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She Really Sucks at Teamwork

Conversation with my daughter bourne out of possible swine flu and too much cough syrup

“Bekah, if I die, I want you to avenge my death by becoming a world famous scientist and waging war on all the bacteria and viruses in the world.” “Okay, Mummy” <I walk off content in the knowledge my daughter loves me>

<pops head back into the room as an afterthought> “Also, if you accidentally turn yourself into the Hulk, I’ll understand if you have more pressing things to deal with than avenging me.”

“She Hulk.  I’d be She Hulk”

“Huh…. That’s the problem you had with that sentence….”

“Well, I’d have to be She Hulk, wouldn’t I?…”  Quite frankly I tuned out somewhere in the middle of talk of marvel characters and avenging but I tuned back in when it sounded like she was coming to an end and I had finished thinking about things I find WAY more interesting.  BECAUSE I’M A GOOD MOTHER.

…”and then I could be The Avengers all by myself”.

“You suck at team work”

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Love Your Children In a Manner That They Can’t Help But Love You Back. Whatever That Is To You.

We have just recently moved in to a rental property that is… less than ideal.  After piling all the trash left at the property by the previous tenant out on the curb for council clean up one evening, I was walking arm in arm up the driveway with my 17 yo daughter.

Me: “Thanks for helping.”

Bek: “I love you too.”

That right there is everything I could have hoped for as a parent.  No matter what I say, my daughter hears ‘I love you’.

Their whole lives, the last thing my children have heard before they leave the house is “I love you”, even if we have just had a disagreement or I am feeling less than loving towards some of their behaviours.  “I love you” will always be the last thing they hear when they leave our home.  It may be “I really want to choke you Homer Simpson style for your stupidity right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you beyond compare.”  Or “we’ll talk about it when you get home tonight and  you’ve removed your head from your arse.  Just know I love you no matter how special your behaviour is.”  But it is still “I love you”.

When I say love your children in a manner they can’t help but love you back, I don’t mean give them everything they want and never impose any rules on them.  What you get in return for that is not love and it is certainly not respect.  We are there to be their parents, not their enabling best friends.  I am mother.  Mentor.  Enforcer of Rules.  Shepherd through life.  Often begrudging, but generally chatty Taxi Driver.  Chores and Homework Badger.  Our friendship, though it exists, exists with strings attached.  With caveats and boundaries.  I am first and foremost their mother.  We will but heads on the odd occasion that they are being buttheads.

Now I know that my style of parenting isn’t for everyone, we are quite sweary and NSFW behind closed doors.  That is why I encourage you to use whatever it is about the amazing human being you are, the thing that makes you lovable and unique, in order to love your children so much they can’t help but love you back.  If like me, you love building box forts in the lounge room and creating indoor beach barbeques, engage with them using quirky part of your personality that meshes with yours.  If you are crafty, show you love by creating things you know they’ll adore.  If you are sporty, make chores fun by turning them into games and competitions.  If they enjoy both fishing and animated films, exclaim “I don’t understand fishing metaphors” before collapsing to the ground if you get lost when they start talking about inline spinners and jerkbait.

Birthday forts are parenting done right!

Parenting is difficult and tiring.  But it also the most wonderfully joyous thing to be a part of.  For me, my children can’t help but love me back because my love shines through in all the nonsense I bring to their lives.  And in the fact that within the circus we call home I put in the effort to set consistent rules and boundaries.  All the fun, laughter, and inappropriate joking is underscored by boundaries and discipline.

I was at the store on the weekend and a tired looking mother was on the travelator with her twin boys.  One was running up the down travelator and the other was walking calmly in front of her towards me.  I smiled knowingly at her and we in that moment of understanding we bonded as parents.  She was clearly overwrought, the shopping centre was near on empty and there was no one else on the travelator but us so it was no big deal that the boys were not standing perfectly by her side.  They were quiet, happy and quite well behaved for 6 ish years old to my eye.  “It gets easier as they get older and less active” I encouraged her.

“Yeah but I’ve still got to go through that horrible stage that comes after this.”  I always find it interesting that parents just assume their children will be difficult, as if they don’t have any control over it.

“My boy is 22 and he didn’t have a difficult stage after he stopped running everywhere and breaking bones” I responded.  Her response floored me.  I wish it was the first time I had heard words to this effect, but sadly it isn’t.

“My daughter is thirteen and she’s a bitch.”

If I thought my mother had that opinion of me, I probably would be too.  In fact, thirteen year old me would go out of her way to prove she was a bitch.  That’s what thirteen year olds do.  If children don’t have someone believing in the person they can be, why would they try to be anyone different?

Loving our children in a way that they can’t help but love us back is about modelling the behaviours we want to see in them, engaging with them in a manner that they connect with and taking the time to experience the world from their own frame of reference.  If we treat our children like a hindrance or a difficulty then that is what they will think we believe of them.  There is no connection in that, it communicates disappointment in who they are and the gap between what we want them to be and who they actually are.  There is a vast difference between hearing “Will you just shut up and stay still for a change?” or “Why can’t you just behave like your brother/friend/anyone other than them” than hearing “Sweetheart, you know how sometimes you get tired and grumpy and I look after you? I’m feeling that right now, can we just take some time out for me to rest so I can be my fun self again soon?”  They all ask for peace and quiet, but the last one creates a shared experience and helps our children understand and connect with us and how we are feeling.

How we deal with those moments when we butt heads with our children is every bit as important as all the moments in between when they are actually nice to be around.  In fact, they speak volumes to our children about our role in their lives and how we view them as people.

One of the reasons my children can’t help but love me back is because they see the love in everything I do.  Even when I have to discipline them.  Rarely are there raised voices and harsh words in our house, no matter how spectacularly stupid or hurtful the behaviour by the adorable little miscreant has been.  I always speak honestly and openly with them about where I am coming from when I do have to play the Parent Card and squash their fun or any misbehaviours.

After all the hurt feelings and teenage anger has died down to a simmer, I approach my child and explain to them why I did what I did.  I assure them that I understand that they are hurt and angry and I would have felt the same at their age.  But I’ve lived a life and I can see the pitfalls of their decisions even if they can’t.  I remind them that I am their mother and my job is to get them through to adulthood safe, well rounded and happy.  In that order.  Happy sometimes has to take a back seat when the other two goals are jeopardised.  I make sure they understand that loving them is much bigger than just making them happy in that moment.  I love them so much I will be the one to put my foot down so they can go on to have rich and happy lives as adults, regardless of how unhappy it makes the both of us at the time.

Speaking to my 16 year old about parenting styles and how we show love to each other, including my setting of rules and boundaries, she said “I was an asshole for a bit but you refused to take any of my crap and I pulled my head in pretty quickly.”  While we as parents are not wholly in control of our children’s actions and attitudes, we play a large part in them as they grow up.

After thinking about writing this post I presented all of my children a seemingly simple question.  I asked “This is not a self serving question for gratification; it’s a genuine question for a post I’m writing.  Why do you love me?”

My 17 year old daughter gave me the most insightful answer which, thankfully, confirmed what I had suspected.  She said she loved me because I was funny, kind, silly and thoughtful.  All good answers and, if I’m honest, did give me the gratification as a parent that I was not intentionally seeking.  It is easy to see why someone would respond well to kindness and thoughtfulness, but I wanted to know why my personal characteristics of funny and silly were reasons to love me as a parent.  To her, those qualities are a reflection of her and she likes that we connect that way.  She responds well to being parented in a style that meshes with her own personality.

All my children have their own wonderful, unique personalities and are experiencing life differently to myself and each other.  To have the kind of relationship where they can’t help but love me back I take the time to see life through their eyes, listen to everything they have to say to me even if I. Really. Don’t. Care. About. Pokemon Go.  And I recognise that the little things aren’t worth saying no to if they don’t take too much time out of my day or cause inconvenience.  Is it a pain in the butt to detour past the gym to go past three pokemon stops? Yes.  Does it take more than two minutes? No.  I have two minutes to give to my children to make them feel that I care about helping them with the things that interest them.  Did I just clean the lounge room?  Yes.  Is it a pain in the butt to step over lego or a stuffed toy tea party? Yes.  Does it actually hurt me in any way for the lounge to be messed up again for a few hours? No.  Off you go, have fun, clean up after yourselves.  If you don’t, the next time you ask to mess the house up will be a learning experience you won’t enjoy.

I show my children that I not only love them but like them.  I seek out ways for us to spend time together doing things that we both enjoy.  I have created a comfortable space that they can ask anything they like (seriously, once my child came out with ‘I heard something at school I don’t know.  What’s a rim job?’), and they know they can call for help if they have made a mistake and they won’t be instantly met with attitude.  They know there will be consequences, but they also know they will be met with love and support before the consequences come after they are out of danger and distress. The punishment always fits the crime, if I think I am going to overreact I tell them I love them but will talk to them when I have had a moment to collect myself because I’m too angry to make good decisions.  I am consistent.  In short, I treat them like individual, thinking, feeling people, not possessions for me to own or control.

Parenting Tools – TL;DR

There is no magic formula for parenting. But I can tell you that your children can’t help but love you back when your chief parenting tool is love.  Love and patience.  Patience and love.  Your two main parenting tools are love and patience and respect.  Your three main parenting tools are love, respect, patience and honesty.  Your four…no amongst your parenting tools are such elements as love… no wait, I’ll start this again.

Amongst your parenting tools are such diverse elements as love, patience, respect, honesty, fairness, boundaries, consistency and a genuine desire to connect with your children and understand where they are coming from.

Throw in a liberal handful of your own personality and they will never realise they are in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition.  Or a Monty Python Sketch.

 

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DIY Wedding Sign Tutorial

I figured the next item on the list of things to make for my friend’s wedding was a nice, easy project that could be done in a day.  I was thinking that if it weren’t for the two hour dry time between coats of paint, I could have knocked this out in an hour or so.   What I didn’t take into consideration with the time frame was making a typo in the initial printing stages.  So, unless you’re total muppet like I am, this is a brilliant piece to pass the time while binge watching Netflix of an afternoon.  Otherwise, it’ll take an extra four hours to add two extra coats of paint to cover up your mistakes.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

The beautiful bride-to-be posted this picture on Facebook.

screenshot_original-sign

Now I’ve known her for a quite some time.  And having heard the tumble of filth and profanity that spills from her mouth on a daily basis, I knew there was no chance that a simple “Are you serious?” happened after he asked her to marry him.  Not to be hoodwinked by an innocuous picture on Facebook, I felt the need to query her response to The Question.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

And so it was decided that I would make the same sign for her but with the original swearing included.

Sadly common sense and good judgement prevailed over fun and poor decision making.  The desire for profanity was recanted at the eleventh hour and the sign was made with a more PG feel to it.

wedding-sign-list

Now, at Bunnings, you can get the board cut to size for free.  So I asked a much-less-clumsy-than-I-am person to cut it at 500 mm leaving me with a 50 cm long piece and a 73 cm piece of board.  Once home I sanded the ends where he had cut it to smooth them off.

step_1_wedding_sign

With the white paint, use a wide paint brush to paint the background colour. You’re going for the rustic feel from the original photo,  so don’t extend the paint all the way to the edges, and angle your brush to create the rough effect. Oddly enough it is harder than it looks to get a look of casual indifference on purpose.  Especially if you’re a bit of a perfectionist.

Two coats should provide enough coverage to create a base you are happy with, but if you have chosen a particularly porous piece of timber or a different brand of paint, you might need an extra coat.

step_2_wedding_sign

While the paint is drying, use your software of choice to design what you want to paint on your sign.  My personal favourite is Photoshop, but you can download The Gimp for free.  It is a superb piece of freeware for image editing.  Careful what you google if you go looking for this and avoid image searches unless you are sure no one will be looking at your browser history.

With the page in landscape aspect, I used Lover’s Quarrel, 400 pt for the cursive writing and Eccentric Std, 300 pt for the block letters.  At this size, it will print over two pages.  So due to laziness and care factor, I just had the words run off the edge of the page.  Once I was ready to print out the second page, I nudged them over to print the rest of the word.

step_3_wedding_sign

To transfer the type to the board the correct way around you need print your words out backwards. If you are using Photoshop, rasterise the type and flip it horizontally.

Time to grab a glass of wine and wait for the last coat of paint to dry.

Once the base is dry, rule a straight pencil line for the bottom row of text to be lined up against.

step_4_wedding_sign

Tape some greaseproof paper to a piece of A4 paper.  My printer kept jamming if I didn’t tape it all the way around.  And after a little trial and error, I can tell you that, for my printer, the key is straight, thin edges.  It worked best when I used a card from my wallet to flatten the tape down so the printer could pick the paper up properly.  And clipping a small amount from one of the top corners let any trapped air out, stopping the printer from jamming.

Print your design onto the greaseproof paper.

tips copy

 

 

Any printing on the sticky tape will not set and make a mess on your board, so it is best to line it up so that you can cut these bits off.

step_5_wedding_sign

Working relatively quickly, cut the greaseproof paper from the A4 sheet you used to stabilise it and cut off any sticky tape with wet ink on it.  Once both pages are printed and cut, tape them together at the back, taking care to line up the text.

Ink side down, line the bottom row of text up against your pencil line and tape the greaseproof paper in place.  I’m sure you’ll notice that in the picture my text isn’t lined up against the pencil mark.  After I placed the print out on the board I wasn’t happy with the placement and moved it.

Using a card from your wallet, rub across the back of the greaseproof paper, transferring the ink from the waxy paper to the board.  Pull the paper aside to check enough ink has transferred to make the letters distinct enough to paint over then discard the greaseproof paper once you are happy with the transfer.

step_6_wedding_sign

Working carefully, paint over the ink.

tips copy

 

 

Just a couple of quick tips if you’ve never done this before:

·         Work top to bottom, left to right.  Unless you are left-handed, in which case you should start on the right.
·         Move the board around so you do not accidentally smudge the paint with your hand.
·         Use a decent quality, reasonably stiff brush.  You want defined edges, not soft watercolour style edges.
·         You will more than likely need two coats of paint for the lettering as well.

Once your lettering is dry, erase the pencil line and flip the boards over to affix hooks if you are intending to hang them.  I spaced mine 9 cm from the top and 5 cm in from the edges.  Although I don’t believe these are going to be hung at the wedding, I put the hooks on in case the couple would like to hang them at home as a memento of their day.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

finished_sign_2_wedding_sign

finished_project_3_wedding_sign

And there you have it, a personalised decoration for a wedding that you could potentially make with leftover bits and bobs you have around the shed.

 

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I am a tree. Or a poor imitation of a circus clown. Hard to tell which. Help me please.

 

Dear Sir/Madam/possible inheritor of $5,000,000 from a Ugandan Prince

Do you ever have those days where your creativity feels stifled in your windowless, soulless, office?  Do you feel like you need light to grow and thrive?  Like a tree?  I am a tree trapped in a box with no soul.

Sometimes you just need your email signature to express who you truly are inside, rather than the corporate shill you are paid to be. I’m a little bored and a little trapped in this office.  Help me please.

Kind regards

Jo Sargeant

Chief Supreme Clinic Manager and Demi God/Princess

Executive Wordsmith and Super Mum
…also good with glue and glitter

Clinic Manager/Future Trophy Wife of Chad Kroeger

Clinic Manager/Princess

Clinic Manager/Aspiring Wizard

Clinic Manager/Potential Sweepstakes Prize Winner

Apocalypse Prevention Team Manager

Administrator Extraordinaire and Very Poor Juggler

Expert procrastinator/Very good at colouring in

Clinic Manager/Social Media Assistant/Located far too far from a decent winery

Clinic Manager/ Chief Wordsmith and Purveyor of Bullshit

Tree

 

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A Response to ‘Your Anxiety Isn’t An Excuse to be an Asshole’

Or ‘My anxiety may not be an excuse to be an asshole – but neither is good intentions.’

Now my personal opinion is that there is no excuse to be an asshole to anyone.  Anxiety disorder or not, being an asshole to people is not okay.  Part of not being an asshole is exercising tact and making the effort to understand things through other people’s frames of reference.  It just takes a little respect and the ability to remove your head from your anal sphincter long enough to consider that not all people are the same as you.  Mental Health Training 101 really.

Assholery is not endemic to people with anxiety disorders.  Anxiety presents with many different symptoms, the most common of which are

  • Chronic fears or thoughts that interfere with daily living
  • Panic or anxiety attacks or fear of these attacks
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Feeling faint
  • Rapid beat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Inability to stay still, ‘jumpiness’
  • Avoidance behaviours
  • Sleep disorders

Being an asshole is not among the symptoms on that list.  Nor any list I have ever read or studied.

Sometimes the sheer terror associated with an attack could cause a person to lash out.  I don’t do that but I can understand why someone might.  When you can’t control your own mind, it is beyond petrifying and it is easy to lose control of your actions.  But my point is that ‘snapping at’ the people around you, treating them as your ‘your neurotypical punching bag’ or ‘taking out your stress or anger’ on friends and family are not symptoms of anxiety.  Those are reactions to the symptoms.  And how we react to the symptoms we experience is as individual as our own experience of the mental illness itself.

Depending on the severity and causation, not all of these symptoms can be controlled by force of will and management.  Sometimes none of them can.  Or all of them can.  My point is that everybody’s experience of anxiety is different.  It is hard work to manage these symptoms and function through them and sometimes it actually can’t be done without medical intervention and a whole lot of regular therapy.

When I talk about mental health solutions it is from the context of this-is-what-worked-for-us-try-it-if-you-like.  That is why it saddens me to read articles like this one, which are full of incredibly valid points but are approached from the this-is-what-worked-for-me-and-you’re-an-asshole-who-isn’t-trying-hard-enough-if-it-doesn’t-work-for-you-too school of thought.  Even though the author goes on to say that what worked for her won’t work for everyone and she ‘gets that’, the often vituperative post that follows that disclaimer points to anything but ‘getting’ other people’s experience of mental illness.  The world is full of people who have never experienced mental illness, who don’t understand it and judge those of us with it as just not trying.  We can’t be divided as a community, it is hard enough finding acceptance out there as it is.

One time I came across this picture on my Facebook.

not_at_all_helpful

I was shocked that this ill-informed, judgemental picture was shared by a girl I consider to be kind, compassionate and beautiful inside and out. After myself and another person commented that it had taken both of those things to keep us alive at various times in our lives she removed the picture and apologised.  Having never had clinical depression she only knew that nature soothed her when she felt depressed and down.  We could have used this moment of ignorance to rant and demand people see the world our way.  But we didn’t. The wonderful thing about that experience was that it opened up a dialogue on what it is like to live with anxiety and depression.  I shared with her one of my favourite, and seemingly hated by the author of the Asshole piece, comic strips by Robot Hugs that explains society’s attitude to mental health problems perfectly.

2013-11-21-Helpful Advice

Now, from reading the aforementioned article it appears that the author is trying to support people into being proactive in their own mental health recovery.  That in itself is a wonderful and important thing to put out there.  It isn’t going to get better unless we work towards being better.  But we don’t need to be judgemental and rude to help others achieve that goal.  Both defining characteristics of an asshole, by the way.  Weren’t we trying to avoid turning into assholes here?

Can we just start with the sentence ‘But first, some credentials, because I don’t like yelling about things I don’t understand. (Yes, I do.)’ wherein the author goes on to describe her own Generalised Anxiety Disorder.  When I was shown this article by a friend who wanted my opinion on it, my immediate response was ‘I ate a lasagne once, that doesn’t make me qualified to be a chef.’

It’s fantastic to share your experience of mental illness.  In some settings I’d go so far as to say brave and inspirational.  However, experiencing something from our own frame of reference does not make us qualified to judge other people or even give advice on how to solve something.  It just means we can empathise rather than sympathise.  We can share how we worked through the issue and offer understanding.  We can encourage others to try it our way if they think it would be a good fit for them or to use our experience to find their own solution. But credentialled?  No.  In becoming qualified to support people with mental illnesses you learn not to belittle their experience, call them assholes for not having gotten better yet, encourage people to get rid of their medication without professional support and advice or tell them they don’t deserve friends because they aren’t good enough people.  That’s how you create suicides.  Or Daleks.  Do you want Daleks?  No you don’t.

I also want to look at the sentence ‘it is important we talk about these things in a constructive way’.  Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  It is more than important.  It is imperative.  I could not agree more with that sentiment.

Webster’s defines constructive as  “helping to develop or improve something : helpful to someone instead of upsetting and negative”.

While I think the intention behind the article was to help people improve their lives, this diatribe does not come off as constructive in any way.  Constructive discussion encourages people to engage, creates a space where all opinions can be heard and is non-judgemental so as not to upset people, as by its very definition.  Constructive is not using phrases like “the last thing in the world I would need is this dumb fucking self-care rhetoric that essentially tells you, “You’re a golden anxiety flower, and everyone else has to deal with you.”  with no forum for response.

Speaking of “dumb fucking self-care rhetoric”, the author states that what worked for her was “getting regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and working a job that does not trigger any of my stressors. I also have a dog now, which is by far the most soothing and helpful thing that’s ever happened to me.”  So, what worked for her was taking care of herself.  Do you know what taking care of yourself is called in mental health circles?  Self care.  That’s right.  Self care is the thing that simultaneously allowed her to become functioning and is the object of her disgust.  I don’t think it is self care that she is opposed to, it is a pervasive attitude of entitlement amongst a certain subset of of the population and the advice that encourages people to look after themselves in a manner that is counterproductive to recovery.  Neither of those things are self care.  Yet self care gets thrown into the same basket with other “terrible, indulgent advice.”

I completely agree that embracing the symptoms of your anxiety and consistently giving in to every desire to run, hide and withdraw from society on the whole is a very bad thing.  Giving in to the urge to yell at someone or treat them without respect is a very bad thing.  Being compassionate towards yourself however, is a positive step towards recovery.  The World Health Organisation who coined the phrase in 1998 defines Self Care as “the activities individuals, families and communities undertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease, limiting illness and restoring health.”  The “dumb fucking self care rhetoric” she refers to is the type of advice that does not promote any of these goals when taken to the extreme.

To this author there is nothing worse than strangers on the internet writing opinion pieces or drawing comics that “tell us that people with anxiety are these fragile butterflies who must be catered to at every turn.” “Just take care of yourself,” this rhetoric says. “Practice self-care! Take a bath! Cancel your plans! Don’t explain yourself! If your friends can’t give you space and be totally understanding, that means they’re not your friends!!! They’re toxic! GET THEM OUT OF YOUR LIFE. You have no obligation to keep around Toxic People. If you need to throw your phone into a river and spend two weeks locked in your room eating Ding Dongs, that’s what you need!! :3”

I’m tentatively along for the ride there.  No one can sustain their real lives by locking themselves in their rooms and eating whatever a ding dong is.  Possibly a prepackaged cake that has an expiry date of 2078 if YouTube has taught me anything about American snack food.  Unless, that is, you work full time, are single and have the leave owing. Then call all your friends, tell them you care about them but you need to practice self care by giving yourself recovery time from the world so you can continue to be your amazing self in future.  Good friends who have an understanding of your illness will understand that you need to look after yourself as well as your relationship with them.  Sometimes their needs take precedence over yours.  Conversely, sometimes your needs take precedence over theirs.  Relationships are about give and take.

I agree that people don’t deserve to be treated with disrespect just because you suffer from a mental illness.  That they don’t have to be understanding if you cancel plans without explanation and neglect your friendship.  I agree that this does not make them toxic people who need to be shed from your life.

However, there is overwhelming evidentiary research pointing to the importance of self care and self-compassion in managing anxiety disorders¹.  So she lost me at the beginning there where the idea of taking care of yourself, practicing self care, taking a bath or cancelling plans was the worst advice that could be given.  Self care and self-compassion need to be a part of your life and  form the basis of a coping strategy.  They do not take the place of your life.  It is is not taking a bath instead of doing an activity that causes you anxiety, it is taking a bath to show yourself the compassion you would treat others with after after an anxiety producing activity.  Pushing yourself into situations that challenge your anxiety is necessary to fully engage in your own life, and on this we completely agree. However we need to recognise the effect of heightened and continuous levels of anxiety on a person’s well-being.

In 2010 a study was conducted into the connection between anxiety and suicide². The results of this two year study of  34,653 adults in the United States is summed up and concluded as follows:

Results
Among individuals reporting a lifetime history of suicide attempt, over 70% had an anxiety disorder. Even after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, Axis I and Axis II disorders, the presence of an anxiety disorder was significantly associated with having made a suicide attempt (AOR=1.70, 95% CI: 1.40–2.08). Panic disorder (AOR=1.31, 95% CI: 1.06–1.61) and PTSD (AOR=1.81, 95% CI: 1.45–2.26) were independently associated with suicide attempts in multivariate models. Comorbidity of personality disorders with panic disorder (AOR= 5.76, 95% CI: 4.58–7.25) and with PTSD (AOR= 6.90, 95% CI: 5.41–8.79) demonstrated much stronger associations with suicide attempts over either disorder alone.

Conclusion
Anxiety disorders, especially panic disorder and PTSD, are independently associated with suicide attempts. Clinicians need to assess suicidal behavior among patients presenting with anxiety problems.

Did we all catch that?  Over 70% of suicide attempts went hand in hand with an having an anxiety disorder. With devastating figures like that, I fail to see how telling people they don’t deserve friends because of the symptoms of their anxiety is constructive.  Telling someone who has a high predisposition to suicide that self care is akin to selfishness and self-indulgence is detrimental. Possibly fatally so.  Some people with anxiety really are the “fragile butterflies” she puts down for needing to take care of themselves. For having the indecency to practice self-care. Take a bath. Cancel their plans.  Take time to enjoy space away from other people and get rid of the toxic people in their lives.

Personally, I would rather a friend cancelled on me regularly than felt so overwhelmed by living their own life that they had to take their own life.

But I concede that the thing the author is railing against in that moment is the aforementioned counterproductive coping strategies touted by a well meaning, yet ultimately misguided internet cheer squad.  I just feel that it is crucial to be unequivocally clear about the difference between healthy self care strategies and self-destructive coping mechanisms. This article consistently refers to self care as a bad thing, throwing it in with all the other advice inimical to recovery.  Healthy self care and self-compassion are pivotal in affecting positive change and keeping people with suicidal ideation alive.  Sometimes you need to take a bath or cancel a plan just to stay on top of things.

I can completely understand the overwhelming relief in cancelling plans.  Oh my lordy that is like crack to a whore for me.  Does that make me flaky?  A little, yes.  Does it keep me from pushing myself to a place where I unintentionally injure myself during a panic attack?  Hell yes.  So I cancel plans to events all the time.  But not if it will inconvenience people.  If it is a large party, I will cancel the hell out of that shit and be honest in saying that I just can’t do that.  I wanted to.  I tried.  I’ll try again next time.  Thank you for thinking of me and inviting me.  Please continue to invite me because one day I will be well enough to come.  And on that day we will celebrate the hell out of that occasion together.  There will be many drinks and much whooping.  Can we have a coffee together soon because I adore you and value your friendship.

But if someone has made an effort for just me and my family or a small gathering, I’m going to go regardless of how much I want to hide at the back of my closet and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

That is where self care and self-compassion come in.  I don’t take baths, to me that is like creating a stew of your own filth.  Not at all relaxing.  But I look at my situation and consider it from the perspective that it is happening to someone else.  What kind of compassion would I show another person going through the same intense emotional crisis as me?  How would I assist them to get through this moment and take care of themselves?  After all, I am as important as everyone else in this world.  No, that doesn’t entitle me to be a “golden anxiety flower that everyone else has to deal with”, however it does entitle me to the same respect, understanding and compassion that I would show everyone else.

I see what the author of the piece is trying to do and say and I applaud the desire to share what she has learned to help other people the same diagnosis, however it is my own opinion that it is irresponsible and injurious to go about it in this way.

So no, my anxiety isn’t an excuse to be an asshole.  But neither is the ability to put my digits on a keypad and mash out an invective against other people’s coping strategies or misguided advice.  Perhaps if a person transitions from treating family and friends poorly to treating strangers on the internet poorly then it isn’t the anxiety that was the common denominator in acting like an asshole.

 

By me.
With actual credentials.
That have fancy certificates.
Diploma of Counselling.
Diploma of Child, Youth and Family Intervention.
Diploma of Community Services Work.
Lots of professional development in mental health.
But mainly from my experience with mental illness, raising a child with a mental illness and not being an asshole.  Except for in the last sentence of this article.  That was a pretty dick move, but well worth thinking about.

 

Citations

¹Van Dam, Sheppard, Forsyth and Earleywine
‘Self-compassion is a better predictor than mindfulness of symptom severity and quality of life in mixed anxiety and depression’
Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2011-01-01, Volume 25, Issue 1, Pages 123-130, accessed 30/8/16
<https://www.clinicalkey.com.au/#!/content/playContent/1-s2.0-S0887618510001751?returnurl=http:%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0887618510001751%3Fshowall%3Dtrue&referrer=https:%2F%2Fscholar.google.com.au%2F>

²Nepon, Belik, Bolton and Sareen.
‘The Relationship Between Anxiety Disorders and Suicide Attempts: Findings from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.’
Depress Anxiety. 2010 Sep; 27(9): 791–798, accessed 30/8/16
<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2940247/>

 

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Captain America LED Monogram Tutorial

Or ‘How do you get molten glue off of raw flesh? Asking for a friend.’

I wanted to make a tutorial for the Hollywood style ‘movies’ sign that I made for Christmas last year and used for our staycation a few weeks back.  But I already have a movies sign, so what would be the point in making another one?  Nothing, that’s what.  Bummer.

Fossicking around downstairs I came across some leftover LEDs from that project which I had bought at the $2 store.  Sadly, I’m a numpty sometimes and I accidentally bought some coloured lights when I needed all white for my original project.  But luckily for this numpty those forgotten red and blue LED packs sparked an idea for a new, but strikingly similar project.  I would supersize my original sign and make a Captain America themed LED monogram letter for my daughter.  We are slowly going through and refurnishing her room, this would be a great addition to the makeover.

I feel it only right to mention here that the Hollywood style movies sign was not my idea.  I wanted to create an outdoor movie theatre for Christmas for our kids and I saw one in a picture I found on Google images.  It looked easy enough to make my own so I broke out the hot glue gun and had a bash.  Quite the successful bash if I do say so myself.

captain_america led monogram tutorial_pin

Now, my daughter’s name starts with A, so that is what I went with and it is what I will be referring to as we go through the tutorial.  Substitute the first letter of your child’s name in or leave it as an A for America, Captain America.

Sorry, started to channel James Bond for a moment there.

captain america led needs list

Before we start I would just like to put it out there that I still have all my own skin despite my inherent clumsiness and my husband should just sod off.  I can totally be trusted with the hot glue gun.  I mean, I did suffer minor burns, but that is to be expected.  A craft project without serious injury is a success in my book.

publisher document captain america a

Using whatever graphics program you have (or drawing it up by hand if you have more skills than I do) print your A to size.  Although I don’t use it for anything else, Publisher’s banners function allows you to print over several pages with no effort so that’s the program I chose.  My letter took up four pages.

Layer three circles onto the A to create the rings of the ‘sheild’.  Cover up the middle of the A with a triangle shape that has white fill and no border and replace the middle with a star.

Print two copies out.

Turn each copy over and tape together.

captain america led monogram tutorial step two

Attach one of your printouts to cardboard with a light run of glue.

Using art knife cut the A out, including the star in the middle. Pull your template off.  If you work quickly the glue won’t have had time to dry.

Rule a line half way in from the outer edge.  Mark every 2 cm.  Using something pokey like a skewer, poke holes through the card every two centimetres.  This will be your guide to where your lights will go through.

captain america led monogram tutorial step four

Using the second template you printed, cut circles out of card.

From largest to smallest you will need to cut: white, red, blue.

captain america led monogram tutorial

Glue a piece of red card to the front of the A, completely covering it.  Cut off the excess, including the star in the middle.

Glue the white circle onto the middle of the A.  Cut off excess

Repeat for the red and blue circles, cutting off the excess after each layer.  Check all edges are secured and glue down if necessary.  You should now have a shield on your monogram, congratulate yourself and try not to drink the wine until after you have finished using the hot glue gun.

captain america led monogram tutorial step 5

To build up the back make frames by tracing around the A on to more cardboard.  Rule a line 1 cm in from the edges and cut to create an outline and cut out the middle.

Do this twice more

captain america led monogram tutorial step six

While you are at it, cut two more As exactly the same as the first.  One out of the cardboard and the other from red card.  Put these aside, they will become the backing pieces.

captain america led monogram tutorial step seven

Using hot glue, secure the frames to the back of the A one on top of the other.

Trim the outside edges to make them straight.

Cut strips of red card 8 cm wide.  These will need to be long enough to go all the way around the outside edge of the A.  Depending on the length of your card, you will need to cut at least 2 and secure them end to end with hot glue.

Draw a line 2 cm in from the edge and score with the back edge of your art knife.

If you have never scored anything before, this is just cutting a VERY shallow line in the card to give your fold a crisp edge.

Starting at the top of a long straight edge of the A, run a line of glue along the built-up edge.   Glue the red strip along the edge.  The scored edge should be at the back of the A with the 2 cm overhanging the back.

Run the red stripping all the way around the A, scoring the corners as you go.

Cut into the corners and clip just like you are covering school books with contact.  Hot glue the overhang down at the back.

Take your 3 LED strings and join them together using a spot of solder.  If you don’t have skills and a soldering iron or (like my husband often threatens me with) you have had your hot-and-burny-things privileges taken away due to clumsiness you can either of the following:

  1. Use one longer string of lights
  2. Use the three strings and just have three battery packs on the back.

I’ll endeavour to have a separate post for soldering the lights together within the week and link to it.

captain america led monogram tutorial step eight

Cut a notch in the star just large enough for the light string to poke through on the backing A you cut earlier.  Cover over the edges of the backing piece with red card.

captain america led monogram tutorial step i-lost-count

Flip your monogram over and grab your thin pokey thing again.  Punch the holes you made earlier all the way through the card you glued over the original guide holes.

Now turn it back to the front and widen those holes so they are just smaller than your LEDs.  I used a philips head screwdriver for this.  You want to push it through from the front to make the cleanest hole.  It will minimise the ragged edges to be cleaned up later.

Alternating the red, white and blue lights, push the LEDs through so just the tip of the light is showing.  Once they are all in place, secure them with a spot of hot glue. If you have a few LEDs left over without holes, it is no big deal.  Just leave leave them loose and entomb them inside the body of the letter.

With the battery back on the outside, glue the thick cardboard backing piece in place.

Cut an 8 cm strip of blue card, securing two together if needed as you did with the red card.  As with the red stripping, draw a line 2 cm in from the edge and score.  Line the star in the middle the same way you did around the outside with red card.  Swear a little and try not to drown your frustrations in wine.

Fail, drink wine and continue on.

Fold the scored edges to theback and glue in place.

Cover the back with the red backing card you cut earlier.

All there is left to do is to secure the battery pack to the back of the letter with hot glue and you can drink the rest of your wine without fear of having to explain your hot glue gun accident at the emergency room.

captain america led monogram tutorial 1

 

 

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It is confusing living in my head

Or My Train of Thought Has Derailed

My train of thought whilst standing in the shower:

My life has become less funny and more grown up.  I think it is attitude really.  I need to start viewing my life as a series of stories to be told again. Like the time that my washing machine broke and instead of rolling my eyes and treating it like a hindrance when my g-strings got spread out all over the car park I just laughed about it and wrote about it to a friend.  Do Americans have laundries in their apartments?  You never see them in the laundry on the telly and they are always downstairs in the laundry room or going to the laundromat.  And what’s with people having a washing machine in the kitchen?  That to me is just asking for trouble, I’d be constantly worried that I was going to wash the chicken and put the delicates in to bake at 180˚C.  I could go a roast beef with yorkeshire puddings and gravy.  Mmmm a savoury and a sweet at once.  I think I’ll watch Doctor Who today.

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Use your child’s passion to engage them in their mental health recovery

“Hi, Mum.  I’m not doing so good.”
“No?  What’s up, Hon?”
“I’m feeling really anxious.”
“Where on a scale of ‘Hobbit in his hole’ to ‘Smaug thinking all this treasure has been stolen’ is your anxiety?”
“Dwarves invading Bilbo’s hole.”
“Sooo… coping on the outside, but running around on the inside making sure they’re not destroying your furniture and eating everything in the larder?”
“Yeah… did you know that in the book Bilbo invites them to dinner and….”

My daughter has barely been to school this year.  I’d say it is fair to say that she has done about 7 classes in total outside of the first day of school.  It’s not because she doesn’t want to be there.  God knows she tried her hardest to get there every day.  And she made amazing progress with her anxiety disorder on the holiday we went on.  But the first day of school for term 2 this year wasn’t exactly a good day for us.  I’d go so far as to say that life put her in a Vulcan Death Grip and gave her an overacted Shatner-esque death scene that morning .  (On a side note, I am unsure what is worse, Spock being pissed off at you or having to watch Shatner act).

So back to her doctor and psychologist we went to try and get things under control.

The conversation at the beginning of this post was a spur of the moment way to ask her to discuss her anxiety while keeping it light yet descriptive.  It worked.  And after using her Hobbit anxiety scale for a week or two I realised it had become an invaluable tool.  Finally we had a known scale to communicate an abstract concept with. One that she could embrace and not roll her eyes at as she sometimes does with the professionally made scales and cards used in counselling.  These often come off as either too generic and sappy or childish.  Now we could use fantasy and metaphor to describe the feelings that weigh her down every day.

“Hi, Hon”
“Hey Mum”
“I’m just calling to check how my little hobbit is doing.”
“Bilbo left his hanky at home.”
“So, feeling anxious about everything ahead and trying to find any excuse to go home where it is safe?”
“Yeah.”

Her psychologist had suggested she try to imagine her anxiety as a monster at her last appointment, and this tied in nicely to her new Hobbit Anxiety Scale.  Together we worked on a predefined scale that she could visualise her anxiety on.  She wrote the scale then I drew it up and had it printed as a poster for her room so she would always have a reminder; she now didn’t need to stress about remembering or creating in the midst of her panic.  And we never need to get back on this carousel:

“How bad is it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Imagine it is a scale of 1 – 10”
“I don’t know.”

Sound familiar?  We had been going around on the same carousel for about six months before my daughter and I found our way to step off of that spiralling roundabout of pointlessness.  After all that time I had begun to navigate our situation by blending my training and experience as a youth worker with my love and knowledge as a parent.

As a parent, I wanted to do everything I could to work within the parameters given to me by trained professionals.  My fear and desperation to keep my daughter safe had blinded me to the fact I had skills and knowledge of my own to bring to the table which were every bit as valuable.

Skills as a youth worker and knowledge of the things that my daughter was passionate about as a parent.

About 18 months previously I had been participating in a train the trainer course for the anger management course RAGE.  Drawing heavily, in fact, I’d go so far as to say exclusively, on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it used scaling as its central theme.  The majority of participants worked with teens as the course was primarily designed to deal with.  However, one woman worked with 5 – 8-year-olds.  We got talking during a participatory exercise, she was concerned with her charges being unable to rationalise their anger on to an abstract number scale.  I suggested replacing the numbers with superheroes instead.  One being Bruce Banner, two being Ironman, all the way up to ten being The Hulk.  Her face lit up with excitement with this simple change, she knew the children she cared for would be able to identify the intensity of their anger far better with this change to the scale.

So today I would say this to you.  You know yourself and your children better than anyone else.  Find the thing that helps them connect with their anxiety.  To define it and understand it.  And run with that.  It doesn’t matter if it falls into the predefined categories or standardised boxes that professionals have already created to manage the disorder you’re fighting together.  Take the framework that they have laid out for you and give it the twist it needs to engage your child.  Life is to be lived and loved, the battle does not have to be a long dark tunnel.  Take your child’s passion and bring light and colour to the tunnel you’re in.

My daughter has given me permission to share her scale with you and provide a printable version for your own anxious geeklings.  She hopes it helps.

I’d love to hear how you’ve faired using this yourself below or the individual flair you’ve brought to supporting your own child.

Hobbit Anxiety Scale. Click to print.
Click for a printable PDF of our Hobbit Anxiety Scale

 

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DIY Wishing Well or Cards Box for your Wedding

wishing well header

AKA ‘check out my box’

I’m a big fan of not spending $35,000 on a wedding.  My second (and favourite…so far) wedding was a simple ceremony held on a little rocky outcrop overlooking the scalloped beach below.  Waves crashing against islands scattered throughout Brisbane Water in the distance .  I was married in jeans, a cheesecloth shirt and FABULOUS shoes.  There was no stress, little expense, and we were able to spend the morning sightseeing our way down to the ‘venue’ with family who had never visited the Central Coast before.  It was the most relaxing and memorable day.  Ten guests, lots of love and laughter and only a little bit of drunkenly setting fire to a napkin at the reception.  Accidentally.  Accidentally setting fire to a napkin; the word accidentally is integral to the situation and often overlooked by my husband as he retells that anecdote.

A friend, for whom I will be a bridesmaid for in October, posted on Facebook that she would like someone to make a box for her cards to be put in at the wedding.  The post was accompanied by a shared picture from the  DIY Weddings Central Coast Facebook page.

original_poster

Eager to be helpful and, to be perfectly honest, just as eager to have an excuse to break out my hot glue gun, I was all over that like a stressed out mother on a bottle of wine.

A quick trip to kmart to purchase the box and a not so quick trip to spotlight to gather roses and I was ready to begin.

wishing well list

The hardest part about this project is deciding how you want your flowers to look.  I opted for an alternating pattern that would create a nice, slanting line of each colour. I did consider a randomly placed effect, but I was concerned the bride’s OCD would kick in and cause her to have a nervous tick.

wishing well tutorial step one

Place the flowers around the outside edge of the lid of the box if you’re going for the same look as mine, alternating the colours.  Make sure you’ve got the same number of roses down each vertical edge and each horizontal edge.  Mine held 13 roses horizontally and 10 roses vertically.

Hot glue in place once you’re happy with the look of them.  Continue on your merry way filling in the pattern with the rest of the roses until the whole lid is covered.  Give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate not burning yourself for a change with some sauteed mushrooms, chorizo and scrambled eggs for brunch.

wishing well tutorial step two copy

Print out the letters for CARD, or whatever you want it to say.  If you’re going to cover them in ribbon as I did, you’ll want a fairly basic font.  If you want a fancy font, an alternative is to buy some wooden lettering and paint it.  To get the ribbon covered effect I have used, cut the lettering out that you have printed.

If at this time you feel a bit of pain emanating from your hand, look down and discover the source of your pain is the torrential amount of blood pouring from your finger.  It is best not to question how you managed to hurt yourself on the blunt part of the scissors, it is bound to make you feel a little special and inept.  Place band aid on finger so as not to stain your pretty pastel project and replace every time it is soaked through.  Soldier on, this is crafting, there are bound to be casualties.

Use your handy glue stick to stick the letters to some corrugated cardboard from a reclaimed box that has most likely been cluttering up your shed just waiting for an occasion like this.  Make sure there is no printing on the side that will face out for obvious reasons.

Use an art knife to cut the letters out.

wishing well tutorial step three

Now use these as templates to create another set.  Glue these together to create one thick super-letter.  A gluestick will be fine for this, it will all be held together with ribbon, hot glue and love soon anyway.  Congratulations, you are ready to start covering them in ribbon.

wishing well tutorial step four

To avoid having raw edges showing, cover the ‘feet’ of each letter first. To avoid creases in the ribbon and to work around awkward areas such as the middle of the ‘A’, use short lengths and hot glue at the back rather than one continuous length.  The ‘A’ above has the ‘feet’ covered (you can see the ends of this poking out from under the horizontal lengths) and four smaller lengths wrapped around and glued at the back.  Next I covered the edges of the cross piece and wound ribbon horizontally over it.  Continue on and hope for the best.  You’ll be fine.

Around the curved edges, switch to using the narrower ribbon.  You will get a much nicer finish.

tips copy

 

 

Tip for beginners:  Best not do this in your onesie. Large gaps between buttons can lead to the following text needing to be sent.

wishing well tutorial danger warning

To impede the speed at which you can create your project, you may find this is the point at which the glue stick in your hot glue gun will become quite comfortable where it is and require you to move it along in teeny tiny increments with a pen shoved down the end.  Chalk it up to another casualty and soldier on.  There is crafting to do.

Once the letters are finished, you are almost there.  All that is left to do is arrange them on the lid to make sure you’re happy with the positioning before you use your recalcitrant glue gun to secure them there permanently.

wishing well tutorial step five

All that you have left to do is to add the final embellishments.  Grab your tweezers, beads, stamens and wire to bring it all together.  I threaded beads on to gold wire, twisted off the ends to secure them and glued them in place.  The tweezers are important here as they will keep your precious skin from falling victim to very hot glue and allow you to position the embellishments perfectly, hiding the glue and raw edges.

wishing well tutorial step six

Now lets take it one step further and bring it all together.  I used the remaining roses plus a few beads and sprays to decorate two of the inside corners of the box.

wishing well tutorial finished

And there you have it.  Your personalised, wishing well/cards box for your upcoming nuptials.

Whatever your style, this is a DIY wedding project that can be adapted to reflect your individual personality.  Fill the lid with pokeballs, Marvel character logos or pearls; just make sure it screams ‘this is the day I dreamed of’.

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Do not ship puppies interstate, but if you do make sure you put a sandwich in the box

The other day I got a phone call that amused me for the rest of the day.  To be honest, as I sit here telling you about it, I’m still pretty amused at myself.  My job can get a little monotonous and sometimes I’m just looking for small ways to keep myself smiling.

Things to know:

  1. In amongst the myriad of things I am responsible for in my job, warehouse logistics is one of them. Boxes come in.  I ship them out.  Pretty straight forward process.
  2. I’m quite sure no one actually reads half the information I have to enter in to the system when I send things out. It seems pointless.
  3. I spend far too much time on the phone talking and emailing our assistant accountant to discuss things that I’m sure HR would tell us were inappropriate for work conversations. We make each other laugh.  A lot. Who wants in on our Zombie Apocalypse team?

Phone rings…

“Hey.  This is Jo.”

“So… this parcel you sent out.  The one marked ‘not puppies’.  It sounds suspiciously like it might be puppies.  Are you posting puppies?  You shouldn’t post puppies.  Were there puppies in that box?”

…takes a second to think about what on earth Lee* is talking about.  Remembers that when entering the information in to the very boring TNT form to ship out very boring supplies to another branch I got bored and wondered if Linda** actually reads the shipping information on the boxes I post her.  She does not.  Turns out that it is Lee’s job to check everything I ship…

Erupts in to laughter.  Mission accomplished.  Much shenanigans planned for the future now I know he has to read every. single. label. that I print.

 

*Not his real name.  There might be a Lee that works for our company, but it is not that one.

**Also not her real name.  See above.