Speechless!

One of my clinic supervisors told me repeatedly to talk less in therapy sessions.  Mostly to let my clinic partner take the lead more, give her the opportunity to develop rather than maintain her uncertainty and insecurities by filling in the gaps myself.  I tried.  I don’t know how successful I was.  My supervisor told me I was good at talking to patients, though – “you really do have the gift of the gab”, she said.  As far as compliments go I’m not sure it’s my favorite one.  But it’s true.  I talk a lot.  Even when I’m trying not to talk a lot.  Even when I’m in one of those conversations where feel like I’m being constantly interrupted and talked over and every sentence is only half-finished because someone else has something they want to say, people tell me I talk a lot.  I’m good at talking.  I’m good at talking in front of people, I’m good at talking without being pre-prepared for needing to talk, I’m good at answering difficult questions and looking like I’m sure of the answer even when I’m making it up as I go along.  I’m good at the technicalities of talking, too – at pronouncing difficult words, at tongue-twisters, at picking up words I haven’t heard before and matching them to meanings.  It makes me impatient, sometimes.  When I understand what someone’s telling me, I want them to move along and tell me the next thing.  I try to show them I understand so they know they don’t have to keep explaining the first bit but unfortunately sometimes it comes out as interrupting or finishing sentences.  I try not to, but my mouth runs away with me.  I like getting other people to talk, too.  I like joining a group of silent strangers and making them into chatting acquaintances.  I like getting a kid to go from quiet and withdrawn to telling me all about their favourite toys.  It’s like a game.  

 

When I’m tired, though, I lose the power of speech and language.  My head feels wooden, solid, and turning the strings of sounds I hear from other people is a struggle that takes all my attention.  I say, “sorry, I’m not following you”, and hope it sounds like I think the concept they’re explaining is so deep and complex that I need more help rather than I just couldn’t piece a single meaningful word out of the gabble.  Sometimes I come to a grinding halt while talking, the words just fade out on my tongue and I have to recollect how to articulate the letters carefully, almost one at a time.  Sometimes I forget the word I want altogether, forget what I was talking about entirely.  I have to start again at the beginning of the thought and run through it until I can pick up where the words went wrong in my mouth.  I find it hard to think of things to say, useful things to contribute, I find myself becoming unsociable, mute, avoiding casual chitchat because it’s so much work.  Work to listen and understand, work to construct a meaningful reply, work to make my face give the same message as my words – just work.  It’s hard, so much harder than usual, to get pitch and tone and pacing right.  I come off sounding abrupt or catty or sullen.  

 

Obviously I’m exaggerating the size of the problem.  It’s a problem for me because I FEEL like I should be different.  But I still function close enough to normally, I think.  People aren’t avoiding me in the lunchroom at work, so I must be reasonably successful at not sounding like a cranky bitch ALL the time.  People are still giving me time to wave a hand slightly dramatically in the air, scrunch my face in concentration, and say, “…so the, the, THING will just… where was I up to?”  Sometimes they say, “wow, you’re REALLY tired, aren’t you?”  And I pull a face that I hope indicates good-natured self-mockery and nod my head while my mind hurriedly marshals thoughts into words and prepares my mouth to form the right shapes again.  So I know I’m exaggerating.  It still frustrates me, but I know it’s not as big a problem as I feel it is.  If it was, my place of employment would not be giving me what they ARE giving me… extra resource, another head, a person to report to me and take over the administrative part of my job while I expand the analytical, data-crunching, problem-solving part of my job.  THIS is the good thing that happened this week.  Admittedly it’s not actually advertised yet, so I’m still trying not to count my chickens before they hatch, but the general manager is behind it and requesting funding from higher up to create the extra position.  I’m told he usually gets what he wants.  For a good thing I did – well, I negotiated some pricing with a customer, so that we can supply them only the larger size of a product while the smaller size is out of stock without costing them extra or losing out on too much revenue ourselves.  Which I’m proud of, because usually I would advocate the easy road of just matching the pricing from one product to the other or hand it off to the sales manager to deal with.  But I knew that he was too busy and the value too small to put his time into, so I worked it out and got agreement from the customer and everyone’s happy.  A small victory, perhaps, but a victory nonetheless.  This week I’m grateful for… supportive colleagues and managers and an employer who wants to keep me on board.  It’s all about work, this week.  Probably because it feels like all I do is work and come home and sleep and go back to work.  No, that’s a lie!  I had three days off last week and we went to Pisa.  So I’m also grateful for cheap flights and being close to so many interesting destinations.  We walked everywhere in Pisa, though, so I came back worn out.  My next holiday is in six and a half weeks.  I can’t wait.  I’m grateful for that, too – things to look forward to!  Good things to come!  Hooray!

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Missing: Opinions

Sometimes I think I’m a little bit defective. Something was just left out of me. Most people seem to have opinions in abundance – not just opinions, either. STRONG opinions. Outrage and adoration and passionate beliefs. I just… don’t. Not like others. It’s not that I don’t disagree with people. It’s just that I don’t care so much about the disagreement that I’m motivated to rant or argue or make speeches. The background clatter of right and wrong and OPINIONS just makes me feel old and exhausted. So, today I’m grateful for peace. Just a quiet space to be calm in. I’m grateful for my house, on a quiet dead end shielded from the main road, with unobtrusive neighbours and big trees behind it. It’s a good place.

This week I finished creating a lookup tool for someone at work. It wasn’t as fancy as I wanted to make it, but it’ll be helpful to the people who need it. That’s a good thing. I like making things that help to make my colleague’s jobs a little easier.

I’m sure good things happened this week – it wasn’t a bad week – but I’m struggling to think of one specific good thing. I know! The sun came out, and I drove home on Friday evening through bright afternoon sunshine, with the vivid yellow of canola flowers on one side of the road and the deep green blades of some other crop on the other, all under blue sky decorated with drifts of puffy rounded clouds bottomed in grey and topped in white. Home to my house, and a little bit of calm.

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Back on the wagon

No posts for a few weeks. I knew that would happen at some point… rather hoped I’d stick to a regular once-a-week for a bit longer, though! I’ve been in one of those places where attempting to think about the good things in life leads me into thinking about the things that AREN’T good and feeling powerless to change them. That’s a bad cycle to get into. Time for a fresh start.

This week I started working on implementing my personal development plan at work. First step was getting involved with some of the analysis & decision-making that our strategy manager does. What he asked me to do looked pretty simple, but between the crappy reporting tools we have that mean it can take days to extract the data I needed, the short weeks either side of the Easter break, and making a few mistakes along the way, I got the report completed & turned in at the very last minute. After working on it until 11:30pm, then being unable to fall asleep, then waking up at 3am, then getting up at 7:30 to get online & send the report in I was KNACKERED. So glad I was working from home that day. It’s going to take me a few days to get over that effort, and all my joints are aching in retribution for not getting enough sleep.

One of the things I was determined about when I was first diagnosed with Crohns was that the disease wasn’t going to run my life. I was damned if I was going to spend all my time curled up under a blanket. And looking back, I’ve done pretty well – since being diagnosed I’ve completed a 4-year Uni degree, got married, moved countries, bought a house… and another house… travelled, taken drawing lessons and been a short film actor and created an Excel-based tool that is gradually being implemented for use across all the 30 or so account managers at my company. And what I want to be looking back on in another 10 years or so is a similar string of “look what I DID!” rather than an endless desert landscape of “look what I wished I’d done…” But with each passing year and each additional health problem, that gets a little bit harder. So I’ve got to smarten up my act a bit. First thing: learn not to overdo it. I CANNOT keep up with late nights and early mornings. I have to make sure I get a reasonable amount of sleep and remember to ALWAYS take the tablets that help me sleep, until such a time as the docs think I can come off them. I’m tapering them down already, and aside from that one night where I’d overworked myself I sleep well as long as I take the tablets. Next thing is my general health – I’m improving my diet, losing some of the 2 stone I put on last year, and my energy levels are much better than they were six months ago. I can walk the ten minutes to the slimming club I joined (even though it seems like such a cliche) without being exhausted for a day afterward. But I need to start doing some small amounts of regular exercise – just 5 minutes a day to begin with, I think, and I’ll build it up from there.

Tomorrow is a new day, right? And even better – it’s a FRIDAY.

So, very quickly, here’s the wrap:
I’m grateful for the company I work for. They’ve been very good to me, and are willing to give me opportunities to develop myself & my career.

I produced a very large report analysing sales & profit across the business, and I dealt with a fair number of problems along the way. Even though I wrecked myself in the process, I still did a good thing.

A good thing that happened… well, I was given the opportunity to do the big giant exhausting report. I guess that’s a good thing. And I got some positive feedback from the business unit director for it. My next task will be to identify specific products that are desperately in need of a pricing review, and recommend actions to take on them. And being given that opportunity is a good thing, too.

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Still Processing

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Check me out!  I’m on holiday in Budapest!

I finished reading The Hunger Games while I was away, in the precious few minutes we had away from the group – I’d elected to take the “free time” option on one afternoon rather than join another organised activity.  It reminded me of the Victor Kelleher novels I enjoyed greatly as a YA myself.  And the trilogy got me thinking about the nature of emotional & psychological trauma, what inflicts it and what it takes to recover from it.  I’m only now beginning to recognise how wounded I was by my assorted health problems. I felt strong, I felt like a survivor, and after each episode of ill health I picked myself up & kept moving forwards.  But when I look back now, I can see the scars.  The fact it was two years before I could talk about my three months in hospital with Crohns without crying.  That the jobs I took after Uni were ones that were below my potential, didn’t stretch or challenge me.  The way I felt burned out inside, unable to feel emotion, to sympathise or empathise.  Even the way I considered my relationship with the man I would go on to marry.  It wasn’t that I feared my problems would make me unacceptable to me – it was that I worried that he didn’t understand what he was getting himself into.  Like Katniss, I worried that I was too much of a survivor – too heartless, making my decisions based selfishly on my own needs.  I worried that I was choosing to marry because of what he could offer me – security, financial support when I was unwell, and so on – rather than because we were “meant to be together”.  Whatever that’s supposed to mean.  Worried that eventually he would come to resent having to support me.  Unlike Katniss, I came eventually to the conclusion that I had to have a little faith.  Faith in him, that what he was offering me was offered freely and willingly.  Faith in myself, that I was essentially a Good Person and would employ my practical, pragmatic mind to make decisions that would benefit the both of us.  Faith that everything would be alright in the end.  Like Katniss, too, I make lists in my head to fend off the bad black days – not lists of evidence that people are capable of good, but evidence that I am valued and valuable and worthwhile.  Evidence that my life will not become a long tale of exhaustion and pain, lost opportunities and wasted potential.  Evidence that despite the things that still surprise me I can function in society.  Like when during a presentation at work someone showed a picture of a young man bruised and battered and scarred from months on Total Parenteral Nutrition.  Suddenly all I could see were my feet, thin and pale and bruised from tripping on the drip stand while on TPN myself, cut where I’d hit the sharp corners of its metal spokes – and in the middle of a room full of my colleagues I was fighting tears from the many memories of feeling weak and vulnerable and without hope.

A survivor, yes.  But still healing.  I might as well accept that.

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Scavenger

Bosco, our nice-but-dim Russian Blue, has become a scavenger.

Background on our cats: they’re indoor cats, going outside on occasion when we’re around to keep an eye on them.  They eat cat biscuits and sometimes wet meat (Bosco particularly likes wet meat & has it in the evening, but sometimes Roswell decides she’s going to share), but generally won’t touch anything else.  Okay, I do have to watch Ros if there’s freshly baked chocolate cake on the bench and she is fond of sharing a packet of crisps with me (any flavour – she’s recently taken to salt & vinegar), but Bosco was pretty much a cat biscuits, brewer’s yeast treats and a little bit of cheese animal until quite recently.

Now he’s a scavenger.

He begs scraps when I’m cooking, regardless of whether it’s carrots or steak that I’m cutting up.  He snaffles pizza toppings that fall on the floor – the sweetcorn gave him some trouble, as it kept flicking off his tongue and bouncing away, but he got it under control eventually.  We really didn’t expect him to consume the pineapple, but he did.  He’s crazy about ham, to the extent that DJ has started teaching him a new trick – walking backwards on 2 feet – which he will perform quite readily AS LONG AS THERE’S HAM for a reward.  Salami, my leftover cereal, milk we’ve put out for Ros – he’ll consume whatever he can lay his teeth on.

While it’s entertaining, there’s a downside to a cat eating a wide & varied diet.  Particularly an indoor cat.  That downside is the kitty litter box.  It aint fun.  And on the weekend, Bosco was outside with us while we were gardening when he suddenly realised he needed to go.  The kitty litter is indoors, up two flights of stairs, so he decided he couldn’t make it and would relieve himself in the freshly-dug garden instead.  That, my friends, was one disgraceful, reeking mess the likes of which I hope never to see – or smell – again.  After gingerly disposing of the evidence into a deep hole with the shovel, it was decided that Bosco would be on a strict cat food only diet henceforth.   No more ham.

Roswell is unhappy about this, as she’s accustomed to having a little bit of milk in the evenings but we’re not taking the risk that Bosco will finish it off for her.

The wrap up for the last week, then:

I’m grateful that my dear and wonderful husband cleans the kitty litter box.

I got half my collection of plants into the ground (carefully avoiding the disposal site), and I’m happy about that.

A good thing that happened… well, my delivery from Lush came yesterday!  So I had a very nice pink candy-smelling bath in the evening, which Bosco was firmly discouraged from drinking out of.

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Let that garden grow

Today we met our brand new (and very first) niece. Her parents are very proud of themselves, and of her. I think I made all the right noises. I’m not much of a babies person. I never have been. I like children, I just like them more when they’re walking & talking.

The thing about NOT having children is that you’re immediately separated from your child-rearing peers. Some things about this frustrate me. Like when new parents say they’re SO TIRED, and I’m not allowed to say, I know how that feels. Because I’m not a parent. I do, however, know what it’s like to be so excruciatingly tired that the world turns sideways underneath. I know what it’s like to sit on the edge of the bed sobbing with sheer exhaustion because my hairbrush is on the cabinet over the other side of the room, and to reach it I will have to stand up and take two steps there then two steps back to sit down again. I KNOW tired. I know what it’s like to wake up in the night repeatedly – not called from sleep by baby-cries but pushed out of it by my own body demanding attention for some need. This hurts! Need the toilet! Gonna be sick! Something else hurts! It needs to be cared for like a demanding toddler that won’t sleep through the night and only wants to wear pink.

Okay, maybe that analogy’s not working.

Anyway, I had a partial bowel obstruction on Friday. At least I think that’s what it was. Obstructive pain is quite identifiable. Usually I’m good about avoiding things that trigger that type of pain, but on Thursday I ate some steamed cabbage and some pineapple. Pineapple doesn’t usually give me any trouble, but I should have known better than to touch the cabbage. I know, I’m weird – but I LIKE cabbage, alright? And I’ve had so little trouble lately that I thought I’d get away with a couple of mouthfuls. The pain started about 1:30am – usually if I eat something I shouldn’t at lunch I know about it by dinnertime… so maybe it WAS the pineapple. I hope it wasn’t. I like pineapple even more than cabbage.

After getting not much more sleep I called in sick to work on Friday. I spent most of Friday curled up in bed, reminding myself to breathe through the cramps and keeping drinking water. Just small sips. Monitoring myself for signs that this was not improving. Reminding myself of my personal rule – if you can’t keep water down, go to hospital. How much of what I was drinking was coming back up? If I need to go to hospital, will I call a taxi or ask the builder (who was finishing our shed roof) to take me? Or is this emergency enough to call an ambulance? If I go to hospital, I’ll probably be stuck there all weekend. I don’t want to spend the weekend in hospital. I made a deal with myself – if nothing’s better by the time DJ gets home, I will go to hospital. I asked him to cancel his after-work drinks plans just in case.

By the time he got home, I really was improving. Keeping down everything I drank and feeling a little less crampy. I worried about it for a little while (the only thing worse than having to present yourself at A&E is having to do it after 10:30 on a Friday/Saturday night), but decided I was safe enough to stay home. DJ went out & bought me lemonade icypoles (that’s ice lollies to the Brits – I’m learning the lingo but it still feels unnatural to use it!). On Saturday I ate some plain biscuits and crackers. On Sunday I had weak black coffee – not the best idea as it prompted another wave of cramps, but at least it stayed down. So over this weekend I’ve consumed a LOT of crackers and most of a packet of Rich Tea biscuits, but I’m feeling a lot better.

It’s episodes like this that remind me why I haven’t pushed myself harder in my working life. I get frustrated at work because I feel like I could be doing more, achieving higher, Fulfilling My Potential. I have to remind myself that I chose work which was not too demanding to ensure I would have energy left over when I came home of an evening. I looked for administrative work because I didn’t want to be difficult to replace – I wanted to be able to take time off sick without worrying about work. This is good, valid, and sensible reasoning. You know how people say that their serious illness was really a blessing because it forced them to look at their priorities in life, and focus less on their work & more on their families? I hate it when people say that. I’ve spent most of my adult life evaluating my priorities and putting my health first. I hate what doing that has taken away from me. When someone says that an illness/accident/whatever convinced them life’s too short to put their work first – that person already HAS a successful career. When someone says they decided to look at the bigger picture and put their family first – that person already HAS a family. When they say they decided that feeling successful isn’t everything – that person has HAD success. When you’ve started out at the beginning making decisions around what you can and can’t do, it doesn’t feel like a silver lining. It feels like constant compromise.
You might be guessing that I’m not in the right headspace for focussing on my blessings just now! This is me getting into a downward spiral. Before you know it I’ll be curled up on my comfortable recliner lounge in front of our enormous TV, crying about everything I haven’t done and will never do. I know that the truth is, there’s no satisfaction gained in pursuing importance through work or even family life. Rather, satisfaction comes from recognising the importance of the contribution you CAN and DO make – to work, family, society. Without comparing it to anyone else. I’m trying, I really am. This week I planted some things in the garden – pulmonaria and tiarella plants, dormant now but soon to bring forth flowers & foliage to surprise and delight. I love interesting flowers and leaf shapes. I didn’t plant out everything I have waiting, because this was on Saturday afternoon and too much exertion was still setting off cramps. But still, having something in the ground made me feel good. I’m not a hugely keen gardener – I like choosing plants and watching them grow, but I don’t like the regular maintenance work associated with gorgeous gardens. I choose things that are described as “hardy” and “tolerant”, grow perennials rather than annuals, and do little in the way of ground preparation. A bit of old horse manure and that’s it. One of the things I like about England is that it rains often enough to make watering almost unnecessary except in the warmest summer. Just stick ’em in the ground & let ’em get on with it – that’s the gardening style I like. If it dies, I don’t plant it again.

That was a bit of a rambley post. I’m sorry. At least I managed to bring it around to a positive train of thought. Here’s the recap for the week:

I’m grateful for rain, and that I don’t have to water the garden much here!

A good thing that happened: the birth of Number One Niece.

Something Good I Did: I planted things! Hooray!

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A beast of a different colour

Dammit, I was almost through writing a post when the cat jumped on the keyboard and something got pressed and now it’s all gone.  Bosco, that is NOT HELPING.

Anyway, what I was complaining about before SOMEONE caused my carefully-crafted and well thought out post to vanish into the ether was how chronic fatigue is showing itself to be utterly different to any health challenge I’ve dealt with before.  For one thing, there’s the fatigue.  I’m fairly well acquainted with fatigue.  I know how to live around it, I know how to plan my days out so that I I’ve got energy to do the things I really want to do – but this is different.  It’s all the time.  Sleep doesn’t help.  Rest doesn’t help.  I don’t feel awake or lively or enthusiastic – I just go from tired to exhausted to completely wrecked.  On top of that, I have trouble sleeping.  I don’t have any trouble falling asleep, but I wake up about 3am and can’t get back to sleep after that.  I don’t wake up and feel like I’m ready to get up, though – I wake up and feel like I haven’t been asleep at all.  It’s easy to stay in bed and just rest for the remainder of the night, but that’s not sleeping.  Even if I get another hour or two after 3am, that’s still leaving me an hour or so short of a full night’s sleep.  After a couple of months of that pattern last year, I was struggling.  I got prescribed amitriptyline to help me stay asleep.  That helps.  Last Friday, I forgot to take my tablets before I went to bed.  I woke up at 3 and didn’t get any sleep after that.  I hadn’t gone to bed until 11 – so that was four hours sleep.  Who runs well on four hours sleep?  Not this little kitten, I can tell you now.  I was a ruin by midday, but I still COULDN’T SLEEP.  The Sleep Nazi had officially spoken – “NO SLEEP FOR YOU!”.  In the end I waited it out zombied in front of the TV until it was bedtime and made damn sure to take the tablets that night.  Sunday was a vast improvement.

On the topic of Sunday, I convinced DJ to help me with some gardening.  I have to convince him to help me if I want to get any serious gardening done, because even a short stint with a shovel knackers me for a few days, and I take a kamikaze approach to gardening.  Once I dug out a tree using  the only tools I owned at the time – a hand trowel, a tenon saw, and a pair of secateurs.  Fortunately it was only a small tree, or I would have been there for weeks.  So anyway, it’s just better for me to enlist assistance.  I wanted the garden beds widened.  We pulled out the scraggly remains of existing plants and DJ set about widening the beds.  All was going well for a short while.  Then we hit a problem.  Well, the shovel hit a problem.  Bricks.  At first I thought it was just building rubble – there seems to have been a fair bit of leftover building junk buried in the garden, as we’d been digging up bits of brick and other building scraps while uprooting the clumps of nettles and unidentified plant life tolerated by the house’s former occupants.  But it turned out to be a wall of decorative garden bricks.  The kind you use for edging a raised garden bed.  So why were they buried about two inches below soil level?  It’s just low enough that grass can grow over the top into the borders, but too high to let plants in the borders spread their roots out into the garden.  I don’t know how deep it goes, as my enthusiasm for the task was waning along with the daylight.  I’m fairly sure that getting the wall out will require most of a day’s work with a shovel and sledgehammer.  We don’t even own a sledgehammer.  I would have to buy a sledgehammer and THEN convince DJ to spend the better part of the weekend digging out a buried wall & smashing it with a sledgehammer.  As much as he does love smashing things, I think I’m just going to have to leave the wall there.  Maybe add another course of bricks to the top so that it does actually make a wall along the garden border.  But seriously – why?  If you didn’t want the wall, why not just TAKE IT OUT?  Why raise the entire height of the garden & lawn to bury the wall?  This week I am adding “people who do half-assed and poorly thought out DIY jobs” to my list of things that make me mad.

But this isn’t meant to be about things that make me mad.  It’s meant to be about good and happy things that’ll keep me sailing on through sleep deprivation and housework.  This week I am grateful for DAFFODILS.  I love daffodils.  And snowdrops, and crocuses.  I never used to be very keen on crocuses.  They’ve got hardly any leaves – just a single flower coming up out of the ground.  You call that a plant?  Living in England has granted me a deep appreciation of crocuses.  A great swathe of them scattered under the branches of a leafless winter tree like purple and yellow and pink confetti is a marvellous sight.  Daffodils are still my favourites, though.  They grow generously and enthusiastically here, leaping up to scatter little drops of sunlight everywhere from tended garden beds to winter-brown woodlands.

One thing I did that I’m happy about: I launched my fancy-dancy cleverpants quote-making tool to another business unit.  They were impressed.  I think that was the most enthusiastic reaction I’ve had so far.  So I’m happy about that.

One good thing that happened: DJ started his new job, and with the reassurance of a regular cash flow we got our builder and all-around handy guy back to finish the house painting.  We did make an effort to do some ourselves, but between my aforementioned lack of energy and DJ having to look for a new job we just kind of stalled on that project.  But it’s pretty much all done now.  Hey!  Check it out – I’m grateful for TWO things: daffodils, and completed housepainting!

 

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