On Labour Day morning, I went down to YMCA Casey ARC for my RPM class with instructor Shelley. I swear whether it’s a public holiday or not, I always feel like I’m running against the clock on a Monday morning. So as usual, I found it a pain in the ass to get down to Casey Arc by 9.10am so that I could warm up on the bike before the class started. On the plus side, there wasn’t much traffic on the roads, the roadworkers had the day off and there was plenty of parking so at least that eliminated those stresses.

I haven’t been to one of Shelley’s classes for a while now but I always walk out feeling lighter, happier, more optimistic about my day. She just makes it really fun. Once again, she was going on about muscle fibres, muscle recruitment, flushing the legs out and other biological fitness jargon as well as keeping us motivated. She put on a mixture of older and newer tracks including Golden Earring – Radar Love, Jan Wayne Presents Gorgeous X – Black Velvet, Jan Wayne vs. Raindropz! – Numb, Robbie Williams – Feel and Tikki Taane’s Get Up Stand Up.

Despite feeling wrecked from the weekend, I still managed to have a great workout and pushed myself pretty hard. I burned around 430 KCal, rode 22km and averaged around 95-105 max RPM. https://www.lesmills.com/workouts/fitness-classes/rpm/

That night, Mum and I had to get dropped off at Caulfield station as they had replacement buses in operation between there and Dandenong all day. Unfortunately, it was absolute bedlam getting there especially when we turned onto Sir John Monash drive which was banked up with traffic. But eventually we got there and after getting off at Southern Cross station, we quickly made our way across the street to the Pensione Hotel in Spencer Street. We booked out a small twin-share room on the second floor so that we could stay in the city for a couple of nights.

Looking outside the windows of our hotel room, I began to view the city of Melbourne in a very different light. You can make comparisons to New York City in that the traffic and pace is always busy but there are also aspects to admire like watching different people go by and hearing the soft rumble of the nearby trains crossing each other near Southern Cross station. Of course on the other hand, there’s the overcrowding on public transport, drivers who can be really ruthless and impatient (beep, beep, beeeeeeeep), people who have no spacial awareness and walk around like zombies. But for the most part, I love Melbourne.

On Tuesday morning, it was D-DAY for me. My first ever VCAT mediation and hearing (Michael Dixon vs. Now, Yoga Studio, Tony Simpson) at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in King Street, Melbourne. Waiting outside the front entrance before the doors open at 8.30am sharp, we had to be scanned and checked through security. It felt like I was going through customs at the airport, placing all my personal items into the tray and walking through the metal detector.

Next stop was going up to Level 2 where all the mediation sessions are held. Presenting my Notice to attend mediation and hearing letter to the receptionist, Mum and I were asked to take a seat in the corridor near the mediation rooms. The decor was a typical office space with glass panels, neutral colours, fake plants and even a water cooler. My nerves were starting to rise a little though not a lot was happening until around 9.30am when the receptionist informed us that Melise and Tony (the respondents) hadn’t showed up.

I was honestly not surprised by this news considering how uncontactable both of them have been in the weeks leading up to today. They’re both cowards as far as I’m concerned. Despite having several physical and mental health issues, I still made the effort to come today and stand up for myself. Tony Simpson is the City of Casey’s version of Christopher Skase. Stealing hundreds of dollars from so many students, teachers and landlords. Somebody had to hold him to account and not let him get away with it.

The receptionist quickly escorted us up to Level 5 where all the hearings were held. Now my nerves were really kicking in. The whole experience was uncomfortable and new to me. My only real frame of reference to the court system is from all the TV shows and movies I’ve grown up with…Ally McBeal, Judging Amy, Judge Judy, The People’s Court and Erin Brockavich. I had no idea what to say to the Tribunal member when I got called but I had a blue folder full of supporting documents and evidence as well as my Mum to back me up. Plus I had a lot of family and friends in my corner who believed in me, that I could win my money back.

A lady named Mary approached both of us in the waiting area. She was a volunteer from the Court Network who explained basically what was about to happen in the hearing room and the process of what happens after a decision is made. It actually put my mind at ease a little as my anxiety levels were overwhelming. After being called into the hearing room, I stood in front of the appropriate chair and waited for the Tribunal member to enter the room. http://www.courtnetwork.com.au/

It felt like I was on an episode of Judge Judge minus the television cameras, the audience and with only two other people in the room. The silence was extremely deafening and I couldn’t wait for this hearing to be over. I had to swear on the bible and make an affirmation before proceeding with explaining my case. Thankfully it was more like filling in the blanks. Mr. R Daly asked me about the respondent’s address details as well as if I had any receipts for the payments I’d made towards the yoga retreat. https://www.vcat.vic.gov.au/steps-to-resolve-your-case/on-hearing-day

Besides this, it was very much an open and shut case and over with 15-20 minutes. Mr. Daly wrote out an official tribunal order for Mr. Tony Simpson to pay back the money that he owes me. If he doesn’t do this within the next 14 days, I can take the matter higher to a Magistrates court who will then enforce the order and get the Sheriff to essentially track Tony down and force him to pay up. It took a lot of courage to go through all of this today but I had no regrets about any of it. It’s about more than money to me. It’s about standing up for myself and holding a dodgy, gutless crook accountable for what he’s done. https://www.vcat.vic.gov.au/steps-to-resolve-your-case/what-to-expect-after-the-final-hearing/enforcing-vcat-orders

On Wednesday afternoon, Mum and I attended a workshop for the Victorian Autism Plan held at the Monash University Conference Centre in Collins Street, Melbourne. I didn’t really know what to expect from this workshop today but I was hoping to gain more information about the diagnosis and services that are currently being provided to people on the Autism Spectrum. Sadly, this was far from what I was expecting.

The workshop was held in seminar room 3 with several round tables each with a glass, jug of water, apples, lollies, stationary pads and pens, a feedback form, markers and large sheets of paper. I immediately felt daunted and out of place in that conference room as most of the people in attendance were professionals dressed in suits. The workshop ended up being more like a corporate business meeting with an agenda and group discussions.

But considering I made the effort to come, I decided to stay for about half an hour or so and listened to a few of the guest speakers who opened. They were talking about the current health services that are provided as well as government funding and the challenges that we’re facing. They also mentioned how autism is often linked with intellectual disorders and mental health issues and therefore the matter becomes more complex and an integration of different professionals is necessary for effective treatment. https://dhhs.vic.gov.au/publications/victorian-autism-plan

After these presentations, Mum and I made a swift beeline for the exit. Of course being peak hour, we were packed like sardines catching the tram back down to Southern Cross station. We collected our luggage from the hotel and caught a train back to Dandenong station followed by a bus taking us back home. It’s been an exhausting and eventful couple of days but it’s also been a huge learning experience for me which is always valuable.

On Thursday night, I attended an Aspergers Syndrome Adults group peer meeting at The MS Nerve Centre in Blackburn. Being my second time going to one of these meetings, I had a better sense of direction and therefore found the venue easier to locate. I also wasn’t feeling anywhere near as anxious as I was last time considering I knew what I was in for. I arrived there just on time rather than being ridiculously early like I usually am and so I gave myself a few minutes to settle in. https://aspergersvic.org.au/

Once again, there was quite a large attendance with around 25-30 Aspies in the room, of which I recognised probably 90% of the people there from the first meeting. Tonight’s topic of discussion was around sensory issues that people with Aspergers or Autism Spectrum Disorder often face. We went around the room introducing ourselves and stating whether we’re looking forward to the colder weather coming up (It’s a HELL YES from me!). I decided to speak briefly about my recent diagnosis of High Functioning Autism which was about 3-4 months ago. https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/diagnosis/dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria

We then began discussing the topic from our own personal experiences. Whilst it took a lot of courage to speak up tonight, I’m glad that I finally made a contribution to the group. I spoke about the feeling of being overwhelmed in busy environments such as shopping centres, city streets and at work plus being visually over-stimulated by people demanding your attention or many things happening around you. This often causes a great deal of stress and anxiety in me as well as distraction, confusion and draining of energy. https://themighty.com/2016/01/how-your-senses-work-when-you-have-aspergers-syndrome/

Unfortunately the pain of my blocked ears was getting even more unbearable tonight with a lot of pressure and swelling being placed on the glands behind my ears and along the sides of my face. But I did manage to stick out the meeting until around 9.30pm. I do find that the discussions have a tendency to drag on too long at times and there’s always the same few individuals dominating the conversation. Though it was good to see the organiser Colin stepping in and moderating it especially when people were speaking over one another.

Hopefully at the next meeting I’ll be able to stay a bit longer and won’t be dealing with any annoying health issues. I still have some degree of social awkwardness but I am growing to like the people in this group. It does take me a while before I’m ready to break the ice with people but it’ll happen when the time is right. Perhaps during one of the upcoming social nights I’ll have more of an opportunity to mingle. https://aspergersvic.org.au/event-2791853

On Friday morning, I went to the doctors to get my ears syringed out at Narre Gate Medical Center in Narre Warren. The pain from the pressure built up in my ear canal and the swelling of my glands near the sides of my face was becoming unbearable now. I was literally losing sleep over it and needed to get it sorted out before my birthday on the weekend. I asked the receptionist for the first available female doctor and ended up being seen to by Dr. Warnakulasuriya (Good luck pronouncing that one!) who I’ve had a couple of times before.

In the treatment room, she made several attempts to flush the ears out with the syringe and was only moderately successful in shifting any wax and fluid out. It turns out that my ears were still infected and therefore I’d have to take more medication to clear it up (Joy!). She put me on Ciproxin HC ear drops as well as Keflex Cephalexin capsules which are antibiotics used to treat middle ear infections. I was really hoping that it would be a simple wash out today but no dice. But hopefully it’ll be cleared up in the next couple of days so I can actually enjoy my birthday without the pain. https://www.healthline.com/health/cephalexin-oral-capsule#about

On Friday afternoon, I split my time between shopping with Mum, resting in bed and starting to decorate the outdoor patio area for my birthday pizza night tomorrow. The drugs were slowly kicking in but I knew it would take a few days to fully recover from this. I think that it’s my body’s way of telling me that I really need to slow down even though my plate is full. I’m not going to let this infection ruin my birthday weekend, no way!

On Saturday morning, I had my birthday lunch gathering at Fortnums Restaurant and Reception Venue in Sassafras. I was still feeling quite sore from my ear infection and also restless as I didn’t sleep very well last night. I could have easily pulled the pin and cancelled my event for being too sick but I was determined to push through the pain. And if I had to take my half a pharmacy worth of medication along to the restaurant in order to cope then so be it. I honestly wish I wasn’t feeling sick right now but you just have to ride with it.

I actually originally booked the venue about two months ago and since then I’ve had to change the reservation half a dozen times. It was going to be in the private function garden room but as I didn’t have enough numbers, I had to shift it to a table inside the restaurant itself. And I also had a change it to a traditional lunch menu rather than the set two course lunch. The other thing I didn’t realise was that the restaurant didn’t accept split bill payments but thankfully it didn’t turn into a fiasco like that one time at the China Bar.

Overall, I was really pleased with how the lunch went. It was just 10 people which I was more than comfortable with. The food was great and the service from the staff was exceptional. They even (attempted) to light my birthday cake up before the air conditioning blew the candles out (Adrian Szostek to the rescue). We were lucky to have a table close to the bird feeder and had a few rosellas flock in now and again. Even with my ears half blocked and sore from the middle ear infection, I still managed to enjoy myself (with my medication on standby of course!).

On Saturday night, I had a small gathering of family and friends over at my place for a birthday pizza night including Warren N Katherine DunklingAmy Amy and Jackson Lehmann. To be honest, I still wasn’t feeling the best and part of me just wanted to rest in my sick bed but I decided to make the effort and be social for a few hours in the dining room. We had a plenty of snacks and ordered a few pizzas (supreme, Aussie, vegetarian) whilst sharing stories and having some laughs. It was a good night and I’m glad that I didn’t let my ear infection win.

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