Impending doom was a resounding success.

Ok, ok, I’m fine. It’s just that my noony noony moment turned into a “you’re going to procrastinate today” moment which did indeed last all day. Went to bed having achieved nothing all day except a gym visit, blog post and dinner preparations. I have so much to do they all seemed to get crowded in the doorway and not one thing got through. So of course I then hated myself a little bit. A lot. Normally when I procrastinate I do other useful but boring things like filing, but I didn’t even manage that on Monday. 

I wondered why I did this and I think it’s probably a teensy weensy bit of self sabotage. You know, the thing where you think you might fail and so you don’t give it 100%? Just in case you DO fail and then you can say “oh, I didn’t really try hard on that thing, so it was always going to be crap”. That thing. It’s the perfectionist in me, partly, but also the bit in me that worries I might not be good enough at the thing. I’ve got lots on, and all of the things require a high level of expertise, skill or whatever. I just get the yips. 

Anyway. So I procrastinate, feeling miserable. Then I get the lovely letters from my collaborators and referees and whatever and feel more miserable because I haven’t done the work I’d promised them. Sigh. You see the cycle here. It’s like I’m determined to feel shite. And then I have to do a gig. Now, I don’t have to do the gig. I could stand back and say nah, I’m done performing. But part of me is flattered that I’ve been asked, another part of me thinks I need to perform as it legitimises my musician persona for my students and the last part of me loves the premise of the gig. 

So naturally I don’t do much prep for the gig either. In my old performing days I rarely bothered to remember the words (bad bad me) and I didn’t give much emotional energy either. This gig demanded emotional energy AND memory work. As a teacher I demand and expect my students to memorise songs. I demand and expect and emotional singing energy. Yet I don’t apply the same demands to my own performances. 

So I spend most of Monday through Wednesday morning with minor anxiety about memorising the words. Note: I don’t bother to do the work for this. I just worry about it. Sleep poorly both nights, finally get up Wednesday morning to print out the words in a vain hope that by doing this I’ll somehow feel better about my lack of preparation. I feel better. Go to gig. Along with one of my colleagues we both have a minor panic about said new song which has about 3 words in it. Practice it badly. Then, in the middle of Wednesday afternoon, we finally get onto stage and voila, my anxiety completely melts away. Jeez. I forget I’m a professional sometimes. I’m GOOD at this stuff. Being on stage is an easy thing for me. 

The gig went off without a hitch. The new song with the 3 words was incredible, my singing partner and I totally emotionally invested in the beautiful song “Say Something”. Our audience laughed, danced, and cried. Lots of crying. And I remembered why I do this stuff. 

And I realised why Monday was a crap wasteful day. Sometimes anxiety is nothing more than a feeling of malaise. Out of focus and vague, no concrete thoughts or anything, just a feeling of … waiting. Watchfulness. The amygdala hijack of fight or flight. My adrenaline was up due to the gig so I was in readiness mode, which stops me from being able to work or think in a deep and meaningful way. So now it’s over, the gig is done. Time to forgive myself and move on. I have a Post Doc to write. 

Noony noony noo…

No news is good news, right?

Typewriter-ClearNoony noony noony noo.

I’m the Sesame St typewriter this month. That’s how I’m feeling right now. I’m about to finish organising my book proposal and Post Doc applications but otherwise life is just noodling along, pretty calm and relaxed. My referees are coming along nicely, my book proposal is nearly done, my Post Doc is pretty shite right now and I need to get my referee love sorted BEFORE  June, but mostly I’m feeling cool.

I’ve recently seen more pro-am theatre than I ever want to see again, but I don’t mind. As my mum says, “I’m notching up those karma points for my old age”. And most of it has had some very good points. At least at no time was I really bored. That’s important.

My daughter is OK (which is as good as it gets), my DH is a bit ill with a persistent cold because he needs a long holiday, and the house plans are on the final stretch to costings and council approval. The animals are in fine health, I polished the furniture yesterday and the laundry is done (not by me).

My teaching is going fine (as far as I can tell, I’m over it slightly so the care factor is rather low), and I’m performing again, adding valuable dollars to our school fee account. The house sitters are organised, the bills are paid, Netflix and Stan are getting a good work out, I’m going to the gym and calorie counting again (minus the calories for Pinot Noir, because I need it), I’m cooking, we’re eating out a lot, I’m seeing heaps of great theatre and shows, seeing friends, I’m organising our wardrobe and pantry with some new coat hangers, storage jars and a shoe stand (which is a GREAT thing to have). Exciting overseas holiday plans are coming along well – Spain and France this year. And that’s it.

Noony noony noony noo.

Why then do I have a niggling feeling of impending doom?

charlie-brown

 

A break in the weather

Brisbane is characterised by hot, humid weather most of the year. I hate this type of weather. Which is why, in May, I’m suddenly feeling very cheerful again. The weather is COLD. Days are quite warm – think an Irish summer (apparently), but the nights are fabulously chilly. I am now, at 4.20pm, wearing my UGG boots and feeling delightfully not warm. I don’t know anyone else who feels quite the way I do about the cold. My mother recently explained to me that she used to keep windows open during Winter because she had read somewhere that it was good for children. I must say it saved time getting into the house when I didn’t have a house key.

However, as an adult I have difficulty now spending time in environments where there is no wind. Dammit. Most houses in Winter are hermetically sealed from the cold. In those environments, hot and dry and still, I feel terribly uncomfortable, as if someone has left the electric blanket on and I can’t breathe.

Luckily our house – about which I have been complaining vociferously for several years now – is a veritable gale of open windows, gaping window frames and not-quite-sealed doors. No chance of me not being cold in the house. People, I LIKE wearing jumpers. I LIKE rugging up against the cold INSIDE the house. I feel more connected to the environment I guess, but really it’s because I like the chilblains I used to get as a child. Ah, the delicious agony of warm bath water on cold, cold feet and hands. Nothing quite like it.

The job hunt begins in earnest!

I am well aware of the futility of that statement. As a woman in her mid-forties, walking into a new job in any field is near impossible. I mentioned it to hubby today because I realised I will need to earn an income over the summer months: that’s November, December, January and February.

I will be without an income during that time (and possibly longer because who knows whether I get to keep my current contract into 2016?!). Now DH earns nearly enough to support us both, but given our current expenditure and his ongoing child support payments and school fees, his nett income is not enough to carry us through. So I need to work. Besides, I get bored, grumpy and too hot if I have to stay at home in summer.

I am currently preparing some fellowship and Post Doc applications. I am not expecting to succeed in my first few attempts so I will have to prepare myself to fail this year. So that leaves me with a very uncertain future in 2016.

On the plus side, here is a photo of my bound thesis (name hidden for privacy reasons): huzzah!

 

Thesis

I’m a little bit proud of this one.

So I’m preparing a book proposal based on my thesis. I have to prepare a book chapter, which will probably be harder than writing the actual thesis itself, if for no other reason than I have to humanise it. I can write quite well but rewriting for a semi-lay audience is a little more difficult. And I have to prove it’s worth publishing, too!

So 2015. The year of grant writing, book proposals, Fellowship and Post Doc applications. Fun.

 

Determined to get fit!!!!

This post is for all the diet and health nuts out there. I am a very lazy person. I’m sure I’m not the world’s laziest person – that would be hyperbolic and smack of hubris. So for me to get back on the diet and fitness wagon is an effort.

I’m also not a runner – in the hot, humid Brisbane heat I can’t actually run because I get very lightheaded and puffy and look like I’m going to pass out. Heat will do that to people with low blood-pressure. And I’m an ex-smoker. I don’t think my lungs have ever really recovered. I would love to run. It looks self-sufficient, but I hate getting hot, sweaty and panicky. And I really can’t be bothered with the treadmill – I only go on one to get my muscles warm.

So I must find other ways to exercise. I like to swim. I like to lift free weights. I really like yoga. So last week I got back on the wagon, back on the horse, back on the treadmill.

Mondays and Fridays I see a personal trainer (at the moment until I can’t afford it any more), and because on these days I don’t work all day, I can stay there for more punishment. Last Monday I stayed for a Tabata class. Nearly killed me. Tabata is a regime whereby you do a body weight exercise for 20 seconds, have a 10 second rest, then repeat. 7 more times. Then you have a minute’s break and start the next exercise. Exercises can include Burpees, push ups, crunches, hi knees, lunges, squats and other things. You do this for an hour. When I’m fit it’s not too bad. When I’m out of condition, oh boy. Oh, boy oh boy.

Word of warning, if you do 3 x 120kg leg presses followed by weighted squats and lunges with your PT plus other fun stuff, then try and do a Tabata class, make sure you eat breakfast and be prepared to NOT SLEEP for THREE NIGHTS because when you turn over your body is in such pain it WAKES YOU UP.

On the plus side, I got to my next class on Friday and while I was in no condition to push myself too hard, I stayed and did some more weights, treadmill, seated rowing and stairs. It felt good to work my poor aching quads and glutes. OMG.

Food-wise I’m not faring too badly although I’m still a little generous with the carbs and potatoes. As I keep the diet up I’ll reduce my bread, pasta, rice and potato consumption and up my leafy green vegies and quinoa. Anyone who knows me knows I rarely eat junk food – can’t actually eat Micky D’s because the food doesn’t actually taste like food. Same for KFC and other fast food outlets. And I cut out milk from my coffee (except when substituting it for breakfast) and tea long ago. I hardly ever drink soft drink or juice – I actually prefer the taste of sparkling mineral water. My great weakness is sweet things, and/or hot chips. Once I get rid of the desire to eat these things I’ll do a lot better. But NEVER ask me to forgo my Pinot Noir. Even hubby knows not to ask now.

I’m back on MyFitnessPal and my calorie intake is hovering around the 1700 mark – this needs to drop by 200 calories for me to lose weight easily. Problem is, the weight goes straight back on if I ease up on the exercise. I’m not an exercise junkie so I can’t maintain my habits very well. SIGH. But I’m determined to get fit and healthy again – need it to maintain my ageing body!

Where we find a diagnosis for my daughter’s mental health condition: BPD.

*Trigger warning: discussion of suicide attempts.

This week has been a bit of a doozy. My trans daughter tried to kill herself again. This is the second deliberate attempt. I won’t mention the times she drowned, got run over by a car, spent days in hospital with chronic asthma attacks and broke her arm so many times in 18 months that she was awarded a prize by her school for the most accident prone child. No, those things occurred prior to deliberate thought.

After several weeks of not hearing from her, because mum horrible, I get a panicked phone call late at night from one of her partners (she calls them this – I think they’re hug-buddies more than anything), who tells me said daughter is threatening on FB to kill herself.

DH and I dash about the suburb where she was last seen not one hour prior, driving up and down darkened streets, hoping that my poorly dressed, barefooted adult child will be sitting at a bus stop without anywhere to go – she doesn’t drive. Finally, after not seeing her anywhere we call the police, report her vitals and go home to wait. Soon after the police arrive at our house and inform us she has been found, she is alive and well and being taken to hospital as we speak. Wonderful police. Discreet and empathetic. Thanks to Queensland Police for their great work. Well. DH and I dash to the hospital only to find she has not yet been admitted and so we hang about for a couple of hours until we are informed that yes, she is here, and no, she won’t speak to us. We go home and get some sleep, relieved by the knowledge that she is safe.

The following day she texts me. She wants to come home. But she cannot until she has been assessed by the mental health unit and admitted to a ward. So she stays there, unhappy but fed and watered and safe, until I go to pick her up the following afternoon.

We hug. While all is not forgiven, and there are things to talk about, but she is at least talking to me. We hug lots more and then I find out she has a condition called BPD – Borderline personality disorder. I looked the condition up on http://www.sane.org. You can find more information here. This condition is characterised by the following, which I have reproduced:

People with BPD have persistent difficulty relating to other people and to the world around them. This can be very distressing for the person and for those who care for them.

Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

Deep feelings of insecurity
Difficulty coping with fear of abandonment and loss; continually seeking reassurance, even for small things; expressing inappropriate anger towards others whom they consider responsible for how they feel; a fragile sense of self and one’s place in the world.

Impulsiveness
This impulsiveness is a response to feeling emotionally overwhelmed, and may include self-harm (for example, cutting, burning, or abuse of alcohol or drugs) or attempts at suicide. Self-harm may bring short-term relief from emotional distress, but can have a longer-term negative impact on the person.

Confused, contradictory feelings
Frequent questioning and changing of emotions or attitudes towards others, and towards aspects of life such as goals, career, living arrangements or sexual orientation.

Some people with BPD may also have symptoms of other mental illnessses. They may experience symptoms associated with anxiety or mood disorders, such as excessive worrying and having panic attacks, obsessive behaviour, hoarding or having unwanted thoughts, feeling persistently sad, moving or talking slowly, losing sexual interest or having difficulty concentrating on simple tasks. They may even experience psychotic symptoms such as delusions or false beliefs – believing, for example, they are being deceived, spied on or plotted against.

Do you know, about 2-5% of the population have symptoms of BPD at some stage in their lives? It’s a common condition, I suspect most usually experienced in late adolescence. Well, luckily it’s treatable, if not curable. We’ll begin a treatment plan for her next week some time, which involves something called DBT – Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. An offshoot of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it combines group and individual treatments. I’ve reproduced the information below from an Australian website.

What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a form of psychological therapy which was developed for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), particularly those individuals with self harm and/or suicidal urges. DBT has been shown by research to be an effective psychological treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. While the treatment of BPD remains probably the most common use of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, the DBT treatment approach is increasingly being applied to a range of other psychological disorders and problems, particularly disorders that include issues of emotional dysregulation such as bulimia.

Dialectical Behaviour therapy was developed by psychologist Dr Marsha Linehan (1993). DBT developed out of the recognition that traditional Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) techniques, while of some assistance for symptoms of BPD, seemed to have limited impact on the core problems in BPD.

Dialectical Behaviour therapy combines traditional CBT with techniques such as mindfulness and acceptance, which are often associated with newer or “third wave” behavioural strategies. These extra techniques focus particularly on teaching people with DBT emotion regulation skills to assist them in dealing with the sometimes overwhelmingly intense negative emotions which occur periodically in BPD and hinder sufferers from being able to progress in therapy.

By acquiring effective DBT emotion regulation skills, BPD sufferers frequently feel empowered able to be able to tackle the wide range of other issues in their lives which otherwise hem them in and frequently prevent them from reaching their full potential.

As well as the inclusion of some novel therapy techniques, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy differs from traditional CBT in the typical time frame for therapy. CBT is generally considered ‘brief therapy’ because clients are typically seen for somewhere between 6 and 20 visits (although there is obviously substantial variation. By contrast, because Borderline Personality Disorder is a chronic condition which involves very significant emotion coping difficulties, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy can be conducted in weekly or twice weekly visits over a year or more. Nonetheless the skills building group programme is designed to be run over

There are two forms of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Individual DBT and Group DBT. While based on the same underlying principles, DBT Group Therapy tends to focus on teaching practical coping skills, while individual DBT focuses on addressing issues specific to the individual client and assisting the client to put DBT skills into practice in everyday life. Click here for more information on group verses individual DBT.

What is involved in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?

DBT Group programs which follow Linehan’s program closely involve training in 4 key areas:

(1) Mindfulness techniques – techniques designed to increase the ability of clients to stay ‘present focussed’ and to overcome the mental wrestle over unwanted intrusive thoughts, images & emotions.

(2) ‘Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills’ – skills at negotiating interpersonal challenges, especially confrontation and conflict.

(3) Emotion Regulation Skills – skills designed to replace unhelpful and/or destructive emotion coping approaches

(4) ‘Distress Tolerance’ Skills – skills to tackle the extreme emotional pain, often associated with crises.

In practice many therapist use DBT skills as part of their treatment approach, particularly in the early stages of treatment for BPD, but may use other treatment techniques such as Schema Therapy and traditional CBT, in their treatment programs.

In fact it is possible to attend DBT Group Skills Training while receiving individual treatment by a therapist using an entirely different treatment approach. This is not usually problematic provided the individual therapist does not use a contradictory treatment approach and the individual therapist is aware of what is occurring in then DBT skills training program.

I’m hoping this therapy will work for my daughter. It’s a chronic condition and requires long-term treatment, but the prognosis appears to be good, particularly for suicide reduction. Keeping my fingers crossed.

When your mentally ill adult child rejects you

My trans daughter isn’t speaking to me right now. She’s not even coming home. All her stuff is here except obviously some clothes, medications and a few fluffy toys. She’s staying with trans friends because apparently last week I hurt her so much she can’t bear to be near me.

She had a “panic attack” at work, started cutting herself and had to be fired by her very understanding boss, who cannot in all conscience be responsible for a person self-harming on the job. I got really angry with my daughter because she did not take personal responsibility for her actions, she swore at her boss, and she was a danger to herself and others. Essentially, she didn’t want to go to work, so she made it impossible to be employable. I had to cancel my afternoon’s teaching, and wanted to take her home, but she told me to fuck off and I haven’t seen her since.

And I’m in terrible grief and sadness that she won’t talk to me. But I could kinda see it coming. Over the last few weeks she has spent very little time at home, staying with friends and couch surfing. She’s nearly 23, it should be fine, but she doesn’t have enough money to fully move out, and at the moment she’s not returning my messages. I’m so concerned for her well being, I’ve even called her psychiatrist.

My friend who mans a LGBTIQ counselling hotline gets quite a few phone calls from supporting parents of trans children who all of a sudden just up and reject the family. He says this is a normal stage in the transformation of self for trans people, where isolation and rejection of what they were can also include the sloughing off of supportive families.

It’s tragic but true. What shits me is that I then get the blame. Something I’ve noticed over the last year is my daughter’s headlong dive into victimhood and a quite negative and destructive trans community. Everything always happens to her, it’s not her fault, it’s the fault of society, it’s all about ‘woe is me’, ‘I’m ill and therefore can’t work’, ‘I’m being marginalised by society’. That sort of thing. As my friend comments of these environments: “Where is the joy?”. Where indeed.

My daughter becomes very shouty at me if I misgender a friend or make even the smallest mistake in conversations with her. She has become wafty and sad and much more depressed than before, she’s cutting herself and hating herself and turning on me. I suppose it had to happen – after all, I did this to my own mother when I was 17. And look how THAT turned out! I guess my daughter is at the 16 years-old phase now. Still 6 years behind. She was always a late bloomer (Leo the late bloomer is a book for children. Very cute story).

But after all is said and done, I love my daughter so very much. I fear for her safety and I hope she won’t try to kill herself. Because that is my worst fear – that she will end her life and I won’t know.

That she will end her life and I won’t know.

My sole-authored article is being published in an academic journal!!

My words, my study. My sole-authored publication. I’m a tad chuffed. I’ve written a PhD, I’ve co-edited a book on singing, I’ve even published articles with others. But NOTHING beats seeing my name as sole author in a prestigious music education and research journal. It’s my very first article. It had an awfully long gestation period. I wrote it back in 2010 for my mid-candidature review, then sent it to the journal in 2011. Heard nothing for a year, then a response – the editorial team had changed and my article was being sent out for review. Came back with major revisions required. I put the article away for about a year because criticism and then got a query about a year later wondering if I still wished to revise for publication. Oh, all right, quoth I. I got stuck into the revisions, discovered major flaws in my writing, fixed most of those, sent back the revised copy and ages later it was accepted for publication. Then the real revisions began. The editor of the journal is fabulous. I love this editor. Awesome at finding flaws in logic and writing style. The whole revision process made the article SO much better. There are still issues with it but not enough to be a major problem for the reader.

And it’s a damn fine article, if I do say so myself. I read through it for the final edits today and I thought, wow, I really knew my stuff back then. I still know it, but now I have Stan brain. (Stan brain is binge TV watching).

The editor of the journal is a real stickler for detail. I had to edit and re-edit after the review process, and even yesterday was fielding questions about my methodology. To be fair I had written a really crap methodology that was in no way good enough to publish but no-one had picked it up until the most recent pass. I revisited my thesis abstract for ideas re methodology. Revising this little article, a mere 9% the length of my actual thesis was actually more annoying than doing my PhD and I spent several weeks on it for absolutely no reward other than seeing my name on the byline.

No wonder that my PhD revisions felt like dancing when this article revision felt like shovelling shite. But like all hard work, totally worth it. I’m a better writer because of it.

I might have to write to my ex-supervisor and let her know the article is being published in the June edition.

Booyah!

 

Netflix v Stan

For non-Americans (aka Australians), streaming TV is somewhat new. We’ve had free-to-air streaming tv for ages, and those with VPN have been able to access Hulu and Netflix from the U.S. for more than 5 years. In my household we’ve had an Apple TV for about 2 years, and plenty of access to iTunes shows. Until 2 days ago we made do with DVDs and iTunes and unlimited internet data usage bundled with our home phone. Life was ok. Oh! And by the way, we’re Apple users. Not exclusively, but nearly. Begrudgingly. Because beautiful shiny, good for dummies. 2 iMacs, 1 MacBook Pro, 1 MacBook Air, 2nd generation iPad, 1 iPad mini, Apple TV, 2 iPhone 6 plus. Plus a bunch of derelict Apple phones (3,4) and touches and stuff.

Then Netflix and Stan and Presto and Quickflix arrived. Actually, Quickflix has been around for years but I never cared before.

I’m here to report on Netflix and Stan. I’m taking advantage of the 30 day free membership to assess each provider and their libraries. I’m excited!!

So far here’s the thing. At $8.99 per month Netflix offers SD streaming on one device. Handily already added to Apple TV, all it took was a neatly synchronised iTunes account to join up, and we were away. What a great, convenient approach. Love it. I’ve chosen an SD stream because our TV is 6 years old, so there are limits to what it can show. Also, streaming in Australia can be crap. There is no point getting a higher def stream, it’s too data hungry. Yes, we have unlimited usage but there’s a limit to what our network can manage.

Netflix currently have about 1000 movies and TV series in its library. This includes about a third children’s programs. This leaves adults with a surprisingly small library of shows. Our first day on the site started well. We caught up with the latest Superman (Henry Cavill with the most adorable underbite), then the following day I caught up with old favourites Serenity, Enchanted, The Matrix and Frozen. Plus some TV things I’d not seen. But then that was it. It was like looking at the old video hire store and being sad and bored by the crap offerings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there’s lots and I’ve just not seen it yet. There IS the entire seven seasons of Dr Who (modern version), so hello holidays, and I’m pretty sure The Good Wife and some other shows I’ve been holding off watching due to mismatching timetables will be just the ticket for a jaded palate. But I think the small offerings are poor thus far. No West Wing!!! *News just to hand as of 25/06/15 – STILL NO WEST WING but at least I can now buy the series (expensively) on Apple iTunes.

No problems with streaming yet. The video is great, smooth and not at all laggy.

Stan is a peculiarly Australian offering, via Fairfax and Nine Entertainment, and StreamCo. At a clean $10 per month, it’s got some nice features.

It has secured some pretty impressive British and American shows already and with lots of Australian content it makes me happy. One of my favourite shows already is the US show Transparent. Every time Maura tries to come out to her children I cry. Stan’s interface on our devices is awesome, and we can stream onto 3 devices at once. Stan’s interface with our Apple TV has not been a happy experience as my Apple TV won’t talk to any of my devices through AirPlay. I think the only way we can watch Stan on the big TV is if I hook up my HDMI cable to my laptop and stream through the Internet page. So I’m watching Janet King (an amazing Australian court house procedural)  through my iPad mini, which is old and laggy. (It shouldn’t be; it’s 2 years old, but it acts like it’s ancient).  *NEWS just to hand as of 25/06/15 – Apple and Stan talked to each other and now Stan has the same great Apple App on Apple TV that Netflix does. This has made the whole process SO MUCH EASIER.

A few bugs to fix up, mainly streaming issues, but I think it’s because of the device, not the provider. I wrote to Stan to check an audio issue and they responded in 30 minutes with a real life email from a human. Take that, Apple!

At the moment I’m kinda siding with Stan. As an Australian provider, it understands its market very well. It has fast acting personal service. And I like the Australian content. Because Janet King is as good as, if not better than, The Good Wife. From the DPP angle, of course!

So, for Netflix 9/10 for ease of use, 6/10 for content. Stan 8/10 for ease of use, 8/10 for content. Price being the same, these are bargain prices for the benefit of watching shows without ads.

I’m thinking I might just buy both subscriptions anyway. At $20 per month it’s less than I was spending on iTunes anyway. And that’s the benefit right there.