What do you do when the proverbial rug keeps getting pulled out from under you, no matter how hard you try to stay standing?
In 2012 I applied to attend the first TEDxSouthBankWomen. I wasn’t at all sure I would be accepted, but I knew I had to try. So much kept happening in my life, the rug had been pulled so many times, that I needed some motivation, some forward vision. My application was accepted, and I was on a very brief high.
Before the event something happened which sent me into a huge downward spin. In India a young woman named Jyoti Singh was raped and sexually abused by five men. That event triggered some horrific memories of my own, PTSD I had never dealt with. I got to TEDxSBW and loved every minute of the day, every speaker, but at the after-function I couldn’t hold it in any more. While talking to the franchisee, Laura, I became a blubbering mess. Laura sat me down with her mum, Mary, and I bawled on the shoulder of this kind and caring woman for a long time.
The event and evening was a catalyst for me, something I had desperately needed to get myself back on track. Meeting Laura and her family, Emma and Margo, Juanita and others too numerous to remember let alone mention gave me the push I needed. I sat down and wrote my website www.itsokaytobeangry.com and the accompanying blog http://itsokaytobeangry.blogspot.com.au/, catharsis for my bottom-of-the-pit emotions. I invite you to read these to understand just where I was at and why.
If I thought fate had finished with me then I was very much mistaken. In January 2013 my husband of 9 years told me our marriage was over and he was moving back to NZ. By mid-January I was in counselling for both my PTSD and my marriage break up, but my forward movement had started and wasn’t going to be stopped by something like that! I am living proof that mature age, no money and constant stress don’t have to stop your life.
I organized a flash mob for Eve Ensler’s V-Day event One Billion Rising, and on 14 February 2013 thirty of us danced 3 times in Queen Street Mall to raise awareness for the V-Day campaign against violence against women.
Through my involvement with that I joined forces with a wonderful group putting on the Vagina Monologues for the same benefit. The organisation we were supporting was DV Connect, which supports women, children and animals caught up in domestic violence situations. We raised $5,000.
In June I participated in the Ipswich CASV Walk a Mile in her Shoes . I entered into fun runs for International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day Classic, Rotary Run for Autism, the Ipswich Hospital 2013 fundraiser and Zonta Says No, the latter which was also supporting DV Connect. I attended a memorial service at Logan CASV for Joan Ryther, who was sexually assaulted and murdered in Logan.
I participated in the United Nations “Say No – Unite: Orange the World in 16 Days” Activism Against Gender Violence, commencing on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November, and ending on International Human Rights Day, 10 December. This is an annual event and I will continue to participate and encourage others to do so.
As well as the OBR flash mob, I joined a flash mob doing Thriller for the 2013 Zombie Walk, raising funds for the Brain Foundation. I had a personal reason to be involved in that – on 3 July 2013 I was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, yet another thing to add to my stress and turmoil. I started another blog about my aneurysm journey, http://aneurysmaphorisms.blogspot.com.au/ because I had so much trouble getting any information about aneurysms from local sources.
My activities have not been confined to sexual assault and brain injury awareness. It’s as if my breakdown at the end of 2012 has spurred me to a greater awareness and action for many other areas where I see injustice, and I have become a vocal and active social justice campaigner. I have marched for the Reef, marched for Climate Change, and Marched in March for everything I believe is wrong with the state of our nation at this point in time. I tweet, I blog (my third blog, one that I had before the other two but which has since been resurrected as my general soap box, is not a regular blog but often just when I feel frustrated - http://aneurysmaphorisms.blogspot.com.au/ ) and I drive people nuts on Facebook. In addition, I volunteer at La Boite theatre and Eyeline Arts magazine (and at Brisbane Festival 2013) and I joined the Brisbane Feminist Collective.
In February this year, when I was unfortunately unable to make the Brisbane One Billion Rising event happen, I helped to raise awareness at a stand in Northern Rivers.
The rug is still getting pulled – in September last year I lost my job, after 7 years with the same employer – but in the last few months I have made some wonderful and very supportive friends and I cope so much better now with unexpected stresses.
I am working my way through the process of publication of my debut novel, begun entering writing competitions and started a website for my writing – www.reibus.com.au . Well, some part of life has to be purely selfish doesn’t it?
My next challenge is fast approaching. 272 days after the diagnosis of my brain aneurysm I had a call to say my surgery is scheduled for the day after Easter. That sent me into yet another tail spin, but after a long chat with Margo Gibbs, who is one of the most level headed women I know, I am feeling a lot more comfortable with the situation and I know I’ll be fine. Perhaps my only regret is a selfish one. I have been in swimming training most of this year, 40-60 lengths of my local pool 2-3 times a week, with the intention of entering an ocean swim event in Vanuatu later this year – something to check off my bucket list. I suspect that will now be put off until next year. C’est la vie.
As I have aged, and despite how much I respect so many women in public life, I never would have imagined my mentor would end up being someone less than half my age who took a chance on me in 2012. I truly believe I would not have achieved any of this without the support and encouragement and friendship of Laura Stokes and so many other wonderful people I have met through TEDxSBW. Truly beautiful people. Thank you.