It’s dark down here

Over the last few months I have reluctantly come to the realisation that once again I am suffering from depression.

Depression has been part of my life on and off for the last 40 years. Most of the time I manage to keep it at bay. I try to be a cheerful happy person. Now and again I have off days. Every few years it goes beyond that.

Seeing as this has not been my first bout of depression, I am able to recognise it even though I tried so hard to reject it.

My feeling of sadness, sleeping all the time, being disheartened at everything. Even the simplest of chores are a huge effort, have gone on for too long to be ignored now.

My advice to anyone else would be go see your Dr. So why have I not done this myself? I don’t see any point in seeing a Dr this time around. They have two solutions, drugs and or therapy.

In the past I have been prescribed anti depressants. I hated the way they made me feel as though I was walking an inch off the ground. I felt like I had no control.

After taking a couple of different ones over the years I vowed not to touch them again. I understand that for many people these tablets can be helpful.

To my mind they mask the problem without getting to the bottom of it. They might make you feel able to carry on but don’t solve the reason you got depression in the first place.

Way back in my early 20s I had a severe bout of depression. So bad that I had to give up my job. I felt I couldn’t survive the next hour let alone the next day. Obviously I managed to get through it. I asked my Dr if I could have councelling instead of drugs. A councellor came to see me at home. (Once). He was changing jobs, nobody came again. Even that one session talking through my problems helped me get back on track

Because I was out of work due to my mental state I needed to sign on for unemployment benefit as it then was. I had to give my reason for being out of work. How could I say that it was my severe depression. In those days any mention of having problems with mental health were taboo. Finding a new job would be difficult in the future if I explained the gap in employment was my mental health.

Anyway further down the line and several bouts of depression later I asked for help. All my Dr could offer was for me to self refer myself for councelling. I did that but it was several months before I was even offered any sessions (by phone not even in person).

So now here I am again. I don’t want to be prescribed medication. There is no point in asking for councelling. I know the reasons (yes there are more than one) for my current depression. Neither of my most pressing problems are going to be solved by councelling.

Firstly, my health is my biggest reason. Dealing with the aftermath of my cancer treatment 20 years ago. I am only too well aware that my insides are eroding. My bladder is nolonger an issue as I am now a bag lady. Oh yes I have recently decided to name my stoma Betty. Because life isn’t great but it’s Better than it would be without Betty. I am currently going through more scans, cameras and investigations to figure out the next course of action to give me some quality of life.

I am fed up of this body which constantly lets me down. The good days are now less frequent than the bad days. I am acutely aware of how my insides feel nearly all the time. If I get up in the night to visit the bathroom, I then spend anything up to another two hours waiting for my stomach to either settle down or send me rushing back to the bathroom. This can be two or three time a night.

I have a very limited diet, not only being diabetic but also fibre intolerant. I have many windy days/nights. I get bloated. I find eating meals increasingly difficult. I’m better off picking at food.

So although I am aware that my body problems are causing me to feel so bad, there is no quick fix. Hopefully after the endoscopy I am having next week my consultant will have a better idea of what he can do for me. I am due to have my appendix out sometime in the new year.

I would imagine that any further surgery won’t be until later next year. If I’m lucky I could be in a better place this time next year.

As if that wasn’t enough I am finding living with and caring for my mother is making me depressed too.

I do love my mother, I am also grateful for a place to live. What can I say. I don’t mind picking up after her, just generally being her housemaid ( she nicknamed me Daisy). We are now starting to get into the realms of personal care. I am not made that way. Caring for my children was one thing. Caring for an adult, even my own mum is not something I care to do and she doesn’t want me to either.

I’m not sure how much is her MS and how much her declining years possibly even early onset dementia but her memory is going. Anyone seeing her for a short time wouldn’t notice but in her day to day living it is becoming more noticeable to me. I don’t know how much she has noticed.

What is really making me depressed about all this is that I feel trapped. Living with my mother is not too dissimilar to living with my alcoholic husbands. Yes there were two of them. Not at the same time obviously.

Getting my mum out of the house is extremely difficult. When I go out on my own. I can guarantee that if I’m more than a couple of hours even if she knows it will be. Like my four hour round trip to see my granddaughter for her birthday. I will get a phone call asking when I’m coming home.

Before covid I was visiting my son and his family every 6 to 8 weeks, staying overnight so I could spend time with my little grandson. Now I don’t feel confident enough to stay away overnight.

It was bad enough when I was in hospital. I was speaking to her on the phone twice a day and my ex was checking on her daily.

Since then she has become more reliant on me at night too

Although I have now been living with my mother for more that three years I don’t feel that this is my home. It is the place I live. I know that there are so many people who are worse off than me. That just makes me feel guilty for not being happy.

I try not to let it worry me, I will be ok when the time comes. My future is uncertain. This house belongs to my mother. I live here rent free. If my mother dies whilst living at home the house will be sold and divided between myself and my two brothers. That’s not such a problem, I will find somewhere to live. What I don’t know is, what I will do if she has to go into a home. The house will go towards paying for her care.

So I know that any amount of councelling is not going to sort out my problems. Only time can do that.

The domino effect

It feels to me that I am experiencing the domino effect. Each domino that falls knocks the next which then leads to the next.

Dominoes

Each time I have any serious health issues I get radical treatment which cures the problem.

Unfortunately that treatment leads to another serious problem. That then gets treated but then leads to the next problem.

I am currently waiting for a date to have an endoscopy to rule out cancer. I’m feeling a bit anxious if truth be told.

Fractured not broken

The other night and it was at night I wrote a post about waiting. I wrote it because I had been reading Abbie Greaves book The end of the Earth. It had taken me back to when I was a young adult. I couldn’t sleep because of the thoughts going round and round in my head. Once I had written it and I apologise I didn’t read it through so there are bound to be errors.

One of my new blogging friends Bitchy after 60 commented that with everything I have been through it would have broken most people.

That post only scratched the surface of what my life has been like in the last 50+ years. I’m not broken yet. I have many emotional fractures and my body is falling apart but nothing has broken me yet.

Last night mother asked if I had experienced depression or anxiety in the last year. The question was in relation to the covid-19 pandemic. The answer is no. I am lucky to have technology that has allowed me to keep in contact with family and friends. I could also order whatever I needed online. I also have plenty to keep me occupied. My garden, reading, knitting etc.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced anxiety or feeling in low spirits. I have but more in respect of my health than the pandemic.

Was my body ever a temple?

I’m thinking obviously about the saying that your body is a temple.

This is how I thought of my body three years ago https://ladyinredagain.com/2018/01/10/my-body-is-a-temple/

Now I think my body is more like a colander. Until you plug the holes the water or in my case iron will just keep running out.

Today I am grateful

I feel as though I have been moaning about my lot in life quite a lot lately. So I have decided to think about the things I am grateful for.

  1. My family
  2. I will soon be able to spend time with my family again.
  3. Sunshine
  4. Having a garden
  5. The ability to bring life into our garden
  6. The wildlife that I get to see from my armchair
  7. Living near to various beaches
  8. Avon – my sanity
  9. Knitting
  10. Reading
  11. Technology – video calls
  12. Technology – research and talk to others with my health issues
  13. A roof over my head
  14. Enough food to eat (even with an unconventional diet).
  15. Being single
  16. Friends
  17. Independence
  18. Sense of humour
  19. Love of colour
  20. BEING ALIVE

Being absent in my own life

The last week has kind of passed me by. I feel like I have gone back to the first few months after my surgery. All I have wanted to do is read or sleep. I’ve been falling asleep 3 or 4 times every day. That’s not normal even for me.

I have been doing other things like a spot of gardening and a bit of avon. I have even gained a few new customers.

I have made an appointment to have a telephone call from my dr. I managed to get the earliest appointment Friday 9th April, after I was told I could ring up at 8am each morning to see if there are any available appointments that day. Whilst this is causing me a great deal of stress it isn’t urgent urgent. I have been dealing with this problem for 20 years but it is getting worse.

In the last few years prior to my surgery I was experiencing constant leakage because my bladder had deteriorated. This was very unpleasant and inconvenient but I didn’t feel unwell with it apart from the frequent kidney infections.

However my bowel problems are making me feel drained, uncomfortable and unable to do very much. Just moving around can trigger an “accident” . I have very little and sometimes no notice at all that I need to go.

Throughout the 20 years since I underwent radical radiotherapy for my stage three cervical cancer. (I know I’m lucky to be alive). I have tried to carry on with my life. This last week I feel as though I have withdrawn from my life.

Although I am my mother’s carer she is worried about me. I don’t want her to worry. Apart from not wanting her to worry I don’t think I can cope with her trying to diagnose my problems and come up with remedies.

I want to be my usual cheerful persona. I think when I see people I manage to carry that off but I spend so much time with just my mother I am sinking into myself.

Today I plan to pick up the last of my march Avon books and do a little more gardening. I hope my body allows me to do these things today.

No antibiotics for me

I have just ordered my latest repeat prescription through the online site linked to my Drs surgery. At the top of the side bar on the website was a tab for antibiotics. I am glad to say that I have not had any antibiotics since my initial recovery from my surgery. During 2019 and 2020 I was on antibiotics so many times that I started a diary specifically for my antibiotic courses. This time last year I had been on 5 courses since the start of the year.

Because of the problems I was experiencing I was getting numerous kidney infections. It became a vicious circle that ultimately prevented me having my surgery in March 2020. My PRD (pelvic radiation disease) was destroying my bladder. This meant that I was prone to kidney infections. These infections affected my iron levels. The longer I waited for surgery the more infections I got, leading to lower and lower iron levels which in turn rendered me unsuitable for surgery at that time.

In order to get my iron levels to a suitable level I needed an iron infusion. (Iron tablets would take too long and not be as efficient). However Lockdown came along and prevented my infusion from going ahead. (I was already at the hospital being prepared for this treatment when it was cancelled.) I later began a course of iron tablets which over the following months did indeed increase my iron levels. (Not fully but enough).

At the time of my surgery I was again very unwell with a kidney infection. Along with the frequent infections I had over the last four or five years I had several that were so bad I was house bound for weeks/months. The first time I was ill for four months whilst I went through a variety of tests and scans to check that my cancer hadn’t returned. The second time it happened it was only six weeks before I was strong enough to leave the house. This last time it began three weeks before my surgery, I was still very weak from the infection as well as the surgery when I came home from hospital.

I am so relieved that my surgery although dreaded at the time has hopefully put an end to these kidney infections. No more antibiotics (at least not for kidney infections) is a blessing. No more having to deal with side effects like a horrid taste in my mouth for a week at a time or having to work out what I can or can’t eat when because I can’t have milk products within 2 hours either before or after taking the tablets. For now at least I am free from that life.

Is it hot in here?

Women of a certain age suffer from hot flushes. In theory this shouldn’t be a problem for me. I kind of went through an early menopause when I was a mere 39. I had hormone therapy at the time so I think all in all I got away lightly. For many years after this I was always warmer than everyone else. Prior to my cancer treatment I always felt the cold. Then suddenly I was in shorts and a t-shirt when everyone else was in jeans and jumpers. My palms were sweaty. I would say that I had an internal heating system after my radiotherapy. Over the years I came across other cancer survivors who also experienced this feeling of being hotter than everyone else.

I couldn’t stand to have hot feet so rarely wore socks even in winter. I would get into a panic if my feet or even my hands became overheated. My work colleagues would ask me weren’t my feet cold when I was wandering around in sandals and bare feet. Then gradually over the last few years that over heating wore off. I started to feel the cold again. Get this I have even started wearing socks everyday unless the weather is hot.

In the last few months I have found myself taking my jumper/cardigan off at various times through out the day. By mid evening I am beside myself tearing off my outer layer if clothing. Then comes bed time. I am so so glad that I sleep alone these days. Who would want to share a bed with me right now. Only a mad man! One minute I’m under the duvet, then I have to stick one leg out (something I have done for years). That doesn’t work my body is in panic mode so I have to completely remove the duvet. My shoulders get cold so I pull the duvet back but my legs are still hot. My head is sweating. Even though its winter I am putting on my desk fan to cool me down. I have a cool pad for my head. Boy that thing is cold but after a while even that becomes warm. All night I am duvet on duvet off, fan on fan off. Cool pad under my head, cool pad removed.

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A few weeks ago it occurred to me that this situation has been worse in the last six months. In the middle of the night when I was having a difficult time I posed the question to the appropriate facebook group I belong to for other ladies in my situation. The answers came flooding back, yes this is a side effect of the surgery I had back in the summer. From what I can gather, this goes on and on and on for years. The surgery has caused a hormone imbalance. As if I didn’t have enough to contend with.

Girls are doing it for themselves

This is a topic that I am passionate about but I am really in two minds about this item that was on the news this morning.

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have developed a home smear DIY kit for cervical cancer tests. The kit allows women to take a vaginal swab or urine sample at home and send it into a lab, where it will be tested for chemical changes. The NHS aims to get around 80% of women tested, but last year only 70% of people attended their cervical cancer smear tests last year.

If successful the kits will be available in three years time.

I have been very passionate over the years

You may or may not be aware that in early 2001 I was diagnosed with stage III cervical cancer. I was very conscientious about always having a smear/pap test whenever I was called for it. In those days in UK that would be every 5 years. It was also routine to have a smear test during a 6 week post natal check up. My youngest son was born in December 1995. I had my post natal examination in January 1996. I was then due for my next test in January 2001. In April 2000 I began to have bladder leakage. I was reluctant to go to the doctor about this. After several months of this (I blame Tena Lady adverts for the idea that it is normal for women to develope leakage). Finally in late 2000 I had an appointment with our doctor who referred me to see a Urologist at our local hospital.

I had my appointment but was told that he couldn’t examine me properly as there was a blockage. A week later I saw a Gynaecologist who also attempted to examine me. He attempted to perform a smear test. This didn’t work as I was bleeding to much. Next I attended day surgery for a biopsy. Weeks later (9th March 2001) I never forget that date. I was given the news that I had a tumour the size of an orange. I later discovered that it was 7cm x 8cm x7cm. I was too large to be removed by surgery.

The next few weeks were take up with a variety of tests and measurements and 3 tattoo dots on my back ( for radiotherapy purposes). The treatment I received over the following months did the trick. The tumour dissolved and in September 2001 I was given the all clear. The treatment I received saved my life. I am very grateful that I went through it but it is not something I would want anyone to go through if it could be avoided. I know without a doubt that if I didn’t have treatment when I did I wouldn’t have made it to the end of 2001. For me now every day, month and year are a bonus.

If at that time smear tests had been performed more frequently, it’s probable that my cancer would have been picked up sooner and treatment less invasive.

Over the years I have come across or heard of women who don’t go for their smear test. It’s free! It takes a couple of minutes. It’s a life saver. It’s a no brainer. I get very cross when women say they don’t go, it might be a question of dignity or vanity. It might be because they are scared. It could be the thought that it was uncomfortable or even hurt. Let me tell you that whichever the reason, its a darn sight worse to go through the treatment for cancer.

Back to the news segment this morning. It is being proposed that it in a few years time if trials are successful women will be able to do the tests themselves. On the one hand if this will encourage more women to go through the process that has to be a good thing. On the other hand are these kits going to be fool proof. I know that nurses and doctors are not always 100% able to get the right samples. Yes I do understand that these kits are to be more about getting a swab rather than gathering cells but is it going to be accurate enough and not give a false sense of security.

Now and then

Now that I have got back into blogging I have decided to create a new blog to promote my Avon business. It’s currently in the pre launch stage of setting up. Taking a break I went back to my very oldest blogs to have a read through some old posts. It was interesting remembering or not some of the things I had written. I wrote those blogs during the years between my two marriages. There are posts about my life as a single mum to four teenaged boys. There are posts about my life as a single woman. There are quite a few of my attempts at creative writing.

What struck me was the feel of optimism, a love of life. I didn’t have much. Each month was a series of struggles but I was happy in my own way. I was free to be me. I was free to go where I wished (so long as I could afford to). I could have friends.

These days I don’t have immediate money worries. I am able to treat my sons and their families in ways that I couldn’t in years gone by. I am happy sitting with my laptop, knitting, reading, watching our wildlife. I don’t have the same freedom. I’m single (separated for 3 years). I don’t feel any great desire to meet anyone new but that doesn’t mean I have given up on romance. (maybe one day). I can’t just get up and go. I live with and care for my mother who in her late 70s is disabled. She has MS which for many many years didn’t affect her mobility but in the last few years has rendered her housebound. I have to make sure she is ok before I can go anywhere, keeping an eye on the time.

Six months ago I underwent major surgery, I was terrified before hand but now even though it was life changing I feel so much better than I had done for several years.

I should be feeling positive and anxious to get on with the rest of my life but I feel as though I have lost my sparkle. My zest for life has got up and gone. As my health improves I am determined to make the best of life and continue to make sure I actually do have a life instead of being buried in the life of being a carer.

The highlights of my life are watching my family grow. Seeing my two grandchilden develope their own personalities. I do miss them all as they all live at a distance from here.

My current life is comfortable I just wish I had the zest for life that I had before.