Plans and optimism

Thank you all for letting me be so self-indulgent here recently. I’ve been alternating between miserable and happy like a weathervane in a buffetting storm, and it must be quite hard for some of you to keep up. Today alone I’ve veered at least three times!

However, I’ve come to an important conclusion. January and February are stupid months to try to change my eating habits, and so I’m postponing my conscious dieting until March. I shall keep on trying to exercise more, and I’ll think more about what I eat, trying to get more fruit and veg into my diet, but I’m not calorie counting or anything until March.

I’ve decided that the fewer things I have to stress about in my life the better. There are several things which I can’t do anything about, but those that I can, I will. And dieting is one of those.

Speaking of exercise, did I mention that I went on a (for me) long walk at the weekend? I’m hoping to have another long walk this weekend, so long as the weather isn’t filthy. Eventually I’ll build up to jogging, but one step at a time. Perhaps that’s something else I’ll get to in March!

January though, is just for me. And spring cleaning. I made a good start today, and with my three free days next week I’ll press on some more. February will be a planning month, I think, easing myself into productivity, then hopefully by March I’ll be back in full flow.

Also, by the end of March my sister-in-law will be half way through her pregnancy, and then I will be thinking about crafting for my new niece or nephew!

Plans for the weekend? A little exercise, some visiting relatives and croissants for breakfast – sounds good to me!

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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.

Flu

Third day in bed. Sweating and shivering in equal part. BBC News 24 online as my entertainment and companion.

Christmas presents unfinished. Shopping incomplete. Cards unwritten. House undecorated. Feelings of guilt and impending IOUs for presents mean that tears often fall. Crying increases temperature, brings on coughing which hurts. previously conquered depression hovers nearby during illness, harder to fight when so tired.

Sore hands, sore arms, sore nose, sore throat, no voice, no strength, sore jaw, sore back, sore legs, sore eyes, feels endless.

15 minutes sitting up is my new limit before waves of exhaustion force me back.

Guilt because husband having to wait on me. worry because he’s supposed to be working tomorrow.

so tired.

So so feeling guilty for everything left undone.

Time to sleep. This has taken an hour and a half to type.

Easy crier

I cry so easily. I blame the kids. Before I had them I was as hard as anyone else, but now I’m a soft, tearful mess at the slightest provocation! And usually, happy events will set me off more easily than sad ones (I’m a freak!). So, Chilean miners being reunited with their families – me crying. The Scottish performers looking so happy during the handover ceremony at the Commonwealth Games – me weeping. A happy outcome in a film – that’s right, more tears. Uplifting music – I’m gone. I can’t even talk sometimes!

We used to laugh at my mother in law when, on watching some young sportsperson doing well on the TV she would say “Imagine how happy his mother is!” rather than commenting on the actual person’s performance. Now I find myself doing that as often as not, imagining how it must feel to be a family member of almost anyone featured on the television. So I don’t laugh any more!

I’m glad that I’m empathetic (yea, I said EMpathetic, thankyouverymuch!). Empathy is a good thing, and I think goes hand in hand with tolerance and understanding, which are all virtues I prize. However, I do so wish that I could find the ‘off switch’ for my tear ducts, and keep the glistening eyes for genuine times of great emotion!

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!

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good and the bad, that refers to the kids at various points of the day. The ugly, that would be me.

Earlier today I had a medical appointment with a new (to me) medical professional. Mum very kindly agreed to go with me, and Dad (likewise very kindly) agreed to look after the boys. Originally, he was supposed to be collecting them from school, but obviously the weather has had something to say about that and the school hasn’t yet reopened since the Christmas holiday. So, I loaded them up with DVDs, toys and books and took them to be babysat by their Grandpa. The appointment took longer than I was anticipating, so we were away much longer than I thought we would be. However, we got home to Mum and Dad’s house to find that the children had been very good and that there were no complaints.

Later on, though, I asked them to clear out their toy box as not all their toys fit in there any longer and I was sure that there were things which were no longer played with. An hour and a half later saw very little improvement, despite repeated requests from me to hurry it along (it’s not a big toy box either!) and also some advice as to how best to pack things away neatly. When I went out to the hallway to see how they were getting on (the toy box is kept under the stairs) I found Cheeky staring into the middle distance and Handsome sitting on the stairs reading his Harry Potter book. Angry doesn’t quite reach how I felt right then, and they soon found it out. I’d love to be the calm gentle sort of mother who can get her children to behave with a few quietly spoken words. But I’m not. While I didn’t quite shout, I certainly spoke loudly and expressively of my displeasure and disappointment at their behaviour. It certainly sunk in with them as, while I was left feeling really miserable and down, they were quiet, well behaved, humble and polite for the rest of the day, accepting meekly the allotted punishment of early bedtime, no stories and no Harry Potter book.

I think I need to work on this. The Bad was obviously the children misbehaving and not paying attention. The Good – Handsome and Cheeky after the event; the Ugly – me, how depressed I made myself feel because I had to tell them off. It was a proportionate telling off, I just hate having to do it. I have a fabulous relationship with my kids most of the time, so when I have to really get cross with them it does upset me. I let myself get far too stressed about how they behave when they are at other people’s houses, but I feel that I have a responsibility to turn them into decent and respectful members of society. Sometimes I think the responsibility worries me. And sometimes, the slightest little thing will come along and make me feel really miserable.

I don’t think I want any comments on this post please. I’ve forced myself to write it even though I’m in no mood to talk to anyone today. I’d really like to sleep all weekend and wake up feeling all bright and lovely on Monday.

Isn’t it silly. I’ve just read this through and it’s all about a whole lot of nothing. What a silly lot of nothing to get upset over. But sometimes that’s how it goes. Especially when I’m feeling tired. Days like that, the smallest thing seems to assume epic proportions. And I’d like nothing better than to hide in bed until I feel happier again.