What sick looks like

So on Facebook I posted this photo of myself today, showing the reality of what it looks like to be sick. Lots of people responded in a bit of surprise, so I think more photos of people being sick should be out there there are so many of us. Maybe some other Spoonies want to share what sick looks like to them? Not every life is beautifully styled. #sicklookslike #iih #chronicillness

An open letter to Countdown Greenlane

I sent this to Countdown/Progressive Enterprises via their customer support page tonight, 18th of November. I will also publish the response I receive, apparently I can expect it in three working days. I’m interested to hear from other women and customer service staff their thoughts on this incident, feel free to tweet me: @antheaw

Tēna koe,

I want to report on an incident in your Greenlane store this evening at 7pm from a customer perspective. I hope it has already been reported by staff and I would like to know follow up actions, as well as provide my own suggestions.

From the pet care aisle of the store I heard shouting coming from the checkout area at about 6:50pm, a woman screaming and shouting at a man. I assumed it was a domestic issue, and I had seen a security person at the store entrance when I arrived. I felt sure the matter would be resolved quickly.

It continued however, and was still in full swing when I arrived at the checkout area, busy with social purchases at this time on a Saturday night. A woman in her late twenties was shouting at a man of a similar age to get away from her and that he reminded her of someone who had hurt her.

I witnessed other customers standing around staring, and staff doing the same. The checkout operator was fulfilling their tasks of sales and taking payment from these two separate customers.

I garnered further details but hope to convey the most useful information to Countdown for handling such matters.

It would have been appropriate for one of the customers to have been escorted to complete their purchase at another checkout. Either of them.

In this scenario, the woman was very distressed. I approached her gently and I tried to gather if she was going to be driving (she shouldn’t have in her state) and if there was someone who I could call for her. She just wanted to get out of there and repeated that.

I had items to pay for and a personal obligation to meet immediately, otherwise I would have left my items and stayed to support her. She paid and left.

I paid for my items (receipt marked 7:02pm) and looked for the woman in the car park. I am still concerned for her wellbeing and wasn’t able to locate her. I did see a staff member from Countdown standing outside.

In this incident, I would have liked to have seen a supervisor approach her to ask if she was safe, if she could be helped.

The customers concerned did not actually know each other but the woman thought the man looked like someone who had abused her and so was triggered into this episode.

Someone should have stood between her and this person, and supported her. She should have been taken to a private space and offered support and a phone, her wellbeing needed care.

I would like to know whether there are any procedures in place for handling instances like this in your stores, what they are, and whether there is any training given to your staff to handle these situations.

The event could have been upsetting to staff on duty, and I hope they are well supported too.

Could you please advise what your policies on this are, how they are upheld, and what else has been reported on this incident please.

I do expect a personal response please.

Thank you,
Anthea Whittle


Bolstered during the night,
Clutching bed for comfort on waking.

No relief, no answers.
Silent plea for care, grim understanding.

Plagued and incapable, learning.
Last life’s memories, ignorant jewels.

Sweetness, poisoned by experience.
Let no one else suffer, but they do.

Beyond imagination, reality for us.
All we can offer, a precious spoon.


I hate answering “how are you?” because the answer is typically “crap”, but the bummer for the asker is a bigger bummer for me who lives it. 

Yes, others have it worse. Others share similar stories. This is just one small story of one small day.

No advice please. Do not make a single suggestion. Tweet me @antheaw or read more about my health starting here: The problem with my head, or just the #health tag.

I have used my most coveted pain relief concoction for four out of the last five days. That’s more than I usually resort to within an entire month.

Yesterday, I went without. “Without” does include the following medications which I take daily:

  • Acetazolamide
  • Citalopram Hydrobromide
  • Propanolol Hydrochloride
  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Clonazepam
  • Pantoprezole

This list excludes vitamins, contraceptives, a digestive aid I sometimes need to prevent constipation, and additional occasional (i.e not everyday) medications.

Yesterday I woke around 6:30am, helped my partner in the kitchen to prepare for work before settling onto the couch. I have a a guest in the house but I didn’t dress yet. This couch session is for taking morning medication, hoping that being upright will help the fluid drain from my head and lessen the pain of the pressure built up there. #IIH

I played a little Minecraft on Xbox, got cold and too sore, returned to bed around 8:30am, and slept until midday when my guest also got up (they are on a different timezone, different body clock).

They made me poached eggs, I ate two and a slice of toast. My stomach could handle that, just, followed by some tea and a return to the couch. In the dark. It was a beautiful day outside but the glaring New Zealand sun sears my eyes and feels as though it fries my brain.


I researched online streaming, gaming, watched some streamers, played more Minecraft. At least within the game it feels as though I am making progress, and it takes my mind off of so many things until my pain becomes too much again.

Late afternoon, my guest went to walk in the lovely park across the road from my house. I was in too much main to go, and the idea of doing so was awful. It used to make me feel good to do that.

Alone I stretched, some yoga type moves, working with my body weight to trigger my weakened muscles. After more sleep, which is excellent pain avoidance, I showered in the hopes of feeling normal for my partner returning home from work and my friend from their walk.

This was quite an achievement, to shower and wash my hair, dress in clean clothes and get to the couch in one burst of energy and pain. Tolerable for long enough to complete that set of tasks. It’s impossible to overstate how hard a shower can be, not just for me.

By the time everyone returned to the house I was adamant I could do no more. No more. And yet.

From leftovers of two previous nights and various pantry staples I invented dinner, and made a disastrous mess of the kitchen. I didn’t need the food, and I’m finding it hard not to feel or to show resentment for having to provide a meal. My partner loves to cook and often will take over.

There was really no energy left for me to clean up. The only person I was letting down by allowing the kitchen to stay a mess overnight is me. My Mum always cleans her kitchen before bed, even after a party.

I watched TV with my guest and relaxed, I finally started to feel a bit better as often happens at night. My mind off the pain, I enjoyed her company and the show before everyone left for bed while I wanted to savour feeling ok.

If you are in pain and feel horrible 70% of the time, you want to enjoy the remaining 30% of your time as much as possible. I get too excited though, many of the things that I might like to do could set me back to feeling horrendous so, I can enjoy, but have to take it easy.

Bed again, my favourite place in the world but also the last place I would like to be sometimes. Three hours sleep until my partner wakes for work, my cat wedged against my other side, witness to my day.

This is my ultimate delicious nutritious comfort food. It tastes so good, has so many interesting textures and fills and warms the tummy so well. The citrus element is what sets the flavours alight and I just love it. It’s great to cook for vegan friends or dairy/gluten free folk, so I like to whip it out if special dietary needs crop up.

Coconut Braised Citrus Stew

6 servings


Vegan version:

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1 large golden sweet potato/kumara, diced
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • water
  • 1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, chopped fine (or zest of 1 lime)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 chopped hot red pepper or 1 tsp chilli flakes or ground chili (more to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Large bunch silverbeet/chard (or spinach), approx 500g/1 pound, chopped

For the “non vegan” version as above plus:

  • 5 skinless boneless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce


  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan, add onion and cook until onion starts to brown
  2. Add coconut cream, fill the cream can with water and add to the pot, add chickpeas, sweet potato and heat until bubbling.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, lemon zest and juice, kaffir lime/lime zest, lime juice, chili (or pepper) and stir through
  4. For non vegan version, add chicken
  5. Add salt (and fish sauce for non vegan)
  6. Cover pot and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, 
  7. Add the chopped silverbeet to the top. Cover and cook for a further five minutes before stirring the silverbeet through. The greenery will lose volume as it cooks, so may be added several batches if it won’t fit in the pot.

Season with additional salt, fish sauce and chili to taste. Ready to serve – it’s very liquid based so bowls required. 

It could go further served over rice, but there are plenty of starchy carbs in this dish already with the chickpeas and sweet potato.

Garnish suggestions – toasted coconut, fresh chopped cilantro/coriander.