Pain and guilt

I think everyone knows why pain exists. Simply put, pain stops you from doing the stupid thing. It makes you not touch the fire, not fall off your chair (if you can help it) and not drink tea right out of the kettle. It also makes you not hit, bite or kick anyone, as you are well aware after a while that pain to them is just as unpleasant as it is to you. It also forces you to rest an injury so it can heal. It’s a useful thing and should not be ignored.

Pain comes from the Latin word ‘poena’ meaning ‘punishment’ or ‘penalty’. The pain from a burn is punishment for touching the hot pot. Pain in a swollen ankle is a penalty for using it too quickly after hurting it. But then there is chronic pain. Chronic pain is different from acute pain mostly in duration. Any pain lingering for more than 3 months, 6 months or even 12 months, depending on who you ask, is called chronic pain. Chronic pain also sometimes exists without any obvious purpose or source. But when we see pain as a punishment or penalty, how do we mentally deal with chronic pain?

There are days when I feel punished for something and the ultimate question is of course ‘what did I do wrong?’. It’s a useless question, silly even, but when you feel punished, it’s also a natural question. Moving onward from that question when presented with chronic pain or illness then poses another one: ‘what am I continuing to do wrong?’ And that is a very frustrating question. People around the chronically ill will often present this person with good advice and suggestions to make small changes to their life styles in order to relieve their pain or illness. These suggestions are so extremely well meant (and sometimes even accurate), but it can also sometimes worsen the feeling for some people who are in chronic pain or chronically ill, of being punished continuously for something they are STILL doing wrong.

One horrific fear and longing for me has always been that someday someone will come along and tell me to never eat apples  (or something) again and thus curing my crappy thin skin.  Horrific because it would mean that I’ve wasted years on feeling broken and longing because it would mean easier life at last. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen, but sometimes people I hardly know give me this kind of advice, which in a way suggests it’s really that easy. It suggests sometimes that I’m just not trying hard enough.  It’s well meant, and frustrating. I wish it was that easy and I’m scared it is that easy. Both of those.

I don’t mean to say that I’m not interested in people’s advice, nor am I saying that I never give out advice myself. I think that people should realise though, that in giving out advice, it does sometimes suggest to some extend that the person in question is doing something wrong, and thus causing themselves discomfort. And in many cases this might be true, but it’s also something that can only be brought delicately and considerately.

When presented with digestion problems there is a difference between people saying ‘ you’re probably not eating right or not chewing enough’ and ‘ have you ever tried not eating dairy? I hear sometimes people are sensitive to this’. The difference is that in the first situation I have to defend myself because an assumption has been made that I’m doing something wrong, in the second one we can have a conversation about why something is happening. In the first situation I feel guilty and punished accordingly, in the second one I feel interested.

When presented with a lack of energy, there is a difference in people suggesting that I’m just doing too much, not resting enough, and people asking whether there might be something wrong physically that makes me not metabolise energy properly. The first suggestion makes me feel guilty and punished, the second one interested.

When presented with weight issues there is a difference in people calling someone ‘lazy and simply just eating too much and not exercising enough’ and researching the types of food people eat, how it affects them and why they feel so hungry and have no energy to exercise. The first one will make one feel guilty, powerless and punished, the second one interested.

When presented with chronic pain, there is a difference in people suggesting that I’m using my right arm too much and should rest up, and people that suggest there might be something wrong with my joint that needs fixing . The first one makes me feel guilty of my own pain and punished by it, the second one interested and hopeful.

I think maybe sometimes what we need is simple sympathy and someone saying together with us that life is unfair and pain just sucks. I am hopeful, but also a bit desperate because for some reason, when pain doesn’t go away that means something is keeping me where I am right now. And until I find that something, I will not improve. I love interesting suggestions, but I don’t like people to assume that I’m doing something wrong. Maybe because I might in a way fear that I am indeed doing something wrong and have been guilty all along. God that would suck and be really cool at the same time wouldn’t it…



What I thought about while cleaning a toilet…

This is the opposite of what I look like when cleaning a toilet.

Working in home care is hard. It’s great work, you’re really doing something valuable and you make a difference in someone’s life but it’s hard to feel totally chuffed with yourself when scrubbing very stubborn poo off a toilet. I know, I’m a selfish bastard. True though. And although I’d like to think of myself as being a butterfly-gazing hippy who doesn’t care about money, the fact that the pay is set very low by the government is really really really annoying.

If I would be a professional cleaner I could make $25 an hour cleaning holiday homes and such like, against the $19 I make as a community care worker. If I was a professional cleaner I’d have to clean the homes of the overly wealthy or disrespectful holiday makers who for some reason love to make pasta explode in microwaves. I’m going to assume this will either make me a bitter little lady or I’d be forced to shut a part of my brain off and just do it. Both of those don’t sound good, and don’t sound like they would be worth the extra $6 an hour. Not really. But still…

Making more money doing something that is really crappy would mean that I could work less and have more spare time, which turns it into a sweet deal again. However, if I would have to spend that off-time trying to either love life and people again after cursing humanity for 4 hours, or trying to switch on the part in my brain that I had smothered to get on with it (a.k.a. self-respect), that off-time doesn’t really sound like a holiday on the beach either. Bugger.

Scrubbing poo off toilets for people that are half-blind or unable to bend over without falling is hard. It’s hard but it’s honest. Of course I don’t curse these people, I admire them for still living at home at 92. I also don’t have to switch off my mind, all I’m doing is helping out because people CAN’T do it, not because they can’t be ARSED to do it. We chat about the weather and the local craft market and even though some of them forget my name every time the week has passed, they DO know who I am and they smile because I’m back.

If I take half an hour to vacuum a house, and an old lady would take the entire day to do it, shit, I might get sweaty and sore but that’s a pretty awesome thing to be able to do. Steve sometimes says it’s like I’m their granddaughter for an hour or two. That’s how they treat me sometimes as well, you don’t get that from a group of schoolies.

In a way I don’t really create anything for anyone, don’t make a profit or ease anyone’s pain. All I do is prevent the loss of energy and someone being in pain from doing the things I come over and do for them. It’s a bit like damage control, and that’s okay. If I do it, they don’t have to, and when they don’t have to, they have enough energy to go out and have a coffee or bake a cake or whatever. That’s good. That’s great. But it’s hard sometimes, really hard.

But…  (because there’s always a positive ending) in the end, even though the work is hard, it would be a lot harder on a lot of people if I didn’t do it. That makes it easier to be sore in the evening and broke at the end of the fortnight. That and the person who is waiting to pick me up in the red car after work and feeds me coffee and buys me super glue because my shoes are worn.


Consensual sex


Heavy topic, but important. It kind of sounds like a straightforward concept, but I found it’s actually rather complicated. Here is a very simple situation (that obviously doesn’t depict ALL situations but bear with me):

Boy and girl are going out, they come back to one of their flats, they start kissing, boy moves hand up girls top, girl allows it, boy takes top off, girl allows it, boy takes top off, boy takes girl’s hand and gently takes her into the bedroom where she is further undressed and soon after they steam up the windows.

At no point in this encounter was any consent asked. That doesn’t mean that the girl didn’t consent to having sex with the boy though. All it means is that this is a case of assumed consent . An assumption that was made ‘through body language and apparent receptivity’ (thanks Wiki). How romantic. The other type of consent would be informed consent.Which would go something like this:

Boy and girl go out, they come back to one of their flats, they start kissing, boy puts hand on hem of girl’s top and asks ‘may I?’ Girl nods ‘yes’ and he puts his hand under her top. They kiss some more. Girl slightly moves boys shirt up and looks at him questioningly . He smiles and lifts his arms up for her to take his shirt off. Etc… etc. sexy stuff happens.

Not only is this type of consent a lot clearer, it also instantly sounds like a lot more fun for both of them. Right?

Now the problem with scenario 1 in my opinion is the following; In a way the boy is trying how much kissing and fondling is tolerated by the girl and gradually (and easy does it) he gets her out of her top, into the bedroom to have sex. Though this is classic (getting to first base, getting into her pants etc) it is also a very clear division into two roles where the boy is trying as hard but subtle as he can to get into the girl’s pants by moving slowly but surely, and the girl allowing and tolerating more and more (playing hard to get maybe even)  until they have sex.

I think this is the scenario that all of us have grown up with. And unfortunately it’s a scenario that is very common and held up by men and women equally, as in, both men and women act out this role. And if it’s everywhere in the media , why would a 16 yr old boy not think that that is the way to get anywhere? Why would a 16 yr old girl not think that when she has allowed a boy to touch her boobs, she can’t really go back anymore, they have to go all the way now, because that’s what everyone else does?

As an example, have you noticed that in movies and shows, couples that kiss for the first time almost never just continue kissing for a long long time, exploring this new partner and soaking up the excitement? Often they will kiss for about 30 seconds and instantly start ripping each other’s clothes off while diving down on a bed (without hurting themselves, which is not human). It’s unrealistic (I think) and makes unexperienced boys and girls think that that is how it goes. You kiss, take each other’s clothes off and have heaps of sex. All that is missing is… a lot. All the good bits even. There is hours of kissing, there is gazing into each other’s eyes like drugged up puppies (come on, we’ve all done it), and there is COMMUNICATION. On the big screen everyone instantly stops talking after The Kiss and keep silent until the morning after. Boring.

I think there is something very wrong with the idea that women tolerate sex, and men have to persuade the women to have sex with them. It might sound a bit wrong like that, but if you lay this template over a lot of love stories (and pop songs for that matter) it does actually fit. Woman plays hard to get but man softens her up in the end and she is swept off her feet into his bed. Watch ‘House of the flying daggers’ for a good example.  What is so wrong with this scenario is that the line between a man trying to persuade a woman to tolerate him having sex with her and man making woman tolerate him having sex with her is very very thin. If this is the scenario, or the script that boys and men go by, overstepping that line is too easy and very excusable.

For a woman (and especially for an unexperienced girl) it is very difficult to say ‘no’ to something sexual that is happening when not actually asked. Saying ‘no’ or to physically stop someone is such a big statement, and such a scary one that it needs a lot of courage. You would instantly create an ugly scene. I’m going to assume the girl really likes the boy for them to be going this far, and to make a statement like that would surely ruin everything. No one wants that. So sometimes a woman tolerates sex upon assumed consent, and it is kind of branded by culture to be normal. It’s thought of by women to be normal.

I think sex is something created by two people, an interaction  to which both people should obviously consent, both people should get pleasure from and neither person should feel uncomfortable with.   It shouldn’t be a guessing game, it should be full of communication. Sex shouldn’t be based on one assuming that the other one is okay with what is happening. I think it should be either totally apparent, or if not, it should be asked. Tolerating might fall under assumed consent, it also falls under ‘feeling like you have no choice’, and that’s a situation everyone wants to avoid. At least, I’d like to think so.

You know how the old joke goes that women want men to read their mind? Well I don’t think so actually, I think what we want is to be asked.


Wonder drugs!

Here’s a riddle for you (and me actually). Four people, four different conditions, but only one medication to cure them all, what is the medication? I’ll elaborate and give you the conditions:

  • 25 year old girl with packet-a-day smoking habit has had chronic bronchitis for over 2 months.
  • 27 year old girl has sudden and very intense hormonal problems with nausea,  lumps in the breasts and fatigue for 3 weeks out of 4.
  • 27 year old boy has severe allergic reaction to god knows what, breaks out in hives, has full body rash, faintness, sweating, the works.
  • 27 year old girl has chronic shoulder problems, with possibly some inflammation around the joint.

So, what do you think is the wonder medication prescribed to these 4 people, by (incidentally) the exact same GP? Now, I’m not saying the good doctor is wrong, please be aware that I have no medical training and am not able enough to make such judgments, I’m just saying I find this interesting…

It’s Prednisolone, or better known as steroids.

But you might have guessed that… because it’s a very common reaction of GP’s to whip out the old steroids, be it corticosteroid cream for ANY skin condition (and I mean ANY, with capitals, yes), and now apparently Prednisolone for any… eh… other condition. In every one of these cases (and I’m not saying there was never a need of steroids, mind) the GP in question had a look at the person for 5 seconds, a look at the chart for 30, and a look at the medicine cabinet and then the bill for about 360 seconds.

Also, and this is VERY important as we’re not just giving out sugar pills here, at no time was there an explanation on how the drug works, what side effects it will probably have, which side effects it might have that need medical attendance, or what counter effects it will have on other medication. Now that is just sloppy and lazy. I think… personally…

But let’s start with what prednisolone does. It reduces inflammation. My simple understanding of the things is that it mimics a hormone that you would make in the adrenal gland (corticosteroid) to reduce swelling and inflammation. This is incredibly useful when you’ve got a big allergic reaction. You can for example take antihistamines, followed by prednisolone to take down the symptoms that occurred. Awesome. People with chronic severe allergies can live a more pleasant life with steroids, as they are not constantly under attack by their symptoms. Also with people that suffer from chronic inflammation like rheumatic arthritis, asthma and Crohns disease, this drug is literally  a life saver sometimes. There is a big list of conditions that steroids can be used for:

Awesome again. Is it then really such a wonder drug

Hm… maybe, maybe not. I had a good look at this website and realised that  most of it really should be directly communicated and at the very least put on paper for the patient upon distribution. This webpage describes a (very long) list of side effect and precautions:

a few that jump out at me are:

Side effects:
Nausea, heartburn, headache, dizziness, menstrual period changes, trouble sleeping, increased sweating, or acne may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

‘side effects’ means undesirable symptoms caused by this medication. It’s stuff that will possibly occur because it is known that it can have this effect on your body. It is actually quite difficult sometimes to be able to notice the difference between side-effect and persisting or worsening side effect though.

The side effects are followed by:

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

That kind of implies that I’ve been evaluated by my GP, but what to do when you haven’t really, and what if you, when you think of it, don’t think the benefit is greater than the risk? The word `risk` also implies that you’ve put yourself in a dangerous position. I reckon most people that started on these meds hadn’t really thought of it like that. Not at any point in all 4 cases have the patients been told that this medication puts them at risk.

Also I found this list of side effects and interactions:

it’s a big list, and I don’t expect you to read it all, but maybe just get the impression of the extent of it.

That’s a lot, and a lot to look out for, yet we didn’t get this on a sheet of paper when we left the hospital, nor were we told to look it up on the interwebs.

Precautions now, as these are very important as well:

Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: eye disease (such as cataracts, glaucoma), heart problems (such as heart failure, recent heart attack), high blood pressure, liver disease, kidney disease, thyroid problems, diabetes, stomach/intestinal problems (such as diverticulitis, ulcer), brittle bones (osteoporosis), current/past infections (such as tuberculosis, positive tuberculosis test, herpes, fungal), bleeding problems, blood clots, mental/mood conditions (such as psychosis, anxiety, depression), low salts in the blood (such as low potassium or calcium), seizures.

Wow… is there really a doctor out there that would take the time to ask about these things? We don’t know that he or she needs to know these things before we take this medication. When we don’t know that these precautions exist, we might very well choose to not bother them with the fact that we have a wee lurking herpes infection or have low potassium, or we might simply forget to mention it.  I can imagine… It’s such a flash visit, you’ve got like 10 seconds to give your medical history until they lose interest and start working on notes/prescriptions/bills.

This drug may make you dizzy. Do not drive, use machinery, or do any activity that requires alertness until you are sure you can perform such activities safely
No one told us that… and that’s important.

This medication may mask signs of infection. It can make you more likely to get infections or may worsen any current infections.

The annoying thing is that it seems this medication is sometimes given for an infection (with the chronic bronchitis for example). Doc should know this right? Right? I’m not sure if I’m right here, but it seems strange. 25-year old chimney smoker was on the steroids for about 2 weeks and hardly felt better, apart from breathing slightly easier. She was still coughing ugly things up. That to me sounds like she’s got an infection that’s not going away.

I think that is about all I can put into an already massive post. I think I’d like people to be aware of the risks that come with taking ANY kind of medication, and especially when taking it while not generally well. Side effects might very well occur, but when you have the slightest feeling they aren’t right, let someone know. When you feel dizzy on blood pressure medication, you’d rather have a doctor tell you (after examination!!!) that you are fine, than end up with kidney failure (true story). We’ve only got the one body, it’s an incredibly finetuned little machine that runs on thousands of types of fuel. To just put in another type of fuel might mean things will go wacky, so just be aware.

Also your doctor might know best, if he or she knew everything about you, but sometimes, be it because you have a new GP, or an old one that doesn’t necessarily remember you all that well,  they will only know a tiny little detail about your life and health. Often there just isn’t enough time. Not enough time for you to explain yourself to them, and not enough time for them to explain themselves to you.  The only thing you can do personally is squeeze in as many questions  and history as you can and do your research. Even when that annoys them, you should. It’s your body, it’s their 10 minutes of work, who wins when it comes to being most important?

Again, I also want to mention that Prednisolone is a very useful medication, but it’s also a very serious drug. My rant was triggered by the careless distribution of one GP, and does not mean all GP’s that give patients steroids are therefore bad, bad people. I think we need to know that medication is useful and dangerous. Both of those. Also, information is power, easily obtained power. The internet is your oyster…


Issue 7 – Rock Paper Scissors


Issue 7 – Rock Paper Scissors Magazine

Issue 7 is out, 8 is coming soon. Anyone who feels like they could contribute PLEASE do.


Being clearly obscure

Today I had a read over my old blog (, and it kind of  feels like returning to my childhood (though I was 23-ish). When I started travelling, inspiring social encounters were relatively new to me when presented on such a short term basis. They exhilarated me, for the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin, for the first time I sang in public, for the first time I kissed a boy without being scared about how I would look to him. I wanted to document all those endorphin-filled moments, and a weblog was what all the cool kids did so why not pretend to be equally awesome. Good times.

When I wrote most of these posts, I hadn’t yet lost a parent, or battled with various illnesses. Romantically I feel like I was innocent and slightly naive back then. But I wasn’t, I removed posts from this blog a while ago, unpretty and upset posts. I think this is sometimes how we look at kids and teenagers (and even our younger selves). Feeling that ‘they don’t even know how hard life can be’. But no, I know sometimes they do. Sometimes they even know a whole lot better than people twice their age. Life isn’t very age discriminative, and life isn’t comparable.

Oh psychology, why not. I know nothing, yet everything about you. It’s sometimes presented as a language you have to learn to be able to find your way in the absolute mega mess that is the human psyche. However, if we actually grew our very own brain (and taught ourselves how to perceive the colour green for example) then wouldn’t we be the ones that grew up hearing this language? In a way it is interesting how we can get completely lost in our own psyche and need someone else to tell us what’s going on with us, and why we’re doing this thing to us, using us to taunt us. Very confusing…

The title of this blog ‘Be obscure clearly’ is a quote by E.B. White (1899-1985) whom I’ve read nothing by. I don’t really know what he meant by it, yet I can entertain myself for quite a while to find my own meaning behind it, and trying to understand why I chose it.

Here goes: Maybe a lot of elements in the human life, the choices we make, the things that happen to our bodies and the habits we fall into, are quite obscure. It’s not really clear WHY we do these things (smoke, get drunk, work in an office, gamble, cheat, have meaningless sex, get fat etc. etc.) and yet we are pushed by society to give a good reason for these things anyway. Why do you smoke? Because it relieves my nerves and gives me something to do when I feel socially awkward. Yes, maybe. Partly probably. But in a way maybe there is no good reason for smoking other than you just feel like it and you’re a grown-up. But, bear with me as this is leaking out of my flu-ed up brain as we speak, maybe we feel we need to do an obscure thing (smoking) but can only do it if we have a clear reason for it (nerves, social awkwardness), otherwise we seem just a wee bit too insane or selfish. Hmmm.

I feel that a similar thing happens to a lot of people with a weight issue. It is generally understood by science that most of this has to do with hormonal imbalance and a failure to properly metabolise sugars into energy, and instead store it as fat. Generally understood. And still we think of the overweight person as just eating too much. There is a reason behind eating too much, it’s called craving, and that craving exists because the body is too confused and too busy storing all the energy.

That’s a completely simplified version of how I understand obesity, BUT (coming back to the blog title) it’s almost like people feel the need to be obscure clearly. When they eat more than they burn off, it is put down as eating out of frustration or emotional pain or self hate. It is put down as a mental problem, it explains the obscurity to others in quite clear words. Well done.

What if you just feel like eating a massive meal and some biscuits to follow? No wait, that’s not a good reason at all, you must be depressed.


I think in some cases this is either wrong, or a self-created reason.  I think the obscure thing (over eating) is caused by the obscure workings of your body (which kind of lifts the obscurity) When you are out of control when it comes to your cravings and food intake, very often this is because your metabolism is out of control. You cannot ‘fix’ this by trying to be in control of yourself a bit more, by standing in front of the mirror more often and looking at your love handles. It doesn’t come from punishing yourself by looking at other people with lean, fit bodies and thinking of them as people that are in control of themselves. I think that it should come from trying to attend to the actual problem, the biological reason behind your body thinking it needs to store so much energy as fat, leaving you with none and making you crave more. Does that make sense?

I’m not a scientist, but an understandist, this is what I understand of what I’ve learned, but in no way does in necessarily have to be how you understand it. I feel  a lot of things in every-damn-day-life is obscure, but in a very clear way.

I think we should try and not explain obscurity clearly, I think we should try and make the thing that is happening clear. If you can’t find a good reason behind why something is happening, maybe you’re just not looking in the right direction. I’d like to think that that is how it works, as obscurity is literally like a nightmare, you can try to describe and try to explain it all you want, still doesn’t make any bloody sense.