Sunday, 30 November 2008

Psychotherapy And All That

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Even The Puppies Get Turkey For Thankgiving

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

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

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

Those Naughty Little Puppies

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

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

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

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

I Hate Christmas

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Puppies Are Waking Up

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

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

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

Somedays I Wonder ...

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

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

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

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

Monday, 24 November 2008

Feeling A Little Better

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

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

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

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

Watching The Puppies

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 21 November 2008

What I Didn't Want, Happened

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The World Is A Little Clearer

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

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

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

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Things Are A Little Bit Clearer Now

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

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

Blurred Vision

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

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

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

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

Monday, 17 November 2008

When Life Goes Up And Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's One Of Those Days

Some days are perhaps best described as ordinary.  But some days aren't, and today is one of those days.  What is the difference?  On days like today I wonder how I am going to manage to exist through the day and get to tomorrow.

I woke early this morning, about 4.30am and couldn't get back to sleep.  I lay in bed wondering whether to get up or just lie there doing nothing.  I chose to lay.  In the end I switched on my laptop and had a look to see if any of the blogs that I follow had been updated.  Some had, so I read them and wrote comments where I felt I had something to say.  Then I checked my emails.  Three new ones to look at.  Two were nothing much, but the third was from a blogger with whom I have regular contact outside of our blogs.  I hadn't heard from her for a few days and I had guessed that she had probably been having a difficult time, and I was right.

Then I had a look at a couple of websites that I regularly visit.  One of these was the BBC website; I had meant to watch the programme about Prince Charles at 60, but had missed it when broadcast so I decided to look at on BBC iPlayer.  By the time I had watched the programme it was time to think about getting myself some breakfast and to take my morning medication.  As a treat I cooked myself some bacon for a bacon sandwich, and then took my tablets.  But I still did not feel as though I had any energy to face the day.  In the end, I went back to bed and soon fell asleep, and it was from this sleep that I awoke not so long ago.

Though now awake and writing this post, I have no idea what I shall do for the rest of the day.  I have no energy, no enthusiasm for the rest of the day ahead.  I know that I should be doing some studying, but there is not a lot of point if I am unable to concentrate and know that I won't really understand anything that I read.  On such days my note-taking is erratic to say the least, and it will be necessary for me to reread all the material again in order to ensure that I fully understand it.

So what will I do for the rest of the day?  Anything that I can that does not require too much concentration.  If I need to sleep then I will.  If all I can do is to watch television or DVDs. then that is exactly what I will do.  I shall write today off as one of those days when things go less than perfectly.  One of those days that I have now and then, which can only be considered successful if I can get to the end of them without falling deeper into depression.  

Today is far from perfect, but tomorrow may be a lot better, and that is the thought that I will cling to as I try to survive the rest of the hours that make up today.

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Dragon Didn't Have Teeth After All

Over the last week I have written here and here about giving a demonstration of the patient-access system that my GPs' surgery uses as part of a presentation given by B, who was my GP until his recent retirement. The presentation and demonstration was to be given to an audience of doctors at a medical education establishment in London and I was very nervous about it.

Delivering presentations and demonstrating computer systems were things that I used to do without turning a hair some years ago. However, my worsening depression and acute anxiety meant that I found these things impossible and facing an audience of unknown people filled me with horror. Since having to give up work I have not been required to do such things, and a few months ago I would not have contemplated doing it, but when B asked me to carry out the demonstration because he felt it would add impact to the presentation if done by a patient, I agreed without hesitation. I was still very nervous at the thought, but I have done quite a few things just recently that I would not have considered possible six months ago, so I was willing to give it a try.

The establishment was imposing and I couldn't help but feel nervous as I entered through its doors on Wednesday afternoon and awaited B's arrival so that we could check out the lecture theatre and its audio-visual facilities and discuss how we would approach the presentation. We encountered problems immediately because we found that I could not get logged into the system that I was supposed to be demonstrating.  This did not bode well for me.  However, B had a few screen shots of from the records of a fictitious patient so I went through these to familiarise myself with what they showed and accepted that if necessary I would use those; it wouldn't have the same impact as doing the demonstration for real with a live record, but it was better than nothing.  We chatted for a short while, then tried logging into the database again, and everything worked perfectly, so I ran through what I intended to show and say to B and he proclaimed himself more than satisfied.

At this point we had done all the preparation that we could so we left the lecture theatre and B took me through some of the areas of this august institution and we eventually found ourselves in the bar, where the president of the section to whom we were making the presentation greeted us and we all sat down to chat.  At this point I was still feeling quite calm (somewhat to my surprise) even when being introduced to more and more people who I didn't know.  Eventually  it was time for us to make our way to the lecture theatre, took our seats on the dais, and we were introduced to the audience by the president.  It was at this time, having looked at the sea of faces belonging to complete strangers spread out in front of me that I suddenly felt the well-known signs of anxiety overwhelming me; there was no way I could escape.

B started the presentation giving the background to the subject and explaining how a programme (PAERS) had been developed that interfaced with EMIS, the computer application used by 60% of GP surgeries in this country for patient records.  He explained how patients at the practice were asked what they would like to see in an application that would allow them access to their records and this information was incorporated.  It was at this point I got up to demonstrate the system logged in to the database, well I attempted to, but it just wasn't going to play, so I had to resort to using the screen shots which I had seen for the first time about two hours earlier and hope that I remembered the order in which they came.

After my demonstration during which I gave details of how I used the system to book appointments online, order repeat prescriptions and check any other information that I needed to, I handed back to B who completed the presentation.  There followed a question and answer session which had been scheduled for 20 minutes but in fact continued for over an hour.  At the end of it all, a vote of thanks was given to B and myself, and we departed to our dinner as guests of the institution.

Was the evening a success? The answer to that was a resounding yes, on more than one front.  We succeeded in showing the assembled doctors what was already possible as far as patient access to their records was concerned; speaking as a patient I was able to highlight the multitude of benefits that such access allowed me; and we seem to have convinced those present that it was something worth pursuing.  B and I have been invited to give another presentation next year, this time to an audience of GP Registrars, so it will be our chance to show the next generation of GPs what is possible and available.  On a purely personal note, it gave me an opportunity to  speak in front of a large group of unknown people while at the same time being supported by someone who knew how difficult this was for me and who could help me out if I appeared to falter.

I must, at this point, say that I really appreciated the kindness, courtesy, and genuine interest that was shown by all the members of the esteemed institution who invited B to give the presentation and to B for asking me to take part.  What had caused me a certain amount of anxiety before the event, particularly in respect to the audience, and that had caused me to suggest in this blog that I was putting myself in range of the dragon's teeth, actually turned out to be an experience from which I gained some confidence in my ability to do things again that I had not been able to do for so long.  
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, it was a pleasure meeting you all.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

It Really Isn't Fair

I should be on a bit of a high this morning after achieving a minor triumph in front of an audience of doctors, but this will have to wait for another post. Instead I have found myself wanting, perhaps needing would be a better description, to write on an entirely different subject. It is a subject that most of us with mental health problems feel very strongly about and we are not alone because the people that we need to be able to have access to also feel as we do. The subject is the poor level of mental health services in this country. The reason that I find myself writing this post is because I have, this morning, read the latest post from Hannah at Coloured Mind. I urge you to read it for I am sure that you, too, will be moved.

The level of support is not poor because of the calibre of the people who are employed in this area. The problem is that there really are not enough facilities and staff there to support the number of people who require to use them. There truly is a lottery for access to whatever services are available for we are left to fend for ourselves until our number is pulled out of the hat. That is not to say that we don't get support from our GPs, because in most cases the support that we receive is superb, but GPs have neither the time nor, in most cases, the expertise to give us the help that we require.

I am sure that Hannah's story is not unique. When she lived at home she got the help that she needed, but having moved to university in Manchester she has found herself back in the pot waiting for her number to come up again. This sort of thing would not happen if she had cancer, so why should it because her problems relate to her mental health? Perhaps the reason is that mental illness is invisible. You wear no plaster cast, you don't need crutches or a wheelchair to get about, very often you appear completely normal to those around you. But what others cannot see, and if they have never suffered from mental illness themselves cannot understand, is the turmoil that goes on inside you.

If just a small percentage of the money that has so far been spent on Connecting for Health, the infamous computer system that the government is intent on forcing on us, had been spent on mental health services, then the long waiting periods that we have to endure to be seen by a psychiatrist, to be assessed for and offered psychotherapy, or to get any of the other services that we require, could be reduced to the time (from referral to treatment) that is now being heralded as what we can expect as the norm within the rest of the NHS.

There is a huge campaign being waged by the government at the present time to reduce the discrimination that mental health sufferers experience in the work place, and yet it is the very fact that we do not get the treament and support that we require that marks us out as different and leads to much of that discrimination. By ensuring that we have access to the specialists who can diagnose our problems, implement, monitor and adjust drug regimes that enable us to operate at a level that means that we can study or work at a normal level, and recommend the additional treatment and services that will make our lives more bearable, we would probably be able to exist in a manner that would put us on a level playing field with the rest of the population.

Is this too much to ask? I don't think so and I believe that it is about time that we were treated more fairly so that we can enjoy something approaching a normal life.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Nothing New From Sir Liam Donaldson

The BBC News website has started a new weekly column that is to allow leading clinicians and experts to outline their views on health topics. The first of these columns has been provided by Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer for England. As Sir Liam probably hasn't seen a patient for a great many years (and I am sure that the many medical bloggers out there will confirm this point) I am not sure that one could really refer to him as a clinician any more because that implies someone who is practising medicine on a regular basis, and to call him an expert would probably have many doctors choking on their morning coffee for was he not one of the major architects of the MMC/MTAS fiasco?

The column that he has written seems to provide little of any significance about health or the NHS. He seems to believe that one of the ways to improve the service that the NHS provides to patients can be to mirror the service provided by shops. He sees patients as 'customers' a term that I believe many patients consider to be insulting. He highlights a case of a friend of his, who on arriving early for a GP appointment, was greeted by the receptionist saying, "you're early, I hope you don't expect to be seen early". Apparently Sir Liam's friend was "embarrassed and belittled" by being spoken to in this way in front of the other people in the waiting room. While one would perhaps be a little disgruntled at being spoken to in this way, to be embarrassed and belittled is perhaps a little over the top. It is an unfortunate fact that in many GPs surgeries these days, the reception desk is in the patient waiting area. Being used to a surgery where the reception was in a room separate from the waiting room, I found it a little awkward when I started at the GP practice that I am with now to find the reception in the waiting area. After all, who among us wants a large portion of the local population to know that you have come to make an appointment for a smear. I am sure that we have all come across the receptionist who perhaps isn't as polite as should be expected, but the way to deal with it is to have a word with the practice manager, after all there may be a reason why the receptionist hasn't been the best ambassador for the practice. Sir Liam goes on to admit that the case of the impolite receptionist was not a matter of life or death, but suggests that we wouldn't be spoken to in this way by a member of staff in John Lewis. I think that he is wrong, because I have had more problems with impolite shop staff than I have ever encountered in the NHS.

Sir Liam cites the report by Lord Darzi and talks about high quality care from the NHS which should include faster treatment, more accurate diagnoses, and better survival rates from life-threatening conditions. However, one wonders how easy this will be to achieve when there is concern within the medical profession about the lack of experience that will be the result of the changes that have been made to the training, time taken  and experience required to achieve consultant status for doctors in the future. While it is only right that junior doctors should not be expected to work the ridiculous hours that was expected in the past, this should be taken into consideration when it comes to the length of time taken to reach consultant level. There is significant concern at the level of dumbing-down that seems to have occurred in our schools and the examinations that children sit, do we really want a similar dumbing down in the medical profession because mistakes have been made in the way that doctors are trained.

As I say, there isn't anything new in what Sir Liam has to say, nor should we perhaps expect it. He has spent too long away from the coal face and has no real idea of how hard many in the NHS are working to ensure the best possible service for patients that they can. The problem is that in many cases it is the multiple layers of management within the NHS that is responsible for things not working at optimum levels. Perhaps this is the area that needs to be examined more closely and compared to that within organizations such as John Lewis.

Patient Access - Why I Think It Is Important

One of the sad facts of life is that as we get older more things go wrong with out bodies. Some things are fairly minor and are just due to fair wear and tear; these we swear about to ourselves, but don't normally bother the doctor with. Some things seem to be a bit more major. We start to worry about what may be causing the nasty symptoms that we are suffering, and for these we make an appointment to see our GP. Sometimes the GP can put our mind at rest, tell us what is wrong straight away, and give us a prescription that deals with the problem in a matter of days or at worst weeks. However, every once in a while the problem is more serious and our GP has to refer us to a specialist at a nearby hospital.

When we encounter such a situation, no matter how much we tell ourselves not to worry, we can't help it. Our GP probably gives us very good advice, a possible diagnosis, and tells us that our visit to the hospital is just so that we can be sure. The problem is that as soon as the word hospital is mentioned, we probably forget the rest of what is said to us. One of the ways that we can get round this problem is PAERS (Patient Access Electronic Records System). At the surgery that I attend all patients over the age of 16 have the right to use PAERS, which for this practice is provided by EMIS.

This means that I can check what the doctor has written about the consultation; read helpful leaflets that are relevant to any diagnosis by using an automatically created link; I can check when things like smear tests are due, and get the results online; if I have had a blood test I can check to see if the results are in and whether they are normal or require me to see a doctor; I can book an appointment; and I can request a repeat prescription. It also means that I can check on the dates of operations that I have had for when I have to fill in those interminable forms that we all seem to have to fill in these days.

The Department of Health also believes that patients should have access to information, that until a few years ago, doctors felt was for their eyes only. You never saw the referral letter that was written to the consultant, nor did you see what the consultant had to say after you had seen him. At your appointment with the consultant, he would undoubtedly say things to you that went in through one ear and out through the other because you were so worried about what may have been discovered. And doctors do have a habit of talking about things in terms that we, the patient, may not understand, so when we are asked whether we have any questions, we generally say no because we don't know what we should be asking. This is particularly true if you are elderly, or have to deal with everything on your own.

By giving patients access to their medical records many of these things are no longer a problem. But access varies from GP practice to GP practice; and many hospital trusts do not seem to implement the Department of Health's Copying Letters Policy.  I have been very lucky because just recently I have been through the whole process of a hospital referral, appointments, tests, and diagnosis, and I have been properly informed all the way through the process.  As a result of all this the level of anxiety that I suffered has been kept to a minimum, and I have not had to wait too long for answers.  The system is not perfect, but it is certainly a lot better than in the past.

Today I am going to be demonstrating PAERS as part of a presentation being given by B who was my GP until his retirement in the summer.  Although he has stopped seeing patients, he has not stopped working on medical matters including the benefits of patient's having access to their medical records.  This is going to be a big test for me because it will involve me not only demonstrating the application to a lot of GPs but also possibly having to answer questions at the end of the presentation.  So this evening I am going to be going up to a medical education establishment in the centre of London for one of the most nerve-wracking things that I have done in a long time.  But because I see it as something important for patients to be involved in I am going to take this giant step and hopefully give a really good demonstration.

Panic Over

It took me a while, but I managed to unpick my knitting stitch by stitch, row by row, until I got back to a spot where I had the right number of stitches on the needle and then knit a few rows to get me to the point where I had noticed the error. So I can carry on with the knitting and still hopefully finish the centre panel over the weekend.

I have mentioned before that I started knitting lace shawls about 18 months ago and while most patterns have not caused me any significant problems, one took a number of attempts before I managed to complete the shawl. Since that time I have knitted two other shawls to that pattern without too much of a problem. However, when I was knitting it for the first time I would become depressed for days each time I had to unpick the shawl and start again. At one point I thought that I would never be able to master the pattern.

It is yet another indicator of how much better I am becoming, that even though I have had significant problems with this Shetland lace shawl, I have not got to the stage that I thought I would have to give it up and admit defeat. Through all the problems that I have had with this pattern, I have kept telling myself that knitting consists of just two basic stitches with slight variations to how those two stitches are arranged that creates the pattern. As the centre section is knitted backwards and forwards on the needles (or one needle in my case as I am using a circular needle throughout) I have only been using one of those stitches, and variations of it, so far.

I won't be getting very much knitting done today as I have a busy schedule of other activities and will be out of the house much of the day. But as I complete each pattern repeat I seem to be gaining confidence that I can knit this shawl. It is the kind of item, that in this increasingly throwaway world, can become a family heirloom, and I hope that Kelly and her family can use it for many years to come. Some Shetland lace shawls have survived for more than one hundred years, and the thought that something I have made may still be around and being used long after I am gone means that perhaps I can leave something for future generations.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

I Tempted Fate

I'm afraid that I made a big mistake in writing and publishing my last post.  Talk about tempting fate.  Everything had been going well with the knitting and I was looking forward to finishing the fifth pattern repeat, but as I approached the end of the 11th row of the pattern I realised that I was a stitch short.  I did a quick count of stitches and there were only 116 when I should have had 117. The problem was that I couldn't determine where the mistake had been made so I had to start unpicking the row one stitch at a time. When I had done that I counted again and I was even more adrift. Somewhere along that row I had dropped another stitch so another row had to be undone, and then another.  I am half way along that row now and I have decided to take a break for a few minutes to regain my composure.  I hope that when I have undone this row I should have the right number of stitches on the needle, or be able to see where the mistake is so that I can correct it and carry on again. 

I can't help thinking that if I hadn't stopped knitting to take a picture of what I had completed so far and then written that post, the error may never have occurred.  It is enough to make you cry; I haven't quite got to that stage yet although if I can't find the error tonight I am going to have to put the shawl aside and do something a little easier for the rest of the evening.  Sometimes I wonder why I chose to knit this shawl in the first place.

Progress On The Shetland Lace Shawl

I know that it doesn't look like much at the moment but the lace shawl is starting to grow.  I have now completed four repeats of the 'rosebud' pattern and I am well on my way to completing the fifth.  This is a close up of the centre panel as it stands at the moment and after so many false starts I seem to be able to follow the pattern quite easily and to have got used to the fineness of the yarn, so consequently I am having fewer problems with dropped stitches.

The panel is sort of scrunched up at the moment because that is the way that it knits up, but once the shawl is completed it has to be soaked in warm water, then rolled in a towel to remove as much moisture as possible before blocking it out with wires to its final size and left to dry.  This means that the yarn gets stretched a little and then shrinks a little as it dries so that it stops scrunching up on itself and the patterns on the shawl become clearer.

I am hoping that I will have the centre square panel completed at the weekend and then I will begin the mammoth task of picking up stitches from the three worked edges before starting on the diamond panel border and the intricate lacy edging.  

On This Remembrance Day

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice to end the First World War. It is amazing to think that there are still a few of those gallant men, who were serving at that time, alive on this day and the three that are still living in the UK are due to be at a ceremony at the cenotaph this morning.

One of my great-grandfathers fought in the war. I know little about him, and I have seen only a few photographs of him, but I do know that he died in the early 1920s (in 1922 I think) as a result of his service in France. He was gassed, and although he survived the experience it brought about his early death. The reason that I know this little bit of information is because a few years ago I saw some photographs of my grandparent's wedding and my mother told me that my grandmother was given away by one of her uncles as her father was dead. My grandparents were married in 1927. My great-grandmother lived until she was 81 so must have been a widow for nearly 50 years.

On this day let us remember not only those who have died serving this country, but all those who have served, and all those who serve today.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Maybe I Should Build An Ark

If I wasn't already feeling a bit low, today's weather would have taken care of it.  It's lunchtime, and so dark that I am going to have to put a light on so that I can see what I am doing.  But not only is it dark, the rain is pouring down at such a rate that I am wondering whether an ark may be necessary.

The little freezer attached to the fridge is empty of everything except some vegetables, so I need to go out to the large freezer in the garage to get some things for meals for the next few days.  However, I have no intention of getting myself soaked in the short dash from the back door to the garage, so I shall have to make do with some soup for lunch and hope that the rain eases a little later on.

My depression is not normally affected by the weather, but we have had such grim weather this year that the wind and the rain that we have at the moment is like the straw that broke the camel's back.  Try as I might, it is exceedingly difficult to see that things will get better when the day is so dark and dull.

One slightly lighter note to this post is possible.  I have been doing some knitting this morning and I have managed to move into virgin territory with the knitting.  I have managed to complete one and a half repeats of the 'rosebud' pattern on the Shetland lace shawl.  Perhaps I am getting used to the yarn and as a result managing to cope with the pattern a little more easily.  Anyway, the odd mistakes that I have made this morning have been easily rectified so I am a little more confident in my ability to make this shawl.  I hope that having written that I don't make a monumental mistake in the next few rows and cause me to lose confidence again.

Just In Case You Wondered

Yes, I have been a bit quiet about the Shetland lace shawl for the last few days, and there is a very good reason for that.  I have started it, and had to unpick it again, seven times so far.  The best that I have managed so far is to cast on the required stitches, complete the four rows of garter stitch and then complete 14 rows of the 20-row repeat that forms the 'rosebud' pattern at the centre of the shawl.  My best attempt came to grief about half way through row 15 of the pattern when I made a mistake and then while attempting to correct it managed to drop some stitches that were impossible to pick up again.

It's not that I am a bad knitter; I rarely, if ever, drop stitches normally.  The problem that I am having here is caused by the fineness of the wool that I am using.  I know that they say that a bad workman blames his tools, but in this case it really is the yarn at fault.  I am starting to get used to it now, and I am working on my eighth attempt at the moment.  I have just completed row 14 of the 'rosebud' pattern and will shortly be entering new territory. I am determined that this time I will not make a mistake and I will be a little more careful if I have to unpick anything to try to ensure that I don't drop stitches.

The fact that I had so many problems with the shawl meant that my other knitting, instead of being a stand-by, became the main thing that I was working on.  The result of this is that I now have a new jumper and a cardigan, both in the same yarn.  The cardigan is the garment that I got for free because the yarn was so economical.

So, I will sit down with the pattern, I shall take up the knitting, and I will start row 15 in the hopes that this will be the last time that I have to start on the shawl and that I can get to work on it every evening so that it grows at a good rate.  If I'm having this much trouble with the centre of the shawl, I hate to think what will happen when I get to the lacy borders.  It might just turn out to be my biggest nightmare ever.  We'll have to wait and see what happens. 

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Into The Jaws Of The Dragon

I have made mention in this blog before about patient-access to medical records, and how strongly I feel about it.  Gone are the days when the patient wasn't told that they had cancer because the doctor didn't think that they should know or that they would be able to cope with the information.  In those days, which were not so long ago, the doctor made all the decisions about managing your illness and you were expected to go along with their choices.

Today, we are encouraged to take an active part in maintaining our health and this includes making decisions about where we are treated as well as making sure that we maintain a healthy lifestyle. With so much information available on the Internet, it is important that we have reliable sources of information for it is well known that much of what appears on the Internet has not been verified in any way.  Some items which appear to be very credible may in fact be bad science, or be misrepresenting information that appears in journals and other specialist publications.  This can be dangerous and it is partly because of this that I think it is important for patients to have access to their own records and through them to reliable information about any conditions that may suffer from or about tests that they may have to undergo.

Last week I received an email from B, my recently retired GP, asking if I would be willing to give a demonstration of the records-access application that my local surgery uses.  This demonstration would be part of a presentation that B would be giving to a group of GPs at an academic institution in London.  B knows that I have problems with being with large groups of people that I don't know, and in his email said he would understand if I preferred not to do the demonstration.  Funnily enough, I didn't hesitate for one moment to say yes to his request, so next Wednesday evening I will be demonstrating how I have access to my medical records, and what I can learn from this, to a  lot of doctors.  At the end of the presentation and demonstration there will be a question and answer session.

I hope that the doctors don't bite.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Things Didn't Go According To Plan This Morning

Even though I was exceedingly anxious this morning when I set out for the hospital for my regular psychotherapy session I was determined to have another good session.  I was going to try and start talking as soon as we were seated.  I knew what I wanted to tell my psychotherapist about.  I was going to start with my meeting with There and Back last weekend, and move on to something that I am going to be doing next Wednesday evening which is a totally new experience for me (well new in as much as I haven't done it for a very long time).

I walked to the bus stop and didn't have long to wait before the bus I wanted arrived at the stop and I boarded it.  As has been the case for many months now, there are huge stretches of road being dug up for the water mains replacement programme, so buses are on a diversion at the moment.  But that is not all, because the road onto which they are diverted also has one lane out of action for these road works, the bus has to stop at traffic lights that are controlling the single alternate lane working, the lights are at the bottom of a very steep hill and the bus can barely make it up the hill.

Anyway, I was sitting comfortably on the bus indulging in my usual habit of looking out of the window to see what was happening on the route, when I suddenly became aware that my mobile was ringing in my handbag.  You will understand how unusual this is when I say that there are ony a handful of people who know the number so I don't usually expect it to ring: the phone is really for emergencies.  I scrabbled around in my handbag and managed to grab the phone and open it before the caller had rung off.  It was somebody from the hospital phoning to tell me that my psychotherapy session had to be cancelled because my psychotherapist wouldn't be in because he had an emergency at home.  They had hoped to catch me before I left home, but I left a little earlier this morning because I knew that there were likely to be delays because of the buses being on diversion.

So I got off the bus, crossed the road and walked to the bus stop to get a bus back home again.  Having coped with pterodactyl-sized butterflies in my stomach this morning, to suddenly find that I was not going to have the psychotherapy session that I had prepared myself for left me feeling very low and fighting away the tears.  This seemed such a strange reaction but I suppose that because I am now truly engaging in the therapy, to suddenly find that I was not going to have that opportunity to talk things through as I had planned left me feeling a little bereft.

I had started to write this post when a comment on this morning's post came in for moderation.  It was from 'alhi' from Random Musings from a Wannabe who felt that I had changed since she had been reading my blog and that she was considering seeking referral to a psychologist again.  There have been a number of comments over the last couple of weeks from people who say that they can see a difference in my posts; and I, too, have said that psychotherapy was definitely beginning to make a difference to me.

Psychotherapy is not easy.  It requires a great deal of commitment on the part of the patient and depending on the type of psychotherapy that is offered, can require a significant amount of work outside of the therapy sessions.  Treatment such as the type that I am receiving (psychodynamic psychotherapy) is not readily available on the NHS.  For many people the only thing that they will be offered is a short period of CBT (cognitive-behaviour therapy), but it was felt that this would be of no use to me as it would not get to the source of my problems.  

Evidence shows that the so-called 'talking treatments' can make a significant difference to those with mental health problems.  For some, such treatment is sufficient in itself to help them over their problems.  They are, however, the minority.  For many others it is a combination of drugs and psychotherapy that makes the difference, and I am one of those.  After taking various different antidepressants for 10 years, I have finally found a regime that is actually helping to make a difference to how I feel.  The problem is that the psychotherapy is likely to be time-limited.  Okay, so I wasn't only offered a meagre eight weeks of therapy, which is often the norm, but I know that I am likely to find that my psychotherapy comes to an end in a few months time and that this will happen whether or not I have reached a suitable place for cessation of therapy.  It will happen because the resources (that is suitably qualified psychotherapists) are not available for the number of patients that require the treatment.  What worries me is having my therapy stopped before I am ready to cope with all that the world will throw at me.


It's Friday morning and I have the usual butterflies in the stomach.  Actually, they are more the size of pterodactyls and I can feel them banging and crashing around inside me.  It really is quite bizarre and by this time I ought to be able to cope with my Friday morning psychotherapy sessions without falling prey to these terrors.

I think that I know why I am feeling like this.  I am going to try and start talking as soon as we get settled in the room, like I did last week.  It is this that is preying on my mind and causing high levels of anxiety.  I have also realised that it is getting into this state that is sometimes the trigger for a period of depression.  Knowing that, I am able to tell myself that I really don't have any reason to get depressed and that I must just try to get through the day without worrying too much about anything.

So when I get back from the hospital, I will have something to eat, sit down and reread my TMA and if I am happy with it I will send it off to my tutor.  The rest of the afternoon will be some 'me' time.  I shall sit down with my knitting and watch a DVD or two, and just try to relax.  I have a busy week ahead and there are two really big things occurring on Wednesday and Saturday, which will require me to cope with situations that I usually find so difficult.  I'll let you know how things go later.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Knitting - A Quick Update

The news is not good.  I have now started and unpicked the shawl five times: I still haven't got past the stage of Row 11 of the 'rosebud' pattern. I've been there twice now, but most of my problems seem to be actually getting the right number of stitches on the needle in the first place (needle is not a typo, I'm using a circular needle) and then getting the first row of the 'rosebud' pattern correct.  So I eventually gave up trying for the day and settled down to work on my red jumper.

The news here is a little better.  I have finished knitting the polo collar and all that remains as far as knitting is concerned is the button and buttonhole bands on the collar to have their stitches picked up and knit and then it is just a case of finishing the sewing together, the addition of the requisite number of buttons and another jumper is ready for wearing.

I didn't use the wool specified in the pattern, and the yarn that I bought has turned out to be far more economical so I should have enough to knit a plain round-necked jumper; this means that I will have been able to make two jumpers for the price of one. 

I suppose you could call it a 'buy one, get one free' jumper.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

It's Guy Fawkes Night And I'm Scared

As a child I absolutely hated fireworks which was a bit unfortunate because one of my cousins had his birthday on 5th November and we always had fireworks at his birthday parties.  Even sparklers frightened the life out of me so I would stay indoors with my aunt's dog while everyone else went outside to watch the display.  With age the fear disappeared and I enjoyed organized displays especially when my husband and I went to Florida and visited Disneyland and watched fantastic displays every night.

Some of the best displays that I have seen other than those at Disneyland have been when I have been in Corfu for Greek Easter.  The displays over the Old Fort in Corfu Town as midnight struck and Easter Sunday started were the climax of the moving service that had just taken place in the open air.  All those present light candles and greet those around them with the words 'Christ is risen'.  It is an amazing sight to see so many people gathered in the town for this celebration.

Living on my own, I find that I am now disturbed by the bangs of fireworks around me once again.  I don't have quite the fear that I had as a child, but I find it difficult enough to want to hide my head under a pillow.  I know that this fear is irrational, but I can't stop it.  All I can do is try to keep myself occupied so that I don't notice the noises around me.  Hopefully the noises won't carry on too late so that I can get to sleep at a reasonable hour because sleep is one of the things that I have been having problems with over the last week.

The strangest thing about this fear is that I love the smell that fills the air after a firework display.  There is something about the smell of the gunpowder that I enjoy much as one enjoys the smell of rain after a long hot spell.  Most peculiar, isn't it?

Things Aren't Going So Well

Pretty much everything has been going well over the last couple of weeks.  I've been getting on with my studying, and I'm ahead of the drag curve on both courses, so I have been feeling rather proud of myself.  The last couple of psychotherapy sessions have gone well and I can start to see some benefit from it.  I've knitted two jumpers and a hat, and I am fairly close to finishing my third jumper; it was chunky wool knitted on large needles so it grew quickly.  Sleep is the thing that has been a bit of a problem, but I have survived that and I'm generally feeling better than I have for a long time.

So, why I am saying that things aren't going so well?  I started work on the Shetland lace shawl last night and I have so far started it, knitted the four rows of garter stitch and then 10 rows of the 'rosebud' pattern only to make a mistake on the 11th and drop a stitch, which it was impossible to pick up again.  The only thing to do was to unpick all that I had done and start again; I did.  This time I managed to get to the fifth row of the first 'rosebud' pattern before making a mistake, and as I attempted to unpick the stitches to try to correct it, a dropped stitch again caused havoc and the shawl was again unpicked.

Later on this morning, when I have had some breakfast, done my chores, been out to buy some bread and milk, and made sure that I am in a reasonable frame of mind, I will start the shawl for the third time.  You know what they say about 'third time lucky'.  I'm hoping that they are right and this will be the time where things go well and I am able to follow the pattern and count the stitches properly and progress with the shawl's centre.  What is making this so difficult when it comes to dropped stitches is that the yarn is extremely fine, more like sewing cotton than knitting wool, and it is very difficult to both unpick stitches and to catch stitches when you have dropped them.

One of the things that knitting lace shawls over the last 18 months has taught me is that it is possible to get there in the end.  One shawl pattern that I have was knitted and unpicked, knitted and unpicked, then knitted again so many times before I finally managed to master the pattern and complete the shawl.  It was all worthwhile because the finished article is beautiful and I have since knitted the pattern again without any trouble at all.  I know that if I just take my time and don't try to rush things, I will master the pattern for this shawl and that once I have got the first pattern repeat out of the way it will all become much easier.

In other words, all I have to do is PERSEVERE.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A Dream Of A Shawl

Writing about the things that I am knitting, have just knitted, or am about to knit, seem to have formed a significant part of recent posts to this blog. It has surprised me how much interest in the form of comments that these posts have attracted. Midwife asked me if I had a picture of the shawl that I am about to knit. So here are a couple of pictures for everyone to see what I have let myself in for. The first picture shows the pattern that will form the central square of the shawl; it is called rosebuds and is knitted backwards and forwards as would be normal with a piece of knitting. The second picture shows the border which comprises three sets of diamonds each filled with a different pattern. There are two ways in which this border can be knitted. For the less experienced knitter it is suggested that you knit the border in four parts, working from each side of the central square in turn. However, for the experienced knitter, instructions are given for knitting the border in the round, that is on a circular needle. Once this beautiful border has been completed, a lacy edging is then knitted to finish off the design.

Apparently the shawl can be knitted in about 600 hours, but I am not going to be keeping a count. It will just be sufficient for me to complete it without too many mistakes along the way. So this gives you a bit of an idea of what the shawl will look like, but there is nothing like looking at the real thing, so as I said before, I will include photographs of the shawl as it progresses.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Something For The Cold Weather

One of the things that I noticed with the change to very cold weather last week was that I seem to feel the cold so much more than I have in the past.  I don't think I have worn a proper pair of shoes for more than a year, and the only time I wear trainers is when I am working in the garden; I have been wearing sandals all the time and I haven't really felt the cold in my feet. However, last week I noticed that I had cold feet in bed, and that is something that I hadn't noticed for years, so it was popsocks and shoes when I went for psychotherapy on Friday instead of sandals.

While my body and feet were taken care of, I noticed that my ears were freezing and it was then that I determined that I would knit myself a hat, hence the purchase of wool for a hat and mittens on Friday after psychotherapy.  I finished the hat today, and having sewn it up I felt a photograph was called for.  It is a beret style of hat with a quite easy cable panel alternating with plain stocking stitch panels.  Nothing very glamorous, but I'm more interested in warmth than appearance these days.

I've started knitting the jumper with the wool that I bought at the same time as that for the hat.  It is very chunky yarn and is knitting up quickly.  But it will probably end up being my fall-back knitting over the next couple of weeks.  That's the knitting that I have on the go when I am knitting something very complicated that I sometimes need a break from.  Tomorrow I will be starting to knit the Shetland lace shawl and I am sure that I will need to take breaks from it now and again.

I will keep you posted about how the shawl progresses, and will add photographs regularly so that you can see the delicate patterns that are included in the shawl.  Wish me luck, because I have never knitted anything so fine before, and I am a little nervous about such an undertaking.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Under The Clock At Waterloo

It was reminiscent of a 1940s film. A rendezvous had been made to meet under the clock at Waterloo at 10am this morning. The station was filled with people searching the boards to find out which platform their train was leaving from. There were greetings between those who had not seen each other for some time; there were partings as some set off on adventures or off to some far away place.

I was there, standing under the clock, waiting for someone who I had never met before. Someone with whom I had never spoken. Yet I did not feel as though I was meeting a stranger. I was meeting someone who over the last few months I had come to look upon as a friend. There was no newspaper under my arm, nor a carnation in my buttonhole. I had told the person that I was meeting that I would be wearing my new blue jumper; I hoped that they would recognize it.

This was going to be a first for me. I had never made such an assignation before, I was suddenly a little apprehensive and yet I was looking forward to this encounter. Thoughts went through my mind. Would we get on together? Would we find anything to talk about? We both had mental scars, yet this was perhaps what had drawn us together in the first place.

Today was the big day. Today, I was meeting There and Back.

I have to admit that we have been corresponding by email for some weeks now, and as she was making a visit to London we decided to meet and chose under the clock at Waterloo as our meeting place as so many must have done before us. We walked from the station to get away from the crowds and went to Starbucks for a mug of hot chocolate. And we talked, and talked and talked. For two hours we talked and covered a wide range of subjects, but the thing that we talked about most was our addiction. Yes, we are both addicted to studying with the Open University. We talked about courses we had done, and courses we were yet to take. We talked about families, and about other bloggers.

It is a strange thing, this blogging world. We often comment to each other about how we will never meet and yet we seem to have so many things in common. But for There and Back and I, we shall no longer wonder about the person whose blog we read, for we have met and we enjoyed each other's company. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we have already agreed to do it again some time. What was important about this meeting is that both of us find it difficult to meet new people and we are often uncomfortable in crowded places. Today, I think we both went some way to beating this fear and we have lived to tell the tale.

Just in case you may think I am speaking out of turn, one of the first things I asked There and Back was whether she would mind if I wrote about our meeting in a post. She said 'No', and that she had thought of doing the same thing. So look out for a post on her blog in the days to come.