Category: Health

The effect of the pandemic on my mental health (by )

I'm definitely not alone in finding the current pandemic a time for difficult emotions, but it's taken me a while to unpick the emotions I've been having. Having managed this, however, I'm documenting them here - as a record for myself, to save me repeating myself when explaining them to people who ask how I'm feeling, and in the hope that it might provide some ideas for people who are still trying to work their feelings out; you might have something in common with me.

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That Which Does Not Kill Us…. (by )

I used to write about "The Curse" a lot - so many damn things go wrong for us that it has just become a kind of on going sitcom comedy type situation. I tried to twist things round and be more positive and things were great for a while... then they weren't but it was the Head Injury and the migraines before it and the recovery and I generally forgot about the curse.

And of course this year has had lots of wonderful, amazing things in it but it is also a dark time for us. A sad time, a devastated time - the last 2 and a bit years have been full of tragedy and pain. I haven't felt up to sharing a lot of it... the people we are missing, the physical after affects of miscarriages and the shake up of domestic things to try and make sure everyone who needs stuff has it.

It is too depressing in many ways.

But I do want to be sharing stuff a bit more again - and there is joyous, wondrous and creative stuff in the mix but I am afraid that is not what this post is about - nope - this is about the crap!

Not the deep sorrow stuff just the crap.

Where to start?

Well my new computer (not new now I know but still not exactly old) has never really been fast and I have had issues with stuff just working on it, with email and the spam thingies stopped working on my blogs and I have over 20 so my emails got broken by all the spam, some of the blogs got broken with the spam, our wifi is periodically being blocked by something that likes to move channels and therefore follows our attempts to get away from it. This means that a) it as well as emails was hampering work greatly and b) has meant my phone bill is a lot higher than it should be because I wasn't checking what it was using and it was on roaming data whilst I was watching videos in bed rather than on our wifi :/

Yes stupid me.

I did amazing arty things in the summer and mostly it was absolutely a positive experience but some of it was really soul crushingly negative and had me not wanting to go to events and thing - such nastiness does not belong anywhere let alone the creative sector. This was multiple things and they all bundled up and have made me hacked off with Gloucester and I don't want to be hacked off with Gloucester - it is my home.

On top of that I still have not been paid for three different things I did in the Summer - let alone my autumn stuff - this has had ramifications and has seen me having to trek out to bank meetings - fitted in between physio for Jean and other medical stuff for my mother (I need to book my own appointments and just haven't managed!). Bank meetings where fun!

Here is the Facebook comment I made about it:

Due to multiple people having not payed me - I had to go to the bank to try and stop credit card spiral debt - I explained the situation but nope... they would rather lock me into a spiral of debt than give me a loan to pay off the credit card I'd had to put stuff on and then cancel the card - reason is they won't cancel the card but are worried I'd just rack the same debt up again as my spendings been erratic - well yes because I wan't paid when expected by multiple people and I thought the money would be through before the end of the first month and I am now getting to more than four months down the line and the interest is now more than I spent in the first place. I've found a way around this but only because I... am married to someone with a high end job and even then when I say sorted I mean we've just stopped the spiral being unmanageable but I'm still going to be paying the bank back about 4 times min what I actually spent - and none of this would have happened if I'd damn well been paid on time. I am so annoyed - I tried to sort it out the first month when it looked like the money was going to be on the card a while but we couldn't prove who I was - AGAIN - so proving I exist has been fun :/ I hate banks - oh and the spends where so I could continue working not random shizzle. Interest rates make a huge difference to debt management - hence wanting the loan - but also they don't like freelancers.

The support I've been offered from family and friends over this has been amazing but I feel embarrassed that it has come to this :/ And worse - if this was the money that paid the mortgage and/or food rather than DIY and festivities and vets bills and opticians then we would be screwed.

Incidentally I need new glasses desperately - the anti scratch coating got scratched in the summer - probably all the rock handling sessions I did - blooming meteorites! But obviously I have been putting it off until I get paid... and so it goes and goes around again :/

Wednesday was supposed to be the big Christmas shop were we go up to Bristol and make a day of it and see friends etc... but what happened was that I found 3 of our new hens dead. I have never lost them in a batch before which had me contacting hen experts and asking if others had experienced the same on forums and facebook etc... the conclusion is that they were either sickly to begin with - they weren't from the rescue org I normally go with and where a direct rescue via a friend so that was very probable or Mr Fox had scared them to death.

Illness in live stock is a serious thing and bird flues etc... can be passed on to humans so this was a bit of a stress and involved poo picking and of course a little hen funeral 🙁 Also just be extra disturbing some chickens have a tendency to have movement after death - hence running around like a heads chicken - they really can do this - I have in fact seen this as a kid but this was the first time I'd seen it in one of my chickens - it is very disturbing.

The dead chickens where bad and stressful enough but there was an added issue - the kids are supposed to check for eggs in the morning and feed and water the chooks after school - they are very slap dash about this so I tend to go out at lunch time to do a check up and remove any packaging from pellets etc... that the kids have left behind. So the chickens should have been found by the kids - obviously it kind of a good thing they were but... it means that the kids didn't check on them that morning.

I set a trap by which they could lie and dig themselves deeper but both independently told me the same thing - the crooks had been very "chickeny" moving about and chasing them for food but they had forgotten to do the chickens - I was actually impressed with their honesty and they were very upset about the chickens but the duty of care to the animals is very important and can not be shirked. This means they are not in as much trouble as they could have been but combined with some other things I had to call a family and put the entire house on chore lock down.

I will confess I can not cope with the housework and Alaric is great but is finding he can't even start helping with dinner because the kitchen needs cleaning before he can start so dinner is getting later and later.... so everyone has a semi screen ban - the xbox, blue ray and fire stick are unplugged and tablets and phones are rationed - for everyone - including the grown ups, including Nanny.

There is more laundry to do that before and I am trying to work and take my mum out on a regular basis - Mum has had two lots of cancer and is in her 70's and still heart broken from the loss of my dad. Domestically we are in a bit of a pickle as I try to fit another house into my already cluttered home - the kids toys are currently covering the living room being culled and sorted etc... and it is taking me forever because I too do not have motivation, time or energy and so have had to set a time when we all just plough into this sorting and cleaning. It falls to pieces every time I have to disappear out of the house for events - nothing gets done and that is something that can not continue - I have mobility issues and mum is a wheel chair user and we have had to have a stair lift and stuff fitted - things can not be left on the floor or in piles in the way - it's just not going to work and is unsafe.

Sadly this is a source of stress for Jean as she has a lot of home work some nights having started her GCSEs and it takes her ages and hurts her due to what now appears to by her version of the hyper-mobility that plagues the family. She felt she had no time to begin with - so we have had to sit down as a family and draw up a plan of exactly how this is going to work and work best for everyone,

So we didn't do our big Christmas shop - this is normally the big outing that gets the bulk food for December and January plus some treaty things and presents and is our family outing with pizza (I have jacket potato these days due to that whole not being able to eat the yummy foods anymore).

So that was Wednesday then there was Thursday - I try and take my mum out and about every other day but sometimes it's only once a week - and Thursday was the only day I could really do this an we went to Dunelm to get her some house thing - we ended up with house things too - because you always do when you enter such shops! This was an extended lunch break for Alaric who then has to make the time up later - but this seems to be working ok at the moment.

Anyway she decided she wanted to push the boat out and get her medicines by herself. So Alaric dropped her off at the ASDA as they have a pharmacy - this was the first proper out on her own that she'd done since my dad died in April.

Her scooter had been fully charged but then she didn't come home and I began to fret - it was starting to get dark - she didn't have her phone on her - it was in her bedroom :/

It was now starting to rain - I started opening the door to check for her - I ended up getting the neighbours to look for her... she was fine she'd gone to look at the cloths in ASDA as well but by the time she turned up I was frazzled and she was being sleeted on and was cold and wet even in her big yellow Mac and me and Jean just helped her into the house and were fussing about making her warm drinks and getting her dry cloths. When I went back the scooter was gone - I thought Jean and Al had put it back in the car... I was wrong.

The mobility scooter - my mum's life line to going out of the house had been stolen. From our front garden and taken down to the carpark at the end of the road and smashed up. Of course I wasn't going to find that out until Friday evening.

Friday I had been given the opportunity to attend a free training course and series of talks including on photography - it was also a networking event with free lunch!

Yay! Things were looking up - I was a little stressed due to running slightly late but my friend and co-story teller was also running late - in fact later than me so other than ending up in an awkward seat it was fine. And I got an entire pack of biscuits to myself - yay for the no gluten or yummy food thing - also the biscuits where yummy.

I met lovely people and was leaning things and had bought a blanket so I wouldn't get cold etc...

Lunch time arrived and I had HOT food and the session I really wanted to attend was after lunch. I ate my food and then took the lift down to the toilets - leaving my phone behind me because I am being paranoid about bad things always happening to me unless I have my phone on me and this was a safe space - so pikachu was relegated to guarding the note book.

I was saving my energy for the event so was using the lift - I am still having to use a crutch to walk any distance at the moment.

All fine... I get into the lift to come back up - the basically new lift in the refurbed historical site and it shonks out... "going going going going going up" reeeee "going going going..." The door won't open to let me out. Dude at the desk spots me and comes over and does magic reset and the door opens and I want to get but think I am just being daft - being trapped with no way out is a big thing for me - just writing this makes my pulse quicken and the panic in stomach and throat start. It's not claustrophobia as I am perfectly happy with small spaces and the trapped in space can be huge and I will still be panicking if I can not see an escape route.

Anyway - he's reset the lift so it should all be fine and I give him the thumbs up and up I go until CLONK it comes to rest almost exactly between the two floors - so that now I can't even see out of a window - there is maybe 20 cm of the window for the ground floor visible at the bottom of the lift. I hit that alarm button until muffled voices appear and the faff starts...

The events organiser appears and I have to tell him that I have seizures and the chances of seizures goes up with stress levels and I don't like being trapped. I say it all calmly and I was working very hard on calm because the last thing I wan't was to have a seizure and plus my instincts tell me to kick and climb my way out of such situations - in the natural world this makes sense - in a lift in a building that is not on fire - it doesn't

I end up sitting on the floor because standing up is too much hard work - literally my legs start shaking with fatigue and I am in pain and now sitting on the floor which I was trying not to do because I know the chances of me needing help back up are really high and Alaric is not there and I can't phone him or even play Pokemon go and there is a poke stop just out side - damn me and trying not to be taken over by my paranoia!

Any way the events organiser stayed by the lift taking to me to keep me calm and then the engineer was there and fixing things - but it seemed like forever - I think the whole thing was half an hour maybe 40 mins and the engineer worked really hard to fix the lift for when I needed to come back down but I opted to go slowly down the stairs.

I had missed the rest of lunch and most of the photo workshop but the talker gave me his contact info so I could ask questions later - I was shaky and got hugged lots. I was going to walk home to a) do fitness and b) to hatch pokamon eggs but I phoned Al and he came and got me.

Then we found the scooter was bashed up and then there was contacting the police and then Saturday we took Mum out in the wheel chair to a caftfair - we have to be careful with the wheel chair as Alaric has sciatica and issues with his back and Jean has issues with her wrists, neck and back.

The craft fair was lovely... the cafe however was very busy and our large lunch order.... well after waiting for over an hour they had to come and give us a refund as they'd run out of food!

Fortunately there was a chip shop but there were hanger issues occurring (angry because you are hungry!) - so yeah that is kind of where I am - it's been one hell of a week

A Start Not The Start (by )

There is so much awesome stuff happening for me right now that I am not even sure where to begin with telling everybody about it, it is over whelming and wonderful and also twinned with my grief and health issues which affect me and the family in general. I have lots of back blogging to do - I have the photos and even stuff written but I have in general lacked energy.

But I need to make a start and this month was the one I chose as the starting point. It is not The Start but rather a start and it is the start of many things.

There are many projects a foot and some in the pipe line, some have been dormant for too long. I feel scared that another curve ball be thrown to us and I am currently typing at half speed having managed to mangle my finger yesterday - I dislocated the top of it but it popped back in ok - it was a searing scream of pain but I often dislocate things - it has gotten worse over night which sucks. I am hoping it will settle down and I won't have to bother the dr with something they really can do nothing about - hyper mobility sucks - mine has gotten a lot worse since the miscarriages - I have devised work arounds so I can get on with everything.

SO life is challenging, life is scary and life is rich.

From Spring time I have been in the midst of Moon Mania, I went on library tours with Space Craft and the Cuddly Science Puppets, I did the online Art Blast for the actual Apollo 50th celebrations, I did numerous activities for the Earth and Moon Festival including sitting by an giant inflatable earth getting people to join in with a community textiles project. I did poetry events and run creative writing workshops, I even got my rocks out at various museums.

Thanks to the Heritage Hub and Gloucester Archives I had oral history training to help me collect as many Moon Memories as I can - I have a lot but I want MORE!

I am compiling a book called The Moon Miscellany inspired by the TV celebrations centred around the actual moon landings - it was my dad's idea and it does hurt that he isn't here - even his moon memory is half written - it shall go in the book anyway. I did talks and came up with other things that I just could not secure funding for but which I hope to take forward over the next few years.

Also I thought artists where bad at sticking to deadlines - but I am still pretty much waiting on ALL bar one of the science and tech folk who were going to write me essays - blooming academics!

The fantastic thing about Moon Mania was that it contains lots of other smaller projects and I got my own funding to take the Moon Maker Meets and Moon Mega Make forward and that is something I did not believe I could do at the beginning of the year.

Everything was themed on space and I even snuck it in with an art exhibition at the Museum of Gloucester as part of the Gloucester Poetry Festival - I could not have done with out friends and strangers alike who volunteered their time. I gave everyone Moon Mania t-shirts.

I've done a huge photo study of the moon using camera and telescope and upped the astrophotography game - I ended up missing the science of it all very badly but also got to share that science with people.

Yesterday Alaric came home with a crunchy bar for me - the chocolate had been given to him as a bribe because someone I have never met wants to see my rocks - my SPACE ROCKS! This pleases me probably far more than it should.

Moonmania has been fantastic with fabric artists, Lino print makers, steampunk, poets, storytellers, comic book artists, glass workers and photographers jumping aboard. And it is not the end of that but a beginning!

My living room is full of crates of meteorites and paintings of space and little origami stars and I need to work out what other art spaces it can go up in! I was very lucky that the community textile project got to go up over the summer as part of Art In The City.

This summer I also won a traineeship with the Carnival Arts Partnership and got to work on the Gloucester Carnival - I learnt so much stuff and made a lot of different types of dragons including getting to go and work with the amazing Matt West at his workshop seeing how larger structures are put together. I discovered a new pair mache technique, how to make giant puppets, and was rather envious of Charles vacuum former. Cheltenham Hackspace helped me through all the Moon Mania and the the Carnival Madness - we were also having work done on the house so that my mum could move in properly at the same time - there may have have been more tears and frustration than I would have liked.

From this I know that I want to do bigger pieces of art and it has fed back into the science and the craft and the performance side of things.

I want to make things with metal and wood - and resin.

This is a beginning.

During the summer and autumn I also got to attend some free business and fundraising workshops with Jolt and the Culture Trust, this was incredibly helpful in building up contacts and directly lead to a group of us story tellers finalising a dream we'd been working on. Gloucester now has a story telling night and that is fantastic! More than fantastic in fact and I hope we can get it self sustaining.

Between the story telling and popping out to do a little bit more comedy I want to resurrect my radio or podcasting and maybe even mix it in with the oral histories stuff. I definitely want to do more acting - I have just finished my Frightmare run and it is still THE BEST JOB EVER!!!

I have been making dragons, and been part of goblin markets, performed and reviewed and created zines. Though my foray into the world of comic books has halted somewhat and I can't really see a way back in - we are now firmly entrenched in the cosplay side of things but again this was really my families thing whilst I sat at the stalls - I need to sort out more things for the zines and books and oh boy is the publishing stuff zooming off ahead!

The cosplay has kind of morphed into historical reenactement which is interesting.

And of course it's been 10 years since I started the insane writing challenge NaNoWriMo - so this month marks the beginning of me pulling the big over all project I have been creating into some sort of shape. The Punks Universe - it is more than that - it is the story I was writing with my dad when I was a kid and it is the story my kids make characters for and it needs to be out in the world properly and not scattered here there and everywhere with half of it hidden.

This is more than enough to keep me busy and sometimes I am too busy and I am also a worried mummy - Jean appears to have inherited the hyper mobility though is one joint short of a diagnosis of the syndrome but also needs to now go to the Dr with her back and hip. This I am fearing will put the kibosh on some of the dreams and hopes and it is a sucky condition. Mary is very flexible but is a dancer, an acrobat so I think she'll be fine she just has horrendous melt downs and though excelling at maths is struggling so with reading and writing (though she has drastically improved over the summer thanks primarily to the Library and their Reading Challenge that she loves - it was space themed!) - considering again my own issues with dyslexia and ADHD I am worried.

But we will adapt and try not to be sad and angry but sometimes that is hard.

This is a beginning, a start - this year has been an upheaval and a transition - the last two years have been a personal trial of pain and suffering and yet I have created, my family have achieved and we are Polyps together against the world - and we need to be because - even the good things are hard to be enthusiastic about and I very much love the good things.

So I shall end with some good things - I was offered a place on a song writing workshop - I attended and worked with musicians and made a thing and the thing is on an album and I am even doing the word bit and that is an AWESOME thing I have always wanted to do. I ended up performing at the 3 choirs festival.

Alaric loves working with physical things - metal work is his main thing and he enrolled on a welding curse and he has done all his exam pieces already and it has bought him much joy.

Jean re-sat her radio license exam and passed and has been enjoying radioing Alaric and they did their first Raynet event - this is a voluntary organisation that provides comms support for community events ie radioing through accidents or where crowd control need to go and work as a back up network for emergencies and disasters like the floods in 2007 when all the phone networks went down.

Mary has chopped all her hair off to donate for wig making for those kids who have lost theirs due to cancer treatment, also Mary can read... Mary read out a poem at the last poetry event, Mary has worked very hard on this.

Nanny has started making a Harry Potter cover for the cot settee.

Enthusiasm (by )

When I was a child, I was full of enthusiasm - as a keen self-taught engineer I was soaking up knowledge about the wonderful things that could be done, and my future was full of promise; I lacked the tools and money to build many of the things I planned, so focussed on tinkering with software (once I had a computer, programming was free!). But I was confident that I would be able to turn my skills to employment and earn enough to buy tools, and then I'd build so much cool stuff.

However, it took a while to get there, and along the way, I accumulated lots of pressures on my time as well. These days, when I have free time, I'm often too physically exhausted to do much, and that enthusiasm is all gone - nothing seems rewarding any more, and I fritter the free time away.

But it's not always like that. A few times a year, a burst of enthusiasm comes to me (and I think I know how to trigger it deliberately, too).

This weekend, I did a lot of DIY. I worked on the van, tidied the house, sealed the skirting boards in the kitchen (I've learnt how to apply sealant neatly!), caught up on my emails, did some financial admin, wrote up a lot of scrappy notes I had into my filing system (re-organising some bits of it on the way), and caught up on work hours I'd missed in the week due to visiting my sick father in hospital (he hurt his knee, and is recovering well!).

The combination of dealing with emails, filing my notes, and organising my filing system, however, brought back The Enthusiasm.

Which, on the one hand, is great - I used that energy to get a lot more done than I usually do.

On the other hand, it also meant that when I went to bed at 10:30pm (for a 6:30am alarm clock start), I couldn't sleep as my head was buzzing with ideas. I wrote them up in my bedside notepad, which usually releases the pressure of thinking about them, but one of them was exciting (a really nice way of supporting HTTPS in my Web hosting stack), and one of them wouldn't stop going around in my head - I came up with a simpler design for a new desk/shelving system I want to build in my workshop, combining my computer desk and an electronics workbench. This was stuck in my head because I couldn't just think it through to completion and then record it; I was trying to visualise all the fine details to work out how it would fit together, and it wouldn't fit in my head. So about 2am I gave in and went downstairs and fired up OpenSCAD and bashed out a 3D model of it, which also spits out a cutlist of what lengths of square steel tubing and areas of plywood I'll need to make it:

Figuring out all the fine details and seeing how they'd fit together finally relieved the mental pressure, and sometime past 4:30am, I fell asleep... getting somewhat less than two hours' sleep.

Today I've been able to divert the energy to my work, which is great, as that's what I'm supposed to be doing - and using that energy to make up for the fact that I'm dog tired. But I still spent my lunch break writing up my overnight notepad notes into the filing system and doing a few of the tasks I'd thought of, including planning a comprehensive consolidation of my sewing supplies into a proper sewing box plus a tiny sewing kit for emergency repairs, that can go into my bag. And writing this blog post!

I'm confident this is not evidence of bipolar disorder, because I'm fully aware of my slightly manic state, and I'm following tasks through to completion! But it's still not an ideal situation.

I've observed in the past that The Enthusiasm can be invoked by doing "infrastructure" work - updating my filing system, tidying my workshop, building tools, maintaining the van, building software infrastructure, etc. so my plan is thus:

  1. Book out infrastructure days.
  2. Work on infrastructure projects in the mornings. Try to remember the Enthusiasm I've felt before (this blog post will help as a memory jogger) plus sheer willpower to get me started, even if I don't feel like it.
  3. Let my enthusiasm take me where it takes me in the afternoon.
  4. Do this frequently enough that it's not all backed up inside me somewhere, so just a bit comes out at a time in a controlled manner, rather than big multi-day sleepless orgy of creativity.

Wish me luck!

Body Blob (by )

Again issue with doing lots of performance stuff is all the photos of me being fat - they are me doing things and I will myself use them but you know when good photographers still don't manage to make you look good! Well that... I am well aware that I have gained weight what with the miscarriages and just not caring with Dad's and others deaths.

We've been monitoring my weight weekly and everything I've tried results in 12 and a half stone :/ except that time I ate all the crap and I mean all of it from BBQ through to giant ice creams and I went down to 12 and 1/4 stone - the next week was period time complete with swollen painful legs and that was 12 and 3/4 stone but was then back to 12 and 1/2 stone the following week (it took about four days to loose the swollen feet and legs - something I have never before had outside of pregnancy and even then only really Jean's when I had all the blood clot issues).

The nurse for thyroid, diabetes and dietary stuff no longer exists as her role got axed at the drs - and I need to loose weight - I am literally carrying around half a me extra! As I should be 8 stone but the healthiest I've ever been was 10 stone when I was an outdoors pursuits instructor.

It's the mobility that really does me in with the weight or rather the lack of it and I am sick of it. Yesterday the venue we were at had no real food so I bought a chocolate bar but then felt so guilty about it I didn't eat it and instead ended up eating a really late dinner at home where I ate more cheesey type stuff than was sensible as I was REALLY hungry by this point.

I think I need to just follow what I did before with the nurse but am doing more work stuff now and I was so light headed, Passy outy and feeling like I was going to throw up that I just don't see how I can do that and be working at the same time :/

I have gamified my walking with Pokemon go and feel that if I can just shift some weight then my pelvis will improve and I'll be able to loose the crutch and maybe even go back to park runs or something - I have bought a load of medals ready to complete various challenges to help motivate me - they start with walking and ramp up so we shall see!

Please don't suggest the dieting groups like slimming world and weight watchers as they make me want to punch something and keep punching if I am completely honest! They are pretty much my definition of hell and I don't mean the food part of it - it's just a social dynamic thing - I have friends and family they worked really well for but they are not for me.

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