‘No fury like a sister scorned’

My sister infuriates me. She has the ability to make me really angry. Which is impressive when I do not usually feel this emotion.

Years ago she decided that she doesn’t want a relationship with me beyond courtesy at family gatherings. This is due to a grudge she has concerning something I did about a decade ago. I have tried to apologise many times and asked to talk it out. She refuses so I have now said that the door is always open but I will not chase her anymore.

The problem is that for thirty years I was at her beck and call. I did anything she wanted, dropped everything at a drop of a hat. My actions were asking her to love me, love me, please love me. Yet she denied me the friendship or sisterly bond we could have shared.

The thing is my sister is demanding, self-righteous, selfish and unreasonable. She can also be nice, kind and very lovely to people but once she turns that is it. Never to be forgiven. She even warned my sister-in-law about this trait of hers.

After many years of being treated badly by her and through therapy I decided to limit my contact with her. I am polite at family occasions. I honour her birthday and I get her a Christmas present. I no longer regularly call to see how she is or go out of my way to visit her. I no longer help her move home for the umpteenth time or go above and beyond to help her.

She found this difficult the first times I have said no. Last Christmas she wanted me to come and pick her and her boyfriend up and take them to my brothers for Christmas. They told me there were no trains that day. It would mean me driving into London and adding about an hour and a half to my journey. I said no but showed them a hotel nearby they could stay at and get the Christmas Eve trains and even the cost of a pre booked taxi. She took this to mean I did not want her at our family Christmas. Rather than as the unreasonable demand that it was.

It is unfair to expect someone to keep trying to gain forgiveness. To keep trying to earn love. I now know that I am worthy of both and if she cannot see this then I cannot make her. I should not have to keep trying to prove my love to her.

Most of my sisters negative attention is now turned to my brother and sister-in-law. However today she messaged me and my anger boiled. She was being unreasonable but she believed she was compromising. However it is my sisters way or forever hold a grudge.

To be honest I do not know her anymore. She is my sister and at family occasions I ask her about work, I have met her boyfriend and that is about it. She blames me for this but she has pushed me away and this time I have stepped back.

I am sad we do not have the sister relationship that some have. Just like I am sad I do not have a mother daughter relationship with my mum. However you also cannot change people or make them love you.

Recently my sister told my sister-in-law that if I was ever in trouble she would be there for me. My sister-in-law replied ‘But why would she rely on you?’ This is true. I would not turn to her and haven’t in my recent depression as it is not support I would get.

She is so competitive with me she would gloat in the fact my life was going badly but make out she was concerned. Yet all I wish for her is happiness. I have never risen to her competitiveness but she has always competed, comparing exam results and lives. Maybe it is a little sister thing? Or maybe it is because I was the scapegoat of the family so was always considered bottom of the pact. She called me the ‘runt’ of the family growing up.

She also takes everything really personally. My brother and his family moved to the Midlands from the south and she was angry they did not consult her. She cannot seem to understand that it is his family.

Recently she wanted to have my niece visit her for a weekend but expects her to be dropped down to London on the Saturday and picked up Sunday (a minimum 4  hour round trip each time). Not wanting to help with logistics of this or calculating the petrol costs and inconvenience for my sister-in-law. Then when it was my niece and nephews birthday she asked when they were coming down to celebrate it. No question of her going to see them.

All this behaviour is learnt from my mother. It is how she behaves. The world revolves around her but somehow she always becomes the victim or martyr. Living in a bubble, blind to their own actual actions and how they are really seen. It is how my brother often behaves too.

I am just thankful I have an amazing sister-in-law who has become a close friend and nieces and a nephew I adore. I am also thankful that I am not like them in these ways. They treated me badly but the result is I cannot be like them. I just need to deal with the anger and frustration I still feel from my family in this mental world.

 

Advertisements

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.” Oscar Wilde

I am scared of the Oscar Wilde quote that ‘all women become like their mothers.’ Yet I agree if it is true then it is a tragedy. I dislike my mother, she has done awful things to me and others. She emotionally abused and neglected me as a child. Told me I was un-loveable and a horrible person. Things I can understand in the situation, have compassion for but cannot forget.

As a teenager I hated her. I felt I could not be her or become her. I had to prevent that at all costs. I became anorexic, partially because my mother is morbidly obese and I felt I could not be the least bit fat or I would become her. I wanted to stay as blonde as possible as she is dark-haired. I wanted to do anything I could to not be her. My teenage brain unable to process what was happening it learnt its own sometimes unhealthy coping strategies.

However I also craved her love and acceptance. I tried to please her and I did anything she asked. I tried to prove I was worthy of her love. I came at her call and followed her commands.

I was a complete contradiction. Caught between loving her and hating her. Wanting her acceptance and also my independence. It was so much for any teenager to bear. I grew depressed, anxious and more anorexic.

As a young adult it continued. I moved out of home at 17 years old to get away. Yet I was pulled back to help and support her. Being more parent that daughter to her. Then when I was 23 years old she got cancer. I helped, of course I did. I want her love and she is my mum. Continuously being pulled back in and pushed away.

Mum is now living with cancer and has had many other medical issues alongside it. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, two knee replacements, type 2 diabetes, back pain and probably more symptoms and illnesses besides. She is disabled and unwell.

I have had a lot of therapy to be able to understand I am not her. I will not become her, due to my own experiences and characteristics. I am generous, patient and kind. I am loving and I am not selfish, self-centered or exploitative. I do not use emotional blackmail, tears or anger to get what I want. I do not manipulate and use guilt to make people follow my commands.

However I do need regular reminding of this. This week I have started a new medication for my chronic migraines. As most medications it is actually got many uses, its main use is high blood pressure but it has recently started to be used for migraines. I do not have high blood pressure but somehow my brain is triggered to think I am becoming my mum.

High blood pressure runs in her family and she has taken something for this for as long as I can remember. My maternal granddad died of his third heart attack in his 50s and my Grandmother had three heart attacks. My brain tells me I must be like them if I take this medication.

Logically I know this is not true. I have to tell myself I am not her, I do not have high blood pressure. Even if I did have high blood pressure one similarity does not make me her. I share her DNA I will have some similarities. People have commented that I look like her on occasion and I find it hard to accept that.

I am sure I do share some similarities. She is my mother after all. I know she is the one who inspired my love of reading and encouraged my education. She made me who I am through her treatment of me. I am a strong independent women because I could not rely on her. Most of my character traits are in spite of her rather than in honour of her.

I still see her but we do not have a great relationship. I feel less obligated to her than I did before therapy. She made me think I owed her my existence but I know this is not true. She chose to have me. I do love her and will always help if she needs it. However I go running to her less and I will say no to her demands if I need to. I stand up to her when she treats me badly and call her out for it like I never have before.

Since I started therapy I have discussed some of it with her and although she will never truly understand what she put me through she has accepted some partial responsibility. She tries harder at times to know me but she cannot ever be the mum I deserved. She does the best she can and that is all I can ask of her. Instead I accept who she is and limit my relationship with her to one on my terms.

I do not think we have to become our mothers or fathers. We can break the cycle and change the ways. If you have an amazing mother then by all means become her. However if you had a less than perfect one then hopefully learn from her and become better. I know I try to be better in my life in this mental world.

The Big Scary C Word

Image result for cancer
Credit: Iqoncept | Dreamstime

I was watching the Bake Off’s special editions for Stand Up 2 Cancer and they kept saying one in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime. 1 in 2! I feel this is huge! Every other person! If it not me it is you, my best friend, my siblings, my nieces, my nephew – I find it hard to process this.

Cancer is this horrid word which encompasses so many different types, severities and survival rates. My mind went straight to 1 in 2 people dying of cancer. But that is not what this statistic is saying. The Stand Up 2 Cancer website actually says that 2 in 4 survive their cancer and hopefully by 2034 this will be 3 in 4.

 

Image result for stand up to cancer 2019Image from the Stand Up 2 Cancer Website

 

Also, I feel I should know better, my own mother is living with cancer and has been for about a decade. She has ovarian cancer. I remember going to see the doctor with her when the results from the biopsies from her hysterectomy were back. The hospital had called and wanted her in first thing the next day, my mum asked if it could be later in the day to miss rush hour traffic. Oh the naivety, she had no idea that if the consultant secretary rings and wants an appointment first thing the next day that it is probably not great news.

The words Stage 3 were followed by surgery and chemotherapy. The cancer had spread to the lining of her abdominal organs. However they did say of all the ovarian cancers mum had the best and rarest. Why? It was slow-growing. The best of all the evils. And she had probably had it growing in her for a decade before it was discovered. Her many years of womanly problems now explained.

After 5 years it was back and resulted in more abdominal surgery. However complications with infections in her bladder meant she could not have chemotherapy. They gave her medication to stop the hormone production which was feeding her cancer. It seems to be working, they say she is their best case-study. Either shrinking or staying the same her cancer is confined to her abdomen and seems to be under control.

That word ‘cancer’ is so scary though. I think I have assumed for many years I would get it at some point. My dad’s parents died of cancer; Granddad of prostate and Nan of pancreatic. My mum has it and with one in two getting it I think it is becoming more likely.

But getting it does not mean dying from it. There is a lot more treatments these days and more research being done. Survival rates are growing and more people can live with it. I remember explaining this to my own father after my mum’s initial diagnosis. Understandably all he could hear when he heard cancer was death, it is all he knew as both his parents had died of it.

As a history teacher I sometimes wonder how many people died of cancer but no one knew that is what it was. Though history there would have been no reason or not enough understanding to do an autopsy In medieval times it was discouraged by the Church. Yet death records, like this one from during the 1665 Great Plague show ‘cancer’ listed as the reason so they understood something. But then it also lists ‘suddenly’ as a reason.

London's Bill of Mortality (December 1664-December 1665) [Official Document]Bill of Mortality from the 1665 Great Plague

The American Cancer Society write that the earliest descriptions date back to the Egyptians and it is believed that humans have suffered with cancer since we first existed (Cancer.org). So why does it scare me? I am not normally worried about ill-health; I have fibromyalgia, I have had three surgeries, migraines and mental health issues. I have suffered pain and trauma. Yet maybe it is the unpredictability and the higher chances of dying of it than the illnesses I have had so far.

I do not feel I fear death and yet I have so much I wish to do. I do not feel I am done with this life. Maybe it is a fear of missing out on this life? It is so hard to know and yet I get anxious thinking about cancer. I wonder if it is the control freak in me unable to stop my cells going out of control and developing abnormally leading to cancer. Yet I am now vegan which claims to help reduce cancer, although it is so hard to know the truth and I still feel it might not save me.

Save me! From something I do not even have and might not get. I tell myself you can only worry about what is here and now. Yet I worry about cancer. My cousin had leukaemia and he was 12 years old. My friends brother died of having a low immune system after lukaemia aged 21. I am not sure I have a story for 1 in 2 but everyone has more and more stories of people with cancer.

bed empty equipments floor
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I remember going to the wards with my mum and them always being crowded and filled with so many patients at various stages of treatment. I remember my mother confiding in me that she was scared she might die. Facing our own mortality is not easy. How many of us will die of old age in our own beds. Is this even possible anymore?

When my mum was going through all this she told me she never expected to grow old. She is still only 57 years old now and was in her 40s when she was diagnosed. She worried about never seeing us (her children) get married, have children and be happy. She has fulfilled some of this with my brother now married with children and my sister living with her boyfriend. And I am happy even if she can not see how as I am not in a relationship (issue for another time).

However maybe I have taken on this belief. Will I grow old? Retire? Withdraw on my pension? It is hard to imagine but I think my belief goes beyond that to I am not sure I am destined to be old. I have never been lucky with my health and so I feel the odds are never in my favour (small link to the Hunger Games).

I have no answers and no predictions. No epiphany or vision of my future. I do live each day as it comes and maybe it is also why I cannot see a future. There is so much more work to be done; research and treatments which is helped by the Stand Up 2 Cancer campaign. I will be donating and hope you do to.

I felt I needed to get these worries out of my head and into this mental world.

 

Being Judged and Judging others

It is said that first impressions are important. That you can tell if you like someone in just a few seconds. However is that really judgemental? And can we get away from being judgemental?

I know I try not to judge people and yet the instinct seems to happen before I even know. I then reflect and hopefully reconsider. I know through education, travel and reading I have learnt so much which has helped me break down some of the stereotypes and beliefs I might have held. Yet is it enough?

There is so much that can be judged and assumed about someone; appearance, speech, their decisions, phrases, beliefs, accents, intelligence, sexuality, cultures and so much more. We all have unconscious bias which leave us judging unknowingly. How are we meant to deal with a belief we do not even know we have?

man closing his eyes reflection on mirror
Photo by Jhonis Martins on Pexels.com

However, I think we should strive to be as conscious as we can of the judgements we make. It is not easy to look into ourselves and really challenge these faults and yet in the world we currently live in, I think it is imperative.

So many people are feeding the world with hate. The media, groups, politicians and events around the world spark beliefs and judgement that can seriously hurt people. We need to counter this with more positive beliefs.

As a teacher I try to teach this to students and as a nice person I try to live this way. Yet I also think the work is never done. We need constant reminders to review and self-reflect on our beliefs. Why when we meet someone did we get that bad feeling? Is it justified?

silhouette of a man in window
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

Our society judges people; keeping law and order means we need to. However it is not just criminals that are judged, everyone is and by everyone else. But this can lead to stigma, which can lead to prejudice and that then lead to discrimination.

I know I often feel judged by the people around me. My low self-esteem means I find it hard to belief that not everyone around me is judging me and thinking poorly of me. From my clothes, hair and general appearance to my beliefs, status and what I say. As a child I was bullied and it has made me to aware of how these judgements can be used to hurt someone.

blur cartography close up concept
Photo by slon_dot_pics on Pexels.com

If we want an equal and fair society then we have to examine our cultural beliefs and how that resonates to the next generation. Are we teaching equality when headlines single out a culture, a religion, a country, a financial status and tell us if it is right or wrong.

We need to look at this world we live in and decide what world we want it to be in years to come. None of us are perfect, none of us will always get it right. I know I am definitely working on this all the time, in my life in this mental world.

 

It is just a headache? Right?

It started on Sunday, I felt the pain closing in around my brain. The muscles in my neck got tight and my forehead started to throb. A headache started to form. I rested and tried to let it take its course, hoping it did not develop.

Monday it was a migraine. My vision was blurred, my head and neck hurt and daylight was painful. I felt sick and dizzy. So I called in sick to work and got out my migraine survival kit.

This kit has developed over the years but now includes; decent wax ear plugs, a wheat-bag eye-mask, and painkillers. It is simple, basic but essential. I drank some tea and biscuits to help the painkillers go down and I went back to bed.

It is often said that ‘sleeping is the best medicine’ and mostly I agree. Yet sometimes the migraine hurts so much, that sleep is just not an option. Or after some sleep I can no longer sleep as I am just not tired anymore and instead lay in the dark. Sometimes for days.

It is so hard to describe what a migraine is like to someone who has never had them. I have known my the pain to be so bad I could not put my head on the pillow as it caused me pain. I have contemplated whether chopping my own head off with an axe would actually be less painful (I think that is also the historian in me).

axe on tree trunk
Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

Pain can make you think dark and weird thoughts, especially when laying in a dark and quiet place can actually get quite boring. Sometimes I can tolerate an audiobook or podcast on the lowest of sound settings but usually not until the pain starts to wane or the painkillers have started to work.

I have seen neurologists many times, they have described me as a complicated case. I have tried many medications and alternative treatments. I have tried herbal remedies like feverfew leaf alongside medication prescribed. Some work for a while and reduce the number of migraines I have. None work completely or for long.

Recently I was describing the migraines and headaches to the neurologist and he pointed out how my headaches are migraines, they are just missing a couple of the symptoms I describe as migraines; blurred vision and constant dizziness. So all these headaches I have been having our migraines! Explains a lots. He then asked “How many days of migraines do you get a month?”I replied “Including what I thought was a headache?”. “Yes everything” I thought about it and replied “20 days”.

Some of these the pain lasts hours in the evening or morning. Other times it lasts all day. Sometimes it stops me and I have to retreat to my room but sometimes I can continue with my day after some doses of painkillers.

addiction adult capsule capsules
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This week it started Sunday and finished today (Friday), although I am in some pain still. Today I feel like my shackles have been removed and I have been taken out of the dark cell my brain has been locked within. I had Monday and Tuesday off work, as the blurred vision means I can not do anything but then went back to work. Retreating to my bed and painkillers as soon as I could. I lost my appetite, it was replaced with bouts of nausea.

The hardest thing to explain to someone is the detrimental effect the pain has on me as a whole person. Yes the pain is in my brain but it affects my mood, my thoughts, my ability to concentrate and my patience. I love sunshine, I am a Sun worshiper, until I am in this state and then I curse its brightness. This week I felt I was being tortured in a cell by my own mind and I did not know when it would end.

This might seem extreme to some but constant pain is demoralising and impairs cognitive ability. I can’t remember names of students, everyday words and history facts I would usually recall easily. I lose some of my hand eye co-ordination and become clumsy. My limbs feel prickly and tingle or they fall asleep.

Studies have shown that being a migraine or chronic headache sufferer significantly raises your risk of suicide and depression. In one US Study the risk rose from 1% to 10% from non sufferer to sufferers of migraines (US Study) and in another it tripled the likelihood (Migraine Again). Although this is believed to be due to the more general symptom of pain rather than due to the specific pain of migraine or headache suffers.

For me my depression rages during a migraine. I think the lack of control, the not knowing when it will end and the feeling like there is nothing I can do is just hard to handle. The relief when it does is like euphoria. It is like being given freedom again.

I hate to feel like someone who is always complaining or thinking ‘woe is me’. However I think awareness of this debilitating illness and the wider affect it can have is important. I have had migraines for as long as I can remember and so I do not think they are going anywhere. Maybe my brain is just wired in the wrong way. I am being referred to a Neurology Department in London to consider Botox for Migraines but I will contemplate that in June when I get to my appointment.

In the mean time I take each day as it comes and hope for brighter clearer headed days ahead in this mental world.

The Story of One Inspirational Woman I knew

In honour of International Women’s Day I wanted to reflect on one of the most inspirational women I have known. I know lots of fantastic women ,who battle illness and adversity in a man’s world. When I teach history I try to include all the women in history to show our important place in society. But one has always stood out to me.

From my childhood one lady was a constant inspiration to me, my Nan. She was an amazing woman and I loved to hear the stories of her life. Born in the 1920s she was the fourth of eight children. She was training to be a concert pianist until she met my Granddad and her teacher made her pick between boys and the piano. Full of teenage hormones as she was, she picked my Granddad. She always played the piano though, even in the underground stations during the Blitz. I still think of her when I hear Beethoven 5th Symphony or anything classical really. I loved to hear her play.

She remembers seeing Mahatma Ghandi when he visited London in 1931. She seemed to truly believe in equality and love. She talked about living near the Kray brothers and cycling down their street to go visit my Granddad when they were courting. She seems to have lived through so much history.

She went on to join the Women’s Army in WWII and supported a Canadian Airbase in the south of England. She stayed truthful to her engagement to my Granddad, even when Canadian soldiers proposed. She felt she needed to actually help at a time of when her country was at war.

Her family home in Lambeth was also bombed during the Blitz in London. Leaving just the porch and outside toilet, the only parts her father had built. She spoke about loosing every family photograph and her grand piano. It really helped show how material things were just that, memories and keepsakes were much more important to her.

After the war she married my Granddad and had three children of her own, although also suffering many miscarriages in the ten years between my aunts and my father’s birth. Whilst bringing up her own children she also fostered babies and toddlers. She seemed to have so much love to give. She was kind and thoughtful. She listened and cared. She was my sanctuary away from my own mother.

Although to my knowledge, she never did anything to change what my mother was doing, she helped me survive. She taught me to try to accept mum as she was. That anger only festered in myself and hurt me. That you could box up emotions and hide them away to get by. She also gave me hope that I would grow up and be able to move out and away from her one day.

When she died I was 16 to her 82 years old. I felt like my world had collapsed. I knew she had to let go, she was in so much pain from the pancreatic cancer she had to endure. Yet I felt so alone. My support, my love, my surrogate mother was gone. My heart broke and although I put on a brave face I fell into depression.

To have lived through so much change in the twentieth century. Maybe she is why I love history so much. She taught me so many lessons in life. Most importantly she taught me to be a kind and thoughtful person. I think of her everyday in this mental world.

Learning to be compassionate to myself

I am learning to let myself do what I want to do. It seems so strange as I have often thought this was what I was doing. I am an independent woman and am not answerable to anyone…or am I? Well, I wasn’t. I was making myself answerable to family, friends, society, charities, students, bosses, colleagues and anyone else I came into contact with.

Was an action acceptable or expected? Was it for others? Did it help someone else? I felt guilt for doing what I wanted to do. Taking time for me was a luxury I could not afford or justify. I was answerable to everyone elses needs first and all my energy went on this.

Now I can actually say I take time for me to do what I need. My pace of life seems slower and maybe even boring to some. However, I remind myself it isn’t, it is the peace and relaxation that I have needed for a long time. I feel little to no guilt for taking this time for me too. The guilt has not disappeared but it is diminishing.

Don’t get me wrong, if a friend or family member needs me I am there in a flash. I am great in an emergency. However, it is on my terms and only with people who appreciate me rather than expect it. People who I know would be there if I needed them too.

This weekend I binged watched tv, read a book, ran a few errands and chilled out. I did very little but it was great. It was what I needed. I was tired from work and needed to process some things. So, I let myself do what I needed and wanted to do.

I am looking after myself and my home more. I have the energy to tidy and clean without feeling it is just too much. I can take a bath without it feeling like I am wasting time by enjoying it.

bath bathroom bathtub indoors
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

I can do all this without feeling lazy or selfish. My fear of being lazy or selfish has plagued me for years. Anytime I stopped for longer than a few hours that niggling feeling I was becoming lazy would slip into my mind. If I wasn’t doing something for someone else I was selfish. These thoughts are no longer there. Self-care is not being lazy or selfish. It is being compassionate to myself.

This is a huge leap forward for me. To some these things might seem trivial but accepting these new thoughts, habits and beliefs are hard work. I have lived 33 years a different way but this older dog is learning new tricks.

This does not mean I have cracked it and am cured of all my negative thoughts, but it is a step, maybe even a leap. So this blog is to remind myself of what I can do and to bring myself back to this place. I want to make positive thoughts, self-care and compassion my habits in my life in this mental world.

A Woodland Walk

I walk through the woodland, an excited puppy running around my feet. Headphones placed in my ears, a voice tells me to slowly breathe in and out. Each muddy step feels like a journey in a novel, a wander through an enchanted forest. I feel my heart beats growing faster, so I focus on the breeze as it swirls through the leaves above me and across my face.

The raindrops feel refreshing as they fall around me. I watch as they flow down the leaves to the woodland floor. Each droplet has a journey, a destiny as it tells a story washing fears away. I look at the many greens and browns that surround me. Degrading autumn leaves fallen are beneath my feet, the puppies paws disappear into the squelching mulch.

The ground goes up and down as I follow the path into the depths of woodland. My mind turns inside and I feel the pain within. In this woodland I am alone in its peace and the loneliness closes in. I can feel each scar and wound left on my heart. Damaged over and over by the loves and losses of my life.

environment fallen trees forest graffiti
Photo by James Frid on Pexels.com

Thirty-three years of heartache; wounds, scratches, bruises and stabs. Betrayals, insults and losses have taken their toll. My heart feels battered like it has had a long career as a boxer. Round and round of fists until hearing the bell ding. Family, friend and lovers leaving their marks. Stabs, although no longer a seeping wound they have left deep scars.

Sometimes I feel these scars will never heal completely. Memories cannot be erased and self confidence is hard to regain. The wall of protection around my heart is concreted in place, yet lately I see the cracks appearing. I feel my heart calling from it’s locked box, yearning to be free. Screaming out for another love to nurture it like it has never really known.

I enjoy my solitude. I like to take my dog walks bathing in nature. It is like I crave my space and time with me. However, I also wish for someone to share this life with me. Supporting each other. To share a cup of tea. Friends are amazing but a love is something transcendent. A love not to cure-all, but to provide additional forces in the fight for our lives in this mental world.

man and woman having a tea conversation
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Life is exhausting, each and every day

Life is exhausting! Getting up each day and living is very tiring. Having depression and fibromyalgia makes my body ache and feel so very heavy. Weighted down by feelings of numbness and sadness.

Sleeping through my seven alarms, I scramble out of bed. I take my pills and brush my teeth. Brushing my hair seems like a marathon of effort, mile after mile of strokes until it is up and out-of-the-way. Dragging any clothes I can find, onto my limbs. Choosing what is comfortable, closest and clean.

I feed the bunnies and the puppy, as the kettle boils to make tea. A travel mug and breakfast bar in hand, I head out to the car. The door slams and I feel my world get small, Volkswagen Polo sized. With the radio on I navigate the traffic, focused on everyone’s moves as the world swirls around me.

person holding coffee filled mug
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

I park at school and get through the day. I travel back in time as I teach, jumping from Norman England, to Nazi Germany, to Tudor Britain and to many more. Grounded with my feet in what I know, the past. The day ticks on and my mind pushes everything else away. In some moments I even feel echoes of my passion for teaching. That feeling which seems to escape me most of the time, it feels like a reminder of a long-lost friend.

The students leave and I feel as empty as my classroom. My mind fills with clutter, memories of laughter float around. I am back in the car and fighting rush hour traffic wanting to be at home. Encapsulated in my car I listen to soothing music as I breathe my way home, in…out…right…left…home.

Greeted by an excited puppy, I can’t help but smile. He races upstairs, with energy I wish I could steal. Behind him, I drag my feet up each mountainous step. Stripping off my hard protective shell of the day I can climb into my safe pyjamas. The kettle goes on to feed the tiredness that is growing.

The sofa envelopes me as the tv noise fills the space in my head. The sounds push any negative thoughts aside, for now. My puppy curls up on my lap, giving me all the warmth and love he can. I wish for the simplicity of his life, the peaceful day of  sleep with food and drinks provided.

bed cute dog female
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I look at the kitchen as if it might spontaneously produce a dinner. Preparing my meal for one feels like making a banquet for a King. I need the energy to breathe but I know I need to eat. A sandwich, toast, ready meals or maybe I will just order in. Someone else can make the effort while I use up my reserves just making it up the stairs.

I climb into bed as early as possible, beneath the duvet I feel warm and safe. Camomile tea and an interesting novel to calm my mind. Meditation, mindfulness or just music to sleep by. I hope tonight sleep will be easy to find. I hope it will replenish the fatigue and exhaustion of my life in this mental world.

A snow storm of pain and anxiety.

I do not like snow. I mean I do not mind it to look at, from inside. It is pretty and it glistens. I do like seeing the way it sits on tree branches. But that is it, that is where my like ends. Aesthetically pleasing but nothing more. I would love a picture of the snow much more than ever being in it. For all my fantasies from the books I read, I never wanted to go to Narnia.

There are several reasons that it gives me anxiety and makes me shaky. Firstly, I broke my arm a few years back in the snow. I slipped at the end of my garden path. One minute I was standing and the next I wasn’t. I knew it was broken before the X-ray. It hurt so much but it repaired as broken bones do.

Yet I have also had good memories in the snow, I was a nanny in Switzerland, I played in the snow with the girls and was sat in a jacuzzi surrounded by snow. But I was warm and it was sunny.

adventure cold cross country skiing dawn
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The biggest problem I have with the snow is the cold. Cold sets off my Fibromyalgia, it is my biggest trigger. The chill when you step out of a bath can set it of, so you can imagine what snow does. The cold seeps into my bones. Last year when it snowed I had a duty outdoors at school then a walkabout (helping teachers with behaviour issues) around the site. Although wrapped up I still got very cold and it triggered a flare up that lasted weeks.

I do try to prepare, I wrap up warm and wear my snow boots. As soon as the temperature starts to drop I wear my thermal leggings and socks under my normal clothes. I avoid outdoors where I can. This year I even asked my mechanic to pump up my tyres as I did not want to try to do that in a cold garage. I just know it would result in me being in pain. Hands, wrists and legs are my biggest pain zones.

beautiful beauty blue eyes bonnet
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I also feel judged by people around me. I have to explain how I know what is best for me to avoid certain situations, or to explain my growing anxieties.  Today I had to try and explain, to a collegue, how being outside as I have to move around to being outside for a longer period was different and so could cause my pain. It makes me question my own belief and knowledge of my own condition.

My anxiety does also heighten as a precaution and of course the cold might not cause a flare up. However, do I want to take the risk? We all know that pain is not nice, dealing with it is mentally draining and physically exhausting. Especially when it could last for so long afterwards.

However, I also have to be aware that the fear of pain can cause pain itself. I know this too and so try to avoid this as well. Pain is so subjective and psychological. It is not just physical. Pain can be the bodies reaction, a defence mechanism as well as a result. Not because ‘it is all in my head’ but because our brains are clever and they know the best way to get what they want. To save us or control us, pain is a tool the brain uses.

I have often said ‘pain is my game, it is my life’. As a fibromyalgia patient I am in pain everyday, to varying degrees. I have studied it, lived it and tried to understand it. This does not mean I know everything, far from it, pain still trips me up and surprises me. Mine is also subjective to me. However, I have always believed that ‘knowledge is power’ and by knowing my pain, the best I can, does help me control it as far as possible.

So back to the snow. I know it is not going to kill me. It might not even cause me pain this time. But I know I will deal with it each day, as this is my life in this mental world.