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Monthly Archives: September 2012

INTERNATIONAL PEACE DAY

<a href="http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4510&picture=word-peace-in-sand">Word Peace In Sand</a> by Petr KratochvilToday is 21 September 2012 – INTERNATIONAL PEACE DAY.  The hope is that, by linking together through the Internet, through prayer, through meditation or simply through mindfulness, we can shift the global mindset from confrontational to co-operative.

John Lennon said it best, all those years ago, when he sang “Imagine” – “…You may think I’m a Dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  Maybe one day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one!”

Do I truly believe it’s possible to have World Peace?  Yes, I really do! 

It’s in the hands of each and every one of us.  It’s in our response to irritations and frustrations.  It is in our reactions to stressful situations, and to things we do not understand or agree with.  Even Michael Jackson had the right idea when he sang: “If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make the change!”

What I know for sure is that all that it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing! I have seen for myself how more and more good people are getting involved, taking action and signing petitions for the good of the world as a whole.  I believe that there are more of us who care than those of us who don’t. We must lead by example!

I believe that education is our best weapon against the prejudice and discrimination which is often at the root of conflict.  Our best hope for World Peace is to teach our children that fundamentally, we’re all the same.  We all have the same dreams and desires …. the most basic one being the need to be loved unconditionally and to be respected as a person!

I believe that, if you love your children unconditionally,  that will give them the self-confidence to love others unconditionally too! 

On this special day … and all the days that follow …. let’s just spread the love!

What do you think, each of us in our own small way, can do to foster Peace around the world?

Depression 101

Anybody who has ever had a real Migraine knows that it is not just a severe headache, it’s a different pain with a different cause.  Likewise, anybody who has experienced real Depression knows that it is not just feeling miserable!

 The problem is that the words “migraine” and “depression” are often misused in daily conversation.  How many times has someone said to you something along the lines of “I’m so depressed, my team lost again!”  or “Those screaming kids gave me such a migraine!”

Disclaimer:  I’m not a doctor or psychologist.  If you suspect that you or a loved one might actually be suffering from Clinical Depression, please make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment.

That said, I am a survivor of Clinical and Post-Partum Depression. 

Why a “survivor”?  Simply because I didn’t commit suicide!  Undiagnosed depression (especially in teens) often leads to the tragic and unnecessary death of the sufferer.    There are very many websites and books detailing the statistics, list of symptoms and all the “facts” about Depression, so I won’t reproduce them here. What follows is my story, in the hopes that it will help shed some light into the dark abyss that is depression.

I’m in a deep muddy pit.  I see the scratch marks down the sheer, brown, muddy walls from where I’ve frantically tried to claw my way up towards the light, only to continually slip further and further down into the murky depths.  I’m exhausted from the effort and tears slip down my face unheeded.  Days and nights pass.  The only relief is sleep.  I want it to end … but I don’t have the energy to get out of bed and get the pills.  I am literally stuck.  I cry and I sleep.  My boyfriend (now my husband!) would coax me to eat and drink, but I could hardly muster up the will to swallow what he placed in my mouth.  There’s no sense of time in the pit of depression.  It all swirls together.  Eventually the love of my life acknowledged that he was out of his depth and called in the reinforcements – my maternal grandparents!

My grandfather was a doctor in Italy.  As soon as he was apprised of my situation he sent my boyfriend money to buy me a ticket back to Italy.  He then packed a suitcase for me and handed me over to a hostess for the flight to Italy a couple of days later.  I was 19 years old and spent the entire flight crying into the soft fur of my favourite teddy bear.  I guess people must have thought I was a “special needs” person!  I honestly couldn’t have cared less about anything!  It took 3 months of “tough love”, medication and therapy before I was well enough to return to South Africa.  That was my first (and most severe) depressive episode.

Fast forward 5 years and I’m happily expecting my first child.  With the rose-tinted glasses of the first-time mom, I had drawn up a birth plan detailing my “natural” birth without medical intervention.  Best laid plans, right!? After a failed induction (10 days past due date) I ended up with an emergency c-section due to foetal distress.  After my son was delivered I started hemorraging so severely that (at one stage) my gynae actually contemplated giving me a hysterectomy!  Luckily they eventually managed to get my bleeding under control, but I’d lost so much blood that they kept me in post op under constant BP monitoring (and undergoing blood transfusions) for around 12 hours.  In that time my son was not returned to me.  When I finally got the chance to nurse my child for the first time they’d already fed him with a bottle so breastfeeding was also problematic. 

Ok, so now I was a complete wreck.  Despite having been a Super Sitter and having studied child development and psychology, I had no idea how to deal with my son.  Add to that colic, projectile vomiting and well-meaning (contradictory!) advice from everyone and I didn’t trust myself to be alone with my child!!  I was seriously  afraid that I’d either shake or otherwise injure my infant!  Those thoughts absolutely terrified me!  Luckily I was supported by my husband and grandparents (again) and, after a couple of months on medication, I finally got to enjoy being a mom!

Depression has revisited me from time to time since then.  I even spent a month in a psychiatric hospital a couple of years ago. I have now accepted the fact that I need to stay on meds for the rest of my life.

Depression is an illness which can be controlled by taking the correct medicine at the correct dosage.  Anti-depressants are not “happy pills” and are not addictive (even though you can only stop them under medical supervision).  What the world needs to understand is that there is no shame in seeking treatment for a mental illness and it is no more the patient’s “fault” than having any other kind of illness!

Have you or any of your loved ones had to deal with mental illness? What did you find to be helpful in dealing with it? 

Life As A Movie

Have you ever reminisced with someone regarding something you did together, only to have the other person tell you that you’re wrong and then give you a completely different version of the same story?  Have you ever walked away from that discussion thinking to yourself  “I wonder why X lied, after all I was there and I know the truth!”  Has it ever occurred to you that you might both be telling the truth – AS YOU KNOW IT?  How can different versions both be truth? Perception!

I once read (apologies to the author … can’t remember who are!) an article which compared Life to a movie.  Each of us have the “Starring / Lead” role in the movie of our life but only feature as “Supporting Cast” or even as “Extras” in the movies of the people we interact with on a daily basis.  This theory really resonated with me.  I started thinking about “Life As A Movie” and a lot of past “hurts” just melted away!  Here’s why:

The first thing you need to get clear in your own mind is that, despite you being the “Star” of your life movie, you might just be an “Extra” in someone else’s life movie.  An “Extra” is pretty much part of the scenery and nobody really pays much attention to them.  The value placed on the exchange between the two of you will vary depending on the role you assign to the other person.  Hurt feeling and misunderstandings tend to happen more when someone you consider part of your “Supporting Cast” actually gives you inferior “billing” as merely an “Extra” in their life story!  Am I explaining myself?

Obviously all this is subconscious – hence the “baggage” we tend to lug around our entire adult lives!  Try and visualise your life as if it really was a film set.  Now think about someone whom you think was inconsiderate to you or with whom you had a disagreement.  Now think about the rest of the “cast” of your life and (if possible) the “cast” of the other person’s life.  Do you see where and how the misunderstanding could have happened?

I had to do this exercise today, because yesterday I had a very hurtful conversation with my mother.  Our relationship history is frought with pain and misunderstandings.  I want it to end.  I no longer want to engage at this painful and destructive level. 

I used to think that my mother had “selective memory” at best or was a pathological liar, at worst …. then I tried to look at her life with her as the Star and me as the Extra.  Seen in this light, I realise why we’re not “connecting”.  I kept on trying to make her part of my Supporting Cast … but to her, I’m just an Extra – it can never work!  You might think that this is a “sad” or “bad” state of affairs, but it really isn’t!  Looking at our relationship in this way just gave me a different perspective on things.  I don’t need her to be part of my Supporting Cast! I feel quite confident that now that (at least in my own mind) I know which roles we each play, we will be able to live the rest of our lives in harmony.  After all, it takes two to fight … and I’ve thrown in the towel!!

Does the theory of “Life As A Movie” resonate with you, or do you think I’ve finally, really lost my mind?

What techniques do you use to make sense of why your life is the way it is?

This Too Shall Pass ….

If I had a rand for every time I’ve either said it to myself, or someone has said it to me; a “this too shall pass” at a time would have made me a millionaire by now!

The only problem with this “insight” is that it does not help you in the slightest when “this” (whatever the current “this” in your life is) has not passed yet!

Yes, this too shall pass … like everything else – both good and bad. 
That said, how do it deal with “this” before it passes?

 

My current “this” is a medical mystery, which has bee plaguing me for years. 

I am in constant physical pain, suffer from chronic fatigue, IBS, nausea, dizziness, and (most recently) an itch that is maddening.  The only thing worse than my symptoms is the fact that nobody knows what is causing me to feel this way!  Just thinking about the thousands of rands which I’ve already spent in search of a diagnosis makes me want to cry! 

“Take it one day at the time”  – again, great advice … not really helpful though!!  I’m past the point of platitudes! I don’t really want to keep going like this!  I want to go to bed, pull the covers over my head and stay there until magically “cured”.

 The thing is, I don’t really have any option but to carry on going … yes, one day at the time.  And praying …. yes, that “this too shall pass“, sooner rather than later!

 

Have you ever found “well meaning advice” to be irritating? 

What coping strategies have worked for you, when going through a difficult “this”?

Meanderings of a Teenage Mind

The following was written by my daughter when she was 15 years old. 

Short, dark beauty. Understated. Confused. Self-conscious. But isn’t every teenager?

It’s a battle. A fight for survival. Only the strongest will survive. If you can’t protect yourself in the wild you will be killed. Only he who is smart enough to make the fire or strong enough to fight off the beast can survive in this cruel world.

Live spelt backwards is evil.

Ain’t that the truth. It’s like we are put on this earth to be tested. Those who can’t handle it kill themselves. Some crack under the pressure and kill others. Those who arn’t smart enough to do it themselves steal, lie and cheat. Only a few learn what they have to learn and make it to the top. Others wallow in self pity. Some stay in stasis. Never moving , never growing as a person. That seems like everyone nowadays, doesn’t it?

Sometimes I just sit and stare and all the people walking down the road. They are all in a hurry. But are they actually getting anywhere?

We rush through life … for what?

Up at 6, sometimes earlier, only to get home at 6 in the night. An 8 to 16 hour work day.

What purpose does our life serve?

People say I overthink things. What? As opposed to not thinking at all?

I’d rather do the former instead of the latter. One person does something and our mind compels us to follow. That’s what we are taught from day one …  isn’t it?

Listen, follow, do.

Those who question get punished. Authority…  self appointed leaders over something. Something makes them“special”, doesn’t it? That is why their word it law and that is why (when an authority figure talks)  we are compelled to listen and believe.

Believe.

You can only spell believe with lie” in the middle. Our beliefs are formed around lies. Just the like the word.

Who gives these people authority? Who says that what they say is the truth?

Faith.

What is faith? The blind belief in something.

I go to church  twice a week and they say; ” have faith”.

But why? Thinking like this makes me a sinner.

My soul is now damned.

But who says that theirs arn’t? I mean isn’t lying a sin?

Now think about this …. if what the priest preaches isn’t true, doesn’t that make it a lie?  And doesn’t it mean that for centuries of generations we have been lied to?

Now isn’t that a sin?

I mean a white lie is bad, but this belief, this blind faith has caused many innocent deaths. So indirectly that is murder! One of the biggest sins out there!

Wars have been fought, countries divided, people divided because of this very belief.

What is the point?

Isn’t the purpose of belief to unite and make the world a better place? When in actual fact it segregates us more?  It causes conflict.

We all talk about a Divine world of peace, unity and freedom. But our belief in this Divine world makes our actual world fall apart.

Just take a look around and you will see that what I say is the truth.

I’m not a pessimist. Actually I think myself quite the opposite. Though I’m an optimistic person, I’m also a realist. I not only look at the positive, but at the ironic and funny side of life too. The only difference I see in myself is that I can’t conform. I have questions that I want answers to. I’m curious and honest. I don’t want a fantasy of how they say it should be. I want the truth. And I’ll do what it takes to find it.

Many won’t approve of my point of view. I mean my comment about “belief” might offend more than a few people …. but what if I’m right?

People say life is full of “what ifs”. And if you live by them then you’re never going to get anywhere. But I don’t see “what if” as a bad thing. Of course I don’t mean wallowing in the past, and past mistakes. I mean what if I tried this?

 What if I learnt that?  What if I questioned him?

It gives me focus in my life. As long as you remember where you are coming from and don’t ever backtrack.

I’ve recently learnt that life is cruel. People are cruel. And those stories parents like to let their children believe about a beautiful, just world, is another belief that isn’t true. If everyone embraced the concept that – working together is better than working against each other – then we wouldn’t be humans.

I mean what is a human?

An individual. In – divide – you – all.

Meaning we are all unique right? Even though it sometimes doesn’t appear that way. With all the conforming we do on a daily basis.

 Divided.

I couldn’t think of a better word to describe our attitude toward things. People are divided. Always have been and probably always will be.

 A few great leaders in our past tried to unite our race, and only got so far.

 But look at us now.

We are in the 21st century and we seem to have regressed. All this technology and higher education hasn’t done anything for us. Or so it seems….

We build more,

Destroy more,

Cheat more,

Kill more,

Study more,

Work more

And hurt more.

All for what?

Our world is dying.  And so are our souls. We work to“survive”.

MONEY.

That’s what it is about. Everything we do its money orientated. But all of this is killing us.

Our souls are dying.

We arn’t fufilled.

We arn’t happy.

Our world is dying.

Natural disasters and climate change are a sure sign of that. We talk about it, sure. But no one actually does anything about it. Its all, “lets make a hydro-car” or “recycle”.

What will all of this mean in the end?

Will our divine world accept a bribe?

All that money that we have aquired through not so favourable means for a good life on earth, will that serve us any good when there is no earth left?

I’ve heard many arguments.

“you only have this life”

“I’ll be dead long before the world ends”

“they deserved it”

“I’m just doing what I need to”

Typical human responses. But I can’t blame them. I mean who am I? I’m just an individual with a laptop, music and an opinion. I’m just pointing out what I notice. It’s ironic…

Those who are the first to complain are the last to actually do something about it. You might think that I’m complaining.

This is no complaint.

Just a mere statement of fact. These are things people hardly think about, if ever. I can’t really blame them though. I mean our authority makes sure that the majority don’t think too hard about these things. That’s how they keep control.

I mean imagine if everyone just one day said:

“No! enough is enough”.

Imagine if we all went off the grid. Back to the old ways of farming and hunting, though only a handfull actually know how.

Imagine if we all burnt our money.

Imagine if everyone shared, not stole, but shared.

If we worked on a trade basis. Like in primary school … “I’ll give you 2 Winnie the Pooh stickers for one Dress Up sticker”.

If everyone was actually equal, not just on some piece of paper, but in actual day to day life.

If the only belief that people had was that strength is in numbers, that one unit working together is better than 1000000000000 units working against each other.

If only.

There are so many questions that I have.

That many people have.

Some ask, and become outcasts.

Some think about it … but eventually forget.

Some don’t care.

Others go out of their way to prove it, spending their whole life chasing their theory, that they forgot the reason behind what they were doing.

Then you get the portion that just doesn’t think. Period. Full stop. Ever.

What category do you fall under?

Most likely, you think about it but never ask.

But if you were to ask who would you ask? I mean nobody has these answers. Nobody wants these answers.

The answer to Life.

I think it scares us. It scares me. That’s why society tries to focus our attention on the non important stuff.

The latest phones, laptops and fashion. I won’t lie, I buy into it as well.

Everyone does.

But isn’t that what they want? Aren’t we doing exactly what they want?
We are letting them keep control!

Of course we are …

I mean that’s how it’s supposed to be, right?

Right.

What if we actually got the answers we were looking for?

What if we actually found out the truth about religion?

What if we knew what created this planet, solar system and universe?

What if we knew where animals and humans really came from?

 I mean, where did the bacteria and cells come from?

How did the universe form in such a way that it can keep planets?

And how did the planets form in such a way that only one in our soloar system actually has life on it … that we know of?

Why Earth?

Why are we the way we are?

What is the function of the 3 toes in the middle of the other 2?

Why are there diseases?

Why do we need to drink water?

Why weren’t we made to survive on food alone?

I mean considering we’re surrouned by deserts.

Why do we eat?

 Why doesn’t our body just absorb energy from the sun?

Why were we born with the capability to think when it is apparent that most people don’t?

Why were we all made unique?

What purpose does it serve when we change ourselves daily to conform, to fit in or to just be the same as those around us?

Who came up with “common sense”? Because it isn’t common. So why call it common sense?

Did someone just come up with oxymorons so that they could say the word “oxymoron” and sound smart?

Why is it called oxymoron?

Isn’t the person that came up with the oxymoron, an oxymoron?

What is normal?

What is weird?

Why is it natural for us on to give birth to one child when some people give birth to three?

Why does our body excrete a hormone that makes us think babies are adorable? Does it not trust us to love the child unconditionally if it didn’t? Or does our body know us well enough to know that, without that hormone, the lack of sleep and tireless screeching would make us murder the child?

I could go on….

But my point is that we would rather focus on the questions we can answer, rather than those we can’t. No one likes not knowing things.

It’s human nature.

We want the answers to everything.  And we are very good at convincing ourselves that we do know all the answers.

Convincing, lying …. What’s the difference?

What do you get out of  this post?  I feel hopeful about a new generation which questions the “status quo”!

When is sexual intercourse rape?

You might as well ask, when is Heaven Hell or when is day night!!  Rape is not sex and sex is not rape, irrespective of what some books and movies would like you to believe!  As a survivor of rape and psychological abuse (now a happily married mother of 2) I can categorically and emphatically state that sexual intercourse is not even distantly related to rape!!

Rape is the violent act of a sick individual.  Sex is (at its worst) the mechanism by which a physical and / or psychological need is met, and (at its best) it is an expression of love, mutual trust and respect – the ultimate union of two people.  Sex is the means by which most children are conceived. 
Sex is Creation.  Rape is Destruction.

The only reason rape is thought about in a “sexual” context at all is because often (but not always!) the weapon utilised to injure another person is a penis!  The truth is that both males and females are raped.  All ages from babies to grandmothers are raped.  All socio-economic groups, ethnicities and sizes are raped.  It is simply NOT TRUE that what you wear, or whether you’re promiscuous or not, has any bearing whatsoever on being selected as a victim.

Things become even murkier when you talk about the so-called “date rape”.  Somehow it is harder to explain that you were raped when you know the person responsible and you voluntarily let him in!  If you don’t have bruises, how do you “prove”  rape?

This is my story: I was 17 years old. I was studying for my final exams to graduate high school.  I was alone at home.  I was wearing a T-shirt and tracksuit pants.  The guy I’d dated a couple of times shows up and I let him in.  I tell him I need to study but he convinces me to “take a break” and sit next to him on the couch for a bit.  I do so.  He knew (because we’d spoken about this before) that I believed my virginity was a gift I could only give once, and therefore wanted to save “it” for my wedding night.  This was simply because I believed that only the man willing to spend the rest of his life with me deserved the gift of my virginity.  I had dreadfully poor self-esteem as well, and I felt that being a virgin was the only thing of value I had to offer a potential life partner.

He put his arm around me and kissed me.  I’d kissed him before and nothing untoward had happened, so I was completely unprepared for what happened next!  I still don’t quite know how he did it but, one second we were both on the couch and the next I was on the floor and he was on top of me.  I must have banged my head when he pulled me off the couch because I remember being stunned and disorientated.  Without getting off me, he pulled down my tracksuit pants and panties with one hand while he held both my wrists above my head with the other.  I remember really wanting to move and cry out, but my muscles refused to obey my silent commands.  I was like a deer caught in headlights – literally petrified. I mean, I was unable to move or even say anything … never mind scream and hit him! It hurt.  It really hurt a lot.

When he was done he walked to the toilet and I just lay there, on the hard laminate wood floor, naked from the waist down, totally unable to grasp what had actually happened.  Eventually I felt I needed to go to the toilet myself … and realised I was bleeding.  I remember saying out loud, “I’m not a virgin any more”.  Mr X shot me a triumphant look. I was in shock. He left.  I felt numb – and remained numb for about 2 years, until it all came flooding back and I became severely depressed!

That would have been bad enough, but my own mother did not believe that I was raped!  She actually called me a slut and sent me to her gynae for a check-up (thank God I didn’t catch anything and didn’t fall pregnant!). He put me on the pill and lectured on the dangers of promiscuity!!  I tried to explain that I wasn’t promiscuous, but he wouldn’t listen to my “excuses”.  I felt violated all over again – first by my rapist, then by my mother and then by her doctor!

Everyone needs to understand that (despite the fact that often the “weapon of choice” is a penis) rape is an act of violence not sex!

Given what you have just read, how will you prepare your children for a world in which rapists exist? 

How The Phoenix Came To Be

You might be wondering why I have chosen the Phoenix to symbolise me.  Like the mythological bird, I’m a survivor who (every so often) destroys itself only to be born anew. I was inspired to start this blog by all the wonderful contributors to World Moms Blog, who were supportive of my first posts. I don’t claim to be particularly wise or intelligent.  I am simply a person who has been through a lot … and keeps on going!

Recently I came across the following quote:  “Learn all you can from the mistakes of others. You won’t have time to make them all yourself.” (Alfred Sheinwold)

Blog by the Phoenix is a space where I will honestly share my life experiences with you, in the hope that they can help you in your own journey through life. What follows is a very brief of synopsis of my life.  I’ll elaborate on the most pertinent facts in future posts, however this should give you an idea of where I’m coming from.

I’d also like to add a disclaimer before we go any further.  Everyone (whether they are aware of it or not) views things through their own “filter”.  Two people can live through the same experience and yet remember it completely differently. There is no “right” or “wrong” here, just different points of view. This is my truth, as I have lived it.

I was born in Rome, Italy, in 1969.  My family emigrated to South Africa in 1978 and I grew up in Cape Town (where I still reside together with my husband, 2 teen children, 2 cats and 2 dogs)!

My recently deceased father sired 5 children.  I’m the oldest of the 3 he had with my mother … and I only found out that I actually had an older brother when I was already an adult. The family dynamics are “complicated” to put it mildly!

I lost my virginity to date rape and remained in this abusive relationship for approximately 2 years. You see, I totally believed that no “decent” man could possibly ever love me since I was no longer a virgin.  I stopped caring about everything and was “happy” to let Mr X make all the decisions (down to what I should wear and when I should speak).

The same year I had to write my final Matric exams, my parents divorced. It was not an amicable divorce and the “fallout” from it caused a lot of pain to a lot of people for a very long time.

A few months after my 18th birthday I suffered my first bout of Clinical Depression.  I was suicidal.  I was saved by the love of the man whom I eventually married in 1991.  He put me on a plane back to my grandparents in Italy (my grandfather, may he rest in peace, was a doctor and my grandmother is an expert at “tough love”).  It took 3 months of therapy and medication before I recovered enough to return to Cape Town.

All I ever wanted to be when I gew up was a wife and mother … and maybe an author!  Just before my wedding I was told that I’d be unlikely to fall pregnant without medical intervention.  I wanted to call off the wedding as I didn’t think there was any point in getting married if we couldn’t have children.  Luckily my wonderful man convinced me that it didn’t matter.  Two years later (without trying!) I fell pregnant after all!  I immediately quit my job as a Medical Receptionist and devoted myself to my “miracle” baby boy.  After we survived the first 2 years (there will be a series of posts on this subject!!) my husband convinced me to try for a second miracle.  Again, with no medical intervention, it only took 6 months before I conceived our daughter.  I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my son for 22 months after his birth, and with my daughter for the first 11 months of her life.  Unfortunately the economic reality of our society is that it’s quite rare nowdays for a household to survive on only one income, so (reluctantly) I eventually had to go back to paid employment.

Since I always only worked because we needed the money (and had no career aspirations at all) I ended up being a Jill-of-all-trades!  My work experience runs the gamut from babysitter to telemarketer to sales representative to tour guide to librarian to optometric practice assistant (just to mention a few)!

I feel I have a lot to share and I hope you will walk by my side as I take my first tenatative steps into the world of bloggers.

 

Based on what you now know about me, what would you like my next post to be about?