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Find me at www.writehanded.org

Hello! I’m now at www.writehanded.org. See you there.

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Let’s talk about WINZ

This will be my last post here at writehanded.wordpress.com.

Don’t worry, I’m not going away, or shutting up – though, as I’ve discovered in the past few days, there are people who would like me to do so. Here’s a message for you:

sarah-nope

I’m just moving to my new site – www.writehanded.org! I know new websites aren’t really exciting to anyone but those they belong to (I’ve done enough site launches in my career to know that the fanfare surrounding this is usually met with… meh) – but I’m happy about it. It’s a step forward for me. It’s a commitment to the writing I’m doing, to the quality of it, and to the people who read it. This is not just “a blog” to me – though it never really was. It’s work. Important work.

Which is why I’m so utterly amazed by the response to last Thursday’s story. As I said on Friday – this isn’t about me. This isn’t my story, though I’ve become the face of it. It’s the story of many, many voiceless New Zealanders. It’s one that needs to be told.

Today I met with my local Labour MP, Maryan Street, who contacted me because of this story. She’s committed to making change, not just for me – I stressed to her how much I don’t want this to be about my individual case – but real, tangible cultural change.

Call for stories

Maryan is going to meet with WINZ here in Nelson. She’s taking my story as evidence of the repeated systemic failures and mistreatment, not just in the local office, but nationwide.

I have said that I will other collect stories and document them, for her to take. I am considering delivering the document to other MPs. I know that a lot of you have stories, because you shared them on the last post, or you wrote to me, or you’ve spoken to me. I’m especially interested in the Nelson office, but I’m happy to share any experience anywhere – any interactions you’ve had with WINZ where you’ve felt mistreated, or witnessed the extensive issues I’ve discussed.

You can email me your story if you’d like to be part of this, by this Friday please. I won’t be able to reply – I’m too exhausted. But I will collect them all and I will deliver them. I won’t alter them in any way. You will be anonymous. (My email address is on the media page above).

I will just say that I think it’s very sad that I had to close the comments on Thursday’s post due to the nastiness that was occurring, because most of those comments are incredibly valuable, and I hope if you are one of those people, you will contact me. They are other people’s stories, other people’s voices joining mine, saying “Me too. Me too. Me, too.”

As I keep saying, these are not isolated incidents. They are part of a systemic breakdown. They tell a wider story of cultural violence. We’re abusing our most vulnerable members of society. They – we – are subjected to treatment that is fundamentally dehumanising, demoralising, and terrifying – by a government organisation whose reason for existence is providing support. Because we’ve asked for the help we need. Because we’ve become statistics, and the system has twisted to become one that applauds reducing those statistics, instead of actually treating the underlying issues in any meaningful way.

The story is getting spread. The message is being heard. The original post has been viewed close to 30,000 times, which may not seem like a lot, but nothing I’ve ever written has been seen by so many people before. I’ve spoken about it in the media, on Twitter, on Facebook, to friends – and to politicians. Both Labour and Green Party members contacted me to offer assistance and support. I have accepted this. Today I had a call from the regional manager at WINZ, and I intend to meet with her.

This is exhausting, and terrifying, and very scary for me. I am standing up for something, and doing so is getting me attention I don’t really want. It may seem like I love talking about my vulnerabilities – my illness, my inability to financially support myself. I do not. This progress – this attention – means I have to spend energy – going to meetings, talking to people, writing –  and it means stress and anxiety. I’m trying to recover. I want to go back to work. I want it more than anything, and that means sometimes I have to sit still and be quiet when what I really want to do is write and yell, all the time, about everything.

I hope you’ll join me when I can.

www.writehanded.org.

This is not my story

First of all, thank you. Thank you for the support, the offers of assistance, and the huge amount of information I’ve been given around complaints, reviews, and advocacy procedures. It’s incredible.

I certainly never expected such a response.

And you know why I got this response? Because this is not my story. This is not about my terror, my humiliation, and my $40 a week.

This is about the hundreds, thousands, of people who have the exact same experience with the system they rely on to survive.

There’s a reason I’m sitting here writing this, even though I’m exhausted and I’m in pain and I’m feeling pretty damn overwhelmed, by both the positive and the negative responses to my story.

The reason is: we shouldn’t need this abundant plethora of advocacy services and complaints procedures and review processes. 

We need these things because of systemic, consistent and widespread failure in the New Zealand welfare system as managed by the Ministry of Social Development. 

This is not a new problem. It is not a unique problem. You only have to read the comments on my last post to get a sense of how terribly, terribly commonplace it is to be treated badly by WINZ. To have your important, private, expensive documents to be lost by WINZ. To walk in to a WINZ office feeling terrified. To walk out of a WINZ office feeling degraded, defeated, and in tears.

Why? Why is this allowed to continue? Many people have said that if they, in their jobs, so consistently “lost” paperwork and caused customers to cry, they would have been fired. And yet, it goes on. In every town, in every community, across New Zealand.

This is not just a result of the latest welfare reforms. This is a deepseated cultural and political problem that leads to repeated, widespread procedural misconduct.

We can’t respond to every case with advocacy services. The truth is – I might be writing this, but it’s going to wreck me. I don’t have the energy or the fight left in me to enlist an advocate, to research the process, to lay complaints, to ask for reviews. I know that many other sick people will not either. We already have enough on our plates just trying to keep a weak grip on the entitlement we do have.

I also know for a fact that the review and complaints processes are just as broken as the rest of the system. My friend Chris has been trying to get extra help, and a decision reviewed, for months. He’s gotten nowhere. If you think my story is sad, his is gutwrenching. (Click the “welfare” tag on his site and you’ll see).

I’ve had several Members of Parliament (Labour and Green) step forward and ask me how they can help. This is my message to you.

Thank you. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for hearing me.

I don’t need help getting my $40 p/week back. It’s gone. What I need is for this culture of utter incompetence to change. What I need is for all these voices (see the comments on previous blog) to be met with the kindness and compassion and humanity they deserve. What I need is for this to be an election issue. What I need is for it to be talked about in the most important places in New Zealand politics – your house, your offices.

I have contacted my local MPs to hear their thoughts. I would like Questions asked in Parliament. I would like to know what Paula Bennet is going to do about the fact sick people are starving on her watch. About the fact that people go into WINZ offices and are treated like less than human beings.

About giving more support to the WINZ frontline staff, whose time would be better spent getting some customer training than clapping for having forced someone off the benefit. They are clearly underresourced, since my case manager loses my files and can’t find the time to get back to me about the money that is my only lifeline until I literally turn up on her doorstep.

People have said: “You shouldn’t have to talk to a Minister about operational services.” In this case, we do, because the operational services aren’t working.

If they were, we wouldn’t need the Benefits Rights Service, BUWTA, Benefit Education Services Trust, CAB, the Health and Disability Commission, the Privacy Commission, our local MPs, community law and so many other organisations and dignitaries to get involved just so we could get the basic entitlement from the social welfare system.

It’s broken. But it’s not beyond repair.

By all means, use my story as an example. I’ll come to Wellington. I’ll stand in the House, with my cane, and I’ll explain what it is like to try and live like this. This is the human cost. This is what the face of welfare looks like.

Please, if you do nothing else, go and read the comments on the last post. (There are some nasty ones, of course, be prepared). These are real people’s stories. This is the reality. I am not alone.

Terror and humiliation – just another day with WINZ

I have tried to be fair. I have tried to be understanding of the good work WINZ does, and their well-intentioned policies, and to work within those structures. I have tried to be grateful for the support I do get.

But I have had ENOUGH of the sheer and complete incompetence that ensures that I have suffered, that I continue to suffer. That I suffer like I have suffered today.

Maybe I should start at the beginning, because you may have not been following this story. It’s a doozie so you may as well get a drink now.

I am on a ‘Jobseeker Support’ benefit, which in itself is a misnomer. I have a job – I’m too ill to do it. I have multiple medical certificates to prove it. Recently, my benefit, and the Disability Allowance, which is the separate small payment I receive toward my medical costs, came up for “reassessment.” This meant a whole new round of forms and evidence to prove I’m entitled to the support.

Here’s the key points from the post I wrote when this started – February 14.

1. I’ve returned the multiple forms, along with every receipt I’ve kept of doctor’s visits, food bills, and medical costs like prescriptions, plus the form signed by my GP which includes details from him about how often I visit and what for.

2. My case manager rang today to say they “need more proof” which I knew would happen because they always do.

3. Eftpos receipts are now not considered proof of costs. I need to return to all my medical providers and get a signed printout of my annual costs. This obviously takes a lot of time and effort for a sick person. It’s not an easy ask. It causes me a huge amount of anxiety, and physically doing it causes me exhaustion and pain.

4. A grocery receipt is not enough to prove my dietary requirements, I need several week’s worth to show the pattern of food I buy. They said they will then calculate the difference between the “usual” cost and “my” cost, and grant me this. 

5. Until I get all these things, I will live in anxiety that they are going to remove my support. Anxiety and stress make me sick. That’s written on the fucking form I gave them.

Following this post, I got together all the additional evidence they wanted, which took considerable effort. I dropped it in to the office, somewhat gingerly, because they have a proven history of losing things.

I wrote this post a week ago:

My case manager informed me on 14 February (the day before I was going to Wellington for a week) that I had until 14 March to supply new information, or my support would be removed. Getting this new information wasn’t going to be an easy task for me, and it’s fair to say I felt terrified and distressed during that phone call.

My case manager also said she would send a Special Food Grant application form to me, which I needed to provide to them along with at least a month’s worth of receipts to show my grocery expenses.

While I was away, I made phone calls and sent emails in order to get the requested information from my medical providers. As soon as I got back, I labelled them all and took them in to WINZ. That was on 25 February.

Since then, I have sent several emails and left several voice messages, none of which have been returned. My online account shows “no applications pending.” I haven’t received any letters or application forms in the mail. Meanwhile, it’s now less than a week until my support will be removed, and I have no idea if I have provided the necessary information to stop that from happening.

I find it increasingly ironic that WINZ want me well enough to go back to work, yet they consistently subject me to behaviour and systems which stress the fuck out of me, and make me more ill.

Did I say ironic? I meant frustrating, depressing, anxiety-inducing, dehumanising and debilitating.

Yes, WINZ, I agree with you. The sooner I can go back to work, the better.

This week, I realised I still hadn’t heard anything, so I tried again to make an appointment with my case manager. I got no response, so I just made one through the online service.

I was incredibly nervous about the appointment. It’s pretty difficult to walk into this place when you have no idea how you’re going to be treated, and when their role is not to help you, as it would appear, but actually do all they possibly can to get you back into work – even if that’s to your detriment.

Did you know, WINZ has an actual policy to publicly celebrate when people get work? I witnessed this today. A bell was rung, and all the workers stood up and clapped – meanwhile, the poor man who supposedly the happy recipient of this “positive reinforcement” sat still and looked utterly and completely mortified. Apparently WINZ says clients enjoy this.

It was fucking horrifying.

All this, while I myself was sitting meters away with tears of frustration streaming down my face. While I cried, the WINZ worker I was talking to stopped what he was doing, and clapped.

Oops, I’ve skipped a bit. Let’s go back, shall we?

So, I turned up for my appointment. As usual, I was seen about half an hour late. Standard WINZ procedure. Because my case manager had been unreachable (I saw her at her desk across the room), I was randomly assigned.

The person I was assigned to, it’s fair to say, was the single most unhelpful “customer service” representative I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with.

Here’s the key points:

1. He didn’t know what was happening with my Disability Allowance – only, yes, “the system tells me it’ll stop tomorrow.”

2. He suggested I talk to my case manager. When I said I’d been unable to contact her, he said I needed to “make an appointment.” Um, that’s what I thought I was doing right now?

3. They have no record of the information I provided on February 25th. It’s simply not there. He suggested I go back to my doctors (more appointments I will have to pay for), and get the information again. He was totally unmoved when I burst into tears because of the stress this will cause me.

4. He gave me the Special Food application that was promised and never sent. I have to get my doctor to sign it, even though he wrote to them about the food I need in the Disability Allowance Reapplication Form I gave them last month. (Another $37 appointment). Lucky I’ve been keeping all my grocery receipts.

5. The interview ended with him saying blankly “I can’t help you. Ring the call centre and make an appointment” and me walking out in tears.

So: the bus trip, the pain, the fatigue, the stress and anxiety of an appointment – all for nothing. I still don’t have any information about my Allowance. Well, I do. I know it stops tomorrow – even though I have done everything right, and provided everything as asked for, when asked for.

I’m tired. I’m so tired of this. I almost want to force myself to go back to work because trying to stay on a benefit is more stressful than working fulltime with a debilitating chronic illness.

Let’s just say – I won’t be going to those offices alone again.

Update:

I guess my presence in the office must have influenced something, because my case manager finally emailed me tonight.

Verdict: My Disability Allowance is being reduced by $40 per week because, on paper, my medical costs have reduced. At least they dated that decision to today, which means I’m not in debt. They could have dated it from the date of reapplication, in which case I would have owed them. They took great care to point out that this was done for me.

Don’t ever let anyone say I’m not grateful.

More milestones

Last night, while I was brushing my hair and watching strands of it drift to the floor – sorry, gross image, but yes, it falls out – I suddenly realised I had missed the one year anniversary of my almost dying. 

Today it’s a year and three days since I was admitted to hospital. I confess I don’t remember much about that time. I’d been sick for months by that point, but by January and February things had gotten much worse. I was still trying to work, mostly from bed so I could go between the laptop and throwing up into a bucket. I don’t think I have ever thrown up so much in my life. One thing I do remember is the sheer relief when I was admitted and they put intravenous painkillers and antinausea drugs into me, and for the first time in months I felt nothing. No pain, no intense need to vomit. The first proper meal I had, the next night, may have been revolting hospital food, but after weeks of starvation and just not even being able to smell food, it was the best thing I ever ate. (It was a spinach tart with mashed potatoes. I remember because I ate it with my fingers because I was too weak to use utensils or open my eyes).

The time in hospital was pretty terrifying – they speculated about what was wrong with me and I was misdiagnosed with a more serious chronic condition than what I actually have. I cried a lot. I felt totally defeated. It felt weird, after months of insisting I was fine, that I’d be getting better really soon, to finally admit that wasn’t the case.

Still, I was still relatively optimistic, looking back. I remember applying for the sickness benefit, which would be valid for three months, and thinking ‘Oh good, three months is heeeaps of time, of course I’ll be back at work by then.”

Haha, year-ago-Sarah. Good one.

But no one expects to get sick like I did, and no one realises the toll that it takes on your body. This last year has been a pretty incredible journey, learning to live with being chronically ill, fatigued, and in pain. I am making progress, as I’ve said in recent posts. But recovery is nearly always two steps forward one step back, and I’m in a step back stage at the moment (writing this on my laptop in bed. This feels hauntingly familiar!)

So I guess I just wanted to share this new milestone, and take a moment in my mountain climbing to appreciate how far I’ve come. It sure doesn’t feel like it some days, but I have. I can see change happening. I have hope.

I even use a knife and fork these days.

Quick WINZ update

As you may remember from this post three weeks ago, WINZ is currently “reviewing” my disability allowance. 

The disability allowance is the portion of my benefit that helps towards costs directly relate to my illness – doctor’s visits, medication etc.

My case manager informed me on 14 February (the day before I was going to Wellington for a week) that I had until 14 March to supply new information, or my support would be removed. Getting this new information wasn’t going to be an easy task for me, and it’s fair to say I felt terrified and distressed during that phone call.

My case manager also said she would send a Special Food Grant application form to me, which I needed to provide to them along with at least a month’s worth of receipts to show my grocery expenses.

While I was away, I made phone calls and sent emails in order to get the requested information from my medical providers. As soon as I got back, I labelled them all and took them in to WINZ. That was on 25 February.

Since then, I have sent several emails and left several voice messages, none of which have been returned. My online account shows “no applications pending.” I haven’t received any letters or application forms in the mail. Meanwhile, it’s now less than a week until my support will be removed, and I have no idea if I have provided the necessary information to stop that from happening.

I find it increasingly ironic that WINZ want me well enough to go back to work, yet they consistently subject me to behaviour and systems which stress the fuck out of me, and make me more ill.

Did I say ironic? I meant frustrating, depressing, anxiety-inducing, dehumanising and debilitating.

Yes, WINZ, I agree with you. The sooner I can go back to work, the better.

For Display Purposes Only

A couple of days ago I was driving in Nelson and I saw this ad in the window of a local coffee house. Not the world’s best photo, but hopefully you get the idea.

Zumo

I made a comment to the man I was with, about how sick I am of these sorts of sexualised, stereotypical, airbrushed images of women being used to sell product.

Presumably feeling personally attacked by my statement, he protested. He said “But I don’t even see the woman. I just see a coffee.” (I guess his point was to argue that she wasn’t that sexualised, because if she was, he would have noticed that. Like this is somehow a worthy counterattack to my point).

I replied: Precisely. That’s the exact problem. You are so used to this sort of image in advertising, you don’t even see the person in it, you just see the product. That’s how socialised this is. That’s how much women have been made into props in order to sell empty ideals to fish eyed consumers.

The “I don’t see it that way” argument is what makes feminism such a constant uphill battle. Responses like:

1. I don’t see the problem

2. I do see the problem, but it’s not me, I’m not like that, I’m different.

3. I’m trying to see the problem from your point of view, but I don’t see why you’re so worked up about it.

When I was in Wellington, I saw this billboard.

LiptonTea

I literally stopped dead in the street in disbelief. I can just imagine the marketer’s thought process, coming up with this one. “Oooh, how edgy! How self-referential! We’re really pushing the boundaries with this one!”

NO. You are fucking not. You are enthusiastically reinforcing all the bullshit women have to deal with every day, the implicit sexualised coding that makes men shrug and say “Don’t see a problem.”

Why would anyone even think that the model was also for sale? Because that’s how advertisers represent women. At best, another product. At worst – and usually – an agreeable, pliable prop to whatever the product actually is.

Not only is this everyday sexism at its finest, every single time a woman is used like this, it recreates and strengthens the existing code of what “a woman” is and makes it even more difficult for people to live outside of that.

Take me, for example. I’m actually amused at the way some people (usually men men in the street), struggle to respond to me. I’m amused because if I don’t laugh about this I will cry.

1. I’m not an agreeable prop. The first thing they always notice about me is my short skirts and high heels. They have a coded response to this.

2. Then they see my cane. This is when I start laughing, because the actual, noticeable doubletakes make their thought process ridiculously obvious. Their first reaction is to look because I’m wearing a short skirt. Their second reaction is their response to the fact that I’m disabled. Many don’t seem to be able to compute that. It doesn’t fit the image they want. They’re uncomfortable with it. Well, sorry and – fuck you.

No, I’m not “for display purposes only” actually. I’m a real person. I’m not “for sale,” either. So next time you look at an ad for a drink (or any other foodstuff) which includes a sexualised, airbrushed woman sucking on a straw or a spoon or making an expression that simulates orgasm (believe me, you’ll see one today) and “don’t see the person” (sure) maybe then is when you could do a doubletake.

What helps?

Recently I wrote some stuff about my progress. It’s really hard to see from the inside, but on days when I feel frustrated and sad and sore and tired, it’s good to remind myself how far I’ve come. 

Some people have asked me how I’m doing it. How I’m managing to make small steps forward, both in my physical and mental health.

I’m going to share some of the helpful things, but this come with a caveat: these sorts of things are only helpful when you’re already at a certain point in getting well. When you’re very ill, and/or very depressed, they can be pretty much impossible. It took everything I had to claw myself back from the edge enough to actually even face doing these things. Before that, none of them would have even been possible, let alone helpful. So, before you go telling anyone to reach out and do them (or beating yourself up because you feel like you can’t) – please remember about reaching in.

1. Psychotherapy

I am incredibly, incredibly lucky in that I got unwell enough to be given the opportunity to do psychotherapy. (How ironic.) I could never afford to pay for it, and my therapist is phenomenal. It’s very intense and very difficult work and I spend several hours actively doing it every week, and much of the rest of the time thinking about it. It’s different from any counselling work I’ve done, it’s far more helpful for me. I wish I could share it all because I think it’s life-changing. I’m finally understanding why I am the way I am, and how I can be who I am without being unwell.

2. Being on the right medication 

I also was lucky enough, ha-de-ha, to be referred to a psychiatrist. I was not on the right medication last year. The moment I started reducing it, things began to improve. Even if you can’t get to a psychiatrist, I urge anyone to do lots of research and talk to your GP and listen to your body to make sure what you’re taking or not taking is right for you.

3. Moving house

Obviously your physical space, and the people you surround yourself with, have a huge impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Moving is stressful, and I had to wait a long time for the right house and the right people, but now that I made that happen – things are so much better.

4. Eating right, including supplements

Cliches, cliches, cliches. But eating right – like, eating at all, in my case – feeds you. Feeds your brain and your body and your emotional system. I have a very difficult relationship with food, but I’m managing three meals a day and I know this is helping rebuild me. I’m also taking a whole bunch of different supplements and I can’t recommend enough finding someone who will help you find out which things you need.

5. Exercising

I know I have poo-pooed exercising in the past – and I stand by that: it’s not a cure for depression. But it does help. Even walking around my garden helps, on days I can’t go any further. It helps me process things, it calms me down when I’m distressed, it helps me sleep. (Which is another thing that is totally and utterly necessary!)

6. Choosing the right relationships

Beyond all our expectations around family and social obligations and not wanting to hurt others: you actually do get to choose who you have in your life. If a relationship doesn’t feed your spirit… find ones that do. I know this is way easier said than done, and I struggle with it constantly. But you have a right to care for yourself. There are many, many wonderful people out there wanting to be a part of your life. Let them. Let those who don’t go.

I hope some of this helps. I hope it’s not too preachy. I’m very conscious of the whole “I got better and so now I know it’s possible so I’ll tell everyone else how to get better!” schtick some people do and I don’t want to be like that. Besides, I’m not better. I’m just here. Taking one day at a time.

Why tweet?

People who don’t use Twitter often ask me to explain the value of it. That’s not really an easy thing to describe, especially if they don’t understand how it works on a technical level. But here’s a shot. 

I don’t think it’s being dramatic to say that I probably wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have my Twitter community. When I was very physically and mentally unwell, they were my first port of call. They still are. They’re instantly there. I don’t even have to reach out to them – they reach in. All the time. Every day.

It can take a long time to build the right Twitter community, through following and unfollowing and striking up conversations and putting yourself and who you are out there. I joined six years ago and it’s taken me this long to really do it – most of which has happened over the last year. And I’m constantly tweaking it. I used to feel bad about unfollowing or blocking people that I didn’t agree with, or who made me feel upset or angry. I thought maybe I was surrounding myself with a nice little liberal bubble of people whose opinions I agreed with and would just be kind to me all the time – and then I thought: what the heck is wrong with that??

Sometimes it’s good to be challenged, and I think my community do that for me too. They encourage me, they remind me what I’m capable of when I’m moaning. They discuss difficult issues, and I see those conversations and participate when I can.

Without Twitter, I would have remained incredibly isolated the whole time I was stuck at home alone, battling my illness every day. I would never have met so many others who face similar struggles. It’s amazing because it’s so instant – all I have to do is go “Help!” and there are people right there saying “Sure – what do you need?”

This help is not just in the form of incredible emotional support – it extends far beyond. When I needed new glasses and couldn’t afford them, it was Twitter people who got together and made that possible. When I wanted to get to Wellington – actually I will say needed, because I so needed that chance to have a break and see my wonderful friends – Twitter people made that possible too. I’ve been given books and clothes and food and the most amazing letters. There is little better than opening the mailbox and seeing your name handwritten on an envelope.

Living in a small town can be isolating. Living alone (which fortunately I don’t do any more but I did for the months I was critically ill), living with chronic physical illness, living with mental illness – all of these things are isolating. But Twitter is about connection. It’s about community. It’s about friendship. Sometimes it’s even about love. ❤

No other generation has ever had this much power, right here in our pockets. No one has ever been so instantly and constantly and extensively connected. And I think some people are wary of that, and maybe rightly so. There’s reason for caution.

But Twitter is also about education. You learn as you go. I’ve learned many lessons, many times over. I certainly wouldn’t have the awareness I have now if it weren’t for the people I follow. I wouldn’t be a feminist. I wouldn’t be into politics. I probably wouldn’t have been able to come to grips with and share my own personality and sexuality and the things I really, really stand for. Again, it takes time to build that – you have to opt in. You have to create your world – Twitter is not something that just sits there waiting for you to look at it. You give to it, and it grows and gives back.

BlanketFort

I’m a big fan of The Killers. The song Deadlines and Commitments always makes me think of Twitter. “The house” is my community. They always encourage me. They always offer me a safe place.

Deadlines And Commitments

That place we all run to
It can come down on you
The expectation can be great

If you should ever tire
Or if you should require
A sudden, simple twist of fate

Don’t hide away
There’s something to be said for pushing through
We’d never ride on horses that discourage you

If you should fall upon hard times
If you should lose your way
There is a place
Here in this house
That you can stay

If you should find romance
Go on and take that chance
Before the strategies begin

Deadlines and commitments
Every morning
And in the evening
They can suck you in
Boy, don’t I know it

This offer would be standing
All you’ve got to do is call
Don’t be afraid to knock on the door

If you should fall upon hard times
If you should lose your way
There is a place
Here in this house
That you can stay

I’m not talking about
Deadlines and commitments
Sold out of confusion
There is a place
Here in this house
That you can stay

Catch you, darling
I’ll be waiting
I am on your side

This offer would be standing
All you’ve got to do is call
Don’t be afraid to knock on the door

If you should fall upon hard times
If you should lose your way
There is a place
Here in this house
That you can stay

Climbing mountains

I spent the last week in Wellington. It was incredible – not just the city and the food (haha) and the amazing, wonderful people I met – but the fact that I could do it at all. I’m actually making progress -a thought that is both thrilling and terrifying. 

I’m very lucky to have the people around me that I do, and seeing so many of you in Wellington was so great. I think I met about 100 new people – which, for an introvert who has been in hibernation now for almost a year, was pretty overwhelming!

I really want to brag about each of you individually but there’s just too many and I’m terrible afraid I’d miss someone. So I just have to say thank you to everyone. Thank you to those who made my trip possible. Thank you to everyone who took the time to meet me and make me welcome. Thank for you the conversations and the food and the massive amounts of encouragement that got me out of the house every day and continue to do so.

It’s hard to see progress when it’s your own journey. But I just have to compare now to a few months ago – physically and mentally. Then, I would not have been able to go. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to traipse all over the city, and up the hills at Wellington Zoo, and meet so many new people and do new things every day! I wouldn’t have even contemplated it. It’s hard to believe that it was just December that I was in Respite, because it seems like years ago. Now, I don’t wake up every day wanting to die. I wake up with hope. I’m still an emotional seesaw, don’t get me wrong, and I’m still in pretty much constant pain. I still have to have my cane, I still suffer from nightmares and insomnia, I’m still a mess of anxiety. But I have so much hope. I didn’t have any before.

I don’t really know what’s next for me. For a long time I was so focused on trying to “get back” – trying to regain what I’d lost. Now, I just look forward. There won’t be any going back. I can’t have that life, and I don’t want it.

My friend Jem talks about recovery like it’s climbing a mountain. I really did go pretty far down into the valley, so I’ve got a way to get back up. And you can have a tendency to keep only looking up and seeing how far it is to the top and lamenting that. So this is a pause, I guess, to admire the view. To rest my legs. To have a long look out and see that, yes, there might be a few hundred more metres to the summit, but I already got this far and that valley looks pretty far away now.

I’m getting all silly and emotional, so I’ll just say it again: thank you. If you’re reading this, you’re part of my journey. And that is really, really important.

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