Sunday, December 29, 2013


Instead of doing the same old end of year survey, I thought I'd try something a bit different.  I thought a 'sensory' recap could be interesting.  The sights, smells, feelings etc that were experienced this year.  Here goes nothing.

2013 was:

The feeling of panic when I found out I was losing my job with about 6 hours notice.  Going through the motions of applying for yet more jobs, expecting the same result as always - rejection..  Having a quarter-life crisis.  Having another job interview and deciding not to give a shit, because hell, I won't get the job anyway.

The excitement of deciding to do something out of my comfort zone.  Dragging my love onto a plane for the first time in his life and the pain of squeezing each other's hands too tight during takeoff.  Having cheeseburgers in a pub in Sydney's CBD only to discover halfway through that the meat's still raw.  Checking into the hotel and eating the best food ever in their restaurant.  Trying mussels for the first time and being pleasantly surprised.  Being touristy and capturing memories in front of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge (as you do).  Meeting internet friends and sharing laughs over pizza.  Having an iced chocolate at Max Brenner just so I could say I'd been there.  Baby showering for an afternoon, then flying home the next day.

Crying with relief when I finally got offered a permanent job - note "not giving a shit" as a surprisingly successful interview tactic for future reference.  Celebrating our seventh anniversary.  Realising that I was the same age that M was when we started dating - and thinking that dating an 18 year old (my age at the time) was jail bait.  Losing electricity for 20 hours on my first rostered day off.

Lovin' on my puppy for her birthday - April Fools day - while knowing the joke is really on us.  Becoming accustomed to chasing The Smelly Prick Who Shall Not Be Named around my house with Glen 20.  Hiding downstairs and getting high on nail products instead.

It was sounds of hospital - IV drips beeping, people moaning.  The silence and then the crying when being told that death was imminent.  Waiting for M to be taken into surgery.  Hearing him tell me that if he didn't make it, he'd love me forever.  The praying, the itching of St Mary against my sternum as I wore it every second of every day.  The blubbering as my heart and soul leaked out through my tear ducts as I stood under the shower.  The sound of the ventilator breathing for him.  The horribly heavy, limp feeling of his hand as I held it in mine, hour after hour, day after day.  The agony of not knowing if he'd wake up.  The scratching of pen meeting paper as we wrote out a prayer card in the hospital church. The opening of packages containing fresh needles and drugs.  The astonished looks on the nurses faces when I was able to explain M's condition, what they were doing, and why.  One day noticing that his hand didn't feel quite so heavy anymore.  My spirit soaring when we passed the surgeon in the corridor and he smirked at us.  Late night drives home listening to the same stupid music on the radio and bitching about roadwork.  Watching his blood flow through the dialysis machine because it was the only way he would wake up.  Walking down the corridor and almost running to his bedside when I could see that his eyes were open and watching me.  The smile that spread across his face every time I arrived after work.  Crying in the carpark at work on the day he was released.  His frustration at not being well enough to do what he used to.  The pain of his breastbone knitting back together. The feeling of helplessness at not being able to make it all better.

It was the maneuvering of furniture as we decided to make a fresh start in another house.  The astonishment - and honestly, some anger - when M swapped his trusty Hilux ute for an old, run-down convertible.  The shrugging my shoulders at the impracticality because hey, he was alive, and if some stupid car made him happy, then I was happy.  It was the budding excitement that came with booking our wedding, because why should 2013 be ALL THE BAD THINGS?

It was the sadness felt at losing two dear family friends 16 days apart.  The heartbreak of seeing the shell of a lost, heartbroken man alone after 62 years of marriage.  The deja-vu of going to two funerals in two weeks.

It was the strangeness at spending the night alone in my parents' bed.  After spending so many nights in bed alone, it was still weird.  No nerves, just wanting to be next to my love.  It was the excitement of knowing that we were finally getting married.  It was the choking back of tears as I was strapped into my dress; hugging my dad when he saw me walk out looking like a puffy white marshmallow.  The calm feeling in the backseat of the car on the way to the registry office; looking down at my feet as I walked down the aisle trying not to trip; my heart skipping a beat when I saw his face smiling back at me.  The giggle escaping as I watched M pull the blue electrical tape off the ring box - to keep the lid on, he said - and the smirk that played on my lips when he stuffed up my middle name.  And the kiss that finally sealed the deal.  Looking around my backyard after the ceremony and taking everything in, all the people that had been there for us, and knowing how lucky we are.  The fairy lights twinkling above my head as I thanked my now-husband for being a stubborn bastard.

Then it was the 4 hour road trip to our honeymoon.  The panic of driving a compact rental car over 8km of gravel road after taking a wrong turn, talking about how this would be funny looking back, but not quite so funny in the moment.  It was the triumph of escaping sunburn, walking barefoot on hot sand, holding hands and shoes, buying trinkets and recharging batteries.  Feeding dolphins, boat rides, 4WD trails and buffet lunches.

Lastly, it's spending Christmas together and recognising that this all could have gone the other way.  It's laying my head on M's chest and listening to his heartbeat while his pacemaker adds a click to the end of it.  It's running my finger down his biggest scar and knowing that a group of doctors held my world in their hands and stitched it back together.

Now that I think about it, I think that despite all that 2013 threw at us, we conquered it and made it our bitch.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

on ups & downs

Now that 2013 (ie: the year from hell) is drawing to a close, I've had a bit of time to reflect.  It's obviously been a very challenging year, but I'm glad that we were able to make some happy memories towards the end of it.

In dot points - because that's how I roll - here's some highlights in rough chronological order:

  • After having to drop back to part-time work in December, I lost my job completely in mid-January when my contract extension was refused.  I spent two full months unemployed, living off my dwindling savings.
  • M & I took a 4 day trip to Sydney, where I got to meet some friends in person for the first time.  Yay!
  • I got a job; and over the course of the year it's turned out to be one of the best jobs I've ever had.
  • The whole life/death ordeal with M, which I've briefly covered in previous posts.
  • Backlash from M's siblings who decided to gang up on me, hurling constant abuse and declaring that our 7-year relationship and subsequent engagement meant nothing as I am not "blood".
  • We packed up and moved house two months after M's surgery, which turned out to be the first step towards our fresh start.  We had planned this before M fell ill, but decided to push ahead with our plans regardless, mainly because I didn't want M to feel guilty and blame himself for holding us back.
  • WE GOT MARRIED!  And had a honeymoon.  It was fantastic.
  • I just celebrated my first birthday as a married lady, and Christmas is only a few days away.
I have really struggled in the latter half this year.  When M got sick I just kept truckin' on, and I surprised myself with the reserves of inner strength I kept tapping into.  In all honesty, I have no idea how I did it, and while it's easy to say that I wouldn't be able to do it again, deep down I know I could, if I had no other choice.

The truth is, when M was released from hospital, that's when the wheels fell off and I shattered into a million pieces.  I found myself hiding inside my own home, having panic attacks every time I heard a noise outside, or when a phone would ring.  I stopped sleeping; obsessively checking M throughout the night, making sure he was still alive.  I eventually caved and went to the doctors and asked for some sleeping tablets.  I walked out with a prescription for anti-depressants and refused to take them.  "I'm tired, not depressed," I said.  The panic attacks and anxiety worsened, and I felt like a bigger failure every day because I couldn't help M how I wanted to.  Feeling guilty as hell that now he was worrying about ME, and with some gentle prodding from my parents and friends, I finally went and got a second opinion and ended up with the anti-depressants - which I was given no option but to take - and a psychologist referral.  I walked around with the letter in my bag for about three months before I made an appointment.

I've had four or five sessions now, and I think I'm starting to turn a corner.  Knowing that how I felt was perfectly normal eased my mind.  I was able to work through my anger towards my in-laws - well, I refer to them as the "out-laws" - for making a difficult time even more difficult for me, and it's only been very recently that I've accepted that there's nothing more I can do where they're concerned.  They have not apologised, and they never will, because they meant what they said then and they still do.  I was willing to be the bigger person and tried to move past it for M's sake; but the olive branch was thrown in my face, and so, I'm done.  No more trying to make an effort only to be trash-talked at every turn.  You do not get to disrespect me and my relationship (now marriage) and then come waltzing into my home like you own the place - and that's what they wanted.  Things in that regard have really quietened down over the last few weeks.  They were not invited to the wedding, and although M told them it was happening in advance and why they weren't coming, after the fact there was more drama.  Since then, they've all been giving M the silent treatment, which has been a relief for me, and sadly, for him too.  It broke my heart when M said "I'm glad my parents are dead so they don't have to see this."

Anyway, aside from all that, I haven't been doing too bad.  This year has been one thing after another with no breathing space, and now that the wedding's over and things are settling down, I've been in more of a depressed state of mind than usual.  Again, I was told that's normal, and it was described to me as a "whiplash effect", where my mind and body is forcing me slow down and recover.  There's not a whole lot I can do but take the opportunity to rest and recover, and then we can focus on our plans for 2014; and there are a few!

I guess I just wanted to take a few moments to sit down and process a few things.  I now have an amazing husband, and our relationship, although not much different than before, feels stronger than ever.  I have amazing parents who have been with me every step of the way, and the best friends I could have ever hoped for.  We have an incredible bubble of love and support around us and I'm so grateful for each and every person.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

on friendship

Over the last five months, I have learnt a hell of a lot.

Mainly, I learnt a lot about the people around me, and which of those people I could truly rely on.  The saying goes something like "weddings, illness and death bring out people's true colours".  I didn't think much of it until M got sick.

I started a new job two months before M got sick, and I was still in my probationary period when everything went down.  When the shit hit the fan, my new boss and colleagues, although they barely knew me, were absolutely amazing.  From letting me take as much time off as I wanted - which honestly wasn't much, I subconsciously tried to keep my routine as close to normal as I could - to keeping me busy, to letting me sleep when I passed out at the lunch table from sheer exhaustion day after day, it was more than I expected.  Even now, that support is still there.  On Thursday afternoon, I had a meltdown while on my lunchbreak, and when I told my boss I needed to go home, she didn't bat an eyelid.  She could just tell, and she didn't hold my moment of weakness against me.  I am so incredibly lucky to have landed what now appears to be my dream job.  Nothing but positive things are in store for the future, I just know it.

Last night, I caught up with a "new" friend.  While I was doing her nails, she just let me bare my soul.  She said that maybe I'm suffering from some form of PTSD.  I won't jump to conclusions, I'll let the professionals decide, but it makes sense to me.  I held it all together until M was released from hospital, and that was when I started my downward spiral.  Towards the end of our catch up, she said that I had helped her through a really bad time.  I was floored.  Me?  Help her?  I didn't do anything out of the ordinary.  And as she left, she gave me a bone-crushing hug and whispered in my ear to keep on going, because things will get better.  My spirit soared; I don't know how to explain it.  I just felt lighter.

Before M got sick, I thought I had an idea of who my true friends were.  And then the Earth shifted on it's axis, my world fell apart, and the truth was revealed.  Friends who I thought I could count on - people who I would have dropped everything for, if the situation were reversed - vanished; I reached out and was greeted with radio silence, or a delayed "oh, that sucks".  In hindsight, I obviously had more invested in that friendship than the other person.  And as much as I wanted them to be there for me, they weren't, and it appears that they didn't want to be.

And yet, there have been others, like my friend two paragraphs ago, who just caught me as I fell.  People who I considered distant friends - not that far above acquaintances, really - who were just there.  Like an old school friend who randomly invited me out to a night on the town, and when I said no because M was in surgery, picked up the phone while she was at work and just let me cry to her about how scared I was.  And there have been others, too, more people who don't come to mind right now.  

The majority of people still don't know how dire the situation was, or that there was even a situation at all; to be honest, that's the way I want it to be.

Now that there is some time between then and now, I've had some time to reflect.  There was one person in particular who I'd wanted to be there and support me, and when they weren't, I was devastated; completely and utterly devastated.  Then I realised that it's quality over quantity.  Just because I've known someone longer than someone else doesn't make them a better or truer friend.  Truth be told, when I think of it now, I have so many more valuable friendships than I thought I did.  M does, too.  I've let go of the ones who aren't willing to meet me/us halfway, because as this year from hell has shown us, life is just too short.

There is also one other fast & firm friend who deserves a special mention.  She knows who she is.  From waxing poetic about anxiety and depression to stupid, frivolous discussions about anything and everything for hours and days on end.  Driving M insane when my phone is constantly going off with minion laughter.  Sharing plans for her future, and for mine.  I can't thank you enough, lady.  I feel better knowing there's at least one other raving lunatic who just gets it.  I'm super duper excited that you found someone just as awesome as you to share your life with, because you deserve it.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

mending a broken heart

It's been six weeks and two days since the love of my life was wheeled into surgery to repair his broken heart. It was the longest, scariest day of my life.

He had - and still has - a lot of support. People all over the world have been praying for him. I was praying.

I spent hours at a time by his bedside while he was in intensive care. Sitting quietly, holding his hand. He was in an induced coma for eight days. They ended up putting him on temporary dialysis so they could wake him up. One of the nurses told me that he was under "industrial strength" sedation, and that was the only way to get it out of his system.

I always had a feeling that he was going to be okay. About a week after the surgery, we passed M's surgeon in the corridor and he looked at us with a smug little smirk on his face, and I knew he was going to make it.

The day I walked into intensive care and saw M looking back at me, I almost lost it. When the nurse asked him if he knew who I was, and M nodded, I was so happy. Then the nurse said "is she the love of your life?", and when he nodded again, I started crying. I couldn't help it. I'll always remember that as one of the best moments of my life.

His story is one that is going to be spoken about for years to come. Even the surgeon wasn't expecting him to survive. The amount of damage his body, and particularly his heart, had copped was ridiculous. His blood was septic. Lesions on every organ. Hole in his heart. Partially collapsed lungs full of emboli. Pneumonia as well, I found out later. Enlarged liver and spleen. Damaged kidneys. The inner strength he has is incredible. Not only did he beat the odds, he left the medical profession slack-jawed and bug-eyed in his wake.

M has been home for three weeks. Now we have to come to terms with what our lives have become. At 32, he has two new heart valves. One mechanical, one pig tissue. He has a large graft to seal the hole where the infection was eating away. He also has a pacemaker for life, because he lost a lot of the conductive heart tissue that keeps his heart beating regularly. He calls himself some sort of human/machine/pig concoction. It makes me cringe. I refer to him as my bionic man. It has a nice ring to it.

He's getting stronger every day - walking around the house, finding things to keep himself amused. It will be another 2-3 months before he can go back to work, and I doubt that he'll be able to go back to his storeman role. Too much heavy lifting, labour and stress. Two days ago he got clearance to drive again, and he's stoked. No more being housebound when he isn't going to doctors appointments and blood tests.

A couple of weeks ago M asked me what I would have done if he hadn't survived. I told him I honestly didn't know - because I don't. I didn't even want to entertain the thought when he was at his worst. I couldn't bear to think about it.

He promised me, mere moments before they wheeled him into surgery, that he wouldn't leave me. And he didn't.

That's all that matters.

still into you

Time for a fresh start.

I need to get some things off my chest, eventually. I can't bring myself to do it just yet.

The title of the blog comes from a song that has been getting me through the last couple of months. It always seems to come on the radio right when I need to hear it.

(Let's pretend it isn't a popular new release... I'd like to believe it's a coincidence.)

The last couple of months have changed our lives forever. Where we go from here, I don't know. Where I go from here, I don't know. But we're both here, breathing, living, and that puts us above the odds.

Both of us.