“I’m giving you five minutes to get out of my house!”…

… “Mabel for the last time this is NOT your house!”

So I have an icon – the ultimate idol of my life. She is my 89-year-old Oma (Grandma – she’s German) Mimi Gertrud Crosbie. She’s the best woman I know; she’s funny, smart and sharp as a tack; she’s had amazing life experiences and always offers the absolute best advice; she has wonderful sayings and the thickest German accent you’ve ever heard despite living in the UK for over 65 years; she is epic, just epic.

She has Dementia and after years of increasing her care package at home (up in Cheshire) to try to keep her safe the decision was made that she should move to a residential care home here in Cardiff. It was sad to take her away from a home she’s lived in for 58 years but for me in particular it was a source of great excitement to have my role model in life living only a 10 minute walk away, instead of a five-hour drive! And as my time is more my own at the moment I have been able to visit The Legend every day – which has resulted in a lot of time spent sitting in comfy chairs, knitting, drinking tea and eating biscuits whilst completely surrounded by old people. Those who know my habits, hobbies and idea of fun would say that this suits me perfectly and they’d be right, however, spending this much time with those in the winter of their lives is teaching me rather a lot, so I decided to write a blog on what I’m learning.

So one of the major life lessons the residents of my local care home are teaching me is the art of the comeback. I think in general we’re loosing our ability to deliver a scathing, argument ending comeback. We swear more and resort to that, or we use weird colloquialisms like “yeh? Well…your mum!” instead of just responding with a clear, concise and well constructed answer to offensive behaviour. For example, a few residents at the care home believe that the home actually belongs to them, I am going to call them Mabel and Edith (lovely names – I thought about it and decided to change the names of those I spend my days with as I thought it was a more sensitive approach to take). On the first night Oma was in the home I was getting her ready for bed in her room which left Chris in the communal sitting room with the other residents (he dresses like an old man already so he fitted right in). During this time Mabel shouted at him “Right, I’m giving you five minutes and then you have to leave my house!” One the lovely nurses said “Mabel, you know that this isn’t your house”. But this wasn’t really good enough for feisty Mabel who went on to shout at Chris about taking liberties and invading her space and how she paid for everything, etc. To which Edith piped up with “Oh Mabel, just stop being so rude.” And that shut her right up! Which got me thinking, what if instead of saying “your mum!” (I don’t know if this is just a Welsh teenage boy comeback but I’ve always found it rather amusing) to people who are rude to us, or “well fuck you too!” what if we just said “just stop being so rude”? Might that not make the person being rude think about their behaviour? That they’re not being offensive to offensive people, they’re not sticking up for their own rights, they are just being rude. Perhaps that would be a changing point in their lives?! Perhaps the next time they think about shouting at someone, or dropping litter in the street, or posting profanities on social media sites they’ll think hang on, am I being rude here? And instead they’ll say “Good Morning” to someone, find a bin and share a picture of a really cute cat. All because of a good comeback!

Also my Oma  has always been great at comebacks and being surrounded by old people trying to tell her what to do is exercising this particular skill, for example, the other day I found myself sitting in a room full of really old people watching a bald Michael Buble wannabe singing old school hits to them (he was actually pretty good). At first my Oma had decided she didn’t like this man and insisted on shouting to me (I was sitting in a spare chair a little way away) “He’s very loud but not very good!” But after a while the familiar tunes started to do their wonderful work and she started tapping her feet and hands to the beat. The lady sitting in a wheel chair next to her said “sit still dear!” to which she replied “I will sit still, when I’ve stopped moving!” Perfect. Just perfect.

Dementia, what care homes are teaching me, my oma, dementia care

I didn’t think that I could learn so much from a care home but comebacks aren’t the only thing I’m picking up. Next week: The Power of Acceptance.

How to…

…Recover from a nervous breakdown (4!)

So I’ve covered medication (although I have to say that the jury is still out on that one), therapy and cat therapy and now I’m on to…

…Healing Effort No. 4: Exercise

Anxiety and Depression has made me hesitate to leave the safe confides of my little home, I gather this is a normal reaction; the stupid, primeval part of my brain perceives that I am in danger and informs me that I should be scared to go into the outside world, which is bloody unfortunate because it’s actually the most important thing in helping me out of this stupor – catch 22. But luckily therapy has educated me about how my brain works and I’ve decided that if I want to get better I’m going to have to take control over the stupid part of my brain and leave the house for some well-needed exercise. I’m not talking like a 5k run, I’m talking a little jog or a nice walk in the fresh air. Baby steps.

But its harder than you’d think, for example I’m writing this blog now and the words aren’t flowing as much as they normally do, the Citalopram is disturbing my sleep and last night was a particularly bad night – but despite not much sleep I know that if I went out on a little jog now it would help; help me feel better and help me write better, but the truth is I’m scared, scared to go outside. Sometimes when this happens I decide yoga is a better idea because I can do it in the inclosed space of my little living room. And it does help, yoga is great for getting the energy moving around your body and for settling your mind, I usually finish with a meditation practise and feel much better afterwards – better because that’s the effects the movements of my body have on my mind but better also because it’s a sense of accomplishment to have gotten my depressed behind out of bed and moved it around a bit! But I often find that by the evening I’m a bit jittery and  bit panicky and scared of the big old nothing that I’m always scared of. I may be tired because of lack of sleep but I have nervous energy roaming around my body that I don’t know what to do with and the result is a crying, flappy handed, shaky mess.

This is a further exasperated by… now this feels a little bit difficult to share, but I also seem to have developed a bit of a verbal tick- yay.

When I’m feeling anxious I find myself saying “My name is Milly” over and over, which I have to say makes me feel completely mental, like straight jacket mental, but I can’t seem to help it. But this weekend I went on two very long coastal walks and on Monday walked all the way round the Welsh Heritage Museum (one of my favourite places, bit put out that I wasn’t allowed to wear my cloak but it was raining and my mum said it would ruin the velvet – killjoy) and I found that my ticks completely calmed down, I was even able to walk into a busy pub and watch a truly terrible rugby match without the hint of pointlessly affirming my own name, and whats more I enjoyed it! I enjoyed watching that rubbish game in a funny coastal pub full of farmers. That’s the amazing result of a whole lots of sweat and steps! Its like some weird form of special magic but then I guess even when it’s not fully working the human body really is quite magical.

walking for anxiety and depression
Scarf Wind Battles

So Saturday: long coastal walk, Sunday: long coastal walk, Monday: long historical village walk, Tuesday: 10 minutes of yoga, Tuesday evening: popping beta blockers and by the way, did you know that my name is Milly? I know that living in the middle of Cardiff I can’t really go on a long coastal walk every day (more’s the pity) but I do live right on a park which I could schlepped myself around. Not only did this weekend of lovely excercise calm down the more embarrassing symptoms of my mental health but it completely cleared my head, not of thoughts, just the fog that they were shrouded in; I finally decided where I’d like to go on my honeymoon – a decision I haven’t been able to make for over a year now, I also made a very important employment decision and I started, for the first time in all of this to feel truly content, and perhaps more astonishingly, hopeful.

walking cure for anxiety and depression

Medication hasn’t done this for me, it’s made me groggy, forgetful, skinnier and sleepless –  but I’m not a doctor and I’m sure (/I hope) that my chemical imbalances are being, well, balanced. Therapy has definitely helped me on this path – it was my therapist who told me to get out of my house and go walking, and to look outside of myself; to wonder where the other people are walking and what their story is, to think externally instead of internally. And Gawd love ’em my cats have offered their own unique form of faeces related exercise.

walking for anxiety and depression

So go forth! Put your hand on that front door handle, take a deep breath and get going! And don’t forget to congratulate yourself for a job well done at the end of it.

I think I’m going to go on that jog now…

running for anxiety and depression

How to…

…recover from a nervous breakdown (2!)

Firstly I’d like to thank all those who supported me in my last blog post, I received many emails and messages of support and understanding which really means a lot to me. I was a little nervous about sharing – I really shouldn’t have been. Thank you.

So, I’ve covered how I’m medically trying to get better and now I’d like to discuss non-medical remedies to my depression and anxiety.

Healing Effort No. 2: Therapy

As mentioned in my previous blog post I have been in and out of counselling since teenagehood (I’ve decided that’s a word) and it’s always had a temporary effect; I felt rubbish driving to the appointment, great driving away from it, but rather blurry in-between.

Initially I attended a more ‘talking-cure’ NHS counselling and found it incredibly useful. Talking to someone completely objective about my feelings and actions, who knew my situation only from my perspective was hugely cathartic in itself, in fact I would recommend that everyone do this at least once a year – try to find a professional though, I’ve tried it with strangers and they really don’t get their part in the whole thing. Anyhoo my mood and attitude improved and I felt roughly together for a time, but life has a way of presenting further challenges…

During university I put a lot of pressure on myself (something I have a habit of doing), pressure which I struggled to stand up under and which caused feelings of anxiety. My GP advised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – group classes to be precise – which I hated. In my opinion the gentleman leading the classes was a complete arse and if there is one thing I’ve learned about counselling it’s that no one is ever going to learn anything from someone they think is a complete arse.

By this time I’d met Chris (nice) which brought unending joy into my life – it also brought the fear of imminent death. Chris is wonderful which of course, leads me to assume he’s in constant mortal danger. To which the next woman I went to see for counselling said ‘so?’. Interesting. ‘But I don’t want him to die. If he dies I’ll want to die. I literally don’t know how to live without him’ I answered (LeAnn Rimes style) to which she replied ‘If he dies, he dies – you’ll get over it, eventually.’ What this sensitive lady did teach me was breathing techniques to try to calm any feelings of anxiety and they do work. Breathing is good for you, who knew?

These days I’m going to see a lady who conducts a form of hypnotherapy – which is not as weird as the pictures the word evokes in your mind. Basically she’s a master of relaxation and practical thinking as well as practical exercises. She’s explained what happens in my brain to make me feel the way I do and how to combat those feelings. I listen to a tape every night when I’m going to sleep which helps me drift off (I have a habit of lying in the dark and over-thinking things to the point of genuinely believing that the world will probably end in the next 48 hours – terrorism is normally the reason), I write down three good things about every day . I write them down at night so that I go to sleep thinking about the positives not the negatives and I can read back over the past weeks and realise that they haven’t been all that bad – there are good aspects to every single day, even the ones where you can’t think of any reason for getting out of bed. I’ve also stopped listening to the news as much (in the same way that no news is good news it seems that all news is bad news – terrorists).

I know that some people find the idea of sharing their thoughts and issues with people they know let alone professional strangers quite daunting, in fact it can be easier talking to strangers rather than people you know. I’m an open book so I’ve never found it all that hard to share what I’m going through, especially if they’re being paid to listen to it, but even if you’re a closed book I’d recommended revealing a chapter or two to a paid professional. It’s worth a try. Even if you’re not keen on forking out for therapy (I am as tight as they come – it’s an ongoing family joke – I hold on to money like 6 month olds hold on to long hair) think of it as an investment in you, if there is one thing worth investing in, that’s it.

The one thing I’ve definitely learned about therapy is that it’s work. You have to practice new techniques and thinking strategies in order to get better, but I think that end-game is worth the effort.

I was going to go on and talk about my own formulated brand of counselling – Kitten Therapy – but with pictures alone that deserves a whole post of its own. Look out for that one in the next couple of days!

How to…

…recover from a nervous breakdown.

So recently I wrote a blog about how to recover from a mental/emotional breakdown/meltdown. A rather whimsical, lighthearted post born from me having a bit of a panic attack about moving house by myself (without the help or presence of the man I’d actually bought the house with).

Well while all that advice still stands, recently I did have a proper and rather spectacular nervous breakdown. Like a laughing hysterically whilst sobbing uncontrollably, chewing on my own hands, someone please take me to hospital, panic attack. It happened whilst I was driving around the centre of Swansea – I’m actually sure that the newly implemented one way system has this effect on most motorists, therefore my first tip to anybody who suspects they might be about to suffer a nervous breakdown – don’t go to Swansea for a while.

Now during my subsequent conversations with people I’ve discovered that this has happened to quite a few people I know (not in Swansea – that misfortune falls only to me), and therefore seems likely that it has happened or will happen to a good many other people during their lifetimes. So, in the spirit of sharing, helping and healing I’ve decided to share (in probably a few blog posts) my experiences and efforts towards complete (or at least functional) mental recovery, in the hope that they might help someone else – or at least reassure anybody suffering from similar problems that they are not suffering alone. Let’s get together people!

Healing Effort No. 1: Medication

A divisive topic. I have suffered from minor mental health issues since I was a teenager so the subject of anti-depressants has been brought to my attention before and I have always vehemently rejected any suggestions towards medical assistance – but this time it was different. I’ve been going to therapies and counselling on and off since I started suffering from these sorts of issues and it’s always temporarily fixed the problem – the operative word here being temporarily. I have recently found a type of therapy I believe to be extremely beneficial to me, but quite clearly I currently need a bit of extra help getting my chemical imbalances back under control. So I went to see my doctor who listened to what I’d been going through and put me on Citalopram.

I still have my reservations about it; I don’t want to feel artificially good, I want to feel genuinely good; I don’t want to be popping pills forever, I want to be a healthy, happy, non-medicated individual and I am scared that now I’m on them I won’t ever be able to come off anti-depressants. However, my doctor has assured me that this is not the case, Citalopram doesn’t make you feel high, it just stops you from feeling low. Plus I very genuinely want to get better – it’s not easy, so any help I can get is welcome. I’ve only been taking them for around five days now and the dosage is very low (it will be increased after two weeks, just so I can get used to the medication gradually) so I’m yet to start seeing the effects – but I’ll keep you posted. One thing that is happening is that I feel quite nauseated, this has caused a decreased appetite, but I think this is as much to do with depression as anti-depressants and quite frankly I’m seeing it as a bonus – I was planning on loosing an ity bit of weight for the ol’ wedding anyway and one must take the good with the bad!

I’m also on Propanolol, which is a beta blocker. I feel somewhat like an unfulfilled 1950s housewife popping these bad boys three times a day but when you wake up shaking what else you gonna do? I’m staying away from pinnies and Mad Men for a while just incase the association gets a bit much.

Medicated help isn’t what I wanted but perhaps it’s what I need, so if anyone else is considering this route I would firstly, definitely NOT research it on the internet, and secondly go and see a councillor or therapist and then thirdly talk to your doctor about it. If you’ve got a headache you can take a pain-killer, if you’ve got a cough you can take cough medicine, if you’ve got depression you can take anti-depressants – ultimately it’s a good choice to have.

Next week I’m going to go into non-medical healing processes. Two words; Kitten Therapy…

Kitten Therapy, How to get over a nervous breakdown

To read any of my other “How to’s” (not all of them are on such a somber topic!) click here. 

“Oh you BITCH…”

“…no I don’t mean you Doctor, I’m sorry, you’re not a bitch, you’re…lovely, it’s the pain, the pain is a bitch, it’s…bitchy.”

Is what I said to the doctor anaesthetising my leg during my first ever minor (or otherwise) operation. This experience has prompted me to put together a little “Do and Don’t” list for anyone preparing to go through such a so-called minor procedure (I should mention at this point that I have quite a serious phobia of the method by which anaesthetic as administered, thus the complete and huge over-reaction to what I’m sure most other people take as a routine procedure):

DON’T: call your doctor a bitch. That one is pretty simple.

DO: start your day with a small to middling sized sherry.

DON’T: go alone, it’s always an embarrassing experience to find yourself tightly holding on to a nurse who really should be swabbing something and who is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with your invasion of their personal space. I have to confess that this is something I have previously learned from dentist appointments and therefore asked my father accompanied me (poor guy), which brings me on to…

DON’T: bring a professional musician with you. I was holding his hand so tightly that he started to worry that I was going to break his fingers and thus ruin his musical career forever. To be fair I think anyone would rather not have their fingers broken by a sobbing lunatic. He really was a jolly good sport about the whole thing.

DO: bring tissues.

DON’T: LOOK DOWN. Unless, of course, you enjoy watching people remove parts of your body with tiny but very sharp knives – each to their own.

DO: partake in a full body shower before you have the “minor op”. I was unaware of the don’t-shower-for-at-least-two-days-after-you’ve-have-a-weird-mole-removed-from-your-leg rule. ERROR. Thank the Lord for dry shampoo.

DON’T: ask why the plasticky bed thing that they make you lie on has gone a really sinister colour in the middle (the bit where everyone’s bottom lies), they won’t tell you the answer and I think it’s probably worse to wonder why than to actually know.

All in all I caused such a fuss that when I went to have my stitches removed this morning the nurse said “have you calmed down now?” Nice woman.

I normally try to sign off my blogs with some sort of picture or visual representation of my chosen subject however I am fully against publishing (on any forum) pictures of one’s wounds, scars, gashes or drip lines (you know who you are), plus if you actually saw what I am making such a big deal about you’d think I’m a complete knob.