatigue behind a smile and big sunnies!

Fibro my what a?

Fibromyalgia. Sounds fancy right? I had literally never heard of it until the doctor mentioned it. The more I looked into it, the more I realised, I had been suffering for years. Some research says it can be caused by physical or emotional trauma, ptsd, genetics or mood disorders. Women are more likely to get it. It is thought to be caused by your brain and spinal cord not processing pain properly. It is a chronic illness with no cure. It is my reality now.

For me, the exhaustion came first. I couldn’t understand why I was always tired. I slept eight or so hours at night but then need a three hour nap during the day. I would still be exhausted. I used to be quite physical, I walked everywhere, I went to the gym, I played netball, I played with my children, I danced around the house. When the pai started, in my back, then in my pelvis and hips, in my legs and shoulders. I stopped moving. It hurt too much. There were times I thought I would faint from the pain. Getting up and down was torture. I was so stiff. I was so scared.

I’ve stopped working at the moment. We’ve just brought a house so it terrifies me. I’m in a very fortunate position where we have enough money from my husband’s job to be comfortable. We don’t have much “spare” money. We have to be careful and smart. I feel very deeply for those that are struggling financially because of chronic illness. Stress is a major factor for a fibro flare up.

I fought for months for doctors to figure out what was wrong with me. So many tests. Now I have an official diagnosis, I think I’m feeling a bit of grief. A mourning period. I feel sad for the life I had, for the life that’s ahead of me and my family. I feel guilty that my body is broken. I am worried. I am angry. I am sad. I am going to let myself sit with these feelings for a while, no matter how uncomfortable they may be. I will sit with them, process them and then move forward. I’m still me, just a different version and that’s ok. I get to discover a new part of myself as I deal with this.

Unflattering and scary. A really bad day. A face of fibromyalgia
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For my daughters

You are a pretty girl. Though that is not all you are. You are fairy floss skies, the smell of apples. You are soft sand and books. You are pencil on paper and paint on canvas. You are rain and sunshine and rainbows and storms. You are memories and hopes and dreams. You are smiles and tears and laughter. You are happiness and sadness and joy. You are watermelon and mangoes on hot summer days. You are hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. You are red sand and green grass. You are the first day of kindergarten and the first day of school. You are the first lost tooth, first word, first step. You are a daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousin, niece and friend. One day you will be a first day of high school, a first love, a first heartache. A first day of university, first house, first job, first kiss, first dance. You are a head, eyes, mouth, hands, feet, body, mind, soul. You are books and music and dancing and netball and cooking and singing and art. You are a voice, an opinion, a belief. You are questions and answers and knowledge and thoughts. You are ideas and creativity and imagination. You are kind and wise and polite and funny. And yes you are pretty. But you are more than just a pretty girl.

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32 things

So I turned 32 this week. It was really hard for me when I turned 30. I think because I had my first baby when I was 22, I didn’t do all the things you’re “supposed” to do in your 20’s. I didn’t travel or go to uni or have wild adventures. My 20’s were nappies and playgroups and all the delicious “firsts” that come with having children. So when I turned 30 and realised my 20’s were over, it was a hard pill to swallow.

Over the past few weeks with all that has been going on in the world and with me personally, I have been reflecting about the things that have shaped me over my lifetime so far. So here are 32 things about me.

1. I was born in England in a little town called Boston. I emigrated to Adelaide when I was nine.
2. I have a fear of heights and public speaking. I don’t do rides and being up high makes me dizzy. Every time I’ve had to do a speech I end up crying. Publicly.
3. I grew up and only child of a single parent. I didn’t find out who my father was until I was 16.
4. When I was 12 I came home from school to find out my mother had been taken to hospital for a severe depressive disorder. Before I was 18, she went into hospital a further four times. Each time she was in for about 8 weeks.
5. I was bitten by a wolf spider on the way home from school when I was 14.
6. I have lived in 22 different houses in my life.
7. I never finished year 12.
8. When I was a child I wanted to be a florist, a writer, an actress or a teacher.
9. I did Italian all the way until year 11. For my year 11 mid year exams I had to write and perform a five minute monologue in fluent Italian.
10. I dropped out of school half way through year 11 because I overheard a phone conversation and found out we couldn’t afford the fees any more.
11. I can’t pronounce my ‘r’s so I say certain words really fast so it’s not obvious.
12. My middle name is Leah and I loved it so much I gave it to my daughter.
13. I love animals and one of my dreams is to feed the giraffes at Monarto.
14. My favourite colours are pink and yellow.
15. I don’t talk to or have anything to do with any member of my biological family. None of them were invited to my wedding. My life is much better for it.
16. I once broke my heel bone by falling out of high heels.
17. I fractured the same wrist twice in almost the exact same place. Once when I was 14, I tripped over road works and in 2017, I fell getting out of the shower.
18. I didn’t read any of the Harry Potter books until after I had seen all the movies.
19. My favourite movies are Titanic, Bridesmaids, Dirty Dancing and Breakfast Club.
20. My favourite song is Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles.
21. I love flowers, I love having fresh flowers in the house. My favourite flowers are proteas, roses, daffodils, lavender and carnations.
22. Alan and I picked Sarah’s name out of a hat.
23. I used to do school debating to help with shyness and public speaking.
24. I played the recorder as a kid and did recorder lessons.
25. I performed in the Catholic Schools Music Festival in year 7. I can’t hold a note.
26. I chose to be baptised as a Catholic at age 12.
27. My mother suffered from OCD. I have a lot of learnt tendencies from her as that was my normal growing up. I try not to show them to my girls so I can break the cycle.
28. I suffered post natal depression when I had Leah after a traumatic birth.
29. I’m allergic to dried apricots.
30. I love to draw and write.
31. I was 28 when I got my licence.
32. I helped the captain drive the boat on the Loch Ness when I was 8.

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A most unfortunate diagnosis

I have been tired for a long, long time. I often say I’ve been tired for the past ten years which is coincidentally, how long I’ve been a mother. Even though it has been a decade, I don’t think I will ever forget those baby days of tiredness. That soul-crushing, daunting, makes-me-want-to-cry-thinking-about-sleepless-nights kind of tired. At the end of that tired though, is a baby. Babies with their baby smell and baby noises and baby snuffles and baby fingers and toes and noses. (Stop me if I get too clucky). So that newborn tired is hard; really, really bloody hard. Believe me, I had a child who didn’t sleep for six months unless I was holding her while I sat upright, I know that kind of tired.

This tired I have been feeling for the past year-ish is different. It doesn’t stop. I can sleep nine, ten hours at night and have a three hour nap during the day and still wake up fatigued, sluggish and exhausted. I went to the GP and told them how bad I was feeling. The tiredness, the migraines, the stomach problems, the memory problems, itchy irritated skin, ongoing pain, depression. Truthfully, I hadn’t felt right in a long while.

“Depression”. “Anaemia”. “Lose some weight”. I had blood tests, took iron tablets, exercised, changed my diet, had counselling, even had a brain scan. Still tired. Then came the back pain. The excruciating, spasming, pulling pain that shot through my lower back and into my legs, hips and pelvis. I went to the physio, did the exercises, had a CT scan, an MRI, a CT spec. “There’s nothing physically wrong with your back; maybe you should lose some weight”. Oh wow, there is nothing worse than being made to feel like the pain you feel is all in your head or because you are an emotional eater, who has put on a few after a turbulent year.

Finally, I went to a lovely GP. I cried. I just sat and cried as I tried to explain exactly how exhausted I was, how much my back, legs, hips, chest and pelvis were hurting, how badly I wanted to be ok and healthy. He looked at me and then looked something up on the computer and then asked me a series of questions. “I think you may have Fibromyalgia”.

So now begins yet another change as I see a specialist and strive to get an official diagnosis. I have to do a sleep test, yet even more blood work and who knows what else. Fibromyalgia is a relatively new and very unknown illness. Even top researchers don’t know exactly what causes it and there isn’t a cure as yet. Recovery involves physio, diet, exercise, psychology, occupational therapy, counselling. However, if this is my diagnosis, it is something I will live with forever. At least though, I will know. It won’t be a series of “maybe you have this” or “maybe you should try….” There is nothing worse than the word ‘maybe’. So now I wait, I keep track of what’s going on in my body and I keep getting out of bed every single morning no matter how difficult or tiring or painful. I keep going.

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Paved with good intentions

“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book.”

J.K. Rowling

I love to read. I always have. Sometimes, I still go back and read books from my childhood just because they hold some of my best childhood memories. Lately though, due to extreme brain fog, I haven’t read a damn thing. I currently have 15 books loaned out from the library. A stack sat next to my bed, a stack on the coffee table. I had every intention to read them. Good intentions. One book, I had been wanting read for ages, it is the last of a series so I ordered into my local library. I haven’t even looked at it.

So I have these two great stacks of books that I look at every day and they just sit there. I should just return them but that feels like sort of… giving up. It’s like I would be admitting that right now I don’t have the concentration skills or ability to sit and read them. I love to read, so not wanting to or being able to feels like a bit of me is gone. I so want her to return, I liked me. I wasn’t the prettiest or skinniest or smartest or funniest or highest achiever, but I was me. I was okay being me. I was a wife and a mum and a friend and a soon-to-be teacher. I was liked, loved, I had fun, I made people laugh, I was a good listener, I had interesting things to say. Now, I’m still me, but different.

So I’m going to try and find me again and I will start with those books. One out of the fifteen and I will read it, even if it takes me a week (I used to be able to smash a book out in a day). Is it too ironic if I start with The Bad Mother’s Bookclub?

The cat known as Phoebe Buffay