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!

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.


Fish and chips – Double Fist Pump

Even though things weren’t great growing up there are some good memories amongst the dark messy blob I still feel trapped in.

Being a country born and bred family we had meat and veg most nights. I never ate pasta until I left home and started my lustful romance with all things carbs. Once a month though my mother would announce we were having fish and chips. This usually had me grinning and imagining the fatty and greasy chips I was about to consume.

Fish and chip night, watching new episodes aired on television of the Simpsons and sipping on soft drink was one of my best memories.

Another memory that makes me smile is my rabbit, Peter. Peter had some serious long great genes for a long lifetime. He was big, white and had big red eyes. He was adorable although my pet had built up a little bit of an attitude after having my father’s working dogs think he was a sheep and run continuously around his hutch. I would sing little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his nose and he would sit ignoring me.

Once Peter died though we got two rabbits. Meant to be the same sex but they had little bunnies so I guess they weren’t. This is where I learnt the lesson: psycho rabbit mums will eat their babies.

Coming from a family like mine, you grow up thinking that the way to interact with others is to put them down. It makes you feel better about yourself. Sad but true. This is what my family was all about. You could never say anything out of line to my parents though. They were excellent teachers and I always enjoyed my sister being told she was stupid and a waste of space. Kind of made me feel less alone.

Birthdays were always pretty special too. Not by my standards now but it was the one day my mother could fake smile as she handed a small and inexpensive gift to me. It was the one night you got to choose what was on the menu for dinner (limited choice to choose from but still a treat) and after dinner, my father would stagger to bed completely intoxicated and leave me and the rest of the family to a simple Sara-Lee cake to celebrate. Things felt tense when my father was around, he had a temper and step out of line just a bit and he would showcase that temper.

These are small memories but ones I treasure. They were the gold among the insurmountable dirt that it lay in.


How I met your mother

My GP recently asked where I’d met Michael. Before I had a chance to say anything she was eager to guess. She guess that we met in a psych ward. I wasn’t really sure how to respond to this one. I laughed hysterically before telling her the actual story.

It was the Young Witness newspaper where we met. I was 16, he was 23 (met not started dating). I had found myself in the office while doing work experience. Quite a weird thingy really, I sat going through the Yellow Pages the night before my form had to be in telling my careers advisor what industry I was keen to check out. I knew I wanted to write. I wanted to take photos and the amount of money I earnt wasn’t important in my career planning.

I was nervous the first day of work experience. Someone had told me that the editor was a complete prick and warned me to stay away from him. It turns out that I think this opinion was just an unfortunate timing thing where he had taken the heat from the previous editor.

I spent most of my time with Michael. He showed me how he did lay-out and the production of putting the paper together. The design process fascinated me and he told me that he rarely got out to cover stories because Quarking (the good ol’ Quark express days) and layout took time and it was like playing a game of Tetris.

I liked Michael. He listened to me. Nobody really listened to me at this point in my life. I wasn’t afraid to ask him questions either – something my parents had discouraged and tried to beat out of me. I tried giving him the impression I was a normal teenager that did all those teenage things.

I knew I wasn’t normal when I was involved in a creative process of writing a book. My experience of being a teenage was worlds apart from what the others in my class experienced. Work experience was liberating for me. It’s a strange thing to say because it’s the work environment; it’s not supposed to be fun. I could walk down the main street of Young. By myself. I could buy my lunch from the local bakery. I didn’t have to ask permission.

These small things made me excited about the world. Feeling free was addictive. I decided to go back to the Young Witness and do more work experience. I skipped one day of school each week, rode the bus over, walked about a km, and had to be home at the same time I would normally have from school. It was worth it all though.

It was this second time I got to know Michael more. We talked, laughed and it truly was the best conversation I’d had in my life. We spoke the same language it seemed.

Two years down the track from this point and I contacted Michael. I can’t tell you how nervous I was that he wouldn’t remember me. He did. I talked my mother in to letting me go and see him. I gave her the pretence of this is a good contact to have to get the job I want to do. I just wanted to see him though.

Sometime after this I summoned the courage to write a letter to him telling him I had feelings for him. I gave him strict instructions not to call my house but to write back. My father would’ve flipped because I was stopping business calls coming through and I didn’t want them to stand in the way of this small slice of me being an adult activity. I lied a lot to my parents to spend time with him. I stole postage stamps from them so I could post letters and I would race to check the post before my mother could. If there was anything for me I’d take it, stash it into my backpack, leave the rest of the letters in the post-box and read the letter while walking to school. I read them. I reread them.

I kept up the facade that I was the normal teenage but this became hard when he asked to see me on my 18th birthday. I had no idea how to do this. Every moment I spent with him to this point was all through a barrage of lies to my parents. I spent my time with him watching the clock and worried that they’d find out.

After school I got a job packing stone fruit in Young. I told my parents that the factory was the other side of Young and that it was a 5pm start. I moved in with Michael. My sister eventually found out I’d lied and told them though. After this job finished I stayed with Michael. I had escaped and wasn’t going back. Michael ‘paid my way’. Something that provoked the ‘she is getting fat’ from my mother and ‘she is a free-loader and needs to get a job’ from my father.

I have loved this man from the first time I met him. It upsets me to realise though that I have him and my children because of what my parents did to me. He was the first man that was kind to me.

A couple of years later we moved to Canberra, got jobs, played house and got married. I do need to leave you all with this though. In true Pittman style he married me with fly down. Yep, he had forgotten to do it up in the mad rush of it all.





My friend Larry

We’ve all heard that tragic woman give her menstrual cycle a name. Aunt Flo, Downtown Abbey, Bloody Buddy, Belly Devil, Girl Flu, Leak Week, Monthly vacation are just some of the ones I’ve heard. This is my segway into telling you about my friend Larry.

Larry is not my menstrual cycle. He is my depression and we are inseparable. Larry and I have been friends for some time now. I don’t spend as much time with anybody else as I do with Larry.

Laughing Laz is great at getting me to do really stupid and life-ending activities. A bit of the jealous type he is – he is always driving people away telling me that I can’t trust them like I can trust him and he is always pleased when he gets to spend time with me. When I’m at work, he is the one that says, fuck this shit and who cares about what your member wants you to do.

It’s an abusive relationship and he controls me. Every now and then I realise how abusive he is, I break the locks and I leave him, swearing I’ll never go back, but Larry is good at luring me into his world. He likes to take credit for where I end up. He is that friend that wants you to feel bad about yourself. Just about to take the picturesque road to the left which is straight, sunny and paved with beautiful flowers, Larry stops me and entices me down the road on the right. This road is cracked, it leads into the woods, it’s cold, and there is a chorus of frightful noises. I take the road on the right. Every single time.

Larry is always in my ear telling me that I’m not good enough. He tells me that I should stop torturing the people in this world and that I should go buy some rope. He is very insistent and unplugs me from the world.

He tells me to eat fried food. He tells me to throw it back up. He is constantly whispering about my weight and my appearance. He likes to remind me all the time that I wasn’t good enough to be loved by my parents. He proves to me that I’m a failure.

Larry is also a big Netflix fan. He is always telling me to watch things I shouldn’t and that upset me. Larry gets stronger every time you leave him.

Larry is my best friend. I never said Larry was a good person though. He is really quite the prick.

Maybe you should think of a career change

I work in the Communications sphere. Even I shake my head at the thought that I should be in this industry. I’ve even had people suggest I consider changing my career.

Growing up I didn’t learn how to talk to people. My opinion didn’t matter. I was a beneath dirt. I always thought that when I escaped that place that I would shed that skin and grow another one that was alluring to all with its diamonds and perfection. I didn’t. The pain and torment would follow. It was a stain I couldn’t get out.

Physically escaping didn’t make the fully capable person and for a good 10 years, my husband woke me up in the morning, packed my lunch, got my clothes out in the morning, helped dress me, brushed my hair, bathed me – he did it all. I was so broken I couldn’t do anything for myself.

I was terrified all the time. I feared any communication with other people. A neighbour waving to me had me breathing heavily and angry at myself for scurry away before any words would need to be exchanged.

I spent years and years watching people and trying to mimic them. I still do this. I would muster up the courage to speak, ‘that steak looks good’. My husband would smirk and point out the insincerity. I just couldn’t even make small talk. Imagine a five year old girl hiding behind the leg of her mother’s long flowing skirt, too shy to reveal herself.

People who know me now would never believe how bad the anxiety was. I push myself and have worked out that if you employ a goofy and stupid always personality, you can laugh off any time you sense that someone thinks you are odd or stupid.

I wasn’t like a prisoner in that home – I was a prisoner. People thought I was a freak. They had me trapped.

I jump hurdles every day at work to fit in. I get stressed out if anyone closes their door to have a conversation because it’s clearly about me and how bad I am. I can’t take criticism – in fact I severely melt-down and try not to let it show by going into the bathroom and hitting my fist against a wall. I’m not good with communicating with others and I flip out very quickly. I do my very best but sometimes your best isn’t enough and they can tell you are faking it.

The Nigerian Prince

Today I met the psychiatrist I had given the title, Nigerian Prince. A Nigerian psychiatrist that was going to be my savior. He was going to ride in on his white horse and help this damsel in distress.

It all went down a little differently to this though. I spent the night before tossing and turning and unable to sleep. I was nervous about meeting my new psychiatrist.

The whole consult was spent with him on one side of the table and me on the other – very principal-office-like. He never smiled. We went through the complicated history of my medicine. He didn’t seem to have read the referral notes.

He then starts digging into the past. The broad strokes of it all weren’t good enough though, he wanted details. Details that I’m not even okay thinking about. Thinking this man was going to help me I spewed out the ugly words.

After that he sees marks on my arms and suggests that maybe I’ve done this for attention.

I then got to spend the next 15 minutes crying while he typed his notes without saying anything to me or even looking at me.

At this point I still had faith that he would help me but this idea shattered violently when he told me his plan moving forward.

The plan involved taking me down to the minimum dose of everything I was taking. He could then see what – if anything – the lamotrigine was doing. He seemed convinced it wasn’t doing anything and he had ideas of getting rid of this drug completely.

We would go down in Prozac only because one of the rare symptoms of Prozac is seizures. Didn’t matter I just been striped of 225mg of Venlafaxine which has a higher risk for seizures.

These changes would come with withdrawals. Withdrawals I would just need to suck it buttercup. I’d already tried the reduction in Prozac and it didn’t go well. I was suicidal and I’m not sure how I have kept my job.

I spent $600 to bring up things I didn’t want to talk about, be treated like I was an attention-seeker and freeze in fear at the thought of the experiment he wanted to undertake.

Nobody is listening to me …

Case closed

‘Abby, Bruce is scared of you. You do remember threatening to cut his throat, don’t you? He wrote to me and informed me he was closing your case file’

A psychiatrist who put my life in danger can close the file and walk away. I can’t. I am stuck in the hell he has created for me through his incompetence and neglect.

Not only can you die from seizures but you can receive permanent brain damage. I also had a suicide plan, had bought rope, carved into my legs ‘Sorry’, had picked a location to hang myself and came up with a plan of calling the ambulance immediately before so that no children or community members found me. I couldn’t bring myself to hang myself in my house as my children and husband would have to live with that reminder.

I’d decided that my camera would go to my beautiful friend Bec, all my clothes to be donated and my husband and kids to have whatever they wanted to feel close to this selfish weak girl that would abandon them.

I’m still living in crazy-town. I want to cry because nobody is listening. They just aren’t listening or maybe they think, oh it’s just another BPD patient banging it on.

It’s really hard to believe them when they tell me I’ll feel better soon when I’ve been hearing that for the last six months. I never got the help I needed until after my second seizure and the help I was given was to cold turkey from 225mg of Venlafaxine. Not the best way to spend your Christmas and I’m still feeling it.

I’ve only recently busted out of the Palace (my name for Chisholm Ross Centre) – an emergency hospital ward to keep you from hurting yourself or others. I gave a lot of Dharma wisdom to patients, something I really enjoyed. I came out okay and the days following I crashed.

I’m not good at trying to put myself back together but when the people who are supposed to help you don’t, it means that Buttercup it all rests on your shoulders.