Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a cis, demisexual woman navigating the world in a nontraditional body? In this ongoing column, Nina shares the interior monologue of everyday, the one just for herself, to help her understand what’s going on in her mind. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad—life can be awful—sometimes it’s about how her disability affects her day-to-day social interactions. We are very excited to share it with you.
Night time, Donna’s house, contemplative
You know, I have a feeling November is the month it all comes to a halt. The stuff that happened around Christmas and New Year, that’s catching up to me. I still haven’t taken much time to process it emotionally.
One day, just after the first two tragedies, I sat on one of the wooden chairs at Mum and Dad’s house, held my head in my hands, and—over the phone—quietly told Isobel about everything; I asked her to just tell our friends, so that they’d know, and that they’d stop wondering where I was. Weeks later, when I returned to Brisbane, Isobel and I went to lunch on the corner of Carraway Street in Kelvin Grove and she listened to the whole story, each little detail. ‘Don’t write about this, please,’ I said to her.
The weight of everything still feels absurd to me. But Dad made us go see a therapist in the immediate aftermath of the second event, and then, again in the immediate aftermath of the third. The therapist gave my sister a little book on grief, and talked us all through the steps. For me, though, I was very angry already. She said that it might be different for me. Bebe described my emotional reaction to her, and she said, ‘That is one way of coping.’ But for me, it means that the feelings were muted during the multiple events in the Land of Tragedy.
The therapist described it like this: my body went on a kind-of autopilot as a way of dealing with the situation. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to extreme stressors, she said. The therapist gave us two booklets describing PTSD and said we should look out for the symptoms, and seek treatment if those symptoms occur.
Brunswick St, Newfarm
I have to get some stuff for a picnic—going to the park soon, to celebrate my pal Delle’s birthday (yay birthdays!)—but I haven’t been to the shops for about a week and it feels like a lot of effort.
2.39pm Newfarm Park
Okay, we are down by the river and it’s not not glorious. A couple of people have brought their dogs.
6.13pm @ home, in bed
I’d be lying if I said I’d done anything today. Though, something I listened to is that podcast, No Feeling is Final by Honor Eastly, which gave me a bit of perspective. She said something in one of the episodes about how the body and brain has all of these behaviours or reactions to things for the express purpose of keeping you alive. So, instead of beating up on myself for not getting out of bed today, I thanked my body for recognising that I needed to stay in bed, even though it’s not necessarily a conventional use of my time.
4.30pm At my GP
I haven’t talked about my GP in a while? She is a shining light of professionalism and wonderfulness on this earth.
I sit in her office, looking out over the road, and tell her about how I didn’t get out of bed, how exhausted I feel, and how I feel like maybe the world is coming to sit on top of me and never get off.
She was there, on the other end of the phone line, in January. I called her from Mum and Dad’s room. I was crouched in the corner, my back to the wall, asking her if she could write me a script and a couple of different forms, since I didn’t have any of my normal shit with me due to all the tragedy. So, she knows what I’m talking about when I say, ‘I think I’m drowning.’
She says, ‘That’s not surprising.’
I say, ‘I think I need a holiday… for my brain.’
‘To process these feelings that I’m having,’ I say. ‘I didn’t say goodbye to Finley, not properly. And I don’t think I’ve actually started processing the grief until now.’
‘What’s brought this on, do you think?’
‘Christmas is soon.’
‘Ahh,’ she says, and looks back at her computer. ‘That’ll do it.’ She makes me promise that I will call her tomorrow and check in about the holiday. I tell her that I will.
8.08pm In bed
Here’s what I envisage in a holiday for my braiiiiin:
- Rest, relaxation
- A fair amount of crying
- Random but pleasant, superficial interactions with strangers
7.45pm Holiday destination
So, where did I decide to take a holiday for my brain? I’m not necessarily going anywhere in particular, in that I’m staying right here. Mum’s going to spend some time with me. She said that she wants to be here while I’m ‘holidaying’.
5.58am Waiting for a coffee shop to open
They say it’s not unusual to have difficulty sleeping when you’re having a hard time. I woke this morning around 4.30am and have been watching Gladiator which is a great movie but also not that great, not great enough to let me forget that I’m not sleeping, not sleeping, not sleeping, not sleeping.
I’ve taken up knitting again. Nonna taught me to knit when I was eleven years old, and it’s something that I return to when I want something to do with my hands. What’s the saying? Idle hands are the devil’s plaything.
5.36pm In the car on the way to Newmarket, yeah baby
I’m going to meet Mum and Donna and Terry @ the movies. We’re going to eat some food and watch a film—I think maybe the Freddie Mercury one—and then I’ll be cradled in the sweet, sweet embrace of sleep yet again.
Been going to bed nice and early the past few days, which now that I think about it, could 100% explain the early waking.
5.57pm Standing across from the escalator w Terry
Waiting for Mum and Donna to meet us so we can get some dinn dinns. Mum told me this is where to meet them and so I am here. Terry is making fun of me and the holiday for my brain, but I am too fuzzy to actually pay attention to his words. He’s wearing a shirt that has origami cranes on it.
‘Do you like your shirt?’ I ask.
‘I like it just fine,’ he says. ‘I’d like it better if Donna and your mother would hurry up.’
‘You hungry, Terry?’
He says, ‘What?’
‘Sounds like you’re hungry,’ I say, ‘how much whinging you’re doing.’ He mumbles a reply but I don’t hear it exactly, and then he exclaims because Mum and Donna appear at the bottom of the escalator.
‘Finally,’ he says, loudly so that they (and everyone else in the vicinity) can hear.
7.12pm The cinemas
God this shit is making me dizzy. We’re sitting in Row C, which, yes, is three rows from the front. I think I regret this.
The ads are still happening. This is tbqh, a little bit of sensory overload and I’ve had enough of that, thank you very much. I lean over to Mum who is on my left and say, ‘Mum, I’m feeling dizzy, I think I have to go home.’
‘Oh,’ she says, ‘it might be a really good movie.’
‘Why are we so close?’
She pats my hand. ‘Sorry Nina, this is the best we could get, maybe because it’s Friday night? Just pretend you’re in Gold Class.’
‘Okay,’ I say, ‘but I might have to go soon.’
She says, ‘That’s alright, if you want to go I can drive you.’
We then have a hushed argument about how ridiculous it is for her to drive me home when she’s in the middle of a movie that she really wants to watch, and how it would just be easier for me to get an uber or whatever. I win the argument because she loves biopics and Queen is one of her favourite things in the world.
I stayed for the whole movie!!!!!!!!! Mum is happy!!! I’m tired!!! Yay home time.
Morning, at home
Only a couple of days left of the holiday for my brain. If I’m being real (and I do like to be real), I have moments of boredom that turn into hours of boredom. I’ve only seen my friends on the weekends. I haven’t gone shopping in three weeks. It’s been really nice having Mum here. She wants me to go to this doctor who specialises in chronic pain. That’s what we are doing this afternoon, before she gets on her flight to leave me.
4.00pm In the waiting room
Sitting next to Mum, waiting for the doctor to be finished with the patient before me. Apparently he has some great and unusual—but still medical—treatments for chronic pain. I’ve been looking at his website and it says Your pain doesn’t originate where you think it does which, lol, good one doctor. Let’s see what else you’ve got for me.
I’ve got to put shorts on! Because he wants me to take off my clothes! So he can see my whole posture situation.
He says, after observing my posture from all sides, that the obvious issue is with my pelvis and that’s probably where a lot of my pain comes from. Well I could’ve told him that, and yes, I did, but in different words.
We’re going to talk about stretches!
I love how high-maintenance my disability is. I love that the pain never goes away. And I love that stretches or exercises are just part of the deal of having it. LOVE IT. Not at all not absolutely loving it.
5.49pm In the car
Mum’s got to go to the airport tonight, and Donna has offered to take her so we are driving back to Donna’s house. Mum asks me how it went with the doctor and I tell her it went well, because it did. I am very lucky that both my Mum and Donna have an eye for medical professionals—always on the lookout for professionals who can help out with the lifelong disability.
We hop out of the car and I say goodbye to Mum and have a little cry. She’s come down here to help me during this shit-all hell time. She’s grieving too, but in a different way. I’m glad that we have such a big family bc theoretically, we’re there to help each other in these kinds of times as well as other times.
The most difficult thing about the grief though is that it’s layered and mysterious, like a strange species that hasn’t yet been discovered or identified by scientists because of its elusiveness.
Mum and I hug a few times, then I go to get in the car. Then we hug again. Then I go to get in the car. Then we hug again. Then we say goodbye.
11.09am At home
I wish I had more to say. I feel like my body is still on autopilot sometimes. But from now on I’m going to listen to it more, I’m going to go to the doctors, I’m going to be nicer to myself. And I want to rethink what it means to be triggered, reconceptualise it, come to a new working model for me.
Nina is a poet and writer living on Turrbal Land. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was four years old. She tweets @ninabaldotto mostly about poetry and the weather.