Mental Illness

Declutter your life, improve your depression

It is no secret that I suffer from severe depression.

Lately, it has been getting worse.  Suicidal thoughts have even started creeping in.  Well, more like urging me emphatically.  I yell at them to fuck off, but, you know, it’s as scary as shit.

When I wake in the morning, there is a period of time, a minuscule period of time, where I feel at peace.  You know, that time between emerging from sleep and being fully conscious.  It doesn’t last long.  As soon as I am aware of my existence, the sadness settles.  It is really really crap.

My  mind is on the go all the time with the things that I have to achieve in a day.  So full is my mind, in fact, that I don’t do anything.  It all just seems so very very hard.  Too much to do and not enough time, so why even bother.  Eventually, the mind becomes so full, so cluttered, so manic, that it decides to shut down.

I had that shut down earlier this week.

I cried at all that I was not.  All that I had not achieved as I sat in my own manic, messy breakdown.

It was brutal.  My sister called me on Skype and I howled some more.  I felt like a massive pit inside of me had opened up, a black hole so big that I was sure to be sucked in never to be seen again.

And then, I woke up the following day and thought I need to fight back.  Somehow, somehow, I need to fight fucking back.

Mend the black hole, the heart will heal

I made a list of all the things I needed to do.  Fuck, that list was long.  All the things that needed doing around the house.  All the courses that I had signed up for and never started, never mind completed.  All the books I had bought (thousands) and never read.  All the people I swore I would call, but never did.  All the chores that haunted me on a daily basis.  It felt sick and liberating at the same time to write that list.  Afterwards I stared at those pages.

Right,” I thought, “I now need to eat the Elephant.”

It’s a horrible saying, I know, but there is a saying that goes “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”  It signifies that no matter how monumental a task seems, all you need to do is take it one small bit at a time, and eventually, eventually the task will be completed.

I decided to treat my messy mind like that elephant.

First of all, I started off with something that had bugged the shit out of me forever.  My pantry.  I am not much of a cook, but I like organisation.  If I was going to lose weight (also a massive thing on my list of things I have to yet achieve), I needed to get rid of all the crap and get some order to that baby.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a before photo (trust me, it was a mess), but here is my after photo.

Organised Pantry

I’m really pleased with it.

{As a side note, I know some people are going ask me how I did it.  So here it is:  I got some Decor Pack, Stack and Store containers (on special at spotlight at the moment), some chalkboard labels and a chalk pen.  I then literally held a black bag open and emptied all the crap that I was never going to eat, that was out of date, or was just a bit dodgy looking into that baby.  I then put all the good stuff into the Decor containers.  Labelled them.  Wiped down the surfaces and voila!  It took about 2 hours in total.}

Then I decided to tackle my study.  In honesty, it wasn’t in too bad a shape, but I really needed to get it to a place where I like to be, rather than making my skin crawl every time I sat in it.

Again, no befores, just afters:

photo 3

This morning, I woke up and decided that I needed to declutter my inbox on my computer.  I have four emails, all of which are pretty active.  As I am typing this to you, my computer is downloading over 28,000 (yes, you read that right) emails. Is it any wonder that my mind is a complete and utter mess.  I am a serial subscriber.  If I see something I like, I subscribe.  And it has become untenable.

I realise that although my house is neat and tidy, I am in fact a hoarder of sorts.  I hoard craft stuff – I have every conceivable crafting equipment going, which is directly unproportional to the amount of crafting I actually do.  I also collect courses, books and email subscriptions.  I am an invisible hoarder.

I seriously need to simplify my life.

So, email is the order of the day.  I have sorted it into who the email is from and am deleting them en-masse.  Even the ones from my husband (who takes up the majority), because honestly it just daily chatter.  I don’t need to keep them.  I am checking emails for photos and that is it.  I am using a wonderful site called Unroll.Me to unsubscribe to them all, but you have to go in and delete them yourself.  28,000 emails people!!

Oops, just checked and apparently it’s up to 85,000!!!!

I think I am going to be ill.

It’s going to be a long day.  But I need to do this.  My mind needs to do this.

How about you?  Do you feel like you need to declutter?

Until next time,

SHW Signature

Advocacy Human Rights

Australia’s lack of human rights calls for a cup of AmnesTEA

I feel like I live in a country that has gone mad.

Our prime minister, Tony Abbott, is at the United Nations telling them we have the money and resources to be able to support any war effort they deem necessary.

Yet, back home, in the country that he leads, he is sending asylum-seeking children without their parents to detention centres, refusing to acknowledge that our domestic violence and suicide rates are out of control, denying that a climate change issue exists, cutting funding to science programs, refusing to address the aboriginal issues of health and lower mortality rates, and, frankly, acting like a fascist dictator declaring we are under an international terror threat, when anyone with any modicum of intelligence can see we aren’t.

As a nation, we are shocked almost to the point of paralysis.

As a nation, with further anti-terrorism anti-freedom laws having just been passed that declares that our internet can now be fully monitored and any whistle blower who leaks classified documents can now be jailed for up to 10 years, we are more afraid of our own prime minister than we are of the ‘terror’ five thousand miles away.

To a large proportion of us, it feels like it must have felt when Hitler started making all his subtle, liberty-robbing changes to the laws back before world war II.  Those laws got passed and by the time the people of Germany realised that in fact they were living under a dictatorship, it was just too late.  And, as they say, the rest is history.

Whilst Abbott is telling the UN we have all this money to give to the war effort (whose war it actually is has not really been determined as yet), our delightful Minister of Immigration, Scott Morrison has just negotiated with Cambodia to take what have been termed as the Boat People, in what can only be described as a horrible hand-ball of responsibility.  These are people who, under great persecution from governments or wars in their own countries, flee by paying a people smuggler to transport them, on boats that can often best be called floating rafts, to bring them to Australia to seek asylum.

We reward these scared frightened people who have left everything they know and love behind by throwing them in detention centres, located off-shore on islands that once used to be under our sovereign, but we excised so that no-one on these islands could claim any rights to be an Australian.  These detention centres are fenced in, with barbed wire fences and guarded with armed guards (jail anyone?).

The legally asylum-seeking people are given a lovely sparse room cell, with nothing more than a bed and a sink to call home, for an indefinite period of time whilst they are “processed”  (pretty sure that was the term used for the Jews when they were sent to concentration camps).  Many have been there for five years or more.  They are not allowed any rights – no legal representation, very little medical care, no education.  We treat them like dogs.  In fact, our dogs get far better treatment.

Such is the distress caused to these people that the suicide rate is extremely high.  Those who grasp on to some form of hope sew their lips together as a means of protest.  Can you even imagine that?  Sewing your lips together to get some form of attention to your plight.

Since Abbott has come into power, the situation has become even more dire.  Much like what happened in Germany when Jews started going missing, there has been a media lock down.  No medical staff or legal staff is allowed into the compound and a video recording was leaked showing Morrison telling these frightened, persecuted human beings that they made the journey for nothing, since they would never EVER be allowed to set foot on Australian soil.  It has been recently revealed that staff entering the detention centres were bullied so much to ensure their silence, that they experienced extreme mental duress.

I could go into the illegal activity of our government contravening about 20-odd international human rights laws.  I could highlight the fact that in the UNHCR has slammed Australia for its treatment of its asylum seekers and that the Cambodia deal is an appalling indictment.  I could highlight that the human rights atrocities are not only restricted to those off-shore, but on-shore as well, with our own indigenous population.

Instead, I will say that there are people who care.  There are those of us who care so much that come polling day we will be damn sure that the worst prime minister in Australia’s history will NOT get re-elected, despite his desperate attempts at fear mongering us into submission.

In the mean time, there are things we can do.  We can support organisations that work tirelessly to support those who are the victims of human rights atrocities.

Organisations like Amnesty International.

On the 24th October 2014, Amesty International is holding an AmnesTEA.  They are calling for people to hold an event – a morning or afternoon tea, to raise money to help those who are subject to these human rights violations.  That I live in a country who is a major perpetrator of these violations sickens me, but by way of some compensation, I am holding an AmnesTEA and hope that you will join me.  You can find out how to run your own AmnesTEA here.

It is a great opportunity to invite your friends, in solidarity for the basic rights of being human, to chat, to laugh, to make a difference.

If you are unable to hold one yourself, please feel free to donate here.  Any small amount will do.

The news is filled with the indignation of a terror threat, that is going to cost millions, nay billions, to ‘combat’, yet there are over a billion people in the world right now who will not eat tonight, or don’t have running water, or who will die from preventable diseases and are fleeing persecution.  All of these constitute human right violations that can be prevented.

That, my friends, surely has to be worth a cup of tea.

If you do hold an AmnesTEA, please do let me know about it, or if you can think of other ways we can make a difference, do share.

Until next time,

SHW Signature






The day I lost my smile + how I’m going to get it back

I may have mentioned this before, but when I was at school, I was known as ‘Smiler’.  Despite my chaotic, alcoholic home life, I loved being at school and because of that I smiled.  All the time.

It occurred to me recently that I have lost my smile.  I rarely laugh, I hardly relax.  I have, in fact, become a very intense person.  I struggle to see the joy in life.  I live in a permanently heightened state of anxiety and fear.

I have no idea how I lost my smile.

When I was at school, my home life was terrible.  Dad was at his worst with his drinking, the yelling, the aggression – I spent much of my life in my bedroom, praying the chaos wouldn’t tumble past the door.  And yet each day I went to school.  Smiling.

And it wasn’t a facade.  I genuinely felt happy.  I would laugh, and play, and learn – I loved learning.  Well, I loved English, and writing the very most.

Now, my life is so much better.  A wonderful husband, 2 beautiful children, a father that has been sober since I was 16, my own sobriety of nearly 5 years.  Yet, my heart is so heavy.

So why is it that I have stopped smiling?  Where does all this anxiety come from?

I can probably pinpoint it to the day my first husband died.  I have written about this before, but that day, all confidence in myself was lost.

Previous to his death I never used to worry what people would think.  Sure, I would know that some people judged me based on my lack of fashion sense, or my very opinionated views on the world, or that I wasn’t pretty enough for the most sporty person in school, or that as a young mother I forgot important things like nappies when I went to friends’  houses, but somehow that all just washed over me.  I was happy in my own existence.  I wasn’t confident, but I was kind of happy.

That fateful day, though, a shift happened.  It was like a massive rift opened up inside my soul.  A rift that let every mean, horrible comment, every judgement of me make its way inside of me, where it could sledge away at me, change me.

Over the past 20 years I have been unable to control it.  I have been unable to sew up the rift, to let my soul heal.  That rift drove my depression and ultimately my alcoholism.  I had to numb the open, festering wound, and the only way I knew how, that seemed acceptable to me, was to drink.

I prided myself on that fact – that I never smoked, or took drugs, that I only drank when the children went to bed.  My own judgement of my sorry life enabled my drinking.

Being sober, I have had to face the fact that the rift in my heart is gaping.  For five years I have tried to ignore it.  For five years I have blamed an unkind, unjust world for the ache that permanently resides inside of me.

I can’t blame that any longer.  The smile is gone because my soul is sick.  Not because of the world outside {though that is sick too}.

Where to begin to heal.  That is the question.  For me, it will lie in my writing, my honesty and also in my creativity, which I have ignored for so very long.  I need to get in touch with my soul again.  I need to gain the strength to leave the house, to go for walks.  I need to plan my day, conquer fears, achieve goals.  I need to salve my pain, and continue to move forward.

And I need to start that journey now.  One terrifying step at a time.

I hope that if you are reading this and feeling that you too are lost, you will join me on my journey.  And I hope you know that you are not alone, you are so not alone.

Much love,

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So what do you do when you cry at a workshop – in front of 23 strangers?


I cried today.  I did.  At a workshop.  In front of 23 other women, who were, effectively, strangers.

I’m an emotional person you see.  I cry when I am happy, I cry when I am sad and I especially cry when I feel unsafe.

I wasn’t meant to feel unsafe.  It wasn’t the fault of the person running the workshop, although she is the one who spoke the words.

It was me.

Words carry meaning.  They are loaded with ambiguity, carry different meanings for different people.  Such a tricky little thing, our language.

One word.  That’s all it took.  One word that represented to me everything that I stood against, fought against, wrote against.  One word directed at me.  Then someone clapped.  And I cried.

I felt humiliated.  Out of control.  Such a horrible feeling.  Everyone looking at you, trying to look like they don’t notice you.  You, with your head down, tears trickling down your face, down your nose and onto your page.  Drip, drip, drip.  You want to run, hide, pretend this place never existed.  But you can’t.  You’d make a scene, feel like even more of a neurotic idiot than you already do.  So you stay.  Hoping it doesn’t look as bad as it feels.

Break comes.  Apologies are made.  It isn’t your fault, you say, it is mine.  This is true.  {I wear my heart on my sleeve.  I have very little emotional resilience.}  The tears keep coming.  Mt Vesuvius has erupted.  I have to get out, breathe, find some way to pack away every single ounce of humiliation I feel in that moment.

The voices inside my head are screaming at me to run, to make a dash for it.  I can’t.  I want to finish what I came to learn.  I need to rise up above these things.

Anxiety is a terrible thing.  That knocking in your chest as your mind tries to convince you that you are having a heart attack, that if you don’t run now, you will surely die.

And so I returned.  I washed my tear-stained face.  I sat on my own, whilst the others chatted outside.  I didn’t run.  I got back in the race.

One of the women approached me, hugged me.  One woman sensing another woman’s pain.  No words needed.  Just kindness.

Relief.  Followed by composure.  A few words were spoken.

We were all back on track.  I finished the course.  The emotional moment in time was over.

On the way home I called Mr C.  We debriefed about the day.  I acknowledged my part, my sensitivities.  It was just a word.  A label subscribed to name a thing, that has many different meanings.  It wasn’t intended to hurt.  It’s the intention that counts.  Not the word.

Another lesson for me today:  It’s okay to cry.  But even better to stay and learn.

Until next time,

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On being a fish out of water + finding the right pond


Do you feel like you are a fish out of water?  I know I do.  I have for the longest time.  A couple of days ago I wrote about how, even at the age of 13, I recognised that I didn’t haven’t have any confidence.

Today, I attended the Writing yourself into Motion run by Alexandra Franzen.

I have to admit that whilst I loved the content, I felt like a fish out of water.

You see, every woman on that course, all 23 of them either owned their own business, or were looking to start their own business.  They were doing the course to learn how to write better copy for their businesses.  And why wouldn’t they.  That is what Alex does – write amazing copy.  It is why we love her.  It is why we scrambled for a spot on her course.

As the day wore on, as we worked through the work sheets and Alex quizzed us on them, I started to feel more and more uncomfortable.

What was I doing here?  I didn’t own a business.  I had no products to sell.  I didn’t belong here.  What was I hoping to gain from this course?  This isn’t for me.

I focussed on the material and tried not dwell on being so uncomfortable.  It was hard.  I kept defaulting to “I’m not meant to be here, I’m just a mum, I don’t work, I have nothing to offer.”

At the end of the day, as everyone prepared to go out for dinner, I approached Alex to thank her for the lovely day and to let her know that I wouldn’t be attending.  I’m an introvert, I explained, and needed to go home to recharge.  What was really going through my head is that I need to get out of here as quickly as possible as I just didn’t belong.

She asked me how I was finding the course.  I was honest.  I told her that I was struggling, that I felt like I didn’t fit in.  I don’t have a business, I said.  My blog is personal.  I write about social justice, kindness, being depressed, being bald.  I just want to write to make sense of my world.

And then she said this:

“You know, when I talk about pinpointing what your real work is, what I mean is pinpointing your contribution to the world.  It doesn’t have to be about money or producing something to sell.  It just has to be something that you want to contribute.  You contribute, Sarah.  You write to help highlight the injustices of the world, and then you write about kindness and how to make the world a better place to live in.  That is your real work.”

A warmth crept over me.  In that moment, I no longer felt like I didn’t belong.

We spoke a little bit more about my writing and I laughed when I told her I wore a wig and was bald and that I had even put a photo of me and my bald head on my blog.

And then in a very uncharacteristic move, I asked her if she would like to see my wig as she commented on how amazingly real it looked.

And right then, right there, in front of about 4 other women – complete strangers – I removed my wig.

Alex was gorgeous, in awe of the amazing construction of my wig.  “You are such an interesting person, Sarah.”  No-one had ever told me was interesting.  I had always felt like the dowdy wife and mother.

I couldn’t wait to get back home to get online to tell my blogging besties of my day.  I told them about the amazing content, my fish out of water crisis and the amazing Alex, who I truly adored.

They all wrote back, frantically encouraging me, telling me that I write beautifully, that I make a difference, that I am enough.

And there it was.  My pond.  My beautiful tiny pond.  And I jumped right in.

I hope you know that if you are feeling like a fish out of water, there is a pond for you out there.  It may not be where you expect to find it, but it is out there.  I am 46 years old and I have been searching for all of my life to find a pond.  If I can find it, so can you.  Have faith in that.

Much love,

SHW Signature


Mental Illness

How to be confident – a course

I have no confidence.  It’s true.  I lack that inherent belief in myself that so many confident people seem to have.

When I was 13, my parents sent me to visit friends of theirs that lived over 600 kilometres away.  They owned horses and I was mad on horses.  My parents could not afford to buy me one, so they opted to fly me down to these friends where I would have a week of unadulterated horse heaven.

It wasn’t a great week for me.  I was, largely, neglected and ignored and I only got to ride once.  The mother yelled at her children a lot and she refused to let them call her mum.  It was very scary for me.

I stayed in my room a lot.  In that room I happen to chance upon a woman’s magazine.  I think it may have even been the first women’s magazine I had ever read.  In it was an article about some actress I didn’t know.  Immediately I noticed she had the air of confidence that I instinctively knew, even at the age of 13, I didn’t have.  The article spoke about her confidence and how at the age of thirty-something she had now reached the point where she was completely comfortable in her own skin.

Years later, in my thirties, this ‘being comfortable in your own skin’ thing was still eluding me.  I lost 30 kilograms and still didn’t feel wholly comfortable (though shopping for clothes did take on new meaning).  I read another article where another celebrity had finally discovered skin comfort in her forties.  There is hope for me yet, I thought.

Now, well into my forties, the feeling still eludes.

And so it was that I found myself at the School of Life’s workshop on How To Be Confident.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with School of Life, it was a school started by Alain de Botton and other philosophers aimed at giving people practical skills on how to deal with the living of this thing called Life.

School of Life

photo 3

It was an intimate group of people.  I was as anxious as anything, so I grabbed my friend to come along with me.

I am not going to declare that the course was life changing.  That would be silly.  And naive.

What it did do was give me some really tangible things to walk away with and work on.  It helped me to question my point of view and it also helped me realise that there are a couple areas of my life in which, when I really think about it, I am fairly confident.

Here are the nuggets that were relevant to me.  To find your own nuggets, I highly suggest you attend the course.  It is three hours of your time and you even get tea and morning snacks.  Plus, you never know who you are going to meet.

1. Identify those who you feel are confident and identify the qualities they have that you admire (Role Model 101)

Most of us struggled to identify people who are confident and who we admire.  I ended up choosing Mr C.  He is, in fact, the most confident person I know.  He has a quiet confidence though as he is an introverted person.

He has an inherent belief in himself that he can achieve anything he sets his mind to do.  He identifies something he wants to do and then he sets about mapping out a path to achieve it.

He used to run ultra marathons.  But when he left school he couldn’t run at all.  He had done absolutely no sport.  So he set himself the goal to run around the block with no stops.  Once he achieved that, he set himself the goal to run 5km, then 10km and so on until he finally ran a 90km race.  When his knees got buggered, he started to cycle and last year he cycled the last 8 stages of the Tour de France route.

2.  Confidence is about hope and trust

Continuing to use Mr C as an example, he has belief, trust if you will, that he can achieve his goal.  It is a goal in the future, it is hope for the future.  And he trusts that whilst the road may be a bit convoluted that goal can be attained.  Sometimes, it isn’t even a specific goal.

I tend to catastrophise my life.  When I hit a blip in the road, I throw my arms up, declare the world is conspiring against me and curl into a ball and howl.

His approach is completely different.  He acknowledges that life throws up at us many different bumps, but ultimately life is good, that it is meant to be good, that the end goal of a life well lived will be achieved.  His hope and faith in that never waivers.

Every year, he wakes up on new years day and declares that this is going to be the best year ever.  I get frustrated, since he declares it every year and every year we have drama.  He doesn’t care, for him it is just the journey, an adventure.  His faith in his future is unwavering.

3.  Confidence is about optimism

I didn’t like to hear this.  I am a clinically depressed person.  I get so very tired of the rhetoric that if I was just more positive I would feel so much better.

Sigh.  If only it were that easy.  But the truth is that confident people are essentially optimistic.  Hope, faith and optimism all go hand in hand.  Mr C has unrelenting optimism about the future.  Despite the blips along the way.  I say that nothing ever goes our way.  He agrees, but then highlights that we are still on our journey, moving forward.  It doesn’t matter if the journey isn’t taking a straight line, it is nevertheless moving forward.

4.  Confidence is about never taking your eye off the ball

When I started my blogging journey, I quickly bought into the numbers game.  Commercialisation of blogging has meant that numbers count – a lot.  I look at my little following and immediately I thought that I, yet again, had failed.  However, if I reframe that and say to myself that my goal is to get 1000 followers as a starting point.  If I then plot that amount on a graph, followed by plotting the followers I already have, I can see that already I have made progress.  That number will change as people drop off and people add on, but that is okay, because I know that my target is 1000 and as long as I am moving towards that, that is okay.

Confident people keep their eye on the big picture all the time. They don’t get bogged down in the minutiae.  Mr C wanted to become a Financial Director.  It took him 20 years to get there.  The person who had the role before him was much younger.  He didn’t worry about that.  He just knew that whilst it wasn’t happening as quickly as he liked he was still moving forward.  Now he is there, he has set another goal.  Another few years perhaps, but that is okay.

5.  Confidence is about running your own race and being prepared to take risks

Setbacks in life are natural.  Fear is also natural.  I, for one, know that I let the fear of failure prevent me from even beginning.  I tell myself that I have no right to write or create because I am not JK Rowling, or some other major creative superstar.

Mr C on the other hand does not try to be like anyone else.  He is not the fastest runner or cyclist, he is not a career superstar.  But he knows that what he does is enough.  For him.  And him alone.  He does not worry what other people say or think.  He is comfortable in his own skin and he’s comfortable running his own race.  He doesn’t compare himself to others because he inherently knows that “Comparison is the thief of joy”.

He doesn’t consider failure as the end of the world.  He acknowledges that today’s run wasn’t that good and endeavours to do better tomorrow.

6.  Confidence is a process, surround yourself with those that support the process

No-one ever woke up one day and found they were brilliant at something.  Even Mozart and Picasso had to have had lessons in their prospective arts.  They just practised until they became really good.  Okay, brilliant.

In this fast tracked, very visual world we live in, there is an expectation that we place on ourselves that says we should be brilliant at whatever we turn our hand to in a very short space of time.  The reality is that it takes time to find confidence in something.  It takes time to become experienced at something well enough that we can safely say we are good at it.  And we fail to understand that mastering something doesn’t mean we have to be brilliant at it.

Mr C knows that he is competent at running and cycling.  The very act of achieving the long distance events is enough for him.    He has surrounded himself with people who support that endeavour.  They push him, yes, to be better, to go further, but they don’t berate him for not being fast enough, or strong enough.  They encourage him.

I, on the other hand, have previously surrounded myself with people that have reinforced my own opinion that I am not good enough.  They have been more than happy to oblige in telling me where I am falling short, rather than focussing their efforts on what I have achieved and how I might go about achieving even more.

And there you have it – my nuggets.  I learned a lot in those three hours.  I learned about the applicable habits of those who are confident.  I learned that confidence can be learned.  If we can convince ourselves to take the risk of failure, take that leap of faith, and believe that we can achieve the small goal on the way to achieving the big goal, then our path to confidence will be secured.

If we can understand that set backs happen, that there will always be someone out there more competent than us, but that is okay because it is not about them, but about us, and our own race, then we will finally start beginning to be comfortable, be confident, in our skin.

I also learned that a lot of women were quite interested in meeting my husband, but that is another story entirely.

Much love,

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Domestic Violence + Dr Phil – STOP VICTIM BLAMING!

Friday saw the last day of term.  I love the school holidays.  No rushed mornings and lazy days.  They suit my personality perfectly.

In preparation for the holidays, after I picked up Master J from school, I decided to clear out the pantry.  It was such a mess and my anxiety levels rose every single time I opened the door.  Something had to be done.

To make the onerous task more bearable, I had the TV going and in a completely uncharacteristic move, Master J decided to join me in the lounge (it’s an open plan house).  As I was emptying bucket loads of food I’d had since around 2008, Mr Phil came onto the screen.

I used to love Dr Phil – when I was much younger.  I quickly outgrew him though.  I found the pop psychology in the name of entertainment excruciating to watch.  People at their most vulnerable, pouring out their hearts in front of a live audience, in front of the world, all for television ratings would make me feel quite ill.

When it came on I was tempted to turn it over, but a) I couldn’t find the wretched remote and b) I was knee deep in plastic containers and rotting food, so it stayed on.

Before long I was yelling at the TV.  The episode, first aired in 2012,  was about a young woman, Hillary Adams, who had released onto You Tube a video of her father, William Adams, beating her with a belt a few years earlier when she was 16.  Her father, a prominent judge in Texas, hit her no less than 16 times whilst she screamed for him to stop.  The mother then took the belt and hit her as well.  I’m not going to post a link to the video that she taped, but I will say that if someone goes to the lengths to tape her father beating her, that is a sure sign that regular abuse is going on.

Dr Phil handled it appallingly.  He first of all attacked the mother for not only not protecting Hillary, but instead belting her as well.  Hillary tried to defend her mother, with whom she clearly has a good relationship.  The mother has left the father.  Dr Phil refused to let Hillary speak in defence of her mother, instead insisting the mother answer questions about her complicity in the act and the fact that she didn’t protect her child.

In principle, what he says is true.  It is our responsibility as parents to protect our children, of course it is.  However, it is a known fact that women who are systematically abused in a relationship lose all sense of reason.  They have been so systematically demoralised, dehumanised and emotionally abused that they firmly believe that they have no alternative than to stay with the man, and put up with the abuse doled out on a regular basis.

As ugly as it is to admit, they even partake in child abuse, believing that their abuse is better to the child than that of the primary abuser.  Of course, they are wrong, and it does perpetuate the abuse, but the plain fact is that fear is a very strong motivator.

The mother had left the husband, admitted her role in the abuse, profusely apologised for it, had explained that she was ashamed and had worked hard to repair her relationship with her daughter.

Still, Dr Phil grilled the mother so much that Hillary, the abuse victim, felt compelled to defend her mother.  Not content with the mother’s alleged complicity, he then turned his attention to Hillary.  He demanded to know why she had waited so long to release the video, why she had mentioned that she had a disability (she was born with cerebral palsy), why she had downloaded illegal music from the internet (the reason she was beaten).  He also asked if she had timed the release of her video on purpose to coincide with his campaign for re-election as a county court judge.

This is victim blaming at its worst.  Hillary handled the situation beautifully.  Her replies were insightful and articulate, belying her young age.

Incredulously, Dr Phil then went on to say that, in the name of balance, he had asked William to come on the show.  Unsurprisingly he had declined, but had given a set of questions that he would like answered by Hillary.  Dr Phil then admitted he had not in fact spoken to William himself, but would like to ask the questions anyway.

I could not believe what I was watching.  Here was an alleged qualified psychologist asking a victim to answer questions from her abuser.  All in the name of ‘balance’.  Does he know nothing about the power differential between the abuser and his victim?

I was so glad that Master J had decided to watch this with me.  He witnessed the perpetuated abuse by Dr Phil, the victim blaming.  He got it.  My 16 year old son with autism so got how wrong this was.  He didn’t look at it and question the women, he questioned why Dr Phil did not believe these women.

Even with the video evidence (which was played repeatedly), these two women were interrogated as to their motives, the frequency with which the abuse occurred, whether the younger sister had also been abused, about the trauma that was caused to the father and how they felt about it.

Dr Phil had an opportunity.  An opportunity to send a very clear message that any abuse, even if it is perpetrated just once, on only one member of the family is NOT okay.  He had an opportunity, as a very public figure to send the message that violence against women is wrong and, more than that, should end now!

But he blew it.  Instead he used it as an opportunity to humiliate Hillary’s mother, causing Hillary to feel even further guilt and victimisation.  He used it as an opportunity to imply that these women were using domestic violence and the timed release of the video to bring about the downfall of William Adams.  Rather than saying the man is getting what he deserves, he mentioned how children need to be disciplined, just not in such an abusive manner, implying that William Adams was perhaps a tad ‘heavy handed’.

We do not get to judge these women.  We have not walked in their shoes.  We don’t get to question them on the level of abuse they have endured nor the validity of it.  Yet this is exactly what Dr Phil did.  Constantly, systematically, methodically, whilst running the cold, hard evidence of abuse on a loop.  The whole thing made absolutely no sense other than to further victimise Hillary and her mother.

Why is it that society insists on assuming that these women lie about their abuse to bring about the downfall of men?  Why is it that society perpetuates the notion that the abuse isn’t really as bad as they say it is?

Is it hardly a wonder that women stay in these abusive relationships?  Why would they leave when no-one believes them?

Dr Phil didn’t take note when Hillary mentioned that William presided over child abuse cases, yet was a child abuser himself.   That fact didn’t seem relevant or important to his line of questioning.

At the end of the program, Dr Phil then went on to thank his guests and then asked Hillary how she felt about what she had put her father through.  What SHE had put HIM through!!  What about what HE had put HER through?  Hillary was forced to say that she was sorry for the trauma she was causing him, that she just wanted him to get help, that she loved him and wanted a relationship with him.

My heart broke.  I screamed in frustration.

I abhor Dr Phil even more now.  The level of pop-psychology where highly vulnerable people are trotted across our screens in the name of ratings is highly repulsive to me.  I know people will say that they ask for it, that they are aware of what Dr Phil does.  I disagree.  I think these people are so desperate that they truly believe he will help them.   Instead he is laughing all the way to the bank.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, please know this:

There are people out there who believe in you.  They believe your story and will not ask you to justify it, prove it, or anything else.  There are avenues by which you can leave your abusive partner and there are people who will support and nurture you whilst you try to build your broken life.  It can be done.  It is frightening and programs like Dr Phil help to reinforce the hopelessness of the situation, but please know, he does NOT speak for all of us.

I am setting up a resource section on my blog, please do look there for places where you can find help.

Dr Phil, you should be ashamed of yourself.  If you have any self-reflective ability, I would look back on the taping of this show and seriously question what you were trying to achieve here, because from where my son and I were sitting, all you achieved was to further humiliate these women, and reinforce the notion that domestic abuse is not really an issue.  And you are so very very wrong.

Until next time,

SHW Signature





The iPhone 6 has been released into the world

I’m sitting outside the Telstra store, enjoying my ritual medium cappuccino and berry muffin.  It isn’t very diet friendly, but, you know, who cares.

There is an enormous queue coming out of the store.  Pink and silver balloons adorn the door in a come hither welcome arch.  The door is closed, allowing only a certain number of people in at a time.  I have been here for about an hour and the queue has been constant.  This is a small centre, compared to one of the bigs ones, like Fountain Gate or Chadstone.  I shudder to think what their queues might be like.

I totally bought into the hype.  But I couldn’t queue.  I look at it now and I realise I should have queued.  I’d have the phone by now.  But, even though I am of British descent (us Brits are born queuing), I cannot queue.  Instead I ordered mine online and can expect it in 3-4 weeks.  I’m totally okay with that.

People are leaving the store all gleeful and happy.  Some have already removed the phones from their packaging by the time they emerge from the store, clinging onto their new purchase as if it is a rare diamond just pulled out of the earth.

Apple and Telstra are doing their own dance of joy right now.

Optus is next door to Telstra.  There is no queue outside Optus.  This is a perfect example of the David and Goliath story, except in this story Goliath is winning.  There is a sign outside of Optus saying that they have no stock.  Telstra clearly has an unlimited supply.  I wonder how the Apple store is doing?

I saunter into Optus.  They have the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus on display.  No-one is in the store because they have no phones available to sell.

I hold the iPhone 6 in my hands.  It is slim, light and quite beautiful in design.  Larger than my current iPhone 4.  It feels very good in my hands.  The iPhone 6 Plus is huge by comparison.  Having had a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 before I knew I did not want another unwieldy phone.  Despite its obvious beauty, the iPhone 6 Plus is, to me, unwieldy.  My heart quickens to think I will have one of these babies in my hands very soon.

I ask the man at the counter if he thinks the iPhone 6 Plus will affect sales of the iPad Mini.  He says that he does think it will affect it, although perhaps not.  Not a fence sitter at all then.

I worry about our consumerism.  All the waste that is created in the world.  I worry that each year a new phone comes out and millions of us rush to buy it because we believe our lives will be so much better, more functional, more organised with it.  I think how much better it would be if all those old phones could be harvested, refurbished and given to those in less developed countries.  The implications could be far reaching.  Wouldn’t it be good if there was some social enterprise that supplied the technology so that people in remote areas would have access to information, education, online health help.  I wonder about the components of the phone and how a recycle scheme would be so good for our planet.  As I look at the Telstra store, I imagine a bin outside where you could drop your phone, where a recycle scheme could be put in place, not for profit, but for the good of the planet.

I sigh.

I am torn between my obsessive love for technology and the world that suffers for it.  I am, it is true, a hypocrite.

I wonder if the person that developed gun powder imagined all the good that could come of it.  How it might be used to move mountains, to connect communities, to enable a better quality of life.  I wonder if he realised the implications of a product that has the very real potential of bringing down the world.  I wonder if he imagined it being used for death and destruction where the only winners are the people that make the ammunition.

It is the same with phones.  Technology is exponential.  Demand for newer, better, faster unrelenting.  The world is heaving under a weight of discarded technology.  I am a part of that.  I don’t have to be, I have have a choice.  I choose to be a part of it.  But my own choice comes with guilt and some awareness.

I watch the queue of people stream into the store and wonder how aware they are, how much of a conscious choice they are making, or if, indeed they are just following the carefully crafted marketing that says your life will be meaningless without one.

Have to go now, got to get home just in case the post man has a parcel for me…

Have you got the new iPhone 6, are you planning to get one?  Leave a comment or visit my Facebook page to give your thoughts?

Until next time,

SHW Signature


Is Australia really facing a terror threat?


The news has been full today with images of police raids on homes in Guildford in Sydney and the arrest of one Omarjan Azari.  This comes just days after Tony Abbott announced that Australia would be joining the US-led anti ISIS campaign in Iraq.

It needs to be said that I am a cynical person when it comes to this government.  I do not believe that they have the best interests of the Australian people at heart.  My instinct tells me that this is very much a politically motivated move by the government to get the Australian people on-side, much like John Howard did with the supposed threat of the boat people, post 9-11, sparking the Pacific Solution in 2002.  Boat people did not represent a threat then, as they don’t now.  Howard needed the people to think that there was a threat and that he was doing something about it to get re-elected.  It worked.

The 2014 budget has been an awful blow to the Australian public.  One promise after another has been broken by this government, affecting every day Australians on the ground, whilst big business continues to flourish.  The move to join the war in Iraq was indeed a blow, costing Australian tax payers a lot of money – money that we are being denied in our own country.  People were not happy.  People were justifiably questioning why all this money was being spent on the war, when our most vulnerable were being cast aside, left to fend for themselves.  The already flailing government fell even further in the polls.

Something was needed to bring the threat to our shores, to make it more real, and the decision to back the US more justifiable.

This, of course, sounds like a conspiracy theory and rightly so.

Because it isn’t without precedent.

In 2001, an Australian citizen, Mamdouh Habib, was illegally arrested in Islamabad for defending two German tourists who were being accused of terrorism on a tourist bus by Pakistani policemen.  He was tortured then sent to Guantanamo where he was further tortured for three years.  He was released without charge in 2005 and since then has had his allegations of the Australian government being aware of his torture verified.  His illegal arrest was made at a time when John Howard sought to increase the anti-terror laws giving the ASIO even more powers against Australian liberties and to show the US that Australia would do what it can to help the US military effort.  Habib was the perfect vehicle by which to do that.  Australia, at the time, was not under direct threat, yet a perceived threat needed to be created.

And then there is the case of Izhar Ul-Haque.  In November 2003, approximately 25 ASIO officers and a few policemen arrested 21 year old Ul-Haque, took him to a park and interrogated him for hours and hours.  They then moved him to his parents house and interrogated him again, whilst the 30 or so officers searched his house.  He was charged with training with a Pakistan-based terror group.  In 2007, the case was thrown out of court with a scathing attack on the ASIO by the judge for the irregularities with which they conducted their investigation and subsequent arrest.  There was no evidence to substantiate the allegations.  There simply was no case.  It was all politically motivated as John Howard was again seeking to hand down even more anti-terrorism, anti-freedom laws.  Interestingly, this is what was reported on the Green Left website at the time:

During the pre-trial hearing on October 24, Kemuel Lam Paktsun, a senior counter-terrorism officer with the AFP, testified that police were directed to charge “as many suspects as possible” with terrorism offences following the enactment in 2003 of the new anti-terrorism laws.

“At the time, we were directed, we were informed, to lay as many charges under the new terrorist legislation against as many suspects as possible because we wanted to use the new legislation. So regardless of the assistance that Mr Ul-Haque could give, he was going to be prosecuted, charged, because we wanted to test the legislation and lay new charges, in our eagerness to use the legislation”, Lam Paktsun said.

And now today, just days after the announcement of further amendments being made to the anti-terrorism/anti-freedom laws, including Australia entering Iraq, another raid has taken place and another arrest has been made.

Tony Abbott has come out saying that this isn’t conjecture, that a phone call was intercepted with specific instructions for Azari to take a member of the public and behead them.  This is pretty terrifying stuff.  The mass media coverage makes it feel like an attack is imminent.  People I know on Facebook have even been saying that they want to move countries (where to I am not sure).

My question is this:

Is the threat of terror that Azari allegedly poses more of a threat, say, than to the half a million women who are beaten and abused each year by men in this country.  Is it more of a threat than those that are killed by these men.  Because you do know that domestic violence is the leading cause of death in women below the age of 45?

Is the threat he poses more of a threat than the nearly 300 murders (that’s nearly one a day) that are committed each year?

How about the 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys who will be sexually abused before the age of 18?

How about the 100 plus cases of Catholic sexual abuses brought against Catholic priests, and how about those that will never get to court and continue as we speak?

Does he represent more of a threat than these, I wonder.

I have to ask, where is the imminent threat?  Why make such a massive deal out of it?  Why terrify the Australian people in such a fashion?  Because when you think about it, we have more threat to us with our own people, than we do with fanatics who have some cocked up ideology they think they are fighting for.

The reality is that with all those raids that they did last night, they made one arrest of one man who was allegedly given orders to behead someone.  Allegedly.

What we saw today was a well orchestrated media circus.  And we sucked it in.  We are terrified, petrified that our way of life is at risk, that we are going to be overrun by a race of people who will behead us and remove our liberties.

At the Nuremberg Trials, Herman Goering, one of Hitler’s henchmen, was asked how so many Germans went along with the Nazis.  He famously said:

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.

All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.

It works in any country.

What we are witnessing today is mass hysteria.  A very well orchestrated PR job to terrify the Australian public to gain even further political power.  Every news item I watched where experts were trotted out, each one was asked what the threat was to Australia and not one of them gave a “We are under imminent threat” reply.  They simply side stepped the question by saying that we need to be vigilant.

Should we be watching vigilantly what is going on with the rest of the world and manage our own security?  Of course we should.

Should we be terrifying the Australian public, leading them to believe that there is more of a threat than there actually is – of course not.

We have more chance of being eaten by a shark than the kind of threat the media plastered all over the news today.  Funny how we never see domestic violence in the news.

All I am suggesting is that people maintain perspective, that people look at the past and not fall for the same rhetoric time and again.  All I ask is that some common sense be applied.  Because what we saw today is going to incite more violence than it should.  It will cause people in our own country to turn on each other.  And that scares the crap out of me.

I leave you with this TED talk by Hans and Ola Rosling, whose work proves that things are rarely as bad as they seem.


Until next time,

SHW Signature


Bullying – a short story


Master J refused to go to school yesterday.

After one almighty melt down yesterday, and some pretty uncharacteristic behaviour, we managed to get out of him that a new boy had come to the school and decided that Master J would be the target of his new stomping ground.

Master J has difficulty tying his tie.  Every morning, we run through the process of how to do it, but it is proving elusive for him to do it on his own.  There is a lot of dexterity that goes into tying a tie.

This boy, much bigger than Master J, was astute enough to work out that this tie tying thing was a problem.  So he started to pull the tie so hard that Master J would be forced to fix it.  Of course, he struggled and so the big boy and others – Master J’s friends of four years – would laugh.

And then for good measure : “Hey Master J, I fucked your mother.”

For any child to be bullied in this fashion is excruciating, but for a child on the spectrum it is a fate worse than death.  They are not equipped with the language skills to fight back – they feel like they are swimming against the tide as it is and with bullying, it is like someone is holding their heads under water.  Their world spins out of control and the only way they can cope is to withdraw to where it is safe, never to emerge again.

I was furious.  Mr C was furious.

We have fought 4 long years to get Master J to the point where he believes in himself, believes he can hope to have a future of fulfilled independence.  And there is no way I’m letting this boy ruin it for him.

Mr C was tempted to go to school pickup, walk up to the boy and say “I believe you’re fucking my wife”.  But, as tempting as that is, confronting a 16 year old in this fashion is definitely not the way to go.

I went down to school.  I’m always going down to school.

They were shocked, horrified at what the boy had said.  I was not so concerned with what he had said, as I was with what he was doing – manhandling and belittling my son, eroding his already cut glass fragile self esteem.

They would deal with it they said.

Master J had specifically asked to be consulted as to what should happen.  He is petrified that he will be targeted even more.  Bullies rely on that fear.  It is how they operate, it is how they gain strength.

But this bully did not count on me.

I used to be bullied at school.  A girl relentlessly bullied me in primary school.  I would tell my mom and, in her naiveté, she believed that children were just mean to each other and it would pass.  Perhaps she even believed that it would toughen me up since I was so sensitive.  The bullying was methodical and relentless.  Once the girl ran up behind me just as I left the school grounds, hit me so hard that I fell to the floor.  I cried, my knee grazed and bleeding.  She laughed and not one person, not one adult person, of which there were many, came to my aid.  My bag and all its contents were strewn across the road.  I had to dodge cars to pick it all up since I knew that we had no more money to replace them.

My parents opted to send me to a private school for my secondary schooling – a school well out of our catchment area.  There are no words to describe the relief I felt, only to have that feeling dashed on the first day of school when I discovered her parents had done the same thing.  The bullying continued.  It culminated in her hitting me so hard in the locker room that I fell to the floor and pee’d myself.  I was 14 and rather than face the entire locker room with my pool of piss, I pretended I had fainted. Except my acting skills were clearly not that great, since everyone just stepped over me and I remember someone yelling at me to move out of the way of their locker.  They all left and I got up from the floor.  It was only the kindness of an older girl, and a subsequent rugby playing boyfriend,  that made the following two years bearable.

It is safe to say I have little time for bullies.  It is also safe to say that I strongly believe as parents we have a responsibility to protect our children.  I never leave the process to the school alone.  They do prefer that the parents don’t get involved, but the reality is that they need the support of the parents.  And if they don’t get results, then I wouldn’t hesitate to move my son or get the police involved, I just wouldn’t.

It is also important for my son to know that he is not alone.  It is the kids that feel alone that feel they need to take their lives in these bullying incidents.  The kids, of course, are not alone, but they believe they are.  It is really really important that my son knows he is not alone, that we are in his corner, that we believe him and believe IN him.

As it stands, the bullying hasn’t reached critical mass. It is some manhandling and insults.  Nevertheless, it cannot be allowed to continue, or worse, escalate.  I trust the school will do what it can and I trust that come the end of this week, my son will once again feel safe at school. This boy, I am hoping, just needs a bit of guidance, a bit of gentle persuasion to go in another, less violating direction.

Master J has agreed to go to school today.  I’m not sure the school knows how brave and courageous that is of him. To have Anxiety Disorder on top of his Autism and still face the bully.  He feels sick, like a lamb going to be slaughtered.

The school will talk to Master J and together they will decide on a strategy that will involve no threat to Master J.  And I will be waiting in the wings, via phone calls and emails, so that Master J knows he is not alone.  Because there is strength in numbers.  And no one should have to face bullying alone.

If you are being bullied, at school, in the work place, or anywhere, please speak up.  Please don’t put up with it. Please make a change that means that you are safe.  At the very least, we should feel safe in our own existence.  And know that in this space, you are safe.

Until next time,

SHW Signature