Four months in hospital, due to spinal cord and kidney ailments, gave me plenty of time to think about life, and how precious it is. I extend appreciation to my children, grand children, friends, doctors and specialists for steering me along a healthy path. Depending on others has not been my greatest forte (doctors having emphasised in past decades that doing whatever it takes to maintain independence is important to avoid victim status), but this year I have had to allow others to do things for me. This process has brought lessons in humility, acceptance, gratitude, self-compassion and the exquisite beauty of life itself.
Medicine comes in different shapes and sizes
While I was in hospital, my children and their dad packed and moved what they considered to be my essential belongings from home by the sea on the Bellarine Peninsula, to Myne Cottage, a small unit in a leafy Melbourne suburb, closer to family, health services and metro trains. I use the train for appointments and events in the CBD (downtown), but I’m excited to also have my own set of ‘wheels’. Mid-year, one neurosurgeon said ‘no more driving’, so I gave my car away, but another more recently said ‘drive, if you feel confident’. Such words were all I needed to bolster independence and celebrate a promising return to health by purchasing my first brand new car, a pearly white hatchback. Being free to drive 9km to visit my grandchildren is a great medicine that cannot come out of a needle or pill bottle.
The Diary Healer is Coming
My PhD adventure in Creative Writing continues and, with much relief, the 92,000 word major literary work, The Diary Healer manuscript, is lodged with Routledge, my London publisher. The book’s release is scheduled for May-June 2016. Writing the manuscript while in hospital — at a tortoise pace, to be sure — was an effective therapeutic diversion from the environment in which I was in. Thank you to the many diarists around the world who are sharing this literary journey with me. Next I will tackle the exegesis. Another learning curve!
Feeling ‘at home’ at Conferences
This year, I attended two eating disorder conferences: in Boston, MA; and on the Gold Coast, Queensland, and continue involvement with eating disorder and mental health advocacy on national and international levels. Attending such conferences always gives me a lift — for there I am among people who understand without explanation; I feel a deep sense of acceptance, belonging and connection, and of hope for continued healing and renewal.
New Life and Renewal of Hope
Christmas is about new life, and the newest life in my family is Baby Canary, pictured here on his/her first day out of the nest this week. On December 25, Christmas Day, three generations of my family will gather at my children’s dad’s home not far from where I now live. The weather is likely to be hot, so the children will jump and splash in the backyard pool. We will have prawns and scallops and other yummy seafoods cooked on the backyard barbecue, then adjourn inside for roast turkey with roasted vegetables, and desserts comprising plum pudding with brandy sauce and cream, plus pavlova and fruit salad. After the meal we will gather around the Christmas tree in the living room and the children will distribute the gifts, which will be a loud and exciting time.
Caring Comes in Many Shapes and Forms Too
Grandchildren Olivia and Ashton, both celebrated their 6th birthdays this year, and started formal education in Preps. Kayla, 4, and Amelia, 3.5, will attend kindergarten in 2016. Lachlan, age 9, pursues his golf passion, hitting a ‘hole in one’ and winning a place in the State Primary Schools’ Golf Championship Titles. Olivia has a newfound passion, gymnastics, and Ash learns a martial art. Kayla has a lively imagination and Amelia loves her dolls.
My children Shane, Rohan, Ben and Amanda and their partners have all ticked many boxes this year in their individual and paired journeys.
They are all a constant inspiration and, together with dear friends near and far, deserve medals for caring for me through my latest health challenge.
I often think that more support needs to be offered to children who take on the role of carers for a parent.
Shortly after Christmas, I will be 65. Perhaps because my eating disorder was in the driver’s seat of my life for many years, in many ways, within, I do not feel 65. Emotionally, more like 25. I am fortunate that my writing passion helps me feel useful and purposeful. Writing, whether on paper or tapping on a keyboard, is a great way to remain ‘connected’.
Tribute to Helen, Who Loves Yellow
This Christmas, above all, I celebrate an enduring friendship with Helen, my best friend since age 12. We met when I was in the clutches of Anorexia Nervosa. Helen was always ‘there’ for me during my decades-long struggle in regaining ‘me’ from this eating disorder. When we were teenagers, she coaxed me out of my depression-and-anxiety-prone shell and encouraged me to be outgoing and attend social occasions with her. She jokes that I married one of her boyfriends. I did. In adulthood, when others found the going of my illness too hard to accept or tolerate, Helen remained beside me, not understanding the illness or its many seemingly inexplicable behaviours and symptoms, yet always offering unconditional love and acceptance. Helen is one big reason why I am here today. Now, with no more treatment options available for her own illness, Helen is living one day at a time, every moment is precious. She is demonstrating, even as the sundown of her life draws near, how to live our life. Savouring every moment, seeking the light, and making the most of it. Thank you, Helen.
A Girl Called Tim – Paperback and ebook
You can read about Helen, George and my children, and myself too, in my memoir, A Girl Called Tim:
Memoir A Girl Called Tim, Escape from an Eating Disorder Hell, New Holland Publishers. ISBN: 9781742570792 (PB). Alexander, J. (2010).