Depression is like a bad trip…

Depression and anxiety are treatable illnesses that won’t escape my world at the moment.  I don’t want it to become part of every facet of my life, but, just like diabetes, a broken leg or any other treatable illness, it has done.  I’ve been thinking in the last few weeks that depression is like having a bad trip.  People don’t like to talk about it.  Thinking about it makes them feel awful.  It is the constant haranguing fear and repetition of paranoid thoughts that diminishes your self-esteem, self-control and sense of self-worth.  That’s why it’s like a bad trip.  Of course, I haven’t had a bad trip, or a trip at all actually, so I can’t really compare.

In fact, perhaps it’s like being drunk.  People don’t like to admit they indulge too much in alcohol, the same way they don’t like to admit to having depression.  People don’t want to talk about their family member who’s an alcoholic.  It’s a great way of making excuses though!  He did this because he was drinking, she did that because she’s depressed – whether she actually did anything or not just because she is depressed doesn’t seem to matter.  It’s a great reason people can use to blame you without blaming you.  If you call someone on their behaviour they can say “it’s the alcohol talking” or “is your anxiety playing up?”  What a joke.  Of course, I haven’t been drunk either, so I can’t really compare.

Actually, what it’s really like is being unwell.  It’s like having a cold, and not being able to function 100 percent because you’re unwell.  You can still move, you can still get out of bed, you can still eat and drink, but not like you used to.  What it’s really like is being a child again.  It’s like being young and afraid, and not understanding why there is no reason to be afraid.  It’s like having a nightmare and not realising when you wake up that it was only a dream.  It’s like when you’re a teenager and you start to make the distinction between what is real in actuality and what is perception.  It’s realising that you’re unwell but you’re not supposed to talk about it – for no actual reason.  Truth be told, if we were able to say to a friend ‘I’ve been feeling depressed’ without fear of any other reaction than ‘how can I help?’ society wouldn’t have so many people suffering prolonged depression or anxiety.  Why can I tell my friend that I broke my arm, but I can’t tell her that I have depression?

I’m here to tell you that your expectations of everyone suffering depression are wrong.  Yep, you read it here folks, they’re wrong.  Why?  Because you’ve never really had depression or anxiety the same as the person you’re trying to understand, so you can’t really compare.

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How writing’s changed and how it may never be the same again

Writing is inevitably going to change over time.  Not just because the way we physically write has changed – we’ve gone from using ink and quills to typing on a phone, but because the way we communicate has changed.  We’ve gone from writing hand-written letters to one another, to sending text messages.  We went from using correct spelling, grammar and full words to using single letters to portray a word, ‘you’ became ‘u’ and ‘to’ became ‘2’, despite the number 2 not actually being interchangeable for anything other than ‘two’.  Without using actual words, we’ve still managed to communicate.  Even the writing of articles has changed, and you may have noticed.  We are seeing more and more lists – ’50 ways to xyz’ – it doesn’t matter what it is, you name it, there’s a list for it.

The reason we have lists is because we don’t have time to read the whole thing anymore.  Well, that’s our excuse anyway.  The problem is, we are training our readers.  Our readers now look for articles with headings to be sure they can read them quickly, skip over the content and just read the headings to understand the main gist of the article.  Even with full words and correct sentences, our readers look to articles with highlighted headings for the main point.  If you can’t capture their attention in the first few sentences you may lose your reader altogether.  If you can keep their attention initially, keep the article to 300-400 words to make your point.  If you can keep their attention longer, keep it, hold it, nurture it. In the meantime look out for my first, soon to be released e-book ‘100 ways to save time and how to spend it wisely.’  I’m not kidding, it will be released, it will contain full sentences with real words and it’ll be worth reading all the words under the headings too!  Check it out here.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my article without headings.

Breaking all the rules,

~Melissa

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In love you shall find fear

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For in love you shall find fear

as they go hand in hand.

Without fear you would not understand

nor touch on comprehending the complexity of love,

and its accomplices.

For to feel true love

is to open one’s self to thine own’s greatest fear

Teach me not to wait, nor to hesitate…fear

Live neither too far, nor too near

Not to be late nor to separate

the distance between love and the grief it draws close.

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Manetaining long hair

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Some of you will know that I have very long, thick hair.  I am often asked how I maintain it and told I am so lucky to have it!  I am very lucky to have had naturally thick hair all my life.  However, the way in which I maintain it helps it to be healthy and stay long and strong.  Here are my haircare tips!  Please remember that there is a spectrum of hair care obsession and I am up towards the obsessed end.  These are the things that I do, most of which have been added to my haircare list in the last three years.  They won’t work for everyone, and will depend on your hair type.  My hair is naturally wavy, thick (both thick strands and a lot of hair), dark, and wiry.  I have to manage its wiriness and used to have to manage frizz and flyaway on the top layer.

The list!
1.  Avoid using heat tools.  Anything that burns your skin (including the sun) will burn your hair.  Burning your hair means depriving it of its moisture, which allows it to be elastic and strong.  When hair is continuously deprived of moisture it becomes brittle and breaks easily.  I used to straighten my shoulder blade-length hair everyday and it never got any longer.  I soon realised it was still growing well, but was breaking and splitting at the ends.
2.  Establish a haircare routine.  Work out how often you need to wash your hair and what products work well in your hair.  I only need to wash my hair twice a week because I have a dry scalp.  Washing your hair strips it of its natural oil (sebum), so washing too frequently may cause dry hair and scalp.
3.  Only use a comb.  Yep, I know it feels awesome to scratch your scalp with a brush, but they have a nasty habit of breaking your hair.  Always comb from the bottom of your hair up to the scalp in small sections and if you find a knot, use your fingers to untease it.  Take your time to minimise breakage.  If you’re hearing any ripping or catching sounds as you comb, you’re potentially breaking your hair.  Go slowly and carefully, treat your hair like silk.
4.  Tie it up with the right ties!  Your hair will be well protected tied up, but it depends on the styling you choose.  Try not to overstyle your hair as you may cause breakage at the roots.  If you always wear your hair in a pony tail or a plait, vary where you place the band so you don’t cause breakage in one spot.  The band!  Use the right hair bands.  This one’s a must because if you have hair bands or ties that have metal clasps or glued ends they will tear your hair.  Generally, I avoid all metal clasps and clips and only wear them infrequently.  Bobby pins or bun pins with a moulded rounded end are fine, but once the tip comes off they will break your hair.

5.  Use coconut oil!  There are many different types of hair oils you can use.  Cactus oil is good for hair loss, as is the intake of zinc in food or a supplement.  Almond and jojoba oils, along with argan oil are commonly used for softening hair and providing extra moisture.  I use organic coconut oil from the cooking aisle (yep it’s the same as the expensive hair oils) because I like how well it works in nourishing my hair.
6. Trim.  There’s mixed reviews about trimming hair.  Some say to trim every six weeks, others say not to trim at all.  I think it’s about finding the right balance for your hair.  If you trim every six weeks you may just be cutting off the hair that you’ve grown in those six weeks and you won’t end up with any growth.  If you leave it too long, you’ll end up with split ends and they may cause weakening and breakage up the hair shaft.  The way I worked it out was to ensure adequate nourishment to my hair through the use of oils and adequate nutrition and when I noticed a few split ends (tiny tiny ones!) I’d make an appointment with my hair dresser.  It usually takes me about five months to find split ends and my hair grows about five centimetres during that time.
7. Find the right hair dresser!  The hairdresser who listens is the right one!  If you want your hair in a certain style and they don’t listen, you don’t know what you’ll end up with.  Beware the scissor-happy hairdresser!  I’ve finally found a fantastic hairdresser who only cuts about five millimetres off my hair when I ask for a trim.  I’ve had a number of bad experiences with hairdressers who cut off a few inches (INCHES!) because they’re not listening or see long hair and instantly want to chop it off.  In finding the right one, I asked ‘can you cut a centimetre off my hair?  JUST a centimetre?’.  If the answer was anything but ‘yes’ then I moved right along.  If the answer was yes and I found inches of hair missing, I’ve complained.  Once you find the right hairdresser, stick with them.
8. Maintain good nutrition.  Hair, skin and nails are the last to receive any nutrition we put into our bodies.  They are less important than organs and muscles (or so the body thinks). Maintaining not just adequate but good nutrition helps to keep hair strong and healthy.  There are supplements that can reduce hair loss and improve hair elasticity, strength and growth, but they are not required if you maintain good nutrition.
My routine!
1. Every night I scoop a teaspoon of coconut oil into the palm of my hand and run it through the last four inches of my hair.  I comb it and plait it overnight in the winter and a loose bun on top of my head in the summer.
2. In the morning, I comb it through using a detangler if necessary.  The oil from the night before has soaked in.  If you find the oil hasn’t soaked in all the way try using less oil.  Since my hair reached my hip length I started to comb out each portion of my braid as I untied it to prevent knots forming.  Then, I tie my hair up for the day.
3. The night before I wash it, I run coconut oil through the hair from the nape of my neck to the ends.  It looks and feels oily.  If you’re worried about your pillow case having oil on it you can either put a spare, old pillow case on or oil your hair in the morning before you wash.  For optimum results, oil overnight and wash in the morning.  Don’t use a towel on your pillow case because it’s too rough and can cause breakage.
4. The morning of the wash!  I comb through my hair, that still has excess oil in it.  I use tepid warm water and rinse all of my hair.  I then use a natural shampoo massaged into my scalp only (not the length of my hair).  I leave the shampoo to sit on my head while I put some conditioner in the ends of my hair.  I wash myself while I let the shampoo clean my hair and the conditioner soak in.
5. When I rinse, I use tepid warm water, letting it run from the scalp to the ends of my hair.  The conditioner helps protect the ends of my hair from becomming dry as the shampoo runs over it.  The excess shampoo running the length of the hair clean the hair shaft and tips.  After I have rinsed all of my hair, I shampoo and condition again.
6. After the second rinse, I squeeze my hair with two hands to let excess water run off.  I never rub my hair or bunch it up to squeeze it.  When hair is wet, it is especially vulnerable to breakage so you need to be extra careful!
7. Out of the shower, I use a microfibre towel to squeeze excess water out and then apply a moisturizing treatment (once a week) to the hair from the nape of my neck to the ends.  I twist it into a bun and put on a shower cap.  The shower cap keeps my hair from falling, stops any treatment residue from going on my clothes and allows the heat from my head to activate the moisturiser.  I leave the treatment in for 15 minutes or longer, depending on what I’m doing.
8. I hang my head over the bath and rinse my hair with tepid water until the treatment is rinsed off.  I squeeze and add conditioner then put the showercap back on.
9. After about five minutes, I rinse my hair with cold water.  Cold water helps to give hair a lovely shine when it is dry.
10. I squeeze my hair to remove all dripping water then wrap the microfibre towel around it and squeeze gently.  I wear it out or in a loose braid until it is dry.  I am very careful with it as it dries because I don’t want to have any breakage.
11. Before my hair is totally dry I add a split end mender serum and a heat protectant straightening serum to the ends of my hair to help with its elasticity and reduce the heat to which is naturally exposed.
12. Once my hair is dry, I comb through and style as desired.

From shabby to chic! Adding style to your rented property

Modern country bedroom | Image | Housetohome.co.uk

For those of us who live in rental houses or apartments, it can be frustrating just accepting the décor when we move in. What is unfurnished may have white walls, a modern kitchen, poky bathroom and old wooden cupboards. On the contrary, you could find yourself in an old post-war home with reasonable sized living areas and smaller bedrooms. The bathroom may have coloured bath ware and old style tap ware. Regardless of the permanent décor it is important to make what is probably going to be a temporary living space feel like your own. Problem being, you’re not allowed to alter anything that will cause permanent change. No painting the walls, renovating the bathroom or upgrading the bench tops.

There are a few simple and cost effective methods to personalising your house or apartment. Apart from organising furniture, ornaments and wall hangings to suit your taste you could also try some more semi-permanent features that, while they may take a big longer to accomplish, can make all the difference. For hygiene’s sake, first replace the toilet seat!  Keep anything you remove though, because you’ll need to put it all back when you move out. Light fittings can make a huge difference, especially if the rental you’ve moved into has old and dusty fittings. You can find all sorts of reasonably priced fittings at hardware stores to suit your desired look.

Apart from pictures, prints or photos on the walls, you can also find removable wall stickers to suit any room or theme. These popular stickers can add to a baby’s nursery, decorate for Christmas or add a neat flare to a teenager’s bedroom without peeling off the paint. Add patterned curtains for your own touch to the windows, or if you don’t want to add curtains to windows already donned with covers find some bunting in your favourite colours and drape it along the window frame. If you find yourself in a furnished rental you can find chair and couch covers that will not only protect the furniture and ensure you don’t you’re your bond to stains, but can also change the overall look you’re trying to achieve. Choose the right bedspreads, lamps, ornaments and other small decorations and your previously bare rental will soon feel just like home.

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Avoiding the word ‘get’

‘I don’t want to be in his class,’ I said indignantly. ‘He’s too sporty, and I have asthma.’ I did have asthma but that was really just a convenient excuse. I didn’t want to be in the class run by the very tall male teacher. He looked older and meaner than the other teachers, and had a track record of doing sport, something that I hated because I wasn’t very good at any sport and I was always left with a headache after becoming too hot. My parents took me to the principal, who explained in no uncertain terms that Mr Williams, while being very passionate about sport would only host the required physical activity sessions and wouldn’t make me engage in any unnecessary sport.

I started Grade Seven like any other year, excited but nervous. This year I was particularly nervous because I didn’t have my way. I wasn’t moved to the nice lady teacher’s class down the path, I was kept with the only male Grade Seven teacher. Over the course of the year I learned that not only was the principal right, I was never expected to play sports just for the sake of it, I also had the best teacher of any Grade Seven class. Being in Mr Williams’ class was like being on the set of ‘Dead Poet’s Society.’ We didn’t stand on the desks and say ‘O Captain, My Captain,’ but we did learn some amazing lessons. I remember entering the classroom one day with 29 other children, though we thought of ourselves as sophisticated teenagers, only to find Mr Williams wasn’t there. He was always there so it felt strange sitting down to our desks without the giant of a man standing at the front of the class, socks pulled up to his knees, hair styled neatly. They usually sent a substitute teacher, but there was no one to be seen. We started chatting, then became louder. A group decided to decorate the white board with flowers and slogans. Some kids did their homework, others braided hair.

We were all shocked when Mr Williams burst through the door and boomed over us ‘Why are you making such a din?’ Most of the children who weren’t used to be yelled at scuttled back to their desks and sat, stunned, waiting for direction. One boy simply stood on the spot and said, with the appropriate amount of teenage attitude, ‘What’s a din?’. Everyone snickered. We’d all been equally confused by the word but most of us were smart enough not to ask questions when our teacher was clearly angry. Mr Williams calmed the class by stalking to the front of the room. ‘A din is a lot of noise, Michael, sit down,’ and Michael did. It wasn’t the same day we learned about the word ‘get’, but it was equally as memorable.

I sat in the back row, as a reward with my friends because we were always good students, quiet, dedicated and tried to work diligently. ‘There’s no reason to use the word ‘get’.’ Mr Williams said as he wrote it very neatly on the white board, along with all the other words similar to ‘get’ like ‘got’, ‘gotten’, and ‘getting’. I was confused. I could think of plenty great reasons to use the word ‘get’. ‘I get bored, I got too hot, I’m getting hungry, get me out of here, I hadn’t gotten a piece of cake for lunch.’

‘There are always better words to use instead of ‘get”, he said. It was one of those lessons that was not really a lesson. I mean, it wasn’t in the book that the school insisted he taught from, which is why his class resembled ‘Dead Poet’s Society’. He instilled in us much more than the curriculum demanded. He gave out jelly beans for correct spelling words and made us learn what ‘exponential’ meant when he told us we’d receive more and more jelly beans the more consistently we produced correct spelling words. As I walked back to my desk one day with over 40 jelly beans, I remember the word ‘exponential’ and thought it was quite a good one. I could even spell it! ”Get’ can be replaced by ‘received’ if you’re describing something someone gave to you. ‘Got’ can be replaced by ‘have’, for example ‘I’ve got a tummy ache’ can simply be replaced with ‘I have a tummy ache’. ‘Get and it’s friends are meaningless, useless words.’ If a certain word can be replaced by any other word we needn’t use it, ‘get’ is a prime example.

It’s been 17 years since I saw Mr Williams, but his lessons have stayed with me. He taught me the value of trying something before making a judgment, that sport (in moderation) isn’t so bad, and to avoid ‘get’ at all costs. Not a bad grade 7 experience afterall.

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Don’t walk, dance

It’s the anticipation before the class, ice skating, dancing, teaching, it doesn’t matter what. You’ve spent up to, maybe even more than an hour perfecting makeup to look presentable and hair to make sure it doesn’t impede your vision. You’ve changed into what many others would consider very uncomfortable: lined tights to ward off the cold, or just ballet pink tights, leotard, jacket. Body hugging, tight, bearing all. Your hair slicked into a tight pony tail or flattened bun. Regardless of how long it is, it mustn’t be in the way! Hair spray and pins are a dancer’s best friend.

Then the shoes. The most important part. Fur-lined boots laced to the ankle with lycra covers, plastic guards to keep the blades sharp. Soft leather slippers more comfortable than any other shoe. Hard and beautiful Pointe shoes, silky to the touch, hiding gel covered toes behind beautiful ribbons supporting the ankle. Stylish Latin or ballroom heels, creating a sleek line, matching outfits. Black, strapped taps, the most satisfying of them all, clipping and rapping away as you desire.

You may glide and spin, performing mohawks and spirals.  Practise your turn out, point hard, fourth position, prepare, rise and turn.  One, two, cha cha cha, three, four, turn.  Heel slap step heel, heel slap step heel, ripple, ripple, double toe hit stamp.  Beautiful moves that transform your body into a part of the music.  You become the crotchets, minims, the cello, piano and flute.  You flit and float from one side of the room to the other, rumba over the dance floor attached to your partner, and tango as one around the stage.  Shuffle tap step into the spotlight and chasse towards the audience.

After the show, practise, class, you take your hair down, pins in one hand, net in the other.  Jacket back on to keep you warm as you prepare to go home.  Peel your feet out of your boots, slippers, shoes or heels.  Bruised, sometimes bleeding, blisters.  But it’s all worth it, right?

Photos courtesy: GrishkosDon’t walk dance

http://zsazsabellagio.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/dont-walk-dance.html

Canberra… city of seasons

It was cold.  Freezing actually.  Regardless of the number of layers I wore the wind would still tear through me and ice my bones.  My nose would go cold and drip relentlessly.  My ears ached as my tiny hearing bones reacted to the cold.  I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes.  As an asthmatic, I found it difficult to breathe.  The cold, dry air was so difficult to inhale it was like trying to breathe in while someone sat on my chest.  My exhalation fogged out in front of me and my dad said I was breathing ‘dragon breath’.  Even in autumn, the pipes in the school would freeze and we’d stand at the bubblers marvelling at the ice that was supposed to be water for us to drink.  I would stay with my grandmother often.  Her quaint low-set house with its soft greens and apricots.  It greeted me with the same comforting smell every time and I felt at home.  The plum tree out the back made me want to climb, despite its rough exterior and little black inhabitants.  During the day I’d call for my grandparents after climbing too high and finding myself stuck.  During the night my grandma would sneak into my room and wake me up, rug me into my dressing gown and slippers and take me out to see the families of possums living in my tree.  Their big eyes would stare, so round, in the torchlight.

In the afternoons we would take the dog for a walk and seek out a park.  The trees were bare most of the time.  Tall sticks reaching up into the grey sky on an overcast day.  On sunny days it was still cold and dry, but the sky was a beautiful blue with no clouds.  Finally we would reach the pathway adjacent to Grandma’s street.  It always had a big pile of autumn leaves.  Browns, yellows, oranges, reds.  All the colours of autumn in a pile just for me to jump in.

As I grew up, I realised that Canberra is the city of seasons.  Despite what I would call incessant cold and dry weather for most of the year, the seasons were marked by the first of the month.  In autumn, the leaves would crackle and dry on the path, perfect for painted leaf prints.  In winter, the fires would be lit and we’d wish for spring, which was full of flagrant flowers, Floriade and sunshine.  In summer, the heat was like walking into an oven that would dry the grass until it crackled underfoot.  In spite of leaving Canberra and moving up north, it will always be fondly remembered as the place I grew up.

Picture courtesy Outback Encounter