A new me...

Author : Maria Dougiakis


I've been wanting to open up and share my personal journey and why I reluctantly joined fight club...

I was scared at having to confront my demons..

In March this year I was mentally injured and traumatised by a hugely unjust and public incident as a volunteer. Whilst some of you know the details ..they are irrelevant to this blog, I'm happy to share .. It has been clear to some ( the constant crying a few months back was a dead give away) that it left me at my lowest and most vulnerable with my Clinical Depression which I've managed for years. Still suffer at some point most days currently .. I do drag myself into life to function.. I put on a fake smile and push through the days.. I am not giving up on myself. Through hard work, I am getting better..

I've had to learn how to survive, adapt, fight, trust, find joy again and rebuild my confidence and channel my anger to come out of this a better person. 

My unwell brain is my own worse enemy .. And I have to overcome that daily.

And although I'm using a few methods to calm my mind and regain control, including professional help, active meditation, training most days.. During this particular fight club challenge I've learned that In life you will always need to fight and learn how to outsmart others and defend yourself .. And getting a hit in the face is ok so long as you get support and learn how to survive and fight better.. As life will always have its downs..
You get better at fighting and life in general.. 
Thank you John, Andy and Fight Clubbers..

You will never know how much it means to me to have this opportunity to make a better, stronger me..

Hard work.... what's in a name?


Author: Rebecca Verduci

Hard work is not a term many people are attracted to. It usually requires overcoming procrastination, involves some form of motivation and then necessitates commitment. Hard work should be coupled with a reward in order to find the motivation. The impact of your hard work should be noticed by many and impact those you care about significantly or else there seems no point.

Why put in the hard work?

Answering the question of why lies in who it will benefit. If we look at a paid job; we know that the outcome will benefit family and loved ones.

We are putting in the hard work for either survival, recreation or shelter.

Survival has a larger drive to facilitate the hard work as does shelter. The recreation will be in direct proportion to the hard work endured. A luxury 5 star villa escape for 7 nights with a pool bar and a chef cooking 3 meals a day may warrant that extra 2 hours overtime for a month but no longer. Putting food on the table for your family of 4 will require strenuous manual labour for 10 hours a day; of which there will be no complaints because your children are now fed, and you are especially grateful. A third example evident on the news recently have been of shelters created for hurricanes. A perceived threat to our survival may mean that a whole community will get involved in producing a shelter capable of withstanding a hurricane in order to protect a whole town. This form of hard work will benefit an entire community and addresses both a survival and shelter need. The three areas addressed in sustaining hard work are generally survival, shelter and recreation. These are the reasons for our efforts.

Procrastination usually stems from the term “hard work”.

If we instead view the action as a means to a desired outcome; we would be more inclined to commence the action rather than procrastinate.

Let’s consider manifesting the desired outcome during the work process. Instead of focusing on the work at hand, the reward triggers the energy exertion and makes it all worth-while.

Hard work takes many forms. It may be manual hard work and demand a lot of physical exertion. Students labour over books while preparing for examinations. Authors may research and write as a form of hard work and scientists may experiment for years while trying to find a mystery vaccination for a life threatening illness. All forms are demanding and tiring and require a high level of commitment to the end goal. They require productivity, efficiency and will always add value to a person’s character.

Hard work is challenging only in its description.

If instead we manifest the end result, we’ll find the motivation to overcome the procrastination. The efforts will almost always be triggered by survival, shelter or recreation and will certainly test an individual’s character. The expected result of hard work will drive you to produce.

Michael's Gladiators - Ava - Part 3


Author: Vanessa Verduci

One thing you realise at a young age, even if it isn’t conscious,

Is that people judge what they do not understand.

They fear what they don’t understand. So sometimes you have to educate others so they don’t hinder your success.

When he and his sister were younger Ava liked to believe that she was the educator to all of the ill-informed people. She was amazing, if not a bit…. let’s use the word blunt.

They were at a playground once, Michael was sitting playing with leaves in a corner trying not to draw attention to himself. This little boy came up to him and started kicking at the leaves. Now this boy was just trying to play but Michael could not handle the closeness. Scared that the boy would hurt him, still a little scared of the noise; Ava came running to him.

“It’s ok Michael, Sissy is here for you” Making sure she stood a little away from him as to not crowd him, she got down on his level so Michael knew the comfort of the familiar. She cantered him that day.

Ava turned to the boy and quiet proudly stated “Michael has Autism, he doesn’t like people around him, move please” 

The boys mum, having heard this came and helped her son away from Michael.

Ava would help mum when he was drowning with his fear of food, trying her best to show him,  although she was only 5 at the time.

“Look Michael, watch sissy eat. It can’t hurt you, see” and then proceeded to eat her food.  

If the noise got too much. Ava would patiently wait and be quiet while mum helped him through it all, taking it all in so she would know what to do so she could step up and help if needed

We were doing our Christmas shopping one year and he could not deal with the sensory overload. He just couldn’t! He started hitting himself and mum. Screaming into his hands, just needing quiet.

There was a woman in the store counter with us and was obviously frustrated that Michael was making creating such a fuss.

“Would you mind moving aside while you deal with that please”  That being Michael. This was asked in a condescending voice.

Now, mum has dealt with this more than you would have expected in our society. However, it was his sister (at 11 years old) that replied this time.

“My brother doesn’t need to be dealt with”

Ava said making air quotes with her fingers. She was a feisty one.

“He has Autism. Autism is a brain disorder. That means that he sees, hears and feels differently., in his brain. Isn’t that right mum?” She looked toward mum for confirmation.

“Yes Ava, great explanation” Mum said proudly.

“Can I deal with her mum?” Ava said in a stage whisper indicating the woman who made the comment.

Ava was savage in her love for him.

At the time, he clearly had no idea what was going on, but now he realised it couldn’t have been easy for her and she hardly ever complained.

His Gladiator, Ava. The Educator.

Michael's Gladiators - part 2

Author: Vanessa Verduci


After the conversation with his Aunty his life went a bit crazy, He got another sibling; he was so loud. His sister got loud as well, he wasn’t sure why that happened; it was all very confusing.

Michael met a lot of new people who kept bossing him around, tests they called it. It was pure torture, everyone kept looking at him, touching him.

The rooms were so bright. It was too much,

“Mum stop this, please stop this”. He climbed into his mum’s lap screaming and groaning.  Mum did her best to comfort him, she wouldn’t let him stop though. Kept whispering encouraging words in his ears. Holding him telling how good he was doing.

Although it was a struggle for him, these people explained his fears (not to him he was still too young to understand), why he was the way that he was, why he couldn’t breathe in a room of people. Why his voice was broken! He was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) at 2. His mum cried for all of 5 minutes then proceeded to say

“Right, what do we do now? How do we help him? How do we move forward”

Mum was a plan orientated individual at the time. His Dad’s response was brilliant “O.K.……? As long as he’s got a smile on his face who gives a F**k!” Michael had found this out at a later date, when he could actually understand. But that encompasses his parents. Mum and Dad, the leaders of his army. All these new people he met were to became his soldiers, a part of his army. His soldiers provided support to the Gladiators.

Conquering his fears was the hardest most exhilarating thing he has done to date.

The work involved was unbelievable, and exhausting. All through this his mum was there, working with him. Mum took him to speech therapy twice a week. He wanted to give up every single week but that wasn’t an option, mum was determined to see him through this. At times, his mums’ frustration with the process would become too much for her just like it did for him. For her to see how much pain that Michael was in every week was debilitating.  Although he was surrounded by people he felt so alone, no one understood what he was going through except mum he supposed, she was going through it with him, learning as he was. He still wanted it all to stop!

He’d get home of an evening and go hide under a table or in his room. He needed to be alone. Mum wouldn’t allow him to escape inside himself, she was there pulling him out of his spiral, making him do his work and not give in to his need for solitude. It wasn’t healthy for him his mum thought. He would grab his toy animals and calm himself by placing them in a perfect line and breathe, all the while mum sat with him repeating what animal was what.

“Dinosaur, look Michael Dino-saur” Mum stated repeatedly while trying to make eye contact.

“Dog, woof. Dog says woof” sitting across from him mum lined the animals up with him.

His voice was broken, it was hopeless. This wasn’t accomplishing anything, after 6 months of perseverance, of dedication from not just himself but his army as well, he wasn’t afraid to look at people. The first time he initiated eye contact, mum went insane.

“Good Job Michael you’re doing so well”, praising him continually for the smallest achievement. These milestones may seem like nothing but his mum made sure he understood that they weren’t a small feat.

He made eye contact on a regular basis. Going shopping wasn’t as difficult as it used to be. His mum refused to let him stop doing daily tasks, refused to let him give in to the fears of things that most people took for granted. The lights and noise became bearable because he had been given the tools to work through it; because his mum had been resolute in de-sensitising him to the norm.

After 12months he found his voice and it wasn’t so bad, he could communicate a bit better. The fear of not being understood, of the sound of his voice no longer an issue.

He was thirsty so thirsty, he went running up to his mum and said as best he could

“Water” tugging on mums’ hand to show her what he meant, this proved unnecessary.

“Water Michael? Does Michael want water?” Her eyes glistening as she asked him.

Nodding his head up and down “Yes” He said clear as day

Mum practically ran to get him something to drink

 Again, it took an effort on his part not to go back to the way he used to be, but the look on his families, his mums face when he would say something would make it all worthwhile.

Attending Special needs school to assist in living a “normal life”. Group Therapy to facilitate functioning in social situations, where he wouldn’t be scared of people or noise etc. This was all hard work that he did by himself, with mum reinforcing the lessons at home so it then became his norm.

Michael had basically had to retrain his brain so his fears would not disable him

It would have been so easy to go back, but no, his mum would not allow it, she was tenacious, pushed him harder and harder with each success he had.

During all his hard work, which was a solo endeavour he still had his army. It was gruelling work with his mum walking by his side as he did it.

“I never said it would be easy, I said it would be worth it”

Gladiator Mum. The Determined.

Michael's Gladiators - part 1

The many gladiators that Michael encountered in his path to conquering the haze of Autism. Part 1.

Author: Vanessa Verduci

Michael sat with his niece in his lap, trying to comfort her while she sucked her thumb. She was beautiful. Even while she cried. So little, so vulnerable, he would accrue her army for her, keep her safe and fight her fears with her.

Michael had his own army when he was younger, still has them to this day. His very own gladiators that went to war with him to conquer his fears. Looking back on his childhood he realised how lucky he truly was. This is his story and one he is proud of.

Conquering fears is not always a sole endeavour at least it wasn’t for him.

He needed his Gladiators. Like his amazing Aunt.  The bravery she had shown, to confront his mum about her concerns he may be different. Without her he may not be the man he is today.

It was a family day; Mum and Dad were in the kitchen and Aunt Marie and Uncle Robert had come over so all the kids could play. He noticed his aunt and mum talking quietly in the kitchen. This wasn’t a rare occurrence obviously, they were sisters. Michael approached cautiously,

it was so loud and bright he just needed the comfort of his mother's arms. 

Standing next to his mum not knowing how to get her attention to pick him up and hold him. His voice..... he couldn’t find it anywhere. The light was too bright, “mummy help me” he pleaded silently. His mother picked him up murmuring comforting words in his ears, blocking out the light and the noise until all there was, was her.

“Michael, Hi Michael ” Aunty said trying to get his attention. Obvious concern in her gaze.

“No, not now. It’s too bright, the noise is deafening” He couldn’t look at her. His heart beating really fast and all he wanted was to tell them all to go away, but his voice was broken.

“He doesn’t look at me much, does he look at you when you talk to him??”

Aunt asked Mum while continually trying to meet his gaze.

He couldn’t, he just couldn’t. “Mum make it stop”

“He does occasionally, I’m not sure I haven’t really thought about it...?” Mum replied softly.

“Hmmm, I think I read somewhere that that could be a sign of developmental delays. Or it could be his hearing, maybe just ask the maternal health nurse if this is typical behaviour for a 1 and ½ year old?” Aunty spoke calmly, he was pretty sure looking back now she was trying to keep mum from panicking. Mum was like that, everything is a disaster.

That’s how my road to success started. The conception of being able to defeat my fears. Showing courage, courage to say something that often doesn’t want to be heard.

Gladiator Aunt Marie. The Courageous.

Conquer your fear

Author: Rebecca Verduci


There’s a skill in conquering fears. It’s a challenging time to first address the fear and anxiety can creep in when identifying with it but rest assured that we all have them. They may seem irrational to others, but know that we are all in the same boat. We all have them!

The first step to conquering a fear is WANTING to.

There’s no use someone telling you that you should overcome a fear unless deep down in your heart, you know that you’re ready.

Conquering a fear is a practised skill that takes time. We first need to identify the fear and investigate how it started.

Take yourself back to when the fear first begun and overlook the situation.

Be the bystander of your own experience and rationalise how it became a fear. The difficulty in identifying the fear is not making it a part of your identity. Instead of allowing the fear to define you, characterise the many strengths you have. Allow your strengths to define you, rather than your fears. Become a person that makes others feel good about themselves, instead of the woman afraid of heights. Choose to be defined by your strengths rather than your fears.

Face them and prepare yourself to overcome them.

How to start:

Create an awareness around your fear, accept the fear and be prepared to move forward.

Identify with the fear and rationalise it, understand when it came about and how it all started.

Practise the here and now. Be present in your choices. Presence can be manifested through reading books such as those written by Eckhart Tolle, practicing yoga, or listening to some mindfulness music.

Research a method suitable for you in dealing with fears. Some methods include:

o   Hypnosis

o   Gratitude – whenever you feel the fear, re-direct it to what you’re grateful for.

o   Tapping of meridian points while thinking about fear

o   Writing – when fear presents, write about it and what it does to you and how you’ll feel not having the fear

o   Life coach

o   Take Action – Face the fear and weaken it through action

o   Perspective – Be the bystander and gain some perspective about the fear. Instead of focusing on the negatives, consider all your options.

o   Yoga – Centre yourself and gain some balance. Once present and at peace, address the fear and surround it with a feeling of peace.

o   Understand failure and accept that it is a stepping stone to success. For every time you face your fears, you are one step closer to success.

o   Breathing techniques – practice breathing through the fear so that it becomes second nature. Every time the fear presents, take 10 slow inhalations and exhalations. This repetitive process allows the opportunity to rationalise the fear.

After identifying with your strengths, choosing to overcome your fear, being the bystander to your experience and practicing some techniques presented above, you’re sure to CONQUER your fear.

Ultimately practice presence, trust in yourself and listen to your body.


Could I actually volunteer?

Author: Vanessa Verduci

Hi Y’all,

Me again!!! So, this one I’ve been asked to write is about service or helping people.

Thinking about it, I come up with the same excuses for everything. No time, no energy, where would I even start? Blah blah blah I’ve got so much shit in my own life I really just can’t be bothered!

But you know what, all that is bullshit!

I remember when I was younger how I really wanted to be in community services, help kids get out of bad situations, stand up for people that can’t do it themselves. And if I’m totally honest I still want to do this.

Don’t get me wrong these reasons are valid, but they are excuses to stop myself. It is seriously bullshit.

You know what really stops me, and it’s not nice to admit this it makes you feel like you’re an absolute deplorable human being.

I’m scared.

You guys know by now I like breaking things down, so that’s what I’m going to do:

I see a homeless person on the street, I’m by myself why don’t I approach them?? I can think of nothing but me being scared (and the fact that I am NEVER alone!) what if this person shoves me in my big fat ass with a huge fucking potato….is that even possible?? Not sure but you get it right? So, I throw money at the situation to ease my guilt. Not a nice thing. But it’s all I got.

Why don’t I take the counselling course that I’ve always wanted to do and help these kids that need it?

I’m scared shitless, what if I make it worse?? What if this person needs help and I tell them something that gets them hurt or kicked out or I don’t know sent off to a cult where they are taught to lick frogs and have to sacrifice a caterpillar every 4th eclipse of a full moon in heat….??? But then again, what if I’m the only one that can actually help. Who knows, freakier things have happened.

AND!!! I’m weak as piss emotionally! I cry at movies. Like not the “naw how adorable she has a tear in her eye” I’m talking the ugly cry where you’re all swollen and sobbing with snot dripping down your nose. I swear I walked out of “My sister’s keeper" and it looked like my face had been bitten by bees while a monkey sat throwing shit at my face.

I would love to help kids in bad situations.

Why don’t I join Urban Gym’s soup van? Well that combats the being alone part, and I guess it combats being scared. I could actually help feed people that really need it. Again, the Ugly Cry. And how dare I cry or get upset. Who the fuck am I? These amazing strong people who recognise they need help go to soup van, and they see this privileged bitch getting upset over their situation. I know it’s just taking the first step that will make all the difference. The conversations will flow and I no longer will be that privileged bitch but rather a person to talk to in general. Who knows?

And while my emotional strength is weak as piss that’s not the only reason. Let’s say I want to do soup van, and my husband? Partner? Baby daddy? Love of my life? whatever you want to call him is finally home for an evening rather than at work or working from home. You know what I want to do with my time?? Chill with him. Maybe not talk to him cos who the fuck does that shit?  But hang on, maybe there is an option where we both can volunteer our time, TOGETHER!! Now that right there is some FREAKY SHIT. Both of us volunteering our time. It can be done, right? I could coordinate one night. It could be date night.

So, there it is. In summary, I’m emotionally retarded, weak as piss, scared but have hope that I could take the first step. Ease myself into it for the reward I would receive intrinsically and finally for a DATE night. It could be the most conversation I’ve had with adults in years and it doesn’t even have to be with the Baby Daddy. Yeah, I think I might be up for the challenge. Fuck it, who’s with me?