Category Archives: Life as I know it

Don’t wish your life away

 

There’s nothing like a funeral to put things in perspective, especially one of a family member, and last week was no exception for me. What resonated most was a reading that was given, and I know I was not alone in walking away feeling like something had to change, I had to change.

...
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
...

From 'The Dash' - read the whole poem here.

The ‘dash’ in this poem being the short line between the year of our birth and that of our death. How would someone reading your own eulogy describe what you did in that time, in your life?

It’s something that has been on my mind a lot recently – somewhat of a inter-quarter/mid life crisis. Do I know what am I doing with my life? Is it what I want to do? Am I achieving anything of note? Am I treating people how I would like to be treated myself? Am I acting in the manner that I would like to be best remembered?

I’m pretty sure the answer to all of those questions is ‘no’.

I am almost certainly muddling along from day-to-day. Wasting my life beating myself up, feeling miserable, feeling lonely, waiting to feel ‘well’, being selfish and self-involved, longing for the weekend or the next holiday, sitting at home moaning that I’m doing nothing, wanting it to be Friday when it’s only Monday.

It feels very late in life to be working out who I am but there is still plenty of time to ‘rearrange’ and there’s certainly a whole lot of Monday to Friday, unplanned weekends and moments of feeling vaguely human that I should be making more of.

Time to stop wishing my life away and do something with my ‘dash’.

 

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Who needs enemies when you’ve got yourself

The saying goes ‘it never rains but it pours’ or something like that doesn’t it? Life is never just a one problem at a time scenario, it’s everything all at once from a great height.

I make no secret of having low self confidence and I also make no secret of the fact that the past year and a half hasn’t been easy for a few reasons. I’ve stress eaten and stress hormone-d my way to some extra body weight weight in that time and those lovely hormones (and age) are responsible for my skin looking like I’m on the wrong side of adolescence, I’m on my way to a sex change AND marching towards middle age.

Then there’s the things I do to myself, seemingly willingly. Self-sabotage. When things are going badly, I’ll make them worse and when they’re going well, I’ll look for a way to ruin it all. There has to be some psychological explanation behind it, but I have no idea why I do it.

Weight loss is going ok? Let’s eat a cake and another. Feeling bad about that skin? Let’s pick at it and make it inflamed as well. Generally on a Debbie Downer about myself? Let’s cut all that hair off and dye it a funny colour.

It was starting to feel like, at the turn of the year, things were beginning to straighten themselves out. So there we have it, I went and changed all that. Not only am I still stressed but now I’m overweight, pasty, spotty and have bad hair. Way to escalate a problem.

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The Men

Over a lovely dinner on New Year’s Eve, my husband and I (why do I always say that in my head in the Queen’s voice?) were talking about our Ex boyfriends/girlfriends – this may be an odd conversation for a couple I suppose, and I have no idea how we got onto the topic – and how those people have taught us things about ourselves and life.

I consider myself to have had four boyfriends prior to meeting my husband – those that I would call boyfriends and not pigs, flings, mistakes, interludes – and I think I learnt something important from them all.

Possibly unconventionally, I remain friends with them, at least to say hello if I bumped into them and maybe go for a coffee. Of course, I’d still be gutted that I hadn’t suddenly turned into a supermodel, their faces full of sick horror of the fact that they lost me, but I think everyone wishes for that!

(If any of you are reading this, hello!)

  1. The ‘high school sweetheart’. We met at school and somehow, through those messy teenage years, managed to stay together from 13 until we were 19. On a miserable day I’d say they were wasted years that crippled my confidence but really it spared me the near constant heartache of being a teenager. We spilt up during my first year of university when I finally realised that his argumentative streak had worn me to apathy (and I met a really hot barman). Life lesson: sometimes you just grow apart.
  2. The older man. He was a clever, driven older guy (26 to my 20) who wrote a song about me. I was pretty infatuated at the time, who wouldn’t be. He gave me my passion for charity work and a better understanding of who I was but broke my heart piece-by-piece until I had the courage to walk away. Life lesson: you can’t make someone love you not matter how hard you try.
  3. The cad. On, off, on, off, breaking my already broken heart even more, until I met someone else. At which point he made his mind up but it was too late. Great when we were together and I felt hot as hell, but as soon as I walked out of the door it was like I didn’t exist until the next time. Life lesson: chemistry is great but it doesn’t make a relationship.
  4. The one I ran away with. Fun, this was all about fun. Laughing and being my very childish self, pulling me out of the anxiety and depression I was in and pushing me to do new things outside of my crippled confidence. We ran away to Spain – which is still the best and most exciting thing I’ve done – but he was (and remains) and incorrigible flirt which drove me to suspicious, jealous spite. Life lesson: sometimes you’re better off as friends.

What followed was what my good friends would refer to as my ‘Adele’ phase (running out of the pub in floods of drunk tears when they played Someone Like You). Two years of being single, getting extremely drunk, meeting ALL the wrong guys, wishing I would meet ‘The One’ but not being at all ready for it and finally being happy and content by myself in my little house (eating Monster Munch for dinner and collecting cats)….at which point I did meet The One, when I least expected it.

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, people come in and out of chapters in your life and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without learning these things.

Know-it-all

As with people who have babies, and suddenly have all the things to tell you that you have ‘no idea’ about, so it is when you get married. Suddenly I feel I have a little wisdom to impart, that I wish someone had told me years ago.

I was sat with my head craned backwards in the sink at the hairdressers last week when I ended up talking to the girl washing my hair about New Years Eve and single friends, and men.

As it turns out, she finds herself with a string of ‘bad relationships’, which is not unfamiliar to me and this is my take on it.

One day, you’ll be married and feeling like you’re getting old, soft around the middle and crinkly round the eyes. When that day comes, you will suddenly wish that you hadn’t spend all of your young and single time worrying if he was ‘The One’ or if he likes you or if you’d ever meet the person who is ’The One’ and had just spent it having the most amazing time.

Don’t worry about meeting the love of your life or that all your friends are meeting people and you’re not. Don’t spend all of your nights out looking for a guy, scanning the crowd for someone who might just be him. Don’t waste tears and time on men who don’t call or text you back.

Go out, flirt with everyone, talk to new people, do new things, smile, laugh, drink too much and dance all night. Do things that you want to do, for you. Enjoy being by yourself and really learn about who you are as a person, without needing someone else to complete you.

Because one day, you’ll have met ‘The One’, despite thinking that you never would, and you’ll wish you hadn’t wasted all that time worrying and had just had an amazing time been your fabulous self.

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The Struggle

So I’m ill. Chronically ill. So I will always be ill. Sometimes I might feel worse or a bit better than others, but there is no cure for what I have. This is probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to get my head around, aside from depression. 

I wasn’t ever allowed time off from school as a child, unless my arm had fallen off or something and I carried that through with me to adult life. I feel guilty when I’m ill and need time off. I feel bad that I need to lay there and do nothing quite a lot of the time.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve been learning a lot more about my two conditions and things make a lot more sense now. I always wondered why when I felt at my worst, the thought of anything but the saltiest food imaginable made me feel sick. Well, it turns out that salt makes me feel better and I’m encouraged to eat more of it (I also take Kelp tablets and magnesium supplements so that I don’t have to eat so much of it).

Anyhow.

I’ve not made that many drastic changes to my daily life. I drink a lot more water, I eat a lot better and more selectively, I work a day from home to try and limit my travel time, I try and walk more for some steady exercise….but that’s about it. I still work a 9-5.30, busy job and commute to London. I still do the cooking, cleaning etc. I still do my best to go out and about and live a life….. but GOD, sometimes this is hard.

I forget you see. I forget that I’m ill. Not just a common cold ill but really, I have quite big, potentially serious things wrong with me. I read about people with my condition who are wheelchair bound, who can’t support their own heads or eat solid food or manage to leave the house. I am forever grateful that I don’t have the symptoms that severly but this is a condition that changes, there’s no saying it couldn’t get worse.

Sometimes I am almost normal….sometimes I am so exhausted, that I can barely stand up. Not just tired. When I say to someone ‘I’m really tired’ and they say ‘oh me too’, I don’t bother to laugh or say they have no idea, but they probably don’t. It’s not tired like you need an extra hour, it’s tired like you’ve not slept at all for a week and then flown a few long haul flights. My legs don’t work and I misjudge spaces and walk into things, my hands cramp and ache, my body is lead and jelly at the same time. I mix words up and can’t hold a thought. My stomach stops working and won’t digest anything. I can’t breathe properly. I’ll get a migraine so bad that I think I’m going to vomit, stop breathing and maybe black out.

But I forget all this and get cross at myself for not being able to do everything. For wishing I could have a few days a week off. For not being able to go to everything or stay to the end on nights out. For me, it’s just normal but sometimes I really do have to force myself to remember that it’s not normal at all and to cut myself a little slack.

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The onward rush of time

It happens, one minute you’re bemoaning the fact that you can’t meet someone decent, that men are the devil and that you have no hope of ever meeting someone, someone ‘for life’. The next, there’s five months and 20 days until your wedding. That’s how life happens. That’s how quick it goes, in the blink of an eye. Which is pretty terrifying really.

Last year, I was terrified about turning 30. Not just because I was getting older and quite frankly, none the wiser, but mostly because I felt that I hadn’t really achieved much up until then. Thirty years spent on this planet and what did I have to show for it?

A tweet today from Becky over at Spirited Puddle Jumper made me think about how I’ve actually found it.

Everyone on Twitter at the time told me how they were actually, despite their own panicks, loving their 30s. Mostly because they felt that they were finally ‘settling in’ to themselves, finding they were more comfortable in their own skin and where their place was in the world. I scoffed. I was so far from this point that the notion that I would soon reach some form of my own personal ‘zen’ was inconceivable.

But….while I might not be quite there, while I often have the most epic of hissy fits because ‘everything looks disgusting on me’ (really), or feel like there are many things I could have/should have done before now, I find myself more ok with this.

  • Every day I learn more about the limitations and strange goings on of my muddled little body, things make much more sense now. Before, I thought I was quite possibly being a bit insane with how unwell I felt. Now I know there is a reason. I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go in managing it witout drugs but at least I have a diagnosis.
  • I don’t have time for people who don’t have time for me and have made my peace with that instead of feeling guilty about it. I have people who love me and support me and are positive influences in my life and that is what is important. I don’t think I would have had the peace within myself to accept that sometimes, these things just aren’t going to happen and to move on a year or so ago.
  • I might not have changed worlds or cured a disease (I always wanted to ‘make a difference’) but I do volunteer work and I raise money for charities that mean a lot to me. I try to be there for the people I care about, and as much as I can be, be giving and selfless. I hope that by doing these things, I might have made a difference to someone, somehow.
  • I am about to (crazily soon) become a wife, and I really cannot wait. We have our church, venue, photographer, cars, and band all sorted. The hymns are picked, the honeymoon is booked and my dress (which I am totally in love with after a few very stressful and confusing weeks) is ordered.

So – 30. I might not be where I thought I would be when I imagined being this age. I am not a high-flying career woman or an aid worker in Africa but when I was about 12, I wanted to be a jockey and I’m not one of those either. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason and exactly how they are supposed to. I have wonderful friends, healthy family and I will soon be a happily married woman….and that’s pretty good if you ask me.

Depression: a little understanding

I’m aware that a lot of people are unsure how to deal with it when I have a ‘turn’ or let’s be honest, when I get depressed, again.

Although it will never be as bad as it was that first time – once you actually KNOW that you’re depressed, the signs, what to look out for and how to cope with it a little better, I think falling quite so deep into that spiral happens less often – it does happen, and it doesn’t take someone dying, or having a fatal disease, or being penniless. That’s what I always thought. I can’t be depressed, can I? I have no reason to be. Well, brains and brain chemistry, genetics, thought and behavioural patterns don’t work like that. Most of the time it just sneaks up on me, often when I have a lot going on in my life at the same time. It all adds up.

Imagine if you will, one of those joke tins where you open the lid and the fake springy snake pops out? It’s like that….. all the thoughts and stresses and worries of life are being stuffed into the tin and at some point or another, one of them is just too many and the lid just pops right off and that’s me done, I can’t manage to stuff it all back in, I have to sit and deal with it all.

It’s not all about being sad and crying and moping around (although I do tend to cry an awful lot, at the drop of a hat at these times, mostly through the pure frustration and helplessness that I feel in that situation) and it most certainly isn’t about ‘cheering up’, ‘thinking positive’ or ‘pulling myself together’ or any other of the nonsense that someone who has never experienced depression will no doubt say.

It’s about nothing. You feel empty right where there should be joy or rage or in fact any emotion. You feel bereft of anything, rather pointless really. You’re not all that sure why you are put on God’s green Earth because you’re not worth the shit on someone’s shoe.

Getting up is a struggle, being awake seems like the most difficult thing in the world. Being around other people is exhausting because it’s taking everything you have to pretend that you’re there, to nod and smile and make the right noises in the places where you think you should. It’s pretty much taking all that you have not to get up and walk away as quick as you can, back home to where it’s just you, where you feel safe.

The most I will feel during this time is a knot, right at the centre of my chest, a physical sensation that everything is completely tangled up and I have no idea where the start or the end is.

So I back off from everything and everyone for a while. I go to work because I have to but apart from that, I do little else. I say no when I’m invited out, I stay home and mostly in bed. I don’t even go to the shops because I can’t stand people looking at me. Sometimes, I’ll get ready to go out just to get a little way down the road and not want to do it any more. I will get so upset that I will turn around and go home. At my worst, I would force myself out, only to get there, think that everyone was looking at me and thinking how absolutely disgusting I was, have a panic attack and have to leave and go home, feeling even worse about myself. Thankfully, after medication, a fair bit of therapy and successful hypnosis for some awful confidence issues, it’s not this bad.

But this is where the problems lie with relationships, you have to work at them. When I’m having a bad time, I back off, and go quiet and non communicative. People then quite rightly back off in return, they don’t hear from me, or I always say no to invitations, so there’s no contact…and the less contact there is, the less I want and the harder I find it to make contact again.

I know that when you haven’t had any experience of something, it’s very hard to understand. When you’re a positive, outgoing, confident, optimistic person, you don’t see how the smallest thing (a bus driver shouting at you that no, he doesn’t go to Goodge Street) can play on your mind and send you spiraling into an internal monologue of self-doubt but please, try to be emphatic. Try and see. Because honestly, the very worst thing that you can do is turn the other way and ignore it. To tell someone that nothing is wrong, that they shouldn’t feel the way they do. Believe me, they wish with everything that they didn’t feel like this, that they could stop the whirling negativity that constantly spins around their head telling them that they aren’t good enough or how stupid they were to just say that or do whatever it is they just did.

If you really can’t get your head around it, just have a little compassion, drop them a text, tell them you’re there and be there for them when they occasionally pop out of the black cloud. Depression can be terrifying, don’t let someone be terrified and alone.

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Watch what you say…

Did you know that going through a bit of a health ‘crisis’ can make you a bitch?

I use the word crisis loosely here because, let’s face it, I’m not dying of anything but it is enough to make life more than a little miserable for the majority of the time. For a swift summary, over a year on and still no diagnosis, hopefully one in the pipeline but that’s just the start. There’s some hefty medication going on for the migraines as they were getting fairly serious but that’s not something that can carry on long term so I’m hoping that by some miracle they just buggar off in all honesty.

Did you know that stopping popping a pill full of hormones can make you an irritable bitch?

After 15 years on the pill, on the advice of one of the consultants, I stopped. And GOD, I wish I could go back on it. I’m moody, mean, aggressive, spotty, my hair is different, I don’t know when I’m due on, my periods HURT. It’s hell basically.

Did you also know that going through redundancy, having a month (over Christmas) to find a job and starting said new job while being ill can make you a bitch?

Stress levels with me are always on a high if we’re honest, I’m not one of these mellow people and since being ill, things have been a bit harder to manage. Towards the end of last year, I was signed off work for over a month as things got too much for me and I had what we shall call an ‘episode’ at work.

To say being made redundant was the best thing that could have happened is an understatement, I love my new job but BOY is it different. It’s in London, it’s commuting, it’s busy and I have to use (what little there is left of) my brain.

Did you know that ill (which mimics chronic fatigue) + new job stress + very little free time = bitch

I now get home at just gone 7pm. For some people, this is nothing. For me, it is tough. Along with the illness is a rather horrible symptom of absolute fatigue. Not just being tired but bone achingly worn out a lot of the time. So I get home, eat, bath and I am in bed by 9.30. That’s just 2.5hrs to myself of an evening and really, they’re not to myself because cooking dinner, eating, trying to fit in a bit of exercise and washing and drying my sodding hair do not count and relaxing time. I feel like I have no time just to sit. Sit and read, sit and think, sit and do nothing but relax. I relax at about 2pm on a Sunday afternoon, just in time to start thinking about work again.

Once I have a diagnosis, I then have to make sure I am fitting in there; at least 8hrs sleep, meditation, yoga, 30 mins moderate cardio per day, resistance training per day and making sure I am ‘relaxed’.

Did you know that being ill and tired and stressed makes you a bitch?

I’m always stressed. Always, without fail, every day. You know when you break your cheap, crappy work pen and there’s that little spring indside, (that incidentally, you lose and so can’t make the damn thing work again because now it won’t click) I feel like one of those. Always so tightly wound that it really doesn’t take much for me to snap, and snap I do. Oh yes. I don’t have the time or the patience for people or situations any more. The neighbours drive me mad, the cats drive me mad, commuters drive me made, everyone drives me mad. It’s really not healthy.

And finally. Did you know what all of the above, while trying to save for and plan a wedding, well that makes you the bridezilla bitch from hell?

In one breath, I say to the Fella, “I can’t do it all by myself, I don’t know about these things either, you NEED TO HELP ME.” (while crying) and in the other, as he excitedly shows me a mock up of an invitation and before I’ve really even looked at it, “No, that’s horrible, I can do a hundred times better than that.”

So, there we have it. Bitchy. Bitchy but hopefully getting there.

An almost diagnosis

I’ve been trying to find another website that quickly and easily explains what the doctors (finally) think is up…but I can’t. So I will try and explain how I see it – which might include medical inaccuracies but I’m doing the best with what I’ve been told and what I have read.
This is how my brain has interpreted it.

The underlying condition behind my possible condition is hypermobility. Put simply, due to a problem with the collagen in my body, everything is just way too bendy and stretchy. This means my blood vessels and all sorts of other things are too elastic.

So take some of my symptoms for example:

  • My stomach doesn’t have the ping in it to really get my food moving so it sits about making me bloated and sicky and uncomfortable. This means smaller, easier to digest foods and not too many icky carbs which my stretchy stomach can’t handle.
  • It can cause migraines. I can’t find an explanation of why anywhere but I assume it’s something to do with my blood vessels not contracting properly and the blood all wooshing around too freely. This can mean it sometimes ends up all down in my legs with not a lot left for the rest of me – a bit like a man’s brain and his penis trying to think at the same time.
  • Somehow or another, this can also lead to Restless Leg Syndrome which is the probable cause of me feeling like I never, ever sleep. My sleep is disturbed and I rarely get into that nice, deep REM sleep that makes you feel fresh as a daisy because my legs are twitching away while I sleep.

The main outcome of this is that the consultant thinks I have, as a result of the hypermobility and way too elastic blood vessels, something called PoTs (Postural Tachycardia Syndrome). In simple terms, this is an abnormal response by the involuntary nervous system to becoming upright. This part of the nervous system is in charge of all bodily functions that we don’t have to think about, such as:

Heart rate and blood pressure
Digestion
Stress response

Basically, I stand up and my body thinks “HOLY SHIT, WHAT ARE YOU DOING”. Because of my stretchy blood vessels, too much blood rushes down to my legs leaving none for the rest of me….so my body then wants to lay back down again, quickly, and not do anything for a while.

Anyhow, more can be read about it if anyone is interested, here.

So I think I explained that all ok, considering.

I’m now waiting on a letter and yet more wonderful test to confirm that the doctor is right. It’s all a bit much to take in and get my head around as not an awful lot is known about it. I will just be glad when I have an explanation as to why I always feel like crap.

At least now I know that it wasn’t all in my head, as my GP was trying to imply.