You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

The other night I attended the Canberra viewing of Dominion; a feature-length documentary which is exposing the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture through drones, hidden and handheld cameras.

It was two hours of being repeatedly punched in the face, and I can’t even begin to imagine how much courage it must’ve taken for those involved in producing this.

After the movie, I made my way to my car again and as I did a possum scurried past me and bounded up a tree.

In Buddhism, we have a practice that we call Equalizing and Exchanging Self with Others. I thought of what I’d just witnessed, sat in my car and cried.

I cried for the beautiful souls lost. Tossed away. Every one of these animals is unique, special and beautiful.

I honestly believe that I am no better or of more worth than any being on this planet. We are all equals.

The supermarket does a great job of distancing people from the harsh reality of eating an animal. It comes neatly packaged, you pop it in your trolley, take it to the cash register, take it home, put it in the fridge and come back to cook it for dinner. In that whole journey have you thought about the journey it’s been on before getting to your dinner plate?

‘No, sweetie it didn’t come from a moo cow’. I’ve heard someone say this to their child while handing them a plate of meat. That moo-cow was someone’s baby. That moo-cow had a life.  Maybe little Timmy has compassion and doesn’t want to eat the moo-cow. The movie Babe came out in 1995. This film turned legions of people into vegetarians—including its star, James Cromwell—because who could “pig out” again after watching that cute little piglet charm Farmer Hoggett?

I came home and told my husband that I’d like him to watch the documentary. ‘What so you can scare me into becoming a vegetarian?’. I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do, but I will use every tool in my belt to lift the curtain and show you what is happening in your backyard.

Commercialism has meant corners are cut to save money and people eager to make more of a profit don’t see animals as the sweet, kind and beautiful souls they are but for what they can use them for. A lot of the documentary showed monsters disguised as people who worked in their slaughterhouses. They would punch, mock, abuse the already scared animals. Most of them didn’t even know how to use the stun gun properly. Nothing is humane in these slaughterhouses. Why do you think they don’t have open days inviting you to see where your eggs come from. It’s because it’s appalling.

Can you believe that I’m related to one of these monsters? My sister works as a manager at a battery hen farm. She has paid off her house and could easily afford not to work, but every day she gets up early and heads to the shed of unhappiness and torture. My sister has a hands-on role, and I’ve heard first hand of how handlers are unnecessarily rough with the birds and quite often will break the hen’s legs as they toss them about. I haven’t spoken to my sister in six years but I imagine she is still proud of the work she does.

I’ve also heard people in the supermarket exclaiming that they only buy the RSPCA approved eggs, meat and so on because the animals had it easier. Animals ‘lucky’ enough to be free range go through the as appalling conditions. Think. You are all smart people. Think with compassion and understand that you are powerful enough to make a difference.

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Puppy love

There is a reason that dogs are man’s best friend. They are great listeners, are loyal, are more cuddly than anyone you know, there is no judgement, they won’t make plans without you and they are always happy to see you.

Over Christmas, 26167049_10157019268002571_1907938843043619_nI embarked on a pet-sitting adventure. Three chickens that I have since named Lucinda, Helen and Julie and two Shi Tzu puppies named Oscar and Chloe. I didn’t expect that I’d be making friends and powerful relationships with two puppies but I did.

When I found out I would be sitting with two Shi Tzu dogs I rolled my eyes – small dogs have never really been me. I met these two balls of energy though and was smitten.

Without their owner in the picture, they came to really love and trust me and I would wake up in the morning with a smile as I would prepare to go feed them. They got me out of my own head and I would visit them twice a day and spent many hours with them.

My friend Janette and I walked around the lake. The whole time I would pretend they were my dogs and would proudly answer any questions – and with confidence – about how old they were, what their names were and so on.

They give me a joy that my other pets don’t. Cats are arrogant and only want to engage when it’s good for them. Bunnies are aloof and don’t like to be cuddled for hours on end … and they can be quite the judgemental pricks. I have a Labrador named Bella but she is 14 years old and struggles to walk. I spend a lot of time with her but because of her age time spent with Bella has changed and usually involves her sitting next to me while I potter around in the garden.

Oscar and Chloe are the typical Shi Tzu dogs with their character traits, however, I really got to know them on their own levels. It took a little bit of time for Chloe to connect with me but in the end, she is the one that missed me most when I wasn’t there and she was the first to come bounding over to greet me. Oscar is a bit a tart and spent a lot of time trying to get all the love for himself.

As I’m writing this my son is reading over my shoulder saying, ‘it’s a bit weird that you are writing about someone else’s pets’. I can’t explain it though. They mean everything to me.

I’ve found myself convinced that the dogs love me considerably more than they do their owner; Abdul.

Who wears short shorts?

Dark coloured leggings or jeans is the usual image people conjure up when thinking about me. No, I’m not boiling hot in the summer-heat while wearing this long sleeve jumper I lie.

I began hurting myself when I was maybe 12. Everything in my world seemed like it was spiralling out of control but when I drug the razor over my skin I was the person in control.

Self-harm is incredibly stupid because once you start it’s like any other addiction. It’s been at least six months though since I’ve hurt myself. That’s pretty big considering what the last year has looked like.

I have loads of scars all over my legs and arms. I never wear shorts well at least not until recently.  I was going to a Buddhist Foundation Program end of year pool party. I had planned on covering up and if I did go in that I would slink into the water unnoticed. My daughter needed new swimmers though so before heading to the party we went swimmer shopping.

Walking past a pair of denim shorts I shook my head and thought about how awful I’d look wearing them and how all the shameful secrets would be on display. I stopped though, picked up my size and proceeded to the checkout.

I have made some truly beautiful friendships within my Buddhist group and if I was going to take the plunge and be brave around anyone it would be them.

At times I felt self-conscious but for the most part of it, I was comfortable. These people are my friends. Each of them has their own problems and I know that each of them wouldn’t judge me.

After this success, I’ve been wearing shorts more often. I know that people are staring at me but I don’t want to have to hide unnecessarily. I’ve had to/have to do what I can to survive this world and if my battle scars are too much for you – I think it says more about you than me.

 

#Me too

Logging into Facebook these days has me running scared. What triggering horror story will I read put out into the world under the ‘Me too’ campaign banner.

The idea is to copy and paste a status to highlight how prevalent sexual abuse against woman is in society. While there’s a few variations, the post reads: “Me too… If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste.”

I used to think that being honest about these things was somehow shining a light on the issue and that detailing the events in my life would make people feel less alone. I think that my thought process was wrong though. With the abundance of ‘me too hashtags’ I feel a heightened sense of fear and more alone than ever.

I then thought more about the motivations behind why I have been so open with my story and I’ve figured it out. It’s messed up reasoning to be honest. It’s that excuse I use when I sit crying and knowing that I’m not all I can be. In my head I have created this idea that my faults and shortcomings stem entirely from this. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. I want people to know that I am something special because of the things I have achieved despite the demons that lurk in the dark.

I’m sorry to anyone I’ve hurt. It’s impossible to forget but being ignorant seems to be where it’s at. Don’t talk about these things and the scabs on those wounds won’t come off. People don’t want to hear about the familiar and dark minds that lurk in the shadows waiting to attack. It’s terrorism. Let’s talk about it to the point where it changes the decisions we make. Can’t walk down that dark alley. Can’t trust that uncle with my children.

I want to push it back into Pandora’s box. I want to take it back and have the secret come with me to the grave. I’m embarrassed people know. Let’s just pretend it never happened and that everything is okay.

How are there so many people out there with these experiences who have their lives put together. How are these people so strong? I’ve heard it a million times, but Abby, you are strong because you have survived. Really? I don’t call this survival. I’m still a victim. I’m still looking for ways out. I’m still holding onto this idea that I’m going to conquer this.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” ― Margaret Atwood

It’s proven

‘It’s been proven that BPD gets easier to live with the older you get,’ my doctor beams as she relays this fact to me while I sit in front of her crying.

I’ve just turned 33 and it hasn’t gotten any easier. It’s harder. I’m 33 years old and still stuck in this pathetic juvenile angst.

‘The reason it’s proven that BPD gets easier is because people just stop exhausting themselves asking for help,’ I replied before adding in that perhaps people with this condition have already topped themselves and therefore only the hardcore peeps get to a ripe old age.

Each birthday, since my 30th, has felt like a ghostly reminder that I’m not getting better. I’m still stuck down that well and haven’t gotten any better at climbing my way out.

I never really thought when I was growing up about the effects my self-hate was going to have on my future-self. Future-self? What was that?

Turns out these things physically catch up with you. The ol’ bod doesn’t work the way it used to. I’m sore, tied and experience the long-term effects of spending my whole childhood starving myself.

Help is hard to get. Nobody knows how to ‘fix’ this and the tools I’ve used for survival up to this point don’t seem to be working anymore.

‘This too shall pass’ is a common phrase people are always saying to me. I know that the bad times pass – thankfully – but the ‘good’ days seem to be fleeting. My therapist, Nesh, says that if it’s not working then perhaps I need to really shake things up and make a dramatic change. My response to that was that I think a Nesh-in-my-pocket that makes my decisions might just be the change I need.

Kind of need someone to hold my hand and take the reins for a bit. I’m exhausted and I’ve thrown all my tools at the problem and haven’t got anymore left to throw. I despise being this person that is constantly down, struggling and whining. Wouldn’t it be grand if all the emotions felt just faded away to nothing.

Don’t mess with my Prozac

For those playing from home you’ll know all about my frustrations at psychiatrists. One tried to kill me. Another made me sit in silence with him for 10 minutes while he typed up notes. Then there was the lady I travelled to Sydney for who ditched me after meeting me for the first time. This was the same lady that thought I was beating my husband. He must’ve made the ‘help me, I’m a prisoner’ eyes. Shrug.

I’ve withdrew off some pretty major stuff in the last year. I don’t remember Christmas at all because I was praying for death after I was taken cold turkey off 225mg of Venlafaxine.

That was the hardest drug to come down from. They tried to take me down from Prozac.  That was some crazy times and it landed me in the nuthouse.

I’m pleased to say though that I have a new psychiatrist. Her name is Tracey and she works at the Kellysville Hills Clinic. The whole team is amazing. Making the appointment they went to great lengths to find the perfect fit.

Dr Faye is not like any other I’ve met. She doesn’t have an ego. Usually the only thing bigger than their egos are their bathroom mirrors. Then you’ve got the other type that are just plain fucking weird.

At CRC I saw an Asian, high-pitched want to be cowboy. He wore very tight white jeans and he wasn’t in the greatest physical shape.

Tracey is kind and wanted my input into what I thought about the medicines. I agree with her plan moving forward and while I’m scared of having to come off another drug and replace it I felt like I could trust her. I’m at the point though that as long as we aren’t going back on the Venlafaxine or coming off the Prozac I’m cool.

The best thing about Dr Faye though was that we made another appointment.

Kids Alive – Do the Five

The year was 1988. Hawaiian shirts complemented with sport coats with stitched look were in fashion. It was also the year Kids Alive – Do the Five water safety program was born. This isn’t a post about water or fashion though rather it’s my motto for ensuring I let people help me.

Today I’m going to introduce you to the five people in my life that I couldn’t have done the last few months without.

 Mr Pitt-wiggler aka my husband
Michael is a pretty special person. He supports, challenges and stands beside me through the up, down, sideways rollercoaster I am. He is my personal cheerleader (while writing this I have visions of Pittman in a cheerleading costume and pig tails in his beard).

He sees beauty and grace, as well as my darkness and faults. He sees me for the person I am and the amazing one that he knows is truly capable of becoming, even if I don’t believe it. He loves me. Unconditionally. And that’s really all that matters.

I sometimes get nervous telling him things and have been known to keep secrets from him because of fear that he’ll be angry, disappointed and point out the reasons that what I’m doing is hurtful to myself. It’s a slow road but I’m trusting him more with this type of stuff.

Dr Hayley
Often you hear of GP’s going that extra mile for their patients but never have I experienced this until I met Hayley. I trust her and will tell her things I won’t tell anyone else. I have a strong attachment to her and constantly worry something will happen to her. She is a major player in the kids alive – do the five Abby campaign. I’ve pushed her away and thrown every obstacle in front of her but she has never given up on me. She has the warmest personality and smile to go with it.

She is clumsy but never forgets anything I tell her … it’s not always a good thing. I tell her that she can pretend to listen and make a shopping list in her head of the groceries she needs but she is always there with a sympathetic ear and good advice.

She is overseas on holidays for two months and I miss her terribly. Before going I gave her the lecture of staying safe, not falling in love over there and coming back to me. Sometimes I just go and see her to talk. It’s a bit pathetic but I view her as a friend. I know she isn’t. The whole paying her to be closed in a room with me kind of breaks down that for me.


Nesh aka Willy Wonka
Nesh was my last ditch effort to find a psychologist that wasn’t an idiot. They tend to be fairly cookie cutter to me and I find that I am able to control the session way more than I should. It helps to have someone who is considerably smarter than me and actually can challenge me.

This is why I call him Willy Wonka. I can’t predict what he is going to suggest or how he’ll package it up. I never know what he is going to draw on his whiteboard to help me understand something. He is smart. Not many psychologists can be described this way. He wants to help me. He understands me and he knows how to get through the stubborn layer of that-isn’t-going-to-work guard that I wear around like armour. Why go to therapy if you aren’t going to listen and implement the strategies.

He has his little quirks too that I like. He does what I call ‘jazz hands’. Whenever he is saying goodbye to you he raises both hands to wave. It’s both special and strange at the same time. He also has a strange shaped head. We have also become closer since seizure number 2 when I had it in his office. He was so awesome that day even though it freaked him out. He handled the drunk-like I-don’t-know-what-my-hands-are Abby extremely well. Seizures, bringing people closer.

Suz aka Suzy Q
Suzy Q is my workplace manager. I can’t even find the words to describe how beautiful this woman’s soul is. She has an uber stressful job but takes it in her stride and is always smiling. She has a pragmatic way of dealing with things and has helped me immensely in this department. ‘We just need to break it down’ is what she says. Whenever I’m super stressed five minutes talking it over with Suz and I’m calm again.

I think Suz is so efficient because she runs everywhere. Literally. From her office to the copier is only a few metres but she runs. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen in the workplace when I first started but now it’s just part of the working day. I work with some quirky and fun people here in the Canberra office.

She hasn’t just helped me professionally but she has been there through the tough times of the last year. She knows about my mental hilariousness (what I’m calling it these days) and has just one motive. To help me achieve what I want to. She is an amazing person and I often look at her and feel jealous that her daughter has such an amazing mother. I wish she was my mum!

Drolchog
Kelsang Drolchog is the woman who has revolutionized my life. I find solace in the guiding words of my spiritual teacher Drolchog (and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso). I came to meet Drolchog soon after I started my course in DBT. One of the biggest points to this therapy is mindfulness. Wanting to gain more control of my mind I looked for extra circular activities in the form of meditation.

Her voice spoke with gentleness and I felt safe and secure. What she was saying made sense. Everybody wants to be happy. I’d never thought about it. I kept going along and it was at my first festival in Melbourne that I decided I wanted to take this further.

Drolchog is a rare and precious jewel to me. I often worry that I don’t appreciate her enough. Without her I wouldn’t have meditation and the Dharma in my life. She reminds me what’s important. I could write all day about the importance of Drolchog in my life.

So, that’s my Kids Alive – Do the Five.