Happy New Year as I rebel against borders

Never have I been so focused on borders as I have during 2020 and now again in 2021.

Covid-19 and a broken ankle reduced the size of my world. In my  smaller world I’m rebelling by not completing the borders on this jigsaw. I’m defiantly leaving them undone and mostly open!  Though I have closed some!

The jigsaw was a gift for my 60th Birthday, made up of photos of my family. It’s kind of weird picking up a piece of your face and struggling to know where it goes!  But weird fits these times. I had no desire to finish the border as I now have a love/hate relationship with them.

We were overjoyed to be able to spend Christmas at home in Queensland with our daughter and her partner from Melbourne, but I kept a watchful eye on the border news. I was fearful they would have to rapidly return to Victoria when Covid-19 raised its ugly head there again after 60 days of being virus free. I was saddened by friends who did not get time with family when our borders were closed to parts of NSW after an outbreak just before Christmas.

Like many of us, I can’t cross international borders and visit family and friends overseas. I find it difficult to see when overseas travel in and out of Australia will be easy.

I’ve travelled extensively, and had some stressful border experiences, but I’ve never been so acutely aware of how borders can shut you in and keep you out. It’s disgusting that Australia still has a Tamil family of four, with two children aged 5 and 3 living in isolation on Christmas Island. They just spent their second Christmas there. In Brisbane there are dozens of men in visa limbo, detained in isolation for years. Surely, now we have all had a tiny taste of the deprivation that accompanies isolation, Australia can act more kindly.

So happy new year to you all.  May you, your family and your friends, be as safe, well and connected as you can be during 2021.

Hostel vs hospital: Thanks 2020 but I don’t need more adventures

I’m an avid traveller and 2020 has been no exception. This year I’ve travelled unexpectedly to places I’ve never dreamed of like the Transit Hall of the Princess Alexandra Hospital, a bed at the Mater Hospital, and their operating theatre. All good travel includes enduring some sleepless nights, getting lost, a hefty dose of discomfort, placing your safety in the hands of others and being unsure of what to do next. My 2020 trip did not disappoint. 

Hostel vs Hospital

I spent two nights in a room with three others, reminiscent of backpacking around Europe and Asia in my 20’s. How’s this for similarities?

  • There is no real privacy.
  • Everyone is high on some type of chemical substance.
  • The man in the bed next to me is snoring like a pig.
  • The woman in the bed opposite is sleep yelling.
  • The guy in the corner is making all these weird groaning noises.
  • I’m still the person with the loud voice who can’t talk quietly even though its the middle of the night.

                  • People come and go, waking me up, no matter what time of day or night.
            • Others encourage me to try free drugs repeatedly throughout the day.
            • The shared toilet and shower are always full when I desperately need to go.
            • As I restlessly try to sleep I tell myself to just relax and enjoy the “life experience” but all I really want is my own bed and pillow.
            • The food is a mystery, you’re never sure what you’ll end up with.

  • Transit rooms are dull soulless places, where you’re shuffled between monotonous waiting spaces. I spend endless hours waiting and whiling away the time. I’m positioned in front of a television which is stuck on a channel I’d never watch at home. It feels more like torture than entertainment, and I’m trapped! I doubt if my transport will ever turn up.

Community is where the healing happens

I broke 3 bones in my ankle after sliding down the bottom two steps of our internal stairs, a small fall with big consequences. Suddenly I was in need of some mobility aids.  So, while in my hospital bed I reached out through Facebook to the Tarragindi neighbourhood community for some assistance. I knew that there was a great community close by ready to help out.

Hi community I have two requests:
1. Anyone have a wheelchair they would be willing to lend me for 8 weeks.
2. Anyone have experience of using a non slip varnish on bamboo stairs?
By the time I’d been operated on and reached home a day later, I’d been offered a number of mobility aids: wheelchairs, knee scooters, crutches, hoppers and bath stools. I didn’t need the crutches as a friend with five sets lent me a pair.
Within 5 minutes of being home my lovely neighbour, who I used to walk with regularly, delivered a luxury wheelchair, a wedge pillow to sleep with between my legs and a shower wheel chair.
The next morning we collected another wheelchair and a knee scooter, gifted to me by a stranger.  Now I  have a wheelchair upstairs and downstairs. I’ll ride that knee scooter fearlessly, just like I used to ride my motor bike through the windy roads of Wellington, New Zealand as a teenager….or maybe not!

I also have a range of ideas to help make the stairs slip proof, given that I’m not the only one who’s slid down them.

Sweetest of all was the message from a stranger

Hi Anne, saw your post in Tarragindi community group. I work at home, so does hubby… please reach out if you need any help … its so hot as well ! I’m happy to drop by any groceries etc …. or make the bed etc

This fills my heart with joy

I’m a strong advocate of laughter as part of healing and this card provided a belly laugh. It may well be the best card I’ve ever received.

I’m back at work for the last two weeks of the year, sitting sedately in my therapist chair.  Grateful that my job is sedentary and I can continue to work. Thankfully I’m allocated an easy access room and will not have to display my new skill of butt scooting up stairs. My lovely colleagues fetch and carry for me, after all I work in a beautiful space focused on healing.

It’s going to be a tough 6 weeks, managing without putting any weight on my right leg, but its already been made much easier through the help of friends, neighbours, colleagues and strangers.  I’m well on the way to recovery.

Hopefully I can pass on my stash of mobility aids to the next community member in need though I hope they sit unused and unneeded for a long time.

Merry Christmas to all. May you all be more mobile than me.

Dear Mental Health Client, please don’t be too unwell

Dear Mental Health Client,

Mental Health ClientYou came quietly into my counselling room,  looking a bit unsure, eyes cast downwards.  Hesitant to speak.

It had been tough to pluck up the courage and ask your GP for a referral to a psychologist. You hardly ever see your GP and felt uncomfortable when they asked about your mental health and living situation. You gave the GP brief answers, just wanting the appointment over and done with. This stuff so hard to talk about.

Starting your treatment

Mental health clientYou left the GP with a Mental Health Care Plan for 6 sessions, a bit surprised to learn that they’re not free because most psychologists can’t afford to bulk bill. Ouch, this is more expensive than you anticipated. You also learned that you can only have 10 Medicare subsidised sessions each year.  Still, you think, 10 sessions must be enough for the psychologist to “fix” you. Why else would they only give you this many? It seemed like quite a lot of sessions at the time.

It was so hard for you to come to the first appointment. Initially you tell me you are “just a little bit depressed and anxious”. By our fourth session, you’ve trusted me enough to share the Continue reading

Celebrate Stepfathers on Fathers Day

Stefather and child at beach
Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

Let’s take time out to acknowledge and celebrate stepfathers on Fathers Day.  Over 20% of  Australian children live in step or blended families, therefore, thousands of men are stepping into an ambiguous and difficult role.

Those passionate and delightful “in love” feelings couples experience in a new relationship don’t necessarily encompass your new partner’s children. And kids don’t Continue reading

The international wedding – from New York to Cairns and back again

Sign - Chelsea & Sean, June 16 2018
Chelsea & Sean, June 16 2018

I love attending a wedding, as I wrote in Wedding Rings and Canoe Paddles. As a psychologist, my days are often filled with the sadness and problems of life so it’s joyous to take time out to witness the joining of families, friends, communities, and in this case countries. There seems to be so little opportunity to come together with old friends and family, separated as we often are by geography and busyness. A wedding is a wonderful chance to pause and celebrate the expression of love, to honour a shared history, to laugh, to cry and to reflect on the odd things that happen.  This international wedding was no exception.

The Bride and Groom, Chelsea and Sean, live in New York, the bridesmaids in Brisbane, New York, Dubai and Cairns, the groomsmen in New York and Dubai, the Mother of the Groom in Florida the Mother of the Bride in Los Angeles and the Father of the Bride in Cairns. The guests were predominantly from Australia and the USA. That’s a lot of coming together. We attended the Cairns wedding and there was a second wedding in New York.

This is a couple who don’t live where either of them grew up, where either of them went to university, where either of them started work or near any family.  They have worked hard to form and maintain friendships and family relationships across the world.  This wedding celebrated and strengthened these connections.

So what traditions did this international couple keep, or make their own? Continue reading