Monday, 9 June 2014

What a difference a week makes.

I can't quite believe that I was writing such a happy up beat post this time last week!  After writing that the following day I woke up with very sore joints,  this happens some times with my rheumatoid arthritis, but often wears off over the day.  However Weds it was still just as bad, so was Thursday and Friday - grrrrrr.  It is so easy to be pulled down by pain.  I suddenly become aware of all the things I cannot do, rather than thinking about the things I can do.

It took me until yesterday to put a plea out for prayers from my friends for healing and today I think God has answered in a gentle way.  The first thing is I managed to have a telephone conversation with my GP and so now have some stronger pain killers - which are already working better than my other ones!  The second thing was that because I had to go to the chemist to pick up my prescription, I had to use the car, which spurred me on to drive just a little further to the gym and go for a swim.  I had to use the indoor pool because it is the only one with gentle steps down into the water rather than a ladder.  However it really was bliss.  I guess I was more floating than swimming.  When I am floating my arms feel so supported and weightless, I so wish I could bottle that feeling it is just bliss.  It reminds me of years ago using a floatation tank, where you get into a coffin like piece of equipment that has salty water in it and you lie in the darkness.  They were all the rage back then, I wonder if they still exist.  Anyway the pool is definitely as good a place as any to capture that beautiful floating feeling.

The bonus of getting to the gym means I could shower as well, at home I have to go upstairs to do this, so when everything is as painful as it is now, I can only shower either first thing in the morning or last thing before bed.  The gym is great as I am able to stay all on the ground floor all the way from my car.  So though I cannot say there has been a lot of physical healing take place since the prayers of yesterday, I do know that God is here with me and am very grateful for the moments of relief, medication and water have given me.

Have a good week xxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, 2 June 2014

Finding Joy on the Journey

A week last Sunday my husband and I had the pleasure of leading our all together service at church.  We could choose anything we liked as the subject!  I had originally intended to rehash something I had done when I was working for the church as a youth and children's pastor.  I never got round to doing it as my father died the night before, it was still used but someone else did it for me.  Then I had been given the title Admiring the View and had to come up with an interactive slot for newly confirmed Christians at our local Cathedral.  It's funny how God works though, as when I looked back on my computer the only thing I could find (I thought I had all sorts of stuff) was a power point which now looked very dated.

Admiring the View had ended up being all about remembering to stop on our Christian/life's journey and look around us and see the good stuff that God is always up to around us.

I set about writing some notes, looking through google at posts about similar topics and eventually I heard God loud and clear and the title had to be Finding Joy on the Journey.

The verse I was drawn to was this one

Philippians 4 4 - 11

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learnt or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practise. And the God of peace will be with you.

I felt able to speak about this because it was something I had first hand experience of and just felt God prompting me to tell others about my experience.  The last 5 1/2 years of my life could be described as a journey through grief.  Not only did I lose my younger sister at the age of 36 after a brief  3 week illness,  I then suddenly and unexpectedly lost my dad from a heart attack and then found my mum after she had taken an overdose and had already fallen into a state of unconsciousness, though she didn't die for another 30 hours.

As well as this my health deteriorated after a knee operation left me in a worse state than I had been prior to it.  I had to give up my job.  I became a full time carer of my niece who was 12 when she joined our family and then after two years had to hand over full time care for her to the health service, where she remains to this day, though I still have daily contact with her.

These are just all the surface issues that you could see, there was a whole lot more emotional stuff that was going on.  So life hasn't been easy.  There have been many comments made to me over the years about getting on with the good stuff that has still been left in my life, but somehow this has just made me feel discounted.  However this one bit of scripture from the Bible has been the thing that has shown me how to appreciate and find JOY on this journey.

It is so easy to only focus on negative stuff when it is surrounding you.  I truly believe that one of the things that excites Satan most is when he can see us drowning in a whirlpool of negativity.  

The whatever's in the verses start to point us towards the joy - we just have to choose to go and look for it.  I find also find it helpful to think about what this verse doesn't say:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is UNTRUE, whatever is IGNOBLE, whatever is WRONG , whatever is DIRTY, whatever is UNLOVED, whatever is UGLY – if anything is negative or not praiseworthy – DON'T think about such things. 

My own experience has led me to praise God for the small joys in life - the first cup of tea in the morning, - the sound of my children getting on, - my dog always so happy to see me.  And when you Praise and rejoice with God - then the peace is there for your taking. 

Choose Joy!  God Bless,  Jane x.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Ten minutes of writing.

My blogging friend Katharine over at 10 minute writer set a challenge on her facebook page to see how many words one could write in 10 minutes!  So this is my attempt at writing something that is not copied and that makes some sort of sense.  Sense to me anyway.  There are so many topics that come into my head during the day which I would like to blog about but then the time comes for me to sit down and the energy level to consider typing dips.  Why is this, could it be that Candy Crush is finally killing off the brain cells and wickedly keeping me from the key board?  Or could it be that since getting my tablet it is far easier to just surf around and not type anything?  I don't like typing on my tablet - it is just not the same as having a keyboard.  This means to write I have to make the extra effort of getting my laptop out and booting it up.  Oh the problems of the modern world!!!!  And most of the worlds population do not have enough to eat!!

So now my brain is starting to dry up.  What else can I type, I could tell you about the wonderful transformation that is taking shape in our garden.  Since moving into our home 14 years ago we have always been making do in the garden.  Trying to make the most of what was left us, which I have to say was very little.  Then this winter we had a series of storms which finally pulled down the fences.  We have had the two that we are responsible for re done and this week managed to get them painted.  The other one which we are not responsible for was also damaged in the storms but our neighbours decided to just use some old battered second hand panels to replace the ones that were severely damaged.  So this morning I set to with my daughter some fern panelling, a hammer and some nails and we have now screened off the horrid panels and it looks wonderful.  Maybe when I have finished my 10 minutes I will go take a photo so that you can see just how wonderful it is looking.  We also got the builders who did our fence to take up and relay to of the patio areas.  Making them both totally weed free and hopefully that will last.  So now there is just the area around the house that still needs relaying but we will have to wait for funds to appear before we can get that done.  In the meantime at least we will not have so much to weed!

So we are almost at my favourite part of gardening - that is the tidying up of the beds, maybe some new plants and definitely some pots that need filling with beautiful flowers.  I so hope the weather this summer is conducive to me being able to sit out and enjoy the garden this year.  Maybe we will even get in a few more BBQ's, we have already been lucky enough to have one.  That turned into a great bonfire  as we had the barby in the fire pit and then filled it with wood afterwards and had a great roaring fire.  Well this is it my 10 minutes is almost over.  Now I shall have to cut and paste this into a word document to find out just how many words I have managed to type in 10 minutes.  Laters xxxxxxxxxxxx

ps. just so you know the answer is 595 - not to shabby I have to say!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Why New Zealand

So many people asked me before going away to New Zealand why we were going there and to be honest it felt quite strange saying that we were all going to stay with someone I had never met before!  I seem to be making a bit of a habit of this.  First I went and met a fellow blogger Katharine over in Boston MA, we had known each other on-line for quite some years before I went and met her.  We were friends before we met but this visit cemented our friendship which continues to thrive! In fact my husband is going to meet up with her in November this year, but that is a whole other story!

Next we (not on my own this time) went and met another blogger that Katharine introduced us to, Susanne over near San Diego, CA. It really is so nice to be able to finally hear the voice that you read and share conversations with!

So back to the why New Zealand story.  First we have to roll the clock back several decades to when my husband was a teenager, he and a friend Howard decided to go inter-railing together around Europe.  I suppose in it's day it was the equivalent to taking a gap year, only this was done during the summer holidays and was a very cheap way of visiting lots of places!  They lost contact and then thanks to the joys of facebook they were reunited a few years ago.  At some point the two boys had a conversation that led me and Howard's wife Lyn into becoming facebook friends and playing scrabble daily with each other.

Lyn and I started to chat more and more as we played.  I discovered they had both been mental health nurses and Lyn had spent a lot of time doing adolescent mental health.  This is obviously a subject very close to my heart with my kinship caring saga with my niece, and on more than one occasion Lyn helped me to work out what my next steps were.

Then last year Howard came over to the UK on a visit to his family.  My husband Brian went up to his home town and met up with him for an evening and it seems they just picked up where they had left off all those years ago.  Howard made some comment about us going out to visit them - that may have been his biggest mistake.  I wonder how many times people say that not really meaning it???????

So, the rest is history, we decided to go for it.  The photo at the top shows Howard and Lyn on the far left with their daughter and then their son is over on the far right.  Next to their son on the far right are two more friends Paula and her daughter Bethany who came over from Australia to visit us.  Paula also knew Brian and Howard back in the teenage days when they were in a drama group together.  So there were many more years to catch up on there!  We have been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with Paula and her ever growing family over the years and it was a very hard decision to go to New Zealand and not Australia on this visit, however, NZ it was to be and we were just thrilled that Paula brought Bethany over.

The photo below is of Lyn and I (we are wine tasting which must be why I am a bit blurred!), it was so lovely to give her a hug and to be able to thank her for being the pillar of support that she has been to me.  I couldn't believe that they had been living in NZ for about 15 years and had never visited a vineyard to do some FREE wine tasting.  So pleased we have sorted that out for them and jolly hope they go on to visit lots more - we only managed to do two.

Another friendship that I was also able to rekindle on this visit was with my lovely friend Sara.  We used to go to church together when we were both studying in West London.  I vividly remember her wedding to the lovely Brett (a kiwi) at the Salvation Army head quarters in central London.  It was only about 6 months after that wedding when we were about to get married that they moved over to New Zealand.  Since then we have kept touch every Christmas, we have spoken when Sara has been over in the UK but had not seen each other in the flesh for far too long.

Meeting her, Brett and their lovely children was just so good after all this time.  We have both been through tough times that neither of us had particularly shared with each other so there was an awful lot to catch up on.  But catch up we did and when I got Paula and Sara together it was lovely to go back over how we met, how Brett and Sara met and all the early days stuff over again.  Another wonderful spin off from this is the deep and meaningful emails we are now exchanging as we continue conversations about church and family.

So that is basically why we went to NZ.  I confess to hardly knowing anything about the country before going, except that a few friends had been and loved it.  My amazing husband spent so much time before we went doing all the research to decide where we would visit.  And he came up trumps with a brilliant itinerary!
It really is a most fascinating country and I would definitely like to get back and cover more, we were only able to do a very small bite.  I wonder how often people choose a holiday by the people they want to see rather than the country they want to visit!?!

The photo below is of my daughter Annie and Paula's daughter Bethany, I so pray that their friendship continues over the miles and that they get to share lots and lots of memories into the future.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Moving On.

It has taken me far too long to get back to my blog!  But I wanted to update you all on some exciting times.

I last posted about my mums inquest and the great mess the community mental health team had made, causing a huge delay and much upset.  Well the inquest took place the day before we went off on holiday and I am pleased to say that it was all concluded.  I felt very listened to by the coroner who questioned the mental health team very well to get a clear picture of what had happened with their input.  The psychiatric nurse that was looking after my mum is no longer working for the trust (although still had to attend the inquest) and it was good to hear the coroner say to the manager and consultant that he hoped they had learnt some valuable lessons.  I may still go on to ask for a formal apology from the NHS trust at some point but for the moment I am letting it go.

The following day we jetted off to New Zealand for what turned out to be a most Blessed time.  I just wanted to tell you today though about two incidents which have totally helped me to move on from all the happenings of the last 5 1/2 years.  The first was a visit to some beautiful gardens called Little Paradise gardens and lodge.  It turned out to be one of the places we went to because we saw it by chance and though on first and second passing of it we were too tired to go, there was that niggle that stayed with both my husband and I, that we needed to go! So off we went, and it really was like tasting a little bit of paradise.  If you click on the link above you can see much of it's beauty. 

We chatted with the owner/gardener and it was funny to hear him saying that it was not looking it's best (they are just going into Autumn) as to us it looked beautiful.  He was not only the gardener but the sculptor as well and the picture at the top if of a life size is one of his.  So why was this sculpture of the many the one that touched something deep deep down inside me?  To understand I need to tell you about the counselling session that I had before I went away.  My counsellor asked me to imagine my 12 year old self sitting in the empty chair in the room and asked me what I would like to do/say to her.  Now I have often thought about what I might say/write to myself, knowing what I know now.  However I have never considered what I would do...........  I was very taken aback and there was quite a long period of silence before my tears started to fall.  It turns out what I would really like to be able to do to that 12 year old self is to pick her up, hug her and tell her how much she is loved.  Which brings me onto the photo.......

It struck me immediately, the identical clothing just confirmed it, this was me swinging, loving and enjoying my younger self - WOW!

I am sure this does not sound as profound as it feels for me but I wanted to get it written down.  I know there will be times when I forget about that moment and those feelings and I want to have a written reminder to go back to.

The next thing I want to tell you about is maybe a little more frightening!  I'll let the photo's tell the story.


192 metres + free falling +11 seconds of sheer exhilaration = JOY!!!!!!!

and if you want to know how much noise I made about it here you go

So I have left the past behind and am moving on, it feels great.  I am under no illusions, I know I will still have bad days but for now I feel like I can conquer the world!

God Bless,  Jane x.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Decisions and Priorities.

For the last week my mind has been mulling over a situation that is causing me a lot of angst.  For those that do not know, my mother took her own life a year last February.  She had been struggling with her mental health since the death of my sister 4 years prior to her death.  She then lost her soul mate, my dad just over a year prior to her death.  This caused a critical psychotic episode which meant she had to be hospitalised.  As she was staying with me 200 miles from 'home' when this happened she was hospitalised near me to.  After three months she was well enough for discharge and she was encouraged by the hospital staff to stay in the area so that she could have continuity of service.

The mum that was discharged was quite different from the one that had gone in.  For the first time in a long time she was talking about her very troubled, abused and traumatic life as a war baby in post war Germany. This life continued right up until she met and married  my dad at the age of 18.  She was treating herself to new clothes (and bought me things when it was not a special occasion - this never used to happen).  She was going swimming with me regularly and often persuaded me to get on and go even when I was low.  She went away on holiday with a friend.  She was making plans of things she wanted to do.  She rented a bungalow with an overgrown garden and was in her element sorting it out and making a vegetable plot.  This state remained for about 7 or 8 months.

She had booked to go away again in the October/November (with the same friend to the same place), she had hoped this would help her over the horrid first anniversary of my dad dying and the anniversary of my sister's passing.  By the time she went I had already noticed she was not so good.  She was far more anxious about what she would wear and couldn't make decisions about buying new things for the holiday.  She then had the trauma of discovering when she got back that her landlord had put the bungalow on the market without even telling her.

Within weeks of returning she told me that she wanted to die and was struggling to stay alive.  Having not heard her talk about the community mental health team that had been looking after her and knowing that her Community Psychiatric Nurse (cpn) had moved on, the only course of action I could think of was to contact the GP.  They were great, they saw her straight away and were horrified at the state of her and the fact that she appeared to have fallen through the net with the community service.  By this time she was asking to be readmitted to hospital.  It is only now with hindsight that I can see how big a deal this was.  Her time in hospital had not been a 'good' experience, she had not been happy to be there.  Therefore asking to be admitted was probably a very difficult decision for her to have made.  The GP got onto the community team and arranged for someone to come out that afternoon (it was Friday).  I made sure I stayed with her all the time.

When the CPN ( one I had never met or had any contact with) arrived, she informed me that she had taken over mums care and I should have contacted them not the GP.  However when I informed her that I had no idea that they were still involved as no-one had contacted me since the old cpn told me he was leaving, she was at least apologetic that she had not been in touch with me.  She then proceeded to tell my mum that she could not be admitted back to hospital, the unit she had been in was now a dementia unit and there were no beds.  A discussion had been had before she came out to visit with the community psychiatrist and her medication had been increased.  Medication was one area that I had refused to get involved with - I have enough trouble controlling my own!

By December there had been no improvement, if anything she was slowly going more and more into a depressive stupor.  She had almost stopped going swimming with me.  I was having to go and fetch her to come round for tea, whereas before she had happily walked around.  I had found her somewhere to live - a lovely place just around the corner from my home.  She was anxious about buying it, but was doing the purchase herself along with the estate agent and solicitor.  I had to ask my brother to invite mum to his for Christmas to give me a break as now my caring role was becoming a daily activity.  He was very shocked to see how downhill she had gone.

At the end of January she had a review with her CPN, I had spoken to the cpn before the meeting to inform her that mum wasn't washing and was spending most of her time in bed.  During the review, mum was very quiet but voiced her anxiety about the move and life in general.

Then February arrived, a date for completion on the property was made, everything was set for exchange.  Then out of the blue I could not get hold of her.  After eventually having to break into her property I found her conscious but unresponsive and a pile of medication packaging next to her.  After being blue lighted to the hospital it took about 6 hours before I was finally informed that she was not going survive.  I was told it could take several days for her to die, thankfully she only lasted until the following lunch time.

Because of the nature of her death we have had to have a coroners inquest.  The coroners clerk regularly called and updated me on the process of the inquest as reports came in (or didn't in the case of the community services).  I was then given a date in December to attend and all the reports they had received were sent to me to read before the court appearance.  However I noticed that there was still no report from the community mental health services.  I said this to the coroners clerk when we arrived, he then went and discussed this with the coroner.  It was then decided by the coroner that the case should be adjourned as it was vital for a full report from the community team to be there as they were the only ones with regular contact with mum.

Last week I finally had another letter from the coroners office to say a new date had been set for next week and they also attached a report from the mental health team.  This was no ordinary report, it was a critical incident report which they had, had to complete for the health trust.  It was dated MARCH 2013, just a month after mum had died.  So I am left wondering WHY?????, why wasn't I informed that the report had been done, why had they not sent the report back when information was first requested from them by the coroner.  Why was so much of the information contradictory and in some places wrong.  Why was the appendix that should have been attached with a time line on it of their interventions with mum missing.  Why was there not mention of the change in CPN.  To say I was furious does not give justice to how I immediately felt.  Grief and anger came clashing into mind.  One week on, thankfully I am becoming calmer about it all.

So now, what do I do?  I decided to try and get hold of the person that wrote the report or one of the people on the management team that were named on the report.  A call was made 5 days ago, I was told I would be called back and that still has not happened.

How much time do I invest in this?  I am concerned that I am going to get to the inquest hearing next week and get too emotional to voice any of the above whys to the coroner.  Will he be interested anyway?  Trying to discern the right course of action to take has been exhausting.  Fortunately I have been able to talk through with my counsellor this process and she has helped me to look at how it is all affecting me.

Nothing I can do can bring my mum back.  However if I do nothing about these concerns and I keep them to myself, it is going to feel like I'm keeping some sort of secret inside of me.  This secret will never go away, I might find I can box it up and put it on a shelf in my memory, but it will never go away and as my mums experience has shown me, sometimes those secrets can manifest decades later when the mind comes under pressure.

So I have written this all down.  That is my starting point.  Next I need to sit down with the horrid report and mark clearly the bits of it that are wrong or that I do not understand (contradictions).  I am then planning to email the coroners clerk on monday with all my questions, so that I am not able to voice them during the inquest they can still be brought up.  I think I have also made peace with myself that if the coroner decides that no further action is warranted, I have to accept this.  However if this is the case I can still write to the health trust and let them know how viewing that report almost a year after it was written caused me too much upset.  I can also let them know my concerns about the details of the report.

If on the other hand the coroner thinks it needs further investigation, I can leave this to him to do.  It is not something I can do.  I may have quite a strong moral and ethical stance on injustice, but I do need to look after myself as well.  I still have a young family to look after, I still have a niece in an adolescent mental health unit, for whom I considered next of kin even though she is under the care of social services.  I need someone else to fight this battle for me if indeed it needs fighting.  Hopefully I can start to let go of all this unrest inside of me.  I am very much hoping that by this time next week I will be at peace with all the decisions that have been made.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Just to Tired.

                                                 picture from goggle images.

Have you ever been so tired that the longing of getting into bed consumes all your thoughts?

I have been having problems sleeping for many years now.  Sometimes it has been because my head has been full of emotional turmoil.  Most of the time it is because of my rheumatoid arthritis.  You see when I get into bed there is nothing to take my mind off what is happening with my body (unless there is emotional instability about other stuff!).

At the moment I am having to rely on medication to get me to sleep.  The only other solution that works is alcohol, though this sleep is usually very short lived!  The only problem with taking medication is it seems to do something to my dream life.  I wake up and cannot remember what has really happened and what was dream.  Occasionally the dreams are very disturbing, like the other night when I was living in some sort of slum being lorded over by bandits who were raping all the young girls!  Then other nights I can be convinced that my daughter and the dog have visited me in the night and have to take my husbands word for it that they didn't.

Whether it is just a culmination of lack of good quality sleep or something else, since lunch time yesterday sleep is all I want to do.  I went to bed about 7 after taking some meds. Apart from a couple of short wake ups I slept 'well'.  However today, just tidying up one small cupboard this morning has zapped all energy from me once again.  I gave in at 12.30pm and went to bed.  My lovely husband came and woke me at 2.30 and by 3 I managed to drag my self out of bed.  All I have managed to do since then is have something to eat and watch crappy tv.  All I want to do is go back to bed. 

In the past I have never been the sort of person that can sleep during the day.  I need to take medication to get me to sleep at night (even when I haven't slept during the day), then have problems waking up in the morning.  During the day I can just get into bed and go straight off.  None of this makes any sense.

I am sitting here thinking I could do a bit of crochet, or knitting - but the thoughts are fleeting, what I really want to do is go back to bed.  I need a bath or a shower, but I know if I do one of these, the chances of me not going straight to bed afterwards are very very slim.

The problem with me being tired is not really my problem.  I could quite happily just go and get into bed again.  But how do you explain to your children (even teenage and almost teenage) that the amount of sleep you have at night time is just not enough.  How can I stop my lovely hubby from worrying that there isn't something terribly wrong with me which is making me sleepy.

I do wish I had an on/off button with a recharge capacity.  These laptops and other whizzy devices don't know how lucky they are!