Category: House and Home

Exhausted unrest

I am very frustrated that basic activities are taking so much of my strength and taking a massive amount of planning.

Just going out is exhausting. I’m desperately needing more time to rest physically. Also, desperately wanting more time to properly order my home and take care of it. I have had a constant stream of appointments and commitments that I’m struggling through, feeling more and more frustrated by exhaustion, mobility problems, pain I can’t cope with, and anger with myself and unrest about my home being disordered and messy.

There are a couple of friends I really want to spend time with or do things for. I’m scared of taking from others and not giving back. Yet meeting someone, or going to their house, or cooking a meal for them, totally wipe me put afterwards for days after. I think that’s through a mixture of my pain and pushing myself too far physically, and my anxiety and the voices and feeling overwhelmed in a sensory way. Talking, others’ emotions, noise, new places, everything happening around me, can be just too much coming in to cope. Sometimes I think I have sensory processing disorder or at least sensory processing difficulties!

All this leads to despair, being cut off, and being unable to give thanks or try to open my heart to learn gratitude. I need to make a change. I don’t know what.

Ginny xxx

Miaow!

My houseguest would like to say hi:

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So, here I was reading up and planning to have guinea pigs, when this adorable guy arrived. He’s been a regular fixture for many weeks now since he first “dropped in” at the end of last year but I don’t think I’ve introduced him on my blog before.

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He has previously belonged to at least 2 other households in my block. He’s getting on in years for a cat – we think he’s about 10 years old – but he can still cause enough mischief, between naps that is! I started out agreeing to look after him and feed him over a weekend in the winter, when his owners had serious problems and couldn’t look after him. Circumstances were such that they didn’t collect him after the weekend. They didn’t come back for a fortnight and by this time he was growing used to my flat and, I think, to more regular food and playtimes than he’d been getting.

We have come to an arrangement where I am the main person to feed him and look after him but he goes between my flat and is previous / other home. The couple that had him before are still in difficulties and can’t care for him. So it helps us all, I hope.

I love him. He’s surprisingly affectionate. He loves cuddles. He loves playing with his toy mouse. He usually likes being combed. He even “holds hands” tapping me gently with his paw then letting me take it in my hand.

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He is enchanting to watch when he’s napping, curled up so comfortably and trustingly on the seat beside me, or even in my arms, purring softly, then snoring not so softly, body rising and falling with his breath, smiling (yes really), little pink paw pads uncurling as he stretches out from time to time.

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He is bringing me lots of happiness and I love that I can care for him and make him feel safe.

Ginny Xxx

 

I don’t remember why – the guilt of my dissociative episodes

It is scary sorting through piles of possessions I do not remember buying.

As part of my recovery work I’m allocating time to take care of my home, household related tasks (bills, organisation, housework etc), in order to take responsibility for living an ordered life, to not get into trouble or overwhelmed with unpaid bills and tasks ignored until they become insurmountable, and to make a safe calm and even beautiful home. I had no home for many years, moving from room to room, moves often prompted by my mounting distress. When I was blessed to find this place, it took a long time to feel at all safe or dare to believe in any stability. Then gradually, it became an escape, flight not by constantly moving around but by means of a protective enclosure. Which is good in some ways and something I still need when things are too much, which is frequent, but now it is time for my home to be more than that; even a place and a life that supports my health.

Part of this is continuing what I’ve been trying to do for some time, which is clearing through accumulated items and clutter and organising the things I decide I do need. I’ve been working on this for some weeks or months on and off, tackling different areas. I’ve acknowledged for several months in therapy and with my support worker how I bought and accumulated items as a desperate attempt at escape, distraction and protection. I acknowledge how out of control my spending used to be and too often still is and how impulsively I buy things when in my dissociative episodes, apparently driven by some desperate need at the time that leaves me sick at myself and painfully empty afterwards when my consciousness returns, a massive blank missing in my memory and emotion, but the fallout of my actions apparent – money spent, arguments had, horrific things said, tablets taken, sometimes alcohol drunk and most of all items bought (usually clothes, makeup, accessories, things I’d never buy for myself “normally” or rationally). I hate myself then, most of all for the money spent on myself and the hurt I’ve caused other people.

I’m coming face to face with all this as I’m clearing through hoarded possessions. Much as I’ve been aware of and fighting these problems for months, it’s still very scary finding things I don’t remember purchasing and don’t know why I have. Perhaps it’s even scarier because I don’t really know why I do this when I’m dissociated. Why? Why do I buy things? Why do I become what the evidence means I am in these times – selfish, irrational, irresponsible, needy, childish, bad? What else am I doing in these times? The violent emotion that takes over and hurts people around me, but still I can’t control it – who am I and where is it leading? Why do I behave in ways I can’t remember, that people close to me say are terrible?

I’m scared. I want to take responsibility. I’m trying to carry on gradually sorting out my home. It occurs to me whether looking at items I bought in these dissociative states where there are huge memory gaps, will help me connect at all with what I was doing and who I was at these times. I don’t know.

Ginny xxx

Two hospital visits and “The Gas Man Cometh”!

The past week has been a mix of unexpected, scary, painful, exciting, relief and changes.

I had been feeling worse than usual physically but had put it down to all the flu bugs around, cold weather and the fact I had been very stressed in the preceding month. However, it wasn’t flu. Just over a week ago I had some horrible symptoms I won’t detail here. On calling 111 for advice they sent an ambulance straight away. At the hospital I was found to have [ahem alert don’t read whilst eating your dinner!] bowel obstruction. Thankfully they had caught it in time before things became more serious (if left, it can cause a rupture in the intestines). I had IVs and they erm, did what they had to to clear it, X-rays, then I had to have more IVs for fluids. I ended up being readmitted the next day because I was having symptoms again so it was a scary couple of days. They would have kept me in but there was a bed shortage. I’m home now with several medications and guidelines to follow about diet and drinking enough.

I am so thankful this was spotted in time and treated. The doctors, nurses and HCAs were all kind and caring and made some scary, nasty things as okay as possible, and reassured me. They were busy but still took time.

I have some changes to make now. I have had to stop several of my medications because their side effects could now cause problems with my bowels. I need to discuss this with the GP to find alternative medicines and ways to manage because I needed their beneficial effects (eg for pain relief). Fortunately I’m due to see a specialist pain clinic in a month’s time. Also, I’ve been told to cut out wheat from my diet to see if this makes a difference. Even though I don’t have celiacs, some people can have other problems with wheat. Bowel problems do occur as a complication in other conditions I have (fibromyalgia, POTS and hypermobility syndrome) and people can find going wheat free to be helpful. I’ve started this and so far thankfully I am not missing wheat too much at all, though I’m still only able to eat a little so that may be why.

I’m hopeful that with these changes I can keep things better, though we don’t really know exactly why the obstruction happened. In the meantime I’m fighting not to get too down through some of the difficult effects I’m still going through. I am very achy, pain is worse as I’ve had to stop some of the medications, and I’m still stupidly weak physically (the fibromyalgia is badly exacerbated which again is to be expected as after any illness). I have had bladder incontinence for years because of the fibromyalgia and nervous system problems; since the bowel obstruction this is much worse and now distressing bowel urgency and leaking if I can’t go right away, are added to that. I’m praying this is temporary or at least that the GP can refer me back for some help when I see her next wek. I used to be too disgusted and ashamed to admit to that side of things but now after everything that’s happened in the last few years it doesn’t seem such a horrendous thing to admit it, though I still get upset and feel horrible when I have worse incidents.

The other problem that has loomed large is I had no heating or hot water for 23 days! The most incredible saga unfolded between my landlord, the boiler maintenance people and the boiler manufacturer and fault after fault was found with my boiler and the flue.

This song seemed apt!*

Thanks be to God, as of this evening everything is fixed! I had a most enjoyable and appreciated shower. Boiling kettles to wash up, clean and have a wash was not the most fun, though it’s what my grandparents did daily as a matter of course. It has been very cold some of the days I was without heating and a friend very kindly lent me a portable electric radiator. On the plus side, I’m likely to be entitled to compensation for the multiple mistakes made and inconvenience caused. I have to apply for that from my housing association.

In more exciting news, today I attended the first session at the Recovery College, which I’ll post more on shortly. It was an introduction to how one can become involved in mental health research, bringing a service user or “lived experience” perspective. It was more inspiring than I’d expected and left me feeling I have something of value I could bring to shape research materials, methods and how research findings are communicated.

Another brilliant event this week is that my friend who has been homeless for a long time, has at long last got a place in a hostel. It’s a good hostel in a safe area. By no means is this an end to his difficulties but it is a blessed answer to prayers and struggles to navigate the way through the council, the housing list, support agencies, forms, waiting lists, assessments, phonecalls….it goes on. What he’s going through is terrible and scary however I pray this is the beginning of safety and a little stability. Thanks be to God, from the depths of my heart, thanks be to God.

Ginny xxx

*”The Gas Man Cometh” by Flanders & Swann. Thanks to Hawkmoon for the video.

Update long overdue!

It is a really hectic, up and down time at the moment and I’m much overdue posting. It has been hard to gather my words. I don’t make a habit of 2am posts – certainly not the best time of day for coherent writing – but I did not get to finish this earlier and it felt important to write before a big change coming up for me in the morning.

Belatedly, wishing you good things this New Year. I think I can just about say this since it’s still January! I’m praying that positive times and opportunities come for you and God’s blessings are shown to you to encourage you each day.

January is always a strange time, cold and empty in a way, after Christmas. Right now, so much seems unsettled, in the world, for my loved ones and in my personal life. I’ve written that before not long ago and of course it has not magically changed with the new year; if anything it seems all the more apparent. I’m trying to give generously of time and resources and friendship, for example to friends in need, and that’s how we encounter Christ in every day. But I’m feeling twisted apart inside because I come up against my limitations, what I cannot give and cannot resolve.  The family in my block, both of the partners seriously ill, whose Benefits have been suspended unresolved for weeks so they have no food, heating or electricity. My friend who has already suffered terribly and now faces more surgical procedures, my friend who has been homeless for almost a year and whose life may be in danger… to the thousands on thousands of people seeking asylum, the fear taking hold giving weight to insular policies that seem to offer protection but perhaps already spiral out of control. (The Mexico border “wall” seems to me to teetering somewhere between bizarre Divergent- trilogy-esque images and more than echoes of the Cold War era eastern block policies.)

I steer away from political issues in this blog but I think this turmoil hits ever closer to home. We hope that in times of hardship we come together and hold onto what matters most but I’m starting to think a certain level of hardship and fear brings only divisions. Then again, in my faith I believe somehow this must not be true because Jesus became Man to suffer and experience everything we suffer and go through. And He is all Love. Love came here, into the darkness and despair. Nothing changes Jesus. The despair and dark and hurt didn’t change Him, didn’t change love. So Love is here, Love suffers and struggles, but isn’t extinguished, so even in the hardest times, it’s love that remains – not division and conflict . I mustn’t lose sight of that.

This post has diverged somewhat from the update I originally planned. Probably to do with the fact that it’s 2am. I’m going to try to get back on track.

Since Christmas, I feel I have not been able to catch up at all. Usually, I have a big clear out, going through cupboards and drawers and so on and decluttering. I haven’t managed this at all. I’m frustrated with myself that I can’t keep on top of the housework at all. My emotions are bubbling over and have been for some time and I feel I have no resilience to cope with straightforward things. Saying that, maybe a lot is happening at the moment. I’m about to be discharged from the personality disorders community service I’ve had therapy in for the past 2 years. I’ve been trying to find support and things I can get in place for after my discharge. This has not been easy and actually it has been quite distressing because I have been promised a lot of treatment I haven’t had and I’m left with major mental health issues unadressed. On the positive side, I have made contact with a peer support worker and Recovery Coach who are going to help me short term and I think this will be really valuable. I have also signed up for some courses at a Recovery College, which I’ll post about (and explain) next week.

My physical health is not going through a great patch just now. The cold always makes the pain worse so that’s part of the reason. I have had to give in to the fact I need a wheelchair sometimes now and I’m looking at getting a mobility scooter. At least this will help me be less isolated and take a little stress away perhaps, because I’ll be more able to take part in things outside my home, like my volunteer work.

Practically at home, I am going rapidly up the wall at the company who should be repairing my boiler. I have had problem upon problem since November and now have no heating or hot water. I feel they have handled the whole thing terribly (7 canceled appointments for a start, having to phone 6 times to arrange a very simple thing, and so on, then them accusing me falsely of missing appointments). Ggrrr!! I know this is just part of life but in the state I’m in at the moment, I can’t cope with this, and feel very frustrated with myself for that. My emotions explode out of all control. Then I get angry with myself because so many people are going through so much worse.

A close friend has serious housing issues as well as a huge number of health problems. I’m trying to be there and do what I can. Cook hot food and support him with form filling and trying to get him a support worker who could help. It is a little way I can try to help and use the knowledge I’ve gathered from my own housing issues in the past.

I’m going to stop here. Later this morning is my last group therapy session and this will be a really really hard lot of goodbyes. I’ve been writing thank-yous and goodbyes, some of the hardest cards I’ve ever had to write. I’m sure I’ll write more about this last session and ending therapy, in the coming days. At the moment I’m struggling to find the words. I’ve cried so much today.

Ginny xxx

 

 

Magic carpet – update :)

My carpets were fitted a week ago.  I still feel surprised each morning as I get out of bed and step onto squishy carpet instead of cold bare floor! It has made even more difference than I expected. The simple carpet makes a much gentler effect than all the mis-matched off-cuts and rugs I was making do with. It feels luscious underfoot – really soft and springy. I did not expect that. It’s cosier, literally too as it seems much warmer; I think the extra insulation it provides will cut my heating bills.

As the fitting day approached, I was so nervous and felt panicked about coordinating everything and about being able to get the furniture moved since I can’t do it myself because of my physical disability. Thoughts of postponing the date came to the fore, though I knew that would not be a good idea. I’m so pleased I went through with it now. I had the help of knowledgeable, patient staff in the carpet shop and the very personable carpet fitter, not to mention my dad and step-mum and friends L and S’s encouragement to go ahead.

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For some reason, now the carpet is done I’m more inclined to do other things to make my home pretty, for example, I’m looking forward to repainting where it’s greatly needed, or even very simply putting up a Christmas tree this year. This is a hard time of year for me as for many people, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to decorate for several Christmases. Yesterday, I bought a little tree.

Ginny xxx

Magic carpet time

“…and I’ve been wanting a word with you, too, Arthur,” said Mr Crouch, his sharp eyes falling upon Mr Weasley. “Ali Bashir’s on the warpath. He wants a word with you about your embargo on flying carpets.”

Mr Weasley heaved a deep sigh. “I sent him an owl about that just last week. If I’ve told him once I’ve told him a hundred times: carpets are defined as a Muggle Artefact by the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects, but will he listen?”

“I doubt it,” said Mr Crouch, accepting a cup from Percy.

“He’s desperate to export here.”

“Well, they’ll never replace brooms in Britain, will they?” said Bagman.

“Ali thinks there’s a niche in the market for a family vehicle,” said Mr Crouch. “I remember my grandfather had an Axminster that could seat twelve – but that was before carpets were banned, of course.”

(From “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J K Rowling)

The long-awaited day has arrived. My carpets are being fitted in my flat today. I’ve been here 1 year 9 months and it has taken til now to have the resources – financially and mentally – to get this done. Right now I’m feeling very anxious and tired. It has been a big job getting all my furniture moved, cleaning and painting (the skirting boards for example, where I don’t want to get paint on the carpets). I’ve done the last bits this morning; my legs are shaking now and the pain’s really bad but I’m so pleased I’ve done it. The fitters will be here any time now. It will be so much cosier with carpets, as well as being easier to clean and probably reducing my heating bills too. I think the colour will work well and be quite calming.

There are some amusing moments to come, I’m sure! For example, I’ve moved most of the furniture to the kitchen, which is not being carpeted. I can’t fit any more in there now. So where could I put everything that I then had to empty from the hall and bedroom cupboards and wardrobe?

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Yup, in the bath, of course! 🙂

I’ll post some before and after shots later.

Have you got anything exciting happening in your week?

Ginny xxx

Constant anticipation of the next error – and consequential disaster: Part #1

I try hard to look for good things to appreciate. I’m trying to counteract my anxiety and overwhelming emotions by looking for the positive, hopeful things that can come from a situation. (It’s something of a DBT technique which I’ll elaborate on in another post.) I’m told I’m not yet very good at finding positive things about myself. I think gradually I’m getting better at seeing positive things in the outside world.

However in some areas it’s hard not to not only feel overwhelmed by both emotions and external negative events and also to expect them.

Benefits is a case in point right now and it has been for years, every single time I’ve needed to claim a Benefit when I haven’t been able to work / haven’t been able to work full time, because of my health.

Today, I received a letter from the Tax Credit Office about an error made in my tax credits earlier this year, when I was working at the department store. I was aware of that mistake. They had incorrectly recorded the income figures I had given them and given me only partial information about eligibility. Consequently they paid me tax credits I wasn’t entitled to. The letter I received today was rather confusing but essentially confirmed that. So far, that wasn’t too bad – I will have to pay back the overpaid money when they ask for it but I already knew that.

Next, I opened two letters from the Housing Benefit Department. The first contained two award notices both almost the same but with completely confusing dates, entitlement and income figures. What’s that about, I wondered. One of them was marked “change in personal circumstances”. What change in circumstances? I haven’t had a change recently. I opened the second letter from Housing Benefits, with a certain sense of foreboding!

Yup, disaster again. The letter told me that the Housing Benefit Department had been informed by the tax office that I am in receipt of working tax credit, therefore I am working and my housing benefit has been suspended until I give them details of my new job and current income.

Oh my days. I assume they have received a copy of the letter I got from Tax Credits. If they took time to actually read the letter, they would have seen it was saying that I am not entitled to tax credits. If they had looked at the dates in the letter (not to mention previous documentation I’ve supplied them and previous discussions I’ve had with them about my receipt of tax credits) they would have seen that it referred to a period earlier this year, not to now. They also know that I am not working – I have given them proof that I am currently in receipt of Employment Support Allowance because I am not working because of my health.

So, my housing benefit has been stopped. I will have to contact my landlord on Monday to explain why the benefits payments have stopped. I will have to contact Housing Benefits and try to prove to them that I am not working. This will probably involve chasing around the tax office and the other oxus involved in my employment support allowance. I have to make a written statement and gather together copy documents from my employment support allowance claim and tax credits. Quite probably I will have to take this in to the housing office, queue for a long time to see someone, which physically I cannot cope with at the moment as I can walk so little. My anxiety has skyrocketed because of the financial problems this suspension in my housing benefit will cause. Worse, from my past experience, once one benefit gets stopped, all the other benefits get stopped too. I am anticipating that I’ll be contacted by the employment support allowance office next week saying they’ve received information I’m working so my benefit has been stopped. Then I’ll have nothing coming in.

This may sound like an exaggeration but it has happened to me and to friends of mine before. And it could all so, so easily have been avoided. How easily the housing benefit office could have seen that the correspondence referred to months ago. How easily they could have checked with the tax office to see if I was working. How easily they could have made a quick phonecall to me or my support worker, if something wasn’t clear or they needed a particular piece of evidence. Wouldn’t this have cost them less, as well as me? The situation would have been resolved in minutes. Instead they have sent out a letter, required a statement, someone has to take copies of this, take copies of documentation, probably see me for an appointment, restart everything, set up payments to my landlord again (God willing!). Even without counting the cost and distress and anxiety caused to me, it is a hive waste of resources and confusion for nothing.

Since I first had to claim Benefits in something like January 2015, I reckon I have been paid the correct amount I was entitled to for a maximum of one month at a time, before the next error or mess-up has occurred and at least one of my Benefits has been cut, stopped or refused incorrectly – and completely avoidably. Last year when I rented as a lodger in a private landlord’s family home, this array of errors left me so very close to being on the street; if it were not for an extremely generous friend who paid my rent one month, I would have been out with nowhere to go. It is hugely fortunate that I now live in a housing association flat where I will not be thrown out immediately if there is a problem with my housing benefit. It is hugely fortunate I have the expertise of my support worker who will help me get this resolved as fast as possible and stop me going to pieces in the meantime. Most people don’t have those two blessings.

I don’t want to complain and whinge and expect money for nothing. I don’t think I deserve other people’s constant support. I could very well have nothing. I need to try to become independent and able to support myself. Support doesn’t come for nothing and I should expect to take responsibility, not have everything handed to me.

I think one thing that makes it so hard is when you have been through every process as well as you can, given all the information asked of you, taken all the steps you can, and despite this everything still crumbles. My experiences over the years tell me as soon as there’s any stability, it gets taken away again through error or miscommunication, despite all your best efforts. And the error seems to have an effect like tumbling dominoes on all the other areas of your life there is any stability. Losing stability has immediate big consequences when you have very little to live on. It also drains all your energy, time and emotional resources, which go into trying to correct the error before disaster point (losing your home, no money for food, etc) rather than leaving you any strength to recover, contribute something to your community in your day to day life, benefit from opportunities that might make your situation better (and even maybe less dependent on social and state support, not that needing it is a bad thing). When you are constantly using all your resources fighting the next mistake and next disaster, trying to ensure that you have the basics you need to get by, in a state of anticipation of the next disaster so you can try to minimise or allow for its impact; when you feel as if you’re being knocked back, kept vulnerable, denied any security, despite your hardest work to set things right; then there is no way you can do more than just get by, in a constant state of strain.

So, I’m wondering what I can change. It seems I cannot change the fact that mistakes constantly occur, despite me trying my hardest to do the best I can for my part and to take steps to pre-empt the problems. I don’t want to feel so spent, trapped, angry, vulnerable and at risk as I do at the moment as a result of the repeated cycle of mistakes.

So, what can I change?

[Part 2 to follow, not that I have any answers yet! Thoughts are most greatly welcome, as ever.]

Ginny xxx

 

31 Days of Summer Lovin’ – Day 1

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Thanks go to Cathy Lynn Brooks – your responses to this challenge prompted me to take part. Big thanks also go to Soul Seaker  who created this challenge – I don’t know your blog well yet but definitely will be exploring it!

The challenge was designed for July but I did not see it soon enough so I decided to do it for August instead. I’ve tried some photo challenges before and not been very good at keeping up with them. Let’s see if I can do better this time! I will take a picture every day and endeavour to post daily too but I may sometimes need to upload a few days at a time depending on my schedule.

Today is Day 1 – Outdoors. This plant grows in my friend’s garden. She gave me an off-cut which I was able to plant in my little yard and it’s the first thing I’ve grown myself! Curiously, in my yard the flowers are deep pink whereas hers are this soft lilac colour. We think the little plant must be greatly affected by differences in soil acidity.

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Ginny xxx

Pet therapy

I visited my dad and step-mum a while ago. They have three cats. It turns out one of them is a bit of a diva. Usually, unlike her brother who is very cuddly and lets me pick him up, she is wary of me and doesn’t hang around much to be stroked and so on. Then this time, I was taking a picture of a pretty rose when she did a purrfect “photo-bomb”:

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After this, far from stalking off when she sees me as she often does, she was delighted to sit for several minutes posing to have her picture taken:

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For some time I’ve been considering getting a pet. It would be encouraging to have something to take care of and I’m sure it would bring a lot of fun, cuddles, joy and company. I’m looking into getting a guinea pig. It’s early days yet as I want to research first how to look after them and also, look into costs to make sure I could afford it. A friend of a friend has some baby guinea-pigs that will soon be needing a home and this has spurred me on to find out more about looking after them.

I remember that when I worked at a hospice, a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog used to come in once a week with a volunteer and visit patients in the Day Centre. They did the same at a nursing home my elderly friend was in, for a while. It was always popular and an undemanding kind of company for people who found talking harder.

Ginny xx