Obligatory End of the Year Blog 😊

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Well, here it is. New Year is almost upon us – and this is my summary of 2018 (NB figures quoted may not be entirely accurate 😉)

January was about six months long 😬
Then, the Beast from the East struck and we froze for six months (and I ran out of milk!) ❄️💨❄️
Then we sweltered for another six months ☀️😓☀️
Then it was Halloween 👻
And then it was Christmas for another six months 🎄

For me, personally, the year went something like this:

It started OK – plans were made 😊
And, then it got a bit shit 💩
And then it got a lot shit – all plans were cancelled 😕💩
Then it was worse fucking shit than the shittiest shit you can imagine 💩😣💩

But, finally, it got a bit better – plans have started being made again 🙂
And now we’re nearly at the end of 2018 😃
Thank fuck 😆

Here’s to 2019. As Prof Brian Cox once said – things can only get better, Can’t they 😉

Be kind to each other. Love from me and River  xx

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I’ve been an introvert since I was two (honest)😉

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Yesterday was my annual visit to my family for “let’s do Christmas early, because Jan is very selfish and prefers to do Lord Of The Rings Day on 25th December” Day 😆

And surprisingly (given the events earlier in the year where my dad and I hurled abuse at each other), it went really well. But, as expected, we were all in full-on reminiscing mode. We (obviously) stuck to Christmases when all was calm and all was bright, but it was good fun.

One oft-told story about one of my first Christmases was repeated – and it finally dawned on me that my preference for alone time on a regular basis started very early.

It was Christmas 1959. I was approaching two years old and this was my second Christmas. I was still an only-child (oh those halcyon days when I didn’t have to share 😆) and I was also the first grandchild and the first girl born in my dad’s family for a very long time. So there was a huge fuss made of me and loads of presents under the tree. And, although I was still too young to really comprehend what was going on, the family went completely overboard on the day.

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(I’m a tad older in this picture, but it’s cute, so who cares 😉)

There was a lot of “oh Jan, look at this” and “Jan, look what Gran Beaton’s given you” and “this one’s from Aunty A and Uncle P” and “let’s look at this next”. I’m fairly certain my parents were having a brilliant time and I probably was too.

But, once all the fuss settled down and all the presents were opened, I must have decided I’d had enough. I picked up a doll and took myself up onto a chair and completely ‘zoned-out’, as my dad puts it. It must have made an impact – because, even in the depths of Alzheimer’s, my Mum remembers it. She said “your eyes glazed over and you didn’t respond to anything”. Dad wanted to try to ‘jolly’ me out if it – but Mum persuaded him to just leave me alone. So, they gave me some time to just sit and after about an hour, I came round and was fine again.

And that, ladles and jellyspoons is the first occasion of my frequent “There has been too much peopling, I can’t people again for a while” 😆

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That story prompted other memories from my sister of Christmases when I did the same thing and took myself off to read in a corner, or when I got so overwhelmed by all the laughing and excitement, that I sat on the stairs and cried for half and hour. For some reason it’s quite reassuring that this response to various excitements turns out to be a lifelong thing – and it’s not something I invented as a grown-up. I love to see people. I even enjoy a party (now and again),  but I need a bit of quiet time too. And, if that’s you too, know that it’s fine. And if it’s not and (like my sister) if you thrive in the peopling bits of life, that’s fine too.

I wish you a happy festive season – and hope you all have a perfect balance of peopling and quiet time.

Be kind to each other xx

Lord of the Xmas Rings Day 😊

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I have a few new followers since this time last year – and have had some questions about Lord of the Rings Day being on 25th December.  Most of you already know the story (ad nauseum 😂) but, for anyone new to the weird world of Jan,  this is how it began. Let me take you back a few years………*wibbly wobbly time wimey stuff to the strumming of a harp *
Extract from my first ever blog in December 2013
Everyone I know – in real life and online – now knows that I have ‘Lord of the Rings Day’ on 25th of December. And I’ve talked about it often. But it’s only been a relatively recent thing. Because, for most of my life I celebrated Christmas like a boss! Especially for the 17 years I had what I can only describe as ‘magical’ Christmases with my ex.
From the first year we were together, when she surprised me with a little Christmas tree which was all we could afford, to the years we ate Christmas dinner on little DIY tables made from orange boxes, through to all the years when we started to be able to afford to buy ‘stuff’ for each other and went completely mad with Christmas presents. We decided from the beginning that we would always spend Christmas day on our own. And we always did. It has to be said that our families weren’t happy about it, but we stayed firm. Christmas Day was the one day in the year that we weren’t anybody else’s we were just ‘us’. It was a day we planned for months ahead and made lists about so we wouldn’t forget anything. It was, in short, the best day of the year.
Then suddenly she was gone – and she left just before Christmas in 2011.
I suppose I was in shock that first year. I told my family that Christmas was cancelled. I went to see them on Boxing Day as usual, but I didn’t want any of the trappings of the ‘Festive Season’. I just hibernated on the actual day. I had a movie marathon and watched the Lord of The Rings films back to back. And, despite the awfulness of the situation, it was lovely. Sort of familiar and comforting. And thus Lord of the Rings Day was born. Since then, even though I’ve recovered and although I’ve had the odd invitation to have Christmas dinner with people, I’ve always preferred to just hibernate at home. I make a big fuss about the LotR day and how much I love it – and I do love it. But it is slightly bittersweet and just now and again I do shed a (small) tear for the years gone by, before I pull myself back to the present and thank Twitter (and now Facebook) for the people I’ve met – the gifts that keep on giving. 
Back to now! 
So, that was how it all began. In between then and now, there was a year when I was part of another relationship and had Xmas with my partner and her family. And it was lovely, but I knew it wasn’t going to be a forever relationship, so it was, again, a bit bittersweet. And other people have invited me to spend Xmas Day with them. But, in the end, I always come back to my comfort zone. And now, it’s not bittersweet any more  – it’s just sweet. I can remember with a smile rather than a grimace 😊 And this year will be the same. It’s not that I hate Christmas – in fact it’s quite the opposite. Despite being a complete atheist, I loved Christmas and have so many brilliant memories from childhood and beyond. I just find that  the calm of Lord of the Rings Day is a brilliant alternative to being an interloper into someone else’s festivities.
So, if anyone is looking for me on 25th, I’ll be over here – reciting the dialogue along with the films ……”You Shall Not Pass’” and suchlike………, maybe joining in with Sarah Millican’s #joinin on Twitter, and eating my weight in delicious treats 😊
However you celebrate this time of year (or don’t), have a happy Lord Of The Christmas Rings Day one and all.
Be kind to each other xx

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

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