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.

I’ve been a shitty Buddhist

I’ve been a shitty Buddhist

For some years now I’ve identified as a Buddhist but for the past six months I am not proud of the things I have done.

I’ve just gotten back from the 2017 Australasian Festival. This year was the Vajrapani Empowerment and teachings on the stages of the path to enlightenment with Gen-la Kelsang Jampa. This probably doesn’t mean much to you all but this was a very special festival. I rang in the New Year surrounded by my spiritual family, at my spiritual house and making prayers to Mother Ayra Tara.

Every single person I spoke with, at the festival, had an incredible story to tell of how they came to be a part of the Kadampa family.

The festival had me thinking of my origin story. I came to Buddhism some years ago as an extension on the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program I was doing. In typical Abby fashion I wanted to get to the top of the class and be cured within the month.

I went along to the Erindale class where I sat and heard the following quote that changed my life.

“Where would I find enough leather
To cover the entire surface of the earth?
But with leather soles beneath my feet,
It’s as if the whole world has been covered.”
Shantideva: A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life

So many things bother us—the peeps, mostly.

We blame other people or the situation for getting it wrong. We eyeball the hell out of what we think is the cause of our disturbance, we usually set out to try and fix it. We attempt to change the other person’s behavior or the situation into something we consider right, or at least something that will not bother us.

As we all know, we can’t control anyone else’s behavior, and we can’t make another person want to or be able to change. But we can always make the choice to shift our attention inward, to focus the lens of curiosity onto ourselves.

As I prayed to Ayra Tara and made offerings I thought back on the year 2016. I’d let my anger, jealousy, hatred take over. It was a fucking shit year but I should never have let go of my faith in Buddha, Dharma and my Sangha. Never. These things only make me stronger.

I sat in that temple on the verge of tears. I was home. I was surrounded by family, I was safe and in control.

I’ve been a fucking shitty Buddhist and without sounding like a total wanker; I will strive for enlightenment for all sentient beings. I won’t stop until I achieve it.


What’s the etiquette to being a crazy bitch?

I paced the aisle of Kmart. Why can’t I find the fucking rope. It shouldn’t be a hidden item. I was frantic, hands shaking and muttering to myself. Then, my eyes zeroed in on the blue multi-purpose rope sitting amongst its friends and screaming at me to pick it up.

The same aisle has a set of box cutters. I bundle a pack of them up under my arm to accompany my rope. Rushing to the checkout and my eyes hit a shelf of soft pink. Zali would love that. It gets added to the bundle.

I’m nutty but not normally this nutty. This is the result of going from four green and yellow Prozac capsules to three. It was suggested by my shrink as he thought this was the reason for the seizure and now headaches, pins and needles and joint twitches. This suggestion only after chasing him for six weeks. The receptionist always assuring me that I would get a call-back in relation to a pretty serious side effect. I’m told to reduce the Prozac and promised a call to follow up on how the decrease went. A phone call I never got.

So here I was rope and box cutter weighing up what I should do. Should I hurt Bruce really badly or should I head to a bridge, tie the rope and hang myself from a bridge. I wasn’t afraid of any of it and it seemed like a very logical thing to be weighing up. Feeling pressured I shrugged, walked home with the intention of sleeping on it.

The next day I made an appointment with Bruce. I had decided I’d have both. I had decided that while I didn’t want to kill him I wanted to hurt him and make his life difficult. I had thought of a pencil through his eye so that he’d have to listen to me. I then though, no, a superficial but still serious cut to his neck. I had gotten to the point where I was angry that I was paying him a lot of money for him to ignore me. I’ve often felt like the invisible girl that is always in the way. Bruce was going to pay for his failings as a psychiatrist and for every single other time I’ve been hurt. He’d bare the brunt of all those before him.

My appointment with Bruce was happening within a week but my GP ‘needed’ to see me. Down to my three Prozac I was not doing well in convincing her I was all good. Before I know it I’m telling her everything. She rings Bruce although she thinks that because I’ve never been violent that she didn’t think I’d go through with it. Had a fucking knife. Had an appointment. Was crazy as fuck and that’s the point she chooses to believe in me.

I don’t go see Bruce. He thinks I should because he’d like to debrief about it. I threatened him with a knife and this still seemed to be a joke. I would’ve gone through the motion. Would have hurt him. Next day and I’d turned my attention to topping myself. I couldn’t see the point. I couldn’t see things getting better and I’d had enough of fighting. So what were the rules for ending your life? Long sappy letter expressing my disappointment in the world. I figure that nobody listens now so why would they take note of what I had to say. I figure carving the words I’m sorry into my leg a few times was adequate.

I knew the method but where. I would never leave my children or husband to find me hanging from a beam in my garage. What’s the rules about this? I wanted somebody who was used to seeing this type of stuff but not too used to it to stop me. The hospital. Second floor balcony. My rope around my neck. My rope around the railing of the balcony.

What does a person wear? This led to the all-consuming question. Would I wear my glasses or not. I know, pretty stupid. I eventually got to the decision of without. Wearing glasses I can see every wrinkle of skin. Every imperfection. Without glasses the world was a soft blurs of light colours. It was beautiful without glasses. Without glasses was the way to go.

I won’t detail the rest of the journey but I’m now A-Okay. It was a case of Abby was safer on Prozac with the risk of seizures than without the full dose. I need medicine to be okay. It’s upsetting that I do but it’s more upsetting to think of the hurt I would put my husband, little boy and little girl through. I’m going to work hard this year and turn things around. I have some goals and have a rough idea what I need to do to achieve them.