Gas Maintenance Should be Prescribed for Landlords

In 2014 I was working, travelling, writing a thesis and doing all the usual wife and mother things. I had what I would consider one of my most successful and productive years ever.

In 2015 I completed another course and worked through the year, but I did notice I picked up a bug every time I worked. I took some vitamins and thought nothing more of it.

In 2016 I started the year feeling good, confident of going back to work after the summer break, I’d been accepted to study at a Ph.D level and had my sights on moving up the ladder at work. I was also writing up a storm and getting published. What could go wrong?

In March, just as the nights start to cool down, if you’re a bit of a reptile like me, you reach for the heating. From here on I managed to get two publications to my name, very small pieces, one had even been written some years ago so it was nice to find it a home. I left work in May and didn’t go back.

It was around this time that my once a month migraines started happening more often, I was giddy a lot, often felt extreme emotions from what I imagine mania must feel like to the very depths of depression where I felt life was a joke and it wasn’t funny. I started avoiding going out. I blamed it on the stress of starting a Ph.D, but I couldn’t read properly as the words swam and made me nauseous. I wondered if I could be pregnant but the stick said no, and besides I was in peri-menopause. I lost weight and my BMI was 17. Obviously it was my diet and the change of life that was upon me, right?

I worked with two dieticians and my GP and in late September I started to put on weight, and what could have been an irritable bowel became normal again. With my senses regained I noted the older cat had suddenly lost a lot of weight and developed a head tremor occasionally. Caught on video I was able to show the vet when I took him in. She definitely believed the cause was neurological but without further examination she couldn’t say for sure. My poor cat was subjected to blood tests and aesthetics that gave him a look of distrust in his eyes when I’d pick him up, certain he was going back in the transport cage. And my bank account took a significant blow.

It was suggested, that at 13 it might be time to put him to sleep. Cats in our family lived to 21, to 19, to great ages. He was too young and hadn’t gradually gone down hill as he aged, this had been quite sudden. I bargained for a couple of weeks, she gave me a month. In four weeks I fed him every brand of cat food, tempted him with every cut of meat suitable for a cat and bought him all the treats we could find. And he started to fill out. He had kitten moments and played tag with my younger cat.

Excited, I took him back to the vet where his signs of recovery were nothing short of amazing. The vet nurse teared up saying, ‘It must be some bond you guys have.’ Indeed. And I felt on top of the world with our small achievement.
So much so I applied to return to my unfinished law degree, and started asking around about a return to work.

The summer of 2016-2017 was uneventful. I was ever expectant of losing the cat to the next hot day but he seemed to cope find. He turned 14 and at 14 and a half the dreaded day arrived. It was just after Easter, the nights were getting cold again and his weight had dropped drastically as we watched him expel everything he could from both ends simultaneously. We’d bought him time. There was nothing more we could do. The routine had been to wake early with him and take him to the garden, to feed him up to ten times a day in small portions so he’d keep it in, and to alway turn on the central heating so he could sit over the lounge room duct and warm himself. He lived in that spot most of the time, unless the sun was out and then so was he, rolling in the dirt and bark, punching on little bugs.

Then the nights got chilly and the heating was back on in the evenings. Soon I was agitated and anxious, refusing to go out even to buy food. Imodium became my best friend and the doctor suggested that it was time to look for something like cancer – every other test had shown nothing was wrong with me physically.

I cried easily. Then I cried most days. Now I was also seeing a psychiatrist, because when they can’t find a physical cause in someone with a history of mental health issues they always blame it on mental health.

My weight was falling from a BMI of 22 back towards its low of 17. I had migraines for three days on and one day off on a continuous loop. The psychiatrist introduced a new pill to the already long list and I felt worse.

Inside I gave up.

For now there would be no more new tablets. No new foods. A steady bedtime and daily mindfulness meditation. We would start small.

Come September I started to feel different. With each passing week I picked up a little bit more. There was fresh talk about a return to study. This time I’d try to get back into the Ph.D.

The summer of 2017-2018 went by quickly. I was accepted back to study and I started some freelance writing. Things were looking up again.

Not long after I started to question whether I was made out of the right material to study anymore. I quit. I’d become good at quitting.

That winter the younger cat, a indoor pedigree, started to have the odd loose bowel motion, she lost her appetite and lost weight. She slept all day and woke around 4am to run laps of the house, jump onto us from the bedhead and meow with gusto until we finally got up the next morning. Or afternoon. We often spent up to 14 hours in bed. I blamed the pills. The doctor agreed that they all had sedative effects and combined would make anyone tired.

The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with the cat so we just took her home and crossed our fingers that she would come good.

Despite giving up and crying daily I was always thinking of things that could cause me to feel like this, the give me so many migraines. I noticed my husband going down hill too and put it down to him feeding off my bleak mood. I Googled random things from cat hair to Bakelite to wi-fi to central heating’s effect on humidity.

And there it was. A string of search results for carbon monoxide (CO) leaks and the effects of long term low level exposure. We ticked every box. But the house wasn’t that old, granted we’d lived in it for six years and not once had the landlord or property manager suggested it should be checked. The state government website recommends at least ever two years.

I booked a servicing, and checked in with my property manager, who was fine with me paying for a service as it was ‘for my piece of mind’.

The day the plumber arrived I expected all sorts of tests but instead we were simply informed that under the law he could not leave our heating connected. He was used to seeing one or two cracks but we had about five and two that made circles, something he’d never seen before. He suggested it would take approximately one hour of use for the house to start filling up with CO.

I informed the property manager, who informed the landlord who requested a mate of his check it out. He wanted to hook it back up and suggested we knew nothing of CO poisoning. We were learning fast. One thing I had learned from all the study I had completed was to research well and I did.

Another plumber came out and was awarded the job of replacing the entire unit.

Approximately a month later our rent went up by $20 a week, we were assured it had nothing to do with the CO leak and costly replacement of the unit. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

The remaining cat now sleeps through the night, she had been noisy at night because that was when the gas wore off. She’s put on weight and is playful during the day – all the things she had stopped being. We can’t help but feel robbed over losing our other pet, and his suffering was for nothing.

Both my husband and myself are having medications slowly withdrawn – pills we should never have had to pollute our bodies with in the first place. I’m a healthy weight, not nauseous, have a mild migraine about every three weeks that lasts around 36 hours.

Make sure your gas heating is checked people. There’s a lot of emphasis on CO being the silent killer because as we all know exposure can kill and kill fast but here’s the less publicised side – chronic exposure, where you feel better when you are away from the exposure for a few hours, where your pets or children are effected too, where multiple members of the household have similar symptoms.
This is NOT mental illness. This is a slow and tortuous death that can take years. It’s not given any press. We are still at risk of long-term neurological problems, only time will tell there.

I invite you to read this information from Harvard Health – Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

And this article from Issue 10 Volume 59 of BMJ Journals entitled: Effects on Health of Prolonged Exposure to Low Concentrations of Carbon Monoxide.

I don’t know if we would have survived another winter. I consider myself lucky to be here to write this at all.

Advertisements

Throwing Shade on Memories

This week has really thrown my writing habit out of whack.

We had some unexpected news, and it was family news that needed to be relayed to people who are not really in my life anymore but are very much a part of the manuscript I am currently working on.

I’d managed to dig down deep and find the good times with someone that was important to my story. I was just getting a bit of a happy glow going over the good times we shared when the news had to be shared. I volunteered seeing as I was feeling good about this person from writing of our good times together.

Well, let’s just say this person didn’t show their best version of themselves.

Now I’m stuck and haven’t worked on the project for days. Every time I try to focus on a scene all I see is the bad once more. It rally is going to take some work to get back into that frame of mind.

In between there is alway writing exercises to do as writing practice is so important to keep things moving. I did buy the egg timer I decided I need to that I can make sure I sit in my chair for the required minimum time per day, without having a phone near me.

And on a side note, I’ve been following a blog of a modern day pin up girl, it’s a look I’ve always loved, and I began to wonder if there is a genre for fiction written for this sub-culture? If there is I’d love to get some titles.

Marilyn’s calming influence

Marilyn Monroe died ten years before I was conceived. I’ve always identified with her mental illness and the sense that there was something fragile about her that was also familiar to me.

As a child, it seemed like spent more time at home that at school due to panic attacks that I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain yet. I was left to entertain myself with Days of Our Lives and the midday movies. A love of black and white film developed. Then as I watched, and became aware of the actors I noticed I was particularly drawn to Marilyn. She was the opposite of all women in my life; she seemed passionate, and loveable, fun and gentle. And so it was that she babysat me often, calmed me when I was upset and lulled me into feeling safe when I was scared, right through all my school years.

I was 12 when a friend’s older sister lent me the book ‘Goddess’ by Anthony Summers. My mother kept questioning me on the content and whether it had lots of sex in it, and did the book scare me. It was not a pleasant read for a young and naïve schoolgirl, but I felt connected to Marilyn through her mentally ill mother, her own confusions and worries. She represented hope and failure all in one..

With my daughter I watched her comedies, and my toddler was just as transfixed as I; she had her favorites too and sharing a couch one miserable day, told me how we were going to put the top down on my car one day, when the weather was better and together we would have sunshine on us just like Merry –Lyn (as she called her). Marilyn was a symbol of hopes and dreams for both of us back then.

Confrontations

Once upon a time, a young woman use to stand up for herself. Unfortunately she would do so even when the threat was only a perceived one.

Eventually she worked out this only escalated her anxiety levels.

Now she sits with that dodgy purchase she made, and contemplates ways to justify wasting the money, to write it off as just one of those things that happen to people.

Back to her writing project she wonders why she chose to write in memoir when she gets to one of those key scenes that she cannot work her way around, they have to be in the narrative for the story she’s telling to work.

But.

Her heart rate advances.

Her blood pressure drops, leaving her light headed, vision a little hazy as she writes.

Her concentration moves away from the scene she’s writing, and she forgets that even though this is memoir, these people can’t harm her anymore, they are just characters, and she forgets to take a fresh look at the events and remember that she can write this in anyway she wants. She’s not a magician and can’t change the facts, but she can put in her reflection, a magic that time passing allows her.

Breathe.

Write.

Rest.

Repeat.

Confrontation doesn’t always have to raise anxiety. (As for that dodgy purchase, she’ll have to work on that.)

Ghost Cat

(In honour of one year without a dear furry friend.)

Last night ghost cat passed through the living room. My husband felt the air around his ankles alter just enough to accommodate the passing of a mid sized feline, just as he’d felt every night for fourteen years until a year ago.

I read an article on pet grief that classified animals as spiritual and claimed they stayed with us for a full year after death. I know better than to believe everything that I read on the Internet. He was not a particularly smart cat and I cannot see him possessing any exceptional powers other than those of love and loyalty.

Still, I see his white presence vanish around corners, like vapour, and I hear his noisy cry at times. The other night my husband heard it too. Is this a phenomenon of grief or is Ghost Cat staying for a year?

If you’re staying, I want to apologise for my annoyance on that last day when you tracked crap through the house, for making you spend those last few hours outside when you wanted to sit in a window inside, for crying in front of you as you drew your last.

I don’t know where you’re spending the afterlife, but I hope you’ve found your two friends and once again you’re the three musketeers. Most of all, I look at the cat that’s been left behind and realise how many times I’ve said goodbye, that I’ll have to do it one more time and I don’t think I can do it again, so Ghost Cat please jump upon my bed, vanish into cupboards, leave fur upon the curtains until I can face the days without you, just so I know when the years rush by and I say goodbye again I’ll know she’ll haunt me too until I face the world bravely on my own. Ghost Cat, you’ll never know how much life you took up when an agoraphobic’s world is so small. Thank you.

Re-remembering the Past

Do you ever have one of those days where you focus on the past too much? I know the saying that anxiety is living in the future and depression is living in the past, but here in the present I’m writing about the past and there’s some really intense feelings coming up.

To set the mood I’ve also been going through photographs from that time in my life and listening to the music that I was hearing back then. Not just the stuff I liked, but stuff I hated too, because it all has feelings attached to it and if I do my job right I can get that layered into the text.

The part that is getting me down is seeing that I had no voice back then. There was some unspoken rule in my family that this anxious teenager couldn’t be trusted to make the right decisions for herself and so they were made for me.
I don’t think suffering panic attacks, or having generalised anxiety disorder should preclude anyone from choosing their life path, who they spend it with or what they do with their time.

I’m trying to rewrite this narrative so I have some kind of a voice in the end, even if it’s two decades too late. I’d love to have a do-over and go back in time, but I’m sure everyone has at least one of those moments they’d like to change, anxiety or no anxiety.

So I’m taking all the ‘no you can’t’ statements that were given to me as my story and I’m looking for the ways I responded by showing them ‘yes I can’ and bringing those to the front of the stage, and hopefully when I finish this what I’m left with won’t be a source of memory that causes depression, but will be a memory I can be happy to sit with. I know I can’t change the facts, but I can shift the focus, put the spotlight on the good things, and I get to choose how, in light of the years I’ve lived since, I remember things. I’m not going to be held hostage to the way other people want me to remember my past. Not anymore.

Do What Makes You Happy

As I’ve mentioned earlier I’ve been using the Calm app for meditation. There’s a really good one about the stories we tell ourselves in there if you happen to use it.

I’m really into the whole theory of rewriting the narratives of my life at the moment. It seems to just mesh with memoir so well. On the app there’s a Masterclass, which is a talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame. I didn’t make it past ‘Eat’ despite being a memoir fan.

I didn’t see the movie either so I was blown away with her talk that kind of sits side by side with another book of hers, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear which I have read (and must now read again).

I was a little bit worried it would turn out to be a rehash of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, (I’ve tried following this three times and given up. I just can’t do an artist’s date or morning pages and I hate going for walks as I live near a knackery and the smell is horrendous!) but I was pleasantly surprised.

I should come clean and mention I have a bit of a hoarding thing going on when it comes to books on writing be it Cameron, Gilbert, Natalie Goldberg, Catherine Deveny, Fiona McIntosh, Brenda Ueland, Anne Lamott, Ariel Gore, Vivian Gornick, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and the list goes on. I have a whole bookshelf dedicated just to ‘how to’ books on writing and creative life. I guess it’s my preferred form of self help.

I tell you this just so you know I’m not jumping on any bandwagon because I’ve read Gilbert’s other work, because I haven’t. But, I cried listening to the hour and a bit talk. Now it could be I’m peri-menopausal, I mean the hot flushes and night sweats would back it up, but I was nodding, like yes! She’s right! It was very powerful to feel validated in that we don’t have to have our art, our writing, our ‘co-creation with the universe’, as she puts it, read or bring fame or anything. We can just create our art and be happy with that.

There’s so much pressure from family, friends and society that fails to value art for all its wonderful (and healing) properties that if you get to your final year of say, a law degree, and say you’re going to move to arts people get somewhat upset, in my experience. But law was making me a grumpy caffeine fuelled beast rather than a reflective, well slept human. Why would I put myself and my family through that indefinitely just because it has more bragging rights? My mental health and theirs was and remains too valuable for that kind of foley.Do what makes you happy and not what others will pat you on the back for because it gives them bragging rights (e.g. ‘Meet my sister, she’s a law student’).