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.
I’m jumping back in where I am, and trying not to get bogged down by trying to fill in the gaps. This post will be part explanation and part celebration.
Why the celebration? Don’t get too excited, this won’t be the average person’s idea of celebration. This is a #spoonie celebration, that’s celebrating every achievement when times are difficult due to chronic illness to remind yourself that you’re a legend … 😀 ! This is particularly important to me because I have so little in the way of support, still waiting on social services – less said about that the better right now, and keeping going on your own in the face of so much can be very very tough. This is like being my own ‘cheerleader’ 🙂 .
I was woken by the phone just before 9am today. I felt dreadful. My night was a bit of blur but I remembered that it had been marked by nightmares and night sweats. I spent a lot of time going to and fro the loo, thanks to a bad bowel flare. I also felt nauseous and clammy, and the fatigue that has particularly plagued me recently was still present. Thankfully it wasn’t so bad as yesterday when I had to go back to bed at lunchtime because I couldn’t stay awake and kept falling over, but this morning five minutes or so of activity warranted rest afterwards.
I’ve just realised that my face is showing signs of that horrible flare up again, the one that happened several times a few weeks ago. At its worst my face ballooned and I could barely open my eyes. Earlier today I thought something didn’t look quite right when I glanced in the mirror but couldn’t pinpoint anything specific. Now it’s looking increasingly red, particularly around my eyes and mouth, as before, and under my chin, and it has begun to itch … *dashes off to take an anti-histamine*.
I do generally feel like a I’m in a ‘flare’ of some sort. I ache, I’m lurching between insomnia and the most crushing fatigue, I have too little energy (hence no treadmill tales of late – I’m desperate to run but at the moment have no capacity to do so) and my digestive disorder (Bile Acid Malabsorption) is seemingly flaring unexpectedly and very badly. There’s also the nausea, hot flushes, clamminess and night sweats, and I’ve been experiencing violent mood swings lately, not at all like me, resulting in sudden and very severe depressions. I lost six days to one last week, things got very desperate and I became actively suicidal at its peak. I’ll cover that a little more in a separate post. I strongly suspect at least some of the symptoms to be due to a hormonal issue, likely a particularly impactful perimenopause, but I don’t know if that’s true of all of them. I would like to know what’s going on and I’d certainly like to feel better. All recent blood tests apparently indicated that all is well …
I’m conscious of not wanting to make this a long post, and of the need to take off my make up and apply some of the dreaded steroid cream since my face has begun to flare again. I have no idea what is behind these flares, but still suspect something systemic. I wasn’t wearing any make up at the time of the original incidences of this, and today I’m wearing minimal make up, nothing new, that I’ve worn a lot recently without incident.
Too nauseous to eat breakfast but made a lovely post-therapy brunch
Answered the phone twice – first a wrong number, a lot of people seem to think that I am a fancy hotel in a neighbouring district (!), second time it was the tradesperson who’d arrived to carry out annual safety checks for my landlord but then couldn’t work out which entry buzzer was the one for my flat, so rang to be allowed in!
Created a new label for my buzzer on the door entry panel, to replace the previous one which had worn off, and stuck it firmly in place when I went down to take out my rubbish
Started an online art therapy course – completing the first six lectures
Did a lot of work in my bullet journal
Dealt with my pharmacy delivery – ‘Pharmacy Bob’ was as lovely as ever.
Emptied and refilled the dishwasher
Put on a load of laundry – phew, looks like I just escaped having to start going commando … !
Booked a cab to get me from a physiotherapy to a dental appointment on Friday. The physio is squeezing me in, it’s the only space she had, but it leaves me with just 10mins to get to my appointment at the dentist – hence the cab and a need for me to shout, ‘Step on the gas, my man!’ (not really 🙂 )
Still to do
Report leaking dishwasher
Make this recipe – hopefully it will be a bit of a treat
Feeling a bit scared tonight because I’m a lot more fatigued and in a lot more pain than I’d expect to be in accordance with my activity.
I don’t think I’m coming down with anything and I have been pacing myself very carefully for the last couple of months.
I’ve just got into bed (8:05pm) and I’m tapping this out on my phone. I’ve got a very early start tomorrow because I’m due to attend a free course run by a local organisation for people who have disabilities. Both lunch and transport are provided and I’m due to be collected by taxi at 10am.
I’m worried that this excessive pain and fatigue is a sign that I’m entering a flare-up – a prolonged period of increased symptoms. A bad flare reduces my capacity to near zero and makes it very difficult to look after myself without support. Such incapacity and not being able to properly look after myself takes a serious toll on my mental health. I have one friend who could drop in with supplies in an emergency but she travels a lot and is often not in town. Otherwise it’s just up to me.
It may not get so bad again this time. I am well aware of that and I’m certainly not trying to focus on the gloomy side. That is definitely not my way. I guess I’m just aware of how much I’m at risk while I’m still without support. Things are hard as it is day to day but in a flare up they become impossible. I suppose that no matter how positive, how Tigger I am, that reality remains and whether consciously or unconsciously it’s hard not to worry when symptoms worsen. My mood feels wobbly, better than over the weekend, but as though it’s not on solid ground. It feels vulnerable and so do I in turn.
I knew I faced a huge challenge to carry on without any support at all while waiting for the wheels of the social care system to turn. It’s been almost three months now since I was finally assessed and found to be in urgent need of support at home. I’m hoping so much that support will finally be in place by the end of this month. I hope that I will be able to take my foot off the pedal just a little and feel like just a little of the burden has been lifted from my shoulders.
I’ve had a productive day today starting with some physio exercises, then, after showering and something to eat, doing necessary admin, some domestic stuff including two very necessary loads of laundry to provide me with both clean underwear and towels. I posted some cards and letters, picked up a few errands and I met a friend in a nearby cafe for an hour which provided me with some very welcome company and conversation. She has schizo-affective disorder. As I understand it, that means that she sits somewhere on the spectrum between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. She feels herself to be bipolar with a bit extra thrown in. She has many challenges of her own. We arranged to go to see a local band play late next month. It’s a free gig, just an hour in length, so bite-sized which fits my spoonie requirements, and is during the daytime, which is also a must for me. I’m silently praying (or something, given that I’m an atheist) that I will keep well enough to go.
It’s high time that I stopped writing and focused instead on trying to relax. I need to be asleep by 10:30pm at the latest. I still need to assess whether I’m going to need painkillers in order to be able to sleep. I will manage without them if at all possible. I also need to clean my teeth and moisturize – the last couple of bits of my before bed routine.
Yesterday was, to be frank, a bit rubbish. Pain disturbed my sleep on Monday and kept me awake for the greater part of the night. Lack of sleep caused other physical symptoms to flare; this ‘symptom siege’ coupled with fatigue, felled my body but allowed my mind the freedom to perform a fandango!
a lively Spanish dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets or tambourine.
an elaborate or complicated process or activity.
There were no castanets or tambourines. This was more lively storm, than jamboree. Grief was first to step onto the floor and whirled around with emotional pain, anger and depression in the ‘fandango’ that was my mind trying to process recent events and their relationship to the abuse and trauma I experienced in the past. This is, as I’ve said previously, a welcome process but it is painful. This is especially true when it occurs unbidden AND when support – which is twofold (someone/some people with the experience, professional or otherwise, to help you with the process and someone/some people who can listen, be kind and offer a hug – essentially comfort you) – isn’t readily available.
My interim therapist is on leave this week – 12-12:50pm on Wednesdays is my usual session time. I say interim because it’s not ideal. I’m accessing therapy via weekly telephone sessions via a mental health charity, while I’m continuing the, to date, 17 month wait for trauma therapy on the NHS. I’m due to be assessed on 10th July so that the NHS may decide what, if anything, will be offered to me.
I actually don’t have clear recall of all of the ‘processing’ that my mind got up to yesterday. A lot can happen in a short space of time – it can be a violent but relatively short-lived ‘storm’. My lack of recall could be because …
There was a lot going on – too much to fully take in
My memory was impacted by the low mood that came with the storm
In the absence of ready support, my mind ‘shut down’ or has ‘dissociated’ from the thoughts and feelings involved because of their traumatic/distressing nature
I know that suicidal thoughts occurred. Please know that on this occasion no action is required in response to those; I am safe. These were passive thoughts. There was no active planning, there wasn’t even a desire to die, this was a sense that perhaps suicide might ultimately be my only option because of the pain and the difficulties I face. The feelings passed and I don’t have any suicidal thoughts or feelings at the moment.
I know that I was at times distressed because of new understanding regarding my abuse. I know that I cried, which is still something I can’t do easily.
I know that at least one point I felt real anger about what was done to me. I very rarely feel anger. In fact, last year a psychotherapist suggested that I might translate anger into guilt and so feel that instead. This makes some sense to me but is something that I’ve yet to explore.
I managed to sleep better last night. I don’t know what caused Monday night’s severe pain. I don’t think I had done too much. The only ‘new’ activity was the wee stroll that I took up to the shop and the postbox at the top of my road. It won’t stop me trying again, but I have to be mindful that, at the moment, this may be a pain trigger.
I was able to get up within an hour or so of waking, and shower and dress. I was about to type that I was looking forward to a visit from a friend this afternoon … when she arrived an hour early … so here I am again, post-visit. We had a lovely afternoon, a really good natter and catch up. She brought fancy biscuits that went down well with our cuppas 🙂 and some lovely flowers. I really love flowers and was just thrilled.
We haven’t known each other very long, but I think this has the makings of a good friendship. I think of her as a ‘breath of fresh air’. It’s taken me a long time to understand that I have a tendency to attract people who are drawn to my energy and enthusiasm … but who want to ride on the back of it, weighing me down. This friend has energy and enthusiasm and a ‘grab life by the horns’ attitude to match mine. She’s keen to introduce me to some of her friends – one, a former GP, who writes and the other a fellow trauma survivor who loves arts and crafts as much as I do. I look forward to meeting them both.
I had thought of taking another wee stroll today, but decided against it, my friend was here for three hours. I’ve been doing laundry and chores, and writing, and I’ve still to do my treadmill time and prep a stuffed pepper to throw into the oven for dinner. I’m having it with some microwaveable broccoli ‘rice’… it’s good, honestly! Hopefully, I’ve just enough ‘spoons’ left to accomplish that.
I had some news earlier from the social worker that wasn’t great, but not terrible, we’ll cover that in another post.
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’.
Today has been particularly challenging. I’ve been reeling from big news that I received yesterday. It’s triggered the pain of loss and exacerbated intense feelings of loneliness.
I woke very early this morning – sometime around six o’clock. Realising that I wasn’t about to get back to sleep easily, I set about being productive and wrote a blog post. Still the difficult feelings persisted although I continued to be productive but carefully pace myself, and also took time to relax. Around lunchtime, feeling worse, I took myself off to bed, in the hope that a nap might help. Sometimes it’s the only option to try to halt a complete mood crash and descent into crisis, when no support is available. I slept peaceable enough and woke around 3:30pm, at first slightly disorientated. My mood was still flat.
I knew what I must do and that is be productive again. I set the dishwasher going, refilled my water jug, took some painkillers, tweeted the link to my earlier blog post, brushed and straightened my hair and put on some make up before sitting down at my desk to write this post and send a couple of important emails.
I’m due to go out in a little over an hour. I plan to try out a local craft group. It’s held a short walk from my place, lasts just 90mins and there’s free tea and cake! I am so isolated and the more I can engage, #spoons permitting, the better. I am anxious about going along. My comfort zone is to be on top form in the company of others, which, in my situation, is quite frankly exhausting. The aim this evening is just to get there and try not to put myself under pressure to perform. The aim is to make that effort but not strain myself. After all, this is supposed to be about getting fun and engagement into my life!
This a powerful post from Claire. I admire her writing and her strength. I’m sharing this post because I believe passionately that it’s vital to break down the stigma that persists around mental illness.
Latest newswire: Mangled earphones are a thing of the past!
I heard mention of a ‘sound pillow’ on last week’s episode of the BBC2 TV series Trust Me I’m a Doctor. Instead of looking puzzled, as is often the way, I thought to myself … ooh, I’ve got one of those! I recovered it from the bottom of my wardrobe where I’d put it for safe keeping until I had time to try it out. I’d received it as a gift more than a year ago, but at the time my head was too full and life too frantic for me to have given it more than a cursory glance. Within five minutes yesterday I had it up, running and tested. I hadn’t realised it would be so easy.
If you follow me on Twitter (@heartsetonlivin) you might have seen me bemoaning the fact that I’d mangled not one but two pairs of earphones by listening to audio books in bed. I find it so soothing that I’m lulled to sleep. I then crush an earphone by accidentally sleeping on it! In a matter of weeks I’ve managed to ruin one set in its entirety and had been limping on in mono with Exhibit A …
My woes prompted sympathy … and some good-natured teasing … from Twitter pals.
So, what is a sound pillow and would I buy one?
It’s a pillow with a speaker inside it, and a cable on the side to be plugged into a smartphone, tablet or mp3 player. I have this one. I think it was purchased using an Internet deal and so may be available elsewhere for less than the advertised price.
Set up is a doddle, just plug and go. I use mine with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 tablet, because that’s what I happen to have. I have audio books and my favourite sleep meditation loaded on to it, and I’m also able to listen to the radio or music via wifi.
Sleep can be a challenge if you’re a #spoonie. Pain, anxiety, depression can all take their toll, and that’s just for starters. My recent episode of serious illness brought with it catastrophic sleep disruption. As my mood began to recover, I decided to revisit some favourite audio books, in the hope they’d help me to relax and also distract my mind from anxious rumination.
It works*, I’m pleased to say, and so does the sound pillow! I used it last night and happily fell asleep while listening. I found I had to play the tracks more loudly than I would if using earphones, but that’s no hardship. I’m lucky enough to now have a king-size bed to myself. Largely sleeping on one side, I tuck the tablet under the pillow on the other.
Using the sound pillow felt a little odd at first, but only because I’d become used to ‘in ear sound’ that, for the most part, moved with me when I moved. I soon adjusted, and found the best pillow spots for optimum listening. Once settled, I didn’t have to faff about with earphones or worry that my remaining one would be crushed. I have both a padded pillow protector and a normal pillowcase over my sound pillow. I didn’t find the sound to be obstructed in any way. I did have to adjust to being able to hear some ambient noise, previously blocked out by earphones, but this wasn’t a great problem.
If I had the cash and hadn’t received one as a gift, I think I would be tempted to buy a sound pillow. I am a new user, so I can’t yet report on its longevity potential.
*If I’m in need of additional distraction, I will play ‘Snake’ (remember that?!) on my mobile phone. I had to abandon my smart phone last year because I was skint and I’m using a basic old phone on loan from my friend. Anxiety is no match for Harry Potter audio books, read rather marvellously by Stephen Fry, combined with a few rounds of ‘fruit gobbling Snake game play’, I can tell you!
Alas, I haven’t yet found a way to combat sudden, unplanned waking, due to medication side effects, pain, nightmares or other irritation, but I live in hope … 🙂 .
N.B I have NOT been paid for this review.
This not a sponsored blog, nor do I want it to be. There are probably similar products on the market. I have chosen to review this product because I was given one as a gift by a friend, and because I think it may appeal to readers of this blog.