Mental Illness


My word for this year is HEALTH.  Whilst I intended this primarily to mean physical health, due to the fact that I had an awful physical time of it last year, I realise that health means good mental wellbeing too.

I have clinical depression.  I try to ignore it, but like most things detrimental to our health, unless you deal with it, the black dog will not be silenced.

This past week has seen it rear its ugly head good and proper.

Partly, it’s hormonal.  My PMS is shocking.  I become suicidal and demented and I want to rip my eyes out.  It is a type of manic darkness that is frightening, nay terrifying, and one I wouldn’t want to wish upon my worst enemy.

Partly, it is because I am tired.  It was a long year last year, and whilst delightful, the long school holiday break has not been all that restful.

Mostly, though, it is because I haven’t really dealt with it.  Not really.  Not at the level I need to if I am to see any sustained recovery.

And so with my word HEALTH in hand, I decided to sign up for Rick Hanson’s The Foundation of Wellbeing course*.  Rick Hanson for the uninitiated is a neuropsychologist who has written a number of books on happiness and wellbeing.  The course itself consists of 12 pillars and it is recommended that each pillar be taken over  a period of a month in order to assimilate and practice the skills learned.

The start of the program, January for me, is about self caring – the foundation upon which all else comes.  It is about befriending yourself, being your own advocate, being your own cheer buddy, being there for yourself when times get tough.

I am so bad at this.  I advocate for other people all the time, yet judge myself so harshly.  Mr C will often lament that I take the best parts of everybody I meet, mash them together and try to be an amalgamation of all of the best bits of all of the people I ever meet.  An impossibility of course.

The result is that I fail, time and again.  It feeds my lack of self worth like a self perpetuating downward spiral.  And because I am constantly scanning other people for their “good bits” and trying to apply them to my own life, I have lost my own sense of self.  And that is a terrible thing to live with.

Have you seen those things that say “find your purpose”, and in it they say “what is your passion, for that is your purpose,” or “what is the one thing you would do if money was no object?”  Do you have an answer ready?  I don’t.  I don’t have a bloody clue.  I just stare blankly at the page, because I don’t seem to have a passion, a burning desire, or one thing that I would rather be doing.  I’m too busy trying to assimilate traits that I feel would make me a better person, a more valued person, a less judged person, a person worthy of life and living.

And it is tiring.  Oh my word, it is so tiring.  Judging oneself so harshly takes effort.  Enormous effort.  And of course, because they are other peoples’ traits, it is almost impossible to make them my own.  They are counterintuitive to who I am, yet I no longer have a clue as to “who I am” is anymore.

And so I become demented.  Crazed.  An internal inferno burning my mind, like a fuse lit at one end of my brain that rages through every neurone that exists until I feel an imminent explosion.   It is at this point I can sympathise with those people who self harm, because it is in those moments that I feel the very same urge, though have never gone through with it.

Have you heard the story of the two wolves?  I have heard a number of versions of the story, and forgive me if you have heard it, but it goes something like this.  A boy asks his grandfather how he came to be so wise and so contented in life, how he always manages to see the good and lets the bad just pass on through.  The grandfather looks at his grandson and says “My boy, there are with us at all times two wolves.  One is full of hate and anger, one is full of love and peace.  I just give the one full of love and peace more attention.”

At this point in time, I am aware that I am giving the wolf of depression, as I like to call him, way more attention.  It consumes me, baring its teeth at me, orange eyes flashing wickedly at my soul.  I love wolves, but I know too that they represent a shadow side to me that feels like it has control.

This is my year to wrestle back that control, to give the wolf of love and peace the attention it deserves and to find some respite for my mind that is so weary, so beaten, so broken.

Depression is such a horrible thing, so debilitating, more debilitating than most people imagine.  But I can’t give up.  I have to realise my quest of what peace of mind actually feels like, of what a life of meaning and purpose feels like, and until I find it, until I achieve it, I will not give up.

I hope you don’t give up either.

I have hope for the Rick Hanson programme.  I like him and I certainly enjoyed my first session.  It makes total sense to me.  First be a friend to yourself.  I can do that.  Surely, I can do that.

Until next time,

SHW Signature



* This is not a sponsored post at all.




When going on holiday I find that it is the little things that make all the difference, don’t you?

You know what I mean – the little extras that make your accommodation, and thus your trip, that much of a nicer place to be.  Those things that make your life that much easier, and a true break for you and your family.

We have just come back from a lovely holiday to Daylesford.

When we book a holiday, we always book self catering and we always book something with airconditioning.  Having a child on the spectrum means we have to think of these sorts of things.

But sometimes, things don’t go to plan.

We arrived at the booking agent to collect the keys to the villa we had booked.  We decided to stay close to town so that when Master J, nearly 17 now, wanted to go on one of his walks – three every single day – we weren’t in an isolated region where my paranoia would wreak total and utter havoc.  This came at a sizeable cost.

It was hot when we arrived, 38 degrees and climbing.  I could not wait to get into our air-conditioned villa and later soak in the hot tub that wouldn’t be that hot because we would have turned off the heating element.

Oh no, that villa isn’t air-conditioned,” the lovely lady sweetly told us.

It definitely said it had air-conditioning,” I protested.

No,” she said, looking at her computer screen, “it definitely says ceiling fans only.

Having a child on the spectrum means that planning is of the utmost importance.  A week of extreme temperatures were forecast, with fires raging through South Australia, the next state over, already.  As I let the words sink in of a week of such temperatures and nothing more than two measly ceiling fans to cool us, I started to get agitated.

I grabbed my phone to download the listing on the accommodation website through which we had booked.  I knew it would be futile.  At this time of year we would be really lucky to find somewhere else.  Being in the country meant very little reception and the website wouldn’t load.

But we booked an air-conditioned villa,” I protested again.

Don’t worry,” she said, again sweetly, “the ceiling fans have been on all day, and a lovely breeze will be blowing in there.

Mr C squeezed my arm, which is his way of saying “please don’t make a scene.”

Once in the car, hot and extremely irate, I expressed the fact that we should have pressed the matter and demanded a place with an air conditioner.

It will be fine,” he said.

We arrived at the villa and as soon as we opened the door a wall of heat greeted us.  True to her word, the villa ceiling fans were indeed going like the clappers.  But it didn’t matter, all they were doing was passing around 38 degree heat, that felt even hotter inside.

Master J felt it too.

It’s stinking hot in here.  And it’s so tiny.

It was true.  The photos on the online listing made it look so much bigger than it actually was.  The bedrooms were large, but the living space was tiny indeed.  It felt like we had been duped.

I managed to log on and get a copy of the features listed on the website.  Sure enough, there it was – AIR CONDITIONING!

Original Stayz Listing

Mr C reminded me that we were booked during peak season, that we were tired, that finding a place during the high season with our list of requirements was going to be nigh on impossible and we were NOT driving back to Melbourne after demanding a refund we were highly unlikely to get.

After a couple of hours, I phoned the booking agent.

I didn’t even try to hide my irritation.  “I’m sorry but the two ceiling fans are not going to cut it.  We would never have booked this villa had we known that there was no air conditioning.  Can you at least send over a couple of standing fans to create a bit of a cross breeze?

We tried to open the windows as a breeze had started outside.  Unfortunately there were no screens on the windows which meant that we were unable to open the windows if we wanted the inside to remain bug free.

A man arrived with the fans.  By this time, we had also tried the TV which didn’t work, so he set about trying to fix that too.

As we unpacked the food for a family of three/four we realised with dismay that the fridge was little more than a bar fridge and that in this heat the majority of what we brought would not go in the fridge and would likely spoil.

As we continued throughout the house, we realised that whilst it “looked” well appointed, it was in fact miserably lacking; the ironing board didn’t work, the shower leaked, the potato peeler didn’t work, the sharp knife wasn’t sharp, there was no bread knife.  In fact, despite appearances the entire accommodation made our stay far harder than it needed to be, especially for the money we paid.

I checked the listing again.  They had changed it!

Altered features listing

They had removed about half the features including the air conditioning.  Luckily, though I don’t know why really, I had taken a screen shot of the before features listing and now had an after features listing shot as well as well.

I have no idea what to do with it mind you.

Customer service is so woefully lacking in this country.  We whinge, we complain, but we have no teeth against the people that have our money and deliver far less than they promise.

We paid for Gold class tickets recently, and our host forgot to come and get us meaning we missed the start of the movie.  When I wrote to complain, I received a letter thanking me for letting them know.  Whilst I appreciated the letter of acknowledgement, what I rightfully expected was a refund since my experience was not Gold Class at all.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a rotating hair drier.  Such was the force of the rotation that I ran the risk of it  pulling the hair out of my wig.  I returned the drier, but not after I was humiliatingly interrogated in a shop full of people, as to why I had bought it in the first place if I knew it was a rotating drier and had I used it because then they couldn’t resell it and thus refund me the money.

I had to return a pair of glasses for the third time as the optometrist had given me the wrong prescription.  When I asked for a refund on lenses I no longer needed, I was accused of trying to garner a discount and that the reason I had been given the wrong prescription is that I had answered the questions incorrectly!!  When I responded with removal of my business I was met with “Well, that’s your choice.”

And therein lies the problem.  We are treated, as customers in this country, with disdain.  We are treated as if everyone is wondering around trying to get something for nothing, as if we are stealing something by asking to get what we actually paid for when it wasn’t delivered.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I grew up in South Africa.  When I lived there, customer service was incredible.  It was valued and highly regarded.  It also garnered incredible customer loyalty, the lynch pin of any business.

Look at Apple.  How many of us oo and ah at the service you receive in that store.

My friend recently collected a new Ford and despite it being a small entry level car, they made her feel like a million dollars.  There was tea, cake, an unveiling of the car and a sign with her name on it.  You can bet your bottom dollar she will buy Ford again.

Customer service is about creating an experience for your customer that they will never forget.  It doesn’t cost a lot.  But it lasts a long time.  It creates life time loyalty. It is a worthy investment.  Believe me.

We ended up having a lovely holiday despite our accommodation.  I still feel cheated.  The nightly rate was in no way reflective of what we actually received, plus there was false advertising which the booking agent then tried to cover up.  It was dishonest and that soured the experience.  I will never use them again.  Ever.

Please know this:

If we buy something that is not “fit for purpose”, our statutory right says that we are allowed to return it within a period of time.  If we pay for a service that does not deliver what we paid for, we are entitled to a refund.  Please, please fight for your rights.  Please keep pushing for better service.  It will not change if we don’t push for change.  We are not asking for anything to which we aren’t entitled.  We are asking for the retail industry to stop, to stop not delivering what people have paid for.

How has your customer experience been lately?  Has it changed recently do you think?  And if so, why do you imagine that would be?

Have a super day,


SHW Signature


I love that I have a voice


It’s a strange thing, isn’t it?  This notion of having a voice.  We see it bandied about so much.  “You are so lucky to have a voice.”  “Use your voice.” “I’m entitled to use my voice.” “I can use my voice to say whatever I like.

But it isn’t the fact that we have a voice that really matters.

It is what we do with it.

We have to ask ourselves, are we using it to add to the world, or to take away from it.

It’s safe to say that the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot had big voices, voices that reverberated across the globe.  Voices that removed the human from humanity.  They did not use their voices to add to the world.

We aren’t so much lucky to have a voice as we are lucky to have a choice.  We live in a time and place where the ability to use the voice isn’t up for debate.  It is how we choose to use that voice that causes some dissent.  We are torn between our growing Western belief that we have a right to say whatever we like versus the inner knowledge that we are born to create, to connect, to add to the world.

Become clear on what it is you want to say, what it is you want to put out into the world, how you want to make it a better place.

I choose to use my voice to highlight the ills that I see in the world, to talk about living with depression, to discuss parenting a child with autism, to try to bring a little more kindness into the world.  Those are my choices.

That is my purpose.

I received in my email today a message from Seth Godin.  I am not a business person, I have nothing to market.  He is a world famous marketer.  But he uses his considerable blogging clout to say so much more.  He chooses to encourage people and businesses (who let’s face it, are always run by people) to be better – better at humanity.  He strives to make a difference.  And he asks us to do the same.  He asks us to think about what it is we really want to send out into the world.  He asks us to contemplate how we want our customers to feel.  He asks us to question what legacy we really want to leave behind.

This very week, I was left feeling humiliated in a store by a store manager who public accused me of trying to garner a further $50 discount when I questioned the less-than-transparent pricing structure of the business.  I had already spent a considerable amount of money but when I came to collect my goods, which took over a month for them to get right, I was asked to pay a further $50.  I questioned their methodology and he chose to go on the defensive and humiliate me.  His voice reverberated across that store and at me as a person.  I will never step inside that store again.  I wonder if he reflected on how he made me feel as a customer.  I wonder if this is really what he intended.  Was this the lasting impression he wanted to leave? Probably not.

We always have a choice.  No matter how crappy our day, no matter how bad things seem, a simple voice of respect, dignity, gentility is always always possible.  Going that extra mile is always possible.  We don’t always feel like it, I know.  Lord knows, I have bad days.  But I am trying to be better.  I am trying to use my voice to send out better things into the world.

Goodness knows the world needs it.

I love that I have a voice.  I love that I have this platform on which to use my voice.  I love that I have a choice on how I am able to use that voice.

Today, with only 28 days until Christmas and all the frantic running around that tends to bring, I am going to try to do better, to be better, to choose to use my voice for better.  How about you?

Until next time,

SHW Signature




This post was written as part of #reverb14 – a blogging initiative hosted by Kat McNally.  The month of December is a good time to reflect on the year that was and for us to contemplate the reverberations that we send out into the world.  Please do hop on over to Kat’s blog and if you feel moved to do so, please join in.