Thursday, 31 July 2008

Having to Go Hungry and Other Things

I had a light breakfast this morning, a slice of toast as I was directed in the instructions that I received when I had my referral consultation at the local hospital last week, and that will be my last solid food until tomorrow evening. Why am I having to go hungry for so long? Tomorrow I have the unenviable joy of having a colonoscopy, so I have to stop eating, drink plenty of clear fluids, and then take two doses of jollop, one this evening and the second first thing tomorrow morning, to clear out my system completely so that they can get a good view of my insides.

It just so happens that I have had this particular jollop before, and although the consultant apologetically told me that I would have to take this before the procedure "so that they could get a clear, unobstructed view" I wasn't too upset because it's not actually that bad. The problem comes about an hour or so after you have taken it, but it is effective and did it's job last time.

As someone who suffers from depression, I have often had periods when I lost all interest in eating and sometimes had to be forced to eat something in front of other people so that they could I ensure that I had something each day. As it happens I have been going through one of those periods over the last week or so, where instead of having my normal two meals a day it has been difficult to face even one. However, you know what it is like, as soon as you can't eat, for whatever reason, you suddenly feel hungry.

Fortunately, this has not happened to me so far. I have been unable to sleep very well over the last few days (another side-effect of depression, and probably anxiety about the colonoscopy) so I was up and about at 5am this morning, and had eaten my solitary slice of toast by 6am. As the time rapidly approaches noon, I have to say that I am not feeling too bad. I have been doing as instructed and been drinking plenty of clear liquids. Water early on, and then a Diet Coke a little while ago, but although I do not feel in the least bit hungry (thankfully) I have this sudden urge for a lovely hot cup of tea. Well, that would be alright if I could have some milk in it, but I can't, and it's not a cup of fruit tea that I crave, but a good strong brew with a dash of milk. Typical, isn't it? You always want what you can't have.

It's going to be a long day for me tomorrow as I have my regular psychotherapy session tomorrow morning in one hospital, and then have to go to another one in the afternoon for the colonoscopy. Fortunately, the two hospitals are very near each other, so all I will have to do is kill a couple of hours with a good book between appointments.

I have previously remarked that therapy is hard, and the last few sessions have been very difficult, but I feel that it is helping me to find out about myself and why I am the way I am so it is not a wasted effort. When I was being assessed for this treatment I was asked what I wanted to achieve and I said that the most important thing for me was to get my life back. Achieving this will be difficult because I know that I can't have many of the things that I really crave. But learning to accept this, finding ways to cope with it, and emerging out the other side as a functional human being, which I haven't really been for about the last five years or so, is beginning to look like something that may be possible.

There is no doubt that the psychotherapy is helping, but so is writing this blog. Having lost my Internet connection last week, and having to wait for at least another week before I can get it back, has meant that I have not been able to write as things occurred to me, or when I needed to write to get things off my chest. Thankfully, this morning I have been able to book a computer in the local library for nearly three hours, and this has enabled me to get up to date with my emails and with reading posts from my favourite bloggers, and I have had enough time to sit down and write this. It's just as well I can type quickly, and fairly accurately, so that I can post something that is more than just a few sentences in length. And being able to sit down and write this has taken my mind off what tomorow has to bring, even though I am writing about it, as my brain tries to compose, and control my typing, and carry out on-line editing as I go through it, and still leave me time to have a proper read through it, and publish it before the computer flashes a warning to me that I only have five minutes left and I should think about saving my work and logging out. I'm a woman, I can multi-task. Well, sometimes.

And it's only Thursday!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Still Having Problems, But The Exercise Is Good For Me

I'm still having problems with my Internet connection at home, so I have to be thankful for the 14 computers that they have at my local library. It has not been too bad trying to get on one when I needed it thankfully, although now it is the school holidays it seems that the library is the hangout of choice for most of the children in the locality. Unfortunately, not necessarily for improving their reading skills. And having to walk up the road to get to the library does at least mean that I get some exercise during the day.

I mentioned in my last post about how I had not realised how much I had come to rely on my Internet connection, and now I have also realised how hooked I have become on reading my favourite blogs and somewhat surprisingly how much I actually enjoy sitting down to write a few random thoughts each day for my own blog.

I notice that while I have not been able to check up each day, that a number of my favourite bloggers are now away on holiday, or are just coming back from their travels. My hopes of a trip away this summer seem to be getting more remote, and not solely because of lack of funds. If I can't get away, this will be the first year since 1987 that I have not been to Corfu for at least a week during the summer. It is probably my favourite place on this earth, for a number of reasons, but it is also the place where the worst thing in my life happened; it is where my husband died, and it is where his ashes are buried.

We loved Corfu from the moment that we arrived there; we fell in love with the island and its people. We made many friends there, both British and Corfiot, as well as Dutch and Swiss. I am on first name terms with many of the locals, and for some reason which I cannot understand, I am regularly mistaken for a local myself and people start talking to me in Greek and can't understand why I look at them blankly.

I'm afraid that I am as bad as many other Brits because I do not speak a foreign language. I ought to be fluent in Greek by now after having visited there so many times in the last 20 years, but I'm afraid that my brain seems to have been wired up wrongly because while I have a really good command of English, I find it very difficult to learn other languages. My brain refuses to stop thinking in English so instead of being able to automatically think of what I want to say, I have to go through a major translation game in my brain before the words come out of my mouth. I think that it may also be the reason that I have problems playing musical instruments. I know how to play, I can read music, but I find it very difficult to do both things at the same time.

Still, a girl can't be perfect, can she?

Friday, 25 July 2008

You Don't Realise How Much You Rely On Something...

... until you don't have it anymore. I survived for years without access to the Internet at home, but when I started working towards my Master's with the OU I had to have Internet access and I now rely on it for so much.

I do Internet banking, I order my monthly large shop online and have it delivered, I use the Internet for buying a lot of other things too, such as wool for my knitting, and supplies for my card making, and I have managed to get some real cross stitch kit bargains on ebay. Amazon is a lifesaver when it comes to buying all those books that are necessary for my studying, and at lower prices than I could get them on the high street always supposing that I could find a decent bookshop.

So I am finding it a nightmare at the moment to be having horrendous problems with my Internet connection. There is a problem with my phoneline so it may be that is the reason that I can't surf and blog as I would like to, although the problem with the phone existed before the Internet connection suddenly disappeared. I have been told that my phone line will be properly operating by Monday 8pm at the latest, so I guess I will have to wait until then to see whether my Internet connection returns too. If it does, all well and good, but if it doesn't I guess it will be a long phone call to the ISP's phone helpline because I can't log on to the Internet to be able to use their very helpful online help facility. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it just a little bit silly to put all those pages of help on their website, if you can't access the web to be able to read them.

Anyway, it means that I will probably have to continue using the facilities in my local library for an hour a day until I have got everything sorted out and up and running again. I shall have to pop down here early tomorrow morning and try to sneak on for an hour to catch up on my email and have a quick look at what is happening on the blogosphere, and I live in a very enlightened part of London where the libraries are open on Sunday too, so I can come in then if necessary. The library is only about five minutes walk from home so it's not as though I have to make a long journey to get there.

Perhaps there are benefits to my living in London after all.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

A Catastophe Has Occurred

Well, it's a catastrophe for me. I have lost connectivity to the Internet at home, and I am absolutely lost without it. Whilst I haven't been blogging for long, I have used the Internet for a lot of background information during my studying, and it is an invaluable tool for keeping in touch with people by email.

Yesterday morning, I added a comment to one of the blogs that I read regularly. I then did a couple of other things on the computer, and then when I went back to do a google search, suddenly I had no connectivity. I was devastated. How would I find out what was going on in the blogosphere? Would anyone miss me? What about the regularly email contact that I have with an old friend? We communicate several times a day through the medium of email, and all of a sudden I was incommunicado.

The problem seems to be with my wireless router, so I may have to get another one. This is the second time in just a few weeks that it has stopped playing the game and I am not very happy. I had not realised how much this method of cummunication means to me until suddenly I am without it.

I've come to the local library to use one of theirs for an hour. Just enough time for me to check my emails, write this short blog, and then search for a good buy on a new router. One of the joys of writing the blog at home is that I can be completely anonymous. No-one will know who I am unless I choose to tell them, and there are only a couple of people to whom I have imparted the information. In the library, I am in an open area, where I can be easily overlooked, and where my time is limited to one hour.

So if you don't see me about on the blogosphere for a couple of days, it's not because anything has happened to me, it's just that the technology that allows me to interact with you all, has let me down a little.

Fear not, I will be back.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

I See That Doctors Are Being Attacked Again

As my regular readers will know I quite often have problems sleeping. I've been fairly lucky over the last couple of weeks because some additional medication has helped me to escape the zombie life that I had fallen into and I had been sleeping very well. Things were a bit difficult Monday night, but I eventually dropped off, but tonight it doesn't seem as though I am going to be so lucky.

I decided to switch on my computer and have a browse at the news, so I logged on to the BBC site and what should I find as the first two items on the home page but another couple of stories having a go at doctors. The first story is about NICE telling doctors to cut down on the number of prescriptions for antibiotics that they issue. It tells us that antibiotics don't help you to get better from coughs and colds, and that it is the over-prescription of antibiotics that is causing the increase in the resistant strains of bugs that are appearing in hospitals. I know that, I didn't need NICE and the BBC to tell me so, and I am absolutely certain that doctors don't need to be told that either. But the big problem is not that doctors are gung ho about prescribing antibiotics, no it is the middle-class mothers who are paranoid every time little Jeremy and little Jemima get the merest hint of a sniffle and rush to the doctor's surgery demanding something to make them better. It is these same mothers, who against all the rational scientific advice have refused to allow their children to have the MMR jab, and destroyed the herd immunity that had been built up in this country to mumps, measles and rubella.

These mothers believe that their children won't get these childhood diseases like children of my generation did, so based on unsubstantiated claims by a single doctor (who is even now appearing before a GMC Fitness to Practice Panel for serious professional misconduct over these claims) they have shunned the MMR jab for their children and put other children at risk by their stupid behaviour. There are children who cannot receive the MMR vaccine for good medical reasons, and while we had herd immunity it was unlikely that they would catch any of these diseases. We are constantly hearing of the increased incidence of mumps and more particularly measles, which can have very serious side effects including resulting in death. Children whose immune systems are compromised because they suffer from cancer perhaps, are being put at more risk of complications because of this selfishness on the part of others.

Rubella is generally not a problem for a child who gets it, but there are serious risks if such a child passes it on to a pregnant woman. Whilst most of the women of child-bearing age will probably have had the rubella jab when they were at school, not all of them will, and it is again those selfish mothers who worry about a risk that does not exist who are putting unborn babies at risk of being deaf, blind or stillborn.

I can already imagine the increase in the number of doctors who will receive bad write-ups on the ridiculous iWantGreatCare website as a result of their refusal to issue prescriptions for drugs that will make no difference at all to the severity or recovery from something that when I was a child you just suffered in silence.

The second item on the BBC website reports that doctors are to face annual assessment and face losing their licence to practice if they don't come up to standard. Two things have occurred to me about this story. I have been reading a lot of the medical blogs that are being written by a variety of doctors in this country, and I know that some of them read what I have to say from time to time, and I thought that doctors underwent some form of assessment anyway. I know that several of these medical bloggers have referred to such a thing in the last few weeks, and have spoken of it as being something that had been occurring for some time rather than something that has just been announced. The second thing about this story is that on the page on which it appears there is a link to a story from February 1999, which gives details of doctors voting that any of their colleagues who failed what was at that time described as an 'MOT' should face disciplinary action and could even be struck off. It strikes me that Sir Liam Donaldson is to make an announcement about something that doctors voted for more than nine years ago.

It is interesting that these two stories hit the website about the 'witching hour' when most would be tucked up in their beds. If this is not another sign of this government attacking the doctors in this country, I don't know what it is. The NHS is not perfect, but it is my NHS and I know what I want from it, and I don't want government telling me what I can or cannot have. Doctors in this country are among the best in the world; otherwise why would so many come from overseas to train here and to work in the NHS. Our GP system is the envy of many countries, not least because they enable us to receive genuine continuity of care. Yes, there are some poor doctors, and some who do not perhaps have the best interpersonal skills, but there are methods of dealing with these problems and hostile headlines at breakfast time is not how it should be done.

To the ladies and gentlemen of the medical profession in this country, the nurses and ambulance crews, to all the people who work in the NHS, I would like to say that by and large I think you are all doing a pretty difficult job well, in what are very often extremely difficult circumstances, and you are not being helped by a government which seems to have suborned a number of medical men to do their dirty work for them.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

It's Been A Quiet Day On My Blog

It's been very quiet out there today; the numbers of readers for my blog is down. Have I not kept people's attention? Was it all a flash in the pan? I haven't had a comment for a couple of days. I hope that it is just a blip because I am quite enjoying writing this and it is certainly proving to be very good therapy although it is impinging on my studies a little.

There was a farewell tea party for my GP at the surgery this evening and although I have only been with him for a year he has been very good to me and I felt that I ought to go to say goodbye. Quite a lot of his patients were there, and because my GP has been at the practice for 25 years some of the people who are now very elderly, were probably younger than I am now when my GP started the practice. Actually, it's not really goodbye from me, because after our discussions at my appointment with him yesterday, he has roped me as a lay person for some of the things that he is involved in and that he will carry on doing even though he will no longer be seeing patients. I'm not very good at occasions like this usually, so my attendance was in part rehabilitation for me getting out into the big wide world. Luckily there were a couple of other members of the Patients' Panel there, so I didn't lack people to chat with, and I did my good deed for the day by helping to hand out the teas and coffees to the others that were there. Well I was one of the youngest people there, and it did mean that I didn't have to stand in the corner not knowing what to do.

Anyway GP has had a brief look at my blog and is going to keep an eye on what I write over the coming weeks, so I do know that I will have another reader once in a while. And we will undoubtedly be keeping in touch regularly by email, so although I will no longer be his patient, I won't lose touch with him altogether, which I am sure will be a good thing.

I've undertaken another first today; well it's not really a first, but is was something that I have not done for a very long time. I went and had dinner in a restaurant all by myself. I love Italian food, and curries too. There isn't an Indian restaurant within walking distance (at least I don't think there is), but there is an Italian restaurant less than a mile away from home. I had spotted it when I was walking to the bus stop a few weeks ago, and today I decided to try it. Absolutely superb is how I would describe it. I chose a little table tucked away in a corner so I wouldn't be in the middle of other people if the restaurant started to fill, and the service was very good while the food was excellent. Just in case you wanted to know, I had mushrooms cooked in garlic and olive oil, followed by chicken breast in a mushroom, white wine and cream sauce. I love mushrooms in case you hadn't realized.

Last Thursday There and Back gave us an insight into what she considered to be Therapeutic Intervention No 1 for depression. This led me to a wonderful website called "A Quarter Of" and a world of sweets from childhood was opened up. This site sells all those sweets that you used to buy in the corner sweet shop when you were a child, and I'm afraid that although I am not usually a sweet eater I did succumb and order a few choice morsels. I was chatting with my neighbour's sister a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about a little sweet shop that used to be a few yards away from the primary school that we attended. One of the things that we both loved was called Spanish Gold, and consisted of shredded coconut dusted with chocolate powder, and which was packaged to look like pipe tobacco (oh for those long ago days when political correctness didn't exist and we kids could eat sweet cigarettes and munch on coconut tobacco). Well I had to buy some, didn't I? This evening I have opened up my box of goodies, and I had a peek, but I've resisted so far from dipping in. That's a treat for another day. I have to say "Thanks very much for introducing me to this wonderful site There and Back, I shall be enjoying my treats for quite a few weeks to come."

Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon, Or Maybe Not

Yesterday I wrote and said that I was feeling better; well I am a lot better than I have been but things aren't perfect yet. I found that out when I decided that I had better go to bed and couldn't get to sleep. Reading didn't help, I couldn't concentrate on the page and kept reading the same couple of lines over and over again. I'm not a lover of hot milky drinks and I didn't have any milk anyway. And a warm bath was out as I'd had one of those already.

Midnight came and went, so did 1 o'clock, then 2 o'clock. I began to think that this might be one of those nights where I got no sleep at all. But at about 2.30 this morning, my eyelids finally began to droop and I fell asleep with no bother at all.

When my depression is at its worst, I wake in the early hours of the morning, any time between 3 and 4 o'clock is usual, and then I find that I cannot get back to sleep irregardless of what time I fall asleep. Today was different though. Today I slept right the way through until 7.30, so although I am tired, I have had a reasonable amount of sleep and I don't feel like crawling further under the duvet so that the world can't get at me.

This is just as well because I have a social gathering to go to this evening, and I need to get to bed early tonight as I have to rise early tomorrow morning. Tomorrow I have a hospital appointment at 8.30 in the morning, so that means that I will have to rise very early to get myself ready to catch a bus. Tomorrow morning I will have to be leaving the house at the same time that I was leaving my bed today.

I had better make sure that I put the alarm on tonight.

Monday, 21 July 2008

I'm Feeling A Lot Better

I've been writing this blog for three weeks now, and I have to admit that when I first started writing it I thought that I would be the only person to read it, or maybe a couple of friends would also read it if I told them I was writing it. So you can imagine how happy I was when the counter clicked past 200 this morning. I appear to have a number of regular readers.

I know that the Jobbing Doctor is one, because he kindly put a link to my site after he had read one of my early posts. He now has me on his blog list as "from the other side of the fence" and has linked my post about what it's like to suffer from depression as a shared item. The Nice Lady Doctor also reads my post and has made a couple of nice comments about things that I have written and of course that is much appreciated. Yesterday I had a comment from a blogger in New Zealand, so I am truly reaching an international readership.

So what has this got to do with me feeling better? Well, I've been to see my GP this afternoon, and it is the last time that I will see him as my GP because he is about to retire. I had been for my daily constitutional and I had ended up at the surgery about 40 minutes early for my appointment. I didn't mind having to wait because I had a book with me so I could read to pass the time. But I was lucky; he called me in to see him 30 minutes before my appointment time and we had a long chat about things. He asked me about how my psychotherapy was going and we chatted about that. Then we got a bit side-tracked and we started talking about the Internet, about websites, and about blogs so I admitted to him that I had started writing one about three weeks ago. I also told him that my readership seemed to be increasing as the days went by and that I found writing these posts quite therapeutic. My readership is going to increase again because he asked me for the name of the blog so that he could have a look at it when he had finished surgery.

He said that I appeared to be looking better than usual, but admitted that how I look physically often bears no relation to how I am actually feeling and then I realised that I was feeling better. For the first time for a couple of months I feel as though there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not sure why this is, because I have something coming up that I am actually quite worried about, and yet here I am feeling quite jolly. Maybe it is because I am getting somewhere with the psychotherapy, but I have a sneaking feeling that it is sitting and writing this blog, and the lovely comments that I am getting, that have helped me turn a corner.

As I said yesterday, nobody who has depression wants to feel the way that they do, and no amount of people telling you to snap out of it, or look on the bright side, can lift that weight that you feel pressing down on you. It is amazing that a simple message from somebody who you don't know can lift your spirits and help you on the road to recovery from the depression that you are in. Even though you know you may slip into the hole again at some time in the future, the fact that somebody is there across the ether who appreciates what you have written and takes the time to tell you so can make all the difference in the world.

What A Coincidence

When I wrote this I had not read this or this.

It seems that by sheer coincidence I have said the same thing as a lot of other people.

It's a shame that in this day and age that those with mental health problems are having to face such awful discrimination. It means that as a group, mental health sufferers are more likely to suffer discrimination than any other minority. What a terrible state of affairs in the 21st century!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Is It Christmas?

Have I lost nearly six months of this year? Is it really Christmas already? I suppose it must be if The Great Escape is on BBC2 this evening.

How To Deal With Meeting A Person With Depression

It is a sad fact of life but the majority of people in this country feel very uncomfortable about the subject of mental illness. What makes it worse is that a significant proportion of the population are likely to suffer from the most common form of mental illness, depression, at some point in their lives, yet that particular illness still carries a serious stigma with it.

The problem for the sufferer of depression is that it can be a very debilitating illness, but to the majority of non-sufferers that you meet you show no signs of having anything wrong with you. There are no tell-tale spots or rash, you have no stitches, bandages or plaster cast, and you don't require sticks, crutches, or a walking frame to get around. You can be, however, very seriously ill indeed and yet there are no outward signs that would be obvious to those that you meet. So short of carrying a bell or clapper like the lepers of long ago, or wearing a notice around your neck proclaiming "I have depression; treat me carefully" most people would not realise that there is anything wrong with your health.

I don't know how depression manifests itself in other people, I can only describe what I feel, but my depression is not only something that affects the way that I feel about things, it also has some very definite symptoms that I feel physically. When it is at its worst, depression makes me feel as though my head and body are not connected to each other. My body feels numb, like the numbness that you feel in your lip after having an injection at the dentist's, and my head has a woolly feeling with a tendency to feel very light-headed as though I have drunk alcohol on an empty stomach. All of this is combined with an overwhelming desire to cry, though I have no idea what I am crying about, it is just something that I have to do.

So these are the physical symptoms that I feel, which in themselves may not seem like much, but are nonetheless capable of lowering my mental state to a level even lower than it is already. I find it impossible to concentrate; reading becomes something that is unbelievably difficult. I have always loved reading, and half an hour with a good book before I lay down to sleep was the perfect end to the day. Now I find that I have to read the same page repeatedly to stand any chance of understanding what I have read. I have always been shy, but depression makes it incredibly difficult to interact with people that I do not know. Social functions become trials that can cause anxiety to build up days in advance, and small talk something to be avoided because you are likely to become tongue-tied while attempting to have the simplest conversation.

When somebody asks you "How are you?" you answer automatically "Fine" although you aren't really. You answer like this because you know that they really don't want to know that it took a monumental effort to get out of bed, that getting yourself to this stage in the day has been a war against irrational feelings, and that if they ask you anything else you are likely to burst into tears. You hate it when they say "Smile, things could be worse" when you know that there is nothing that could make you feel worse than you do at that particular moment and and smiling is the last thing on your mind because you are finding it almost impossible to just exist. If you were to answer the "How are you?" question truthfully, the questioner would become embarrassed and not know how to further the conversation because they would find it difficult to deal with someone with a mental illness.

Mental illness is something that happens to people. They don't ask for it, and they most certainly would prefer not to have it. Unfortunately, while the medical profession has made incredible advances in the treatment of many of the diseases and injuries that affect us physically, diseases of the brain are not so easy to treat. While we are very similar physically, we are all unique mentally; that is what makes it so difficult to 'cure' mental illnesses.

The next time that you meet someone who suffers from depression, please remember that they are a human being just like you, they don't want to feel the way that they do, and that you can't catch what they have got through contact with them. But most of all, remember that they don't like being stigmatized because they have a mental illness. Remember that; because at some time in the future the person with depression could be you.

Friday, 18 July 2008

A Day In My Life

I'm late hitting the keyboard today. Friday is my psychotherapy day, so most of the morning is spent travelling to the appointment, having the therapy session and then travelling home again. As There and Back says in her blog "therapy is hard", and I found today's session very traumatic. I knew that this was not going to be an easy process after having had my assessment meetings at the hospital, but I don't think I realised just how much 'baggage' that I have been carrying round with me without being aware of it.

Anyway, I came out of the hospital after my session and I knew that I just had to have a cigarette. Don't all start shouting at me about how anti-social it is or how it's bad for my health, I am well aware of that. I smoked for many years and then a couple of years ago I decided to give it up. I can't use the patches because they tend to set up an allergic reaction on my skin, I can't stand the taste of the chewing gum and I have real problems with the inhalator (I don't know why but I just find it a waste of time) so giving up for me means doing 'cold turkey'. Sometimes I can go for weeks or even months without having a cigarette, but occasionally something happens and I have this overwhelming urge to have one, and this morning was such an occasion. I know that they say you should get rid of all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays when you give up, so that you won't feel tempted, but when I feel like I did this morning I think it is better for me to have one or two cigarettes than to get into such an anxious state that I do something really stupid. This means that I always have a packet of cigarettes with me, although it can sit in my handbag for months without me opening it.

I smoked a cigarette as I walked up to the bus stop and while I waited for the bus to arrive. The bus journey is about 20 minutes in duration, even though I live in London and the hospital is only about 4 miles from my home, but this morning it was taking a little longer due to the inordinate number of roadworks that are going on, and the number of vehicles parked where they shouldn't have been. Still the journey did allow me to gain a little more equilibrium and I decided that it would be worth my while not getting off at my usual stop but going a little further to do a bit of shopping. All I was really looking for was some extra-large-eyed darning needles that I need for sewing up some knitting that I had just finished and another garment that I shall probably finish knitting tonight. And while I was doing that I thought I might as well pop into the hairdresser's and see if I could get an appointment in the next couple of weeks.

I had my hair cut a couple of weeks ago after having let it grow for quite a while because I just couldn't be bothered to make an appointment, but when I looked in the mirror after it had been blow-dried I suddenly realised how much grey hair there was in a very prominent position and, in fact, throughout. So I walked into the hairdresser's this morning and asked if I could make an appointment to have some highlights put in and my hairdresser said "Do you want me to do them now?" I was somewhat taken aback; she meant it. So I took a quick trip to the bank to get some money, and into the sandwich bar because I was getting hungry (I can never eat breakfast on a Friday because I am always so strung up), then it was back to the hairdresser's.

Please don't get the wrong idea about me, I'm not a vain person, but I do have a bit of a thing about my grey hairs. It's strange because I really don't have that many, certainly a lot less than most people of my age and hair colour, but my Dad still had very little grey hair when he died at the age of 81, and I am very proud to have inherited so many of his characteristics that I get a bit paranoid about this silly little thing. Well, there was a lot of friendly banter in the salon and I was soon feeling a lot better than I did when I left the hospital, and by the time I left I was feeling incredibly uplifted. I'm supposed to be saving money at the moment so that I can have a holiday, but I think it was money well spent. From feeling very traumatized when I left the hospital I now felt as though I could face the world and give a good account of myself.

By the way, I never did buy the needles that I wanted so I suppose I will have to go out for them tomorrow.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Happiness Is ......

Happiness is, as the saying goes, different things to different people. I feel that it is a very long time since I could honestly say that I felt happy, but I am sure that as I come out of this period of depression that happiness is something that I will feel again. I suppose that is what keeps me going.

Since I have been writing this blog, a number of other bloggers have left me comments. Some have said that they liked a particular post, some of them have read all my posts and have added me to their blog list, and all of them have given me encouragement. One of them is Lemon whose blog can be found here. Lemon has left comments for me on several posts and has told me that she has added me to the list of those that she reads regularly, and that warms my heart a little. Actually, it warms my heart a lot, because after she had left what was, I think, her third comment, I sat down and read the whole of her blog. When I read her comments I knew very little about her, but having read her blog I realized that Lemon is a young lady for whom the compilation of her blog is a way of releasing some real frustrations that she feels because she is unwell, and nobody is absolutely sure what is wrong with her.

I'm sure that Lemon is happy sometimes, she does her best, but her illness makes her feel tired and she has lost much time at school and yesterday she made a post saying that she was sad and that her life seemed to be moving on without her. Having read her blog I felt that I had to leave her a comment; so I did. Lemon has been blogging for a little longer than me, and she is a very articulate young lady for her age, but no-one had ever commented on her blog before. When she read what I had written, I think it made her happy that someone had bothered to read her blog and taken the time to comment on it.

Some write their blogs as a form of diary of what they have been doing; some as a means of venting their frustration. Some hide behind a curtain of anonymity (for very good reasons). while others are quite open about who they are. But we all write our blogs in the hope that someone will read what we have written and find that they have something in common with us.

We are a strange group of people. We sit at our computers writing about all sorts of things, very often saying things that we would never dream of speaking out loud because we are too shy, or frightened to let others know what we are thinking. But the fact that we can remain relatively anonymous behind our blog names means that we can stand up and be counted over things that matter to us. The list of blogs that I read regularly grows daily as I find new ones that I may find interesting, and I am starting to make more comments on them as the days go by.

In this post
I said how nice it is to be read. It is nice, but it can also start to bring happiness to one who is usually so down through no fault of their own.

Of Cabbages And Kings

I'm quite enjoying this blog lark. The only problem is that I am spending more time at the computer and less time with my books. That's a bit naughty. However, I don't really mind because this is actually helping to make me feel better than I have for a very long time.

When you have been in a very long depression finding your way out of it can be very difficult. You start to think that it will never get better as one bad day succeeds another, and then you get worse days and even worse days. When this starts happening to me my head and body no longer feel connected to each other and a good night's sleep becomes a distant memory. Sometimes I have trouble getting to sleep, then manage a couple of hours of fitful sleep only to wake up and then not be able to get to sleep again. Sometimes I drop off to sleep very quickly, but again wake in the early hours of the morning being totally unable to get back to sleep. And sometimes I never get to sleep. A week or so of this and I am at the stage where I am hardly functioning at all.

Fortunately this doesn't happen too often and a slight change in my daily medication will enable me to get some proper sleep and after a few days of this I start to feel a bit more human again. Don't get me wrong, I'm still depressed but I don't look like a zombie any more. There is a problem though. The change in medication does allow me to sleep properly but if I continue it for too long I get to the stage where I am asleep, or would like to be, for 23 hours out of 24.

At the moment I think that I have managed to achieve an equilibrium. I am getting a reasonable amount of sleep at night while also managing to remain fairly active during the day. Hopefully a couple of weeks like this and the current depression will start to lift and life will be worth living again. If we could have some decent weather so it seemed a bit more like summer, I think that the recovery could be swifter. Whatever happened to those long hot summers of my childhood? Still there's no chance of a hosepipe ban this summer!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Around The World

One of the things that many bloggers have on their sites is a meter to show how many visitors the site has received. Having such a meter means that you know whether people are dropping by or you are writing for an audience of one.

I had a comment from The Witch Doctor welcoming me to the blogosphere after my second post, so I knew early on that I had written something that had attracted the attention of another blogger, but that did not mean that there would be anyone else who knew of my existence. Would I be writing my best material, probably when I should have been spending and hour or two studying, and nobody else would take any notice of what I said? Then I wrote something which attracted the attention of The Jobbing Doctor and he kindly put a link to my blog from his, and before I knew it there were lots of people looking at my blog.

So what has this got to do with meters? Well, the one that I have on my blog allows me to see whereabouts in the world the people who drop in on the blog live. Understandably the majority of visitors have been from the UK, but what has surprised me is the fact that people from the USA, Canada, Australia, France, Egypt and the Republic of Ireland have also found their way there, and I can look at a map to prove it.

This means that the blog is a bit like having penfriends as you did when you were at school. But the difference is that there is no expensive postage to pay, and lots of penfriends can read the same "letter" no matter where in the world they are. Another benefit is that you can write in your native tongue and it is up to the reader to translate if he doesn't speak your language. I had a German penfriend when I was at school; he spoke little or no English, so I had to write to him in German as well as receiving his letters in his native tongue. That would have been okay if I could have understood what he was writing. My language teacher was teaching me to speak and write German in a grammatically correct manner, but my penfriend was writing colloquially which meant that half the time I had no real idea what he was talking about. I'm not a great letter writer at the best of times but trying to write letters in a foreign language soon defeated me and my penfriend was a penfriend no longer.

So to all the "penfriends" around the world who have read my blog, either through direction from The Jobbing Doctor or because they found me by chance, I would like to say thanks very much for bothering and I hope that you will read me again sometime.

PS. Please drop me a comment too so that I know what you do and don't like about my blog.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

OU Students Likely To Be Disadvantaged

I sometimes wonder what planet our politicians, especially this government, are on, as they seem to be living in a totally different one to me. Some months ago it was announced that government funding would no longer be given to universities for students who were studying for an equivalent or lower qualification (ELQ) than one that they already held. The Open University was particularly concerned about this because many of its students do indeed fall into this category and they felt that if their funding was cut then the cost of OU courses would have to go up. Because of this they started a petition to 10 Downing Street expressing concern about these plans and as both a graduate and a present student of the OU I was more than happy to put my name to this petition.

Today I have received an email from 10 Downing Street, as will all the thousands of others who signed the petition, linking me to the Government's response to this petition.

It seems that our pleas have fallen on deaf ears and the Government is hell-bent on making things as difficult as possible for OU students, which is rather sad as Labour were responsible for bringing the OU into existence in the first place. The Government's argument that it will allow more students to receive funding support for their courses (ie lower course fees) is undoubtedly flawed, for how can they guarantee that the funding will indeed go where it is intended. There are apparently something like 6 million adults in this country who have A-Levels or their equivalent but have not got higher qualifications and the reply says that they should be the ones to receive the support that this change in funding will allow. It believes that this will allow a larger number of mature part-time students to be supported. I think that they are wrong.

I had no A-Level equivalent qualifications when I began studying for a degree. In fact, that is one of the major benefits of studying with the OU, there are no significant educational requirements needed for you to become a student. Another benefit is that its courses and qualifications are structured to allow their students to continue working at their full-time job while studying for a degree, and that is what I did.

One of the reasons that the OU has so many successful graduates each year is because it offers a cost-effective way of gaining a third-level qualification. However, this change in funding probably means that it is going to be more difficult for me to continue studying with the OU. I am unable to work at the present time because of the depression and anxiety from which I suffer. Unfortunately I can't get any support in the form of benefit payments because I receive payments from pensions that I paid into, and widow's pensions in respect of my husband, that put my income above the level at which benefits can be paid, but are low enough to mean that I am one of the people who have been adversely affected by the removal of the 10p tax rate.

I worked for more than 30 years for this country, two thirds of the time as a member of the Armed Forces, but now I find that this country is doing nothing for me. I suffer from ill-health through no fault of my own, and the one thing that helps to maintain my sanity is likely to become priced beyond my reach. When will this government stop meddling in things that work well?

It's Nice To Be Read

I woke up this morning feeling more like my usual self; the room didn't start spinning the moment I sat up in bed, and I managed to get to the loo without having to hold on to the wall for support. So today I am going to go for a walk to get some exercise (something that I haven't been able to do for a week) and then I am going to sit down and finish the TMA for my current OU course. It should only take me a couple of hours and it will be great to have it done and sent off.

Thanks to the Jobbing Doctor I have had a lot of people read my blog over the last 24 hours, and a couple of people have made very nice comments about my writing. As I said in my very first post I have no real reason for writing this blog other than as a means to "vent my spleen" at things that annoy me, or to relate things that happen in my generally very dull life.

It's nice making friends, isn't it?

Monday, 14 July 2008

A Relatively Good Day

Today has been a relatively good day for me. I'm feeling a lot better now the world isn't constantly spinning around me, I've cooked myself a meal for the first time in about five days, and I found out today that there are people out there who have read my blog.

The Jobbing Doctor kindly gave me a mention today and lots of his readers have made an effort and had a look at what I had to say. It is quite gratifying to know that someone has read what I have written, and thought it worthy of highlighting to others. This is one of the nicest things that has happened to me for a very long time, and it has given me the encouragement that I needed to keep writing my ramblings in the hope that they may inform, entertain or amuse.

No Longer On My Hands And Knees

For the first time for nearly a week I am able to walk around the house without too much fear of falling over. My labyrinthitis seems to be improving, but having had it before I am well aware that it may flare up again, so I won't count my chickens before they're hatched. No matter, it is nice to be able to walk around without having to hold on to the walls, or while it was at its worst on my hands and knees. That is one of the problems of living on my own.

Meals have been very basic for the last few days, but as I am now able to stand unaided I am going to be able to cook something for myself tonight. Oh, joy!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Chatting With The Bride

I have just had a brief conversation with my god-daughter on the phone; she had a lovely day yesterday, but she thought that the day passed so quickly after what had seemed like an interminable time for the great day to arrive.

My problem (apart from having to miss the big day) is that I have difficulty thinking of her as an adult; to me she still seems to be a little girl. She is a sweetheart, who not so long ago admitted to me that she was sorry that she had not worked a bit harder at school, but was still happy with her life and the choices that she had made. And so she should be. She is a partner in a business that has been busy from the day that it opened its doors almost a year ago, her new husband is a great lad who also has his own business, and the pair of them have been together for about 10 years now, so their love for each other must be on a fairly firm footing.

I have been promised an early viewing of the wedding video and copies of lots of photographs so that it will seem that I was there instead of lying on my sickbed with the world spinning around. It won't of course, but it will have to do, and she does at least know how much I love her and that I was thinking of her as she made her vows and became a Mrs.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

I'm Feeling Sad

It's not a good day today. No, it's not a really bad day with the depression; in some respects it's worse than that. My god-daughter is getting married today and I can't be there because I have labyrinthitis, which means I can't drive to where the wedding is and I can't stand up without falling over. I can only stop the room from spinning by lying down flat, although I can sit up a little if carefully propped by pillows.

So what am I going to do when I should be enjoying myself at a wedding that I have been looking forward to for so long? I shall be lying in bed watching one DVD after another, or reading a book (though I don't think it will be my OU course book), or maybe even having a nap to pass the time.

Not really how I intended to spend today!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

In Sympathy With The Medical Profession

I am not a doctor (I'm not clever enough and I'm too old to try now) but I find it very interesting, and often very amusing, to read the blogs of the Jobbing Doctor and a number of the other doctors who regularly give us their point of view on things medical and that pertain to the medical world. Over the last week there have been a number of posts from these caring professionals dealing with the Darzi Report as well as the wholesale GP-bashing that seems to be going on at the moment.

As a member of the general public who has the need to consult a doctor on a regular basis, I would like to say how much I sympathise with the doctors in this country and the horrendous attacks that are being made on them by people who really should know better. I was with my last GP for about 15 years and he knew me very well; he helped me through the grieving process when my husband died very suddenly, and he supported me through a number of major illnesses, which eventually led to my having to take medical retirement. My move from Cambridgeshire coincided with this wonderful GP taking early retirement because he was fed up with the way that this government were treating doctors, and GPs in particular. So having moved to London, I had to find myself a new GP and I was lucky because I found one who has been very kind and helpful over the last year. Unfortunately this new GP is retiring in just a few weeks, again pretty much as a result of the GP-bashing that this government seems to be so keen on.

Why am I commenting on this? Well, as someone with a very complex medical history (which has all happened in the last 10 years) it is important to me that I have a GP with whom I can develop a good relationship so that it is not necessary to go through my complete medical history each time I have an appointment. What worries me is that this situation could very likely be what is facing us if Lord Darzi, the Government, and the CBI get their way.

One thing that the NHS will never be is a business; it is a service and should be treated as such. Yes, we should be entitled to expect certain standards, and with the right support the NHS can meet those standards, but if Government is constantly moving the goalposts, it is understandable that doctors will become disenchanted and feel less inclined, as well as being less able, to provide the service that they so obviously want to.

So, I am happy to stand up and be counted. I want to stand with the doctors and say to the Government, "Keep your hands off our GP practices, stop trying to privatise something that needs to remain in the public sector if it is to continue helping those of us on low incomes who can't afford private medical insurance or with complex medical problems that require regular contact with the same doctor for continuity of treatment".

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Losing Track of Time or Losing My Mind?

One of the things that I have found most difficult to cope with since I had to give up work is keeping track of time and in particular which day of the week it is. Most people who suffer from depression will tell you how important it is to keep to some sort of a routine, but when you can't remember what day of the week it is, then it really can be a bit of a problem.

So one of the ways that I remember which day it is is to look for a television programme that only occurs on a particular day of the week. Yesterday was Saturday; I know that because Doctor Who was on BBC One (I know there are repeats during the week but they are on BBC Three). But that hasn't stopped me thinking it was Saturday today.

Now I know that seven days haven't passed, so why have I kept thinking today was Saturday? Is it really just a case of me losing track of time, or is this the start of me losing my mind?

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Doctor Who Withdrawal

I love Doctor Who. No, not in the "let's get married" sort of way; more a case of "the best television series ever" kind of love affair. But in little over an hour the current series will be ending, and I am going to have to do cold turkey until 2010.

Yes, I know that there are going to be repeats, and there is the promise of the specials for next year, but I love the 13 weeks of continuous new stories that we have been having for the last few years.

I'm old enough to remember watching the original Doctor Who; I remember persuading my parents that we had to watch it after all the preceding hullaballoo that there had been. We did watch it, and I was an afficianado from the first. I went off it a bit after Peter Davison, and when the new Russell T Davies Doctor Who started I thought that I was too old to watch such a programme. So I missed Series One, and I didn't watch Series Two either, but then they started showing repeats of both series on BBC Three and I became hooked. Friday night I would sit down to watch and be entranced for an hour (I watched Doctor Who Confidential too).

So tonight I will sit down with a drink (Diet Coke, I'm not allowed anything stronger) and I shall pass 90 minutes in the company of a group of people who have reawakened my love of a fictional character. Doctor Who, I will miss you, but I hope that however you are reincarnated when you come back you will maintain the joie de vivre that Russell T has brought to you.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Bad Days and Worse Days

Like anyone who suffers from depression, my life isn't always a bowl of cherries. I don't have good days and bad days, rather it's bad days and worse days, but every now and again something happens that lifts my spirits and I feel as though life is worth living after all. And the strange thing is, it can be very little things that make the difference.

I've been going through a really bad period just recently, and while I'm not out of the woods yet, I am managing to hang on in there and I am aware that this feeling won't go on forever. Trying to find things to do that allow me to keep my mind active, but that don't require too high a degree of concentration is always a bit of a problem, and when I can get back to studying is always an indicator that things are improving. And I am just getting to that stage at the moment. After a couple of weeks where I have been wanting to write an essay for the TMA for the Open University course that I am doing at the moment, but have been totally incapable of doing anything about it, I am finally feeling as though I can have a go and hopefully write something of which I can be reasonably proud.

I first started studying with the Open University just over a year after my husband died. His death was very sudden, and somewhat unsurprisingly I started to suffer from depression. A year after my husband died I had to go into hospital for major surgery, and it was about this time that two very important people in my life, my GP, and a very old friend and work colleague, both suggested that I ought to find something to fill the empty hours in my life. Now I'm not sure what these two splendid chaps had in mind (probably flower arranging or learning a language perhaps) when they made their suggestions (they both spoke to me within a couple of days of each other) but doing a degree with the Open University was not quite what they envisaged. For some reason while I was lying in my hospital bed it seemed to me that this was the most obvious thing in the world.

The OU proved to be a lifesaver for me. I had a demanding job with a lot of responsibility and having something that I could turn to for a change of pace helped me to get through the empty evenings. Forcing myself to get into a routine of coming home from work, quickly getting myself an evening meal, and then sitting down for a couple of hours with the books became a way of life, and one that I shall never regret. Sometimes the completion of the TMAs (tutor marked assignments) was a problem and I had to ask for a deferment of the submission date from my tutor, but I usually managed to complete them on time. At about the time that I completed my BSc (Hons) I had to give up work on medical grounds as my depression had got much worse, I was suffering increasingly from severe anxiety attacks, and I had lost all confidence in my ability to do anything and everything.

So you can probably understand why I am so concerned that now that I am not working I am having so much of a problem answering a reasonably simple question in approximately 1000 words including references (no chance of me being accused of plagiarism). Writing detailed reports of a technical nature was what I did when I was working, and being acknowledged as having a good command of the English Language, both orally and in writing, I seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill over this particular TMA. And what makes it all the more strange is that this is one of the OU's Openings courses, the simplest that they do, and I have previously done some studying at Master's level and got good marks for it.

So, as I said earlier, after a month or so of feeling absolutely desperate and having very little sleep, I am starting to feel a little more human again, and actually keen to get back to the essay writing and the book reading. So tomorrow is going to be a day of sitting in a comfortable chair (I think better that way) with pad and pencil and hopefully enough of my previous reading will still be in my memory and the essay will flow onto the page. After all these years I still like to sit down with a pad to write my first draft because I find that it suits me; I also find that I can write at the same speed that I think whereas I can type faster than my brain seems to put the words together.

And what has allowed me to turn the corner? I managed to have a full night's sleep. Yes, a full eight hours. No problems dropping off, no waking after a couple of hours sleep and then being unable to get back to sleep.

To paraphrase a song, "What a difference a night makes".

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

A Patient's View of Darzi et al

I am probably one of the few non-medical, non-journalist types to have read the much heralded report from Lord Darzi, but I am also reasonably sure that I will not be the only person to read it and end up thinking "What is it all about?" I admit that there were some areas that I skim read, whilst there were others that I read in detail, even going back to reread them to make sure that I hadn't misunderstood what was being said. The Jobbing Doctor, who is one of my blog favourites and has already made a number of posts on the report, doesn't seem to be too impressed. And I can't blame him. As a classic example of mean-nothing doublespeak, this report is brilliant.

This is supposed to be putting forward something that will benefit the population of England for the next 10 years, I was unable to find anything that told me what was actually going to happen other than the fact that drugs would get faster NICE approval, and this had already been announced, and that I would have the right to choose my GP, not only which practice I joined, but also which doctor in that practice I could ask to see. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought I was already able to choose which practice I joined, within certain constraints to be sure, and up until a few years ago I could ask to join the list of a particular doctor within that practice.

I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent, I have studied in my own time for a degree while holding down a very responsible job, and I hope that I have a reasonable command of the English language, but I had problems understanding what this report was trying to say. Some years ago there was a push to make sure that important information was put forward in clear language, that anyone could understand. This report fails to meet that criteria. Why do I find this so worrying? Well the NHS is something that affects all our lives and we ought to be able to have a say in what we want. This report claims that the views of patients and NHS staff have been taken into consideration in making the proposals for the future, but we still have things put forward that are not necessarily what the patients (or even the NHS staff) want. Having moved back to London after living in another part of the country for 30 years, I decided that I would try to integrate back into the community and one of the ways in which I thought I could do this was to join the Patient Panel at my GP Surgery. We don't meet very often, but we do thrash out matters quite carefully, and we got agreement for the practice to offer some late evening and Saturday appointments before the government decided to impose this on GPs with threats of funding cuts. We also discussed and agreed to changes in the way that the practice operated its Duty Doctor rota with the result that the practice can now offer a significant number of additional appointments each week. This was achieved through thoughtful discussion, everyone's point of view being listened to, and compromise where it was necessary.

The NHS will never be perfect, will never meet everybody's dreams of what such a service should be, but there must be ways of providing an efficient service that meets the needs of the vast majority without introducing extra layers of service which will be costly and only be pandering to a small section of the population. Why put large sums of money into polyclinics (in London) and heath centres in other areas of the country to help a few people who don't want to take time off work to see a doctor, when that money could be put to use in the NHS that already exists and does a pretty good job as far as I am concerned. I've always understood that the way to get the best out of anything or anyone, is to ensure that the best use of the money available is made and that it should not be wasted on infrastructure and manpower that does not enhance the service provided. In other words, IF IT'S NOT BROKEN, DON'T FIX IT.