Rebuilding myself and my life after decades within an abusive family situation. I survived, but I plan to thrive … blogging about physical and mental health; wellbeing; social justice; creative arts; and more
I have missed this but it just hasn’t been possible to run on top of everything else lately. the last two weeks have been jam-packed with appointments – dentist, physiotherapist, GP, nurse, advocacy worker, NHS clinical psychotherapist for parts three and four of an assessment, voluntary sector trauma counsellor, dishwasher repair chap, new windows quotation chap (quoting for my landlord not me) and eating disorder support group.
I’ve also been establishing new routines to take into account my daily physiotherapy exercise regime, journalling – for planning/organisation plus recovery and self management, daily mediation, daily ‘Morning Pages’, daily connection with five friends by means of an online group chat, and a daily food intake diary.
I couldn’t remember what pace I ran at last time but I did remember that I ran for five and half minutes. I knew that I’d need to start slowly and build up again, frustrating but necessary. I wondered if I could do the same amount but in two shorter runs. I settled on doing two three minute runs. I settled on running at 4.2mph, I’ve just checked and my last was actually run at 3.7mph.
I ran for three minutes, I enjoyed it and I’m very glad to be back on the treadmill again but I’ve realised that three minutes was enough for today.
Mindfulness: It’s quite the buzzword these days and is touted by some as a cure for many ills. Is it worth the effort? I think so.
My first foray into guided meditation, sometime in 2011, is etched on my memory. Andy Puddicombe had the perfect analogy for what I thought of as my horribly ‘busy head’ … cars on a motorway. There I was caught up in the maelstrom of the traffic, trying desperately to direct it and, at the same time, risking being mowed down.
Andy taught me that I can safely get off the motorway, that it’s possible to take a step back, that those cars can carry on speeding about but that I need not be in their midst.
Earlier ‘dabblings’ with relaxation ‘tapes’ (that long ago, yes) and CDs offering meditative exercises rather left me cold. I needed a guide to follow but found the voices grated and put me right off. Andy’s is a voice with the power not only to guide but to soothe, calm and assure me, all while sounding like he’s speaking only to me.
I’ve been a poor student, often distracted from my practise. Frequently I’ve resisted it for fear of having to face head on the horrors of grief, loneliness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from which I was trying to distract myself to avoid being completely overwhelmed. I had lost of sight of the knowledge that mindfulness meditation can reduce rather than exacerbate my stress.
After a very long gap, I’ve tentatively begun to again make a habit of meditating daily. I’ve completed eight or so guided meditations, of either 10 or 15 minutes each, in the last two weeks. By the end of this afternoon I plan to have clocked up a consecutive run of four days. It’s early days! Meditation, and generally ‘being mindful’, do take practise. The more you do it, the more you benefit. It’s not difficult, not really. It takes some commitment and gentle effort.
I’m already reaping the rewards.
Meeting with my advocacy worker yesterday regarding the complaint we are submitting following my experience of the Intensive Home Treatment Team last year, I read my discharge letter for the first time. It contained such a catalogue of factual errors that it could have been written about somebody else. Memories of the mistreatment I received from some members of that team and new horror at the huge errors in the letter and the impact of them left me feeling very angry, sad and anxious.
I used a specific meditation for stress last night to help me to manage my feelings. Today I’m aware that my mind is regularly running away with thoughts, worries and memories of this distressing experience. It’s haunting me. I’m using mindfulness to help me to cope and to continue to function. Each time I notice that my mind has been distracted by this, I gently guide my attention back to what I want to focus on, such as writing this post, folding laundry, washing dishes, reading, watching a film or doing my physiotherapy exercises.
I’m using it in a similar way to help me to improve my posture and reduce some of my chronic pain. For example, each time I notice that I’m hunching my shoulders, I gently ease them back to where they belong. It helps me too in many more ways.
Mindfulness helps me to take one day at a time, to be present in the present moment, which after all is all any of us has; the past has passed and the future is not guaranteed.
What could it do for you?
I love Headspace. because it’s done exactly what it says on the tin; it’s given me some space in my head. (This is not a sponsored post, I receive no benefit, nor do I seek to, if you should check it out. I’m merely sharing what works for me.)
As at today, all Priority 2 tasks are now either complete or underway … yay! I have also taken a couple of tentative steps towards actioning some Priority 3 tasks.
I have had no further support since my friend’s unexpected intervention on the 10th June, except for the monthly visit of the woman I pay to help with cleaning tasks. I had three relatively good weeks then had three very challenging weeks due to a number of stressful events and by the end of the week before last was again struggling with suicidal feelings partly because I was overloaded and lacking support, but also because of the apparent impact of perimenopausal issues on my mood (I’ll cover this in a separate post). However, I managed to hold on and pulled through. Last week was altogether better and had a moment of real high! I’ll cover that in a separate post.
I am writing most days – if not here, then in my journal. I haven’t done any work on my novel project recently but still without support my capacity is much reduced and there’s only so much that I can do. I am doing as much as I possibly can.
I have felt much less lonely overall, although I am aware that I am still largely isolated. In the seven weeks since my friend’s intervention, I’ve had one other visit from a friend and maybe five phone chats. I have taken the initiative and I am connecting much more with friends (almost all of whom live at a distance) via social networks. I post daily updates. I reach out when I need support and usually receive comments with virtual (((hugs))). Sometimes someone will chat via a messaging app. I am keeping in touch and not allowing myself to withdraw. One friend hopes to visit in September/October which would be lovely. Today has been difficult. I reached out specifically asking for contact yesterday and today, but there hasn’t been anyone around for anything more than a virtual (((hug))) or wave. When loneliness creeps in it does make things harder, but I keep busy and distracted as much as my ‘spoonieness’ will allow. At the worst moments I hunker down for a while. My calendar is as full as I can sensibly make it for the coming month. Perhaps by the end of the month or the start of the next, we can hope, social care support will finally be in place to pick up the slack, allowing me more freedom to get and out and build more of a life, and giving me regular twice weekly contact at home.
Rarely are two days the same so daily routines do vary but are generally good now. I’ve only failed to shower on a handful of very difficult days. I am mostly on top of chores – but need help to catch up with the mountain of laundry and some cleaning tasks. Luckily, I am very tidy and organised and that helps a lot.
Self care has improved steadily in the last seven weeks and exponentially so in the last week following a couple of significant appointments (more in a separate post)
My ability to get out and about has also approved steadily and continues to do so. I am happy with my progress.
The routine inspection by my landlord’s agent was successfully carried out some weeks ago. My landlord himself, who lives overseas, will make an annual visit at the end of next month. If support isn’t in place in time, I will no doubt stress and overstretch myself ensuring that the flat is in entirely immaculate order.
I’ve been to the GP a couple of times and had the necessary tests. There are ongoing issues, I’ll cover that in a separate post at some point.
I am still without support for my eating disorder. However, I have made progress by myself. Progress has been steadyish and, more recently, certainly significant. I hope to join a local branch of OverEaters Anonymous but at the moment I don’t have the ‘spoons’ to attend its evening meetings. Evening outings are only possible if I rest for most of that day and each Tuesday I’ve had other commitments. I’ve recently discovered that Beat, the eating disorder charity, runs an weekly support group online. I’ve registered and I’m waiting for my registration to be processed. I will write a separate post about my weight and eating issues; they warrant it.
Psychotherapy/Trauma Therapy – there is a lot to say about that! Suffice to say for now that some significant progress has been made both in terms of provision and with my interim therapist.
I have resumed physiotherapy treatment – again a separate post is warranted. My treadmill routine got derailed by a lack of ‘spoons’ and being so busy elsewhere with appointments but I am determined to restart it on Monday.
I saw my dentist last week, had a fabulous appointment, I will blog about it soon and its relation to my recovery from abuse. I have a further appointment next month.
I’m due to have my eyes tested and get much-needed new specs next week.
I should be making a renewed application for Personal Independence Payments (P.I.P) in the next two weeks.
I have tried to return to a weekly support group for women who’ve experienced mental illness/trauma in the last couple of weeks but was thwarted by my ‘spoon’ count. Third time lucky this week, I hope.
Still without support, it is very difficult to keep all the necessary balls in the air. Some things are working well, while others are not. Some things work well for a time then fall by the wayside because something else has to take priority. The advent of support should see the emergence of some consistency and sustainability … both of which currently feel akin to the fabled gold at the end of the rainbow!
Thank you for reading. I’m sorry that this turned out to be more than a bite-sized post. Either I am just a waffler or there really is masses going on! I actually feel like I’ve written a lot but failed to convey all that is going on. Perhaps because I am tired.
Comments as ever are very welcome and appreciated. Do let me know that you are reading and that I’m not just talking to myself 😀 .
With me, there’s ALWAYS a plan. I discovered Bullet Journalling last year … and was as happy as the proverbial pig in muck/mud/sh*t – however you choose to term it, having discovered a cool system to both simplify and maximise my planning activities!
I was in some pretty deep doo doo at the time and struggling to keep afloat, 2016 being my annus horribilis, but at least I had a ‘customizable and forgiving organization system’ to help me… And one, according to the creators of the system, that will ‘teach you to do more with less,’ surely that’s got to be a goodie for a spoonie?
Tea is oft purported to be the cure for everything. Personally, although I like tea, I think stationery is the answer to everything. A nice new notebook, PENS, lots of lovely PENS, and paper, and labels and stickers too … oh the joy! Give me those and I’ll scribble and doodle my way to a master plan. If you’re a stationery/planner geek, you probably already know the joy of just doing a Google image search for ‘bullet journal’ …
A Bullet Journal is essentially – diary/planner, journal, to do lists, notebook, budget tracker … and anything else you need … in one. For me, a bullet journal keeps me on track but does away with the need for a multitude of ‘systems’, and it’s simplified approach does allow you to ‘do more with less’. Click here for a quick lesson if you want to learn more or start your own.
I hadn’t named this latest plan until it just struck me that I usually do – others have been Operation Self Care and Operation Fight Back – and then I knew that I wanted this one to be called Operation Thrive. I feel a bit emotional having just written that, because thriving means so very much to me. I had a taste of it earlier last year – when I had some support for a time. I survived but I plan to thrive is this blog’s tagline. Thriving is my recovery goal. Abuse recovery to me = thriving. I can’t wave a magic wand and cure my chronic health issues but when I’m living my life to the fullest alongside them, that’ll do me! When I’m thriving I’ll know that I’ve won, that despite all the pain, and grief, and terrible terrible loss, and so much time spent just existing let alone living, I’ll know that I’ve made it. I know that I’m already a winner in that I’m not bitter, and because I’m a good person and I am, by choice. very different to the people who abused me. BUT thriving, that’s the ultimate WIN.
Operation Thrive – plan initiated 10th June, 2017
WRITING – finally this is coming top of the list and it’s staying there.
Ending isolation and reducing loneliness by increasing connection
Reinstating routine and regaining function
Being able to get out of my flat – and then get out and about locally
Getting my flat ‘immaculate’ ready for a routine inspection by the landlord’s agent
Re-engaging with GP and getting vital health checks done
Taking steps to begin to tackle disordered eating
Psychotherapy/Trauma therapy – it’s difficult to know where to place this because of difficulties/delays with the provision of it
Starting to rebuild fitness – and taking steps to resume physiotherapy treatment
Visiting dentist both to resume my treatment programme to restore my smile devastated by a dental phobia caused by abuse, and also to assess damage caused by latest crisis and create further treatment plan. (Delayed by illness and financial difficulty)
Optician – have overdue eye test and purchase new specs. – also delayed by illness and financial difficulty.
P.I.P – make a new application for Personal Independence Payments
PRIORITY 3: – can only be undertaken once a support worker/P.A. is in place (assuming the local authority awards funding)
Back onto a calorie counted diet
Increased exercise – talking walks and going swimming – and once physiotherapy is complete joining an 10 week exercise management programme for people with disabilities/chronic illness – assuming I can get onto it, if not I’ve got a Plan B 🙂 !
Getting out and about beyond my immediate area and support groups
Restarting hobbies, building new ones and making new connections – join a choir (September) and an art group
There are sub-categories to some of the above – but you get the gist as it stands! Priority 1 is all now either underway or complete.
Getting back to work is a HUGE goal, but as I am not to try to run before I can walk, for a change, I’ve not yet included it on this plan. Once I’m settled into Priority 3s, I’ll add more!
The bulk of my Bullet Journalling is at the moment centred on ‘Daily Logs’ – a list of what’s happening and what’s to be done on any given day, and daily recovery focused journal entries that I’ve called ‘Recoverlogs’ – a term shamelessly snaffled from mental health campaigner and vlogger, Jonny Benjamin. You may have seen the brilliant Channel 4 film Stranger on the Bridge about his own mental health story.
To do lists keep me on track but are also a great motivator. It feels SO good to tick … ‘done’ ! Budgeting goes in there too, shopping lists, ideas, thoughts and plans for blog posts, notes for and on therapy sessions, and so on. This plan is no small undertaking. There is no one working on it with me, no one to oversee it. My social worker is classed as my ‘key worker’ but is only involved with me as far as carrying out a social care assessment and managing the application for funding to pay for some support. My GP doesn’t know the half of it, as there is never enough time to fill him in on all that’s going on for me. I hope there’ll be an opportunity to share the plan with him at our next appointment on 3rd July.
I’ve made a lot of progress away from the suicidal depths and towards my goal of thriving. I’ve already written about my adventures in admin. I *think* I’m winning so far but there’s more to do!
Here’s what I’ve done so far. I’ll give you a bullet list, I’m going to write another post, perhaps tomorrow, about MY BIG PLAN. With me, there is ALWAYS a plan … even if at the worst of times, it’s only a suicide plan. I thrive on planning, targets and goals, proactivity and productivity. Did I ever mention that I’m a wee bit driven …
Perhaps having to make the best of terrible circumstances when I was younger is what helps me to capitalise on every scrap of hope, opportunity or potential. Regardless of the reason I’m very grateful for that capacity.
I’ve showered 13 out of those 14 days.
I’ve been out twice to take out my rubbish, twice to visit my GP surgery and once to go to the hospital – having vital physical health checks. Bearing in mind that prior to this I had been completely housebound for four months.
Progress is ongoing following my assessment for social care (a personal assistant for four hours per week) – I’ll blog separately about that.
I’ve set the ball rolling for a return to the physiotherapy treatment I was about to begin when the crisis that left me housebound hit in February. I may not be allowed to resume – a funding issue – but it won’t be for the want of trying.
My eating is improving – another more in a separate post for that!
I’ve been keeping in touch with friends via email and social media and they are keeping in touch with me. I feel that I’m rebuilding some old friendships and developing new ones – if you fall into either category and agree, do let me know, my friendship confidence is still a little shaky :-).
Another dear friend stepped up two weeks ago, asking how she could help, her message moved me to tears. It’s gratitude, she said, for a “normal” life. This is because of the research I did that helped to crack the conundrum of the rare condition that was devastating her life. She said, “I have never nor will I ever forget what you have done for me.” I well remember her illness, and know I did research but much beyond that is lost to me. This was soon after my abuse was uncovered and the rug was pulled out from under me. I was all over the place but I’m so glad I seemed to have pulled it out of the bag then. Her words mean the world to me.
I asked a Twitter pal if she’d like to meet up next year – there’s reason for it being next year – and she said yes, which is lovely, and I look forward to our ‘day out’ .
I received a ‘care package’ in the post from another online friend, full of thoughtful items – either useful, fun or edible! From comedy dvds to batteries, a massage ball to peppermints.
On all the occasions that I left my flat I wasn’t wearing any make up (OK, except lipstick) this is also progress – and yes, more on that in a separate post!
I hyper-focus on ‘the bright side’ – that song could be my anthem, and I’ve recognised that in the last few days I’ve been having thoughts along the lines of … Look at you, you’re doing OK. You’re fine really. You don’t need support. It’s a familiar refrain.
I know a lot about ‘getting on with it’. I know a lot less about thriving within a supportive network. Growing up, trauma was played down and I was schooled to ‘get on with it’, to such an extent that it’s one of the main reasons that I didn’t recognise that I was being deliberately harmed.
Aside from that, having spent four months housebound, showering a couple of times a month, bingeing, starving and stinking, alone, dealing with flashbacks, grief and increasing despair, the last two weeks do look like nirvana in comparison!
I have to remind myself that while it’s great to applaud each step of progress and C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E the small things … it feels odd to call them ‘small’ because they are huge achievements when you’ve been struggling so much, but to most people showering, going outside, doing a little shopping, taking care of the basics, are small things … I have to have an eye on the bigger picture. That’s to say that I need to recognise the difficulties I still face, the burdens I carry and the mountains I have to climb, and allow myself to get help where I can AND feel worthy of it.
There’s more on the progress front but I think I’ve given you the highlights! I’m flagging, I’m low on spoons today. I plan to do my treadmill ‘5’ then allow myself to ‘flop’ and indulge in a telly fest of Doctor Who and Pitch Battle!
I don’t know where I would be now if my friend hadn’t made that mercy dash two weeks ago. I am glad that I don’t have to think about that.
Thank you for reading. As ever, I welcome comments, conversation and tweets.
See yesterday’s post ‘Treadmill Tales: The Return’ for my plan of action.
If you’re here for UBER stats you might be disappointed, I’m recovering from serious illness and have ongoing chronic conditions which mean I’ve got to start out really S-L-O-W-L-Y.
Yesterday’s ‘five’ felt like it went on for longer than that (!) but I still felt the thrill of being on the treadmill and remembered how good it felt to run. I swallowed my frustration and walked as planned. I wasn’t paying huge attention but think my pace was 2.5 miles per hour.
I got on the treadmill just after 7 this evening, to my surprise really after a long, productive and active day. The ‘five’ flew by, I enjoyed it and felt I could’ve gone on for longer.my speed was 3.1 miles and I covered a wee quarter of a mile!
Now I’ve had dinner and finally ‘flopped’ … all I want to do is sleep!
I wish Admin. were an exciting place where I was having the time of my life.
Rebuilding my life after months in the depths of crisis is exciting. It feels really good to be making progress but, I’ll admit, the administration side of the process can be more wearying than any other – emails, calls, forms, research … chasing this person … approaching that organisation … researching grants … and trying to make head or tail of the personal budgets/direct payments system in the ongoing quest for social care support.
In the last couple of days alone I’ve …
sent three emails to my social worker
spent considerable time and ‘spoons’ researching support and treatment options outside of the NHS for my eating disorder. and drawn a blank beyond the one option I already knew about which may not be suitable.
sent two emails regarding a local women’s support group – one a brief testimonial to support the application for funds to keep it going – another to update on my circumstances and inform the facilitator when I hope to be well enough to return.
researched organisations offering grants for a convalescence/respite break, sought advice about my eligibility, printed application forms, and contacted health professionals to try to find one who could spare the time to make an application on behalf, as that’s how the system works.
undertaken an online ‘test’ for Personal Independence Payments and carried out various tasks in preparation for making a new application, having been turned down last year. For those to whom it’s relevant, the test is here.
spent time making notes and trying to prioritise the many current ‘hot potatoes’ and decide what to take to my therapy session earlier today, in order to make the best use of the 50 minute slot.
emailed regarding restarting vital dental treatment stalled by serious illness.
made numerous checklists to keep track of it all.
This week I still …
need to contact several organisations and another person with disabilities who lives locally to try to get some clarity over the best option for me with the (haha) administration of the personal budget/direct payments – and all this before it’s even been confirmed that my application for funding – made by the social worker after several hours of assessment – has been approved. This is because the process is lengthy, and I’m told it will be further slowed if I’m not ready to go if/when approval is granted.
need to keep in touch with friends – replying to emails, messages, tweets and so forth. This isn’t a chore. I want to be in touch, I appreciate their contact and it’s vital to my health and wellbeing, particularly as isolation and loneliness are a prominent factor in my life and have had a detrimental impact on my health. That said these tasks still take time and ‘spoons’.
need to contact the charitable body which, last year, granted me funding for physiotherapy – it wasn’t available on the NHS. I had an assessment in February and was set to have a further 11 sessions when crisis hit and it had to be put on hold. I can’t even begin to explain the admin. now involved in trying to sort out a restart – both you and I would lose the will to live.
there’s further admin. relating to budgeting and welfare payments
there’s a mix up with my energy supplier – which owes me money – need to try to resolve that
there’s an energy ‘switch’ to organise in order to avoid a price hike
there are trips to the GP and hospital which currently necessitate various emails and texts to organise advocacy support where appropriate, or someone to ‘chum me’ there if that’s necessary,
tomorrow there’s a visit from my landlord’s agent for a routine inspection.
Blimey, I feel weary just telling you about it, and that’s not all of it but you get the idea 😀 !
My limited ‘spoons’ have to go a long way. I wish the blessed admin would do itself and I could focus on everything else that needs my attention like therapy, exercise, my eating disorder and other aspects of recovery and self management, getting out and about, dental treatment, writing, etc, not to mention the mere basics of daily living.
I think I needed to get that off my chest. Thanks for bearing with me!