oh, look – it’s the internet!

Guess what?
No, go on, guess.
I’ve decided to start writing again. No, don’t fall over.
There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, people still read this blog. Even with 18 months of not posting, they still read it, then email me to ask if I’m okay because I haven’t written anything for so long. I’m both flattered and touched – thank you.
Secondly, I seem to be starting a new chapter with my mental health issues. Last week, I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Far from this being a crushing blow to my esteem, it’s actually a relief – so many things make sense now. I’m still on a learning curve, though, and as many bipolar people find it helpful to keep a record of their moods, I thought this would be a good place to do so. The type of bipolar I have is type 2, which essentially means I don’t have full blown manic phases, instead I get hypomania. My doctor said she had suspected bipolar for a while, but as I wasn’t in the middle of a crisis, and was doing well generally, it seemed silly to burden me with another mental health issue.
“But what about the agoraphobia?” I hear you cry. Well, the CBT went incredibly well. Part of the reason I stopped blogging was that it took a lot out of me mentally, and I found it really hard to write it all down too. The upshot of it is that I am no longer agoraphobic. I am doing so much now it’s hard to know where to start. I can get the bus into town and go shopping. Last year, I started going to a yoga class by myself – where I knew one other person (and she didn’t know about my ‘issues’ at the time). I’m plodding along, but there are still things that scare the crap out of me, like actually getting a job. I think it’s the fear of failure more than anything, and that it’s so final – if I screw up or decide I can’t manage, I know it will make a huge dent in my self esteem.
I’ve decided to write about my recovery from agoraphobia retrospectively, and I’ll whack it all in the CBT category, so it’s easy to find. I think this is important for my own benefit, and also to show people what it’s all about. If someone is about to embark on CBT, or has a loved one doing so, or their doctor is rattling on about a referral, then hopefully my witterings will help.
I’m also going to change the layout of the blog. I’ve had the mauve design forever, and I got lazy with the scripts that do my comments and stuff, which is why it looks like crap when you click on those links. However, I’ve been out of the loop for ages regarding scripts and things, so I might balls it all up, you’ll just have to wait and see.
So, ding ding, round two!

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Thinking

There’s no wonder the NHS has no money for front line staff when they send me an appointment letter for the Dermatology Clinic, then send m a reminder letter the following day…
(I haven’t forgotten about the medical, I just need to have my head in a better place to post about it. Ditto getting the comments sorted)

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.