A favourite quote and a way by which to approach life.

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Rough Tenderness

You interrupt my dreams, my violent dreams; the dreams that are my mind’s attempt at processing the violence my body has endured. I am sucked out of the image of a boy being murdered, and I am grateful.

I do not have the energy to open my eyes, but I know it is you stroking my arm. You touch me with a familiar uncertainty. You touch me with a question in your fingertips, ‘Does this hurt? I do hope not.’

Your skin is rough: worn from gardening, from jobs around the house, from picking at the bark on sticks you find on your morning walks in the park. The scratchiness prickles my arm, but I like your signature touch and rest in its tenderness.

I have had contact from many over recent days, but it has been the prod of a medic’s finger, the skimming of my chest with a stethoscope, the jab of a needle. Instead of this necessary invasion I have craved the gentle holding of my hand – a comfort in the fear. Now you are here, soothing the remnants of my anxieties with your presence, and the dancing of your hand on my arm as you struggle to find a bit of me that isn’t tied up in wires, and tubes, and needles.

I want to show you that I know you are here; to assure you that your touch is welcome. It takes almost more energy than I have, but when your hand reaches mine I hold onto your fingers for just a second.

‘Hello,’ you whisper, as if afraid of disturbing me.

I struggle to open my eyes, exhaustion tugging me back towards sleep, but I persist, and eventually manage to peel apart my heavy eyelids. Unable to focus, I see your blurred, frail form, and I smile the weakest of smiles.

‘Dad,’ I mouth, and curl my fingers around the sandpapery ends of yours once more.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Explained absence

Sorry for not having updated in a while.  I'm okay - not in hospital.  I've been away in Edinburgh for a few days with Mum and J, and I've been busy writing stuff for my PGCert portfolio.  In theory I have until 30th August to finish the portfolio, but I actually have the final meeting with my supervisor tomorrow lunchtime so I've been busily trying to finish up.  My supervisor needed to receive my work by email today so that she has a chance to read it before we meet, so the pressure has been on.  Thankfully the hard work seems to have paid off and I think I've done it!  Of course I'll find out tomorrow if there's any major editing to do, but I don't think there'll be masses - there's only one piece I'm not terribly sure about.  So after tomorrow's meeting all I'll have to do is put everything in one document, print it off and submit it!  Mind you, whilst this is the end of the PGC portfolio, it's not the end of the project as I'm hoping to put what I've been writing into a book.  There are a lot of words that go into a book, though, so I still have a great deal of writing to do.  But I'm enjoying it, and I'm enjoying having the time to write without the pressures of other study now that I've finished my degree.

So yes, that's what I've been up to while I haven't been showing myself here - writing.

It was lovely to get away for a few days, and this time not end up in hospital!  While I was at Mum and J's, J's brother, N, and N's Wife, F (that looks terribly confusing.  I hope you're still with me) also came to stay for a couple of days.  I haven't seen them since Mum and J's wedding 18 years ago, so it was great to meet them again, and we've now exchanged email addresses so it should be a lot easier to keep in touch.

Last time I was in Edinburgh there was an article in one of the Scottish newspapers about a new place that was opening in Edinburgh called The Salt Cave.  It's one of a small, worldwide chain.  It's basically a room that's covered in salt - 2 tonnes of salt on the walls and the floor - and has purified, salty air pumped into it.  Up to 8 people can be in the one in Edinburgh at any one time, and a session lasts an hour, during which you sit in a comfy chair, breathe the salty air, relax in a half-light listening to new-agey music with waves in the background, and most likely fall asleep.  The Salt Cave people claim the experience is beneficial to those with asthma and other lung conditions, sinus problems, ear infections, and various other ailments.  I thought it was worth a go, especially as the first session is free :o)  Well I'm not cured, and didn't expect to be, but it doesn't really matter, because it was relaxing and I enjoyed it immensely.  I have to say though that my nose did feel a lot clearer, so maybe there's something in it.  They do say that you need more than one session for there to be significant improvement in breathing conditions, and recommend two to three sessions a week to start with.  I can't afford that at the moment, and with Edinburgh being the nearest Salt Cave to Newcastle it's not likely that I could get there three times a week either, but maybe I'll go when I'm up visiting Mum.  And as I say, it doesn't really matter if it doesn't help the breathing much/at all, because it's relaxing, and that has to be good for my mental health :o)

Okey dokey, I'm off for now to check through my writing in preparation for the meeting with my PGC portfolio supervisor tomorrow.  I promise I'll be a better blogger now :o)

Saturday, 13 August 2011


This time last week I was still finding it difficult to process the trauma of the last attack.  I wasn't sleeping even though I was utterly exhausted, and every time I lay down to sleep I had all the events of the last attack whizzing through my head at a hundred miles an hour.  I was stressed and tearful through the day and generally wasn't coping very well, so I decided to see my GP to off-load.  I know all the GPs at my practice very well, and they're all great, but there's one in particular I go to when I need to verbally vomit, and she's fine about me verbally vomiting all over her.

I made a double appointment to see Dr P and still managed to run overtime by 10 minutes (oops), but it was good to off-load.  However, it wasn't an easy appointment.  We didn't just talk about the asthma attack-related stress, but also my mobility.  In fact, this is what took up most of the time in the end and it was instigated by Dr P.  In light of the recent attack with how suddenly it came on, how severe it became and so quickly, and what little activity set it off, she said that, in her opinion, it's now too dangerous for me to walk.  I already use my electric wheelchair (Taz) a lot of the time - partly because of the POTS as well as the asthma - but she said I should use it as much as possible, and I should consider myself to have virtually no mobility.

It's a shock.  It's upsetting.  I know it's the reality, and I know that I was using my electric wheelchair more and more, but to have my doctor say this feels very different.  I keep thinking about the implications - all the things I hoped to do again, but will probably never be able to.  I don't feel ready to give up my mobility entirely, but then I wonder if I ever will do.  I doubt it.  A part of me knows that she's right, but another part of me wants to rebel.  Then I ask myself if the consequences are worth the rebellion and they're obviously not...

I had wanted to try to get some level of fitness back.  How am I supposed to do that now?  I asked the doctor about getting back to supervised exercise at the gym and she told me no way.  She said that in her opinion the only place that it's now safe for me to do any kind of exercise is in hospital where there are resuscitation facilities and medics on hand, not just physios.  I can't see that happening.  Yes, I went to pulmonary rehab at the hospital, which was good, but there's a waiting list and I can't see that I'd be able to take a place permanently.  I've emailed the Charge Nurse on Ward 29 to ask his opinion, but I think he's away at the moment, and I'm probably going to have to talk about it with my consultant anyway.

It's a lot to take in.  It feels like the boundaries of my illness have changed again ... more obviously dramatically than anytime before, or anytime I remember.

Friday, 5 August 2011


I have had the most satisfying week of success that I've had for a very long time, possibly ever!

I finished my final Open University course at the end of may, writing my examinable essay (EMA) in a bit of a panic after a bad asthma attack and a prolonged hospital admission.  It was also in the wake of my step-brother's suicide, so I'm sure you can imagine what a particularly stressful time it was.  However, the results came through on Tuesday and to my great surprise I got 87%  I'm thrilled!

Still revelling in the glory of that success on Wednesday morning and I got an email from the OU with official confirmation of my degree - BA (Hons) Lit, with First Class Honours :oD  I knew that if I passed my last course then I'd get my degree, and I knew that I'd get a First, but it was still fantastic to get the official confirmation.

Then on Wednesday afternoon I had an email from Newcastle University offering me a place on their MA in Creative Writing that I'd applied for.  I've been doing their Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing over this past academic year (even though I was still an undergraduate), but I still had to apply for the MA and there wasn't an absolute guarantee that I'd be accepted.

I've been on a high since getting all that news, and I'm now really, really looking forward to my graduation at the Barbican in London on 16th September, and my graduation party back here in Newcastle on 24th September.

I can hardly believe I've done this.  I missed a lot of school through my teenage years because of asthma and bronchitis, also struggling with depression, particularly during my A-level years.  I certainly didn't achieve my academic potential at school, and didn't really believe I was clever enough to do a degree.  Now I have a First class honours degree, I'm well on my way to finishing my PGCert (another 2 500 words to do for my portfolio by the end of the month), and by this time next year I'll almost have finished an MA!

I have surpassed my own expectations, and I'm loving it!