Ecoprivilege: Spending money to save the world

I care about the planet. We only have one of them and I want to be sure my great-grandchildren get the same enjoyment from their time here that I have so far.  So it saddens me how hard some companies make it for people to make eco-friendly purchasing decisions.

Plastic bags: not very nutritious.
Plastic bags: not very nutritious.

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It gets better

Life can be painfully hard. I’ve written before about my struggles with mental illness and ADHD, losing people I love, bullying,  sickness, alopecia and autoimmune disorder, obesity and my physical health. I’ve even at times mentioned these concurrently, each overlapping and coinciding with one (or several) others. At my lowest point I was chin-deep in undiagnosed Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Depression, I was morbidly obese and unhealthy, my hair was falling out and I was being bullied at work. But that isn’t what I want to talk about today. I think we can all agree that at some point in their lives everyone will hit rock bottom.

What I want to talk about is how happy I am.

I don’t often go out of my way to discuss how wonderful my life is these days, not least because it’s so easy to get caught up in the stresses of day-to-day living. I also don’t want to brag. Every day people go through struggles I can’t comprehend; talking about how fortunate I am for the things I have seems tacky somehow.

But here’s the real deal: I’m happy. I love my life. It is full of wonderful people and amazing experience. Yes, sometimes stuff sucks. Sometimes stuff is hard. Sometimes I cry. But I am happy. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

The point I am trying to make is that dejection, loneliness, misery, heartache… These things aren’t permanent. They’re transient. They come and go like waves on the ocean and, like my life now, can co-exist with happiness, prosperity, pride and success. I still have alopecia and ADHD. I still have Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I. Still. Get. Sad. But there is light and hope and this is what I allow to define me.

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If you feel like you are in the dark, that there is nowhere to turn, that things will never improve then please speak to someone. A doctor, a friend, a family member, a compassionate stranger on the internet, Lifeline. Please ask for help. Asking for help is so hard it seems impossible but I promise you it is easier than carrying on alone. And it’s worth it. Always.

If you know someone who needs help please send this on. Ask them if they’re okay. Talk to them about Lifeline or seeking help. Listen to them. The suicide statistics in New Zealand are horrifying, especially among young people. If this post, or someone who reads this post, can help even one person then I have achieved everything I could hope for.

It will get better. It won’t always be this way. Kia kaha.



A little piece of sanity

A quiet moment of ritualistic contentment. A simple pleasure. A wee moment of unadulterated peace and quiet. I firmly believe we all need them. Those moments in which you breathe deeply, straighten out the kinks in your spine, remind yourself just how fierce you are, and calm your centre. They’re the moments that re-energise and re-fresh you, re-centre and re-set. They are an introvert’s daily haven and a luxury extroverts often take for granted. And they make the world go around.

As an ambivert (or, more specifically, an ENFP/Campaigner – the most introverted of the extroverted personality types) I am all too familiar with how quickly life can get away with us. I fill my time with friends and hobbies and noise. I book my weekends weeks in advance and surround myself with music and the hustle and bustle of life. And then one day, in a quiet moment, I wonder why I’m so tired.

I’m tired because I’ve lost those little moments of sanity. And I am so tired. After months of moving, burglaries, money problems, job hunting and career uncertainty, study, new routines, new friends, a new relationship, travel, late nights, homesickness and germs I am exhausted. On Thursday, midway through date night with my wonderful boyfriend, I developed flu-like symptoms. I have barely left bed since. Two pairs of pyjamas, a duvet, two blankets, two hot wheat bags and the aforementioned boyfriend snuggling me weren’t enough to keep my teeth from chattering so hard I almost chipped one. It was the last straw.

Some people walk or run. Some listen to music. Some paint or write. Some knit. Some cuddle their pets. Some, like my boyfriend, play computer games. Some find their peace in that first morning coffee 10 minutes before the house rises. Some in their early morning walk to work. I enjoy and value all these things. But my true sanity lies in literal self-care. Most specifically, in the ritual of bathing. The hot water, the steam, the aromatics and the soft and rough sensations of scrubs and moisturisers on my body. In those small moments of routine and cleanliness I find my centre.

Today, after an amazing (and exhausting) lunch with a good friend, I wandered into Lush and bought a cacophony of peace and deliciousness. Bath bombs, shower scrubs, body butter, face masks and exfoliants. I stocked up. I spent the princely sum of $100 for what will amount to months of happiness and sanity. Aromas of rose, lavender, peppermint, lemon and sandalwood fill my bathroom now, tempting me every time I walk in. And tonight, finally, after dinner and chores and further exhaustion brought on by basic tasks, I let myself seek my solace.

My bath was heaven. Peace. Quiet. Solitude. Heaven. I lathered on a face mask, filled the tub with marshmallow scented pink water, scrubbed myself down with green sugar and rubbed cocoa body butter into my skin. I read my book and let my concerns leak from my mind with every line on the page. I lit a candle and closed my eyes and drifted. And slowly but surely every broken piece of my core glued itself back together.

You see, you don’t need to fork out a tonne of money or go somewhere exotic to relax. You don’t need trained practitioners, expensive treatments or complicated detoxes. You just need to take a few moments, however brief or stolen, entirely for yourself. Regularly. You owe it to you to be calm and content. No one else will look out for you first, however much they may love you. No one else can see your true exhaustion or how lost you may feel inside. That’s all you. Only you can ease that confusion. Only you can dim that noise.

A friend recently told me a secret. She said that no one really knows what they’re doing or where they’re going; that everyone is just faking it and hoping for the best. And she’s right. But in moments like these, in my little pieces of sanity, I feel like I can put the puzzle of the world back together.

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Bon anniversaire

It’s my birthday today. I say so not because this day 27 years ago I was born (that’s in March) but because today one year ago I was re-born. Exactly 365 days ago I was in hospital sleeping off the anaesthetic they’d used to keep me asleep while they removed 80% of my stomach. I didn’t know it at the time but the next 12 months of my life would be a rollercoaster journey of learning and discovery interspersed with harsh lessons and realisations and some rather cutting home truths.

When I went for my first pre-op appointment at Auckland Weight Loss in February 2014 I had no idea just how much the surgery I was applying for would change my life. I knew it would help me lose weight. I knew it would dramatically lessen my risk of developing diabetes or dying of heart disease (something that runs rampant in my family). I knew it would enable me to run along the beach after my children one day, cutting the advancement of my early onset arthritis off at the toes (literally). I knew it would probably make me feel better and maybe make me a bit happier. I did not know how rocky the road would be.

Friends warned me of the trials and tribulations but always ended their stories with “but even on my worst day it’s still the best decision I ever made.” They couldn’t be more right: My life has been altered permanently. I have days where I struggle to keep food down and feel almost narcoleptically tired. And for all  that I wouldn’t make a different choice were I able.

The initial few weeks after surgery were undoubtedly the hardest. The first day I was allowed to eat I licked two teaspoons clean of pureed food, 20 minutes apart, and I was full for an hour. I struggled to drink any more than a sip of water every half hour. Two sips put me in danger of vomiting. Nausea was my constant companion and sleep deprivation an ever-present shadow. But I pushed on.

At home, I struggled with pureed meat and subsisted almost entirely on yoghurt and soup. Half an ice cube of food in a teacup was usually more than I could manage over a 45 minute period. I was sick and tired and miserable and my sole coping mechanism, eating, had been yanked out from underneath me. I cried often.

I transitioned from a puree diet to a soft food diet a week ahead of schedule and things slowly started to improve. Although I still struggle with tomato soup and greek yoghurt (bad associative memories – that nausea was a killer), the haloumi, baked beans and ham I began to eat were a far more nourishing and enjoyable experience. The nausea faded away and I began, ever so slowly, to start feeling human again.

10 kilos down after only a couple of months and I felt like I was walking on a cloud. My food intake was painfully limited and I was never free of the exhaustion and dizziness that accompanied my malnourishment but the emotional gains more than made up for the struggles. I began to feel empowered and strong. And slowly but surely I began to get my confidence back.

Having a supportive community around me made all the difference. My workmates, friends and family all knew my circumstances and understood my limitations. Morning teas and family dinners were made all the easier by people who were willing to accommodate my drastically reduced appetite and eating capacity. Taking 20-40 minutes to eat any one meal didn’t make things easy but the understanding of those around me helped immeasurably.

Christmas was the pinnacle of my efforts and struggles: A day structured solely around eating, amongst people I didn’t spend the majority of my time with, with meals consumed under time pressure. I was sick. Very sick. Miserable. I cried in the toilet of a relative’s house. But I managed and I learned. I know the next Christmas will be easier.

I hit my goal weight in February during a bout of extreme sickness. In hospital with a kidney stone, I dropped past 60kg (my goal) to 58. I was gaunt and my clothes hung off me. As I healed I climbed back up and settled between 61 and 62kgs. This is where I have chosen to stay.

When I moved to Wellington in May I gained nearly 2 kilos. To some this may seem miniscule but when you consider that 40% of people who have my surgery regain all their weight it becomes a matter of grave relevance. Increased exercise and a renewed dedication to what I ate shifted the extra weight in just shy of three weeks.

Today I weigh just 61.5kg (44.8kg less than when I started this journey). I am confident, happy, bubbly, and my depression and social anxiety has lifted. 12 months ago I couldn’t bring myself to move out of my parents’ house; less than 2 months ago I moved to Wellington alone and without a job. I credit the opportunities my surgery gave me with the landslide changes in my life and attitude. I took those opportunities and ran with them and it has made all the difference. I am re-invented and it is wonderful.

Here’s to another 12 months of happiness and success.

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Guest Post: My decision to donate my eggs (Part 1)

I thought about blogging this a while ago and never did. So now I’ll do it before I leave it any longer and there’s even more to write about. There is a bit to catch up on!

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Why? Why would anyone want to go through this process and donate their eggs to complete strangers? Well, my answer back has often been why not? I’m 28, single (have been for a while!) and not planning on using my eggs any time soon. If I end up having kids one day it’s still going to be a while away. So why not give the to a couple who want to have a baby?

I got asked at the first counselling appointment I went to if I was attached to my eggs at all (actual WTF?) No, I’m not, I get a period every month and it end up down the toilet.

So I started this process back in December when I first got in contact with Fertility Associates. I had seen a couple on the news who were looking for an egg donor and thought that was something that I could potentially do. I looked at all the information available and had a good read. I emailed my enquiry off. They emailed back with a bunch of information attached (what I had already read) saying someone would be in contact in a couple of weeks once I had read the attached information. Who doesn’t look into it first? Not me! So I emailed back saying that I would be happy to be contacted sooner. I got a phone call a day or two later and spoke to a lovely lady who is one of the donor egg coordinators in Auckland. After chatting with her I was sent for a bunch of blood tests. 8 tubes of blood later they were able to see I’m healthy, have normal egg reserve levels for my age and good news, don’t have any nasty diseases!

What next? The next step took me to see a counsellor and doctor at the clinic at the start of this year. They were there to make sure I was healthy physically and mentally. It was also a chance to make sure I understood the legal aspects, and everything the process involved. The doctor also scanned my ovaries, the best way to get a good look is with an ultrasound up my vagina. There is a TV screen at the end of the bed so I could see the scan at the same time. This, combined with the fact nothing like this bothers me, and doctors terrible hair dye job gave me the giggles! As a former practice nurse I have looked up hundreds of vaginas, I have no issues!

After this appointment I was sent a profile of a couple to look at. This was the same couple who had been on the news. I wasn’t necessarily looking to donate to them, but feel like I was kinda talked into potentially donating to the since I was one of their best options in terms of age and egg reserve levels.

So way back at the beginning of March this couple had my profile (which I had to fill out about myself) and some others, and had to decide who they were going to use. March went by, so did April, and then May. I get that it’s a big decision, but does it take that long? Right from the start it didn’t necessarily feel like it was the right thing with this couple. So when they were asking to be given until the end of May to make their decision I pulled out. I just knew something wasn’t right. It had already taken much longer than I expected, and I was ready to get things moving.

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– @katiepie_nz