Re-introducing foods

I was doing so well on my ‘low histamine’ diet that last year I decided to re-introduce some foods I’d been avoiding – you can read all about it here.  Initially they seemed to be having no effect on my histamine load whatsoever and I was all smug, but as time went on my histamine bucket began to fill up.  After about 5 months my body was definitely not happy and I was having some symptoms I’d forgotten existed, like pins and needles in my bowel after eating, having to get up in the night to pee, insomnia and hay fever symptoms.

Here’s the thing about Mast Cell Disease though – it’s easy to say “it’s my MCAD playing up because I’m eating x, y or z again” and in some respects this turned out to be the case, but in others not.  My best mate doesn’t have MCAD but she does get hay fever really badly and at Christmas she told me her hay fever had gone berserk, as had a friend of hers.  December is the middle of winter here in the UK and it’s been freezing.  There’s no way on earth there should be any pollen around, but our symptoms seem to say otherwise!  I live surrounded by woodland and am truly allergic to some tree pollens, so we can only assume spring will come early this year.

My hormones have also been seriously out of whack in recent months and from reading menopause forums even healthy women can develop allergy symptoms during this time in their lives along with pain and insomnia.  So how much of my symptoms are down to my hormones, rather than what I’m eating, is impossible to tell.

My EDS has also gone absolutely nuts and the inflammation from that isn’t doing my body any favours.

Having said all that I just had a sneaking suspicion that all the chocolate I was eating wasn’t helping the situation so I cut it out.  And I definitely feel my histamine levels have dropped as a result.  I still have no reaction at all to baker’s yeast in normal bread, lemon juice and store bought mayonnaise so am continuing to include those in my diet which makes eating lunch out a shed load easier.

If I could re-introduce one food it would be tinned chopped tomatoes.  As a vegetarian tomatoes are in everything and, dammit, they taste good!  I substitute tomatoes for my home made red pepper sauce in recipes and this has worked great, but I spend an awful lot of my time and energy making the sauce and it would revolutionize my life to not have to do that.  So I’m toying with the idea of re-introducing tomatoes and seeing how I get on.  I’m not sure now is the best time, however, with hay fever season approaching and my hormones so out of whack, so I’ll let you know what I decide.

I forgot to tell you all that over Christmas I found some delicious mints with allowed ingredients.  Bassetts Mint Creams contain sugar, glucose syrup, water and mint flavouring and are available from Sainsburys, Morrisons, ASDA and Ocado and are suitable for vegetarians.  No more having to faff about making my own mint fondants when I fancy a special treat 🙂

Weekly roundup

In order for me to get through everything I need to do with my very limited energy I have to have a schedule.  I break the week up into days and each day up into hours and each hour has an activity.  It stops me feeling overwhelmed and (in theory) stops me from doing too much of a particular activity at any one time which helps with energy management.  Doing fun things, and not doing anything at all, are built into my schedule.  If they weren’t I’d do nothing but chores 7 days a week and I’ not prepared to have a life devoid of leisure time.  The system works until I have a migraine or my period or my patio floods and I have to get an emergency plumber and can’t get my jobs for that day done.  Then it all turns to shit 😉

I’ve been ragingly hormonal for days, despite it being a week since my period ended.  When I’m hormonal I crave dairy products for some bizarre reason.  Warm milky drinks, ice cream, rice pudding (mmmmm I could eat a rice pudding right now and it’s 7am!) which I don’t eat at any other time.  I just go with the flow as my body is obviously trying to tell me something.   Friday I spent the day ravenously hungry which is usually a sign I’m getting a migraine, and sure enough I woke in the middle of the night with my brain throbbing.  Luckily it wasn’t a bad one though and had largely gone by lunchtime.  Last night I went to bed fine, woke at 3am and felt horrendously depressed and started to cry, managed to talk myself round and go back to sleep and have woken this morning absolutely fine again.  This peri-menopause malarky is seriously bonkers.

My EDS has taken a proper nosedive in the past few months.  I don’t know whether it’s weather-related, hormone-related or not related to anything in particular.  It’s such a shame because ME-wise I feel relatively stable and MCAD-wise I feel quite good (!).  I’m in pain just about everywhere, all my ligaments and muscles are stiff, I can’t get comfortable no matter what I do and I walk about like a bloody 90 year old.  I’m also permanently knackered (the lack of energy from my EDS is totally different from the ill-exhaustion I feel when my ME is bad) so I’m finding living life on a practical level hard work.  These are the times I wish I were rich and had servants.

I had some great news this week about my furry friend Bertie.  He’s had a large lump on his tail for some months now and the Vet hasn’t been sure what it is.  She didn’t want to do a biopsy as there is very little skin on a dog’s tail and wounds are notoriously difficult to heal, so it’s been monitored for changes.  Over Christmas I noticed a scab had formed so went back to the Vets this week for a check.  She was able to remove the scab and squeeze ten tonnes of cheesy crap out of the lump, which proves it was a cyst and nothing more sinister.  I’m so relieved and I’m sure Bert is much more comfortable with all that nasty gunk gone.

I’m ready for spring now, even though it’s at least 2 months away.  It takes forever to get all my kit on to take Bertie out and, although it’s been a good winter in most respects, I’m just ready for it to be warmer.  Mind you, when it gets warmer it tends to get wetter then I moan about the rain!  Let’s face it, I just wish I lived somewhere sunnier even if it is stunningly beautiful here.

I’ve been bargain hunting on Ebay this week.  I have some ideas for some gothic-inspired photographs so have been ratching for medieval costumes.  Ebay and Amazon are fucking brilliant – you can buy anything on there and often for under a tenner (which is a good job cos I’m absolutely broke).  Watch this space!

 

 

Blind Alleys

I’ve been ill with M.E. for a long time.  A very long time.  And I have to be honest and say that nothing much about the disease either excites or surprises me these days.   That’s because I’ve heard it all before and there is nothing you can tell me about M.E. that I don’t already know.

The past few years have felt quite exciting for the M.E. community and I know there is much hope about Jen Brea’s upcoming film, Julie Rehmeyer’s soon-to-be-released book Through The Shadowlands, the current research into Rutuximab, the recent American study on the disease burden of ME and how much should be being spent on research, and various studies on how the way we produce energy is faulty.  But while all these might seem new to most people they’re old hat to me.

I got excited in 1996 when Hilary Johnson wrote an expose book called Osler’s Web.  We in the UK got very excited in the late 1990s when one of our most well known TV personality’s daughters contracted very severe M.E. and her Mum did an entire hour long documentary on the disease on TV.  I got excited in 2003 when a study suggested M.E. costs the UK a staggering £2.2 billion and our Government allocated £8.5 million to set up specialist clinics around the country (from which funding has since largely been pulled and which, in any event, were bloody useless as they focused almost exclusively on CBT and mindfulness with no help for the actual disease in any way and very few outreach resources for the severely affected).  I got excited in 2011 about the release of the book (in which I took part) and subsequent film Voices From The Shadows about life with severe M.E.  And I’ve lost count of the research studies about which I’ve been excited over the years, nearly every one of which claimed to have finally found the cause of the disease.

Here is, IMHO, the hard truth about M.E.: until a cause for the disease is found, and a test to prove whether someone has M.E. or not is developed, nothing will change.  And we are sadly nowhere near to discovering either.  Nowhere near.

For over a decade the research focus was on a single virus or bacteria being the cause of M.E. – Epstein Barr, Herpes, Enteroviruses, XMRV.  I never understood the logic.  While most cases of M.E. start with a viral infection, the virus is different for all of us – mine started with a tummy bug, yours might have started with the flu, Slap Cheek caught off your child, or any number of other infections.  It may not have started with a viral infection at all – some cases of M.E. start following surgery, or a car accident, or after a vaccination.  The only common factor is immune system activation.

Now the focus is firmly on energy, which is another blind alley.  When we get the Flu, or Glandular Fever, our energy levels are next to zero and just walking to the loo or digesting a bowl of soup is all we can manage for weeks, sometimes months.  But there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the way our body produces energy.  This lack of oomph is part of our immune response.  If I over-do it, either mentally or physically, my throat gets sore, I feel fluey and I overheat.  This has nothing to do with energy per se or the lack thereof, it has to do with my faulty immune system.  So all this research on hibernating animals, or inability to convert glucose into energy, doesn’t in any way explain my symptoms.  This is what happens when CFS is mixed up with M.E.

The roots of M.E. seem so blatantly obvious to me I have no idea why researchers continue down these dead ends instead of looking at the immune system as a whole.  Instead of looking at mast cell activation dare I say it, or some other event which affects our entire immune system.  Researchers would do better to study patients with the flu than patients with CFS.

It may sound like I’m jaded over the whole M.E. thing and in many ways I am, but I don’t mean to sound negative.  I am absolutely 100% convinced that a cause for M.E. will be found and while a cure may not be found (we still can’t cure the common cold remember!) at least we may discover drugs which alleviate symptoms and lead to increased quality of life.  I sadly just don’t think it will happen any time soon.

 

Pain

When you’re healthy, the only pain you ever experience is acute – toothache, childbirth, bangs and scrapes etc.  Drugs usually work well and at least you know the pain will only last a few hours, days or weeks at most.  Chronic pain, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish and I had no idea the different types of pain with which our bodies could indefinitely torture us.

I’ve had back pain, due to spinal stenosis and resulting nerve damage, lordosis and scoliosis since I was 11 years old.  When I stand the muscles in my mid-lower back go into spasm and impinge on the nerves.  My buttocks feel really heavy, like I have a breeze block in my arse, and it only takes me a few minutes to need to sit back down.  Sitting is just as problematic, only I can do it for much longer.  Eventually, however, lying down and taking the weight off my spine is a must.  Pain killers have never had any effect on my back pain and I’ve always managed it with rest, my TENS machine if I know I will have to sit for extended periods (like at my Camera club), heat wraps (I like Thermacare back wraps) and a slaver of Ibuleve gel (which probably doesn’t do much and is largely placebo!).

When I first developed M.E. my whole body ached.  I likened it to toothache but in every muscle and joint.  My knees in particular used to throb like a son of a bitch every second of every day.  It was unrelenting and drugs had no effect.  The only relief I ever had was lying in a hot bath which I did for hours, often in the middle of the night.  I did eventually try acupuncture which got rid of the knee throbbing but had no effect anywhere else.  Luckily as my M.E. improved somewhat the aching largely went and only comes back on bad days.

I have had pins and needles over my entire body since 1996.  It is there 24/7 and is particularly bad in my hands and feet.  When my M.E. was severe, my feet were so painful it felt like I was walking over broken glass and there were weeks where I couldn’t even bare to put my shoes on.  Obviously this is some kind of nerve pain but no-one has ever been able to tell me what kind (it’s not peripheral neuropathy, for which I’ve been tested).  When I’m about to go into anaphylaxis the pins and needles stops and for a few brief minutes I have blissful calm (followed by all hell breaking loose, but let’s skip over that bit!).  So the pins and needles is reversible which just shows how the immune system and the nervous system are linked.  The constant feeling that I am being pricked all over by very sharp pins gets on my last nerve (‘xcuse the pun 😉 ).

I also have other types of nerve pain.  I get sudden electric shocks for absolutely no reason.  This week they’ve been deep in my right ear – I’m sitting reading a book and all of a sudden it’s like someone’s stabbed me in the head.  They shoot randomly down my legs and make them jump off the bed sheets.  They knife me in the ribs, doubling me over and making me mutter “ouch yer little bugger!” under my breath.  I have no clue what they’re all about but at least they only appear every now and then – if they were a permanent feature I’d have topped myself.

When healthy people excercise vigorously they eventually get what’s called “the burn”, due to a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles.  This mechanism has been shown in some studies to be faulty in M.E. patients and I can get “the burn” sitting watching the telly!  Every night my thigh muscles are on fire and when I touch my skin it’s actually hot.  As I’m typing this post the bicep in my right arm is heating up nicely as is the muscle between my shoulder blades.  My knees are also burning despite the fact it’s only 8.30am and I haven’t even gotten out of bed yet.  I’ve tried ice packs in the past but as they heat up so quickly they only provide very temporary relief.

I’ve had various intestinal pains since I was a toddler.  Acid burning my stomach and oesophagus currently being the most troublesome, closely followed by cramp-like colic.

One of my worst types of pain is that brought on by migraine.  Oh my good Lord above.  It starts either with prickling pins and needles down one side of my face, or a throbbing pulse at various points on my head (above one eye, on the crown, at the base) which beats in time with my heart.  This throbbing gets worse and worse and covers more and more of my head until it’s so severe I literally can’t move without feeling like my brain is being crushed.  I can have migraines which last 3 days, during which time I can barely move, think, speak or eat.  I’m allergic to all of the drugs used to treat migraine which is a total sod.  I’ve tried a Migracap (a cold gel hat type thing) which only made the pain worse and have lain on hot water bottles to the extent where I’ve actually burned the skin on scalp.  If I could get rid of one pain, it would be this.

The pain from my endometriosis and adenomyosis is, quite simply, torture and ranks on a par with the migraines.  The fact that this pain actually makes me pass out tells its own story.  It’s only saving grace is that it will, eventually please God, largely disappear as my hormones peter out.

As I’ve aged, particularly in the last 5 years, my body has become uncharacteristically stiff which, for someone who is highly hypermobile, is peculiar.  I never thought in a million years I would ever not be flexible and it’s come as a bit of a shock.  The stiffness brings with it a unique type of pain, almost as if the bones are fused together.  For the first hour of being up and around in a morning the stiffness in my ankles and hips feels like I’m putting all my weight on the bare bones – the cushioning ligaments feel like they’re simply not there – and I walk like a constipated duck.  It’s hard to describe but is seriously unpleasant.  You take the fact that your joints are springy and can move, twist and rotate for granted……until they can’t!

Of course, on top of all this chronic pain I still have acute pain.  Most EDS sufferers have frequent ligament sprains, strains and tears and I’m no exception.  For me, though, these are mostly minor inconveniences.  They respond well to topical analgesics like Ibuleve gel and ice, and can be strapped and supported until they heal.  The fact they happen almost every day sometimes makes them feel chronic, but as they respond to therapy and are on different parts of the body they don’t feel as unrelenting as my genuinely chronic pain does.

We all cope differently with chronic pain.  The biggest weapons on my armoury, in the absence of painkillers and other drugs, are:

  1. Heat: hot water bottles, electric blankets, heat wraps, baths.
  2. TENS machine: using large 90cm pads and the following settings on my machine – 35hz, 140us.  I keep it on all day some days, not for the recommended 20 minute sessions.
  3. Bracing, supports and strapping including a humongous 5ft U shaped maternity pillow in bed which surrounds and supports my whole body.
  4. Topical gels, such as Ibuleve, which I tolerate fine.   You can also use Arnica, Tiger Balm, Deep Heat etc.
  5. Ice packs and gels: I particularly like Kool n Soothe forehead gel strips for migraine.
  6. Rest.

The most important coping mechanism for me, however, is distraction.  Due to my M.E. I need lots of rest in a quiet environment, but if I were to just lay on a bed with no distractions I would do nothing but dwell on the pain I’m in, which would make me hugely depressed.  So when I need to lie quietly I listen to a talking book on my ipod (for some reason I find listening through earphones, rather than on a loud speaker, more restful).  I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all if it weren’t for my talking books – there’s no way I could just lie down in bed in the quiet and expect my body to go to sleep, not when the pain signals are banging away in my brain.  I blog, write my book and edit my photos – all of which I can do in bed on my laptop.  I take Bertie out every day of my life on my scooter, even when every cell in my body wants to just crawl under the duvet and stay there.  I crochet, when my hands will let me.  Something, anything, to take my mind off the fact I am in constant pain.  I keep busy, busy, busy even when I am resting which helps my brain focus on something other than the pain – it works better than you’d think.

Weekly roundup

This weekend is the last of my staycation.  I’ve had a lovely 2 weeks resting (in between walking the dog, doing meals, the odd bit of laundry, the dishes and all the other stuff that can’t be ignored) and it’s been heavenly.  Simply heavenly.  Or it would have been if my body had cooperated.

My joints/muscles/ligaments are still very painful and I’m so stiff I can barely move in a morning.  Resting has helped but I think in order for it all to settle down fully I’d need a couple of months off which is never going to happen.  My period was due this week, and I started having period pains on Sunday.  Which got worse and worse until Wednesday evening when I felt like my entire torso was on fire.  The pain was indescribable and resulted in me blacking out at 3am while on the loo with diarrhea.  And my period hadn’t actually started at this stage!  I cannot live like this for another couple of years until Menopause – I think I’d lose my sanity.  So I’m going to have to give some painkillers a go.  I thought I’d ask my GP for a Mefanemic Acid prescription and see if I can tolerate it (paracetomol/tylenol is out, as is asprin and codeine based drugs).  My period has now ended but my entire digestive tract, bowel, hips and pelvis feel like they’ve been in a car crash.

Despite the pain and total lack of sleep I attended another funeral on Friday.  A lovely, kind man from my Camera Club who died very suddenly before Christmas.  I was chatting away to him on the Wednesday, arranging to visit him in the new year to pick his brains about using flash for portraits, he went out with his buddies on the Friday to a regular luncheon club and on the Saturday he was no longer with us.  Seize the day my friends, whatever the day holds.

I had to get an emergency plumber out this week after my patio flooded with water due to a blocked drain.  Luckily I have plumbing insurance, which seems like a waste of my precious cash until events like this happen, when it seems like the best idea I’ve ever had 😉

I had a robust response to my Food Skeptic post.  I fucking dread writing posts about food and if you’ve noticed do very few of them these days.  The reason being that people are very passionate about the subject and, I have to say it, I brace myself for the response.  Instead of reading what I actually write, some people read all sorts into the posts that aren’t there which, as a blogger, I’ve found happens when someone feels strongly about any particular subject.  I understand totally but as the writer it can be stressful.  All I can say is I’ve never bought into the “super foods” theory, or the supplements theory and I’m no more sick than most of my readers.  In fact, I have made a substantial recovery after being bedridden with very severe M.E. for nearly a decade and I didn’t do it using food or supplements while many of my very ill friends who follow all the currently popular dietary advice and spend the gross national product of a small nation on supplements are still very sick indeed.  I can only talk about my own thoughts and experience so that’s what I share with you all.

Y’know the friend who told me I looked like crap in a recent selfie?  Well I got another, un-asked for, email from her this week.  It was bizarre and stated that my photo portrayed a “friend who has endured so much pain and suffering though illness who is now in a dark place of illness having lost that special sparkle and smile and looking so much older than you do in reality”.    Am I in a “dark place of illness” because if I am no-one’s sent me the Memo?  I have an overly-full life, a beautiful home, live in one of the most amazing places on earth, friends, a hobby I love and live with a passion many healthy people fail to achieve.  Even my Counsellor is gobsmacked at how much I squeeze out of life despite my circumstances.  My friend, however, is one of these people who, because I am disabled, talks about me as that “poor woman” and tries to place me in the role of victim, which seriously gets my back up.  For reasons I won’t go into she seems to be depressed and pitying me seems to make her feel better about herself.  Either that, or in her own mind she wants to see me as depressed so that she has some company.  I have no idea why she’s felt the need, three times now, to tell me my picture makes me look “years older than I am” and miserable to boot.  She even said my photo had “made her cry”.  Seriously?!  I’m dressed up in a velvet cape for crying out loud.  It’s art.  I’m using it for my CPAGB distinction and the judges at the Royal Photographic Society don’t much like the types of smiley portrait pictures you see in shop windows.  Here’s the final picture – if I look years older than I am it would make me 60 and if I look this good when I’m 60 I’ll be well chuffed.  In fact, I’ve barely a wrinkle on my face and have skin, even at 50, that my younger friends would kill for.  I don’t give a rat’s ass whether she thinks I look like crap because I have enough self-esteem to know it’s not true.  What I take issue with is her continuing need to tell me I look like crap –  I still can’t work out why a friend would do that.

I shall end on a positive.  My cleaner came back to work this week after being off sick for 2½ months.  Hurrahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!  With my current level of health I simply can’t do the housework and it was lovely this week to finally be in a clean house and bed 🙂

Food Skeptic

As anyone reading my blog regularly will know, I’m skeptical.  About lots of things, but in particular about all the information we read online about food. One week we should all be eating Goji berries and the next week Kale.  The only thing people in my neck of the woods have ever used Kale for is to feed sheep and I don’t even know what a Goji berry looks like.  I’m fairly sure none of my ancestors did either, yet I can trace my family back to the Viking invasion in the 700s AD so they managed to live long and healthily enough to produce 1500 years of ancestors despite having the same genetic diseases as me (my Mum’s Dupytrens Contracture has been traced back to the Nordic invasion through a study she took part in).

There was a recent article in the Daily Mirror by Dr Miriam Stoppard about supplements and how our bodies aren’t designed to utilize them.  If you take too much Vitamin C for example you just end up with very expensive pee.  There’s a lot of medical talk these days that we should ingest so many ugs of this vitamin and so many nanols of that mineral, forgetting that our ancestors lived on a massively restricted diet compared to us and yet worked physically harder than our generation ever have, producing up to 12 children per family along the way and not a vitamin supplement in sight!

There’s a big hoo ha about Vitamin D at the moment and how we northerners in particular don’t get enough sunlight in the winter.  And it has to be said that I’ve had my Vit D levels checked in winter and they’ve been lowish, as against very high levels in summer (despite our lack of sunshine!).  But hasn’t that always been the case?  It wasn’t any sunnier in northern England in the 700s AD yet we’re all still here and functioning.  In fact, people who live in hot climates seem to sleep a damned sight more than people living in cold climates – you try getting food at 2pm on a Greek island and you’ll struggle, cos they’re all knackered and having a siesta 😉  And as far as I know, people living in Scandinavian countries are healthy enough despite their lack of sunshine.  The lack of vitamin D might have a lot more to do with the fact that none of us go outside in winter these days – we don’t walk to school, we don’t work outdoors not even to hang washing and we travel everywhere in our cars.  As a baby I was placed in my pram, even in the depth of winter, every afternoon for a sleep outside – it was considered healthy, and probably was.

IMHO we absolutely do not need the massive range of foods we have available in Western countries.  Yes it’s important to eat a balanced diet, but that basically means eat some protein, carbs and fat each day not to eat a huge variety of foods.  If my ancestors have lived in northern England for 1500 years surely I’d do better to eat whatever they’ve eaten for the last millennia, not imported foods like medjool dates or coconuts?  If the theory of evolution is correct my ancestors have naturally evolved to live on the foods available to us here in England which is lamb not buffalo, pears not mangos, wheat not rice.

Of course, the way we produce our food has radically altered for the worse in the last 60 years which is why I try to buy organic produce whenever possible.  Organic soil is so much richer in minerals than none-organic and organic farmers still tend to use natural methods of crop rotation.  Organic animals are reared in a more natural way, ie on grass in the open air, and aren’t given anywhere near the same levels of drugs that none-organic animals are pumped full of.  Their food is also not laden with chemicals and fertilizers.

None of us cook from scratch anymore either, which has a massive impact on our health.  I was absolutely shocked when I wrote this blog post, detailing the chemicals in a modern convenience diet rather than a similar home-cooked diet.  I am absolutely convinced that our current obesity crisis, and many of our health issues, are more to do with the chemicals and drugs in our foods than anything else.  Our bodies aren’t designed to handle 50 different chemicals (additives, fertilizers, supplements, drugs, hormones) a day, it’s just that simple.

I’m not saying that our ancestor’s lives were all rose tinted, but their health issues and early deaths were more to do with over-work, poverty (and resulting lack of food of any description, let alone a balanced diet) and the inability to treat disease (no penicillin for example) than not having access to supplements or enough sunshine.

I always read with a wry smile that we should be following a “mediterranean diet”.  Why’s that then?  Do people in the Med not have heart attacks or get cancer?  Do they all live 20 years longer than the rest of us?  Actually I know the answer to that – the average life expectancy in Spain is 82, as against 81 in England.  Do people living in California, or South Africa, not get cancer being as though it’s so sunny there?

I’m not suggesting chucking the baby out with the bath water.  Some supplements are absolutely necessary, eg folic acid before pregnancy, B12 for anaemia, but unless there is some fundamental underlying health issue I wholeheartedly belive supplements are a waste of money.  Getting out in the winter sun will do you more good than fortifying cardboard breakfast cereal with vitamin D (does anyone really eat breakfast cereals?  They’re not food!).  And I believe a simple, local, organic diet and cooking foods yourself are a million times better for you than eating imported foods which have been picked before they are ripe, washed with bleach, irradiated to keep them looking fresh, and transported for several weeks before they reach your plate especially if you’re on a low histamine diet.

I’m sure some people will argue with me, but the food industry is just that………..an industry.  An industry which needs to make you buy their shit, whether or not you need it or it’s good for you.

Happy New Year (really!)

My Counsellor asked me recently “in the face of everything you’ve lived through, are living through, how did you turn out such a balanced, stable adult who grabs each day by the scruff of the neck and shakes the life out it?”  Good question 😉

My Mum has been unhappy her entire adult life.  Her Mum was also unhappy her entire adult life.  And, if I’d had the chance to know her, maybe her Mum was also unhappy.  Depression runs in the very DNA of the women in my family and having grown up amongst that I was determined that I was not going to succumb to the misery gene.

At the age of 18, I recognized that I was clinically depressed and in truth had been clinically depressed from about the age of 12.  Trust me when I say I know how it feels to wake every day and wish you were dead because the emotional pain of living is too much to deal with.  However, I couldn’t imagine going through my whole life waking each morning with a boulder the size of Colorado in my stomach and not knowing how I was going to get through the day, so I promised myself I wouldn’t.

I sat in my GP’s surgery, crying buckets and refusing to move until she’d done something to help me.  I was given antidepressants and referred to a Psychologist, who I saw for nearly a year.  I left home, so I didn’t have to live with my Mother’s unhappiness or my parents’ volatile relationship.  I joined a dance aerobics class and loved it.  I let go of some unhealthy relationships and gained some self-esteem.  And slowly, slowly I started to be the person I was meant to be.

Of course, just when I had a nice life thank you very much at the age of 26 I developed M.E. and the cosy world I’d built up for myself disintegrated.  It took some time, but after a few years of coming to terms with my situation I once again found some emotional peace, despite being horrendously ill and almost totally bedridden.  Note I haven’t said I found joy in my situation, because who the fuck does that?!  😉

These days I might be still be sick and in pain but I can function, albeit in a limited way, and in this part of my life I have joy.  I knew I’d get there eventually!  My Mother annoys the bejaysus out of me and my Dad is a challenge but, although that situation is…….well, all sorts of misery……..it will not make me unhappy.  Because I refuse to let it.

I cannot change my situation, but I can change my reaction to it.  I know, for sure, that I am going to spend the whole of 2017 ill and in pain but that doesn’t make me depressed.  It is what it is and I cannot alter it – I might as well rally against the sea being wet or the sky being blue. I only have one life and it’s zipping by with alarming speed.  It may not be the life I’d planned but it still has purpose and meaning.  This may not be the path I would have chosen but it’s the path I’m travelling and it’s going to be a fun road trip even if I end up throwing up out the car window.  I may have the odd flat tire.  I may constantly run out of petrol.  I may encounter some really fucking annoying hitchhikers who I wish I’d never picked up.  There will be times I am lost, and skint, and frightened.  There will also be times I’ll stick my head out the window and revel in my hair blowing in the wind.

I have no idea where I will end up this time next year but I CHOOSE to enjoy the ride.  And on the days I’m too nauseous to drive I choose to park up in a flower filled country lane, regroup and rest until I feel up to travelling on.