Adulting…

So it’s been a while, which really isn’t unexpected. I’ve had a whole lot of change coming my way.  I’ve now been at my job for just over two months – two months of insanity, of long hours, of exhaustion, of oxytocin, and of beautiful babies.  Being a midwife means you are in a unique position of caring for someone during their best day, or during their worst day.  I’ve encountered both, and let me tell you, I feel it all.

On top of working, I recently moved out, into a little house closer to the hospital with my friend Hilary.  It’s just the two of us in a little wooden house, slowly becoming a home.  It’s got the funniest little nooks and crannies and I can’t wait to share some of my favourite parts once it’s all set up. At the moment my bedroom is literally just a bed – my bedroom furniture remains wrapped up until the termite man comes and possibly blasts a hole in my wall.  Fun times.

So I guess this is just a quick little note to say hi, and remind myself that I’m still working at this adulting thing – it’ll take a while, but I’ll get there. And until I do, I’ll just keep looking for an adultier adult to help me out along the way.  Fake it till you make it, darlings – that’s my 2016 motto.

xx Nikki.

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Anxiety

So I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of days, but struggled getting even the first words on the page.  See, I’ve battled anxiety my whole life.  Not knowingly – it’s not like I was born and as a newborn had the word “ANXIOUS” stamped across my forehead in big red letters – but seriously, how useful would that be? I was just an anxious kid – not to extremes, but enough that looking back I just see that’s how I am.

It got worse as I got older, and all culminated in what I lovingly refer to as a “shitstorm of epic proportions” when I was about 19.  I was diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety disorder – something I don’t really share with a whole lot of people in my life, but something that is, and always will be, a small part of me.

I fought my depression, and I won.  I still have down days, but my down days are the normal kind, not the isolating loneliness they used to be.  I fought my anxiety, and backed it into a corner – it still commands a part of me, and always will, but it generally takes up residence in a small black part, and the rest of me is bright and colourful and usually enough to work through my day to day life.

When talking to other people, I explain that to me, anxiety is the ocean.  If you don’t have anxiety, you’re standing on the sand, looking out at the water and seeing how beautiful it looks.  If you have anxiety, you’re always in the water.  On a good day, you might be ankle-deep – the anxiety is lapping at your feet, and you feel it every now and again but it’s not scary.  On a bad day, it hits your thighs, your hips, your bellybutton.  It gets overwhelming, it’s tough to move, and I really have to drag myself through days like that.  On awful days, I am drowning.  The ocean is inside of me, the ocean is a part of me, the ocean is all of me.  I cannot see my way through, and I cannot even raise my hand to wave for help.

But I haven’t had a drowning day in a long time.  I use my tools (guided meditation, positive self-talk, mindfulness, and grounding exercises) to work myself into a functional member of society.  But the other night, I almost drowned all over again.

Last week was a big week for me – I started work, in a high-stress environment, with a lot of responsibility, and a whole lot of change.  And change and I have never gotten on well.  Change and I are estranged cousins and while I try to avoid it, it comes around every so often and makes things unpleasant.  So last week I walked on eggshells, and talked myself out of belly-high ocean anxiety more often than usual.  And last Saturday night, it all came crashing down.

I was supposed to head into the city to meet a friend for birthday drinks.  I got on the bus feeling okay – there were no real signs of what was about to happen, I felt a little anxious but nothing new considering I was going out in public, into a bar which in general makes my anxiety a little heightened (lots of people, affected by alcohol, being a woman walking alone in the city, not enough personal space etc etc, the list of reasons why I felt uncomfortable go on and on and on).  Anyway, to cut a long story short, I had an anxiety attack on the bus.  It wasn’t a loud or overly embarrassing one thank goodness, but when it came down to it, I was still a 24 year old woman, crying on a public transport bus.

I was mortified.  I tried everything that usually helps to calm me down – everything I mentioned above, plus music and talking to close friends which also helps me out.  Not that night.  Every time I calmed down, I set off a fresh wave of silent tears.  Eventually I gave up, I gave in, and I got off the bus in the city and walked to the opposite platform and came straight home.  I felt really defeated, and ashamed.

My mum met me halfway, bought me ice-cream, and drove me home.  I ate my ice-cream, went to bed, and slept through till the morning.  I woke up still ashamed – because I let myself get to drowning and I couldn’t really figure out why.  But at the end of the day, I am here – in this body – and even though I cried in public, today is a new day and my anxiety is only at my ankles.

So I guess I’m writing this because it’s easy to think that you can just be “cured” of anxiety and everything is fine.  There are plenty of people in my life who have no idea I suffer from anxiety – because usually, it doesn’t limit who I am or what I do.  But sometimes it does, and sometimes I have to be okay with that.

If you have any tips on self-care (which I find really important after an episode), let me know in the comments.

xx Nikki.

Just A Few Things…

This is throwing me back to my Myspace days of 2007, but I just figured there wasn’t a better way to easily get to know me.  So here goes, a cheesy little get to know me quiz – just in case any of my hypothetical imaginary readers are curious.

  1. How old are you?

    I am 24 years old, and my birthday is on April 23rd. I’m not looking forward to turning 25 this year – it just seems much too old!

  2. Do you have any siblings? 

    I am the second of four siblings.  My older sister is Holly, and then I have a younger brother, Riley, who is six, and my baby sister, Katie, who is five.  My younger siblings are technically half-siblings, but I love them to absolute bits.

  3. List all your previous jobs, and what you do for work currently.

    I’ve been a babysitter for as long as I can remember – probably from the age of twelve or so. My first real job was as an assistant at a daycare centre from the age of 17 until I was about 20. I think worked as an educator in an outside school hours program for the next four years.  I am now a registered midwife, due to start work next month!

  4. What do you like to do in your free time? 

    I love to read, watch YouTube, bake, dance, and play the Sims 4.

  5. Have you ever seen any musicians or bands perform live?

    Yes, I’ve been lucky to see quite a few amazing performances! My favourites have been Taylor Swift, The Killers, Katy Perry, Vampire Weekend, Coldplay, and Birds of Tokyo.  I’m desperate to see Ed Sheeran but always seem to miss out on tickets when he comes to Brisbane!
  6. Do you have any pets? 

    I have one cat – Bailey – and one budgerigar named Finn.  Bailey is twelve years old and still acts like a kitten. He’s absolutely crazy and I oscillate between loving and hating him constantly.

  7. What do you feel is your greatest achievement? 

    Graduating with a 6.4 GPA, and getting a job offer from my first preference hospital. I worked my ass off for three years to get where I am today, and I am so unbelievably proud of myself for that.

  8. List your favourite book, movie, and song right now.

    The book part of this question is probably the most difficult – I’m an avid reader and can’t narrow my favourites down to just one, but I’ll try.  My favourite book right now is probably Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – it’s nerdy, full of pop culture, and it’s so fast paced. I read it for the first time last year, and just re-read it two days ago and still loved it.

    My favourite movie at the moment is probably the same as my favourite movie of all time – a tie between The Parent Trap, and Matilda. I’m just a big kid at heart.

    The song is the easiest of all three – just like 90% of our population (sure, I’m estimating here – but give me a break), I’m obsessed with Adele. When We Were Young is on repeat on my iTunes, constantly.

  9. If you won $1 million, what would you buy? 

    A house, without a doubt. I’d also give my sister some money so she could put down a house deposit, and I’d offer a sum of money to both my parents if they wanted it.

  10. Where would you like to travel to? 

    Everywhere! Next on my list is either an epic road trip through the USA, or a relaxing holiday in Greece – but being completely honest, I love travelling absolutely anywhere.

Well there you go – just a few things you now know about me, that you probably didn’t before.

xx Nikki.

Sirromet Winery

Well it’s official – there is just one more month of holidays left for me before I start my “real adult” job.  My mum is currently on holidays as well – she works at a school, which means we’ve had the last few weeks to just hang out together which has been mostly lovely.  Our Gilmore Girls binge-watching session is going particularly well – four seasons down, in the space of about three weeks.

But today, we decided to venture outside of the house.  We already had a lunch date booked with some friends, but took a little detour to the Sirromet Winery on our way.  Up at Mt Cotton, Sirromet is usually crazy busy.  I’m talking cars double parked, bring a picnic blanket because there’s no hope at a table, almost panic-attack level crowds, kind of busy.  Luckily for me, being mid-morning on a Friday, it was lovely and quiet – my favourite kind of day.

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We took a little walk around the grounds first – saying hello to the friendly kangaroos who were a little shy, and stopping to smell the flowers.  The blue sky and sunshine on my face were so lovely and refreshing, and I could just imagine that open field jam-packed with people when Sirromet has their Day on the Green concert series.  We headed back up to the little cafe and checked it out.  The antique barrels furnishing the place are a lovely touch, but I was particularly taken by the adorable little bear-shaped bottles of local honey for sale at the cash register.

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We only stayed for about half an hour before we had to be on our way again, but Mum suggested we sneak in morning tea before we left.  Forgoing the traditional cheese platter associated with most wineries, I walked by the ice-cream case and couldn’t resist their amazing flavours on offer.  Apple pie ice-cream, served in waffle cones – a perfect way to end a gorgeous albeit quick trip to the winery.  I definitely have plans to head back later on this year for a tour or tasting!

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So cheers, with ice-cream, to my last month of freedom!

xx Nikki.

Five Years On

On this date, five years ago, I was woken at 3am. Sirens were blaring down the road as the carpark of the local shopping centre was filling up with water.  We’d spent the entire day before preparing for flooding, but there was a part of my brain telling me it wasn’t going to actually happen.  This very early, and honestly scary, wake-up was proof that it was.  Mum and I gathered the last of our things that we needed to (most we had already moved upstairs to our second level, hopefully well out of the flood zone if it happened to inundate our bottom floor) and left.

I remember being in tears, driving away from our house, because I sincerely had no idea what we’d be coming back to.  I didn’t know if I would come back to a muddy water-filled cesspool, where so much of my house may have been damaged.  So we drove out of our street, where the water was already lapping at our wheels.

We headed over to my mum’s boyfriend’s house, and tried to sleep for another couple of hours, unsuccessfully. Eventually we just got back up and walked back down to near our house, watching as the water slowly swallowed up the street in front of us.  It didn’t come quickly – there was no raging water, no powerful waves, just a slowly creeping tide, advancing towards us.

By lunchtime that day, the water was halfway up our street, meaning it had risen at least two meters within six hours.  We were told that high tide wouldn’t be till about three the following morning, so we were still in a state of questioning whether everything would be okay or not for us.  Houses of people we knew had already gone under, and their possessions lost and ruined.

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Luckily for us, the flood didn’t reach any higher than this point. Another 50 centimetres, and our house would’ve likely been under.  We were lucky, oh so lucky.  Unfortunately the daycare centre where I worked part-time was not so lucky.  Late the next day, the flood waters left as slowly as they came, and we went into the daycare centre to survey the damage.  It was awful.  I walked through and cried, I simply couldn’t help myself.

The worst part for me was walking into the nursery sleep room, where all the cots were usually lined up in a row, waiting for sleeping babies to fill them.  I walked in that day, and the cots were all on their sides, muddy and broken.  We were met at the door by crates of blocks, floated down from the kindy room at the other end of the centre, by toys and furniture strewn about and holes in many of the walls.  Who knew water could do so much damage.

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The parts of the neighbourhood that were inundated by the flood had gone a nasty shade of grey-brown, mud left behind to spoil everything in sight.  I don’t write this to wallow in the awfulness of those days, but rather to reflect, and remember the positivity that grew.  Our community banded together to clean out houses and workplaces alike.  We were the mud army, accomplishing what might have taken weeks, in just a few days.  There was this sense of togetherness, that the horrible event had somehow tied us together.  That Aussie camaraderie shines through, even in the darkest of days.

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There were long standing repercussions, aside from the physical leftovers of the rising water.  I had nightmares for weeks, and my anxiety flared up like you wouldn’t believe.  I was almost twenty, but slept on a mattress on the floor beside my mother’s bed for almost a week – not yet happy enough to sleep in a space of my own.  But times heals, and eventually we move past it.  Five years on, houses are rebuilt and there are people who will not recall the damage.  But there will still be people with scars from that day – physical, emotional, mental scars – and for those people, I write this post.  I have not forgotten. I will not forget.  You and I, we are survivors.

xx Nikki.

Graduation

I got a loud knock on my door early on Thursday morning, making me catch my breath before I realised it was just the postman. I was still in my pyjamas, but nevertheless went to the door and signed for a parcel.  I was really excited to find the long, thin envelope that I knew contained my professional photographs from graduation.

I knew they wouldn’t be perfect. I graduated in mid-December, a few weeks into the Australian summer, wearing full graduation attire – the gown, the hood, the cap – and let me tell you, it was bloody hot.  I was sweating and managing to fog up my glasses every time I smiled. When I opened the envelope to peek at the pictures, I was honestly just happy I didn’t seem to be as red as a tomato.

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This is my whole, crazy family.  My mum, my dad, my stepmum and sister – my little brother, my nana, and my little sister.  We must’ve looked a funny bunch, but there’s so much love in this picture. When I look at this picture, I think about my mum – walking on a foot broken two months earlier.  I think about my dad and stepmum – driving 12 hours the day before just to be there for me. My little brother and sister, who sat through an almost two hour ceremony mostly quiet, and cheered and gave me the biggest hugs when they found me afterwards.  My big sister, who left my niece’s kindy Christmas party to be there to celebrate with me. And my nana, for whom this was the end of year celebration we’d been talking about all of 2015.  My last remaining grandparent, having her there meant the world.

There are people missing from the picture – my brother-in-law, my niece, my uncle, aunt and cousin.  And then there’s the rest of my family – made up of friends, practically blood, who’ve been there with me through the thick and thin of this degree.

My family isn’t easy to understand. We are bits and pieces made whole only when we are together.  Ohana. I would not have made it through my degree without them, and I would not have wanted to make it through graduation without them there to celebrate with me.

So when I opened the photographs on Thursday, instead of looking at my slightly red face, or my sweaty fringe pushed back under that cap, I looked at my grin that didn’t leave my face all day. I looked at my family, who all sacrificed parts of their lives to be there with me.  And I don’t care how I looked on the outside. Because on the inside, I was luminous with love and joy.

xx Nikki.

2016 Bucket List

So instead of making resolutions, which I’m likely to give up on before January even hits it’s halfway point, I’ve made a list of goals to try and complete by the end of the year – a bucket list, for 2016.  Some of them are ongoing, some of them are one-time accomplishments, but hopefully they will all be completed or at least partially completed by this time next year.

I like to record these publicly, in the hopes that peer pressure or even the idea of peer pressure will be enough to help me achieve them.  So here goes:

  • Eat a vegetarian diet for a month
  • Move out of home
  • Write the first draft of a novel
  • Have a real Christmas tree
  • Drink water more than anything else
  • Read at least 52 books
  • Try (or at least consider!) online dating
  • Bake a rainbow layer cake
  • Start a blog, consider vlogging
  • Practice mindfulness or meditate often
  • Join a gym and/or get a PT
  • Keep track of all the babies I deliver
  • Use my DSLR in manual mode
  • Write letters to Riley and Katie at least monthly
  • Read Anna Karenina
  • Go berry or fruit picking
  • Live by the motto “Just Say Yes”

Some of these have been New Years Resolutions prior, with no real success – but with 2016 looming and so much change on the horizon, what better year to give it a real crack?

Anybody out there in hypothetical-internet land have any resolutions or goals for this year they’d like to share?

xx Nikki