I give up…

The universe is determined to give me opportunities to discover social faux pas. The events of the last weeks have revealed to me a host of new things that lots of people say when one talks about miscarriage. The vast majority of these comments are very well meant, but nonetheless, have considerably missed the mark.

Being open about having had multiple miscarriages seems to unfurl two main threads of conversation. The most prolific being enquiries as to why it keeps happening and what I have done about it. I think I know why people ask these questions. Partly fear, no one wants this to happen to them. I suppose people think if they know the whys they can avoid it or fix the problem. The other side being an assumption that everything can be fixed. I understand that, we are so used to living in a world where things can be cured or treated. I know from having chronic conditions that people are often confused to learn that some things can not be corrected. In the case or recurrent miscarriage this enquiry is unhelpful for variety of reasons. Firstly miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage and infertility often fall into the category of ‘don’t know’. About half of those who suffer recurrent miscarriage are unable to find a reason after testing. I am one of those people. I have had all the standard tests and investigations to little avail. I did have some adhesions that were successfully removed and I have PCOS, but no Dr I have consulted believes that to be the cause. The short answer is, no one knows. Asking this question isn’t helpful. If a person doesn’t know, you’re just underling that difficult fact by making them explain it again. If they do, they may not want to discuss such private and sensitive information with you or anyone else.

Offshoots of this such as, Have you seen a Dr about this? You should get another opinion, My friend did such & such or surely there must be something they can do, are unwelcome. I have had four miscarriages. I have lost four children that I desperately wanted. Of course I have done everything within my power to find out why and prevent it from happening again. The suggestion that I haven’t offends me. It indicates that you think I am either stupid or careless. I understand that wasn’t the intention, but please, think before you speak. It’s also important to be aware that the NHS usually won’t begin these investigations until after a third miscarriage. Not everyone has the resources to seek private medical treatment. Anyone in that situation doesn’t need nosey salt in their wounds.

The other comments this loss has garnered are of the don’t give up variety. A lot of people have reached out to tell me there’s always hope. The have shared their own experiences of loss or struggles to conceive and assured me that miracles happens. That they eventually had their baby and it was all worth it. I know you think you are helping. I know you are trying to be kind. Let me just say this, not everyone gets a miracle. We are not all able to try again. There are limits to what the body can do, physically & emotionally. There are time constraints. Relationship constraints. Financial constraints. At this moment I don’t feel like I have another try in me. Losing another baby would destroy me. Maybe I will feel differently in the future (it would have to be the fairly near future), but I don’t think so. Facing the reality of my limitations is not weak. Recognising that I can not square this circle is not giving up.

I don’t intend this as an attack. I realise these aren’t purposeful attempts to hurt. I just want to have an open discourse. I think these confusions arise because we don’t talk about this topic enough. If you want to offer support to someone who has suffered this kind of loss it will be appreciated. Simply offering your condolences and assurances that you are available is enough. Respect that everyone grieves differently and your kindness will cherished.

 

Don’t forget to shout…

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s a wet, grey day & my mood is bleak, so it seems like an apt day to talk about suicide. Although, to be honest I want you to do more than talk about it.

Suicidal ideation impacts the lives of more people than you would imagine (1 in 5). It’s not rare for a person to reach a point where they are so desperate that they just don’t want to continue. In my experience those thoughts are insidious. Once you have seriously considered ending your life, it enters the sphere of available options. So, whilst I absolutely do not want to die; I can’t deny that occasionally at really bad times ‘kill myself’ would be the last entry on my list of possibilities. What makes it a remote last resort rather than an actual risk is a combination of factors. People love me, I love them, there is joy & purpose in my life. The only reason I can recognise & enjoy those factors is years of intensive support from mental health professionals. I am grateful for the people who stood by & helped me access the treatment I needed because without that professional intervention, I would certainly be dead.

World suicide prevention day

So, yes, I do want to us all to talk about this. I want to break the taboo. I want people suffering to not be silenced by shame. It is important that you listen to loved ones in trouble. It matters that you care, but what is even more important is that there are effective mental health services to seek help from. Talking & listening isn’t going to save anyone unless it’s backed up by solid treatment. In short, we need better mental health services.

There is no point in asking people to reach out for help when none is available. A cup of tea & chat with a friend is nice, but it will not solve the underlying issues that lead to suicide. We need to be able to offer people more than a 6 month waiting list for a hand full of CBT sessions. When your loved ones tells you they want to die, you should be able to take them to a dr & get them immediate help. Instead the current response is often no beds & here’s a crisis team number.

I want you talk about suicide. I want you talk about mental illness. I also want you to do more. Don’t vote for people who will continue to decimate the NHS. Find out how the mental health services are performing in your area. Write to your Mp/Msp about provision of those mental health services. Sign petitions. Write to newspapers. Share your experiences. Do everything within your power to raise the profile of mental health services. We are failing really vulnerable people everyday. We beg them to ask for help & then tell them none is available. If you really want to help those struggling with suicidal thoughts, you have to do more than talk. We have to fight to give them another credible way to end their pain.

Actions speak louder than words

Find your MP here.

Find your MSP here.

Check your MP’s voting record here.

Talk is cheap…

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which is, in theory, a good thing. Since all it seems to involve is people on social media saying ‘talk about it’ it is not actually all that helpful.

We absolutely should talk about mental illness more. We should educate our kids about symptoms & how normal it is to experience them. We should put better training in place for teachers, emergency services & NHS staff. We should all try harder not to judge or shirk away from people who are struggling. Employers should be flexible with staff dealing with mental illness. There should be more information, more understanding, more honesty. Yes, we should talk about it. Asking for help it definitely a good idea. All of these things are important & valid, but there’s still something missing from the conversation.

What happens when you do speak openly & no one listens (or seems to care). Can we talk about all the people who gathered all their courage &!swallowed their pride to ask for help and didn’t get any? Can we address the fact that as hard as is it to say ‘I’m not ok’, it’s a million times harder to hear ‘tough luck’ in response.

We do need to talk about mental illness, but we also need to listen and act. Funding is of course part of the problem. The NHS is chronically underfunded & mental health is the poor cousin. For all the political talk of parity between physical & mental illness, there has been little change to waiting times or scarcity of vital mental health services. Very often waiting to even be assessed by a mental health team is a long process. In my area the wait for psychologist input is 4months (that’s relatively short), in practise you’ll be waiting longer because you will first have to be referred & assessed before anyone even adds you to that list. During all this waiting time people can have no professional support.

Then there are the multitude who are deemed ‘not sick enough’. To be fair this has always been an issue due to stigma & ignorance. Lack of funding exacerbates the problem. When services are so stretched, access to those resources become limited. Lots of people who seek help for mental health problems are basically told to manage it themselves. Get some exercise, reduce your stress, get out more. When you summon your strength to talk about things that frighten you and are told it’s no big deal, it’s hard not to feel even more pathetic. It is difficult not to feel shutdown. Repeat that scenario more than once & people give up. Likewise for those who are informed that they’re not quite ill enough to warrant intervention. All that talk of early warning signs & speaking up doesn’t translate into much action. Having a professional ask you to wait & see if your health declines before they will help you is a kick in the gut. When you know that getting worse means your entire life falling apart, it’s not unreasonable to prefer to be proactive. When you don’t know what’s happening to you all, it is terrifying. So, yes, we do need to talk about it. I will always encourage people to ask for help. I will always strive to remove the shame of admitting you need assistance. I’ll also continue to demand that we talk about what happens after you take that step. We cannot ignore the fact that asking for help does not guarantee receiving it. We must acknowledge all the people for whom no treatment has been forthcoming & stop pretending that the problem isn’t much, much bigger.

People die because they did talk about it & nothing changed. Can we start talking about that?

A time for giving…

According to Cliff Richards, king of the xmas tune, this is a time for giving. Whilst Cliff is wrong about most things, I think he’s right about this. I love Christmas. I am fortunate enough to have wonderful people to share it with. We always have more than enough food to fill our tums & plenty presents under our tree. If like me, your festive cup runeth over, please consider making a donation to one of these excellent organisations.


Simon Community helps homeless people in Scotland. They provide a number of wonderful services. From teaching life skills to providing accommodation to help people get on their feet, they support homeless people in a multitude of ways. This year they also launched a new initiative to provide both period products & education for people experiencing homelessness. You can help Simon Community by donating your time, money and a number of essentials items. You can find more information here.

Luisa Omielan is my favourite stand up comedian. Her material is not only hilarious, but covers incredibly important issues. She talks about mental illness, body positivity & female empowerment in her hysterical routines. This year she lost her Mum suddenly & horribly to cancer. She has now not only incorporated the difficult topics of palliative care, NHS under funding & death into her routines, but has also started a foundation, in her mum’s name, to raise money to provide comfort items to hospices. My own family was also touched by cancer this year & I became aware of just how important good hospice care is. Until now I was not aware that hospices are charities that do not receive government funding. People at the end of their lives, often suffering, should have access to the best possible care. Luisa is trying to make that happen. Please give whatever you can to Helena’s Hospice Foundation.

Save the Children work around world with children in desperate need. Their mission is to keep children safe and healthy, whether that means battling poverty or exploitation. They fight to create and enforce legal rights for children as well as providing food, clothing and other essentials for those in need. There are too many frightened children in too many places tonight. If you can help give them a better tomorrow, please do.

Tribe is a Scottish animal sanctuary providing a loving home for animals who have been victims of abuse, neglect or who have been saved from slaughter. Their aim is to keep animals safe, but also to encourage compassion for animals not normally considered pets. The sanctuary was founded by John and Morag, animal advocates who wanted to truly live their beliefs. They currently house cats, dogs, cows and chickens. You can get to know their growing family & find out how to donate here.

Please dig as deep as you can and have a very Merry Christmas and a fun filled Hogmanay.

Doctor, doctor…

The universe obviously thought my life was going a little to smoothly, so she threw me a little kidney shaped drama. 

I woke in the night with excruciating upper abdominal & chest pain. Violent throwing up followed by passing out left me a tad perturbed. It was actually a little scary as the chest symptoms mirrored all the things you read in heart attack warnings. More passing out & worsening pain led to a call to NHS 24 who swiftly sent an ambulance. 

The paramedics did a heart trace & found me to be more tachycardic than just pain could account for. To be honest I think the culprit for my racing heart was sheer panic at finding myself in a bloody ambulance. Anyway, an empty a&e and some very nice medical folk soon led to a diagnosis; an inflamed kidney. 


At the just kill me stage.

I had yet another kidney infection, which had caused my kidney to become in inflamed with sheer indignation. I can’t really blame my poor kidney. The number of kidney & urinary tract infections I’ve had in the past 12mths is ridiculous. I was admitted to surgical ward, given fluids, morphine & monitored. 

It looks like I might have tiny kidney stones. These little bastards are causing all the trouble. I need to have a detailed scan later this week. If there are stones lurking they can be broken up with ultra sound waves. Which, overall is good outcome. I am always delighted when drs can give me answers. 


Progressed to I can stand the pain, but I hate hospital stage. 

For the time being I am glad to be home & reallly hoping this will spell an end to all the kidney issues. Another hospital stay & resultant recovery time has put a serious dent in my productivity. So, I am currently stressing about the enormous backlog of tasks I have. I’m behind in everything from housework to writing, personal grooming to fundraising. Spoonie life is anxiety ridden. 

Oh, serious brownie points to the toy boy for taking excellent care of me. Big tick in all the boyfriend nursing boxes. He brought me jelly, fed my cat, fetched me fresh knickers & listened to hours of my morphine addaled chatter. He even got me a cute get well card. Thanks, babe. 

When the bee stings…

It’s been a dick of a week. Debilitating fatigue followed by intolerable pain & some vomming to top it off added up to a big NO. However, antibiotics, oramorph & a good night’s sleep have made a big dent in my misery. So, excuse me if I get a wee bit Julie Andrews on you, but I wanted to talk about the random things that get me through. 

Whiskers on kittens…

So, starting by just lifting straight out of the song. The whiskers & everything else in one specific feline are definitely one of my favourite things. Some folk think I’m daft, but Bronan really does take care of me when I’m struggling. He’ll stay snuggled up beside me for days. He will wait for me to wake on my own rather giving me his usual breakfast call at 6am. He sits on my feet whilst I’m throwing up in the toilet & gently paws my face when I cry.  He’s a darling. Call me crazy cat lady if you like; I believe my cat has my back. 



Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings…

We don’t get a lot of wild geese around my way, but the moon can lift my spirits. Be it a dazzling full moon, spooky cloud shrouded moon or rare coloured one; I love the moon. It can be so striking & yet peaceful. Don’t get me wrong, the moon isn’t curing anything. It’s just nice to have something beautiful to gaze on whilst I feel like shit. 


Sunsets fall into a similar spot. A sky alive with colour can be momentarily distracting. Pink skys are always my favourite as they remind me of my muffin. When in Australia I spent most evenings on the deck with my niece watching the sun go down. Every night we frolicked whilst pink hues faded into darkness. It was magical.


Bright copper kettles..
.

Alas I don’t own a shiny copper kettle, but I do love a steaming cup of tea. Mint tea is my drink. It’s a great digestion aid & can help settle reflux. It’s basically an extra med in delicious form. Besides that nothing beats the comforting warmth of sipping a big mug of tea. 

From here I drift away from the sound of music & onto a few more fav things that don’t have Sister Maria’s seal of approval. 

A good book…

I’m a reader. A good book relaxes, distracts, thrills, comforts & engages me. Curling up in my big comfy bed with some quality literature is one of best things in the world. 



A bath that goes with a bang…

Of course I am referring to bath bombs. Sylvia Plath said 

‘there must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know any of them’

Whilst both she & I know that’s not true, a hot bath can be a wonderful thing. Add a bright fizzy bath bomb & you can’t lose. Baths serve so many purposes for me. Hot water eases muscles pain, they relax me, help clear my head & leave me feeling fresh & clean. If you can do all that plus be left with sparkly skin, why wouldn’t you??

Nail (works of) Art…

I don’t know why, but I feel better when my nails are on fire. Maybe it’s because my mum always had glamorous nails. Or maybe it’s because it makes my stubby fingers look more elegant. Regardless, I find it easier to face the world when my nails are a work of art. 


Flower power…

I love to buy myself flowers. I love the scent & how pretty the make any room. Most of all I love the feeling of treating myself. It’s great to know I don’t have to wait for someone else to buy me flowers. Giving yourself something beautiful just because is an excellent feeling. Try it. 

Mental Health Platitude Week…

It’s National Mental Health Awareness Week again. Regular readers will probably have spotted how I feel about this sham, but for the avoidance of doubt I’m going to go at it once more. I ask you to forgive my lack of finesse. I’m riddled with infections, haven’t slept & more than a little frustrated with the subject matter.

Some of you may be thinking, wait, raising awareness about mental health is great. You are of course correct, but this week (& most mainstream MH campaigns) is just lip service. At best it’s platitudes & at worst it’s dangerous. If you check the hashtag on social media you’re going to see a lot of posts extolling the virtue of talking about your troubles. Talk will apparently cure all that ailes you. Ask for help & you shall receive. Pro Tip, It won’t & you won’t. 

On the help front you’ll be up against the limitations of the NHS. Cuts to mental health services have been particularly brutal. Even if you have the good luck to access a Gp who takes you seriously & correctly refers you in a prompt manner, your wait will be long. What’s worse is that the correct help is unlikely to be at the end of your wait. A shocking lack in resources of every kind results in most people being offered short courses of cheap therapies like CBT. It will come as no surprise that with mental illness one size does not fit all.

 Even in acute circumstances there are no psychiatric beds available. Many people have to travel long distances to access inpatient psychiatric care. Meaning they are far from family, friends & comforts in their darkest moments. If you’re a child or adolescent those resources only get scarcer. So, that’s frightened children waiting in misery to access services that may be of no use to them anyway. All of which is a far cry from just talk & salvation awaits. 

As depressing as all that is I haven’t even broached the fact some people never get as far as a waiting list. For many there is no sympathetic ear. Their gigantic leap of faith is met with ignorance. Employers do still discriminate against the disabled. There are still Dr’s who will tell a person to pull themselves together. The worst stigma I ever faced was from medical professionals. All of which means awareness is great, but money is better. Proper funding is the answer to our mental health crisis & it is that is what we should be talking about. 


The money problem doesn’t end with NHS funding. Our government is trying to eradicate disability benefits for mental illness entirely. The process of applying for PIP or ESA is exhaustive. The categories for qualifying are constantly shrinking. Our benefits system currently subjects vulnerable & very sick individuals to the most humiliating process in order to survive. That mental illnesses are purposely targeted for exclusion is government sanctioned stigma. Ah, I hear you cry, we do need awareness.  Well here’s the thing, we don’t need the bullshit being touted by the mainstream orgs. All those articles about exercise & healthy eating & a hot baths & nice cups of tea are just shoring up that stigma. The idea that mental illness can be cured by any of those things minimises it’s very nature. It encourages the notion that people with long term mental health problems just aren’t trying hard enough. That in turn legitimises the governments disgusting witch hunt. 

And we’re right back to my original point. Awareness is fine, but real change is the key. If you truly want to make a difference you need to tell your elected representatives that mental illness is a key issue for you. Sign petitions, attend marches, get informed. Read the difficult articles. By all means challenge stigma when it crosses your path & listen to anyone who chooses you as a confident. Do all of those of things, but I want to be clear, there is one crucial thing that will hand more impact than anything else, DO NOT VOTE TORY.