It was great to take a drive down to Devon to visit my sister and family, who have recently moved to the coast. The sea was rough and spectacular and we ate ice cream and laughed a lot in the sunshine. Sometimes just breaking up the routine a smidge is all that's needed and, coming home, I feel like I've been away for days on an actual holiday.
However, now it's raining. Boo!
My injured elbow is starting to heal. I felt quite scared for a while there. Not being able to do basic things like lifting a kettle and hoovering, and the dread that I might end up being able to do even less than I can with fibromyalgia. I started panic Googling for gardeners and cleaners - although I haven't completely ruled them out.
I dreamt last night that I was standing on a cliff edge and I forced myself over it. The feeling of falling and being utterly petrified, stomach in my mouth, morphed into euphoria - and then I woke up. I don't know what this means. I don't know if it was a sinister dream or a positive dream. My counselor always asks me what I felt in the dream. She hints the answers are in the feelings and emotions. The problem is, I never capture enough of those to be able to decide. I do know it's the first time I've made myself jump into the unknown in my dreams. I've always been held back before or held myself back. I take that as a positive sign.
I'm a week into my 3 week staycation and it's been sunny, wonderful and productive. That is, until the injury! After 4 solid days of gardening getting the biggest jobs completed, I've "tennis elbowed" my right arm. Feeling pretty gutted as I was so happy and relieved to get on top of the mowing (although 5 bags of grass cuttings and very little grass left on both my lawns is a little irritating!), plum tree and buddlia pruning and wild garden clearing. I even built my cats a house and added a wooden stair case for them attached to the fence. This is all an attempt to make the garden simpler to manage whilst still retaining areas for the cats to play and climb. I am especially proud of my artificial petunia hanging baskets. I can never make a decent basket for the summer, so now I can enjoy these without worrying about watering and maintaining them.
My counselor pointed out something very interesting to me the other day. As daft as it sounds, I never just sit in my garden and relax. We explored this for a bit and came to the conclusion that it's because I view my garden as a workplace with chores constantly needing my attention. So, going against the grain yesterday, I decided to sit in my garden when the sun came round in the afternoon and read the paper / snooze for a few hours. God, it was lovely! I actually enjoyed my garden for the first time in ages. It really sounds so silly. I even practiced some mindfulness. That was until I turned around in my lounger to talk to my neighbour and the lounger collapsed underneath me! It was long overdue for replacing, mind.
Aside from gardening, I've had some lovely social contact this week. Again, it sounds so silly, but Covid is dragging on and on isn't it and we are only in Phase 2 out of our third lockdown here in England. I met up with a friend from my first stay in hospital in 2018 and we went for a walk and talked a lot about our mental health and how draining it is looking after ourselves. It was great to be talking with someone who absolutely understands everything I'm going through and can relate. Refreshing! I also had a 3 hour pamper at the hairdressers getting my hair restyled and coloured - long overdue from December thanks to Lockdown 3.0 - and yesterday morning, I had my back and arm worked on. I, like most people who live alone, have really missed human touch during this pandemic.
On the box this week, I've just finished binging Finding Alice series 1. As you know, I love to try out new dark comedy (I am a sucker for laughing and crying simultaneously) and I am always interested to see how characters are portrayed when they are grieving and how believable it feels compared with my own experiences. It's a weird show, I agree with the critics on that, but Alice is everything I hoped for. That desperate need to hang on to the person you've lost which borders on obsession. The craziness of grief. The impossible pain. It's all there. I look back now, four years on, and realise two things. 1) That you should give yourself time and don't let anyone define how long that time period should be. And 2) Don't make any snap decisions, or at least don't do anything you can't reverse later on should you need / want to.
So being a self proclaimed Royalist, I watched the funeral of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh on Saturday. Sadly, I feel the sense of loyalty and duty to the Royal Family is lost on mine and younger generations. I am so proud to be British and it isn't lost on me the magnitude of what we are saying goodbye to here. The Duke was a living part of our collective history and he had been at the epicentre of British power since the 1940s. I am so jealous of all of his travels, I am awed at the legacy he is leaving behind and I am left in wonderment at his self less devotion in serving the Queen, his wife for all of these years, two steps behind.
Learning about the man beyond the well publicised gaffs this past week has left me with only positives to include in my own life: travel, be curious, ask questions, laugh, enjoy the good times, be patient during the bad times, this too shall pass, say what you mean to say, don't back down on your beliefs and values for anyone.
Losing someone we love and the resulting grief will hit us all at some point in life. It's no different for our Royal family and our Queen. When your partner, husband, wife dies, this is said to be one of the most intense emotional experiences of your lifetime. I can attest to this.
Since the Duke of Edinburgh's passing, some of my colleagues have been telling me about their encounters with the Royal family when working at or visiting Windsor Castle - and I am so jealous! I definitely think there are more life experience opportunities the closer you get to our capital city, London. I have always felt this way, even as far back as school trips up to the big smoke. I remember so vividly that feeling on the coach of excitement and adventure.
Talking of adventure, today is the first day of my 3 week staycation. I was pretty peeved to be having 3 weeks off and not able to travel, as Istanbul, Cappadocia, the private collector’s Banksy exhibition, a big concert at the o2 and a giant jaunt around the Balkans was waiting for me. However, as soon as I woke up this morning, I realised pretty quickly that it was such a relief to be having some "me" time away from the office. I was in dire need of a change of pace and it suddenly didn't matter I was to be at home.
And talking of opportunity, since being referred for ASD testing by my psychiatrist and care co-ordinator, and discussing in family therapy that I could have ASD, I feel like I've been reborn. It's hard to explain to anyone who hasn't gone through this - and even though I don't yet have a diagnosis and may not even get one - as soon as it was mentioned, it just felt like a lot of childhood stuff slotted into place and a big weight went gently sailing off my shoulders. For the first time in my life, I can finally say it's ok to be myself and I can speak and act my truth. I do have to wait about 2 years for my assessment on the NHS thanks to the pandemic, but that's ok. Extraordinary times and all that. I'm just glad it's another piece of my mental health struggles accounted for and out in the open, documented - and all that helps me get on with the business of living.
now that we can meet in pub gardens in groups of 6 and I'm hoping we can have a good old laugh and vent a bit! It's really hard to work in the industry at the moment and not be able to have some adventures. I use my own experience a lot, it keeps me buoyant with customers, so I'm now digging deep into my reserves! I know the girls feel exactly the same as me.
I have woken up livid this morning. Because of the bank holiday, my prescription isn't ready and it has really got me stressed out. As I said yesterday to my counselor when I vented, I know what happens when I don't take my medication so being spoken to in a dismissive way is not at all helpful. There's no taking into account the level of advocacy capability a person has when they suffer with mental health. I can shout and rage for what I need without the help of anybody else, but what about the people who can't articulate what they need? How do they take care of themselves?
My counselor talks to me about the Adult Parent Child within us. My Child takes over quite a bit. I'm hoping my Adult might kick in a bit later today when I have to phone the pharmacy again.
I was feeling quite positive about the way mental health is making strides yesterday morning, and then this happens, and I feel like we're all back to square one again. What had me so positive was I've been having a say as someone with "lived experience" about the two new mental health hospitals being built in Surrey and West Sussex. There was a Zoom meeting yesterday morning and I took part, having missed the last couple. We had a walk through of the plans for the revamped Abraham Cowley Unit and I was able to ask questions and make recommendations based on my own experience of ACU back in the autumn. Stuff like this makes me feel part of something awesome when it comes to mental health advancement.
So that's Easter over for another year and this time it fell on the 4th anniversary of Colin passing away. I would say my grief has abated now and I feel in a much better place with that side of things.
I didn't do much this long weekend, other than working Good Friday and yesterday, Easter Monday. On the actual day, Saturday, I finally binged Tiger King a year later than most people hahaha and wow, what a show! I just thought it was about a man with a mullet and a zoo in the US somewhere...
I also started a CALM app subscription to try and lessen the nightmares. I'm really enjoying the gratitude ones as I drop off to sleep. I don't want to rely on the medication I started in the autumn to help me sleep.
I started playing Euromillions because I'm loving the show The Syndicate and I would love to be rich to be able to put that money into the causes I feel passionate about - mental health, child welfare, homelessness - and of course, travel travel travel.
And finally, I did a bit more decluttering towards getting the house back to a blank canvas so I can start again with redesigning it. I'd been feeling stuck again so that was a positive move.
I ate some chocolate eggs too. YUM
I received a "Jar of smiles" from my younger sister this morning. It was a lovely present to open. There are 31 notes to make me smile in relation to being sisters, one for each day of the month.
After family therapy yesterday with my mum and sisters, I am feeling happy. I was able to say the things I needed to say in a safe space and we could listen to each other's points of view with regards to my latest hospital admission. I could tell them my triggers, now that I've learned what they are in the Stabilisation group, and how they can and can't help me. All in all, a very worthwhile meeting and I'm grateful they were able to visit me and make time for it.
That was the last of 3 days off. On Wednesday, I had a PJ day and tried to not feel guilty about it, something that is very difficult anyway, but with fibro, I swear it feels worse. I did do some light pruning and swept down the side of the house and that was enough to make me feel useful. Then I had an early night and totally forgot to watch England play Poland in their World Cup Qualifier! Thank you fibro!
I think I am still feeling the effects of chopping down the buddlia on Tuesday that sits in front of the pond. I really liked this buddlia but it always grows so big every year. I got right down to the root and no amount of hacking and hand sawing would budge it. I need a chainsaw! It was 22 degrees and I know I overdid it. I hate fibromyalgia.
Oh yes, and I'm back on my meds. I don't know why I think I can come off them and be super woman. With me, it's when I'm feeling great both physically and mentally that I need to be extra careful with sticking to my self care routine and making sure I take my meds.
I'm not going to lie, I do struggle with taking medication. I don't like swallowing pills for starters and up until Colin's passing, I never took anything. I also don't want to rely on them and it's taken ages to train myself to get into a routine. I hate the weight gain and the sluggishness on the anti-psychotic. I don't like taking pain medication everyday. I don't mind my anti depressant but I worry it won't work forever, after trying a few before this, with devastating consequences on the last attempt to switch and consolidate back in the autumn...
So I've been off them for two days. And right now I'm flying high. I haven't slept but I feel I can do anything. I know this is not going to last but my brain says stick with it. Actually my brain feels quite scrambled at the moment and the voices are back, so I don't completely trust what I'm writing here. But I think it's important to write it because I know I'm not the only one who feels like this and it's important to share our experiences. I don't know what the answer is but I wish I did. I wish there was a checklist for mental health, an end goal, a list of things to accomplish and then you get signed off and are better and more determined to living a good, honest, adventurous and happy life.
When I'm doing well professionally, I feel amazing. I'm smashing it this month in my job despite the fact we are in a pandemic. People need to have something to look forward to, I know I do, and people need holidays. That's two of my recovery pillars for maintaining good mental health - future plans and travel. A third pillar for me is to feel part of society and feel like I am contributing to something bigger than myself. That's what having paid employment does for me. Working from home is tough and I am somebody who doesn't mind being in my own company, but this is next level stuff. I have missed my colleagues and the banter and good humour we share everyday, so I am looking forward to going back to the office on 12th April.
I am still working on the big declutter of my home. Recently I have started to put things up into the loft I had boarded for storage back in the summer. It takes me time to do things, not just because of my physical limitations, but I have to think about each and every item and sometimes it can take me weeks to make a decision. Sometimes I don't like things moving too fast, but other times, I can't move fast enough. I often get caught in this circle and become paralysed by my own restrictions and rituals. This is why the recent suggestion I may be on the autistic spectrum makes a lot of sense to me. High functioning ASD is what I'm going to be tested for. I don't necessarily feel I need a diagnosis for this. It's enough that the professionals caring for me have raised it because now I know I'm not making it up and my behaviours are making more sense to me from childhood to teenage years to now.
I get angry in therapy that it has taken so long to understand things and people have let me down along the way. At the moment I am trying to get to younger me so I can comfort her. I get frustrated that she's there and I can't reach her and that I can't articulate what I need. The Stabilisation group therapy has finished now so I am experimenting with the ideas we discussed. I realised I can't self soothe but I love being read to. I've been listening to Kate Winslet read Enid Blyton's Enchanted Wood on Audible. As a child, I devoured everything Enid Blyton wrote. It is helping me to settle into a sleep routine and feel safe.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.