Last week was my first week back at university after the Easter holidays, and this term I have three modules for my MA running concurrently. Two of them only have a few weeks left, but they both then have assignments that need to be written. One of these modules has two pieces of work, but the first is only a short piece of 750 words - a review of an event - and I've done that already. However, I do need to seriously start working on the longer essay. I do have a bit of time till it's due in - 6th June - so I'm trying not to get stressed out about it. The problem is, though, that I can never be sure when I'm going to end up back in hospital, so I can't rely on having all the time until the essay's due in to actually write it. Alongside that, there're are also the other two modules, and whilst I've done the first draft (and a couple of redrafts) of the piece I'm doing for the novel writing workshop module, there's still a bit to do for it, and there's the entire piece for the Writing for Children module. I've only just started that module and as yet have only a very basic idea of what I'm going to do for it. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to it, but it's going to be a challenge, I know that for sure. The assignment for Writing for Children is due in on 11th June, so you can see that I have a lot to do at the moment.
So I had three classes last week, and each class is two hours. That might not sound like much, but it's hard work when you're doing it alongside life with POTS and chronic severe brittle asthma, and although I find that writing and studying sustains me, the effort of going to classes can be exhausting. Overall, it's a great thing, which is why I keep on doing it, but it also means that I'm constantly battling with the conflict of wanting and needing to study/go out, and wanting and needing to rest. Last week was a week when I couldn't do as much resting as I needed, and consequently I spent a lot of the weekend recovering.
Aside from study, last week, I also had my assessment appointment with the health psychologist. I was nervous because I didn't want it to end up with the same outcome as when I saw the psychologist at the difficult asthma clinic. As I've said previously, that concluded with the psychologist giving me a verbal pat on the back for having come so far since I saw a psychologist in the department years ago, and then basically being sent on my way. This time I needed the psychologist to understand that what I'm dealing with now is a whole lot of different things from what I was dealing with nine years ago. I needed to get across that the issues I need help with at the moment are issues about now, issues to do with my health and how the lack of health is impacting on my life, the upset of that, and the difficulties of adapting to ever shifting boundaries of limitation that my health is imposing.
The psychologist I saw wasn't someone I recognised, but then it is nine years since I was last going to the department regularly so it's not surprising that some staff have changed. However, as I've taken part in extensive therapy before I wasn't afraid of actually talking to the psychologist, and found that I was quite easily able to open up and talk to her freely. I have to admit that I was very surprised at how emotional I got when I was talking to her. Most of the time I try just to get on with my situation and my life, making the most of what I have, but having the opportunity to talk to someone impartial about all the upsetting things made me very tearful.
One of the things I want to have the chance to talk about is the loss of my hopes and dreams. I had many. I've lost most of them. I've made new dreams and have different hopes, but they don't stop me from grieving the loss of those that I had, and those are things that I need to be able to share and come to terms with.
It was a productive appointment. As far as a psychology appointment can be good, it was, and I really felt that psychologist I saw got a handle on the issues I'm dealing with and understood their far-reaching consequences. All through the appointment, though, I was wondering if I was touching all these sensitive issues only to have the psychologist turn around to me at the end and say that she couldn't help. However, much to my relief, she said that she thought the referral was completely appropriate and that she did think the department would be able to offer me some input. It may not be with her, but if it was to be with one of her colleagues then she'd pass on everything I'd told her (she took notes while we talked), and it'd only be with her colleague if it was going to be quicker for me to start with them than with her. Unfortunately all that can be offered is six to ten session, but she assured me that should I need more from them in the future then my GP could re-refer me. It's a shame that there isn't any on-going support these days like there used to be, but this is a lot better than nothing and hopefully it'll give me a bit more emotional strength to deal with what I have to.
Now the other thing that I did last week, that is totally different from any of the other stuff, is that I had a birthday :o) I have lived another year beyond my life expectancy, although it's been a challenge to get through at times, as you know. My birthday was on Thursday, so a university day, and a full one at that with two classes - one in the morning and one in the early evening. I took a cake into my first class of the day and shared it with everyone, which made it all very jolly, and everyone's papers very chocolatey ;oP Between classes I met with W and we went to the cinema to see 'The Pirates: In an Adventure with Scientists'. It was great fun, light-hearted, and just what was needed for an afternoon film showing on my birthday.
On the Friday evening I went to Gibside. This is a National Trust property on the edge of Gateshead and County Durham. It's a lovely place, and somewhere I enjoy going whatever the weather, which is just as well because the last couple of times I've visited it's either been snowing or raining. It was raining on Friday, but it didn't matter. Every Friday between 6pm and 9pm they keep the walled garden open while the rest of the grounds are closed, and in an area next to the walled garden they have picnic tables and log burning braziers in a beer garden. They serve beers from a local brewery, Fentimans soft drinks (also made locally), cakes, snacks, and ice-creams. They're all sold from a little hut, which unfortunately isn't directly wheelchair accessible, but when they saw that I was sitting out in the rain they came and said that if I wanted to go inside they'd open up the main shop as there's a way through that to the rest of the hut. As it was I was fine because we were sitting under a huge picnic table parasol, and not far from one of the braziers so it wasn't too chilly. The rain also eased off a fair bit while we were there and at one point we had a gorgeous double rainbow. I'd post a photo of the rainbows except that I haven't actually downloaded them onto my computer yet.
I'd invited a fair few people to join me at Gibside, but I left it a bit late to ask, and actually a lot of folk were away at various different places. However, several people were able to come and I think all had a good time. I know I did :o) I don't think any of those who came had been to the Gibside beer garden before, but I think it is somewhere we might all end up again, though perhaps on a slightly less soggy evening.
As I mentioned before, I didn't do a huge amount at the weekend as I was recovering from the busy week I'd had. This week has so far seen me back at university, doing some of the homework I've had from university (I still have some to do), an appointment with the physiotherapist at the hand clinic, two trips to the dentist as I had a filling fall out on Friday afternoon, and a quick visit to ward 29 for a portacath flush. Not exactly a relaxing or fun-filled time, but all necessary. I still have another two classes at university to go, more homework before tomorrow afternoon's class, and a follow-up appointment with the surgeon at the hand clinic. Thankfully, I have a nice day with W planned for Saturday, so that will redress the balance somewhat :o)
Right then, I'd better get myself to bed or I'll never manage to get myself up in the morning in time for my class, which this week is an hour earlier than usual as the tutor has to go and host an event at the Hexham Book Festival in the early afternoon. I wish her luck, but I so wish I could have that extra hour in bed ;o)