Limitations, six (now seven) and three

One thing has become very clear this past week or so and that is my previous limitations have changed. My ability to do stuff, whatever the stuff is, has lessened of late and I have to accept this. It may be a temporary thing or it may be a permanent thing but, either way, I have to deal with it.

I have a list that has guided my way of living for around 20 years. They were given to me by a consultant psychiatrist to try as an “experiment” because he knew damn well that if he told me it was a good set of guidelines to live by then I wouldn’t do them. The whole of our professional relationship was, it seems, based on a series of dares on his part and challenges to his thinking on my part but that is another story.

The list he gave me goes, in no particular order

  • Be Safe
  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • Medication
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness

The first one happens automatically if I do the other five and most days I manage to do them all. Not necessarily well but I do them and that’s a big achievement.

I now have to add “Know Your Limitations” to the list and it’s incredibly difficult. I’m the person who worked 16 hour days without batting an eyelid, the one who could walk 25 miles without much of a sweat and not a blister to be seen, the one who faced down thugs in the pub I ran when my husband hid, quite literally, under the counter and I am now a person of limitations.

There is, luckily, no puzzling over where to start. I have this very sensible friend who has also been my kind of life coach for the past 10 years. He’s really good at it and has no knowledge of how poor mental health works so his suggestions are entirely practical and, for the most part, workable.

He has had me writing a daily ToDo list for a long time. I’ll write tomorrow’s list tonight and I know what I need to do so my list will look like this –

  • Turn the washing machine on
  • Hang the laundry up when the wash finishes
  • Have a nice bowl of fruit salad sat on the step with Ogden

The trick, and it’s a trick worth learning, is to write only three things on a ToDo list and make the final one a nice one. Never put a thing that you do routinely on a ToDo list; those things don’t need to go on one and they just make a list longer. Rarely will I be unable to finish a list with only three things on it. Notice I’ve broken down my laundry into two of the things and the third one is a treat. I will complete that list tomorrow and, here’s the really good bit, everything I do after that will be extra and we all know how good doing extra things feels.

The burn, and there is a burn now, is that I’ll have to limit the extra things. In order to work out how long things will take me and how important they are I’ll have to write them down because that gives me a sense of reality and not some random things running around my mind bumping into one another.

The guidelines will be my list of seven and how I’ll execute them will be the list of three. Tonight I need to do something that will help me eat properly tomorrow so I’m going to wash and slice the potatoes I harvested this morning. I’ll also slice the onion I harvested yesterday and they’ll form a meal. Preparation is a good thing as long as it doesn’t wear me out. I’ll cook sous vide tomorrow so I’ll eat well with a minimum of fuss.

So what else can I do to make things better? I’m going to spend less time on Twitter. I’m finding it quite hard going at the moment so it’s a welcome break and there’s lots of politics on my Facebook so I’ll get my fix there. I’m going to stop watching soaps – they’re moving wallpaper and light on the mind but they take up time I can be using to do something relaxing and, as I’m relaxing more I’m reading more and that makes me happy. There will be days when I can’t read but those are the days that Ogden will get longer walks and then he’ll be even happier.

Changes, my life is full of changes. Bipolar disorder rules my life with the incessant changes it throws at me and management of it is dodging, ducking, diving and changing at a rate I can’t cope with but accepting my limitations are part of that change, at least for the time being, gives me time and space to be safe and that’s good, really good.

I’m going to talk, are you listening?

A few weeks ago I got a letter through the door telling me I was due for an ESA reassessment. Part of me dreaded looking at the form and so I didn’t for a few days and allowed myself to feel panicked and because I allowed that feeling it passed. When I looked at it I was reminded that it was actually far simpler form than I remembered it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a difficult form to fill in because you have to spill your guts out on to the pages but the form, to me at least, is simple. Or maybe that’s because way back in the day when I worked for DHSS you needed a degree just to open the envelope let alone fill it in.

I talked to my doctor about the supporting letter that I’d need and gave him photocopies of the pages of the form that I’d filled in. (I’ve now posted it and as I write this I’m panicking in case I’ve missed something important out – like my name and address and yes, I have just checked my copy to make sure that I have put it on there.) I digress.

I read the supporting letter that my GP wrote for me this morning before I had it copied and it had me in tears from the the first few lines. I choose the words I used to describe the effects that bipolar disorder has upon me and my life but I cannot choose the words that my GP chooses and it’s those that bring the stark reality of my illness and life into far too a sharp focus.

“She is significantly disabled by her condition.”

“When I first knew her she was particularly unstable, and I had real worries that she would commit suicide…with extremely vivid suicidal fantasies and a degree of derealisation and impulsivity.”

“She experiences very marked irritability that she manages by avoiding interaction with others unless it is very carefully planned and time limited.”

“She is certainly very intelligent, resourceful and insightful however, she copes only by carefully controlling the scope of her life and by reducing as far as she can activities that could result in loss of choice or control.”

“I continue to see her once or twice a month as she always teeters on the edge of instability. Her regular contact with the surgery has been helpful but it does also demonstrate how fragile she is.”

“She only just manages to cope with the necessary activities of daily living.”

“I would strongly recommend that she is not pushed in the direction of work, and that she is allowed to maintain the freedom necessary to make the hour by hour choices that enable her to cope with what is a very unpredictable and exhausting illness.”

Forms are simple, letters are easy to write but coping with the way it spells out your painful life letter isn’t.

So let’s stop with the Time to Change, Time to Talk, Heads Together fuckwitted mentality and really learn what life is really like for those who cope with the kind of shit that I live with every single bloody day.  Instead of harping on about how you’d like to help ask somebody to show you what they have put on the form to prove that they’re in the grip of a mental illness that they can’t escape from. Perhaps then things may change, people may really talk and, miracle of miracles, they may even begin to listen.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

I’m not good at doing nothing. I have to be doing something and the art of doing nothing has become about mindfulness – I’ve been practising proper mindfulness for over 10 years not this concentrate on your breathing crap that people sell as mindfulness. Mindfulness isn’t doing nothing of course, you’re actually acutely aware of yourself (if you’re doing it properly) and not in a trance.

I don’t get bored and it’s so long since I was bored I can’t remember what it feels like. The decisions I’m facing are what I should stop doing and what I should be doing.

The community work has to go of course, some other fool can chase the non-existent glory but my voluntary work will stay since it’s simple to do though how it will continue is one of the things that has to be decided. Whatever is decided, those changes will take a few weeks to kick in.

How I run my home is going to have to be assessed. If the results of the CT scan are not too good then I’m going to have to consider, and seriously consider, help from an outside source. I don’t do having help and my independence is a very conveniently placed wall that all the idiots in the world can’t climb. It is my saviour and I refuse to be pushed into thinking that it’s a burden.

There will still be trips away and there’s no reason why they should stop. I travel in Britain on a disabled travel cards so I’m still going to be able to go in style with a massive discount. I will have to consider their length and frequency though, that’s massively important.

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I’m also going to have to think about food properly. I can’t go on with the chaos even though it’s incredibly difficult for me to not be chaotic and fractured when I’m in the kitchen on the days that I don’t cope.  I think it’s time to stop telling everybody I know about food and ask to see a dietician. I need to start being sensible.

It’s easy to sit and tell myself these things but they’re much harder to put into practice.The level of chaos in my head varies wildly from day to day or from morning to afternoon to evening so good intentions at breakfast can end up in despair and tears by bedtime.

I think I should start with making lists and if it’s as far as I get and no further then that has to be ok.

Eric, executive functions and exhaustion

I had an appointment with a consultant psychiatrist this afternoon. Eric and I go way back – 15 years – and he was the first consultant I saw when it became obvious that the brand of bipolar I have was way too much for junior doctors to get their heads round. He hadn’t been in Bristol long and so we were both experiencing new things. We got along great and I was discharged about a year of his care.

After it became obvious that, after a year or so of mania, I just wasn’t going to get any better my GP made a request for me to see a consultant and, in particular, the one I’d seen for about 10 years. That wasn’t possible so I had to wait and see who I was going to get an appointment with and just how much experience they had.

Today I saw Eric and there was a short period of happy catching up before we began the consultation. I trust Eric implicitly and found it very easy to be open, to disclose things that I feared and to cry when it all got a bit too much. He’s a kind person and he knows how to elicit the information he needs without stressing the person too much.

The consultation lasted an hour and I talked, asked questions, forgot what I was talking about, cried, became afraid and anxious and, eventually settled into a state of acceptance.

He thinks that the problems I’ve been facing for the past year or so are coincidental to me easing back on medication last year and not a result of them and that they are about my executive functions. He asked me about my cholesterol levels and if I took statins or had been offered them. It’s not a big leap to think that he was thinking along the lines that I’d had a mini stroke but he wasn’t saying that I had. This is where the fear and anxiety kicked in because I know the link between high cholesterol and strokes and I don’t exactly have low cholesterol levels. On the other hand it could be something else that is interfering with my executive functions and so we have to begin the process to find that now.

This is where I stopped being afraid and anxious and became logical and calm. I am going to have a CT scan and I like CT scans. If you close your eyes as your head is scanned it feels as though you’re drifting gently along on a stream and it’s five minutes of peace and mindfulness that feels a lot longer. I had one about five years ago and it was returned as normal so we will know if there is a problem with my brain straight away.

Tonight I’m exhausted but I need to write this down. I’ve spoken to my sister to tell her what’s happening, sent texts to the people I needed to text and now I’ve satisfied the need to get all this out of my head so in an hour I can take a sleeping pill and get a good nine hours sleep. Apart from a short visit from someone tomorrow whilst Ogden is out I have a day to relax and just be.

Whether this turns out to be my bizarre version of bipolar disorder evolving into something even more bizarre or it is the result of a mini stroke or something different all together then worrying about it isn’t going to make much difference. Logical me has to remind anxious me of that when I do get jumpy.

So off to bed and go with the knowledge that, one way or another, I’m not right in the head.

Shredding, shredding, shredding

As you may guess by the title of this post I’ve been shredding a lot lately and doing even more decluttering around home than I thought was possible. I’m not the kind of person that holds on to possessions but they can always be just a little more organised.

I used to live in chaos because I never used to know where to start to stop the chaos. If something is so hugely overwhelming that you have no idea what to do it consumes you almost entirely but start somewhere you must.

I actually began some years ago by listening to a good friend who holds Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for me and is also a financial adviser. He took a good look at my income and my outgoings and showed me where I could be saving money and, more importantly, how to save for a rainy day. I now have my rainy day money and I manage my financial affairs, for the most part at least, quite well.

Once I stopped worrying about money I could concentrate on other things and the flat became tidier (though it will always be tatty) and I am able to feel more in control. These past few days have been about shredding old paper work that was from my last job and now that it’s gone all the file boxes can be used for storing my things. It’s lovely to see them all stacked up neatly and almost everything has a place and is in it.

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I’ve gotten rid of a chair that was beginning to really bug me this week and have been able to move my tallboy (more of a medium boy actually) into my store room and get my dining table out again so I have more space and I like the look of it. This is an incentive to keep the level of domestic chaos down considerably.

I’m getting a new kitchen installed – hopefully before the end of the year – and I can buy more cupboard space than they are obliged to give me so I’m already planning that in my head.

All this will give me the time and (literally) the space to manage my health and I’ll be able to do it at my pace without the nagging of the things that need to be done dancing around in my head. Now all I have to do is work out a way to get the laundry pile down to a manageable level. Anybody got a box of matches they don’t want?

Moving forward with blogging

When I first started blogging four or five years ago it was because I needed both relief from the silent burden of my mental health and because I wanted to let people know that it’s possible to live with mental health. It felt really important to me to show that recovery from severe bouts of mental ill health and that recovery isn’t necessarily about being the same as before but can show progress in attitude, management strategies, coping devices and acceptance.

For quite a while now I’ve been aware that I’ve been blogging less because I’m managing my illness better though not necessarily coping with it and because I’d decided that my blog was to be about mental health that it would be difficult to move it forwards and expand on topics to write about.

Yesterday my next door neighbour died. I’d been talking to him the day before for ages. We had this thing about standing on our mutual door step, leaning on the balcony while looking out over the beautiful park we live in whilst chewing the fat over.

We talked about the small things a lot but we also talked about his families. He was very proud of his son who has worked his way up from being the junior new boy to a manager in his job. He was incredibly proud of his grandson who is a talented footballer and has played in every premier league ground in the country.

We talked about the steps we took to try to remain healthy and particularly about the exercise we took and how I was eating less meat and more fish because he recommended it me. We also mentioned briefly how glad we were to be friends again after a period of estrangement.

After about an hour he went back into his flat and I went back into mine. I saw him yesterday morning as I was taking my dog out for an early morning walk and waved to him across the park. When I came back from the afternoon dog walk his son was on the step and told me he was about to break the safety chain on the door because he couldn’t get a response from his dad by knocking on the door or phoning him He went inside and then within minute I could hear the sirens of the ambulance getting closer.

At first I was hopeful because the big ambulance went away leaving the single paramedic there. I won’t disclose how I knew he was dead before I shouted out to his son to see if he was okay but I knew he was before he told me he was talking to the police as is standard with a sudden death.

I realised that I needed to write about the experience because it hasn’t affected my mental health but I feeling down because a friend has died. I need to write about the everyday things because my life is much more about my illness. In the same way you focus on not drinking when you become sober eventually you have to let people know how you got sober by talking about your life. Thus I will talk about crises and my illness to shine a light on the subject but I’ll also be talking about me and my life however mundane it may seem.

 

My name’s Cecilia, I’m an alcoholic & today I’ve been sober for 25 years

I remember one night in 1991 going to play darts with the girls from the Spring Gardens over to a pub in St George. We were in two cars and I was stuck in the back of one of them with the landlady of the Spring Gardens and somebody I can’t remember. I do remember there being some joking going on and her seeming to shout out that I wouldn’t be in a hurry to get to the pub because I could go minutes without a drink. I had a half bottle of vodka in my bag and I was desperate to get to that pub just to get into the loo and take a swig of it. I knew I’d order a bitter lemon or a coke or something so I could carry on the everlasting story of having a bladder infection to explain the frequent trips to unsavoury toilets. I fooled nobody of course, not even myself, but the compulsion to lie about the amount that I drank was nearly as great as the compulsion to drink.

I didn’t start out like that. I wasn’t always 32 and I wasn’t always an alcoholic but I always had a reputation as a drinker and a nasty one at that. I’d like to think I was nasty only when I was in my cups but alcohol has a tendency to magnify the personality traits that are already there. I can be spiteful these days but I try not to be nasty but sometimes I am and these days I own up to it if only to myself.

I don’t think that my parents thought for a second when they gave their youngest daughter a much watered down Dubonnet & bitter lemon as a Christmas Eve treat when I was six that they were unleashing an alcoholic – I downed it in one & knew that the second one made with blackcurrant juice was different. I never sipped alcohol because the faster I drank the more I got to drink.

There isn’t an alcoholic alive (or dead) who drank for any other reason than to change the way they feel about themselves. It’s a bizarre mechanism that protects us from ourselves and destroys us in the process. I won’t go into the details of why I drank so enthusiastically because they don’t count but I threw myself into it like it was my destiny. Perhaps it was.

I never really hid my drinking and there was more than one person commented on how much I drank before I got out of my teens but I tended to hide amongst those that drank more than me – where better to hide an alcoholic than in a horde of heavy drinkers? I think I married my ex husband because he was brilliant to hide behind but I became his patsy and assumed a responsibility for him that wasn’t mine. It really backfired on me when I was assessed for treatment at the same centre as he’d been through – the staff were very good at comparing us to the point that I was declared not at risk less than six months after I’d been told the get my act together or I’d be dead before I was 35.
I’m glad now that I didn’t go down the route of the treatment centre as peer “support” (as I saw in AA and other similar groups) is often more about telling people where they went wrong, how bad they are and then telling them off when they resort to drinking to cope with the way they feel.

I stopped drinking because the day a doctor told me I may not see 35 a light went on in my head and, to put it mildly, it scared the shit out of me. I wanted to give up and wanted to stay stopped but I was also aware that it was almost impossible to stay stopped. Pop into any open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and see how many people are under a year sober and how many, if any, are over 10 years sober. Addiction of any kind isn’t about choosing to use the chosen substance or stopping using the chosen substance it’s very hard work. There are times over the past 25 years when all I’ve wanted was a bottle of Jack Daniels (he was my best friend you see) and a very long straw and there are times when I’ve walked up and down the booze aisle pretending I wasn’t seriously considering picking up a bottle with a degree on nonchalance and getting pissed as a fart. Had I actually touched a bottle then I would have bought it. It’s simple to stop but it’s hard to stay stopped and staying stopped does not get easier but you do learn a few coping mechanisms along the way.

People kept telling me that I’d get my life back once I got sober and I was really an emotionally stunted wreck who hadn’t had much of a life to begin with. When your life is ruled by booze then you tend to neglect life. I’d enjoyed being a beekeeper and I’d loved being a life model but neither a great achievements – anybody can don a white suit & veil and work with bees just as anybody can strip off and sit still. Really, I’d achieved nothing of note.

Since then I’ve made up for it. I’ve done some really good community work around the theme of anti-social behaviour (ASB) and, being a self-made expert I know what I’m talking about, I’ve worked with a former Arsenal player turned fire fighter coaching kids (football of course) and reducing ASB in the park where we played by 50% and I’ve been the troubleshooter on a street refurbishment (including resurfacing the road!).

I’ve taken up photography and had my photos used in books, I’ve learned that I’m not responsible for the world but I think I am and I’m learning to let go of the things that I really can’t do anything about though cyclists on pavements is hard to let go of. *shakes fist at cyclists on pavements*

I’ve challenged the way NICE have traditionally gathered testimonies for presentation at committees and now blog posts are allowed as long as they contain all the information needed. I’ve spoken to countless medical students over the years and spoken at schools and youth groups.

I’m not perfect. I’m a ratty, irrational ex drunk with a fondness for swearing far too much and being far too crude. I don’t suffer fools gladly, if at all, I really don’t like people much some days. I do like social media and everybody thinks I’m nice because I bite my virtual tongue a lot but the person that was the nasty drunk has her roots in the me of today.

Drinking doesn’t change our characters and stopping drinking doesn’t make us angels and I think that’s the lesson that’s the hardest to learn. We alcoholics drink to change the way we feel about ourselves and so, to be in with a chance of lasting sobriety, we have to accept that we’re flawed, scared and hopeless at times and that’s more than okay. Saying we’re fine doesn’t have to mean fucked-up, insecure, neurotic and emotional it can mean that you really are very well indeed.

An endless springtime

There is a theory, to which I subscribe, that manic depression is a hibernation cycle that has gone badly wrong.

In the lows, the depths of mood where it is impossible to feel even in despair, we are hiding in caves not of our choosing waiting for spring to creep in and enlighten our lives.

In the highs, the manic fevers where it is impossible to get true rest or think very clearly, we are outside tilling our fields like there is no tomorrow and shooting everything in sight to prepare for the long winter that will surely come.

I have spent far too much time in the hibernation stage and, until recently, I have never experienced a period of chronic mania. I can cope with depression after a bizarre fashion as days pass by, albeit at a ridiculously slow pace, and they are all the same. If I can get out of bed I do and if I can’t I don’t. I carry a cushion around inside my head that acts as a buffer against the world but it also over protects, it shields me from myself. But it is comforting and it is only once I improve and gain energy do I pass through the dangerous zone when I become suicidal then move on to self harm and, finally, back to the instability that is considered stable.

I have spent little time with prolonged mania and have had to accept that my period of acute mania has now become a period of chronic mania and I hate it. I no longer have mood swings and what would have been periods of depression are now bouts of exhaustion. I collapse into bed at least once a week to sleep for 12 hours and I rarely sleep less than nine hours. It is driving me crazy.

I can’t stand the relentless feeling of being upbeat, of seeing only the positive, of being hugely irritated by people who I think are too stupid to understand what they should, of having people not follow the lines of thought that leap magically across huge gaps so that the first few words in a sentence bear no relation to the last few words and most of all I am tired of my mind going so fast it can’t lay down memories.

We all go through the going into a room and forgetting why we went in there moments but with the memory problems that have come about because of bipolar disorder I often have no idea why I’ve stood up or how to finish a sentence I’ve started or started to put on shoes and socks to find I’ve only managed to do one. It’s a relentless struggle and it is madness.

I have to accept that this isn’t going to go away quickly and that even a period of recovery will take time. There will be no waking up one morning to find myself back in my own instability and I have to stop kidding myself that I’m within my own instability when clearly I’m not.

What worries me is that I find it hard to accept my limitations at the best of times and in these not quite the very worst of times I could make things a whole lot worse. I never thought I’d say this but, I miss being depressed.

Not coping, managing

I have a difficult illness and, as my former consultant psychiatrist often said, I present an unusual “picture”. He has never seen anybody quite like me and I have never met anybody with bipolar disorder with whom I could identify. I often think, as people talk and relate their symptoms, that if I had their version of bipolarity then I would be living a much different life.

I have been taught by the aforementioned psychiatrist (and many other people) over the years how to manage my bipolarity and to really find out where it and I divide; where I stop and it begins.

I have been taught not to assume that the way I feel when I wake up is anything other than feeling the way other people feel when they wake up. I have been taught that a day that starts badly can finish well and a day that starts well can finish badly but both can be counted as successes.

I have days where the highs and lows change so often that I want and need to rip my brain out but all I can do is take sedatives and wait to be sedated. There are days when I can’t keep awake (no drugs to help with that) and nights when I can’t sleep (no drugs can help with that) and the middle of the road days where medication helps and nights where I succumb to the effects of sleeping pills. There are also days when I touch on normal and sleep comes easily – apart from the ever present fear that I’ll die as soon as I close my eyes.

For the past year or so it’s obvious that my unusual picture has become more unusual and there’s nothing I can do but sit back and wait and see how it pans out. I’m a few months short of a year of much mania and ultradian cycling but I’m sleeping and I am getting a lot of bread baked. I’m not getting much housework done, my personal hygiene takes a knocking at times (I could well be that woman who smells of pee on the bus at times) and my chaotic eating habits are uncontrollable.

Having said all this I manage the illness. I take the medication, I practise mindfulness, I live to spite it not in spite of it, I try to look after myself and I recognise that there are days when I blame the illness for things because I refuse to own up to them.

This is not coping with an illness this is management of an illness.

I don’t cope because, try as I might, I don’t get enough baths in a week, my hair often smells like I have a sheep living on my head, I buy food and then don’t eat it, I get the vacuum cleaner out and it stays out and unused for weeks at a time. Some days I sit and wish I could cry just so I could feel something other than the borderline hysteria that I’ve felt for the past year. I cannot control the irritation that I feel (I don’t suffer fools gladly at the best of times but when I’m manic I want to kill) and it boils over into an anger that isn’t always, if ever, reasonable.

I don’t cope because I have to be alone because I like being alone but I have to go out and be with people I don’t want to see. I want to be with the people I am emotionally close to but I keep them at a physical distance because it’s kinder on them.

I don’t cope with the effects of my illness I manage the symptoms. Big difference.

Rats, ovens & kindness

It’s been a hell of a week.

My GP told me that I’ve coped well but I haven’t. I’ve coped but badly. My clothes haven’t been changed often enough. I haven’t had enough baths. I haven’t eaten properly. My washing up took me two hours to do this afternoon. I have coped badly.

It started last Saturday while, when giving my youngest rats a check, I found one of them had a fast growing lump. It appeared to be in a sac of its own which mean that malignant or benign the removal would be pretty straight forward.

I rang the vet on Monday and they asked to see her straight away. My vet, though quite local, is a two bus ride away. Walking it takes me 40 minutes up one of the steeper hills in Bristol and even in winter I sweat buckets as I do the walk. Anyway up we went and, as I suspected because the lump was fast growing, surgery was scheduled for the next day.

On Tuesday I was up and about at 6.00 so that I could make sure the rat didn’t have any water and to breakfast all the other animals before I could take her up the steep hill. I left about 8.00 and was back home by 9.45. I spent the day trying to keep occupied but worrying about her at the same time. Her sister looked lost in a big cage all by herself and it made me realise how tiny and vulnerable they are. I picked her up at 3.30 and we were home by 4.45. I was exhausted and tearful and nothing was done at home that evening. Food was a scratch meal of little or no nutritional value.

Somebody was supposed to be coming to fix my oven on Wednesday so again I was up and about by 6.00 but the engineer didn’t turn up. That was a whole day of phone calls from the manufacturer offering excuses and inadequate solutions until I finally got them to schedule the repair for Thursday. I also got it done without charge and with the minimum of fuss from an engineer who seemed not to fit in with the company because he was so pleasant and efficient.

So this morning (Friday) I got up early for my GP appointment and felt that I wasn’t going to get through the day. Though my GP is more than aware that my outward competence belies my inner inadequacy. As I said at the beginning, my GP feels I have coped well but I know otherwise.

This afternoon I put my phone on silent so that I could dodge a phone call that I didn’t want to handle. When the phone all buzzed on the table I did the thing I didn’t want to do and answered it. Problems with neighbours are hard to deal with and I find them very difficult. I stay quiet and calm until my back feels hard against the wall and then I let go. It’s a surprise to people but it’s the way I cope with confrontation and what is actually just a form of bullying.

The phone call was from a woman who wanted some details so that she could deal with the situation appropriately. I expected somebody business like and a little crisp at the edges and she wasn’t. She was warm, caring and kind. I cried and she became kinder. It was a difficult conversation but at the end of it I really felt as though I’d been treated with understanding.

The rest of the day has been a reaction to the stress of the week and I’ve even had a nap. The weekend will be a time of not quite getting things done but I have to begin recovering in my way and at my pace. It’s going to be straightforward but frustrating and there will be tears.

I hate my life some weeks.