It’s clear to those of us who use social media that we live in a world saturated by memes and inspirational quotes. The topic I see pop up the most is: kindness. It seems that there are countless variations of the ‘be kind’ meme. We hit the ‘like’ button, charged with the judgment that everyone should be kinder (because we have felt the barbs of unkindness) but are we taking the time to consider our own words and actions? When I ‘like’ these memes, I know I’m judging others more than I’m judging myself.



What does being kind look like, exactly? The obvious themes are: having goodwill, not ill will, being gentle, not violent, being considerate, not selfish, speaking words of love, not hatred, helping, not harming. But then there’s a gulf between kindness and unkindness that is filled with words and actions that don’t definitively belong on one side or the other. Being kind, while at the same time respecting yourself, is one scenario that hangs in this hazy space.



I probably seem kindest when I’m meek and mild (like a mouse). In these mousy moments, I don’t openly take issue with the hurtful words or behaviours of others, but this quiet manner often equates to the practice of subjugation. By subjugation, I mean submitting to others in order to avoid unpleasant consequences. In the past, I’ve let people cross boundaries because I felt that pushing them back would equate to being unkind. But whatever kindness costs, I’m learning that it should never cost a personal boundary.



In a recent instance, when I took a justified stand for my value, I was barraged with a torrent of vitriol. Although I had pushed back as politely as possible, it provoked an entirely negative reaction from the other person. I was unfairly slammed as being unkind.



I was lead by this experience to wonder, ‘How does being kind fit in the same frame as self-worth?’ No matter what angle I look at kindness, I have to admit that it always contains respect – the quality that allows both kindness and self-worth to exist in the same space. If I can’t show respect for another person when I make a stand, then silence has to be the next best thing. Sometimes silence is kindest – for the other person as well as yourself.



Rubbish. We have to lay down our ego, among other things we hold dear, to be kind. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort. And sometimes a kind response means taking a hit for the wellbeing of the other person, but it should never equate to subjugation. In a century when kindness is valued above all, I fear that the quietest people are subjugating too much.



Perhaps the truest test of kindness is whether we act lovingly toward those who we feel little or no respect. It’s easy to be kind in the face of kindness, but it’s hard to be kind in the face of unkindness.

If you’re anything like me, people test my capacity for kindness regularly so there are many opportunities to practice getting it right. This week, I challenge you to pay attention when you’re hitting the like button on a kindness meme and consider how well you’ve shown kindness recently. Then identify one way you can be kinder in the coming weeks and see it through with action. If you’re treated unkindly, be kind to yourself and take a polite stand for your self-worth.



Rare Disease Day


February 28this Rare Disease Day. The Fair for Rare campaign is concerned with raising awareness about rare disease and petitioning for equal rights.

I thought now would be the perfect time to briefly share my rare disease story in support of the Rare Voices initiative.

I hope this post serves to remind those with a rare disease that they’re not alone and also raises awareness about rare disease among the general population.



Rare diseases fit into one of two categories. They’re either life-threatening or chronically debilitating and in all cases, cannot be prevented.

Worldwide, there are less than 1 in 2,000 people living with a rare disease diagnosis. These are either acute or chronic versions of illness and affect anyone, at any age.

Rare diseases are symptomatically complex and this makes them difficult for clinicians to address. There are no cures for rare diseases and no truly effective treatments. Many well-managed rare diseases continue to present an ongoing risk of death.

As you can imagine, living with a rare disease is challenging. This is why one belief behind the Fair for Rare campaign is that we deserve a fair go.



I have a unique type of intestinal failure (IF) called Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction (CIPO). It’s organ failure just like heart failure or kidney failure and it’s very rare.

CIPO is a motility disorder. My small intestine often stops working (as if there is a physical blockage) then when it is working; the movement is much slower than that of a healthy intestine. Slow transit time through the digestive tract causes bacterial overgrowth and often, translocation of bad bacteria from the gut into the bloodstream (known as bacteremia), resulting in even more illness.

Unable to absorb everything I need from food in order to live, I have to rely on home parenteral nutrition (HPN) for sustenance.

Intestinal failure requiring HPN is extremely rare with less than 300 people across Australia and New Zealand who fit into this category.

As with many other rare diseases, I also have other medical issues to manage in addition to the CIPO, which adds extra layers of complexity to my health management.



I was a completely healthy child… up until the age of eight years old. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a mysterious illness knocked me over and ran away with my childhood.

It started with abdominal pain, severe bloating, back pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, reflux and radical weight loss. Doctors and other health professionals worked an entire year to find out what was wrong with me.

At nine years old, and down to a weight of 23kg, I was finally diagnosed with CIPO by a gentle, concerned gastroenterologist who would continue to oversee my health care during my childhood and adolescent years.

My rare disease was only found because a visiting radiologist from the U.S.A was present on the day that I had a barium swallow test. The radiologist had previously seen CIPO in America.

In 1992, there were only 52 other known cases of CIPO in the world and HPN was not considered a good long-term treatment option.




I looked like an anorexic girl, all skin stretched over bones with a white face and dark rings under my eyes. Unlike those suffering with Anorexia Nervosa, I ate food and as a result, carried around a huge, angry belly on my stick figure.

I lay about a lot (often on my mother) due to malaise and lethargy. I wasn’t absorbing adequate nutrition so I was constantly exhausted. I had sleepless nights, missed out on school and frequently begged for it to all ‘go away, please!’ because the pain was often unbearable.

My growth stunted and by age thirteen, my bone density was delayed to that of a ten-year-old. I was also still a long way from beginning puberty.

During the six hard years from age eight to fourteen, I depended on daily nasogastric tube feeds and ate as much real food as I could. Having extra nutrition pumped into my sluggish gut was a living hell and for all the pain and grief it caused, did not add much substance to my bony frame.

Gaining weight became the biggest focus of my childhood. Fattening me up was everyone’s number one goal but with a small intestine that didn’t work properly, this only equalled increased suffering.

Other organs began to fail in addition to my small intestine. Every day was riddled with anxiety. I developed severe anxiety and depression as a result of both biology and circumstance.

After countless hospital admissions, intravenous nutrition (HPN) became the only possible treatment left to try. At age fourteen, I started HPN as a very last resort, via a central line in my arm. The risks were great.

I gained energy, grew taller and fatter and finally started developing into a young woman. Although I gained new life, I didn’t have a normal adolescence but it was a huge improvement on the life I had with nasogastric feeds as a child.




I soon exhausted the use of central lines in my arms and cycled through several infusaports placed in my chest for long-term intravenous access. This required many admissions to hospital and treatments for either infection, technical hitches with my line or the new strain of illness I soon became familiar with (theorised at the time to be an inflammatory response stemming from my gut).

This new illness was mysterious. There was no evidence in the medical world of anyone else suffering from the same combination of symptoms. I experienced raging fevers and severely abnormal bloodwork, among other things. After a couple of trial and error years, my gastroenterologist found that steroids treated the mystery illness. Today, there is evidence to suggest that the early formulation of HPN I was on may have been the cause of these regular inflammatory flare-ups.

I developed a hyper-vigilance about my body’s functions and felt deep shame about the way I looked. I was highly stressed in social situations and this was mainly because I lacked control over my body. I always had unpleasant symptoms and a tube, somewhere, hanging from me that if I didn’t hide, invited unwelcome attention.

Society taught me that I had to hide my embarrassing IF symptoms and treatments if I wanted a chance at being accepted. Kids at school would tease me almost every day. Adults would give me exclusive attention that I didn’t want. I was so radically different from my peers and at my core, I felt defective.

My early life of rare illness caught up with me in my twenties. I started antidepressants and psychotherapy. Sickness and medical experiences contributed to complex trauma, unhealthy thinking and maladaptive behaviour.




I’ve been on HPN as life support for 22yrs now. It helps – a lot – but it isn’t a cure for my rare disease. Like real food, the effect of HPN runs out and the tank has to be topped up regularly. I can’t do without it for long.

On HPN, I look a lot healthier than I often feel. Intravenous nutrition gives me a much better quality of life (in fact, it saved my life at 14yo), but it’s important to understand that HPN is an expert at disguising the brutality of intestinal failure.

Some days I can’t get out of the house due to exhaustion and other physical symptoms. Other days I can’t get out of the house because of severe anxiety. So when I manage to get outside and do normal life stuff, it’s a big win for me. I then have to spend time recovering, depending on how draining living life normally has been on my health.

Social occasions centred on food and eating are problematic at best. I become dehydrated during the day when I’m not infusing fluids. I’m restricted with what I can do at night due to infusing the HPN over 12hrs.

Some of my life-threatening concerns are liver damage (from the HPN), central line infections, central line malfunctions and loss of central venous access (my overused veins are terribly scarred and either tricky to work with or completely useless).



People rarely hear about the rare cases. This is why it’s so important to raise awareness about rare disease – so others can understand and support those of us who don’t fit into mainstream boxes.

Intestinal failure is rare, misunderstood and produces symptoms that are unfit for society. Us IF bods are the minority and don’t carry the mass appeal and familiarity of illnesses such as cancer, diabetes or multiple sclerosis, but we too deserve to be understood and given a fair go.

We live in an era of ending stigmas. I’m only one voice of many out there with a rare disease. We need support.

Thank you for reading this post and in doing so, caring about us rarities on Fair for Rare day.




I’ve arrived at a December T-junction. One sign points west, down the road I always travel and the other sign points east, down an unfamiliar road.

To the west, is a desert with weeds tumbling about. To the east, there’s grass and tall conifers. I find the green inviting but the unknown challenges in that direction cause me to hesitate.

I look west again. I know the condition of the road and the obstacles I’ll face travelling it. I recognise the destination but I get burnt in that desert every year so the familiar scene doesn’t comfort me.

I have to make a decision so I force myself to walk. I move east, away from the desert toward the glimmering green. Halfway down the road, a warm breeze carries faint laughter and music to my ears. It sounds a lot like Christmas cheer.


Christmas is a difficult time for most of us, for various reasons. My greatest struggle at Christmas is managing (or not managing) pesky intestinal failure. When it comes to my rare, odd bod, sitting around talking and eating all day is an awful recipe for post-event suffering.

Every year I try to manage my intestinal failure better than the year before but still, I fail. The familiar demons of gluttony, boredom, anxiety and people pleasing all rear their ugly heads on Christmas day. Mix all these ingredients with sitting around eating all day and a large dollop of intestinal failure and Christmas day ends in Grinch-worthy horribleness.

Every Christmas, there are dips, chips and other foods to pick at before multiple main meals, delicious second helpings and how could I possibly pass up just a few mouthfuls of dessert? It’s a special day and I deserve to let go and enjoy myself as much as everyone else. But one of the ‘letting go’ consequences is a lack of mindfulness that results in eating more delicious food than my gut can handle.


I’m tired of being stuck in the desert year after year after Christmas. Even if the east road is more challenging, it’ll be worth my trouble for the sake of a better destination. This year, I’m taking the road that ends in less suffering.

I realise something has to change if I want a different outcome. Christmas day is unlikely to change. The something that has to change is me. I have to do things differently this year by making better choices. And this means walking a new road to a different destination.

I’ve been thinking about the various, automatic ways in which I respond to my environment at Christmas time and brainstormed ideas for healthier behaviours that will give me the best outcome.


I’ve written up a ‘Social Event’ note in my iPhone that has three sections. The first section lists what I’m not going to do. The second section lists what I am going to do and the third section lists essential truths I need to remember prior to, and during, Christmas day. This is going to be my GPS as I walk the new road, toward new territory.

I’ll try to believe that being polite is overrated and that my physical comfort is more important than making my loved ones feel good by eating their food. I’ll try to believe that missing out on food isn’t all that bad.

I need to remember that I’ll suffer afterwards if I make bad food choices on Christmas day and that the suffering isn’t worth the instant gratification or sense of belonging that eating brings.


Doing Christmas differently this year is going to require me to do some inner wrestling and tease apart some unhelpful habits. It’s also going to mean re-educating my family about ‘me and food’. But I’m optimistic that this year, I’m going to get Christmas more right than I ever have before.


What are you going to do, what are you not going to do and what are you going to try and remember this Christmas? Consider identifying your unhealthy habits and working out how you can change or tweak your behaviour to create a happier result.

Think about taking the east road that leads to more happiness and less suffering.

Any change that holds the promise of more Christmas cheer is worth a try, right? And if all else fails… well, there’s always wine.




Last month, I spent four solid weeks editing and rewriting seven chapters of my work in progress. These chapters formed the bulk of my submission to the FAWWA Emerging Writers Program.

When I decided to enter, I didn’t know that my body was launching a covert operation. It piled extra illness on top of my usual health problems. You know the saying, ‘the spirit is willing…’? My flesh was weak in capital letters.

My September challenge reminded me that perseverance is crucial to every version of success that exists.



Fed up with having to always put my body’s needs first (and in doing so, sacrificing my dreams) I knew I had to fight and fight hard, for what I wanted. Trading my ill body for a new, healthy one wasn’t an option (dammit). I had to do the best I could with what I had or miss out.

For well over a year, I’d been longing for a writing win. All my concerted efforts had not earned me any gold stars. Rejections hadn’t affected my habit of getting the work done and out there, but they made me feel a little depressed.

At the starting line, I was completely done with the miasmic feeling of failure that hung over my head. I had to be in the running for the Emerging Writers Program and the only way I’d be considered is if I ran the race alongside everyone else. Shaky, I pulled my running shoes on.



With a pressing timeline and poor health, I couldn’t afford to entertain the notion of quitting. I had to ignore perfectionism and comparison and keep looking straight ahead to the finish line. I knew that if I glanced sideways, I would fall and not get up again.

Through migraines, low-grade fevers, chest pain and many other symptoms, I held onto perseverance with all I had. Perseverance was the rope I hung onto that dragged me toward the finish line. My beta-readers backed me up and pushed from behind.



I grazed my knees the last hundred metres but my sweaty, rope-burned hands were locked on perseverance.

Finally, after four long weeks, I found myself touching the finish line. By that stage, my body was protesting loudly and I could no longer ignore it.

I hit the submit button, let go of my perseverance rope and promptly fell in a messy heap of victory.



The experience illustrated to me yet again that perseverance is essential, regardless of your goals or what shape your difficulties take. Nobody breezes to the finish line. Nobody. No matter how unattainable a goal seems, or how giant your obstacles look, you will make it if you just hang onto perseverance.

Winning a place in the FAWWA Emerging Writers Program would be a dream come true. If I miss out, I’ll feel disappointed for a while but then I’ll realise it doesn’t matter because I know I did my absolute best with what I had. I ran the race and crawled over the finish line – I reached my goal. I’ll call myself a winner because I persevered until my entry was complete.

When I’m strong enough to get up and sprint again, I know perseverance will be there to steadfastly pull me to success. But for now, it’s time to switch gears after a month of bloody hard work and sickness. Now it’s time to get some rest so I can last the crazy writing journey marathon.




I know there’s at least one thing I’m meant to do with my life: write.

I’ve always said that one day, I’ll write a memoir – for myself and for others who suffer with invisible illness.


For many years, I avoided writing my story. It felt too big, too hard. I wasn’t ready. I focussed on writing fiction in short story form and worked at developing my writing skills. Yes, a form of procrastination but also a valuable use of my time. I learned a lot and my writing improved.

This year, during a period of reassessing goals and making new ones, I realised that my vague, ‘one day’ attitude had been holding me back. I had to make a start on writing a memoir. It felt like the right time. (If not now, when?)


These realisations jolted me as if a bucket of freezing water had been poured on my head. The project felt mammoth and I worried about failing to cope with the emotional heaviness that would inevitably come from writing about my past. I feared the unknowns I might find at the bottom of the pool.

There were so many ‘buts’ and ‘what ifs’. I felt clumsy at writing nonfiction, having spent years writing fiction. I didn’t know how to tackle the project. I didn’t know how to ‘life write’.


For years, I believed that my voice didn’t matter because my life experience was one of feeling unheard and invalidated. Will anyone listen to me now when they haven’t before? Who will even care to read my story?

With an unsure voice, I shared that I was thinking about starting a memoir with a few trusted friends. Most responses were validating and encouraging.

Buoyed, and certain it was time to start writing a memoir, my packet of self-doubt-seeds morphed into saplings of self-belief. I was finally able to say, ‘It’s time. It’s important I write my story. I’m here to write my story.’ I felt these things deep in my gut.

Today, I hold these saplings close to my heart and protect them with crossed arms. I water them and hope they will grow bigger, stronger.

I realised that this is my life so this is my story. I own it so I have the right to tell it. My voice is important.


I waded in, like an insecure teenager faking confidence, by enrolling in The Centre for Stories Life Writing course in Perth, run by Rosemary Stevens – a huge commitment for me, living three hours south with multiple health issues to manage and a family to look after.

I didn’t expect the first session to spring board me straight into the deep end. I hadn’t brought my floaty!

The class exercise prompted me to write about one of my earliest childhood experiences of rejection. This, with multiple other triggers heaped on top, pushed me into a downward spiral. I’m ashamed to say that, in a very bad headspace, I ended up at Bunbury A&E.

At that point, I felt like I’d made the wrong choice to step out in faith and start my memoir. A mocking voice yelled inside my head: ‘See, you can’t do this. You’re too weak.’

A week later, I managed to haul myself out of the deep end, dry myself off, put on some fresh clothes and get to the next Life Writing class. And I’m glad I stuck with it because I’m learning so much from a wonderful teacher and supportive peers.


When you set out to do a thing you know in your bones you’re meant to do, you sometimes get stalked by evil and laid out flat. You have to gather your wits, pull yourself up and fight demons in order to move forward. This is often what happens for me. I stand up, convinced a thing is what I’m meant to be doing then wham! I’m floored by claws ripping down my back.

I’m still dealing with chronic illness and I’m still working on my mental health. I’m still working through events from my past that scarred me. The difference now is that I’m choosing not to let these difficulties stop me from writing my story.

I’m trembling but I’m doing it anyway.


Deep down, I know that writing a memoir is going to be a source of healing for me. I’ve decided that if healing is the sole outcome of writing my story, it is enough.

Getting published is not the point – that’s a whole other story. I can’t afford to think about who’s going to read my story, and all the people I’m going to offend, or I won’t be able to write from the heart. (I’ll have to think about others after the first draft is complete.)

If my memoir gets published (added bonus!), I hope it will give a voice to others unheard who have struggled with life in similar ways to me.


I’m going to write this memoir slowly and with a care for my heart and brain. If the memories get too much, I will stop and be kind to myself – give myself a break.

I’ll nurture my self-belief saplings.

It may take me ten years to write this memoir, but how long doesn’t matter. The important thing is I’m on my way.

Who knows what my future holds. All I have is now: today. And today I will write my story.




These days, saying you’re ‘OCD’ about something is common. I’ve heard mentally stable people say offhandedly that they’re ‘OCD’ about something more times than I can count and you probably have too. The phrase has become a thoughtless verbal trend.



Being detailed and particular about how you like a certain thing is completely different to suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Psychologists say that OCD should not be confused with idiosyncrasies and preferences. ‘OCD is often misunderstood as a disorder that simply means being overly detailed or perfectionistic.’ 

OCD often originates from an inability to emotionally process a difficult experience. It is not a choice but an utterly debilitating anxiety disorder. OCD is not a term to be used lightly, in casual conversation.



I had several emotionally difficult challenges the year I turned eight years old. My inability to cope with everything that was going on in my world led me to develop OCD.

It took me a long time to get ready for school each morning. I believed that my ponytail had to be perfect, my matching socks had to be exactly the same height and my shoelaces had to be the exact same length on each side – tied perfectly the same as my other shoe.

At school, my handwriting and colouring had to be perfect and so I wrote and coloured very slowly. I often had to start over again because I believed my work wasn’t good enough – I couldn’t handle even a shadow of imperfection.

After school, I’d sniff my hands to check for smell and then wash them to make sure they weren’t dirty, repeating the process as I did my homework, until it was time to have a bath that night.

I spent hours and hours with these obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. They went around in a never-ending circle, day in, day out. I drove my family nuts.


‘…the invasive can kind of take over, crowding out all other thoughts until it’s the only one you’re able to have, the thought you’re perpetually either thinking or distracting yourself from.’ Turtles All the Way Down by John Green


Even as a child, I knew my thought spirals and compulsive behaviours weren’t normal but I couldn’t stop. I felt trapped. The unwanted thoughts about what I should do, even though I didn’t want to do them, kept coming. I was haunted by obsession.

My world made me anxious. I felt powerless. OCD put me in a cage where it was just me and the obsessions. It was a torturous kind of safety. If I didn’t achieve these obsessive perfections, I’d break down in a fit of frustration.



Year by year, OCD slowly loosened its hold on me. Perhaps because physical illness took over my life and there wasn’t much room for anything else. Or perhaps because I maladapted in another way by developing Borderline Personality Disorder.

Today, I technically don’t suffer from OCD because my behaviour is no longer compulsive but I still do, sometimes, have to fight off a barrage of OCD thoughts.

Many OCD sufferers aren’t so lucky and don’t manage to grow out of it. They live lives of almost constant mental torture.



I’m hopeful that with an increase in mental health awareness, the careless trend of people saying they’re ‘OCD’ about something might fizzle out.

Let’s not, in any way, belittle people with OCD. Their suffering is real. Let’s speak about OCD with the sensitivity and respect it deserves. I believe we owe OCD sufferers, at the very least, this one small courtesy.

Remember: ‘We all may have strange idiosyncrasies such as avoiding bath sponges, organizing our closet by colour and pattern, or refusing to touch the restroom door in public, but these habits should not be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Thank you for caring enough to read this post,

Jodie x


My top 10 tips for young writers


  1. Read a lot and read widely

Reading is the most important thing for a writer. You learn how to write well by reading good writing. Great writers are first great readers.


  1. Write what interests you, not what you think other people want to read

Write for yourself first, others second. If you don’t care about your subject, your reader won’t either (you need the reader to care or they won’t want to keep reading your story). Write the story you want to read.


  1. Make sure your characters have defined goals

Your characters have to want something so much that they seek to get that something. This makes your character active. Passive characters are boring and don’t make for good stories.


  1. Be mean

Your story has to have conflict or it won’t work. Give your characters the hardest problems you can think up, then make them even worse. Your characters need to face difficulties on the journey toward their goal.


  1. Get accountable

If you can, find a supportive writing buddy to set goals with. Spur each other on.

Closing dates for competitions are a great motivation to get your story finished. Enter as many as you can. The more practice you get at finishing your stories, the better you will write. And the bonus is that you just might win a prize.

P.S. You will get rejections – many of them – this is normal. There are many reasons why your work will get rejected but the important thing to remember is that rejections do not mean your writing is bad.


  1. Get help

You might need information about something you’re writing that you have no idea about. Be brave. Ask an expert.

You’ll need feedback on your stories from someone further up the writing ladder than you (sometimes, judges give competition entrants helpful feedback). You need feedback in order to improve your writing. Be brave. Ask someone you can trust who will be kind but honest.


  1. Give yourself permission to write a shockingly terrible first draft

Think of your favourite author. Got it? Right. Let me tell you a secret – that amazing author, whose work you love, writes terrible first drafts just like you. Awesome, right?

Get the words down, however they come out. Then you at least have something to work with and improve upon. If you let perfectionism stop you from getting a first draft done, all you’ll have is a blank page (or a very unfinished story at best).


  1. Don’t trash your stories

If you’re frustrated with a story that you can’t seem to get right or you’ve lost enthusiasm for, put it in a mental drawer and let it simmer in the back of your mind.

Your brain loves to solve creative problems for you when it’s given the opportunity. You just might get a brainwave. Then, when you open up your story again, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to wrangle it into better shape.

The important thing is that you go back to your story and try again. And again. And again. Good writing is rewriting. Every writer who produces great work has rewritten and edited their work until their eyes have bled (not literally, but you know what I mean).


  1. Get awesome at writing when it feels REALLY hard

Writing is a very difficult job. If you don’t write when it’s hard, you’ll never develop the stickability needed to finish your stories. Learn to face the page no matter how you feel. Don’t wait to feel inspired. Inspiration will come as you write.


  1. Don’t give up on yourself

Feeling disheartened is a normal emotion for a creative. Every one of us, at different points in our writing, feel like what we’ve written is absolute rubbish. And we sometimes feel like we are rubbish and not a real writer at all.

Get okay with this and don’t let it determine whether you will or won’t continue to write. Speak kindly to yourself, get up, brush off the disappointment and try again. Never give up and I promise you, you will succeed.



Sometimes, Success Sucks

I often wonder why our world is so full of unrelenting standards – the expectation that we must do more, have more, be more.

Society teaches us from a young age that surpassing the bar set for us is a worthy pursuit. By the time we’re adults, the bar is set so high that we’re struggling to even touch it with one finger.



I was an over-achiever all through my school years. My personality type, need for approval and inability to cope with life at a deep emotional level drove me to drown myself in relentless study. I believed that if I was successful, I would be happy and everyone around me would be happy too. The world told me: success = happiness and I didn’t question this until later in life.

Many influential adults gave me extra attention, affirmations and rewards when I excelled. So I drove myself to reach further and higher. When I excelled, I gained more than just approval and praise, I gained self-esteem and a sense of belonging. I gained entry to an invisible, elite club of which there were few members. It felt good.

For a girl who always felt inadequate and alone, over-achieving bandaged my wounds. By the time I reached my twenties, these bandages started unravelling. I discovered that success didn’t buy happiness at all; not the deep, lasting kind. I had believed a lie.



Now in my thirties, I look back and can see that the encouragement to excel, though wonderful, wasn’t what I needed most.

More than anything, I needed a break. I needed to be told that I was allowed to rest my chronically ill body and struggling brain. And I needed to have a social life.

I needed to know that failing was 100% okay; that my future was secure not because of achievement but because of everything I had inside me.

I needed to believe that ‘passing’ was enough. I needed to be told that, regardless of the standard of my work, I was enough for who I was, not for what I achieved.



I feel angry that my son is growing up in a world that says his worth is based on what he achieves, not on who he is.

Maybe it’s time to stop praising over-achieving children without a second thought. Maybe it’s time to scratch the surface and understand what’s going on in a person’s life (child or adult) and learn if, underneath, they’re coping.

Maybe it’s time to stop idolising success.



What if we managed to redefine success? What if we lowered the bar, just a little?

What if we defined success as simply ticking off the basics and doing them well?

Would this be the antidote to pushing ourselves too hard, too far, too often?

Would we feel less like we’re failing all the time and more like we’re winning? Would we start to feel like we’re enough?



Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great that we celebrate each other’s achievements. I’m all for praise and encouragement where it’s due. We all have dreams we want to see fulfilled and most of us have to work hard to get there. We all need to feel good about reaching goals, or we wouldn’t bother to achieve anything.

But how can we have a ‘one rule fits all’ mentality in this current age of diversity? The fact is we all have limitations that hold us back (both physical and mental).

I wish the world would reflect this reality – this diversity – and that it would portray success accurately by celebrating its many varied forms. I wish the world would stop propagating the epitomes of success; stop pushing standards that are improbable classifications of success.



Our problem is not with failing or fear of failure, like we have been led to believe. Our problem is the definition and measure of success that’s been spoon-fed to us (and we’ve swallowed whole).

What if we made a world where success was measured by kindness? That would be fair. Everyone has the ability to think and act kindly.

What if success was simply being the best you could be at any given moment – that would be fair. What if every other achievement was just a bonus; a cherry on top?

What if we recognised the small, daily wins and celebrated those as ‘success’? Maybe then, every one of us might be considered successful.

What if success was just a word, not pregnant with cultural beliefs and expectations?

I think that could change our lives.





Confessions of a Bibliophile #2

A year ago today, my husband joked that I couldn’t possibly stop myself from buying books. I told him I could… if I really wanted to. Our light-hearted argument ended in a bet – that I would refrain from buying books for an entire year. I had a point to prove. I was totally in control of my penchant for buying more books than I could read… wasn’t I?

I started out strong on my marathon of willpower and didn’t buy a single book for four months. I started using the library (what a novel idea!), borrowed books from friends and took books from my own shelves that I’d been meaning to read for a long time. Friends and family sent me books for my birthday in March and this also helped.

Then one morning in May, I drove to an unfamiliar library (to write) and walked straight into a book sale! I felt betrayed; libraries weren’t supposed to sell books!

I couldn’t help myself – I browsed. I thought, ‘I won’t buy anything, I’ll just have a quick look.’ Uh oh. Don’t look at candies in the window, unless you’re prepared to buy them. I convinced myself that I’d never find these books, in such excellent condition (for only $1!) ever again.

My husband raised his eyebrows. I told him this book-buying splurge didn’t really count – I was sabotaged!

I wiped the slate clean and continued my marathon of willpower… until October, when I was sent an online book voucher. I couldn’t waste it, could I? So I ordered a novel and paid the difference. (Oh the rush of glee that flooded my dried up, bookish soul when the parcel arrived a week later!)

Then I received another book voucher. Totally not my fault. Again, I couldn’t waste it, could I? So I grabbed two books from the shop shelves and paid the difference. (Oh how I missed this book buying therapy!)

Then several friends launched debut books and I had to support them by ordering a copy, didn’t I? It would have been unkind not to. And anyway, I was well into the spirit of spending in the lead up to Christmas and, well… it didn’t really matter that I bought a few books for myself, after such a long time without, did it?

Okay, so I think maybe my husband won the bet but for a bibliophile, I think I did pretty darn well. One day soon my pride will heal. The point is that I learnt a lot.

I learnt I didn’t need to buy so many books all the time. And the savings were significant and useful.

I rediscovered the great well of books at the local library, which I’d somehow forgotten about (but now make use of once again).

I discovered that true book-loving friends are generous in their loaning of books.

I read many books that had been sitting on my ‘to be read’ pile for far too long and that felt mighty fine. (Who would’ve thought that I already had multiple shelves of unread stories under my very roof?)

The forced self-control to refrain from book buying was uncomfortable and difficult – I often argued with myself – but the end result was that I now have greater control over my book buying habit. Before, I couldn’t say no but now, I can.

Would I take on this challenge again? No thanks.

I’d love to hear about your book buying habits so feel free to share by commenting on this post.

Happy reading for 2018!


Letter to a Friend About Mental Illness

Dear Friend,

You’ve often said to me that nobody is normal and we all have our problems. I completely agree – and I appreciate your efforts of trying to make me feel acceptable – but I think that perhaps you don’t really understand.

It’s true that everyone has their issues; we’ve all experienced traumas; we’re all broken. What we share in common are our human natures and the whole range of human emotions. What we are less likely to share in common – diagnosed or not – is mental illness.

Someone who is sad may say they’re depressed when they have no clue what real depression is like. It is not sadness – it’s worse.

Someone who is particular might say they’re OCD about something when they have no real understanding of the brutality of the disorder. In its most destructive form, OCD is oppressive and relentless.

You lack motivation? Sure, everyone does but do you know that tight grip of depression that feels like 20kgs of weight strapped to your feet? You can’t move, no matter how hard you try.

Someone who is feeling stressed from having too much on their plate may not truly know what real sensory overwhelm feels like – that state where your anxious mind meets a barrage of overbearing stimulants. The result is internal chaos.

You say you feel anxious. Everyone experiences anxiety – true – but not everyone understands the extreme stress response that comes in the form of a panic attack. It is truly awful and can be extremely hard to prevent, even after all your best efforts.

Someone whose brain has checked out for the day due to busyness, may not know what real dissociation feels like – that state in which you lose all sense of yourself. In fact, you don’t even know you’ve ‘left’ and so have no idea when you’ll be ‘back’.

Someone who feels lonely for a spell maybe doesn’t understand the feelings of abandonment and despair that you have to deal with as a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

These examples are just a few of the ‘not so ordinary’ issues I – and many others – have to deal with, on a regular basis.Whilst BPD, depression and anxiety don’t define who I am, they follow me everywhere. They are more than mere labels, simply because I have to live with them day in and day out. Relief is hard to get.

BPD, depression and anxiety – like all mental illnesses – are serious and can’t be equated with all manner of human nature and human experience. (Did you know that the most common reason why people engage in self-harm or attempt suicide is to escape unbearable emotional pain?)

So sure, no one is normal. Normal doesn’t exist. But one person’s ‘not normal’ is different to another person’s ‘not normal’. And mental illness is the most debilitating ‘not normal’ out there.

So now that you understand the difference between the things we share in common as humans and a few of the symptoms of mental illness, dear friend, please stop comparing me to everyone else and telling me that my suffering is no different.

Perhaps you will never fully understand, and that’s okay, but I’d really appreciate it if you continue to try and as you try, be careful not to dismiss the gravity of mental illness.

Love Jodie x


Reader, Writer, Warrior