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One of the things that has changed my life the most is that I have learned to let go. But it is a lesson I started learning a long time ago. And possibly the most difficult thing we can learn.

When I was much younger, I was so full of rage and hate. Mostly directed at myself. Most of my childhood and youth was spent feeling terribly lonely and worthless. I really had nothing positive to cling to. So, I guess I clung to the hate and the pain. Every slight event took on huge proportions. Needlessly.

On the flipside, every kindness, every smile was taken to be a sign that someone loved me deeply. you can cue James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” here. While I really don’t like the song, I know exactly what he means.

I cannot exactly say why it changed. Hell, I can’t remember when it started to change. But there is one event that marked it quite clearly. I was still living with my mum, in my early to mid twenties. It was a beautiful summer’s day and I walked down to the bank to take out some money to pay her for board. It must have been about $120. Foolishly, the money was just folded up and put in my pocket.

I must’ve had my hand in the pocket and taken it out because all of a sudden the money started blowing down the street. Chasing after it, I was really amazed that other people were helping, but we weren’t quick enough to get it all. I must’ve lost just over half of it. I got home and calmly said to Mum “Oh, sorry, I’ve got to go back down and get some more money. I just lost most of it in the street”. She was flabbergasted. It was so unlike me. The me she knew at the time would have been raging. I think something just clicked in me, realising that there really was nothing I could do about it.

For many years, I still reacted badly to events in my life. Still had the rage. Maybe it was growing up (finally) or maybe it was some of the things I had to face. But things started to take on a different perspective. Starting on anti-depressants was probably a fairly big part of it too.

The next major thing was when I was told I had some brain tumours. The old me might have been apoplectic, but the new emergent me understood that, again, there was nothing I could do, and that I didn’t even know what if anything was wrong. I could only wait, and look at it analytically.

But these last few years of having my online life have been another big step. The chances I have had to reach out to others, to share my experiences, to share theirs. Real contact.

In fact, just the last year has been fairly major. I have written previously of a young friend I had been helping. Not long after I started trying to give her hope, she tweeted that she was going to end it all. I was beside myself. What can I do?  She is just so damned far away! Did I do enough to help? What did I do wrong??  Well, it turned out that she was (thankfully) unsuccessful in her attempt. But more recently we discussed this issue and whether I would be disappointed if she took her life. I advised that I would never be disappointed. That I would miss her terribly, but I have to believe that I can only do what I can, and she has to make her decisions in life. And when another tweet came suggesting serious self harm, I was sad, but knew that (to put it bluntly) it is not my problem.

A course I was recently sent on by work put words to it. Detached empathy. To understand people. To feel (a shadow of)  their pain, to reach out. But over all of that, to respect them enough to know they can make their own decisions. That you are not responsible for them.

And it was this last that helped the final piece of the puzzle slot into place.  To finally understand that I can only do what I believe is right. To know with absolute certainty that I am a good person, making the best decisions I can, helping people as far as I can. And whatever anyone else decides…well, that is their call.

When my Mum died a while back, I actually felt no sorrow. I knew she was where she wanted to be. And with her death, some of the truths of what I have always known hit home.  We hold onto things because we cannot handle the idea that we are not in control. That our actions have to mean something, or that we have certain expectations that must be fulfilled.

Grief, after all, is a selfish feeling. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Just that it is all about us, not them. We don’t feel grief that someone has died or left, we feel grief that we have lost them.

I’d like to leave you with this video. There are other versions of this song. Like John Barrowman’s dedication to past pets. But, being a Buffy fan, and because I adored Tara, this is the one for me. I warn you – you will cry. [edited to make the video embed properly)

Today, the me I am now, just feels SO good.

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I just want to apologise to family and friends for upsetting them or worrying them with my blog post.  Please know that neither I nor those around me have ever been in any danger, however much my mind might try to convince me they are.

Most of you know I have struggled with depression of most of my life, and I have regular bad spells. This was just a particularly bad one.

We all have our own demons we have to deal with. Events and trauma from our past that haunt us and sometimes drive our feelings.  According to my counsellor, I suffer PTSD with the trauma being the bullying I suffered through my school years.I never thought much of it, because that was just life at the time. But when I have recounted it to my various counsellors over the years, they seem to react with genuine shock at the psychological brutality of it. And it may be time for me to acknowledge just how bad it really was. That it was not normal childhood development.

I had always thought I had dealt with it, but in reality I had just covered it up with trying to be “good”, with trying to please people, and indeed with my whole social justice activism thing.

I know lots of people are bullied, but we all deal with it in different ways. I have long known that there is a lot of pain in my past. Sometimes it is there with me, sometimes it is leashed and caged.  But it has never been properly faced.

And I think that all the love, all the strength I have found over the years really has masked the pain rather than re-written the old scripts that keep playing in the back of my mind.  And that is a crying shame.  The love and support has just been beyond belief. Certainly when I was growing up, if anyone had suggested that I would be in the middle of such amazing goodness, I would have laughed at them.

I am really enjoying my counselling sessions. They are scary as hell because I do know that I am about to face a long-buried demon. One that I had convinced myself I had faced down previously, but really had not.  I have always known there was some blockage in my past. Something that I had never allowed myself past. Something that both prevents me becoming the person I really want to be, and also acts as a dam for all the bad feelings. A magnifier for all the messages that I am just not good enough. And let’s face it, we all get these message every day in one way or another.

I mentioned an event about 4 years ago.  At about that time I was Team Manager of a group that was effectively the pivot point for all IT change within my organisation.  A restructure brought a manager who I had previously had some run-ins with because of my outspoken opposition of what was a really bad system, procured through some really dodgy dealings.

This manager, according to those around me, moved one team member aside in a secondment while she “dealt with” the problem, disestablishing my team.  According to my team, she was very nasty to me directly and personally. At the time, I just brushed it off partially because I knew that the organisation needed me more than I needed it, and certainly more than it needed her.  But looking back, I guess this was my trigger point. One of the most significant instances of bullying I had been subjected to since my school days.  Seems to make sense, because I know I have been going downhill since then.

You see, my work was my turning point. It was something I just kinda fell into, but it was something I was really good at. And I just kept getting better. As my role changed, I developed a fame and respect that was … is … just out of this world.  I ended up doing things nobody else was able to do.  And that was the problem. This got to me. Especially as my role changed and I ended up doing things I didn’t understand quite so well.  The final straw was taking a secondment to an area where I wasn’t so well known, doing work I had never done before, in systems I had never even seen before. So all of a sudden I was a newbie.

But I am rapidly learning all these new skills. After two weeks there are some daily reconciliation tasks that I can now do as well as the people who were training me.  I am picking up other tasks before they train me on them.

So while I am still a bit shaky – the doubled Prozac meds does have the side-effect of creating anxiety symptoms – my mind is almost completely quiet and at rest.  Hell, I am even feeling happy frequently – always at home, always when with my beloved Krissy.

Especially for my anti-bullying tweeps @AgainstSuicide, the lovely, sweet-16 owner of the account Carrie and the amazing young Eduardo, I want you to know that this is the effect of bullying. Thirty years on, it still affects me. It still drives me to the edge. And I always have to be watchful for those PTSD symptoms. But through it all, life is good.  Life is really, really good.  And all those feelings I get, all those compulsions, all the fears – well, they’re just feelings.  As I said in the original post, just fucked up brain chemicals.

And still the thought of putting my demons to rest once and for all scares the hell out of me because they have been so much a part of who I am. But at 45 years old, I guess I owe it to myself to relieve myself of that load.

One thing I said to my counsellor is that I am scared of facing the demon because, if people knew what horrors lie within me, if they knew what horrible things are hidden within my soul, they would not like me, or worse be afraid of me. But I have to keep reminding myself, the love I feel from you all, that shit just doesn’t matter. So thank you.

Once again, I want to thank you all.  Family, friends, and all those wonderful people I have never met. Your love and concern and compassion has really meant a lot to me. I love you all so much.

As JK (the real Sir JK) says, whatever awards you win, coming out that other side, whoo – nothing compares to that.

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I amazed myself one time when I realised how I coped with things.

I had been on anti-convulsant medication for years after just two seizures.  One day I was massaging my darling wife’s back (she wasn’t my wife then) and thought I saw this bright spot appear on her back.  I remember it so clearly.  It was bright white. Almost completely round but with a wavy bottom.  Just a little like Pinky.  “Gosh, that looks strange” says I.  Then it starts moving around her back and changing colour.  Hmmmm … not good.

I look up and it is still there.

After a chat to wifey, and how I had been having funny dizzy spells (you know the sort – the blood pressure ones where you grey out a little, lose a bit of vision, have ringing in the ears and all that?  No?  well, I’ll continue then).

Where was I?  Oh yeah – dizzy spells.  Trundle off to the doctor who is a tad concerned and sends me to see the neurologist.  The neurologist is a bit concerned and sends me off for an MRI.  All of this was pretty ho-hum and just going to appointments.  The neurologist told me “If we find anything we’ll let you know”.  “Bloody well hope you find something in the MRI of my brain” thinks I.

Time goes by, and nothing was heard.  So I start to forget all about it.  Then the call.

“Ah hi, David, it’s Mr [name] here.”  pause  “We have your MRI back and, uhhh, there’s something … not quite right”.
“Oh?” (that doesn’t sound very good)
“Yes. I’d like to see you first thing tomorrow morning.  8:00”
“Oh.  OK then”  (shit, that serious – that I have an urgent appointment with a specialist??)

Funny thing was, it didn’t really matter.  Yeah I was shocked, but for some reason I switched into analyst mode.

Well, had the appointment. There were two brain tumours.  One about 2cm in diameter in the corpus collosum, the other about 1cm on the parietal lobe. Neither operable due to their location.  The one in the corpus collosum might become operable if it grows because it would push the hemispheres of the brain apart, giving access to the tumour.  The parietal one was on gross motor function area – risk too great.

What sort of tumour? (medical analyst coming to the fore again)
Well, we can’t tell.  Based on the expected mass (you can tell by how bright it is after the contrast was applied), we think it might be an oligodendroglioma.

 (Or check this).  But without a biopsy (out of the question) or a mass spectography test (too expensive), we don’t know.  Curiously, at about the same time, Buffy’s Mom was dying from the same tumour.  And I just found out that things called buffy coats can be used in the diagnosis of this and other conditions.  If anything, it was the Buffy episode that shocked me more than anything.  Because as soon as the diagnosis was mentioned, I knew what was up.

Wait for the second scan in six months, and if anything changes, come back and see me immediately.

Meantime wifey calls the bigger tumour Sylvester and the smaller one Tweety.  Bless her.

…. waits ….

Second scan – no change.

Great news – no change means that it probably isn’t growing.  (Yay – love that word probably … not).  But still, we just don’t know.  Either it will kill me, in which case knowing about it won’t do me much good, or it won’t, in which case I don’t need to bother about it.  Another scan in another 6 months.

… waits …

Third scan – same as the first.  The “Yays” are getting bigger.  Another scan in a year.  And another. Then two years.

Still no change.  Although Tweety has shrunk a little.

“OK, we’ll go for one last scan, and if there is still no change, then we will stop altogether and if your symptoms get worse, let us know”

… waits for results …

Tweety has disappeared.  Completely.

“That’s cool” says I.
“[laughs] Absolutely is” says the neurosurgeon.

OK, now we want to do more scans to see if we can tell why it disappeared.

There is still no change to Sylvester.  He is still hanging around in there. Not doing any damage as far as I know.

But the whole episode taught me a vital lesson.  When faced with something that might be horrible and life-threatening, we often get anxious about it when it is just so far beyond our control.  It taught me that when I am faced with bad things, to put it aside and look objectively, analyse, gather information, and then figure out what it all means.

I have often said that crises are often easy to manage.  All the trivial day to day stuff just goes away.  There is only one priority, and things become really clear.  It is the day to day life that gets you.  The old parable of “It is not the mountain in front of you, but the grain of sand in your shoe that wears you down.”

 

Apologies, folks. Not overly happy with this post.  But want to get it out tonight.  I promise I will write something better soon.

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Settling down for an easy, lazy Sunday morning, I flick over to Stuff and see an article about “Secret abortions” arranged by schools.

A mother is angry that a school arranged an abortion and counselling for her 16 year old daughter.  It talks about how school counsellors can’t talk to the kid’s parents without the kid’s consent.  It talks about all these terrible things.  Oh and it shows a happy and healthy teen mum who got pregnant at 14 and chose to have the baby.

Where to begin?  As others and others and others have commented, the article screams of terrible wrong-doing in our education system.  Schools are forcing girls to have abortions!!!  Well, actually no.   Schools are hiding the truth from the parents of the kids!!!  Well, yes.  A kid goes to a counsellor in confidence and says they don’t want their parents to know.  Shock horror – the counsellor complies with patient confidentiality.

“If that protection disappeared, you can pretty well guarantee the young
person won’t tell the counsellor a thing – particularly the thing you need them
to talk about.” – Kathryn Dalziel

The article ends with the story of a young woman who became pregnant at 14.  She chose to have the baby and there is a lovely picture of happy and smiling mother and baby.  What the fuck does this have to do with the story?  Nice juxtaposition of angry mother, bad schools, secrets being kept, and happy young mum.  Passive-agressive much?

Sunday Star Times – balanced reporting?  Ur doin it rong.

What worries me even more about this story is that I can expect them to open it up to comments.  Then we get all the slut-shaming comments.  About how these girls should just keep their legs together – conveniently forgetting about the young man who should have kept his cock in his pants.

Funniest thing – as I type this I have one of my compilation albums playing.  Who comes on but Helen Reddy with “I Am Woman”.

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There has been an increase in legislation going through State Government in the United States that are effectively an attack on women. The Arizona and Texas State Government are passing Bills planned to drastically slash public health funding – most notably in relation to Planned Parenthood organisations.

Some are arguing that there isn’t the money to spend, and others argue about how we shouldn’t pay tax to help others who ought to be able to help themselves.  We keep hearing the contradictory arguments of “we need to get more people spending money – we need to get the economy flowing again” and “we (the Government) won’t spend anything”.  The money is there – it is just the will that is absent.

And whether it is a matter of there being no money available, or whether it is the old standard of “Waaahhh I don’t wanna pay tax”, the Bills being passed would be to cut all public health funding.  By targeting women’s health only, it sends a very definite message.  The growing ultra-conservative right is gaining an unpleasant foothold in the power structures of the world. And anyone who isn’t an effluent affluent straight white male is in real deep shit.

Fortunately, there are a few voices of dissent – such as the Austin Chronicle.

These changes aren’t just about abortion, but about the provision of information.  About all elements of sexual health.  They are, in fact, denying ordinary people the right to informed consent.  They are denying people the right to choose how and when they re-produce. And once again, because it is women who carry the burden of pregnancy, it is primarily women affected by these changes.

Ultra-conservatism definitely seems on the rise. We’ve been there before, and we’ve survived it. Because ultimately our fight is a fight for life. Their’s is a fight for control.  And ultimately, life cannot be controlled (to borrow a phrase from Jurassic Park).

As for the changes in the US – what can we do about it?  Well, at the very least we can let those who are leading the fight in that country know that they have our support.  Some will say that it doesn’t concern us because it is a fight in a foreign country.  I think we have heard that argument many times.  And the response is that the sort of thing being fought doesn’t limit itself to one country. It spreads like a virus. If we do not fight it, we will eventually succumb to it. And even if the fight “over there” fails, then by giving our support to those doing the fighting we can gain an ally for when the fight comes to our shores.

Sounds very militant, doesn’t it?  There is a reason for that.  The arguments for fighting so many incredibly expensive wars in far away lands apply equally here.

What worries me is that this seems to be just the start.  Hopefully, I will publish a few more posts on the rise of the new right, including matters like the disturbing trends in comments on discussion boards, the Ugandan “Kill the Gays” Bill, and other matters. And on how, as it seems to me, it is becoming all the more important that we fight these things with every ounce of energy we have.

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