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Yesterday I used the word epiphanous

January 11, 2018
IMG_6007

first trip out of the house, with headband for visual cluing and one ear deafness comfort

It has been an age between blog posts but I feel compelled to write.

The tables have been turned, the world is upside down and I’ve been turned inside out. And I am literally spinning.

This blog and website used to be about me as a Naturopath and my pursuit to assist others to follow their wellness path. But because of my own health issues over the past few years I am no longer a practicing naturopath and my health focus has become introspected. I’m grateful for all of those years of naturopathic training which now make me an accomplished medical self-advocate and make it easier to navigate the illness landscape.

My collection of health tags over the past year or so include: chronic fatigue syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), severe obstructive sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, depression, recurrent miscarriage and infertility. I had to stop work in July. Life has changed immeasurably and I felt I’d become a shadow of my former self.

But against this chronic illness backdrop I’ve recently been through an acute medical event and it has broken my heart wide open with a massive outpouring of love and hope. Yesterday I used the word epiphanous. I want to document some of these feelings so that I can revisit them once the natural order of things has seen them move on.

So a little recap of what’s been happening in the last two weeks……

I went into the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne on 30 December and came home again four days later, having spent a New Years Eve unlike anything I could have expected. It seems ‘2017 – the year of medical challenge’ had one last oddity to throw at me. The most likely diagnosis is Labrynthitis causing loss of hearing in my left ear and intense dizziness & vertigo, due to damage of my vestibularcochlear cranial nerve (thank goodness for my anatomy and physiology education!).

CT scans and MRI have excluded a brain tumour. A minor stroke was mentioned as a differential diagnosis by the Neuro team but I think that’s not so likely. The more simple explanation is that I just had a weird virus and that’s what’s brought me to this point.

The process of being in hospital was entirely humbling and made me weep with gratitude. Throughout the hospital stay I did pretty good all things considered, dosed up on steroids, antivirals, pain meds and valium. For the most part I stayed in really good spirits, being so grateful for the amazing care I was receiving.

It’s probable that the left ear hearing loss will be permanent. The audio technician who did my hearing test gave me a 2% chance of getting it back and said that there’s not enough hearing left to amplify which makes a hearing aid a non-option. But I still have one good ear… so that’s good.

I was discharged from hospital last Tuesday. Everything feels very different-dimensional, other-worldly.

I’ve spent a lot of time hiding out in my bedroom with the blinds down and in soft sheets, which is the sanctuary I’ve needed. I feel I need to restrict external sensory overload so I can start to process the new sensory internal landscape. It feels like my body is releasing trauma so I’m just going with it and being kind-to-self and gentle and soft, keeping myself in a bubble as much as possible.

The lessons have been coming thick and fast:

Day 1 out of hospital: “Slow down and listen in.”

Day 2: “Follow the body, follow the body, the body knows what to do.” My body said surrender, surrender, surrender and wrap yourself in blankets. So I did. With the aircon cranked up so I didn’t melt.

Day 4: “Hang in there. Be soft. It’s all about the soft.”

I feel like I’m being turned inside out as I navigate this new reality. It’s bringing up so many memories, people, events, music, visuals from years ago that I’ve not thought about for years. It’s like a tap that won’t turn off. I’ve re-connected with people I haven’t spoken to in an age. I’m reaching out, it feels good. I’m broken open.

At times I feel like I’m going to die and have to get all the feelings out before I disappear. A little piece of fear whispers that maybe I have had a stroke and another one could be imminent. But more likely it’s because I feel like I’m dying to my old self and I will rise up like the Phoenix more real than ever.

It’s likely the medications are meddling with my brain. I’m sure the steroids are creating a state of semi-mania. But it’s pleasant. And I’m in full awareness of it. And it’s giving me energy. If I need to I can try and manage it with meditation…. or valium. But I also want to enjoy it whilst it is here because it is inevitable that it will change and pass and become something else. And for that I sometimes feel a hint of grief roll past.

I am feeling more love than I’ve ever felt and it’s amazing. It’s like a fountain has opened up in me, I guess that’s what a bit of trauma can do. I feel like I’m in the midst of a huge heart opening and I’m going with it and hoping it doesn’t stop too soon because apart from all the nasty physical manifestations there is something rather special happening for me right now.

I try and reach out a bit further each day but I’m still really wobbly, like a boat at sea on rocky water, I walk with a stick, I’m cognitively challenged and my left ear doesn’t work.

But I feel like the world is possible again. Chronic fatigue made me disappear and the Labyrinth has brought me back to life.

Love to you xxx

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When things go bump in the night

June 27, 2014
Love Fire embroidery by Iviva Olenick

Love Fire by Iviva Olenick, 2010. Embroidery on fabric with applique/collage. 6″ X 8.5″

This isn’t the post I thought I’d write but sometimes things go bump …. or whirr, or flash, or rumble ….. in the night.

I was intending to write my first blog post in AGES today and had a topic in mind. But….. an extraordinary thing happened to me in the early hours of the morning. It left me feeling really quite rattled and I felt compelled to write about it. In fact, at 5.30am when I still couldn’t sleep, I shared some words on facebook in the hope that it would help settle me, it did…. which is nice. They elicited some nice feedback from good friends, much appreciated at times when de-rattling is required.

Words are good like that sometimes aren’t they – writing them down helps morph our worries from formless thinkings to tangible, clarifying statements so we can move past times of discomfort, sometimes even learning something in the process.

So, onwards with the story.

Today I woke up thinking it was morning, given I could see light coming in atop the curtains. Alas not, 5 fire trucks were outside, the house 4 doors down was on fire.

We went and hung out with the neighbours on the pavement for a bit. I felt sad that I don’t really know them. Two of them owned the house next door to the main firey house, the fire had spread to their roof and was making its way through the back. They didn’t know when they’d be allowed back in, doubtful as to if it would be liveable for some time. Their house is the one I love in our street because it has a little frangipani tree in the garden, a rare thing in Melbourne town and my favouritist flower of all time.

It’s a job to know what to say when you’re speaking to people you’ve only said hello to once before, whose house is on fire and you’re watching the smoke billowing out of their roof. Our previous communication had been much more genial and frangipani related.

Everyone was safe, everyone got out. I wanted to hold everyone’s hand and give them a little squeeze and wrap them in blankets but they may well have thought me a little nuts should I have done so. I did ask if I could do anything, if there was anything they needed, offered brandy and coats. There were other neighbours there that knew them better.

Sometimes there is just nothing you can do.

I tried to get back to sleep with all the fire trucks still there, lights flashing, engines whirring, firemen shouting instructions. I love firemen.

Two quite funny things happened amidst the not funny things.

No. 1. First light this morning I went out to get a look in daylight and chatted to a nice firemen and thanked him and all firemen everywhere for their fabulousness. A far too sprightly women appeared with too much make up on and in a persuasive manner tried to get me to talk to her about the happenings whilst a man appeared with a large TV type camera. I scuttled away quickly, wrapped in my blanket, with very bad morning hair and wearing pyjama pants that have seen better days. It would not have been a good look on morning tele. I also had nothing informative or newsworthy to tell her. It’s somebody else’s story.

No. 2. Last night as we were going back inside, just after I’d thanked another fireman for coming to save everyone (I love firemen, as you may have already gathered) and as I was bumbling up the path, my aforementioned sadly old pyjama pants slipped down and I may have mooned the firemen just a little. Ooooopps.

Wishing you the safest and sweetest of sleeps tonight.

Sue x

ps. To illustrate this fiery tale I decided to do a little interweb search, I found this amazingly beautiful embroidery and discovered the work of textile artist Iviva Olenick. She even has embroideries that look like Softie Portraits a la Reginald. Amazing.
h a p p y    c o i n c i d e n c e ?

 

being grateful

January 4, 2014

365gratefuls cover

On Christmas Eve a new book I had ordered arrived. It was a good Christmas present for myself.

365 gratefuls, the book, originated from a project by Hailey Bartholomew. In 2008 Hailey had decided to embark on a year long project in which she took a polaroid of a moment every day that she was grateful for, in order to fight depression. It worked.

The idea had arisen after some consultation with a nun, who, during a counselling session, suggested that the secret to happiness was through gratitude and reflection. The year long project proved hugely inspirational for many people as Hailey shared her project via Flickr. The project became a book, a movement and will soon be a documentary too. Brilliant!

It reminds me of something I suggest to many of my patients that are having issues with depression, melancholia, big stress, whatever you want to call it. “Keep a positive diary”, I say. List 3 things everyday. Little things are best – you made a great tasting sandwich, a baby smiled at you on the tram, you looked up as you were walking to work and the sky looked cool, something on the tele made you laugh for an instant.

Of course you can list big things too. Or really quite mundane things. Even if it is the teeny tiniest of things. Or less than 3. Or more. It’s your list. If you like papery stationery things buy a lovely book to record your “things” in. Whatever way you decide will make it work for you. Just do it. Every day.

I decided that I wanted to be grateful everyday and I decided I’d like to do it in a visual way, like Hailey. I chose this app, Collect, to help me do so. There’s lots of journal apps out there but this one looked good to me, and having used it for over a week now, I have to say I like it. Look…. this is the first one I did.

collect grateful no 1

You might think that on Christmas Day I may have been grateful for more, well, ‘important’ things – the love of family, the gift of friends, celebratory food and companionship of special people. Yep, I was grateful for that too. But like I said. Little things. Little things are great. Because not everyday can be Christmas Day.

Another ‘grateful’ thing I do is the ‘best of 2013’ which I share with close friends and especially those that I may not have been in touch with much in the year. I started in 2010, shared it with a few in 2011 and got great feedback, did only a scrappy one in 2012 and compiled my list for 2013 yesterday.

My ‘sue’s best of….’ was inspired by a great article in my favourite magazine, frankie, in which some artists of different types had a portrait type photo displayed alongside a list of 20 things that had occurred in their worlds in 2010. I really really liked it, especially Myf Warhurst’s and Ghostpatrol’s. So I decided to do my own. I hope to do it every year now for EVER. I think it will be a great record.

It’s healthy to be grateful. I appreciate that it’s sometimes incredibly hard to find anything to feel grateful for, but if you dig away there is always something, the smallest of things. The thing about small things is they have a tendency to snowball. The more you are grateful for, the easier it is to see the good and be more grateful and see MORE good. Ad infinitum. Brilliant.

How do you track your gratefulness? What are you grateful for today?

Happy grateful 2014.

Sue

things that bring me joy – Be Free

November 17, 2013

be free zine 2

I have loved the work of Be Free for a while now – this was one of my first exposures to her work that I loved – here.

So I was SO excited when, this morning, early-ish, I popped onto facebook and discovered that she and Akemi Ito, were installing super fabulous free zine package boxes around my locale. I immediately popped on my trackie daks and ran out the door.

INTO the most incredibly fresh sunny Sunday morning. Really very glorious (enough superlatives for you?)

be free zine 5

I love Fitzroy in the early morning. pre-hipster rise. It’s like a secret place. And so spacious.

be free zine 1

I found the box, saw it ahead of me in a blaze of sun light illumination and could see that there were still some zines left and felt a real sense of child like joy. REALLY EXCITED.

be free zine 4 be free zine 3

I was also struck by the amazing GENEROSITY and the incredible CREATIVITY that surrounds me in Melbourne town, which really makes me wonder if I could ever live anywhere else. I find it so INSPIRING. generous and creative are two words that I think should always go together. they are good words in partnership.

I walked back home holding my free zine pack (50/100) like it was a gold jewel encrusted bar on a crystal platter, so PRECIOUS. and so much playful fun.

be free zine 6

I don’t always like facebook and its “oh look everyone’s doing so much amazing stuff and having so much fun” false sense of reality which can sometimes be particularly trying at challenging times of life when life is not amazing and not much fun. But today I am very grateful to facebook – Thanks facebook! – for facilitating this special moment, both amazing and fun and a whole lot more than that.

And most of all – Thanks Be Free and Akemi Ito – you are truly special.

Suex

ps. what’s in the pack? do you know what? I haven’t even opened it yet. So far all the joy has come from the generosity and the creativity and the care and attention that someone has been thoughtful enough to engage me in. Brilliant. Maybe I’ll show you the internals of the package in another post.

pps. what’s a naturopath doing eating almond croissants for breakfast? Well I decided to feed glee with more glee, it just seemed the right thing to do.

doll making – creative freeze and pushing through

September 30, 2013

I’m relatively new to making dolls.

But with the risk of being immodest I’m quite good at it. I’ve taken to it like a duck to water. Sometimes the needle appears to be working under its own steam as if I am just an observer to what it creates.

So… it feels good. But getting started is hard. I fear this one isn’t going to be as good as the last one and a creative freeze descends. But I push through. And it thaws. Sometimes it takes me a couple of days. I try and put myself in the mind space of when the making feels like the most natural thing in the world and that autonomic needle can’t wait to create more stitches and bring a character, a little person in softie form, to life.

If I project myself into that feeling of positivity that exists at some point along the process, it helps me push through.

Luckily yesterday the thaw started and I was able to start some sketching.

doll making 2 sketching doll making 3 sketching boy face detail

This morning I’ve run amok with baking paper, tracing this, tracing that.

I could feel the fear but I traced it anyway.

doll making 1

It’s a confidence thing, as so many things are. Sometimes we just have to dig deep and find some confidence or just do it anyway. Just do it. That’s the thing.

I’ll keep you updated on the doll progress. I hope two little young softie ones will be materialised soon. I think they will be cute, but I will let go of the idea that they need to be the best ever and just make and see.

Do you get creative freeze?

What tricks do you use to bring on the thaw?

colds and flu – how I’m beating the bug and boosting immunity

August 29, 2013

macrame blue bowl with lemons

So….. lots of people around me are getting a bit sick with the lurgy. Ewww. nasty. Starts with a sore throat, full on head cold and then a cough that could light your lungs on fire. not nice.

I don’t want to get this…. no no no.

I have noticed the warning signs, a slight tickle in the throat, a bit stuffy in the nose and just a sense of ‘oh no i feel like i might get sick’-ness. So here is what I’m doing, I’m on the attack, I don’t want to get sick and more importantly, I want to support my bodies immune system raising it to optimum level so it can fight the threatening attack of pathogens. So I’m supporting body processes, not suppressing. Here’s my not-to-be-sneezed at fighting a bug 101.

1. Vitamin C – well known to help the immune system in numerous ways including mobilising your immune battalion of useful little soldiers – your lymphocytes, cytokines etc etc. During an acute episode, such as a cold or flu, or the threat of such, I recommend taking 500mg Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 4 times a day, spread throughout the day. Split doses are best for Vitamin C as it’s water soluble and so if you take one large dose once a day you’ll exceed your bodies ability to absorb it and probably end up peeing it out. what a waste.

2. Apple Cider Vinegar Gargle – if you have that ‘i think i’m getting a sore throat’ feeling, put one dessertspoon of apple cider vinegar in a medium glass of water. Put it where you will see it frequently, like in the bathroom, this will help you to remember to take it frequently during the day (I might do it 6 or so times a day, that feels good for me). Gargle and spit. quick, easy, done. The apple cider vinegar acts as an astringent, toning your mucous membranes, hence assisting your bodies defences in not allowing those pesky pathogens – virus, bacteria etc – to take hold. If you can catch it at the getting-a -sore-throat stage, you stand a better chance of preventing the cold and flu escalation that happens thereafter.

3. Immune boosting elixir – this is my secret recipe, well not that secret, lots of my patients have grown to love it and appreciate its goodness. Chop one kiwi fruit, crush one clove of garlic and mix together with a teaspoon of honey (manuka is good if you have some, otherwise a good local honey – yum). Leave for 10 minutes or so. During this time, the ingredients learn to get along and start to temper each other. The enzymes in the kiwi fruit do something nice to the garlic and the honey helps everyone see the sweetness in life. OK, so yes, it stills tastes strongly of garlic and yes, your breath might have a garlic-y whiff about it (but who cares!) – it really does taste good. This elixir packs a punch of immune assisting nutrients, with the star being the garlic, its a wondrous immune boosting food. I think it’s super.

4. Honey, Lemon and Ginger drinks – and yes, I add garlic too.

5. Magic Herbs – and…. of course, I extol the abilities of herbal liquid medicines to support the bodies innate wondrous processes. I have prescribed for myself a marvellous herb mix, which tastes disgusting, admittedly, but I’m being brave. Of course I can’t (and don’t) make any claims that my herbs are actually magic, I am a professional after all, but they certainly are doing the trick at the moment for me. Of course for a prescription of herbal medicine you will need to consult a friendly (and qualified and experienced) naturopath or herbalist. I know of one! Contact me if you’d like to find out more. And to all my existing patients that are watching (I mean reading), if you get a cold / flu / acute episode of unwellness in between appointments, email me, we can arrange a quick phone consult, I can make you up some herbs (if indicated) and post them out to you, if you’re unable to collect them.

6. Be sensible – no, its not always easy, but really obvious good girls and boys things such as: going to bed early, not drinking alcohol, eating well, staying well hydrated are extra important at this time. Be selfish, say no to that late night boozy outing, watch that great tv program that you love (but why have they programmed it so late) the next day on catch up tele instead… that sort of thing…. obvious, sensible, but truly helpful.

We can’t always prevent getting sick, it’s normal for us to get colds, maybe once or twice a year, it shows us the immune system is doing its job. But if you’re feeling like you’re always coming down with a cold, that you’ve had a cough for ever and you just can’t get rid of that runny nose…. then it would be well worth a trip to a naturopath, to see what else might be going on for you and to put some immune boosting strategies in place.

In good health

Sue

i chose health today – banana icecream

July 18, 2013

banana icecream

Wanted big piece of chocolate cake, but thought just right now I can do better than that, so I chose this instead.

Homemade peanutty banana icecream.

Banana (peeled, cut into slices and frozen), blended in a food processor with a teaspoon of peanut butter and a splash of coconut/oat milk to soften (optional).

I’ll have chocolate cake another day.

#ichosehealthtoday

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