Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Knitting For Sanity

Whether or not I post to this blog can be an indicator of how I am feeling. When Mr Smiley sent me an email yesterday he noted that I hadn't posted anything since Thursday and without me having said anything to him knew that I was feeling down. He was right; I'm having a bad time at the moment and while I often have things that I want to say, I don't have the energy or the enthusiasm to write anything.

For many this would not be a problem, but while writing on this blog is not actually a life-defining occurrence, it does have some meaning for my future studies with the OU. Later this year I will be taking a course in creative writing and taking a more advanced one next year. These courses will lead to me completing my second degree but will also give me a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing.

Studying with the OU has been a life-saver for me over the last nine years but it hasn't all been plain sailing. Over the last few years I have only managed to complete one course because depression has made it impossible for me to continue with courses for which I was registered. I am hoping that by taking some creative courses rather than purely academic ones I will break this cycle of having to 'drop out'.

One of the few things that I manage to continue with while I am deeply depressed is knitting. I have become a little manic about it over the last few weeks and have more projects on the go than is usual, even for me. However, I am coming to the end of one of them, a beautiful circular lace blanket that will keep me warm next winter; I should finish it today because I am knitting the edging at the moment and as it is only a 6-row repeat pattern, it seems to be moving around the edge of the blanket at a good rate.

For the first time ever, I have also joined a KAL. For the uninitiated this is a knit-along, and it is for a mystery shawl. The 'mystery' is that none of us, except the designer, know what the finished shawl will look like. The pattern will be available in seven 'clues' which are published weekly; the first was posted on the KAL site last Wednesday and I made the decision to join on Thursday. Having found some yarn in my knitter's stash that would be sufficient for the project I set to work and had completed the 54 rows that made up the first clue within 24 hours. I now have to wait until tomorrow for the second clue which will give me sufficient time to finish knitting the blanket today and sew in the few yarn ends that need to be done before notification of the clue having been posted arrives tomorrow.

The designer lives in the US and plans to post the clue at about midday EDT so that means that it should be available for me to work on tomorrow evening. Once I have finished the second clue I will have to wait again for the next one so I shall get to work on a cardigan for myself in the meantime.

Knitting is keeping me sane at the moment, I am having so much trouble concentrating on things that I am not even able to read. So I have a couple of books sitting beside the bed waiting for the moment that the depression lifts and I can get back to another of the things that I love to do in my spare time.

Once I have the myriad of knitting projects back to realistic levels again, I may do some crocheting as a little light relief. Sending There and Back a book on 'How to Crochet' as part of her birthday present and receiving emails from her letting me know how she is progressing, has reawakened my enthusiasm for this craft. I have decided to make a new throw for my bed and I will be building this from 6-inch squares of various designs from a wonderful book that I bought a few months ago. Having decided on the colours that I am going to use I have to now decide which squares I am going to make and how to lay them out to create the overall effect. This will be the first time that I will have designed something on this scale and I know that it is going to be one of those projects that will take some time to complete, but the joy of crocheting squares of this size for joining together to make a larger object is that the project can be picked up and worked on in any spare moments.

So while I may not be feeling at my best I am still making sure that I find things to do to ensure that my brain doesn't atrophy and that I am engaged in something constructive to pass away the hours. And this has reminded me that I need to charge the battery for my camera so that I can post a few pictures of the projects as they are completed or are progressing.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Post Titles

Sometimes it can be almost as difficult to find a catchy and/or relevant title for a post as it is to write the post in the first place. And sometimes I can't think of what to write at all. Tuesday wasn't one of those days; I managed to add three posts to the blog, none of them particularly earth-shattering, but each of them having something to say about how I had spent my day and how I was feeling.

My visitor figures are never particularly outstanding, although it is nice to know that some people read what I say and take the time and effort to comment. I often wonder what draws people to the blog in the first place so I often have a look at what search terms people use that causes them to have their first look (or even draw them back again later).

I have commented in the past that the search terms "meeting under the clock at Waterloo", "what is a Shetland hap shawl" and "studying and depression" regularly bring readers to the site. Then there was the saga of the students in India who all arrived at the blog by searching for "procrastination is the thief of time"; I don't think that my post with that as its theme will have helped them very much.

Students studying one particular course with the OU (a course that I have studied and mentioned in my blog) arrive at the blog by searching for the subject of the extended essay that forms the final examinable component of the course. They will be somewhat disappointed with the results though because although I mention what the essay is about I don't give them any information that would help them with the essay.

On Tuesday I went out for the day in an effort to try to cheer myself up after a particularly difficult day on Monday. I wrote a post giving details of where I had been and what I had done. Later that same evening I added another post because I had forgotten to include one of the highlights of the day. It was a very short post compared with many on this blog, and it had what I thought was a catchy and relevant title considering the subject. Yesterday I had somebody arrive through searching "keyhole surgery". I don't think that they found what they were looking for though.

So should I be a bit more careful about what I call the posts or what I write about? I don't think so. After all, it may lead someone to become a regular reader, so I don't care how they find my blog; I only hope they take a moment to read it and maybe find something that is worth reading.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Keyhole Surgery

I forgot to mention one of the best things about the Hunterian Museum. You can have a go at keyhole surgery. Well perhaps not surgery, but you can try using the equipment to move some shaped objects into their shaped holes.

It wasn't easy but I did eventually manage to pick up two of the objects and put them into their respective holes. You definitely wouldn't want me operating on you.

Pounding The Streets And Being Educated

I wrote earlier that I thought that I would spend some time today doing something for me. I planned to visit one of London's museums and I thought that I would go somewhere that I had never been before. My post left cb wondering where I had decided to go, because cunningly I had not said where I had in mind just in case I decided on somewhere else before I got there.

I had decided to pay a visit to the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. It is a small museum filled with anatomical specimens and surgical instruments that have been used over the last few hundred years. Many of the preserved specimens are from the animal kingdom, but there are also a significant number of human ones so that it is possible to see for oneself what some of the afflictions that we humans suffer can do to the body. Some of the earliest specimens are incredible not least because of the difficulty that there must have been in obtaining them and preserving them.

There is the skeleton of a giant as well as one of an incredibly small fully grown woman; there are all sorts of tumours in just about any part of the body that you can name; there is a wonderful collection of various sorts of stones that develop in the human body (some of them of such size that it makes your eyes water just to look at them); and there is a collection of surgical instruments that make you wonder how anyone managed to survive surgery at all.

It may be a small museum, but for someone who studied the history of medicine (including surgery) as part of their degree, I was absolutely fascinated.

After looking at all that I wanted to in the museum I left the Royal College of Surgeons and walked back towards the Strand. I then decided to make my way towards Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery where I decided that I would pass some time sitting looking at two of my favourite paintings. I sat looking at two paintings by Turner and could not help but marvel at the skill of this artist and at what he could bring to life on a canvas. I have written about these paintings before and I can spend hours looking at them because of the sheer pleasure that they bring me.

I then decided that it would be best to leave. One of the problems is that London is a tourist destination all year round, and at the moment London is filled with visiting schoolchildren from all over Europe. While I appreciate that many of them may not see such a collection of art in their home towns, it can spoil one's quiet contemplation of a favourite picture when surrounded by 30 or more youngsters being lectured about the paintings on view in a language that you don't understand.

So now I am home again. I feel so much better than I did yesterday, and I have spent some time being educated and in viewing paintings that stir my heart; and I did it for no cost other than the bus fare. I enjoyed my day out and I am now going to plan where I shall visit on my next outing of this sort.

Things Are Looking Brighter

I woke this morning (admittedly after only about four hours sleep) and the deep depression of yesterday had lifted substantially. Mr Smiley was right; writing yesterday's post, although difficult, did help me to deal with the emotions that the day had induced. And the kind thoughts from Alison (who has problems of her own at the moment) and cb were much appreciated.

I spent a little while not long after I woke this morning searching the web looking at places I might conceivably visit today as a means of taking my mind off things. So in a couple of hours time I am going to catch a bus up to the centre of London and go to visit a museum. I'm not absolutely certain where I shall be going yet but I do have one particular museum in mind which I have never visited before.

One of things that I will probably achieve is a state of tiredness, hopefully both physical and mental, and with luck this will enable me to sleep well tonight.

Monday, 23 March 2009

A Difficult Day

I wasn't going to write a post today (I'm not having a good day), but Mr Smiley thought that it might be a good idea and that writing about it might help me to deal with things.

I've been a little bit low for a couple of days, but today is truly horrendous. All I have to do is get through today and I know that things will look a little brighter tomorrow. But knowing that doesn't make things any easier.

Today would have been my husband's 60th birthday. This is the second of those 'big birthdays' since he died. I can't remember how I felt on what would have been his 50th birthday; it was only six months after he died and I was still having a problem coming to terms with things.

Birthdays and anniversaries are always the most difficult times for me, and probably anyone else in my position, however, things have been a little easier over the last few years. But this year, possibly because it is one of the 'big birthdays', I started to get that sinking feeling a few days ago although it wasn't until during my psychotherapy session that I verbalized what was bringing me down. I managed reasonably well over the weekend yet this morning I am feeling lower than I have for a fair while.

I am barely able to stop crying, focusing on anything for longer than about 30 seconds is not easy but I will try to keep going with my knitting and I'll watch anything that is remotely watchable on television (or find a DVD that might entertain me). I don't feel like cooking, so I have decided that I will have fish and chips tonight possibly accompanied by a glass or two of wine.

I'm going to try to keep my mind off what is causing me to feel so low. It's not going to be easy but I shall do my best and hopefully tomorrow I will be back to my slightly less depressed self.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

How Therapy Went

Friday 20th March 2009 12.53pm

Hi Mr Smiley,

I'm afraid your message didn't quite manage to get to me before I left this morning. I had to leave a little earlier than normal so that I could pop into the shop to put some more credit on my Oyster card. I wasn't quite sure how much there was left on it so I wanted to make sure it was topped up.

Although I didn't get very much sleep last night I wasn't too anxious about today's session. Somewhat surprisingly we didn't talk too much about the termination of therapy today; I actually thought that would be what we talked about. It started of with the usual silence, and then 'D' spoke to me about a question that I threw at him last week as we were leaving the room. I don't know if I told you about it, but the question was "Why does a doctor decide to be a psychiatrist?" It's something that has occurred to me over the last few months having read numerous blogs by people who have mental health problems, by doctors (including a few psychiatrists), and medical students. Very few medical students seem to enjoy their psych placement (in fact they nearly all say that they hate it and wouldn't want to specialize in that area). Many of the mental health bloggers are very disparaging about the psychiatrists that they see, although I have to be honest and say that the ones that I have seen have been very nice and helpful too. I suppose that the problem is that dealing with mental illness is a lot more difficult than physical illnesses because it is much more difficult to find out what is causing the problem and treating it can seem like a lot of witchcraft.

We talked about this for a while, although 'D' never did answer the question. Am I surprised? Not really, I suppose that I knew that I wasn't likely to get a straight answer, but I will ask him again when we have our last session.

The rest of the session was about how I feel. The anger, the hurt, the loneliness; all those sorts of things. We talked about whether I tried to do all the things that I do instead of trying to deal with how I feel. I also talked about not having had the chance to say goodbye to the people that meant most to me, how I was at a remove from all of them at their last moments, and how I wasn't able to tell them how much I loved them. I also talked about trying not to think about birthdays and anniversaries because that always sets me on a spiral downwards and how I have managed to forget 'G's' birthday for the last couple of years, but that this year it reared its head again. I think that the reason is that next Monday, 'G' would have been 60, and it has made me realize how long I have been without him.

So all in all it was a pretty traumatic session. Since I have been home I have had a quick phone call from There and Back thanking me for the email and the ecard this morning. Lots of the nurses wished her 'happy birthday' this morning and they gave her a birthday cake which they all ate before her Mum arrived to pick her up to take her home for the afternoon and evening. She had just arrived home when she rang me and had found lots of cards and presents there. She is really intrigued to find out what my present is, but she won't be opening it for a while because she is going to go into town to do some shopping with her Mum. She's going to email me when she has opened it so that I can send her the email which explains what I had thought she could do with the present.

Well, I think that's it for now. It's been difficult to write this because everything is still rather raw, but I've stopped crying now and I am going to get myself something to eat, then I shall put my feet up and relax.

Speak to you later.

Love Madsadgirl xx

Thursday, 19 March 2009

A Night's Sleep

After a number of night's where I have not slept well, or not slept sufficiently because of getting involved in my knitting, I managed to get quite a few hours sleep last night (and this morning).

Yesterday I had to go into one of the shopping centres that my home is situated between (it's almost halfway between both of them and there is sufficient differences in the shops available to warrant the use of both for different purposes). I needed to post a package, and I needed to get something to put it in so going to the centre that has a large Post Office was necessary. This also happens to be the centre that has my nearest shop for knitting supplies and I wanted to have a look for some wool for my stash (knitters love having a stash that they can dip into when the need arrives).

After posting my parcel (a present and card for There and Back whose birthday it is tomorrow) I decided to walk to the large Sainsbury's that is further down the high street. When I say further down, I actually mean almost two miles further down, but it meant that I could buy the one or two things that I can't get in the smaller Sainsbury's in the other shopping centre. While there I decided to take advantage of its cafeteria and treated myself to lunch, a huge jacket potato with cheese and baked beans and a good helping of side salad all washed down with a glass of diet Pepsi. At least it was a healthy meal and like many of those with severe depression I am often guilty of not eating regularly or healthily.

Then I started on the long walk home, with a promise of calling into the wool shop on the way. While in there I found a lovely multicolour yarn that I though would be good for the stash with a view to it being used for a really colourful afghan. I had made a calculation of how much I would need for the afghan and decided to buy a couple of extra balls (just in case) but when we started to look for sufficient balls of the same dye lot, it was not possible. So I decided to settle for half of my requirement in one dye lot and half in another. This meant that hopefully any slight difference in the colours can be disguised by using the dye lots alternately. There was also one ball which had lost its label which meant that it couldn't be sold so the owner very kindly gave me that one for free. This means that with the extra balls that I bought for 'just in case' I may actually have enough to knit a short-sleeved jumper for myself for wearing at home in the summer. I call that a bargain.

So now I had to walk the last part of the way home, but this time somewhat laden with my shopping. Neither of the bags were heavy, but they were bulky and I was getting warm and feeling the effects of all my exercise. I made it home, kicked off my shoes from my now throbbing feet and sat down to take a rest. I had walked a lot further than I had done for a long time and the unaccustomed exercise had taken its toll. It didn't take too long for my legs to stiffen up and I ended up struggling around for the next couple of hours like a very old woman. And if you read this Mr Smiley, I don't want any smart comments.

Last night I went to bed at a reasonable hour, read until my eyes could hardly stay open, then fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. Apart from a couple of brief wakeful periods (one for a call of nature and one to get something to eat because my stomach was rumbling) I slept until 10am this morning. And I am feeling the benefit of that sleep.

I'm planning to go for another walk this afternoon, but nothing quite as demanding as yesterday, and hoping to sleep well again. I know that is not certain because Thursday nights usually end with little sleep as I get anxious about Friday's psychotherapy session. But I can hope, can't I?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

My Own Worst Enemy

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.

I know that I often have problems sleeping, so I have developed a strategy that tries to ensure that I get as much sleep as possible. What I try to do is to tire myself out physically and mentally. The physical aspect can be quite difficult on the days that I don't have the energy to do much physical activity, and the mental side can be difficult to achieve when I have problems with concentration. However, I do my best and one thing that I can usually manage to deal with the mental side of things is to work on one of the crafts that I enjoy.

At the moment the craft that absorbs much of my time, and hopefully mental capacity, is knitting. I have often mentioned before that I have been a knitter almost all my life, and I have always loved the challenge of the difficult, so you will often find that I have several projects on the go at the same time so that I have something that is suitable to meet my concentration abilities at any given time.

Lace knitting requires a high level of concentration as it is nothing unusual for every row to be different when knitting a complex shawl for example. This means that it is not suitable as something to do when watching television. So, if it is a good night for television I will have something which requires little concentration, a jumper or a scarf, for example.

As a result of a large number of visitors to my blog a few weeks ago who had arrived via the same Google search terms I did some investigating. These visitors had arrived via a link in a knitting forum to one of my posts that was about Shetland Hap shawls. The end result was that I joined the knitting forum myself and I have been enjoying reading what other knitters are working on and attempting to answer other knitter's questions. One of the forum members has been knitting a lovely circular blanket (afghan) and has posted a picture of it now that she has finished it. She also gave details of the pattern that she used, so I had a look at the pattern and decided to buy it so that I could knit it in the future. I was able to buy a download of the pattern which was useful as the designer is American, as are most of the forum members, so it was unlikely that had it been a 'paper pattern' that it would be available in the UK.

Yesterday I went for walk and while I was out I managed to buy some wool, at a very reasonable price, to use to knit the blanket. I didn't mean to start the blanket yet as I have a couple of other projects that I need to work on, but because this pattern had a new technique for starting the work, I am afraid that the temptation was too much and yesterday evening I had to have a go at starting it. Try as I might I just could not follow the instructions for this start, which enables you to begin knitting a circular item without a bulky cast on and without leaving a hole at the middle of the item. However, there was an illustration showing what the cast on should look like once it had been completed and because the start of the blanket only required 10 stitches to be created I decided to approach the problem from a different angle. Armed with a knitting needle and the wool threaded through a tapestry needle, I managed to recreate the layout of the stitches and yarn as illustrated and then transferred them to the double-pointed needles required for the early stages of the knitting. Having managed this, I found that I had to carry on with the knitting, at least for a few rows, so that I had the pattern, and the blanket, established and ready to be put aside until I was ready to work on it in earnest.

Unfortunately I became hooked on it, and as it grew I found I wanted to start work on the next chart (it is worked using a set of charts to illustrate how the stitches and patterns involved are developed) and then the next. This meant that instead of going to bed at a reasonable time and reading a little before going to sleep, I was hooked on my knitting and was still going strong at about 3am this morning at which time I started to yawn uncontrollably and realized that I really ought to go to bed. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow but was awake again by 6.30 with the sun streaming through the window. Not enough sleep really, but I found that I couldn't turn over and drop off again.

There you have it. I'm tired, but I have things that I must do today, so I am up and having now had something to eat and got myself ready to face the day, I must get on with my chores, go to the Post Office to do some business there, then go for a walk to get some physical exercise for the day, before coming home and maybe having a short nap to make up for the hours that I missed last night.

Tonight I really must go to bed early, but I bet I won't. You see I really am my own worst enemy!

Monday, 16 March 2009

I Don't Know ...

... anybody who doesn't love popping the bubbles of bubble wrap. So here is a fabulous place to go.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

You Know That ...

... summer can't be too far way when the ice-cream vans start to come round the houses with their tinny musical horns advertising their presence.

Yes, this afternoon the first ice-cream seller of the season paid a visit outside my house. Much as I love ice cream, it's still too cold to go out into the street to "Stop him and buy one".

Friday, 13 March 2009

Psychotherapy And Termination

As usual for a Thursday night I had to make do with just a couple of hours sleep last night. But for all that I was quite alert when I left the house this morning to make my way to the hospital and my psychotherapy session. And I was fine until my psychotherapist came to fetch me. From that moment on I started to get into a panic and by the time that we got to the room that we use my heart was pounding and before I knew it tears were running down my cheeks. I don't know why I was like this, maybe it was because of the way that I have been feeling for the last week or 10 days.

My psychotherapist let me get myself together again and then started the conversation by asking if I had thought about the termination of the therapy that I have been undergoing. I haven't; probably because I know that I am not yet ready for this eventuality, but there is a problem with the fact that I am not ready. I have known from the start that this therapy would only be for one year and the end of that period is approaching. I should have been prepared for this subject being broached because of something that my therapist asked me last week, but I suppose that I didn't want to think about it because I don't think that I am ready to end therapy.

It is about six weeks until my year is completed, but Easter is going to fall within this period and that means that I will not have therapy on Good Friday. So today we talked about the termination of our therapeutic relationship and how that made me feel. That was easy to answer. I feel like I am being abandoned. Though I have made a lot of progress over the period that I have been having psychotherapy, I know that there are still a lot of things that I need to come to terms with before I can say that I can cope without it. And that is an achievement in itself.

When my GP referred me to the hospital for this psychotherapy, I was sceptical about it. I was not sure that it was the right thing for me, possibly because of my horrific experience with the first therapist that I saw all those years ago. The two assessment appointments that I had at the hospital were very traumatic but the psychologist who carried out the assessment thought that I was a good candidate for this type of therapy and that it would help me. He was right; it has helped because I am able to do some things that would have been impossible a year ago. But I am still not at the stage that I want to be and this means that I need to continue with therapy of some sort so that was the next thing that we discussed.

One of the three possibilities was sort of dropped almost immediately. I don't think that my therapist thinks that it is right for me, so although he offered it as a possible option, it formed no further part of our conversation. The other two possibilities have given me a lot of food for thought. He could refer me for group psychotherapy at the hospital that I attend now. This would mean that I would be taking part in the same sort of psychotherapy but in a group rather than as an individual. There are merits to this but also one major difficulty. The difficulty is that I am not sure how I would cope in a group as talking to other people about myself and my feelings is not something that I find very easy. The other possibility is that I be referred for full-blown psychoanalysis. Unfortunately this would not be available on the NHS so I would have to pay for it, but my psychotherapist does feel that this could be the way forward for me.

Obviously this is going to form the basis of my psychotherapy session next week, at least to start with, and it is something that I need to think about and investigate in the meantime. I wish that I didn't have to stop therapy with my present psychotherapist because I have got used to him and I feel that we have been getting somewhere. But it has to happen and I will have to accept that. But I can't help feeling that I am being abandoned and that whatever happens I will have to start all over again.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Like A Poppy

I've been having a bit of a bad time again recently. Can't you tell? The posts seem to have tailed off again. I know that when I go for psychotherapy on Friday I am going to be asked if there is a reason for it, and I think that I am going to have to say that I don't know that there is.

Mental well-being is a strange thing. If you can find a reason for why you are not feeling at your best then you can usually do something to help raise your spirits a little or take your mind off how bad you are feeling. But if you are not aware of what is causing you to feel 'down' it can be very hard to find that little something that will make your day brighter.

I try to keep busy. I look to various crafts to while away the hours. Knitting can be great if the pattern isn't too complicated. You can tell yourself to get to the next important stage in the pattern and as long as that goal isn't too far away, you can reach it and go past that point without thinking about what is wrong with your life.

When working on a cross stitch picture I try to work on a particular area so that a bit more of the overall picture is obvious on the needlework. It can make a significant difference as I shade in squares on the picture key and see the design start to come to life. There are particular designs that I like to sew. One series that I particularly enjoy is of a little bear called Newton. I have a number of these pictures completed now, and several more waiting to be sewn, but so far only one has been framed. Soon I am going to have to sort some out and take them to the local framer so that I can have a selection of these jolly little pictures hanging on the walls around me. Newton is a bit of a philosopher so as well as being pictures of a little bear in often unfortunate situations, each picture has a little adage embroidered on it. They can make me smile.

Another subject that I love to embroider is poppies. Although for many the poppy has sad connotations, I think poppies are happy flowers. For me, one of the most beautiful sights in the world is a mass of bright red heads in a field of corn, or blowing in the wind on a grassy verge. I suppose it is the frailty of the flower that makes it so appealing. Tissue-paper thin petals that last for such a short time but which fight against everything surrounding them in order to show themselves in their full glory.

I suppose that I am a bit like a poppy. Fragile so much of the time, but fighting my way through life so that I can, just once in a while, stand with my head held proud and show the world that I am still here and that no matter what makes my life difficult, I will rise over it as best I can.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

My Bedtime Reading

I've been reading a lot over the last few weeks, far more than I have for a very long time. Yes, I used to read all my study material but as I have said a couple of times just recently I haven't been reading for pleasure and relaxation. Having dropped my studying for a few months I now have the opportunity to do just that and I have now finished all three of the books that I had recently bought for enjoyment.

Yesterday I finished reading Bill Bryson's Shakespeare and I have to say that it was another book that I enjoyed, not just because it was for relaxation but because Bryson writes brilliantly and he covered the subject well. I hadn't realized just how little was really known about Shakespeare and his life, but Bryson tells it as it is. Shakespeare is, and will probably remain forever, a somewhat shady character, not because of what he did but because so little can be proved about his life. We are so used to there being so much documentary evidence about significant people in this country's past that it comes as a real surprise to find that most of Shakespeare's life as portrayed in the majority of the books about him is nothing more than conjecture.

Having finished the book yesterday afternoon, I was left with the quandary of what to read in bed last night. I have got back into the habit of reading for half an hour or so before I lie down to go to sleep and although I have the complete novels of Jane Austen sitting waiting to be dipped in to when I am in the mood, it really wasn't what I had in mind as bedtime reading.

As I headed to bed last night I had a look to see what I had in my library that could bear reading again. And then I found it. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia; an edition that was published to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The beauty of this book is that it includes the illustrations that were drawn for the original editions of the seven novels, but this time in colour. And the books are arranged in the order of the story rather than the order that they were written. Last night I began reading The Magician's Nephew, the story that tells of the creation of Narnia and how the animals were made to talk.

It is unfashionable to write 'nice' stories for children these days, and there can be no doubt that these are 'nice' stories. C S Lewis was a man well known for his religious beliefs and the Narnian Chronicles are undoubtedly religious in nature with Aslan being an allegory for God. So The Magician's Nephew is the story of the Creation, and the last of the books, The Last Battle, tells of the end of time. Although religion is something that seems to be out of favour at the moment, the morality of the stories is something that we can do well to take on board.

So for the next few weeks I am going to work my way through the seven novels, remembering the circumstances of how I first came to enjoy the stories and enjoying seven beautifully written children's books. Yes, it is escapism, but isn't that what books are for. It doesn't matter that they are somewhat dated now, the morals contained within them are as important to take on board today as they were when the books were written all those years ago.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Psychotherapy And Lunch

Friday, psychotherapy day, and I was awake long before dawn. For the last few days I haven't been able to stop sleeping, night or day, and yet last night sleep was something that was difficult to come by. But no matter, because I knew that today should be easy enough to get through.

As usual, my mind and tongue seemed to lack the ability to work together. I knew that I could, in fact I should, start the session by talking and yet it seemed so difficult to actually achieve. And then, after a super-human effort I managed it. I started to talk about how I was sorry that I hadn't had a session last Friday for it would have been nice to talk to someone about how my lecture had gone the day before.

Having got started, having made that extreme effort, the session seemed to go quite well. There were moments that were difficult, when tears flowed easily, when I had to admit to wanting things that I knew that I couldn't have, things that were impossible, but as we moved on and talked of other things the tears stopped and I started to feel almost calm. I talked about the adrenalin high that I experienced for about 48 hours after the lecture and seminar, and how my life seemed to tumble into the abyss again once this period was gone.

Talking about it this morning I realized just how disappointing it was not to have someone who I could talk to about the event immediately afterwards. Yes, I blogged about it, and you were kind and sent me lots of lovely comments, but it's just not the same as having someone there who you can talk to about it and who can ask you questions and who can feel the same sense of achievement as you have felt over the experience.

When the session was over I left the hospital to catch a bus; not home but into the centre of London. I was meeting Mr Smiley for lunch and just for a change he was early. Mr Smiley operates on a different time-scale to the rest of us; we call it Smiley Time. Lunch was great, and we had a long chat covering all sorts of things. All too soon it was time to leave and we went our separate ways.

It was only when I got home this afternoon that I realized that I have only spoken to three people this week. Loneliness is a terrible thing, and I know that I really must make an effort and get out more. Perhaps when the weather improves I might manage this. In the meantime, I will keep knitting and reading and find lots of other things to keep my mind active, and try to get out for a walk every day so that I can keep my body active too.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Sleeping And Reading

I have not been feeling my best for a few days now. In fact, I have been feeling pretty low. It's been a bit strange because instead of not being able to sleep as is quite usual for me when depression starts to take over, this time I have had trouble staying awake. When I have been awake I have been reading and I have really enjoyed reading for enjoyment rather than reading for studying.

I have finished reading two books over the last week or so. Moondust, about the men who walked on the Moon, and Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. I read books in much the same way that I knit. I can't have just one on the go, I have to be reading several books at the same time so that I can pick one to suit my mood.

I have been off novels for the last few weeks, so Pride and Prejudice is sitting waiting for me to get into the mood for fiction again. And tonight when I go to bed I will need to start a new book. As luck would have it I have another non-fiction book waiting to be read; Bill Bryson's Shakespeare. This is quite a slim volume (only 200 pages) and certainly shorter than many of the books that I read. I'm led to believe that Bryson's book, while not the in-depth biography that most would feel that they had to write about the Bard, is nevertheless worth the read, and funny to boot. Having read Bryson's A Short History of Everything, and thoroughly enjoyed it, I am hoping that I will be able to say the same about this book too.

Reading is such a comfort when I am feeling like this.

Monday, 2 March 2009


I'm having one of those days. You know the sort; you don't seem to be able to settle to anything and you know that there are loads of things that you could be doing, or ought to be doing, but you don't feel like doing any of them.

I seem to be finding my days a little empty after having had a reasonably significant event or two, every week for the last couple of months. Was it really only four days ago that I was travelling home from one of the biggest days in my life for a long time? It seems so much longer ago than that. The euphoria has gone and life has returned to the mundane.

Now I have nothing to prepare for, nothing to look forward to, nothing to plan. Life seems to be empty, and those dark feelings are looking for a chink in my armour so that they can invade again. And the tears are starting to flow.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Art Of Relaxation

It's not something that I have thought about much before, but I have suddenly realized that I haven't been relaxed for a long time. This seemed a strange realization because there have been so many times recently when I have done nothing but sleep for hours on end. But this is not relaxation; it is more a case of exhaustion and the body saying that it can take no more and needs to close down in order to recuperate.

At the moment I am not studying anything with the OU. I wasn't enjoying the course that I was doing and I felt that constantly having to force myself to find the time and the enthusiasm to study was part of the reason that I was feeling so depressed. I may have been right because once I had made the decision to stop for a while I started to feel better. I wasn't completely out of the darkness, but I started to feel better than I had for a long time.

I still had things that I had to do. I had to write the notes and script for last week's lecture and that meant a deadline to work to, and it was a deadline that could not be changed or negotiated over. This was probably rather good for me. I didn't put the finishing touches to it until the day before it was going to be presented, partly because I had a significant change of mind about how the experience of my current psychotherapy should be described. I think that the change was successful and added to the impact of what I had to say.

Now that this event is over I have nothing major in my diary for a couple of months. This means that I can spend time on myself doing whatever I want and this weekend has been wonderful. I have done what I wanted, when I wanted to and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yesterday morning I finished knitting a scarf that I had started earlier in the week, then immediately started another one, this time a lacy pattern that is being knitted in a lovely mohair yarn in shades of blue and purple. It is progressing well and will be finished this afternoon.

I read a little this morning, and only put the book down and picked up the knitting because I could feel my eyes getting heavy and sleep calling to me. I am enjoying my reading again, and reading a little each night before going to sleep; this is again something that I have not done for a long time. And the reason for all this is that I have suddenly discovered the art of relaxation again.

I am doing things that I enjoy and doing them when I want to and not seeing them as a means to help to focus my mind on something other than how I am feeling. I'm not worrying about how I am feeling because I think that I am feeling happy. It's been a long time coming so I think that I am going to make the most of it while it is here. I shall relax, do whatever I want to, and not worry too much about the chores. Yes, I will do them, but I won't worry if I decide to put something off until tomorrow because I want to do something different. And that is going to include me taking the opportunity to visit a couple of museums that I haven't visited for more years than I care to think about, and one that I have never visited at all.

I'm rather enjoying relaxation.