​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 100, April 2018

On Monday night, I attended a Hatha Flow yoga class with Rhys Dennis at Just Be Yoga and Meditation in Beaconsfield. During my previous two visits to the studio back in March, my social anxiety levels were through the ceiling and I left feeling a little flustered and embarrassed. But tonight I felt a little more at ease. I think it helps to just remember to be yourself and find things to laugh about in order to break an awkward tension. Making conversation will always be an endless challenge for me but I’m getting there day by day.

Tonight was my first class with Rhys and as with any unfamiliar yoga instructor, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve seen him quite a few times in the studio both as a student and training to become a yoga instructor. He has a gentle nature and a softly spoken voice and yet he did really well tonight instructing and demonstrating. Yes he made a handful of blundered but these were easily forgiven and laughed off. Being able to let go of your mistakes is so important and really it takes a lot of courage and confidence to get to that point.

Some of the poses and sequences were did during the class include:

On Tuesday morning, I had an eye test appointment at Specsavers in Cranbourne Park. It’s been about 4 or 5 years since I last had my eyes checked (let’s be real, being broke and putting it off had a lot to do with it) so naturally I was feeling pretty nervous about today. The first optical assistant who served us was a lady named Carol Ann. After being asked the usual routine questions, I had my first lot of tests done into a small dark room.

Sitting down in the chair, it felt like I was starring in a futuristic sci-fi movie like Blade Runner with optical machines directly in front of me. I had to place my chin and forehead into the grooves and focus on a hot air-balloon on the horizon. It was similar to looking through a view-finder. Next was the pressure test, having a fine mist sprayed directly into my eyes. Thankfully it didn’t hurt. And finally I had digital photographs taken of my retina inside my eyes. It was a bit uncomfortable being in this cramped space but I did okay.

The second part was probably the more anxiety-provoking as I had reading and focusing tests with an optometrist named Parjeet, who was a British Indian. I’m not going to lie, but I did feel a little intimidated by him being asked some tough personal questions on the spot. Then came the classic eye reading charts. I did pretty well until I got down to the third line. I felt a bit insecure about whether my answers were correct or not especially when E’s could have been F’s or B’s. https://www.specsavers.com.au/eye-health/eye-tests/eye-tests-and-examination

Next Parjeet got me to try different lenses to figure out which would best suit my eyes. I was looking at a series of dots and I had to say which picture was the most clear. Most of them were obvious but a few were difficult to tell and so I made a best guess. His conclusion was that my left eye is slightly weaker than my right but my eye health is really good. He also advised that I should be wearing my glasses more often, not just while driving or at work. The reason that I need glasses in the first place is because I have astigmatism which means I have trouble focusing on things long distance and I have oval shaped corneas. https://www.specsavers.com.au/help-and-faqs/what-is-astigmatism-and-how-can-it-be-corrected

The final part of the appointment involved selecting my glasses, frames and lenses. This is where optical assistant Lauren took over. She had a very East London sounding accent (Is she an extra from Eastenders?) and was very friendly and professional. After explaining all of my options, I tried on a few pairs of glasses in the budget range (Sorry Alex Perry, I ain’t made of money!). I was feeling a bit self-conscious looking at myself in the mirror and yet they felt comfortable enough and knew I made the right choices.

Of course my main concern was the price but thankfully I only had to pay $249 for two pairs of glasses. It comes with Ultra Clear, which is basically extra lens protection to make them more waterproof and scratch resistant. It cost an extra $50 but I considered that it would be worth it as I’ll be wearing my glasses a lot during the day. The whole process was pretty exhausting but thankfully I was in and out of Specsavers within an hour. https://www.specsavers.com.au/glasses/lens-options

On Tuesday afternoon, I had my fourth session for Phase 1 of the Employ Your Mind program at WISE Employment Cranbourne. As I was away in Paynesville last week, today was a catchup session for the week that I missed. Today’s topic was about character strengths which are “all the parts (the positive and negative” of a person’s behaviour and attitude that make up their personality”. I then had to fill out an online survey consisting of 120 questions to determine which character strengths are the most dominant in me.

The survey concluded that my top 3 character strengths are: Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence, Forgiveness and Gratitude. It’s interesting to note that probably 5-10 years ago, these would definitely not be my results. Since engaging in yoga, meditation and personal development exercises, I’ve found that I’m able to let things go easier and appreciate the small things in life better. In the past, I was far more selfish and ego-centric probably because I did zero work on myself. http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths

Ally and I also discussed how the NDIS program will affect the community and the City of Casey when it eventually rolls out in September or October. I still find a lot of the details quite confusing and there’s quite a lot to information to absorb even before applying to be a participant. I was also looking into possible job opportunities which would apply better to my skills and abilities like the people on the recent ABC TV show Employable Me. Mum suggested that working in a library or with animals could be a good option for me. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/employable-me-australia/

On Tuesday night, I went to my YARDstrong session at The Yard Strength & Fitness in Pakenham. I had a lot of pressures leading up to tonight. Time can be an unforgiving mistress sometimes and naturally I got stuck in traffic getting off the Monash onto Koo Wee Rupp Road. Somehow I managed to make it to the gym just on time. Tonight’s session was really tough for me mainly because I hadn’t been doing any strength training for two weeks so my body wasn’t used to it.

We warmed up by doing some stretches into the hands, wrists, hamstrings, glutes and abductors before doing a Vinyasa Flow yoga sequence. Next we did some strength work outside. We had to do 3 rounds of the following: 5 reps of sandbag power cleans, squats, walking lunges and overhead carries plus 10 tyre flips. It didn’t take long for me to get out of breath and start to sweat but thankfully Mandi was forgiving and allowed me to drop the weight for some of it.

Our WOD (Workout of the Day) tonight was LINDA which consists of doing 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 reps of: Deadlifts @ 65kg, Bench Press @ 45kg and Power Cleans @ 25kg. I have to admit I was a bit worried about how I would perform tonight but as usual, I worked out as hard as I could. The fatigue and nausea hit me pretty hard after a few rounds and my legs began shaking so I forced myself to slow down and rest between reps to catch my breath and reset my body position. In 15 minutes, I managed to get up to 4 reps which was pretty remarkable for me. I practically collapsed in the chair by the end of it. I can safely say that LINDA’s a bitch! https://wodwell.com/wod/linda/

On Thursday morning, I had my Week 5 session of Phase 1 for the Employ Your Mind program at WISE Employment in Cranbourne. It’s been a busy week already so thankfully today’s session wasn’t too stressful and I actually had a few good laughs with Ally, my support worker. We worked on goal setting and in particular what my interests are. I had to fill in a long two page, double sided list of interests covering categories from sports and nature to health & fitness, collections and creative interests.

Most of these were pretty obvious to me with many of my areas of interest lying in health & fitness, indoor activities, observational hobbies, entertainment, educational and creative. Some of these interests like the health & fitness stuff are only recent additions as losing weight and wanting to be fitter became a major priority when I turned 30 two years ago. But others have been on the list for much longer like my creative side, using computers, doing things around the house.

I also had to complete a journal activity sheet to explore my interests even further like what do I talk about with friends, what do I look forward to, what tasks/jobs do I find stimulating at work, what do I read about and what do I want to do in the future. This was a little more difficult as these are quite open ended questions but it was pretty enlightening seeing all the things I’m interested in compressed onto an A4 page.

On Thursday afternoon, I had my counselling appointment with Ruth at Piece Together Counselling in Narre Warren. My brain’s been feeling pretty overloaded this week so I wisely chose to write a list of things I needed to discuss with Ruth today. Right off the bat, we dug into personal territory again and it felt good to be able to open up about some family issues with her. I’m learning to be more comfortable and trusting with Ruth even when it’s about dysfunctional relationships. Not exactly the easiest thing to talk about.

The other stuff was much easier in comparison: my trip away to Paynesville with Mum, work, getting my eyes tested, going to the gym, getting legal advice about the Now, Yoga Studio VCAT case and whether to take it to the Magistrates court. Ruth is always honest with me and very encouraging and supportive of all the things I’m currently participating in. Unlike my previous counsellors and psychologists, I know that she’s a really good fit for me.

On Friday morning, I had my Body Combat class with Cinamon Guerin at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. It’s been over a month since I last went to a combat class due to the usual reasons aka life getting in the way and of course getting to Casey Arc before 9.30am is still a nightmare. Dealing with school traffic, morning peak-hour traffic, parking issues and I do try to leave early as well. But honestly it’s worth it to make it to this class on time.

I have to admit that I was feeling quite uncoordinated due to being out of practice and also most of the tracks being unfamiliar to me. But it was still really fun and an enjoyable learning experience. It felt really good when I finally nailed a sequence and was putting a lot of power behind my kicks and jabs. Sadly I couldn’t stick around to cool down and chat with Cinamon as I had another appointment to make but it feels great to be back. http://w3.lesmills.com/israel/en/classes/bodycombat/music-tracklists/

Today was my cat Lotus’ first visit to the veterinary clinic. Mum and I took her to Our Vet Cranbourne which is inside the Best Friends (Cranbourne, Victoria, Australia) pet store. We’ve had positive experiences inside the store just buying food and toys for Lotus so we figured we’d give the vet there a go. Of course, being Lotus’ first time she was a little nervous and hesitant getting in and out of her cat carry case but otherwise she was fairly calm.

We were greeted by a female Asian veterinarian who seemed really nice. Placing Lotus on the scales, it was no surprise that at 6.7kg, she was overweight. Her ideal weight needs to be about 5kg so she’ll have to reduce the amount of food she eats and slowly lose weight over time (similar to what I’m trying to do!). She needed to get a vaccination and a worming tablet but otherwise there were no other health concerns to deal with thank goodness. https://www.bestfriendspets.com.au/our-vet

On Friday afternoon, I went to see my clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Yasmin Baliz at CNS: Comprehensive Neuropsychological Services in Narre Warren. Today we discussed the next steps for applying for the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme). My mind hasn’t been too focused on the NDIS as I’ve been preoccupied with other things in my life but now I really needed some help to get the ball rolling. Considering it’s only been around for a couple of years, most people are in the dark about it and as I found out today, the process is very thorough and complicated.

Thankfully Yasmin was able to provide some advice in preparing my application with the NDIS planning workbook. It goes through everything you need to provide including my participant statement, my needs and goals, current living arrangements, relationships and supports. I’ll also need to supply some support letters as evidence that I do have autism. It’s made things a little clearer for me so I can at least get started and apply to be an NDIS participant. https://www.ndis.gov.au/

“No, you can tell ’em all now. I don’t back up, I don’t back down. I don’t fold up, and I don’t bow. I don’t roll over, don’t know how. I don’t care where the enemies are. Can’t be stopped, all I know; go hard. Won’t forget how I got this far.  In these promises broken deep below. Each word gets lost in the echo. So one last lie I can see through. This time I finally let you go.” Linkin Park – Lost In The Echo (2012)

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This week I’ll be participating in the Walk For Autism fundraising event which involves walking 10,000 steps each day to raise money and awareness for those on the Autism Spectrum. It’s an important cause to me as I have been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism myself and have only just begun to embrace and explore the fact that I’m autistic. Plus I really need to continue to work on my weight loss, fitness and well-being goals. https://everydayhero.com.au/event/walk-for-autism-2018

On Monday morning, I went to an RPM class with Shelley at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. As usual, I was feeling restless and unmotivated but this was about the only class I could make it to this week so I pushed myself to go. Thankfully our instructor Shell was feeling the same way as she too also had a busy weekend. But once my bum’s in the saddle, I’m fine and ready to burn some calories (aka Easter Eggs I still haven’t finished yet!).

Today we did a mixture of the new release and some older tracks including Jamiroquai’s Cloud 9, Sigala & Ella Eyre’s Come Here For Love, Andrew Rayel & Christina Novelli’s Lighthouse and DJ Sammy’s Sunlight. Whenever I’m not at my best, I always set lower and more achievable goals and for RPM, that’s usually around 300-350 KCal but somehow I managed to burn just over 400 which is a pretty decent effort for Monday morning. http://w3.lesmills.com/israel/en/classes/rpm/music-tracklists/

On Monday afternoon, Mum and I drove down to Paynesville where we’ll be staying for a few nights this week at the Resthaven Caravan Park. Our cabin is a spacious, self-contained unit featuring a living area, kitchenette, master bedroom, four bunk beds, a toilet, vanity and shower and an outdoor front deck. In the caravan park itself, there is a pool and spa, BBQ area, playground, laundry facility and games room. http://www.resthavenpaynesville.com/

On Monday night, we had a brief tour of the small boating township as well as grabbing a pizza for dinner. We also had to get our bearings driving around the residential backstreets in pitch black darkness with minimal streetlight. Paynesville offers many local shops, services, cafes, restaurants and eateries including IGA Ritchies, Foodworks, Bendigo Bank, CFA, pizza, fish n’ chips, The Old Pub, medical centre and community centre. https://www.travelvictoria.com.au/paynesville/

On Tuesday morning, Mum and I caught the vehicular ferry and visited Raymond Island. A popular tourist attraction, it only takes a couple of minutes to travel between Paynesville and the island which accommodates passengers, cyclists and vehicles. We decided to walk along the koala trail which is 1.2km long and takes about 20 minutes. With the help of some American tourists, we spotted our first koala high up in the gumtree and a couple of others along the way.

There was also some native birdlife on the island including crimson rosellas, rainbow lorikeets, black swans, pelicans, common seagulls and spotted pardalotes. I also really appreciated the large scale properties on the island each with very unique looking gardens and front facades, some of which were painted to look like boats. Other properties looked rundown and dilapidated with rusted fencing, aged timber and peeled/flaking paint. http://www.raymondisland.net/

On Wednesday, Mum and I spent most of the day down in Bairnesdale. The upside of this East Gippsland township is that most of the shops are within walking distance and a lot of incidental exercise to be had. The downside is that it’s very busy traffic wise and you have to keep your eyes peeled all the time when it comes to crossing the road. We had lunch together at Cells Cafe, visited the East Gippsland Art Gallery and caught up with my Auntie Rosalie at the New Leaf Cafe inside Dahlsens Mitre 10https://www.travelvictoria.com.au/bairnsdale/

This month’s exhibition is called “Calling For Rain” which features a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures which used natural elements like gum nuts, gum leaves, twigs, branches and bark with hand-painted elements. I particularly liked the highly realistic looking bird’s nest. There was also a gallery featuring large portraits of dark looking figures with flowers and leaves collaged within the artworks and thick layers of gesso used. https://www.eastgippslandartgallery.org.au/sofiedieu

I was also really impressed with this particular Mitre 10 store as it contains a florist and a gift shop area inside the garden section which you don’t see in many other Mitre 10 stores. Of course considering we were there for about 5-6 hours, my energy levels plummeted dramatically and I got easily fatigued around the middle of the afternoon. There’s honestly heaps to see in Bairnesdale and you can’t really cover it all in one day. We decided to just have an easy dinner tonight and bought a BBQ chicken from the local Woolies store. https://www.dahlsens.com.au/

On Thursday morning, Mum and I booked twin massages at Jasmine Chinese Massage Bairnsdale. Every time I step into a new massage salon, I always seem to get myself a little nervous because there is always a degree of uncertainty in my mind. Will I be able to handle the pressure? What will be in store for me? What if I don’t understand what the Asian lady is saying? What if I get confused or embarrass myself? But I put all of those worries into the basket along with my personal belongings and just tried to enjoy the experience.

The massage started with a foot spa for 5-10 minutes with my feet soaking in a tub filled with rose petals. Next I had my head, neck, shoulders and back massaged with oil. I was quiet for the most part as I like to get into the zone even with numerous distractions happening around me. Next she massaged the same areas with some hot stones and then I had my feet massaged. Like most Chinese massages, it was a little intense at times but I could handle it as I knew my limits and I had a lot of tension and stress built up in these muscles especially from Easter weekend. http://www.jasminechinesemassage.com.au/

In the afternoon, we decided to go for a walk along the main street of Bairnesdale and dropped into a couple of homewares shops including Seven Sundays and also had lunch at Easy Eats Cafe. The weather was still in summer mode, made worse by strong gusty winds blowing autumn leaves and dirt around the streets. Not exactly the most pleasant weather to be walking in but at least there’s lots of shops to have a browse in. https://www.sevensundaysbairnsdale.com/

On Thursday night, we went out for dinner at Paynesville Hotel (formally known as The Old Pub Paynesville). After a brief afternoon nap at the caravan park, I was still feeling a bit drained and restless from the hot humid weather and lack of sleep. The main bistro and bar area seemed pretty packed tonight and the waitress warned that it could take up to an hour for our meals to be cooked. But we were both hungry and didn’t feel like going somewhere else for dinner. We both ordered the beer battered gummy shark plus a bowl of steamed veggies.

The venue is appropriately named being an “old” establishment built in the late 19th century. The lighting inside the bistro was pretty dull and there was no staff to greet us upon entry. It was literally help yourself to a vacant table. Also the tables weren’t cleaned with used glasses and napkins left behind from the previous customers. But these negatives aside, the food was well cooked and the portions were pretty decent for the price. Thankfully we only had to wait around half an hour for our meals to arrive. Not exactly the best pub I’ve ever been to but I’ve been to worse. https://www.paynesvillehotel.com/

On Friday morning, we departed from the Resthaven Caravan Park and started to head back home. We had breakfast together at @The Fig Bairnsdale which sits next door to Bendigo Bank and across from The Esplanade. The food was delicious and very affordable. Next we drove down to Stratford and went to Wa-de-lock Cellar Door which used to be the old Fire Station and even kept a few items in the cafe including the fire extinguisher and fire alarm. I was starting to feel a little depressed at the thought of going home. Back to my routine and how stressful and overwhelming my life can be at times. But I can always go back to visit Paynesville and Bairnsdale again when the time is right.

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On Easter Monday, I went to Village Cinemas Fountain Gate to see a special screening of Peter Rabbit to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. As part of the screening, they showed a short film called Spectrospective: Stories of Autism 2018 which features a collection of individuals who are living with Autism. It was really touching hearing about all their experiences particularly at school and all the difficulties and challenges they’ve had to deal with. Personally, I feel proud to be Autistic. https://youtu.be/EG7NdA2dA_M

The session was also a “sensory friendly film” which means that the cinema lights are left on when the movie is playing and the volume is softer during the movie. https://villagecinemas.com.au/events/sensory-friendly-films

Peter Rabbit is based upon the characters and tales in Beatrix Potter’s classic 1902 novel “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. Obviously over its 100+ year lifespan, Potter’s story has been adapted to death but here is the first time they’ve mixed live action with CGI animation and setting the story in a more modern setting. The film begins with the first of many hilarious singing bird sequences which always ends up with an abruptly hilarious interruption.

After the old Mr. McGregor has an unfortunate heart attack, Peter Rabbit (James Corden) and his three sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki) and Cotton-Tail (Daisy Ridley) successfully reclaim the vegetable garden that they’ve made their home for many years. That is until Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) ends up inheriting the property from his late Great Uncle and leaves behind Harrod’s Department Store where he works.

Through some lovely nods to the illustration work of Potter’s original story, we learn of how Peter Rabbit’s parents met their demise and the also feature as artworks in Bea’s (Rose Bryne) art studio. Bea is the friendly next-door neighbour to the McGregors and has always been very protective and nurturing towards Peter Rabbit, his family and friends. But when Thomas McGregor arrives on the property, he is determined to woo her over and get rid of Peter Rabbit by any means necessary.

And so begins the endless war between the rabbits and Mr. McGregor as he desperately tries to protect his vegetable garden (and mostly fails). The style is very reminiscent of the classic Looney Tunes like Road Runner and Bugs Bunny vs. Elmer Fudd with lots of gags and physical slapstick comedy used. A lot of the dialogue is very rude at times but it does have a certain charm. It’s balanced well with a few emotional scenes and shows that Peter Rabbit does have a softer, more kindhearted side behind the tough, rebellious exterior.

Directed by Will Gluck, this adaptation could have potentially been a trainwreck as it is very bold, adventurous and wild but there is plenty of fun to be had here if you don’t take it too seriously. Plus the references to Beatrix Potter’s original novel and illustrations makes it worth watching. 8/10 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5117670/?ref_=nv_sr_1

On Tuesday night, I had my yardSTRONG session at The Yard Strength & Fitness in Pakenham. I was still very much in recovery mode after my busy Easter weekend but I did spend the afternoon trying to nap and relax at home to make up for lack of sleep. I’ve also had to quickly adjust to daylight savings ending with the darkness falling around 7pm. Tonight we worked on mostly sled pulling and pushing by gradually adding more and more weight plates. This movement works on the feet, lower legs, quads, hamstrings, glutes, arms and core. https://drjohnrusin.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-prowler-sled-training/

To warm up, we did 5 rounds of the following exercises: ring rows/pull ups, push ups and get ups. I still find get ups to be the most challenging for me as it’s difficult remembering the sequence and I end up tying myself in knots but it’s still fun. Next we worked on the sled pulls and pushes as mentioned above. We started at 50kg (sled plus 15kg plate) and did a TABATA styled rally of 1 minute work, 1 minute rest. Every 2 minutes, we added more weight. It didn’t take long for me to feel the burn in my hammys and glutes (Great way to burn off those Easter eggs and hot cross buns!).

Tonight’s workout involved doing a 20 minute EMOTM (Every Minute On The Minute) consisting of: A 15m sled push (maximum weight) and 5 burpees. Rodney and I alternated every minute and it didn’t take long for me to start fatiguing and getting sweaty. Though I was impressed how quickly I was getting the work done. Most rounds I was finishing it in under 30 seconds and therefore getting 30 seconds or more to rest. Our maximum weight on the sled was approximately 80kg which is pretty heavy for me.

On Thursday morning, I had my Employ Your Mind appointment with Ally at WISE Employment in Cranbourne. It’s the third week of Phase 1 and today we discussed the next couple of assessments which would look at my memory, concentration and problem solving skills. I had to complete ARCS (Audio recorded Cognitive Screen) which was a half hour long audio recording and assessment where I had to do tasks like memorising word lists, completing sequences of letters, identifying objects etc.

I also decided to talk about the recent progress with my VCAT case. After a month long wait, I’d finally received my tribunal order via email for Melise and Tony to pay me back the $575.00 that they owed me. However, now I have to decide whether it’s worth taking this higher to the Magistrates Court in Dandenong as a tribunal order doesn’t have much enforcement. And to do that, I’ll need some assistance as the case becomes more complicated and filled with legal jargon that I don’t understand. But still it’s a significant milestone for me.

On Thursday afternoon, I had my counselling appointment with Ruth at Piece Together Counselling in Narre Warren. I spent half the session recapping on the last few weeks such as my birthday celebrations, the Aspergers meeting and social night, work and the VCAT case. Then things took an unexpected turn when the topic of conversation went to my Dad. It’s something I rarely open up to anybody about as it’s a sensitive subject for me.

He’s left a large gaping black void in my life for over 30 years now so there’s a lot of healing and unpacking of issues that needs to be done. My relationship with Dad has been rocky to say the least. We have very minimal contact, only the odd text message now and then. But I actually did appreciate the birthday and Easter cards that he sent me last week. It shows that there must be some part of him that still cares about me.

But it’s still tough because he’s not physically present in my life. I’ve been searching for mostly male figures to fill in that void, to be able to fill in emotional needs and understanding. But it never really works. He’s said things to me in the past which have deeply hurt me and it really sucks because it’s made me question how much he really loves me as a son. There’s a lot of old baggage that needs to be sorted through but I’m really glad that I made a start on it with Ruth today. https://www.piecetogethercousellingnarrewarren.org/

On Friday morning, Mum and I spent some time visiting the coastal Gippsland town of Tooradin. We visited a couple of shops along the main street including the Pelican Cafe, the Discount Book Store, the Opp Shop and a Wig store. I managed to find an original set of Beatrix Potter novels with her “The Tales of” series plus a Colour Me Happy adult colouring book. Compared to where I live in Narre Warren South, the pace and lifestyle down at Tooradin is much more relaxed and casual. People are out near the lake walking their dogs and everyone is nice and friendly to you which is always a good thing. https://www.travelvictoria.com.au/tooradin/

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​RESIST THE THOUGHT (Set Me Free Single Launch) w/ Drown This City, Hollow World & Ame Noire @ The Workers Club, April 2018

After attending my counselling appointment with Ruth at Piece Together Counselling, I decided to grab an early dinner at Pizza Webb before heading off towards the city. I ordered a vegetarian pizza for something different with mushrooms, onions, capsicum, pineapple and olives (Yum!). Of course, I had to put up with replacement buses between Westall and Caulfield tonight but I felt like I could justify it as I really wanted to come to this gig.

When I got to The Workers Club around 7.30pm, I got myself a pot of pale ale and eventually made my way into the band room. I bumped into a few band members before the gig started, mostly from Hollow World. It’s been a long time between drinks.  I still find attending local gigs can be socially challenging for me. I’m really shy, awkward and don’t always connect with other musicians/friends that well. But I still try. Takes a lot of physical effort and mental energy to come out these days. But I’ll always do it because I love supporting the local music scene. Plus the Workers Club is one of my favourite venues in Melbourne.

AME NOIRE…Tonight was my first time checking out this Blackened Death Metal band made up of ex-members from Athena’s Wake and Epimetheus. For an opening band, they really did not disappoint. Tonnes of fierce energy, slamming breakdowns and lots of brutal screams. I also found the facial expressions of vocalist Alex Hill and bassist/backing vocalist Toby Thomas to be both impressive and highly entertaining. Lots of hair windmills were also on display as you would expect. The crowd was a tough one with only a couple of people participating but oh well. https://amenoire.bandcamp.com/releases            Set List: The Tree That Bears Rotten Fruit, Slave To The Grave.

HOLLOW WORLD…It’s been a minute and a half since I last saw the Melodic Death Metal band play so I was beyond keen to see their set tonight. Vocalist Ben Roberts intense energy could be felt even standing in the crowd. He even leaped into the crowd at one point which caught people off guard. The guitar solos are still one of the highlights for me. I just get so transfixed by them. A very tight performance from the boys! https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/exanimate/1214194731                                  Set List: Defiling Paradise, Wildfire, Patient Zero, Misery.

DROWN THIS CITY…It’s been probably a year or so since I last saw this Experimental Post-Hardcore band play. They put on a really exciting set with fiercely powerful screams and beautiful cleans from vocalist Alex Reade Dtc plus thunderous breakdowns and razor sharp electronic synths. Dylan Gillies-Parsons also dropped some surprise guest vocals early on in the set. Keen to hear some new material from these guys real soon.  https://www.triplejunearthed.com/artist/drown-city                                                  Set List: Empire, False Idols, I’m Not Divided, Bend/Break.

RESIST THE THOUGHT…Sadly I wasn’t able to stick around for the Sydney-based Deathcore band as I was feeling really restless and fatigued. After a 6 year hiatus, the boys are back with a brand new single called “Set Me Free”. You can check it out along with the music video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40my8dUAylg

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On Monday morning, I attended my last Healthy Cooking on a Budget class for Term 1 at Balla Balla Community Centre, Cranbourne East. I missed out on the last two classes as I was feeling rundown and was also recovering from an ear infection last week but I was really glad that I could make it to the last class. It was only the 4 of us today with the others either busy, sick or turned off from the blustering, Winter-like conditions outside. So we ended up working individually for most of the class.

It was quite a productive class today with lots of food to prepare. We made a chocolate Easter cake with a dark chocolate butter icing, a melted chocolate “nest” and decorations plus pull apart herb and cheese bread rolls and a honey lemon chicken. Firstly, we combined 1.5 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of caster sugar, 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of bicarb soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 cup of water, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar into a mixing bowl and pouring the mixture into a 20cm round cake tin.

The dark chocolate icing involved melting 180g of cooking chocolate over a saucepan and combining it with 200g of unsalted butter, 250g of icing sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk and whipping it up with electric beaters. Next we made the chocolate nest which was pretty tricky. We used a small ceramic bowl with plastic wrap as a template and piped melted chocolate over it with long strands to make it look like a bird’s nest. Getting it stuck was the hard part as the chocolate fragments break apart very easily.

Later on we fried some chicken drumsticks and thigh pieces in a frying pan until they become a golden brown colour. We then placed them into a roasting pan and added a mixture of honey, lemon juice and kecap manis over the top with slices of lemon in between the pieces of chicken. You can then add some streamed vegetables and white rice to make it into a meal. I always learn a lot during these cooking classes and slowly my confidence in the kitchen is building up the more I practice these skills. http://www.ballaballa.com.au/programs-activities/cooking-programs/

On Monday night, I went to my RPM class with Claire at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. It’s been about 3 weeks or so since my last RPM class and tonight it was good to finally try out the new release, number 78, which featured a couple of challenging tracks especially track five with up to 8 attacks which tired me out pretty quickly. The new release features tracks including Jamiroquai’s Cloud 9, The XCERT’s Feels Like Falling In Love and Ghastly & Matthew Koma’s We Might Fall. It was good to see Claire making jokes about burning off Easter eggs and Hot Cross Buns this coming week as motivation to keep pushing hard. http://w3.lesmills.com/israel/en/classes/rpm/music-tracklists/

On Tuesday morning, I had my very first Kinesiology session with Carolyn King at Empowerkin Kinesiology in Berwick. I’ve known Carolyn for a year or two now after reading her book “Empowered Happiness” and following her blog and Facebook page. Today was the first time meeting her in person after winning a competition for a free kinesiology session. I really didn’t know what to expect at all but I went in with an open mind.

Of course the moment I walked into her clinic, she instantly detected how nervous I was feeling. This was no surprise as it happens every single time I meet somebody new or have a new experience. Kinesiology is the science of energy balancing and combines several different areas including Chinese medicine, anatomy and physiology. After she asked me to fill out a new client form and I talked about my mental health issues and recent diagnosis of High Functioning Autism, she got me to lie down on the bed.

She started doing some energy readings through my right hand and arm whilst explaining what was she doing and picking up. The biggest ones were feeling overwhelmed, shattered (doing too many things at once), stressed and internally angry. She also used some essential oils on my feet, hands and back of my neck as well as giving me my first crystal, a black obsidian, which is said to be a protective stone which absorbs negative energies.

I found it very easy to talk to her despite being nervous and reserved as we have very similar backgrounds. Both being diagnosed with depression. Both worked at very stressful and demanding jobs for a long period of time. Both very sensitive, gentle and kind hearted people. So I knew that she of all people would understand what I’ve been going through with work, family life, friendships, money struggles, being worried about the future and where my life is heading.

She gave me a large amount of advice and suggestions which I gracefully accepted and took on board with me. This includes walking bare foot on the grass or sand (grounding), keeping up with my writing and creative projects (write and burn, appreciation journal), trying out a boxing class to release anger and negative emotions, making a list of everything I’m doing and ranking their importance, making and using a worry box and surrounding myself with a white bubble to help deal with protecting myself from other people’s energies.

Of course some people wouldn’t be as open minded as I am towards an alternative therapy like kinesiology and Carolyn herself admits that she’s not a doctor but I like giving new things a go and this has been in the back of my mind for about a couple of years now. It wasn’t a rash decision and really a lot of Carolyn’s suggestions do make sense and are helpful when it comes to improving my life. Whether you believe in religion, spirituality or energy is quite frankly irrelevant if you’re striving for positive change within yourself, which I am. http://www.empowerkin.com.au/kinesiology.html

On Tuesday afternoon, I had my second session for Phase 1 of my Employ Your Mind course at WISE Employment Cranbourne. Thankfully the office Ally and I were in held a lot more privacy than the one I was in last week (notoriously called “the fish bowl”) so I didn’t have the distraction of people looking at me through a pane of glass. This week we looked at what Cognitive Remediation does and I completed a Dialogue of Working Ability (DWA) self-assessment which looks at the strengths and weaknesses in relation to work.

It’s quite interesting doing self-assessments as it forces you to critically think and be honest about your skills in a working environment in a holistic manner. Sometimes it can be hard working out which number to circle but I just try to go with my gut instinct. It’s important because the results will allow me to set some goals for areas that I can improve on in the future. https://www.arbetsterapeuterna.se/Global/Forlag/DWA%20affisch%20COTEC2012.pdf

On Tuesday night, I went to my first YARDfit session for the year at The Yard Strength & Fitness in Pakenham. I noticed how exhausted I was feeling driving down the Monash Freeway with time not on my side as usual. But I was determined to make it to the class regardless as I haven’t been that active in the last couple of weeks due to personal illness (aka my annoying ear infection). It was a quiet one tonight with just myself, Rodney Millar and Mandi Herauville but that was fine by me.

We warmed up by doing a few mobility stretches (walking lunges, standing bear crawls, squat jumps, open the gates) and some agility work outside (suicide running drill, sprints) with some orange cones spaced out. It didn’t take long for me to feel puffed out and fatigued but I knew that I was rusty and out of practice. http://livehealthy.chron.com/suicide-running-drill-8784.html

Next we worked on some front squats which I’ve only attempted a couple of times last year. The toughest part for me is dealing with the pressure on my wrists as you have to keep the bar resting on your deltoids (shoulders) as well as your elbows lifted up. Then there’s the balancing act of having to squat deep enough without dropping the bar. It’s pretty tricky but I could feel myself improving a bit the more I practiced. I managed to do 3 reps at 35kg. http://www.stack.com/a/front-squat

Lastly, our “Wyk” Hero WOD (Workout of the Day) involved doing five rounds of the following exercises for time: 5 front squats, 5 deadmen or rope climbs and a 400m run holding a 10kg plate. We actually practiced doing some rope climbs before the workout, trying to get the foot and hand grip right and then doing a Tarzan swing on the rope. Considering I’ve never attempted a rope climb before, I picked it up pretty quickly. I did need a lot of chalk on my hands to prevent rope burn but oh well.  https://wodwell.com/wod/wyk/

The most challenging part of the workout for me was the 400m block runs. Holding the plate was really awkward as I couldn’t get a good grip on it and had to keep adjusting it. Plus it didn’t take long at all for me to burn out and I had to walk parts of it. But hey at least I hung in there and finished it. I managed to complete almost 3 rounds in 15 minutes which I was very happy with. https://www.facebook.com/TheYardStrengthandFitness/

On Wednesday morning, Mum and I enrolled in a Basic Life Skills short course at Merinda Park Learning & Community Centre, Learn Local RTO 3952 in Cranbourne North. The pink form that we had to fill in was very extensively detailed. They literally want to know everything from my past education history to my driver’s license details, USI number, disabilities and health issues. Plus two pages worth of terms and conditions. But I’m sure that a course like this will be very helpful for my growth and personal development. http://www.merindapark.com.au/all-courses/

On Thursday night, I attended an Adult Aspergers social night held at The Nerve Centre in Blackburn. I was still feeling restless from working late last night and from all the Easter shopping I had to get done today but I felt that it was really important to come to this meeting tonight to try to mingle with a few of the other Aspies. Tonight we played some board games and I decided to bring scrabble as it’s a childhood favourite of mine.

Half an hour in and I could already feel my social anxiety peaking with around 10 other people in attendance. It’s like the classic social event where everyone else around you is clicking and making conversation and you’re stuck in the middle not really knowing what to do. However, I did make the effort to drive all the way out to Blackburn for this and wanted to stay for at least an hour. Once again, the men’s toilets would act as my “safe room”.

Thankfully I didn’t need it nor did I have to slip out and bolt for the exit. It only took Ann speaking up to get the ball rolling and suddenly we ended up christening my board game.  Once we all started playing scrabble, I began to relax considerably.  I was sitting at the table with Dave, Roger, Lachlan, Ann and the group’s organiser Colin. Being my third time coming here, I was only barely scratching the surface when it came to names and who these people were but these things take time.

It was fun with all of us trying to remember how to play the game and bringing back a lot of nostalgic memories. Some of the other members were chatting away and having some serious conversations about religion, politics, languages and history but I personally wasn’t interested. I think I was more proud that I actually managed to stay at an Aspergers meeting for more than 2 hours. I seriously didn’t think I could do it but I proved myself wrong. https://aspergersvic.org.au/events

On Good Friday, I participated in my very first research study at Deakin University, Melbourne Burwood Campus. The study was to see how brain stimulation during sleep can help to affect memory formation. It was organised by Mr. Michael Barham, who is one of the principal researchers on the project. In some ways, it was a pretty daunting experience for me having never visited either Burwood or Deakin Uni before but I wanted to have an open mind and try it.

It took place in Building BC on Level 5 in two small rooms: one being a preparation room with computers and equipment and the other being the sleep lab. Michael explained everything to me and got me to fill out a consent form and several questionnaires on the computer about my background, how I was feeling and my handedness.

Whilst this was happening, Michael and the assistant were fitting an EEG (Electroencephalography) cap on my head and attracting electrodes to parts of my scalp. It was a weird feeling having wires being “twizzled” into my scalp with cool gel and pure alcohol added. Whilst it did hurt a little (mainly from the pulling of my hair), it wasn’t agonising and I figured that I could handle it.

Everything was going fine…until I had a sudden nervous reaction and began going pale in the face. The last time this happened to me was about two years ago after having a blood test at work and it’s far from pleasant. Michael and his assistant were quick to act, removing the cap, bringing me a glass of water and making sure that I was okay. I laid down in the sleep lab for a while to allow the blood to rush back. But ultimately I was feeling embarrassed and guilty about what just happened.

I had to withdrawal my participation from the study, though they still generously gave me the $20 gift card anyway. I think there was several things going on: general restlessness, not eating enough before the study, getting myself worked up and anxious internally, having to concentrate on the questionnaires during the prep. I guess it all got too much for me. However, I’m still proud of myself for making the effort to try it. https://www.facebook.com/CognitiveNeuroscienceUnit/posts/1688036141290041

Later that afternoon, I thought I’d give my friend Positivity Andrew (Andrew Hewitt) a surprise visit at the mental health facility that he’s staying at called Upton House in Box Hill. It’s been nearly 20 years since I last stepped into a mental hospital, the last time being to see my late Grandfather who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression (mental illness is literally all in the family). Thankfully the staff at Upton House seemed to be more friendly and positive than at that last place.

It’s not very often that I do spontaneous things like this but I genuinely care about other people, especially friends who are going through tough mental health issues. But Andrew was very happy to see me and I could tell he was grateful for my visit. He was staying in a casual family room with comfy grey sofas and a collection of toys in the corner. It’s always hard knowing what to talk about but I tried to embrace the awkwardness best I could. I love you Andrew! Stay positive, get better soon and get back with your bandmates in Distracted By Pinkhttps://www.easternhealth.org.au/site/item/102-inpatient-services-upton-house

On Good Friday night, I went to the Studio Opening Party of Aaron Petty’s new yoga studio called Level Up Yoga in Berwick (located above Personal Performance Training Centre). Considering this was a public holiday, this could have gone either way but thankfully there was about 18 students that turned up to tonight’s Vinyasa Flow class. It was good to see a couple of familiar faces tonight like Christian Reid and Daniel Cooper. Of course my social anxiety was lingering around like a bad smell. I can pretty identify most of my triggers now: meeting new people, being unable to breathe, sweating profusely, being in small spaces. But I tried hard to push all of these away tonight.

Aaron’s style of teaching yoga is very unconventional to most Traditional yoga teachers. There is a great deal of humour and unexpected surprises like doing an ice-breaking activity (Oh god!), forming a kum ba yah-like circle and chanting “Om” together, patting each other on the back and grabbing people from behind for support. But it’s all in good fun and not meant to be offensive or uncomfortable. These particular challenges are actually very helpful for me who struggles a lot in social situations and gets me out of my comfort zone.

Aaron’s classes are also very physically challenging especially with the lack of ventilation in the upstairs space. It didn’t take long for everyone to begin sweating on their yoga mats. We did many flowing sequences (Downward Facing Dog, Plank, Chaturanga, Cobra/Updog), Crescent Lunge into Arrowhead pose, Chair pose, Bridge pose and Pigeon pose. I struggled with balance and fatigue at times but never gave up. I think it’s also really important to have a laugh during your practice because that helps to curb the frustration of getting that “perfect pose”.

The addition of live musicians playing some chilled out yoga music was also a unique touch as was the presentation of the indoor plants and serving of tea. Aaron clearly went to a lot of effort for tonight’s event and I was really glad that I could be a part of it. https://www.facebook.com/levelup.yoga.berwick/

“In the dark I can feel the weight of the world. Pushing down on top of my shoulders. You think you’re strong enough to carry it all? Go ahead, knock yourself out. I keep talking but no one listens. And I keep hearing things that I can’t understand. And I see beauty in resistance. And I’m just trying to figure out who I am.”                                                       Michelle Branch – Knock Yourself Out (2017)

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On Monday morning, I went to see Dr. Mah Mah at Narre Gate Medical Center in Narre Warren. I was running late as usual having slept in this morning, that classic Beatles song “A Day In The Life” could be a running monologue to describe most Mondays for me (Woke up, fell out of bed. Dragged a comb across my head. Found my way downstairs and drank a cup. And looking up, I noticed I was late…).

The issues with my ears from the infection to blockage and soreness through the glands and sides of my face was becoming like an episode of Days Of Our Lives (Previously on Michael’s auditory health issues). I was doing everything possible to treat myself, even spending my actual birthday resting up in bed and giving myself regular doses of pain killers and antibiotics. And yet it still hadn’t cleared up or stop hurting.

Being a Monday morning, the waiting room was packed with mum, dads, tradies and annoying screeching children running around (luckily I could only partially hear them). I wished that my doctor could simply prescribe me with a new set of ears (maybe an ear transplant?) but alas that’s not realistic. She advised me to stop taking the Ciproxin ear drops and instead put 10 drops of Waxsol in each ear for the next two nights and came back to see her on Wednesday. I’ll seriously do anything at this point just to get rid of the pain and discomfort. https://1800bulkbill.com.au/medical-centre/narregate-medical-dental-centre

After my appointment, I had birthday shopping to do as it’s my Mum’s birthday tomorrow. Truthfully, I wasn’t in the best state health wise nor in the mood to be shopping but I didn’t really have a choice. Plus it’s my Mum and she’s important to me and I’ll happily put up with an ear infection for her. My first stop was JB HI-FI Narre Warren where I bumped into my friend Tom Armstrong who happens to work at the store. I briefly caught up with him and he helped me out with getting a powerbank. Tom is an absolute sweetheart, no joke!

Next stop was Chemist Warehouse to stock up on my drugs (of the prescription variety of course). I’ve made a couple of trips here recently and now it’s not as daunting and overwhelming as it usually is. I guess you slowly get used to where all the products are located plus it wasn’t that busy. I managed to be in and out within 10 minutes or so. I needed more waxsol drops, cotton balls, a liquid inhalant for my Euky Bear vapouriser and panadeine forte. https://www.chemistwarehouse.com.au/

Lastly I dropped into a lovely little shop called the Berwick Curtain Nook located inside the Village Arcade and off High Street, Berwick. Whilst I was feeling a little awkward coming here by myself, I pretty much knew what I wanted to buy Mum. I got her a paperback notebook with an elephant on the front, a ceramic ornament with a beautiful inspirational quote and a grey Scottish Terrier ornament.

The lady went to the trouble of wrapping the ornaments in tissue paper and placing them in a bright red gift bag as I mentioned that it was my Mum’s birthday tomorrow. Thankfully it didn’t quite turn into the scene from Love Actually with Rowan Atkinson going overboard with the gift wrapping (Any ribbon? Cellophane? Rose petals? A box? NO THANK YOU!) but my pain threshold wasn’t letting up. However, I was very grateful for her service considering how last minute this was. http://www.berwickcurtainnook.com.au/

On Tuesday morning, we celebrated Mum’s birthday by each having a much deserved massage at Body & Balance in Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre. We decided on getting the oil neck and shoulder massage plus reflexology foot massage and hot stone therapy. The lady did a really thorough job without going too intense in the pressure department. I could actually relax into it even with the noise of the broken air conditioner above me.

I did get myself a little confused though as the lady said something quickly and left the room. I was left there wondering if she was coming back or if I was supposed to go outside the room. I was still feeling half deaf and she was also softly spoken so it was difficult to hear her. Looking at the digital clock on the table, it read 10:30am meaning that I still had another 20 minutes and my massage wasn’t over. So therefore I trusted my instincts, got dressed and met her outside.

Mum and I both reclined back on these circular rotating arm chairs whilst our female massage therapists went to work on our feet. It’s been months since I’ve had a proper foot massage done so I could feel how tense and sensitive they were in places but it was still a lovely experience all the same. The only thing that bothered me was that the massage staff were all having a conversation in Chinese the entire time which I thought was kinda rude. But I decided to let it go and tried to focus on enjoying the massage. https://www.cranbournepark.com.au/stores/body-balance/

On Wednesday afternoon, Mum and I saw Dr. Mah Mah at Narre Gate Medical Center in Narre Warren. I think I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to the doctors in the past fortnight but now I’m getting over it. Thankfully the pain in my ears has eased up quite a bit and the waxsol drops have helped to soften up the ear wax blocking up the ear canals. So it was a huge relief when Mah Mah could syringe my ears so that I could hear clearly again.

I also decided to get a blood test ordered as it’s been over a year since my last one. She added a FBE (Full Blood Count), Urea/Electrolyte/Creatine, Cholesterol/Triglycerides/HDL/LDL, Glucose, TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and TES (Testosterone) levels. Over the past couple of months, I’ve noticed that I’ve been having periods of low energy and chronic fatigue so I think a blood test would be really helpful in figuring out what I’m deficient in.

In addition (I literally had a list of things to see her about today, no joke!), I wanted to get the dosage of my antidepressants increased. I’ve been taking Zoloft (Sertraline) tablets at 150mg for about 5 months now and my psychologist recommended that I increase it up to 200mg due to scoring a severe level of anxiety on a recent assessment I did. Plus I have noticed that there are times where the antidepressants seem ineffective when it comes to my mood so it couldn’t hurt to try increasing it.

On Thursday morning, I had my first Employ Your Mind session with my support worker Ally Lamb at Wise Employment Narre Warren. Basically, EYM is “a program that helps build the thinking and social skills that are important for work and other areas of life”. Ally recommended it to be as she knows how much I struggle with communication in social situations and dealing with my mental health issues. http://www.fifeemploymentaccesstrust.com/employ-your-mind.html

The first session was pretty straight forward and more of an introduction to the program. There are four phases in total which each run for 6 weeks with a short break in between. Phase 1 is done individually with the learning coach (Ally Lamb) whilst Phases 2,3 and 4 are run in small groups. We went through what her role as a learning coach is and I also filled in a questionnaire called the General Self Efficacy Scale.

The second part of the session involved the concept of cognitive remediation and going through parts of the human brain (frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, cerebellum, temporal lobe, brain stem). Basically it’s about being able to improve cognitive or thinking skills. Lastly we discussed how mental health issues can affect or impact upon cognitive skills and make it even more difficult to learn, concentrate and retain information. http://www.wiseemployment.com.au/en/community/ndis-supports-and-services/

Unfortunately my ears were still not 100% clear even after I got them syringed/irrigated at the doctors yesterday. It’s hard to explain but they still “feel” blocked even though my hearing is a lot better than it was earlier this week. I could be experiencing tinnitus or that my ear canals are too dry and not lubricated enough. Hopefully it clears up and heals naturally over the next few days.

On Friday morning, Mum and I went to the Morning Melodies social function at the Waltzing Matilda Hotel in Springvale. We were running late (no surprises there!) so we didn’t end up getting to the function room until around 10.45am or so. Thankfully we caught most of the performance though. Today we had Brian Muldoon doing the “Johnny O’Keefe tribute” show. It was partly a history lesson as Brian talked about Johnny’s life back in the early 60’s and 70’s, the television shows we became known for and the downward spiral that followed due to his mental illness.

Brian performed many of his classic hits including Shout!, Sing Sing Sing, She Wears My Ring, So Tough, The Sun’s Gonna Shine Tomorrow, It’s too late she’s gone, The Wild One and She’s My Baby. Most of Johnny O’Keefe’s songs carried a positive, uplifting message to them in order to help people’s moods up and push through the tough times in life. I feel like this is very relevant to the challenges we face in life today. https://www.entertainoz.com.au/listings/brian-muldoon/artist_profile_details

On Friday night, I went to a Vinyasa flow yoga class with Jade Hunter at YMCA Casey ARC, Narre Warren. I haven’t been to a fitness class in nearly two weeks now due to my health problems and being busy with other commitments like my birthday, appointments and my VCAT hearing. However, considering my ears were feeling a lot better, I decided to go back tonight. It’s funny how quickly you miss the gym when you haven’t been for a while.

I also read that certain yoga poses can help to unblock and relieve the pressure built up inside the ear canals so there’s another good reason to do. Tonight was a little more challenging than usual with lots of balancing, twists and binds thrown into the mix. I wasn’t really prepared for all of that nor did I have the flexibility to do everything Jade was demonstrating (Putting my legs behind my head? Yeah right!).

We did our usual Vinyasa flow sequence (Downward Facing Dog, Plank, Chaturanga, Cobra/Updog) plus Standing Poses (Warrior 2, Standing Forward Bend, Half Lift, Chair pose, Reverse Triangle pose), Seated Poses (Boat pose, Staff pose, Wide Legged Forward Bend, Happy Baby) and Inversions (Shoulder Stand, Plow pose). I could hear my ears popping which was a good sign plus my body heated up quite quickly during the class.

Jade does go the extra mile though considering we are doing yoga inside a creche. She added candles, burning incense, beautiful yoga music and some brass Tibetan bowls and chimes to the space which gave it the appropriate atmosphere for a yoga class. https://www.doyouyoga.com/the-perfect-vinyasa-flow-routine-for-beginners-30159/

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On Labour Day morning, I went down to YMCA Casey ARC for my RPM class with instructor Shelley. I swear whether it’s a public holiday or not, I always feel like I’m running against the clock on a Monday morning. So as usual, I found it a pain in the ass to get down to Casey Arc by 9.10am so that I could warm up on the bike before the class started. On the plus side, there wasn’t much traffic on the roads, the roadworkers had the day off and there was plenty of parking so at least that eliminated those stresses.

I haven’t been to one of Shelley’s classes for a while now but I always walk out feeling lighter, happier, more optimistic about my day. She just makes it really fun. Once again, she was going on about muscle fibres, muscle recruitment, flushing the legs out and other biological fitness jargon as well as keeping us motivated. She put on a mixture of older and newer tracks including Golden Earring – Radar Love, Jan Wayne Presents Gorgeous X – Black Velvet, Jan Wayne vs. Raindropz! – Numb, Robbie Williams – Feel and Tikki Taane’s Get Up Stand Up.

Despite feeling wrecked from the weekend, I still managed to have a great workout and pushed myself pretty hard. I burned around 430 KCal, rode 22km and averaged around 95-105 max RPM. https://www.lesmills.com/workouts/fitness-classes/rpm/

That night, Mum and I had to get dropped off at Caulfield station as they had replacement buses in operation between there and Dandenong all day. Unfortunately, it was absolute bedlam getting there especially when we turned onto Sir John Monash drive which was banked up with traffic. But eventually we got there and after getting off at Southern Cross station, we quickly made our way across the street to the Pensione Hotel in Spencer Street. We booked out a small twin-share room on the second floor so that we could stay in the city for a couple of nights.

Looking outside the windows of our hotel room, I began to view the city of Melbourne in a very different light. You can make comparisons to New York City in that the traffic and pace is always busy but there are also aspects to admire like watching different people go by and hearing the soft rumble of the nearby trains crossing each other near Southern Cross station. Of course on the other hand, there’s the overcrowding on public transport, drivers who can be really ruthless and impatient (beep, beep, beeeeeeeep), people who have no spacial awareness and walk around like zombies. But for the most part, I love Melbourne.

On Tuesday morning, it was D-DAY for me. My first ever VCAT mediation and hearing (Michael Dixon vs. Now, Yoga Studio, Tony Simpson) at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in King Street, Melbourne. Waiting outside the front entrance before the doors open at 8.30am sharp, we had to be scanned and checked through security. It felt like I was going through customs at the airport, placing all my personal items into the tray and walking through the metal detector.

Next stop was going up to Level 2 where all the mediation sessions are held. Presenting my Notice to attend mediation and hearing letter to the receptionist, Mum and I were asked to take a seat in the corridor near the mediation rooms. The decor was a typical office space with glass panels, neutral colours, fake plants and even a water cooler. My nerves were starting to rise a little though not a lot was happening until around 9.30am when the receptionist informed us that Melise and Tony (the respondents) hadn’t showed up.

I was honestly not surprised by this news considering how uncontactable both of them have been in the weeks leading up to today. They’re both cowards as far as I’m concerned. Despite having several physical and mental health issues, I still made the effort to come today and stand up for myself. Tony Simpson is the City of Casey’s version of Christopher Skase. Stealing hundreds of dollars from so many students, teachers and landlords. Somebody had to hold him to account and not let him get away with it.

The receptionist quickly escorted us up to Level 5 where all the hearings were held. Now my nerves were really kicking in. The whole experience was uncomfortable and new to me. My only real frame of reference to the court system is from all the TV shows and movies I’ve grown up with…Ally McBeal, Judging Amy, Judge Judy, The People’s Court and Erin Brockavich. I had no idea what to say to the Tribunal member when I got called but I had a blue folder full of supporting documents and evidence as well as my Mum to back me up. Plus I had a lot of family and friends in my corner who believed in me, that I could win my money back.

A lady named Mary approached both of us in the waiting area. She was a volunteer from the Court Network who explained basically what was about to happen in the hearing room and the process of what happens after a decision is made. It actually put my mind at ease a little as my anxiety levels were overwhelming. After being called into the hearing room, I stood in front of the appropriate chair and waited for the Tribunal member to enter the room. http://www.courtnetwork.com.au/

It felt like I was on an episode of Judge Judge minus the television cameras, the audience and with only two other people in the room. The silence was extremely deafening and I couldn’t wait for this hearing to be over. I had to swear on the bible and make an affirmation before proceeding with explaining my case. Thankfully it was more like filling in the blanks. Mr. R Daly asked me about the respondent’s address details as well as if I had any receipts for the payments I’d made towards the yoga retreat. https://www.vcat.vic.gov.au/steps-to-resolve-your-case/on-hearing-day

Besides this, it was very much an open and shut case and over with 15-20 minutes. Mr. Daly wrote out an official tribunal order for Mr. Tony Simpson to pay back the money that he owes me. If he doesn’t do this within the next 14 days, I can take the matter higher to a Magistrates court who will then enforce the order and get the Sheriff to essentially track Tony down and force him to pay up. It took a lot of courage to go through all of this today but I had no regrets about any of it. It’s about more than money to me. It’s about standing up for myself and holding a dodgy, gutless crook accountable for what he’s done. https://www.vcat.vic.gov.au/steps-to-resolve-your-case/what-to-expect-after-the-final-hearing/enforcing-vcat-orders

On Wednesday afternoon, Mum and I attended a workshop for the Victorian Autism Plan held at the Monash University Conference Centre in Collins Street, Melbourne. I didn’t really know what to expect from this workshop today but I was hoping to gain more information about the diagnosis and services that are currently being provided to people on the Autism Spectrum. Sadly, this was far from what I was expecting.

The workshop was held in seminar room 3 with several round tables each with a glass, jug of water, apples, lollies, stationary pads and pens, a feedback form, markers and large sheets of paper. I immediately felt daunted and out of place in that conference room as most of the people in attendance were professionals dressed in suits. The workshop ended up being more like a corporate business meeting with an agenda and group discussions.

But considering I made the effort to come, I decided to stay for about half an hour or so and listened to a few of the guest speakers who opened. They were talking about the current health services that are provided as well as government funding and the challenges that we’re facing. They also mentioned how autism is often linked with intellectual disorders and mental health issues and therefore the matter becomes more complex and an integration of different professionals is necessary for effective treatment. https://dhhs.vic.gov.au/publications/victorian-autism-plan

After these presentations, Mum and I made a swift beeline for the exit. Of course being peak hour, we were packed like sardines catching the tram back down to Southern Cross station. We collected our luggage from the hotel and caught a train back to Dandenong station followed by a bus taking us back home. It’s been an exhausting and eventful couple of days but it’s also been a huge learning experience for me which is always valuable.

On Thursday night, I attended an Aspergers Syndrome Adults group peer meeting at The MS Nerve Centre in Blackburn. Being my second time going to one of these meetings, I had a better sense of direction and therefore found the venue easier to locate. I also wasn’t feeling anywhere near as anxious as I was last time considering I knew what I was in for. I arrived there just on time rather than being ridiculously early like I usually am and so I gave myself a few minutes to settle in. https://aspergersvic.org.au/

Once again, there was quite a large attendance with around 25-30 Aspies in the room, of which I recognised probably 90% of the people there from the first meeting. Tonight’s topic of discussion was around sensory issues that people with Aspergers or Autism Spectrum Disorder often face. We went around the room introducing ourselves and stating whether we’re looking forward to the colder weather coming up (It’s a HELL YES from me!). I decided to speak briefly about my recent diagnosis of High Functioning Autism which was about 3-4 months ago. https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/diagnosis/dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria

We then began discussing the topic from our own personal experiences. Whilst it took a lot of courage to speak up tonight, I’m glad that I finally made a contribution to the group. I spoke about the feeling of being overwhelmed in busy environments such as shopping centres, city streets and at work plus being visually over-stimulated by people demanding your attention or many things happening around you. This often causes a great deal of stress and anxiety in me as well as distraction, confusion and draining of energy. https://themighty.com/2016/01/how-your-senses-work-when-you-have-aspergers-syndrome/

Unfortunately the pain of my blocked ears was getting even more unbearable tonight with a lot of pressure and swelling being placed on the glands behind my ears and along the sides of my face. But I did manage to stick out the meeting until around 9.30pm. I do find that the discussions have a tendency to drag on too long at times and there’s always the same few individuals dominating the conversation. Though it was good to see the organiser Colin stepping in and moderating it especially when people were speaking over one another.

Hopefully at the next meeting I’ll be able to stay a bit longer and won’t be dealing with any annoying health issues. I still have some degree of social awkwardness but I am growing to like the people in this group. It does take me a while before I’m ready to break the ice with people but it’ll happen when the time is right. Perhaps during one of the upcoming social nights I’ll have more of an opportunity to mingle. https://aspergersvic.org.au/event-2791853

On Friday morning, I went to the doctors to get my ears syringed out at Narre Gate Medical Center in Narre Warren. The pain from the pressure built up in my ear canal and the swelling of my glands near the sides of my face was becoming unbearable now. I was literally losing sleep over it and needed to get it sorted out before my birthday on the weekend. I asked the receptionist for the first available female doctor and ended up being seen to by Dr. Warnakulasuriya (Good luck pronouncing that one!) who I’ve had a couple of times before.

In the treatment room, she made several attempts to flush the ears out with the syringe and was only moderately successful in shifting any wax and fluid out. It turns out that my ears were still infected and therefore I’d have to take more medication to clear it up (Joy!). She put me on Ciproxin HC ear drops as well as Keflex Cephalexin capsules which are antibiotics used to treat middle ear infections. I was really hoping that it would be a simple wash out today but no dice. But hopefully it’ll be cleared up in the next couple of days so I can actually enjoy my birthday without the pain. https://www.healthline.com/health/cephalexin-oral-capsule#about

On Friday afternoon, I split my time between shopping with Mum, resting in bed and starting to decorate the outdoor patio area for my birthday pizza night tomorrow. The drugs were slowly kicking in but I knew it would take a few days to fully recover from this. I think that it’s my body’s way of telling me that I really need to slow down even though my plate is full. I’m not going to let this infection ruin my birthday weekend, no way!

On Saturday morning, I had my birthday lunch gathering at Fortnums Restaurant and Reception Venue in Sassafras. I was still feeling quite sore from my ear infection and also restless as I didn’t sleep very well last night. I could have easily pulled the pin and cancelled my event for being too sick but I was determined to push through the pain. And if I had to take my half a pharmacy worth of medication along to the restaurant in order to cope then so be it. I honestly wish I wasn’t feeling sick right now but you just have to ride with it.

I actually originally booked the venue about two months ago and since then I’ve had to change the reservation half a dozen times. It was going to be in the private function garden room but as I didn’t have enough numbers, I had to shift it to a table inside the restaurant itself. And I also had a change it to a traditional lunch menu rather than the set two course lunch. The other thing I didn’t realise was that the restaurant didn’t accept split bill payments but thankfully it didn’t turn into a fiasco like that one time at the China Bar.

Overall, I was really pleased with how the lunch went. It was just 10 people which I was more than comfortable with. The food was great and the service from the staff was exceptional. They even (attempted) to light my birthday cake up before the air conditioning blew the candles out (Adrian Szostek to the rescue). We were lucky to have a table close to the bird feeder and had a few rosellas flock in now and again. Even with my ears half blocked and sore from the middle ear infection, I still managed to enjoy myself (with my medication on standby of course!).

On Saturday night, I had a small gathering of family and friends over at my place for a birthday pizza night including Warren N Katherine DunklingAmy Amy and Jackson Lehmann. To be honest, I still wasn’t feeling the best and part of me just wanted to rest in my sick bed but I decided to make the effort and be social for a few hours in the dining room. We had a plenty of snacks and ordered a few pizzas (supreme, Aussie, vegetarian) whilst sharing stories and having some laughs. It was a good night and I’m glad that I didn’t let my ear infection win.

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