​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 134, December 2018

Last Saturday afternoon, I hosted my annual Christmas social gathering at my home in Narre Warren South. As much as I tried to keep my expectations as low as possible, it was difficult to not get swept up in the pressure of getting everything organised. My parents and I spent all morning rearranging the outdoor furniture and putting up decorations in the outdoor patio area as well as buying additional food and drinks. It was a huge demand on my energy levels but I was determined to make this event a success.

Unlike my previous gatherings, I tried hard not to get caught up in my worrying thoughts “What if nobody turns up? What if today is a massive flop? What if this is a waste of time? Why didn’t these people come?”. Instead, I just told myself that I’ve done everything that I can to get my shit together. I decided to appreciate the efforts I put in and just go with the flow. Typically, we went all out with the Christmas decorations. This time I decided to throw pink into the colour palette and it actually worked well with the gold, silver, red and green.

It was a deliberately casual, chilled out affair with attendance from Lucas EldridgeVanessa BonicaMandi HerauvilleJudie Hedrick and James Hedrick. Once the conversations started flowing, my attention was no longer focused on the number of people here. Quality over quantity always. Would I have really enjoyed my night if 20, 50, 100 people were here? Probably not. The bigger the crowd, the more stress and social obligations you have. No thanks! Smaller turnouts are always best in my case.

I bought my usual trimmings of KFC original recipe chicken, coleslaw and potato salad from Woolies, mince pies, chips, cheese, kebana, crackers, lollies, chocolates, fruit cake, wine and beer (All the unhealthy stuff basically!). Making the event finish reasonably early was also a good decision considering I had to get up early for work the next day. Honestly, no shame in hitting the sack at 9.30 or 10pm especially when you actually do need to sleep! But overall, I really enjoyed the company, the food, the music and the atmosphere. It wasn’t fancy and it didn’t need to be.

On Monday night, I did an RPM class at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. It’s good to know that instructor Janine Wallace still recognises me even when I haven’t been to class in ages (and she accidentally calls me Mitchell). Tonight we did a mixture of tracks from older releases including In Colour by Shapeshifter, Once In A Lifetime Love by Andrew Rayel featuring Kristina Antuna and All Aboard by D’Angello & Francis.

Considering how many weeks it’s been since I’ve been “in the saddle”, I was quite impressed by my performance tonight, reaching a maximum speed of 38 km/h and 135 RPM. Janine was full of empowering quotes and it was almost like she was saying them directly to me. She also kept going on about the bone to muscle connection, obviously referring to the tendons, which play an important part in exercise. https://www.lesmills.com/fit-planet/fitness/all-you-need-to-know-about-rpm/

On Tuesday morning, I attended the Morning Melodies function at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East along with my Mum and her aged care client Jean. Today’s event was Christmas themed and performed by the duo Janette & Alan Middleton. The hall was packed to the rafters which caused a few headaches and dramas in the carpark, especially when it came to leaving. But the event itself was very enjoyable and entertaining. http://www.ballaballa.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Term-4-2018-Program-Guide-1.pdf

Janette & Alan performed a mixture of Christmas songs and classic hits including Jingle Bells, Ruldolf The Rednose Reindeer and Happy Xmas (War Is Over) plus Stuck on You by Elvis Presley, She’s My Baby by Johnny O’Keefe and Things by Bobby Darin. Everyone was treated to a selection of mini cakes and slices as well as a bag filled with lollies, chocolates and a small Christmas card.

Over this past year, I’ve grown to have a deeper level of understanding when it comes to people with a disability. My perspective used to be very immature as I saw most people’s behaviour as weird or strange. But after my diagnosis of High Functioning Autism last year, I see these people in a completely different light. They are still capable human beings even in the face of developmental challenges.

You don’t really need to know the specific symptoms or details of disabilities such as Down Syndrome, Aspergers, Vision Impairment, Cystic Fibrosis, ADHD or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to be able to have compassion and love for another person. Quite a number of them were having a great time dancing up the front of the hall and singing along with Janette and Alan. And honestly, that’s what really matters. How YOU feel inside. https://services.anu.edu.au/human-resources/respect-inclusion/different-types-of-disabilities

On Tuesday night, I did a Body Combat class with Cinamon Guerin at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. Considering how sore, tired and restless I felt today, I managed to still make the effort to come out to this group fitness class tonight. Cinamon decided to add 3 tracks from the new release in tonight’s workout including Savage Mode by Kazzanova featuring Marvelus Fame and Wings (Nu:Logic Remix) by Birdy. https://www.lesmills.com/workouts/fitness-classes/bodycombat/

I really surprised myself tonight in how quickly I was picking up the combos and movements especially the first half. But then the struggle became real when it came to the tough lunge track and the final endurance track with its merciless jab boxes and forward stomps. The fatigue really hit hard and yet I was determined to stick it out. Thank goodness that I’ve invested in a proper microfibre sweat towel as I literally needed to wrap my head in it. But it felt good to smash this difficult workout. https://www.lesmills.com/fit-planet/fitness/all-you-need-to-know-about-bodycombat/

On Thursday morning, Mum and I went on our annual trip to the city to see the Myer Xmas Windows and the Christmas show at Crown Melbourne. Unfortunately, the weather just wasn’t on our side today with a forecast of heavy rainfall, flash flooding and thunderstorms. Plus the Pakenham and Cranbourne train lines both had replacement buses operating due to track improvement works. http://www.metrotrains.com.au/planned-work/buses-replace-trains-on-sections-of-the-cranbourne-and-pakenham-lines-saturday-1-to-sunday-23-december/

So we had to put a Plan B in place: Catching a train to Southern Cross station via the Glen Waverley line. Using Google Maps, we were able to navigate past most of the traffic disruptions on the Monash Freeway and managed to get to Jordanville station by lunchtime. This station in particular holds a lot of fond memories from childhood as I used to live closeby there. It’s situated in a dense wooded area, lined with gum trees and tall pine trees and adjacent to Huntingdale Golf Course.

The rain was bucketing down by this time but we were both prepared carrying raincoats, umbrellas and waterproof carry bags. After stopping off at Southern Cross, we walked down to Crown Melbourne and made our way down to the atrium where the Christmas display was located. This year they had several large eggs with a traditional Christmas song printed on the front. When the show starts, each of the eggs opened one by one with music and dazzling animatronic puppets popping out. Plus the towering Christmas tree in the middle rapidly changed its lights. https://www.onlymelbourne.com.au/crowns-christmas-spectacular

Next we caught a tram down to Bourke Street Mall and checked out the Myer Christmas Windows. This year’s theme is based on the classic children’s book Alice in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carrol and illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer. Whilst the displays, animations and narration by John Deeks were all really impressive, I didn’t get how this related to Christmas. Plus it was much shorter in length than previous years. But that’s just me nit picking. https://www.myer.com.au/content/christmas-window-hours

The last main item on the list was going up to Level 6 and visiting Myer’s Gift Emporium. It was good to see them changing things up a little by moving the Christmas decorations and ornaments to the opposite side of the escalators. There was plenty of see including the Santa Express, original Mickey Mouse collection, personalise your toberone bar, Harry Potter mechandise, Elf on the Shelf and Barbie. I picked up this year’s copy of the Spirit of Christmas album and Mum bought herself an ornament. https://www.myer.com.au/c/gifts

By around 4-4.30pm, I absolutely exhausted and ready to go back home. Luckily the weather in the CBD cleared itself up in the afternoon as we weren’t getting drenched travelling around the city and catching trams made things a lot easier too!

On Friday night, I went to a Vinyasa yoga class with Aaron Petty at Level Up Yoga (Berwick, Victoria). I was feeling a bit rundown probably due to the sudden changes in weather, Christmas related stress and poor sleep but I was determined to do some yoga tonight. There was only one other student in the class, a girl named Emmy. I felt that it was really important to dispose of any fears and insecurities whilst in this yoga space. https://www.artofliving.org/yoga/health-and-wellness/yoga-for-anxiety-disorder

I tend to hold back and hesitate A LOT but not when I’m doing yoga. Perhaps that’s why I tend to sweat a lot, because I am pouring so much effort, focus and concentration into these poses. When we were doing the transition from Crescent Lunge to Arrowhead pose, my balance was completely thrown off but thankfully Aaron was there to pick me up. No embarrassment! No judgement! No shame! Because I’m fucking trying god damnit! https://www.medicaldaily.com/sweat-it-out-5-surprising-health-benefits-sweating-actually-dont-stink-309718

I still have moments where my shaky self-confidence is on display but I never ever give up. No way! And it’s also obvious that I’m not the most talkative or social member of this community. Again I’m learning to both accept and embrace this. It’s tough being introverted sometimes because people constantly make assumptions about you. The fact is that opening up to others is a slow and gradual process for me but I do get there eventually. https://www.lifehack.org/372358/5-ways-start-building-social-confidence-today

Aaron spent a lot of tonight’s class talking about the idea of grounding yourself in the earth and also encouraged us to use a mantra when exhaling (e.g. I am in the present moment). We did several cycles of Vinyasa Flow (Half lift, Plank pose, Chaturanga, Cobra/Updog, Downward Facing Dog) plus Arm Leg Balance, Cat-Cow pose, Half Pigeon pose, Half Splits, Locust pose and Supine Spinal Twist. https://www.aaronpetty.com/

“As children, we believed. The greatest sight to see. Is something lovely wrapped beneath the tree. Well, Heaven surely knows. The packages and bows. Can never heal a hurting human soul. No more lives torn apart. The wars would never start. And time would heal our hearts. Everyone would have a friend. The right would always win. That love would never end. This is our grown up Christmas list.” The Veronicas – Grown Up Christmas List (2010)

“Where there is joy there is love. We come together now as one. Lift your candle and sing. With the spirit of Christmas In your heart. Lift your voices and sing. Share the spirit of Christmas. Tonight in this candle. Candle time of year.”          Samantha Jade – This Candle Time of Year (2018)

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 133, December 2018

On Monday night, I attended the Aspergers Victoria’s event Strategies For Success At Work, held at MS Australia – The Nerve Centre in Blackburn. Tonight’s event coincides with International Day of People with Disability and featured a panel of three professionals each diagnosed with autism including Jeanette Purkis, Mark Solonsch and Jacqui Brady. There was quite a large attendance with fellow Aspies, volunteers, parents, teachers and carers. https://aspergersvic.org.au/event-3131241

The event was opened by President of Aspergers Victoria, Tamsin Jowett, who briefly talked about the values that are represented by AV including celebrating our neurodiversity, promoting inclusiveness and empowering people with a disability. She then introduced the three panelists mentioned above and handed the floor over to each of them.

Jeanette Purkis Âû was the first panelist to speak. She is a published author, best known for her book The Wonderful World of Work, as well as a public servant, autism mentor, presenter, blogger and advocate. She talked about growing up with low self esteem, being bullied in high school and wanting to be socially accepted among her peers. After pursuing further education and going to university, she found a casual job as a dishwasher which was not only unsatisfying but gave rise to high levels of anxiety and panic disorder. http://www.jeanettepurkis.com/

Though through her determination and many stressful, difficult changes, she managed to successfully become a public servant. She notes her strengths include loyalty, attention to detail and being kind and friendly. Challenges include anxiety, paranoid thoughts, misinterpreting what other people say and having self doubt. https://jeanettepurkis.wordpress.com/

Her most important advice for preparing for job interviews and being successful in the workplace include: asking lots of questions, researching the organisation, identifying what your skills are, using positive self-talk, challenging negative thoughts, practicing your interview and getting all the assistance you can. https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-wonderful-world-of-work-jeanette-purkis/prod9781849054997.html

The next panelist was Mark Solonsch. He is an Aspergers Victoria board member, former small business owner, an author and has 25 years of experience working with Australian businesses. He segmented his presentation into four phases. The first “Naive Arsehole” stage showed that Mark was a very successful technical expert with knowledge in marketing and data analysis but no social skills or ability to manage his own business. From this he devised the formula: Technical + Social + Sales = Business Success.

The second phase called “Naming It” was about Mark identifying his strengths and weaknesses, problematic behaviours and being able to work on social interactions. It also highlighted the importance of being authentic and he devised another formula: Quality x Acceptance = Effectiveness. The third phase “Diagnosis of Aspergers” was about getting information, learning, surrounding yourself with people who accept you and finding support.

The final phase called “Coming Out” is about embracing yourself and your diagnosis. It is a constant work-in-progress as telling others of your condition will take time. It is important to help others to understand what being autistic is like and taking responsibility for yourself. https://aspergersvic.org.au/who-we-are

The final panelist this evening was Jacqui Brady. She is an anthropologist, former Royal Australian Air Force aviation technician, writer and comedian. She opened with a few jokes involving an embarrassing moment sitting on Santa’s knee as a 6 year old child as well as admitting that her biggest fears are being in Supermarkets and large crowds of people.

She then briefly touched on having a traumatic life growing up and working for the military as a clerk technician. She has studied anthropology which is the study of humans and human behaviour in societies, specialising in sacred sites. She also commented on the fact that she rejected her autism diagnosis several times during her life, the importance of building skills, finding out what makes you happy, tapping into special interests, staying away from naysayers and the need for physical space.

Lastly she talked about the concept of the 4D’s, which is essentially how to handle discrimination from others. The first one is DENIAL (e.g. You look normal to me). It’s important to EDUCATE the other person. The second one is DISMISSAL (e.g. You’re not like other autistic people). You may need to get FORCEFUL with this person. The third one is DEFLECT (e.g. We can’t change things for one person). It’s important to GET HELP. And the last D is for DISCRIMINATION.

I only stayed for about an hour as I was getting restless and a little rundown with a sore throat. But I’m glad that I came along tonight to gain some valuable advice and insight into what it’s like to be an autistic person in the workplace. I can relate to many of these challenges myself, especially the social aspects plus sensitives and anxieties of being in a busy retail environment. It’s very much a day to day thing for me but having support is vital. https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/manage-autism-workplace/

On Tuesday morning, I had my first appointment with Occupational Therapist Ambika plus Elise from Everyday Independence. They actually came to my home and I had my Mum there for support but my anxiety levels were beginning to spike upwards as the time approached 10 o’clock. I think a lot of it had to do with not knowing what to expect and just those “meeting new people for the first time” jitters. It’s also daunting making big adult decisions sometimes. https://www.everydayind.com.au/our-therapies/occupational-therapy/

The two therapists did their best to make it as casual as possible and I also tried to get myself as prepared as possible by having my NDIS plan, notes and letters ready on the dining room table. They were typing away on matching notebook computers, asking me some routine questions. They spent most of the appointment getting to know me, asking what my big goals are for next year.  I stumbled with some of the questions but overall I did my best. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-to-expect-during-an-ot-evaluation-2509998

I came up with: 1. Building independence, social and conversational skills including making new friends and joining social groups. 2. Developing life skills including cooking, cleaning and home maintenance. 3. Being able to live independently in shared accommodation. 4. Improving self confidence and self esteem. 5. Enrolling in a TAFE course and studying part time. https://www.everydayind.com.au/ndis/our-ndis-services/

They also suggested that I should see a speech pathologist to help with the social confidence and making conversation aspects of my therapy plan. The difficult part was figuring out the funding side of things and how many hours I wish to use with Everyday Independence. But thankfully Ambika and Elise were there to assist and guide me as I really had no clue and didn’t know what I should do. So I’ll just be starting out at 10 hours of Speech and 10 hours of OT and see how I go from there. https://www.everydayind.com.au/about-us/our-approach/

On Tuesday night, I did a Body Balance class with Astrid Christophersen at YMCA Casey RACE in Cranbourne East. It’s been a few months since I’ve done one of these classes but I’ve missed it as a good portion of the class is strength-based yoga. The one thing I haven’t missed are the Pilates and Core components, even though I know they’re good for me. When I walked into the Group Fitness studio, there was a bunch of people sitting on the side of the stage being loud and obnoxious. I did my best to ignore them and not engage with them. Ironically, none of them were here for this class.

Astrid chose to combine a number of releases together including the tracks Free by Broods,  and Curse by This Pale Fire. My balance was very much off today but I laughed it off and kept giving it a go which shows my positive attitude. As expected, the most difficult part of tonight’s class was the Pilates section and it doesn’t help when I haven’t done any in a while. But still I did what I could and felt good by the end of the class.

We did the following exercises: Tai-Chi Warmup (Tai Chi breath arms, Circle arms, Wide Forward Bend), Sun Salutations (Extended Mountain Pose, Forward Fold, 3-Legged Down Dog, Plank Pose, Baby Cobra), Standing Strength (Intense Pose, Warrior 2, Sun Warrior, Side Angle Pose), Balance (Mountain Pose with Knee Lift, Willow Tree pose, Standing Modified Half Lotus, Eagle Pose, Dancers Pose).

Pilates Core – Abdominals (Crunches, Toe Taps, Alternating Leg Extensions, Bridge Pose), Pilates Core – Back (Seal Ankle Taps, Cross Crawl, Bow Pose), Twists (Cross Legged Twist, Seated Twist), Hamstrings (Seated Forward Bend, Happy Baby Pose) and Relaxation. https://lesmillsondemand.vhx.tv/bodybalance/season:1/videos/2016-4-bodybalance-75-55-min-lmod

On Thursday morning, Mum and I got our Santa photos done at Casey Central Shopping Centre. Some people would argue that I’m “too old” to be doing this at 32 years of age but I really don’t give a shit what people think about that. I see Christmas and having photos taken with Santa as a way of reconnecting with my childhood, when I was happier and I had less demands, responsibilities and pressures placed on me.

As usual, we were a bit disorganised trying to get our hats to fit and being “ready” to do this. This year we chose some bright green hats with layers of tinsel and bells attached. They actually looked more like witches hats than Santa hats but still looked great. I deliberately glanced away at the onlookers of parents and kids patiently waiting in the queue, especially after we took several attempts to get a decent photo of us.

“Santa” didn’t say much to us and in some ways I was glad. I pretty much already know what I want for Christmas…feeling better about myself, self confidence, more friends, improved mental and physical health and happiness. We decided to get the “Blitzen” package this year which was the cheapest of all the options plus a musical snow globe that you can place one of the photos inside. I was still feeling tired and restless but I’m glad that we finally got our Santa photos done today. https://caseycentral.com.au/santa-at-casey-central/

On Friday morning, Mum and I attended the Celebrate…It’s Christmas musical show held inside the theatre at Bunjil Place in Narre Warren. Walking into the main foyer from the hot gusty winds outside, I really didn’t know what to expect. The foyer was absolutely packed with people, all having their morning tea and sitting in the lounge areas. There would have been well over 100 people in attendance and the atmosphere was buzzing.

Funnily enough, my anxiety levels were manageable and not bothering me too much. I guess my new medication must have finally kicked in. I really haven’t had the time to stop and reflect on whether these meds (Lexapro 10mg) have been improving my symptoms of depression and anxiety but I would say for the most part they have. Of course I still have moments where I still get easily flustered, distracted, annoyed or irritable but it’s very situational.

After we sat down to have our cuppas and cakes, we were invited to proceed to the theatre. This was actually my first time going inside and was pretty impressed with the space. It reminded me of perhaps a miniature version of the Regent Theatre in Melbourne. They had a towering Christmas tree in the back right-hard corner of the stage plus a large black grand piano with a beautiful garland across the side.

We had seats in the front row which was initially bothersome considering how high the stage is but I learned to adjust to it. After a brief introduction, we were greeted by musical director and pianist Vicky Jacobs as well as actor and singer Ian Stenlake and classically trained vocalist Michelle Fitzmaurice. Performing a mixture of traditional Christmas carols including Away In A Manger, Silent Night and , Ian also read some lovely (and often naughty) poems and messages from kids about what love means to them.

We were also graced by Michelle for several songs including renditions of Silver Bells, Angels We Have Heard On High and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. She reminded me a lot of Marina Prior with her huge operatic vocals being able to hit some impressive high notes. She rocked a stunning light blue dress with glittering embroidered gems.

Back to Ian. We learned that he was a star on the Australian drama series Sea Patrol and recollected a funny story about performing his own stunts and being terrified about it. He had also starred in several stage musicals including Guys & Dolls, Cabaret and Mama Mia. He then invited a lucky volunteer from the audience onto the stage to perform a few lines from the Guys & Dolls script which was very hysterical to watch. Luckily the woman took it all in her stride and just went with it.

The show ended with a duet of The Christmas Song performed by Ian and Michelle plus a few bars from We Wish You a Merry Christmas with linked arms and swaying from the audience. It was a very enjoyable, highly entertaining show with the right balance of songs, comedy and fun. I feel that the man who opened and closed the show was pushing his promotion of Ian and Michelle’s albums and the upcoming Bunjil Place events a bit too hard but that was my only criticism. https://www.bunjilplace.com.au/celebrateits-christmas

On Friday night, I went to a Strength & Circuit small group training session at CinFull Fitness in Narre Warren South. In the past, I probably would have played the “Fuck this! It’s too hot!” card but I’ve made a commitment to myself to keep up with my fitness goals and not let any challenge deter me. Weather is an uncontrollable variable but when it comes to training and exercise, things can always be modified or adjusted.

It was just the four of us tonight: myself, Cinamon GuerinAshley Hart and Sarah Hart. It didn’t take long for those anxious thoughts to begin creeping in (Why aren’t they talking to me? Why am I struggling so much? What if I pass out during the workout? Why can’t I seem to speak up and contribute to the conversations?). It can be tough accepting my difficulties when it comes to making or joining in conversations and my natural introversion. But I did my best to push these to the side and just focus on the workout.

I knew that I wasn’t training at 100% potential tonight but the extreme heat had a lot to do with that. I think I also had a lot of stuff on my mind about things I have to prepare for with my Christmas gathering tomorrow. Sadly there’s no “off switch” when it comes to my constant mental checklists (Have I bought enough drinks? Have I bought all the food? Have I got all my decorations and cards ready?). Again just focus my attention back onto the workout.

Tonight’s workout consisted of the following…Warm-up: 3 rounds of squats, push ups and dumbbell squat press (20 seconds each). AMRAP (15 minutes): dead ball slams, barbell squat press, kettle bell swings, tricep push ups, dumbbell overhead shoulder press (8-12 reps each). Circuit: 3 rounds of wall balls, alternating push-up plank holds, weighted hip thrusters, bench press, TRX bicep curls (30 seconds each).

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 132, November 2018

I have such a love-hate relationship when it comes to shopping and it generally slides into “hate” territory when it gets closer to Christmas. I find the notion of looking around for gift ideas in stores, driving to and from shopping centres, finding a parking spot and dealing with the general public to be an absolute chore at times. And yet I’m 100% determined to get all of my Christmas shopping done and dusted before December 1st when things get really crazy.

There is also the side of me that gets pleasure and excitement out of buying things and spending money. This is something that I’ve been recognising in myself for a couple of years now, that tendency to get impulsive and have urges to spend more than I earn. I’m sure that my Mesolimbic Dopamine Pathway, Amygdala and Nucleus Accumbens (responsible for emotions like pleasure and reward) light up like a Christmas tree whenever I see something I want to buy. https://www.neuroscientificallychallenged.com/blog/know-your-brain-reward-system

But the one thing I can do is have a plan. I spend time online doing research and write lists of things that I could potentially buy people before I physically hit the stores. That way I’m mentally prepared and know exactly which stores to visit and what items to purchase. It’s also good to wait until sales come up like the recent Black Friday Weekend so you’ll save money that way. I also have no shame in visiting variety stores and $2 shops when it comes to wrapping paper, cards, gift bags, stickers, decorations and stationary supplies. https://scottalanturner.com/christmas-shopping-on-a-budget/

I think I’ll always have moments of temptation but at least I’m more aware and conscious of my limits (including my credit card limit). Part of it is learning to have self-control and asking myself “Do I really need that?” instead of just automatically buying it without conscious thought. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate the emotion and guilt felt from spending too much money but it’s all a learning experience and can be managed. https://www.psychguides.com/guides/shopping-addiction-symptoms-causes-and-effects/

On Tuesday morning, I had my second appointment with Dr. Ricardo Peralta at Bayside Specialist Centre in Patterson Lakes. I was feeling noticeably more relaxed in the lead up to this visit, partly due to the fact that I didn’t spend the last month stewing or making predictions about it. I was still very prepared, making a back-up list of things to talk about but the truth is that I didn’t need it.

My confidence was still pretty shaky but I was feeling more relaxed and comfortable with Dr. Peralta this time around. I spent most of the session talking about my sleeping problems, both lack of good quality sleep and regular disrupted sleep. He offered the most obvious suggestions in terms of making adjustments to improve my sleep hygiene (avoiding daytime naps, limited caffeine and use of electronic devices close to bedtime, making the bedroom dark and comfortable, not eating a large meal before going to sleep). https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/sleep-hygiene

His suggestions were helpful and well meaning but didn’t really make a dent into the issue of what’s keeping me awake during the right and what’s brought on this insomnia in the first place. And so coming up with no further solutions, he decided to prescribe me 25mg Quetiapine (Seroquel) tablets. Whilst I was slightly alarmed about this, he did make some sensible recommendations including starting on a very low dose, only taking it on a “when required” basis, trying it out for two nights and being mindful of the side effects including weight gain and drowsiness. https://www.mydr.com.au/medicines/cmis/apo-quetiapine-tablets

When it comes to improving my sleep, I’ve tried every single natural remedy you can think of. Lavender sprays, weighted blankets, herbal teas and vitamins, aromatherapy candles, a vapouriser machine, reading, using meditation and mindfulness techniques, listening to calming music, running a warm bath. I’ve had some degrees of success with each of these but none of them have been very long lasting or consistently effective. https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/insomnia-sleep-remedies/

So meditation is my last resort. I have to admit that I’m pretty hesitant about trying meds out to help with my sleep but Dr. Peralta has assured me that this is a non addictive drug and 25mg is basically nothing compared to larger doses needed to treat conditions such as bipolar and schizophrenia. He’s been very nurturing and professional so far and I don’t have much reason to doubt this reasoning so I’m going to give it a try and see how it goes. https://www.nps.org.au/australian-prescriber/articles/concerns-about-quetiapine-3

On Tuesday afternoon, Mum and I drove down to Mornington and stayed overnight at the Mornington Hotel. This venue was located on Nepean Highway, very close by to the Main Street of Mornington. A typical venue with a Sports Bar, Bistro, Gaming area and accommodation suites located upstairs. Mum was lucky enough to book number 21 which contained a massive spa bath and twin showers as well as a large family room, outdoor balcony and master bedroom. I slept on the made-up trundle bed which was super comfy. http://www.morningtonhotel.com.au/accommodation/

On Wednesday morning, we drove down to the Main Street in Mornington for the markets. The locals put up several stalls offering their wares including fruit and veggies, crafts, jewellery, art work, fragrances, candles and essential oils. The street was buzzing with people and dogs of every breed you could think of plus plenty of seagulls swooping in from the beach. This is the area I would love to live one day, somewhere on the peninsula near the coast. http://mainstreetmornington.com.au/mornington-main-street-market/

We dropped into a few gift shops before having lunch at the The Grand Hotel Mornington. I decided to order the crispy chicken tenders with salad as I wasn’t feeling overly hungry and didn’t want to get myself too bloated. Later that afternoon, we went down to Mornington Central for a coffee and yet more shopping at Target, Coles and the local variety shop. By 3-3.30, we were both stuffed and ready to head home again. https://www.morningtoncentral.com.au/

On Thursday morning, I attended a group job interview for a new Team Member position with Officeworks at the XXL Mentone store, which will be open in March 2019. The interview was held at the Chadstone store on the corner of Warrigul Road and Waverley Road. Considering that this isn’t my first rodeo, I decided to take a slightly different approach to today…essentially not get myself worked up over it.

I basically distracted my mind and tried hard not to get caught up in worrying thoughts about what might go wrong or if I’m going to fuck this interview up. The reality is that I will always experience some level of anxiety at a job interview but I was trying my hardest to reduce it and make it more manageable. Driving to Chadstone, of course I had to deal with the morning peak hour traffic with lots of cars and trucks merging across on the Monash Freeway.

But it was very nostalgic for me especially driving along Huntingdale Road and Waverley Road, seeing the area I used to grow up in. I arrived with 15 minutes to spare and so I waited in the tea room with the other applicants. Eventually we were lead upstairs to some kind of board or meeting room with several tables each with name tags, pens, markers, notepads, lollies and chocolates.

It didn’t take long for those symptoms of anxiety to spike up: getting easily flustered, shaking hands and sweating. Yet I felt much calmer than in previous group interviews. I think the warm welcome and casual approach of the Officeworks team members had a lot to do with that, putting our minds at ease. The five other people at my table seemed very easy going as well.

The email explained that “you will be involved in several fun activities (customer service and team based) in order for you and us to determine suitability to the role and Officeworks.” I’m not sure that fun would be the adjective I would use to describe these group activities. More like daunting and anxiety provoking. Still it could have been a lot worse.

Firstly, we had to introduce ourselves in the group and tell everyone an item on our bucket lists. Most people were going for overseas travel and personally I didn’t want to give them a predictable, following the sheep answer. So I went for something more simple and said that I’d love to live somewhere near the beach ideally in the Mornington Peninsula area. BORING! My mind replied. I really didn’t care because that was a truthful answer.

Our first activity was to build the highest tower using a handful of playing cards, some blue-tack and whatever items we had on the table. Sounded easy enough but I knew that this task was about demonstrating team work and leadership skills. I’ve always seen myself as a naturally born follower with no traces of leadership in my blood whatsoever. And so I was mostly just lingering in the background, doing my best to get involved, even just sticking some cards together and trying not to lead the tower collapse.

The second activity was more up my alley. We were each given a photograph showing a customer in the store in a particular situation. My one was a lady looking at a shelf full of folders. We then individually had to identity the customer needs, explain how we would greet the customer and describe what bigger things you could offer the customer.

I basically said that the customer probably needs a folder to store some documents like bills, bank statements and invoices. I could use open questions like “Is there anything I can help you with today? Do you have a favourite colour in mind? How much can you spend today? Are you after one or two folders?” And also making sure that she has everything that she needs like pens, paper and display pockets before closing the conversation with a farewell greeting.

All of this looks easy on paper but being able to present all of this to the group was daunting as hell. Public speaking will always been an area for me that I’ll continue to struggle with. I absolutely hate doing it because all the signs of nervousness are there in my voice. And yet I still managed to pull through and do it, even with my shaky, monotone voice and notes in hand. Hopefully the team was looking at content as well as presentation skills.

During the session, each of us had to do a brief 1 on 1 interview with one of the Officeworks team members. It was pretty nerve-racking and yet I seemed to have all of the answers she needed from my current work experience to why I want to work at Officeworks to my personal strengths, availability and store preferences. Again I was doing better than I expected despite how I was feeling inside.

The final activity involved working as a group to sell two products to the group. My group had a digital camera and a label maker. This was probably the most difficult task for me as it involved having a degree of performance art skills aka acting. I know for a fact that I suck at acting and so I knew that whatever I did would have to be small and not the main focus.

So I decided to talk about the features of the label maker as it was the most straight forward part to do. Of course my anxiety was trying hard to make my life a living hell (What if you don’t say anything and make a fool of yourself? What if you stumble over your words? What if everybody laughs at you? What if you let your group down?). But none of these things happened and we managed to wing our selling skills presentation pretty well.

Walking out of the Officeworks Chadstone store, I was filled with a mixture of relief and elation. This group interview could have been an absolute train wreck and yet I managed to do a really decent job despite all the obvious challenges I had in front of me. I FUCKING DID IT and that was a wonderful feeling to have, that sense of achievement.

The thought ran through my head “Could I actually be a successful applicant and get a job at Officeworks?”. You never know. I guess using things like mindfulness and grounding techniques helped a lot too and just being myself rather than trying to impress the Officeworks team members was the way to go. https://www.officeworks.com.au/careers-opportunities

On Thursday night, I went to a Body Pump class at YMCA Casey RACE in Cranbourne East. Considering how inconsistent my fitness training has been this year, I was deliberately taking it easy tonight with regards to the heaviness of my loads. I was going for mostly light weights as I haven’t been doing many exercises using weights lately and didn’t want to injure myself. Still I managed to work up a sweat and feel the burn especially on that dreaded lunge track!

We had a fill in instructor tonight named Kim who guided us through release number 105. Tracks include The Man by The Killers, What About Us by P!nk, Champion by Fall Out Boy, How Do You Feel Right Now (FUCKING SORE!) by Axwell Ingrosso and Sweat by The Al American Rejects. I honestly didn’t start feeling fatigued until we started doing lunges, squats, push ups, bicep curls, dumbell flys and crunches in the second half of the workout but it felt really good afterwards. https://www.siphilp.com/les-mills-bodypump-105-music-track-listing.aspx

On Friday night, I decided to check out the Casey RACE Twilight Market. I really didn’t know what to expect, if it would be big or small, whether I’d actually buy anything. On first glance, there wasn’t much to offer. Some kids clothing, beanie bears, candles and essential oils, bracelets, men’s fragrances, miniature motorbikes and car-related gift sets plus they had a sausage sizzle on near the entrance to Casey RACE.

I almost wasn’t going to buy anything until a young girl called out to me after I finished my workout inside. She asked if I wanted to buy some play dough. It was homemade, each one placed inside a small round Chinese container. They were appropriately dyed in red and green for Christmas. My impulses kicked in and I decided to buy three of them. Perhaps it was my generous heart making the decision for me but I figured hey I could use the play dough as a form of meditative stress relief so it’s not a waste of money. Plus I love helping out the community so there’s my reason!

“Even when your friends make a mess. Fail the test. Just keep walking. Even when my blood boils hard. I won’t stop. I’ll still be there. My father always said to be strong. When you’re wronged. And rise above it like he did. Sometimes all that it takes is forgiveness to cross a bridge.” Shannon Noll – Cross A Bridge (2018)

“A part unknown so far away. Feels like everything’s in vain. ‘Cause you can’t seem to make a change. Can’t imagine better days. You’re happy man, you wanna be. The scales and stars that you can reach. But you know some day today will be. Just a memory. It’s never too late to call. When you can’t take anymore. Remember you can break your fall. A little by little. There’s a time and place and what I’ve found. That present time is here and now. It’s never too late to take the wheel and turn this thing around.” Shannon Noll – Never Too Late (2018)

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 131, November 2018

On Monday night, I attended a Yin yoga class with Aaron Petty at Level Up Yoga in Berwick. Tonight was a last class before Aaron heads off on his trip to Bali for 3 weeks to do an intensive training course. It was a 30 degree hot humid day outside but I really didn’t want to miss this class as I’ve been putting off my yoga practice again recently. It was unusually packed in the studio but being Aaron’s last class a few weeks, I should have suspected that. Thank goodness that the air-con and ceiling fans were turned up or else I would have been sweating heaps.

Aaron guided up through a series of yin style poses including caterpillar, toe squat, straitjacket pose and leg extensions with strap. I found these all to be particularly challenging with my pain and discomfort threshold being tested as well as my annoying anxious mind on rapid fire (Am I doing this right? Oh shit, my strap’s twisted. God this hurts so much! My legs look like a mangled mess). But I did my best to not get caught up in those thoughts and just focus on breathing and releasing. https://www.yinyoga.com/ys2_2.0_asanas_toe_squat.php

I also tend to get myself emotional during Yin classes mostly because there’s a microscopic focus on me and that can be quite confronting at times. Loving yourself is one of the most difficult things to do but also one of the most important things. Hence why I often find it so hard. It helps to connect with positive affirmations like “I deserve to be here practicing yoga. I am worthy. I do belong in this yoga community. I am not alone. I am accepted and welcome.” http://www.annieauyoga.com/library/2018/6/13/your-emotional-self-care-guide-in-yin-yoga

Saying goodbye to Aaron is still something I find painfully awkward to do. And it’s not just him either. It’s the internal pressure of knowing exactly what to say and when to hit the exit. But I made it short, sweet and simple. “Have fun in Bali.” Was there anything more to say? Not really. I’m not the type to ramble on about what’s going on in my life because that’s not how I roll. Still it was nice to see him showing that he cares and I’m excited for his trip away though I can’t pretend that I won’t be missing him. Namaste. https://www.aaronpetty.com/

On Thursday morning, I went down to Centrelink Cranbourne office to apply for the Disability Support Pension. This has been a long term goal for me this year and it’s taken me a few months to be prepared for it. There were quite a few obstacles in my way and several people who advised against applying for it but I stuck to my guns, making sure that I filled out all the forms correctly and gathered enough medical evidence, pay slips, bank statements, and letters to even bother trying for it. https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension/eligibility/how-we-assess-your-disability-or-condition

When it comes to the Centrelink system, I feel like there are harsh, unfair and unrealistic expectations placed on individuals who actually need their services and benefits. You have to jump through so many different hoops and meet often ridiculous eligibility criteria just to even be considered hence why I wasn’t exactly in a rush to get this done right away. Still I have legitimate diagnoses of depression, anxiety and high functioning autism so it’s not like cheating the system or doing it to get on A Current Affair. https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension/eligibility

So, in a way, I am doing this to prove the naysayers wrong and make big decisions on my own. But more importantly, I need the DSP in order to supplement my income which I continue to struggle with week to week. Of course people could argue that I should just get another job or increase my hours at my current job but sadly it’s just not that simple and it’s not like I haven’t tried those avenues either. It won’t be an easy road but I’m prepared to tackle and push through any bumps I need to get through. https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension/claiming/claiming-form

Walking into the Centrelink office, I was already feeling quite nervous. No amount of green decor was going to settle my nerves. This was a pretty big deal for me, months of preparation and I didn’t want to fuck it up. I decided to bring my Mum along just in case I did crumble to dust. The best way to deal with this level of anxiety is to throw humour at it and what better way than to think about Centrelink memes. I waited around 30-40 minutes or so and then my name was called up.

A lady named Emma served me, who was physically disabled herself and appeared to have dwarfism. Thankfully she was really nice and just asked me for all the required forms and supporting documentation for the claim. I don’t think I could have been more organised, though she was giving the photocopier a good workout with all the paper she had to make copies of. I asked her “How long do you expect it will take to get a decision?” She said 6-8 weeks which I expected but now that it’s done, I feel a huge sense of relief now.

On Thursday afternoon, I booked my first appointment to see an Occupational Therapist from Everyday Independence in about two weeks time. Last week at the Disability Expo, I only had a vague concept of what an Occupational Therapist actually does and still don’t really know for sure. But I figured I would give them a shot and considering I have NDIS funding, I don’t have much to lose over it. I mostly want to focus on improving my self confidence, social skills, making friends and at some point, living independently. Hopefully the OT can help me achieve some or all of those goals. https://www.everydayind.com.au/our-therapies/occupational-therapy/

On Thursday night, I had my final Sleep Intervention Workshop held at La Trobe University Psychology Clinic in Bundoora. Prior to arriving, I received my actiwatch in the mail via express post which I’ll have to wear again for another week. This will basically be comparing the results from the first period and see if there’s been any improvement with my sleep. I engaged in my usual Maccas run though time wasn’t playing nice today. I literally had to scoff my food and coffee down (That’s NOT being mindful…oops!).

Tonight’s session was run by Eric and Alexa with Associate Professor Amanda “Mandy” Richdale joining in. Alexa guided us through a short mindfulness exercise which involved using the five senses: touch, smell, hearing, taste and sight, using a raisin. Next, they attempted to tie all the concepts and techniques that we’ve learned together as well as discuss the importance of having values to focus on. Basically trying to work on living a fulfilling life can in turn help to improve your sleep. Some of my important values include: accepting myself, loving others, creativity, imagination, embracing the moment and seeing possibilities.

We also did some short term goal setting which is perfect considering we are getting close to the end of 2018. I wrote down: catching up with friends and family, going out for dinner or drinks, losing weight and improving my fitness levels, going for regular walks, attending art exhibitions and galleries, producing artwork again and getting back into study. It was a good exercise as I usually don’t do it often enough as my mind gets caught up in other commitments and responsibilities. https://www.latrobe.edu.au/otarc

The last part of the session involved creating a plan for the next 6 weeks to make sure that we’re prepared when insomnia comes back. It breaks everything down into sizable chunks week by week and details many of the techniques that we’ve learned about during these workshops such as mindfulness and defusion of thoughts, feelings and emotions, building a new sleep routine and practicing acceptance. Eric then gave us each a $25 gift card for our participation in the study. https://aspergersvic.org.au/Research-Requests

Reflecting back on the last few weeks, it’s good to know that this is the first research study I have fully committed myself to. I didn’t let the physical distance, lack of motivation, low mood and energy levels stop me from finishing it off because I do believe that improving my sleep is something worthwhile to invest time into. It’s been a problem for me for at least 2 or 3 years now and that’s significant as it affects my daily functioning and ability to enjoy life. So hopefully it’ll have some long lasting benefits for me. https://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why.aspx

On Friday morning, I started doing my Christmas shopping at Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre and Westfield Fountain Gate! Trust me to forget that it happened to be BLACK FRIDAY today so of course getting a parking spot was painful as hell. Also it’s this time of the year when my anxiety levels tend to increase more readily especially when it comes to impatient shoppers and drivers. The rainy weather outside certainly wasn’t helping matters either. It didn’t take long before I was getting stalked in the carpark.

IT’S THE MOST STRESSFUL (WONDERFUL) TIME OF THE YEAR! I briefly met up with Mum and my hairdresser Katrina, dropping into shops like Kmart, Target, Dusk and some $2 variety stores before I knew that I was ready to collapse with my shopping bags. I’m also learning that it’s okay to break things up, that I don’t necessarily have to do all my Christmas shopping in one hit. I put limits on myself for how much I’m able to handle and it’s a good thing because the last thing I want to do is burn myself out before Christmas Day.

On Friday night, I went to my HIIT Boxing class with Cinamon Guerin at CinFull Fitness. Boxing is both physically and mentally challenging. It takes a lot of effort, focus, concentration and practice to learn all the movements, techniques and combos. I’m fortunate that this group of clients is endlessly patient with me because I do worry that I’ll drop the ball at times. Anxiety is an unwelcome heckler trying hard to get me to give up and I’m able to shove it further and further into the background now.

Even though these small group training sessions are tough, it always feels good to finish them. My fitness level is irrelevant. To me, it’s more about what I can do rather than keeping up with the others. It’s a shift that’s taken me months to learn and remember. As a few people have told me, your only competition is yourself. Push ups are still one of the hardest exercises for me and yet I was smashing them out tonight at my own pace. It can only get better and easier over time.

On Saturday morning, I voted for Gary Maas – Labor for NWS at Strathaird Primary School. Generally speaking, I usually vote for the Australian Labor Party as most of my values align with their policies. Workers rights, public transport, infrastructure, education, mental health issues and autism are the big issues for me this State Election and Gary Maas ticks all of those boxes. https://www.viclabor.com.au/mp/maas-gary/

I’ve noticed that the Liberal candidate, Susan Serey, has had her face plastered on signs and flyers all around the Narre Warren South area. I guess their logic is that using dominant visual exposure will help secure more votes but to me, this screams of desperation. I haven’t seen her put many proposals forward for this election so I’m far from convinced that I should be voting for her. https://vic.liberal.org.au/SusanSerey

When it comes to Matthew Guy, he seems like a typical Liberal politician. All talk and all business. Coming off like a shady used car salesman with his “plan” to get Victoria back in control. Just like Scott Morrison, he’s just not very likable to me. https://www.matthewguy.com.au/

Daniel Andrews has done a lot of hard work for this state especially in the areas of workers rights, public transport and infrastructure. He has begun work on the Melbourne Metro and West Gate tunnels, removed many level-crossings on various train lines and upgraded several train stations, invested in free TAFE courses, building more schools and TAFE campuses, recruited more police officers, increased employment rate and job vacancies. http://www.cesarmelhem.com.au/andrews-labor-government-economic-achievements/

He is far from perfect but his achievements far outweigh his flaws in my opinion. Plus he has many great optimistic plans for the future if he ends up being re-elected. https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/state/vic/2018/11/20/victorian-election-policy-comparison-daniel-andrews-matthew-guy/

On Saturday night, I attended my work Christmas party held in the Common Room at Berwick Inn. When it comes to most social functions, my first instinct is to run for the hills and this potentially could have been the case tonight. I guess I wasn’t anticipating the huge turnout and therefore how much the space was creating bottlenecks and human traffic congestion. It’s moments like those where I literally need my own space to breathe.

However it was really lovely to see many team members tonight, both who I currently work with and a handful who have transferred stores, resigned or retired. Still being an introvert and autistic, social situations will always be challenging for me. Not knowing what to do, who to talk to, what to talk about but I generally gravitate towards people I feel comfortable around. There also becomes a point where I get easily bored and restless.

I decided to wear a black Christmas themed sweater with colourful Santas, bells, trees and snowflakes on it as well as a classic red Santa hat. It’s probably the one stereotypical trait that I don’t tick as an introverted person: putting myself out there with my outfit. Possibly because I want to make an impression and get people’s attention in a good way. I left shortly after the Visions & Values awards were announced as energetically I was spent and needed to rest. But I’m glad I made the effort to come out even for a short while.

“S-P-I-R-I-T, it’s great to see. We got it, the spirit. Hey, hey, let’s hear it. Said we couldn’t go the distance, yeah. Look at us, we’re going the distance. They just wanna be us. They don’t wanna see us.” Mariah Carey featuring Ty Dolla $ign – The Distance (2018)

“It wasn’t really much at all, just a little sensitivity, yeah that’s all. Here in my heart is where you should be, ooh you are. Giving me life and it’s everything. Thinkin’ ’bout when we were seventeen. Living like Babs ’cause it’s Evergreen. Here in my arms is where you should be.” Mariah Carey featuring Slick Rick & Blood Orange – Giving Me Life (2018)

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MARIAH CAREY – CAUTION (ALBUM REVIEW)

“Caution” is the fifteenth studio album from the New York-born singer-songwriter and diva Mariah Carey. After such a lengthy musical career, you would think at this point that Mariah would have nothing left to offer her fans (aka her “Lambily”…Yeah don’t ask!) but surprisingly she delivers one of her best albums in over a decade.

Her previous album, 2014’s Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse wasn’t a bad album by any stretch but it suffered from being stuffed with far too many filler tracks and only a handful of decent songs. But these paled in quality compared to her best work in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Taking a four year break from the spotlight has proven to be a wise move by Carey as it’s allowed her to refocus her talents and switch up her roster of producers and songwriters. Caution is simultaneously a throwback to her mid-1990’s heyday and a progressive step into the modern R&B landscape. But instead of simply recycling her older style, she ups the ante and embraces a more updated sound.

Mariah has enlisted an impressive cast of collaborators on this new album including Nineteen85, DJ Mustard, Skrillex and Timbaland which offers lush, laidback vibes, funky guitar solos and catchy propulsive beats. The guest rappers Ty Dolla $ign, Slick Rick and Gunna seem like they were naturally included rather than just simply phoned-in. Plus at only 10 tracks long, this album is focused only on top quality bangers and cuts out all the rest.

Lyrically, she’s never sounded better either. She offers stern warnings to ex-lovers (GFTO, Caution, A No No), flaunts her romantic charms (With You, One Mo’ Gen, Stay Long Love You), celebrates her strengths and longevity (The Distance) and also reveals her vulnerable side in the emotional piano-ballad closer, Portait. Putting on a brave face, she wonders “Where do I go from here? How do I disappear? Here beyond the looking glass. Somewhere off the beaten path”.

The centerpiece of the album lies in Giving Me Life, a 6 minute epic which features dialogue from the 1983 film Trading Places and boasts really sleek, ultra-modern production from Blood Orange. It’s one of the best tracks Mariah has released in her entire career which is a pretty impressive feat after over 30 years in the music industry.

Overall, while Caution does have its flaws and imperfections, it is still the best album Mariah has put out since 2005’s The Emancipation of Mimi and brings all of her strengths to the table. Her famous whistle register is more muted this time around but still lingers in the background. Here it’s more about Mariah’s emotional delivery and consistency rather than hitting the high notes on every song. 9/10

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STEPSON (SPRING TOUR) w/ After Touch, Windwaker & Future Static @ Wrangler Studio, November 2018

My attendance at local gigs this year has been patchy and inconsistent to say the least. I’m very hard on myself in this respect but I’m learning to be more gentle and kind. I do have justifiable reasons as to why I’ve been so absent this year, with my focus being on more important priorities in my life (NDIS application process and planning, mental health issues, counselling and therapy, medication transition, work commitments, attending autistic and aspergers friendly social functions and educational training courses).

Most gigs lie a long distance away from where I live out in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne so they’re not exactly around the corner from me. However, if a decent quality show does “spring” up, then I will put in all my time, energy and efforts into make it. And this was the case today, having to take time off work for the sake of a) supporting bands that I actually give a shit about, b) having a social life and c) giving myself some “me time”.

Before heading down to Wrangler Studios, I decided to come down to Strathaird Primary School Carnival for a couple of hours. They had all the classic carnival staples there including popcorn and cotton candy, food vans, a farm animal petting zoo, rides, raffles, books, silent auctions, market stalls and showbags. It was like being at the Melbourne show but just more affordable and less crowded. I picked up a couple of bath bombs from the Salts of the Earth Narre Warren South stand as well as a bacon and egg roll and a latte.

Whilst I was doing my best to enjoy myself, my brain was also being very time conscious as I didn’t want to arrive at the gig late. Still it was nice to properly enjoy my day off work for once. Annoyingly, I missed my train by a few seconds so I had to wait for the next one. I was sitting in a carriage with a bunch of loud, distracting poms and bitchy mums behind me as well as my ex-supervisor directly in front of me. It figures! So I chose to look out the window instead and enjoy the scenery outside. It certainly wasn’t a boring train trip that’s for sure.

Walking down to Wrangler, I could already feel the heat penetrating my skin. It was a sunny 28 degree day and it certainly felt like it. I was running late due to waiting for trains but it could have been worse. I never really know what to expect whenever I walk into a venue but here my eyes were adjusting to the darkness and was suffering from temporary sun blindness. Still I recognised the silohuttes directly in my path…Liam Guinane and Chris Lalic from Windwaker. It was really good to see them both.

My brain often goes through cycles of over thinking especially in social situations. Why didn’t they acknowledge me or say hi to me or recognise me? Do they hate me? Is there something wrong with me? These negative thoughts are far from true nor are they helpful. It’s so easy to get caught up in overthinking especially when you’ve had mental illness for a number of years. It’s not exactly like a switch you can flick on or off.

But now I’ve learned to use CBT therapy, meditation, mindfulness, counselling and think about some alternative rational explanations. Maybe they don’t remember who I am. Maybe they’re distracted and caught up in thought. Maybe they’re in their own bubble. And then I don’t feel so bad. Breaking the ice is still a difficult barrier for me as gigs especially when I never know how to approach a group of people in conversation and in a dimly lit venue like Wrangler, it’s even worse.

Also when it comes to the local music scene, I have this to say: I AM 32 YEARS OLD AND STILL FUCKING RELEVANT! It’s still a fear of mine that I’m continuing to work on demolishing. Getting older doesn’t mean you’re suddenly worthless. This year in particular has been a tough one for me and yet I’ve overcome hurdles and gotten stronger. I may not be as physically present as I used to be at local shows but I’m still supporting and promoting it as strongly as ever.

FUTURE STATIC…As explained above, I missed the first few songs of Future Static’s set but thankfully not too much. It’s been a few months since I last saw this four-piece Alternative Pop-Punk band from Melbourne. They were bringing the positive vibes into the venue quite quickly with plenty of singalong moments and catchy melodies.                                                                                          Set List: Want, Daylight, Hits Home, Too Far Down. https://futurestaticband.bandcamp.com/album/want

WINDWAKER…Will Windwaker be the next Northlane? Stay tuned in 2019! All jokes and speculation aside (to be honest, I’m not really joking), I do think that this five-piece Alternative Melodic Metalcore band have grown enormously in the past 12 months and has a tonne of potential, creating killer hooks, epic solos and basslines, developing a stronger approach to songwriting and continuing to up the ante with their live musical performances.

Vocalist Will King was very confident and engaging with the audience, balancing his powerful vocals with that of Liam Guinane’s in a two-for-one punch. As was guitarist Jesse Crofts, looking like a miniature version of Dave Grohl and delivering some banging technical riffs. If the new unreleased tracks are anything to go by, these boys are destined for even bigger things to come in 2019.                                                                                                                   Set List: Castaway, New Infinite, Take Me With You, cover of Bring Me The Horizon’s Can You Feel My Heart.                                                           https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/new-infinite-single/1362633023

AFTER TOUCH…Before today, I really didn’t know anything about this five-piece Melodic Post-Hardcore band from Shell Harbour, New South Wales. The band delivered plenty of tight guitar riffs with lots of addictive energy, clean vocals, passionate screams and sweeping electronic samples. Their debut EP You Wish This Was About You was released a couple of months ago on UNFD. Frontman Max Pasalic was quite intimate with the crowd and delivered a lot of emotion in his vocal range. Set List: Use Me, I Heard. https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/you-wish-this-was-about-you-ep/1409868462

STEPSON…Some time after the release of The Beautiful Lie, I got spun out of the loop from everything Stepson related. But now I’m back and it seems as though the Brisbane-based Melodic Hardcore/Pop-Punk band have gone back to their roots and discovered a new found energy since I last saw them play nearly 2 years ago. They managed to get the small collective crowd together to help out with mic grabs and singalongs, particularly with their older songs. The boys are planning to release their debut album sometime next year so stay tuned for that. Set List: Twelve, This Is How It Feels, TV, Never Mind Me, Come With Me, Leave Me Alone. https://stepsonpunk.bandcamp.com/track/come-with-me

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 130, November 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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