MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 117, August 2018

On Monday morning, I attended the Midday Music (formerly Morning Melodies) social function at the Cranbourne RSL. Like every Monday, I was basically in “recovery mode” from the weekend with low energy levels, lack of concentration and poor quality of sleep. However it was nice to be in the company of family and friends including Angela DixonJen AngeeJudie Hedrick, Jules and Jim.

Today’s performer was Garry Johns singing the hits of the great American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond. He certainly looked and acted the part rocking a red and blue sequinned top, studded belt and black pants. I found myself half-tuned out and distracted after finding out that my clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Yasmin Baliz was suffering from a migraine and had to cancel my appointment at the last minute.

This plus a handful of other notifications which end up being anxiety triggers for me. It’s something that I’ve been trying hard to work at, essentially taking long periodic breaks away from social media and turning notifications off on my phone. It was becoming far too much for me to handle. I’m learning to “log off” and disable apps much more frequently now and focus on doing more productive activities during the day. Facebook, Messenger and Instagram in particular are very good at sapping all of my energy and time away so I really need to limit myself every day.

Anyway, back to Neil Diamond. Garry played many of Diamond’s classic tunes especially from the 1972 album Hot August Night including Crunchy Granola Suite, Solitary Man, Cherry Cherry, Sweet Caroline, Red Red Wine, Cracklin’ Rosie, Song Sung Blue, I Am…I Said and Desiree. http://www.australianentertainmentservices.com.au/gary-johns/

On Monday night, I attended my Men of Doveton program held at Doveton College. This session was very similar in structure to the previous week in that we spent the first half doing footy training and the second focusing on mental health awareness. The footy training this time we facilitated by Alan is who one of the program leaders. I think a few of the guys had mixed feelings about his teaching style especially during the criss-cross hand balling exercise which had most people very confused and uncoordinated.

The thing I’ve really learned the most about participating in team sports is that it’s always been a struggle for me. I remember playing Auskick for a short time as a child and feeling intensely intimidated by the other boys. I was gentle, fragile and sensitive (and for the most part as an adult, still am). It just wasn’t for me back then. I was not the “sporty” type.

You can’t simply unlearn 25+ years of being scared of having a ball flying into your face or feeling self-conscious about being tackled by somebody or sitting on the sidelines wondering what the hell I should be doing. It takes time to build those skills up and honestly I was having a fair crack at it tonight. Whilst I was obviously not the most involved player nor had the most possessions of the ball or kicked any goals, I still tried and I still participated. That’s all that matters. Full stop.

The second half of the session involved listening to a talk called “BE WELL – How to Build Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing” presented by Troy Macris who the mental health team leader for the City of Casey. I found his presentation to be very informative, funny, entertaining and thought-provoking. He started by getting us all to brainstorm what mental health and health in general means to us and wrote a list of words up on the whiteboard.

Next we gave us the definition of mental health by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and discussed the ways in which we can all stay mentally healthy. The major areas include diet, physical activity, sleep, social connectedness, self-esteem, dealing with failures and challenges, relaxation and personal values. Whilst I pretty much knew most of the material in Troy’s presentation, I still appreciated the parts he chose to emphasise. He used YouTube videos to drive the point home about the importance of having good relationships and how challenges can be opportunities for learning and personal growth.

Being part of the Men of Doveton program has already been a good learning experience and showed me aspects that I still need to work on. Like embracing the fact that I’m often quiet, shy, reserved and don’t speak up much in large group settings. And to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m still a value member of this group and do make important contributions to these meetings. Hence why I love the ideas behind this program being about  including, encouraging and supporting each other. It’s exactly what I need in my life.

On Tuesday morning, I attended my second NDIS information session held at the function room inside Bunjil Place in Narre Warren. Unlike the intense and stressful Amaze workshop last week, this info session was much more casual and relaxed. Once again it was lead by a lady named Sharna from the NDIA who somehow reminds me of Tammy May from My Budget. I found her presentation to be a lot more constructive, informative and helpful than Pamela’s one was hands down. https://www.ndis.gov.au/news/events/vic

Surprisingly, the function room was only half full of attendees which indicates that a lot of people must have pulled out at the last minute. But this allowed me to concentrate more and take lots of notes. Sharna guided us through the various sections of what an NDIS Planning Conversation will entail. This includes your personal details, community and government services, how you manage everyday activities, your safety, participant statement, your goals, reasonable and necessary supports and how your plan will be funded. https://www.yooralla.com.au/news-and-media/blog/posts/How-to-prepare-for-your-NDIS-planning-meeting

It was information overload for 1-1.5 hours especially when she started talking about the transition from planning into supports which involves connecting with providers, making a service agreement, placing a service booking and then having supports delivered. It is a tonne  of stuff to process but the slides were very clearly arranged and organised so I can go away and slowly go through it in my own time. https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/firstplan

On Thursday morning, I went to Degani Casey Central to catch up with my support worker Ally Lamb from PHaMs. Honestly I’ve been feeling like such a scatterbrain this week with trying to process all the NDIS information I’ve learned at the workshop and info session, dealing with multiple changes at work, lack of sleep and disrupted sleep patterns, dealing with lots of stress and pressure whenever I’m out and about.

I’m finding that it only takes a couple of hours before I’m worn out and mentally drained so I never stay out too long at one place. Grocery shopping is a classic example of this. At least I’ve now learned to put coping strategies in place before I go out. I make sure to bring a load of reusable shopping bags and write out a list before I even walk into Woolies, Coles or ALDI. Being overwhelmed with product choices is a lot harder but most of the time I usually end up buying either whatever is on special or my trusted brand. https://themighty.com/2017/08/anxiety-grocery-shopping/

And then there’s dealing with the general public and other shoppers. People are always in a hurry. Nobody is mindful of other people, nor takes two seconds to think before they act. I constantly feel pressured and stressed out whenever I’m in a crowded aisle or standing in a long queue at the checkouts. People constantly judge you if you’re in their way or take too long deciding what to buy. It’s all in their body language and impatient stares.

And then there’s the social awkwardness of not knowing what to do when the cashier is processing your order. Should I say something or remain quiet? Where do I look? I’ll just smile and pack my trolley. So getting my grocery shopping done ends up being a massive relief for me once I’m out of that supermarket. http://keepyourcalm.com/blog/how-keep-calm-and-confident-grocery-store

On Thursday night, I attended a social night with the 30+ Adult Aspergers Victoria group at Taco Bill Mexican – Blackburn. I was honestly in two minds about coming to this tonight considering how low and tired I’d been feeling most of the day. But after spending most of the afternoon in bed, I was determined to drag myself out of it. It’s been a few months since I last attended an event with this particular group of Aspies after the discussion went off the rails and felt like I needed to take a break. https://tacobill.com.au/locations/blackburn

My feelings were still pretty much the same tonight but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try. Mexican food is pretty well out of my comfort zone and I spent 5-10 minutes browsing the menu. I was pretty indecisive about most of the options on there plus I wasn’t especially hungry so I chose to get a single hard-corn taco with shredded beef, a sticky date pudding and a stubbie of Carlton Draught.

The guys I was sitting with at my table were all intellectuals and difficult to relate to but I did attempt to chime into the conversations when I could. Plus it was a good opportunity to practice my active listening skills and be more comfortable making eye contact. Thankfully the LCD screen and Mexican decor (Tequila anyone?) did offer some brief moments to diffuse my social awkwardness but a shitty reality TV show like The Bachelor isn’t exactly going to hold my attention for long.

After about 1-1.5 hours, I was eager to leave as I was getting bored and restless and had a long drive back home. As usual, at any social gathering, leaving is probably the most challenging aspect for me and so I resorted to the shift ninja escape method of having a toilet break then swiftly walking straight out the exit. It may seem rude but I’m really terrible at saying goodbye to people especially when I don’t really know them that well. Still I’m glad that I made the effort to even attend and face my fears. https://aspergersvic.org.au/events-groups

On Friday morning, I had an appointment to see my Clinical Neuro-psychologist Dr. Yasmin Baliz at CNS: Comprehensive Neuropsychological Services in Narre Warren. I was burning the candle at both ends a little as I was determined to get a workout in at the Casey Arc Health Club and gym. This week I’ve been really been struggling a lot with my sleeping patterns, anxiety and motivation. Besides my footy training session on Monday night, I haven’t done much exercise at all which is pretty unusual for me. Something is definitely up.

We met inside her usual office on the first floor of building 64, Victor Crescent. I literally had half a reusable shopping bag full of notes on the NDIS plus my diary so I was very prepared for this appointment. The NDIS is still a massive web of confusion for me, although it is slowly becoming clearer the more advice I get about it.

There are so many options and factors to consider before I’m ready for my planning conversation. What goals do I have now and for the future? Which providers and services do I want to use? Do I want to self-manage my plan or have it managed by an agency or the NDIA? What things do I need help and assistance with now and in the future? Who are my “go-to” supports? At least I can say I’ve partially answered some of these questions so it’s a work in progress for me. https://bettercaring.com.au/blog/disability/prepare-ndis-planning-meeting/

The next thing to tackle was my sleeping problems which has recently been getting increasingly worse and severely impacting on my daily living and brain functioning. Yasmin suggested the M word, medication, which I’ve been pretty reluctant about as I’m worried about the side effects and getting dependent on them. But she recommended only taking them 1-2 times a week to avoid that from happening. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/safe-use-of-sleeping-pills

She also advised to start making a sleep diary again, improving my sleep hygiene and look into buying a digital sleep monitor of some kind. I’ve tried so many different strategies to help me fall and stay asleep at night (lavender spray, natural sleep vitamins, lighting candles, playing guided meditation and nature sound videos, using a eucalyptus vapouriser, drinking a cup of herbal or chamomile tea and soon using a weighted blanket) with varying degrees of success. So I’m hoping that Yasmin’s suggestions will work better than what I’ve tried. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-hygiene

“The same sun shines one everyone. If I stumble or fall, it’s good to know we share it all. Singing yeah. We’ve come undone. Yeah there’s water in my lungs. Yeah we’ve come undone. This heart it weighs a ton.” Evermore – Shines On Everyone (2012)

“Everything is fragile. Everything will come and will go. Everyone is fragile, but most don’t let it show. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. And you know sometimes you’ve got to give it all you got.” Evermore – Sometimes It’s Easy (2012)

“Here you go again, rainy day friend. Your head in your hands, won’t you understand That you, are not the first to fall into pieces…So it turns out all your plans. They were built upon the sand. You’re afraid to take a stand. But I know that you can.” Evermore – Pieces (2012)

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EVERMORE – FOLLOW THE SUN (2012 ALBUM REVIEW)

Follow The Sun is the fourth studio album from the New Zealand based alternative pop trio after the dark, concept-heavy Truth of the World. It was once again produced by the lead vocalist and brother Jon Hume and was recorded at The Stables in Melbourne.

Unlike Truth, this album is instantly buzzing with light, uplifting messages of positivity, inspiration and hope. Musically, it is also a very different beast entirely drawing influences from bands and musicians like Mumford & Sons, Keane, The Finn Brothers, Jason Mraz, Colbie Caillat and even Van Halen.

There are some obvious throwbacks to their earlier material and yet you can tell that the brothers are continuing to experiment with their sound. There are elements of indie folk-pop (A World Without You, Pieces), 80’s styled synth lines (Run Away), ukulele rock (Hey My Love), huge power ballads (Shines On Everyone, Hero, We’ll Fly) and brassy marching band sections (Follow The Sun).

Lyrically, the themes are mostly about overcoming your inner demons, mental health problems, life’s struggles and finding self-belief. At times, it can be a little overwhelming after 11 tracks as the vocals and melodies literally soar skyward but it also has enough diversity to not become redundant and boring.

You could argue that Evermore were “playing it safe” with this record especially after all the risks they took on their previous album but I feel like the band was maturing and exploring their roots rather than merely recycling tracks from Real Life and Dreams. Album’s like these really shows how powerful the affect of music can have on a listener. 8/10

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​FALLEN (FILM REVIEW)

Fallen is a fantasy romance drama based upon the popular 2009 novel by Lauren Kate. It tells the story of a young teenage girl named Lucinda “Luce” Price (Addison Timlin) who gets accused by her parents of being mentally disturbed and causing the death of a boy named Trevor (Leo Suter). They end up dumping her at Sword & Cross Academy, which is a reformed bordering school.

There Luce meets a collection of eccentric and bizarre characters including her soon-to-be best friend and nerd Penn (Lola Kirk), the bad boy Cam (Harrison Gilbertson), the annoying mean girl Molly (Sianoa Smit-McFree), the rebel and class clown Arriane (Daisy Head), librarian and tutor Miss Sophia (Joely Richardson) and the dark, mysterious and handsome Daniel Gregori (Jeremy Irvine).

Slowly many secrets and connections of the past are unraveled before Luce as she discovers the true nature of herself and those around her.

Leading up to the release of this first installment of Lauren Kate’s Fallen book series, there was a lot of hype and anticipation from fans and critics alike. Unfortunately there wee many problems in the way from getting this film released commercially from major production delays, script writing issues and lack of finances. And from this final product, it really shows.

Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, this is a very half-hearted adaptation at best with low budget, unconvincing special effects and CGI. Plus with a running time of 91 minutes, the whole film feels rushed and incomplete. Important details from the novel are skipped over or ignored completely in an effort to pack in the major plot points.

Surprisingly enough, the acting is actually pretty decent and above the Hallmark-quality production values. Timlin and Kirke are easily the most convincing with both characters having complicated pasts and a mountain of emotional issues. Plus their personalities really shines through and much of the dialogue from the novel is thankfully kept in tact.

The minor characters who end up becoming part of Luce’s friendship circle including Roland (Malachi Kirby), Todd (Chris Ashby) and Rachel (Norma Kuhling) are only given about 5 minutes of screen time each and basically no character development whatsoever. This is probably the film’s biggest flaw as the viewers are left to wonder who’s who and what the hell is going on half the time especially if you haven’t read the novel it’s based upon.

Director Scott Hicks (Hearts in Atlantis, Snow Falling on Cedars) shouldn’t take all the blame for how much of a mess this film turned into. At least he tries to make it visually cohesive with the various sections of Sword and Cross Academy being shown in all it’s beauty.

We get very brief scenes of Luce’s shadows (or announcers as Daniel calls them) plus a host of flash-backs and a gripping aerial battle to close out the film. But sadly it’s a lot of material to digest in very little screen time. Fallen had a lot of potential but it “falls” well below the mark. 6/10

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 116, August 2018

Last Saturday afternoon, I decided to spend my day off work by visiting the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery for the National Works on Paper 2018 exhibition. It’s not very often that I have a day to myself to not worry about the many commitments in my life. Being on open area at Dunns Road Reserve, there was absolutely no protection from the strong gusty winds blowing over the peninsula. As it turns out, today they had some artist talks on that afternoon and I figured that I might as well stick around for at least one of them.

The first talk was by Cameron Robbins who produces “wind drawings” using a wind machine which features many turbines, pulleys, wires, a rotating drawing board, a weather vane and a black fineline pen. Along with the MPRG curator Danny Lacy, Cameron discussed how variables such as the wind speed, wind direction, rain and sunlight impacts on what the drawing produced will look like. He also brought up concepts like Chaos Theory and Fractal Design as inspirations for his work as an artist.

The artist talks drew quite a large crowd today of around 50-60 members which was very unexpected. I had a brief wander around the exhibition and was very impressed by the high quality of the artwork. Lots of hours and so much detail went into these pieces which covers everything from paintings and drawings to sculptures, collages and mixed media works. Whilst I’ve pretty much gone on hiatus as an artist myself, I will always have a huge appreciation for art and fellow artists in the community. https://mprg.mornpen.vic.gov.au/Exhibitions/Current-exhibitions/2018-National-Works-on-Paper

On Monday night, I had my second session with the Men of Doveton health and fitness program at Doveton College. This week we started the session downstairs in the gym where we did some footy training lead by Mitch from the Casey Demons. It’s actually been about 16 years since I last did anything football related and re-learning the sport tonight brought up some emotional issues in me from high school. Part of it is that fact that I’m not the biggest fan of footy and never really got into it. http://www.melbournefc.com.au/casey-demons

Playing any kind of team sport during my P.E. classes was something that I really didn’t enjoy whatsoever. I had fears around being hit in the face by the ball, being tackled by other students, doing something dumb if I was in possession of the ball and been made fun off because I was really terrible at footy. It was a huge weakness of mine both ball-handling skills and getting involved during a game.

Thankfully tonight, all of those hurts from the past have been laid to rest. All the guys in the Men of Doveton program are starting at ground zero and this is very much a supportive and encouraging environment. The aim is to basically just have a go and participate as much as possible. We started by doing some hand balling at a distance of 5 meters then doing some kick-to-kick at 10 and 15 meters.

Of course the footballs were flying in all directions but it was honestly fine. It was all about having fun and not taking things too seriously. I did well to not let that 16 year old version of Michael Dixon out. He would have been off the footy field trying everything possible to avoid the ball. Next we did a few games and drills, learning how to bounce the ball properly, aiming and kicking at goals and avoid being tagged by other players.

Lastly, we got divided into two teams: the plains and the whites and played a game of basic footy with just hand balling and no contact. This was another thing I used to struggle with back in high school is that nobody ever passed the ball to me because they knew I was a weak player and would end up making the team lose. But again that stuff was a long time ago and I did my best to get involved by passing the ball around and being distracting to the opposite team. It actually felt good participating in a sport I haven’t played in a very long time.

The second half of the session focused on mental health issues. After catching our breaths (Seriously so not used to running up and down a basketball court), we returned to the theatre and Mo gave everyone a journal for us to keep and write down any positive thoughts, things that we’re grateful for, reflections etc in. Writing is a huge part of me and probably the area I have the least amount of difficulty in. However, I do sometimes get forgetful and need to remember to actually do it.

Lastly we had a guest speaker named Greg from Beyond Blue talking about his personal experiences with Bipolar disorder. Being an Irishman, we was very animated and funny but also understandably nervous about sharing his story. I could very much relate to his degree of denial and assuming that “I’m fine” after one or two counselling sessions. There are always underlying issues to be found and back when I was originally diagnosed with depression and anxiety over 10 years ago, I wasn’t ready to open up or unpack my baggage. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/get-immediate-support

The most important things I learned from Greg’s talk is the importance of finding the right counsellor or therapist for you, having lots of support and people you can trust in, not being afraid to speak up about mental health issues, accepting that it’s okay to not be okay as well as express normal human emotions. I really didn’t feel comfortable enough to speak up about my own issues in this large group setting but it’s something that I’m working towards. https://www.caseystadium.ymca.org.au/whats-on/upcoming-events/event/men-of-doveton-free-health-program-2

On Tuesday night, I attended the first of four NDIS workshops hosted by AMAZE (Formerly Autism Victoria) at Bunjil Place in Narre Warren. I haven’t fully processed the fact that my access request was successful and that I’m now officially an NDIS participant so now I have a reason to attend these workshops beyond just gaining knowledge and information. A lady named Pamela Gatos, who presented at the info night a few months back, has returned to run this workshops designed to better prepare NDIS participants for the journey ahead. http://www.amaze.org.au/2018/04/amaze-announces-ndis-information-sessions-and-workshops-sign-up-now/

There were about 20 other parents, carers and people with autism in the same meeting room as I was. The silence was very uncomfortable for me but I was 100% determined to push through it. I did find that Pam could come across as blunt, intimidating and snarky at times, often making very sarcastic comments about the NDIS and all the negative stories she’s heard about it.

To be fair, her opinions can be justified as I myself has found the NDIS to be a very daunting, overwhelming and confusing system to wrap my head around. She also has a lot of experience working with current participants and families with autistic kids and adults so she knows what she’s talking about.

Tonight’s workshop focused on the topics of: The 3 types of management for the funding of supports (Self Management, Plan Management and Agency Management), the NDIS Pricing Guide July 2018, how to access the NDIS portal via the mygov website, the 3 types of Supports (Core, Capital and Capacity Building) and the 15 support categories. https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/reasonable-and-necessary-supports

It was a lot of information to process but it did get me thinking about which supports I should be asking for in my plan. The ones I could identify for myself include: Improved living Arrangements, Increased Social and Community Participation, Finding and Keeping a Job, Improved Health and Wellbeing, Improved Life Choices and Improved Daily Living Skills. https://abilityoptions.org.au/ndis/ndis-supports-categories

The challenge now is to find arguments to justify why these supports are reasonable and necessary. It’s probably the most difficult part of the whole process as it’s an important part of the planning meeting and developing my first plan. It’s going to take many baby steps but I know I’ll get there. Still I really wasn’t a fan of Pamela’s attitude and personality. She came off as a judgemental bitch and wasn’t very constructive.

Being the odd-one-out (an adult diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder rather than a child), I didn’t feel supported or accepted in that meeting room. I walked out of this first workshop feeling very conflicted and confused as I really didn’t like Pamela’s views or approach to NDIS preparation. So I think that I’m going to look elsewhere. https://www.ndis.gov.au/operational-guideline/planning/participant-statement-goals

On Friday afternoon, I saw my counsellor Ruth at Piece Together Counselling in Narre Warren. The high velocity winds outside and poor quality of sleep have really impacted on my moods and emotions this week. I’ve found myself taking a lot of things personally including my opinions about the UNIFY 2019 lineup and my decision not to go next year, the pressures placed upon me by others including customers and members of the general public. It all got a bit much for me this week and now I’m feeling drained and exhausted.

Ruth reminded me of the importance of using Cognitive Behavoural Therapy and not allowing myself to fall into the trap of maladaptive thinking. It’s the reason why I often take things so personally. To essentially consider alternative explanations for the way other people react to situations and not believe that I’m the sole cause of it. She also pointed out that using my journal more regularly is vital to focus more on the positive aspects in my life. https://www.succeedsocially.com/challengethoughts

On Friday night, I went to my Strength and Circuit small group training session at CinFull Fitness. I was honestly feeling like shit after some posts on social media was dragging me down inside plus I was mentally drained from how busy my week has been. Tonight I was training with a couple of other clients. We did some warm-up drills with the dead balls doing overhead squats and ball slams plus walking lunges with dumb bells, kettle bell swings and push-ups.

Next we did a series of exercises to work and tone the biceps and triceps including rows, kick-backs and curls, tricep push-ups and lifts. Lastly we did some core training using the med balls including overhead situps, pull ups with leg extensions and Russian twists. It was very difficult for me to keep up as I was fatiguing and feeling out of breath a lot quicker than the others and Cinamon noticed straight away. Plus lots of sweat but that’s nothing new for me.

I guess I want to do the best that I can but also have to be aware and mindful about my physical limitations. I have to keep reminding myself that there’s no shame in needing to stop and rest, that nobody is going to judge me for not being as physically fit as they are. Doing strenuous exercise is still a struggle for me but I’m determined to keep plugging away at it, no matter how long it takes me. I want to continue to lose weight and improve my fitness as I need to make classes like these a regular part of my routine. https://www.facebook.com/CinFullFitness/

“I watched them go ’round and ’round. My blouse wrapping itself in your trousers. Oh the waves are going out. My skirt floating up around my waist. As I wade out into the surf. Oh and the waves are coming in. Oh and the waves are going out. Washing Machine.” Kate Bush – Mrs. Bartolozzi (2005)

“There were hundreds of people living here. Sails at the windows. And the planes came crashing down. And many a pilot drowned. And the speed boats flying above. Put your hand over the side of the boat. And what do you feel?”  Kate Bush – A Coral Room (2005)

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BYP VI: SPECTRAL FIRES w/ Greyview (Single Launch), Valerie Avenue, Parkwood & Vermont @ Reverence Hotel, August 2018

On Friday night, I ended up attending a local gig at The Reverence Hotel promoted by Born Yesterday Music.  I really haven’t been in the best head-space all week from lack of sleep, being drained and stressed out, overthinking, dealing with change, saying stupid things on social media, not having much social connection with others. I really hoped that coming out to this tonight would help to shift my mindset. I just need to be around positive, supportive people who care about me and my well-being. Plus this is a really good quality lineup of local bands. I won’t let my mental illness destroy me.

The weather tonight wasn’t exactly ideal especially when I live out in the south eastern suburbs and takes me over an hour to get to Footscray via public transport. But I decided to brave the freezing cold weather and drizzling rain. Thankfully The Rev is only a short walk from Footscray station so it could be worse. I had dinner with the boys from Spectral Fires, ordering myself a classic cheeseburger with spicy fries and a pint of Coopers Pale Ale.

There were several potential triggers for my mental illness (people not noticing me or saying hi to me, being overwhelmed by crowds and lots of sensory information) but I actually managed quite well tonight. I think I’m slowly learning what coping strategies to use like needing my own space and remembering that band members are generally flat out and focused on more important things like unloading gear and setting up merch. Basically to not take things the wrong way or personally.

It’s tough for me sometimes connecting socially with otherwise but it felt good that I was able to put myself out there enough to do just that. Thank goodness for Mikey MooreMichael McLarenParis RoweJosh LaytAmber Hardy and Cassie Sutton for including me and helping to improve my mood.

VERMONT                                                                                                              “There’s nothing left of me that’s not the same. Locked behind closed doors; I feel nothing. A swelling in my head of thoughts that bled. Quiet voices of the words they said.”

Tonight was my first time checking out this four-piece Melbourne-based Alternative Rock band and I really enjoyed their performance. They have some strong influences with bands from the last 1990’s and early 2000’s such as Goo Goo Dolls, Creed and 3 Doors Down. The lyrical content drips with intense heartfelt emotion and sung with an aggressive passion by lead vocalist Joshua Swanwick. The band performed a catchy and playful cover of the new Trophy Eyes’ banger You Can Count of Me plus their own singles Lonely Mind and Breathe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLEL7tjyPOs

PARKWOOD                                                                                                          “And if you ask me. I am in no way sold on the idea. That there are ghosts and there are souls. But one day I’ll die and maybe I’ll know. But until then I’ll love what’s close to home. That is my friends, that is my home.”

Parkwood are a band that I seem to be growing more and more fond of the more I see them play live. They are a melodic hardcore band from the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The band effortlessly blends high octane guitar riffs with passionate screams and heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics. The vocal duties are well balanced between Alec and Sam whilst adding healthy doses of humour in between songs. The crowd really responded well during their set and reciprocated the energy produced by the band. They played several tracks from their EP Close To Home including Hold, Prove Myself, Four Years and Goodbye. https://open.spotify.com/album/6yDS8Y2nJELmdBys4rx6ZZ

VALERIE AVENUE                                                                                                  “Cause I’ve been drinking myself numb and you’ve been playing dumb. I’ve been bleeding all my pay-checks dry, getting high to pass the time.”

I’ve been supporting Brad Dixon and his various solo and band projects for a couple of years now but this is the first time seeing Valerie Avenue play with their current lineup. I really enjoyed the friendly banter between Brad and the band’s drummer Nick. They were also very encouraging, getting the crowd involved with handclaps and several wailed “whoaaaaaaaaas”. Mixing elements of indie rock, pop-punk and emo, the songs are very bouncy and vibrant with lyrical messages that hit home on a personal level. They are in the process of releasing their debut EP in the next couple of weeks so make sure you pick that up. Check out their latest single Numb here: https://valerieavenue.bandcamp.com/track/numb

GREYVIEW                                                                                                            “We always divide. Each time leaving us faded. Until we’re mostly grey but not erased. Digging the same holes stuck on repeat. The worst in you brings out the worst in me.”

It’s been over six months since I last saw the three-piece indie pop-punk rockers play a show and despite some hilarious technical issues involving the stage lighting (Well Michael McLaren did want them less intense, not sure about pitch black though), this was easily their best performance yet. The band are highly talented with plenty of boundless energy. Vocalist Michael and bassist Paris Rowe could be seen bouncing around the stage in an animated fashion and pull off some unusual dance moves.

During the “black out”, the crowd was actually very resourceful and rolled with it, bringing out their phone flashlights and lighters. It actually made for a very dramatic lighting effect and even drummer Josh Layt had a few moments in the spotlight from the overhead strip lights. The problems only made their set stronger with a few memorable riffs from Nirvana’s classic song Smells Like Teen Spirit and their current singles Faded and Mostly Grey (with exceptional guesties from Cassie Sutton). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xE9W56Y1II

SPECTRAL FIRES                                                                                                “Old haunts that had a hold on me. Are fading from memory and losing their sheen. If you challenge ideas. You can challenge yourself. And get back the mojo you left on the shelf.”

Sadly I wasn’t able to stick around for the five-piece Melodic Hardcore Punk-Pop outfit but I’ve heard that they’re on the verge of releasing new music so be on the lookout for that. In the meantime, check out their acoustic version of New Resolve here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QjkBnjvXgc

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 115, August 2018

On Monday night, I had my first session with the Men of Doveton program at Doveton College. When I first registered for this 12 week program, I really didn’t know much about it besides that it was for men (obviously!) suffering from mental illnesses and life’s struggles in general and that it’s designed to improve your physical, mental and emotional health. So to walk into a group of 25-30 male strangers is a pretty terrifying experience, just like every other social group I’ve attempted to be apart of in the past.

The biggest difference with this one however is that it’s run by a lot of YMCA staff including Tori Norris (Program Co-Ordinator) and Mo Mudaliar (Health and Wellbeing Co-Ordinator). The moment I walked into the building, I was welcomed by everyone there and received a goodie bag full of stuff. Sitting down in the theater, it was pretty awkward at first but not as uncomfortable as the ice-breaking group activities that would follow.

Mo did most of the presenting which at times did come across as lines from life coaching 101 but I could tell he was well intended with his messages. Mental illness is something that I’ve struggled with for over ten years now and it’s impacted on all aspects of my life. I have difficulty making conversation, fitting in socially, speaking up, getting out of my comfort zone, breaking the ice with people, feeling confident about myself. But the good news is that most of the guys in the program is going though very similar issues.

So yes the ice-breaking activities: the first involved standing up and getting to know everyone with a short one minute introduction and stating two facts about each other. It was both scary and uplifting at the same time. Even during moments of shyness, it felt good to be actively listening and not judged for “not saying much” by the other person.

The second was easier as we were allocated to smaller groups. We were given a large sheet of butcher paper to write down values that we collective wanted. For example: respect, honesty, trust, friendship, motivation, encouragement, participation, laughter, having fun, no judgement, developing confidence, being vulnerable and open.

The next part involved filling out a series of questionnaires for research purposes related to how we feel about ourselves, the emotions and feelings we experience, how we are in social situations, our lifestyles, any drugs we’ve taken etc. These were nothing new to me as I’ve done my fair share of assessments over the years for mental health services and diagnosis of depression and anxiety.

The last part of the session involved forming two lines and stepping forward if you can answer yes to Mo’s questions. The purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate that none of us are alone. That we have all felt alone, left out, scared, excluded, nervous, unwanted, hurt and upset at some point in our lives. It actually brought up some confronting feelings inside of me but also made me feel better that I’ve got a lot of support in this room. Mo also highlighted how this is a safe group to speak up about what we’re going through.

Part of me was worried about exactly what I’d signed up for here as I didn’t want this to turn into some sort of cult but it’s probably just me overthinking things. They do encourage us to attend as many sessions as possible which seems pretty achievable to me. Mo did throw the “L” word around (Leader) which did make me a little nervous but in the context of this program, it’s probably nothing to be afraid of. It’s more about sharing experiences and helping each other out.

The truth is that this could potentially be a great thing for me, in order to make permanent positive change within myself and my life. It’s actually the first time to my knowledge that I’ve been associated with a “men only” club. The only thing that comes close was a boys group in my PE class back in high school which I absolutely hated. The difference now is that I’ve had a lot more life experience and self awareness so I’m able to be more comfortable around other males.

I’m very much not blokey, tough or macho whatsoever and it was nice to know that those labels are dust at Men of Doveton because I’ve always been very timid and sensitive. This is an opportunity to put myself out there, to share my feelings and thoughts with other guys, to try new things out and hopefully make some social connections out of this. https://www.caseystadium.ymca.org.au/whats-on/upcoming-events/event/men-of-doveton-free-health-program-2

On Thursday night, I went to my Vinyasa yoga class with Aaron Petty at Level Up Yoga in Berwick. It’s been a pretty draining and tiring week for me with having to embrace many changes happening at work and not getting adequate sleep. It’s actually incredibly frustrating when you’re unable to switch your active brain off and drift off to sleep. But even with these obstacles plus the post-school, peak hour traffic along Clyde Road, I was determined to make the effort to make it to my class.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced having a “bro sesh” or only males in a yoga class before today. I guess now in 2018, Aaron and many other male yoga teachers are trying to change the stereotype of yoga being a female dominated form of exercise. Vinyasa is always a strong class for me and Aaron has a way of pushing your limits and getting the best out of you in terms of pose progression.

Like going from a low lunge into a “spider” variation of grabbing your lifted foot from around the back of the body and then into a full crescent lunge. Or going from chair pose into a twisted variation with hands in prayer position. I still struggle a lot with balance and flexibility but with practice and Aaron’s encouragement, I can push myself a bit further in each pose. http://yogea.org/test-inovasana/

We also did some myofascial release work using a block into the muscles around the shoulders and below the armpit. These areas have always been very tense and painful due to a lot of stress and anxiety building up in my body. I’ve been learning to embrace and accept pain more which doesn’t come easy but focusing on the breath helps a lot with that. https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/fascia-fitness-a-yoga-sequence-for-fascial-release

I’m learning to not compare myself as much to other students in the class or what my pose “should” look like or worry about doing it wrong or not going deep enough. I just need to focus on what I can do in that moment, do the best that I can and that’s enough. https://www.aaronpetty.com/teaching-schedule/

“I know you’ll look the other way. I know you long for something new. So there you’re wasting all your day. Looking for something that was right in front of you. And I just want them to notice you. And I, I’ll never let go of you. There’s something flying in the air. And I just don’t know what it could be. Smoke is flying everywhere. I’m getting the feeling it’s the end for you and me. And I, I know that we might be through. But I, I’ll never let go of you.” Deadmau5 Feat. Grabbitz – Let Go (2016)

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 114, July 2018

On Sunday afternoon, we had my step-dad’s 60th birthday party. I often find parties and social gatherings to be very challenging on me mentally and emotionally. This weekend, I had the added complication of poor quality of sleep, low energy levels and chronic fatigue in the mix. So even putting up a few decorations required a lot of physical effort from me. And then there’s dealing with other people’s energies which leaves me feeling very drained and exhausted. None of this is anybody’s fault, it’s just the way I’ve been wired.

Thankfully we had the function at home so I could basically retreat and hibernate in my bedroom if things got too much for me. To an outsider, it may seem like I’m being anti-social or lazy but in actuality, it’s a combination of being introverted, shy, reserved, autistic, anxious and depressed that makes me feel this way. Still I’m learning to cope with it better. We had the party catered for by a caterer named Erica from the Finger Food People plus the cake and cupcakes were designed by my friend and former team-mate Cathy Horne.

On Monday night, I went to a Yin yoga class with Aaron Petty at Level Up Yoga in Berwick. I was still feeling very much tired and worn out after the hectic weekend I had and so I felt like I really needed more of a restorative practice tonight. The wind was howling loudly outside the studio and the walls were shaking a little but I was safe and sheltered inside. It was another intimate class tonight with just the two of us (we can make it if we try!). Tee Bee and I.

Tonight we did a number of restorative poses and Yin-style stretches including Seated Forward Fold, Bridge Pose and Waterfall, Deep Neck and Side stretches. As usual, the class brought up a lot of emotional issues festering inside of me which currently lies around my uncertainty about work and the future as well as my social skills and wanting to make more friends. https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/types-of-yoga/yin

(Why do I find it so hard to put myself out there and socialise? I wish I had more friends in my life. I wish I got to hang out more with them. I feel so powerless at work with all these roster and management changes. I can’t handle it. What’s wrong with me? I’m a doormat. I get so easily emotional whenever I make a mistake or somebody else insults me or I can’t answer a customer’s question. I feel so dumb sometimes. I’m lucky to still be working here.)

The above is pretty much what came up for me and is very typical of my thought patterns about myself, my situation at work and my social life. But yoga helps to turn these negatives into positives. To be able to let go of these stories which are holding me back in life, some of which are simply untrue. And it’s what I love about Aaron’s philosophy towards his yoga practice. He is always encouraging, supportive and accepting. Never judgmental or harsh or critical.  Thank you Aaron for being there for me. https://www.aaronpetty.com/teaching-schedule/

On Tuesday morning, I did my first Boxing / HIIT Power small group training session with CinFull Fitness in Narre Warren South. I’ve known Cinamon Guerin for about a year or two now from participating in her Body Combat classes at Casey Arc. Now she also runs a personal training business on the side with small groups of clients in her home garage. I’ve contemplated coming along to a class for a while now but it was either not the right time or life got in the way. But now I’m finally giving it a go. https://www.moneycrashers.com/health-benefits-boxing-workouts/

It was just myself and Sarah today who is one of Cinamon’s regular clients. After filling in my registration forms (I go into a lot of detail as always), I was ready to get started. We warmed-up by doing alternating exercises (Wall balls, Ball slams, Battle Ropes, Kettle Bell  Swings) at 30 seconds each. Next we did some weighted back squats and squat pulses, TRX exercises (Ring Rows, Squats, Lunges) and some lifts with the dumb bells (Bicep Curls, Overheads, Tricep Push-ups).

Lastly we did some basic boxing drills. I’m still fairly inexperienced when it comes to boxing though I have done a couple of group fitness boxing classes and a little with my personal trainer Mandi Herauville in the past. Thankfully Cinamon didn’t make it too difficult for us today. I gotta get back into the swing of things. I still have moments of self-consciousness whenever I’m workout out. Being comfortable with looking at myself in the mirror is still something I struggle with due to my body image issues and being overweight.

But it’s something I really want to work on and improve over time. One day at a time. The thing I love about Cinamon is her ability to make fitness enjoyable and accessible. It’s really tough work but the results you get from working out are worth it. My mental illness does have the tendency to interfere at times whenever I’m exercising, often to extremes like questioning whether I’m going to pass out or have a heart attack. It’s more than I’m still unfit at times and so it’s no surprise that I’m puffing and panting quite quickly.

These fears are irrational though as being out of breath, fatigued and profusely sweating are all normal by-products of working out. Of course you have to still be mindful about not overdoing it or causing yourself an injury. Cinamon constantly asks how we are feeling and that’s a sign of a great personal trainer. No client wants to be dragged off to Casey Hospital in a paramedic van because precautions weren’t taken during a session. And so in that sense, I feel very comfortable and secure with Cinamon training me. Personal safety should always come first. https://www.facebook.com/CinFullFitness/

On Thursday night, I attended the Young Adults AS Peer Group meeting at MS Australia – the Nerve Centre in Blackburn. Tonight’s discussion topic was on self-motivation which is something I’ve been struggling a lot with recently. My quality of sleep has been noticeably worse lately, dipping to around 4-5 hours per night with broken periods of me waking up at around 3-4am and then 6-7am. Sleep disturbances and insomnia is nothing new for me but it seems to be getting harder to manage of late.

Sleep deprivation really has a devastating affect on my moods, concentration levels and energy levels. Hence why it’s been difficult to motivate myself most days unless I have set appointments or shifts at work. But even then I notice that I’m tired, restless, irritable, moody and struggling to function at times. I have found that meditation, listening to calming music and going to bed helps to a certain degree but not always.

I honestly had mixed feelings about tonight’s meeting but I feel like a lot of it is clouded by my current mental state. Bumping into Gayle again, I felt really hesitant like I was walking on eggshells around her and didn’t want to draw her attention. I decided to sit by myself after I arrived but it didn’t take long for Gayle to drag me out of my chair. I did appreciate her trying to encourage me to mingle with a couple of new “Aspies” but sadly it fell flat for me.

I almost felt like saying “Hi I’m Michael. I’m socially awkward and introverted. Nice to meet you.” Because that’s exactly how I feel inside in any group situation. But thankfully Max was lingering around to make socialising a bit easier for everyone before the meeting started. Gayle’s proposal was still haunting me in the back of my mind. I just know that I don’t have the social skills, the personality nor the confidence to be a group leader hence why I’ve been so evasive and dismissive about it. However, they are things I really do need to work on.

The meeting itself ran alright. We got divided into three separate discussion groups like last time. I ended up being in Max’s group outside on the sofas. Though I personally only came up with one decent suggestion to contribute, we still managed to get some great ideas written down on the butcher paper for ways to get more organised in our daily lives. These include:

  • Using planners, calendars, diaries, post-it notes and notepads
  • Setting alarms at scheduled times on your phone
  • Writing to-do lists, prep lists and shopping lists
  • Using filing systems such as folders and display books
  • Preventing problems before the arise
  • Persistence in the face of setbacks e.g. extending deadlines
  • Ensuring that you take regular breaks and reward yourself when tasks get completed

I could feel myself getting easily distracted and struggling to maintain focus tonight at times so I decided to leave early. The jury is still out as to whether the Young Adults Aspergers peer support group is the right venue for me to make new friends. It’s been a constant challenge for my entire 32 years of existence to find a place where I belong, to connect with like-minded people, to be understood, accepted and included. The one positive is that at least I’m slowly becoming a familiar face at Aspergers Victoria. Putting yourself out there and speaking up in a group is fucking hard to do but at least I can say I’m trying and I’m not giving up. https://aspergersvic.org.au/young-adults

On Thursday morning, I went to my Body Pump class at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. To be honest, I was still feeling worn out and restless after arriving at the facility. My low mood could be attributed to the recent “Blood Moon” appearance this week as well as the colder weather. Thankfully our instructor Gina was in a loud, bubbly mood this morning and a workout was exactly what I needed in order to lift my mental state up and feel better.

Today we did release number 106 which features the following tracks: Tell Me You Love Me by Galantis & Throttle, Walk On Water by Thirty Seconds to Mars, Tribes by Chase & Status and Revenge by Pink Feat. Eminem. I have to say that the soreness and burn didn’t really kick in for me until about half way through the workout when we started doing lunges, squats and squat pulses then push presses, power presses and push-ups.

But it felt awesome being able to push through how challenging this release was and to know that everyone else in the room was feeling the same way. Laughing, having fun and enjoying whatever exercise your doing will always be an important aspect for me because otherwise what’s the point of it? http://w3.lesmills.com/israel/en/classes/bodypump/music-tracklists/

“One foot in front of the other babe. One breath leads to another yeah. Just keep moving, oh. Look within for the strength today. Listen out for the voice to say. Just keep moving, oh… So my love, keep on running. You gotta get through today, yeah. There my love, keep on running. Gotta keep those tears at bay, oh. Oh, my love, don’t stop burning. Gonna send them up in flames. In flames.” David Guetta & Sia – Flames (2018)

“Drowning in the static of a thousand whispered doubts. I need to break the silence before my oxygen runs out. So can you hear me?. “Can you hear me?”. As I call in to this dark and lonely. Passage, am I getting it through? Because all I want to do is get a message from me to you.” Evermore – Can You Hear Me? (2009)

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