Thursday, 22 March 2012

Driving WINs

Once again, I start off with apologies for my recent silence!  I’m still trying to get this employment issue sorted, which is taxing my somewhat reduced brainpower of late and leaving me mentally exhausted.  The words really don’t come so easily when I’m drained and I find it counter-productive to try and force it.  The local Citizens Advice Bureau have been fantastic, but at the end of the day, I have to gather the paperwork and figures myself, and make some long-winded phone calls, which is all a bit of a strain.  I’m currently sat here waiting for a call back from a local employment rights advice service, who will call me back on my landline, “within 72 hours” (I called them on Tuesday afternoon).  I would love to be out and about appreciating some of the signs of Spring that have started appearing, but no, I’m tied to my house.  Oh well, it’s given me the opportunity and inclination to do some blogging, at least!

I’d say I’m in a weird middle-phase at the moment.  The good days have started to become more frequent – it’s probably about a 50:50 split.  Even the bad days aren’t so bad, as I’m learning to take a step back and try to put a positive spin on things before I allow myself to be engulfed by despair.  I’ve actually now finished my course of CBT that I was referred to by my GP, and feel it’s really helped me start to change my attitude toward myself.  The next few weeks will be the acid test of whether I can keep it up without that weekly appointment to help push it forward in my mind.  I’ve had a few “little wins”, as I call them, that have helped to encourage me.  Getting down the Citizens Advice Bureau in the first place was definitely one.  I decided that visiting in person would be a lot less daunting for me, as I get very nervous on the phone, plus my chances of getting through were remote with how busy they are.  A reason to get out of the house is always good, anyway.  I arrived, filled in my details on their little form, then steeled myself for the wait.  There were only three people there before me, but they only had one volunteer in that afternoon, so it was going to be about an hour.  I find that kind of hanging around, with no real idea of how long it will be, to be a real danger time for me, as I start to overthink things and drift into the darker parts of my mind.  I managed to hold it together until I was seen, and only got a little emotional when pouring out my problems to the adviser.  When I got back out to my car I had a good old cry with the sheer relief that there was some light at the end of the tunnel!  I drove the scenic route back home as my reward for getting it done.

I find the act of driving quite empowering, still – I passed my test about a year and a half ago, but the memory of how dependent and powerless I felt before I could drive is very strong.  I think my choice of car has a lot to do with it... for those not in the know, I’m the very proud owner of a 1970 Morris Minor 4-door saloon.  My husband and I always say that the real thrill of driving a classic car is that every journey feels like an adventure – it is not simply a vehicle to get you from A to B.  I can’t help but smile when I get behind the wheel.  I feel so damn cool and classy in that car.  It’s the ultimate conversation-starter when I first meet new people, which is a massive help to me as I can find social situations like that quite intimidating.  I had a great driving-related victory a few weekends ago – my husband was providing the wedding car for a friend’s wedding, and I tailed him as a back up car, in case of any major problems with the main one, his mother’s utterly gorgeous Triumph Renown.  It was 35 miles of A roads through Surrey, with the wedding and reception taking place in Horsham, a place I had never been before.  We left a good two and a half hours to make the journey in, with me following him on the way there, both because the Renown is slower, plus he had a vague idea of where we were going and was able to run our sat nav as that car has a cigarette lighter, whereas mine doesn’t at the moment.  I’ve been dreading following that car somewhere, as it pulls away at junctions so slowly, I was terrified of accidentally going up the back of it, so I gave him plenty of space.  Lo and behold we did have some mechanical problems en route, but with assistance over the phone from his father, who is something of a mechanical god, we got going again in time to get to the church in order to take the bride & groom to the reception.  For those who don’t know Horsham, it’s one of those places with a pain in the backside one way system, so thankfully I had navigational assistance for that leg of the journey from our friend Nick, the groom’s brother.  The reception was probably the bit I was most nervous about, as I only knew a couple of people there, but I managed to make some polite conversation, aided by an excellent spread of food – I do love to talk about food!

My Morris Minor, "Faye"

Me with my mother-in-law's Triumph Renown at the wedding
What actually turned out to be the most nervy bit for me was the journey home again.  My husband was driving the bride and groom onto their hotel just out of town.  I left the reception slightly before him, as I’d had to park a little way away in a multi-storey car park.  I then had to find my way out of the multi-storey, back to the road we’d come into town on, then follow that in the opposite direction until I saw signs for the hotel.  Being a Saturday night, of course, the minute I came out of the multi-storey in my car, a group of pissheads run up to me and start banging on the car, so I panicked a little and hot-footed it out of there, and ended up taking the wrong exit at a roundabout in my haste to get away.  Fortunately, even in the dark my error was soon pretty obvious, so I backtracked and eventually found my way onto the right road.  I met up with my husband at the hotel, where he was good enough to signal me in with a torch from the roadside.  The plan from there was for me to lead us back home, as my car’s headlights are a bit brighter than the Renown’s.  Me, without sat nav assistance, in the dark, leading us through some unlit twisty A roads, trying not to leave my husband behind – phew, it still makes my stomach tense thinking about it!  Despite me thinking “I don’t recognise anything, we’re hopelessly lost, oh crap!” in 15-minute cycles, we did, somehow, make it home in one piece.  I was so tense for the whole drive that I ached more than I ever have before as I pulled up into our driveway.  It was hard work, but I am so pleased with myself for managing to cope with that!

As I’m currently not drinking alcohol due to my medication, I’ve found that being designated driver on nights out makes it a little easier not to be tempted.  I’ve never been a heavy drinker or anything, but I appreciate a good ale or a bit of a quality dark rum or whiskey, so I’ve found not drinking to be very difficult, especially when everyone else around me is.  Fortunately, the self-sacrifice of being designated driver usually earns a fair amount of kudos amongst my friends.  In particular, I like being able to give my husband a bit of a reward after the years of ferrying me around he’s done, all the extra hard work he’s been putting in over the last few months to keep us going financially, and all of his efforts to help me to feel better, by letting him have a night off to let his hair down and not have to worry so much about me for a few hours.  It was my brother-in-law’s birthday last week and we all went out together on the Friday, so I took that opportunity to do my wifely duty and play chauffeur for the evening.  I’ve found pubs are a difficult place to be for me at the moment, but thankfully there were enough of us in the group that we took over the room with the pool table, and it felt a bit more like a house party to me.

There were a couple more things I wanted to fit in this week, but I think I’ve rambled on enough already!  I do just want to say that if anyone has any suggestions for topics they’d like me to try and cover in this blog, please do let me know.  I sometimes worry that I’m repeating the same points too much, but they tend to be the areas I have most difficulty with myself – the stuff that comes more easily doesn’t tend to be at the forefront of my thoughts.  My main reason for writing this is to help other people with similar problems, so input on how I can better achieve my aim is always welcome.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

My Birthday - celebrating making it through another year!

First of all, my apologies for the lack of posting last week.  I’m dealing with a bit of a sticky employment situation that I’m afraid I’m not quite ready to talk about yet – I promise I will fill you in once things are a bit more sorted, as I think it’s an important area to discuss.  Anyway, the long and short of it is that I am currently out of work, which has put me on something of a downer.  I have not felt well enough to work for a while, but knowing I don’t have a job to go to once I’ve recovered a bit is a hard thought to deal with.  As it is, my husband is already practically killing himself working overtime to try and keep our heads above water, so I have an overwhelming feeling of guilt that I am not contributing financially.  I also derive an awful lot of my self-esteem from my work.  I take pride in doing the best I possibly can and get a great deal of satisfaction from knowing I’ve helped someone in whatever small way by doing my job well.

As I said, I’m not really ready to talk about that right now.  It’s making it rather difficult to write this, as that has been my most preoccupying thought this week.  A week that contained my 25th birthday, no less!  Despite that cloud hanging over me, I did manage to enjoy celebrating making it through another year.  I’ve taken the plunge and had a drastic haircut, which is something I like to do to sort of “reinvent myself” every now and then.  Having a fresh new look puts a bit of a spring in my step and helps me to feel like a new person, although I’m not exactly a “girly-girl” or anything.

My husband also took me down to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu on Saturday (at my request, I hasten to point out – I love my classic cars just as much as he does!  Plus they have an exhibition of Bond cars throughout this year, and I do so love my Bond films).  The day started rather chaotically, as I had neglected to print our e-tickets off until then, only to find my printer was out of ink.  Cue a hurried trip out for printer cartridges, which led to us leaving later than originally intended.  The stress was then further compounded by a massive queue at the McDonalds drive through when we went to get breakfast, and taking a wrong turning that led to us ending up hopelessly lost in Southampton.  We were just about at the point of giving up and going home when I managed to get my phone to show us where we were so we could work out how to at least get to the right side of Southampton, and then we were able to pick up signs for Beaulieu.  I came damn close to a full blown panic attack in the car, but I managed to keep it under enough control that I just got a bit teary.  We finally made it in one piece, and had a lovely day wandering around and having a bit of a dribble at some of the exhibits.  We then had a couple of friends over for the evening, which, to be honest, was the bit I was most nervous about.  In my circle of friends, birthday celebrations normally turn into mass drinking, with shots and cocktails and all sorts of crazy concoctions.  I’d made it clear from the off I wanted it to be quite low-key, and everyone is aware now that I’m currently not drinking at all due to being on the fluoxetine, but it still felt a little weird.  It turned out to be a nice, chilled evening and I felt very little pressure to liven things up a bit, which was a relief.  It was nice to just spend some time with friends in comfortable surroundings (and, as usual, got some funky, inspired pressies!  I don’t know how they do it).

On Sunday, I went to my grandparents’ house for our traditional birthday tea and cakes.  I think it’s probably my favourite bit of birthdays in my family.  We all get on really well, have a laugh and reminisce, along with some good-natured ribbing.  My husband was far too knackered from the week’s work to join us, which was a little awkward at first as I know my family really enjoy his company too, but thankfully they are very understanding of how hard he’s been working recently.  After all, they understand better than anyone just how tricky looking after me can be – I think they’re more concerned about his wellbeing than anything else, as it can be a real drain propping me up all the time.  I think, actually, that I enjoyed myself more than I would have done had I dragged him along, as I didn’t have to worry about him, and I knew that he was getting some valuable time to himself, which he gets very little of these days.  I felt recharged by some quality family time, and he got some well-deserved rest.

Tuesday was my actual birthday, and I spent the morning shopping in Guildford with my mum.  Being able to spend more one-to-one time with my mum is possibly the best thing about not working at the moment.  She has always been brilliant at listening to me and giving me just enough of a push when I need it.  She has been quite stretched of late between looking after my dad and my grandparents, so I do sometimes feel like it’s asking a lot of her to look after me as well, so I have a tendency to try not to burden her with too much of what’s going on in my life.  However, she knows when something is bothering me and gives me just enough gentle encouragement to share it.  We had a nice, relaxed day wandering round the shops – we didn’t actually do much shopping, but we had a good old natter and did our usual thing of laughing at some of the more ridiculous items of clothing in the shops.  We did have to cut things off a little promptly as I had to be back for my CBT session at three, but it worked out just about OK.  A few people have queried why I scheduled my CBT to take place on my birthday, but, to be honest, I’ve started seeing it as my weekly treat – a bit of time to take stock and talk about myself without worrying about being judged.  I find it a lot easier if I view my treatment this way, rather than as a chore.  After all, if the idea is to help me feel better, so what better definition is there?

Birthday celebrations continued last night with a meal out with my in-laws.  My father-in-law and I actually share the same birthday, so we always do some sort of joint celebration.  Fortunately, my appetite seems to have started to come back this week, so I could do the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet justice!  Actually, that’s reminded me of something I meant to mention, that I am now no longer taking the omeprazole (antacid) that I had previously been on.  I discussed it with my GP as I was getting a lot of stomach pain, and she agreed that it could be related.  Now that the fluoxetine seems to have kicked in, she was happy for me to try coming off of it, and I’ve barely had any pain since.  I think this might be why my appetite is returning as well.  I’ll be keeping an eye on it as one of the more helpful side effects of my reduced eating has been that I’ve shifted a fair bit of the extra weight I’ve been carrying around, and it has been a real help being able to look in the mirror and not see a wobbly mass of blubber staring back at me.

This week I will need to be a bit careful, as I often experience a bit of a “post-birthday slump”.  I’m hoping to resolve the situation with my previous employment over the next couple of days, which would give me a welcome boost, and would mean I’ll be able to talk about it!  Please keep watching this space.