Life Event: Mum with Chronic Illness

Parenting is a hard gig. What about when your health shakes, rattles and rolls out of control?

Meet Agnes

My favourite book or tv show I enjoyed in Primary school
I cannot remember a favourite book in Primary school as parts of my life are a bit of a blur. My illness has caused a lot of memory loss for me-which saddens me.

Overview of life’s events
Things started to unravel in my life when at high school. Stress, lack of sleep, school pressures, mistreatment at home and depression overwhelmed me. I desperately wanted to scream but was unable to. I struggled through high school but had a major breakdown while at university due to family conflict. I had numerous stays in the psych ward. I was given a poor prognosis. Over the years stays in the psych ward have significantly lessened due to medication, love and support from husband and my boys, friends and mental health physicians.

What is it like?
Days of not being able to tell what is real and unreal. Being overwhelmed and preoccupied with tormenting voices and visions. Being scared of people. Wanting to die to stop the torment. Overwhelming depression.

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Life Event: new baby

Suddenly there is a small human for which you are responsible. The idea seems cute and fun and happy – but interrupted sleep is a torture technique. Hear the stories of two sets of new parents.

Agnes & Bernard A

What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school?  Why did you like it?
A – It’s probably out of print now, but I remember loving An Alien at St Wilfred’s, by Adrian Plass.  It’s a little paperback about an alien that comes to a church in England in the middle of nowhere for a few weeks, and hangs out with a small group of people.  I love the way the characters are all so broken, yet they are able to love and support each other and to grow together.

B – I enjoyed reading the Deltora Quest books by Emily Rodda. I enjoyed the adventure, and the mythology of the books.

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
We had (our first) baby.
What’s it like?
A – Insanely amazing.  The first week (birth, hospital time, coming home) was incredibly intense, but we’ve settled in now and life has a new normal.
B – It’s good. There’s a cuddly little baby who falls asleep on you!
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Life Event: early months of marriage

So it seems that these interviews will be particularly interesting – bring on the conflict… or the quiet.

Agnes & Bernard B
Unfortunately Bernard and I have a very busy few months coming up and are trying to prioritise what is really important to us to get done and practicing saying no to the non essentials. Before we got married we said yes to everything and found it meant we were overcommitted, constantly tired and constantly exhausted. Have been practicing saying no as a way to find time to enjoy with each other in the midst of our busy lives. loving life, less tired and more …happy!

Agnes & Bernard C
We are not dealing with all the life changes at once. It’s taking us a while to cope.

Life Event: Wedding preparation

Weddings – we want to celebrate with our friends, to help prepare. Or we feel obligation to attend and be positive. But what does it feel like in the midst of preparation for the day and for the marriage?

Agnes  A

What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school? Why did you like it?
I enjoyed reading the Artemis Fowl series – about a boy genius who discovers a world beneath the surface of the earth, inhabited by technologically advanced faeries and other mythical creatures. Artemis befriends the faeries and they go about saving the world together. The reason I liked it was because it made me imagine the world I live in differently – Stonehenge suddenly wasn’t a historical and awe-inspiring monument built by humans, but an ancient faerie pizza drive-through.

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
My best friend Bernard and I got married on November 26, 2016.

What’s it like?
Pretty great overall. Confusing, frustrating, fun, silly, amazing.

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Life Event: Unemployed and looking for work

Where is the locus of your identity?
It seems so easy for work to be the centre of your value and satisfaction, especially so for the men in my life. So what happens when you are out of work for a prolonged season?

Bernard A

What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school?
My grandfather, Pop, would come around for dinner each Thursday evening. So that he was not distracting my Mother leading up to dinnertime, Pop would watch “The Cisco Kid” or “Hopalong Cassidy”, american westerns in black and white.
As a seven year old I enjoyed the quiet companionship  and the measured conversation; other times the family would crowd out participation or conversation from the youngest in the room.

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
Being unemployed for what seemed a long time. I didn’t see it coming and had no life skills to assess my new situation.

What’s it like?
No-one around me knew how to respond. They could not ask about work and could not think of other topics to engage in conversation. So the replacement meaningless conversations just reinforced the social dislocation. I invested less.

What was a helpful thing someone did at that time?
At last, someone presumed that I was an intelligent type still and probably had an opinion on political and business topics. So an acquaintance asked challenging questions to which I responded and a conversation evolved. That broke my cycle of sliding into comatose thought because there was no one listening.

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Life Event: Anxiety Reflections

One of the most talented and capable people I know sent a message – “I am having debilitating anxiety, I can’t do anything today.”

What do we learn or notice from these Life Event interviews?  There is a lot going on in the brain of an anxious person.

Anxious Person
Use your coping strategies and be honest in using them.

Tell someone.
Letting someone know when you are struggling, or likely to struggle, means they can support you.
Sharing your experience encourages others to speak about their mental health.

Anxious Person’s Friend
Give space to churn.
Don’t expect them to manage all the emotions and thoughts or be able to unravel their thinking for you.

Be a safe person to tell.
When you know someone is anxious or is anxious in a particular situation, take on that knowledge, be helpful but keep your mouth shut.

Read the Interviews.
Life Event: Anxiety and Life Event: Anxiety cont’d

Life Event: Moving Cities (couples edition)

Brisbane has been my home since 1989. I love my city. The most complicated move I’ve made was three suburbs – and it was annoying. These couples packed up their lives and moved cities.

Agnes and Bernard A

What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school?
A -I loved sailor moon! The adventures they had were awesome, they were a tight group of friends and I loved their hair!
B – Captain planet, not sure, because they had bright colours probably.

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
We have just made the move from City (Brisbane) back to the country (Biloela) for a children’s ministry position. We both grew up in a small town so it’s exciting for us to go back to a rural community.

What’s it like?
Moving is mostly exciting and a little bit scary – it’s exciting because it’s a brand new start, it’s a new place to discover, you can put the best version of you forward again, it’s new people to meet and for us this is what feels like will be our home as we knew Brisbane was just temporary. It’s a little bit scary because we are moving further away from family and good friends so I know we have to make extra effort to get to know people on a deeper level. This takes time but is always worth it.

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Life Event: Anxiety cont’d

Here are two other descriptions of anxiety’s effect.

What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school?Why did you like it?
I particularly enjoyed reading and rereading The Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the idea that you could be so close to a magical world without realising it and I liked how the children played such an important part in the action of the stories. My sisters and I very enthusiastically liked to act out exciting scenes.

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
I struggle with anxiety and social anxiety. It comes in waves, sometimes weeks apart, and I am surprised at how I can go from being confident and calm one moment to be fighting hard to hide from people that I am having an anxiety attack.

What’s it like?
It depends, but I often feel my heart rate go up, I can feel physically sick and weak and I can find it difficult to speak without crying. I just want to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.

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Life Event: Anxiety

I spent the last day of 2016 wrapped in knots of anxiety and guilt. I struggled to process thoughts, to make sentences. I couldn’t calm myself. A high pitched buzz of internal intensity surrounded me all day. I had to choose not to be at my family gathering. How pathetic. I love them and I miss them. Do they know I love them? Did they notice I wasn’t there? When will I be well enough to see them?

In light of that pain comes our first Life Event interview. Life Event interviews are short anonymous responses to a particular season or moment of life. I am seeking to give us all a broader view of these situations, and an awareness of how they may affect people. Today two women reflect on their anxiety and its impact.

Agnes A

What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school? Why did you like it?
My sisters and I used to love this show called ‘Children of the Sun’ which was set in South America in the conquistador era. It was all about hidden treasure, and prophecies, and clues, and medallions that were keys to secret entryways, and amazing machines (like a giant golden flying condor) and three kids trying to outwit avaricious adults!

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
In my first year of Bible college I had some very stressful life circumstances and I found myself utterly at the mercy of crippling anxiety and fear.

What’s it like?
It was impossible to think optimistically – I could only believe that the most terrible things would happen.  Optimism seemed like the most ludicrous self-created delusion.  Pessimism seemed utterly realistic.
It caused insomnia – never sleeping more than two hours at a time, waking up, and as soon as there was the slightest awareness of consciousness all my fears came rushing into my brain like a flood, waking me fully up.
It caused nausea, diarrhoea, and then, naturally, weight loss.  I had to force myself to eat, because I knew you needed to eat to stay alive.
It was like being in an aquarium.  Normally when you are in an aquarium you can see all the sharks and stingrays and jellyfish, but there is strong glass between you and the water, and between you and the sea creatures.

Anxiety is like being in an aquarium and all of a sudden the glass dissolves and you are drowning in water, and surrounded by danger.

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