Monthly Archives: February 2011

“The Blue File” – CFS

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This is for Sarah‘s friend.

She’s having what they call a “Blue file” patch. I’ve had a few of them too – those times when things get turned upside down in such a dramatic hurry that your brain shuts down – you cannot process all the information that comes streaming toward you in an endless torrent, but at the same time you know that at some point you are going to have to process it all in order to survive in this new world you find yourself in.

My first baby was one of those experiences. So was retiring from swimming. Breaking my neck five weeks out from the Barcelona Olympic Games trials was another, but the first “Blue File” episode I recall crept up on me over the course of nine months and then flattened me with a king hit. I was 15, fat and desperate:

***

I went to another doctor, had another blood test – negative to all anomalies.

Two more doctors, more tests – negative, negative, negative to everything.

“You’re fit and healthy. There’s nothing wrong with you.” But the bass drum and axe in my head suggested otherwise. Perhaps I had a tumour.

“It’s all in your mind. Maybe it’s time you snapped out of it.” But I knew how much I wanted out and clicking my ruby heels was not working.

“It’s just teenage stuff, you know, puberty blues. Do you have a boyfriend?” No! Because I’m too damned fat and too damned angry!

“Maybe she needs to see a psychiatrist.  She really could do with some help for her depression. There are drugs that could pep her up a bit.” The doctors stopped speaking to me directly. I was incapable of comprehending their wisdom. Maybe they were right. All in my head – imagining exhaustion, pretending to ache, creating head spins, manufacturing migraines… Maybe I was completely mad.

But my parents wanted their daughter back.

New doctor. New tests. Positive to Epstein Barr Virus.

“Nadine, these tests tell us that you had glandular fever. Probably about nine months ago. That’s why it’s been so hard to detect. You don’t have it now, but because you kept training when you were sick, your body has broken down completely. According to these tests your… liver doesn’t work properly. Your metabolism is shot. And given the symptoms you’ve described I’d say you’re suffering adrenal exhaustion. Do you find it hard to sleep?… mhmm… Your serotonin levels are probably, well, not good, which will throw your melatonin levels out, too.  Your immune system is completely hypersensitive and hyperactive. It’s attacking itself every time you’re under any kind of stress and, well, basically it all adds up to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” The doctor paused for a response.

Blank.

“It’s otherwise known as ME.”

Blank.

“Yuppie flu?” he tried.

“And the depression, the mood swings, the big fat air-head bitch that I am?” I finally asked.

“Is all part of it. You’re not making it up. It’s a very real condition, but it’s relatively new on the scene so it’s not really well understood.”

The word ‘chronic’ in conjunction with ‘fatigue’ sounded like an accurate description of how I felt. I was strangely relieved. It was something physical, an actual disease.

“So it can be fixed, yes.” I was seeing a glimmer of hope for the first time in ages.

“Well… we can try vitamins… ah… we can try some new, experimental treatments like Chelation Therapy – it’s very good for the removal of heavy metals from the system and we’ve had some success with people suffering similar illnesses…” his voice trailed off and he started shuffling papers in my file.

“What do you mean?”

“Ah, what we really know about Chronic Fatigue is that you need a lot of rest. It’s still not well understood, so…”

“Rest?”

“Yes. If you want to get some semblance of a normal life back, rest is crucial and it’s important to learn how to manage your illness.”

“What do you mean ‘a normal life’? ‘Manage my illness’?”

“Nadine, you won’t be able to swim like you used to. It would be unrealistic to think your body could cope with that, but you’re pretty fit, so you might be one of the lucky ones. You might see some improvement in three, six months, but you know, most people struggle to get out of the worst of it for years. The research indicates that once you’ve got it, it’s there for good, but people have found ways of managing it with things like meditation, vitamin treatments, you know?”

No. I didn’t know. Too much talking. No swimming? No water? Struggle for years?

“We can help you with all of that, to try to get you back to school, able to concentrate for most of the day, get those mood swings under control. But it’s going to take time. And loads of rest.”

Time.

“We can help you with all that.” He could see the glimmer of hope fading from my eyes.

I didn’t want his fucking help! I either wanted my old life or no life at all!

(from Wobbles – An Olympic Story by Yours Truly, plug-plug!)

Offensive Opinions

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Again, I’m prefacing with a warning:

If you are one of those people who would lick Ian Thorpe’s toes in adulation and your most blissful moment was when he confessed that he was going to have a shot at the London Olympic Games through carefully scripted responses to inane media questions, please do not read on. I have recently experienced the wrath of those with differing opinions to mine and I really don’t want to upset anyone, I just want to put some ideas out there that may not have been considered in all the recent comeback-mania. That’s all.

I have no intention of criticising The Thorpedo personally – let’s make this clear from the outset. In fact, I can vouch for the fact that he’s a really nice bloke behind the media face and I would have no trouble offering him my first-born in return for a bit of his hair gel… actually that might just be me trying to get rid of LL for a few hours of peace… whatever, Thorpie rocks, okay?

And while I’m at it, Skippy Huegill and Lumpy Klim rock too. Libby Tricket I don’t know personally, but with a grin like hers, how could she not rock, so I’m going with that. Ok?

What does not rock, in my humble and biased opinion, is the whole notion of a comeback.

“WHAAAAAT?” you cry.

What could be more heroic, more remarkable, more inspirational than someone returning to conquer the world after a hiatus in the land of the average, the easy, the mundane, right? Who, but a hero, would choose the sacrifice, the pain, the regimented, tedious, cloistered existence of a swimmer, right?

Not a hero I’m afraid, but an ex-swimmer.

You see, when an elite athlete retires from their sport there is an inevitable period of aimless drifting as they come to terms with life on the other side. During this period, swimmers will often fall into one of three categories 1) Those who will never touch chlorine water again, never ever ever ever so help them God; 2) Those who love the scene so much that they become swimming teachers, coaches, sports administrators, sports reporters, sports writers, anything to keep them involved in some capacity (they are often the ones who go on to compete in Masters Swimming, Ocean Races, etc); 3) Those who struggle to find a way to fill the void left by something that completely shaped and defined their entire existence and, as a consequence, are tortured by thoughts of going back to the life they knew, the life that made them feel whole, worthwhile, capable and, well, alive.

I was one of those in category 3, and if recent research is correct, there are more people who flounder in this category than many would like to admit. You see, one of the downsides of being so intensely driven and experiencing such extremes of euphoria as many elite athletes do (especially the likes of our recent returnees) is that nothing in “the normal world” can ever match those adrenalin-charged highs. Life-long passions are extremely hard to replace as well. So if you consider for a moment, somebody in this situation, dissatisfied with the apparent dreariness of every-day existence, searching for something extraordinary and then realising that what is missing is once again within their reach, would they not go after it? I mean, all they need do is go back to doing what they have always done; live the life they have always lived and they will recapture that fire they so badly crave. And there you have the birth of a comeback.

Now, I’m not so naive to say that this is the only motivation for a comeback, but going back to an athletes life requires a certain level of yearning and that yearning doesn’t come from a life outside the pool that is full, satisfied, challenging and rewarding. For some it may be the nagging of “unfinished business” due to a premature injury-related retirement or similar, or it may be  a financial decision where lucrative sponsorships lure the athlete back, but whatever the motivation, the athlete is doing nothing more remarkable than returning to what he/she has always known best.

You may argue that reputations are on the line, that the bravery involved in putting their metaphoric necks on the block is worthy of admiration. I think not. Because from my experience, it requires more grit to stare your dissatisfaction in the face than to turn to a tried-and-true panacea. It is harder to seek out the source of your restlessness, to resist the part driving you to step back and to find a way forward that will fill your soul with song again. Living in “the real world” with all the anonymity and ordinariness in it is the hardest thing a person can do because it requires self-love, self-appreciation, self-fulfilment with not a scrap of external reward, feedback or adulation. In my opinion, the comeback is the easy option.

And the irony is that, in the long run, these comebackers will have to face every one of the challenges of the retiree anyway. Putting off facing the demons, finding peace and moving on to real life is not going to make it any easier. If anything, it may even become harder, especially if they do not enjoy the kind of glorious success they once did. Believe me, retiring on a low sucks big apples. From my experience, the heart knows when it is time to move on and unless they were forced out by circumstances beyond their control, the first retirement announcement was the right time.

Besides, what of the poor kid who had one shot at the relay team, but will now get bumped out because the old guard wants another bite of the pie? (… remember Craig Stevens who “gave up” his spot in the 400 FS in 2004 so Thorpie could swim the event despite being disqualified for a false start at the trials, despite never actually earning his spot in that event?)

You might argue that it’s the nature of sport; it’s a competition and if the young hopeful is not good enough to beat the other competitors (old or new guard), then they don’t deserve to go to Olympics anyway. And you’d probably be right. But I choose to hold onto an idea of sportsmanship that is  juvenile  naive  rose-coloured  fantasy  idealistic – it involves humility, grace and the capacity to hand over the baton when your time is up (even if with great reluctance and many subsequent tantrums behind closed doors).

But that’s just my opinion.

And it’s offensive, isn’t it?

No post today

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Sorry folks, no post today. As much as I have a few fiery ideas to share, they will have to wait ’til Friday (or even next week).

Today I am this:

doing a bit of this:

hopefully not looking like this:

And while I won’t be doing any of this:

I will be doing plenty of this:

until I feel like this:

So, wish me luck!

Missed the challenge

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I missed the Blog This Challenge this time around (almost missed FYBF too!). The challenge was to post your favourite sepia pic. Wouldn’t have been able to choose anyway…

Mr D is a clever cookie, isn't he?

 

A very clever cookie...

 

Or maybe my high school circus acrobats rehearsing in a city square?

 

Or story time in the cubby house?

 

Maybe my "Men at Work" would have been the winning entry...

 

Or perhaps the lunch break would have taken the cake...

 

I guess we’ll never know. Feel free to vote for your favourite anyway – I’ll announce the winning shot and award myself a chocolate bar (unless Mr D wins, of course!).

A language warning as I lay bleeding on the road…

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I thought about my grandmother the other day, as I lay on the side of the road, bleeding and fighting the urge to spew. I could hear her muttering, “Farting higher than you’re arse again” at the over-confidence that made me attempt something well beyond my biking ability. It was a spectacular fall that left me bruised and shredded (the bike was blessedly unscathed) and very embarrassed because I was, indeed, farting higher than my arse.

Most other grandmothers might have scoffed that I was being “cocky” or “foolhardy”, but not mine. She was the woman who taught me that “The Devil always shits on the biggest pile,” and that, if I ever got too big for my boots, I should remember that she could “still spit up” to my lofty heights.

As a kid, I chanted along to all the regular revolting rhymes – Wonder Woman losing her bosoms while flying TAA, the kookaburra with his pants on fire, penis butter and vagina-mite making a spectacular sexual sandwich – but who can boast that their grandmother taught them a rhyme (albeit in German) that went something like:

“‘Oh my dear Miss Backhouse,

Where might I find the shitter?

I can’t stand, I can’t walk

I have to take a dump right now…’

‘Go to the right, go to the left

And then straight ahead

There you’ll find a house

Where you can crap to your heart’s content.’”

(It’s a loose translation, but I assure you, the vernacular is precise and in German, it fairly rolls off the tongue in a catchy little sing-song rhyme.)

Was she not the coolest Gran in the world?

And then I began to wonder what crass my mother will impart to my children…

And then I wondered when it was and why it was that I crossed the line from being naughty with language to swearing like a fishmonger’s daughter…

And then I wondered how I was going to handle this challenge with my own children…

And a challenge it is already shaping up to be, given a conversation I had with my 2 ½ year old Little Lion the other day:

LL: Mummy, [Little Lion] do a wee in the toilet? (My son speaks in the third person, like the queen. It’s a little weird, I know, but you get used to it.)

ME: Ok, but remember you have to take your nappy off first.

LL: Ah. Nappy off.

(He takes his nappy off, sits on the pot and proceeds to make wee sound effects. He stands, turns and makes flush sound effects as he taps the back corner of the pot.)

LL: All finished! (Pronounced “all diis”)

ME: Good boy! Now we have to put your nappy on again.

LL: Ah. Nappy on.

(He tries to put his nappy on while standing. Not a pull-up one. Clearly, this is awkward, so I offer some assistance.)

ME: Here. You have to lie down so I can put your nappy on.

LL: No! My nappy!

ME: Yes, it is your nappy, but I will help you put it on.

LL: No! [LL] put on da nappy!

(I realise that this is going be a long ordeal just as Blossom begins screaming that she is BEING IGNORED! AGAIN!)

ME: Come on. Give me the nappy and lie down.

(LL snatches the nappy and glares at me with unadulterated fury)

LL: NO! MY NAPPY! [LL] PUT IT ON!… *pause*…*sigh and shaking head*… ’Fuck’s sake, Mummy…

Could it be that Wonder Woman losing her bosoms and those fucking good sandwiches have led me to a point where, after 2 ½ years, I have already failed to impart some sense of decorum to my Little Lion? Could Miss Backhouse’s instructions to the lavatory have ruined my ability to raise children without gutter-mouths? How can I turn back the tide? Where is the line and how can I reinforce it when I, by my own admission, live on the smutty side of town?

And this was what flew through my mind as I lay on the side of the road, post stack, bleeding and fighting the urge to spew. Go figure.

Alphabetised Frivolity

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I’m all about lists at the moment. So many plans, so much to do, so little time, bla bla bla.

So here’s an A-Z list I pinched off somebody else’s blog. I think it was Cate P’s?

Either way, I’m devoid of creative juices today, so read if you must!

A – Age: Depends on the time of day and the night before, but generally somewhere in the range from 15 – 85.

B – Bed size: King, king and only king – you see, I need my own postcode to sleep in. Give me a cuddle, great, but then get out of my space!

C – Chore you hate: What kind of question is this? They wouldn’t be called “chores” if we loved them, der! So, um, all of them…

D – Names of your Dogs: Had Buffy as a kid but she was no vampire slayer. Dopey ole hairy thing, she was. Gentle as a teddy… *sigh*. I will have another one day. One day when I get a fence. It will be a mangy mutt from the RSPCA and I will call it Albert. Yes, one fine day…

E – Essential start your day item(s): Is this the ideal scenario or the actual? Lets go with the ideal for a moment, yes? Ok – a steaming hot shower with plenty of water pressure and a nice scratchy towel slightly warmed by the sun. Some cocoa body butter… mmmmm… Then coffee and croissant (or three), followed by perfectly poached eggs with sautéed mushrooms, roasted roma tomatoes and avocado slices drizzled with balsamic glaze accompanied by two slices of sourdough. Fresh pineapple juice on ice. Spectrum. Walk on the beach… yep, that should do it.

Oh, you want reality? Um, well… crying toddler (Something like, “Oh no! Mummy! MUUUUUUUMY! OH NO! Where zebra? Zebra gone! Where zebraaaaaaaaa? – note: he’s actually referring to a giraffe that he has named zebra, just to keep the jungle folk guessing). This is followed by a wrestle to change a mighty wet nappy, child begging for weet bix then refusing to eat it, baby blowing bubbles with her yoghurt and my coffee going cold for the eighth time, usually all before 7am.

F – Favourite colour: Blue, blue and all shades of blue. Easy.

G – Gold or Silver: I’ll take any kind of adornment as long as it’s not poo, vomit, weet bix, avocado, tomato sauce, yoghurt, you get the idea. I have been known to wear dyed pasta necklaces, wilted flower garlands, hair elastic bangles and cherry ear rings. Who needs gold or silver?

H – Height: Bigger than my body.

I – Instruments you play: Not sure if you can call it playing, but here goes: Maraccas, rice shakers, jingle bells, tapping sticks, pots’n’pans, wooden spoons, squeakers, kazoos, whistles, recorder and guitar (yes, a proper guitar).

J – Job: Mess-mopper-upper, discipline-disher-outer, fun-maker-upper, broken-toy-fixer, food-giver-outer, problem-sorter-outer, once-was-teacher, wanna-be-writer.

K – Kids: Two incarnate, two in waiting… I think… And if anybody takes this as the green light to start lecturing me on how many kids I should have and when I should (or should not) have them you can feel free to lecture the hand. I am not listening. I don’t care if it seems like I am not coping with the two I have got because of how much I complain on here, I am doing fine enough to know that I want more kids, OK? And before you even start, no it is not a competition, I am not going bigger and better because I am an over achiever. If you chose to have one or two that is what suits you and good for you. I don’t judge you so don’t start giving me grief about my choices. I am not mad, nuts or insane, I am not making a rod for my back, and I am NOT ruining my life by wanting more children. And if I vent from time to time, and if I lament a life that I no longer have, SO WHAT!? It doesn’t mean I regret for one moment, having kids, nor does it mean that having more will be a disastrous mistake that will spell the end of me. So there. End of discussion.

What’s that you say? Sore point?

L- Living arrangements: Not exactly and “arrangement” but we live on a big block in an old house with loads of love around us.

M – Mum’s name: Nanna

N – Nicknames: Nads, Wobbles, Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum!

O – Overnight hospital stay other than birth: Adenoids, although my more spectacular visits (albeit not overnighters) were – broken neck (first vertebra in 3 places), rusted nail through foot, cockroach stuck in ear…

P – Pet Peeve: Arrogance and judgement.

Q – Fave Movie Quote “Two very enthusiastic thumbs up”, “Honey, I’m home”, “What’s wrong with my face? It’s got character…”, um, how long have I got?…

R – Right or left handed: Depends what for and which one is available.

S – Siblings: One gorgeous sister who never fails to amaze me, surprise me and make me feel like a complete dickhead in the best possible way!

T – Time you wake up: 10.30, 12.30, 2.30, 4.30, 5.30, 6.00, 7.00 and conscious by 8.00.

U – Underwear: Is this a question? Think Bridget Jones meets the Bonds fairy, then make it half-price and chances are it’s in my underwear drawer.

V – Vegetable you dislike: Brussel sprouts. And it don’t matter how you try to disguise the suckers, I will sniff them out and wretch on the table. I promise you.

W – Workout style: Oh, all glitz and glamour in my thousand year old shorts, deeply stained baggy singlet and $20 payless joggers… what’s that? You weren’t asking about gym fashion? Oh, sorry!

I’m running, riding and swimming in preparation for my Triplodalong, but in a perfect world I would do Body Balance and Yoga with Gemma until I was a pretzel. Alas, she is miles away and I will never again feed from her energy.

X – Xrays you’ve had: I have some spectacular images of my whole body, actually. But the one I have hung as a stained-glass-type feature on my living room window is the one that made the spinal specialist gasp – three clean breaks right through C1. I have called it “Fatally Flawed Flirtation”. You see, I did it while trying to impress a boy. He went out with me for pitty points after I broke my neck for him. Then he turned out to be gay. Ah, golden memories.

Y – Yearning for: More than I should.

Z – Zoo fave: Pine-lime splice and the smell of animals. So wrong, I know.