The only way is up 🆙

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Hello again dear reader.
This will be my first post since May – and the reasons for the absence should become clear.
This has been hard to write and, if you are struggling with your own mental health, it might be hard to read. But I’ve been inspired by a couple of online friends who have been open and honest about their own battles with mental health, so I felt I needed to be honest too. Please, please, please know that what follows is not intended to make anyone who knows me feel bad. I’ve struggled with the decision to post this for that very reason. On one hand I didn’t want anyone to feel bad or guilty, and on the other, I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I would hate to be somebody’s ‘pity party’ or for people to treat me differently. Through this whole thing I wanted my contacts with my friends to be happy and positive – and there was nothing anyone could have said or done that would have helped, anyway. This was a situation that I had to work through myself.
To cut a long story sideways, all I can say is it has been the worst few months of my life. And I include the breakup of my marriage and the all events of the subsequent disastrous rebound relationship in that assessment so, yes, it’s been THAT bad.
This time last year, I was in a pretty good place. For the first time in years I felt like I had fully got past the endings of assorted relationships, I’d had an eventful, but brilliant, holiday, I’d adopted my bonkers little cat, I had painted my kitchen and I was planning to do more decorating in the flat. I even had a bit of a social life, with lovely people in my life who were positive and supportive and I was trying to figure out ways I could get out and meet more people. Then I made a disastrous decision.
If you follow me on any of the social media thingamajigs, you might have seen my blog in April, which was about my decision to come off all my pain medications. It was a decision based on the fear of the effect they were having on my body (and my brain). I knew that taking opioid meds long-term was not a good thing. My April blog was about that decision and the side-effects of the withdrawal process (which were seriously unpleasant) but I imagined (and was told by the various doctors I saw during the process) that, once the effects of the medication were out of my system, I’d wake up one morning with a clear head and would feel so much better. Did that happen? No. Not even close.
What happened was that the side-effects of stopping subsided, but never went away completely. And the pain came back.
I know!! Who’d have thunk it?!? I genuinely thought that being free of the meds would help me be more motivated to get more active and that getting fitter would help manage the pain. Thick as two short planks, me.
Oddly (but happily) the fibromyalgia pain hasn’t completely come back – there’s just a little bit of that left. But the pain in my spine came back with a vengeance.
I think the brain is very good at blocking out memories of pain. And because the medications had never completely removed all the pain, and I’d learned to live with a certain level of what was there, I’d forgotten just how intense the pain in my back could get. I’d forgotten about the days, when I was still working, when I would make it home after an inspection and have to lie on the floor in the hall with cats crawling over me, because the pain was too intense to even get from the front door into the living room. I’d forgotten about the days I wanted to go shopping but knew I’d only make it to one shop and back before I could barely stand.
So, when it all came back, I was (literally) floored.
As the pain increased, my ability to go anywhere declined. I planned things then cancelled them. Sometimes there was a genuine reason, like having to go to see Mum, but (and I confess I sometimes made excuses) sometimes it was because I was too tired and sore and anxious to go out, but I didn’t want to say that. I even stopped my regular trips to my favourite cafes on my own, to write and people watch. I became really isolated – and that has never been a good thing for my mental health. Everything seemed to spiral downwards. As I got more isolated, my mood went down. As my mood went down, my focus on the pain increased and I became more isolated. I found comfort in staying at home, knowing that I could potter around, but that I could lie down when I needed to – but the end result was less activity, putting on weight and a mood that was in the pits of gloom, with pain levels up to a 12 out of 10.
There came a point when I started to wonder if there was any actual point to my life. There was no enjoyment in anything. I ‘knew’ that I was just a burden on everyone in my life. I ‘knew’ everyone would leave me eventually, because that’s what happened before. So what was the point, if this was going to be how it was for the rest of my life? I even joked that a trip to Dignitas had became very appealing. But it was only half-joking. That feeling came and went for quite a while. And then I would get a text from someone, or have a chat on social media with someone, or get out for a coffee with one of my lovely friends and I would feel ok for a day or two.
I’m a mental health nurse by training, so you would think I would be more likely to ask for help. But it was still hard. Eventually, I knew I had to do something and I saw a GP and told her about the pain and how miserable I was feeling. She started me on medication for depression and referred me to a mental health nurse (Jane). Jane was so lovely and positive and talking to her helped. She referred me to Healthy Active Minds, which is an Edinburgh Leisure project to help get people with mental health issues more active. I felt genuinely hopeful and I hoped that going to the gym and improving my physical health would help my mood. Unfortunately, all that happened was that I came home after every session in the gym in extreme pain and feeling worse than before – because I felt like a failure. I felt like I was letting Jane down!
Now, here comes the really hard bit.
Then came the day when it turned from an airy-fairy “Dignitas would be an option” to “ I can’t do this any more”. I got as far as ‘putting my affairs in order’ as the saying goes. My will was already written and I wrote instructions for my sister about what was to happen. I even prepared a list of passwords for various things that would help her with banks etc. And I wrote notes to the important people in my life. I sat at my table with loads of the painkillers (stuff that I’d had leftover from before) in front of me – and wondered how many I would need to take to be sure I wouldn’t screw it up. I just wanted it to stop. I think Jo Rowling was a genius when she used the Dementors in the Potter books to describe her own experience of depression. It really feels like all the good stuff has been sucked out of life, and there’s no possibility that you will ever be happy again.
At that point, even if someone had called and asked how I was, I would have said “I’m fine”.  There is no way that talking to someone would have helped. I was still maintaining a ‘front’. My social media stuff was continuing as usual.  This is why I know that (for me) the well-meaning advice that, if you feel like taking your life, ‘just reach out and talk to someone’ doesn’t always work. By the time I had got to that stage, I would never have talked to anyone. I didn’t want to be talked out of it. I didn’t care what anyone would think (and I knew Mum’s dementia would, ironically,  protect her from knowing what I was about to do).
I sat there for hours, contemplating.
But I had forgotten about my cat. My bonkers wee cat. In the end, it was River who stopped me. It was the thought that it might be a long time before anyone realised I was missing – and I couldn’t bear the idea of her being hungry and alone. It probably sounds stupid to think about a cat and not humans, but thinking wasn’t my strong-point by that stage, and that wee animal probably saved my life. I’m sure, if I’d been really, really serious, I wouldn’t have used her as my excuse. I would have sorted out something for her before I did anything. But, in that moment, she came over and sat on my shoulder and the blackness started to turn a bit more grey.
So, after crying for the rest of that day, I went to sleep – and I woke up knowing I had to do something. And I went back to see a GP. I was fortunate enough to see the lovely Dr. Murphy (may his name be ever blessed). He listened – then he said “well, it’s pretty obvious that all this is pain-related. You don’t need more anti-depressants, you need to go back on those pain meds”.
And, dear reader, that’s what’s happening. I’m currently at the start of the process of increasing from a tiny dose of what I was on before and have been given the freedom to increase what I take over a few weeks until I’m up to a point where I feel that I can function. That might be as much as before, or I might manage on less – I’ll have to wait and see what works.
And, almost immediately I felt better. Even just the feeling that he had understood helped. And, the little amount I’m taking has eased the pain and allowed me to do a few more things around the house. Then I went for physio on Monday and got some simple exercises to do to help my overall flexibility. And, because of slightly lower pain levels, my motivation to do things has gone up. I know I have long a way to go before I feel physically and mentally better – but the difference in how I’m feeling is already huge. And I’m grateful for that.
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So that’s my story. Thank you for reading – and I’m sorry if it’s a bit of a ramble. As I said at the start, I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me or guilty, or anything daft like that. What happened was a combination of circumstances and brain chemistry and bad decisions on my part and I just wanted to be honest – and maybe get the message out in a small way that this happens to a lot of people. And now I’m on the way back up, so hopefully, my next blog will be on a slightly more positive subject.
Be kind to yourselves and each other xx
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If Music Be The Food Of Love 😊

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Like most of my blogs, this one has had a couple of versions. When I started writing it, a couple of weeks ago, I was in a bit of a grumpy place. I’m still in the throes of drug withdrawal symptoms and my mood swings would be seriously impressive if they weren’t so horrible (this will also, I hope, let you excuse me for it being a bit all over the place 😬). Anyway, this began as a bit of a rant about how I didn’t ‘do’ music during and following the events of my last two relationships. Which is partly true (you will still see some of the angry stuff in here)(well, it wouldn’t be one of my blogs without them, would it?) but I think the final version has mellowed into something that is a little bit happier 😃

If Music Be The Food Of Love – Famine or Feast edition 😉

It was a Sunday morning. And I was trying to cheer myself up by doing a bit of kitchen dancing to one of my music playlists (as you do) 💃 They say you should ‘fake it till you make it’, and this definitely works for me now. I love putting ‘My Happy Stuff’ on shuffle,  because I get a bit of variety – all my favourite tunes from the last 60 years interspersed with the soundtrack of Lord of the Rings and occasional chapters of a Harry Potter book (these are from before I figured out how my technology works – and I’ve just left them there, for sentimental reasons 😂). It’s damn near perfect 😆

On this particular morning, as the songs rolled on, I realised how most of the music was pre-1994. There was nothing there that came from after I met Sarah. And my negative train of thought (dangerous things, those trains 😳) took me to a place where I remembered being constantly annoyed with her for never being able to play all this music when we were at home together. And remembering the same thing going on with my last girlfriend 😡

I’m not someone who has ever been a serious music buff. I never fell into the John Peel mode of following all the new bands and finding out what the next big thing is (or what I ‘should’ be listening to, to be one of the cool gang). But I always knew what I liked (and what I didn’t) and enjoyed singing loudly and tunelessly in the car. In the days before the back pain thing set in, I also loved going to gigs – I was at Knebworth to see Led Zeppelin, saw Queen at the Apollo in Glasgow and there was Live Aid, of course. Not forgetting the scary/brilliant sensation (also at the Apollo) of the balcony bouncing as hundreds of Status Quo fans jumped up and down! Sadly I can’t do live music any more unless the gig is seated – and sitting down gigs are never as much fun 😕

Looking back it felt as though, between the 18 years of that relationship and the debacle of the rebound one that followed,  I had lost music from my life altogether. Sarah had music in her very soul. She hated anything she considered mainstream – it had to be things that were new. Things that other people hadn’t discovered yet. And it’s not that I actually hated any of her choices (mostly) – some of it was great and has stayed with me (as will be explained). That relationship started in the early days of music being mobile. It wasn’t as easy to listen on the go as it is now. So most of the music that was played, was played at home. But, when an album went on, it never seemed to be one of mine that was playing. And once it was clear that she wasn’t exactly overjoyed at my (old 😉) music, I started to only listen to my stuff when she  wasn’t there – which wasn’t often. Eventually I stopped playing my music at all. I’d tell her (and myself) that music has never been important to me. And I think I actually started to believe it.

After we broke up (and as I healed and got past the stage where ANY song reminded me of her in one way or another), my music very gradually started to come back into my life. I started listening to music radio again. But then I fell in love – with someone with a huge musical life 🙄. And off I went again. One of the stranger moments – in a sea of strange moments in that relationship – was sitting at home, happily enjoying one of my own choices from the Sonos playlist I was setting up. Then I got a text from her, commenting on the song and laughing about it. This was when she was at work, miles away, but tuned in to all the remote network stuff at home. That was seriously creepy 😳. And, because my choices of music seemed to be hilarious and less ‘valid’ than hers, I went back into ‘let’s just play your stuff’ mode. When you love someone and they love something so much, it seems easier to let things go. And watching her create her own music genuinely made me very happy, so I focussed on that. Even when I was doing all that driving up and down the A1(M) I had a CD that she had made up for me to listen to 😆

So, for nearly 25 years, I allowed my choices of music to be secondary to my significant others’. But very, very slowly over the last couple of years, the music’s crept back. It’s been brilliant to figure out this new technology thing and to start putting my own playlists together (I’m a slow learner 😂).

My current playlists have a whole heap of songs that come from my childhood.  (If You’re Going To San Francisco and In The Year 2525, for example) and some from my teenage years (much David Cassidy – my first and only true love) and a smattering of the songs from the long hot summer of 1976 (Chicago, Bellamy Brothers, Dr Hook), the year my life changed in so many ways 💜😢

 

And now I’ve even bought a turntable – so I’ve been able to listen to some of my ancient vinyl collection as it is supposed to be listened to – crackles and all. The vinyl has been gathering dust on a bookshelf for years and the spines are destroyed by assorted cats scratches (the purists would be horrified), but it was flicking through all those dusty album covers that brought back memories of so many people and places and the songs that remind me of them.

In my teens, there was Laurence, who sang Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline to me. I still sing this one for my baseball team (Go Red Sox!) and I think about him every time I hear it 💜. Charlie and I played Elton and Kiki when we sang Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, and lovely, lovely  Tommy……sigh……he had me head banging to Status Quo’s Down Down.

 

In my early 20s, David and I had FreeBird by Lynyrd Skynyrd and I remember Stuart and I doing the “On a hot summer night would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses” bit from Meatloaf (cringy and corny and stupidly funny – that makes me smile) 😍 That whole album takes me right back to parties in the Bellsdyke Nurses Home. The entire party singing Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad 😃

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So, sometines it’s not specific songs, it’s the sound of certain voices, artists and albums that remind me of people I loved and all those important moments in time. Charlie showed me Janis Joplin’s genius and Stuart gave me Harry Chapin and the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd. David gave me Led Zeppelin and The Who. Ian, who I was engaged to for a while (have I ever mentioned that I nearly got married to a guy 😳) was a huge fan of The Jam, so I got Paul Weller.

 

Then, when I swapped sides, I picked up Carole King and Billy Joel and kd lang from the first woman I fell in love with.

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So, dear reader, there I was on that Sunday morning, kitchen dancing – and feeling thoroughly pissed off about all the years of missing listening to these and being ‘deprived of my music’ and I started writing a blog. But, as I wrote, it dawned on me how much of my music came from places of love. And then I started to remember the good stuff from the Sarah era and I checked my CD collection. Blimey, there’s some bloody good stuff in there!

In spite of having dwelled on how much I’d been deprived of, it turns out I gained so much more. The music she gave me is wonderful. It started with Bjork and Jefferson Airplane and then there was Radiohead and REM. I got Snow Patrol, The Reindeer Section (‘You Are My Joy’ was ‘our song’) and Coldplay (just the early stuff, because they went ‘mainstream’ 😂). And, for good measure I have a love of Bach Cello Suites and some Gregorian Chanting (I know – some eclectic stuff).

 

For just those things, I will always love what she added to my life. And now I can happy-dance to all the music that reminds me of her and other past loves without feeling any of the angst. Maybe in a few years, I’ll be able to play the song the last one wrote about me (although, as with most things, it’s actually more about her)(What? Still angry? Moi? Never 😆) without cringing about what happened at the end. Or maybe I won’t 😜🙄

I could add a hundred other things to this list of songs of my life – ones that aren’t necessarily about relationships, but still take me back to moments in time, but this was what came off the top of my head. So I’ll leave it here.

So, apart from realising that I had way more boyfriends than I thought, back in my yoof 😉,  I think what came out of this for me was finally realising just how important music really has been to me. It has been the food of (and fed by) love my whole life 🎶💜🎶. And I have resolved that, whatever happens in the future, my music stays. No more famine, just thefeast 😊

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So, from anger to contentment in one blog. Not a bad result. Thank you to the boyfriends/ girlfriends/ partners/ wife who helped me find the music I love.

Be kind to each other x

Bloody hell, this is hard 😥

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This is a bit of a ‘Pensieve dump’ (see previous blogs for explanation 🙂). I’m sort of hoping that, if I put this all down on paper (screen?) it might lessen the effects on me (I’m ever hopeful 🤨) Also – it’s p always hard to write this sort of post without it sounding like a plea for sympathy. That is really, really not my intention with any of the stuff I dump on here – it just feels better if I get it out my head 😊 So no sympathy is needed (my own self-pity is more than enough for all of us 😉)(but positive thoughts are always welcome 🙂).

 

I used to roll my eyes when I heard about celebrities who had committed some misdemeanour and were heading to rehab because they were ‘addicted to prescription painkillers’. It always sounded like a cover-up for some other kind of addiction. I’m a psychiatric nurse, by training, so I knew about assorted addictions, and I have up-close-and-personal experience of alcohol addiction (not me 😉) and I’ve known people who had become dependent on things like Diazepam, back when they handed them out like Smarties. But I thought pain medication addiction was something to that happened to other people. People in America who had private doctors, who would prescribe anything in any quantity for them, if they were prepared to pay. And I rolled my eyes and got all self-righteous when they crashed their cars after driving under the influence. And when they talked about how they had relapsed back into addiction because it was too hard to stop taking them.

But here is my confession. My name is Jan and I’m addicted to pain medications. And I have driven when I shouldn’t. And I’m finding out the hard way how difficult it is to get off these things, which have helped me live a semi-normal life.

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I’ve been taking fairly huge doses of Tramadol and Pregabalin for years – they were prescribed by the NHS pain clinic for my fibromyalgia and nerve pain in my thoracic spine. I was told about side-effects of taking them – but there was no discussion about what would happen if I ever decided to stop taking them. Maybe they expected that I would take them for ever – since my condition is chronic and not likely to get much better. And initially, they seemed helpful – they did take some of the fibro pain away (although nothing ever really worked for my back).

The side effects were pretty dire – they gave me muscle twitches and added to my already foggy brain – which made them a major part of why I had to eventually stop working. Taking them makes driving difficult. So, if I was working a distance from home I had to choose to either take the full amount and be relatively pain free for the day at work (but risk driving in a drugged state), or take less (or none) and be unable to work effectively due to the pain I was in 😣

This also proved problematic when I happened to fall in love with someone who lived a long way away. I don’t think she ever quite understand  why I was sometimes grumpy and emotional (more than normal, I mean 😂) when I got there after a five hour drive.  Maybe that was also when I started to feel more empathy with people who have had accidents when on medications. There were a couple of occasions when I took my usual amount – wanting to be ok when I arrived. Serious and stupid mistake 😳 I remember nearly falling asleep on the motorway. I got there in one piece more by good luck than good judgement.

Which was why planning my road trip last year was a huge process of juggling the driving part of the holiday and the timing of the medications to make sure I could be comfortable when I was with everyone I wanted to see, but still be safely able to drive. It was taking its toll by the last day of driving – when I finally got to St Ives, I was a bit sore and in a bit of a state – and scraped my car on a wall with some spectacularly bad reversing 🤬

Anyhoo, I digress. When it became clear that I couldn’t do my job to the standard I wanted, I was fortunate enough to encounter an HR department who didn’t quite understand their own systems and I was able to fight for ill-health retirement. And so life changed – and it was easier to take part in things I enjoyed because I had more energy. Now, my only driving involves trips across the M8 to visit the family. But I started to notice things. I was being much more careful about not taking meds if I had to drive. But, when I accidentally forgot to take the next dose of Tramadol I felt like I had flu. And the severity of the withdrawal effect scared me. So I started to think about reducing or getting rid of these really strong medications from my body.

I knew there would be side-effects. And I knew I couldn’t stop suddenly. So I tried to reduce some of my doses. And I failed miserably. The withdrawals were horrible. So I decided to stop stopping – until I felt better 🙄

And now I’ve decided to try again. So I was sensible (not like me) and have seen my GP to figure out how. And he was surprised at how much I was on and how long it had been left without any kind of review. I know that, at the start, it felt like a miracle cure for my pain. But that didn’t last long. And when I thought about it, it seemed that I ended up with both the pain from the fibro and the back pain as well as being doped up with the side effects of the medications.

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So detox it is.

And I am feeling like absolute shit, with all the side-effects. I was warned what could happen but didn’t really know how it would feel. There’s the wonderful rebound nerve pain and muscle twitches (which are just dandy if you’re carrying a hot cup of coffee or trying to put mascara on 😳) . Not forgetting the general feeling that you have flu 24/7. And the …………….err……digestive disruptions that mean it’s a good idea to stay close to a toilet 😳 And I’m reducing my usual breakfast treat of  ‘real’ coffee for a while. I’m sticking with one cup a day and it’s decaf the rest of the time to see if it helps with anxiety feelings.

Because the anxiety is by far the worst bit. I’ve been ‘anxious’ before (obviously) but it’s always been for a reason. Now I’m having what I suppose are panic attacks for absolutely no reason whatsoever. The first time I woke up feeling like I had just had the fright of my life and life was coming to an end, I had no idea what was going on. The pounding heart and sweating and the feeling as if something absolutely horrible has happened or is about to.  I don’t think I’ll be going to see A Quiet Place. Who needs horror movies when you have your own personal one going on in your head, replaying every bad or embarrassing thing you’ve ever done in your life 😱

I think my stress hormone levels must be through the roof. And that’s the thing – there is very little respite from that ‘fight or flight’ feeling. It’s relentless. I actually have no trouble getting to sleep (thank you Audible for reading me to sleep 💜) but I wake up with panic attacks several times through the night. The effect on my thinking has been awful too. It’s like all the work I’ve done on my ‘self-care’ over the past few years has gone to pot. I feel as bad (if not worse) as I did when Sarah and I split up – nearly 7 years ago. I have no attention span, so even reading or watching movies is hard. And I have virtually no motivation to do the one thing that I should do more than anything – get out the house. Distract myself. All I want to do is stay in and hide, which I know is counter-productive. This is when living on my own is really bad for me – nobody to boot me (or persuade me gently) out the door.

I’m clinging to the thought that that this has an actual, physical cause, so it will pass.

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So, I apologise if my social media input is a bit sad/angry/depressed for a while. I have to keep going with this. There may come a point when I need to start taking something to help with pain management. But I now have the opportunity to put all the strategies we were given at the pain clinic for ‘living with pain’ rather than ‘suffering from’ it. Might work. Might not. But the alternative is to give up and start taking the full doses again. And then I’d probably have to go through this again in months or years. And I ain’t doing this again. Ever!

Now, having dumped all that, I need to start to kick my own backside and get out the door 😊 Outside time will help. I think. Maybe? And there is cake outside  😊🍰😊

Be kind to each other xx

Books I loved and lost (and now can love again) 😊

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I’ve been rediscovering some of the books I read back in the late 80s/early 90s, when I first came out and discovered feminism (all at the same time – it was bloody hard work 😆). And I mean literally rediscovering, because they turned up in a box in the loft, when I was having a tidy a while back. One of the books I loved (and which scared me ridged) was The Handmaid’s Tale. At the time it seemed a possible, but only distant, future (and probably needing some sort of nuclear or chemical war first). It faded away from my memory in the later years, but has had a resurgence recently because of the telly thing. And it now feels frighteningly possible in parts of Trump’s America 😳😡

But there are other books that I found in that box. Books that I loved way back then,  which were much less scary and a much easier read (and provided a few laughs) but which still had a few points to make about women, feminism and politics.

Two of my favourites are by the fabulous Ellen Galford. In spite of their increasingly worn appearance, because they have been read over and over, they had pride of place on various bookshelves since then and have now been reinstated having survived in their box after an attempted cull by my ex, who clearly never read them 🙄

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The Fires of Bride is one of my go-to books in times of strife, because it always brings me back to calm. This is actually a bit surprising, because one of the main characters reminds me a lot of one of my exes. And there was also that time I went to see it dramatised and have a slightly erm ‘interesting’ 😳 memory of the same character being portrayed on stage by a seriously attractive woman who kept making eye contact with me 😉. I love it so much, that, when I thought my original copy was lost, I bought a new one. And then another one, because the second one started to fall apart after multiple readings 😂 But I love having my original copy back.

Like Ellen’s other books,  this is not a heavy, ‘worthy’ sort of read. It is light and easy and I can read it again and again. There are a few bits and pieces that jar slightly because of the distance in time, but mainly it is so fresh that it could have been written very recently. It’s the sort of book that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. A sort of a fantasy set in the ancient past, recent past and present. Stories about women, a bible story that was ignored and forgotten (but remembered by nuns who broke all the rules), cloudberry jam and a beautiful Scottish island. And it was one of the first books I read about lesbians falling in love that wasn’t all doom and gloom.

One of my favourite bits of this one comes on the page before the Prologue even begins :

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Queendom Come is also woman centred and very different. And very funny.

It considers what would happen if an ancient queen (Albanna), who is buried under Arthur’s Seat, returned to modern day Edinburgh – because her people need her help. A bit like King Arthur, only better. Her people, it turns out, are under the rule of a government that sits in the far, far south and is led by a woman who wears a lot of blue 🤣

At the time it was written it was set in the near future – and the real future turned out quite differently. Some of the horrors in the book never came to pass. Thatcher was de-throned and we ended up with a Scottish Government and gay marriage. However (maybe because I lived through and voted against and marched against so many things) there are a lot of things in this book that have never left my radar – and are scarily coming back into view again. The future of the NHS and the benefit system to name but two 😢😡

One of my favourite lines in this book comes when Albanna asks Shona to “swear it – by the clitoris of your grandmother” 😂

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I’m always reluctant to recommend  books that’s I love to anyone. There’s nothing worse than someone rubbishing your taste in books, or telling you it wasn’t as ‘intellectually stimulating’ as the books they usually read ( this has happened 🙄). But if they sound like your cup of tea, I really recommend that you seek out a copy of any of Ellen’s books. Sadly I’ve mislaid Moll Cutpurse, Her True History – but I’m trying to find a replacement. I know there are great new books that I should be reading, but over the past few years I’ve needed comfort more than anything and re-reading my favourite books always takes me straight to my happy place. 😊💜

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Be kind to each other xx

To move? Or not to move?

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about moving. I love my wee flat, but eventually I’d really like to live somewhere that didn’t have so many stairs (thinking about planning for my aged future 😉)  And somewhere with a bit of outside space would be brilliant. I could sit outside to have my coffee in the morning (on the three days a year it’s warm enough) and I could have a dog 🐶  Sometimes I wonder if I should move somewhere completely different. Cornwall is always on my mind – more days of being able to sit outside and great places to walk with a dog (but probably too expensive). Or how about heading back west, from whence I came (anyone for Millport?) 😉 Then I see Edinburgh on a sunny day and I’m full of happy feelings 💜 So more likely is a move to somewhere closer, in the Lothians (again, finances permitting – the hazard of living somewhere so expensive).

I’m in the very fortunate position that, if I wanted to, I could move tomorrow. But every time I think about a move, I get The Fear. What if I hate it? What if the neighbours are a nightmare? What if it’s a money pit?  But, mostly I get scared by how much work is involved in the actual moving process – and living life as a single Spoonie, makes that all the more intimidating. Even thinking about it fills me with weariness 😖

And I wondered. Why isn’t there a house-move planner? A bit like a wedding planner, but with more work.

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I would happily pay someone who would put my flat on the market – and arrange all the surveys and certificates and stuff you seem to need these days. And organise viewings – and field (hopefully) offers. And be tough when deciding to accept or hold out for more money.

And, after the flat sells (which will probably take a while, because of the location), they could create a shortlist of properties for me to view, based on my specifications of course (a bit like Kirsty and Phil, but without having to put up with either of them) and then deal with all the offering process and legalese once I decide what one will be my new home.

And, when time came to move, they would (if the timing of moving out and finding a new place weren’t the same) arrange a temporary rental place for me (cat friendly, obviously), arrange for all the utilities to be disconnected (and reconnected), make sure I have WiFi in the new place (Most Vital 😂), redirect my post, arrange for my loft to be emptied – and dispose of the stuff I don’t want to take with me, empty and defrost the freezer, sort out the rest of the  packing and the removal company  – and unpacking at the other end. And make sure the flat and my new place are as clean as clean can be. And anything else that I’ve forgotten to ask them to do 😆

And River and I could go away (maybe somewhere warm), while it’s all sorted out and I’ll move in to the new place when I get back  – and be left with just the fun bit of sorting out cupboards and kitchen stuff and deciding where things are to go. Simple 😁

I have friends who I know will help, when the time comes (if I can bring myself to actually ask them). And I know that lawyers and removal companies will do different bits of it. But what I want ( what I really, really want 😊) is one person I can talk to. One person who will put the whole thing together for me. Maybe they exist – for millionaires 🙄 Trouble is, with all the work involved, it would probably cost more than the entire value of my flat. So I suppose, when I eventually decide to move, I’ll damn well just have to do it myself. Fuck 🙄

Think I might stay put for a while longer 🤔

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Be kind to each other xx

SIXTY GLORIOUS YEARS 😄

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Sixty, eh? I think I’m supposed to say “where did all the time go” and stuff like that. So, being the contrary person that I am, I won’t 😊 I’m really quite ambivalent about the whole birthday celebration thing. It really is just a number as far as I’m concerned and birthdays themselves have never been a big part of my life. We had a few nice parties when I was little, but after that I only really celebrated my 21st (my sister was 18 at the same time, so we shared a party) and Sarah and I went to Mexico, the year it was my 40th and her 30th. But 60 feels like a nice round number to make a bit of a fuss about 💃🎉💃😄

As for the first 60 years of my life, I’ve been writing a lot about that recently – some in blogs and some just for me. So here’s a small(ish) summary.

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0-10 I can safely say that my first decade was the least complicated and possibly happiest of my life. Family life was pretty settled and any problems were hidden from my sister and I. We had fun times with Dad and great birthday parties and holidays in Millport and Cornwall. The only downside was that we had regular moves around the country, as Dad moved from  job to job, and I went to lots of different schools. I suppose that’s why, in spite of being hugely shy, I was better at making friends than keeping them. It felt like as soon as I had made a friend or two, we were off again. And there was no mobile phone or social media in those days to help you stay in touch. Just a phone in the house (or being someone’s penpal 😆)

 

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11-20 I think the least said about this decade the better. I know teenage years are meant to be a bit difficult. But mine were just plain horrible. From beginning to end I was unhappy. So much angst and turmoil. I got through school, had a failed attempt at starting nursing (which only lasted 3 months 😢) and a couple of other odd jobs. And there were a few other things that caused much sadness. Definitely a decade to happily be left behind. I can’t even think of one positive that I took into my next decade 😳

 

 

 

21-30 My twenties were quite eventful. I started nursing again (and stuck with it this time), found some brilliant friends, even a few boyfriends 💜. I had my heart broken, got engaged, got dis-engaged and moved to Dunfermline, to start managing a care service. That was the only rubbish bit of this decade – two and a half years in Dunfermline (sorry Dunfermline 😆) But then I moved back to Glasgow and started a whole different bit of my life. I discovered feminism and met some amazing women And fell in love with one of them 💕 (sadly, this was unrequited, but we stayed friends). And, after a lot of angst, I came out 🏳️‍🌈 Unfortunately, that meant that I lost most of the people from my past who I thought were friends 😢 It seems quite extraordinary now, but being a lesbian back then wasn’t as generally acceptable and normal as it is now. I was sad about losing friends, but I had no regrets about being me – better late than never 😊

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31- 40  This decade started with one ridiculous relationship. It should never have happened and ended in trauma and  (because I’d moved in with her) left me effectively homeless. I was saved by friends of hers who gave me a room in a flat. And that’s the thing about that relationship, it shouldn’t have been, but if I hadn’t met her I wouldn’t have ended up living in Edinburgh. I decided to stay here and had my final house move – into the flat that I’m still in 😊 Best decision ever, because, not long after that, I met the love of my life. It was far from a perfect relationship but, at least for a while, I felt totally loved and safe and like I really belonged somewhere. The next 18 years were both wonderful and (towards the end) painful. It was also the only time as an adult, when I actually celebrated birthdays (because S made a huge fuss about them). In 1998 we both had big birthdays, so we headed to the Pacific Coast in Mexico and had the best holiday, ever!

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41-50 The longer S and I were together, the more I was gradually distanced from everyone I knew. I lost all the friends who had still been there after I came out (because S didn’t like them 😕). I wasn’t even able to make friends at work – because S hated if I went on nights out without her. And, she’s not the villain of the piece here, we were both responsible for everything that happened. At the time it didn’t feel wrong – we made a big thing about it being just us against the world and as long as we were together, everything was fine. This was also when my fibromyalgia started and I’m fairly sure there was an emotional connection to that. I moved around a few care homes as a manager, before I moved into regulation -in what would be my last job. It was a great job and OMG the joys of not working shifts after all those years 😄

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50- 60 Things between me and S started to go downhillll fast and, at 54, I found myself single – and almost homeless again. But I managed to hang on to the flat, by the skin of my teeth. Never has having a home base been more important. Being as socially isolated as I was, having nobody to turn to, at the start was very difficult. Which is why I’m so very thankful for the friends at work who stepped up and helped me to pick up the pieces (and are still a big part of my life 💜)

And I found social media and all that it brought to my life. Good, brilliant, bad and downright awful.

I think the whole of the last six years has been tied up with my recovery from that breakup. All the crap decisions I have made were part of that (I’m an emotional person – no excuses and no regrets). I might have made some lousy choices, but my tattoos were some of the best ones. They were part of my breaking away from who I was and I love them! And I finally know more about who I am and who I want to be than I have before. So onward and upward.

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60-Infinity and Beyond!  I have no work, to worry about. There will continue to be Mum’s dementia to deal with, but that is my only major stress. My project for my 60s is to, hopefully, get fitter, get out and meet more people, find new things to do and to definitely get out the house more. Oh, and maybe have one last house move – it would be nice to move somewhere I can have a dog 😊

As I said in my last blog, I am going to try to spend the rest of my time doing things that really interest me. What they’ll end up being, who the hell knows 😆 It’s been a rollercoaster.

Now, where did all the time go 🤔😂

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Be kind to each other xx

The future’s bright. The future’s………I’m not sure🤷🏻‍♀️

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I’ve been trying to write this blog for a week. So far I have enough for about four blogs and none of it made much sense. The question that started it all was : What am I going to do with the Reflexology thing? But, as I was writing, the Reflexology got tangled up with a whole load of other stuff about friendships and memories and stuff about my retirement and my future with social media and big birthdays. Until it had turned into a bit of a novel! I don’t just think myself round in circles, I do it in spirals – and get chucked out the other side having made no decision at all 🙄

But eventually it started to make sense and I was able to (mostly) separate out the Reflexology bit. So, with apologies for the bits that have been in other blogs, but I needed to put it all together, here goes (and I’m sorry about all the rambling – but, as Tilly would say, “bear with” 😉).

The story so far. The first complication is that the original idea for the course was mixed up with the Yorkshire debacle (don’t panic, enough has been said about all of that already, so I’ll spare you all the details). To cut a long story sideways, I was supposed to be moving to Wakefield and, even while I was still travelling up and down the A1 and not feeling at home anywhere, I started to get a lot of pressure from she-who-shall-not-be-named to “do something” with my time. (I could get really bitchy at this point and talk about how busy I was with the driving bit and trying to keep her house even slightly clean and being a delivery person for parcels to and from Next, but I won’t).

(oops) 😉

Anyhoo. I started looking. But because at that point  I was doing it for her, rather than for myself, I didn’t really try too hard. I barely went further than googling “things to do in Wakefield” and picking the first thing that looked vaguely interesting. I chose Reflexology because I’ve always had an interest in Complementary Therapies and I’d had a couple of treatments in the past and found it really relaxing (I also thought “how hard can it be – it’s just rubbing feet”) 🙄

However, I never got the chance to start the course before I found myself back in Embra and just a bit broken. By that stage, I had officially retired from work because of my health stuff and, much as I wanted to hide under a duvet for ever, I knew I would need to find something to occupy myself. I didn’t take any time to re-think what I was going to do (any kind of rational thinking was a bit beyond my capabilities back then) and Reflexology seemed as good an idea as any. It was only supposed to be an interest – I saw the course as means in itself, rather than a means to an end (if that makes sense?). I had absolutely no thought about what I’d do with it afterwards, but as I started to prepare for the course and talk to people about it, ideas of volunteering started to emerge. By the time it started I was very excited about meeting new people and new horizons and new skills and (maybe) new opportunities. I even thought that it might be a bit soothing 😆

Well the course turned out to be anything but soothing 😆 It was very, very hard to get my fibro/medication fogged-up brain to wake up and to focus on all the reading and the essays I had to write. Because the course was accredited by Napier University, the standard of work expected was higher than I had imagined. There were anatomy lectures and essays (and Harvard Referencing 😳). And there were projects – like designing a scientific poster (I’d never even heard of one of those) and devising a business plan 🤯

I had roped in my poor, wonderfully accommodating friends to be victims to practice on and, along with all my online friends, they supported me with more than just their feet 😊 They helped with ideas for the projects and gave me examples of stuff I’d never done before. There was a lot of hand-holding when I felt like chucking the whole thing in and they were endlessly supportive 💜 And they started to come up with other ideas for things I could use it for, after I qualified. Most of my classmates were doing the course with the intention of starting (or adding to) a complementary therapy business. Since my attempts to get into the petsitting business had collapsed spectacularly by that time and I was already registered with HMRC as a small business, it seemed like the obvious thing to do.

Well, dear reader, in August 2017, I got my Diploma (not forgetting the ‘With Distinction’ bit)(proud) 😇

And immediately hit a wall 😨

I was physically and emotionally drained. I hadn’t even begun to process what had happened in the previous few (probably previous six) years and I had a huge crash and burn. So I took a break and went on holiday (which turned out to be a bit less relaxing than I had planned 🙄😆)  But, while I was away, I made a start on the things I’d need for my business. I had a name – Rainbow Reflexology – which was a hint that I might target the LGBT community. And I started designing and ordering business cards and thinking about a website and marketing and where was I going to work. And that’s when it all got too complicated.

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Please don’t act surprised, you should know me by now. If there’s overthinking to be done, I’m your woman. But, even for me, this was more tangled up than usual and I ended up tying myself in knots. And it’s taken nearly six months, during which time I’ve added a cat to my life 😻, to get to here.

Questions:

  • How does the whole concept of reflexology sit with my ‘science’ brain? (research, evidence-based etc). This is a whole other blog in itself.
  • While I absolutely believe that Reflexology is wonderfully relaxing, and relaxation can help the body heal, can I really buy into some of the more airy fairy claims?
  • How can I associate with a therapy where there are members of the same professional organisation, making claims to be able to ‘treat’ serious medical conditions rather than complement other treatments?
  • And, even if I could get past all that, where would I work? I wouldn’t be happy seeing strangers in my home – or even seeing strangers in their homes. So, how about hiring a room? Well, my fibro often won’t let me do more than one or two treatments at a time before it gets too painful (I sometimes forget that there was an actual reason why I had to stop working). All in all, not financially viable.

And there was one last big question:

  • What will other people think? If I don’t do something ‘proper’ with my new skills, will I be letting down all the people who supported me to get through the course? Not just the friends who lent me their feet, but the online friends who held my hand all the way.

.

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It was only when I got to that last one that it finally dawned on me, why I was struggling.

It seemed pretty clear that there wasn’t going to be a business – it was a non-starter. But the idea of letting people down is a powerful thing for me. It felt like I was throwing away all the lovely support I had while I was doing the training. And I know that people won’t actually think that – but it’s still very hard for me.

However. As hard as that was, it sat alongside the amazing feeling I’d had on the day when I left work for the last time. Although I had to stop working for health reasons, I was Finishing Work 💃😃💃

For the first time in my adult life, I was completely free. In fact it was better that. Because of the reasons I has to stop work, I’m not allowed, by HMRC, to take up any sort of similar work. The government is giving me permission to not be a nurse any more! Whoop 😁

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Don’t misunderstand – I wasn’t completely miserable for 40 years 😉 There was a lot that I enjoyed (and I was actually very good at lots of it 😉). And it has given me a couple of my closest friends. But I wasn’t a natural nurse, or manager, or good at talking to people. I really had to work at it. And it was stressful and often made me unhappy.

And now I’m in a position to start from scratch and actively choose what I really want to do. I don’t want to repeat what I did 43 years ago – and so many times since. In spite of being qualified to go to University when I left school, I went in to nursing.  I did it without much active thought other than that I was making somebody else proud. And every time I moved into a bigger and better job I was making someone else even more proud (or happy that I was earning more money 🙄). And I got stuck.

I suppose what it boils down to is that I’ve already had my career! And I don’t need or want another one. I’ve paid my dues – so my retirement will be for me.

I have invested a lot in doing the training and I do like the relaxation it gives to people, so I’ll probably keep up with the volunteering (if they want me). And I have a couple of chums who have carried on with having occasional treatments since I finished training – and are wanting to continue.  I’m a bit sad about not having the extra income that a wee business would have provided. But I’ve worked out that I get my State Pension in another 313 weeks. Life can begin at 66 😆

As for the rest of my retirement (another cue for a whole other blog) I’m still looking for more ideas. Sadly, at the tender age of 59 and 51 weeks I still haven’t found My Tribe. But I’ll keep looking – I know they’re out there somewhere 😊  For the last couple of years, my interests have been, increasingly, all things scientific. So, having missed out on it in my youth, I’m starting a physics course at Embra Uni next month. Who knows, I could be a late-bloomer and end up becoming Edinburgh’s answer to Professor Brian Cox!

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Be kind to each other x