Apr. 7th, 2013

redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
In my experience when you are young you don’t think too much about what it will be like when you are older. You might have some plans and hopes and dreams, you might have lots of plans and hopes and dreams and feels a bit like a vast expanse of time you have to do them all in. Even if it’s only next year. When I was about 24 I made a conscious decision to ‘work on myself’ because I was convinced I would never meet Mr Right and that I would be living on my own forever. This was an OK thought to me at the time. I had dreams of making my way through art school, which I had just started and somehow or another I would end up living in my grandmother’s house in Ainslie, long after she was gone.

So I started the work on myself. I worked my way through art school, a couple of years after that completing a graduate diploma in teaching and then entering into my first job in the community sector. For a number of years I worked hard, I developed many skills both in my creative endeavours and through my work with the various community groups that is Canberra. Then I had another landmark time, which was when I came out as being a lesbian (this label has changed since then) and began another parallel journey into discovering and working out my ‘queerness’. In this time I became very involved in the Queer community.

The time frame that I am talking about for all of this is now just over 20 years. I have spent all this time ‘working on myself’ and creating an identity and developing an idea of who I am...perhaps, whoever does, I think it’s always evolving. In about the last 5 -10 years there has been times I have been considered a bit of an ‘authority’ on particular things, issues and topics, just because I have been around for so long doing some of these things. Because I do many things, I am more a ‘jack of all trades’ than a specialist in anything.

I recognise a big part of this is also about me. I buck the system so to speak. I refuse to fit into any kinds of moulds if they feel uncomfortable and I do my own thing. My entire life I always sat on the edge of various things. My friendship groups were wide and varied, but I was never in the centre of one.

In any case, I have done lots of things, and done them in the way that I want to do them, and had a sense of identity based around how people might have perceived me in relation to these things. People would ask me for information or advice and I would tell them. There are plenty of ‘stars’ out there who I have supported. Who I have given key information to about life opportunities, which has meant the person has the chance to fulfil their dreams.

I became very active in Canberra’s LGBTI community, and at one point thought I must have known every lesbian in Canberra. This was both good and bad. I found when I entered the lesbian community I could use many of the skills gained in work life to do things to assist the LGBTI community and I did go from someone who was quite shy and not in the spotlight in any kind of way to someone, who on the surface was quite extroverted. This was because I implemented a number of activities on a regular basis for the community and also began performing as part of my art expression and the audiences were most often the gay community. The assumption from many people was that I was a flamboyant extrovert. This really was not true.

This takes me up to 2010. In 2010 I ended up shutting myself off a bit in order to finish writing a thesis that I had started a couple of years earlier. It was time to get the fucker done and finish the degree that I had started the year I came out.

At the beginning of 2011 I emerged again and was ready to be a bit more sociable. The only thing is there appeared to be no one around. I felt a bit lonely and disconnected as it seemed that some of the friends I had made had moved on or weren’t interested in catching up. Thing is, I had been so active in all the things I had been doing, but I realised that I had few real friends. I had previously been surrounded, but it was with people who were there because I had organised the ‘thing’, not because they were friends.

It was a bit tough, I started to reach out and try to connect with some people, some old friends some new friends. At the same time I had experienced a few health issues. I had also finished my thesis and was wondering if the job that I was in was really ‘me’. I decided it wasn’t and resigned with the idea that I would have a bit of time off before starting a new job. Which would be the right one. It was a leap of faith that did lead me to the job that I am currently in. One very amazing thing also happened in this time, I met (one of) my partners. We had met briefly previously but it wasn’t until I asked her for coffee, in an effort to make new friends that we connected properly. Unfortunately she had already decided to leave Australia for her native New Zealand, which she did a couple of months later (that is a whole other story).

Now this is about when the ‘stuff they don’t tell you’ starts to kick in. I had had some health problems and my body had been changing slightly for a couple of years. Nothing major, I had been and had some general health checks done previously and I was fine. I also understand that this is my story and it what I say is true to me and my experiences. Some of it will resonate with people with chronic illnesses and some will resonate with others for whatever reasons.

I have had lots and lots of energy for many years, and lots of drive to do all the things that I do. I don’t believe that age should matter and I certainly try my hardest not to be ageist. But the stuff they don’t tell you about middle age or being peri menopausal or whatever it is when you are young is really not fair.

It’s shit. Plain and simple. I had a full year last year of being in pain 90% of the time. The doctors couldn’t name what was wrong with me; they just went about treating my symptoms. The focus of my symptoms being the pain I was in. But the effects were far wider than this.
I went from having much much energy to hardly any. I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t do much and this did my head in. I felt socially isolated, but it was really hard to make any plans to do anything because I never knew if I would have the energy or not or if I would be in pain or what. So I became one of those people who could not commit to anything or who would possibly have to cancel at the last minute. Now I get this, there are people who are quite able who do this who are a pain in the arse, and there are people with illnesses etc who really want to be there and be doing something and to see you but they can’t. Of course after a while, most people stop inviting you, so you just get forgotten and left behind.

Trying to tell people you aren’t well and also trying to explain that there is no end in sight is also hard. People say things like ‘let me know if I can do anything’ but really they think you will be better in a few days, when really it could be weeks or months. My head became very fuzzy and affected the way I did things all the time. My memory was badly affected and this was very frustrating. Trying to get through any given day was often a challenge because I had no idea how capable I was going to be. This made work hard. Having to go in and be organised and do a good job was tricky. I was promoted into a manager position and I had to learn all that it entailed, plus be on top of it and at least appear to know what I was doing for my staff team. Which on many days I just didn’t feel that way at all. Going to the doctor every couple of months and still not getting any joy in getting anywhere with any solutions was very frustrating. With new treatment ideas came renewed hope for a short period of time until I realised it really hadn’t worked at all.

So it appeared that the issue probably was/is peri menopause. Although it’s still not clear. This is the stuff they don’t tell you when you are young. They don’t tell you how miserable you can feel through all of this and how lonely it is, because NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT. The whole ‘thing’ is kind of just not something that is openly discussed and some subjects within it are just scoffed at. The whole ‘but you don’t seem old’ or ‘age is just a number’ or ‘you as as young as you feel’. Well, I can tell you that I went from feeling really energetic like I could take on the world to feeling 90. And no it’s not a tiredness that a good night’s sleep will fix. It just goes on and on. I also had had a very healthy libido. OH NO, LIBIDO, now that is something that everyone is ‘supposed’ to have. A very taboo subject to talk about because we’re all supposed to fuck like rabbits, always (except for our parents or our children, they never have sex). Well for me, my libido had become very much a very important part of whom and what I am, especially since coming out. It has suffered. The feeling of desire still there, but the feeling of being covered by thick blankets, that have a heaviness that you have to fight the weight of to get anywhere, is not always conducive to sex. Definitely not conducive to picture I had of myself as the forever charming and able to please my partners whenever and wherever I (and they) wanted.

People stopped asking me questions; people were no longer interested in my opinions on things. I felt passed over on many occasions and as if I had nothing to offer anymore. My self esteem suffered all round. I often felt depressed to a point of not wanting to be alive. I felt hopeless and stupid. So many of the things I had, ‘worked on myself’ as being, went out the window, they disintegrated and it was hard to know who I was. I was also fighting being angry, I had just reached a time before all this had begun, where I felt like I really knew who I was and what I wanted and it was cut down, because I didn’t have the energy to do any of the things I wanted to do.

I also have to add that I work in this area, I know what signs and symptoms are in relation to peri menopause and I know about body changes after 40. I believe in sexual and reproductive health for everyone. Even for me working in it and around other people who support it, it was hard. I hate to think about what it could be like for other women. It feels like some sort of ‘excuse’ for particular behaviours and something (cis) women are to just deal with. I tried reading some books and I went to a forum my work conducted (in partnership with another organisation) and the information about this ‘stuff’ for queer women is shit. So much of it just doesn’t apply. Our context seems very different. When the woman who is the specialist on relationships and libido as a guest speaker in forums keeps talking about the male partner and all about him, it’s just downright annoying and the advice and what is being offered is not something that can be transferred around in one’s head to apply to women. Queer women relate to each other differently and some of our issues are different, the information they were offering just didn’t apply to me. I managed to find one book aimed at lesbian women. Some woman’s thesis. It was shit, I stopped reading it when she kept going on about women who are heterosexual as being conditioned in different ways, so women who had come out at an older age would have this conditioning, it was insinuating that I was somehow flawed..... A total load of crap that just made me feel worse.

This is the shit ‘they’ don’t tell you, or the stuff that is just not talked about often.
This year I am feeling much better. Finally a medical procedure/medication has actually assisted me. However I am still ‘not the same’. My energy is still very low. I have to make sure I get just the right amount of sleep and enough time out to just laze around, combined with the right amount of exercise and everything else. Everything is finely balanced and if the balance is tipped I don’t feel well, either physically or mentally/emotionally.
The good thing all of this has done is it has made me realise what is important in life. My relationships are the most important thing. Nothing else matters. I am working on redefining who I am based on this, and based on the simple things in life. It doesn’t matter if people don’t want my pearls of wisdom or my company even. I am getting enjoyment out of the ‘little’ things these days, because it’s the little things that matter.

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