Blog Posts

Unemployed Woes

Being unemployed is so fun, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it. There’s no job demanding my time. I’m able to just sit back and have fun on tax payers’ money. Said virtually no one ever, let me assure you.

Certainly, there are those out there who do work the system. They exploit what they can, so they don’t have to work. They almost make an art form of it, with Centrelink believing they live somewhere they don’t, they pay X amount of rent when they actually pay Z, they aren’t in a relationship when they are. They spend their money on drugs, and alcohol, and plead to their family for bread to feed their children.

Most people aren’t like that. Most people living off of Centrelink are out there, applying to every job they can. They’re forcing themselves to go to interviews to jobs that they don’t want, because it will be better than nothing. It would certainly be better than relying on a system that doesn’t care about you.

I’ve recently finished my study. This means that I have to make a transition from one Centrelink payment to another. I’m going from Austudy to Newstart. Just as I went from studying full time, to realising that I’m unemployed and virtually unemployable, I’m now having fun dealing with the monetary side of things that will allow me to keep myself under a roof, with enough food to live.

Barely anyone on Centrelink wishes to stay on it. I have many friends who have no choice, who are unable to work more than they do due to chronic illnesses. Most of those would much rather be able to exist on their own and cut out Centrelink entirely. If only it were an achievable option.

Going to work everyday can be easy compared to meeting the expectations of Centrelink. At least then your free time is actually free, and you don’t feel any guilt for spending your money on something fun, something truly for you. I know that right now I would certainly much rather have a job, or at least one waiting for me, than deal with Centrelink. At least if I had a job on the line, I’d know that I’m going to be paid sometime soon. Whereas I am currently sitting in a well of anxiousness with no idea if I’m even going to be able to pay my rent next time it’s due.

Centrelink is supposed to be a system that’s there to support those who are down on their luck. It should be there to lend strength to the weakest members of our society. As such, you’d expect that it would be easy enough for people to reach out and get help from them. If only.

My own tale is just one example of how hard it can be to deal with this system that doesn’t care about people. The fact that I have spent the past two weeks on edge and close to tears more often than not because of it. That I have another two weeks likely to be spent the same way.

Going from one payment to another should be simple. I already exist on their system. I’ve been on Newstart in the past. The only thing that has changed is that I am no longer studying, and instead looking for work.

Towards the end of my time studying, I had a “to do” task on Centrelink’s website. It wanted me to arrange a phone meeting, regarding my switch from Austudy to Newstart. Except, I wasn’t able to arrange the meeting. I tried, multiple times on multiple days, but it was only offering me two days for the phone meeting, and telling me that both those days were unavailable to have a meeting on.

I called up at 8am, to speak to someone. I have had issues in the past where if I try to call even a few minutes later, I will simply hear a busy signal, and not be able to get through at all. It has been a while since I have needed to call at all, perhaps they have fixed whatever issue was causing that. However, I prefer to err on the side of caution.

Over the phone, I managed to schedule an appointment for the next day, between 1 and 2. I spent most of that hour with my phone in hand, only leaving for a few minutes to hang my washing out, at 10 to 2. Naturally, that’s when they rang.

So, I rang Centrelink to try to make another appointment. I was told that the “to do” task I’d had wasn’t meant for me, that it was instead for people under the age of 22. The lady I spoke to this time told me that the phone call I’d missed would have informed me of that, and that instead of having a phone appointment, I merely needed to wait until my study finish date, then make a new claim for Newstart.

I did as much. This time, I had another phone appointment, which I made certain my phone never left my hand for the entire hour I waited for their call. It was short, simply making an in person appointment for me at my nearest office (after being convinced that an office nowhere near me was my nearest). The appointment wouldn’t be for another couple of weeks, and in that time I’d need to get a medical certificate (to prove my anxiety and depression to them) and a form because I’m now a sole trader trying to sell myself as a writer and editor (which is working so well that I’ve had one job in the past few months since I got my ABN).

I showed up to my appointment on time, with my forms in hand. I waited in a rather long line to see the person who was organising where everyone should go to wait for their appointments, or to help themselves at the self service stations.

When I finally got to see her, I was told that I didn’t have an appointment. She double checked with her team leader, who agreed that I didn’t have an appointment. They told me to go home and just upload the forms I had to hand in. I did so, though I was worried about not showing up for the appointment that I knew I’d had.

I missed a call from a private number while I was walking out of the Centrelink office. When I got another call from a private number yesterday, however, I barely gave it the chance to ring.

Hello, I’m ringing in regards to the appointment you had on Friday which you didn’t show up for.”

Can I see the future, to know that I was going to get such a call?

I was so miserable on Friday that I wasn’t able to write a review. The weekend didn’t help me feel much better. Even today, I’m feeling utterly miserable. I have another two weeks before my next appointment. My anxiety is convinced that something will go wrong. That I’ll be denied Centrelink. I have no money to my name until I get paid by them again. Any savings I had was spent on rent for the fortnight. On bills. I’m currently looking at two weeks of barely doing anything. Of existing on two minute noodles. I’m glad my cat has enough food to last the two weeks, or I don’t know what I would do with myself.

Anxiety is a horrible companion, and it only weighs heavier on me at the moment. I don’t know that I’ll be writing my Friday reviews for the forseeable future. Indeed right now it’s hard enough for me to get this written down, to explain why I can barely breathe, let alone write.

There are those who might exploit the system, and use Centrelink with no intention of ever getting a job. Those few are the reason the rest of us struggle to afford rent. To buy food.

The system is broken, and it’s not the only one. It’s a broken system that doesn’t care about those under its care, reliant on it in their moments of weakness. As a broken system it does its best to break those honest few who are reliant on it. It can be hard to realise the truth, to know that you are trying your hardest to look for a job, when people look down your noses at you, and the very system in place to help make this time easier for you is insistent on putting you down, on making you feel a drain on society.

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Blog Posts

Blue Screening Mind

Without a routine, days can so easily bleed into one another. Outside of any university or work which can remind me what day is what, I completely forget what day it is. I can tell you the date, since it’s sitting there on the lower right hand side of my computer screen, but the day itself is a mystery to me. Which is how it wasn’t until I was lying in bed last night that I realised I’d missed my self appointed day to post a blog.

Unstructured days can be the enemy when you have a mental illness. I usually try to do things when I’m on holidays, so I have certain days to do certain things on. Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to do those things when they require at least some level of money and you have none. As such, most of my days at the moment tend to be structured by incidental things. Whether one of the webcomics I read has updated. Whether the friends I talk to online are working. Whether or not my Grandad goes out for dinner.

Another problem I face with getting my Tuesday blogs out at the moment is that I’m finding it difficult to come up with topics when I’m not going outside and doing anything. Perhaps one week I might inform you of the struggles I face with playing competitive Overwatch in a low tier. Or I could discuss how easy it can be to open up a beautiful game, and realise hours later that you haven’t had a break.

I could talk about how hard it is for me to read these days, when that means pulling myself away from the only human contact I really have access to, which is playing games with friends. I have resigned myself to knowing that I won’t reach my reading goals for the year. There are so many unread books currently sitting in my room, calling out for me to read them, yet how can I do so?

My mental health is currently hanging by a very thin string. A single wrong word or loss in a game can send me into tears. I hate it. I feel so miserably weak. I’m working on it, I am, but it’s so hard to do so when the thing you’re trying to fix is the very thing that’s stopping you from fixing it.

A brain is very much like a computer. Except, it’s the only one you have. When you are unable to connect to the internet, there is no way for you to search for a way to fix the problem. When you face your fourth blue screen of death in a day without any improvement or way to get help, giving up can seem like your only option. For me, it’s not an option. Because when it works, there are other computers on the network that rely on mine to be functional. They can work in the meantime, but I don’t want to leave them without my computer in the long run. My computer has suffered sudden losses of others on its network, and I know how hard it is for people to deal with that. I can’t do it to other people.

I especially can’t do it to the people that I care about, who are of course the ones who would be most affected.

So this week’s update is that I’m working on my mental health, and struggling quite severely at the moment. Hopefully next week’s update will at least be on time. I’ll try to talk of happier things as well.

In the meantime, if you’re facing blue screens of death yourself, don’t forget you can always reach out to people. It can be hard sometimes, when your only means of contact keeps blue screening. You simply have to take those functional moments. Hell, sometimes you need to remember that before the internet there were other ways we talked to people. Try to reach out to those close to you when you’re stuck staring at that dreaded blue screen. Even if they’re not experts, they can often provide some sort of solace or distraction, which can help you get up the courage to restart, and try again.

Blog Posts

Stress and NaNo

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo for short, is an absolutely wonderful experience. I can hardly recommend it enough. When I first heard about it, I was quite sceptical how can something that someone writes in a month be any good? But that’s not the point the point is encouraging people to write every day, and to get into that habit.
It’s a great habit to be in as a writer. Sadly it’s not one I’m in at the moment. I’ve mentioned previously how I’m currently feeling quite overwhelmed with stress. I had initially been looking forward to NaNo, as I have for the past few years. The NaNo community in Brisbane, which I am lucky enough to be a part of, is truly wonderful. We have some fantastic Municipal Liaisons (MLs) who provide us with sugar, and cheap coffee, as well as organise memorable events. From the Kick Off party, to the Thank God It’s Over party, November is usually a fun month where I churn out the words. For the past few years I’ve managed to go above and beyond the 50,000 that designates “winning” NaNo. Last year I even managed to double that word count.
This year, however, I have been struggling hard. I usually enjoy writing, though now it’s a struggle to come up with words and ideas. I have a story in mind, with an idea of where it’s going to go. This has never failed me before. However I feel so overcome with stress at the thought of writing, that I can barely bring myself to do it.
I’m not going to win NaNo this year. Which is fine. I have accepted this, and in doing so felt at least one cause of stress leave me. It’s sad that something I truly do enjoy can be a cause of such stress, but that’s sadly something I have to live with.
I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 18. Of course, being more aware now, I know that I was suffering for a few years before that. The anxiety diagnosis came later, and was more or less lumped into my depression. Again, it’s something I was struggling with long before the diagnosis. Knowing can make a huge difference though.
Of course, knowing why I am struggling to put words together doesn’t help me put them together. Even though I have given up trying to “win” NaNo this year, writing is still coming hard for me. I want to write. I have a novel I’m working on which I’m actually excited about. I have an idea for a visual novel, which I’ve started working on, and again am extremely excited about. However I look at tge words I’ve written, and I simply cannot find a way to continue.
Thankfully, the Brisbane NaNo community is truly wonderful. Even though I doubt that I will be able to write anything, I know that I will still feel so welcomed and supported at write ins. Sadly I haven’t been able to make the last few, though there’s one tomorrow I intend to go to.
I’d like to spend a quick moment now expressing my adoration for any of you with similar issues. It might not be writing. It might be spending time with your friends. It might be playing a game you like, or going to work. Often times we experience those moments we want to give up, or points we just can’t pass. Today, I managed to write this blog, despite how hard words have been to put together for me lately. Tomorrow, while I doubt it, I may just end up writing something at the write in.
Never be afraid to admit when you’re overwhelmed. Sometimes we all need to take a step back. We need to breathe, and take things one step at a time. I know I won’t win NaNo, and even writing this blog feels like a big step for me write now. That being said, here it is in black and white.
Just breathe and relax. Sometimes, a smaller goal might be necessary. Even when you’ve managed tougher ones before.

Books Books

Eliza and her Monsters

I’ve mentioned earlier in a previous Books Books how I was subscribed to Owl Crate, a service which would deliver a book to my door every month. Unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel my subscription for the time being. However, while I was subscribed I enjoyed quite a number of the books I was sent. It is one of those books that I’d like to talk about and share with you today.

I had no idea what I was in for when I first held Eliza and Her Monsters. I was definitely not expecting the roller coaster that Francesca Zappua took me on.

Eliza was a wonderful character, who suffers from anxiety and depression. It didn’t take me long at all before I connected with Eliza. An artist first and writer second, she had a blog she updated regularly with a story of her own creation, which had become quite popular. Of course, no one knew that it was actually shy little Eliza who was the artist in question. No one, save for two of her best friends, who she only really knew online.

I related to Eliza very heavily. Even if I’m miserable at art, and don’t have a crazily successful webcomic. I relate because like me, Eliza is a creative person, who uses her creativity as a way to get away from things sometimes. An escape from the world. Like me, she has created a world that she knows backwards and forwards, and characters she knows better than the people she lives with.

As a writer, I could definitely relate. Much as, as an anxious and depressed person, I could relate with her on that level. Eliza wasn’t diagnosed at the start of the book, but France wrote her so well that it came through clearly anyway. At least, it did for me.

Because I related so much to Eliza, I soon became desperate to finish the book, to find out what would happen, how this was going to go. Not going to lie, I had a bit of a sleepless night, with a fair bit of gross sobbing as certain things went down.

[Spoiler alert] When it came out without Eliza’s wishes that she was the author that everyone was obsessed with, she broke down. I also felt like I was breaking with her. The writing was so beautiful that I felt as though I were there, that my boyfriend and friends suddenly hated me. [End spoiler]

I was sobbing in the middle of the night, because the writing and characterisation was so perfect. I related so much to Eliza at that point. I understand how hard it can be to open up about things. Particularly big things. It seems easier to just keep it close to your chest, to never let it out. I’ve never had a secret as big as Eliza’s, but I’ve had moments where things have come out that I’ve been trying to keep in. It can be devastating, no matter how small it is, no matter how supportive people around you might be. It can be hard to have something like that come out.

Eliza wasn’t the only character I came to love in this book. Wallace was an absolute sweetheart. Then there’s Eliza’s family. Her brothers were wonderful, but I think I have to give some parent of the year awards to her parents. Certainly, they weren’t the best to begin with. They had some typical problems that parents of teenagers in Young Adult novels seem to have. They didn’t really understand their child, for one. However, when shit went down, they soon realised their mistakes. They fixed their ways, and worked hard to understand their child more. Zappia also did well to make it quite clear that it wasn’t purely the parent’s fault. Eliza wasn’t particularly open to her parents, to begin with. Yes, this is one of the things that a good parent aught to be aware of with their teenage children, and try to work around. Because, let’s face it, teenagers rarely talk to their parents. They’re almost never completely open with them about how they feel. I know I certainly wasn’t.

The ending was absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was so real There was no “she was fixed, everything was perfect.” Instead, Eliza started working on her problems.

Another thing that made this book so beautiful and special was the art that Zappia shared throughout it. Art from Eliza’s webcomic Monstrous Sea. With it, there was also shared some of the backstory and facts about the webcomic. There were some beautiful quotes which had meaning not only within the webcomic and the novel, but which has more meaning beyond that.

“There are monsters in the sea,” and “You found me in a constellation.” There are so many other beautiful quotes, both those that were in the webcomic which Eliza and other characters reflect on throughout the book, and in the book itself. These two are simply some of my favourites. And I may need to choose between them one day as to which will be inked permanently upon my body. One day.

I will most certainly be reading this book again, and I cannot possibly recommend it enough for everyone else to read. I cannot understate how much I loved it. It was positively beautiful. It made me ugly cry late at night while desperate to finish. I loved the art, the characters, and the story telling so much. Everything about this book was absolutely beautiful, and even though I know I’ll cry when I read it again, it’s going to happen.

Blog Posts

My Mental Health

So, I started writing this a bit later today than I originally intended to. Hopefully in the future I’ll be more on top of this, have blogs and Books books ready to go up regularly. Now, however, I am not that organised.

I already started writing the blog I intended to put up today earlier, unfortunately, I encountered the dreaded blue screen of death, and none of my work was saved. Thankfully, it was only a few hundred words, so it’s not as tragic a loss as some I have already suffered in the past.

Ultimately, the reason I ended up not posting anything last week, and why I didn’t start writing until later this evening (into this night, even… Okay, it just ticked over to morning), is due to my mental health. Those of you who know me, know that I am an open book. I am entirely unashamed to talk about things that other people might prefer to not talk about. Mental health and sexuality being among them. My sexuality may be a topic for a different blog. For now, however, my mental health.

I have been diagnosed with both depression and anxiety. Anyone out there who has experienced the same at any point in their life can understand me when I say how hard it is to live with this. Many of you will also be aware of how these illnesses aren’t just in the heads of those who are affected. My brain simply doesn’t produce the same chemicals that most peoples brains produce. No free serotonin for me. Similarly, my brain reacts to situations that are perfectly normal with a fight or flight response, pumping unnecessary adrenaline through my body. This is sadly a fact of life for me, just how my brain is wired. I will live with depression and anxiety throughout the rest of my life. Therapy and medication can help, though that’s really hardly an ideal way to live my life. For one thing, it can be expensive. For another, people can take it the wrong way when you say you have to take medication everyday just to exist in a way that some people could consider normal, or when you say you need to see a psychologist.

Living with depression can be very hard. Most days, when my alarm goes off, I just lay in bed with my eyes still closed, wondering if it’s even worth the effort of getting out of bed. Inevitably I do. Sometimes it just takes longer than others. On days when I have to go somewhere, or do something, I will sometimes feel compelled to get up because of this. Other times, however, even the necessity of getting up is unable to persuade me, and I feel overwhelmed by what I have to do. On these days I get out of bed, and don’t leave my house. Which is sadly how I exist most of the time when I don’t have to do anything or go anywhere. Chances are also quite high that if I don’t have to leave the house, I’m still in my pyjamas. (What can I say, they’re comfy! Particularly my onesies.)

I’m not exactly the most hygienic person, sadly. I don’t shower every day, although I know it would be good for me. I did, for a while, but then I just let the habit slip, and it’s really hard to get back into it. My room is quite messy (a kind of organised chaos most of the time, although sometimes it does delve into straight chaos) because I can rarely find the effort to clean it. When I do my washing, my clean clothes will sit in my hamper for a few days before I can be bothered to fold and put them away. Which inevitably means that my old clothes lie on the floor waiting for my hamper to be free. It’s a whole cycle that I go through.

My room isn’t the only thing that’s hard to clean. I am so lucky right now that I live with my amazing Grandad and that he’s able to put up with me. Because I know that I’d hardly be the best roommate. (One day I’ll probably get into a story about that, but today is not that day.) Sure, he might make pointed comments now and then about the fact that I don’t always do the dishes, or tidy up, or that I buy too many books, but he still puts up with it, and understand that things can be hard for me sometimes.

With the cleaning though, a lot of it isn’t just my depression. That’s one of the things where my anxiety kicks in hard. So, a story for another day can be summed up in that I used to live with a neat freak. Who would yell at me if I did even the slightest thing out of the way he thought was best. To this day, dishes are my worst enemy, due to how many times that would have started an argument. (The water I used wasn’t hot enough. I used too much soap. I used gloves which meant I couldn’t feel that while appearing clean, some of the dishes were still greasy… The list goes on, and repeats a fair bit.)

I also have anxiety catching public transport. To be fair, I’ve had a few bad experiences of falling off of public transportation. Including that one time, often told, when I broke both of my ankles (and dislocated one) while stepping off of a bus. I’m a clumsy person. Stepping down almost always gives me a miniature heart attack. Stairs are my absolute nemesis.

The small step to get off of public transport isn’t my only problem, however. I also have quite high social anxiety, and being around too many people can be incredibly draining. When I get on a bus or a train, I need to find a seat where I can sit by myself. I always feel uncomfortable when I sit next to someone I don’t know. It gets worse when there are more people, and during peak hour I find myself unable to even get on trains. They tend to be so full that I can hardly breathe.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m in my final semester of uni. Not just for the year, but potentially for life. It’s quite scary. And I want to do well. Or at least, I want to pass. I want to have it all over and done with. But I have to rely on other people because three out of four final assignments are all group assignments. Always the worst part of any uni coursework. I’ve got a couple of decent groups, but then I had another where the communication was miserable, and teammates contributions felt quite weak to me.

Last week, I was feeling particularly overwhelmed with all of that, and with my fourth piece of assessment, which while an individual piece, was also quite upsetting to me as I had to miss the tutorial where I could have gotten any feedback on my work due to the fact that I had to be on set for another assessment that day. Sometimes things can be annoying like that. The fact that there were only three face to face tutorials in the entirety of that subject really annoyed and stressed me out, as well.

This wasn’t the only reason, of course. As mentioned previously in this very blog, I’m not exactly the most organised of people. My medication ran out on the Sunday. Due to various circumstances, I wasn’t able to get it filled until the Thursday. For quite a lot of last week I felt oddly woozy and not quite myself. It likely exasperated my stress to the nth degree. Even though I still feel quite stressed now, I don’t feel nearly as bad as I did last week.

Again, apologies for the late post, and the lack of post at all last week. Hopefully things will change looking in the future. Posts in November may also vary quite dramatically due to the wonderful and terrible thing called National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) which I shall be participating in as I have for the past four years.

Anyway, for now, good night!