Treadmill Tales: #12, #13 and #14

Another week of being hijacked by symptoms necessitates a slightly more creative treadmill routine.

I planned to do my session on Monday (Day 12) evening but in the end it just wasn’t possible to work it into my routine after a heavy day. My appointment at the GP surgery and a few errands had involved a good bit of exercise.

On Tuesday (Day 13) I spent 11 minutes on the treadmill and upped my pace to 3.4mph, I jogged for the first three minutes AND for the last minute. I covered 0.6miles and apparently burned around 56 calories – that’s a dark chocolate coated rice thin ūüôā ! I was very pleased with all of that.

Late on Tuesday night, I brushed my teeth and almost immediately afterwards found that I had a very sore throat and neck. I then really struggled to get to sleep and was awake until around 5am. The postie, buzzing to get in, woke me just after 11am. I was too sore and out of it to make it to the door in time. He left a card advising me of two parcels too big to go through my letterbox. I’m not expecting anything so I’m very intrigued. I’ve scheduled them for redelivery tomorrow.

I was able to get it together – just about – for my therapy session at midday. On days like that therapy delivered via the telephone is a boon. I wrote some notes after what was an intense session, then showered and dressed. I walked up to the top of my road (uphill) to the postbox, to deposit a wedding card for my ex-husband and his fiancee who are getting married this month, and I picked up a few items from the nearby shop. I found the whole endeavour a bit of a struggle and then knew I was either coming down with something or having a further¬†spoonie flare up. I was SO delighted to see¬†Pharmacy Bob¬†at the top of his usual hour slot, avoiding the need for me to fight crushing fatigue any longer. I could barely keep my eyes open. I collapsed into bed at 4.30 and was soon asleep. I slept for around three hours then I watched some telly, had something to eat, and managed the odd message on social media. I felt rough, ached all over, my throat still hurt and I was coughing. I took paracetamol and when the achy turned to more intense pain, half wished I’d taken something stronger. I fell asleep around 1.30am and woke just after 9.30. I felt better than I had but had to take my time getting going. By lunchtime I’d completed my medication routine (one pill then wait an hour, then take my bile acid binding agent mixed up in fruit juice and wait a further 20 minutes before eating anything), showered, dressed and had something to eat.

I’m tired, sore and feeling slowed down and somewhat frustrated by that. Sitting at my desk is uncomfortable, but I really want/need to write today. I also feel rather ‘foggy’ which doesn’t help the writing. I’m behind with approving and replying to comments on here, I’m sorry about that folks, I’ll catch up as soon as I can, possibly not until I have a few more spoons at my disposal.

I hope to be able to get on the treadmill in a couple of hours time (mid afternoon) and clock up my 12 minutes. I really need to go out tomorrow if at all possible, so I’ll be concentrating on looking after myself as much as possible today to give me the best chance of doing that. At this stage, I think this is a virus. It can be difficult to tell as flu-like symptoms can come as part and parcel of my chronic illness. I really don’t like using the phrase, and prefer the euphemism¬†spoonieness! That struck me there because generally I prefer direct phrasing over euphemism. A virus on top of¬†spoonieness (!) can be a real pest.

 

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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 ūüėÄ !

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

A whole lotta grief

GRIEF!! That word should be writ large with exclamation marks permanently attached.

That’s how it feels when it hits you.

Actually, grief is complex. Studies have been made to try to understand it in greater depth. There’s even a model¬†postulating that there are five identifiable stages of grief:¬†denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I’m not sure that I can put myself firmly at any of those stages right now, but I suspect that I’m somewhere between depression and acceptance. I’m feeling the pain of grief – and boy, does it take your breath away – but, after last weekend, I’m not feeling so hopeless about it.

Why am I grieving?

I’m tempted to call mine Uber or Ultra-Grief because I’m not grieving for a single loss rather multiple (mostly major) losses and because the process feels akin to attempting a hardcore endurance event, like the Marathon de Sables¬†(If you’ve never heard of it, do¬†read about it¬†and let your mind, like mine, boggle over who would want to attempt such a thing :-D). I think I’ll go with Ultra-Grief, like my Ultra-Jigsaw, it seems a good fit … ha! See what I did there? Jigsaw … pieces … fit … oh, never mind.

How the flip do you even begin to recover and rebuild yourself and your life, when you’ve lost so much, let alone begin to grieve when you’re busy enough trying to survive?

Well … if you’re determined, proactive, resourceful, able to be gutsy and have words that help you to achieve many things … you think yourself damn lucky, for a start. At least, that’s how I look at it.

I lost all my family, all my close friends – they had either upped and left or I’d put huge distance between us, my much beloved and hard won career, my self esteem, confidence, my health and my fitness, my marriage, the chance to have children, my smile and even a lot of my hair (more on the latter two in the post¬†The Creature from the Black Lagoon) and I’d found myself in poverty, having lost any element of financial security. Make no mistake, I was lucky, I didn’t lose the roof over my head as others have, but at worst I couldn’t afford food and had to rely on the charity of strangers, likewise I couldn’t afford to heat my home and wore many multiple layers indoors that winter, including hat, scarf and gloves, and retreated to bed when that wasn’t enough.

Leaving my marriage gave me a certain amount of ‘head space’ – as once things were straightened out I was no longer being impacted by its dysfunction. I felt stirrings of grief when my marriage ended but I had to throw myself into finding somewhere to live and all manner of other vital stuff. Grief hit me like a train when a loved one – not a relative but the closest I had to it – died a few months later after a six week illness. Suddenly, I was alone in the world.

It was early last year on a remote ‘retreat’ for a convalescence break that I started to realise that I couldn’t ‘feel’. I’d found this wonderful wee place run by a psychotherapist for incredibly small prices and managed to save a bit from back-dated benefits and obtain a small grant from a charity, in order to go for five days. I ate simple but delicious home cooked food, slept well, walked in ancient woodland, worked in my art journal and undertook some therapy and related exercises. (As an aside, I am hoping to go again later this year.)

As I’ve often said on here I’m a natural ‘Tigger’.¬†I’ve boundless enthusiasm and I freely¬†enthuse about all manner of things – ¬†nature, architecture, art, theatre, and people, to name but a few. Yet, I began to realise that, for the most part, I couldn’t feel my pain, despite the enormity of it. There had been so much that I’d unconsciously shut it down in order to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I’d begun by discussing with the therapist how I longed to be able to cry. It upset me (not that I could show it) that I couldn’t cry and I felt like a cold fish as a result, something which is very much at odds with my character. I could, at a push, shed a couple of tears. My eyes did ‘fill up’ sometimes, but to sob was pretty much beyond me. I came to realise that through all the therapy I’d undertaken, and which I credit with saving my life after my initial disclosure, and also getting me through my marriage and to such a place that I was able to leave it, despite having no money and nowhere to go; I had never cried. I could discuss the darkest of experiences, detail abuse after abuse, and traumatic events such as my father’s suicide and his violence towards my mother, but I couldn’t ‘feel’ them. I intellectualised my way through therapy and I did learn a great deal and make a lot of progress. But, what I learned late last year is that, in the words of my current therapist: If you can feel, you can heal.¬†

Two things happened in the weeks immediately after my time at the retreat. My GP of a couple of years, with whom I’d developed a solid relationship, particularly in the preceding six months, relocated to a new area. Two weeks later, the support I’d been receiving for six months from a housing support officer was cut overnight. It’s a short term service and was put in place when I was at risk of losing my home. Having that consistent support for the first time in my life, going on retreat and feeling ‘peace’ for the first time in my life, and having the realisation about ‘needing to feel’, all seemed to instigate an ‘unlocking’ in my mind.

I welcomed this at first, I was ready to take this on, and work through whatever was to come. Until suddenly, I was again without support …

Since then I’ve been increasingly feeling grief, but without support and in very difficult circumstances, I wasn’t able to cope with it. A close friend died just before Christmas. She had been ill but was expected to recover, she was only in her late forties. She was the best friend I’d made since my moving to my adopted home city six years earlier. Other friendships were made, but when I ignored my ‘gut feeling’ again feeling that this ‘beggar’ could not be choosy and should take what was offered. My late friend and I knew each other for a little over two years. The time we could spend together was curtailed by our respective illnesses. In some ways I hardly knew her but we connected and there was great deal of potential in the friendship. I’ll always remember her sitting for me as I was teaching myself to draw (she was a talented and exhibited artist), my first life model. Alas, I was so nervous, it wasn’t my best work! Discovering that she’d remembered me in her will, floored me. I genuinely miss her terribly. I’m not one to bemoan ‘Why me?’ Stuff happens.¬†Still, I found myself asking why, if I had to lose a friend, it had to be her. I don’t feel comfortable admitting that, I wasn’t really wishing someone other dead, was I?

I cried at her memorial service, more freely than before. This was because I know how much of a loss she is and how much she could still have lived. It was also because of my own grief at losing her from my life. What I didn’t expect as I sat in the large city centre church, which was packed, and listened to all the wonderful words and memories that were being said and shared about her, and as I met and spoke with several members of her family afterwards, was the barrage of grief of a different kind that assailed me. My friend had faced many challenges in her life. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which had a huge impact on her life, medication used to treat it ultimately caused kidney failure which contributed to her death.

That day I saw what you can achieve, despite challenges, when you are loved or more specifically when you grow up in and continue to be enveloped by a loving family. It was wonderful to behold … and it was also agony. It took my breath away. After spending around 90 minutes at the small gathering for family and close friends after the service, I realised that I really didn’t feel right. I felt ‘spacey’ and had a nebulous sort of sense that I wasn’t OK, that I was no longer coping. Leaving some time later I set off for home. I intended to pick up a few errands en route before catching a bus the rest of the way. I was aware of the first few minutes of the walk and then arriving at the mini supermarket where I intended to shop, but not the 10 minutes in between. In the shop I wandered and wandered aimlessly, returning again and again to stare at the same things but I couldn’t seem to process or complete the task. I remember seeing a Big Issue seller outside the store and rummaging for change in order to buy one, only for him to have completely disappeared a moment later. I wondered if he’d even been there in the first place. The bus stop was close by but I had to cross two busy roads to reach it. I remember waiting to cross the first and there was a bus about to pass in front of me. I remember seeing it and seeing myself, in my mind’s eye, going under its wheels, although I had no thoughts of suicide at the time. Although in my mind, it was vividly real. I felt shaken, dazed and disorientated. I know I caught a bus and got home, but I don’t know how. It took me four days to re-orientate myself.

Seeing my dear friend on Saturday after so many years and feeling such connection is SUCH a happy thing. I’m loathe to describe it as bittersweet, because it was SWEET. SWEET, SWEET but challenges did arise from it. I feel grief that so many years were wasted when we could have been closer. I feel grief that I wasted time on some other friendships where there was no real connection. I feel grief that the memory of her knowing that I was unhappy as a teenager and was there for me¬†and¬†hurt for me, was somehow lost. I feel grief that I wasn’t able to confide in her – and through her, her lovely Mum – to greater depth. The past is the past and cannot be changed so there is no point in dwelling on it, still the sadness demands to be acknowledged and that perhaps if I had, I might have recognised that I was being abused and found a way out of my family much earlier, instead of in my thirties, by which time much more damage had been done.

Despite the grief, I am not AT ALL sorry that she and I discussed these things, and I hope in time that we’ll discuss more, because it is validating, it is helpful for me, and it is something that has the power to help me to heal.

Before the State of the Heart address (thanks you know who, for that inspired phrasing) that was Heart Set on Dying?, grief, when it hit, was unbearable and I shut down as far as possible in order to cope and keep myself safe. It was unbearable because I was alone with it and had no sense of belonging anywhere or being ‘tethered’ in any way. I’ve felt it in a big way once since Saturday, it was undeniably very hard but I went through it WITHOUT shutting down. I truly hope that those of you who read this who have stepped up for me in recent days can understand just what a difference you make.

I don’t know yet what the future holds in terms of dealing with this grief. I don’t know whether I’ll be doing it with my current therapist (voluntary sector) or whether if NHS trauma therapy is offered, now that I’ve reached the top of the 18 month waiting list and am due to assessed next month, that will be the place to do it, or whether I’ll seek out specialist grief services such as those offered by Cruse. I’m still finding my grieving feet …

Thank you for reading. This is waaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than I had intended.

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. 

Too much? Too bad!

If you read this post I hope that you’ll forgive me the cheeky title :).

I’m aware that I’m suddenly posting very frequently, and apologise if you’re trying and struggling to keep up but I can’t stop just now because it’s doing me good. 

I don’t know how long it will continue. I’ve often aimed to post daily but have rarely managed to post even weekly. The last thing I expected this week was to suddenly find myself posting several times a day!

It is really helping me, by providing me with an outlet, giving me a sense of connection, and it’s also helping me to celebrate my achievements and keep motivated. 

 

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.