55. Dirty Weekend!

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Ooooh! Advice to anyone …. when your husband is just a teensy bit tipsy, starts telling you how much he loves you and suggests a romantic weekend away, say yes and start packing.

Which is how I now come to be in the most glorious hotel overlooking the snow-covered Cairngorms with a bed that could fit an entire family plus a couple of dogs, and a bathroom to die for. I’m writing this, The Colonel is watching the rugby … can things get any better?

But what about the anxiety? Did I stress about leaving the house, hiding the silver in the fridge, the potato basket and the wellington boots (until the Colonel thought we should bring them with us, so I had to empty them again … I managed to ignore his raised eyebrows and twitching mouth this time). Did I stress about the fridge freezer setting fire, or have to go and check three times that the front and back doors were closed, locked and double bolted? Did I worry that I’d forget to pack something of vital importance and then have to drive back, collect it and go through all the door closing, locking and double bolting three times more?

Well, I certainly thought about these things, but I know a good opportunity when I see one and the best thing was that I had no time to stress. I didn’t have days and days for the thoughts to fester and grow in my mind in a downward spiral until I’d be dreading the event. Because to be honest, that’s what usually happens. Actually, it’s what always happens. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened when we last went away … too much time to think about it all, and whoosh! My mind went on a fictional nightmare of an adventure of its own.

To make matters even better, we went via Edinburgh with its stunning castle, cobbled streets and abundance of cashmere and tweed shops. I’m afraid the shallow side of me took over, the shops won, the tourists were pushed aside and I am now the proud owner of a discounted cashmere cardigan and a half price stunning, yes darn stunning, tweed, fitted, just above the knee coat! Sod anxiety …. bring on the shopping.

I tend to be a very nervous passenger in the car … the hangover from a nasty accident in the late ’80’s. I have a tendency to shriek rather a lot and put my hands over my eyes. Apparently it’s rather off putting to the driver.

The drive north from Edinburgh however was glorious. The vast and bleak open hills and spaces, barren and devoid of the softening effect of any trees. It looks so inhospitable, almost frightening. They’re exposed and raw without a single nook or cranny in which to hide from the biting winds and harsh weather. It’s no wonder that nothing but the toughest of plants grow here, and any that do grow, grow low, low to protect themselves.

The roads are narrow and twisting and from the great heights we then drop down into the forests. Within the endless dense forests, the ground is a mass of thick leaf litter and pine needles and there are rocky streams meandering through. From time to time we pass tiny villages and hamlets with houses all built of the same solid thick stone with slate roofs and chimneys spiralling smoke. Mossy stone walls follow the roads with occasional stone pillars and lodges indicating the entrance to yet another vast estate. I try to look down the driveways, but they’re miles long and hidden from sight from nosy southerners like myself.

The people who live here are miles and miles from anywhere. It’s remote and they’re tough. I wonder whether they suffer from anxiety or whether they have more important things to worry about, like if the sheep are lambing and stuck in snowdrifts, or whether the generator will work properly when the electricity fails again. Perhaps they worry about how much food they have stored in their larders, but somehow I suspect that their log stores are full, the larders are bursting and the fires permanently lit.

Perhaps I need to get things just a teensy bit into perspective and stop worrying as to whether an axe-wielding thief is going to break into the house, rifle through the potatoes, find the silver and set fire to the house, and instead spend more time in this beautiful place and get filling my larder and log store and frankly write a book. Bet I wouldn’t have quite so much to stress about then, and if it all gets too much, I can put on my lovely new tweed coat and stroke my discounted cashmere cardigan. Bliss!

Katie xx

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54. Leaving Scotland

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So, in just over a fortnight we’re moving from Scotland to London. Bearing in mind how very little I expected from our two year jaunt to Scotland, I am surprised by how emotional I feel. Because you see, I’ve made friends. Lots of lovely friends who seem to just like me for who I am, quirks and all.

My lovely tennis friends, who laugh when I squeal, shriek and roar with laughter at my own inadequacies. Who tease me mercilessly when I shiver on court and complain of the freezing Scottish weather as they go swimming in the outdoor pool whilst it’s raining, again. Those friends who teach me little Scottish words, usually relating to hangovers and bad language, and who translate for me when I look blankly at them, once again not understanding their accents.

We sit and have coffee together, we share stories, we laugh and chatter for hours. We put the world to rights, yet nobody dominates, we take it in turns. There’s a thirty year age gap between us and it doesn’t matter a hoot. Yes, I shall miss my friends.

I won’t miss the weather and the darkness. In winter the sun barely peeks over the trees on the horizon, but to the north I can see beyond the city to the Campsie Fells, which are beautiful hills, covered in snow. Sometimes the evening light catches them and they glow a warm peachy golden. But the rain and the cold. I won’t miss either.

The people here talk, a lot. A trip to the post office takes twenty minutes because everyone likes to chatter and natter. They are friendly and open. Yesterday the supermarket lady and I spent a good ten minutes discussing her allergy to nuts and bowel issues. I’m glad the Colonel wasn’t there, he’s not really very keen on discussing intimate subjects, particularly with a complete stranger. In London if you smile at a stranger you’re likely to be shunned, in Scotland, embraced. Yes, I shall miss the people.

And I shall miss the beautiful park, just around the corner. With its lake, river, waterfalls, woods and endless paths. Where you will find every marvellous breed of dog and every person who loves just to be out in the rain or occasional shine. People stop, chat, talk about their dogs or simply stand and watch the elegant swans and cygnets who grace the lake. It’s my happy place and yes, I shall miss it too.

The ironic thing is that it is only three years on Tuesday since my mother died, and whilst I think of her every day, I do wonder …. you see, she was here as a child through to her early twenties. I wonder if she has been to some of the places that I visit and I wish I could tell her now about my life here and more importantly listen to hers. I don’t just miss my mother, I long for her, I absolutely long for her.

Katie x

52. What Exercise Are You Doing For Your Mental Health Today?

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What they never told me, is that medications and therapy can be provided, but the rest of it was up to me. A leaflet telling me to eat healthily and get exercise is never going to get me reaching for the kale smoothies and an exercise bike. I need someone to verbally spell it out whilst holding my shoulders and shaking me, and then repeat it.

  1. We need regular exercise … that means more days doing it than not
  2. We need regular fresh air and light
  3. We need to eat the good stuff and drink water like it’s going out of fashion
  4. We need to ditch the alcohol
  5. Meditation and/or yoga are a must to calm the anxiety
  6. And finally, work, work, work on getting up and doing … don’t let the lethargy lothario seduce us into doing nothing and lying on the sofa for hours surfing the net for the latest Graham Norton YouTube videos (although I have to admit that I will resort to this when Betty the Demon has me in a headlock and I start googling pain-free ways to die).

So, back to the point in question,

What exercise are you doing for your mental health today?

I’m going to play tennis … inside of course, this is Scotland after all. And whilst I type, I’m still in bed and not exactly bouncing around at the prospect of it, however – I know I will love it when I’m there. The dopamine, serotonin and endorphins will give me a major boost. The social interaction will help me out of my hermit state and finally the sense of achievement and accomplishment will spur me on to reinforce that a little pain for a massive gain is absolutely and undoubtedly worth the effort.

So what exercise are you doing today?

Katie x

50. What Have You Done For Your Mental Health Today?

 

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So presumably if you’re reading this you have some form of depression or anxiety … If you don’t and you really have nothing better to do on a Saturday morning, then you may well have other issues! Hopefully however, you’re here to seek out others in a similar situation and their thoughts and ideas and it’s not simply the old adage of misery loves company and you want to wallow in the ghastliness of it all and indulge in some self flagellation. (If it’s any consolation, yup, I’ve been there.)

Let’s be clear here, just because I have had my fair share of depression and anxiety, does not mean that I don’t laugh. The fact that I often laugh at myself perhaps describes a slightly self-deprecating personality, or else I’m just trying to get in there first before anyone else has a chance to laugh at me, as I point out my flaws, foibles and find some humour in them and they hopefully then will laugh with me. Anyway, I know I have them in bucketloads, ten tonne truck loads bigger than the road gritters up here in Bonnie Scotland, the only difference being that I’m not spreading and sharing my faults today … Today is about positivity!

So my question today is as per the title, What have you done for your mental health today?

If you’re at the lower end of the spectrum, I would assume that you are up and about, (unless you’re in the States, in which case you should be fast asleep and snoring happily into your duvets).

If you’re right up at the top end, falling over the edge and hanging on by a mere finger nail, I suspect that you can’t see the wood for the trees and are fumbling and stumbling around in the fog, utterly exhausted and unable to frankly do anything. Yes, sadly lots of us have been there and have the t-shirt and full set of hospital gowns to prove it.

However, somewhat annoyingly (because it’s the absolutely last thing we want to do), we all know that to get moving and fight the lethargy will and does make it better. Believe you me, when you’re at rock bottom and someone suggests you go for a nice jolly walk around the garden, I know, you want to hit them with a shovel, but irritatingly, it does actually help. Sorry, but it’s true.

So, the very basics ….. You wake up ….

  1. Turn on the lights, open the curtains, open the windows unless you too are facing ‘The Beast from the East’ (the UK’s current storm). Turn on the radio or the tv. (If you can’t bear the news, find something else … doesn’t matter if it’s the shipping forecast. Let the light, sounds and world into your world. Don’t hide away. We’re safe in our home, but we also need to engage with the universe.
  2. Start a routine of getting up, washing, make up, clothes, making the bed, tidying the room all to be done before you start on stuff downstairs. Keeping things ordered and tidy helps clear the anxiety. ‘A tidy home, a tidy mind’ is not as daft as we might think. It’s therapeutic. Make your room a positive, relaxed environment. And yes, we do feel better if we put on clean clothes and a bit of slap (makeup) on the face …. if we slob around in a tracksuit, it’s all too easy to curl up on the sofa and not move all day. Even if the only person I’m going to see is the postman, I certainly don’t want to frighten him. It’s self discipline.
  3. Food! Eat the good stuff …. Im certainly not going to talk about kale smoothies and do a Gwyneth Paltrow on you, but eat something, even if all you can face is a yoghurt with crunchy bits in it. You cannot run on empty.
  4. Make a list for the day – essential things that need to be done (telephone calls, emails, cleaning a cupboard) plus a few things at the end that you want to do, but that can only be done when the needs are completed. (Long soak in the bath, good book on the sofa etc)
  5. One thing that we MUST include every single day is some form of fresh air and exercise. Even if it’s just washing the car, gardening, or cleaning out all the bins – it doesn’t matter. Just something, outside so we raise the heart rate and get out into the world. Get the endorphins and dopamine working for you.

For me, the most important part of the day is the very start. It sets and determines the tone for the rest of the day. By making and keeping a simple routine, it sets us up for a good solid day ahead. It becomes as easy as breathing. Slowly we can add to it, increase it and we can have our rewards (the fun things) at the tail-end of the day. First we do the things we need to do, then we do the things we want to do.

Start simple, but do start, it’s the only way to move forward.

Katie x

49. Getting Back on The Straight And Narrow!

 

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So after a rather stressful holiday and having discovered that the reason for the anxiety was in actual fact my fault, I am now on a mission to put everything right again. Back in order. Get my life nice and straight again, just like the boxes of cereal on the larder shelves. Yes, nice and neat and tidy.

Whilst being away, I completely lost my routine and structure. I lost my ‘me-time’, my mindfulness time, my time to just treat myself a teensy bit like Dresden china. And as a consequence, everything went slightly to pot. (Not the drug I hasten to add, more sort of ‘hellishly wrong’ or ‘down the drain’). I foolishly thought that as I had been so much better, that I could therefore be a little more spontaneous, let loose, …. it was a holiday for heavens sake. Oh silly little me! … that was not spontaneity, nooooo! That was sheer recklessness.

So here I am again, not exactly back at square one, but perhaps a few rungs lower down the ladder however, considerably wiser.

I arrived back from holiday utterly exhausted. Exhausted by the anxiety. I had no pattern or structure, I was now having to fit in with everyone else’s routine, and somehow that didn’t include half an hour fiddling around upstairs getting sorted out in the morning and using mindfulness over every little chore, and pampering myself. Oh no, I was being rushed from pillar to post with urgency. Stress then led to anxiety. And I’d forgotten how darn tiring it is.

The only other times I’ve felt such exhaustion was when I was pregnant. Ahhh yes, pregnancy, that blissful time when complete strangers offer you a seat on a bus or the tube. That glowing, healthy skin and radiance …. for part of the time, yes. For the rest, completely knackering. Particularly when you already have one child. I do recall a lot of bribery … “if you could just watch Tellytubbies once more, yes, just sit on the floor so Mummy can just lie sofa for just a teensy bit longer, of course you can have some more chocolate” … oh I remember it well.

So I’m back home, rekindling my routine and structure, having spent the best part of four days sleeping. Before the Colonel actually thinks he’s married a zombie, I’m back on day one of looking after myself again. And, wow I’ve slipped back into it so easily. A doddle. Easy peasy. I guess once it’s set up, it’s remarkably easy to return to.

Same pattern in the morning (apart from blog writing which I’ve left til now) – Friday is laundry day, therefore sheets etc washed … ✅

Friday is also cleaning day, therefore hoovering, polishing, bathroom etc … ✅

Doctors appointment to go over medication… ✅

Make lunch for the Colonel who is working from home due to snow – ✅ (Actually excelled myself here with latticed mini quiches so now feeling like domestic goddess).

Tennis session …. ✅ tick, bloomin’ tick. ✅ ✅ ✅

And I feel great! I’ve done my jobs, I’ve checked in with the doc, I’ve eaten properly and had fresh air (20 min walk to and from doc and 20 min walk to and from tennis as car completely snowed in), plus exercise (all that walking, plus over an hours’ tennis), plus getting out of the house and socialising (long coffee and natter session after tennis).

The Colonel is happy as I’ve left him to work in peace (yesterday he actually asked me to leave the room because apparently me fiddling with his hair was distracting him … humph! I thought ‘working from home due to being snowed in’ was another way of ‘pulling a sickie’ … apparently not. Golly … He really is dedicated.)

So, all is well with the world. He’s happy, I’m happy and normality is bliss.

Katie x

46. Shopping Anyone?

 

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Morrisons …. probably on a par with Aldi, but sells the same as Waitrose at a fraction of the price with even a smattering of the more upmarket scallops and quinoa if you happen to a) like them and b) know how to pronounce them …. Personally, I don’t, to either.

Shopping Trip and lesson no. 1: Sometimes, being a southerner whilst living temporarily in Scotland, it’s better to keep quiet.

Some friendly chatter at the till whilst waiting in the queue, led to my over-excited confession that I had recently got married….

“Och!” says Till Lady 1 in more of a guttural phlegm-inducing noise, than actual word, “Do you hear that Sheila?” she shouts to Till Lady Number 2 across a couple of aisles. Clearly Sheila has hearing issues as my new marital status is now belted out a couple of times, involving not just 2 till ladies, but customers too. Lots of smiles, nods and general looks of approval in my direction. I beam delightedly.

“So, where was the wedding?” shouts Sheila of the dodgy ears. All eyes on me … I shuffle uncomfortably …. “Um, well, down south in fact”. Bit of a mistake. I hear sucking of breath through teeth, and a general sense of disapprovement on a somewhat large scale.

“Och!” the guttural sound again with added sniff to enhance the disapproval. I thought it was only my mother who did that. “Shame” says till lady no. 1. “Of course,” she pauses, “you could have had my brother … Now, he’s a fine figure of a man!” she says proudly her bosom jutting out.

“Err …” says I

“Your brother!” exclaims Sheila, “He’s focking fat!”

All eyes on till lady no. 1 who is turning somewhat frosty and a tad purple …

“He might be focking fat, but he’s happy and that counts for plenty” she retorts.

All eyes now on Sheila – this is something akin to a Wimbledon final, myself and customers turning from one to the other, but hey, the attention is off me so I’m delighted.

“He’s happy?” squawks Sheila, “He’s a focking drunk, that why!”

Oh dear God. Till lady no. 1 pauses, clearly digesting this information. There is a moment where we, the customers are waiting with baited breath for her reaction. She slowly begins to nod, “Aye, you know you might be right, BUT,” she says wiggling her finger indicating for me to move closer. I do so extremely hesitantly; she has an unusual dental arrangement and frankly scares me. She continues, “He might be a wee bit of a drunk, BUT” she belts out with a scream of laughter, “…. he’s got focking good sheep!”

An explosion of cackles, laughter, nodding and ‘ayes’ from all around …

I grab my Lurpac and organic ham and escape – sharpish.

Perhaps this is how men should be rated … On their ability to keep good sheep or did I miss something??! Think I might try Waitrose next week …

Katie x

44. Sometimes I Just Don’t Like Myself.

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There are some things about myself that I genuinely don’t like. Actually I wouldn’t blame anyone else for not liking these traits much either. Does that mean that I’m not a likeable person? I don’t know. In a similar vein, if someone does one bad thing to another, does that make them a bad person? Likewise, I don’t know the answer to that.

But back to the point – The hated trait is my ‘over awareness’. Particularly of other people. I’ve already spoken I think of my over sensitivity so maybe this is much of the same thing.

The fact of the matter is that there is another family here who is irritating me beyond belief. My children don’t seem to have noticed them, and even if the Colonel has, which I doubt, I suspect it’s simply because the mother of said family is (even in my moment of negativity) quite a good looking woman. Foxy is probably how he’d describe her.

The irritating thing is that whilst they’re most probably perfectly lovely, they are just so loud, oblivious, and unaware of everyone else around them. Oh it’s all coming out now isn’t it? My faults and foibles, and there you all were thinking what a nice English lady she appeared to be … well, clearly not and I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry, because you see, I don’t like these horrible traits of mine either. But how on earth do I stop them? How do I ignore people?

Why am I so judgemental? Why does it matter if they have loud conversations across an otherwise silent, yet full room, whilst their iPads and phones fight each other for volume, have their feet up on the tables and chairs and wear their pyjamas in the main sitting room? Why does it matter if the squabbles between themselves are audible for all and sundry to hear? Why does it matter if they wander around in bare feet as though they are at home and then pick at their toes in front of me? Why does it matter that the mother has a continual habit of snorting and coughing up enough phlegm to warrant the opening of a handkerchief factory, but then swallows it with a resounding, “Ahhh!” for all to hear?

Why the heck should any of this matter to me? Why am I such a irritable old fun-sponge? Am I really already a classically grumpy old woman? Yes, I believe I am. I am the female equivalent of Victor Meldrew, the fictional character in the BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave. Yes, I am indeed Victor’s twin sister and therefore as old (he must be approaching 80 …).

Why can I not just switch off and be immune to it and more importantly, why am I like this?

And therein lies the problem … As a child I was taught that children should be seen and not heard, we should be considerate to everyone, never ‘make a scene’ or unnecessarily draw attention to oneself. We must be kind and polite to all and help little old ladies across the road, even if they don’t want to cross. Manners maketh Man and all that.

(Oh God, she’s just snorted again … and, yup, again, followed by another “Ahhh”. I now want to bludgeon her. Noooo, I must think calm, happy thoughts. Think of fluffy bunnies and arghhhhh! She’s done it again! For God’s sake.)

Frankly (and apologies in advance for the language now), but frankly bollocks to it all. Maybe that’s why I’m such a people pleaser, maybe that’s why I was such a doormat to my first husband. I was living a 1950’s perfect little housewife dream who wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

(Yet more snorting … would it be rude to offer her a handkerchief? But she’s having a FaceTime call with her sister now and the children are all joining in, so I daresay it would be impolite of me to interrupt.)

Maybe I’m actually just jealous … maybe I secretly want to drag and slide my feet with every step across the floor, let my children wipe their noses on their sleeves, and pick at their toes in public. Maybe I secretly long for that laissez faire attitude to life.

So maybe I’m not only over aware, over sensitive, intolerant, judgemental, a rotten skier, but I’m also jealous. Flipping marvellous.

The solution … apart from whining to you all (again, I am sorry … although you’ve probably stopped reading by now anyway), I think the best course of action is either to put on my headphones to block out the sound or alternatively to ditch the headphones, turn up the volume, snort, pick my toes, then my nose and take the philosophy that if you can’t beat them, join them. Think I might be a rebel and do the latter. 😧

Katie x