I cried myself to sleep last night – a flood of tears, a myriad of reasons. It has been happening frequently and while I try to convince myself I am letting the side down and or even wallowing in self-pity, the reality is harder to acknowledge. 

This is then the article

It has been a rough eighteen months, coming at a time when I was stubbornly refusing to surrender to the inevitable aging process, as well as dealing with upheavals in the family structure that surrounds me and which has given me my “raison d’etre” for many years. Physical health issues silently but stealthily morphed into mental health issues and a manageable cardiac condition manifested itself as a life-altering assault on my basic ability to get through each day unscathed, let alone feeling I was still in control of what I could or could not do. My own worst enemy also made an appearance at this time – stubbornness, disguised as resilience, and I soon found myself in denial and clinging to the belief that I could and would get back to my old self eventually. How wrong I was on that score.

My days became flurries of activity when my body said “all systems go”, but took a hit when I constantly pushed the re-start button futilely, on the days when basic tasks exhausted me. With a person like me, long ago wired for achieving the impossible, this was a rude awakening, and depression soon became my almost constant companion. I craved night time, even when my racing heart and breathlessness precluded sleep, as it meant I could curl up in the dark, watch the stars through my window, listen to the night noises and feel safe, because I didn’t have to face the day or pretend to be someone I was no longer capable of being.

I’m not writing about the stumbles on that journey, the times when I despaired, the times when my very relevance was a concept I couldn’t grasp – I want to mention my fight with the health system, and the gradual recognition that you have to speak up and push like crazy to be listened to by those who no longer refer to you as a patient, but more realistically in this age of economic rationalism, as a client. I need to address the panic I felt, living out of town, ostensibly on my own, while feeling I should be calling an ambulance, only to resort to prayers to long forgotten saints and frustrated angry cries as I tried to convince myself “it will pass”, it will soon be daylight. I want to acknowledge my wonderful doctor who believed me, and moved mountains so that I gradually clawed my way up the treatment ladder and after six stays in hospital, has got me to the point where I am hopeful that the procedures will produce results, this time. I prefer not to canvas the possibility that problems may return and rob me of valuable “doing” time, as I progress through my seventies.

Now to the crux of my epistle, my “coming clean” on what has brought me to this date and how I have tried to stay “connected” in the face of my genuine insecurity and self-doubt. Enter the poisoned chalice of faceBook, disguised as a harmless, enjoyable past time that I have navigated with varying success over the last few years. At the height of my worries in early October last year, I “gave up” the platform, as I felt a fraud commenting on all the exciting posts of friends travelling, lauding their garden successes, and keeping abreast of the happenings of children and grandchildren. What I really wanted to do, was to cry out to others online, not just casually comment. I wanted to tell it like it was for me, tell how I was not understanding what was happening to me, not knowing how I could accept change, not having a controllable plan for re-inventing myself. So it was easy to run away from cyberspace and its tenuous threads of belonging, and hide in a darker place, where my love of writing and sharing stories deserted me completely. 

Summer (a summer none of us will forget) saw my initially hesitant return to the whirling world of social media. As bushfires and keeping in touch took on an urgency, I was dragged back into the “real” (?) world of posting and commentating and checking emergency updates. I enjoyed it, I felt I wasn’t being left out because I could no longer man a pump, spend hours helping with coms or catering for unknown numbers at short notice. My worsening heart fluctuations didn’t prevent me from keeping across what was happening. As the political debacle unfolded throughout stressed communities in several States, I found listening to mainstream media with an accompanying dose of “what the people on the ground were saying”, gave me a fascinating insight into what makes others tick. And I changed from being a passive observer to one who felt urged to comment at times. I found offering a word of support, a word of understanding was easy, what I came to dread was seeing the confusion and lack of direction that seemed to simmer and bubble before pouring over in a display of incompetence and misguided political leadership. I chose not to comment most of the time, I learnt from the conversation threads that measured constructive criticism was more my style and more acceptable in the face of rampant aggressive abuse. Wow it was an eye opener to say the least.

But for me it was more than choosing when and what to comment on, it was a means of me feeling empowered to actually say something. And regardless, it was always just “my opinion”, it was just an experienced but disillusioned grandmother putting her “two bob’s worth” out there. I didn’t expect replies, I didn’t encourage ongoing debate, and I often just posted a word and left further conversation to others. I watched Media Conferences and commented, I read articles and commented, I shared what I thought was relevant and at all times I exercised restraint and respect. I also tried (often unsuccessfully) to demonstrate a sense of humour and empathy, with others of a like interest. But we had hardly doused the flames when the next crisis presented itself, and the “fast rinse” cycle on facebook didn’t wind down at all.

So my journey along the well-trodden, rocky road of social media, over the last few months, has seen me regain some interest in writing, and introduced me to some amazing people who are a joy to follow on line. But it has also shown me that people are capable of causing hurt and pain, often without realising it, and there is a staggering amount of unsubstantiated commentary floating around labelled, “by an expert”. There is also a cruelty and viciousness surfacing at many levels, and negotiating all this is like walking through a minefield, blind, while holding your breath. For me, I guess I would like to still contribute to a meaningful presence in this space, as I get emotionally stronger and more focussed. If I dare to comment or post my thoughts on what I see unfolding, it is me speaking up, it is me expressing my opinion, it is the real me. If I am sad, it will show, if I am confused it will show, if I am angry it will show. I apologise in advance if my opinion or the emotions displayed through my words upset anyone, no one needs to respond, but they might try to understand. I hope my tears last night were not wasted.

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