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

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Telling it as it is

Again, again, again, it's far too long since I last blogged, and again I apologise.  I've been wanting to blog since shortly after my last post, but there was something stopping me ... something I couldn't quite put in to words.  I've been thinking about this over the past few days as again I've had itchy fingers for blogging without actually putting fingers to keyboard.  It should have been obvious to me what this was about, but for some reason it wasn't until now.

Some of you will be aware that a couple of months back I had some trolls on my blog, and as much as I hate to admit it they got to me.  Coupled with the depression I've been battling even without the trolls, I've felt uneasy about sharing myself with the ether as I've previously done, but I've come to the conclusion that I can't let them win.  They are bullies and I can't let bullies win.  I can't even let them hurt me because they're not worth it - they're not worth that power.  So today I'm writing my blog.

Last time I wrote I said that things were improving in respect to the depression, and it's true that I'm not in the same place of crisis that I was earlier in the year, but over the past couple of weeks I've realised who unstable that improvement is.  It's not that I'm suicidal again (as I was earlier in the year), but I do still struggle.  Considerably.  A couple of things have happened in recent weeks that have shaken the weak foundations I was trying to build myself on, and consequently I've fallen.  I've seen my psychologist and again spent the session in tears, after a few sessions when I felt as though I could get my thoughts and feelings out without tears coming with them.  I'd got to a level where S thought that we should try making the sessions fortnightly instead of weekly, and I thought this might be manageable.  We tried it, and it was okay for a short time, but then at the end of last week's session S suggested she see me again this week because of my downward slip.  I was pleased to accept the increased frequency, even if it's only for a short time.  I know that for now I need that extra bit of support, but I don't like to suggest it myself because I know too that S's time is limited and in demand.

One of the things that's happened recently is that I've had yet another diagnosis added to my list.  I've been feeling unwell in a different way for a while so I went to my GP with some suspicions of the cause of the unwellness.  I thought I was developing diabetes, which is a common side effect corticosteroids, especially when you've been on them for a long time like I have.  I went through my symptoms with my GP, and as I had already been checking my blood sugars (BMs) some of the times I'd felt particularly unwell (I used to get low blood sugars for some reason so had a monitor from this time) I was able to tell the doc that BMs had been very erratic and often going up to between 11-13.  The GP said he was 90% sure that I was right, but wanted to do some other blood tests to confirm.  These were spread over about three weeks, so it was stressful time of kind of being in limbo - having a strong suspicion of diagnosis, but nothing actually confirmed, and no treatment when feeling so unwell.  Eventually the results came back and I was called back to the GP, and the results weren't quite what we were expecting.  In many ways this is a very good thing, but it's also confusing because I'd pretty much prepared myself for a diagnosis of diabetes.  The actual diagnosis that's been made is Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) - basically pre-diabetes - but the perplexing thing is that with IGT I should not be symptomatic, and I am.

One of the gold-standard tests for diabetes is a blood test called HbA1c.  This measures the average blood glucose level over the previous three months, and for me this came back as borderline.  My GP is wondering if perhaps diabetes has developed relatively quickly so there's been a sudden increase in my blood glucose levels, but that because the HbA1c is an average then this has given a lower reading than it would if I'd been diabetic for the full three months.  Does that make sense?  So, the upshot is that I have to go for another HbA1c blood test at the end of January - exactly three months from first one.  However, the weirdness continues, because as well as the HbA1c I also had to have some fasting blood sugar tests (basically BMs done by the GP first thing in the morning before having anything to eat or drink), and these results were rather all over the place.  One was normal-low; one was normal-high; and one was high.  I am confused and my GP is confused.  I still have symptoms.  I still feel unwell, particularly with what I've come to term 'hyper-head' - a weird kind of feeling of pressure building up in my head, sort of a headache, but not quite a headache feeling, and it comes on when my BMs are high.  But even with hyper-head and other symptoms I'm not on any medication to alleviate any of it.  That's usual for IGT - not to have medication - except sometimes when it's steroid-induced, as mine is ... but then with IGT I shouldn't be symptomatic.

It may not sound like much really, but actually it's all been stressful, and the lack of anything to alleviate any of it is difficult because I can do nothing to make myself feel better.  The suggestion at this stage is diet control, which would be fine if there were much I could do to alter my diet, but I already eat a high fibre diet with wholegrain pasta, rice, and bread rather than the refined white stuff (I'm allergic to the white varieties, which is too complex to go in to here); I don't eat many refined sugar products; I don't/can't eat ready meals - all main meals are cooked from scratch by my carers - because of allergies, and that's also in accordance with a pre-diabetes diet.  I haven't yet found any major changes I can make to my diet to suit IGT other than to reduce the number of oranges or other high fructose fruits I consume.  Oh, and reduce the amount of fruit juice I have, not that I've drunk litres of it before now.

You know what's ridiculous about all this?  The cat (Zach) was diagnosed with diabetes in the summer.  When I got home from hospital in August I was really worried about him because he'd lost loads of weight and just didn't seem right.  I took him to the vet thinking that the problems with his kidneys may have returned/worsened, and actually that's what the vet initially thought.  She did some blood tests, and much to her surprise his kidney function was back in the normal range, but his blood sugar was high.  She did a test similar to the HbA1c, and after a half hour wait the results were back and diabetes was confirmed.  Zach was immediately started on insulin injections twice a day, initially on a low dose, but further tests a couple of weeks later showed the insulin had to be increased.  He's now a lot better, has his energy back, is back to running around the house, eating properly again, and loves to munch on people again too (this isn't something I enjoy, and try not to let him do it, but he's particularly 'characterful').  He'll have to go back for another full day of tests in a month's time - just before Christmas - to see how things are going with his bloods through the course of the day, but he's so much better.

When I first started to notice my own symptoms, I thought I was imagining it, or just had too much empathy with the cat, or something.  To be honest it was kind of a relief to have the doctor confirm that something was awry, but actually I'd much rather have nothing more be going wrong.

Is it petty that it's all been getting to me and contributing to my depression?  It some ways it feels it is; in others it seems reasonable.  I could just do with some time of no added stress, but it doesn't look like that's going to be any time soon, what with all this, various other big on-going stresses, and my lungs playing up.

I didn't really mean for this to be a moan, so apologies for that, but I guess this is me not being defeated by the bullies - I'm telling it how it is.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

A little bit of a few things

I'm far too aware that it's far, far too long that I wrote a proper post, any post at all in fact, but particularly a proper one.  I haven't even finished showing you photos of my holiday, but it's even longer since I actually wrote anything.  Part of my absence is because I've been trying to gather myself.  This year has been tough, very tough, in many different ways.  I've shared some of the depression here, and some of the physical illness, and some of the other stresses, but there's been a fair bit that I haven't shared.  Some of it I can't talk about here, not yet anyway, but I think it's enough for the moment just to say that there's more going on behind the scenes than most are aware of.

I've needed a bit of space.  My holiday helped, but there's always a certain amount of post-holiday gathering that needs to be done to get one back in to the real world.  That can be tough when the real world has been tough.

I still have a fair amount going on - difficult things/situations  to deal with - but I'm slowly beginning to feel a bit more ... more me.  I think the start of term has helped somewhat, not that I'm a student these days, but choir (Flotsam) only runs through term time, and it just feels like there's generally a bit more structure around with other things going on.  Having said that, I did sign up for a short writing course at Newcastle University again.  It's actually a course - Memoir Writing -  that I did as a module towards my MA, but the short modules are open to the public too.  After not having my brain function in the right way for 'proper writing' almost all year, I was feeling closed up, blocked, trapped, and I thought that the short course might help to open things up again.  It did.  Six weeks of prompting, encouragement, recapping on technical aspects, etc really helped, and I wrote close to 10,000 words towards my book.  After almost a year of practically zero words, that's a huge improvement.  I hope I can keep up the momentum, but finding motivation for anything is still challenging at times.

One major difference between now and a few months ago is that I am able to look forward to things.  I was trying to keep putting things in the diary before, but mustering up a sense of excited anticipation for anything I would ordinary have looked forward to wasn't happening.  I'm a way up that hole now and can enjoy the anticipation of good things ahead.  Last weekend I went over to a friend's for chocolate fondue with a few others to help R celebrate her birthday.  I had a lovely evening with lovely people, lovely fondue, and a fun game of Apples to Apples, which I'd never heard of before.

On Tuesday a couple of us went to a local fireworks display.  Twenty to thirty minutes or so of colourful explosions filling the dark November sky really does help to blow dust from the brain - that and friendship :o)

Tomorrow afternoon I'm joining some friends for a workshop in glass work.  I'm not quite sure what it's going to involve, but I'm really looking forward to it.  The anticipation of fun with others, learning something new, something creative, making something, it's all good, and I love that I can enjoy the anticipation.

There's been some health stuff going on over the past couple of weeks.  I don't really want to discuss it at the moment because I don't have firm answers yet.  I've had various blood tests, and have another - hopefully the last for a while - on Monday, after which I'm hoping my GP will give me some of those answers.  When he does I'll tell you about it, but to be honest, I've been finding it all rather overwhelming lately and haven't wanted to think about it too much while I still don't have a truly confirmed diagnosis, even though the doctor is 90% certain of his preliminary diagnosis.

Part of the process of gathering myself has been evaluating where I'm at in a slightly more general way than just the immediate present.  For quite some time I've had ideas of possibilities for myself and my life, but they all ground to a halt when I got trapped in the great pit of depression.  In reality, the possibilities never really disappeared, but I was so far down the pit that I couldn't see the possibilities over the top of the hole.  I'm climbing out of that pit now, and every so often I get a little glimpse of things that are waiting at the top.  I've caught sight of one of those possibilities, and after failing to believe it for a while, I'm now thinking that maybe it could happen - maybe I'll get out of the pit, climb over the edge, and have those possibilities become realities.  I'm digging a foothold in to the edge of this hole to give me more of a grasp to the edge.  I'm trying to climb up and eventually out, and one of the things I've done that I'm hoping will get me out is arrange a meeting.  I have a meeting next week with one of the professors in the English department at Newcastle University to informally discuss the possibilities of doing a PhD in creative writing.  There are a lot of things around it to discuss, with funding being a major issue, and my health not being insignificant either, but it's something I want to do.  I do.  I really want to do it.  You know, even ten years ago I didn't think I was intelligent enough even to do an undergraduate degree, but I got a First class honours in my BA.  I actually started my post graduate studies during my last year of my undergraduate degree so got my Post Graduate Certificate in creative writing within a month of undergrad degree ceremony.  A year later I got my MA.  I want to go further.  I want to do a PhD, and not just for the sake of it, or to prove anything to myself or anyone else.  I want to do it because I love learning, I know what my proposal would be, I know what I want to get out of it, and there might be possibilities for me once I've done it.  The earliest I could possibly start would be next September, but I know too what I would do between now and then - the book that I've been working on for a while.  The meeting next Wednesday is one huge mass of possibilities, and the outcome of it could have a huge impact on the rest of my life, even though it's informal.

This, all of this, the possibility of a PhD, the love of education, what I get from writing, what I hope I give through writing, my music, my singing, my health, my creativity, my friends, my friendships, fireworks, games, fondue, and words, these are the things that help make up me.  These are my possibilities.  These are all important in rediscovering myself.  Gathering them all together again, back in to the pot of me, takes time because they've been spilled out and scattered in dark corners of the pit, but I'm finding them again, and I'm more hopeful that before too long I'll be standing at the top of that deep hole and shouting, 'Hello folks, I'm me again.'