Tuesday, 21 February 2012

'Ambition > Talent' or 'The true story of the death of my Olympic dream'

Ambition is more important than talent. And I am proof.

I was born in 1985. I started gymnastics at my local PCYC when I was about five. I loved gymnastics. I have always had amazing balance. I walked at nine months old & at the same age, Dad would hold me on his hand in the air & I would balance there. True story. I have photos.

Two years later a gymnastics talent scout approached my parents and asked if I could attend an... I guess you'd call it an audition?... to enter training for the 2000 Olympic team.

Mum and Dad took me to Chandler Sports Complex where I spent the day tumbling, cartwheeling, stretching, swinging and balancing. At the end of the day, the Olympic talent people decided I had the right height, the right body shape, was flexible, had amazing balance & that I could go much, much further. As in 2000 Olympics further.

I had talent.

I never made it to the 2000 Olympics. Not because I wasn't talented enough. No, I never made it because I didn't have the ambition.

Mum, Dad and I talked about it coming home. I was seven and I had "won the audition" so I was happy. We talked about it again during the week. Dad was nervous about how we would manage. As a family, we were already time poor and financially struggling, but he never let that on to me. Ultimately, the decision was mine. I remember thinking about it, little seven year old blonde bundle of cuteness I was. The 1992 Olympics has just been on so I sort of knew what it meant, but I guess I couldn't quite grasp what it entailed for me to be like the girls I'd watched on TV so I finally asked Dad what it was the Olympic people wanted me to do. Dad said, "well, you have to practice a lot to be good enough to be in the Olympics. You have to learn to do all the things they do on TV. You have to to get up really early every day to go to gymnastics training." And I was out.

Seven year old Samantha had talent. But seven year old Samantha did not have ambition. No way was I getting out of bed early. I liked gymnastics, but not that much! Looking back now, I regret what could have been. I would have liked to be 'Samantha Mawdsley, Olympic gold medalist.' I'd even like to be 'Samantha Mawdsley, former Olympic gymnast'. Hell, I'd be happy with 'Samantha Mawdsley, who can do the splits!' But Australia managed to field an Olympic team at the 2000 Sydney games without me. They found girls just as talented as me, probably more so, but who had ambition. They had determination, passion, drive and dreams and they taught them to be amazing gymnasts. But they couldn't teach me ambition. I just happened to be damn good at bouncing on a trampoline...

Still am...
Miss SAMawdsley xx

  • Do you think ambition is more important than talent?
  • Do you regret not trying harder to do something?
  • Has ambition ever failed you or gotten you ahead?

Monday, 13 February 2012

To heart, or not to heart, Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is tomorrow. Seriously, is there any worse faux-holiday? It causes me such anxiety whether I am single or not (which I am). But I love it all the same…
When I was a little girl, Dad used to get me a mini version of whatever he got Mum. Mum would normally get a bunch of flowers, a big heart shaped chocolate and a diamante encrusted heart shaped pin with her name engraved on it. I would get a little flower, a small heart shaped chocolate (or heart shaped lollipop) and a plain heart shaped pin with my name engraved on it. As much as I loved it, I felt I was intruding on their Valentine's Day.
When I was a little bit older, Mum left Dad. In the first week of February. Valentine's Day just made me so sad. Dad kept my brother and I. Just days after Mum left, Dad took us to a florist. He ordered a huge bunch of beautiful red roses to be delivered to Mum at her mother’s place. The florist asked my dad what he would like written in the card. He proceeded to recite one of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever heard. I asked where he got it. He told me he wrote it in his head a few nights prior and memorised it. I am certain that, collectively, all three of us held our breaths to see if this gesture, this last chance to be a family again, would work. It did not.
Years later I found the card she received from “the other man” that same Valentine's Day. It went with a bear that once replaced Puppy that time I forgot to bring him with me to Mum’s house. I threw that horrid bear out of my room and refused to let him ever come back in. No one ever asked why and I never found the card my dad sent her.
When I got to high school, there was a shame-inducing tradition of selling flowers to be delivered throughout the school. $2.50 got you a dying carnation with a small badly cut up tag tied on with cheap ribbon and your chosen sentiment hand-scrawled by a grade 12 girl who couldn’t care less. My first year there, my friend and I panicked at the horror of being the only girls not receiving flowers come Valentine's Day. Luckily we both received ‘From your secret admirer’ flowers. Turns out $2.50 can also buy insurance against being one of those girls who didn’t receive a flower.
I didn’t receive another flower until grade 12. That year I received one from a dear friend telling me “blonde becomes me” and another was one of the sweetest gestures I’ve ever received. My best guy friend (and technically ex-boyfriend) had a rose delivered to me asking me to be his date for the formal. Everyone in the grade knew I was getting this flower and when I looked up from reading it, every girl in the class was looking at me before one brave girl (funnily enough, the ex-friend who was in on the secret admirer scam from years prior) blurted out “Well, what are you going to say?” For the girl who was picked on mercilessly, the fact that I was the only girl to be asked to the formal through a flower and the first of all the girls (save the ones with boyfriends, I expect) to be asked to the formal meant the world to me. I had been dreading the formal for years, fully believing no one would ask me, purely thanks to the social stigma of being “the milk girl” (I worked on a milk run after school) but instead, I was the first girl to be snapped up!
That special moment was only a counter-balance for the fact that I had no way of stopping the crappy carnation that was winging its way to my ex-boyfriend who’d broken up with me on the 12th. That was just awkward for all involved. But my dad made it better by having big ugly plastic roses in the car for me ad my best friend when he picked us up that afternoon to drop us into the Brisbane Motor Show.
I had a boyfriend most Valentine's Days since then. But my heart still always breaks for my dad. I know that every Valentines Day he just remembers the last one he tried to share with my mum. He thinks of that poem, those roses and that desperate clinging to the family we once had before it slipped away forever. I always try to do something special for my dad. Ex-boyfriends of the past know that my dad is my main Valentine. Two years ago I bought him a black rose with a note that said “For the only one who can see the bright side of my dark side”. I don’t remember what I got my boyfriend at the time.
Last year I tried to kill myself just days before Valentine's Day. I say that bluntly, but a fact is a fact. It wasn't anything to do with Valentine's Day. My dad took me to a movie about life-after-life. I just cried and told him I wanted to die. This year, I need to make it up to Dad.
The boyfriends that I’ve had usually spoilt me. I have photos, teddies, cards, jewellery and fake flowers from many years and boys gone by.
This year is the first Valentine's Day I remember for a long time that I will be single (last year was a blur of suicide watch and therapy). I don’t know what to make of it. Obviously Dad will be my main Valentine again. But as a girl, its nice to know someone is thinking of me - thinking that I’m special, thinking that I’m beautiful, thinking that I’m worth something, anything, on Valentine's Day.
I know its a Hallmark holiday that isn’t even worth the cheap paper that all those cheesy, sappy, soon-to-be-thrown-out cards are printed on, but I still want to be part of it. Everyone says it’s just a gimmick and a poor excuse to make couples spend money and that’s totally true. But no one wants to be excluded. I could shout from the rooftops and use my blog as a stand and say “No to Valentine's Day” but I don’t want to. I like the sentiment. I like the feeling of being special, in some way, to somebody. Whatever reason that may be. I don’t want to just feel like the girl who is in the way, the girl who’s future with a live-in mother hangs on a poem, the girl who sends herself a “secret admirer” flower, the girl who feels the shame of giving an unwanted Valentine's day gift, the girl who spends Valentine's Day making sure her dad is ok… but I don’t need to be the girl who received an $80 dozen roses, the girl who wakes up to a serenade outside her window, the girl who sees a proposal hanging on the overpass on the way to work, the girl who is whisked away for a romantic dinner for two… I just want to be the girl who knows she is special… to somebody…
Miss SAMawdsley xx
  • Do you celebrate Valentine's Day?
  • What does the holiday mean to you?
I'd like to wish a very happy Valentine's Day to some wonderful people who may be reading this.
Lori - who deserves all the love in the world
My best friend - who has been there for me every day for 21 years
Adam's mummy - who is spending her first Valentine's Day in 10 years as a fabulous single girl
Player - who sent me love purely for the sake of love
Simon - who is the best guy a girl could ever ask for
Someone - who has taken a tiny piece of my heart to a far off world. You damn well better bring it back one day! "I like you!" xx

Friday, 3 February 2012

I reject your reality & substitute my own!

Click here to pledge your support too!
It doesn't cost money, just click & read.

My psychiatrist told me I have Borderline Personality Disorder. I rejected his diagnosis. Because that's how it works, right?

"Mrs Jones, I'm afraid you have cancer."
"No I don't. I am sick of young whippersnappers like you telling me what I do and do not have! Now give me a prescription for Endone and I'll be on my way!"

Is Mrs Jones' cancer like Schrodinger's cat? Unless she looks she neither has, nor does not have, cancer, right? Because that's exactly how I feel about BPD. I neither have, nor do not have, BPD - unless I go back to my psychiatrist. And I haven't. It's been nearly a year. It was March last year.
"Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a psychological condition marked by a prolonged disturbance of personality function, characterized by depth and variability of moods.
The disorder typically involves unusual levels of instability in mood and black-and-white thinking, or splitting. BPD often manifests itself in idealization and devaluation episodes and chaotic and unstable interpersonal relationships, self-image, identity, and behavior; as well as a disturbance in the individual's sense of self."
To be diagnosed as BPD, a patient needs to present with five out of these nine symptoms.

* frantic efforts to avoid feared abandonment
I will do anything to avoid being abandoned. I have broken up with boyfriends, purely so they couldn't break up with me. When people move away, as people tend to do throughout life, I take it so personally. To me, the fact of the matter is I am not worth enough to them for them to stay near to me. Whatever the reason for the move (work, family, relationships, etc.) it is simply more important to the person than I am. And that hurts so deeply.

* intensity and instability in relationships

* suicidal behaviour, or acts of self-harm
I cut myself throughout high school. I would carve a sparkly spiral on my wrist whenever I was sad. If that was already bloody and scabby, I would carve a star into my ankle. I planned to kill myself in 2005. My dad went to football on Monday nights. On the Sunday, I decided to wait until he went to football and then take every tablet I could find and lay down in bed. If I was still alive when Dad got home, he would just assume I was sleeping & leave me be & I'd be dead by the morning.
Last February I made an attempt. Late one night, I was so overwhelmed by everything that I got up from my bed & headed towards the kitchen of my shared unit for a big sharp knife. As I walked past my housemate's room, I felt a small voice creep up & I squeaked out his name. The sound of my voice, so pitiful, terrified me and I ran back into my room sobbing hysterically. My housemate came running into my room to find me begging him not to let me kill myself. He'd later tell me I had screamed his name & sounded terrified, not pitiful.
These days, I discovered I have physical urticaria. I can stratch myself, feel pain, see an angry red weal & know it will be gone by morning.

* an unstable self-image or sense of self
This is a huge one for me an I have trouble explaining it. I believe I am very different to other people. I don't understand the way other people's brains work and why they do what they do. I'm confused by basic human interactions and am always paranoid that I am doing it wrong. I feel like I wear myself as a costume that fools people but inside this costume is a weird alien who desperately pretends to be normal. It's really hard to describe...

* impulsive behaviour (eg. spending, substance use, reckless driving, sex, binge eating)

* emotional instability due to reactivity of mood
I am shocking with this. The smallest things affect my emotions and they do it in a huge way. A few careless words can send me deep into a spiral of sadness and paranoia. I analyse everything and come to conclusions that are usually painful to deal with and upsetting to me. I hate going to the grocery shops and will come home in a bad mood that I have been known to take out on people I love. Recently, I got insanely angry at my dog for not helping me carry my groceries into the house. Yeah, I know...

* chronic feelings of emptiness
This could be BPD and this could be thanatophobia / existential anxiety. Either way, I absolutely cannot fathom the point of life. I sit and ponder why... just, why...? I am the kind of person who needs goals. I am that donkey that will only walk if there is a carrot dangling right in front of me.

* intense, inappropriate or uncontrollable anger
In grade 10, a guy in manual arts was teasing me. The next thing I remember, my friend touched me on the shoulder. I had opened my tool cabinet, grabbed a chisel & was making my way towards him while the class looked shocked. I describe the part I don't remember as 'red'. It's like my memory was replaced by blindingly bright red. And getting angry at my dog for not bothering to help me carry groceries is not exactly appropriate, is it?

* paranoid thinking under stress or 'dissociative' symptoms
I play football. I'm pretty good. But I won't try to do anything - tricky passes that I am perfectly capable of doing or dribbling the ball up the field, taking on a player - because I am so paranoid the team will hate me if it goes wrong. Even though if they do the same, I'm OK & just yell out encouragement. Some players haven't come back this season. I am convinced it is my fault. I don't know why, I just am. They were there last season when they didn't know I had joined the team, but they won't come back this season.
If someone is upset - or I perceive they may be upset - I believe it's my fault. I usually can't think of a logical reason why it's my fault. And then I believe that it's because I'm so selfish and such a bad person that I didn't even notice what I did to upset them. It's exhausting being so paranoid.
And the dissociative symptoms? I have repressed so much of my life - moments I have been stressed, movie endings that have upset me, confrontational conversations... I just dissociate and somehow come out the other end alive.

It's still something I am considering - whether to accept this diagnosis or not. And in all honesty, this is the main reason I don't want to accept the diagnosis:
"Pejorative terms to describe persons with BPD such as “difficult,” “treatment resistant,” “manipulative,” “demanding” and “attention seeking" are often used."
Imagine a trained professional basically saying to you, "you are mentally ill. How do I know? Because you are difficult, manipulative, demanding and attention-seeking." It hurts. I'll tell you that. Luckily, the few people I have told this to have laughed. They say that if they were to describe me, they would never ever use any of those words. Except "attention-seeking". But they would use it in the "I like to be the centre of attention by being bright, bubbly and entertaining - not by faking drama or making stuff up to get attention. They understand that I am still 'me'. And if 'me' has BPD, so be it. They still love me for who I am, mental illnesses and all.

You may think I am being too open and revealing by writing this blog post. But I am me. If I wrote about the complications of pregnancy, that would be fine. If I wrote about having diabetes, that would be fine. If I wrote about actually being diagnosed with cancer, that would be fine. Obviously they would all be sad, but  in revealing my tragic medical history, I wouldn't be revealing too much. Well I have a mental illness. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have thanatophobia / existential anxiety. I may have Borderline Personality Disorder. And if I do, that kind of sucks... but I refuse to be ashamed of it. Like the ad says, "I can treat my mental illness. I can't help how you treat me."

Miss SAMawdsley xx

  • Do you have a mental illness that you have kept hidden? Why?
  • What is your opinion on being open about having a mental illness?
  • Have you pledged to support a change in attitudes to mental illness? PLEDGE NOW