NICKELBACK: FEED THE MACHINE AUSTRALIAN TOUR w/ Bad Wolves @ Rod Laver Arena, February 2019

It’s been 15 years since I last saw the Canadian-based Hard Rock outfit Nickelback live in concert. It was 2004 and I was still in high school finishing my VCE. Safe to say that I was sweating their albums Silver Side Up and The Long Road pretty hard back then and still do now. Since then, they have released a further 5 studio albums and they range from painfully average (see Here and Now, No Fixed Address) to solid (All The Right Seasons, Dark Horse) to their best in a long time (their latest album Feed The Machine).

For the most part, they do stick to a formula that works for them in terms of songwriting, lyrical content and musical structure. They did try to experiment with electro-rock, dance pop and rap beats but it really backfired on them tremendously as it came across as superficial. Nickelback are at their best when they’re brutally honest and pulling no punches. Of course they still have their fair share of haters and detractors but that never seems to stop their creative energy and passion to create music.

The 2017 album Feed The Machine sees the band combining influences such as grunge rock, synth rock and heavy metal plus writing about important topics such as political corruption, dealing with past mistakes and toxic relationships, true love and not being afraid to stand up for what you believe in. It was a big return to form for the band and shows that they still have plenty of talent left in the tank. The concert, held at Rod Laver Arena, started at 7.30pm with opening act Bad Wolves.

BAD WOLVES are a five-piece Heavy Metal / Progressive Rock band from Los Angeles, California. I really didn’t know what to expect going in to see this band but I was pleasantly surprised. Lead vocalist Tommy Vext made a great impression from his ability to switch between rapid-fire free flowing raps and clean vocals. Despite his intimidating stature, he actually comes across as a very humble, easy going guy. He openly spoke about his attempt at suicide, highlighting the importance of support from loved ones and that you never know what somebody might be going through.

Musically, this band is very wild and intense with heavy chugging riffs and huge guitar solos. They played several tracks from their debut album Disobey including Hear Me Now, Officer Down and Remember When. They also pulled out a few surprise covers including Queens Of The Stone Age’s No One Knows and System Of A Down’s Chop Suey. The band ended their set with a special tribute to the sudden passing of Vinnie Paul from Pantera. Tommy asked everyone to raise their phone screens and lighters up for their cover of The Cranberries’ song Zombie which was a really special moment.

NICKELBACK certainly packed a lot of material into their two-hour concert tonight. It generally played out like a greatest hits package but with a few unexpected twists and turns. They had a girl in the audience named Jess performing guitar on stage for Animals. Two audience members got invited up to sing karaoke style to their track Rockstar. The bloke certainly had a lot of charm and charisma whilst the girl didn’t know the lyrics but improvised anyway. Plus bassist Ryan Peake and drummer Daniel Adair had a crack at being lead vocalists on a couple of songs.

Whether you love Nickelback or hate them, one thing is for sure: they are hysterically funny on stage. Vocalist Chad Kroeger was doing shots of Jagger throughout the show courtesy of stageman Brad. Visually, the stage was mesmerizing and dazzling to look at. The display screens showed close-ups of each of the band members plus shots of the audience. There were also some animated sequences like spacey fractal patterns, burning flames, a high security door and a classic hot rod.

I truly felt connected with all of the other Nickelback fans’ energies combined. There were plenty of sing-a-longs, laugh-out-loud moments and hand claps. I think the thing I appreciate most about Nickelback is they aren’t afraid of being themselves. I’ve always resonated with their positive, life-affirming messages in their lyrical content as well as raising important social and political issues such as poverty, world hunger, greed, power and corruption.

My only criticism would have to be the lack of tracks from Feed The Machine. Considering this tour was promoting that album in particular, it would have made more sense to include a generous dose of tracks in the set list like Song On Fire, After The Rain, Home or The Betrayal (Act III). It was a strange choice indeed only to have the title track in tonight’s set list but alas you can’t have everything.

Set List: Feed The Machine, Figured You Out, Hangnail, Something In Your Mouth, Someday, Photograph, Animals, Far Away, Rockstar, Gotta Be Somebody, When We Stand Together, Hero, Lullaby, How You Remind Me, What Are You Waiting For?, Million Miles An Hour, Burn It To The Ground.

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 143, February 2019

On Monday night, I went to my Boxing small group training session at CinFull Fitness. Quite a few people were running late so Cinamon and I were wondering if anyone was going to turn up for tonight’s class. Luckily, Jade, Patrick, James and Scarlett ended up coming in the end. Tonight’s workout consisted of: several boxing drills, med ball slams and kettle bell squats (5 reps +5 each round), 3 rounds of walking lunges, 10 squats and 10 push ups, one minute of jab box combos (increasing by 1-2 reps).

I was struggling a little tonight. Maybe it was due to my sleeping problems, lack of energy during the day, lack of air circulation, group performance anxiety, who knows? But I feel like my boxing technique is gradually improving. At times, I do miss a rep or forget a movement but I just keep going, keep trying and keep striving. Thankfully the weather outside was pretty mild and not overly hot so I could breathe and recover easily.

On Tuesday night, I did my Body Balance class with Astrid Christophersen at YMCA Casey RACE. The weather was acting particularly strange tonight. One minute it was clearing up, the next it delivered another downpour of rain. Luckily I was undercover inside the group fitness room when it did decide to come down. Tonight we ended up doing release number 68 which consists of tracks including Of The Night by Bastille, Elastic Heart by Sia, Come Get It Bae by Pharell Williams, Maps by Maroon 5 and Pretty Hurts by Beyonce.

It was generally a pretty cruisey release with a double Tai Chi Warm Up to start. Sun Salutations & Standing Strength (Mountain pose, Downward Facing Dog, Plank, Crocodile, Intense pose, Warrior 1 into Warrior 3. Triangle pose. Side Angle pose). Balance & Hip Openers (Eagle pose, Angel pose, Star pose, Divers pose, Frog pose, Swan pose with quad stretch). Pilates (Oblique twists with crunches, Extended toe taps, Bridge pose, Arm balances, Crocodile pose). Twists (Seated twist, Twisted Down Dog, Twisted Pyramid pose). Hamstrings (Supine Hamstring stretch, Turtle pose, Wide Legged Forward Fold).

On Thursday morning, I had an appointment to see my psychiatrist Dr. Ricardo Peralta at Vita Healthcare in Mount Eliza. Today it honestly felt like I had a snowball of pressure mounting up inside of me. It didn’t help that I was feeling weary and restless either. It was difficult to tell if my medication (50mg Quetiapine) was actually having a benefit besides making me sleep for longer. Sadly it wasn’t doing much for my energy levels during the day as I’ve felt a steep decline this week.

The 50 minute drive from home to Vita Healthcare honestly felt like a chore possibly because I had a large to-do list to get through today. Annoyingly, I felt sleepy the entire time behind the wheel which meant that I had to dig up extra energy to concentrate and focus more on the road. I relaxed a little when I finally arrived at the clinic, though it didn’t take long for me to get really flustered and nervous. I guess I really didn’t want this appointment to be a waste of time and actually get my money’s worth. (Dr. Ricardo is NOT cheap to see but he’s worth it!).

It didn’t spend much time beating around the bush, I got straight to the heart of the matter: my sleeping problems and low energy levels. I asked him whether he knew of a sleep specialist that I could see in order to get a sleep study done and come up with an official diagnosis. Thankfully he did and he wrote me up a referral to see one located at Wattletree Consulting Rooms in Frankston. Now the next step will be to book an appointment with them and hopefully they can work out why my sleep has been so terrible.

I couldn’t explain why I was feeling so anxious today. Perhaps it could be related to the unstable and inconsistent weather this month, my poor sleeping patterns, not eating the right foods, my mood swings, high stress levels from work. Could be a whole lot of things. But things felt a lot more smoother today at the clinic with the receptionist processing my medicare rebate and booking another appointment for me. Unlike my last visit in which everything felt like it was up in the air.

On Thursday night, I cooked a basic fish and chips with steamed vegetables for dinner. This was probably the easiest meal I’ve done so far and thank goodness for that because I haven’t been feeling particularly energetic recently. Following this recipe, you start by mixing chopped herbs, olive oil and lemon juice together. This will be the coating for your fish at the end. Then you can fry up the fish fillets in a frying pan. I bought the blue grenadier as they were on special at Coles. Whilst this is happening, you can cook up some frozen chips in the oven and steamed vegetables in the microwave. That’s pretty much it.

On Friday morning, I caught up with my Mum and her friend Jules for coffee at Degani Cranbourne Park. We spent an hour talking about our experiences with driving tests, Jules’ recent overseas trips to Scotland and the Northern Territory (Watch out for those crocs!) to our poor sleeping patterns and finding sustainable employment. It was a nice time even with all the visual and auditory distractions that a large shopping centre tends to bring.

On Friday night, Mum and I went out to the movies to see Escape Room at Village Cinemas Fountain Gate. *START SPOILERS* Directed by Adam Robitel (Insidious: The Last Key), this film combines elements from Saw, Cube and Final Destination and is based upon the idea of real-life escape rooms. Six strangers get send a mysterious package containing a black cube and once opened, they discover that they’re each invited to participate in an escape room challenge hosted by MINOS ESCAPE ROOMS. There is a cash prize of $10,000 up for grabs for the winner.

Let’s run through each of the strangers. Zoey Davis (Taylor Russell) is a quiet achiever, has a shy personality and university student studying Quantum Physics. Ben Miller (Logan Miller) works inside a store room at a local grocery store and is generally an arsehole to everyone. Jason Walker (Jay Ellis) is a stockbroker from a major corporation and is very cocky and arrogant. Mike Nolan (Tyler Labine) is the oldest and also the most likable and talkative of the bunch. Amanda Harper (Deborah Ann Woll) is a war survivor and has claustrophobia plus post-traumatic stress disorder. And Danny Khan (Nik Dodani) is a video game nerd, escape room veteran and very annoying (He just won’t shut up!).

Once they all arrive inside the waiting room, this is when the game actually begins. The objective is to find clues hidden around the room, solve puzzles and find a way to “escape” each room. But the twist here is that these rooms are designed to kill the participants inside. This first room for example becomes a giant furnace. The rooms themselves become more complex and elaborate as it goes on. The strangers also discover that they are actually connected to each other by the fact that each of them have been the sole survivor of a major traumatic event.

Later on, we also discover that the “game” is being controlled by a mysterious Game Master named Dr. WooTan Yu, who’s name seems to pop up everywhere in each of the rooms. Speaking of rooms, they are very creatively designed and easily the best feature of the film. My favourite would have to be a deadly bar complete with a billiard table and a liquor shelf. Each time the phone rings, an ear-piercing dial-tone noise can be heard and the room suddenly starts falling apart to reveal an elevator shaft on the outside. Then the classic song “Downtown” by Petula Clark starts playing and gets increasingly more distorted.

Like the films I mentioned before, each of the strangers starts to get knocked off one by one until there’s only two left. Of course the film doesn’t come to a simple conclusion but throws in plenty of twists and leaves it open to a future sequel. Besides the corny dialogue and paper-thin characters, I still really enjoyed what Escape Room had to offer in terms of the thrilling set pieces and a shadowy organisation pulling the strings. 7.5/10 *END SPOILERS*

“So we’re different colours. And we’re different creeds. And different people have different needs. I can’t understand. What makes a man. Hate another man. Help me understand. People are people so why should it be. You and I should get along so awfully.” Depeche Mode – People Are People (1984)

“Now I’m not looking for absolution. Forgiveness for the things I do. But before you come to any conclusions. Try walking in my shoes. Try walking in my shoes. You’ll stumble in my footsteps. Keep the same appointments I kept. If you try walking in my shoes. If you try walking in my shoes.” Depeche Mode – Walking In My Shoes (1993)

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 142, February 2019

On Monday afternoon, I had an appointment with my Occupational Therapist Ambika from Everyday Independence. I always seem to worry myself far too much trying to estimate people’s level of expectation on me. Being able to form a new routine is often difficult, as was the case fitting in meal preparation, grocery shopping, cooking and household cleaning. These are achievable tasks, but it’s more about finding the balance in my schedule and not overloading myself too much. This is what I basically conveyed to Ambika today.

She offered some suggestions about making my weekly schedule more flexible including writing out tasks on pieces of paper then sticking them onto a physical timetable. I also thought about using colour coded post-it notes to make it more visual. I had to demonstrate my ability to mop the kitchen, bathroom and toilet floors. It was pretty daunting but I had to remind myself that an OT is not a judge and it’s not like I’m being marked for this. But I did pretty well despite not having much experience with mopping floors.

On Monday night, I did my HIIT + Pump small group training session with CinFull Fitness. Tonight it was just the three of us, Cinamon GuerinSarah Hart and Samantha Nio Hellesoe. We started by doing 3 rounds of the following: weighted backward lunges, sumo kettle bell squats, push ups with shoulder taps, star jumps and bicep curls (40 seconds, 30 seconds x 2). Then we did barbell shoulder presses, barbell chest rows and barbell squat presses (8-10, 12-15, 15+ reps) plus reverse shuffles and 10 squats as well as 30 mountain climbers.

To finish we had to scissor flutter kicks with crunches which is super tough being all about working your core muscles. I was really trying hard to focus on getting my form and movement correct tonight. It wasn’t perfect but I was doing the best that I could to keep it consistent. I didn’t lift very heavy weights either because I know that I fatigue very easily when the amount of reps increase. But even doing 15+ reps at 20kg was a challenge for me. I think I’m slowly getting stronger each week so I’m making good process.

On Tuesday morning, I attended the first Morning Melodies (Tuesday Tunes) social function held at Lynbrook Hotel with my Mum Angela DixonJen AngeeLinda Bailey and Ken Bailey. Today’s performer was Garry Johns who did a special tribute show to Michael Buble. He wore a dashing white dinner suit and polished black shoes. He covered a wide range of songs including I Just Haven’t Met You Yet, Home, Always On My Mind (Elvis Presley), Mack The Knife (Bobby Darin), Moondance (Van Morrison) and That’s Amore (Dean Martin).

On Tuesday night, I did an RPM class at YMCA Casey RACE with “Caz” Caroline Symmons. Considering I haven’t done an RPM class in over a month, I was very slow to warm up tonight but I was totally fine with that. We went through the tracks of release number 49 including California Gurls by Katy Perry, If I Had You by Adam Lambert, Spin by Cassette Kids and Phatt Bass (Blade) by Warp Brothers feat. Red Monkey.

It was pretty tough for me especially during the uphill climbing sections and attacks. I was barely doing 70-80 RPM but managed to get up to around 115-120 RPM for the racing sections. I don’t really let the numbers affect my performance too much. I just do what I can really.

On Friday night, I attended my first Aspergers Victoria GENER8 social meetup group event for the year at The Pancake Parlour (Malvern East). They say that the first time is always the hardest but I was probably at my most relaxed in ages. I think it helped that there was only the 12 of us inside the function room. Twelve is a comfortable enough number for me when it comes to social interaction. I sat down on the table next door to Lucas EldridgeMarcus Heath and William.

Naturally, Gayle Vermont was there. She no longer bothers me as much as she did last year. I think I’ve grown used to her approach and personality. Plus she got my name right tonight which is always a bonus. Last year my automatic reaction to the idea of me becoming a group leader was essentially bolting in the opposite direction like a frightened rabbit trying to escape from a cage. My anxiety was sky high as was my potential for fight or flight.

But tonight I was actively listening and trying to be open to Gayle’s ideas about forming different groups dependent upon our individual interests. This is an area in which I could thrive because I have many interests including movies, music, art, writing, reading, fitness, yoga, meditation and nature. Building upon my social skills will help me a lot too as it’s something that has hindered my self confidence a great deal. I have lots of potential. I just have to believe in myself more.

Of course I still bought along a hand-written list of conversation starters just in case I needed it. It’s just a comfort having it in my pocket but most of my conversations tonight flowed pretty naturally and I was happy just taking everything in. I ordered the barramundi fillets plus a chocolate flavoured Swiss Mountain malt in a pint-sized beer glass. I’m actually pretty excited for AV this year as there’s more opportunity for growth and continuing to develop more social connections with other “Aspies” into the future.

“In the mountains, cross the borders. All the bells are ringing out your name. Give ourselves up. When it calls us. So I lose myself in you again. Oooh here comes the rapture. Here comes the rhapsody to set me free. It’s taken over me…With every wave. I’m drifting further and further from the shore. But it’s OK. I feel certain that I’m part of something more.”       Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Here Comes The Rapture (2016)

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 141, January 2019

My thoughts and feelings towards Australia Day haven’t changed in the last 12 months. It SHOULDN’T be about racism against white people or against aboriginal people, Invasion day, hate speech or changing the date. It SHOULD be about celebrating all the positive aspects of being an Australian citizen. Being kind, loyal, friendly, respectful person, giving people a fair go, accepting each others differences, regardless of cultural heritage and helping each other out.

Nobody should be judged or made to feel guilty about celebrating Australia Day on January 26th or the public holiday on the 28th. Whether that involves simply reflecting on what makes Australia a great place to live, spending time with your family and friends, having a BBQ, attending an Australia Day event, working or just doing what you normally do. Everyone should be free to do what they want to do so long as it doesn’t involve racism, violence, hate speech, protesting or negativity against other people. Leave the past in the past!

On the Australian Day public holiday, I hosted a BBQ at my place. It was originally going to be held at Bicentennial Park Chelsea but due to how hot the weather was and some family drama, I changed my plans at the last minute. It was destined to be a major flop like many of my social gatherings are but I was determined not to give up. I felt grateful that my friend Chris Lalic decided to come and he brought some friends along with him including girlfriend Kat SharpHazel Argueta Sermeno and Vivian Chen.

We had the radio cranking out some classic Aussie tunes on Triple M including Jet, Birds of Tokyo, Silverchair, Baby Animals, Paul Kelly, Eskimo Joe and The Angels plus we cooked up plenty of snags, beef burgers and onions. Of course I’m generally really shy around new people but I found Chris’ friends to be outrageously funny and entertaining. Today turned out better than I expected even though I wasn’t feeling that way this morning.

How does one define a successful event? In my opinion, having a good time and enjoying yourself. It shouldn’t be based upon the number of people who turn up to your event or how many rejections you get. It’s taken me a long time to figure that out. Organising social events and making friends will always be big challenges for me but ones that I refuse to give up on.

On Tuesday morning, Mum and I drove up to Mount Eliza, Victoria, Australia and also visited Karingal Hub. I actually feel more relaxed and at peace hanging out in places within the Mornington Peninsula and Bayside areas. There’s a sigma that these places are only for high income earners with expensive sports cars, fancy outfits and immaculately groomed dogs. While that is probably the case for most of the residence, it really doesn’t bother me at all. I feel like a person’s wealth or socio-economic status shouldn’t define who they are as a person.

There are many different shops to browse in including gift shops, homewares, cafes, pet accessories, bakeries, nail salons, barber shops, art galleries and supermarkets. The other big difference is that it’s less populated than most suburbs in the City of Casey. I find places that are overcrowded and densely populated put a lot of stress and anxiety on me. I’m the kind of person that needs my own space and not be constantly shoved around by other people.

Similar with Karingal Hub, this shopping centre is much more quiet compared to Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre and Westfield Fountain Gate. It’s also smaller in size but with enough variety of stores to make the trip down there worthwhile. The weather outside was getting really hot and unbearable so thank god the air conditioning system was working well inside. Mum and I were checking out Big W for shoes and lunch boxes before having an iced coffee and a hotdog for lunch in the food court.

On Tuesday night, I had my first YardSTRONG (Strongman) session for the year at The Yard Strength & Fitness in Pakenham. Tonight was very much an easy going warm up session as I haven’t done a great deal of weight lifting and need to start with light weights. I did some stretches including opening and closing the gate, backwards walking lunges and bridge pulses. Then I worked on doing some Dead Lifts (30 seconds of reps @ 25kg) and some Kaiser Front Squats (8 reps @ 25kg) before getting into my workout.

I did a 15 minute AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) doing Farmer’s Carries, Keg Carries and Dead Lift Carries. It got pretty tiring especially in the last few minutes as my arms were getting sore and I could feel myself fatiguing. But at the same time, it was a very manageable workout. I didn’t burnout and I paced myself very well with plenty of breaks in between reps.

It felt really good to be back at The Yard. It was reuniting with an old friend you hadn’t seen in a while. Plus Mandi Herauville is a very easy going personal trainer who can easily make adjustments if necessary to my workout. I never feel overwhelmed there which is a nice feeling. It’s like I’m comfortable being myself in that space without any pressure.

On Thursday night, I decided to cook Beef and Noodle stir-fry with Oyster Sauce for dinner. Like on my previous dishes, I’ve modified the recipe from Taste as there’s a lot of ingredients on the list that are either unnecessary additions or just too expensive for my budget. For example, I bought the stir fry beef strips instead of the fillet as it’s far more cost effective and you save time as well because you don’t have to cut up the meat into strips.

I’m also not a big fan of anything with chili in it so that got immediately crossed off my shopping list. Follow the recipe and you should be fine. I found chopping up the vegetables into small chunks makes the cooking time a lot faster. Also, make sure you separate the meat, sauces, noodles and vegetables and slowly combine each until it’s all fried through.

On Friday morning, I had an appointment with my speech therapist Amon from Everyday Independence. As usual, I never seem to know how to prepare for these sessions and worry about whether I’ve done enough to achieve my goals. January is probably the hardest month to plan catch ups and practice my social communication skills on people as most people are busy or in holiday mode after Christmas.

But I can certainly say that at least I’ve made an effort to initiate contact with a few of my friends. Beyond that, I’ve got no control over whether they’ll actually respond or if they’ll have free time to catch up with me. Other things I’m still working on are confidence building, using conversation starters and ice breakers, learning to speak up and interrupt conversations if necessary and interacting with strangers, customers and people I don’t know.

On Friday night, I did a small group Boxing class at CinFull Fitness. Considering how under-slept and drained of energy I was feeling, I managed to somehow muster up enough energy to smash through this class. There was a couple of hard-hitters in the group tonight which made me step up my levels of concentration and focus plus we did a lot of endurance based drills. I certainly had a lot more confidence in my performance tonight. I felt really good that I was able to stick it out and not get too fatigued by the end of it.

“Paradise is in my soul, and I’m terrified I can’t get out. I’m lost in a labyrinth, we are lost in a labyrinth. Please don’t follow.” Bring Me The Horizon feat. Grimes – Nihilist Blues (2019)

“It hit me like a sucker punch. Just one look and I’m out of touch. I’m freaking out ’cause I’m scared this might end bad. But I still come back for that. Sucker punch.” Sigrid – Sucker Punch (2018)

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 140, January 2019

On Saturday afternoon, my parents and I checked into the Bellevue On The Lakes motel, located between the North Arm and Cunningham Arm of Lakes Entrance. We’ve actually stayed here before but this time we thought we’d try booking one of the apartments with a back end view of the lakes. As usual, the long three hour drive had made me sleepy and restless so I didn’t feel like doing much when we got here.

We did go for a walk down to the local ALDI store to buy some groceries plus relaxed outside on the front patio area. It’s a very spacious accommodation with a living area, sofas and large flat screen TV, glass dining table, a kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom and spare bedroom with a trundle bunk bed. There’s also a swimming pool and BBQ area located on site plus the Albert & Co – Coffee Food Catering restaurant, where we’ve actually booked for dinner tonight.

On Sunday morning, we had a bit of a rocky start (literally) with one of the rear tires going flat on Rod’s car. Luckily we had a spare in the back and was able to change it over. We also discovered that someone (most likely one of the kids) who stayed overnight at Bellevue must have deliberately let air out of the tire as there was no sign of piercing or slashing. We briefly drove down to Paynesville to visit the Paynesville Community Craft Centre then had some lunch at The Fig Cafe.

There’s something really calming about watching the waves go in and out anywhere in East Gippsland. The scent was a mixture of strong brine, seaweed and salt water as a moderately cool breeze blows across my skin. Later that Sunday afternoon, we visited the Nyerimilang Park which is located about 10km North-West of Lakes Entrance. It resides on a cliff-top which overlooks many of the Gippsland Lakes and surrounding islands.

The heritage park contains a variety of bush walking tracks plus lots of plant and bird life. Then there is the Nyrimerlang Park Homestead which was originally built by Frank Stuart 1894 which would be his family home for fishing and shooting near the Gippsland Lakes. During the 1920’s, the homestead was passed on to his son Frank Stuart Jnr who extended the property, developed the gardens and hired a few housemaids and a gardener.

On Monday lunchtime, we visited the Lakes Entrance Mechanics Hall where they had an exhibition on to learn about dolphins, sponsored by the Marine Mammal Foundation. We discovered that there are only about 65 dolphins remaining around the Gippsland Lakes area each distinguished by the unique shape of their fin. It also talked about their diets, communication using echolocation and similarities in anatomy and bone structure compared to humans.

On Monday afternoon, we went on a short trip down to the Main Beach Lakes Entrance located over the Footbridge. I decided to bring out the beach shelter that I bought recently and set it up down near the red-and-yellow flag. I was very relaxing listening to the sound of the waves crashing down on the sand. I only dipped my feet in the water as it wasn’t hot enough to go in completely.

On Tuesday morning, my parents and I visited the Cells Cafe in Bairnsdale (located on Nicholson Street, close to Kmart). This is a regular attraction for us as Cells is run by Noweyung who provide disability and employment support services. The cafe staff are all local people who have disabilities and many different strengths and capabilities. They always provide excellent customer service, great food and are in a very friendly, relaxed environment.

On Tuesday afternoon, we dropped into Dahlsens Mitre 10 Bairnsdale and had lunch at the New Leaf Cafe. Considering it was lunchtime, the whole cafe was buzzing and packed with people so we were really lucky to get a vacant table. We decided to order some mixed sandwiches as well as cappuccinos. This is a very big Mitre 10 store with a garden and trade center, a variety of gifts, ornaments, decorations, outdoor furniture and bunches of flowers.

On Wednesday lunchtime, we stopped at The Barn at Kalimna – Cafe 4.9 for lunch which is located on the outskirts of Lakes Entrance. The cafe is found inside a large barn-shaped dwelling with stunning views of the hilly landscape that is Kalimna West. We decided to sit on the opposite side underneath the market umbrella. I ordered the summer burger which contained crispy deep-fried chicken, pineapple, coleslaw, herb fries and a garden salad.

On Wednesday afternoon, my parents and I went on a lovely cruise aboard the Thunderbird boat from Peels Lake Cruises in Lakes Entrance. Departing at 2pm, we went on a two and a half hour cruise which covers Lake King and Lake Victoria via Metung, Raymond Island and Paynesville. We spotted lots of marine and birdlife including seals, pelicans, black swans, ibises, cormorants and herons. We also saw plenty of lakeside properties with their own private jetties and boats.

We stayed on the top deck for most of the duration until the strong winds and sun got a bit too intense for us and we moved inside near the captain’s cabin. My skin turns to burn very easily when it’s fully exposed to the sun so you best believe that I was putting plenty of sunscreen on the back of my neck, face, arms, thighs and shins. But for the most part, it was pretty relaxing and informative learning about the geography of the Gippsland Lakes.

On Thursday morning, we went down to Lakes Squash and Movie Theatre and saw the movie Instant Family. It’s only a single regularly sized movie theatre but it does have air conditioning and less advertisements that a typical cinema does. This comedy drama directed by Sean Anders focuses on the issues of the fostering and adoption agency as well as the trials and tribulations involved with becoming foster parents. *START OF SPOILERS*

Couple Ellie (Rose Byrne) and Pete (Mark Wahlberg) spend most of the lives renovating houses. They are constantly egged on by Ellie’s sister Kim (Allyn Rachel) and brother in law Russ (Tom Segura) and get labelled as being perfectionists. That is until Ellie wonders about the idea of having kids. One night, Ellie spends time on the internet searching for child adoption and fostering and eventually convinces Pete that they should attend an information session about it.

There they meet social workers Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro) who give them a “no bullshit” run down of the process involved in adopting and fostering a child. At the Open Day, Pete and Ellie really struggled to find the “right child” for them and against all odds, find a connection with a young teenage girl named Lizzie (Isabela Moner). But they’re in for an unexpected surprise as she comes along with younger brother Juan (Gustavo Quiro) and younger sister Lita (Julianna Gamiz).

The family are initially really reluctant and judgemental when Ellie and Pete deliver the news about adopting three children but they are adamant to prove them wrong. Through various support group meetings and several accidents, temper tantrums and outbursts of anger, the couple eventually work out that parenting is not as easy as it seems on the surface. The fact that it’s also a blended family with mixed nationalities makes things difficult, forcing them to learn Spanish.

Lizzie is very outspoken, dominating and impulsive. She is the oldest and at 10 years old, was forced to step up as a maternal role model to her younger siblings when her own mother was absent and abusing drugs. Juan is very shy, reserved and anxious. He doesn’t think before he acts and often gets into lots of accidents. He places the blame on himself a lot. And Lita is the youngest child. Very loud, bratty and misbehaves a lot but is also easily excited and demands lots of attention.

To add a further complication to the mix, their biological mother gets released from prison and then it becomes a family court issue as to whether the kids continue living with Ellie and Pete or are forced back into custody with their mom. This is a well written and directed family film that strikes the right balance between humourous and emotional moments, even touching on a few political issues like gay couples and their legal rights. *END OF SPOILERS*

I spent some of Thursday night watching the Australian Open Men’s semi-finals match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rafael Nadal. Whilst it was a fairly easy win for Nadal winning in straight sets, I was still very proud of Tsitsipas’ efforts during this match and his overall performance throughout the tournament. It’s sad that Tsitsipas was really hard on himself after the loss to Nadal but I believe that he will bounce back from this.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is an extremely humble, down to earth young talented tennis player. I honestly wish that we had more Australian tennis players like him. The only ones who hold a candle are Ash Barty and Alex De Minaur. It’s good to see that he doesn’t let his ego, level of fame and attention from the media destroy his sense of self unlike players like Serena Williams and Nick Kyrogios who act like spoiled, self centered brats! I can see a big future ahead for Tsitsipas!

On Friday morning, we decided to have breakfast at The Barn at Kalimna – Cafe 4.9. It was predicted to be a scorching 44 degrees in Melbourne today with hot gusty winds and a total fire ban throughout the state. It was already rising up to 33 degrees by mid-morning and so I could only stand in the direct sun for a few minutes before it really got to me physically. As I’ve said before, I really don’t cope well in extreme heat but luckily a cool change is on the way this afternoon which should bring the temperature down to the mid-20’s again.

On Friday night, I went to my HIIT + Circuit small group fitness class at CinFull Fitness. Due to the extreme heat today, I could sense that most people’s moods were pretty low and just feeling physically drained. Thankfully it was only around 26 degrees tonight and Cinamon decided to make it a low intensity circuit. We did 3 rounds of 45 seconds each exercise plus 5 overhead med ball squats.

First we worked on the lower body: Dumbbell Lunge pulses (10 each leg), Dumbbell hip thrusts, Lifted Heel Power Lifts. Then we worked on the upper body: Dumbbell flies and Dumbbell overhead presses, T-Bar Rows, Bench Presses and Bicep Curls. T-Bar Rows are something that I haven’t done before and it was a little awkward and confusing to do at first but eventually I got it.

Lastly, we did a short core workout which involved V-Ups, Med Ball Sit-ups, Bicycle Crunches, Scissor Leg Crunches and a Plank Hold. We were all in hysterical laughter by the end of it mostly because of how ridiculous these movements looked and how much we all secretly hate doing core workouts. But it’s also what makes going to these classes a lot of fun.

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 139, January 2019

This week began with a scorching heat wave across all states of Australia, from mid to high 30’s and even low 40’s in some areas. I did my best to cope with the extreme heat but as always, it’s a very difficult task for me. I spent Monday morning with my support worker Seb at Jamaica Blue Cranbourne before doing some shopping with Mum at Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre. I picked up a couple of books from The Babysitters Club series, some new cargo shorts for work and Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto album.

My energy levels and mood took a tumble at some point that afternoon. This was not helped by my gradual adjustment to 20mg Escitalopram (Lexapro) antidepressants and how stuffy it was in the cafe. Plus I had neglected to do my housework and by 3.30pm that day, I had very little motivation or drive to do any cleaning tasks. Unfortunately the extreme heat and high humidity level can really mess around with my mental state and I’m not the easiest person to be around when I’m in a bad mood.

I received an email from my Occupational Therapist asking how my housework schedule was going and that was enough to trigger my anxiety off. So I tried way too hard to rush clean the bathroom and the toilet because I felt guilty about not doing anything today. By the time I finished all of that, I was well and truly wornout and exhausted so I decided to rest and ended up passing out in bed later that afternoon.

This week admittedly hasn’t been the best of week’s, to the extent that I almost wasn’t going to publish this blog. I questioned myself really hardly wondering “What have I actually achieved this week?” Yesterday was difficult in that my side effects from the medication increase decided to crop up again. I was out shopping with Mum and it became most noticeable when I was at Harris Scarfe (Cranbourne, Victoria) trying on some runners that were on sale.

Suddenly I began to get really light headed and clammy. It didn’t help that half the stores we visited prior didn’t have an air conditioning to speak of and therefore I got easily flustered from the lack of air flow and high humidity levels. But this didn’t seem normal. I decided to call my counsellor Ruth and cancelled my appointment that afternoon. The last thing I wanted was to pass out during the session. Plus I just wasn’t feeling up to it.

Thankfully the side effects did eventually subside later that afternoon. I decided to cook my very first dinner at home which consisted of boneless chicken kiev fillets with garlic butter, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables (carrots, peas and cauliflower). The hardest part was getting the mashed potatoes to clump together and become fluffy. I clearly didn’t add enough milk as it was still a bit lumpy but I did the best I could with it.

On Friday night, I had my small group fitness Boxing class at CinFull Fitness. After an exhausting week, I decided to lie down and rest that afternoon to catch up on sleep. Typically, I dozed off and had one of those “Oh shit! I gotta go!” moments. Driving to the gym when you’re still half asleep is not ideal but it is what it is. Though I went to the gym once this week, it didn’t feel like enough and tonight I could really feel it…fatigue that is.

We did several different circuits, the first being 30 second drills of uppers, jabs, highs and squats (3 rounds). Next we did 45 seconds of punching sit ups, toe-taps and uppercuts, plus highs, jabs and hooks. For the last part of the workout, we did a challenge in pairs: reaching as many jab boxes as possible within one minute. The pair with the least amount had to do 30 push ups. I was pretty sore and tired by the end of it but at least the weather has cooled down considerably compared to earlier in the week.

“All the boys, all the girls. All that matters in the world. All the boys, all the girls. All that matters that occurs. All the highs, all the lows. As the room is spinning, oh. We’ll run riot. We’ll be glowing in the dark.” Coldplay – Charlie Brown (2011)

“The birds they sang, at break of day. Start again I hear them say. It’s so hard to just walk away… A simple plot. But I know one day. Good things are coming our way.” Coldplay – Up With The Birds  (2011)

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 138, January 2019

Developing any new routine or habit takes a considerable amount of time and patience. It doesn’t matter whether you have a mental illness and a disability or not, it’s just simply not going to instantly happen. And this is the logic I have to follow when it comes to building a new routine for myself when it comes to household cleaning tasks and cooking meals at home.

There’s a lot of preparation involved with both of these things plus finding the effort and motivation to physically complete them. But fortunately my occupational therapist Ambika has put together a rough daily schedule to put aside time to do just that. Plus I’ve also got my parents for support when it comes to which cleaning products I need to use and what ingredients I need to buy. So it’s not as daunting as it seems on the surface.

On Monday afternoon, I had an appointment with my occupational therapist Ambika from Everyday Independence. Today I had my first cooking trial and I decided to make Spaghetti Bolognese as it was one of the simplest recipes I could think of at the time. It felt like I was on a cooking segment without the producers, drama and television cameras. Luckily I had all my ingredients stocked and recipe printed out and ready to go.

It was helpful to have Mum in the kitchen with me as she was a good assistant and provided some wise safety tips as I was going along like: always lifting the saucepan lid away from you when it’s on the heat and using separate bowls for cut vegetables and any scraps. I think the most difficult part for me is making it a habit to cook once a week and motivating myself to actually do it. But otherwise cooking isn’t too hard for me really.

On Monday night, I had my first small group HIIT class of 2019 with Cinamon Guerin at CinFull Fitness. Like anything you’ve taken a break from, it’s often a struggle getting back into the swing of things but tonight there was nothing stopping this crew. It was a full house tonight and we managed to power through many reps including kettle bell squats, mountain climbers, renegade push ups, overhead presses, star jumps, bicep curls, med ball slams and V-ups.

We finished up by doing a short circuit which included Russian twists, weighted lunges and lifts, battle ropes, kettle bell swings, tricep dips, TRX rows and bicep curls and mountain climbers on synthetic grass. It was a challenging class as always (my form wasn’t the best and my legs were shaking by the end of it) but we all had a lot of fun supporting each other and getting through it together.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had a follow up appointment with my psychiatrist Dr. Ricardo Peralta at Vita Healthcare in Mount Eliza. After receiving the following text message from OPTIMIND last week (Dr. Ricardo Peralta will no longer be consulting at OPTIMIND), I started to worry about whether I’d need to seek out another psychiatrist. But fortunately the reception staff at Vita Healthcare reached out to me a few days ago and informed me that Dr. Ricardo has moved clinics and that my appointment for today was still valid.

Mount Eliza is a beautiful coastal town located on the Mornington Peninsula, about 5 minutes drive from Frankston. It’s a relief to know that Dr. Ricardo hasn’t moved too far away from Patterson Lakes and it only takes me about 35-40 minutes to drive to Mount Eliza from home. It’s not very often that I drive down there and it’s always nice to explore a different area once in a while.

Getting to the clinic on time was a stressful endeavour as I ended up cutting through the back streets of Frankston and then had to navigate unfamiliar territory in the heart of Mount Eliza. But I made it there and that’s the main thing. When I arrived, I noticed that both receptionists were super busy taking phone calls but eventually I got their attention. The waiting room was very comfortable with the walls lined with plush two-seater sofas.

I usually get really anxious leading up to the appointment itself but once I’m in that consultation room, I immediately feel more at ease. Today was probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been with Dr. Ricardo, discussing things like increasing my antidepressant medication from 10mg to 15 or 20mg (Escitalopram / Lexapro) and my stress/emotional triggers at work, the times when I get the most overwhelmed and anxious while working in a busy retail environment and still waking up around 3-4am most nights.

It also helped that he met me halfway, literally sitting across from me in one of the armchairs. This is certainly a noticeable difference compared to most doctors who would refuse to sit in anything but an office chair behind a desk. That image of authority; I’m the doctor and you’re the patient. And his mannerisms showed that he had a down to earth, human side to him rather than the cold and clinical stereotypes often associated with psychiatrists.

It’s amazing to think that in just a few months I’ve begun to really trust and open up to Dr. Ricardo and I feel thankful that he ended up being my psychiatrist. He is very reasonable, understanding and compassionate to my needs. And he was more than happy to increase the dosage of my medication, especially in order to cope and better manage my symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia. 10mg just isn’t quite cutting it.

On Wednesday morning, I made the mistake of increasing my antidepressant medication way too quickly. Within an hour, I was already experiencing some strong side effects such as feeling flustered and feverish in the face, light headedness and blurred vision. Luckily Mum and I were nearby First Health Medical Centre at Casey Central Shopping Centre so I could get checked out.

The receptionist was quick to put me onto the first available doctor who was Dr. David Tai Kie. I only had to wait around 5 minutes or so before he saw me. After explaining that my psychiatrist recommended the dosage increase after starting the 10mg for around 1-2 months, I wasn’t prepared for all the side effects jumping straight to 20mg. Dr. Tai Kie recommended that I alternate the doses between 10mg and 20mg over the next week to allow my body to adjust to it.

The receptionist was also very helpful when it came to getting my medical records transferred from Narregate Medical Centre to First Health, as well as informing me what hours Dr. Tai Kie works should I want to see him again. Considering how average I was feeling through all of this, I couldn’t have been happier with the level of service I received especially from my first visit. Highly recommend this clinic and Dr. David Tai Kie.

On Thursday morning, Mum and I visited the Wilson Botanic Park Berwick. Today I was determined to not let anything ruin my visit here so I had no appointments on and any phone calls and messages from people would have to wait (Sorry, NOT sorry). It was a beautiful partly cloudy 23 degree day so perfect conditions for a walk around. We decided to walk around the Basalt Lake track featuring a boardwalk, large volcanic rocks and a bird hide.

We managed to spot a few turtles and birds around the edges of the lake as well as on the rock deposits and tall grass. We only spent about an hour at the park but that was more than enough for both of us. They had a train ride making regular trips around the lakeside trails with many children and parents on board. I always seem to feel very peaceful and relaxed whenever I’m here, so long as my phone doesn’t become a huge distraction!

On Thursday night, I went to an RPM class with Nicky at YMCA Casey RACE in Cranbourne East. I was feeling so tired this afternoon that I literally dozed off in bed and then freaked myself out a little when I woke up and saw that the time was 4:50 PM. I had to put the air conditioner on high in my car just to keep myself alert driving to Casey RACE. Luckily I managed to arrive there safely and on time for my class.

Our instructor Nicky was certainly interesting to say the least. From her dreadful, croaky singing voice to her wild yelling and crazy, infectious enthusiasm, she was far from boring and made the class more exciting. She selected a diverse mixture of older tracks including: Good Time by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen (RPM 58), Ugly Heart by G.R.L. (RPM 66), Kings and Queens by Thirty Seconds To Mars (RPM 53) and Kick Start My Heart by Motley Crue (RPM 39).

Considering how sleepy and exhausted I’ve been feeling today, I still managed to put in a decent effort today with my workout, hitting an average range of 60-70 RPM and a maximum of 128 RPM. I burned around 348 calories and cycled a total distance of around 18.5 km.

On Friday morning, I had an appointment with my Speech Pathologist Amon from Everyday Independence. Once again, I was getting myself really nervous and worked up for no reason at all. I turned the radio on because dealing with dead pan silence is absolutely excruciating and uncomfortable for me. Plus having background music tends to put my nerves at ease. I guess it’s just that feeling of “not knowing” that gets me so worked up because I like to be prepared.

Today we worked on some strategies that can be used to achieve my goals: making new friendships, feeling more confident in social situations and spending more time hanging out with friends. A lot of it was quite hypothetical which is something I find challenging, thinking on my feet and without structure. But it felt good knowing that I came up with a plan going forward with conversation starters, how to interact with other people, what to say and making conversations flow better.

On Friday night, I did my first Restorative/Yin yoga class with Dani Iacovelli at Soul Flame Yoga in Beaconsfield. I think one of my biggest challenges from last year was my reluctance to embrace change and it’s the reason why I quickly turned away from Soul Flame Yoga. After practicing yoga at this studio under the name “Just Be Yoga & Meditation” for over 8 years, it came as a rude shock when the studio name suddenly got changed. I couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t the same for me. And that “fight or flight” reaction took over me. I fled as fast as possible.

But now that I’ve had several months to process this, I’m willing to give the studio another shot this year. To be fair, something keeps drawing me back there whether it be the location in Beaconsfield, the yoga teachers and students or the studio space itself, which has recently been renovated and redecorated over the last 12 months or so. The colour scheme now includes a soft pale grey, stone grey, khaki green and eucalyptus green whilst still retaining elements of the original design such as the props area and wall unit in the reception area for personal belongings.

Dani was very warm in her approach and immediately set me at ease. She offered the yoga class for free as technically this was my first time at Soul Flame but I was still grateful for the gesture. I have to admit that I was a little rusty on the mat tonight as it’s been a few weeks since my last proper yoga class but I quickly got into the rhythm again.

Dani gave us lots of options tonight and I decided to take many of the prop-assisted variations given how tight and inflexible my joints and muscles were feeling tonight. The poses and movements were did in tonight’s class include: Frog pose, Pigeon pose, Low Lunge, Downward Facing Dog, Lizard pose and Reclined Bound Ankle pose.

I didn’t stick around for the 45 minute meditation afterwards as I was really tired already and felt like I did enough today. I think the most important thing that I gained from tonight is that my fears and anxieties have gently evaporated. I still have a sense of belonging here which is something I’ve been wanting for years, particularly in a yoga studio. It’s often tough finding a place that you feel connected at but Soul Flame Yoga could indeed be the one.

“All this running around. Trying to cover my shadow. An ocean growing inside. All the others seem shallow. All this running around. Bearing down on my shoulders. I can hear an alarm. Must be morning. I heard about a whirlwind that’s coming ’round. It’s gonna carry off all that isn’t bound.” Tame Impala – Let It Happen (2015)

“I was raging, it was late. In the world my demons cultivate. I felt the strangest emotion but it wasn’t hate, for once. Yes I’m changing, yes I’m gone. Yes I’m older, yes I’m moving on… They say people never change, but that’s bullshit, they do.” Tame Impala – Yes I’m Changing (2015)

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