Boarding the Social Care Merry-go-round

Hello again ūüôā !

Please note that I wrote this post several weeks ago following a social care assessment by a social worker that had taken more than a year to come about following an urgent referral. Lots has happened, and changed, since then as more recent posts evidence, but I wanted to post this to update this part of the story and so that I can next post a more brief update on the social care front.

This is an intense post … very raw

*** TRIGGER WARNING – this post contains mention of suicidal ideation and brief description of planned method – but with an optimistic outcome, I promise. It also contains a sweary moment.***

I’m afraid to get too excited. I’m scared to hope until it’s all been verified and approved. And yet somewhere inside me it’s bubbling away, small but unbridled, fizzy excitement.

It’s keeping me on¬†top of a precipice, by keeping hope alive.

Since my collapse in mid February, it’s been quite the job to stay alive … too many times I’ve almost tumbled over the edge.

****

Having experienced significant trauma and having been abused for many years, I’ve experienced suicidal feelings on and off since my late teens – that’s almost three decades – due in part to mental illness caused by the trauma and abuse. They call that being ‘passively suicidal’, which sounds rather like there’s some relaxed, chilled vibes going on. In actual fact, feeling suicidal, regardless of whether you’ve reached the ‘actively suicidal’ stage of making and seeking to execute suicide plans, can be HORRIFIC.

Sometimes suicidal despair is less about mental illness and more a human, albeit extreme, reaction to devastating circumstances. It’s often a desire to end the most terrible pain, and to end life appears the only way to do that.

I’ve been actively suicidal around four times in all those years. I’ve made only one actual attempt to end my life (a survived attempt is known as a parasuicide) and that was a little over a decade ago. At that time I was very mentally unwell and poorly supported as I tried to come to terms with the recent realisation¬†that the family members to whom I was devoted, hadn’t loved me at all and had sought only to harm me. Furthermore, that estrangement from them – what remained of my family – was the only way forward.

Since then¬†I’ve become far less mentally unwell on account of a lot of psychotherapy and a lot of hard work. I’m lucky that’s worked for me, it’s not the same for everyone. Mental illness can be as individual and as complex as those who experience it. I’ve also¬†become¬†extremely well practised at keeping myself safe even in extreme circumstances. I know that if I can’t keep myself safe, that that’s an¬†emergency situation. The difficulty comes when the¬†system does not have the resources to provide appropriate support.

In July last year I set up a noose in my flat, carefully balanced I tested it to ensure that it was fit for purpose. As, during this test, I settled it around my neck, the phone rang suddenly – loud and shrill. I started and almost fell off the object on which I stood, and which ultimately I was planning to kick away …¬†It’s not funny, it’s really not, but still I find myself laughing now. You could not make it up.

I could just have gone with it but instead I fought to right myself and hurried to¬†the phone. My phone rarely rings. I answered to hear the voice of someone who has rarely called and never without being asked to do so. I do not believe in divine intervention but the interruption gave me sufficient pause. The ‘spark’, as I think of it, inside me that’s kept me alive through everything¬†yelled … Do not fucking extinguish me. I am not done yet. It’s pretty difficult to ignore ol’ ‘Sparky’.

That said, in spite of the urge to fight on, I knew that I was under a great deal of pressure in very difficult circumstances. I knew that I was losing the capacity to keep fighting by myself. I knew to ask for help and I did, but it didn’t come. I had my first ever direct experience then of a mental health assessment – carried out in the large and somewhat forbidding psychiatric hospital in the city where I live. I was found to be ‘too well’ for inpatient care (much to my relief, I admit) but also for the support of the community based Intensive Home Treatment Team or ‘crisis team’. I was told that there was nothing else. The assessing doctor did suggest that I try volunteering as a means to ‘occupy myself’. The irony that I’d spent the previous four years volunteering, first for two years in that very hospital, setting up and running a not inconsiderable project by myself supporting ex and current patients, and a further two years working with a mental health charity, was not lost on me. I didn’t need to be occupied, I was more than capable of doing that for myself, sometimes to excess in a bid to keep myself going. I needed some practical and emotional support, for I had none.

***

In recent years, a complex set of circumstances including marriage breakdown and later divorce, two major bereavements, unexpected severe financial difficulty leaving me unable to afford to heat my home and dependent on food bank for three months and in fear of losing the roof over my head, had threatened my mental health again.

Added to that, was the fact that I was driving myself into the ground by working my socks off to get myself through all of this and onto a better future. I drove myself to breaking point. Support did materialise for six months, in the shape of my GP, a housing support officer and a friend. I made huge strides and began to thrive. Then my GP relocated, in the same month my housing support worker was withdraw overnight … the service is limited due to budget constraints.

By this time, a little over a year ago, I’d begun experiencing flashbacks¬†to abuse of which I’d previously had no memory. I experienced intense anxiety that I hadn’t felt in years, and I also began to realise that dissociation had likely long been some part of my experience. The friend who been supportive, began to back off at this point, seemingly unwillingly to believe in flashbacks and dissociation, because they were outwith her own experience.

It seems as though having finally got out of my marriage, which wasn’t healthy, having some support in place and space to be myself, something unlocked in my mind. I already knew there were some things that I still needed to process in therapy, but I came to realise that there was more than I knew. In addition to the flashbacks and anxiety, it was as though I could suddenly feel the impact of all of the loss that I have experienced, and the attendant grief. That’s everything from the loss of my whole family, through losing my career, close friends and my marriage – all as a result of abuse/trauma, through the loss of the opportunity to have children, and right down to the permanent loss of a¬†significant amount of my hair due to alopecia.

The pain was off the scale and unable to obtain any support despite, even if I do say so myself, valiant efforts, my mental and physical health deteriorated rapidly, until one day in February this year I could do no more and was left with the barest of function.

***

When I moved into my second floor flat a little over two years ago, I could run from the street below up the numerous stairs to my front door, in a one-er. I was EC-STAT-TIC the first time I managed it. I might as well have run the London Marathon … in record time … such was the size of this¬†achievement.

I’ve never been what you’d call ‘sporty’ and, although I love to walk, I couldn’t ever imagine having any desire to run. It took among other things a broken back; the loss of my family, close friends, my career and my hair; a suicide attempt that left me in cardiac arrest, and finally a broken marriage to send me in search of my very own running machine.

My health is a bit wonky these days. I say these days. The wonkiness set in before I was 30 and I’m now approaching 50.

Aside from the umbrella of ‘Complex Trauma’ – which for me includes¬†Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, an eating disorder and compulsive skin picking known as Dermatillomania; I have several physical conditions¬†for which there is currently no cure. The former is a direct result of my experiences of abuse and trauma.

Lots of bits¬†hurt; bits squirt, leak and splutter. Bits fall out and bits malfunction in such a way as to leave me feeling as though I’ve gone 10 rounds in a centrifuge. Among other things, I can be incontinent, my¬†mobility can be impaired, I experience memory loss, pain disrupts normal function and, when this lot really means business, I cease to function.

I’m great at faking wellness and pretty bad at showing sickness. It kills me to tell you – unless you’re in the same ‘club’ – how bad I’m really feeling. I’ll really try but I’ll skirt, feint and increasingly hesitate. It’ll be like pulling teeth and you’ll probably end up none the wiser.

Right now, I haven’t been able to leave my flat for almost four months and an attempt to run up those stairs would foolhardy to say the least. The treadmill is gathering dust but I still yearn to run.

I’m always going to be limited in some ways by health issues, but careful self management – to be fair, a rigorous regime of physiotherapy, graded exercise, medication, diet, meditation and more – has in the past meant I could make more of my ‘spoons‘. That’s what got me in a position to be able to run a mile several days per week. I don’t mind putting the work in, far from it, but support is necessary to sustain it.

The responsibility of care/support falls first to families, no matter their age, then friends … neighbours … the world and his dog. Social care is not readily provided by the state. Hoops must be conjured, immolated and resurrected before then being jumped¬†through so accurately as to achieve a perfect score.

At the time of writing – popping between this and Twitter as all good writers do (!) – two tweets appeared on my timeline¬†both, although carrying dispiriting messages, suitably illustrate this post.¬†Cue a further frisson of excitement, stirring music, and … and … the … the …THE STARS ARE ALIGNING!

I have to shake myself back to reality. After suicidal depths and isolation, so perpetual as to rival purgatory without the promise of heaven, real¬†hope can send one a tad giddy …

This tweet pictured below is from a psychiatrist working in an NHS Accident and Emergency Department. Whether a real or an ironic example, the message is the same. Resources are very limited, ever more strict criteria is applied to determine who may receive them. People in need can and do slip through the widening cracks in the system. The second tweet contained a link to this article in the Guardian.
Tweet 24 May 2017 to use to illustrate a HSOL blog post

This is not a great time to be vulnerable or disabled. 

After completing the lengthy assessment – in two visits of around 80 minutes each – my newly allocated social worker tells me that she thinks her request for support for me – four hours per week delivered in two hourly sessions – will be approved.

To have real possibility of a support worker or personal assistant (PA) – appropriate, flexible support — dangled, like a diamond encrusted carrot, right before my very eyes,¬†feels like the winning the lotto, the big money, life-changing bucks. But forget that, who needs it?!

I will feel like a millionaire for having won the social care lottery because it will afford me the luxury of being able to do more than survive … and instead to thrive.

 

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Entering the ogre’s lair …

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling my GP an ogre, he’s surely a nice enough chap, but after the events of last year, going to see him again was about as scary as standing before a ravenous ogre with a particular taste for ‘Hearts’ about my size and shape.

The only available appointment was at 10am. Any appointment before 11 always presents additional challenges because my morning routine is lengthy due to the requirements of my Bile Acid Malabsorption and also issues around sedation, pain and mobility that are particularly problematic when I wake. I made it past those, and past anxiety around getting out for the first time in four months – too complex to detail.

‘Debriefing’ afterwards, my advocacy worker, who accompanied me, commented that there was marked difference in my GP’s response to my discussion of my mental health and of my physical health. He said nothing in response to the former. She said his expression could’ve said …¬†well, what do you want me to do about it? By contrast, presented with physical symptoms he leapt into action, examined my abdomen, listened to my chest and took my blood pressure … twice. He ordered tests, including an E.C.G. and prescribed several medications, and appeared thorough.

Discussing a gastric issue, I described my symptoms and said that I’m aware that my weight gain may have caused them or at least be a contributing factor.¬†He agreed, said that I was right and that it would help if I could do something about that. I didn’t pick him up on it, and perhaps I should have done. I did feel disappointed, if not a little angry, given that I have an eating disorder and that I asked for help – clearly and directly – so many times last year and yet I received none. I understand that he cannot ‘magic resources out of thin air’ where services have been reduced or cut, but I really would appreciate an acknowledgement both of much I am trying to help myself, and that I haven’t been offered any help or support.¬†My weight and related issues will be being discussed when we next meet and I hope then to have the confidence to say that.

I’ve blogged and tweeted recently about my ‘flaring’ skin. A first episode occurred around five or six weeks ago when I woke to find my eyes puffy and my skin reddened and itchy. I suspected eczema but noted that the usual emollients gave me a burning sensation. It was annoying and didn’t look great but it wasn’t horrendous and it cleared up after a few days. A couple of weeks later I had another episode but this time the skin around my eyes was more swollen than puffy and I suspected an allergic reaction, but I couldn’t pinpoint what might have caused one. On Wednesday last week I woke again to a red face and swollen skin around my eyes.¬†Like me, my GP suspected eczema or an allergy and he prescribed hydrocortisone cream.

In the hours after my appointment, my face became increasingly red and a little more swollen, by the evening it was burning which felt very unpleasant and was difficult to manage. The following day I awoke and gasped in shock when I looked in the mirror and saw that my whole face was swollen. I could barely open my right eye and the left was also affected. The areas where I’d felt the intense burning sensation – mostly around my mouth and under my eyes – now felt very tight and had become extremely dry.¬†I was able to speak to my GP on the phone later that morning and he opted to additionally prescribe an anti-histamine and a specialist moisturising lotion. All of the new medications were delivered on Friday evening by the delightful ‘Pharmacy Bob’, who was concerned about me, with my bright red, ballooned visage. The swelling slowly reduced over the weekend and the redness decreased somewhat, then my face began to peel, everywhere but for the top half of my forehead and the sides of my face, and continues to do so. I have been liberally applying moisturiser and, thankfully, today when I had to go out to an appointment with one of the practice nurses, it looks better than it did.

I have some concerns about the cause of this skin issue related to my other diagnoses, but I’ll blog about that once I have the results of the tests that the GP has ordered.

I asked my GP if I might return to using my treadmill as I want to do, promising that I would not try to run before I could walk. I am MUCH heavier than I was when I took up running in 2014. I have no idea what I will be able to achieve this time around. Building up to being able to do a brisk walk will at least help me to lose weight, it may be that I will not be able to run until I’ve done so. I wondered if I might be advisable to wait until the tests have been carried out, but the GP said that he’s happy for me to start before that, so long as I’m careful.

 

Enforced rest vs chill out time

I’ll make this quick for reasons that will become apparent. I wrote yesterday about putting myself into ‘Standby’ mode.I realised that I could’ve done a better job of explaining that after people told me to enjoy my rest and relaxing time, and that I’ve earned it. 

I’m not managing to do a great deal this weekend and I’m mostly lying about in bed. If you have a busy life working or parenting or whatever, then that might sound like an attractive proposition. However, I’m not happily ‘chilling out’. I’m stuck in bed because my body isn’t capable of doing much else at the moment. It’s frustrating, dull and impractical. Alas, it’s not fun. 

My symptoms are numerous and can vary wildly at any given time. This weekend’s particular version of ‘standby’ mode essentially involves feeling really ‘shite’, due to nausea, pain, palpitations and breathlessness, and with fatigue, some unsteadiness and blurred vision –  all part and parcel of my ‘spoonie-ness’ – and having to lie still to keep some horrible symptoms under some control. 

Screen/online time offers good distraction and company but can also exacerbate symptoms so I have to try to find some sort of balance. Lying down in a darkened room with no distractions or contact would help my body but would drive my mind insane. My mental health thrives on action and productivity. I have to somehow come up with a kind of happy medium. 

I’ve still got to do some things like eat and wotnot but that’s anxiety provoking because I don’t know how much attempting to do those things will exacerbate my symptoms. Sometimes I’ll be afraid to try, sometimes I’ll plough on regardless – sometimes I’ll get away with that, sometimes I’ll pay a heavy price. 

That all sounds so negative which makes it very difficult for me to say, but if I try to hide from or ‘sugar-coat’ the realities of chronic illness then how are people going to gain a better understanding? 

I am still … mostly … smiling :). My mood hasn’t plummeted as can happen when the body is struggling so much. I have hope that a better day is around the corner. To be honest, although I know it’s a possibility, I don’t think about the prospect that one is not as that would sure as heck make it more difficult to cope. 

Back into standby mode for me then and managing to do what I can in this ‘spoon drought’. 

Thanks for reading. Comments welcome as ever. 

Heart x 

Making the leap

I’m almost surprised that the cogs of my brain can’t be heard clanking with all the wrangling, wracking, worrying and wondering that’s going on in there. 

Momentarily inspired, I’ve just jotted a few suggestions under the title of that third listHow Do I Get From One To The Other? 

  •  with the help of the local advocacy service 
  • by knowing my rights
  • by recognising my worth
  • by being helped to assert my needs and secure ways to have them met
  • by learning to be confident that I an deserving regardless of how some have acted as though I was not 

I can be very assertive and can advocate for the world and his dog, but the effects of abuse and trauma impede my ability to do it for myself. 


Driven to distraction before languishing in limbo

Distraction was the order of the day yesterday. I’d slept well on Thursday night and woken feeling relatively refreshed, but I soon began to feel decidedly uneasy.

I knew that I was troubled both by having posted this the previous day and by having emailed an acquaintance to ask if she might possibly visit me and help out with a few chores. I felt increasing guilt and shame, and a rising sense of that damn fiend, terror.  

I took my digestive meds, ate some generic ‘Weetabix’ and caught up with some undemanding telly. While watching the new series of MasterChef, to keep track of who’s who, I gave contestants names such as Ms Bullock (when she smiled she reminded me of actor Sandra), Mr Citrus Chicken (his dodgy dish), Ms Berry (a dab hand at baking), Mr Rochdale and Mr Experimental. 

With terror still making its presence felt and preventing me from doing anything useful, I let myself fall asleep and napped for a couple of hours. I woke after a series of dreams, in the last of which I was having a heart attack.

Despite the anxious dreams, terror seemed to have slunk away while I slept. I ventured into the kitchen and made some Porridge Berry Bakes. They’re quick and easy to make and are a healthy way to satisfy a sweet craving. (Thanks are due to the person who shared her recipe on a Facebook group dedicated to eating well on a budget.)  

Beat two ripe bananas (mashed) with two eggs and some vanilla extract. Separately, mix two and a half cups of porridge oats with some cinnamon and one and half teaspoons of baking powder. Now mix everything together then add one and a half cups of milk (I use skimmed cow’s milk, soya, almond etc also work). Divide the mixture into greased muffin tins (or silicone if you prefer) and add your berry toppings of choice (I used blueberries, as my photos illustrate). Bake at 180 for 25-30 minutes. N.B. Choose a non-diary milk and replace the eggs with another banana for a slightly more dense but vegan-friendly cake. These are good for children’s lunch boxes, or so I’m told.

Porridge Berry Bakes ready for the oven
Porridge Berry Bakes ready to eat

More MasterChef came later and the appearance of Ms Pastry, Ms Cabin Crew, Ms Muddle, Ms Sour and Mr Bland among others. I also spent time reading the memoir of a woman who took her fight for ‘the right to die’ to the High Court

I was determined that today I would work on part two of that significant post (if you’ve been keeping up then you won’t need the hyperlinks ūüėč) . I also needed to think about how on earth I might proceed from here. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool planner. I’m never without goals and plans of action, at least I wasn’t until now. After much brain-wracking and head-scratching, I felt as though I was languishing in limbo.I had no bloody clue what to do. Terror still lurked and threatened to pounce, somehow I kept it at bay. Somehow, slowly, very slowly at first, I started to write. I made two lists: What Does My Life Look Like Right Now? and How Should It Look? Alternative titles might be Existing vs Thriving or Deep Crisis vs Getting Better. I titled a third list, yet to be written, How Do I Get From One To The Other?  

Successful Scribbles

After a catch up with an online buddy and a few cups of tea, I wrote part two of that significant post, ‘Bullets 2016’, roughly in the order that they hit! From there this post began to take shape. While I was writing, an email arrived from the acquaintance I was worried about having asked for help, happily agreeing to do so. When you’ve nowhere to turn and you’re left having to ask for help from people you shouldn’t really be asking, the guilt is enormous … at least it is in my case. 

I don’t know the way out of all this, a few days before I found the strength to start blogging again I’d have felt the way out would be ‘in a box’. Now I only know that I think that writing is key.  

I’ve just re-read my post Silence Is Not Golden, for the first time since I published it. I’m surprised to find that it’s not quite so together as I felt it to be as I wrote it.Although it’s accurate and my story, it’s almost as though someone else wrote it, and that feels a little disconcerting. By contrast, as I’ve written this post, I haven’t felt as though the words were almost writing themselves nor as though writing was akin to pulling teeth. I just feel like me, writing  What that all means, goodness only knows. 

Silence Is Not Golden

I’m waiting for Bob, the smiley man from the pharmacy, to deliver my weekly package of Fibromyalgia medication. Only he’s not so smiley anymore; instead he looks both disconcerted and slightly disgusted, faced each week as he is now with my shambolic self; undressed, unwashed and sometimes smelly. 

I automatically summon a smile and good manners, but with my increasingly poor dental hygiene and dead-eyed dissociation neither can offer much reassurance. 

I’m unsure as to whether it’s a fear of intruding or an absence of community spirit that prevent him, in recognition. of my dramatic deterioration, asking if I am OK or if I need anything.

Weeks ago I couldn’t have dreamed of answering the door, allowing someone to see me in such a state, with Bob it’s become the norm. 

His deliveries have always taken only a moment or two, perhaps because in this largely ‘permit-only’ zone, he is parked on double yellow lines below, or perhaps his speed merely reflects efficiency. I’d guess his age to be beyond that of average retirement. He has a handsome, healthy appearance and sprints up the stairs to my second floor flat with the ease of a teenager. In the wake of my escalating disarray, he’s shaved seconds off his time. 

I did write for several hours on Sunday and into Monday, working on that significant post, mentioned here. I am trying to tell the story of the past year. It looks as though it’s to be set out in two parts, with the first giving background, context; setting the scene. The second a planned to be a bullet pointed list giving details of each trauma as they came, in rapid fire succession. 

I’d have said perhaps that each bullet left clear entry and exit wounds. They passed through and I carried on, like cinematic villains or monsters that just won’t lie down and die, but continue to advance while riddled with bullet holes. 

Now, I wonder about the impact of those bullets. I see now that they must have torn me apart inside  I knew I had been hit, repeatedly. I didn’t ignore it and I did ask for help … repeatedly … but none came. 

I think I was shattered. I realise I was silenced as surely as though a bullet had sliced through my vocal chords.

Bob has just made his delivery, the door is locked once more. My focus is now solely on completing this piece of writing, catching the words as they flow. 

I know that it feels good to write like this – as I couldn’t for so very long. Writing for me is like receiving a life-giving blood transfusion. I’m not sure I can assess the quality of this writing but it feels very good! Instantly I fear that must mean that it is in fact far from that. Yet it’s as though I’ve tapped into a natural spring that flows with exuberant ease. Clear. Fresh. True. It flows, seemingly without effort, almost certainly without strain. 

It’s as though it has to be written, would write itself if it could, and that I’m merely a conduit. Except I am connected to these words, they are telling my story.

On Sunday the pace of progress was rather more sluggish. The flow murky and stilted, like a tap turned on for the first time after the supply has been turned off, to allow the water company to attend to a burst pipe.The cloudy flow splutters, disgorges a flurry of debris into the sink. The tap-turner’s nose wrinkles in distaste.

I found the writing process increasingly stressful. I couldn’t tap into the feelings associated with the traumatic events of the past year without experiencing increasingly acute distress. I determined to press on feeling that this work was vital, the key to progress. I felt that if I could find the words here then, perhaps, I could find the words out there

With ‘part one’ nigh on complete, I reviewed and edited it until I could take no more. I wanted to publish and see the achievement of at least 50% of the task completed, but something held me back. The words felt forced, although they were not inaccurate, they did not feel true. Perhaps that makes no sense? 

The fog was closing in again. The clearing where I’d stood while I blogged for those few days last week, swallowed up. I was left with only terror and desolation for companions. I imagine their laughter deadened by the cloudy cloak but still perceptible. They roared at my gullibility, my willingness to hope that there might have been a way out. 

I soon as I try to write or speak about the trauma of the past year, the flow becomes stilted and murky, and then it stops. 

I was schooled in silence. As tools of the trade go, it’s pretty essential to an abuser. Without it they must rely on apathy or disbelief on the part of anyone hearing, or else they themselves must rely on the tool of discredit to save their skin. When the reality of my family life was finally disclosed, well into adulthood,  to a locum GP, the only one to act on suspicions, and with the gentle telling that followed that this was abuse and I didn’t have to live like that anymore, I knew. I knew that I had to learn to open up, that to begin to heal I had to tell. I did so. 

So, last year, I kept going, bullet holes and all, until a small event on the 13th of February this year (I’m not superstitious, the date is purely coincidental) became a monumental trigger. 

Having concluded that I should hold off publishing ‘part one’, on Monday this week, an hour before I was due to receive a visit from my advocate I sent a desperate, terror-fuelled email cancelling my appointment. I was and remain petrified of the consequences of speaking out. I’ve lost count of how any times I’ve cancelled in recent weeks. 

All I can say now is that among the traumas of last year was an incident in which I disclosed significant trauma and detail of significant risk to myself to two trusted professionals. I was not believed, and lies were told about me. I was not treated with respect but rather with contempt. I was mocked. I was refused support. I was left sobbing like I’ve never sobbed before, traumatised and feeling dirty in a way that I hadn’t felt since the abuse that occurred within my family.

The whole event had an element of the surreal about it. It was such an appalling abuse of power, a disregard for professional standards and duty of care.so shocking, that it was difficult to take in that it really was happening. To make matters worse the incident happened in my own home, the only safe one I’ve known. 

I don’t know how I’ve managed to write parts of this post. I can feel both shame and terror lurking, waiting to pounce the moment I hit publish. 

ULTRA Jigsaw

The experience of trauma, particularly abuse, can fragment a life, and a person.

The process of recovering could be likened to tackling a jigsaw or crossword puzzle, the number of pieces or the complexity of the clues individually determined, as each individual’s experience of trauma is unique. Recovery too means different things to different people and can take many forms.

My recovery jigsaw is complex. I opened the box and tipped out 1000 puzzle fragments to be painstakingly pieced together. A combination of original and replacement pieces may be required if some are missing or too damaged to use. Rogue pieces may thwart progress appearing to fit in one place while their true location lies empty elsewhere.

The pieces are vulnerable …

The goal is a correctly completed puzzle, a myriad pieces picked up and put together to reform a whole. 

*****

Life as I knew it blew apart as surely as though a bomb had detonated within it. I lost my family, friends, my career, my health, and any semblance of normality. I was 30 years old. Subsequently, I almost lost my life too.

In the years immediately afterwards I met a woman, I’ll call her Eartha, at a community art project for people experiencing mental illness. My diagnoses then were Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia. Latterly my symptoms and experiences have been neatly bundled under the term ‘Complex Trauma’ which, as I understand it, is variously described as Complex PTSD¬†(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or Complex Trauma Disorder.

I don’t remember much about Eartha’s particular circumstances but I do remember asking her how long it had taken her to get her life back on track. 10 years, she said.¬†I did a double take, stepped back in amazement, sank into a dramatic faint, and just about every other astonishment clich√© you might name.

I jest, but I was truly horrified. NO WAY was it ever going to take me so long. My career, dreams, passions, and goals -none of which were inconsiderable – were waiting, and they were becoming impatient.

I’m now approaching 50. Never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine that almost 20,

years later, I’d still be struggling to compete that puzzle and stride forward into life again, much less that I’d yet again be fighting for my life.

This, is ULTRA Jigsaw: The Epic Endurance Event! It’s set to test my mettle, as though the original trauma weren’t challenge enough.

 So, why has it taken me so long?
Am I just slow and lazy?!
I’m actually very proactive, determined and driven.

I think the answer to the question of what’s taking so long is threefold.

I’ve been rebuilding my life on quicksand. I don’t yet have any firm foundations but that’s not for the want of trying.¬†For a number of reasons, I’ve ¬†lacked reliable consistent support. Mostly I’ve had to go it alone. The scale and complexity of the task itself is problematic.¬†

I was abused for decades.I lived in a situation of recurring trauma for more than 30 years, and then spent more than a decade in a damaging marriage on top of that.

I’ve been ‘free’ for just three years.¬†

I imagine that someone reading this might wonder why on earth I didn’t get out sooner. There is no quick answer but if I’m able to tell more of my story it will become clear.¬†

To be continued …