One size does not fit all!

Some of the worst career advice I have been given as a therapist was “you need to find your niche,” or “you should specialise”. Part of the reason I was drawn to holistic therapy is its wide range and rich diversity. The beauty of holistic therapy is that it offers a flexible approach that tailors to the individual, not a one-size-fits-all structure. For me, the idea of delivering the same type of therapy day in/day out would make me want to bang my head repeatedly on my clipboard groaning and muttering very bad words.

I was told to not offer multiple therapies at once, I was assured I could make more money by separating therapies out to get more repeat business. I’ve never liked being told what to do, I’m a helper and a healer, I work for myself, so I tailor as required.  Holistic therapy with me can involve meditation, moving around, energetic chord cutting, reiki healing, yoga stretches, and much more laughter than tears. I blend everything in because every person is unique and comes for varied reasons plus, I feel better prepared knowing lots of approaches.

My favourite word is diversity, I have an unbridled curiosity if I don’t know something I will research and get back to you, if I can’t support you, I will find someone who can, but I won’t be niche, it’s too limiting and dull. If I have an expectation for growth and expansion from others, it’s unfair of me to sit in stagnancy and not do the work on myself. Therapists are required to have regular mentoring. In addition, I read multiple books at once, and see practitioners for my self-care. I regularly join in spirituality, meditation, and yoga practices. I’m nowhere near close to nirvana but I’m closer than yesterday.

I commenced counselling thinking my niche would be with teens and anxiety, which I did for a while, but those teens grow up and need support for their next transition, finishing school, moving out of home, starting careers, or university, forming relationships, facing challenges of starting a family and finding their place in the world. I then began to enjoy supporting women through career, family, and relationship challenges transitions of menopause as well as finding purpose and meaning in life.

Every person is a unique discovery and a work in progress and I want to be that too. I’m no expert. I can’t be, not in someone else’s life. All I can do is offer the space and time for reflection and ask questions to inquire more deeply, but ultimately, I don’t make decisions or dictate how others should live their lives.  We work together to gently consider how to find ways to make space for happiness and freedom. This then can create a flow through all aspects of life.

I work with individuals, couples, families, youth, and LGBTIQ+ people for:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Highly Sensitive Person (HSP or empaths)
  • Separated families
  • Couples counselling
  • Family support
  • Career challenges
  • Identity
  • Parenting
  • Relationships
  • Complex families
  • Spirituality
  • Purpose
  • so much more

I practice heart-centered, client-focused strength-based, family system, narrative, and inclusive therapy for any person, identifying as any gender in any relationship. I choose not to limit my scope because people are varied, unique, and changeable. We are all connection-seeking individuals who do not fit into one box, we are fluid, constantly changing, and moving through different challenges, life stages, and transformations. Life experiences come to shape, teach, and heal us, and none of us is the same person we were yesterday.

 

Please share if this may help anyone you know – in a world of increasing stress, no one needs a six-month waiting list to get help. Counsellors are unfortunately not Medicare rebateable, but charges are similar to out-of-pocket rates for psychologists, with less of a waitlist.

 

Rachel Wilkinson is a Holistic Counsellor with qualifications in communications, infant massage, kids’ yoga, remedial massage, reiki healing, spiritual coaching, and counselling. She lives in Brisbane and works in private practice with a small teddy bear humping Cavoodle. She is currently completing her Master of Counselling.

Website: rachelwilkinson.com.au Email: info@rachelwilkinson.com.au Mobile: 0402 329 259

For bookings click here.

Here is the link to one of the biggest radio shows Radio Husbands Tony Tranter and Jasper Manfield have delivered on grief with the highest audience engagement to date. It is clearly evident why they were awarded BayFM 100.3’s program of the year award. Their preparation, research, and commitment to educating and supporting the community are always humbling. It was an honour to join fellow guest Brian McCartney of McCartney Family Funerals. Get the tissues out for this first radio show for 2022.

Click here to listen to podcast of radio show

Working from home used to be something people did when they had pre-school children, lived remotely, or ran their own business, and didn’t want to pay for office space. Now, in the interest of keeping everyone safe and well, it is something we all need to be prepared to do, to operate independently, or pivot, as they say, to manage our own health and the safety of others.

Not everyone is ready for this. After working from home for almost 5 years managing renovations, kids on school holidays, and not always wanting to pay for office space, let me share what I’ve learned about receiving people in my home. If you are lucky enough to work from home and don’t have visitors – power to you. Rock those zoom calls in your trackie daks and business shirt, cook strong-smelling food and leave the dishes for tomorrow. Wear pants or not. When meeting others in their homes, however, consider these suggestions.

  1. Show up on time – If you make an appointment with someone in their home, make sure this is confirmed and arrive at the agreed time. Don’t show up 10 or 15 minutes early because you got a run of green lights, they may answer the door in their sweaty gym gear pants and a bowl of cereal because they don’t have a waiting room and they are not expecting you for 10 minutes. To the teenage girl who had to spend an hour with me in my leopard print leggings and sweatiness, I’m sorry. Your early arrival was unplanned. I was hoping you were a parcel.
  2. Don’t make them wait or leave them hanging – If you are running late, be respectful and let the person know. Pull your car over safely and send a quick text. Don’t arrive late and expect the full appointment time. If you forget or miss the appointment, phone, apologise and reschedule. If you can’t make it last minute or an emergency comes up, phone or message. Nothing sucks more than being stood up in your own home, wearing a dress, heels, and a full face of make-up, then having to empty the dishwasher.
  3. Shoes on or off? Follow their cue. If they answer the door in bare feet, it’s always shoes off. If they have a nice carpet, leave your shoes at the door. If it’s raining, don’t add mopping to their list of things to do, they already need to put the dryer on, walk the dog, get dinner ready. Don’t make them mop, even if they assure you, shoes are fine, they are never fine unless everyone is wearing them.
  4. Check if it’s a good time to call – If you phone someone working from home, remember politely asking “Is this a good time for you,”  is helpful. Just because you are at your desk, doesn’t mean they are. I have answered calls in the supermarket frozen section, had several speakerphone conversations at school pick up whilst playing spot my kids when they all look the same, and another memorable phone call right after picking up excrement in the dog park. None of those times were good. It is also possible you’ve timed it badly and the person may have just arrived from the shops with a huge pile of melty groceries on the kitchen bench depositing meat juice.
  5. Don’t overstay – Just because it’s someone’s home and feels relaxed don’t overstay your welcome. The working from home person will always have other things to do. If it’s school holidays they may have kids banished to their rooms waiting for the all-clear so they can forage in the pantry, then complain there is never anything good to eat. Remember it’s their house and they can’t find an excuse to leave. They have so many things to do – like wipe over hard services, spray some air freshener, grab a piece of fruit, make a cup of tea, or pee before their next appointment.  Thank them for their time and leave.

Also for the home office – never skrimp on an office chair. It will pay for itself and save you a fortune in panadol, massage, and chiropractic bills. Trust me. Unless you are sharing a table with your fantasy dinner party guest list, a dining chair is not meant to be used for longer than the duration of a meal.

 

I am so grateful when I get a call to come in and chat on radio with these two amazing humans Tony Tranter and Jasper Manfield. They do so much good work educating the community and engaging support for the rainbow community as well as interviewing special guests, researching facts and they allow me to contribute my experience counselling in the LGBTIQI+ community.

Bay FM Radio Program Searchlight – Rainbow Conversations ( LGBTQI+)

  • October 2021 – Searchlight – Rainbow Conversations. Transgender episode 1. You can listen to the full program here.
  • November 2020Suicide in LGBTIQI+ communities, depression spikes in the lead up to Christmas.

To listen to more podcasts by the gorgeous radio husbands follow this link.

 

 

 

Guest Podcasts – The Balanced Wrap – with Nutritionist Katie King and Jessica Cheney

June 13, 2018 – Mental health -strategies for life and health – Podcast

November 21, 2018 –  Emotional Eating – Podcast

 

 

 

 

 

While divination and mystical arts may all sound a bit Harry Potterish, one Brisbane business owner has discovered these additional services added to holistic counselling have been a surprising source of income in a challenging year for small businesses.

Australia now has many people who call themselves spiritual but not religious, and according to the online Buddhist forum Lion’s Roar, it is a growing trend increasing in numbers with spiritual not religious now the fastest-growing philosophy in the United States.

It seems desperate times call for desperate measures with Australians looking elsewhere for support and guidance in a post-pandemic world. According to the Guardian newsprint service, the fear and upheaval spread by the pandemic have driven an extra need for reassurance, whether being unable to attend the funeral of a loved one, or changes in employment or businesses seeking a way forward. Many services from healing, mediumship, astrology, and tarot cards have experienced an increase in activity with Forbes magazine reporting a spike of 136% increase since 2020.

Holistic Counsellor, Rachel Wilkinson became aware of this shift in focus this year, as her requests for reiki, an ancient Japanese form of energy healing increased. For several years her most popular modality was counselling, with occasional reiki. After studying with The School of Mystical Arts in July 2021, she now offers Spiritual Coaching. This includes the use of guided meditation, journaling, and looking at values and interests to arrive at one’s purpose. The use of reiki and listening with an open awareness are ways she uses divination to access the higher self, using clairvoyance (clear seeing) clairaudience, (clear hearing) and claircognizance (clear knowing), and clairsentience (clear feeling). As an empath and a highly sensitive person (HSP), these elements are used to access deeper healing by tapping into the energy channels in the body as well as using a person’s external energy fields, soul family, and guides.

Meditation over medication
Rachel said, “After I started talking on social media about my use of intuition and spirituality, my appointments increased, and I realised just as many people were coming to be counselled for depression, anxiety, and relationship breakdowns, like healing, reiki, and spiritual guidance – this was a first. I checked my booking system and sure enough in the last quarter, I’d seen 49% of people for reiki/energy healing and 51% for counselling. Pre-pandemic, reiki made up about 10% of my work.”

“I began to leave my reiki treatment table up permanently. People were bringing in the most fascinating life stories and were open to discovering more about themselves and were willing to be vulnerable and curious. My role changed from observer to collaborator as I listened and allowed these emotions and stories, creating space for the person to heal themselves.”

One client texted after a Master Healing session:

I was so impressed with your insight and intuitions into my life. No one has ever read me so deeply or so spot on. I felt so light like a massive weight had been taken off my shoulders. I am rejuvenated with an extra spring in my step – head held high, a smile on my face radiating from the inside!

As people are beginning to show distrust of the medical model of psychology and pharmacology, many are choosing unique and ancient healing modalities such as meditation, yoga, kinesiology, kahuna massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and reiki as self-care options. With opportunities for interstate and overseas travel limited, these therapies can be like a mini-vacation for the soul.

Rachel said she is finding, “people want a deeper connection due to the isolation of working from home, and often they miss friends and family who may be interstate or overseas. We all have more time on our hands, and fewer places to go, so self-care is now becoming critical to avoid burnout and social disconnect.”

Remote Healing
The benefits of Reiki can be felt immediately as a calming, relaxed state or can also be sent virtually to help support people through loss and grief, relationship breakdowns, workplace stress, and recovery from addiction. After more than a decade of sitting in spiritual circles, a keen meditator and yoga student, Rachel uses reiki as a pure channel for spirit communication.

Adapting to this current climate takes a little flexibility and resourcefulness. To provide services to people in remote areas, or people at home with children, counselling services, spiritual coaching, and remote reiki were adapted to online appointments using Facetime, Zoom, and Skype. As a lifelong learner and seeker, Rachel is currently completing her Master of Counselling as well as exploring the idea of studying Buddhism in 2022 to supplement her holistic approach to wellbeing.

 

Rachel Wilkinson is the author of the e-book Hell in a handbag documenting her 90-day journal into sobriety. She is also a regular guest and counselling advisor for Rainbow Conversations on the local Brisbane radio station Bay FM and quite the Harry Potter fan.

 

Research weblinks
https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/the-4-types-of-intuition-and-how-to-tap-into-each
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/dec/26/im-getting-clarity-a-time-that-will-feel-lighter-psychics-share-their-2021-predictions

Image from a website called Pacific Teen

They say after the dust settles you often find perspective, the pain eases with time. Apparently, people have trouble remembering the physical pain of trauma after it has passed, like childbirth, abuse, or injury because the body goes into shock, shutting down and the brain tries to help us by forgetting.

I remember and feel everything. It can be a blessing and a curse. It is also possibly why I decided to have only two children and why I will do anything I can to protect them from undue stress and pain. Recently, as a family, we have had to walk alongside our children on a horrendous path which they kept silent about for a long period of time, hoping to protect us or themselves. This didn’t happen. We are exhausted, medicated, raw, and in pain, but have learned the lesson. Somehow, it feels like we have all been through it, but we are taking all that anger and hurt and using it to stand up for ourselves and others.

What is the definition of bullying?

The National definition for Australian schools says:
Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical, and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social, and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power…over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.  Bullying can happen in person or online…Bullying behaviour is repeated, over time (for example, through sharing of digital records).  Bullying of any form or for any reason can have immediate, medium, and long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.

It is worthwhile to point out this common misconception that: Single incidents, conflict, or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.

I’m currently selling off my children’s school uniforms, backpacks, ties, hats, swimwear, and sports gear, for a fraction of their original cost. As I hand over the small bundles of shirts and bags, to other mothers, it feels like I am selling off my daughters’ body parts after death. The grief is a weight. As a family, we had so many aspirations for the girls at high school. None of them were academic, they were all based around friendship and integration into the local community.

In my previous career, I was often told to keep my head down in meetings, not to say what was on my mind, don’t speak up, out, buck the system, or eye roll. I used to draw pictures of those people in meetings, marking their faces with deep lines, sketching in horns and fangs. I was unable to voice my opinion because I was the minority, too emotional, or oppositional, and I shouldn’t rock the boat. I was placated with archaic phrases like ‘big ships take a long time to turn’, ‘we can’t change the system, this is just how it is,’ and the worst phrase which I refuse to accept, ‘it is what it is ‘.

Let me say, it has been refreshing to work for myself. There is no one to shush me, and I will speak up. I don’t care how big your fucking ship is. Kids are being harassed on and offline, beaten up, assaulted, raped, turning to drugs to escape the torment, and suiciding. I will not be silenced. I will bang on about this until policies are revised and updated, until schools and boards take accountability, and until parents and kids understand the consequences. I will no longer advise my children and others to ignore or block cyber cowards. Once blocked, evidence is lost, and the evidence, I have discovered is the key. I will support young people to name these bullies, because I know how to do that now.

Types of bullying

The National Centre against bullying identifies 5 types of bullying:

  1. Physical – including damage to property
  2. Verbal – name-calling, insults, and verbal abuse
  3. Covert bullying – spreading rumours or damaging reputation
  4. Psychological bullying – by an individual or group
  5. Cyberbullying – online harassment, menacing or abuse

Current practice for some schools around cyberbullying is, if it’s not sent on a school device or out of school hours, it’s not their problem. This get-out-of-jail-free card did not sit well with me. To me, students have behavioural expectations in and out of uniform. The kids being hassled after school must front up every day and face these tormentors. I researched some school policies, which in fact had quite a few pages about online harassment and cyberbullying basically suggesting it was not kind. Do you know what else it is? Illegal.

I know this because I popped into the police station after a trip to Aldi one Sunday. I sat in the car park thinking “Am I that parent?” then on reflection of the trauma, I had seen both in my own children and families coming in for therapy who have been told both face-to-face and online “you are a slut/bitch/whore/weirdo,” or “go kill yourself,” I decided I was. After watching my kids experience the emotional and psychological stress, school refusal and withdrawal, the academic and social impacts, the light going out of their eyes, and their confidence shattered, I decided I am that parent, I am that mother and I am that therapist. I will advocate for those who feel powerless, diminished, crushed, and unable to speak. After hearing about and knowing kids who have hung themselves, jumped off rooves, overdosed, and died in single-vehicle accidents, or farming accidents, you bet, I am that person, and I want to talk about it.

Some of the signs your child may be being bullied

  • Social anxiety, not wanting to go to shopping centres or into the local community for fear of running into bullies
  • Changes in eating or sleeping – sleeping more, eating less, eating more, sleeping less
  • Health problems, headaches, or stomach aches
  • Unhappiness, tearfulness, mood swings, temper tantrums, quick to anger
  • Reluctance to go to school, changes in academic performance

I grew up, in the dark ages according to my kids. They once asked me if I rode in a horse and cart to school. So apparently being born last century makes me a peasant farmer. I may not have had apps and facetime, but I did have to remember my PIN number, the combination lock on my bike, and my friends’ phone numbers off by heart. What I didn’t realise then, amongst all my teenage angst, was how simple it was, if I did’t want to take a call or speak to anyone I didn’t have to. I unwound by flicking on the radio or listening to a mixtape. The most stressful part of my afternoon was having mum interrupt me taping a Clash song from the radio, to call me for dinner, or the tape getting caught and mangled and having to patiently roll it back in with my Bic biro. Unless someone literally knocked on my front door, they couldn’t get to me.

I remember the names of the two boys who picked on me relentlessly in Year 6 even though I was the principal’s daughter, seems I was not off-limits. I googled them both once in a fit of pique, happy to see one had disappeared entirely and the other was still in the same small town with a menial job. I felt vindicated. Ignoring behaviour does not mean it is forgotten. The repercussions of bullying are long-lasting. I still remember the hurt and isolation, forty years on.

Immediate intervention punishing the bullies does not heal the damage or take away the threat. The nervous system continues to stay on high alert and in stress mode. This can also become triggered and reactivated in future high-stress situations causing feelings of inadequacy, and thoughts of “I’m dumb, I’m ugly, Nobody likes me, or I’m not good enough,” re-emerging throughout adulthood.

I have worked in counselling sessions with adults still impacted by harassment from students in high school.  The repercussions of bullying can be felt long after the abuse has stopped. Bullying can result in substance abuse, self-harm, promiscuity, illness, social withdrawal, relationship breakups, unemployment, and sometimes suicide.

What are the school’s obligations?

  • Let the student know of a bullying contact person
  • Offer support strategies for individuals experiencing bullying, outline what will happen next
  • Report to appropriate staff members such as Dept. Head of Middle School, Head of Middle School
  • Deliver appropriate support and consequences for students who behave inappropriately
  • Provide preventative strategies
  • Ensure not to model bullying behaviour in interactions with students

The thing is, if you’ve never experienced bullying, and are not familiar with reporting procedures, you may not know how to book an appointment with the school counsellor, psychologist or chaplain. Schools say they don’t highlight these in case it might encourage students to bully others, like talking about taboo subjects like suicide, drug-taking or sex might give people ideas. It doesn’t. It creates awareness and educates. It allows students to be proactive rather than reactive. It allows them to be responsible for their own mental health.

Bullies often get away with their menacing behaviour. Students become labelled as overly sensitive, emotional, or prone to drama. There is no other choice for the victims but to leave the school or workplace. I have witnessed this, working in schools and in small, medium, and large companies. Bullies can be protected in the workplace because they are in high-level management or are good at their job. They may be an asset to the school if they are a scholar or swim star, from an important family, or part of an educator’s family. The bullies themselves might even suggest they have been victimised.

Consequences

Many kids don’t understand the long-term repercussions of their actions.  Neurologist Dr. Daniel Siegel suggests the adolescent brain is not fully developed, high-level executive functioning does not happen until after the age of 25 or, sometimes closer to 30 years of age. Young people do not have the capacity to fully comprehend the consequences. They are unable to be reflective, to pause and think, and the risk often outweighs the punishment. They do not see the extent of the damage or the greater picture.

Then there is the question of what happens to these pests and menaces, after the punishment, the dressing down, or disciplinary action? What do they do with their displaced anger? How are they able to express their rage about life, or their own pressure to perform? Do they move on to attack someone else, perhaps in their own family or outside their small community, do they become cyber menaces? Where in the policy does it suggest both victim and bully need support rather than further bullying by the institution, in the shape of punishment or shaming. This has to be addressed. Very often, acting out, behavioural problems, and anger hint at a deeper underlying sadness, fear, shame or trauma. Where is the empathy for the angry person? It seems we further bully the individual to stop them from bullying. This often makes them stop, but it doesn’t diffuse their anger, it can often incite more.

In his latest book Brainstorm, Dr. Daniel Siegel explains that between the ages of twelve and twenty-four, the brain changes in important and, at times, challenging ways. According to Siegel, during adolescence, we learn vital skills, such as how to leave home and enter the larger world, connect deeply with others, and safely experiment and take risks. As parents, we need to ensure these connections are respectful and kind and the risks are safe.

What can I do as a student or parent?

  1. Report it. Put this in writing, stymie it anonymously if your school has this system. Ask someone else to do it for you if you are worried about being called a dobber or snitch. Once it is emailed you have a date, timeline, and history of harassment. Remember, bullying is not a one-off comment, it is repeated, harmful and menacing.
  2. Collect evidence. Save screenshots. Tell your parents, a therapist, or a trusted adult. Keep a record of dates in your school diary or notes on your phone, what was said and by whom. Name names. This will not make it worse; it will make it clear to the school what is happening so they can act upon it.
  3. Copy in the Head of Year, Head of School, or Principal to ensure it is not overlooked, covered up, or disregarded. Follow up on their progress with a phone call if you don’t get a reply. Ask for a report on future actions.
  4. Check the school anti-bullying policy for breaches by staff and students. What is the responsibility of the school, or staff, how have they failed in their duty of care for your child? What happened after the incident was reported? Parents and students have a right to know. Many of these policies date quickly as technology changes rapidly and these documents need to include apps that may bully by stealth like Snapchat and group shaming  via Tik Tok. Annual revisions to policies must include all emerging apps and potential cyber threats.
  5. If you have evidence of cyber menacing, offensive comments, or death threats and the school will not proceed with this, go directly to the police. This is a criminal offence. Under the age of 14, a child can be called into a police station and interrogated by the police. If they are over 14 they can be charged. This charge will stay on their record as an adult. This will affect their employment status and show up in future police checks for the rest of their lives.
  6. Also, if you send or receive nudes/dick pics and you are under 16 you will be charged with distribution or receiving child pornography. * This criminal charge is a big one, with lifetime employment consequences. The type that may only qualify you for a job cleaning the toilets at your old school.
  7. In the state of Queensland as of July 2021, it has now become mandatory for every adult to report sexual abuse of a minor. Not just educators and health workers. Everyone can and must report if they have been told of abuse by a child under 16 or suspect abuse has occurred.

They say you have to go through it, to grow through it. As a family, we have learned many lessons. I have lost a bit of joie de vivre and hope, but by God, I will push hard to get it back and I will not be a bystander. I will do this by suggesting others speak up, report, screenshot, document, collect evidence, and demand policy changes. Because as the French say, now I’m d’un certain age (middle-aged) it feels okay to rage and roar at the system. There will be no holding my tongue, minding my manners, or suppressing my fury. I will campaign for you with clear evidence and truth. I will not be silenced or intimidated. I am fierce and protective and will stand together with those who cannot speak for themselves. I am here. I hear you.

Other support available:

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Kid’s Helpline ( 5 – 25 years) 1800 551 800
  • Suicide call back service 1300 659 467
  • e-safety support website https://www.esafety.gov.au/ includes tailored support for the LGBTIQ+ community
  • Police 000
  • If pictures of you have been shared you can get these images taken down by contacting e-safety.gov.au.

Please share via the buttons below if this can help to support and empower other families.

Rachel Wilkinson is a holistic counsellor, parent of teenagers, and now an ABV. (Anti-bullying vigilante). She works with individuals, families, and teens to manage the stress of life. She supports people through anxiety, depression, grief, loss, communication problems, addiction, change, relationships issues, as well as bullying on and offline.

Follow this link to her website: https://bit.ly/3ATcLTV or email: info@rachelwilkinson.com.au
Phone: 040 232 9259 | To book an appointment: https://bit.ly/3dYXKWO

 

Let me begin by stating I have never lost my temper in a shop before, nor have I shoplifted. But last week some shit went down at the self-serve counter, and I’d like to officially apologise to David for raining it down on him.

I fit my counselling work around my study and teenagers, many of my clients work Monday to Friday and need after hour appointments, which means I work on Saturdays. This day I was busy with individual sessions and a couple. After sitting in the thick emotions of five people I came home looking forward to a cup of tea and a late lunch.

I had barely cut off the engine when my youngest daughter came into the garage shouting over the car, “I’m sorry, I don’t know if it was special or not, it was an accident.” Shit. They know I am sentimental about things; what has she smashed?

I discovered she had knocked and smashed an empty coffee jar while trying to get to the iron at the back of the laundry cupboard. She tried to clean this up and stood on glass. I surveyed the scene and triaged the foot as a priority. We went to the bathroom for tweezers and I tried to locate the glass with my old lady eyes. We could feel it, but it was so painful, she didn’t want me to touch it, so I sat on the edge of the bath lending my support and encouragement. She was sobbing while she tried to find the shard with flat-edged useless eyebrow tweezers.

After she managed to get it out, she applied a band-aid and hobbled into the kitchen. It was then I noticed the cooked two-minute noodles in the sink, around the tap and on the kitchen bench. What the heck? “Can you please clean these up?” I asked. I could feel a headache coming on, as I hadn’t had enough water or food. “I don’t want to touch them,” she whined. I walked into the laundry, picking up the dustpan and brush. “You were happy to put them in your mouth, so you should be okay to put them in the bin,” I sighed.  “I’ll do the glass unless you want to?” Parenting 101, offer them a choice of a very bad thing over a somewhat bad thing. I dusted up the glass and threw this on top of the noodles. Done. Crisis over.

I grabbed the vacuum to do a final once over and noticed some rice on the laundry floor. What the heck? Then I noticed it was moving, well, wriggling. Not rice. I opened the laundry cupboard to discover more on the floor, near all the juice containers I hadn’t managed to get to the recyclers. Maggots. Then I saw them all, wriggling into the kitchen, around the skirting boards, in the cavity of the sliding door. Everywhere. I didn’t want to vacuum them and have them in the bag-less vac, so I began to spray like a maniac and stomp on them. I don’t have time for this shit, I’m too tired and hungry to manage bleeding feet, sink noodles, smashed glass, and maggots.

I flicked the remaining noodles in the bin, but like my daughter, also retching at the texture after the maggots. I finally made a cup of tea and sat down. My phone pinged. A friend inviting me for a last-minute BBQ. A wonderful excuse to leave the maggoty, fly spray house. I texted back “I’m just dropping a child off for a sleepover – will pop to the IGA and be there soon.”

I dropped my daughter to her friend’s place, after her mother asked how I was I rolled my eyes and said something harried, like “I’m good, now,” I rushed back to the car, headed to the local grocery store, and realised I had left all my plastic bags at home. I consoled myself with the fact I only needed to grab some chicken and something to drink. I would be fine without a bag.

The centre was busy as I wandered around, singing to myself, quietly starting to pile my arms up with additional necessities, like fetta cheese, milk, two bottles of drink, a lemon, then a tray of chicken kebabs. It’s the lights and the music, I lose my mind when I enter a supermarket. It becomes too bright and overwhelming with competing brands and the yellow tickets saying buy me I’m on sale! I was already holding much more than I needed as I spotted the crowd at the checkouts and opted for the self-serve.

There were four self-serve checkouts. One closed. Historically, I’ve not had much luck with these machines. I prefer people. But the lines were snaking back into the aisles and there were only two servers. The one guy was holding up and inspecting something like he had never seen it before while people in the line with trollies were looking impatient. I stand at the self-checkout. No bag. I needed to free up a hand to pick up the 15c bag, so I put my wallet down. Straight away I heard it. “Unexpected item in the bagging area.” Fuck. The light started flashing followed by another announcement, “An attendant will be with you shortly.” I looked around. I saw the frowning faces of the people in the queue. I saw two staff serving. I saw a woman in the deli with her back turned slowly and methodically running a hunk of ham back and forth through the slicer.

I decided I could be calm under pressure. I hadn’t scanned anything yet. Even though the machine was telling me “An attendant will be with you shortly,” I muttered under my breath, quite a few expletives about how they won’t be coming anytime soon. I grabbed the bag and my stuff and moved to the next self-serve counter. Genius. I started scanning, unconcerned with the flashing light and announcement. A man and child approached with one item. He glanced at the closed counter, the flashing one, then me. I turned to him saying “Good luck,” noticing he only had one item. I went back to my scanning and heard from behind me the bored deadpan and somehow British accent say the familiar sentence. “Unexpected item in the bagging area,” and then the reassuring but altogether big fib. “An attendant will be with you shortly.” I turned to him saying “You know, they’re not coming, don’t you?” He shook his head and his son looked up at me like he wanted to cry.

That was the moment for me. I dug my phone out of my handbag, flicked on my mobile data and googled the IGA and suburb, which I can’t disclose as I may get a lifetime ban. I heard the phone ringing in the distance, no one was picking up, it rang for a long time. The man behind me watched me with an open mouth while I prepared for my moment. The phone was picked up. “Hello, IGA, David speaking!” he sounded quite upbeat. “Hello David,” I realised I could deadpan like a serial killer, in a slightly British accent. “I’m at the self-serve check out in your store.” I’m pretty sure he would have been able to hear the “Unexplained item” spiel overlapping three times in the background. “You have one check-out closed and three flashing. You seem to be understaffed. No one is coming.” There was a long silence at the other end of the line. Then I pulled out the sucker punch, the Karen, the angry mum voice “DAVID??” A man came running. He took one look at me and passed his card on in a panic to a younger man who appeared from somewhere out of the frozen section. The young man apologised frantically, David ran off back to his office, past the lady at the deli with her back turned continuing her slow-motion slicing.

I paid and picked up my bag. The man behind me, who had now also been released from unexplained item purgatory, said to me “Good move, thanks for calling.”  His child just looked up at me and stared. I nodded. “No worries,” I said walking back through the sliding door to my car. At that moment I realised I had not paid for the 15c bag and instead of feeling guilty, I felt totally deserving of that bag.

You never really know what kind of a day people are having. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why people lose their tempers, why toddlers and children have meltdowns in public, why road rage happens, or indeed, retail rage. I feel it’s important to approach with caution and compassion, ask if everything is ok. I know what it’s like to juggle many roles and responsibilities, I know what it’s like to hold everything so tight sometimes you drop stuff. Sometimes it is the unexpected item which tips you over the edge.

All I know is that therapy and talking with someone helps. Losing your sh!t at a man named David and shoplifting a 15c bag is a short-lived and shallow victory. He didn’t know about my day and he didn’t have to understand. A therapist can sit with you in your sadness, in a non-judgmental space to support you, listen to your story and try to understand. A good therapist will sit on the edge of the bath with you, while you take the splinter out, crying, grabbing a torch so you can both see it together. A quality therapist will offer you a range of strategies or suggestions to help you manage stressful emotions, repetitive thinking and behaviour. Regular therapy allows you to process your baggage before it all piles up.

Even though we often think it’s easier to do alone, without burdening anyone, our stress can pile up so high and fall on the wrong person. Like David. He didn’t know about my day at work, the sink noodles, the glass in the foot, the maggots, he just knew about the angry woman at the self-serve checkout.

Keep an eye out for friends and family who may be internalising their stress, grief, anxiety, and depression, by detaching, disengaging, getting angry at the small stuff and who have stopped doing the things that used to bring them joy.

Remember to take your own bags to the supermarket and be kind to retail staff.

 

Rachel Wilkinson is a holistic therapist working with individuals, couples, and youth. She assesses presenting issues as well as your overall health including support, family, community, work, relationships, social, physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing. Rachel is a massage therapist, reiki master and kids’ yoga teacher. She is the author of recovery e-book  Hell in a handbag.  To make a booking with Rachel follow this link.

 

 

 

 

Photo supplied by Ellie Wilkinson

A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter and I decided to skip over to Stradbroke Island for the day. Although we live close by, it’s not a common event for us as my eldest has claimed Straddie as her spiritual home and she never really wants us tagging along.

On a day when the conditions were perfect, the eldest was spending Christmas money at Westfield and the rain had stopped, we set off. It’s a half-hour ferry trip and then a 20-minute bus ride to the beach.

The ferry leaves at five minutes to the hour, every hour. We cut it fine tearing into the car-park as the whistle was blowing and the line dwindling. I sometimes wonder how I manage to be late when I get up at 5 am. My daughter was dawdling telling me not to run as we were going to miss it. Not only do I not like being told what to do, I am also stubborn as a mule, so I sprinted to the cashier booth, with my thongs snapping and my boobs flapping around in unsupportive swimwear. My handbag was giving me body blows on one side, and with the other arm I was making mad furious beckoning motions for her to hurry up. It was 33 degrees and stinking hot at 9 am. I was swear muttering in my head and handed my credit card to the lady paying for one adult and one petulant 12-year-old child. She wandered along to join the end of the queue, eye-rolling as the last eskies and surfboards were being loaded.

The only seats left were outside, but it was a glorious day and so long as I didn’t speak or laugh too loudly, I was permitted to sit by her side. That teetering age between childhood and adulthood is a tough place for her to be. She needs me to take her places, but would prefer me not to be there. She didn’t want me touching her or making sensible suggestions about sunscreen or hats. I put on a long sleeve shirt mortifying her, but it was too hard to explain linen and breathable fibre and coverage because that would involve words. I enjoyed the view of the retreating shoreline, yachts, the splashing white foam of the wake, and imagined I was in the Whitsundays with islands and headlands in the distance. She slid a solid bottom distance away from me – pretending to be an orphan, so I could completely surrender to my FNQ fantasy, without children.

Once we arrived at Amity, there were hundreds of us and only two buses, we lined up in the sun, patiently, then were directed to the bus behind. As much as I didn’t want to board an overcrowded bus, there was no other option and no shade. I held onto a yellow strap above my head and suggested she hold the pole. I also asked her if she wanted to put her backpack on the rack with my bag. Seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. She firmly held on to her phone and backpack, ignoring me by looking out the window. When the bus started it bounced and she bumped into the lady beside her, I noticed her little hand crept up and quickly held onto the pole. “This is like the tube in London,” I remarked too loudly, as she inched away from me. “I always ended up being too short and with my head under someone’s armpit,” I said this mostly out of nostalgia but looked like a mad person talking to herself. We continued the trip in silence with bushfire scorched trees rushing by the window to a shrill cicada soundtrack.

The moment she leaned into my shoulder, I felt such happiness and love I wrapped my arm around her. My next thought was “This is weird,” considering how much effort she made to avoid me. I whispered into her hair. “Are you okay?” and that was when I felt her slump. She slumped and started shaking and twitching. She still held on to her phone and bag. I said to her firmly, “Drop the bag, drop the bag,” but it had already fallen to the floor with her phone. I was holding her full weight thinking she was having a heart attack or a seizure. The bus kept rolling on. I called out to a girl behind me saying “Can she please sit down?” the girl immediately jumped up, but my daughter was still lifeless and a lady was trying to hand me the backpack and phone and all I could do was look blankly at her because I was holding my child who may have fainted or died. I didn’t want to scream or panic. I quietly backed into the empty seat pulling her into my lap like a baby. I asked her to take some breaths. I pulled out my water bottle and put some water on the back of her neck. She was white. I kept asking her to breathe then she nodded and said “When do we get off?” I surprised myself as I calmly told her “It’s the next stop darling, take some deep breaths, you’ve just fainted.” Fucking hurry up and get there, driver.

We got off and although it was still hot, the fresh air and momentum of walking, slowly worked its magic and she started to feel better. We went straight to the beach for a swim. It wasn’t the plan but I needed to cool her down and hoped the water would revive her. We swam for a bit, but the current was strong, so we decided to have an early lunch. I realised the girl on the bus said, “Has she eaten?” and remembered making a fruit salad hours earlier, but she had only nibbled on two grapes before telling me she was full. Somehow, she now had room for fish and chips.

It wasn’t until we were sitting down, did I realise how full of adrenaline and relief I was. She was happily dipping her chips in aioli – she doesn’t like to scoop, and I blurted out “Shit, you scared me,” She started laughing and dismissed me for being so worried and silly about it, saying “Well, it’s not like I fainted.” We discussed what constitutes fainting and she decided it was falling backwards. I agreed that it could be, but there wasn’t room for her to do that. “Darling, you couldn’t fall because I was holding you.” She didn’t remember, she didn’t know I was talking to her she didn’t realise she had dropped her bag and phone or anything except for a whooshing sound in her ears and her eyes getting blurry.

“Oh yep, that’s a faint.” I said, scooping my chip into the sauce and watching her frown. I told her about the time I fainted at a passing out parade, (of course) and how I fell forward first, but bumped into someone in the line in front and then fell back. The Platoon leader told us later, standing in the sun in a full army uniform with boots, could induce fainting. He said wriggling the toes helped. This was entirely useless advice, post faint. I also once fainted after cutting my finger in a short-lived kitchen hand stint. I knew about the water on the neck because a quick-thinking chef applied a wet tea towel and sat me down. I decided it was important to look for cues. I realised soon after she put her head on my shoulder, when she hadn’t wanted to hug me in weeks, that was a cue.

After lunch we walked around the headland, then had one last swim before going home early, it was still screeching hot and Straddie involves lots of walking as the buses only come on the hour to meet the ferry. I noticed my thongs were starting to wear thin as I could feel rocks from the edge of the road poking through. I figured it would have been a good idea to wear sneakers and maybe a backpack would have been more practical than a big handbag with all the walking between beaches, cafes, and bus-stops. An unhelpful thought, but one I figured might help me prepare better next time.

We saw a pod of dolphins, surfing the waves, she spotted a large turtle as we rounded the bend and headed towards Main beach. The water was a deep turquoise blue with a few swimmers bobbing about in the gentle waves. The track down to the beach was steep and the sand scorching hot. I was laughing and shrieking at how hot it was to some people coming up the beach high stepping, when my foot turned on its side my thong snapped. (Let’s just clarify this here and now, by calling them flip-flops for the UK readers or Jandals for my Kiwi friends – so you know it wasn’t an undergarment malfunction). The base of the rubber footwear had split and the strap and plug came free. I picked up both thongs, squealed and ran, or as my Dad would say I “hot-footed it,” down the beach, stopping only when I reached the wet sand.

As much as it was beautiful bobbing about in the water, and my daughter had recovered, I started thinking about how I would get from the beach to the bus-stop, then limp from the bus-stop to the ferry, and struggle at the final leg from carpark to the few hundred metres where I had parked the car. It was having a good time physically, but mentally I began to panic. The sand wasn’t going to cool down, it was midday. We were sunburned already and now I had no shoes. I cursed myself for buying $5 bargain footwear from a factory outlet. Why didn’t I wear decent shoes? I started beating myself up for being an idiot with cheap shoes and nothing could be done.

As soon as we were out of the water, I looked up towards the road. It was about 30 meters up to a narrow track then  a scooch up a steep little hill, then the stairs. I quickly psyched myself up, put my head down and ran. I did not look behind me or care about my child. It was hot and I had to move fast. I was tearing along the sand when my feet hit something. Under the sand were a pair of discarded shoes. I looked around, saw no one and slipped them on. Pink leopard print slides, too big and I didn’t care. I skidded up the sand, the hill and the timber steps to the road in my borrowed shoes. When my daughter caught up, she looked at me, then down at my feet. “Where did you get those from?” she asked incredulously. I slipped the shoes off and left them at the top of the stairs. “God sent them to me,” I said, striding up the grassy hill barefoot.

We managed to make it home, me limping on the damaged thongs to the bus, then the ferry, wishing I packed emergency gaff tape, or another pair of shoes, knowing it was futile thinking. We overcame adversity and we made it, with some kind strangers and miraculous shoes, everything turned out fine. I sat on the ferry home and put my arm around my kid. She didn’t pull away. She didn’t die and neither did I. We were salty, sun-soaked, and serene. I was grateful for the goddess who left the leopard print slides behind and the girl who surrendered her bus seat. I was happy with the kindness and unexpected miracles of the world.

When I reflect on this, I see two things, cues and shoes. The cues are the things that indicate something may go wrong, and the shoes are the supports we can put in place in case we need them. Now I know she is a fainter, I will be aware that the combination of a hot day, crowded space, and no food, are some indicators that things could go badly for her. They are the cues I need to look for. I think about the work I do, the importance of asking for help, the kindness of strangers, and looking for cues.

This week, I have worked with two families who have been impacted by suicide and have been left behind devastated. I’ve spoken with another who wanted to leave. I’m now aware of the need to watch for clues, any small indicators to know our friends or family are not okay, the small hints they may give, by withdrawing, giving away personal items, losing or gaining weight, changes in mood or sleep, or any behaviour that doesn’t seem normal for them. Please check in with friends, family, and loved ones, be the shoulder to lean on, the emotional support they need, or the pink leopard print slides, because once they go, we are the ones left behind, holding all that useless love.

For a full list click here to go to Beyond Blue

Rachel Wilkinson is a holistic counsellor, massage therapist, reiki master and a kids’ yoga teacher. She is currently a masters student but most importantly a mother and a friend.

One of my 2020 goals was to do a radio course with my local public radio BayFM. Unfortunately due to the year being hijacked by Covid 19, this didn’t happen. My highlight was being invited to speak on this station about mental health in the lead up to Christmas and especially its impact on the LGBTIQ+ community.

I am very grateful to the amazing work in this area being undertaken by Tony Tranter and Jasper Manfield as well as the support of BayFM 100.3 in their radion program and podcast Rainbow Conversations on BayFM. They are amazing humans and made my first foray into radio so much fun.

Mental health is not selective, it affects everyone in the community. Christmas can be an added factor in isolation especially this year.  Check-in on your friends and loved ones and offer support.

Radio show link is here to listen.