That’s Anxiety, Too.

by Lori Dwyer on May 14, 2013 · 6 comments

‘I think, therefore I am’ is the biggest, most destructive lie you’ve ever been told. You are not your thoughts, nor your emotions. You are the being behind them, the one that witnesses and experiences and watches them.

You are not what you think. Your head is stupid, and your thoughts lie.

You are the entity that experiences this.

You are the Universe, experiencing itself for the first time


I bounced around for the first twenty five years of my life absolutely festering with anxiety.

I never knew that was what it was, though. I thought I understood the term ‘anxiety’, but only in regards to acute panic attacks; where you can’t breathe and can’t do anything but you can’t sit still, the terror you feel clawing at the insides of your chest to get out and escaping in heaving, wretched sobs.

But panic attacks are the extreme end of the anxiety scale. It took me twenty five years, a bad bout of postnatal depression and an awesome shrink to finally identify that the frazzled, constant tightness in my chest wasn’t a sensation felt by everyone, all the time. It wasn’t even ‘just me’, just how I functioned. It was something separate to me, making me feel that way.

The constant gnawing worry that never left my side, the feeling that things were never quite right… that was anxiety. The obsessive compulsive tendencies- cleaning things, straightening them, adding up numbers and reducing them back down to single digits… that was all anxiety, too. The epic dread that prefaced meeting new people, walking into situations I’ve never encountered before? That was the anxiety, too.

And that annoying chronic procrastination I indulge in; it’s rooted deep in the burning, fluttering, sizzling core of anxiety as well.

I think of it like uranium  like x-rays- it looks harmless, so nondescript and defeatable. But it’s insidious and sly and it burns away at you from the inside out- silently and slowly, causing such violent damage.

Knowledge is power, and power is not control but acceptance. There’s all kinds of treatment for anxiety. The first and most useful and basic is simply knowing it’s there. Being aware of it. Not internalising it.

All that anxiety isn’t me. It affects my life… but I know it’s there, and that gives me an advantage, a one-up.

Misery loves company. Anxiety loves silence and denial.

This blog post is written to raiser awareness for Beyond Blue’s ‘Get To Know Anxiety’ campaign.
It’s not sponsored. Just important.


There’s been a thread of holier-than-thou judgement of my parenting in a few comments left of late.

It’s made me afraid of using my own space in the way that I find most therapeutic– spilling all my secrets into the digital Neverland. I don’t like being afraid. These are comments that pick and pluck at the spot where I am weakest– my own parenting skills, and the way I navigate life with two little people. The possible damage I may be inflicting on my children. 

I think it’s the soft spot of all parents. We’re all hyper-aware of the responsibility of raising little people. We know we will be judged. From the moment we reveal we’re carrying a baby, until long after we’ve passed away. Forty years from now, should our child break all social codes and do something terrible; one of the first places people will look for answers will be with us. Where did we fail? In what facet of parental responsibility where we so inept that it can explain what went wrong with our children?

And we are judged on the tiniest, most inconsequential endeavours. It seems so socially acceptable to comment on the parenting of other people and the probable fate of their children; and to do so with such casual study of their situation. There’s a self-justifying benevolence in the social sport of picking apart another mum because she works, or doesn’t; or smacks, or doesn’t; on whether her children are well-behaved and polite, or not. The behaviour of children is seen as an obvious manifestation of their parents child rearing skills, or lack of them. And we seem to encourage ‘keyhole judgements’– taking a tiny slice of a story and attributing it as the rule, when it just may be the exception.

I think, perhaps, that’s one of the elements that digs at me so much, in regard to comments left here lately. The arrogance of assumption of people feeling that because they’ve read my blog, they then have the right or the obligation to comment on my parenting; on the lives of myself, my mum, and my children.

You only know what I tell you here. Judging me on what I choose to share with you is the online equivalent of judging a parent at a local playground after watching them interact with their child for two minutes. It doesn’t give you enough information to make calls like you do, to look down on someone else because they’re not doing it the way you consider to be ‘right’.

I share a lot of my life on these web pages. I write without thinking much about how I’ll be perceived. I tell stories about my children and myself. That leaves me inherently open to judgement… that’s okay. It’s part of the give and take of blogging. People have every right to voice their opinion, particularly when there’s a comment section inviting that very thing.

But this isn’t so much about me, or my ‘emotional state’. This is about the bullsh*t judgements people feel they have a right to make, when you never know enough about a another’s person life to make that call. Whether you’re their best friend or they’re someone you see for thirty seconds in the local supermarket, or because you’ve read what they’ve chosen to share with you.

It’s about how we make parenting, mothering in particular, into some righteous, beautified social test. It’s about the way a mother and her actions are considered wholly objectified public property. It’s about the way women are expected to ‘embrace mothering’ and your children are supposed to be your ‘whole world’. The way mothers are crucified and shamed if they don’t hold up to other people’s ideals of what a ‘good mother’ should be.

It’s about the way we’re not allowed to say what sometimes might be the truth. That you can love your kids desperately, think they are the most awesome little people… and still not like being a mum very much at all.

My kids aren’t a burden. As I’ve said– they are awesome little people, and I’m honoured to be able to spend the bulk of my time with them. But changing dirty nappies, making school lunches, being yelled at, moderating temper tantrums, listening to whinging, and all the other stuff that comes with small children? That’s a burden. I’m not fond of it. Not at all. I don’t have to be.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some bits of parenting that I thoroughly enjoy. Deep conversations and answering questions. Showing my kids new things, taking them places. Watching their face light up with new concepts my new knowledge. I love playing video games or curling up on the lounge watching movies with my son. I love playing with my daughter’s doll-house (sometimes I even let her help) and painting her fingernails. I like doing the fun stuff. But I find the hard stuff really difficult. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that.

I became a mother, not a martyr. Giving birth didn’t provide me with some selfless gene that made me suddenly enjoy being every aspect of raising kids. I’m inherently selfish. Most people are; we just find ways to temper that against the realities of life and the needs of the people we love.

My children are the most important people in my life. They always have been and probably always will be. But I allow myself to have a life, and a personality, outside of being their mum. I’m devoted to them, but I never want them to be responsible for my happiness. I want to teach them that all of us are responsible for finding our own. I’m happy to sacrifice things. But I keep things, too. And I want to teach my children– my daughter especially– that that’s an okay thing to do. Women are expected to give and give and give until there’s nothing left of themselves but a shell that functions, providing for people’s needs. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m the first to admit that I find spending time alone a necessity. I’m okay with that. I’m also quite happy to admit that I do spend whole weekends with my boyfriend. I’ve confessed to temporarily running away from my kids and wanting to leave for good. I’ve stated– and I stand by it– that some days I just cannot handle my five and three year old (which I’m fairly sure shocks absolutely no one) and everything falls down in a screaming heap.

Why do any of those things have an influence of the effectiveness of my parenting, anyway? Do you have to spend every second with your kids, to parent well? Or is it that you can’t have other focuses in your life? Do you have to enjoy every aspect of motherhood in order to ‘embrace’ it? Are you allowed to like parenting without being particularly enamoured with the really-little-kid phase of it? Can you love your kids without liking being a parent at all?

I’m predicting that even writing that last paragraph is enough to have me labelled as unfit mother– one who’s probably causing deep, awful emotional agony– in some people’s mental filing system.

Again, I’m (surprisingly) okay with that. If you’re that attached to the concept of martyred parent that it personally offends when someone else doesn’t live up to it… I kind of feel sorry for you.

To the commenter who wrote this one; and anyone who feels the same…

I originally had a few hundred words written here, defending myself and my parenting. Then I decided, f*ck it. I have no obligation to justify myself to anyone.

So all I really want to say is this.

Get f*cked.

And bite me.


Operation: Borneo

by Lori Dwyer on April 24, 2013 · 9 comments

Every time I remember that I’m going overseas in less than one months time, I panic slightly. I am not ready for this. As usual, I’m disorganized, not really sure what I’m doing, and running just that little bit late.

Yesterday I got four needles, two in each arm. It seems trekking into Borneo requires vaccinations for typhoid and rabies (two shots down, another one to go); as well as boosters for tetanus, MMR and hepatitis (one blood test to see if I need them- I did- and one hep shot done, two to follow). And there’s malaria tablets to be taken, too.

I’m on my third course of antibiotics to ensure my burst eardrum is well and truly healed before I get on an international flight; and I’m taking a ‘practice’  flight domestically in a week, just to make sure I’ll be okay.

My mum, being worried about me, as mothers generally are, has managed to make me a million kinds of paranoid about getting sick while I’m overseas (in a country where I don’t speak the language and the medical care is probably not quite what I’m used to… fair call). With that in mind, I’ve taken it on myself to get all health-kicky. Water, good food, walking four kilometres whenever I find a spare child-free hour.

Passport photos. Flattering.

Passport photos. Flattering.

I’ve (finally) gotten my passport and the photo is traditionally awful. Thanks to a reader of mine name Lisa, I have a comprehensive packing list of everything I should take (such a huge thank you to you, Lisa). I’m using Lisa’s list as a master spreadsheet and adding the gear I’ll specifically need for this trip.

I don’t actually possess a lot of the things on either of the lists (and I’m still trying to figure out what a lot of them are… voltage stabiliser, anyone…?). But I’m working on it. A massive thank you to Manda, another reader of mine, who sent me my very own super-tiny-but-packed-with-everything first aid kit.

It’s both strange and lovely, the way the littlest things– like being able to cross ‘first aid kit’ off a list of one hundred or more items– make you feel as though the entire task is more manageable.

I’m planning to blog as much as possible while I’m in Indonesia, but, realistically, that depends on my Internet access. I’ll be MIA when I’m in the jungles of Kalimantan, evidently. So prepare yourselves for an orangutan overload upon my return.

Any fundage you can throw to Orangutan Odysseys are muchly appreciated– click here or on the widget below.

And I’m still most definitely up for travel advice, especially regarding international flying, internet accessibility, local customs of Bali and Borneo, packing tips, and anything else I haven’t thought of yet. Cheers.