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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Fat Hitler through The Fog

"The Fog" which I felt around me stayed for a long time after the last post. Months went by.

Two more deaths in March; my cousin Lorraine and a friend from home, Lyonser, knocked me when I was already down with the heart-break of a miscarriage - again even more so as I couldn't go home for them.
Some difficult personal circumstances in our relationship and stress from work and I found it so much harder than ever to keep my head above water.

Eventually I was using all my energy to remain the same at work, which meant I had nothing left for home. They were dark times, where I stayed away from friends and spent weekends in the apartment not wanting to go out. Care factor lessened and energy even more so.

A trip to a specialist Endocrinologist where I spent the whole hour crying is what finally got me starting to address the issues and try and turn around - going to speak to someone who told me in the first 20 mins that they didn't know how I was still functioning going on what I had been through or carrying the last few years. I was normal (within reason of course! :) ), and it was time to get back up.

As I was coming out of the tunnel, my sister and my niece moved back home to Ireland and that was another change. I admired the courage this move took and marvelled at the strength my sister had to face the unknown and go home to a different country she left 7 or 8 years earlier.
I hadn't been in Australia without her being here, so for the first time in 5 years I was alone. Yea, she used to be still a 3-hour flight away, but having someone on the same time difference makes a huge difference instead of the isolation those 9, 10, or 11 hours can make you feel.
I'm now counting down the time it is until I go home for Christmas and can't wait to see everyone again!

On a more light-hearted note and always trying to move forward and focus on the positives, I think of some funny moments amongst and after The Fog of depression had lifted.

I normally have a bit of rule wherein I don’t tend to talk about work or things that happen there (although I could easily fill a whole book on things if I was able to write about them and not get fired…).

On this one occasion, however, it’s innocent laughter that reminded me of something out of "The Office". You know that feeling where you want to scrape your skin off, you are that embarrassed or are cringing that much?


We had an IT guy who was working with us for about 6 months.
Let’s call him Bob. Bob is a super-nerd with very few social skills.
Bob’s job was to support my team in all their system needs and upgrade requests, training etc – all in all to work closely with the few of them in the Melbourne office and they would be his main customers. 
Bob worked with this small core team for half a year, sitting with them, emailing them, IMing them, having meetings with them etc. 

On his last day, one of the girls Ayesha was coming into work when he got in the lift with her. It started with the usual “Hi Bob”, “Morning Ayesha”, before the generic chit-chat as they made room for another man who got into the lift with them. Now; we work on Level 14 of a 19 floor building, and Bob had been making this journey for over 6 months now, but for some reason when the other man got out at level 10, so did Bob.
Ayesha and he were in mid-sentence when he got out and walked off, even though Ayesha was left saying “Bob, this isn’t our floor?!” before the doors closed.
She continued to level 14 in confusion and started her day. The incident isn’t even mentioned by Bob when he came into the office and sat at his desk.

Then, if this behaviour wasn't awkward enough, the person replacing Bob turned up, so Bob had to introduce her to everyone in the team as one of the last things to do. He started with Chris and it all went rapidly downhill from there: 

“This is Craig”, he said, causing complete confusion as Chris thought he was calling the new girl Craig and didn’t want to raise any issues with her being called a man’s name. 
“Chris” we said slowly, correcting him.

“And this is Clara” he said to the back of my head, so I dived in and said “Hi Claire, we’ve already met in the kitchen – I’m Ciara” (putting a lot of emphasis on the "KEY-ra" part).

He meandered over to Joel and paused for a couple of seconds before saying “Watch out for this guy!” and doing this finger pointing thing like it was a dance move out of Boogie Nights, because he couldn’t think of something unique to call him.

I attempted to jump in and save him from himself and what seemed like inevitable doom, and said “And this is Ash and …”; but he totally blanked me and moved onto the next failure. 

We’re all squirming in our seats at the awkwardness of it all; Claire’s face is a picture of “WTF?!” and there couldn’t be a hole big enough to swallow us all up in with the embarrassment. Remember we're trying to still hang on to the single shred of professionalism that still lingers faintly between us all. 

Moving over to Ayesha, who he had only spoken to in the lift an hour earlier, he said “This is Rihanna”. 
My jaw dropped. 
Yes, we had a Rhiannon, but no Rihanna. And as "Umb-er-ella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh" rang out in my ears, all I could think of was that Ayesha was darker-skinned and that maybe he had assumed that someone with that name would look like her?! Ayesha quickly corrected him, but he was gone, moving onto the next victim. 

Even though the rest of us seemed to want to be left to curl up and die in the monstrosity of a car crash scene that Bob had created, he seemed oblivious to the whole thing, bumbling off with the confused newbie to start on the rest of the office. Considering he'd never even met half of them, and going on how "well" he knew us, God only knows how he got on!

Katie from work and I went on some road-trips during the year and saw some “unique” things. One time, when on the road somewhere in country Victoria, we stop to go to the toilet at one of those public ones that Aussies have in the middle of their towns. Normally these are OK and completely acceptable.
After this occasion however, I think I may need counselling.

We pull over and there is only a camper-van in the car park but nobody to be seen. I hop out and walk over to the toilet, pushing the door open as Katie says “You can go first, in case there are any snakes”. I stop, turn and start rapidly walking away, with Katie laughing at me thinking that I had suddenly been too scared to enter. She opens the door herself and goes to enter at the same time that I’m dry retching in the grass beside it. Within two seconds we’re both trying to keep the contents of our stomachs inside our mouths as we look around to explain what we had just had the pleasure of witnessing.
The sight I saw before me was like something out of a horror film where someone had been brutally murdered; but instead of blood it was faeces. 

Lots of faeces.
Seriously smelly and dripping faeces.
Warm, viscous and recently sprayed-out-of-someone’s-ass-at-a-severe-force faeces. 

Dear God it was possibly one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen. But where was the dead body?! Surely whoever had made this mess couldn’t possibly have survived?! The camper van looked empty; not a soul in sight. We had to deduct from the crime scene that this was clearly a life-ending event wherein the person exploded and all that was left was the inside of their intestines. 

Speaking of bowel movements; on another adventure we went to go to Wilson’s Prom. For some unknown reason it took Katie and I six hours to drive the 3.5 hour trip, which we could only put down to stopping for food and having to turn around for petrol. We clearly ate a lot of food.

We get down in time to just put up our tent a couple of hours before it grew dark, and then sat round drinking and chatting to the rest of the Irish/Aussie crew who were there. That evening we’re sitting around when James suddenly pipes up and shouts “DON’T YOU F*CKING SH*T ON MY TOWEL!” in a very aggressive manner marching towards a man who was walking by with a towel over his shoulder. 

The six or seven of us around James go immediately silent are left open-mouthed and dumbfounded at this timid Irish boy who was suddenly about to start a fight with a complete stranger, due to his clearly having doubts on said randomer's ability to control his bodily functions. 

James stormed up to the man (who looked just as surprised as we did as the aggressive Irishman shouting at him not to defecate on his towel), but barged past him and to the bonnet of his car, wherein a seagull was perched on his drying towel – the same menace who had emptied the contents of its stomach through it's behind on James’ tent just hours earlier. 

Shooing the seagull off, James turns around to the rest of us, proud in the fact that he had avoided bird-poo on his only towel, but confused as to why we all, including the stranger, couldn’t stop laughing.  

My little brother competed in his second Ironman in June, on a more difficult course this time in Austria, and smashed his previous PB by 25 minutes!

Just to make sure i'm being 100% clear here to all - Kev completed a 3.8km swim in 55 mins, then got on his bike to cycle 180kms in 5 hours 10 mins before then taking to the road and running a marathon in 3 hours 13 mins. Not only this, but he finished in the top 4% of competitors and was the first Irishman to cross the finish line at 9 hours 26 mins. How is it that he can do this and then I get out of breath climbing the 10 steps into my apartment?!

I still can remember my nervousness as I sat up til 1:30am getting updates on my phone from the family and friends who were at the event. I still cannot believe the times Kev achieved and the sheer sense of pride I had and have of the hard work and efforts he put in to get to that point leaves me beyond words. Hundreds of hours of running, cycling and swimming, months of training and nutrition all coming down to one day and he smashed it. I am in awe of the strength, determination and discipline this man has and can only hope that he knows how proud we all are of him. 

And in July, we got the heart-stopping news that we had been blessed again. I was afraid to believe it; terrified to think that perhaps on my fifth pregnancy, this could actually be happening, unable to make plans due to my past history, anxious as the time ticked by, sick and exhausted at what it was doing to my body but over the moon at the thought of bringing a child into this world. 

In September we get the all-clear to tell people and it's such a relief to be able to share the exciting news with friends and family that we're going to be parents. Even though I'm still classed as high-risk for the entire pregnancy, I'm not nervous and four and a half months in, I am still overwhelmed by the support we are getting from loved ones. A reminder of how lucky we are again.

Due on March 18th 2017, one day after St. Patrick's Day, we joke that it couldn't really get much more Irish than that. 
"Patrick or Patricia", Mam joked (at least I hope it was!). 
Fair skin, blue eyes, freckles and red hair? probably.
Owner of three passports; Australian, British and Irish. 
Boy or Girl? ("Either way they're going to play football" he says!) 
"You sure you're only having one?!" Thanks...

Watch this space...

This week I headed off to the gym to cancel my membership as I had been paying money for nothing and I knew I wouldn’t use it between now and having the baby. I managed to squeeze myself into the only remaining jacket that will just-about close on me and headed out into the cold. 

When I got to the gym, a beautiful young Aussie came to meet me as I had to make an appointment in order to do the cancellation. She came and sat beside me (as I tred to sit down without bursting the zip on my straight-jacket) and asked me why I’m cancelling. I told her that I was pregnant and I don’t go to the gym so I’m losing money. She came up with a great plan and told me that she could freeze my account for free until the baby was born; “as you obviously only have a month or so to go…”

Eh...try 6, love. 

Awkwardly I explained to her that I wasn't due til March 18th, to which her face went to a “OMG really?!” expression before she said “OH! Right…well I’ll have to go ask my manager if I can freeze your account for that long”. She headed off, ponytail swinging from side to side, to tell her manager that he needed to approve the freeze as she just called the customer fat to their face. 

When she came back she was delighted to inform me that she could freeze the account for free until then. 
“So, you’re due March 18th; so will we say we’ll reopen the account on March 20th?”, she asks me innocently. I just look at her in amazement as the sheer naivety of her thinking and marvel in the thoughts of being so young and bouncy that you could even contemplate that this scenario would occur. 
Smiling back at her, I politely explain that; even if I had the baby on the exact day I was due, if I can’t get my non-pregnant ass to the gym on a normal day, I’m pretty sure I won’t be rushing back to go two days after giving birth.
"Let’s make it April 1st then, OK?"
A nod was all I could manage.

Following on from this depressing reality of some young girl thinking I was 8 months pregnant when I was only 4 and a half, I was talking to Mam on FaceTime with Izzy running up to the phone all the time trying to see what I’m doing or to talk to me. “I wanna see Ci-Ci” she’s saying or “Look, I show Ci-Ci” she is demanding as Mam and Dad try to get a word in edgeways. 
“How’s it all going Mam? How are you finding her?” I ask. 
“Oh fine”, she says, “she’s just like you…”. 

I smile to think of Mam remembering me 30-odd years ago and find the whole thing quite cute until she continues; “…she’s like a Little Hitler. Miss Bossy-Boots”!!

“I prefer to think of her as having Managerial Qualities” this fat Hitler said, before signing off and calling it a day.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Time to tell the truth...

To my dearest Jen,

And so it's 2016 and somehow it's March. Where does the time go? I love your Insta photos of the kids and your beautiful family.
I said I'd write to you to update you on how I'm going.
I've been better to be honest - my body, mind and heart have seen better times.

You see, I have something called Hypothyroidism. It's been 12 years now since I got diagnosed with it (which, by the way, is how long we've known each other), but for some reason I've never really thought much about it. I take medication every day, in the morning an hour before food, but other than struggling a bit with my weight going up and down 5kgs, I've never really had to think about it and the impact to the rest of my life has been minimal. Until recently.

My hypothyroidism is now slowly killing me. It's sucking every last bit of energy out of me and replacing it with depression. Since last June it has been playing up and for some reason I can't seem to get it under control. This "Fit Fat Chick" is now just fat and the enthusiasm to try and combat is has faded away with my happiness. My rings and my watch don't even fit me anymore and neither do my shoes as my feet swell. My memory has lapses where I can't think of words or remember things and despite the fact that I'm constantly fatigued, I am unable to sleep properly. It's not an "I've had a long day" tired, but an "I want to lie on the couch all weekend and not move" tired - constantly. I'm super sensitive to the cold, with multiple joint pains and tendonitis, dry hair and the depressing weight gain which is now at 12kgs and climbing. I have stopped going out as I have nothing to wear and I feel horrible, avoid any photos being taken and think about how everyone is saying "she's piled on the weight!" when they're talking amongst themselves later. I don't even have the energy or courage to see my beautiful friends and would prefer to stay at home. My confidence is gone and I won't do anything on my own anymore. I throw all the energy and focus I have into work so that I can perform on some level, but other than that I have nothing.

The doctors aren't much help. Blood tests every 6 weeks and then more again and again, trying to get my TSH, T3 and T4 levels right. Some suggest one thing, others suggest another. My next Endocrinologist appointment isn't til May 12th - so there's more waiting to try and get an answer as to what is going on.

"How could something so previously invisible now be controlling my whole life?" I ask them. "How could I have never had any issues really and now I seem to be falling apart?" "It can just happen like that" was my answer.

It's hard to describe to someone who doesn't have it; especially with the stigma around it that is linked to being an excuse for fat people being fat. Think of getting home from work every day and immediately wondering when you can go to bed, or dreading the night's out that you have to go to - thinking of every excuse under the sun so you don't have to go - every time. Think of mood swings, being sad a lot, or crying for no reason you can think of, feeling really cold even when you're an Irish girl in Australia and others are in a bikini, saying a sentence but your brain giving up mid-way through and it's like you've lost your vocabulary or think of your whole body hurting when you're even doing simple things like walking up and down stairs.

And then, to top it off, the months of January and February were all about a big secret we had; but it turned out that it wasn't one where we got our chance to surprise everyone with the good news or where we got to film reactions of our friends and family when they found out. It wasn't meant to be they said; the Hypothyroidism had destroyed that too. I'm still recovering from that.

Anyway, I am still trying the baby steps Jen. I managed to haul myself out into the open today and attempt a "Couch to 10km - Day 1" challenge. 8 minutes of jogging with the same number of 90-second breaks in between and I had to go to bed after my shower as I was so exhausted. Seriously?! 8 minutes with breaks and yet I've run 15km before and felt less drained. I hate doing things on my own, but am too intimidated to now do things with others as I know how much I'll struggle.
I am still finding it hard to believe that it is something I need to take seriously since I've had it for so long. They say stress is a huge factor in it and so I'm trying to get a handle on that side of things; which isn't an easy task considering my job. Trying to plan cheap-and-cheerful things to do on the long weekends we have so that I'm forced to be removed from the apartment and routine.

So there you have it honey. Not the most uplifting update to give you, but the truth all the same. I need to stop pretending that everything is fine as it's not, BUT if I can recognise it isn't and do what I can to work towards normality then that's a start! Everyone has some sort of road-block and this is mine for now; so it's how to get around it if you can't go through it...
The aim is Christmas - I'm looking forward to going home to Ireland and I want to be "me" when I do so that I can enjoy every moment of it. Seems silly as it's nine whole months away, but considering it took the same to get me to this point, then I'm probably even pushing it at that. Tick Tock!!

I will keep you updated and am sending my love to the Mid-West :)

The person formerly known as Ciara (but I hear she's coming back...) xx