Tag Archives: confidence

Celebrating a decade of living

Ten years ago today, marks the day I first contracted Salmonella food poisoning. It’s also the day that I learnt to appreciate the power of my own strength, and became well aware of the faults in the medical system and the faults in people around me. Little did I know that eating out at a fast-food company that begins with the letter S and ends in Y (Fill in the blanks!) would completely change my outlook on life and change my health for what some would consider the worse – but I see it as the best thing that could’ve happened to me.

I was coming into this day not knowing how to feel; I was a basket case of emotions. Happy and proud one minute but sad and angry the next. My partner told me to take it all in and to just appreciate today for what it is – pretty good advice. Reflecting on everything that has happened over the past ten years has made me realise that I am all the better for what was thrown at me. I now wake up everyday with purpose and live a life where the options are limitless. I take nothing for granted and appreciate even the smallest of gestures and the little things that often go unnoticed. I am a better, stronger, more determined young-woman and I do not hold any animosity for the cards I was dealt with.

I may never be able to go camping, eat popcorn or go sky-diving but if there’s one thing I know for sure, it is that my zest for life is more prominent than most and I will never say no to an opportunity.

So, I leave you all with the ten lessons I have learnt over this past decade. I hope you can learn and take something from them.

One: Always trust your gut (Pun intended!)

Two: Put yourself first at all times

Three: The relationship you have with yourself is the most important one you will ever have. Be kind and love yourself.

Four: Make time for those who make time for you – you are not a one-way street.

Five: Go for your goals no matter how ridiculous they may seem to others.

Six: You are capable of a lot more than you think.

Seven: Let people in.

Eight: It’s okay to be vulnerable (every once in a while)

Nine: Surround yourself with people you can gain something from.

Ten: Never back down.

 

Block out – Part I

The human mind is an amazing machine. It has the ability to switch on, and switch off at any given moment; whether you’re unfortunately third-wheeling and being part of a boring, mundane conversation or you are trying to suppress a memory or a thought… or better yet, the pain you feel when you’re on your last set of a heavy lift.

Pain. It’s a pesky four-letter word that each and everyone one of us will feel in our lifetime – some more than others. It can be physical, emotional and also psychological; and at times they all co-exist and feed off one another, creating a mass of energy that can be unbearable and unmanageable for some. It can drive you over the edge (literally), it can influence your decisions and take over your life. It can also be fatal, tragic and downright debilitating.

This is a topic I never talk to anyone about; my own pain and my ability to completely eradicate any memory or feeling of it with a single switch-off. I have lived with chronic pain, day-in and day-out for almost ten years, since I first fell ill with Salmonella. In the early days, for the first two years, prior to diagnosis I would compare it to a constant stabbing pain. Picture having your intestines clenched with an iron fist and not letting go; and if it did, it would only grasp again with more force and power behind it. Doubled-over in pain, with your spine being completely rounded daily and unable to stand upright without having tears well up in your eyes. I have felt the absolute anguish of my body deteriorating and giving up on me; however, mentally I was able to continue to carry myself and continue to push on.

I was a chronic user of Valium/Diazepam, which is part of the ‘opiate family’ of painkillers likened to heroin. I took it every day for possibly a year and a half even when I was attending school – I don’t think I could’ve made it through the day without it. I was high as a kite most days, or very quiet and subdued. I would go from giggling uncontrollably at myself tripping up the stairs during school mass, to being the most placid and calm person in the back of the room not saying a word – my emotions, needless to say where all over the place. However, I never felt any pain. My mind was clear and I was able to make it through the day without having dark thoughts or wanting to gouge my stomach out.

I felt free. Alive. Human.

I guess I formed an addiction, or a reliance rather on them. I became dependant. The very thought of not popping a pill every day would cause me anxiety. It was the only thing keeping me mentally sane. Looking back, I know it wasn’t the best thing for me; but at the same time I think it is a large part of why I am here today. It helped strengthen my mind, learn to block-out pain as I became used to the ‘clouded’ airy-fairy feeling. The day I stopped taking them was not by choice. It was the day I had my permanent Chait Caecostomy surgery.

A lady from the Drug & Alcoholic Association visited me as I woke up from surgery and had asked for a valium. After violently throwing up waking up from surgery, sheets absolutely saturated in blood and feeling like my whole right side was on fire I just wanted to block out the pain like I always have. She gave me a counselling session as I was trying to wake up, all groggy and trying to absorb what had just happened to my body. She took the valium away from me and said I will never be needing this again. She probably saved me from a permanent addiction – but I did hate her for a good solid fortnight before I got over it!

When I had my surgery and was told I would no longer have my miracle drug, I decided to go cold-turkey. I had no painkillers whatsoever post-surgery; not even an aspirin. I told myself that then and there would be the time that I turn my life around. I gave myself a good, hard talking to and from then on I became the master of suppressing emotions and pain.There would be no more hurt, both physically and emotionally. I would no longer rely on medication to heal myself. I would do it on my own through sheer willpower, and a mind over matter approach.

When you feel like it’s all too much, like you can no longer continue to push on through whatever you’re going through I want you to remember that you are a lot more capable than what you think you are. The mind is there to be utilised to your advantage. It can be moulded, shaped and used as a tool to block-out demons and all that do you harm.

More on this soon…

When You Step off Stage and the Tan Eventually Fades

It seems like every day we are constantly told that we are simply not good enough. We have people on one side telling us we are too skinny, others telling us we are on the larger side and then there are the haters who think that if you’re a female with some muscle mass that you’re going to evolve into Wolverine overnight.

I have been labelled everything mentioned above. It’s as though others think they have the given right to be callous and share their nasty opinions when it’s unwarranted and completely unnecessary.

When you undergo a body transformation of whatever kind it may be – losing weight to fit into that cute bikini for summer, gaining some weight to feel better from the inside out or losing fat and gaining lean muscle mass – it’s not only your body that goes through some significant changes, it’s also your mind. Without the mental capacity to push yourself through some gruelling workouts when on a low-carbohydrate diet, with your body tight from yesterdays workout you are ultimately setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. This then progresses to the mental games that your mind likes to play. You may make excuses for missing a training session, miss a meal or think you deserve a deliciously greasy burger because you have earnt it; when in fact these will all set you back and will then progress to feeling guilty and a vicious cycle then occurs.

During comp-prep I am on the money. I train with vigour, deep intensity and with purpose. I know that in 15 weeks I am stepping on stage in a tiny, red bedazzled bikini in front of a crowd of strangers being judged purely on my appearance and aesthetics. My diet is spot on and I stick to it religiously. Each meal is weighed right down to the gram and I carry my five meals with me everywhere I go, and will eat wherever I am – even whilst driving or at a concert. It’s a disciplined sport and I am a goal-orientated person. If I set myself a task I will complete it to the best of my ability, even if it means juggling a lot of commitments at once the job will always get done.

Like most competitors, I do suffer from post-comp blues as they call it. It’s a time where you come off a complete ‘high’ from having competed and looking your best and feeling like a million bucks, to then coming back down to reality and feeling at a loss. What do I do now? What do I have to work towards now? What most people do not understand is that you cannot remain stage-lean all year round – Unless you are my coach Maria Andriano who has a phenomenal physique that she maintains year-round and is incredibly disciplined, more so than anyone else I know.

I have never had a real issue with binge/emotional eating until July this year, or if I did it certainly amplified tenfold. This is me being completely honest and frank. No smoke and mirrors here, I am being very black and white with no grey in between. My first comp was the standard ‘rookie’ error thinking I could eat what I wanted and still train and keep my body in check – boy was I wrong. My binge eating spiralled out of control before I got a good handle of it and dropped some weight for my overseas holiday at the end of last year. I used the extra food I had been shovelling down my throat to fuel some really good lifts and pack on the much needed muscle mass I have now so it did have its pros and cons.

My comp in July of this year was possibly the most difficult prep for me. Training, diet and motivation are easy for me. I am an incredibly motivated person as I mentioned before, but life threw me some serious curve-balls this time around and it played some serious mental games with me after competition. I began emotional eating. I was in a car accident two weeks before comp and being under 25 years of age I was slapped with hefty insurance excess leaving me in debt. I was having difficulty in my private life and it was showing on my body with what I was eating, which leaves me where I am today back on the ‘muscular thick’ side like I was post-comp last year.

I am not proud of overeating, but I am also not ashamed or embarrassed by it. What’s done is done. I cannot go back in time and un-eat all the food I have consumed, but what I can do is work towards healing my mind and my body and this is what I am doing right now and I feel that I am accomplishing this ongoing task. Once again, I am going away in 9 weeks at the end of the year where I plan on donning a bikini on the beach and looking mighty fine whilst doing so. I have set myself a goal and I am going to stick to it. I will treat it like a comp-prep and use it as a means to drop some weight before I do choose to compete again next year which will make it less taxing on my body with having to drop a smaller amount of fat through intense diet and training rather than a large amount like I did last prep.

I will be accomplishing this mini-goal I have set myself with my coach Maria Andriano tweaking my diet and training programs to suit my needs and help me reach my goals in a holistic and natural way. She knows what foods work best for me with my trusty bowel which chooses to be erratic with its tolerances and intolerances with food, so I have full confidence and faith that we can drop the much needed weight to get me to where I want and need to be before I start prep again. My training will be done at a place that should be called my ‘second home’ but let’s face it, I spend more time there than I do at my actual home – City Gym, Darlinghurst! There’s nothing better than walking through the doors at 5am and being greeted with a smile from the team of staff who don’t even ask for my membership card, I just walk on in like I’m part of the furniture. As always, City Gym will be my domain for making the changes to my physique that I have set myself.

To anybody else stuck in a rut with their body image, I urge you to set some goals. Short term goals are great in the lead up to your final goal which may be just fitting into a cocktail dress or looking your best for a photoshoot. If you’re anything like me, setting goals will help you tremendously and when you ‘accomplish’ a goal you have set for yourself, it definitely will urge you to keep on pushing and continue onto the next one.

Don’t give up. Put your trainers back on and hold your head high regardless of what others are saying. There is no need to hang your head in shame for over-indulging, all it will do is make you feel worse about yourself and even more of a recluse, and this is when the mental games will begin again and again. Over and over.

Walk with purpose. Move with intensity. Look intently. Speak with confidence. The rest will all follow suit, and fall into place.

Remember, it’s not a sprint.

Shape Magazine Article!

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I was contacted a few months ago by the editor of Shape magazine Australia, Alison Turner for an interview as she saw a post on Facebook that City Gym (the gym I go to) posted about me and my journey thus far.

Never in a million years did I think that I would be contacted for an interview, let a lone have a full back page photo and article dedicated to me! Wow! I can’t even put into words the feeling I got when I purchased the magazine and flicked through the pages and saw little old me. I was beaming with pride!

Please go out and buy it if you want to have a read, or for my international followers if you would like a copy let me know!

Here’s hoping for a cover next time 😉

My Bionic Addition aka How My Ostomy Works.

When you think of the word Ostomy, most people will either have no clue what it is or they will automatically associate it with a mature-aged person with cancer, and a large bag where their faecal matter falls into from a permanent opening in their bowel and stomach.

The majority of people have no idea what my Ostomy is and how it works (This also goes for my fellow Ostomates as well!) given that my type of Ostomy is a ‘new’ technology, so in honour of World Ostomy Day coming up, I figured it might be a good time to clear the air and educate.

I have what’s called a Chait Caecostomy, and have had so since July 2nd 2009. Prior to surgery I was put through a series of ‘psychological’ tests I guess you could say, to determine if I would mentally be able to cope with the potential of living with a permanent Chait Tube. I met two Stomal Therapy Nurses who asked me every question under the sun from – ‘do you go camping regularly?’ to ‘do you play contact sports?’.

At first, I thought nothing of the questions and figured it was just a means for them to see if I had considered all possibilities (I had no other option other than this surgery or some experimental procedures that I was NOT keen to partake in, and still am not even considering), however I later found out that it was them determining if I would be mentally stable enough to cope with the sudden change in my bodily functions and my appearance – I think I passed with flying colours!

Whilst some people with a Chait can get away with irrigating their bowel every 2-3 days, I need to do it daily. I believe this has a lot to do with the amount of food I eat with training. Some also only use 500ml – 1 litre of water to irrigate, whereas I can use anywhere between 2 – 4 litres daily. Again, this all depends on the food I’m eating, if I’m tired or unwell or if my hormones are out of whack when it’s that time of the month. I can also spend anywhere between 30 minutes – 2 hours on the toilet when irrigating which is painfully boring at the best of times!

Instead of giving you a long description of my surgery and how it works, I think these two diagrams effectively demonstrate the surgery I had and how I go to the toilet:

radiology-cecostomy-tube-cmplx-illus-lrg_0

^ The Catheter, Connector and Drainage bag are not permanently fixed to me daily, I attach these to the opening of the Chait tube (See below diagram to see how it opens like a trap-door) when I need to irrigate/go to the toilet.

ctube-fig-1

^ The Chait Tube sits flush with my skin on the outside of my skin, so yes I do have a permanent opening directly into my bowel, also known as a stoma. The tube is not ‘stitched’ in, it is held in place with the coils and has been put into place through careful placement of my bowel so it doesn’t wiggle around.

My particular type of Ostomy is very easy to pull-out, whether you pull your pants down too quick or drying yourself off after a shower and you don’t have a stoma cap/bandage on. In my six years, I have only done this once … more on this later!

Most people think that having an Ostomy means I can’t pee like a ‘normal’ healthy person, but I can. My Ostomy does not affect my bladder, only my bowel and that’s for quite a large portion of us. (Some do have a Urostomy which means their bladder does not work).

I hope this has somewhat helped to explain my Ostomy without confusing or overwhelming anybody!

“You Look Fine”

The three most dreaded words you can say to someone living with an invisible illness like myself.

Every day I wake up with a deep burning sensation in my gut. Right where the incision was made. To everybody else I look completely happy and healthy, living a life without pain, when honestly I’m mentally suppressing the hurt around my stoma. If I think long and hard about it enough, it will show on my face and to the world.

Like the name suggests, its an invisible illness. Something not visible to the naked eye. 1 in 2 people live with an invisible illness and this week is awareness week.

Chronic pain, fatigue, mental illness, arthritis, Chrons and IBD … Just to name a few. There are more people than you think you know who are suffering in silence.

This week I ask you all to be a little more conscious of what you say around others, for you do not know their story or their struggle. Most of us choose to live a life without question or doubt, we choose to have a ‘healthy’ preface and to soldier on through our difficult times with a smile on our face, when deep down we are hurting on the inside.

Everybody has a face they want to show the world. I choose to be a strong, independent and healthy role model who hides her pain internally for if I am to show it publicly it only gets worse.

We may suffer in silence, but the pain and mental anguish remains.

Think before you speak.

The Walls Came Down…

Everybody struggles to find their ‘significant other’ at the best of times. It’s as though we search and search, only to find ourselves looking blankly at disappointment and heartache on every corner. But then we find someone who we actually want to share moments with, to be in the same room with for longer than an hour and who we can bare our souls to. We seem to forget that the most important relationship we will ever have, is the one with ourselves.

Having an Ostomy at 17 years of age, which let’s face it is prime boyfriend/girlfriend finding time did put some doubt in my mind about ‘finding someone’. All of my friends either had a partner, were dating or were enjoying the single life without actually ever being alone. Then there was me. Hunched over, doubled-over in pain and longing for my next painkiller awaiting the next doctors’ orders.

Truth be told, I didn’t look at my Chait tube after surgery until I was completely alone and it was at the very least the second day after I had surgery. I had to have this time to reflect and try to let it sink in, that my body will never be the same both internally and externally. I will forever be changed in some light, no matter how many times my parents tried to tell me ‘you’re still the same person’. Nobody goes through what I have been through and comes out the same as they were before. It will either make you, or break you. Safe to say, looking back I have definitely came out on top!

For the next six months I battled with my body image and my mental state. I looked like I was happy and ‘better’ on the outside to everybody, but when I was alone and at home in the confines of bedroom walls I was empty, confused and albeit angry at the world. Of course the only person that could see right through me was my mother, who let me have my time to grieve and get over myself. To understand that I was the one who battled through it all and that there is nothing that anybody else could say to me to make me feel any better. Time. Time was what I needed. Time was what I was given –in every which way of the word!

It was through the failed relationships (Both partners and unfortunately best-friends), heartbreak and heartache and being used that I found myself again. Pretty sure this goes for everybody, whether they are healthy or have an existing medical condition like myself, that ‘acceptance’ is something that we all desire. We long to be accepted for our inner workings, for someone to appreciate our quirkiness and individual – what makes us all unique and true to ourselves. But how can we expect anybody to feel that way, if we don’t feel that way about ourselves?

Today, I have accepted that I have been through absolute hell and back more times than I would like to remember. I have been given a death sentence, been misdiagnosed more than anybody ever should and I have unfortunately fell through the system and been forgotten by medical practitioners and specialists. But I’m still here.

I have had days where I wanted to rip my Chait tube out (in the beginning, most definitely not now! I love my Ostomy!) and the thought of looking at myself in the mirror made me depressed, feel ugly and I couldn’t stand the sight of myself. I have felt my body waste away, and have had days where I couldn’t walk more than ten steps without breaking down into tears from sheer exhaustion and pain. I didn’t want to be touched, I hated being close to somebody no matter who they were or how long I had known them for. I wanted to be left alone and be by myself. Today I appreciate my body and my mind for all it has gone through. I can squat and deadlift more than my bodyweight, I have ran a half-marathon and I have such a great close circle of people around me who I wish I could spend more time with.

I was once ready to give up on the world. I wanted out. To sleep forever and to be rid of all the pain, mental struggle and the hurt that came with my surgery and my change in lifestyle. Today, I wake up everyday and live a life that is far from empty and dark.

Before, I could not stand the thought of talking about my medical condition or my thoughts. I was a closed book, unable to come to terms with my own issues and was not ready to share them with anybody else. Now, I am an open book. Nothing is off limits.

I am the strongest person I know, with ambition, drive and motivation like no-other. I am the hardest working person I know and I give my all or nothing to everything and anything I apply myself to. I am worthy of a life that is nothing short of a glass three-quarters full and I will never settle for anything less.

So today, I ask you as you read this to think of WHO you are and WHAT you deserve.

Find yourself, and the rest will follow.