o hai

It started out with me being mentally knackered from doing all the gallavanting around for my CBT. It evolved into a bit of worry whether I was getting SAD again, and eventually mutated into Worrying About Other Things. It meant that I didn’t update the blog for over four months. Oops…
Several things have prompted me to write again, one of which is the fact that I got a letter from the Benefits Agency yesterday asking me to “telephone to make an appointment for a medical”. They took their time. Two things amuse me about the letter. First, it tells me that I must “contact them within two days of receipt of this letter”. It wasn’t sent registered post or anything, so how on earth could they know when I received it? I had visions of it spontaneously combusting like the Top Secret messages on Mission Impossible. Second, the whole “telephone to make an appointment” thing. When I filled in form IB50, I clearly stated I have problems using the telephone. I suppose they expect me to ask someone else, but it’s just a teensy niggle that something I’ve said about my health problems has been ignored. Oh, and they STILL have me down as a “Miss”. I’ve never been a Miss in all the time I’ve claimed IB…
These are little things though, and I know I’m being picky, but this letter has put me on my guard because of last time. I feel more anxious at the thought of attending this medical than I do walking into the village and looking round the shops. Of course, the anxiety was bound to happen, but I tried to convince myself that I could put on an act, and show them what I was like on a bad day. The ironic thing is, that it would be better if my anxiety was high during the medical, and it makes me hate the whole thing even more.
Getting there is still going to mean Mr D taking time off work, and therein lies yet another obstacle. I mentioned ages ago about “worries with money”, well, things came to a head a couple of months ago, and Mr D had to get another job. It was only a temporary contract, so obviously he was looking around at the same time. He was offered a permanent position recently – and starts on Monday. Now, I’m certain that if push comes to shove, his employers will let him have the time off, but it still doesn’t look good.
I telephoned the number on the letter yesterday afternoon. I picked up the phone without thinking about it, and just dialled. The chap I spoke to was very pleasant, and obviously in a call centre. I told him I’d had the letter, and he asked me when would be a good time for me to attend.
“Well” I said, “that’s the problem.”
I explained about Mr D’s new job, and how getting time off might be an issue, and that I couldn’t attend without him. The man offered me a cancellation today, which was impossible – Mr D couldn’t even give his employers a day’s notice, and it would be unpaid leave. I turned it down, along with another one for the beginning of next week. The man explained that he was only able to offer two appointment choices, and while my head was spinning trying to work out what to do, he said, “tell you what, I can put you down for December 14th in the circumstances”. So, December 14th it is. Mr D will have to take half a day’s holiday, but at least he’s able to let his employers know well in advance.
Of course, my other big worry about this is who will be the examining medical practitioner. I asked the chap on the phone, and he said that all I could do was ring the place where the medicals are held nearer the time. What if it’s that same doctor? Do I have the right to refuse to be examined without it affecting my benefits? I’ve been working on something to say just in case – along the lines of “I do not want to be examined by a doctor who has obviously no experience with mental health issues, and no idea what medical problem he is assessing”. I don’t know. If it comes to that, I’ll probably gabble on incoherently and get upset. It may not come to that, though, and I have to keep my thoughts rational – at least, until nearer the time – I can be as anxious as I like on the day…
PS comments are off – I was being spammed to death, so email me if you have any burning thoughts.

Coming Around Again

Before I went to Woolfest, I received form IB50 from the Benefits Agency. The usual claptrap about wanting “more information” about my medical condition – the same form that I received 18 months ago which led to the Great IB Debacle. O Joy.
It didn’t have to be returned until the 12th of July, so I decided (sensibly) to leave it until I returned. Frankly, I had more important things to think about – like my recovery and getting to Woolfest. The form has since been filled in and was posted in time, but it raises some interesting questions.
18 months ago, despite being virtually housebound by agoraphobia and panic disorder, my IB claim was turned down. The doctor who performed my Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) massaged my answers to fit his criteria, and in the end it looked as though there was nothing wrong with me. This time, I am a million times better than I was, yet still not well enough to get to the Job Centre to sign on by myself. I need more time to continue with my CBT, to build up my levels of independence to a point where I can rejoin the real world properly.
You see my quandary. Not well enough to sign on, but technically not unwell enough to claim IB. I am in limbo, and my choices are limited. If I tell the truth – that I can get out and about to limited places like the local shop, I’ll fail and be denied IB. Alternatively, I could make out that I’m no better, and even though I’ve made progress with CBT, I could say I still don’t go anywhere on my own. In other words, I could lie.
I’ve decided to write a blog entry about it to highlight just how screwed the system is. Instead of focusing on my recovery and being positive, I’m put in a situation where I’m worrying about whether my benefit will be stopped, and focusing on the negative to make sure that doesn’t happen. In other words, going against everything that the CBT has taught me. Anyone who has filled in these disability benefits forms knows how soul destroying it can be. Telling the Benefits Agency all the negative stuff. It compounds it, drives home how much you can’t do. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m trying my damnedest to get past the agoraphobia. They know how much I hate it, how much I’m fighting it. How much I’m trying my damndest to stay positive. However, I still have problems. Going most places leaves me mentally exhausted. I have to push myself every step of the way. I still can’t answer the telephone if I don’t know the number, and I still don’t answer the door. I do try to keep a positive mindset, and part of the CBT focused on how negative I can be, and helped me address that. Now I’m being made to fly in the face of my therapy to get a bit of money to live on.
I have kept my paperwork from the IB Debacle, and my one comfort is that I know exactly what they’ll be looking for. However, it still makes me uncomfortable, in spite of me saying 18 months ago “I don’t care if I have to lie, I don’t want to ever go through an appeal ever again”

Woolfest 2007

I know, I know, I’ve been back over a week and I haven’t told you all about it. Truth be told, I’m utterly buggered, and now I’m home and don’t have that Iminent Goal I’ve sort of pooped out.
The thing I want to say the most is that you can’t put a price on good friends. These are people who look out for you without you even noticing it, who give you space without leaving you alone, and who really show they care. Thank you, Becky, Kath, Carrie and Andrea. I love you guys, seriously.
Becky and I set off on Thursday evening, our destination a beautiful campsite just outside Cockermouth (they do B&B too, Mr D and I are definitely going back someday). We got there around 8pm, and it was gloomy, windy and raining. Out of all the things I’d packed, stupidly I forgot a coat. For the most part, I was okay, and borrowed Kath’s afghan blanket and fleece jacket when I needed to.
Kath had arrived the day before with her husband, who’d left her there with the caravan all nicely set up for us. The weather was so atrocious that night, I think if we’d had to rely on the tent, I’d have gone to ask if there were any B&B rooms spare. The caravan was lovely, though, and we cozied up with our knitting, a bottle of wine and chinese food. Heaven.
Woolfest itself was the same as I’d remembered from last year, but a few people have said in hindsight that it was better this year – and I agree. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was because I was with other fibre addicts rather than a bemused spouse, maybe it was the fact that (in Kath’s words) I was “seeing it with new eyes” because of everything I’ve learned about spinning etc since last year, and I knew what I was looking for. Maybe there was some other mojo at work. At first, I stuck with the girls, my anxiety okay, but I didn’t want to push it yet. We headed over to the raw fleece sale – Becky and Kath both wanted to check them out. I wasn’t so bothered – I had two raw fleeces at home that I needed to work on, and knew another wasn’t going to help. Carrie and I wandered off, and I slowly built up my confidence and wandered off a bit too.

I spent a small fortune, of course. My goal had been to get as many different fibres for spinning as possible, and (off the top of my head) I got small bags of cashmere, milk protein, bamboo, linen, ramie, cotton, tencel and Crokeback angora. I also got a larger bag of baby alpaca, something that I do intend to spin, but for now I’m just going to stroke it every now and again… I also got some yarn – some handpainted hemp in a gorgeous green colourway. I also got some handpainted kid mohair/silk, but only got 50g of it, so might have to mix it with something else to make a shawl or something. To be honest, it’s very much like Rowan’s kidsilk haze, only varigated.
Two days was wonderful, and flew over. Although three of us took our spinning wheels, only Becky did any spinning – the rest of us were too tired! It was lovely on Friday night just watching Becky spin – there’s something very soothing about the rhythm of a spinning wheel. Aside from anything, the baby camel/silk she was spinning was incredible! You can see the finished result here – I’ve seen it “in the flesh” and believe me, it’s utterly gorgeous.
It was also really cool to meet a few knitting bloggers I’d heard of, especially Artis-Anne and her daughter Kath, who are both really lovely.
So, what about the anxiety? Well, I only got properly anxious once. ONCE! Becky had gone to a lecture, and Carrie and Kath had gone to a workshop. Andrea was around somewhere, but as she only came for the day on Saturday, she was off on a shopping mission. I had her phone number, but wasn’t sure where she was. Rather than instinctively trying to find a familiar face, I decided to stay where I was. My anxiety grew as I realised for the first time I was actually on my own. However, I managed it, telling myself that Andrea was only a phonecall away, and it wasn’t long before we met up anyway.
In all, the whole thing was a resounding success, and now I just have to find another goal. I guess my maxim from now on will be “I managed Woolfest, I can do anything
More photos on my flickr set.

Iminence

Firstly, thank you all for the comments and encouragement – it means such a lot, and is a terriffic boost. You lot are lovely 🙂
Anyhoo.
We set off tomorrow. TOMORROW. Eeeek!
Actually, I’m really excited – and hanging on to what D said about the physical responses to excitement and anxiety being exactly the same. Every time I get butterflies or feel my heart pumping, I tell myself it’s excitement. And so far, it’s worked!
I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, I have a sleeping bag and various other bits and bobs, I’ve made lists, I’ve started packing. Well, to be fair, I started packing a couple of weeks ago. My excuse is that I didn’t want to worry the cat by getting my backpack out at the last minute…
My biggest worries now are the weather (we’re taking our spinning wheels, and can’t exactly spin in the rain) and my stupid spine. Lately, my neck has been playing up, and a good 60% of the time I have pins and needles in my right arm. My grip is shocking, and my shoulders hurt. It’s probably stress related tension having a knock on effect on the arthritis, but it’s annoying. Plus, it means that I’m not sleeping well, and as I’m Absolutely Shattered from the whole CBT thing, I’d planned on plenty of naps to restore my strength for all the running around and oohing and aahing at Woolfest.
I will be fine, except my left knee keeps giving way, like it’s “dead”. It’s hard to work it out, because I just don’t notice anything until the feeling comes back (by which point it’s too late), then I get that really cold pins and needles feeling, right under my kneecap. It’s made me fall over a couple of times, so I’m mentioning it here in case the Girls think I’m pissed. It makes no sense, it coincides with the neck thing, but I’d have thought that nerves in the knee originate from the lower back. I don’t know. Just let me know when they invent spine transplants…
This is probably going to be the last blog entry until I come back. The plan is to take a notebook and write stuff down, then let you all know the gory details when we get back on Sunday. Tonight, walking round Sainsburys and wondering what else I needed, I realised that this was the LAST OPPORTUNITY to get Stuff. I stopped myself from putting one of everything in the trolley, and got a couple of things I’d thought of.
I shall stop fretting any… second…. NOW.

Journey of the Something

I’ve fallen behind with the blog again. Not by much – not compared to my usual marathon sabbaticals, but enough to be sitting here with two or three half written blog posts in Notepad, that really should be published in order.
The truth is, I am mentally exhausted. I am trying so hard to go further, push myself harder, that I’ve tired myself out. I look at the text box on my blogging software and the letters turn to mush before my eyes. I write a couple of sentences, and my concentration wanders onto anything – usually nothing.
On Thursday 30th May, I walked to the corner shop by myself. I went inside, and bought a pint of milk and a rather delicious chicken sandwich. An achievement that warrants a blog post all of its own, and indeed, I had mostly written a blog post all about it. Then on Friday 1st June I did it all again, and waited at the edge of the estate for Becky to collect me for her knitting group. Monday saw another knitting group, followed by a grand outing with Becky and her two daughters to the Botanical Gardens. Another blog post. Somehow, I fell behind, and now I’m sitting here at 7am on a Saturday Sunday, thinking “Crap, I really ought to get my skates on and write”.
I need to write. I need to document all the things I’ve been doing, partly so I can tell D my psychologist when I see her on Tuesday. The plan had been to write about each outing in detail, because if I said, “oh yeah, I’ve managed to go to the shop then walk down as far as the post office, cross the road and walk back home” it sounds like I’ve not been doing anything in between and I could do this all along. I’m supposed to be trying to convey what it’s like recovering from agoraphobia. Saying “I went to the shop yesterday” doesn’t quite do it.
The plan was to do “graded exposure”, build up slowly with an eventual goal of going to the Post Office to post Something. I have been doing this, and managing well – thinking about what I’m doing, making a note of any negative thoughts, considering how I feel. On Friday, I walked to the shop and bought a sandwich again, then walked further down the road towards the Post Office. I felt like I was a million miles away from home, exposed, vulnerable. It’s a strange sensation doing things like this when you haven’t for so long. I know it will subside the more I do it, but right now, it feels weird. When I came home, I thought about when to post the Something at the Post Office. I decided against Monday, simply because it would be so busy, and I think the first time I do this, it needs to be on my terms.
So, yesterday morning as Mr D was getting ready, I wrapped the Something, put it in a jiffy bag, addressed it, and set off. Going with a purpose seemed better, somehow. I think this was partly because this was my End Goal – and I was doing it. When I’d mentioned to D about doing this before Woolfest, it seemed so distant and unreachable, but now here I was, striding off with a purpose. The more steps I took, the more I reminded myself that I’d already done this (barring going inside the Post Office) I’d gone this far, I’d managed and not freaked out.
I walked into the Post Office, and the chap behind the counter greeted me with a cheery “Good morning!” He’s a lovely bloke, with a wicked sense of humour and always has a cheerful smile. He weighed my parcel, I paid the postage, took my receipt, thanked him and went. That was it – my Something was on its way. Walking back, I don’t know if it was my imagination that I had a spring in my step. I’d done it – I’d gone to the Post Office, and no-one had died, the sky hadn’t fallen, and I hadn’t panicked.
I need to keep doing this, but there’s only so much I can do at the Post Office before the postmaster thinks I fancy him. I might chuck stuff on ebay, so my therapy is lucrative in more ways than one. Whatever else I do, I can’t stop now.

All By Myself

The latest Twitter thing – “in Borders ON MY OWN!” doesn’t quite explain it.
Yesterday, Mr D and I went to the big retail park out of town. We’d gone into M&S where I’d found a massive stainless steel stock pot for £7.60 (bought for dyeing yarn in) and we’d bought things like wine and potatoes – then the man on the bakery tempted us with just-out-of-the-oven cheese scones. The bastard. We decided to take these things back to the car, but as I have a cold I balked at the idea of walking all the way back to the car, then retracing my steps as we went to the shops further away from M&S.
“I’ll tell you what – you take the stuff back to the car, and I’ll meet you in Borders”
I wish I’d taken a photo. I thought about it, but the fake shutter noise is incredibly loud, and I felt conspicuous as it was. To get to Borders, I had to go past a massive sports shop, an enormous Argos, and a dirty great travel agents. Not to mention the BANK HOLIDAY CROWDS.
I did feel odd, that familiar strange sensation that something was missing (yeah, Mr D!) or something was wrong. I cheated slightly and cut the corner off, but I would have done that anyway. In Borders, I went straight to the magazines at the front. Carrie Anne had found a copy of Spin Off Magazine in Borders, and I crossed my fingers and held my breath that they had a copy. They did – and I grabbed my prize and wandered off with a smug grin.
A blog entry about wandering around Borders book shop may sound a bit passe. In reality, I was aware of my heartbeat, the fact I was fiddling with the press stud on my jacket sleeve, my senses were heightened – I could hear everything louder, see everything brighter. I was anxious, but I rode it rather than run away. I went upstairs and looked at the craft books (how predictable!) then looked at the DVD’s. I was looking for one in particular, and there was a man standing Just There where I needed to be. I said “excuse me” and we swapped places. I didn’t chicken out, I didn’t turn and go a different way, I faced him. Albeit for a second or two, I faced him.
It felt like I was in the shop for hours, but eventually Mr D turned up. I was relieved, but then I walked off and left him to pay for my magazine! I felt shattered afterwards. It’s amazing how physically tiring this thing can be. It’s also worth pointing out the effect that this has on people around you – Mr D later commented that it seemed to take him ages to get the stuff to the car and find me in Borders. I guess the time slowing down thing goes both ways..
I shall leave you with a shiny photo of my shiny stock pot:
IMG_0210
(note strategic placement of the 50p Gap Jacket…)

Twitterings

Over to the right there is a shiny new box – my Twitter feed.
I have an incredibly shiny new mobile phone, and the contract comes with a gazillion texts each month, so I’ll be able to update you all on my CBT progress AS IT HAPPENS.
Can you stand the excitement?

I’m just really friendly, you know

Last night, Becky and I were invited to Alison’s house. Alison is an incredible quilter, her work is amazing, and I’ve never seen anyone with so much passion for her craft.
I don’t ‘do’ going to people’s houses. It buggers about with my anxiety, and to be honest, I nearly didn’t go. I’ve only met Alison a few times at a monthly knitting group, and I don’t think I caught the whole conversation and thought that there would be Other People there. In the end, there was just the three of us enthusing over fabrics and yarns (Alison recently went to Liberty’s and brought back some gorgeous fabrics) and it was lovely to natter with other people who could be passionate about buying a knackered shirt in a charity shop and cutting it up because we like the fabric.
Becky rang before she set off to my house, and when I’d got ready I made a decision. Usually, when she picks me up for knitting groups, I wait outside the house. It’s something that I can use as therapy – to get used to the whole “being outside” thing – and it doesn’t seem so bad because I’m waiting for something. Last night, I decided to start walking towards the edge of the estate.
I set off walking, feeling pretty okay. I was on the look out for a dark green car – my only anxiety was that she’d not see me and drive past. It was raining, and as usual my glasses needed windscreen wipers. I was trying to think of how I felt, so that I could write it down for my next meeting with D, when I saw a green car. I waved enthusiastically, a grin on my face because I knew how proud Becky would be. The car didn’t slow down. As it got closer, two burly pit-bull-esque blokes gurned at me. What could I do? Well, I continued waving as they drove past. I have no idea who they were, and they did look confused. It was a rather priceless moment – and my reaction?
I just burst out laughing in the middle of the street.
Writing this, I’m thinking of how I would have reacted even six months ago. Probably “I’m stupid, I can’t even see the right person, I want to go home..” It may have escalated into full blown panic, as I fretted over who the people were and whether they were going to stop the car further up the road and confront me. My reaction last night is a big step, I think.

Bargain Betty

I seem to have a bit of a knack for finding bargains. I found the Lomo LC-A for £2, I’ve found a rigid heddle loom for £3.50, and a bag full of Rowan yarn for 75p. When I found the loom, Kath said, “we should rename you Bargain Betty”. And so, dear reader, she has inspired a new category.
My latest finds are a Monsoon dress for £4, and an unbranded skirt for £2.50.
*takes a bow*

Walford, E20 DF118*

I’ve told you all about my brush with dihydrocodeine addiction, and how withdrawal from the same led to the panic and agoraphobia, so when someone said to me, “I know you don’t watch soaps, but so-and-so in Eastenders is taking dihydrocodeine, and it looks like becoming a bit of a thing” my curiosity inevitably pricked.
I saw Monday’s episode, and didn’t think much of it. The character at the centre of it, Dr May Wright, (Albert Square’s current GP) is by all acounts a bit of a cow, and she periodically snarfed a couple of tablets from a prescription that she’d stolen. It seemed a bit excessive given that there’d been no previous evidence of her taking it, but that was it. At the end of Tuesday’s episode however, there was a scene where she was in her flat, pouring a glass of red wine. There was a bottle of tablets on the table, and she opened it and took some. After a vague pause, she tipped the bottle into her hand again, tapped out a few more tablets then took them. You don’t actually see how many tablets she took, but the meaning is clear – it’s more than a normal ‘dose’.
She swallows them dry, then takes a drink from the wine glass. The scene (and the episode) ends after a couple of minutes, so there’s no time to show the potential effects of taking an “over the recommended dose” amount of dihydrocodeine with red wine, but the attitude of the character is flippant, and at no time is any impression given that she has technically overdosed. The perception is that she is taking them for the sheer hell of it, and she doesn’t appear to have any qualms about it at all.
Of course, given my history, I’m bound to feel a little ‘icky’ about this. Maybe it was inevitable that I’d think the programme makers irresponsible. Maybe I worry that people will think chugging back several dihydrocodeine with wine is okay, and maybe that’s overreacting a bit. Maybe the next episode will show her in a dazed and confused state with a raging headache and massive regrets – although ‘spoiler’ websites don’t seem to indicate that will be the case. I don’t know, though. I still worry that what happened to me could happen to someone else. I know how easy it is to get addicted to opiate analgesics, and I sure as hell know the nightmare of recovering from that addiction.
Honestly, I know it’s only telly, I know the programme makers need to have a little dramatic licence to make a storyline work, and in this case, the drama is exacerbated by the suddenness of its onset. I’ve heard that programme makers ‘speed up’ the natural progression of events to keep the audience’s interest – but isn’t it a little bit stupid to name the drug then treat its use with such disdain?
Of course, the story hasn’t reached its conclusion yet. I’ll keep watching to see what happens, but I’ll bet anything she doesn’t have that hangover.
*E20 is the fictional postcode used in Eastenders, DF118 is another name for dihydrocodeine.
edit, 11th May:
Well, of course she didn’t have a hangover. The first scene she’s in, she’s doing an early morning house call and looks as fresh as a daisy. Bah.