URL change

Hi all! Just a quick note to let you know that I will be changing the address of my blog from “xinsweald.wordpress.com” to “xinsweald.wordpress.com” in the near future. Maybe on the 14th September or so on the off chance people need time to notice the impending change.


You know, it’s strange. 14-year-old me started up a blog on msnspaces as a kind of online diary for myself, and maybe a few of my friends who might be interested. Over the past eight years or so I’ve had all manner or friends and strangers visit this site (see my list of favourite search terms people have used to find their way here) and to my tremendous surprise, I actually have regular readers. Not just one, but more than one. I don’t know how many, maybe a dozen or more, but it’s really baffling that people want to read what I want to write. And to anyone reading this, thank you. Your companionship on this journey, even if yours is the silent kind, is welcome.

My relationship with anxiety

My relationship with my anxiety changes from time to time.


Sometimes it’s just a light presence at the back of my mind, like a small child who’s bored and follows me around and gives me an occasional prod hoping for a reaction. I gently brush aside his pokes, or take him by the hand to comfort him, or walk alongside him until him realises I’m not going to pay him any excess attention. Eventually he wanders off or is dissolved into the ether of the universe when he’s ready.


Sometimes I see it as a companion on this journey of life. He walks alongside me, quiet and serious, giving me near-constant reminders of all the things I have to do and all the things I might want to be. But eventually if I continue walking he realises that I acknowledge and respect what he has to say but it’s not going to sway my path, and he too returns to whence he came.


And sometimes, in times like these, anxiety is like being anchored to the beach. The tide comes in and I’m assaulted by waves, the water hitting me in the face and filling my mouth with ice and salt. I struggle to keep my head above the surface, but every time I take a breath another wave crashes over me and plunges me under again. And for days and days (and days and days) the tide continues to come in. These are the hardest times, when every minute is a struggle to think of anything other than taking that next breath, and the thought of all the waves that have yet to come is almost enough to drown me.


I don’t want to whinge or complain or give too much attention and power to the anxiety I feel, but some days really are hard. But I keep on walking even when I’d rather lay down and die, and so far it’s been worth it. Life, however hard, can always get better if you keep on living. And it can sometimes be a difficult decision to continue fighting when all you can imagine are futures full of challenge and struggle, but like any nightmare, they fade into memory as you wake up and enjoy the day.


Peace everyone. I hope you’re all sharing joy from your hearts.

Xin’s Weald

My dear reader/s,


I’ve made the decision to change the name of my blog. For many years (eight, to be precise, long before blogging was cool) this blog has been known as “Xin’s Domain”. In hindsight, I called it so because fourteen-year-old me dreamed of claiming a virtual space on the interwebs where he could be an all-powerful ruler, totally secure and in control of his dominion. I suddenly realised that I’m no longer driven by the same things I once was, and it was time to break the pattern.


Weald is an old British word describing rolling hills or untamed forest. To me it conjures up the smell of rain on autumn leaves in the mountains of the Peak District. It’s pronounced like the word “wield”, as in to arm oneself, and sounds vaguely like “world”, a reasonable synonym for “domain”. Even so, I’m not sure quite how I feel about the new title, but I hope it will grow on me like so much bracken. (Xin’s Brake, I’ll have you know, was also considered. Along with Xin’s Bush, and Xin’s Wood, both of which make me crack up laughing.)


Well, I’m vaguely delirious from this flu which has been wearing me down the past few days so I’ll try and stop my brambling. (Uhuhu forgive me, I couldn’t resist.) If all goes well with the new title, I will likely change my domain name to “xinsweald” as well – shortly after choosing “xinsempai”, I learned that one never refers to oneself with one’s honorific. How uncultured, even uncultivated I am. (Rather like a weald, wouldn’t you say?)


May all your groves be sacred.



Fishwinning, muscle spasming, thief failing and pattern breaking

Yup, it’s official. I’m a crazy fish guy.

Sam Lyota (damn, I’ve got to stop doing that. I’ll never forget you buddy.), you’ll be pleased to know, is doing swimmingly. >pauses to giggle<
I turned his filter off again because, happy as he was to fight the current for a few hours, I could see it was wearing him down. Aqua One, why you sell an OP’d filter for a 9L tank? He survived the cleaning and water change- which I turned out to have quite an acidic pH – poor guy, it’s amazing what I’ve put him through. He loves the new food he’s on, though he doesn’t eat much, and as far as I can tell he’s happier and healthier than ever. Yay fish!

In other fish news, John came back into the store. To my surprise and delight, the ammonia levels were very low and the nitrite levels were slightly high. It turned out that the bionoods I sold him were actually working. Holy smokes, I didn’t see that one coming, and neither did he – he had come into the store expecting to buy a better filter. Bacteria were colonising and breaking down the waste, and within a few days I expect the nitrite and ammonia will both drop to 0. He was ecstatic. High off our collective triumph, he pondered whether he could get a tropical tank, maybe a 50L one, no wait, maybe a 200L one. We laughed together as we realised the joy was overruling our judgement, but it was such a wonderful moment we shared. I am so grateful I was part of that, and I helped him all on my lonesome.

In (far less interesting) non-fish news, I pulled a muscle at work yesterday. It’s ridiculous that I can do dozens of knuckle-pushups, run for kilometers, almost skin-the-cat, and yet reaching for a clipboard is apparently enough to send my chest into spasms. Since overextending, I’ve been in quite agonising pain whenever I’ve taken a deep breath or moved my arms above my head. Yesterday I made the foolish decision to place just a single box of cat litter (maybe 12kg?) at head height, and just before I got it on the shelf I spasmed in pain and it fell upon me. I still get wracked with pain every now and then, but it’s definitely improving with time. Alas, no karate tonight, but perhaps taiji tomorrow.


Eugene (who, if I haven’t mentioned, has returned from England for a few weeks and returns on Thursday) and I played Thief II together. We foolishly assumed that with our age would come skill and we’d be able to pass the whole game in a single sitting. The game was just like I’d remembered it, except slightly less terrifying as I begun to understand the mechanics (while sophisticated for its time in 2001 were not as complex as games today) it was based on. I could recall where most of the treasure was, where the guards were located, quotes on the walls, complex puzzles and the mechanics of stealth. Needless to say we didn’t get past the second level, but I enjoyed re-watching the cutscenes, just as I had twelve years previous.

Placement is going well! I’m still challenged quite often by anxiety, but I’m managing a lot better than I used to. The first few days of prac were spent in an overload of information and sense of general panic, but now when I started to understand how and why things worked, I begun to enjoy it a lot more. Then that honeymoon phase ended and I sort of went “Okay, I’ve had my fun playing social worker. I don’t want to work full-time and be responsible and professional anymore.” And I really struggled, and am struggling with that. My mother’s always done so much for me, taken care of me, provided for me, and I (out of laziness and convenience) have accepted all her housework and cooking and laundering. Now, at the first sniff of responsibility, I long to turn tail and run to the couch where I can distract myself with videogames and do what I’ve always done. But doing what I’ve always done will get me where I’ve always got, and the time has come to take a deep breath and step forwards, and to be a better person. It’s not easy sometimes, but hell, it’s so important. So, despite the little niggles at my health, I still go to work every day and still challenge myself not to run from that which scares me.

Speaking of health, Naomi started me on this revolting powdered alfalfa drink. It tastes pretty bad, but I have to say it works amazingly. For reasons beyond my comprehension I’ve had energy in abundance and my stomach hasn’t been hurting as much. I look forward to drinking it every day now.

All right, that’s enough from me! I hope you’re all doing well. Drop me a line if you’d like to catch up again soon!



The new Youth Brains Trust 2013/2014

To all my friends reading this, I have an important story to share with you. One year ago, Lynsey (the wizard of Tune In Not Out fame) sent me an email about this up and coming organisation she’d heard about. It was the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, and they were taking applications for their Youth Brains Trust. In utter truth, I only gave it a casual glance. I wasn’t particularly enthused or hopeful about my chances, but figured it would be a cool opportunity to help shape research impacting on young people. As I started filling out the application form and writing about why I was interested in the wellbeing of young people, I started talking about my experiences with bullying in high school. To my amazement, I started crying quite uncontrollably. Never before had I realised how much I had suffered, and how much I wanted to prevent others from experiencing the shit that I went through. All of a sudden I discovered that youth education and wellbeing was something I truly cared about.

This past year I have done some great things. I was flown to Melbourne where I met most of the other members of the Youth Brains Trust. I was deeply impressed by how down to earth and yet how profoundly sensitive the staff were to the issues we as young people might have been experiencing. I met some truly remarkable people who have inspired and changed my life for the better, and I am deeply honoured to have spent such a good time in their wonderful company.

In terms of shaping research, I participated in a teleconference to help give feedback about a research report, sharing what my experiences of technology and wellbeing were in relation to other young men.  ReachOut hosted a consultation on Suicide and Social Media through their tremendously supportive forums – I hold this as one of my most cherished memories in really making a difference by talking with other young people. I helped with the final feedback stages of the projects Keep it Tame, and the very amazing @ppreciate (which you might like to think of a Facebook filled with compliments and kindness rather than complaints and rudeness). I shared my perspective on challenging racism, as well as answering some questions about the YBT, mental health and technology. I was also on the verge of giving a presentation about the Young and Well CRC at an Australian Psychological Society conference until the time slot fell through at the last minute. Most recently I shared my story in a report about technology use among young men, and gave two interviews (to radio and newspaper) about the startling results that came from it.

Looking back, I can’t believe how much I’ve done and helped do since I joined the Trust in October last year. Much of it I had forgotten and only rediscovered when I trawled through my emails. I can’t help but wonder how much more I have done that I kept no record of, and has passed now beyond memory. As an experience, I consider my time with the Brains Trust rare, humbling, and life-changing.

And now the time has come for someone else to take the torch. A little part of me can’t help but feel attached to the Youth Brains Trust and everything it’s become while I’ve been part of it. Yet I am tremendously excited that twenty more young people get the chance to do what I’ve done, to do more than what I’ve done in their own wonderfully unique way. My year of active participation may be concluding, but for another group of people who are passionate for their own fantastic reasons and in their own wonderful ways, an amazing journey is about to begin. And who knows – you may just be one of them!

Hit up the website to submit an application. All the best for the near year, future Brain Trust goers!



I fear that my posts of late are spiraling down the irreconcilable path of ichthyomania – “fish mania”. Nevertheless, I’m posting again about fish.


Day Five and S Lyota (I keep calling him Sam by accident!) still hadn’t touched his new food. This special pellet, super nutritious and designed to float to match a betta’s optimum diet and eating preferences, was being completely ignored. When I dropped it in, his eyes might occasionally notice the movement, but he otherwise just hung around the top of the tank waiting for food. On Friday morning before I left for the weekend I caved and fed him a good portion of his old, low-quality sinking food. He devoured it ravenously, and when I returned after the weekend, he still wasn’t touching the floating pellets. I caved and bought him some new food, which is a mixture of floating and sinking flakes/granules. I hope he likes it.

But that’s only if he survives. Because you see, I decided to finally do a water change. Some water had been evaporating from the tank and the heater was slowly peaking out the top, so I figured it was time for a top up. And then, heck why not, I might as well do a bit of gravel vacuuming to clean the bottom of the tank (which was now littered with saturated pellets Lyota had ignored). As I started gravel vacc’ing, I found all kinds of nasty gunk in the rather malodorous water and decided to do a full water change, seeing as the ammonia was probably building up from the rotting food and fish waste. But foolish me, I accidentally used a cloth and bucket which had almost certainly seen some very powerful detergent in the recent past. Soap in general is ultra toxic to fish, so there’s a pretty good chance that when Lyota next goes into the tank, he’s not going to survive. I rinsed it out a few times, reconditioned the water and restarted the filter in the hopes that maybe he won’t perish after all. He’s sitting in a jug until the heater has warmed up the water a little more.


This is poorly timed because my confidence in fish-keeping is pretty shaken at the moment. A couple of weeks ago I helped a wonderful lady and her two excited daughters set up their very own fish tank. I spent about an hour with them, running them through the pros and cons of different tank styles, heaters, gravel, ornaments, conditioners, food and fish. I warned her that it was best to keep the tank running for a week before putting new fish in, but that if she wanted to try it today, she could add a chemical to the water daily that would make the ammonia harmless. She decided to go for this option and bought four fish for her elated daughters. She returned a week later to inform me they had all perished after a few days, and I couldn’t for the life of me work out why. She reset the water, conditioned it and left the filter running so that the bacteria could start colonising, and then a week later we retested her water. The ammonia test turned cloudy with little particles in the vial, which is certainly not supposed to happen, and I had no idea what it meant. Some quick googling and consulting our fish guru informed me that her general hardiness was sky high but perhaps her ammonia was actually 0 due to a defective testing kit. We retested and it looked pretty hopeful. I have no idea what to do when GH is really high, and so I gave her a fish and sent her home, praying for the best. But honestly, it flummoxed me, and I felt wretchedly incompetent and largely responsible for the death of her fish. I fear her next visit a week from now will reveal her fish has died.


Furthermore a customer named John came into the store and bought a whole bunch of fishkeeping equipment from me. I showed him how to use a gravel vac, told him all about the different goldfish we had and helped him have a generally informative/awesome time in the store. He returned a few weeks later to inform me that all the fish he’d bought from another store had perished, and the only ones that had survived were the ones he’d purchased from me. I felt both proud and uneasy that he was putting so much faith in my knowledge. He had brought in some water for testing, and the results showed his ammonia was dangerously high. His fish were thriving in spite of it, but I couldn’t figure out why the ammonia was there in the first place. He’d done everything right as far as I could tell. After a lengthy conversation, I uncovered that he’d washed his filter media in tap water, and the chlorine had likely killed all the bacteria allowing the ammonia to accumulate. He went home happy and left the filter running unimpeded. He returned again to retest the water after a week, and once again the ammonia was very high. I was stumped. After about fifteen minutes, I realised that the dechlorinater he was using was approximately ten times weaker than normal, and he had consequently been underdosing the water. He bought some new conditioner and some quickstarting liquid to help the bacteria colonise quickly, and went home to do a half-water change and try the new products. A week later he returned, and yet again the ammonia had barely changed. So if the chlorine wasn’t killing the bacteria, what was? In desperation I concluded that his filter was rubbish and didn’t have any biological media in it, so he bought some bionoods with the instruction of removing half of the sponge in his filter to make room for it. I very nearly bought it for him, so responsible did I feel for all this rubbish that was happening and the constant trips to the store he was making. This mystery is to be resolved in a few weeks.

Lyota, mate, please don’t die on me. I really don’t want to be responsible for more deaths! Crossed fingers, everybody =x