Shocking

I almost considered abandoning this blog as I just had no desire to write any more, then without warning, BAM along comes something I can’t stay silent about.

Today we are going to talk about the fact that on Tuesday my 8yo twin girls are going to shave their heads and how apparently this is offensive to some people. If you are one of these people you can read on, or bite me.

Yesterday our twins decided they want to shave their heads. Not for any cause, they are too young & niave to know anything about that. Nor are they paitent enough to wait to do if for a cause (if we did tell them about that). As it is their hair and their body I said yes. It is much easier for me to do this knowing they are homeschooled and the homeschooling community and the people they choose to be friends with are generally pretty accepting. I posted about in on twitter and mentioned it to a few people and forgot about it. I thought some people might find it odd…but what I wasn’t expecting was people to think we were evil in some way, to think that we are bad parents for this decision. Actually I expected that from hubbys mum & sister, but thanks to their comments we won’t be attending his mums 50th birthday next weekend. Again, they can bite me.

Now before I go trying in my terrible way to reinvent the wheel I am going to link directly to my husbands tumblr post on this matter where he explains it all awesomely.

Now readers of this blog will be well aware of our marital issues. They may even be aware of issues he had as a dad early on that I still haven’t forgiven him for. BUT he is an awesome dad. He adores his girls and fights fiercely for their rights to be just who they are. And for this I will always love him…not in a romantic way, but in a way that I know I so made the right choice in parenting, even if I made a sucky choice in a relationship.

But if that post wasn’t enough this afternoon I was in my room when I heard him talking to the twins about our next homeschool park day – where they can’t wait to tell everyone they are shaving their heads. He was warning them that people might try to talk them out of it and that if that happens they should say:

“It’s my body & my hair and I can do what I want with it.”

I totally started tearing up and started thinking what a profound statement that is. I mean we all tell our kids that, but can we live by it? Imagine if every little girl was told that statement by their parents (though I personally think it had so much more power coming unsolicited by a man, the most important man in their life) and then reinforced it as they grew up. Imagine the generation of empowered girls we would have. Imagine them being able to say that with complete confidence to everyone and anyone and believing it.

I know for years after my own hair cutting trauma (my dad hacked all my hair off as punishment) I wouldn’t let the girls cut their hair above shoulder length, but after being bugged repeatedly and being asked why I gave in. Especially as the only answer I had was “but then you won’t look like a girl” (which is the same one that gets showered upon us everytime my girls go to the hair dresser) I realised it was lame, horribly sexist (girls don’t look just one way) and I didn’t even believe it myself. It is just hair. If they don’t like it it will grow back. If we don’t make a fuss there will be no reason for them to think they have made a bad choice.

Rather than get a lecture from a hair dresser again I learnt to cut the girls hair thanks to youtube. On Tuesday we are hunting a pair of hair clippers and their hair will be coming off. They may change their mind between now and then, but given how excited they are I find that highly unlikely. They really don’t care what the rest of the world thinks and I love them so much for that.

I watched this video before halloween and it made me sad and angry all at the same time.

So before you tell me that you think our daughters should think twice about shaving their heads because “zomg what will people think/say” or “but then they won’t look like disney princess versions of what girls are suppose to look like, I invite you to think about what this is really saying to girls.

project:girl

A Never Ending Struggle

Last week I hurt my hip. Prior to that I had been exercising consistently 5-6 days a week for 45 minutes at least. The two weeks prior I was exercising every day and feeling better for it. I found that I had better concentration, better sleep, less mood swings and was happier on the days I exercised. I did some reading and discovered as long as I didn’t run 7 days a week or weight train everyday that I should be physically able to tolerate that much exercise. Even the gp ok’ed it. So I surged ahead feeling better each day, feeling more in control and more able to cope with everyday. Then I hurt my hip.

I had to keep it elevated for two days and was on anti-inflamatories. It hurt just to walk. I thought I might be able to swim a little – that didn’t go so well. Everything I read said bike/xtrainer could just make it worse. So I sat. I can’t keep my leg elevated on the lounge so I moved back into the bedroom. I spent two years hiding out in my room and had managed almost five weeks out of it. I managed to visit the Love Vintage Fair on Saturday with a friend, but by the time I got home I was emotional and frazzled. I was crying over nothing. At first I thought I must be coming down with something as one of our twins had been quite unwell. The next day, after weeks of getting out of bed by 9:30am…I slept until 3pm. Hubby came in a few times to try to wake me but I just yelled at him and went back to sleep. Same thing happened the next day. I didn’t leave my room. I stopped showering. I stopped helping out around the house. I stopped responding to emails. I cancelled my personal training appointment even though I had no more pain. I cancelled a drs appointment. I stopped doing the morning pages. I also binged on junk food. Not just lots more food (though I did that) I ate all the stuff I have been so diligent in avoiding since my diabetes diagnosis in February. I watched my blood sugars sky rocket…when I could be bothered testing, which wasn’t often (I normally test 4x a day).

Hubby started to demand what was wrong. I was yelling and crying and avoiding everyone and not wanting to do anything except sit in bed and watch tv. I don’t even like tv.

I had to face the facts…regardless of how long it “normally” took for me to become depressed, I was in fact really, really depressed.

I emailed my personal trainer and explained the whole situation. She was already up to speed on my personal health/mental health history. She was so great – she offered me an afternoon appointment…so even if I slept til three I could still go. She was fine with me rescheduling (I get a lot of anxiety over the fact that I can’t make it to a lot of things…and after I reschedule a few times people start to get cranky – fair enough – but that just makes my anxiety worse and I avoid them more. She saw a different person when I walked in today. One filled with fear and just not happy. I told her what I needed was to be smashed. I needed to be pushed back into the one thing that has made the most significant impact on my mental health in years. I needed her to be nice to me while I did it though. I don’t think I could cope with having someone scream abuse at me while training. So push me she did. She put me straight on the cross trainer (I hate those things…first time I used one I made in one minute and 19 seconds and then fainted) which saw my heart rate jump right up. Then she put me through the ringer. I gave it everything I had for three rounds (which is what we normally do) and then she said we were going again and I almost cried. I felt like I had nothing left to give, but I did it. I felt like I was moving through mud…but I did it. We finished up 10 minutes early as there was nothing left in me. I barely managed the 100m walk home – my legs were jelly. My face was red. I was sweating like a pig.

I fell into a shower and had to sit down in there as I was so tired. I then dry heaved for a little while as I have been eating shit and eating like crap and then smashing yourself apparently don’t go hand in hand. I went and sat back in bed and fretted. What if I went too hard and just exhausted myself more and was unable to exercise again for days? What if I was just tired and no endorphins followed? What if it didn’t work and I was spiralling back into another horrible depressive phase? What if this is what the rest of my life would be?

Then I realised I have been avoiding the problem. Since my bipolar diagnosis 2.5 years ago (and subsequent total mental breakdown that saw me in the psych ward 9 days and then in a facility for 3 months) I have been looking for the “cure”. I hate that I have bipolar. Not because I hate people with bipolar or that I think they are crazy or not normal. But because I dread more than anything becoming my mother. My mum has bipolar and my early childhood right through to a few years ago was spent caring for her. I have sobered her up too many times to count. Left my sick kids to fly up to try to sort her out after she went on a “speed” binge. I watched her treat my brothers so horribly. I knew how she treated me. What if that was all “bipolar” and not her fault at all? What if I am destined to follow.

Of course rationally I know this isn’t the case. When I was diagnosed I went on medication (she has never medicated with prescription drugs…just with illegal drugs and loads of alchol). When I realised alcohol could react with my medication I gave up drinking entirely (2.5 years sober and counting). I have never taken my anger and frustration out physically or verbally on my girls (and lord knows there have been days when I was at my worst and so were they).

I’m still clearly coming to terms with it. And I’m still coming to terms with the fact that there is no cure. I can exercise and it helps. I can sleep better and that helps. I can see my psych and that helps. I can run when I’m frustrated and angry. I can read. I can journal. I can give up alcohol. I can take a shit load of fish oil. I can take my vitamins. I can create. All these things help…but it won’t ever be cured. There will always be ups and downs. There will be good days and bad days. There will be days when I can’t get out of bed. Then there will be days when I can run and bake and play with the girls and email my friends.

Now my endorphins have kicked in, I’m feeling more positive. Here’s hoping there are more good days than bad.

project:girl

Ebay Sale

Christmas is too close for comfort and I need to be able to buy some little people presents. I also now have a wardrobe full of clothes n sizes 18-24 that don’t fit me any more. I can only list 10 items at a time, but as things sell new things will be going up. Lots of Leona Edmiston, as well as a few pairs of brand new converse, some ASOS, Dorothy Perkins and more.

If you want to have a look and possibly buy yourself some new clothes (so much of it was only worn once and is in new condition) please click HERE and have a look.

project:girl

Running – My Story, Getting Started & Some Reviews

I have had this post rambling around in my head for a little while, but we were on holiday (I know I still owe you the rest of our holiday post as well) and then I didn’t run for seven weeks and thought I had no place giving advice to anyone, but I have been asked again about running so I thought I would put all my very limited knowledge here for anyone who may be thinking about taking up running…as I am currently in bed with my leg elevated after strained my hip flexor after yesterdays run I have nothing to do except obsess over not being able to exercise for awhile. This is a very long post by the way…so feel free to not read unless you are interested in running. Here we go…..

First of all I want to start by saying that running is not for everyone. I am a big believer in finding movement you love and find enjoyable. I don’t believe in pounding it out at the gym just because you need to exercise…given the sheer amount of options out there for movement I really just don’t see the point. I have tried everything from swimming to ballet, hula hoops to burlesque, soccer to the treadmill. Find something you love and you are more likely to joyfully race off to get your movement in. I never expected to love running, but I do. You should see me fist pumping the air and jumping around like a lunatic when I am done. I come home glowing (well sweating). I smile when I am done.

For those that may not have been reading my blog long I spent almost two years in bed, heavily sedated from being given a medication I never should have had. In two years I left my house less than 20 times…almost all of those were doctors appointments. The weight piled on (the medication was a triple threat – it was a sedative, it slowed my metabolism and it also made me feel like I was constantly starving) as I would just sit in bed and eat and sleep. Thankfully my husband finally made a doctor see reason and my medication was reduced by a third. With that I started moving again…mainly just around the house. In December last it was reduced again and I started to leave the house more. I was slow, I ached just after walking the six houses down to the shop and I got puffed really easily. I started taking burlesque classes with a friend once a week and had so much fun. The first class I was only able to participate in about 20 of the 60 minute class. But I persevered.  In February I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes (a not unsurprising side effect of my medication). It was then I was determined to change my habits for the better.

Along with a change in diet (I avoid processed foods, sugar and processed white carbs for those wondering) I started moving more. The first time I went for a walk for exercise – I had planned a route of about 5km but I barely made it to 3km. At first I was devastated. I was so tired and it seemed like such hard work to have only gotten that far. But I kept at it. After six weeks walking wasn’t enough. I wanted a challenge, but I hated the treadmill and I needed something I could do any time, day or night (I have chronic insomnia) that required no fancy gear and that I could go at my own pace. So I started running.

To get started I used a program called C25k (the couch to 5km running program). It is an interval training program. What that means is you start of with short intervals of running followed by recovery periods of walking. I didn’t just head out the door and run 5kms. I started by running 15 seconds. The program said I was suppose to run for 30 seconds but I couldn’t make it. I am still nowhere near running 5km straight. I still can’t go for longer than a few minutes of running without stopping to walk, but just the other day I ran for a straight eight minutes. I was so excited that once I had recovered I was dancing around the oval and I totally freaked out an old couple walking their dog who quickly turned and walked in the opposite direction. I try to run three times a week. Two of those are my “short” runs. I walk 1km to the local oval as a warm up, do my C25k program, then walk the 1km home as a cool down. Once a week I add a few extra kms on the end of my program. Which means on a week where I manage all three runs I do about 20kms.

To help me keep track of how far I run, my pace and of course my C25k program I use some iphone apps. I am going to link to android apps where possible too and for those without a smart phone I am going to give you some options as well.

Nike+

I am a bit of a geek and I like to challenge myself, meaning I like to know how long I have run and how far so I can compare it to last time. I have absolutely no interest in beating anyone else…just myself. The app I use to keep track of all those things is my nike+ app. It runs in the background using the GPS on my iphone. I have run all over my suburb and have yet to find a black spot. Even when I had no credit on my phone it still worked (I wasn’t expecting that). You can also log into the nike+ website to go back through your history and work toward goals (running longer, running more often ect). Nike+ is also free…so you can download it and get started straight away. For those that don’ have access to a smart phone you can use a website called Map My Run to enter your route and times afterwards.

Nike+ iPhone app | Nike+ Android app

Ease into 5km

The other “must have” app for me is the Ease into 5km app. It was created using the C25k program…but was forced to change it’s name.There are quite a few variations on this app, so if you don’t fancy this one have a look around to find one you like. Basically it is an interval program. You pop it on week 1, run 1 and go. It gives you a five minute warm up followed by increasingly longer runs and increasingly shorter walks. The Week 1 of my one is three lots of 30s run, 45s walk,  Run 45s, Walk 60s, Run 60s, Walk 90s and builds up until you can run for about 30 minutes without stopping or approximately 5km. If you want to start running but don’t think you are fit enough or need some hand holding get this app. It costs $2.99 in iTunes and $2.91 in the Google Play store. I also upgraded in the app (I think it was another $1.99) for the GPS version. As the GPS is optional on this app it might work on a regular Ipod Touch. If you don’t have a smart phone or iPod touch you can download the podcast mp3s from iTunes HERE or you can use the original C25k running program at the Cool Running website HERE and just use a stop watch. I used the podcast originally years ago (before apps and smart phones) but I definitely prefer the apps so I can use my own music.

Ease into 5km iPhone | Ease into 5km Android

Next up is gear. For me I just run in stretchy pants and a $4 tank top from big w. If it’s cold when I leave I throw on a cardigan and tie it around my waist when I am sufficiently sweaty. Personally I have no interest in fancy running gear. I don’t care how I look when I run…in fact I am pretty sure I look like Pheobe from friends when she runs so what I wear is the least of my problems!

But with that said…given that I have quite a large bust (I am currently a 12FF) I need a supportive bra. Until recently I had all but written off high impact sports. It was just too painful in the bras I was using. After getting properly fitted a little while back and realising just how wrong my bra size was (I was wearing a 20DD and turned out to be a 16G) I decided to investigate a good quality sports bra in my real size. By the time I got fitted for my Panache Sport I had lost some more weight and had gone down a few sizes again, but with me loosing lots of weight and with the bra being $80 the lovely lady fitted me in a 12FF with a bra extender which came off a few weeks back. This bra is insane. I can’t tell you how much I love it. I get almost no boob movement. From the outside it looks more like a crop top than a sports bra which led to me thinking it wasn’t going to support…but that is just the outside, underneath that is two separated cups with underwire. I have zero pain when I wear this bra doing anything from skipping rope to running. It is well worth the money and I plan on replacing it with the exact same model when it gets too big. If you are a D cup or over go try it on…amazing!

Next up is sneakers. Now when you first start running just grab any old pair and go. If you love it then after a few weeks go get fitted properly. I chose to get fitted at Athletes Foot as in the past I have gotten shin splints from running. I also have weak ankles and weird hips and knees thanks to 3 pregnancies before I was 22 (the last being a pair of giant twins). For me the only way I could run was shelling out $200 on a pair of sneakers. I can’t tell you what they are as I don’t have a clue. I just went and was fitted by the team at athletes foot with their fitprint machine. I also chose to get dedicated runners rather than cross trainers or multi-purpose sneakers as I can wear anything when I am at the gym doing weights or on the bike. I really wouldn’t go out and spend the money though until you have decided running is for you or if you start to have any pains in your shins or ankles while running.

Drink Bottle. I know everyone is really getting into the metal drink bottle thing, but I have a massive aversion to the smell and taste of metal. Sometimes I can’t even manage to use stainless steel cutlery (left over pregnancy aversion). So I had been using and reusing a mount franklin water bottle. My nan (always on my case about my health…she also weigh trains twice a week to prevent osteoporosis and ran in the city to surf every year until she was 70) kept on at me about this and reusing takeaway containers in the microwave as they apparently breakdown and you actually ingest some of the plastic chemicals each time. Thankfully Smiggle came to my rescue with a plastic BPA free water bottle. I have been using it for about four weeks now and while I don’t feel any different, I am at least glad I am reducing landfill.

Sunscreen. I’m pretty darn pale and I prefer to stay that way. I always put on SPF30+ (at least) whenever I leave the house, running is no exception. I us whatever brand we have at home for my body (we are a family who are all super pale and burn easy…we have to buy our sunscreen in bulk pump packs). On my face I am currently using Nivea Sun Light Feel Daily Face Veil 30spf (isn’t that a mouthful).

That’s really all I use. A sports bra, a pair of sneakers, a drink bottle, sunscreen and two iPhone apps. If you are interested in what music I listen to when I run, you can find my running playlist HERE on iTunes.

Optional Extras – Hat & Sunglasses. As it is getting brighter and sunnier in Melbourne I am really thinking of purchasing a cheap baseball cap for running. I have also decided that my next big purchase will be a pair of prescription sunglasses. I am almost blind without my glasses so putting on a pair of non prescription glasses makes it dark & blurry…so it’s not an option, well not if I want to run anyway. As it gets brighter I am literally crying when I run. So if you have sensitive eyes or will be running while it is sunny remember your hat and sunnies.

Heart Rate Monitor. I bought mine when I was doing the 12WBT as it was recommended. As a tech person and someone who geeks out over gadgets I love mine. I have stopped using it to count the calories burnt though as I move from a weight loss focus to a healthy lifestyle focus, but I do love to look down and see if I am training hard enough. It gives me a target heart rate zone based on my age & weight. It also allows me to make sure I am keeping my heart rate up for my target 45 minutes so I can get my flood of endorphins. It’s totally not necessary for running, but I like to see my progress. I can see that when I first started running my maximum heart rate was a lot higher than it is now as I get fitter. I use a polar FT4 and I can even use it in the pool. Mine is a cool girly fuchsia.

As I have gotten right into running I have started reading and buying books & magazines on running. This has led to some anger and frustration as almost every magazine geared toward females and “health” is primarily about weight loss and trying to look like celebrities. I don’t want to read 21 different squats to make me “booti-ful”. I don’t want to read how someone hated themselves at 90kgs but now at 50kgs they have found love. I want to learn about health, well being and running. So here are my reviews on some books and magazines I have read (and also a DVD).

A quick side note here…as my daughters get older I worry a lot more about body dysmorphia and the ridiculous pressures of society to conform to a very narrow idea of beauty. Even “health” is so often confused with weight. If you have ever been larger yourself you will know that getting evidence based medical care is nearly impossible. I have been prescribed weight loss for everything from infertility to migraines to an infected throat. If you want to read more about these things and get yourself a little bit more educated I highly recommend the “dances with fat” blog and the Health At Every Size website. The more I learn the more committed I have become. As such you will no longer be reading about weight loss on this blog. I will however likely continue to talk about running and I am getting back into weight training which feels AWESOME.

Run Fat Bitch, Run

I bought this book as I thought it was a book about a fat runner. I was about 90kgs when I started running. As a size 16 I still consider myself to be a plus sized runner so I thought this book would be perfect. Oh how wrong I was. I feel sick at having ever given money to this author. The book starts off much like my tips – throw on some sneakers and just start running…but that is where the usefulness ends. I have long struggled with my body image and this book, in my opinion, is dangerous. Advising women to stand in front of the mirror with a photo of some half starved celebrity while telling yourself over and over again that you’re a fat bitch is just so wrong.  I really believe this is a horrible, terrible, very very bad book. If you have any self esteem issues this is not the book for you. It is a book I want my money back for. I normally don’t care if I don’t like a book but this is repulsive and in my opinion dangerous. The author also has never been more than 10lbs “over weight” in her life…so hardly a “fat bitch”. Of course this is just my thoughts on the matter…but I have daughters, one who had the starts of an eating disorder at just nine years old. I believe books like this and magazines telling you how to drastically diet to loose 5kgs in a week are at least partially to blame. I can’t say enough how much I hated this book. I still read it from start to finish in case it got better….it didn’t. I will not link to this book or this author.

Runners World Complete Book of Women’s Running

I saw this in my local library and grabbed it to have a look at. This is a book I can get behind. It has plenty of running training programs – everything from learning to run, to training for a marathon. It also goes into issues women runners need to think about including a whole section on safety and running alone right through to running while pregnant. If you are getting into running I really recommend grabbing this book from your local library. Really great all round running book. I am going to buy this one as I think it covers a lot of ground. You can find it on Amazon HERE.

Womens Running Australia Magazine

To be honest I am not a fan of womens health/fitness magazines. I find most to resemble any other womens magazine, little detail and instead focusing on how you can drop a bunch of weight in a short period of time or trying to get the abs of some celebrity or eat this “super food” all day every day and the weight will just “fall off”  – you know the stuff. Unfortunately I am not their target market. I don’t care about any of that stuff any more – I really just want to increase my health and fitness. I love inspiring stories, but prefer stories where they came back from illness to run a marathon than ones that focus on weight loss…but I digress. Womens Running Australia is the first fitness magazine I plan to buy again. The issue I purchased had some great inspiring stories, a half marathon training plan and a section on running prams. Obviously I am past the pram stage, but I just think these are the things female focused fitness magazines should be doing. It has advice for running in winter, running stretches and my favourite was a section that had about six mini interviews with female runners of all ages/stages talking about their own running. It’s featured exercise plan was a core workout and it has a running event calendar as well as some information about the more popular events. I also really loved its fashion spread, it was short and covered a variety of clothing types including these running shorts with a skirt over the top for those that want to be girly while running. All in all I found it appropriate, full of useful information to female runners and had little of the fluff and I don’t think I saw much if anything about weight loss or looking like the latest celebrity. For $8.50 I will definitely be buying it again. You can find it at your local newsagents or try their website www.womensrunning.com.au

The Runner’s Guide to Yoga

I have only just picked up this book at the library but already I am excited. I have been wanting to add in some yoga to my routine but seeing as how I am kind of running obsessed at the moment it didn’t seem too interesting…of course now I am injured with something that could have been prevented by more hip flexor exercises this book is looking like a keeper. The book starts off by explaining how yoga can help runners with strength and flexibility, balance and focus. It then moves on to cover various yoga moves/poses for strength and flexibility in sections (hips & thighs, core, lower legs and upper body). Part three moves into preventing & correcting overuse injuries, preventing acute injuries as well as balancing work and rest and studio yoga with at home yoga. In the preventing and correcting overuse section they have “self tests” which is you taking a specific yoga pose and then diagnosing yourself based on what feels strong or if you wobble. Then it has specific poses used to correct these issues. The next section really encourages you to remember to rest. As you will see in my tips/hints I never run on two consecutive day…some people who love running so much find this tricky (I know I do so this section tries to explain it better as well as giving you options for other movement that will support your running rather than doing “nothing”. Following on it explains why athletes (and runners) have different yoga needs. It then helps you to choose a class based on your needs and explains the different types of yoga classes and what they can help you with. Then follows up with how to set up a space at home to practice yoga. Part four moves into exercises for “focus” or the more meditative side of yoga. It covers a lot of race issues which is currently not of interest to me as I am still learning to run. But I am interested in reading the chapter about breathing again. I really struggle toward the end of a run with breathing. Part five is about pulling it all together and has routines for before a run, during a run (no, not yoga poses during a run – more breathing exercises and mantras and all that jazz), a post run routine and finally a post race routine. My only problem with the book is that I personally really, really struggle to figure out poses and movements from still images/instructions. Thankfully Sage Rountree (not her yoga/hippie name…but her actual name as she explains in her classes) has a DVD out called “Yoga for Athletes” both the book Yoga for Runners and the DVD Yoga for Athletes are available at amazon. But if you are impatient like me you can also view Sage taking her Yoga for Runners class at the Yoga Vibes website www.yogavibes.com and the class preview can be seen HERE. I signed up for the free trial and have been able to view all their yoga classes online including some great ones for children that I plan on using with the girls.

My Personal Running Tips

If you want to start running, but don’t think you are fit enough to just hit the pavement and run I really recommend a learn to run program like the C25K. It gives you a place to start and that place is relatively easy.

If you find yourself in a position like I first was…where you are really only just getting back into exercise after illness or bed rest start with walking. Put on your shoes and leave the house. Walk as far as you can and come home. Keep doing that at least three times a week until you can easily walk for at least thirty minutes or about 4km. If you want to push yourself walk faster. Speed up until you couldn’t hold a conversation if you wanted to. If you get tired slow down and then start again when you can. If I can go from lying in bed for two years to regularly managing 20km in a week anyone can. But start where you are. Don’t think you can’t do it because you couldn’t make the whole 30 minutes. Start with five. I used to have to take a break when walking the six houses down to the shops. You are where you are, don’t get hung up on what others can do.

BUT please go to your doctor first and get cleared for exercise. Especially if you are unfit or haven’t exercised in a while. I discovered along with type II diabetes I also had high cholesterol. In my case cardio was advised so I got the all clear, but I am glad I got the check.

If you are large breasted go and be fitted for a good quality sports bra. You may cringe and the cost like I did, but once you run (or do any high impact sports) in a good quality bra you will wonder how you ever managed before. If you haven’t been fitted for a bra in more than a few years, if you have lost or gained weight since your last fitting, have gone through menopause, have had a baby or been breastfeeding since your last fitting – run, don’t walk to a PROPER lingerie store to get fitted. Skip the department stores and bras & things (which seem to be staffed by girls who have yet to get breasts). I highly recommend Brava in Melbourne CBD and the lovely lady who runs Your Size Lingerie at Werribee Plaza.

Avoid the treadmill when you are just starting. Why? You won’t be able to run where your body is happiest, instead you will be either trying to go to fast or too slow according to what you think you should be running. Not only that the fresh air will do you wonders.

If you think you are going to have to stop and walk before your allotted running time is up slow down, but keep jogging. Sometimes I am sure I have slowed down so much that I am going slower than if I was walking but I keep on going. If I am feeling great I run harder. By running outside at my own pace I know I can’t do much damage to myself by running faster. My body will stop running long before I die (though it may not always feel that way).

If you get to the end of the week of your running program and are really struggling with the runs just do the week again. There is no deadline. Just keep plodding along at your own pace, but at the same time if you are finding your going further and faster (my C25K has gps as well and tells me at the end how far I went just with the program and what my pace was) but still haven’t moved on for fear next week will be too hard…it’s time to move on. Remember you can always run slower again during your longer runs if you have to.

Running surface…this is a big one. Most “experts” seem to recommend soft ground (grass for example) to help ease the impact on your joints. For me this wasn’t something I started until recently because I have really, really bad depth perception. I fall over a lot on grass as I can’t see holes and dips. I also have weak ankles and almost always I find a hole in the grass and roll my ankle. I decided it would be safer to run on a footpath. That was purely for my bizarre eyes. I recently moved from running around the local park on the footpath to running around the local soccer oval which is all grass and well lit. It has made a massive difference for my knees. I walked around it a number of times and it is really, really level so I gave it a go. If you are like me and need the safety aspect of concrete go for it. If things start aching then look to change.

When to run. Whenever you damn well like. I started off in the afternoons and evenings, but have switched to mornings just because life gets in my way otherwise. I also find I am totally high off my endorphins for at least a few hours. If I run late I can’t sleep for hours afterwards…but that is just me.

Endorphins. Now I really was starting to believe these were a myth. The first few runs left me so tired I was almost in tears at the end and just wanted to fall down. By about the two week mark things changed. I was no longer so tired after running and I was smiling and happy. For me running has now become my sex replacement. I feel the same after a good run as I used to after amazing sex. Except I am always like that after a run, the sex thing was kind of hit and miss. I get seriously pissy if I can’t get my running in. Another thing to keep in mind with endorphins is apparently you need to keep you my heart rate up for around 30-45 minutes (for me its 45 minutes) in order for them to kick in which is why I power walk before and after my runs if they aren’t long enough.

If you are thinking about how bad you look running, what you sound like or anything else…you aren’t running fast enough. Push yourself harder and all you will be able to think about is making it to the end of your run.

Stretching is important! If you have just 45 minutes to exercise don’t run for 45 minutes and then say you have no time to stretch, you will hurt yourself. I use these stretches from the cool running website after every run. Though after my injury I am also going to start doing some hip flexor stretches as well.

Don’t run everyday. Your body needs time to heal. I love running and sometimes I just want to run every single day of the week. I don’t because I don’t want to end up with an injury that will see me not running for months. Which is why, although I am terribly cranky as I was to exercise and get my endorphins, I currently have my feet up in bed and am resting. Which follows on to my next point.

If you hurt yourself STOP. I have been told no exercise for a few days, then I can start stretching again. It could be weeks before I am able to run again. But that’s better than me trying anyway, getting even more injured (like moving from a pull/strain to a tear) and not being able to run for months. The advice in all the books, magazines and websites seems to be R.I.C.E.D – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation & Diagnosis. The first four are obvious…but the last one means if you don’t feel better after a day or two of those things (or if you are in chronic pain) to see a doctor or a phsyio.

Make sure you are sufficiently hydrated before you run. I never use sports drinks and from what I have read unless you are doing mega training you are unlikely to need them either. I try to drink at least two glasses of water before I run and another full drink bottle is generally finished by the time I get home from my run (my drink bottle holds two glasses). I only drink water, plain sparkling mineral water and tea. I drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every single day as otherwise I feel like crap. If you aren’t a big water drinker I really urge you to try it and see the difference….but remember you will need to use the loo a fair bit so remember to go before your run and if you think you might need the loo again plan your route accordingly.

Enjoy yourself. I have four kids who are homeschooled. My husband works from home. I have a house full of people 24/7. Running is my escape. For 45 minutes I can listen to whatever music I like (including songs that are filled with swear words and child inappropriate lyrics), I can go wherever I want and go as fast or as slow as I want. I run on my own because I need that time alone. It is my meditation. Running is keeping me saner than any mental health drug I have ever taken. If you need company find a running buddy. If you are like me and desperate for selfish time, run alone. Run in places you like whether that be somewhere picturesque or a track where you can see the finish line. Run only if you love it, not because you think it’s a quick way to lose weight or because someone tells you it’s awesome or you can fit it in to your day…run because it gives you something.

project:girl

The End of Liptember

Day 1

Yesterday I put my lippie on one last time and took my very last photo. Today my trainer at the gym asked me why I wasn’t wearing lipstick today…so I told her. I have talked and talked about liptember, mental illness and the issues facing women with a mental illness.

Take bipolar as one tiny example. First of all bipolar generally comes on around your early to mid 20’s. A good majority of women at this point haven’t started having kids. From what I have been told by doctors and psychiatrists there isn’t a single drug available to treat bipolar that is safe for pregnancy. Also women with bipolar have a 20% chance of developing post natal psychosis. So women are faced with the choice of not having a baby (for those curious…people with a mental illness can’t adopt or foster which also rules out surrogacy in this country as I am pretty sure you then need to formally adopt the child), have a baby while taking drugs and cause pretty significant damage to your unborn baby or go off the drugs and possibly end up with post natal psychosis. Which is why many women who are diagnosed with bipolar choose to not have kids. We need more research into these things as people with bipolar don’t automatically make shitty parents and in my case I have never been the primary caregiver (I worked and the girls father stayed at home). He is a pretty awesome dad by the way.

Day 11

The problem with most of the research we have today on mental health is that for the most part they have used males (more specifically white middle aged males) for the majority of research and then applied the results across the board which doesn’t take into account the fact that women have different hormones, have babies or just that their lives are for the most part very different from a mans.

These are some of the reasons I participated in the fundraising part of Liptember. Otherwise I would have been content to raise awareness of mental health issues. I bought my lippie and I wore it everyday. I wore it when I didn’t leave the house or my pjs, I wore it to my psychologist, I wore it to the doctors, I wore it to the ballet, to my friends wedding, to the shops and the library. I wore it at the soccer presentation day. I wore it to the gym and the pool. I wore it to the zoo. I talked about it every opportunity I had and I was so incredibly grateful for those around me this month who let me talk. Who let me monopolise the conversations we were having for this purpose. Who wanted to understand more. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who blogged about Liptember, who donated money, who “liked” my instagram photos and who bought lipsticks. For me this is clearly an issue that means so much to me and to have the support of those around me has been really, really lovely.

There is still time to donate if you have been thinking about it but haven’t gotten around to it (or wanted to see if I could make it the full 30 days). All you have to do is click on this link
https://www.liptember.com.au/profile.aspx?u=project.girl

Day 30 (I really need to clean our lounge room)

project:girl

Moving Forward

The last post was quite rant-y, in fact it lead to my first not so pleasant comment. At first I was actually quite upset by it…stupid as it was, as I didn’t know this person, nor really care about their opinions of me…but I still remained upset. Then the absolutely lovely Jennifer updated her blog with this post and I really remembered why I am the way that I am. This post moved me and made me glad of everything I said. I was glad to take the bad with the overwhelming good.It also resonated with me as the true purpose of my participating in liptember. I was disappointed with the funds I had raised (especially as I know how badly we need more research into gender specific mental health) but what I wanted more than anything was to help others realise there was nothing to be ashamed of, to talk and to raise awareness that so many of us struggle with mental health (just keep reading for some awesome irony to that statement).

At the same time I couldn’t help but feel guilty….I wondered if she felt obliged to share because of how I was. Which wasn’t the intention of my rant. My rant wasn’t designed to make everyone run out and confess their demons unless they wanted to, the point was hoping for a day when mental illness doesn’t need to be hidden and be ashamed of and people could talk about it like any physical affliction they might have.

I have been thinking a lot about my own mental health lately. I think the period of sleep (which in turn showed me how life could be for me) pushed a lot of things to the surface which I needed to face…not so much the things I get depressed about, but more so the fact that I want a life that is more than “bipolar” and being unwell. Today I realised that for all my shouting from the rooftops and almost daring people to comment (as one reader followed through on) on how they didn’t want to associate with someone like me, I am still deeply ashamed of my mental illness. Those who know me know I don’t tend to shy away from things that embarrass or shame me. I am the first to mention my faults (of which there are many). I need to give these things a voice…it’s just the way I am. I am still hoping for some magical cure of my bipolar. That if I just take this combination of vitamins, if I just get enough sleep, if I can just get past my anxiety….but it’s a lot of ifs…there is no cure. But there can be wellness, at least so I have heard.

Three weeks ago I saw my psychologist for the last time before she went on maternity leave. I went in needing a cure to my ridiculous anxiety and guilt in relation to my mother. Specifically that since banning her from the house a few years ago she has kept the pressure on me to lift the ban. I also know that she has a job now (and money) and a car (means to travel) and her job is at the school canteen (six weeks holiday). I know the pressure will be put on. I couldn’t decide if she would put more pressure on me if my brother was with her this year (he really wants to see you) or if he was at his fathers for xmas (I’m so lonely). I wanted a strategy for being able to be strong, while not having any anxiety or additional stress over having to have this phone call which I feel to be inevitable. She straight up told me that wasn’t going to happen. I was a bit shocked. Every person I have worked with (in a mental health capacity) has told me if I just try hard enough I will somehow overcome everything and be perfectly normal (whatever that means). She is the first person (mental health worker) who has made me not feel crazy. Who isn’t out to cure me. I have been trying to “fix” myself for as long as I can remember, to be told I don’t need fixing made me cry. Instead we worked on what I wanted, where my boundaries were in regards to her visiting (we can meet you in Melbourne, but you can’t stay. We can do attractions, but I won’t pay) and what I will say in the phone call (I have my script in my bedside table ready to go) and how it is to be expected she will act the same as she always has when I have said no (two year old style tantrum…but with threats of suicide and self harm) and that it will likely get a lot worse before it gets better. We talked about how she would never try this with one of my brothers as he would just hang up the phone. We talked about what I would do with the anxiety and guilt that came before and afterwards. She reminded me it was ok to feel upset and guilty, the guilt, while not deserved, was there and I was better to allow myself to feel than to tell myself not to.

All of this left me feeling…positive. When I say I have spent all my life trying to fix myself I am not telling a lie. I have tried to change myself with every criticism…not at all successfully, and usually to my own detriment (which is usually a severe depressive period). To be told I was not broken, it meant more to me than I think she could know.

So here I was – a good three months at least without a therapist, not sleeping again and not exercising and feeling pretty crap. I had also discovered that as long as my carbs didn’t get too high through the day I could eat sugar…so I would eat protein and sugar. Chocolate mainly and cake. mmmm cake. When a few things happened.

First a friend gave me a sleep book/tapes with a program designed to help turn around insomnia. Secondly the Artist Way book and workbook (a creativity healing/unblocking program) I ordered ages ago happened to fall out of the book pile. Thirdly I started getting really…jittery I guess would be the best term from not exercising.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.   By Albert Einstein

I knew sleep helped me to be more “sane”. I knew running helped me to be more focused and get all the shit out. I knew I missed photography and wanted to create again…if I could. But the problem was I was sitting around not doing any of it. Hoping for the magical cure…until I was told I couldn’t be fixed. I don’t need fixing, but I do need health. I do need sleep and in order for me to be happy I need to create.

I cut right back on the sugar & carbs, well processed sugar and refined carbs. Instead I added back in potato & sweet potato, apple, kiwi and bananas. I no longer limit myself to two just small serves of berries a day. I also started running again. Usually first thing in the morning as I discovered that if I didn’t do it first thing I needed to eat, then I couldn’t run on a full stomach and then being Melbourne it would inevitably rain or the kids would keep me occupied. I felt good and strong and discovered I really hadn’t lost much fitness at all (in fact first run in seven weeks I clocked up my fastest ever 1km according to my nike+ app). Worried about the impact on my joints I switched to a local soccer field which has been abandoned now the season is over. Once a week I follow my 5km run with another 3km long walk around my surprisingly beautiful suburb. I added in the “7 weeks to 300 sit ups” app for some core work and some ballet courtesy of Miss 12. I went for my first swim in forever yesterday (I used to win races back at school and have always been a water baby) and managed 1.5km in 59 minutes 35 seconds (60x 25m laps), no I won’t win any races but I felt good. Running and swimming seem to be doing for me what meditation never could. I can’t sit still. I need to be doing something at all times. Running I can’t think beyond struggling to breathe and swimming I focus on counting my laps…my memory is still not great so I need to repeat my current lap number the length on the pool. Running gets all my anger and frustration out. I haven’t had sex in months. Running is all I have. It lasts as long as I can and ALWAYS leaves me satisfied. Swimming refreshes and calms me. Everything is quiet under the water, looking at that line on the bottom and calmly repeating a number over and over again. Of course I have now hurt my knee so I will have to focus more on the swimming until it is better.

The sleep program I am trying to constantly implement more. The first thing I did was move myself and my computer out of the bedroom (one of the reasons I can’t blog more…too much noise for me to think). When I came home from hospital two years ago I was heavily sedated and used to quiet. Before I knew it almost 18 months had passed with me rarely leaving my room. While my door was always open to my girls I couldn’t leave my room for long. I became a hermit and if it wasn’t for this blog I might have had no interaction with other adults. The noise, just general life noise, really tires me. I get headaches easily…but today marked twelve days straight living life outside of my room. The only two exceptions being the night I had no sleep and made it only as far as 4pm and today when I got home at 5:30pm went to bed as I needed my leg up (I have hurt my knee) and read. I keep a sleep diary and use a relaxation app before bed (what did I do before my iphone….I have an app for everything). The things I am struggling with are getting up at the same time everyday (I haven’t managed this once…I am too used to allowing myself to go back to sleep if I feel tired or not ready to face the world) and doing a second relaxation during the day. I just need to remind myself that while the tape says to do everything for 6 weeks to get results, I can start with baby steps. Just leaving the bedroom is HUGE, not even for sleep…just to feel like I am moving forward from what things were.

Last on my list is the “Artist’s Way” book. I had heard of this years ago on a photography forum. A 12 week program designed to help “unblock” you. I had ordered it back at tax time along with quite a few other books which have long since been read cover to cover, while this remained in a stack of books. Two weeks ago while moving stuff around they fell out. I decided that was the sign I needed to finally attempt at least reading the book. I read the introduction and week one instructions: Write three longhand pages every morning on waking (whatever you are thinking, but don’t read them again or show them to everyone…it’s a brain dump) and go on one artists date a week (alone…anywhere you can think of…designed to inspire…not to create). The first morning I did the pages I just kept writing “I have nothing to write” Ironic given how much I can write here. I honestly didn’t expect to do them every day, especially when the work book asks how many days out of seven did you manage. But by day three I was hooked. I am super cranky in the mornings. Instead of getting up and slamming crockery around and stomping around the house its all on the page before I leave the room. Then because I have seen everyday “go running, you feel so much better afterwards” I am able to put on my running gear straight after, before I leave my bedroom. Before I know it I have gotten all the mental shit out of my head and all the physical shit out while running. I start the day with a clean slate. I really thought it was a crock, I thought it was designed for writers, not broken down photographers who haven’t picked up a camera in years. By day eight I discovered on my page was ideas for photoshoots.

On day six I went on my first artists date. I almost put it off but the morning pages were working so well I thought I might as well give it a shot. I decided to take no money with me and to not skip any songs on my ipod while I was out. I went off to the immigration museum as I have always wanted to visit but figured it would be too boring for the kids (and we have a museums Victoria membership so its free for me). I arrived around 2pm thinking I would get through it in an hour. I was captivated. First by the building (Melbourne’s first Customs House), then by the stories told and by our history. I read about “Edda” who wanted to see the world so when her new hubby had a chance to settle in Aus they jumped at it. She bought with her a knitting machine and before long she was turning out all the samples for one of Australia’s best knit designers. She would then translate the designs into the knitting machine patterns. I read about the German cake decorator who emigrated here and then spent WWII in a camp…but he kept on making cakes. I read about detective sergeant Christie…Melbourne’s own Sherlock who regularly used disguises and questionable methods to capture the bad guys. But the true inspiration came to me when I reached the top floor. They had a set up for kids to make their own aircraft models. The centre was a huge tub filled with all sorts of crafty materials with tables around it. Above hung a net where various aircraft hung from. I realised that children are incredibly creative. When they hear “build an aircraft” they don’t hear “build a scale model of an airplane or a helicopter”. They create weird and wonderful things not limited by their knowledge of what an aircraft SHOULD look like. I spent at least twenty minutes walking around the net looking at the amazing things they made. I wondered if I could become unshackled enough to create, without worrying what I was creating wasn’t “right”. I noticed a lot on the walk down & back on Flinders St as well. More than I can list here. I felt inspired. Ideas came pouring out of my brain but I hadn’t bought anything to write on. I also came across the song “Vibrations in the Air” by Josh Pyke…which I had never really even listened to (and had probably always skipped) which really resonated with me

“Regret, is like a filter,
that colours all of your endeavours,
and once put on becomes a feature of your current works
You gotta change your focus,
turn your eye to something else
‘Cause once put on becomes a feature of your current works”

I think it helped that most of the song seemed to be photographic metaphors…but it is now played quite frequently. Inspired by my last artists date today I headed off to see the Exhibition Building. Unfortunately I only looked outside as some boating show is on at the moment and I wasn’t paying to get in. So instead I went into the museum. I wandered upstairs to the “Melbourne” section not really knowing what I wanted to look at. I was quite restless and almost left when I came across a small case filled with various artefacts from an old Melbourne asylum. I may bitch and moan about how crappy people with a mental illness are treated today, but it is nothing compared to what they went through even just 40 years ago. I then read a panel that covered a few brief stories of people who had been inmates. I found it really hard not to break down completely right there. At the end of the panel it mentioned more things could be found in their Mind/Body exhibit so around I went. I found it challenging to get through and heartbreaking. ECT is still used today (electroshock therapy) and it chills me to the bone. I know some people have had success with it but for me it will always be the thing a sadistic nurse threatened me with in hospital (note: nurses don’t get to pick the treatments…so she had no power over it, she said it just to be nasty). Thankfully lobotomies were mostly phased out by the sixties…but still only 50 years ago??? Then there was the Australian scientist who discovered lithiums usefulness for manic depression (aka bipolar) in the 1940s which is still used today.

I cried and was angry and sad and depressed and happy all in the space on an hour. Then I came to the end where they had a few artworks by people with different mental illnesses which seemed to be donated by the Dax Centre (who I have only just heard of and I have a feeling they will be next weeks artists date) The first three were from a man going through altzimers (I think) and again I wept. You could just feel how lost he was. Words misspelled and a map of what I imagine was his home. The some abstract mixed media works from a man recovering from the trauma of his heart attack. But the most moving and disturbing works came from a young girls art folio. Her parents discovered a few weeks after her suicide and took it to various therapists to try to understand why. I first attempted suicide at thirteen. Those works spoke to the desperate & sad girl I was. I wondered at this point why I never used any form of art to express myself during that time or any time of my life. I realised that even my work as a photographer never expressed me. That was something I never risked. I looked at those works and FELT what they were going through. What if I try to express myself and I just can’t? What if I try and it just falls flat? If I don’t try, I won’t have to deal with the pain of failing.

Working through the workbook and using the artist dates and morning pages I feel like I am finally getting to the heart of some things. I am moving forward. Some of it is painful, but it has long been avoided. I never saw myself as creative. I come from a family of artists – both performance and visual arts. Until I started photography I considered myself the black sheep. But even with a camera in my hand I felt like I was “posing” as an artist. Photography is a lot of science and maths…and my work was commercial (as in what people wanted) rather than personal or creative. I still am extremely scared that I haven’t got a creative bone in my body but I feel like I am getting closer to at least seeing if that is the case.

So that’s what I am doing at the moment. Feeling. Doing. Trying. Running. So I don’t know when I will be back….

If you got through all of that…well done.

project:girl

Why I Will Not Hide

September 3rd – Liptember Day 3 (no I don’t look happy….in my defence I had to try to figure out how to explain how sick I was to my doctor…with no voice)

I have always been open and honest about who I am, unfortunately this means some people see me as a chronic over-sharer. But that is just who I am.

I got into a minor argument this evening with my hubby. The other day I suggested he use his blog to mention Liptember and what womens mental health issues mean to him – give that his grandmother has scitzophrenia, his wife has bipolar and his daughter has anxiety issues I thought this would be a great opportunity for him to talk about stuff. I want to also preface this by saying his blog is mainly used for him to talk about feminist issues (yes my husband considers himself a feminist one of the things I like about him) and highlight various social injustices. It’s not like his blog was all about kittens and I was asking him to post about something like this. Anyway he said he did and I forgot about it.

Today I looked at said post and was so disappointed. It basically said his wife was doing liptember, took a direct quote to their website and linked to my fundraising profile. When I asked him why he didn’t mention anything more specific he started mumbling something about not knowing how I would feel about having my issues talked about.

It was here I resisted the urge to yell “Do you not know me at all????”.

Now he is not the first person to act like this, it is just more surprising given that he should know me a bit better after thirteen years. Others have asked permission to forward my link on and suggested maybe they leave out the personal information about mental illness in my family. I have had people tell me they love me now, but were really put off by me mentioning my bipolar early in the friendship and suggested maybe it would be best if I saved that for later, after people have a chance to know me and realise I am not crazy.

This is exactly why I am participating in Liptember. Mental Illness is not something to be ashamed of. In my case I was as likely to get bipolar (remember my mum, gran & great gran had it) as I was to be born with red hair (I was, and so was my mum, gran & great gran). It’s not something I chose. It’s also no more shameful than me having diabetes.

Liptember is suppose to raise awareness for womens mental health. I wear my lipstick proudly and anyone who asks I tell them why (ok I have been sick in bed for the last two days…but I wore it to the doctors today and explained it there). My daughters talk about their mum having bipolar and people look at them like it is the saddest thing in the world…it’s really not. My kids have two parents who adore them and who are actively involved in their life.

When I was 12 I was sexually abused by my mums boyfriend. I knew it wasn’t my fault. I survived that because I knew it was his issue, not mine. I then proceeded to talk about it a lot. Over and over I have been told by people it’s off putting and I really shouldn’t talk about things that are so distressing. For every single one of those people I have come across girls who had never had the chance to talk about their abuse as people had made them totally ashamed and embarrassed to say anything. For these women I will keep on talking.

I will keep on talking about mental illness and the impact it has on my life and the lives of those around me. I have nothing to be ashamed of and if you are sitting there and hiding your illness because of small minded people, I will keep talking for you until you have a world that is free from stigma and you can talk about it for yourself.

So if you want to take any part of my Liptember posts and use them on your own blog/facebook/twitter to promote Liptember and help remove the stigma around mental illness please do. If you want to share my Liptember profile link around (the more funds raised the better) go for it.

You can also buy a the official Liptember lippie from Myer or Lorna Jane (or online here)

or

sponsor my Liptember effort HERE

Spread the word and let people know why this is such a great cause.

project:girl