Stiffness In Middle Age

figure-1707104_1920Sorry to mislead you with the clickbait of my title, but no, this isn’t a titillating article about the benefits of Viagra in middle age. It is, in fact, a piece on the more boring topic of stiff joints and aching muscles at this stage of our lives. Because it seems to me, that as one part of our bodies stops stiffening, the rest of it becomes as stiff as a board.

The Princess was recently labeled a senior dog by the vet – obviously, I covered her ears when they imparted the news because frankly, the dog is anxious enough – which must make us senior parents. And the vet has a point: because although our dog remains spritely for her age, is still keen to catch a ball in the garden and run away from us in the dog park – occasionally, I have seen her trip up steps or struggle to get down from the sofa.

 

Have you noticed any creaky bones, lower back pain or pinging tendons (that shouldn’t be pinging) when you get up or turn around too quickly because the strains on my body catch me out when I least expect it? Frankly, I can pull a neck muscle just reversing the car.

 

It seems ridiculous to me that I can swim forty lengths in the pool and then struggle to get out of my beach chair. Generally, I end up leaning over the side of it on all fours in the sand, in the sort of compromised bottom-flashing position made famous by that woman at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

 

And it’s not pretty.

 

It’s the same when I do the garden when sometimes a small crane would come in handy to pull me back upright. All too often, I have to physically straighten my legs from beneath me like vets do to new-born foals, whilst I tug on a branch for support.

 

I alluded to my problems with walking down slopes and steep steps in this post, only a short time ago, and it’s not just me – the old man still can’t bend down to touch the floor – although, in fairness, the old man and his rugby-thighs have never been able to bend down easily to the floor.

 

Touch wood, my joints feel okay at the moment, but it is interesting how suddenly that stiffness and lack of flexibility suddenly catches up with us in much the same way that grey hair, naps, and early bedtimes do. One minute we’re running from security in nightclubs and the next we’re being offered a seat on the bus. I can see how easy it is for people who do desk jobs to lose their fitness and flexibility and to compromise their backs.

 

Which is why we need to look after ourselves at this stage of our lives. I am a firm believer that we reap what we sow, or is it sow what we… ? Never mind. Personally, I find that a quick stroll down to the pub at lunchtime eases and lubricates my stiff joints and can set up my body for the rest of the day.

In The End, We’re All Just Human Beans

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I had my second day-surgery last week; a procedure called an Endometrial Ablation, and the medical profession’s latest attempt to stop my uterus from going all Tarantino on me each month.  For any of you middle-aged women out there still suffering a Red Wedding-style of monthly – I’ll let you know if it works.

 

In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you about what I gained from the experience of being stuck in a hospital bed, on a mixed ward and opposite an Olympic farter, for a day. Because I’ve decided, (post-surgery), that being in a hospital has to be the best leveler, or the best reminder, as Roald Dahl would say, that we’re all just human beans.

 

Moreover, I do believe that these sorts of experiences, (once in a while), are vital for ramming home just how completely fucking privileged we are with the access we have to a medical care system that takes my uterus tantrums seriously – although trust me when I say, it never gets any easier to open your legs to strangers.

 

However, I couldn’t fault the care. In fact, if I had to rate the service with some Airbnb-style feedback, I would go as far as saying that the level of attention from my hot, thirty-something anesthetist was the stuff of dreams – although I’m certain he sees sad, middle-aged women with degrees in talking gibberish and the misguided belief that they can flirt in a barely-there hospital gown, most days.

 

Indeed, considering I was merely a number in a very busy hospital system, everyone endeavored to make me as comfortable as possible. And while I’m not naive enough to assume that my top-notch care was only about making my uterus like me a little more – I am aware that litigation is a threatening dark cloud that puts a huge amount of extra pressure and undue stress on our doctors – the name, temperature and blood pressure checks were reassuring for someone who had already made preparations for her imminent death.

 

Coincidentally – and this is possibly the best example of a segue you’ll see this week – just prior to the time that I was tidying up my lady garden in preparation for Dr. Hot’s close examination, I also signed up for a local community drive to assist in the assembly of a thousand birthing kits for women in Africa.

29468785_10156192410316788_3552530723703357440_nThis, you may be appalled to know, is the level of care those lucky women receive when they GIVE BIRTH. And while I’m not showing you this to highlight my pathetically privileged contribution to people less fortunate than myself – and I am also aware that in the grand scheme of things, my assembly of a few hundred kits (over some very pleasant chit-chat about the health benefits of Kombucha and keeping chickens with new friends) is unlikely to change the world – if my meagre contribution does improve the sanitation, experience, and outcome for a few women, it has got to be worth three hours of my time that I would normally waste on the beach or at the mall. Because, I don’t know about you, but the more I read about discrimination towards immigrants and those in poverty, the more shame I feel. And no, Dad, not just because I’ve turned into a raging feminist leftie, in spite of how you raised me. I mean, how come I get a shiny, clean white robe for a minor procedure and on the other side of the world women are still giving birth in fields?

 

Which meant that as I sat there in my unflattering white robe and socks in my hospital bed, feeling vulnerable and scared as shit, I realized that albeit just another number on the hospital minor procedures list that day, I was a number that counted. And surely everyone deserves that level of security? Seriously, all I had to worry about as I shuffled my bum nervously across to the operating table, was sucking in my muffin top and not flashing my wibbly bits to Dr. Hot. I didn’t have to consider infection, loss of power, OR BLEEDING OUT. I took my safety on that table for granted, when sadly, millions of other human beans don’t have that privilege.

Eating And Drinking Healthily In Middle Age To Maintain Your Body Weight

I’ve written a lot of posts about this topic in the past because let’s face it, girls, on a scale of stuff that still turns us on in middle age, (where sex with our husbands/partners is at one), food has to be at least a ten. The struggle is real. And to my horror, I recently discovered that there is sugar in fruit and wine – which is a bit rude, frankly – and a fact that has made rather a mockery of just about everything I have aspired to achieve over the past few years in my war on the muffin top.

 

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Sugar in fruit? Like, WTF!

 

The good news (this week) is that two glasses of red wine before bedtime is now good for us, according to the fat-busting scientists, which must mean that for those that are partial to a few more than two (due to mental health issues, say), that makes them virtually Roger Federer.

 

I gave up on traditional diets a long time ago, mainly because they don’t work, I can’t stick to them and they make me very dull and bad-tempered with a hunger only seen in Labradors and an irrational fixation on the breadbasket.

 

Fortunately, I am a moderation kind of girl, (Kettle Chips and cheese excluded – OBVS) and although I don’t deny myself any food groups really – except octopus because WTF and legs – I like to think that I choose wisely and healthily. I also try to balance my out my diet using a cutting-edge, self-developed point system that I stole from Weightwatchers designed for myself, that seems to work for me… sometimes – as in I don’t get the kind of hunger where all I can think about is eating other people’s leftovers in cafes and I can maintain focus on a sensible health target at this stage of my life – to maintain my drinking goals and weight at the same time.

 

Here are some of my tips:

 

If I have yogurt for brekkie, I won’t touch dairy for the rest of the day until my Snickers smoothie at bedtime.

 

If I blow out seriously on carbs, I limit myself to less than a bottle of wine that evening.

 

If I’ve starved myself with a steak and blue cheese salad for lunch, denied myself my morning tea toast and my afternoon snack of crackers and hummus, I allow myself an all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink week.

 

I only eat carbs when I’m hormonal, pre-menstrual, peri-menopausal, feeling fat, feeling unloved, feeling hungry, the kids hate me, or with wine.

 

You see – all pretty straightforward really. But let’s be honest, we all have those really shitty years when there’s been nothing on telly but sport for months, you’re fifty-two and still getting acne or your local restaurants decide to allow babies, and it’s hard to be virtuous all the time. Those days when all you want to do is crawl into bed with Pods on toast and an Amaretto on ice. And on those occasions – because remember, I said it’s about balance – I increase my exercise by searching out the furthest pub on Google maps and walking there AND BACK.

Fuck Holidays and Resolutions And Bring Back Routine

Michael Buble took us into Christmas again this year, so I’m going to allow him to take us back out gently and buoy you with optimism for the year ahead with his classic rendition of  ‘Feeling Good.’

There was something very anally fulfilling about creating my new January 2018 folder for this month’s blog posts this morning. Admit it – how bloody wonderful is it to get back into some sort of routine – work not included, for obvious reasons – after the free-fall of Christmas and its many delicacies and indulgences?

While I do realize that some of you poor sods are still on family holidays, have kids at home, or are fighting to stay warm in the US – as I sit here trying to feel full on my healthy afternoon snack of hummus-on-nothing – our lives are almost back to normal. And I like it that way.

We are back to eating healthily again, back to pretending to exercise and work, back to trying to ingest more water than wine in a day – we’re even back to arguing about how often we can afford to turn on the air con in this heatwave. Yesterday, the old man mowed the lawn without moaning.

The Princess got her first proper walk of the New Year this morning, (and December, if I’m honest), and we even remembered her breakfast this morning. Even better – all signs of turkey and ham have gone from the fridge and we gave up on dry January jointly, with only the tiniest iota of guilt, blame, and self-flagellation.

I set my alarm for the first time in weeks this morning and wasn’t disappointed when it yanked me rudely from my perennial dream about not completing the final paper of my degree. Dare I admit that I might actually have bounced out of bed this morning, the lyrics to that Buble song pounding in my head – ‘it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…and I’m feeling like wine.’

I’ve been on a walk, had a swim, put in a wash load, done a food shop –  an uncharacteristically healthy one by our standards as a reluctant nod to January, the New Year and those goddamn resolutions, but one that I’m certain will be topped up shortly with illegal goodies.

Can anyone seriously resist all that Christmas cheese on special?

I’ve even finalized the organization of our social life for January, which was followed by an argument with the old man about our aforementioned social life for January, after which I thought about wine A LOT, and stuffed my face with the last of the mince pies and brandy custard.

Fuck resolutions. Fuck starving yourself and scales. Fuck sacrifice. It’s a new year and guess what, there’s still time to reinvent yourselves, take risks and do something crazy. The diet can wait, the liver can cope, the kids will be okay. Seize the day, peeps!

Hell, I may even open my first bottle before 5.

Millennial Sickness, Hypochondria and Snot Levels

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There is something vaguely ironic about the recent discovery that Kurt is allergic to grass. After years of watching his eyes stream and his chest heave at certain times of the year – symptoms I originally put down to Karma for abusing his body, (because I’m compassionate like that), and the sad reality that none of the five fruit and vegetables make up Aldi’s Chocolate Pillows breakfast cereal – it turns out that the culprit is hay fever.

 

Those of you that have kids on the Spectrum might not know that it makes them much more susceptible to allergies for some reason.

 

Inevitably, the old man passed has down the man-flu gene to our son, but what not even I realized until today, is just how difficult it is to persuade a Millennial that what they have is a just a case of the common cold, which doesn’t entitle them to a sick day.

 

When you come from a one-parent family background that relies on that one salary to put food on the table, a day off work is not really an option. You dose yourself up, shove a loo roll in your handbag, and you muddle through. That is what we were taught in the UK, where an inherent toughness is vital to survive the possibility of invasion at any time or a colder summer than winter. The cold is an accepted part of life over there, almost a badge of honor, the natural order of things – a bit like how trains stop running when it snows.

 

If everyone took a day off each time they had a sniffle, unemployment levels would skyrocket and the country would face a much greater national disaster than Brexit.

 

Australians are somewhat less resilient, I’ve discovered. While we Brits know that if you have the flu, you can’t actually get out of bed without losing control of your bodily functions and scaring people away, Aussies turn up to work, sneeze in your face and use “the flu” as an excuse.

 

Now, I’m not going to tell my son to ‘man the fuck up’, because I believe that sort of sexist comment encourages male toxicity and misandry, however, I do believe that I may need to introduce my children to my mother’s snot level guide, the way she distinguished how sick we really were as kids.

 

You see, back in the day, before we had modern gadgets such as thermometers, Neurofen and Dr Google, our mums decided if we had a temperature, usually by feeling our foreheads or by watching how much we ate. Another means – and one that my Mum was quite partial to for sniffing out the hypochondriac, was the snot test – and I can still remember those terrifying moments during her lengthy examination of my snotty tissue that I knew would determine my fate.

 

If the snot was at the clear end of the scale, we were fine; yellow and stringy – leaning towards green – it was a cold; I imagine that red snot would have made my mother’s brow crease with… could that be worry? Fortunately, one ever had red snot from memory, because that might have involved a trip to the doctor and woe betides anyone who was sick enough to see the doctor.

The Link Between Insomnia In Middle Age And The Boomerang Generation

img_6828Biologically-speaking, there is a proven link between sleep problems, peri-menopause, and menopause. It has something to do with the dying noises created by your ovaries, dreams, and looks as they wither, and a lot to do with how much you hate the person sleeping next to you.

However, my own research lists other contributing factors, such as dogs in the bed, snoring and wind issues, anxiety about any fucking noise in the house or street and the nighttime habits of the young adults living in the house.

After a prolonged period of “self-discovery”, Kurt has succumbed to one of the realities of living in a western culture – that cigarettes cost money – and has got himself a job.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! H.a.l.l.e.l.u.j.a!

He is working in the type of music-themed bar, with its eye-blistering pink neon lights, thumping music and an entire menu dedicated to the evolution of the French fry, that you’d expect – in other words, it is the perfect fit for someone with ADHD.

However, he continues to live at home with us in AbouToDie-ville and so by the time he gets off the bus after his shift, it is often 2 or 3 am, a time of the night that correlates nicely with the first twitches of my bladder, the first dog snores, whelps and kicks and the time of the night the old man has usually reached the end of his patience and is planning my murder due to my own snoring issues.

So, the new routine has taken some adjusting to, the light sleepers that we are, still scarred by a really fun night spent at the ER with aforementioned son only last weekend – a story for another time – and the night only two days later when he nearly burnt down the house with the toaster and couldn’t stop the fire alarm.

Last night, he phoned at 2am to say that he had missed the last bus home and needed to get a cab – in other words, would we sub him until payday? It does worry me that Kurt seems to think that the money tree is paying his wages and that there is an endless supply of cash. After an argument back and forth between myself and the old man in bed (he is having his own sleep issues at the moment), we decided to put sleep ahead of good parenting and consistency and gave Kurt the go-ahead. Any parent knows how rational you are at 3am in the morning, although the old man’s new name for me of “Weak McWeak” seems a little harsh.

I have never looked good in the morning, even after a full night’s sleep. I am not one of those women that look naturally beautiful with no makeup. I have never been a morning person and I am certainly not a 3am person. Added to which, my hair is going through its own menopausal, existential crisis at the moment and so after seven hours of tossing and turning it looks like I have been electrocuted at high voltage. I resemble one of those troll dolls we used to have as children, that have probably been discontinued now for their political incorrectness to people with dry hair.

I am also currently trialing a new product for snoring (at the request of the old man), who has threatened me with divorce if I cannot find a remedy – best-case scenario – or he will finally lose control and stab me in the middle of the night in a re-enactment of the shower scene in Psycho. The product is called “Mute”, and is a small plastic contraption that looks rather like an IUD. You fit it into your nostrils and it opens them out to encourage breathing through your nose rather than your mouth. Once in position, it is fairly inconspicuous apart from the fact that your nostrils are unnaturally flared and there is a plastic ring that hangs down – in other words, you look rather like a bull and particularly unattractive, even by my nighttime standards. “Mute” is guaranteed to lessen your snoring as well as the number of times you have sex. So, a win all around.

And so, in my haste to get back to bed asap and complete the four hours of sleep I had calculated in my anxiety that I had left last night – best case scenario – it was somewhat unfortunate for the taxi driver that my deviant hair and plastic nose-ring completely slipped my mind as the lights of his cab lit up my bedroom window and I went down to pay him.

 

 

The Lost Opportunities Caused By ADHD

Sadly, the main take-home from the ADHD conference I attended last week was the pervading sadness in the room at the mention of “lost opportunities”.

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Unlike other neurological conditions, ADHD appears to leave a bad taste in the mouths of some, and as such, the condition attracts unfair criticism. There is some truth in the criticism that certain sufferers of ADHD make it difficult to help them – in part due to mood and conduct disorders, which can make them oppositional, angry and self-defensive. But that reaction can be just as easily blamed on self-defensiveness, borne of a lack of support from a society that stigmatizes or completely refuses to acknowledge the existence of the condition.

A personal reason for my attendance at the conference for adults with the condition was the sneaking suspicion that I sit somewhere on the high-functioning end of the spectrum. Other reasons were my ongoing research for my manuscript – the main protagonist being an adolescent with ADHD – and my hope of gleaning some new advice in relation to my continued support of my son, Kurt.

There are certain givens when you put two hundred people with ADHD in a room together:

  • The event has zero chance of running to time.
  • It will be noisy.
  • Questions are never left to the end, even if the speaker requests this.
  • There will be a continuous background noise of bodies shifting in seats,  fiddling and whispering – in other words, a plethora of distractions to distract the easily-distracted.
  • The cakes disappear very quickly.
  • The queue for the smoking area will be longer than the queue for the toilets.

This annual conference, run by the “ADDults With ADHD” group, is a lifesaver for Australians who suffer from the condition and who qualify for little support from the government. This, in spite of the inclusion of ADHD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Many of the adults will have been diagnosed on the back of their children’s diagnosis. Research has shown that there is a genetic link, and between 40-50% of children who have parents with ADHD will inherit the condition. Which means that a lot of people will have gone through life feeling “different” and facing the unending criticism and trials that are pertinent to the condition.

And yet, there is a wonderful sense of community, relief, and support when you put a band of these people in a room together, each seeking answers, the latest advice, and dare I say it, validation. 

ADHD and its co-morbidities represent one of the “invisible” mental illnesses that for a long time have been unrecognized, even though the neurological condition has been chartered since the 1800s. As such, it currently sits where depression and anxiety sat until a few years ago – condemning its sufferers to a life of shame, failure, and regret, as a result of the missed opportunities caused by that small difference in the development of the frontal lobe of the brain.

As millions of high school kids begin their HSC exams today, it is worth remembering that there will be children who miss the milestone because of their. Some will have dropped out of school due to anxiety, depression or bullying; others will be excluded due to truancy, non-completion of course requirements or other behavior-related issues.

Whilst every speaker highlighted the good that comes from the condition – the ability to hyperfocus, (when employed in the right way), the big hearts, intuition and sensitivity (that make them great carers and teachers), and the ADHDer’s leaning towards creativity – inevitably, mention had to be made of the negatives linked to the diagnosis, as well.

For every ten comments a child with ADHD receives each day, nine will be negative. So, it’s little surprise that the condition wreaks havoc with the mental health and expectations of a child.

The minute the term “lost opportunities” left the mouth of one speaker, an audible sigh went around the room from the audience. In the same way that parents grieve for the missed opportunities of their child, the newly-diagnosed adult with ADHD grieves the loss of their own.

‘Don’t tell your employer you’ve got ADHD,’ was the damning advice of one psychologist – an appalling admission in this age of so-called equality. For the same reasons that it is inadvisable to acknowledge depression, HIV, or your sexual preferences in the workplace, it is still safer to keep schtum about your ADHD.

The condition, (we don’t like the word “disorder”), continues to be stigmatized by the media as either an invention by pharmaceutical companies to make money, or by bad parents to excuse poor parenting – this, in spite of the medical evidence and the statistics that indicate that up to 50% of the male prison population have the condition. And with suicide on the increase, it is hard not to make a connection with ADHD, when anxiety and depression are known comorbidities.

Conferences such as these are a promising start to support people with ADHD – to peel back the layers of negativity that surround the condition and to rebrand it. In the same way that disability is recognized among the physically sick, it is time to change the rhetoric around invisible disabilities like ADHD.  Let’s remove the stigma that clouds our judgment when it comes to invisible conditions and provide the equal opportunities and recognition of the struggles that its sufferers deserve.

Ever Feel You’ve Lost Your Way?

I posted this meme on my Instagram page this week and it obviously resonated with my followers, so I thought I’d share it with you.

 

I have a morbid addiction to allowing those “bad chapters” in my life cloud the good ones, and sometimes the clouds get really dark and fluffy, and no matter how many “gratitude” posts I read or how many  memes about happiness I am inspired by, I can’t seem to clear them and retrieve the happiness from my soul.

 

You know that I am generally a glass half-full gal, (full to the brim if I can get away with it), who is only too aware of each person’s responsibility for their own happiness and the importance of living life to the full. And in general, I am quite proactive when it comes to soul-searching and finding impulsive short-term solutions to my problems.

 

But this time, I have struggled to find my way out of the maze.

 

I gave up one of the best jobs I’ve had a few months ago because mentally I wasn’t coping with its demands alongside the impact of other forces in my life, and I needed to take some time out to mend my broken wings. The loss of my salary – as pitiful as it is – means that we are cutting our cloth accordingly, (although not as short as the old man would like), hence the fourteenth house move.

 

The idea was to try “something else”, which was to be “writing”, you might remember, and the dream started off well. In the first month of my “sabbatical”, I returned to my manuscript, signed up for some courses, got my blog into better shape than it had been for a while and I felt excited. I was ready.

 

Not even the first rejections that began to dribble into my mailbox put me off and I managed to brush their implication aside. I know the story of JK Rowling’s difficult road to publication by heart and as I am obviously the next JK, I was mentally prepared for those evil little reality checks. What I was less prepared for was the outcome of my other dead cert plan during my time out – to get my son’s life on track while I was at home. Stupidly, I believed that under my supervision, his life would fall directly into place and when it didn’t – hasn’t – my confidence began to flounder. I questioned my purpose.

 

As a creative, you can guarantee that as soon as you start to question your purpose, your ideas dry up and all productivity comes to a grinding halt. And again, even though the advice to writers is to keep writing through a “block” – even if the only words you get onto the page are a load of old bollocks – my focus had disappeared along with my confidence and the coordination required to juggle so many different balls and I went into self-protection mode. I began to avoid the blank screen that symbolised my failure completely.

 

I lost my way – perhaps because I’m better when I’m chasing my tail with no time to over-think. They do say that retirement is dangerous and although I am not in that position, I can see where the life of the wannabe “writer” – in particular, the lack of social interaction and abundance of focus for just about anything other than putting words on a page – can be dangerous.

 

It’s time to stop watching what time the neighbors leave the house to go to work; it is time to stop checking Aldi’s Wednesday and Saturday “specials” online; it’s time to stop looking up recipes on Taste.com that I will never cook. It is time to put those bad chapters behind the Great Wall where they belong, pull up my big girl panties again and find my way back. Which is why, my friends, I am gifting you this generous page of complete bollocks.

 

 

 

Feeling Grateful…Until Your Husband Fucks Up Again

You can usually count on the old man to turn a drama into a crisis.

 

apocalypse-371947_1280I went into day surgery for a minor gyny procedure today. I won’t scare away my few male followers by sharing the intricate, gory details of the investigative procedure into the over-chartered territories of my almost-defunct uterus, but suffice it to say, it was on a par with a quarterly Council clear out, only this time linked to MENSTRUATION GONE WRONG, and the sort of uncontrollable blood loss usually sustained by a rogue shark or zombie attack.

 

It was my only visit to a hospital outside of child birth, which made me (worryingly) somewhat of a celebrity in theatre – ie. a virgin to anesthesia at the ripe old age of fifty-two – so I was grateful for the full run down of what to expect by the bevy of lovely nurses, although less happy about the million disclaimer forms I had to sign in abject panic mode. If I’m honest, the sight of those stark white walls, labeled bins, compression stockings that they vacuum-packed my calves into and the fugly hairnet on my head, all felt a bit too close to the bone at this stage of my life.

 

I can’t have read the memo properly because when I mentioned my impending surgery to two nurse friends of mine last Saturday night, they laughed at my misconception about some local, vaginal anesthetic for pain relief – on a par with Diazepam tabs they give me at the dentist because I’m such a blithering mess – and in hindsight, perhaps my misunderstanding had something to do with my Prosecco Brain or the brevity of time I was given to overthink the procedure. Anyway, it turns out that you need real, grown up drugs when they carve out the walls of your uterus like a melon before a Mad Men-themed cocktail party.

 

The old man kindly elected for me to have my op via the public health system, to get value for money for all the taxes we’ve paid, and the benefit of that was that I wasn’t given very long at all to worry about what lay ahead. Indeed, virtually no information was passed onto me until yesterday, around lunchtime, a few hours after we had commenced NC’s birthday celebrations.

 

The phone conversation went something like this:

 

Hospital Nurse: ‘So obviously, no alcohol twenty-four hours before surgery…’

Me: Looking at my empty Champagne glass and the time on my phone as I counted forward the hours in my head. ‘Does one glass of wine count?’ I asked as I made a mental note to cancel the rest of NC’s birthday celebrations that evening.

 

I have to say that the public health service was outstanding, and it made me appreciate the shallowness of my own job and how the next time I worry about whether a cushion’s piping tones with a lampshade, I will shoot myself. Not one nurse complained when I was being wheeled into theatre and asked if I could pop off the trolley to go for a pee, and when the anesthetist informed me that the pre-meds would give me the sensation of two glasses of wine and I suggested she top it up a little, even she managed to crack a smile.

 

And when I woke up an hour later – grey, groggy, yet hopeful that FINALLY, I might be able to dip my vag in the ocean all through the month without fear of attack – I felt truly grateful to be alive. Thankful even, for those closest to me who have continued to support me through those weeks of every month where I can be somewhat irrational. And I included the old man in that drug-induced “gratitude circle of love” until a few minutes later, when he decided that my back bumper needed work as well and that a minor altercation between our car and a cement mixer on the way home was the way to go about it.

Who Knew That There IS Actually A Link Between Iron And Energy?

So it turns out that you actually need iron in your body, whereas I always thought that iron was naturally in your blood – one of those minerals that you didn’t really have to worry about apart from during pregnancy, because it had no real function like your appendix, and your clitoris, according to the old man. I also thought when you became deficient (AKA anemic), and your gums and your eyelids turned that scary shade of white, a few dead animals in your diet or some iron tablets and associated constipation, would cure it. Who remembers the black stools of pregnancy? Sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it?

 

‘The black stools are coming…’ said in Vincent Price voice.

 

The thing is, I don’t really eat a lot of animals anymore, mainly because my daughter – one of those anal, in-your-face vegetarians who refuses to sit quietly and munch on her Tofu, won’t let me. And as you know, she’s very scary. Added to which, I’m in that stage of perimenopause where each month is like a scene from The Texan Chainsaw Massacre because I’m losing a lot of iron DURING MY PERIOD as well.

 

In fact, iron has a more serious function that merely being proof of how many kale smoothies you consume to brag about in book club – and as an interesting side note, you’d have to eat a ton of spinach to see any real change to your results – thank fuck!. You see, it actually carries oxygen around the blood which gives you more energy and means you are less listless – something that has been an issue for me for most of my life, and may, in fact, be genetic which is why Kurt’s iron levels will also be checked out asap. In my case, the symptoms only became really noticeable recently when I struggled to lift a wine bottle to my mouth one Friday night.

 

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How I think I look in my deficient state.

 

Anyway, the idea that I might beat that old bitch at the pool who keeps overtaking me in the fast lane was appealing, and as recent research suggests that there is a link between cancer and low oxygen levels, I decided to take my deficiency seriously. So when my doctor mentioned an iron infusion –  because my gut struggles to absorb iron in the same way it can alcohol – and I learned that the treatment requires a REAL drip from a REAL nurse that delivers the iron intravenously while you lie in a treatment room and look like there is genuinely something wrong with you – frankly, it sounded too good to be true. Disappointingly, though, you don’t get tea and biscuits afterwards like you do for a blood donation.

 

The health system is fantastic in Australia because we pay for it and unlike countries like the UK where you have to wait a year for an appointment and only get to see a specialist once you can prove you’ve ordered your coffin, here the GPs are lavish with referrals and scans. They are the Father Christmas’ of the medical world and a veritable lifesaver for those of the hypochondriac persuasion among us.

 

Even better, there are some minor risks to getting an iron infusion, so when you tell people about it, you can use that low voice that sounds like the treatment is REALLY FUCKING SERIOUS. There’s the possibility of headaches, fever, nausea etc – pretty much a typical Sunday morning hangover – plus an interesting new one where staining of the skin can occur at the injection site. When my doctor described this low-risk side effect, it sounded rather like a free tattoo to me – something that is definitely on my bucket list – so it seemed like a no-brainer.

 

Evidently, I didn’t do my research properly because I thought I would exit the surgery…I mean, injection, rather like those women in sanitary towel adverts, with enough energy to roller blade around the supermarket, surf in the middle of winter or even cook dinner, but alas, it can take up to two weeks for the effects to kick in. So, two more weeks of bed rest and the excuse to raise barely more than a weak eyelid when the old man suggests cleaning of any description…because deficiencies need to be taken seriously...but I’ll keep you updated. If I manage to knock out more than two blog posts this week, you’ll know I’m in recovery.

 

And The Race Is On For That Medical Marijuana Script

headache-1540220_1920Health concerns continue to dominate the conversation with friends, now evolving at a faster pace than our hatred for world leaders and terrorists. Where ten years ago all we had to grumble about were minor twinges, joint soreness and forgetting the odd name, nowadays we talk about cancer, blood pressure and how often we forget our own children’s names. We have heated debates about the health system, out of pocket expenses, the cost of anesthesia and the benefits of this hospital over that one.

 

Such is our enthusiasm for the topic of our decaying health, competitions have been set up for who takes the most medication or has the highest Statin dosage, and there is a prize of a holiday to Disneyland for the family that reaches the Medicare threshold first.

 

I was bemoaning my most recent terminal symptoms to a girlfriend the other day and she told me that if you make it to fifty, there’s a good chance you’re here for the long haul.

 

I think she was being optimistic, but in the spirit of positivity, I switched the topic of conversation at lunch a few weeks ago to Marijuana, even if this subject has been somewhat exhausted over the past few years in relation to our offspring.

 

This time, it was the medical kind that was up for debate, and by dessert, we had drawn up a legal pact that whoever among us is fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to attain that first medical marijuana script, has to share. I should point out this agreement was made with a similar logic and scale of planning that saw our parents set up timeshare properties with their friends back in the eighties, and like then, payment will be red wine. But the old man and I were thrilled as the decision took us one step further in the goals of our own personal retirement plan, one of which is to be the next Bernie and Rozalin Focker.

 

If we can’t get the script, Plan b is to see if our kids have any contacts, at which point the old man and I went suspiciously quiet.

 

Another friend of ours was quite surprised to find that I carry Aspirin around in my handbag at all times – unless I switch handbags, in which case I have accepted I will die  – which is something I have done for a good ten years now. ‘Positive thinking?’ he quipped.

 

‘It’s hard to be positive when your mother dropped dead at thirty-four of a heart attack,’ I responded bitchily because it was that time of the month.

 

Did you know that Aspirin is a highly efficient anti-clotting agent that can save you in the early stages of a heart attack or stroke and it is widely used in a preventative capacity after such events? I know this because another friend ours prioritized going to a 7-Eleven for a packet of the stuff on his way to the ER – just prior to his second minor heart attack – and he lived to tell the tale.

 

Even if they only act as a placebo, those little tablets of willow bark extraction in my handbag give me some level of comfort each day and I try to ignore anxiety’s questions of how I would get it down my neck in abject pain and possibly on my own. I would also need water because although Aspirin is the largest selling pain reliever in the world, it still tastes fucking foul.

 

Ignoring my mean response, my friend – who I swear is related to Don Tilman from the The Rosie Project – who is one of those people that stores useless information to bring out at random moments, like when you’re trying to say your good byes in a busy car park, went on to give me the history of Aspirin and to recount its other superpowers.

 

Did you know?

 

Aspirin can slow down cancer growth.

 

Aspirin is good for the brain and reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

 

Aspirin can revive a car battery long enough to get you to a garage.

 

It prolongs the life of flowers.

 

It restores hair color from chlorine.

 

It relieves bug bites and acne.

 

You do need to real the small print, however. Like Viagra and other wonder drugs, too much can be dangerous, and although your willy won’t explode and shatter into a million pieces, deafness can be linked to over-use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health Anxiety And The Ability To Identify When There IS Something Actually Wrong

Even though I have a massive health anxiety issue and spend most of my day counting the different ways I will contract cancer on Dr. Google, I rarely go to the doctor. 

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The good news about having a potentially broken finger means that I can give the old man the finger whenever he asks me to do anything.

 

 

Because what if I find out there IS actually something wrong with me?

 

There should be a point system that people like me can fill out with pertinent questions such as:

 

Could this disfigure you for life?

Does Dr Google refer to the C word at all?

Can you wipe your bum?

Do your children scream and run away when they see you?

Any sightings of the Grim Reaper or crows yet?

 

That way we could gauge the necessity of a very expensive visit to the doctor and blocking appointments for people that actually require them.

 

“Anxiety” is a crazy mind fuck, particularly when it’s related to your health. It’s the sort of condition that gives you helpful advice such as its OK to drink tons of wine each day because you’re dying anyway. It tells you to ignore surgery because of that one person in Peru that had a pre-existing heart condition and was operated on in a makeshift hospital in the jungle, that didn’t wake up.

 

So I tend to ignore the potentially serious, life-threatening stuff.

 

I had a “work-related” accident a couple of months ago – one that I should have reported in hindsight, because … workplace insurance? – so that inherited “you’ll be fine”, “there’s nothing wrong” attitude – handed down to me by my single, working mother, who never let us miss a day off school unless we needed hospitalization, could prove costly now.

 

The accident happened when I was with a client in her new home and I opened the door of a kitchen wall unit, which fell off its hinges and what felt like the weight of an entire Amazonian forest gravitated towards me. In my desperation, the designer in me put the aesthetic of the newly tiled floor before my own safety and I broke the fall of the door by shielding it, super-heroine-style, with my middle finger.

 

At the time, it wasn’t that painful. I was in shock, I imagine. But pretty quickly my finger swelled to double its size, rather like a penis (if you’re lucky), with this huge lump at the middle joint. While it was swollen – for weeks – I convinced myself it was sprained and that “it would be fine” and in the meantime, I milked my injury for everything it was worth and held up my finger any time the old man asked me to do anything, with a ‘sorry!’

 

I’d heard somewhere that, medically, there’s nothing you can do with broken fingers – if it was broken, (which I assured myself it wasn’t) – and as time passed and the swelling finally began to subside, I tried to ignore the fact that my finger was blatantly bent in the middle and that I still cannot form a fist without reaching for a medicinal glass of wine.

 

So today I am going to see a very expensive hand doctor, who I assume will tell me there’s nothing they can do about my physical dysmorphia and because I am right-handed (and it will affect my livelihood), he will write me out a disabled parking sticker for the Aldi car park, so that I don’t have to sit there for an hour waiting for women to finish their conversations about Masterchef, and more especially because I’m now unable to tap my finger on the steering wheel or beep the car horn in frustration.

 

Obviously, there is a valuable lesson to be learned from this story, which is: never go in the kitchen.

 

 

Middle-Aged Memory Loss: When You Need A Checklist Just To Leave The House

So apparently, the old man also experiences the whole dementia thing, which I had hoped was short-term in my case and attributed to menopause rather than a permanent decline.

Getting out of the house together can be a strain these days and the organization we require to remember everything we need has become an embarrassment. We are forced to run through lengthy checklists before we feel brave enough to open the front door and enter what is becoming a newly threatening world outside. While admittedly, I am known for putting my keys in the fridge and my attempts to boil milk in the kettle, I can’t tell you how often the old man has to go back to the house for his phone or wallet. And nowhere was this new level of senility more apparent than on holiday when we were outside the comfort zone of our territory for a whole week.

One day, we booked a massage at a nearby spa, because included in the deal was the use of the rest of the spa’s facilities for the remainder of the day as well as lunch – an offer that proved impossible to resist for cheapskates like us who had reached breaking point from the feral kids permanently adrift in the pool at our own hotel (as we waited for the Department of Education to turn up after an anonymous tip-off).

‘So all I need is my swimmers?’ the old man asked me five minutes before we were being picked up, and an hour into my own preparations’.

‘No, you need a hat, sunglasses, towel, your phone and something to read,’ I replied helpfully, trying to ignore the ‘CHECK HIS FUCKING BAG!’ thought pounding in my head because I decided it was disempowering.

Two hours later, fully relaxed after a wonderful massage, I suggested that we change into our swimmers in the massage room rather than allow the old man to put any teenage girls around the pool through the torture of having to watch him do his Houdini-style towel dance.

‘I’ve forgotten my swimmers,’ he said, sheepishly, before he went on to blame me for distracting him with all the other stuff he had to remember.

So, for your entertainment, (and as a small punishment for losing his marbles before I lose mine), I bring you a photo of the old man wearing the vintage-style bottoms to the most un-itsy-bitsy bikini (thank God!) you’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, I was forced to sit around the pool for the rest of the day in my underwear, to the mortification of all the poor men under forty.

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A (Sort of) Birth Story For Easter

I’ve been caught up in between worlds these last few weeks – the worlds of back pain, Easter chocolate and that of my characters, as I put my final touches to my manuscript. I’m not the best multi-tasker, so I find it difficult to tackle other writing projects when I’m so invested in these four people that are evolving daily.

 

But as the Easter holiday period wraps up, I know I owe you something – however trivial. So as this event marks a rebirth, I decided to mark my respects with the story of the birth of our third child. b15d2295e5b6a03d15d9ccd5ca0d13ef

 

I’d never had a dog as a child, although an assortment of pets – mad cats, fish and a tortoise that ran away, weren’t fit enough to survive in our house – which is why I always suspected that a dog might be one step too far in terms of responsibility. Added to which, I was highly anxious about them. I was that person who gagged when a friend’s dog jumped up at me – and they always did because they smelled the fear.

 

Two things changed my view. One was that the old man has always been an animal freak – far more relaxed in the company of dogs than our children – and as I watched his interactions with friends’ dogs over the years, and saw how they calmed him and diminished his stress levels, the idea became more appealing. The second reason was that I thought a pet, another being to love Kurt unconditionally and perhaps become his best friend, would help him feel better about himself.

 

The conception of The Princess was a long and arduous one. I did my research, changed my diet, took iron pills and went through other invasive medical interventions I still can’t talk about. And I’ll admit that at one point I began to waver in my decision…until my brother paid us a surprise visit in Sydney.

 

“Impulsivity” has a tendency to run through our family – rather like a sharp razor through the winter hair on my legs – so perhaps I shouldn’t have been that surprised when I mentioned the idea of the dog and he dragged me straight to the closest pet shop to pick NC and Kurt’s new sister – a female of the ‘oodle variety; the cutest and sleepiest.

 

I don’t think the old man ever believed I’d actually commit to the dog idea and so he was fairly indifferent to The Princess for those first few weeks. Obviously, she wasn’t the stereotype of what he considered to be “man’s best friend”, and I know he worried about turning up at the dog park on Saturday afternoons, beer in one hand and this blonde ball of fluff in the other, tethered to a shocking-pink lead. Yet she wormed her way into the rest of the family’s affections within minutes – the cute stack down the steps living room probably helped – and within days we were fighting over who would pick up her perfect, pint-sized poos – the ones that usually landed with stealth bomber accuracy on my brand new rugs.

 

She is has since reigned at the top of the pecking order, and each of us fight for her love and approval. She is the best spooner, the best hot water bottle in winter, the best therapist, vacuum cleaner and incentive for exercise. She is also great to dress up. Our main criteria for holidays homes now is that they are pet-friendly, and she drives shotgun all the way.

 

Training…not so much, although she will sit or lie down if we make it worth her while.

 

At the grand age of eight – which is fifty-six in dog years – and still spritely, she is often mistaken for a puppy (much to her disgust) – even though she is developing into a willful, middle-aged woman who gets crabby when she’s tired, is easily distracted, forgetful and rather partial to long naps with her dad most afternoons. So we have a lot in common. She tells us now when she’s had enough – a good lesson for Kurt, whose switch off button has always been temperamental.

 

And did I mention the best part about having a dog? It’s that they can talk. Over time, this lovable little mutt has developed a voice in our house, which is used (and abused), to say those things that we want to say to each other, but know we shouldn’t.