​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 163, July 2019

On Wednesday morning, I had an appointment to see my psychiatrist Dr. Ricardo Peralta at Vita Healthcare in Mount Eliza. Even though it’s been two months since I last saw my psych, I still get myself nervous in anticipation to see him. And of course I remind myself that I’m spending  $200 for this appointment (less Medicare rebate) so I need to make the most of it and not waste my time. He could be charging up to $500 so in that sense it’s really bugger all.

Ironically, it has come at a good time for me with my mood and energy levels at an all time low. My current medication of 20mg Escitalopram (Lexapro) tablets hasn’t been as effective as when I first started taking them over six months ago. Part of me is scared of changing medications due to the side effects yet the other part is desperate to try something else. I haven’t been truly happy in myself for weeks. I spent more time in my bed due to feeling exhausted. I haven’t been motivated to go to the gym as often. And my confidence has also plummeted.

Ricardo suggested that I slowly come off the Lexapro and start taking Duloxetine at 3omg. He also recommended trying out Zopiclone 7.5mg to help with my sleep problems. I don’t know anything about either of these medications besides doing some Google searches online so I’m pretty much placing my trust in Dr. Ricardo with this. I feel confident that he knows what he’s talking about and isn’t simply giving me a quick fix solution to my problems. He’s a “no bullshit” doctor, he gets straight to the point which I appreciate and it’s the reason why I keep seeing him.

Recently, I’ve been having episodes of snacking on junk food such as Tim Tams, Arnott’s family assorted biscuits, Cadbury dairy milk chocolate, chips, lollies and crackers. The fact that I know that consuming these foods will increase my weight hasn’t seemed to stop me. Of course I still try to keep eating healthy foods like rolled oats, yoghurt, nuts, fruit, vegetables and lean meats. I just need to be more consistent with what I eat. It hasn’t been easy.

I think my shift in mood, onset of depression symptoms, hibernation inside my bedroom and the cold, wind and rainy weather conditions have contributed to my poor eating habits and lack of motivation to go out of the house. Somehow I managed to go to YMCA Casey RACE and do a half hour session on the exercise bike. I always feel better after I’ve been to the gym, it’s just getting there that’s the hard part!

On Friday afternoon, I had my second appointment with new speech pathologist Natasha from Everyday Independence. Thankfully today’s session was less rocky than last time even though I was anxious in anticipating her arrival. I always am when it comes to inviting people into the house plus the social awkwardness at the dining table. But it was a very production session.

We worked with ways to feel more confident in stressful situations, verbal vs. non-verbal communication, what to say when answering the phone, how to prepare myself for phone calls. Writing things out on the whiteboard and getting me to brainstorm ideas proved to be a helpful strategy for me. Plus we had a few laughs which eased the awkward tension a bit. I’m still getting to know her after all.

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 162, June 2019

On Monday afternoon, I had my final creative writing class for the term at @Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. Last week we had the option of starting to write a story or book that we’ve been working on and at first I wasn’t going to bother doing it. But in the early hours of Sunday morning, I had this random moment of inspiration and decided to start writing. It wasn’t much but I felt glad that I at least made an attempt at beginning this story I was working on.

It was a busy July morning inside Tullamarine airport in Melbourne. Ryan was eagerly anticipating his well deserved holiday away to Fiji. He worked as a corporate lawyer and lately the endless deadlines and stress was taking its toll on him. He desperately needed a break. The voice of a female announcer suddenly interrupted his thoughts. “Attention customers for flight JQ286. We regret to inform you that your flight to Fiji has been delayed for 4 hours.”

An audible groan erupted through the departure lounge emanating from the nearby passengers. They were clearly disgruntled and annoyed that they’d have to wait even longer to board their plane. Ryan however was far from worried and casually slumped back further into his seat, returning his attention to the latest edition of the Herald Sun newspaper.

During today’s class, we discussed the topics of creating characters, choosing a title for your book or memoir, overcoming writing struggles, how to publish your story and writing resources. When creating characters, it is important to make them likable, interesting, charismatic, both ordinary and extraordinary, realistic, well-motivated, dynamic, good at what they do and a little unhappy. Fictional characters often take on a life of their own and it’s often tempting to become attached to them.

When it comes to choosing a title for your book, you can use the PINC method which stands for Promise, Intrigue, Need and Content. It is important to make the book title original and memorable in order to make it compelling and draw the reader in. For memoirs, you can use short action words, short character descriptions, lines from literature, themes, settings, sayings, quotes or character names for the title.

There are many ways in which a book can be published. The most common approach is using a traditional publishing house such as Random House or Penguin. The alternative is a the more DIY approach of Self Publishing. This has several advantages such as having more creative freedom, receiving a greater portion of the royalties and having 100% ownership of the rights. You can also publish in print (Print on Demand) or publish online (eBooks).

On Thursday night, I attended the Aspergers Victoria Young Adults Hub BBQ and casual dinner social event held at Power Neighbourhood House in Ashwood. What started as a group of Aspies huddling around the small brazier fire with logs of firewood quickly turned into a standard board games night. I for one wasn’t protesting about this. I see playing board games as a great social buffer in order to eliminate any need for awkward small talk. It’s still social in the sense that it does require players to speak out aloud.

I ended up playing several rounds of Cards Against Humanity. At least this was a game that I’ve played a few times so I didn’t need to familiarize myself with the rules. It was quite casual and free-flowing with people joining and leaving at their pleased. We did have up to 7 players at one point which was comfortable enough for me. Reading in front of people has been something I’ve been self conscious about since primary school and yet I handled it pretty well in this group. I think it’s because when you’re around other Aspies, judgement leaves the building.

We also had guest speakers Madeline Russell-Maynard and Dr. Tania Pietrzak from La Trobe University talking about a research study called Power Posing To Increase Confidence, Power and Emotional Control. They went through a short powerpoint presentation and explained what would be involved if we were to participate in the study. Basically the aim of these poses is to increase social confidence and learn how to tune into your body signals and feelings better. They showed examples of this with the “Wonder woman” hands on the hips stance, leaning forward over a table top and putting your feet up onto a table whilst sitting down.

I actually participated in a different study at La Trobe University last year and had a pretty positive experience in completing it. And so I am considering participating in this study as well. http://otarc.blogs.latrobe.edu.au/power-posing-to-increase-social-confidence-power-and-emotional-control/

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 161, June 2019

Last Saturday night, I celebrated my cousin Nathan Dunkling’s 21st birthday at The Comic’s Lounge in North Melbourne. Social gatherings like birthday parties can often be huge anxiety triggers for me but somehow my anxiety was under control tonight even being in a large group of people and inside a crowded live comedy venue. Yes it filled up very quickly which meant that the volume levels of conversation gradually rose up and it was very difficult to hear what was going on even at my own table.

Some of Nathan’s friends were sitting at my table and so it was hard for me to engage in conversation with them. Thankfully I had a solution to this, pulling out my phone and playing Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery to curb my boredom levels before the show actually began. Some people might pull out the “anti-social” card but I really don’t care as I see it as a coping mechanism and way of feeling comfortable when I can’t connect with the people around me. Plus waiting for our meals did take a long time so I didn’t have much else to do.

Finally around 8.15pm, the MC for the evening Josh Earl began his comedy routine whilst I began chowing away at my entree, salt and pepper calarami. I also ordered an Atlantic salmon for mains which was really delicious. There were four comedians in total including an American lady named Eve, an Australian named Claire and the main headliner Dave Thornton. Honestly it was a very hit and miss affair for me.  Plus I felt like there were too many breaks in between and it seemed to stretch the night out a bit too late for me (We were there for over 4 hours).

Admittedly, some jokes simply soared over my head perhaps because I missed the context of what they were talking about. Others I basically didn’t find funny at all. It’s not to say that I don’t have a sense of humour, more I can only stomach so many jokes related to Sex – poo, dicks, vaginas, masturbation, circumcision, vasectomies. Religion – Jewish people. Christian people, believing in God. Children – dealing with being a parent, being able to handle kids, changing nappies. I’ve pretty much heard it all. I think a lot of it depends on the delivery of the joke too. If it’s too forced, I’m most likely not going to laugh at it. Still it was an enjoyable night out and good value for money.

On Sunday morning, we checked out of our hotel room at Best Western Melbourne City Hotel – Formerly Pensione Hotel and had breakfast downstairs at Oliver’s. Then we drove down to St. Kilda to visit the Esplanade Market and walked along the pier. Even though the air was fairly cold, eventually the sun broke through the overcast clouds and it become a lovely morning to check out the scenic views. I do get a little nervous when it comes to passing by stalls in a market which some sellers trying really hard to get my to buy something but it’s nice just having a browse and watching the people walking their dogs along the footpath.

On Monday morning, I had an appointment with my support worker Seb at Jamaica Blue Cranbourne. A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling pretty conflicted and disheartened about the service Mentis Assist was providing to me. There was a lot of being messed around with lack of communication and no confirmations being made over the past few weeks besides having one fill in support worker. Everything felt like it was in limbo. I sent a text message to Seb yesterday but I had no idea if he would even turn up today.

Eventually he did reply and things got back on track again today. What was alarming to me though was the fact that he wasn’t informed about what was happening with me over the past few weeks. Nobody at Mentis Assist told him that a replacement support worker would be organised for me or that my appointment would be switched to Tuesday afternoon. It was almost enough for me to pull the plug but honestly none of this is Seb’s fault, just the broken system that had left me hanging.

On Monday afternoon, I had my second last Creative Writing class at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. I have to admit that I was stuck in a rut of sorts after the last class and really struggled on the previous homework task of coming up with five different endings to a short story I began in Week 3. I was feeling a little uncertain about what I’d come up with but at least I gave it a go.

ENDINGS HOMEWORK EXERCISE

Ryan is determined to escape the trappings of his old life and even in these dire circumstances, he will make it to Fiji one way or another.

Ryan decides to build friendships with the locals in New Caledonia and eventually settles there.

Ryan sends a distress call back home to Australia in order to be saved from the ordeal he has been through. He managed to escape the plane crash with only minor injuries, however it has had a major impact on him psychologically. He makes contact with a counselor to find strategies to overcome his trauma.

Ryan ends up in a local hospital wired up to machines – life support, oxygen, heart rate monitor. The experience of the plane crash was too much for him and has taken a tool on him physically as well as mentally and emotionally.

Upon landing in New Caledonia, Ryan ends up getting himself captured by a tribe of warriors, clad with wooden spears and shields, deep inside the bushland. Will he manage to survive?

During today’s class, we looked into scenes vs. chapters, improving your draft, killing off your darlings and the habits of successful authors. Scenes are more complicated and more important than chapters. They are very specific building blocks within your story. They also need tension and conflict. Each scene can be divided into two parts: ACTION (Goal, conflict, disaster) and REACTION (Reaction, dilemma, decision).

Chapters are arbitrary divisions within a book. They impose order and create a certain sense of structure. Chapter breaks are more about pacing and must be placed strategically. They leave readers with a question or a reason to know more. Scene structure has nothing to do with chapter breaks.

Improving your draft. Your first draft is the writing equivalent of running a marathon. You need to take a step back, question the structure and the characters, ask whether all the characters want the same thing, does the story contain enough conflict. After draft two and beyond, you need to be a little more critical with your work. Hire a professional editor and get your manuscript copy edited. Then finally have the manuscript proof read.

Killing off your darlings. Cut out any elements that doesn’t serve to further the work as a whole, in order to enhance the story. Darlings can be words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs or characters. The main benefits of killing off your darlings are: it strengthens your characters and plot, improves the overall quality of your writing and refines your self discipline. Things to cut: weak characters, extraneous plot lines, backstory and prologues.

The habits of successful authors include write everyday, finish your stories, learn the rules, break the rules, create their own inspiration, don’t slack off on the hard stuff, follow their hearts and not the market, develop a thick skin, set their stories free, love what they do, write with joy and embrace fragments of writing.

On Monday night, I went to my Boxing small group fitness class with CinFull Fitness. Tonight was a very small group with just myself, Rodney Sack and Ben Milton. We each got our measurements taken before we actually started. It’s been something of a fleeting thought for me, particularly the scales and weighing myself. It’s not longer been an unhealthy obsession. In fact, I hardly ever weigh myself at all these days. I used to get really fixated on THE NUMBER but now I’m able to let it go more easily considering it’s not a true representation of how “fat” or “overweight” I am. There are so many other factors that go into it like muscle mass and water weight.

Tonight’s class consisted of drills and partner work, push ups, plank holds, ground and pounds, sit up punches, V-ups, Russian twists, star jumps, walking lunges and squat holds.

Being paired up with a hard-hitter like Rodney certainly got me out of my comfort zone. I was a little nervous about not being able to handle it (and be accidentally punched in the face) but I wasn’t going to let that fear stop me. I needed to release all of those negative labels that have been given to me in the past (weak, slow, incapable, incompetent, useless, a loser). I’m not any of those things. Sometimes I really do surprise myself in being able to overcome a struggle such as physical fatigue or being out of breath. I know that I’m not as fit as some of the others but that fact shouldn’t stop me from participating in the class.

On Wednesday morning, I attended the funeral of Rita Hartney at Tobin Brothers in Berwick. I knew Rita from a few years ago when she began hosting her radio program Hot Topics With Rita at Casey Radio – 97.7FM as well as her motivational talks and appearances at places such as Balla Balla Community Centre and U3A Cranbourne. She also ran a short course called Speaking Before The Public which helped me work on self confidence and oral presentation skills. It was only a few weeks ago that I learned of her decline in health and subsequent passing on Facebook.

After signing the guest book and taking a copy of Rita’s book It’s Time For Women to Take Control, Mum and I made our way into the main service room which was packed with Rita’s family, friends and other guests. We were really lucky to find a couple of spare seats to sit down in. It was a really beautiful service which highlighted the many strengths and achievements that Rita had gained over the years. She really had a significant impact on many people’s lives.

The speeches were both funny and moving, painting Rita as a strong, determined woman trying to make her mark in a male dominated world. The music selection was very fitting as well, reflecting Rita’s colourful and flamboyant personality. Songs included Elvis Presley’s Devil in Disguise and Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman.

Attending someone’s funeral seems to give me a gentle reminder about how precious life truly is. That you really do need to be grateful for what you have and make every moment count. It also forces me to think about my own funeral. Not just the kinds of arrangements that I will have but questions like: Who will be attending? What will I be remembered for? What kind of mark will I leave behind? I never used to be this philosophical about funerals until more recently when I realised how important it is not to let my life go to waste.

On Thursday morning, I decided to take myself off to Casey Smiles Dental Clinic after experiencing more annoying dental pain, this time on the right hand side of my mouth. I was really hoping that the pain would subside with some simply remedies but after having a restless night with this agonizing toothache, it was time to face the music and the dentist once more.

The good news was that I didn’t have to get my x-rays done like last time as they were already on my patient record. It was also easier to explain to Dr. Mohamed where abouts the pain was coming from and not simply guess which tooth it was. He gave me two options: first would be to exact it like last time, which would be easier and more cost effective. The second option was to have a root canal done in order to potentially save the tooth. However, he warned me that he could cost me up to $1500. So obviously I went with option one.

Thankfully the process was a lot quicker this time around. There was a young female dental assistant doing some training and learning about all the different surgical instruments and how to use the suction hose. It provided a nice distraction for me. Dr. Mohamed reminded me to keep breathing as he applied pressure to the decayed tooth. It was over and done with within a few minutes. The anesthesia needle probably hurt more than the actual tooth removal did. Plus it only cost me $160 as it was a basic tooth removal and it didn’t need to be surgically removed like last time.

https://caseysmiles.com.au/dr-mohamed-massaud

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 160, June 2019

On Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday, I had a few plans on how to spend my day off as my usual appointment and Creative Writing class weren’t on today due to the public holiday. However, I did none of them. I literally had minimal energy and motivation to do much of anything. Part of me felt like I was wasting my day away but I honestly think I needed the day to slow down and recover at home. There’s nothing wrong with having a lazy day sometimes.

On Queen’s Birthday night, I attended my Boxing class at CinFull Fitness in Narre Warren South. If I achieved nothing else, at least I took myself out of the house for this class. It’s actually amazing what exercise can do for you not just physically but mentally and emotionally too. I think I’ve spent far too long wanting to fit in within a gym environment that now I’m learning to simply embrace myself good and bad. Like being introverted and not saying much, these things don’t make me a bad person but a different person.

Tonight I tried hard not to get caught up in my head as much, to not overthink or worry about what’s happening around me. From being the outsider looking in to actually “feeling” like I’m a part of this group has been a slow transition but I’m getting there. It’s true that I put far too much pressure on myself to be socially included in groups such as these but I can’t help it. I just need to simply be mindful and focus on the moment. Time to pull myself out of this black hole of depression and get myself better again.

It was another challenging yet fun workout with lots of drills, combos and partner work plus a few rounds of doing squat presses and push ups (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off) which were a killer. Struggling during a movement and being profusely sweaty are also things that I’m learning to accept because that implies I’m trying very hard. I may not hit as powerfully as some of the others but that really doesn’t matter. It’s important to focus on my own technique and my own workout. I’m not Muhammad Ali, nor do I need to be.

On Tuesday morning, I went to see Dr. David Tai Kie at First Health Medical Centre Casey Central to discuss the results from my sleep study. He printed out a two-page report with lots of charts and graphs on it. I got the following results:

Epworth Sleepiness Scale score: 11 (mild excessive daytime sleepiness)

Time available for sleep (lights out) = 505 minutes or 8.41 hours                          Total Sleep: 266 minutes or 4.43 hours                                                                  Total time awake during sleep period: 138 minutes or 2.3 hours                            Sleep Latency: 99 minutes or 1.65 hours                                                              REM Latency: 338 minutes or 5.63 hours                                                              Sleep Efficiency: 52.7%                                                                                          Total Arousals: 4.7                                                                                                Total Snores: 14.9

They also provided the following summary and recommendations: Sleep efficiency was reduced at 52.7% and sleep latency was prolonged, in keeping with patient’s known history of insomnia. Only one brief period of REM sleep occurred towards the end of the sleep study. There was no significant snoring nor OSA present, although sleep occurred predominantly in non-supine positions and results may be underestimated. For follow-up with private sleep physician.   https://www.philips.com.au/healthcare/consumer/sleep-apnea/diagnosis/understanding-results

My next step would be to follow up with my psychiatrist Dr. Ricardo Peralta and possibly another sleep physician such as Dr. Joy Sha who conducted the study. Hopefully with these results I can get some useful advice and recommendations in order to improve my sleep.

On Thursday morning, I went to a Body Pump class with Natalie Blanch at YMCA Casey RACE in Cranbourne East. Today was my first time using the new Les Mills Smartbar. For some reason, I always seem to associate anything that’s new and unfamiliar with being daunted and uncertain. But these bars were actually fairly straight forward to use. The square-shaped weight plates literally slide and click into place on the ends and can easily be released and changed over by pulling the red-release button.   https://www.lesmills.com.au/sites/all/files/pdf/Smart-Tech-Brochure.pdf

Today we ended up doing release number 95 which features tracks such as Outside by Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding, Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, Irresistible by Fall Out Boy, I Am Machine by Three Days Grace and Sugar by Maroon 5. A very tough and challenging release especially with the Lunges, Overhead Power Presses, Tricep Dips and Push-ups plus very quick transitions between exercises. No wonder I was feeling sore and exhausted by the time we got up to the core track. I was literally ready to collapse. But as always, Nat made the class fun and entertaining which made it all worth it.  https://mybodypumpjourney.wordpress.com/tag/body-pump-95-tracklist/

“So when the sun is coming up and you go. And there’s still so many things you don’t know. Don’t you look back, I’ve no doubt that I will see you on the road.. When the world’s laying you low. Why don’t you let me carry your load? When things get bad you know you have a friend. All along the road.” Keane – On The Road (2012)

“And everyone else has got things sorted out. You stand on the edge talking to yourself. Yeah you’re left behind, all tangled up inside. And it’s the voices in your head now. Saying there’s something wrong about the way I feel. A broken link, a missing part, a punctured wheel.” Keane – The Way I Feel (2019)

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 159, June 2019

On Monday morning, I had an appointment with a substitute support worker named McKayla from Mentis Assist. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt a sense of instability and lack of control over my mental health support with Seb being absent at our usual meeting time. The biggest problem though has been the poor communication from Mentis. Last week I got left completely in the lurch with no backup appointment made and today there was a mix up around where exactly I was meant to meet McKayla.

Even before all of this happened, my brain was getting flooded with uncertainty and irrational thoughts (What if she doesn’t turn up? What if she doesn’t know what I look like? What if this is a complete waste of time?). I mistakenly waited for her at my usual meeting spot which is Jamaica Blue Cranbourne. Instead, Mentis sent her to my home address. Granted, they did call me 10 minutes later to see where I was and she did end up driving down to the cafe to meet me.

It wasn’t the best start to my week but thankfully it was worth the wait. Even though I do tend to get quite flustered and nervous whenever I’m meeting a new person, McKayla managed to keep the conversation flowing for over an hour and we did have a few things in common which also helped. I think it restored my spirits a little given how mentally rocky the last few days have been for me and how just talking to someone really helps.

On Monday afternoon, I had my Creative Writing short course at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. In this week’s class, we talked about ways to begin and end a story, being able to pace a story, ways of overcoming writer’s block and the importance of reading. Beginnings are often the most important part of a story as they give readers a first impression as well as introduce the characters, place and time plus raise important questions. Endings should satisfy the needs of the reader by resolving the conflict and tying things up.

Pacing controls the speed and rhythm at which the story is told plus how fast or slow events unfold. Writer’s block is a common problem which is caused by conflicted feelings, putting pressure on ourselves, having perfectionism, self doubt and high expectations. Ways of overcoming writer’s block include taking notes, freewriting, taking the first reasonable solution, introducing a new character, using a random prompt and reading something totally different. It is important to read as it helps grammar sink in, helps you understand the language better and gain new knowledge.

On Tuesday morning, I had an employment mentoring session with Brad at Glen Waverley Library. Today really seemed like Murphy’s law was playing out. A Multi-car pile up caused the Monash Freeway to be closed. Therefore I was forced to find an alternative route to get myself to Glen Waverley. It really should have been straight forward but there was congested traffic everywhere and my sense of direction went out the window at some point on the Dandenong Bypass. Plus I knew that I was going to be late to my appointment, no question.

I was panicking a little and getting myself stressed out. Part of me wanted to pull the plug on today and go home but I figured that “I’ve come this far” so I might as well keep going. After discovering that the library carpark was full, I was forced to look elsewhere for another parking spot. Luckily there was a multi-level carpark nearby which had plenty of vacant spots.

Unfortunately my concentration wasn’t the best and I misjudged how close my car was to the concrete pole separating the car spaces. BANG! I dinged the front left side of my car. Thankfully the damage wasn’t as bad as I thought with only a white scuff mark underneath the headlight but I still felt pretty stupid for hitting the pole. I immediately rang Brad once I parked the car and he was very understanding about my running late.

We had a shorter session today as I was over 20 minutes late but we made the most of the time we did have. He made a call to Foundation Learning Centre (formerly Narre Community Learning Centre) to inquire about the basic administration skills course that I was interested in enrolling in next Term. I still find speaking on the phone daunting however this call was worth my time as the lady on the other end gave me some flexible options to consider, which shed some of my anxiety away.  https://narreclc.net.au/computer-skills-programs/

We also had a look into a few jobs that I could consider applying for such as kitchen hand work, barista and customer service roles. Brad also started to draft up a cover letter which I could use when I’m submitting my application to these places. So from a disastrous morning, it turned out to be a productive half hour session that gave me things to think about.

On Wednesday morning, I made my way down to Kyneton Bushland Resort driving via the Calder Freeway towards Bendigo. My parents own a Timeshare and decided to book a bonus week at the Kyneton Resort. It’s a very large area with many villas, cabins and units for accommodation plus a squash court, tennis court, games room, mini golf, pool, spa and sauna facilities. Nature is literally on your doorstep with a wide variety of birdlife (crows, magpies, kookaburras) and even some kangaroos, in among the tall gumtrees and open lake area. http://www.kynetonbushresort.com.au/

I spent the afternoon visiting the township of Kyneton and exploring the historic shops along Piper Street. Much of the old signage is still in tact with English cottage styled facades and painted brickwork. The street features several cafes including Duck, Duck, Goose and Larder which resembles a re-purposed barn shed plus some art galleries, plant nursery, antique store, homewares stores and a stone mason quarry.   http://www.piperstreet.com.au/

On Thursday morning, we visited Hanging Rock, Victoria made famous by the classic Australian story and film Picnic At Hanging Rock. Besides that haunting mystery, you actually learn quite a bit about how the rocks themselves were formed from past volcanic activity and years of erosion and weathering. Walking along the trail towards the summit, it was honestly mesmerizing seeing these massive stones hanging off the edge of the cliff. It’s a fairly steep walk but well worth climbing to see the sights and learn some history.  https://www.visitmacedonranges.com/see-do/the-great-outdoors/hanging-rock/

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 158, May 2019

On Monday morning, I visited the Dorevitch Pathology clinic at Pound Road Medical Centre for a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) blood test. About three months ago, I got the results back from a general health blood test which stated that I had a borderline TSH. It could be a factor in the reason why I’ve been experiencing symptoms such as daytime sleepiness, low energy levels, fatigue, irritability and high susceptibility to stress on a regular basis. I’m hoping that this specific blood test will give me some more answers.

Thankfully this particular clinic is usually quiet and so I didn’t have to wait around at all. I’ve found that I always seem to have a bad reaction to blood tests particularly if I have to fast for them beforehand. I believe it’s mainly anticipation anxiety due to the sensation of the syringe piercing my skin. At this point, I’ve now got a bag of relaxation techniques to help prevent that from happening and today it worked. The nurse got me to lie down just in case but I had no side effects this time which I was happy about.  https://www.labtestsonline.org.au/learning/test-index/tsh

On Monday afternoon, I went to my Creative Writing short course held at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. In today’s class, we focused on creating a sense of place, conflict and suspense, creating characters and writing dialogue. A sense of place should transport your reader. It is important to give your location a voice as well as highlight your characters’ emotions, being evocative and describing the senses in that place.

Conflict is the clash between at least two incompatible sides e.g. man vs. nature. It reveals plot points and character traits. Suspense arises out of conflict. It is a tightening of the emotional experience. When creating characters, it is important to bring them to life by doing a character sketch. This includes how they look (appearance), what they like and dislike, what type of person they are, their weaknesses and strengths, their fears. You should avoid the basic pitfalls of making characters flat or one-dimensional, stereotyped, not allowing them to grow or develop or making them boring.

The final section of today’s class was about writing dialogue. It is the most essential skill needed for writers but not easy to master. To make dialogue realistic, it’s important to give each character a voice and have a different level of diction for each one. Our homework task for this week involves doing our own character sketch on an invented character for a short story or novel.

CHARACTER SKETCH HOMEWORK EXERCISE

Name: Adam Radih (meaning strong and tough in Arabic)

Aged: 25 years old

Physical description: Muscular build with broad shoulders. Short black hair. Olive green eye colour. Wears hoodies and sweatpants, silver necklace and dog tag. Has a scar with cuts diagonally downwards across his face from left to right.

Family background: Born in Egypt. Arab, Islam faith. Parents hold strong traditional Muslim values – belief in the God known as Allah and religion of Islam.  They have high expectations for their son in achieving successful life goals. Grew up in Al-Azhar and attended the local mosque for worship and prayer regularly. Migrated to Australia in 2013 due to political protests and violence. Adam was 19 years old when he arrived in Australia.

Education: Attended local school in Al-Azhar with a strong focus on Islam religious faith and IMPAQ education. When Adam arrived in Australia, he began a trade apprenticeship as a labourer/bricklayer  to use his strengths and build up his skills into the workforce. He currently works for Deco Constructions as a fully qualified “brickie”.

Significant relationships: Adam is a single male with no children. Important people in his life include work mates and people at the gym as well as his parents.

Personality traits: Adam has a hard toughened exterior, can be really moody but is socially outgoing and highly intelligent. He is very popular with this tradie workmates and gym buddies. However, he does have many insecurities and flaws that he tries to hide in public. He desperately wants to find himself a partner to share his life with and can feel lonely and depressed when he is not in the company of his friends or family. He ultimately wants to find peace and happiness within himself as well as make his parents proud.

Adam’s biggest strength is his determination and strong work ethic as a bricklayer. He also has a keen interest in fitness and nutrition, constantly working on improving his body physique at the gym.

General History: During 2013, Egypt was in deep conflict with many political protests and outbreaks of violence. This has a significant impact on Adam and forced him to “toughen up” against potential threats from enemies. However, he still has a softer side deep down inside of him and constantly needs to put up a front in public.

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 157, May 2019

On Monday morning, I attended my Creative Writing short course held at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. After missing last week’s class due to my dental procedure, I was really keen to get back into it today. This week we covered the areas of plot, structure and theme. The plot is defined as a sequence of related events in a story, answers and asks a lot of questions of the reader, determines causes and their consequences. Structure is what holds the plot together and is the orderly arrangement of story elements.

Roderic then discussed the plot structure which consists of the beginning, middle and the end. The beginning introduces the characters, contains the hook, has a call to action and the first plot point. The middle shows the rising action and how the story unfolds, contains the first challenge, inciting event or temptation. The end contains an obstacle or dark moment, climax, final conflict and resolution.

Finally, we talked about theme which is the meaning behind the story. There are many common themes that can be found in stories such as love, power, loyalty, freedom, justice, corruption and friendship. This leads on to our homework exercise which involves choosing a group of themes and writing a plan for an 1000 word short story. As we recently had our federal election last weekend, I thought this would be a great topic to write about!

THEMES HOMEWORK EXERCISE (PLAN FOR 1000 WORD SHORT STORY)

Theme: Power and Corruption

Idea: United Australia Party leader Clive Palmer used $60 million on his advertising campaign and did preference deals with prime minister Scott Morrison and the coalition government in order to guarantee an election win.

Beginning: Clive brainstorms ideas for his advertising campaign via television, phone, billboards, flyers, posters and social media. He decides to invent catchy slogans such as “Tell him he’s dreaming” and “Australia’s not gonna cop it anymore” in order to win approval from the Australian people. On the surface, it appears that Clive is appealing his party to be an attractive alternative to the major parties (Australian Labor Party, Liberal Party and The Greens). However, in reality, Clive has a bigger agenda in mind. He intends to deceive the Australian public.

Middle: Clive teams up with Scott Morrison in order to secure preferences and a majority of votes to the coalition government. This takes place within a secure meeting room inside Parliament House in Canberra. No cameras. No witnesses. Scott promises that he’ll give Clive a cut of the Adani coal mine if he agrees to give all of his preferences for the United Australia Party to the coalition. They shake on it and it’s a done deal.

Meanwhile, Clive’s advertising campaign begins to hone in on Labor and opposition leader Bill Shorten in the final week leading up to the election. They describe him as “Shifty Shorten” and exploits Labor’s plan for a trillion dollar tax hike, essentially making him out to be the bad guy.

Ending: On election night, the media comment on how Clive Palmer “wasted” $60 million dollars on his advertising campaign and failed to secure a single seat in the House of Representatives. However, this was Clive’s plan all along. He fooled everyone.

Meanwhile, Clive decides to celebrate his “victory” by going on a trip to Fiji, flying there on his private jet. He stays at The Sheraton Resort and Spa, a luxurious hotel with an expensive price tag. Only the best for Clive Palmer. He can be seen soaking in his spa bath and watching the election results rolling in via the live news coverage on the flat screen TV. A billion dollar smile appears plastered over his face a his plan for power and corruption has been a monumental success.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had a mentoring session with Brad at Glen Waverley Library. Today we began doing some job exploration and even looked into a couple of courses that I could do related to floristry. It’s a tough industry to get into however it’s one that I could use my creative talents and organisational skills. It was getting easier to open up to Brad more and let my guard down a little in terms of talking about myself. Thankfully there wasn’t “story time” to distract us either, though I could hear a girl next door learning to speak Chinese.

Unfortunately when I walked out of the library and back to my car, the ignition was making a weird clicking noise and not starting. My first thought was that the battery had gone flat. I quickly called up the RACV and got them to send someone down to take a look at it. So I took some time to admire my surroundings: the nearby trees reflecting the colours of autumn. Considering this happened before the afternoon school pick up, it didn’t take long for them to arrive. A bright yellow van with BATTERIES printed on the side pulled up next door to me.

A man named Shanti tested the battery out and after jump starting the car, determined that my battery was completely dead. Even though I’m really dumb when it comes to cars, Shanti gave me easy to follow instructions so that he could test the battery. He told me that I would need to get it replaced and it would cost around $200. This was another unexpected expense that I hadn’t planned for but I was basically stuck here if I didn’t get this problem sorted out. It only took around 10 minutes for him to fit the new battery and I was good to go. Hopefully this will be the last car issue I have for a long while.

On Thursday afternoon, Mum and I attended the Biggest Morning Tea fundraising event held at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. It’s been a third year in a row attending this event as it raises funds and awareness towards a very important cause, cancer research. Hosted again by the President of the centre, Andy, we had a number of activities going on including raffles, auctions, a “guess the tea cup” game, coin tossing game and entertainment from singer Heather Thorne.

Amanda Jane Stapledon, who is the mayor of the City of Casey, was today’s special guest and she spoke about her own personal circumstances with challenging life events as well as learning how to be resilient during tough times in life. She believes that happiness is a choice and finding a positive outlook on things can really help to overcome to obstacles that we face.

The wonderful volunteers put together a plate of treats for everyone who attended today’s event including cakes and slices plus of course cups of tea and coffee. Mum and I were lucky enough to win one of the raffle prizes which was a large hamper filled with beauty products, a mug and a box of Favourites chocolates. Events like these (giving to others who are less fortunate than yourself) make you feel very grateful about your own life.  https://www.ballaballa.com.au/event/the-biggest-morning-tea/

On Thursday night, I attended the Aspergers Victoria Young Adults social meetup group held at Power Neighbourhood House in Ashwood. Tonight, I played my very first game of Dungeons & Dragons. I’d certainly held about it growing up. I knew that it was a popular Hasbro fantasy adventure board game with role playing aspects to it. Beyond that, I had no clue. Cal handed me a character sheet, a few dice blocks and got me to sit at the “Noobs” table inside the front room.  https://dnd.wizards.com/dungeons-and-dragons/what-is-dd

My character was Susannah, a Level 3 Monk who loves to get drunk, meditate and reach enlightenment. She wields a dagger and some darts. A girl named Georgia was our DM (Dungeon Master) who also played as narrator. The story line revolved around a strange town with a cult of bee creatures residing inside the local church. Initially it took me a while to get my head around all the terms like D20, D8, D4 being the different sided dice blocks and all the skills, attributes, actions, hit and attack points.  https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/basicrules

Besides all the technical stuff, being able to “act” as my character and improvise dialogue was something of a challenge for me. I’ve always been really terrible at acting and performance act so this isn’t a strong area for me. Thankfully I wasn’t judged for it by the other Aspies at the table and I actually had a good laugh at how ridiculous the story was getting. The other good thing was that I stayed much longer than I intended and really enjoyed myself with these members I hadn’t met before tonight.  https://aspergersvic.org.au/event-3380973

“Watch out. I’m not afraid. Watch out. I’m beyond the trail. It’s time to turn the page and love again. Watch out. I can feel your pain. Watch out. And I cry again. I’m leaving all my shadows behind.” Enigma featuring Aquilo – Amen (2016)

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