Friday, 26 July 2013

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

It's the twenty fifth anniversary of the Sunderland Air Show this weekend, the largest airshow in Europe and the only event of it's kind across the North East. The first Sunderland airshow, held back in 1988, was only ever intended to be a 'one off' event but it attracted so many visitors to the area (approximately 250,000) that it has continued each year ever since and now boasts over one million spectators. 

In light of the fact that it's usually pretty mobbed, I rarely go down to the seafront myself on these occasions. I get a good view of the planes from my own back garden and I find that environment much more civilised and relaxing however, tonight, my next door neighbours (whom I affectionately refer to as 'The Cheeky Boys') decided to take a trip down for the opening ceremony and fireworks and invited me to tag along. 

I'm really glad that I went with them. It was a beautiful balmy night and the crowd was just the right size - respectable enough to justify and appreciate the activities but not yet completely inundated, as I expect it will be this weekend. 

There are ample 'Park & Ride' facilities around the City but we took a chance and drove down to Seaburn itself. Surprisingly, we managed to get parked quite easily (you won't stand a chance of this over the rest of the weekend, by the way) and as it was such a nice night, we decided to walk down to the sea front so we were well placed to catch the first planes going overhead on their way out to sea to start the display. 

We made it to the promenade and found ourselves a perfect spot in plenty of time for the Red Arrows to make their appearance and I have to say that, even for someone like me, who isn't usually remotely interested in planes, they were spectactular!

We watched the whole of the display by the Red Arrows before ambling along the length of the sea front to Minchella's Fish & Chip shop, which I still say is the best chippy in the country, by the way.

Finally, as the night drew in and the light started to disappear from the sky, we made ourselves thoroughly sick on the fairground at the far end of the sea front. Perfect!

If you're going to the airshow yourself this weekend, have a great time but whatever you do, go to the fairground BEFORE you eat your fish and chips ;)


Friday, 19 July 2013

Shattered Teacups

I had an appointment with my GP today. I was collecting the results of a blood test that he had carried out at the beginning of the week and I have to say, the results were a wonderful surprise:

Thyroid - Perfect!
Kidneys - Stunning!
Liver - Beeyootiful!
Cholesterol - How low can you go, baby!
Arthritis - Nada!
Menopause - Not yet but that's no surprise really, I'm only twenty seven ;)

In fact, apart from a slightly low reading for folate (whatever that even is?!?), I'm in all round, tip top condition. Not bad going for a girl who's lived on marmite crisps and chunky Kitkats for the last nine months eh? 

Of course, this is all well and good but it does nothing to explain the strange symptoms I've been experiencing over the last few months. 

For around four to five months now I've been feeling tired. Not just a little bit sleepy but really, really tired. Tired to the point that I can barely string a sentence together or concentrate on whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing. Tired to the point that I feel quite apathetic most of the time, as if I can't really be bothered to actually do anything, not even things that I usually enjoy. Extreme tiredness, exhaustion even. It's very unlike me. 

At first I didn't notice it as a standalone physical issue. It's been a tough nine months following Mark's death and I naturally assumed that I was experiencing some sort of grief related depression. In fact, I'd say that I definitely have experienced a minor episode of grief related depression, which, according to everything I've read and been told, is perfectly normal and acceptable for someone who recently lost her husband. 

Because of this, I didn't bother highlighting it to my GP. I thought it would pass but it hasn't. It's getting worse. In fact, it's become such a nuisance that I made an appointment to speak to him about this specific issue last week.

I was reluctant to broach the subject at first as I was concerned that he'd automatically chalk it up to the effects of grief etc., but he's a good dude and a thoughtful GP so when I insisted that this feels different somehow, he listened. 

He listened as I told him about the slight blurring of my vision which I'd thought was down to tiredness, the pain in my hands and feet, the numbness in my fingers, the spasms in my legs, the pins and needles running down my arms and the loss of function in my hands which has been causing me to drop coffee cups, jars and bottles lately and he suggested we do blood tests, hence my visit today. 

I'm glad that the results are all clear and positive but I'm not so glad about the subsequent discussion which followed because unfortunately, he suspects I'm experiencing the early symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Strange news to receive on a sunny Friday afternoon, I'm sure you will agree. 

Anyway, he's referred me to a Neurologist for further tests and I've come home with a bundle of information about the condition, which is quite useful as I don't really know a great deal about it. 

I'll read everything he's given me - forewarned is forearmed - but I'm not going to waste too much energy worrying about it until such time as I receive a conclusive diagnosis. Life's too short to waste worrying about things which may or may not happen and anyway, in the midst of everything that life throws around, I usually find I manage to muddle through things fairly well. 

I'll just have to buy extra cups to compensate for the ones I keep breaking. It's a good job I'm a cheapskate. I'd be really upset at the thought of replacing expensive cups all the time ;)

Friday, 12 July 2013

Am I Sad Enough?

Today I spent two and a half hours being assessed by a counsellor to establish whether it would be appropriate to offer me a course of one to one bereavement counselling. 

I have to be honest, I came away from that assessment feeling utterly worn out and ever so slightly inadequate somehow. Maybe even a bit of a fraud? 

The questionnaires didn't help...

"Have you had suicidal thoughts at any time over the last week?" 


"Have you tried to commit suicide at any time during the last week?"   

Erm... No, but is that not answered by the first question? Surely a person couldn't attempt suicide without having a suicidal thought beforehand? 

"Have you thought about harming yourself during the last week?" 


"Have you harmed yourself at any time over the last week?"  


"Have you harmed anyone else during the past week?"

Do cats count? I stood on Maisie's tail the other day.

Then there were the agree/disagree statements...

"I feel alone and isolated"

"I have no friends or family members who I can talk to about my problems and feelings"

"I often feel that I have no one to turn to when I need support"

Of course, I 'strongly disagreed' with every one of them. I have a fantastic group of friends and we talk often and openly. I know how fortunate I am in that respect.

You see what I mean though, don't you? By the time we'd gone through all the questions and I'd answered 'No' or 'Strongly Disagree' to everything, I had begun to feel like a complete fraud. In fact at one point, I briefly flirted with the notion of changing my answers to make myself sound a more worthy and deserving case. Ridiculous!

After we'd completed the questionnaires I gave the counsellor a potted history of my life. It was very short. I'm only twenty seven, after all (LOLZ) and I thought it would help to give some context for the issues I'd like some help with now. 

He listened intently, making notes every now and again, and then he asked me what I hoped to achieve from counselling. I'd given the matter some thought so I told him I have two objectives:

1. I'd like professional intervention to help me come to terms with some of the events surrounding Mark's illness and death. I'm particularly troubled by random flashbacks of the day that Mark was taken into hospital for the last time. I suppose it could be a mild form of PTSD or something.

2. I'd like professional help to break a pattern of behaviour which has emerged and which is now causing me significant angst. The behaviour is rooted in my childhood (hence the need for a brief life history) and has reared it's head recently, possibly requiring some sort of CBT to help me to break the cycle and establish new coping mechanisms. 

At the end of the session he summarised his understanding of the information I'd given him - he'd captured everything perfectly - and then afterwards, he told me that he thought I was a "remarkable person" and in all the years that he'd been doing his job, he'd never met anyone who had encountered all of the life issues I have dealt with and come out of the other side with such a strong sense of self.

He told me that people often come along for a counselling assessment with a degree of anxiety or nervousness (I was very calm and relaxed), that people always have to have at least one of the questions repeated (I didn't) or the response scale explained more than once (again, I didn't).

He commented on the fact that the life history I'd shared with him was delivered clearly and concisely with all of the salient points covered that I later needed to refer back to. He suggested that this demonstrated a much clearer, logical train of thought than most clients who had been through similar life events and were attending a counselling assessment. He reflected on the clarity of my thought processes and the measured, logical evaluation that I had given his questions, which were all answered consistently and without deviation from the topic or theme. 

He asked me about my profession and academic background and seemed to think that my thought processes were a result of these factors. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I spent most of my academic life procrastinating like there was no (always) tomorrow or that each and every one of my assignments had been started the night before they were due in, completed in a half arsed way after a fraught all nighter at my tatty old PC and submitted with three seconds to spare before the deadline. 

I didn't tell him any of this because by that time, all I could think was that he didn't consider me a needy enough case to be able to access the service. I don't think I'm sad enough to warrant counselling. 

So now I'm caught in a crummy position. On the one hand, If I am able to access some form of counselling, then I'm going to feel as if I oughtn't to be there, as if I'm taking a place that some other, more deserving person could have. 

Alternatively, if I can't access the service, then I'm just left with me, on my own, wondering why no one can see how bad it actually feels to be me at the minute. 

It sucks.