The Virus Diaries: Fear

March 19, 2020 at 8:02 pm (Cat pics, Food, Fully Sick, general life, Mental illness, Mum Stuff)

Happy news, shoppers: Australia produced enough food for 75 million people (those links are to two reliable sources), and we are absolutely not going to run out*. Seeing empty shelves is at the same time terrifying (“Are we going to run out of milk???”) and annoying (“Ugh, I have to go without such-and-such for a bit.”). Also dangerous, because of course shops are a great place to pick up COVID-19 and a LOT of people are visiting shops more often rather than less due to being unable to find particular items.

Once enough people realise that we will NOT run out of food (or toilet paper), things will calm down and shops will look normal again. Apparently even on total lockdown in Italy grocery shops are still open (but only one household member can shop at a time, no kids are allowed, and only a limited number of people can go in at a time in order to keep them physically separated). So there’s actually no need to stock up at all.

I understand the fear, of course. Empty shelves are an absolute classic apocalypse scenario, just under “mushroom cloud” and just above “zombie attack”. And it is dead scary when I can’t find the milk I need (‘need’).

But this empty shelf thing is going to stop as quickly as it began, and probably very soon (based on those two news articles being in my news feed on facebook, which means the reassuring facts are going viral rather than the usual panic and misinformation).

*there may be a shortage of citrus fruits at some point due to a lack of labourers. I think we can all survive that.

In other news, my portable air conditioner is SUPER DELIGHTED to see you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wahoooooooo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m too lazy to look up the term outline of subjects that my kids’ impressively organised school emailed out at the beginning of the year. But I did get Louisette to read with me yesterday, which is just about the best thing to do with any kid. (If you’re one of those parents who gets their kid to read to them every day, you’ll do fine with home schooling.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Seuss is an interesting author. Some of his books (“Green Eggs and Ham”) make fantastic early readers. Others are full of difficult-to-read made-up words (recommended for Year 4+ I reckon) and others are a mixture. The above pic is Louisette reading “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” (doesn’t that book title sound kinda ironic suddenly?) which was quite challenging but perfect for us right now. (If in doubt, always give kids something that’s easy for them to read. Confidence and fun are MUCH more important to the reading experience than “getting challenged”… and obviously I’m talking to myself here.)

Here’s TJ looking impressively academic as he does a spelling test (“Don” and “bed” was the entire test).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to read is an incredible task, taking years and years and years. But there’s no thrill like seeing one of your kids read to the other.

Other than, perhaps, the thrill of getting your standoffish cat to sprawl over your feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was especially gorgeous today, I gotta say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zipper has three main expressions. First is her, “I despise you” expression, which you’ll see in most photos—and indeed, most of the time in real life. She has resting feline face, that’s for sure. Second is her, “Ah, poor me! I’m starving and trapped! Please have pity on meeeee!” which is the face she applies when she would like me to check her food level (it’s easier to have me check it than to bother doing it herself) or open a door (why YES she has a fully functional two-way cat door that she is perfectly able to use). The third is the expression above, which I call, “Medieval maiden disturbed while bathing in a picturesque pool in the forest”. She is beautiful, and wishes to be admired, but is far too classy to actually let people look directly at her without being offended. So yeah, she’s a cat.

That bit of broken blue plastic is a ball pit ball that was smashed by hail back when Australia was burning/flooding/storming. We haven’t fully cleaned everything up yet.

It does feel rather like we’re being hit by several apocalypses one after the other. Technically “apocalypse” means the end of the world. As in, Jesus comes back but not in a nice way. But language is flexible, and it’s come to mean “the end of normal society” which is a very different thing. Any war is utterly disrupting, and therefore apocalyptic. So is the COVID-19 pandemic. Us scifi writers have been predicting various kinds of major societal change since science fiction was invented—not because we definitely think the world is doomed, but because we have enough imagination to think that it could, and to wonder what that might look like.

There are loads of fictional books on pandemics (many of them predicting this year, since 2020 has always been a cool and futuristic-sounding year), because we have a very connected and populated world, and infectious diseases are a thing. A major pandemic was always going to happen, much like worsening droughts, fires, and extreme weather temperatures (although, as I pointed out yesterday, one of the likely side-effects of the COVID-19 virus is that the environment will benefit as people realise society is a lot more flexible than we thought). So here are my wild guesses as to what our post-coronavirus world will look like:

*A lot more people will homeschool, because they’ll discover a knack they never knew they had.

*Rights and protections for casual workers will be dramatically increased.

*Health Care (both infrastructure and staff) will suddenly be a higher priority around the world.

*Politicians, celebrities, and business-people of various kinds will use less air travel. Because no one actually LIKES long-haul travel, and because the appeal and the sheer habit of face-to-face contact will be considerably lessened.

*Many businesses will fail, including airlines, small businesses (such as escape rooms and book publishers, sadly), and restaurants. Other businesses (steaming services, DISNEY, internet services, delivery services, chatting services (Zoom especially), and home-schooling programs will make a considerable profit.

*Book sales, on the whole, will go up and even when the major demand period is over, will stay higher than they currently are—especially ebooks. Because people will most definitely have more time for reading, and some of them will form habits that last.

*Sales of antiseptic/antibiotic hand washes will go up and stay up as a lot of people add them permanently to their daily routine. (The next pandemic will of course evolve to be immune to antibiotics.)

*The world will develop a cooperative system in which health care workers travel across the world to assist when pandemics happen. They will have paid quarantine periods after returning home. Those who do get sick and recover will be in the front lines when their own country is having a surge of whatever illness it is, because they will be immune. Governments will issue immunity passes, and those with them will be paid well to do a lot of important jobs (health care of course, but also food delivery, child care, etc).

*More companies will organise themselves so that they can manufacture what is needed when there is a surge in value eg a paper towel company switching to toilet paper, perfume companies switching to sanitiser (this is happening in France), and so on.

*There will be a lot of divorces, and a baby boom.

*A lot of people will quit their jobs to start small businesses, to home school, to write a novel, etc. Most of them will get over it within 12 months.

*Most people will know somebody that has died from the COVID-19 virus (or the inability to get medical care due to an overwhelmed health system), and the world population will dip by 1% overall (the world population is steadily growing, so it won’t actually decrease the population, just slow it). People’s grief won’t be lessened because we had some warning, but it will be shared on a global level (for better or worse). It’ll be a little like Princess Diana’s death, in that strangers will be deeply affected—but those who lose someone close to them may or may not be soothed by the “shared grief” effect. (Remember your manners when others are grieving: if the person you are talking to is closer to the dead person than you, then your grief is less important than theirs. Don’t talk, listen. If you’ve lost someone very close to you, go ahead and talk. Or be silent. Whatever works for you and doesn’t harm anyone else is healthy. Don’t talk excessively about your connections to dead people you barely know.)

*Many countries around the world will crack down on those who spread fake news online. It will never be as easy to spread misinformation as it is now, although trolls and politicians will get creative in attempting to circumvent new laws. There will be a lot of people whose whole job will be to monitor and fact-check stuff before it gets to the public. People who spread deadly misinformation will be charged with manslaughter and will go to jail.

*People will, unfortunately, be even more xenophobic than they are now. (Please don’t let it be you, Dear Reader.)

 

 

There are many types of fear at the moment.

*Fear of actually dying. That’s something I’ll talk about another day.

*Fear of losing a loved one. Unfortunately, this is moderately rational. Right now is a good time to make sure you’re at peace with your parents, grandparents, and siblings. And to teach your elderly relatives to Skype, if you possibly can. (Or you can learn to talk on the phone again.) And then, unfortunately, to stop visiting them for several months.

*Fear of the invisible enemy. It really is like a horror movie where we can’t see the baddie, isn’t it? My favourite thing about being in isolation is that I feel like I can relax in some ways. If my kids get it, I’ll get it—that’s just life, and I could spend my life scrubbing or I can just accept it.

*Fear of running out of food/toilet paper. This is paramount for most people at the moment (so much closer to where we live than the fear of dying), although I think it’s going to get better in a week or two as shops return to normal and we all look at one another and say, “Er, sorry I panicked a bit there”.

*Fear of infrastructure failing. Hospitals are the most at risk, obviously. The whole point of self-isolation is to slow the virus down and flatten that curve so things don’t get as bad as they are in Italy. I’m terrified of power and/or the internet cutting out, and I think it’s possible that could happen for up to three days. Ditto drinking water, and garbage collection. And toilets (handy hint: a half bucket of water poured down a toilet will cause it to flush just fine)…PSA: DON’T flush tissues, wipes, etc down your toilet if you don’t have toilet paper. Put them in a bag in the bin or you could be the a-hole who blocks up sewage in your neighbourhood. I have some water bottles filled up and I’ll be careful to keep my laptop and the kids’ devices fully charged as much as possible. Phones will likely be fine as long as we don’t have a major event like a bushfire or hailstorm (in which case everyone calls everyone in the same five minutes and the system gets overwhelmed). But with skeleton crews of staff due to quarantines/illness, it’s possible even our phones will die for a bit. At least we’ll likely be at home with our loved ones when that happens. Don’t worry: everyone knows that any of these disasters are Serious, and they WILL be fixed quickly. Like I said, I reckon if there is serious disruption it won’t last more than three days at the absolute maximum. This coronavirus thing is a big deal, but it’s not a movie. Not everything will go wrong, honest.

*Fear of lost income. I’ve personally lost a few thousand dollars due to the cancellation of various events. It’s not fun. Others have it much worse. I don’t have any answers for you, except to make sure your friends know if you can’t buy food. This is one of the times when we have to support each other.

*Fear of keeping kids at home. Yeah, that’s a big one isn’t it?

In unrelated news, TJ now likes to sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” at full volume, and has also begun making up new verses including the following: “In the poo poo, the mighty poo poo, the lion poos tonight…”

So that is the soundtrack of our personal corner of the apocalypse. But of course I appreciate that most families with young children will have them shouting “Into the unknooooown! Into the unknooooown! Into the unknOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWN!” and it would be a rather extraordinary 5 year-old who could hit those notes like Idina Menzel.

So. I’m one of the lucky ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I deliberately bought Nutella (hazelnut chocolate spread) because it’s an awesome treat that might inspire the kids to continue eating sandwiches. We’re low on bread so today we used wraps. My kids are already enthralled with the novelty of wraps (as opposed to… er… bread) and Louisette was especially impressed that I cut hers into “pretend sushi”.

Then I made both butter chicken and lemon chicken for dinner (a big effort) and both of our little punks refused to eat it. At which point I said, “I’ll be in my room” and let Chris negotiate them into eating… something.

* * *

Fear is a big deal, and it’s okay to feel scared as the world changes around you.

The most important thing is not whatever is screaming at you in your head (The LION POOPS TONIIIIIGHT… and he’s never ever going to stop and I’m going to snap and burn our house down just to make it stop), but make sure that before you act on your fear you ask yourself this question:

When this is over, who do I want to be?

Do I want to be the screaming woman snatching toilet paper from another woman in a supermarket?

Do I want to be the one with a full cupboard of hand sanitiser whose neighbour died because they kept going to the shops looking for some sanitiser of their own?

Do I want to be the one who was so concerned about the kids touching their faces that she screamed at them until they cried?

Do I want to be the one ignoring scientists and endangering the vulnerable by refusing to obey medical advice about hygiene and isolation?

Do I want to be the one spreading misinformation that makes people less safe?

Do I want to be the one yelling at an overworked and scared nurse who is too busy to answer some questions that I could probably google for myself?

 

Or, do I want to be the mum that made up dumb songs for the kids to sing for 20 seconds as they wash their hands?

Do I want to be the one who sorted the pantry and found a whole lot of canned vegetables to give away to a health care worker right when there were none to be found in the shops?

Do I want to be the one who made their diabetic friend feel safe by checking in on him every day, and doing his grocery shopping so he could self-isolate?

Do I want to be the one who decided that a single mum I barely know would be officially part of our family, so we could self-isolate together (eg swapping the kids back and forth, but not seeing or visiting anyone else)?

Do I want to be the one who keeps their own family close, but remembers to be considerate of the rest of the world too?

Do I want to be the one sharing happy or funny content to help other people to remember that we’re more than our fears?

Resource of the day: The weather is gorgeous! Go outside and play. It’ll tire out your kids and adorably freak out your cat!

Recommended donation of the day:

If you either have kids or like kids and you know someone who is going to struggle to keep their kids home from school, adopt them into your family and share the child care load together. (Be aware that child care is a big deal and a lot of parents will instinctively say no. That is fine.) Bonus points if they’re a health care or supermarket worker. We want those people to stay at work if they can!

Recommended personal action of the day: Wash your shopping bags and/or hang them in the sun.

Recommended hoarding item of the day: A hammock and/or tent so you can feel like you’re on vacation in your back yard.

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Virus Diaries: Rationing

March 17, 2020 at 1:53 pm (Food, Fully Sick, general life, Love and CJ, Mental illness, Mum Stuff, recipes)

[Day zero and day 1 of the Virus Diaries.]

We had our first ration rage incident last night.

For context, you should know that 8 year-old Louisette has inattentive ADD and she takes Ritalin. She barely eats as a rule—here is the aftermath of a typical breakfast:

That is lemon butter and honey on white bread. Most kids would kill for that. She has eaten one bite and then declared herself full.

Obviously, we’re long since given up on the idea of a healthy breakfast and we just try to get her to eat SOMETHING. Ritalin is known to suppress appetite but this is a typical breakfast even when she hasn’t taken her tablet yet.

One thing that DOES happen in the late afternoon/evening is that the effect of the Ritalin wears off and she is suddenly very cranky and starving. And also super duper vague (as in, you can tell her there’s a new toy for her on the kitchen bench and she won’t be able to hold the thought in her head long enough to walk through the house and get it).

A meal that’s easy enough for me to make and that she consistently likes is frozen chicken nuggets and fish (it’s a victory if we can even get her to have hot chips). She has 3 nuggets and one battered fish fillet, with tomato sauce, mayo, and lemon juice.  I have stocked up on nuggets but we only have two fish fillets left. So last night I added a nugget to the usual tally but only gave her half a fish. While it was cooking I told her that I had done so and explained why, and she seemed fine with it.

When she collected the cooked meal, however, she screamed and sobbed because her piece of fish was so small. Chris calmed her down and she ate her dinner in the end. But that was our first rationing experience and it sure wasn’t pretty. Poor Louisette. She is an extremely sweet and gentle girl but coming down off Ritalin severely heightens her emotions. She and TJ are both slightly flagged (not tested yet but Louisette is on a waiting list) for being on the autism/asperges spectrum as they’re very very particular about certain things, especially Louisette eg how her shoes feel when she puts them on, and ALWAYS having a hat on outside even if it’s literally just to walk to the car. (The one exception is when swimming.)

 

I don’t cope well with rationing either, so there are fun times ahead. In fact, I’m so bad at rational that I often drink a full glass of water right before bed, knowing full well it’ll make me get up to pee at 2am. Just the thought of, “I shouldn’t drink anything now because it’s too late at night” is enough to make me desperate for a drink. So desperate I can’t sleep. Brilliant.

Yesterday Chris and Tim were both feeling much better and I had some errands to run (picking up and dropping stuff outside people’s houses). My junk food supply is very strong but low on non-chocolate lollies (I’m intolerant of pretty much everything but if I eat a variety of things I think the effects are less). I really love Kool Fruits (they’re like round mentos) and there is a particular local shop that usually has them, but didn’t have them the last two times I went there. So I thought I’d go in real quick and see if they had any, since no one is making me quarantine myself and it would be a very quick visit with theoretically less people than a big supermarket.

It was unusually crowded, so clearly I wasn’t the only one targeting a smaller shop in hopes of getting some food supplies. I bought a LOT of lollies and 1 litre of lactose free milk. I’m quite anxious about running out of lactose free milk because it’s one thing I’m NOT intolerant to. I have enough for about a week, and it’s extremely hard to get at the moment.

Chris has actually gone to work today, so I’ll most likely ask him to attempt to do some shopping too. I would rather he stayed at home, but at the same time I can see that it’s important to not abandon society altogether just yet. And I want more STUFF.

We have settled into our coronapocalypse outfits. I wear pajamas; TJ wears undies and nothing else; Louisette wears undies, a dressing gown, and gumboots.

With the exception of hangry Louisette, everything is quite peaceful. My kids love staying at home doing nothing. You should have seen the joy on TJ’s face when I told him we’d skip school for at least the rest of this week. Here’s an approximation:

 

I’m doing some school work with the kids each day (less than half an hour, which is actually plenty for most primary schoolers). TJ is in Kindy, which like many schools is doing Jolly Phonics, in which letters are introduced in roughly the order of usefulness, and each letter comes with a song and a dance move. I was able to quickly figure out where he’s up to (‘h’) and do that with him. The only hard part is that he desperately wanted to keep going. Adorable, non?

Today is ‘r’.

Louisette is in Year 3. We’ve already been practising Spanish numbers as her class has been doing Spanish for years whereas she’s only just started. I only got around to doing school stuff with her quite late yesterday, so I stuck to Spanish because I knew that even hangry Louisette would enjoy that. Today we’re doing clocks—every time I get up, I adjust the hands of a clock and ask her what time it is on my way past.

Uh oh. Tim just had diarrhea. Still no sign of fever, but that’s ominous. Or not. He had dried fruit on his breakfast, which is a classic diarrhea-inducing food.

Speaking of my cute little disease vector, here’s a fun fact: he always insists on having company when he goes to the toilet. He then sings songs (“The Lion Sleep Tonight” is a favourite at the moment; I love hearing him sing it around the house… Louisette does not), asks maths questions (“Mum, what’s 7 half of?”) and talks about computer games (yeah, that’s gonna be a thing forever I think). Last time he went to the toilet he decided it would be funny if he threw his undies around and played with them like a kitten with string.

And now he’s singing, “Peach is a stinky butt-butt” over and over. (He’s playing Mario Kart.)

Kids are gross, is what I’m saying.

Chris and I decided long ago that if any member of the family got covid-19, we would separate the house into two zones: diabetic me in the master bedroom and ensuite; Chris and the kids in the rest of the house. At the moment we’re doing a soft version of that. Chris sleeps in his study and only uses the main bathroom. I only use the ensuite. This is great for me, because I get the biggest bed to myself. (This of course inspired the classic pre-divorce question, “Daddy, why don’t you and Mum sleep in the same bed any more?” which amused me because I’m odd. And because we’re actually not getting divorced. Side note: I bet divorce rates go up after mandatory quarantining. I recommend quarantining your house in sections, for both health and sanity.)

Hmm. Tim just had diarrhea again. It’s a rare symptom of covid-19 and there’s still no fever in any members of the household, but it is a bit suggestive that he’s had a sore throat and diarrhea.

Now that I’ve told you that my 8 year-old still has tantrums and my 5 year-old is just a windmill of gastro, here’s a little dialogue I overheard yesterday:

Louisette: TJ, is it all right if I go into your room and play with your blue monkey toy?

TJ: Sure. Actually you can keep it forever.

What little angels, right?

Last night I dreamed that I ended up with twelve orphaned kittens that I oh so graciously offered to find homes for—hoping, of course, to get Chris to agree to keep at least one.

I have dreams about getting another kitten at least once a week. If I can think of a decent excuse to get a second kitten in real life, I will grab it with both hands. But of course we have Zipper, and one cat is sufficient for survival. With a cat, my immediate family, chocolate, books, and the internet, I can survive most things.

Here’s Zipper yesterday, annoyed as usual that I’ve gotten the camera out.

And I noticed yesterday that my potatoes have sprouted. Which is good!

About two weeks ago I set aside three potatoes (ie one of my rare safe foods) to plant a “The Martian”-style food source in our front garden. We’ve actually grown potatoes there before, so I feel mildly confident that I can make them grow. Of course, things escalated a lot sooner than I expected so it’s unlikely they’ll have time to grow before all of Canberra is on lockdown. Still, I’m proud of them. Especially since the basil plant I bought a week ago is already looking melancholy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway…

Resource of the day:

Fried Rice

Ingredients:

Cooked rice

Any vegetable you got, cut up small.

Any meat/eggs/tofu you got, cooked and cut up small.

Soy sauce if you have some.

A dessert spoon full of sugar.

Any oil you got.

  1. Fry in a pan.
  2. Eat.

Tim is currently liking fried rice with peas, corn, egg, and soy sauce. (Can you tell that that’s what he eats when Chris and I are eating maple marinated salmon?)

Recommended donation of the day:

Order some Chinese delivery or takeaway food. Restaurants may well close soon, and apparently some Chinese restaurants are being avoided due to people being racist. Eat that yummy yummy food while you can! Order lots, and freeze some for later. I know meat (and for that matter potatoes) are in short supply at the moment, so this is a handy way to stock up on protein.

Recommended personal action of the day: Disinfect (but don’t wet) your phone and keyboards.

Recommended hoarding item of the day: Order hot water bottles online. If a lot of people are staying home with heaters on (when the weather gets colder), we may have power outages. Save electricity and protect your family by having something that only requires ten minutes of electricity (to heat the water) every coupla hours. In fact, most hot water taps are sufficient for a hot water bottle even after the electricity is off (as you have hot water stored up in your water heater).

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Virus Diaries: Day Zero

March 15, 2020 at 12:01 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Love and CJ, Mental illness, Mum Stuff)

Here in Canberra we’ve had fire, toxic air, floods, and record-breaking hail (pictured). Now it’s pandemic time.

Trigger warning: discussion of severe depression

I’m immuno-compromised in a few different ways, the most obvious of which is that I’m diabetic. At the moment, that means my chance of dying if I get the covid-19 virus is around 7% (without allowing for fibromyalgia or any of my other health issues).

Things escalated quickly here in Australia over the last few days as thousands of events were cancelled and people continued to panic over toilet paper. Now’s as good a time as any to mention that I have a pretty severe anxiety disorder. Sometimes the experience of anxiety can actually be helpful at a time like this, because I’ve spent many years sorting rational from irrational thoughts (people with anxiety KNOW they’re stressing excessively over minor things, but our bodies continue to send panicked messages through physiological symptoms, which is super fun) and in many ways it’s like I’ve trained for this moment. In other ways, not so much.

My favourite thing about the covid-19 virus is that it doesn’t tend to hit kids very hard. So it hasn’t triggered a full-on Mama Bear reaction, or you know I’d be crash-tackling anyone who coughed in a public place and pouring bleach over them. [It’s worth noting here that I have been coughing in public plenty, due to one of my various non-infectious complaints. Please don’t crash-tackle me or pour bleach over me.]

Obviously, if someone hurts one of my kids, they die. That’s just science.

Anyway.

So Chris (my husband) told me last night that he had a sore throat and felt “heavy” in the chest. We slept in separate beds, having long since agreed that if anyone in our house was sick we’d separate me from the rest (which is now an official recommendation for anyone immunocompromised). He only just woke up (it’s 11am) so we haven’t taken his temperature yet today, but we have already checked him for fever (last night) so it’s a good thing I thought ahead and bought thermometer covers. He didn’t have a fever last night, so he’s almost certainly fine, but of course we’re being careful. I’m not the only immunocompromised person in the world.

I wouldn’t call myself a panic buyer, but I would definitely call myself a covid prepper. (You can judge me or admire me, as you like.) I expected to have more time to slowly build up supplies of long-life milk (and yes, toilet paper) but I do have quite a bit of food. If this is the moment when our family starts a period of self-isolation, we’re pretty well set up.

Last night I found out that some hospitals in Italy are not letting older patients have respirators, because there simply aren’t enough to go around and older patients are less likely to recover and more likely to need respirators for longer. That is absolutely horrifying, and for more than simple human decency. Like I said, I’m diabetic. That means every infection takes longer to heal. And I’m a ‘bad’ diabetic, too. I’m very very overweight, and my eating habits are enough to make any diabetes specialist swoon in horror. There are several surprisingly rational reasons for me to cheerfully continue eating like an Oompa Loompa.

First, chocolate and lollies are delicious.

Second, I’m not coping. With anything, really. I’m literally afraid of spending more than a few hours with my own children (due mainly to fibromyalgia and my average stress level being at around 90% so it’s hard for me to be nice about the 25th request for something the kids are perfectly capable of fetching on their own). I’m afraid to leave my house (heat makes me sick), to see people (I sweat and stink), to stand up (it hurts). I spend most of my waking hours in both pain and fear, mostly fear of more pain. Chocolate and lollies are an essential crutch that helps me do some of the things I really should do each day. I never do everything that I should (eat well, exercise, spend some actual time with my kids, give kids healthy food, deliver kids to school and home again, maybe say/do something nice for my husband, do something that earns money, shower, dress appropriately, brush teeth, brush hair, maintain a moderately clean house) but I do generally manage to shower and to take the kids to and from school, and to not yell or scream or swear directly at anyone, and to organise some kind of dinner for all four of us.

Third, junk food keeps the worse of my depression at bay. If I cut down on junk food, even a little, I get suicidal within 24 hours and homicidal within 48 hours. I lost a little weight before I got married to Chris, and I had to concentrate while driving to remind myself to NOT deliberately cause an accident—and that was when I was physically healthy, childless, not on any weight-increasing medications, and engaged to the love of my life.

Fourth, I’m intolerant of FODMAPS and Salyicylates. Which is to say, dairy, most fruit, most vegetables, any artificial sweeteners, and processed meat. I eat about one serve of fruit a week and one serve of vegetables a day (one or two a week if you don’t count potatoes). That mostly leaves carbs and meat.

So. I won’t be dieting unless I’m also in a padded room with a vitamin drip.

And I’m a little scared that if I get sick at the wrong time, or if ventilators are in short supply, that I will be judged unworthy of full treatment, and will be left to die. And my kids will find out that Mummy apparently cared more about chocolate than being alive to raise them.

That’s a pretty intense worst-case scenario.

(Chris has an extremely calm, naturally content personality. I think he’d cope okay emotionally if I dropped dead, although in practical terms he’s at his best with someone looking over his shoulder a lot because he’s a little TOO calm and content at times. Obviously, for all my faults, the kids are way better off with both of us.)

I’m feeling super panicky today, in case you can’t tell. A part of me just wants to start self-isolating the whole family immediately (partly just to dive into the not-so-nice experiences that are likely to happen sooner or later, instead of waiting in suspense).

Here’s another picture of our cat, Zipper.

Resource of the day: A meal that you can make with rice, frozen salmon, frozen peas, frozen corn, maple syrup, sesame seeds, and sesame oil (ie all stuff that can be stored for months before they’re cooked):

Ingredients:

cooked rice

salmon fillets

peas and corn

sesame oil

maple syrup

sesame seeds

1. Defrost salmon and marinate it in the maple syrup and sesame oil (about a tablespoon of each). Anytime between ten minutes and a day is fine. Line a tray with aluminium foil and chuck the salmon on it in a moderate/hot over for 5-15 minutes depending on how you like it.

2. Put leftover marinade in a fry pan with rice and vegetables, and mix/fry it until salmon is done.

3. Put rice on plates with salmon on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Eat.

 

Recommended donation of the day:

Buy a book by an Australian small press. I recommend Odyssey Books or Shooting Star Press. They will post it to you, so you don’t need to leave the house. A lot of small businesses and small authors are suffering as our fairs and festivals are cancelled.

You can buy stuff from me directly here. I still haven’t recovered financially from the events of last summer (and we were relatively unscathed).

Recommended personal action of the day:

Wash your hands for 20 seconds before leaving the house and after returning home. (If you’re doing that already, good!)

Today’s recommended item to hoard:

Easter eggs. Go ahead and hoard some Easter eggs, since the shops are likely to close at some point (possibly causing a shortage and/or sudden panic buying) and if you have kids stuck at home at Easter, you can easily hide eggs around the house and yard and that will definitely satisfy the little monsters.

[Editor: Shops aren’t going to close. Not even if we go on full nation-wide lockdown.]

Permalink 3 Comments

Six months to come alive again

March 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm (general life, Mental illness)

When CJ and I married, it was like being Cinderella.

Before we married, I was living in a granny flat in which most of the appliances were broken (including the washing machine, oven and toilet), where there was a large area of fungus, and where the water was not safe to drink. It cost two-thirds of my income, and was my only real option of a place to live. I needed to live alone because my anxiety disorder didn’t let me live with anyone.

When CJ and I married*I had good company and massages permanently on tap, a nice house where everything worked, and I never had to decide whether to have meat or not based on the ebb and flow of my income. I also had the new brand-ability to plan my future with some degree of certainty, and for the first time I had a choice about whether or not to have children someday. Everything in every area got dramatically better on one day.

On the down side, if CJ dies I’ll lose everything. He has life insurance (I checked, believe me), but other than relative wealth I’d lose most of the goodness of my life.

The awareness of my dependence of CJ didn’t impair my ability to function and/or enjoy CJ – but it didn’t go away either. Which is why when I read this article – mainly about the five stages of grief, and how they’re overemphasised in modern counselling – it meant a lot to me.

The thing that really made me feel better is that, according to studies, most people are largely recovered from major life-changing grief in about. . . six months. They still miss whoever or whatever it was, but the human ability to revert to individual emotional averages is extremely effective.

As a writer, I’m constantly designing the other kind of grief – the rare kind that permanently damages the sufferer – because it makes interesting characters. It’s a huge relief to realise that the way I see grief is based on an entirely fictional world view.

If CJ dies, my life will never be the same – but the worst pain will be mostly done by six months. If I have to, I can survive that.

Morbid and optimistic is a lot better than just morbid.

*Evidently there is at least one person I can live with – and even share a room with.

Permalink 2 Comments

The secret of love

February 14, 2011 at 10:56 am (general life, Mental illness)

CJ and I have now been married over two years (the two that are meant to be the hardest – one of several reasons we haven’t tried for kids yet). Overall, it’s been a lot easier and nicer than I expected – and I know how unusual that is.

I think the secret to a happy home (other than picking someone kind) is knowing who should do what – and doing it (before the other person has to ask) plus a bit more for love (but not too much – the other person has to have a chance to show their love too).

CJ earns most of the money; I try my best. I do more chores than CJ, but when I’m freaking out I ask for help and he helps. I let CJ spend money on computer stuff and books; he lets me spend money on awesomenesses and writing things. I coordinate most things, especially money and running the household; CJ has less impact on day to day things but also less to remember and be responsible for. In all these areas, we’ve found what works best for both of us.

Chores are the most difficult thing. Before marriage, I expected chores to be the hardest thing (having seen CJ’s bedroom many a time), and they are (even now) – but they’re a million times better than I expected. We talked about chores plenty, both before and after the wedding. CJ lifted his standards, and I lowered mine.

A good marriage is built on mutual respect and love – which is exactly where chores come in.

I don’t think it’s possible for me as a woman to respect a man who is too immature to do the dishes without being told (that makes him a child, and I’m not attracted to children). I also don’t think it’s possible for me to feel loved if I’m constantly cleaning up after a man. I DO clean up after CJ, but I know he also cleans up after me.

We’ve now spend half our time together dating, and half married. The married half has been nicer, more peaceful, and has seen less disagreements (partly because we know each other better, and can predict the other person’s reactions with enormous accuracy).

The hardest part of being married is that I am forced to carry my mental illness with me. I hate feeling that CJ has only ever met the second-best version of me (not that that’s entirely true; I have plenty of good days). I often feel angry that he is so content and happy when I’m living in the dark. It’s pretty clear neither of those things are his fault – and if he wasn’t immune to my depression he would be pretty useless.

The nicest parts of marriage are being able to make plans together, knowing that we have each other to rely on and laugh with, and having a warm body next to me at night*.

*One that doesn’t only love me for my ability to open the cat food cans.

Permalink 2 Comments

The good side of a bad dad

January 18, 2011 at 9:05 pm (general life, Mental illness)

I sometimes wonder if I should have kids. I’m pretty nuts, and I don’t know how children will influence my mental illness – or how my mental illness will influence them. But my mum has an anxiety disorder too, which is oddly encouraging – because I inherited it from her, but my life is pretty good (which means that my kids may well have anxiety issues too, but that’s not the worst thing in the world).

Even better, I get to instantly know my kids are, in one way, much better off than I was.

My biological dad is a bit useless. He’s in and out of jail for fraud, and he left my mum before I was a year old.

I have a fantastic stepfather – in fact, my earliest memory is preparing for their wedding. But I feel like I have an advantage in the realm of parenthood when I realise that CJ will be the father of my children – from the first instant of their life. That’s pretty encouraging.

Who knows? Maybe my kids will even turn out non-crazy. That’d be nice.

Permalink 2 Comments

Viktor Frankl, Garth Nix, and Yours Truly

December 17, 2010 at 9:28 am (book reviews, Mental illness)

Here’s a quote from Don Miller talking about Viktor Frankl: “Tested in the concentration camps, Frankl realized no amount of torture could keep a person from living a fulfilling life, if only they had three elements working for them: a project in which they could contribute, a person to love, and a worthy explanation for their suffering.”

Living a meaningful life is far more important to me than anything else. The year I finally gave up my twelve-year plan to go to Indonesia as a full-time aid worker was also the year my chocolate habit suddenly went from a cute foible to something that controlled my life. I’d never been out of the healthy weight range before then, and I’ve never stopped struggling with my weight since.

I am as certain as it’s possible to be that God doesn’t want me in Indonesia – I’d feel like Jonah disobeying God if I went there now (and I hear that didn’t work out). The other two main reasons for giving up Indonesia were that I love my writing more (when I’m in Indonesia I find I write non-fiction, which isn’t what I most love), and it was pretty clear that the main reason I wanted to go to Indonesia in the first place was to suffer.

One sure-fire way to feel special and close to God is by sacrificing a lot in a great cause. But throwing myself into increasingly painful situations in order to feel okay about myself isn’t the right way to go about it.

But I gotta tell you, switching destinies from, “Helping poor third-world children” to “sitting in my room typing up books that no-one reads” is crushing. Every day.

Writing books sort of counts as a “project in which I can contribute” except that I’m not contributing anything of worth – in my opinion.

 If I suffer, it’s because I’m doing a whole lot of work that no-one cares about (which is where publishing comes in – and it’ll probably happen eventually, which’ll mean, since I definitely have someone to love, that I’ll be scoring at least 2 out of 3).

This interpretation of the meaningful life at least justifies how much lack of publication hurts. Writing meaningless books that are paid for (and read by the public) is obviously more life-affirming that writing meaningless books that I have to pay someone to read.

Which brings me to Garth Nix. You all know I adore “Sabriel” with a passion verging on that of an internet stalker. I’ve read it about four times this year alone. But in some ways I love “Lirael” and “Abhorsen” (books 2 and 3 in the trilogy, but they’re really one massive story) more.

I admire “Sabriel” because it’s brilliantly written, but my stalker-love stems from the fact that Sabriel is such a hero. She has a great cause, and she sacrifices everything for it. In short, she’s exactly who I’d like to be – and metaphorically, a close match to my Indonesia-travelling self. Too bad my Indonesia-travelling self is dead.

Lirael’s story is much closer to my own. Throughout the 600-word book, she wants one thing: The psychic gift that every single person in her community has. Without that gift, she can’t contribute to her society, and she is still considered a child. At the end of the book, she finds out that she has a different gift – a gift which was (in part) perfectly obvious, but which never seemed important to Lirael. She will never get the destiny she wanted – but she does have another that no-one else in any of the three books possesses.

It’s not a triumphant ending. In some ways, Lirael’s discovery comes as a relief. In other ways, it’s devastating – the final realisation that she will never be what she’s wanted to be all her life. (It parallels a discovery by the other main character, Sameth.)

In the final book, “Abhorsen”, both of the main characters go through all kinds of pain – except one: they know and accept their real destinies. The whole book is infused with a sense of purpose, and reading it (especially after the long pain of “Lirael”) fills me with hope.

Like Lirael, I have a longed-for destiny shut off from me, and another one waiting for me to fully embrace it. I hope that one day I can believe that my second destiny really does matter as much as the first.

In the meantime, stuck as an unpublished writer, I am still a child – dependent on others, and unable to contribute something of worth to the wider society. That’s never going to stop hurting – but one day it’ll stop.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Why chocolate?

October 24, 2010 at 11:23 am (Mental illness)

A couple of weeks ago, I joined in a Bible Study discussion of anger, and the role it plays in forgiveness. People pointed out that anger shows us where we’re hurt and what we care about (especially righteous anger). Anger often indicates right from wrong – the yelled phrase, “You can’t treat me like that!” is really one way of saying, “I have worth as a human being.” Anger shows us something is wrong, and it gives us the energy to do something about it.

I have a friend who had a bad boss. A really bad one. He felt angry. He talked to his friends and wife about it, and made a complaint (which was ignored). He tried and tried to deal with the situation, and eventually he had a mental breakdown – it is years later, and he hasn’t recovered.

For his sake, I wish he’d followed the anger and quit – don’t we all fantasise about quitting sometimes? A lot of our angry fantasies are actually telling us something useful – generally, that things are not okay. But we (especially women and/or Christians) are taught to treat others better than ourselves. We’re taught that anger is impolite, and we shouldn’t indulge it. And sometimes that’s not the right thing to do. We either end up broken and/or bitter, or we leach away our entire personality and become Flanders. Ugh!

Anyway. . . that was a long introduction to my point: most of the time, my anxiety disorder manifests as anger (I’ve often said I prefer anger to depression, because anger is proactive). I think that anger is the main reason I feel the daily need to binge on chocolate. It’s pretty much the only way I feel able to express myself. (I sometimes express anger with crying, but I’m so sick of crying! And blogging, of course – but that is limited too.)

There’s other factors at play in my chocolate obsession. Our society is built on self-indulgence, particularly via chocolate. Social occasions run on wheels of either chocolate or alcohol (among my friends, it’s more often chocolate).

For me, chocolate fills in the gap between how much I should be enjoying myself and how much I am enjoying myself. For example, if I go to a party I feel pressured and threatened. If I eat a whole lot of chocolate, it feels like. . . well, like a party. I don’t seem able to process positive stimulus without chocolate. I often sit in a conversation with people I genuinely like, and start having a panic attack as I feel pressured to be pleasant and happy – that is, to pretend to be myself. Chocolate fixes it, and I’m myself.

It’s the one good thing I feel able to rely on – because it’s simple. CJ is a predominantly positive stimulus (yeah, I know, I’m a romantic), but he’s complicated, like all humans. He relieves a lot of my stress, but he also causes some. Chocolate makes me nauseous and then overweight, but that just makes it a more effective way of expressing anger. Because the expression of anger is meant to be unpleasant somehow.

I think if I was medicated for the anxiety, my anger would be cut by about two-thirds, and I’d have less of a need to express it via chocolate binges. But I plan to start a family in the next few years, and medication is a no-no during that time (and I know from experience it takes a long time to stop the meds).

Maybe in the future I’ll be able to use anti-depressants, and then chocolate won’t be such an issue.

We’ll see I guess.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Crushed Easter Eggs and my Crushed Soul

August 31, 2010 at 4:55 pm (Mental illness, Writing Ranting)

I’m sitting alone in my friend Celia’s house eating a large amount of crushed Easter Eggs (Celia works as a food tester, and brings home peculiar leftovers).

Does anyone else ever wish they had a terminal illness, just so they had someplace better to be?

Note to self: In future, do not travel farther than Sydney unless it is for something genuinely enjoyable. You are no longer well enough to handle the stress and/or despair.

Publisher B still hasn’t responded to my gentle I-still-exist email of four weeks ago. Other than the zombie apocalypse theory, the most likely  explanation is they are simply too lazy to actually reject my books. I didn’t think  anyone in publishing (especially Australian publishing) was that evil, but I heard on Friday a story about exactly that real-life scenario, so now I know it can happen.

Awesome.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Fantasy of the Day

August 24, 2010 at 2:31 pm (Mental illness)

So here’s the thing.

Publisher B has had one of my books for fifteen months (the one that keeps getting nearly published), and another book for nine months.

Every three months I send them a gentle reminder of my existence via email, and they’ve always been prompt in getting back to me with a vague, “We’re REALLY sorry and we’ll get onto that, honest.” Generally within 24 hours.

I sent them the usual email (complexified by the July conference, by my plan to pitch it elsewhere on 4 September, and by some editing I’ve done) on Wednesday 11th of this month – cunningly timing my email to fall immediately after a Tuesday (they have acquisitions meetings every second Tuesday, so in theory they could look at the email and say, “Oh my! That certainly has been a long wait. We could prep that book for next acquisitions meeting, since this is exactly the right time for making such decisions.”)

There’s a fifty-fifty chance that today is that next acquisitions meeting. And they haven’t replied to the email. At all. In 13 days.

Reasons for not replying to the email:

1. A crippling attack of severe deja vu, causing them to think they’ve already replied to the email (over and over again).

2. They swore a collective vow not to reply until they’ve made a decision (my personal favourite) – which will happen today!

3. Publisher B has been overrun by zombies.

It’s also possible my primary contact is sick (possibly due to all the zombies around) and hasn’t read the email yet.

So, in conclusion, my cunning plan to suck them into actually replying is clearly doomed. Cunning plans never work. So it’s time to sharpen the old axe and stock up on canned food.

The zombies. They are here.

Permalink 2 Comments

« Previous page · Next page »