Menopause, we need to talk!

This afternoon on my way home from work, I considered throwing myself in front of the Northgate train as it pulled into platform 3, but even though physics is not my strong point, I knew that the train was moving too slowly to cause my instant death.

I considered having to live with the consequences of such a poor choice, inwardly telling myself to snap out of it. This was not the first time I’d thought about how I would end my life if I made the decision to do so; after watching the recent film A Star is Born, my thoughts turned to our own garage and how easy it would be to rig up the same ending.

Does having these thoughts of ending my life make me suicidal? Don’t we all have a thought like this at some time or another during our lives? What brought me to such thoughts was a concoction of events throughout the last few weeks and an emotional week at work was just the icing on the proverbial.

During a leadership forum I learned of the incredible survival story of a woman who tried to end her own life by jumping off Story Bridge (in Brisbane). It was August 2012, and she was suffering not from mental illness, but from a crisis of confidence which led to her life unravelling in just ten days. She was pulled out of the river by a passing ferry, with five fractured vertebrae, a broken rib and a lacerated liver. Lucky to survive such a fall, she now uses her incredible survival story to coach others on resilience and wellbeing – it was an inspirational story.

Later in the week, I attended a training course and the facilitator recounted her near death experience following the birth of her twins. She nearly bled to death and it was the generosity of blood donors who saved her life. The way she recounted her story, how she could see her healthy new babies but knew she was staring death in the face had us all in tears.

What with one-thing-and-another, it was a terrible week. I’ve been feeling anxious, stressed, sad, miserable, ravenous, worthless, useless, unable to sleep and hot…oh! so hot! Turns out that these are some of the symptoms of perimenopause which have all come to me as a total shock. Why was I not prepared for this transition in my life? As little girls we are prepared for the onslaught of womanhood by our mums (I remember a book), aunties, grandmothers. sisters, school and friends, but when it comes to exiting the other end, it’s all a bit of a hotch potch. Yes I know what it’s all about, and I know what’s happening to me but no one talks about this shit and I’m wondering why. Sure when I mention symptoms to other women my age or older they’ll relate their own experiences, providing me with useful nuggets of information such as ”You’ve got ten years of this” or ”I didn’t even notice it happening”; but no one sat me down like that little girl, no one gave me a book and no one forewarned me of the impact it would have on my life. What I do know is that this transition can be totally different for every woman – there is not one peri-menopause experience the same.

What I have learned is that how you navigate this change is greatly affected by how you have looked after yourself in previous years in terms of diet and fitness, mental health and spiritual health – they all have an impact on the balance of our hormones and depending on how out of kilter they are, determines the impact of perimenopausal symptoms. So for instance, I am a stress head; I’m always worrying and stressing about something – usually completely out of my control and mostly made up in my head. As a result of the stress and anxiety I live with, IT MIGHT BE contributing to the awful hot flushes I’m experiencing.

What is a hot flush? Hot flushes occur due to changes in the body’s thermoregulatory system, which regulates body temperature and maintains it within a certain range. It is thought that hot flushes are triggered by hormonal changes, more specifically, the rapid decline in oestrogen.

So what does the body’s thermoregulatory system look like – IN MY HEAD?

This is what normal body temperature looks like – the thermoregulatory system – IN MY HEAD
And my broken thermoregulatory system

Turn your attention to the adrenal glands for a moment; responsible for producing cortisol, the stress response hormone – it’s what our bodies need for the flight or fight response – which ever category you sit in. Turns out my body is probably constantly producing cortisol, leaving it no time to produce the balancing hormone progesterone. Accodring to a podcast I’ve been listening to, a study a few years ago found that the one intervention which had the greatest impact on a woman’s perimenopause symptoms was meditation. During meditation, our adrenal glands have time to rest, in turn allowing our hormones time to balance out.

Thankfully there is plenty of help available on the internet with podcasts, videos, websites and blogs a-plenty. I have learned several strategies to help with my symptoms and the first one to try is meditation – not something I have ever done before but I’m prepared to give it a go – eliminating stress from my life will certainly make a difference – won’t it?

Donna Thistlethwaite, the woman who survived the jump off Story Bridge, now practices gratitude every day; with her friends, they text each other the three things they are grateful for that day – I can see how that simple practice would set you up with positivity every day.

So with gratitude, meditation, a healthy diet and a hand-held fan, I might just be able to control the hormones who choose to play havock with me – I’ll keep you posted!

This Retreating Wombat

This Retreating Wombat

And so it came to pass that the little hairy-nosed wombat emerged from a deep, long slumber. She sleepily made her way to the mouth of the burrow and blinked in the bright summer sun; it’s been way too long she thought to herself – time to face the world.

It really has been way too long. I started blogging in 2014, initially as a way of staying connected to family and friends across the world, but then a wonderful thing happened – I made friends with likeminded bloggers and very quickly I had a circle of new friends; people I wouldn’t have met face to face. It was a wonderful community. We wrote about life ‘stuff’ and somehow connected with each other. It was a hobby and I loved it.

I started to incorporate photography as my love of the camera started to develop. At the same time people were encouraging me to write more, they were enjoying what I wrote. “You should write a book” they said. “Don’t be ridiculous” I thought.

 I was researching creative writing courses to undertake but at the same time the creative juices were drying up. Something had changed. And now here I am, crashing into the end of 2019 with only a handful of posts for the whole year, most of which are photography posts.

It would appear that I have lost my creativity and my blogging direction and wonder if it’s time for me to retreat into my burrow for good.

The blogging world has changed in the five years that I’ve been online. It’s now a saturated space and many bloggers are turning their hobbies into a way of earning a living and hobby bloggers are slowly disappearing – aren’t they? I think it’s time to reassess what this Wombat is all about and why she’s here. It could be time to change direction, find a new theme, or to go private or disappear altogether. 

I’m sure the handful of followers I had have since tired of the silence and turned their attention to a far more meaningful and rewarding space; afterall, we are all searching for maximum satisfaction with the minimum effort. We all change and our needs change with the marching on of the years.

Is anyone actually there?

Refugees & Lip Fillers

I wanted to call this post ‘Our world is f*cked’ but then several people who know me would find this type of language offensive and besides, it’s not in my usual style to use expletives in my writing. However, this world really IS f*cked. This isn’t about the effects of climate change nor about our war on waste, it’s about the unfairness and the madness of it all.

Earlier this week, Chief and I watched a BBC documentary presented by Simon Reeve. Simon, former journalist now presenter, travels to Burma and Bangladesh. He meets the locals and we learn of the country’s long and troubled history. He also visits the northern area of Rakhine, the state where the Rohingya Muslim minority reside.

Summing up the long and complicated history of Burma; a series of Anglo-Burmese wars, led to British colonial rule which came to an end with the country’s independence in 1948. Since then, the country has been ruled by the military in various guises, and in the process has become one of the least developed nations in the world. It was the military who decided to change the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar, overnight.

Today the Rohingya people have become one of the most persecuted minorities on earth and you can find out why here. In the last two years more than 723,000 Rohingya people have been driven across the border into Bangladesh, seeking refuge from violence, torture and rape.

Simon Reeve visited Kutupalong Camp, the refugee settlement which has grown to become the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 600,000 people living in an area of just 13 square kilometres. The vast majority reaching Bangladesh are women and children, and more than 40 per cent are under age 12. Many others are elderly people requiring additional aid and protection. They have nothing and need everything. (excerpt from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees website)

The terrors inflicted on the Rohingya people are captured in one confronting scene in the documentary, when a young boy speaking to Reeve is visibly frightened of the video camera, having confused it for a gun. “It was a deeply upsetting journey to undertake,” says Reeve. “A beautiful country, but the story of what’s happened there is horrifying.”

It was incredibly moving to hear the personal stories of the people Reeve met, especially the children who have nothing and have never known any different, except that now they are in relative safety. It really brought home to me just how fortunate I am to have been dealt such a great and fortunate hand in life. Why was I chosen to live the privileged life I lead and not one of persecution, violence and poverty?

© UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

And now let me bring you back into our crazy western society; a couple of days after watching the documentary, I was ordering my morning coffee and I struck up my usual chit-chat with the familiar barista behind the counter. She was just recovering from having her lips injected with filler. I tried to offer her sympathy, but I had no words. I even tried to demonstrate some empathy – at least I should be able to appreciate what she had gone through in order to make her lips look – look, well, fishy couldn’t I? The young girl had also had injections under her eyes because she was fed up with having grey circles under them – she’s in her mid-20s. I looked at the other girls behind the counter wondering if any of them were thinking what I was thinking but I realised one of them had also had her lips plumped and one had eyelash extensions – eyelash extensions – f*ck me!

Photo by Guido Fuà on Unsplash

I couldn’t help but wonder what the Rohingya women in the refugee camp would have made of this. If Simon Reeve had told them that in western society women were having their lips injected with fillers to make themselves look like fish, and eyelash extensions to make themselves look – ridiculous, they wouldn’t have believed him. If he explained to them that women who live a more fortunate life are never satisfied, that they have so much self-doubt and self-loathing that they can’t accept themselves for who they are anymore, they would think us all totally cuckoo and this is what’s so totally f*cked!

Allison Joyce/UNFPA

At least the people in the refugee camp now have access to clean drinking water and latrines plus several health and nutrition units across the site. Also 50,000 basic shelters have been constructed out of bamboo, rope and tarpaulines. Unfortunately because many refugees arriving from Myanmar have not been vaccinated, diphtheria and other diseases such as cholera, hepatitis E and measles pose a high risk. To top it all, the camp sits in an area prone to flooding and landslides during the monsoon season.

© UNHCR/Adam Dea

The refugee women would be living from day to day, caring for their children, keeping them safe and trying to prevent them from catching diseases – the last thing on their mind would be lip-plumping and eyelash extensions.

It’s a crazy world in which we live in for sure.

(Information from UNHCR)

Focus on the focus

Focus on the focus

Thanks to Debbie Stott for the inspiration to post these photos; I was inspired by her Kew Gardens in Patterns.

Considering we have just entered Winter here in Brisbane, some days I just have to pinch myself; Winter in the sub-tropics does not compare to the chilly months I was used to in Adelaide nor the freezing months and months endured in the UK. And just to prove it, last Sunday was a glorious sunny 24 °C. By the end of this week we’ll be seeing 27 °C but that’s beside the point.

I decided to take my camera for a walk in Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mount Coot-tha. Although it was early, the car park was already chockers but parking carma was on my side and a free space was waiting for me.

A couple of Saturdays previously, I had joined the Brisbane Photography Group for a casual meet up in Roma Street Parkland. The topic was taking shots at different angles but the lovely facilitator, Evelyn, was only too happy to have a one-on-one with me to ‘sort my focussing out’. And all I have to do now is practise and that was my priority last Sunday. So without further ado, here’s the pick of my faves. My number one is the water droplets on the leaf. How is my focus doing?

Special Places

Special Places

I’ve recently returned from a three-week trip back to the mother country. It’s been two years since my last trip and that was for when Dad was awarded his MBE and, by special invitation, we made the journey to Buckingham Palace. Here’s a little reminder of that (sorry for the poor quality of the photo – it was taken through the picture frame)

Dad and Charlie Boy

I spent the majority of my three weeks staying in Suffolk with mum and dad. We did quite a lot of walking – in bluebell woods, coppice woods, along an old railway line – now a walking track and along the river to see a bevy of swans. During the middle week, Mum and Dad accompanied me on a road trip to Somerset – home to cider, cheddar cheese and the Glastonbury Music Festival. This part of the country was my home for eighteen years.

Bluebells

Mum and Dad moved down to Somerset after my brother died and I followed suit not long after. We felt a sense of connection to the happy times we’d all spent down there on our family holidays.

We lived on the Quantock Hills – designated in 1956 as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and comprising ancient woodland, heath and agricultural land. Our cottage was just a little further up the lane from Alfoxton House where poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy lived for a short time. Another claim to fame for the Quantocks is that Bryan Adams filmed the video for (Everything I do) I Do It for You, there.

Our family holidays were spent on Exmoor, a National Park of moorlands, valleys and woodland; of red deer and Exmoor ponies and clotted cream teas. Of Minehead, an old shabby seaside town with its pier and amusements, and “Kiss Me Quick” hats and candy floss. As kids we played in the not so crystal clear waters at the beach and lost our pocket money to the one-armed-bandits in the amusement arcade on the pier – Ah! the memories!

And so it seemed fitting that my brother’s ashes were scattered at our special place on Exmoor (no, not Minehead pier!) I hadn’t visited our special place for some time and felt the need to go. It was a damp day but as we parked up just below Dunkery Beacon and donned our wet-weather gear, the rain stopped and the sun tried hard to break through the clouds – Paul was watching over us for sure.

It’s been 34 years since Paul died and our special place has not changed at all in that time. It gives me a sense of calm and peace. It’s a wonderful place to reflect and to remember. I draw comfort knowing it will remain that way for ever and a day and that when I next visit, it will still be untouched and will remain timeless.

A Hump Day Funny

First of all, some of you may not know what ‘hump day’ is so by way of an explainer, it’s a Wednesday, the halfway point of a typical working week.

I thought I’d let you into a little funny incident that took place in the gym a couple of weeks ago. Those of you who have been following this Wombat for a while will know that I am a gym junkie. Actually, I have no idea what qualifies a gym junkie but I go four to five times a week which I think is pretty good. The reason why I can do this often is that the gym is only a two-minute walk from my office and I have programmed myself to walk towards the gym rather than towards the station at the end of each day. The gym is right in the city centre and everyone is really friendly (staff and members alike). We smile encouragement to each other and work through our routines relatively uninterrupted. At this stage, I will point out that this gym does not have a Tasman Rower you’ll be pleased to know!

Note: This is not me!

unsplash-logo
CATHY PHAM

A couple of weeks ago, I was exercising in the free-weights area which is a popular space for male users. I was in the middle of a set of one arm row repetitions (as pictured above) – I’m leaning over a bench with a 9kg dumbbell in my hand which I pull up to chest level using my back and arm muscles. I’m just changing sides when suddenly I’m tapped on the shoulder. ‘Yes!’ I think – someone is about to tell me that I’ve still ‘got it’. I turn around to face a young girl – I’ve been trying to make a connection with her for some time – girls together and all that. Every time our eyes meet I smile but she has already turned away and I’m smiling to myself which might look a bit odd to an onlooker. Now face to face, I smile and say “hi”. She returns my smile and then in a thick eastern European accent she says, “I don’t know if you intended to do it but your gym pants are inside out!” Gasp, shock, horror! By this time I’ve been working out for about 30 minutes which means EVERYONE would know that my gym pants are on inside out with all the labels and coloured gusset uppermost! Oh! the shame! Of course, I laugh out loud and thank Eastern European Lady very much, before making a hasty retreat to the changing rooms to right my pants.

Now when she sees me we share a knowing smile or it could be a smirk on her part – perhaps, I’m still trying to work it out. My lesson learned is to always check my gym pants are the right way round when I take them off the line – later! 🙂

Hop it!

Hop it!
Munching their way through our garden

The extent of our garden is slowly being devoured by these little critters. I found them on a small clump of drought-tolerant grass located down the side of the house which is gravel path and fence and no other plants. It’s funny how they sniffed the only greenery out. There was a whole family of grasshoppers actually – Mum, Dad, and several youngsters. They look so comical, don’t they?

Big mouthfuls and baby mouthfuls!

Bluebottles, divorce & other ramblings

Bluebottles, divorce & other ramblings

I’ve neglected my blog and WordPress for the last few weeks. Life got really busy – as I’m sure you can all appreciate – and then the mad preparations for the festive season followed by the need for us to transform ourselves into the ‘new us for the new year’.

Christmas was wonderful and exhausting at the same time; the offspring and their partners came to stay. We entertained every day either with friends at home or out on the town. The cocktail shaker was dusted off and the espresso martinis were free-flowing together with the Aperol spritzes. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than having our house full of family – just like it used to be – the long hair blocking the sink, the makeup strewn around the bathroom, the endless piles of washing, the phone and laptop chargers snaking from every available wall socket, the stacks of sunglasses and heaps of swimming towels – it was brilliant! And the laughter, oh! the glorious laughter.

We traveled a couple of hours north to our favourite spot on the Sunshine Coast for a day on the beach. Chief was stung on the foot by a Bluebottle jellyfish while walking along the shoreline. By the time we were home, the story had morphed into “I was swimming a mile out and was bitten by a shark!”

Over the last few weeks, there has been an invasion of Bluebottle jellyfish, with thousands being blown to the shores of Queensland beaches. Last weekend alone, there were over 2,500 beachgoers treated for stings. The little critters wrap their tentacles around limbs and release their sting which I’m told is very painful. Fortunately, the surf lifesavers were on hand with bags of ice and advice. We’ll probably be giving the beach a miss for a couple of weeks.

Bluebottle (Portuguese Man ‘o War)

And then on the 2nd January, the house fell silent. The offspring headed back to Adelaide and Chief and me back to work. The tree has been ‘undecorated’ and packed away for another year, the beds stripped and the cocktail shaker back in the cupboard – for a while at least. About that – I’ve discovered a great online community, Hello Sunday Morning, which has become the largest online movement for alcohol behaviour change in the world. There is a great app Daybreak, which offers professional support and tools together with an online community supporting each other.

I’m feeling a bit flat, to be honest, but have lots of things to look forward to this year, none more so than our 30th wedding anniversary in June – I know, right! Where have the years gone? We will be celebrating by taking a short break in Hong Kong later in the year. I’m pleased to say that we have survived what is being dubbed as Divorce Day, January 8th, the most popular day for couples to commence legal divorce proceedings, according to lawyers (a UK study). After the pressures of trying to achieve the perfect ‘chocolate box’ Christmas, it’s enough to send any rocky marriage over the edge. They wait for the kids to go back to school and then – bang!

Dad update: By the time you read this, my dad will have had a pacemaker fitted which is the result of all the shenanigans in Dubai way back in October. Hopefully, that will be it and a return to full fitness is on the cards. All the best for a full recovery Dad x.

So that’s my round up for the start of the new year as I start to plan my trip to the UK in April, I’ll leave you with some images of our time over Christmas – happy new year everyone and may your 2019 be one full of good health, happiness and laughter – you have to laugh every day!