Glorious Holidays

Like most people with ongoing depression issues I struggle with the holidays and find this whole time of year overwhelming.

Unlike several members of my intimate circle (friends and family) I like spending the christmas hols with my parents and siblings  -our political differences are not so dramatic as to cause real hurt and we are quite good avoiding ‘issues’ where that seems to be required. Though they often don’t understand my choices we seem to have reached a happy détente and I feel no need to rock the boat so to speak.
Similarly, I am too far removed from office politics to give a shit about who I should kiss when or how I should frame our holiday schedules to make them make sense to monogamous folk.
And yet even having decided to not worry about whether people know about my intimate relationships or not, and whether or not that changes how I have to live my life – I am still stressed.

I am stressed not just because being open is not sufficient protection for the people I care about and they still have to deal with the judgements of others both on the basis of their decisions and mine – and yes some of our more poly sceptical friends our coming round to at least the “well I don’t approve but I can’t see anything obviously wrong with YOUR lives” view but its not quite making up for the “I’m not saying you can’t but you do know you are fucking up x’s life don’t you” camps… There are people I have known for years I just don’t know how to say to – “I get you care but back the fuck off because we are making this work by making our own rules and your constant whining/worrying is making it harder”… yes this makes it hard at this time of year when everyone is all about fucking hetero, mono family values but because actually its not as hard as just being expected to talk to people.

All the fucking parties. Organise this, make sure you have x,y,z together for when you see so-and-so…. leaving the house is a fucking struggle in spring when no one notices and you only have to get to the shops/see Mrs A./ go to your Dr.’s appt once a month or less but in december when everyone has a party and you need to do the shopping and getting a dr’s appt is a miracle, suddenly a week is a stack of unreasonable goals piled on almost impossible imaginary ideals.
And oh gods above they are all so cheery – if I believed what I heard at parties I’d know for sure that their relationships always got better and their jobs got more interesting

But that’s not what I feel as I curl up and battle back the tears before each time I venture outside, each time I wonder how to stop the shaking and hyperventilating to start a new conversation and everytime I want to apologise as someone starts to congratulate me on our new venture.

The desire to tear my skin apart is worse than it has been for nearly a year, my shoulder is hurting a lot again and I feel like a failure before we have even begun. Yay for self-fucking-confidence and all that shit.

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Drat!

So apparently depression has properly been biting my backside the last month or so.
Best laid plans have not come to fruition and I haven’t really been able to see where I am going or why. Mostly I have slept, felt tired and complained about how much shoulder hurts (apparently the new physio exercises are very uncomfortable and not making the days easier), and all i have wanted to do is sleep and curl up in the dark.

So.. um. Sorry

 

Unscheduled Absence

So I have started a few posts and failed to finish them recently..
Partly this has been the result of having to fight the depression and anxiety off with a big stick and partly because ya know life..

  • Changing of the guard at work has required shifting patterns & bank holidays take up time
  • Family death and illness has required attention and emotional support
  • My shoulder is giving me hell and wrecking my sleep
  • I have a conference paper and research proposal to write – by the end of the week
  • I’m still finishing up my thesis edits (just pg nos to go!)
  • I have some new things to research for the museum..

So just wanted to say: I’m still here, I’m not doing too badly, I have plenty of projects going on and I have some stuff I want to talk about here. Bear with me.

Words on Living with Pain

A Fragment.
(Not a definitive description. Not even a drop in the ocean of the different experiences of just one person.)

In my head an awareness of pain sits like static from across the room. It hums at me, irksome and untouchable, just off kilter enough to make me feel irritable. But I am used to this and concentration on other things allows me to forget it is there. Stopping reminds me, getting tired reminds me, I remind me.
Sometimes the buzz of static grows bluebottles. Extra whining buzzes on top of the dull hum. They swoop closer or settle silent only to be raised up by something unexpected. I cannot see the cause of the bluebottles, I don’t know why the short bursts of extra pain appear or settle down again. I cannot open the window for them or squash them, I must be quiet and hope they fall asleep or find their own way out and leave just me and the static.

Bad days are when the white noise of pain that makes it so hard to concentrate gets so loud I can barely hear people’s words or complete simple tasks. Bad days are when I can’t decide if I need utter isolation to practice breathing or to do everything at once to try and shut it out until I am so exhausted I can sleep. Bad days are snappy, weepy, untouchable, unpredictable, pacing-the-floor, staring-at-the walls days.
But Good days, well I like good days. On good days painkillers work, on good days birdsong is more distracting than the static, on good days I am strong enough.

[Incidentally this description is equally valid for Chronic physical pain and for the mental pain of depression]

 

Pain is not good for Concentration

These last few days (4 or 5) I’ve been feeling somewhat under the weather.
Headaches, nausea, dizziness and basic malaise – not enough to send me to bed or the Dr. just enough to make me into a whiny sod. I have footled about on the thesis, moped and cried a bit and generally not been very productive.

But once or twice it slipped over into real pain and utter failure to work. I Hurt. Wrist, knee, hips.. My shoulder has been doing a burning, stabbing agony type thing. Not so that I can’t move my hand or type, just enough that it hurts all the time and I can’t move my head without wincing. Although, ironically, it seems to be better in the pub and hasn’t yet stopped me hefting firkins or pulling pints but tends instead to sieze up when I sit down to write or try and sleep.
B tells me it is because I haven’t been using my proper chair and laptop stand… (Don’t tell him but there may be some truth in that) I however am firmly of the opinion that I am suffering an acute psychosomatic stress reaction.
I feel like shit because I am worried about my thesis and I have an excuse for not doing much on my thesis because I feel like shit – sounds like a perfectly plausible self-fulfilling prophecy and one step up from laziness. Fact remains though it is really difficult to concentrate when you hurt

Cheese

Do you know what I’m finding hard about healthy eating?
Aside, of course, from the fear of control issues and the need to maintain sensible self-image.. and the insane cheese cravings that plague everyday of my life.
The problem is my thesis. – That is its ability to induce boredom, frustration and anxiety which lead to pacing, procrastination and sandwich-making (especially of the cheese variety). To stave off the desire to eat, I make coffee. Eventually though the slow years of trying to reduce my caffeine intake leave me with jitters and the desire to kill the jitters with food or booze.
So since being an alcoholic is both expensive and fattening and the thesis isn’t going away just yet I am trying to learn how to snack on lettuce and hoping that my appetite will eventually vanish as the stress gets higher – like during my A-levels, and finals…

I don’t want to be thin, I don’t want to stop enjoying food. I want to get back closer to my pre-antidepressants weight (partially so I can stop being paranoid about my blood pressure and whether they’ll take me off the anti-baby pills) and I want to get back to feeling fit with the hope that maybe I’ll have more energy and my joints will stop playing up. I want to wake up not feeling tired and I want not to spend everyday in pain.

DSA worries

It turns out that I should have re-applied for my disabled student allowance at the beginning of the academic year. Apparently you have to fill in their forms every year but no one told me.

So although I failed to keep any of my receipts and am too embarassed to ask for any extra assistance, because my university provided me with a mentor I have had to fill in a new application – though this only became apparent when they applied to the govt for their reimbursement and was the 1st I knew about it.
According to my disability support liasion I don’t need to have new Dr’s evidence, which came as both a relief and a surprise. A relief because a certifying letter from the Dr is expensive and time-consuming (approx £30 and 2 weeks – despite being attached to a uni the health centre even charge for letters for extenuating circs at their own uni!!!) and a surprise because of the current government’s attitude to disability (i.e. prove it umpteen times and we still probably dont think you deserve DLA, ATOS I’m looking at you!).

I’m worried.
I’m terrified they’ll decide I’m not entitled, that the university will ask me to pay for the mentoring services (which I only took because I thought they were funded). I’m terrified they are right. That I am a malingering fool, after all I’m not on meds at the moment.
I’m not very good at asking for money or support. In all my years as a PG and despite being allocated a fund every year I have never claimed money back from the university, for conferences or photocopying. I have never complained at the difficulties and costs associated with returning library books as a distance learner or the extreme panic any form of admin not explicitly emailed to me has caused. I accept both that travel is required and expensive and that I made the choice to live away (to stay with my partner, support network and job) and that standard PG resources are all campus based and even that all disabilty resources are campus based – but I feel like maybe just maybe there should be/have been someone to support me through the financial issues and the DSA forms and checked up that I was getting help. Am I asking too much? Am I just jaded?

2012 – Summer Update

So somewhere over halfway through the year, how is my 2012 goal list going?

Physical:

  • Lose 1-2 Stone
    Still 13st and a bit… aargh. I want to be get down to 11 and I can’t seem to drop into the 12s – I have gained 10″ round both bust and waist since I was 17. I hate it.
  • Create (and stick-to @ least 4 days a week) a daily exercise routine that incorporates both shoulder physio and some muscle toning (pilates/yoga & weights?)
    fail 😦
    Need to work on managing the pain
  • Walk at least either 1 Munro or 1 Alpine 4000;
    Looks unlikely with knee probs 😦

Mental/Academic

  • Submit! 
  • Write, deliver & publish my conference paper
    Wrote and gave, hopefully once the thesis is submitted….

Emotional

  • Commit to another round of counselling (as booked through Talking Therapies) and/or psychiatrist
    Tick – not sure where to go next tbh. I’m ok I think so?
  • Take 1 week off each with W & B and ideally 1 week with both together
    Malta with W in Jan, a couple of days in Cornwall with B and a couple with W already achieved and a week in Scot for the three of us planned…….what else?
  • Get my F***ing sleep pattern under control.
    bugger!
  • Make sure my weekly time routine is balanced for all involved
    Not sure  – ask them.

Domestic

  • Puppy!
    Woo Hello Rory!
  • Actually successfully grow some vegetables…
    Potatoes done, spring onions done, spinach done, strawberries and raspberries also harvested
  • Finish the painting
    About half way there
  • Celebrate mine & W’s 10th Anniversary
    Its not til Oct.

I am trying to decide if I need to add to these goals and revise them…I think that I not only need a few more specifics but also stuff to build on longer term. Please bear with me.

But my bed is really comfortable..

After the house and the wedding rings the bed (incl. mattress) is the most expensive thing my wife and I own – it cost more than the pretty much all the rest of the furniture put together – it is a comfortable bed. So why the hell can’t I find a way to lie that doesn’t hurt?

When my shoulder is hurting during the day I can rest it or stretch it or even distract myself and basically ignore it- its only pain after all.
But at night when what I want is to sleep..have I mentioned I like sleeping? hell that I need to sleep quite a lot or else my psychological grip on myself vanishes… when I want to sleep the pain becomes almost unbearable.

I like to sleep on my side, curled semi-foetal safe, or alternatively to lie half on my fron with my arms under my pillow supporting my head, stretched out recovery-position style – but both are impossible for more than a few minutes. I love to lie spooning with my darling wife, arm draped over her body protectively or vice-versa – forget it.
Lying flat on my back is the only option. And woe betide if the pillows aren’t even because that way a crick in the neck shooting down arm and spine follows. Trouble is I find it uncomfortable in my head, it seems somehow wrong to lie flat like a corpse; plus if I put my hands on my belly they go numb and before the night is out my knees will start to hurt..

So first I toss and turn, determined tonight will be different and I will find a new position or perhaps that old favourites will have somehow ceased to be a problem. Eventually I settle on my back and begin the mindfulness exercises that help me breathe through the pain and accept it. I drift off. For a couple of hours, maybe a full 4 hour cycle, before bam! awake in pain and now stiff from lying still. I get up, go for a pee, stretch, lie down and try the same process as before. Usually I drift off faster and wake up faster this time before repeating (although usually without another pee) so that I barely notice that I have slept and it feels like one long stretch of not quite dozing. Around this time I start to think about whether fetching painkillers is a good idea but I don’t want to be codeine dependent and I usually reject the plan. Finally my wife’s alarm goes off and for half an hour nothing matters more than feeling her body next to mine as we doze. Then she gets up, we chat for quarter to half an hour (depending on how grumpy I feel) and she leaves the house. If I am not also due to head to work I contemplate the options..
If it has been a good night 2 uninterrupted hours at this point should be enough to face the day; I probably don’t fetch painkillers but might pee again and move around to stretch. If on the other hand I have woken not twice but 3 or 4 or 5 times it might be four hours before I can face getting out of bed and pain-relief is a must.

So what helps?
The most important is warmth. It sems daft to me, I’m usually pretty toasty in bed I even get night sweats when I have PMT but the shoulder is one of those regions that is often exposed outside the comfort of both duvet and basic core body temp regulation which means if you keep the room cool (as I and all anti-insomnia recommendations suggest) it can get cold and stiff fast.
Second for me is anti-inflammatory gel which is safe for use at night, non-addictive and not (to the best of my knowledge and GPs comments) contraindicated with my meds.
Finally not pressuring myself, especially to either stay in bed or to get up at a set time and therefore fretting if I can’t face it, but also really working on the mind stilling and meditative practices that stop the whirring thoughts.

I really like sleeping but..

Writer’s Block

Some days the words disappear.

I really want to crack on with Chapter 1 – I’m working on the literature review – I know the key authors and I know the important things… but I can’t work out how to make the flow happen.
I’m absolutely out of words. I can’t manage this section and its driving me crazy! I know that this is temporary and that I need to work on the key facts/points before stitching it together but I’m struggling.

In other news – I’m out of painkillers. Not coping well.
Lots of Co-codamol and lots of wincing, the weather isn’t helping and sleeping is bad but it will be ok..