On Headspace

It’s been just over a month since I published a blog post about having limited time/energy and how that finally made me decide to cut out some things from my day-to-day.

Before that, I had been trying to cut back on my responsibilities for a long time, gradually decreasing the number of hours I spent volunteering and doing client work; because I was strongly aware I was doing too much but couldn’t find another way to live. I can’t think how many times I burned out just in the past two years.

For a while, it seemed like I was going to be permanently exhausted no matter how much I tried to lessen my load, because it was still too much. Nature, they say, abhors a vacuum. Well so, it seemed, did my calendar. Before I even began a month, it would be filled with so many appointments and events that I felt exhausted just looking at it. Not exactly the best start.

The problem, I think, was the mental energy my responsibilities were taking more so than the physical work or literal hours. I get anxious, and everything seems worse in my head. Overwhelmed became my state of being.

So how’s it been, now that I’ve gone from trying to do less to literally giving up some of my roles? In a word: amazing. Finally, my calendar is under control and I can actually think straight. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference it’s made to both my mental health and to my writing.

What a novelty, I can actually write! You know, that thing that was always supposed to be my main priority and the main reason I tried to do all of the other things to “support” it.

The number of blog posts I’ve been able to write in the past month alone speaks volumes. They’re like my journal to the world, bringing all of my thoughts and feelings into a single narrative and making sense of them. There’s a direct correlation: if I’m blogging a lot, my mind is processing things well and not just stuck on sending out distress calls.

The way I was[n’t] functioning before was counterproductive. Now I’m back to being productive, and nothing makes me happier than getting shit done.

Lesson learned; experiment successful. Yay me!

Sutures, Stockings, & Silver Awards: Health Update, June 2018

Not long after I posted my first health update last month, I got a call offering me a surgery date. So, yesterday I had “investigation under anaesthetic.” (The urology appointment was a dead end, it turned out.)

I’m tired and a little sore but mostly okay. The worst part of the day was the waiting. I hadn’t slept the previous night, as I generally don’t sleep at night and was told to come in early (around the time I would usually be going to bed). In the end, though, they kept me for restless hours at the back of the queue to have my procedure last.

The bed wasn’t comfortable and the days are getting unbearably warm again, but I shouldn’t really complain because the NHS is a godsend and I’m incredibly glad to have it.

Steve has been great keeping an eye on me even though he too is exhausted and melting in the hot weather.

I have some super sexy support stockings that are supposed to prevent DVT (which I’m apparently at risk of). They need to stay on for 7 to 9 days, which is how long I’m supposed to be on bedrest.

Prior to going into hospital, I was continuing on with Slimming World and had just hit my silver ‘Body Magic’ award for exercising. So I’m just taking a brief break before starting work towards my gold achievement.

By the end of my 7-9 days, my stitches should be dissolved. What happens next is that I’ll be sent for an MRI to get an even better picture of what’s going on with me, and then I progress from investigative surgery to corrective surgery, which could involve two or three separate procedures.

Needless to say, I still have quite the road to still in front of me, but I’m thankful it’s fairly mapped out and I know what to expect. The previous uncertainty had been driving me mad.

Writer Confessions

I never read much as a child. In fact, as a very young kid, I remember having problems physically reading out loud – trying it would make my breathing go all weird. Maybe it was an anxiety thing, similar to a stammer, I don’t know, but I’d have to stop after each word – each and every single word – and gulp down a breath before I could try the next. That was when I was first learning to read and, as you can probably guess, wasn’t a positive experience.

Around that time, I remember being at a meeting between my teacher and my mother. They were discussing problems I was having with learning to write – my handwriting being unreadable, spelling being way off, and a bunch of my letters muddled, backwards, or in the wrong order.

As an adult looking back at that memory, I shake my head and wonder how on earth it didn’t ring alarm bells signalling something was wrong. But, well, either the alarms didn’t go off or no one was listening.

I was almost twenty when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Huzzah! Suddenly, everything made sense, even if it was a bit late to save my university career.

In the intervening years between my early school experiences and my later ones, I fell in love with books. Or, at least, the idea of books.

I had started collecting books that seemed really interesting and made a list of books I wanted to write but, while I was writing a little (mostly emo poetry and short stuff that should never and will never see the light of day), I was intimidated by anything over three pages and didn’t actually try and read any of the books I acquired.

Actually, I was so clueless about which books were age appropriate and what might suit me that the ones I did have – picked out of a box at a jumble sale based completely on the covers and how cheap they were – really only worked as pretty things to look at and collect. I’d bought huge, dense tomes that most adults would struggle with and had no idea what genres I liked or even what a genre really was.

It’s not the beginning you would expect from someone who now writes professionally and reads roughly fifty books a year, right?  Continue reading

Eras and Spoons: A Life Update

As the saying goes, you only have so many hours in the day; and for each of those hours, each of us only has so much energy. There’s a wonderful metaphor used by people with chronic illnesses that equates the limited energy they have in the day to a lack of spoons. It sounds a bit wacky at first, but it makes a lot of sense when you get into it and really resonates with people for a reason. (Read the full explanation here.)

It’s easier to think of things like energy in terms of something physical you can see and count and comprehend. The article linked above theorizes that healthy people don’t have to think about their spoons or try and conserve them because they have an infinite amount. I’m not so sure on that count, but the rest certainly stands true in my experience.

I imagine a regular person (that is, someone without a chronic condition) to have one-hundred spoons per day – one-hundred being a round number for simplicity. It’s more spoons than most days require, with some left over at the end to waste on frivolity or throw away without needing to worry about them.

Relating this to my personal life: my husband – who I care for and who has a few chronic conditions that prevent him from working – has fifteen spoons on an average day; twenty on rare, extremely good day; ten on a bad day, and five on his very worst days. On the five-spoon days, all he can do is sleep, just about managing to eat the food I put in front of him at periodic intervals.

My own chronic condition is less severe and I usually end up with about forty to fifty spoons – much less than your average guy on the street but considerably more than my husband.

Bearing all that in mind, sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy for wanting a child. I’ve sat worrying, some nights, that people who know of our situation will judge us as being reckless or whatever to try for a family when we both have poor health. Sometimes I feel the need to justify our decision, but I won’t.

I am considering my spoons as I plan for the future, though.  Continue reading

Weight and Waiting – Health Update

When I set my resolutions for this year in December last year, I said I wanted to eat “a bit more healthily. I’m not intending to go on a diet, exactly, but I do want to take better care of my body.”

Well, there was a reason for that.

In November last year, I discovered that a lump I’d had for years was suddenly bigger. I went the GP and she told me I had a cyst. No problem, she’d put me on a waiting list to get it drained and/or removed.

So I went into 2018 knowing that I was facing minor surgery. I’d also had a conversation with my husband just after his birthday in the middle of December in which we decided it was the right time to pursue fertility treatment.

I have PCOS and, as such, don’t seem to be able to conceive naturally. Again, I went to my doctor about this and again I ended up on a waiting list.

Between waiting for surgery and wanting to be pregnant, I aimed to be fitter. That seemed fairly straightforward.

Then I got one or two weeks into January and my cyst was massive and incredibly painful. I went back to the GP and got antibiotics. When they didn’t work and the cyst continued to grow and generally be unbearable, I went to A&E.

The doctor at the hospital gave the cyst a poke and a prod (which, I’m not gonna lie, had me in tears). He then told me I had a different kind of cyst to what my GP diagnosed. I was sent away with more antibiotics and told to come back on Monday.

Over the weekend, the cyst burst which sounds awful but was actually a big relief. The pressure on it was like nothing I’d experienced before.

Back at hospital, I saw a different doctor who told me I’d been misdiagnosed again and my cyst was neither the type my GP said it was nor what the other hospital doctor thought, so the referral I was waiting on was with the wrong department – apparently it was a General Surgery issue, not Gynaecology. I was given more antibiotics and sent away again.

Two weeks later, I was back at my GP because the cyst was infected again. Solution: more antibiotics. A double dose.

The cyst got worse and I went back to A&E again; going over the whole story. The triage people got someone from General Surgery to come look at me and she said she was “almost certain” it wasn’t a GS issue and should definitely be with gynae.

I was sent away with – get this – more antibiotics. It was February by this point. I’d been in pain for a month and still had heard nothing about my referral. I didn’t even know if it was with the right department anymore. The surgeon said she would talk to gynae and call me the next day to settle the issue.

She never called.

February became March and March became April, my cyst waxing and waning the entire time.

Finally, I got an appointment with General Surgery. The doctor there told me:  Continue reading

On Finding the Words

Words are kind of my thing, at least the ones written down. I often struggle to verbalize in person what I can be quite eloquent about behind a computer screen.

So. I said (very briefly) in my previous post that there are some big things I want to talk about. I’m still not quite ready to do that fully, yet, but I’m getting there.

There’s an issue of knowing where to start. I’ve decided to start here, taking this post as my first step.

I’ve started counselling again recently, to talk about things I’ve spent years not saying. Little by little, I’m finding the words – and the courage – to tell my “#MeToo” story.

Err… stories. Plural.

Tonight I had a breakthrough, admitting out loud what happened. This is the clearest my head has felt in a while. And this is so important!

The critical voice in the back of my mind is saying, ‘Why are you bothering to write a blog post about things you want to say, without actually saying them?’

Well, because I need to.

Breaking the silence is never easy. But it’s so. goddamn. IMPORTANT!

And this is just one layer of one thing going on in my life, behind the scenes. Please bear with me.

Inconveniently Ill

I feel a bit all over the place. There’s a lot of cool and exciting things going on for me at the minute, as well as in the long term, and that’s obviously great, but I’ve also found myself in this headspace where I can’t fully appreciate it. Maybe I’ve come into a new season of depression, maybe I’m burnt out again, or – I was considering this option earlier – maybe I’m feeling stressed about this busy month because I know how stressful such times have been in the past and I’m really only feeling it because I expected to feel it, in a placebo kind of way.

I don’t know.

What I can tell you is that I’m exhausted, and a bit nauseated; I have a clouded mind that can’t quite seem to settle, and the physical health issue from the start of the year that I mentioned previously still ongoing.

When I said in my new year’s resolutions that I wanted to deal with my health in 2018, I didn’t mean this.

But I’m not here to bitch and moan. What I want to highlight it what it’s like being in this weird state where I’m both happy and sad. For those who haven’t experienced mental health issues, it might sound a bit ridiculous. That’s because it is. But it’s also 100% a thing that can actually happen.

On the one hand, I had a brilliant few days with Women Aloud NI that I’ll probably remember for years to come. But, on the other hand, while I was having those great, positive experiences, I was really struggling.

When I get exhausted like this, my emotions go haywire. I find myself forcing myself not to cry at, well, nothing. There is no logical reason for me to be upset. That only makes how I feel all the more annoying.

I wrote a tweet along these lines a little while ago, but one of the things people don’t really talk about in terms of illness is just how damn inconvenient it is. It’s unpredictable, and can’t be planned around. That’s a headache in itself.

I care for my husband, which is fine when I’m on top of my game, but when I’m sick, everything falls apart just that little bit.

I don’t want to sit here and complain about my life. Really, I, don’t. I just want to sleep, for like a month, and then get on with it again. That’s where I’m at right now.


Follow Up Post: Weight and Waiting – Health Update (May 2018)

Tears in Heaven: Eulogising Myself

To be read in the event of my death (read my previous blog post for context).

This may be obvious just by the fact that I wanted to write my own eulogy, but I’ve always revelled in being different; in doing the unexpected thing, and embracing my quirkiness.

I have always felt different – never quite fit in – but I like to think I learned to fake it when the occasion arose. Eventually.

It’s no secret that I had a dark, lonely childhood, except maybe to the few people who were around for it, who never seemed to notice. I don’t want to dwell on that, but I want to acknowledge it. It’s something I could never really escape and, as such, it became a part of my person, not to mention many, many poems.

Aside from Steve – who we all know is so perfect for me, it’s as if we were specifically sculpted by life to come together – words and stories have been the great love in my life. I said once, that there was a time I made a list of all the things I wanted to do, and it turned out to be a list of books I wanted to write.

There’s so much I could write here. I’m not entirely sure if this should be in third person, or if I should force it into past tense. No doubt, given the circumstances, the people I have left behind are negotiating that same challenge.

How do you deal with someone just being… gone? I don’t pretend to know, but I do try and plan ahead as much as possible.

As I sit here, in my first home with Steve, I try and think about what parting words I want to leave you all with. I think it can be fairly well summed up in these song lyrics by Linkin Park:

Weep not for roads untraveled
Weep not for sights unseen
May your love never end
And if you need a friend
There’s a seat here alongside me

[Roads Untraveled]

I want to just follow that up with the words of a poem:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

[Mary Elizabeth Frye]

Finally, continuing on a theme, I present you with my favourite quote:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” [Dr. Seuss.]

Which is not to say I’m adamant you don’t shed a tear for me, so much as I urge you to think about why you cry. If you cry for me, it must be because you cared. And that’s no bad thing.

I love you too.

Death Wishes

One of my ex-boyfriends found the idea of bucket lists really morbid and was horrified when I asked him, conversationally, what he wanted to achieve or do before he dies. (I’m always asking questions like that. It must be such smooth talk that helped me woo my husband.)

Given the reaction, I can only imagine how he (and no doubt others reading this) would feel about this blog post, which is going to be the first in a set of two. In one – this one – I want to outline my wishes for when I die. And in part two (which I’ll put out probably tomorrow, if I see it), I plan to share a eulogy for myself – written by myself, about myself (because who better to write it?) – to be read at my eventual funeral.

Cheery, cheery stuff, I think to myself, with a heavy dose of sarcasm; but here’s the thing: I don’t find thinking, or talking, or writing about death morbid. Not really. I find it fascinating, which is maybe morbid in itself, I guess.

Maybe it’s down to having been severely depressed for a lot of years, and suicidal on and off during that time, but I think about death a lot. I’ve formulated a lot of strong opinions about it. And – here’s the main, main thing – I am going to die. Everyone is. That’s not bad news, or good news; it shouldn’t even be news, just a simple fact. Facts hold no emotion. They don’t have to be scary.

Now, having just said that, I’m aware I’ve probably spooked a few people reading this already, so let be backtrack a bit before I proceed: I would just like to clarify that I am not currently depressed or suicidal, I don’t have some terminal condition, and I don’t particularly foresee myself dying in the near future. But it will come, at some point – maybe tomorrow, or next year, or before I finish writing this blog post. We don’t and can’t know when, but can be certain it will happen sooner or later. So, me being the very organized person that I am, I thought I would plan ahead and put my wishes down in black and white so there’s never any uncertainty about them. Also, I want to open a discussion, because I think talking about death before we have to face it is not only a good idea, but the most reasonable idea around.  Continue reading

February Update

For me, January felt like a too-long month but, despite the fact that it seemed to stretch and stretch, I never quite managed to fit in everything I had planned. I only finished reading one book (a novel-length piece of fan fiction) though I did listen to most of an audiobook, too. I finished it (Star Wartz by Patrick Tilley) in the early hours of this morning. So, here I am on the first of Feb. with two books off my 52 book goal for the year and five-thousand words written of my ten-thousand-word January goal.

I think it was getting sick right at the start of the year that threw me off. For about a week, all I could focus on was the physical pain I was in and whether I was going to be taken into hospital. The jury’s still out on that one. I may be sent back there tomorrow after I see my GP again, or I might have to wait a year – who knows?

On the plus side, after having to cancel the first week of my class, I started it a week late and it is going well. My task for tomorrow is to put in a proposal for next term. Now that my taxes are (finally!) in, I can really focus on it.

Maybe I can even get back to writing fiction after that. I certainly hope so!