Friday, 31 October 2008

A First At Psychotherapy

For the first time since I have been going to psychotherapy there was not a silence at the start of my session.  Normally, there is a truly deafening silence once we get into the room and sit down, but this morning I actually started talking almost as soon as I had sat down. And I kept talking.  There were short intervals where I was silent, but they were periods of seconds rather than minutes while I pondered what I thought or felt in answer to questions from my psychotherapist.

The last few sessions have been much more like conversations, rather than me having to bare my innermost thoughts and feelings.  It is obvious, even to me, that the therapy is have a beneficial effect.  I even admitted that I was feeling more confident about going to therapy, something that I don't think I could have said just a few short weeks ago.  I was asked if I thought the growing confidence was a permanent thing, but I had to admit that I wasn't sure that this would be the case if I fell into a period of deep depression.  However, I'm not thinking about that.  What's the point of thinking about something that may never happen?

After I got on the bus to come home, I remembered that I needed to get a button for the jumper that I finished earlier this week, so I stayed on the bus past my usual stop and went to the shopping centre nearest my home. I had to buy more than one button as these days they only seem to come on cards of several buttons (fortunately it was only 3 on the card that I bought) and while I was there I also bought some wool to knit a hat and some mittens, and I found some lovely chunky wool being reduced so I bought some to knit another jumper. The hat and mittens will have cost me £2, and the jumper just less than £12.

Just after I got home the postman rang the doorbell because he two packages for me that couldn't be put through the letterbox.  It was the pattern and wool for the Shetland lace shawl that I am going to knit for Kelly's baby.  The wool is the finest that I have ever seen and having seen it, I can understand how a shawl knitted from it could pass through a wedding ring.  Once I have knitted it, I shall certainly give it a try.  The pattern appears quite complicated, but I have been knitting lace shawls for about a year or 18 months so following the complex charts doesn't worry me too much these days.

So now all I have to do is find the time between my study sessions to do all the knitting.  That is one thing about the long winter evenings, there is plenty of time for knitting.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Another New Jumper

Yes, I've finished another jumper. Nothing very special this time, just something for wearing about the house or when I pop to the shops.  This time I didn't procrastinate over sewing it up either, which makes a change.  I only finished knitting it this afternoon and I got going on the sewing up immediately.

Knitting keeps me going during the evenings while I'm watching television, and as this one wasn't too complicated to follow, it meant that it grew quite quickly. I should perhaps have been doing some studying rather than working on this jumper this afternoon.  I did about an hour and a half on my Human Biology course this morning, but my eyes started to glaze over and I could feel myself drifting towards sleep, so I gave it up for a while.  I shall look to see whether there is anything worth watching on television tonight and if there isn't I shall try to spend another hour or so with the books.

There was a message on my student home page on the OU website on Monday letting me know that my first TMA is due soon.  As it is not required until 14th November, I don't call that soon.  I'm not worried because an hour or so with the TMA will see it ready to send in, but I think it may have been a bit worrying for those new to the OU because this week's reading forms part of the material for the TMA.

On a different note, I see that I have now written more than 150 posts for this blog, and this evening will probably see the visits counter hit the 3000 mark. Not a lot of visitors by the standards of some blogs, but it is more than I ever expected when I started writing this blog in the summer, at a point when I was feeling pretty low.  The fact that I regularly get comments to the things I write also helps to brighten my day.  So I must say thank you to all of you who take the time to read my blog and write comments; I really do appreciate it.

Winter Has Arrived

I don't think that there can be any doubt that winter has arrived.  The temperature plummets at night and even though we have some sunshine during the day, there is no warmth in the sun.  Now is the time for thick winter woollies and warming soups and stews to warm you body and soul to keep out the cold.

I have sorted out my winter pyjamas and thick dressing gown, and the T-shirts and short-sleeved blouses have been put away for another year.  I'm even considering sorting out some socks to wear with shoes and trainers. This is unusual for me because I normally live in sandals; in fact, I can't remember the last time I wore a proper pair of shoes.

The last thing that we need at the moment is a really cold winter.  With the cost of fuel bills soaring, keeping your home warm is going to cost more than it ever has in the past, and the elderly are going to find it more difficult than ever. One wonders how many are going to succumb to hypothermia this winter, and whether anyone will take responsibility for those deaths.  

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

How Do You Make Notes?

One of the things that I have always had a problem with while I have been studying with the OU is the compilation of notes.  Practically every course has a section in its Introduction booklet or Study Guide entitled 'Note taking' or 'Making notes'.  Every year I read this section and tell myself that I will make sure that I do indeed compile good notes so that when the time comes to revise for the exam I will be prepared.  But I never manage it.

I start every course full of enthusiasm for the task. Reading the course material and carrying out the activities and exercises that are proscribed is not a problem. However, producing notes that will help me to remember all the necessary information to help me pass the exam seems to be completely beyond me.  I have read various books about strategies for this task, and no matter what I try, I never seem to be able to succeed.

The last few courses that I have completed have not included an exam, a substantial piece of written work being submitted in place of it.  This suits me fine because I am afraid that exams cause me to go into a state of extreme anxiety, which generally starts a couple of weeks before the exam date and is likely to continue until I get the results.  I have never failed an OU exam yet, but I have had a couple of close run things.

While the first of the courses that I am taking at the moment is one that relies on a long written piece in place of an exam, the second course does not, so note taking is something that I need to address again so that I can revise for the exam in as efficient a manner as possible. So, how am I going to produce these notes?

To start with I am going to skim read each chapter, highlighting important points as I find them. Then I shall read each section of each chapter more carefully and make handwritten notes of significant information and producing a precis of that section.  After that I shall put a bullet-pointed version of these notes into Microsoft Office One Note with references to the pages where the information came from.  As I complete each of the course books I will print out these notes and store them in a folder with the course book and the TMA that covers this part of the course, and hopefully by the time it comes to revising for the exam I will have a comprehensive series of notes and references that will enable me to give a good account of myself in the exam.

I think that this should give me the best chance of getting a good mark in the exam; only time will tell.  But if any of you out there have any suggestions that will help me to make the notes that I need and to revise efficiently, I would be very grateful to receive them.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

An Adventure

I gave up using my car earlier this year because the increasing price of petrol was making it impossible when living on a pension.  So travel anywhere these days is by bus and one of the things that I have discovered is that the buses that I remember from my childhood don't always run on the same routes as they used to.  That hasn't proved to be too much of a problem because I can go on to the Transport for London website on the Internet and enter my start point and where I want to go to and select the method of travel that is preferred (in this case bus) and a few seconds later I will be given a series of options.  So far I have been really lucky and for every journey that I have wanted to make I have only needed one bus to complete the journey.

Today I needed to go to the local DHL depot to collect a package.  I checked the Internet yesterday and the journey could be completed using one bus.  I had a longer walk to the bus stop today than I usually do because the bus I needed comes from somewhere different to the one that I have been using for most of my journeys recently.  That wasn't a problem, it was only a 10 minute walk to the bus stop and the wait wasn't too long when I got there.  Because I was unfamiliar with the route I had taken my mini London atlas with me; it meant that I could follow the route that we were taking, judge when I needed to get off the bus and then follow the map while walking to my final destination, the DHL depot.

It all went very smoothly, I found my destination without any trouble, handed in the card with the details of my package and a few minutes later I was signing for it and setting out on the return journey.  Again everything went smoothly and the whole adventure was completed in about two hours.

The package was worth the effort.  It was the books for my next OU course; Human Biology.  So this afternoon is going to be spent going through all the preparatory reading and possibly starting to read the course material. The course officially starts next Saturday, but I am sure that I can get quite a bit done in the next week although it will undoubtedly be more difficult to follow that the other course that I am doing.

So while I had a little adventure getting the books, the big adventure will be studying the material and learning a new subject.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Friday Is Doctor Day

I've written before about Friday being a day of seeing doctors.  Friday morning sees me attending my regular appointment for psychotherapy, and my first appointment of the day with a doctor. This hour of talking about myself and my feelings and thoughts about things in my life is not the easiest hour of my week, but it is helping me.  My friend, Mr Smiley, has said that he has noticed a big difference in how I am over the last few months and I know that going through the psychotherapy is a big factor in this.

I have always tried to set myself high standards to achieve, and for many years I did just that. But when I lost the support of my husband, I started to lose confidence in myself and my ability to do many of the things that I had done without thinking previously.  It wasn't just the depression that I started to suffer when my husband died, but also the harassment and discrimination that I started to encounter from some people at work.  For years I managed to keep working despite all this, but eventually it had such an effect on me that work became impossible.  During this time my mother had died very suddenly, so in addition to all the problems that I had at work and with my health, I had to keep an eye on my elderly father from a distance of almost 100 miles.  When my father died a little more than two years after my mother, work became impossible and my GP sought early retirement for me on medical grounds.

I decided to move back to London when I retired, mainly because I was not happy in the home that I had shared with my husband, but also because I felt it better to get away from the area where I was likely to see many of the people that I had worked with, and I could not face constant questioning about why I had to give up work. With the move came a change of GP, and a year ago, concerned with the depressive state that I was in, my new GP decided to refer me to the local Mental Health Trust to be assessed for psychotherapy.  I was lucky, I didn't have anywhere near as long to wait for assessment as my GP had warned me that I could expect to wait, and after being assessed as suitable for individual psychodynamic psychotherapy and warned that I would be on a waiting list for some considerable time; I started therapy three months later.  

I have been attending most Fridays since the beginning of May and the six months of 'talking therapy' have definitely made a difference to how I am feeling.  I still have periods where I fall into that black hole of depression, but I find that I can climb out of it more easily now.  And after suffering for so many years, I think that we have uncovered some of the things that caused me to be the way that I am and possibly why my depression, which originally was thought to be a grief reaction, has continued for so long.

This afternoon, I had to go and see my GP for a check on my present state.  Regular readers will know that the GP who I had been seeing when I registered at the local practice when I moved back to London retired a few months back.  I had needed to see a doctor when my GP was away at a conference, so I saw one of his partners, and finding that I got on well with this other doctor, it was decided that he would take over my care when my GP retired.  So new GP has been seeing me at fortnightly intervals since taking over my care, so that he can get familiar with me and my problems and we can develop a relationship that I will be comfortable with.

Today's appointment was the first since we had managed to get my blood pressure under control, so it really was just a case of me reporting in and saying that I felt fine. I expected it to be a five minute visit, but I was wrong. When I was called through, I got to GP's consulting room and he opened the door just as I arrived and as I was walking in told me that he had a medical student with him, and asked if I would be happy for the student to stay during the consultation. I surprised myself and my GP by saying that I was happy for him to stay.

The consultation that I expected to last just a few minutes took a little longer than that.  After getting over the shock of me agreeing to the medical student staying for the consultation, GP decided to use me for a good teaching experience.  I think I coped with it all quite well. Tears were very close on a couple of occasions, but GP kept a close grip on things so that I never went over the edge.  I hope that the medical student gained from the experience, I believe that I managed to climb another hurdle and get over it without any harm.  My psychotherapy was discussed in general terms, we discussed the strategies that I use to manage my day to day life when I am feeling depressed, and how studying has been one of my lifesavers over the last few years.

So I have seen two doctors and an almost doctor (he takes his finals next year) today, and I'm not even ill. Well, I have the last remnants of my cold, but nothing worse than that today.  Maybe my life is starting to take a turn for the better after all those years of despair.  I will obviously be susceptible to depression whenever I encounter really difficult times, but I seem to be learning how to deal with it and come out the other side without too much harm.

It's Very Snuggly

It was cold and very damp when I got up this morning and got myself ready to go to the hospital for my weekly psychotherapy session. Perfect weather for giving my new jumper a trial run.

I can report that it kept me nice and warm as I walked up the road to the bus stop, and as I missed a bus by a few seconds, I steeled myself for waiting in the rain for the next one to come along.  That would normally have been a wait of about 10 minutes, but fortunately this morning the next one came along fairly quickly so I didn't get too wet, and the jumper ensured that I didn't get cold.

There was a bus at the bus stop when I came out of the hospital from my session, but there was no way that I was going to catch it so I thought that I was going to be waiting in the cold for some time again.  It was about 15 minutes before the bus arrived, but once again I was cocooned from the cold. So I think that I can report that this has been a total success. The comments that I have received to my last post show that my readers seem to like it too.

I am lucky because I was taught so many handicrafts when I was a child.  I was taught to knit at about the age of five, and I have knitted for most of my life. One of the joys of knitting is that I can make things in the colour or colours that I want, and if I find a pattern that I particularly like I can make it in a number of colours.  It is also possible to make things so that they are a perfect fit, something that is not always possible when buying machine-made woollens in the shops.

After completing the jumper that I am working on at the moment, I will have to take a break from knitting things for me.  I have somewhat foolishly decided to knit a Shetland lace shawl for one of my 'kind of relations' in Canada who is expecting her first baby in February.  I went to her wedding in 2005, and she herself was born when my parents were making one of their first visits to Canada.  So Kelly always treated my parents as another set of grandparents and she desperately wanted my Dad to be at her wedding, and he was there as her honorary grandfather, as both of her real ones were dead.  Now I continue the relationship with the family which dates back more than 50 years, and I am going to knit this incredible shawl for Kelly's daughter (yes, we know it is going to be a girl), so when I am not studying for the next few months I will be knitting a very complicated lace pattern in very fine wool, and I just hope that I can get it finished and on its way to Canada before the little one is born. The shawl should be fine enough to be able to pass through a wedding ring, something that Shetland lace shawls are famous for.  I'll let you know if it does.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

My New Jumper ... And Other Things

I have talked about knitting quite a lot in recent weeks. It was one of the handicrafts that I was taught as a young child and I usually have some knitting on the go at all times. Sometimes it is the craft that I do in every spare moment and sometimes it takes a bit more of a back seat to things such as cross stitch, card making, or crochet.

Having mentioned the fact that I was knitting myself a jumper, Steph from the Biopsy Report asked to see a picture of it when it was finished. Caroline from Dom Care Dragon has been wondering where the pictures were as it had been several days since the completion of the jumper, but a picture still had not appeared.

The delay had been caused because my camera had decided it wasn't going to work. I was somewhat annoyed, but I bit the bullet and bought myself a new one. I can't complain because it is a good one, and I got it for a good price. I ordered it on Sunday and it arrived yesterday. After charging the battery, I set the date and time on the camera, armed myself with the instruction book and found my way round the camera, turned off the terrible beep that occurred each time I did something, and took a couple of test pictures. Everything worked fine, so I deleted these few frames. Then I got my new jumper, draped it artistically (well the best that I could manage) pressed the shutter button and 'hey presto' I had a picture of the jumper. Out came the SD card from the camera, in it went to the card slot on my laptop, a few seconds later the image was on my computer, and now it is included in my blog. So, for Steph and Caroline here you are, my nice new jumper; it was knitted in aran weight wool and cost me just less than £10 for the wool.

I am pleased to say that my cold is nowhere near as bad as yesterday. I had a reasonable night's sleep, and I have stopped sneezing; I have a bunged up nose, and I have decided to stay wrapped up warm indoors. I shall be doing some knitting this afternoon, my next jumper is almost halfway to being finished.

I don't think it is worth me trying to do any studying because I am not sure that I would take anything in. But tomorrow will be different. I have psychotherapy in the morning, then I shall be going to collect the books for my new OU course, and tomorrow afternoon will be spent glancing through them before starting the hard work for this course. It will be the first time that I have studied two courses at the same time since I started studying with the OU in January 2000. It will almost be like being a full-time student.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Not A Moment's Peace

I had my bath, boiled the kettle and made a mug of fruit tea, then boiled the kettle again and filled the hot water bottle, got myself into bed and wrapped myself up in the duvet and a shawl and I was just getting comfortable watching a DVD when the door bell rang.  It was the postman with a couple of parcels for me.

Isn't that just typical; the day that I didn't want any disturbances and I get one as soon as I get into bed.  But it was worth it because one parcel contained the next set of books for one of my OU courses, and the other contained a new camera.  When I tried to use my old camera the other day to take picture of my new jumper it wouldn't work.  I tried recharging the battery, and it was fully charged, but each time I pressed the button, nothing happened.  One of the problems with modern cameras is that they can cost more to repair than to buy a new one, so a new one it was.

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that it is possible to order something on a Sunday, pay nothing for postage and packing and receive it on Wednesday.  So later today, I shall charge the battery for the new camera, and then take some test shots so that I get used to the feel of the camera and then I can take the promised photographs for Steph and Caroline.

I may also take a sneaky peek at my new course book to see what is coming up in the course, but the parcel that I am really waiting for is the course books for the course that I signed up for last week.  With a lot of studying to do in the days and weeks ahead, I need to get rid of this cold as quickly as possible.  So I shall snuggle in bed and try to sweat it out.

A Night Without Sleep

Yes, it was a bad night. Not a wink of sleep, and I feel like a block of ice. My nose is constantly running, and the sneezing is worse than yesterday. So I think it is fair to say that I have got a cold.

I'm going to run a hot bath, have a nice soak in it, then wrap myself up in pyjamas and an a big woolly shawl and get back into bed with a hot drink, a hot water bottle, some books, some DVDs, and a very large box of tissues.

I might do a little bit of studying, perhaps some knitting, but I particularly hope that I will be getting some sleep. It's the worst thing in the world to have a cold when you live on your own. You have no-one to get sympathy from.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A Busy Morning

It's been a busy morning; I've done some shopping so I can eat for the next few days, I have done a couple of hours studying (and I may do some more this afternoon), I've had a couple of deliveries from the postman, and I have done a row or two of my knitting.

Now it is time for me to have some lunch, and then to relax.  It will be just a sandwich for lunch as I am going to cook tonight.  I shall have a good look at my parcels; one was a couple of DVD boxed sets, and the other was some scrap books and associated papers and embellishments.  I am going to make a couple of scrap books for a friend with photographs of his two granddaughters.  I have a few photographs already, but I have been asking him for months now for some more.  If I'm really lucky he might get his finger out and give me the CD that I've asked for and I can make the scrap books as a Christmas present for him and his wife.

My knitting is growing quite well and I should be up to the shoulders on the back some time this afternoon, so there is a good chance that the back will be finished this afternoon or this evening.  I shall have to make sure that I am well wrapped up while I am sitting doing whatever I decide to do this afternoon, because I have been sneezing almost non-stop for the last hour or so, therefore it is likely that I have a cold on the way.  

If I am getting a cold I can't really complain because I haven't had one since last Christmas although that was a real stinker and laid me low for about 10 days.  Even though I spend so much time feeling really low with depression, I must be reasonably healthy because I don't catch too many bugs when they are doing the rounds. Perhaps there are some bonuses from not leaving the house for days on end.

An Early Start To The Day

Yes, it is barely 6am and I have already written an email, sorted out my books for a bit of studying, attached the earphones to my iPod (I need it to listen to some items for the chapter I am reading in the course book), switched on my laptop (okay, so I did that before I wrote the email), and got myself into a comfortable position in bed so that I can spend a couple of hours studying before I get myself ready to face the day and go out to do some shopping.

The reason that I am doing these things so early in the morning, is that I went to bed early last night, fell asleep almost immediately and had nine hours sleep before waking this morning.  I'm still yawning every so often, but I feel a bit brighter than I have for several days.

So some early morning studying, followed by a quick trip to the shops, means that I should be able to please myself about how I spend the rest of the day.  It will probably be some time spent reading, and more time spent with the knitting.  Yes, I know that it isn't a very exciting existence, but it is manageable and I do feel as though I am achieving something each day.  And sometimes just surviving the day can be an achievement in itself.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Not Quite The Day That I Planned

I didn't manage to sleep right through the night.  I fell asleep pretty quickly last night, but woke several times. However, each time, except for the first, I was asleep again within about five minutes.  I eventually decided that I had slept enough and decided to get up about 10.30 this morning.  But it is such an uninspiring day.  There have been brief periods of sunshine, but in the main it has been cloudy, and the howling wind doesn't make going for a walk a particularly enticing proposition.  So I decided to have a lazy day.

I've read a few pages of my library book, I've watched a little television although there hasn't been that much worthy of my attention, and I have indulged in some bacon sandwiches for my lunch.  There is something about bacon sandwiches that always helps to make me feel a little better.

I decided that my TMA can wait until tomorrow so I am having a study-free day.  I have had a look at the OU website though and I see that I now have access to the website for my second course, which means that the books should arrive soon.  And I have found that it is possible for me to view the study calendars for both courses at the same time so that I can keep an eye on when TMAs are due for each and ensure that I manage to keep up to date with the work for both courses.  I have spotted one possible problem area and that occurs at the beginning of January.  I have to submit three TMAs (two for one course and one for the other) within a few days, and as I hope to be going to Canada for Christmas and New Year it means that I will have to work hard over the next couple of months to make sure that the TMAs are completed before I go away.

The rest of the day is going to be spent relaxing, perhaps reading a little and maybe doing some knitting (I shall be starting a new jumper if I do), and undoubtedly watching a little television this evening, or watching a DVD if there is nothing much on.  Perhaps it isn't what I had planned for today, but I have at least managed to catch up on my sleep and I feel as though I will be ready to face another week of studying, and all the other things that I have to do.  I may not be feeling brilliant, but neither am I feeling like I did a few weeks ago.  

Saturday, 18 October 2008

It's A Roller Coaster Ride

Yesterday seemed like a pretty good day.  I managed so much work on my TMA that completion today seemed like a formality.  Then yesterday evening I managed to finish knitting my jumper. All that was left to do was to sew it together; not a job that I enjoy but I thought that it would be something for this evening.  However, things haven't quite turned out that way.

I had another bad night for sleeping.  Although I hadn't slept well Thursday night, I had managed to achieve a lot yesterday, and when I went to bed I felt sure that it would not take me long to get to sleep.  But sleep was still evading me at 3am when I again put on my glasses and picked up my book to read a little more.  I know that I managed to read a couple more pages and then I must have just drifted off to sleep because I woke at about 6.30am with my glasses still on and the book in my hand. I went to the bathroom, got myself some breakfast, took my tablets and then, because it was still not particularly light, I went back to bed to read a bit more before getting up to work on my TMA.

That didn't happen.  Again, I fell asleep with my glasses on and the book in my hand.  It was gone one o'clock when I eventually woke up.  But the euphoria of yesterday had dissolved and today I had no enthusiasm for the essay at all. How could things change so fast? Why had my mood plummeted like that? I'm not sure, but I suppose that is just the way that things go.

Anyway, this afternoon I have made an effort towards finishing my jumper. The shoulder seams have been stitched together, one sleeve has been sewn into place and the second about halfway so.  One side seam has been completed, so just one more to do.  Fortunately, because the wool came in 400g balls, there are no ends to be sewn in.  Another hour's work will see the jumper completed and it will be ready for the colder weather that is sure to come.

I'm hoping that sleep will come a little easier tonight.  In a few minutes I will take my evening medication, and in addition to the usual ones I will take a couple of little blue tablets which will hopefully help me tonight so that I can sleep right through, and then tomorrow I will have another go at the TMA.

And Steph, when I have charged the battery in my camera, I will take a photograph of the finished jumper so that you can see what it is like.

Friday, 17 October 2008

The Essay Progresses

Sometimes I have real problems finding enough to say in essays to fill the word count required. For this course it seems to be that I am having the opposite problem.

I have drafted and redrafted the essay for the first part of the TMA, and I am still a few words over the limit set but it is possible that by careful rephrasing in one or two sentences I can lose the excess 24 words fairly easily. That is one of my tasks for tomorrow.

I felt from the start of preparing the material for the second essay in this TMA that I would have significant problems saying enough to reach the word count. My notes have been massaged, and drafted a couple of times, and I have just sat down to type up what I have written so far and I find that I have already used 417 words of my 500 word limit. This would not be a problem if it were not for the fact that I still have the two most important areas for comparison to write. It seems that this essay is going to turn out to require in excess of 600 words to carry out the task set.

The OU is very strict in its word limits for essays in the TMAs. If they say that the limit is 500 words, it must mean that it is possible to answer the question set in that number of words or slightly less. This means that after I have finished drafting this second essay, I am going to have to wield a fairly strict 'blue pencil' and ensure that I express myself a little more succinctly. I'm sure that it can be done, but I'm not sure that it is going to be a quick job. It looks as though there is quite a bit more work to be done on this TMA before it is ready to be sent off.

However, I have checked the course calendar, and with the additional reading that I have already done on later chapters of the course book, and the activities and exercises associated with them that I have also carried out, I am about 6 weeks ahead of schedule now. Part of this is because I am finding this course fairly easy after having spent a couple of years studying at postgraduate level, and partly because I am finding it so interesting that I don't mind setting aside the time to do the work.

The bonus in all of this is that because I am finding it fairly easy to keep myself occupied, my depression is nowhere near as bad as it was just a couple of weeks ago. Studying was my lifeline in the early years of my widowhood; it seems as though it is still maintaining my sanity and helping to lighten my mood even after all these years.

The Tale Of A New Water Main

Thames Water have a very bad reputation as far as repairing water leaks are concerned. They claim that many of the leaks are caused by the Victorian mains around London, and are in the middle of an extensive programme to replace much of the network. Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with my tales of disrupted traffic and extremely slow moving work.

Earlier this year the area around my home was the subject of this programme. I had to put up with a huge pile of debris outside my house for several months. Prior to my little area of London being the subject of the programme, an area between my house and the library was subject to several months of disruption.

Yesterday evening as I was watching television I could hear the sound of drills in the area. It was not particularly loud as it was regularly drowned out by the sound of passing traffic or emergency vehicle sirens (we have a police station, ambulance station and fire station in fairly close proximity so sirens are something that you get used to) so I attributed it to someone in a nearby residence doing some DIY on their house. But the drilling carried on, and was still ongoing at well past 11pm. It was obvious that this was no householder carrying out some DIY, for his neighbours would have long before insisted that he stop. While climbing the stairs I noticed that there was a red light some distance along the road, and then this light changed to green. Obviously the drilling I heard must have been large pneumatic drills engaged in digging up the road.

This morning, as I made my way to the library I had to pass the scene that had necessitated drilling long past what would normally be considered an acceptable hour. At the crossroads formed by my road and the one 100 yards from my house, there were temporary traffic lights, barriers and a very large hole in the ground filled with water.

It seems that the nice new water mains put into place just a few months ago have sprung a leak. It is possible to say that it is the new main that is leaking because the area of road that had to be dug up is exactly that which was newly laid after the insertion of the new main. It seems that the contractors working in this area may not have done a very good job. One wonders how many more leaks will occur over the coming weeks and months. In all the years that my family have lived in this house, I do not remember the incidence of a single burst main in the area. It seems that Thames Water still have not solved their problem with leaks even after the introduction of replacements for the aged Victorian mains; in fact, we now have them where no leaks had occurred before.

I Am Going To Be Firm With Myself

I didn't sleep very well last night, but never mind I don't feel too bad.  I have performed my morning ablutions and I decided that I would sit down and get to work on my TMA.  But I haven't started yet, and the reason is that there are just too many distractions in the house.

So, in an hour or so I am going to pack my books in a bag, make sure that I am equipped with notebook, pencils and pencil sharpener, and take the short walk up to the library.  I am determined that today will see the completion of the second essay for the TMA, so to ensure that I don't get side-tracked it's going to be the library for me.

Going to the library today also means that I can change my library books.  I shall make the most of the next few days, which may well be my last opportunity to read a book for relaxation for some time.  This morning I have paid for my additional course and hopefully by this time next week I will have the books from the OU to be able to start studying this course too.

This is going to be the first time that I have studied two courses at the same time.  When I was working full time it was absolutely impossible because I often had to work very long hours.  But as work is still not a feasible option for me, I intend to make the most of my time and for the next two years work towards two different degrees.  And I don't think that I could be doing two courses at the same time that are more different to each other.  I am already working on the OU's Arts/Humanities Foundation Course, and my new course is Human Biology.  I have to hope that I can maintain the momentum that I have achieved on the foundation course; I'm about four weeks ahead of schedule at the moment and that should help me to spend a little time on the new course when the books arrive.

The only concern that I have about the new course is that I have to sit an exam at the end.  I'm afraid that exams always cause me problems, but I am sure that if I endeavour to write proper notes throughout the course I will be able to revise for the exam effectively.  Note taking has always been one of my weaker skills but I seem to have improved a little over the last few months so I shall have to persevere.  And I also know someone who has taken the course already and she has offered help if I get stuck at any point.  I've never had that kind of support before, so it is already making me feel a little more confident about embarking on such a programme of study.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

A Pretty Good Day

I may have procrastinated (what a fantastic word that is) a bit today but I did eventually sit down with my books and get on with some studying.  Well, not actual studying, it was a case of essay writing actually.

The first TMA for my present module requires me to write two short essays.  The first was drafted some time ago but today I spent some time going over it and polishing it so that it now reads pretty well.  It certainly answers the question posed and I think there is sufficient use of references to make it worthy of a reasonable mark.  It probably still needs a little work on it to try to cut out a few words as it is a little over the required word count, but not seriously enough to attract penalty.  I still have several weeks before it needs to be submitted so what I will probably do is take another look at it next week by which time it will be like looking at it afresh and will therefore be easier to amend as necessary.

Later I went over the notes that I had already made for the second essay and started to draft something out to see whether there was enough information in my notes to compose a meaningful answer to the second question. From this first draft it looks as though I may have judged it quite well.  I have even managed to find some interesting data from sources outside the course material to help with my argument so I am feeling quite happy that I can work at this essay over the next day or two and produce something that flows quite well.

I have also managed to do a bit more knitting so my jumper is nearing completion.  It is progressing so well that I hope to have it finished and sewn together by the time the weekend is over.  It will be nice to have something new and warm ready for the winter.

And this is my third post of the day.  Okay, so they have been shorter than many that I write, but the fact that I have been able to write three posts, each covering a completely different subject is an indicator that I am feeling quite good.  When I am feeling really bad, it can be difficult to write something, and when I have got something to say it may take some considerable time to actually compose the post.  However, today each of them have flowed from my fingers quite easily and that also helps me to feel better about myself.

This blog has been one of the better things that I have undertaken in the last few years.  In some respects I wish that I had started earlier, but perhaps I wouldn't have been ready for the commitment at that time. I think I am now, and I know that it has been useful in helping to promote my self-confidence.  So I will continue to blog, and write whatever comes into my mind at the time. While I may still find it difficult to talk to people face to face, at least I am managing to articulate how I feel and what I think through the written word.

I Should Be Studying But ...

... I am watching television.  Having seen the men building the stand for the celebrations for the Team GB Olympic and Paralympic athletes, I was considering going up to town to see it, but common sense dictated that although the atmosphere would be fantastic, I would be warmer and more comfortable watching it on television at home. So that is what I am doing.

The reception that they are receiving along the route is fantastic, and with the first of the floats just arriving in Trafalgar Square the cheers of the crowd are growing louder.  And as the last float is travelling the route many of those in the streets are following them towards Trafalgar Square.

It is heartwarming to see the crowds have not forgotten the exploits of the summer.  And what is more important is that Olympic and Paralympic athletes are celebrating together.  If the teams can achieve so much when they have travelled half way round the world to compete, let us hope that they can achieve even more when the Games are on home turf in 2012.

Well done boys and girls, we are all so proud of you. 

The Strange Things You See

I am an inveterate watcher when I travel by public transport.  Looking out of a bus window you can see some incredible sights and things that cannot help but amuse.  I travel on buses in London fairly frequently and recently I have made several trips into the centre of London by bus.  It can be interesting to look at the shops as you travel by for they indicate just how multicultural this country has become.  Sometimes, however, it can be the more traditional that catches my eye.

As I was sitting on a bus on Tuesday, while the bus was held up in traffic, I looked out of the window and saw a building that probably in former times was a high class grocers or perhaps a small department store.  Today it belongs to a firm of solicitors.  It is not unusal to see the name of a firm of solicitors painted onto its windows and something like 'Commissioners of Oaths' appended.  On Tuesday I saw something new, and I can't help wondering whether this gets them clients or puts people off retaining them.

What was painted on the window? 

 'Criminal Lawyers'.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

In The Vicinity Of Trafalgar Square

I went up to London today to meet a friend for lunch. I set out early as I intended to visit the British Museum before meeting my friend, but as is so often the case with intentions, I had a sudden change of mind and decided to visit the National Portrait Gallery instead.

I love history, and I love to see the faces of people who played a part in the making of this country. There are kings and queens, dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, barons, baronets and knights. Some wielded great power and were good; for some it would require an extremely charitable view to allow them to be described as good, yet they still played their part. Richard III, the last Plantagenet king hangs alongside his deposer, Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty. There are three portraits of Henry's granddaughter, Elizabeth, the virgin queen and last of the Tudors, and a magnificent portrait of Charles I, which almost certainly shows him larger than life, for he was a short man.

There are politicians of every political hue, scientists who were so great that their fame was acclaimed even in their own time outside of this country. Doctors, surgeons, judges, magistrates, explorers, soldiers, artists, architects, actors, writers, musicians and sportsmen. All are represented on the walls of the gallery in paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, film, and in one case, by their DNA.

After viewing the great and the good, I walked to Trafalgar Square. I needed some fresh air and a moment or two to rest my feet. The sky was laden with low cloud, low enough for the aircraft on the flight path to Heathrow to disappear at times before reappearing somewhere further up the Mall. Trafalgar Square was busy, but not crowded. Visitors to London were keen to photograph the fountains, Nelson atop his column, and the iconic red double-decker buses. And to the north of the square, in front of the National Gallery, workmen were busy building the staging ready for Thursday's celebrations for Team GB's Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

I had a little more time to spare before meeting my friend, and it was quite chill outside, so I walked to the National Gallery and sought out the Sackler Room. In this room are paintings by some of Britain's greatest painters of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Joseph Wright of Derby's magnificently atmospheric painting of an experiment involving a bird in a vacuum jar hangs alongside one of Thomas Gainsborough's superb portraits.

But my particular favourites are by two other great British artists. John Constable, the master of painting the British landscape is well represented in the room including his Hay Wain, but my favourite is his view of Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows with its towering storm clouds and rainbow over the cathedral. The other artist is Joseph Mallord William Turner, whose Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway 1844, and the Fighting Temeraire tugged to her Last Berth to be broken up, 1838, are amongst the most magnificent paintings of their time and are a real contrast in style to his earlier works and those of his contemporaries. To say that I can contemplate these paintings for hours is no understatement, and yet I understand little about the technicalities of the paintings, I just know that they strike a chord with me and are a joy to behold.

Having spent half an hour with my favourite paintings I went back out to a grey day in London and a rendezvous for lunch. I met my friend, we ate, we drank a glass of wine, and we talked of many things. Eventually it was time for us to go our separate ways. I enjoyed my day around Trafalgar Square.

Monday, 13 October 2008

I've Just Done Something Truly Mad

Sometimes I can surprise even myself with the mad things that I do.  And today, I think I may have exceeded even my ability to do something mad that I may live to regret it.

I am two modules short of my second degree; I'm doing one of those at the moment, and I have to admit while I am enjoying it, it really isn't taxing me a great deal.  I think this is because it is interesting, but at a much lower level than the modules that I have been studying over the last few years.

So what is it that I have done?  No, I haven't signed up for the last module for the degree.  I've done something even more stupid that that.  I've signed up for a course that will get me on the path to a third degree.  Yes, I know that it is mad, but one of the things that has happened to me over the last five years or so is that I have become addicted to studying. It has to be a lot better for me than becoming an alcoholic, I am trying hard to shake my tobacco addiction, and at no time in my life have I ever felt the need to try hard drugs.

If I'm going to get addicted to anything, I am sure that being addicted to education is safer than most things.  And what will the new degree be in?  Psychology.  Yes, there is a certain irony in it.

Why I Didn't Write Something For World Mental Health Day

I've been a bit slack as far as posting to the blog has been concerned over the last couple of weeks. I'd like to think that it is because I haven't been able to think of anything to say, but really it's more a case of my knitting taking over.  I'm trying to get my jumper ready as quickly as possible so that I have it to wear when the really cold weather comes.

I have, in fact, started to write posts several times during the last week or two, but I have ended up deleting them because I felt that they were too controversial.  One of these was a post for World Mental Health Day, last Friday.  I still want to write a post covering the subject that I had selected, but I will have to think about it a bit more before I actually publish it.

You may wonder what it is about the post that has made me so reluctant to publish, especially as I make no secret of the fact that I suffer from mental illness and abhor the stigma that is associated with it and the discrimination that people such as myself suffer.  The problem was that I was querying the amount of money that is spent by the NHS on very expensive drugs that may help to prolong the life of someone with terminal cancer for only a few months, when that money could be used to more effect if channelled into the care and treatment of those with mental health problems.

I have determined that I will still write on the subject, but before I do I am going to do a bit more research.  I know that I will still end up upsetting some people; however, this is something that I feel strongly about, and unless those of us who are able to, speak about the problems that mental illness causes, we will never receive the treatment that we deserve.  

Friday, 10 October 2008

With A Bit Of Courage And Knocking Knees

Last night I attended my first tutorial since 2001.  One of the things that has happened to me since I started to suffer from depression is that I have found it very difficult being with people I don't know.  I didn't attend any tutorials while doing my first OU course, and only attended a couple during my second one.  After that I managed to get through all my courses without attending any, so to make the effort and attend one last night was quite an achievement.

First of all I had to go to a location that I had never been to before, but fortunately I found it pretty easily.  Then I had to summon up the courage to actually walk into the building, and then to find the room that the tutorial was to be held in.  I arrived very early, that's just one of my things, and I went up to the room about 30 minutes before the tutorial was due to begin.  This was so that I could be the first person in the room, walking in with somebody already being there might make it impossible for me to stay.  I found myself a seat as close to the door as possible and I sat there reading until the tutor arrived about 10 minutes later.

There are 24 people in the tutor group supposedly, but only eight of us attended so our tutor had a fairly easy time of it.  I stayed for the whole two hours, although I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable towards the end and I was out of the door like a shot when the tutorial was over.  A brisk walk of about a mile brought me to the bus stop that I needed, and within one minute my bus arrived.  As the tutorial location was at one end of the bus route, and I live at almost the other end of the route, the journey took an hour, then a brisk walk along the road and I was home.  In one piece.  

The next tutorial is next Thursday.  I don't know whether I will be going to it yet, we'll have to see how I am on the day.

Some Libraries Have Already Seen The Light

I have just been listening to an item on BBC Breakfast about a suggestion that libraries should introduce coffee shops to make them more popular.  Another criticism was library opening hours, where many do not open before 10am, so mothers are unable to pop in after having dropped the children off at school.

It struck me that someone hadn't done their research very well because my local library is doing these things already.  I have written a couple of times on this blog about using my local library and how it had changed from what it was like when I was a child.  I assume that my library is not unique and that it is likely that all the libraries, or at least a majority of them in the borough, are operating in a more enlightened way.

The library is open seven days a week, opening at 9am every morning except for Sunday when it opens at 10.  It also remains open well into the evening most days.  The library has 16 computers for the public to use, and a couple of games machines for the youngsters.  It also has a coffee and tea machine, as well as a machine that stocks snacks and chocolates and a variety of soft drinks.

The borough of London in which I live is not one of the richest; in fact it probably comes quite low down the scale of such things.  However, it seems that the council take a very enlightened view of how libraries should be in this day and age, and as such should be seen as a model for other parts of the country.  It is only a small library, but it is used extensively by all ages, and it can be quite difficult to use one of the computers there without having to wait to book one at a later time in the day.  

The library is always full of people reading newspapers or people like myself who are using it as a place of study, it is used to hold meetings of local organisations, it organises showings of classic films monthly, hosts writers who give talks about the writing process, and provides socialising activities for preschool age children several times a week.

It just goes to show what can be done when people put their minds to it, and should be seen as a shining example of how a local resource can be used for the benefit of all the people that it serves.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

On The Subject Of Pancakes

For the first time in a couple of weeks I woke at a reasonable time after a fairly good night's sleep.  And I don't feel like going back to bed again which is just as well because I have a few things that I want to get done this morning.  I have managed to get myself into the bathroom, washed my hair, been to the corner shop to get a few bits and pieces so that I can have a reasonable breakfast, eaten my breakfast and taken my morning tablets.  Quite an achievement as it is not yet 8am.

When I worked I was always an early riser, and most mornings visited the gym before driving on to work.  The early rising always carried on when I was on holiday, particularly when I was in Corfu because I have always thought that the early morning there was the loveliest time of the day.  I would go down and have an early breakfast, sometimes cereal and toast, sometimes fruit, and if I was being really naughty a breakfast of deliciously crispy bacon, grilled mushrooms, potato rosti, baked beans and the biggest sin of all, pancakes and maple syrup.

My parents used to go on holiday to Canada quite often, and stayed with friends who had a turkey farm.  It was while there that Mum and Dad first had pancakes, bacon, sausage and maple syrup for breakfast.  I can remember being horrified at the thought of something so sweet with bacon and sausages for breakfast.  After all, they were savoury items and you don't mix sweet and savoury, or so I thought.

The first time that I had to go to the US for work I was persuaded to try pancakes and bacon with corn syrup.  I tasted it tentatively, and soon found that it was absolutely delicious.  After trying it that first time I was hooked.  When I came home and told my husband about it, he had the same reaction that I had when Mum and Dad first told me about it.  Yuck, too sweet.  However, when we went to Florida for a holiday we stayed in a lovely house that was owned as a holiday home by someone that he worked with.  A trip to the local 24-hour supermarket, which at the time was unheard of in the UK, involved the purchase of goodies to get us going each morning.  So into the trolley went bacon, sausages, pancake mix and maple syrup as well as other basics like bread, eggs and milk.  The first morning that I made a pancake breakfast, I served it with crisp bacon and put the maple syrup on the table.  My husband watched me tucking in, and then decided to try a little syrup with his pancakes and bacon and he too became hooked.

From that time on, pancakes bacon and maple syrup has been a treat to be enjoyed on special occasions.  Yes, I could eat it everyday, but it wouldn't be good for me.  My problem is that it is probably the one thing that I could really gorge myself on if I couldn't exercise a little control.  This means that much as I would love to cook it for myself at home, I don't.  Willpower is exerted and I save it for holidays only.  That means a few mornings when I am in Corfu, and if I am offered it when I go to Canada.  This way I still get my favourite breakfast a few times a year, but I don't end up putting on lots of weight because of indulging myself.

So, why on earth am I blogging about such a strange subject?  Well, it's because for some unknown reason I am really craving that mix of sweet and savoury this morning.  But I shall be good; it will remain something that I think about once in a while.  I can survive like this because I know that if things go well I shall be going to Canada for Christmas, and that I will be given pancakes, bacon and maple syrup for breakfast at least a couple of times while I am there.  I can almost taste it as I am writing this, but the anticipation really can't live up to the real thing.  And when I have had my pancake breakfast I shall be happy for the rest of the day and hope that I can do just enough exercise to ensure that I don't pay the penalty for my indulgence.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Do I Have Writer's Block?

I think that I have been doing quite well since I started writing this blog.  While I haven't written something every day, I have managed a post rate that averages out to be more than one a day. Some days the posts are short, pithy little morsels; some days they are long, and more considered pieces.  It's always difficult to judge your own writing, but the fact that I have received comments from readers saying how much they have enjoyed a post or how it has made them think about the subject covered indicates that I must have reached some people.  Just occasionally I have felt the need to write to say how desperate I am feeling at that moment. Such an occasion arose on Friday, when my mood became so low that I wrote the post almost as a cry for help.  And the blogging community is such that I received encouragement and a feeling of not being alone because of the comments that people added to that post.  Let me say here and now, I really appreciated your comments and they certainly helped at what was, for me, a very dark moment in my life.

I have gradually been coming out of that very dark corner over the last couple of days, and I knew that I was getting better, when I managed to put a quite amusing comment in an email to a friend.  It wasn't a laugh out loud amusing comment, more a case of a clever play on words type of amusing.  He enjoyed it anyway, because he commented on it in his reply; in fact he thought it poetic.

But one thing has been difficult over the last few days; finding something to write a post about. Normally I don't have to think about what to write; it just seems to spring into my mind, and the post almost seems to write itself.  Sometimes it's something that I have seen that provides the inspiration, sometimes it's something that I have read or heard.  And sometimes it is something that I feel passionately about, like trying to fight the stigma and discrimination that exists around mental illness.

Even when I have not been feeling too good, I have managed to write on an almost daily basis, because there has been something to say, but I have found it very hard since Friday to find something to blog about.  Have I got writer's block?  Is it possible that my creativity has deserted me?  No, I don't think so.  It's just a case of nothing much happening, so that it seems as though my inspiration has deserted me, when actually it is still there waiting for the right moment to leap into action again.  

After all, I've managed to write this, haven't I?

Monday, 6 October 2008

It Might Be Dark But I Think There Is Light On The Horizon

After a couple of days where it was as much as I could do to drag myself out of bed, today I managed to walk to the library to take my books back, and then go and do a bit of shopping so that I would have something to eat for the next couple of days.

This afternoon I have managed to sit and add a few inches to the length of the back of the jumper that I am knitting.  Usually I can just sit and knit and not worry about it growing to the right length for me to carry out the armhole shaping, but this jumper is knitted without such shaping so it seems a long way from the cast on edge to the shoulders.  However, I am now more than two-thirds of the way up the back, so I finally feel as though I am getting somewhere.  And because I can see the end in sight for this part of the jumper, suddenly there is another thing that is making me feel a bit better.

It will be several more weeks before the jumper is finished, but it should be finished before it turns really cold, which will be perfect.  It is a nice thick jumper which will keep the cold out, especially when I go out for walks on crisp, dry days.  There are a couple of parks not to far from home, and going for a walk round them will give me a different view on my walks. 

Even thinking about going for such walks is an indicator that my mood is improving.  I know that it isn't likely that I will be going for such a walk tomorrow as the weather forecast is against that, but even considering doing such a thing hasn't been possible for a couple of weeks.  On top of that, I am even almost certain that I will be going to the first tutorial for my OU course on Thursday.  That is something that I haven't done for a very long time; for years, in fact.  I'm a long way from being well, but even considering going somewhere where I won't know anybody is an achievement in itself.

So perhaps doing things like this means that there is light on the horizon.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Term Started Today

Today marked the official start of my current OU course.  Regular readers will know that I have been working away at this course for the last couple of weeks because I know that I have to work when I can, for when my depression is at its worst I am unable to concentrate on reading anything and writing a decent piece of academic prose is impossible.

The course I am taking at the moment is a foundation course.  The OU encourages new students to start with a foundation course, but I am an old hand at OU study so to take a foundation course again after all these years, has been a bit of a novelty.  When the course website opened a couple of weeks ago there was a forum for students on the course to get used to the concept of using a forum as much of our tuition may be carried out in this way.

As each day passed after the opening of the course website, activity on this introductory forum increased.  It went from a single thread in which we introduced ourselves to our fellow students, to threads covering a multitude of subjects.  Some threads were very active, while others only every had one or two entries.  There were threads which related to locality, and threads that related to age.  One gave details of how becoming an OU student allowed you to indulge in the purchase of stationery.  Everyday there were hundreds of individual entries to these  various threads.

But things have changed today.  While there have been the occasional new items, in the main things have been quiet.  Today, those students of all ages, who have been engaging in frivolous chatter with people who they will most probably never meet, have suddenly become university students and have started to work their way through the course material.  Tutorials will be happening all over the country over the next couple of weeks, and students on this course will meet just a few of the people who they have been corresponding with electronically over the last couple of weeks; those who will be sharing their tutor.  

As the weeks progress, some will find that they are having problems making the time for study, some may find the concepts expressed difficult to understand, some will wonder why they have left it for so long to return to their education.  I hope that they all enjoy their studies, for it is through education that we can truly find ourselves. 

Friday, 3 October 2008

Sometimes I wish ...

... that I didn't have to put up with sleepless nights and then end up sleeping all day.

... that I could understand whether or not I was getting somewhere with the psychotherapy.

... that there was some magic cure that I could take so that I don't feel like this all the time.

... that there was someone who I could talk to when I feel like this.

... that I could stop crying for no apparent reason.

... that I could go to sleep and never wake up so that I don't have to live with this pain anymore.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Yes, three-quarters of 2008 is past, Christmas is now looming and before we know where we are 2009 will have arrived. It's a bit early to start weighing up the year to determine what sort of year it has been, but there is no reason why I can't reflect on the third quarter of this year, the period for which I have been blogging.

If you were to ask me why I started to write this blog I really couldn't give you a truthful answer. At a period when I seemed to be having a really hard time, I started to read blogs. It started with just one or two; I would read all that the person had written to their blog, or a significant part of it at least and if I found it interesting I would bookmark it. Then I would look at blogs that they read, and see what they were like. Through this means I found that the medical profession, be they qualified doctors, or medical students, seemed to be the most interesting to read. Yes, a lot of what they wrote related to medical matters, but many of them wrote around that too. Then I started looking at blogs written by people who suffered from mental illness, and found that I had a tremendous amount in common with many of them. Not surprising really, seeing that I suffered from mental illness myself. But what caused me to make the transition from being a casual reader of blogs, to being the writer of one of my own, is something that I don't think that I will ever be able to answer. The best that I can come up with is 'IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME".

My first steps were tentative. I had to create the blog to start with and I didn't have a clue how to do that. I'm not a computer whizz-kid, I'm too old to be that, and I'm female too, which many would see as an insurmountable barrier to being able to do anything of a technical nature. However, I had used complex computer systems when I was working, and was capable of using a variety of applications, many of which were highly specialized, so creating a blog couldn't be that difficult, could it? So I had a go, and within 30 minutes of starting I had created my blog, managed to find a suitably catchy title for it, had a good look at the various templates that were available to me, added a few gadgets, and managed to write my first post. It all turned out to be extremely simple; even this middle-aged woman could do it.

Having created it, I was next faced with the problem of what I would put on it. For the first few days I just wrote about whatever came to mind. It might be something in the news, or something that was mulling about in my mind. As I have said before, I didn't expect that anyone would find anything interesting enough to bother to read it, but I was soon proved wrong and I now have a relatively small, but regular, group of readers. It was nearly a month before I told anybody about the blog, and even now, there are only a handful of people who know who I really am. To everyone else I am Madsadgirl, and that is one of the joys of writing a blog, I don't have to tell anyone who I am unless I want to.

So what have I achieved with this blog? Well, as someone who lives on her own, I have found a new group of friends that I might never have found had I not started writing this. Why am I saying 'might never', when we all know that what I mean is 'would never'. I have found a way of being able to vent some of my anger at the position in which I find myself. I haven't specifically written about the things that made me so angry, it is more a case of being able to write about things in this way I have been able to channel my thoughts in a different, and I have to say, a more creative way. I also hope that I have been able to present an articulate description of what it is like to suffer from depression over the long term and the devastating effect that it can have on your life. The simple exercise of writing something to post on most days has helped me to focus on the here and now rather than dwelling on the past which it is impossible for me to change.

But, perhaps the biggest achievement to come from writing this blog, is that I seem to have regained a little bit of self-confidence. Now then Mr Smiley Happy , I bet you didn't think that you would ever hear me say that.