Feeling ‘normal’

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This is actually cheating, as it is a picture of me fresh off a flight from Athens and about to go and have another date with the Italian! However it’s still a date shot!

During the lead up to my departure I went through 2 weeks where my life seriously could have been written as a TV show drama script and sold to the highest bidder.  Looking back I can’t quite believe what went on over those 2 weeks but I have no interest into going into that side of things on here, however, know that every aspect of my life (bar work), was in complete and utter disarray and for someone who hates drama, it was like I was it’s magnet and no matter what I did it was attracted to me.  Thankfully I had already had my meltdown a few weeks before, so handling this only cost me a day of wallowing while nursing a bad, well….atrocious hangover.

It was during this time I happened to meet someone who wanted to take me on a date (well, lets be honest here…I was like ‘f*%k my life’ after more than a few drinks and I had decided to ‘play’ Tinder…usually not my cup of tea at all).

Previous to the date, I had worried of course….what was I thinking, I couldn’t do that to someone, if he asked how my week was, I am the WORST liar…I would stumble and then I would be like “Well, I had acupuncture, I went to yoga and swimming and counselling and I sorted out my insurance and I had to book accommodation and I had to monitor my cycle and send countless emails about my fertility and menstrual cycle and I also wrote a blog post about what I am going though”. Oh yeah, heart throb of the year, right here.  How could you lie to someone about what you have been up to?  Is it lying?  Is it omitting the truth?

Thank god for my brother, who told me “Look, you have had the most shittiest week, there is absolutely nothing else that could go wrong, so why the hell not go out with this guy.  What’s the worst that could happen? Nothing, because all the worst things have already happened” and he proceeded to laugh his head off, with me along for the ride too.

So I dressed up, washed my hair and went along to a place I hadn’t yet tried but had always wanted to, to meet this guy.  As I was crossing the road, I spotted what I thought was him waiting outside the alleyway to the restaurant.  Quickly looking away I began to cross the busy road and as I looked up again I saw him walking the other way down the street away from the restaurant.  ‘Oh god!  Justin – you were wrong….there are worse things that could happen!  He has seen me and ‘done the bolt’.  Jeez….my life!

No!…I thought, proceed to the restaurant and see what happens, worse comes to worst you order a drink, smash it back, pay and leave….no harm done.

Ahhhh, China, that is not quite the way it works here and upon finding my way into the restaurant they did not understand a word I was saying and I was left standing by the bar looking like an idiot.  So I retreated outside and sat down on a small brick fence surrounding a tree and did what anyone else in my situation would do, I pulled out my secret weapon….my cell phone.  Whoops….another China special – delayed messages and there was one coming through from him 10 minutes previous about already being at the restaurant.  About to send him another message back, I looked up and there he was.  It was the guy who had walked away but he was back!

We went in, had a lot of laughs, some fabulous food, got spoilt rotten with free Prosecco and limoncello (he knew the chef) and he even served things up for me!  What a gentlemen.  Then while I was in the bathroom he even paid!  Definitely not used to that old trick!  I was seriously feeling amazing and totally spoilt rotten.  Add to that the fact that when we parted ways he grabbed my hands in his and told me that I MUST keep in contact and the we would do drinks this coming Saturday at a nearby rooftop bar.  Talk about stunned – wow!

I don’t remember the last time I felt ‘normal’.  I could be myself without this cloud hanging over me, this person had no idea what I was going through, I could relax and forget all about what I was having to organise, sort out and deal with on a daily basis and just have fun.  It was glorious.  I don’t think anyone will really understand just how glorious. No pitying faces, no overcompensations, no chat about ‘it’, nada.  I could just be me.

It remains to be seen whether we will end up friends or anything more but just to have that one glorious night of normalcy meant more to me than I can explain.

Thank god for dates with Italians.

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Preparing for Athens

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This is what I hoped to achieve in the time between my negative result and round 2 (as well as something to live by!). It was the small things like jumping on a trampoline when I really felt down, or going for a walk that really helped too.

So as you can obviously guess from the title of this post and maybe from previous posts – I bit the bullet and booked my trip back to Athens.  Luckily it worked out that my cycle would coincide with my October break, so I would only need to take 1 week off work – a god send to my finances and also to every other aspect of my life.

Coming back after the summer was hard, as I was trying to deal with the failure of my first round, the drastic emotional side effects (in particular my ability to no matter how hard I try, not deal with things until they come crashing down around me), and also coming back to questions from people, wondering looks and a full on full time job.

Before I had left for the summer a friend had asked me a really good question ‘Have you thought about what you will do if it fails, how you will cope?’.  It was a question that I needed to think about and did so in depth.  I knew that counselling would be incredibly beneficial as well as the acupuncture, so this is where I had started.  As well as the health and physical side of things I had realised that it was the social side I also needed to deal with in order to help me to prepare for the second time around.

Last year I had started up F.A.T night (Food Appreciation Time – stolen from an Aussie TV drama!), a group of people who love to cook and meet up and essentially have a competition to see who has the best dish – yes, there is even a trophy involved (which I made).  I had put off hosting it, as my place is a lot smaller than most people in the group and I hadn’t gotten round to finishing off things in my house – all the excuses in the world, mixed with a small amount of anxiety.  So, I bit the bullet and organised the first one – ‘Tapas and Finger food’ complete with welcome Sangrias – perfect for a city apartment. It was a blast and I even won the trophy – hot cheese goodness always wins!

Before a friend of mine had moved to Shanghai, she introduced me to some teachers from another school who had Wednesday night dinners – to break up the week and to try new places.  This is something that is right up my alley and I was so pleased to be invited along to a few of these and really enjoyed meeting new people, catching up with friends, trying new places and venturing out.  It really worked wonders for me and I am so thankful for those people and those dinners.

I used to love throwing parties and for years have been meaning to do so again.  So again, rather anxiously,  I bit the bullet and scheduled a dress up party ‘Through the decades – come dressed as something or someone who has got to do with the era you were born’ (this left it wide open!).  I made the date for the week before I left, knowing it could be the last time I would be heavily drinking for awhile and that I would need a major distraction and good laughs and good times before I left.  I also wanted to find a way to really thank the people that had been there for me from when I had got back until I left, constantly being supports in so many different ways.  I hope that they felt thanked.  I danced the night away, singing at the top of my lungs, having the time of my life!  The police even showed up – twice!  Mission accomplished I reckon!

Some parts of leading up to my departure were more practical, like having to ask for time off.  I am so thankful for where I am, both in geographical location and job wise, as I was extremely supported by my boss and the senior management team and was never made to feel guilty or bad for having to take the time off.  They understood that it is a necessity and has a time restraint and were thankful that I had always kept them in the loop from day one, all those months ago.  As someone who hates to let people down and always feels guilty for even taking sick days, I can never thank them enough for the way they have handled my situation.

Even telling my team at work was really not something that I was looking forward to.  Again, it came down to feeling guilty and feeling like I was letting them down (ridiculous I know!), by having to take the time off plus some knew why and some didn’t and some to this day haven’t even asked why I was away or if I am okay.  I guess everyone is different.  Being away for medical leave is weird thing and I know I have opened myself up to things because I write this blog however there are some people I am happy that they know about my situation and some that I really don’t want to know because they aren’t my friends (and logistically they aren’t my FB friends either).  So even though I am very open about my situation, I went with the party line ‘I will be on leave at this time and blah will be taking over and this is who will cover and blah, blah blah.  Practical, practical, practical.

I won’t even mention the writing of screeds of sub teacher plans I had to prepare – you forget how skilled you get at teaching a 40 or 80 minute lesson from one sentence you have written down in your planner when you have to write the same sentence into a a half a page explanation for someone coming into your classroom….and I had to do that for a week!

With all this going on I had done a lot of reflecting about my first round and how I felt going through it.  I truly believe that with the circumstances surrounding it (first time, being alone, right in the middle of the summer holidays, emotional roller coaster, not knowing the city etc), I did the best I could and coped relatively well and don’t think I could have done it any better – plus there is no sense in regretting things – that, in no way helps.  In saying that, I knew that this time around I needed to make sure I was in a positive and healthy headspace.  I had done all the above mentioned things to ensure that that happened but how could I tackle that while I was there, all alone, going through something that in truth isn’t such a little thing or a lot of fun?  Create a squad that’s what!

#Squadgoals – Taylor Swift eat your heart out!  In summer I had not wanted to burden others with what I was going through partly because I was trying to get my head around it myself and couldn’t explain how or what I was feeling, and partly because they were on holiday and trying to enjoy themselves and they didn’t want to hear from me about bruises and needles and operations and shitty eggs and then big fat negatives.  I didn’t want to be the buzz kill.  I have since had a big learning curve and learned from and through all their support since coming back that they do want to be there, they do want to listen and that they are my friends, here to support me through anything.  It was my issues all along that were hindering me.  So I did something about it.  For my Beijing friends I started a WeChat group entitled ‘Updates from Athens’ and for my friends around the world I started a WhatsApp group with the same name.  It was only a small group of people in each but people who expressed an interest in wanting to support me or be there for me and people who I knew would be incredibly supportive and positive and real – handling all the bad stuff as well as the good.  True friends.  No matter what I say or do they will never truly understand how powerful it was to have them there as I updated them after each step – without any exaggeration I could not have gotten through this second round with out them.  I will never forget that.

Soon, the time came, my cycle started and the all the effort, organisation, time and money had been put in and miracle of all miracles it had worked – I was in an incredibly amazing headspace.  I had prepared myself as much as possible, I had my plan of action, my squad in place and I was starting the preliminary pills that lead up to flying to Athens.

Here we go again…

Dr Pain

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Finally over my breakdown and wanting to move forward (and away from my first acupuncture experience), and toward something a lot more affordable, I went with another friends recommendation Dr Lan.

Speaking to someone who knew English on the phone was good but then turning up at a hotel address did cast some doubt, however I pushed through the weird and found Dr Lan’s office.

After being told explicitly on the phone the costs (Y600 for a consultation and Y350 for each session after that), and then seeing it posted very clearly on the reception desk I relaxed knowing there would be no surprises.  They had even told me they would give me a fa piao (an official receipt), for insurance purposes after several visits.

After a very short wait, I was taken through to another room and that was essentially divided up by cloudy glass into partitions where I could see the outline of the person next to me who was being treated.  Oh god!  Here we go again!

I was asked to take off my shoes and lie down.  I refused.  What the hell was going on here?  I could hear everything (including the hysterically laughing lady across the partition), and I did not want a repeat of last time.  What the hell was I doing here?

15 minutes later when I was about to walk out, in walked Dr Lan AKA Dr Pain as he later told me (Holy hell!!!).  I then had to proceed to whisper tell him why I was here….I did not think it was very appropriate to share my life story with the rest of the acupuncture patients plus it was really none of their business!  Cries of periods, infertility and single – did not need to ring through those halls or across those partitions.

As with the last acupuncture Dr, I had to show him my tongue, he felt my pulse and told me my channels were blocked, causing my hormones to be unbalanced.  Awesome.  He then told me that it was all caused by the years I had been on ‘The pill’.  Great, thanks for that and you know what….get stuffed!

He then told me I would need to come twice a week (an improvement from the 3 times a week told to me by the last doctor), that they would do some Chinese treatment first and then he would be back to do some acupuncture.  Ok, at least he was upfront and I knew what was about to happen.

And what happened next was absolute heaven.  It was essentially targeted massage and given hard massage….the kind of massage I love.  Don’t get me wrong it was painful at times, apparently my lower back (where for years I have had problems), was the major target along with all up my inner legs and armpits – all connected to the liver, kidney and uterus (at least I knew the previous doctor had been onto something and they were in agreement!).

Dr Lan later told me (while I tried not to fall off the table in fits of laughter), that the lower back was the epicentre for peepee, kaka (poo), and the uterus! Of course it is!

When he returned he proceeded to put not 20, not 10 but 5 needles in, scanning my body with his hands hoovering over me saying things to himself about channels and straight away stopping at points, pushing and finding spots I had no idea were sore and hurting and then processed to stick needle in them, through my clothes.  Such a bizarre experience but it was quite amazing.

He was very honest with me and said that we would see IF this treatment would work for me – again my legs were the problem spot and he told me that that’s where my hormone channels were blocked.

He then told me that they would be in for ‘some minutes’, great I thought….here comes another 50 minute wait…but it wasn’t so. 15 minutes later and my Chinese treatment guy (AKA awesome masseuse), came to take them out and I was off to pay – the amount stated (no hidden costs), and to book 2 more appointment for that week.

A bit miffed by it all but after a few more appointments very pleased and impressed with ‘Dr Pains’ abilities to see as many patients as he does at the same time, while doing due diligence and always finding that right spot without laying a hand on me to find it.

Over the coming weeks I went to at least 2 appointments per week and Dr Pain was very happy with how my body was progressing ‘You have a very smart body’, which apparently meant my body was listen to the treatment and responding and that my channels were slowly opening up.  This meant a lot of discomfort for me because as my body was adjusting to the treatment I ended up pulling lots of muscles (so weird but true), and with stiff muscles but in the long run could feel the difference and it was totally worth it.

Anything to help the cause – even sessions with a man called Dr Pain!