Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I originally started this blog as a way of forcing myself into regular writing practice and a place for some public ranting to ease some of the frustration I feel about the ways of the world – particularly in relation to sex workers. I sometimes feel like it’s ended up being more of a self-help guru than anything else. It feels a bit strange to have ended up in so much ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’ territory, however I guess it makes a lot of sense, the last year has been very much about internal journeying for me…and I feel like I’ve done some really worthwhile inner work. So here I go again.

Some people have asked me how I came out from under the weight of clinical depression. It’s a good question; but I don’t feel like I’ve always been able to answer it with sufficient depth. I have suffered from lifelong minor depression, with major episodes taking up much of the last decade. It’s been huge. I once spent a year in bed. I worked at an escort agency one night a week, which was enough to pay rent, bills and basic food costs. I piled up my cats food and water bowls, and opened the windows for them to wonder in and out at their will, and they could get into bed with me for cuddles when they wanted. I was too exhausted to stand up for longer than a few minutes, and my vision was so badly affected by the depression, I couldn’t even read very much. It was a truly awful time, this was before I was diagnosed and on meds. Things got better after I was on Zoloft, but I spent the last couple of years on the maximum recommended dose, and while I was stable, I was a long way from well. I’ve been off meds entirely since December 2005 and hope I’ll never need them again.

The break up was a bit of a crisis point for me last year, things had got so terrible, I had to ask myself how I had got myself into a position where I was in love with someone who could treat me without respect. It was a big question that took months to really answer. I was also remembering the other really devastating break up I’d been through, when I was about 21, I spent a year breaking up with a partner of four years. From that point my major depression emerged. My last psychiatrist in Adelaide had mentioned that it’s possible to actually die from very severe depression. Aside from obvious suicide risks, when your serotonin is so depleted (serotonin is a neurotransmitter [responsible for passing messages between different parts of the brain] however it also regulates the gastro intestinal tract and other organs with within the body) your organs can simply shut down and you can die. So I was stuck in a new town without many friends, a relationship breaking up, I had to move, and I really needed to continue to work hard as Sydney is so fucking expensive. I was terrified, but I also had to fight for my own life.

We were continuing to cohabit for a miserable month after breaking up. Hideous politeness with moments of pure cruelty as the dam would burst. I was trying to keep it together as much as possible as I still hoped we could be friends at some point, so I didn’t want to break down entirely. I started obsessively doing housework (something I’ve never been good at) as a way of keeping moving and minimising interacting time. Something shifted. Exercise is a key self-help strategy and keeping in constant motion by washing, ironing, etc started to make me feel more in control. She went back to Adelaide for a family event for a weekend, which gave me some respite, and my brain started working again. I was walking home from the brothel I was working at about 6am. I started to feel like I knew how to emerge from this. I consulted some of my depression self help books and started to work out an action plan. It finally clicked into place that many symptoms of depression also prolong the illness.

Depression often means that you have no motivation to leave your house, engaging with the outside world, or interacting with people in a social context. Social contact and feeling a part of a community is a huge part of mental health. Depression tends to slow your whole body down, and motivation around moving at all just isn’t there. Exercise is hugely beneficial around depression – using your body makes a massive difference to your sense of well being and being capable. Statistically these two things make the most difference in terms of wellness and recovery, so these were the major focuses of my action plan. I regularly invited everyone I knew to coffee, dinner, movies. Anyone I met that seemed lovely, I exchanged contact details with, and actually contacted them and continued to build a network. I walked my arse off – sometimes 5 hours, sometimes 7, sometimes 10 hours. Constant walking. After such a convoluted explanation, it’s actually simple. Focus on the symptoms. The fact that it took me about a decade is indicative of what an analytical sausage I am - always trying to dig up the roots of the issue - wanting to lie about on couches and explore family history and dysfunction. Damn it - walking and going out more seemed too simple. Shift the symptoms and you shift the depression. And do all of this as if your life depended on it… because with chronic depression it does.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Who was that masked fluffer?

During a day into evening shift at my brothel last week, I had three clients in a row say I reminded them of an ex girlfriend. Spooky.

Now clients will choose a particular worker for a range of reasons: she seemed the least threatening and he was feeling shy, he has a thing for blondes, he saw her last time and had fun, she offers a specialist service that he wants, he likes curvier or bustier women, she reminds him of an ex he has fond memories of or someone he has a crush on, he's never had sex wih someone like her before, she seemed the most friendly, she gave him a wink during the introduction and he thinks that means she'll be fun in the room, she tripped over when coming in to the intro room but laughed it off and he found that attractive....

Three in a row who think I remind them of an ex is a bit much though. I was finding it creepy initially. I was also offended that I remind anyone of anyone, I do like to see myself as unique. Then I thought about it some more.... there is some nice woman out there fluffing all these guys for me who then pay me for sex. Thanks anonomous fluffer. Much appreciated.

Mess, Ghosts and Gurlesque

For someone who doesn't drink, I managed to get mighty messy last night. Red food colour stains on my new white Debby Doesn't Do It For Free pencil skirt (note to self: do not sit near stage when wearing white). Glittering pink and luscious red lipstick smears from hello kisses with fabby femmes. Gorgeous white fluffy boudoir slippers with stiletto heels now somewhat the worse for wear after someone dropped a glass of beer near pool table. I'm thinking of only wearing PVC from now on: if the worst happens, someone can turn a garden hose on me.

Worse than my sartorial woes was the feeling all through the night, wherever I turned, of being haunted by the ghosts of relationships past. Even more unsettling than my recent Adelaide adventures, all bar two of the women I've fucked or dated since moving to Sydney were out at the Impy - including the Evil Ex and the Crazy Ex. Clearly it's not necessary to have a near death experience to have your life flash before your eyes - a night out on the Sydney dyke scene ought to do it.

Those women I know who play and date within fairly restricted circles/ communities have my respect for their coping skills in navigating this crazy dance. I certainly wasn't managing well last night - but at the same time, couldn't escape as Disintigrated Debby was performing a piece in the last set of the night. My coping skills have been effected anyway this week, I've been working six days a week at my various jobs since Adelaide, and have had a flu thingie that seems to be going around - so mentally drained and not much immunity at the moment. It's the third time this month I've seen the Evil Ex - who just won't shrivel up and die, damn her. The cheshire cat (I've borrowed this metaphor from Zoo) is someone I've yet to build up immunity to. She still leaves me weak at the knees.

One by one they emerged and had their effect, not all of those I've bonked or dated had an unpleasant sensation attached - it's more the combination of all of them in the one space that was doing my head in. I was so distracted all night, I did little more than perfunctionarily greet several nice people, including a very nice woman I fucked during the last week. I feel ill-mannered and emotionally exhausted. After this Adelaide to Sydney ex-extravaganza - I've been forced to do some journeying into my past choices. Did I really spend five years in a relationship when we had no sexual contact after the first 18 months? Did I really fall madly in love with a woman who wasn't sober during sex for the first 3 months of our relationship, and was a mean and embarrasing drunk? Did I really allow myself to date several people who were ashamed of my dress sense, my sex work and my weirdness? Have I really been desparate enough to put everything into a relationship with a selfish creature who demanded more and more, til I drained myself of everything, only to have her dump me? Ouch!

Most of my risk-taking around my performance, activism, creativity and other choices have paid off. I've grown in strength and wisdom, and have become a more fully realised person. However, my partner choices at times have been truly awful.While my discernment over the last year has gotten better and better, I'm feeling like I should extend my current relationship ban to cover all partner sex for at least a while. I need to feel like my energy is put to best use right now, and my various work and Debbys commitments are overwhelming enough, without adding the sleep deprivation as well as mine and other people's at times unmanageable expectations to the mix. Any free time right now is best spent in self care, sleep and down time at home. At some stage I hope I'll be abe to reconcile some of my past choices - or maybe just know that I've really and truly moved to a healthier place, where I expect more from partners and demonstrate greater self respect in who I let in to my life, my bed, or toilet cubicle.

Disintigrated Debby was absoluely great. I'm so proud of her piece. I love her skill in making a relatively short piece about sex work, while also including other social justice issues. I have yet to achieve this feat in my Debby work. Still just raging away at sex negativity........

My learnings from the night:

  • This is not new, but I love, love, love Gurlesque - Sex and Glita do fantastic pieces - witty, intellegent, political, and just silly - it's an amazing sex positive, woman positive forum for emerging performance art you just don't see other places.
  • The Debbys are the most sucessful activism I've ever been involved with - creating spaces to celebrate whore culture and community, while inviting non-whores in to be tricked and treated into celebrating whores along with us.
  • If you are dating asshole after asshole, there maybe something you need to examine within yourself - it can't all be coincidence.
  • There are lots and lots of smart, sexy queer femmes in Sydney who have social consciences - I'm glad I'm getting to know a few of them.
  • Never wear white in boozy crowded spaces.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

At Last: a Jane Austen Reference

I started reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, just after the break up with the Evil Ex, while we continued to share a domicile for an excrutiating month before moving out from the house of hideous history. It may seem a little bizarre, but Jane Austen was of immeasurable comfort at a particularly nasty time.

All I had to preserve at that stage was whatever shreds of dignity I could imagine were still about me. I didn't want to collapse in front of the Evil Ex - it took me a few more encounters to truly understand the extent of the evil, so at that stage I was truly concerned about maintaining her respect for me (which wasn't at all evident in her behaviour) and not troubling her overly with guilt as a result of my grieving. Crappy reasons, as they were all about her and not at all about me. Eventually, however, my reasons for my dignity became more about my own self-respect and well being.

I needed to read heaps - even more than usual - at that time as I certainly wasn't sleeping well. So the classics it was. What emerged from Sense and Sensibility was a value system that said emotionally bleeding all over the shop and wallowing in self-pity would make you very ill, would set tongues wagging, ruin your reputation and your chances of catching yourself a husband; whereas maintaining self-composure, valuing other aspects of your life, such as friends and family and trying as much as possible to go about your daily activities was the path to contentment, inner peace and would create less regret in the long run.

I really connected with this stuff. Obviously, you have to put it all in the context of the era it was written. Unmarried women couldn't spend very much time with any man they weren't related to without causing comment, and couldn't express any interest in any man unless he had already proposed, without endangering their reputation. A lot of this seems like lunacy and is certainly wildly restrictive, and doesn't bode well for happy marriages, as it totally rests on male relatives being able to find out as much as they can about a guy's reputation and wealth, and basing the decision to marry on whether he has seemed to be respectable and has the means to support you. As Charlotte Lucas, from Pride and Prejudice thought, "Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honorable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantness preservative from want."

The idea of the lady has always revolted me. However much fun for dress ups and role play crinolines and corsetry are, the emotional equivalent - restricted range of movement, not having a voice, all helplessness and breathiness and no self-direction, no strength and no capacity for assertiveness - is just stifling and without the potential for erotisisation (for me anyway). However, the Austen-approved virtues of self control and not letting your stuff hang out in public makes a lot of sense to me. It may seem like a weird comment to post in a blog of all places, but the reality TV/ talk show culture of public confession is freaking me out just a little. I am increasingly disturbed by the celebration of messiness and careening out of control in public. I think women in particular lose respect and credibility by these displays.

By all means, I think life throws up extraordinarily painful episodes that really tax our ability to keep it all together. I think working through issues can take time and effort and sometimes going back over the same ground. the universe has a habit of repeating a lesson over and over until you finally get it. Crying on the shoulders of close and trusted friends is to be recommended, as is going into therapy, journaling and anything else that will get you through. I just don't think self-destructing in public is a great idea or doing it around the-one-that-broke-your-heart or others who clearly don't have your best interests at heart. I think doing all you can to examine where your own patterns have contributed is immensely dignified and rewarding. I also believe strongly in moving forward with your own day to day life and trusting that if you keep putting one foot in front of the other that it will get easier with time. Trying your absolute hardest to not continuously obsess about whatever is making you miserable - as impossible as it sounds - is worth persevering with. I have found saying affirmations such as, 'and this too will pass' and 'I am a strong, gorgeous, dynamic goddess who will live and breathe success and will continue making the world a better place by my awesome presence' while wearing particularly high stilettos and very red lipstick to be very helpful.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I've been in Adelaide most of the last week for a sex worker conference.

It was the weirdest thing - I lived there my entire life up until two years ago, yet I found myself losing my sense of direction the whole time..... I was unexpectantly homesick for a while, how cheap to live, how pretty, how quiet, how easy to get around - Adelaide has many things going for it. Then I saw my sister, two exs (one nice, one nasty), and numerous gay men I hadn't seen for years in the space of five days. It cured the homesickness.

The conference itself was amazing - people who had been around the sex worker rights movement for ages, and brand new people. At this stage the movement seems pretty healthy, it's not big and established enough to start policing its image and kicking out any sense of diversity.

We had quite a decent sized sex worker contingent for the Adelaide Pride March, which is the beginning of the Feast Festival. Our chant of 'Sex worker rights are human rights; sex worker rights are industrial rights' seemed to resonate with the crowd.

The recent loss of beautiful Kenn (I attended the funeral the day before getting on a flight to Adelaide) and a sucessful conference which as usual felt like an oasis of sex worker safe space in a desert has been a bittersweet experience. I've been laughing and crying for over a week - often at the same time. It's affirmed for me how much I value the gorgeous fellow sex worker activists in my life and how important nurturing community space for marginalised communities is.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What do you say about a man who died?

He was a gay man and a proud father. He was an exciting performer and a homebody, devoted to his garden and his dogs. He had a cynical, bitchy wit and was one of the most welcoming and generous people I've ever known. He was a control freak and had a careening messiness about him. He survived so much and was carried away after less than 72 hours of illness.

I lost a friend of about 10 years on Monday. I wasn't intending to write a eulogy, but I did want to record some thoughts.

Sometimes small and marginalised communities are very much like families. Sometimes community members who have a huge influence on us can be taken for granted. Sometimes personal qualities can drive us insane but common ground like a sense of justice keeps us connected. There were times i didn't see him for a year but now the loss feels enormous and just about everything I'm involved with is full of memories.

I hate that it takes something this awful to remind me that it is within a person's contradictions that their amazing beauty is located. i hate that it takes a death to really make me appreciate someone's contributions to my life and my community. I should have known his big spirit and big personality would leave such emptiness.