Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Turbulence

 Turbulence
A state of conflict, confusion, agitation or disorder. 
I think that adequately describes the past few weeks.
Isn't it a funny old thing, life?  It keeps you on your toes, adds twists and turns to test you and keep you from becoming too complacent. It makes you realise now precious this gift is, life is to be treasured and respected. Don't squander it and let it pass you by unmarked because one day you may look back with regret and wish you had grasped the nettle, taken risks, followed your gut and heart and truly lived.
I am thankful that I feel so far I have managed to live a good and full life, that is not to say there isn't so much more I would like to do. December is and has been since my mum passed a month of memories of a wonderful vibrant life lost but which left those remaining with many memories to hold on to. Mum really did know how to live and make the most of life and fought bitterly to the very end to hold on to it too. 

The year, on mums birthday funnily enough, my husband had a heart attack right in front of my very eyes. To say it was something of a shock would be a mere understatement of the facts. It was horribly frightening for him, as he thought his number was up and also for me trying to help him and comfort him. I am enormously thankful that the girls were not downstairs but in bed at the time and so didn't witness what happened. 

As it turns out, with hindsight, it appears he has in actual fact suffered from two heart attacks, the first one was 10 days previous to the one I witnessed on the 6th December. It occurred whilst at a friends house down South ~ the paramedic at the time decided the episode was due to low blood pressure and dehydration. Not satisfied with that answer we visited our GP who decided it wasn't that at all but oesophageal spasm, brought on by stress and excess acid, which could apparently mimic symptoms of heart attacks.  This answer seemed to make sense and so we were reassured and went home, although Dave continued to have chest pain and tingling down arms for a further three days.

So initially, when Dave started to get the pain again we thought, uh oh - another oesophageal spasm, breathe through it and it will pass. Then, when Dave was writhing in pain and clutching at his chest, struggling hugely with the pressure on his chest and the tingling down his arms I decided to ring 999, this definitely didn't look right.  The care that followed was incredible. I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to each and every person along the chain who came to our assistance and made a very stressful time less so. From the woman on the telephone who answered my 999 call and was fabulous, she kept me talking until the paramedics and ambulance arrived ~ which was very swiftly. Our treatment from start to finish throughout all departments was amazing. The A&E team, Assessment Ward Team, Cardiac Ward and Cardiac Catheter Team, various porters & Dave's Consultant were all incredible, friendly, calm, reassuring, supportive and thorough. This hasn't stopped either ~ Dave had a call from a cardiac nurse after discharge to check everything was going well, he has twice weekly rehab group after Christmas in outpatients and Consultant appointment in the New Year too. PLUS a none emergency helpline for any advice or queries we may have. It is when you have to utilise the NHS like this that you fully appreciated how lucky you are to have access to this medical care. I would like to extend a grateful heartfelt thank you to each and every person we dealt with during this time.
Since coming home we have had to adjust and re-assess our lifestyle and work.  With no income currently coming in life is not easy, we are being frugal and tightening our belts to get through. Dave, sadly had to let his apprentice go as he can no longer supervise and provide a job for him. Instead we are having to look at his work (self-employed, own business) and adapt it so that he can continue within the new restrictions he has been given via the hospital once he is allowed to recommence work. For the moment his business is on hold ~ just dealing with phone calls at the moment explaining the situation and diverting work as it comes in or postponing it until we are up and running again. Yep - I said we, I am now donning the cap of Dave's assistant and general runner and when back at work Dave will be running it all from behind his desk, organising and delegating the work as the jobs come in. 

Other things have had to change too; diet ~ out goes fatty foods, salt and alcohol, in comes carbs, oily fish and wholegrain everything. A progressive gentle exercise regime and many medications added to the mix mean Dave is feeling quite unsettled at the moment but in the long run I think it will make a huge improvement to our lives. 

Cabin fever though, is starting to set in but taking Dave out for a drive isn't quite what he needs to reduce stress as he finds my driving frustrating to say the least. In the past he has only been a passenger of mine when inebriated. 4 weeks until he is able to drive again ~ I have a sneaky suspicion he is counting down the days.

So, December has thus far been rather a turbulent and emotional affair ~ however, looking forward to 2015 we hope that we can adapt and find ways forward to suit us as a family and keep our heads financially above water as well as emotionally and physically. The girls are emotionally and physically exhausted, ME doesn't respond well to emotional stress. We are hoping to have a drama free New Year and one where the girls and Dave can rest and heal and slowly build up their strength.

Thank you to friends and family who have sent such warm and supportive messages and to the few who took the time to ring or email us asking if we needed anything and that the offer of help and support was there just for the asking. Your offered strength and humour which has bolstered us and helped us get through the toughest days ~ you cannot know how much we appreciated that.

So until 2015, I wish you all a Merry Christmas 
and a very happy and healthy New Year.
 x~X~x

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Talking About Mental Health

If you read my blogs you will be aware that as a family we all suffer from various forms of mental health issues. In the past I have talked about our journey and feel this is important to share and keep talking about it, the obstacles and changes, help we receive and challenges because it may help just one person who is experiencing something similar. Perhaps if sufferers and their families talked more about it then maybe we can garner understanding and help for those needing it. This time I will be just giving you an overview about where we are now but specifically talking more about Keisha as an awful lot has come to light just recently.

Myself and Dave have ongoing issues with depression. Sadly the girls all suffer from anxiety and with the exception of Tara, depression too. As parents we initially blamed ourselves for this and it was only through therapy that we were able to realise that it wasn't due to anything we had done but instead due to an accumulation of  issues arising from the twists and turns our lives had taken.

I manage my depression without medication due to sensitivity to many of them making me unable to take many forms of antidepressants. The ones I don't react to make me far too lethargic and disconnected, even on the lowest dosage. so I try to focus on keeping a positive mind and breathing exercises. When it becomes too much for me to manage on my own I go to a therapist for extra support. Dave on the other hand finds taking fluoxetine helps him enormously, he is given regular reviews via our GP regarding his medication and dosage and it is a long term measure until the situations we face become more manageable. 

I am so thrilled that finally, after a 10 month waiting list Tara has been given a CBT therapist to help her manage her anxiety. She has bonded incredibly well with her allocated therapist and is working with him to achieve her long term goal of being able to go to and from town by herself on a bus and also to walk around the shops alone. This is a huge deal for her as being ill with ME for almost a 5 years has meant that she has become socially isolated as she is mostly housebound.

Tasha is under a CAMHS psychiatrist who has prescribed her anti-depressants and this is really helping.  She also has severe social anxiety and has had a one to one therapist for a couple of years but sadly he is now moving on and we are waiting for the allocation of a new therapist to take his place. CBT is not possible for Tasha as it involves structured work and due to her ME and cognitive issues she finds this too much and too stressful right now. Instead she is going to receive one to one therapy to discuss coping techniques. She has also found art therapy and photography incredibly useful, she receives visits once a fortnight from a peer mentor who is studying art therapy at university. Together they experiment with various art mediums and on good days she is taken out in her wheelchair to take some photographs.

Keisha has had long term issues which we could not really understand when she was younger. We put down much of her behaviour to the fact that she had been looked after an awful lot by my parents as Dave worked away and both Tasha and Tara had numerous health issues from babyhood which meant I was frequently in hospital with one of them for a week or two at a time. I was lucky to get some input from a charity who sent someone to the house once a week for a couple of hours to play with Tasha and Tara so that I could spend one to one time with Keisha. We spent these precious hours doing art or going to the park but it went by so quickly and felt so infrequent that I truly felt awful and neglectful at not being able to be with her as much as I would like. I know I had to prioritise and I wasn't able to have the choice to stay at home with her ~ life and illness made the decision for me. So we had to make the most of the time together that we had. This meant she became very much a daddies girls, when he came home she would always make a b-line for him and snuggle into his arms with a huge smile of contentment. We ended moving away from my parents in Lincolnshire to Derbyshire to be able to spend every night with Dave and be together as a family.  It meant some juggling but we always remained very close to my parents who visited us, or we visited them every fortnight and we all spoke on the phone daily. Keisha has also always been exceptionally bright and questioning but with that also highly strung and emotional. Health visitors and GP's advised us to keep her stimulated, that she was bored and needed pushing. We tried but this never really resolved anything. We coped and managed to get by but Keisha was bullied at primary school which affected her deeply along with my mother suffering with cancer all her childhood, so she became used to seeing the inside of hospitals from a very young age by either visiting her sisters or her Grandma. I do wonder to what extent this has impacted on her mental health.

When Keisha hit puberty that's when it all started to become worrying. We found out that she had been self harming and our initial reaction was anger ~ we were devastated she had hidden this from us and not felt able to talk to us about what she was going through. We manged to get her to see the doctor who referred us to CAMHS but also told us that this was a surprisingly "normal" teenage response to puberty and the emotional turbulence it causes ~ how can self harming ever be considered acceptable? We calmed down once we knew that she wasn't trying to kill herself but instead letting out her pain via cutting. CAMHS took her on and we started with various therapists, unfortunately none of them really gelled with Keisha and understood what she was experiencing enough to effectively help her. So this time of her life became hugely unstable and difficult for her. To make it worse my mother died and both her sisters were diagnosed one after the other with the chronic illness M.E. which made our home life far from normal. The combination of grief, loss and the incapacity of her sisters meant she felt more alone than ever. From have close bonds with her sisters and going out together and always having each other she had only herself and her friends at school ~many of which it later turned out, were toxic relationships. It is no wonder that she struggled and became more depressed, anxious and unhappy.

Finally though, we managed to get referred to the CAMHS psychiatrist and that is when things started to take a turn upwards. She seemed to really see Keisha and her issues, listen to her, understand her and work to try and help her. However, my relationship with Keisha became hugely volatile during this period of her life. We would have many a run in as I tried to control the situation and make the best I could of an abnormal home life ~ I became too over-protective of her and this meant we would fall out over what she could or could not do. We would have conversations and make agreements which she would then deny ever making or even ever having the conversation with me ~ I would blow up as felt she was trying to manipulate me and she would get upset thinking I was lying. She became very emotional, angry, volatile ~ it was like walking on egg shells being around her because you never knew when she was going to blow up. Her psychiatrist diagnosed her as having anxiety and depressive issues along with autistic traits and she was given anti-depressants which seemed to help a little. However, she still remained hugely emotional flying from one extreme to the other. It wasn't until after she opened up to her psychiatrist, who then fed back to us, that she had been a victim of rape and abuse that it began to make sense. Again, as parents we felt absolutely awful, we had failed our daughter because she hadn't felt able to tell us what had happened to her, instead she had held onto it for months on end before finally telling her psychiatrist. Following this revelation we spoke to the police who were absolutely fabulous and gave us the number to call for rape crisis ~ now called SV2. We immediately rang but it took almost a year to get allocated a specialist practitioner to help Keisha work through everything she has experienced and help her deal with it and learn to live with it. In the time following the assault Keisha had to drop out of College due to the severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder episodes which was such a huge decision for her as she was working towards promising A-level results but we all felt her mental well-being was far more important than qualifications.

She has only been at SV2 for a few weeks and the first of those she underwent thorough assessments to confirm her previous diagnosis and see if they were still relevant. We now have the official diagnosis of her having; Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is now with this great specialist that she has forged a good relationship with that we feel she can now, finally, move forward with her life and learn to live with the hand she has been dealt. Having these formal diagnosis has been a huge help, it explains the issues which caused so much disharmony between myself and Keisha ~ knowing what we know now is helping us support her and make sense of everything in the past. We are now moving forward towards a much healthier path and relationship, I am having to learn to let go and hold back the control freak in me. The hardest part of being a parent is letting you child fly on their own, I am sitting on my hands and watching her do just that. I cannot express in words the pride I feel watching her grow and learn to face her demons. Our relationship is now better and stronger and I am still learning to try and not "fix" but just listen when she talks to me. I feel such gratitude towards her new therapist who knows precisely what Keisha needs and how to help, already her work with Keisha is making a marked impact and I know that this will continue and her life will become better and less fragmented as time goes by.

Also, a very important part of Keisha's recovery is due to her Jack. He is her boyfriend who knows everything that has happened to her and he understands completely how to make her feel safe and secure when she is having an anxiety episode or flashbacks. He has helped her so much that she has been able to accept an apprenticeship in hospitality and they have both moved out and into their new home together. This has all been with our support and that of her therapist, we feel it enormously important that she is able to take control of her life and have her own space where she is not surrounded by illness and memories of what has been in the past and instead to create her own special safe haven. Keisha has written a blog about her journey and how mental illness affects her and she urges others to seek help if they feel they are in a similar boat ~ you can read her blog here.

I can only urge others experiencing mental health issues to go and seek help. There are many different avenues for you to try but whatever you do, please don't suffer alone and in silence. There are links here which may help you to find the help you need.

We are supporting "Time To Change" to help end mental health stigma, you can read about it here.
Remember, you are not alone.
x~X~x

Saturday, 29 November 2014

November Musings

Did you know that today is TYMES Trust Young Hearts Day? 

Since 2004 the 29th of November has been marked by The Young ME Sufferers Trust in memory of a young teenager called called Jade Louise Scarrott. Jade had suffered for 4 years with ME and was tragically killed in a car accident at the tender age of 14, the age my youngest daughter is right now. 

The TYMES Trust published a book in her memory to make her dream of helping to raise awareness about the illness a reality. This book is called "Young Hearts" and is a collection of poems written by other young sufferers about their illness. 

Why poetry? Jade used to write her own poems to express her fear, pain and emotions whilst suffering from ME. She had dreams of compiling a book of poetry to publish and share with everyone to raise awareness and change public perception of what suffering young people with this illness go through. How they are unable to live a life the way well children do, instead they live on the sidelines just wishing they could join in. So the TYMES Trust finished Jade's dream, the book was inspired by her, it contains a number of her own poems and was dedicated to her in her memory.

I have my own copy of this book, the poems make me smile and cry in equal measure as sadly I relate very closely to the emotions expressed through these poems.
If you wish to purchase your own copy please go via the TYMES Trust website as this way the profits from the sale will go towards the trusts services. They are a charity run by volunteers who either have ME or a child with ME, so have first hand experience of the illness. As a family we have found their service a life-line, as I know many other families have too. Therefore all funds towards helping keep this charity running are invaluable.

For this years Young Hearts Day the charity are asking for families and sufferers to light a candle to remember all the children and young people with ME and help raise awareness about this illness. Here is my photo, dedicated to my 2 youngest daughters; Tara now aged 14 has had ME for 5 years and Tasha, now aged 16 has had ME for 2½ years ~ I am also remembering all the other children, young people and adults whose lives have been irrevocably changed by this illness too.
This November The Dave has been busy growing facial hair and partaking in Movember for ME ~ raising funds for biomedical research into ME via Invest in ME Research, as the month is almost over I though I would share a photo with you of the end result...
As you can see, my luxurious beard beats The Dave's by a mile, but all the same I applaud him for his efforts and putting up with the itching it has caused along with the ability to catch stray objects within the hairs!  If you wish to make a donation please visit our justgiving page.

Also this month I have watched my eldest daughter mature and blossom. She has flown the nest and now lives with her boyfriend in a split level flat, thankfully not too far away. Moving day was a very emotional experience, it took two van loads just to transport Keisha's stuff (who knew a teenager could stash away so much stuff in one bedroom?) and then several car loads for Jacks parents to bring his stuff over too. Between us parents and Keisha & Jacks friends Paige & Kyle we managed to get everything squirrelled away in it's new home. It is now looking quite cosy and homey, although I'm sure as the months pass it will start to show their combined characters more.
Paige with Keisha and Jack
As if settling into her first home wasn't enough to be getting on with Keisha has also, after hundreds of applications and job interviews, accepted an apprenticeship in hospitality. She has started and finished her first week and thankfully is thoroughly enjoying it, plus it comes with a full time assistant managerial job at the end of it. It feels very strange having her bedroom empty and her not here though and I dread the day the other two decide it's time to leave too. However, silver-lining is that she is happy, healthy and doing well which is everything a mother could possibly want for their child. 
As for the rest of us ~ Tara is doing well on Nisai which is great, although it takes an awful lot of energy which leaves her tired most of the time between. This is because she is losing weight due to issues caused by her ME, the dietitian and Consultant are working at ways to halt this and find ways of reversing the trend and getting some weight back on. However this means that the already limited energy which is a precious commodity for her is even more depleted and in order for her to do anything else she has to pace and be very careful with how she chooses to spend her energy.
Tasha & Tara messing about on photobooth and webcam :)
Tasha is enjoying her art and photography. She is still restricted enormously by ME and it's affect on her cognitive ability. She has set herself a target to try and read a book in the new year, taking it very slowly, starting by reading a few lines at a time and hopes to then build up to paragraphs and then pages. She is thoroughly enjoying her time with her peer mentor and have planned to go out into town (with the trusted wheelchair) to take photographs of the Christmas lights in a couple of weeks time. Tasha has also just celebrated being with her boyfriend for 3 years, her Sam has stayed by her side and supported her even when she has been so ill and in bed for weeks on end. He is still learning about ME and how to support someone with it and this is enormously appreciated by us all. He manages to put a smile on Tasha's face when she feels very low and manages to talk to her voices when they come to harangue her and makes her laugh and able to face them down. Thank you Sam, this photo of the two of them makes me laugh every time I see it :)
Sam showing off his dimples with Tasha
Both Tasha and Tara are doing well with their gradual exercise, they have slowly increased from walking 30 seconds a day to 1 minute 30 seconds.  It is a hugely slow process but by increasing the time walking so very slowly we are hoping not to shock their bodies and to build up tolerance to gentle exercise.

I have managed to get my Christmas shopping done which is a huge relief as I was beginning to wonder when I would manage to find time to do it ~ I managed to get it all done in a mad flurry in 2½ hours ~ I reckon that must be some kind of record surely? My time is so consumed by caring for the girls, running to and from appointments and *insert drum roll* running my NEW super duper online web boutique, which incidentally if you haven't completed your Christmas shopping yet you may well find yourself a bargain as I am offering a coupon of 15% off all orders in the run up to Christmas. It as a store which is still evolving as I have huge ideas for it and hope to be able to implement the changes in the new year. *end of shameless plug*

So folks, Monday brings us the start of December and it will soon be time to dig out those Christmas decorations and start pimping out the house. We are kicking off the festive season with a visit to the families in the 'Shire and dropping off their presents as we won't be seeing them after that until the new year. We will also be meeting our great-niece for the very first time too (now that does make me feel old). I have bought some new floral arrangements and wreaths to place on both The Dave's and my mums graves, so they look fabulous throughout this winter until I can get back and tend to them again. We have some tough anniversaries to negotiate as December also marks many dates which relate to mum who passed December 2009. Although we are going to do our utmost to mark each date with something positive and try to smile through and remember the good times on this 5th anniversary of her leaving us.

So until next month I shall leave you with these 3 rogues modelling last years headgear :)
x~X~x

Thursday, 30 October 2014

15 Reasons to be Grateful

My last blog was a little on the dark side due to my current low mood and sleep deprivation ~ I don't like lingering on the dark and serious. SO, I have decided to give myself a shake and remember those things that I am grateful for in my life, to remember that I know who I really am and must keep that in mind when the demons visit.


So, what are my reasons to be grateful? In no particular order...
  1. I have a great, all be it slightly off centre, family.  
    They ensure life is never boring as we lurch from one challenge to the next but at the end of the day we are all there for each other which is something I will be eternally grateful for. 
  2. I still have my own teeth. 
    This is very important to me and I am fortunate that they seem to be pretty strong and sturdy although not particularly white or sparkling (but then I wouldn't want to make people turn away from their glare, so that's fine) they may be a little on the sensitive side with the hot or cold but all in all they do a damn fine job.
  3. I have good skin.
    We have a theory that due to having some timber on my frame the few *cough* extra pounds help push out the crinkles leaving it pretty smooth which is great.
  4. If I fall down I can bounce back up, I am learning, finally, to love the person I am physically and moving away from constantly criticizing and pulling myself apart.
    Whilst not advocating being overweight, until I reach the point in my life when the weight decides to come off I am focusing on loving the person I am and finding the positives in that, plus there has to be something said for inbuilt air bags.
  5. I have my complete Terry Pratchett book collection (I have acquired more books since this photograph was taken)
    Also ensure I pre-order anything new which is due to come out. I treasure these books which I read and re-read over and over again, this writer always makes me laugh out loud when reading his fiction and makes me think when I read his more serious works. I am gutted to hear about his Alzheimers but so very grateful for the work he has and is continuing to do while he can.
  6. I have use of all of my senses. 
    Although as I grow older some are becoming weaker than once they were they are all still intact and enabling me to enjoy life to the fullest. Sometimes however, with flatulent dogs it would be great to have a dimmer switch on the sense of smell!
  7. We have enough money to live and keep the roof over our heads.
    We may not have exotic holidays, our sofa is popping at the seams and held together in some areas by brown parcel tape (as it blends better with the brown sofa), we have damp peeling ceilings where the shower keeps leaking through and the carpet is more of a stain montage than original carpet colour - but  it's ours and it's home.
  8. Cake. 
    Life is always good when there is cake!
  9. Being able to go to our caravan in Filey and sitting on the beach, watching the waves no matter what the season 
    Just one of my all-time favourite things.
  10. Good friends. 
    I have met some fabulous people throughout my life and whether physically in my life or via the virtual world I have made some strong connections with some truly inspirational and wonderful people, your friendship is deeply treasured ~ thank you for being in my life.
  11. Coffee 
    Without you I would not be able to move in a morning, you kick me up the butt and help start my spluttering engine.
  12. The internet  
    Where would I be without it, it links me to my work, my friends, my family, information, music. It provides me girls with a lifeline when they are too sick to get out of bed, it enables my daughter to attend virtual school. It is a family life-line in so many ways.
  13. My husband 
    I have known him now for 41 of my 45 years on this planet, he knows everything there is to know about me and yet still stays with me, you got to admire him for that and I am always going to be grateful to him for the friendship, love, support and partnership he provides.
  14. Life 
    I am still here; I get to fight another day, to whinge, whine or get off my butt and do something that matters. I am grateful for the fact that my body has carried me this far, it is stronger that I give it credit for and its appearance is a testimony to the journey we have undergone together. I am determined to make it count, to use it to do something worthwhile. 
  15.  My 4 year old i-phone 4
    I never thought I would be saying this, but I feel seriously naked without it ~ before owning it I thought mobiles were just for making phone calls, it has now become my much relied upon pocket organiser.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Demons

This blog is not about asking for sympathy or pity but to get people talking about mental health issues, sharing their stories, seeking help from others who have been in a similar situation and hoping to possibly offer help to others too.

Those of you familiar with my blogs are aware that I wear my heart on my sleeve, am open about my life and the issues we face within our family (with permission of those involved) and how we react to them. I am always open to new ideas, different ways of thinking and other peoples opinions and thoughts. I may not agree with all of them but where possible I have tried and will continue to try different ways of dealing with my issues to see if I can find a solution that fits and works for me.

My family and friends are incredibly important to me, I am a self admitted control freak, slightly OCD and hate any changes in routine or events which are out of my control. This possibly is why I am so wired and can't get my brain to power down, I'm constantly fretting and worrying about how I can make things better, the eternal "fixer" mentality without the know how to actually do it. I find it incredibly hard to accept that in life there are times when you can't "fix" something, you have to accept it, deal with it and move on as best you can. I am also admittedly pretty antisocial and seem to be becoming more so with each passing year.  However, I am grateful to those who have stuck by me and continue to do so, even when I can be difficult to love on occasion.
I suppose it is apt that my demons are haunting me as we approach Halloween, although I wish they would pass as swiftly as this holiday does too. I have been told by those close to me that I am unapproachable at times, they are scared to ask me for help in case I explode or go off on one at them ~ not pleasant to hear but shows that I've gone back into the pit.
I feel torn, my depression has been with me on and off for decades and is lodged within me like a unwanted friend, not wanting to stay dormant for any length of time it is eager to stay and whisper cruel jibes into my ear, letting me know my worthlessness, how poorly I am performing in life and how much I am letting down those I love.

To add onto that I am still gripped within the clutches of my other enemy insomnia, its visitation is unwanted and tortuous. I go to bed exhausted but unable to sleep, my body wired as if I have consumed huge volumes of red bull. I get out of bed in the morning with difficulty and struggle to get through the day. I am tetchy, emotional, aggressive at times and unable to cope with small daily tasks without feel overwhelmed by it all.

My dilemma? I am not responsive to sleeping medications; I have tried a whole host of varying forms of sedatives with no result. The only medication that has helped me is a single anti-depressant; I am hugely limited to which medications I can take as I tend to have reactions to them. However, even the smallest dosage causes me to become dislocated from life and zombified by keeping me in a drug induced stupor which makes everyday life difficult ~ the only way to describe it is that it is like walking in treacle whilst trying to squint and see my way through dense fog. I wish I didn't react this way and could take the anti-depressants and feel benefits without these side effects like many other people are able to do. I am a huge advocate of taking medication if it benefits you and know many close to me who have gone via this route and been helped enormously by taking them. Unfortunately this isn't a clear option for me without considering the side-effects which I know will occur.

I have tried meditation, self-hypnosis, white noise, varying sleep tapes along with the sleeping tablets, changes in diet, exercise all of which make no difference whatsoever.

I cannot change the issues within my life which causes my depression to flare; our home situation is not that of a normal family as we live with mental health issues along with chronic illness. Financially we are holding our own but it is tight, we have to budget carefully which is an added stress, although frustratingly people on the outside think we have far more money than we have in reality.

So, how am I to deal with my demons ~ I am soul searching and wondering what to do. Do I take the antidepressants as the only alternative we can think of which has any effect? I don't know, I would rather find an alternative way to be able to sleep and deal with my depression but if I can't then that is my last resort.
I have discovered that chronic insomnia is also very often partnered with depression, so at least I am not alone in this, According to Psychology Today, "Insomnia and depression often go hand-in-hand. Although just 15% of people with depression sleep too much, as many as 80% have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Patients with persistent insomnia are more than three times more likely to develop depression".

Interestingly enough, contrary to what was previously thought, that insomnia was a symptom of depression, some therapists believe that is not so, "new research shows that insomnia is not just a symptom of depression. What we’ve come to understand is that insomnia and depression are two distinct but overlapping disorders.”

Unfortunately, people with chronic insomnia are more likely to suffer recurring bouts of depression, it not only triggers it but perpetuate it too. Apparently combining sleep medication with anti-depressants will help and then combine that with CBT sleep psychotherapy many sufferers can be helped. However, I have just completed a cycle of psychotherapy and been discharged with no success in improving my insomnia or depression.

Another article I read on this subject about the combination of insomnia and depression feels that changing everyday behaviours may help " Insomnia and depression are deeply interlinked, as are the brain areas involved in both - the information network is often similar. Both depression and insomnia can make the other worse. Fortunately simple life activities can be used to prevent both - and to treat them." You can read what these daily behaviours are here. I shall be double checking this list as I mostly follow these rules, but will endeavour to ensure I am doing it correctly, to the letter, once more to see if it will help.

So, if I find something that is effective I will be sure to let you know, meantime if anyone suffers similar issues what have you found to help?
Hoping one day in the future to be able to throw off the two leeches’ insomnia and depression; to begin to feel human and live life to the full again without these two clinging on to me and dragging me back down.
 x~X~x

Friday, 17 October 2014

Lifes Journey

Funny how middle age creeps up on you and before you know it you are on the other side of that line. Yet, far from recoiling in horror from the whole ageing process, I find I am embracing it and welcoming the transition. I remember when I was younger how old I thought people in their twenties were. Then as I grew older myself the boundaries were extended, some people I meet are somehow old before their time whilst others seem to be forever youthful. I have come to the conclusion that you are literally only as old as you allow yourself to feel, it is a case of finding the right mindset.  

But what is middle age? middleage.org talks about how to decide about when it begins. They say in their definition essay about this subject that middle age is a situation and not a number, which I think I agree with.

I read an article which got my back up a little called "11 mistakes women make in middle age"  and this is a response to that particular article. I don't consider getting older a drag or that middle age as a period of our life fraught with tension. I can assure you my younger life was equally fraught in different ways and so I have found the older I become the more at peace I am finding myself dealing with my life, challenges and situation. Also, this article says middle age is a move into frumpy town, which is a ridiculous statement, in my opinion. So what are these "mistakes" the article says we are all making?
  1. Not realising we need to change
  2. Not spending enough on your clothes
  3. Comparing yourself to you in your 20's
  4. Skipping Exercise
  5. Not getting enough sleep.
  6. Ignoring your teeth
  7. Overdoing anti ageing efforts
  8. Thinking there are "hair" rules
  9. Using the wrong make-up
  10. Wearing the wrong bra
  11. Settling for a boring sex life.
Now, I need to clarify, not all of this article wound me up ~ there are some valid points too. So I shall go through each point in turn. 

"Not realising we need to change" ~ okay so some women wear the same make-up and clothes as when they were younger, but who is anyone to say this is wrong? I still wear jeans and trainers now as I did in my youth, I don't wear make-up so can't really pass comment on that. My opinion is that I dress for my own comfort, practicality and budget. I know some people (family included) despair at my penchant for man jumpers, comfy boots or trainers and jeans and refusal to dress in skirts, cardigans and smart boots to look more feminine. I choose to dress this way because I am happy to, I know that the jumpers are often shapeless but I don't care. I don't dress to impress other people ~ why should I? If there are special occasions then yes, I make an effort, more to please those around me than myself. But for everyday, forget it. In my humble opinion life is for living, for doing and not worrying about what other people think of what I am wearing, to be honest, I don't care. 
Which follows on to "not spending enough on your clothes" really? I couldn't care less about spanx, lycra panels and butt boosting jeans. If they are in the sale then great why not try them on and see how you feel about wearing them but really, why should I squeeze and pin myself into panelled, spanx clothing just to make myself look more appealing to others? It feels to me reading this that to be larger is a social faux pas, so we must haul it in and try and confine it. Why? People come in all different shapes and sizes and so why not celebrate what you have. I can't bear being hemmed in by my clothes, it makes me feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable. I agree that buying good quality, well cut clothes is more expensive and for special occasions then yes, perhaps a worthwhile purchase. However, for everyday purposes, wear what you feel comfortable in and don't feel you have to conform just to please others, so long as you are happy and comfortable in your own choices then don't worry.
"Comparing yourself to you in your 20's" ~ nope, I don't do that. I look back at photos of myself and see my journey so far, I celebrate the changes and sometimes have a good laugh too at some of my hair style choices and fashion faux pas. I disagree that "few people look as attractive in middle age as they did in their younger years" I think that people grow into themselves, they evolve and change but not in a negative way. I celebrate the grey/white hairs, the lines appearing and the stretch marks. It shows I have lived and continue to do so. I think the goal is not to look as good as you can but do agree to be as healthy as you can. Focusing on health and well-being is great advice but not on focusing on looks, you are what you are, make peace with that.
"Skipping Exercise" I think health is very important to focus on for us at all ages and that yes it is a consideration so that you don't become a vegetative couch potato. But I believe that you should only exercise within your limits, whether it be yoga, running, gym work, swimming or gentle regular walking and stretches. Too much exercise can be a negative, as with everything, it is finding a balance, to be doing it for the right reasons and properly.
"Not getting enough sleep" ~ I'm with them on this one! Oh, I dream of having a regular good nights sleep but suffering from insomnia, that just ain't gonna happen! BUT if you are lucky and can sleep, then I actually agree fully with this point ~ get  your kip and try not to burn the candle at both ends.
"Ignoring your teeth" Really? Does this need addressing at middle age? Surely we all should be taught at a tender young age how to maintain dental hygiene and this should just be part and parcel of everyday life for us all along with 6 monthly dental health checks with our dentist. Agreed that coffee and wine guzzling along with smoking habits can all add to yellowing and staining of the teeth, but those are choices you make ~ so if you worry about that then address what you put into your mouth!
"Overdoing anti ageing efforts" ~ this raised a smile, who is to judge you if you choose to have surgery or botox? Horses for courses, do what makes you feel better but only if that is what  you want to do for yourself, don't ever try and change yourself from someone else, that will never make you happy. I really don't care about wrinkles, greying hair and thickening waistline. Instead I celebrate still being here, that my ageing body is still allowing me to participate in life, the wrinkles, grey hairs, stretch marks, extra pounds are all signs that I have lived, I am proud of them, they are marks of my ongoing journey and I most definitely don't want to go back to being like I was as a teen or even in my twenties or thirties ~ each decade marks a new chapter of my life ~ I embrace it.
"Thinking there are "hair" rules" ~ they are right here, no rules apply. Have your hair the cut, colour and length you like. Heck, go rainbow if that's what floats your boat ~ life is too short to worry about what others think and have regrets about no doing something because others may not like it. Do what you want and what makes you feel good ~ I find how I wear my hair changes my mood. I love changing the colour if the mood takes me, cutting it very short or leaving it to grow. I go with whatever I feel at the time, currently I am growing out my very short hair into less short hair and out of curiosity I have dyed it to the colour of my roots and watching excitedly as the white & grey roots start to grow through. I may decide to dye it bright green in a few months times, who knows? But I will do it if I want to when I want to and for no other reason than that.
"Using the wrong make-up" ~ well, I can't comment on that seeing as I don't tend to wear make-up. However, if you have a look that you feel marks who you are then who am I to pass judgement. The girls did give me a make-over a few days ago as they were itching to try it on me, I appreciated them trying but I didn't feel like me with it on and so after having a few photos with it on I then removed it. I don't mind the occasional eye-liner and lip gloss but that's about my limit as I don't like the sensation of foundation or powder on my skin and the same goes for eye-shadows too.
"Wearing the wrong bra" ~ I don't think this is confined to any particular age, I see women walking around in bras which are far too small and can divide the breasts to give the four boob effect, whilst others have them hiked up right under their chin as if they are some deadly weapons ready to ping out and take an eye out if you get too close. Some women have loose bras meaning that their boobs hit their waistline, others migrate round the sides towards their back. Purely for comfort rather than style I think this is important and I myself go and also take my girls to be fitted each time new bras are needed, depending on weight and growth spurts the breasts can fluctuate in size quite dramatically. I don't know about you but I am deeply saddened that when I lose any weight the first place it drops from are my breasts, I mean honestly, life has to play these tricks ~ I'd much rather have the weight go from my thighs and stay on my chest thank you very much - but hey ho!
"Settling for a boring sex life" ~ Sex should be for fun and enjoyment, this applies to all ages, the sex of your older years may not be as gymnastic as that of your youth but I agree, young doesn't equal sexy. Feeling confident in your own body and knowing what you want can make you much sexier. Just go for it (be stay safe!).

So, middle age how do you perceive it, good, bad, indifferent? 

Some days I feel ancient, like I am trapped inside the body of a frail, infirm 90 year old lady, with the aches and pains, lack of energy and brain power to match. These are the days I think back to my younger, fitter, agile self and lament my bodies misbehaviour. Other days I am positively full of energy, brimming with laughter, ready to explode into hysterics at the slightest provocation, I feel light as if I am pumped full of air and not a care in the world and in the mood to create childish mischief. I feel youthful and carefree, almost to the point of forgetting how many years I have lived. It is definitely, for me, a case of mind over matter. If I am melancholy I feel older, greyer, diminished somehow. When I am in a positive frame of mind I feel lighter, happier, more youthful ~ I somehow imagine when I look in the mirror the sparkly eyed, fresh faced youthful me will be reflected. Yet when I see the reflection spookily similar to my mothers looking back at me instead of feeling gloomy I find it doesn't phase me. Instead I stop, smile back at my reflection and remember my mum, how much she loved and lived life to the full. Her laughter, her sense of fun, her infectious way of drawing you into being part of it too. I feel glad to have that link to her, glad that I look so much like her and feel a connection via my reflection to that lost part of my life and it brings me comfort not pain.

I suppose though, being honest there are some negatives to growing older ~  these can't be avoided forever. I have noticed over the years that my eyesight is not as good as it was, every year when I attend my free annual eye health check (parent with Glaucoma) I am given a new stronger prescription for my glasses. I cannot read any food packaging label or medication information on those small bottles without my glasses ~ in fact any fine print is just a blur and regular words on screen or books require my glasses to be brought into focus. I find my energy is not as abundant and my health as robust as it once was, I need to rest more, take care of myself and plan my day. BUT with this comes a clarity and appreciation for the smaller things in life, I notice the beauty of my surroundings, the joy of the seasons, the sounds and smells of life around me. Things that passed my by in my youth, were taken for granted and not appreciated are now noted by my older self.

I am inexplicably thrilled at the sight of emerging white hairs coming through in my roots now I have stopped dying my hair. I can't wait for it to grow longer so that I can see more clearly how many I have, it's a stamp of my age, of having come this far and how lucky I am to still be here. I may dye it in the future but then again I may not. For now though I am having too much fun looking for them and celebrating each new addition.

Lifes journey isn't an easy one, some people are luckier than others. Some have more than their fair share of trauma, ill health, bad luck and hardship whilst others seem to be blessed with luck, fortune and good health. I have friends and family who have been through so much and life seems to enjoy repeatedly kicking them when they are down, others seem to sail above it untouched. Why is that? 

Perhaps all is not what it may seem ~ those who sail above may be dealing with hidden traumas unknown to others. Those who are suffering may also be in receipt of love and compassion that their so called luckier counterparts have never received. I choose to always seek the silver lining to every dark moment, find the lesson that is there for us to learn and do what I can to move through it until brighter times can be found again.

My life has been a tumultuous journey, I have made many mistakes but refuse to regret them because it is through making those mistakes that I was able to learn and grow. I think the hardest challenge I am facing is parenthood. Our children are hugely loved but there is no guidebook to how to bring up your off-spring and navigate the humps in the road fate keeps putting in our way. I am very sad that the girls are having to live with chronic illness plus mental issues and how it has affected their lives. I wish they could have had the carefree healthy childhood I was privileged to have been given. Life has its own design, I haven't been allowed to participate in its planning but hope that both myself and Dave, together, are doing the best we possibly can with the challenges we are being given. I am so  hugely proud of the girls, how they take on these challenges, they are mature beyond their years, they know isolation, pain, loss, sadness  and many limitations but it is helping them to grow into amazing young women with empathy for others, wisdom and strength to face the next hurdle and teaching us as their parents so much in return.

So, for me middle age is just a phase within my lifes journey, if I look back I realise I have achieved so much already. I am only 45 years into this journey and hope that fate allows me many more years to explore what else it has to offer me. I have plans, dreams and hopes I wish to see to fruition. I hope I am blessed with so much more but because no-one knows when their journey is going to end I feel very strongly that it is important to seize each and every day, every  moment and relish it, make the most of every opportunity offered to you and take risks. Stop worrying about what other people think of you, accept yourself, learn to love yourself and do what feeds your soul. Don't ever get to a point where you stop and look back at your life with regret, wishing you had made other choices, accepted challenges. I now say no if I don't want to do something and don't feel guilty about it. I have stopped trying to please others all the time, let's face it, some people no matter what you do simply can't be pleased. 

It may be used frequently all over the internet, on cute inspirational pictures which are often shared, but perhaps that's because it's true. If there are any rules to follow in this life then just consider these three.
  • Live in the moment, enjoy what you have, don't covet what others have.
  • Love madly, passionately, widely. Love your friends, family, strangers, animals, the planet - appreciate what is around you.
  • Laugh as much as you can, take every drop of joy and happiness that you can. When I am sad I purposely sit and make myself laugh out loud, it starts as being forced and before you know it you are genuinely laughing and boy does it make you feel better too.
Gone are my days of worrying about my weight, how I look, if I am pleasing others. It has taken me 45 years to learn a very simple lesson but learn to love yourself for who and what you are and everything else just falls into place. You find clarity of mind, a sense of being and purpose. I know who I am and I know what I want from life. I navigate my remain journey with the skills my life so far has given me and use them to the best of my ability. I know I will continue to make mistakes and learn from them right up until the day I take my last breath, but that is part of the magic of our life journey, to see where it takes us and what it will teach us both good and bad.

Happy travels folks.
x~X~x

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Thrilled ~ a moment to celebrate

This morning I saw a link to invite me to buy Christmas Cards from a Charity called Invest in ME, which made me hugely excited.

You may be questioning why I am so thrilled ~ it is because I put my amateur photography skills together with middle born daughter and we submitted 5 entries into their Christmas Card Competition. After on-line voting and then further deliberation by the Invest in ME panel, two of our five entries were successful in being winning entries. The funds from the sale of these cards will go towards the vital money needed to fund ongoing biomedical research into the illness Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, which two of my three daughters suffer from.

What has made this all the more special for us is that one of the photographs was Tasha's and one was mine. As we both have the same middle name, which is also the same as my late ma's Christian name we decided to enter under the name Marguerita Mawer.

My entry

Tashas entry
So, you will see our two cards on the website listed and credited as being by Marguerita Mawer. This seems a fitting tribute to mum who loved Christmas, she claimed December as her party month ~ and boy did she know how to party too. These photographs always make me smile as they represent our Christmases perfectly.

Messing about with mum and Big Sis around the Christmas Tree

All dressed up with The Dave, Mum & Dad (wearing his "skirt")

Another Christmas RAF Party/Ball with Mum & Big Sis

Very 80's with Mum & Big Sis with our perms 
Sadly for us now December is a difficult month now full of significant dates. Mums birthday was 6th December, she died on 13th December, funeral several days later, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were always spent together and then we would all celebrate her Wedding Anniversary on 27th December, usually with a party. As the years are passing we are finding each December a little easier to navigate, we are now starting to be able to smile while we remember all the wonderful memories she left us with, very much a bitter-sweet time of year.

But, we are focusing now on dwelling on happier times, good memories and our fortune to have had mum with us for as long as we did. We count our blessings and this year especially, we are thrilled to have had our entries made into cards and will be sending them out to all our friends and family with pride.

If you fancy buying charity Christmas cards this year then you may consider buying some of these (great value for money too as not too expensive).

Invest in ME 2014 Charity Christmas Cards can be purchased here

Okay, that's enough Christmas for now, we have to focus on Halloween which is fast approaching and needs our full attention!

x~X~x