I Fink U Freeky (& I like you a lot)

This is an excerpt from my upcoming memoir. Thank you for taking the time to read. 

Graphic Art, Graphic, Zine, Visual Art, Visual, Color Contrast, Poster Art, Photo Manipulation, Layout, Graphic Layout, Webzine, Art of the Day, レイアウト, グラフイック, Design, アート, 写真, Psychedelic Art, Indie Zine, Webzine, イラスト, 60s art inspired, 60s color inspired, Indie art, Trippy ArtSam’s family had long been dedicated to finding the best possible treatments for her, flying her around the globe to access the most cutting-edge medical experts and treatments available. It worked for a while. Sam was relatively well, in cancer terms, for the first three years since her diagnosis. That’s unheard of in the brain cancer world; the general prognosis being 12 months. Throughout those first three years, even on her worst day, she was still able to shine through in that magnetic way that only she could. I know I make her sound like Mother-fricken-Teresa or something. It wasn’t like she had rainbows shining out of her arse (although it wouldn’t have surprised me in the least). It was just that she was so utterly comfortable with who she was, and made no apologies about that. It was inspiring. She wasn’t one of those irritating people that everyone meets and thinks is “nice”. That would’ve offended her. No, she was much more interesting than nice. She was the first person that made me understand the phrase “bored people are boring people,” simply because she radiated fun and excitement, and chased them both as if it was her purpose in life. She was the silliest person I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. She probably only talked to me in her normal voice about 30% of the time; she was too busy playing with accents and squealing in delight about one thing or another. She had unwavering confidence that somehow never came across as arrogant. I have no idea how she did that. I’ve tried to emulate it in feigned confidence on occasion, and every time I’ve come across conceded or strangely aggressive. Honestly, if someone could bottle that shit, they’d make a fortune! She listened to you, and made your dumbest idea feel important. If it mattered to you, it mattered to her. In fact, the sillier or crazier the idea, the better! She didn’t carry the burden of striving for happiness. She was driven by fun; I’ve learned there is a huge difference. In theory her secret weapon was simple, she made people happy. In practice, that’s a remarkable talent.

Sam had this way of seeing parts of you that you had forgotten were there. She saw me as the person I wanted to become before life got on top of me, burying me with burden. She saw me as fun and full of life, without worrying about all the heaviness that followed me around. She looked through my debilitating insecurities and drew out the lightest parts of me. Like a prism, her light shone so brightly that it brought out colours that had been lost for decades. When I felt like I wasn’t enough, she would look me dead in the eye, completely serious and say, “do you think I would be friends with someone boring?” and that was all it took. If the most interesting person I’ve ever met thinks I’m enough, I must be pretty great. I think about that a lot, that if I don’t at least try to love myself, then I am insulting the choice of those that love me for doing so.

One of my favourite memories of Sam is the day she sent me the music video of ‘I Fink U Freeky (and I like you a lot)’ by Die Antwoord, the South African hip hop duo. If you haven’t seen the clip, it is the freakiest fucking shit you’ve ever seen in your life, and it’s fantastic. She sent this to me because 1. it reminded her of me, and 2. and I quote, “You should make stuff like this!”. This was the most ridiculous comparison anyone has ever made for or about my music (which at that time was largely acoustic-pop), and yet I have never felt so seen. Watch the clip if you want to see the twisted depths of my mind, and Sam’s totally fucked up and completely accurate image of me!

CASIE STEWART : this is my life

It wasn’t until her fourth-year post diagnosis, after five brain surgeries too many, an impossible amount of lost hope, and severe pain that it became harder to have these quintessential Sam moments. The first time I noticed it I had turned up to her place, ready for our weekly TV binge and bitch sesh. I knocked on the door and waited for the signature shriek of “Coming Schmooooomyyyy!!!!!” as she bound toward the door like an over-excited puppy to greet me, but instead I heard a sleepy, “come in Schmoo” (I don’t think she called me by my real name once throughout our entire friendship). I figured she was having a bad day, not uncommon for someone in her situation. But in actual fact, it was the beginning of watching my favourite person in the world start to die, right in front of my eyes.

The idle teen who choked on soap. : Photo

I remember seeing those commercials on TV as a kid that talked about how “One in three people you meet will get cancer at some stage in their lives.” this big, scary, male voice decreed into living rooms across Australia. Those figures have since grown of course. I felt guilty, because I wasn’t scared and I didn’t really care. Mostly because I didn’t understand what cancer was or what I was supposed to do about it as an 11-year-old whose biggest concern was how I was going to ‘meet-cute’ Nick Carter. I knew it was a bad thing that grew in your body, and if you got it you died, but I didn’t know what that looked like. Movies would have us believe that once you get cancer you have a bit of a cough and a funny tummy, lose all your hair but pull it off with Amber Rose unyielding beauty, then suddenly you’re hospitalised, before finally dying peacefully surrounded by loved ones. It looks simple, sad and tragic, but simple. It’s not like that. Not at all.

utomaru's illustration tumblr : PhotoWhat you don’t see is the elation of hope when results return a positive result, followed by the subsequent devastation when they take a turn a month later. You don’t see that process played out over and over again until all hope is lost, a little scraped away after each new heartbreak. You don’t see the many times the cancer patient may be in and out of hospital fighting for their lives, and the numerous times family and friends collectively prepare themselves for the worst. The amount of times you grieve prior to losing your loved one is shamefully exhausting. You’re forever on borrowed time. It’s as though you’re supposed to be grateful if you’re told the prognosis is three-months and they survive, clutching at life, for four. The gratitude fades, and fear grows daily like a ticking time bomb. Every day, terrified. You find yourself waiting for something to happen. Something to relieve you of the fear, one way or another. You become disgusted in yourself and heavy with guilt for needing relief at all.

What you don’t see is the process of the body slowly begin to shut down, first in subtle ways that are easy to miss if you’re not looking closely. They become weak, tired, and their once ravenous appetite is now bird-like and scarce, but we brush it off as side-effects from the medication. Maybe that means it working. After all, we also need protecting. Overtime, plans start to change more frequently, until you wait until the last moment to leave your house, just in case they are postponed yet again. We adapt. We all do our best to keep things as ordinary as possible. We start to adjust to our new normal on a weekly, then daily basis. Until one day you see your friend, and they struggle to understand simple concepts, their breathing is laboured, and their appearance now very different from the cancer patients you were shown on film. You catch yourself struggling to recognise your friend in the face staring back at you. In time, they will no longer be able to walk, and again we will adapt, but by now it’s harder to pretend that everything will be okay and that things may still improve. Then finally we get to the part in the movie where you are talking to your best friend in a hospital bed, telling her how much you love her and she’s replying “I love you too Schmoomy”, and you’re trying desperately to hold onto the sound of the words exactly as she’s said them because you are scared of what the next adaptation will be.

Rainbow

Sam died interstate, four-years after she was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma. Her entire family, myself, several of her closest friends and their partners were all there in the final weeks to support her. On the 8th of November 2015 I sat by her bedside, gently clasping her swollen hand. It was my 27th birthday. I wore a necklace of a dreamcatcher that I knew she would like and displayed it to her eagerly. She reached for it with one weak arm, then pointed to a card on the flimsy hospital shelf, which was covered in the vibrant, colourful flowers from all the people whose lives she had touched. The flowers were so plentiful they spilled over onto the floor. I took the card and opened it to see it was for me. A birthday card. She was going to die, there was no longer any doubt about that, and she had the forethought to give me a beautiful, heartfelt birthday card. No doubt she had one ready for the following day, when it would be her brother’s birthday as well. Who thinks of that? No one, that’s who, but Sam did.

The final time I got to tell her how much I loved her is simultaneously the most heart-wrenching and incredibly poignant moment of my life. I remember talking to her, telling her how beautiful she is, and giving her a gentle kiss on the forehead. I remember the freckles lining her nose and the weight of her plump cheeks in my hands. She could no longer speak, and the muscles in her face and eyes were too tired to function. Her eyes welled up as I spoke and I noticed the tiniest amount of tension visible between her brow. “It’s okay Schmoomy, I know you love me too.” I assured her. Her brow softened and she closed her eyes. My heart fucking broke.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow Wall Art | PRINTABLE | Pastel Art | Nursery Rainbow Art | Rainbow PrintabWe lost Sam on the 12th of November when she was just 31, the age I am now. I didn’t realise how young it would feel. I was down the hall when I got the news. All I remember is this guttural scream bursting free of my chest, as another group of hospital visitors looked on. I tried to stand up, to run to her bedside, but my legs buckled beneath me. I fell to my knees as Dave weakly patted my shoulder. There there. Sam’s beautiful friend flew down the corridor and scooped me up from the hospital floor. I buried my face in her cushion-like chest and sobbed. She held me, rocking my shocked, limp body like a baby as Dave shuffled awkwardly in his seat. In that moment, I hated him.

 

 

 

Auburn

Auburn is my mother,

Maple leaves a mark from home. 

I snuggle in her gentle arms

As she whispers, “You are strong”. 

 

Auburn is an oak tree,

Sturdy and robust. 

Beneath I write some cheesy song,

About the object of my lust. 

 

Auburn colours romance,

But not a one brand new. 

It’s comforting and worn,

Like your favourite pair of shoes. 

 

Auburn was my father,

Rising with the sun for work. 

His briefcase packed with boring things,

 Now I wish I’d cared to look. 

 

Auburn were her lips when she cackled wild and free.

Auburn burnt the paper as she singed a joint for me.

 

Auburn were her eyes,

Right before I closed them. 

I’d imagined they’d be milky,

Like a fish I’d just unfrozen.

A crude thought I know…

But how was I to have known? 

She’d be as lovely as the day we met,

Hospital bed, her throne. 

 

I sit here blonde and ashy.

She liked me auburn haired. 

Fiery”, she told me,

Like she knew me,

Like she cared. 

 

Auburn was my heart, As it broke not it two but three.

And auburn were my fingers, 

Next to hers blue… 

Leaving me. 

 

You are my home

Life on the Borderline: living with BPD

The other day my favourite human sent me, what was for him, a really simple, throw-away text message. We were texting back and forth for hours, as we do, while simultaneously bingeing on some trashy Bravo T.V. goodness (#lifegoals). Lisa Rinna -I made a comment about the most recent idiotic/impulsive decision I had made and after thorough personal analysis (hours of obsessive torment), I concluded it was probably driven by the total lack of emotional regulation that comes from my, oh! so convincing and always ‘interesting’; borderline personality disorder (BPD). If only blaming all my troubles on mental illness stood up in a court of law… ho hum! It is unfortunate, but the only mental illness I am still worried about being stigmatised for is BPD. So naturally, I must write about it. I have been told that many doctors refuse to treat it as they see it as a hopeless case. I’ve been marked as an ‘un-dateable’, being told “I can deal with the bipolar but NOT BPD!”.  And honestly… I get it. The perception of the condition is that of a selfish, manipulative, highly sensitive, suffocatingly needy, soul-sucking-dementor and quite frankly, that image isn’t entirely wrong (except in my case I tend to feed on the human heart, as opposed to souls. Just a personal preference). It doesn’t matter how I dress up or rationalise my volatile outbursts or ‘irrational’ behaviours (but by golly I’ll try!); like how they stem from issues of abandonment rooted in childhood, or how I can justify the fact that my ‘positive’ emotions are just as strong as the ones that make me act out. Meaning my capacity for love is so great that Romeo and Juliette would pale by comparison! It’s irrelevant, because at the end of the day, I am erratic and unpredictable and that makes people uncomfortable. To 8F4F915C-A13E-4920-94C9-87C80080BB78quote Rhianna, I can go from “zero to sixty in 3.5” and it freaks people the fuck out! I prefer to think of myself as an acquired taste, like foie gras or that fish that will poison you to death if you eat the wrong piece…but mostly it just means I am seen as rather off-putting, dangerous and unnecessarily over-the-top. So, when my bestie casually text me saying “Your BPD is my favourite thing about you.”, the kid got me shook! I don’t think I had ever felt so completely accepted by anyone in my entire life. Okay, I’ll level with you, there’s no denying he is a total fucking weirdo himself, but hey, all the best people are…

You're My Favourite Mistake (Blue) Limited Edition Print, Rebecca Maso – CultureLabel

I’m an open book. If you’ve read any of my blogs you know that I ain’t holding back, but when it comes to my relationships with people, I won’t lie, it’s difficult. I’m difficult. I have many acquaintances and very few close friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a riot for a night out! Take me to a party and I will own that shit! Jokes are on fire, I’m looking tight, charm-factor is turnt up, I know how to use words like turnt and lit. For a night of debauchery and fun, I’m your girl! But, as the trail of ex-boyfriends I’ve left behind will attest to, I’m hard work long-term. “Exhausting” is a word I’ve heard a lot. In fact, this isn’t easy to write, as the majority of my brain glitches stem from my intense fear of abandonment. There is the rational fear that reading this could potentially push the few people I hold dear away and prevent me from becoming closer to others. But as someone who knows what it feels like to carry the burden of BPD, I think it’s important to be assured that we are not alone and we are loveable. There are other weirdos out there just like you, who will understand you and see your ‘flaws’ as your greatest superpowers! On a completely unrelated note: PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME! I LOVE YOU! I’LL LOVE YOU TO DEATH!

Love me | neon

If you’re unfamiliar with BPD, a quick google search is sure to scare your thong right off (if I haven’t done that already). But unless you are a truly extreme case, it tends to blend so fluidly into our personalities that we are often simply seen as sorta kooky, dramatic and highly sensitive. The creative type, if you will. As the child of a very charismatic drama teacher and an aspiring thespian in my own right, this worked in my favour a lot of the time. maconmesmileIn primary school my music teacher labelled me “the girl of a thousand faces!”, because I was a different person everyday. Nowadays, I’m pretty sure there is medication for that… However, as much as I could hide my constant need for validation and acceptance as a desire for the performing arts and stage, I couldn’t hide the fact I was still a little odd-ball. Being a sensitive child who showed vulnerability and reacted to said bullying, oh man, I was Christmas, New Years and Hanukah all in one convenient package for a kid with a chip on his or her shoulder! It was like I wore a florescent sign on my head that constantly flashed “if poked, will cry!” and boy did they poke this bear.

tumblr_o90z9mktMJ1ufau6yo4_1280.png (1280×1040)

As a kid I was told I was too sensitive, a “drama queen”, or an attention-seeker on a daily basis, both by other children and teachers. I incessantly heard that others felt they were “walking on eggshells around me”. That’s always been a comment that has bothered me. As a kid with limited processing resources (shit, as an adult with limited resources!), all I heard was “your reaction to this event is over-the-top and therefore wrong”. This is a really scary feeling as a child because all we have to process the world is what we are taught and what we feel. But, no one is really taught feelings (or if they are, I missed that class). So there I was, already upset about said ‘event’ (lets say someone threw an orange rind at my head and I felt picked on), but then I start to cry or yell at the perpetrator and I’m told to “get over it” because it’s just an orange rind and I’m “overreacting”. But wait, now I’m confused because to me this reaction feels totally justified!? So now I am doubly upset because not only was I upset about feeling targeted but I’ve just been told that my feelings are wrong. Only now I can’t let it show that I’m upset or stand up for myself, because I’ve just learned that those feelings are invalid. So I end up suppressing my humiliation and confusion until it is no longer possible and it blows up in the next persons face who does or says something slightly off colour to me, causing the cycle to continue. She was not fragile like a flower; she was fragile like a bomb.As a child it is frustrating. As an adult it feels like gas-lighting. But as a bonifide mental person it causes either and implosion or explosion of emotions as I attempt to figure out how to react. What is a “normal” response to this? What is justified? Will I end up gas-lighting myself and allow myself to be walked over for fear of a disproportionate reaction? Oops, decisions times up, BLAM!!! This process essentially repeated itself for the next 20 years to varying degrees of intensity, until I became the all-too cliché substance-abusing, in-and-out of psych wards, unemployed, pushing-30 and perpetually-single (but still highly attractive in that Angelina-Jolie-in-Girl-Interrupted-type-way), gal you see before you! C’mon fellas! Put a baby in me!

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Basically, this very basic example taught me that I ‘lifed’ wrong. That I was wrong. It meant that for the rest of my life I would never feel like I “fit in” which would flip/flop me between feelings of grandeur, like I was the fucking Queen of England…but like, a young, hot version! Or, I would feel like a worthless, hopeless, useless piece of hideous, gutter trash. I was never just, simply fine. To this day I still struggle with this. It has gotten better, but it will always be work because I will always be work. There will never be a time I am not in some form of therapy and working on myself. If that day comes I better be Ghandi-meditating-in-a-cave-in-the-Himalayas-level tranquil because the only other option would be that I would have given up and the reality of that is far to real for many people living with BPD (and other mental illness).

Wallpaper PSYCHO | Galaxy Gran PrimeI recently learned that 70% of people with BPD will attempt suicide at least once in their lifetime and 10% will be successful. What the actual fuck?! I know cancer patients that have better odds than that! The stats for bipolar are similar and if you have more than one mental illness the percentage significantly jumps up again. I believe suicide is such an issue, not only because the condition itself can make average, daily encounters unbearable but also due to misdiagnosis. Most people are diagnosed in their 20’s, meaning they have had at least two decades of deeply rooting in poor coping mechanisms and habits before they can even attempt to heal, which itself is a slow and arduous (some will argue impossible) task. Doctors and Psycho’s alike have usually labelled us with a number of other disorders throughout our youth, like anxiety to explain our intense neediness, depression to understand our insatiable loneliness, and/or bipolar to make sense of our rapidly fluctuating and unregulated mood swings. No wonder all my ex’s individually came up with the descriptor “rollercoaster” for me! And there I thought it was because I was such a fun ride! *wink* Heyyyowwww!

im lost please dont find me

Personally, I have experienced suicidal ideation for months and years at a time. If you haven’t, I am unbelievably relieved for you and if you have, from the bottom of my heart I’m sorry and I am here for you (I mean that, hit me up if you feel alone). It is nothing short of torture. I recently saw one of my doctors and she was so pleased to see how well I was doing because less than 2-months ago I was done. Out! I was about to call the loony bin to check me right back in and give me a vegetive-state-enducing lobotomy! I have worked really hard on myself in that time but even I am surprised by the progress this time around. Today, I can honestly say I feel better than I have in years, both mentally and in regards to the chronic pain and fatigue conditions I live with (which have a cyclic effect on my mental health too). However, I know how quickly things can change. I know how quickly I can be triggered into a reaction that could take me right back to square one.
pinterest: @astheticprints✌︎☾I’m not going to tackle the debate about whether or not suicide is selfish or justified. Not today anyway. I have very alternative views on suicide (and selfishness too actually) and I think I’ve opened enough room for debate in this blog already! Nevertheless, I will say this. Two years ago my mum came into my room after hearing me whaling in agony. These screams were guttural, coming from the deepest pit of my stomach. I have never felt so much pain in my life. The 9-hour, full spinal resection I endured a few years earlier would have been a relief. No word of a lie. This whaling was not a once off. This was every. single. day. for an entire year and I had well and truly surpassed my breaking point. The thread I had been holding on by was long gone. I had lost (to death or perceived abandonment) so many people in such a short amount of time and I was completely and utterly heartbroken. Maybe it’s because of my wavering mental health that I felt it so intensely, I’ll never know, but I have been through cancer, the spinal surgery, addiction recovery/relapse, anorexia, rape, chronic pain and so much mental health bullshit I should have my very own Dr. Phil on speed dial; but heartbreak is the most excruciatingly painful experience I have ever been through.

 ✨ "yσυ dσи'т нαvє тσ รαy 'i lσvє yσυ' тσ รαy i lσvє yσυ." ✨Mum sat quietly at the end of my bed as I looked up at her from behind red, puffy eyes, exhausted from tears, and I begged her to let me die. I was calm now. I explained it all; how it would benefit the family and free me, how I was in such excruciating pain. How I could physically feel my heart tearing apart and my stomach sickly squirming and clenching without a second of respite. How deeply angry I was and how I felt it was cruel to keep me alive when I was in such all consuming agony. Honestly, if I had been a cancer patient I would have been on life support. I was terminal. I can’t imagine what it felt like as a mother to watch the child you brought into the world suffer in that way and be ungrateful for ‘the gift of life’.
Let it be known that my mum is one strong-ass Queen to be mother flipping reckoned with!

First Dance.In her desperation she said the one thing that she knew would work when nothing else would, when not even a mothers’ love was enough, you will destroy your brother.”. What was left of my heart dropped to the floor because I knew she was right. We’d just lost our dad. My brother and I had been best friends our entire lives.
One would not survive without the other. As much as she wanted to, mum wasn’t able to fix my pain but she provided, what mums do best, a little guilt trip (omg JK! Not the time? :/ ), that lasted just long enough to keep me alive and those few words have helped me many times since. I won’t lie, I still fall into extreme depression at times but the decision is made now and there is no going back. I will never commit suicide. As bad as I may get, I will drag myself kicking and screaming to therapists and psycho’s, psych-wards and hospitals. I will allow myself to stay in bed for days and weeks at a time and exist solely on cereal and peanut butter if that is the only way I can work on my number one priority, survival. I will do whatever it takes to continue to find the tiniest little spark of hope inside that has helped me remember myself in the past and launch it into a blazing fire, because I have no other choice. I only have my mum and my bro left and let’s face it, they would be completely lost without me (or at least really fucking bored!)! I may be a nutcase, but I’m sure as hell fun! 

You're interesting

 

*Loss – Referring to loss through both death and relationship breakdowns. To a person with BPD both are perceived as abandonment.

Suicidality in Borderline Personality Disorder – This is a really simple and clear article I found about suicide ideation in BPD for anyone who wants to learn more.

Suicide Helpline – Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14

The Cancer Chronicles: Part 2

NOTE: For this to make sense please first read The Cancer Chronicles: Part 1 here.

the print on my bedroom door (by silvia pelissera - agnes-cecile)
Of all the differences my father and I had, we shared two important things in common; we were both undiagnosed bipolar for most of our lives, and our destructive/obsessive tendencies were idealised as passion and determination. This meant that as an intensely and often irrationally anxious child my fear of failure was fostered and admired, eventually letting it overrule and guide my every move. Sure, this had some positive influence in my life; while all the other high school kids were smoking cigarettes behind the soccer oval, I refused to take a puff for fear of damaging my oh-so-precious voice that was certain to make me millions one day! Mean Girls.By the age of twelve I had already decided I was going to be a superstar, just like Charlotte Church or Britney Spears (clearly prior to their subsequent meltdowns which, ironically, ended up likening much more to my life story after all…). I couldn’t see the value in risking what I believed was my destiny for something as trivial as looking cool. Besides, I would have plenty of time for that when I was selling out arenas world-wide! Of course, as the slightly overweight, boofy-haired, choir dork that I was, I never had to worry too much about my coolness factor getting out of control. On the other hand however, that obsessive drive that constantly simmered inside me, provided me with the “strength” (crippling anxiety) that led to a fierce battle with anorexia. Tell me one more time how it’s a shame because I have such a “pretty face” and I’ll show you another meal I replaced with a Berocca or sugar-free gum (damn, adults can be c*nts)! All this to say that I had a goal (fame, fortune and admiration… obvs) and I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve that. Even proudly starve myself to the bone.

I was well aware of my addictive tendencies growing up. I’d make silent pacts with myself not to get tattoos, or smoke, and plastic surgery was out for fear of winding up looking like a Real Housewife before they really figured out the secret to good lip filler (no disrespect Lisa Rina, you know I love you)! I remember trying speed for the first time and thinking “Holy fucking, fuck-tits batman!”, (or something to that avail). I loved it so much that I instantly vowed never to touch that beautiful nose candy ever again. I knew there were only so many times I would be able to say no before I would never say no again. Suffice to say, I had a thorough life plan mapped out and being a cancer-ridden junkie was not part of it. Jokes on me I guess…

미르자 @mirzhnaniaaaI was practical with my diagnosis. I never asked “why me?”. I had no time for a pity party. I just wanted to move forward so I could claim my life back and get back on track with the immaculately detailed ‘life plan’ I’d been working on since I was 5. As I saw it, I had already wasted enough time from pain to diagnosis. Now I had to spend another 18-months on the drug trial before I could even think about having the surgery and finally begin the lengthy recovery process. When was I supposed to achieve world domination? A girls got shit to do, damnit! I wasn’t allowed to work anymore as it was too risky for my health, but all I could hear in my head was the incessant tick-tick-tick of time passing me by. I’d gone from working 4 jobs like an ADD kid off his Ritalin, to watching reality T.V. for 9-hours a day. I was loosing the fucking plot.

I desperately tried to tell myself that this was some kind of test to help me slow down and learn to smell those bloody roses enlightened people are always on about. But, in my mind I had been late for “success” since my sixteenth birthday so every second that wasn’t utilised felt like a failure. @allisonnickel2Why sixteen you may well ask? Sixteen is nothing more than an arbitrary number I plucked out of my arse as a kid, when I obnoxiously declared to my father that that would be the age I would achieve the afore mentioned superstardom and/or world domination (either was fine, I wasn’t picky). I stored his bemused smirk in the ‘I’ll-show-you’ compartment of my brain and let it fuel the fire in my pre-teen gut. Because that’s what I needed, more reason to kick my own arse! So at 21, already 5 years late to my utterly delusional and completely imagined concept of success, I was essentially in a constant spiral of rage-jealousy and/or depressive-failure. Here’s a tip kids; have low expectations. Seriously. Can we please stop teaching children that if they work hard they can achieve anything, like we’re fucking accolade cheerleaders? It encourages perfectionist behaviour, cultivates a fear of failure, builds pressure/anxiety and it’s simply not true. In my humblest of opinion…

Vertebrae bones A3 poster anatomical art Human anatomy by PRRINTAlthough a habit I still struggle with today; those reality T.V. marathons did teach me something. When I wasn’t watching Heidi and Spencer (Speidi; for the die hards) on The Hills, I was addicted to Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew (I believe they call that irony…). To this day, still one of the greatest shows of its time; not to be outdone by Sex Rehab with Doctor Drew or the classic spin off, Sober House. Ahh, they were simpler times! What I learned by watching Grease’s Kenickie go through his tragic and ultimately fatal battle with opiate addiction on Celebrity Rehab, is such; spinal surgery is dangerous and excruciating, pain killers are addictive and sexy pilates instructors can make you feel better momentarily, but ultimately you will die a slow and agonising death. Shit. With this in mind I went to my next appointment at the cancer clinic armed with questions.

미르자 @mirzhnaniaaaI sat in a sterile room with my father and the head of my clinical trial, who essentially was my dad, 20 years and 30kgs ago. These two autistic nerds talked excitedly to one another about the wonders of modern medicine while I sat there, doing my best imitation of a slightly animated test tube with stuck-on googly eyes. I was worried. I thought back to that first line of speed and simultaneously felt a pang of fear and excitement, which rang danger alarms in my head. I was young but there are parts of me I knew better then than I do today, or at least used to listen to. I just knew if anyone was going to get hooked on pain pills it would be me. I didn’t have time to waste getting wasted! What about my goals? My plans! What’s that saying? ‘We make plans and God laughs’. Years on and “God” is still pissing herself laughing like a mum of triplets in a Zumba class at me! Bitch.

VALLEY OF THE DOLLS PILL POPPING NAILS BEAUTY SHOOT | Jamie Nelson Beauty & Fashion Photographer | September 4, 2015  ❤༻ಌOphelia Ryan ಌ༺❤When the nerd-lingers (or the super-important-men-who-were-actually-saving-my-life) finally remembered there was an actual living, breathing patient in the room, I had the opportunity to ask how most people fair coming off the post-operative drugs, namely the opiates (oxy’s). I was swiftly assured that as I start to heal and feel better I will simply not need them anymore and will naturally wean off. Simple. Natural. Easy… I internally groaned and externally rolled my eyes, knowing that wouldn’t be me and instead I was much more likely to be another fucking Kenickie; wheelchair bound and screaming at nurses in a rehab facility by 50 (flash forward 6 years; turns out I’m way more efficient than Keni and would be found doing this by age 27, never to be outdone). I couldn’t bring myself to push the subject in front of my dad, who innocently suspected I was a majestic earth-bound angel, who radiated purity and bliss. And although he wasn’t too far off, I wasn’t about to shatter his illusion, so I shut my mouth and never mentioned it again.
 By this stage I was starting to get angry at the world. My friends were all at the stage of their lives where they were graduating from their degrees and entering the work-force for their first real adult jobs. Their biggest concerns being where to have Saturday night drinks and if their new colleagues would like them. And then there was me; unable to work, isolated, bored to literal insanity, suffering intense pain and pumped with experimental chemo and pre-surgical pain killers. Not to mention the typical angst an early 20-something feels anyway as they try to spread their wings for the first time to leave the nest, only in my case, them wings done broke! This is where Schmoo and I really leaned on each other. We were two young, fierce and fabulous gals about town who, at this stage, still looked “normal” AKA healthy. We could still function relatively independently and our main disability was everyone else’s inability to understand what we were going through!

Schmoo was always a vison. Just to sit down at our local soup joint she was always dressed like an off-duty supermodel in understated designer clothes, immaculate jewellery and smelling like something I definitely couldn’t afford. I’d sit there in my no-name, see-through leggings that I’d been wearing since I was 14 and she’d just laugh with that whole-body cackle that was signature Schmoo, as she called me a pauper and paid for my coffee. Occasionally she’d let me pay, just to make me feel like the baller I certainly wasn’t. It was appreciated.

 

Every week we would get together and bitch about how our families couldn’t possibly understand us and our friends were so lucky they didn’t have cancer, and basically just vent about the shit-storm that was our lives! love, grunge and sad image on We Heart ItAnd in doing this, we laughed, a lot. These conversations were some of the most cathartic and hilarious of my life. Of course nobody could relate to us! Who the fuck gets cancer in their early twenties and ends up making besties with another cancer-kid?! Nobody, that’s who! We knew that, but we were each others’ outlet. A safe place to release our pain, frustration and vent about everyone and everything that pissed us off. Our socially inept doctors, our mountains of medication that made us rattle when we walked, our isolation and loneliness, our stupid boyfriends who were trying so hard and yet failing so spectacularly, our friends and their “trivial” problems which, in reality, were completely justified but let’s face it, cancer’s hard to beat! Together we would laugh about all the mother-fuckery that had become these lives that we no longer recognised, and in that we found some relief. I can’t imagine going through this experience without my Schmoo. We were two extremely unfortunate kids who found some hope in each other and in that, we were lucky.

you literally make me a mess and i hate it... i lied it's the best thing that's ever happened to me❤️

There used to be this homeless man who would occasionally walk past our soup bar and stop for a chat. Nice guy, if a little kooky. One day he sat down with Schmoo and I and started telling our fortune. He told me I hadn’t yet met the man of my dreams and that Schmoo would live into her 90’s. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case but I believe it gave her enough hope to keep “fighting” a little longer. He spouted a lot of insane shit for about an hour and although we suspected it was 99.9% bullshit we tipped him generously for his entertainment and kind distraction. I hate that word fighting. Like all it takes to beat cancer is brute strength! I’m telling you, if that’s all it took Schmoo would’ve had me beat 100 times over. Nobody fought as hard as she did. Nobody loved life as much as she did! She was just hungry for every experience she could sink her teeth into. I admired that in her so much and I desperately craved that in myself. The girl had 5 brain surgeries over 4 years, spent a year as her own nurse attached to an IV bag that constantly dripped chemo into her veins, had her skull literally fucking cave in on her and was still able to meet and marry the love of her life. That’s right, while she was travelling the world for all the most cutting edge medical treatments available (oh, did I not mention that? Yeah…that too), she was also planning her spectacular dream wedding at the same time! She. Was. Unstoppable. I on the other hand spent most of that time in the foetal position, moaning and discovering how to shovel oxy up my nose. Each to their own I guess!

Survivors guilt is a real thing. I generally find existence extremely difficult. I’ve got a brain with a few faulty wires that prevents me from regulating my emotions, so I’m basically a constantly swinging pendulum, my body is the Queen of the malfunction and I live in a fairly perpetual state of existential crisis. Yeah, I’m a blast! I can’t tell you how may times I looked at my Schmoo and wished we could trade places. Give me the terminal brain tumour and let her live the fabulous, travel, adventurous, wildly sexy, exotic foodie, life that she would have lapped up! But it wasn’t the case. I don’t know if I believe in meant-to-be’s and what not but I do know that if Schmoo was in my position, if she had been the one to survive, that she wouldn’t waste her second chance pissing around like a depressive little twat. What she would do is exactly this. She would write. She would write about her exeriences great and small and rather than be egotistically driven for world domination and fleeting Lindsey-Lohan style fame, she would want to make an impact. She would want to place her stamp on the world for something meaningful. So… here’s me doing just that*!

* Originally I wrote “Here’s me trying” but I instantly heard the Schmoo in my head saying “Trying!? There’s no such thing as trying! Just do it girl!”. She didn’t do anything by halves and wouldn’t accept it from anyone else. She was the most inspiring person I’ve ever met and I’m lucky that I have her voice in my head everyday, continuing to push me, encourage me and elevate me to have the best life imaginable.

Love you Schmoo and so much love to the Schmoo Clan, both family and friends.