Essure Implants – A Testimonial

Warning – This post talks about female reproductive organs and contraception. If you don’t like reading about that stuff, go away.

I’m taking the opportunity to write about my experience with the (somewhat infamous) Essure implants.

If you’ve found your way here after googling Essure either before or after you’ve had the operation, firstly, don’t panic.

DO NOT PANIC. It’s the worst thing you can do. I know there is a crap-tonne of information out there and just about all of it bad, and my own story isn’t that great either.  That being said, I wanted to relate my experience because all I could personally find were horror stories.

Preface

Like many gynecologist’s have done, my doctor suggested tubal occlusion, aka an Essure implant, because it was a quick and simple procedure and something that I could have done while I was getting another medical issue seen to.

On the face of it, Essure implants sounded awesome. No requirement to put me under a general anaesthetic, I didn’t need to go to hospital to get it done as there was no need to open me up surgically, recovery time was two days at most as opposed to a couple of weeks for a tubal ligation. Because I am fat (my doctor had the good grace to call me “cuddly”) she said that it would be the easiest option for us both. I couldn’t disagree – being overweight does come with it’s own complications when it comes to medical procedures. But it all still sounded great.

That was pretty much all that was told to me about the procedure and the implants. I got a brochure detailing how the implants worked and was sent on my merry way.

An Explanation

For those not in the know, a tubal occlusion is where two tiny spring coils are fed into the fallopian tubes. This causes a natural reaction within the body and the irritation from the coils causes scar tissue to form around the coils, thus providing a natural block in the fallopian tubes that stops the egg delivery process from the ovaries. The name of these coils are called Essure and they are made by Bayer.

My Procedure

When I went back almost a year later, my doctor was still happily recommending the implants but she did tell me that there was some sort of action against them in the United States. She then explained that she used to just do an x-ray at the three month mark but since there had been questions about it’s effectiveness, I would need a different procedure that involves being turkey-basted with dye to be sure that the fallopian tubes were blocked.  So I just thought it had something to do with their effectiveness.

Sounds good, right? Here’s where it went pear-shaped for me.

My situation deviated from the norm in this regard as I had to get another small procedure called a LLETZ or large loop excision, which did involve being admitted to hospital as a day patient. My doctor did both procedures during the same admission so I was put under a general anaesthetic rather than just being done in the chair. All went well on the day, and I was out of hospital within five hours – most of which was actually spent waiting for my turn and recovery afterwards.

After going home from the hospital I was a little exhausted and a little bit sore, though I am certain that was from having way too much going on up in my privates for one day, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Two days after the procedure I actually felt worse that I did when I came home from the hospital. Yes, it hurt but it wasn’t so much an “ouch” as it was a constant, intense ache in my lower abdomen. Every now and then there would be a horrible pinching that I could feel somewhere from within and it was extremely disconcerting that I couldn’t reach the area to rub it better. It was the weirdest, most unpleasant sensation I can ever remember experiencing. This feeling increased to a weird pulling-like sensation and that’s when I started to realise I could feel these things inside me. The mental damage that did was almost as horrific as the pain I was in.

My Recovery After Essure

I was told that I would be down for a couple days at most.

Here’s what actually happened.

Day 1 (after procedure): A little spotting, nothing serious. Moderate discomfort but nothing a regular headache tablet couldn’t dampen. Was more tired from my usual crappy reaction to the anaesthetic.

Day 2: More discomfort, pain in my lower back and still experiencing spotty/gritty discharge though this was from the LLETZ loop, not the Essure implants. Looked up “essure” on Google and proceeded to have a meltdown.

Day 3: Increasing discomfort.  Not spotting but lots of watery discharge. Again, this was most likely my reaction to the loop, not the Essure implants. Still very upset by what I found online.

Day 4: Post op pain diminished and back pain gone but I was still feeling uncomfortable and sore. Noticed a weird smell at that point and took myself to the doctors and was prescribed a general antibiotic.

Day 5:  Back at work, however sitting for long periods of time became uncomfortable. The horrible pulling sensation starts. Emotional/mental distress increases a thousand fold as I had read even more what Google had to say about these fucking implants.

Day 6: Mild spotting starts.  Discomfort remains high and steady. Had to go home from work early. AGAIN.

Day 7: It still hurts to sit for long periods of time and the weird pinch/pull sensation increases when I move around too much.

Day 8 to Week 2:  Bleeding increases. Pain still as it was.  Constant, tiring. Starting to become a little despondent and, frankly, frightened as hell at what I had allowed to be done to my body.

Week 3: Bleeding seems to be on the rise.  We’ve gone from spotting to proper bleeds but at the end of the day.  This makes sense, as it could be from increased activity, but it is very concerning as I shouldn’t be bleeding at this point at all. (Still on the active contraceptive pill, too.)

Week 4: Ok, I might have had sex a couple days before I should have (I had to wait for my cervix to heal completely which was horrible, particularly when you quite like your boyfriend) but I was more toey than a Roman sandal and needed physical reassurance that I was still desirable and that my bits still worked. Answer; I am and they do. I was happy. But the day after I still had the bleeds. And the hurting was still very much happening if I walked around for too long… or coughed.  This prompted a call to the gyno for a follow up appointment.

At that appointment I was told that my cervix looked awesome (yay, I suppose) but that it smelled like I had an infection.  I also explained about the bleeding too and was given medication for both.  As I was still in pain, she referred me on to have an x-ray to make that the implants were where they needed to be and also have a blood test to see if anything serious needed addressing.  The results from both of those were clear.

Week 5:  Round one of medication taken and the infection seemed to clear up.  The pain had definitely improved too so I get the impression that it might have had something to do with the Essures at this point.  STILL bleeding heavily though.

Week 6:  Started taking the non-active contraceptive pills and let nature take its course just in case it was my period breaking through as the gyno suggested.  HOLY SHITBALLS, the cramps…  That was new.  I sometimes get horrible cramps but this was something else.

Week 7:  Period finally finishes but still spotting. ARGH! It stopped towards the end of that week.

Week 8 to present:  NO BLEEDING. NO PAIN!

Yes, it took eight. fucking. weeks to recover from this procedure and I still have to go back sometime soon to get that final examination done.

What I Found On Google About Essure

I won’t repeat what I found but very little of it is good.  The only positive testimonials to be found are on the Essure website itself which, frankly, I find dodgy as fuck.  I discovered that I had been sold on something that is swiftly proving to be dangerous.

What is most frightening was the sheer number of women who have come forward to say that they are or were unwell and in pain and needed full or partial hysterectomies to get rid of both the implants and the pain they caused.

Hell, even Erin Brockovich is in on it – she’s running the class action.

Am I angry at my doctor for not having told me these things?  YES.  Yes, I am.  Very much so.

Am I upset that I didn’t turn to Google first to do my own investigations before getting the procedure done?  Yes, I am. If I had seen this information beforehand, I would have simply opted for tubal ligation and just dealt with the recovery process.  Buyer very much beware.

Would I recommend this to anyone?  No. No, I wouldn’t.  Certainly not based on my experience.  Eight weeks is a lot of time to be in pain and to be bleeding. Now I have the added stress of wondering what is going on inside my body at any given time, if these things are going to move or break, if I am bound for a lifetime of recurring infections, if I will be in pain again if I start a serious regime of exercise, IF I WILL GET PREGNANT – WTF?!

Let me just reiterate that I got these things put in because I didn’t want to get pregnant and wanted a hormone-free method of long-term contraception.

So far, these things have not made my life any easier. I am yet to see if they are going to make it horribly difficult.

 

Simplest and Best Cauliflower Soup EVER

Is there anything better than cauliflower soup?

Well, there’s chocolate, I guess.

And doughnuts.

And apple crumble doused liberally in extremely vanilla-y custard.

But I digress.

Cauliflower soup is the bees knees of soups and has been a favourite since forever and best of all it is piss-easy to make.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 Large head of cauliflower (Or as much as you want, really.)
  2. 1 ltr chicken/vegetable stock (For the lazibums around, just buy a carton. For the cooking aficionados, spend a day making stock from scratch and laud it over the rest of us.)
  3. 1 TBSP caraway seeds (Even if you hate caraway seeds, like I do, they need to go in this soup as they do something to the flavour of the cauliflower that is magical.)
  4. Salt and pepper to taste (A good, big sized pinch for a big pot.)
  5. Optional: Milk, evaporated milk, cream, cheese, etc. (Will discuss later.)

Method:

  • Roughly chop up your cauliflower and throw it in the pot. Give it a bit of a rinse if you’re one of those annoying “I only buy organic” people and your cauliflower is still liberally sprinkled with the poo of fairies and unicorns.
  • Pour in your stock until it just covers the cauliflower. If needed, you can top up with water or more stock.
  • Throw in your caraway seeds.
  • Turn the stove onto a medium-high heat and cook the shit out of it until the cauliflower is easily mushable with a spoon. MUSH! You can leave it rustic like I do with most bits still intact or you can get your stick blender our and make it smooth. That all depends on your visual taste.
  • Check your seasoning at this point. Chuck in some salt if you think you need it.

Now, the soup is entirely edible at this point and if a quick, tasty meal was what you were after then this with a couple slices of buttered toast is delightful.

If you want to beef it up a little you can do the following:

  • Make a rue (white sauce) with cheese and cook it into the soup or;
  • Throw in a bottle of cream and call it “Cream of Cauliflower Soup” (this is both decadent and tasty) or;
  • Pour in some evaporated milk (low fat, regular, dairy-free, whatever you like) for that gentle balance between broth and cream. This is my personal favourite.

All of the above additions work really well if you want to go a bit fancy and blend the soup smooth.  This is a great starter or just a comfort dish on it’s own. Try dipping garlic bread into it.

OMFG-YUM.

Just a side note, this particular recipe makes a very light, liquid soup; it’s not meant to be thick. It’s the “broke student” version of several recipes you can find online.  If you’ve only got a couple dollars, this makes a BIG pot that can keep you going for a while.  If you want something a little more sumptuous, add in some starchy potato, onion, garlic and butter for richness.

 

Changes. Well, more changes.

So, long time no blog.

Things change. How many times have I admitted that to myself this year?

It’s been an up-and-down few months.

I finally walked out of my marriage, a little tenderised but mostly unscathed. I can pretty much thank the Manbeast’s level head for much of it. The house sold for a decent price (the range we were hoping for) and we were able to split with a decent chunk of money each, even after paying back the Maternal Unit the amount she gave us for a deposit.

Sadly our promises of “staying friends” seems to have turned to “staying silent”. We haven’t spoken for a long while. For all of his insistence of joint ownership of the cats and visitation rights and such (this was our personal joke – we have no kids other than the fur babies), nothing has really happened in that respect. He hasn’t called to visit them at all. I get it. I was warned that it was most likely to happen and while it makes me a little bit sadder than usual, I get it. And I’ll take it on the chin. I’m not going to chase him down and insist he be part of my life like he made me promise when we were going through the throws of breaking up.

Things change.

What actually hurts most is the abject silence from a handful of our mutual friends and that of his parents. Where my mum (the Maternal Unit) had offered her ongoing support to the Manbeast, something I have absolutely no issue with, I haven’t had the same from his parents. That’s one stony, icy-cold silence. Guess I was a bitter disappointment there. First take their son away, then refuse to have babies, then break up with him.

The other friends… Well, maybe I wasn’t as close to them as I thought. They certainly haven’t reciprocated the “We are Switzerland!” stance that the Manbeast and I gave them when they were going through their own issues. There’s been no pokes through Facebook or emails or texts. Just silence.

And to be honest, that’s ok too. The Manbeast needs their support without my interference.

Deep breath.

Let it go.

Things change. Though I will admit it’s left me feeling very alone sometimes. I don’t go chasing people anymore for attention, particularly when it’s obvious that I am barely registering as a thought.

Moving back into the Maternal Unit’s house hasn’t been terribly fun. It’s been reassuring to know that I had somewhere to go but I’ve packed up a whole independent life and put as much of it as I could into one room. A very small room. Mum is a clutter-bug and has a LOT of stuff she’s been keeping for those “just in case” moments and, of course, things that are “useful”. Unfortunately it means that there’s not a whole lot of space to put other stuff, even before I moved in; an achievement when you think it’s a three bedroom house that has contained one lady and one or two cats for the better part of 10 years. She’s a neat hoarder, though. Very tidily squirreling things away. No piles of stuff or cluttered hallways but nature clearly hates a vacuum in that house.

Not all is doom and gloom though.

There’s a new bloke on the scene.

He makes me happy.

Ecstatic, actually. He gets it. He gets me. He loves me. He wants to be with me. Not just “in a relationship” but physically be in my presence a lot of the time.

The feeling is entirely mutual.

And I am learning what I was missing out on with the Manbeast. This is not a bad thing – how can you miss what you never experienced? It’s just nice to learn these new facets of a relationship. Having someone reach for your hand and actually hold it, leaning in for a kiss (and to hell with who is watching), reading a paper together over a hot chocolate and coffee, dating. Stuff that never really happened before.

The Manbeast and I were a couple but we did our own thing and worked independently of each other much of the time. Too much of the time.

Now, “Sharpy” (as I will call him for he wields very sharp knives on a regular basis) and I do stuff together for the purpose of doing stuff together; sharing and experiencing things together.

He likes to shop with me.

He watches “Say Yes to the Dress” marathons with me. VOLUNTARILY.

That’s true love right there, folks.

He’s not perfect but I don’t want him to be. His imperfections match mine and we can make each other better.

I have no idea where life is headed next, but I know for sure that I’m going to live it rather than just exist in it. My aunt died at the end of July this year. That will be another blog post for later when I don’t feel the crushing weight of her absence anymore, but her death has taught me not to waste any more time.

Travel tips from someone who doesn’t travel very much for good reason.

I thought I would join in with Friday Reflections this week and give my top 11 (weird number but why not?) travel tips.

1. You will get sick. Deal with it. Pack drugs. Though make sure they’re not the kind that gets you into trouble.

Is this just me? So far on every overseas trip I have ended up getting a case of plague. On my very first trip out of the country, I ended up sitting next to a woman who had sneakily snuck her particularly diabolical case of influenza/black death onto the plane under the cover of what must have been about 800 doses of very strong cold and flu meds. Sadly they wore off about three hours into the flight and I was stuck next to this sniveling snot machine for another five until we hit Singapore. While I rushed out of that aircraft as soon as I could to shower and spray myself with antibacterial lotion, the damage was done. A week later, while I was in my friend’s flat in Japan, the cold hit. And then we went to China and I nearly died. The cold turned into one hell of a chest infection. Beijing at the tail-end of Winter was not the brightest idea I’d had at that time.

I was coughing up black shit for months after I got back to Australia.

And lets not forget that time I got honest-to-God DYSENTERY during a trip to Perth a few years ago. That was one fucking well-earned hemorrhoid.

2. Slow walkers are EVERYWHERE. Try not to kill them.

Bloody tourists. Sure, it’s fine when you’re one of those lucky sods who has the time (and money) to amble about a city for weeks at your leisure but for the rest of us, sometimes we only have a day, maybe two, in one particular place before being dragged away on a bus or needing to catch a plane to the next destination. We need to get places quickly and make smart use of our time and nothing pisses us off more than Slow Walkers taking up an entire footpath while they shuffle along. No amount of polite coughing gets their attention. Fuck, I don’t think a full-blown asthma attack would so much as garner a head-turn.

I have felt the rage. Seethed with it. Cheated death by walking out onto a busy road in order to get around groups of Slow Walkers.

3. Eat the damned food. And pack Immodium.

The whole idea of travel is to see and experience new things. In my opinion, those experiences include eating the food of the country you’re in. Now, I am not suggesting you go and eat scorpions off a stick or drink snake venom wine, but at least try something different. Don’t be That Guy who calls out from the back of a tour bus in the middle of Xian, China “Hey, were is the nearest McDonalds?!” (Yes, we had that guy at the back of the tour bus while we were in Xian, China.) That being said, if you’ve got a sensitive gut (like I totally do at random times), always pack some tummy meds. Nothing screws up a holiday like being stuck in the shitter for hours on end.

4. NEVER play “Pot Luck” in exotic places. And DEFINITELY pack Immodium.

Ok, imagine this, if you will. You’re in a foreign country. You wander into a restaurant that is in the very non-touristy area of a city. You sit down and your friend mentions something about the kanji for “beef” in Japanese is similar to that of Chinese. You blithely smile and nod because you’re tired and “hangry” and over everything and just need food.

Let’s just say I don’t think it was beef.

5. Don’t buy books at the airport. You’ll have to carry them.

Look… I’m a bibliophile. I love my books. When there are a couple hours to spare at an airport and I can’t find anything better to do, I will invariably end up in the newsagent/bookshop. And I will buy, at the absolute least, three books – and I can guarantee they won’t be 100-page novellas. These will be new large format editions that take up at least 6kg of my 7kg carry-on weight limit. And because I love my books, I will not read them and discard them. OH, NO. My babies come with me.

I carried no less than four giant books with me everywhere last time I was out of the country. Don’t do that. Buy a Kindle. Or download a reading app on your phone or tablet.

6. Don’t give street vendors your name. Ever. Just don’t.

Tourist traps are everywhere. And where there’s a tourist trap, there’s a gauntlet of street vendors plying their trade in souvenirs and keepsakes. Don’t give them the promise that you’ll be back to take a closer look at their stuff because you know you won’t. Don’t try to be kind. Keep your eyes down and plow straight on through. I made this mistake when visiting the Great Wall of China. It was the slightly less popular area of the wall, but still teaming with people selling the odd “genuine” fur-lined, Mongol cap and colourful kites. Like the sap I was, I gave a particular vendor my name because she said that she would put something I had a passing interest in away for me. I can’t even remember what it was but the sound that came at me when I returned from my walk on the Wall is ingrained into my brain for life. The entire line of vendors knew my name.

“Erreeeeeeeeeen! Erreeeeeeeeeeeeeen! Come here, Erreeeeeeeeeeeeen! I have many good things for you, Erreeeeeeeeen!”

FML.

7. If they’re still smiling when you walk away, you got DONE. Learn to haggle.

If you are game enough to browse for keepsakes of your trip at any sort of outside store or market, you will have to haggle. You could be a wuss, like me, and just hand over ridiculously large amounts of money for a small ancient, yet surprisingly plasticy-feeling artifact, but that’s no fun really. Regardless of what they might say, if they’re still prepared to sell to you at the highest price you’re saying you will go, they are still making a big profit. Trust me, you are not ruining that person’s day if they are glaring at you as you make off with your goods.

8. Stay in hostels. You find the best people in them.

If you’re light on cash flow, this might be the only option for you anyway, but if you have the choice, I totally recommend hostels as a place to lay your head for the evening – or continue partying, depending on your choice of hostel. You don’t have to do it all the time but do it at least once. Apart from saving a shitload of money, you get to meet people – people who encourage you to go out and do stuff. Explore a city a little deeper. Actually eat that scorpion-on-a-stick.

And sometimes you may find yourself rooming in a hostel in the middle of Old Town, Edinburgh, with two young men from Australia and New Zealand respectively who gleefully announce at five o’clock in the evening that it’s “Beer o’clock!” and vanish down to the Grassmarket for the rest of the day, only to return at some time in the wee hours and very drunkenly navigate their way onto the top bunks while alternately trying not to talk too loud or throw up and then fall into such a state of unconsciousness that you feel compelled to check for a pulse on one of them the following morning before you leave for your day of sight-seeing and then come back to an empty-but-for-a-bucket-of-vomit room in the afternoon…

NOT THAT THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME.

9. Choose the path less traveled. Avoid tourist traps.

The best advice we ever got while in China was to avoid Shaolin at all costs. The lovely staff at the hostel in Pingyao warned off the area after overhearing a conversation my friend and I were having about going there. Instead we were handed a big brochure about Chengdu. What’s special about Chengdu?

Lemme give you a hint:

Yep. ALL THE PANDAS.
Yep. ALL THE PANDAS.

Chengdu is still a big city and fairly touristy, but I reckon we chose the better option. An awesome time was had by all. So if a local warns you off somewhere, pay attention. They might have a good alternative. Though be safe, make sure you research any suggestion thoroughly before actually going – you don’t want to end up the victim of some nefarious crime ring.

10. You will inevitably fight with your travel companion(s). Don your big girl/boy panties.

Look, it’s going to happen. Weeks on end with the same person, sharing each others very personal spaces, enduring massive culture shock, the stress of traveling, getting used to each others REALLY FUCKING ANNOYING habits… Yep. It’s just a matter of time. What is important is that you get it out of your system and then get over it. Sometimes you just need to quit whatever plans you made and do something else. Sometimes you need to take a break from each other.

Sometimes all the situation needs is for some weird and slightly sleazy European to attach himself to you and start asking you all sorts of personal questions to make you forget whatever pithy argument you were in the middle of giving/getting the silent treatment for and instead haul arse to the train station to take shelter there while you wait the four hours for your train back to London…

(This may or may not have happened to us.)

11. JUST TRAVEL.

Go. See the world. See things. Take it all in. Don’t wait for a more convenient time. Do it while you’re young and stupid enough to enjoy being in mild levels of danger and getting drunk at five o’clock and eating stuff that will give you the runny shits for a week and staying up all night talking philosophy to people you just met.

Write Tribe

There and back again. Marriage to Un-Marriage.

How do you know when a relationship is over?

When you know you can live, quite happily, without the other person as part of your life. It’s a simple answer but the most telling one.

How do you deal with it? That’s the bit I’ve spent the last few years trying to work out.

Even before we got married, I knew things weren’t right. I’d known for a long, long time but I thought it was normal. It was shit that everyone felt one time or another, right? No one is perfect. There is no perfect marriage or partnership. But being terminally optimistic (or fatalistic) about such things, I thought being married would bring us closer together; make us happier.

It didn’t. Nothing changed. If anything, things gradually got worse.

For me, the beginning of the end was a brief conversation about whether I was attractive. I was told I “wasn’t… unattractive”.

I kept waiting for a punchline that never, ever came.

The problem was me, right? Of course, that’s what I thought. Who makes a comment like that? Even if they didn’t “mean” it, there’s still some truth to it. I was hurt beyond speaking – fuck, beyond breathing – as I realised that there was to be no laughing “Just kidding!” to follow.

Clearly the problem was me.

It started a spiral that was both downward and upward for me.

I started to take care of myself better – thinking that the problem was me. I lost 50kg – thinking that the problem was me. I started to dress better – thinking that the problem was me.

It was never him. I wasn’t prepared to shift the blame onto him. It had to be me. I had all this rage because I was the problem and didn’t know how to properly deal with it.

When we had a massive fight, it was me who was sent to counseling – and I went, thinking that the problem was me.

The end goal was to be a better, more lovable/likeable me.

So I changed physically and emotionally. I learned to breathe and let things go. To compromise – always compromise and convince myself that whatever I had to compromise on wasn’t important, totally putting aside the fact that my thoughts and feelings were important and valid too. Did it change anything at home? Nope.

And in the three years (from 2011) all that took, I came to the realisation that IT. WASN’T. ME.

I was reacting to the problem, not creating it.

(I realise belatedly this was the stuff my therapist had alluded to. Funny how hindsight is remarkably clear.)

The confidence that came with losing weight meant that I could walk down the street and look people in the eye and know that I was worth so much more than what I was given credit for. I had a brain. I had skill. Fuck, I was even pretty. I was perfectly fine as a human being.

I suddenly got tired of watching all of our friends working as units; well-oiled marriage machines that managed to keep their shit together and even love each other at the same time, and wondering why I didn’t have that. I watched my employers scream at each other (I work for three husband/wife teams) one second but be cuddling in the next second and actually addressing what was wrong and doing something to fix it but couldn’t even convince my own husband that putting empty toilet rolls in the bin was a Good Idea.

After the disastrous Christmas of 2014 when I needed support from the one who was supposed to be closest to me – who had chosen that period of two weeks to give me the cold shoulder because of a fight the week before – I knew I had to face the reality that things weren’t working. More importantly, I had to deal with the infinitely more guilty realisation that I didn’t want them to work anymore.

I wanted out.

(And before anyone rails the benefits of couples counseling and all that stuff at me, I have to tell you now that no counseling in the world will work when both parties aren’t committed to the process. And I was not and am not committed to that process. Deal with it.)

Cue a year of depression and hiding and eating… OMG, the eating.

I rediscovered my love of cake and chocolate and my affair with apathy was back in full swing.

Hello 20kgs. Nice to see you again. At least I’ll be slightly warmer this winter.

But anyway. The year wore on and time and time again I would finally decide that it was time to say something but I would chicken out. I knew I had to say something, and soon. My heart was flying off in a totally different direction at this stage.

Going to another wedding in January this year cemented it for me. It was painful, pretending to be happy while watching two friends who had been tip-toeing around each other for ages finally get married. The absolute adoration…

I was happy for them.

Sad for me. I was tired of being sad. I was tired of all lying and pretending that everything was fine and normal.

And the following week I spoke the words out loud, finally.

“I don’t want to be married anymore.”

And a new adventure begins.

Postscript: I still don’t blame him.

Truer words rarely spoken.
Truer words rarely spoken.

Goodbye 2015

This blog has been relatively quiet over the past twelve months that a “year in review” post seems a little unnecessary, but I’ll do it anyway.

2015 has been an interesting year. It’s been one of those years where it’s been mostly calm and serene on the surface but it’s been a flurry of emotional activity behind the scenes. I’m tired, emotionally drawn but grounded – most of the time.

In some ways I can count myself lucky. For many people around me there’s been horrific illness and tragedy. Some have made it out the other side while a couple have not. Some are still battling away, bless ’em.

This year has seen a few blessings in my life. New friends, new family, new creative obsessions endeavours.

My niece was born and has been bringing us much entertainment for the past ten months.

After a year’s worth of fairly constant misery with my Vectra’s electrics which not even Holden could properly diagnose without having to redo the wiring throughout the entire vehicle, I finally traded the jalopy in for a nifty little Bitsaremissing (aka Mitzubishi) Lancer which zips around the place like a ride-on mower on speed. I will admit that I miss the European luxury and the smooth drive of the Vectra – when it was working – but nothing beats a car that actually keeps running when you slow down to go around a corner…

If you’ve recently bought a Vectra in the past 6 months… I’m sorry.

I discovered colouring books. Yeah, the whole world-wide phenomenon of colouring has bit me hard and I’ve gone unashamedly nuts with it.

(I now own 397 colouring books…)

(Not quite the exaggeration you might think that number is, trust me.)

(I DO own over 400 colouring pencils and markers…)

(Hey, I could be smoking again. I consider this a win. And this is actually cheaper than buying nail polish every week.)

My mother and aunt and I finalised our overseas trip next year. I will be meeting them both in Munich (MUNICH!) in late August and we will be heading south into Austria to travel the countryside and get our tourist on before landing in Vienna to meet family I haven’t seen since I was three years old and I recently realised I really need to learn German. I know “danke” (thank you) and “löffel” (spoon) and a smattering of swear words… that’s it.

So unless I want to be the clueless Austrian version of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy and communicate a million nuances with just those two words, I need to learn all the Germans.

So yeah, things have been pretty good in that respect. I have stuff to look forward to. I have things to keep me occupied. I have people who love me and whom I love to the moon and back.

And then there’s the stuff that I am looking forward to as much as anyone could look forward to having a root canal done… on their birthday… with no anesthetic… while Justin Bieber croons in the background. I might post about that in a few months time. Maybe. Or not.

Next year will be about change, I can promise that.

And hopefully I’ll write a little more. Because I miss you guys.

In any case, I hope everyone who reads this has a lovely Christmas and New Year, however you choose to celebrate it.

Catch ya on the flip side.

Of Gods and the Godless

The current goings-on in the world are wearying, aren’t they? I always feel an odd sort of exhaustion any time something horrible happens in the name of someone’s omnipotent being called God (or one of His many other names). It’s a weird reaction to have. Most people are terrified or angry. I’m just tired. The tiredness comes from the constant waiting for something else to happen. Expectation of the proverbial muck that is going to hit the rotary blades.

The bombings in Beirut, Nigeria and Paris in recent weeks have been fucking overwhelming for me and I will freely admit that a little of the terror creeps in at the sides of that tiredness. In that small admission, I guess the bad guys are winning. But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with my nephew about God. I can’t even remember why. He ended up telling me about this weird class that his friends were taking.

For whatever her reasons, my sister had the Peanut baptised but is putting him through the public school system where religious education is not part of the regular curriculum. It’s a special class my sister can give permission for him to take.

As a result, the Peanut doesn’t know God. He doesn’t understand anything about the Creator. More over, he doesn’t understand the concept of a higher power at all. God, Allah, Buddha, the Flying Spaghetti Monster… it’s all alien to him. He doesn’t get it and kids like him have no idea why the world is looking down the barrel of what I think will be WWIII – The Religious War.

Back story…

Both my sister and myself were put through the Catholic school system from Prep to (in my case) year 12. From the age of 5-ish, we were taught Faith. We learned about God, Jesus, Mary. We know all the major stories from the Bible. We went through the major ceremonies to cement our membership and ensure our spot on the right side of the Pearly Gates. (So long as we behave ourselves – there’s always that caveat.)

So now… the God question.

To me, God just… is. That’s what Faith is. Inexplicable and fucking insane belief in something that has never been proven and of which there is very little evidence apart from a book of stories written by several different people and translated umptymillion times for the past 2000 years.

PLEASE don’t mistake me for being a Bible-thumping churchie – clearly I am not. Nor are the rest of my family – my parents put us through the Catholic system because they thought the education system was better in such schools. (Pro tip: It’s not.) And my schools were progressive in that while they taught the Word, they also taught stuff like science. Real science. (Like, no, humankind as we are today did NOT walk hand-in-claw with the dinosaurs and that the world was most likely created via the Big Bang and did not actually materialise magically within the universe over a period of seven days.)

But faith. It’s there. I can’t help it. I have it, as disillusioned with it as I may be.

But “it just IS” is not an adequate explanation for those who haven’t been indoctrinated from an early age (or birth) and have absolutely zero experience.

Of course this brings me right back to my initial comment. How do you go about explaining to a kid who has no concept of Life After Death (though he seems to know what ghosts are – probably due to the copious amounts of horror films he’s watched from behind a couch when he should have been in bed) that those nasty people over there in that other country are murdering people in the name of their Invisible Friend because their Invisible Friend is better than our Invisible Friend?

Yeah, it sounds as stupid as it actually is.

I really don’t blame him for the look he gave me.

Yep. This look.
Yep. This look.

PAX AUS 2015. Another year done. I’m knackered.

So my social event of the year, PAXAUS 2015, has come and gone. It was an odd mixture of fun, frustration, and exhaustion.

The mecca of all things nerdy.
The mecca of all things nerdy.

If you’re not sure what PAX (short for Penny Arcade Expo) is, you should check out Penny Arcade. Penny Arcade started life as a little online web comic that has grown into a huge industry powerhouse simply because it’s creators LOVE gaming. The expo happens yearly all over the USA and now, thankfully for the past few years, in Australia. Even better is that they’ve chosen Melbourne as the city to host it (for the time being) which means it’s incredibly easy for me to go to. It’s a celebration of games, gaming, games development and issues surrounding the gaming industry. It includes all facets of gaming, which is what I especially enjoy, so if you’re not a lover of video games but you adore table-top games, you’re totally covered.

To be honest, I am not really a hardcore gamer of any particular game style. I dabble in indie computer games and occasionally play the more mainstream stuff like The Sims, obvs. When I feel like it, I might play a card or board game or two. That said, I do enjoy knowing about the industry and it’s various facets. So for me the panels at PAX are definitely my favourite bit and what I invest much of my PAX time in.

Hee. I got the feels.
Hee. I got the feels.

This year there was a huge number of panels that I wanted to get into but due to time and schedule overlap, I couldn’t quite see everything that I wanted to see. Sadly, with PAX and the nature of how the show is put together, you do run the risk of panels not being great. Unfortunately many of panels I chose to attend were lackluster. While the topics were awesome, some failed simply due to the lack of preparation or real direction on behalf of the panelists.

The two panels I attended about the social aspect of gaming were frustrating as they didn’t even come close to discussing the topics they advertised. One panel was supposed to be debate about social gaming (think multiplayer games) versus solo gaming (single player) and which was better. It turned out to be a bunch of gameheads talking about which games they liked to play as opposed to putting forward arguments as to which was supposed to be “better”. It could have been SO GOOD… but wasn’t.

The other panel along the same theme was “Are Gamers Social?”, which was supposed to be a discussion addressing the idea that we gamers are not just people who sit in dark rooms playing games all day, denying that the outside world exists, was extremely disappointing. It was clearly put forward by someone with an axe to grind and who wanted to whine about how people give him a hard time – and having folks on the panel who looked like they hadn’t even bothered to shower in a few days didn’t help his cause. Even as they complained about it, they had already firmly ensconced themselves idea that gamers are different sorts of people an that they were different and somehow unsociable. ARGH!

Anyway, I left that one early because it just frustrating me.

But not all was doom and gloom. I had picked a few pretty awesome panels. There were a number of panels about diversity in games – including not only women in the industry (of course, because that’s always a huge topic considering “Gamergate” last year and the ongoing saga of females breaking into male-dominated industry), but also representation of different folks from all walks of life, backgrounds and ethnicity as well as addressing the issues of physical and mental disabilities in games. Some of those were real eye-openers.

And then there were the fun ones. D&D games with audience participation; a great one being run on the last day by The Dragon Friends who put out a regular podcast, discussions about LARP (live action role-play) as art, and science versus video games presented by Tim & Phill Talk About Games which as a little bit brilliant and piss-funny too.

The business end of the panel. (The Dragon Friends.)
The business end of the panel. (The Dragon Friends.)

The main exhibition hall was definitely sensory overload and I could really only manage a few short walks around the place to look about before naturally gravitating back to the quiet of the panel theatres or the table top hall. In spite of the overwhelming visual stimulation, I did get to see a lot of games being played and I admit my trigger finger got itchy as I observed folks enjoying Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate which has all the aesthetics I like in a game. (Ye olde London? YES PLEASE.) I even got to see a live demo of a game that I have been patiently waiting the release of called Unravel which really does look brilliant.

On the whole, PAX is fun. It’s hard to describe to those who have no interest in gaming of any sort (like my work colleagues for example) but it’s nice to know that us people who enjoy games and gaming of all sorts have a place to nerd out and be with our own for a few days.

Life is Strange – Game Review

On the penultimate eve of what is swiftly becoming the geek event of the year – PAX AU – I thought I would celebrate the approaching nerdgasm with a review of a game that I have been playing on and off for the past few weeks.

I would have done a review sooner but I’ve basically been in post-game remorse since I finished it a couple days ago.

Life Is Strange

It certainly is. If you want a game that induces all the feels… EVERY. SINGLE. ONE… then you need to play this one.

Let me chuck in a disclaimer here, though. If you prefer a lot of activity in your gaming experience (think “activity” in First Person Shooter terms – button mashing and racing around shooting/hitting things), then you will not like this game. If you enjoy a character and plot-driven game that runs more like a choose-your-own-adventure book, then you will love it.

Life is Strange is about choices.

Cause and effect.

Chaos Theory.

It’s a game in five parts (or episodes) where you play the part of Max, a budding photographer who discovers she has the power to turn back time and rewrite the past, sometimes to the betterment and sometimes to the detriment of any given situation.

The game starts with saving the life of Max’s long-lost best friend, the blue-haired Chloe, and from there you follow the girls through their adventures. It’s a little Sweet Valley High mixed with Pretty Little Liars mixed with Twin Peaks mixed with Walking Dead.

But without the zombies.

Chloe and Max
Chloe and Max

For me, it was totally immersive. I became invested in both the characters and the storyline. It brought me to tears in a few parts – but maybe I’m just a sook… Though having watched a few people on Youtube playing the game, their reactions have been much the same.

The real star of the show is the beautiful soundtrack. A good musical score can make or break a film and the same can be said for a game like Life is Strange. The music is mellow and haunting and lovely. Paired up with the fantastic art and animation throughout, it’s a real treat. I’ve noticed a handful of folks criticising the voice acting and script but once you just get into it, you simply don’t notice the ridiculousness of it. (“You hella saved my life!”)

The game play itself is very simple, you look at everything, talk to everyone and choose an appropriate response. In some places you have problems to solve like finding number codes or remembering and repeating a sequence of events. And as I mentioned, every thing you do or don’t do or choose to say affects future scenes and decision – this idea of cause and effect is what the game is built around.

Unfortunately (and this seems to be a common and very loud complaint) is that the game will lead you to make one of two choices to finish. There are no alternative endings at all. So regardless of whatever choices you make throughout the game and how you change the journey within the storyline, you will always come back to one specific decision at the end. And that kinda sucks because unless you’re the type of person who likes to unlock every achievement possible and get the best stats, you’re not likely to want to replay. I have no problems with either of the endings but just felt bummed that regardless of how I chose throughout the game, it didn’t really matter. But that was a very small gripe in what was ultimately a very enjoyable experience.

Getting down to the technical nitty-gritty, the mechanics of the game are a little clunky. I do have to say that the drag-click thing with the mouse is annoying but if you happen to be playing this on a console, you have the option of hitting buttons which is obviously easier. (I was playing on the PC version.) Other than that, you move Max around with the typical WASD keys and steer with the mouse.

Life is Strange is available through Steam. You can buy the first episode, “Chrysalis”, for a fiver and if you like it you can buy the rest for $17USD. I finished the whole thing in about 15 hours of game play. Not bad for a little indie game. Not bad at all.

A solid 8/10.

Important note: The game has been found to be triggering for some people as it deals with illness, drugs and suicide. If you’re particularly sensitive to these concepts, steer clear. The game is also rated M for obvious reasons.