Author Archives: swannie95

About swannie95

It is not the bumps in the road which define us, it is the journey itself which makes us who we are.

Trending Now

There’s an old 1970s hostess trolley been left abandoned, outside of a house, at the end of my road.  Every day I have watched this long-lost icon deteriorate, sadly sitting and waiting to be pillaged.  Only no one wants it.  it’s still there: a constant on the daily dog trek.  

This piece of beach walk detritus, is the only constant in my daily folly onto the wild North Sea coast.  Where, and quite simply wonderfully, the landscape can metamorphosise into something so incredibly different every day.  A rolling palette which stretches from the steeliest grey to a mirror of brilliance; a myriad of blues to soothe the soul, and the shoreline showing the spoils of Davy Jones’ locker.  A distinct picture of life and death.  A daily reminder which boosts the mind and energises the soul.  Nothing is constant.  Nothing lasts forever.

But I’m digressing and becoming distracted and ahead of myself.  

So…back to the lonely trolley.  Once, this 1970s piece of sophistication, was the only way to dinner party.  Keeping the  Boeuf Bourguignon warm and gently killing any vegetables in its brown plastic prison, was only to be found in the most affluent of households.  Proudly standing at the side of the room,  you weren’t successful if you hadn’t bought into this stylish trend of the ‘modern household’.  Dinner party sophisticates would produce: A prawn cocktail to start; a congealed mess from within the trolley for main;l.  Followed by an arctic roll from the freezer…

For the first time ever, women were able to have it all!  Working all day and entertaining their husband’s clients in an evening.  The Hostess Trolley had arrived!

But that wasn’t all.  Trending alongside it there would be a fondue set powered by cheese and wine.  Fuelling up the later entertainment of swapping partners with keys in a bowl (If they weren’t already attending a tarts and vicars party) and spinning everything around on a Lazy Susan.  

Fast forward and we all think: What were they doing? From the sexual revolutionaries of the sixties we got nothing but crap food and inappropriate party games thereafter.  A Benny Hill interlude that benefitted the perverts in society (now to be found cat fishing on Tinder etc. And hiding behind a screen and not a moustache).  Thankfully, these ridiculous 1970s follies were just, like most silly ideas, all just a trend.  Unfortunately though, making feminism and the sexual revolution something we continued to fight for, and still do, forty plus years later.  Yet again m wandering off topic…

I like a trend as much as anyone.  They keep things moving, interesting and stop us growing a film of dust on our lives.  A trend is:

Trend

Noun

A fashion

Therefore, we follow it in a fickle way.  Picking and choosing and chucking out last season’s cast offs without a moments hesitation (The fact that the landfill gets higher and that there are refugees running around in ‘Gina’s Hen  t-shirt,  is testimony to our throwaway society).   And along with the clothing trends, we follow others.  We follow in a herd mentality to a certain restaurant; engage in a new film hype; or download some new app to fill our free time.  But sometimes, what is heralded as a new trend can sometimes evolve into something interesting – life changing.  It becomes a turning point:

Turning Point

There’s an old 1970s hostess trolley been left abandoned, outside of a house, at the end of my road.  Every day I have watched this long-lost icon deteriorate, sadly sitting and waiting to be pillaged.  Only no one wants it.  it’s still there: a constant on the daily dog trek.  

This piece of beach walk detritus, is the only constant in my daily folly onto the wild North Sea coast.  Where, and quite simply wonderfully, the landscape can metamorphosise into something so incredibly different every day.  A rolling palette which stretches from the steeliest grey to a mirror of brilliance; a myriad of blues to soothe the soul, and the shoreline showing the spoils of Davy Jones’ locker.  A distinct picture of life and death.  A daily reminder which boosts the mind and energises the soul.  Nothing is constant.  Nothing lasts forever.

But I’m digressing and becoming distracted and ahead of myself.  

So…back to the lonely trolley.  Once, this 1970s piece of sophistication, was the only way to dinner party.  Keeping the  Boeuf Bourguignon warm and gently killing any vegetables in its brown plastic prison, was only to be found in the most affluent of households.  Proudly standing at the side of the room,  you weren’t successful if you hadn’t bought into this stylish trend of the ‘modern household’.  Dinner party sophisticates would produce: A prawn cocktail to start; a congealed mess from within the trolley for main;l.  Followed by an arctic roll from the freezer…

For the first time ever, women were able to have it all!  Working all day and entertaining their husband’s clients in an evening.  The Hostess Trolley had arrived!

But that wasn’t all.  Trending alongside it there would be a fondue set powered by cheese and wine.  Fuelling up the later entertainment of swapping partners with keys in a bowl (If they weren’t already attending a tarts and vicars party) and spinning everything around on a Lazy Susan.  

Fast forward and we all think: What were they doing? From the sexual revolutionaries of the sixties we got nothing but crap food and inappropriate party games thereafter.  A Benny Hill interlude that benefitted the perverts in society (now to be found cat fishing on Tinder etc. And hiding behind a screen and not a moustache).  Thankfully, these ridiculous 1970s follies were just, like most silly ideas, all just a trend.  Unfortunately though, making feminism and the sexual revolution something we continued to fight for, and still do, forty plus years later.  Yet again m wandering off topic…

I like a trend as much as anyone.  They keep things moving, interesting and stop us growing a film of dust on our lives.  A trend is:

Trend

Noun

A fashion

Therefore, we follow it in a fickle way.  Picking and choosing and chucking out last season’s cast offs without a moments hesitation (The fact that the landfill gets higher and that there are refugees running around in ‘Gina’s Hen  t-shirt,  is testimony to our throwaway society).   And along with the clothing trends, we follow others.  We follow in a herd mentality to a certain restaurant; engage in a new film hype; or download some new app to fill our free time.  But sometimes, what is heralded as a new trend can sometimes evolve into something interesting – life changing.  It becomes a turning point:

Turning Point

Noun

A time at which a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results

Beneficial.  That word is not used enough.  For the first of many years of my life, I ran at 100mph, to juggle all the balls and to work towards ‘winning at life’.  Winning, to me, and many others, was being successful in all matters of materialism.  To have your own home.  To have a happy and healthy family which you could provide for.  To have a successful career.  To have all the trappings…it’s not greed, it’s just human nature.  We want the diet which is fed to us through the media.  We strive for bigger and better.  We just don’t want to be left behind.  

But was any of it beneficial?

Well…house, family, job are always important.  They are our bedrock.  But how do we measure success and is it beneficial to us?  I don’t think it is.  Although having a regular wage helps me sleep at night, it’s never been what’s motivated me to get out of bed in the morning.  If it did, I’d be very worried about my emotional well-being.  Instead, I push myself out of my really comfortable bed (which I craved for in my early twenties) and think about the positives for the day.  I think about my family, my students, and just recently, I think about myself.  Is that selfish? 

Well no!  It’s called self-care.  

Self care is the new buzz word.  A trend which has sprung from the need for highlighting the importance of mental health awareness.  Everywhere I look: emails, magazines, Instagram…everyone wants me to be mindful of my self-care.  And I am!  Guess what?  I’ve needed no persuading.  

You see, once upon a time my plate was very full.  There were times that I never thought I’d get to where I am without killing someone or robbing a bank (but I don’t want to go into that).  All I need to say is that until you are forced to really think, you have no idea what is good for you.  Instead, what I have learnt is that self-care is not selfish, and should be everyone’s priority.

Learning about loving ourself s and our own Self-care, should be a turning point.  Looking at what makes us tick is important.  Isn’t life too short?  It soothes us.  Keeps us calm and happy.  There’s a lot to be said for contentment – I personally think it’s underrated and extremely beneficial.  

So what am I doing about it?  Well, the usual list of: mindfulness, exercise, eating clean (you should see the chicken and kale broth on my job at the minute) etc.  But whats caught my eye is the new trend of cold water therapy.  And this is, in a rambling type way, is what I really wanted to talk about – it’s revolutionary!  After many celebrity endorsements and  reading about the health benefits (mental and physical) I’ve embarked on a daily cold shower.  And at first I thought – trend!  But I’m thinking not and that takes me back to the Norrh Sea…

So…as much as I love the Ionian, I do have a love for our rolling, iron seas (see the earlier lamenting about the North Sea) as I walk daily along the beach, with the water calling me.  Over time I’ve become an all-weather-Walker, who balks at the fair-weather people who only make the trek on a sunny day.  I’ve grown to love the Baltic wind and the icy skies.  The sea just continues to call me.  And bit by bit,  I’ve seen a trend emerging: a number of  swimcapped heads bobbing above the swells – and I think: can it be any different to a cold shower?

Pretty soon I intend to find out. I’ll have to let you know.  And if it’s a trend?  So what.  I’ll be fulfilled, happy and living.  

In the meantime:

Whilst I buy my wetsuit and cap, I’d like you all to think about what you could change.  Make it beneficial for you and see where your new journey takes you!  It might be a hostess trolley, fondue, or a flirtation with joining a gin club.  Whatever it is, make sure it’s about you.  What benefits you and is all about your self-care.  After all, it’s allowed now.  So quieten the noise and make this a turning point for your future.  

A time at which a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results

Beneficial.  That word is not used enough.  For the first of many years of my life, I ran at 100mph, to juggle all the balls and to work towards ‘winning at life’.  Winning, to me, and many others, was being successful in all matters of materialism.  To have your own home.  To have a happy and healthy family which you could provide for.  To have a successful career.  To have all the trappings…it’s not greed, it’s just human nature.  We want the diet which is fed to us through the media.  We strive for bigger and better.  We just don’t want to be left behind.  

But was any of it beneficial?

Well…house, family, job are always important.  They are our bedrock.  But how do we measure success and is it beneficial to us?  I don’t think it is.  Although having a regular wage helps me sleep at night, it’s never been what’s motivated me to get out of bed in the morning.  If it did, I’d be very worried about my emotional well-being.  Instead, I push myself out of my really comfortable bed (which I craved for in my early twenties) and think about the positives for the day.  I think about my family, my students, and just recently, I think about myself.  Is that selfish? 

Well no!  It’s called self-care.  

Self care is the new buzz word.  A trend which has sprung from the need for highlighting the importance of mental health awareness.  Everywhere I look: emails, magazines, Instagram…everyone wants me to be mindful of my self-care.  And I am!  Guess what?  I’ve needed no persuading.  

You see, once upon a time my plate was very full.  There were times that I never thought I’d get to where I am without killing someone or robbing a bank (but I don’t want to go into that).  All I need to say is that until you are forced to really think, you have no idea what is good for you.  Instead, what I have learnt is that self-care is not selfish, and should be everyone’s priority.

Learning about loving ourself s and our own Self-care, should be a turning point.  Looking at what makes us tick is important.  Isn’t life too short?  It soothes us.  Keeps us calm and happy.  There’s a lot to be said for contentment – I personally think it’s underrated and extremely beneficial.  

So what am I doing about it?  Well, the usual list of: mindfulness, exercise, eating clean (you should see the chicken and kale broth on my job at the minute) etc.  But whats caught my eye is the new trend of cold water therapy.  And this is, in a rambling type way, is what I really wanted to talk about – it’s revolutionary!  After many celebrity endorsements and  reading about the health benefits (mental and physical) I’ve embarked on a daily cold shower.  And at first I thought – trend!  But I’m thinking not as it’s a game-changer… and that takes me back to the Norrh Sea…

So…as much as I love the Ionian, I do have a love for our rolling, iron seas (see the earlier lamenting about the North Sea) as I walk daily along the beach, with the water calling me.  Over time I’ve become an all-weather-Walker, who balks at the fair-weather people who only make the trek on a sunny day.  I’ve grown to love the Baltic wind and the icy skies.  The sea just continues to call me.  And bit by bit,  I’ve seen a trend emerging: a number of  swimcapped heads bobbing above the swells – and I think: can it be any different to a cold shower?

Pretty soon I intend to find out. I’ll have to let you know.  And if it’s a trend?  So what.  I’ll be fulfilled, happy and living.  

In the meantime:

Whilst I buy my wetsuit and cap, I’d like you all to think about what you could change.  Make it beneficial for you and see where your new journey takes you!  It might be a hostess trolley, fondue, or a flirtation with joining a gin club.  Whatever it is, make sure it’s about you.  What benefits you and is all about your self-care.  After all, it’s allowed now.  So quieten the noise and make this a turning point for your future.  

The Ennui and the Pants Full of Ants

2020 has an air of dissatisfaction shrouding it.  Well actually, to say the above, is an understatement.  There’s no ifs and buts, it is true.  And really my blog could stop there.   I could cut short my tales of listlessness and instead tell you some hilarious story about the RDog’s latest obsession with rolling in dead fish…but what would that solve? I’d only be filling a gap, treading water: the equivalent of killing time at the bus stop and having a fag (circa 1995).  Not only would I be avoiding the big issue, I would also be ruining my ‘health’ (this time mental) by not sharing my angst.

You see, that’s what it is.  I feel an angst – like a petulant teen.  2020 has forced me into a metaphorical teenage bedroom: trapped by school, curfews, and the feeling that if you enjoy yourself that ‘I’m bound to get grounded’.  And, as you read this, you’ll think that I’m acting like one too!  Sulking because ‘things haven’t worked out like I wanted’…

But this is where I’ve changed.  

Yes me, I’ve resisted and after being ‘high maintenance’ (Him’s words not mine) I’m growing into something resembling an independent grown up.  

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’ve been stubborn for the past, oh-not-so-many-years, it’s more that I’ve been a bit of a bulldozer at times.  Fearlessly striving for a better life.  A good life.  I never recognised ‘no’ or ‘can’t’ and found ways to make it happen.  Not just for me but for my loved ones too.  I’ve tackled it all head on: 100mph…

And then 2020 hit.  A perfect shite storm of unprecedented times.  A hurricane of a year, which spent the first part ripping our ‘lives as we know them’ apart.  Such times challenged the way we thought and although covid was a constant worry, come June I couldn’t help feeling like it was like the phony war of 1940 – we ain’t seen nothing yet.  So, we filled our time with all those things we never had time to do and never would again.  We started projects.  We learnt new skills.  We attended many events on Teams and Zoom…

And like all perfect storms we had a brief respite.  A tiny window where we could try out the ‘new normal’.  We are out on more weekdays in August than I ever thought possible – where we ate out to shit out’.  We wore masks and attempted to follow complicated one way systems (or was that just me?).  

But there were no summer jaunts.  There was no va va voom…it was all like cheap flat pop.

And so I put my big girl pants on…I was so patient (yes me!). 

We had freedom (to a point), but like like all junta run states, we were watched, reported on, tracked and traced (all right, they weren’t so hot on the latter).

So that was then and this is now.  I can only manage so long.  My patience stamina has begun to weaken (a bit like our government).  The second storm is now encroaching.  We are fatigued.  Nine months on and the ennui of ‘living in a pandemic’ has made people agitated.  There’s more careless behaviour as more ‘irresponsible people’ (not my words) have been having illegal rave ups, secret gatherings of seven (I’ve been invited to neither disappointingly), and begun stockpiling toilet roll again (Sadly, I can’t get any cushelle for love  nor money).  Months of doing nothing has left us with ants in our pants (and it appears requiring the loo a great deal) – we are itching for change.  Even R-Dog has had enough of me and has turned to diseased marine life to entertain herself. 

So, as I write this with my gale-force covid sou’wester firmly on, I urge us all to stick with the relentless boredom.  To stifle the impatience, like a yawn, and face the battle head on. In the words of Henry V ‘once more unto the breech dear friends’.  The battle might be bloody and tough, but like all storms, we can survive and see the other side.  

Meanwhile, I’ll be mostly found creating my next masterpiece…TBC

A Catalogue of Errors

Growing up, I used to love the thud of my mum’s new Littlewoods catalogue on the doorstep.  As a little girl, I would quickly thumb away to the toy section, making lists and whittling down my Christmas and birthday selection months in advance.  Then as I grew, I’d spend hours poring over what constituted fashions of the times: hooded tops, Joe Bloggs jeans, and apple catcher shoes, circa 1990.  All the materialistic wants of any child, any age, any era…

You’ve all done it haven’t you?  And not just with the ‘club book’ as it was known in our house.  The Argos book was a bible for many years: the miracle of writing your catalogue order, handing it to a cashier, and receiving it in minutes!  No phone call, postage, no long wait for the postie.  Holiday brochures, Avon, leaflets, Sunday supplement offers, and the Kleeneze book have all played some part in all of our lives haven’t they?

Only, as we happily wrote lists, ringed our wants and saved our pennies, we could often be disappointed with the fact that when you cut your Girl’s World doll’s hair that it wouldn’t grow back.  And that to make your Tiny Tears cry she needed lots of batteries and very often.  It all looked so good on the telly but so shite in the real life…

A bit like 2020

With the anticipatory drum roll of a new decade…on the eve of 2020, I created a fabulous evening of Asian food, cocktails and fun shenanigans.  With my nearest and dearest close by, we dressed up and partied into the new decade feeling full of promise and joy.  Plans were made and excitement bubbled.  Very quickly I had two weekends away booked.  By the end of January I’d been out for a glorious lunch and attended a fabulous party.

‘What next?’ My family queried, whilst travelling back from a thoroughly good trip to the big smoke.

‘Let’s look at our summer holidays!  Make some plans!’  It was all so exciting.  I should have known it was all going too well…

Now, as we approach the last Bank Holiday of the year, and we can see the cold winter woolly nights on the horizon, I have to tell you that Spring/Summer 2020 was not what the catalogue described:

2020

The start of a brilliant new decade full of fun, family and friends!

Why not embrace this new chapter with fresh challenges and make more memories to keep you entertained in your old age.  Start new projects and find time for yourself.  2020 is to be the age of challenging the way we think.

Or was it?  Did this promotional description actually hit that nail on the head?

Take the fun times with ‘friends and family’.  Physically, we’ve all had times, and for some of us, ongoing times, of being disconnected with our nearest and dearest.  Who wanted a hug mid April?  Well, I bet we all did.  Who wanted to see a new face?  Hold a new conversation? It was tough wasn’t it?  So crap in fact that we found new ways to communicate.  Zoom, WhatsApp, FaceTime…we did it all,  Karaoke, quizzing, parties, fitness classes, teaching, meetings, football, funerals…every event was brought to us through the power of the Internet.  We had to think outside of the box.  We have to learn to manage our expectations.  We had to make these sacrifices for the greater good.  Mostly, we had to just ‘get on with it’.

And those memories.  Well there’s been plenty made, but not the ones we thought.  Nothing spectacular, however the smallest things became appreciated.  A meal out after weeks of cooking for the same audience.  A socially distanced barbecue with new faces.  And seeing my MoominTroll after weeks of waving at him through windows.  Simple things.  It all meant so much.  And as much as we dreamt of sailing around some Greek island, we kept ourselves amused retelling those stories of holidays past.  We realised we are, and continue to be lucky.

However different 2020 has been, it has paved the way for new projects.  We have all seized this unprecedented pause in life to achieve ‘stuff’.

Those new projects kept us all occupied one way or another (you only have to look at the lack of flour in the supermarket to see how many bakers emerged…).  Many of us became creative in a multitude of ways, and this led me to fall down the rabbit hole of Instagram on more than one occasion, when becoming inspired by various characters who were winning at lockdown,

But did you win?

I might have done all the above.  I achieved much and that should mean that I should be skipping off into an autumnal sunset with a smile on my face and a lightness in my heart.  After all, I’ve had that time to pursue my passions and to uncover old talents.  I began to paint again.  I cultivated my garden into something of colour and fragrant beauty.  I wrote my first novel.

My first novel!

The love affair of creating interesting characters, believable settings, an intricate plot…I hopefully did it all.  All those years of half-started novels, sketching of characters, images tucked away for a rainy day.  Well, 2020 brought those rainy days in abundance – a St Swithins worth of them!

But am I skipping?  Not quite.  You see, just like the anticipation of a new year, achieving can open up a can of worms.  With the end of one thing, comes realities of the new chapter.  The elation (nothing like it) is followed by what next?  (Waits patiently thinking I’ve written 85000 words of nonsensical drivel)

So, I wouldn’t say I’d won at lockdown, as when you put your all into some things, you neglect others (looks in the mirror).  However, I would say that I tried to take this rare opportunity and see where it would take me.  As a result, I’ve tried to ‘challenge the way I think’ and that has undoubtedly fitted the remit – whether o intended it to or not.  Swings and roundabouts…

So, if we cast our minds back to that club book order: we aren’t super happy, it doesn’t look like the picture but seeing as we’ve worn it and played with it, we can’t really send it back.  But, it wasn’t so terrible and we can live with it. Wouldn’t buy it again though.

And as we look at the autumn/winter edition, we find a confusing description:

Remember that we should go to work, not go up work, wear a mask, wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, stay alert, stay apart, eat out, stay alive, save lives and most of all embrace what we have!  Oh, and order that dress whilst you have somewhere to wear it, you never know, we might be back in lounge wear before you can say stay safe!

Let’s Hear it for the Boy!

Lockdown has been tough for us all.  With it we have faced many personal challenges, which have pushed many of us out of our comfort zones.  Things we previously took for granted: family, friends, going to the shops…have been taken away from us and with it we have lost our freedom.  But what are the things that have kept us going?  Or more importantly, who?

Firstly, I’ve thought about this loss of freedom a great deal.  It made me think about prisoners and how their physical worlds can shrink, but with it they seem to experience new worlds – ones which open new doors and possibilities.  And when I say prisoners, I’m not just talking about people incarcerated in HMP, who are encouraged to learn new things and to broaden their horizons (because it helps with rehabilitation) I am referring to anyone who is confined in a space and has been stripped of their liberty.

Recently, I remembered a story about a POW in Burma, in WWII.  He secretly sketched his ‘love’ on scraps of wood and paper.  He said that he did it as he needed hope and to remember another life.  Thankfully, he survived and was able to bring them home to her.  This story of hope and love made me think about the link between doing something physical, as a reactive emotive response, to a situation.  There is lots of evidence of ways they managed to stay sane and alive in such POW camps.  Some created art work and carvings depicting their incarceration, whilst battling the relentless and inhumane treatment from their captors.  Although this might be an extreme example, you have to ask why they did it?  Where did they get the strength and determination to do something which would have only been able to be done under subterfuge?  Well, obviously it was to help them, and others, to survive.

The human mind needs occupying.  We are genetically programmed to gather knowledge.  The term ‘you learn something new every day’ has never been more evident during recent times.  Stories of people learning new things or taking up ‘old fashioned’ hobbies seem to have become the norm.  And although we have relied heavily on technology to communicate, we have also looked elsewhere to find an inner peace and calm.

However, something else we need when our freedom is taken from us is ‘togetherness’.  And this is my story….

On the surface, I’ve done the same as everyone else.  I’ve kept busy and achieved many things during lockdown (art, writing, my garden, etc) I’ve learnt new skills and found a peacefulness from just taking a breath and stepping away from the craziness that we call life.  But I am not going to go into all that.  Instead, I need to tell you about how looked after I am.  After all, being imprisoned means you need a certain camaraderie and understanding to survive.   

My world has shrunk more than others.  Living with sightloss has meant I’ve been really restricted over the past twelve weeks.  And this has meant two things: I have had to be innovative and patient, and I’ve had to rely on Him.

Him: my carer.  Obviously, he is my husband and I didn’t marry him so he could look after me.  In fact, bizarrely, when we first married, I was his carer.  He was recovering from stage four testicular cancer and was half-way through treatments.  Luckily, he got through it and we have led a good life ever since and he has been clear for fifteen years.  But unfortunately, since my eyes have recently begun to deteriorate, I’ve had to lean on him more and more.  I feel a massive pain in the neck for this and find myself (annoyingly for him) apologising constantly.

To say I’m high maintenance is an understatement.  Any of you who know me and been on the end of guiding, note taking, putting up with the ‘panic’ that can descend…can vouch for this!  But you should try living with me.  On an ordinary day he helps me in the mornings and evenings.  Stuff like cups of tea, ironing, driving me to where I need to be, and generally just bring amazing! However, during lockdown I feel I have started to lean on him more and more.  And that is quite scary.  After all, who wants to be a burden?  And when you’re as independent as me, it can make you feel frustrated and guilty too.

So what does he do?

One problem has been that I can’t social distance.  Not because I don’t want to, but I can’t! I could easily walk into someone and jeopardise either of our health.  I also can’t always read labels in shops.  Therefore, picking up things and reading them isn’t an option either.  Going out: it’s not worth the danger or the death stares!  So, as far as essential shopping has been, he’s done it all.

Also, he makes all my drinks and food.  Whilst I sit at the table working away, he’s there with food and drink 24/7.  Now this is something new: I don’t get this level of attention at work (I wonder how I’m going to cope).  And, I write lists of things I want doing and he does them!  (My house has never looked so good).

In amongst these tasks, he manages to also be in charge of entertainment.  He mixes his music on the decks.  He pulls me away from headache inducing screen time to watch a funny programme.  And he also makes me further headache inducing G and Ts.

This new period in our relationship has been both surprising and lovely.  This week, we’ve been together for twenty four years.  In all that time, we’ve never spent more than a two week holiday together (the thought of a holiday…) We even lived apart for a while whilst he worked away.  And for this period I loved it!  We got weekends together and the house was tidy all week (he’s messy – everyone has their issues).  And…I’m not going to lie, at the beginning I was thinking ‘this isn’t going to work’.  After all, he’s worked all his life and there he was caring for me and our girls.  He was so tightly coiled and wound that I thought we’d fall out if he didn’t learn to chill.  He did though, and quite quickly we established a routine that suited us all.  Twelve weeks later and it’s actually been quite nice.  I’ve been looked after like a Queen, loved and spoilt at times.  Who’d have thought it?

We never married to become each other’s carer.  That’s not why you marry.  However, you should marry your best friend.  Someone you could be locked up with and not kill, who cares about you no matter how high maintenance you are, and has got your back.  And whilst I’ve been creating and doing things to occupy a restless mind, he’s been my sidekick, DJ and barman.  And, as always on our journey, he’s shared my hopes for a better, healthy and brighter future than ever before.

This week I’d carers week.  I am dedicating this blog to Him: my https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s7FGbhpr2pg

The Hare and the Tortoise

After ten weeks in lockdown, I’d expect that those of you who know me, might have expected me to blog more.  And that fact is, I would have if not every man and his dog were doing it – and have been doing it well.  It’s been lovely to see that people have been so creative and shared so much with us over the past few weeks.  Music, art, writings, lovely debates, live cooking…what weren’t people doing to alleviate cabin fever and help their mental health?  Busy lives switched off.  Brains have had time to rest and reset.  So I took a break from the weekly blog and decided to spend the time perusing my list.

My list was created by the psychologist who helped me at the beginning of the year.  My list was filled with things, which I wanted to do but felt disconnected from as the clock ticked and my sight has deteriorated.  The list was to take me in a new direction, and intended for me to build my confidence.  Which, would  require me to use the coping strategies I was being taught at the time.

So, The List:  It’s not been easy.  At times frustrating and not pretty.  However much I look forward and see there’s a long path to go, I can now look back and I can no longer see the beginning – it seems that I’m well away!

You might think that tackling a list of self-indulgent to dos, might make me selfish.  After all, using lockdown for self improvement, whilst the world is falling down all around me…shouldn’t I be doing more to help?  ‘Well, yes, probably I should!’ Shouts the self-deprecating voice in my head.  Whereas, the newer CBT me shouts louder ‘You’ve done more than you think!  Working, teaching, supporting friends and family’.  And then there’s a little tap on the shoulder, as I trip over the dishwasher (again), reminding me of my limitations and I have to concede that I do plenty.

Living with sight loss through lockdown has been particularly frustrating.  Also, as we ease out but are told to adhere to the two metre rule, it will become busier, and even worse for those of us who struggle with little or no vision.  However, you don’t need to know about my traumatic shopping trips, or having to explain to people that Him is my carer…my experiences are through a hazy lens.  I’m sure you’ve all had your fair share of bad experiences since March.  We’ve all been in this together.  But things are easing and with or without a disability, we are all going to struggle.  Therefore, if I’m to keep my anxiety in check, I’ve got to keep on that list and follow that journey.

But what is this list? You ask! Well, that’s the thing, it’s quite simple.

Firstly, it involves gardening – my garden will soon resemble Eden but I still have a massive ‘to do’ list (it’s all about the hare and the tortoise on this journey).  Spending hours in my little patch of England not only boosts my vitamin D (doctors orders) as I’ve not enough, but it also creates a calm within me.  From my garden you can hear the sea.  You can hear bird song.  You can just relax – no clock, no time frame, just nature growing at its own sweet pace around you.  So we’ll gloss over the fact that I’ve killed a courgette and that I’m struggling with the difference between weeds and flowers…but the serenity, beauty, fragrant air…

And being outside has ticked more things off the journey list.  Accessing art again.  A channel I’d shut off as I felt inadequate and untalented – in something I was once applauded for.  And I’m not sure what did it, but I began to paint, sketch, design.  And something I’d locked away for twenty odd years awakened and I’d forgotten how freeing it was to paint.  So what if it’s not perfect? Art is what you see.  No one dismissed Monet for the blurry lilies.  No one told Picasso his portraits were inaccurate.  (Well they might have done but no one remembers them).

Then there’s the book.  Ironically, it’s the writing I’ve struggled with the most.  I’ve had spurts of inspiration.  I’ve finished part one of my book.  Only, then I spiralled into a despair of worthlessness and inadequacy.  I think that because it’s the thing I feel I’m investing the most emotion in, I’m losing that confidence of my ideas and convictions.  Sometimes it’s the things we hold closest too us that hurt the most.  I’m not done yet though…

Even though there is more on the list, and as you are only having a coffee reading this, I won’t bore you to death about every item.  But, what I did want to highlight was that like my list, we’ve all come a long way over the past ten weeks.  We’ve probably learnt more about ourselves and others than ever before.  We have all been on this weird trippy journey and we all might have theories but no real understanding of what our futures will look like.  Just like I need to find the confidence to continue with my list, my journey, my book…we all need to learn how to live this new life and not go backwards.  Like the tortoise said to the hare ‘slow and steady wins the race’.

My Adventures in my Lockdown Journey

Upon that fatal speech seven weeks ago, we all freefalled into a perpetual state of battening down the hatches and preparing for an unseen war.  Our first thoughts were to food, cupboard essentials, and toiletries – things such as toilet rolls became rarer than gold and rubies.  And, as Him and I work full time, all such essentials were cleared from the shelves whilst  was brave ring away at the chalk face and he was moving furniture.  Therefore, paying £2.50 for a bag of artisan penne pasta, and £3.00 for a bag of ‘wild rice’ was apparently very expensive.  ‘You don’t do the food shopping and have no idea about how much things costs’ argued Him ‘And you shop in M and S and that should not be used as a guide’.  Anyway, I do know that we reached a point where it was even difficult to buy the basics for egg/beans/tomatoes on toast – no matter the cost.  A man nearly killed me with his death stare when I bought the last chicken in the butchers.

And then the panic was over.

All was quiet and all was still.  And that’s when a new lockdown world opened up.  Ingenious ways to communicate became the norm.  So whilst we all ate very expensive pasta dishes and ate our chicken dinners guiltily, Zoom workouts and WhatsApp parties became en vogue.  We all started to plan, dress and do our hair and make up to a ‘digitally ordained social life’.

Instead of having to be at a class, at work, or at a place for a certain time, I have found myself planning to be available for a ‘live lesson’, ‘live cook’ or a ‘live art club’, at the appointed time.  And when that’s not enough, my social life extends to Thursdays, just before eight, when we shout neighbourly pleasantries and concern from house to house, before clapping for carers at eight.

But I must admit, it all gets too much.  And I don’t want to be a mood breaker with all the awful news we keep hearing.  However, these last couple of weeks have been tough.  Also, the feeling of Groundhog Day grinding us down doesn’t help.  With this endless boredom and without (whatever is said on Sunday), an end in sight.  What do we do?

Some say it’s the perfect time to learn something new.  TikTok seems to be a popular way to pass the time – if you like a dance! Along with (judging by the empty shelves Him tells me about in the supermarket) baking.  It’s like the whole bloody world has gone banana bread mad!  Maybe you’re learning a new language?  A new skill?  And if you’re not, are you getting through the to do list like us?

Him, being furloughed, is certainly getting all the jobs done! All the ones I can find him!  Painting, gardening, cleaning (is it that day again, he asks?) seem to fill our days between my work and home schooling.

However, it’s important that explain my next thought.  As I’m in the position I am, with sight-loss and always on the look out for new experiences and making memories, it’s important to me that 2020 isn’t a write off.  This year needs to count and like all years in my precarious world, has to be a time for new adventures.  Not all safely…

Firstly, we are so lucky living next to the sea.  Secondly, RosieDog is even luckier as she gets to go out every day on the beach and run wild.  The fact that we are bored means we have begun to vary our walk.  All for a little of something different.  All good, although every walk is an adventure when you live with nutters like me…Then this week the R Dog and I nearly become stranded between home and the dunes.  A dead seal, an incoming tide and a wet dog later and we were free!

Then the biggie: Another new adventure is me having the actual time to write.  My life and job mean I have limited time to write.  My illness last year meant to didn’t have the energy.  However, with a renewed vim and vigour, I’m now able to knock out a few words quite quickly (why get they’re any good…) The upshot of this is that I’m very excited that I’m making progress on something I’ve longed to do for a number of years.  20,000 words in and I’m feeling good about it and myself.  Whether it’s shite, well that’s another story and one I’ll soon find out about!  But it’s all part of my journey.

Lockdown hasn’t been easy.  I’m not going to lie.  However, I’ve been determined to continue my upwards journey of better mental health.  And although some days (and nights) I’ve felt like it’s all going to fall apart.  And some days that the weight of the world is on my chest, new adventures and experiences have stopped me from veering too much from my path.

I hope you’re all staying safe and well.  Make room for your adventures: anything is possible xxxx

My Adventures in my Lockdown Journey

Upon that fatal speech seven weeks ago, we all freefalled into a perpetual state of battening down the hatches and preparing for an unseen war.  Our first thoughts were to food, cupboard essentials, and toiletries – things such as toilet rolls became rarer than gold and rubies.  And, as Him and I work full time, all such essentials were cleared from the shelves whilst  was brave ring away at the chalk face and he was moving furniture.  Therefore, paying £2.50 for a bag of artisan penne pasta, and £3.00 for a bag of ‘wild rice’ was apparently very expensive.  ‘You don’t do the food shopping and have no idea about how much things costs’ argued Him ‘And you shop in M and S and that should not be used as a guide’.  Anyway, I do know that we reached a point where it was even difficult to buy the basics for egg/beans/tomatoes on toast – no matter the cost.  A man nearly killed me with his death stare when I bought the last chicken in the butchers.

And then the panic was over.

All was quiet and all was still.  And that’s when a new lockdown world opened up.  Ingenious ways to communicate became the norm.  So whilst we all ate very expensive pasta dishes and ate our chicken dinners guiltily, Zoom workouts and WhatsApp parties became en vogue.  We all started to plan, dress and do our hair and make up to a ‘digitally ordained social life’.

Instead of having to be at a class, at work, or at a place for a certain time, I have found myself planning to be available for a ‘live lesson’, ‘live cook’ or a ‘live art club’, at the appointed time.  And when that’s not enough, my social life extends to Thursdays, just before eight, when we shout neighbourly pleasantries and concern from house to house, before clapping for carers at eight.

But I must admit, it all gets too much.  And I don’t want to be a mood breaker with all the awful news we keep hearing.  However, these last couple of weeks have been tough.  Also, the feeling of Groundhog Day grinding us down doesn’t help.  With this endless boredom and without (whatever is said on Sunday), an end in sight.  What do we do?

Some say it’s the perfect time to learn something new.  TikTok seems to be a popular way to pass the time – if you like a dance! Along with (judging by the empty shelves Him tells me about in the supermarket) baking.  It’s like the whole bloody world has gone banana bread mad!  Maybe you’re learning a new language?  A new skill?  And if you’re not, are you getting through the to do list like us?

Him, being furloughed, is certainly getting all the jobs done! All the ones I can find him!  Painting, gardening, cleaning (is it that day again, he asks?) seem to fill our days between my work and home schooling.

However, it’s important that explain my next thought.  As I’m in the position I am, with sight-loss and always on the look out for new experiences and making memories, it’s important to me that 2020 isn’t a write off.  This year needs to count and like all years in my precarious world, has to be a time for new adventures.  Not all safely…

Firstly, we are so lucky living next to the sea.  Secondly, RosieDog is even luckier as she gets to go out every day on the beach and run wild.  The fact that we are bored means we have begun to vary our walk.  All for a little of something different.  All good, although every walk is an adventure when you live with nutters like me…Then this week the R Dog and I nearly become stranded between home and the dunes.  A dead seal, an incoming tide and a wet dog later and we were free!

Then the biggie: Another new adventure is me having the actual time to write.  My life and job mean I have limited time to write.  My illness last year meant to didn’t have the energy.  However, with a renewed vim and vigour, I’m now able to knock out a few words quite quickly (why get they’re any good…) The upshot of this is that I’m very excited that I’m making progress on something I’ve longed to do for a number of years.  20,000 words in and I’m feeling good about it and myself.  Whether it’s shite, well that’s another story and one I’ll soon find out about!  But it’s all part of my journey.

Lockdown hasn’t been easy.  I’m not going to lie.  However, I’ve been determined to continue my upwards journey of better mental health.  And although some days (and nights) I’ve felt like it’s all going to fall apart.  And some days that the weight of the world is on my chest, new adventures and experiences have stopped me from veering too much from my path.

I hope you’re all staying safe and well.  Make room for your adventures: anything is possible xxxx

New Adventures on a Lockdown Journey

Upon that fatal speech seven weeks ago, we all freefalled into a perpetual state of battening down the hatches and preparing for an unseen war.  Our first thoughts were to food, cupboard essentials, and toiletries – things such as toilet rolls became rarer than gold and rubies.  And, as Him and I work full time, all such essentials were cleared from the shelves whilst  was brave ring away at the chalk face and he was moving furniture.  Therefore, paying £2.50 for a bag of artisan penne pasta, and £3.00 for a bag of ‘wild rice’ was apparently very expensive.  ‘You don’t do the food shopping and have no idea about how much things costs’ argued Him ‘And you shop in M and S and that should not be used as a guide’.  Anyway, I do know that we reached a point where it was even difficult to buy the basics for egg/beans/tomatoes on toast – no matter the cost.  A man nearly killed me with his death stare when I bought the last chicken in the butchers.

And then the panic was over.

All was quiet and all was still.  And that’s when a new lockdown world opened up.  Ingenious ways to communicate became the norm.  So whilst we all ate very expensive pasta dishes and ate our chicken dinners guiltily, Zoom workouts and WhatsApp parties became en vogue.  We all started to plan, dress and do our hair and make up to a ‘digitally ordained social life’.

Instead of having to be at a class, at work, or at a place for a certain time, I have found myself planning to be available for a ‘live lesson’, ‘live cook’ or a ‘live art club’, at the appointed time.  And when that’s not enough, my social life extends to Thursdays, just before eight, when we shout neighbourly pleasantries and concern from house to house, before clapping for carers at eight.

But I must admit, it all gets too much.  And I don’t want to be a mood breaker with all the awful news we keep hearing.  However, these last couple of weeks have been tough.  Also, the feeling of Groundhog Day grinding us down doesn’t help.  With this endless boredom and without (whatever is said on Sunday), an end in sight.  What do we do?

Some say it’s the perfect time to learn something new.  TikTok seems to be a popular way to pass the time – if you like a dance! Along with (judging by the empty shelves Him tells me about in the supermarket) baking.  It’s like the whole bloody world has gone banana bread mad!  Maybe you’re learning a new language?  A new skill?  And if you’re not, are you getting through the to do list like us?

Him, being furloughed, is certainly getting all the jobs done! All the ones I can find him!  Painting, gardening, cleaning (is it that day again, he asks?) seem to fill our days between my work and home schooling.

However, it’s important that explain my next thought.  As I’m in the position I am, with sight-loss and always on the look out for new experiences and making memories, it’s important to me that 2020 isn’t a write off.  This year needs to count and like all years in my precarious world, has to be a time for new adventures.  Not all safely…

Firstly, we are so lucky living next to the sea.  Secondly, RosieDog is even luckier as she gets to go out every day on the beach and run wild.  The fact that we are bored means we have begun to vary our walk.  All for a little of something different.  All good, although every walk is an adventure when you live with nutters like me…Then this week the R Dog and I nearly become stranded between home and the dunes.  A dead seal, an incoming tide and a wet dog later and we were free!

Then the biggie: Another new adventure is me having the actual time to write.  My life and job mean I have limited time to write.  My illness last year meant to didn’t have the energy.  However, with a renewed vim and vigour, I’m now able to knock out a few words quite quickly (why get they’re any good…) The upshot of this is that I’m very excited that I’m making progress on something I’ve longed to do for a number of years.  20,000 words in and I’m feeling good about it and myself.  Whether it’s shite, well that’s another story and one I’ll soon find out about!  But it’s all part of my journey.

Lockdown hasn’t been easy.  I’m not going to lie.  However, I’ve been determined to continue my upwards journey of better mental health.  And although some days (and nights) I’ve felt like it’s all going to fall apart.  And some days that the weight of the world is on my chest, new adventures and experiences have stopped me from veering too much from my path.

I hope you’re all staying safe and well.  Make room for your adventures: anything is possible xxxx

So How Ya Doing?

It’s what, three weeks in?  And that long holiday we all used to dream of; when work became tiring (all the time), when the world spun too fast (dizzy, I want to get off), and when you could ‘just do with some extra days at home’ to get stuff done – well it’s here!

So, how ya doing?

I suppose it depends on your situation.  However, I do imagine, whoever you are, your emotions will be spinning up and down like a yo-yo.  And that’s alright.  No judgement.  We are just not designed to live such compartmented lives.  Be it you prefer your own company, or that surrounded by others.  You still aren’t allowed to do what you want to do.

First world problems…or are you winning at lockdown?

Where do you stand at this current moment?

Three weeks in and I’m loving the fact I can exercise every day.  I’m loving the beach as my place to run/walk.  I can just keep going, relax into my run as I’ve not to be back for something or other…I’m doing at least three online classes with my wonderful fitness instructors.  And if we are praising people, deserve a massive cheer for these sessions designed to help ‘mind and body’ in these difficult times.  Such a boost.  And so lovely to roll onto the sofa after a relaxing Pilates class (with a celebratory glass of wine).

Have you been cleaning?  My house looks like a shiny new pin.  Cupboards have been cleansed, rooms blitzed and DIY projects renewed.   As for the garden, well…it’s looking Monty Don ready!  We’ve spent days on it.  What with all the glorious weather, it’s our outside room.  See, I’m winning at this!

To my family’s happiness, I’m cooking every day.  I’m learning new recipes via Instagram (I’m losing masses of time on this ‘socialising’).  There’s no ‘freezer surprise’ days and no awful takeaways.  To be honest, I love my food and hate ‘shite teas’, so having more time means I’m able to explore…(tonight I’ve made some special hallumi bites).  And those of you who know me, know I love to cook a big feast, but with these long days in front of us, I’ve been making more and more elaborate and healthy dishes to ‘eat ourselves healthy’ (Im wondering whether to start cooking LIVE myself?).  However, as the days pass, I’m missing cooking for my wider family and friends.  Such fun times…

And in amongst all this exercise, house activity (my friend says we are going to ‘have the most beautiful homes’ after this) and food, I’ve not mentioned the family time, online karaoke, quizzing and dancing which seems to occur at such a rate it’s like I’m at a really busy weekend at Butlins.  Who needs a holiday this year?  Such fun, such solidarity.

But here comes the other bit.  The feelings and emotions which plague every time we put on the news…

You see, I’m exercising to realease the anxiety.  To have to battle recovery through lockdown, feels like someone’s idea of a joke – not funny! Although, I know this is not about me, I am also aware that the darkness can close in at times like this.  Uncertainty, being afraid and a lack of structure…well where do we go?  So, running, stretching, weights, whatever my poison of the day, I just roll with it.  Taking the edge off…

And then it’s back into the fray.  Wherever you turn it’s three ‘Covid-19’, something, which twelve months ago could have been a brand of cough syrup or cigarettes.  If only.  Instead, we are in fear of something we can’t touch, see, or hear.

Such anxiety creates a dip in your ‘jolly red-coat’ mood.  Day 17:  There’s more bad news, and you’re on your third cry of the day (not self pity – fear, sadness, worry, anxiety – FFS).  Cognitive behaviour, done (worst case scenario/best case…), mediation, done, writing lists – well there’s one for you…

Lists, things to do, things to achieve:

Booked your summer holiday? – errr

Weekly shop online – not possible so I’m currently paying extra to shop or M & S as I’m allowed in, can see where I’m going, and not getting scowled at as I don’t quite see the distancing in the queue (it’s scary for me too, sorry).

DIY – for this you require items which I do not have.  Head scratching has resulted in lots of recycling and ingenious ideas which shall need readjusting as soon as normal service has been resumed.

Spring cleaning – welllll, I’m running low on Zoflora

Gardening – it takes a week from email to delivery to receive your items.  I’m in a queue…

I apologise here as I said ‘first world problems’ didn’t I?  Well, actually, they are, but, they are also problems of a partially sighted lady trying to win at self isolation.

So, this week when I had a running ‘accident’ where I required help from a little Asian man in a corona mask, wasn’t my finest hour.  Me waving ‘I’m fine’.  Him coming closer in his mask.  Me panicking as he was obviously afraid, trying to get off my flat face on the floor (bloody picnic bench).  Him miming about water.  Well, not my finest hour…Not to mention STILL being in the garden centre queue, running low on stuff I’m not prepared to queue for (as I can’t see and don’t want to freak people out),  and finding endless more activities to entertain the troops…it all rather exhausting and highly emotional.

I know ‘wow’. I’m such a spoilt bitch.  I’m not on the frontline.  I’m teaching from my dining table.  I’m not risking my life every day to keep the country ticking.  I’m here, in my cute house on the beach, with Him, two girls and RosieDog.  I get to exercise on the sand.  I can sit in my garden and hear the sea.  I can FaceTime…but it’s not life is it?  Yes, I miss my family so much.  I ache to see them and give them a cuddle.  My friends, well, where do I begin?  And my teaching – such worry about my students, for a multitude of reasons.

At times like this we learn and evaluate don’t we?  I do feel so incredibly lucky.  I have love, a safe home, a renewed love for my community (who, I am not exaggerating here, give the best clap for carers – who’d have thought we’d be championing the clap? that this country has ever heard!).  Counting my blessings, feeling blessed.  But that’s where the anxiety rests, we want to protect, stay safe, save lives.

Lockdown 2020: if you’re not one of the many who are keeping the country going.  If you’re doing your own bit, however little, however small, keep going…we will fight this together.  This said, with isolation comes cabin fever (a small price to pay).

It’s an uneasy time: So how you enjoying your long impromptu holiday?  I’d say ‘swings and roundabouts’

Blue Stitches

’ve puncture marks in my neck.  Now, I could work with the advice of our spinning guru and pretend they’re from something utterly mad – like his mother’s best friend who had a scar around her neck.  She told people it was from when her head had been chopped off, when in fact it was a less dramatic thyroid scar.  But to be honest, I’m not feeling it, so instead I’m hiding my blue stitches under a polo neck for the duration.  Stitches, which occurred due to being separated from two moles I had nurtured from a very young age.  I’ve never been good at parting with things which held sentimental value – oh do you remember that time I knocked the top off one and it bled like a demon?  However, the itch meant it was time to say goodbye…with my big girl pants on (and Him holding my hand) I had a local (four needles), scissors, and then some blue cotton.  Tadah! Yet more healing to add into the general state of the fact that I’m in a perpetual state of healing generally.  The blue cotton stitches  look unsightly and I’ve got them for a fortnight, but I should have a prettier neck.  The old adage goes – no pain, no gain!  And I certainly know a lot about that.  So I’m hiding my stitches like my bruised self, which I hid for so long.

Hiding.  Over the past few years I’ve become very good at hiding injuries, scars…by taking myself out from social interactions.  So much so that when I went to a party last weekend (yes me at a party), there was no panic attack, no scurrying away in a corner, and no longing for an invisibility cloak – it was shocking times indeed.  My good friend Karl needed me, so Instead I brazened it out, put on my dancing shoes and shimmied on the dancing floor for the first time in three and a half years.  My charitable spirit served me well and if I had to dance for the good of my friend’s happiness, so be it!  And awaking on Sunday morning, I thought ‘how did that happen?’ And ‘how did I manage to find myself again?’

It took my quite a while to work out how long it had been.  Firstly, my razor sharp memory of long ago has become muddled and foggy during recent times.  Worries about early dementia, losing my actual mind even more, and (although I’m holding back the years with the quantities of face creams I layer on throughout the day) becoming old before my time, have all secretly plagued me.  Had I come to the end of my mind’s actual growth?

It was a scary thought to face.

Before I realised I was becoming ill, in between black dog days and the fear creating havoc on the peripheries of my mind, I found it was taking me longer to do anything.  I’d write a list and become weary at the thought of it.  I’d struggle to do a piece of work which had been a mere breeze in the past.  I’d forget what I was doing and would redo tasks which I couldn’t remember doing in the first place.  During the bad times it could take me hours to cook a meal.

But even then, I didn’t know what was happening to me.

About two years ago, the memory problems, the black dog days, the fear, were getting worse.  I could be in the most beautiful place in the world, living my best life and they’d be this sickness in my stomach, threatening.  Or I’d feel numb – like someone had stripped me of all emotions.  It was like my soul was broken, stolen maybe.  I felt like I didn’t belong, didn’t deserve.  Don’t get me wrong, some days were worse than others and I’d manage.  I’d run, walk, cook, write, read, garden…all those things which made me happy.  I’d push the sickness, the thoughts, the images away…And it worked for a while.  I thought I was managing, I thought I was silently healing.  But as the days and weeks passed, the darkness moved in like a blood shadow, my coping strategies lost their impact and I’d be worrying about Monday morning on a Friday night.  Not one minute was loved, savoured or embraced.  My whole nervous system was strung across a tight-rope, and I thought, and this was the scary thing, ‘I’m going to die’.  Have you ever felt like you wanted saving but didn’t know what to say? I’d wander with this cloak of fear around me and prayed somebody would see my soul and know.  It screamed ‘please notice!’, I just wanted saving.

The thing is, the brain, the human mind, is a complex thing.  The brain can do one thing, whilst the body does another.  In the thick of it, when I was heading for crisis point, I’d be doing one thing whilst my brain would be saying ‘what the hell are you doing?’  I’d freeze.  To put it another way, I’d be like watching myself through a window and not having the voice to stop my actions.  And I know it’s hard to believe, but I had no voice.  That’s when I knew I was in trouble.  I was literally losing my mind and I was hurtling towards the ground from a very high cliff edge.  I’d never been so afraid.  It was fight, flight, or as I’d done: freeze.

January 2019 hit and…

Freeze was pressed to play.  At first I flew and hid.  However, the urge to survive kicked in and with that I began to fight my demons: the sight loss, the dark days, the whole shebang!

You all know the next part.

January 2020

One year later…After the free fall and finding out that I was worth rescuing, I was  diagnosed with PTSD.  To be honest, the diagnosis brought absolute relief; that what I’d been going through was actually normal.  Over the last few weeks I’ve learnt that it’s not just a mental health issue which affects the armed forces, but something which also affects people for many other reasons.  A lifetime of unresolved trauma and grief, whilst my eye sight faded. But as they say, knowledge is power and the more I learned about it, the more I felt able to grow.

Part of PTSD is that your brain runs out of cortisone, this I turn uses up all your serotonin.  It’s like fighting a battalion with just your bare knuckles and a bit of bravado to get you through.  It’s never going end well is it?  Imagine my relief when I realised that when  I’d become so poorly that it was actually a thing.  The extreme highs and lows (even when I was high I felt sick preparing to fall.  There was no escape).  A simple chemical imbalance – if only we’d know …And I realised that just because you couldn’t see the wounds, didn’t mean they didn’t exist.  I was depleted of all chemicals.  No one could see it as it’s not like a broken leg.  No one could hear it; like a bad cough.  However, it was there destroying me like a cancer hidden away inside.  The depression, anxiety, flashbacks (my goodness they’re a charm! – especially when you’re reminded of the time you fell down the stairs and never told anyone), fractured memory (large gaps of fog), paranoia (are they all talking about me? – I’ve since been taught that not they’re not’ and ‘if they are it says more about them than me!) and panic attacks (turns out that’s what was happening), were all there.  I experienced the lot.  And the dreams, well that’s for another time…

Luckily, due to all the help I’ve received, plus the little magic pill I take daily, I’m in the recovery stage which is called ‘post traumatic growth’.  It’s like rewiring an old house and giving it a new lease of life.  The science bit says I’ve got to rebuild my cortisol – bolster the resources.  The increased serotonin helps that and I’m not ashamed to take the tablets which boost the chemical reaction.  But that’s not a forever solution, what I need is a way to rebuild my brain.  Counselling has given me closure and acceptance – I didn’t enjoy talking over shite but it certainly helped.  However, I’m now learning how to overcome through training my brain: meditation, CBT, mindfulness…I’m to enjoy the moment.  Dancing at a party.  That’s how I got there.

But this is not the end of my story.  As my brain awakens, I’m told I can begin to achieve anything my heart desires.  I find this exciting as it’s like my journey is beginning.  I thought my life was over, and I thought my soul had died.  It turns out it was hibernating and was doing what it evolved to do – to survive and heal.  Maybe I’ve blue stitches woven into my healing soul – ones you can’t actually see (just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist).

If you can identify with any of this, I urge you to find a way through.  Talk to anyone who will listen, don’t be afraid and certainly don’t feel like you’re alone.  I often think that if I’d have found a way to communicate this sooner or realised that I was actually ill, I might not have had to have been peeled off the floor of despair.  Mental health isn’t visible until the sufferer hits rock bottom – even then it’s not so evident.  It’s not something to be ashamed of and you can’t just ‘pull yourself together’.  Guess what? you are normal.  And if you do see another struggling, do what I’ve always urged you to do ‘be kind’.  After all, I never thought it would happen to me…