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!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Starting as I mean to go on.

Happy New Year faithful followers!  And faith full you are indeed if you are still following me - only 25 posts last year and most of those were of me moaning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I cannot promise to be moan free this year - but I will try and keep it to a minimum.  A dear friend posted the above picture on facebook today and it got me thinking........

1 Make Peace with your past  so it won't disturb your present.

I have been doing a lot of this over the last 12 months with the help of a very patient therapist and family.  It is very easy to make flippant comments to people about letting go of the past, or letting bygones be bygones.  However none of these are helpful if you haven't come to terms and made peace with your past.  It doesn't mean you have to not care about the past, it doesn't mean your past becomes unimportant.  Your past is goes with you as you travel through life and if you don't make peace with this travelling companion then it is going to be a very uncomfortable ride.

2. What other people think of you is none of your business.

Isn't this just so true!  If people look at me and think I'm a lazy oaf who sits on the sofa all day doing nothing much - does that make it true? (well to be honest occasionally, it probably is).  Of course it doesn't, these thoughts (if they exist)  belong to other people and while I might spend too much time thinking this of myself because it's what I think other people are thinking it.......... it really is none of my business.

3.  Time heals almost everything give it time.

Sounds corny, but it is true.  Though time is a construct that is individual to each of us. I have also noticed that some things heal more quickly than others, just like physical wounds do.

4. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

Now this one made me think a little deeper.  As a practising Christian I do believe that there is someone 'in charge' - God.  However this faith also means that I have to accept that God gives us free will.  Which then  brings us around to the issue of happiness.  We have the choice to be happy - really? yes, I really believe we do.  When I first had some counselling a couple of years ago one of the first things my therapist said to me was that I used gallows laughter all the time.  I didn't understand what this meant until she explained it and I realised that sometimes she was right.  I laughed because if I didn't I would cry - I was laughing at the absurdity of the situations I was finding myself in.  At the time I felt a little offended by this - it felt like she was telling me this was not a good thing.  However as time has gone on I have noticed that actually my 'gallows' laughter is a part of the armour that God has given me to protect myself from all the absurdity around me.  It isn't something I do to hide what is really going on for me, it is there to help me cope.  And for that reason alone I think it is an absolute blessing!

5. Don't compare your life to others and don't judge them you don't know what their journey is all about.

Ouch, now this is a toughy.  I have been called judgemental to my face twice in my life.  Both times it has cut me down immediately.  Once by someone who new me very well and once by someone who hardly knew me at all.  It makes no difference to how it made me feel though.  We all make judgements all the time, it is a necessary part of life.  Do I want a cup of tea?  Have I got time to do a bit more crochet?  They are all decisions that I make after judging the merits of my situations.  It is therefore inevitable that we will sometimes end up judging other people, but this is where I will refer back to point 2.  If other people think I am judging them, that is their business not mine.  And then back to point 1, make peace with the things that have happened in the past.

I do sometimes look at my life and wonder if I would be happier walking someone else's journey.  However the journey of other peoples lives is obviously just the bits that I can see, I will never know someones whole journey.   I might sometimes look with envy on those who have more physically able bodies than I have.  However when I look at the rest of those peoples lives, I am soon brought back to earth with the contentment I need to carry on my own journey on my own path.

6. Stop thinking too much it's alright not to know the answers.  They will come to you when you least expect it.

I love this!  As someone with an appalling memory for important stuff, like peoples names - I really do know that complete joy when the name actually comes to you!  In the age of google where you can get an answer (or at least think you have ) to almost everything in a few taps it is hard to sometimes just let things go.  This is something I am daily challenged with by my two children, one a teenager, one almost there.  My eldest particularly is very precise in nature and likes to have an answer to everything.  I on the other hand am happy (usually) to leave loose ends.

7. Smile you don't own all the problems in the world.

Now I (along I am sure with many others)  have been on the receiving end of someone telling you to smile when something awful has just happened - gah - it makes me gag just thinking about it!  However if you are able to, a smile can make a world of difference to others.  It can diffuse anger, it can restore hope, it can give you a brief moment of reprieve.  I know this because I have been on the receiving end of others smiles in times of great need in my own life.  I have also been privileged to be told by some lovely people that my smile lights up a room - this may or may not be true but it makes me feel fabulous!

So I cannot say that I think these are definitely 7 rules to live your life by, but I do think they are all very sound pointers.  So much so that I am going to print it off for my 16 year old niece who is in a long term secure mental health unit.  It will definitely give us something to talk about when I next go and visit!

I also saw this picture also recently

and decided this is going to be my motto for 2014.  Saying what I feel has only really been possible through my blog, but slowly, slowly (very very slowly) I am starting to find my feeling voice in public with the people who mean most to me and hopefully this is going to continue into the new year.........

bye for now xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, 11 November 2013

What do you do for a 14 year old boys birthday????

My husband reminded me the other day that I should really blog about something really really nice that we did during half term.  How remiss of me not to have shared it with you.

I saw an amazing picture on a friends facebook page recently, she had taken her newly turned 14 year old son and his older sister to a place in Basingstoke where you can do indoor skydiving.

Now I have a confession to make - I have always wanted to skydive and do a wing walk on an aeroplane.  I can't explain why - my counsellor reckons it is probably something to do with the feeling of freedom that these activities might give me.  Anyhow, with all my health issues and with what has been going on in my family over the last 5 years, putting any desires like these out there has been impossible.

Then half term came, along with my sons 14th birthday.  He isn't a hugely social lad, he has a small good bunch of friends, but he is also very happy playing on his computer, games console, etc (like so many others it seems).  In previous years we have let him go out bowling with a couple of friends, or to the cinema and then getting a take-out - that sort of thing.  This year he didn't seem to be showing any great desire to do these things.

Can you see where this is going????????  I made the suggestion that maybe he would like to go and do the indoor skydiving thing - well that impressed him no end.  When I asked if he fancied doing it all together as a family (including his little sister) I was absolutely delighted when he said yes.

So it was booked a couple of days before and despite little sisters nerves we all looked forward to it.

And I have to say it did not disappoint any of us.

Yes it was pricey, but then we had kept presents to a minimum and this was the big treat of the holidays as well as for my sons birthday.  Would you like to see some photo's?

First we had to have our hands stamped (after completing very large risk disclaimers!).

Here is the birthday boy

He got the hang of it very quickly, the second picture shows him going off for a tandem ride up to the top of the wind tunnel with the instructor - we all got to do that once we had mastered the art of  'flying'

Next to have a turn was my hubby - it appeared to be much more difficult for us 'oldies' than the children - something to do with relaxing and being bendy I think!
Next it was my turn!  The instructor was so nice, I was a little concerned that he might grab me to harshly by the arms or legs (as it seemed he had been doing with some others we watched) which would have rattled my joints, but a quick chat and he made sure he held me just by my suit.
And lastly it was the little sisters turn, she had taken so much convincing that she would be okay doing it, reassuring her right up to the last minute that she could pull out (but we wouldn't let her pull out before doing the safety briefing and getting dressed up).  She loved it and being so light, kept flying away!

I was so exhilarated afterwards, and the photo below shows my son with a smile - not something that he easily gives away these days.

 I think his Dad rather enjoyed himself too.
So much fun and then I had the thrill of putting photo's on facebook and surprising everyone that I had done it to - I didn't realise that it would be such a surprising thing!

This week I have also hit 28,000 page views on this blog, with the number of posts that averages out to about 85 per post.  Goodness me!  Thank you for popping by!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Dear Mum.

So I should be saying Happy 67th Birthday today!  But I am not am I, you ensured you stayed 66 forever - that is an extreme way of not getting anymore grey hairs!

I cannot imagine how you thought suicide would be the answer. 

I cannot imagine how you could have thought that being dead would have had anything but a negative effect on your two remaining children and all your grandchildren.

For me it has been the ultimate punch in the face, you wanted to be with your other daughter and not me.

Did you have any awareness that this is how it would leave me feeling?  I hope not!  That way I can fantasise that this is just my own interpretation of how I am feeling, not how you were feeling.

There are days when I want to slap you round the face and remind you that you chose to have children - so why did you bring me up feeling as though it was my own fault that I existed?????

Then there are days when my heart bleeds for what you had to go through as a child, and for the support that you did not get from family, friends or counsellors.

I know I am so very fortunate.  I have an amazing husband, and beautiful loving children.  There are friends surrounding us that are there to support and hold us when we need it.  To leave us be when we need that.  And to make us smile and laugh when we need that.

I do hope seeing me striving to break the mould has not made you sad.  I do hope that you can see that we are trying to nurture individuality and freedom for our children.  Yes  this means there are times when I have to let my children 'Show off', but who are they harming?  Yesterday when A was walking down the street holding her arms out walking like a catwalk model, I could feel you cringing besides me and chastising me for letting her do it.  But she was having fun, she was playing, she was using her imagination to live out fantasies.  She was enjoying herself!  She knew this was an extra special treat - time with me.

There are only three memories that I have of you and me spending time just the two of us, maybe more will come back to me with time.

One was off us shopping together when I was probably 12 or so, but we were shopping for you.  I remember you constantly telling me this.  I had known that is why you were going but had still wanted to come with you with the hope that you might treat me to something.  You didn't, you just got cross that I wanted to look at things that were not what you were looking for.

The next was when I took you for lunch when you were visiting your mum in Kingston.  It must have been when she was in hospital, before Sally died as otherwise she would have come with us.  That I remember being a really pleasant pub lunch.

The last memory is of your birthday present last year.  Do you remember I got us tickets to see a west end show - something you had never done.  But you hated the whole experience.  Even telling me this while we were eating our lunch out in a lovely restaurant.  That hurt me so much.

So today is a bittersweet day for me.  There is a part of me relieved that I no longer feel responsible for trying to make life worth living ( yes I know that I did not have to do this, but it is how I felt).  Then there is the other part that had so hoped that living closer to each other would mean spending more quality time together, maybe even getting to know and respect each other more as we grew older.  For this I grieve.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Breaking the Mould.

Over the last 5 years my attention has been taken away from my family.  I have literally 'forgotten' how I wanted to parent.  Did you catch the 'I wanted' there?  I have always known I needed to parent in a different way from the way I was parented.  I am now starting to realise just what this means.

Now don't get me wrong - I do not blame my parents for parenting me as they did - they did what they could with the resources and experiences they had.   The result of the parenting I received however means I am burdened down with the injunctions that they moulded me with.  The phrase that sums up my up-bringing is 'Stop Showing Off'.  The effect of those three words has been devastating.  They were said for absolutely anything I did that was in any way different from how they behaved, the words came to mean - 'Stop being you'.

I remember with horror the first time I said it to my daughter - I think she was about 7 years old.  Fortunately I had confided in my husband about this injunction and so was able to talk to him about it afterwards.  It is not until I started to have counselling however that I have realised how far this injunction and all that follows it still affect me.  With my attention elsewhere for the last 5 years (looking after mum, dad and my niece) I have sort of lost the plot with my different way of parenting.

I have happily given over a day every 14 days (over the last 6 weeks) to my niece, however I am still not giving my own children their own time with me. 

Last week, I managed to watch a movie with both of them (individually - they have very different tastes).   I love the way God knows what my hearts desire really is.  Today I was in a quandary.  I had planned to take my daughter shopping this morning, knowing I had counselling this afternoon.  However a friend asked if A would like to go for a group bike ride (something she loves) first thing.  I thought maybe we could shop in between finishing that and me going out.  While she was out though I started to think that it was all going to be too much of a rush.  As a result when she came in I gave her the choice.  Either we could go straight away or she could come and meet me in Winchester after I had finished.  She chose the later and I am so pleased she did.

It gave me chance to talk through lots of issues with my counsellor, stuff that tied me down and needed bringing out in the open so that I could really do what I wanted to do - that is SPOIL my daughter.

And so I did.  We had so much fun, shopping for a couple of hours and then going out to eat together.  Tonight I am very exhausted...............but very happy and proud of myself.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Wedding Dress.

I mentioned in my last post that I had been busy making a wedding dress for a very dear friend.  If you would like to read the story of it (in three parts) why not hop over to my Mrs Craftypants blog.  You can click on the links below for each of the posts.

The Wedding Dress - Part One
The Wedding Dress - Part Two
The Wedding Dress - Part Three

And here is a sneaky peak of the dress.