Gradually then suddenly

A friend sent me a great article from the New Yorker  by the rather stellar Megan O’Rourke which I can relate to so, so much of at the moment. Especially getting sick “the way Hemingway says you go broke: “gradually and then suddenly””, turning to the internet and drastic “lifestyle” changes to try to fix things, being dismissed by doctors every time you are unwell for years (for me it was always “it’s because you are so overweight”, “your B12 is a bit low”, “you’re a little bit anemic”, “it’s probably just a bug”), and the brain fog that makes it hard to write and perform, and the all-encompassing nature of fatigue.

This part of the article especially articulated something that I have felt lately, but haven’t been able to find the words to describe.

The worst part of my fatigue, the one I couldn’t explain to anyone—I knew I’d seem crazy—was the loss of an intact sense of self.

It wasn’t just that I suffered brain fog (a usual autoimmune symptom); and it wasn’t just the “loss of self” that sociologists talk about in connection with chronic illness, where everything you know about yourself disappears, and you have to build a different life. It was that I no longer had the sense that I was a distinct person. Taking the subway to N.Y.U., where I taught, I felt like a mechanism that moved arduously through the world, simply trying to complete its tasks. Sitting upright at my father’s birthday dinner required a huge act of will. Normally, absorption in a task—an immersive flow—can lead you to forget that you feel sick, but my fatigue made such a state impossible. I might, at the nadir of my illness, have been able to write one of these sentences, but I would not have been able to make paragraphs of them.

To be sick in this way is to have the unpleasant feeling that you are impersonating yourself. When you’re sick, the act of living is more act than living. Healthy people, as you’re painfully aware, have the luxury of forgetting that our existence depends on a cascade of precise cellular interactions. Not you.

My mental sensation of no longer being a Person had a correlating physical symptom: my eyes no longer seemed like transparent lenses onto the world. They seemed, rather, to be distinct parts of my body, as perceptible as fingers—oddly distant, protuberant, like old-fashioned spectacles. My face felt the same way—like a mask I was disorientingly conscious of at all times. It made me feel categorically fraudulent. I could feel the fat in the cheeks and the weight of bones as I spoke. I felt a mounting anxiety: everything was wrong, and that wrongness was inside me; only I wasn’t sure anymore what that “me” was.

It’s comforting when you find someone so lucidly explaining something that you haven’t been able to figure out how to express yourself. On a bad day, this is how I feel: like even being my sick, tired version of myself is a huge act, a big effort. And I feel anxious that I’m not playing the part properly. And that anxiety spills over into everything else as well. It’s the strangest feeling, one I have never experienced before in my life.

I’m still waiting for some autoimmune tests to come back to see if that might be my problem, and the other night I did a home sleep study for sleep apnoa and other things. In the avalanche of annoying medical tests I have done lately, at least the home sleep test was mildly amusing. I had to rig myself up with electrodes on my head and torso, straps all around my torso, a pulse oximetry thing on my finger and a canula up my nose. Holding it all together required copious amounts of masking tape. With my wires and tape, I couldn’t decide if I looked more like a terrorist bomber or someone who had just failed really badly at a DIY project. But it was not the best night’s sleep, that’s for sure.

I looked just as enthusiastic as the guy in the instruction manual when putting it all on–and 100 times worse than that when I woke up the next morning!

Well this should be fun tonight. Preparing for bed tonight is worse than trying to build flat pack from ikea. #sleeptest

too tired to tidy. Weekend mess of laundry and cookbooks.

What ifs and worries

I am still awaiting a diagnosis for the mystery illness that has plagued me for nearly three months now. This past week has been particularly rough: last weekend I barely had the energy to do anything, save a couple of hours of cooking/chopping on Sunday for preparing healthy food to eat in the week ahead. I even missed two dinner parties last weekend because of fatigue, something that for me is completely unheard of. Anything that involves dinner, a glass of wine and my friends normally shoots to the top of my priority list, but I just couldn’t push through the tiredness. Resting sometimes just doesn’t seem to help at all.

This weekend I’ve tried tidying the place a little, but it has been slow going. I live in a small one-bedroom flat, and while it gets cluttered and looks messy very quickly being small, it thankfully doesn’t normally take long to clean up. But normal doesn’t apply at the moment. Yesterday I swept the floors, then needed to lie down for a couple of hours. Then I mopped the floors. Then needed to lie down for a couple of hours. Then I washed the dishes and put some laundry in the machine, and had to rest for a bit. After doing those things, I felt too tired to cook dinner, so I bought some pre-made salad from the local shops. Today, after yesterday’s efforts, a quick trip to Woolies and cleaning the shower screens has me completely knackered–I’m resting up now so I don’t miss another dinner party tonight. It’s all quite ridiculous.

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Nara candle festival

Last year in October (I know, all these belated posts!), I checked out the Nara Candle Festival, which happens every year. It was very pretty, and a beautiful Spring evening… but the lines for food and beer were fairly ridiculous!

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There was also some pretty scenery on the walk across the lake to get there.

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Beautiful beach times

At the end of October last year, I went down the South Coast with some of my gals. Not just any old gals, but some of my dearest friends–a group whose friendship formed fast in our first year of uni as media students and has only strengthened through the years, even though we are often all over the country or all over the world. 2014 was our 10 year anniversary of being friends.

The coast was gorgeous. We stayed in a lovely holiday house at Nun’s Beach, near South Rosedale, which gave us ocean views, a bedroom each and a big kitchen where we prepared amazing meals and gorged on seafood and champagne. And best of all, we were spending time together. I could gush about the privilege of having amazing female friendships, and how this group of friends never fail to support and inspire and encourage each other, especially when we are going through tough times. But instead I’ll just post some pictures of the coast, because all the mushy stuff doesn’t even really need to be said.

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Beautiful places

Last year, when I was on my health kick and before my fatigue really went off the rails and became a crippling dizzying mess, I was going on lots of walks. Spurred on by the advice of my exercise physiologist, who said it was good that I walked so much but that I really should try walking up hills instead of just going around the lake and around my flat suburb, and motivated by the gorgeous spring weather, I took to the hills, which in Canberra are numerous and not at all far away.

Using posts from In the Taratory for walking inspiration, I made several treks up Mt Majura (I didn’t make it to the top as I kept getting lost! I now know the way though), Mt Ainslie and Mt Painter (which was my favourite, as it was a perfect ‘midweek mountain’ with stunning sunsets), and had plans to do Red Hill, Mt Taylor, the Arboretum and The Pinnacle… but then things went kaput. I tried to walk Mt Ainslie one day and only got a little way up before feeling absolutely awful, and then everything was quite literally downhill from there. At the moment, a 30 minute stroll around Dickson is pushing it.

Anywayyyyy I just wanted to share these pretty phone photos of some of the new and pretty places I discovered during my brief mountain climbing phase. Hopefully I’ll be back in action soon!

Another from Mt Painter #canberra Another from today's walking around Mt Majura #latergram #canberra #canberra Telstra tower from Mt Painter From Mt Ainslie yesterday #latergram #canberra Mt ainslie #canberra Nation's capital. #canberra
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This short-lived climbing phase was actually kind of liberating, realising that I actually could climb these big mountains in just a morning or an afternoon. I think I had subconsciously convinced myself that I wasn’t fit enough to do it, and just hadn’t even thought about it, and then was pleasantly surprised when I could. I’m also deathly afraid of snakes (and also massive kangaroos when I am by myself–I got terrified a few times by giant roos on Mt Majura!) so had probably also been using that as an excuse. But part of me also now wonders–did I overdo it? Is this part of what tipped me from tired to trainwreck?

 

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The Proprietor, Albury

Hipster foodie-ness has only really trickled a little into my hometown of Albury, just a residual smudge of it around from those who have moved to hipper places and brought tiny bits of it back. In many ways, it is unsurprising–pretentiousness doesn’t really fly around these parts. For example, brunch tends to be your standard eggs benedict kind of arrangement, no smears of strange pestos or scatterings of chia seeds or pomegranate. There’s nothing wrong with plain old eggs, but it’s nice to have options for something a little more interesting. There are places that do stand out from the crowd, but many of them are out of town, daytripper destinations rather than everyday treats. But things are always improving. And there is beautiful food around this region.

So I was thrilled to discover The Proprietor, which brings the abundance of the region to the casual brunch or lunch plate, served up in a charming old-style grocer shop atmosphere, with outdoor tables next to flower-filled planter boxes and large communal tables indoors.

It has been around for a little while, but last holidays I didn’t manage to get there. This morning I finally did though, and I had to give this charming place, which is a convenient two-block walk from my family home, a little spruik on the blog. They serve beautiful Padre coffee from Brunswick, and it is served well. I also noted they have wines and ciders on the menu, which would be wonderful with lunch (it was far too early for a tipple when I visited, even in the festive season!). The menu options showcase the local: Gundowring icecream, Harrietville trout, Beechworth berries and more.

Great to see so much local produce featured on the menu.

 

Looking for a light breakfast, I chose the soft poached pear with dried berries, yoghurt, muesli and passionfruit. It was delicious–a just-right sized serve (sometimes I find cafes go crazy over the top on the yoghurt or muesli dishes, nobody wants to eat half a box of muesli for breakfast!).  And it looked gorgeous!

Ummmm what??? Albury has a beautiful hipster cafe now with gorgeous food made with local produce. Check out The Proprietor if you are in #albury.

The other dishes I saw going to other tables also looked great.

So I’m happy knowing there’s a place to get a good brunch or a morning coffee just a short stroll away from home.

I wanted to Instagram the cafe more, because it is very cute, but it was really busy and I always feel a bit weird taking photos of other people eating, because I would hate to be in a photo like that myself! But they have their own lovely Instagram here.

It was pretty busy, so I’d recommend booking if you have a group.

For more info, check out their website or Twitter.

The Proprietor on Urbanspoon

I am quite literally sitting at my desk wondering where 2014 went.

The medical mystery

I wrote earlier this year about my struggles with fatigue and exhaustion, and my efforts to diet and exercise and so on to try to solve it. Now it seems to be something more, and has become a bona fide medical mystery. In November this year things rapidly got worse. The fatigue became more extreme, accompanied by dizziness that is sometimes so bad it throws me off balance, often with pain and aching, especially in my legs. Any small amount of physical activity can make it significantly worse. A half-hour walk can leave my legs like lead the next day, my hands shaking with the effort of trying to chop a carrot for a snack. Other days are better, and I can manage to go for a little walk, or do some cleaning around the house. But now, in December, I still have no idea what is wrong with me–all that I know is that it is stopping me from doing the things I want to do, slowing me down, meaning I am stuck in bed more than I want to be, making it hard for me to do as well at work as I want and equally hard to have the energy to socialise. It’s super frustrating and I really want a diagnosis, so I know what to do to fix it, but all the tests I have done so far have yielded nothing. I’m starting to get worried it could be something like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but in the same breath hoping that it is just a bug or some virus that will work its way out of my system soon enough. I really hope it doesn’t drag on into 2015. It has been causing problems since May this year.

But trying to see the plus side to this, I have felt incredibly grateful to my friends, colleagues and family (even when they send me crazy articles from the most unscientific parts of the internet with their disease theories) for their support, kindness and adaptability. I’ve also gained some insight into how difficult it must be for people who live with invisible illnesses–it’s hard to be sick when people can’t see that you are sick. They can’t see how fatigue is more than just sleepiness, how it can be sudden and crushing, felt all over the body, filling the brain with a thick fog.

I am trying to be kind to myself, even though I am frustrated and my natural reaction is to charge on through. I have been eating very healthily, and managed to lose 13 kg this year, despite being completely exhausted, which was a good effort I think. Unfortunately now though I’ve had to really stop my exercise regime in the last two months as the fatigue has become worse and is exacerbated by exercise, and that is the only thing that works–careful dieting alone doesn’t shift the weight at all. It’s annoying, I was starting to feel like I was getting muscles!

Since I don’t know what is going on with my body, my 2015 resolution is to do the best I can in the circumstances and try to be kind to myself. I had grand plans for travel in 2015, grand plans for research, but everything is in a holding pattern until I figure out what is going on– or until it just goes away, which is what I am hoping for.

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Car Free Day, Jakarta

Very belated post from my quick Indonesia trip in September.

I remember being skeptical about Jakarta’s Car Free Day when it started out, where one of the city’s main thoroughfares is shut to cars and motorcyles for a couple of hours each Sunday morning (it used to be less frequent, once a month I think, but it is now every week). For starters, the name is misleading–its really Car Free Morning. But when it started out back when I was living in Jakarta and working at the Globe, it was touted as some kind of environmental move, to reduce emissions and traffic. Which seemed absurd, given Jakarta’s problems with traffic, a lack of public transport and so on. A couple of hours of car-freeness during the normally quiet anyway Sunday morning timeslot was hardly going to turn Jakarta from an environmental sinner to a saint.

But fast forward a couple of years, and Car Free Day is now an amazing community event, opening up the heart of Jakarta to the people who are normally marginalised by the traffic– pedestrians and cyclists. I was really excited to be back in Jakarta, and staying where I could enjoy Car Free Day. I was enthralled by the carnival-like atmosphere of it. Not only were there hoards of people jogging, cycling and ambling down Jl Sudirman, being active in a city with limited open public space, there were street performers, a small organic market, buskers, kaki-lima (food carts) and of course, loads of people taking selfies at Bundaran HI (including many with selfie sticks).

This Car Free Day skeptic has been proven wrong! It’s now well-loved and well-attended, and while I doubt it is doing that much for emissions, it’s certainly giving Jakartans a much needed place to play in the city, outside of the malls.

I took a few shots while out and about, you can see them below.

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(and of course, no public event in Indonesia would be complete without wildlife on display, which also included giant snakes)

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Some in black and white as well.

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And a random pocong, of course.

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Hello Fresh

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Before I was forced on to the very low carb diet, I was getting Hello Fresh boxes delivered. I begrudgingly cancelled it because there was usually a rice/pasta/bread based dish more than once a week and my life is sad now and I am not supposed to eat all that.

I meant to write about my general happiness with Hello Fresh earlier on, but never quite got around to it. It is a great service, and I really recommend it for busy people, especially busy singles or couples (might be a bit exxy for families, but it is definitely still cheaper than takeout).

For those who haven’t heard about it, they send you all (with the exception of basic staples i.e. olive oil) of the ingredients and recipes to make either three or five meals a week. Saves you having to be creative and saves you from having to go to the shops. Each meal takes less than half an hour to make. I ordered the box for two people, and always had one serve for dinner and one serve to take to work for lunch.

Vegetarians are catered for, they can choose the veggie box. The one major downside is that there isn’t options available for those on restricted diets (i.e.gluten free, low carb, low calorie, vegan, lactose intolerant and so on). Maybe in the future. You can modify the recipes, but that costs you extra money when you have to buy substitute ingredients, so I decided it wasn’t worth keeping it up. I do miss this service, just like I miss refined carbohydrates. I found that there was usually one standout recipe each week, and the other two recipes were good. I don’t recall any bad meals, only a couple of times I was annoyed when there was a salad in the middle of the freezing Canberra winter.

Anyway, if you want to try Hello Fresh and would like a $30 discount on your first box, use this code: N8DS9D.

Here’s some of the meals I made in my couple of months on it… sorry for the less than amazing photographs, all were taken on my phone only, fast and furious just like my weeknight cooking:

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@hellofreshau walnut and rosemary crumbed chicken with wedges and salad. Nom.

Very low carb + sugar diet making me feel awful, this helped.

I was so pumped to see my @hellofreshau box today. No brainpower for cooking.

#hellofresh Cajun chicken with feta and pearl couscous

Last night's #hellofresh was meatballs and mash. If you want to try out @hellofreshau and get a $30 discount, use my code: N8DS9D.

 

 

Hipster hotels in Jakarta

Jakarta is so freaking hip, it does not surprise me that there are a multitude of hipster hotels now. I stayed in two different ones on each end of the conference (Artotel Thamrin and Morrissey), and also had lunch and went to the rooftop bar at another one nearby (Kosenda). I would highly recommend all three, though I can’t speak to the rooms at Kosenda (I can speak to the fun rooftop bar, Awan Lounge, very highly though! The food was also very good at their Waha Kitchen).

Here’s a rundown and some snaps of the two I stayed in.

Artotel Thamrin

I got a great deal here, only paying about $37 AUD for a night on Agoda. This hotel is in a great location, just next to Sarinah and in walking distance to Plaza Indonesia and Grand Indonesia, as well as good eating spots in Menteng (walking in Jakarta, I know, I must be crazy…).

The outer facade is splashed with art, the lobby and restaurant area has a great design, and the rooms are all painted with murals by local artists. There is also apparently a rooftop bar opening there soon. It doesn’t have features like a pool or gym, but it is a great place to base yourself when you are going to be out on the town. Also, convenient to car free day if you stay on the weekend and fancy a Sunday morning wander with thousands of others! The rooms had free WiFi (of course, like all affordable Indonesian hotels… why have other parts of the world not caught on to this?) and as a nice touch, a Dolce Gusto espresso pod machine for coffee. My room was designed by Oky Rey Montha. I really love the concept of using the hotel rooms for showcasing the work of Indonesian artists.

Artotel Thamrin is cheap (about $40 a night) and awesome. And totally instagrammable #jakarta

Art all around at artotel Thamrin. #jakarta

Morrissey Jakarta

This place is too cool for school, so of course I loved staying here. Also very conveniently located on Jl Wahid Hasim, just by the corner with notorious Jl Jaksa, there’s lots of food and stuff nearby and it is only a short taxi or ojek to the Bundaran HI area or Menteng (or Monas and other attractions, if you are actually a tourist in Jakarta rather than a returnee like me).

My room had its own kitchen, which would have been great if I was staying longer as eating out all the time can get dull (wait, no… it never does in Jakarta. That is a lie!). I don’t think my photos do it any justice, so check out their website instead. I absolutely loved the pool area, and the gorgeous residents’ lounge on the roof. The lobby was charming, they had bikes that brave guests could use, and free WiFi. The included breakfast, served next door at Ocha and Bella, wasn’t amazing I have to say (though I had just come from four nights at the Mandarin Oriental), but it was fine. Ocha and Bella’s lunches and dinners though are very good. Really good value–I paid around $75 AU a night booking through Agoda.

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Residents’ lounge (there was also a gym, I didn’t photograph lest person working out there felt I was being pervy!)

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Residents’ lounge

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IMG_2626Ocha and Bella restaurant, downstairs

Giant salad.

Giant salad at Ocha and Bella for lunch. Managed to pretty much stick to my low carb diet (except for a couple of cocktails and a little bit of rice and one croissant at brunch at Koi when there were no low carb options at all) for the whole week. Quite an achievement in the Jakarta context!

 

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Back in Jakarta (fleetingly)

Pagi. #causindy #jakarta

(Staying at the Mandarin Oriental for the conference=not too tough)

I was back in Jakarta for a week a couple of weeks ago to attend the Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth (CAUSINDY). It was certainly nice to be back. I enjoyed the conference and spending time with the other delegates, and also managed some catch ups with former colleagues and friends who are still in town (though not enough and there are many people I wanted to see that I didn’t get to! Jakarta makes cramming things in to a tight schedule so difficult, the traffic is not any better than before!).

While I really enjoyed being back and it was nice to be in a ‘real city’ for a week, and I certainly miss the Jak, I didn’t feel pressing pangs to move back. There was new stuff, there were things that were much the same, and there are definitely huge parts of my life there that I miss (friends, the people, the bars, the affordability of restaurants, nasi Padang, the affordability of amazing massages, cheap haircuts and cream baths, having someone else do my laundry and cleaning, speaking Indonesian and practicing it… unlike now, being able to run around the archipelago on the weekends and see amazing places, etc), I think now I’m in my extremely late 20s (for six more months, eeeek) I have other priorities, as much as it pains me to say it. If I could combine all of my priorities and all of the things in the above list, I totally would, and maybe I can in the future, but at the moment that would involve too many tradeoffs. It’s hard not to feel nostalgia when I go back there though for the extremely interesting life I had there for 2.5 years all up.

But anyway, enough of the pondering. Here’s a few photographic highlights.

Skye bar

Last time I was in Jakarta this place was too popular, but now there are other rooftop bars so the crowds are a bit more dispersed. It’s pretty cool! We had some crazy drinks and enjoyed the sunset views and then the twinkling nighttime ones. Canberra does not have bars on top of skyscrapers, this is one of its shortcomings.

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(I see one of my old apartment blocks, Sudirman Park!)

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Not a bad view.

 

 

Skye #jakarta

#jakarta

 

A couple of CAUSINDY shots

I didn’t take too many, I was too engrossed in conversation I guess. But here’s a couple.

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John vs John debate at #causindy

Some of my fellow delegates of #causindy in action.

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And here’s a couple of others courtesy of others.

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(Thanks ABC/Tribunews)

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(Thanks Pandu)

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(Thanks Luke)

New hair

Hardly groundbreaking, but I did get an affordable hair chop in Jakarta at Irwan Team in Grand Indonesia. After the pretty trying few months I have had as I wrote about in an earlier post (and unfortunately am still having to some degree), needed a fresh look. I should have bought a tongsis (selfie stick) in Jakarta though to improve my selfie skills. Couldn’t believe how popular the tongsis were, people using them everywhere!!

When in selfie-land...

 

 

Some Instagrams of Canberra’s finery

Even though I’ve been flat, and Canberra has been cold, it can still throw on the charm.  Here’s a couple of recent photos, all cameraphoned only.

#braddon #canberra #lonsdalest

 

Mise-en-scene in Lonsdale Street.

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Early morning walk, Dickson

Sulfur crested cockatoo in the newly blooming wattle #canberra

Cockatoo in the wattle, Ainslie

Everything is frozen! Great morning for a walk (-6 Celsius...) #canberra #canbrrra #dickson

 Dickson Wetlands covered in ice on a -7 degree morning.

Walking by the lake at dusk.

Early morning trees.

It's beginning to look a lot like spring! #canberra

The past few months…

I haven’t blogged since May, which is when I went to Melbourne for my 29th birthday. It has been a bit of a slog since then through a frosty winter and more, and I am shocked now (and somewhat relieved) to find myself in September with wattle and blossoms starting to spring up all around. Thank god.

So what was the slog?

 

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