Daily Prompt: Agile

At fifty-four I’m not anywhere near as agile as I used to be, and I haven’t yet fully got my head around that sadly indisputable fact. I do recognise that some everyday things I used to do without a second thought I struggle a bit more with these days – even simple things like straightening up again after picking something up off the floor, or getting off the sofa quickly, or opening jars. I can still do it, but more slowly and a lot less elegantly, and not without a few creaking complaints from my painful stiffening joints.

I still feel a bit resistant to accepting my new reality – sheer stubbornness I suppose. I was exactly the same with my declining eyesight, it took me such a long time to accept that I really needed reading glasses. Part of my problem with accepting the gradual reduction of free movement in my joints is probably down to the fact I’ve been experiencing a lot of temporary joint pains over the last few years as part of my ongoing menopausal symptoms – and however extreme it got on each individual occasion, it always passed in time.

But although the ebb and flow of those random here today, gone tomorrow fluctuating hormonal aches and pains have almost totally subsided now, the ever-present difficulty with strength and suppleness and everyday movement in my hips and my hands has remained problematic. I’m not at all impressed. My husband has suggested it’s time I saw my GP again, and I have to admit, however grudgingly, that he’s right. I have had frequent mechanical issues with my right hip over the years, so I may indeed be in need of another physiotherapy referral.

To be honest, though, deep down it’s the constant aches and pains in my hands that concern me most. I do work hard to keep my basic range of movement going as best as I can, but my fine motor skills are definitely losing their delicate touch. I can see I’m getting old lady hands, wrinkly skin with liver spots and knobbly joints, and right now they hurt all the time. Sometimes they’re swollen, sometimes not, but either way I’m permanantly aware of my hands, and even when lying in bed resting I feel them throbbing, and it’s getting me down.

I don’t feel at all ready to exchange feeling agile for fragile, but ignoring it all and just getting on with life doesn’t seem to be working for me any more. So like it or not it’s time I admitted defeat and made an appointment. I really don’t like making a fuss, but it’s really beginning to get in the way of enjoying life, and is causing me problems at work, so  I guess needs must… sigh!

Daily Prompt: Agile 

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The Birth of Hope…

It’s an important yet bittersweet anniversary for me today. Thirty years ago tonight I sat down in my living room after everyone else was in bed asleep, and swallowed a bottle of Valium (diazepam) with the best part of a bottle of paracetamol and washed it all down with neat vodka. I was a mentally fragile 24-year-old mum of three small kids in a desperately unhappy marriage, and all I wanted was for the emotional pain of living to stop, one way or another.

I was already receiving treatment for longterm depression, and as well as being under psychiatric care as an outpatient I had been taking Valium daily for a good couple of years. I think many unhappy housewives were prescribed it at that time yet ironically nowadays my history of depression would be a clear contra-indication. It didn’t really make me feel any less depressed, instead it turned me into a spaced-out zombie running on autopilot. From the outside I perhaps seemed quieter and more pliable but inside I still felt like a complete failure of a human being.

Trust me when I tell you it’s not easy getting that volume of dry pills and neat alcohol down your throat – your natural gag reflex kicks in early on, but you persevere, determined. You retch and bring some up but swallow it all back down again, and take even more. It burns like hell, but you do it anyway, choking on tears and tablets until you just can’t take any more of any of it and start to lose focus, both physically and mentally.

Yet just at that precarious not-quite-conscious, not-quite-unconscious point I remember suddenly calling the Samaritans – my best friend had been visiting a couple of weeks previously and, worried about my mental health, she had looked up the number and left it by the phone for me incase I ever needed it. So I saw the number sitting there and as I didn’t want to die alone I called them up and I remember speaking to a soft-voiced guy named Martin…

The next conscious memory I have is waking up in a hospital bed feeling dead, except I wasn’t. And my insides felt raw and violated from my throat downwards – having your stomach pumped out is neither a delicate nor a glamourous procedure, and not surprisingly it hurts like hell. Once I came to various professional people came and spoke to me, and although somewhere along the way I had lost a day I still had my life and I was eventually allowed to go home with my mum and dad – but not to my husband.

I learned afterwards that my husband had woken up in the middle of the night and had found me incoherent but still on the phone to the Samaritans, so in a panic he had called my parents and it was they who drove me straight to hospital, who explained to the A&E staff that I was a psychiatric outpatient being treated for depression. And it was my parents who eventually took me and my children home with them for the time being. After that catastrophic turning point, I never again returned to my marriage…

The gnawing guilt I still feel at almost abandoning my children in the most extreme way has never left me, but I have finally forgiven myself for being young and helpless and struggling with a longterm condition I had no idea how to handle and that was never openly discussed in public. Mental Health problems were still taboo, so my overdose was just swept under the carpet like an embarrassing glitch and family life just carried on for all of us, but never quite in the same way as before.

Anyway, the point of me telling you all of this is that although part of me died that night, something new was born, and that something was hope. The whole horrendous experience of my overdose and its decades-long nuclear-fallout aftermath has taught me that even when everything else in life feels like a barren wasteland, the smallest glimmer of hope always remains and with that glint of hope comes so many potential possibilities for a brighter and better future – eventually.

So every year I mark the anniversary of my overdose with enormous regret that I ever let things get that bad in my life, but with intense relief that I’m still here, thirty years on, and thankfully still have a close relationship with all of my adult children. Happily remarried I’ve also completed a degree and now have five beautiful, precious grandchildren to add to my wonderful family. I still struggle with life from time to time, still experience bad bouts of depression, but I just sit tight because I always know I’ll get through it somehow, because I’ll always have hope for a brighter tomorrow… ❤

Hormones, Headaches & Hot Flushes

Earlier this year I’d hoped my menopausal hot flushes were becoming more and more infrequent and finally fading away as my female hormone levels depleted further, but although I’ve probably had a good six months or so without experiencing much thermostatic discomfort at all I’m recently finding myself having annoyingly regular hot flushes again. Not as bad or happening as often as before, but they are proving to be exceedingly irksome nonetheless.

I so dislike that uncomfortably sticky feeling of being saturated head to toe in a slick sheen of salty sweat regardless of external temperatures. Even my hair roots feel soaked and errant droplets trickle ticklishly down my spine. When I first feel the flush racing through me I try to strip off as much as I can for the duration in an attempt to cool off – not possible to do at work – but even at home there is generally little relief to be had. And as the dank dampness dries off my skin soon starts to itch all over, adding a further external dimension to my already surging internal irritation.

And as if that wasn’t enough to contend with, a flurry of frequent hot flushes inevitably coincides with an increase in hormonally-charged headaches, leaving me hot and bothered and grumpy – not a pleasant combination. I can’t help but wonder if my glaring stress levels are linked somehow to my flaring hormone levels, because it’s as if the more my stress has built up, the more my hormones have been playing up, too…

As with everything else going on in life at the moment, I know that this situation too shall pass, but oh how I wish it would all just hurry the hell up and get on with it! 🙂

Thoughts On My Dad

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad today. He’s still in hospital recovering from a recent series of small but troublesome strokes, and it may be a while before he gets home again. Always assuming he doesn’t have yet another stroke, of course – and at 81, with his health having been noticably deteriorating over the last few months, sadly nothing is certain any more. He is getting old, and the realities of age are causing him to fail almost in front of our eyes: A diagnosis of vascular dementia is adding a cognitive element to his physical limitations.

I’m thinking about the last time I saw him at home, not even a month ago, standing watching out the kitchen window and waving at my train as it passed the house. The thing is, the train to London from Inverness doesn’t usually pass by that way, but on that particular occasion due to engineering works we were diverted via Aberdeen, which meant travelling along the railway line next to my mum and dad’s house.

Dad had said beforehand that he would watch out for the train and wave, so I was looking out for him. Even in the dark and after all these years living elsewhere I still remember the area like the back of my hand so I knew we would go through a short deep cutting, pass under a road bridge, and immediately after we would rush past four houses in a row, with mum and dad’s house being the last to see.

I know it takes only a few precious seconds for the train to pass and it was dark outside, so I decided not to try to take a photograph of the house as we rattled by but just to see how much I could see at that time of the evening. I just didn’t want to risk missing anything by concentrating too hard on my camera instead of looking out and maybe not even getting a shot in focus, so I left my camera off.

As it happened, it was actually the darkness that helped me see him so clearly, a solid dark figure reassuringly framed squarely in the centre of the brightly lit window, waving slowly and steadily with both arms, a familiar gesture I’d seen a million times before. Every time we had visitors I remember dad standing in the road waving them off in just the same way, keeping waving until the car had disappeared over the top of the hill.

So I simply kept watching for as long as I could, tears blurring my vision, as dad and the window grew smaller, flickered, and in an instant vanished from sight. I felt overwhelmed with love and longing for those happy family memories, and a sudden flash of fear that I might not ever see him stand there again. Five days later, he had the stroke that took him off to hospital and has kept him there so far. It seems that train diversion was meant to be.

I do have a photograph I took a bare month ago of my dad sitting in his front porch, snoozing in his usual armchair in his well-worn jeans, old navy blue heavy-knit jumper and workboots – his everyday garb for being at home and messing about outdoors. He had come in supposedly to read the paper, but after only a page or two had dropped off – having forty winks, as he would often say, although forty minutes was more usual these days. I snapped him snoozing from through the grubby rain-spotted window so as not to disturb him, and the ordinariness of that candid shot touches my heart.

I also have a photograph of him in hospital, only a week or so later, taken on the ward with my not-so-great phone camera. He had just had his hair trimmed by a nurse so was looking very smart, and in that moment he looked directly at me and smiled just as I clicked the silent shutter button. In contrast to the previous photo there is nothing ordinary about that image, a clean-shaven spruced-up dad sitting in a dress shirt (well, his version of a dress shirt) in a high-backed hospital chair, but somehow in that split second he looks more like dad than he has in months.

His brilliant blue eyes are sparkling and bright, with no hint of the dull bewildered confusion that has been plaguing him on and off since these little vascular incidents have been challenging his brain. That lucid look of complete clarity didn’t last long, but I’m so pleased I managed to capture it while it was there…

Love you, Dad, I wish you could get well soon… ❤

 

Family Update: Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad…

Life has been a bit tumultuous for my family lately, but thankfully the urgency of my concern last weekend (with a badly scalded daughter having to attend A&E on the Thursday after an accident at home, and then both parents being admitted to hospital in the same ambulance on the Friday – dad with a mini-stroke, mum with an asthma attack) has settled down a bit. However I’m just so glad I decided to go back up to Inverness when I did – it may only have been five short days away but it certainly made a huge difference to me to be where I most needed to be at that time.

My youngest daughter’s burns to her face, neck and chest are now healing nicely and she no longer needs outpatient treatment to change the dressings. Thanks to her own quick thinking in standing under a cold shower for 45 minutes to reduce the risk of deep burns she has no infected tissue and it seems the doctors are happy that no skin grafts will be necessary – from now on she will just need careful skin management and lots of gloopy moisturiser until everything is fully repaired. What a relief!

My mum’s respiratory attack has cleared up reasonably quickly this time – she thinks it was as much caused by panic at dad having another ‘funny turn’ as anything – and she finally got home from hospital on Friday, one week after admission, but will need to take it easy for a while. My 81 year-old dad, however, is still in hospital for now. He’s doing OK but has had another couple of mini-stroke ‘episodes’ while he’s been there, so still has a slight weakness in his right arm and leg (improving daily) and has been experiencing some (hopefully temporary) cognitive impairment.

But overall from having three family members to worry myself silly about last weekend, I figure that when it comes to my loved ones being well on the way to recovery, in the cirumstances having two out of three safely on the mend ain’t bad… 🙂

Ditching the Diet of Denial

smoked-salmon-scambled

Today’s lunch of choice was smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast – and it was yum! I’ve been trying so hard since the end of last month to eat more healthily, but quite simply it doesn’t come naturally to me. Or rather, I find ONLY eating healthy options doesn’t come easily – my problem is eating perfectly wholesome meals at meal times AND still nibbling on high fat/ sugar treats in between times too!

I’m the world’s worst emotional eater – I eat not only when I’m hungry, but also when I’m sad, tired, lonely, bored… you name it, I eat because of it. I grew up swallowing down my disappointments, rewarding myself and healing my hurts with food, and it’s proving to be a really hard habit to kick. For now I’m just taking it all day by day, by keeping an open mind on making any choices about what to eat one meal, one snack at a time.

I’m finding it so difficult to try to change my whole attitude to eating, to recognise and remind myself each time I reach for something tempting to soothe my soul that I tend to use these unhealthy treats to feed my emotions rather than fuel my body. So instead of focusing negatively on the feelings of restriction, on what I’m not allowing myself to have, I’m trying to think in terms of providing positive nutrition while not compromising on taste.

I’ve got a long way to go, but for me it certainly seems to be working to be keeping it simple, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks, planning no further than my next meal. I don’t doubt that ditching the diet of denial is going to be difficult, and I’m bound to falter amd stumble along the way. But somehow every time I do choose sensibly, it builds my confidence to imagine that maybe someday I can change the habits of a lifetime, one day at a time… 🙂

 

 

 

 

Daily Prompt: Snack

snack-lunch

Today’s nibbly snack-based lunch… smoked ham, chorizo, cheese, olives, and tomato with ground black pepper 🙂

I’m trying hard just now to make a conscious effort to make healthier food choices, especially as I’m not only an emotional eater but also one of life’s natural grazers, so I have to be really careful not just to be cramming in a constant conveyor-belt of high fat and sugar options without really thinking about it.

The thing is, I do love lots of different foods, not just sweet stuff and deep-fried stuff, so I’m trying hard to move my focus from indulging my emotional needs to tempting my tastebuds with alternative flavours and textures to enjoy. I need to break some pretty long-standing overeating habits though, so it’s not going to be easy.

My middle-aged spread is making itself far too much at home for my liking, especially now I’ve hit menopause – I don’t want to resign myself to being fat and unfit for life just because I’m in my mid-fifties. So I’m just taking it all one day at a time for now, and I’ll see how it goes…  🙂

Daily Prompt: Snack

 

Daily Prompt: Symptom

Since my female hormone levels have at last fallen through the floor, my uncomfortable peri-menopausal symptoms have finally dissipated to an easily manageable level once more. My hot flushes and night sweats have all but disappeared, my hormone headaches have subsided substantially, and I’m actually sleeping properly again – hooray!

Sad though I feel in once sense that my reproductive years are well and truly over, in another sense I’m delightfully relieved to be able to sit comfortably in my skin once more, sleep soundly in my bed again, and thankfully find myself feeling infinitely lighter and brighter in my head and heart ❤

Daily Prompt: Symptom

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: First/ Last

First day of the new year, and here I sit with lank, greasy hair wondering exactly what the hell I’ve let myself in for… I decided last week I’m going to try to have completely natural hair from now on, using nothing but water to keep it clean. Inevitably, after a lifetime of using shampoo, it’s going to take my scalp some decent length of time to rebalance itself when it comes to necessary oil production, and until that transitional phase passes I have little option but to bear with whatever excessive greasy mess accumulates in the meantime…

My dark blonde hair and I have always had an uneasy relationship, it’s always (well, since my early teens) been greasy at the roots but dry and frizzy at the ends, but over the last few years it’s become increasingly unmanageable. As more and more grey hairs appear in the mix, the texture has changed too, and I’m growing more and more fed up with the way it looks and feels, even when newly washed. And apart from during times of illness or unavoidable necessity, I’ve pretty much washed my hair every day – or two at a push – since puberty…

Forty years of daily washing has clearly taken its toll – the thing is, I’ve naturally got really dry skin, so there’s no reason to think the skin on my scalp, if left to its own devices, would be any different from everywhere else on my body. But of course, it’s not ever been left to its own devices. It seems reasonable to assume that counter-intuitively it is in fact my daily chemical stripping of all those healthy, natural hair oils that is in part creating the excessive oiliness that has kept me washing my hair every day until now…

I’ve done my research on-line, and am following a tried-and-tested routine of water-only washing hair-care, but as everyone’s hair is different it’s hard to guess how long it might take to get to the point where I can feel happy with my oh-so-slow progress to date. It seems to be a bit of a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string process, dependent on so many different variables – hair type, skin type, usual frequency of washing, practical circumstances, personal preferences…

Right now I have no idea how this little experiment will turn out – I absolutely hate the way my hair feels at the moment, and hate the way it looks. But I feel sure that, with a little patience and perseverance (not to mention the wearing of a hat every time I leave the house for the next week) I can start to see and feel a difference in the condition of my long-abused scalp and hair, and one day soon maybe even find myself with a head of healthy, shiny hair at last… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: First/  Last 

Daily Prompt: Expert

Waiting-room

Another day, another waiting room…

My husband and I are getting to the age where we seem to be spending a lot more time in waiting rooms… GP waiting rooms, hospital waiting rooms, waiting for the resident health expert of the day to advise as necessary.

So far this year we’ve sat in many such waiting areas, biding our time, and I’m sure there’ll be several more to visit before the year is out… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Expert