Allowing myself to be cared for is hard

Allowing myself to be cared for is hard

In fact, it has been my most important,

most difficult,

challenge this week.

 

Sure, my ovaries feel like someone is pinching them constantly

my bowel is working at about 10% capacity to what it should

just doing something simple like washing my dishes requires a recovery nap

I have to force psyllium husk down me, gagging all the way

my insides are screaming as they adjust to being scraped free of endometriosis

And these are hard experiences

But allowing myself to be cared for is harder.

 

Going from being a strong, independent, carer-of-others

to being a pained, tired, mouse-in-need-of-care

in a matter of hours

is harder for me than the physical demands of major surgery

Because allowing myself to be cared for is hard.

 

A mouse, is who I feel like

a tiny, vulnerable mouse

ill, exhausted, and weak

in need of a gentle, helping hand to carry it through life

and I’m not used to being the mouse

I’m usually the helping hand

a role which I purposefully assign myself

because allowing myself to be cared for is hard.

 

But this is good, important learning

not only is this journey healing me of endometriosis

a disease which has seriously held me back for so long

it is teaching me the beauty of allowing myself to be cared for

and gosh, is it beautiful

so, so difficult

but so, so beautiful.

 

Because I am a child of God

a child who needs care from God’s carers

these wonderful humans around me who love me with God’s love

who care for me with God’s care

and who teach me to allow myself to be cared for

 

Because allowing myself to be cared for is hard…

and so, so beautiful.

 

HE TANGATA: Chicken ‘n’ Chips

It’s a drizzly Auckland Tuesday morning and I’m sitting in a kebab shop on K road waiting for my decided-upon lunch for work that day.  The shop owner seems, well let’s just say, less than pleased to be standing over hot grills at 8 o’clock in the morning. He glumly stirs my falafel as if it is the embodiment of his miserable fate.

Much to my relief, the next customer totally saves the vibe.

A rather short and nimble fellow with an orange high-vis jacket, shorts that used to be white, joint in hand, and no shoes plods into the store, managing to pull off an impression of both walking on air and having weights in his ankles all in one go. His cheerful whistles and rhythmic swagger are refreshing.

Without looking at the menu, he proclaims his order:

 

“Chicken ‘n’ chips please boss”

*blank expression and no reply from behind the till*

“Boss, chicken ‘n’ chips please boss thanks”

*more hesitation*

“boss?”

“Do you mean the Deluxe Wings Combo? Or the Family Lunch Pack? The Chicken Snack Pack? Or the Chicken For Lunch Deal?”

“Yeah nah just the chicken ‘n’ chips aye boss”

*hugely massive sigh equivalent to the ones heard while sitting in 5pm Auckland highway traffic*   “Sir, you must choose one of our packs. You can’t just have chicken and chips they are all chicken and chips you must specify”

“Oh boss I don’t care aye just some chicken ‘n’ chips would be mean aye boss”

“Excuse me Sir I need you to choose a pack you must specify which chicken and chips you want there are so many chickens and chipss please tell me which one you want WHICH ONE DO YOU WANT WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE PACK THAT YOU WANT”

“Oh, uhh…”

“Oh for goodness sake how about you just get the bloody family lunch pack?”

“Does it have chicken ‘n’ chips in it?”

“YES!”

“Okay yes please boss. Cheers. You da man.”

 

And I packed my kebab and hopped on my bus with a rather hysterical grin on my face which lasted the whole journey to work.

Life is great.

To the Doctor who Laughed at Me

*Disclaimer: This is not a generalised attack on all doctors. I have, since the experiences described in this post, found an incredible doctor who is doing all she can to help me, and I’ve had others like her in the past too. Doctors are not the problem here. Certain individuals, who happen to be doctors, are the problem.

 

To the doctor who laughed at me as I was shaking and convulsing on the hospital bed:

Now that I can talk without vomiting or fainting, let me explain to you why I couldn’t “just relax”, as you oh-so helpfully suggested mid-giggle that night.

I’ll break it down for you. Since I’m a female my body is supposed to ovulate and menstruate once per month, as I’m sure you know, Sir. However, my body likes to switch things up to keep life interesting, and it tends to menstruate at least once per fortnight; more commonly once per week. The bloody mess tends to last 2-5 days, so sometimes I only have two days blood-free before it makes its repeat appearance.

But you should know this, Sir, because I told you.

While blood is leaving my body, rather rapidly and constantly I might add, my uterus isn’t too happy. In fact, its so grumpy, that it makes all surrounding organs and muscles unhappy too. A bit like when your wife gets grumpy and it puts a dampener on yours and your kids’ moods, Sir.

I’ll tell you what that grumpiness-domino-effect feels like, Sir. It feels like someone is stabbing my uterus with a fork, getting as deeply hooked in there as possible, and then twisting the fork as if my uterus is a bowl of spaghetti. It feels like someone is grabbing each end of my uterus, abdomen, lower back muscles, pelvic floor, quadriceps, and hamstrings, and pulling with the goal of breaking them each in two.

When this happens, my bowel and stomach don’t work as they should, so I experience the joys of constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting, and extreme indigestion. My immune system breaks down, so I normally catch the current bug going around at the time, Sir. I feel light-headed and dizzy, and my limbs often feel slightly numb and lighter than they should be. I feel weak and exhausted, my lower belly sticks out of my shirt like Winnie the Pooh, and I spend a lot of time lying on the couch with a heat pack on my pelvis.

I hope you understand a little more about why I couldn’t relax that night, Sir. I hope you regret refusing me morphine despite the fact that codeine hadn’t worked, and I was allergic to anti-inflammatory drugs.

And to the GP who later asked me why I bothered to go to the Emergency Department for “just a period”, as you described it, here’s why:

I was in the most agonising pain I had ever experienced in my life. I had tried every home-remedy in the world and I could bear the pain no longer. It had become increasingly worse and worryingly frequent over the past twelve months. I knew in my gut that something was wrong and it was not just “bad luck”, as you had called it as you sent me out of your office with a box of panadol.

Do you really think I would take myself to hospital if all I needed was panadol? 

Spend one hour in my body and you would never laugh at me, tell me to “just relax”, or proclaim my “bad luck” over a box of panadol again.

I am not a young, dramatic teenage girl with a low pain tolerance and a desperation for attention.

I am a sufferer of endometriosis who is forced to be tolerant of and resilient to immense pain more days than not. It took a year for me to be taken seriously by professionals. I have since been pumped with cocktails of hormones which have had uncomfortable side-effects and disappointing results. I have been poked and prodded and examined in places I wish not to describe.

This is not a joke. This is not bad luck. This is not a self-care lesson.

This is a serious health condition which needs urgent research so that we can get some answers on how to prevent it and effectively treat it.

 

Donate here: https://nzendo.org.nz/

HE TANGATA: “The Education System Failed Me”

“I didn’t get my School C because the education system failed me. Not because I’m dumb, not because I hate learning, but because I didn’t fit into the system. But I’m telling you, Cara, I didn’t give up there. When I discovered I was adopted, I took that as my next learning opportunity. I decided to read up on etymology and whakapapa. Etymology teaches you a lot about ancestry. The connection between your name, your family’s names, and your whakapapa, is incredibly powerful, Cara. And finally, through my learning, I found my identity.

And so the education system told me I was a failure, but I can tell them, Cara, I can tell them, that the SYSTEM is the failure, not me. Because I learnt a lot, Cara. I learnt a lot. I learn in a way that the system doesn’t recognise. And because of that, Cara, the system got to my head. And I made some bad decisions when I was your age, Cara, because at your age, you think you’re invincible. And when you don’t fit into the system, it gets to your head and you do things that have devastating consequences for the rest of your life. 

Cara, you have no idea how severely criminal convictions restrict your opportunities. I believe I’ve changed, Cara. But the system doesn’t. 

You have had a very privileged upbringing, Cara. Don’t waste it.

The system accepts you, Cara. Don’t take advantage of that. 

Think hard before you make decisions, Cara. Don’t throw away all that privilege that you have, that so many of us will never have.”

 

… And I walked home shakily crying, and gratefully smiling, and desperately asking God why the world is so fucked up.

He Tangata: “For example, if I were to ask you out…”

I shift my gaze to the right to find a man’s face a couple of inches from mine.

“oh! I thought you were drawing!”

“nah, just studying.” I had woken that morning so excited to see an absence of rain that I just had to do my study in Civic Square that day. And the interaction that follows made it well worth the effort.

“Are you an artist?”

“No haha, quite far from it! Are you?”

“I do Maori carving! Look, I made this guitar pic from bone! What about music, do you do music?”

“I do actually! Piano and voice, mainly”

“Wow! I sing like a dying ngeru. That’s Maori for cat, by the way. Look, I’m learning the windpipe! Except I sat on it so I had to duct tape it. Why is duct tape called ‘duck tape’? It doesn’t quack!”

The gentleman rummaged in his bag and pulled out some cracked wooden tubes, strung together with rainbow-coloured yarn, sporting a new addition of grey duct tape around its edges. After giving me an impressive demo, despite the circumstances, the conversation continued:

“So, you study? Where?”

“Victoria- just up the hill there.”

“Oh, Victoria! That’s really hard to get into. I tried. But they won’t take Maoris who can’t read or write very well. I wanted to do carving there, you see. And WINZ have let me down this week. You see, I’ve got all my carving tools in storage, but I missed my storage fee this week because WINZ stuffed up. Anyway so I’d better not lose my storage, because then I’ll have nowhere to keep my tools!”

(I’m pretty sure Victoria don’t teach carving but that’s beside the point).

“That sounds really frustrating!! Do you know somewhere else where you could study carving?”

“I’ve asked Whitireia- they want people who can read and write too. You see its so hard for us guys. And WINZ keep telling me I need to get a job, but its not as easy as that you know? And I almost have my bus driving license, but its too expensive to do the last bit. And, e hoa (friend), you should see the men’s home! Oh! I didn’t introduce myself!”

After an exchange of names, my new hoa continued.

“Yeah anyway the men’s home is terrible- I’m not a lunatic, you know! I said to WINZ, don’t put me in there with all those crazies, I’m not like them, you know! The guys always ask me if they can play my XBox with me, I say nah man! Get your own! I don’t really trust them with my stuff that much aye.”

The gentleman blessed me with more insight of what its like to be scraping and crawling everyday to make ends meet, only to be treated by society like its your own fault. The topic moved from WINZ, to the expenses of Wellington CBD, to job prospects, to bike repair, to Maoritanga, to his previous jobs driving tourists around Fox Glacier.

And then I learnt about his new security guard friend who’s been giving him dating advice…

“Yeah, he said, bro! Don’t just ask a girl out when you first meet her! She’ll be running down the street to Stuart Island! You’ve got to get to know her first! You know, like, if I wanted to ask you out, I’d make the effort to get to know you first, like what I’m doing now…”

uh oh… I know where this is going…

“Yeah so like for example, if I were ask you out, just for example…”

Pull out now bro… Don’t do it…

“Yeah, uh, I suppose I’m asking you out.”

 

And I just felt disappointed.

He wasn’t dangerous. He wasn’t creepy. He was just lonely, and excited that someone had actually bothered to treat him like a valued human being.

I felt disappointed because, at this point, due my age compared to his, my gender, and potential vulnerability, I needed to withdraw from the interaction to ensure my safety.

I felt disappointed because the encounter, until now, had been incredible. It was definitely soul-restoring for me, and it may well have been for him too. And now, unfortunately for the both of us, the conversation needed to end.

Finally, I felt disappointed for him. He has great potential to develop and maintain meaningful social connections, if he just practised a little more self-control. Then my disappointment transferred to anger at our social systems that have stripped so many of our tangata of the opportunity to operate as equally valued members of society. I am convinced that my new friend’s lack of social self-control is not his fault.

 

Nevertheless, I made a connection which enlightened my mind, fulfilled my heart, and renewed my soul.

Permission

Last week I sent myself into a state of panic over what should have been a very simple and unimportant decision.

It turns out that I have been unknowingly obsessed with a rule-infested routine ever since I moved to Wellington.

And the unknowing freaks me out, suddenly dissolving my (apparently false) sense of control.

When you lie on your bed staring at the ceiling for an hour, paralysed by the “do I, don’t I?” questions circling round and round in your mind like a broken record, you know this is no longer an innocent weekend activity.

When you suffer a panic attack because you don’t have time to do lengths at the swimming pool that day, you know you’ve lost control.

This is anorexia. Creeping into my life, confidently sporting an invisible cloak. Sulking at my rebellion against its food rules and choosing another part of my life to reign.

But I’ve decided. No longer am I going to be obsessed with exercise as if it’s the backbone of my existence.

No longer will the number of lengths I swim be the authority figure giving me permission to eat.

I give myself permission to eat. My body gives me permission to eat.

The trick will be believing it.

 

 

 

 

$2.85 per day- reflections on Living Below the Line for a week

Phew!

That was quite a rough week. Living below the global poverty line was much harder than I thought it would be, in a lot of ways, and there were some really great moments too. I will share some of the important things that stood out to me over the week.

One thing I realised this week was that I must have a pretty high-energy lifestyle, because I spent the whole week feeling quite weak and exhausted. I didn’t quite realise the impact it would have to have less energy input, with the same energy output. But then my next thought was; I think MY life is high-energy!?! How about those people who work 10-16 hours per day doing hard physical labour, and live on $2.85 or less… I just have absolutely no idea what it’s like to really be exhausted and hungry. Doing this challenge certainly gave me insight, but I am aware that I still had it much much easier than many people in the world do.

Whenever I convinced myself that I couldn’t bear to eat one more lentil or grain of rice, I suddenly felt guilty, embarrassed, and ungrateful. Even living on $2.85, I was still eating more variety and probably more nutrients than most people in extreme poverty do. You know you’ve got life good when you’re complaining about the TYPE, not even the amount, of food you’re eating.

I had quite a few angry moments. I just can’t accept that people are dying of malnutrition and deteriorating from extremely hard labour for very  little or no monetary gain, while I am freezing my flat’s leftovers and getting paid $25 for sitting down in a library and tutoring a high school student. I am angry that there is enough food, safe water, and resources for shelter to go around the whole world, but that us Westerners are hogging it for ourselves, and pretending that dying, starving, over-worked humans are not our problem.

Since finishing the challenge, and going back to eating pretty much whatever I want, I am suddenly appreciating little things I’ve never appreciated before! Like, being able have tea or coffee instead of water, or being able to add flavours to my cooking, or being able to have something different for dinner than what I had for lunch. I actually got so in the habit of just not doing these things, that I was suddenly consciously making the decision to do them, rather than just doing them as if there was no other way. And oh the luxuries!! On Saturday morning when I could have a coffee when I woke up!! And an orange with my breakfast!! It was like I was in a five star hotel!! My fear is that I will go back to not appreciating these things again. That has already started to happen. I much prefer being appreciative of these small pleasures- it keeps life in perspective, as well as lightens my mood so easily and frequently!

Finally, I will add a more personal note. Another hard thing I found during the challenge was having to fight a lot of disordered-eating thoughts/voices/triggers. Friends had expressed their concerns, and I was aware of the possibilities of this happening, but I was feeling like I was in a good space and I hadn’t struggled with eating for a good few weeks, so I thought it would be okay. But, when consciously restricting my intake  for consecutive days, and feeling nauseous and tired from energy deficit, it was probably inevitable that unhealthy thoughts would present themselves to some degree. Luckily I am blessed with self-awareness, and processed my experience with a friend, and managed to (mostly) work through it and (mostly) avoid unhealthy behaviours. 

Overall, to those of you who have supported me towards this cause please know that your support (both in donations, and support of me doing the challenge) has not gone unnoticed. Not only have you given me encouragement and motivation to do what I committed to doing, but you have allowed TearFund to maintain the sustainable enterprise opportunities they are offering in Ethiopia, India, Phillippines, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, and Vanuatu. Because of you, women are joining self-help groups, where they feel empowered, collectively save in their groups, learn how to start small businesses, and loan small amounts of money for their children’s school fees or healthcare. Because of you, people are joining farming co-operatives, where they work together to improve techniques in agricultural production, and provide each other the opportunity to take their products directly to markets, providing them with more control over the prices they receive.

If, after reading my reflections, you feel inspired to donate, you’re not too late!! Follow this link, and it will take you through the necessary steps: https://www.livebelowtheline.org.nz/fundraisers/caraadler/live-below-the-line-nz

Arohanui xxx

The Monster I’m Not

You know what I hate most about disordered eating? It transforms me into a person who is the opposite of my true essence. Into a monster who is as far away from the true me as possible.

The Monster I’m Not is self-centred, narrow-minded, fearful, unadventurous, anti-social, obsessive, irrational, contradictory.

The Monster I’m Not controls me, weakens my physicality so that I am unable to do the things I love most in the world- sport, socialising, outdoor adventures, gardening, yoga, ocean swimming, music…

The Monster I’m Not encourages the return of my most unhealthy habits, and immensely increases my vulnerability to the ever-feared plunge into the deepest darkness of my soul.

 

And when it feels as if The Monster I’m Not is taking over,

my ever-lingering self-hatred creeps it’s way up from my depths, piercing it’s way through my not-so-protective shields as easily as a craft knife cuts cellophane.

 

I become full.

Filled up to the brim and leaking with worthlessness.

I leak through the holes I have created myself. The holes I create when The Monster I’m Not rules over me, and that stay there even when the free me, the true me,  returns.

Yet simultaneously,

I become empty.

so, so empty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HE TANGATA: Chapter 3: From Cage to Carriage

Usually an exchange of smiles is all Aucklanders can handle with strangers on public transport, but this afternoon was different.

My smile was met with a friendly comment about the weather, followed by an eye-opening personal story that I have never forgotten.

“Gees it’s cold out there tonight, isn’t it?”

My acquaintance for the journey offered a warm, genuine grin, with firm but kind eye contact. The ‘Maori Wardens’ uniform he was sporting suited his strong, fit build, and his scars and missing teeth perhaps have a possible insight into his past.

“Yes, it is!”

“Where are you from, anyway?”

“Right here in Auckland.”

“Same.”

The gentle hum of the moving train enticed my body to sleep-mode, as the Warden and I watched trees wisp by in silence.

I’ve always been intrigued by the Maori Wardens program…

“Hey, what made you decide to work for Maori Wardens, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“They found me, actually. I was a cage fighter.”

“Oh wow.”

“I wouldn’t have lasted much longer. That stuff is bad for you.”

 

This encounter sparked an uncomfortable picture in my mind. One of this poor gentleman caught up in the life of what is deemed the most dangerous sport of all. Succumbed to the expectations of those around him. Needing the money maybe. Unable to see a way out.

Of course, this is just an assumption.

But regardless of the details of his story,

Imagine having a life like that.

 

Side note: For those who are unaware, Maori Wardens are an amazing organisation who serve our communities in numerous ways. They provide our people with new skills and ways forward, and train them to volunteer in our communities providing health, safety, and community development services. Check out their website if you’d like to support them or find out more: https://www.tpk.govt.nz/en/whakamahia/maori-wardens 

 

I do not accept.

It is funny how

while we are small and insignificant

in relativity to the earth

we are also more significant than we could ever imagine…

There is much more to this life than me

but I am important

or so He says…

I must be humbled by my tininess in perspective of this vast and powerful earth

but I must also accept my mighty significance to the One…

And this is the problem.

I do not accept.

 

For months my faith has been held at a stop sign

unwilling to reverse

unable to select another route.

I have misplaced my spiritual GPS

been forced to practise my faith at the confinement of the stop sign

and God is there

patiently waiting for me to remove the restrictions myself

(Typical God!)

But for months I haven’t known how.

And we cannot resolve an issue before the issue becomes known to us, can we?

and so I have waited

with less patience than Hers

for the issue to reveal itself.

 

And now I have found it

I have finally found what is holding me back

I do not accept.

I want to, but

I do not accept my significance to the One

I know I should, but

I do not feel significant

I do not feel worthy of Her love

And this lack of acceptance of His love

lack of embrace on my part

is actually an unintended disservice to my Creator

 

Which is why I’m held at the stop sign.

 

Isn’t it crazy how we can know something in our minds, but not in our hearts.

 

Good things come to those who wait

so the Bible says

so everyone says

and this realisation

though sad

surely is good.

a breakthrough

but just the beginning.

 

We cannot resolve an issue before the issue becomes known to us, can we?

Let the resolving begin.