43. The Good Old Days?

 

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I once had a garden in Oxfordshire, England. Sincere apologies if I’m sounding like Meryl Streep in Out of Africa … ‘I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills’. Somehow it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, and I certainly don’t see Robert Redford kicking around here ….

However, in my garden, I discovered that digging up potatoes is like finding buried treasure, rather exciting. Picking beans (before the dog has sniffed them out) is total satisfaction, and the monotony of shelling peas is absolute therapy (mindfulness I think it’s now called).

Now, it strikes me that these are some of the normal everyday tasks that our grandparents used to do … did they suffer from anxiety and depression? Did they have the same levels of diabetes and obesity that our generation suffers? Did they hand their child in the supermarket a packet of crisps and their phone to play on, in order to stop the tantrum? I don’t think so somehow …

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they had it easy in any way, shape or form particularly with the advances in medicine as an example, but surely there’s some form of halfway house to be had?

They did the washing without the help of a washing machine, they cooked without blenders and microwaves, they cleaned without hoovers and spray polish, they wrote, read and enjoyed handwritten letters. Everything took time, and effort and patience was the norm and absolutely necessary.

No online food deliveries or factory-made meals with ingredients defined by letters and numbers and more often than not, ending in ‘phosphate’. What exactly is disodium diphosphate anyway? Some sort of raising agent … what’s wrong with an egg from a happy chicken. I’m on a roll now, warming to my theme .. does anyone actually know what partially inverted refiners syrup is? Apparently it’s in my ginger nuts. And no, I don’t really want to know, I’m just having a rant on my soapbox.

Perhaps I’m simply feeling a little nostalgic for an era of which I only know snippets of, from what has been passed down through the generations. Perhaps I crave some simplicity in my life to help me. Perhaps I crave some digging up of potatoes, weeding the beds, working up a sweat and doing these things that we now call mindfulness, but in those days was just called life. Perhaps I simply crave my garden … not at the foot of the Ngong Hills, just my little simple garden in England.

Katie 🌼

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42. Is Happiness a Piece Of Cake?

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As time passes, I’m beginning to understand myself better. Seems faintly tragic that it’s taken 48 years, however the more I understand, the easier life becomes. I’ve learnt what to add into my life and what to avoid like the plague. Bit like a cake recipe really … add another egg for more lift and va va voom and less syrup and treacle to make it lethargically stodgy and sink like a stone. Yes, I am indeed, a cake (hopefully chocolate).

I’m discovering the things I like, loathe, need and most definitely don’t need in my life. I’ve also realised that there are some things that I’m hugely sensitive to … but what I’m understanding is that I’m not alone! Thank the Lord … I just thought I was a bit odd. To specify …

  • I loathe loud or sudden noises (sudden and loud and I’ve been known to turn feral) …. Many years ago my children thought it would be highly amusing to jump out at me from hiding in the airing cupboard, resulting in ‘yours truly’ screaming with true gusto, roaring that they were out of The Will and promptly bursting into tears. They’ve never done it again. Poor little buggers …. I had to apologise more than they did. The Colonel also knows that on entering a room he is far better gently singing Ave Maria in soothing tones than announcing his arrival with any form of unanticipated volume.
  • I love bonfires. I could stare into a fire for hours, feeling the heat. For me it’s as soothing as listening to water, but without the consequence of desperately needing a tiddle. (In case that’s just an English thing, it means a wee!). I find it wonderfully calming.
  • In terms of needs, I need to just sometimes remember that I do have to have downtime, me time, time out, whatever you want to call it, but I need to be able to just to take a breath, and check up on myself. To ask myself, “What have I done for my mental health today?” I need a little bit of care and occasionally to treat myself like Dresden China.
  • And as for what I definitely don’t need in my life …. I don’t need bad people. Narcissists, liars and unkind people (who tend to be desperately insecure I’ve found). I did a bit of ‘culling’ of friends on Facebook last year … terribly therapeutic once I’d stopped feeling guilty.

I’m sure that this is fairly simplistic, but in truth, that’s me. Simple. So in summary, I believe that I shall add more fires to my life, have the occasional massage (can I put that down as ‘me time’ or am I pushing this a bit?), wear ear muffs on bonfire night and ditch anyone who isn’t genuinely lovely, gorgeous and reckons that adding a few of these ‘eggs to ones cake’ is not weird, but absolutely necessary.

Kxx

41. When It’s All Simply Too Much …

 

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Some days, despite all of my good intentions, and for no rhyme nor reason, my world just goes tits up. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone here. I think we all have some days which are just back to square one. (See post Snakes and Ladders). Sometimes it’s over in a day or so and other times it drags, oh how it drags on and on. Until the darkness lifts.

When my son was really little, he had a stammer for a while. Nothing too dramatic but it did require many trips to a rather brilliant audiologist. One thing she said to me was this, “When he’s having a tough time, he simply can’t get any words out, it’s going from bad to worse, then stop! Take a break and just stick a lollipop in his mouth!” Not really the sort of advice I had been expecting, but in actual fact she was spot on. Sometimes it’s better just to take a break and pause the battle until you’ve got your breath back.

I was this evening reminded of an old Persian saying, “This too shall pass.” And this is what I repeat to myself. When the darkness fills my mind, and my eyes can see no goodness, and my heart can find no joy, I tell myself, “This too shall pass.” This is a fleeting moment in time. And sometimes, I do something that I think the audiologist would approve of. I stop, breathe and quietly look for my mojo again.

And so this is what I do when things are bad …

I bribe myself. I treat myself like a small child. If I go for a good walk, or do one activity outside (something in the garden perhaps) then I will be allowed a treat ……. I will wrap up in my favourite soft and loose clothes with ginger nuts (my obsession), tea (hot chocolate if desperate) and curl up on the sofa with a good, trashy, happy film. And then another. I essentially switch off my brain. I breathe and relax until the dark clouds lift. And they do … sometimes it takes a lot longer, but I have to do a bit of tough love (the outside garden bit) and a bit of gentle love too (the ginger nut, tea and trashy film bit). And for me, it works … because when I feel bad, I feel rotten ….

The last time it happened, I wrote it down and this is what I said.

“And it’s overwhelming. It’s suffocating, exhausting, debilitating. My skull feels as though it has shrunk and is compressing my brain – everything hurts and the thoughts …. the thoughts are roaring around, ripping from one miserable, angry negative to another, and Betty the Demon within me is screaming and cackling …. I’m just so fucking tired. All I want to do is sleep. If I sleep then surely if there is a God up there, then I’ll be given some peace, if only for a few hours. But I won’t. My dreams will be violent, vivid and frightening. I’ll wake in an exhausted sweat, relieved to see the cold light filtering through the curtains, slowly dissolving the darkness. It is slipping away. My breathing slows and relief washes over me. It’s passing … thank God, oh thank God for the light of day.”

This too shall pass …

Kx

40. Where The Heck Has My Mojo Gone?

 

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Ok, so I’m under no illusions that having a ‘bad day on the slopes’ in Italy is something of a first world problem. What I’m seriously peeved about however is that it’s Betty, Betty the Demon depressive who is trying oh so flippin’ hard to wreck this holiday for me. Bitch.

I’ve been on a roll. I’ve been feeling good. I’ve been working so darn hard at this. I’ve been so excited.

First hurdle … after 6 hours of travel, we arrive. Beautiful, stunning and loads of snow. What happens? We’re offered (free) mulled wine. Bugger …. I actually heard the Colonel’s intake of breath. How was I going to handle this? Clearly with difficulty as I do somewhat associate skiing holidays with a rather large barrel or six of vin rouge. I gulped (sadly not the wine) and asked what soft drinks they had. Ker-ching! 15 love to me! (The Colonel had two glasses, and yes I am counting.)

Second hurdle …. an hour an a half later, they’re now handing out free glasses and endless top-ups of Proscecco. Bugger again. Another sucking through teeth from The Colonel, complete with quizzical look and a raised eyebrow in my direction. Another request for the soft drinks …. more gloopy orange juice and a pat on the back. 30 love to me! (The Colonel had two glasses of that also …. I’m still counting and starting to feel sanctimonious.)

Third hurdle … another hour later, it’s supper and the darn wine is free and flowing. I certainly can’t give in, but I’m now orange juiced out and so onto the blackcurrant squash with the under 12’s. Flipping marvellous. They however are having great and boisterous fun on their kid’s table – am quite inclined to go and join them as everyone around me is getting gloriously sozzled. (I’ve now given up counting what the Colonel’s up to, suffice to say, he’s blown his entire weekly alcohol unit limit, is holding court and has everyone in stitches). It’s another pat on the back and 40 love to me, but I’m actually tired and a bit grumpy now. Bed seems a wise choice for us all.

The only redeeming factor here is that the Colonel had what appeared to be a stinking hangover the following morning …. I’d say that’s game, set and match to little ol’ smug me!

Hitting The Slopes

Frankly, not so much hitting, more clinging to ….

The problem I find is that skiing is rather a lot about confidence and clearly in the last couple of years since I’ve skied, that particular attribute has slid downhill faster than I’m ever likely to. Emotions wobbled, attitude plummeted, fear and anxiety rocketed, and the Colonel now things I’m not only unhinged, but slightly deranged as I have total meltdown in the middle of the piste. I think he’s also wondering if I might be better off having a glass of wine or two.

I’ve lost my mojo, I’m frightened, but I don’t know what of and I feel a fool. Anxiety levels are high and I’m angry with myself.

I must find my mojo. I must overcome this negativity. I will not let this ruin a week with my husband and children. I will not let this get the better of me, for tomorrow is another day. They might not have any Virgin Mojitos and I’m yet to see if the kids’ table at supper might be more my cup of tea if you’ll excuse the pun … but for now, I shall take my own advice and remind myself that in terms of my shoddy anxiety, this too shall pass.

Kx

39. Whom Can We Trust?

 

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It’s been going on since time began. Greedy, unethical parasites taking advantage of and exploiting vulnerable people.

I’m sure we’ve all heard about the ‘Casting Couch’ tales of old, but the Weinstein sex scandal has made it all much more current and real and has certainly opened up a can of worms in the film industry. One does wonder how many people out there are quietly quaking in their boots, wondering if and when their previous misdemeanours will come to light and they too will feel the grip of the hangman’s noose around their neck. Or perhaps there are some victims of these crimes, waiting in the wings for the moment to expose their aggressors or indeed are already being offered ‘hush money’ to do just that, keep quiet. Or perhaps they have turned it all on its head, instigated a type of eve get and are quietly blackmailing them instead? Just a thought … and would we blame them? Probably not. But is revenge really sweet and where does one stop?

Following the demise of my first marriage, I was left a vulnerable, hurt and deeply scarred woman. Did I seek revenge? Of course I thought about it. Who hasn’t read endless stories of women cutting up their husbands suits and very publicly posting the remains to their offices, cash on delivery. Hell hath no fury and all that. But no, whilst I thought about it, I didn’t actually do it. I rebuilt my life. But it took the best part of ten years and along the way, I was again taken advantage of by a couple of people, ironically also by one of my ex-husband’s so-called great friends! Perhaps that has made me less trusting, or maybe I’ve just grown up.

Stretching back decades there have been endless reports into allegations of abuse and paedophilia within the Roman Catholic Church, along with clergy cover-ups and hierarchical failings involving thousands of victims, and it’s happened everywhere from Belgium, Ireland even over to the U.S. I naively thought that they were the ‘good guys’ and we could trust them. Apparently not.

And now Oxfam.

Again, these are people in whom we should be able to trust … we have to trust them, because they are our only hope. Our lives are at that moment in time, in their hands.

Oxfam International’s executive director Winnie Byanyima said it would “do justice” and “atone for the past”. But that’s all well and good having these people and organisations apologising and saying how they will now learn from their past mistakes, but just how many mistakes are they actually allowed to make before someone, somewhere actually can prevent it from happening in the first place? Or is that realistically impossible because these are people that we’re dealing with and their behaviour is human nature in terms of simply The Survival of the fittest?

And just who are the vulnerable people? They cover a wide spectrum from the elderly, children, minorities, those who are destitute … the list is endless. They are also you and me.

So back to us and the reason for my rant … just give me a soapbox and I’ll carry on ad infinitum! Whom can we trust? Personally, I can count them on one hand and they are mainly family and a couple of old friends. I can trust them with my life and I hope that they feel the same. According to changingminds.org, one of the definitions of trust is where you can expose your vulnerabilities to someone whilst believing that they will not take advantage of that.

And here’s the thing …. what I love about this writing and blogging and the wonderful people whom I have ‘met’, is that we are all exposing our vulnerabilities together in our posts and we are all accepting of each other and not in any way, shape or form taking advantage of that. I feel safe here, not vulnerable, different or scared. So what I want to say is thank you, to you all for making me feel secure and happy.

Kxx

38. The World’s Strongest Man.

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What have I done for my mental health today?

We know, because we’ve had it rammed down our throats by well-meaning friends, family and professionals what we should be doing every day.

We know we should be exercising, getting outside, eating properly, keeping busy, taking our meds, seeing our therapist, doing yoga and meditation. We know that we should not be drinking too much, not procrastinating, not overthinking, not hiding in our beds waiting to feel better, waiting for the exhaustion, panic and anxiety to fade. Frankly I’m panicking just thinking about it all.

But these are just words, words that are so easy to say and yet with these endless lists of things that we should and shouldn’t be doing it’s no surprise that it all becomes overwhelming, anxiety sets in followed hot on the heels of procrastination and what then happens? Zip, nothing, nada. Back to square one on the Snakes and Ladders board again. See post Snakes and Ladders.

Frankly …… Arghhhhh!

Now apparently, the current worlds strongest man is a British fellow called Eddie Hall. He is the only man able to deadlift 500kg under strongman rules. I have no clue what the rules are, and frankly I don’t give a stuff, because that’s half a bloomin’ ton … That’s lifting up a horse or a cow with two hands.

An incredible feat! This surely shows how strong the body can be, but also how mind-blowingly more powerful the mind actually is. His body was screaming at him, but his mind overruled it. (Until he had a nosebleed and passed out, but that’s beside the point!)My point to this is that when a wee Eddie popped into this world, I daresay his mother had no idea that in 30 years time her son would be picking up the equivalent of an Angus Cow for pleasure. But more importantly, he wouldn’t have been able to have done this the moment he appeared. His physical and mental ability has taken years to grow and perfect. He started out small. He learned what his limits were, he worked, he strived, he increased his limits both mentally and physically.

And that’s absolutely no different to us!

We start with baby steps. Steps so small they’re akin to a little hamster. Yes, I’m warming to my theme …. Hamster steps, a little scuttle here, a little scuttle there. A stop, a twitch the nose (not strictly necessary), a little regroup to evaluate where we’re at, a look around, and then off to do another little scuttle.

And we grow. And our scuttling becomes more confident. We start to walk. We start to walk with our head held high. We stride. And we grow braver, bigger and stronger and able to do more and more, just like Eddie Hall. We practise, we work, sometimes we fail, but we just get back up and try again. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but someone somewhere had to start laying the initial few stones.

So remember when you’re taking those first little baby steps, that once upon a time our mate Eddie Hall, the World’s Strongest Man, was once just like us, a teeny little nose-twitching frightened hamster.

Kx

37. Sleep, Fabulous Sleep!

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I think I secretly knew it, but amongst other things, alcohol was wrecking my sleep.

The Pattern:

  • Reaching for the bottle shortly before six o’clock, ok … five o’clock (in the evening, in case you had doubts), but looking rather longingly at it from four.
  • Sinking as much of the vin rouge as possible within 2 hours … may as well have just had it on a drip.
  • One hour of warm, happy, relaxed fuzziness, whilst trying to look sober and make meaningful conversation.
  • One further hour of room spinning and trying desperately to stay awake until nine o’clock and failing. Missing all tv programmes whilst taking up most of the sofa in an attractive snoring/dribbly sort of way.
  • Told to go to bed … Tired and groggy having been woken up, and also irritable.
  • Fitful sleeping, full of vivid often violent dreams, aware of sweating in a semiconscious state, desperately thirsty, waking between one and three in drenched sheets, awake for roughly three hours with chronic cystitis, heart racing, convinced I’m having a heart attack, back to sleep for a couple of hours before the alarm goes and wake feeling completely and utterly exhausted and filled with self-loathing.

It was the alcohol! … No Shit Sherlock …

Either that or the peri menopause, but it didn’t take a lot of research (ok, googling) to eliminate that one, for now.

So I ditched it, binned it, waved a teary fond farewell and now am alcohol free.

I also have something called interstitial cystitis which mean no fizzy drinks either, or caffeine for that matter, so a trip to the drinks aisle in Tesco’s leaves me feeling a little despondent, but and here’s the big but ….

I Now Sleep Like a Baby!

So I don’t care if I’m going to have to have a re-think on the soft drink options. I don’t care if I’m climbing the walls at four, five and six o’clock (ok, and lunchtimes as well), wanting that blissful first and never-enough glass of vin rouge. I don’t care that now I have to learn how to go to parties without clutching my comfort blanket of a drink, because the joy of a good nights sleep and a hangover-free morning is worth more.

The depression and anxiety levels have dropped from a seven to a three without blinking, and the interstitial cystitis (along with drinking 2 litres of orange squash a day – yawn, ditching the caffeine and fizzy drinks – double yawn) has completely disappeared.

That and the fact that my skin improved from day two …. red wine irritated it, so I’d be attractively blotchy combined of course with the typical facial puffiness the following day. I now manage to watch the ten o’clock news, chatter, natter and remember everything that I’ve said, go to bed and sleep washes over me so deeply that I know nothing, just blissful nothing until dawn. I am irritatingly bouncy in the mornings now, non-blotchy and really quite nice to be around so I’m told.

Sometimes we just have to reach the depths of despair before our rational, logical and adult self takes over, takes control of a situation that simply cannot continue and gets us on the road to recovery. Otherwise known as, The Way Forward.

Kxx