Facing fears like a…shaking leaf hiding in a cubicle

Because yes, that’s where leaves hide when they are shaking. Well, this one certainly did today at work when we had a TORNADO WARNING. I hear all you mid-USA folk snorting like ‘puh-lease, that happens like every day during particular months…’ (my knowledge of tornado alley extends as far as never go there).

But for good ol’ Melbourne, Australia, this never happens. Which is perfect in my eyes, as for some reason, tornadoes are my all time greatest fear. For some it’s spiders. Or snakes. Or being really high above the ground. For me, it’s tornadoes.

I blame you, Dorothy, I blame you.

I blame you, Dorothy, I blame you.

I was at my desk having a quick chat to some colleagues, when we realised how much rain was bucketing down outside. Our side of the building looks out over the river where it joins the bay – beautiful in good weather, fricking nuts in bad weather. The side we were looking out had pouring rain, but still some light & sky. Then we turned to look out the bay window and saw darkness and a wall of water. Right at that moment, my co-workers phone buzzed and she said ‘Holy crap guys, my sister-in-law says to stay inside coz there are tornadoes in Melbourne’. Oh…my…sweet…lord… Those words I only ever hear in my nightmares when I’m really stressed out were being spoken in real life, and I wasn’t even able to run away and hide in a cupboard (or a basement – I did take comfort in the fact my building has a basement until I remembered my pass doesn’t grant me access).

Turns out the tornadoes were over near where I live (great), so while I stared with terror out the giant glass wall that is the side of my building, convinced I was about to see a waterspout erupt and kill us all with flying shards and scared looking fish, I gave Simon a call. Here’s how it went:

Simon: ‘Hello?’

Me: ‘Are you inside?’

Simon: ‘Yes, why?’

Me: ‘Is the dog inside?’

Simon: ‘No’

Me: ‘Can you get her inside now please?’

Simon: ‘…ok…what is going on?’

Me: ‘There’s a tornado warning out for all of Melbourne and some have touched down near you.  Is she inside?’

Simon: ‘She’s barking. Maybe she’s barking at the tornado!’

Me: *not amused* ‘Is she inside??’

Simon: ‘Yes, yes, and there’s no tornado, she obviously scared it away’.

Very supportive, thank you, partner! He was actually pretty good after that and tried to distract me with chatter about his day but all I could think about was calling my mum to check she was inside too. She was much more supportive. Then I got off the phone and went and hid in the toilet for a moment because I was all shakey and sweaty. Having your dread come to life, even though I didn’t see an actual tornado in front of me was intense. God help me if I ever come face to face with a tornado (well, yes, help me because that would mean certain doom, but you know what I mean). I did manage to hold my shit together mostly though, which I’m pretty proud about. And also had to go face a difficult meeting straight after that, which I sailed through, so screw you fear, you didn’t win this time!

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Setting myself free

I’m feeling much better today, compared to the stress levels I had when I last blogged. Work is still insane, and became slightly crazier recently as I’ve been nominated for an award and there’s some big reshuffles about to happen. But I made myself take a day off on Friday to use up some of the time in lieu I had accrued through my overtime. Even though it meant I had to work until 11pm the night before in order to be able to relax on the Friday, it was worth it – having that extra day, one empty of people, was just what I needed. Plus today I’ve had another quiet day as it’s the Melbourne Cup. Simon’s work continues as they serve interstate folk as well, who don’t have the day off, so I’ve had the house to myself again. And I finally feel slightly human again.

I’ve also done something else to help me claw back my sense of self. I’ve gotten back into my writing. I keep a personal journal (offline) and have started writing in there again. I write in there more often than on here, as I still struggle to share my everyday highs and lows with the faceless beast of the internet (though having some of you comment on my blogs has helped with that – I feel like I’m actually talking to kindred spirits rather than the general ether – thank you!). I also started a new blog where I’m posting a manuscript I wrote years ago, bit by bit. It’s a novelised version of my messed up life, so it’s both terrifying and fantastically liberating to put it out to the world. I wrote it when I was in a very dark place (and half of it is based on actual writings my grandmother did for me – go check it out and you’ll see what I mean: Biding Her Time), back when I was processing what had happened in my life and how I would move forward from it. Whilst I always planned on publishing the book one day, I never intended to make money from it – it was something I did for me, for my family, and for others out there who are going, or have gone, through something similar. For many years, however, I have been too scared, or ashamed, or defiant, to put my words out there. My stepfather was a psychopath, and that leaves some interesting ‘issues’ that rear their heads when you sometimes least expect them. Until now, I have felt too close to what happened to put it out there. But the other day I finally realised I was ready. I am strong. I have survived. And I want the world to know. I don’t even really care if no one ever reads it – just as people release balloons/lanterns/birds into the sky to set things free within themselves, I am setting my words free and it feels amazing.