Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Some More Of The Same

I really  enjoyed my day playing truant.  So much so that I have prescribed the same again today.  I know that I will have to work really hard over the next few days, but it is rare for me to really give myself the opportunity of doing nothing but what I want to do.

I'm not going to be totally naughty because I am going to do some reading for one of my courses after I have had a late lunch, but writing essays is not on today's programme.  I have one chapter to read, and that will probably take me about an hour.  When that is done, I shall go back to my knitting and try to finish the main part of a lovely filmy shawl.  That will only leave the top edge to finish with the lacy edging that is knitted as an integral part of the rest of the shawl.  When it is finished I will post a couple of pictures so that you can see what it looks like.

It is such a miserable, cold,  grey day, that sitting indoors well wrapped up in warm jumpers, with a lovely shawl around my shoulders and a knitted afghan over my knees, is the only way to be.  I did pop out this morning to get a loaf of bread, but fortunately I was not out for long enough for the cold to really penetrate.  The fact that tomorrow brings January means that spring should be with us soon.  I hope that it is not too long in coming because I really don't like this cold weather.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Playing Truant

I'm feeling a bit like a naughty schoolgirl today.  I should be spending the day working on TMAs for the two OU courses that I am currently doing, but I am going to play truant.  I did some work yesterday, but today I feel that I need to spend time on myself.

I still have just over a week to get the three TMAs completed so it isn't exactly imperative that I work on them today, but the sooner I get them completed the better.  Yet, today I have woken up and decided that I shall have a lie in, just because I can, and that I shall have a lazy day just doing things that I want to and that I enjoy. This is a little bit naughty because I have just had a couple of days away from studying because I was feeling very depressed and I was unable to concentrate.  But there is a big difference between not doing something because you are unable to, and not doing something because you don't want to.

Today, it is very much a case of the latter.  So I am going to indulge myself.  I'm going to do whatever it is that I feel like doing, and I am going to eat whatever I feel like eating.  I shall be naughty and not count the cost or the calories.  I shall do a bit of knitting, read a book, or watch a film on TV.  If I feel like having a quick nap, that that is what I shall do.  I am going to be selfish and think only of myself today.

I shall just have to work twice as hard tomorrow.  That is one of the penalties for playing truant.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Six Months Of Blogging - I Didn't Think It Would Last

Tomorrow it is six months since I started this blog. I'm still not sure what possessed me to do it, but I am glad that I did. There are times when that six months seems like a life time, and others when it has seemed to pass in a flash.

I wasn't really sure what I would write about when I first started, except that I felt that I needed to explain what it felt like, for me, to suffer with depression. My depression was not something new, I had been suffering for nearly 10 years, but because I live on my own it often feels as though there is no-one who I can talk to about how I feel, and even if nobody read the blog, I felt that I was at least speaking my thoughts out loud and not keeping it bottled up inside. I have been asked why I called myself Madsadgirl, and all I can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm not mad, although there are times when I have doubted my sanity, I am sad some of the time, but there are also times when I am quite happy, and at my age I am stretching a point to call myself a girl, but the name sounded catchy and I couldn't think of anything else.

Many of my early posts were about depression, but I was aware that this would make a pretty boring blog and may not attract much in the way of readership if everything that I wrote was negative, so I also included posts about being a student with the Open University, about things that I had seen in the news and that I had strong opinions about, about the way that members of the medical profession, particularly GPs, were being vilified by some members of the government, particularly as these men and women do a difficult job and rarely get the thanks that they deserve.

Sometimes I wrote about things that were happening around me, for example the dreaded roadworks that are a consequence of the replacement of London's Victorian water mains, and I wrote about the sometimes funny and sometimes beautiful things that I saw around me. Knitting has also been a subject of a great many posts, even if it was only to say that I was having to unpick what I was working on and start again because I had made a mess of it.

Of course, depression and the effect that it can have on a person still remains one of the main reasons that I write this blog. I have written about the discrimination and stigma that those with mental health problems face, and I write about them through experience. I have also written about what it is like to undergo psychotherapy, not short-term cognitive-behaviour therapy that many undergo, but long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy with the traumatic issues and feelings that this can raise, and the relief that it can bring in being able to understand why I am the way that I am.

Sometimes I write almost every day, sometimes more than once a day, and sometimes there can be days between posts. My aim has always been to write something meaningful and that will cause anybody reading it to think about what life can be like for other people. I hope that I have achieved this aim and that what I have written over the last six months has helped people to understand what life is like for someone with depression and that it has given hope to some who find themselves in a similar state.

All bloggers say that they are surprised that anyone reads what they write, but we would be liars if we did not admit that there is a hope that someone else will read what we have written. I will never have the following of some of the blogs that I read, but I am thrilled that I have managed to attract more than 4600 hits since the blog started. I am honoured that some of my posts have been considered of enough value to warrant such worthy bloggers as the Jobbing Doctor and Dr Grumble to select them as shared items on their blogs, and I know that each time they have done this I have experienced a marked increase in traffic to the blog. Thank you, Gentlemen; it has been much appreciated.

Like many bloggers I tend to see what leads people to read my blog. Obviously the word "depression" brings up many hits when a Google search is carried out, and this is a way that a few find their way to my blog. Another frequent search term is Open University, or OU, sometimes with the word "studying" sometimes without. Psychotherapy is another term that has appeared frequently, with or without other search terms. I have been amused by those studying with the OU who have found their way to my blog when trying to get ideas for the particular TMA that they are working on at the time. That has happened for both of the courses that I am studying at present, but I am afraid that they will have gained nothing from what I have written other than to learn that even after many years of studying with the OU, I still find it extremely difficult to sit down to write an essay for a TMA.

I have made a number of virtual friends through this blog, and I have met one blogger, with whom I now correspond on an almost daily basis outside of this blog and who is now much more than a virtual friend. I started to write this blog anonymously, and I still think that was a good idea. I didn't tell anyone that I was writing it until it had been going for almost a month, and even then I only told a couple of people. Six months of blogging and there are still only a handful of people who know my real name and anything about me, and I find that something of a comfort. This means that comments received on my blog mean that much more because they do not come from people who feel that they have to make a comment because they know me.

So here I am, six months on. Has writing a blog made any difference to me? The answer to that is definitely a resounding "Yes". I have written about the good times and the bad, I have written about the funny and the sad, and I have written sometimes when my heart was breaking but I knew that writing was the only way that I could carry on. And receiving comments when I have written at these difficult times has helped me through them and helped me to come out smiling on the other side.

To all of you who bother to read this blog I say a big "Thank You", you have made life worth living again, and to those who comment "Keep commenting, I love them", and to those of you who read and don't comment "Why don't you?"; although I moderate comments I have published every one that has been written.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

Just a short post today.  I want to wish all my readers Seasons Greetings, especially those of you who are spending this day alone.

I've opened my presents, I'm just about make some breakfast (yes, I had a lie in this morning) and I must remember to get the salmon for my Christmas dinner out of the freezer.

This evening I shall be watching Doctor Who and A Matter of Loaf and Death (the new Wallace and Gromit offering from Nick Park) and hopefully having a laugh or two.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Not Quite So Traumatic Tuesday

Today hasn't been quite as bad as yesterday, but it had its moments.  I didn't have the perfect night's sleep, but it was good enough for me to feel reasonably okay by the time that I got up.  I had to collect a parcel from the local sorting office as I had missed the postman when he called yesterday morning; I was at the local Post Office posting a parcel.  I collected the parcel and then headed for Sainsbury's to get the few bits of shopping that I wanted.  I decided to get the bus home rather than walk, only because the shopping turned out to be a bit heavier and more unwieldy than I had expected.

I hadn't been home long before the doorbell rang.  It was the postman with another parcel.  Then, having wrapped up the presents and written the cards for next door, I went to deliver them.  My next door neighbour had been to the dentist this morning and that coupled with a streaming cold meant that she wasn't looking her best. Anyway, we had a quick chat and she gave me a parcel that had been left for me while I was out shopping. Anyone would think it was Christmas, the number of parcels that I have been getting over the last few days.

I took the parcel home and opened it.  I knew what it was as soon as I saw it.  It was my new Samsung Notebook.  I have a desktop PC, and a laptop, but the laptop is quite heavy and not very convenient to take with me when I go to study in the library or if I go away anywhere, so I had decided to treat myself to this Notebook for just those purposes.  I sat down with it, inserted the battery, connected it to the mains and started to set it up.

A few minutes later it was ready for me to start trying things out. It connected to my wireless network very quickly, and I was soon surfing the net, then I installed the office applications that came with it (they came loaded onto a USB dongle because the Notebook doesn't have a disk drive).  So the next thing was to have a look at the applications to see what was there.

Lunch was a little late today because of my having been playing with my new toy, but the bacon sandwich was well worth waiting for.  I decided to watch the QI Christmas Special on BBC iPlayer while I was eating my lunch as I had missed the programme last night.  Before long I found myself choking on my sandwich because I could not stop laughing.  I don't think that I have laughed so much for a very long time, and I may watch it again later just to see if it has the same effect on me.

I've done a bit of knitting this afternoon, and I shall do some more this evening, but I thought that I had better write a quick post before settling down for an evening of knitting and watching the box.

Yes, this post has been brought to you with the help of my new Notebook.  I can see it getting quite a bit of use.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Manic Monday

Sometimes you have one of those days where everything happens. Today has been one of them for me, hence Manic Monday. I knew that I had a few things to do, but I was not expecting to be running around like an idiot.

The day started normally enough with me waking at some unreasonable hour because of my bad sleeping pattern.  I didn't mind because apart from having to do a few things this morning I was expecting the rest of the day to be quiet and I really thought that I would have a restful afternoon.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

I went to see my GP for my normal monthly visit.  I did need to talk to him about the allergic conjunctivitis which is becoming a real nuisance, but I thought it would be a quick in and out appointment.  No, GP decided that he would check how I was, what I was doing for Christmas, whether I was having enough communication with others, and so it went on.  My 10 minute appointment extended to 25 minutes because my GP was keen to make sure that I wouldn't have a crisis over the next few days.  I was embarrassed about walking out through the waiting room when I did eventually leave because of those who were going to be late for their appointments, but it really wasn't my fault.  And there are some who seem to think that our GPs don't seem to understand or care about their patients.  I can tell them that they are wrong.

After leaving the surgery I had to go into town to the Post Office; I needed to send a package by special delivery.  There was a huge queue in there, but they did have lots of positions open so I didn't have to wait too long.  Then it was a walk back towards home via the chemist to get the anti-histamine tablets and the eyes drops that my GP had given me a prescription for.  I only had to wait a couple of minutes for them and it was time to go home.

So by 11am I was ready for an easy day, maybe doing a little bit of one of my TMAs and a bit of knitting if I felt like it.  But that was when the doorbell started ringing, and it seemed to ring every 10 minutes.  It was one delivery service after another with various things that I had ordered over the last week or so.  And my next-door neighbour came with a card and a present.  Every time that I attempted to go to the loo, the bell rang again.

Fortunately things seem to have calmed down now.  I have given up any idea of working on the TMA today, so I am watching television and contemplating picking up my knitting to do a few rows.  I shall heat something in the microwave a bit later to have for my dinner, and I shall head to bed fairly early, take some medication to help with sleeping tonight, and hopefully sleep the whole night through.  Tomorrow I have to go to the local sorting office to pick up a parcel that the postman tried to deliver while I was out this morning, then I shall get the few bits of fresh fruit and vegetables that I need for the rest of the week, and I shall head home with no intention of leaving the house again until Christmas is over.  I shall lay out my study materials in three piles on my desk, one for each of the three TMAs that I need to do over the next couple of weeks, and I shall spend a couple of hours each day on them, drafting my essays and then typing everything up.

Lets hope that Manic Monday doesn't lead on to Traumatic Tuesday.

Sleep; If Only I Could Manage It At The Right Time

It's been a strange weekend where I seem to have spent much of the daytime asleep and much of the night-time awake.  The problem with not sleeping properly at night is that I have a tendency to drop off to sleep exceedingly easily whenever I sit down somewhere comfortable during the day.  And it's not just a catnap either; I am regularly sleeping for three or four hours at a time.  I still manage to get to sleep when I go to bed at night, but I wake up after just a few hours and can't get back to sleep again.

I'm hoping that having a couple of weeks with no appointments will allow me to get back into a proper sleep routine.  A routine where I sleep at night and not during the day.

With just a few days to go until the dreaded Christmas Day, I am feeling surprisingly calm.  I am not too anxious about the coming days, I'm not too upset about the fact that I will be on my own, and neither am I too upset about the thought of having to spend some of my time writing essays.

And best of all, I don't have a terrible cold and chest infection like I did at this time last year which meant that I didn't have the strength to get out of my bed on Christmas Day.  

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Just Another Weekend

After a very difficult Thursday, and my normal Friday morning anxiety over my psychotherapy session, I have made it to the weekend.  As far as the TV companies are concerned the holiday period has started and we are being treated to lots of films, so I shall have to see what is coming up over the next few days and decide what I am going to watch and what I shall record for future consumption.

I don't have much to do over the next few days.  Monday morning will see me making a visit to see my GP.  It is just my normal monthly appointment so that he can see how I am and check my blood pressure and mood.  Then it will be a quick dash to the Post Office to post a small package by special delivery.  Tuesday I will get the last bits of shopping for Christmas.  I don't need very much, just some fresh fruit and vegetables, a bottle of wine to have with my Christmas dinner, and possibly a little treat for myself.

I know that Christmas isn't going to be a very special day for me; there won't be any presents or a traditional Christmas dinner, but I think that I can get through it okay.  I am treating this next week or so as just an ordinary period.  I am not thinking about it being Christmas; Thursday will be just like any other day which will just have some rather different television programmes to watch.  My viewing will include Doctor Who, and the new Wallace and Gromit offering.

I have spent the last few evenings working on the Shetland lace shawl, and after having decided to knit it in a different yarn it has progressed very well.  I have managed to finish the centre square with its rosebud pattern and have now picked up the stitches around the central panel and started to knit the border pattern. There are 92 rows to knit before I start the lacy edging; so far I have completed six rows.  Not many perhaps, but it is a start and fortunately although it looks very complicated when you look at the photographs of the finished pattern, it is actually quite an easy pattern to follow (it is knitted using a couple of charts to make it easier) and I am hoping that there will not be too many problems as the rows progress.

It will be time to pop my lunch in the microwave in a minute (home-made vegetable biryani) and then I can spend the afternoon knitting and half-watching a progression of films.  It may not be very exciting, but at least I can cope with it.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

A Sad Day

Today is one of those days that I wish I could forget.  Today is the anniversary of my Dad's death.  It's three years now, and I still miss him terribly.

I have tried very hard not to think about dates for the last week or so.  I thought that if I wasn't sure what day of the week it was or what the date was, then perhaps I wouldn't get upset.  I was doing reasonably well until yesterday when it suddenly occurred to me that this horrible anniversary was about to hit me, and I even did quite well this morning not thinking about it at all.  But then this afternoon, for no reason at all, I found myself crying.  I was half watching a film on television while doing my knitting and the tears just started to flow.

The mind is a very strange thing.  It plays with you and can change your mood in an instant.  It plays with your emotions and makes you do things that you don't want to.  It brings things to the forefront that you have tried to suppress, and it does it insidiously.

I've been feeling low for a couple of weeks now; today I suddenly felt desperate.  I know that I have to get through the next week and then with luck, once Christmas is over, things may improve. It's going to be a lonely Christmas but I hope that the New Year may be a little better, and that I might feel a little better too.

Just A Week To Go

With just a week until Christmas Day, I am still trying to decide what to have for my Christmas dinner.  Do I make an effort and cook a roast dinner, or go for something a little more simple that can be prepared and cooked in about half an hour in one pan.

It is such a big deal cooking a roast dinner for one person, even though I always roast more vegetables than I need (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions and aubergines) so that they can be heated in the microwave the next day or two.  My possible alternative Christmas dinner involves dicing potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and aubergines, frying them in a tiny amount of olive oil, then when they are almost cooked I add a couple of small salmon fillets which have been broken into largish flakes and cook them, adding dill, lime juice and coarse ground black pepper at the last minute.  The nice thing about this meal is that there is not much in the way of washing up after the meal.  But it is just not the same as having a roast dinner.

Whichever it turns out to be, I will break from my normal almost teetotal habits and indulge in a bottle of wine.  A bottle of a nice Australian red will be opened, and enjoyed.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A Strange Day

Today has been a strange day.  I have had some highs, but rather a lot of lows.

This morning started with me waking very early (about 3.30am) but I managed to fall back to sleep and didn't wake again until almost 8 o'clock.  I knew that I had to get up as I was expecting a parcel to arrive this morning; I had ordered some sheepskin boots from Amazon and knew that they should arrive this morning.  The door bell rang at about 10.30 and there was the postman with my parcel.  It took me less than a minute to get the parcel open, all the packaging out of the boots, and put them on my feet.  They were wonderful, and even though I wasn't going out I just had to scrunch my toes in the lovely sheepskin and enjoy the warm toasty feeling that soon embraced my feet.  I did eventually manage to take them off, but they make the prospect of going out tomorrow morning to post some Christmas cards and a parcel something to look forward to.

I made an early lunch because I hadn't had anything for breakfast. I decided to have one of my favourites; bacon rolls.  I tucked into them as though I hadn't eaten for days, and really enjoyed every last mouthful.  That in itself is a bit unusual because I haven't felt like eating much over the last week or so and I have been existing on pretty basic food.

Then the doorbell rang again; it was the postman with some Christmas cards and a couple of small packages for me.  These packages were a knitting pattern for another shawl (a really intricate one this time that will take me months to knit as it is so complex) and some wool (samples for the new shawl pattern, and wool for two different shawls).  It was a bit like having early Christmas presents, although as I won't get any presents for Christmas, perhaps I shouldn't have opened them and saved them for Christmas Day.

This afternoon has been less agreeable.  I had a phone call from Mr Smiley telling me that he wouldn't be able to make our Christmas lunch tomorrow; it's become a bit of a ritual over the last few years that we have lunch together just before Christmas and combine it with celebrating whatever the latest OU module is that I have passed.

I also have a cold, which has become more aggravating as the day has gone on; it's mainly a runny nose, but it has made doing my knitting more difficult because I am constantly having to blow my nose.  And to make matters worse, the conjunctivitis that I was suffering from a few weeks ago seems to have come back and I have had to keep wiping the gunk out of them.  I suppose that because I am feeling low at the moment I am going to fall prey to any bugs that are going round, but I have to hope that I manage to avoid the vomiting and diarrhoea that is doing the rounds.  It' s bad enough having things like that when you have someone to keep an eye on you and to take care of your needs; it's terrible when you have to suffer on your own especially when you really don't feel like doing anything at all.

Still, I have had a double-dose of Doctor Who this evening (BBC 3 is showing repeats of Series 4 at the moment) and now I am watching a DVD, which will get me through until it is time for bed. I'm hoping for a reasonable night's sleep tonight and although it is likely that I will wake in the early hours of the morning, I am hoping that I manage to get back to sleep again as quickly as I did this morning.

Monday, 15 December 2008

What Is A Shetland Hap Shawl?

I have written several times over the last few weeks about the Shetland hap shawl that I am making, and it has brought about several comments asking what a Shetland hap shawl is. So I thought the best way to answer this was to write a post about it. I have been knitting lace shawls for some months now and the owner of the website that I had been buying my wool from told me of another site that specialized in Shetland lace shawls. This site is Heirloom Knitting and is a source of lots of information about Shetland lace knitting as well as being a source of supplies and patterns for some truly delightful shawls.

Shetland lace knitted shawls are justifiably famous for their intricate designs and fineness. Perhaps the best known are the Shetland lace ring shawls which are so fine that they will pass through a wedding ring. The production of these incredible shawls was a cottage industry during Victorian times and the finest London stores were supplied with these hand-made shawls for sale to the high and the mighty.

But these shawls were not suitable for everyday use by the Shetland women themselves so they produced shawls made of thicker wool and in dark colours for their own use. These were known as hap shawls and in addition to being thicker and darker then the fine shawls that went for sale, the patterns in them were far less intricate. Hap is a medieval word meaning a cover or to wrap up, and that is what these shawls were for. They were used by the Shetland women to wrap themselves in for warmth. I've included a picture below of the shawl that I am knitting.

I hope that this answers the questions that you have been asking. A trip to the Heirloom Knitting website will give you far more information.

The Week Before Christmas

Well, I have finished making my Christmas cards and I must finish writing them today so that I can post them tomorrow.  I have just finished ordering my big shop online and that will be delivered on Friday.  I still haven't decided what I am going to have for my Christmas dinner; I shall go to one of the local supermarkets next week and see what I can find.  One thing is sure; it is unlikely to be turkey.  Not that I don't like turkey, but it really isn't worth it for one person.  I may get myself a gammon joint and roast that with an absolutely glorious glaze for the final stages.  There won't be any Christmas pudding or Christmas cake either as I don't like dried fruit.  While writing this I have just remembered something else that I needed to add to my order so I have now done that.

Today I must finish making two Christmas presents.  One will only take a few minutes to finish and then I can wrap it up.  The other is going to be a real morning's work and I hope that it looks good when it is finished.  Then when that is done I shall have to get down to the essay writing.  Three essays are required, a number of other short answer questions to be dealt with, a review of a completed TMA and a rewrite of portions of one of the essays in that in view of comments made on it by my tutor, and the thing that I am least looking forward to, a number of maths-based questions.  I have to admit that I have managed to work out what numbers I need to be using for these answers, it's just a case of the working out that will cause the problem.  I think that I know which number is divided by which and what needs to be multiplied and when.  One thing is absolutely certain, I will never be taking a degree in mathematics.

This evening I will be getting back to my knitting.  The Shetland hap shawl is progressing; I have now managed to complete the edging around one and a half sides, so hopefully the second side will be finished tonight.  Sometimes it is more difficult to do something with just a few stitches to the row than things with lots of stitches.  This shawl is complicated by the fact that the shawl has been knitted in the round so having to keep turning the knitting as I complete each row means that I am constantly getting myself tied up in knots with the knitting and the wool.  However, I am sure that the end result will be worth it.

I suppose that I should get my nose to the grindstone otherwise nothing will get done.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

There And Back To See How Far It Is

I know that quite a few people are readers of the blog There And Back To See How Far It Is.  This was one of the first blogs that I added to my blogroll and also one of the first which I submitted a comment to.  There and Back and I became email correspondents and we write to each other almost every day.  We have even met and spent an enjoyable couple of hours in each other's company drinking hot chocolate and chatting away.

There and Back has decided to take a break from blogging for a while, but so that none of her readers got too concerned about her well-being, I asked her if I could write a short post here so that you would all know that she is well.  Her last post was about a TMA that she was doing for one of her OU courses.  This was the first course that she had done at Level 3 and she was a bit worried about what would be expected of her at this level.  She didn't need to worry too much though because she got a very creditable 82% for her first TMA of this course, and has since managed to get 83% for her second TMA.

She is still producing the monthly newsletter 'Treetops' that she started working on when she was in hospital.  It is published on the first of each month and seems to be going from strength to strength.  There and Back has also gone to the placement that she talked about in her blog and seems to be taking on new things almost every week.

This is just a short update on a blogging friend so that you all know that she is still alive and taking on new challenges in her life. 

Knitting - More Than Just A Lifeline

When I was a young child (up to the age of 6) we lived with my grandparents.  It wasn't that unusual in those days because although I was born almost a decade after the end of the war, housing was still in short supply in London.  My grandparents owned a large Victorian terraced house with four bedrooms so it was easy to accommodate my parents and myself.  In those days mothers with young children rarely went out to work and my mother was no exception.  Both my grandfather and father worked, and my grandmother had a part-time job just a matter of yards from the house.  Money was in short supply but I always had clothes enough to wear even if they were home-made.  But that also wasn't so unusual at the time.

My mother and grandmother were knitters and I remember being taught to knit before I went to school.  My mother was also quite an accomplished dressmaker, so although I wore home-made clothes, they were of a very high standard, and I particularly remember two kilts that I had which my mother had made for me. There was always a white cardigan to wear with my best dress for special occasions, and one white cardigan was completed just in time for the wedding of one of my cousins.  Weddings in those days were often catered from home and at this particular wedding there was red jelly for the children.  Unfortunately, some of the jelly got spilt onto my brand new white cardigan, and as you know red anything can be almost impossible to clean off anything.  For a couple of years I had to wear this cardigan with its little tell-tale spot of pink on the front.

Having been taught to knit, the first things that I made were scarves and hats for my dolls.  As I got older I started to make other clothes for them and more than one doll had a smart knitted suit made up of simple shapes.  As I got older I was taught more of the complexities of knitting and by the age of 11 I was knitting jumpers for myself.  The first jumper that I knitted for myself was red in colour and was completed on the day that England won the World Cup.  I've knitted many things for myself and for others since that time and knitting still remains one of the things that occupies me in the evening as I watch television.

I have knitted hats and scarves, gloves and mittens, jumpers and cardigans, Aran patterns and Fair Isle patterns, clothes for babies, clothes for children, and clothes for adults.  In the last 18 months I have started knitting lace shawls and have created some wonderful items.  I cannot envisage a time when I won't have some sort of knitting on the go, particularly in the winter when the nights are long and there is little to do but stay indoors.

Since I have been writing this blog I have mentioned my knitting on a number of occasions and a some of those who read my blog have commented on the lovely things that I am making and how they have been encouraged to start knitting again, and in some cases, begin knitting for the first time. 

Knitting is one of those hobbies that doesn't need a lot of expensive tools and materials to get started with.  Initially all you will need is a pattern, some wool and a couple of pairs of needles. As you gain in confidence and in experience then you can increase the number of patterns that you have, and the pairs of needles.  I have recently become a devotee of bamboo needles; I had never used them in the past thinking that they would be flimsy, but they are recommended for people who suffer from arthritis and as I the top joint in the forefinger of my left hand is starting to become arthritic I decided to see if bamboo needles would make any difference.  They have, and I have found a wonderful supplier of bamboo needles on ebay, from whom I have purchased several sets.

A few months ago I was discussing the interest that had been shown when I was writing about knitting on my blog with a friend, Mr Smiley.  He suggested that I do something more than just write about what I am knitting at the present time and perhaps do a series of posts giving guidance on knitting techniques.  I have been giving this more thought over the last week or so, with the result that I think that it would be quite a good idea.

So, to the readers of this blog, I am offering to do a series of posts covering the basic, and perhaps eventually some of the more advanced, techniques in knitting.  But this is not worth doing unless I have some idea of how useful people would find this.  With this in mind, I am inviting those of you who would be interested in such a series to get in touch with me, either through a comment to this post or by emailing me at Perhaps you would also indicate what sort of things you might like to have covered in these posts and I will start building up a series of posts and videos to show you how to do things.  I have to say that I am right-handed, so any of you who are left-handed might have a problem following how to do things.  However, if there was sufficient interest, I might even attempt to teach myself to knit left-handed so as to create videos for you too.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

What Do You Write About In A Milestone Post?

This is the 200th post to my blog.  I knew that the milestone was close, so I checked the total a little earlier.  Surely such a milestone requires a really good post.  But that means that I have to wait until I have got something significant to write about.  I didn't feel like writing a summary of what has gone before.  So this post will cover some of the things that I have written about in the past, not as they were when I wrote about them before, but as they are now.

One thing that I have regularly complained about is the work that is currently going on around my area of London in an effort to replace the capitals aging Victorian water mains.  The work is still on-going and when I went to the bank today I saw that yet another road has been closed to through traffic.  So far the work within a one mile radius of my home has been going on for almost a year and I am sure that it will be continuing for some time to come.

I have continued to study with the OU; I've completed one course (which I got the result for this week) and I am currently working on two more.  I have had a bit of a rough time with the studying over the last couple of weeks because I haven't been feeling on top of the world.  However, I am going to have a concerted effort this weekend to try to get two of the three TMAs that are due at the beginning of January written, so that I can get the other one completed before Christmas too.  That way I can start the New Year up to date, or even slightly ahead of where I need to be.

Knitting has been one of the things that has helped to pass the time when I haven't been feeling wonderful.  I've knitted four jumpers and a cardigan to keep me warm over the winter, and a hat to keep my ears warm.  I also have three different shawls in progress as the moment.  The Shetland lace shawl that is being knitted for a baby due in February is growing slowly.  It is a difficult pattern to follow and is definitely not for periods when I am feeling very depressed as it just makes me feel worse when I have to unpick it stitch by stitch to correct the mistakes.  The second shawl is a beautiful shawl which has grown quickly and probably could be finished in a couple of evenings when there is nothing much on television.  It will be lightweight, weighing less than 75 grams, and very soft and fluffy as it is knitted in a mixture of mohair and silk. The third shawl is a Shetland hap shawl and this afternoon, I finished the main part of it and now I am knitting the border.  I started with 800 stitches on the circular needle which it has been knitted on, and 17 stitches on a separate needle which were the start of the border.  One stitch from the main shawl gets joined to the border on every other row and there are 160 repeats of the 10-row pattern that makes up each point of the shawl.  I have so far managed to complete 5 repeats so there are only 155 to go.

The other two subjects that have represented a major part of this blog are depression and psychotherapy.  I still have very long periods of depression, followed by short periods when I don't feel so bad.  Sometimes I can fall into a trough in a matter of hours and other times it happens over a period of days or weeks. Psychotherapy has made a difference to my life; it has allowed me to find out so much more about myself and to understand why I am the way that I am. Psychotherapy has been hard; it has sometimes been traumatic; it is often very emotive.  But psychotherapy is certainly helping me to cope with things better, to regain some self-confidence, and to increase self esteem.

So a lot has happened over the time that I have been writing this blog, and I am sure that a lot will continue to happen as the months go by.  What started off as an exercise to see if I could write anything worthwhile has turned out to be one of the best things that has happened to me for quite a long time.  I hope that I will continue to write for a long time to come, and that people will continue to read this blog.  It has been a bit of a lifeline over the last five and a half months and has brought me a lot of new friends.

This is what I have decided to write about in this milestone post.

I Hate Banks

I have had a very trying couple of days.  I tried to use my debit card and the transaction was refused.  It wasn't because of lack of funds because there was more than sufficient money in the account, but it was somewhat embarrassing.  The net result was that I had to phone the customer service line last night to try to sort it out.

Of course calling your bank these days means going to a call centre and listening to lots of instructions telling you what to do and then trying to decide which of the options that have been given to you is the one that you want.  I ended up being put through to three different departments before I got to the right one, and they told me that a hold had been put on my card because they thought that a fraudulent transaction had been made, and asked me if I had received a phone message about it.

I said that I wasn't aware of a message, but to be honest I didn't know whether there had been one or not.  I use the BT 1571 service even though I have an answerphone mainly because I never remember to switch the thing on when I go out.  However, I also rarely check to see whether I have any messages unless I have been away for several days, so it is possible for someone to phone me and me not pick up the fact that there is a message for me because I tend to dial the number that I want before pressing the connect button.

Anyway, the third department that I spoke to said that they had taken the hold off the card and that it should now work although I should give it a few hours before I tried to use the card again.  This morning I had to try to resettle an automatic top-up on my Oyster card that had failed because of the hold on my debit card, but the transaction still wasn't accepted.  This necessitated another call to the service centre and having to talk to two people again, but at the end of it all I was assured that the hold had been removed and that the card should work.  They also suggested that I call into my branch and get them to check things out as it was obviously them who had put the hold on in the first place.

This wouldn't have been a problem if it weren't for the fact the branch that holds my account is about 100 miles away.  Having been informed of this they said that I could go into the local branch and that I would be able to withdraw some money from my account there.  So I braved the cold and took a walk to the local branch and my card was still being refused. 

I ended up spending more than an hour in the bank while the very helpful staff in there managed to get the thing sorted out for me.  It seems that while the people that I had spoken to on the phone both last night and this morning seem to have thought that they had sorted the problem out, they had actually made it worse.  But after the long wait in the local branch I was eventually able to lay my hands on some of my own money so that I could buy some food and buy a new Oyster card as my previous one had probably been cancelled.

I was eventually able to step out into the cold air again and make my way home.  I picked up a few essentials on the way and spent the whole time thinking how nice the people in the local branch were.  They had explained to me what they were doing, apologised for the time that it was taking, and were very friendly.  

I still hate banks, but some of their staff are really nice.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Achieved - Yet It Doesn't Feel Like An Achievement

Earlier this year I had to give up studying for an MSc because I was having real problems with being able to concentrate while studying.  It is quite common for those suffering from depression to have periods where their capacity to concentrate on anything becomes severely impaired, and my worst one to date occurred in March.  But the problem with giving up studying was that I was left with more time on my hands with nothing to do and so the depression got worse.

I have always suffered withdrawal symptoms as each OU course finished and I waited for the next one to begin, but this time it coincided with a total lack of confidence in my ability to write an essay, something that had never occurred before.  I knew that like getting back on a horse after you have fallen from it, I needed to find something that would help me to regain some sort of confidence in my ability to write, which was something that had always been one of my strongest attributes when I was working.  To this end I decided to take one of the OU short courses.

These courses were not available when I started studying with the OU; they have, however, built up quite a selection of these courses over the last few years.  I looked at the courses that were available to see if there was anything that took my fancy.  Having read through the options several times I decided to settle for the OU course 'Starting with Psychology'.  There was a book to read, two TMAs to submit, and a long essay which counted as the examinable component of the course.  If I successfully completed and passed the course (the OU calls it 'achieved' rather than 'passed' on these short courses because you have to show that you have achieved a number of learning objectives, so are not give a numerical score for the work), I would earn 10 points which could be put towards the 360 points needed for an Honours degree.

I did the course, submitted my ECA, and yesterday the course result came out.  It says that I 'Achieved'.  But what did I achieve? I managed to write a couple of essays. I must have managed to take on board some of the course material because I showed that I had adequately used that material in the compilation of the essays.  I had managed to include references, to show how certain aspects of the material related to the questions set.  Yet at the end of it all I don't feel as though I have really learnt anything at all, and because of the way that things were marked I have little idea whether I wrote a good essay or not.

I'm still having trouble putting an essay together.  I have got to write three over the next three weeks on three different subjects. This should be easy enough for me to do, and yet I have not got any confidence in my ability to write a reasoned piece of prose at the moment.

The OU has decided that I achieved the standard necessary to be considered as a successful candidate on that course.  I, on the other hand, don't feel as though I have achieved anything.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

One Of Those Days

Today has been one of those days where doing anything has been a terrific effort.  I woke in the night, and then struggled to get back to sleep for a couple of hours.  I did eventually manage to drop of again and then slept through until about 8am.

It was a struggle to drag myself out of bed, and having done so all I have wanted to do is get back into it again.  So I have kept myself well wrapped up in a blanket and spent most of today on the settee.  I've done a bit of reading, a bit of knitting, I've watched a couple of DVDs, and most of all I have slept whenever I felt the need.

I am still tired and I am sure that I will drop off to sleep quite easily when I go to bed tonight.  But the problem is that it will probably be another night of broken sleep and I will wake up in the morning feeling as though I haven't had any at all.

The poor sleeping pattern that I have had to endure over the last ten years has been one of the worst things about having depression.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Only Three Puppies Left

It looks as though some of the the Shiba Inu puppies have gone to their new homes.  When I logged onto the live webcam this afternoon there were only three puppies playing around.  I expect these three will be gone over the next few days.  It will be a shame when they have left to go to their new homes because it has been fun watching them over the last few weeks.  However, there are some more Shiba Inu puppies which were born a couple of weeks ago, so if I get withdrawal symptoms I can always go and have a look at them. 

A Fairly Relaxed Weekend

In three weeks time, Christmas will be over bar the shouting.  I have spent the weekend trying not to think about it too much, but if I watched a television channel that had advertising almost every advert was aimed at Christmas.  

Saturday was a leisurely day, not least because I didn't sleep too well Friday night, so I was a little fragile.  I managed to finish knitting another jumper, that's four finished now and a cardigan, and I then finished sewing it together.  I'm glad that I decided to make a number of warm jumpers this winter as with it being so cold over recent days, jumpers have been an absolute necessity.

Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday; a leisurely day, a little bit of knitting and a bit of television watching.  I fell asleep watching television and woke a couple of hours later and took myself off to bed.  I went to sleep pretty quickly, but then woke at about 2.30 this morning and I have been awake ever since.

This week is going to have to be spent working on a couple of essays as well as trying to sort out making Christmas cards.  I think that couple of dozen should fit the bill, and if I put my mind to it I can get them made in a morning or an afternoon.  That will be another thing ticked off the list of things to do, the only problem being that the list never seems to get any shorter because it seems that for every one thing that I tick off, I have to add another two or three.

While I am not exactly jumping for joy at the moment, neither am I feeling quite as low as I was last week.  I think that part of the reason for this is Friday's psychotherapy session.  It is so often the difficult emotional sessions that have the greatest impact on me, and last week was no exception.  I am already feeling a little apprehensive about next Friday's session because my psychotherapist has told me that he wants to pick up where last Friday's session finished.  I know that this means another very emotional session because the subject matter disturbs me greatly and is capable of making me very angry even after the passage of a couple of years, but I am sure that I will survive the experience and hopefully benefit from it.  Only time will tell.

Now it is time to publish this and get down to the real business of the day.  Course books, pad and pen at hand I will start to work on an essay about the Dalai Lama, to be followed by one comparing two poems.  I know which one I am going to prefer writing.

Friday, 5 December 2008

A Very Emotional Ride

For the first time for several weeks I actually managed to sleep last night and I didn't resort to medication to bring it about for the reason that although the medication does ensure sleep, it also means that most of the morning also passes without me being conscious and that doesn't bode well for a psychotherapy session. I fell asleep quite quickly last night and while I did wake in the night, I did manage to get back to sleep and I was woken by the alarm going off.

I got up and did all the normal Friday morning ritual, but somewhere along the way I managed to be quite a bit later than normal in leaving the house.  I wasn't too worried because I always arrive early for my 10 o'clock appointment, so catching a later bus didn't worry me too much; I was sure that I would be there in plenty of time for my appointment.  I was.  In fact, I arrived earlier than I do most Fridays.  Explain that if you can.

When the psychotherapy session started, I didn't.  I found myself unable to speak, I just had no idea what to say.  In the end my psychotherapist got things going by asking whether there was a reason why I had gone back to the silent starts of earlier sessions after having been able to speak straight away for several sessions. He put forward several suggestions as to why this may be and in the end I had to agree it was a combination of all of them.  I was scared that the subject of Christmas might arise again, I have been feeling very low over the last few weeks and there doesn't seem to be anything on the horizon to brighten my viewpoint, and I was angry about the missed sessions.

The session progressed focusing on why I was feeling so depressed, and how I actually felt.  I was already crying and talking about these things didn't make it any easier.  I talked about not being able to sleep except with the help of drugs, about when I did sleep having nightmares that caused me to wake in a high state of anxiety, about not wanting to eat because it was just too difficult to cook myself something, about being unable to study efficiently or effectively because of lack of concentration, how my head and body did not feel connected, and how I wished I could go to sleep and just never wake up again.

The word suicide never actually got spoken, but it hung in the air and both of us knew that this was what we were talking about.  Was I thinking about suicide?  Had I made plans for such a thing?  Some years ago I really did consider it regularly, and I made the mistake (well it seemed like a mistake at the time) of making it clear that I was at the stage where I saw that as the only option in a conversation with Mr Smiley.  I think that he was horrified that I was at this stage and asked me what would happen if I didn't succeed, but ended up in a vegetative state or something similar as a result of a failed attempt.  I think that in that conversation Mr Smiley managed to persuade me that it was not a good idea, and that it was worth carrying on.  I think the only reason that I have never seriously considered actively taking my life since that time is that after the conversation with Mr Smiley, I realized that I was a coward and did not have the strength to carry it out, nor to do anything else to harm myself.  Yet, for all that I still wish that I could go to sleep and never wake up again.

The conversation moved on to the subject of anger; to the things that had happened to me and which of them caused me to be angry.  I can't be angry with my husband for dying, it wasn't his fault it was one of those things; I can't be angry with my mother for the way that she treated me because I don't believe that she realized what she was doing and how it affected me; but I am angry about the way that I was treated at work and how I was discriminated against, not given any support,  how I was asked to look into problems and to develop ways to deal with them, but then anything that I put forward was just ignored.  I think that I have always known that it was work, or the management there, that was responsible for my ongoing depression, developing lack of self-confidence, and total destruction of all self-esteem.  Having reached a natural break, and with 11 o'clock fast approaching, my psychotherapist decided that this was a good place to stop and a suitable place to pick up things again next week.   Yes, it was a very emotional ride this morning but I managed to survive the experience.

It was one of the most emotional sessions for some time, and hard work, but I left the hospital feeling that I had been properly engaged in the psychotherapy and even though I wasn't feeling on top of the world, I would be able to get through the rest of the day without too much trouble.  Instead of heading home, as I would normally, I had to cross the road and get a bus to take me to the local DHL depot so that I could collect a package of books from the OU.  This package contained the remaining books and the specimen exam paper for my Human Biology course.  I collected the package without too much trouble and then got the bus back home.

On arrival at home I realized just how hungry I was (I hadn't felt like breakfast this morning, and I realized that I hadn't taken my morning medication either) so I sorted myself out and then grilled some salmon which I had with pesto sauce.  I also did something that I haven't done for a long time; I had a glass of wine with my lunch.  Of course, I now realize that it was a mistake because I am feeling a little light-headed, somewhat heavy-legged, and as though I could fall asleep at any moment.  

I now feel fairly composed, I know that I have been crying because I have that heavy feeling in my head, but I am now feeling quite calm and ready to face the rest of today.  Mind you, the rest of the day is going to be spent relaxing, watching a couple of films and anything that is worthwhile on the television, and with doing some knitting.  The rest of the Christmas cards will have to wait until tomorrow now; I just can't be asked at the moment.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

My Christmas Card List

I may hate Christmas, but I am trying to make an effort and do some of the more conventional things.  One of these is Christmas cards.  I won't be sending many; just to the really important people in my life, but as some of them live abroad I have to get the cards off in the next few days.

It is an effort, but in order to show those who I wish to communicate with how much I care about them, there won't be any shop bought Christmas cards.  Each card will be handmade, and as such represents an effort on my part to show the recipients how much I care about them.

Some will be cute, some will be amusing, while others will be very traditional with angels or nativity scenes.  Some cards will take some time to make but others just a few minutes.  Each will be made with love.

I made an effort yesterday evening and started making this year's cards.  This afternoon I will be making some more.  I've started with the most complicated ones so that I can get them out of the way.  I shall finish those this afternoon, then I shall move onto the ones that are easier to do, but are no less effective for that.

They will take me a couple of days to complete as I will only spend a couple of hours a day working on them, but once they are done I don't have to think about them for another year.  And much as I don't enjoy the Christmas period, I do rather enjoy making the cards and deciding what card I will make for each of the people on my Christmas card list.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008


While I was writing my last post, the visit counter on my blog clicked onto 4000. I don't get masses of readers like many bloggers, but I do have my regulars, and of course I get those who only visit the once as a result of some strange Google search that has picked up my blog. I don't mind that my readership is only counted in the tens daily (the average is something around 30 at the moment), I am just amazed that anyone reads it at all.

What started off as a bit of a half-hearted experiment has become a way of life. I don't panic if I don't write a post every day, but I try to make sure that what I do write is informative, educational, or entertaining. I hope that I have succeeded. The mere fact that I get comments on a wide range of posts indicates that some people out there have been informed, educated or entertained.

I have two more landmarks coming up over the next few weeks. The first will be writing my 200th post, and at the end of the month I will have been writing this blog for 6 months. If you had asked me when I first started writing this blog if I would reach any of these landmarks, I would have said not a hope in hell's chance.

I'm rather glad that I was wrong.

The Poor Jelly Baby

Sometimes it can be really difficult to find something to blog about. I know that this blog is mostly about how I live with depression, but it would be really boring if that was all that I wrote about, in fact it would be ... depressing. This means that I write about other things too. About the knitting that I am doing at the moment, or in the case of the Shetland lace shawl, undoing; about things that I do that are out of the ordinary (talking to a lot of GPs about patients having access to their medical records for example); sometimes about things that I see on my travels (sometimes beautiful and sometimes funny); and, of course, I write about my struggles with furthering my education with the Open University.

One of the things that I do every day is to look at a number of news websites. One of these is that of the BBC, and it was while looking through that this morning I found something that I felt I had to blog about. It was an item with a link to the 'Screaming Jelly Baby'. But why would a Jelly Baby be screaming, I hear you cry. Well, it's an experiment, one of a series, that have been put on YouTube by the TDA in an effort to try to attract people to teaching science.

You can find the 'Screaming Jelly Baby' here. By going here you can see all five of the TDA videos. The idea is that the most popular of these will be replicated on a large scale at Train to Teach events in February and March 2009. At the moment the poor Jelly Baby is in the lead.

In case you were wondering, the experiment using the jelly baby is to illustrate the process of respiration, in particular the conversion of food to energy.

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Year Is Coming To An End

Can you believe that it is December already?  It doesn't seem five minutes ago that we were seeing in 2008 and we are nearly ready to bid it goodbye.  Although the sun is shining, the air is very cold, so if you are outside you can feel that it is winter.  This makes a change from the last couple of winters which have been very mild affairs.

I've been busy working on my biology course this morning.  I am going to do a little more this afternoon to see if I can get the data together to answer the fourth question of the TMA.  There are nine sub-parts to the question and I have already got the answers to two of them and I am pretty sure that they are right so that should give me 4%.

This evening I shall do some knitting, although there are quite a few things that I want to watch on television too, so I think it will have to be easy knitting tonight. This means that shawl knitting is out and it will have to be work on my red jumper that gets done. This is straight forward stocking stitch so I think that I should be able to manage that without too many mistakes.

While still not feeling brilliant, I am feeling a little better than I have done for a couple of weeks.  I'll have to see how things pan out from here.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Psychotherapy And All That

Yes, I had a psychotherapy session on Friday; it's taken me more than 48 hours to get over it. Actually that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I did need to gather myself after it, and part of that gathering process required me to get some sleep.

I had been told that I would definitely be having psychotherapy on Friday when I phoned the hospital earlier in the week, but it still didn't stop me half expecting it to be cancelled.  I had been having some problems sleeping (nothing new there) and Thursday night was no different, except where I do usually manage a few hours sleep, Thursday night I didn't get any.  I have to admit that I spent the whole of the journey to the hospital clutching my mobile in my hand half expecting the call to say that my psychotherapy had been cancelled again.  But the phone didn't ring.

My psychotherapy session started with an apology over the recent problems, and then my therapist decided that as it had been so long since my last session that he wanted me to tell him how I had been over the last month and what I had been doing.  I was able to tell him about my meeting with There and Back, and my foray into the education of GPs with my recently retired GP, B at a medical education establishment.  I was asked how I had felt when addressing the doctors and I told him that I had felt very anxious when I entered the lecture theatre and saw all the faces, but that when it came to me doing my demonstration, even with the difficulties of not being able to get into the live system, things seemed to have gone quite well.

I was asked how I felt after the demonstration and the question and answer session that followed it, and I replied that I felt as though I was high, but that things had started to go downhill a few days later, and that I had never really improved since then.  I told him about the conjunctivitis and how that had made just about everything impossible for several days.  I suppose that I should have told him that it was the psychotherapy sessions being cancelled at such short notice that had played a significant part in how I had been feeling, but I didn't say anything.

The session then moved on to how I was feeling about things at that moment.  I told him about how Christmas is such a difficult time for me and that everywhere I turned at the moment everything seemed to be focusing on Christmas.  The rest of the session focused on this and what were the things that affected me most of all.  We talked about loneliness, how I cope with it, about the lure of drink and tablets and how I usually have the strength to turn my back on them.

It was a difficult session, as I had known it would be after such a long break, and I felt very emotional both during the session and afterwards.  I am sure that the lack of sleep had a great deal to do with this, but it wasn't the sole reason.  Anyway, the session ended and I left the hospital and made my way to the bus stop to catch my bus home.  When I got home I had an overwhelming urge to sleep, so I went and lay on my bed and was asleep in minutes.  I watched a little television Friday evening, then had an early night and slept quite well.  I woke several times but soon fell asleep again and finally woke at about midday on Saturday.

The rest of Saturday was spent in a leisurely fashion, the most energetic thing that I did was some knitting.  I again slept Saturday night and dozed on and off most of this morning, although this afternoon I have done quite a bit of knitting while I have been watching the television.  The awful weather has precluded me doing anything more energetic.

Tomorrow I must get back to studying.  I did spend some on Thursday night, when I couldn't sleep, working on the TMA for my biology course.  I managed to make notes for several of the questions and I suppose that the most sensible thing to do at this time is to write these answers up in a proper fashion so that I can see how much work I have left to do.  Once I have done this TMA, which I hope will be almost completed by this time next week, I must get back to the material for my other course so that I can write the essays for the next TMA for that course.

But this evening, I shall not think about my studying.  I shall sit with my feet up, a shawl round my shoulders, and my knitting to hand.  I have been knitting a very pretty shawl for the last few days, that is nearing completion.  It is knitted in the most wonderful yarn and is a very pretty pattern that is simple to follow.  I am thinking of giving it to a friend as a Christmas present, but while knitting this I have realized that it ought to be quite easy to adapt as a scarf pattern and I think that I shall get some more yarn and knit a few scarves to this pattern over the Christmas period.  There are a few people that I want to give presents to and I think that they would appreciate a hand-knitted scarf that is like gossamer, and yet warm at the same time.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Even The Puppies Get Turkey For Thankgiving

Today, Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, and turkey is the usual choice of fare for the occasion.  A short while ago, human legs were seen in the puppies' pen, and something was held out for the puppies to take.  It was a cuddly turkey; their Thanksgiving treat.  

The poor toy has managed to survive a frenzied attack by all six of the puppies, and is currently lying in the puppies' bed, surrounded by the puppies.  It looks as though they are settling down for a short nap to allow them to recover from the frenzy of a short while ago.  The pup wearing the cerise collar seems to have decided that the cuddly turkey's stomach will make a nice pillow and so is adjusting the toy's position to make it as comfortable as possible.

Below is a picture of the turkey, which had already survived a good deal of savagery from the pups, but it seems to have survived the ordeal quite well.

Those Naughty Little Puppies

Yes, there does appear to be a lot of snow indoors in the home of the Shiba Inu puppies.  But it isn't snow, it is the remains of one of the large mats that are put into the puppies' pen for them to use to go to the toilet.

The little devils look so idyllic when they are sleeping, but it can be seen in this screen shot that the puppies were responsible for the devastation as the said mat can be seen half in the puppies' bed.

This happened the day before yesterday, and resulted in the webcam being switched off for a while to allow the cleaning up of the scene.  Yesterday evening it looked as though we were going to have a repeat performance, but something distracted the puppies and they started on a bout of rough and tumble in and around their bed area; then it was time for something to eat, and like many after a meal, they settled for a little post-prandial nap.

It can be quite misleading as to the actual size of these puppies, but you become aware of how small they still are, when the humans join them in the penned area for playtime at about 0630-0700 UK time.  After playing for a while, the puppies again settle down and it is time for a good night's sleep.  They are one of the few things that can bring a smile to my face at the present time.  I shall miss them when they leave for their new homes.

I Hate Christmas

It hasn't always been this way, but now I hate Christmas.  I used to love Christmas, shopping for presents, writing the cards, and looking forward to a surprise present from my husband.  We would invariably travel to my parents for the Christmas/New Year period, and the first thing that I would be doing would be helping Mum make the sausage rolls and mince pies.  She would roll out the pastry and I would add the sausagemeat and cut up the sausage rolls, before placing them on the baking trays and putting them into the oven; then we'd make the mince pies, where Mum would use the pastry cutters to make the bases and tops of the pies and I would load them with Mum's home-made mincemeat.

After my husband died, Christmas started to lose its appeal.  I would still go to my parents for the holiday period, but doing the Christmas shopping and writing the cards became much more of a chore.  Then Mum died, and the next Christmas was a bit of a trial for both my Dad and myself.  We coped though and I made the sausage rolls and mince pies by myself.  They took longer to do, but I didn't need to make so many, so things evened out in the end.

Then Dad died a couple of years later, just a few days before Christmas, and what had been something that I could tolerate became something that I absolutely hated.  I hate the constant television adverts for Christmas food or things to buy as presents, I hate not being able to go into shops without being bombarded with ideas for festive party food, I hate sitting down and writing the Christmas cards, and I hate people constantly telling me how they are looking forward to Christmas and assuming that I am too.

I had hoped to be going to Canada for Christmas this year, but owing to having to pay for some expensive repairs to the house, I have had to cancel my trip; I simply cannot afford it.  This means that I will be on my own again at Christmas.  The time of year that can be fun and happy for those with families, can be the loneliest time of all for those who are alone.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Puppies Are Waking Up

Yesterday I told you about the lovely little Shiba Inu puppies that I had become mesmerized by on the Daily Puppy website. The puppies are a few weeks old and live in San Francisco, so they are asleep during our daytime, but have provided a great deal of amusement at odd times during the evening and in the early hours of the morning. This screen capture shows the six of them in their bed with its cushion base.  The puppies often sleep almost lying on top of each other, although there is often one that prefers a little more space to itself.

It is morning now in San Francisco and the puppies are just starting to wake up for the day, although to be honest as soon as I had taken this screen shot they all settled down for a bit more sleep time.  Still, it's only to be expected because they are very young, and just like a human baby they spend much of their time asleep.  It can be really funny watching them having a mad half hour, playing with their toys and having wrestling matches with each other, but one by one they have to give up and seek the comfort of their bed so that they can have a rest and a short nap to build up their energy reserves again.

It will be a sad day when the puppies go to their new homes and I can't spend the odd few minutes looking to see what they are up to.

Somedays I Wonder ...

... whether anything good will ever happen.  Yesterday I thought that things were getting a little better, but today I'm not so sure. I've spent most of the day fighting back tears, though I have no idea why I am crying.

I've done a little bit of studying, but not as much as I wanted to. The problem was that I was reading the words, sometimes several times, yet I had no idea what it meant.  After about an hour of that I decided that it would be better not to bother, because I am going to have to go over it all again to make sure that I really do understand what I have read and to ensure that I have some reasonable notes for when it comes to time to revise for the exam.

I've also had a horrendous headache for much of the day, although it is now receding and I am hoping that it won't be too long before it has completely gone.  I just hate having a headache, especially when it's one of those where every movement that you make just seems to send more pain shooting through your head.

There is, however, one possibly good bit of news.  I have rung the hospital this afternoon, and it seems that I am definitely going to have a psychotherapy appointment this week.  So, on Friday morning I will set off for the hospital and just hope that my mobile doesn't ring while I'm on the bus.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Feeling A Little Better

I'm feeling a little better today; much better than I was feeling on Friday.  I haven't managed to start studying again, but I have planned things for the rest of the week, and I shall be getting back to the books tomorrow morning.  Fortunately, I am still well ahead of things on one of my courses, and this means that I can spend all my time working on the other one, at least for the rest of this week.

The weather has turned so cold over the last couple of days and I am having to make sure that I keep well wrapped up as feeling the way that I do I could quite easily fall prey to any bug that is going around.  The conjunctivitis seems to be almost better; my vision has returned to normal and it is only while I am asleep that my eyes get gummed up, but it is reasonably easy to get them cleaned when I have a wash when I get up.

I have watched lots of films over the weekend and done quite a bit of knitting.  I have left the Shetland lace shawl for the time being as I don't think that I could face it if I made a mistake and end up having to unpick some of it.  Instead I have been knitting myself another jumper; just a plain one this time, knitted in bright red aran wool.  It should be another winter warmer when it is complete.  I have also been knitting another shawl.  This is a Shetland hap shawl; hap is a mediaeval word meaning a cover, or to wrap snuggly, and these shawls were one of the commonest items of knitting that Shetland women made for themselves.  They were everyday items and were usually made in thicker, darker wools than those used for Shetland lace shawls meant for export. My shawl is being made in shades of grey and is a very simple pattern in comparison to that for the baby's shawl.

Tomorrow I will be contacting the hospital to see if they can find out for me whether or not I have a psychotherapy session on Friday.  I have no intention of making another trip to the hospital only to find that the journey has been wasted.  This is the longest break that I have had between sessions since I started in May, and all other breaks have been known about well in advance.  It is the lack of notice that has caused me the anguish over the last few weeks and is what I need to talk about with my psychotherapist.  So let's hope they have good news for me and I can start on the therapy path again.

Watching The Puppies

Sometimes when I am having a very low period it can be exceedingly difficult to find anything to raise my spirits a little. Just one thing that can make me laugh or bring a smile to my face can make an enormous difference.  Often I resort to watching favourite films or television programmes on DVDs, but when the down periods are of long duration I can run out of things to watch. The last couple of weeks have been difficult, but I have found something that has helped a little at odd times during the day. 

On my blog I have a gadget for The Daily Puppy, a website that has photographs of puppies sent in by their owners.  Most of us are suckers for a photograph of a cute puppy, but I have to admit that there are some breeds that I find hideous, so I tend not to bother looking at those.  Over the last couple of weeks the website has also shown the Live Shiba Ibu Puppy Cam.  The owners of a Shiba Inu which has had six puppies have put a webcam in with the puppies and it is possible to see live footage of them for about 16 hours a day.  Unfortunately, because of the time difference between the UK and San Francisco, the city which is home to these puppies, the webcam is off air during much of our day, but during the evening and the early morning, it can be real fun watching these six little tearaways playing with each other and with their horde of soft toys.

Each of the puppies wears a collar of a different colour; this means that it is possible to identify each of the puppies and see how their individual characters' are developing.  The puppy with the yellow collar seems to be much more lively than its siblings, often wandering around their enclosure when the others are sleeping. This morning 'yellow' seems to be playing at rounding up the other puppies, and is quite happy to give them a nip on the ears or the rump if they don't go where they are directed.  There is certainly a lot more rough and tumble this morning, and as there is also sound available, a lot of yelps today.  But it will soon be time for the webcam to be switched off and the puppies to get some sleep. That means there will be a period of 8-10 hours with nothing to watch, but this evening they will be back.

If you want to see the puppies you can do so by clicking on the puppy picture on my blog.  You will find the webcam located on the right of the page a few items down.  I am sure that they will bring a smile to your face too, but remember they are best watched during our evening hours or the early hours of the morning; by about 8am they are lying down to get a good night's sleep.

The only sadness is that it will not be so very long before these puppies go off to their new homes, and they are all spoken for, and there won't be anything to watch and raise a smile.  What is it about puppies that brings the softy out in all of us? 

Friday, 21 November 2008

What I Didn't Want, Happened

Thursday nights are invariably a night when I don't sleep well.  I know that it is stupid, but I can't help it.  Every Thursday evening I start to become anxious about Friday morning's psychotherapy session.  Last night I didn't sleep at all.  I eventually got myself out of bed and had a long soak in the bath, washed my hair, and got myself dressed.  I left the house at my normal time and walked to the bus stop.  After a wait of about five minutes a bus arrived and I boarded it.  It then took about 20 minutes to travel half a mile. Regular readers will probably have guessed what caused the hold up.  Yes, the roadworks caused by the replacement of London's Victorian water mains are still causing havoc.  The buses are on diversion, but there are even roadworks on the route that they have been diverted onto.

Eventually the bus made it back on to its normal route and apart from another minor hold up caused by yet another set of roadworks for the replacement of the water mains, I eventually arrived at the bus stop outside the hospital.  I walked up the road to the pedestrian crossing and crossed over to the hospital and entered the outpatients department.  I reported to the reception desk and then took a seat to wait for my psychotherapist to collect me.

I will admit that I had my mobile in my hand the whole of the time that I was travelling.  After having received phone calls cancelling my appointment at the last minute for the two previous Fridays, I was prepared for another call today, but it didn't come.  Neither did my psychotherapist.  When it was five minutes after my appointment time, I went back to the reception desk to check that they had phoned to say that I had arrived.  They had.  Another phone call followed; they were trying to find my psychotherapist. Then another phone call; he wasn't answering his phone, it was switched off.  The administrator then decided to send him an email; it came back with an out-of-office message.  Five minutes later there was another phone call; he wasn't in because he was sitting his Royal College of Psychiatrists exams.

I spoke to the administrator again.  My psychotherapist had told me some weeks ago that he would not be available 28th November, I was now wondering whether he had made a mistake over the dates and he should have cancelled our session for today rather than next week.  Or am I not going to have an appointment next week either?  I now have to wait until next week to find out whether I have a session or not.

I have been feeling low over the last couple of weeks, in part because of the way the appointments have been cancelled with no notice.  I will leave it to your imagination to decide what sort of state I was in when I left the hospital this morning.  I don't think you will find it very difficult.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The World Is A Little Clearer

I can report this evening that the world is no longer blurred; well not very much.  Although my eyes are still oozing all the time I am not suffering with having to look at everything through a thick haze.  I'm even able to do my knitting which is great as I have missed being able to do some whenever I sit down for half an hour or so.

I have been very low this week and having conjunctivitis which has curtailed some of my activities quite a lot has not helped any. Tomorrow, being Friday, is psychotherapy day.  Let's hope that it is not cancelled at the last minute again.  I really need to talk to my psychotherapist about some of the things that I have been doing over the last few weeks and how I have been feeling too.

Hopefully I shall be able to get back to my studying too.  I haven't been able to read for the last few days because of the blurred vision, so I have some catching up to do with my studying.  I might even have a go at answering a couple of questions on my biology TMA.  There are five questions, some with sub-questions, so there is a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Why Aren't GP Mental Health Referrals Hitting The Spot?

Today has been another day of blurred vision and very sore eyes. Reading has been difficult, and knitting all but impossible.  All of this means that I've been feeling low again.  

I have, however, been able to keep up to date with the blogs that I read on a regular basis, mainly because I can enlarge them enough to make reading them easy.  Two of these bloggers, Jobbing Doctor and Geepeemum have written about the difficulties of referring patients with psychiatric problems to see consultant psychiatrists or getting help from mental health crisis teams. These are problems that are often written about by bloggers with mental health problems too.

I have been relatively lucky when I have been referred for specialist help, but I am well aware that this has been the exception rather than the rule as far as mental health patients are concerned.  In the early days of my problems I was living in Cambridgeshire.  Whenever my GP referred me to see a psychiatrist I saw one, but that was in part because the psychiatrist was a personal friend of my GP, who was also the psychiatrist's GP, so my referral possibly did not have to face the hurdles that other referrals may have encountered.  But even though I saw the consultant psychiatrist whenever my GP considered it necessary, it did not mean that I necessarily got the best help from other mental health professionals.  This was particularly the case with the CPN who caused me so much angst that I came close to suicide after seeing her for a number of appointments.

Since moving back to London I have been referred by my GP for psychotherapy, and again I have been lucky.  I happen to live in an area of London which is served by a well known psychiatric hospital which happens to have a fairly large psychotherapy department.  Even so, I was warned when my GP made the initial referral that it could be a long time before I had an assessment, let alone received psychotherapy.  Luck was again on my side because I had an appointment for assessment within a few weeks of the referral and once it was decided that I was a suitable case for treatment (such a brilliant film title, and one that I have always wanted to use when writing on this subject) I was again warned that it would be many months, perhaps even a year, before a psychotherapist was available.  Fortunately I didn't have to wait too long for a psychotherapist to have a vacancy, and I have now been going for psychodynamic psychotherapy for six months now.

I know that I have been very lucky with the referrals and the treatment that I have received.  The problem is that not everyone who needs this kind of help is quite as lucky as I have been.  If certain cancer drug treatments are considered to be a post code lottery, then specialist treatment for those who suffer mental health problems is even more so.  Treatment should not be a last resort; it should not be necessary for someone to have to admitted to hospital in order to get the treatment that they should be getting as a right.

If the money that has been wasted so far on the infamous Connecting for Health had been put into Mental Health, then perhaps there might not be quite so many bloggers bemoaning how they feel that they have been abandoned by the NHS because they have a mental illness rather than ordinary physical illnesses. And the problem is that we are only the tip of the iceberg as far as people who need this help are concerned.

The government keep telling us that it is wrong to discriminate against those with mental health problems, and yet they themselves are doing just that by not making sure that this country's mental health services are properly funded and available to all those in need of help.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Things Are A Little Bit Clearer Now

Regular bathing of my eyes seems to have made a bit of difference.  They still keep filling with a lot of sticky muck, but my vision is a lot less blurred.  I can see to read things on the computer screen now, something that was impossible earlier today, and I have been able to do some knitting this evening too.  This is a good thing because it means that I have now been able to get back to the point where I was when I unfortunately pulled the needle out with the result that I had to start from scratch again.

I must remember to bathe my eyes just before I go to bed, although I expect I will have to prise my eyes open in the morning.  I might even be able to manage some reading tomorrow, which will be a good thing because I need to do some reading for my biology course.

Blurred Vision

This title could so easily refer to many of the proposals being put forward for the NHS, but it's a lot more mundane than that.  I woke early this morning (4.20am) after not having dropped off to sleep until well past 1am.  My eyesight is not what it was in my younger days, although I have always needed very long arms to hold books or to hold a needle and thread because I am exceedingly long-sighted.  This caused problems when I first told my mother that I had problems seeing the pages of a book, because at the age of four it was very difficult for me to explain to the optician what it was I could and couldn't see.  Anyway, by the age of 11 it was obvious what the problem was and I had to start wearing glasses for reading, usually something that happens when you get older.

When I got to the age of about 45 I realized that I was starting to have problems seeing road signs when I was driving, so further checks at the opticians led to me wearing glasses all the time, and varifocals have been my saviours since then.  This morning, however, when I put my glasses on I was still having problems seeing things.  My first thought was that it was just that I was tired and perhaps a bit more sleep would take care of the problem.  Unfortunately sleep wouldn't come and my blurred vision was not getting any better.  In fact, my eyes seemed to be getting worse and seemed to be filling with a sticky substance.  One of the problems of not being able to see without your glasses is being unable to look in the mirror to see what the problem is, and even with my glasses on I didn't seem to be any better off this morning.

Obviously a trip to see my GP was called for and the immediate diagnosis was conjunctivitis.  So I am having to regularly bathe my eyes to remove the muck that is accumulating in them and I have a prescription for some eye drops if they get any worse.  The problem with everything being blurred is that I can't read my course books, nor can I do any knitting.  So I have to hope that there is something worth watching on the television so that I can pass the time away.

(In case you are wondering how I am managing to write this post, I am using speech recognition software, doing a spell check and trusting to luck that everything is okay.)

Monday, 17 November 2008

When Life Goes Up And Down

When I wrote this post I described how I felt when I got the phone message to say that my psychotherapy session was cancelled as I was travelling to it.  It can be quite difficult getting yourself into the right frame of mind to make meaningful progress during psychotherapy sessions and until quite recently I had real problems with anxiety for several days prior to my Friday morning sessions.  These days I am able to cope a little better and while I still get quite nervous about the session, this only occurs on Friday morning and is not normally something that I worry about too much.  Okay, so the butterflies sometimes take on enormous proportions, but I do not feel physically sick as I used to.

Last week was a bit of an up and down week for me.  I had managed to get over the disappointment of the cancelled psychotherapy session, but I still had the demonstration to give to a room full of doctors to get through.  In actual fact, this turned out to be a bit of a breeze except for the momentary panic when I saw the sea of faces in front of me.  So getting myself up and ready to leave for psychotherapy on Friday morning I was thinking about all the things that I had to talk about.  Meeting a There and Back and our chat over a up of hot chocolate, how I had felt when my last psychotherapy session was cancelled, how I had performed at the demonstration in front of the doctors; all of these things would help me to talk about how I had been feeling over the last week.

I got off the bus a stop earlier than I usually do.  It was a nice morning, I had time before my appointment, so a little exercise wouldn't come amiss.  As I was walking down the road to the hospital I switched off my mobile.  Okay, so I don't get many calls on it, but it is a cardinal rule that phones are switched off before therapy starts.  I turned into the hospital's entrance gates and walked to the Outpatients Department and in through the doors and made my way to the reception desk to book in.  I was told that my psychotherapy session was cancelled again.  I walked out of the hospital and cried.  It may seem a strange reaction, but from being quite upbeat especially after having done so well at what had been a big step for me with the computer demonstration, I was suddenly plummeting into depression; little things had suddenly become mountains again.  I made my way home again and sat down wondering what to do.  In the end I tried reading the course book for one of my OU courses.

Friday evening I had an appointment with my GP.  Nothing special, just my routine appointment so that he could see how I was and make sure that I was coping with everything.  I arrived early, I can't help it, it's one of the things I do; the computer arrival system told me that my GP was currently running 9 minutes late, so although there would be a short wait it wasn't anything too much.  Then completely out of the blue I started having an angina attack.  This is not an unknown occurrence, but I haven't had an attack for months and I had come out of the house without my handbag because I didn't think I would need anything that was in it; my keys could be put in my coat pocket so a handbag was unnecessary, except that was where my GTN spray was and I needed it now.  I decided that as long as I sat quietly the attack would soon pass, and anyway I would be in with my GP shortly.  Except I wasn't; I was nearly an hour late getting in to see him and I was still having occasional pains.  

Instead of my quick in and out of the consulting room, there were lots of questions about the pain and checks of blood pressure. Blood pressure was absolutely fine, but GP was still considering phoning for an ambulance until I reminded him that I have Prinzmetal's angina.  The angina attacks are caused by an artery in my heart going in to spasm and I have had angiograms that show that my arteries are completely clear of any signs of blockage.  It is a form of angina that is not that common, so it is quite common for doctors to have to look it up when I tell them about it.  Once GP was satisfied that I was okay the consultation continued with me talking about how I felt after having had my psychotherapy cancelled twice, and also about the high that I had after doing the computer demonstration.  After a final admonition to make sure that I always carried my GTN spray with me, I left to go home again.

Saturday morning found me travelling to a tutorial for SK277, the second of my OU courses this year.  It was my first chance to meet the tutor and although I managed to stay for the whole tutorial I did have some very uncomfortable moments.  Once the tutorial was over I decided to treat myself to some lunch in the nearby shopping centre before setting off home again.  Saturday evening, still feeling a little low after the morning's tutorial I decided to sit down to do some knitting as it had been a few days since I had done any.  It was at this point that my world really fell apart.  Just a little thing made me feel like there was no reason to carry on living.  The little thing, was pulling on the knitting needle and having about 20 or 30 stitches fly off and everything start to unravel.  There was nothing I could do other than pull the knitting off the needles and start again, but Saturday evening was not going to be the time to do that.

So that was why today was one of those days.  I had endured more bad stuff than good stuff over the last 10 days and I was finding it hard to cope with.  I decided that today would be a day for nothing too energetic, nothing that would unduly tax my mind, and if I did some knitting I would put it down as soon as something went wrong.  As luck would have it, my knitting has progressed well this afternoon and evening.  I haven't quite managed to do as much as I had before the catastrophe occurred, but I am getting there.

I'm starting to feel a little more optimistic about tomorrow now.  I plan to spend the morning studying and tomorrow afternoon and evening I will do some knitting and hopefully I will get to a point where I am once again in virgin territory; that is to a point that I have not reached before on this centre panel for the shawl.  I had hoped that I would have finished the centre panel over this weekend, but that didn't happen.  I am aiming for completion next weekend now and with it the four-fold increase in stitches that will signify the start of the borders.

Sometimes you know what causes you to fall into a depression, and sometimes you don't.  When it is caused by a series of small mishaps, which unfortunately begin to seem much larger than they actually are because of the increasing number of them, it is much easier to find your way out of the darkness.  With a bit of luck, by Wednesday I will be feeling fine and wondering why I felt bad at all.  I certainly hope that is what happens.