Back again at long last. I’ve got myself up to date, had a fairly good rest and given some thought to how I want to approach my book as blog. Frankly, I don’t just want to write about my life because I don’t think it’s that important, I’d like to talk about the lessons I’ve learned along the way in the hope it’ll help others.
For example, the interesting thing I noticed when I was dealing with my father’s alcoholism in Boonah was how many people approached me for readings with similar problems. The reality is that, if someone has an addiction problem, there’s nothing you can do until they decide to take action themselves. However, saying that and doing it are two different things when you love people. That’s what happened with my relationship with my father.
In case you’re wondering, I decided to start on this subject with fibromyalgia, because I’ve lived with it for nigh-on fifteen years now and, while I’ve had my little break from writing, I have had heaps of material about fibro drop in my life or come across many people going through the challenges of fibro like myself. It turned up in my life at a time when I was being hyper-active and also trying to cope with my father’s alcoholism. So I thought I’d look at that period in my life and how fibromyalgia had made its presence felt.
The fly in the ointment of our improved life in Boonah, if I can put it like that, was my father’s descent into rampant alcoholism and a chaotic life. He had finally bought a home in a village close to Boonah and we used to visit once or twice a week while Dad dropped in. His personal situation deteriorated as his drinking increased. He would start the day with a shot of brandy/whisky/rum and things would go downhill from there. We would go over to see him in the mornings as he would be reasonably sober, but never in the afternoons as he would be aggressive and very unpleasant.
Dad was manipulating, conniving, sly, aggressive and getting to be as mad as a March hare. So things got even more stressful as Dad’s alcoholism got worse and worse, something I hadn’t believed was possible but, yes, it was. His house was filthy and shambolic, and his life was beginning to generate into chaos. I simply didn’t know how to handle it but felt the need to stay in touch.
Many people asked me why I hung around for my father, and still do, for that matter. Firstly, our family had a history of being cut off from each other. I’d lost touch with my mother’s side of my family after her death. But when we lived in Canterbury my grandfather suddenly decided to disown Dad, and his whole family – mother, sister and other relatives – followed suit. We never quite knew why but I felt like I didn’t want to continue this sort of action. The cutting off pattern need to, well, be cut off!
I also know that Dad had not been treated kindly as a kid. He had been the middle child and the overlooked one. His elder brother, John, was the favourite, and his younger sister, Patricia, was also a favoured child. I remember Dad remarking to me once: “My parents used to say: ‘Here’s John, our eldest son, and here’s Tricia, our daughter. Oh, and this is Richard”. There was a pause, and then he remarked sadly: “No-one should treat their child like that.” Dad was very intelligent, was offered the opportunity to go on to higher education but my grandparents decided they couldn’t afford it. The unspoken knowledge was always that that, had it been the eldest son, there’s no doubt they would have found the ways and means because he was St John, even after his death in World War 11.
I’ll take the time here too to remind people that, when you have kids, they are all gifts into your life. Treating them equally and loving them equally, if you have more than one kid, is the best gift you can give them. Making a child feel that they are considered less by you is no way to treat a child and it’s no wonder that, when kids find themselves in that sort of situation in their family, they can end up quite damaged.
I could feel Dad’s pain and knew he’d been deeply hurt as a child. From the stories of his childhood, when his parents were dirt poor in the Depression, I knew that he had tried desperately to ingratiate himself with his family and it hadn’t worked. He was always the outsider. Mind you, I have to be honest, he was a cantankerous, bitter man and difficult to get on with, so it wasn’t always on the part of his parents. You can learn from childhood challenges and live from the higher aspect of your being, or you can choose to live with the negative. I also stayed in touch and felt the need to be there for my father as he had nursed my mother at home as she was dying of lung cancer. He did a brilliant job to ensure she could die in her own home and not in hospital surroundings. So I figured he had some good karma from that and I owed him some for his care of Mum in her last days.
There was additional stress too as Bryan didn’t really go a bundle on my sudden leap into the metaphysical realms. He’s very logical and down-to-earth, plus he was pining to return to the UK to be closer to his family. I had one very serious bout of bronchitis again, and I know exactly the emotional circumstances which triggered it off although I don’t want to go into details here. But I began to feel desperately tired and lethargic. I never really recovered full health after my accident when I broke my leg and ankle, and having a raging infection when I went into hospital probably didn’t help either.
I know exactly when I realised something was seriously amiss. I walked out of a shopping centre we used to visit close to Ipswich on a very hot day and as I emerged through the doors, I felt enormous pain in my hips and a wave of exhaustion swept over me. I don’t know how I got to the car, I found the only way I could move forward was to swing my hips from side to side to get my legs to move forward too.
I started getting great itchy lumps on my arms in the middle of the night. I began to spend many a long night sitting up with ice on my arms as it was the only thing which seemed to reduce the itching and swelling. At first I tried tea-tree oil and then lavender essential oil but all that happened was that the welt on one arm exploded and started spreading like wildfire up to my shoulder.
I was terrified as I had no idea what was happening. The itchy welts started spreading, on my upper thighs, belly and back. They’d flare up, die down then re-appear elsewhere. The trouble was that the local doctor in a rural community is always busy so that, by the time I could get an appointment, the welts had died down and couldn’t be identified. As well the fatigue got worse and worse. I remember once that I was on the way to a workshop in a rural area on a very hot day and stopped to get petrol. I felt as if someone had opened a valve in my solar plexus so that all the energy had drained out. To get to the office to pay for the petrol was an extreme effort on my part. I managed to drive to the venue, run the workshop but pretty much collapsed of heat exhaustion on the way home. I had to call out ambulance officers who managed to calm me down, rehydrated me and reassure me that my pounding heart was due to palpitations and the heat, not a heart attack.
Eventually I had to stop work. I could hardly get out of bed and was forced to lie on the sofa most of
the day, feeling I had fog in my head so that I couldn’t think straight. I did see one doctor who was an absolute joke and a disgrace to the medical profession as he virtually told me I was lying and that, just by looking at me, that he could tell I could go and get a job if I wanted as a supermarket assistant or in a petrol forecourt. This, mind you, was after my telling him I couldn’t even walk the short distance to the hospital and had had to drive. I finally got a referral to a rheumatologist in Ipswich who diagnosed me with fibromyalgia.
I had never heard of this, and I suppose I was rather laid-back, thinking it was going to pass over quite quickly. I’m a glass half-full type of person and in the same way I thought Bryan’s Ross River virus episode would waft over him and gently fade away. Only it didn’t. And neither did the fibromyalgia for me. As I said earlier, I still have it nearly fifteen years down the track.
At first, I tried to bluff my way through it. I kept going in the belief that, if there’s a brick wall, you smash your way through it. I tried this many times and found that the only thing that happened was that the wall didn’t break and I bounced off it to end flat on my back. Each time I’d be back to square one with absolute exhaustion, fog in my head and feeling seriously depressed as if the end of the world was going to turn up the next day. Eventually I learned that the best thing was not to try to beat my body into submission because it had a mind of its own. I had to slow right down and do only half of what I thought I could do. And if I had good days I had to learn not to go bonkers and run all over the place, but to take things easy and conserve my energy.
I had to give up trying to work as the fibromyalgia was very painful and the big, blotchy, itchy spots used to erupt whenever I got a bit tired. The exhaustion used to leave me back at square one: lying on the sofa, staring at the ceiling and enveloped in brain fog (one of fibro’s symptoms). I’d get bouts of depression I know call “The Glums” but I learned to accept the old saying: “This too will pass” and know that I’d need to be patient until I’d wake up one day and wonder why I’d felt so down in the dumps.
Coping with Dad in the house next door was hard too. In hospital he’d been Mr Charming, conning people into believing he would take up gardening and go fishing. But from long experience I knew this was “Gunnadoo” and was never done. It was all in Dad’s head as he’d lost whatever get up and go he’d ever had.
While he was in hospital, Bryan had cleaned his house, tidied up the garden area, and packed and moved all his gear into our downstairs area to keep it safe. The house was absolutely filthy: the lamps we thought were amber were in fact clear but they’d been coated in dust and cigarette smoke; the carpet was so dusty and filled with cigarette ash as Dad just flicked his ash on the carpet when he smoked that it too changed from dark brown to a quite pleasant colour underneath; he kitchen floor was coated in thick grease and dirt which Bryan had to clean on his hands and knees for two days.
The same filthy habits continued in the rented house next door. Dad would simply flick his cigarette ash on the floor, the fridge was filled with food going off, and the plants kindly provided by a hospital worker withered and died. The drinking had resumed, the black moods were back, and I was a nervous wreck with high blood pressure and attacks of heart palpitations.
One night we could see that something was going on in Dad’s house as the curtains kept moving, lights going on and off, and bangs and crashes sounding. In the end I went up, got entry through the side door and found Dad in his underpants rolling around on the floor blind drunk. I can tell you, to see the father you used to love and respect in such a degraded state was really, really hard. I was terribly upset and scared he’d hurt himself.
He shouted for us to lift him but we refused as he was too heavy. We called the ambulance service but Dad was crafty, he knew that if he was on the floor they could take him to hospital but if he was upright, they couldn’t touch him. So he pulled himself into a chair by the time they turned up, sat there smoking a cigarette smugly, and refusing to go to bed to put my mind at rest. The ambulance officers were great as I apologised for calling them out but they reassured me that it was fine, it would go on the records and anyway they were already acquainted with him so he had a history of drunken behaviour.
Their prior knowledge of Dad came when they helped remove his from his home when the hospital had taken him there to assess his ability to live independently. I told them they were making a huge mistake but it seemed to me that no-one believes relatives. Dad got to the house, staggered inside, lurched around the empty place and refused to come out. He was there for most of the day, Bryan stayed to keep an eye on him and told me to go home for my health’s sake.
It got to the stage where we were looking at the police arresting him and taking him to a psychiatric institution. We decided to call the ambulance service to see if they could help and they were brilliant. They spent ages with Dad, talking to him and calming him down, and finally convincing him to return to the hospital. I thought, and still do think, that they are miracle workers and angels!
After the rolling around on the floor episode, though, Bryan sat me down and told me I had to look after myself and let Dad live the consequences of his own behaviour. He could con people with his charm, and sound quite normal when he was sober, so that I felt people were looking at me as the Wicked Daughter as I tried to explain what his alcoholic existence was like. Bryan knew how Dad treated me and what the real situation was like with this aggressive, bullying drunk, and it helped me retain my sanity when people seemed to believe Dad’s bullshit.
But I realised Bryan was right, something had snapped the previous night as I’d begged and pleaded with him to go to bed and he’d sat there smoking looking smug and so very pleased with himself. I acknowledged I was getting sick as I tried to maintain a relationship with this dysfunctional man. And so I decided to cut off contact altogether. It was quite weird living next door to my father and not having any contact. On the other hand, it was a huge relief as I started taking care of myself and, as I did so, my blood pressure dropped and my scary palpitation episodes died down too.
In my next post, I’ll be looking at our decision to return to the UK but also dishing up some ideas about fibromyalgia, how I’ve coped and what I’ve learned from this unlovely visitor to my body.
In her lovely book “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert introduces the one person with his true name in the following way: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Richard from Texas has arrived”.
So now I’d like to announce in similar fashion, that Yvonne Tait, Herbalist and Spiritual Seeker Extraordinaire, entered my life with a colourful flourish a few months after we moved to Boonah in south-east Queensland in 1994. She was not only a herbalist. She opened me up to the world of crystals, spirituality, colours and much more. And like so much about our time in Boonah she entered my life in a very synchronistic way.
In Perth, Western Australia, in the months prior to our move to Queensland, I had learned Reiki 1 and Reiki 11. So in Boonah when, we had got settled in our new home, I decided I’d like to start offering Reiki and contacted the local newspaper to publicise my work. I had no idea at the time that Boonah was a hotbed of fundamentalist Christian churches. This was the town where the fundamentalists had threatened to boycott the local newspaper when it started offering horoscopes. I mean – horoscopes, for god’s sake! Practically every mainstream newspaper offers horoscopes but in Boonah it was the work of the Devil. So was Reiki, I was to find in due course.
I, of course, never imagined that Reiki would be regarded with suspicion and outright horror. Reiki to me was simply a healing modality and part of the 20th century (this was 1994, remember). I found out later that the advert for Reiki sparked horror among many fundamentalist Christians who believed the Devil was walking among them.
It’s sad that so much ignorance and fear exists about a practice which has at its heart service to those in need. Luckily for me, a couple of brave souls contacted me to have Reiki healing, and one of those left a Reiki manual for me, asking me to return it to the original owner when I’d finished. This person was Yvonne.
I finally tracked her down to a small shed tucked away behind the main street of Boonah. Yvonne wasn’t in her office, so I left the manual on one of the shelves in her front room. But as I turned to leave, my attention was caught by rows of beautiful, coloured bottles, lined up in a display in her office. They looked magical, each one consisted of two colours, one over the other, and looking like a vivid rainbow glowing in small, rather ordinary-looking office.
Yvonne, I was to learn, wove magic in this office. I returned quite quickly as I was so curious about the coloured bottles. I’d learned about the power of colour a few years earlier. After my mother’s death from lung cancer, I had become seriously depressed and was really hitting the booze. My weight had crept up and I looked like the half-side of a bus. As I said in an earlier post, I could have auditioned for the Incredible Hulk and won the part easily.
I always wore black because I thought black made me look slimmer. But I had seen some information on colour at the centre where I’d learned Reiki and it interested me no end. Also, on the last afternoon of my Reiki 1 course, I’d walked out and seen a little butterball of a woman walking along the street in front of me dressed in black. I looked at her and thought: “She looks like a fat woman trying to look slim in a black outfit, and she still looks fat”. And, of course, I looked at myself and thought: “And you, my dear, look just the same, a tallish woman dressing in black to look slim and you still look fat.” So I went out the next day and bought the most beautiful, coloured dress I could find. It was multi-coloured and multi-patterned and quite eye-watering! Bryan called it my “Ken Done dress”, Ken Done being an Australian artist who works with bright patterns and colours. The experience of wearing colour really hit me. I felt quite different, more people smiled at me, and one woman actually walked up to me and told me how much she loved my dress and all the colours. It made my day!
Finally I met Yvonne, who was in her office the next time I visited the premises where she worked. She was a short, dark-haired woman with a huge, welcoming smile and a very warm, healing presence. I asked her for a reading as I was so curious about the coloured bottles which, I found, were part of a system of healing called Aura Light. I remember I chose four bottles with quite intense colours. Yvonne told me afterwards, that the first bottle represented childhood, predominant programs for life purpose and links to the past. The second bottle was about life’s obstacles and challenges in your teenage years. The third bottle relates to the here and now on all levels. And the final, fourth bottle, represents future potential, the future and correlating the past and present.
I didn’t know at the time but these are multi-layered bottles which reflect back to you where you are at any stage of your life. So while one reading might be about where your are currently and how you’re working through particular issues, another reading will provide further information which reveal another layer of your life and how you’re living it.
I remember doing another one of my jaw drops as Yvonne proceeded into the first reading I ever had, because she honed in on my difficult relationship with my father. At that stage, she knew nothing about him or my dysfunctional relationship with him. I was absolutely amazed. And in subsequent readings, I’d pick what I thought were quite different bottles and Yvonne would look then murmur: “Hmmmm, your father’s been stuffing you around again, hasn’t he? What’s he been up to this time?”
My work with Yvonne didn’t stop there. We connected really well and she asked me to go with her when she did workshops at various places, either to talk about herbalism or about Aura Light. She also opened up the world of spirituality to me with her amazing range of books which she generously lent me. I was sucking all this up like someone who’d been without a drink for a week and now was busy guzzling greedily from the fount of nourishment, which for me was spirituality in all its various guises.
Yvonne also helped me with the herbal tinctures she gave me and dietary advice. I started losing weight and began exploring all the books and manuals this warm, caring lady had in her office.
And then I met her daughter Joy. Joy came for a visit from Coffs Harbour where she was living at the time. We picked her up from the airport and she started talking about the small angels she’d seen holding up the plane she’d travelled up on as it had hit bad turbulence landing at Brisbane Airport. I remember sighing inwardly to myself and thinking: “Oh, god, another member of Flakes Anonymous”, although I kept that to myself. But I was wrong and I’m glad I didn’t open my big gob and shoot off about my blockheaded prejudices.
Joy opened me up to crystals.
She brought with her the most beautiful necklaces she’d created of various crystals. When she pulled them out and displayed them, I could feel my senses tingling and an awareness I’d never had opening up. I eventually chose a necklace in pearl and citrine and I really felt, for the first time in my life, like a very powerful empress when I slipped it around my neck.
Joy looked at me and said: “But you know how the crystals talk to you, don’t you?” with such confidence and with such a brilliant smile on her face, that I simply said “Yes”, although I had no idea what she was talking about. It just felt churlish to say “no” in the face of such faith and belief in me and my supposed abilities with crystals – particularly as I’d never done or experienced anything like this before.
But she was right. Yvonne offered to let me sell crystals in her shop and I agreed, because for some reason the crystal jewellery that Joy had created, and which she left with her mother to sell, just fascinated me. I could feel their power and how each necklace offered different energies to the people who bought them. We met up with Joy at Byron Bay and went to a crystal warehouse.
It was like entering Aladdin’s Cave! I had not the faintest knowledge of crystals, but I whizzed around that magical palace and picked exactly which crystals I wanted to take back with me to sell: clear quartz, citrine, carnelian, and many others. I didn’t have much spare cash, so I was quite focused on particular stones which seemed to me to draw me. I remember Yvonne wandering up with a number of small, polished, clear quartz points and unhesitatingly I went to one and said: “That’s mine!” I had no idea why this particular stone attracted me but since then, it’s always how I’ve operated with crystals. They communicate with me at some unseen level, at a higher dimension than I’m unable to explain. I still have this little polished point which has travelled to the UK, back to Western Australia, to New South Wales, down to Victoria, back to NSW and now has a home in North Cyprus!
When I set up my little display in Yvonne’s shop, the various crystals sold like hot cakes. I was hooked! Who would have thought I’d ever be working with crystals! In my next post I’ll talk about crystals, my work with them and how I work intuitively with crystals, rocks and stones. Note: this might be a long post as crystals are my passion!