… and welcome to Upsidedown Wellness. Kick your shoes off, stretch your limbs, get comfy, be you and know that what you’re about to read is true, authentic, honest and me.
From time to time I experience depression. Words help me make sense of some of my emotions. Here are some words about some of those emotions.
Some days I wake up, and all of the joy has disappeared from my world.
Some days I wake up, and all of the beauty has disappeared from my world.
Some days I wake up, and all of the light has disappeared from my world.
Some days I wake up, and all of the colour has disappeared from my world.
Some days I wake up, and all of the joy and all of the beauty and all of the light and all of the colour have disappeared from my world.
And I get scared that I can’t keep myself safe.
I recently took a trip back to England. There’s a comfort in the company of certain humans that I struggle to find with consistency in my Australia-home … but which flows quite readily with particular people in the UK. After spending some time with one girlfriend, these words left my brain and landed on the page.
Sharing beverages warm
Pouring thoughts from our head
From topic to topic
Covering oceans and tropics
With strings of words that would wrap the world ten times over
From subject to subject
Like Spaghetti Junction
we just function
Our only consumption
Being beverages warm
We can talk and talk and talk
There is nothing
you or I,
I or you,
could not say
To each other
like the opposite of brothers
Something bound us long ago
We’ll never know
What, why, where or when
We don’t need
on these facts,
our job is just to relax
And share beverages warm
Pouring thoughts from our head
We tea stain each other
like the opposite of brothers
Connected by wool, or thread, or spit
And share beverages warm
Pouring thoughts from our head
A little poem I wrote recently about letting go and the challenges of that!
I cannot shake you
like a Polaroid picture
I cannot shake you
like a towel full of sand
Shake you so your bones
rattle inside your head
like a crab’s pincer grip
on a child’s big toe
I cannot shake you
like a shake and vac
to put the freshness back
I cannot shake you
like a lettuce leaf
plucked fresh as a daisy and washed
like a tambourine
or an apprehensive heart beat
as I cannot shake you
I do just that
and I shake
I cannot shake you
but I do.
This week I made a public disclosure. On live radio I confidently said, “I have been in an abusive relationship.” It was to illustrate my point about the complexities of domestic violence. I said it for two reasons, 1) to convey to the listeners and my colleagues in the studio that I spoke with some authority on the topic and 2) because I believe in the Power of Normal.
Every time I share something deeply personal like this, I find it opens the opportunity for other people to share and disclose. It happens repeatedly.
A few months ago, in a room full of people who had known one another for around six years, my disclosure of depression and anxiety led to other people also disclosing, for the first time ever in this cohort. This, for me, is the Power of Normal.
When something unusual becomes more commonplace, we find it easier to talk about. Take cancer for instance. Cancer used to be a dirty word. People used to be ashamed of it. Now, in many parts of the world, we’re able to talk about it openly, discuss treatments and recovery processes. We’re moving in the same direction with HIV and Aids, although even in the Western world, there’s still a long way to go on this topic. Normalising issues so they’re easier to talk about holds huge power for an individual’s ability to manage the issues and overcome the challenges.
A quick Google search about the importance of talking about our problems leads to this advice from Better Health Victoria (which is commonplace in online information, particularly targeted at children and young people):
“If you don’t talk about your problems, you may find … that things may get worse if you don’t try to get on top of them straight away.”
And I think most people would agree that not dealing with problems, not talking about issues, can often make them seem much bigger than they are.
So given that the above isn’t rocket science, why don’t we normalise problems more often?
A recent conversation with a good friend involved a lengthy discussion about the power of stigma. Stigma is defined as, “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”
When we look at the stigma around mental health, we are essentially tarnishing people with a mark of disgrace, for being a human. Which, in my opinion, is a bit fucked up.
But it happens all the time. Mental health isn’t the only culprit. Think back to those halcyon days of the school playground, and highlighting difference and picking on people for being ‘other’ was often the name of the game. Our concept that different or other is bad or wrong gets formed at a very young age. Conformity is paramount. We dress kids in uniforms so they all look the same. We push them to achieve academic results within a bell curve. We homogenise at many given opportunities. Rarely do we celebrate difference.
If we think back to earlier days, it’s easy to see how this pattern emerges. When life was really about surviving, supporting the pack and being one of the team was truly beneficial. Difference was a weakness, because it could lead to injury or death. Occasionally however, this difference would catch on, and hence human beings have evolved as we have … because it’s our difference from other species that makes us stand out as much as we do. Difference created evolutionary strides. Difference made us strong.
Broadly speaking, most humans are pretty clever. In comparison to many other species, even the fuckwit humans could be said to be fairly brainy. So given that we’re smashing the intelligence race, why do we still not get the power of celebrating difference? Why do we still shy away from the Power of Normal?
My honest answer to this question: I have no fucking idea.
Sometimes it’s hard yes. Sometimes it makes us feel vulnerable. Sometimes, when we’re confidently flying the Power of Normal flag, one of the aforementioned fuckwit humans comes along and thinks we’re still in the school playground, and reacts accordingly. And that can hurt.
But I really believe in the Power of Normal. More than I believe in the power of a fuckwit human to have any impact upon my life. And there in lies the key … The Power of Normal is really important to me. And I intend to employ it at any given opportunity, not only for me, but also for other humans, even for the fuckwit ones. Because chances are they’re only fuckwits because they’re hiding their own difference. Because they’re not truly comfortable in their own skin. Because they haven’t yet realised their own potential empowerment through the Power of Normal.
I have a problem. I think I may be too happy. It’s a first world problem, I admit that. But it’s one I never thought I’d have. People are constantly doing things, saying things, buying things to make themselves happier. And those people include me. So how did I end up in this place? Can happiness be a bad thing? Is it actually possible to be too happy?
My life hasn’t always been this way. I spent years caught in what felt like a trap of depression (and probably anxiety although I couldn’t see it at the time). I have often battled with my weight, size and body confidence. I have hated my job. I have been bullied at work. I have been kept awake at night by financial worries, worries of ill health, worries of how cruel the world can be. I have had friendships and relationships breakdown. I have grieved for the loss of people in my life.
It is often said that happiness and gratitude go hand in hand. In an article for the Huffington Post, Katie Hurley attributes gratitude as a key contributor to, “better relationships, better physical health, increased happiness and better coping skills.” I began to put this to the test part way through 2014, after a messy breakup and in a particularly challenging period in my life. Despite the shitstorm going on around me, was it possible for me to still to feel grateful? Absolutely.
Since then gratitude has become more of a way of life for me. I recognise it in my meditation, when I’m sat having a coffee, in my commute to work, when I’m working out, when I’m eating, when I’m amongst people (both those who make me feel good, and those who challenge me … for the lessons they are teaching me). And so the end result, in great part thanks to gratitude, is increased happiness.
But now I have this problem – too much happiness. Let me explain.
I recently took a trip to Thailand. My aim was two fold; 1) chill out with my sister, have a good time, see a new country, meet some new people and 2) put one of my goals to the test – the goal to be able to work from anywhere in the world with a laptop, mobile phone and wifi connection.
I had an awesome time. Aim 1 was definitely met. Box = ticked. The problem lies with aim 2. It’s not that I didn’t achieve the aim, it’s that I think there’s a problem with this goal. Because what I realised as the plane touched down at Brisbane airport and I was home, is that I’m so happy here, I’m not sure I really want to be anywhere else anymore. It’s like I’m too happy here, at home.
It got me thinking about whether or not this happiness is standing in the way of other goals. And it turns out it is. I’m wonderfully happy as a single 33 year old right now. But one of my goals is to nurture a little family tribe of my own and guide small people to be bigger people and (if it’s their path in life) make the world a better place. I feel really ready to begin to grow that tribe … but that’s not possible as a single 33 year old. So do I compromise my happiness to pursue my goal? Or do I change the goal.
Same with the ‘work from anywhere’ goal. Do I compromise my happiness and visit places where I learn, see and explore when I’m actually happier at home? Or do I change the goal?
It’s not that I’m not open to change … learning, growing, changing is in my DNA. I thrive on the stuff. And it’s not that I don’t acknowledge that this is very much a first world problem. I do. It is. It’s the fact that I never thought I’d have this problem. I never thought being too happy could be a thing. I thought happiness was an absolute. Not a paradox.
So what next? Or where to from here as the Aussies like to say. I’m looking forward to the challenge of thinking this one out. Of meditating on these dilemmas. I’m aware that I live a very fortunate life. And I’m very grateful for all of the wonderful delights that my daily existence brings. Perhaps this is the challenge of true gratitude – to maintain that grateful heart even when the good stuff, the overflowing bucket of happiness, begins to feel a paradox.
I’m going to own this … I’m a total fan girl when it comes to meditation. I’m totally in love. Besotted. Starry eyed by the magic of what it brings to my life. Head over heels for the stuff.
Having meditated on and off for the past 6 years, in the last 5 months I’ve meditated almost every day, for around 30 minutes at a time. And I feel completely different.
A very good friend once told me, in no uncertain (and quite forceful) terms, when I said I “didn’t feel like meditating that day” … that’s exactly when I should meditate. And she was, of course, right (she always is).
The first thing to know is I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to meditate. I have spoken to a few friends, all of who meditate in different ways: walking, running, sitting, cycling, at the spa, listening to hard core metal music, listening to classical music, in lotus, eyes closed, eyes open, outside, inside, with the help of an app and for some monks, in headstand.
Meditation is about slowing down the mind. About being able to detach from thoughts – to know that you are not your thoughts. To create space and distance, to allow for clarity of thought. To allow your true purpose to become clear.
For me, meditation is sitting in lotus, outside or inside, taking three deep breaths, and then allow my mind to slowly quieten down and become still. I sometimes work on my chakras, I sometimes ponder a specific thought or topic, I sometimes ask for advice and guidance on a problem. I reconnect with the messages that my body is giving me. I always feel better afterwards.
Watch, read, grow
If you’ve never meditated before, here are a few great resources, ideas and offerings that might help you get going …
A superb TED talk by Andy Puddicombe all about what meditation actually is (and why it’s awesome):
My first meditation book “The Blooming of a Lotus” … and still my go to resource if I’m a little lost in the process, by the beautiful Thich Nhat Hanh:
When you’re ready to delve into the role of ego and how to live in the present moment, there’s no better teacher than Eckhart Tolle:
Try “A New Earth”: http://eckharttolle.com/books/newearth/
or “The Power of Now”: https://www.eckharttolletv.com/books/now/
Make no mistake however, it’s not always easy. Meditation for me, has brought up some of the rawest emotions I have ever let myself feel. Anger. Pain. Sadness. Hurt. Fear. Anxiety. You name it … meditation has found a way to tap into it. But the process helps to heal. So, as long as I’m in a safe space, I allow myself to feel all of the above, and process the emotion in a healthy way.
So where’s the magic
I remember when I was a little girl and I’d see a magic trick … the most amazing thing about each trick was always the simplicity. How easy the magician made it look. Well I have that same feeling with meditation. It’s breathing. It’s what all of us do, subconsciously, everyday. And yet, there is a sense of magic and wonder that meditation brings to my life.
I’m so pleased my friend bullied me into meditating everyday. It’s like the best gift anyone has ever given me. So if you take one thing from this article, consider it this … the sharing of that wisdom. Even if it’s just 5 minutes of conscious breathing everyday. As they say at Nike, Just Do It!
I’m on a flight on my way back from Melbourne. Today I’ve attended a memorial service for Stella Young. If that name doesn’t resonate with you, Google the shit out of that woman until you fall in love. It won’t take long.
Her memorial was very fitting – fabulous, emotional, strong, funny, accessible, colourful and authentic. A 1 ½ hour service after which, Federation Square turned into a night club for the afternoon and we danced our polka dot shoes off. Emotions continued to be expressed through bodies and voices. The DJ had us all in the palm of his hand.
So now I’m thousands of feet up, glancing down at the baron Aussie landscape below, reflecting on a strange yet somehow familiar 48 hours. Last night was also my first Airbnb experience. And my host shared with me a beautiful metaphor.
He told me his take on human beings taking care of their own emotional and physical health is like oxygen masks dropping from the ceiling of a plane, in case of emergency. You are told to fit your own mask first. As on a plane, so in life, he said. Fit your own oxygen mask first. Look after yourself. Learn to listen to what your body and your mind needs. And feed it accordingly. Before you attend to anyone else.
Back to today and one of the most magical things about Stella’s send off was the diversity of the room. Melbourne Town Hall was filled with all kinds of people. I’ve never felt more at home in a room full of strangers. People with different skin colours, impairments, sexual expression, identity, dress and culture. The common ground we all seemed to share in that space was one of Stella’s own mantras … everyone was practicing being proud.
And so given that these people all exist outside of that room, I’m left pondering what it was that made that room, and the dance off in Fed Square, feel so different to every day life.
I think it’s that pride thing. I think it’s the fact that in day-to-day life, it’s easy to feel like the odd one out rather than the odd one in, as was the case today. Societal norms force us to hide our difference, aim to confirm, go out of our way to fit in as oppose to celebrating our difference and highlighting what makes each of us unique.
Yet today we knew why we were all there. We had Stella guiding the way. And we knew that she’d kick our arses if we dared to not be proud.
So I’m wondering if it’s possible to rent todays crowd. To take them along to the theatre, dinner, night clubs, the park, on the train, the bus, the ferry, on holiday, up mountains, into the bush, onto the beach and into the sea. To create environments where difference is truly celebrated in all it’s fabulous polka dot variation and authentically embraced.
Because I’m wondering if that crowd might be the oxygen mask. The extra boost we all need sometimes, to remind ourselves to be proud. To feed our souls first and foremost, before we attend to others.
To do my little bit to ensure Stella continues to shine in this world, I’m promising to practice being proud. To find a level of comfort in my own skin where I can be that crowd. Where I can be part of something that creates oxygen masks in abundance. So that everyone feels like they can breathe the same air without changing a thing.
It’s always a good day when I have a Kinesiology appointment. I feel stronger, clearer about my path, more confident on my journey. Kinesiology is some serious good shit.
In layman’s terms, Kinesiology is based on the fact that the body knows exactly what it needs to heal itself. Whether it be emotional, physical, spiritual or some other kind of healing – your body knows what you need. Kinesiology taps into this messaging that we’re too busy to listen to in every day life. If you think about it, we’re actually quite disconnected from our bodies as we go about our day to day business … we’re not consciously in control of when we have an emotional reaction to something for example, or when our body responds to pain or disease in some way. Kinesiology taps into these messages.
My Kinesiologist is awesome. She’s honest, authentic, comfortably ‘naked’ (to use her terminology about herself). She’s called Beanie and, with her partner Nicola, runs the fabulous Soulfit health and wellness institute. Between them, as friends and guiders, they have changed my life. Namaste ladies.
So what happens in a Kinesi session? Well you chat for a bit about whatever the issue is that you’re presenting with that day, then you hop onto a massage bed and you let your body answer all the questions. When the Kinesiologist asks your body what’s going on, it responds, automatically, with a muscular response. From pressure on the top of the hand, just above the wrist, your arm either drops to the bed beside you or stays up in the air … it’s your body’s way of answering either yes or no.
I’ll explain exactly how that plays out by sharing a bit about my session today. I have two clear purposes in life … 1) to make the world a more humane place through my work (I work in arts and community and have a strong sense of human rights) … this purpose is absolutely on track and being fulfilled. Purpose 2) is to nurture a wonderful little tribe. To grow authentic, honest little people and to nurture them to continue to make the world a better place for all human beings. To do that, I’d like to find someone who would like to do that with me. And this is the purpose that I’m currently working towards in my life.
Obviously finding the right guy to do that with is a crucial part of the puzzle. And it goes beyond just wanting a life partner. It’s my belief that the universe will ensure that me and this gentleman cross paths. It’s a belief that our souls are already connected. And that when we meet, it will be clear to both of us that this is our purpose in each other’s lives. Why do I know that for sure? Because when I ask the universe to provide me with an easy parking spot, she does. So I know I can ask the universe for anything, and it will be provided, in abundance.
What’s more, recently someone walked into my life who was nearly that guy. He was a thunderbolt moment. Our souls were connected long ago. We were both blown away by the connection we had from the word go. His path has physically taken him to a new continent though. And so we now walk separate paths.
So todays Kinesi session was about the fact that I know this will be the case, but I’m an impatient mother fucker … and so how do I let go and let the universe ensure everything happens exactly as it should? How do I really trust? How do I learn to float, to just go with the flow?
What comes up initially in my session is around protection – I’m emotionally protecting myself, because I’ve been burnt in the past, because I’ve given heaps before and relationships have been unequal. My heart is crazy open though, and I’m ready to be knocked sideways by ‘that guy’. But everything is existing at arms length. This totally makes sense. I’ve been visualising things at arms length in recent meditations. And it’s confused me. Why, if I’m ready and my heart is open, can’t I bring this closer?
Next we move onto looking at organs and my heart is coming up as experiencing stress. My heart is holding 76% stress. I’m having a physical reaction to an emotional problem. All because my Kinesiologist asks me some questions and my arm either stays up in the air, or drops to the bed beside me – that’s how simple the process is. I’ve been experiencing anxiety at really odd moments – after meditation or a swim, when I’m feeling really calm. Again, this all totally makes sense. I’m causing myself additional stress, trying to protect myself.
So we work on that stress. On finding where that comes from. It comes from my past (doesn’t everything?!). By going back from my current age of 33, we find that it’s linked with something that happened when I was 28. What happened that year? A year of depression and some really deep healing. The first time I really began to work on myself. We discover that it’s clogging my Sacral Chakra – the key to relationships and honouring self and others. So we clear that. How? I have my hand on my forehead, I sit on the bed, and my Kinesiologist rotates a crystal near my lower back to clear the clog.
But there’s still more work to do. Meridian points. We work on them. We work through everything. And this is something that I love about Kinesiology – it recognises that the body is a whole, and that everything is connected – that we should work on ourselves holistically.
I’m over simplifying the process – todays session was an hour and we covered so much. Essentially, I’ve been waiting for this thunderbolt moment to happen with ‘that guy’, but then I’m equally (if not more) apprehensive of this thunderbolt (in fact so apprehensive that it’s causing my heart 76% stress). So naturally, I’m really not resonating at the right level for this to happen. Consciously, I’m putting out the message to the universe of being ready for ‘that guy’ to enter stage right. But on a cellular level, my body is going ‘holy shit balls, I’m petrified of this actually happening.’
By the end of the session, I’m thinking, feeling and resonating the fact that when ‘that guy’ crosses my path, I’ll go ‘ok, this is cool’ and enjoy what will be, without totally loosing my shit in the process. Essentially, without loosing me. Without compromising my self worth.
I am, unapologetically, the most important person in my life. I want to be the best possible me. That’s why I have my two very clear purposes in life. I hold my self worth above anything else. It’s not selfish, it’s now the only way I can be.
So to me, someone who’s sat in dimly lit rooms many a time and really benefited from heaps of counselling and psychological support, Kinesiology feels like that process but on speed. It’s like growth to the power of infinity. Your body does the work for you. Sure you have to be open and willing to explore stuff. You also have to find a shit hot Kinesiologist (and didn’t I just land on my little happy feet). But then you are quite literally flying.
So what is Kinesiology? Essentially … It’s so much more powerful at altering the body or mind than any drug, and there’s never a come down.
This weekend I spent most of my time doing nothing, by myself, at the pool. Mainly because last week took me to Sydney. A week of conferences and meetings for work. Important people, heaps of information, time with some good colleagues.
It also involved drinking every night, socialising and being surrounded by people almost every waking moment.
As with most of these things, I find myself learning a fair bit about myself – and so this week I learnt I actually don’t like being around people, all of the time. I love my own company. I love my own space. Solitude is happiness. Having experienced some ups and downs lately, this is a huge learn for me. Being happy by myself is wonderful.
I find the company of large groups of people really quite stress-inducing. Being surrounded by large groups of near-strangers makes me feel lonely.
But I’m also feeling smug. A quick google search led me here:
“… emerging research suggests that rather than run from solitude we should actively seek it out, as it can improve mood, creativity and memory, and lower stress and agitation.”
Taken from Why Being Alone Means Keeping Good Company
It’s one thing to be alone, but another altogether to disconnect and be still. Being alone we can still watch TV, trawl Facebook and Twitter, engage with the ‘outside’ world in some way. But stillness takes solitude to a whole new level.
A good friend recently told me to meditate every day. For at least 20 mins. So I did (apart from last week where I couldn’t keep my body upright for long enough without falling asleep). And it’s this stillness that has really brought me peace and happiness in solitude.
If you’re not sure how to meditate, just sit and breathe in and out. Do it for about 20 minutes. There’s no magic way to meditate or some formula to it – it’s about slowing down, and bringing clarity to thoughts. I tend not to move thoughts out like many people suggest, but rather go with what comes to me and spend time considering the issues that arise. 9 times out of 10, I’ll find a light bulb moment where I find the solution to an ongoing problem or a greater understanding of why I’m feeling the way I do. So there’s no magic way to meditate, but it does sometimes feel a bit like magic!