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

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


I'm afraid to say that I'm still not doing well on the emotional front.  Part of the reason I haven't posted for so long is because I've wanted to be more positive and more like my usual self when I've posted, but I've come to realise that if I do then then I'll be waiting a very long time, as will you.  The fact of the matter is that things are tough - very tough - the Crisis Team are still seeing me every two days, and I'm still phoning their support line most nights.

Most people wouldn't think of asthma as traumatic.  Most people think of it as a mild condition of childhood that's easily treated with a couple of puffs of an inhaler, and at some point the child will grow out of it.  This can be the case for some, perhaps for most, but for a minority asthma can be severe (and anyone with any 'level' of asthma can have a severe attack at any time).  For some, asthma can be life-threatening, and for an even smaller minority it can be repeatedly life-threatening.  I'm in that minority of the minority, but just because I've gone through a huge number of life-threatening/near-fatal asthma attacks, it doesn't mean that it gets easier.  Yes, I know what's happening, and I know what to expect in terms of treatment, but I never know if I'm going to survive.  The fear never goes away.

I'm good at keeping as calm as possible when I'm in the throes of a severe asthma attack - it's been commented on by medical staff more than once - but the fear and anxiety is merely under control, rather than absent.  It has to come out sometime.

For several years I have seemingly bounced back after each severe attack.  I've been tired, and it's taken a while to get my physical strength back, but I often haven't given enough attention to the emotional trauma.  Instead I've thrown myself back in to studies, concentrated on whatever essay or piece of creative writing I've had to do, and looked towards getting my degrees.  I have those degrees now.  I don't have essays to produce or books to study.  I don't have a guided focus.  I do have the two books I'm meant to be writing, but I can't concentrate on them.  I can't focus.  I can't get my words out sufficiently.  Even writing this is a real struggle.

To some extent, all these things have provided distraction when I've been discharged from hospital, but the counter-side is that they've also stopped me from dealing with the trauma of the events.  My last admission was particularly traumatic.  I felt traumatised at the time of the attack, and in the days immediately following it (after I'd been transferred from ITU to the respiratory ward), but then there was the severe pyelonephritis (kidney infection) on top of it all, and the combination has been overwhelming.  I have now been diagnosed as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

My psychologist is good - helpful, attentive, works with me in partnership, works me hard, and I trust her.  None of that makes therapy easy - therapy is never easy - but it reduces any anxiety I have about talking about some aspects of the trauma.  However, at the moment we're having to fire fighting therapy - crisis management - so planning sessions from week to week isn't really working. Instead we have to deal with whatever is the most pressing and distressing thing at the time.  They're all connected, all part of the PTSD and depression, but some of the 'symptoms' are themselves distressing.

I was going to write some more, but I keep zoning out (dissociating) - one of the PTSD symptoms I've recently been finding very distressing (at least in the aftermath).  It's taken me two hours to write what I have!  Maybe I'll write some more about this at another time, but for now I'll have to leave it here.  Apologies if this doesn't all make sense.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Two years ago today my younger step-brother went missing and killed himself.  We didn't know that he'd killed himself until he was found three days later on 6th April, but it was on 3rd April that he went to a hotel and hanged himself.  I hadn't seen him for some time before he did that, but all the same, I miss him so much.

I feel completely alone with my grief, and yes, I am still grieving.  There isn't really anyone who knew Nn with whom I can talk about him, or talk about missing him and still grieving for him.  I tried a while back, but my feelings were nullified because they 'found him very difficult.'  There seemed to be a complete absence of acknowledgement that Nn had been a significant figure in my childhood and in my growing up, simply because this person had only known him in the latter years of his life when he was ravaged by years of drug abuse.  Yes, I know that he had become a challenging character - I don't deny that - but he wasn't all bad and he never had been.  He was still my step-brother.  He had been a big part of my life for a lot of years.  We had shared a lot of what life had thrown at us.  He was important to me.  But none of that was remembered or seemed significant to the person I tried to speak with, and I was squashed.

No one else seems to want to talk about him.  Never.  Not about anything.  Not his life.  Not his death.  Not the times we all shared together.  Not the times he found it so difficult to be with anyone.  Sometimes I even wonder if they remember him at all.  I do, and I miss him.

I have a thousand and more memories of Nn whizzing through my mind this morning, some good, some not so good.  All of them important to me.  We were children when we entered each others lives - I was nine; Nn was seven - and from then on we spent every weekend together and hundreds of weeks of school holidays together.  We shared a parent/parent-figure.  He envied me because the parent was biologically mine, but I envied him because he had every day with that parent.  There was rivalry, but there was also friendship and shared interests, and thousands of hours of play together.

The memories I have are now all that I have of him.  Well, those and a couple of photos.  I will never see Nn again, and the last time I was in the same room as him was at his funeral.  I didn't even get to be at the scattering of his ashes because I was ill in hospital, and I so wish I had been able to be there, to see him off, to watch him catch his very last waves ... His ashes were scattered at sea because he used to love surfing.  I can go to the beach where he learnt to surf - where I did body-boarding while he surfed because I never could get the hang of standing on the surf board - but being there with my memories of him is a million times different from being there with him, or seeing him there.  I watch others on the same stretch of surf, I remember Nn, and I miss him so much.

I think about him two years in the past from now.  I think how he would still have been alive at this time of day.  I think about him being at work, because he did go to work that morning, but I also think about the distress he must have been feeling too.  I think about how twelve hours from now he was probably either dead or preparing for death.  I think about how he would have checked himself in to the hotel knowing that he would only leave it dead.  I think about annoyed and frustrated his employers probably felt that he didn't turn up for his afternoon shift.  I think about what Nn may have been doing while he was supposed to be at work.  I think about his mobile phone picking up messages while he hung dead in the hotel room.  I think about him being there for three days.  I think about the person who found him.

I think a lot of things.

I miss him.

I cry for him.

I cry for me.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


I hate feeling like this.  I hate being so unhappy, tired, and anxious all the time.  I try to relax with distraction, with breathing exercises, with systematic relaxation, with some of the principles of mindfulness, with making myself go out and about even when I don't feel like it, with music, with the radio, with the telly, with almost anything I can think of, but nothing works long-term.  By the end of the day I'm exhausted from lack of sleep the previous night, from anxiety, from flashbacks, from the depression itself, from trying to distract myself from all of this.  I run out of ways to cope (or making a pretence of coping), and all the mess comes rising to the surface.  I can't sleep.  The images, sensations, feelings, anxieties, negative and intrusive thoughts, and all the upset crowd in on me and threaten to drown me.  By this time I'm beyond being able to distract myself any further, having had to do so all through the day, and I feel like I'm drowning.  I don't sleep.  I cry.  I toss and turn.  I relive the traumas that haunt me.  Alone and afraid, feeling weak and vulnerable, I lose myself in my upset.

I was supposed to have gone up to Edinburgh on Saturday and be spending this week up there with my mum and step-dad.  When it came to it, I didn't feel able to go and actually needed to stay here where the professional support is trying to hold me up.  My mum and step-dad came down to me for Easter instead, and last night/early this morning Mum checked in on me to see if I was asleep.  I wasn't.  I couldn't.  My insides were churning and my mind whirring in never ending arguments with myself, thoughts and general mess.  She sat with me, held my hand, and stroked my head like she did when I was a young child.  I felt so little, vulnerable, and fragile; and tears slipped from my eyes and dampened my pillow.  Eventually I felt safe in Mum's comfort, some of the anxiety was quelled, and sleep came.  I stirred a little when Mum got up off the side of my bed and went back to her bed in the living room, but I had been reassured.  I turned over and went back to sleep for four and a half hours.

Today I've caught myself chastising myself for needing that little girl comfort, that reassurance, but it helped, and I remind myself that it shouldn't matter that I'm 38 and needing what I had last night.   I have to tell myself that whatever I need at the moment to help me feel better, to relax, to have a rest from the brokenness is okay.  The chastising part of me continues to poke at me, and it's a battle to keep hold of the gentle, nurturing self.  I don't always succeed.  In fact, I often don't succeed.  I argue with myself and yet somehow manage to lose the argument.

One of the members of the crisis team (CATT) told me today that he thinks I can come through this.  I want to believe him because I so hate feeling this way, but I'm so tired that I'm not sure he's right.  I do all that I'm asked to help myself - I do more than I'm asked if I can think of anything - but nothing to date has made any great impact on my distress.  That, in itself, adds to the distress.

I don't remember if I'd said this to you before or not, but a few months ago I said to my psychologist that depression is a monster that tells you lies.  The logical part of my brain still believes this, but the bit that is over-powered by the monster can't hold on to this and believes all that Depression tells me.  I'm trapped.