Thursday, September 25, 2014

An open letter to the 2014 Perth Royal Show

Dear Royal Agricultural Society of WA,

I have enjoyed going to the Royal Show for as long as I can remember. I have such amazing memories of getting up early, heading to the bank to withdraw the money we had saved all year in those Dolomite accounts, and making our way in. Before the train, we'd park in the same person's yard every year - we never knew their name and they never knew ours, but each year we'd drive in, pay our money and say hello. The first time I didn't go to the show, I was ten - it was literally the first year since I was born that I had missed it - I was in Disneyland at the time and I was DISAPPOINTED that I wasn't at the Show. Only for a minute, but still.

Show bags full of chocolate and stupid inflatable things, the baby animal nursery, fairy floss, the giant slide, the sheep dogs, the show animals, staying up sooooo far past bed time to watch the fireworks and so much more. Ah, sugar coated bliss.

But this year, I'm really disappointed in you.

You were going to have a ride this year called "Bethlem Sanatorium" that depicted an open ward with 20 actors pretending to be patients. The Bethlem Sanatorium was and is a real place - the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world (though now it goes by Bethlem Royal Hospital) and it was known for its cruel treatment of mentally ill patients in the distant past. In fact, one of the most disturbing facts was that Bethlem allowed the public to come and view the "bedlam" (which gets its name from the hospital) and the madness for themselves, making a mockery out of the suffering of the patients who were subjected to cruelty and violence on a daily basis. 

Now, keeping in mind that this is considered by many to be the most scandalous aspect of the history of this psychiatric facility, how on earth did you think it appropriate to approve it as a ride? And have it featured in the "Kids & Family" section of your website?

Have we not come anywhere between the 1400s and now? Are the mentally ill still a freak show? Roll up, roll up, come and see the crazies! Witness the insanity for yourself for just $15! Lunatics galore!

Then we can all point and laugh. Ha ha ha, isn't being sick just hilarious? How about next year you have a childrens cancer ward? We can all laugh at their bald heads! Oh I know, how about a few people with physical differences, too? Because not looking like a model is shameful and we need to make sure they know just how much we won't tolerate anything but beauty in our community.

The stigma surrounding mental illness remains extreme despite one in five Australians experiencing it. A 2006 study found that almost a quarter of people thought mental illness was caused by a personal weakness, and one in five would not tell anyone if they had depression.

The biggest killer of 15-44 year olds is suicide. Perhaps some of those deaths could be prevented if asking for help wasn't considered by some to be weak and shameful. If they didn't worry that they'd never get another job. If they didn't believe they would be ostracized by friends, family and the wider community. If it didn't make them feel like they were in a freak show.

I've been in a few psychiatric facilities in my time. My stays have ranged from a couple of days to a couple of months. I remember vividly the first time I went. I was petrified thanks to, in part, the way mental health facilities are portrayed in the movies. I expected "bedlam". I expected people walking around muttering to themselves. Screaming, crying and moaning coming from every room. Shared showers covered in grime and horrid nurses hovering over you.

But it was nothing like that. It looked more like a hotel, with my own private bedroom and bathroom. Most of the time I would be in the smokers courtyard talking to other patients. We would chain smoke, tell stories, support each other and laugh. The best therapy I ever had in those places took part in the courtyard. Being around people. People who understood you weren't feeling so great and wouldn't mind if you cried. In fact, they'd probably bring you a cuppa and offer to listen, then ten minutes later you're all smiling again.

I have met some amazing people during my times as an inpatient, and I'm still friends with quite a few of them to this day. Fabulous, hard working, interesting, smart, funny, articulate, caring, down to earth people. Who happen to have had mental health issues. Wanna drop by some time so you can point at us and laugh?

After the Bethlem Royal Hospital and other advocacy groups campaigned for you to pull the attraction you held a meeting. I left a message on your Facebook page:

I thought it was pretty respectful. Polite, even. But you hid it so only my friends could see it. You replied to the people asking about bunnies and stables but my comment was left to languish. From this I can only conclude that you couldn't care less about it. You didn't reply to my tweets either.

Then, this afternoon, when I heard that you had changed the ride I was relieved and thought you must have come to your senses. Hurrah! Common sense prevails and human decency can be relied upon once more... but then I read your statement. A classic fauxpology:
While the attraction was not designed to cause offense, "clearly some members of the public did not feel it was appropriate".
Oh please. Shifting the blame, much? Take some responsibility! You messed up by thinking charging people to walk around an attraction while actors pretended to have severe mental illnesses was just peachy.

I had been looking forward to introducing my kids to the Perth Royal Show this year, but not any more. Instead, I'll use my time to promote the messages of Mental Health Week which starts the day after the Show ends, and work to challenge the stigma.



If you need help call Lifeline on 13 11 14

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Calling all Bright Young Things!

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Every so often in the Blogosphere, you get approached to do something and before you've finished reading the pitch you are jumping up and down, going all jazz hands all over the shop. This is one of those times!

Tricky, has been asked by 720 ABC to review the 2014 Awesome International Arts Festival for Bright Young Things! But it gets better, because I have this extra ticket here for YOUR kid to be a Bright Young Reviewer live on air on Afternoon with Gillian O'Shaunessy, too! Kids and live radio? Yeah, we're totally gonna go there and just cross our fingers (arms, legs, eyes, whatever else is available) that none of them decide to swear. The Trickster is totally excited and his first question was "Do you think I'll get to hold the microphone?".

The Festival:
The Awesome Festival has been running since 2007 and, as the name suggests, is pretty damn awesome. It delivers a showcase of amazing and exciting contemporary art from around the world with both free and ticketed theatre, dance, music, sculpture, installation and new media.

This year's line up is brilliant and some of the events I'm really looking forward to are the Silent Disco Walking Tour (headphones, disco hits that no one else can hear and dancing - YES PLEASE!), the Imagination Playground (for ages 0-5 where they can build with massive blocks), heaps of different Robot activities and the Nursery so Bobbin can get in on the art fun, too.

Awesome aims to be super inclusive, so on top of specific programs for children with disabilities or disadvantages and their siblings, one of the things that is new this year is a navigational tool for parents with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder. It will assist parents to make positive decisions for their child by outlining the themes in the shows, access to venues, potential triggers and such.

Do you have a Bright Young Thing aged 4-12? Think they'd like a sneak peek at the Awesome Festival and the opportunity to review it on 720 ABC?

We'll be reviewing Story Book (adventure art!!!), Galloping Tales (art using X-Box Kinect), Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones (shadow theatre) and Laser Beak Man (by internationally renowned artist Tim Sharp who has ASD and whose mother was told he'd never talk, go to school or be capable of love and should just be put in an institution and forgotten about!).

L-R: Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones; Story Book; Beak Man
All they need to do is review something to show me they have what it takes! They could review their dinner, a toy, a movie, a trip to the zoo, whatever they feel like and they can submit it as a drawing, painting, collage etc with a sentence or two (scribed by you if they're little) or even a short video via Instagram (FYI: I'm partial to interpretive dance). They can enter as many times as you like.

You can submit their entry before Wednesday, 24th September by:
  • Posting a picture of it on the Where's My Glow Facebook page
  • Emailing it to me glowless @ subject: AWESOME ENTRY
  • Posting it to Instagram and tagging me @glowless (for videos too!)

I would love it so much if you would share this competition around because I truly believe it is a awesome opportunity for your Bright Young Thing.

By entering, you agree to the terms and conditions. You and your Bright Young Reviewer must be available on Saturday, 4th October between 9.45am and 2.00pm at the Perth Cultural Centre and Tuesday, 7th October for the 720 ABC live broadcast from the Perth Cultural Centre between 1pm and 3pm. This is a game of skill, winner will be chosen on merit. Winner must be between 4-12 years old and be accompanied by a parent, no correspondence will be entered in to. Entries may be reposted on Facebook or the blog. Prize is not transferable without prior written consent and cannot be taken as cash.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Finlee & Me & You

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For full details please see my disclosure policy
This post was meant to go live forever ago. So instead of saying I've tried these products for a while, I can honestly say I have tried them FOR AGES and love them. Turns out there is actually an up side to being so forgetful.

We've been putting some funky baby and kids products from hip online baby shop Finlee & Me through the ringer here at Casa de Glow lately (for the last billion months - sorry Angela!). The lovely (and amazingly patient) Angela, aka the "Me" in Finlee & Me sent Tricky and Bobbin some awesome presents:

Monkey Mat

I know what you're thinking. How is this different to a normal picnic rug? Why should I spend almost $40 on a blanket? Well it's a decent size at 5'x5' (152cm x 152cm) so everyone can fit on nicely, it's water repellant and machine washable, but my favourite things about it are:
  • Weighted corners so your windy day picnic doesn't end up with you strategically placing the salad bowl on one corner, the esky on another, and cramping your space. But if it is insanely windy there are loops you can stake it to the ground through
  • It has centre loops, too, but these ones are to keep baby toys ON the mat so they don't go walk about and end up in the Kangaroo poo (which has magnetic properties to babies and their toys)
  • It all squishes down in to a cute little zip up pouch (attached so you don't lose it!) that has been clipped on to my pram since the day we got it!
Because I have it on the pram at all times, we have used it as a picnic blanket, a park rug, a table cloth (when the picnic tables were covered in bird poo), a shade for Bobbin's pram, a travel change mat and probably more things that I've already forgotten about.

You can do the monkey with the Monkey Mat at Finlee & Me in blue, orange, khaki and pink for $39.95.

Little Num Nums Natural Teether

Teething is the bane of my existence right now. Bobbin has just cut her seventh tooth and wants to gnaw on something constantly to relieve the discomfort - her dummy, her fingers, my nipple (OH DEAR GOD!), pretty much anything she can get her mitts on. I have attached this all natural teething heart to her pram, my carrier and her car seat at different times and she happily sucks and chews on it for ages. It's obvious she loves it, but this is what I love about it:
  • Dishwasher safe. Booyah. Best two words in the world
  • They are BPA, Phthalate, Lead and PVC Free. I can't pronounce some of those, but I know they're bad mmkay
  • Each comes with a box and a pram strap to stop it getting festy in the bottom of your nappy bag or lost somewhere between the bakery and the car park
  • It is not my nipple - I cannot stress the importance of this enough right now
You can wrap your chompers around the All Natural Teether at Finlee & Me in heart, car, owl and rocket shapes in multiple colours for $21.95 (I think the heart and the car are the easiest ones for babies to hold).

Portable Travel High Chair

I am a huge believer that kids should eat with adults at the family table. I'm also a huge believer in going out to eat, letting someone else cook and having someone else do the dishes! Huzzah! Now I'm no germ-o-phobe, I let my kids play in dirt and if they eat food off the floor at home I kinda just roll my eyes because I know it is pretty clean since I spend so much time with a mop in my hand. But restaurant highchairs are feral. Ever wiped one down with a wet wipe and it's come up almost black and still left bits of food spot welded to the tray? Yeah, me too. And it sits there next to the impeccably clean tables... so put your kid at the table, I say. The best bits about this highchair are:
  • It is super small when scrunched in to it's carry case - the size of a MCN or two disposable nappies
  • Uses a five point harness and hardcore stitching so it's very safe
  • Adjustable to fit many chair shapes and sizes - it even has space for fancy chair backs to go through at the top
This lives permanently in the boot of our car now and has been pulled out when there has been festy or broken highchairs, no highchairs, at friends houses and even at home when we have had other babies visiting.

You can purchase the ultimate Portable Travel High Chair at Finlee & Me in a range of funky colours and designs for $44.95. Bobbin is modeling the Coco Snow design.

Kinetic Sand

This stuff is the shiz. For a person who passionately (and quite vocally) hates the amount of sand that is tracked through her house, it is surprising that I would be singing the praises of sand as an INSIDE TOY. But if you ever play with this stuff, you'll know why. It is just amazing. Everyone who has had a play with this at our place has been memorized by it's texture and properties, even Tricky, who doesn't like sand on his hands usually. But he will quite happily play with it quietly for ages, which is great for his fine motor skills, his creativity and my ability to drink a hot cup of tea and sit down for a breather. The best bits about Kinetic Sand are:
  • It's sticks to itself not to you! You won't be sweeping it up for days
  • Won't dry out so you can use it over and over again
  • Great for sensory play
  • Anti-microbial and non toxic
  • The coolest texture ever. It's almost like magical solid liquid hybrid without the goo
I find it really therapeutic to play with this stuff, balling it up and then cutting it (yes, you can cut it!), then squishing it so it spills out of my hands. I have actually used it as a mindfulness activity - it's like a creative stress ball for me. My Aunty loves it so much that for her birthday my mum went online and bought her some... she's in her 50s! So definitely for all ages.

You can get your hands (cleanly) on Kinetic Sand at Finlee & Me from $19.95

My other fave things about the store are:
So check them out on Facebook and go buy "lovely stuff for kids". Tell Angela that Glow sent you (no seriously, after waiting months, the poor thing could do with a hello).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ending therapy. Alternatively titled: Can I do this without professional help?

Over the years I have had many different therapists who have each approached me in different ways, using various and sometimes contradictory methods.

One thing that has always been the same though, no matter who I was seeing at the time, is that on leaving a session, I've always felt worse. Without fail. Because talking about shitty things sucks big hairy balls sometimes. I would always be left with a sense that I was a complete basket case (which may be true, but let’s not rub that in) who would never ever not need help. Until I met this latest guy; let's call him Brad, because that's his name.

I've only worked with Brad for about nine months after the original therapist I was seeing through the maternity hospital reached the end of her contract. I hate changing therapists. The whole rehashing of why you’re so fucked up is painful. Old wounds that were just starting to scab over are picked at. Fresh blood drops breaking the surface, and I’m right back there when it all happened. But other than the first session, where we were both getting to know how each other operated, I’ve always left feeling OK. Not necessarily like I could take on the world, but that everything would be alright. Even after sessions that were heavy. For the first time ever I found a sense of hope.

We worked on all number of issues, but no matter what, I felt I could be myself. Which might sound stupid because, duh, aren’t you always meant to be yourself with your therapist? See, you are, but I, err, haven’t always been. Because HELPFUL. I know, I know, I’m an idiot. Previously I’ve lied to avoid the conversations I didn’t feel ready to have. Very helpful, Glow, very helpful.

Working through my all-encompassing guilt and shame after forgetting Bobbin, I was more truthful than I thought I could be, and I didn’t feel judged. I know that’s his job, but I’ve seen so many therapists that just aren’t good at it, so to have a good one at a time when I really needed it was great.

My sessions at the hospital were to last up until one year post-partum… with Bobbin turning one last month I knew our time was going to be up sooner rather than later. They don’t toss you out on the kerb if you’re in need of care, but because my sessions were maintenance and skill building for the most part rather than crisis management, it would be time to say goodbye.

Our final session was bittersweet. We decided it would be ending now, and I was happy with that, feeling that I had been part of the decision making process, that this was the right time for it to conclude. But then I started to cry just a little.

It was an uneasy feeling and I wasn’t entirely sure why I was crying. Was it because my safety net would be gone? Or that I’d miss the “debrief” that therapy allows? Would I miss Brad and this lopsided relationship we had going on where I knew nothing about him and he knew so much about how screwed up I feel sometimes yet never made me feel like a freak? The answer is probably a combination of all of that and then some.

We joked I was now sane and that he should really invest in a stamp ala The Simpsons so I could prove it to my friends. We summed up the three most important people in my life, my rocks, my happy place; I laughed that the things that make Bobbin (who came to the majority of sessions) full on now, are the exact things I love about her because they'll make her an awesome woman; marveled at Tricky's massive increase in confidence in the last six months; and swooned over MapGuy, who we always called Mr Perfect in our fortnightly meetings.

The session was much shorter than usual, or at least it felt that way. He said he’d enjoyed our time together, that he’d see my name on his calendar and smile, and I believed him. Because we always had great conversations (combined with a somewhat similar sense of humour) that would seem to go in all sorts of directions but always with an underlying theme of “Glow isn’t as crazy as she thinks she is” with a side of “Glow needs to chill out a bit”. I shook his hand and thanked him most ineloquently for everything he had done for me. The words didn’t seem enough, so, announcing it was probably breaking some rule, I gave him the quickest of hugs and walked out without looking back. Because if I’d look back I’d probably start proper, ugly crying. How do you adequately thank someone for returning a sense of hope to your life?

I don’t think I’ll be getting a new therapist any time soon, instead I'll fly solo for a while. The idea of rehashing my past isn’t attractive, and I feel like I’m in a good place right now, and if those introductory sessions aren’t handled well, it can cause a spiral down with the “I’m more fucked up than I thought, I’m going to be insane forever” thing. But don't panic, I'm still medicated for your convenience.


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