Friday, 27 August 2010

A Visit to the Doctor

Oh, Gawd. I have had a grim few days - not sleeping much, mainly because I have been squabbling with hubby. Who of course is a paragon of all the virtues, but also a man, with all the opposing characteristics (to women) that being a man entails. In other words, he can be annoying, and this week because I was shattered because we had been stuck in the house a lot because of all the rain, and this meant I did a lot more cleaning and washing and sorting out cupboards and stuff than usual, and also on Sunday I cancelled my newspaper subscription of two years, which meant that my hour a day of reading the paper (sometimes in five minute slots) finished, so the housework became more constant, I argued with him. This was bad. Mainly because it upset the kids, particularly our eldest, who has read too many Jacqueline Wilson books and therefore thinks that every family is a broken family, or one waiting to become so.

So the perfect holidays became the awfullest holidays. Then this morning I suddenly realised it is pointless arguing with hubby, because I love him and because without him I would be nothing and nowhere. So I called him at work and told him this, and luckily he understood.

Now the sun is shining, literally and metaphorically and things are looking up.

Except for the visit to the doctor.

My elder son went out with two schoolfriends and one of their Mums today. She texted me to say he was not very bright, then texted again to say she was bringing him home - he hadn't eaten his lunch, didn't want to play with the others and was really tired. When he got back he didn't have a temperature, but he had been weeing a lot this morning and she said he was weeing a lot during the day, and this worried me - I thought he might have an infection.

So I got an emergency appointment with the GP. Now, I am pretty sensitive in the GP's waiting room. A couple of years ago I went through several years where I was constantly at the GP with one or other of the children, usually with chest infections. And I also had a lot of chest infections myself, as well as pneumonia one time and rheumatic fever another. So I needed a lot of antibiotics.

I always disliked going to the surgery. I felt like a malingerer, although I clearly wasn't, because each time I came out I had a presciption, often for very strong medicines. But the whole thing wore me down. And the waiting times in the surgery got longer and longer. At first they operated a system where poorly children got precedence, but then this stopped. And I used to have all the kids with me when I went, because they are always with me, and it was really hard looking after them in the surgery. Then sometimes other people would be coughing and I would be sure we were going to catch something even worse than we already had - and we usually did. So I built up a bit of a phobia about the waiting room, but I still had to spend a lot of time in there. I would try to do without antibiotics, but the kids, or myself, just got more poorly. So I would end up in there again, often for an hour or more.

Anyway, one morning I was waiting for more than two hours. I went to the desk at roughly half hourly intervals, to ask how the queue was going. I was assured that I would be seen in turn, but I noticed many people going in who had arrived at the surgery after me. In the end after two hours I was told that I hadn't been booked in. I was feeling really ill, hacking and coughing, I was tired and hungry and aggravated, and I burst into tears. I left the surgery, got into my car and drove home. One of the receptionists followed me into the car park and told me to come back, that she would get the doctor to see me next, but I was too far gone.

So I went home. Remember, my experience of the medical profession over the years has not been a good one. Of course, once I was home, the surgery called and apologised. I calmed down, went back and they booked me in properly and I was seen imediately and got the medicine I needed.

But the memory still haunts me. I never go there expecting good service from the receptionists. I will never forget constantly going up to query why I was waiting so long, and being fobbed off time after time. For two hours. I was convinced they were laughing at me.

Luckily, these days I don't have to go to the doctor much. I take probiotics and I don't get chest infections like I used to, and the kids are growing and getting stronger. When I do need to go I ask to see the nurse, who is lovely and who sees patients promtly, and who can now prescribe.

And also sometimes the system works better now - the GP I blogged about the other day (when I went with a painful toe!) didn't keep me waiting long at all and I ended up feeling sorry for him and the pressure he was under.

Anyway, I still haven't said what happened today. I was waiting for the 'open surgery' (which works on a first come, first served basis). I got there on time, and there were only two other patients before me. I was relieved. But then I saw other people arriving, the two originals having been and gone by now, and some of the new arrivals going in to see the doctor. I had still only been waiting about twenty minutes, and a friend of mine arrived and came over and we were chatting, so I wasn't too bothered. My son had perked up and started playing with his brother. I assumed some of the other patients were seeing other doctors. I waited.

But then my friend got called in, saying in a puzzled way that it couldn't be right, because she had been waiting for the same doctor, and she had only just arrived - but she still went in. My blood started to boil. I was calm though - I went to the desk and asked what was happening. They said the person who had gone in first must have arrived before me. I said she hadn't she was my friend and we had been talking. The receptionist was shouting at me, which made me feel awful - I had been complaining quietly and politely, but she made it look as though I was hassling her.

Then the other receptionist started shouting at me, saying that everyone was seen in order, according to when they phoned up. I queried this, saying surely it was in the order in which they came into the surgery. So she said I should take it up with the doctor. So I said how could I take it up with the doctor, if they were going to leave me sitting there all afternoon while everybody else went in first. I said I might as well just go home. Then they said I would be the next to be seen.

I did take it up with the doctor, when I went in, and he said they had told him about it. I didn't like that, because I didn't know what they had said about me, and I was sure they were making out I had been rude or unruly. He apologised anyway, said it was his fault, he had put me down last when I should have been on his list earlier. And I felt sorry for him - I said I wouldn't have complained if I knew it was his error, but I didn't like the attitude of the receptionists. He is a lovely man - he has had cancer recently and recovered. I remember how kind he was when my youngest was born. He did the eight week check and kept going on about what a great baby this was. He was really effusive about him - made me feel so proud. And - sorry to boast - but he was right, my youngest, Toddler as he is known here, really has turned out to be an Ace child. Practically perfect in every way, as Mary Poppins would have said.

The doctor thorougly checked my older son, everything was ok except that he had a really high temperature (which made me feel bad as I hadn't realised, his temp had been fine when I had checked), and I was home within the hour. So it wasn't my worst ever visit to the GP, or longest time spent in the waiting room, not by a long chalk.

But I did find the experience scary. The way the receptionists escalated things, making out that I was a troublemaker, brought back memories of being in hospital. Sometimes I felt as though I was being manipulated, and I saw this happen with other patients too. You would be calm, or not far off, then get agitated about something, and then instead of trying to help you regain your composure, the medical staff would escalate things, and before you knew where you were you were being forcibly injected with tranquilisers by a team of six nurses. I saw this happen to one girl, she was young and in no way a threat to anyone, and she was just tearful about something, and then suddenly she was being dragged away screaming. It was just horrible.

I have never been violent or had any inclinations that way, and most of the people in there were the same. But the treatment was often unecessarily brutal, and many of the nurses were far from compassionate.

When I was in the mother and baby unit, after my eldest was born, I had an awful time. I tried hard to be as compliant as I could. I lived in constant fear that my baby would be taken and that I would never get her back. Then one day I had an argument with a nurse - she was a nasty one, she would follow you up the corridor brandishing her plastic gloves, asking if you wanted an internal, because that was her idea of a joke.

I say I had an argument. Actually I was just very rude to her. And it was my fault, although it was totally out of character for me. I can't remember why I did it, I called her a fat cow as I walked past her up the ward. It seemed fair comment to me, but she was furious. 'That's it!' she shouted up the corridor after me. 'You're out of here!'

Well, I know what I did was wrong. I promise, I have never been rude to anyone beofre or since, not like that. In mitigiation, I was mad at the time, and I am sure that a nurse in a mental hospital should make some allowance for that condition.

But I am sure she was responsible for what happened that night, although she was nowhere to be seen. It was the middle of the night, I had got up to feed the baby, and was trying to settle her down. Suddenly a strange nurse appeared, who I had never seen, asking me to hand over the baby. I asked why. She just kept saying, 'Give her to me'. Then I was suddenly surrounded by a group of 'professionals', we were in a situation, and I was baffled as to how it had arisen.

The next day, baby was given into the care of her father, and I was sent to a different ward alone. Thank God, after a few weeks we were re-united in the baby unit. But, God, I could have lost my baby.

Now, some people may be reading this wondering if mine is the true version of events. I would probably wonder that too, if I was you. But it is the truth. I have always been truthful. And yet - how could I prove, how could I explain? It is hard enough in writing, and I have always been much more eloquent in writing than in person. Yet I am aware that to a cynic, or a mental health professional, I might be seen as having a persecution complex, or as a liar, or an abusive difficult patient, or a thousand other variations on the reality. I know that what was written in medical notes was sometimes far from the truth.

So when you are ill in hospital, under section, you are powerless, in every way. But even when you are sane - like today in the doctors - anyone who has ever had mental health issues is vulnerable, to other people's expectations and opinions, and to their own. I could have been labelled as an aggressive patient today.

Anyway, enough for today. Hubby is trying to get the kids to bed, and he needs some help. x x

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Holidays are Great

I looked at my blog today, as I often do, to see if anyone had commented on anything (sad, I know and not the sort of thing you are supposed to admit to, but I'm sure everyone does it) and I realised it had been a week since I last blogged. I mean, usually I would think, gosh it has been ages, but this time it feels like ages and it has only been a week.

Odd, how our perceptions of time shift according to what we are engaged in. I usually find that if I am busy, time flies. In fact, it seems to fly by most of the time these days. But sometimes something catches me by surprise, and my perception of the time since I last blogged was way way out. Oh well. Probably I was half asleep when I wrote the last entry, then forgot I had done it.

Anyway, the school hols are now more than half done, which is sad, because I love them. Toddler so appreciates having his brother and sisters around all the time. Although he is still hard work, I can fob him off on them occasionally, and when it works, and they all play nicely together, it is lovely. He has been pairing up with his brother recently. At three years younger he is been beneath his brother's notice for a long time, but now Toddler's getting older they are beginning to realise they like doing stuff together. Annoyingly, it is really loud and silly stuff, but it's so good to see them both having so much fun that I don't mind. It drives their sisters crazy though - today, for example, when the boys were wrapping themselves up in my exercise mat together and jumping off the sofa the girls were so worried that they would get hurt that they kept yelling and yelling at them to stop. Which made it even more exciting and fun for the boys. Obviously.

This morning I felt really peaceful and relaxed, which was weird, because I was in the middle of one of those children's adventure places which I usually find really stressful. I felt so placid, as though I was just sailing through life. It was wonderful. It lasted all through the afternoon, until it was time to cook the dinner and make phone calls and loads of other jobs that suddenly needed doing all at once. Then it gradually dissipated. But it was such a great feeling of well-being - I so wish I could be like that all the time. So I am chasing that sense of calm now, trying to work out where it came from and how to maintain it.

I have pinned it down to the completion of a poetry book, or pamphlet really, the accumulation of ten years of writing poetry. I have probably written about a hundred poems in that time, but decided only to print sixteen of them, because the others are nowhere near good enough for publication. I am not even sure if the sixteen I have chosen are good enough, but I am hoping for the best. I am going to self-publish. The pamphlet has been formatted. Last night I sent off an enquiry (well, hubby did on my behalf) to some printers about specificatons, prices and so on. I have the application forms for the ISBN numbers.

So I am nearly there. And it feels like quite a significant step, because even though the poems were written over years and years, and there aren't many of them to show for all those years of work, it is still something. And more importantly, it leaves the way clear to continue - I have accomplished that, so on to the next piece of writing, whether it is another volume of poetry or a book of short stories, or essays or whatever.

I guess that is why I felt on top of the world this morning. So, the next step is the memoir. Again, most of the work is done already - I just have to change the background of the book, to make myself unidentifiable, because I have worked out that the only way I can do this is anonymously. I will have the ISBNs and the printer set up for the poetry book within the next couple of weeks, so I should be ready to publish the memoir quite soon after that.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Humming Holidays

It's beginning to be a struggle to think up titles for these blogs. Can anyone tell?

Anway, the school holidays have been good so far. It hasn't been as difficult as usual to find a balance between not doing enough and doing too much - thanks to Miss Puppy Dog. I don't like to leave her for more than three hours, so the days have naturally become more measured. So, for example, this morning we went for a long walk, then this afternoon I felt quite justified in taking the kids swimming and leaving her at home alone.

I still leave her in her crate when we go out - she has plenty of space in there, and is safe and happy. She is probably more comfortable than any of us - I bought her a special mattress which was supposed to be for dogs recovering from operations - made from foam that adjusts to the pressure of the dog or something - it was just so soft that I couldn't resist it. I was telling my friend, who has a dog, about the mattress and she said I should just get a cheap one next time. 'Why would I need another?' I wondered. She found this hugely amusing - apparently dogs constantly need new mattresses, furry bed things and so on. Well, who would have guessed?

Took the puppy to training class tonight for the first time, and I was very proud of her. She did most of what was expected - she is much better behaved when she is out than she is at home. I mostly wanted to learn how to stop her pulling on the lead, and I made some headway, so I am pleased with that. The key was to give her lots of treats - she is very food orientated and would do anything for a titbit. So I will remember that at home, and practice lots.

I have been feeling a lot better in myself - more relaxed. I knew I would, without the pressure of the school run and trying to keep up with all the other mothers. But also I am feeling more confident. I had a kind of epiphany the other day (I have no idea if that is the correct term as I have no dictionary to hand). I have always carried around such a burden of worry, and kind of guilt and shame, all rooted in my awful childhood. And although I have known for a long time that it was irrational I could never shift it, or not for long.

But having had a family of my own for more than ten years now, I have been healing gradually. It feels so good to love and to be loved. I am still insecure - but I have so many reasons not to be now. For example, I asked my eldest the other day whether she loved me - I know it is not a 'Proper' parenting sort of question and I can't remember what was in my head at the time, but her answer was so perfect I will never need to ask her or anybody else again. 'Of course, Mummy,' she said. 'Who couldn't?'

Anyway, about a week ago I felt my 'burden' lifting - this was the epiphany I just wrote about. There was not exactly a moment when it happened, just a realisation that I have no need for guilt or shame - these are just a hangover from childhood and can therefore be dismissed now. I think this it is linked to my new family too - as the mother of a ten year old I can see that anything she does or feels or thinks is innocent, and that she could never do anything that I could not forgive. If something went wrong in her life I would never blame her, I would just try to make it better.

So, my ten year old self is just the same, or was - I was a child too. It is difficult to explain myself here - I am not talking about any specific event that happened when I was ten - but what I think I mean is that my own 'inner child' which was never nurtured, grew up damaged. Which affected my whole life beyond belief. And now it is finally healing, through my own children and the love I feel for them, which I have extrapolated to apply to me as I was when I was young. I mean, if I had been loved, I would have been whole, and it is not too late for that to happen now.

Recently I have begun to forgive myself for having been mentally ill too. Yes, I made mistakes, I smoked cannabis, I was flighty and couldn't settle - but I could have done a lot of worse things. Really, I did amazingly well just to survive all that happened to me. The illness was just my mind's way of reacting to some really bad circumstances - things I couldn't cope with, that nobody could have coped with, that my mind therefore just took flight from.

As an adult I have often felt inferior because I have been mentally ill in the past, but now I feel differently. Again, I wouldn't judge anybody else because they had been in a mental hospital. I might be interested in their experience, but I wouldn't condemn them for it. So I am not going to condemn myself - what happened has gone, I am now in a good place, and it is time to feel proud of myself for surviving and to move on.

By the by - I went to visit the GP the other day for a very unglamourous condition - corns, if you must know. I went into his office and the poor man looked really weary. It was about half five, so I suppose he had nearly finished for the day, and he seemed as though he had really had enough and was absolutely worn out. I felt sorry for him. And I thought - actually, has he got a better life than me?

I have always envied GPs - to be together enough to do a job like that has always seemed to me to be an amazing feat. I mostly envy their confidence and the respect that their position commands. But actually, I have a lot more freedom, day to day (thanks to my lovely husband). That GP looked as though he had been pulled through the mill. The poor man has another twenty years or so to work (maybe less, I have no idea how old he actually is). My heart really went out to him and I had a revelation - I realised that I don't envy all that responsibility any more, even if it does come with a lot of respect from others. It is certainly not the career for me, and although I have often jokingly (but with a more than a germ of truth) said that I would like all my children to be doctors when they grow up, suddenly I am not so sure.

I am going to respect myself for what I do from now on, and hope that what I do (write) continues to improve and grow. I was going to write 'exponentially' after 'grow' then, but I would have to find a dictionary to look that one up, and it is really too late now. Anyway, even if it were to prove to be the correct term it sounds a bit pretentious.

Ciao for now. I hope you are all thriving and enjoying life as I am just now. X.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Happier now

Hi. I have been meaning to blog all week, but time got the better of me - hubby has been off work, which has been a good start to the school holidays. We have been busy - I wanted to make the most of him being around, so I was determined not to spend too much time at home.

We spent a night camping - that was an eye-opener. I have always been very anti-camping, but we went to visit some friends who had been staying at a site for a couple of weeks, and who were loving it. The location was stunning and the kids and husband were so keen to give it a go that I caved in.

It wasn't as bad as I expected. It was undoubtedly good for the children - all the fresh air and traipsing up and down the hill to the toilet. But after a night of very little sleep - what rest there was punctuated by the very unpleasant man in a nearby tent who haranged his teenage daugter, going on and on at her relentlessly, swearing very imaginatively until eventually he reduced her to tears and then he stopped the bullying - I had gone off the idyll somewhat. My children did not know how to swear before - they do now. Thank you, Mr Nasty.

The eight year old came into our tent (another drawback, we only had two small tents so the girls stayed in one and the rest of us in another) and asked if I could stop the man from shouting. I was fuming, but I was too afraid of the potential consequences to ask him to shut up. Hubby is too laid back to want to get involved. One positive thing though, was that younger daughter then decided to stay in our tent, so hubby went into the other tent with our elder daughter, and I felt much safer then - I didn't like the idea of the girls sleeping separately.

We have since had an offer of a loan of a family sized tent, but I am not in a hurry to repeat the experience - maybe next year. It was murder getting Toddler to sleep - he doesn't stop talking, which is great most of the time, but when you are shattered and he is counting incessantly to twenty, saying 'Look, Teddy can climb the tent pole!' and other variations on the toddler theme, it becomes wearisome. I had to laugh eventually though - I was lying down next to him, trying to get him to settle, and he picked up chunks of my hair in his baby fists. 'I like your hair' he said. Then he covered my eyes with it. 'Now you hiding. One, two, three...coming, ready or not...Found you!'

Anyway, we have had a great week. Been to Legoland today. Our Merlin passes have now expired, and I shall not mourn them. I think Legoland et al are much better kept as a special day out, maybe once every year. I should know; we have been there about ten times in the last year, and to Chessingtons, Thorpe Park, and various Sea Life centres. I might consider it again in a few years time, but it has been exhausting. We only managed a few rides today, as the queues were so long. And toddler can't do the same rides as the others, so we had to split up most of the time we were there. We left early, and overcompensated by buying the kids expensive toys in the gift shop - at least now they will remember the last day of their Merlin passes.

I asked my nephew to look after the puppy for the day, which he did happily, and it was fantastic not having to return to the house after a couple of hours out. She is quite a tie, which of course we knew before we got her, but it is one thing to know something and another to experience it.

I was finding it hard going earlier in the week - the biting has not eased off and she has ruined a lot of our furniture. We took her with us on several days out during the week, and when we were camping, and at times she was starting to feel like a burden, although I felt awful thinking that.

But I have taken positive action - re-reading my puppy book, stocking up on chews for her, training her to fetch and to play constructively, and it is feeling like fun again. I know she will be fine in a few months anyway, it is just those sharp puppy teeth which make her need to chew, and once those fall out she will be fine - meanwhile, I will redouble my efforts to train her. She is really very sweet.

The best thing that has happened this week is an unexpected improvement in family relations - the wider family, I mean. The sister that I once felt closest to, but who I have grown very distant from in recent years, suddenly started being nice - I mean, really nice, like listening to me talk and looking interested. This is quite a departure, and I am mystified by it - but very pleased. I think I used to see her as a sort of mother figure - not consciously, but because she is several years older than me and she used to look out for me when I was young I think that must be why I became so attached to her.

So when I realised that she actually did not have much time for me any more - and I was very obtuse about this, it was so blatant but it took me an incredibly long time to take it on board - I found it really hard to deal with. And over the years, however hard I have tried to rationalise it, I still couldn't cope with the loss of love. Like an abandoned child, although I am actually quite old now! Anyway, she was very pleasant to me yesterday, for the first time in ages, and although I suppose I should have more self-respect and not care, I do and it would be pointless to pretend otherwise.

Who knows what will happen from here? Probably nothing. But maybe one day we will be friends again, maybe even have a family Christmas. Hopefully while my Mum is still around to benefit from it.

It is really important to me that my sons and daughters should be friends with one another, now and in the future, doubtless because of my own fragmented family. I am very strict with them on that - if they fall out I usually lecture them on the subject. Today was perfect in that respect - the girls were really good buddies, in fits of giggles for most of the day, which was lovely. Long may it last.

Hubby and I have been getting on famously too, which is lovely. So life is good at the mo - except for the in-laws, who I am annoyed with. It is a long and unnecessary tale, but basically I find it hard to cope with my Dad-in-law, who is a head case. But then, who am I to talk?