Pandemic Survival Answers

Question

There are some mysteries, wonderings or questions to be answered so here’s an update:

RE: Pandemic Survival 7: Reality Bites

I am pleased and relieved to advise that the Youngest Son has tested negative for COVID-19. He still has to see out his quarantine for a few more days but the spectre of illness has left the building. And I can go back to work. Although not in quarantine myself, because of the vulnerabilities of the kids I teach, it was deemed best I stay away until we knew if the Youngest Son was infected. Unfortunately as a casual, no work = no pay, so I’m doubly relieved for a negative outcome. Or a positive outcome in a negative way…. Or a negative outcome in a positive way…. Or something….

 

RE: Pandemic Survival 6: Pubbing on the Couch

Thank you to those who attempted to locate this blogger in a sea of 1500 faces in Pub Choir’s latest video. Unfortunately (but predictably) nobody won the TimTams. However, for those of you who are still wondering, this is me:

Me in Pub Choir

 

Now, don’t you all feel better? Because I sure do!

Pandemic Survival 6: Pubbing on the Couch

Specifically, this couch:

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The pandemic and its lockdown necessities has certainly set many people on some steep technological learning curves.

Teachers, students and parents alike have had to learn about new apps and software and how to recreate lessons in purely online and electronic settings including, in this household at least, how to conduct an English exam through remote learning.

Those who have never had to work from home have had to see how that can work and to make it work. Admittedly, this now has possible positives in giving employees ammunition to argue for more family-friendly flexible working arrangements. (“See, I can do the work from home, so how about I do that two days a week from now on?”)

Restaurants have turned themselves into gourmet takeaways or suppliers of meals to essential workers.

And in the world of Arts and Entertainment, creatives have courageously embraced the technology available to make it Happen. From filmed stage productions being shared on various platforms to casts of musicals getting together to record songs via isolation to books and plays being read by all manner of celebrities all the way to small community outfits doing whatever they can to share their creativity.

As someone for whom singing forms a key part of my wellbeing, I have survived this pandemic and the inherited income adjustment in a number of ways.

Firstly, let me just say how grateful I am for streaming services and YouTube that provide a plethora of musicals to watch and join in. As a lover of and previous performer in many musicals, this has been an easy and inexpensive way to have a sing when I feel like it. (And yes, even if I wasn’t such a big Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar fangirl, joining Disney+ would have been worth it just for Hamilton.)

Secondly, I was lucky to be offered work in my role as a casual special education teacher despite schools being closed to all but the necessary. Singing is a big part of my teaching so getting to sing every week with some very special students kept me upbeat day after day.

Thirdly, my bar choir of which I wrote not long before the shutdown, scored some funding from a local government to offer Back Bar Choir Iso-style. This was conducted over Zoom every Thursday night for 6 weeks for free. Because of the time delay in the program, we all had to be muted other than the lovely Anna and Kate but even though you couldn’t hear the others, just seeing their happy faces on the screen made you feel like you were singing with a group of people. And, when restrictions eased a bit, I was able to turn my little she-shed into a bar for two. Singing Aussie classics like Horses and You’re The Voice in full throttle with a special friend in person and a collection of yet unknown ones on the screen in front of me whilst enjoying a glass of wine was enough to fill up my week with joy.

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One of those cupboards may or may not contain the ‘bar’. ūüėČ

And then, just recently, fourthly, I joined Pub-turned-Couch Choir because you can never have enough of pub singing. Pub Choir was started in Brisbane by the lovely Astrid Jorgensen and just before the pandemic hit, had become an international sensation with a tour of the USA underway. (My local Back Bar Choir is obviously based on the same model, something of which Astrid is supportive as long as it isn’t called “Pub Choir”.)¬† Rapidly closing borders caused Astrid, Waveney and the Pub Choir team to cancel the rest of the tour and hightail it home. Not to be squashed (Astrid seems a very upbeat type), Pub Choir launched Couch Choir as shown in this short documentary:

The procedure follows the usual pattern – learn one song in parts and sing it. Only, this time, Astrid teaches the parts via video and participants firstly learn their chosen part and then record themselves singing it. This recording is then sent to Couch Choir and through the monumental magic of video editing (thank you, Paris), all of it is put together to form one sensational performance. You can check them out here. I’d recommend the David Bowie song Heroes. Six thousand people from around the world submitted a video including many of our health workers. It’s quite moving.

But at the very least, check out the one below – the most recent one – because you may spot a familiar blogger. Mind you, with more than 1500 singers from 30 different countries, you’ll be hard pressed to find me (you’ll need a magnifying glass and a quick eye) so if you do manage it, I will send you a packet of Tim Tams.

 

It’s an incredible feeling to be part of this stunning community collaboration in a love of singing. I’ve wanted to participate in Couch Choir since I first found out about it through the documentary but it always takes me a while to convince myself I can do something and the usual three day turnaround just wasn’t enough time. For this song, we had a week to prepare and submit a video so I was able to spend a few days telling myself I could do it, then spend a day learning my part and then another recording and uploading it. What a fabulous reason to spend an afternoon in my shed and sing!

This pandemic has certainly stretched us all in a myriad of ways and I’m so happy people have discovered new means of sharing their skills and art for us all to enjoy.

Have you managed to find ways to pursue your joy?

A Claytons Resolution

June

It’s June. We’re almost at the middle of the year 2020.

So, how’s it going for you so far?

Yeah. I know.

I doubt any of us is experiencing the year we thought we would on January 1. Nothing quite like a global economic downturn on the back of a global pandemic to put a kink in your plans.

Although, as the world protests and campaigns against racial injustice on a scale not seen in decades, I can’t help thinking that this forced global awareness and time to reflect has some up sides.

I’m wondering if you made any New Year Resolutions for this year and how they’re faring in this “new normal”? Are you still on track as planned, on track but in a modified form or have you abandoned them altogether?

Did you give up on “going to the gym every week” or just adjust it to online classes? Did the lockdown actually make it easier to “learn a new skill”? Did it become just too challenging to “spend more time with friends”? Did you lose your job making it impossible to “save more money”?

2020 new year resolution

At the end of last year, I announced that I wasn’t making any resolutions for 2020 because the family was already facing enough challenges with an ending of long term employment and high stakes final years of education. Just surviving the year intact was enough of a goal to achieve.

But now, at the midpoint of a year that threw in even more challenges to exacerbate the ones we were already facing, I’ve realised I actually did make a resolution of sorts. A Claytons resolution. The resolution you have when you don’t have a resolution.*

At the end of last year, on the back of some work I had begun on improving my mental health, I made a commitment that in 2020 I would put my wellbeing first, closely followed by the needs of my own family. I would no longer be “on call” to others and if something wasn’t right for me and my wellbeing, then I would politely refuse/withdraw.

I also took on a mantra from a card I read early in the year: “I did not cause it. It is not my job to cure it.”

This wasn’t easy. I’ve been known to answer the call when unwell, when it inconvenienced my own family and when it probably wasn’t appropriate and it’s in my nature to want to step in and make things better in any way I can. But I knew I couldn’t go on the way I had the last few years and for my own health I had to change.

Of course, when the pandemic and subsequent restrictions hit, it became even more important to try and maintain this promise to myself as anyone who has followed me through the last three months will be aware.

But with support, I stuck to my plan. And, as it turned out, reaped the rewards.

Lessons Learned:

  1. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. In fact you owe it to the people around you to do so.
  2. You can look after your own wellbeing and good things will still come your way.

Even in the midst of all the challenges this year has wrought, I have been blessed. I’ve reached out and discovered the true friends in my life, been acknowledged and respected in my work, found joy in running for fun and explored new places to be fed spiritually and creatively.

Looking at stars

 

My wish for you at this midpoint of A Year For The Ages is that you are finding the kindnesses in life and that the route you are travelling while occasionally bumpy has stretches of smooth straight road in the company of people you love and who love you just as equally.

Blessings from my heart to yours.

 

*This phrase comes from a drinks commercial in the 1970s whose catchphrase entered the Australian vernacular to mean anything that you have without it really being that thing. More info here. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a video of the original ad with Jack Thompson but here’s a blooper:

 

 

Pandemic Survival 3: Finding a Way Through

The announcement finally came. It was predictable and I was expecting it but it still hit hard.

On April 7, our state government announced that students would continue to learn at home for Term 2, due to start after Easter. So another three months of unemployment for me.

But, as a dear friend said to me, “You can take the person out of the teaching but you can’t take the teaching out of the person.”

I’ve been finding a way through.

I have you wonderful people in this amazing blogging community to thank for the first step. When I first wrote about losing a job I love, many people asked if there was a way to communicate with the students online. Being a casual teacher, I don’t have access to those platforms at my school but then Dan mentioned recording videos and a germ of an idea sprung up in this still fertile mind (it’s all that bullcrap I store in there).

My ‘thing’ when teaching is music. I get a lot of jokes about moving out of home when I’m working because I walk in and out with an enormous suitcase and a guitar on my back. The suitcase holds a collection of instruments and song props – my own ‘bag of tricks’ as all good CRTs carry. I’ve previously mentioned that a favourite song is “When You’re Happy and You Know It” done with all sorts of different emotions and different actions to match.

So, I took a deep breath and I videoed myself singing this song, doing eight different emotions. (Trust me, this was huge. I am not a fan of being on camera.) I then split them up into different videos and edited them to include the PCS (Pictorial Communication System) card for that emotion before and after the song.

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Sample of PCS cards for feelings

The videos are not flashy. They are just me singing and playing the guitar with no great video effects. It’s because I wanted it to accurately replicate what it would be like for the kids at school. Truly. It’s not at all because I honestly couldn’t be bothered doing that much editing. Besides, there’s a plethora of flashy songs on the interwebs for the kids to access. How often will they get to see ME this term?

I also tried to keep the file size as small as I could while trying to keep a reasonable standard because some of our kids won’t have access to great internet.

Here is where I want to thank my lovely friend Naomi who has been my cheerleader through this process. She was the one I sent them to first because I knew I could trust her to tell me honestly if they were okay.

Fortunately she thought they were more than okay.

The next step was to send them to a suitable focus group. Luckily I am great friends with a number of preschoolers (even related to a few) so I sent the videos off to this treasured cohort and received a very positive response.

Last step – send them to the music specialist teacher at my school. I needed a gin and tonic before I could hit that send button despite all the previous positive feedback. Sharing your own creation with others is like sharing some deep uncertain part of yourself.

To my enormous relief, my work was received with great enthusiasm and gratitude.

Phew.

The videos are on YouTube but marked as Unlisted so you won’t find them without a direct link. While I wanted them easily shared, I didn’t particularly feel like making myself available to the world’s troll network.*

However, in the spirit of community and doing new things, I’ve included one of the videos here for you to have a squizz at what you helped create. I chose Sad because this is the one the kids always find hilarious at school and the great-nephew also declared it his favourite, with a giggle.

 

My other task to keep the sadness away has been to build activity boxes for a couple of three-year-old coffee buddies I know. I knew their parents would appreciate a bit of help keeping these bright and active little boys occupied over the coming weeks. Along with my colleagues Fellowes and Carl, I’ve been madly producing resources over the past week to box up and deliver as an Easter surprise.

If I were to list activities that help my mental health, I would definitely include laminating with rotary cutting close behind. I’m also a big fan of Velcro. So making these resources was like being in my happy place.

I knew I well and truly had my teacher hat on when I found myself with fifty gazillion tabs open in my browser from eleventy hundred different education websites and blogs looking for ideas and resources. If you think I’m exaggerating, you’ve obviously never done lesson planning.

As is always the case, it started out as a tiny idea that probably would have fit into a standard envelope that then morphed into a major undertaking for which I had to buy a packing box for delivery.

But boy, did I have fun? You bet your last dollar. Or my last dollar. In light of my current situation, I probably shouldn’t have been wandering the virtual aisles of the local office supplies store and hitting that Buy button quite so regularly but it’s always been way more fun to spend money on other people than on myself so really from a mental health perspective it’s money very well spent. Cheaper than therapy anyway.

And this little episode during a video chat with one of my little friends after he opened his box made my day:

A: Thank you for my box of things just for me! It’s awful!

A’s Mum: Awesome. You mean awesome.

My little teacher soul has been fed and will feel able to carry on for a little while.

I’m finding a way through.

How about you?

*If you really want to see the full playlist because you’d love to see all the videos or you can think of some little person in your life who would enjoy them, you can email me at mosyet42@gmail.com and I’ll send you the link.

Pandemic Survival

I’ve escaped to my she-shed. I have The Sound of Music* on my laptop, a glass of Four Pillars Shiraz Gin and tonic to hand, also a (large) packet of sweet potato chips and there are pretty candles inside and out and the city lights twinkling away.

Sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to survive unemployment and a house full of men in the Age of Lockdown.

*Yes, tragically I am quoting whole tracts of dialogue and singing all the songs. It’s my own special Isolation Sound of Music Singalong.

How are you surviving the close quarters with your loved ones?

Not About The Money

I lost my job yesterday. I work as a casual relief (substitute) teacher in a special education school. On Sunday, our state government announced that schools would be closed from Tuesday. It made sense. We were due to finish for two weeks of school holidays at the end of the week anyway so it’s only an extra four days. And I’d be happy to view it as that except that in the current environment, nobody actually knows how long this will last. Three weeks, six weeks, six months? It’s the unknown that gets to you.

Permanent and contracted staff will continue to be paid. Casual staff will not. I was booked in to replace a teacher for the whole week but that’s now ended. Should schools remain closed after the holidays, teachers will revert to the online provision of a program. How that works with high needs special education, I don’t know but what I do know is that online teaching will not require casual replacement teachers so there will be no work until the schools open again.

I’m luckier than others. I know that eventually, when this crisis is over, schools will reopen and my work will return. Others will not be so lucky as extended lockdowns send businesses to the wall. We’re also in a pretty solid financial position so we will survive the loss of income. I know I shouldn’t complain.

But here’s the thing – it’s not about the money.

I love my job. Work is my happy place. My students fill my heart and soul with joy and satisfaction. It’s the loss of this that has me feeling weighted down and my heart aching.

What will I miss?

I’ll miss

  • the utter joy on faces as I play my guitar and we bop along to I’m A Believer or Down On The Corner
  • the hysterical giggles when I sing all the funny voices for the different emotions in If You’re Happy and You Know it (angry and sad are favourites – that my students find my singing a song while crying as hilariously funny is slightly disturbing)
  • the literal tears of pride when a student achieves a learning goal for the first time
  • the cheeky and mischievous grins
  • finding that new way of doing something that means a student has a better day
  • the cheerful greetings as I walk around the school – as a CRT, all the kids know me and I know the name of every single one of them
  • working as a team with my Education Support co-workers, the true rockstars of special education
  • singing made up songs while pushing a swing to give a student with difficult behaviours a happy play time
  • all the feels – when my students are happy, sad, angry, upset, proud, unwell – they touch my heart so deeply

And I worry. I worry for the students for whom school is their safe space, the only place they receive what we call ‘unconditional regard’ and are nourished in body, mind and soul. I worry for the parents forced to give up work to care for their child every day and the financial impact of that and the lack of respite they will receive from the intensity it takes to care for a special needs child.

I know I am luckier than so many others but sometimes you just have to acknowledge that pain in your heart and what is causing it. I am grieving and the only thing that will fix it is a return to the job I love. It will come but it’s likely to be a long and challenging journey to get there.

How are you bearing up under the conditions imposed to combat COVID-19?

Stephen King quote on change

You Say You Want a Resolution

Well, you know, we all want to change the world…

(Apologies to Lennon and McCartney)

As the year ends and another begins, it behoves me to check in with my resolutions for the year and see what progress was made.

Hang on.

Just gotta go back and look up what they were…

Oh, that’s right.

1. Decline to take photos of other people when asked

Result: Failed

It’s hard to say no when someone asks you take a photo of them standing in the snow with the Himalayas behind them. (Apology: I never posted about this trip. Life got busy and complicated and I never quite got around to it. It’s still in the pipeline so keep an eye out in the coming weeks.)

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Obviously the photo I took is on their camera but here’s where we were at the time

2. Answer a question with another question to avoid talking about myself

Result: Failed

I do not possess this skill. Guess I’ll never be a politician. Sometimes failure has benefits.

3. Write all emails and messages in 25 words or less

Result: Mixed

I started out well on this resolution and was becoming quite adept at not only limiting my words to 25 words or less but managing to hit 25 words exactly on many occasions. It became something of a challenge. But some people were unhappy with my restricted words and once you make one exception, it’s hard to remember the rule as you go on. I still think it’s a worthy goal and may re-institute it for 2020.

4. Limit my consumption of American late night talk show monologues to once a week

Result: Passed

I pretty much stopped watching them altogether. Too depressing.

5. Go to the gym more regularly but not talk about it on social media

Result: Gold Star

Okay, so the actual gym attendance side gets a ‘Mixed’ result because I did drop off in the middle of the year but as I’d been diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism in May, all my exercise goals kind of took a nosedive. I did make up for it later in the year, going every day, but as it was part of getting caught in a dieting trap, that’s possibly not good either. However, I get a gold star for the social media thing. I did not post about it at all. How good is that? Okay, so it’s because I quit social media but it still counts. I ditched Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in April and have never regretted it. I wish I could say it means I spend less time on my phone but I’ve just switched to reading the news and doing brain puzzles (currently addicted to Picture Cross puzzles). I may be wasting time but at least my brain is getting a workout.

Picture Cross

Picture Cross puzzle – Maths and Art in one puzzle!

So it would appear that my New Year Resolutions took the way of most resolutions and landed in the ‘seemed like a good idea at the time but who can be bothered’ basket.

I’m not making any resolutions for 2020. The year ahead already has enough challenges in it and I’ll be too busy navigating those to set myself up with additional goals.

A very Happy New Year to you and I wish you the bestest of all things in the year ahead.*

Have you made any resolutions for 2020 or are you just going to wing it?

 

* I will not be wishing you luck for the next decade. My congratulations on completing another decade will be made at the end of 2020. Honestly, when did people stop being able to count to 10??

And in case, like me, my post title put a certain earworm in your head, here’s the full song. It’s gonna be all right.

A Very MOSY Christmas

So, what do you do when it’s two days before Christmas and you’ve been too busy to go out and buy a tree? When you’ve been so busy, you quite frankly can’t be bothered going out and buying a tree?

You could use the cheap plastic tree you bought once for an interstate Christmas and now gets relegated to being the classroom tree at work. You could, but it would undoubtedly send out work vibes and who wants that at Christmas?

You could just skip the tree altogether. After all, the children are all adults now. Would they really care? I care. It’s just not Christmas without a tree.

What do you do?

Well, when you’re a Jack of All Trades and a holder of things that ‘might come in useful’, you make one out of the pile of fence palings that have been languishing in a spot in the backyard for five years.

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I knew it would come in handy. Take that Marie Kondo.

Of course I planned carefully, measuring the distance between each paling to ensure uniform placement, using a protractor to ensure an accurate right angle so the palings were straight, trimming the ends to ensure a perfect Christmas tree shape.

Pfft.

I’m a Jack of All Trades. I ain’t got time for that. Just whack it together and see what happens is how it works in the MOSY workshop.

I put it together and then I wondered, “How do you hang the ornaments on it?” I don’t know what the official answer is but my solution was to bang small tacks into the palings in random places from which to hang the ornaments. I resisted the urge to place them in patterns. Actually, I was feeling too lazy to bother and just put them in wherever.

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Tiny tacks shorter than the width of your finger plus a hammer leads to banged fingers.

I’m pretty pleased really. I feel like some influencing sustainability lifestyle blogger on Instabook or something.

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Looks like a Christmas tree to me

I went out and bought a nice metal bucket to put it in and the boys (as is tradition) decorated it.

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It may a look a little out of place but the Weeping Angel on the top of the tree is now a family tradition.

And now we have a tree.

You know, in the spirit of the eco-conscious, it could be used for firewood afterwards. If it was winter which it isn’t. And we had a woodfire which we don’t.

MOSY Christmas everyone!

However you celebrate this time of year I wish you peace, happiness and love and all the best things for 2020.

 

Creating Myself Endlessly

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” ~ Henri Bergson

PUBLIC NOTICE

Dear Readers,

This post is going to talk about menopause. Well, more specifically about perimenopause, the period leading up to the point at which a woman’s menstrual cycle ceases permanently. Now, just hang on and read this notice before you decide to move on to another post about funny cats.

Women going through or having gone through perimenopause: Read on. I know you’ll relate.

Women yet to go through perimenopause (yes, you will): Read on or at least bookmark this post. One day you will want to know that you’re not the only one feeling the way you do.

Men: Please read. Please understand what this is like for the women in your life (there must be at least one, even if it’s the barista in your coffee shop). Be as awe-inspired and sensitive as Dylan Moran.

Hahaha, I was kidding. But I do love his acknowledgement that a woman’s body is just a bit more complicated than a man’s.

 

I’ve been trying to write this post for months. I add a bit, change a bit and then leave it in drafts. Do people really want to know about this stuff? Other than those of us currently going through it, that is.

Today, I was watching the Amazon Prime series¬†Fleabag.¬†(I know, I have ethical problems with being signed up to Amazon but I wasn’t prepared to wait for the dvd release of¬†Good Omens¬†(based on one of my favourite books by my favourite author (Terry Pratchett) and another author I love (Neil Gaiman) ) and then I got predictably sucked in by the cheap annual price. It was worth it for¬†Fleabag¬†alone.) And (I had to start a new sentence because the parenthesis discussion got a bit unwieldy) there was a fabulous speech by Kristin Scott Thomas’ character in an episode I watched today that I just had to include in this post. So, I’m sending the whole post out into the blogosphere with some tweaks here and there. Finally.

Here’s the speech from KST:

(To be honest, it’s worth watching the whole KST scene. You can find that here.)

And here’s the rest of the work-in-progress-now-hesitantly-posted post:

Here We Go

About a decade or more ago, I went to see¬†Menopause – The Musical. I laughed because it was funny and I understood most of the references from my general understanding of menopause but I couldn’t¬†empathise. It was a bit too early for all that.

Here I am now, however, at a far more advanced age and not only facing but experiencing The Change. It may be time to revisit the musical.

The thing is, what I most remember of the show is the jokes about the physical symptoms of perimenopause such as hot flushes. While I get the occasional warm moment during the night, I’ve not experienced them to any great extent.

What perimenopause did do to me is turn me into a lunatic. Well, you know, more of a lunatic than usual.

It took me a while to realise that I was going just a bit more crazy than usual at certain points of the month.

Psycho Me was taking hold of the wheel and in the back seat was a chorus of disapproving voices who liked to point out all my deficiencies and how much better the world would be without me.

Now, I’ve always suffered from the psychological effects of PMS¬†but this seemed different. I felt a bit more unhinged than normal.

After a particularly troubling event in which I transitioned from making jokes on Facebook to writing and sending some pathetic poem about what a lousy friend I am in a matter of minutes with no apparent cause, I consulted Doctor Google.

I learned that those women who have suffered from PMS in the past will find those symptoms exacerbated by perimenopause. Oh joy.

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Then I read this line: “The¬†average length¬†of¬†perimenopause¬†is 4 years, but for some women this stage may last only a few months or continue for 10 years.”

I burst into tears. I seriously didn’t think that I would make it four years let alone ten. I would have no friends left by then, turned away by my insanity. That was assuming I’d even live that long. Those negative voices could be nasty and I was finding myself in some dark places.

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The next day I made an appointment to see my GP. I knew that I was going to need pharmacological help to get through this and I wanted to see my youngest finish school and to see all of my boys become independent productive citizens of the world.

I was about to head overseas to Nepal and since I didn’t really want to be starting new medication when I was hours away from a hospital, I made the appointment for after my return. It did mean that while I was away I had a weird day with inexplicable tears at dinner and rage eating half a block of chocolate and a bag of snacks in my tent but I had a friend by my side so I made it through intact.

At the appointment with my GP after I returned from Nepal, I was prescribed a half-dose of an anti-depressant which I was to try and take only for the 7 days prior to my next period, the time it was presumed I would be most crazy. There was a problem with this plan. I was trying to predict a cycle that was becoming increasingly unpredictable.

But I followed the plan and kept notes on when I started and stopped medication and cycles and when the Mad Days came.

And the Mad Days were most certainly mad. On one occasion, I drove home from my singing group planning to email the leader and resign from the group because I was convinced everybody in the group hated me.

On the scariest day, I was carrying such an undercurrent of intense rage, I had to fight against the urge to floor the accelerator in the car and slam it into a tree. Even scarier, I didn’t even know what I was angry about.

menopausememe7

The most interesting discovery was that the Mad Days came not at a consistent ‘before’ date but at a consistent ‘after’ date – nearly always exactly two weeks after my period.

At my next check up with the GP, this was all discussed and it was agreed that I should take the medication every day. Once I had made my way through menopause, we would work at taking me off the medication.

At a final follow up two months later, the GP was astonished to learn that I had not had a psychotic incident since our last appointment. “But you’re on such a tiny dose!” he said. “It’s amazing that it’s had that much effect.” I could see him mentally filing away the information for the next patient that came in with similar symptoms. Lucky woman.

I’m not saying that my life is smooth and uneventful. I still struggle some days. But I no longer feel like some psycho has control of me.

I’ve reflected this week, in the wake of the arrival of a period that was some six weeks in the making, that in all likelihood my mad episode of dieting was probably hormonally influenced. Still a bit crazy then.

So. I travel on, creating myself over with each step of the journey and looking very much forward to that post-menopause stage of life when I can be a new, but probably still crazy, me.

pre-menopause

Escape From The Diet

I’ve never been a fan of diets. Breathless discussion of the latest fad by shiny-eyed converts over dinner makes me want to stab my ear drums.

Admittedly, I’ve never really needed to purposely diet, having been born with suitable genes to keep me reasonably thin. Not that I can eat what I want and never put on weight but a moderate approach to food and exercise seems to work.

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I work on the dieting theory that if my clothes start to feel a bit tight, I cut back on the naughty foods and exercise more until my clothes fit properly again. Then I go back to what I was doing.

I do occasionally undergo what I call the Stress Diet. Whenever life gets really challenging I tend to stop eating. The worse things are, the more weight I lose. After the deaths of my sister and niece my weight dropped to 52kg (115lb). I’m 173cm (5’8″) tall. Not healthy.

I think my main objection to diets, particularly those that target a particular food type such as carbs or sugar, is that they tend to demonise food. If you eat the ‘wrong’ food, it’s supposed to make you feel bad. Food is there for nutrition, yes, but it’s also there for enjoyment. And oddly enough, diets that are highly restrictive are shown to be ineffective in the long term. Hardly surprising. I mean, who wants to live without beautiful bread or delicious chocolate for the rest of their lives?

So then, how was it that I found myself recently counting and recording calories and obsessing about whether I could afford to eat that slice of freshly baked sourdough bread? Why was there an app on my phone adding up every little thing I ate and sending me messages if I forgot to input what I ate for lunch?

I told myself it was a motivation tool for exercise. After all, if I exercise, I burn calories and thus I earn extra ‘credit’. Maybe I could have that piece of chocolate?

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Making those 2km on the rowing machine worth it

I told myself, why not lose a little weight now that I didn’t have to keep my weight over a certain value so I could donate more plasma at the Blood Bank since I can’t donate for a year because of my pulmonary embolism?

To be honest, my original intention was to lose a lot of weight. I was hurting. Not physically but mentally and emotionally. But mental injuries don’t show and it’s hard to convince people that you’re in pain. I thought if I could suddenly lose a lot of weight maybe it would be a physical signal to people that I was not okay.

So I signed up to an app and I set a strict weight goal and I started counting calories.

Of course, as part of this I started exercising more regularly and I started to feel better within myself. But by then, the Diet Cult had me in its grip.

I cut out breakfast and lunch and tried to minimise what I ate in the afternoon when I got home from work. I switched from my favoured flat white coffee to an espresso. I went to the gym and worked hard despite pain in my left foot. I started researching low calorie meals I could cook for dinner to help keep my calorie count low despite the fact that the men in my family all actually need extra calories in their diets.

But it was when I found myself drinking black tea – which I loathe – and going to bed hungry and sad that I realised that I had in fact fallen into exactly the traps I don’t like about diets. I was paranoid about what I ate. I felt guilty about every extra little treat I recorded in the app. I got depressed when my weight didn’t go down as fast as I wanted.

I deleted the app from my phone and I broke the diet. Oh boy, did I break it!

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And in the weird way the internet has of tapping into your psyche, just as I was coming to the realisation, on a YouTube session on the TV I stumbled across this hilarious piece from Michael McIntyre. It was like a sign. I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks and I knew it was time to ditch the diet and go back to my usual plan – Everything In Moderation. Or, Run Marathons So I Can Eat As Much Chocolate As I Want.

 

Have you tried any diets? Did they work for you?