​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 130, November 2018

Last Saturday afternoon, Mum and I visited Narre Gate Medical Center. Over the last few days, the symptoms and side effects of my medication transition has gotten progressively worse and I made the decision to take a couple of days off work as I didn’t feel fit enough to be there. My regular GP wasn’t working and so I had to take a chance and hope that Dr. Rina Dela Cruz Sangalang would take my mental health and medication issues seriously. http://www.narregatemedicalcentre.com.au/

It wasn’t surprising that we had to wait nearly an hour and a half to see her but the receptionist’s attitude towards this fact really wasn’t helping matters. Still I feel like it’s a waste of time and energy to complain. Instead I just caught up on reading my book and occasionally pulled my phone out to scroll through Facebook posts. Having my Mum there for support definitely helped as my brain was still pretty foggy and I have confidence issues when it comes to seeing a doctor that I’ve never met before. Thankfully, Dr. Rina was worth the wait. https://www.healthshare.com.au/profile/professional/178711-dr-rina-dela-cruz-sangalang/

After explaining my situation, she advised that I may have signs of Serotonin Syndrome (though in my opinion, I feel that’s highly unlikely) and recommended that I stop taking the Sertraline (Zoloft) tablets completely and continue taking the Escitalopram (Lexapro) at 5mg for the next few days. She took my blood pressure and the results were normal. She also wrote me up a referral to Casey Hospital should my symptoms get worse as well as a medical certificate for work. Whilst all that may sound pretty extreme, I do believe that she had good intentions behind it. https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/serotonin-syndrome-causes-symptoms-treatments#1

I feel relieved that she at least took my concerns seriously and didn’t palm me off to my psychiatrist or worse not believe me. I’m hoping that this solution will work and eventually the side effects will gradually reduce in severity. Like anything, I just have to be patient and take things one day at a time. Withdrawals from a previous prescription medication are quite common and my body is still in the process of adjusting to the new one. https://www.healthline.com/health/mdd/switching-antidepressants

On Monday morning, I caught up with my mental health support worker Seb at Jamaica Blue Cranbourne. Three sessions in, I feel like it’s getting a lot easier to be comfortable and open with my support worker. I decided to try a different approach, asking Seb about how experiences with mental health issues to essentially form a foundation. He mentioned that he’s had depression and anxiety in the past as well as agoraphobia, which is the fear of leaving your own house. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/agoraphobia

He also told me that his mother worked as a psychiatric nurse and many of his friends have engaged in counselling and mental health services. And from that information, I feel much more at ease and reassured knowing that he’s got a firm basis in mental health problems. Discussing my own personal issues from recent medication transition and side effects to anxiety triggers and work-related stress, environmental pressures and sleep problems. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ServicesAndSupport/types-of-mental-health-issues-and-illnesses

In that regard, he is very supportive, understanding and sympathetic. It’s still socially awkward at times but it is getting easier and sitting next to the window inside the cafe provides a nice visual buffer. It’s also nice to talk about casual things like television shows, movies, shopping and the weather outside as well as having a laugh which is always important to do. https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/7-health-benefits-of-laughter

On Monday night, I attended a HIIT Power small group training session with Cinamon Guerin at CinFull Fitness. After spending the last couple of days in recovery mode, I was determined to get back into some physical exercise again as I haven’t been for a few weeks. Whilst the usual barriers were there (profuse sweating, fatigue, racing heartbeat, getting easily breathless), they didn’t stop me though I was also being mindful of my limitations. Of course I made a joke about how much I sweat and will most likely need a beach towel during summer when I’m working out.

It’s frustrating when you have so much potential but physiologically things stop you and force your body to rest. Still overall I did really well tonight. We were doing 5 rounds of one minute duration movements including: skipping, med ball slams, weighted squats, overhead press, plank holds, push ups, sit ups, alternating lunges, step jumps, alternating step lunges, kettle bell swings. Certainly a full range of movement right there and it was tough but I was determined not to give up. The Energizer Bunny is back!

On Tuesday morning, Mum and I attended the Morning Melodies social function at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. There was the usual attendance of regular seniors, aged care residents, people with disabilities and palliative care nurses as well as entertainer and singer Vicki Lee. The songs she chooses to cover never fail to fill me with joy and positivity such as Johnny O’ Keefe’s Sing Sing Sing, Roy Orbison’s Penny Arcade and Meatloaf’s Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.

But things took a turn for the worse when Mum took me out to McDonalds Clyde North as my depression seemed to cloud over. It was most likely a result of having poor quality of sleep, feeling fatigued and irritable, adjusting to my new medication and the humid windy weather outside. I’m learning to be kind and gentle toward myself during these rough mental states but it is so far from being easy to deal with.

At the time, I just wanted to cry and have a mental breakdown in front of Mum because it feels like everything is going out of control in my life. So many aspects of my life just feel like unknowns: my job, my friends, my mental health and physical fitness, my goals and my plans for the future. But it was more I was just having a shit day and I just needed to go home and rest up in bed. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/coping-with-depression.htm

On Tuesday night, I went to a Body Combat class with Cinamon Guerin at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. A weird thing seemed to come over me tonight in that I was fully engaged and even confident during tonight’s class. It’s weird because I haven’t been to a Combat class in weeks and yet all the movements and combos just flooded back into my body like a memory. https://www.siphilp.com/les-mills-bodycombat-77-music-track-listing.aspx

It’s one of the reasons why dragging myself to the gym is worth it because most of the time I walk away from the workout feeling lighter, more clear headed, more positive and very very sweaty! Considering how depressed and sleep deprived I’ve been feeling lately, these are the kinds of benefits that I need on a regular basis. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-benefits-of-exercise

Of course there were still a couple of tracks where I found myself being rusty and uncoordinated, particularly the one involving Zumba-like dance movements and a long sequence of squat and lunge pulses which burned like hell. But I pulled through it and my “never say die” attitude remained in tact. https://www.lesmills.com.au/bodycombat

It was also really humbling to see a few past members in the class actually remember me and acknowledge me. I guess it’s one of those anxiety-driven worries that you assume you’ll be forgotten if you haven’t been to a group fitness class in weeks but the opposite is true and it’s always a big esteem booster for me. As always, Cinamon continues to make these Combat classes heaps of fun and not too serious whilst making sure everyone is putting in 110% effort.

On Thursday morning, I decided to do a workout at the YMCA Casey RACE Health Club gym. I was feeling tired, irritable, restless and unmotivated so it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise that getting myself to Casey Race took a tremendous effort. On arrive, my body was desperately craving for a coffee. The cafe at the entrance was moderately packed with people but they didn’t look especially busy. My mistake!

When I walked up to the counter, I had to wait for a few minutes as there was a line of coffee orders to get done. That was perfectly fine by me and yet the wait felt excruciatingly uncomfortable for some reason. Still I tried hard to be my normal patient self. I ordered myself the usual regular latte with one sugar and full cream milk. No issues there. I decided to take a seat and wait to get called up.

The crowd began to thin and so I was about to keep an eye out for when my coffee would be ready. Fifteen minutes later, everyone else’s coffees were done and it clicked that they had forgotten my order. I really didn’t have the energy, assertiveness or desire to go back up to the counter again and so I left the cafe without my coffee. The good news is that at least I decided to still workout for a while, jumping on the upright bike and treadmill.

Whilst this reads like a “poor me” story, this was enough to trigger my depression and put me in a really bad mood. And the worse thing is that it’s so irrational to feel like this. Look back, I’m sure that they didn’t deliberately forget to make my coffee but unfortunately my brain was in such a fog and clouded with thoughts like “I guess it’s just not my day today”. I’m learning to not let one bad experience ruin my entire today but having mental illness, it’s like asking me to “just get over it”. It’s not that simple and never will be.

On Friday afternoon, I attended the The Melbourne Disability Expo held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC). Being my first at this convention, I really didn’t have any expectations at all and just gave it a casual approach. I brought my Mum along for support which meant that we were both clock-watching as she had to get back before 3pm for work. But that was fine. Honestly I get myself easily restless and drained at these types of events so I can only handle 1.5-2 hours at the most.

We listened to an NDIS National Disability Insurance Scheme presentation on the main stage which sadly wasn’t really relevant to my case but it was still very informative. Then I began targeting specific services that I thought would hopefully fit my needs and goals on the NDIS plan. My first stop was Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), which makes sense considering I have a diagnosis of High Functioning Autism. I am considering applying for the Aspect Employment mentoring program which could be a positive thing for me.

Next we looked into Everyday Independence who specialise in Speech Pathology, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy. I was pretty hesitant approaching the two ladies at the booth but I decided to give them my contact details anyway. JobCo Employment Services & NDIS is an NDIS provider which specialises in mental health issues and can provide counselling services and employment opportunities. Finally, Afford are a disability services support agency which can offer me shared accommodation and independent living.

I think the most difficult part of attending any expo, convention or festival is that high anxiety factor from dealing with other people. I’m very much confronting that salesperson phobia head-on with many reps turning their attention towards me as I’m walking past their booths. It’s extremely nerve-wracking and intimidating for me especially when I don’t have the social confidence to know exactly what to say and what questions to ask these people.

And yet I still went ahead, got out of my comfort zone and did it. I’ve collected a whole bunch of information brochures, flyers, pens and business cards to look back on. Hopefully I’ll be able to use more of my NDIS funding and engage with these services over the next 8 months into 2019 and have a clearer understanding of exactly what I want out of my life. https://www.melbournedisabilityexpo.com.au/

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​AMY SHARK – LOVE MONSTER (ALBUM REVIEW)

My first impression of this Gold Coast-born singer-songwriter’s debut album is overly emotional and lyrically exhausting. There are streaks of brilliance to be found here thanks to her ability to come up with witty, idiosyncratic lyrics. Her words often come across like intensely personal diary entries which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but there’s always going to be things you wish you hadn’t heard.

Whilst it’s great to see Shark working with a number of top quality producers such as Dann Hume (Evermore), Joel Little (Lorde) and M-Phazes (Alison Wonderland), it doesn’t quite disguise how monotonous some of the material is over 14 tracks. Things start to blend into one another particularly in the second half of the album and cutting a few of the middle of the road tracks would have made for a tighter, more concise record.

It’s one of those cases where less is more and it’s easier to appreciate this album in small doses rather than all at once. Amy Shark is clearly a very talented singer-songwriter and producer but I feel like she needs to vary her sound and musical style more in the future. Still a decent effort. 8/10

Standout Tracks: Adore, I Said Hi, All Loved Up, Never Coming Back, Don’t Turn Around, Leave Us Alone, The Idiot.

Standout Lyrics:

“We’ve been kicking these words around too long. I had a feeling we were close to something big. A deep breath under a baseball cap. One way ticket to a heart attack.”

“I stand in the corner like a tired boxer. One hand on my cheekbone, one hand on the rope. And all my veins pump blood into my throat. So I can hit the note, go do it all again.”

“You just never know. We might dance slow at somebody’s wedding that we used to know. At a picture show, at a funeral
You’re two rows behind me and it’s hard not to turn around.”

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 129, November 2018

On Monday morning, I met up with my support worker Seb at Jamaica Blue Cranbourne at Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre. Following on from what happened last Friday, I was willing to give Seb a chance to prove himself as my new support worker. I also decided to focus mostly on his strengths: He is kind, professional, non-judgemental, a good listener, open minded, funny, easy to talk to and easy to get along with. It also gives me a reason to get out of bed and get myself out of the house on a Monday morning which has always been a huge struggle for me.

While it’s going to take some time for me to open up to him about my personal issues and mental health problems, today’s session certainly flowed much better than when I first met him. I guess we’re both finding our feet. But I can tell that he is genuinely trying to make an effort to get to know me by asking me casual questions about my week and not staring at his phone the whole time.  https://www.vetrorecruitment.co.uk/blog/2018/03/what-makes-a-great-support-worker

I mainly talked about my first appointment with Dr. Peralta and how I feel about transitioning from 100mg of Sertraline (Zoloft) to 10mg of Escitalopram (Lexapro). It’s a slow, daunting process for me but one that will hopefully help me feel better and be a more effective form of medication for treating my depression and anxiety symptoms. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/how-to-taper-off-your-antidepressant

Obviously part of me is worried about the possible withdrawal symptoms and side effects that I may endure but at least I’m prepared and I’ve heard mostly positive things about this particular anti-depressant that I’m switching to. I just have to give myself a few weeks to adjust to my new medication and see if I’ve noticed any improvements or changes. https://www.nps.org.au/medical-info/medicine-finder/lexapro-tablets

I’m also hoping to use more of my NDIS funding towards services at Mentis Assist such as life skills, personal development, travelling, community programs and social outings. Whilst Seb may not directly help with treating my underlying mental health issues, at least he is someone who can provide social company and a listening ear as I need it. That’s better than nothing in my books. He can also make connections to other Mentis Assist staff higher up in order to provide me with that information and those services. Relationships build over time, not over night and so I just have to be patient as things slowly unfold for me. https://mentisassist.org.au/what-we-do/our-programs

I’ve never really been into the Melbourne Cup or horse racing in general even before it became more of an animal rights issue in the last few years. Personally, it’s just a sad excuse for people to dress up in expensive outfits, get wasted and blindly bet on horses. It’s also a greedy business for bookies wanting to profit and rake in millions of dollars. Big celebrities like Tom and Gai Waterhouse continue to flaunt how rich they are every year and it’s so disgusting!

I used to be of the opinion “What’s wrong with putting on a harmless bet?” until recently. I will never support this day and it’s a blessing that the hype of Halloween this year has masked a lot of the promotion around the horse racing carnivals. It’s good that more awareness is being raised each year about the treatment of racehorses that happens “behind the scenes” and that punters and bookies alike seem to ignore. FUCK THE CUP! https://www.peta.org.au/issues/melbourne-cup-8-things-you-need-to-know-about-horse-racing/

On Thursday night, I attended my third Sleep Intervention Group workshop held at La Trobe University Psychology Clinic in Bundoora. I was feeling particularly restless and moody today. Some of these could be attributed to the side effects from my new medication whilst others could be coming from my chronic sleep problems and mental health issues. Poor concentration, sudden mood changes, irritability and extreme fatigue are probably the most dominant symptoms I’ve been experiencing over the past few days. https://www.verywellmind.com/throwing-up-after-taking-an-antidepressant-1067352

But I’ve been doing my best to remain strong during this difficult period of transition and giving myself the self-care that I need to cope with it all. I still find driving down to the La Trobe University – Bundoora campus to be an absolute chore especially in the middle of peak hour traffic that tends to build up quickly along Banksia Street in Heidelberg. But I figure that I’m getting close to the end of this research study and I really don’t want to drop out now. http://otarc.blogs.latrobe.edu.au/sleep-help-for-adults-on-the-spectrum/

During tonight’s session, we learned about how to develop a new sleep routine which incorporates things like the ideal hours of sleep required per night, times you go to bed and wake up. The most important thing to remember is to allow it to be flexible and not rigid as this will invite more arousal and therefore further fuel unwanted anxiety about sleep. https://www.sleep.org/articles/get-sleep-schedule/

Lauren, Eric and Alexa also talked about the essential tips for good sleep hygiene which includes keeping the bedroom dark, cool and comfortable, avoid consuming any caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals before going to bed, not using any technology or devices with blue back lighting and opening up the curtains when you wake up in the morning. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-hygiene

On Friday morning, things took a turn for the worse. The plans I had for the day essentially went out the window as my symptoms seemed to escalate. It began normally enough. I spent an hour or so just catching up on my recorded TV shows (Real Housewives of Dallas and Home & Away), ate some breakfast and took a shower. After that, I had zero motivation to leave the house and my brain was getting wound up over the recent Christmas party that I decided to organise at home in a few weeks time.

I just couldn’t seem to handle the amount of “not attending” responses on the event page even though realistically this was to be expected. December is a busy time for everyone and of course people are going to have other plans and commitments to attend to. I guess I just wished that I had a more positive response to it, that people would be excited to see me and therefore I would be more enthusiastic about organising it. Feeling let down and upset over a social event of mine going pear shaped was not a new thing for me and yet it still sucks.

Mum rang and asked if I wanted to meet her for coffee at Degani Cranbourne Park. It was around 11.30am and I decided to go as I needed ANY reason to leave the house and not spend my day being socially isolated and withdrawn. Momentarily, I found myself to be a bit more upbeat but it didn’t last long. Sitting in the cafe, I felt like a depressed mess with many worrying thoughts flooding my mind and it was really uncomfortable being around other people (I had no friends. Nothing is going right for me. I don’t know where my life is heading. I feel like shit. I feel hopeless). https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/signs-and-symptoms

We tried moving to a different cafe The Coffee CLUB Cranbourne but it didn’t really help my symptoms much at all. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this severely depressed and perhaps the change of medication plus my chronic sleep problems and average diet could all be contributing to it. I also noticed that my appetite decreased as I didn’t “feel like” eating even half a slice of cake carrot that Mum ordered. Something was definitely up with me and now more than ever, I really have to look after myself. https://www.healthline.com/health/mdd/switching-antidepressants

“Weeping, kicking these words around too long. I had a feeling we were close to something bigger. Deep breath under a baseball cap. One way ticket to a heart attack… And it’s gonna be tough ’cause I got a few things to work through. And I’m all loved up in a world I can’t explain.” Amy Shark – All Loved Up (2018)

“Oh, something good better come out of this. I don’t even know how to exist…How do you keep it together like this. Never again, I’m a nervous wreck. Please don’t repeat anything that I said. I’m forced to see you. But deep down I love it. So far away, but I still see you coming, alright. Let it go, let it go. Hopefully we run into each other.”                                   Amy Shark – Don’t Turn Around (2018)

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​MR. MERCEDES: SEASON 1 EPISODE 10, JIBBER-JIBBER CHICKEN DINNER (TV EPISODE REVIEW) *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Following the faked death of Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) at his home, Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) remains unconvinced that Brady is truly dead after rigging the house up with explosives and setting it alight. Eventually, the rest of his team begin to take his pleas seriously as they go into Crime Scene Investigation mode and discover that Brady has left a trail behind including the death of Anthony “Robi” Frobisher (Robert Stanton).

After watching Brady’s chilling recorded video, Captain Brooke Hockney (Debra Monk) as well as Detective Pete Dixon (Scott Lawrence) and Detective Izzy Torres (Nicole Barre) begin searching suspected hot spots that Brady would be most likely to target, even sending out a bomb squad to the Supreme Electronix store but their investigations end up fruitless.

A dilemma arises when two major events happen to fall on the same night: The Edmund Mills Art Centre Gala and the career fair at the Roseland Ballroom. The team place their bets and conclude that the career fair seems like the most obvious place to target with a huge crowd in attendance. However, Hodges believes otherwise and swiftly drives towards the art gala, warning Jerome (Jharrel Jerome), Holly (Justine Lupe) and Ida (Holland Taylor) that they might be in danger and to get out of there.

Meanwhile, Brady is well and truly still alive hiding out in his basement and getting himself prepared for his “masterpiece”. He disguises himself as a cripple in a wheelchair, planting a set of explosives underneath the seat and shaving his head bald. This is the one aspect that they kept from Stephen King’s source novel whilst the location has been changed for the TV show (Originally set at a boy band pop concert).

At the art gala, Brady manages to slip in past security undetected and bumps into his former work-colleague Lou Linklatter (Breeda Wool) who he swiftly stabs and hides as she might derail his plans. After screaming out “Help Me!”, Hodges comes to the rescue and tracks down Brady just in time as the Bridgton Middle School choir performs a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine”.

Hodges is clearly suffering from the symptoms of a heart attack whilst all of this is happening. Brady puts his finger on the detonation button as the crowd scrambles in a panic for the exits. Luckily, Holly manages to sneak up on Brady from behind and wacks him several times across the side of the head. In the same moment, Hodges collapses to the ground and gets taken to hospital.

Directed by Jack Bender and written by Dennis Lehane, they manage to take the necessary plot points from Stephen King’s source novel and turn it into a dark, tense and suspenseful climax. Things are also neatly set up for the second season as Brady Hartsfield lies in a hospital bed presumably in a comatose state with significant brain damage from the blows Holly delivered to his head. 8.5/10

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 128, October 2018

On Monday morning, I had my first appointment with my new mental health support worker named Sebastian from Mentis Assist. I’ve barely had much time to process the fact that not only do I have an NDIS service agreement but I’ve also managed to find myself another support worker in the space of a few days. It’s all happening so fast and yet it’s come at the right time with my mental health deteriorating quite significantly over the past week or two.

It’s also been a necessary transition for me from leaving my previous support worker Ally and short lived replacement Vadim about a month ago. To be fair, I’ve felt like I’ve been going through the motions with them over the past 6 months or so and a change in support worker was desperately needed in order to get my life back on track again. So approaching Mentis Assist as my NDIS provider was a big risk for me but one that is so far paying off pretty well.

Last Friday my NDIS Team Leader, Tracey, made the necessary arrangements to link me in with my new support worker, Sebastian. I would be meeting him at Jamaica Blue Cranbourne every Monday morning. Nervous is an understatement. I guess I always seem to have this reaction when it comes to meeting new people. I can’t help it. I made the strategic move of popping into The Reject Shop and buying myself a notepad and pen to essentially flood my mind and come up with some ideas to chat about before my first appointment.

When I finally settled down at Jamaica Blue and met Seb in the flesh, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was doing my best to mask my anxiety but I could tell I was far from relaxed in the tone of my voice. Having to literally hit the reset button with somebody new is not easy for me but walking through the fear is a necessary evil. Seb did his best to make this meeting as casual and relaxed as possible and I mentally appreciated his efforts.

Seeing as this first appointment was essentially a “getting to know you”, I didn’t delve too deeply into my personal issues. If I presented my medical records and 32 years worth a problems to a new support worker, I would most likely scare him off. Beginning a new therapeutic relationship takes time to build. Of course there were plenty of awkward moments during that hour and a half but I pretty much expected it. At least we could both acknowledge it.

I learned that Seb is 27 years old and has only been a support worker for 4 months whilst still completing his mental health training. His interests include cooking, movies, music, computers, reading, Science Fiction and writing. On that basis, I think that Mentis Assist has done well to match me up with a support worker who has similar interests to myself and personality wise I found him very easy to get along with. As in the song, things can only get better. https://mentisassist.org.au/get-support/for-yourself

On Monday night, I went to a Vinyasa yoga class with Aaron Petty at Level Up Yoga (Berwick, Victoria) in Berwick. This year has been a rather turbulent one when it comes to maintaining a regular yoga practice. So many things in my life have gotten in the way of it including my mental health issues, sleep problems and other commitments. I keep telling myself that “Yep this is it. I’m booking the class in for tonight.” and it never seems to pan out.

The other reason is that whenever I set foot into Aaron’s yoga studio, my inner critic is on 10. The negative thoughts just never seem to stop (You can’t relate to any of these people. You’re so bad at making conversation. You’ll never fit in here. You’re not as cool as the others. Why do you bother trying?). But I’ve been trying hard to tell my anxiety to shut the fuck up and have the strength to get through a yoga class no matter what’s going on upstairs.

I think I generally did okay in the class tonight. The one thing that I really pride myself on is trying fucking hard, that determination to do the best that I can. We did several flowing sequences including Three-Legged Dog to Low Lunge, Half Splits, Crescent Lunge, Warrior 2, Triangle Pose, Plank Pose, Cobra/Up-Dog and Downward Facing Dog plus Half Pigeon and Serpentine Twists. https://www.aaronpetty.com/

On Tuesday morning, I had my first appointment with Dr. Ricardo Peralta at OPTIMIND Bayside Specialist Centre in Patterson Lakes. Taking a new pathway in my mental health recovery has been extremely daunting for me to say the least. Suffice it to say, my current treatments are just not as effective as they used to be and I really need to try something else. Hence why I decided to seek out a psychiatrist as they can also prescribe medication which so desperately needs changing right now. https://optimind.com.au/services/psychiatry/

I made the appointment with Dr. Peralta six weeks ago and now today’s the day. I did my best to research things like “what to expect at my first appointment with a psychiatrist” in order to get myself mentally prepared for today. I also wanted to make sure that I brought along as much evidence and paperwork as possible. I literally have a green document wallet filled with medical records, notes, letters, referrals, blood test results and forms. You name it. I didn’t want to forget anything! https://nepeanspecialistgroup.com.au/specialists/dr-ricardo-peralta

I’ve had to dispense of all those stereotypes and cliches of what seeing a psychiatrist used to be like (lying down on the couch, interpreting ink blot drawings, psychoanalysis, getting electric shocks, being locked up in a mental institution wearing a strait jacket) as these are most likely NOT going to happen to me. Obviously modern psychiatry is vastly different and has evolved considerably over time especially with the introduction of ethics and human rights. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/sacramento-street-psychiatry/201410/brief-history-psychiatry

Sitting in the reception waiting area, I was doing the best I could to keep myself distracted and positive by observing my surroundings and glancing over at the flat screen TV. I brought my Mum along as a support as I didn’t know how I was going to be. Dr. Peralta came out of his office a little after 11am and greeted me with a handshake which was something I wasn’t expecting at all but it immediately put me at ease. However, my body was not complying and once I walked inside the office, I could feel my anxiety steadily rising inside of me.

Dr. Peralta’s private office suite was small and clinically white with basic soft furnishings, a timber office desk, a couple of comfy armchairs, a ticking clock and a beach wall print. He asked me a lot of questions about my childhood, family background, current medication, how I’ve been feeling lately, my symptoms of depression and anxiety, what I do during the day, what I do for work, my sleeping problems and friendships. He was taking down notes on a notepad as I was talking, very much in classic therapist style.

It was pretty casual for the most part but it took so much effort and concentration that I was rapidly becoming drained and very flustered. It was also pretty difficult bringing up personal details from the past but I knew I had to do this in order to help myself. This was going much better than I expected. Dr. Peralta was very compassionate, caring, understanding and had a good ear. He was also very knowledgeable and professional and this made me feel good. It meant that I’d selected a really good psychiatrist.

Next thing was talking about the “M” word…medication. I told him straight that my current medication, 100mg Zoloft (Sertraline), has basically been ineffective at treating my symptoms and in the last few months hasn’t really done much to help at all. And so he has prescribed me a course of Lexapro (Escitalopram) 10mg which will hopefully do something to help. Still there is a process of coming off my current medication which will take about a week or so to transition to the new medication. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-63990/lexapro-oral/details

Whilst this first appointment was very nerve-racking for me, I feel hopeful that now I’m on the right pathway to a recovery for my mental health issues as well as making positive life changes for myself into 2019. It’s a massive relief that I’ve chosen a psychiatrist who seems to be on the same wavelength as myself and actually understands my problems. He also assured me that if this medication isn’t a good fit for me, that we’ll try something else to help. I’ll be having a follow up appointment with him in about a month’s time.

On Thursday night, I had my second Sleep Intervention workshop session held at La Trobe University Psychology Clinic in Bundoora. The last couple of days have been difficult as I’ve had to make my first transition in stepping down my Sertraline (Zoloft) tablets from 100mg to 50mg. Whilst the changes haven’t been too dramatic, I have noticed that my sleep has gotten worse recently and this has had a direct impact on my motivation and energy levels particularly after waking up in the morning.

During the day, it seems to take a lot more effort than usual to complete everyday tasks but thankfully these things are still manageable. As a result, I wanted to make sure that for tonight that I don’t repeat the mistakes I made last Thursday. This includes leaving earlier to prepare myself for the peak hour traffic leading up to the Bulleen and Heidelberg areas. Being sure to get off at the correct exit from the Eastern Freeway. And to park in a carpark where I know that my car won’t be locked inside a security compound after hours (Awkward!).

In tonight’s session, we learned about how using mindfulness techniques can help to deal with the anxiety and struggles related to trying to fall and stay asleep. We practiced a couple of these techniques as a group including doing a body scan, focusing on our breathing and dealing with physical sensations and pain in the body. The idea behind mindfulness is to be an observer of your thoughts, feelings and emotions without getting caught up in them and being able to be in the present moment. https://www.innerhealthstudio.com/body-scan-sleep.html

I’ve had some experience with mindfulness in the past from learning about different medication styles, watching YouTube videos on the topic and reading self-help books from popular authors like Dr. Russ Harris (The Happiness Trap, ACT Made Simple). As Eric and Lauren both explained, these skills are not learned overnight and require a lot of practice and dedication. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-helps-fight-insomnia-improves-sleep-201502187726

They also discussed how “welcoming” our thoughts, feelings and emotions can make the process a lot easier. This can be done through describing, naming, being playful or floating with each thought or feeling. The idea behind this is to lower our level of alertness, which will then make the process of winding down before bed much easier. Eric used the example of imagining your thoughts and feelings like items on a conveyor belt and your task is to simply observe these mindfully. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health-advisor/thoughts-keeping-you-up-5-ways-to-settle-yourself-to-sleep/article22799705/

On Friday afternoon, I had my counselling session with Ruth at Piece Together Counselling in Narre Warren. Most of the time, my sessions with Ruth go pretty smoothly as her approach is very compassionate and understanding, though she tends to have an element of tough love thrown in there. I was experiencing this at a couple of points especially when I talked about my parents relationship issues which is always an uncomfortable subject for me.

But then things went a little sideways when I brought up my new mental health support worker Seb that I only just met on Monday. So far I’m in two minds about him. I certainly have some reservations already as he is inexperienced and showed signs of social awkwardness during our first appointment. Plus he is significantly younger than me. And yet I’ve chosen to let these things slide as I feel it’s way too early to judge and harshly criticism his performance based on one appointment.

Unfortunately Ruth feels differently about this and began throwing her two cents in, saying that my appointment length is far too long and I should only be seeing him once a fortnight instead of once a week. Plus she wasn’t entirely convinced that he would be a good fit for me. Whilst her opinions are valid, this conversation really rubbed me up the wrong way and it felt like she was telling me what to do, which immediately made me get agitated and defensive.

She is probably coming from a good place in wanting the best possible support worker for me but I also believe in giving people a chance to prove themselves. I could be foolish for thinking that way but quite frankly I don’t care. This is my decision and if it blows up in my face, then so be it. This is part of me being an adult and making my own decisions. There is always the option of changing my support worker if things don’t work out with Seb but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

“No one hears silent tears collecting. ‘Cause it’s being weak that’s strong. In the truth I found. I have courage now, I’m gonna shout it out. Teacher, I feel the dots connecting. Now I am invincible. No, I ain’t a scared little boy no more. Yeah, I am invincible. What was I running for. I was hiding from the world. I was so afraid, I felt so unsure. Now I am invincible. Another perfect storm.” Kelly Clarkson – Invincible (2015)

“Yeah, my life is what I’m fighting for. Can’t part the sea, can’t reach the shore. And my voice becomes the driving force. I won’t let this pull me overboard. God, keep my head above water. Don’t let me drown, it gets harder. I’ll meet you there at the altar. As I fall down to my knees. Don’t let me drown, drown, drown.”          Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water (2018)

“Tell ’em all I said hi, hope you’ve been well. You’ve been asleep while I’ve been in hell. Tell ’em all I said hi, have a nice day. I’ll be just fine, don’t worry ’bout me. Lying on my side, watching time fly by. And I bet the whole world thought that I would give up today.” Amy Shark – I Said Hi (2018)

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​HALLOWEEN 2018 (FILM REVIEW) *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

It’s been 16 years since Halloween: Resurrection (which was a truly dreadful sequel, let’s be real) and 9 years since Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (which was a confusing mess of a film but did have its moments). Now it’s 2018, and with no place left to go, the filmmakers, writers and producers decided to hit the reset button and made a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 original Halloween. This was a pretty bold move to make but one that pays off well for the most part.

Firstly, the bad news (or good news, depending on how you look at it): Every sequel from Halloween II to VI, H20, Resurrection and the two Rob Zombie remakes have effectively been abandoned and retconned. That means that Michael Myers has been incarcerated in a maximum-security prison for 40 years and has never escaped once during that time.

Also, you can forget about the storyline of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode being blood relatives. This was introduced in Halloween II when Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) informs Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) that Laurie was adopted by the Strode family but is technically Michael’s sister.

And now for the good news. Jamie Lee Curtis makes a triumphant comeback as Laurie Strode, who is now a bad-ass grandmother and is preparing to kill Michael Myers off once and for all. Original writer and composer John Carpenter also returns to his project as an executive producer which has a much-needed ring of authenticity to it.

Bloomhouse and director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) have effectively gone back-to-basics with this Halloween sequel, borrowing heavily from the original but also adding a modern dimension to it with the inclusion of smart phones, a nod to the second amendment of owning firearms, in-home security systems, surveillance cameras and how unsafe the world has become in 2018.

The film opens at Haddonfield Rehabilitation Centre with investigators Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees) getting up close and personal with the man himself, Michael Myers (Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney).

We also meet Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) who has taken over from Dr. Sam Loomis as Michael’s psychiatrist. Like Loomis, Sartain is completely obsessed with Michael’s story to the point of being unhinged and delusional. He is basically like a modern day Sigmund Freud, rambling lots of psychobabble as to what drives Michael to kill people.

Pretty soon we get the opening credits which makes a great homage to the original’s sequence using similar bright orange typography and a creepy jack-o-lantern which this time gets reinflated. Cut to a 69 year old Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who rides alone in the middle of a woodland area in Haddonfield, Illinois.

Her house gives a brand new meaning to in-home security which has been hooked up with exterior surveillance cameras, large floodlights, an underground bunker, a solid metal screen door, an armoury of firearms and pistols, roller doors and other protection mechanisms. She’s gone all out due to the trauma and psychological distress she’s experienced back in 1978 as a 19 year old babysitter who escaped being murdered by the serial killer Michael Myers.

Next we meet Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) who is living with her husband Ray (Toby Huss) and daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Karen has become tired and frustrated of her mother’s paranoia over Michael Myers whilst Allyson seems to be a lot more sympathetic towards her. There’s also the local Sheriff, Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) who draws a nice parallel to Sheriff Brackett in the original Halloween film.

Unlike Brackett, he seems to take the possibility of Michael Myers returning to Haddonfield much more seriously. Speaking of which, Michael does escape (no surprises there!) after a prison bus crashes during a transfer to another facility. Pretty soon he is on the loose again, killing off everyone in his path, including Aaron and Dana who are taking a break at a local gas station before hitting the streets on, you guessed it, Halloween night!

There are so many things to love about this new Halloween movie. The music score has been reimagined and takes aspects of John Carpenter’s original score to build in a level of familiarity. There’s also plenty of neat references to the original from a new generation of babysitters to wondering “What’s behind the closet door?” to key pieces of storyline related to Michael Myer’s past.

There is an appropriate build up of tension and atmosphere leading up to the final confrontation between Michael and Laurie. I guess my biggest disappointment with this film is how predictable and ho-hum some of the killings were. It truly eliminated the element of horror during those scenes. Some of them did work well like in the gas station toilet scene which added a brutal, no mercy edge to Myer’s killing style whilst others were over within a few seconds with a boring knife stab or throat slice. Still either way you could tell that Michael means business.

My other issue was the decision to call his follow up sequel Halloween. It’s very confusing especially for casual fans or audiences with no prior knowledge of the franchise. It would have been better to call it something like Halloween H40 or Halloween Returns to clear up any confusion as to whether this is a remake, reboot or sequel.

The last 20 minutes of the film definitely saves the best for last. I was literally on edge and had sweaty palms just watching Laurie creeping slowly through the house wielding a shotgun. Laurie as well as Karen and Allyson are all in survival-mode at this point, wanting to both defend themselves and kill off Michael Myers. There’s a handful of surprise twists which leads to a very satisfying conclusion which could potentially open things up for a future sequel.

Compared to some of the previous installments of Halloween which ranged from average to tragic, this one deserves to be in the top tier. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of the 1978 original film but it does get pretty close. You can tell that the filmmakers, producers and writers wanted to make a decent crack at bringing the Halloween franchise back to a modern audience and not just churn out another by-the-numbers sequel. Personally, I appreciated the attention to detail that they put into this. It’s far from perfect but it is sure to please both casual and long time Halloween fans. HAPPY HALLOWEEN MICHAEL! 8/10

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 127, October 2018

On Monday morning, Mum and I visited the Bayside Specialist Centre located in Patterson Lakes. It’s hard to explain the source of my nervous energy surrounding my first appointment with consultant psychiatrist Dr. Ricardo Peralta. Personally I do have some rational reasons for getting so worried and worked up about it including the whole new experience of seeking psychiatric treatment for my mental disorders and placing my care into that of a stranger. It’s also difficult to know exactly what to expect during the session. https://www.verywellmind.com/before-your-first-visit-380651

Considering I’ve waited over 5 weeks to see him, I’m making it a big priority of mine to get as mentally prepared as possible. Now I’ve only got one more week to wait until I hopefully get the treatment I need. The good news is that, by doing my research first, I’ve avoided some dodgy psychiatrists who shouldn’t be practicing after the reviews I read about them and also a few that charged fees that were very unreasonable. https://www.yourhealthinmind.org/psychiatry-explained/your-first-appointment

In contrast, Dr. Ricardo Peralta seems pretty reliable, decent and professional so I should be fine. I guess the purpose of today was to have a visual sense of where Dr. Peralta’s private psychiatric clinic is located and also have an idea of where to park my car and to access the centre. It did give me some peace of mind as Patterson Lakes is a lovely coastal town and much quieter than the area which I live in. Plus the centre is very close to the local shops, restaurants and cafes so there are plenty of positives to take away. https://nepeanspecialistgroup.com.au/specialists/dr-ricardo-peralta

On Monday night, I went to a Boxing small group training session at CinFull Fitness in Narre Warren South. Tonight was a challenging class for me on a few different levels. Socially it’ll always be difficult for me to fit in, although I did get recognised by a guy named Andrew and briefly chatted to the others. The problem lies in lack of shared interests and being comfortable enough to open up more. Yep that’s 32 years worth of self awareness right there.

My biggest fears often rise to the surface whenever I’m participating in high intensity physical exercise like a boxing class. Will I be able to handle it? Will I be able to keep on top of my fatigue levels? Will I be able to keep concentrating? I’ve had close calls in the past but never once passed out in a class. I think that would be the ultimate fear for me but thankfully Cinamon Guerin is very mindful about this and my limits when it comes to physical activity.

Tonight we did a combination of boxing drills and cardio exercise which required a lot of mental effort and memorisation of combos. I was partnered up with a girl named Jade who seemed to be a beginner like myself. Of course there was lots of squats, push ups, mountain climbers, Russian twists, star jumps, crab walks and wall holds and I can feel the burn pretty quickly. The most important thing is that I’m constantly trying and never giving up, even when I do struggle and need to take a break.

On Tuesday morning, Mum and I drove down to Mornington to visit Mentis Assist, which is an NDIS service provider specialising in mental health. Honestly I really had no clue what to expect out of “dropping in” to the head office but at this point I was out of ideas. It took a lot of courage and effort to come down to see if they could give me a sense of direction with my NDIS plan. I met with Matt who is the NDIS intake co-ordinator and Tracey who is the NDIS Team Leader. They led us into a small office space to have a discussion. https://mentisassist.org.au/get-in-touch/contact-us

Now the nerves were kicking in fast. Luckily I had my purple display folder filled with notes, information brochures, letters and my official NDIS plan so fall back on if I really struggled to express myself. Thankfully both Matt and Tracey were both friendly, casual and accommodating. They didn’t simply put the pressure on me or ask “What Do You Want?” with impossible expectations on me. It’s difficult when you only have a vague idea yourself.

Instead they asked structured questions about things in my life that I may or may not need some assistance with…social skills, decision making, budgeting, mental health support, counselling, group community activities and life skills development. These were some of the important ones for me and my plan did make some degree of sense to them. https://mentisassist.org.au/what-we-do/our-programs

I signed my first ever service agreement with them and it was a surreal moment for me, that I was finally making some progress and getting myself unstuck from the ditch I was in. Compared to last week, I am feeling a lot more hopeful and optimistic about actually doing something with my NDIS plan and funding and also that I’ve chosen my main provider carefully. https://mentisassist.org.au/ndis

On Tuesday afternoon, I caught up with Tori Norris who is the program co-ordinator for the Men of Doveton group. This was pretty confronting territory for me as I don’t usually open up about my feelings and I felt like I needed to in order to gain closure on this issue. The fact that Tori believed that I deserved to graduate the program was a bit unsettling for me and yet I chose to accept her offer. Her motivations were genuine too. Lately I haven’t had much self-belief and so maybe this was what I needed. To show myself that yeah I do deserve to be successful and have good things happen for me.

On Thursday morning, Mum and I attended the NDIS Plan Implementation information session held inside the private function room at Bunjil Place in Narre Warren. I had a lot of expectations leading up to this info session considering how confused, lost and stressed out I’ve been feeling since receiving my first plan. So it was a relief to hear that other participants and carers were voicing similar concerns and frustrations about their own experiences. No longer did I feel alone in this journey and now my feelings can be validated and heard instead of shoved under the carpet. https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/understanding-your-plan-and-supports.html

Today’s info session was hosted once again by Sharna from the NDIA. She broke the presentation up in two parts. The first half focused on the different sections of the plan as well as the three types of budgets: Core, Capacity Building and Capital and how the funds are managed. In the second half, she talked about the importance of reading the NDIS Price Guide and turning your plan into supports by connecting to providers, negotiating supports, making a service agreement and then making a service booking. https://www.ndis.gov.au/finding-and-engaging-providers.html

Bringing my Mum along felt like a wise decision so that she could be educated about the NDIS system and just how complex it is to understand and learn. Whilst it was unsettling to hear the negative feedback from several people in the room, it was also justified and made me feel like I wasn’t the only one going through these struggles. It was good to note that more changes and a new plan format will be introduced from mid-November so hopefully improvement is on the way and things will eventually get easier for NDIS participants and carers.

It was also great to see Amanda Stapleton (City of Casey counsellor and ex-mayor) was participating in today’s information session and had some valid questions to ask about her own situation. A man named Bruce from Latrobe Community Health Service was also in attendance and did seem to take all of our feedback today seriously. Whilst I’ve had many frustrations and stumbling blocks in the process so far, I’m trying my hardest to be optimistic about the future as an NDIS participant and actually use my funding for positive change.

On Thursday night, I attended my first group sleep study workshop held at La Trobe University – Psychology Clinic in Bundoora. It’s been a couple of weeks since I started my involvement in the sleep research study for Autistic Adults that I’m participating in and now I’ll be starting to learn ways to hopefully improve my sleep. Driving to Bundoora was honestly a headache mainly because I was in the middle of peak hour traffic and also because I accidentally took the wrong exit off the Eastern Freeway but it’s all learning.

It was just a small group of us: three other participants as well as Dr. Lauren Lawson (Research Fellow), Dr. Eric Morris (La Trobe University Psychology Clinic Director) and Alexis (Provisional Psychologist). Firstly, they briefly explained some concepts about sleep including sleep cycles, the stages of sleep, circadian rhythms and arousal. Next we talked about what is insomnia and the ways many people try to fall asleep.

These “amplifiers” include things like taking sleep vitamins, using lavender spray, playing music, reading, listening to a guided meditation. Whilst they make work occasionally, they’re generally not considered long term solutions. We also talked about the costs of insomnia such as having poor concentration and focus, low energy levels, lack of motivation and drive, feeling more irritable and emotional, impacting on your health and wellbeing, preventing you from doing some daily activities and being a burden on your finances.

This lead into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or simply Acceptance of things like having worrying thoughts and frustrations about trying to fall asleep, letting go of the struggle and essentially letting go of control. We then discussed the barriers to changing your sleep including fear of change, discomfort, uncertainty, being stuck in current habits, having temptations or resistance.

Lastly, we wrote down a few goals that we wish to achieve relating to sleep including to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, have a more regular sleep routine, have less disruptions during the night, have more energy during the day, be able to concentrate and focus better, to be more productive and be able to participate more in daily activities, to lower levels of anxiety and depression.

The good thing about this group is that it’s small, casual and allows anyone to contribute their ideas, thoughts and personal experiences related to sleep and insomnia. Whilst I am quite uncertain about this new approach so far, I’m also open to trying it out. At this point, I’ll literally try anything to help me sleep better. It’s affecting my day to day living, brain function, mood and concentration levels. I’m looking forward to the next workshop.

“What you wanted so had to let it go. Brand new day is coming round the bend. Troubles reaching for the end. If you stray from the path my friend, I will pick you up again.” Alex Lloyd – Brand New Day (2006)

“There’s always something taking over my mind. I know I’m crazy and I know you know. I trying harder ’cause I love you so. I want to be special. I want to be good. I want to be happy. I know that I should. Sometimes the truth. Is hard to believe. Some of us stay. And some of us leave.” Alex Lloyd – Special (2008)

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