Dear upstairs neighbours…

Dear Upstairs Neighbours,

I thought I’d take this opportunity to write you a little letter, as you’re way too aggressive for me to ever contemplate approaching you face to face. You’ve lived upstairs for a little while now, but seem wholly unaware that you have near neighbours. Do you not know that every time you shout and swear in the hallways, we all hear you. We all hear your friends when they stand in front of the block and shout to your flat. We also hear when you throw things around in your flat and damage things like the hallway cupboard doors which don’t belong to you and I hope you have to pay for when you move out.

Most of us in the flats are of a ‘live and let live’ mentality, and so long as you respect the property and your neighbours, we’d have no problem with you. However, when you stand in the communal hallway or outside the flats and shout, swear and scream about how “everyone ‘f***ing hates us and can’t f***ing wait for us to leave, f***ing b*****ds”,  it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and we do start counting the days. I don’t want my children exposed to that sort of language, in their own home, or that sort of aggression. And I don’t want to worry about leaving and re-entering my home in case you or your friends are hanging about and being intimidating. Don’t even get me started on causing the police to be called to the flats because of aggression and threats of vandalism by people associated with you.

All in all, if you were polite to those around you, showed a little respect and empathy to your neighbours, I imagine you’d be a lot happier and would enjoy living here more than you do. And we’d enjoy having you as a neighbour considerably more.

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From another perspective…

When you have backache, a headache, toothache or you injure yourself and are in pain, you become very focussed on yourself. This is natural, your body wants you to work out how to deal with the pain and get better. I have found that it’s the same with depression, without the obvious and pinpointable pain. In my experience, and in a similar way to when I suffer a bad headache or feel very sick, if I feel miserable I want to isolate myself, do very little and retreat inside myself in an effort to find a way to heal. It’s quite a selfish way to be. I remember when I was struggling a lot with depression about three or four years ago, becoming very antisocial and wanting nothing more than to stay at home.

I am very lucky now that my earlier illness has dropped in intensity to only an occasional seasonal depression, but there’s still so many of the same issues to deal with, even with those infrequent episodes. I am lucky that my children, in the main, don’t see me looking miserable. They, together with my husband, are the three people guaranteed to bring a smile to my face. they are all three so selflessly loving towards me all the time, willing to drop anything if I feel like a cuddle.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, no sooner had I written the last sentence than I had to prove it to be accurate. I went directly to find my family. My sons immediately put down the wii remotes and gave me a cuddle on request, and my husband turned from the washing up bowl and dried his hands straight away in order to fulfil my wish for a hug!

However, my husband has often, over the years, had to take up the slack when misery renders me less than able for fulfilling my daily tasks, and I am so thankful to have such a lovely, uncomplaining man for my lifelong companion. He has never sighed if the dinner is unmade on his return from work, is never too busy or too tired to sit and cuddle me when I’m feeling low and never makes me feel anything less than wholly loved.

I do sometimes wonder how I’d cope if I were on my own. I very much enjoy and appreciate being in such a loving family group, and I wonder what I’d do to pick up my mood if I didn’t have them. I don’t often ponder the ‘road untravelled’, preferring to wonder about the future as being something over which I have a modicum of control.

I’m looking forward to a year with a couple of holidays, a bit of weight loss, a lot of dyeing and knitting and a new baby in the family! I’m looking forward to actually getting on with some pattern designing, getting back to having my market stall again, experimenting with different colours and yarns and maybe visiting a wool festival. I’m aiming for a well balanced year – one where I’m busy enough to make me feel useful and as if I’m achieving something, without being so busy that I have no time for fun.

In summary, I’m optimistic today!

Moving through

I’m feeling so much better than I was when I wrote my last blog post, although I still had to press myself to come and write anything. Maybe it’s just because I’m out of the habit? I don’t know. Anyway.

I was so cheered by the lovely comments I had from some of you lovely people. I felt very self-indulgent, writing so completely about myself and my mixed up head, so it was lovely of you to indulge and reassure me as you did! However, it appears that a lightbox may be a good buy for my future. I’ll manage now for the rest of this winter, but I’ll definitely give it a lot of thought for next year. This year, I’m doing the best I can to manage my seasonal depression by having all of the lights in the flat on all day, doing my best to spend time outside on as many days as I can manage without getting completely drenched, and making a conscious effort to eat better food. While the primary impulse is to eat stodgy comfort food, I know that this won’t do me any favours, and so I’m trying not to snack, and to eat healthily at mealtimes. I’d say I’ve been about 70% successful so far!

I went on my snowdrop hunt on Thursday, and didn’t have to go far to find any! In fact, ten feet beyond my front door were some brave little new flowers poking out from under a tree. I’m usually so inquisitive and noticing, it always amazes me that I never notice the shoots growing until the snowdrops are actually blooming. It just goes to show how much I’ve been studying my feet recently!

We had some really happy news on Thursday night which lifted me up immeasurably. My sister in law L phoned to announce that she is expecting her first baby in August! L and M announced their engagement just before Christmas, and there had been many little signs of a possible baby since then, so I sort of already knew, but the confirmation of my suspicions was a real delight. I’m sure I’ll be writing much more about this in the coming months, but in relation to my mental health, I think it maybe lifted me a little too far, if that makes sense. I went from very glum, not wanting to go out or see anyone to practically bouncing off the walls in literally the space of a minute. My ‘high’ lasted almost all the way through yesterday and I started to get back to ‘normal’ yesterday evening. I could see how I was going though, and although I did have a little dip and a little weep, I think I’ve caught myself before going too low.

To many people suffering with depression, ‘catching yourself’ and preventing yourself sinking into a black hole must sound odd, and to many, completely impossible. However, what I’m dealing with now is really very mild, and I mostly can maintain a balance in my mind when I really concentrate and force my brain to co-operate. I’m very thankful for that, remembering the times that I couldn’t. Also, and I’m not sure if I’ve written this before, but I’ve been dealing with this off and on for about ten years now, since I was expecting my eldest son. Of course I’d heard of post-natal depression, and had read about it in the pregnancy books which I devoured from the time I had a positive pregnancy test. However, I’d never heard of pre-natal depression. I remember feeling so wholly miserable whilst pregnant, but guilty for my misery when such a wonderful thing was happening inside of me. Then worried that this showed that I would be an incompetent mother. Anyway, I did my best to ignore my worries and sadness both before and after I had the baby, and in time it all passed. I can’t help wondering if it might have passed much sooner had I admitted to the doctor or the midwives or the health visitor just a little of what I was feeling?

Anyway, I’m off track again. The long and short of it is that I’m feeling much more like myself today. I believe that there is a plan formulating for us all to go swimming this afternoon, so long as I can bring myself to be seen in a swimming costume in a public swimming pool (a whole ‘nother set of issues there, my friends!), and then, so long as it’s not bucketing down I am planning a good long pre-dinner walk tomorrow. I’ve finished the knitting project which I’ve not really enjoyed – the boucle (slightly bobbly) yarn made my hands hurt as it takes much more effort to knit than normal, smooth, yarn – and booked a weekend away to the Isle of Wight for the early Autumn. So things really do feel as if they’re on the up. And, I already have another post bubbling in my head, so I’ll see you soon!

To be, or not to be?

The writer in me has lost focus, drive and determination recently. To be honest, the knitter, dyer, housekeeper, cook, seamstress and communicator in me has lost focus, drive and determination recently. Since the bout of flu I had before Christmas, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time ruminating and cogitating over what the next step should be.

New Year, then, brought more energy but even less will to achieve. I have my goals for the year, but not the impetus to start working towards them. And so I have spent my time in reflection. Learning from things which weren’t very good last year, hoping to do things better in the year to come. I know that January 1st is just another day, but in my mind, as in the minds of so many others, it is a natural turning point, a logical place to stop and take breath, to evaluate what has gone before and what will come next.

My ‘next’ is to lose weight. So much of my self confidence is stupidly tied up in how I look. I hate the vanity of that, and I wish I were only losing weight to become healthier in the long term, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit to donning the trainers with the thought of how I’d look in my holiday photos if I continued to do nothing. A stone down from my heaviest already, I’d like to finish this year at least a stone lighter again. In my current less than optimistic frame of mind, it feels unlikely, but I am a person who needs something to hope for, so this is my hope for this year.

But back to the beginning. My original premise was that my inner writer has lost the will to extend out through my fingers and into this blog. It has been months and months since I wrote regularly. I used to enjoy it, and find it soothing. I think if I made myself write, even a few words a day, maybe I’d come to enjoy it again. But I live in fear of my blog becoming nothing more than an advertising feature for my business, or a self-indulgent forum of ‘look at me and what I’ve done! Isn’t it wonderful?’ type posts. For me, my best blog posts have been written when I have thoughts in my head, bursting to get out and onto the page. Or when something happening in the world inspires me with thoughts and opinions which I just long to share with other people. Yes, most blogging is essentially self-indulgent, writing as many of us do for ourselves rather than to cater to others. But ‘in real life’ I don’t think I’m the sort of person who jumps up and down shouting about how wonderful I am, so why would I do that here? Sometimes, I’ll admit, I’m proud of something I’ve made, and so I post a picture. And sometimes, what I’m making or doing is part of the story I’m telling and so it’s incorporated that way. But on the whole, when I write I do it to catalogue and process my own thoughts and opinions and feelings.

I’ve noticed for some years now that I suffer from a form of winter depression. It varies enormously in intensity, and whilst it doesn’t often prevent me from doing very much, I don’t want to socialise (tonight being a prime example – I really don’t want to go to my knitting group and yet I know from experience that if I force myself, I’ll probably enjoy it once I’m there) and will quite often go into my own head and not really know the way out. Last night is a prime example. I became miserable (for the lack of a better word) in the early evening, and then stayed miserable despite my excellent husband’s best efforts to cheer me. There was absolutely no reason for my misery, and the remnants are with me now. I’m sure that someone who hasn’t had to deal with this sort of thing would say that I should just push through it, keep busy and it’ll pass. But I hope that others who have regular blasts of ‘the blues’ will understand when I say that I couldn’t do anything. I have a large knitting project to finish, and without any exaggeration, I sat with a darning needle in my hand for well over an hour, unable to bring myself to touch the garment, before admitting defeat and putting the needle down. Something my friend Jo said in her last post struck a chord with me. Boldly paraphrasing, she said that trusting that she will get better eventually is what she hangs on to. Which made so much sense to me, because it’s what I do throughout every rainy, grey winter month we have, until the spring warmth and sunshine bring the smiles and rationality back to me once more.

Long term readers will notice that I usually have pictures of the first snowdrops up. In retrospect, this is clearly me looking forward to the spring and my winter blues disappearing for another few months. Interestingly, I was as happy as a sandboy when we had snow, so it’s not the actual time of year, but more our British dark, dull, dreary winter days which cause such chaos in my brain.

Well, without actually wanting to wish my life away, bring on the Springtime. May April be here in a jiffy, and winter misery be a thing of distant memory.

I’m off out now. Apparently the thing to do is to get outside in the fresh air when you feel low. Although I doubt the efficacy of fresh air when it is punctured by drizzle and a distinct lack of sunshine. But I’m feeling the need to search for signs of snowdrops.

Stupid hands

I’m really getting bored with whatever’s wrong with my hands now. Today, they were swollen to such an extent that I decided to remove my rings before they had to be cut off. I’ve got no way of knowing how long it will take for them to get better (if ever). It’s really frustrating.

My stupid hands.

I’m upset about having to take my rings off. I’ve worn my grandmother’s wedding ring on my right hand since my confirmation when I was 13/14 (you can see the groove made by the swelling in the photo) and I’ve not taken my engagement or wedding rings off for more than a few minutes at a time since I first had them in 2000 and 2002 respectively. I’m lucky that GG bought me my gorgeous eternity ring for my birthday last June, and that we bought it in a larger size as I already had this problem to a certain extent. At that time it was intended to be worn on my middle finger, but now I’m wearing it in place of my wedding ring.

I’ve been signed off work for over six weeks now already, because I can’t type or do any of the other admin work required for a sustained period. I can manage intermittent typing (which is how I manage to write my blog – with lots and LOTS of rests, every couple of sentences), but even that I have to limit.

I think that the frustrating thing is that I can start things and not necessarily finish them. I can start typing a nice chatty e-mail to a friend, then have to stop for a break. I can start making a cake, or preparing vegetables for a casserole, or peeling potatoes, and then have to stop and do something else after a couple of minutes. I can drive within Cardiff city limits, but any further and the aching starts spreading up my arms.

My sleep is affected because I’ve been told I should try and sleep with my arms straight. That’s really hard, unless you sleep on your back (which I can’t!), and I keep waking myself up, conscious that I’ve lapsed back into my foetal position! So I wake up tired every morning – I feel very sorry for my family!

So, I’ve no idea if it’s carpal tunnel syndrome, medial nerve damage, ulnar nerve damage or something else altogether. I just wish someone could work it out!

**Edited to add – yes, I do have wonky index fingers, before anyone notices and feels the need to question my (already questionable) photography!

80002

I’ve just noticed that I’ve passed (by two!) 80,000 visitors, so thought I’d mark the landmark with a short post. I know I’ve been very quiet recently, but thank you to those of you who come back anyway, and to those of you who faithfully read each and every post I read. I hope to become a bit more prolific with my writing in the near(ish) future, and resume normal service! Perhaps I’ll do NaBloPoMo in January, to get me back into the swing of things. My craft projects alone would probably see me through half of that!

Another month down

How is it possible that we will be into September in just under two hours? How is it possible that the summer holidays are nearly over? It only feels as if the boys have been home for about a fortnight.

The theme for NaBloPoMo this month was ‘Tomorrow’. I’ve not adhered to the theme, and yet on this last day of the month, all I’ve been thinking of are my tomorrows. Preparing for school to restart, buying uniforms and food for lunchboxes. Thinking about my upcoming holiday and making lists of things to buy and do before I go. Thinking about Christmas and what sort of presents I can make for my family and friends. And it goes on and on. So much to think about, and these are just domestic tomorrows!

I’ll be back tomorrow to announce who has won my August giveaway. Happy September to you all!