Smoke & Mirrors…

Busy. Keeping busy. Every waking moment. Planning, doing, moving and shaking; albeit not in the term of “big business” more anxiety and jangling nerves that leave my hands jittering and spilling drinks, dropping bottles (gaviscon off the garage floor anyone?!) and generally causing me frustration and embarrassment.

My mind is never still, nor am I physically. Tick tock tick tock. I have come to the conclusion it is a protective measure: too much time on ones hands to ruminate is dangerous. Thoughts come unbidden.  They still have a tendency to take me by surprise: a mental stock-take of the medicine cupboard; an appraisal of potential “weapons” – it’s amazing what you can do with the most run of the mill household items. The need is still there. Particularly on the bad days.

The house is clean, washing up to date. I have baked, entertained, ironed, meal planned and filed paperwork like a woman possessed. 

I look well. I have make up on, painted nails, hair clean, smelling fragrant. Not only is it my armour, it is an artful misdirection. A new take on the magicians slight of hand. I show what I want you to see. 

Slow down. Take time for yourself they say. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Rest when you can. Why? Will that be the magic fix? 

There are yet even more people involved in our lives now, more meetings, appointments, frustrating phone calls & emails. Everything is happening and yet time stands still. Limbo. At the beck and call of authorities who push deadlines and time frames then move the goal posts at the 11th hour. I no longer want to be reasonable and considered yet moderation is key.

I am raging. I burn with white hot anger. It spills over to my every day life. Fragile children, already clingy, needy, uncertain. They demand, understandably,  so much from me. I am torn in wanting to soothe, appease, console; but I am selfish. I feel conflicted and unsure of my approach with them. They want answers to promises I cannot make. My ferocious, voracious stance is only matched by my impotence and threatens our burgeoning protective bubble. The bubble is as delicate as those blown in childhood from bottles. 

I am told I need to stop with guilt. Ha! It is a laughable suggestion:  I am a mother, a woman & Jewish at that!! We give the Catholics a good run for their money where guilt comes in! If only chicken soup really did cure all ills. I’m sure the NHS would be most grateful though big pharma, maybe not so much?

Do not get me wrong. It is not all black. There are things to enjoy and things to look forward to. Realisations of how much friends and loved ones. mean. I hope they know how appreciated they are – both my virtual, on line support network & the flesh and blood variety. Guilt creeps in when I am too tired to reply or comment. I should be able to support others as they have done me but I cannot find the words, nor sometimes the energy. 

I am in equal parts engaged and yet withdrawn from the real world. I keep waiting for the sense of normality (whatever that is) to resume. Instead I feel I am wavering, teetering. I am reminded of the Stevie Smith poem “Not waving but drowning.”

 

A work in…. progress??

I’ve been truly over-whelmed and grateful for all the messages, emails, texts, visits and all round offers of support in the last few weeks. 

If ever I needed a kick in the backside and a reminder why I am actually privileged beyond all doubt, the last 9 weeks have galvanised that thought process entirely.

In the most utterly dark, dismal and scary places I’ve inhabited over the last few months (both literally and figueratively) there have been sharply crystallised rays of light, a beacon if you want lighting the way and guiding me in the darkness. Cliched? Maybe. True? Certainly, at least for me.

It is well documented that the very worst of times can bring out the very best of people (I refuse entirely to dwell on the paradox that you may also see the utter waste of inhumanity and degradation) and from those that have stepped in at short notice to ferry the kids about, entertain them, help hubby in anyway possible, iron, wash, cook, clean, shop; family, friends, acquaintances newly made (rapidly turning into firm friendships)and friends of old both in the wider world and closer to home in Yorkshire, I am humbled and grateful.

There is so much I want to say about our “bigger picture,” what led me to the depths but for legal reasons I can’t. I’m sorry if that sounds a bit obtuse (I hate those annoying fb posts where people say something really leading, enough to pique your interest and then leave you dangling  – probably because I’m nosy!!) but at this point in time, I do not wish to jeopardise our issues going forward (again, note the optimism; I cannot entertain the thought that things could crumble and leave us wading and wallowing in the 💩again….) Hopefully in due course I will be able to elaborate further and end with “and they all lived happy ever after” type scenario.

For now, and because frankly I’ve been a bit rubbish in the last few weeks at replying to people, I thought I’d try and sum things up a little – I guess this is the blog equivalent of either the (depending on your perspective!!) loved or loathed round-robin Christmas letter.

I think I mentioned a few blog posts ago that I was struggling to answer how I was feeling. I wanted to say what people wanted to hear. I know that with the best of intentions those closest wanted to hear “I’m fine” and see a steely grin of grit and determination. In truth, I was more of a soggy mess and I haven’t dared wear mascara in a very long time (way before my admittance) as even waterproof would have given in to the torrents of tears. 

Fast forward to present day, I am testing out a proper reply to the question of “how are you?” During some points of some days I could honestly answer that question with “I’m fine, good even!” And I wouldn’t be lying. Other days, other moments it would be a more honest answer of “not so good” and you may end up with a wet shoulder if you proffer it for me to cry on.

I haven’t started ‘proper’ therapy in here as my team believe that the best place for that is once I’m home. So for now, I guess the best answer is I’m a work in progress. But an evolving one, striving to move forward and embrace myself imposed motto: if the glass is half empty, there’s always more room for wine! 

Of course I’ve barely had a drop since I started on this road! Obviously you can’t on the ward but even on the occasions I’ve been out for meals or gone home for a night or two, I’ve only had a small glass, mindful that alcohol is both a depressant and doesn’t go well with hard core medication. (NB – I’ve checked with staff and I can have a little glass if I want!!)

I’ve not had huge epiphanies whilst I’ve been an in-mate but I have had moments of clarity and realisation. I’ve absorbed some of the comments from the psych team; turned & twisted them, then embraced them even though they do not always sit comfortably with me. Prickly truths and all that.

I’ve been shocked at times how devious my thought process has become in the months that I hit my all time low. Moments where I feel almost as if I’m an observer of myself. Distanced and looking on at the crazy woman who pontificates how she could sneak tablets and other items to harm myself back into the  hospital, avoiding the inevitable bag searches (FYI, I haven’t, mainly because I’m more worried about other patients who may be even more fragile than I and the potential dangers I could put them in if they went through my stuff) when I return to the ward. Then appalled as my mouth seems to disconnect from my brain and share these thoughts with the psych team. The brain is screaming “shut your mouth!!!!”at full volume whilst the gob goes spouting on and I tell them the numerous and awful ways I could do various things. For obvious reasons I won’t elaborate on those. I’m told however by the team that the fact I’ve been honest with them is a good sign so I’ll hold on that as a win. Lisa 1…. depression/anxiety,/deviousness well if not exactly a 0, at least not wholly defining me.

I know I have a long way to go. I’m not naive enough to think that once I go home everything will be magically sorted and I can bounce back, go straight into full on mode as I had been doing for so many years. I am a realist. And I’m aware that being back at home will bring the stresses and strains of the real world and I may have blips. But that’s ok. With appropriate support, therapy and remembering not to run before I can walk (I’ve never been a running fan anyway unless it involved shoe sales or last orders) I’ve begun to accept that I can regroup, rebuild and restablish myself. 

I know inevitably there will be days I can’t listen to the salient, sage advice – be that by necessity of stuff HAVING to be done (& there is a definite difference in what HAS to be done and what I would LIKE to accomplish in an ideal world) for with a medically complex child and one with autism there are always needs that are imperative and have to be addressed. But I also will acknowledge that if I don’t unload the dishwasher there and then, it’s unlikely to be a deal breaker, the world will not stop turning and the biggest issue I might face as a result is no clean tea spoons (where do they all go? Along with Tupperware lids and single socks that I know went into the machine in pairs!) 

I’m a do-er by nature. It doesn’t sit easy with me to kick back, leave things to others (control issues? 🤔) and not organise, create, or be involved.

Guilt even now is a constant companion. Guilt knowing that Martin is (awesomely) juggling a stressful job, home, kids etc; guilt that those around me are having to pick up the slack; guilt that my loved ones are worried about me, my frame of mind and whether I can cope; guilt when Minx cries after a lovely weekend spent together but I have to return to the hospital. Guilt that I can’t read bed time stories or provide in person encouragement to our son doing A-levels. Enormous, crushing, at times all encompassing, over powering guilt that I can’t wave a wand and enable our autistic child to access not just what he deserves but needs in order to meet his potential.  Even guilt that the poor dog is on his own for large parts of the day if no one is able to be at home with him.

However, guilt is not my friend and it is self destructive. So instead I choose to remember that I have made it out and about, home at times,  walked the dog, (even if it’s been late in the day) cuddled my children, kissed tears, sore knees and sent messages, spoken words of support and suggestions of help and for now that is enough. 

I am after all a work in progress …. 

Calcification 

49 days – 7 weeks x 7 days. Counting down like a child to their birthday, Christmas or a holiday. But I am no child (despite numerous agencies doing their best to make me feel that way) nor am I counting down. Up I go – the number of days I have spent in crisis borne of exhaustion and lack of support. The ennui is heavy, a tiresome burden. 

It seems to matter little which  authority or agency is “in charge,”  whether I’m sat in a boardroom with senior managers, in a tiny office, the quiet room, somewhere, anywhere on the ward; the words & noises wash over me like the droning buzz of bees; and each service offers up essentially the same platitude differing slightly by tone or word but there is no concrete solution offered. Sometimes pills to take off the edge.

I am calcifying. Feeling my bones beneath me fossilising and yet melting at the same time but there is no release. 

Small comfort in tiny things – the dog, always happy to see me, the children, hubby, close friends and family texting/e-mailing/messaging for a progress report. It is a kindness but I no longer know what to say. What do they want to hear? I think carefully. I should not forget the shoes I suppose. 

I await instruction –  get up, medications, get washed & dressed. Plaster on the smile & the make up. This is my armour but the smallest of fissures show beneath the veneer. Eat, sleep, repeat. 

Don’t look closely. It is a death mask. There is a coldness, a distancing. Who is the person staring back at me in the mirror? It surely is not I. That woman looks so “normal” Ha! Appearances are deceptive.

I am a chameleon but I do not change my colours for others, for protection. I am beige, blending in, don’t stand out. Does anyone even see me or just what they expect to see?

What to do? It has not been successful so far – attempts: 2 – Lisa nil. My mind is jabbed sharply, pointedly by my protective measures – my husband, children; I am aware of the statistics of those who do succeed and the increased risk it burdens on my own flesh and blood. Yet I cannot be, cannot exist as is. It is not survival. Purgatory I think.

Perhaps if I contine to calcify, fossilise, blend, I will be re-absorbed; a form of osmosis?  

Melancholia….

I’m pretty sure that’s not the most inspiring name for a blog post, nor one that makes you think “oooh, this will be a rip-roaring laugh which I must sit down and digest with lashings of ginger beer & a cream tea (a touch of the Enid Blyton’s has come over me this morning; I blame the meds!) 

Since I seem to have set many a precedent with my blog posts using song titles and this rang a vague bell (again could be the meds/bleeps on the ward, my imaginary friends, who knows quite frankly?) I thought I’d better google in case I needed to credit anyone specifically. Turns out somewhere along the way all “dat wonga my main mans (parents) what spent on ma h’education over dem years” did somehow pay off.

Not only is it music related but classically so no less! Something to do with Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde…. but regrettably that’s about as far as my musical knowledge goes (sorry Dad, I did try).

Anyway, as so often happens when I start blogging I’ve gone far off track of what this (puff) piece is supposed to be about…. & despite the dreary title. I hope it will make you laugh if you can muster the energy to read on further.

The last few days have been hard work;  assessements by various Dr’s, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses – even when you think they are not watching you, they are; (not in a nasty, obsessive way, just part of their job to observe your mood & interaction) plus there are cameras in every communal area so it really is a lot like “The Big Brother House” (only the peeps in here are far more entertaining & definitely not doing it for the publicity.) There are some horribly sad, tragic situations and others that are too comical for words, and I really mean that with the kindest of intentions. I would not be so disrespectful as to target those with mental health issues as it’s a very low path which I can safely say from experience.

The last 4 days in particular have been very rough, difficult and involved copious amounts of crying (me not them) tissues and snot (me again, v attractive obviously) restraint (on my part not to physically bash one of the Doctors who tried to tell me I didn’t know my own mind 🙄) and quite a lot of drugs. Legal ones for clarification.

Over the last few days I got put back on 15 minute observations and 10 minute obs when I was in the bathroom – I honestly had no intention of drowning myself in the u-bend of the loo but knowing you have someone hovering nearby shouting “are you ok” v loudly and as if you don’t speak English  (you know that thing we do to foreigners where we speak loudly & slowly at them in our own mother tongue because that helps them understand sooo much better 😳🤔- yeah, like that) well it’s not very conducive to “performing” on the loo, be that a tinkle or otherwise & I find myself saying sorry to the environment for running the taps on full to drown out any noise I might make to help me “go”. 

Anyhoo, during this rather unhappy period, I decided to have a bath at 10pm, just before I take enough meds to knock out a 50 stone gorilla – see proof I’m thinking sensibly, risk aware etc…. no point having the bath AFTER taking the knock out stuff – if I do intend to “off” myself I have no desire to be dragged, in the buff out of the bath whilst some overworked, underpaid chronically tired Doc attaches chest paddles/suction (whatever, far too much Casualty/ 24 hours in A&E watching!) to bring me back, whilst the rest of the crew attempt to help, keep away the gawkers… and frankly the NHS staff have enough paperwork & forms to fill in anyway so I’m trying to be considerate on many levels. 

So back to the bath….  some time last week, you may recall I posted a pic of the demented bath taps in this place 

(A refresher – quite literally!!)

Those of you who have stuck with me & followed my blog posts for a while will know that I have an (un) enviable reputation when it comes to matters of personal hygiene in hospitals far & wide across the country. 

From flashing a junior Dr & several other staff with the flannel sized bath towel running down a corridor several years back, to a surgeon quite literally knocking on my bathroom door to chat as the mini window of opportunity I had chosen to attend to personal hygiene had been thwarted by someone else being in the bath & by the time I got in, dunked to the shoulders, the surgeon was back telling me things (for once) had gone much better & easier than expected & could I please step out the bathroom for a catch up 😫 

Plus there are the times I have outed my lack of clean knickers on the Great Ormond street fb page by accidentally having location services switched on to my instagram post showing a pile of dirty laundry, a mini bottle of prosecco & a pile of brand new snazzy pants ( 3 for £10 in New Look = saving money) for all and sundry to giggle over… my incompetence on the bathroom/laundry debacle is legendary & comedic on equal measure to most (unless you happen to be me or the aforementioned poor professionals, again I’m sorry!!!)

Determined as I was to wash the stink of hospital off me & relax with a Lush bath bomb, despite the intrinsic 10 minute door knocking & calls of “all ok in there” I hadn’t factored in the Machiavellian taps… and rooky error to boot, had left the bath unattended whilst I went in search of towels (snaggled 4, no intention of scaring anyone with the boobs or lady bits issues this time)

I gathered my clean pj’s, make up remover, cleanser & flannel feeling fairly smug – Beaton, you’ve got this covered – until I sauntered back to the unmanned bathroom… at which point the words “holy f*#k” may have been uttered…

You see although the bath itself only contained about an inch of water, the rest of the bathroom was knee height as the spiggoting (not a swear word!) tap had done its damndest to flood the place!! By this point, water was creeping under the door, over my clothes & slippers left on the floor, the clean, previously dry towels & rising by the second over the sanitary bin (🤢)..

If you’ve ever watched the film Titanic with Kate Winslet & LeonardoDe Caprio, you may recall that image of all the poor people in steerage up to their necks in water being locked behind a gate. It felt like one of those moments….

In my head the theme tune to the Old Spice advert (Carmina Burana) complete with the crashing waves was playing at epic volume https://youtu.be/6rbZr7YoqK0 just in case you need a reminder. (Courteousy you-tube) 

By this point, uttering a lot of very rude words as quietly as I could to avoid alerting staff, my only objective was to turn off the sodding ba$+arding tap as quickly as I could and to shove a towel at the doorway to absorb as much water as possible before it leaked into the hallways causing the medics to call a code red (or something) I can tell you this was NOT doing much for my already out of control anxiety & I suspect if anyone had taken my blood pressure, I would have been lying on a crash trolley somewhere. 

So at this point, all 4 of my lovely, pristine-still-basically-handkerchief sized bath towels were wringing wet, there was a water mark on the walls  & then the ever present “all ok?” was gently wafted  from the other side of the door.

At this point the temptation to wail noooooo, gibber and rock quietly in the corner seemed like a good call – after all they’d seen me at my lowest ebbs, it was just a case that they were going to have to view a different kind of lower ebb since I had no dry towels or clothes to preserve the very little dignity I have left…. 

But somehow my inner Wonder Woman” (well really in my current modus operendi, I’m more like the sad, bald, partially limbed Barbie that the nasty boy in the original Toy Story feeds to his dog but I digress) trilled out with a light & breezy, “all fine, nothing to worry about! 

Knowing I had a 10 minute window of opportunity to sort out this shambles, I started winging out towels, throwing them back on the floor in the vain hope they might absorb a teeny bit more. Then I turned to the loo roll and paper towels which had not long been refilled and basically, desperate times call for desparate measures so I did what I had to do…. think the domestics were most surprised to find pretty much the entire bathroom supplies that had only been restocked at 6:30 the previous evening were almost gone by 7am but it’s not been mentioned. 

After the exhausting clean up process, frankly the last thing I wanted was a bath in an inch of water… but I was more than a bit stinky and damned if that inch was going to waste (ahem!!) Nor was I taking any further chances of running more water. 

So when I had to shuffle out of the bathroom a few minutes later in wet pj’s and scurry (slopping noises  down the corridor) to my cubicle, I changed as quickly as I could.

The trilling Geordie voice from the other side of my cubicle curtain “oooh I bet that was a nice one pet, you were in there for ageeeeesss!!!” was met by a faint moan on my part & in hindsight, I probably didn’t need the knock out meds  prescribed of a night time… but I figured a nice dreamless sleep might fix things-somewhat…. although I did have very vivid dreams involving the film Point Break…. can’t think why…..

 

(Nb reconstruction for dramatic purposes only – no towels, clothes, doors or bathroom floors were harmed in this remake….although a few paper towels willingly sacrificed themselves)

So I might still be as mad as a box of frogs… but at least I can laugh at myself(ish)…

Shiny happy people….

I’ve noticed a theme in many of my blog posts – the titles often spring to mind based around music. 

Although I’m not quite sharing the lyrical prose, more precisely the sentiment behind Shakespear’s line: “if music be the food of love, play on!” I think it’s apt that music evokes so many thoughts, memories, emotions (good & bad) nostalgia for the past, excitement for the future (nothing better than THE song of the summer fueling the count down to an epic, sun-drenched, sun tan lotion coconut wafting, possibly cocktail inspiring yearning). 

For those of you who are mere whipper snappers, Shiny Happy People was brought to us by R.E.M. (Have a google, promise it’s worth it) Apparently released in 1991 (now I feel REALLY old) the video even now brings back memories & the halcyon days of having learned to drive, gaining the first tastes of freedom as my parents allowed me to stay out at parties providing they knew where it was, if there was a responsible adult there etc) & the realision that I was on the cusp of adulthood, (although A-levels were less fun)  In my present frame of mind how over-rated THAT adult bit turned out to be…. but it would be wrong to be all doom & gloom & as a rule of thumb, I think those who know me fairly well would have, up until this recent blip (understatement extraordinaire) have considered me generally an optimistic, enthusiastic, life embracing & vibrant (not necessarily alcohol induced on the last part – stop rolling your eyes at me! 🙄) person.

Since I entered the hospital (spa) i’ve many time been asked about the Lisa of old by staff and inmates. What was I like before I crumbled? What did I do with time & to describe my qualities good and bad.

I think the person I used to be tried her best, be that whipping up cakes, volunteering for various jobs/school activities/charity work, getting Minx’s request for 10 different shades of nail polish on each set of hands/feet PERFECT, trying to interject exactly the right amount of enthusiasm & salient nodding to G-man’s newly created mind craft world number attempt 24598645 and basically, feeding/clothing & generally keeping on top of things as  best I could on the home/medications/therapies & ENDLESS meetings and appointments front. Any day we made it through with minimal maiming/moaning and a modicum of decorum, applied equally to kids, spouse or the fur babies was a day to be if not exactly celebrated, vaunted as a win won.

Most of all, I’d like to think I was a friend to many. One that could be confided in, counted upon; secret keeper, confidant, being around through the highs & the lows – proffering the cake & prosecco as needed.

I hope I have been a decent enough mother/wife/daughter/sister/auntie etc & been there for those in need be that family or friend.

I recall the old Lisa being terribly nervous but honoured to stand up & speak to a roomful of strangers at the Rare disease conference https://definitelynotthewaltons.com/2016/01/15/put-on-your-red-shoes/ and   https://definitelynotthewaltons.com/2016/01/20/d-day-red-shoes-part-2/to a room full of geneticists, high powered medical bods & patients & families about my family experience of raising an undiagnosed child.  

I attended workshops, coffee mornings, presentations & felt confidant enough in a subject that I was passionate about to make my voice be heard and counted. 

But that Lisa isn’t me, at least not now & doesn’t feel like it ever will be again. (Don’t you just love a pessimist?! 😳) 

Group workshops and therapy have tried to convince me she’s still somewhere there, buried under some rubble, a bit dusty, rumpled & crumpled but nothing that a quick febreeze and a dollop of self belief won’t sort out; however at this very moment, the disconnected, discombobulated partial person I am seems far removed from the one of old.

So that leads me on to my next party piece favourite, with a slight play on words; “if you’re happy and you know it…. take your meds.” Meds are my friend right now. I *may* have alluded to this once or twice (ahem) in the last 2 blog posts and I am quite certain there will be many readers out there shuddering at my cavalier attitude to essentially keeping the pharmaceutical industry in filthy lucre. But a valuable lesson I have learned in these darker days is that whatever gets you through is whatever you must do.  

The Doctors and nursing staff keep a careful and watchful eye on what you take as stated by the consultant and what is written up for PRN (as needed) and if you start getting a bit trigger happy on the prn front, they are not going to dish them out like smarties and are very keen that you try distraction therapies, chatting things over with your designated care-coordinator or even something as simple as a hot drink, walk in the gardens before willingly handing over the gooood drugs.

It is fair to say they leave you a little floaty, present but not quite there, comprehending of your surroundings & those of your fellow inmates but all the edges are softened, flattened & much less likely to leave me blubbering pathetically and hoping I’ve rammed enough tissues in my pockets before having to resort to wiping my nose surreptitiously on my sleeve (eewww). 

Today has necessitated plenty of tissues, prn & if I could pull it off pop star sun glasses worn at ALL times inside and out plus multiple avoidance, floor gazing & a pretense I’ve gone slightly deaf. 

Unbelievably, my 28 day (spa) hospital stay is coming to an end this Wednesday and despite feeling far from ready, able or even slightly like I can cope, the health insurance have not agreed to continue paying for care. 

Apparently after 28 days, I’ve had my lot & should be back to my usual, sparkly self. (Must make a note of that, can be my new daily personal mantra) 

My consultant did her level best to persuade them I am far from ready, she argued for day patient therapy & that was met with a resounding no. They even tried to secure me on-going therapy as an out patient since this should be covered under a separate claim area but apparently “the computer says no.” 

Since costs in a facility like this are in excess of £3000 per week, we are not in a position to stump up the moola for a continuing stay. 

Apparently the kids still need all their vital organs & my liver/kidneys will be more likely preserved in a prosecco/formalyhyde combo – pre admission obvs… haven’t touched a drop in here & even for the few days prior to admission – in fact still not entirely convinced that my significant jitter/tremor commented on during early sessions wasn’t down to prosecco withdrawal symptoms…. NB – entirely joking; despite my reputation as the lush of FB, I’m generally a one glass a night type girl and for clarification purposes, I mean a small, glass not one that can fit an entire bottle!! So purely on a practical front I can’t ebay anything off…

So what now? Well the consultant has asked for the crisis team from the NHS local team to review me urgently tomorrow & try & find me a bed in the local NHS hospital. 

The thought of having to go through this all again with new staff, therapists, teams etc is exhausting beyond belief & I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified. But my bigger fear is that there won’t be local bed space & I will be shipped off to Scarborough or such like; being this is more than an hour away from the family home & the logistics of trying to retain & build up some kind of relationship with my kids, puppy, not to mention hubby, this is untenable as an option to me. So I will be left with the only option to return to the family home. 

Do I feel ready? Hell no. Do I feel I can “cope?” Not even slightly. Do I still have as my end game the “plan” that put me in here in the first place as my intention? Without a shadow of a doubt. So back to the selfish, weak, feeble, ridiculousness  & all the other things I loath about myself it is then…

Meanwhile tonight I will cuddle G/man’s teddy that he gave me for support that bit harder & hope the combo of anti anxiety/depression & sleep meds I took will kick in asap…. 

Caffeine, compassion & the crazy jigsaw lady…

I am the one in 4. That is the statistic (currently) for those who will experience a mental health crisis at some point during their life time.

I am in a place of safety & being well looked after by caring, compassionate & dedicated staff; & let’s not forget my fellow ‘inmates’ as I affectionately think of us.

It is a strange twilight sort of existence. By day 2 in “The Big Bother House” I railed at the staff: “I don’t know what’s expected of me! I don’t know what you NEED me to do!!” They smiled kindly & sympathetically, patently having been asked the same question many times over & their answer was ‘we expect nothing.”  And that’s just it; there aren’t prizes for perfection, goals here are very different & to utterly bastardise a well known phrase to fit my purpose: one small step for man is one great leap for mankind…or something. 

Just being in the moment is enough. An achievement might be as simple as eating a communal meal or a walk in the garden. 

Get yourself showered in the morning or don’t, get dressed or stay in your pj’s. Eat toast or biscuits, do something involving exercise, (horrific!) attend group therapy or make a gazillion things out of cards/paper/sparkles (but don’t expect to keep custody of the scissors). No one judges. 

The lack of hooks for towels, hangers, door handles anything with sharp edges & 15 minute observations that the staff try to carry out as an unobtrusively as possible are noticeable but not bothersome. I’m slightly less keen on having to request my razor from its storage box in the staff room every other day to avoid my yeti impression but it’s not a deal breaker (yet). 

Every day life carries on distantly around me. I’m peripherally aware of meetings, emails, phone calls & my loved ones holding the fort for which I’m unspeakably grateful but in a very laissez faire manner. That might be the drugs talking…. I have some very good ones on board that leave me alternatively slightly floaty or very zen. There’s stuff to help you sleep, stuff to chill you out, stuff to lift the mood or in the case of some fellow inmates stuff to bring them the f*ck back down to earth… I’m in here with a former governor of the  Bank of England, someone married to a Hollywood producer & someone whose met the Dalia Lama. Is it true? I have no idea; nor frankly do I care. 

Of course it’s not all drugs, there are therapies, both group & 1:1, relaxation groups, challenge sessions & even a weekly massage. There’s a local indoor heated pool at a nearby hotel & a gym for those so inclined. A particularly good friend whose known me for umpteen years & then some joked I’ll do anything to get a spa weekend…. 

We are all here fighting our various personal demons and wrestling our consciousness. Sometimes I feel like Sisyphus & the stone on my back & the drop down that hill is a long way to fall, crushed under rolling rock.

My feet of clay, the toppling off my pedestal lies firmly at the hands of the various ‘support’ services who essentially told me to suck it up butter cup & jolly well keep coping, despite my desperate pleas that I was failing due to exhaustion and fatigue. I’m not going into that further because legally there are many issues that need to be addressed. 

Although I still feel shaken to my very core, weak, feeble & ashamed of my self indulgence,  I am lifted by my fellow warriors, sharing their biscuits, proffering cups of tea & joining me (the crazy lady in the corner snuggled in my dressing gown) doing endless jigsaws.  

Just don’t take away my coffee machine or then I might really go batsh*t crazy…. 

Blinging it…….

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The weekend just gone was a fab one!

I was invited by SWAN UK to attend a blogging workshop to discuss techniques, skill sets, twitter and the issues of being a parent of an undiagnosed child in general, especially bearing in mind that April 29th 2016 will be this years Undiagnosed Children’s Awareness Day.

Us parent bloggers are hoping to bring forth some pretty darn spectacular pieces to raise greater awareness as well as much needed funding. You can check out more about the work of SWAN UK and read some of the many amazing blogs from fellow parents on the SWAN UK Facebook page:

SWAN UK (Syndromes Without A Name)’s Page – Facebook

Being invited to meet and liaise with a pretty fab bunch of women, booked into a hotel  for 2 nights no less, no kids, no medications or feeds to prepare  was definitely a win win situation for me. RESULT!!

To his ongoing credit and ever accruing brownie points, hubby truly stepped up to the plate and agreed to drive me down to Birmingham where the event was taking place, tagging along all 4 of our children, their various accoutrements plus his drill so that he could carry out some minor DIY issues for his Mum who lives nearby.

Although the preparations beforehand required some kind of military style organisational skills and when we finally left the house, it looked like we were going for 2 weeks not 2 nights, we made it out the door on Friday night running only 20 minutes later than our planned departure which by Beaton Family standards meant we were actually on time.

Traffic was in our favour and the amount of FB notifications pinging out in the car suggested I wasn’t the only excited SWAN mama. To be fair, I think some of us were giddy with the thought of having uninterrupted sleep in a hotel room, although since most of us stayed up chatting and quaffing the odd glass of wine (or 3) into the small hours, the sleep factor meant little in the end. As another Mum put it so eloquently: we are SWAN parents, who needs sleep?!

Prior to the meet up, there had been plenty of discussions about the important factors of the weekend: what to wear, how many pairs of shoes to pack, whether we were going “OUT OUT” after the workshop and who would be having a fake tan in advance. 😉  Mindful of course of the importance of the event itself, we also reminded each other to bring lap tops, tablets and so on so that we could actually turn our attention to the reasons for the weekend.

I have to confess that although I love my tribe dearly, knowing that they were in the more than capable hands of my hubby and my mother in law, I didn’t have any qualms about leaving them (although of course I did miss them….a bit) but for one of the Mummy’s concerned, it was the first time she had ever left her swan in 5 years and that is no mean feat. She also left him for not one but 2 nights – a pretty fantastic effort for a first timer.

I’d like to think that she went home rejuvenated and wanting to do it all again but as she had the dubious “pleasure” of being my room mate and we spent waaaaaayyyy too much time chatting, I’m pretty sure if she goes to any other weekends, she will want a room all to herself!

Friday night saw a handful of us get together as the majority of the team were arriving the next day. It was good to put faces to names – or faces to blogs – many of us have never met in the “real” world (there are over 1000 members in the SWAN UK group, obviously not all of them blog) and although I have met a number of SWAN UK parents in the past on days out, coffee mornings and such like, many of the group have become firm friends but only on a “virtual” basis.

In my experience, SWAN UK is a very unique and special organisation. Bearing in mind that none of our children have a diagnosis, or they may only be newly diagnosed/ obtain a diagnosis that is so rare very little is known about it; in some case they only get a series of random letters and deletions which no doubt make sense to the medical bods but tell us very little about out children’s future prognosis. Our children’s needs and issues can vary dramatically  -those who are profoundly medically complex/fragile, those who are physically disabled or cognitively delayed, there is the most wonderful sense of inclusion, belonging, a glue that holds us together if you will. There is always a friendly voice, a wealth of information and experience and a real feeling of community so every time I am lucky enough to meet more SWAN UK parents, I really do enjoy the connections we have.

Saturday morning dawned far too early after too much chatting but fortified by a stonking breakfast (waffles yum!) we attempted to find the conference venue. Having negotiated the delights of Birmingham city centre which is presently in the middle of a huge rejuvenation project and thus thoroughly confused the sat nav, we eventually made it to the conference venue and sat down to an unlimited supply of coffees and pastries. If it wasn’t for the fact that our team leader was a bit of a whip cracker and determined that we would knuckle down and stick to her well thought out and planned agenda for the day, we might have thought we were just out for a jolly.

However, ice breaker games played, we quickly settled to the tasks in hand and brain stormed like mad. Whilst it has to be said that I am still a total technophobe and probably a liability (turns out “plug ins” on blogs has nothing to do with hair straighteners, who knew?!) I learned some very valuable and useful info which I hope will assist me in blogging henceforth. I can’t pretend I truly understand widgets and linkies and all the other terminology that was bandied about but I do know some pretty good places to do more research and a lovely, very experienced fellow blogger has offered to take me under her wing and tweak mine as necessary…an offer she may live to regret when she realises quite how kack-handed I really am with tech!

I also got to develop my understanding of Twitter a bit better and whilst I don’t think you will find me a tweeting regular, I can see the benefits of such instantaneous connections with a wide audience. So far my main “achievements” (and once again I use this in the loosest of terms) have been to notify Virgin Trains that our carriage had been plunged into blackness on the way home from a London trip and to organise impromptu special assistance for the MIL when all other lines of coms had failed.  Nonetheless, I am determined to keep going and use it to follow others, link to my blog, raise awareness of undiagnosed children etc etc.

It was a pretty full on day and we finished at 6pm with the only decision to be made thereafter as to how “Out out” we wanted to be by the end of the night. Our SWAN UK co-ordinator dispatched us with thanks and a clear message that we were no longer her responsibility with more than a sigh of relief.

We had a meal booked in a well known Pizza establishment…handily located right next to the choppy waters of the Birmingham canal with no railing or fencing surrounding it whatsoever. Tottering along in my “out-out” high heeled shoes (the Minx has already ear-marked them for future use!) and not at this point having had even a sip of wine, it was a pretty sober inspiring thought that I did not want to end up having an impromptu swim post meal….Nonetheless, I did “force” myself to have the odd glass, just to be sociable!

11;30pm quickly crept up and the sensible ones amongst us (i.e. not me!) decided to go back to the hotel, leaving the rest of us to continue our frivolities in a bar where the volume of the music threatened to make my ear drums bleed.

I must admit it was quite a relief to leave in the end and brave the chilly walk back, enjoying what can only be described as the spectacle of Birmingham “yoof” out to party on a Saturday night. I know I am officially old now as not only was the music far too loud but on more than one occasion I found myself goggling at the skimpy attire and scantily clad folk, muttering that they would catch their death of cold and thankful for my full length parka coat, skinny jeans and jumper…although the sparkly shoes still made me feel vaguely rebellious 🙂

Looking forward to posting more and using my new found knowledge to bling things up in the future, I bid you adieu for now. If you would like to, I now have an FB page you can follow: Definitely Not The Waltons

*Erm, aware last 3 blogs have had shoes in the piccies…..maybe I can get a shoe sponsorship deal?!