Adventures in Admin.

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!

Spoonie love,

Heart. x

Heart REset on living (a.k.a the power of hope)

I do love that title but I can’t take the credit for it – thanks my friend for coming up with it, it’s inspired, you know who you are.

Well … what a difference a day makes!

Writing the post Heart set on dying?’ on Friday was excruciating. On Twitter, I likened it to performing open heart surgery on myself. Certainly readers who are familiar with my blog noted it to be my most ‘raw’ post to date. It left me feeling very exposed. I even toyed with the idea of deleting the post an hour or so after publishing it, which is, I think, a first. I’m not afraid to explore difficult stuff, but I’ll do it with a smile, with humour, anything to deflect, otherwise I might be troubling you; you might judge or reject me.

You might think me weak.

I can feel a barrier in my mind when I try to really capture my feelings around that thought but I know this much; it’s a fundamental for me. Being consistently told when I was growing up that I was weak and lesser, in a multitude of ways, had a huge impact. I never wholly believed it, a life-saving grace, but I was deeply affected by my family’s apparent belief in it and it has left me with a deep-seated fear of being deemed weak.

Primarily, I wrote that post first and foremost to try to release the pressure in my head; its volatile contents were fit to explode. I did also hope to connect in some way, otherwise I could’ve just scribbled in a notebook. I didn’t, I chose to write here and publicly post. Secondly, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of dying without having put my ‘story’ out there, by that I mean without someone at least knowing what my life has really involved and who I really am. Third, I’d no expectation of being able to reach someone in a way that resulted in meaningful connection but the spark within that fuels me, held hope of it.

I knew there was every likelihood that my teenage best friend would read that post, as I introduced her to my blog earlier this year in what was a tentative step on my part to try to decrease the distance that I had put between us. I did not expect that she would read it late that very night and turn up on my doorstep the next day!

Yep, she did.

She lives almost 200 miles away – something like a six hour round trip –  and we last saw each other in 2002.

We use a messaging app to chat. When, yesterday, a photo of my friend, who is not given to selfies, popped up, the background of which looked like the distinctive city where I live, I was a little bemused. I assumed I’d got it wrong, or that it was an old photograph. I could see that she was writing a further message and calmly awaited further explanation.

I am on my way to put the kettle on … it began.

I gasped, for a moment I thought she was kidding before swiftly considering that she would not joke having read that post, which I knew for certain she had.

***

So, we hadn’t seen each other for 15 years – we’ve known each other for 33 years.

I don’t think a year has gone by without some sort of contact, even if just a scribbled note in a greetings card. We perhaps connected on social media between three and five years ago, I can’t remember. We’ve certainly chatted frequently online for the last year, if not longer than that. I curse my addled my memory here for not being able to remember.

They say that the best of friends can pick up where they left off, no matter the time that has elapsed, as though it were only yesterday. I’ve heard this, friends have said it of my friendships with them, but I hadn’t seen it until yesterday.

“Let’s have a cuppa”, she said.

“I haven’t got any milk”, I said, genuinely appalled … and fearing that I could never again set foot in our Lancashire homeland having committed the cardinal sin of not being able to offer someone ‘a brew’.

“You have now”, said she, revealing a pint of milk with a familiar flourish, swiftly followed by teabags, coffee, a choice of sandwiches, strawberries, chocolate, fresh juice, and dinners for the following three nights courtesy of M&S. She’d remembered that I’m vegetarian. There was also tissues  – in case we got emotional – and the softest, most ‘snuggle-up-able’ ‘comforter’ in one of my favourite colours. That girl got it covered!

If you read Heart set on dying? you can probably imagine that my socks had been well and truly blown off by this time.

Given the distance that I put between us, given that she was the friend that I seemed to have most feared confiding in as my ‘car crash’ of an adult life unfolded, I was staggered to realise that I felt comfortable, that there was not a moment of awkwardness. We chatted and meandered about my flat, like it was something we do every week.

That fear of confiding seems to have been rooted in shame, a perception that she must surely see me as a ‘failure’, a ‘dropout’ or a ‘loser’. She and I went through our teenage years together, closely entwined, with different dreams and ambitions but with a path mapped out through O level and A level examinations and on to the hallowed territory of university. Amid the abuse, I fell at the first hurdle and I had long been left behind by the time I fought my way back onto the path and ultimately made it to university. Perhaps I feared her reaction most because she mattered most, I don’t know. I am sure that it will be healing to explore those feelings in future therapy. For now, they are difficult to access, I’ve had to ‘shut down’ a great deal over the years in order to continue to put one foot in front of the other. Now I know that I am accepted, not judged but embraced. It’s a new feeling and I sense it will take some time to embed itself and take root.

I was shocked to be reminded that she knew more than I thought, as she recounted, among other things, my often reluctance, and fear of, going home. She knew, back then, that I was unhappy, and that my surviving parent was ‘odd’ to say the least, but nothing of the violence or details of other abuse that was the basis of my daily life. Abusers school in silence. This was the first time I’d discussed my situation, my abuse, in any detail with someone who was in my life at the time. It was emotional, it was powerful, it was tough but I was really glad to do it. It was validating, and it’s also helping me to begin to fit together some of the pieces of that ‘Ultra Jigsaw’. I’d like to write more on that, but I am time pressed today and I have a mountain to climb tomorrow and I need to prepare for it.

I wish I could tell you my friend’s maiden name. I have always known it but only this afternoon did it suddenly loom large in my mind making me gasp and then laugh. I am not superstitious but to think that through those terrible teenage years amid the horrors of my abusive home life, I had a best friend with a name to suggest that I should, that I could hold on to her. We used to read our horoscopes with glee and anticipation back then, and asked burning questions of a sort of a pendulum constructed of a necklace and a ring, you know that thing? You’d think they might have nudged me to note the obvious!

Thank you to those who read ‘Heart set on dying’, and sent messages of comfort and support. Please know that you are valued.

Yesterday’s visit meant more than I say and has given me yet more still. I began to capitalise on it immediately and when I’ve the ‘spoons’ , and the time … there is always so much to do, I will write here, in explanation.

Thank you, as ever, for reading. Comments welcome.

Heart x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel like I just ran a marathon 

9:55am I’m in bed, heart racing and body exhausted as though I’ve just collapsed over the finishing line at the end of an arduous race. 

I’ve just completed my first session with my trauma therapist since the 8th of February. I’ve phoned in for our regular session (this is a voluntary sector trauma therapy service that is delivered by means of a 50 minute weekly telephone call) most weeks in the intervening period but have been unable to utter a single word, not even so much as hello, and have felt utterly compelled to hang up. This is not a natural course of events for a chatterbox like me who is ordinarily an engaged and proactive therapy client.

Fear, even terror, and shame forced the silence, exacerbated by my having not yet established a relationship with my therapist, as I only became her client at the very end of last year. There’s much to unpick within that fear and shame. In the simplest terms, it’s fear that, after the terrible events of last year, there is now no hope of receiving any support, and shame at being who I  am, where I am. The terror is at potentially being hurt again by a ‘caring professional’ and, worst still, that if no help is possible, my fight to not only survive but to thrive could have been in vain. 

It’s taken a lot of work on my part to get to the point where I could today regain my voice. For a moment there as I wrote that I had the urge to cry hang out the flags … I did it! 

I may write some more later about the content of today’s session but my focus here is on the result of the session.

I feel glad that I was able to reconnect with my therapist today. We don’t yet have any real connection and I wish we could have talked for so much longer than 50 minutes but it was something, and it was helpful if only in as much as I could share some things and feel heard. 

I feel a renewed determination to try to finish the, to date, 75% completed pair of blog posts telling the story of the last year. In order to write about it, I must confront the events of the year and that is proving to be traumatic. 

Realistically, I’m unlikely to wotk on those posts today as I’m shattered having only slept for 90 minutes last night. I’m genuinely struggling to keep my eyes open and my brain focused. I’m looking forward to an early night. I hope to work on completing those blog posts tomorrow. 

Feeding Myself

Note: I  wrote most of this post on Sunday but became swamped by trauma symptoms and wasn’t able to finish it until today, Wednesday 5th. 

My belly is full of wholemeal toast, eggs scrambled with spring onions and cheddar, seasoned with a dash of sea salt and lashings of black pepper.
I’m not a food writer nor do I aspire to be one, but I am inspired by at least two of them. My favourites, Jack Monroe and Ella Risbridger started out as bloggers, before books and the world of traditional publishing beckoned.

Until I reached ‘middle-age’ I had no real cooking confidence. I blogged about that and how that changed, here.

I have a difficult relationship with food. I have an eating disorder. There, I’ve said it, that wasn’t all that difficult was it? Actually, you know what, it really was; it’s difficult for me to be open about it.
I’ve probably had a tendency to struggle with food for most of my life, but there have been two periods where that struggle became a full blown eating disorder.The reason it’s so difficult for me to discuss isn’t because I feel ashamed about it in myself. I recognise it as an illness and accept that the trauma and abuse that I’ve experienced lie at the root of it. However, I am aware of the stigma that it carries.

Many people, including some medical professionals, scoff (I know, I couldn’t resist the ironic pun) at the very idea that binge-eating disorder is described as an eating ‘disorder’ at all. I’m just fat and greedy, right? If you don’t agree with that last statement, you might be surprised by how many people would.

Beat, the UK’s leading charity providing support for, and campaigning about, eating disorders, has this to say: “Binge eating disorder (BED) is a serious mental illness where people experience a loss of control and overeat on a regular basis.”  You can read more on the Beat web site, here.

In recent years ‘fat-shaming’ has become ‘a thing’ and some have fought back against those who seek to mock, deride or in any way bully someone who is overweight. An element of ‘fat pride’ has emerged, with a rise in plus-size bloggers and models.

I’d like to be fat and proud. That’s not because I’m happy being so overweight, I’m not in the least, and that’s entirely because of the impact that it has on my health and fitness. I’d like to have that ‘fat-pride’ while I remain this size because I do not want to feel shamed or otherwise negatively regarded because of my size.

I’m never going to be without curves, that’s the way I’m built. I’m a pear-shaped woman with an ample bosom. I’ll gladly celebrate those curves, in the way that I’d encourage anyone to be body confident; body positive.

I want to beat my eating disorder and lose weight. I want to regain, and revel in, my fitness because of the positive impact that is has on my life. I did beat the disorder the first time around. I did it without help, not because I was trying to go it alone but because I wasn’t offered any. After regaining some control over my eating patterns, it was some years before I was able to lose the weight I’d gained as result of the disorder. I did it between 2011 and 2012, losing five stone.

I was inspired by the ‘Hairy Dieters’ television programmes, they focus on that old chestnut, a low calorie diet and increased exercise. The hairy ones aim to make low calorie options that taste good and satisfy. It takes effort to lose weight and every bit of incentive you can muster really helps.

After leaving my husband, I took up running in early 2014. In reality I took to walking on my treadmill and slowly built up to being able to run a mile a day, but ‘I took up ‘treadmilling” doesn’t have the same ring to it. (Click on ‘treadmill’ in the tag cloud on my blog homepage, if you’re interested in reading about my route to running.) I’ve NEVER been ‘sporty’ but I really grew to love running, or more likely the endorphins that the activity released, that and the vast improvement in my fitness and my body confidence.

I’m probably not quite back at my heaviest ever weight, I can’t be sure because my scales have broken and I can’t afford to replace them, but as a result of this relapse into an eating disorder, and so months spent in the grip of compulsive eating, I’ve gained at least six stones in weight over a period of around 18 months.

Last year I asked for help via my GP surgery and the Intensive Home Treatment Team (mental healrh out patient crisis service) many times, and with increasing desperation. I knew that this time I needed help to beat it. Despite my massive weight gain in a short space of time and a new diagnosis of very high cholesterol levels, I’ve been offered no help ar all.

My trauma therapist said we could do some work around my eating issues, but given we already have so many other high priorities stacked up, that’s not practical. The Intensive Home Treatment Team psychiatrist promised to speak to the local eating disorders service about the possibility of support for me there. She told me that she’d get back to me. I chased it up when she didn’t and was rudely told that I’d already been told “NO”. I wasn’t in a position to argue and didn’t receive any fuller explanation.

At least my GP’s urgent referral for trauma therapy had got me onto a two year waiting list … I love the NHS but have long found its mental health services to be chronically underfunded and often poorly staffed, and it’s trauma services (that’s the psychological version not A&E) rarer than hens’ teeth. Again and again I’ve turned to the voluntary (charity) sector, itself often cash-strapped with services oversubscribed. As a result, services often receive scant advertising.Many hours of research can be required to uncover what might be available, and then often complicated application processes follow. Recently I bagged a place on a waiting list for a ‘trauma support worker’ – essentially, someone to meet once or twice a month who can provide moral support, guidance and practical help as you work to rebuild your life. I’m due to reach the top of that list in early 2019.

But back to the impact of the eating disorder, I think that I’m now the most unfit that I’ve ever been, and that does not feel good AT ALL. In fact, it’s really rather frightening, the detrimental impact on my health is evident.

I am beginning to cultivate a more positive connection to food, and the beginnings of this new relationship were nurtured by those food bloggers, Jack and Ella.

Jack’s engaging blog began when poverty forced Jack to feed themself and their toddler son (Jack identifies as non-binary and so prefers the gender neutral pronoun ‘their’) for £10 a week. Jack’s no-nonsense style and inventive recipes are budget-conscious and also an excellent resource for.anyone seeking the confidence to cook from scratch.

Ella’s writing is more lyrical, hers is the poetry of food writing. Sometimes high-falutin’ ingredients could be off-putting if you’re a beginner or more especially if you’re low on funds. I’ve yet to try an Ella recipe, but still I savour her blog. I’m along for the ride, vicariously living her altogether nourishing relationship with food and cooking, and learning from it.

What both Jack and Ella have in common is that they have both introduced me to the idea that preparing nutritious food for myself can be a healing endeavour. The process of preparing and cooking food, chopping, stirring, whisking, can, and should be, a mindful, meditative experience, allowing for calm concentration and a break from a traumatised, troubled, or simply busy mind. You savour the process as much as the end result. There’s also achievement and satisfaction in both admiring and eating your creation, however small or simple! Cooking for oneself can be a nourishing experience, not just for the body, but also for the mind.

I particularly enjoy making Jack’s easy peasy Coconut Milk Soda Bread. Jack’s description of rocking a warm, snuggly bundle is my idea of a great twist on ‘comfort food’!

This weekend I’ve discovered the joy of baked eggs all kinds of ways.

Baked Eggs: Mushroom and vegetarian-style ‘Pepperoni’ and Spring Onion and Cheddar, perhaps not the prettiest dishes but certainly very tasty!

I also tried a Sainsbury’s recipe for a healthy snack – roasted chickpeas – simply a can of chickpeas drained, patted dry and mixed with a teaspoon of smoked paprika, a teaspoon of chilli powder and a quarter teaspoon of  both cumin and ground coriander, then roasted in the oven  I really fancied these savoury nuggets but was disappointed with the results. I’d been expecting the promised crunchy snack but in reality felt I could’ve been eating cardboard!

Chickpeas: drained, dried and spiced
then roasted to look great … and taste like cardboard

Put chickpeas to better use and make your own houmous, it’s a gazillion times more healthy than shop-bought versions and tastes great. The easy recipe in the Healthy Living Yearbook is another favourite of mine.

Homemade houmous

I may have Complex Trauma but I’m not a complex cook; I’m a ‘spoonie’! Unfortunately, cooking often falls off the bottom off my to do list when ‘spoons’-  a.k.a energy and the capacity to function – run out.Quick and easy recipes are my way to go.

I’ll discuss my efforts to again overcome an eating disorder together with my hopes for and also my reservations about seeking support via Overeaters Anonymous, in a later post.

.

Trauma Therapy – Session #1 Friday, 4th November, 2016

This post concerns Trauma Counselling provided by a voluntary sector organisation free of charge via weekly 50 minute telephone sessions (free call) initially for 12 weeks, with the option to extend for up to 12 months. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to my therapist as ‘Pea’.
See this post for a brief round-up of my therapy history. 

therapy

I rang in at 1pm only to hear a message informing me that all counsellors were busy. I should have got straight through to my counsellor at that time. I panicked momentarily, then tried again and got through.

This is my first experience of therapy delivered via the telephone. I would prefer face-to-face sessions because I believe body language is an important part of communication. The only other slight drawback is that my therapist is Italian and has a strong accent, which sometimes leads to misunderstandings on my part. I need to learn to be assertive and it will do me good to learn to ask her to repeat herself. I currently find this excruciating to do. Drawbacks aside, this is what is available to me right now and I am very much in need of therapy and so grateful to have it. On the plus side, as a #spoonie, if I am unwell I need go no further than my own phone and could have a session in my pyjamas if necessary!

I had missed my session the previous week, which should have been my first, as I was in crisis and feeling beyond help. Pea explained that while some of my previous therapists had asserted that they were in no way a ‘crisis service’, she has no such qualms. She said,
“My intention is to meet people where they are.”
I found this statement encouraging and scribbled it down into my bullet journal (I’m a recent convert) in order that I could remind myself of it.

I don’t remember quite how we got there but we moved on to speaking about my sense of my life having always been built on quicksand, and how that fuels my natural drive turbo-changing it to top speed. She commented that I was speaking quickly. I explained that I hadn’t been aware of that but that I felt my speech reflected my racing thoughts. I feel such pressure to change things, to do so much to improve my situation, to fully recover and thrive, and put firm foundations in place. I feel so overwhelmed by it all and so alone with it. I’m tired of always battling so very hard. However, the fear of being swallowed up by the quicksand ensures I remain hyper-vigilant and in ‘hyper-drive’!

Pea asked if I would like to try to put some foundations in place there and then. I readily agreed. She proceeded to lead me gently through what I immediately recognised to be a guided meditation/mindfulness exercise (See Take10 for free here to try a similar exercise for yourself). I was to concentrate on my body and its relationship with the chair on which I sat and, particularly, my feet on my wooden floor. Pea asked if I could feel the firm foundation beneath my feet. I thought yes and said so, but I also immediately felt a rapid fire thought – with the power of an immense wave – that, because my flat is rented, I could lose it at any time …

big-wave-surfing-1

I persisted and ultimately, by keeping my focus on the moment … myself sitting on my chair … my feet, I was able to slow my breathing and my thoughts. The new thoughts that came felt like light clouds gently drifting by … I found myself thinking that yes I could feel that firm foundation, that solid foundation beneath my feet. Furthermore, that while I acknowledged that I have little money, do not own my home and there is a sense of insecurity in that, that right now in this moment it is my home and it is secure … and this moment is all that any of us have.

light-clouds-drifting

I’ve previously found mindfulness to be very beneficial but I’ve struggled to maintain consistent practice. I’m taking steps to change that.

This was the first time I’d felt at all able to shed the forever sense of peril due to the quicksand. I couldn’t believe that I could so quickly feel a sense of firm foundations! I said ‘Wow’ … and felt it. I also felt a sense of peace – which has hitherto been as scarce as hen’s teeth in my life.

Pea asked if I might like to take a piece of paper and draw something to represent that peace as we continued to chat. I already had pen and paper in front of me (they’re ever present). She also suggested using some colour and I (a very arty sort) instantly reached for fat crayons. What fun! I drew the word peace and shafts of yellow and orange light radiating from it while light clouds drifted by.

Soon Pea remarked on the time and we discussed how we would draw the session to a close and then did so. I felt that the 50 minutes had whizzed by but I also felt that we had connected well and that our first session had been both productive and valuable.

Much as last week, I have no idea where we will begin next session. There still seems to me to be so much to tackle and I can struggle to prioritise it. However, I shall aim not to worry about it, remain ‘in the moment’ and trust that it will come together as it did last week.

 

 

Trauma Therapy or Day 2 of The Rest of My Life.

therapy

I have a trauma counselling session at 1 o’clock this afternoon.

This is the first time that trauma-specific counselling has been available to me and it will be my first session after an initial assessment session with my counsellor two weeks ago.

Between 2002 and 2011, I had some four years of general psychotherapy/counselling. This took the form of a one year period with the same therapist, a two year period with another therapist and otherwise dribs and drabs of therapy with variously a CBT therapist, a psychologist, a Victim Support worker and a trainee therapist.

This trauma counselling is provided weekly via 50 minute telephone sessions by a voluntary sector organisation. Twelve sessions are offered, with the option to extend that period for up to 12 months if both parties are in agreement. After referring myself to the service, I waited a little over two months to be allocated a counsellor. I have been waiting since February of this year to be assessed for trauma therapy on the NHS, despite my then GP denoting my need URGENT.