New Beginnings

Happy 1st May / Beltane Blessings!

beltanealtar2017

I thought I’d better brush aside some of the tumbleweed blowing through this place, after only posting once in the entire month of April.  In my defence I’ve been very busy, but I look set to get even busier in the coming weeks so I thought I’d better at least say hello and give a brief update for anyone who’s interested, before disappearing again for a few weeks!

This time last year I was on the verge of some big changes, and had some major decisions to make, so on the 30th April, aka Beltane, I lit some candles, got myself a cold beer and sat cross legged on my bed and dug deep to figure out what it was I wanted and needed to do in the coming months.  Looking back now, I can see how important those decisions were, and appreciate how brutally honest I was with myself that evening.

So again last night I did the same thing, (except, switch beer for wine, and add some dubious-smelling incense into the mix), and this morning I’m feeling good about the challenges that lie ahead.

This summer I’ll be starting a new job (probably within the next couple of weeks), starting therapy (this Wednesday) and starting a brand-new writing project  The job is back at my old hospital, although in a very different role, the therapy is high-intensity CBT, and the writing project is a young-adult fairytale with a twist.  All of which I’m pretty excited about (well, I don’t know that I’d say ‘excited’ for the therapy actually, but…’positive’, maybe?!)

Between those three things I’m not sure how I’m going to have time for much else to be honest, but I will try to share as much as I can about my experiences, in case it helps anyone else.

I’m still posting my YA contemporary over on Wattpad, and I have a loyal fan base of about ten readers (most of whom are friends/family) who are consistently reading every chapter update and telling me they’re enjoying it, which I think is all most of us really want when we share our work, so I’m calling it a success so far.  I’ve also been pushing myself outside my comfort zone in other ways, like entering writing contests, submitting short stories for anthologies, and taking up burlesque dancing!

My CIDP continues to be well-managed and I’m hoping to reduce my dose of immunoglobulins over the summer months, and my PCOS is also behaving, so for once I don’t feel like I’m using up half my energy in a battle of wills with my own body.

Generally, aside from crippling anxiety, (which the therapy will hopefully help with), and a distinct lack of money (which the job should surely help with), life is good.  (Although obviously I hate typing that for fear of jinxing myself in some way, damn anxiety.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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on being (begrudgingly) realistic

I am not renowned for realism, it has to be said, and so in cases where it is required I am a late-adopter, holding out hope long after it ceases to be sensible to do so.  That’s pretty unusual for someone with such high levels of anxiety I think, and at odds with my general belief that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO GO WRONG…and yet I hope, and hope that it won’t.

I particularly hate the need to be realistic when it relates to my chronic condition.  Even when I was really quite acutely unwell and newly diagnosed I was all “I totally can shower myself!” When it was quite plain for all to see that I could barely lift a spoon to my mouth to feed myself, never mind transport myself to a bathroom and attend to my hygiene needs without falling down flat on my face.

I was like ‘the little engine that could’, and this was my face whenever it turned out that actually I couldn’t:

pissythomas

 

(Incidentally, if anyone ever requires an image of a pissed off looking Thomas the tank engine- there are loads to choose from.  The dude has issues it would seem.)

 

Four years later, honestly, not much has changed.  I still like to think I can do everrrrrything, and you don’t want to be around me when I find out that I can’t.  I am getting better at accepting my limitations (I think?…Ok, maybe not…) but still don’t often fully realise them as part of my self-image and awareness.  This leads me to do things like apply for jobs that are actually beyond my physical capabilities.  That’s not a random non-specific example, that’s an actual thing that I did last week- securing myself an interview for a job that in reality, after considering it at length, I probably can’t actually physically manage- at least not reliably anyway.

Honestly?  It totally sucks.  Every time I tell myself that I can DO WHATEVER I WANT, and then struggle to drain a pan of pasta, or open a can of beans, or fasten a set of buttons without looking like I have the DT’s, I am reminded that actually Positive Mental Attitude is only a tiny part of the battle when it comes to life with CIDP, and that at the end of the day- it’s my nervous system that’s in control, not me (terrifying for anyone, but particularly a control freak like myself.)

But I decided that the right thing to do in this case, even though it felt pretty miserable, was to step back, and decline the post.  It’s one thing for me to be affected by CIDP, when I’m having a bad day or staring down a potential relapse, but in a job role where someone else would be physically dependent on me, it *wouldn’t* just be me that was affected.  So there it is.  Sometimes you want to do a thing, and think you can do the thing, but you actually can’t do the thing, and it’s better to realise it before you’re committed to the thing.

So that’s where I’m at.  Back in Job Search Hell.  I’m trying not to panic or feel too sorry for myself, because really what will that achieve?  But on the other hand I’m definitely feeling a bit sobered by the slowly dawning realisation that shit, I really am stuck in this malfunctioning body hey?

I wrote a book

I wrote it a while back now, and I even blogged about writing it at the time, so this is not really news.  I came up with the idea in 2004 (!) forgot all about it for a wee while, had some babies etc etc, and then finally came back to it and started writing it in 2014.  I edited it in 2015, gave it to some beta readers (thanks you lovely lot) in 2016, and since then I have done…PRECISELY NOTHING WITH IT AT ALL.

Seriously.  I looked at the file information on the word doc today, and it was last modified in March 2016 (i.e. when I received it back from my final beta reader).  I also have a paper copy in an A4 file, that has been sitting on a shelf in the study for so long it has gathered a significant layer of dust.

Why haven’t I done anything with it?  You might ask.  Well…a billion reasons really.  I still wasn’t sure if I’d achieved what I’d set out to do with it.  It had evolved so much both in the decade between the idea and the execution, and also during the writing, that it had become something else altogether, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.  Also it had some flaws, as all stories do, and I wasn’t sure how minor or major they were.  The feedback from my beta readers was good, but two out of four of them were related to me, and another shares my bed, so I mean…how critical were they ever going to be?  Was it secretly shit?  Should it ever see the light of day? Etc etc.  And so you can see, I think, how it almost became easier just to move on to writing the next thing, rather than devote my time to working out what if anything else needed doing to the book and how it should be shared with the world- if at all.

In the time since, I’ve successfully bashed out a first draft during 2015 NaNoWriMo (that I’ve yet to go back and edit at all), as well as starting and then abandoning two separate WIP’s (oops), and right now I am busy working on the first draft of two very distinct stories, and they’re actually going- dare I say it- ok?  One is probably a couple of weeks away from being ‘done’ (in the sense that I’ll have completed the scenes necessary for the plot, and be ready to step away from it for a while) and the other is nowhere near done, but I’m not rushing it and I’m enjoying myself in the process.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about that first story- the one that’s been idling in the wings, and wondering what it’s fate will be.  It seems a shame to have spent two years on/off working on something for only four people to ever read it, so I brushed the dust off the physical copy yesterday and had a flick through, and to my amazement I felt like- it wasn’t awful??  Usually when I read my own work I find myself cringing in that way that basically everyone does when they hear their voice on a recording.  Like: “damn, is that really what I sound like?”  And yes, ok reading some passages, I was like “Dafuq you on about in this bit?” or “Goddam girl, you need to get you some grammar lessons,” but on the whole I came away thinking that it seems a shame for it to go back onto a shelf and be ignored for the rest of eternity.

And so…I am probably going to put it on Wattpad.

I only joined last month, and I have a grand total of 2 (yes, that’s two!) followers, but if they both read it, that will increase the book’s audience by a whole 50% at this point, and honestly, even if no one does- at least I’ll have put it out there.

More and more (and I genuinely think WORLD EVENTS are having an impact here), I am coming to realise that putting stuff out there, is what’s important.  So long as what you’re putting out isn’t hateful bullshit I mean.  But just creating things that didn’t exist and saying “hey, this is a thing I made,” and spending less time worrying about:

  • If it’s the best thing you will ever make
  • If it’s the worst thing ever made in the history of the world
  • If everyone is going to hate it/you or
  • If your efforts will in fact be ignored completely

Because honestly, all that shit is a. exhausting and b. uncontrollable.

I don’t actually think that this story is the best thing I’ll ever make (pretty sure my kids take the biscuit there tbh), nor do I think it’s the naffest story ever (otherwise I wouldn’t have inflicted it on four people I love), and as for people hating it/me- I’m trying to get my head around the fact that someone always will, and I can’t let that stop me.  As for being ignored- honestly I don’t think shouting into the void on Wattpad will feel much different to talking to myself on here 😉

So really, the only thing that remains is for me to DO IT.

I made the decision today, and this blog post is a way for me to hold myself accountable in case I wake up tomorrow and go “Whaaaaat?  That’s a stupid idea, past Rebecca- no way!”

So my plan will be to post two chapters per week (the way Wattpad works, you have to release a section/chapter at a time, like a serialisation) probably on a Monday and a Friday, and see how it goes.

Before I encourage any of you to join Wattpad and read along, I should possibly give you a bit more information about the story, but I’ll do that in a separate blog post (probably tomorrow, because this one is already super long, and it’s almost midnight- when my laptop turns into a pumpkin and my jeans transform into pyjama pants- oh, who am I kidding, I’ve been in pyjamas since 7pm already 😉 )

So yes, if you want to know more, then please do subscribe to the blog/ follow me on Wattpad / follow me on Twitter / but probably don’t actually follow me in real life that will definitely freak me out.

 

“a bag of nerves”

I guess that’s essentially what we all are, but I feel like it sums me up quite nicely, as it manages to encapsulate both my damaged nervous system and my propensity for anxiety.

My anxiety, and in fact my mental health in general, is not something I’ve ever blogged, or really spoken about before to be honest, and I can’t say as I feel a great yearning to suddenly change that now, but as those of you who know me “IRL” will be aware- I have started making a nod to it on Facebook now that I’m actually at a stage of acknowledging it and seeking help.

I think it’s really telling that I have written at length about my experience of being diagnosed with and living with CIDP and had a lot of (mainly positive) feedback around that, and yet still not felt willing or able to share my similar experiences of suffering from startlingly common mental health problems.

As it’s 2017 (although you’d be forgiven for some days wondering if we’ve slipped back in time to the 1930’s) I think we all like to think that we’re pretty open-minded, and terms like ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ have lost some of the negative connotations or power that they once held, and in a way that’s probably true. After all, this morning I admitted to no less than four separate people in the playground that yes, I did have a good time on Friday night thank you, but I then had a panic attack in the early hours of Saturday morning that kind of took the shine off.  Being able to share that information with people and not think they’re going to start slowly backing away and turning down my childrens’ party invites, means that yes- we’ve definitely moved on from the notion that suffering from mental illness makes you inferior, or to be avoided.  But on the other hand, here I am still feeling incredibly hesitant about hitting ‘publish’ on this post, because the truth is- there is still that suggestion- whether internal or external, that your mind is something you can FULLY CONTROL.  So if it’s not working quite right- it’s within your power to fix it, and your fault if you then can’t.

I’ve been experiencing anxiety attacks for well over a decade and am only just now holding my hands up and saying, “so this is a thing I need some help with.”  I live with a mental health professional who has been (supportively) encouraging me to get help for the majority of that time.  So if it’s hard for *me*, then how much harder must it be for other people who don’t have someone holding their hand (either literally or metaphorically), rubbing their back and reassuring them that no, they’re not actually going fucking insane, or you know- if they are- then it’ll be alright and no one will hold it against them.

Until recently, my mental health mirrored my circumstances quite accurately, so when things were not going well, my mental health wasn’t great either (makes sense really), and so I told myself that it didn’t really matter how shitty I felt because sooner or later, things would calm down and I’d calm down too.  And that kind of philosophy worked ok for a while.  But for the last couple of years it hasn’t worked out that way- the sea can be flat, crystal blue without so much as a ripple on the surface and I’m still there in my boat yelling “WE’RE GOING TO DROWN!!!!!!”.  This juxtaposition has finally prompted me to actually admit that this is something I can’t just keep ‘riding out until it settles’ and that I need help.

Three little words with so much power.  How terrifying that is to type, let alone say.  But it’s true- I do need help.  I can’t keep waking up feeling like my heart is about to explode out of my chest, struggling for breath and wondering why the hell my body and mind are conspiring to kill me off while I sleep.  I can’t keep squashing down all the inconvenient, messy and downright traumatic bullshit that I’ve put off dealing with.  I need some help, and although that help might not take the cure of a magic wand wafting all this ridiculousness away, I hope at least it will mean I can steer my ship safely, regardless of the tide or the weather conditions, without constantly feeling like I’m about to be nommed-to-death by sharks.

I’ve also decided to be as transparent as I can be about all of this.  Because frankly, if I can blog about my feelings on fostering or that time I collapsed on a bathroom floor, or about pregnancy loss, or my Dad’s death etc etc then I should be able to be open about this kind of thing too.

So…my name is Rebecca and I have anxiety.  The level of anxiety that means that the woman who did my assessment a week ago called me up today to tell me I’m not suitable for low-intensity CBT and she’s referring me for high-intensity instead.  The level of anxiety that means answering phone calls is terrifying, the level of anxiety that wakes me in the dead of night to go check that my children are breathing, the level of anxiety that means I am constantly expecting SOMETHING TERRIBLE TO HAPPEN without knowing specifically what that might entail, so just worrying about every possibility- as a precaution.  The level of anxiety that means my panic attacks have gone from an occasional annoyance to a regular feature that if I wasn’t hyperventilating and crying at the time, I’d probably roll my eyes at.

So- that’s a thing and I’m getting help for it, and because there might be someone out there who is remarkably similar to me at any other point in the last decade, going “oh that’s familiar, but the idea of asking for help is scary”, I’m going to try to keep you all updated on just how scary (or not), this whole ‘getting help’ thing is.

In the meantime- have some helpful links:

https://www.selfhelpservices.org.uk/

(support, services and signposting- this is the link a friend sent me, that finally prompted to action, and I’m now on a waiting list, so if you’re thinking about taking that step, do check it out)

https://mind.org.uk

(Mind are a well known mental health charity and there’s loads of useful info on their site)

http://www.nhs.uk/pages/home.aspx

(nhs choices website, you can type literally any condition in and get some reliable information on, and usually some information and advice about getting help too)

https://anxietyuk.org.uk

(a user led organisation)

 

 

 

guilt

There are those that say that guilt is a useless emotion, and maybe they’re right.  But I feel it so often that I can scarcely imagine a life without it.

How would I fill the endless minutes in each day if not consumed by the feeling that I’m not doing the right thing/a good enough job, that I myself am not good enough, that I could/should be doing x, y or z instead?!

Take right now for example- I’m sitting here feeling tremendously guilty about an inordinate number of things.

thelastmincepie

First up- there’s the pie.  I’m eating the last mince pie in the house and feeling guilty (because I am trying to be healthy and lose weight and eating a mince pie is in direct contradiction with both of those things).

Also, there’s the sitting.  I’m sitting here eating a pie when I could/should be doing a whole host of other more useful and productive things (tidying, cleaning, writing, calling up the ward manager at my new job and introducing myself and getting some off-duty etc etc etc).

Then there’s the fact that I’m alone, having just dropped both kids off at school.  Which carries it’s own guilt at the best of times, but particularly when I’ve just had to prise our 6 year old off my leg in tears and leave him with his teacher sobbing.  He was off sick yesterday but is better today but didn’t want to go in, and being the horrible mother I am, I made him.  Because we had to go there anyway to drop his brother off (more guilt there- his brother started full-time school a whole year earlier than he did, and although his attendance technically isn’t compulsory, because he’s still only four, I tell him that it is) and because he isn’t poorly anymore, and I don’t want him to have poor attendance/miss out on stuff, and because I don’t want him to think he can stay home whenever he doesn’t fancy school because he really can’t because I start work next week (heaps more guilt at this point, because I am not going to be able to do school drop-offs/pick-ups and will miss some bedtimes and generally won’t be around as much).

I’m also feeling very guilty about starting my new job because I am riddled with doubt that it is the right thing to do/the right time to do it, and then I feel bad for having taken the leap despite my doubts, and I also feel bad because I have been given a job, something a lot of people would kill for, and here I am debating about whether or not I really want it.  And then I feel guilty for feeling this way, because when all is said and done, it’s not a matter of wanting the job or not- I need to earn money.

And then I get back to the fact that I’m sat on my arse not contributing financially, emotionally, or practically to anybody or anything, and by that point I’ve eaten the pie and we’re back to my food-related guilt once again…

Congratulations, you just survived ten minutes in my brain!  Exhausting isn’t it?!