Sunday, August 29, 2021

It's been a weird summer.

The weather has been weird, both literally and metaphorically, since I last blogged.  From time to time I think I'll write a post and then things change completely and I don't.  

Really, I feel completely cheated of the summer.  I have had no good weather in my garden since the end of April.  All the times when everyone else was complaining of the heat I was away and for the hottest week I had been pinged and was confined to barracks.

Since June I have also been suffering from a mixture of some of the worst grief and a bad bout of post-viral fatigue.  The fatigue is very frustrating.  So many things I have been unable to do.  Some of my friends just don't get it.  I ventured out for a rare coffee with friends this week and they asked if I had walked in.  

I laughed.  

They were surprised.  

I had to explain post-viral fatigue all over again.  Interestingly, although I've always described the condition as post-viral fatigue my cranial osteopath talked about "people with ME" and then corrected himself to "post-viral fatigue" so I suppose I'm crossing the line between the two.  I've bad PVF before, though, about 18 years ago, and got over it completely until April 2019, so watch this space.

Part of the problem in recent weeks, though, is that one of the feelings - best described as tired brain-fog, I suppose, can be caused either by the post-viral fatigue or emotional "stuff".  I'm usually pretty good at working out emotional stuff but it has been a challenge.  I now know to look for stuff first and if I can't find anything it's probably fatigue.  But the fatigue is definitely getting better and the brain fog associated with it has mostly gone.  I still need to be careful, and probably haven't been today as I've done quite a bit in the garden/patio.  I think it will have done me good, though, even if I have to rest tomorrow.


Thursday, June 10, 2021

It may be summer

It may be summer; my garden says so.  In this weirdest of times, though, I don't always feel that it is.  There was a short period at the end of April when it was lovely and much sitting out was done, by me and by visitors.  Since then, though, I'm not so sure.  May's weather was truly dire.  June has begun better and things are coming into flower ...

But what about me? 

I have post-viral fatigue and have had for the past two years.  It's not quite ME but it could turn into that.  Fatigue and brain fog are the main symptoms in my case.  On the face of it, flare-ups are unpredictable but when I consider that stress is a trigger and look for one, there always is one.  It's often something small, but related to the underlying stress, e.g. currently grief.  When it hits, if I don't notice and do too much, it can get significantly worse but it's very minor compared with ME and I want to keep things that way.  

Most people seem unaware that for two years after a major bereavement your immune system doesn't work as well as it should.  This includes it being much more likely that PVF will flare up.  I am now really taking that on board and trying to be positive and know that the difficulties I'm having at this particular time will fade.  I need patience (not a trait Aries people are known for!)  Gradually my friends and relatives are understanding where I'm at. 

So it may be summer.  The grief hit really hard in the middle of May, but now I think I'm coming out of the worst now.  But in the garden the summer-flowering plants are competing with spring things, like wallflowers, which shouldn't be around any more.  In my life PVF is flaring up badly from time to time, along with other, minor, ailments.  I'm hoping the warmth and light provided by summer - and people - will give me the patience to continue moving forwards.   


Sunday, March 7, 2021

It feels like spring


I'm cheating with this particular photo, as when I took it (early February) it didn't feel at all like spring.  The flowers are so joyful, though, and every year they encourage me to look forward to when spring will be here.

February, too, did feel like a never-ending month.  I often felt fatigue, I often felt depressed in spite of anti-depressants, I often felt the year would never move forward.  Of course, in one way I had good reason to feel depressed and every visit to my parents' empty house has made me ill for the first few days of returning home.  

But now, early March, it does feel like spring.  There have been gloriously sunny days, with actual warmth in the sun.  I've been able to do some outdoors jobs, which includes a massive tidy-up of my biggest shed.  It isn't outdoors, of course, but as far as temperature is concerned it might as well be as it has no heating.  I booked a trip to the local tip and got rid of some huge things and now the shed looks like it never has before.  I went on my first walk since October.  I just haven't had the energy till now.

Spring is a time of new beginnings.  And suddenly I do feel I've moved forward to a new time in my life.  My mood has lifted in the last three days.  Apparently I even sound better on the phone! 

Having brought back lots of tools from my parents' house, and added them to those I already had, which was more than most people have, it occurred to me that I needed to prove to myself that I could still use them and wanted to.  It has been about 18 years since I've done anything with tools other than tiling and decorating as Mike3 did everything with tools and after he died I just asked my builder friend to do all the odd jobs.  It turned out I was quite scared of trying and this has become worse as the years have gone by.  I think somewhere in there was a sense of responsibility to stay ok for my parents.  Now they've both gone, I can have a go again, and if I damage myself, well, there's nobody really depending on me so it doesn't matter.

On Friday I needed to put up a spice rack in the kitchen.  I didn't want to wait till aforementioned builder comes to do various jobs on Wednesday as it meant I could empty one of the boxes I'd brought back.  I would do it myself!  And I did.  Not entirely, it turns out, because I needed advice on using Mike's drill as it was different from my old one.  And advice on size/length of screws and rawlplugs.  But my builder had 15 minutes on his way into town and popped in and advised and now I've done it!

So it feels like spring out there - and it feels like spring inside me too.  I am moving forward, discovering rejuvenated me after a period of statis. (Blogger doesn't know the word but I'm sure all my readers do.)  Nothing I haven't been before and of course now with various age-related aches and pains but still, I feel better.  I feel like spring is happening.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Dining-room cat

Dining-room cat
So this is what this grief is like.
This time it’s taken
seven weeks to hit.
I was waiting and thinking
maybe it wouldn’t.
by the invisible
cut but not cut cord
all my life,
so like each other
in mannerisms
and talents.
The last person I was allowed to hug.
Yesterday I brought home
Dining-room cat, a painting
your grandmother gave you,
and with it I brought the grief
at last.
Symbolic of you, Dining-room cat
has been there all my life
the archetypal cat
as you were, to me,
the archetypal mother.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

World Mental Health Day during a pandemic


It's a while since I've walked down by the canal - or anywhere, come to that.  Life has taken over.  Probably nothing all that different from what is happening to everyone else but the effect on my mental health has been noticeable.

Until recently there were really only a couple of people I talked to about how I was feeling, because what's the point when everyone else is feeling much the same.  I realised, though, that I wasn't talking to quite a number of my closest friends.  Why not?  Eventually I realised it was because so much had happened since I last spoke that the first question might be "why didn't you say anything?" and I didn't really have an answer.

The other reason was that for a few weeks now my life has been filled with anxiety for half of the day while I do things, make telephone calls, arrangements for and speak to my parents, and they are both having a tough time at the moment.  When I did tell anyone about what was happening, the anxiety returned.  Better to say nothing, then.

I got round it eventually, in one case by demanding 5 minutes of a friends' time because I was relaxed after a glass of wine and wanted to tell her when it didn't make me anxious.  She graciously gave me 15 minutes while her husband sat poised with a paused box set at a crucial stage in the denouement.

Gradually, I've talked to or messaged most people.  It's better.  Several of them have sympathised.  Several have said they don't mind me letting off steam, even people I hardly know.  

So on World Mental Health Day I have a message.  It's my usual message, actually.

Talk to people!

Whether you feel anxious, depressed, sad, isolated or happy, relaxed and ready to go, talk to people either about how you feel or about how they feel.  There are too many people in society still not doing it.  

For those who've been following any of my ramblings, my garden is the thing which brings most contentment in this most hideous of years.  Everything seems more difficult with a pandemic, except gardening.  I know this isn't true for everyone, but I feel really sorry for anyone who would like a garden but doesn't have one.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Days of lockdown, part 4 - the wider picture, sort of.


How has my mental health been coping with lockdown?  Am I losing friends, as a report on Radio 4's Today programme recently suggested would happen with friendships when you don't see the other person for more than three months?  Am I being too extreme in my approach?  Not careful enough?  How has my life changed permanently due to Covid-19 rather than the sort of changes I might have expected normally?

My mental health was absolutely fine during the first few months of lockdown but gradually and more recently I have been struggling from time to time.  I love living on my own but I am quite a social person so I've missed going out for coffee with friends the most.  As restrictions have lessened, people who live with someone else can fairly safely go out to restaurants, pubs and cafes but people who live on their own who are not in a bubble with another household can only go on their own.  

People who live with someone else can go on holiday together.  People can do some kinds of holiday, e.g. camping, with friends they don't live with.  People with grown-up families can take holidays with them in places like rented cottages.  I, on the other hand, have been self-isolating for two weeks before visiting my elderly parents and their live-in carer.  The final tin lid on that was that I planned a week of 'holiday' when I came home, to enjoy sitting in my garden, meet with friends for coffee and Cake (which I normally avoid mid-week) and other social things.  Instead, we had a week which was mostly wet and windy plus two sets of my friends that I would otherwise have seen went on holiday.  Life became a bit grim for me and I was been periodically depressed.  

Depression in my case usually involves anxiety and a sense of being out of touch with myself, amongst other symptoms.  On at least two occasions when I did encounter other people (online and 'live') I realised afterwards that my anger was influencing my reactions and behaviour in a way I felt I needed to apologise for.

I started to question why I was self-isolating before visiting my parents when their carer has resumed some of her social activities and went out to lunch (eating outside) with friends, travelling by car (wearing masks but still three or four in a car) and popping into small shops when she goes out for a walk.  There doesn't seem the same point in my not doing that for two weeks before visiting them if she's doing it all the time and before I go again I'll assess the situation carefully and decide at the time how careful I need to be.

I don't think I'm losing friends while not seeing them but then I have friends I rarely or never see anyway.  There are a few local friends I have not been seeing but somehow I think my belief in real friendship still holds good - that it will stand any amount of absence and on seeing the person again it will only be a short while before you are back where you were with the relationship.  I'm fairly confident that friendships will survive.

What I've been experiencing is isolation and some loneliness.  And I've been really grumpy about it all.

Friends say they can't meet for coffee on a particular day because they're doing something with someone else.  Well, you're much better off than I am, then.  I don't have 'someone else' I'm doing things with.  I don't say anything.  But maybe I should?  Friends probably don't know I have any problem if I don't say.  I know there are many people much worse off than I am, however this is about my mental health - and I'm "just sayin'."

The wider picture for me is coloured by the knowledge that autumn is pretty much here, bringing an end to meeting outside and the implications of all of that.  Fortunately, after five months, my acupuncturist has resumed working and I have begun  to feel more like my old self.  I've lost most of the anger.  I've also been mentioning how I feel to people I know, even those I don't know well if they live on their own.  Most people who live on their own seem to think the same way as I do.  This is interesting and makes me wonder if living with other people insulates you in some way against being over-careful.  

Maybe I have been over-careful.  I'm thinking of asking my cleaners to come and clean while I'm at home.   Other people, including my parents, have been doing this.  As autumn approaches I am looking ahead at the things I like about autumn and winter - open fires, good tv to watch, closing out the world once it's dark.  A friend and I have worked out a strategy for safe socially distanced watching of films with a takeaway (or cook-in).  We have a similarly careful attitude and are both happy to move about the room out of each other's way, put on masks when necessary, etc.  And I am getting some nice, mild days so I can eke out a bit of summer living and adjust to the autumn.

As for the wider, wider picture, the national view, world view, politics and social issues and, and, and, and .....  I'm afraid for now I'm unable to give my attention to it.  I do what I can for people I'm closest too.  You really can't do more than your best and that's my best for the time being.

In case you missed it, I'll just point out the pun of the wider view of my vegetable garden above!  And to finish off, we, like everyone else, have had some spectacular sunsets recently and I now have a working camera to record them.