Monday, 5 October 2015

a week ago

a week ago

i left home with a bag 

i was reported as missing person

i checked into a hotel room

i wrote a few letters

i took a large overdose

and, well, I was hoping that would be it.

I was hoping for the profound.

Alas, no.

The police found me, Bean found me, the paramedics found me.*

What to say, nothing really. After almost a year I'm back to where I was. 

Anyhoo, after a few nights in hospital, I'm back at home. Home, a place I never thought I'd see again. 

I am now in a world in which Bean doesn't trust me, Bean's family and best friends really don't like me (for good reason, I keep hurting their boy), none of my friends are talking to me (because really what can you say to me and all I have to say is that I want to be dead to allow Bean to move on with his life) and the therapy to keep me alive seems altogether rather unnecessarily painful. 

I don't understand how I can suddenly decide that I don't want to be dead. In my head it is perfectly rational to want to be dead. It's all I've thought about for the past few months. I know that Bean and my family and my therapist want me to have hope but it seems so foolish. Indeed why are my thoughts not valid? Why is everyone else automatically right and I'm wrong? I understand that suicide is final but apparently "my body, my decision" doesn't work in this instance.

Therapy will continue to be hard, perhaps too hard, they want me to have hope and all I think of is death. I don't think I'm even "allowed" to hold such diametrically opposing views at the same time? How does the hope strengthen? I can't imagine thinking about anything else, especially when the words on repeat in my brain are simply, "pathetic and useless."

As an aside the day I left home a parcel arrived on our doorstep. This was inside.

Ha, The Happiness Planner. Oh the delicious irony. 

Perhaps I should use it? I think I ordered it a month ago. It asks for you to create 100 days of happiness. I've promised Bean I will not try to kill myself until at least 18th October, next weekend marks 15 years since our first kiss. Oh spin the bottle, you found me a man who is far too good for me. Far too good for me.

I do not know what I want. Truly, I wish I were dead. I wish I knew how to find hope because I know Bean wants me to stay alive. And above everything else I want Bean to be happy because when he frowns it hurts.

How do I make the jump. It's a question I keep failing. (And I fail a lot, so at least I've got consistency going for me).

Seriously, do I try to get through this therapy for a life that I've ruined? What hope do I have?**

Hmm, I just don't know. It's just such a lonely place to be. The loneliness hurts.***

*     yes I am acutely aware of how much taxpayers money I wasted in those few hours
**   purely rhetorical
*** it's entirely self imposed - I have taken to hiding in a cocoon of solitude

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Learning to love Steller

Are you in love with Steller too?

Yes, as always, I'm late to the party and for those who haven't found the joy - it's a wonderful place to share a series of images (and words). I place to create stories.

I find myself blogging in my head all the time. It's like that perfectly written email or the text you never send. The one you think you sent but never did. I want to blog but it's all a little sad in my brain right now. So Steller is perfect for me. I can create the images and then play with words. It allows me to be a mini-creative.

This is my first Steller and I have no idea if this is what happens to everyone's first Steller but it was chosen to be published into their Creative Collection and somehow made it to #11 on the most read in the last day. That makes me squee a little.

So enjoy my first, all from my day with the delightful 5ftinf, such an inspiring lady.

Are you on Steller? Obviously I'm annaandthering. Would love to see and follow you!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


10 years ago

It seems forever ago and just yesterday.

I have stark memories, 

I remember realising with a grump I'd left my phone at home.
I remember with the tannoy security announcement that London was long overdue something hideous,
I remember being late.
I remember getting off the train at Barons Court and making my way to lectures.
I remember walking to Putney Bridge and then onto Wimbledon to try and make it home. 
I remember thinking about my poor friends just starting their A&E attachment at St. Mary's in Paddington and the horrors they would (and did) face.
I remember being grateful that my lectures hadn't been at St Mary's because I could have been on the wrong train at the wrong time. I was grateful for my life.
I remember sobbing.
I remember getting back on the tube.
I remember London standing together. 

I hope we can always stand together.
I hope we never forget those who died and those who are still with us but irrevocably changed. 

We find ourselves in a world where people hide behind religion to commit atrocities. 'Twas ever thus. 

I hope that the light can fight the dark. Please stop killing each other. It's just that simple. No life is worth more than another. We are all the same person. Those who kill are not monsters. These men and women are just like me or you and that's what makes terrorism so terrorising. 

I hope for life and love. What else is there?

Friday, 26 June 2015

Beautiful and hideous

A week ago I was surrounded by people trying to laugh through tears. I was at my brother's funeral. Tonight it's my first evening on my own since his death. I've been surrounded by loved ones for the past few weeks but tonight Bean is out with his boys and I finally have a few moments alone to think without fear of upsetting anyone. My thoughts run fast and fearful. How could someone young and healthy die so quickly?

Rich's funeral wasn't meant to happen this way. We were all meant to be old with zimmer frames and urine bags strapped to our legs. Your grandchildren were meant to be singing your favourite rock song, currently in the charts as John Lewis made it into a plinky plinky Christmas ballad for their advert with two pangolins falling in love. (You were meant to go to Download this year and so I'm going with Slipknot as the writers of the song). We were meant to know how you wanted to say goodbye - did you want to be turned into a diamond or exploded as a firework? We were meant to know so much more and now the slow realisation attacks us in waves of grief. We miss you and we can never make you smile again.

On the day of his funeral, I went with Bean and his sister to the funeral directors. Of course I've seen dead bodies before. I've seen that single moment where life becomes death. I've apologised to dead patients whilst I've shone a light in their eyes and listened to their chest to ensure "life was extinct." Yet this was different. It was Richard, the guy who was just meant to be lost in a shopping centre or indulging in off-piste fun in France. He wasn't meant to be lying in a coffin. It's a cliché to say he looked peaceful but he really did. Looking like a British officer in Africa ready to shoot, albeit with film rather than a blunderbuss, and a tiny smile on his face, he looked like Richard. My brain still can't process that it was actually him lying there. I kissed his forehead and left his siblings to say goodbye.

The funeral was to be colourful yet it was with a heavy heart I put on my favourite dress, favourite hat and favourite heels. Usually, I'd been twirling but today I was trying to work out which of my mascaras were waterproof. Somehow we arrived at the crematorium and I watched as his surviving brothers and his best friend readied themselves to carry a coffin. Richard arrived in a hearse covered in flowers and my heart broke as his was carried in and his parents followed.

And then we sat to listen hear about Richard from those who knew him best. Oh my, his friends loved him so, his sister spoke such beautiful words and his mother conjured a world of Richard that made us laugh and cry. I spent most of the service looking out of the window onto the vast expanse of green, half hoping that I would see Richard walking across and tippng his pith helmet to us all.

Alas, he didn't make an appearance and I tried to concentrate on the service but the officiant sent my mind racing, I found it very difficult to listen to someone who didn't know Richard at all to speak about him. I know he was being kind and gentle and caring. He was a lovely man but I found it particularly hard to hear that Richard was now, "immune to hurt, pain and suffering," Yet that is part of life. A life that was too short a life that deserved more. I feel so selfish that my head wants me dead. I feel the pain but I'm told that happiness and joy are also possible. I guess I just wanted Rich to feel both again. 

We slowly said our goodbyes, watched the curtains close and walked away listening to Muse. 

Returning home without Richard but with him everywhere still didn't make things feel real to me. Perhaps in the coming months our grief will move into acceptance, not yet, not yet.

I did what I knew I could do, I made tea and coffee. So many people filled their home, it was truly heart-warming. From his colleagues (and flowers from his clients), to friends from his youth to best friends now, everyone learnt something new about Rich. From krav maga and cave trampolining to his love of cats (somewhat precluded by his allergies) and art deco architecture. 

As the crowd slowly thinned, the sadness washed over again. My heart is so sad. Richard, I'm so sorry if I don't make it. I'm trying but it all seems so wretchedly pointless. I'd would swap you for me, right now. There is such evil in the world right now, too many innocent people dying. We will all miss your light.

There's that pith helmet and cake for he loved the cake.

Yes his funeral was beautiful and hideous but it was only au revoir, he will always be with us.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Learning to speak in the past tense

My big brother Richard died almost two weeks ago. 

I'm not quite ready to talk about him in the past tense. I think I'll be muddling my tenses for a while. The shock is yet to wear off. I'm still expecting him to call and say he was in France skiing the whole time. Sadly, he has been identified, undergone a post mortem, his death certificate has been issued and his funeral is on Friday. Even writing those words seems ridiculous, how can he be dead at 42? 

Yesterday Bean and I travelled to Birmingham to help his parents and another brother (who arrived from the US on Sunday - poor thing is exhausted - I'm so glad he's home for Mummy hugs) start to clear Richard's flat. 

His flat was characteristically Richard - a "little" messy - but full of weird and wonderful things. Wowzer, you had some pretty cool shit. Stuff that will find a new life with family and friends. He had just bought some pretty amazing socks and it's nice that each brother could take a pair. Perhaps they'll wear them at the funeral. 

It's the little things that make up someone's life that perhaps are the hardest to see. The sauerkraut fermenting in the cupboard, the unopened birthday card from April, the unfinished Lego Architecture set, the new lava lamp and the art sitting against the wall waiting to be hung. All these things are so very Richard and every second spent in his flat was a poignant reminder of how much we've lost. The awesome son, brother, friend and uncle who brought such light in a dark world.

As we waded through the hoards of important papers we found a huge cache of ticket stubs. Oh boy, you lived a life. A life that was far too short but over the past few days his family has seen how many people were in Richard's life and want to remember him in death. He was so much more than just a guy who lived and worked in Birmingham. I hope as we continue to turn his home into piles of stuff his family remembers that his life can never be adequately summed up by few (well many!) belongings. We aren't clearing away his life, he will live on.

Since his death, sleep has been hard for me. I write this at 4am. Perhaps it's just a normal symptom, perhaps not. I've been trying (and failing) to be strong for Bean. It does pull into painful focus how it would affect him if I killed myself. Is this your gift to me Richard? To tell me that death is not the answer? That I must not squander my life, even if it feels so hopeless?

Richard's funeral is on Friday. I think this is when the shock will be taken over by overt grief. Perhaps shock is a helpful emotion to enable to making of so many decisions in a very short space of time. And those decisions from music to food to eulogies to what Richard wears in his coffin. It all matters and none of it matters. It's so important but at the same time what would matter to Richard? We all have ideas but I imagine knowing he was surrounded by his loved ones and knowing that those who cannot make the funeral are planning to hold a memorial service for him in Birmingham. Dude, you are so loved. I'm so glad that despite growing up apart (Bean's sister is 10 years older than him) that you came together as adults and were friends.

The loss of a sibling isn't really something you ever think about. Whilst you grow up understanding your parents and grandparents will die, siblings do not enter this equation. They are so very much part of you. They are the same as you save a few genetic differences. How do you even begin to say goodbye to someone who should have lived another 40 years?

Whilst I can try to comprehend Richard's death as his sister-in-law, I can't even begin to understand how hard it must feel to be present at your child's funeral. I hope his parents lean on their children and let them support them.

So to Friday. I hope to bake him a cake. I hope to support my family. I hope to celebrate a life.

Just come back from that skiing trip, Rich, we miss you.

As corny as it sounds, hug your loved ones.

(Oh and write down your passwords and hide them somewhere safe)

Friday, 12 June 2015

National Blood Donation Week


It's very important. Too little and you may find yourself gasping for breath. Too much and you are at risk of a stroke. Yeah, that important.

I'm not sure if my brother received any blood before he died but if he did it's because people are good. I wouldn't be writing this today if people didn't donate, my mother needed a blood when she was born. Yet only 4% of the population who can give blood, do give blood. They need 204,000 new donors to replace those who can no longer donate. People like me although I will hopefully be able to donate again soon.

4% of the population who can donate, do donate.

To me that's a disgrace. And why do people not donate?

Scared? Too busy? Nothing to do with me? Forgetfulness?

What's your excuse?

You know what's scarier and more painful?

Being hit by a bus, receiving treatment for blood cancer, haemorrhaging after giving birth, dying. 

I know the session times can be a little annoying and that you sometimes have to wait a while but why not resolve to take a day off work each year, perhaps go shopping in the morning, treat yourself to a delicious lunch and then go and do something amazing. 

In a former life I learnt about the power of blood. I learnt it's "mystical" properties and I've seen it literally breathe life into the dying and bring people back from the brink. It is truly a very precious gift. I know to call it a gift seems to rather exaggerate the significance but it is so very important.

So donation. I imagine that for many of you this is the major barrier against donation so let me demystify you.

1. You arrive and fill in a health questionnaire to ensure there is no reason you cannot give blood. If you are unsure a nurse or doctor will have a quick chat with you.
2. You have a pin prick test to ensure you have plenty of haemaglobin (the part of blood which carries the oxygen) because if you run a little low normally it's not a good idea to take more! (If you really want to give blood, try eating red things form tomatoes to steaks!
3. You get to lie down on the rather comfy seats (well they are rather comfy at the West End Donation Centre!)
4. A blood pressure cuff is pumped up and yours veins are examined for the best one.
5. When one is found it's go time! The needle, which is only slightly larger than the one used to take blood for a blood test is gently inserted. Trust me when I say it is gentle. These are nice big veins and you hardly feel a thing. 
6. You sit for around 10 minutes, gently opening and closing your fist to keep the blood flowing
7. The needle is removed, a lovely plaster is applied and you lie quietly for a couple of minutes.
8. Time for tea and biscuits. Whoop.
9. Take it easy and feel like a good person

Please know that your blood is treasured. Whether it is given to a patient in dire need or to incredibly clever scientists and doctors. It is just so important. I cannot implore you to give blood any more. Although I have been known to bully people into giving blood so if I see you in the near future....

Perhaps if you are a little nervous pop in with a friend. A little hand holding and cuddles afterwards. It is good for the soul. Or if you fancy donating in a few weeks time I would happily come with you. How about we all go together? We can go for virgin cocktails afterwards. Ooo now that's a plan.

If you’re physically able to give blood do please try to make time, it can literally make you a lifesaver. We would love it if donating blood became a regular habit for you, something that is done on a regular basis without giving it a second thought. If you can’t donate then please continue this campaign by asking all those you know who can to make an appointment – ask them to do it now… today, not when they get round to it. 

If you feel that you are ready to donate blood, please go to the Give Blood website to find your nearest blood donor session. I have an amazing friend Nikki (who creates rather sweet stationery with Tickled Pink) who donates every month. If she can do it once a month, you can do it once a year.

The blood service put it best, 
"You won’t miss it when you give it; but patients could miss it if you don’t. Do something amazing and save or improve up to three lives by giving blood."

Go on do something amazing. Please.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Goodbye Richard

Richard! James! Stuart! Thomas! was always the call from downstairs at my in-laws home. My mother in law definitely wanted to speak to one of her boys but it always took her a few goes before she got to the right one. I guess that's what happens when you have five children. Indeed I often found myself referred to as one of the boys. My sister-in-law usually escapes the boy label. However, it becomes second nature to answer the call after a while. 

Sadly, one of her boys died last week. Most people would write, lost, at this point. For me, I think because I was a doctor, in another life, I find euphemisms for death upsetting. I don't think they lessen the blow, I think they confuse and don't honour the dead. 

Yes, Richard died last week. It still doesn't feel real. I imagine it won't for some time. He died suddenly and without his family. We were arriving en masse to his parents' house to celebrate his brother's 40th birthday. I truly hope there was, a caring nurse or medical student, someone with him holding his hand in his final moments. I'm sure we'll never know but I have to believe people were caring for him when we could not.

I first caught sight of him in my first term at University. He came down to see how his little brother was coping in the big city (it was certainly a big change for Bean!) and they went to the Millennium Dome and the human body exhibition. Whilst Bean and I were an item, I'm sure I was far too much of a scaredy cat to actually meet him. "What happens if he doesn't like me?!?"

It probably wasn't until Christmas of 2001 when I met him properly. I have no recollection of our first meeting (I was mostly drunk because I was so nervous!). I guess he always seemed like he was a bit too mature for my silliness. How wrong was I!

Luckily, for me, over the years I saw him more and more. He truly became the older brother I'd always wanted, he wanted to protect me from my ills but he also made sure I was in my place by teasing me relentlessly. I hope he saw me as the little sister he never had the pleasure of menacing as a child.

Some of my favourite memories of my wedding are with him centre stage. He was a trooper on the day and I really never thanked him enough. I guess you never can. I don’t believe in heaven and I’m not at all spiritual but I hope he is at rest (oh, he could sleep anywhere) or tucked up with his Economist and some ridiculous cat videos. I can hear him chortling away now.

Over the past few months it’s been incredibly hard for Bean and me. All of Bean’s family have been unbelievably amazing but Richard was always the first to send me a message, the most hideous flowers (it was like he was ordering from a blind florist!) and the tackiest trinkets. He knew how to make me smile when no-one else could and whether that were by luck or design I’m so sad I will never be able to return the kindness. Or at least recycle some of his hideous gifts. I have resolved raise a glass to him every year on his birthday in one of the ugliest glasses in world. Thank you Richard, now I can never throw it away, you utter beast!

I last saw him at the start of May for Bean’s birthday. He was full of smiles. He’d just been to the trampolining caves in North Wales. That was Richard, always doing the weirdest and awesomest things. While most people exist, he lived. It’s such a cliche but he did so much, explored the world. His passport must be full. His facebook was a gallery of joy. His life was joyful. He had wonderful friends and a family who loved him so dearly.

I think only family can truly tease each other without malice and how I used to tease him about his crazy choice of a dishwasher over a washing machine. Why, Richard, why?! He loved to tease me about becoming a crazy cat lady. Hardly a stretch of the imagination! He added something special to my life. I’m grateful he introduced me to Punchdrunk, that he tolerated my drunken singing (for a bit) and my clumsy attempts at setting him up with girls and that if a corny pun was needed that he was on hand to serve it.

He was and always will be one of the dweebiest, silliest, clever men I will ever know. He knew and had an opinion about everything. I will never win an argument against him. People think Bean is bright, Richard was in another league. Whilst I giggled at cat pictures, he examined the world. Perhaps that will be a little legacy to me. I will try and look outside my computer once in a while. Breathe in the world he observed so clearly.

Grief is relatively involuntary and methodical although it affects everyone at different speeds. At present I can’t get past the thought that he will never be a father. It breaks my weak heart. His children, oh my, they would have been so loved, so wise and a little bit weird. I guess we are all mourning the loss of a future. A future that was meant to be so bright.

Whilst I'm not sure if Bean and I will ever have children and I'm not sure whether we will name any Richard or Richardetta (he would have loved that!) I am sure they will know their Uncle Rich, he will smile down at them from our walls and our hearts.

He was one of life’s good guys. Oh how we need the good guys. Most of you will never have met him but without him the world is a little bit more dark. However, as Banksy (of all people) says, 
“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”
And I know that his name will be called again by his mother, calling all her boys together. I hope she always mistakes them for Richard so he's never far away. It may bring tears but his memory will also always bring a smile. 

I love you. I miss you. I will try and look after your brother for you. I promise.

Sleep well my darling xxx

Thursday, 7 May 2015


Please vote. 

Amazing women gave their lives for us. It seems reckless to not exercise the rights for which they fought so very hard. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

What to say, when you don't know what to say. 13 helpful things you can do for you friend who is suffering from a mental illness

We all know someone diagnosed with a mental illness. Indeed I imagine for every friend known to be suffering there will be at least one other all alone with their illness. As someone who knows that a number of my friends are dealing with mental health issues, I know I find it hard to reach out and try and help.

However as one of those friends who is suffering from mental ill health I know how important it is to have someone make the effort to reach out and just say hello. It sounds like it should be easy but I can understand you reticence. Will I say the wrong thing? Will I make things worse? Will they think I'm ignoring their issues by just talking about my day? The list is endless. However, never forget the power of just asking, "how are you today?"

So do you want to know a big secret? We actually like the same things as someone who isn't mentally ill. I know, right, this is huge!

I know, I know, I'm making light of a pretty serious situation but perhaps the one thing I want over anything now that I've come out of my mental ill health closet is to be treated as an equal. An equal, who may have persistent thoughts of suicide yes, but also wants to be treated like they are normal too. 

It sounds counter-intuitive, I totally understand. However, whether you feel all along in your mental illness or like me are in a locked psychiatric ward it is "normality" we crave. It's not fun being on a psychiatric ward, it's the opposite of normal. 

So I thought I would put together a little list of things I know I would appreciate whilst in hospital (and I'm hoping others would too!)

Remember there are endless restrictions on psych wards. Oh how I miss my hairdryer and tweezers! The rules are important, so please don't try and outwit the nursing team by bringing in contraband items. The rules are there to protect and staff and patients. Different wards will have different rules especially psychiatric intensive care units.

Let's start small remembering that the smallest kindness means a great deal when you feel abandoned. I'm going to talk as if you were sending me your love because linguistically it sounds much nicer! (And of course I'm fishing for love!)

1. Text message - just a note to say you're thinking of me means the world. Those sweet little words just feel so nice especially when you can look back at your support on a dark night. As with everything else I'm going to mention today, please don't expect a speedy reply or even a reply. Unsurprisingly words don't always come so easily, especially if you're known for being relatively humourous and erudite - I should listen to my earlier advice!

2. Emails - I've received some rather lovely emails whilst I've been in hospital They are are most welcomed. However, not everyone will be allowed to use their laptop or phone. Indeed even if they can data allowances are burnt through in minutes (or perhaps that's just me - stop watching TED talks you idiot!). Chargers are also an issue so patients will not usually be allowed to keep any wires in their room, so again, response times will be slow!

3. Phone calls - I've kept in touch with my darling Grandmamma this way. Only for her to tell me she thought it would be a good idea to get the bus home from hospital instead of bothering patient transport after a trip to physiotherapy and she promptly fell over. Oh she is a tough old bird, silly but tough. Anyhoo, there is nothing better than someone else moaning about their issues and asking if you had any thoughts about how to help them. Again, normality, being asked to help with someone else's problem feels good, even if you can't offer anything. 

4 Trashy or not so trashy magazines (and I would say cigarettes too but my public health training forbids me!) - they are almost used as currency on the ward. Anything to ingratiate yourself to your fellow patients. It makes for an easier ride. In my last stay I've not been allowed out without Bean and so I've had limited means of bringing in the trash!

5. Pretty cards - they are always so pretty. Indeed this post was somewhat inspired by the clever and thoughtful empathy cards from Emily McDowell. They say what you might find it difficult to say. Perfect aren't they.

It's probably best if you send a card to home rather than the hospital (assuming there is someone who can bring it to them). Just a few words of encouragement or just general chit chat is lovely to read. I truly adore the sweet cards I've been sent. Seeing them on my bedside table makes the day just seem a little brighter. They ooze love. Oh and if you have a friend with cancer there are some perfect cards for that too.

6. Music - my lovely friend sent me Taylor Swift's new(ish) album. You certainly don't want to be sending people Massive Attack! Happy upbeat music all the way. Even my Grandmamma's toy boy (he's not that young really but he is lovely) sent me some music on "the iTunes," what more could you possibly want!

7. Books - send a book you love - perhaps nothing too heavy or preachy. Obviously you can send life-changing books but please don't expect me to read them. My concentration is hideous and whilst I'd love to read Thomas Pinchon I'm more likely to appreciate Hyperbole and a Half's - Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened which Bean bought for me last year or perhaps Cat Lady Chic which I happened upon in Waterstones this afternoon trying to hide from the rain.

8. Beauty joys - hello indulgent hand cream or perhaps the odd temporary tattoo so you can forget, just for moment that you're stuck on a locked psychiatric ward and you're just treating yourself to a little luxury. I have enjoyed playing with temporary tattoos from Rifle Paper Co and again from Emily McDowell. They just add a little fun and whimsy to my day. I find that if you can stimulate your scent memory bank you can transport yourself to another world. Indeed I have a handkerchief from our wedding which I've sprayed with Bean's wedding cologne and I find it so soothing, especially when the ward is noisy and unsettled.

9. Lovely noms - oh yeses, hospital food is hideous. So hideous. I'm lucky that Bean can bring me home, most nights, so I can make a salad to take back with me. However not everyone is so lucky. There is a distinct lack of fruit and veg and when the odd piece of fruit finds its way into the communal area you can guarantee that one person will try and take it all. Oh to have strawberries! I'm also very lucky that I have friends who bake me cakes. Much appreciated. 

10. Flowers - I'm never going to turn down flowers, it is the thought that truly counts. However can the snob in me just wants to insist that you move away from the evils of Interflora. If you want to send cheap flowers Bloom and Wild always have little discount and their flowers are great! Although avoid lilies. I really associate them with death and their pungent fragrance gives me a headache! In my time as a patient I've enjoyed a bouquet or two, but even if you could bring a few bluebells or muscari from your garden (well that's what's in our garden right now along with wild garlic - whoop!), that would be perfection. Again it truly is the thought that counts. 

11. A balloon - I adore these giant balloons with the amazing fringing. I can't help myself. I know they are ridiculous but sometimes the absurd is what you need! I have no idea is Bean reads my blog but ahem, cough, cough, splutter. Perhaps more suited to when your friend is back at home and feeling hopeful because the strings and helium aren't really suicide watch friendly.

12. Visiting the hospital - Hugs are always wanted we're not infectious. The sense of touch is incredibly important, to feel connected to another person is vital to ground you in the moment. However, please don't be upset if you're not invited to hospital. It's different from a normal hospital ward. My own covert and overt stigma about mental illness means that I am afraid of my two worlds mixing. The world where I'm Anna and the world where I'm a psychiatric patient. I fear that it might be hard to be seen as just Anna when I've allowed friends to look into the abyss. 

Perhaps I'm too wary, if you are invited for hugs, hold your friend close. It truly is a wonderful feeling to be accepted no matter your ills.

Finally, 13, its unlucky for those closest to the patient. Keep in touch with spouses and partners - Please don't forget their nearest and dearest are probably struggling too. Whilst being a patient is incredibly hard it is important to recognise and support spouses. I feel Bean's worry and stress. He acts as the messenger and holds my hope that things will get better but he also experiences and absorbs my distress. I'm very lucky he has a wonderful support network but every time I talk about myself on facebook I make a little plea that Bean needs chocolate and hugs. 

Crumbs this has been a long post. I guess what I'm trying to say is that you obviously don't need to do every little (or quite big) thing I've suggested. It's about finding what you are comfortable with and caring about someone you love who's not having a great time right now.

It all boils down to love and hope. You can't do anything more for us, as much as I would love you to banish my evil thoughts forever, it's just not going to happen. We hopefully have the therapy and the medication we need to do that. What I crave for is a few moments in the day where I can smile or feel loved. 

So, if you ever go through something similar I hope that I could hold onto your hope and make you smile for just a moment. Because moments turn into minutes, minutes turn into hours, hours turn into days and days turn into forever. And that's all we can hope for, a future.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Oh it's Banked.

Oh the last 4 days have been truly wonderful. The weather has been beautiful. My heart has been filled with joy.

The past week had been terrible. I was on lockdown and unable to leave the hospital during the day. Only Bean could bust me out in the evening. Oh those hours dragged with only the occasional punctuation of ceramic fun. Sure, I'm useless at it but I do find it relaxing and I don't particularly care that I'm rubbish. (Which is a big step for me!)

Indeed there is a certain zen like quality I've discovered, akin to a moment where you cannot be disturbed and in that moment you are focussing on something outside yourself. The voices calm down and Magic FM pervades. Indeed it was the ceramic-like silence I yearned for each day as the ward inexorably moved to a crescendo with the staff seemingly unable (or not wanting) to control the most vocal of patients. My head, felt as if it were in a vice and I found myself taking paracetamol not as a way to die, but as a way to live. 

So as Friday arrived I sat on my hospital bed waiting to be seen in ward round. Yet it wasn't until 6 pm I was seen. (Top tip psych team, perhaps start your ward round at 9am like alllll the other doctors) After waiting and waiting. I took to standing in the corridor, alternating between making one of the old ladies tea and walking to the smoking cage (not actually on fire) to practise my zen breathing whilst feeling like Hannibal Lecter. 

When my time finally came and made my impassioned plea. Yes I lied to get out of hospital just a week ago but not even in my darkest hour would I try to kill myself on the weekend of my husband's birthday that would be pretty poor form. I wanted to support my husband, for a change. I wanted my husband to enjoy his weekend. I wanted my husband to have a drink on his birthday. I wanted to have sex with him and I wanted to sleep in my own bed. I wanted to be outside. I wanted to feel the sun on my skin. I wanted to wear nice clothes. I wanted to cuddle my foster family. I wanted to bake and cook lovely things for his party. I wanted to see my wonderful brothers. I wanted to see my pregnant friends (one delivered this morning squeeeee!). I wanted to raise a glass (and take but a sip) of champagne to my two friends who recently got engaged. I wanted to feel as if I had a life. I wanted to feel normal.

I know, I wanted a lot. I know they see me as a flight risk. I understand why it is difficult for them to trust me. So I was incredibly happy when after much discussion I was allowed home. Allowed home to be a wife to my husband. I was allowed to feel normal. It was a magical feeling.

So Saturday arrived and I had slept in my own bed and my head was filled with happiness and not pain. The magical feeling continued. We somewhat broke protocol as Bean allowed me to go out on my own. With his stern warning that it would not be cool to kill myself ringing in my ears, I inhaled freedom. I was so glad he chose to trust me because it meant I could attend the brush calligraphy with Quill London with the amazing tutors Emma Block and Teri Muncey of The Lovely Drawer.

The sun was shining, I felt happy and perhaps a little pretty. I was a ridiculous cliché. I felt as if I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale. I danced all the way home. I danced home for husband cuddles and an amazing dinner. You see, last year the husband made a BBQ smoker which is amazing! A 45 gallon drum of joy. The meat is slowly cooked but also infused with a delicious smokiness. Oh it is amazing. If you can get an invite to eat his amazing meat I suggest you take him up on it. My favourite is roast chicken but he's also dabbled in ribs, brisket and pulled pork. So for his first of the season he went with chicken. Oh lordy, it's perfection. 

After filling myself to the brim on amazing chicken and losing the wishbone contest I embarked upon creating his birthday cake. 3 hours later, it was 1am and I wanted to cry. I'd finished creating a monster. A monster 6 layer cake with an attempt at rosette icing. I only realised at 11pm that the icing nozzle I needed wasn't in my box of tricks. Ah well. However, I am covered in purple. The purple being swiss meringue buttercream. I retired to bed, hoping that I didn't turn our sheets purple (after a rather lame attempt to de-purple) and that the cake will be vaguely edible the next day.

After another blissful night's sleep it was time to make the house ready for a Bean Party. The husband dealt with all the meat. Oh so much meat. The smoker was full. Oh the joy! Balloons were blown up and tied out side and the sun kindly came out as the first guests arrived at 4pm and stayed in the air until wind told us to hide inside.

I was so happy to see my big boy's face when he blew out his candles and that we got to toast to two of our newly engaged friends. The cake was welcomed by all and looked pretty pimp on a plate! It was a day full of laughter and love and meat and bourbon and trifle and cake. What more could you want? We went to bed exhausted but seriously happy campers.

(Oh and if you want your friends to throwdown I suggest you make salted caramel rice krispie treats. Seriously, it was a good job I held some back. Bitches and man bitches love that shit. They are crazy addictive! I'm a bit scared to share the recipe! I might once the wounds have healed.)

Monday was our day of rest. We snuggled with the kittens and barely moved. It was truly wonderful.

And now we arrive at Tuesday. Last night I declared on instagram* that I had felt it was a turning point moment. (See I can't stop with the clichés). I hadn't felt so happy, so content, so smiley for so very long. I truly hope this is the start of a new journey. I was meant to return to hospital today but I stayed away and said I would return after voting on Thursday evening. I just couldn't face entering the maelstrom after such a relaxing weekend. 

I guess I need to take that first step. It's incredibly scary and the voices are still loud but love can conquer all right. I often think about the words, "if loved could have saved you, you would have lived forever." Perhaps love could save me? Perhaps? Perhaps? Perhaps?

*come along and follow my rather imperfect life albeit with all the colour already - @annaandthering

Friday, 1 May 2015

Love is...fostering cats!

I’m going to have to break the stationery mould today. I can’t contain my excitement much longer. I guess I could combine it with my instagram which has been inspired by the wonderfully inspring Susannah Conway with the hashtag of AprillLove2015 this month. The last prompt yesterday was “Love is..”

Apart from Bean and stationery I do love one other thing. Cats.

Last weekend we adopted a new brood with their mother. When the last one flies the coop, they will be the 42nd cat we’ve fostered. We started working with HAWS – Hounslow Animal Welfare Society and since Bert we’ve fostered from Celia Hammond in Lewisham. Don’t think for a second we think this is altruistic, we are fully aware of how lucky we are to look after all our monsters!

I thought I would try and share a picture of each one to walk down memory lane. They have all been pretty marvellous but have also brought us to tears too.

Tula. Our first and she was a bit damaged, poor thing. She has babies before she was a year old and all she wanted to do was play, especially at 4 o’clock in the morning. She loved to played fetch and her favourite fetching toy was a piece a piece of string called Peter Stringfellow. 

Florence and the Machine (or Dorothy if you’d prefer). These were the cats we fostered before and after our wedding. They were little sneaky monsters. The stole anything tasty from the meat nappy (you know what I mean, the weird material at the bottom of a steak) to all the nibbles. Once they has liberated the treats they would growl wonderfully if we tried to take it away from them. The little scallywags.

Monty and Bunny. Bean’s favourite, well Bean was Monty’s favourite. He could have taken him in a papoose to work with him. Monty was a cutie that waited for Bean to come home and run to him when he saw him walking to the front door. Bunny on the other hand was slightly more regal, content with the odd cuddle. She just seemed rather fancy. 

Phoebe and Rae (although Bean will contest that these are not their names) We hadn’t has the pleasure of a long haired kitten before and she knew she was pretty. Where Rae was so affectionate, Phoebe would just haughtily look down on you. Unsurprisingly after 5 hours of them on the adoption website they were adopted and on their way to their new home.

Bert. Oh Bert, he was a long term foster. We knew he probably wouldn’t make it to the end of the year but we gave him a good last summer. He was our boy. When he first arrived he was so tired, he had to have his food bowl right next to him and he still didn’t really want to eat. This all changed when I sat next to him eating a large prawn or two. His jaw dropped and bewitched me into giving him most of my dinner. As he gained strength we allowed him to go outside a little bit. He loved sitting outside. I’m so happy that he was so happy. On the day he went to sleep, (I’m convinced he knew what was about to happen). I watched him sit in the garden saying goodbye to his domain. I will always miss Bert, he was a clever, silly, gentle and loving cat.

The Ferals! Callum, Georgina, Ben, Brooklyn and Barrett (We did not name them!) Oh my this was a eye opening experience. Kittens need to be socialised at an early age to stop them becoming “unhandleable” (that’s a word right?!). They needed to live in a cage whilst they were with us so there was some chance of us handling them. Two of the little ones were perfectly fine being picked up, the biggest didn’t mind so much but hated that he had to be put back in the cage. The last two, the two tabbies, they were another story. They would let us pet them but picking them up was somewhat fraught and I still have to scars to prove it. I’m so glad they all found a home I was incredibly worried that they might be unadoptable but luckily two lovely families took them into their hearts.

The Flowers were not named by us! Primrose was the mummy with one boy, Crocus and 5 girls Rosie, Violet, Tulip, Poppy and Pansy. This was our biggest and youngest litter so far but luckily Primrose was obviously an old hand at all this kitten rearing malarkey and they were no trouble at all. Well no trouble is probably a bold statement, they were lovely naughty kittens. They never all slept at the same time so there were always paws thundering around. They also knew how to hide incredibly effectively, so much so we had to tack a sheet under the sofa bed they had to play on because they kept hiding inside. Sneaky monkeys! They were so cute though!

Dave, her three girls Amy, Holly and Dora and her boy Grey. Mamma was called Dave by the people who used to see her every so often and they assumed she was a boy. Dave was so stressed when she arrived. Her three girls were a good size but her boy was tiny and sadly he passed away the next day. I buried him with the peacock feather he would have played with. At least he didn’t suffer. Dave was a bit of a silly mummy. She was obviously a pet at some point because, even if she was being suckled, if you caught her eye, she would fly up, milk going everywhere, to get a cuddle. Really lovely mummy and kittens. My father loved Dave and he is a complete cat racist – it’s black or it’s not a cat. So this tabby beauty had many admirers!

Agatha and Beetle. These two were so special. We hadn’t looked after older cats since Bert and these two were super special and gorgeous. Beetle the Black had the softest fur you ever did touch. She also had the rather charming quirk of coming to bed and sleeping under the covers with you she had kept her claws to herself it would have been perfect. When I tried to hurt myself the first time she came to bed with me and held her paw over my wrist as If to protect me. Agatha the Fluffy was an epic cat, she had some mistrust of tall men (sorry Bean) but she was rather affectionate with me. She would come onto the bed to try and wake me up by licking my face, bleurgh! But she let me cuddle her and her fluffiness so it wasn’t all bad, at all! Her eyes were enthralling, I’ve never seen such large eyes on a cat. It’s a shame we could keep these two ladies, I would have loved to have kept them forever.

The Octet. Pixie, Steve, Boris, Humphrey, Minnie, Iris, Lenny, Chloe and Emmy. When we were told there was a litter of eight to deal with my first reaction was “yes, yes, yes all the kittens” Luckily Bean agreed. This was certainly our biggest challenge yet. Mum, Pixie was a sweetie and she was very good at tracking who had eaten or not. That’s not to say there weren’t a few tears. 8 kittens learning to eat and litter train at the same time was somewhat overwhelming at time and I might have shed a tear or two. Happily they managed to get the hang of things pretty quickly although as the picture of Chloe shows, learning to eat is a messy business! I know you’re not meant to have favourites but Steve was the perfect boy, Humphrey the ginger loved to bunny hop with his fuzzy bottom and Iris was a beautiful black fluffball who loved to cuddle. I miss them so!

And currently, Lexie and her 3 boys and 2 girls (I think – I’ll have to check again when we weigh them on Sunday at 3 weeks). Oh my these are the youngest kittens we’ve had. Oh my, they are adorable. We are yet to name the kittens, perhaps you might be able to suggest a sweet name or two?

They are rather cute!!!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Election Time

Hello stationery lovers,

I know this seems like a strange direction for my blog to go considering my previous posts. However I’m hoping that indulging my previous joys might ignite a tiny flame of hope. So my blog shall be eclectic, serious and on occasion I shall try to amuse you. “Do I amuse you?”

With the election just a few days away I thought it would be interesting to talk about the different flyers which have made their onto my doormat. In my constituency there are 5 candidates vying for my vote.

Now Bean has received all of the 5 flyers from the Labour, UKIP, Green, Liberal Democrat and Conservative camps. However I fear a little racial profiling has affected my personally addressed flyers. It appears my rather Polish surname means that I am not courted by UKIP. Oh the sadness!

Alas the flyers are just rubbish. 

Empty promises which aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. They bang on about their accountability, what utter dross. I’m not sure why they even bother canvassing, it’s like they think we live in a democracy! Our political parties (save the racist ones) are all incredibly middle of the road, they morph into one entity, coalition or not. The new government will try to do their best and the shadow cabinet will simply take over the role of the critic. I never understand why they can’t just work towards a common good.

Nothing they say pre-election means anything save an attempt to win votes. It’s meaningless. I don’t understand why people are surprised when they renege on their “promises.” 

I do, to some extent, understand voter apathy, especially if you live in a safe seat. Perhaps our votes don’t matter at all. We can’t choose our Prime Minister, PMQs appear to be the only place where we can raise important issues via our MPs and we are not consulted when major changes are at stake. The humble proletariat sits in silence. Oh yes we try to change things with our petitions, I can imagine how they chortle at those!

I digress, I don’t really understand the current attempts at wooing the voters (oh lordy that pink bus!). I don’t actually care whether my Prime Minister is married or not. Whether his (or her) skin is blemish free or he eats a bacon sandwich with gusto. I want dull government ministers. I don’t want them to be “cool.” I want them to sit at their desk, acknowledge they don’t know everything, listen to their, supposedly impartial, advisors and work bloody hard to try and do something about the aching social inequality in this country. No-one is asking the rich to fall; we are asking that the poor rise.

So with a week to go in perhaps the most noisy election build-up in the UK’s history will you be marking a cross or will you be staying at home?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Dear Diary

When I think of a future I can’t see very far, perhaps not even into tomorrow. I find myself leading this dichotomous life. One which is trying to perceive a future with moments the old me would have loved. The other, perhaps stronger, part wishes for a quick and easy death. I’m not sure which I’m afraid of more. The living or the dying. It was suggested that starting a diary might be helpful.

I’ve tried to start a diary many times. My first was when I was 13 years old, it was a Forever Friends diary. I started each entry with “Dear Tori,” for no apparent reason, perhaps it stemmed from my social awkwardness. I don’t think I was friendless but I certainly wasn’t drowning either. If my biographer is reading, I can send it to you so you can accurately document my youth, however if I remember correctly it mainly detailed my class schedule, so if you want to know whether French was before Geography, it will be perfect. Emotional insights were largely lacking! (I can’t actually send it to you, I’m pretty sure it perished in the house fire)

Obviously, I can’t just write in a normal diary, I need to find a beautiful one. So say hello to my rather tenuous link to National Stationery Week . I’ve tried to write in a one line a day diary, with enough space to write in for 5 years but it seems a bit too much. I’m not even sure I have enough words for every day.

A couple of years ago I purchased a deliciously beautiful leather diary with gold edging. I had it blind embossed with a rather twee saying.. Oh it’s so pretty. I do rather love Noble Macmillan’s leatherness it feels so right in my hands. Oh to have volumes and volumes of their albums on m bookcase. The words started to flow last year yet it felt still as if I were that angsty 13 year old all over again. Whilst my calligraphy is hideous, in certain pens I do enjoy my handwriting. 

I need to decide whether I am actually helping or hindering myself by attempting to make sense of my situation. Does it just intensify my emotions rather than weaken them? Is there a simple value in writing the words in the moment and allowing them to be discarded on the page, never to be read again.

Oh I know I overanalyse, but what else is there to do when confined to a hospital? Are you an avid diarist? Would it help to read the words of a great diarist to know whether it is a helpful outlet. To be clear I’m obviously not thinking my diary will contain the words of my generation. (My generation has been and gone, we only have youth to save us). What inspires you to make a active choice in documenting your life?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Stationery Inertia

Hello stationery lovers,

I know this seems like a strange direction for my blog to go considering my previous posts. However I’m hoping that indulging my previous joys might ignite a tiny flame of hope. So my blog shall be eclectic, serious and on occasion I shall try to amuse you. “Do I amuse you?”

So what to talk about today?

I’m in the midst of trying write thank you letters to all the people who have been so kind over the past few months. I’m incredibly lucky that the kindness I’ve been shown will bump up Royal Mail’s share price. Yet, however hard it is to write the words I want to say, I have another slight problem which I hope I share with you all.

Stationery is just too pretty to be soiled by my scratchy hand. I try to practise my calligraphy but I fear I’m no further than when I was but 7 years old. I’m sure my handwriting was a cause for concern from a young age because I didn’t migrate to a fountain pen very quickly. The mark of someone who’s mastered their handwriting. See exhibit A

Although I do love that I start the letter to Santa with Dear Sir/Madam!

I adore beautiful handwriting and over the years I’ve tried to improve mine. Indeed I can “embroider” (I’m not really sure what I did was embroidery but I did enjoy making the little bits for my bridesmaids). I’ve also tried my hand at using lights to make the pretties but my hand seems unable to stay in the correct plane or flow with any theatricality. The best advice I’ve been given is to not think of it as handwriting. It is an art, each letter a masterpiece which happens to connect to another. I guess I’m just that impatient in-patient still!

This weekend I’m (hopefully) attending a brush calligraphy workshop with Quill London. Trying to find the bravery (that’s the wrong word I’m not brave in the slightest), hmm the vitality (that seems a better choice it truly is the opposite of depression) to expend the energy of appearing “normal” and trying to learn a new skill in a group of seemingly rather together women is a little scary for me right now. 

I understand that these other women have their own story to tell and perhaps I shall meet someone who might help with my calligraphy or perhaps with my hope. I know I need to stop hiding away from my friends, perhaps this will give me the right energy to say thank you and put pen to beautiful paper.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Merry National Stationery Week

So perhaps I should try and write something happier today. Perhaps I should set myself the target of writing every day, well it is National Stationery Week. I don’t know where the deep seated desire of most women to covet and own all the pretty stationery arises from. Is it a throwback to a time where writing letters and diaries were our sole means of expressing ourselves both publically and privately? Is it beauty of a handwritten letter which seems to fall far more gracefully through the letterbox? Or perhaps it’s because stationery of this lifetime is so damn beautiful.

I thought I would share a few of my favourites and why they are so wonderful.

Firstly Papermash, if you haven’t perused their wonderful wares you are missing out. For years I have been buying supplies from this site. It is curated by the incredibly talented Lynne and she combines beauty with a certain playfulness which doesn’t feel childish. It’s great for cute party accessories and every time I have a sneaky peek I yearn for something new, usually Rifle Paper Co related. *sigh*

Moving onto Meri Meri, you’ll have seen their pretty perfect Christmas decorations and if you visited me over Christmas you will have seen the pretties hanging from every available space. I love their unashamed silliness and don’t tell Bean but a few little surprises will hopefully arrive before his birthday next week.

My latest swoon is Quill London, hello beautiful Kate Spade goodies. Seriously, I wish I didn’t like Kate Spade so very much. She is going to bankrupt me. Indeed Quill London has a far better selection than the Kate Spade website and the shops in London (trust me, I’ve looked!) The other wonderful bonus is that they run calligraphy workshops. I’ve been to the beginner’s workshop which proved I am dreadful at calligraphy but that I still love to try. Maybe I’ll see you at a session in the near future?

When I sit and try to think of the right words to describe Cutture, I write a sentence and realise it’s just not enough. I can’t seem to avoid clichés. Their work is phenomenal. They make my eyes happy. To be given their work is close to holding the Holy Grail whilst in Shangri-La sipping vintage champagne. See, all of the clichés.

Yet I must mention there beautiful wares. The beautiful papercuts make me want to get married again, turn 40 in fabulous style and have all the babies.

Just look!

So to sleep for me. More stationery fun tomorrow! Would love to hear about your favourite places.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Postcards from the psych ward

So hello, time for a (hopefully not permanent spot), a postcard from the psych ward.

The ward right now is particularly volatile there are 5 patients who I find a little scary because they are so unpredictable. One moment they are flirting with the nurses (oh in psych there are far more male nurses) and the next they are screaming as if they were begging for their lives. Oh and the swearing is class A, epic. I’ve never heard an old lady use the c-word so much and I’m very use to having patients swear at me.

The on-call doctor has almost been camping on our ward over the weekend. Usually you wouldn’t see the doctor, they’re far too busy in A&E but these past few days it’s been so out of control there have been more staff on the ward than ever. (In my limited-ish experience).

The screams continue, the manipulative demands persist. There is no rest for even the non-wicked. I feel for the nursing team, they really are trying and I understand mental illness is incredibly difficult to control especially on an acute ward where patients are suffering from psychosis.

It’s just it's very hard to be a patient too. If you’re not screaming or trying to harm yourself, it’s likely that you can hide away and not talk to anyone. It’s very easy to be forgotten and when you know one patient has to watched by three staff at any one time, it does make you feel as if you invisible and voiceless. It often feels as if the needs of the few very much outweigh the many. Nevertheless I’m in this locked ward for a reason but the therapeutic atmosphere is somewhat lacking.

So I guess you look toward other patients for support. Supporting each other seems like a good premise. Yet you really know nothing about the other patients. You assume that they aren’t mass murderers and thus I presume they are the same as me. Broken but trying to look for some hope.

However, I never know if on the ward you’re meant to form alliances or acquaintances. Always. there are the odd surreptitious eyebrow movement or the sly half smile which signifies the unspoken, “yeah we have issues but man that lady is proper insane and I really wish she wasn’t on my ward because I want to sleep.” Yet I find it difficult to talk completely candidly about myself and my life. 

I find it invasive when people just come up to me and ask for my life story. I politely move them on. It’s bad enough I’m in here I don’t want to drag my poor family in here too. I’m as nosy as the next person but I tend to wait for someone to start talking about themselves before I launch into a torrent of questions.

So I shall sit in my room this evening, I’m snobbish enough not to want to sit and watch Britain’s Got Talent which is blaring from the tv, perhaps I shall watch the last Poirot. Although I’m not sure my heart is strong enough just yet. I always envisioned I would be in a boutique hotel next to a roaring fire in a club chair with a non-lit pipe when I watched Curtain. It’s not quite like that here. 

I'm not sure why I am writing about being on the ward, perhaps it is simply cathartic for me? Or perhaps I want to share my experiences for those in a similar position. Perhaps I just want to write something? I'm not sure.

So I shall take my leave and wish you a goodnight. I can only hope the alarms do not ring all night long. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

A happy ending?

Previously I spoke about how I was about to say goodbye to my psychotherapist for the last time.
A month later I still find myself wishing his contract could have been renewed. I'm sure he's moved into an exciting new role but I miss him. I miss his quiet kindness and the way he reflected and helped ease my distress.

I bought him a little present to say thank you and I googled the words I wanted to write, (I wanted to check I wasn't quoting a hideous song or book). Thankfully I found I wasn't spouting anything too ugly but one of the search results asked if patients received false hope from their therapists. It's nice to be tickled by google.

And so the morning arrived. I said hello for the last time. In many ways it was a normal session albeit with a desperate elephant in the room (aka me).

Then the goodbye came, It felt as if the oxygen in the room had vanished, (The beginnings of a panic attack, I assume). I ran away trying to gulp in air, I wanted to disappear, I wanted to be anywhere but in this room but at the same time I felt as I hadn't said enough. I told him I sometimes wished I hadn't opened Pandora's box but I fear he felt as if our time had been wasted. I know it matters not what he thinks, I'm just another patient but I felt as if I'd let him down. He tried so hard and I was still this broken women.

I collected myself. I managed to breathe but our time was over. It wasn't a perfect ending but I never imagined it would be. I hid in the loo, the tears that stated I wasn’t sure would ever stop. Finally my sobbing came to a close. I felt so ashamed that I didn’t have the capacity to believe the placating words of his or my care co-ordinator. It simply felt like I was bereft. I wanted to jump in front of the tube (I pretended I was a tourist earlier in the week and got some stranger to talk to me as the tube was rolling in to stop me from jumping), I want to swallow all the tablets (I had them all hoarded, all the codeine and paracetamol), I wanted to cut my wrists (and I had the means).

Surprisingly, I made the short journey to my psychiatrist’s appointment. Unsurprisingly, she insisted on me being admitted.

And I guess that’s all she wrote.

A month later I am still an in-patient, save a brief interlude where I lied through my teeth, “oh no, I feel okay,” and discharged myself. I’m still sure that my future is short. My capacity for hope is non-existent but I realise there are others holding on to that hope for me. It seems pointless. I feel like I’ve chosen my choice and my sudden death is inevitable.

I know I have to try and trust the process but when the intrusive thoughts are pervasive, it’s hard to think about anything else. There are moments, like now, where I remember how much I used to love blogging and being part of a kind and inspiring community. I’m so sad that I’ve lost that connection and I don’t think I’ll ever be interesting enough (or pretty enough – let’s face it, bloggers are all babes now!).

So perhaps I can hang onto the fact I’m still trying? Or am I just being duplicitous? Trying to pretend to have a life, whilst suicidal ideation lurks close by. I guess, I’ve no idea who I am anymore. One imagines that would be exciting to most, the ability reinvent yourself, but I fear I am no-one. Am I only the broken wife of a great man? How I wish I could reinvent this whiny woman into something worth fighting for.

4 weeks is a long time in politics, sadly in mental health it is but a second.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Endings, my heart cannot.

This Thursday, almost nine months since our first meeting, I will say hello to my psychotherapist for the last time. Will I attempt my usual awkward but I'm okay greeting or will I be crying before I even pass through the locked door which has held such hope over these many, many weeks?

Perhaps it will be a combination of both, this ending is going to be one of the hardest I've ever experienced. I'm told that the next few weeks will consolidate what I've learnt and his leaving my mental health trust will not be the hideous experience I expect it to be. I understand what I'm being told, yet it does not negate the loss.

I've known he was probably going to leave since October, yet I had secretly (or not so much really) hoped that his contract would be extended, again, alas no. That confirmation that an anchor was leaving my circle (hmm, not a circle that's far too many people, maybe a pentagon, yes) my pentagon of support and that I would be left with just 3 other people I knew would be able to offer advice, hit me hard. (Yes I am greedy wanting more than my doctor, my care co-ordinator and my husband. I'm not strong. I'm afraid).

I fear my grief will continue into the next few weeks, my depression will deepen and perhaps one day I will accept that my care is being delivered by a rapidly changing population of staff and that continuity of care is the gold standard not the norm. Not that I'm not grateful for these past 9 months. We opened Pandora's box together and whilst that has been hideous, he was the one to show me that hope might be possible. 

My heart felt as if I were losing a limb. It stills feels as if I'm losing something irreplaceable but I've tried to envision this ending as losing a toenail. My toenail of hope, perhaps it will grow back, perhaps not. Oh how I love my analogies. It's exactly how I would try to soften the blow for a friend in the same situation, so why can I never believe?

Have you had good endings? I've been told to liken this ending to a good ending I've experienced, yet I honestly can't think of any good ending in my life.

I left my last "proper" job under a cloud of depression, I retreated into a cocoon and hid away from everyone, I don't really remember much apart from the fog in which I wandered aimlessly. Bean and I were alone without help and knew not what to do. So incredibly alone.

Friendships. Hmm. I'm not a good friend (I don't think and currently I am the worst friend). I like people, I really do but I've been hurt by friends "dropping" me (mostly doctor friends who never even said goodbye when I told them I was suffering from depression, all those years ago. "Oh anna, we are the Generals. We don't get ill.") Yeah not a good ending.

Death in my family has been expected although obviously the death of grandparents to which you are close is always upsetting. Yet I think it is the deaths of patients that have held more meaning, whether their deaths were expected or not. Whether I jumped up and down on their chest to keep them alive or if I sat quietly holding their hand because they had no-one else. (Professional pride, I'm not sure I believe that, indeed, "the art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease") Yet, after every death, I sat alone and cried for a few minutes, and perhaps that's the reason I can't be a doctor.

I fear my life has split into two parts. The superficial instagrammed and facebooked, where I try to keep up with the Jones' and the real me, the woman who wants to do nothing but end her life. The voices are close and loud and with the loss of an anchor, I can't see how my life will follow any other path but to the ground. Whether that be straight to ashes or through another long hospital stay, I don't know.

I am trying to distract my brain with all the music (if I do make it pass middle age, my ears will be knackered) so please any music that is insanely (ha!) catchy, please tell me. Any distraction would be most welcome.

I think I want the distractions. 

Sadly, I am not living a life, and that is what needs to change whether it be life or not.

Has hope passed me by?