4 Wheel Drive Adventure

Today was epically awesome. My sister booked into a 4 wheel drive training course and was allowed to bring an extra person along… So guess who got a fantastic day out??

Dave, the guy running it, was from Adventure 4 Wheel Drive and he was a pleasure to see in action. As someone developing my own small business in art and mental health, I soaked up a lot from a day in his company. He was incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and personable. It was a joy to be in the company of someone so competent, who clearly loved his work. I learned a lot!

The driving itself was brilliant! Scary but so exhilarating! It was so much fun! We would walk these mad tracks first and see some mud pit or step incline or crazily eroded path and just gasp in horror at the notion of driving into it. Dave would drive it first and teach us how to decide on the best route, speed, gear etc. And then, heart in mouth, guided over a radio, we would DO it! The sense of triumph coming through this seemingly impossible terrain was fantastic.

Even better, while hanging around watching others try it, my heart would slow back down again and settle. Far too much of my life is spent on a kind of chronic low grade stress where the anxiety kicks in but never quite goes away. Getting a good jolt and then calming down again throughout the day was kind of brilliant, felt like it was kicking my system back into a normal rhythm.

Being out in the country all day was almost as good as going camping. I felt the same coming home from Murray Bridge after talking to carers about supporting people with psychosis too,  I just feel so much more at home out of the city. I feel so chilled out now. I love it. Best antidote to a stressful week isn’t always nurturing or comforting. Sometimes it’s gumboots, adrenaline, and enough mud to keep a few hundred hogs very happy indeed. Sometimes adventure is what makes it all worth it. 😀

Unplugging a little and connecting a little

We’re off again, borrowed a van and we’re camping all weekend under the stars and going to enjoy the Medieval Fair. These little get aways are doing great things for my head.

I’m watching to see what exactly seems to make the difference. One of them is being less plugged in to my online world. So when I’m home I’ve started sleeping with my phone in another room at night.

This morning I woke up and wanted to check it. There’s a kind of nervous compulsion to check up on everyone, see how the world is travelling before I start my day.

As a child, when life was bad, I used to wake in the night and sneak into the bedrooms of my family, checking to see they were still breathing. On the very bad nights I’d find a heavy stick or some kind of weapon and wait up alone in case I needed to protect them against violent home intruders.

There’s odd parallels, the wanting to check in, setting the tone for my day. Mornings without the phone there I check in with myself first. I set the tone for my day myself. Then I have a peek at my friends worlds.

This morning I woke up and wanted to check my phone. When I remembered it was in the lounge, I was annoyed for a moment. Then I remembered that the idea was to check with with myself. As I lay there I realised my neck was crinked at an uncomfortable angle causing a fair bit of pain. (mornings are always bad for fibro pain) I relaxed and settled into my pillow. The neck pain eased. I feel my energy settle back into my body. I felt relaxed and comfortable and safe. There was a moment of just me, in my own mind and body, before I got up and began the day. It was good. So that’s something I can do.

I’ve just remembered the first night I spent in a shelter for homeless women running from domestic violence. I lay under a thin blanket, on a plastic wrapped mattress, alone in a room with locks on the doors and window, my ptsd jangling me out of my mind. I could only sleep with my phone clutched in my hand – my lifeline to the outside world, my one hope in a place where I was trapped and powerless.

And that makes me think of the nights in the caravan I lived in for a year, where sleep only came at dawn, and so many nights only happened at all if I slept with my hand on the big carving knife, tucked safe under my pillow, in case he came hunting me. There’s no other way out of a caravan once someone has broken into your door.

Safety and connection has meant many things to me over the years, I guess.

Adventures on camp

I’m home again! It was wonderful! And I’ve been swept straight off my feet and back into the rollercoaster of my complicated life. It’s hard to find a moment to think, much less blog. But I’m determined to nail down some passing memories and thoughts and send them off to the vastly deeps of the interwebs before they are lost. Mostly because I’m dissociative and it’s always fun to read later on and see what I’ve been up to. Plus, photos!

It was a short one, three nights, two days. Just a quick run up to my favourite local conservation park in the van. We’re working on getting the van properly and permanently set up so that camping can be an easy last minute – quick I have two days off let’s go kind of thing. It’s an ongoing project. My sister and I went together. Rose stayed home as her ankle is still healing.

I left behind all devices, and turned off my phone for the duration. It was blissful to be disconnected. I love the net, I love being in touch with my friends and online communities. I am even enjoying twitter these days. But I also love that sense of radio silence where I instead start to hear and connect with other aspects of my world.

I took a book on shamanism I’ve borrowed from a friend and did a lot of reading, writing, thinking, poetry, art, cooking, and breathing in the world. I was curious to read about how many cultures have the idea that something connects everything, some kind of force or energy or web. I thought of my own online world and how desperately important it is to me, how irritated I get with the mindless technology bashing that goes on. We have a fractured culture and we use our tech to connect ourselves to people we otherwise would lose, would not be part of our lives so regularly. We are shamans, linking in to our own webs. Of course there are risks. Of course there are problems. But this desire to be connected, that is universal.

I turned off my phone and listened to the wind.

I found a lizard sunning him/herself on the road. I like lizards. I said hello and then found him a nice spot in a paddock to sun instead.


How to tell you’re in the Australian countryside in one easy step:


My camera is still damaged from taking a nose dive to the floor while I was away in Singapore a few years ago. I’d almost forgotten what a macro mode was like! I borrowed my sister’s camera and stalked the wildlife.


It was beautiful.


The world was full of butterflies and tiny flowers.

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These gorgeous wrens frequent one of my favourite camping grounds.


I also took paints and shoes.




When I ran out of light, I painted in the dark with a head light.


I’m really happy with my work.


I was in charge of the food. This resulted in some unfortunate oversights. Such as the sushi, where I forgot to bring the seaweed for wrapping it, and the soy sauce for dipping. Hence, modern deconstructed sushi: I also didn’t bring enough food for three breakfasts.


The salad sandwiches went down well.


I redeemed myself with pancakes, served with tinned peaches and custard.


The sky was beautiful. One night we had a clear sky with no moon and a million zillion stars. There were also beautiful sunsets and (I’m told) dawns.

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We also did a hike. It was challenging. I am still very sore and limping a bit from unhappy calf muscles. It was worth it. 🙂 We trekked and climbed down to a cove.

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At the bottom, we climbed into the water and got smashed around a bit by the incoming waves. It was awesome! It also does mad things to your hair. 😉 Camping with dreadlocks is the easiest thing in the world.



This last photo took some getting, but was utterly worth it. 🙂


And then, we came home. I only cried a little.

Sometimes I think I shouldn’t put up posts like this, that this blog is only useful when I’m writing articles about DID and such. Then I remember that reducing stigma is about humanising, and that it’s valuable to see that someone like me, someone with ‘a severe mental disorder’ can have a life. Can chase butterflies and paint shoes and fry pancakes and play cards.

I was struck also by people’s good wishes before I left, how many people told me they hoped it went well as if something going wrong would ruin the trip. I see camps as an adventure. Things often go wrong, not because I’m inexperienced or unprepared (well, okay, occasionally), being too broke for great supplies and a top notch well maintained vehicle doesn’t help. But also because life is not perfect and doesn’t follow a script. Taking risks, seeing new things, trying new things risks disappointment and things not going well. Treating this all as an adventure means that short of real crises (severe injury and the like), no matter what happens I have a good time. A lot of this is the company I keep. I’ve been on camps where my fellow travellers were inexperienced, easily bored, prone to destructiveness, and difficult to work with. Every little task was a major undertaking, from erecting a tent to cooking breakfast. Everything was frustrating and miserably difficult and many of the outcomes were painfully poor, such as a tent put too close to a large camp fire, resulting in small burns through all the fabric.

Whereas I’ve been on other camps were so many things went wrong – cars bogged, pouring rain and a leaky tent, or other times such as surprise windstorms, or roads flooded, that despite all the calamity were truly wonderful times. There was no fighting or angst, an acceptance that things go wrong and they make good stories, and a good team that pulls together evenly to manage the situations.

How often this is true of life, I think as 2013 draws to a close.

I don’t wish you a life where nothing goes wrong. I wish you a grand adventure! And really good company.

Christmas Camping

I’ve had a fantastic couple of days. A lot of work over the past 10 years figuring out how to do things like give myself permission not to spend time at Christmas with people who really stress me out, even if that’s expected, and how to extend the same freedom even to people I’m really hoping to see, has really paid off for me. I had one of the most memorable Christmases since I was a kid. 🙂 Friends, family, games, good food, cuddles, surprises, and very little stress.

Today I’ve had heart to heart talks and icecream and watched The Hobbit in 3D and now I’m about to head off for a couple of days camping with my sister. Rose has decided the great beyond is not for her with her ankle still bunged up, so she’s going to spend a couple of days visiting her mates instead. I’m sad about that, but so excited too! Tonight I’ll be sleeping under the stars in the back of a van, cool wind blowing through my soul. I’m one lucky sod.

Much love to all of you, catch you in a few days. x