My Attempt to Escape Reality: The Big Move Down Under

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I made many attempts to escape reality, but this was a particularly bad one.

Leaving home felt so difficult. I love to travel and have travelled lots, so this unsettling feeling and fear of travelling was rather unusual to me. But I ignored it all and pushed through; I decided that I was going to move to Australia one way or another.


WHY DID I GO?

I still don't understand how I found the courage and stupidity to fly away from everyone that cared about me, during such a hard time. I had recently had a mental breakdown, and was only starting to recover from said mental breakdown (I’ve hit rock bottom many times – you can read all about it HERE).

But moving to Australia felt like an escape; I felt like I could run and hide from my mental illness. It turns out that no, one cannot do this!


LIFE DOWN UNDER

A few days into my life changing adventure and I woke up with the right side of my face paralysed; half of my face was completely frozen and numb. Even my eye had to be taped shut, as I couldn’t move it without physical aid.



At first I thought "it's a stroke", but after a visit to the emergency department, I was told "it's actually Bell's Palsy".

I ended up needing a lot more professional help though, and in the end it became clear that nobody knew what was wrong with me, or how to deal with it. And not knowing the health system in Oz or anyone that could help me with it, I hit rock bottom fast.

Within a few days of the facial palsy, I also developed this unbearable pain on my face, down my throat & neck. All this was on the right side only. My left side must have been thanking it's guardian angel!

Still, the pain was extreme, and it was always there. Suicide often crossed my mind; I just needed to stop the pain somehow, ya see.

I used to describe it as if someone was pulling a rope out of my face, through my throat & neck. It was horrific. Everything hurt me, even sunlight and the wind on my face would leave me in agony, I was THAT sensitive.


THE SEIZURE(S)

Yes, there were seizures. One morning, I woke up to find my tongue was cut and there was blood in my mouth. I'd had a small seizure. I was also twitching all the time, we're talking really sharp muscle spasms that stopped me from speaking. Two days later, I experienced a major seizure. 

The bigger one ended with me in hospital; I woke up in a hospital bed with no recollection of how I got there.

Turns out, I had a tonic-clonic seizure (a type of generalized seizure that affects the entire brain) and an ambulance was called out for me. I had been unconscious for hours. Apparently, I was shaking violently (think The Exorcist) and eventually I just stopped moving and stared into space (again, The Exorcist), and repeat.

In the ambulance they sedated me (I was told) and in hospital various test were carried out, including a Lumbar Puncture or Spinal Tap (it’s called that because they tap your spine to get liquid from your brain so find out what the fuck is happening up there). But I had hardly any recollection of any of it. 


WRONG DIAGNOSIS 

After a few days in hospital, it was explained to me that I had Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and not Bell’s-fucking-Palsy. I use the word “fucking” because I did my own research (Doctor Google) and I did tell many doctors that it didn’t feel like Bell’s Palsy as Bell’s Palsy is pain free and I was definitely pain full!

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is basically Shingles which affects facial nerves. This results in paralysis and extreme pain to the surrounding area (it was bliss(!)). The pain actually has a special name too, it's called Post-herpetic neuralgia.  I'm so fancy.

I was also told that my seizure was a result of the crazy cocktail of medications that I was given. I was literally taking drugs every hour of every day; I was on pregabalin, oxycontin, amitryptiline, codeine, tramadol, and then some. I was seeing little green men and singing Tiny Dancer (by Elton John) most nights.

If I wasn't so in need of those drugs, I could have made a lot of money selling that shit. I later found out that these drugs were good stuff! Did you know Pregabalin and Oxycontin are two of the most wanted pharmaceutical drugs out there?! I’m talking Black Market, of course. Serious dollars.
Anywhoozle, it was too many drugs; I basically overdosed on legal drugs. I was rock 'n' roll and didn't know it!


MORE COMPLICATIONS 

When I was discharged, the hospital was kind enough to provide me with speech therapy.

My case was so rare that I ended up having two speech therapists come over to my house every day for over two months. They treated me as their little project; I was their guinea pig which worked out well because they gave me 150%. Once my treatment with them was complete, they even used my case in training material for future reference.

I made great recovery, and luckily, I now have full movement of my face again. Huzzah!
The paralysis lasted approximately six months. Long enough, I hear you.

Unfortunately, during these six months, I also had complications due to the Lumbar Puncture they had to carry out in hospital.

When I fucking fuck shit up, I fuck shit up! Go big or go home, AMIRITE?!

Following my Lumbar Puncture, I was left with Cerebrospinal Fluid leak. This basically means that a hole is left where the needle was injected for the Lumbar Puncture, and fluid from your brain keeps leaking through this tiny hole in your spine until it is closed somehow.

Symptoms include:
  • Severe spinal headaches (which are more severe in the upright position and are alleviated by lying down with the head lower than the chest)
  • Nausea
  • Tinnitus
  • Horizontal diplopia (double vision)
  • Change in hearing
  • Blurring of vision
  • Facial numbness
  • Tingling of the arms
I was so unwell, again, that I ended back in hospital. It was so bad; any movement left me in tears from the severe headaches and the nausea.

A week later I was taken into theatre for a special procedure called Epidural Blood Patch. This is a surgical procedure that inserts your own blood into the area with the leak, in order to close the hole in the dura mater of the spinal cord.

This left me so extremely stiff (on top of the original Ramsay Hunt Syndrome pain) that I needed help with any minor movement, including sitting on my high toilet seat frame. Needless to say, I loved my time in Australia (Not).

I don't think I've ever felt so lonely in my life.

My mum eventually decided to fly out to Oz to help me. I felt awful that she had to pay for a ticket and travel all that way because of me, but I couldn't travel and couldn’t have been happier to see her.
During all this physical illness, my mental illness was also trying to kill me. I will never forget the pain and despair, and how small, low and worthless I felt during those months.




COMING HOME 

Once I left the hospital for good, a pain specialist asked me "why are you still here? You're not well and your mental health is deteriorating. You need a lot of support, or you won't get better. So, why are you here?"

Those words sent me packing. After four months, I decided to give up on this "adventure", and within days, I was on my way back home.

It hit me that I was only still living this hell in Australia because I thought this was the way to escape my mind.


"Wherever you go, there you are"

Basically, I couldn’t escape my mind; I can’t escape my mind. It’s just not a thing I can do.
I needed to go home and face what my mind was trying to force me to see & feel; which was to STOP and FOCUS on myself, on my health, on my life. Things needed to change and running away wasn’t the answer.

Australia is one of the worst times of my life, and this is going to sound crazy, but I am grateful for that experience now.



That experience taught me a lot; I aged ten years thanks to it, but it forced me to stop. My body mentally and physically stopped working, this gave me no choice but to stop everything, and begin again. So, I let myself be sick; I didn’t give up but I gave in and let myself hit rock bottom, instead of fighting it. For me, it was the only way to start healing.

Analysing my life and my choices was no longer an option, but a necessity.

I'm more aware now, and so much wiser. Don't get me wrong, I'm not wise...just wiser than before. And I'm still on pause mode, trying to recover from this plus many other times that I didn’t take care of myself. But I'm finally okay with that; I’m still alive, I now have awareness, and I’m coming home to myself.

Thanks for beating me up, beautiful Land of Oz, I needed it.

And this, my friends, is how I started to learn that self-care is a priority!



PS: It must be said that I do not, in any way, blame Australia for what happened to me.

There's Bad Change, but There's Good Change too

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I'm someone who is petrified of sudden change.

When warned, in advance and depending on the change, then maybe I can cope, manage and deal with it.

However, I am also someone who needs change...often. I know; it's a mind fuck. But I need to change my hair, my nails, how I look, often; I'm in a lifelong identity crisis.

This past week though, it wasn't my appearance that I've felt the need to change. I've been feeling restless and struggling to stay in my room. A room which I loved very much. I was so restless and it was all affecting me so much that I booked a last minute therapy session to talk about it.

When there's need for change, there's something within me that needs changing...when external is affected, it is always something within that is in turmoil.  I can't say this is the rule for everyone, although I THINK it is, but this is spot on for me. If I'm acting weird, then there's something weird going inside my head. Always.

This time was no different.

Whenever I finish a therapy session like this week's one, I feel like "IT WAS SO OBVIOUS!" and I used to beat myself up for needing help to unravel these things, today I congratulate myself for knowing when to ask for help and for not suppressing my emotions, but rather going: "Something is wrong; I need help and I accept it". That shit is hard to admit in the society we live in. But the society we live in is fucked, nobody can make it out here alone; my advice - ask for help and accept it.

Anywhoozle...

Here's what I found out about the restlessness I've been feeling lately....IT WAS ALL TO DO WITH MY LAST RELATIONSHIP (Or RelationSHIT as I call it in my head). And also the Harvey Weinstein news. Learning about what an abusive prick Harvey Weinstein is has triggered me, in a huge way; it's brought flashbacks of times when I was sexually abused and emotionally abused, which links to my ex who I was with for over a decade.

I've been feeling this general restlessness, frustration and need to change my bed and all the things in my bedroom. And I couldn't understand it. I thought I was being dramatic and  having a whole new batch of good 'ol BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) impulse. However, after a much needed therapy session, turns out that Harvey Weinstein triggering my past abuse, links to the ex (obvs!) who spent a lot of time in my bedroom, staining everything with his presence. This links to a lot I'd like to change in my bedroom because it reminds of the ex, who behaved like Harvey Weinstein!

Yes, I needed my therapist to help me get there, and * I repeat * I'm so damn proud of myself for asking for help...and then accepting it.

Moral of the story: My restlessness and frustration, which was on the verge of leading me to self-harm, was there for a reason; it was bringing my attention to something that I was uncomfortable feeling but needed to feel.

There is a reason you're feeling what you're feeling. My advice? GET A (good) THERAPIST.

I've now changed my bedroom completely, it's changed this much:

BEFORE


AFTER!


I am no longer feeling frustrated and restless; I'm a lot calmer and so comfortable.

I had to make these changes. My past got the better of me, but not for long, because I asked for and accepted help. Everything that was negatively affecting me from my past relationship is now gone. This room is all me, and I even got my small writing space back (Which means the world to me).

Let go of shit that no longer serves you, especially when it no longer serves you in a healthy way.

It's okay to feel.
It's okay to let go.
It's okay to move on.
It's okay to feel emotional about it.

It's okay, you know? It's okay to be you. It's okay to just not be okay. It's okay to not be okay" (Kristen Stewart)

The Book that Contributed to me Talking Sex

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‘Becoming’ by Laura Jane Williams entered my world at the perfect time; when I needed it most. I found Becoming; a memoir about “sex, second chances and figuring out who the hell I am”, just after having a mental breakdown and walking away from an abusive relationship. I felt done; done with being fucked over, and the author’s story was similar to mine but a few years ahead, so I obviously wanted to read this story and see how it ended.

The book helped me feel stronger and it made me feel like I needed to spend some time with myself; mind, body and soul. This included not sharing my body with anybody, so I went on an abstinence adventure and decided to search within myself (I know, what a cliché).

The author says that “None of us is fucking up like we think we are” and with ‘Becoming’ she really made me believe this. I also love that the book doesn’t end with a fairy-tale “Happily Ever After” type ending; where she goes off with her prince. The ending to ‘Becoming’ is REAL (SPOILER ALERT!) – the book ends with the author continuing her journey of self-discovery by herself, and that strongly contributed to my decision to be with myself and myself only for as long as I need.


Genuinely Me 

Being with myself kick-started my journey of self-healing; I discovered that I was very dishonest – not in a mean way, but more a “I hate myself and I’m too scared of others getting to know this horrible woman” kinda way. After spending some time with myself (thanks to my amazing therapist and this incredibly honest book) I felt empowered, and I am now slowly realising that I’m kind of a badass; I’m alright and if others don’t like me as I am, then they shouldn’t be in my life.

As a result, I started to talk and open-up and share honestly; I embraced my story; my truth, and claimed everything that ever happened to me. I also was suddenly extremely honest about my mental health; my emotions, my feelings, my opinions, my thoughts, my experiences.

Learning about me, inevitably, resulted in me acknowledging that I’ve been through a lot of abuse. And this is where I began to process all the abuse and traumatic experiences. I soon realised that it was impossible for me to continue healing if I didn’t explore, open-up and talk about sex.

My honesty also helped me understand that I needed time to heal; I couldn’t lie to myself anymore; I couldn’t say “I’m fine” and smile anymore. It hit me that I needed to allow myself to be sick and hit rock bottom to begin healing. Which sounds morbid, but my god it’s been liberating; it’s been really hard, but it has changed my life for the better and that makes it worthwhile and in my opinion; just bloody wonderful.

As part of my healing journey, I’ve not only resulted to embracing my truth and speaking honestly about me and my life, but I have also decided to sign up and go to lots of different events. One of these special events was an evening listening to Laura Jane Williams read from her book ‘Becoming’.


The Scarlet Ladies 

It all started with an Instagram post by the author; Laura Jane Williams. "Event Alert!" it said, followed by her telling us that she was going to be doing an event with the 'Scarlet Ladies Talk', which would involve readings from her memoir; Becoming, as well as open discussions on "love, sex, when the two collide and what happens when they don't..."

She had me at "I'll be doing readings from BECOMING" as it's one of my favourite books. The love + sex discussion part was just a huge BONUS!

The evening turned into a special, intimate gathering of inspiring, open and empowering women. Picture this: Approximately fifteen badass women, sat around in this gorgeous little room, having deep conversations and openly sharing their stories, in a safe and judgement-free environment.

My Buddha, we talked bad shags, communicating our wants and needs in the bedroom, orgasms (obvs!), masturbation (also, obvs!), acting like a porn star to please partners, relationships, pressures of marriage & children, and so, SO much more! You get the gist though -  it was hours of deep conversations, and it was one of the most liberating experiences I have had to date.

I left this event on a high, and needing MORE; something had shifted within me, and I couldn't go back to the person I was a few hours before that event. I needed to explore my sexuality more, and talk about my sexual experiences like I had never done before.


Now #ITalkSex too 

Forward to a few months after this talk, and thanks to that experience, I am now a full-on member of the Scarlet Ladies, and part of their #ITalkSex campaign (Yeah Baby!) And I’ve got to say, it's been life changing, bloody wonderful and I couldn't be more excited for this new adventure.

All in all, it’s like the author of ‘Becoming’ gave me permission to go after the things I want in life; it felt like a dear friend had told me that “it’s ok to feel things and want things and heal in your own time; it’s ok to live your life for you.” One of my favourite quotes is actually by this beautiful author and it sums this up perfectly, she says:


"You're the Heroine of your own life, Act like it!"
(Laura Jane Williams)

This is Me // Question: "What Do You Do?" Answer: "I'm Being"

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* Trigger Warning: This post talks about suicide attempt and self-harm and also contains photos of self-harm scars, which could be a trigger to some. If you choose to keep reading, please tread carefully *



If I had continued to push on rather than completely stop and take care of myself, I wouldn't be here today. I was going to die. 

I broke down in 2004.
And then again in 2010 and 2011, and 2012, then again in 2013 and in 2014 and I've been in a mental health crisis since that breakdown. I also had other minor breakdowns in-between. I've spent a lot of my life breaking down, and I didn't actually know it until my 2014 breakdown.

My 2014 breakdown literally paralysed my face and left me in agony...



This breakdown was the one that came closest to killing me. It might sound morbid and drastic, but I needed that breakdown. Without it, I'd still be shut off from my reality, and maybe I wouldn't be alive now. That bad boy woke me up to what I was feeling and going trough; after that one, I couldn't try to live in denial anymore. To me this proves that ignorance is not always bliss!

It took me a while to become aware of what was happening. I always thought "I'm a strong, independent woman. I'm fine, just being dramatic, is all. But I'm fine". Awareness is tricky - when you do have it, it is like a whole new world has opened up to you but it is also one of the hardest things to have. Awareness is like someone has literally opened your mind and let all this new information in. It's hard because you know and are aware of this new world, however many around you may not have that awareness, and that makes it ever so tricky to live with.

After I became aware that I was having mental breakdowns, I realised that if I didn't change myself and my life drastically, then I would end up with a lovely funeral. I was well on my way to succeeding with my suicide attempts. And my self-harm episodes were only getting worse and worse; I was now cutting through muscle and getting closer and closer to my veins, where everything could end. Which is what I wanted at the time, to be honest. Now I realise that I'm too badass to die that young (Is that big headed? Ah well, I don't care)



It took my mum dragging me to the GP with cuts and blood all over my arms. Then, after the NHS failed to provide me with the right treatment, it took my mum begging and pleading with me to see a private psychotherapist. By this point, I had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. So, I was dealing with a serious mental illness, without the appropriate help, and it wasn't going well.

I eventually did give in and agreed to see a private psychotherapist. And now I think of the day she agreed to take me on as a client, as the day that she began to save my life.

After over a year of therapy, something has finally shifted within me. I'm now working on my rising; I'm coming home to myself. And it's likely I'm gonna survive this illness.

I quit my events career back in 2014, and have since been relying on savings, financial help and my family for financial and general help. There was a point where I couldn't get up; I couldn't move to brush my teeth or get out of bed before 6pm. Some days I was too tired and in too much mental & physical pain to even cut myself - and I was addicted to cutting myself so this really says a lot.

I still get days where I'm suicidal and I feel the need to self-harm, but I manage to keep myself safe now. I really got this. And this wouldn't be my reality if my family, my therapist, and my best friends weren't there for me. My support network has helped so much, and that's another thing that's key; ask for help and accept it. I know that's hard, trust me; I tried to keep going alone for many years, but it doesn't work. Asking for and accepting help can change your life for the better. Take a leap of faith. Please.

Thanks to therapy and the right medication, I am in a completely different place. I'm getting out of bed for starters! I'm blogging, I'm making jewellery that I love and selling it here, I'm working on becoming a Death Doula and a writer (just signed up to a writing workshop and gots my eye on an MA in Creative Writing, uh huh), I want to train as a Burlesque Dancer and a Yoga Teacher. Now I realise that there's so much I want to do. My life is so different. In the words of C.S Lewis:

"You are never too old to set another goal 
or to dream another dream"

I finally have moments of inner peace, I know how to manage my illness and how to take care of myself. I'm having to re-build my life from scratch, but it's wonderful to be able to do and to be the things I actually want, rather than follow the rat race, ignoring my illness and working in corporate events I hate for the rest of what would've been a short life.


I'm taking my time, but I'll get there. So when you ask me what I do, I'd like to tell you that it's not very much in terms of paid work, but it's a lot in terms of working my life out and living it. Don't judge me or others in similar circumstances - or judge me, I don't care anymore - as you have no idea what we have been through and how much we fight to simply survive each day.

I have fought so hard to be the woman I am today. I'm proud of myself , where I'm going and how I'm getting there, and if you don't get that, well, that's none of my business.









Faby & Carlo

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First of all, let me introduce you to Faby & Carlo: these gems are a husband and wife photography team, based in London. They specialise in photographing women, boudoir style, and let me be the one to tell you that they are simply wonderful. And I truly hope to one day be photographed by this power duo again.

That's right, I was lucky enough to be photographed by them. It was all part of the #ITalkSex campaign which the Scarlet Ladies launched in August this year. I talk in detail about the #ITalkSex campaign here and here - but in short, it's a campaign which aims to normalise the talk around female sexuality. Because, simply and beautifully put, "Female sexuality is not a dirty secret. It’s a part of who we are".


Photographs by the fabulous Faby & Carlo 

During the photo shoot, Faby & Carlo went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and calm. I had no idea what to expect, as I'd not done a photo shoot like this before. Needless to say, I was quite nervous; excited but also nervous as fuck. And it's truly daunting how much having cameras pointed at you can make you feel self-conscious.

However, that eventually changed during the photo shoot, as Faby & Carlo were so patient and welcoming, that soon all that insecurity just drifted away. Before the actual photo taking began, the duo first talked to me, to put me at ease - how nice is that?! I was not expecting for the photographers to be so understanding and kind, these two really set the bar high. I thought I'd be expected to feel great from the get-go and possibly even rushed, but this was far from my reality with Faby & Carlo.

They started off by talking to me about the things I enjoy.

"What's your favourite thing?" Faby asked
"Deep conversations" I replied. 

And so they talked to me about life, growing up, sex (obvs!), where I'm from, where they're from (they're from Italy, by the way, sexy much?!) It all turned out to be these wonderful moments of having deep conversations whilst they photographed me. It worked wonders, as at times I genuinely forgot that I was being photographed and the results are fucking marvellous; I look natural, happy and I'm owning my body. Most importantly, I look like me, and I'm forever grateful for that. As it turns out, the real me is a beautiful woman, you guys. You be the judge...











You've gotta agree with me that the photography skills here are on point - AMIRITE?! They also encouraged me and smiled at me as if to say "Yeah lady, you got this!" Which really got me thinking "Yeahhhh, I'm a natural model! I got this!"

I feel like they really made an effort to get to know me and make me feel at ease and special. With make up and hair done, and a gorgeous dress which was really ME me - which by the way, Faby picked out as she thought it was the most ME dress available! I just felt so glamorous and sexy and beautiful.







I was blown away by the whole experience, and since doing this shoot I've felt comfortable enough to do others - to me that says a lot about how beautiful and confident Faby & Carlo made me feel during my first experience like this. This experience also shifted something within me; I used to dislike being photographed and I hated photos of myself, now I'm all for it - now, the more photos of me, the merrier! And I genuinely believe that this has to do with the judgement free, comfortable and safe space that Faby & Carlo create, but also the photos were absolutely stunning and they've helped me see myself in a different way; I look good, I look damn fine and I'm going to embrace this woman. 

I highly recommend doing a boudoir style photo shoot with Faby & Carlo, if you can. I see myself in a whole new positive badass light now, and these gems have definitely contributed to that feeling. 


Thanks for the magical experience, Faby & Carlo. You rock.






NOTE: All photographs are by Faby & Carlo 





















Monthly Reflections 2017: Goodbye September, Hello October!

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It's been another wonderful month, although there's been a lot of physical pain and exhaustion this past few weeks, I have managed to cope and actually thrive! 

So, looking back over September, and forwards to October:

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